Monday, February 27, 2012

To Catch a Family Cow

Yesterday, I went out to milk and Hendrika had crapped all over the stanchion (farm vocab moment: "stanchion" is the 2x4 structure Huck built to hold Hendrika somewhat still while I milk her; it is a common farming device and not a method of torture.)  I have always suspected her of having a passive-aggressive personality disorder because she usually craps right where I sit on my bucket to milk her.  But yesterday was rather astonishing.  She crapped at least six inches higher that her dairy-air.  We cannot imagine, nor should we try, how she got that pile of crap all the way up there on the top rung of her stanchion, right where my FACE goes as I sit down to milk. You could see her smirking as I exuded profane shock at her accomplishment.

I recently spent two days in the snow-blowing cold fixing fences. I did this for two reasons.  1) I LOVE fixing fences.  There is something about fiddling around with a pliers and some fence parts that makes me feel unbelievably alive.  I am not actually lying or being sarcastic. This is perhaps the #1 reason I have cows.  When I don't love it: full installation and full removal... those jobs are just too big and long to love.  Reason 2)  Hendrika was getting out.  Twice.  Two days in a row.  While Huck was out of town, obviously.

Once I caught her and penned her again (tip of experience: catching a cow is a slow, patient process.  Do NOT rush.  Do NOT scream.  Do NOT loose any amount of patience.  Lure into barn with grain, but do NOT get between the cow and the grain.), I instituted an all-cow lock-down and cased the premises.  Where she got out was obvious as it was covered in cow hair, long and thick (NOTA BENE: Hendrika has very very hairy teets in the winter and I have almost lost fingers while hand-milking because it tangles around and tightens as I pull down).  Where she got out was a mere 6" gap under the hog wire. Hendrika is hugely pregnant, so pregnant I get kicked in the head by an unborn calf every time I milk. And she limbo-ed her massive bulk underneath that fence.  If my cows are going to commit these incredible, acrobatic and controtic feats, I think I should get to see these miracles, front row. But I never do.

The good thing about her getting out is that I got some spring-hope.  As she munched the old tufts of grass down, you could see the green at the bottom, juicy and ready to bolt.

So I spent two frozen days walking the line, getting that electric fence working a little better.  It's got a lot of room for improvement, so it's kind of easy job to fix it.  Anything helps.

I remembered to unplug it this time.  It was so cold, the wire snapped a few places just when I touched it.  Any breech of electric current anywhere and the whole thing goes down.  Once the cows realize it's dead, they have at it, unleashing all of their aggression on the wires and creating even more areas to fix.  I have no idea how long that fence was dead, but those cows had made a mess of it.  I let Beignet join me cuz he's a fun, cute little doomed guy.  But he was really crazy, charging me and kicking at me and just plain nuts. I kept shaking my pliers at him, wondering if I could aim into an effective area of his skull if need be. I think he was "protecting" his herd, or something instinctual like that.  "YO! Beignet! Check it out, you ain't got balls!  Stop acting like a bull when you're just a steer."  I had to lock him up too.  I didn't feel safe turning my back on him. 

When I was sure I had everything fixed (har har), I went back to the box for my moment of brilliant success.  I plugged the fence in and here comes Beignet, he's going to try it out and I wasn't going to stop him, he'd ticked me off by then.  He rolls out his long long tongue and starts licking the fence.  And just to get back at me for the way I teased him, just to show me what a moron I am when it comes to fence repair, he rolls his tongue around the wire, like it tastes good, like I coated it with molasses just for him.

Son of Gun!  What's one got to do to get a decent charge around here!  And that's when I notice the yellow box that's supposed to be the off/on switch, but one time I turned it "off" but it stayed on and that is why, to this day, I twitch every time I reach out to touch the wire, even if I know intellectually that it's dead.  Thinking it didn't work and that no one had used it ever, I never checked the switch.  That's the thing with electronics, my friend reminded me, they need to be plugged in and turned on to work.  So I switched in on, right there!

Poor Beignet.  He was clear across the field in a split second.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Guest Column Alert PLUS Bonus Recipe, no charge

Cute Coyote
For those of you not on Facebook and thus so easily directed to my guest column, here is the link to the latest: Depth Perception.

And also, yesterday I traversed several steep emotional shifts.  High: watching the new Muppets Movie with my kids.  Obviously (to everyone else in the retro discount Garland Theater), I loved that Movie so very very much I had to capitalize it.  I discovered at the check out at Value Village that everything was 50% off: score-o-rama.  Blue picked up some snazzy red tennis and I got some vintage-y coats.  Then ALL of my DREAMS came true as I washed a pile of dishes while my children whined at me.  And then I watched my brother make the news.  Also: the cat barfed in three rooms AND Huck's out of town which means that I can clean it up and thereby barf in three rooms myself. Me and the kitty: Barf Buddies FOREVER!  And this morning I overslept, thereby making Coyote one full hour late for school and he was such a good sport about it.

Black-bottom cupcakes also make good kitty cushions
AND I made the world's best Gluten Free Dessert.  Without using FREAK ingredients.
I know people don't come here for recipes, and goodness knows I support that decision but Blackbottom cupcakes were my favorite as a kid and here's my recipe.  I Frankensteined it together with absurdly awesome results, better than the originals if I do say so myself:

Sarajoy's No-Freak-Ingredients Gluten-Free Black-Bottom Cup-Cakes
1 8oz package of cream cheese purchased on-sale, plus a coupon for $1.00, softened
1 good egg, chickenshit washed off
1/3 cup white sugar from a #12 bag that takes up half the pantry
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, minus five for tasting...or ten or so, that part is flexible

4 ozs ancient semisweet chocolate found in back of pantry
1/2 c butter (or a full cube, your choice) on sale, with coupon, frozen for 2 months
1/2 c cocoa powder
3 beaten eggs, or two egg yolks from a prior eggwhite recipe and two fresh eggs from the barn, chicken shit washed off, preferably
1tsp vanilla extract from a one gallon container you've been using for 10 years, from Mexico

Directions: preheat oven to 300 or 350 or somewhere in between, my oven doesn't "do temperatures" and so I am perhaps erroneously assuming that's the range it stayed in.

Butter a dozen cupcake things.  yes, only a dozen. 

Beat cream cheese, 1 egg and sugar.  Add chocolate chips, tasting regularly to make sure it's right, set bowl  within snitching distance.

Melt chocolate and butter on low.  Meanwhile, beat together eggs, cocoa powder (covering kitchen with brown chocolate dust), sugar and vanilla.  Beat in melted chocolate butter mixture.  Fill cupcake holes evenly with chocolate mixture. Top with cream cheese mixture, leaving enough in both bowls to make licking them out worthwhile.  Pop in oven for about 27 minutes.  I started checking for doneness at 20 minutes.  Cool for ten minutes AT LEAST before dumping out.  Wash face and destroy evidence.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Super Bowl Sunday Miracle

Mt. Spokane on a Special Sunday in February 2012
On Super Bowl Sunday, we performed a financial miracle: we all went downhill skiing.  

Was it just a year ago that friends launched from our home to a ski trip, leaving Coyote bawling with envy in the doorway? I think they thought we were coming with them, but the slightest perusal of our balance sheet would have screamed otherwise. Let's tally: $40 per person day ski lift, $50 per person ski rentals = $320 dropped for several hours of "fun" on the bunny hill.  Even if I had an extra $320 + gas, I wouldn't be spending it skiing, a hobby I picked up at the age of 30, when I was old enough to know better than to go that fast and scared enough of falling - not falling, so much as not being able to get up again.  Thirty is not old, but it's old to pick up skiing. Skiing is, for me, an exercise is contained panic.  It's too fast, too out of control, too unnatural for me to love. I burned up most of my fast living fuel long before skis entered my life.  

We hoped that perhaps Huck (who was basically born with a pair of skis on, which I'm sure his mother did not appreciate) could take one kid up this year and another up next year.  But along comes "5th Graders Ski Free!"  A regional program to get kids in to this expensive hobby while they're young enough to learn it and stupid enough to love it and in-cognizant enough to risk injuries with their attendant expense, wasted time in waiting rooms and recovery, and lasting aches. 

Thus inspired by one free season ticket, Huck began asking around for old ski equipment.  And soon we were all geared up for nearly free. Coyote's boots were $4 at the thriftstore - and they look like large ankle casts from the '60's. And just like that, impossibility got $250 knocked off it. With Huck's gym discount, he's been up a few times with the kids already this year.  

And here comes bright, beautiful Super Bowl Sunday!  I figured I could tackle the bunny run on such an empty day.  

The bunny hill is actually a dumb idea.  I do like that it's short, but it's somewhat completely insane to fill one single hill with so very many people who can't ski. It was probably thought up by the same people who invented middle schools.  Not only am I scared I'm going to forget everything Huck just told me and wizz off into a tree, I'm also worried I'm going to get zoomed in to by some out of control lady who is screaming her way down, yelling at everyone to get out of the way, as if I know how to do that, as if I can move AT ALL because the snow plow IS my best friend.  I mean, what kind of nut doesn't figure out how to stop before she gets started?  And I am stuck on a hill with this empty-headed homicidal newbie.  So, Super Bowl Sunday seemed like the perfect time to ski the bunny hill, sans dipshits, who would all be home opening beer for their dipshittier dipshit husbands.
So, for the first time, we were all going to ski together.  Yeah Us! 

I bought my ski pants in August, 9 years ago, at a garage sale.  I came home and "people" were all: ski pants?!  Ski pants?!  In August?! Are you nuts?!  To which I responded: "Are YOU nuts?  Seasons change, people.  Get used to it."  So those are the ones I wore, although things have shifted over the years and pregnancies and zippers were... inconveniently located.  Also, my ankles had a small panic attack in my ski boots and they started crying while Huck locked them away.  They were pretty sure they were never going to get out again.

We parked next to the lodge in a nearly empty lot.  "Run Run!  Run off the mountain you lemmings! Run to your TV's! Run to watch millionaires play with balls! Run! Run!"  Ah! All to ourselves! Hours and hours (I was "hoping" to stay in the lodge for most of the time.  I say "hoping" because ski lodges, no matter how "fancy" ALL stink like feet and pee.  They all have nasty carpet.  They all serve nasty food. They are all sweaty and putrid and I'd rather have my eyes poked out by ski poles than sit in one of those.  But still, I was thinking it might beat the stress of controlling a grace-less fall at terminal velocity off a mountain slope for hours upon butt-cramping hours.  I brought a book and figured a few beers would take the edge of the piquant nosegay of athletes' foot.)

Ferris Wheel: I'm crying on the inside
However, it turns out the ski area was closing at 4 O'clock that day.  And we had 1.5 hours to ski; THANK GOD for small miracles.  That's all I ever wanted.  And for some reason, perhaps because our friend works in the ski lodge, or perhaps they saw my son's boots and pitied us, or perhaps it was just the general human good will generated by such sacred holidays as Super Bowl Sunday, they let us all ski free.
My skis on, I fell towards the lift. This is my second, but possibly biggest, complaint about skiing.  This has got to be the most dangerous way of getting people up a mountain, other than cannons.  There are no straps.  There are no magnets.  There is NOTHING holding you in.  It's as terrifying as the Ferris Wheel, only you have dangerous snaggable sticks fastened on to your claustrophobic feet.  And I am supposed to put my CHILDREN on these things.  These beings were made, from scratch, in my uterus and I pushed them out of my vagina, at home, without any anesthesia, tylenol or vodka. That's how valuable they are to me.  And now, I am obligated to put them on chair lifts, like an irresponsible drug-addict mom.   This isn't something we do at home, so why is it okay here?  It's lemmings disease, is what it is.

And so Blue and I hop on a chair together.  She turns to watch Coyote and Huck board the one behind us, and I scream, because she is 1) moving in this chair 2) turning around and 3) moving the chair itself 4) while I am in it.

2009*like a ski lift, but safer
And then we come to the end of the line.  They don't put trampolines OR EMT workers at the end. I'm just supposed to hop off and ski away, like it's nothing. But I haven't skied in 6 years, and that's after only skiing twice.  And just as I'm hopping off, the chairs stop and all my momentum vanishes in to the breaking mechanism and I almost fall.  But Blue's right next to me, handy dandy Blue, my daughter, who now knows just how to do this, so I GRAB her.  And I hold on to her.  And she is surprisingly sturdy on her skis, and embarrassed.  And I feel like a terrible mother again, like the apes in those experiments where they electrocute the floor and the ape stands on her baby to get away from the pain and the experimenters, not sensing any hypocrisy, criticize this animal for sacrificing her children for her own instinctual need for safety.  I get hooted at from the chair behind us.  And the goateed lift operator.  "Goatees are from the '90's!" I want to yell, "Or didn't you read your Sunset Magazine yet?!"  But that's just cuz I'm embarrassed.  He's actually kinda cute and I think I'll grab him next time.  

But next time, I fall.  All.  Over. The place.  Falling isn't hard, it's getting up that's the problem. I'm 5'8" and can feel kind of gangly and far from the ground, for a woman. And since Huck doesn't believe in poles (he's a pole athiest, or maybe that's an apolist? And since he's taught us all, in his absurdly patient way, to ski, and since he procured all the equipment and did not procure poles, this family skis pole-less, together.  Poles, from my extensive, if slow, cross country skiing experience, are helpful in getting up with large, eminently entanglable attachments on your feet on slippery slopes.  But my husband did not get me poles. That's just the kind of family we are.  We might as well be home watching the Mother of All Football Games while I pop open his beers.)

Anyway, we did it.  I did it.  I survived watching my kids good off on a chair lift in front of me.  I survived 6 runs down the bunny hill, with my kids zooming around me.  And it was free and did not last longer than I wanted it to and I did not have to go in to the lodge for more than a minute.  It was a touching Super Bowl Sunday miracle on Mt. Spokane.  I even wrote a poem about it!
Skiing Mt. Irony                                                                                            
I know more
than the pizza plow.
My ankles are aware of
This spaceman boot.
I don't do this often, believe me,
And I only started as a grown woman.
The lift frightens,
As do the edges,
Fast as anything.
He says the only way
To go
Is to trust
In improbability.
For an uplifting descent:
Push in the wrong foot
Lean forward to slow
Step up to go down.

Trust in the irony
Of this world, he says
And trust that you know
How to use it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I want you to meet my friend:

I like the U of Idaho's Women's Center.  A more progressive, inclusive, visionary project can not be found.  This place is all over all the gender issues of our time.  And so I feel honored to be invited to occasionally guest blog for them.

And here's a previous: The Stay-at-home-Feminist

I hope you enjoy!

2009 Pullman crazy hair day
And also.  This morning.  It was very icy.  Rain had frozen.  I salted the stairs when I did my morning chores.  Blue's carpool arrived.  In that endearing way of all preteens, she screamed at me for putting her coat on wrong... as if I'd actually touched it and am actually in the habit of helping her put coats on.  I believe she was six months old when she forcefully relieved me of that duty.  In the mayhem, both front doors were opened and kitty Cosmos escaped.  I ran after him in my socks.  Slipped on the the front porch, the part I didn't de-ice because no one ever steps there.  The kitten ran inside.  The concerned carpool lady got out of her car.  My neck, wrists and butt hurt.  And I there I am, standing in my velour, leopard print leggings which I love and which fit nicely under my barn overalls, but still, they are for immediate-family eyes only.  And I'm wearing a hot pink shirt. I am Peggy Bundy.   My pride is seriously bruised.

2009 Barter Hair
Another thing about Blue is that her hair is just like Huck's hair, blond and easily dredded.  She must comb it every day, twice a day to avoid dreds.  And for years I have counseled her on ways to make this task easier.  Having recently reached my limit on hair drama, Huck stepped in.  And together they worked out the knots.  That girl game down stairs, fluffing her hair and talking about how it was great to finally have combed out hair and to finally have gotten decent instructions from someone who actually knows her type of hair.  Huck.  HUCK!  The man, for the 12 years I've known him, either has dreds or a shaved head. Yes, THAT Huck.  On what planet does Huck know hair care? And all he does is repeat THE EXACT SAME INSTRUCTIONS I'VE BEEN GIVING FOR YEARS!  But coming from Huck, well, they were believable and doable.  I don't even know why I live here some times.


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