Thursday, November 27, 2008

It's a farmer thing.

I fucking hate Thanksgiving. I think my family is too normal for true appreciation of the national dysfunction holiday. No one gets drunk. No one shoots anyone else because they thought he was a deer. See? Boring. No trips to jail or the emergency room. Other than the raccoon that popped out at me in the barn when I went to pee, everything was pretty low key. (Yes, we have an indoor bathroom, but six people in my grandma’s house for a weekend and bathroom access is limited. It’s like Jeff Foxworthy says, you spend the weekend askin’ “Is someone in the bathroom right now? I ain’t peed since Tuesday, y’all know that?”)

But really, Thanksgiving was pretty low-key. Just holidays aren’t my thing. And since most of my family is pretty sober, there’s not a lot of drink-talk afterwards. So it’s weird because we eat early, then sober up by five o’clock. But I can still get some work and a workout in tonight, so it’s cool. Counteract all that stuffing. I couldn’t do turkey. After the evil encounter with the chicken a couple weeks ago, poultry and I are not friends. Maybe when we get some chickens in the spring and Dad and I butcher them out, I’ll be able to eat chicken again. Weird, I know. That’s why when I find a guy who thinks I’m hot in Carhardts and rubber boots, I’ll never let him go. It’s a farmer thing.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cull cattle: a reminder of why farmers don't carry sidearms.

Dad and I loaded up five cull animals today and took them to the stockyards. Good times. It was all that truck wanted to do to pull that trailer with a 1400 lb cow and four 800-900 pound feeder calves. That’s at least the very approximate eyeball figures Dad and I guesstimated on the way over. It was sad to see one of my older cows go, she was, I think, a third generation of mine out of the first two cows I bought back in 1998 or 1999. But she lost a calf two or three years in a row and we just flat didn’t have enough hay to feed her fat ass again. She eats more than the nursing mommas do and is twice as mouthy. I usually feel worse about selling them right after than I do when I get home and look at whose left and realize how much better the herd (and we!) are without the culls. And after this year with freezer beef, plus the eight (count ‘em eight!) up and coming feeder calves for 2010-11, the last thing we needed was those three annoying steers eating us out of the house and busting gates. Hopefully we can build up some beef clientele over the next few years and sell directly to buyers instead of sending calves across the scales. Anyone interested in grass-fed freezer beef feel free to contact me! :-) Gotta get my plugs in where I can, right?

I’ve been down kinda sick today, stomach thing again. This is getting really old. It would at least chap my ass a little less if I could get some work done while I feel like shit. Hopefully I can get some pages tonight. I started A Lick of Frost by Laurell K. Hamilton two nights ago. It’s really good. Of course, can we expect less? Dana is encountering Anita Blake for the first time (second time?) in The Laughing Corpse. So far, the anti-horror girl is entranced. One thing about Hamilton, it might seem gross to those of us not into horror, but the characters keep ya comin’ back for more. I’ve kinda got a weird backlog of half-started books right now. Since the writing is going so piss poor, I ought to take some time and give one or two a decent start. We’ll see if I can concentrate better tonight now that I’m no longer writhing on the couch wimpering. (Yes, I’m well aware that that deserves a good (cough) pussy! Bite me. And have a nice day.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pages, knitting, and cow vaccine

I got my pages early today. 2,500 words by 4 p.m. Usually it’s that by 1 a.m. At least I’m productive between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. Next week is Thanksgiving, which I didn’t realize until about yesterday. Fuck I hate holidays. Not the food so much as all the Christmas music and tinsel. But we don’t decorate for any holidays, unless extra beer cans on the counter count, so the clean up factor is zero and awesome. No take down if you don’t put it up. Gram totally gets off on the whole decorating thing. I’d rather drink a glass of wine and chill with some good Kid Rock or Eminem and fuck Christmas. There’s some holiday cheer for you.

Maxine’s vet appointment went without incident yesterday. She’s all distemper free and Zip gets to go in with her next time. Yey. Two heelers at the vet on a Friday morning. Isn’t that a country song? Should be.

I’ve been reading an article in Smithsonian about Bernini. He was brilliant, it seems, and his father, when asked if jealous that his son would surpass him in sculpting, said “It doesn’t bother me, for as you know, in that case the loser wins.” Daddy Bernini had a good point.

I got 5,000 words on Thursday, nothing on Friday and nothing yesterday. We worked cattle, vaccinating and sorting, on Friday and by the time we did supper and I worked out, it was sleepy time. Saturday was shopping, writing and reading group, then hooking up both tvs to the HD converter boxes and lots of knitting. We did the last of our culling and sorting today. Now its housecleaning and laundry. Hopefully I can get some pages tonight. Zip wouldn’t come home with me, so I took Maxine, who’s sleeping on the couch, and left my recalcitrant dog with Dad.

I’ve been reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson lately. It’s hard to say if it’s more funny or more informational. I’ve started on Lolita by Nabokov. Not too far in yet so no words of wisdom to report. Right now my mind’s all bound up on cattle and who the bull is romancing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The difference between sex and love - love is a tragedy.

Okay, to catch up. Richard and I had dinner on Friday and discussed the book some. He’s an old friend of my Dad’s and has known me since I was grasshopper sized. So the sex in the book took him a little by surprise, but he was full of good feedback and helped me think about character motivation, etc. I spent the weekend in a kind of haze, stuck on the book and watching movies. I drew some. I brooded much. And after we did book club/writing group on Monday, I was ready to jump back into the book with both feet. And I got pages last night.

Zip has had a nervous belly lately and keeps, uhm, well, shitting in the house. Maxine, on the other hand, is going most of the night without incident. Damn dogs anyway. It’s a good thing they’re cute. I’ve been in the process of getting all the vaccinations and wormers around to dose the cows, sort off the culls, and turn the bulls in for breeding. At least we only have to do the whole herd once a year. Maxine has a vet appointment for this afternoon, just a checkup, and hopefully they can tell me she’s perfect in every way again. After dealing with Zip this week, she seems more like it.

Well, the cattle drugs just came, so we’re all set for that, and I had to call Dad to remind him about Maxine’s appointment. She is getting so big. And smart. She hears everything. All right, I better quit before I start gushing like a proud heeler mom. (I am.)

Friday, November 14, 2008

No man was ever wise by chance. (Lucius Annaeus Seneca)

Writing is a lonely enterprise which can often feel akin to groping blindly in the dark. All the great characters of books of reading past rise up around you, all the writing advice floats through your head, and you wonder over and over again why any of the pain and suffering is worth a novel. My answer: Because I’m not that good at anything else. I have to keep hitting my head against the brick wall because if I don’t, I don’t know what else I can go do. Oh yeah, I could teach. I could bartend. I could be a stripper. But no other legitimate career, other than farming of course, gets my blood boiling the way that putting words down on the page does as seeing my characters grow and fight, love and hate, fuck and apologize.

The art of self-editing is one of the most difficult talents that we ever learn as writers. And we never stop learning it. It requires patience (which I have less of than I should, but I train heelers. No patience there.) It requires grace (ha!) and it requires a detachment from the work that can be difficult to ascend to. And if I had any idea how to achieve any one of these states, my book ideas would all be done. It takes time. It takes patience.

I don’t know who said something to the effect of you get the book you write, not the book you set out to write. That’s very true in many ways. I, for one, can never make the prose match the video in my head, let alone the pacing. Kind of like the movie never lives up to the trailer, in my mind. But perhaps that just means I still have a better book in there somewhere. I’m not sure that if I succeeded in writing the book I set out to write, if it wouldn’t leave me disappointed somehow, as if I’d achieved nirvana. What pinnacle is there to reach for after that?

Regardless, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy writing the first draft. The devil is in the rewrites.

The best help I’ve found for the draft process was Writing the Breakout Novel and workbook of the same name by Donald Maass. I think my book had gone a little too far to make fixes easy, but, for me, the book broke down all the aspects of a good novel and helped me target where my problems were in the narrative and fix them. It takes a lot of work, but, I feel, was very worth it.

And on that note, it’s deer (beer) season and I have more laundry to push through, a lunch to scratch out, a workout to get in, and pages to get made. Can anyone tell I’m feeling better today? Dad said I looked less like a frosted pea plant today.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Sickish and in bed today. Yeah, I could probably power through, keep working, make myself sicker, but I don’t need to, so I’m not. I’m wimping out with old-fashioned cold remedies and new fashioned Ibuprofen. Hopefully I can still get some work done, despite the draining lethargy.

They say we’ll have snow this weekend. Unlike the rest of the population of the state, it gets me a little excited. There’s nothing more soothing than laying down in bed at night and watching snow fall in the moon light. Like a big comfy blanket.

The sun finally came out this afternoon. I’ve written this entry in fits and starts today. So I’ve got 2500 words so far today and still feel like shit. Yey. Need to get outside and get some fresh air. Maybe that’ll help. Maybe me stopping the whining will help everyone’s day. I’ll try for upbeat Ax tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My ambition is to be happy. (Penelope Cruz)

I’m actually getting pages today, yey! And 17S walked her ass up to the barn this morning, in time for the rain coming this week. Even better. And 65S is still recovering well after her trauma birth on Sunday. She and 17S are rehab buddies. Essential and her calves might be soon to join them. My poor old cow is having a rough time this year and we want to find her a pen where she won’t be with the bull when we turn him in with the cows, where she doesn’t have to move around much, since she has such a hard time of it. Hopefully a good foot trim and a dry year will have her back in calving shape. She’s only ten and beef cows can have a productive life until 12 years or so.

I finally got my mountain of chocolaty cheesecake goodness given away. It was a devastating pile of chocolate and caramel richness that exploded in your mouth and demanded a large glass of milk. Heaven.

Had a good time at writing group last night. Then I got pages at Joe’s while waiting on him to get home from class. New experience: writing at the not-boyfriend’s. Productive though when I can’t go scrub the toilet or do the laundry to procrastinate. Unlike today where I’m writing in bed and watching a movie and petting the dog with my foot.

Oh god, college classroom on the movie I’m watching. Major panic attack. So glad I didn’t run off to grad school. I still have nightmares about missing papers or going to class naked and not realizing it until I show up for the wrong class at the wrong time.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wit is educated insolence. (Aristotle)

17S got up!!!!! She was my downer cow from last Monday and today she’s up and down, walking around a little bit!!! Gods, I am so happy! It’s a birthday miracle! And although we lost 65S’s calf yesterday (another trauma birth) the fact that the cows are around and doing well almost makes it bearable to have had a calf die in my arms and stuck half way out of the cow yesterday.

People say that after a catastrophe that nothing will ever be the same. What they mean is that nothing ever should be the same. Because life goes on, much as it has before, and momentarily we take a moment to reflect that happiness should no longer exist for us when for so many there will never be happiness in this incarnation again. I felt like that yesterday as the calf’s heart beat slowed and stopped beneath my hand and there wasn’t a goddamn thing I could do about. The vet arrived minutes later but it was too late. It feels like we shouldn’t go on with life and enjoy anything but the thing about farming is that you have to go on. There are live animals that require care. And few souls are so embittered that they would begrudge the living happiness. Sometimes it feels that those who have gone before and return to visit me bring with them this happiness that bubbles over and floods me during dark moments when I blame myself for so much death. But death is not in my hands. Some live and some die and all I can do is help them do both well.

Shit, I didn’t mean to get all serious today. It’s just that few animal deaths really get me. This one, as I said, died in my hands, draining away like water, and I was unable to hold it. Souls slip easily out of the young ones, like the glue between body and soul isn’t set until milk and shit go in or come out.

On a lighter note, I read Practical Magic yesterday. Good book. Not huge metaphysical drama. It dealt with how magic exists in the mind. More of an everyday kind of magic than the huge fireworks the movie used. Hoffman had amazing style and word choice in this one. I started Jodi Picoult’s Songs of the Humpback Whale last night. Not quite the earth shattering thing that Nineteen Minutes or The Tenth Circle are, but nice all the same. I’m listening to one of my favorite songs right now, Shinedown’s “Second Chance.” Often I can use a song, or snatches of songs, to illustrate a moment in my characters’ lives. This is one of those songs that will find a moment. It’s like my own private music video. Yes, I know. I need to get out more.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sorry, I found the most awesome quote right after I posted the last one. Jean Auel has some really great quotes. Go to if you're interested.

Life sometimes gets in the way of writing. (Jean M. Auel)

I started writing to please myself, a story I would like to read, and that is still true. (Jean M. Auel)

It’s been a slow week in terms of writing. Not a lot of words after Monday. Did a lot of reading. Did some cow doctoring. I’ve given 17S almost all the banamine and dex I can. We’ll see how she fares the next few days. A cow on withdrawal from penicillin is easier to deal with than a dead one.

I finished Wives and Daughters yesterday. Today I got done with Kim Harrison’s A Fistful of Charms. I like her work, but for some reason this book read slower than the others and I had a harder time keeping track of who was mad at whom and what the hell the plan was. Probably my skitterbrained concentration rather than her writing. Now I’m reading Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. Thought it would be a nice change since, like Chocolat, it’s fiction that deals with magic rather than fantasy that deals with magic. It’s a word thing, I guess.

I’m cooking a big dinner and cake tomorrow for my birthday. My gram almost had a fit that I was making my own birthday cake and supper until I told her about the leg of lamb, marsala mushrooms, and topped it with chocolate-caramel cheesecake. “Oh,” she said, “I can come then.” She’s so cute. And only mildly crazy. But we all agree that’s a medication issue. Anyway, I’m really excited about tomorrow. Granted, it’s kind of birthday week around my house. What can I say? I’m the favorite. I’m also obviously an only child. But I think Dad and Gram would still make a big deal, even if I had a little sibling.

So, totally behind the rest of the world as usual, I discovered new music this week. Garbage, Hooverphonic, and of course the new Hinder is awesome. Also K’s choice is pretty good. It’s a new sound for me, and it suits my mood lately. Promises to make good writing music. I guess it’s a late expression of teenage angst, now that I’m well past teenage angst. Still loving the band Thousand Days, but Rhapsody doesn’t have them, so that sucks.

I took a crash course in palmistry this week. I know. I know. Hooky. But I needed something for Kaz to make Taylor trust him. Besides her ongoing desire to irritate Bryen. I mean who invites a stranger into their house? Especially one known for skinning people to assume their shape and power? And besides, Kaz needed a hobby. And its February, so gardening is out. And tarot takes too long. Tay is a little too impatient to wait around for a draw. And Kaz needed something to make an impression on her. So palmistry it was. (Little spoiler: he read her cards too, earlier. Total cheater.) But when working with Tay, cheaters rather prosper. No wonder she failed high school the first time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More calving fun

Not necessarily a tragedy this morning, but life on the farm definitely happened. 17S is one of the last cows to go, and a first calve heifer, which means the disaster potential rises like 50%. Everything looked normal. Everything smelled and felt normal. But, lo and behold, it wasn’t normal. We came out this morning to a dead calf (DOA at least) and a downer cow. At least she was one I planned to cull anyway. Hopefully we can get her back on her feet and across the scales. I just came back to the house to eat breakfast. There’s not a lot to do for down cows, as far as I know. We gave her hay and water, so she’s comfortable at least, or as comfortable as one can be without having use of one’s back legs. I’m thinking pinched nerve, or calving paralysis. Which could have happened anyway even if we pulled the calf. It would be so much easier if these cows could talk. But, thinking of how badly they’d curse us sometimes, perhaps it’s better that they can’t. Anyway, that’s partly why my character Taylor has the magic that she does. It’s so frustrating having all the amenities in the world and still be powerless to battle against the perils of being born. Isn’t that sad? All the superpowers in the world to chose for my heroine and I chose being able to smell calving problems, among others. Guess we can all see where my life’s frustrations lie. A good movie for those interested in cows and the human-cow relationship is put out by Nature, called “Holy Cow.”

We’re going to do some pre-birthday shopping today, after we check out my downer cow. Not a cheery start to that, but hey, it’s part of farming. Well, I need to get my workout in and maybe bathe my rancid dog. Zip got into the gods know what last night and reeks to the seventh ring of hell.