Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Around the Farm

Time for a quick farm and garden report:

First, let me say, just when you think you cannot possibly love your husband any more, he goes and power washes the turkey and duck poo off the front porch and sidewalk and you learn you can love even more. Then he tries to force you to use the kids' bathroom in the morning so he can get first shower and that passion falls back a notch. Ebb and flow, that's what love is all about.


Yesterday, our neighbor mentioned he'd be covering his tomato plants because we are supposed to have a couple frosty nights before it warms up again. So, my friend in farming Emily, me and a few of our yahoos picked all the ripe and ripening tomatoes, covered the most robust plants with the best looking remaining fruit, then picked all the green tomatoes from the uncovered plants. We, again, have a boatload of tomatoes to process. This morning, I went to pull the sheets off the plants because we have 50 mph winds forecasted for the entire day. Since I don't want to come home to the embarrassing spectacle of linens wrapped up in the overhead powerlines again, I figured we better grab the sheets now. Good call - the winds are already high. If Gertie the Goat were wearing her Hannah Montana wig, she'd be a platinum blond windsock in the side yard right now. Already, there are ripples on the duck's wading pool.

All the uncovered tomato plants were crackly and brittle this morning; the covered plants were lush as ever. Thanks, Neighbor Bill, for the heads up on the freeze. Just to be safe, we'll pick the rest of the tomatoes tonight, layer all the greenies in newspaper and let them ripen over the next few months. (I sound like I know what I'm doing, don't I? I've been in PR for nearly 20 years, I can make anyone sound smart.)

With this last picking, the garden has pretty much given up the ghost. We could pamper and protect the beans for a little longer, but seriously, I'm tired of the garden. There, I said it. I'm pooped. I need to recharge over the winter, start browsing seed catalogs in January by the fire, and get excited again. Right now, I'm done. Plus, I'd really like to get a pedicure because I'm sick of snagging the sheets with my rough heels, but I can't justify it if I'm going to keep mucking around in the garden. (In addition to the garden excuse, I've been putting off the pedicure because the top of my foot is still tender and alarmingly crunchy after being stomped by the horses - yes, both of them, same spot - a few weeks back and I'm not sure Redgie would appreciate me reflexively bopping her on the side of the head when she went to massage the smushed foot. Better to wait.)

Oh, we do have our fall lettuce and spinach still growing. Emily got the first pick, we'll take the next, and see if there's anything after that.

We do need to get our garlic planted - time's running out. I'll have to pull deep on the well of resolve to get my hiney out there for that project. But, I love garlic, use a ton of it, and have sorely wished we had it from the garden, so I suppose I'll have to go plant it. Crap.

The animals are doing ok, but we have a big "front of house" operation going on. Literally. The turkeys, duck and goat are all up front, in plain sight for all to encounter. We've become THAT family. My poor mother. She never wished this for me. But, now that the poo is off the porch, I feel a little less concerned about how it looks. I figure, as long as I accessorize, wear make up and avoid screened t-shirts with Tweety Bird or Sponge Bob on them, I can pull this off.

The turkeys walk around all puffed up in "full feather," which is just totally cool. They're really mean to Sadie the dog, though, and I'm sure they'll be fouling the walk again in no time, which feeds my temptation to go ahead and just get them tucked into the freezer in advance of Thanksgiving. The only thing is, I'm really worried how the duck will take it. Yes, I said "duck"; where once we had three, now we have one. And she stands at the turkey pen every morning, staring in through the netting, waiting for them to be released. They don't give a rat's patootie about her, but she can't function without them. I think it's time to move her down to the chicken coop and acquaint her with those girls, so she isn't left forlorn when the turkeys take the trip to the Great Grub Farm in the Sky. I actually cried a little when the boy duck disappeared and she was left to swim alone. I have GOT to get over crying over the critters. Seriously, it gets worse the longer we're at this farming thing.

By the way, I don't feel like much of a farmer these days - the garden's done for the season, the pigs have been butchered, the horses are hanging at the neighbors, and we're just left with the poultry and Gertie the Goat. While I'm happy for the simpler days we'll enjoy this winter, I know I'll be ready for all the spring babies to show up, making us feel like a going operation again. If we had a milk cow, I KNOW I'd feel like a farmer again. Plus, I could quit buying all that hopped up milk, butter and cheese at the store. But, for now, I'm glad to not have to worry about twice a day milkings and making anything more from scratch. Just for now.

Speaking of making things from scratch, with a bunch of little jars of peach jam on the counters, more frozen whole peaches to process, and the apples that will be arriving late October, I'm well on my way to having lots of yummy preserves put up for the year. We'll be thawing the pork we just butchered and canning a bunch of that in the coming weeks, as well. I figure by early November, we'll finally be done with preserving the harvest.

Don't think we're getting lazy around here, though. There are new windows to put in, firewood to be cut and gathered, the garden to till under, the property to clean up and trim back for the winter, the corral and sagging stalls to tear down, the chicken yard to expand, the coop to clean out...ugh, I'm feeling a little nauseous, so I'm going to stop right there.

I think I'm going to go crawl into the tub until the wind stops blowing. Which isn't forecasted to happen until tomorrow. Perfect. And I am NOT going to wonder why Mia the psycho dog is getting fat. I'm not. I'm not going to give it a single thought.

Love from the farm,

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tales of Pottsville: sac⋅ro⋅sanct [sak-roh-sangkt]



extremely sacred or inviolable: a sacrosanct chamber in the temple.
not to be entered or trespassed upon
above or beyond criticism, change, or interference: a manuscript deemed sacrosanct.

Use word in a sentence:

Paul Harvey broadcasts were sacrosanct in my grandparents' home.

It's true. Those twice-a-day radio shows were "extremely sacred" and "above or beyond criticism" and "not to be...trespassed upon."

It was after we moved to Arizona from Ohio, the July I turned 9 years old, that I first heard of Paul Harvey and his signature "rest of the stories." Every morning and afternoon, like clockwork, the teaser for the Paul Harvey show would come on the battery-operated radio in my Grandma and Grandpa Potts' home up on the hill in "Pottsville" where we lived. And, no matter what we were in the middle of, all activity would stop - or at least we'd better do whatever we were doing real quietly - and Grandpa would go sit in his big black leather-like armchair and listen to every story, every endorsement, every cliff-hanging moment of Paul Harvey's program that was piped through the airwaves on 1270 AM KDJI.

I was just getting to know Grandma and Grandpa Potts that first summer. They were still somewhat a mystery to me. We'd visited them over the years, of course, but I'd never spent any real time with them that I could remember and their way of life was a whole new world for me. Coming from a typical Midwestern, middle-class home with big leaf trees, redbirds, slugs, lawns you didn't water, Lake Erie just down the road, and electricity at the flip of a switch, I was fascinated by the mesas, plateaus and broad horizons surrounding Grandpa's home up on the hill, 3 miles away from the nearest town, which itself was actually a little hamlet of maybe 200 people.

It's not just where Grandma & Grandpa lived that was new and fascinating, it was how. They lived in a little trailer nestled among outbuildings, 3 gardens, a small orchard, and a nicely built little guest house that was inlaid with chunks of petrified wood my Grandpa had gathered from the surrounding desert. There was a wood cook stove in the kitchen next to a more familiar electric stove; a wood stove for heat in the front room, a diesel generator for electricity (that would later be supplemented by a windmill), and a wringer washing machine and clothesline outside. There was canning lard and making lye soap. There was Grandpa cussing over the lawn mower he counted on to groom the postage-stamp lawn out front. And there were Grandpa's roses.

Grandma was easy to get to know that first summer - she simply loved us, was full of smiles and stories, and cheerfully put us to work, never doubting we'd do the tasks she assigned. It didn't occur to us not to. Grandma was a soft place to land, squishy hugs, soft pats on the back and a comfort for homesick little girls waiting for our parents to pack up our Ohio life and join us in the Wild West.

Grandpa, though, he was a study in contradictions. I remember hanging back a little, peeking around corners and trying to figure out Grandpa. When I say that he would cuss over the lawnmower, I mean he would cuss. He used words I'd never heard before. Often. And, while you would think that if someone is calling someone else a "sonsabi*****gba***rd", it would mean they really didn't like that person, I learned that with Grandpa you had to consider the tone. Was he laughing when he called the guy that? Oh, then he liked him; he actually meant, "Oh, that little character!". Was he scowling and spitting a little bit when he said it? Then odds are, Grandpa really was calling the guy's parentage into question. I was fascinated and a little frightened by Grandpa. But, it was Grandpa's roses and Paul Harvey that hinted that there was more to this somewhat crotchety old man who I grew to adore, cherish and miss as the years went by.

More about the roses later and what they helped me understand about Grandpa. Let's stick with Paul Harvey for now.

So, Paul Harvey comes on the radio and Grandpa sits down. If Grandma didn't have us quietly working on something in the kitchen, we'd scramble up on the orange and brown plaid, rough "davenport" situated under the window. We'd listen to Paul Harvey's distinctive staccato cadence and ultra-enunciation, and his stories reminded me of the stories I'd read in the Reader's Digest, also a new discovery since coming to Grandma's house. Paul's stories were always unapologetically moralistic; either extolling the virtuous or heroic acts of a no-name, average Joe, or unraveling little-known stories of famous individuals. I was fascinated by his storytelling, waited impatiently over commercial breaks for the rest of the story, and, as most kids would, dreaded what seemed like endless endorsements. And, while I was looking around the room while listening to Paul's stories, I'd sneak glances at Grandpa in his big black chair.

It was during Paul Harvey time that I'd see him sitting still, listening intently, rather than my more typical images of this man who seemed to always be in motion, affording me only glimpses of the back of his old cap, plaid shirt and suspenders as he toiled away over the pump, the generator or some building repair. With Paul Harvey, he'd be so focused on the radio I could watch his every expression without him noticing my scrutiny. It was the sparkle in his eye at some merry story that let me see his sense of humor soften what I thought were hard edges; it was when he would throw his head back, reveal great big slightly yellowed teeth, crinkle his eyes and laugh a curiously silent laugh that was nonetheless full of mirth and unabashed enjoyment that I would feel a tingly contentment creep into my stomach, warming me towards this wiry old guy with the stern visage. And, sometimes, he would drift off for a short snooze near the end of the afternoon show, revealing the toll all that hard work that he never complained of doing was taking on an aging man with emphysema and diabetes.

Like clockwork, Paul Harvey would come on the radio - his twice daily show was part of the rhythm of my childhood and those precious years on the hill with Grandma and Grandpa. I loved listening to Paul Harvey not only because of his stories, but because of the time his shows gave me to swing my legs back and forth on the davenport, take a break from chores, and steal lots of glances at my Grandpa as he listened intently and laughed often.

As I grew older, I began to understand the nuances of Grandpa's personality and figured out he wasn't just the gruff old guy I first thought. I loved my Grandpa Potts, with his shock of black-streaked grey and white hair, that always looked slightly overgrown and kind of pokey-outy, like that of a 10-year-old boy's crew cut three days before summer vacation is over and he has to get his back-to-school buzzcut. I figured out Grandpa's quick sense of humor and the depth of his affection for the people in his life, and I knew he loved and adored me. Those realizations took some time, though, and that first summer when my life changed so radically and I needed to know I was in a safe place with kind people, I'm grateful that Paul Harvey revealed glimpses of my Grandpa's warm and laughing characteristics, and helped my anxious, fearful 9-year-old tummy calm down with every silent laugh and merry twinkle.

Love from the farm,

Monday, September 21, 2009

Memories of Primary

Tonight I was thinking of the 6 or 7 years that Mike and I taught Primary. In our church, Primary is the 2-hr children's program on Sundays for kids ages 3 to 11. Once they turn 12, as Tanner did last week, they get booted up to either Priesthood or Young Women's.

Mike and I LOVED teaching primary - especially the 4 year olds. Four year olds are awesome. They tell you things their parents would be horrified to know ever left the house. I took my sister-in-law's advice to her elementary school students' parents to heart: you don't believe everything your student tells you about me, and I won't believe everything she tells me about you.

Four year olds give great answers to questions. Like when we asked, "Where did you live before you were born?" and one exuberant Lone-Star-State-transplant yelled, "TEXAS!!" (We were going for heaven; apparently, to him they're one in the same.)

Then there was the time we were teaching 7 year olds, and when asked to relate what he felt were the biggest blessings in his life, one little guy surprised the heck out of himself when he went to say, "my little brothers" and found himself all choked up, on the verge of tears, only able to croak out the words. He wasn't quite sure what had just happened to him. Bless his little heart.

Teaching Primary is great because the kids never get tired of putting on paper-bag crowns and ears, and acting out Daniel in the Lion's Den. And I would get to crawl around on the floor in a skirt, roaring and snarling, week after week. Now, I ask you, can you ask for more than that when all the other adults have to sit in padded chairs with their legs primly crossed?

The downside to teaching the littlest Primary kids can be summed up in 5 words: Christmas Morning and Easter Sunday. Sure, the music is always fabulous, the lessons are soul-stirring, the spirit is strong and all of the precious little ones are resplendent in their holiday finery.

But, oh, the holiday tummies are just the worst.

See, there are only two days of the year that moms and dads let their little ones eat candy for breakfast. And, oh, the carnage. Their tummies get rumbly and gurgly. Come Primary time, they don't feel so good. So, they crawl up into your lap and snuggle down. And toot the sourest stinkers you ever smelled.

They don't own up, they don't get embarrassed, they just snuggle deeper in your lap with their eyes drooping, sucking on their fingers, miserably waiting for church to be over so they can go home and raid their stockings or Easter baskets once more. Meanwhile, your eyes are watering and you don't want to open your mouth to sing along with the chorister because you fear you'll accidentally take a deep breath.

Mike and I don't teach Primary anymore, but I love the chances I get to substitute in my kids' classes when their regular teachers are gone, or conduct the music when the music leader is absent. I always hope my kids are secretly smug when they have me in their classes or see me standing at the front leading the songs.

Then, I think of when my Mom was up there in the front of the Primary room when I was a little girl in Primary. And then I think of my 3 strongest memories of Primary as a child:

1. Mom was sitting in the front with the Primary presidency, facing all of us little children. I was in the front row, which probably means I was a 3- or 4-year-old "Sunbeam," as we were called back then. My best friend in the world (whose name I can't remember) had just told me that she didn't have any panties on. So, of course, I leaned over and checked. I'd never seen Mom make that mad face at Primary before.

2. We picked up our nighttime babysitter, Sissy, to take her to Primary with us. As we were pulling away from Sissy's house in our grey Nova on that cold Ohio day, I looked through the rear window of the car and had just enough time to wonder why the bunny rabbits were hanging from the clothesline, when Sissy's grumpy dad and mean little brother grabbed those bunnies and ripped the fur right straight down and off those now dangling pink carcasses in one swift motion. I quickly turned around in my seat and never told a soul what I had just seen.

3. Finally, every time we sang the line in the song "I Am a Child of God" that says, " live with Him some day," I always thought of Campbell's Bean with Bacon Soup, my very favorite. And I felt warm and full inside. Just like I did most days at Primary.

To quote one of the finest story tellers of all time, "...that's all I have to say about that."

Love from the farm,

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Steel Resolve

One of Adam's and my favorite movies is 'Steel Magnolias.' Don't know if it's the big hair and awful floral-patterned, drop-waist dresses; Shirley Maclaine's hysterically irreverent Ouisa; Annelle's descent into "born again" religious fanaticism; or the chance to glimpse Sam Shepard and Tom Skerritt for a few minutes at a time, here and there. It's all fabulous.

A little while back the kids and I sat down to watch the movie on a rainy afternoon for the first time in a long time. You'll likely recall that one of the major plot lines is Julia Roberts' character's diabetes and eventual kidney transplant and death. Well, this was the first time I'd watched the movie since Tanner's great kidney adventure began.

A little context now: we know that a kidney transplant is a possibility in Tanner's future - it doesn't have to happen, but it could; and if it does, well, we'll just tackle it like we've tackled everything else so far - head on.

That being said, while I'm usually swallowing hard and tearing up in anticipation when Shelby doubles over in agony while lifting Jack Jr. on Halloween, this time I realize I'm holding my breath, because I know what's coming and why. I look over and see Adam flushed and focused. I glance at Tanner out of the corner of my eye and see that he's paying close attention to the storyline for probably the first time ever, and I silently wish he'd lose interest and head outside as he often does during movies. But, nope, he's watching the movie.

Then comes the collapse, the coma, the devastating bedside scene when Sally Field begs Shelby to open her eyes, and finally, shutting off the machines. We were all still as could be and not looking at each other.

With the room so quiet you could hear that proverbial pin, Tan turned and looked at me, working hard to keep his voice casual and even as he said, "So, I guess kidney transplants don't always go that good, huh?"

I try to keep it honest with my kids. And, in reality, when kidney transplants go bad, it seldom plays out like it did in the movie. What made it hard for me to answer Tan was not that I couldn't provide him with a well-reasoned explanation about how usually there are lots of clues when a transplanted kidney is rejecting, and it isn't usually straight from complications to coma in such a dramatic fashion. No, the part that made it hard to answer was the sob stuck in my throat as, once again, I watched this little guy working to act brave and sound unconcerned, not knowing the worry in his eyes gives him away.

I let loose with some windy explanation about how Julia Roberts' character had had far more damage to her kidneys because of diabetes than he had so far; and that usually things go just fine with transplants, and most people don't lapse into comas, and so forth; then I launched off the couch, announcing that some chore was waiting for me out in the garden.

I escaped to the garden and stood there taking deep breaths, thinking how unfair it is that an 11 year old should have to put on such a show of bravery; how hard it can be sometimes to not know what the future holds; wondering if he's going to have to go through any more pain, difficult treatments and just generally feeling bad again. Thinking how you can try so hard to assume the best, have faith and live in the moment, but still have that stinking little voice way back in the recesses of your head that spouts facts, figures and odds, and makes you worry a little.

I wanted to give in to the urge to just cry and rail against the whole sorry mess.

Then I figured, if Tanner could square his shoulders, steel his spine, keep his cool, and ask questions he might not want to know the answers to, who was I to blubber in the garden? Who was I to show less resolve than he does every stinkin' day when he takes all those pills, gets all that blood drawn, feels like he's been hit by a truck, and still finds a way to laugh?

I swallowed the tears, did the contrived chore (have to keep it honest, like I said), then went back into the house and got back to work, dry-eyed and resolute to be strong another day. And hoping that my eyes don't sometimes give me away.

TanMan, I love you more'n my luggage.

Love from the farm,

Friday, September 18, 2009

...and Now a Word from Our Sponsors

Indulge me with a quick time out. This is birthday week. The week Macy turns 11, Tanner turns 12 and Adam turns 18. It's been a little busy around here, what with birthday shopping, birthday meal cooking, birthday partying, performances at the Navajo County Fair, scouts, school, roping lessons, work, middle-of-the-night-marauder intervening, peach canning, chores, rodeo....

Just give me a day or two to catch up from birthday bliss and we'll be right back with the next installment from the farm.

(Joy of joys - Adam received a camera for his birthday. I'll be stealing it frequently, so perhaps we'll start populating these bare blog pages with vibrant images of my beautiful children and quirky critters. He's also taking shipment on an electric guitar and amplifier. We'll just keep those far away from the blog for now.)

Oh, and when I get back, don't forget to ask me about the attempted turkey abduction.

'night and love from the farm,


Monday, September 14, 2009

Keep the Outdoors OUT!

Wasn't there some laundry detergent or air freshener ad campaign several years ago that had some catchy little tag line like, "Let the outdoors in!" and you'd see some brunette-ponytailed woman with a kelly-green, cap-sleeved shirt and crisp white pants throwing open the windows, white gauzy sheers billowing, eyes closed and face upturned to the sun, with dewy skin and glistening lips?

Yeah, she didn't live here.

Now, I'm not grumpy because in order to take a relaxing bath I had to Kleenex two water bugs out of the tub. I'm not. I'm just thinking back to: the snake crawling through the piles of laundry on my dresser last summer; the weeds growing through the holes in Adam's floor when he isn't disciplined about keeping them under control; the mouse that actually came out from under the couch, sat on his haunches and stared at me when he realized that he was safe because I'd been the only one home all week and was laid up with an infected foot, not moving around much. I considered cursing at him for being so brazen and bold and disrespectful as to just sit there, right outside of striking range, but eventually just shrugged and threw him a piece of popcorn.

Then there was the snake in the bathroom (while I was using the bathroom and was therefore trapped) that prompted me to call Mike on his job at Christopher Creek and inform him in no uncertain terms that he WOULD be coming home to get that stinkin' snake out of the bathroom or I would be packing up the kids and heading to a motel . (Imagine my horror when he did come home that night - even though he wasn't supposed to come home for 3 more days - and when we yanked the towel I'd stuffed under the door, the snake wasn't there. The squealing baby mice in the wall in Adam's closet guided us to the stinker's snapping tail poking out of a hole in the natural wood. I'd been walking around all afternoon thinking that snake was trapped in the bathroom.)

Then there was the time when I was sitting on the loveseat chatting with my sweet sister-in-law one summer night, when we watched a little frog hop into the house. Under the closed front door.

Forget about the turkeys that have found their way in once. (Ok, maybe twice, I don't know for sure.) The cats who learned to hide in the bottom, back of the couch. And felt so safe in there that the incestuous momma cat hid in there to have her babies. And I had to call a neighbor to come over and help me cut them out.

My longstanding spider phobia is on its way out since even the wimpiest of girls can get over it when the bratty little freckle-faced spiders jump in her face every 7 minutes and yell, "Boo!" Whatever.

The snake in the silverware drawer was probably the creepiest. And, of course, it had to happen smack in the middle of movie night with some of Adam's friends here. A few of them have never been back.

Mike laughingly commented that I'd come a long way since we lived in Gilbert and I wouldn't let him buy fly strips to hang, even on the back porch, because I just thought they were so tacky. They have since become part of the kitchen decor. Kind of ruins the joy of having a window over the kitchen sink when I have to cock my head to look past the suspended dead flies in order to gaze at the alfalfa fields.

While I was raised with indoor dogs and the kids have always had their dogs in the house, I went on a tear after the last of the spring poultry grew big enough to send to the barnyard. Every cat and dog was evicted. Even the guinea pig got the ol' heave ho and is living in her cage in the barn. The only remaining authorized pet is the fish in Tanner's room that refuses to die. He doesn't smell or bring dead things in to us as gifts, so I guess he's alright.

I am so grateful that this afternoon Mike will continue with his quest to install our new windows that will seal out the winter drafts and dirt and opportunistic critters.

All I have in common with that insipid gal welcoming the outdoors in is the closed eyes - except mine are clenched tight in a Genie blink, and aren't opened till I've twitched my nose like Samantha, in the hopes that when I've completed those mystical charms all the creeping things will be gone from my home. Those magic tricks haven't worked so far, however, so I'm thinking I may have to actually resort to praying. And, while I'm down there on my knees, I might as well stuff a few more towels.

Bow your head with me: Dear Lord, please put it in the hearts of all those who read this to know that these are all true events, not exaggerations. And, please also make it get cold soon so all the creeping things will curl up and die. Amen.

Love and shudders from the farm,

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Art of the Barter & Neighborliness

I've become a bit of a twirler - or maybe more of a Lazy Susan, since returning to the northland. I spend a lot of time doing slow 360's, looking all the way around at the views. Hay fields to the east of us, a big red barn to the northeast, straight north is an expansive pasture alternately dotted with fat black cows or munching horses. But my favorite view has always been facing slightly southwest from my garden. There, I would find the neighbor's beautiful palomino - a goldenrod coat with a wheat-colored mane and swishing tail. Even from a quarter mile away, you could see the strength in him and the lustre of his coat. He'd stand there against this gorgeous green backdrop and there were many times I'd straighten up from weeding and just gaze at him for a few minutes, watching him mill around.

One day while in the garden recently, I heard a low hum filtering over to our place and looked up to see our neighbor out there mowing the pasture. I thought for a moment and realized I hadn't seen the palomino for awhile. Sure enough, when our neighbor stopped by a day or so later, he told Mike he'd had to put down his treasured horse. Then he asked if we'd like to put our horses out there on his pasture. For as long as we want. He hated to see the sweet grass go to waste and he'd seen the abysmal "corral" where our poor creatures were ekeing out a living (more on the disappearing corral at a later date). Secretly, I think he also just misses seeing and hearing horses out there.

He and his wife are both hard workers, but are slowed by arthritic maladies that keep them from getting to do as much as they'd like of the laborious work around their property. "As long as you all don't mind helping out with a little weeding or wood stacking once in awhile, we can call it good," he said.

So, our horses have been happily grazing in their new digs for a few days, and on Wednesday, our kids will pop over to the neighbors to do a little weeding. The benefit to us in terms of quality of life and nutrition for the horses is immeasurable, and this arrangement cuts down the feed bill significantly. This will allow us to get the corral fixed up as we can, get some hay stockpiled for the winter and begin preparing our front pasture for seeding next year.

This is just one of the latest instances of "bartering" we've been engaged in around here. With those same neighbors, we swapped some of our green chilis for some of their zucchini. Mike is forever swapping tools and labor for that of our neighbors' across the street. Last week, I loaded down a friend with bags of tomatoes for canning, and this week, she gave us dozens of ears of corn to freeze. There's an odd satisfaction in bartering; I can't put my finger on what the specific appeal is, but for some reason it feels like a little victory.

But what's even more touching somehow, is the level of neighborliness that accompanies all of this bartering and sharing. Pasturing and lodging our horses far outstrips in monetary value what we'll be providing in spruce-up projects around our neighbors' home. But I know the value to them of not having those nagging projects go undone will be hard to measure. And, the value to our children of serving their neighbors with a little sweat equity is rolled in there, too.

Another neighbor loaded me up with jars and lids for canning yesterday, brushing off offers of return favors with a jesting, "Oh, if it all comes crashing down, I'll know where to find them - and they'll be filled with food." She knows I like to can, she knew those jars were going to sit unused at her house for a good long time. Why not give them away? Simple as that.

And what about the Harley-driving Dutch transplant neighbor with the heart of gold who brought his tractor down this spring and tilled our garden for us? And the same horse neighbor who used his brush hog to knock down the weeds in our front pasture? He was about to take the brush hog off his tractor for the season and he would knock the weeds for his old uncle that used to own our place, so why not?

Then there are the friends who taught Mike and me how to process pork last week after our pigs were butchered. The husband had been up since 2:30am picking sweet corn, but worked with us until 8 that evening, teaching us how to cut, sausage, brine and wrap the meat. And would only accept payment for the spices we used for the sausage, bacon and hams. He's the same guy who came and picked up the pigs in his horse trailer and hauled them to and from the butcher in a nearby town for us.

When Tanner's kidney disease diagnosis was finally made, I was visiting with the owners of our corner feed store about how we were hoping for good gardens in this and years to come so we could fill Tanner up with clean, healthy foods, keeping his kidneys from having to filter too much foreign or toxic junk. We were also discussing the severely salt-restricted diet he was on at the time till we got him past a rough patch getting his blood pressure regulated. The gruff old owner asked, "Does he like apples?" and when I answered yes, he promptly hauled two big boxes of apples out to the truck. "Just want to do something for the little guy," he said as he was walking by with a box, refusing my offer of payment.

This represents only a smidgeon of the neighborly deeds we've been treated to. There have been meals dropped off just because someone heard I was under the weather. A stocking full of gift cards and cash just before Christmas when someone presumably heard we'd cut our income by 3/4 and must have guessed the mounting medical bills were crushing, and Christmas and lots else looked grim. There's the teacher and friend who's giving Karlie and her best friend roping lessons every Thursday after Hulet Harmonizers. It never stops. And we have a strong sense it's because these are simply good people, some of whom love us, and some who are just made that way.

This environment of neighborliness has given us the courage as a family to feel that it's safe to just do little random acts of kindness ourselves. After living in a (beautiful little) cookie-cutter neighborhood in Gilbert, where you only wave at neighbors as they're pulling into garages and you certainly don't show up at their doors unannounced, it's wonderful to wander down the road on a family walk and drop off fresh eggs, proud 1st attempts at peach jam, or fresh pork roast, and know the recipients will simply appreciate it for what it is: good, old fashioned neighborliness.

So, while we'll keep reveling in the fun of figuring out what we can barter next, it's when I look across from my garden to that gorgeous green pasture and see our own horses there that I'll have that warm little glow that comes from knowing we're surrounded by great neighbors whose generous spirits are the greatest spoils of all.

Love from the farm,

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Goodbye, My One White Dog

Our sweet niece, Rayne, loves to come to our little farm to gather eggs, see the horses, the chickens, the turkeys, the duck (well it was ducks when she was here last time), the now invisible pigs and the kittens. But the farm creature she loves the most is the one named Billy, who she calls "My One White Dog."

Rayne, who just turned 3 last month, earned a trip to the farm from the Valley one weekend this summer just because she wanted to see My One White Dog. When she learned she was going to get to come visit, her mom (Mike's sister) told us that she could be heard to spontaneously break into song, "Mike and Teri have a farm, ei-ei-o...."

We're not sure how Rayne came up with her quirky little moniker for Billy. We're also not quite sure why, when she isn't calling him by his Indian name, she insists on calling him, "Bill." The rest of us have always called him Billy - it's the name he came to us with. But not Rayne. For her, it's Bill. Maybe she takes him a little more seriously than the rest of us; maybe she senses a wisdom in him that we all have missed. To me, he's the goofy little white football I watch through my kitchen window, leaping through the high green alfalfa field, visible only when his ears clear the waving fronds. But, Rayne must have sensed the side to Billy that needed to be taken seriously, the side that called for a little respect. The side that required he be called "Bill."

When she arrived at the family campout in the White Mountains of Arizona in July, Rayne's first words to me were, "Where's Bill, My One White Dog?" Turns out, we'd brought him along because he was recovering (splendidly) from coyote attack No. 2 and we wanted to keep an eye on him.

I don't know how we'll tell Rayne that she isn't going to find her favorite friend on our farm anymore.

It's taken me a few days to be able to write about Billy because my heart's just broken that he died in the night and there was nothing we could do for that little guy who made me laugh. I actually ache because we didn't get to let him go the way we did our old dog Whitney - petting his head, looking in his eyes, and talking to him until the sleeping meds finally closed his eyes.

I'm having a hard time shaking the sadness, and when I look out my kitchen window at the tall, empty alfalfa field, I wonder, "Where's Bill, My One White Dog?"

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Peasant Stock

My mom always told me that we come from good old "peasant stock" and I am certainly glad of it. That steady temperament, willingness to work hard and "put your shoulder to the wheel" mentality is likely borne of our pioneer heritage, and it's served me well as a wife, mother and PR professional for the past 18 years.

I've always kind of been a "bloom where I'm planted" kind of gal, so I enjoyed our busy life in the Valley all those years, and our time in Flagstaff before that. I never knew, tho, until I was back in this quiet corner of the world, that my spirit had been longing to return to the rather peasant-like life I lived with my grandmother as a child: we gardened, we canned, we danced an Irish jig at potato planting time, we made homemade cheese - then dressed the cheese in a hat, jewelry and flowers and built an entire skit around it when it wouldn't quit growing. I learned how to make Brigham tea from a weird plant that grew in the desert around our place, and figured out that potatoes and strawberries can be unpredictable in this climate and soil.

As I've made my own feeble attempts at gardening the past two seasons, I've had several moments where I've straightened up from a row and just stood still, because the memory of working alongside Grandma Potts is so strong, I swear it's like she's right there with me. When I made my own laundry soap this year, I flashed to the summer I was 10 and my rather horrified fascination watching Grandma make lye laundry soap using lard and wood ashes (I could never quite figure out how that could possibly get clothes clean, but somehow it did.)

I wish I'd listened a little closer to the steady stream of explanations and instructions that she shared as we worked together - I wish I'd learned more those years working in her kitchen, her 3 gardens and small orchard, rather than having just helped.

I wish she was by my side in our garden, in her floppy hat, old nursing shoes without strings and polyester pants, showing me how to properly stake a tomato plant. And, after my disastrous corn crop last year and this, I wish I'd asked what the heck that powder was in that old stocking she'd always bop the corn tassels with each year!

Love from the farm,

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Oh, Billy

You remember Billy? The little white Jack Russell Terrier Frasier dog who came to our little farm to escape boredom in Scottsdale? The one who's survived two brutal coyote attacks? Billy of the puffed up porcupine lips of just last week? The little scamp just can't seem to help himself - he must find mischief and misadventure. He recovered from the porcupine encounter handily and has been his regular romping self for the past week.

Last night, he begged to play outside with the other dogs and I relented because Billy is happiest among the bats and the stars. He made it through the night (I know because Mike was working last night so I was in my twilight slumber - awake at every noise, every shift in the barometer, every time I got to snoring a little too loud and could hear it myself....) During those wakeful periods I could hear all 3 of the dogs' distinct, happy, obnoxious nighttime barks.

When I headed to town to take kids to school, I caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye and Billy seemed fine. I returned 15 minutes later to grab Macy's forgotten flute and upon leaving the house again felt a thud in my stomach when I saw Billy come limping around the corner of the house - fur matted, mud over his eye, ear flopped back, quivering. There was no blood visible - had he been hit by a car? Attacked and bruised, but not broken? What could he have encountered in the early daylight hours?

Of course I reached down to pet him as I asked what was wrong, and he reared around to try to bite my hand with that awful combination of guilt and pain in his eyes that is the universal expression of an animal who is hurting and doesn't have words to say, "No! I'm sorry, but, no...please don't touch me." He slunk away, and I had to run the flute into town.

As soon as I returned, I searched the fields, the garden, the dog pen and other corners of the yard calling and whistling. I couldn't find him anywhere. I looked and looked, to no avail. I had to get to a meeting, take care of cub scout stuff and pick up kids in the afternoon, so after Tanner awoke from his lengthy nap today, I asked him if he felt like going out to look for Billy again while I was gone.

When I got home late this afternoon, Billy was in his kennel in the house. Mike and Tanner had found him under the bush between our poplar trees. He wouldn't let them touch him, but he allowed himself to be coaxed into his beloved kennel. He can't bear us getting too close, and because we don't know if he has internal bleeding, the vet can't sedate him to examine him closely. We're in a bit of a holding pattern, in contact with the vet, and hoping he'll show improvement in the morning.

Poor Billy. We love him and just wish he wasn't miserable cooped up in the house. He's only happy when he's free to roam, but my heart just can't take his constant misadventures. We hope we can nurse him to health again, then we'll have to start the sad process of finding him a new home, where he can have some room to roam, but won't be in proximity to so many harmful adversaries.

Love and concern from the farm,

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Love Hierarchy

Over the years, our kids have gotten fairly consistent messages about how love figures into our lives. We've made it clear that we love God a whole lot - more than anything else. When they were younger and would protest when Mike and I were leaving to go out on a date, we made it clear that they were darn lucky that their parents are crazy about each other, and that it's because we love each other more than anyone else in the world that we have such a happy family. And, then, of course, we express that next, we love the 4 of them more than anyone else in the world.

We don't break it down much farther than that, because then the conversation devolves into which grandparent or cousin or aunt or uncle is loved best after that, which can only lead to awkward silences and meaningful glances at family gatherings, and we can't have that.

The point is, the kids know where they stand. They're aces. They're in the holy trinity of our affection hierarchy. So, when we were driving along on our way home from school the other day and I shushed the kids and reached to turn up the radio, as I always do when a George Strait song comes on the radio - and then shushed Macy again when she broke the Cardinal George Rule and started to speak before the song was over - I was less than impressed by her eye rolling and smarmy little remark, "Geez, Mom, what? Do you love George Strait more than us?"

To which I reassuringly replied, "Oh, honey, of course I don't love him more than you."

Pause to let it really sink in.

"But you have to understand: I loved him first."

Love from the farm,

Monday, September 7, 2009

We've Begun!

Ok, after all of the cajoling, urging and emails I've gotten saying, "Stop filling my inbox! Start a dang blog and I'll visit you when I feel like it, on my own terms!", I figured I'd better start a dang blog.

Now, I have to run to buy a chain saw with the hubby, so I'm just going to leave you with the following "Love From the Farm" email classics for now.

Don't worry, we'll dress this little site up later. Maybe we'll even buy a camera. (Please, Camera Fairy, leave me a little digital number atop the stack of tiles on my front porch. I'd be ever so grateful. Amen.)

Love from the farm,

I'm Scared of Twitter (Email Classics)

Written February 25, 2009

Ok, I am addicted to a new blog I found, which is why I'm up at 2:37a bothering you. Earlier today, I signed up at Twitter to read some of this blogger's clever little musings. Then tonight, I got a message from "Cliffside" saying that he's now following me on Twitter.

What I want to know is: who the heck is Cliffside and why is he following me????

Love from the farm,

(I promise, I'm putting the kids' "tomorrow clothes" in the dryer and then I'm going to bed. And, yes, around our house I give whimsical names to things to mask my disorganization. Asking the kids to put their "tomorrow clothes" on the washer is much more pleasant than saying, "I'm sorry there are still, literally, 18 loads of laundry in the mud room so there are no clothes in your drawers. Please pull one of the outfits you already wore this week off the floor and put it on the washer. And, yes, I'm fully aware I don't have a job and am home all day and I can't explain why the house isn't clean and the laundry isn't Downy fresh. Now, don't trip over the Diet Pepsi cans, broken hangers and empty styrofoam soda cups as you get the heck out of my room and let me get back to the computer. And, don't complain about sleeping in the living room either. I swear we'll disinfect your mattress so you can be back in it by the weekend. Now I mean it, shut your mouths and say your prayers. I love you." Please, just let me have "tomorrow clothes" until I'm past the chaos and edging toward organization. Besides, they don't mind sleeping in the living room. Seriously...we pulled the futon in there so it's just like camping. Then, when the wasp ran Tanner out of his room last night after ruthlessly stinging him on the hand at bedtime, he had the girls to keep him company. See? It all works out.)

Country Life (Email Classics)

Written March 6, 2009

The wind is blowing and I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice to have that yummy, sunshine-fresh smell in my clothes that you can only get by hanging them on the line outside?"

So I grabbed my outfit from the washer and went out back to hang it. Picture me, eyes clenched tight against the dirt blasting from the garden, blindly groping for the clothespins, then giving up and stupidly opening both eyes and mouth when I couldn't find the dang pins. (For the record, I didn't open my mouth to cuss, but I got it scoured out, anyway! And, I don't know why my mouth opened when my eyes did - must be comical watching me wake in the morning. And here I thought Michael was just grinning all those mornings because he was happy to see me again.)

While trying to spit out the dirt, I proceeded to pin literally 16 pins on the shirt and jeans to make sure they don't fly away. All the while battling the wind and the flapping jeans that are knocking me backward. I'm no sparrow, but I have subsisted on one mug of broth and two mugs of tea for the past 3 days, so I'm a little weak in the knees and I think I sprained my neck.

I'm going to crawl back in bed now and rest until I have to pick up the kids from school.

Love from the farm,

Farm News Post Script (Email Classics)

Written, March 6, 2009

Ok, I'm going to take all of you up on your suggestions to find a way to start selling my farm stories.

Because, if I'm not going to get paid for telling the story of having to cut the fabric out of the back of my at-one-time expensive couch in order to retrieve a mama cat and her 5 kittens, then I'm not sure this farm life is all it's cracked up to be.

1. Yes, they're precious
2. Yes, I'm oddly proud of Smokey, the mama
3. No, none of them are sporting extra legs or missing eyes. They're cute. (As the offspring of siblings - who themselves were the offspring of siblings - we were concerned.)

And I'm sure I'll love them. Once I've reupholstered the dang couch.

I'm not even going to count how many mouths we're feeding around here these days. I thought there was one less when Tanner's rabbit, Chloe, disappeared for 2 days. But we all prayed a lot, and miracle of miracles, she showed up in the tack room yesterday afternoon. (Boy, did I say extra prayers because we have a hawk that literally lives in the tree in our front yard. Generally, when a rabbit has rabbited around these parts, it does not return. Did I mention the owls that hoot to each other at night from the pastures on either side of our house?)

I was thrilled for Tanner - if ever there's a little guy who needs to know prayers are heard, it's him. He's being tested by the effects of all his kidney meds and dealing with all new emotions and experiences. But returning rabbits and new kitties surely help. So, I'll keep buying feed of all sorts.

Love from the farm,

Macy's Carrot Cake (Email Classics)

Written April 9, 2009

Macy made the most amazing carrot cake I've ever tasted last night for Family Home Evening. She was in charge of refreshments and really wanted to make carrot cake. We turned to the Woodruff cookbook, where you just can't go wrong (Mom and Lyn - p. 76). We didn't have time to let it cool if the kids were going to get to bed close to on time, and that turned out to be the best "mistake" ever. The cake was still slightly warm when we put the frosting on. Yummm!

I'm sharing the recipe because you really should try this next time you bake a cake. Plus, it's Easter Bunny time - who isn't thinking of carrots?

(BTW- Macy gets the award for the BEST Family Home Evening Refreshments EVER! Tanner's on deck for next week - let the competition begin!)

(BTW #2 - We adjusted the cinnamon amount, so now we can call this Macy's Carrot Cake)

Macy's Carrot Cake

Beat together:

2 c. sugar 1 1/2 c. oil 3 eggs

Add I small "flat" can crushed pineapple, including juice.

Sift together and add:

3 c. flour 1 tsp. salt 2 tsp. soda 2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon


3/4 c. coconut 1 tsp. vanilla 3/4 c. chopped nuts

Stir, then add 3 c. grated carrots. Bake at 350 F for 40-60 minutes.

2 c. margarine 8 oz. cream cheese 1 tsp. vanilla 1 lb powdered sugar

Cream together and spread on cool (or warm, like us!) cake.

Enjoy this Easter weekend!

Love from the farm,

Wrestling Alligators (Email Classics)

Written April 17, 2009

I think this was written for patients with critical illnesses, but it applies to their parents, too - I think I look more "mussed up physically" most the time than Tanner does. The below pretty much nails it.

Please remember Tan puts a smiling face on it, but he doesn't feel good most days. When he's doing things like getting straight A's and finishing his chores, it's easy to forget he's fighting the alligators pretty much every day. He could use the extra hugs and encouragement. 4 weeks and he gets to sleep in and stay home whenever he wants.

Love from the farm,

Life continues on pretty much the way it used to be before you got the diagnosis...
except you now excuse yourself on a regular basis to walk out of the room to wrestle alligators.

Now, you have never wrestled alligators before, and you most certainly are not in your physical best, but that is what you do. You then walk back into your life, without missing a beat, a little bruised and shaken, but try to pick back up where you left off.

You try to keep friends, family and even complete strangers updated on what it is like to have to continually wrestle alligators with no formal training. People look at you oddly, because you certainly don't APPEAR like you just came back from a death-defying match...maybe a little mussed up physically...but your smile hides what is going on outside with the alligators.

It is a scary, scary thing to keep returning to doctor appointments, IVs, and tests. It is a scary, scary thing to wake up each morning feeling like you've been run over by a truck. It is a scary, scary thing to wonder what your future holds.Still, you will continue to wrestle your alligators.

And one day I hope to be holding hands with you at a huge garage sale...a garage sale jam-packed with alligator shoes, belts and handbags.

- Author Unknown

I Believe (Email Classics)

Written April 20, 2009

"I believe in cord wood, iron stoves, and breakfast
I believe in freshly baked bread and mail order catalogues,ticking clocks, dogs and cats and corn right out of the garden.
I believe in families who laugh together and because of this
I believe in tomorrow and the day after
the goodness of man and the joy of living." ~Maxwell Mays~

Me too! I believe too!

Love from the farm,

Karlie's 8 (Email Classics)

Written April 23, 2009

If Karlie hadn't stayed home sick today, and I weren't here with her, then I wouldn't have seen her, dripping after her shower in her towel, looking for clothes, singing:

"I just had a sammich. No ordinary sammich. A sammich with jell-ee-fish jellllleeeeeeeeeeee. Doo dee doo dee dooo doo dee dooo doo.....jellyfish jelleeeee....doo dee dooo....."

I love 8 years old.

Love from the farm,

(P.S. "Jellyfish Jelly" song brought to you courtesy of Spongebob Squarepants)

Smokey (Email Classics)

Written May 2, 2009

Our sweet mama cat, Smokey, became suddenly ill about two weeks ago and after initial treatment and rapid decline, it was obvious she just wasn't going to recover.

So, although she was only a year old and had 7-week old kittens, Smokey was put down by the vet this week.

We were all so sad, but she was Macy's cat and Miss Macy felt her first true-blue heartbreak this week. She was inconsolable for more than an hour, weeping the rest of the night, and is still prone to tears silently streaking her face as something brings the raw pain right back to the surface.

Tonight I found this little note in my email. She sent it to me, her big brother and her grandma. I get emails these days full of Macy's deepest hurts, thoughts, musings and fears. Email is a whole new, safe way for children coping with so many warring emotions to communicate safely with those of us they're aching to confide in, especially when they just can't bring themselves to say the words out loud.

Macy and I share lengthy email streams - not a word is spoken outside our inboxes - and I receive sporadic hugs and kisses letting me know it's helping, that she knows I'm listening and that for those few moments it's all about just me and her, not the other 4 yahoos we share the house with. Often, these exchanges are a precious insight into the workings of her fascinating little mind. They add a whole new dimension to parent/child communication and I cherish it.

Even so, I wish she weren't aching with that hollow pain we all remember like it was yesterday, when we each lost our own pets. Those are awful big feelings for a 10 year old.

She's missing Smokey; I'm missing her blissful, innocent days before her heart was broken for the very first time.

Love from the farm,

(BTW - Whitney is our old dog you remember who we put down last spring; Speckles is one of the hens we lost in the great 2008 chicken massacre.)

From Macy:

"Smokey was hurting, so Heavenly Father took her. There is no pain where she is. She can run and play again. She is with Whitney, Karlie's baby chick, and the other little chicks and chickens. She is with Speckles and our fish. Heavenly Father wanted her back. She was suffering. Smokey is gone, and I miss her , but her pain is gone, too. She doesn't have to hurt anymore. I miss her. "

Sexy (Email Classics)

Written May 9, 2009

As I was (euphamistically speaking) "preparing the garden" for plowing this week, I had the following thought:

A real man doesn't know sexy until he's seen his woman standing on a 10-foot pile of steer manure, throwing it by the shovelful into the back of his F250 pick up. Wearing a fuschia handkerchief. And a denim skirt. In the wind. With wrap-around eye protection. For 4 hours.

(Ok, part of that time was spent throwing said manure on the garden, then refilling the truck with HORSE manure, and throwing THAT on the garden. Next year: bags of steer poo from Home Depot. I'm just sayin'. Christmas presents of poo are ok. Just ask my sister Lynda. I gave her steer poo for her bridal shower.)

The saving grace? The eye protection was more Dale Earnhardt than welding class. My life's pitfall at the moment? Using a Dale Earnhardt comparison as if it's a positive thing for a girl.

Love from the farm,

My Favorite Life (Email Classics)

Written July 7, 2009

I just dropped Adam at Mom's in town so he can get up early to do her neighbor's yard. After I passed the brightly lit ball fields, the quiet county fairgrounds, bumped over the railroad tracks and crossed over the bridge, I had the road pretty much to myself.

I drove down our country lane, with my arm hanging out the window of Mike's big red truck. The bright moon cast the trees lining the road in silhouette and the sky along the horizon was that amazing deep blue that's just shy of midnight and glowing as if backlit. It's cool enough to provide a little relief to my arms and face, which are stinging from the burn I earned gardening and taking the kids to the pool.

When I pulled into the driveway, I just sat there for a few minutes looking at the warm lights burning in the house, through the window seeing the heads of my three little ones huddled on the loveseat in my room, and listening to hear if the horses are murmuring down at the corral - one of my very favorite night sounds here. And, I realized - once again - that I love it here, that this is an idyllic night, and I'm so glad we came home.

My heart and life are full. Wish you were here.

Love from the farm,

Two Things (Email Classics)

Written August 6, 2009

First, let me begin by saying that Mike is one of the smartest men I know - he can spout history, natural world/ science facts like nobody's business. He can troubleshoot any electrical issue, build or fix anything. Makes me feel like an intellectual twit at times, because I don't remember squat. And I can't hammer a nail in straight.

That said.....

I dropped Tanner off at the Junior High this morning, the girls at Hulet Elementary School and Adam at the High School (for day one of his SENIOR YEAR), then promptly called Mike as I was driving down Buffalo Street, "All the chickens have left the nest!" I announced.

Dead silence from his end. Then he asks in a somber, confounded voice, "They're all dead?"

Color me perplexed. Then it hits me: when you actually have chickens, and their population has been dwindling because of a conniving invisible coyote, the whole "chickens leaving the nest" metaphor doesn't quite work.

I'm noodling a replacement.

Meanwhile, last night Mike and I are laying in bed after tucking all the kids into their beds, full of anticipation for their first day of school. Mike asks, "So, what are you going to do tomorrow?"

I groan and respond, "Oh, don't even ask - I'll have to do all of the farm chores because I'm not going to get the kids up early for that, have to get them all ready and their lunches packed, take them to school, come back and water the garden since the pump wouldn't work while the electricity was off this afternoon, then can the green chilis. I need to get some work done on our taxes, too, and keep the laundry going. I'm not sure how I'm going to get it all done."

As I was trailing off on that last sentence he responds in an upbeat voice - but in all seriousness - "Yeah, but are you looking forward to having the day to yourself?"

I actually laid there and sputtered. It may have been the first time in my life I have been reduced to sputtering.

All I can say is, just for today, it's a darn good thing he's pretty.

Love from the farm,

Laundry Confessions (Email Classics)

Written July 12, 2009

I'm a bona fide weirdo, I've decided, as I have unearthed yet another little startling revelation about myself this summer: I LOVE hanging clothes out to dry on the clothesline. Who knew?

I love any excuse to be outside, and there's just something delicious about hanging the clothes. Feeling the hot breeze instantly cooled when it hits the damp clothes and hearing the wind snap the clothes like an ornery jock popping his buddy with a towel in the locker room. It's just lovely for some reason. I can't explain it. The caveat is that I am certain I will not enjoy doing it in winter, so I will go back to using my dryer.

I suppose while I'm confessing, I should also confess that I actually made homemade laundry soap a few weeks back and I'm loving that, too. For about $7, I made enough soap for 600+ loads. And, I have enough supplies left over to make at least 2 more batches. Sure beats the 90 loads of Tide I was paying $20 for, plus this stuff is easier on our septic system. And, if my family had extremely sensitive skin, which we don't, it'd be easier on our epidermis, too. With farm laundry for 6, this is the best investment I've made yet! [laundry soap recipe to come]

Apparently, at some point in the past year, I died quietly in my sleep, and my Grandma Potts' industrious spirit decided to have a second go at life, this time in my body. If I begin telling stories of ant families and insisting my kids dance an Irish jig when we plant potatoes, call for a priest because it will be time to give Grandma the heave ho. There were times when I wanted to hide Grandma's stupid Reader's Digest "Back to the Basics" book with all its coffee-can-cheese-making, lye-soap-boiling, cottage-cheese-curdling nonsense. Now I love all that stuff. My poor kids.

Below is a little ditty about clothes lines.

Love from the farm,

(P.S. Oh, one more reason I love hanging out clothes? Because, when I bump open the screen door with my hip to carry the heavy basket of wet clothes out to the line, I get to hear the door SLAM behind me. And that, after all, is one of the things that sold me on this place. My slamming screen door. Which Mike has promised that he'll never replace as long as we both shall live. I'd like to exact the same promise from my children, for after we've passed.)

Clothes line was a news forecast to dry.

It also was a friendly link
For neighbors always knew
If company had stopped on by
To spend a night or two.
For then you'd see the 'fancy sheets'
And towels upon the line;
You'd see the 'company table cloths'
With intricate design.
The line announced a baby's birth
To folks who lived inside
As brand new infant clothes were hung
So carefully with pride.
The ages of the children could
So readily be known
By watching how the sizes changed
You'd know how much they'd grown.
It also told when illness struck,
As extra sheets were hung;
Then nightclothes, and a bathrobe, too,
Haphazardly were strung.
It said, 'Gone on vacation now'
When lines hung limp and bare.
It told, 'We're back!' when full lines sagged
With not an inch to spare.
New folks in town were scorned upon
If wash was dingy gray,
As neighbors carefully raised their brows,
And looked the other way.
But clotheslines now are of the past
For dryers make work less.
Now what goes on inside a home
Is anybody's guess.
I really miss that way of life.
It was a friendly sign
When neighbors knew each other best
By what hung on the line!

~Marilyn K. Walker

It's Windy Here (Email Classics)

Written April 25, 2009

I'm not saying being outside today is a bad idea, I'm just saying that the cardboard box on our front porch? It was impaled by a branch that came flying this morning, and 3 inches of that branch were sticking through to the inside of the box.

Now, I'm a sport, you all know that. But I'm figuring today I will NOT do two of the three things I had planned for the day. You guess which two I've crossed off my list:

1) Burn weeds from the house to the barn
2) Spread dry, flaky manure over the garden and new garden expansion area
3) Dishes

I was excited about the weed burning - my neighbor demonstrated how to use the torch yesterday and I was rarin' to go. Mike was a little nervous about my excitement level. He probably prayed for the wind to make sure I'd behave while he's at work today.

Spoil sport.

Guess I better put on my lavender gloves and get going on the dang dishes. I hate when I don't get to play outside with propane-fueled toys. And poop.

Love from the farm,

....and by the way, it STINKS in here! (Email Classics)

Written May 22, 2009

I was actually just going to leave you all alone, but I walked through the front rooms on my way to toss a Diet Pepsi into the freezer for a few before I dig back into my massive paperwork project this morning and I was again assaulted by the STENCH in my house! It's true - my house STINKS and truth be told, it has for some time, on regular intervals. You know why? Because I'm a SUCKER and a SAP, that's why.

It's because there are presently 12 young chicks and 4 NOISY turkeys under brooding lights in my dining/living room. The chicks are in a big wooden box, with a lid (oh, don't ask me how many times I've been tempted to shut that lid.) The turkeys are in a toddler pool, surrounded by 4-ft orange plastic netting with an infrared lamp keeping them toasty, the fragile little hot-house lilies. There's a light bulb over the chicks keeping them warm, too.

See, you have to keep the young things warmed to 95 degrees. On sunny days, we transfer the turkeys to a pen outside for the day and just bring them in at night. But their pool and their "bidness," if you know what I mean, stay in the house, so the pew-factor is still about the same. But, it's too cool and rainy to put them outside today. So, for the sake of fun, let's add humidity to the equation, shall we? See, it's rainy outside, and the lamps make it warm inside, so we have that great swamp factor going on. And we all know what warm and damp does for smells, right? (Can you just imagine how nice my house looks with pools and netting and such? And a tub of fresh straw, and a 50-lb bag of turkey food? If my mud room wasn't filled with laundry, I could shove it all in there.)

Did I mention that in spite of the rain, the old hay farmers still watered the alfalfa fields surrounding us yesterday and swamped our leach field, so we added sewer stench to the equation late yesterday afternoon? It's dissipated now, except for a lingering aroma in Adam's room. Poor Adam.

I want the creatures OUT, OUT, OUT!!! OUT of my house, with their chirping and their pooping and their STINKING! And, by the way, while I'm in here silently hating them, they're having the time of their lives! See, the chicks? They're almost 3 weeks old, which in chicken life is about like an 11-yr-old boy. And what do 11-yr-old boys like to do? Climb and jump. Well, these silly chicks have taken to flapping their little wings to "fly" themselves up out of the box, onto the ledge of the lid, then they leap back into the box. Flapping and leaping, flapping and leaping. It's an annoying little cadence. Not to mention, when I went to put that Diet Pepsi in the freezer a few minutes ago? I heard a big ruckus. Well, that's because Junior leapt off the ledge onto the floor instead of back in the box and didn't know how to get back in. I had to catch him/her/whatever.

I won't have the little poopers walking around my house. I won't. Mike is off the next 3 days and he will find a solution. He will clear room in the one outbuilding that has non-scary electrical wiring and will remove these cute little stench factories from my home. Or, I'm moving into my mom's house.

Mom, I'll take the newly redecorated room, please, with the 1,000-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets, please, and the glowing wood floors. And, please have a cool, damp cloth waiting for me to apply to my eyes. And, fresh, mild pot pourri. Please.

For now, I'm going to go take a bubble bath. THEN I'll get back into my paper project. And I won't add Benadryl to their water to make them sleepy. I WON'T.

Oh well, it could be worse - it could be two weeks ago when the 3 ducklings were in here, too.

Seething resentment from the farm,

Fido Lives Out His Days on the Farm (Email Classic)

Written August 27, 2009

Remember when we were all young and you heard of dogs getting old and sick, and when the dog wasn't home one day after school, the kids were told that ol' Fido or Rover or Butch had gone to live on Uncle Ronald's farm in Kansas to happily roam the fields of flowers and chase butterflies?

Well, we actually are "Uncle Ronald's Farm" for a little Jack Russell Terrier named Billy. Billy came to our farm last spring after living an unfulfilled life in Scottsdale where he wasn't satisfied with life by the pool. Billy wanted to roam. Billy wanted to hunt. Billy wanted to be let through the towering arcadia doors to pee on the leather couches just once, for crying out loud.

Billy was attacked while lounging poolside in Scottsdale by a vicious coyote. It took weeks of IV's, drains and lots of antibiotics to nurse little Billy back to health.

So, one day, Billy came to live on the farm with us. Now, you should know that our neighbor has teased us that our farm should be called "Harmony Farms, where no animal will ever meet death," because he didn't believe we'd ever get around to butchering a chicken or a pig, in spite of our professed intentions to do so. Given this, it would seem that our farm would be the perfect landing place for Billy, the recuperating pup.

Well, Billy came to our farm where he now hunts and he romps through the alfalfa fields, and he chases small things under the wood pile.

And, one dark spring night, he was attacked by a coyote. Again.

There were 5 puncture wounds on either side of his little belly, making it clear that coyote just clamped on him broadside and tried to carry him off. But Billy, he's a fighter. He wriggled free, left a trail of blood under the girls' bedroom window, and lived to carouse his way through another summer.

Flash to this morning:


Mike: "Hullo?"
Teri: "Hey, I have to say you look HOT driving that truck!"

(Oh, sorry, it's just that we had just passed each other on the main drag in downtown Holbrook - he on his way back from an early safety meeting at work, me having just dropped off kids at school. And, I was NOT, by the way, on my way to McDonald's to get a soda before heading home.)

Mike: [Bashful protestations. "Aww shucks" and guffaws.]

Teri: "Oh, whatever. Anyway, what are you doing when you get home?"

Mike: "Getting ready to go to your mom's to finish her trim. Why?"

Teri: "Well, I was wondering, do you think you could get the porcupine quills out of Billy's lips?"

"Welcome to Harmony Farms. WE may not kill you, but it's almost certain SOMETHING will."

Harmony Farms Mortality Rate:

Humans: 0
Turkeys: 25%
Ducks: 33% (Not counting the dead duck lying in our yard whose origins we're not sure of.)
Chickens: Whatever 3 remaining of 35 works out to be. And that's just for this year. If we added last year's carnage it'd be more like 3 of 60 remaining.
Dogs: 25%
Cats: 6 of 7 remaining (sorry, not into higher math this morning. I'm recovering from the flu, cut me a break)
Horses: 0
Pigs: 0 (that would be part of the neighbor teasing; they should have died months ago)
Goat: 0 (but she's only been with us a few months. Give it time.)

* Disclaimer: I did scoop 3 dead fish from the tank the other day, but I refuse to count them.

Love from the farm,

A Mother's Voice (Email Classics)

Written August 24, 2009

I went to work as a public affairs specialist for the Forest Service when I was 21, after working as an intern for the agency for a year. In this job, I served as a spokesperson, so I would spend a fair amount of time on television, a lot of time on the radio and was quoted quite a bit in newsprint.

Fairly early in my career, my boss told me that if she had my voice and was going to be in the public eye as much as I was, she would see a voice coach because I sounded too young.

I didn't get the voice training and, occasionally, when I hear a recording of my voice, I realize, yes, I suppose it sounds a little young -especially now for a woman of MY AGE.

Last Thursday, I found myself sitting on the shoulder of the road along I-17, between Camp Verde and Phoenix. I was hunched over a tan, battered car seat, looking inside the upside down carrier, stroking the chubby thigh of a whimpering 9-month-old baby boy. He was sticky with blood, with a gouged and bleeding forehead on one side of his face, cherubic cheeks, and long black lashes framing the one closed eye I could see. He was frowning and quietly complaining in his little red shirt and blood-soaked diaper.

His little fist was wrapped around my finger and I wished he would grip it a little tighter, instead of kind of limply hanging on. As he sat there on that hot pavement, dangling from the straps of his carseat, I sat right there with him.

And I talked to him.

I talked to him in a low, quiet voice that was meant just for us. I told him it would all be ok, that his mama was "right over there, right next to you," that he was precious, to "shhhhhhhh" and that "I know, baby, I know."

For 45 minutes, I sat with him - lifting my head only for seconds at a time to ask for anything to slide under his baby thigh to protect it from the blistering heat of the blacktop that had been baking all morning under the August Arizona sky; to remind the guy holding the baby's 2-yr-old sister that he needed to keep her awake, because she was drifting as a result of her head wound; to ask the off-duty cop attending to the mother trapped under the overturned car, to please tell her that her baby is ok. And to ask again for someone to please give me something to put under that chubby little thigh.

I would only turn my attention from the baby for a few seconds to make a request, then would go right back to that little guy, and that singular voice that I realized I recognized.

I recognized it from a few weeks ago when we rushed Macy home from a pool party during an asthma attack, when I quietly urged her to breathe slower. Reassuring her when we finally got her home and her lips were wrapped around the mouthpiece of her breathing machine, but her eyes were wildly searching mine, that the air really would finally come, that help was right there.

I recognized it from the hours and days in the hospital with Tanner, when I would maintain eye contact with him and talk to him as he was going through a frightening procedure and I couldn't hold him; or, when I crawled in his hospital bed with him and curled around him and repeated promises of relief as he writhed in pain that no medicine could touch.

I recognized the same quiet tones, the familiar cadence, the gentle words that always come when a mother speaks to a child who needs at that moment more than ever to know they are not alone. That a mother is nearby. Even if it isn't their mother.

And during those moments on that burning roadway, with helicopters beating the air, emergency personnel shouting commands, the droning hum of idled engines, worried truck drivers with tears brimming coming to check on the baby and turning away helpless, I once again had the privilege of being on the "errand of angels" as motherhood is described in the scriptures.

Walking up on the accident once the dust began to settle from the crash, an older man looked at me with a stricken face and said, "Ma'am, will you please go look in that car seat over there and see if that baby is ok." I didn't want to - I didn't know what I would find. But, I was the only other mother on the scene, besides the one wailing and trapped under the car, and I knew I was right where I was supposed to be.

And I knew the only thing I could give that baby whose little body I couldn't take in my arms, and whose brow I couldn't stroke, was a mother's voice, over and over, quietly shutting out the chaos, and speaking in a rhythm and cadence that was the closest thing to gently rocking him that I could achieve.

I recognized the voice I was using, because I'd used it so often before, but I didn't recognize it as my own. I recognized it as the voice of every mother soothing a child, and pictured the angels surrounding me who had their hands on my shoulders and on the carseat, and lightly resting on that precious baby, and understood their voices were mixed in there, too. That as women, when we are on the errand of angels, they are attendant, too.

And, I had one more memory come to mind of that voice - of my own mother, soothing away an earache when I was a little girl. Pressing a towel warmed in the oven against my ear, quietly urging me to make the pain small, make it small enough to put in a tiny box; telling me, "I love you little girl, lots" and continuing to soothe with repeated words and phrases, over and over, lulling me gently until my eyes were closed.

That little boy was eventually flown away from me and we were left wiping the blood off ourselves and each other - each of us who had in some way "held" those little children. And, I was so grateful that the old, scared man had recognized that as a woman, and therefore a mother, I surely had the strength to face whatever was needed for that unknown bundle hidden under the castaway car seat. And, as scared as I was to find whatever I would find, it didn't really occur to me that I wouldn't somehow hold and coo at the precious baby who needed comfort.

So, to the former boss who would say my voice isn't somehow "right" for me, I would say, it doesn't matter. I am so grateful for what my voice can be, when called upon in otherwise helpless moments: the voice of a mother - any mother - blended with those of the angels who are always standing by.

Love from the farm and far from the freeway,

A Day in the Life (Email Classics)

Written July 18, 2009

So, after I just raced outside with my big 5 gallon bucket full of chilis, hoping to catch my sister Lynda before she left the house at 11:15p, so she could see our abundant harvest, I thought AGAIN about how wonderfully farmy my life is, and thought I'd share a typical DAY IN THE LIFE.

6:15a- Awoke to Mia barking with purpose (you can tell the different barks if you pay attention.) Stumbled outside and found our goat-dog standing on the fence next to the house looking out over the neighboring field and howling and barking. I followed her gaze to see a coyote running for cover - with one of my white roosters in its mouth. This led me down to the chicken coop where I did a count. We have 16 of our 34 chickens that we started the season with remaining. Dadgum coyotes have been picking them off one at a time this summer. I swear I could hear the coyotes talking in my dreams, "Hey honey, I'm gonna run on over to Walker-Mart and pick up breakfast. Can I get anything for you while I'm out? No? Ok, I'll be right back." I was a fairly unhappy camper for awhile - it's discouraging to buy, feed, nurture, feed, manage, feed and talk to these birds and have them picked off one by one by the sniping coyotes.

I'm surprised we're getting any eggs at all - I'd expect the remaining hens to be quivering in a corner all day, certain they'll be the next to go. While we try to keep them penned up, some of those sneaky hens like to escape the coop through the broken door joining the chicken coop to the hog pen. (The door is broken courtesy of Gertie the Goat who is new to the farm, and is trying to earn the admiration of her new roomies by being destructive. We're keeping the spray paint away from her so she can't start tagging the coop as part of some weird girl-gang ritual.) Once they're out of the coop, they're fair game for the brazen desert hunters who I've come to loathe.

7:15a- Finished with animal chores, watering the squash and melons, putting the water on the corn (which I will forget about all day long, until 4p, which means the well pump ran all day long. Can't wait to get our next APS bill), re-washing the laundry I left in the washer overnight, re-count the chickens and curse some more, head back to the house.

8a - Showered, shaved, dressed and made up, ready to head to town. Ran up the hill to get hay at Stock Up, only to find that apparently farmers don't get up so early on a Saturday. Stopped at Safeway instead and bought groceries for the impending cousin visit - including s'mores fixin's for next weekend's camp trip. Chatted with the little old lady who struck up a conversation while closely inspecting the cabbages. You know the type - hair styled once a week at the salon, conservative make up, cotton-linen blend, pastel button-down blouse with slacks....She proceeded to tell me the best way to select a head of cabbage, extolled the virtues of store-bought vs. home-grown cabbage for different culinary purposes, related that her tomatoes had grown beautiful big plants but something keeps eating her fruit so nothing is setting; explained that her neighbor, Betty, was having better luck with her tomatoes, and, upon my relating my chicken woes of the morning, looked me dead in the eye and said in very serious tones, "You need to getchyerself a gun, that's what you need to do." I have no idea who the woman was - just a friendly great-grandmother who believes in predator control, coiffed up-dos,the 2nd Amendment and firm cabbage.

8:45a - Stopped at the Feed & Seed to get hay for the horses, feed for the pigs that apparently are destined to live a good long life, and fixins for my raised bed zucchini plants. Chatted with Karen, the owner, for awhile. She's one of my favorite people - we discussed the country singer who'd been playing at El Rancho last night, where we saw each other when we all showed up for a late dinner. Discussed the dang heat; tried to con her into letting one of her helpers back Mike's truck up to the loading ramp so I wouldn't get laughed at trying to do it myself, then proceeded to do it myself. I don't know if the young whippersnappers getting the hay laughed at my driving, but I'm fairly sure one of them called me "Ma'am." Ugh.

9:30a - Conned Mike into helping me unload all my treasures and finish up the last few chores up at the barn. Discussed what to do about the chicken mortality rate. Lined the kids out on the chores they had to complete before their cousins arrived today. Hollered at the kids for the next 2 hours to keep going on their chores; cleaned out the fridge to make room for all the groceries; made the hogs happy with the buckets of food I pulled from the fridge; vowed not to buy any more food without a menu so that I don't waste food. Said a little grateful prayer that we didn't have to throw anything out - at least the pigs are eating the stuff and we'll eat them so eventually we're eating the food after all..... Felt bad when the flour coated the pigs' heads when I dumped one of the buckets in their pen, but the greedy old toads won't get out of the way and they about kick the stall down trying to get at the buckets. Poor pathetic creatures (who I periodically thank for the sacrifice they'll be making for our family in the not-too-distant future.) Holler at the kids a little more, do a few more house chores, leave the house with an admonition that no one is to stop working while I'm gone - they are to stay focused. They are not even to stop for lunch until I get home (if I'd known I wouldn't be home til 3, I would have amended that one.) Refill turkeys' water in the heat and immediately regret feeling sorry for the little turds since they spent the whole time I was trying to retrieve and replace their waterer pecking HARD at my fingers. We'll see who gets the last laugh, Butterballs!

12:15 - Pick up lunch for Mike, then head off to Heber to pick up nieces to stay for the week. Chat with the in-laws about camping plans for next weekend, load up the girls and their gear and head home.

3:30p - Arrive home, drop off girls to squealing cousins. Pause to watch Kayla, the 7-yr-old, laugh in sheer delight as she chases the ducks. Drive back to town to pick up Mom's birthday gift and cards, then stop at Mom's to raid her freezer and pantry for the fixins for her birthday dinner tomorrow (What?!? I didn't want to go to another store. I was pooped! Besides, she's always telling me to get the meat out of her freezer before it burns - and she's the one who asked for enchiladas for her birthday, ok??) Kiss the husband who has been sanding Mom's just-unearthed wooden floors much of the day, then head back home. Instruct girls to go gather eggs; see the delight on Kayla's face at the suggestion, and wonder just how long it will take before the novelty wears off for her (hasn't worn off for me yet...).

4:30p - Plop on couch and check email, cruise favorite blogs for 30 minutes. Determine NOT to spray garden with calcium supplement, considering the wind is blowing like crazy; find out that neighbors have been working in garden during said wind storm, then feel abashed that I didn't see their car and thus let them get sandblasted in my backyard while I surfed the 'Net! Yikes!

5:15p - Start cooking enough potatoes and summer sausage for small army, forgetting we added 3 young girls to the mix today, not a dadgum platoon. Rationalize that leftovers will come in handy for small meal before church tomorrow afternoon. Have so much fun using food processor to slice potatoes, that I decide to boil 7 lbs of potatoes to shred for hashbrowns to freeze and use for Sunday morning breakfast.

6:00p - Realize there is still way too much food - run dinner in to Mom and Dad. Come home and feed family.

7:30p - Now that wind has died down, head out to garden to finish watering. Entice Mike to come out and "talk" while I pick chilis for Mom's birthday enchiladas. Pick nearly 5/6 of a 5 gallon bucket (we're coming full circle here) then run in and get a Coleman lantern so we can see as we finish watering. Chat with Mike while I hold the lantern and he weeds (see how that worked out for me? I'm a genius.) Thank Mike for monkeying with the broken chicken coop door so we have hope of avoiding coyote carnage for the night.

9:30p - Return to the house full of laughing cousins. Get on computer for another 20 minutes; Mike settles next to me to read the headlines then vacates the couch when I start looking up recipes for pickling jalapenos. Act blase so the kids can't tell by looking at me where the various cousins are hiding during their rousing game of "Sardines."

10:30p - Head to the kitchen to grate the potatoes for the hashbrowns. Decide I better find a potato pancake recipe once food processor turns potatoes into glutenous globs. Brave the dark on way out to shed to get the roaster - feel heart skip a beat as I scrape open the warped door, let the dog and kitten in first to snoop out any interlopers of the furry or slithering variety, and leap to pull the string to turn on the bare light bulb. Carefully lift down the roaster, making sure nothing's moving in it - then stand back and stare at the neat rows of glistening, empty canning jars. Wonder about what's going to end up in the jars, admire the darling little jelly jars that Adam found when cleaning out the shed, pull the string and hustle out the shed, hoping the kitten made it out before I scraped the door shut behind me as fast as possible and bolted back to the house. Scrub roaster - just in case - and put pork loin on to cook overnight for Mom's birthday enchiladas. Pray I can find the recipe for the homemade chocolate cake she wants for tomorrow.

11:15p - See headlights signalling someone has brought Adam and my visiting niece Haley home from yet another stinking 40th birthday party planning nonsense, and hurry to grab bucket of chilis to show off to whoever it is. Chat with Lyn for awhile.

11:45p - Realize that I'm doing things like gardening by lantern light, chatting with old ladies, making hashbrowns just before midnight, and running outside in my PJs to show off a Home Depot-orange bucket full of chilis. Also realize it's the end to a pretty typical day (just interchange more laundry and more hours of gardening with any of the above) on the farm, and decide to share. I'm fairly certain there was a time in my life when I got up with an alarm, got dressed, commuted, officed, meetinged and came home to kiss the kids goodnight. I had no idea I was missing out on all this fun.

12:47a - Oooooooooo - just heard the coyotes start up. They better stay away from my chickens......

Love from the farm,

Life, Death & Mystery on the Farm (Email Classics)

Written May 22, 2009

The following is a sequel to "Suicide Watch on the Farm"

Strange things are happening around the horses' trough at Walker Farm. Or more accurately, IN the water trough. You remember back in early April when I rescued the despondent red hen from the near-freezing depths of the trough? (She recovered fully but is still a little standoffish when I'm around. I understand. It's often uncomfortable to be around those who have seen us at our most vulnerable.) Well, what I didn't relate was that the following weekend, when we were leaving for our Easter picnic in Payson, Mike found one of our pretty Barred Rock (black-and-white spotted) hens drowned in the trough. The water was only a few inches deep, so we're just not sure what happened there.

Then, about one week ago, Mike found one of our young layers, a Buff Orpington, in the trough, pinned between the float mechanism and a board we put over the trough, presumably to discourage hens romping in the trough. (By the way - I'm telling you all of these breed names since it's Friday, I know you're bored at work and you'll have time to go to Google images so you can see what our chickens look like. Go ahead. The boss isn't looking.)

Well, this hen was alive, if wedged, but a new twist to the story is that there was an egg in the water beneath the hen. So here's the mystery: did she seek out the hidey-hole in the trough because she was looking for a secure place to lay her egg? Did she get stuck, freak out and shoot that egg out of her butt in a moment of panic? What is the fascination with the horses' trough? Does it resemble a mystical poultry icon that beckons to both rooster and hen?

These are some of the questions I ponder as I walk among the chickens.

Love from the farm,

(P.S. For those who will be Googling, our other breeds are Aracauna, Wyandott, Rhode Island Red, Australorp and Leghorn)

Suicide Watch on the Farm (Email Classics)

Written April 7, 2009

Mike fixed the horses' trough last night. It's been overflowing into the hog's pen - which made them as happy as pigs in you-know-what - but made it muddy around the trough in the horse corral which is not good for horse hooves.

ANYWAY, I checked on the trough after taking kids to school this morning and was surprised to find one of our pretty red hens stranded in the trough. Shivering. If that water wasn't freezing, it was darn close. This could explain why Buddy the Horse was whinnying at me over the fence from the moment I got out of the car. Whether he was saying, "Hurry, hurry, oh thank HEAVENS you made it in time," or "One of those stupid chickens is in the trough again. What the h*** is wrong with them? Probably crapped in there. Finally get to drink out of the d*** trough again, and the d*** chicken took a dump in there. What the h*** kind of operation is this anyway? Turning 12 next week, and THIS is the life I get to look forward to? Where's a trough big enough for me to jump in....." (I'm not sure about Buddy's cantankerous nature - he's a cagey one. And we're working with him on the cussing. Kids don't need to hear that.)

I'm also not sure what level of despair caused Red to take the plunge, but I performed an intervention. She's in a box, on a blanket, in front of an electric heater warming now. She hasn't uttered a peep - not sure if she's embarrassed or just deeply ashamed, poor girl. You may remember we found our missing rooster in the trough 4 days after it went missing last summer. Ghastly discovery that Tanner still can't discuss without shuddering.

Just doing my job, seeing to the emotional and physical well being of our flock. Happy chickens. That's our promise.

Love from the farm,

Tomatoes On My Ankles (Email Classics)

Written September 5, 2oo9

Yesterday afternoon, I was just wrapping up a writing project, had already run all the mom/household errands, and just learned that we won't be elbow-deep in pig parts until at least Saturday evening or Sunday after church. Do you know what this meant? Was it possible?? I started getting all warm and fuzzy at the prospect of a date with Mike. Maybe sneak off to dinner or a movie. Just the two of us. It doesn't happen often. After living in the sick house for over a week, it would be a welcome outing.

Then I glimpsed the massive rolling cooler sitting in my dining room, full of tomatoes gazing pleadingly at me to end their miserable half-life -- they're no longer growing and sunning themselves in the garden, but they haven't yet fulfilled their destiny to provide nourishment for our family..... (Ok, I'd promise to quit ascribing human qualities to the vegetables, but I'm just not sure I'll be able to keep that promise.) The bottom line is, the tomatoes were picked Sunday, a week of fevers, snot, sniffles and questionable bathroom behaviors intervened, and it was now Friday, and we were going to lose the whole lot if we didn't jump on it.

So, I resigned myself to the fact that the responsible thing to do was to can those tomatoes. My friend in farming Emily stopped by and dug in, as she always does, bless her little pointed head.

The preparing the tomatoes for canning was time consuming but easy work. The waiting for three batches to be done, when you had to boil EACH batch for 95 min (altitude adjustment required) was the pits.

Not only did I not enjoy a lovely date with my hubby last night, I woke up this morning to find myself sitting straight up in a chair in the living room, apron still on, and with tomatoes splashed on my ankles and feet. Mike is crashed on the couch. In a moment of panic I looked over to the kitchen to make sure we'd turned the heat off of the last batch of tomatoes. We had.

Then I looked down again at my getup and my 2nd thought for the morning was "I just LOVE this apron. I think it's my favorite." (Thank you again, Aunt Carol, for my beautiful birthday aprons. Today my favorite is the burgundy/gold/sage/cream/black floral striped one.)

What a vision Mike and I present. Him in fetal position, cold on the couch; me with feet flat on the floor - and judging by the crusty little texture where my cheek and mouth meet, undoubtedly I had some head lolling and mouth breathing going on for at least part of the night. We're beautiful.

Romance on the farm can be hard to come by. Especially with tomato ankles.

Love from the farm,