Friday, October 31, 2008

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die. (Leonardo da Vinci)

Today is Samhain (pronounced Sow’ain), a pagan feast of the dead that has been commercialized beyond sugary recognition. However, the holiday remains an important marker on the pagan calendar as it marks the beginning of the new year, the cusp between life and death being at its thinnest. I believe that at this time it is important to take stock of what we have lost over the past year, and what we have gained. It is often easier to dwell on our losses since they are gone, no longer staring us in the face every day. For me this year has not been marked with many more losses than usual. Those who have passed over include the average number of lambs and calves and a few people I knew only distantly. We honor their memory this day and thank the powers that be for letting them touch our lives. Then there’s the big losses: Max and Iris, who, I believe, met death not reluctantly and knew an end to the pain of old age. We’ll continue to miss them and welcome them to the table of our Samhain feast.

But then come the gains. Without the loss of Max, we wouldn’t have Maxine to terrorize and enrich our lives. She barrels through the tall grass, nose to the ground, flops on her belly, panting, then darts out of the grass in sheer exuberance for life. We need that around here. I believe that Maxine found a place in the world where she was most needed, as we do tend to get caught up here on what we have lost, not realizing all that we’ve gained. I have my cow herd back after years of being shoved out of decision making and work. I have my choices back and whether my choices are good or bad they are mine. My screw ups and my successes are mine and no one will ever take that away from me again. We have ten incredibly healthy calves and a bright, sunny Samhain day. Global warming has given us that at least. When I still trick or treated it always rained. Dad remembered that it snowed when he still went.

I stood in the spot where an old dog of ours died many years ago. Huka had a great spirit for all that he was a bit slow. I took a moment to miss him and then let him move on. It’s impossible to stay melancholy for an old dog when Maxine is rolling around in the dip that marks where one died. She definitely has a way of bringing joy, as well as exasperation, to the world. She makes me even happier that I’ve graduated and have the time to spend with her. She makes me more appreciate this quiet time I’ve had to gather myself and reconnect with the world.

So on this Halloween, Samhain, All Souls, All Hallows, or whatever you call it, take a moment to consider the year’s losses as well as the gains. Take some time to remember and honor those who have gone before. And appreciate how death, of all sorts, can give rise to new birth and new beginnings. Blessed be.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A mistress never is nor can be a friend. While you agree, you are lovers; and when it is over, anything but friends. (Lord Byron)

Maxine went to the vet for the first time today. Well, other than her visit with her birth family when she got to go with her eight brothers and sisters. This was the first time she went as a big dog, mano y mano with… yup, you guessed it, ol’ auntie Ax. Other than peeing on the floor and the table multiple times, the little monster butt did pretty good. And she got a yummy fember bone when she got home. (Sorry, inside joke.)

Got a lot of writing done today and have more slated in if Dad ever gets home. I think he was on tax collection tonight though, more the take from the rich kind of thing than the county quarterly thing. We’ve got money out on beef and no one is paying. Oohhh don’t make Dad get Gram to come and talk to you.

Zippy is still not quite right after his tummy bout this week. He has little patience for Maxine and has slept a lot. I think he’ll come around. It’s just a Zippy thing. Molly, Gram’s dog, has not been appreciating her stay with the grandkids. She’s the same size as Maxine so Max thinks she needs to maul the Molly-dog. But Molly-dog doesn’ like to be mauled. Molly-dog doesn’t like much of anything. So for the time Gram’s gone, Molly will cross her little legs and hold out for her once a day dash outside to piss as fast as she can, then dart back in and lay in the chair until the next day. There’s a reason I don’t like little dogs.

I did the blog last night and got sidetracked by a 27-pack of beer. No, I didn’t drink it all and yes, Dad shared.

Maxine went to check fence with me this morning. We fenced the alfalfa field at the north end of the property, about fourteen acres. The deer keep running through the fence, however, making our perfect plan, well, not so perfect. A little leg work is required to keep the cows in. So, Max and I checked fence and at one point the fence is a little low. And Max’s tail is a little high. So the squirt got a good shock this morning, especially with the dew and the fact that she turned back and got caught in a wire for a second or three longer than she would have liked. But she seems fine. It was the first time something really hurt that dog. She ky-yied bloody murder.

At least we know the fence is working.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. (Mohandas Gandhi)

Gear up, all, November is National Novel Writing Month. That’s 50,000 words in 30 days. Are you up to the challenge? Go to for more info. And am I up the challenge? With one novel as near to completion as I’ve ever had it… maybe. 50,000 words requires 2,000 words a day. If I can get some words on the blog, some on the book, and some on short stories and poems just to keep the ol’ brain shook up, then maybe I will make the challenge. But I doubt it’ll come in the form of a brand spankin’ new novel, even the bones for one.

We got the garden put to bed yesterday and I’m processing the last of the tomatoes into sauce as I write this. Two cows are yet to calve, both heifers. The dirty half-dozen, the older six calves, are full it as ever, and the younger four calves seem to be bearing the cool weather well. It’s easy for cold and damp autumn weather to make calves sick and they can die easily from scours or pneumonia.

On that cheery note, Maxine has had too much time on her hands today and has chewed up the mudroom step, terrorized Zip, who is still not quite up to snuff after throwing up for twenty-four hours straight yesterday, and herded Molly into a corner causing her to need a good talking to (Molly, not Maxine). So little Max has been exiled to the porch where she can make her own fun until Dad comes home.

All right, enough procrastinating. I need to get writing. Then its lasagna for supper. Yey!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weekly Recap

Wow have I been a slacker this week. My workout routine went to hell and my writing thing has been all over. Luckily the cows behaved, except for escaping twice due to deer damage to the back fence, or it would have been insanity around here.

To recap, Monday I realized that I’m reading way too many books. I did a blog entry about it but didn’t post it. Too whiney. Here’s the non-whiney excerpt.

I have a confession to make: I am addicted to books. I hide them under my bed. I keep them in the closet, in the bathroom, the kitchen, the car, anywhere I might be where I might need a fix. Right now I have an embarrassing amount of books on my night stand. And yes, I am reading all of them. I’ve been trying to get the number back to a respectable four or five, however, this endeavor has failed. And what do I do last night as I watch “Chocolat” with Juliette Binoch and Johnny Depp for the third (fourth?) time? I start two more books.

In my defense, I did finish four books last week. Unfortunately, I add books to the pile before I finish enough to make room for the new ones. As of today, I’m reading Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (at the rate of one act per day, thus one play per week), Tales of H.P. Lovecraft (which have me too spooked to continue), Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice (also too spooked to go on), Shamans of the World eds Nancy Connor, The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin, The Real Witches’ Handbook by Kate West, Breathing Life into your Characters (it’s downstairs so I don’t have the author off hand), Writing the Breakout Novel and workbook by Donald Maass, International Erotica eds Maxim Jakubowski, The Intelligence of Dogs by Stanley Coren, Chocolat by Joanne Harris, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, and Creating Character Emotions by Ann Hood. That doesn’t even touch on the books I keep close by for daily reference, inspiration, etc.

Tuesday Dana and I took her Jack Russell Terrier to Michigan State University’s vet clinic to diagnose this awful skin disease the dog has been fighting. I’ll post pics when we have a diagnosis. Just be glad, gentle reader, that you can’t smell the dog while eating. Something about rotting skin and hair over a peanut butter sandwich that’s just bleck!

Wednesday was kind of an off day. I got home relatively early, but the cows escaped and once we got them back in, the day was just kind of odd. Thursday went much better as Dad and I went to Ionia horseback riding. (Do dragonflies screwing on your shoulder mean good luck? Lol.) Friday it rained. Yesterday the cows escaped again, but went back in easily. Today we fixed some deer damaged fence and Dad is catching up on his nap the cows interrupted yesterday.

Gram went home with my aunt to Ohio, so we have three dogs this week. Maxine is one of the grossest heelers. She’s made short work of the dead coon and loves chewing the heads of freshly killed mice. The little calf “toosie roll caramels,” as we call them, are her favorite delicacy.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A hungry nation is an unstable nation, a.k.a. the natives are restless.

Some of the natives. Essential and her twins. Sorry the picture quality sucks. Blame it on the camera phone.
Maxine in a glass. Need I say more?

I watched a really good movie this week. Most of the time I watch television series through Netflix, "Hercules," "Xena," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," various old westerns, that kind of thing. The other night I actually buckled down and watched a whole movie online, which is kind of a pain in the ass since video only downloads a little bit at a time and the amount of time it takes to watch a whole episode varies with the weather. Anyway, Ned Kelly with Heath Ledger was great. Loved the horses and the characters. It didn’t go into as much detail about things as Peter Carey’s novel, The True History of the Kelly Gang, but having read one really improved the other, although both stood on their own.

200 pages into Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters and I’m finally hooked. That new Mrs. Gibson pisses me off so bad I end up slamming the book down in frustration, stomping away, getting another beer, then stomping back and reading some more. Sounds a little like a story told about my grandpa with a book called Truman.

9U lost his momma today. Dad and I went horseback riding and came back (luckily) along the east fence line. 9U was born with curled over ankles and stiff knees. He’s gotten better, but he still has trouble keeping up with the rest of the class. Dad and I got the tractor and brought him up to the barn to reunite him with 119M. She’d apparently forgotten she had a calf. Of course, she hasn’t raised one in two seasons through no fault of her own. She has every reason to forget her calf. Luckily, once little Bug got reunited with Mom, he kicked back into gear. He nursed and moved around good. So we’re keeping Essential and her twins, Pammy and her heifer, and 119M and 9U up at the barn for the time being. It’ll give the sheep something else to think about if nothing else.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

General Update

Jeeze, it’s easy to tell that I’ve been working on pen and paper lately, what with all the blogging I’ve gotten done. Made a lot of progress this week, or at least a lot of pages. 888H calved the other day, twins, that are doing much better than initially, since neither one of them could figure out which cow they went to, and Essential (888H) could pretty much give a damn. This is her third set of twins in four years, who can blame her? 119M calved last night, another bull calf (that’s seven to date for those counting). We had to tube him since he was born so knuckled over and stiff that he couldn’t get his shit together. He’s much better today. The Bose really helped, I think. Big boy, though. Another hundred pounder. And 062K calved early this morning. Sniper bitch. Looked at her last night and never would have guessed she’d drop a calf in the next twelve hours. Oh well. At least lucky number 10U turned out a heifer. Can always count on Pammy. (Yes, some of my cows have names and numbers. Got a problem with it?)

Anyway, it’s a Saturday night and I’m trying to get psyched up to work out. Admittedly, I rather drink four more beers and pass out with some fresh baked cookies, but I’ll take what I can get. Who knows? That might be in the cards after my workout. Nothing more exciting will since my honey is still up north. Oh well. I can curl up with Shakespeare or Wives and Daughters tonight. Have a good one.

P.S. Maxine is doing well. Very oral in her exploration of the world, but well. It's just the coming, sitting, staying, get out of that, and peeing in the house thing she's not yet mastered.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Doing wood and delivering beef

Can’t believe how many days it’s been since I blogged. I got kinda sidetracked this weekend. Jamie didn’t help. Neither did the hangover. Well, paybacks are hell and no one can make me feel worse about myself than can me, myself, and I.

We picked up the steer today. All 900 pounds of him. We’ve got most of it sold, but several eighths pending. We usually sell by the quarter, but few wanted that much, so we split it into eighths. Gotta go with what the market wants.

Today looks like the last of our good weather. We’ll probably have to start the wood stove soon. And once that thing starts, it becomes its own entity and runs clear through until May. Better than paying for propane I guess and as long as we log our woods responsibly, it’s much more eco-friendly.

The calves are all doing great. The last five cows have stalled and seem to have no intentions of calving during the last of the good weather. Oh well. Their loss.

This entry isn’t very interesting today. Sorry. But I just finished a very difficult workout and really just want to go hang out on the porch with my puppy(ies) and enjoy the day.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Side arms and heeler dogs

Zip just made Maxine cry and she took her own time out on the back porch. Sometimes my baby boy can be a real bully. But it ain’t as if Max doesn’t usually give as good as she gets. The little darlin’ got her first bath today, after returning from the manure pile with streak of green like racing stripes down both sides. I don’t even want to know where the green goo came from, let along what it was.

It’s a beautiful day in southern mid Michigan today, if a little windy. The ferrier came and trimmed the horses. They all behaved well. And Maxine got to try horse hooves for the first time (Nummy, nummy). It’s nice having two heelers around, almost completing in some way. I must have lived very close with dogs in a past life as well as in this one :-).

Zip almost killed me the other day though. I went to get my big paint horse, Sonny, out of the slip stall. I didn’t see Zip, but Dad said he saw Zip running away as Sonny reared up and kept rearing up, with me in front of him in the stall. The theory is that Zip heeled the horse, causing the otherwise low-key Sonny to start pitchin’. No, I didn’t get hurt, just a little bruised when the Sonny came down on my toes. The chains we tie the horses to the mangers with didn’t give, as Grampa intended, but since I had Sonny on a rope and couldn’t get out of the stall, I had to wait for him to stop rearing up long enough to unchain him. I think Dad freaked worse than I did. I don’t think Sonny wanted to land on me or hurt me anymore than I wanted him to. In Zip’s defense, he’d been cooped up in the house with me, hadn’t gotten enough exercise, and lost what little heeler brain he’s blessed with. That wasn’t Zip’s first or last fuck up of the day either. We moved bulls and steers across the road and a dog that doesn’t listen makes loading a trailer that much more difficult. By the end of the day, Dad and I realized why farmers don’t carry side arms. The black steer and Zip would have been in the stew pot.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Allegra Blake blends memories into poetry - Features

Allegra Blake blends memories into poetry - Features

I just happened to find this article on my college mentor. Thought I'd post it. Thanks for everything, Allegra. Hope its all going well.

Ag Day

The house still smells like the bacon I cooked for dinner last night. Homegrown bacon, of course. With all the warnings about economic collapse Dad and I have been discussing ways we can be more self-sufficient, since we have the resources to do so. In the past few months I’ve been doing increasing amounts of reading about sustainable agriculture. The problem for us lies in our state itself. There are few organizations that promote local farmers, at least in the places we’ve looked. The farmers in the neighborhood support one another to a point, but it lacks the larger connections that other states seem to have. Or maybe I just need to get out more.

Regardless of my social connections, some interesting sites on buying local and sustainable ag in general came from Catherine Friend’s book The Compassionate Carnivore. She really makes an argument for why society needs to develop a closer relationship with our food. That lack of respect, I think, manifests itself in our current situation with global warming and pollution. If we respect the environment and the food that comes from it, maybe we could get away, at a grassroots level, from the “moremoremore” mindset. Things don’t make a happy life. You make the choice to be happy. Food is part of life and being happy with your food is at least a start. I’m not a believer, as my grandma is, that happiness only comes in fits and starts. I think it’s possible to be happy in everyday things. Sometimes you have to look deep and work hard to change your attitude toward the universe, but guess what? When you change your attitude toward the universe the universe might change its attitude toward you.

All right, I really didn’t mean to get that preachy. So, on a much lighter note, the puppy update is positive. Maxine hasn’t yet learned that the world is not her personal toilet, but she did learn that cows run away when she barks at them. It’s all rainy and cold today so Dad didn’t take her with him to the farm, so she’s in the mudroom. I feel bad leaving her alone, but she’s difficult, to say the least, to both watch and do any work whatsoever. Guess I’m not ready for any forqu-ing kids. (Sorry, inside joke.)

Some starter insight for those interested:

Friday, October 3, 2008

We must travel in the direction of our fear. (John Berryman)

Another sick day. At least I don’t have a growth of swelling glands on my neck like someone else I know. That thing is gonna start talking, sweetie. Really.

Maxine went with Dad today. She got to ride on the tractor and help cut wood. He said the chain saw didn’t freak her out too bad. She was unsure of things more than scared. I don’t think that pup knows the meaning of fear.

It’s sunny for the first time in days here. Still cold, but the sun makes for a nice change. I can also see all the cobwebs the spiders keep making as they try moving in for the winter. At least none of them are usually poisonous. One good thing about Michigan, few poisonous or venomous critters here. Outside my window the trees are turning and we had to turn on the heat last night for the first time this year.

The tarot card from the shapeshifter deck, the shapeshifter, equivalent of the hanged man, stands for a time of inactivity to reflect on life’s path. This illness has not caused me to analyze my own life so much as Taylor’s. I’m not yet beating the book like a dead horse, so I’m not convinced it’s done. Today I bit the silver bullet and started at the end of the book, analyzing where I need to be and what I need to have at the end so the beginning and middle become more clear. We’ll see how it works. So far it’s helping. But there are some major flaws that keep me up at night for their want of fixing. Then again, taking time to read about shamanism and paganism has led me to ideas for Taylor that I never would have found without taking the time to do something other than write. See? Tarot has its benefitial symbolism. :-)

P.S. Pop Evil's new CD, Lipstick on the Mirror rocks.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Try not to have a good time... this is supposed to be educational. (Charles M. Schulz)

I took these last night before I started coughing and had to go inside.
Pretty little Miss Maxine. She likes playing with Zip in the yard... and stealing his beloved frisbee, which he has to tackle her to get back... (sigh).
She's watching Zip chase the frisbee.
Here she's stalking him and he's watching me, camera phone in hand, waiting for me to throw said frisbee.

I just had to separate my heelers due to the puppy beating the shit out of Zippy. Okay, so not really, but she was getting too excited and I was concerned he’d retaliate the heeler way. I’d hate to have to get a new puppy due to shaken puppy syndrome. Overall, Maxine seems to be getting along quite nicely. She’s very sharp and already seems to have good manners. Zip isn’t always the most patient of dogs so we only let the two of them hang out with an adult present (yeah, I know, but Dad and I are as close to adults as this house is ever gonna get).

I’m feeling better today, just slow. I think all I succeeded in doing was speed up the length of the disease. Joe said it took two weeks to get over and I think I’ve nearly kicked it in five days. Home remedies get ‘er done but make your breath stink and your stomach sour.

I’m through the first part of The Moonstone. I like Mr. Betteridge a lot and feel so sorry for Roseanna Spearman. (How are those for great names? The whole book is chockfull of them.) Even if Dickens bores you, The Moonstone is a great example of distinct characters and patterns of speech. Right down to the bit with the dog with the sore ears. Bleak House by Dickens is another book with characters like that, probably all Dickens is, but I’m left rather cold by most of his works, save Bleak House and Oliver Twist. David Copperfield seems so whiney and long winded and, well honestly, I’ve never had it in me to tackle much more. As a friend said while I was reading Bleak House, all Dickens makes one rather bleak. I’m not knocking Dickens as a writer, he’s great. But it’s just not what I enjoy reading. More of a Jane Austen or Bronte sisters fan myself. It’s the girl in me that I keep seriously repressed. :-)

My own writing has taken a hit this week, but I’ve been turning out lots of pages, albeit nothing of much consequence lately, in terms of writing practice. I’ve been turning inward, really analyzing the flaws in Taylor. I know they are there. Just trying to make the best book I can, right now, before going on to something else. If I learned nothing else from my stint with "XY Rated," my college portfolio, it’s that beating a dead horse gets wearisome, especially for the horse.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Happiness is a warm puppy. (Charles Schulz)

It’s a whole lot easier to take pictures with batteries in the camera. Jeeze. Can’t even find the damn batteries in the state of flux I like to live in.

Aside from that, Maxine in proving fierce indeed. Yesterday she stole Zip’s beloved Frisbee, which he had to steal back from her, attacked some grass, and proceeded to drag the rug and dog bed around the mudroom. Keep in mind, she’s only about five or ten pounds. She also got annoyed with my cell phone and started growling at it, attacked my hair, and loves Dad to no end. Yep, she’s a heeler.

I’m still sick today. This is getting old. I’m gonna try to get something, anything, done today if it kills me. I haven’t even seen the calves in a few days.

I’m rereading Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone currently. Been big into murder mysteries lately for some reason. Sure as hell can’t write them. I never know who done it until the last pages. Elizabeth George’s Payment in Blood was a good read, just like A Great Deliverance. Her work is so rich in detail and characters fly off the page. I’m wading through another Le Guin novel, the third in the Earthsea cycle. I shouldn’t say wade, but it’s not a quick read for all its not that long. I’m not that far in, but it’s good to see Ged finally has a sense of humor.

We watched the best movie the other night, "Breaking and Entering" with Jude Law, Robin Wright Penn, Juliette Binoche, and Ray Winstone. I hardly ever praise films, but this one was really understated. By that I mean nothing exploded, no special effects, or really even much action. But the tension was palpable among all these people and it really made you think. I love movies like that. Watch it. Love it. Watch it again. It’s one of those. I still think they should have given the kid a job with the company at the end, but if I say much more it’ll be a spoiler. Watch it.