Tuesday, June 10, 2014

You Don't Like the Way I Look? Okay.

Today I read not one but two blog posts by women who are considering going naturally gray and shivering with fear at the prospect that they will look older than they did when they dyed their hair. Yesterday I (stupidly) commented on a friend's blog that I didn't like her friend's tattoo, and her friend exploded.

What do these events have in common? The striking amount that some people care what other people think about what they look.

For the record, I have some gray hair. Not a lot, but some. And I'm 58, so it's understandable. I've decided that I'm never going to dye my hair. It is what it is, and I kind of like it. But then, I don't wear make-up, either. I don't even own any. I've never painted my nails, and I don't want to. My ears have no holes in them. You've probably guessed that I don't have any tattoos. And the only jewelry I wear is my wedding band. (Most of the time, that is.)

Part of the reason for all this is that I'm pretty much convinced (though I'm working on it) that I'm ugly or, at best, plain. So why bother trying to look pretty? It would be a lie, right?

As Barbara Walters said, "I am the way I am, I look the way I look, I am my age." In other words, I yam what I yam. And that's fine with me.

It's almost a religious tenet with me, though I don't think it's necessary for salvation or anything like that. It's just that going to pains to look different would make me feel dishonest. And applying cosmetics or getting a tattoo—there's nothing wrong with the way I look, so why paint over it? Poking holes in my body to hang jewelry on seems ridiculous. God made me just the way I am. Why try to change that?

What puzzles me is why hardly anybody else seems to feel this way. Why does everybody else want to look different from the way they really look?

However, if you do any of this stuff, I'm not attacking you for your choices in appearance. You do what you want. I don't get it, but I don't mind it, either.

Still, let's pretend that I did attack you. Let's imagine that I said I thought make-up was stupid and so is everybody who wears it. Why should you care what I think? Why should my opinion matter to you at all?

I'm not putting this well. Maybe somebody will comment and we can figure this out together. In the meantime, I'm going to take my unadorned self back to the pumpkin patch.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Olive Does Her Part (More or Less)

Don't read this if you are a city kid and tender-hearted about killing vermin. And don't even talk to me about non-kill traps. I don't kill animals unless they are a threat to people or my property.

Also, please note that the varmint in this story is not endangered. Wikipedia says so, and I soooooo much believe it, because it is always putting in an appearance around here.

There. Disclaimered enough for you?

This morning, as is my wont, I was out in the garden fairly early, digging holes and planting stuff. This time, it was gourds—Autumn Wings blend and Tennessee Spinning gourds, to be precise.

Harris Seeds Autumn Wings Gourds   Burpee Tennessee Spinning Gourds

And of course I was watering all the other stuff. Now, you may not know this, but the back two acres of my property, where I grow pumpkins and all that, runs uphill. It's at about a 30° angle. One of these days, I'd love to put in a long slide for kids, and if you have any ideas about how to do that, I'd love to hear them.

But anyway, the point is that watering all of this takes a lot of walking, and not on a flat surface, either. Especially because I planted the new gourds way at the back of the property where I hope they will climb the weeds and be ornamental as well as useful. And I hadn't hooked up a hose that goes that far, so I carried a five-gallon bucket of water all the way up the hill.

Do you know how much water weighs? I do. "A pint's a pound, the world around," as my mother says. How many pints are in a gallon? Okay, two pints to a quart, right? And four quarts to a gallon? So . . . eight pints per gallon. A jug of milk weighs eight pounds. Five of them weigh 40 pounds.

I'm not as strong as I used to be, and I don't do cardio—or anything but the pumpkin patch, really. By the time I had carried that water uphill and watered the gourds, I had already done my watering circuit: turned on the soaker for some of the gourds, dug holes and planted gourds uphill, walked back downhill and turned off the water, walked back to the soaker and unhooked it, walked back to the pump and turned the water back on, watered the corn, dragged the hose to some more gourds, watered them, walked back to the pump, turned it off, walked over to the hose, attached another hose in addition, walked back to the pump, turned the water on, dragged the hose over the fence and uphill, watered the big pumpkins, dragged the hose more uphill, remembered that I had to water some other gourds, dragged the hose around some more, watered those gourds, dragged the hose back uphill, walked back downhill, turned off the water, walked back uphill, attached the hose to the soaker for the medium-sized pumpkins, walked back downhill, and turned on the water.

Are you still with me?

I'm still soaked with sweat as well as water. And this is one reason that I get up early to work: it is hot this time of year! Or maybe it's just that I feel the heat more than I used to. But anyway, I was panting and my heart was beating hard by the time I'd finished all this!

Olive started barking midway through this watering circuit. She doesn't bark much. In fact, for a few weeks, I wasn't sure I had ever heard her bark. But she was barking a bunch of short, sharp barks, and she was in one of the groundhog areas.

Eventually I went over to where she was barking, whereupon she dashed away and got a huge drink of water. A large, fat groundhog started limping across the area where Olive had trampled the grass. I guess it had been hiding in a hole and decided to come out when she left. Either that, or it was so big that she figured she couldn't kill it. It was maybe twice as big as the groundhog she killed last time, and that one fit in a shovel, curled up.

It didn't seem to have the energy to go any farther than a few feet, and Olive didn't want to come back, no matter how much I called her. So I found a piece of wood that was big enough to hurt the thing but small enough for me to throw, and I threw it at the groundhog's head. It didn't move. I carefully picked up the chunk of wood, which had a nice long handle to it, and thumped it on the groundhog's head until—well, I'm pretty sure it's dead.

Olive still wouldn't come back. Darned dog. I want to tell her what a good dog she is. How do I do that if I can't show her what she did?

And why does she assume that I can kill big things that she can't? She probably wounded it. Why not finish off the job?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A New Contraption and Other Goings-On

I've been trying to work on the pumpkin patch. My laziness often wins out, but there are several new developments that make me think that I may not be as idle as I had thought. Wait till you see!

First off, the Contraption!

This clever device is composed of two pallets, an old rake handle, box springs (stripped of all fabric and stuffing, of course), existing fence posts, and bale netting. I know, right? Isn't it just sooooo clever?

And because there is no way you could possibly get enough of it, here are two close-ups.

Contraption, left side. 

Contraption, right side.

I've had one pallet and the box springs out for a while. As Seville knows, I've been planning for a while to use these fine construction materials for a while. Apparently her mom has been looking forward to seeing it. Well, here it is!

Oh, you wanted it with gourds climbing up it? Hmm. Well, gimme a few weeks.

In the meantime, how would y'all like a tour of some of the more attractive parts of the pumpkin patch? Step this way!

Uphill from the slick new contraption is this year's big pumpkin field. That is, the part where we're growing the big pumpkins. Possibly even the Great Pumpkin. Who knows?

Just in case you can't tell which part of the spread-out corn fodder is the right part, I outlined it. It took hours and hours to spread all that stuff. Creed and Jorge did a lot of it on Saturday. 

Here's the part of the field that we did absolutely nothing on last year. I'm really hoping we can use it for pumpkins etc. this year. 

That's it for the notable part of the field, or anyway the part that looked good in photos.

Over at the barn, there's a bunch of lambs-quarters. It is very tasty in the spring; it tastes like spinach and is rather astringent. I should really pick a bunch for dinner, but it's a lot of fun just to eat it all day.

The compostumbler is nearby. My grandson John Paul absolutely loved turning it when he visited last year. 

Meanwhile, back at the house, look at the pretty lilies of the valley! Ordinarily, they are open on May 1, but this year they were late. I guess the cold winter affected them.

And the comfrey is doing nicely, too. It always does. I'm sure my children are happy about that. They have such fond memories of comfrey tea when they had sore throats. 

The poppies and irises are just beautiful! Maybe I can sell some poppy seeds this fall. Not for eating; they're too small. I'm talking about seed packets. What do you think?

I leave you with this shot of the house from up on the hill.

 Golly, I love it here.

Friday, May 9, 2014

In Which Rotting Organic Matter Thrills Me

Although I am possibly the laziest human on God's green earth, I have taken it on myself to have a pumpkin patch. It is a lot of work. Really a lot. I do almost everything by hand, because I'm a tree-hugger and besides I don't own much farm machinery. My riding mower is it, in fact. I bought a cart to haul behind it, but we are still not talking Big Tractors.

I also don't do artificial fertilizers. I can make compost, which is delightful, but mostly what I use is composted manure. My friend Leslie down the road has a bunch of it in her barn, because of previous tenants who never cleaned it out, and I have transported many loads of it down the quarter mile of road to my place. That's a lot of work.

So when I happened to see Millie, who is one of the farmers on the land across my south and east fence, I mentioned that she could scoop manure over my fence any time she wanted. I'd take all that her 70 acres of cattle, sheep, etc. could produce. She was happy, because their manure-spreader had broken. And pretty soon, look what appeared at the top of my field!

Isn't it beautiful??? I bet it will eventually grow lamb's quarters just like this pile of compost from last year:

(Grass clippings blew over it. It's actually beautifully brown.)

I also needed something to cover the grass and weeds, smothering them and turning them, too, into compost. Yeah, I should have gotten on this sooner, like maybe last year. And I should have planted a cover crop last year, too. I'm new at this and am making a lot of mistakes. So when I tried to find straw this year to cover the cardboard I'd saved up to spread on the field, there was none. Okay, there was some, but it was expensive. We had a very snowy winter, and people needed to feed their animals something plus give them some bedding.

Leslie came to my rescue again! She suggested corn fodder. I'd never heard of it. (You hadn't either, right? Okay. Now I don't feel so stupid.) It is what is left in the cornfield once the kernels have been taken off the corn or the corn has been harvested or something. It seems to include corncobs, which puzzles me—how do you get the kernels off without removing the ears from the stalks?

Anyway, she also knew of somebody who might have it. My friend Seville made some calls and found a farmer who delivered 28 round bales of corn fodder to my field.

It's too bad I didn't take pix of them all the way along, because it was pretty cool to watch. Suffice it to say that Seville and I spread some of the bales, and so did Timmy and I, but I still wanted some to go at the top of the hill. See, once you cut off the netting that holds all the corn fodder in the bale, you can just roll them and it'll all unroll like it's a really thick roll of toilet paper. Maybe this will help you understand how it works:

Generally most of it unrolls at first and then things peter out. This might be a better picture to illustrate the process:

See that lumpy, curved trail of corn fodder at the middle of the picture? The bales don't always unroll absolutely straight. It makes things interesting.

Now, these puppies are big. If you stand one up like a soup can, it's about four feet tall and five feet wide. And it has rained a lot lately, so they are heavy. It took Seville and me both to push them around. I've tried to do some of them that are still up on the hill, and I haven't had much success. I'm hoping to get Timmy to help me later today.

Anyway, their coverage is awesome. They've been composting since they were gathered last fall, and that composting makes them hot in the center. They aren't all that decomposed, though, because they didn't get any oxygen there. Now that they have oxygen and water, they will decompose.

At least, that's what I'm telling myself. We'll see.

In the meantime, our new farm dog is enjoying the place! In this picture, she's muddy from a persistent puddle that I'm trying to get rid of.

Isn't she pretty?

And here's the cattle trough that has overflowed and caused the puddle.

 Okay, enough. I've got to go out and work on the pumpkin patch!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Is Over! But It's Still Here, So Alleluia!

I spent Easter at Rosie's house as usual. In our family, them as has kids don't travel for holidays, so I always go to her house for big holidays. She trumps Patrick in terms of kids, because he has one and she has four. So far, anyway. I hope for more lovely grandchildren. :-D You can see pix of Rosie's family (and my socks) at her blog.

Once more, the lovely and talented Kendra has asked us all to chime in with our answers to some questions, which provides me with a blogging theme for today. Thanks very much, Kendra!

1. Do you hate happy clappy church music?
Mostly I do. There are some new-fangled hymns that I like, but mostly the syncopation and other weirdness drives me mad. I mean, it is apparently not even possible for accompanists to play and choir directors to conduct Be Not Afraid as written, and there are a bazillion ways to do it otherwise. This is painful for me, because I'm a prescriptivist when it comes to music that is written down, though I'm fine with performing it some other way if I'm told to do so. This makes it kind of a penance for me to sing at my parish's 10 o'clock Mass, but it's where God seems to have called me, so there you are.

2. What is your priority: eating or sleeping?
Sleeping. Definitely. Ohhhhhhhh man, I love to sleep!

3. What type of milk do you drink in your house?
These days, I mostly drink whole milk, because it is sooooo delicious and there is recent research that says it is better for you than skim. I would like to believe that. Also, I occasionally sneak cream as a beverage or cereal mix-in. Mmmmmmmm, fat. Allllllll the fat, to Rosie's dismay yesterday when I scarfed some ham fat that she had carefully sliced off the Easter ham.
4. What is a book that changed your perspective on something?
The Great Divorce by (St.) C. S. Lewis. Love that book. It seems to me to be the way things must or ought to be.

5. Who is your favorite saint?
Probably St. Christopher, who has been with me since my childhood and who is my confirmation saint. But I'm fond of many others. St. Maximilian Kolbe has an awesome story. There are others, too.

6. Introvert or extrovert?
Introvert all the way. I need lots of time alone to recharge. This can be a problem.

Now go read Kendra's blog post!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Far from Home

Two days ago, I got back from Indiana, where I left Thurber (the mastiff) to be bred. He was nervous about the trip and a different house and all the different people, but he was getting used to it all when I left. I miss him. ::sniff::

The trip out took two days of five hours each, which wasn't too bad. The scenery was wonderful, just the kind I like, until I got into flat flat flatness. Ugh. But until then, it was so much fun to see little roads paralleling the interstate and little houses on the roads. Sometimes the roads snaked up a hill and I couldn't see the houses to which they led, and I wanted to. They all looked so homey. Cities, not so much, of course, but there was more traffic near cities, so I had plenty to do besides look at little houses.

I stayed for a whole day at Thurber's breeder's house and then drove the full ten hours home, which was a looooong drive for me. Meg drives that kind of distance routinely, but I really don't like driving farther than about half an hour. Heck, if I had my druthers, I'd never leave home at all. I love my house and land so much!

It's just perfect weather right now—sixties and maybe even seventies most of the time. I should have been out preparing the pumpkin field, but I've been exhausted since I returned. I've taken three naps in two days, and I'm still tired. Maybe if I did more work outside, I'd feel less tired. Unfortunately, tomorrow I have a six-hour foster parenting class, so I doubt I'll be able to do much outside then.

In the meantime, here's a shot from last year. It has nothing to do with anything, but it's a picture, so you'll like it, right?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Liebster, only not really

Kendra at Catholic All Year nominated a bunch of people for the Liebster Award and generously invited everybody who has a blog to share in the nomination. This is part of why people love Kendra. Well, it's part of why I do, anyway. And because I love procrastination even more than the next person, here's my response to her (lack of) nomination.

1. Where do you live? And why do you live there?
I live in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. My husband and I lived in northern VA for more than 20 years as a married couple, and we realized towards the end of it that we wanted more space and peace. So when our youngest child graduated from high school, we hightailed it out here to these lovely three acres.

2. What are you currently watching and/or reading?
Hmm. Mad Men season 6, I think it is. On Netflix. I'm thinking about getting rid of our cable TV, because I don't use it.

3. What kind of Catholic are you: cradle, or convert? (Or considering?)
Convert! I was baptized Methodist as a baby, confirmed Episcopalian at 10, and married my cradle Catholic husband intending never to become Catholic. God had another idea, but it wasn't clear to me until we had been married for 17 years.

4. Can you point to one moment or experience that made you a practicing Catholic? (Or want to be?)
God has used distinct words to speak to me three times in my life. The second time was when God told me it was time to become Catholic (see #3). I was annoyed, but I know that if you don't do what you know God wants you to do, you'll be sorry, so I joined RCIA when the classes started up a few months later.

5. How many pairs of shoes do you own?
Um. Well. That's kind of difficult. I'm still cleaning out a lot of mess in my house, so I have a lot of pairs of shoes that I still need to sort through and several in bags ready to be given away. For my own current use, maybe six pairs? Not sure.

6. Are you a good dancer?
Absolutely not. ::shudder::

7. Who usually drives, you or your husband?
I used to, because my husband started having accidents and then we decided that he wouldn't drive any more. Now he's dead, so he really isn't driving!

8. What's your favorite holiday and how do you celebrate it?
Augh! See, I am sooooo lazy ("How lazy are you?" the audience yells)—I am so lazy that I don't really like to celebrate any holidays. They all involve work, and where's the fun of that? 

9. Which is correct? Left or right?

Left. Absolutely left. People who do the thing on the right are going to hell. 

10. Do you have any scars?
You don't get to be as old as I am without scars! I have a smallpox vaccination scar, scars from some kind of weird dermatological thing that gave me itching sores for more than a year (never did find out what that was), a scar on my neck from a thyroglossal duct cyst removal, and probably some others I'm forgetting.

11. What's the most famous thing you've ever done? 
I can't think of anything I've done that's made me even remotely famous.

And there you have it, folks! Thanks again to the delightful Kendra for inviting all and sundry to post!