Friday, April 28, 2006

Bike's Eye View


Fiddleheads and blushing apple blossom buds

Hey everyone!

I just took a walk around the farm and I have to report on some of the newest spring happenings. The forest floor is a veritable carpet of tiny pale purple violas, baby ferns and tree seedlings, with a few early wildflowers thrown in for good measure. The lemon-lime of the new leaf growth on the birches provides strong contrast for the rust-red of the elms. Bald eagles are back, wafting on warm currents above us in the wild space around our pastures - in fact, last week Jay and I watched one standing on the bank of the Red Cedar, taking his fill of the river. One of the best things about April here is the arrival of the peepers - tiny frogs no bigger than your thumbnail that boast the most appealing chorus of voices; we get our own private concerts at night now as we sit on our deck and watch the sun float beneath the vast, ever-changing treeline. I scared up three or four white tailed deer enjoying some newly sprouting flora in the woods above, and even spotted an especially brave brown bunny making his way through the underbrush. Of course, I've already pulled two ticks out of Colby's sensitive pink hide, so it's only a matter of time 'til the mosquitoes show up...

We've done lots of planting so far, with Chris getting tons of the early vegetables going outside. Jay put some potato eyes in the ground and strung up wire for his hops and Becca and I have been on flower duty, putting in nasturtium seeds, butterfly weed and some native grasses so far, with clematis, sunflowers, milkweed, coreopsis, coneflower, and other wild perennials to come. Herb, tomato, onion, strawberries and other seedlings are growing in boxes inside, just waiting for their turn in the sun.

It's been a great week here. The warm temperatures and sense of outdoor accomplishment has made the farm chores feel very un-chore-ish, and the pervasive good mood on the farm is palpable. I've been back on the horses again, and Ellis even came up riding for a spell! And LOVED it! There are, of course, photos - I'm hoping we can get those posted at some point soon. Those and some of Ellis sucking on a beer bottle.

In other late-breaking news, Jay and I have been locked in a psychological battle with a mouse in the wall. This is clearly an anal-retentive mouse with an important nocturnal schedule, as every morning at 4 a.m. he does some random, unreasonably loud chewing and scratching from inside the wall while our worthless felines either a)observe groggily from the bed or b)jump off the bed in disgust to find a quieter place to sleep. Between the night mouse and the ladybugs, the country living isn't always as peaceful as it's cracked up to be, I tell ya.

Alright, time to wrap it up, darlings. Thelonious is saying hello too as I speak, with a little elbow rub to the lower uterus.

Love and brightly colored tulips to all!


Thursday, April 27, 2006


I had an awesome Tuesday, April, 25.

I started the night before by sitting in at the Stones Throw in Eau Claire. I played a couple of tunes. I also collected all the contact information for a legitimate sextet. (After solidifying dates, we have a gig at the Mabel Tainter Theater on Nov. 18.)

I arrived home at 2 a.m. and snuggled in next to my radiator wife. She left me to freeze and sleepin until the crazy hour of 8:30. She fixed me an awesome coffee cake. We took a glorious long hike on the ridge loop in bright sun and crisp air. All the green is trying to pop out and little white flowers are dancing, "look at me."

After the walk, Charis and I sat on our deck and each finished our books. I read a fantastic adolscent novel called The Sunshine Rider. We had lunch outside while reading.

Mid-afternoon we went to the big city of Eau Claire. I filled my arms with about 20 CDs, I feel like a kid in the candy shop, and we headed to dinner. A student teacher recommended a restaurant in town she works at. It looked like another town bar, but walk in and I felt like I was in Scotland: dark, quiet, rich deep wood and Coltrane was on the speakers. I had myself a few good micro-brews (yes, there some good ones out here) and awesome fish. I learned the inside scoop that fresh fish is delivered on Tuesday. The specials sounded like this: salmon, caught on the line in Alaska; halibut, caught on the line in Alaska. I had the salmon with skeet - wing of sting ray. The skeet was bland, but still a fantastic meal.

Return home and dive in a beautifully written book - The Bell Jar.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Cookies and Milk

I'm sitting inside having cookies and milk while Ellis takes an unexpected nap. Charis and Jay are mulching the garden paths and Chris is busy with other farm errands. The hot tub is ready for soaking.

It's a beautiful cloudy-sunny-cloudy-sunny-cloudy Saturday afternoon. Chris, Ellis and I took a hike up along the ridge through the woods before lunch. Lots of green at the top where the trees andn leafy forest floor get the most sun. Though the trees are still budding...still waiting for the thick foliage to burst open. My favorites are these beautiful, dainty red buds that pop out on the bare branches before any green leaves. I still need to find out what kind of tree it is. And the oblong, mint green buds that look like delicate, funny insects.

We had some of Jay's coworkers over for dinner last night. Great people who were fun and immediately comfortable to be with. They had many compliments and comments about the farm. It's always good to see the place through a new visitorx's eyes again - makes me re-appreciate all that we have here.

Ellis is awake now, and he'd like to blog:
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All right, now I'm in trouble for taking the computer away from him. Ellis has become very opinionated and actually throws a tantrum if we have to take something away from him...usually a piece of paper he's turned to mushy pulp or the pages of a book he's got a vice grip on, and now the computer I've checked out from work. Ellis is just over 7 months now and is becoming more of a little boy and less of a baby. He's getting close to wanting to crawl - not quite sure what to do once he's on his hands and knees, but certainly strong enough to get there. He loves eating and babbling and watching Chris play guitar, while yelling along with the tune. We're starting to sign with him - just "milk," "eat," and "more" to begin with, and he thinks it's hysterical when we show him the signs. It's probably just a funny version of "pat-a-cake" for him.

As usual, I'm trying to find balance in my life. I love being a mom, but I also find myself being frustrated that I spend the majority of my day mothering instead of working in the garden (a portion of which we do with Ellis in the backpack) or doing house projects, let alone spending any time on a hobby. I need to find the time for myself doing those things though, even if in little doses. When I have a little time writing a letter or digging in the garden, it makes my time with Ellis and Chris and Charis and Jay better.

I'm off to try and snatch a little bit of that time right now. So long!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Happy problems still can be unhappy

I am in the midst of a great balancing act. Deep down inside I know it is all happy problems, but still can cause the depressed and angry Jay to be present - more present than healthy.

1) Charis and farm family. The most important part of my life and the balance keeps this key from ever having enough time. Highlights: Florida was a fantastic time with Charis. We stumbled upon an island. We walked north to find the ferry to the island state park and a few miles later realized this time of year the beach is above sea level, and we arrived. The island state park was full of sea shells and a lovely variety of birds. Walking, watching parrots bounce their heads on telephone wires and beautiful sunsets into the horizon of blue sky and sea, plus the taste of salt water on my mustache, a total blessing.
Highlight: Trip to Chicago to see Nathan and Barbara. Began with a great night at my brothers with my parents. We ate great food, laughed, drank and watched golf ball sized hail slam into the front yard. I love Chicago, so fun to ride the EL, see people of different color, religion and size. Nathan and I ran around Millenium Park fountains in our bare feet. We had awesome Indain food on Devon street. We were the only white folks there. Granted, I had a few beers - to wash down the hot food - but the spice and flavor created a blessed hallucingenic experience in my mouth and head. Devon is awesome: one block Hassidic Jews, next block Isalamic book stores, next block Indian Hindus. So simply and natural.
On our truck ride down to Madison it was rather quiet between Charis and I until I brought up the struggle. It is hard for me to talk and face the pain of communicating and focus with each other. I said it was so much easier before. Charis graciously clued me in to the truth and a relief. We are at a deeper place in our relationship and knowledge of each other; she is pregnant, we live in community, and all of this has brought to a deeper place in our relationship. Therefore, some the of tough elements are more clear and we are actually dealing with them. Yes, it is harder, but we are closer and more intimate than before: a gift.

2) Music: I practiced my horn today for an hour. I love playing. It is one of the few times in my life when I am in the moment and nothing consciously enters my mind, heart or soul but the rhythm, chords and melodies. So much fun. The trouble is I am not able to play my horn as much as I would like.

3) Work: This takes up was too much of my time. I totally dig the students. They are creative, caring and fun people. My time with them is a joy. My time at work not with them is frustration and pain. I consistently disagree with the philosophy of my co-workers and the school: single subject classrooms. To top it off my position was cut. I have a job next year because the math teacher on my team is going to fill a seventh grade teaching position available due to retirement. The sixth grade team is having a hissy fit trying to keep the team at five and not four teachers. They say things like it is wrong for the kids for teachers to teach multiple subjects. I would love to teach more subjects and have less kids. I keep thinking in the back of my head the program has a giant hole in it, what does it do to fix a little crack? I can not say this. It is rude. The teachers mean well and do a great job. Simply, I have a unique specific style I find the best and can not settle for less: Cedar Lodge.
Plus my commute sucks. One hour bike ride and a 20 minute car ride - get up at 5 and come home at 5 - when is that ever healthy? I love the bike ride, especially now that my protein intake has increased with all the bugs back in the air. I have to keep my mouth closed as I gape at the awesome sunrises over the river and valley. My first sacrifice will be driving to Colfax for my commute next year. This will give an extra hour and fifteen minutes at home with Thelonious. I have to do that. It hurts to think that though.

4) Garden: The other day I arrived home and saw that Chris and Becca had planted all types of lettuce. I was hurt. I was jealous. I wanted to do that with them too. I completely understand why they did and the work needs to be done.

This is my ever present problem with the balance. I want to do all four, or I have to work right now. The summer will be great because I am not working at school, and I can play in the garden all day. I have to be patient and wait. I am not a very patient person and do not care to wait. I want to do all four and I physically can not right now; at least Charis and family, music and garden as much as I would like to.

Happy problems, but cause me anger and frustration.

Charis and I have had many conversations. Maybe why I have receding hairline; I keep ringing my hands in my hair. The hope is two more years at Menomonie Middle School. After two years the 18 acre field is ours to farm. We can start a CSA and try to make income off the farm. I could substitute at Colfax, or if a job comes up take a job there. The ever looming question: insurance and income.

The other frustration crawling under my skin - religion. Chris, Becca and I went to the local church. Great people: all our neighbors. But. I felt like a complete foreigner. I was observing a completely alien culture. All this talk about being a sinner and needed someone to die a gruesome death as a sacrifice for me and all the evil I have done. Weird and sick. I do not want a God who thinks this and has this as the focus of relationship. Sacrifice and death has nothing to do with my culture and who I am. I grew up steeped in these concepts and now they rub me the completely wrong way. It is hard for me to say that, but honestly how I feel. I still dig Jesus and love his message of care for all people, especially the outcast and hurting. I also struggle with the humans evil part. Yes, I daily screw up and make stupid choices. Yet, is it my nature or is it because I am a product of industrialized agriculture and living with greed and power as the true gods? This is where Jesus is right on: greed is the evil, power is the evil. Now the real question. Do I want my child to be instituitionalized in the concept of being a sinner and needing someone to die a horrible death so you can feel OK about yourself? Right now, No.

The good: Charis looks gorgous. The trees are budding and the tulips are blooming. My hops are already six inches long. If I can get a sextet together, I have a gig in June. Ellis is total fun everyday: loud, active, interactive and personality. Dexter Gordon is on the radio. Charis and I heard the Battlefield Band. I tapped my foot constantly and even yelled out Uh and Oh as the bag pipes and violin cranked out heavy lines. The four of laugh hard and loud at dinner. Tonight both Charis and I shed tears off joy from our zany conversation.
We had a canine friend for a while. What a joy to see the back end wiggle in excitement from seeing you. Sadly, he chases me every morning to work. He howls and keeps up with his nine inch tongue hanging to the side. Every day he became side tracked by deer and I would lose him. By afternoon he would find his way back. But alas, Tuesday he followed me ten of the eleven miles in. I could hear him howling a half a mile back as I reached Colfax. He has not made it back since. I hope someone who could utilize his keen nose and nature for hunting has found him and loves him dearly.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

That bright shiny orb in the sky

As Matt Plies would mock me for saying: The sun shore is hot today! That's right, folks. Only in the midwest do you go from white out blizzard to sun-soaked garden mulching extravaganza in a couple of short weeks. I hate to bring up the weather first thing, because I'm convinced that perpetual meterological babble is the first sign of becoming an old fart. (Ask my dad. Then ask him what the temperature is right now. I hope you have a minute.) At any rate, it's balmy and bright today and I'm already starting my pregnancy sweats - goody!

Speaking of being pregnant, I'm growing rounder up front by the day, and am an increasingly impatient pregnant lady (I know, shocking! SHOCKING!). As the weather gets nicer, I struggle with how much horse work I can safely do and feel awkward in this new expanded body of mine. Don't get me wrong - so far this pregnancy has gone off without a hitch and everything is on track, and I'm SO glad. I'm also very grateful for a husband who has learned to negotiate the coursing hormones, which have been known to lead to a mysteriously crying wife from time to time. I'm very grateful for Thelonious' frequent karate moves, because they remind me of the good to come.

Last weekend was sunshiney bliss as mom and dad, my aunt Glenda and our cousins Jacob and Joel came out to the farm to help us get our garden sheet mulched. This may not sound like much of a task, but actually involved roto-tilling, dumping composted manure (thanks, horses!) layering cardboard and then layering mulch on an ambitiously large plot of land. Plus, we did some weeding and got the beds in shape, and I got to watch my dad zipping around on the riding mower like he was in the Indy 500 (really, you can't beat that sight with a stick). THANKS to all who helped us! We're hoping to share some fresh veggies soon!

I also got a line in on some nice farm eggs - we're going to do a egg-veggie trade with my horse vet! Brilliant!

The horses are doing well - Mistie has lost about 50 pounds of hair in the great shed-off of 2006. Gideon and Colby are back out together, regularly enjoying the inexplicably-fun-for-equines face biting game. Don't ask.

Also new on the animal front: we seem to have been adopted by a stray hound mix Jay and Chris have named Flash. I admit Flash is growing on me, but I'm still adjusting to our new howling dog alarm clock in the morning (if the laughing baby alarm clock doesn't beat him to it, that is).

Ellis is a blast. He's gotten very lovey and chatty and enjoys rides in the backpack and tire-swing style swinging (unsanctioned by the maker, I'm sure) in his johnny-jump-up. Apparently for Ellis, jumping is overrated. The boy knows what he wants. Even if it involves drinking grapefruit juice out of his dad's glass and doing a subsequent spit-take.

This weekend we head to Chicago for some good times with Nathan and Barbara, with a stop in Madison to see the Collins family on the way! VERY psyched about that!

Love and the smell of freshly-mowed grass to all,


Monday, April 03, 2006

Responding to Customer Complaint or I've got a freckle INSIDE my belly button!

Heeeeyyyy everybody!

Yes, yes, I know there's been a little problem called no blogs, no photos. Such a disappointment! In fact, one particularly devoted individual who shall remain nameless lodged our first customer complaint this morning via Alexander Graham Bell's invention, which has been necessary at our house lately as our computer up and DIED! And along with it into the ether plunged ALL OF OUR DIGITAL PHOTOS, MUSIC: EVERYTHING YOU COULD POSSIBLY IMAGINE ONE MIGHT STORE ON A COMPUTER. Basically if it weren't for old time cameras and the fact that B already printed out some of the photos, there would be no visual record of Ellis' babyhood, and no evidence of the farm in the pre-renovation phase. In fact, the poor soul died as B was attempting to download some new photos on to the blog, my new pregnancy poses for this here site sitting in the queue, just waiting to be ogled. So we've all been busy mourning the loss of that information, plus to top it off last week I had the worst flu bug in the history of me (did you know that when you're pregnant you don't get to take flu drugs? Just a few judiciously-doled Tylenols for the fever. Brutal).

So we're in the market for a new computer right now - please be patient with us as we go back to trying to get all of our business done on the library computer, with its ticking clock constantly blinking the warning (17 minutes 55 seconds left, in case you were wondering)as I type as if my life depended on it. In the meantime, I'm sure you can imagine me in all of my Large Marge splendor. We'll get something on soon - I promise! We're working hard to earn back your satisfaction! And you can be expecting some free coupons for our product in the mail...

I am also very sorry I've missed telling you about the gradual melting of the ice on Lake Menomin, the quiet greening beginning in the pastures and in our lawn, and the fact that I found out something new about myself very recently (see title above). You know, when you reach the age of 34 you pretty much think you know your physical self pretty well, which makes the stretching of the old belly hole (and subsequent freckle discovery) quite the event! Another thing I must relay for posterity is that after the big snow, I went cross country skiing. Now, normally people don't spend a whole lot of time falling down when they're cross country skiing, but normal people don't have a big, intensely weighted belly and relaxin coursing through their veins, so the fact of the matter is that I fell thrice, and in the process wet my pants completely for the first time since the first grade. Oddly compelling, vaguely indignified this pregnancy thing is...

Thelonious continues to hop about - especially when aided by a Bavarian-creme filled donut. Ellis has discovered an affinity for spitting some very dramatic raspberries, which is especially effective with a mouthful of bright green peas. I have to say that having Ellis around has been very good for my ego, as I think the kid digs me, and enjoys enthusiastically sucking on my face from time to time. Watch out for the two small teeth on the bottom though! Nothing beats a grinning baby, really.

Chris has been very busy starting seeds, and we've got five trays of various sprouts in our living room right now - we're holding a work party this weekend to get the garden mulched and primed for action!

AHHH! Time is running out! 6 minutes, 35 seconds. I'm going to publish this fast!

Love and general springiness to all,