Country Living Series

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Love Letter

25 years ago - this day, I was blessed with the finest day of my life. On that day, the best woman in the entire world took a very risky gamble and accepted me as her husband.

We have led a life where for most of the years that have followed we've worked together. With relatively rare exceptions, we're never much farther apart than 2 or 3 hundred feet. Occasionally, I'll go do a craft show or she'll head off to a prepper convention. But on the average day I'll be in the shop and she'll be at her computer or in the kitchen. I'll hear something on the radio and rush in to tell her about it. We'll stop and talk about it. I'll kiss the back of her neck. She'll give me a hug. And I'll go back to my work...happy. When we find the time, we'll go for a walk - holding hands - and talk about the day or tomorrow or plans for the next year.

 In the evening, like tonight, she'll go to bed earlier than me and give me kiss before heading upstairs.

We don't really "celebrate" much. Every minute of the day seems so full. Kids, cows, garden, fences, chicken, shipping product,

 Birthdays are noted; but without much fuss. Previous anniversaries usually are a kiss and and an "I love you". I can't speak for Patrice on this, but for me annual anniversaries just aren't that big a deal because I've celebrated 9,125 daily anniversaries so far, and I look forward eagerly to tomorrow and the next one.

Patrice may not always be first thing on my mind when I wake up in the morning - But I get up only because she's here. She may not always be the last thing on my mind when I fall asleep - but I'm always the spoon she's nestled in. Patrice may not be on my mind every minute of the day - but there is no one and nothing that I think about more. She is the sunshine of my life - so I never fear the darkness. If I do something that makes me proud - it's because I want her to be proud of me. If I screw up, I feel bad because I never want to be less in her eyes.

I believe in God. I believe his Son died to take away the sins of the world. Still...I worry sometimes that when my day is done, and I face my Lord, the balance of my shortcomings might sway things against me. But if the Lord asks me to say one thing in my defense - one last chance to change my fate - I'll tell him that "Patrice loves me." And that must surely count for a lot.

And I will love her until the end of time.

Happy 9,125th anniversary Maeve.

I can hardly wait till tomorrow.

Wedding photo goes viral

Here's an astounding photo caught by a wedding photographer of a Marine praying with his bride before they walked down the aisle.

According to the article: "A wedding photographer has captured the touching moment a US Marine sought out his bride-to-be so the pair could say a prayer for their marriage together just moments before they walked down the aisle and said 'I do'.

To ensure he wouldn't see his bride before the ceremony, US Marine Corps Corporal Caleb Earwood and his fiancee Maggie, both from Asheville, North Carolina, kept their eyes closed and turned away from one another as family members brought them together for a prayer on Saturday before their Memorial Day weekend wedding.

The photo shows Caleb in his Marine uniform and Maggie in her wedding gown as they hold hands and pray near a staircase with their backs turned away from each other.

And the poignant image quickly became an internet sensation, sparking a flurry of positive responses."

Too beautiful not to share. It brought tears to my eyes -- how about yours?

Memorial Day

Words are inadequate to thank veterans for their service and sacrifice.

But I'll try.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Another new calf

Friday was a hot, humid, thundery afternoon, but the storm clouds dodged around us (which is unfortunate, as we could use the rain).

Don and I decided to take a walk. On our way out, we noticed a calf chasing a raven in the field.

A few other animals got in on the chase as well.

But we didn't think much about it. On the way back from our walk, we noticed the raven being chased by a blackbird. The raven had something in its beak, and I remember commenting that I hoped it wasn't a baby blackbird.

As we came up the driveway, we noticed one of our young heifers, Dusty, off by herself in the corner of the pasture. When cows go solitary, it usually means one thing.

A calf.

So that's what the Raven was after, and presumably holding in its beak: not a baby blackbird, but part of the placenta. When I downloaded the photos, I was astounded to see that Dusty was in fact chasing away the raven with the placenta still being delivered.

Since the calf was born the farthest possible distance away from the house (of course), we were faced with the task of bringing mama and baby into the corral. We like newborns to be close to home so we can either castrate or dehorn as necessary. But how to haul a 30 or 40 pound baby from five acres away? We decided to use the tractor.

Periodically the rest of the herd came over to see the newborn (I brightened the photo to make things more visible).

Sure enough, here's the placenta. Bon app├ętit to the ravens.

I sincerely wish I could have gotten photos of what followed because (in retrospect) it was hilariously funny. Don drove the tractor to within a few yards of Dusty. I walked over and scooped up the calf and then sat in the bucket of the tractor with the calf in my lap. The baby struggled and the tractor bucket isn't exactly made for sitting, but I managed. Don crept the tractor backward and in fact backed the machine all the way back up the pasture, with me holding a heavy, struggling baby in my lap. (We figured going backward allowed Dusty to see where her calf was.)

Meanwhile the herd, excited at the novelty of not only the new baby but a tractor as well, literally thundered and stampeded all over the field and in wide circles around the tractor as it moved. My camera was jammed in my pocket and I didn't dare let go of the baby to fetch it, which is a shame because it was a splendid photographic opportunity.

By this point I was covered in meconium (baby poop) all across my lap, legs, and arms. We made it to within about fifty feet of the pasture gate when the baby started struggling so hard I was afraid it would hurt itself, so I yelled for Don to stop. Then I scooped it up and we trotted as fast as we could toward the gate. Don opened it and I deposited the baby on the other side.

Now we were tasked with getting Dusty out of the pasture. She was milling around with the other animals, understandably distressed about where her baby went. We couldn't single her out from the herd, so we fetched the girls and managed to get Dusty out of the pasture. But she still didn't "see" her baby (hormones and stress will do that to a cow), so in the end I scooped up the baby again (by this point we found it was a girl) and I put her in the barn, then we separately scooted Dusty into the corral and thereby reunited the two. Whew, what a rodeo!

The baby is a very pretty and unusual dusky color similar to her mother's when she was born. Younger Daughter named the baby Adina, so we'll call her Dina for short.

This is Dusty's first calf. She is settling in to be a good mother, though she's understandably suspicious of us at the moment (for stealing her baby!).

We left Dusty and Dina in the corral and went to fetch the tractor, which was still in the pasture...

...then I took a much-needed shower and consigned my clothes to the laundry.

We'll keep Dusty and Dina in the corral for a few days until Dina is old enough to dehorn, after which we'll return them to the pasture.

I tell ya, life is never dull around here.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Moving cattle

Last week, after Don completed the fence around the pond, it was time to put the cows down in the pasture. Besides being the right time of year, part of the decision was because we need to reserve our remaining hay for the bull and cow remaining in the bull pen.

The animals milled around in the feed lot. They knew something was up.

When we were ready to open gates, everyone made it down to the pasture except three of the babies (Curly, Ninja, and Lucy) who weren't sure where to go.

When it came time to direct themselves toward the pasture gate, instead they popped through the neighbor's fence. Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to the world's most useless fence -- for cows. Our neighbor (who has horses) installed this several years ago in lieu of some ratty-looking field fence. These strands are elastic and are supposed to be electrified, and when the electricity is on, it works splendidly to keep horses where they're supposed to go.

But let me tell you, it does squat to keep cattle in -- particularly calves. Even when the power is on and the strands are electrified, they just pop through quick enough that it's only a minor shock. We've spent years dealing with cattle popping through these durn strands, after which we all have to round them up off our neighbor's property back onto our side.

So a couple weeks ago, Don and I drilled holes and inserted posts to install a supplemental fence on our side, designed to keep cattle in. The posts were in place but not the fencing material, so when we tried to move the calves, they just popped through the elasticized strands onto the neighbor's land and led us on a merry chase. Grrrr.

So we managed to get the calves back in the feed lot, then we stopped and stretched field fencing (hard to see in the below photo, but it's there).

Then we released the calves and once more herded them around to where the pasture gate was. What followed was absolutely hilarious and had us rolling on the ground laughing. The calves, thinking things were just the same as before, headed straight for the neighbor's fence... and literally bounced off the newly-installed field fencing. They tried several times -- "Hey, this worked a few minutes ago!" -- and got nowhere. So they gave up and went where we wanted them to go, namely into the pasture. Man, we should have done this years ago.

Soon everyone was happily grazing.

By the way, remember our herd matron Jet whose surprise calf provided her with a stay of execution (from the freezer)? Of the many excellent names you all suggested for the calf, we chose Victor (since he was born on Good Friday and he provided his mother a temporary victory over the freezer).

This was Victor's first time out of the bull pen. When he hit the field, he ran and ran and ran. (That's him on the left.)

Everyone appreciates a mineral block.

Yes, some fat and happy cows.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday roundup

Time once again for our Friday roundup, in which we post what incremental steps we took toward preparedness and self-sufficiency.

And what did we do this week?


Zip, zilch, nothing. It's just been a crazy-busy week and nothing, but nothing, got done.

The most we can say is this: (1) We moved our herd down into the field for fresh grazing...

...and (2) we had a calf born this afternoon to Dusty, a little heifer whom Younger Daughter named Adina (Dina for short) -- more on this in a separate blog post.

Hardly anything that could be claimed as preparedness-related.

I'm hoping you all have had a more productive week than we have!

A parade of pelicans

While driving by the lake earlier this week (on our way to town for Younger Daughter to get her driving learner's permit!), we saw a parade of pelicans.

They're surprisingly common around here.

For all their ungainly appearance, pelicans are extraordinarily graceful birds, particularly when they move synchronously to herd fish.

I feel very fortunate to live in a place where we can see pelicans.

UPDATE: Reader Sue in Oregon submitted this Ogden Nash limerick, which I thought was hilarious:

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week

Monday, May 18, 2015

What if a financial crash happened this fall?

A couple of days ago, Don and I were discussing the myriad projects, improvements, and tasks we want to accomplish. We kept piling on more and more until we realized it was necessary to write them down in order to keep track. Within five minutes, the list had 26 items, and we're keeping it handy to add to it as more ideas occur to us.

As usual, it's always a factor of time and money to figure out which of these projects we'll accomplish, and in what order. Our next step is to divvy the list into A, B, and C categories, with A projects having the highest priority (either because they're important, or because they're cheap or easy to do) and C having the lowest priority.

Then yesterday we had an interesting conversation, a friend-of-a-friend exchange. We heard of a financial "insider" who said she expected the financial system to crash this fall. Of course lots of people are making predictions about the economy, and while this insider seems well-placed to have solid information, her prediction is just that: a prediction.

But it did provide fodder for an interesting mental exercise.

Let's just say, for the sake of argument, this person is correct and America will experience an economic collapse this fall. What would you do?

I sometimes like to ask people this hypothetical question: If your great-grandparents had known in 1928 what was waiting for them in 1929, what could or should they have done to brace themselves for the impact of the Great Depression?

Well here we have the exact same scenario -- except, of course, we're looking into the future instead of harvesting wisdom from the past. But they say those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

So -- if you knew an economic collapse was going to happen five or six months in the future, what should or would you do to brace yourselves for its impact?

And more importantly, will you follow through and do these things?