Monday, January 25, 2010

Smor-gas-bord Farm

It was last Sunday that Huck emerged from the car and stuck his foot in something ominous.  No.  On second thought, it wasn't actually something.  It was a lack of something, a negative, an omission in the mud just the wrong size and shape.  He looked up.  He scanned the horizon.  And he groaned, "Something really big has been through our yard while we were gone."  Dinosaurs? Woolly Mammoths?  And then I too looked beneath my feet and saw the imprints where the wet soil used to stand smooth.  Now there were six inch deep divots scattered thither and yon indicating utter directionlessness.  Like dance foot prints taped to the floor, and unless you're shown the mysterious order that unlocks their code, you're going to look more like a high-speed twister game than a waltz. 

"Maybe a moose again?"  But I could feel it in my stomach, a matching depression, a negative, an omission where hope and peace had resided just minutes before, smooth and soft like mud.

Huck tip toed to the barn in his wingtips.  The cows must be in there, since they weren't in the corral, where they'd been locked for two weeks due to a prior jail break.  He slid away that broad, white door and I knew something was missing.  Two things.  Two bovinical things.  Red and white. And large, as Huck predicted.

Our savior arrived in a white SUV with a large hunk of cubic zirconium sticking out of his ear.  He had news, fresh, hot news of a cow spotting one mile north.  ONE MILE NORTH.  okay... let's go over that again: ONE. MILE. NORTH.  In the woods.

While Huck spent the hour leading those gaseous asses home with a bucket of grain, I found the hole they bore with their boredom, hammered in two more seven foot T-posts and tied up more metal fence.

And then Hendrika left us the next day too.  I blew that week's discretionary funds on more T-posts which I was unable to slam into the ground because.... in the mean time, I chipped off the tip of my thumb and finger nail with a vegetable peeler.  Blood and pain and #$%&*!!! gushed out fluently and profusely, about 45 gallons per minute.  Hundreds of aloe vera packs later, my thumb looks great.  And I just completed my first day back from 9 off of milking and mucking.  I enjoyed sleeping in all nine times, even if it was with a throbbing thumb.

Can you imagine what it would have been like to husband cows last year?!  People are prone to note.  Last year Spokane had 7 feet of snow.  Must have been hard.  Whaaa.  But this year is so much better.  We've had, inch for melted inch, more precipitation than last year.  Mostly in the form of rain that cannot percolate down through the frozen tundra.  So it sits on top, threatening to drown the chickens, steeling barn boots, molding hay, and completely sucking in my wheel barrow like tar pits vs. mammoths.  And because of that, and the prolific nature of the bovine digestive tract,  I've got mountain ranges of shit all over that field.  I'm trying to truck it to the garden edges from whence I'll grab it as needed.  But I rarely make it that far, instead dumping the steaming loads where the wheel of the barrow sinks so low I can't shove it further forward.  At this auspicious and random spot, I just awkwardly throw it down with a peak-out  fake-opposite wrestling move well worth at least several hundred points and a gold medal.  It involves far more physical contact with shit than I'm comfortable with and I'd rather not discuss it further.

Changing the subject: chickens.  They too are barely contained by my sagging, quick and dirty fences.  And they tend to fly off.  Only three are talented enough to escape, but they stay close when they do.  Yesterday, I looked out to see a barred rock (those are the black and white checked ones) pause from munching at it's chicken food to take flight.  Priscilla, the white one, was chasing it.  And Angel or Dragon or whoever the heck, I can't tell anymore, easily cleared the fence and flew and flew and flew with utter grace, up and away.  Slack jawed awe struck me.  And then struck me again when I realized that what was soaring from our fenced-in chicken yard into the blue sky and over the road was a hawk.  From our barn.  It didn't take anything with it that I could see. The chickens babbled and wailed in distress, but remained physically whole.  And the numbers of our obese chickadees and barn swallows were not appreciably lessened. 

The wild birds are the only ones that seem to actually like and eat the chicken food, and since our chickens turn their beaks up at it, they've got an all they can eat buffet.  Eating like a bird must refer to wild birds.  Because it turns out that any species facing The Old Country Buffet is going to have a weight problem.  But in the wild, one buffet begets another.  And I expect to see that hawk again.   

And Coyote got strep throat, tonsillitis, and an abscessed tooth which all conveniently culminated on Saturday night, when everything is closed.  And you know, we freak when that boy gets too sick.


And then for dessert I got to read a novel and entertain several different friends.  

Now I'm afraid I'm going to have to close the all-you-can-eat farm drama buffet.  Not permanently.  It's just that Coyote is watching a DVD of Ghost Busters and I'm going to have to join him.  Who ya gonna call?!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Better Haiku

I suppose you've figured out by now that I'm not a blogger with a New Year's Resolution to blog more.  I've never been into those resolutions.  If something needs fixing in your life, just change it!  Don't wait!  And if you were going to quit or start whatever needs to be done, than you should have started with the inspiration.  A few years ago I began to feel culturally left out in mid-January when everyone else was feeling bad about themselves for their failures.  I have no special season in which to isolate this feeling.  So I began with a simple resolution: to do the splits within a year.  This, oddly, never happened.  I don't know who to blame.  But with that sort of resolution, failure is not apparent until about 3 seconds to midnight a year later...when everyone else is just getting stoke about their new resolutions.

So this year, I actually made some serious resolutions.  And I enjoyed procrastinating the necessary changes until right before I went to bed at 8pm on New Years Eve. It was like repeatedly pressing snooze on the motivation.  I won't publicly say I've failed miserably, because I defined success very vaguely and have no accountability.  So I won't and don't have to admit to failure, ever!  Which means I've kind of failed at the whole point of having a New Year's Resolution. 

No, the reason I haven't written is one part total inability to post pictures which is, I'm sure, rectifiable with more RAM in my brain.  And the other part is that I just read a slipshod momoir and I'm worried that my blog would sound like that.  Bad Mother was awesomely cool but had that written-the-night-before-term-paper feel to it with some overuse of "And yet." as a sentence and "That said..."  It read like an extended blog entry, with a proof reader.  Like so many books, it would've made a dense and rich article.  And so many articles might've made a better paragraph.  And, perhaps, there are many blog entries that might've shined more brilliantly as a haiku in a personal journal kept under the bed.

It reminded me of when I was single and living alone in my own apartment and I made my meals on the weekends to tote around with me during the week.  I made mushroom bisque one weekend.  This is probably a fabulous soup as a fifth of a five course meal.  But as the only course...for an entire week... I haven't touched the stuff in the 11 years since.

Ayelet Waldman had some great anecdotes and intriguing ideas in her momoir.  She even had a point about the obnoxious militance particular to the attachment parenting set... of which I am a half-assed member.  Whereas she was puzzled by this, I think I've got a great grasp on the process that created it.  For all of us who try anything outside of our general culture, we have to go through a series of steps.  Imagine the new parent considering the task before her. How will she parent?  What will she do?  The route to her parenting identity can be imagined as a T, an El, a BART.  This new parent boards the Blue line.

First stop on the Blue Line is called Analyze and Critique.  Here we deconstruct the dominant paradigm of parenting in America today.  We note the pitfalls, the crying shames, the hazards.   

The Second stop on the Blue Line is Research and Explore Alternatives.  This is where Dr. Sears might replace Dr. Spock.  We find an alternative that suits us.  So... it's out of town a bit.  It's not what our parents think is right.  But it's a better substitute for the complaint-worthy infancy we obviously had, if our current life skills are to be taken as an indicator.  And we find that in the cloth-diapering, extended breastfeeding, baby-wearing world we long to create for our wee wittle wons, we find only jeer-leaders in our culture.

So we move on to the fourth stop on the Blue Line: Support.  In order to do anything counter-cultural, you need a support group.  You need people around you that make you feel normal, that make you feel that swirling a shitty diaper around a toilet for five minutes is perfectly natural.  And so you find magazines, baby groups, friends, and forums.  This is your stop.  EXIT THE CAR!

But instead, some among us cannot seem to get off the T at this point.  And take it all the way to the very last stop:  Intolerance and Militance.  Yes, we all need courage to listen to our hearts, strap our children to our chests and make the family bed.  But feeling sure of your own action so easily turns into harshly criticizing anyone who doesn't share your dream and your insane level of commitment to this ideal.

And boy, have I heard it! I got reamed for weening Blue at 3! For 3.25 years, I allowed that child full access to breasties and the nectar within.  Someone had the gall to tell me that because I initiated the weening, I denied my daughter the ability to develop her own intuition.  I'm still laughing.  

Some attachment support websites have little icons you add to your profile... a collection of parenting chops to increase the weight of your comments: home schooler, home birther, extended breast feeder, cloth diaperer, all organic,  family bed, baby-wearer, vegetarian.  Earth-mama-ego, one friend calls it.  Extreme parenting, I call it.

I no longer feel the need to surround myself with choice-specific support.  And many of us, with kids of these ages, have discovered that parenting is just one big mess and we're all muddling through it as best we can.  A few are still off in their enclaves of righteousness, but they're mostly avoidable.  

I've had the misfortune of being lumped in with them, even though I'm pretty darn non-evangelistic about it all.  I feel like I've got to keep my mouth shut, otherwise I might be treated to a counter-attack.  I'm happy with the choices I made.  I considered my options and listened to my heart.  That said, more important than my obviously fabulous decision making and determination, is that every mom feel supported to make her best, personal choices about this immensely difficult, confusing, and demanding job.  However, just having an opinion, or choosing to do it differently can be seen as inherent criticism.  I chose cloth diapers, and am subjected to some super defensive lecture about that.  I hang out with stay-at-home moms who assume that because I'm doing that right now, I, like them, think it's the RIGHT thing to do.  My diet for the past 15 years can be best described as vegetarian, but I have gotten an earful from omnivores for whom the very existence of my diet is felt as an attack.  What!?  I never said squat against omnivores.  My life-style choices are thoroughly considered around deeply held beliefs.  Regardless - and maybe I'm alone in this way- I can still respect omnivores and disposable diaperers!   I'm sure you can be a good mom AND have a crib... unless you're a dad.  There's got to be more than one way to raise a well adjusted kid.

If I were younger, I might consider going mega-evangelist about it all...just to make the criticism I've received seem fair.  And yet.  And yet.

I support you.  I trust you to follow your heart, to listen to your own intuition, not mine, and to figure out what you need to do from there.  And, I pray thee, please trust me to follow mine.  It's nothing against yours, I'm just going to follow my own damn heart.

Me.  On my path.
You.  On yours.
Crossing and blameless.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Knit Picky

Didn't I just say I wasn't going to get involved in anything that didn't really resonate with me?  I wonder what happened with that.

I just got roped into a knitting circle.  Yoko snagged me.  She hosted an informal one at her house last month and I went to check it out.  And suddenly we're, like, an official circle of knitters.  Except me.   I'm the kid who shows up for kindergarten with the pacifier still pinned on to her shirt.  I'm toting around Blue's giant knitting scaffolding: large plastic circles with a hundred knobs around the top.  It was rather embarassing. Everyone else wiggled dainting needles, two to eight of them at a time.  And they were consulting design blueprints in complicated codes, knitting binary, with the engineer's signatures on the bottom.  And they had sumptuous yarn.

Me?  Upon my inflatible life-preserver, I was knotting black polyester.

But they didn't give a shit.  They encouraged me and enjoyed my company and let me chase after their kids and hold their babies while they looped and pearled. 

I can't say I've taken to knitting.  My hat turned out okay.  Bored stiff with a black beany,  I put in some hot pink flames around the top.  And since it turned out so easily, there's just not much for me to enjoy.

I'm heading into the knitting circle again tomorrow, anway.  My loyalty to this amazing Japanese immigrant, Yoko, is already taking hold.  I'm a rediculously loyal person in general, beyond reason and wisdom.  It takes a profound, life-shattering disappointment to change that... and even then... I'm probably still you're loyal friend after all these years, and I don't even know if your reading this.

But I don't have any yarn.  The black is gone, thank god.  The hot pink is out of sinc.  The brown is committed to Blue's project and the red Santa gave her is sacred.  So, I had to get some more today.

One of the ladies in Yoko's knitting circle is a REAL KNITTING AFICIONADO.  And she recommended this one place.

I found the lamely punned knitting nook of a store hidden behind several other buildings.  And the first thing I saw was a knitting counsel of three women sitting by the door.  The next thing I saw was a wall of the daintiest and prettiest yarn I'd ever seen.  I would have swooned at the beauty and become a loyal knitter for the rest of my crazy days, except for the glaring price tag: $40 for this little twist of yarn no bigger than a baby's foot.  A whole wall of them!  They went down from there, but I was immediately put on notice that this was not my store.

I finally found something in my not-so-thrilled-beginner knitting-obligation price range and stood in line for 10 minutes while the lady at the register chatted up the woman infront of me at the counter.  I generally like chatting at the cash register.  It humanizes the whole monetary transaction.  It's sociologically and psychologically important.  And yet, 10 minutes felt to me, as the person waiting in line, like we'd gone past adding a touch of humanity to a job, to inhumane.  And when I got up there, the lady looked at me sternly and cautioned, "You know this is only 60 yards."
"Yes, I saw that.  Is that not enough?"
"Not for anything."
"Oh.  I'm just beginning, I don't know much about this stuff."
"What gauge are you using?"
"Gauge?  I'm using a large plastic ring that looks like a toilet seat.  It's my daughters and she taught me how to use it.   I accidentally joined this knitting circle and I just need some yarn on that thing to make it look like I belong.  I just need to look like I fit in.  Do you think it's enough yarn for that?"
The look of utter disgust over this woman's face was so obvious, so overwhelming that she could have won an Oscar for over-reacting.
Her nose obviously in the air now, she sputtered, "Wh....wh...wh...what are you making on this... this... THING?"
"Um... I think I want to make a neck warmer.  Like a scarfy hat thing.  Think hat without a top."
"This isn't going to do it."  So that's why that ball was so cheap!  It can't make anything!
"Didn't you find the sale rack?"  She rolled her old eyes in their saggy sockets.
"I think I almost did, but not quite."
"You'll need 100 yards at least."
I rummaged through the garish balls until I found something.  I've been to big, national chain craft stores with huge rolls of yarn for five bucks.  So...I had some sticker shock even in the sale basket.

And then I waited in line again for 10 damn minutes! While some other lady signed up for classes then signed down because she'd be out of town and did she really need to take a class for that?  While some other lady across the store was loudly bragging about the pattern she was buying for:
"I'M DOING THE BLUNDERBUSS PATTERN?  THAT? OH! YOU HAVEN'T HEARD?  PRINCESS LMAO WORE THIS SWEATER FOR 40 YEARS AND THEN HER DAUGHTERS, PRINCESSES OHYEAHRIGHT AND SHUTUPALREADY WORE IT FOR 40 YEARS AND THEN ONE OF THEM TOOK IT TO A KNITTERY, IN ENGLAND YOU KNOW, AND ASKED THEM TO REPLICATE THE PATTERN.  AND SO THAT'S IT.  ONLY THE FINEST WOOL WILL DO, YOU KNOW! BLAH BLAH BLAH!  I'M SO FABULOUS AND IMPORTANT AND RICH AND FANCY AND YADDA YADDA YADDA, GOSH MY EGO IS GETTING SO BIG, I BETTER GET GOING BEFORE I CAN'T GET OUT THE DOOR WITH THAT THING!"

Soooo.... knitting is another one of those highly competative female arts, it seems.  Just like herbs.  The egos run rampant.  The loud show offs face off.  At an herbal conference once, I almost saw two women go to blows over lavender. LAVENDER! It's supposed to be calming!  Give these women a keg and some chain saws and I think we'd really have ourselves a great time.

Meanwhile, I'm still standing in line.  Coyote is starting to loose his cool, understandably.  I promised the hungry boy one quick errand.  And here we were, still.  I began staring at the clock.  I really didn't want to drive across town to the cheap yarnery and I had to have something by tomorrow.  But if I didn't get helped in five minutes, I was going to have to leave and never come back.  Which gave me a great idea.  I would never go back anyway.  The service was snotty and snobby and snooty.  Not to mention negligent.  I mean, here I was, a new knitter, a new possible client for their store.  Sure, I'm still using the knitter's equivalent of pull-ups, but I am a potential life time customer too!  And what do I get?  A nose in the air and a cold shoulder.  After the piano teacher experience and some of our neighbors, I can certainly proclaim now that Spokane has some serious class issues.

And finally, it was me.  My turn!  And I did the strangest thing that really surprised me.  It was so out of character.  And yet it felt so right.  So good.  I could have said something about the shoddy service, but I'm sure it was intentional.  So...I had all of this cash in my wallet that I'd dug out from our booth last fall at the Barter Faire and I pulled it all out on her counter.  And I very slowly counted past the crisp fives and ones.  I pulled from my wad the dirtiest, crumpliest, torn-i-est, nastiest one dollar bills I could find.  Considering they were from Barter Fair... they were as grody as the imagination can muster. And then came the pennies.

She did not thank me for my business.  I will never give it to her again anyway.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Big Game

Ah. The Holidays are finally over. We can now pack up the perennial familial misunderstands back into their specially labeled boxes and safely store them in our vacuumed attics until next year. Peace on Earth.

Predictions for 2010 are that I will turn 35, finally. I've been soooo looking forward to that one, for like 30 years or something. I predict I'll really enjoy the sensation of time and youth slipping from my finger tips like a child I'm trying to save from falling off a cliff and being dashed innocently against the jagged rocks below while angry ocean waves foam at the mouth. I can already feel the sensation of failing at that. And hearing the baby scream all the way down and then the sickening thud of my youth. Dead.

I also predict lots of other fun games too. Like the one where the cows get out and dance in the streets and the neighbors knock on our door and tell me how much better they are than me and then inform me that all of my supposedly domesticated animals are loose. Although the freshest patty of miscreant bovines is only hours old, the story feels much much older than that.

Luckily I've got legal equity and lawyers that still love me. One of them looked up Spokane County's policy and found we live in a Live Stock Containment Zone, where any Live Stock outside it's fences should be shot on sight. Live stock, my ass! Tell me what you think: to my untrained ears that kind of sounds like a low tolerance policy. So... that game's getting a little old.

I also predict that we will play until puking the 7 games we feverishly unwrapped last week.

Christmas produced a Pokemon playing frenzy that lasted 6 hours and ended in fisty-cuffs (that was the children!). Pokemon? You ask. Pokemon? At Little Green Gables on the Prairie? Let me explain: Santa thought that our kids were getting a little TOO FAR OUT of the main stream and he thought a Pokemon game would be a way to give them some pop cultural sensibilities to discuss around the tot-sized water coolers.

That evening the ultra-NW-style passive-aggressive game of "Sorry" issued forth even more insincere apologies than my family usually lavishes on our gatherings. That was followed up by a humiliating pummeling by Huckleberry at Farm-opoly. The thing about that and all Monopoly-esc games is that you don't just loose, you are disgraced and shamed, forced to stand on the corner of Sprague and Wall in a sandwhich board that reads "I fully suck at managing money". It's not like Sorry or Uno where your loss is fairly impersonal. Monopoly is where one player serves up a plate full of shit and makes everyone else eat it. At least that's how we play.

Then Coyote and Blue learned how to play chess and Coyote has won it about 20 times now. This is good because he's a very poor looser. In fact, if I were him, I'd question all my wins... they might just be due to the likelihood that no one wants to deal with a loosing Coyote.

Example: after 34 years of loosing, I finally won monopoly (the farm version, again) yesterday. I kicked ass. I mopped up the floor with them and it sucked. Coyote fell to the floor screaming. He threw acreage and barns. He hit. He roared. He whimpered. The Lamentations of Coyote are Category 5 with gusts up to 180 mph. And I couldn't help but feel sorry for myself. I've hated Monopoly and it's relatives. I've never won. I've always been the one to eat shit. And here was Coyote, absolutely ruining my one success! Being a mom can be so unfair.

I honestly didn't even try to win. The second I saw it happening, I started back pedaling. I gave discounts on rent. I forgave loans. But I kept winning the manure pile. And with all that money, who wouldn't put up some big red barns!? I love red barns. 

That's the way life is, kids. Success is a double edged sword. That's what Monopoly has taught me; the costs of winning are too great. Better to loose, all the time, at everything. Better yet, lets just not play. Playing sucks.

And so I'd like to wish us all a Happy, Loosing-full New Year. May we never win anything, or succeed at anything, or even try.

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