Sunday, September 19, 2010

Come on, now! Socialize!

When I did the math on how long I'd be alone, daily, after Coyote finally went to school, I did it wrong.  It's 8 hours, not 9 --which explains why my "to do" task-master-list is not being completed.  This incompletion may also be due to the fact that my list is two pages long and not even an army of studmuffins could complete it in a week.  I'm a bitch of boss.

But my point is that I do not see people for most of that time.  Except for Friday's knitting group (I forgot how to knit over the summer hiatus!).  I am apparently much less social than I thought.  And either I've grown to be frightened of people or I've come to realize that the immense energy I exude when around people is terror-based and I've adapted by slapping up a fresh coat of smile on it and ... tada! I look like I love a room full of strangers!  It's magic. 

The bad thing about not being socialized is that I get out of practice.  I forget to ignore and avoid.  I forget my manners.  I forget to suck-in my energy level.  I forget to hide myself, basically.  I forget to pretend I'm someone WAY more together, quiet and proper.  When I'm in practice, I can sort of try to fit in.  This has been a bigger challenge here in Spokane than anywhere else.  Spokane is full of wonderful people.  But it's different.  I seem to get along a little better if I keep at least half of myself covered up in my magic, invisible cloak that the elves gave me.

(this photo is of me, incognito, and Coyote wearing his "night-vision" spy-gear that he found at Goodwill)

The Unitarian neighborhood potluck was right after church today and I thought I'd have time to go home, toss together my now-famous gluten-free clafouti and arrive in time.  I'd convinced myself that this glorified flan recipe only took 20 minutes. 

"Now how much time in the oven?  35 minutes! What that hell?! Nuts-a-roni! You dingleberry!  Your conversion bakes ten minutes MORE than the original recipe.  Not 10 minutes period."   But a clafouti once assembled cannot turn back.  What was I to do?  I showed up at the potluck with my timer ticking, obviously.  The moment I walked in with my timer in my hand, I realized I was going to have to explain myself, and I knew the gig was up.  I knew there was no hiding the spastic lady I really am deep down inside.  I knew there was nothing to do but be myself in all my unacceptable glory.  And so I was.

Gleefully, most people seemed if not amused, then at least well-tolerating.  And I enjoyed meeting lots of "new" people, most of them old, except for one younger wife.  And lucky for me, they seemed glad for some new energy.  Not all people are like this.  I once had a writing professor direct me to get my thyroid checked, she thought my enthusiasm for her class was misplaced.  I discovered that it was misplaced and my thyroid is the picture of health.  At any rate, I enjoyed these people and their interesting lives and no one suggested I get my thyroid checked.

One woman and I were discussing our trips to Belize.  In more obtuse terms, and thoroughly abbreviated, I related this story:

I worked in Mexico with a Belize girl and we thought it would be fun for me to visit her family for a week or so.  We went on vacation together.  Her family was Mayan and had a sugar plantation I checked out.  We ate huge avacado's for every meal.  Her sister-in-law taught me how to make tortillas.  Her brother tattooed me with home made ink and a guitar string. 

And we went to the fair.  When in Rome, do as the Romans, right?  That's how I roll, except in the U.S.  So I let them pick out my clothes to match theirs, imagining that I'd just blend in in her satin, purple and very short dress and very high heels.  Already being a foot taller than anyone in her town, the heels were entirely unnecessary and the dress-on-loan was WAY TOO SHORT considering the length of my legs vs. hers.  When we rode the wooden Ferris wheel, the entire town assembled at the bottom to watch my butt poke through the slats.  Then I danced with a doctor who kept telling me what wonders my dancing with him would do for his reputation because he'd grown up in that town as a total dork and even now that he was back as a doctor he still couldn't live down his dork reputation.  Perhaps, I thought, that's because the problem persists.  But I felt safe with him and he was polite, considering the songs.  Caribbean music is... rather... um... crude.  This dance had a caller calling out the moves and so it was: porno-meets-polka.  "Pop the bunny in the hole to the left.  Pop the bunny in the hole to right.  Swing your partner and now it's three steps back and bury it in the beaver. Keep it there.  Keep it there.  Alright now." 
"Hooo-ee!" I said after about three seconds, "I should really take a break!  I'll go get something to drink."
"Yeah," he said, "I better go check on my mom.  I think she wants to dance too."
I strode up to the bar and ordered a water.  A man offered to buy me a beer.  I declined because I was feeling a little disoriented and lost and wanted my full set of faculties just then... not that they did much good.  Another man overheard and offered to buy me a beer too.  I declined, but another man overheard and offered to buy me a beer.  I declined.  And then another man overheard and took matters into his own hands and just bought me a beer.  I declined.  So he poured the beer in to my water.  A few to a couple hundred other men overheard this and also poured beer into this "super-tall white-girl's" cup.  But then my cup overflowed, so they pressed in on me and poured beer all over my head, my shoulders, my arms, my hands. They were almost like a host of anointing angels, except the exact opposite.
And just when I realized that the situation was completely out of hand and looking extremely dangerous, someone yanked on my arm and pulled me out: my friend's brother.  He shoved me into his van and told his wife to keep guard.  Then he rounded up the rest of the family and we went home where the father and the family and I all had a frank discussion and they decided I should leave for my own safety.  I didn't want to head back to my job in Mexico (because I had been threatened with deportation for working without documents), but aimed for Guatemala instead, which they all agreed would be much safer (and it was, for the most part, except for the bus back to Mexico that dropped me off in the middle of the jungle... but that's another story).  I was driven to the bus station and given explicit directions.  I was not to look out the windows and not to make eye-contact with anyone.  Belize, they said, was too screwed up for a single traveling girl. And it was.  It was the most colonialistically screwed up place I've ever been and that includes India and parts of Africa. I actually have many more stories from both that night and my week there, but this is the only one you get today.  If you want more, you'll have to come out here and buy me a beer yourself.  By the way: I'm sure the beaches and hotels of Belize are all fine tourist sanctuaries.

My potluck companion and I marveled at how different her trip was.  And then this other lady of super-stiff demeanor says, "Well G, the difference is probably your personalities.  Yours is so open and honest and hers is... well."

G interrupts, "Oh MY GOD!  WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!  We actually have very similar personalities, more similar than what you'd think." G frantically shut her up and tried to erased her hurtful comment.

But what personality did that lady think I have? And why did she imagine she knew after having been in a room with me for an hour?  Did this have to do with my timer?  But the clafouti turned out awesome!  I drove home, pulled it out of the oven just in time and drove back with a perfectly set clafouti.  Here I was, resigned to being the off-putting crank that I am and the results were just as bad as I feared.  But I can't be too hard on the stiff-lady because that's just the sort of foot-in-mouth accident I'm too familiar with myself.

G and I decided that the difference was 1977 and 1999, married and single, well-worn tourist-accustomed path vs. godforsaken village, and who knows what else?

Sorry there's no photos of this.  There was an accidental viewing of that photo album and I decided it would be safer to put it in to deep storage and I have completely forgotten where that might be.  It's probably for the best that I don't post these internetally.  I might want to get a job some day. 

Anyhoo... these pics ARE of our Saturday amble to the Spokane County Fair where spinning around backwards really fast thankfully did not have much of an affect on the curly fries, root beer float, and cotton candy in my stomach!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Hot pink slaughter

I don't know what to do.  I'm sitting here, trying to read the paper, in the kitchen and I'm getting dive-bombed by... no, not just flies, but MATING flies.  A veritable fly orgie.  There's couplings and menage a troi-ings in my hair, on my arms, in my water.  This must be the last hurrah before the cold dampens the meet market on my front window. 

I find it difficult to swat mating flies.  I once stepped on mating garden slugs... well.. .they were just beginning their hours-long magnum opus and I've found it impossible to forgive myself because mating slugs are one of this world's trippiest spectacles (please, stop reading this NOW and go youtube it!  NOW!)  I'm ill suited to violently introducing death into the midst of biology's greatest ecstatic achievement.

Are the flies in ecstasy?  Does it sound like: BzzzzzzzZ? or BxxxZ! 

It's not just meat n' greet here.  No.  There's drama too.  This one fly is going back and forth between two.  I'm bad at fly gender-assessment so I'm not sure if I'm observing a jerk-fly promising his last few hours to both fly-ettes or if I'm watching a tart-fly gaming for expensive accessories.  A bi-fly unable to commit one way or the other?  And I suppose, statistically there must be some gay flies cruising my kitchen.  Who needs TV soaps when you've got flies? 

If they could just stop mating, I'd be able to hit them with the fly swatter

I recently read that Oprah's new-found, profound deep respect for all life has caused her to stop killing flies and spiders in her house.  Either she hires out all her killing or she lives in a massive maggot and mice infested house with a top layer of spiders, frogs and snakes. 

No. Really.  I understand where she's coming from.  I used to be like that too (and yeah...I'm patronizing.  This is something people say when they want to tell you that they are much higher than you are on a rung of stages we all climb through towards enlightenment... not recognizing of course that there's no hierarchy of stages, except for this one with the non-killing of minor bugs).  I used to be Jain.  I still enjoy Jain meditation, but once I realized that even within my own blood, I could never get those white cells to stop killing off the foreigners, I gave up on the non-killing ideal.  I came to see death and killing not as my enemies but as my henchmen.  On a cellular level, me and death are tight.  Like that.

This is how it is in here.  My house is my habitat.  And like every living thing on this planet, I deserve at least that.  I get to protect my home and my food from invaders.  And I do it all without long lasting, poorly aimed weapons such as pesticides.  If sizes were reversed, would the spider gently free me from his web?  Would the gopher allow me to filch scraps?  Would the mice feed me under that table?  As a legitimate being taking her miraculous turn at existence, it is my right to have a home and food and I don't feel guilty about it.  The flies, spiders, frogs and hoodlums can go outside.  There's a big world out there, just perfect for them.  But within these walls, their guts are my floor polish.

Death is my friend.  So far, it's done well by me, except for some seriously untimely mistakes I believe it has made.  Aside from those unforgivable f-ups,  I am grateful for death.  Even as a vegetarian (mostly).  My farm life has put me in greater touch to this most essential element of life.  We've killed over 30 gophers, so that we can grow SOME THING here.  I've watched them decompose, watched the peculiarly marked beetles lick their bones.  My electric fence has killed four birds.  My trough, three birds.  My cat? umpteen.  (Note to bird lovers: I've also planted trees and shrubs in habitat-creating pairings) We've electrocuted to crispy oblivion 4 mice here (a fraction of my lifetime total).  I've killed hundred of flies and spiders.  Perhaps millions of plants and god knows how many bacteria and viruses.  My home is made of dead trees and dead rocks made in to sheets.  My life here is made possible by billions of deaths of humans that made room for me, even soldiers, pioneers, pilgrims.  And this brings me to the near genocide of the Children of the Sun on who's land I squat.  Can't be thankful for that... oh my... that's a very complicated issue that is beyond the scope of this current blog entry. 

All in all, death has done well by me.  And when it's my time to go slowly, but not too slowly, painlessly and non-traumatically after a long long life, I should think that I will be glad to repay death, and all those dead stars who made my molecules possible.

After this marvelous pep-talk, I now feel prepared to un-sheath my hot-pink swatter and slaughter.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hay You!

It's a little lonely here on Lucky Farm.  Some one didn't do the math until the morning Coyote finally trotted off to school.  Turns out it's 9 hours a day, here, me, myself, and I, alone.  I miss my kids.  I kind of want them back.  When they get off the bus, I'm there, waiting with snacks and games to play and books to read together and questions and songs to sing together (with motions!) and art projects and fun chores to share in. But all they want to do is eat the snacks and then lay down and zone out.  Unrequited enthusiam.

When my mind finally calculated that big, lonely NINE, I swooned with fear.  What will I do for NINE hours a day, all by myself?  Well... a lot, it turns out.  A hell of a lot.  And I'm not really bothered by NINE hours a day of hard farm labors.  I'm fine.  There are bets wagered on how long I'll last before I break down and get a job, just for the social aspect.  Fortunately, for those on my side who think I'll be fine (there's only one of us), the job offerings look really terrible.  I'd require a bucket of anti-depressants every morning to take any of them.  ANY OF THEM.  Let's hope I can figure my way through this without a real job.

My life here isn't the LONELIEST ever.  Hired people come by some times.  For instance, we recently had our cows inseminated.  And the camera was in the shop... darn.  Fred was a nice guy, creepy, as you'd expect for someone who's chosen profession is to drive around with a smorgasbord of frozen semen in his truck... and then get that stuff into the appropriate cow orifice.  Hendrika gave a low, sultry moo as Fred's arm reached in an impossibly long ways.  But Sukey thrashed and nearly shattered the stanchion.  I saved 40 bucks 'cuz they were, oddly, in heat on the very same day. 

At my request, Fred, a man I found on Craigslist, brought miniature Jersey sperm.  I'm not sure if the lil' swimmers were miniature themselves, but I do hope they contain miniature genetics.  Actually, officially they're called "Low Line".  Which sounds more like "Low Life" or like valley-specific cows.  You might imagine miniature to be a new thing, a breeder-fancy genetic-freak cow.  I prefer the term "Old World," because the Jersey's originally from the English channel island called Jersey were smaller. All the cows were smaller 400 years ago.  Much smaller.  But we here in the the U.S. of A like BIG BIG things.  So we supersized our cows.  With a dairy cow, all food in excess of maintenance goes to milk.  So... if less food goes to less cow for maintenance, then there's more to go for milk.  Economically, a smaller cow can produce more milk as a ratio to food that a larger cow.  And thereby reducing my hay costs.  Bigger isn't economically better in a milk cow and logic has never stopped the American psyche from it's obsessions.

And this brings me to a sad fact that I've not wanted to face.  Cows aren't pets, really.  They are our pets, for sure.  And visitors marvel that they didn't expect cows to have personalities.  But they do.  And to keep the milk coming, we have to keep producing calves.  This would add up to a lot of cows soon.  Very soon.  We neither have the space nor money for such an unculled herd.  And so, I have come to understand that after Sukey gives me my miniature Jersey baby, she will be sold.  Along with Ginger, most likely.  And since they are nearly pure Herefords, they will be sold to someone who will kill them.  It chokes me up.  Sukey is the most beautiful cow in the world.  Her toes still look like ballet slippers.  And she still has the sweetest personality.  I wish I could take her to school with me.  And Ginger sports goofy tuft on her head and a silly littly kick.  And to think, some day I will sell them to someone who will not, should not, care a whit for personality.   Hopefully, my new calves will ease the pain.

I could choose to not do this, this most horrendously expensive hobby.  I could just kick the death and reality down the line and do what worked before... go to the store and buy a gallon of milk and let someone else deal with the calves and the bulls and loss and sorrow, someone who doesn't care all that much for the individual cows but has so many that the losses are cushioned by never having had much to loose.  And there would go all the fun I'm having, all the connection to my food, and the joy of relating to another being. 

And the raw milk!  I was listening to a medical radio show and someone called in to ask about raw milk. And boy!  Sheesh! Did they ever get the riot act!  From a doctor who would NEVER say that canned carrots are just as good as fresh, raw ones.  He actually said that all the hype about raw milk is just that.  And there's nothing different from safer, pasteurized milk.  And then, without the slightest acknowledgment of irony, he went on to discuss the 1500 sickened by eggs recently.  There are these people out there who seriously believe that the industrial food chain is safe, safer in fact than home made stuff.  These people always astound me with their blind faith in our food system and with their ignorance of how many people are truly sickened by contaminated, mass produced food.  The radio doctor suggested this woman look up the DEATH statistics on the CDC website to see how bad raw milk is.  Not as bad as getting in your car and driving to work, but who would recommend against that? It was a vitriolic and ill-informed tirade based completely in fear.

Now... it's true that mass produced raw milk could be a bigger risk than I am taking now.  I was imagining having a certified raw dairy (does not pencil out economically in any way, shape or far as I can tell) and it would be very different than what I am doing now.  I would be quicker.  I would use machines.  I would have a few more cows.  I would have customers with scheduled pick-ups of raw milk.  This would all be incompatible with my current methods of carefully, thoroughly cleaning the teets.  Of milking by hand, and watching every molecule enter the bucket.  And finally, when I strain the milk in my kitchen, if anything dropped in, I can pasteurize.  If I had customers expecting raw milk, I couldn't do that.

I offer my milk to my friends and visitors.  If they're into it, they jump forward.  But at the slightest hint of apprehension, I rescind my offer.  The last thing I want is someone blaming the common flu on me and my cows.  I've also stopped gifting my canned goods and Huck's cider.  I recognize that look, that terror of home made goods... and I ain't tossing pearls before swine any more.  Go to Jack-in-the-Box and eat your burgers.  Get your eggs from the store.  Fine.  It's your funeral. Not my funeral.  Tra-la-la-la-la!

So to feed these beasts, I ordered two tons of half grade Timothy hay to get us started.  This hay-guy was sported interesting bumper stickers.  Ate weeds, just like me.  Knew a lot about animals and gardens and wild plants.  I asked him so many questions and hung on his every, experienced word that Huck began to wonder if I'd really ditch him for an aged, crippled farmer with an ax to grind against Amtrak.  

But it's funny, all these farmers HATE the industrial food chain too.  They even school me on the crap they know goes down, and I am highly, probably overly, educated on the food chain.  They only eat their own beef.  They grow a lot of their own food.  You'd think these conservative farm folks would be all about crappy fast food.  But they've surprised me with their knowledge and care. 

The next load was good Timothy, seven tons.  And this was delivered by the most torn-up, red-neckiest crank I have ever met.  He shows up three hours late.  His matte black truck chugs and stalls in the driveway.  And right on the front grate perch two, shiny, silver mud-flap girls with stiff nipples and tilted at a most unrelaxing angle.  I've seen a lot of these around Spokane.  One was riding a Chevy symbol.  OUCH!! And another was a mid-weight woman reading a book.  COOL! 

On this hay-guys back window were Confederate flag stickers, "RED NECK PRIDE" stickers, and "Welcome to America.  We speak English here.  Learn it or leave."  The irony of that last one being written in English was apparently lost of this guy. However, the irony of it written in Spanish would be interesting too. Around here there's big pro-English sentiment.  The theme for an neighboring Idaho County fair had been "Fiesta at the Fair," until someone noticed that Feista was not an English word.  So it's now "Party at the Fair,"... "in solidarity with Arizona."  And I can't figure out what the big deal is with English anyway.  I mean, didn't we have a big, giant war with them?  And now we all speak their language, like we were conquered or something.

Anyway, this guy was really out of shape, missing most of his teeth, large bruises of his face.  I thought I'd paid for someone to stack my hay, but it turned out he needed my help for two hours!  90 pound bales are NOT my forte.  And on my injured ankle too!  I'm still in pain.

Despite his crazy politics and truck (which is why -I think- no less than three neighbors stopped by to check on me during his visit), I felt a lot of humanity towards him.  And he had this hip thing he did, a swivel/cock reminiscent of nearly every gay man I've known, and I found it endearing.  In fact, the mud flap girls combined with the hip swivel made me think he might be gay.  I'm almost certain he would beat me to death if I mentioned it.  ... but it seemed really likely.  The problem with homophobia is more than that it's dangerous for out gays.  If he weren't so scared of gays, be might have, at some point, asked himself some important questions about who he really is. But instead, every moment from bull-riding (which broke two disks and a knee) to his truck is all about screaming to the world that whoever he is, whatever he is, he is NOT GAY!  I don't really know, of coarse. 

And, in the end, it turns out Huck is deathly allergic to Timothy hay.  Last year we had orchard grass, which was fine enough.  I mean, he was never going to roll in it or anything.  But the Timothy has sent him into near anaphylactic shock twice now.  Instantly, he's covered in welts and unable to breath.  Asking around since these incidents in which Huck only touched one bale for five seconds, I've heard that Timothy is known for that sort of reaction.  Huck can't go into the barn now.  And guess who has to do ALL of the cow care for the next year?!  Guess who?! 

Friday, September 3, 2010

the parent trap

So Sarajoy, you ask, why are you blogging here with one leg high in the air?  And why isn't your son in school?  And how is it that you are still alive? And how does it feel to be celebrating your two year anniversary of a poorly circulated blog?  Why are you still blogging?

Good questions, all of them.  And I hope to answer some for you right here, on my public (supposedly) blog.

Coyote is not in school today because we are "choicing" our kids in to a better, closer school in Cheney, rather than shipping them out across the tundra on hours long bus rides.  And Coyote didn't get in.   Getting that phone call last week was not quite devastating, as I've had the very best summer with my kids.  However a marathon runner may love to run, moving the finish line a mile down just as she's approaching is a little cruel.  I'd paced myself all summer.  I'd spread the summer camps and visits out.  I'd planned for the lulls in between.  And, as a matter of pure survival, I cleared my entire to-do list these last two weeks for one large MUST-DO.  My list: SURVIVE.  This meant pools and beaches and camping in friend's back yards and yes... canning, jamming and salsifying peaches until I wept peach juice all over the kitchen tiles, slipped, knelt and begged the peach gods to make it stop.  Two peaches left!

But now.. what of this?  This "bonus" summer? My choice was to wait a week, see if he got in later, then make my decision.  Everyone wanted to know what I would do if I didn't get in.  And I thought: that would be a total waste of precious brain space if he does get in.  I'll figure it out if we get there.  Meanwhile,  I resurrect my list of projects to be done.  I'm readying the garden for winter.  I'm stacking tons (literally) of hay all by myself!  Coyote and I have read together, puzzled, origami-ed, baked cookies.  But I need to get back to some of my personal goals which have been on hold all summer and the hiatus has created an existential crisis of crisis proportions.

Yesterday, Coyote made a "chicken trap", intended for our escaping poultry.  But this morning, the trap must have gotten confused.  I am no chicken.  I have no feathers and I lay no eggs.  And I have never taken such a spastic, hard fall before.  And never face first into a pile of composting chicken crap.  But now... I can update my life-list of exciting falls!  Coyote ran over to me, saw my de-footed shoe stuck in his trap, a good 8 feet away from where I landed, and sheepishly offered to get it out.  I'm not blaming him, per se.  I really should have been watching where I was stepping.  But... Coyote, Coyote, coyote... what next? Anvils from the roof tops?

I don't know if I should go to the doctor.  On the one hand, it kills to walk.  And it's got a greenish lump sticking out the bottom. And I just noticed a hard purple lump sticking out of my palm.  On the other hand, we haven't met the deductible yet and I don't have $600 laying around. I'll just wait until Tuesday... sweet sweet Tuesday to decide about that.

The day's to-do list was replaced with a movies-to-watch-list which makes me wonder if Coyote might have meant to catch a mom after-all.  A movie-trap!

Anyway... a day late and a dollar short, the school called and Coyote is in.  First Grade! ...for those of you following our controversy.  He's mostly ready, it seems, although the other day, after going pee in the potty, he came up to me and asked me how proud I was that he was finally potty trained.  And I paused, played along, and said ...very proud!  But why is there a turd rolling from your shorts?  So... he's mostly first grade ready.  And he's taught himself to read this summer via the daily comics.

But am I ready? This is the second summer I've had off with my kids and I loved it.  In contrast to working through the summer for $2/hr after childcare costs.  And in contrast to having just moved umpteen times. 
But in the past week, every time I'd wax sentimental about the kids and the setting of the summer sun, fisty cuffs and whining would sear through my day dreams.

Tuesday, lets chant!  Tuesday! Tuesday! Tuesday!  Tuesday, I will me free... and a little bit lonely without the greatest little people I've ever been privileged to birth.  T-minus-4 days.

PS: JUST now got the camera back!  That was a pricey fix, but worth it considering I don't have to find a new camera, learn a new camera, and navigate a new up-load program!  Pictures coming someday!


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