Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Dear Body

Dear Body,

We've been through a lot, you and I. Decades of fantastic experiences where we've always been there for each other. We've laughed, cried, leapt, danced, run, climbed, swam, kissed, hugged, given birth, fallen, lifted, hiked and loved.

Lately though, we've been a little rough on each other. Nothing intentionally harmful; just a bit neglectful and not so mindful. How about we make a deal? I'll be intentional with every movement, strengthening effort, morsel I eat, and sleep I seek.

You? Kindly quit plucking my organs from their moorings and throwing them about the cabin. You're leaving them in the most painful places and it's miserable.

Next week, I'm going to have a nice man sew everything back where it belongs and remove a few organs I don't have use for anymore. What say we view this as a fresh start...a clean slate...and both determine to recommit ourselves to the awesome teamwork we had in the past when we could face any physical challenge, outdoor adventure and simple household task with ease. It's our chance to finish the next 5 decades strong.

Are ya with me? Good! Game on!


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Bye, E. Coli

So, E. coli happened. That was about as fun as...nothing. It was no fun at all. None.

Didn't know what hit me last Friday evening, but it hit hard and by Sunday, I managed to pull myself into the shower, and that's as far as I got. Mike dried me off, dressed me and took me off to the ER.

It took a few days of shivering and drenching in sweat and other activities that aren't fun chit chatting about, and even less fun enduring, before they figured out what had me so sick.

It's astonishing how quickly something can reduce a person to absolutely useless. I don't remember a lot about my four days in the hospital this week, or the two days before, but I do vividly recall while I moved from the gurney to the CT scanning bed turning to the tech to say, "I can't believe I'm out in public without a bra on."  She said, "Hey, when the patients come in with no bra and unmatched socks, we know they're the ones who actually need to be here. Don't you worry about a thing."  Somehow, her words comforted.

Did I mention we didn't even brush my hair after showering and before heading to the hospital? And that that wasn't rectified for another 2 days? Yeah, I was looking GOOD.

I recall there were some really cool, involved dreamlike states I faded in and out of during my stay. And one snazzy cat who morphed into a bowl of Honeycomb.

My Mom came to the Valley and stayed with me at the hospital, and got the kids out of the house and fed a few times; and Mike's mom was there with us, too. Sweet church ladies brought meals to my family in the evenings, so Mike could be at the hospital with me after work. I couldn't talk much, and holding my eyes open was painful. The only release was sleep and I do remember praying they would just put me out until I was well. Once the cultures grew and E. coli was confirmed, getting the right antibiotics on board brought about a quick improvement and they sent me home Wednesday to recuperate further.

I tried Facebook a time or two and managed a few minutes before realizing it just hurt too much to look at a screen for any length of time. I moved to the living room to be with my girls during the day on Friday, and finally managed to glance through some emails. I spent an hour reviewing and responding to emails and fielding a few calls and felt as though I had been at it for 15 hours. I called it a day.

Today, I realized if I have any chance of going back to work on Monday, I had to steadily increase my stints of being up and around. I have an 80-mile round trip commute to the office each day and would be in an office for hours before driving home; it was time to build up a little stamina. Time to venture out.

So, I bathed, I put on make up, a bra, pants with a zipper and pushed my hair around a little. I decided to take just a very short trip with the girls while Mike and Tanner were off at a church meeting together - a 10-minute drive to "Ladies Night" at a local bookstore, then a treat and come home. I made it about 7 minutes walking around the store before I realized I'd bit off more than I could chew. The girls were totally chill about cutting it short, Karlie let me hang on her arm as we made our way to the car, and I tried to walk straight though my eyes were mostly closed because seeing was tender and exhausting again. We decided to get a treat through Kneaders' drive through and a burger from In 'N Out, since I had no idea what to do about dinner. And I thought about how awesome it would be if we'd gotten Macy her driver permit all those months she's been asking about it.

Picture us in the drive through at In 'N Out; me, eyes closed, head hanging; the car ahead of us moves, Macy mildly says, "Mom, it's time." I lift my head, put the car in drive, inch forward 4 feet, press on the brake, wonder whether I can trust myself to hold the brake, decide I'm an iffy proposition, put it back in park; lather, rinse, repeat.

The girls weren't piqued with worry; this is just how we've been rolling lately. Tanner's years of crazy medical dramatics have made these kids pretty cool operators; illness and odd Mom behavior rolls off their backs. They were totally unflappable (for the moment); we chatted, they sang, and every so often, Macy would blurt, "Mom, it's time." And forward we'd go.

I'm glad no one was tense and worried, since my next trick on the trip home was to...well, let's just have do I say it delicately?...I ....ugh...well, I barfed a bit as we drove along. Yep, just driving along. Because life is just that awesome.  And the girls reacted just as they should...totally grossed out. Not stressed, not scared. Just fully and completely grossed out. Exactly as they should have been.

Trust me when I say, I didn't think I was overdoing it. I honestly figured 3 days after being out of the hospital, it was reasonable I should try to manage a 1-hr outing; that I needed to be moving around a bit and trying to move ahead.

Turns out, maybe it's a little soon. Since I managed to have yet another incident on the driveway when I got home, it kinda confirms it.

So, keys are back in the drawer, I'm limiting my forays to the house and yard, and I'm not sure I'll attempt that commute on Monday.  Don't want to be a menace to society with my head lolling and what not.

But for the moment, at least, there's a little eyeliner still intact, I've managed to get through typing this post, and the bra's still on.


E. coli, I believe we're beginning to see the back side of you.

Love from the couch,

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Still a Farm

When we pulled into town Friday night and saw the lights of the Navajo County Fair, I was so excited, and I immediately was thinking of the photos I'd take so I could share all about how we'd come up to the farm for our county fair/ birthday week tradition, complete with kids getting ride wristbands from Grandma and Grandpa, the legendary Jose's Green Chile fries, Open Class Exhibits (more on that soon) and lots of run ins with friends and family.

Only, when I thought about saying we were up at the farm, all the excitement deflated in a whoosh when I had the stray, unwelcome thought, "Should I really call it a farm anymore when there is no life left there?"  No chickens. No ducks. No farm dogs or barn kittens. No turkeys. No pigs. No Gertie the Goat banging on the door or munching fall leaves.

The thought made me a little forlorn and brought a mix of emotions I decided not to try to sort through right then and there. I pushed this sad little question aside and determined to reclaim my joy for being at our other home, and quickly regained my excitement about the fair, where I knew in just minutes I'd see my sister and my Sweet Ell.

The fair delivered, as it always, always does, and after a late night of canasta with Mom, Dad and Mike (during which Mom and I WIPED THE FLOOR with Dad and Mike...), Mike and I came out to our place and stayed the night in his Mom's camper behind our house. (Have I told you we're pre-remodel in the house itself, so it's full of redwood planks, piles of stone tile, and new windows stacked everywhere? Not a bed in sight.)


I woke up early this morning and while Mike slumbered, Sadie and I went outside to start watering the trees and rose bushes that we're trying to keep growing by watering every couple weeks when we come to the property. (Low-tech auto watering systems are high on the project list, but not yet conquered.) Thank heavens it was a particularly rainy summer up here, which helped keep things alive when our absences stretched weeks apart.

As I looked at our weed covered property while I was moving the water, I thought again about that mood dampening thought I'd had about whether this is really a farm anymore. By my production farmer and rancher friends' measures, no way. Adam's dad, John, is now married to a wonderful girl who is the daughter of a true-blue Minnesota farmer with many, many acres of verdant farms. John enjoys my writing about our farm antics, but one day laughed as he told me, "What you call farming, we call gardening."  And he said that when we still lived here and we still had chickens! AND ducks!!

I laughed along, though, because I knew he was right. By many standards, this isn't a true blue farm. Still, this is our tiny farm, and I've been happy to call it that all these years. The thing is, though, if there aren't any critters or gardens growing here right now, what about it? Is it a farm or not?

As I continued to think about it, I moved the water from the globe willows to the apple tree, then Sadie and I strolled down the lane to the chicken coop so I could check whether we had plenty of straw and old poo to throw on the garden bed since it's preparing to slumber for the fall and winter.

And I looked down to watch my step and saw this.

Look closely.

Do you see them?  Those are somebody's prints in our lane.

A sure sign that something living has been wandering the place since the last rain.

Then I looked closer, and saw these. A smaller critter than the first -- a racoon? a porcupine?

Then there are these.

These tire tracks are from the farmers who drive back and forth on our lane to their well, which is right behind our property. They park behind our barn to tend the alfalfa fields off the back and side of our land, too. We bought this little 3-acre slice of their land, which they hay around us. (Around here, "hay" is a verb as well as a noun.)   Those farmers moving on and around are property -- they are life.

Next to the tire tracks are Sadie prints.

Hey there, Sadie.

A few seconds before she sat for me, I saw her over at the corner of the summer kitchen, alertly investigating the spot where once there was a monster bee hive, dripping with honey, and where occasionally, traveling bees pop in to hang out for awhile.

Bees qualify as life. Heck, bees ARE life, in so many ways -- their value to our living systems can't begin to be overstated.

I stopped in my tracks about this time; just pulled up still, held my breath, and listened.

I heard the grasshoppers rustling the grasses and chirping; the birds perched on the power lines and outbuildings singing my favorite morning songs; the lizard scampering across the tin panel by the shed, and the pigeons cooing atop the weathered grey barn.

I thought about the very act I was engaged in -- I was pulling water from our deep, cold well to water peach trees, almond trees, an apple tree, globe willows and mulberries. The towering poplars are drinking from the puddles surrounding the rose bushes.  And that well? When Mike went down the stairs into the well house, which doubles as a cool, damp cellar, he encountered a very startled tan and white rat. The fat fella had brought in fresh alfalfa from the field and made a nest on one of the shelves that used to be heavy with canned goods preserved, no doubt, by the woman whose husband farmed this land long before we bought this place.

I don't have to water the grapes winding along the fence line or the overgrown asparagus patch, because the water from the hay farmers keep these remnants from the previous owners growing wild. The lilac bush is nurtured on the fence line, too, and the runoff from summer rains have kept the honeysuckle bush under Adam's window green and strong.

I turn from the honeysuckle and see this. A "mano y metate" -- ancient grinding stones, used hundreds and thousands of years ago by Native Americans to grind corn and grain to sustain life. The side of the small stone you see is smooth and flat, from the years and years it was gripped by Native women making food for their families, firmly pressing hard kernels into the flecked, hard surface of the stone basin below. These prehistoric tools were here when we bought this place -- I don't know if the previous owners found them on this land or while out herding their cattle on the surrounding high desert prairie.

As I looked around me again, I came to a realization. This place may be temporarily missing goats and chickens, turkeys and ducks, pigs and barn kittens; and we may no longer live here full time. But we return often to nurture the life that is still here, with dreams of returning for good some day, when we'll delight in our grandchildren and great grandchildren who will tumble out of the just-opened doors of their parent's SUVs, racing to find their favorite kitty, or check the chickens' nests for eggs, or grab a handful of straw to offer to nervous goat kids. They'll toss a distracted, "Hi, Grandma!" over their shoulders as they disappear around the side of the house. We'll find them later, hidden under their grape arbor forts, munching an apple they stole from the tree as they ran past, and picking up where they left off with their interior design projects of the last trip.

Their last trip to Grandma and Grandpa Walker's farm.

Because this IS still a farm.

There is still life here.

I am still here.

And forever will be.

Overflowing with love from the farm,

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Well, Hello!

It's been nearly a year since I've posted here and I just couldn't let the year mark pass without stopping in for a chat.

A lot has changed since last we met.

While we still have our dilapidated little farmstead in northern Arizona, it's no longer our primary residence. We returned to Gilbert, in the Phoenix Metro area, where I'm working at my old PR & marketing agency. I won't bore you with the why's and wherefore's -- we're here, we still have the old farm, we're all doing great. You're caught up.

We have lots of good things in our life here in the Valley (Valley of the Sun, for those who aren't Arizona natives), and we're glad we're here. This is a good move for us. What makes it OK for my heart and soul is knowing we've kept our little farmstead up north and are going to continue to love and nurture it so it will become a verdant little sanctuary for us and our future grandkids to enjoy far into the future.

What we don't have in Gilbert? Chickens, ducks, a garden, farm dogs, stubborn goats, grapes, honeybees, pigs, asparagus patches, fruit trees, lilac bushes or a clothesline.

We don't have our old horse Buddy in the neighbor's pasture.

We don't have fresh eggs.

What we do have: our old dog Sadie and two of our farm cats, Peter and his mother, Ophelia.

Awwwwww. This is Sadie in her younger years. 

She's 10 now and is showing signs of age. She's the reason there is a U Haul moving blanket path from Tanner's room to the back door, since she slips on the wood floors. We're going to be getting her booties that are used to protect dog paws from hot Arizona sidewalks, to see if that helps her get a grip. Then, she'll be able to move freely about the cabin, and I'll be able to see our beautiful floors again.

What we do have that helps me connect to our old life? My aprons!

I still love my aprons. This is one my Aunt Carol gifted me for my birthday one year on the farm. I wore these for countless canning marathons, wheat grinding and bread baking sessions, and general gardening and cooking. Donning them here in the Valley makes me feel connected to home.

The other link to our old life that brings me joy?  Farmers markets!

I just went this morning to the year-round (yeehaw!) Gilbert Farmers Market. It's a fantastic market, with produce, baked goods, scads of locally made food products, and an arts & craft market across the way. The whole shebang is under a water tower downtown. I love this market.

Food trucks line up at the market. I love the niches these truck vendors decide they're going to commandeer. Whether it's waffles, wings, or gourmet soups, there's always a great selection of offerings.

These little guys were at the market this morning sporting their Home Depot aprons.

They had all kinds of ideas about what their dad should pick up. He took their advice and went away with a nice haul.

Wrapped in those plastic bags are my 2nd favorite thing about this time of year -- fresh roasted green chiles! I may have been born on the shore of Lake Erie, but I've lived in Arizona since the summer I turned nine and green chile is now part of my DNA. Seriously. I think if someone looked closely, they'd find a chili molecule on my DNA strand.  

Tell me, who doesn't salivate when this is going on in their cast iron skillet?

These are the chiles I brought home from the market this morning, along with the fresh roasted garlic I bought from the same farmer.  And the already sauteed market onions. I wish I could share the aromas.

This is the farmer who was selling the chilis and garlic. (Don't mind me; I'm just going to keep toggling between chile and chili until I decide which spelling I prefer.)

I don't know his name, but I was glad to take some of his produce off his hands. 

Here is my little haul from this morning:

My pan and oil were already heating up on the stove so I needed to hurry and catch a photo then get right down to chopping veggies, which is my excuse for this poorly composed and blurry photo. Sorry about that. I'm a little out of practice.

This turned into a quick batch of green chile for huevos rancheros, and I also made fresh salsa. (My trusty blender died on me a few months ago, so I had to blend up these veggies with my stick blender. It was a little clumsy, but it worked.)

Remember how I said chiles are my 2nd favorite thing about this time of year? Well, here's my very favorite thing -- homegrown tomatoes!

I love just picked tomatoes. They are so flavorful and nothing like what you get in a store. We're heading up to the farm next weekend to water our trees and bushes and I'm hoping to score a couple bags of tomatoes that I can bring home and can. I can't express how much I miss our canned crushed tomatoes. While store canned tomatoes are good, again, they don't begin to measure up to home canned. 

As soon as I finish this post, I'm slicing up the squash, onions and garlic to sauté for dinner.  The tiny melons in the upper left corner will be chilled before we each get a few bites from them. We haven't tried them before but they smell wonderful, so I expect they'll be good.

I don't do it often, but I took photos as I made my green chile so I may post the recipe later. I'm not going to do it now, because I don't want my first post after our long hiatus to go on for six miles. Nope, I'll end it here. 

It's good to be back. I've missed hanging around these parts. I'd like to promise that we'll finally update my 64-year-old masthead up at the top of this blog, but I don't want to make promises I can't keep. For now, it'll have to sit still.

Hope all is well with you, and that we'll see each other back here again soon.

Love from the city,