Friday, December 23, 2011

Father Time

Merry almost Christmas! The kids are on winter break, we're going to wash every piece of laundry in the house today, Mama Hen and her 9 baby chicks are out of the house and happy in their own box of straw -- all is well!

Oh, I didn't mention we hatched 9 chicks in the house recently? In the living room, specifically? No? Must have been because it wasn't the highlight of my month. Broody Mama who hatched and cooed at her precious babies -- darling, yes. In my house? Boooooooo!

Still, there was a snowstorm, Mama wouldn't leave her nest, she was covered in snow under the honeysuckle bush, we couldn't let her freeze to death just because she was following her motherly instincts, so we brought her in the house. It took three days after the last chick was hatched before I was standing over Mike as he rested on the couch, and arms waving and eyes wild, begged him to let me help him build a home for the new family. Mission accomplished.

That taken care of, I could concentrate on other seasonal things: Christmas presents, baking, indulging in treats, praying for New Years when all the treats would be gone and veggies would reappear, yelling at kids about clumps of mud tracked through the house...all those things that make Christmas magical.

In the midst of it all, Tanner's relapse has been a specter lurking over my shoulder and hovering overhead. You can read about it here, and about our big hopes for Father Time.

Hope you have a Merry Christmas and mud-free days in the New Year!

Love from the farm,

Friday, November 25, 2011

Back In the Fight

We're back in the thick of it, wrestling alligators again...

After 7 blissful months of remission where Tanner got to grow, play, laugh, grow, feel like going to school, spend time with friends, grow, look great, play 8th grade football, move freely...and so much more...he has relapsed, we learned from his doctor last week.

So, after 7 months of enjoying and being grateful for every carefree moment I watched him enjoy, I'm now looking forward to learning what his doctor has in mind for getting him back into remission and onto enjoying the upcoming Christmas season.

I'm looking forward to getting him well so he can enjoy a healthy winter and be prepared for whatever he wants to do in the, track, weightlifting, whatever.

I'm looking forward to positive test results, dialing back awful meds that nonetheless get his kidneys back on track, and having those meds, with which we have a serious love-hate relationship, pull out a victory for us once again.

I'm looking forward to someone, somewhere finding a cure.  Please.

And, I'm looking forward to Tanner sporting a kick-butt pair of alligator-hide boots one day. Soon.

Love from the farm,

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Not One Bit Jealous

Ever since Macy was wee, I've admired her cheekbones. I always liked to look at her in profile, because she had the quintessential Disney princess profile: apple cheeks, narrow jaw with a slightly rounded chin, perfect brows and bowtie lips. It is the profile of Belle, of Ariel, and of most every other Disney princess.

I can't tell you the number of times over the years when I've chuckled because she turned just so and I could see it. As she's gotten older, I don't draw the comparison as much; probably because we're not watching as many Disney princess movies around here. But, I still love her apple-cheeked cheekbones.

See the apple cheeks?

See the perfect chin?

And, because I'm a good mother and not at all shallow enough to be jealous of my children, let me just say that I am not jealous of the fact that her beautifully shaded cheekbones in the first picture of her singing are not enhanced with blusher of any kind. That's just how they appear. Naturally. With no foundation or powdering or synthetic blusher or anything. None at all.

And I'm perfectly fine with that. Not one little bit jealous.

While we're at the things I'm not jealous about, let me just say this about Karlie Q Pelican.

I'm not the least bit jealous of those adorable freckles or the myriad natural highlights in her hair that scream "I belong in a wheatfield as the sun is sinking low on the horizon, bathing the waving grains in a warm, gauzy glow!"

I'm not jealous of her lush fringe of eyelashes either.

Or how she can rock a cowboy hat.

Nope, not jealous one bit.

I'm super happy for them.

Just super happy.

Yep, they're super.


GOOD for them.

Me and my ruddy skin and ill-defined cheekbones are just So. Darn. Happy. For. Them. Both.

Love from the farm,

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween Costume Rejects

Halloween took us a bit by surprise this year. Actually, that's not true. Karlie has been clamoring for costume ideas and reminding me we needed to get started on her costume for quite some time. For months, Macy knew she wanted to be Flo from the Progressive Commercials.

Tanner didn't have big plans for Halloween, and wasn't wasting time thinking about potential costumes. He was cool. He was up for anything. He was playing XBox Live.

It was just me, OK? It was just me who managed to be surprised that the time had gone by so quickly and I wasn't prepared to prepare the kids for their costumes.

Adam was easy, although I'd say he went a little overboard on his part. He's playing a missionary, and flew all the way to South Africa just to make it look authentic. Sheesh, some people's overachieving kids.


When the kids got ready for school, on Halloween, I figured we better decide what they were going to be. When I mentioned to Macy that we didn't really have time or materials to pull off Flo, she shrugged her shoulders and said, "That's OK, I'll just be something dead," and proceeded to pull on striped tights and top them with shredded denim shorts. She'd put the makeup on after school.

One down.

Then, I threw all of my creative genius at Karlie and came up with FABULOUS ideas for her to consider. With visions of Meg Ryan's "Freudian slip" from the movie "Innerspace" dancing in my mind, I offered forth these jewels:

"Hey, why don't we make a sign on poster board with a big thought bubble. You could hold it out in front of you, and...wait for an 'afterthought'!!!" I exclaimed, clapping wildly, so excited.


"OK then...Oh, I know, let's wrap you in bubble wrap, and when someone asks you what you are, you can answer softly, 'I'm fragile.'"

Eyes rolling. I take that as rejection.

"Alrighty. How about we cover you in quilt batting and you can be a cloud?"

No response.

"Ummm, OK this is it. I gave Macy this idea, but she didn't use it, so you can. You have a little bucket full of Dubble Bubble and every time you walk up to a door, you toss a piece onto the ground and announce, 'I'm a gumdrop.'"

Rejected again.

Flustered, wondering why she can't see the genius behind these suggestions, I turn to Tanner: "Why don't we tie a piece of rope around your neck then tie a big nail to it. You can be a 'hangnail'."

Tanner: "Cool. Let's do it."

I've never loved him more.

Karlie went as a ghost.

Someday she'll understand me.

Love from the farm,

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chicken Games

We have a new game around here.

It's called "Chicken In the Kitchen."

Actually, it's not a game at all; I just figure if I call it a game it will seem more fun and playful. And less disturbing.

In reality, what we have are chickens who have discovered the screenless window to our bedroom, and who delight in jumping into the house. Which means we've had to be a whole new level of vigilant around here, listening for the telltale flutter of wings that our feathered friends can't disguise as they come in for a landing. That blessed flutter is the only thing standing between us and a lot of unmentionable undesirables in the house, I tell you what. (Oh, who am I kidding? I mention it all the time: poop. Poop, poop, poop. It's what chickens do. A lot.)

Last week when I had a triple whammy of upper respiratory infections, I was a little foggy coming in the front door and a little red hen snuck behind me and made it to the kitchen. I shut the door, lifted my drooping head and spied her happily munching at the cat's dish. I actually closed my eyes and uttered a little prayer, standing there in the dining room, "Oh, I really can't chase her. I can't. Please, please let her be calm so she'll let me pick her up without having to chase her around the house."

I advanced on her quietly and slowly, and thankfully, she just stood there while I picked her up.

Prayers are answered, and don't you forget it.

Anyway, this morning I realized no one would be home during the day, and I didn't want to risk the chickens having their way with the house, so I blocked the window. Then, when I was in the truck getting ready to drive the kids to school, I delighted, DELIGHTED in watching a rooster hop up to the windowsill and bob and crane his neck trying to figure out how to get into the new playground, then jump down in defeat. Ha! Take that!

There is, of course, a corner of me that realizes that not everyone...or anyone...worries about things like keeping chickens out of the house. I know that. I do. I just can't dwell on it too long or I might throw in the towel and sell the whole operation and find a nice, clean, shiny, new, well-sealed house inside city limits, with a postage stamp, poop-free lawn.

So I don't dwell. I just dodge the chicken poo and smile. And pet a feathered head. Then all is well.

Love from the farm,

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Fall = Grateful!

There's lots to catch up on as we bound into fall. Aside from the antics of some presumptious feathered farm animals who shall remain nameless,there have been some fun things happening that I want to tell you about. Like the fun we had with Mike's sweet sister and her darling girls and husband picking apples in Colorado...

Then, there was the adventure we had in the pumpkin patch with our Ellie, Grandma, aunt and cousins visiting from out of state...

And, I also want to fill you in on what's up with this guy, who's having a blast in South Africa. He's the one in the middle...see him there with the happy smile?

Then, I might do a little bragging about how cute these girls were in their school choir concert this fall....

But, all those updates and anecdotes are going to have to wait. Because, today, I think I need to just say thank you - to express my gratitude and overwhelming joy.

Because today, I realized we've passed a significant milestone with this guy.

Six months.

Six months Tanner has been in remission from his kidney disease.

Six months he's been free of pain and uncertainty and missing out on absolutely everything his friends were up to. Six months he's been free of worry and emergency rooms and IV's and steroids.

Since Tanner's kidney disease got off to a dramatic start when he was 10, this is the longest, actually twice as long as, he has ever gone without a relapse.

And I am so very grateful...

Because, where for a time he was sallow and weak with deep circles under his eyes, now he's the picture of health.

Where for a long time he was limited to only walking -- no climbing stairs, no running, no P.E. -- now he can do this...

...and this (and it's a darn good thing,because his Dad was too busy laughing to be of any help with this big boy).

(And, no, Mike hasn't taken up a new habit ... it's a lollipop.)

While for the past four years, we couldn't keep from reminding him he was sick because there were endless urine tests and blood pressure checks and blood draws and hospitalizations and talk of spilling and bleeding and heart problems... he's having fun exploring his talents and expanding his comfort zones.

While he started out this year in the hospital, facing six months of chemotherapy to fight a stubborn, threatening relapse...

Now, he's here with us. Every day. Strong, adventurous, laughing, healthy, smiling and happy. We love this kid. And we're so grateful he's not only here, he's well.

All is well.

Thank you God, all is well.

How I pray we can hold on to this remission forever.

Love from the farm,

Friday, September 23, 2011

I Believe - Again

A couple of years ago, I was reading this blog when I stumbled across this little ditty. I swelled up with joyful emotion and thought, "Me, too; me, too! I believe, too!" Then I promptly fired off an email to my friends who I'd left behind in the smoggy city, and later posted it my own blog.

I ran across it tonight and I felt the same way as I did back then. I love this life we have. Chicken poop and all.

I know I could just link to the verse from when I posted it way back when, but I think it merits showing up again right here.


I Believe

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~

Love from the farm,

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Happy Autumn!

"Lord, it is time.
The summer was very big. Lay thy shadow

on the sundials, and on the meadows

let the winds go loose.

Command the last fruits that they

shall be full; give them another

two more southerly days,

Press them on to fulfillment

and drive the last sweetness into

the heavenly wine."

-Rainer Maria Rilke

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Best Laid Plans

It all started so beautifully...

The jars were sterile and sparkling....

The peaches were plump and blanching...

See? Plump? Ripe? Beautiful?
Only marginally distorted in color because I don't have the Nikon and
am using my Droid instead?

The lids were in water ready to simmer....the sugar water syrup was boiling on the stove...the water bath canner was bubbling, awaiting jars of beautiful sliced peaches....

Then, I peeled some peaches and noticed they looked funny. So, I hazarded a taste.

Then I hazarded another taste, just to be sure.

They were gross.

They were slimy, pulpy, flavorless mush.


I was so excited that I was going to fit in a batch of peaches tonight, but it was not to be. Mom had picked up the peaches from a grocery store. They had been good eating peaches, but they went bad....real bad...after the blanching.

So, I placed a call to  my friend Karen who owns the local Feed & Seed and asked if there was any hope of my getting my hands on good peaches this late in the season. She said that it's just possible there may be an extra box or two on the truck her husband is bringing back from Utah this Friday.

Did you happen to hear the faint hum of angels singing earlier this evening? Or notice a flutter of gossamer wings out of the corner of your eye?

The heavens were rejoicing in honor of the news that my peach canning dreams are not thwarted for the year. Not only will I have peaches, but I'll have Utah peaches. Yum.

What is fall without fresh canned peaches, after all? Well, it's just not fall.

So, while I'm disappointed that my hour of preparation was for naught, and that Mom's investment in the lug of peaches went to some very happy chickens, I'm grateful that I have hope of having gorgeous sliced peaches on my pantry shelves by this weekend.

Tomorrow - apples.

Wish me luck.

Love from the farm,

Sunday, September 18, 2011


"The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze."
-John Updike, September

A friend gifted me oodles of apples from her tree. In the next couple of days we'll be canning lots of sliced apples, to be used in apple crisp, fried apples, apple pies. All the best fall treats.

I love fall. I love September. I'm grateful for this beautiful winding down season.

Love from the farm,

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What's In A Name?

The time has come to name the chickens.

Normally, I'd have named these critters when they were tiny, but given our luck keeping chickens alive here previously, I just had to wait.

But, since this flock has survived infancy and young adulthood, and we have a secure chicken yard waiting to keep them safe for the forseeable future, I believe it's safe to finally give these chickens monikers.

This here is our black rooster. We're trying to figure this guy out. He started out all cooing and gentle. Then he started stalking us and pecking at our feet. Now, he just stalks us in close proximity as we walk. We're waiting to see how this one is going to unfold.

We have three roosters and six hens. Obviously, two of our roosters will have to go. Somewhere. We'll need to figure that out soon. I'm not naming the roosters just yet, as I don't know who's staying and who's not. And I can't give away or can someone with a name.

OK, here are the least those who were around while I was snapping photos this morning.

This lady is going to give us green or blue eggs...see those green legs of hers? I can't wait to start getting her beautiful eggs. Any ideas? I'm leaning towards Sofie.

This little lady is our friendliest hen. She comes trotting up to see us everytime we're in her sights. Maybe Annie or Kate. Not sure on her yet.

These black hens of ours are enigmas to me. I just don't know what they're thinking. I'll be glad of the moments we're all in the chicken yard together, so I can sit on my stump and watch them closely, rather than them being scattered around the farm, hard to pin down. (By the way, I really do sit on a stump; that wasn't some weird slang for referring to my hind end.)


I'm thinking Iris or Lois or Fern for this gal. She seems like she has an old soul.

I'll let you know once we've made their names official.

Don't hold your breath, though, I'm the woman who brought my third child home from the hospital without a name because I just felt the weight of the importance of that decision and couldn't just slap any ol' name on her. Besides, Baby Girl Walker had a sweet ring to it. So did Macy Lee, which is what we came up with on Day 3 of her life.

Hopefully, we'll feel a little less pressure on the chicken naming.

Love from the farm,

Friday, September 16, 2011

Future Hunters

Dear Willow, Ben and Kevin,

Right now you may be wee, hardly bigger than a dollar bill. But I sense epic mousing in your future.


Love from the farm,

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What time is it?! It's CARPET TIME!!!

So, one time, when I was a teenager, Mom took us on one of our epic shopping adventures in the Valley. (That's Valley of the Sun, Phoenix Metropolitan Area for those of you not up on the Arizona lingo.) I didn't know it then, but I learned as an adult that those week-long shopping trips where we'd throw down bags in a hotel, then shop, eat and watch movies all through the Valley were actually Mom's lifeline while we were living our rustic little life in Pottsville.

You know, the one where we listened to a battery-operated radio, by the light of the Coleman lantern, while reading books or playing Backgammon, gathered around our dining room table, with the rest of the house in darkness, out in the desert, miles from a town, with only two other homes nearby? Belonging to Grandma & Grandpa Potts, and my Aunt Barbara?

Yes, well, apparently the shopping trips offset the hard work of cutting wood, building fires, hauling water from Grandma's occasionally, leaving a warm bed to run outside and start the generator in the morning.... In short, those trips are probably the reason Mom is still with us today.

For us girls, those trips meant shopping, dining out, swimming pools and movies...yes. But, they also meant TV, which we didn't get much of in Pottsville. We'd watch one hour a week of TV while Mom had the generator on to iron Dad's work shirts. And his jeans. Yes, he was THAT guy...the one with pressed jeans. We got exactly one channel on our TV in the boonies, and usually when Mom was ironing our program choice was Little House on the Prairie or Little House on the Prairie.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post.

On one of our shopping trips, I couldn't sleep. No matter what I did one night, I could not sleep. So, I settled in for a night of watching TV. It seemed a wonderful idea except for the fact that in this motel we were picking up very few channels for some reason, and one of them I flipped to had some stuff going on that I couldn't make heads or tails of, all I know is it made my stomach feel funny and I was glimpsing body parts I'd never seen before ...and the noises...Wow. I flipped away from the channel fast and didn't deviate from the remaining channel that was safe and not confusing and weird.

Only that channel, come about 1 a.m. played the same commercial over and over and over again. "What time is it?!?" shouts the announcer. "It's CARPET TIME!!!" shouted the happy crowd. Incessantly. Ad nauseum. Till I thought I would pull out my fingernails. Oh, how I longed for sleep. Alas, sleep did not come. Reruns of Starsky and Hutch, the Rockford Files and Barney Miller were interspersed among the stupid, happy carpet people that long, long night.

It's stayed with me lo these many years.

And do you know why I'm telling you this? Why I took ALL that time and all those words to tell you about it?

It's because around this time of year, every year I think, "What time is it? It's TIME TO PLANT THE GARLIC!!"

And, just as those stupid commercials didn't motivate me to go out and buy carpet, neither does repeating that silly mantra ever motivate me to get out and stick some darned cloves in the ground and get me some garlic overwintering.

And, every spring, I lament that I didn't get the garlic in in the fall.

Here's hoping this year is the year.

I'd really like to have fresh garlic next year.

And that's really all I had to say.

You can thank me later for getting that dang commercial stuck in your head. If that one isn't enough, let's throw in "It's time to make the donuts...." with images of that tired, balding baker for kicks. Remember that one? Is it playing over and over in your head now? Is it all rushing back?

Good. Sleep on that.


Love from the farm,

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11: Our Day

Many years ago, Mike and I sat in a dark theater watching the harrowing first long minutes of "Saving Private Ryan," a Tom Hanks film set in World War II. If you've seen the movie, you likely remember the emotionally staggering depiction of troops making landfall on beaches and being mercilessly slaughtered. Those opening scenes went on and on...and on.

As we sat there, I kept hearing sharp intakes of breath coming from behind me. It was evident whoever it was was trying to stifle the noises, but the gasps kept coming. I don't know that gasps can really have an undertone, but there was something of anguish and pent-up emotion in each one. I glanced over my shoulder and saw two white-haired men sitting there. The drawn expressions on their faces; the sense that they were at once riveted and unable to move, but wishing they were anywhere but in that theater; the grief that was fresh, while at the same time etched into their faces from years of wear, was evident in just the briefest glimpse. I turned away because, while they were in a public place, it was obvious they were reliving something very personal and I didn't want to intrude. I knew without question they were veterans of that war. I didn't verify it; I just felt it to be true.

They were reliving those decades-old scenes as if they were just in that war yesterday.

Today, we are reliving decade-old scenes that feel as if they just happened yesterday.

Those old men in the theater had Normandy. My babysitter Oma and my Mom and Dad's generation have JFK.

I have 9-11.

In today's Arizona Republic, writer John Flaherty spoke of "flashbulb" memories - pictures etched in our memories of an event that had a strong emotional impact on us. There are so many pictures in my mind from that day in 2001: the roiling smoke and dust filling Manhattan and eventually obscuring the iconic New York skyline; the second tower seeming to melt and buckle as it rumbled its way to the ground; the numb expressions on Matt Laurer's and Katie Couric's faces as they listened intently to Pentagon correspondent Jim "Mik" Miklaszewski, as an explosion boomed in the background and he said something had just happened and he was being told he had to get out of there. The image, played time after time, after time of that second plane heading for the second tower as the first tower smoked and shimmered in the morning sun.

But my flashbulb memory?

That image that is seared into my mind - the one that made me gasp like those old men in the movie theater, then erupt into spontaneous sobs the moment I witnessed it? The one that brings immediate tears to my eyes every time I think of it, no matter what I'm doing, even if I haven't thought of 9-11 in months?

It was the image of a young Wall Street-looking guy. He probably had a sharp haircut, he certainly had on a white shirt and tie, he may have had on a suit coat - some of those details are fuzzy in what is an otherwise remarkably sharp image in my mind. What is unforgettable is the look of abject, open-mouthed terror on his face as he ran for his life ahead of the wall of dust and debris barreling down the New York street behind him.

I saw him on the news that day and something inside me broke. I was watching a man running for his life...running for his life. I was watching a man running in terror. In America.

I cried because he was scared. I cried because I'd never seen someone running for their life on the streets of America on a beautiful fall day. I cried because I didn't know if this marked the beginning of an era in our country when people were going to have to start running for their lives.

That man's face is etched in my heart.

My remembrances of that day and the weeks and years following I'm sure are like so many others.

I had little ones at home; they were 1, 2, 3 and almost 10. I remember standing there with my hands on both of Adam's shoulders, his backpack already on his back, staring into his eyes while cradling the phone on my shoulder in the kitchen as I heard my colleague on the other end of the phone saying, "Teri, it's OK to send him to school. Nobody cares about Phoenix, Arizona. They're not sending anybody here. He'll be safe."

I sent Adam to school that day but I fought every mother's instinct screaming inside of me in doing so. Intellectually, I knew his school was exactly one mile from our home and I could run there in minutes, and drive there faster, if I had to. It didn't matter...everything in me cried out to keep him safe at home, under my wings. One mile felt like half a world away on a day when the world had just tipped upside down, causing people to fall from buildings and run for their lives.

I couldn't move from in front of the TV as the news kept unfolding. Planes hitting the towers. A plane hitting the Pentagon. Planes unaccounted for that controllers couldn't reach. I called my Mom and told her what was happening...that we were under attack and no one knew what was coming next.

Like the pragmatic person she is, Mom stayed at work, as did Dad, Lynda and Mike. I was the one working from home. I was the one who could load up the kiddos in the minivan and head to Wal Mart or Target for provisions. Just in case. Mom and I discussed a list of what I should pick up.

I was numb - literally, it felt as if my arms and legs were asleep - but my mind was racing. I walked into Wal Mart and their television monitors were tuned to the news. I started at them thinking, "Huh, I thought those were just internal monitors, only for Wal Mart videos." I was looking at a monitor, just inside the door, when I caught motion to my left.

I looked and there were two women of Middle East descent, heading with a loaded shopping cart quickly to the exit. The expression on their faces stopped me - they looked terrified. Their eyes were darting around them, even as they tried to keep their eyes and heads low, heading for the doors. My heart twisted. These women were terrified, fearing reprisal or worse. In America.  Their fears, it turns out, were well founded. It was in the days following 9-11 that the Valley was shamefully the place where a man was murdered because an angry man thought he was Muslim because he wore a turban. He wasn't Muslim, he was Sikh. But even if he had been Muslim, the attack was no less heinous and disgraceful.

I don't remember anything else about that Wal Mart trip. I just remember being back at home, calling Mike and Mom with updates, unable to move away from the TV. Then, later in the day, Dad calling and gently telling me to turn off the news and take care of my babies. I usually do what Dad tells me to do, and I might have turned the TV off; but if I did, it must have only been for a few minutes.

I remained glued to the television for two weeks. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't work. I would get up in the middle of the night and turn on CNN and Fox News in the living room and sit in the dark watching reruns of the same images and hearing new voices rehash all the same questions. I expected my clients to understand that I simply couldn't work. There were much more important things going on. I don't know how they actually felt about my absence, but I didn't lose any clients, so I don't suppose my behavior was necessarily out of the realm of ordinary in those extraordinary days.

I remember that first Friday evening, days after the attacks, when across the country millions of people stepped outside at 7 p.m. in their neighborhoods and communities and lit candles and said a prayer. I remember standing with my neighbor and all of our children; and Adam, days away from his 10th birthday, uttering a sweet prayer for all of us. I opened my eyes to find my neighbor crying because she didn't know a 9-yr-old could talk to God like that.

I say I didn't work for two weeks, but I remember I did have a meeting in Tucson on Thursday, two days after the attacks, that I didn't feel I could cancel. The trip from Phoenix to Tucson was chilling and dreamlike. On that busy national roadway - Interstate 10 - I passed one solitary vehicle on the way to Tucson. One lonely car heading the opposite way on the lanes of the divided highway. There were no planes in the sky, no one else on the road. The landscape was eerily empty and I have never felt so alone and vulnerable.

When I got to Tucson, I headed to my meeting, which of course, was next to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Of course it was.

Here, I did see planes in the sky, only they were fighter jets circling the base, vigilantly protecting the military installation. My meeting was at Tucson Electric. Nothing like placing yourself in the safest possible locations when your country is on high-alert for terrorists: on site at a major utility, adjacent to a military base. Fantastic. If my Dad was unhappy with me when I would hang out of helicopters to film forest fires, he probably wasn't going to be very happy with my choice of travel spots this day, either.

Chilling as that trip was, it was also rife with that quirky little phenomenon that arose within hours of the attacks: high-octane patriotism. That morning, the Arizona Republic had printed an American flag in the centerfold of the paper. Not a typical move for a newspaper in this day and age, to say the least. As I drove through Tucson, the scene was amazing. There was a man standing in the median, holding up the newspaper flag. People honked and waved as they passed him. I honked and waved. I'm not much of a honker. It was a different time and it called for atypical behavior. A man drove by in his pickup truck while another guy stood in the back holding a huge American flag, which billowed and whipped around as more people honked. It was a surreal scene.

Speaking of surreal, remember the flag decal that roughly every vehicle in America sported within months of 9-11?

My parents had them on either side of their vehicles.

I realize you may not know how tremendously significant that is. Let me explain.

My parents do not do bumper stickers; I mean they do not do them. Consequently, we girls don't either. My children don't understand why I have never sported their "gifted artist" and "honor roll" bumper stickers on our cars. I have no good explanation for them except, "We're Fraleys, we don't do bumper stickers."

I'm telling you, it meant something huge that Mom and Dad had those decals. Huge.

I eventually got past the abject horror of 9-11. I had to. It had stopped me dead in my tracks but I had four little children, a husband and my little PR operation that needed me. I had to keep moving.

But I was sad.

I was sad for the innocence that my children didn't even know they'd lost.

I was sad for the innocence our country had lost.

I was sad the first time I went to an airport and saw armed guards.

I was sad when my former boss told me she had been on the last plane allowed to leave Sky Harbor Airport when the air lanes were shut down. She was on a military craft, though she worked for the Forest Service, and she was flying to New York with an incident command team. She worked for FEMA during the days following 9-11. She said they ordered all of the supplies needed in the aftermath and clean up operations. She spoke of the thousands of body bags they'd ordered, that lay empty because there were no bodies to fill them. There was only dust.

I felt so guilty that our brothers and sisters in New York and D.C. and Pennsylvania were bearing the brunt of the disaster while the rest of us were across the country, "safe" and unable to do anything real to help their plight. In my faith, we're big on service. Someone is having a baby? Take in a dinner. Someone died? Take in a dinner. Someone in the hospital? Take in a dinner. And mow the lawn.

It was heart wrenching to know that our fellow countrymen were dealing with so much and the sun was still shining where we were, and the buildings were all still intact, and we knew where our loved ones were, and we could do nothing to help. Nothing important like making sure they were eating right, anyway. Somehow, giving blood just didn't have the feeling as whipping up a nice casserole and giving a hug.

I remember, in the years following 9-11, a gal came to work at the agency where I was working at the time. She was this little tiny person that I just wanted to put in my pocket, but she was a tough little nut. She'd lived in New York, after all. As the 9-11 anniversary rolled around the first year she was there, she became edgy and emotional.

She told me her story.

She and her future husband lived in New York. Her Adam worked in Tower 7 at the World Trade Center. After the planes hit, Karin was out of her building and running down the street in her high heels, trying to get to where Adam was.  She was running along, she said, when she was suddenly thrown to the ground, flattened from behind by the wall of debris and smoke from the collapsing towers. Dust-encrusted and struggling to stand, she couldn't get to Adam. She was helped to her feet by a couple of big guys (so she said; bless her little pointed head, she's wee - I'd imagine they're all "big guys" to her), who remained with her as she walked the eight hours it took her to wend her way through all of the chaos and roadblocks to the ferry docks. Eventually, she got word that her family was OK. I don't know how long it took for her to confirm he was OK, but eventually she and Adam found their way to each other.

She wore an engagement band that was a popular configuration in that time - the three stones depicting yesterday, today and forever. The ring had particular significance to she and Adam - they vowed to never forget that yesterday.

My younger children, (now 11, 12 and 13) know of September 11, 2001. It's made its way into history books and is certainly discussed at school. My Adam, who will be 20 this week, has some vague recollections of that day.

For me it's not history. It doesn't live in memory. It is my JFK. My Martin Luther King. My Normandy.

The day-to-day trauma of 9-11 is long in the past for me, though I know it isn't for so many. I'd imagine though, if I were to sit in a movie theater some day, decades from now, watching a movie about these fateful events, I'd be like those old men behind me all those years ago. I imagine I'd take in some quick breaths, trying to be quiet, but unprepared for how sharply those images could still bring it all back. A need for dignity might pin me to my seat, but most likely I'd realize that in spite of being in my sunset, some experiences will never fade into the horizon.

I'm sorry 9-11 happened. I'm sorry for the people and the innocence we lost. I'm glad it's not sharp for me anymore, but I'm sorry it will always be sharp for so many.

I'm glad the sun is shining this bright September day. I'm glad for joy and children's laughter and so much more. I hope those most deeply affected by our modern-day "day of infamy" have moments full of sunshine, children's laughter and joy of their own that lifts their spirits and helps the pain recede.

Love from the farm,

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pending Departure

This girl....

is not so very happy that this guy...

will be leaving for South Africa on her 11th birthday.

This other guy, the mischievous looking one there on the left?

I'm not sure he's going to miss the big guy quite as much.

Not really. We're all going to miss him terribly. A whole, whole, whole, whole lot.

But, we're glad he's going. And can't wait to hear all about his first encounter with a rhino. And Charlize Theron.

He flies out Aug. 30 and arrives in Johannesburg two days later. Where he'll stay for two whole years.

And call his mother four times: Christmas Day 2011, Mother's Day 2012, Christmas Day 2012, Mother's Day 2013.

Four times.

In two years.

On those four days? Don't be looking for me. I'll be staring at my phone, waiting for it to ring. Then, after it rings and I hear him say, "Hey, Mama!" and talk to him for awhile? Yeah, after that, I'll be in a puddle in a quiet room making a mess out of a whole box of tissues. Fair warning.

Dear Karlie, I'm sorry that your Mom will be a bawling mess for your birthday and the next two years' worth of Christmases and Mother's Day. A nice pretty thing in a pale blue box from a certain jeweler in New York just might cheer me up. Love, Mama

(Don't worry, we get to email weekly. I'll be fine. I'm sure he'll be fine, too. For Pete's sake, he'll be in South Africa, what'll he care? And, that's as it should be.)

Love from the farm,

(P.S. Also don't worry. Tanner's curly-Q mohawk is history. Praise the electric razor. Amen.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

Among the Reeds & the Rushes

This is Bruno. Bruno is a goose.

We're fairly certain Bruno is a girl, but when we named her, we didn't know. We still don't know for sure. But she just seems like a girl: she's kind of gentle, unassuming, looks in the mirror a lot..... The thing is, even if Bruno is in fact a girl, I don't feel like coming up with a new name, so I think we're sticking with Bruno.

Since the death of our white goose, Alvin, Bruno has emerged as the gentle leader of our farm. She follows us wherever we go, but she leads the other fowl into many adventures.

Like this recent adventure in the erstwhile garden (perhaps better described as the reeds and the rushes, if we had standing water in this high desert we live in, that is. Which we don't. So actually, I better call a spade a spade. This is a great big patch of weeds in which a tomato plant or two is hiding.  Somewhere.)

But that's not all that's in there.

Bruno found something interesting in the garden. And she invited all the nearby critters to come have a look see.

"Here we go, ladies and gents. Here's where you'll see my exciting discovery. Just make your way on in. Now, watch out for those mosquitoes, there. Ooo, don't get your foot tangled in that root, there...uh, good...OK...keep moving now. Anyone else coming?"

It seems that not all the ladies are OK with Bruno being in charge. They took a little coaxing to keep going in the right direction. Some went more quietly than others.

Eventually, into the weed patch the chickens all clambered.

And what should they stumble upon? What was the beautiful discovery Bruno wished to reveal to these chickens who are relatively fresh from the shell and have not yet witnessed all the wonders this wide world has to offer?

Why, it was this beautiful little volunteer.

Snuggled deep beneath the weeds, there lies this precious little gourd. Isn't she pretty?
We don't often get volunteers around here. A stray corn stalk or two, maybe, but nothing so delicate and pretty. It was a nice little find. The chickens seemed to think so, too. They "oooh'ed" and "aaaah'ed" in the rushes for awhile.

Which is exactly what Bruno counted on, when she cunningly ushered them into the garden. No sooner had the last black tail feather waddled out of sight, then Doris the Duck magically appeared (no kidding, look at the glow around Doris. That isn't some Photoshop trick, that showed up all on its own. Maybe Doris is a visitor from another, holier realm? Hmmmm....)

Anyway, Doris showed up, Bruno checked that the chickens were deep in the weedy realms. Then the true motive behind her seemingly kind antics were revealed.

Mere minutes later, Bruno and Doris could be found relishing the clear water of their satellite dish pool, without the chicken riff-raff nosing around, interfering in their bathing pleasure.


That Bruno. She's one to watch. Seems we have a new thinker on the farm. A cunning conspirator. And, looks like we better not let Doris the Duck deceive us with her fussy-hatted ways. I believe there's a lot going on under that fluffy pillbox of hers.

But wait, what's that rustling I hear in the rushes, far from the bathing beauties and curious cluckers?

Why, it's Bijou the Cat! She couldn't find the chickens, or the pretty little gourd, but she did find a nice cool place to rest her laurels for awhile.

It was a fine time for all. Everyone had an adventure.

Now my adventure will be to find the hedge trimmers so I can take out these dadgum weeds. Or maybe I'll give the trimmers to Tanner, walk towards the garden with him, make like I'm going back to get my gardening gloves, and go take a dip in the pool with Bruno and Doris. We'll see how it goes.

Love from the farm,

Monday, August 8, 2011

I've Drawn The Line & I SHALL NOT WAVER!

If you read yesterday's blog, you may have caught reference to the fact that my spring chickens are not yet in their coop because it's being inhabited by dogs right now.

You may also have caught my comment about some of the girls roosting down at the barn, while some are hanging out here in front of the house.

Did you catch that?

That I've been letting some little sweeties hang out up front? In spite of their pooping prowess?

Well, this is the thanks I get.

 Oh, sorry, can't quite see that?

How's this?

What we have here are three presumptuous chickens taking a breather right there on top of my security door.

"What? Oh...what? Is this not OK? No? Oh, well, goodness we're sorry."

"....We're not moving, mind you, but we're real sorry you're not happy about it."

Ummm, ladies? Guess're moving! And I know just the guy to see that you do.

 Ahhhh, that Michael.

Don't know what I'd do without that man.

Bed head, and all.

Much as there's a weird little part of me that toys with the idea that it might be funny, just once, to utter the sentence, "Now, Karlie, don't forget to shut the security door. You don't want a chicken pooping on your head," I'm just not sure it's worth it.

I sense a dog pen raising coming on real soon, so we can put these pretty girls where they belong.

Love from the farm,

(P.S. You should know my poor mother is undoubtedly shaking her head in distress right now because I've told the whole world that chickens roosted on my front door, no matter that it lasted no more than 45 minutes. She struggles a bit with my put-it-all-out-there ways. Sorry, Mom. Love ya! If you come visit, I promise no chickens will poop on your head.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Need Dog Advice

In a departure from my usual regaling you with our quirky anecdotes around here, I'm seeking some advice from you, readers. Please put on your "Dear Abby..." caps.

We have four dogs: This is Sadie, who we adopted from the pound. She's 6.

Then there's matched set, Jaxon and Missy, who are brother and sister.

 (This is Missy. Jaxon was off and running elsewhere, avoiding the camera. Apparently, he's on a the wall of a post office somewhere and doesn't want anyone to make the connection.)

Jaxon and Missy are co-creators of Beauford, the puppy. (Yes, Missy is getting spayed as soon as she's done nursing. No more Deliverance puppies for us.) Beauford is 10 weeks old and a bundle of love. He's the image of Jaxon's bright eyes and markings, with a side of fluff.

Ostensibly, he'll be finding a new home after he turns 84 days old. We'll see how that goes.

Here's the problem.

I grew up with one dog at a time...small the house. We had three dogs the entirety of my growing up years. When each dog died (one of epilepsy, one hit by a car, the other of an unknown cause after I'd left home and married), we mourned a member of our family. Mom and Dad have not been able to get another dog since Buffy the Toy Pom died. They can't face another loss.

Since Mike and I married, we've always had dogs. Because we lived in Flagstaff the Snow Village and then the Blazing Flames of Hades (OK, we liked it in the Valley, but it was a little warm), our dogs have always been indoor dogs.

Then, we moved to our little farmstead, with all its muddy glory during wet seasons. After about a year, I lost all patience with the mess and grime of dogs playing outside then coming in the house with muddy paws. I banished all animals to the outdoors. Even the guinea pig moved to the barn (in retrospect, I'm not sure that was the right decision. RIP dear Abigail.)


We only penned the dogs when we left the property, because for the first year they didn't roam much beyond our place, and always came home. But then, their horizons began expanding, and we developed a biter, then we noticed the dogs chasing the neighbors' vehicles....   In short, we had become inconsiderate neighbors.

When we really faced facts (which took too long, frankly), neither Mike nor I could live with the idea of being bad neighbors. We began penning the dogs.

I hate having them penned. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I have always been aware that Dad hates the idea of an animal being on a chain or left in a pen, and it rubbed off on me.

Granted, the dogs are in a nice big space  (probably 1,500 to 2,000 square feet) with two structures available to hide from weather and sun, and a platform they can jump on to be king of the world.  The problem is, their nice roomy digs ARE MY CHICKEN YARD!! My young chickens are free ranging near the barn and up at the front of the house, while the dogs look at them in slobbering longing from inside their crib.

Things are a little backwards.

A) I need my chickens in their once-lovely grassy chicken yard that is now a dust bowl from digging dogs.

B) I need to know how to provide my penned pups with the right level of interaction so they know they're loved and still a valued part of the family.

 We can take care of A: we'll get a new pen built, so the chickens can have their coop and yard back. (They haven't started laying yet, so they're not missing their nests.) We'll either repurpose one of the other existing structures on the property, or build the dogs their own space.

But as far as the interaction/exercise, I'm seeking your experience. My vision of success would be one or more of us working around the property or in the garden, with the dogs let out to wander around with us. The dogs would hang around the place, content to pal around with their human friends.

That's not exactly how it plays out in reality.

Right now, these sweet critters BOLT the minute we let them out, taking off for parts unknown....and getting up to their old tricks.

(By the way, we don't have our biter, Mia, anymore. We did what we could, but she was an increasingly aggressive biter, targeting children and adults alike. Ultimately, we had to put her down. It was devastating, because we loved her and we could feel the fear in her that drove her to bite. We had her from a pup and know she was never mistreated, so we don't know where the aggression and fear originated. But people felt unsafe coming to our home and people were getting hurt, so we had to make the hard choice. We're no longer contending with a biter.)

All that said, I'm looking for your advice. I'd imagine many of you have had to pen your dogs. How often do you let them out? When you do let them out, do you throw them on leashes and take them for walks?  How do you keep them on the property? Did you train them to stay close? Any ideas how to do that? Sturdily fencing our 3 acres isn't in the cards for at least a few years. Anything you have in the pen to keep them entertained? Besides each other?

I know this sounds like elementary stuff, but I'm just hopeful someone has had similar experience and would have some fresh ideas.

Bring on the advice!

By the way, if you have trouble leaving comments (I'm looking into why it isn't working for some folks), feel free to leave me a message on Facebook at "Love From the Farm." Just look for our old pal Gertie's smiling face.

I appreciate anything you can throw my way!

Love from the farm,