Grackle & Sun

Archive for the tag “sheep”

Instead

Below follow the resolutions I made for 2016.  I don’t want to make any new ones without first revisiting last year’s to see what of this list I did or did not accomplish. A review, if you will, of imperfection and humanness, good intentions and fickle will. Let’s take a peek and reflect, shall we?

  • Become best friends with my body–maybe do some juicing, a little cleansey+detoxy sort of thing, and (ahem) start working out again. Easy, right?  Well, I did start off last year with a detox, so technically, check mark. The rest is a long story for another time–but the short story basically involves me being tested for multiple neurological diseases and ultimately being diagnosed with Lyme. Again.
  • Take trumpet lessons. Didn’t happen. But I did learn the C major scale and played a rousing rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ to myself when I turned 42 last year. And I’m signed up for lessons which begin later this month. So… I’ll call this one good.

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  • Grow a bunch of awesome seedlings for the garden.  Sadly, no. But not for a lack of trying. Things started off really well, and then one day, after I’d moved the seed trays outside, it rained, filling up the trays. I didn’t find them until the next day, and they were very, very drowned. But I drained them off and thought maybe they could be saved. Then it got balls hot 2 days later and baked the shit out of them. It was terribly sad and frustrating. The garden still grew things, though, as it is wont to do when I throw seeds at it and then get out of the way. Points for trying, right?

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  • Establish proper dye, herb, and medicinal garden beds. Alas, no, as all those seedlings perished in the above catastrophe. GIANT SADFACE. I did, however, successfully establish a Missouri native wildflower garden in one corner of the vegetable garden space. It is very pretty. This is a native copper iris.

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  • Do this fun Plant Ally Project Challenge.  I did not do this. Instead, I kept the tab open on my laptop for almost a solid year and stared at it every day thinking, tomorrow. Many great things are never done one day at a time.
  • Two words: Dye. Yarn. My great disappointment. We won’t talk about it. I have yarn washed, tied, and ready to go; buckets of poke juice sitting in the garage staring at me petulantly. Sometimes your groove gets shelved as you run around putting out fires instead of tending the creative fire. Nothing to do but be kind to yourself and allow things to unfold when they will. I love dyeing, and I could not push this.
  • Have the soil at the farm tested.  Nope, but for good reason! This year, I went to several intensive grower’s conferences. Major research mode. Two were for growing native elderberries, and the other was for holistic orchard practices. Both Terry and Michael were absolutely fantastic, and I learned so much important information–including what specifically to test for when establishing orchards. So, I am now properly prepared to do the soil sampling and have contacted my county extension already.

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  • De-fence the pasture pastures. Re-fence the pastures.  Yes! I didn’t get all of them, but I did take down the worst offender. And now that I know how to do it, the rest should be much easier. We decided not to re-fence any pastures with permanent fencing, and instead my dad has invested in some good movable electric netting for the sheep. This has worked remarkably well. I’m planning on purchasing the next set of fencing so that we have more flexibility for group separation.

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  • Begin intensive grazing. Of the sheep. Not of me. Slowly, but surely, this is happening–especially with the aid of the portable fencing. There is a learning curve for sure, and until I’m on the farm full-time, it won’t happen quite the way it needs to. But improvements are being made. Check.

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  • Start drawing again. Play with the inks (that I’ve had for 5 years).
  • Fix my sewing machine. Sew.  No and no. Although, I did figure out what was wrong with the sewing machine. And knowing is half the battle, right?
  • Learn how to make tinctures and more medicinal tea blends.   I worked on this quite a bit. I’ve done a lot of reading on medicinal herbs this year. And listened to some excellent talks, as well. I made several tinctures and tea blends this year. Check.
  • Learn how to can, freeze, and dehydrate.  Canning and freezing, no. But I did do some fruit dehydrating. Love me some dried mango.
  • Take more walks. Yes, I did this. Most of my walks were taken with my best friend, Ronin, who unfortunately went on to the great gig in the sky in November, after a short but sucktastic tangle with metastatic lung cancer. My heart hurts. I still feel his spirit with me, but my walks will never be the same.

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  • Paddle the MR340.  
  • Prolly ought to practice paddling.  I did not paddle the MR340. Instead, I learned something about myself: I am not a competitive person. Not with this kind of thing, anyway. I’d really like to paddle the length of the 340, but not in some frenetic, heat stroke inducing, sleep deprived, timed contest. That sounds fucking awful. I am the tortoise, not the hare. I did manage to go paddling a few times. Slowly, with much looking around and dipping my fingers in the water.

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  • Sprout broccoli. Eat the sprouted broccoli.
  • Make water kefir. Drink the water kefir.  Yes and yes. Although, I had a difficult time keeping my water kefir grains alive for more than 4 or 5 batches at a time. What I did make turned out good, though. And broccoli sprouts are zesty and delicious. And full of sulforaphane, which is exceptionally good for you.

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  • Figure out what I want to do when I grow up.  I feel like I’m getting closer…
  • Send postcards to friends and family.  Sorry, fam. I did email more, though.
  • Go on a silent retreat. I wish.
  • Write down the stories in my head. Stories, no. But I did write down more of my thoughts and kept a bit of a journal. Occasionally.
  • Clean the basement. LOLOLOLOL.  The answer is still LOLOLOLOLOL.
  • Welcome the magic in my life. This was a priority, and I worked very hard to keep a committed daily practice in motion. Even when I didn’t feel like it. Kind of like flossing. You just get up and do it no matter what. This daily dedication has been a real blessing and a true lesson in the depth to be gained from a slow, sustained practice.

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  • PLAY MORE. And relax, everything is ok.  This one I think I finally remembered how to do.  This might be my best accomplishment all year.

Even though 2016 was a year that was in many respects quite tragic, it also brought many, many good things. We talk about a year as though it was an entity that acted upon us, instead of us acting within it–a measure of time that holds our deeds, good and bad. I have no resolutions for 2017. For me, they end up being To Do lists anyway. Instead, I simply want to remember that while I may not control everything around me, my circumstances or the actions of others, I am always in control of my actions and my attitude–the two things that count. So no matter what I might accomplish this next year, may I always reflect with honesty, discern with wisdom, act with integrity, and above all, respond with lovingkindness and good cheer. Because at the end of it all, it will be the love and kindness and good cheer that will be remembered. Not cleaning the basement.

Happy 2017 to you all! May this year bring you many blessings–good company, good food, good health, and grand adventures!

d

Morning Meditation: Life As It Should Be

It really can be this simple.

Satisfaction.  Contentment.  Fulfilment.  Happiness.

And the measure of this?

All to be found in watching a flock of sheep graze in a green pasture.

In the light filtering through dogwood blossoms.

In the song of a red-shouldered hawk hiding in the canopy of great oak trees.

In the hum of bees in pear blossoms.

In the soft green of leaves unfurling.

In the warmth of the sun’s good medicine.

In belonging where you are.

A Damn Good Day

This morning I awoke after interesting dreams. Dressed, and happily discovered a little more room in my pants than there has been for a few months.  Had enough time to clean the kitchen that I neglected last night and to pack a delicious lunchtime snack AND to walk the dogs.  Made the best chocolate chunk almond butter I’ve ever made.  Got to work early despite leaving late. Helped people, rocked out a few projects, and maybe encouraged some friendly mischief. (Twinkle)

Drove the 5 minute commute back home.  Hugged my kids hello, gathered up the dogs, and kissed my husband goodbye.  And then kissed him again because I hadn’t left yet.  And then kissed him one more time for good reasons. Loaded the dogs up in the car and drove out to the farm in a golden afternoon so glorious that it seemed otherworldly. The sky was clear blue, the air was that perfect temperature that hovers a little past warm but just before hot, and the breeze was a soft touch against the skin.  Sunlight that can only be described as blissful healing medicine. I think I actually felt my pineal gland wake up and kick in. Ronin rode with his head out the window the whole way. Giant dog grins are contagious.

The farm was peaceful and still. And full of good green smells. Gathered eggs and picked a radish that looks like an egg.  Many, many more radishes to pick. Should quit job and become a radish farmer.

The gate to the cow’s pasture broke and hung open, but no cows escaped. Fixed the gate. The bull let me pet him through the fence. Maybe he was sun-sleepy. The sheep let themselves back in the barn for the night, so all I had to do was close the barn gate.  Fed the ewes, fed the rams. Bottle-fed the two bottle lambs.

Found the horses that had been missing off adventuring in far pastures for a few days. They were happy and shiny-coated. 

Sang a harvesting song, for the harvest has begun!

And will continue for weeks. Hadn’t planned on picking poke, but when the poke’s ready, it doesn’t wait around. I swear it wasn’t ready yesterday… Found a new bucket to keep the poke in, and also found two gallons of vinegar in the pantry to do the steeping with. Sweet score!

Discovered a new type of flowering plant in a field.  It is surely some exotic invasive, but ridiculously beautiful, though out of place. 

Fed the farm dogs as the light disappeared quietly in the West. Watched bats do their sonar-guided acrobatics above me.

Left the farm as night fully sank in. Drove east straight into a moon rise that was like something out of a science fiction novel–humongous and yellow like cream. It out-shone my high beams and made driving difficult for all my gaping and staring and mad grinning. I like reminders that our earth is as magnificent as any fiction.

Sang harmony to Tori Amos, hit a note I can’t usually hit. Didn’t hit a raccoon that wandered onto the road. Relaxation: good for vocal chords and reflexes. Came home to family and curry and comfort.  And now I write to you, friends. It was a damn good day.

Vernally Obliged

Happy day after the vernal equinox!  Here are some perky and punctual jonquidils that opened up just yesterday.  Even though the world still seems half asleep, everything is stirring.  The sap is rising, metaphorically, and circulating literally. I feel this in me, too. A few weeks ago, I was compelled to visit my favorite local herbal shop for some spring tonics. I’ve been drinking blood cleansing teas made of nettle and burdock, red clover and violet leaf.  I am craving all green things, to eat all the green. I often eat according to what colours I’m hungry for.  It’s a fun and pretty darn informative way to get intuitive feedback on what one’s body needs. Just listen. It will tell you. This year is all about listening.

Usually, I notice spring first with the change in the angle of the sun and the restlessness of the breeze. This year, though, spring has rung in with sound.  The frogs are out in mighty chorus—the spring peepers, pickerels, and southern leopard frogs—announcing that spring has arrived. The toads will be next, and then later the bullfrogs will add their baritone to the summer sound.  A pair of barred owls have been conversing like love struck teenagers every night for the last week.  Wild ducks have been visiting the lake, and just today, we saw a blue heron circling above.  And what else has come to roost at the farm this spring?

Chicks!

Meet the 4 Buff Orpingtons. Question. What do you do when you spend several years dreaming about raising chickens and reading books on raising chickens and deciding that the perfect chickens to raise would be Buff Orpingtons, and then one day you go into the local farm store for some Sav-a Lam and see that they’re stocked with all manner of poultry and waterfowl—which you are, of course, obligated to peruse—and amongst the countless pens of countless Leghorns and Rhode Island Reds and sex-linked this and thats, lo and behold there are four lone Buff Orpington chicks tucked in a tub in the corner?  This is not a trick question.  Clearly I was meant to take them home.  The end.

I will go back for some Leghorns.  Lol.  In a week or two, they will go live in the chicken house with the rest of the flock, but for now they are in their cozy box in the front porch where I can listen to them peeping as I work on various projects. What else? Gardeny goodness. I planted a millionty seeds and am curious to see how they fare starting indoors.  I will bore no one with photos of a table full of little cups of dirt. Garden plans are being tilled in the fertile fields of my mind. These plans involve raised beds, fencing, and part-time garden-wandering chickens… If I’d been here in time, I would have prepped the garden in the fall. As it is, I am very late and will have to make do with what I can get done in the next month. No need to feel bad about it though—something will grow.

The sheep are enjoying the first nibbles of spring grass.  Here you can see a very chubbeh Phillip in the forefront. He is such a pet.

We are very seriously considering adding a couple wool sheep to the farm to try out. (By which I mean for me to play with their wool). I’m looking at Clun Forest, Romney, and Cheviots, but am listening to any and all advice from those with wool sheep raising experience.  A shepherd/spinner friend has also recommended Montadales and Coopworths.  I am unfamiliar with both.  So far, I am most interested in the Cluns as a hardy dual purpose sheep, but have never seen or felt Clun wool.  Anyone?

Finally, Ronin is a happy farm dog.

Be well and listen hard.

Happy New Year!

Wishing all of you the happiest of New Years full of good health, good company, good fortune, and good deeds.

And Phillip says hi, too.

Phillip is one of the twelve new lambs on the farm.  Unfortunately, Phillip’s momma-ewe didn’t think he was as cute as we do.  So, Phillip has imprinted instead on rubber boots, and happily follows whichever pair of boots happens to contain a human with a bottle of milk.   Round the clock.  Welcome to shepherding.  ;)

So. Many. Things.

Hello, friends!  Just a quick word about life, the universe, and everything.  This last year has been generous in offering up life lessons in So. Many. Things.  First of which is not getting attached to one’s plans.  I often imagine that other people my age probably really have their act together.  But me?  I’m a pretend-to-fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of person.  Not because I think it’s fun or romantical, but because I suck at a lot of grown-up stuff like understanding insurance benefits, online banking, and filing things where I have a chance of finding them later.  Or, you know, filing things.  And as much as I’d like to say otherwise, I’m not so great at doing that whole life planning thing.  So, if you’re in any way like me, you’ll understand this bit:  you know those times when something Important comes up and you get all disciplined and you decide to make A Plan?  It’s a big deal, right? You think you’re being smart and feel all responsible and mature because you even wrote out a pros and cons list and used a calculator an shit.  You make a for realz bonafide Plan.  You are ready for action! But then just when you feel solid about the path you’re about to step on, the Universe slams the door in your face and says, “Ha!  Let’s see what you do now!”

So, what do you do?  Do you fight or do you go with the flow?  Do stick to plans stubbornly or do you change them easily?  My course this year has been to contemplate the impermanence of all things–including my seemingly awesome plans–and to go hunting for another door.  Or window. Or air vent.  I’m not picky.  Lol.  Anything is better than being stuck.  I’m finding that not infrequently, it’s better to make your plans on an Etch-a-Sketch instead of with a sharpie–it’s easier to accept the changes and begin again when things get shaken up.  And often, if you’re open to it, even better things come along.  I’m not even going to pretend that it’s been such a gracious process, because it hasn’t.  It has been filled with stress and anxiety and doubt and more stress.  But I would like to think that I have at least been gracious in seeing that I have much to learn.  And, I don’t know, maybe that I’m getting a little better at all of this.

Here’s the digs:  We are in the process of moving from St. Louis to the farm in the Ozarks where I grew up.  So many things converged cosmically to make this happen, that I can’t even begin to explain it all now.  So. Many. Things.  It has been a hard year.  Really, ridiculously hard.  But the light at the end of the tunnel is bright and beautiful.  The end result will hopefully be a wonderful win-win for us, and for my parents who still live on the farm.  We will get to be in the country and be some kind of farmers (which we’ve been wanting to do forever) and my parents will get loads of help so that they can relax and travel and do things that people do when they’re retired and not trying to manage cows and sheep and chickens and horses—you get the picture.

However, unlike we originally thought in one of the first variations of this plan, we will not be able to move to the farm at the end of spring as we’d hoped.  This change has to do with unforeseen local school district policy issues and getting our kids into the school where they want to go.  So, we’ll be moving into town not far from the farm.  It so happens that my sister has an awesome house for rent there, and will be in need of a tenant at that time.  How crazy is that win-win? It was not what we’d planned, but it is now looking like it will make for a better transition for everyone.  Kids get a good school, we are close to jobs and the university (more upcoming plans…), and we’re still close enough to the farm to help out regularly.  And then when the kiddos graduate, we can talk about moving out there full-time.  See?  This never would have occurred to me.  Thanks, crappy school district rules!

Oh, but there’s more!  Another situation involving someone’s recently herniated disc opened a door for me to consider moving to the farm right away so that I can try to be of help while someone ignores common sense and continues to work like a man half his age.  My dad is made of awesome win, and I can only hope to be as fit at 75 as he is.  Even so, there is much work to do, and I am happy to lend a hand.  So I gave my notice at work and last week moved to the farm.  I would like to make a brief aside here to say that my coworkers and boss were amazingly kind, understanding and wonderful.  I am very thankful for having had the opportunity to work with them all.  More lessons learned this year.  To be honest, this move has given me a much needed chance to catch my breath, to put energy toward things that are earthy and good, and for the first time in a long time to be tired at the end of the day because I worked hard, not because I worried hard.  It is a gift.

Here are some gratuitous farm pictures:

This is the view from the front patio overlooking the lake and the ridge of trees that encircles most of the property.  It makes a bowl of sky that I have a hard time looking away from.

Here is an artsy photograph of a wheelbarrow full of dried perilla and grass that I pulled out of the raised bed garden where my mom wants to plant an abundant crop of cilantro next year for making fresh salsa and sofrito.  Mmmmm…sofrito.

Ronin is learning how to be a farm dog.  Ronin loves being a farm dog.  Ronin loves to chase sheep.  Dre does not like searching for sheep that got lost because they freaked out and ran away from a big black dog.  Dre especially does not like looking for those sheep in the middle of the night.  For hours and hours.  In the rain.  Dre is working to teach Ronin not to chase sheep. :P

So, that’s what’s going on in my corner of the universe.  I miss my kids and my husband, but am happy for a good internet connection and that we’re close enough to drive back and forth on weekends.  I am getting into the swing of doing chores again and learning the ways of livestock.  My muscles are sore.   I do not tire of soaking up the beauty that is all around me here.   I am thankful for our wonderful family and friends, their generosity, kindness and support, without whom this move would not be possible.  And I am thankful for open doors.  I won’t have any dyeing posts for a while–my dyeing tools are boxed up for now, but I anticipate getting them unpacked in the spring.  Until then, I’ll try to entertain you all with stories of my mad greenhorn farming skillz.  Lol.

Live happy, go graciously.

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