Wednesday, September 26, 2018

One year ago today

“Today is my one-year in the Navy mark,” Younger Daughter emailed this morning. “A year ago today I arrived at RTC, stayed up all night stenciling and peeing in cups and getting screamed at by people in red ropes.”

Younger Daughter has been stuck in the same spot (Great Lakes, Illinois) for a year now, undergoing lots of academic training, but this will shortly change as she heads off to another location for her specialized “C” school training, and then hitting the fleet – at last!

I’m being purposely vague about her whereabouts because I don’t want her movements public – but she’s moving ahead in her naval career and will soon be facing life aboard a ship.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Happy logs?

I was coming back from a nearby town a few days ago and found myself behind a logging truck.

I noticed one of the logs had a happy face.

Is this a happy log or a happy logger?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Silly Darcy

Here's just a few photos of Mr. Darcy being silly in the front yard, playing with assorted stuff like a bundle of baling twine and an old cheap Frisbee.

And here's Mr. Darcy barking at some cows, who are supremely indifferent to him and calmly chewing their cud.

Only after a couple minutes did the cows leisurely get up, stretch, and wander away. Mr. Darcy was very proud he'd routed the animals All By Himself.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Prepper gardening -- listen to the talk!

I've giving a workshop on the subject of Prepper Gardening this upcoming Saturday at Inland Northwest Preparedness Expo in Sandpoint, Idaho.

If you're in the area, please consider attending!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The wisdom of age

It's birthday time in the Lewis household. I just turned 56. Don will turn 61 in a couple of weeks.

At this point in our lives, we don't celebrate our birthdays, but they certainly make us more thoughtful. We've reached the point where we're aware of our own mortality. I hope that doesn't sound gloomy because it's not. We're quite happy and content, pleased with how our children have launched themselves into the world, happy to still have my parents with us, still facing challenges in work and on the farm. Life is good.

Which is why this article struck a chord: "Who was happier at 60?"

The author, Liz Jones, just turned 60. And my goodness doesn't she look fabulous:

Ms. Jones contrasts her incredible fitness at 60 with her mother's health at the same age. Her mother had gray hair, false teeth, arthritis, and hip and knee replacements.

But her mom also giggled at life. She never wore a swimsuit, but she happily limped to the beach and sat on the sand with homemade rolls and watched her seven children romp in the water.

In fact, Ms. Jones was "terrified" to look like her mom at the same age, and spent her entire life fighting it. She writes:
I’m the same dress size as when I turned 16. You can tell I’ve dedicated my life not to raising a family, or giggling, but to being 'beach body ready.' Effort is etched on my face. I’m anxious, too: do my arms look fat? Is my hair, dyed fortnightly from the day I turned 25, looking crispy? I only have a half-smile because, if I’m not smiling a little, my face falls. My teeth are veneered, not false. I don’t hobble; instead I walk and run, every day, for miles: a good thing, certainly. But all I can think when I look at the photo of me is my God, how exhausting, and how desperately unhappy. How lonely, too.

I’d been dreading my 60th (Wednesday was the Big Day) from the day I turned 50. It has loomed, large and dark, like an empty grave, because I fear it will mean the death of all I’ve strived for: to be desirable, sexy, fashionable, in and certainly not out. I don’t want to be invisible. I really, really don’t want to be old.

I’ve tried to buy into 60 being the new 40, and how liberating it will be to not feel obliged to Hollywood wax, but the truth is I know I will continue to battle to keep the years at bay. Why? Because I’m not where I should be: I’m single, not secure, not loved. I can’t relax. I have to keep trying.
And therein lays the sad part of this article. Ms. Jones looks like a woman half her age. But how long can she keep this up? When she's 80, will she look like she's 40? What about when she's 90?

Contrast this with her mother, who looked -- arguably -- older than her 60 years. Yet her mother giggled at the beach. She made homemade rolls for her seven kids. She had a husband who adored her and helped her put on her socks since she could no longer reach her feet because of the arthritis. She had already had a hip replacement and a knee replacement. "She was in constant, excruciating pain," noted Ms. Jones. "And yet she is smiling. ... She didn’t dread her birthdays, as I do. She never mentioned the big Six-O or expected a fuss; she probably spent the evening ironing."

Ms. Jones was a career woman, a journalist and a former editor at the beauty magazine Marie Claire. Yet in this painfully honest article, she asks who is happier at 60 -- her or her mom? "My mum was content with her lot, she lived in the moment, she didn’t put off life," noted Ms. Jones. "My overriding feeling, as the Big Day [her 60th birthday] came and went last week, was that my generation of women was sold a lie. We were told our mothers’ lives were disgracefully submissive. We were told we must battle our bodies into submission, land a career in order to hold all the power. Problem is, a great job doesn’t bend down each morning, without a murmur, and pull stockings gently over toes, as Dad did for Mum."

Don is the one who read this article and sent it to me. "You're given a limited lifespan," he observed, "and you're given seasons within that lifespan to accomplish things: marriage, children, retirement. One of the lovely things about having faith is knowing growing older is supposed to happen. No one will be 120 years old when you're standing before the throne. Everyone is immortal at 20. No one is immortal at 60."

My example for aging was set by my mother, who is almost exactly 31 years older than me (our birthdays are three days apart). My mom never fought her gray hair, she embraced it (she would instruct her hair dresser to cut her hair to show the gray to advantage). She and my dad rolled with the punches of life and got back on their feet. Now, having just celebrated their diamond anniversary, they move slower and take great care not to fall. But they're content and satisfied with their lives. What's not to admire? Sure, my mom has wrinkles. But you know what? She earned those wrinkles. They're beautiful.

Don led a rather "wild'n'crazy" life as a young man, before we met. He tells me I wouldn't have liked him at 20, and he doesn't think God would have either. "God blesses people who managed to make it into their 60s," he said, "because He's given us time to make up for our earlier shortfalls. To get square with God can’t happen if you can’t contemplate your own mortality. Since everyone at 20 thinks they’ll live forever, it takes age to acquire the wisdom to know they’re NOT immortal. Growing older is a gift -- if for no other reason it allows us to focus on the next life, not this one."

Ms. Jones apparently spent her whole life desperately trying to stay within one "season" -- her young adulthood. By obsessively focusing on staying a perpetual 25, she's missed the other, more mature seasons that come with life: stable marriage, having babies, raising kids, empty nesting, grandkids, and finally rocking on the back porch, watching the sun go down with a beloved spouse. She bypassed this so she could pretend she's forever 25.

At least she's smart enough to realize who was happier at 60 -- her mom. I sincerely hope she starts to contemplate her own mortality -- a cheery thought, not a grim one -- and gets square with God.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Friday, September 7, 2018

Livin' the dream

A couple weeks ago I walked out to the garden to pick some onions for dinner.

On the way I passed our cow Victoria. We had sold her six-month-old calf a few days before, so she was still in the agitated bellowing stage and was using it as an excuse to hop a low spot in the fence and hang around in the driveway. We kept the driveway gate closed, so there was no where else she could go. (She calmed down shortly thereafter and we repaired the fence.)

At the time, the driveway was littered with eight round bales of hay we had delivered to supplement our winter supply. We've since moved the bales into the barn.

I also passed the buff hen, busy mothering the 13 half-grown chicks.

I picked the onions and trimmed the roots and stems, which I dropped in the compost bin before I came back to the house. While I was in the garden, some neighbors dropped by for a visit. "Look at the size of these!" I exclaimed, holding up the onions, which they duly admired.

"And it occurred to me," I added, "how strange it would seem to some people to be passing cows and chickens and hay bales on the way to get onions from the garden for dinner."

"Yep, we're living the dream," replied the wife.

She was right. Sometimes I forget we're livin' the dream and it's good to be reminded.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Sad sight

A couple weeks ago, while walking Mr. Darcy, I noticed a pale blotch on the ground at the base of a telephone pole.

Closer inspection revealed it to be a juvenile great horned owl, dead.

It looked like it had just pitched off the telephone pole and fell to the ground. I suspect it starved to death.

Juvenile great horned owls are quite common around us.

At night we hear their characteristic screech, so different than the majestic hoot of their elders.

But it's a tough period in a young owl's life. His screeching calls are actually begging calls to be fed. But his parents can't feed him forever -- he has to learn to hunt on his own. And if he fails -- he starves. "During their initial dispersal in fall, juvenile owls have a high mortality rate, frequently more than 50 percent," notes Wikipedia.

That, I suspect, is what happened to the pathetic bundle of feathers on the ground at the base of the telephone pole.

After a few days, the carcass got scattered by other predators, presumably coyotes, though I suspect there wasn't much meat on those bones.

I hear other juvenile owls every night around our house. I hope they make it.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Mother hen

Well, of the two broody hens who hatched out eggs, resulting in an unusual co-parenting arrangement with the resulting 13 chicks, one hen has flown the coop and abandoned all pretense of being a mother. This would be the Jersey Giant hen, who now blends in so well with the rest of the flock that I can't find her to chastise her.

Not that it matters to the chicks. They have happily grouped around the Buff Orpington hen, who continues to act motherly but now has an enormous brood to care for.

But she's done a good job. She hasn't lost a single chick. It's always funny to watch the whole brood try to cram under her feathers.

Like a good mother, she calls them over whenever it's lunch time.

The babies are approaching what we call the "velociraptor" stage, gangling awkward creatures who run with their necks stretched straight out, flapping as they go.

Yep, makes for a happy barnyard.