Wednesday, July 23, 2014

blackberry fields forever

To the ancestral land, to spend the night in the house Papa Joe built, to pick blackberries.

I thought I had written before of the art of picking blackberries but I can't find it.  Your hand follows your eye and while your hand goes to what you have just seen, your eyes search for the next.  If you can find places where you can "milk" a handful of ripe berries at a time, that is better than picking one at a time.  Picking clean is an art in itself.  Clean and not hurting the canes.

Sometimes you go to pick a cluster and one or more nice ripe sweet ones fall to the ground.  And sometimes you flat out drop them out of your hand.  This is the libation to the blackberry Gods.  The blood sacrifice is wrought by the thorns although this is not a sacrifice to the Gods but an offering of yourself.  The Gods, you see, are not jealous or vile or violent but ultimately playful and interested in your intent and dedication.  Do you want a few gallons of blackberries enough to pick thorns from your hands, have welts swell up on your arms, and have sweat run in sheets down your face?

These days, of course, people don't have to do that in order to have fruit -- they can go buy it.  And misguidedly they consider "work" for pay the same thing as work for food.  It isn't.

What I was thinking about in the blackberry fields (or on the blackberry hill actually) was how life offers us real challenges, all the time, real and fruitful.  Life will tell you if you are productive, useful, worthwhile . . . or not.  Life will give you "community" . . . or not.  Life will give you your "strong" . .  . although whether you own it or not is another matter.  All sorts of things.

Real things produce something real in the end.  Like fried pies.

Real organic has bird sh*t on it, not plastic from the store or a smiling farmer selling it to you making you feel better about your soft-handed white-privileged life.

Real things have thorns.

Real things leave stains.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

can't you see


Do you see this?  People doing what they really want to do.  And learning in quality.

And really doing it too.  Not pretend doing it.  Or saying they did it once upon a time.  Or that they are going to do it soon, real soon.

And not making excuses for not doing it.

Such a juxtaposition to several other examples, or rather horrible warnings, that I have seen recently around me.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

because this is what it is really about


At just about this very moment in doing this today, I was thinking about a stupid little magazine article I read more than 20 years ago now.  We'd moved to the farm so we were at least pregnant but it was early on, before we'd really internalized the fact that it just all doesn't get done.  The article was basically talking about that, but also how to get stuff done I guess.  What I remember was that she talked about a friend of hers who made for her family a cake, from scratch, every week.  But when she really thought about it, her friend made the same cake every week, and on the same day of the week too.  And what she learned from this was what we do habitually becomes easy.

We didn't plow last year as we had no horse.  It is amazing what you forget in one year.  And a new horse!  A new horse who has his own issues and who I don't know and who doesn't know me and who isn't familiar with our work.  Whew.  He wanted to walk fast.  He did not want to wait for us to catch our breath.

I look at this photo and I think, a real teamster would see 1001 things wrong with it.  I myself see 10.  But here's the thing.  We are doing it.  It is getting done.  And that is what is important.  Improvement, some measure of fluency, comes,  hopefully.  It is deadly serious and it is incredibly fun.  It isn't idle.  Or illusion.

I mean, really, I don't care what it is, where you are, anything.  But I do care about those things -- not idle, not illusion, serious and fun.  Try counts.  Perfection doesn't.  Whining is a minus (life is tough all over).  And DOing.  Because if you never do it at all, it cannot become habitual and thus easy and you end up just doing the easy stuff which is cr*p for food, the money economy, vacating, whining, etc.

And so here is also a guest post about soil by the scarce but ever erudite Eleutheros:
The question is often posed, what is your main 'crop'? What's the most important thing to grow in the home garden. The answer is simple and clear . . . it's dirt.
If the organic intensive gardener makes only this one transition, the majority of the task is done.... view yourself as farming dirt, not plants. If you farm the dirt, the plants will take care of themselves.

There was a time in the now distant past (1960's let's say) when "organic" meant grown from decaying organic material. By this view you had to build an organic soil, it had nothing to do with what you did or did not put on the soil or plants that season.

Then the idea of "certified organic" arose, There is no feasible way to quantify real organic soil. So instead the organizations poked around the sheds to see if there were any insecticide or chemical fertilizer bags and there, you are now "Certified Organic" although there might not be hardly a trace of humus in your soil

Then like the Israelites begging for a king when Elisha told them the last thing in the world they wanted was a king .... people pushed for a USDA definition of "organic" thinking it would include them but exclude all their competition only to find the word was sold to the highest bidder (and it wasn't them) until now the term is meaningless.

But back to its original meaning, the type of gardening being examined here depends on lavishing time and resources on making organic soil, and once that is underway, the rest falls into place.
This is an oversimplification, and for that I apologize ahead of time to any chemist/biologist type out there, but it isn't entirely objective science, there is some mystery to it as well:

There is a wheel in motion, a Rotas Fortunae of Nature, called the Nitrogen Cycle. There are also interconnected wheels of the phosphorus cycle, potassium cycle, and cycles of all manner of trace elements. For the sake of illustration let me confine myself to the Nitrogen Cycle.

Atmospheric nitrogen is taken in by microorganisms and fixed to hydrogen in the form of NH3 (ammonia), this also occurs when protein bearing organic material decays, NH3 is released.

The ammonia would be quickly "lost" to the atmosphere were it not for another group of bacteria that "eat" it and excrete -NO2 compounds (nitrites). And then another group of bacteria "eat" the nitrites and excrete -NO3 compounds (nitrates).

When the nitrates accumulate in the soil, the nitrate-excreting bacteria, being far better versed on these matters than we are, sense the level of concentration long before it reaches a level toxic to them and they go into a sort of stasis, dormancy.

Since they are not eating the nitrites, the nitrite excreting bacteria eventually also sense the levels building toward toxicity and go into dormancy. And likewise the nitrogen fixing bacteria and protein injesting microorganisms sense the levels of ammonia building and go into dormancy.

Plants can only use nitrogen in the form of nitrates. The growing pants take in the nitrates thus lowering the level of their concentration and awakening the nitrate excreting bacteria back into action. And this in turn lowers the level of nitrites and awakens the nitrite excreting bacteria which lowers the level of ammonia.... and etc.

It operates like a well oiled machine in a Steam Punk story. The soil is alive and there is always a very good level of nitrates in the soil for the plants to use. See why a soil test is useless on alive organic soils? It tells you nothing of any importance.
From the foundation of the world until the late 1800's all life on earth came about from the process of natural nitrogen fixation. This limited the number of animals, but especially humans, that could be in the world since they are made out of nitrogen and nitrogen was a limited commodity. [Incidentally this also limited warfare since explosives are made out of nitrates as well]. But in the 1890's a German (Haber) came up with a method of using natural gas to artificially fix nitrogen. A few years later another German (Bosch) came up with a way to industrialize the process. And thus since then the artificially fixed nitrogen from the Haber-Bosch process has allowed there to be far more human beings that the world would have naturally been able to support.

These artificially contrived nitrates are applied to the soil and the plant uses them directly, and the process is very inefficient with most of the nitrate salts being washed out of the soil. This level of nitrate concentration is toxic to our nitrogen-excreting bacteria and it kills them. Since they are gone, the levels of nitrites build up until the nitrite excreting bacteria cannot come out of dormancy and they die. Then the ammonia fixing bacteria are the next to go, The soil becomes dead.

Organic means plants grown from living soil as compared to soil soaked in inorganic nitrates. It has little to do with what you do and don't "add" to the soil or with what you fertilize it.
 Now .... what's the practical upshot of this? It's that in whatever situation or capacity you find yourself, build some soil. If it's a half acre corn field or an old recycled coffee can of dirt, it makes little difference really. The organic dirt farmer is like those Cylons of BG fame, the one big eye forever scanning left and right and seeing soil in every unlikely bit of organic material .... a pile of leaves, some weeds growing next to the mailbox, the paring from the mashed potatoes, that those old canned goods that are now 18 years old, that glob of swamp muck, that decaying stump in the woods,

How long does this take? Here it is early May, if you had some green grass clippings and weeds (lots of green weeds) and some carbon rich material like a few mouldering leaves from last year, you could have new soil, capable of growing something on it ,,,, by the first week of June. Oh yes, not joking, about three weeks with enzymatically active material and this warm weather (and a little savvy and perseverance) .

To build those dark rich beds of soil 20" deep in humus takes years, But the very fine thing about soil building is that you get some results immediately ... a matter of weeks ... while contributing to the long term goal,

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

quote lifestyle end quote

People bring up my "lifestyle".  Isn't that funny.  They are religious in a delusional way but that isn't a lifestyle.  Because they don't actually live it.  Religion is handy dandy that way.  Or maybe they are just delusional, doing the same thing yet again, feeling the same way yet again, and thinking it is going to turn out somehow differently and that if it didn't, well, it isn't their fault.

Try living something, it isn't something someone else needs to "line up" with.  It is Yoda-ish:  "Do or do not.  There is no try."  Do or do not.  I don't give a sh*t which one you do but do not say one thing and do another.  You'll get the results you live.  Don't blame me for that.  Nature is a harsh mistress and doesn't mince words.  That's where I live.

That moment you forget to pay proper attention, the horse kicks you in your f-ing knee and it doesn't get better for a long long time and maybe not ever.  Getting mad at the horse is stupid.  Suing the owners is more stupid.  Expecting someone to feel sorry for you and listen to you whine for the rest of your life is colossally  stupid.  Refusing to pursue your dreams for fear of getting kicked again is just sad.  Walk.  Whenever confronted with steps or stairs, use them.  Don't curse them.  Use them, repeatedly.

It ain't ever going to be the same again but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.


Sunday, May 04, 2014

driving off the cliff

So my alma mater is closing.  Not just closing but graduation is today (pretty much as I post this even) and the lights get turned off, by the power company for lack of payment, tomorrow.  And those lights were left on only because it would really have been bad form for the city to have turned them off with students in the dorms.

Talk about a cliff and driving over it, that has been one.  The thing is that it hasn't been like the cartoons where they are rafting down the river and only hear the roar of the falls once they are going too quickly toward it to paddle to the shore.  Nope.  In fact, they already circumnavigated the falls several times that I know of -- when they became a four year school instead of a finishing school, when they went co-ed -- and who knows before then.  Possibly when they moved the school and when they renamed it, perhaps those weren't from going gangbusters but as means of not going out of business even then.

The thing is this time people have had the cliff in their sights and have driven straight toward it like Thelma and Louise and if anyone said, "Hey, excuse me, you are heading toward a cliff and you are gonna die," that person was told, "Sit down and shut up, we do NOT want to hear it if it isn't positive.  Why in the world can't you say something positive?"  Ok, here are the positives:  boy, isn't it a nice day, and wow, what a view there will be on the way down, and you know that thrill on a roller coaster, that is nothing compared to what this is going to feel like.

And so at the same time I'm thinking about that and trying to figure out why people think that I delight in the implosion because I did not refuse to see that it was coming, even more rudely because I pointed out that it was coming, I am met with an individual telling me that there is plenty of oil (in Texas no less -- it would be Pennsylvania if she knew there had once been gushers there but her sense of history is limited to whatever Glenn Beck has covered) and if I don't think the tar sands and the pipeline and offshore drilling are the answer, what IS the answer and when I say, use less, she says, well, only you are going to do that and I say, when gas was $4/gallon people pulled back and it deteriorates from there to where I eventually find out she knows who George Soros is but not who the Koch brothers are.

And that is the thing, is it not?  I bet there is a whole group of people who can tell you everything that is wrong with George Soros but who have never heard of the Koch brothers.  And another group who can list the evil doings of the Koch's who don't know who George Soros is.  That is the division where people do not understand that we are all in this together and yet fight with each other to distraction (and death) anyway.

So that cliff thing?  Because that is really what I am thinking about.  It reminds me of that one car accident another homeschooler's children were involved in some time ago.  The boy was driving, the girl got pretty badly cut up, and the mother said to me, "He didn't do anything wrong; the truck just flipped over (several times)."  Yeah, right.  Trucks do that.  Not.  At the very least he was going too fast.  The real problem was mostly that she was supposed to go pick her daughter up and didn't feel like messing up her hair in the rain so sent her inexperienced son out in a very bad storm and then it wasn't HIS fault because she didn't want it to be HER fault.  When I said to her, "The general inference in one car accidents is operator error," (full disclosure, I might have phrased that differently), she never spoke to me again.

Surprise surprise.

Well, it IS our faults.  All of it. 

So go ahead.  Keep complaining.  Keep doing things that seem different to you but are really the same.  Keep nursing the wounds.  Keep taking the drugs.  Keep not doing that thing that makes your heart really sing.  Be the Koch brothers side of the Soros problem you see, or Soros side of the Koch brothers problem you see.  Because as long as you do that you won't actually DO anything, and you won't actually change and move and go in a direction and be happy in the here and now.

You will, however, go over that cliff.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

to live in this world

“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go”  (Mary Oliver)
I just ran across this piece of a poem.  Or it could be the whole thing, I don't know, I haven't looked it up and explored it, at least not yet.

But it sure as h*ll brought to mind life on the farm.  If you live life at all on the farm,  even pretend with a few chickens and a few veggies, you experience this.  I believe if you live any kind of connected life at all, aligned life at all, engaged life at all, you experience this.  It is like seeing that time is an illusion in that you can see it all happens at once, no before and after, all at once.

So why do people hold things, heartache especially, close?  Suckle it?  Keep it alive and fresh?

Why do people live vicariously, through sports or schools or fandoms?

I mean, I believe it is for lack of what I call a "real life".  Which I think is life on the farm.  I'm reminded of a video we have of Scott Nearing wherein he says, "This is the good life," (the title of his books) then amends it to, "This is A good life."  That's what I'd say but so far I see few other examples.  Ok, none I can think of at the moment.

Let me tell you, when someone says, "You can't grow anything in my yard, " I say, "You mean, you don't have the skill to grow anything useful in your yard.  Lots of stuff grows there.  You are just an idiot."  And if that is harsh, well, duh.  What did you think you were going to get from me?  Coddling?  Saying that making the same choices and being sad and stressed in the same way was ok?  No.  You always knew better.  Now be honest about it and quit hiding behind the chain link fence.

When Scott says, "There's nothing I need," he means it.  Now I'll tell you, sometimes I think, boy I'd like struts on my van but you know, I'm not thinking that "counts" as a want/need.  Sure, we'll have to do it, and we'll get there, but does it have to be done exactly now?  What for?  And sometime I think, boy, I'd like to go to that Buck clinic, or that McLaury clinic, or that Peter Campbell clinic, or go be a working student for Kathleen Beckham but with those, when it really becomes important enough for me to do, I'll do it.  Neither money nor the lack of it essentially changes my life.

What really changes my life is whether the pear blossoms got frozen off last night.  What brings meaning to my life is making a good meat and three supper for my family tonight.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

not what I think but what I see. from here. and now.

 undiscovered nest

 goat and violets

 senecio (rag wort)
I swear I take this photo every year.  This year's photo of coltsfoot, however, wasn't in focus!

 coon trap stands sentry

 girl weeds then puts manure on raspberries

 fava beans


The time of year I call All Hope and No Weeds and the thing that makes me laugh at people who tell me what all they are going to have in their garden.  Honey, you don't ever know.

 peach blossoms

 sun and sky shine in the willows

forest weavings

Monday, February 17, 2014

burning thought

The thought that has been burnt inside my brain lately is:

Are you worth what is costs for you to live in the world?

So, are you?  Am I?  It certainly isn't a foregone conclusion.  For any of us.

And there are of course two ways to approach this if it concerns you:  one is to be worth more, and one is to cost less.  Best is both.

I think this came into my head in this way because of someone I "met".  I met him at the Buck clinic last year.  I thought he was just a young cowboy overly eager to learn since he never even let the poor horse he was working with rest ever.  I knew he was going to several Buck clinics last year but, hey, there I was at my first one and I could imagine that one might figure out how to get to several in a year as a way to really learn something.

But more recently I found out that he graduated from Harvard some unknown time ago, spent a year at Parelli campuses (not cheap either), and is again this year planning on attending at least 5 Buck clinics.  How in the world does one do that?  Well, obviously, he's wealthy to begin with.  Jet here, jet there.  Is he worth what it costs for him to live in the world? 

Yes, I have to say, I very seriously doubt it.

And then I thought of someone else I know.  She used to be a bank teller, years and years ago.  I think most recently she "retired" from being a home health nurse and works in upscale women's retail.  Husband is, I think, with the county highway department.  And they vacation two or three times a year in New York City.  How in the world does one do that?  Because I know they didn't inherit money.

What world is it that I live in?

I look hard askance at one Buck clinic.  I look harder askance as to whether I am going to do it again this year or not.  I wonder sometimes at our level of luxury.

I am floored by the entitlement that I see.  Not what you hear about on talk radio but the entitlement of the rich (which includes, in all my poverty, me).  A doctor recently talked to me about her "just deserts".  Because of school.  Because of a debt she'd long long ago paid off.  As if I didn't go to school and didn't pay off my debt.  But she said this health care reform was "all about money" although I cannot for the life of me see how exactly has it not been about money before?  As long as she could say, "You can have any treatment you like, as long as you can PAY for it," it wasn't about money.  To her. 

Are you worth what it costs for you to live in the world?

I think I'll go wash some dishes and make some bread and maybe think about making a cake, and watch the goats bounce around and think getting some hay and maybe the Parelli clinic and . . . yep, go through the mail I've put back and organize the income and outgo. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

committed action rambling thoughts

This post was inspired by Alecto because she wrote this.  I begin the quote with what she said about her brother, and end it with what it is about, because my point here is that it is not about me.

"I admire my brother very much and it’s not because of what he does for a living. That part is hardly relevant. It’s how he is in the world.
"CG is another story entirely. It’s too much to go into here but a lot of years ago (it is now officially a lot of years) she decided she wanted to ride horses again. Given her life choices this didn’t exactly fit within the lines and there wasn’t an easy answer. There could be a lot of talking about it or even more easily a lot of talking about why not but that isn’t what happened. What happened is that CG started riding horses again in a really huge and incredibly empowering way. Seriously. And she didn’t have the answers either. She still doesn’t have the answers to how she’s going to get to what’s next. Sometimes she doesn’t even know what’s next, there’s just a what’s next because of how and who she’s being. CG is in a constant state of growth, movement and what’s possible. And people, here’s the most important part of all. This is effing earth shattering if you can actually let it in:
"The Contrary Goddess did not have the authority or necessarily agreement to do or cause any of this. She just reached for it. Period. End of story.
"I’m pointing this out because it is a way to live in the world. I might just as well tell my brother’s story or even part of mine or talk about what Elizabeth is doing right now and how we’re getting there (and how we have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what comes next or how we’re going to do it or how we might be crazy and how people look at us and blah fucking blah). CG’s is a really good story.
"Committed Action."

And so you see, the title of my post (and hers).  Which could also be, How does one get somewhere?  It could also be,  How does anyone get anywhere?  And it could also be, Wherever you go, there you are.  Except we're talking about not just floundering around aimlessly, and not just treading water, and not just failing.  I say not just failing because failing is what we do all the time and you better be able to look at it in some other way but at the same time, calling a failure a win is stupid.  Or counterproductive.  Or something.

Like debt.  Never say never, but debt is still bad.  If you have to "swing" something, you can't afford it.  Like school is the most inefficient way to learn anything so if you go to school and accrue that debt, it better be for something other than learning.  Usually it is for being smallerized -- you know, the peg made to fit the hole.  Like if a man is trying to smallerize you, walk, do not pass go, do not collect $200, walk away.  Power runs in a lot of directions and encompasses a lot of things so pay attention.

So what I was saying was about committed action, and getting somewhere.  I'll tell you up front that a lot of the time you don't know where that is, not really.  But something inside you does, actually.  And so you do it.  And it goes somewhere, maybe somewhere you never dreamed of, and maybe somewhere that you did or did NOT dare to dream of.

My riding, and my riding for Buck is an example of that.  There are tons of examples of that throughout this blog.  Another example, and honestly I don't know if the fuller story is on the blog or not, is us homesteading entire, finding this land, building the house I'm sitting in.  Who knew?  We certainly didn't, not these details.  But we did.  Kids are like that, at least well parented kids I think.  You know (as a parent) that the kid is calling himself into existence, but how it turns out, shockingly beautiful, heart aching too.  There it is, its own thing.  And maybe you are riding a raindrop, or maybe you are watching a bird fly, but there is an element of committed action and there is an element of letting go, no control, or as I have said, opening the hand

To not do whatever it is that makes your heart sing (if indeed you have something -- I'm not entirely convinced everyone does, but I'm certainly not convinced that everyone doesn't, and I'm pretty darn convinced that even those that don't sing, hum) is sad.  Tragic even.  And we know these people -- people who, when they touch, even see at a distance, that which they love, they cry, or rage.  And to some extent, who doesn't but I know that longing means I have to move toward it.  When something scares you, move closer, stay longer. Don't cry and say "impossible".  At least not for very long.

The other side is the expectation part, and it is the part I think that causes the avoidance of the heart singing thing to begin with.  Let's take Alecto's Elizabeth, a dancer:  She could be in the ABT or she could be a dance teacher for pre-schoolers in SW VA.  The best dancer I ever knew personally was just that, the latter, a dance teacher.  Is one "success" and one "failure"?  Take my own dreams at that age:  the Olympics.  Maybe I just wasn't good enough, that's a most likely possibility.  And almost certainly, I didn't want to live the life that one has to live to get there, the pressures, the compromises that absolutely will be made if one gets there.  (well, at a young age I probably would have lived anything and compromised anything to get there but I didn't know what and in old age I'm glad I didn't)  I didn't know until much much later that there was another possible success, or a hundred million other possible successes.  What I think causes the avoidance is the fear of failure, or the surety of it, when "success" is defined so narrowly.  When I was that age, I was afraid of mediocrity, I thought only those hyper sorts of goals would keep me out of that.  Even a good bit later, as a student, I made a 4.0 and not out of joy either, but fear.  But that is not where "excellence" is.

Gardens and bread and cheese, and horses for that matter, are great because they tell you right away and without prejudice if you failed or succeeded but without the competition.  So where I am now with horses (and I got there through this life that this family has lived on this farm) is seeking excellence with the horse, himself.  And it isn't a narrow thing, really.  I mean, you can chase it, but it is about improving the self, not the thing.  It is Robert Lundberg's idea of, one cut and good enough.  The Dorrance/Hunt thing of setting it up and letting the horse find it -- you improve how you set it up; there is no need to improve the horse.  Of course, the horse does improve.  Like the bread (mostly) improves the more you make it. 

Excellence is internal.  But it will show externally.  But if it IS internal, whether it shows externally at the Olympics or in the back field doesn't matter.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

cows and quiet

Our cows are missing.  They do this sometimes but never for so long (this is third day) and we've always been able to find them OR they came home and we even have HAY for them . . . sigh.  So I'm a little sick with worry, imaginings.  This is how I do it: with fear, with "we won't be able to do this again", with catastrophe especially as rifle season is next week.  And still hopefully it won't be any of that.  But that is my secret life.

So I went for a VERY long walk in the woods.  "Woods" being National Forest.  "Long" being like 3 1/2 hours of solid walking.  And tracking.  And listening.  And trying to figure.  So at this point I know some more places they have been, and some places they haven't been as of this afternoon.

But what I was really thinking about was how quiet it is.  The noise tells me there is a chickadee, there is a grouse, there is a crow, there is a deer moving almost silently.  At one point there was a distant chainsaw and every time it started up is sounded like "mooooo".  But it wasn't.  That was the only external to the forest sound tho.  No planes today.  And so much silence.  So much absolutely quiet.  I was thinking about how we generally live pretty quietly ourselves and yet this was so much more.  I was thinking about how it would drive so many batsh*t crazy to find themselves alone with only the noise in their heads.

Me, I loved it.  And as much as I was hoping to round a bend and find the cows and drive them home, I thoroughly enjoyed the tracking too.  The left palm was always open to feel it -- I noticed that.  The temperature varied wildly too -- in one spot, I'd be wishing I could take off my coat (bright pink a better choice than blue flannel for muzzle loader season) and then around the bend I'd be zipping it up to my neck and donning the wool hat and winter gloves.  Then soon enough, around a bend so that I wasn't strictly on the north side of the slope or the wind quietened, and I would be ripping the hat off my head and stuffing it into a pocket.

When I came out onto the road and walked the more public path home, I did not like it so much.  Two boys talking loudly at each other where George and Tina's old place burned down.  A truck pulling out of Coy and Roy's with a dog yapping after it.  Same dog approaching me eventually but easily turned with zero eye contact and gentle speaking.  The mailman -- he was the good part.  A white truck with old tires in the back driving past me then turning -- but he had not dumped them at the turnaround when I got there.  Finally sounds from our closest neighbor's house where he is trying to make a one house suburbia -- the one sodium vapor light was not enough so now he has two, and all sorts of spot light things on every corner of his house and building as though, as though.  But the our land, ours.  Safe.

Cows, please come home.  There's hay.  I know you want a bull.  But there's hay.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

helooooooo out therrrrrrrrrrrrrre . . .

I got a call this morning.  I don't do the phone much.  Give me e-mail.  Give me blogs.  Give me facebook.  Nice lady.  She and her family are getting into homesteading.  Lots to her story (as there is for all of us, and I do love people's stories).  She was asking a lot of homesteading questions and, you know, I'm no expert -- we've just done it for years.  It is a YMMV thing.  What we've done works for us, and yet we are always changing it.

Anyway I am not on the phone going to try to answer the question, "How do you slaughter a chicken."  Actually the question was more on the lines of, "How do you eat a goat."  I don't actually think I've handled that particular one on this blog although we've done it, many times.  Goats, even females, even slaughtered right, even aged right, can taste a bit "strong", can be a bit stinky.  Then you cook by boiling adding vinegar every so often and letting that smell vaporize, mostly.  And maybe add barbeque sauce.  People are accustomed to bland.  Food from your homestead isn't bland.

Anyway, she had questions so I said, "Hey, I kept a blog for years.  Why don't you go there and see what you can find?  I don't write much over there anymore but I did for years."  So this post is to say, "HI KIM!"

And this post is to say, does anybody besides me still make the no knead bread that was so popular some years ago?  Here's the link to my version back then.  My version today looked like this:


Yes, they are that big.  I used 10 cups of flour in each loaf.  Just look at that crust curl on that front one!  Woohooo!  I'm thinking it was 5 cups of water, five tsp. of salt of course, a bit of yeast, and actually, a bit of whey off of yogurt to give the bacteria a good start.  That is probably supposed to kill you or something when you are leaving the stuff sitting out for a whole 24 hours or more.  But it is what I did.

This is how I cooked it:


Our outdoor caldron with a lipped lid is BIG, thus the big loaves.  Before I did 8 cups in it -- 10 is better, fits better.  It is a trick to cook like that because it is pretty much by instinct.  You have no real idea how hot the thing is.  I added coals, I guessed, I measured both loaves at about 40 minutes and neither was done in that time.  I think they both took more than an hour, and lots of added coals.  If I'd had a better bed of them to start with maybe.  The second fire is to keep coals coming because I cooked not only both loaves of bread but also am even as I write this roasting some chicken and carrots with cinnamon.  We'll see how that comes out.  I just try to see how much I can cook in there at a time once I get it going.  Today was about the limit as I'm tired of fire tending and cooking.

I was thinking as I was fire tending, though, how I used to think a lot about peak oil and how cooking like we do is so independent energy wise.  It is scrap wood, all around us.  Even burning it ads nothing to any environmental impact as it was going to rot anyway and that is just rapid oxidation vs. slow oxidation.  I don't think much about it anymore probably because we are so used to living it.

And in thinking of that first paragraph up there, how we are always changing what we do and yet mostly doing the same things -- you know I have this thing that people don't change, not really.  Not that it is impossible but it is rare.  There was this liar in our lives once a long time ago and she said, I won't lie any more, and we said, if you haven't lied to us in the next three years, then we'll believe you.  I think that stability allows for real change which is transformative.  Changing all the time, flitting this way and that, hither and yon, that's only surface change, not substantive.  And not getting anywhere.  Not that I want to get anywhere, but there are places I don't want to be so perhaps what I am doing is moving away from those.

And I was thinking about conformity and how I just can't do it.  And how the people I truly appreciate have never been able to pull it off either.  Neither to the mainstream nor to the counter-stream as it were.

This was my favorite photograph --

well darn, can't get it to load it right now but it is the deaf cat, supervising, from the tree that fell down just a few days ago, with the caldron and the fire in the background.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

no one is watching because no one can see

The free range old man horse of the farm came and stood in the wash rack.  Since his companion died he's become one of the barn hands rather than bond with another horse -- he comes and "helps" with chores.  Or maybe he just wants in a stall with a fan for awhile, and some carrots.  One day he stood in the wash rack.

He has some sort of metabolic thing and is on some sort of thyroid supplement but still grows long hair.  He has been clipped but could use another this summer.  I looked at his breathing.  I asked him if he wanted a shower.  He just looked at me with that way he always does.  If you could only imagine what a person he is, and I'm not anthropomorphizing.  I told him (because I do swear he understands English) that I would have time that day to hose him after I finished chores.

And when I hosed him down I told him that I'd be glad to do it anytime that I had time.  If I weren't rushed (and it is rare that I am), all he had to do was stand in the wash rack and I'd hose him off.  So pretty much every afternoon that I've worked since then, that's what he's done.  Then he usually goes to find something that looks dirty (like old shavings) to roll in and then goes somewhere shady and near a field with equines in it and hangs out.

This morning during chores, for the first time ever, he left a stall and went and stood in the wash rack and watched me.  I looked at him and said, "I hear you."  When I was finished with the stalls but hadn't swept the floor yet, I hooked up the hose to the cold water, turned the sprayer to "shower", and hosed him down.  Then I turned the sprayer to "jet" and did it again.  Then I put it on mist and did his face.  Then I scraped him.  And as soon as I was done, he walked out of the wash rack and out of the barn.

But it was while I was hosing him that I had deep thoughts.  Or feelings.  This old man horse, with the sway back and the spinal arthritis, with the propensity to buck if your leg is a bit off, with the eye that tells you that he's on equal terms with you and you'd better know that, I love him.  And not just love him.  Hosing him, I have huge feelings of gratitude that he allows me this service to him. 

It is I believe what they call compassion.  And I have it toward everything, all the time.  Although anyone who knows me would laugh at that because I have huge issues with people.  There is in people, in me too, this illusion of self, this ego.  And it gets in the way of, I swear, everything.  This horse, he is just perfect.  Perfectly himself, perfectly the universe, perfectly the microverse.

And I hose him and feel gratitude.

And my friend hugged me.  She said I encouraged her but really all I said was, "Let's ride."  And I'd like to tell her how precious friendship is to me, how I don't trust it, how I am likely to not be able to live up to it.

And my husband says, "I like you," and I really hope that is true although 24 years would lead one to believe it and not believe it too.

It is all this ego crap.  All this not BEing.  When I feel longing, it is longing to be past that ego crap.  When I feel full and whole and at peace, it is what is beyond ego crap.  When I am afraid, which is a lot, I am afraid for my ego, no doubt.  When I am mad, likely I'm mad at your ego.

Then I go back to that hosing that horse's ribs.  I go back to the blade of grass, the aqua sky backdrop to clouds.  I go back to the person before spikes, under armored plates.  And the heart there is open.  It doesn't open -- there is no act or process of opening.  Where there is no ego, it is open.  It is closed where there is ego.

There is no process, there is no path.  There might be practice.  There is certainly habit.  And resistance.  It is like surrendering when giving birth -- there is no way to DO it except to let it happen.  And deal with what comes up in the mean time.  There are choices to make that increase it or decrease it.  And yet still, no process.

You choose the method, you choose the results.