Thursday, April 30, 2009


After leaving the cows rather unhappy, our heroine farmer found the chickens on protest.

“What’s this about?” she asked them, since she was unable to read their chicken-size placards.

“NO MORE EGGS!” one chicken said.

“What the hell?”

“We don’t like eggs! We don’t want them!”

“Well, you don’t get to keep them. We do.”

“Murderers! You eat our children!” another chicken cackled.

“But you didn’t want them!”

“We should have the choice! Pro-choice! Pro-choice!”

“I dunno,” a little silky hen said. The farmer wasn’t even sure where this hen came from. She’d been dropped off or something because one day there was this little silky hen in the hen house with no explanation. “I say our eggs serve the greater good and if we don’t want to brood on them, the humans may as well use them.”

At last! The farmer sighed. A voice of reason. But as with all things political, the silky hen was charged with sexual misconduct and war crimes by the other chickens, tarred, feathered, and run out of the hen house.

Some days you just couldn’t reason with the chickens.

Since it was getting on quitting time (if there ever was such a thing) she went and got a beer. When she came back, the calves had gotten into the hay barn, a thing they’d been doing for months. When worried passersby stopped to point out the calves in the driveway, the farmer just shooed them back, since they never went anywhere anyway.

That was before.

Now the calves were having a serious case of pre-teenage angst and wandered as far from their mothers as possible. The cows themselves were glad of the relief; their udders were chapped and sore after a long winter in and out of wet mouths and cold wind. The farmer decided not to both putting the calves back in the pen. They’d go back when they were good and ready and gates kept them from escaping the hay barn. While she drank her beer, she wandered around, filling waters, pushing up hay, all the usual night stuff. When she went to the back barn to check on the baby lambs, a scramble under the front axle of the flat bed wagon made her jump and spill her beer. The farmer bent down to peek under the wagon and was met with a rather astonishing surprise.

To be continued…

Next time: Who’s your daddy?

So hopefully these episodes entertain you as much as they do me. There's not much going on right now, just the usual springtime-farm-garden-writing-install-a-new-water-heater stuff, so at least this is more interesting than hearing me list what we do around here most days. Be sure to tell me if this isn't that funny or any other comments or confusions. Happy Day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

An Explanation and "Pilot"

My grandmother’s “good ideas” combined with my brain can have interesting results. So the title is still up for grabs. I’m vacillating between “Tales from the Corn Crib” and “The Lone Ranger-Manager, but it’s a serial post about “our heroine farmer” and the adventures, dire peril, and narrow escapes she faces on the farm. (It makes more sense if you do chores with me. And no, that is not an offer.) But here is the pilot episode and no, the heroine is not me since I'm not sure if I'm going to give her superpowers or not yet, and names have not been changed to protect the criminally insane. Let me know what you think.

We meet our heroine in mortal danger. It’s April and the cows are getting hungry. She stands in the barnyard, hands on hips, a farmer surveying the situation.

“What the hell?” our heroine asks. “Can’t you keep the kids in?”

The boss cow blinks slowly. “We’ve tried,” the boss cow says. She’s been with our heroine awhile and they have a good working relationship. She knows keeping the calves in is a full-time job for the farmer and does her best to keep her calf close. But they are growing up. And a mother is hardly a good mother if she won’t let her calf out of the stall. “The neighbor’s winter wheat really looked scrumptious after that lightening storm.” Lightening puts nitrogen in the air, making the grass green. Our heroine knows this. She also knows that fresh green grass after stale hay all winter is to cows what pizza is at a weight watchers convention.

“It’s only three weeks until grass,” our heroin says. “Can you try to keep the calves in until then?”

The boss cow shakes her head. “Not sure.”

“Well, please try,” our heroine half-implores, half-informs. “Or we’ll be forced to take some drastic measures.”

The boss cow has no illusions about what this means. If animals don’t have the proper respect for fences when they’re young, they are sold. Cows form strong social bonds so it affects the herd dynamic when animals come and go. The threat is clear: if the boss cow wants her herd to stay intact, she’d better teach them to obey the rules. The boss cow gives the farmer a slow nod.

“Oh fuck that, 119M, you chicken shit,” 106P says. “Why should we both staying in when there’s all that damn grass out there?”

“Because if you don’t Dad might decide to start carrying side arms,” the farmer says laconically.

106P blinks. It was her calf that escaped last spring who the senior farmer would have dropped, given a gun and the opportunity.

“Stay in and we won’t have any problems. Get out, and… well, we’ll see, won’t we? Savvy?”

The farmer doesn’t give 106P time to respond, but turns and walks away. When she reaches to the gate, an even scarier fate awaits.

To be continued…

Next time: Our fearsome heroine turns chicken

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cow Flu

It's another twoferMonday, people. Sorry about the whinning. I'm not a good sick person. I'm calling it cow flu, where all you feel like doing is laying around and ruminating. Or laying in the sun.

I’m not sick that often. At least it doesn’t seem like it. But this spring has seemed like cold after viral deal after headache. Today is the latter and it just makes me cranky when stabbing pains give me double-vision and shatter all hopes of concentration. Getting any work done goes out the window when it takes all of one’s energy to figure out what settings to put the laundry on.

Okay, I’m done griping.

The weather is beautiful today. Which is a great change from earlier in the week. The lambs are doing great and we have a momma duck sitting on a dozen eggs under the front axle of one of the wagons. So far we’ve kept the dogs out and they haven’t found her. The cattle are starting to complain about the hay and have put in their demands for grass. Hopefully we can hold them a few more days, giving the grass time to grow. Another couple weeks and we’ll have plenty of green stuff, but right now it’s a lean spring. At least it is spring. The onion sets came this week and I hope for good weather to put them in and also pot the tomatoes I’ve got started in the house. The peppers and eggplant are coming along much more slowly, but make steady progress. With any luck, we’ll have potted plants all over the house this weekend. And my famous last words were “no house plants.”

Can’t believe April is almost gone. Dad is back from his Ohio trip and the tomato plants we started are in pots. Now just a few dozen pepper and eggplant starters and we’ll be set. Did I mention I ran out of pots three tomatoes ago?

Anyway, I feel good, which is a nice change. I spent half of last week down with headaches and exhaustion. It seems like most of April went like that, so feeling good is a nice change.

Dad bought twenty Rhode Island Red chicks from TSC over the weekend. They are adorable. I took some pixs and will post them when I get technologically inclined. They’re growing by the minute and already have wing feathers and cute little beaks and beady eyes. The lambs are growing equally as well, though we’re still waiting to see if the white ewe lamb is actually bred or just getting fat. Lightning storms the other night have left the grass a verdant green that never ceases to amaze. My theory is that we forget what nature green looks like during the winters so even if it’s not really green, it seems like it since it’s been so long since we used the part of our eye that sees green. Anyway, it’s pretty.

Dad’s getting the tire fixed on my car this morning. Two flat tires inside of a week has not left either of us very happy. But whaddya do? Gram’s getting new appliances today, new fridge and stove, so that’ll keep her fluttering for a few days. She’s been on this kick that I should write children’s stories since I’m always speculating (obviously wrongly) about what the animals are saying or doing. I just tell her that children’s books can’t have Bessie the cow saying “Goddamn it, quite pulling on my tits you f*%#er!”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


In followup to yesterday's "book good" lecture, today's good book is a young adult novel (and I have to agree with this one) unfortunately titled "Pirates!" by Celia Rees. Strong female lead, adventure, love, dastardly evil enemies; it's got everything. I stayed up late last night to try and finish it and did finish it over coffee this morning. I'd write more, but Maxine is looking up at me with her lovely impatient eyes, begging for some action. Swashbuckling or dad's dirty socks, it doesn't matter much to her, as long as something's going on. I'd better take her for a walk before she shreds anymore beer cans (aka - much-needed grocery money).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Books good

I keep thinking I’ll get around to doing a proper book review on this. But it feels too much like homework. In college, I could spit out ten pages about a book. It’s whittled down to “Book good. Read it.” What is it about college and studying what you care about there that just takes all the fun and spontaneity out of it? I suppose those who don’t feel that way stay in the system, but it’s why I couldn’t. I lost enthusiasm for papers and reading and studying. So, moral of the story is, expect more “Book good. Read it.”

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Farm Update - Sanity Pending

Busy, busy week. It smells like rain this morning. Yesterday was the first 70 degree day we’ve had and it was great to work outside, horseback ride, and get dirt under my fingernails again. Spring has been a long time coming. It’s not fully coming, however, since it’s supposed to snow and rain again this week. The potatoes, peas, spinach, and radishes I planted the past two days are going to be very, very sad. But, they don’t grow in the package so we’ll see. The tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants we started in the house are coming along well. A big bag of potting soil and I’ll have plants all over the house. Dad says I’m gonna be just like Gram with little gardens all over. I groan, grimly accepting my brutal fate. ;-) At least we’ll have food coming out of my little gardens. Been thinking about putting in some beds around the house to make mowing easier, hosta, mint, and lavender maybe. It’s tight getting the mower there and would help streamline the process. And minimize weeding. We’ll see how much I take after Gram. Of course, my aunt Julia had gardens too.

I haven’t read romance novels for years. Kind of went off that whole love-and-marriage thing. And if I write about love, it’s usually painful and brutal, on both sides, and some of my heroines are tough enough to go blow for blow with their love interest. That just works for me. But I always liked Linda Lael Miller growing up so when her Creed series came out (I mean bad boy rodeo cowboys? Must read). So I did and while its romance and sentimental, the story lines are strong, the prose is pretty crisp and new, and the male characters are major hotties. So recommended summer reading; Logan, Dylan, and Tyler. I breezed through them in a day or so apiece so good beach reads. Bring some water for Tyler.

We had our last set of lambies Friday night. Strong, healthy twins. The big titted ewe is still being a problem, not nursing her lambs and such, but everyone one else seems happy and strong, racing around in the sunshine yesterday. Of course I say last set of lambs and the white ewe lamb will make a liar out of me. Dad and I think she’s springing some. We’ll see. Dad’s back is a lot better. It still catches him but he can move around now and lift things. Which is good. Construction is starting to pick back up (as much as it can right now in Michigan) so he can’t be injured. And with us Barclays, it’s kind of mind over matter. If we don’t mind, it don’t matter. Lol.

P.S. This is my two hundredth post. Thanks for hanging in there people. See? I can talk about farming and writing until everyone's sick of it. :-)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lambies and lamb chops

Happy Easter everyone! (Or rather day after Easter, but who’s counting?) We had a set of Easter lambs which was pretty special. It was even more special when the lambs began nursing on their own. I spent several hours yesterday either milking the ewe (got two pints out of her before the lambs could even get their mouths on to nurse) or trying to get the lambs nursing. The buck lamb got it pretty quick, but the ewe lamb took a lot longer. Both lambs are black with white splotches and are, of course, incredibly cute.

We grilled out for Easter. Beautiful day even if it was chilly still. Joe made it down to eat with us and was a great help with the grilling (it must be a guy thing) and helping me get the lambs nursing. The first lamb chops on the grill with salad, potato salad, and homemade garlic French bread was delicious.

Dad’s officially injured. He fell off the porch and may have cracked some ribs so he’s pretty sore. He hurt himself washing the coffee pot this morning, so yeah it’s that bad. He and Maxine are going to be quite a pair this week. I dropped her off to get spayed today. Two surgeries in a month she’s starting not to like the vet as much.

Got a busy week this week. Driving to Toledo today, phone calls (all farm related), Maxine and Dad to keep an eye on, cows and writing. It must be spring. We’re finally busy again.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Gotta Love Easter, it's all baby lambs and bunnies

Tubed the lamb at 10:30 last night and Dad is watching close this morning to try and determine if mother and daughter have gotten their shit together yet. The joys of farming. Actually, they are joys if you keep a positive attitude. Things can always get worse. I’m grateful when they aren’t worse at that particular moment. Even if seeing a newly freshened ewe lamb leap over Dad’s shoulder without touching him makes Dad cranky.

I’m endorsing natural cures today. I don’t get along well with cold meds, so over the past year or so natural cures have trickled into the family medicine box. This morning it’s scalded milk with ½ teaspoon cinnamon and ginger with 1 tablespoon of honey, drank hot. It’s a little thick if you don’t keep stirring it, but it’s a good stimulant and quieted this dry cough I developed yesterday. Besides, it tastes better than Dayquil.

I finished True North last night and it was a doozy. I’m the type of reader who’s always surprised. I don’t try to figure out the ending because I want to be surprised and I figure the author worked so hard to craft a careful plot that I owe it to them not to be greedy and try to figure out the end. As a result, especially with fiction, I tend to forget the beginning of the book as I get engrossed in the story. True North was a work that cycled around on itself, ending where it began. Boy, what a trip! I’ve loved Jim Harrison's work since I discovered it in college. The spare prose, the Michigan-ness of it. Sort of Nick Adam’s stories the risqué version. My only tip, pay attention to the first few chapters. They come in very important later.

Well, I’m up to get off my sorry ass and try to accomplish something today. If Dad can work after falling off whatever it was (he won’t tell me other than he hurt his ribs by landing on something after falling off something), I can suck it up. Happy holiday of bunnies and chicks.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lambing Season

Got a dumb ewe lamb tonight. The black ewe lamb had a black ewe lamb and one can’t figure out how to nurse while the other won’t stand still. So I’m back out later tonight to get the lamb on tit or tube it. What else is a Friday night good for? (This is lamb number three for those of you playing the home game.)

Exhausted and aching again today. Beer and chocolate chips cookies helped. I mean if a beer and sugar rush (and profuse amounts of aspirin) don’t help a person really is sick. Got some writing done, some farm research also, but it’s not just physical exhaustion, it mental too. So everything feels like it takes ten times the effort. I can go deal with a lamb no problem, but anything short of life and death is a pain in the ass. I know, I know, suck it up.

Dad and I are making our Easter plans, a bit late, but seeing as I forgot it was Easter this weekend (despite taking my grandmother down to Ohio for Easter, that’s how slow the mental synapses are firing) anything is better than nothing. So far we may have people out or we may not. We may have lamb or we may not. And we may do a dinner or we may not. See? We’ve got it narrowed down.

Hopefully the lamb has nursed when I go down in a couple hours. I could write an entire book on livestock birthing stress. It’s less a case of nerves and more a slow thrumb of concern. Like bicycle shorts chaffing your unmentionables. It’s both annoying, unpleasant, and you just have to do something about it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Chicken coops and asparagus roots

Dad completed the chicken coop today, or will put on the finishing touches this weekend if it’s not done. We order chicks soon and will have many little peepers hopping about the place.

It’s been an almost insanely busy week, or at least it’s felt like it. Tuesday we ferried vehicles back and forth for oil changes and I made it to the library for new books. Writing has been a bit touch and go this week so it’s just as well Wednesday went to a trip to Toledo and back, dropping Gram off for an Easter visit with the family, before coming home to help shear sheep at the neighbors’. Today Dad and I cleaned both horses and horse stalls. I swear Sonny lost five pounds of hair. Why do white horses seem to shed more? Tomorrow won’t be quite as busy, but it’ll be full enough with phone calls and a trip to the grocery store for me.

I’m still exhausted this week. Have been for more than two weeks it seems like. I don’t like not bursting with energy like usual. Makes a strong case for drinking rather than sobriety. I seem to remember being more energetic when more beer was involved than has been the case lately.

I’ve been reading Jim Harrison this week. “True North.” It reminds me of a course I took in college that argued that certain books act as a kind of catharsis for the frustration of an event. There’s a certain something that comes with living in northern Michigan. There’s a certain something about world wars and colonialism. A bitterness? A lingering? I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it results in a certain malaise. When I lived up north I was as quick to point out that I was “an import” as people were to point out that I was born “down south.” I couldn’t take part in the certain disquiet that’s part of northern Michigan culture, but I could observe it. It’s different farther south. There isn’t that sense of place.

Anyway, ruminating on writing has made me maudlin. Tomorrow I’ll be back to practical holistic farm plans and the best time and place to plant asparagus roots.

P.S. It's National Poetry Month so...yeah. Write poetry. Read poetry. Understanding it asks a bit too much. Appreciate it if nothing else. Hug your poet (but only if they ok it first. No Stephen King novels here.)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Snow Day

A Happy Belated Birthday to my aunt (who I’m not sure reads this, but happy birthday anyway) and welcome to the most recent snowstorm. We got hit by about six inches of snow last night and Dad can’t figure out why none of the ewes lambed. Usually, with low pressure systems, anything in immediate danger of calving/lambing/(I assume)foaling goes. But either the ewes didn’t feel like it or they’re crossing their little wooly legs. I’m just glad we don’t have twenty pregnant cows. Spring calving for our operation, in our facilities, and in our neck of the woods is absurdly overrated.

Anyway, I was really rundown and half sick last week so that’s my the-dog-ate-my-homework excuse for not getting a whole helluva lot accomplished. I did spend a day doing research and farm planning, so at least that was business related. Did you know that grassfed meats, lamb, beef, chicken, etc is higher in Omega 3 fatty acids (the healthy fats), higher in vitamin E and beta carotene, and has a fat and cholesterol content comparable to wild game? And ounce per ounce grassfed beef is lower in calories and cholesterol than grain-fed commercially raised chicken? For more fun facts like that, go to Grazing can also extend the lifespan of dairy cattle from 4 productive years in the industrial dairy setting to 10 or 12 years when grass-fed and milked according to a cow’s natural cycles. We’ve gotten away from slow food as a culture and, granted, it’s not feasible in a lot of situations, but equally unfeasible is for a small farmer to invest in 200 head of any species, or 500, or a 1,000, and make a sustainable profit. It’s a complex and weird situation, but I’ve been feeling my way through it, and seriously looking at how a traditional farm model can work in the modern world.

On Saturday, I attended A Rally of Writers at LCC West Campus, which was both informative, idea-sparking, and fun. The West Campus is a beautiful location and the people who put the writer’s conference together did a great job. The speakers were great and, as a first-time attendee, it was a great place to get in touch with the local writing scene. Their website is

So, I’m getting back my ability to string two thoughts together this week (weird side-effect of their funky illness) and tentatively working on a new story. It’s been difficult finding my way in, but its coming. Usually I write beginning to end, but with this one I know the end better than the beginning, so I’ve started there. New experience for me so we’ll see how it goes. I’ll try to be a better blogger this week, but no promises since we’re double-booked for travel and sheep-shearing on Wednesday and farrier on Thursday. At least being busy keeps us out of trouble. :-)