Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A visit from a friend

Some of you may know that for Jay's 35th birthday, I arranged a visit from our friend Dennis Plies. Dennis leapt into farm living with such natural gusto and vigor that nobody would ever have guessed that he harbors more urban leanings. We loved basking in his thoughtful, philosophical, fun-loving and irreverant presence for nearly a full week, and he and Jay had plenty of time to bounce ideas of all kinds, partake in the farm's many summer projects and offerings and even talk jazz together. What a gift! The only hard thing about his visit is that now we miss him just that much more. A small sampling of Dennis' reflections on the trip in his own words upon his return:

"One of the more powerful elements of this trip was my outlook on time. Instead of wearing a watch and attempting to accomplish said amount of work in said amount of time, this was not the way of the rural farm life. Continuous needs to be addressed but not an uptight approach to the various projects. Instead of seeing “thing to be done” as enemies, my normal attitude I now realize, the “list” can be the opportunity to apply energy in a positive manner. I have so much to learn.

"A self-confessed city slicker who digs the urban context admirably, I must admit there is a health and naturalness to the earth life of farm or ranch. The contact with soil, water, air, weather conditions and interaction of these factors without coating the earth with concrete and asphalt makes for a sweet human connection with the way God laid it out in the first place."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Summertime ... and the livin' is easy

Farm Fauna

Despite blog implications to the contrary, there are actually animals other than babies scampering over the acreage of this here farm. Yup, besides the two human offspring, two domestic felines and three fat equines, we're seeing all kinds of wilder-type life 'round these parts this spring and summer.

I feel obliged to start with Chucky the woodchuck, who scuttles in and out of the barn like a fusty old man and has recently been spotted on our deck (I've been trying to get a photo for this post, but he scuttles too darned fast). Chucky looks like a sweet character out of a Beatrix Potter book (our very own Jemima Puddleduck!) but is really the DEVIL INCARNATE. Did anyone know that deer fences have no apparent effect on trespassing woodchucks? Chucky loves young seedlings like squash, melons and cucumbers. I'm sure that if Chucky understood that for each seedling he so thoughtlessly dug up and gorged on, we are deprived of tens or hundreds of fruit therewithin, he'd cease and desist, but alas, Chucky persists, and we're trying to figure out what the heck to do with him. His fate may be determined by our neighbor Tryston, a very efficient trapper. Because certain pansy-asses on the farm (okay, me) don't have the heart to kill our furry little neighbors, Chucky may end up being transported to a land far, far away one of these days.

Pepe (as in Le Pew) is a skunk who enjoys the pleasures of our compost pile. Farm denizens have been mightily entertained by Pepe's antics: scurrying about the yard, nosing into the tent behind the garage, and making general busy-style merriment. Jay and Pepe did experience a small, surprise stand-off near the lower garden, which was curtailed by one quick lift of Pepe's tail. A warning, thankfully. Both parties wandered away unscathed, with perhaps a bit of an adrenaline rush.

A few times around dusk we've witnessed the Massive Bunny Frenzy, during which several small brown rabbits buzz around the pasture in erratic circles like they're high on happy.

Tommy 2 (pictured above) is our second barn tomcat. What happened to Tommy 1 is really any body's guess. A funny story about Tommy 2: Chris was watching one of the aforementioned bunnies hopping around amiably when Tommy 2's paw came down from among the weeds, SMACK, and absconded with the poor befuddled prey, whereupon in a split-second decision, Chris ran after Tommy 2 barking like a dog. It may surprise you to learn that this caused Tommy 2 to release said bunny, allowing predator and prey to go back to their respective corners.

A few others: hummingbirds who dive bomb us at mealtime, a frantic one of whom was rescued from the garage by Jay and Chris; a black bear meandering obliviously around the hayfield; a brave doe and her fawn, spotted curiously nosing our hammock and enjoying our garden; a comically ugly (and hissing-angry) opossum I disturbed nesting in a hay bale (for the record, I nearly pissed myself. Opossums are scary.); raccoons who nap in the sun, dead to the world after a Thanksgiving feast-style meal of pork chop bones thoughtfully discarded by the farm's humans; wild turkeys that stare stupidly at our cars from the middle of the road; bald eagles drinking from the river...

Have I forgotten anything? Well, probably thousands of species, critters, varmints, but this will have to do for now.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Flirtin' for certain

Owain @ 10 months: !hyper! splasher; cheesy grinner; tiny-toothed smiler; crowd pleaser; solid napper; frequent night waker; easy laugher; river lover; vertical motivator; piano player; high drama whiner; constant head bonker; passionate book reader; lizard tongue-er; persistent little bugger!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

School's Out For Summer

School's out for summer, and the boys are excited!!

I expect it now, but it is still rather strange: school being over is entirely anti-climatic. You bust your butt for months on end, never able to feel like you are more than an hour ahead of the game, constantly taking on new and unexpected challenges and then poof - it is all over - nothing.

No complaints. We have been to the river everyday. After a few short breaths from Owain, he loves it and could play all day. I can work on the garden, wood and other projects without feeling a rush to get it all done. I have even read a few pages in a book.

I sort of feel rather trendy, but I am thinking a lot about local food. Time magazine had an article about it and Barbara Kingsolver has a book out about it. Plus I heard an interview with another author about only eating local food for a year - and they lived in Vermont. How do I eat locally? It sounds so simple and basic, but it is not that easy. I had a banana today. Sure it was organic, but how many gallons of petroleum were used to get it here? And do the workers make any money to live? What about lemonade? I live on iced tea and lemonade all summer. Summer is supposed to be the easy time for us here in Wisconsin. We have an abundance of vegetables to eat and we are becoming better preservers. We just finished our tomatoes and beets from last summer. But Owain and I do love avocados. And lemons. And limes. I could go cold turkey this summer and I think about committing to the idea a lot. What is making me be lazy and noncommittal? Does anyone else feel the way I do? Is anyone successful at eating only local food? The trend is 150 miles away or less. Sometimes I become bogged down and think what does any of it matter? That is sad though. Thankfully, I have some inner bug inside my genes that gives me joy and fulfillment from giving society the middle finger. Eating locally though is simply more than the middle finger. It is loving the earth, my body, loving God. It is also being creative and resourceful. Perhaps as I feel more rested during summer vacation I will have a stirred energy to take it on. Anyone else up to the challenge or have good reasons why?

I have been thinking about boys. I live with two, I am one, and the students I struggle with the most at school are boys. Some of my struggles dawned on me the last day of school - too late for this year. We celebrated the last day with fun activities and one was the whole team playing capture the flag outside. I had a blast running around, screaming and tackling students. I finally clicked with one boy who drove me nuts all year with his cocky, mister popular attitude. I was chasing him and he dove head first into a safe zone (hula hoops, one person only, on the opposite side). I loved the slide and congratulated him on it. Later in the day I slapped him on the back and said, "nice slide." We finally had a connection. How can I have a connection with so many of these boys when we are stuck inside a room all day seated at our desks? Next year I am going to push hard to have outside days and activities early on and often. I felt like I was a counselor at camp again. I had no trouble connecting with the boys at camp: we played all day long.

Thinking more about local eating, I started fishing. My dad used to take us fishing when we were younger - more male bonding time. I fished once so far, more to be with Owain. Isn't that the point? I have a friend from school, the environmental ed teacher and local homesteader, who is going to take me fishing on the Red Cedar some times this summer, and Greg and I will take a weekend fishing trip. It is exciting to have male bonding by doing something, possible catch and eat local food too. I am practicing bow hunting also. Perhaps in a couple of years we will hunt turkey or deer? Again, local food.

I discovered opera. For Timpano night I always order opera from the library. After the party, I put a Rossini C.D. on and stopped and listened. Wow! The passion and evolution of music blows me away. I have recently placed many opera works on hold from the library and am enjoying Verdi and Mozart the most. My favorite is to work in the kitchen (cook or wash) and listen. I have romanticized the kitchen because late one night in Florence, below our window, Julianne, Charis and I heard a person washing their dishes and singing along to an opera. My roommates are not as keen on the opera so it is not heard that often.

People at work asked me what I am doing this summer. I joyfully say, "nothing." I have planned it that way and am excited. Of course nothing does not mean that, but I am trying to stay on the farm. I am excited to be with Owain and play with him. Charis deserves sainthood for her love and care for Owain. I am excited for Dennis to come out. We are only going to be gone for one week up to the cabin in the U.P. Hurray for being with Charis and Owain and becoming slow, and local?


Farm Flora

The early June wildflowers at the farm are in their multi-hued abundance these days. The bouquet pictured is made up solely of posies we picked from the side of the road on one of our lazy morning walks: Indian Paintbrush (orange); wild roses (pink); spiderwort (blue); Queen Anne's Lace (white); some giant strain of dandelion (yellow); and snow-in-summertime, among others. I'll cover farm fauna in the next post...

Being Vertical

Monday, June 04, 2007

Somebody LOOOVES his auntie

Just looking for an excuse to post this photo...