Life and Death

“There is a right time for everything: A time to be born, a time to die…a time to laugh, a time to grieve” (Ecclesiastes 3: 2, 4)

Last week I blogged about the addition of Pat and Shelly to this little homestead. They are both thriving, running around, jumping on Taffy’s back. As they grow, I am more convinced than ever that they are NOT Taffy’s biological children. She simply had the deepest maternal instinct to sit on them until they hatched. There are five eggs still in her nest that she’s sitting on…along with the four chicks that peep and peck and dart around the cage, driving her to distraction.

Did I say “four”?

Yes, Pat and Shelly have been joined by Kelly and K.C. More androgenous names as their genders are not evident yet. And, as Pat and Shelly were named to honor some friends of mine who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help this struggling homesteader in her hour of need, so, too, Kelly and K.C. Friend Kellie spells her name differently. The “ie” seems to be the more effeminate spelling; I chose the “Y” in an effort of neutrality. K. C. are the initials of another dear friend who has “been there” a lot lately. Again, I’m not sure how either of them would feel about having chicken namesakes but, as they’re all animal lovers, I hope they understand.

K. C. is only a couple of days old so much smaller than the other three. But that doesn’t stop her. She’s full of piss and vinegar, chirping and squawking and racing around the cage like her little non-existent pants are on fire…she might be Taffy’s biological daughter after all as that’s usually Taffy’s take on life. (chuckle)

And, in my last post, I mentioned how I could’ve sworn one of the eggs I had attempted to remove after Pat and Shelly were born peeped at me. I had carried said egg all the way to the compost bin. Taffy had kicked it out of the nest and was ignoring it so I assumed this one wasn’t a fertilized egg after all and thought to dispose of it. And then it peeped. So I put it back under Taffy. Kelly hatched by morning. And Taffy still kicked her out of the nest. I found her half-naked body tucked into a corner away from Taffy. Again, I thought “Oh, no!” and went to pick her/him up to bury her. Suddenly, she squawked and started kicking and moving about. So I dug out one of the heat lamps I use for the coop in the winter months and set it atop the cage, lifting it up upon a couple of rocks to give it more height so she wouldn’t be too warm. I also touched a few drops of water to her beak; she swallowed greedily. Less than an hour later, as her little body warmed, Kelly started trying to walk. She would crawl and roll closer to Taffy, only to be rejected again. It took about a day and a half before Kelly got her legs completely under her and began tottering, at least, over to Taffy. Finally, Taffy accepted her. And, in less than a week, you’d never know how fragile she appeared at birth; I thought I would lose her. Before Taffy finally took her under her wing and care, I must’ve checked a half dozen times to make sure she was still breathing. She’s a fighter. And she’s more than capable of keeping up with Pat, Shelly and K.C. as they explore their small, safe world.

Of course, this isn’t the most optimum time for new chicks to be born. Pat and Shelly have first feathers appearing. And, because K.C. is about a week younger than the rest, you can see how much the older chicks have grown in such a short time. But I’m putting Taffy to shame with my ol’ Mother Hen antics, worrying and fretting how they’ll withstand the winter months and how maybe there’ll be a cage set up for the four of them to over-winter in. It will be a few months before they get their full growth. And, of course, there’s the careful introduction to the other chickens as they mature. It’s going to be an interesting winter to say the least.

And, lastly, this is one of “those” posts again. I lost my beautiful Flame the day before yesterday. She was one of my older hens and had been tottering around a bit over the last week or so. In short, I’d been expecting it but hoping I was wrong. As Ruby, Amber and Rouge neared their end, they also started getting stiff in their legs and walking a little bowlegged across the barnyard. Most people I know “cull” their hens after a couple of years so rare do I come across anyone who has let them live out their full lifespan to compare notes. However, Flame also loved goat chow and, whenever I fed Felicity, Domino and Chester, she would make a dash for their bowls. Domino and Chester share nicely but Felicity is all attitude. Any chickens get too close to her supper, they get headbutted away. Despite any effort on my part to shoo them away and entice them back to their perches with their own feed, Flame was determined. In this last week, as she started stiffening up, she was unable to get out of Felicity’s way as quickly and at least once had a wing stepped on. She seemed okay afterwards but it doesn’t stop me from wondering if there was an injury after all and she was just too stoic to admit it until the very end. Mom found her in the yard Wednesday afternoon. She was still alive but was having trouble walking and Mom feared the other chickens might start pecking her, or one of the goats step on her again, so she set up another cage next to Taffy’s and brought her indoors. Sadly, she left us anyway. Again, she was an old gal and there were signs that her end was nearing days’ before. Doesn’t stop me from missing her beautiful self in the barnyard each morning.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Pat and Shelly

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Luke, 13:34)

Today’s passage has very little to do with today’s blog post…except I remembered this verse from the Bible as referencing a hen with her chicks.

Last night I went out to the barn to do the usual evening’s routine of feeding all the animals, doing a headcount to make sure all are present and accounted for, replenishing water and, lastly, shutting them in said barn, safe from predators. And, in some cases, safe from each other as the ducks, if not shut in the coop away from them, continue to bully the chickens.

Except Taffy the Silkie Chicken…

Taffy has been broody of late. Taffy goes “broody” quite a lot. It’s actually a characteristic of Silkies. They are some of the best mothers and, if they don’t have any chicks of their own to mother, they will mother everyone else’s. They also like nothing better than to sit on the eggs until one hatches…or I get worried and decide I’d better remove her from the nest before she dehydrates or cripples up too greatly. I was about to do just that with Taffy…until I went into the coop last night. Taffy is the only hen that will still co-habitate with the ducks; the rest have long since decided to bunk in with the goats. Of course, for a little thing, Taffy is all piss and vinegar. Now she has even more reason to be. If you look closely at the picture above, you can just make out the two little peeps in front of her. All are gray, or silver, depending on whom you ask. And she’s still sitting on a clutch of eggs, guarding them fiercely. I brought her, the two chicks, and the clutch of eggs into the house last night, not trusting the ducks not to harm them (not so much Dixie but the two males are brutes…) and fearing, too, that they might fall out of the nesting box. It’s too high off of the floor for those fragile little bodies.

Anyway, Taffy & Co. are quite happy in their little cage. I set it in the rabbit room where it’s cool and comfortable…and less feline traffic. So far, only Ozzy got curious enough by the sound of the peeps to investigate but Taffy’s squawk sent him running in the other direction; he hasn’t returned to the rabbit room since.

Miss Taffy, however, is facing what so many young mothers experience–she’s got two toddling around the cage, getting into mischief while trying to spread her tiny self over the remaining nine eggs. Not an easy feat. She’s also trying to keep the two hatched chicks warm. Earlier today, five of the eggs must have rolled out from under her as she tried to juggle so many responsibilities; I assumed she kicked them away so I picked them up. I swear, I heard a “peep” from inside one of the shells. I could be absolutely wrong but I even went so far as to hold them closer to my ear and I heard it again–and not coming from the cage and the two hatched babies. So I put them back. And now she has spread herself out as thinly as she can again, warming both the living and those yet to be born.

The two hatched chicks have been christened “Pat” and “Shelly” after the two friends who have been such a blessing recently, being responsible for the transportation I now have at hand to get back and forth to OSV each day. I’m not sure how they feel about little baby chicks being named after them but it was meant with good intent…and, knowing Pat at least is a major animal lover, I’m sure she’s not the least bit offended.

I can’t wait to see how these new additions look as they develop their first feathers. Will they be part-Silkies with hair instead of true feathers? Will they all be silver? Or will some turn black? Or red? Golden or white? Many of the eggs still under Taffy are blue, which says they were laid by one of my Americaunas: Flame, Sunset, Rae or Sylvie. None of the eggs are Silkie-sized. They’re all quite large–too large to be Taffy’s, and neither Pat nor Shelly has feathers on his or her feet.

I know in many cultures, and especially earlier eras, sons were desired over daughters. But I really hope most, if not all–especially if the rest of the eggs hatch–are pullets rather than cockerels…

May God bless you & keep you!

PS Would that some vet somewhere figure out how to safely sterilize a young cockerel so he doesn’t grow up to be a rooster. Though it may not make good financial sense from a more traditional farmer’s, or homesteader’s, point of view, I would much rather remove the hormones and get a tamer bird to be a companion to the others than have to send him to slaughter simply because he’s a boy. Maybe I’ll just look into buying some extra pullets…

Things Learned When Walking is your Sole Transportation

It has been almost three months since Mom’s car had to be taken off the road. And while I still yearn for an adult-sized tricycle to get me around more efficiently and safely than my feet, I’ve also learned a great deal from this experience:

1. People look at walking, and sometimes even bicycling, everywhere as hardship!!??! In some ways, that’s true. When you’re forced to “grocery shop” for only what you can easily carry two miles from the local grocery store, it does get “old” and it makes for having to seriously manage your time and resources better. Those little hand shopping carts they sell in department stores everywhere help but…

2. Little hand shopping carts filled to the brim with cases of cat food and cat litter do NOT make it up steep hills without making one feel a deeper empathy for beasts of burden.

3. Friends come from unexpected places.

4. Walking in extreme cold is much easier than walking in 90+ degree temperatures; an extra layer or two, a good pair of gloves and socks to cover the extremities, and a hat make all the difference when it’s cold…and a brisk pace will set the blood moving that much faster. One can only remove so many layers of clothing before Connecticut’s finest gets involved…

5. Those kitchy, supposedly eco-friendly reusable grocery bags, when full, are much more capable of cutting off circulation in your fingertips than are the equally-full, bad-for-the-environment plastic numbers.

6. You meet people when you walk…neighbors…people you would never meet when behind the wheel; find a sense of community you never knew existed.

7. Despite traversing concrete walkways and macadam road shoulders, walking puts you deeper in touch with nature. Damage done by this year’s gypsy moth invasion; small wetland areas on the other side of guard rails…and the diversity of life that lives in them; longer days/shorter nights; shortening days and lengthening nights; sadly, a greater awareness of how many creatures really lose their lives on a major interstate all become more apparent when walking.

8. My piggy bank has grown due to all of the loose change found in parking lots, breakdown lanes and along the sidewalks near local gas stations.

9. Bursitis flare-ups, sore knees, hips, calves all help to remind me that I’m not 25 anymore.

10. Despite the 6 lbs. lost when I first started, walking alone will not readily shed pounds if a proper diet is not incorporated with it.

11. My status as a single woman seems to have reached the attention of far too many local gentlemen…

12. Wearing a bright, fluorescent vest (so that you become more visible to local traffic while traveling on the shoulder of the road) when visiting the local Walmart will get you mistaken for an employee…and prompt you to memorize where everything is located in the store so you can answer all those “Can you tell me where (fill in the blank) is, please?” sort of questions.

13. Wearing a bright, fluorescent vest often gets you mistaken for a crossing guard.

14. Trying to traverse 2 miles of extremely hilly territory without arch supports in your shoes is a good way to flare bursitis up…especially if you’re over 50.

15. Horror stories of missing women flash through your head when you walk home at dusk.

16. Strange men will offer you a ride.

17. Strange men who are also attractive will also offer you a ride…tempting good reason but provide relief that such good reason still exists as you pick up your pace towards home.

18. I don’t tan; I freckle.

19. Even if it is only 2 miles, travel light.

20. We need a better infrastructure in our cities and towns…one that includes sidewalks that connect everything so that people can walk safely; bicycle lanes so that cyclists can also travel safely, and good public transportation lines that don’t require walking several miles to a small handful of bus stops.

21. While there are buses in northeastern Connecticut that will come directly to your doorstep–elderly and disabled only–it took over 3 weeks for Mom to get her bus pass…I wonder how many other seniors and disabled persons are left isolated due to their lack of transportation…

22. Even with a bright, fluorescent vest on, motorists do not stop for pedestrians in the crosswalks…especially if that crosswalk crosses the entrance to Walmart’s parking lot.

23. Walking in the rain, as long as there isn’t any lightning to go with it, is actually kind of fun…sort of like being a kid again and splashing in the puddles.

24. The creative genius engages while walking…I “write” my best chapters, work out my best plots when I walk.

25. Walking provides the perfect medium for finding that quiet stillness where we meet God.

May God bless you & keep you!

A Pipe Dream

“For I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me strength and power.” (Philippians 4:13)

This morning I arose early, unable to get back into a deep sleep again after Paz’s not-so-rude awakening. I mean, how can you resist when your butterball of a tuxedo cat wants cuddles? At 17 years old, Paz is my geriatric buddy so, while he’s hale and hearty, and I’m definitely not writing him off, everyday we have together is precious. Though “Mommy” laments a bit of lost sleep, I was happy to scratch him under the chin and cuddle him close. When he’d had enough, he took my hand between his paws–much like a child would a stuffed toy–and went to sleep…typical Pazzy-style. I dozed but it wasn’t long before the knees started aching and I noticed a faint line of pink gracing the horizon. As soon as the first birds started twittering, Paz leaped down in search of some dry kibble.

It was a productive morning. Yesterday Mom and I were graced with a visit from an old friend from my corporate days. She had seen my plea for more cardboard on Facebook and, also being a resident of northeastern Connecticut, she offered to bring some by. Christmas came early in the form of an SUV loaded to the gills with huge cardboard boxes. I am so grateful! I managed to build the largest of the beds I will use to plant my herbs into just as the sun was coming up. Now I just need to make some more compost to fill it. Again, I am grateful.

And still on a quest for more so I can landscape the rest of the garden…(hint, hint) (chuckle).

All of this was before 7:15 a.m. I did some yoga and then headed back downstairs to start feeding time here on the farm. And, for the more traditional farmers reading this, yes, 8 a.m. is a little later than most for feeding time but, as I work until 7:30 p.m. off site, it’s a good 12 hour balance between feedings this way. Anyway, I fed and watered ducks, chickens, goats and cats; dosed the goats with some B-12 as some anemia had set in with the recent worm issues. The worms have been eradicated but, Domino, in particular, took it hard; I am happy to say that he seems well on the mend, with his appetite returned (thank God!). I spent the rest of the morning in the rabbit room, giving them some playtime outside of their cages, feeding and grooming them. Of course, I also spent some of the time in prayer (rabbits are restful creatures) and reading one of the chapters due for this week’s homework assignment.

Now it is 1:30 p.m. and I’ve already spent some time writing my book, now this blog and will soon begin the trek to the dealership.

I love what I do at the dealership. More importantly, I love the people I work with; it’s like a great big extended family. But, as much as it’s needed, there’s a part of me lamenting that, once the midday heat passes over, how much I would love to be back out in the garden, working this farm, working to make it into a working herbal, apian and fiber farm.

That is my dream.

Other people do it. But I am definitely not in a place financially where this is even remotely viable. So, for now, this is my little pipe dream: to earn a living, both as a writer and a homesteader, and not have to rely on the insecurity of working elsewhere.

And, yes, everyone read that correctly: insecurity. There is no such thing as job “security” anymore. In fact, there never really has been. The economy, sales–or lack thereof–affect every single industry in some capacity or another…at some time or another. That’s why achieving a measure of self-sufficiency is so appealing. No, not self-sufficiency away from God; He’s at the heart of every endeavor, whether it’s planting some seeds and watching them grow, trimming a goat hoof, or greeting someone on the phone at a local car dealership, I can do nothing without Him. This is the self-sufficiency that doesn’t rely on the traditional 9-to-5 (or, in my present part-time scenario, 3:30 – 7:30), or the energy grid, or the fossil fuel industry but a self-sufficiency that relies on faith in God, and on the wit and capable hands He blessed me with. To know where my food comes from, to make it all from scratch, to spin my own yarn, weave my own cloth and sew my own fashions…that is the dream.

And, as I bask in this feeling of satisfaction from such a productive morning and early afternoon, I hold onto this feeling, memorize it and allow it to motivate me into making it more than just a pipe dream. A reality, where all of the goodness of the Earth gets purposed to God and abundance is shared with a smile.

May God bless you & keep you!

Livestock Guardian Goats

Sargent Feathers, Corporal Denim and Tank all broke out in a loud, raucous screeching this morning around 10 a.m. Knowing this is their warning cry, I ran out of the rabbit room and outside to the back deck where my livestock guardian goats were all standing at attention, eyes focused up in the trees, while the roosters and some of the hens fluttered about near their feet; the rest of the girls had scattered. My guess is the goats had been sunning themselves on the deck when the Sargent awakened them…rudely. Trust me…this is not a noise you can readily sleep through.

Goats are not necessarily what one thinks of as a guardian but Felicity, especially, is very protective of her feathery friends. Though she’s not above head-butting them out of her way to the feed bowl each morning, heaven help the creature who tries to nab one of them in the yard. Last summer’s unfortunate skunking is a perfect example. Felicity may not have received the full force of Mr. Skunk’s defense mechanism, but a few droplets did hit her…and should have been enough to teach her a lesson. I’m not sure though that the lesson took hold. If we are ever unfortunate enough to receive such a visitor again, Felicity is liable to go on the rampage again. Not on her watch, you don’t. And Prudence the Plymouth Barred Rock chicken will readily jump up on Chester’s back if Duncan and Dweezil suddenly become too amorous again. They may not be traditional guardians but the chickens have certainly found that having them near is a safer place to be.

Of course, the moment I walked out onto the back deck, the goats trotted over, eyes bright, ever hopeful and nuzzling my hands in the most obvious of body languages: Got any treats???

Sorry, guys!

I did a quick headcount, finding most of the hens in the coop, all huddled in the corner under the Japanese knotweed. Taffy and Kiel were inside the henhouse; a couple of girls ran into the goat barn. Though the ducks were quacking, excitedly, they stood milling around outside the goat barn. There were still three hens missing, however.

As I walked back out of the goat barn, I discovered the cause of all the commotion. I’m not sure what kind of hawk it was but it had a pretty good-sized wingspan. Seeing me emerging from the barn must’ve spooked it. It flew off of the branch it had perched upon, overlooking the yard, and flew into the woods behind us. I didn’t think it had gone far though so I stayed outside a little longer to make sure, still searching for the three missing hens. As I started back towards the house, one of my Americaunas crawled out from under the deck. Mystery solved.

I went back inside then returned again with my glasses to see if I could spot the hawk better but he/she was nowhere to be seen. And, so far, all has been quiet outside. The last time I checked, the goats were still sunning themselves…with a circle of feathery friends staying close and near. What are friends for?

May God bless you & keep you!

Who’s Really in Charge Here Anyway?

“We ought not to insist on everyone following in our footsteps, nor to take upon ourselves to give instructions in spirituality when, perhaps, we do not even know what it is.” St. Teresa of Avila

I’ll admit it. “Charles in Charge” has nothing on me. I’m in control, or so I tell myself, and then hear the echo of what can only be God laughing as I tighten the reins…and chaos erupts.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I think I remember reading somewhere that 98% of us have at least a touch of it. Some of us have a bit more than a touch, unfortunately. Oh, it comes in handy at times. The alphabetized CD, DVD, VHS and book collections make finding whatever I’m looking for a snap. Because, really, who wants to waste time looking for something that may be right in front of your nose? I have bigger fish to fry, as they say. And, maybe it’s a bit extreme but my closet is color coded with all the yellow garments together, all the red, all the green, etc. Again, it makes finding that outfit easier. And I’m all about economizing my time. However, these little impulses and neuroses also tie me in knots and can make me a rather difficult person to live with.

Poor Mom.

This feeble attempt at perfectionism often manifests as criticism. I hear myself and cringe. Criticism was definitely NOT the intent but that’s what surely came across if I put myself in her shoes. And really, how important is it if the buttery popcorn bowl wasn’t rinsed first before it went into the sink? Or if the spoon rest is backwards on the stove? This latter “pet peeve” doesn’t get spoken; I simply turn it around again but then I think, as I’m doing it, does it MATTER???

And here is where the knots get tied because, as one voice is asking about the importance of such an act, another voice knows how much of a mental distraction it will be if I leave the spoon rest backwards…or the toilet paper feeding from under, rather than over.

Of course, I’ve never really sat down with Mom and tried to explain exactly what it’s like to live with OCD. Sadly, such a conversation tends to veer off into why mine is so intense in the first place: it’s a response to the molestation I grew up with. And that is a subject Mom would rather forget about altogether. As a child, I couldn’t control what was happening to me so I acted out by adopting these little “habits”. It gave me a false sense of security. And I was desperate to feel secure. Not only the abuse but also the alcoholism, the drunken accusations that told us all that we were “stupid” and couldn’t do anything “right” and to “look a little harder than you have to”. Like many children who grow up with some sort of substance abuse…as well as the abuse of their bodies, minds, and spirits, I turned all this negativity onto myself and shouldered all the blame. If I was a better student, he wouldn’t be so angry. If I kept my room neater, maybe he’d leave me alone. If I did all the chores around the house, all this chaos would stop.

Who was I kidding?

I’ve been tied up in knots since I was a very little girl. Is it any wonder that I’m still tying myself in knots? Unhealthy though it may be, it’s also a comfortable numb. It’s familiar. And, if I don’t grasp, and clutch, and sterilize my whole life, I start to relax…and then chastise myself for being “lazy”.

The paradox of all of this is that my property from the roadside looks like tobacco road. This is another coping mechanism from dealing with alcoholism. It keeps people away. But such a desire never cropped up until a few years ago when I had a live-in boyfriend…who was also an alcoholic. He seemed a nice enough guy when we met. And there was an instant rapport. This last one should have been a red flag…heck, it should have been flashing in neon red. Because that kind of comfort level so early on, well, they say a girl looks for her father when she dates…or, in this case, father figure. I was embarrassed. The sometimes-arrogant self, who would never allow herself to be caught in such a situation, got caught in it. How did this happen? How did I let this happen? And, worse, it took me forever to finally get out of it. The same mind control that I grew up, manifested again in this romantic partner. The same self-doubt and shame crept in. And I felt sorry for him. He, too, had grown up with abuse in the home. I knew what that was like. And, while I had had a network of family and friends behind me as I sought therapy and tried to claw my way into some sort of normalcy of life, he was still wallowing in the beaten-down misery he grew up with. He even threatened to beat me physically…and I still let him stay. It wasn’t until, in a drunken stupor, he cut down a beloved shade tree in the yard that I snapped and gave him the boot.

Tobacco road’s been growing ever since…because I’m mortified that I allowed myself to be caught up in this unhealthy situation. I fell down on my principles. Every stitch of therapy went out the windows. Though I have no actual proof, I even suspect he was abusive to one of my cats as Trooper’s behavior while he was here was almost unbearable. And it stopped almost immediately once this man was finally gone for good.

A little bit at a time. That’s what friends tell me as I tackle this overgrowth. It’s a little bit like that “One Day at a Time” motto advocated by both Alcoholics’ Anonymous and Al-Anon. A little bit at a time, one day at a time.

This homestead is healing me as well as it is healing the land. My OCD says I should be able to perfectly landscape the 3/4 of an acre I’ve set aside for fruits, vegetables and herbs in a weekend’s work; it’s not good enough otherwise. Reality says, as I am implementing Charles Dowding’s “No Dig Gardening” method to bring as low an impact to the earth as I can, that such an enormous undertaking simply cannot be done in one weekend…not to the scale I envision. And not by one single person…especially one on a part-time income.

No, the “No-Dig” method isn’t expensive. Quite the contrary. It uses flattened cardboard boxes laid out on the ground (something easily had for free from many of the local businesses who don’t mind not having to pay out to cart the cardboard away instead) and then composted waste, from both the kitchen, and the animals, layered on top of the cardboard to create a raised bed. I’ve been dismantling a broken section of stone wall that runs along the front of my property to outline the beds once they’re made and using old feed bags that I’ve cut open and laid flat for the walkways in between. As funds permit, I buy a bag or two of red mulch and lay it atop the bags. This is where the part-time income comes into the picture as I cannot purchase enough at one time to cover all of the walkways at once. And, as I am on a major interstate, as well as in the commercial district, it has to be “pretty”.

So, a little bit at a time, one day at a time.

And, when the OCD starts kicking up again and stresses perfection, I need only look outside to see the rhubarb growing tall and strong in the three-tiered pyramid I built for it and the strawberries; I need only look at the green beans poking their kidney-shaped heads out of the ground in one raised bed and the beautiful purple flower heads of the chives, and the lush expanse of marjoram in another to tell me that, yes, one day at a time is good enough. It doesn’t matter that it’s not “perfect”. Obviously, these plants don’t care a fig if it’s perfect or not; they’re still growing in imperfection.

As for the grass?

Mankind has ever strived to tame and “control” Nature. I refuse to use anything gas-powered, or any chemicals, to kill it off. Even with the raised beds, the weed and grass barriers being laid down, there’s still the occasional blade that pokes up even amongst those sections already landscaped. This is a reminder that, despite my valiant efforts to control and manipulate this landscape, much like the landscape of my life, there is Someone greater than I who is really in charge. Someone who takes those knots I’ve tied myself into, lays them out flat…and helps me to grow.

May God bless you & keep you!

Rain

“In that way you will be acting as true sons of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too.” (Matthew 5:45)

Rain. Rain. RAIN.

I’m not usually one to bemoan something so vitally important as rain. Considering the West Coast has been experiencing drought conditions over the last couple of years (or maybe longer…), I suppose I shouldn’t mind over much. My well is getting a thorough replenishing and the rhubarb, at least, in enjoying the good soaking. The seeds I planted last week are also getting a good soaking. We should have a decent crop…if the sun will also shine on occasion. Too much of anything–even something so good as rain–is never a good thing. Moderation.

While my garden is getting a good drink, the barnyard is a oozing with about two inches of mud and muck. The chickens lift one foot high and gingerly set it down again whenever they near the barn as the mud and muck seem to be worse there. My own Wellington-clad feet are doing the “Squee–elshhh–pop” thing again as I sink into those two inches of mud, trudging out to the barn with feed and hay and water. The mud seeks to keep me there, tugging and sucking on the souls of my boots until I finally tug free with that unmistakable “pop” in an endless tug-o-war. The goats are going to need a good hoof trimming soon; wet ground is never good for goat hooves. And I’m praying none of them get any foot rot from it. We’ve been battling worms; that’s enough. Only the ducks seem unfazed by it, quacking happily and splashing about in the river running through the very back corner of the barnyard. I’ve taken to placing boards down in front of the both the goat barn and along the pathway to the hen house so my poor babies have someplace relatively dry to place their toes.

I am grateful the forecast over the next few days is calling for warm temperatures and, finally, sunshine. All this rain brought a more ominous threat Tuesday when I went to the feed store: No More Hay. The local farmer who supplies them can’t get his hay cut and baled. If it doesn’t dry up soon, he’ll lose the whole crop. There was definitely worry etched across the store-owner’s face. She’s a woman after my own heart though. Sometimes bale straps break; she has her workers sweep them into large lawn bags and sells them for $3 per bag. I bought six out of the 8 she had left. My goats and rabbits will eat it well enough but there’s a lot of small, crumbly pieces of hay in it, chaff that they’ve also swept up and saved. It doesn’t stretch as far. She also carries a product called Chaffhaye, which is a bag of fermented hay. It is very good for their digestion but it is also fattening so, if I must eventually resort to using it (the animals love it!), I will have to modify how much I give to them. However, as Domino lost a bit of weight from the worms, it won’t hurt him if he does eat a bit more than usual.

Not having hay has me in a bit of a panic. My animals need to eat. What if this farmer can’t get his hay in? There are already contingency plans to call the local Agway and see if they have any…and how many bales I will need to purchase for them to make the delivery. They are the only feed place in the area that I know of that will deliver. (Sometimes not having a vehicle really sucks…) You see, the local feed place, while good folks and I will keep supporting the local business as much as I can, do not have an arsenal of resources for their hay. They run out a lot. Agway, on the other hand, has a host of sources so I’m going to call today. If nothing else, I can get a small stock in for winter.

Of course, looking out my window at the severely overgrown lawn–what’s left of it–I’m thinking I might be able to make some hay of my own in a few days. Here’s to looking at the bright side of things…literally and figuratively.

May God bless you & keep you!