Monday, November 23, 2009

Christmas is coming....

How do I know? The trolls, and the goat, and the horse, and the Tomten told me so. It's almost time! This is the best time of year - the time before. Before Advent, before St. Lucia Day, before Christmas. The planning time, the thinking about it all time. I love the time before MORE than the time of. I love looking ahead, waiting, working for. It's over all too soon, which is why I like the time before best of all times. It's the best part of all holidays. Stay tuned for more about trolls, horses, Tomtens and straw goats. They are the best part of MY holidays.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom

My mom's birthday would be today, if she were still alive. She would be 86. I am currently 46, born in February, and that same year I was born, in November, my mom turned 40. I was a surprise baby, born nearly 9 years after my last brother. She thought I was the flu, and when she finally went to the dr, apparently he kidded her that she, as a nurse, should have known better, especially after having been pregnant three other times. I love that story. I also like the fact that I know my mother's real birthday is November 17th, even though her birth certificate says it is the 18th. 86 years ago, most babies were born at home, as she was. It was late in the evening when she finally came into the world, and as it was storming, the doctor who delivered her waited until morning to go back to his office. When he did, he recorded her birth as the 18th, even though my grandmother said my mom was DEFINITELY born before midnight on the 17th. For some reason, as a child, I found that story fascinating, and always tried to celebrate my mom's birthday with her on the 17th. She didn't care either way.
My mom died four and a half years ago, in a nursing home a few miles from me, of Alzheimers. I was there that night, and held her hand as she went. I don't know what she really died of - pneumonia? I honestly can't remember. She broke her hip in January of that year, her second broken hip, and I remember the very, very kind hospital doctor coming in to talk to us, to me, as I was sitting there with her in the hospital, and telling me that it really didn't matter if we didn't have surgery to repair the hip (her health really wouldn't have supported a surgery at that time, so it wasn't much of an option, which bothered us) because with a patient of her age, and with her medical conditions, a broken hip was really the beginning of the end, and he would give her no more than 6 months. That might have seemed cruel,but it wasn't. It was a reassurance that we were doing the best thing for her by not having surgery, by just keeping her comfortable and medicated, and it gave me a time line within which to begin saying goodbye. In actuality, I had already begun saying that long before. My mom had had Alzheimers long enough that to me, she was no longer my "mom." She was always, right to the end, a beautiful person I loved, and took care of, but the "mom" who had loved me, and taken care of me, and loved my children, the "mom" who had given me advice, helped me, listened to me, that "mom" had been gone for many years.But having someone tell you that the misery that had robbed my mom's mind, and so much of her strength (she had diabetes, had had several heart attacks and strokes and open heart surgery, had broken her collar bone, her hip twice, etc.)would soon be over for her, was a relief, actually. I was not sad to see my mom die.It was a blessing, at long last. Her life, for at least the year previous to her death, was just not good, and it was hard to watch someone you love, just exist. It was hard to watch what not having my mom at home did to my father on a daily basis. So her passing away was, at long last, a relief. I didn't cry much. I didn't really even feel terribly sad for very long. I have not spent a lot of time feeling sad, or really even missing my mom a lot in the past few years. Really, it has been more like the past 16 years that she has been "gone," so it's hard to feel like it's only been a couple of years. I've gone through all the feelings of "this isn't fair" and the anger, and all the other emotions when we first began to realize things were not right with her. I've "been there, done that" and don't need to anymore. What I have left of my mom now are the random good, and funny, memories, mostly. Like the fact that my mom was many, many things I aspire to be, but a good cook was not one of them? Fishsticks. Box potatoes, or, real-but-lumpy-watery greyish potatoes. Buttered beets, stewed tomatoes, liver and onions on Monday nights when my dad was at Rotary. Ugh. Looking back at my childhood, wonderful wonderful meals was definitely NOT a part of it. Thankfully, it WAS a huge part of my husband's childhood, as both his mom and his two aunts are fantastic cooks, and he inherited both the love of cooking and the ability, and has passed much of that on to me,so my own kids should grow up with a warm and fuzzy view of the food that filled THEIR childhoods. (As long as they forget the fishsticks and tator tots I fed them when they were little and I didn't know any better. But only on the nights when their dad was at Lions Club.)
I do miss my mom. Some times of the year are harder than others. I miss her on my birthday. I especially miss her at Christmas time. And there are always days, moment, when for some reason, or no reason at all, I just miss her really hard.I guess that will always be true of anyone you love, and lose.
I don't remember the date of her death, but I will never forget the day of her birth. Or date. Happy Birthday, mom. I love you still.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Baby is Growing Up!

BRAMBLE, LAST NIGHT at about 6 months old
BRAMBLE THIS PAST SUMMER, at about 3 months old

Indian Summer Evening

The weather here has been unseasonably warm the past few days. Much as I love winter, and look forward to snow, and cold, I also don't mind the last few days of left-over Indian Summer warmth, either. It was the perfect temperature to take the dogs for a walk Sunday, and we did. Normally, when we walk for human exercise, we walk three or four miles, on one of several different routes around or out of town. But this time, my goal was not my own personal fitness, which it should be every day!, but to tire out the Bramble puppy. On weekdays, all four dogs are hooked to runs outside where they could, if they so desired, get enough exercise to wear them out. I'm sure they don't. I'm sure they pretty much lay and soak up the sun, and bark occasionally, and get up to get a drink, and then go lay back down. On the weekends, however, I keep the dogs inside with us, letting them out in the fenced back yard to do their business, sniff around, bark at the neighbors, chase the cats, etc. for a few minutes many times a day. But I KNOW they don't get 7 hours of fresh air and sunshine, like they do M-F, so they are also not very tired at the end of the day. Well, ONE of them isn't. Not sayin who, but the three older couch potatoes are 7, 6 and 5, and all appreciate a nice carpet to snooze on during the evening, and then don't seem to mind going upstairs to sleep away another 8 or 9 hours on their comfy doggy pillows, while the 6 month old Border Collie?
Not so much. Sleep? WHat's that about? Who needs it? Not me, not me!!! At least, that seems to be her humble opinion. I have to say, it has been one of the hardest things for me to deal with, in having a puppy again. I need sleep. A LOT of it. I like to sleep uninterrupted for a good solid 9 hours every night. And more on weekends. Some of us just need more sleep. And Bramble is like a baby-turning-toddler at this stage. She is no longer pooping and peeing every night in my bedroom, thank goodness, but now she barks at my bedside, or whines, once, to let me know when she needs to go out. If I go upstairs between 9 and 10, I can count on getting up to let her out 3 times a night. Somewhere between 11 and 12, then again about 3-4, and then again between 5-6. She seems to only be able to go about two to three hours at night. Now although it does seem to me she should be able to last longer than that at 6 months old, I'll take it over having to clean up poop and pee in the mornings. Anyway, I digress. I do that a lot. My whole point is, I really try to tire her out more on the weekends, so that she will be SO tired she will go to sleep when we do, and hopefully, sleep longer than 3 hours at a stretch. And although it didn't work so well Sunday (we didn't walk the whole 3 miles with her- probably only 1 1/2 - because her legs are so short), it WAS a nice day for a walk. The sun was just going down as we crossed the bridge over the Genesee River on our way back to town, and the sky was all kinds of wonderful golds and reds. MY legs were tired, and I slept well Sunday night!

Friday, November 6, 2009


Seriously, this will be a post where I force myself to think about what I am thankful for tonight. It has to be. Because it has been the kind of a day where I am mad at EVERYONE for EVERYTHING. (If I didn't know better, I'd swear I was simply PMS'ing today. I have one day a month, every month, where I feel like this, and then later, I look back and go, "Ooooohhhh. THAT'S why." As though it was some new event in my life that hasn't been occurring for the past too many years. It is, no joke, the only day my students end up with detentions, or that I yell at them in class, or I can't stand the sight of my husband, and everything that comes out of my children's mouths seems destined to make me angry enough to wish, only momentarily of course, that I had never given birth. And there is still that possibility I suppose, since that time of life, "the change," seems to be upon me. Things like calendar dates can't always be counted on anymore. So although I don't THINK the reasons for my anger and irritation today are due to hormones with minds of their own, I suppose it could be. Only time will tell. REGARDLESS, I think it far wiser, on a Friday night, to think of things I am thankful for, rather than to dwell on what made me angry today. Even I am smart enough not to wish to ruin a weekend in front of me!!! And if it continues next week, there will be time enough to vent then!)
OK, so... I am thankful for
  • homemade cranberry wine that turned out fantastic, and a husband who, judging the quality of my day, opened a bottle, poured me a glass, and brought the rest of the bottle to me along with the glass!
  • big children who are both coming home from college tonight, just for the weekend, to visit
  • looking forward to sleeping in past 6 tomorrow - it's SATURDAY!
  • looking forward to next Wednesday off from school for Veterans' Day - four day weeks are always good!
  • getting the vacuuming done tonight, and the kitchen floor mopped last night. I am trying to get at least one "major" chore done each night so I don't have to spend all weekend in a dirty house, or every single second cleaning on the weekend. Don't worry - there are still dishes to do, laundry to fold and put away, a chicken coop to clean, etc.
  • getting my desk cleaned off at school today, and all the piles of papers and books and whoknowswhatall sorted and cleaned up, so I can come in Monday morning to a clean desk and work area
  • the generosity of people at school who bought many raffle tickets today for my neighbor who was diagnosed with lymphoma
  • beginning to plan and order and make Christmas presents. For me, the planning is better than the day itself.
  • Bramble seeming to be almost housebroken, finally - knock on wood. At least it is WAY better than a month ago. Frustrating, but so much better, finally. And thankful that I did NOT have to use a crate for it.
And, by the way, why do they say wet hens are mad? My hens have been wet a number of times, since it rains so much here, and all they do is fluff themselves up, shake themselves like a wet dog, and go on about their chickeny business. They don't SEEM like they are mad.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jam making

Well, for not having gotten up until noon today, I still managed to accomplish two things on my list. So in addition to having caught up on my sleep, which was sorely needed, I made Honey-Wheat bread, with sunflower and pumpkin seeds in it (which, as good as it smelled, will have to wait until breakfast tomorrow to be sampled - I was just too full from dinner tonight to try it), and I made the house smell yummy from making Carrot Cake jam. I think that might be a good combination to try for breakfast tomorrow - a large Mobil coffee, and homemade honey wheat bread with carrot cake jam! Unfortunately, the jam does NOT look like it thickened as well as it should have, which seems to be a common jam-making fault of mine. I don't know why. And I don't know if there is any correction to it once it's been jarred, and canned, or not. I read somewhere about recooking it, but I don't know if that would really help, or not. We just get used to eating soupy jam here, and no one here really seems to mind. I only feel badly because I intend to use a lot of it as gifts this year, and soupy jam seems less than a perfect gift.
So today I made a list of the things I still need to make/can for Christmas, and it seems that if I do a couple every week, I'll finish it all.
- What I have already made: spaghetti sauce (still need to make home made noodles, right before Christmas to go with it, and bread then, too), blackberry cinnamon jam, blueberry peach jam, concord grape jam, apple pie jam, and the carrot cake jam.

- Still on my list to try: autumn cranberry pear jam, cinnamon pear jam, strawberry kiwi jam, strawberry margarita jam, cranberry orange jam, kiwi jam, kiwi daiquiri jam, pumpkin butter, apple cider butter, zesty peach barbecue sauce, sundae in a jar, black forest preserves, praline syrup, and spiced honey.
Tomorrow, I need to make the cinnamon apple slices to can, not just to eat!, and put a lot more sauce in the freezer.
I love this time of year, and love making jams and sauces, and love thinking about giving them away for Christmas. I hope people enjoy eating them as much as I have had fun making them. Oh, and then there's the wine, too - newly bottled: Merlot that is too sweet for me, but others will like it, and my favorites, the Red Raspberry, and Cranberry. It is time to go get more juice from Walkers, too, for next years wine! Fall really IS a good time of year!

Does fall make you sad?

"You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen."
Ernest Hemingway (A Moveable Feast)

I was looking for a specific Ernest Hemingway quote this morning that dealt with the fact that much of writing is actually thinking, since I THINK a lot of blog posts in my head, but just don't seem to get to the writing of them, but found this one instead. And since today the fall sun is shining, and it's crisp and chilly out like a fall day should be, and I have two bushels of apples to turn into applesauce to freeze or can today, and jars of "apple pie in a jar" to can, and fresh concord grapes off the vine in my neighbor's back yard to turn into jam, juice and grape pie, it just seemed like an interesting quote to me.
I USED to be sad in the fall. I "raged against the dying of the light" (thank you, Dylan Thomas, for that quote, although I have used it out of context here) when summer faded. Not that I didn't like fall. I always have. But fall really just meant it was almost winter, and I used to hate, hate, hate winter. I seemed to just let the seasons rule me, and was at their mercy. It made for long, ugly winters. And too many autumns went wasted. Now, I am busy. I have opened my eyes to what is around me, and I use it, enjoy it, save it. Being busy makes me feel more a steward of the earth, more like I am using what the earth gives me, out of each season, rather than waiting for three of them to just pass me by to get back to summer. True enough, I will probably always like summer best, in many ways, because summer offers my favorite gifts: the gift of unstructured time, the gift of solitude, time to travel, to read, to enjoy my animals many hours a day, and warmth. Though I don't mind being cold anymore, and I do detest hot, many days in summer, here, are just warm. And that's nice. But, fall has fruits to offer, too - farmer's markets wrapping up their growing seasons with fresh NY apples of a jillion varieties, gorgeous yellow, orange-red, purple mums, craft fairs to get you thinking about Christmas, pumpkins to sit on my front porch, Halloween decorations that make me smile, early season fires in the fireplace so you smell woodsmoke in the air, apple cider, and most of all, canning and freezing the rest of the summer and fall harvest to carry you through winter with that fresh taste of summer. I love watching the dogs tear around the yard kicking up the dried leaves in the cooler air, and coming home to find some of the cats sitting on the porch next to the pumpkins. Even the animals seem to find visible joy in fall. Why shouldn't I?
Part of me USED to die each year when the leaves fell from the trees, and they were bare against the wintery light. But it's all a state of mind, and one that we choose. I no longer choose to let the seasons rule me. Instead, I choose to be an active participant in my life, in each season, and find that I am much happier because of that.
Now, off to deal with the two bushels of apples I brought home yesterday, and to bake some pumpkin and sunflower seed bread in the bread maker. That feels like cheating, to not be making it entirely by hand, but today it allows me time to accomplish two important things at once. I think I'll let myself off the hook for it, today, because it will give me time to take Bramble out for a long walk in the chilly air this afternoon. And we'll BOTH enjoy that!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Back to School

I forget, over the summer when I'm not working, how really much I just don't care for spending a ton of time around people, all day, every day. I know, now, that I should have had a career where I was either alone much of the time, or one where I worked with animals. I really enjoy being alone most of the time. I seldom feel lonely. I REALLY enjoy being alone AND with animals. It's a little late for that, at the moment. Teaching has NEVER been a good fit for me. I have literally spent most of my teaching life trying to change careers, but never had the courage, or the ability, to do so. (I did actually take college classes attempting to become a Certified Nurse Midwife, back many years ago, and completed everything except for the "Math for Meds" course that everyone else flew through. Math is so not my friend. I could NOT get the hang of changing grams to drams, or milligrams to teaspoonfuls, or any of that. In fact, I so discouraged the RN who had taught the course for so many years that she asked me to please just drop the course so that she wouldn't have to fail me, because she didn't want the failure on HER record! I would have been her first; a dubious honor) In retrospect, I am pretty sure that would not have been an ideal job for me either: I need a ton of sleep, don't do well when my sleep is interrupted (could we just schedule all babies to be born between 9 and 5 please? Thanks!), and that, too, is a job that, unfortunately, involves people. And people who are often not at their best when in the midst of labor. And patience with cranky people? Also not necessarily always a strength. So, it's probably a good thing that didn't work out. But over the summer, I spend a lot of time alone. I get up, have coffee and often read for a bit, before going out to work in the garden, or clean, or do laundry, or bake. My dogs are in and out, and around. They are good company. And I enjoy the quiet, unhurried pace of most of the summer days. The rain got a bit discouraging this summer, but even a rainy summer at home, alone, is better than nice days teaching school. And I forget, every single year, even though this has to be my 22nd or 23rd year of teaching, how much of a transition it is to go back to work. I am discouraged today, and much of it comes from conflict between people at school. Conflict in my room over one teacher's stress in doing testing, and scheduling, and getting our classes up and running. For some reason, she seems MUCH more focused, and stressed, and uptight this year than any other. I don't know why. I can't figure it out. But it has rubbed off on me. And I don't like it. I don't like that I absorb other people's stress like a sponge. I am NOT a sponge. But I can't shake it off when it hangs heavy in our room, just there, under the new light fixtures, and seemingly as permanent as them, also.
And I am quick to feel not as good as other teachers, like my opinions are not as valued, my knowledge not as in-depth. I often feel more like an aide, than a professional. This year, already in the four days we have had this week, I have had some major self-esteem crises points. I feel like I am not my co-worker's equal, despite the fact that I have been doing this many years, many more than she, actually, but am always keeping up on current research, always willing to go to conferences and workshops and learn about and implement new things and ideas when they seem like they will make things better for the kids. I'm not one of those people who are just hanging around waiting to retire, unwilling to change anything, set in my ways. I also realize this is my issue, not hers, not anyone elses. But, on top of all that, I think the biggest issue simply is that it always takes time for me to readjust to being at work again after two months off. I LIKE my summer vacation. It truly IS one of the best things, for me, about being a teacher. And it hasn't dawned on me, until today when I've really been focused internally on what seems to be wrong, that a lot of my readjustment is NOT about my job, per se, or the kids, or the scheduling hassles, or anything else: it is about change. It is about leaving my quiet, cozy house, and my dogs, who I really do miss terribly during the day, and having to be out and about and among hundreds of people again each day for eight or more hours. I'm not used to having my solitude so intruded upon again yet. I will. I will readjust. I think things in our room will eventually be fine. I think the tension will go away, and my self-esteem issues will resolve themselves in the way that they usually do (i.e. I shrug my shoulders and essentially say, to myself, "who gives a flying fuck that she was asked to go to that CSE meeting instead of me, when I was the one who worked with that particular child all last year - it's one less meeting I have to attend!And I mean it.) . In the end, it will all be fine, and I will make it through another year, not particularly happy in my job, but bringing home a paycheck, and comfortable that I'm really NOT horrible at my job despite the fact that I don't love it, either. For most of my teaching life, I have claimed a particular mantra as my own: "My real life begins at 3:00." That remains true. I just have to make it through the days UNTIL 3:00, which has been hard this week. Maybe next week will be a little easier, and the week after that moreso. Maybe, by the first of October, summer vacation will be just a rainy, drippy memory, I will be used to hooking the dogs out every morning at 7:30, and school will be just routine again. That will be good.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sometimes you have to work to be thankful

Today is one of those days that I feel ...hmmm, poopy. That's it. Not bad, not good, not sad, not grumpy, just Poopy. Ever have those days? I'm just out of sorts. School started this week, and I'm tired. My throat is sore from talking too much, my head hurts from trying to schedule children who are impossible to schedule because everyone else wants to schedule them, too, and we had a big argument in my room today, the other two teachers and I, over Obama and health care and politics. As a rule, I NEVER discuss politics, because I don't know enough or care enough about it to be able to hold my own. I hate arguing, I hate confrontation, and I hate politics, especially. I broke my rule today, and paid for it because it turned into a real argument, where I feel like I was being ridiculed for my beliefs, and at the same time, felt one of the other's beliefs were very naive and the other one's beliefs WERE ridiculous, even to me. (She is worried they are going to put old people on ice floes and send them out to sea, theoretically speaking, I guess. Wow.) Whatever. Thus, tonight, I am poopyish.
So...I decided it would be a good night to look for the good. I haven't done that for awhile. I may have to sit here for a bit, but if I sit quietly, and wait, and think, I will come up with things to be grateful for. Wait for it, wait...wait...
Ah..1) .the farmer's market in Angelica on Saturdays. I love it. I don't know why, because sometimes there are only a handful of vendors. But I like the IDEA of it, anyway. I do wish it were bigger. But I got great blueberries a couple weeks ago, last week I got "Bright Lights" swiss chard, which really was every bit as pretty as the package picture I saw this spring, and I am hoping that the one lady might have more elderberries if I go back a couple more times. She said she might, and I really want to make elderberry syrup this year. 2) Cathy's photos of Alaska on her blog. Those make me REALLY happy. ( Many of the places she photographs, I've been, with her and thanks to her, but she sees them in different lights, and in different seasons, and I never fail to feel "homesick" for Alaska through her eyes. But it's a good homesick. 3) Autumn is coming, and I have a new appreciation for it this year. Long story, but usually I don't look forward to it, and this year, I am. So, that's good, I guess? And then, winter. Winter I used to hate, but that was before dogsledding, and the Iditarod, and the Yukon Quest, and the Can-Am in Allegany State Park, and the Kobuk 440, which some year I hope I will get to, so I no longer dread winter either. 4) Family. My two oldest are now at college, both of them 5 hours away, and I miss them. But missing them makes me appreciate the two who are left at home even more, and so, today, I am grateful that I do still have two left at home. Four years from now, I won't have any kids left here, so today, the fact that I still have two, is good.
All right, I guess I'm just really having to work for gratitude tonight, which is silly, so perhaps tomorrow it will just be easier. Tomorrow is Friday, and Fridays are not allowed to be poopy days, right? AND it's my youngest's birthday - so a Friday worth REALLY celebrating!

I Love My Chickens!

Thor, the mighty rooster
Chickens in the flower bedsWell, hello - welcome to my front porch!

It's funny how many posts have run through my head for the past couple of weeks, just things I feel or think about that I want to get down. But I have been having camera issues, with just my little Kodak, and I had other pictures that were on my phone that I couldn't get from the phone to the computer. And I took pictures to GO with my posts. And, I am just a little bit lazy, too. Yeah, there's that. It's easier to sit down at the computer and skim through other people's blogs, or read posts on Facebook, or delete spam on email than it is to actually WRITE a post. I finally figured out why - yeah, lazy AND slow, did we say? Because writing is WORK. Work I enjoy, as much as I enjoy any sort of work, but then, when one is lazy, work is work, and well, too much of the time, I'd really prefer not to have to work at all. Drinking coffee and reading is about as much work as I like. But, then, some of the thoughts I just can't shake, so I guess I need to work on the whole self-discipline thing. Like this post about chickens.
I have had my chickens since the end of April, and have gone through many phases of their little feathered lives with them in that amount of time, from fuzzy peeping chicks, to gawky teenage chickens who were too big for the box in the bathroom anymore, to the first egg from one of them a week ago. I really love my chickens, and I know that is very strange, and I know most people find that rather odd. Oh well. I guess in general, I just really love animals, and these chickens have become another form of pet for me. Not that I will have any real issues eating them when they stop laying in a few years, and when one was eaten by a dog a month or two ago, I didn't cry any tears, because, in the end, well, they are just chickens. I am raising them for eggs, and eventually chicken stew in the pot, and they are easily replaced, But while I have them, I appreciate their personalities and qualities. They are really a very comical, and gentle-souled animal. Bird. Whatever.
Initially I kept them in their coop and little run. It's not very big, though, and I felt kind of bad for them. Like, I really WANTED them to be able to be "free-range" chickens, and not have to wait for me to throw green grass in there, and to be able to scratch around and dig for worms and eat bugs, etc. But, we live in town, and I have neighbors close-by on one side at least, and I have a bunch of cats who own the place, and four dogs, two of whom I don't think would show any particular love and devotion to a small flock of lunchmeat, and so, cooped they were. For some reason, I started letting them out into a little bit larger wire enclosure that wasn't secured, but opened up their world a little. That made them happier. And, they didn't escape, or fly away, or get eaten, ,or dig under the fence, or, or, or...they were just good chickens. THEN, I opened that up, and let them out in the driveway, and watched them carefully. Finally, I realized that these chickens just weren't going anywhere. Yeah, they'd range around the driveway, over to the barn, over to the yard, and yesterday, they finally ventured into my flower beds in the front yard (I looked out the front door and there was an Auracauna on my front steps...Now THAT was a first, I'm sure, for the history of this house) So, my chickens are happier, and I'm happier for them. I don't feel so cruel keep thing all "cooped up" anymore. And the best part of this is, for some reason the three little girls, the ones that were new in April (the two Auracaunas are older, and were gifts from a friend's dad so I would have a couple who were laying already, while I waited for mine to begin laying this fall. I've had two green eggs a day from them ever since), have started going to roost on top of their coop at night, instead of going inside it. The rooster and the two older ladies roost inside the pen, but not in their coop. So, I go out as soon as it gets dark, and scoop up my three gentle hens, one at a time, and carry them around to the door to the pen, and gently set them down inside, where they then scurry up the walkway into their coop. Then, after a couple of nights of having to practically shove the rooster, Thor, and the two older ladies in there, they now follow the younger girls. They really are smarter than people give them credit for, although I would never personally vote for chickens as being a particularly bright form of animal life. But the whole point to this is, this new ritual of having to put the chickens to bed at night, after a summer of just letting them roost outside their coop (but in their pen), is really sort of a comforting, soothing nighttime ritual. The birds are soft, and calm, and sleepy, and let me pick them up and stroke them, and talk to them, and then put them to bed with little or no fuss. After the coop is closed up, and I latch the door for the night, the day just seems somehow a little more complete. Calm. Restful. And I come in, from the cool nights which are quickly moving into autumn now, ready for sleep. I sleep better after having put the chickens to bed. I don't know why, but I just do. I know it's weird. I know liking chickens is weird. And I know that finding comfort in a ritual of my own making, of talking to birds and tucking them in for the night is probably, by far, one of the strangest things about me, currently. But, I'm really ok with that. I like my chickens.
Gracie the cat, trotting over to investigate the chickens in the front yard. None of them was terribly impressed with her, nor she with them. Live and let live, I guess.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

You Might be Addicted to Coffee if...

the first thing you think of, when you start cleaning underneath your daughter's bed, and spy a quarter right off the bat, is "I wonder if I can find $1.40 in change for my coffee tomorrow?" For years we have made coffee at home, and for years, I drank it and loved it just fine. A year or so ago, it started making me ill. It gave me a terrible stomach ache, and I would get sick after drinking it, unless I ate something quickly. I think it's connected to low blood sugar, which I will eventually get checked out, but in the meantime, I quit drinking coffee, figuring that it was probably that which was making me sick. It wasn't worth it, no matter how much I loved it, or so I thought.
But then, it creeps back in, the need, the desire for it ... it smells so good, it tastes so good, it's so, a nice hot cup of coffee in the morning. I wake up thinking about it, can't wait til I get my first cup. And eventually, for some reason, I had a cup of coffee from the Mobil Station downtown (wait, it isn't a Mobil station anymore; it's just some random little mini-mart with gas, now, but everyone still calls it "the Mobil." My kids, every kid in town, says, at least once a day "I'm going to the Mobil to get a drink" and that is where they go to buy pop, or water, or Blow-Pops, or Slim Jims and Pop-tarts. It's a Belfast thing, "the Mobil" is - and when I say "downtown," really I just mean Main Street, which is one street over and one street down) I digress from the coffee tale.
So, for some reason, just before school ended last year, maybe around the middle of June, I had a cup of coffee from the Mobil, with three hazelnut creamers in it. And not only was it every bit good as I knew it would be, it didn't make me sick. At all. So, I had another cup from there, just to check it out. And since then, I think maybe I've missed two or three days in all. A small cup costs 1.05, a medium 1.29 and a large is 1.40. I've varied the size occasionally - back when it was really, really hot and muggy for a couple of weeks, I only got a small or medium, because it was almost too hot for coffee. Almost. It never really is, but I drank my coffee and then switched immediately to Diet Pepsi the rest of the day. Now that it has cooled down a bit, and mornings are enjoyable again, temperature wise, I have gone back to a large. I always try to take in exactly one dollar and forty cents. Sometimes I even just leave it on the counter. The really, really, really nice lady there in the mornings knows exactly what I am getting, every morning. She doesn't even count it out anymore, just throws it in the drawer. But see, the thing is, it has been nearly two months since I have had a paycheck, and it will be another two and a half weeks until I get my first one of this school year. So things get a little bit tight near the end of August. Every year it happens, and I know I'm not the only teacher it happens to. No matter how I try to balance my summer fund money, and stretch it out, I always run out a couple weeks before school starts. This summer has been especially tough, trying to get a second child ready for college. It's darned expensive to send someone off. So the past few days, I have been scrounging change from various places - the car, the cup next to my bed, my husband's bedside stand where he drops his change, to feed my addiction. THIS morning, I ended up paying it entirely in dimes and nickles. I have thought, and voiced the thought several times, that I really should quit buying Mobil coffee. It's a luxury, and when things are tight, luxuries should be the first thing to go. I could, after all, just switch brands of coffee at home, and try that. Or I could try a different creamer. Or I could even buy a small, instead of a large. And, by Thursday of this week, I might have to think a lot harder about it. Because I could only find 1.25 in change under the bed this morning. Now, I THINK I can scrounge up the extra 15 cents needed for a large tomorrow. But Thursday? I don't know. I DID hear some change rattling in a box in my son's room this afternoon when I went in to scoop up his dirty clothes. Do you think stealing change from his room would be sinking just a little TOO low? Yeah, I thought so.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ummm, Summer tastes good!

Angelica Farmer's Market in the circle in the park, Saturday mornings until October

Today's catch was 8 quarts of peaches, and a quart of blueberries. I'm thinking peach/bb jam, and maybe a peach/bb crisp, or cobbler, with vanilla ice cream. There were gorgeous onions there, that would have been perfect for pickles, but no pickling cucumbers, and the bigger cukes were expensive, I thought. I also saw elderberries that I wanted to get, but didn't know what to do with (I do now, after googling. I will get them next week and make elderberry syrup.) And the Once-Again-Nut-Butter factory, from Nunda, had their nut/seed butters there. I tried the sunflowerseedbutter this morning, and it was great. I think I will buy some next week. Only 5.50 for a 16 ounce jar. They also have cashew butter, almond butter, and smooth or crunchy peanut butter. I think the cashew butter was double that price, but it's probably pretty good! And honey. I didn't buy any today, because I want to get that from Dennis Doell, but I do need more honey. And I found a great place not too far from here to go pick blueberries, hopefullly next week. All in all, a great place to spend a few minutes this morning. There were not nearly as many vendors there as there were last fall when we went on the final weekend, but it was still nice. And nice to go with a friend and her kids. They were so cute, buying their cucumbers, and glasses of lemonaid with "their" dollars. Parker bought two peaches, and they dove into those, all the sweetness of summer dripping down their chins and arms. But they prefer their peaches, "without the fur on them." What a nice Saturday summer morning - even the temperature is finally nice, and not too hot today, and no rain! Hurray.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Small Town Life (take 2)

I was attempting to write this post the other day, during the middle of one of those raging summer storms we had several times daily, for several days in a row, and the power cut out, but blogger somehow managed to publish the first word in my title. I thought it was kind of funny. Small. Hmmm. What does it mean? Am I feeling small today? Is the world a small place? Maybe I should just post a random word every now and then to contemplate!
At any rate, I have been feeling very thankful lately that I live in the small town that I do. It could be better, granted. There are lots and lots of things that are bad about living in a small town, any, or this one in particular, and it wouldn't take long to list them. Just ask my kids. They will give you a litany of ills regarding life in this town. It would closely resemble the same list I had 30 years ago when I was growing up in a similar small town 11 miles north of here.
This isn't necessarily where I want to live, if given my choice of any location in the world, but given the realities of life, complete free choice is not really an option right now. Nor has it been for the past 22 years, as the constraints of my husband's job "force" us to live in this particular county. And much of the time, it IS easier to see the "bad" of living here. The grass is always greener in Alaska, for example, and the snow is definitely whiter! And they have dogsledding in Maine, and blueberries, and whales. Western New York? Here? Not so much my favorite place on earth. But when I open myself to what IS good about here, about this town, I am often surprised, or at least reminded, that this can be a good place to live, as long as I have to be here.
Last week a "neighbor" who lives on the corner of our street, two or three houses down, sent over a huge, beautiful woven grapevine basket full of vegetables from her garden. The funny thing is, I have never actually talked to this woman, or "met" her, officially. But my kids are friends with her kids (actually, the small world aspect? My son used to date her daughter back three years ago when they lived in the town I grew up in, 11 miles away, and now they've moved here, to our corner of the world, and street.) He eats there more than here; she always makes sure to feed him. When we went on vacation, they kept my Bramble puppy, and put up with her, so that I didn't have to take her to the kennel with the big dogs. What a relief that was to me, to know she was being loved here, instead of left on her own much of the day on a concrete slab in a kennel. The vegetables were beautiful - celery, which I can't grow to save my life, and some zuchini and yellow squash, and some cucumbers. And the presentation was pretty too, all lined up in that basket. It just warmed my heart that this person who I only "know" to wave to when I pass by, sent that over for us. She keeps a beautiful yard, full of flowers, and her kids are nice, and she is such a nice person. If I didn't live here, now, I would not have had that basket of friendship to reciprocate, which I did - with yellow beans from MY garden, and a loaf of fresh zuchini bread!
The other thing that happened to occur on the same day? I left the fence gate to our backyard unlatched while I was out giving water to the chickens. It swung open behind me, in my carelessness. Anvik, my husky mix, took the opportunity she clearly thought I was offering her, to trot herself out the gate, down the driveway, and disappear (trot? No, I think not. Wrong verb choice. Bolt? Run? Fast as lightening? Yes, better description by far...) OK, so that's not what made me happy to live here. Actually, that really makes me sick to my stomach when she does that - escapes. Husky's live to run, plain and simple. And when they run, they seldom slow down enough to care about cars, roads, silly things like that. They also can't be "caught" or "enticed" to come home, until they are done running. I've tried. Over and over, for years, every time Annie or Moose, her brother, escaped, I would drive all over town, looking for them, trying to catch them, trying to lure them home with hotdogs, sausages, sweet talk, etc. I know I looked ridiculous. I'm sure I often looked like some kind of sicko stalker person, leaning out my car window in the dead of winter, holding a hot dog, trying to verbally cajole a dog that was lurking behind houses or bushes, unseen to any other passerby. But to not try to get them home seemed wrong - they were my responsibility, and regardless of their irritating personal houdini acts of escape, to protect them and keep them safe, I DID try. Eventually, I gave up. There is simply NOTHING I can do to get Annie home until she decides to come home. I'm just not fast enough. And Moose paid the price for that a year and a half ago - he was hit and killed down on the main road, two blocks away. The guilt of that will never leave me. And I miss him. Terribly. Still, and always. ANYWAY, now any time Annie does get out (and thankfully, it is MUCH less often, reduced down to maybe once or twice a year) she no longer runs as far, or as long, and seems to come home much more quickly without her partner in crime. But still, I worry. I am sick to my stomach the instant I know she is gone. And I don't stop worrying until she is back at the front door. And here's the good part: Mason knows this. Mason is one of my students at school, who happens to live on the street behind me, his house kittycorner to mine. I have had Mason for five years, in various classes. We have a relationship that is rare between teacher and student, one I've only ever had one other time in my 22 years of teaching, but those two relationships have made all 22 years completely worth it. Musings for another time. Mason and his cousin were walking past my house when Anvik tore down the front hill and out of the yard. In a split second, they made a decision I was totally unaware of: they chased her. All the way up to school, and around the block, and back to my house. In all, she was only gone about 15 minutes this time, and they chased her right back to the front door, where I just HAPPENED to be passing by and saw them, now in my front yard. I opened up the door to see what was going on, and Annie zipped in, and Mason, out of breath, filled me in. I owe them both cookies, promised for the first day of school. Mason, skinnybones that he is, is a typical teenage boy - he lives to eat!
And THOSE are the reasons I am glad I live here, today, this summer. Good neighbors, on the corner, and behind my fence. Good neighbors abound everywhere. I'm sure I'd have some in Maine, or Alaska, or Montana, or wherever I was lucky enough to live by choice, but it's good to know that if I HAVE to live here for now, I can still be grateful for the people with whom I share this little space.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Back - sort of!

Arrrgghhh! Vacation. It was great, but my computer died the second day there. Well, the cord fried, which meant, no computer. That was fine - it WAS vacation, after all, but then, I put the camera/computer cord away somewhere, along with the camera charger, and now that I'm home, I can't find them. They're here, someplace. But now I have to search all over again, and I was SO proud of myself at that point earlier in the summer when I managed to get ALL of my cords all in the same place, so I could blog and post pictures. I am ADD enough that when I get up from my computer now, I will again, forget to make looking for them my priority. And then, last week was a conference for four days, and my father had some major issues again, and that week passed me by. And then (I feel like a four year old "and then..., and then..., and then..." - but that is how it has been for two or three weeks straight!), we have had SO. MUCH. RAIN. that we have not had consistent power and/or internet connection for days. Today, just as the cable was apparently hooked back up down the street, restoring our internet connection, the electricity went out. Again. I can't complain - if I lived just a couple houses down the block, where the next transfer lines are, we would have been without power for three CONSECUTIVE days, instead of just sporadically. Really - I more than wish I COULD send some of this rain to Fairbanks. I LOVE rain on the roof, I love rainy days in the summer here and there. They make us slow down, appreciate how it creates growth, forces us to stop and just be, instead of all the "doing" that happens when it is sunny - but this is bordering on absurd at this point. The rain has flattened my corn, nearly drowned my chickens who are wandering around in mud up to their chicken ankles, and we haven't mowed our lawn nicely for more than a month because it is either raining, or, too wet to mow and trim all at the same time.
ANYWAY, all of this to say, to myself! that I have tons of blog ideas and tons of things I want to get out of me and write down - good things that have happened, things I have appreciated, things that are interesting, funny, or good in life - and yet, yet, life for the past three weeks has seemed to be conspiring against that happening. On the other hand, with hubby out of town tonight, I think I will FINALLY be able to sit and write a few more things. Yay for me. And, if I can remember to search for the darn cords, maybe I can post a few pics, too!
In the meantime, it is raining. AGAIN. For the third time today. Sigh. I wonder if the Native Americans ever had an "anti-rain" dance. If so, and someone knows it, please share. My fat, lazy, golden retriever, does NOT like thunder, and I'm getting tired of having her glued to my leg this summer!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

An Abundance of Gratitude Tonight

Tonight my gratitude is for:
  • finally getting a parenting thing right! Made a decision that was "iffy" but was counting on the age-old wisdom that I have heard hundreds of times, and that my own parents used on me. It went against what I really wanted to do, but I was counting on it being the right thing in the end, and it was. Seldom do I EVER feel I get parenting right, so tonight, yay me!
  • a 20 year old son whose philosophy of money drives me crazy ("easy come, easy go" - don't worry about saving for tomorrow if there is something you want today - grrrr) but who, when he knows we're in a bind, financially, willingly offers to loan us one of his summer paychecks to get us through and doesn't even blink when turning over 500.00. What a good heart he has.
  • a clean house (relatively speaking!)
  • someone offering, or rather begging, to keep Bramble puppy for the week we are gone next week, which means I don't have to take my baby puppy to the kennel with the big dogs. I don't worry about them for a week up there, but I didn't want my puppy to be without lots of love and attention and people to play with for a whole week. I felt like she would feel totally abandoned, and it was making me not want to go on vacation. Now, I feel SO much better.
  • Looking forward to a week at the beach with my hubby and 8 teenagers - (2) 14, (1) 15, (1) 16, (2) 18, and 2 (20) year olds. OK, so technically the 20 year olds are no longer teenagers, but close enough. I think this actually might be one of our best vacations ever, because besides my own 4 kids, I REALLY like the other 4 who are going.
  • The forecast for tonight as I am on my way up to bed: thunderstorms! As sick as I am of rain this summer, I love a good thunderstorm when I'm in bed. I love the way the thunder rolls in across the hills, slowly and in the distance at first, but then, gradually, comes closer and closer until it is right on top of you, then gradually rolls away into the distance again. Of course, it will mean a bunch of cowering dogs all trying to get as close to my side of the bed as possible, but, still, I'm looking forward to it. Good night!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Today was Day 2 of a three day literacy class that I am taking this summer, along with about 50 other teachers from around the area. It is a combination of the Writer's Workshop class I took last summer, and Ellin Keene's Mosaic of Thought for reading. As part of the class, teachers are expected to write on topics of our own choice, teaching us to model the same for our students. Part of the reason I signed up for the class is because I was hoping they would have us write. You'd think, since I like to write so much, that I could just stay home and write for a couple hours every day. But as much as I love writing, it isn't that easy. What I have discovered in the last few years that actually came as a shock to me is that writing is hard work, no matter how much I enjoy it. It takes a lot of self-discipline to force yourself to do it, instead of the laundry, or the dishes, or gardening or any number of other things that always call to me, needing to be done. Sadly, self discipline is one of the things most lacking in my life, in too many areas of my life. Yesterday, though, I knew I wanted to write either about my chickens, about the new puppy in my life, or about my dad, and his aging issues. I chose the chickens, and began a draft about them. There wasn't time to finish, and, lacking that certain bit of ...ahem, self discipline, I didn't finish it when I got home, either, although I WANTED to. Knowing we would have some sustained time to write again today, it would seem logical to have worked on it, and maybe finished it. But as soon as I got up today, and all the way to Olean, all I kept thinking was, Alaska, Alaska, Alaska. There was something about the feel of the air this morning, the fog rolling in off the hills, the colors - their certain early morning greens and browns, that sang the siren song of the land of the midnight sun to me. And even more distinctly, the music was not just of Alaska in general, but of a specific place and time and event. Last summer when I went to Kotzebue, I was lucky enough to spend some time out on the Noatak River, and was along on a sort of spontaneous caribou hunt. For who knows what reason, I was totally and completely back on the top of the tundra all day today, watching while Vic cut up the two caribou he shot, and helping to pack out the meat back across the tundra and back to the boat. I have never in my life before those moments, and not again since, felt so lucky to be where I was. And the best part of having been there then is that I get to go back again, in my mind, any time I want. I feel, today, as restless as the herds of caribou must feel when it nears time to begin moving. I feel like this is the time I should BE there. I have made several trips to Alaska now, only one of them in the winter, the rest have all been summertime, June, July and August. I love Alaska in the wintertime, truly I do. I don't mind the cold, I love the snow, and the total and complete highlight of my life is dogsledding. I could happily live in Alaska year round, I really think. If I had dogs. Or had access to someone else's dogs that I could scoop poop for, feed, love up, and take for an occasional short sled trip. No Iditarod dreams for me, not really. But as much as I love the winter there, it is summer there that my heart really craves. I have been there in the summer. I love summer in Alaska. I love the never ending daylight, the ravens and eagles spinning and soaring, the taste of fresh caught salmon cooked over a beach fire, the way the light dances off the mountains in the distance and on the river underneathe you. The silence. The wide, vast silence of sky and tundra and so few people. Today, this morning, I wrote about the caribou hunt, and I was there again, really there. I was there when I woke up this morning, I was there in the words I tried to craft about it in class today, and I am still there tonight. I love Alaska. It has seeped into my soul, and has laid claim to me. I belong there. I'm not sure it is something I can fight, or that I even want to. I think I'd much rather spend my time figuring out how best to return for longer and longer periods of my life so that I just don't have to miss it so much. I'm guessing that once there, New York really isn't going to lay too heavily on my mind. New York is just not a place to be missed. Alaska, on the other hand, well, I miss it every second of every day that I am not lucky enough to be there. And? Most of all? It's Fireweed time. Me? I LOVE fireweed with every fiber of my being. Favorite. Flower. Ever. Amen!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Same Shit, Different Day"..or "Dad Gets Old" - take your pick of a title

So what do you do with an 88 year old man who THINKS he is able to take care of himself, but who isn't, really? He has medical issues for which he has been prescribed medicine, but he is so unreliable about taking it that it isn't doing him much good. And he swears up and down that he DOES take it, but yet, the prescriptions were written last August, for 6 months, and he has not needed new ones yet, which means he is taking his medicine AT BEST about 50 % of the time. He has memory loss, which has come on slowly, not like my mother's alzheimers was, just old-age memory loss. And while I'm sorrier than I can say about it, and it makes me sad, and frustrated for him, at what point can he please JUST ACCEPT THAT IT IS SO. He does not feed himself properly. He eats shredded wheat for breakfast, sometimes a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and then, I suspect he often does not eat dinner, but when he does, it is a frozen lean cuisine or similar frozen meal meant for dieters. He gets meals on wheels four days a week at lunchtime, but does not eat them. He claims he does, but he does not. There have been three delivered meals already this week, and there are three meals still in the refrigerator. It's the same with his medicine - when Dave and I used to fill his pill containers, you could come back a week later to fill them again, only to find much of it still full. And yet, yet, he would CLAIM that he most certainly DID take his medicine, just as he claims he DOES eat his meals. How can you refute the evidence??? HOW? He's depressed, and has been so since my mom died four years ago. He has been prescribed medicine for depression, but it doesn't help much IF YOU DON"T TAKE IT.
He doesn't bathe any more. He says he "sometimes forgets to" take a shower or "didn't feel like it today" when the truth of the matter is, he has probably not showered for months. My mom used to take what she called "sponge baths" by filling the sink with water, and using water and soap and a washcloth to clean herself occasionally. Even that would be better for my dad than just not bathing at all, but seriously, the man does not bathe. AT ALL. That is not healthy. That is a sign of not taking care of yourself. What about that doesn't he get? He wears dirty clothes, even though the cleaning lady who comes on Friday washes all his dirty clothes, he continues to wear the same outfit all week. On the night of C's graduation, I reminded him to put on clean clothes before he came down. Several times, I mentioned that. He wore dirty, stained clothes to her graduation. That made me SO sad. The doctor even told him today that he had a body odor, that his mind was not cooperating, that both his daughters, one of his sons,and his dr. all agreed that his mind was not remembering things the way it should, that he should no longer be living alone for his health's sake, that he should consider moving in with one of his childre. I had already told the doctor that I would LOVE to have my dad live with me. No, I don't think it would be easy, or that it would make me really, really happy. I don't think it would make him happy. But I do know I would be able to take care of him - wash his clothes, cook him decent meals, make sure he took his medicine correctly, bathed daily. And being able to do all those things for my dad would put my heart at ease. Instead, because he refuses to admit his weaknesses, because he is a stubborn, stubborn old man, I took him home, filled his pill containers full of pills he won't take, kissed him good night, told him I loved him, and prayed all the way home that he won't have a heart attack or a stroke that will rob him of ALL of his freedom and independence, or worse yet, kill him. My worst fear is that he will have a heart attack, and be laying on the kitchen floor, unable to get up, unable to get to the phone, and that we won't know for days. He is too stubborn to wear one of those 911 necklaces, too stubborn to stop driving, and too stubborn to accept the help he needs. I don't know what to do. Wait, I do know. I've been through this before, a million times it seems. There IS nothing I can do, except wait for the heart attack, the stroke, or the car accident, or the broken hip in the winter. There IS nothing he will LET me do, so all today became was "same shit, different day." Nothing new.
My aunt, who died at 104 with all her faculties intact, used to say "Old age is unlovely and not to be desired." She got that right.

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Kayaking" on Allen Lake

Can you see that dot, out in the middle of the water, right straight ahead? That is C and L, my 18 year old and her friend, "kayaking." This lake is about seven or eight miles from us - rough miles on bumpy, windy, curvy dirt and stone back roads. That's fine, if you really want to kayak, which I have done up here several times. It's not a very big lake, so it's an easy, enjoyable lazy kind of kayaking. But still, when I go, I DO kayak. At least once around the lake, sometimes more. I go in close to the shore on the far side, I go through the lilly pads, avoid some lilly pads, explore a little - maybe an hour or two at the most. But it's exercise, despite the easiness and enjoyability of it. So when C said they wanted to go kayaking, would I take them up, I said sure. She can't drive a standard, and the only thing both kayaks will fit in is one of the trucks, which is standard. So I threw in a book to read, drove them up, launched them,and then read for the half an hour that they SAT THERE. IN THAT SPOT. A LITTLE WAYS OUT IN THE LAKE. They never went any further than that. They paddled out there, and then SAT. For all 30 minutes. Then paddled back in. That was it. THAT'S KAYAKING? Silly girls. I guess it is if you are 18 and just lazing away a summer day. Or 30 minutes of one, anyways. Why strain yourself??

Eggs and Tractor Supply make for a good day!

Today was a good day. I went out to feed the chickens this morning, and gathered eggs since I had not checked for them yesterday. There were 4. But really, there were 3 normal eggs and one giant egg. I don't know if you can really tell from the pictures how much larger the one is than the normal ones, but it is HUGE. Seriously, it looks like a duck or a turkey egg. I have NO idea why I got one so large, but it was everyone in the house today who stopped to look at it in the kitchen commented! Maybe it was the grapes I fed them? Who knows, maybe grapes are really, really good for egg production! I also stopped at Tractor Supply today to get oyster shell grit for calcium for the two older, laying hens. I love that store. I bought two magazines - my guilty pleasure, since they cost about 5 bucks each, and I know I can't really afford that, but I love them. One was Hobby Farms Backyard, or something like that, and the other one was Mary Jane's Farm. They are both great reads. The other two I like to buy from there are Mother Earth News and Grit. Any day I can collect eggs and stop at Tractor Supply are good days!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Copied from an email I got today - a GREAT chuckle!

To be posted VERY LOW on the refrigerator door - pet nose height...

Dear Dogs and Cats:
The dishes with the paw prints are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Please note, placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

he stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Beating me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn't help because I fall faster than you can run.

I cannot buy anything bigger than a king sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort. Dogs and cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.

For the last time, there is no secret exit from the bathroom. If by some miracle I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge and try to pull the door open. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years --canine or feline attendance is not required.

The proper order is kiss me, then go smell the other dog or cat's butt. I cannot stress this enough!

And, to pacify you, my dear pets, I have posted the following message on our front door:

To All Non-Pet Owners Who Visit & Like to Complain About Our Pets:

1. They live here. You don't.
2. If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. That's why they call it 'fur'niture.
3 . I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
4. To you, they are an animal. To me, he/she is an adopted son/daughter who is short, hairy, walks on all fours and doesn't speak clearly.

Remember: Dogs and cats are better than kids because they:
1. Eat less
2. Don't ask for money all the time
3 Are easier to train
4. Normally come when called
5. Never ask to drive the car
6. Don't hang out with drug-using friends
7. Don't smoke or drink
8. Don't have to buy the latest fashions
9. Don't want to wear your clothes
10. Don't need a gazillion dollars for college, and...
11. If they get pregnant, you can sell their children.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Today I am NOT grateful for:
  • a heel that I raked painfully down a nail sticking out on our top step - throbbbbbbbing.
  • a vacuum cleaner that "isn't worth fixing" and would take at least a 60.00 new motor in the head, and that doesn't even begin to fix it, but it's all I had, and I can't afford a new vacuum and there is dog hair all over my house. My house needs to be vacuumed daily. What to do.
  • puppy pee and puppy poop all over the house - why does she refuse to poo outside???
  • having to take the Jeep in tomorrow for an estimate on the front end damage I did a couple of weeks ago - the deductible is $1,000.00 and I don't HAVE that. Not even close.
  • a son who is 20 and who is totally financially irresponsible, still
  • a daughter who is 18 and who is, I swear, bi-polar. Certainly miserable to be around at best much of the time.
  • a son who is 16 who can help everyone else in the world, and who LIVES at the local volunteer fire department, but can't mow the lawn, go to the dump for me, or complete any of the few other chores he is nagged to do here
  • a 14 year old daughter who has spent LOADS of my money on concert tickets this summer with the promise of doing 2 hours worth of laundry folding and other chores for me in return, who has yet to do much of ANYTHING.
  • the bee stings I have received trying to turn over my compost pile. They HURT. So my hand is throbbing from bee stings, and my heel is throbbing from the nail. Ouch.
BUT........... this is suppose to be an opportunity to think of things I am GRATEFUL for, so, however anemic that might be today, I DO have an obligation to attempt that. I am grateful for
  • a husband who took me along on his errands today as I was getting rather stir crazy at home
  • a husband who cooked italian sausage with peppers and onions for dinner for me tonight
  • an 20 year old son who is GREAT company, and who dared to drive through NYC today on his own to visit a friend on Long Island. I would not have been so brave at 20.
  • an 18 year old daughter who curled up in my lap to watch TV last night and who was silly and loud and made me laugh
  • a 16 year old who is in Cuba tonight playing "Fireman Games" with the department because it is the Countywide Fire Department weekend, and who attempted to rescue a dog this past weekend that a neighbor had left tied out with no food and water when he moved away
  • a 14 year old who is generally sunny and happy and cheerful and who will do ALMOST anything I ask with minimal fuss (except, apparently, folding laundry?)
  • looking forward to a week at the beach with all of these goofy kids AND their friends, 10 of us in all for a week
  • looking forward to getting to see a friend from far away for a day or two in August
  • a good book to read when I go crawl into bed in a few minutes!
There is ALWAYS much to be grateful for. It's easier to see the dark side sometimes, but that's why I know it is important to LOOK for the good. They're there!

Random summer musings:

There are bees living in my compost pile. They do not like it when I try to turn the pile over. They warned me the other day that they didn't like me messing with their pile. Today I thought maybe I would see if they were actually living there, or perhaps they had just been visiting the other day, and their warning sting on my hand had just been a mistake. Nope, no mistake. And they were not just resting their wings on the way to someplace else. They are squatters in my pile, and have claimed it for their own. Today they let me know that FOR SURE. (And they were also thinking, I"m quite sure, "lady, how dumb do you have to be to keep coming back for more of us? We TOLD you the other day, WE live here now - leave us alone.") OK, message understood today. And I was able to find the bee sting swabs today, so at least my leg, and my the middle finger on my right hand are not currently as bothered as is the area of my left hand between my thumb and first finger. It makes me not idealize the thoughts I've had of "beekeeping for honey" quite so much. It makes the thoughts of doing that a bit more realistic. I know most people say they don't get stung often, or at all, when doing it, but hmmmm - right now, bee stings seem a bit more painful than, say, the occasional peck on the hand or foot by my chickens, so... I think I'll just stick with chickens for awhile.

I don't fancy myself much of a cook, though I guess I CAN cook well enough. I just really, really, really don't LIKE to cook. Unless I hit upon something that everyone raves about. That happens rarely, but when it does, when they actually ASK me to cook something, it makes me feel good and makes me want to cook it for them. This summer it has been homemade pizza. I got a quick and easy dough recipe on line from another blogger, and love, love, love it - it doesn't have any yeast in it, so it doesn't need time to rise. AND, from Cold Antler Farm, I got the idea from Jenna to make pizza in a cast iron skillet. These two things combined have made for some awesome pizza dinners this summer. Simple, asked for, raved about, and delicious. THAT'S my kind of cooking! And I got ambitious last night and made a home made cherry pie, and bread from that "Bread in Five Minutes a Day" recipe. Which just points out even more that I am a baker, not a cook! But we ate well yesterday, from my hands. THAT feels good.

And eggs. Chicken eggs from MY chickens. I never, ever tire of opening the back of the coop and finding an egg, or two, to bring in. It totally just warms my heart. I can't explain it, but a chicken egg, fresh from my coop and my chickens, is so important to me. Right now, because my own 4 little hens are new this year, I won't get eggs from them until maybe September or October? But a friend's dad gave me two of his big Auracana hens "on loan" for eggs, until my own start laying, and so from them I get a blue egg or two every day. I love it. It is totally making my summer, and so is sitting and watching the chickens. They each have their own personality, and I love them all. My life is becoming more my own each day, more what I want it to be. I guess I find it interesting to see how my life has changed, evolved, and how my dreams have changed so much, yet, deep inside, have really remained much the same. I couldn't have known when I was 14 or 15 that I would want to own chickens some day, or live in Alaska, but the dreams I did have back then were of the same genre - the one I remember most clearly was wanting to live in a cabin in the mountains of Colorado, being a writer there, and having a dog with me for company. I wanted to have a wood stove and cut my own wood, and grow food from a garden, and just live, be fully alive. Well, life has a way of happening - college, a job, a husband, children - before you know it, you are often set in a way of life that seems "normal," and happens to most people, but it doesn't mean that you are locked in it, or that some of your old dreams can't still be. Granted, I probably never will live in Colorado, or be a solitary writer, but I do have my dogs (and how thankful I am for them - more than I ever could have known back then when my life was far more full of people!) - and the things inside me that moved me back then are still at work in my life right now. They may manifest themselves a bit differently now, but that's ok. At least I know my heart, and my dreams, are still alive. Funny how a bowl of blue chicken eggs can be such a tangible reminder of that.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July

Not much to post today. No one's fault but my own - I spent a totally unenergetic, unproductive day, I guess by choice. It didn't feel like choice - I just felt blah, and a bit lonely, and uninspired today, but that irritates me, because generally I really enjoy being alone. I had tons of things I could have done - sewing, crafting, folding 20 loads of clean laundry, dishes. I even got out two cans of cherries with the intention of making a cherry pie today, and thought about baking granola bars, and maybe even a loaf of bread, but every time I thought about doing something, I'd go lay down, read a chapter or two of a really bad book, and fall asleep for 30 minutes or so. Finally, I gave up and decided that sometimes maybe we just need a day to rest, and read, and NOT accomplish anything, without feeling guilty. That's the key - because I felt guilty and bad today for not having something to show at the end of the day. But, it's summer, and there's always tomorrow. My goals for tomorrow? Fold all the laundry, bake a loaf of bread with dinner, make a cherry AND a berry pie, bake some granola bars, and make Keenan do the dishes. Oh, and I should probably make an appearance up the street at Wayde's graduation party. So, off to bed to finish the lousy book, and perhaps tomorrow will be the very productive day today was not!
Things to be grateful for today:
  • a day with NO rain, and lots of sunshine, even if it was on the cool side
  • missing my children when they are gone more than they are home, and being glad to see them and talk to them when they DO come home
  • the luxury of napping
  • friends from far away
  • memories of last summer in Alaska
  • the times that Bramble pees outside, and the knowledge that SOMEDAY she, too, will be housebroken like the rest of the big dogs

Friday, July 3, 2009

And today, I'm grateful for:
  • Border Collies
  • waiting for books I've ordered to come in the mail
  • fresh spaghetti sauce filled with fresh tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms
  • hearing the rain outside my window when I'm sleepy
  • ice cream in a bowl
  • and...puppy kisses from a puppy mouth that smells like a skunk!!!

Welcome home, Bramble

So I have FINALLY gotten my act together. Well, ok, a part of my act. I now have taken the time to get a new camera cord, a new battery charger cord, AND I figured out how to upload a photo. So, my slowwwww bloggy start should now improve?
This gorgeous little baby's name is Brambleberry, or Bramble for short. She came from about 3 hours away, in Berkshire, NY, and is the answer to a 22 year old prayer. I have always wanted a Border Collie, but it has just never been the right time. Now, for lots of reasons, it is. And here she is. My heart has already welcomed her home.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A New Beginning ....I hope!

I hope it is a new beginning. I really enjoy writing, but have neglected this blog so long it is almost embarrassing to start again. And it really didn't get very far on it's first try, but, why not, I guess. I'm a little more motivated, and summer is coming, so a little more time is a given, and I have lots of projects and ideas in the works, and lots of issues and frustrations that it would probably do me good to put down in words (if only so that I can look back and see how they all worked out, because things always do... when you can see the big picture, which I can't right now - Faith?!) I also really like the idea of keeping track of things I am grateful for, on a daily basis. I think that is such a good exercise. There are some days when things seem so bleak that I really have to THINK about what's good - but that's exactly the point. And so, since I really need to go get a few things done today, I'll end with that for right now:

I'm grateful today for:
  • the chance to get away with a friend this weekend and leave all my cares behind for a fun and awesome two days;
  • my chickens in my coop, which are turning out to be a little bit of a pain, but are really a "dream come true" (I have ALWAYS wanted to own chickens, and finally, I do. That really does make me happy);
  • looking forward to getting the Border Collie I have always wanted, also, in a few more weeks.
Rather random, but they work for today!