Friday, July 30, 2010

We've flown the coop!

Several years ago, when I was a zoo keeper, I had to care for lots of birds. Giant Darwin Rheas, crazy Macaws, chattering black crows, Great Horned Owls, peafowl and Trumpeter Swan. Most of them tried to eat me at one point or another, leading me to develop a fear of birds.

So, when I began mulling over the idea of keeping chickens, it was with mixed feelings, to say the least.

Messy and flighty, I didn't like the idea of walking into a stationary place for chickens. And I didn't want to use valuable space in the barn for a messy coop. It seemed I was at an impasse.

Then my friend David Gill mentioned something called a chicken tractor. This is a simple, portable chicken coop. The advantages are huge for the ground and the chickens: the birds get fresh foliage and bugs to munch on and they leave behind extremely fertile ground. And eggs!

So, we started construction on the Lazy Husky Ranch Chicken Tractor, made entirely of scraps left on our new property.

Sophie worked with me building the tractor

And entertained herself by acting like a chicken!

We built a smaller brooder box out of a Rubbermaid bin and a heat lamp. Then, the girls and I headed to Meyers Hatchery with my good friend, Amanda.

I had pre-ordered six day-old chicks. But when we got there and saw the "orphaned chicks" - those ordered and never picked up - we ended up leaving the hatchery with 10 little females! We now have a wide assortment of brown and white egg layers: two Golden Buffs, two Speckled Sussexes, two Lakenvelders, two Ameraucanas, and two Polish Cresteds for novelty.

The kids are in baby chick Heaven here on the ranch.

Elise holds a sleeping Golden Buff chick who finds comfort in odd positions

Sophie holds her Polish Crested chick, Reggae. Polish Cresteds are typically very flighty and not reliable egg-layers, but they sure look funky when they're adults!

My two favorites: Ameraucanas Chipmunk (left) and Owl (right)

Sophie cuddles with Owl

So, we've entered into a new adventure with birds, and I'm kissing my fear of them goodbye. I never knew how much I could love these tiny little fluff balls!

Stay tuned for pictures of our chickens as they grow! Namaste!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Sometimes there's so much beauty in the world I feel like I can't take it. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst.

And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows
through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude for every
single moment of my stupid little life..."

Lester Burnham from the film, American Beauty

I am really best in solitude. I needed some solitude the other night. I had been working outside all day on a project (for another post), and I was dirty and in bad need of a shower.

Instead, I headed for my boat and the lake. I paddled strong at first. A dragonfly skimmed along the water beside me, pacing itself at the same speed, as the hull of my boat met the setting sun.

I slowed my pace as the sun dipped lower behind the trees in the west, and I floated upon this little flower. The light was low, but I paddled ashore just to capture this bit of beauty.

As I got back into my boat, I realized I was at the same part of the lake I was at last summer when I got the news from my doctor that an abscess was quickly taking over my abdomen (see that post here). I had no idea then how my life was about to change.

The same message I heard from nature then rings true today: let go.

Physical healing is measurable; emotional and spiritual healing is timeless, immeasurable. What can take weeks for the body to heal can take months or even years for the spirit to heal from.

I am still recovering. But I have moved to a place of letting go and healing emotionally now. And I have decided to make some changes - simple things, like eating holistically, giving up aspartame, and foods that contain high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils - that I hope will enable my body and my spirit to return to optimum shape. It comes at a time when I am trying in all ways to living closer to the earth.

The thing that heals your heart is also what heals your soul. It's no secret: I wear my heart on my sleeve.

The thing that heals my heart is beauty. And there is so much beauty, if we just let go, with loving kindness, and accept that things are unfolding exactly as they should.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Diamond Dogs House Warming

To finally celebrate this dream come true, I had planned a long-awaited house warming party at the new ranch.

I never dreamed it would be 94 degrees! With those temps, I certainly didn't need the house to be any warmer.

I actually contemplated canceling the shin dig. With the humidity, the temps were expected to soar into the high 90's; and thunderstorms were expected, complete with a flood warning.

Ah, but what's a little bad weather among friends, and mushers, no doubt! Like any good musher, we marched forward despite adversity.

The new ranch: where kids and dogs are happy and free!

And rain it did. A downpour.

But as the sun set in a smear of pink on the horizon, the sky opened up, revealing the splendor of what lied within.

The Big Dipper

There were little girls singing karaoke on the back deck until the wee hours...

And, oh yes! There was a bonfire, despite the earlier rains!

There was music and there was poetry...

There was good food, good friends and good beer.

My favorite beer in the whole world, Fat Tire cannot be purchased anywhere in Ohio. My best friend, Kim, sent it as a most wonderful house warming gift!

There were even cats!

Decorated mouse and mole killing hero, Boy, sits in a field, taking a reprieve from his hard job to enjoy the revelry

And lazy Stripes sleep on her head. Can this possibly be comfortable?

In the morning, there were blue skies, and three birds heading west.

And the most special gift from my good friend Amanda: this beautiful photo frame.

I am blessed with such company, and the birth and realization of such a beautiful and fantastic dream. The beauty here is unexplainable, but more than that, the beauty of such friends warms my heart and has definitely warmed this house.

Namaste, and thank you to everyone who made it out to celebrate with us, and all those who are far away who couldn't make it. You are in my thoughts.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Does it have to be so hard?"

Crappy things have a way of happening all at once. They can't stagger themselves. Nope. They have to come like a rain storm, hence the phrase "when it rains, it pours."

There's been some frustration lately, and it’s been all at once. Silly things like,

1) Our dryer has the wrong electrical plug for the outlet on the wall so I’ve been going to laundromats with crazy men in them. No joke. I spent an hour and a half in a Laundromat in Lake Milton last week with a man who would not shut up and admitted several times he was on disability for mental health issues. He talked a mile a minute and often of shooting people. Lovely.

2) My tractor needs a new tire, and I drove to three different places today looking for a Carlisle 20x10 - 00.9 tire, and no place had it! Driving to three different places is synonymous with driving significant miles now because we live in the sticks. Frustrating.

3) I don't have an oven, because apparently there is not an easy way to get a propane adapter connection to the oven. And I love baking. And I'm not even entirely sure what to do to order the part, so I feel stuck. And I don't take kindly to feeling stuck.

And a host of other gripes I won't bore you with.

But I started spiraling today. Nothing has been easy on this move, and it's been downright less than welcoming beginning with Bob's dying the day we moved in. I found myself today looking up at an overcast, humid sky (which is another thing that's been less than stellar - the 90 degree temps!) pleading with God.

"Does it have to be so hard?"

And then I received an email from my good friend Jodi Bailey in Alaska. In her usual zen-like peaceful manner, she told me this story:

"One year on the Quest there was bad, bad overflow after Braeburn on the way to the finish: up to your hips, dogs swimming, total mess. Anyhow Michelle Phillips (*as she tells it) is standing up to her waist leading a team through a few yards of this, second section of it. And she stops in the middle and yells up to the sky "Does it have to be so f'ing hard!" And even though I may have the last words wrong, the image sticks in my brain, as the ultimate illustration of that feeling :)

I know I have said this before, but find peace in the knowledge that things are unfolding exactly as they should, despite my cosmic inability to make sense of it."

Thank you, Jodi, for reminding me that it's just a ride. And to enjoy the ride :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Love list continued...

It was harder than I thought it would be to shut the door to our old house for the final time.

Our old address

But the beauty at the new homestead overshadows any sentimentality I could feel for the old ranch.

New loves at the new ranch, part 2: love # 493

The sunsets at the new ranch are, pardon the cliche, absolutely amazing. Stunning, really. They linger on and on, well past 9 p.m. One night at 10:30, I could still see a sliver of pink on the horizon from the setting sun.

There is so much beauty here, I really do feel like the luckiest girl alive.

Can you spot the fireflies in this photo?

Slowly, box by box, things have started coming together here. I have been so busy doing projects, unpacking and settling, I have hardly picked up my cameras or sat down at my computer.

Foxy making herself at home in front of the french doors

We have celebrated a little.

Apropos, "Doghouse" Merlot given to us as a housewarming gift from my best friend, Kim, went down smoothly after doing so much work.

But the last few days, I've forced myself to slow down, pick up my camera and document some of the beauty here.

Love #494: "Z barn"

I just love our barn. It has so much character and beauty. If the walls could talk!

Love #495: the loft of the barn

Love #496: waving to local people while driving past them on country roads

Love #497: driving fast up and down the hills of those country roads so it tickles your belly like a rollercoaster

The list goes on and on.

Oh, and love #498: watching my kids get creative entertaining themselves:

Sophie painted Elise's face like a "cat"

Sophie painted her face like a "dog"


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Brief update: Love List

I've been very busy over the last week moving the remaining things from the old ranch to the new one. So busy, I rarely seem to sit down, much less write.

But, I have started compiling a list of loves at the new ranch.

Love #401: drinking coffee on the front deck in the morning

The front deck: miles and miles of crops, and a great place for morning coffee.

We've all been slowly settling into the new place.

Jack settling in. He broke the new rule of no sleddogs in the house

New love #405:

Hay rolls drying in the surrounding fields

New love #486:

My book nook at the new ranch

New love #492:

The french doors in the living room of the new ranch

Stay tuned: more coming, I promise :)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

For Robert Norris

". . . o nobly born,
when thy body and mind
were separating,
thou must have experienced
a glimpse of the Pure Truth,
subtle, sparkling, bright dazzling,
glorious, and radiantly awesome,
in appearance like a mirage
moving across a landscape
in spring-time
in one continuous
stream of vibrations.
Be not daunted thereby,
nor terrified,
nor awed.

That is the radiance
of thine own true nature.

Recognize it."

-- The Tibetan Book of the Dead

The day we moved into our new place, the owner, Robert Norris, who had just moved out a day and a half earlier, died unexpectedly in his sleep. He was only 49.

Although I had only met Bob in March, I had gotten to know him over the last month while visiting daily to care for the huskies, who had lived at the new place before we did. As I did kennel chores, Bob would come chat with me about various things. Sometimes he would lay underneath the three apple trees by the kennels just looking up at the sky.

But often, Bob was riding atop his old, orange Kubota tractor, which was his baby.

He died so suddenly, that Kubota was still here, along with several lawn mowers, farming equipment, and some personal belongings.

News of Bob's passing has rattled me, and shaded the celebration of moving to the new ranch. He was extremely generous to us in the short time I knew him, donating all of the fence used to build the new kennels.

The first night in the new ranch, there was a great thunderstorm. I couldn't sleep. It was Sunday, June 27. I didn't know yet that he had died just hours before.

The next night, I couldn't sleep because I kept thinking of his untimely death. I began to cry and got up out of bed. I wandered bleary-eyed into the kitchen, flipped on the light, and there on the counter was Bob's cat. It roamed freely through the cat door and was often out prowling the seven acre plot.

It startled me, meowing for food.

I sniffed, and stared in disbelief. Bob's cat.

I fed it, and it ate voraciously. Then it left through the cat door. I haven't seen it since.

Rest in sweet, sweet peace, Bob. May you ride your Kubota into eternity, my friend.