Thursday, December 18, 2014

They make me crazy. *Explicit*

Last night I went a little crazy.

A few years ago I was with my friend V at a bar in Florida. We had been talking, drinking, and having a good ole' time when one of the guys we were chatting with did the unthinkable. He made V's cousin cry. As soon as she found out my hands were thrust full of a purse and I was watching, mesmerized slightly confused and definitely a little bit mortified, her run/hop down the boardwalk removing her heels as she went. She got in the guy's face about not making her cousin cry and I was pretty sure she was going to stab him with her stiletto. For the record, V is half Mexican, and we frequently joke about her going "Mexican chick crazy" on the guy. Also for the record, she didn't actually beat him to death with a high heel. He backed down and apologized. I have always been a little in awe of her passionate side.

I tell you this story so that you understand where I'm coming from on this one. Last night I went "Mexican chick crazy." On a cow.

For the last three feedings the cows have gotten out when I have begun moving them hay. The first time they banged against the gate and it came open accidentally. The second time I noticed that the tractor had a flat and they escaped while I was backing it up to try to fix the tire. I swear, there was nary a cow in sight, but as soon as the gate was unattended it was like a Goddamn military attack. "Alpha team: go, go, go!" "Beta squad, flank! Now! Go! We've rehearsed this people!" I hopped off the tractor to see a stream of black pouring out of the gate. Both of those times I kept my cool. After all one was an accident and the other was my fault. Plus, they both happened on Saturday mornings when I had help to put them back in.

Oh, but last night. Last night they ran out of the gate while I was trying to get the tractor through it. Note, they still have had hay in their feeders. They are just (rightly) convinced that there is a smidgen of grass in the yard (since, you know, eating it Saturday morning). They would rather have that than the icky old alfalfa and grass bales. Also, they are a bunch of jerks and just kinda suck.

So last night I decided to use the tractor with a cab because I mistakenly thought it had better headlights. Turns out that it has headlights that point directly on the hood of the tractor, producing glare the likes of which you cannot even imagine. Add to that a dusty tractor windshield and I already am cranky because I can't see worth a damn. By the way, the cows are black. So it is perhaps the worst combination ever for not running them over.

Anyway, I open the gate and run back to the tractor to lift the bale, put it in gear and move forward, which admittedly takes longer than it does with the cabless tractor by a few seconds, when like a bunch of ninjas the freaking strike force pours out of the gate. Ten cows run out before I can block the opening with the tractor. I wedge the gate closed on one side, blocking the rest of the herd between it and the tractor so cows can come in, but not out - hopefully. Then I run around the barn and start screaming like a drunken sailor banshee.

I am certain that if anyone had heard me I would have been committed. I always joke about farmer's cursing, but this, this was the pinnacle. I wasn't being clever and calling them "line breeders." BTW, that is when you breed a son to a mother, thus making him a...I think you get it. Or shouting "Son of a Brisket!" I was shouting something along the lines of: "WhatTheFuckAreYouDoingOut?! YouStupidSonsOfBitchingCows! GetYourAssesBackInTheGoddamnFence! RightNow!" and  running at them. Note that at this point I am just pissed. I haven't crossed the line to crazy yet. Then Twoface's daughter turned and stopped. She looked right at me like, "Yeah? What are you going to do about it?" I charged her and pulled the knife out of my pocket that I use to cut off the bale strings while shouting, "You wanna go? I will fucking cut you, heifer!" She turned and fled, but that right there is when I went "Mexican chick crazy." I'm pretty sure I leapt at her with a knife. Yup. That happened.

That's right, V. I'm not always a passionate person, but when I am I contemplate shanking a cow with a bale spear. Boom. Mic drop.


In other news, they didn't get out again and the rest of my feeding went very smoothly. Perhaps cows respect the crazy?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Made my morning

Captain America got me a new camera for my birthday. This morning illustrated to me that I need to get in the habit of carrying it absolutely everywhere with me. May I reintroduce you to Jessica, our neighborhood albino deer.

These photos are not the best, taken with my phone, but she is so cool that I have to share anyway. That will teach me! Cameras, never leave home without them! 
We watched her graze for about twenty minutes weekend before last, again without a camera present, while we were out deer hunting. Don't worry! It is illegal to kill white deer here. Even if it wasn't I would shoot CA before he could take aim on this lovely lady. Her potential beaus however... well they're fair game and destined for deliciousness. 


The interesting thing is that when she stood and ran over the hill it became apparent that she had three regular colored friends with her. They blended in so well that I had no clue!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ninja Skills

Have you ever felt the feeling that you were being watched? That slow niggling feeling crawling up the back of your neck? You cast your eyes around behind you, willing some shape to form out of the darkness. Something, anything to explain the sensation away. But there is nothing in the black. No sounds alert you to the fact that you are being stalked. Still, your skin crawls and you can't relax. The primitive anticipation of danger is especially intense when you're alone in the country.

What is it out there? A coyote? A bob cat? A cougar? A Sasquatch? A bad case of reading too many Lets Not Meet stories on Reddit and being somewhat convinced that there is a deranged person living in the barn loft that you wouldn't even know about until the jump down and attack you from behind?

Okay, probably not those last two, but Tuesday night I definitely knew something was off. I shrugged it off as my overactive imagination, or perhaps being watched by an opossum. It was dark. I was at my parent's home feeding chickens and playing the ever popular "try to count black cows in the dark" game. I had just started pouring grain for the horses and stepped out of the grain room to grab a bag of sweet feed when I saw her.

She peeked her head out of the inky black and into the light of the horse barn, causing me to scream like a little girl and experience heart palpitations. All that was visible was her white blaze, as my scream caused her to turn tail and run. I ran from the barn to find, nothing. She had vanished again. How 1,200lbs of horse can be COMPLETELY SILENT, and invisible is the mystery of the week.

Meet the creature that stalks you at night, Zippy. The horse ninja. Schrodinger's horse. 
If you put a horse in a fence, but don't see the horse; does the horse cease to exist? 
No, the fence ceases to exist. . .
Screw the cat who walks through walls. She is Zippy, the horse who walks through fences!

Horses are a$$hats.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

My life, the horror movie.

It is an overcast day. The air is misty with the first chill of fall. Leaves are beginning to turn. There has been enough rain recently that the ground is slick and muddy beneath the falling leaves and short grass of the pasture. The hike out to check the fences begins easily enough. Squirrels rustle through the treetops, chattering away at each other as they rush to pack away their hoards. Slowly the wind begins to blow colder. The overcast day becomes dreary, dark, foreboding. The lone woman checking the fence hurries her pace, slipping and sliding. She feels watched, but she sees nothing. The constant itch at the back of her neck doesn't lessen as she hurries up the hill towards home as fast as her boots, heavy with mud, will go. Suddenly a twig snaps and she turns. Her eyes widen as she sees what is behind her.

video

She is surrounded. 

Duh. Duh. Duh. Will she live? Will she die? Will she successfully use the word "Hangry" to describe the herd of unruly bovines? Will she secure a Snickers bar for the bull so that he stops attacking the tractor? (Brisket, you aren't you when you're hungry!)

God, I could work in Hollywood!

'Nam flashbacks, neuroplasticity, and getting right back up on that horse.

I was in a pretty traumatic car crash about two weeks ago. Physically I'm perfectly fine. The car was totaled, but the safety systems did their job perfectly. It was 7:58 a.m., and I was turning onto the road where I work. I don't know if it was the sun in my eyes, or just carelessness, but I didn't see him. I turned directly into the path of an oncoming car. My vehicle, which was my dad's car because I had loaned mine to my boyfriend, was spun 180 degrees.  

When I close my eyes I still feel the weightless sensation of being whipped around, held in place by the thin seat belt and the explosion of dust in the air from the airbags.

This was my second car totaled while I was driving in four months. The first one wasn't my fault, but still it was traumatizing.

The whole experience gave me quite a few panic attacks and a mini-midlife crisis. I still have almost paralyzing anxiety about pulling out onto the highway. I'm positive that there will be a car there that I don't see. I'm struggling to find peace with it, release the guilt and shame of it, and to find a balance of doing what I want when I want (like driving to see CA) and not taking undue risks.

Anyway, so despite what my friends have started referring to as my "'Nam flashbacks" while I have been driving I have still been heading to work. One day I happened across an article in some magazine about PTSD and rewiring the brain through imagination. I found it VERY motivational.

In other words, imagining all of the ways that I was going to wreck a car was actually making my trauma worse. Go figure.  I can't find the exact article in the minefield of my father's desk, but the same point is made on healthyplace.com in their article about neuroplasticity and PTSD.  "Hebb’s entire theory argued that experience can change neuronal structure. What does that mean to you? It means that while trauma can alter your brain – and hence, the repetitive brain processes of PTSD – the basis for this change is experience. Following that philosophy and Hebb’s suggestion, the idea that emerges is that the brain can change again, due to new experience." How awesome is that?

Healing my trauma boils down to wanting to change that experience in my own mind. Talk about getting right back up on the horse that threw you. Obviously it makes sense that the faster that you have a different outcome from your negative one the easier it is to rewire your brain. That was part of the original article that piqued my interest in the subject. Negative pathways haven't had as long to become ingrained behaviors or reactions, so since it has only been two weeks I still have a relatively easy path. This stuff seems common sense, but oh my gosh the implications! Car wrecks, horse bites, bad relationship habits. I'm going to start rewiring myself using positive imagining by golly!

In other news, that is harder than it sounds. Our brains WANT to make new connections, but our minds/souls/egos whatever that voice in our head is called doesn't like to let go and redefine itself nearly so easily. I'm really struggling with letting go of the idea that I am a bad driver. But even though I am right back up on that ol' car that threw me; it's a hard fight. I can barely imagine how hard changing some of my more ingrained bad habits/reactions/thought processes is going to be. My mini mid-life crisis has given me a lot of them to consider and try to heal. Do you have any bad thought processes that you need to break? I encourage you to join me on this particular crazy adventure!

Along this journey I also had another though, there must be more to those old sayings than what I had ever imagined. Getting right back up on the horse that throws you would limit the amount of time that your brain had to make negative connections. It completely supports Hebb's theory! How cool is that? *Sorry had to nerd out there. So, in addition to getting right back up on that horse that threw me, I'm going to have to start paying attention to not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, or maybe even learn to not eat the cake that I have. Though I still don't understand the concept of having cake and not eating it too. I really think that saying needs to be modified to be something like, "you can't possibly eat all the food on the super buffet", or "you can't eat your cake and stay under your daily calorie limit."  Maybe, "you can have your cake, but if you eat it you won't fit in your skinny jeans." I dunno. Some other analogy about decision making would have to be clearer.

Who in the hell wouldn't eat the damn cake? Seriously.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Barnyard Tales Chapter 9: Bull Ramping

It isn’t every day that your family invents a new sport. In my family it was only once: on a fateful Mother’s day in the 90’s.

I remember it well. We were waiting to go to my grandma’s house. Mom was pissed that dad had taken the four wheeler to go bring down a few bull calves that had broken out and into general pop. I was overly eager. Grandma Dot’s place was my FAVORITE place in the whole wide world, and for some reason my seven or eight year old mind had decided that not only were we going to grandma’s house, since we had time to kill we were gonna go in style.

Screw the fact that I didn’t know how to ride yet. I worked for over an hour lugging a saddle out of the barn only to lose interest in cleaning and oiling it after, oh, about ten seconds. I remember leaving it hanging haphazardly across an old feeder and trotting up to my dad when I saw him slowly walking back to the house. I should have realized something was wrong at that point, but no. I had a one track mind. Grandma’s? Can we go now? How about now? Why aren’t you running to the car? We need to leave, NOW! I left the saddle. It got rained on. Mom was, uhm, displeased.
Dad meanwhile had stumbled up to the porch and kicked the kitchen door until mom came to let him in the house.

I remember coming in a while later and seeing him with bright silver duct tape wrapped around his shirt in a makeshift splint. He couldn’t talk, but mom thought he’d broke a few ribs. To hear her tell the tale of finding the fourwheeler is a thing of beauty.

She wandered high and low around the pastures. With dad’s injuries she searched gullies, and ditches; assuming like most would have that he had flipped the ATV in a ditch rather than by inventing the most extreme animal sport in the good ole U.S. of A.. Much to her surprise she found the four wheeler sitting on all four wheels on a gently sloping curve of a hill. The only oddity was the occasional tuft of black angus hair sticking to grass and wafting on the breeze.

It took two days for my dad to regain the ability to speak. When he did, a legend was born. Dad had been riding after the calf, chasing him high and low. The young bull had zigged and zagged, bolted through brush and ditch without a care; and still my dad and the four wheeler had been on him like a cocklebur. But there on that gentle swell of a hill, when my father was in high gear because there were no ditches in sight, the calf turned the tables. Well, not so much the tables as he turned himself and lowered his head. Dad couldn’t brake or downshift fast enough. The four wheeler flew right up that cow’s neck and dad flew right off of it. He tried to kick away from the four wheeler, but did not succeed. When he came to he was alone, in pain, and only vaguely aware of the four wheeler idling quietly in the distance. He stood up, hurt enough to sit back down, and decided then and there that sitting back down was a bad idea. I’m pretty sure he crawled most of the way back to the house.

Mom discovered later that he had a perfect 2”x2” square on his side. When he kicked off the four wheeler he went the wrong direction. The four wheeler had a square steel tube for a seeder bolted to the back and the full force of the flying machine centered on that tube as it landed upside down on his ribs and bounced off just as pretty as you do please. 

Clearly he should have got 10 points from the Russian judge for the excellent dismount.


Fun fact: three weeks later he reached for a towel and discovered that his shoulder had been dislocated the entire time. Do NOT try this one at home kiddies. Not only was dad beat up, that poor bull calf went crazy every time he heard an engine. Sheesh. Talk about PTSD.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Barnyard Tales Chapter 8: That time Satan tested me with a disc mower

Sweat poured down my back and I wiped my brow with one grease stained hand. This mower, oh, this mower. I was pretty certain that Satan himself had come to life and went to work for Case IH as a disc mower design engineer. The Case MDX91 is his gift to the world.

A single 3/8" roll pin had snapped on Tuesday causing the whole lift assembly to crash to the ground, popping apart like a can of Pringles and shearing the all thread that held the spring on. The mower was neatly immobilized, a beautiful piece of red and white pasture art popping up against the muted browns and greens of the hayfield.

Captain America texted me when it happened. His succinct text messages said more about his frustration than a dictionary of curse words.

I arrived the next day with some spare parts from the local hardware store and watched him attempt to loose the all thread from the cast iron jaws of the now seized spring assembly. It didn't work, and for the next morning neither did I as I hauled the spring to the repair shop. The little old farmers opened the door for me and did their best to reassure:

"Farming is only 5% farming, and 95% fixing the stuff that breaks."

"I'm gonna try to hire her."
"Me? Oh no, clearly I'm just good at breaking things!"
"That's fine." He motioned to the broken PTO shaft in his calloused grip. "I'm pretty good at that too. I just need someone to blame it on!"

"We have those springs too. They lock up all the time. These guys will get it extracted for you."

Guess what, they didn't. One new spring assembly and three days later CA and I were headed out, convoy style, when he pulled the big blue bulk of the tractor off the road and walked up to the door of the truck full of tools. I turned down the radio. I should have known then that this was the Devil's clever design.

"We don't have the replacement bolt for the roll pin. It's in my car."
"Oh, you want me to run to your house?"
"No. My car. At your house. An hour and a half away."
"F."

But that's fine I thought. Silly me. I believed I could just leave him in the field and run to the closest hardware store, only an hour round trip, and wouldn't even have to get dirty. Oh, I was so sure of my plan as I jammed out in the air conditioned truck. He'd surely have it mostly put together when I got back.

And that was how I found myself sweaty and blackened with grease and hydraulic fluid, repeatedly rocking a cast iron piece of metal over its seat over and over, and over again. We tried to beat it on by hand. We beat it with hammers. We beat it with the front end loader of the tractor. I kicked it. Nothing worked. We took it off, and put it on. I stood up and walked my pretty little head right into the bale spear, slipped on a grease gun and fell flat on my back. I couldn't tell if the water seeping from my eyes was from pain, frustration, shock, or laughter. We took it off, and put it on. Off and on. Our muttered cursing melded with the dull thunk of the hammer into a beautiful song about the human condition. The sonnoffawitchingmothertruckinggoshdanged whatchamadoodle kept jamming for absolutely no reason other than to be contrary.

Which is how I know that Case's signature red color shows their allegiance to the Underworld. Crafty, crafty.

I called for back-up. They couldn't figure it out either. There were no burrs, no reason whatsoever that the one pipe shaped piece would not fit over the other pipe shaped piece. None at all other than this being a test of fortitude. A divinely administered trial designed to plumb the depths of our resolve, break our spirit, drive a wedge in our hearts, and tarnish our souls.

Or not. As Heinlein said, the purpose of laughter is to keep from crying. It also helps keep you from killing your mate as you work towards a seemingly unattainable goal on a 90 plus degree day with about 500% humidity.

"Hammer."
"Hammer."
"Block."
"Block.
"You can call me doctor if you want. Punch."
"Yes, doctor. Punch."

After four hours of repeating the process, the incessant beating with the front end loader worked. The part slipped on like a glove. I cheered. I laughed. I cried. I thanked the Heavens. Hallelujah. There is a God and he answers prayers. The disc mower was my Moby Dick and CA and I had just harpooned the crap out of it. Suck that, Devil-mower.

We didn't stop to question why our relationship had needed to be so rigorously tested through heat and frustration, our love tempered by the fire of both. It wasn't until later that the thought crossed my mind that the Devil-mower was a test. It wasn't my Moby Dick, it was a brief blink of our book of Job.

We merely did a happy dance and went to work inserting other pins and adjusting parts and pieces.

We merely lifted the 30lb spring into place and connected it.

CA merely told me to stand there and depress the hydraulic hose button so that I got a face full of hydraulic fluid, not even a courtesy tap. Seriously. But through laughter we overcame even that, and came out the other side with minimally clogged pores and remarkably silky skin. We freaking persevered.


And that is the story of the time Satan sent a disc mower to test my relationship.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

It was ridiculously fitting that I blogged about being a muddy superhero on Wednesday. You remember that one? All about how farm life gets you out of your comfort zone, and stretches you as a person?

Yeah. I need to shut up about that because I must have created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of being nose deep in margarita night with the girls, I had to disassemble the rear end of a lawn mower. Joy.  I was supposed to get to be all girly and pretty and wear something NOT a t-shirt for an evening, but no.

My gal pal C is helping me out by mowing on my grandfather’s place since I am being pulled in so many other directions. She called while I was pouring out the last bucket of feed with a conundrum. The Grasshopper was stuck. She had a four wheel drive that could pull it out, but no chain. Could I stop by with a chain on my way to margarita night?

Well, of course. That’s a no brainer. These things happen. Logging chains also tend to twist when pulled and the danged thing wedged around the back wheel bar.

So, C and I banged on it ineffectually for a while with a hammer and then diligently started to scavenge wrenches until we found ones the right size and proceeded to take bolts and covers off until we could beat the chain with a hammer more effectively.

Also, Grandpa, I know that you’re in Heaven and they probably don’t have a hardware store there; but could you PLEASE send me a 9/16 ratchet next time? PLEASE!? In related news, the case for this Earthly experience being “hell on Earth” is actually strengthened by the fact that no matter what I am fixing I never have the right tool for the job. Eternal punishment I tell ya!

But we did it. We overcame. And I am 90% sure we got the mower put back together correctly. If it doesn’t run I think I may pretend that we did not take it apart and have the good Captain or my dad take a look. Hey, I didn’t say that farm induced problem solving made me a good mechanic, just that it made me a mechanic.

Mechanical stuff still is not my strong suit, but celebrating a night out with the girls after? Yeah. Playing to my wheel house baby! Who rocks at drinking margaritas in a dirty t-shirt? This girl!

Happy Friday all!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Squash Boats

Ah, summer. 'Tis the season to be so overwhelmed with happy little squash plants that you wind up eating so much zucchini and pattypan squash that you can't even stand to look at it anymore; that is until the seed catalogs come out and you forget that you don't actually need to plant twelve squash plants of each variety because one of each would probably be enough.

And this is how you wind up getting ten precious little pattypan squashes a day. Not to mention the zucchini. Oh sweet Lord in heaven, the zucchini. Don't even get me started on the zucchini. Spoiler alert: everyone I know is gonna get zucchini bread for Christmas. 

But at least the zucchini I can just throw in the food processor, chop it up, and freeze it into what feels like sixty million gallons of ready to go zucchini puree. The pattypan squash though? While squash bread is probably a thing I decided to change it up a little and stuff some awesome squash boats. Hopefully by freezing these little suckers I won't have to eat so much squash that I can't stand to look at it anymore!

Without further ado I give you Lauren's Awesome Squash Boat Recipe (but you can call it your own - no judgement here!):

It's hard to eat just one!


1lb hamburger
1 can corn
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce (I like hunts)
1 cup brown or wild rice
1 yellow onion, chopped
Four cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
Six to nine pattypan squashes (generally pick them when they are roughly 5 inches across or the skins get tough), or several large zucchini’s (halved)
1 bag shredded sharp cheddar cheese, if desired

Bring a pot of water to a boil and boil each pattypan for three to five minutes. They will be done when they can be easily pierced with a fork. (If you are using zucchini you can skip the boiling.) 

Scoop out a hollow in your squash to put the filling in, much like carving a pumpkin. You can save some flesh and small seeds to add to the filling if you like, but I throw mine into the food processor to use for squash bread later on down the line. Hey, waste not, want not. Right?

Meanwhile brown the hamburger with the onion and garlic. Salt and pepper to taste. Drain.

Also, meanwhile boil the rice according to package directions. Drain.

Mix the hamburger, rice, corn (drained), stewed tomato (not drained), and tomato sauce together. Let simmer until reduced. I chopped at the tomato chunks with the spoon to make them bite sized.

Fill your hollowed squashes to the brim with the meat mixture and cover with cheese if desired. At this point you can either freeze them for later use or bake them at 400 degrees until the cheese is bubbly and the squash cuts easily with a fork. **Baking time varies greatly depending on the size of your squash, and also how long you boiled it initially. Mine usually take about half an hour.**

Enjoy!

FACT: farm women are like muddy superheroes

A few of my friends have been posting about the “So God Made a Farmer” speech again. It got me thinking, while it is true that the majority of farmers are men where is the love for the women farmers and the farmer’s wives, and daughters? We are out there toiling away in the mud and muck too, ya know.

Seriously ladies. Farm women rock, and anyone that can have patience enough to keep dinner warm until an hour after dark o’clock deserves some accolades. I am convinced that Job has nothing on a farmer’s wife. My own father was late to his wedding because the cows got out, and mom had to wander around the pasture looking for him when her water broke because he was out fixing fence. True story. I was not almost born in a barn. It was definitely the back forty.

A rural life breeds a level of independence, self-reliance, patience, and empowerment that many of my feminist college professors would applaud.

There is just something about those times when you are left alone with all those animals or other responsibilities and Murphy’s law starts rearing its ugly head that makes for empowering moments. Is there a horse stuck under a hay feeder and no one else around? Yes, yes, you can grab two hooves and flip that sucker over so he can stand up before he dies. You've got this. Is the automatic waterer not working? Well, grab a tool kit because no one else is home this weekend and you are gonna find out how intuitive plumbing is whether you want to or not. Scared to death of driving a piece of large machinery? Tough luck buttercup. You’d better buck up, because it is nine o’clock at night and there is hay down and a storm on the way. Learn to drive that tractor on the fly. You are needed. You must rise to the occasion and freakin’ overcome lady.

And when you do? Well, you realize that there literally is no such thing as I can’t. You can do anything. Some things you may not like doing (ahem, mechanical maintenance), and some stuff that is easier with help from others (hello, fence building), but there is NOTHING that you can’t do when you put your mind to it.

That, that, is why farm women are awesome. We may bend to, or break from traditional gender roles; but when push comes to shove we know how to buckle down and just make things happen. I can roll out a made from scratch pie crust and cook a roast whilst washing dishes, and then step outside and perform “guy” jobs like mowing, or operating heavy machinery, or tend the livestock without missing a beat. Because I have had to stretch myself past my comfort zone, and because now I know that I can stretch that way I can't go back. And every farm woman I know can too, because we are amazing strong women and because we aren’t confined to a stereotype. We are, and can be what we want to be, who we are, and we are pushed to become even greater than we thought possible.

So while “God made a farmer”, he also made us. He did a pretty amazing job too, might I add. Pat yourself on the back. Even if you don’t see how awesome you are, someone else does and chances are they are either too intimidated to tell you, or think that you are so mind blowingly on top of this that you don’t need to hear it. But I know better, because I need to hear it too sometimes. For once don’t think of your failings, think of your successes, and feel free to be impressed!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Oh what a beautiful morning!

Good morning all! How are you on this most gorgeous day in the history of summer?

Okay, maybe not the most gorgeous day, but it has to be close. After the past weekend of working outside in above 90 degree temperatures with enough humidity to ensure thrice daily bra changes I am in love with this morning. Sixty degrees and low humidity? Not a cloud in the crystal blue sky? Yes please! Now if only it had happened over a weekend so that I could enjoy it. Oh well, it still made for a fantastic run this morning!

The birds were chirping, the world smelled green, the deer were marauding through the cornfields sounding like Farm-zilla (How creatures that delicate can be that destructive and  LOUD I do not know. Run, run for your lives!), and the wild berries alongside the road were starting to ripen! I can't wait to eat so many that I make myself sick, I mean, pick them for jelly later.

One of my favorite bloggers was making berry puree yesterday. That might be enough inspiration to keep my hands out of the berry bucket. Maybe.

I spent a lot of time last night prepping, filling, and freezing some patty pan squash boats because I have been inundated with pattypan squash and super sized zucchini. (Okay that one is on me. It was hot and I ignored a few of them. My bad. Also, zucchini bread for EVERYONE!) You can expect a lovely recipe post on it tomorrow after I get some good pictures of the finished products. I meant to last night, but it was late and it slipped my mind. It is also almost time for the great tomato canning extravaganza of 2014. Are you ready? Because I'm not, but as the plants begin to ripen and my freezer begins to over flow I am afraid I won't have much of a choice before too long! In related news, if anyone has a kicking marinara sauce recipe I am officially on the hunt.

Take care all! Enjoy the sunshine or the rain!


Monday, July 7, 2014

Hayday.

You know that phrase, “make hay while the sun is shining?” With all of the pop up thunderstorms that we have been having lately this past weekend was one of the first good stretches of haying weather that we have had around here. 

Mother Nature does not seem to care that it was the yearly antique tractor show, or that maybe I would have liked to have not hayed on the holiday, but oh well. Part of the freedom that our founder’s fought for was the ability to own and work this land, and I am immensely grateful for that. Well, and I get to hang out with Captain America for hours at a time (at least until he wises up and makes me rake the dried grass or something!), and bring him lunch and do all those other farm support tasks that I so enjoyed watching my grandma do for my grandpa when I was young. 

Oh, you're going to be mowing all day? Here have a whole roast chicken and a peach pie. Do not argue. That is just how things are done, son.

Despite spending the morning of the fourth in a tractor cab it was a great weekend. I think CA is doing a great job starting his custom haying business. He is probably the only person I have ever met who can look out over a freshly baled field being ruined by a pop up rainstorm and just sigh, shrug, and shake the bales out to dry the next day. Resilience I tell ya. He has it. 

I however have a wide variety of very creative curse words and the sneaking suspicion that Mother Nature is gunning for me, but that is part of the fun. Right? Right? Where would I be without some sort of movie plot in my head?


Anyway, I hope ya’ll had a great fourth! I really can't complain, theatrics aside! It was a fantastic weekend. Well, let’s just say that I’m living in my hayday! ;)

hay·day                /ˈhāˌdā/               noun
noun: hayday; plural noun: haydays
A day dedicated to any of the aspects associated with haying 
(mowing, raking, baling, inevitably fixing the mower-rake-baler, or spent 
crying over the sudden storm cell that just ruined your hay). 
See also, any damn day that it isn’t raining from June until September.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What makes a farmer?

I was talking with one of my friends about a fantasy land where we would run away with our boyfriends and live in a cottage somewhere. In the course of the conversation she started talking about farming and how she wouldn't know what to do with herself, so Captain America and I would have to be in charge of it. I tried to tell her that it was easy, but something must have gotten lost in the translation.

How do you sum up the love, the angst, the freedom, and the responsibility in a few sentences? How do you explain the pure exultant joy that you can feel from successfully doing something that felt insurmountable: mowing and baling a field of hay on your own, helping birth a calf, falling in instant love with a baby chick, making food from dirt? Or the heart wrenching despair and loss that you feel when Murphey's law hits and everything that can possibly go wrong does: all the equipment breaks - repeatedly, it rains on your hay, animals die, gardens wither? 

Surely this is what she must feel like when she tells me about music, or other friends try to explain what moves them. It is so frustrating to have something that you love so much, and be unable to verbalize that love to share it with your loved ones. To explain how easy and wonderful your passion is to someone who doesn't share it is exceedingly difficult.

Being a farmer isn't about mechanical skill, ability to build fence, knowledge of livestock medicine, or any of the hundred other chores that pop in my head - though those things do help. But being a farmer is so much less, and so much more than that. It is heart. It is love. It is fortitude.

Being a farmer is cow paths that wind through the woods as a child's Yellow Brick Road. It is climbing atop a pile of round bales and serenading a herd of cows like you're a pop star. It is watching a thousand loved ones slowly age and die, or be swiftly executed in their prime. It is holding newborn kittens and helping bird's to their nests. It is standing in a hayfield during a surprise thunderstorm surrounded by 200 freshly made square bales that are going to have to be shaken out and dried again so they can be rebaled without molding, and finding the ability to cry, curse and laugh your way through it again and again. It is being aware and entangled with both the highs and the lows of life; and having so much love for that life, plant or animal, that you get up and keep going even when it feels pointless, overwhelming, and you question your sanity.

I don't know. Maybe it is genetic. Somewhere in our DNA is code for red or green tractors next to the one that determines our eye color. Maybe it is environmental. How could I ever leave my adoring herd of fans? After all they are the only ones who like my singing, and most of my songs were about them and the horses anyway. 

Maybe it is a combination of both that gives anyone the determination to pursue their passion. Heart and fortitude, baby. That's what makes me a farmer.

Friday, June 27, 2014

It's a redneck weddin'!

I’m pretty sure that I’m redneck married right now. If the gun left at my house was a betrothal of some sort we are definitely there.

Captain America and I bought a tractor together. It is a brand spanking new New Holland T105 with a passenger seat! He wanted it so he could pull a disc mower and a big baler for his custom haying operation. I wanted it because, well, it has a passenger seat! And air conditioning! And a sun roof! They called it a “high visibility panel,” but it has a sun roof! Long story short, it is a tractor with a cab where I won’t have to plaster myself pathetically to the outside of the door like a squashed bug. Which pretty much sucks except in the spring. I mean why wouldn’t I love clinging to the door with my fingertips as I watch my dad inside the heated, air conditioned, and dry cab. With this beast I can  actually sit in the cab and not get jabbed in the butt by the PTO button or a lever that I have to contort myself around so that my beloved can actually turn on the equipment. Not gonna lie, it’s pretty sweet.

Captain was pretty nervous about it. It is a lot of money up front, but it should be the tractor that we can use for the rest of our lives. Tractors don’t depreciate the way that cars do. Even though it made sense to spend the money now rather than later he was nervous about it. That is until he used the disc mower. I’m pretty sure I have never seen him so happy in all the months we have been together. We messed around mowing his pasture in the five minutes of daylight that we had left when we got back to his place. In those five-ten minutes we mowed almost a quarter of the pasture, which had previously taken him maybe half an hour or forty minutes to mow with his other mower. I hopped out to open the gate and when I turned around he had his arms full of freshly mown clover and weeds and I guess it could have been a trick of the fading light, but I think there were tears of joy in his eyes. He was probably saying something about “Look how great it mows!” but in my head he was spinning and dancing through the meadow with this big armful of clover singing in joy. The clouds parted. He ran towards the tractor, there was a dramatic moment where the refrain of “Loving you is easy because you’re beautiful” was playing. There may have been skipping, but I’m not sure because I was being shown clover at that point and my head and heart were bubbly seeing him so happy.

By the way, my head routinely makes real life into some sort of Disney cartoon. I sincerely doubt that it is a diagnosable condition, but I blame Beauty and The Beast.

So yeah, I’m redneck married. You can send all wedding gifts as checks made out directly to Davis Farm Supply. ;)

I guess all that is left to do is figure out which anniversary is the farm equipment anniversary. Captain America says year one, but I don’t believe him. I feel like he may just be angling for a new baler...

Take me for a ride in your big blue tractor.
We can go slow, or go a little faster.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Life is too short


I stumbled across this on the Facebook page of The Prairie Homestead, and it rang particularly true this morning. I was thinking something pretty similar as I struggled to run fifteen feet farther than yesterday.


How many times do we sit back and lament, waiting for a change; but unwilling to take the necessary steps to make it happen? I know I do it, and I'm sure you do too. I think everyone does in some aspect of their life, whether it is personal or professional: wanting a different kind of love, a different kind of life, or even in my particular early morning experience a different kind of body.


Yeah, how sad is it that for me, it was easier to overhaul my personal relationships and my career than it is to convince myself that I CAN run.


I have never been athletic. I have never thought that I could be athletic. In my brain I have always perceived the girls that ran (or exercised for that matter) for fun as "insane," "crazy," and maybe even "narcissistic." Never have I identified with them. I made up words and descriptions to make it less appealing, to make me feel superior, to validate my never running a consecutive mile in my whole life. To make excuses for not even trying.


I saw images of runners, with their long lean frames and stared at my frumpy self in the mirror chanting: "That can never be me. I don't look like that. Look at my belly, butt, and thighs. The damned things practically bounce off when I jog ten feet. I could never run. I can't do that."


And I never even tried...


Until a month ago.


You may recall a few weeks ago I referenced a conversation that drunk me had with Captain America where I told him my *actual* weight loss goals, and I ended the post with something about lacing up running shoes. Yes. Running shoes. It was a big step. It meant changing everything that I had ingrained in my own head about who I was. Sad as I am to admit it, not running DEFINED me and I didn't even know it until I made a haphazard blog post.


I started running that next morning. I drug myself up an extra hour early and headed out the door. I made it about forty feet before I was heaving and my sight was blurry. I walked the rest of the mile. The next day I made it fifty before I started walking. Susan, my dog with a horrible deviated septum, kept me company. Somehow running next to her as she wheezed like a creeper peeping into a woman's window helped. If she could do it, I could; I can.


The same things kept playing over in my head, day after day. This wasn't me! I didn't run! What was I doing? Who was I kidding? I couldn't do this. I should just go back to bed.


At the end of week two, and a quarter mile of consecutive run time, I actually stopped being wrapped up in my thoughts long enough to realize what my ego was saying to me. I started to argue back. Why couldn't it be me? Why couldn't I be a runner, or fit, or pretty? Why did I have to stay in the comfortable little scholar bowl mold that I had made myself in high school? That wasn't me. I wasn't that limited. I am not that limited. I can be anything. Hell, I already am more than that. Why not add runner to the damned list? Why not?!


Yes. I got pissed off at my own ego tamping me down. And you know what? It felt good.


We all have something that holds us back. Maybe yours isn't changing a deeply held belief about yourself, maybe it is wanting a new type of love, a satisfying career, a new lifestyle, or anything else under the sun; but don't give up on yourself. Don't let that damned voice in your head win. Get pissed. Trust me, you owe it to yourself.


Go out there and get that something you've never had. It feels good to change it up. 


Just not always at six-thirty in the morning after running 3/4 of a mile. That still sucks sometimes. But at seven? Man, it feels great. ;)

Friday, May 23, 2014

GOOOOOAAAAALLLLLS


I would really appreciate someone following me around with a vuvuzela and blowing it wildly anytime I accomplish anything. It would make life oh so much more exciting!

Anyway, goals! Since drunk me decided to blab about my weight loss goals to my boyfriend (see my other blog). I figured I might as well share with you all my gardening and farming goals for this year. Something about transparency and accountability go hand in hand with accomplishment, right?

I want to be able to can enough tomatoes, pickles, and preserve enough potatoes that I don’t have to buy any all winter. Because well, I'm cheap and  I don't like eating pesticides or BPA. Plus, I always played "pioneer" when I was little and I am a little curious to see how hard it would have been to survive only on what I could produce. I'm just ramping up to it. SLOWLY! I’m not sure how it will work out with the potatoes yet, but here is to hoping!

I also want to make several more batches of jelly and herbal preserves. The house I just bought has a crab apple, apple, and apricot tree; in addition to the apple, peach, and pear trees up at my grandpa’s place. So canned and frozen fruit, jams, and jellies should abound! Provided I don’t kill myself mowing all the danged grass. I am so glad that I am going to have a bigger kitchen to work with!

Granted before I can play with that shiny big kitchen I have to gut the bathroom, add a second bath, rip up carpet and refinish floors, and repaint; but by God when I get all that done I will be up to my eyeballs in jelly!

Well, after I still manage to fix fence, get hay put up with Cap, and try to clean and repair the barn and grainery. Oh, and help dad clean out and sort all the stuff in my grandpa's sheds and greenhouse. But after that!

Or it will be next year and I can start my grand plans all over again. Whichever comes first, right? There is always tomorrow!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The USDA wants to buy...submachine guns?!?!?


From the WTF files...it came to my attention today that the USDA (department of Agriculture) has put out a request for quote on...firearms?!?! What in the heck? Why does the USDA need submachine guns?


I mean, yes, rootworm is bad this year, but submachine guns? Seriously?

Death to crop pests!
Who wants to guess that these are NOT for a war on GMOs?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

And the lion shall lay down with the lamb.

Or the murderous cat shall lay down with the bunny. Same thing.

I think I am in the twilight zone. I have seen this cat jump straight up in the air four feet in order to nab a bird as it flew by. She is also HELL on baby bunnies, squirrels, chipmunks, and probably calves too. Who knows? 

I honestly don't know how many times she has killed, but I do know that she is one heck of a hunter. And that her claws belong on a freaking velociraptor. Seriously, she must sharpen them on razor wire or something. It is instant blood when she decides to purr and knead your leg.

I am not sure what her end game is with Mr. Whiskers, but I wouldn't trust her if I were him. Maybe her grooming is just tenderizing him? Lulling him into a false sense of security? Some weird sadistic prank where she befriends the friend of her victims? Or maybe it is repentance for all the bunny lives she has taken? Has she flipped over a new leaf? Is she in kitty counseling? 

The world may never know!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Have you ever been eye stalked by a cow?

 
You know those people at the gym that stare at you while you exercise? That make you feel judged, and badly about yourself? The ones that make that internal voice go, “Oh crap. I’m not working hard enough. Fast enough. I must look horrible in this spandex shirt!” Yep.
Meet the mother of those people. A cow.

You're not even able to work fast enough to keep me fed. Amateur.

Let me set the stage for you. A few weeks back I posted about my abusive relationship with the cows and I mentioned that I had spent several hours cleaning the barn. This is a set of before and after photos of the lovely project.


Something doesn't look quite right.
And no, it isn't the fact that the stalls are full of 30 years worth of junk!

Step one complete! Note the height change!
Also note that this is about when I realized that my radio was on AM.
And that was why I couldn't listen to anything other than radio Disney...
I was dedicated dammit. I also know the words to "Let it go."

Let it go, let it go. I'm not cleaning this anymore!
Let it go, let it goooo! Almost ready to close up the doors.
I don't care. What the cows say.
Let them moo onnnn!...The hay never bothered me anyway!

You see that wonderfully compressed timber? And the one with the hole in it? Yeah. That was what prompted my cow-stalking gym time. The dang barn was falling down. It is always something! 

And yes, I have an entire barnyard version of the song. Go ahead. Judge all ya'll want. When Disney comes knocking on my door you'll see! ;)

Stop being a weatherman.



 
I saw this photo on Facebook last Friday, and all I can do is heartily agree. I feel like my life has been a non-stop whirlwind lately.  I have always enjoyed being busy. It is one of the reasons I love living on a farm. I don’t know what to do with myself when there isn’t some chore or project to work on. I’m not big on relaxing with television or movies (to the point that I am pretty sure it drove my college roommate crazy because I couldn’t sit through a show without leaving to do dishes or something else productive). Tis the season for that to shine I suppose. Spring is always a time of growth and rapid change. There is always a flurry of activity that leads into the growing season. This year’s has just been even crazier than usual.

My grandpa passed away in February leaving me with a bunch of outbuildings to clean and rehab, in addition to a LOT more grass to mow, and a ton of exciting (but overwhelming) opportunities. In addition to that, I bought a house. Because, hey, why not compound that overwhelming amount of yard, with another two acre yard. Go big or go home, right?

Right. Check. Got that. Did that. Own the t-shirt. Damn near started a business printing the t-shirt because I just can’t say no to adding more things to my plate. AHHH! Stress is exhilarating!!! Until it isn’t.

Halfway through getting my garden in last week I about had a meltdown. I had already smushed my hand between the rather large lawn mower and a tree – leading me to believe that prayer must work because the accident really should have removed fingers or at least broken something. My guardian angel has got some overtime coming her way! Anyway, in addition to pain priming myself for a crying spree; I had let myself become obsessed with my to do list. Anyone who lives on a farm, no matter how big or small, should realize one thing about farms and to do lists. Farms make NEVER ENDING to do lists.

Seriously, something is always coming up. There is always a garden to weed, or a fence to fix, a barn to repair, livestock to check, plants to water, grass to cut, invasive plants to kill… I think you get the idea. You will never accomplish everything on the list. Plain and simple. You have to do what you can, when you can, and try to not drive yourself insane by impulse buying ten bags of organic potatoes that were on sale for $1.99/ five pounds and trying to process them during planting season. It does not end well.
 
Though I have found that I can process ten pounds of potatoes over my hour long lunch break, and that Captain America has some awesome potato chopping skills. Yay date night! (Despite this, I still have 10 pounds to go. WHOO!)

Anyway, to summarize: I was trying to mow well over fifteen acres of yard, plant my entire garden, process 50 pounds of potatoes, figure out how to remodel a bathroom, stress about moving things around up at grandpa’s so that the massive fixing spree can happen, and stay on top of my regular chores in the three hours of daylight that I had after work. In three days. Because it was going to start raining Thursday and not stop until this week. Plus, I have plans virtually every weekend. On a side note volunteering at the food pantry in St. Louis Saturday was incredibly rewarding, though a bit disturbing. Who on earth donates opened products (Mm, half used quinoa! Not sketchy at all!) and cans that expired in 1999? Really guys?

I like to call last week my extreme exhaustion challenge. It makes it seem much happier that way. In the midst of it, my mom gave me some very good advice: “Stop spending your life trying to be a weatherman and predicting when the storm will hit. You’re obsessing with when the rain is going to come rather than enjoying the sunshine!” I would like to say that I immediately stopping stressing/crying/working myself sick and really got that statement, but it took me a few days. I was very good about enjoying the little things with grandpa when he was alive. I stopped and admired the clouds and the sunshine with him, but since he has gone I have been (maybe distracting myself from grief?) overwhelming myself with responsibilities, trying desperately to maintain and do things the way he would have wanted. It is the same with the neighbor’s house I purchased, I want to care for it the way Evelyn and Ralph always did.

I want to honor their memory with my actions, but at some point I have to admit that I am just one person and I can’t take care of things the way that three people were able to. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter that the grass isn’t immaculate, because it is just going to grow again. And the land is mine to care for now, not theirs. I need to be a good steward, but by God if I want to rearrange the buildings that are falling down on themselves and have to be rebuilt anyway to suit my goals I should. I shouldn’t make myself crazy over it.

What is the point in having everything to take care of if I can’t stop and enjoy it? If I don’t get in the habit now, I will make a habit of not enjoying it that will be very hard to break. I will always have too much to finish; and this making everything a priority bit that I have been doing lately is only serving to make me insane, and make nothing a priority.

So, here is to better prioritizing, and not making myself sick with guilt when I want a damned pedicure. Ha!