Thursday, January 8, 2015

its all about the weather..



12 degrees, not bad if you’re dressed appropriately. Me, long johns under my heavy grey Dickies, thick wool sock, boots, long sleeve t-shirt under a short sleeve, under a sweater, under a flannel shirt under a purple Carhart insulated jacket. Then there is the head, long wool scarf wrapped around and around over my mouth and nose then the wool hat then hood of coat pulled over. Only eyes showing. Then the gloves. Which hardly seem to work, but I put them on anyway and out I go to check and feed every animal on this farm starting with the baby goats who are the loudest and most demanding of the lot.

Once I get out there I do okay, this morning I even got warm and I could have spent more time outside maybe even start work but the timings all wrong. I slept in a little and haven’t eaten breakfast! So back in I go, back into the cozy yurt, strip down to my johns, make a pot of tea and scramble up some eggs. Now after that, it takes all I have to pull on the gear and go actually work! This is winter. However winter break is over. Its full steam ahead! Less work hours in the day but important work to be done. 

I received one of three seed orders in the mail this morning. All of my seed orders are placed and over the next four weeks I’ll have a propagation hut filled with seedlings of onions, celery, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and radicchio. That’s the first round then after the 14th of February tomato seeds are started then pepper, then eggplant, fennel, and so on. And every year I have the same thrilling excitement, even though I know come July I’m going to be hot and sore every day until October. Still I can hardly contain myself! So I won’t, I am bursting at the seams here! It’s fair to say the bright sunshine isn’t hurting my mood either.

It feels good to have this. This gift of hope, of new beginnings, of learning more. New Year’s Day happens four times a year; spring, summer, fall and winter! Kind of an awesome way to live I think. I’m trying not to think of the challenges I might face, the losses, the failures. At least right now I just want to enjoy the feeling of this new jewel of opportunity. This invitation to be a part of a system I barely understand. I’ll have plenty of time to moan and groan in the future, right now I have resolve! And I’m going to enjoy every second of it!

Now if you will excuse me I have 20 pounds of clothing to put on!

Monday, December 29, 2014

I love





I love a piping hot bowl of oatmeal especially on a freezing morning like this one. I take mine with about a quarter stick of butter, some honey and a dribble or two of half and half, more preferably goat milk when the girls are fresh. Two poached eggs always served with this breakfast, keeps the hunger from coming too soon. I also love coming in after morning chores fingers stiff and cold in spite of gloved hands warming up next to a blazing fire. And while I’m talking about morning chores I love the quiet witness to the sunrise, which this morning happened to be spectacular!  Sometimes I think the sun bears witness to us as much as we do to it and that would make sense considering our regularity toward each other. I think its as glad to see me as I am to see it. Sometimes and especially over the last few weeks it’s been cloudy but regardless I know what lies behind the clouds and so do the animals I’ll be serving breakfast to and that too, I love.

And while I’m talking about things I love; I love devouring a good book, fiction or non, I’ll eat it up! It’s the only time of the year I can lay in bed for as long as I wish and dive in. And walks, I love walks! I’m profoundly blessed with miles of trails just outside my doorstep. Quiet crisp winter walks, four big white dogs leading the way and clearing out any dangers that may await me. Also I love those dogs, My LSG’s livestock guardians, taking care of the goats and the chickens and the round heads of the farm. But while I’m talking about dogs there are three other dogs that don’t necessarily take care of anything or serve any great purpose other than dedicated companionship. I love cuddles on cold winter nights.

And as I’ve mentioned round heads I love being married to one. Up until two years ago I’ve rejoiced and celebrated countless other marriages and catered a fair share of them too, always to know that this was a gift and a privilege that would be withheld from me for reasons I accepted but could not understand. I learned to be happy for others, but always felt not quite equal and this difference separated us deeply, and never did most even give it a second thought.  I convinced myself it didn’t matter, my relationship was solid in love! it didn’t require the blessing of law and a community I didn't even know. But I was wrong it did matter, more than I could have ever imagined. I treat my vows and my marriage like the most precious thing on this earth.

I love Tea, after breakfast sitting in silence just drinking tea. Slowly. I consider each step from bringing the water up to temp, to scooping the leaves, steeping and finally pouring and drinking a contemplative practice. Sometimes I’m on a cushion or sitting in a chair looking out to the goat pasture and pond. Tea is wonderful and I love it! I love my friends, once strangers now indispensable. Our long talks on the phone, laughing, complaining, gossiping and making plans that will change the world (for the better)! And I love my small but lovely family. Distance does make the heart grow fonder and I miss them. I love the sound ducks make as they fly off of the pond as I walk by and I love watching how still the Grey Heron stands ready at the edge.

When I wake in the wee hours I love the monkey like screams of the barred owls and the shrill calls of the coyote packs running through the pastures, woods and fields when the goats and chickens are safe in their barns. I love vegetables! from seed to plate. I love growing them, taking care of them and then eating them or preparing them for others. No greater gift I can give than to feed someone and I love feeding people.  I love the sound of my sharp hoe as it slices through weeds and grass. I love the sight of a thriving garden. I spend a lot of time by myself, sometimes I get lonely, but I love solitude.

There are so many things to love! When I first embarked on this journey 11 years ago I gave up a lot of what I would call creature comforts. I never would have imagined missing a bathtub so much! or living in a house that was bug and dirt free, or having coffee shops and antique stores just blocks away. But in leaving that life behind I realize that we never seem to know what we really have until it’s gone. Now, all the things I’ve come to love so completely are so simple and never does a day go by when I take for granted the things I have today, no matter how less valuable they might have seemed in years past. The experiences, the things I see and witness, the milestones, all accepted with humble gratitude. 

If I were to go back to my old life in a big city I think my heart would be broken and my soul would ache. I would have a big bathtub and have nicer clothes and a steady job with a steady pay check, I wouldn’t count my jar of change in January to buy a few staples, (I bought flour with dimes once) And I’d have a TV and broadband. I wouldn’t have lists that included; 'cut fire wood' or 'fix fence'. I’d be protected always from the elements, except when I decided to go skiing or sun bathing.

I would be miserable.

I love with all of my heart my life, and as long as I have the privilege to live it I’ll treat it like the most precious thing on this earth.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas story....sort of




 Christmas used to be a big deal for me, for all the obvious reasons, more drinking, more eating, gift giving and receiving and time spent with family (which would inevitably lead to more drinking). As I was growing up my family’s tradition for many years was a gathering on Christmas Eve, a big dinner, and then gift opening. On Christmas day my mother and I would go to a movie and then Chinese food, which was my favorite! As all of us kids grew older gift giving got smaller, the reality of economics. There was no pretending for us any more, we were all trying to make a living, and we needed to make Christmas more special for the now new little ones in our mists. Remember the first time you realized on your own you were too old to go trick or treating? instead you graduate to chaperone. Hard pill to swallow and now for Christmas you’re no longer sitting at the kids table which you felt as though you didn’t belong in the first place, but with that rite of passage come sacrifice. You’re a big kid now. Forever.

As a consequence of growing older things start changing. First it was my Uncle who died suddenly, and then it was my aunt who fell and shattered her hip and was changed forever, but then my niece moved away, and my mother began to show severe signs of Alzheimer's, finally I moved away and then my sister was diagnosed with cancer and passed  two years after my mother. The drama of making it a “normal” Christmas became unbearable. Our family dynamic was thrown out of its orbit. 

Returning home to be with my family became harder, financially yes, but to leave the farm during the winter became another great pillar of stress. The last time I was in Seattle for Christmas we had a blizzard in Oklahoma. Linda was alone on the farm and we ended up losing two of our bucks. It was our first winter on the farm and it was devastating. I vowed never to travel during these months. The trauma still haunts us. Most people who live in cities can’t imagine what living on a rural farm during a huge storm can be like. All of the animals, the power, the stress of losing everything, not a good time to travel.

When I moved to Oklahoma I tried to create my own Christmas tradition but it just wasn’t the same. It was empty, desperately lonely and joyless. So I gave up Christmas, even starting hating it, almost to the point of being an anti-theist. (that’s another story) When I met Linda things slowly shifted. I began looking at Christmas from a more spiritual contemplative point of view. We began our own tradition of spending Christmas Eve with friends who became our family, and Christmas day at the movies!  For Linda and I, no more tree, or decorations, we generally don’t give gifts although a few gestures are made. The gift that we share is quiet, is loving and peaceful.  Full of deep contemplation and finally yes Joy! This time of year is when we take a sacred inventory of how we’ve served, how we managed. More about Christ less about mas.  Both of us have been on long personal journeys trying to make sense of it all.

Christmas is still hard for me, I won’t lie. I know I am loved and have wonderful people in my life and I’m so very happy for those around me celebrating each in their own way, but there is an undeniable emptiness within me where my mother, my aunt and my sister once took up residence.   I know each of them are not physically with me, but are never the less a large part of me, I’m made from them. Blood, bone and spirit. But my craving for their words and touch are more pronounced now than any other time of the year. This is the beautiful and tragic consequence of having the privilege to grow older. I know now because of this, there are many others experiencing the same thing. During this time of the year many dear people in the world are struggling and everywhere they turn are reminded daily of their loss, their loneliness, while at the same time trying desperately to be cheerful and joyous.  

I celebrate Christmas this year in the hopes that I and many others who share this common pain of loss and loneliness that we experience our own birth of grace, of faith and beauty beyond beauty, of compassion and understanding, of silence and serenity. As a time to take a refreshing plunge into all the gifts of friendships, the closest and even the most superficial, and offer refuge and comfort to anyone who needs it.

Merry Christmas 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Laying the ground work




As the old silver barn project comes to a close, (hopefully by Sunday the milk goats will be chomping down on hay and settling in to their new posh digs) I’m acutely aware of the next tasks that lay ahead, The garden. Yes, soon I’ll be starting onion seeds, celery, then broccoli cauliflower and then tomato, pepper, and eggplant by mid-February.

So winter, as it is a time of rest it’s also a time to lay the groundwork for the spring and summer months, the months which produce 90% of the farm’s entire year income. So yea, there a little bit riding on this. But I always enjoy this time. It’s a time hope sprouts ideas and visa versa.  I sleep in a little, linger in the fire warmth of the yurt over coffee, I journal, I write and then the sun comes up and I do the work that will hopefully make all of the difference come April.

I’m still trying to figure things out though. I’m constantly trying to make improvements and sometimes the improvements I think I’m making end up not to be so. Trial and error.  The challenge is catching it fast enough and being willing to change. To let go of how or what I thought was going to work. This coming year my single biggest and most important task is to gain a greater understanding of my soil.  I know it’s all in the soil! Sometimes this soil fools me and leaves me scratching my head in confusion. I do know this; the soil on this land is very depleted of nutrients, everywhere. The drainage and erosion are problems. So I’m dealing with a kid that has a lot of problems that stretch back to many years of misuse and neglect.  And here I am as best I can with very limited resources trying to help. It’s been slow, but I have seen progress, I’m just hoping for a magic bullet. Right.

 I’ve had one person insist, I’m just not harnessing the soil and the landscape’s potential, but they have never farmed a day in their life, only read books and stories and seen a few u-tube videos, so of course they have the answers. They’ve never stayed in a place long enough to listened to what the land is asking for, and watched the ebb and flow of the seasons. The changes of temperature and rain fall amounts over the years.  Because things change year after year, nothing ever is the same one year from the next.  Except for the hours of daylight throughout the seasons and the earth’s rotation. (as far as I know at least). For several years we might have sopping wet springs and very dry falls so we learn how to adapt, then once we do we are then faced with several years of dry springs and wet falls. Go figure. The only way to have a sense of resolve is to keep trying. To keep listening, keep watching and to revel in the few successes. 

So we brush the dust off our bones from the last season and start again with a renewed sense of hope, of excitement and dreams. And although we feel relaxed about things now we know there are storms ahead. No denying it. There will be miserable days in the cold, miserable days in the heat, but we’ll continue to push our limits and our strategy for staying alive and well for as long as we have the privilege to do so, because we’ve seen the miraculous days and the gratifying days and the days filled with joy and this knowledge is the nutrients we need to grow and that’s how it works.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Little progress, big dreams




Okay so I have dreams, This is what I want my barn to somehow transform into but slow progress is being made on the old silver barn. It’s older than I thought. The slats that keep the thin corrugated metal sheets from caving in are warped badly and putting extra support beams in will require taking the old ones out and starting over which now gets a little more complicated, considering the height. A little above my skill level now.  One side is really not that bad so I can let it go but the other side is going to require much more time and confidence then I currently have. So yea, the wheels are turning. But a short term fix is underway.

Right now I’m cleaning up around the outside, if the inside wasn’t bad enough. As I do this I’m faced with this image of a junk collector that must live here. Jeez why was I saving this? What was I going to do with this piece of rotted wood anyway? I’m no hoarder just a sweep it under the carpet, shove it in a closest, or put it under a tarp kind of gal so then it just becomes part of the landscape. Okay no more of that! Seriously, those days are over. As a matter of fact the huge pile of baling wire is going to the metal recyclers this week! There is just the tiniest bid of anxiety that comes with separating with the coveted baling wire, which holds more things together around here than I care to reveal. But I have at least 100 more bales of hay to recoup my losses.

I’m kind of in a little bit of a hurry. Not rushing things because I really do want to do this right, but its December and the weather can go either way. A snow storm could really thwart my efforts.  But the weather has been rather agreeable. Go figure. But I’ve lived here for a time now and I know better to think this mildness will continue and I want the dairy goats tucked away in a safe warm place. The sooner the better! Plus there are other projects to get too. 

I do take some pride in the fact that 12 years ago I didn’t even own a screwdriver. I think about the things I know how to do now and it makes me smile. I always kind of had that DIY spirit, I’ve tiled and changed a thermostat and replaced a toilet seat. But the level of my carpenter skills have risen from nonexistent to just crappy, but in a pinch crappy will do just fine! Every year I get a little better. Thanks to U Tube I can change the oil in the tractor and a lot of other things. I really am so grateful for the internet. I’ve come a long way. If they could see me now!