Saturday, October 31, 2009

Singularly Country

There are a few things that are singularly country - they happen only because you live in the country. Here are just a few examples from this week:

  • Your husband's co-worker calls to see if he can have his truck towed to your property, because he hit a cow on his way back to town from work.
  • You stand in your driveway* swapping stories of door-crashing animals with the co-worker's girlfriend, and she can one-up your story about the previous day's turkey/duck/goat poop fest with the story of the time her horse climbed the porch and walked on into the house. She wins. (*Is it technically a driveway if it's 1/8 - 1/4 mile long? At what point does it become a lane? I'd prefer to call it a lane. Probably isn't quite long enough. Shoot.)
  • On Tuesday, you drop your 9-yr-old daughter's best friend off at the bottom of her driveway after choral group lessons. She clambers over the cattle guard (she's not very tall) and climbs onto the 4-wheeler she has stashed behind an old truck, then rides on up to her house. (I bet we could call her driveway a lane - it's at least 1/4 mile long.)
  • After her Thursday choral group practice, your nine-year-old daughter is off to calf roping lessons. She may or may not be wearing her scuffed red cowboy boots. Country girls like high heels, too.
These are just a few examples of sure signs that you live in the country. There are many other such examples, but I hate to stir up all that covetousness and longing in the hearts of my city dweller friends. Especially with stories of playful old horses, snow glistening in the garden, and old gray barns looming in the background. I'll keep those enviable moments to myself.

Love from the farm,

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Open Front Door

Coming home to an open front door can elicit a variety of emotions. In the city, coming home to a gaping doorway might bring the following to mind: Have every one of our valuables been stolen? Was this a gang hazing ritual or an even more sinister breach? Is someone still in there, lurking in a darkened closet? If I call the police, I'm telling them the place was viciously ransacked; I'm not copping to the fact that it looks like this. Always.

Coming home to an open front door in the country fosters a whole different set of responses: How long have those doors been open? Am I the idiot who left them open? Dang it, I am. Is there a chance on this Great Green Earth that the animals didn't notice?

To the kids I was ferrying home from school, scouts, Grandma's and Grandpa's, I said, "Do you see something standing there in the doorway?" It was dusk. I wanted to believe the black shape about 2.5-feet up from the floor was simply a shadow. Then the shadow moved, and the kids started chiming in, "Yep, that's a turkey." "Oh, there's another turkey." "Is that the duck? Yeah, do you see her behind the tom?" "Where's the 3rd turkey?" Oh, don't worry she was there, too.


I weakly asked, "I don't suppose Gertie is in there with them?" No sooner had I uttered that last syllable then her little white horns popped up behind the black turkey backs. "Yep, there's Gertie," stated Captain Obvious (I'm not sure which kid it was, but their declaration was an unwelcome addition to the conversation.)

I kid you not, each one of those animals was craning its neck to see who had just pulled up; Gertie the Goat in the back, standing on tippy-toes to see over the tops of the turkeys heads. The duck finally had enough of the crowding, vista-blocking poultry and squeezed out between the turkeys to get a better view. It seems at the very same moment they all realized they were busted and slunk out of the house in a cluster, just as Mia came bounding up behind them from somewhere deep in the bowels of the house, ready to gaily greet us. It didn't occur to her that bringing up the rear behind a bunch of gate crashers is the walk of shame for a guard dog worth its salt.

By my calculations, those dang doors had been open since I got the call from the school nurse at 2:47p to come pick up a sick kid until our arrival home at 5:25p. Roughly 2.5 hours they could have been in there. I wasn't ready to face it. I resolved to stay in the car and just text Mike all about it.

The kids went in to inspect the damage and Tanner came out to report the results. "It's bad in there. You probably don't want to go in," he said as he dropped into the passenger seat, shut the door and fiddled with the heater vent. So, I didn't. It was warm in the car. I was disinclined to move.

Tanner and I sat there a good five minutes before I silently turned off the car, turned to look at him and said we'd better go in. Tanner was seriously surprised. He said, "Aren't you going to have us clean it up? Really, you're going in there? Mom, I don't know if you realize how bad it is."

Oh, I was so tempted. There're 4 strong yahoos around here that I'd labored to carry a total of 40 months (we may address the 9-month pregnancy fallacy at a later date) and who were responsible for my stomach looking like a cantaloupe rind - they owe me; I'm fighting the crud; it's been a long day - I can let them clean it up. But, then that stinking sense of fair play raised its perky little obnoxious head. I'm the one who didn't check that the security door was shut when I know darn good and well that our dogs Mia and Sadie can't resist their 'Starsky & Hutch' kick-in-the-front-door routine. It was my fault. It was my mess to clean up.

In case you were wondering, 3 turkeys, a duck and one goat can produce a colossal amount of poo in 2.5 hours. Eleven piles of bird poo and 2 smatterings of goat berries, to be exact. Of course, to make it all extra special, the goat will do one pile of bidness on the living room rug. I spent 45 minutes taking care of the 11 piles of poo and one goat deposit. Then, Macy and I rolled up the living room rug and took it outside. I have my limits and there was just one pile of poo too many.

I truly love our life in the country. I do. But, it just isn't right to have the farm critters greet you at the door. From inside the house. It's just not right. I have no profound or clever manner of wrapping this one up. It's simply not right.

Tepid affection from the farm,

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Of Pharmacies, Bum Holes and Ornery Folks

Swine flu has hit the folks, so I've spent some time checking on them throughout the week, taking a trip or two to the doctor, grabbing a few groceries, and making about 64 trips to the pharmacy. The little errands and checking in I've gladly done and I'm so grateful we're close by so I could do it. I'm glad for any chance to do something for the folks because, oh my goodness, I couldn't begin to repay them for the amazing support and help and fun they've been all my life. Stories of all they've done for me and my family are fodder for a 3-hanky post complete with theme music and sweeping vistas. But that's for another time. Suffice it to say, errands I can do. Am glad to do. With love in my heart.

The only thing I'm sick of is the pharmacy. Not because I've made a bunch of trips for Mom and Dad, but because I've filled prescriptions for 5 people this week; some have had multiple prescriptions on different days, so there was no chance for efficiency. Since Mom and Dad weren't the only ones with medical adventures this week, I've filled prescriptions for Mom, Tanner, Macy, Karlie, Macy again, Tanner again, Mom again and Dad. I'm tired of the pharmacy window, in spite of the sweet people who work at our Safeway pharmacy.

There was one bright spot in my pharmacy adventures this week, or so I thought. See, Dad's name is Willie, but he goes by Bill. I love opportunities to interact officially for him because I get to use his real name. Dad's a Kentucky boy, and it's not unusual for Kentucky boys to be named Willie. It's just not a name you hear much west of the Mississippi, and you get to say it even less. So, while I have grown weary of the pharmacy this week, it was fun to go pick up his prescription and have the chance to say, "I'm here to get Willie's prescription." But then the pharmacist helper lady says, "Do you mean Bill?" and inside I'm like, "Dang. One less chance to call him Willie. Thought for sure they'd call him Willie here."

After picking up the prescription, I stopped by the folks' home with a Diet Coke for Mom and a cup of coffee for Dad, and the prescription.

"You going anywhere else?" Dad asked.

"No. Just home," I answered, "Why? Do you need something?"

"No. It's just that you have a hole in the butt of your pants and I wasn't going to tell you about it until you got back with the coffee, but if you were going anywhere else, I figured I'd better let you know."

Yep, that's my Dad. Gotta love him. Even sick to the point of not being up for blow drying his hair, he can still get me.

"Oh, what's that, Dad? I'm sorry, was I standing on your oxygen line? Oh, am I off it now? How about now? Oh, sorry, am I on it again? Darn - is that what just yanked out of the machine over there? Oh, shucks, should I not have accidentally ground the hose into pieces with my heel? Oh, sorry."

Teach him to let me walk around with a hole in my bum.

Love from the farm,

(P.S. I suppose I should confess that I actually ended up running a few more errands in public yesterday, but at least I knew about the small hole, and somehow that made a difference. It was the ruthless letting me out among the common folk with a hole and not telling me immediately that was the issue, in case anyone's confused here.)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Don't Lizards Hibernate?

At the end of my last note, didn't I mention I was going to go do chores or go sit on the couch and snuggle with the kids? Well, apparently I'm a big fat liar. I did neither of those things. I remained sitting here, checking personal email, checking work email, rummaging through a few favorite blogs.

As I sat here, I heard rustling among the boxes and papers on the floor under and near my desk. I thought to look, and then decided, no; I'd rather assume the rustling is being caused by a sneaky barn kitty who zipped into the house when Tanner brought in wood. Sure, that's it. It's just a fluffy, pretty kitty. No matter that I don't see anything out of the corner of my eye and those kitties aren't wee anymore. They look like full-size cats; if it were one of them I should be glimpsing a bit of fur, at the least. Still, a girl can pretend.

Yep, she can pretend - right up to the moment that the fattest stinkin' lizard she's ever seen waddles past with its silly stunted tail. Wanders right past the couch so she can't pretend it's not right there, with its clickety-clack little fingernails that I'm sure I'd be hearing hit the wood floor if the wood floor weren't littered with paper.

Did I mention it was kind of nice having the kiddos home today? I just called them right in here to take care of the foul creature. Ok, lizards are fine outside; inside, I'm just ticked that they're in my territory. I'm also ticked that our house is made of swiss cheese, allowing the fat lizards to find their way in. So, Tanner donned socks on his hands (since his doctors specifically said no holding reptiles while immunesuppressed) and devised his strategy for capturing the salmonella-laden little home invader.

He directed Macy to assume a position in front of the lizard, causing it to freeze in its tracks. Macy whispered that she was in position and that she was distracting the lizard. I looked up to see this meant she was staring it straight in the eyes and waving her fingers in a mesmerizing little motion, keeping its attention diverted so the fat little guy (who obviously isn't very quick or he wouldn't have a nub of a tail) wouldn't notice Tanner sneaking up behind him. (Dude, lay off the quail eggs, that's all I'm sayin'.)

In a flash, Tanner grabbed the sluggish lizard - it didn't know what hit him. It hung its head in shame, no doubt relieved its lizard buddies didn't witness its utter lack of defensive tactics. Then, after examining it closely but not directly touching it, Tanner deposited the chubby little fella outside.

You know, I'm assuming none of his lizard pals witnessed his embarrassing capture. What if his head drooped because his buddies did see his pathetic lack of instinct? What if the jeering, hateful little turds are lurking, waiting to resume the paper rustling? What if any second they're going to clamber over cardboard and begin rattling tax receipts?

I think it's time to go have quality time in the living room with the kids. They need their mother.

Then I seriously have to clean this room.

Love and gingerly steps from the farm,

Cozy Day on the Farm

So, we're hunkered down on our first chilly-all-day day on the farm this fall, and I thought I'd give you a completely mundane overview of the happenings at We Don't Know What We Are, But I Can Tell You What We Are Not, And That's Harmony Farms:

  • Last night we had our first fire of the season. It was a controlled burn. In the fireplace. (Sorry, it's fall, which is prescribed fire season in the Forest Service and sometimes I hearken back to those days with some longing....Not necessarily the burning part, just the overall working with people who were dedicated stewards of the land part. Me, I just wrote stories about them and talked to reporters. The guys and gals in the field building trails, mending fences, protecting archaeological sites - those were the real heroes.)
  • Anyway.
  • The return of fires is lovely and it's so cozy this morning to be wearing Adam's sweats, someone else's socks, and to have my feet tucked under me on the couch with the fireplace warming the room. Yum.
  • The duck's eye is back. Anyone want to explain that one? Here's my stab at it. I think those mean ol' turkeys pecked at it so much it receded a little bit, the surrounding tissue swelled and closed up, making it appear the eyeball was gone. Poor little duck. She's twitchy and nervous and both eyes are now showing signs of peckage. She's even more skittish at the moment, but we're hoping to coax her into the hen house this evening, with fingers crossed that the girls will be nicer to her. And, we've been putting some antibiotics in her water in the hope of tackling any infection that might be trying to take hold in and around her poor wounded eyes. Poor sweet neurotic duck. She is still nameless, but no longer one-eyed, so it's doubtless her name will be anything clever. We're accepting suggestions.
  • Tanner and Macy are home, keeping me company. Tanner is on a great protein producing quest (that's euphemistic speak for spilling copious amounts of protein, which we don't like to see but doesn't mean immediate danger to his kidneys, just requires vigilance and an effort to stem the spillage), so we're keeping an eye on him. He's happy as a clam and feeling pretty good, so he doesn't mind hanging out. We're measuring protein and hoping it'll resolve on its own rather than having to add back in those stinkin' steroids that are just so dang invasive and fraught with side effects. (I'm saying words like "fraught" - blech.) Macy isn't doing so hot with this season's approach to asthma control so we're enjoying her sweet if coughing presence while we mix her meds up a bit to see if we can't get her back in the strong oxygen readings category. It'll be well in hand soon, I'm sure. In the mean time, I've taken to calling the schools early in the morning so I catch the answering machine to tell them which Walker child is blowing school off for the day. This practice offers the same kind of relief you get when you get the boss' voicemail when you call in sick - I don't know why I instinctively dread those calls so much. The kiddos have legitimate, doctor documented health issues. Why am I such a pleaser? Good grief.
  • I washed my car last week. Then, I drove it to Mike's work earlier this week so I could cover the clean surface with a nice, thick layer of salt-laden dirt. Then, I looked out the window 2 days ago and saw Gertie the Goat licking the dirt off the car and the wheel well. While this is an inexpensive if time-intensive alternative to the car wash, I think it also is a cue that Gertie's lacking a little something in her diet. We stopped by the Feed & Seed yesterday to pick up her own little Gertie-sized mineral block. She licked it exactly four times, then wandered back over to the car and resumed her hub cap licking. She's all about the chores, that girl. Gotta love her.
  • While at the Feed & Seed I mentioned our non-producing freeloader hens and the wise feed store owner, Karen, who I adore, said it's time to throw 'em in the stew pot. I did not prompt her on that statement, and she's the least homicidal person I know, so I'm feeling a little more like my farming instincts are starting to develop, rather than that I have become a cold-hearted maniacal killer. Thanks, Karen. You unknowingly helped me through a terrible identity crisis with your suggestion of a bubbly pot of chicken and dumplings. Now, I have to learn how to kill and clean a chicken. My resume just keeps growing and growing.

Well, that's about all for now. I'm going to go warm my tootsies by the fire that Tanner's presently stoking. Then I'm going to go do chores. Or, snuggle on the couch with my cheerful wheezy, leaking children and then do chores. We'll see how it all unfolds. We've got time.

Love from the farm,

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Nameless One-Eyed Duck


Why, oh, why would something peck the eye out of a perfectly nice duck? Has there ever in the history of the world been a one-eyed duck? Why do sweet children have to get out of the car after school and say,"What's wrong with the duck? Wha...whe...where is her EYE? What happened to her EYE? Did they peck it OUT? They DID! They PECKED OUT HER EYE!!"

"They" presumably being the turkeys, who peck at anything that's shiny. And who, as I've already mentioned, don't seem to give a hoot about the duck, but she longs for their company and follows them everywhere.

"Why is she still hanging around them if they hurt her?" "Why would they peck out her eye when she's nice to them?" "Why is she still with them?"

This little string of questions brought all those domestic abuse stories to the fore in my mind and I wondered if this was one of those moments where I could use the story of the turkey and the duck as a parable to explain those terrible patterns that emerge in an abusive relationship. Then I decided no. Nope. Not gonna do it. There's probably a time and a place for those discussions that will come sooner than I want in their sweet, innocent lives. But this is not the time or place. Ain't gonna happen.

The questions that immediately followed were, "WHEN are we going to kill those stupid turkeys?" "I HATE them." "They're awful. We need to kill them NOW." Great. Now we're back to murder being the answer to everything.

Heavy questions. Heavy emotions. How did I address these important questions?

I came right in here and committed it all to writing so we won't lose this important moment, that's what I did. And I'm going to hide in here until they're past the horror of it and I can dodge this situation.

Except of course, I won't. I'll go back out there. Dang it.

But first, here looms the biggest question of all for this poor wobbling duck who won't let us approach her so we can't offer her any form of aid for what has to be a dreadfully painful injury prone to major infection: Since she has never had a name, would it be really tasteless and insensitive if we went with any of the obvious choices that a biker gang or pirate crew might come up with?

Oh, I feel a little urpy even joking about it. Poor little duck. It's just wrong. Is it just us, or are all farm animal experiences so ruthless and cruel? We will never be able to call this place Harmony Farms. Ever.

The duck isn't the only thing needing an appropriate name around here.

Love and horror from the farm,


Friday, October 16, 2009

Among the English

Ok, I promised recently that I would tell how I spent my time working through a migraine last week, but frankly, I was still in the midst of a migraine hangover when I made the promise, and I regret the promise. I was going to blow it off, but if you can't trust that I will keep my word, then what are we doing here anyhow?

The reason I was going to blow off the story of working through my migraine is because it wasn't really all that interesting. Just embarrassing. And, let's face it, I've given you enough embarrassing to last a life time.

But here goes.

If you'll recall, I was in the Valley last Monday for Tanner's doctor visit and the funeral of my friend's mom. Well, my migraine began to take hold during the funeral. I spoke to friends after the services were over, then had a few hours before the celebration of life at the family home that evening.

As I broke away from everyone, I knew I'd better act fast if I was going to head off a doozy of a headache. Also, I hadn't eaten yet that day. These two things provided a blessed convergence and required a wonderful thing of me: a trip to AJ's Fine Foods - my favorite gourmet market, which I have missed oh so much since my sojourn to the northland where my only grocery choices are Safeway (which is a lovely store for which I am grateful) or Circle K.

You should know that Adam and I love fancy and unusual foodstuffs, so we feel like we're on the mother ship when we browse through AJ's. (Well, actually, I've always felt Williams-Sonoma is the mother ship, so I suppose AJ's is the shuttle to the mother ship, if I have to perpetuate this silly little analogy.) When we lived in the Valley and had time together, we were delighted when we'd get to wander through AJ's and pick up quirky little nuggets to try. Only the two of us can truly understand Adam's joy when one of the gifts I gave him for some occasion or another was a bottle of fancy pearl onions. Actually, maybe Adam's the only one who truly understands his joy - I just can't get excited about tiny onions from a jar.


I went to AJ's last Monday and headed straight to the pharmacy, where I was able to find Excedrin Migraine, and then I walked with anticipation toward the salad bar. Oh, how I've missed AJ's salads. I piled on spinach, arugula, mixed greens, beets, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, artichoke hearts, cubed ham, goat cheese, marinated mushrooms, and peas - drizzling only scant dressing so as not to dim the flavors of all those colorful, crisp and yummy ingredients. I took my frosty beverage and overpriced salad outside to sit on the patio on a beautiful fall day, popped the Excedrin and settled in to savor the experience.

I registered a guy sitting at the table behind me as I munched away, listened to the birds chirping and enjoyed the familiar Scottsdale neighborhood as I waited for the pills to take effect. I stifled a laugh when an obviously "procedured" woman tottered past on her ridiculously high heels, chattering into her phone and I kid you not that I heard her saying, ", really, Tabby and Stephanie have both had it done and they say there are absolutely no side effects, so I was thinking we absolutely should have it. It's supposed to be a perfectly safe procedure. Do you want to do it with me?" It was like a bad line from a bad movie scene set on Rodeo Drive. And, in defense of all of my friends in and around Scottsdale, it was the first time I'd seen and heard such a stereotypical Scottsdale vignette in all my years in the Valley.

As I sat there enjoying my salad, I heard the chair scrape behind me and the guy who'd been sitting there threw away his trash, trotted over to his car then turned to me and said, "I LOVE this weather. I wait all year for days EXACTLY like this. Days like today are the only reason I bought this car," he said before he grinned and jumped into his silver convertible. (Yes, it was a Mercedes but I wasn't going to say it because I'm really not pulling the Scottsdale affluenza card. No, the intent of this post is to illuminate my own sad evolution...or is it devolution??)

So, happy convertible guy pulls away, I resume munching on my salad and think how much I, too, love this weather in the Valley, how nice it is to visit and enjoy this familiar favorite lunch, and hear the birds. And see the birds. Like this little bird hopping around my table and walking up and down the sidewalk. Squawking. Poor little bird - is he alone? He sure seems small compared to the ravens/crows I'm used to seeing in the Valley. Most of the crows/ravens (I knew the difference at some point but I can't remember) are much bigger. And, I don't believe I've heard that call before. Is that a distress call? Is this a baby crow/raven? Is it lost? Are you ok, little guy? Where are your friends? Did you lose your way? Are you ok?

"Hey, lit........."

Noooooooooooooo! Shhhhhhh! You can't talk out loud to the bird! You're in Scottsdale! You're among the English! You can't talk out loud. People will think you're crazy. Am I crazy? Am I a crazy bird lady? It never occurred to me to talk out loud to birds when I lived in the Valley. Why do I feel comfortable talking out loud to the chickens at home -- in fact why do all the books say I should talk out loud to the chickens at home?

Why do I feel ashamed and decidedly country when I talk out loud to the bird in Scottsdale? Have I completely lost my ability to move among civilized folk after only 2 years on our nearly 3 acres in a rural county?

No, no, I'm fine.

Why, just today, I had a pedicure and put on heels and restrictive undergarments. I'm wearing lipstick, I'm sipping from a clear plastic beverage container and my earrings are shiny and new. I have been able to use multiple syllable words and there are no screened cartoon characters on my shirt, and I'm eating arugula, for pity's sake. I'm fine. I'm just fine.

As long as I don't talk to the birds, out loud, I'm fine.

So, I tapped my heels and consulted my Blackberry as if I were a professional gal taking a late lunch. That's it, I'll just resume my role as Normal Woman Enjoying Lunch Al Fresco.

Surprisingly, my migraine didn't abate much during all of that intensive internal dialogue.

And that's how I spent my afternoon in the city.

The end.

Love from the farm where I can talk out loud,

The Lone Egg & An Evolving Philosophy

One brown egg.

A single, solitary brown egg.

That's all I found in the hen house when I fed the hen this morning. Oh, did I say hen? I meant hens - all 7 of them.

Yes, 7.

Why, Teri, if you have 7 hens, did you find only 1 egg, you ask? Why? Because we have some opportunistic slackers who are drunk on the heavenly mash and sweet scratch we generously ply them with every day, but are refusing to give anything in return. They haven't given for some time. These new gals that we welcomed to our farm a month or so ago are not putting out.

In short, they're takers, they're not givers; and for that, I'm seriously thinking it's freezer time. You know why? Because for the first time in months, I had to buy eggs at the store this week. Why am I buying eggs when I have 7 perfectly healthy hens wandering around the chicken yard, for whom I buy feed twice a month?

And may I say, it's a very nice, clean fresh chicken yard at that. Because on Monday, did I spend the day primping and preening so Mike and I could enjoy a nice, intimate celebration of our 13th anniversary? Oh, no. Not me. I donned a dust mask, and for the first time in months laced up what were once very expensive running shoes and along with my intrepid mother-in-law, cleaned out the chicken coop and chicken yard, raking and scraping up months of hay, food scraps and chicken poo. We spent a couple of hard hours cleaning that coop and yard, then scattered fresh Bermuda grass all over the coop floor, filled the nests with nice soft grass, and spread yet more Bermuda out in the chicken yard. The girls were very excited by the fresh grass and scratched merrily in the new green litter.

We had one hen, though, who was very distressed during the process, continuing to check the nests to see what was happening, wandering from one end of the coop to the other, checking the nests again. As women who have felt a certain urgent need to deliver an uncomfortable burden ourselves a collective 9 times in the past, it finally occurred to us that perhaps the little red hen's distress wasn't so much upset at her changing habitat as it might have been an urgent need to give birth to an egg. And soon. We hurriedly put hay in one of the nests and she gratefully settled right in to complete her daily labor. Poor old girl. Nothing like arriving at the emergency room to have your baby only to find there's not so much as a wheelchair ready to give you rest. As fellow birthers, we should have cottoned on earlier.

She doesn't realize it, but the little red hen's distress may have very well saved her life. Because now we know who is providing us that one lone egg; we know who is returning our hospitality with labor of her own. We know who will be spared when the inevitable axe falls, should the other girls not start producing real soon.

I'm not sure when I became such a cold-hearted "put up or die" kind of person. Never before did I require that everyone show a direct return on my investment if they were to live. Never before did I respond to slights and discourtesies and just plain ungrateful behavior with threats of death. It's this odd new approach to life and death that has crept into my makeup that I'm pondering these days, trying to determine if I need to quash this new philosophy, or if it's a necessary step in my evolution from city girl to farm woman. It's a slightly disturbing turn of events, and I'm not sure where I'm going to come out on this.

I do believe my "serve me or you die" attitude may be leaking out a bit, oozing from the seams; I'm afraid my grim reaper watchfulness may be starting to make the people around me nervous. Could that be why Mike's mom, my beloved mother-in-law, works from dawn till dusk when she visits, never sitting during the day, hardly resting long enough to eat a quick meal before returning to some unpleasant task? Perhaps I should tell her that the yummy vittles and clean towels we proffer during her visits don't require labor in return; that my tit-for-tat requirements extend only to the farm critters.

On the other hand, my refrigerator and kitchen counters have never sparkled so much as they do following my mother-in-law's visit this week. Could be that mercenary glint in my eye has its merits....

More to ponder as I walk among the chickens.

Without an axe.

For now.

Love from the farm,

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Come Bearing Gifts

This week, Tanner and I went to Phoenix for his clinic appointment at Phoenix Children's Hospital. After his appointment, I dropped him off at his cousins' for 24 hours of fun with the girls, who are on fall break. After leaving him, I went to the funeral for my friend's mom, and spent some time with her and her family. Precious time.

The appointment went well (for those interested in receiving notifications on Tanner's progress, shoot me an email and I'll send you the website registration information). As happens sometimes when I've been anticipating an event with a little bit of stress, I promptly sprouted a migraine as soon as it was apparent all was well. You'll hear more about what happened while I was waiting for the migraine to pass in my next post. I'm mentioning it now, because I'm falling victim to a weird compulsion to share every detail related to the trip. I may go back and delete this whole part before this post is through. You never know. It's all fluid until I hit "Publish Post".


After I slept off the migraine on Tuesday morning, Mike's sister and I took the kiddos out for a late lunch, then Tanner and I took our leave to head home. But first we stopped at Cabela's to browse. You should know that Tanner's sisters think it's patently unfair that he gets to have all this fun on his Phoenix Children's trips. Those who keep up with his medical reports have heard a little about this consternation. It's not a big, noisy deal but it's there, simmering under the surface. And, as time goes on and it's apparent Tan's doing pretty well, the grumbling gets a little louder, because let's face it, he's spending a few hours with doctors and then is just having a good time. Restaurants, Cabela's, movies, Bass Pro Shop, cousin time, whatever.

So, after nearly a year of these monthly/bi-monthly sojourns, it dawned on me that maybe I should take a little something home to the other kids from these trips. Maybe I should make it a habit to just bring them a little something. And so I picked up a few things.

Here's what I shared with my loving family members, waiting at the homestead for our return from the Valley:

  • a pair of wool socks for Mike for the coming winter
  • a small pocket knife for Adam
  • chunks of fudge wrapped in parchment paper and made with real cream and butter for Adam, Macy and Karlie
  • sour candy drops for the girls, that actually came out of a barrel.

Umm, does this gift list sound familiar to anyone? Anyone? After pulling the last gift out of the bag, it hit me. I really am stuck in an endless episode of "Little House on the Prairie."

Only I'm not "Half-Pint," as my sister (affectionately?) calls me. Oh no, it couldn't be that simple. I'm bringing rustic little gifts back to the family after leaving them behind for a trip to the big city. Let's face it.

I'm Pa.

I'm not sure what to do with that.

Love from the farm,


Friday, October 2, 2009

For the Love of a Duck

For the past few days and nights, we've had major coyote activity on the farm. Mike walked out to find a coyote not 20 feet from the front door in broad daylight, so he ran towards the wild dog, waving and yelling. Oh, I wish I'd been here to see it.

At night, we can hear packs of them yipping and yowling. Our dogs, Sadie and Mia, have spent the nights running the property, chasing away the wily predators that have us surrounded. We hear Mia and Sadie barks coming from every angle, round and round the house, down by the barn, up by the road. They work hard protecting our critters. They don't stop. It isn't until around 3:30 or 4 a.m. that the battle wanes, and then it starts again around 5:30a.m. Those dogs work hard for us; they're vigilant protectors. They collapse, weary and wasted when daylight comes.

I want to kill them.

Oh, we've been so tired. No one's sleeping well. The incessant, important barking has us up all night. It isn't fair to direct ire at the canines who live to serve, but when you're sleep deprived, you lose rationality.

At the crux of the issue has been the duck. The duck has always been skittish. She takes off when you come near her, squawks as if she's been violated in some way when you turn your attention toward her, constantly averts her eyes then casts furtive glances our way. It's hard to herd a reluctant duck, so she's been staying out at night. So she won't be lonely, we've occasionally let Gertie the Goat stay out with her; hence the need for guard dog duty.

Bless my little lion tamer's heart, somehow Tanner has begun exerting a calming influence over the duck in recent days. I don't know why, but night before last, she let Tanner stand nearby as she followed the turkeys into their pen. Last night, I decided to take advantage of this change in dynamics on the farm. I had Tanner pen up the duck with the turkeys and the girls pen up Gertie, and the dogs stayed in the house.

Mike and I were relishing the thought of a night without barking or bloody carnage. I was snuggled deep in slumber under my down comforter.

Until 11:30 p.m. when the black kitten came scrambling THROUGH THE SWAMP COOLER into our bedroom and jumped up on the bed, frantically rubbing against me.

Because she had been sprayed by a skunk.

I'm going to go get a soda or two to see if it will help clear the grit from my eyes.

Love from the farm,

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Raw Silk

Last night, my heart broke when I read a text that had come in a few hours earlier from a dear friend, letting me know her mother had passed away in Tucson where she had been fighting, and I mean fighting, cancer. I gasped that immediate, tear-invoking "Oh, no!" that we all do when we've just found out that in spite of our earnest prayers, someone we care about - or someone loved fiercely by someone we care about - didn't get to be one of the 20%'ers after all; rather, they had to join the ranks of the 80% who fought valiantly and with spirit, but whose bodies were just too tired after relentless battle.

I had just had the chance to sit down with this friend last week, for the first time in probably 9 months, and we had talked about her mom and my Tan. We were able to laugh, roll our eyes and make what others would probably have thought of as horrifically shocking statements and jokes; unless, of course, those eavesdroppers had dealt with a loved one's critical illness completely standing their lives on end and rearranging every facet of what they had once thought of as "normal." We laughed one minute, railed the next and fought tears a time or two before we laughed again. And, I was so impressed by the strength, courage and perspective I heard coming from this amazing woman.

Today, I was waiting to pick up lunch for Mike, Tanner the Boy On House Arrest, and me, and I was wondering what I could send my friend to let her know I'm thinking of her. My mind settled on a raw silk handkerchief. I could envision giving her this soft, dove grey handkerchief that she could use to dab her eyes during the funeral and feel close to her mom. And I thought that it was ironic that it would have been at an elegant little boutique like the one her mom had once owned in Scottsdale where I could have found the perfect hankie.

Her mom owned a shop called "Valerianne's," and it proffered the finest, most luxuriant linens. There were other beautiful things there, but the linens were what defined the experience. They were exquisite, sometimes fragile in their beauty and of only the finest materials. There was no question they were of highest quality. From the few times I met her, it struck me as entirely appropriate that my friend's mother would spend her time among such beautiful things. She was a beautiful woman. She was one of those rare beauties who are timeless; I would say she reeked of refinement, but there is no way the word "reek" should have been used in a sentence describing her. She simply was refined and gracious. I know from anecdotes my friend would share of family get togethers that she wasn't a shrinking violet, but I'm sure even in repose or at play, or even in a quarrel, she didn't quite shake that indefinable quality that she had.

I thought of raw silk today because in our conversation the other night my friend remarked that here was this woman who had always taken such good care of herself, liked things just so and took great care in her appearance, yet she had long since lost her carefully styled hair, had ports and tubes attached, and wasn't even fully aware of the marring scars from recent surgery. But, this friend told me, "In some ways she isn't the same person right now, but she's still my mom. She's still beautiful."

Silk can certainly be treated to smooth out the wrinkles and imperfections, allowing it to shine and exude its highest levels of refinement. But when it's raw, it has texture and there is beauty in its very being, and in the way the light catches its slightly uneven facets. While finished silk is uniform and smooth, the raw silk reveals nuances and shades in its unvarnished state that cause you to examine it a little more closely and appreciate its complexities.

My friend's mother's name is Gloria. She was beautiful - both when she was able to present herself exactly as she wanted to, and as her life and her appearance became more complex and raw. There was a certain fragility to her beauty that might have obscured her hidden strength from those who didn't know her well; but to those who fought alongside her all these many months, it was the innate beauty of her raw strength that left them in awe.

I don't know if I'll find that raw silk hankie in time for the funeral. But I'm not sure I'll see one again without thinking of my dear friend and her beloved mom.

Love from the farm,