Thursday, October 18, 2012

Feng Sh**

Hot Pink Chocolate Birthday Queen
I love Feng Shui.  It's added some challenge, spiritual significance, brain-food and fun to my FAVORITE chore of all time: housekeeping. I like to try to figure out logical explanations for chi and the rules. Like, it makes sense to me that if the corner of the room you first see upon entering is clutter free, it will make the sensation of walking in to that room lighter. Keep mirrors away from your bed; I sometimes awake in the middle of the night to see an unknown figure standing near me, imagine if that was doubled by a mirror! I would scream twice as loud! And if your stairways, hallways, and entryways are cluttered and difficult to enter, it's going to make it hard to move around your house and you'll get lethargic and overwhelmed. And if the photos of people in your house are always turned towards each other, I can see how subconsciously that might give you a sense of co-operation.

Ione, WA Train Ride
As a woowoo-leaning Libra who has noticed she is deeply affected by her surroundings (as Libra's are wont to be), it was only a matter of time before Feng Shui and I met and started dating. It was destiny. And being in the analytical triad of Libra, I like to suss out what causes these feelings. Take good luck charms. Are they really full of magic? Or are they as full of magic as we imbue them by believing it so. And, as the psychological "sciences" point out, the luckier you think you are, the luckier you actually are because you are open to finding and receiving positive experiences. If you aren't convinced that nothing good ever happens to you, you'll be able to see the ocean of cool experiences we're actually swimming in.  And if you want a charm to convince you of it, then take it, and believe in it whole heartedly and it will be truer than not.

So in my weekly thrill through the library, I picked up another book on Feng Shui, to inspire more decluttering and to find out what else I could do to feel awesome in my home and to create awesomeness for everyone who enters it, to allow the flow of awesome to come and go and radiate from my little Shinto shrine of awesomenity. And there were some good new ideas in the book.  If you feel ugly, clean out your wardrobe.  Certainly, clothes that don't fit and yet you feel obligated to wear because they are perfectly good isn't a way to waltz into the world with your head held high.  And torn unders can't do much for you either.  I purged chipped dishes (that could still be used for small snacks!) and noticed my purse was old and stained (the toll of time creeps in on these daily implements) and gleefully upgraded to shiny and new and 50% off.

Then.  Enter the woowoo-ness.  The "put an amythist under your bed to protect your marriage" part of the book.  I'm paraphrasing here because I flung the thing back to the library, but apparently there's this Five Fingers of Yellow Death that rotates clockwise around your house, taking up 30 degrees for a whole year and if you touch anything in that area, you subject your home, your wealth (such at it is today), your health and that of everyone you come in contact with to grave danger (ooo-ooo-oooo).  And then there's the Sergeant of Deadly Arrows who occupies a full 1/2 of your house every year.  No remodeling there.  The author admits it's a pain in the rear, but she doesn't mess with it.  In fact, in order to avoid the Five Ochre Fingers, she removes ALL objects from the 30 active degrees of Jaundiced Death Digits for the entire year and closes it entirely off.  Well, I'm sorry, but at that point we'd officially crossed a line from curious brain-food in to total horse-sh**.

Moving on, I decided to shine up our entry, touch up the paint, refresh the front door, etc.  In non-woowoo terms, this is so that when we come home, we do not feel we are entering a depressing pit of dilapidation where entropy is out of control.  But in order to do that, I would have to sort through a daunting basement closet where the previous owners left veritable pyramids of paint cans. So there, I'd identified a place of clutter that was gumming up the works.  So I cleared it out, toted a load of cans to the dump. Unfortunately, I accidentally took the empty can of dining room paint,  throwing the baby out with the bathwater, and now I have no idea what that color is. In order to do "touch up" I'll now just have to buy a whole new color and paint the whole damn thing. And that, my friends, is where F*** Shui began.

homestead grave yard- ooooh-oooh
I swept out the closet, put in a shelf, reorganized and now I have an easy to access, easy to understand home repair center.  And within minutes a most promising cow buyer fell through.  I broke about 5 dishes in one extraordinarily clutzy evening.  I charred dinner.  I failed to take care of several key paper-work type things. I got a bill for my duck egg fiasco which included two doctor visit charges (one of which my insurance rejected as absurd; that's what they told me) because, the office said, I had to be held for observation for so long and they said I should just be thankful I'm alive because it was clear I was close to not being so and a funeral OR ER visit would have been 5x as much, never mind I was the ONLY patient they had and my occupation of the room did not constitute any extra expense or lost revenue opportunity. This and that and then Huck came home and that's when he tore his calf muscle, with it's attendant ER bill (yet to be recieved), plus his inability to lift all the heavy things (chicken coops that need to go into the barn now) or that might have been acquired, like free ovens.  The Sh*ticane Feng had made land fall on our farm.

Curious about what Feng Shui might say about it, I discovered that the closet I cleaned out was the ONLY space in our house that was in the Five Fingers of Mustard Morbidity this year.  According to this book, it was the only place in the house I should not have decluttered, not this year anyhoo. Had the page about these fingers somehow influenced my subconscious?  And yet how could my subconscious tear Huck's calf muscle and double charge me for a doctor's visit? Especially since I hadn't really read the whole page or done the math to figure out what segment of my house was under siege?  Or was this woowoo-iest version of Feng Shui the real one?  Was there really a Colonel of Destruction residing, even now, in chi-form in half my house?  Could these Six Fingers really take down our whole family?  Could the power of positive thinking, could the LAW OF ATTRACTION counter Feng Shui?  Do the five fingers play paper-scissors-rock with Learned Optimism and Abraham and the Hicks? What trumps what? 

Popeye and kids
I found that my only possible Feng Shui prayer would be a Hail-Mary bowl of dirt.  And since my subconscious had already read that, I figured that if I put a bowl of dirt in the closet, my subconscious could rest easy and stop harassing my life.  But if I used positive thinking to combat fear of Five Fingers by say, denying Five Fingers exists or that it has power, by insisting the Five Fingers are a peasant-Chinese, non-scientific grab for explanation, ie: superstition, then if Five Fingers really exist, will I totally piss it off and a nuclear bomb will drop on Lucky Farm's East by SE corner? Note: we haven't specified what kind of luck this farm has! Or will the Force of the Fingers diminish it's imaginary power that resides solely in my head?

You know that discussion about "If I didn't know about Jesus, would I still go to hell?" And the missionary, compassionate and kind, says, "No."  And the proverbial Eskimo says, "They why did you tell me?"  So that's why I brought the book back.My thoughts are powerful. My imagination more so. And my subconscious supremely so. I need a sign above my door: "Abandon hope all ye who enter here," perhaps?  Nah. How about something like "Don't Feed Inhabitants Superstition?"

Gun safety lessons (plus can shooting) with Opa
But things are improving.  Huck's leg is slowly healing as healing is the natural state of life, until it isn't. And I forgot we have this new, posh health care debit card, so the bills will get taken care of before the next millennium.  The front door is refreshed. The rotten board in the front porch is replaced (no thanks to me! Demo looks so fun when Huck and his dad do it; how hard can it be? A crow bar and some elbow grease, I'm loaded with that! And then I destroyed every board around the board I was trying to remove. Huck was able to fix most of my damage and replace the correct board, LAYING down!), and stained. The bills are all paid.  The pantry is full.  My birthday was an awesome cabin-stay in Ione with a train ride, thanks to my adventure-planning mother.  My vote for most magical human invention? autumn.  The kids are great.I mean, listen to this, my daughter gets to go to a school where the term "Geeky" is synonymous with ye ol' "Rad" and "Da Bomb." The marriage is currently cozy and affectionate. The house, sturdy.  My health, superb.  My creative endeavors rockin' on.  All the animals are well-fed and fine. And the sunrises are sublime, as always. And I think the crystals in the Southeast corner are finally working!



Monday, October 8, 2012

Non-Consensual Farming

Little Chocolatey Claire
Did I tell you our oven went kaput.  Well, not kaput; it went out in a blaze of glory.  A ball of fire proceeded along the element, leaving a molten puddle of metal as it traversed, shooting lighting to the sides. A new oven wasn't in the budget, so we've been without.  What's the big deal? It was summer and who turns on an oven in the summer time?  I'd just use the dutch oven if necessary, like camping.

Then, in the early hours, early in September a frozen finger of death descended upon our garden and took out 20 pepper plants, 10 tomato plants, 3 watermelon vines, 5 cucumber vines, a row of beans and 7 summer squash bushes. There were reports throughout the region of a few select households, like ours, hit by random acts of Jack Frost. For a light frost, it would have been early, for a hard freeze it was a full month ahead.  And what was the likelihood of this happening again? Zero. Zero, I tell you. Feeling slightly ill about a year's worth of loss (I'd also lost my carrots, most of my potatoes and ALL of my garlic to ravenous gophers. I did get a haul on onions, peas, kale, favas, and corn, however), I fell in to a fitful sleep that night. I awoke at 4am, sure the frost had returned. At six, I finally ventured out and witnesses all of my winter squash frost damaged.  ALL of it.

This would not have been a problem in other years.  Annoying, yes.  But I would have pulled them all in and spent a day or two cooking them up to freeze.  But alas, no oven. I would sell my cow and we would buy an oven.

Hendrika, the big red cow (with cute tiny Yoda!)
My big Hendrika girl was possibly the worst cow known to human kind.  She was ornery with a bottomless appetite. I hadn't milked her since her latest calving, another bull we named Yoda.  I have some things to say about cows: the first is that they're a hell of a lot of work.  99.9% of the population knows this, but I needed actual experience to realize that, yes, as soon as able, humanity ditched the family milk cow and her accompanying winters chipping shit-ice and filling troughs with frozen hoses.

The second thing I noticed was that cow-husbandry involves quite a bit of heart ache.  There was the shooting debacle, of course.  But every year I had to sell a cow, a cute one, a nice one.  And I had to decide who to sell and when to sell it. And it broke my heart annually.

Third: expense. Like most hobbies, it's more expensive than not doing the hobby.  Take knitting: you could buy a sweater on clearance from Target for $15, or you could buy $100 in yarn and spend a couple months making it yourself. Or para-sailing: you could jump off the high dive at your local pool.  But the stress  expense of amassing the chunk of change for a winter's worth of delivered hay was feeling tiresome.

I felt a little guilt.  Bonds had been made and they felt like commitments.  But cows aren't pets.  And I didn't marry Hendrika and I didn't give birth to her.  I have struggled with the boredom inherent in providing a stable home for children and in maintaining a monotonous marriage.  But I realized that I this level of commitment is not required of absolutely every endeavor.  In fact, in order to maintain the commitments I have, I will need to make sure the rest of my life is constantly fresh and moving and flowing with new things coming in.  That's not flaky, that's taking responsibility for my needs for adventure and novelty before it explodes in my face.

It took a few weeks to sell Hendrika. We had a vacation in there and one buyer had his truck break down. But eventually she (and her bull calf) went to a beef farm as a nurse maid.  I was somewhat relieved no one was going to try to work with her by hand. But the look she gave me as the trailer pulled out shriveled my soul: betrayal, disgust, fear, shock.

a neighbor's beet, organic?
And all I had left was the hard-to-find miniature Jersey, Chocolatey Claire, lover of onions and valuable because miniatures (old world size, the size they were when they arrived here from the isle of Jersey) eat so little yet can produce so much milk. This was the cow I'd wanted from the beginning when the closest one was Montana for $2000, ha!  So I figured I'd breed her from what I could get.  And then, once I had her, I felt done with the cattle adventure. Ironic. And now five deals have fallen through. This last one even PayPal'd me a down payment.  Saturday morning they texted me with their plan to ship her to Montana: the vet inspection would be Wednesday, the branding inspection, Thursday.  They'd buy my winters worth of hay (because she was hungry and I was starting to wonder, so with Hendrika's money, I bought hay for her instead of an oven.  Then about five minutes after the delivery left the hay ranch for my place, I'd gotten a call from this latest buyer, but it was too late to back out of the hay I have hay now and because of a math glitch -- despite the fact that I took several years of college math, not because I enjoyed it, but because I was good at it and there was this really hot math professor -- I miscalculated how much hay I would need and I now have 1 1/2 years worth) and I'd have my new oven.  And then an hour later, they called to say that the rules for getting her into Montana had added up to over $500 worth of inspections, plus vaccine issues.  It would actually be easier to bring a motor home full of cats with rabies into Montana that a little hobby-cow.

Images of that stainless steel glass top oven vanished.  And now I have a cow I don't particularly want and I am done with this selling roller coaster. Perhaps I will try in the spring, but by then we'll have bonded. My friend says, "Seems like the universe really wants you to keep that cow."  "Well it seems a little non-consensual of the universe," I pouted. Ah, but Sarajoy, darling, that IS life.  The whole thing's been fairly non-consensual from the get go.  No one here asked to be born, not even the cows.

While trying to sell her, I figured I'd try again to get her bred because anyone would want that in a heifer, plus we need her to shut up. The neighbors were commenting about her noise, and when I explained she was in heat, the lady said, "Oh I get that! I understand where she's coming from now!" So the breeder came out on Friday, in the middle of the daily morning mayhem. And we head out to the barn only to find the stanchion destroyed, strewn all over the field. I have no idea how petite and demure Claire pulled that off.  But after discussing our options, the main one being roping Claire and having me use my body to pin her against the barn wall while he inseminated her with his arm, I decided to pass this time.

I asked him if I was asking too much for her.  My price had started at $2500, because the closest available cow of this rare sort was now Virginia, for the same price, same level of "purity" of breed.  After the buyers at that price dropped off.  I lowered it, got a buyer, she lost her job, lowered it, lowered it, got a buyer who emailed me daily for a week with silly questions then dropped off, got this latest buyer and here I am at $800.  It makes me sick. And the breeder said I could get more than that if I just had the slaughter house pick her up! Being a miniature, she's cheaper to keep than cats, and now that I think of it, cheaper than getting the field mowed. And if I do ever get her bred, once she calves, she'll more than pay for herself milk-wise. But then there I'll be with another calf to hurt my heart as I sell it.

As Artificial Insemination Fred left, I collected the pieces of the stanchion from the field.  As I collected them, I noticed that it would only need a few screws and ten minutes to put back together.  As I noticed this, the AI guy I found on Craigslist disappeared around the corner.  And the whole hobby farming fiasco reached shitti-cane status and I got the giggles.

Chase of butternuts
In the meantime, I started looking on Craigslist for a cheaper oven.  I need to deal with this room full of winter squash before it all goes bad where the frost permeated the skin.  And suddenly, there are all these ovens up there, for free!  And they work and they're newer and nicer than mine.  Brushed nickel? no.  But white and newer and cleaner (I spent all last Sunday scrubbing that thing. I even used toxic cleaner and gloves and finally, a brillo pad and still, there's these black archipelagos across the stove) for free.  But, alas, Huck's calf muscle is torn and my Hercules, or should we say Achilles, is laid up for now.  He won't be lifting ovens any time soon.  So we "opted" to repair and spruce up the one we have, uber-eco re-users that we are. Huck ordered an element for our 40 year old oven. I bought new spill dishes. And in the process of cleaning it, wiped all the numbers off the dials, so I bought new dials. Unfortunately the new dials have a totally different number system, so where once a 5 was medium, it's now high.  And every dinner has been burned since. Lucky me, the element arrived and we found we need more parts to install it.  Still waiting for those.

Let's recap: this year I grew a garden and got little for my efforts.
I have a cow I don't want and
an oven I hate that still doesn't work.

But what am I, some conditional lover of life? If it's conditional, it isn't love. If I have the right conditions, I'll "love" it? So if anything isn't precisely as I ordered, I'm sending it back to the kitchen?  Ah, no.  I'll call this all an (mis)adventure, and I'll say I'm happy on this bull-ride o'life.  Who the hell knows what's coming down the pike?  Today, unplanned cow-husbandry and a garden robbed by weather.  And tomorrow?  Get ready, could be your wildest dream, hard times, frustration, thrills, spills.  It's wild out here in unpredictable life.  And maybe that's all I want really, maybe that's what keeps me happy and rocking along, all this unpredictability even in the midst of what seems like boring old stability.


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