Wednesday, August 10, 2016

August Break Photos: August 4,5, and 6

I bet you were thinking that I had fizzled out, just 4 days in....but No, I've been taking my photos every day and thinking about them a bit. You know, thinking about WHY those were the images I associated with a single word.

Although I've been keeping up with the photos I just haven't had the time to post them. I did post a "sweetness" photo from the road....but I'm adding another one from that day too.

August 4: Sweetness. Gluten-free Almond/Lemon Donuts!

August 5: Midday

August 6: I'm reading.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

August 3: Handwriting

August 2: leaf

 Today's photo assignment was: leaf.

While I was drawn to many individual leaves it seemed most meaningful to capture the leaves above me who were offering me shelter from the sun. This is the same tree whose lower leaves had fed the goats just minutes before. Food and shelter...two basic needs.

Monday, August 1, 2016

August 1: Morning Light

It is deep summer in Texas, hot and dry. The pastures are beat down, but the creek is still running which means it is too soft to mow, which means it is too overgrown to pull electric fences so, every day I lead the eight milkers out to the forest to browse. I follow them, lead them, stay with them for two or three hours---our sojourns dictated by their thirst.

I carry a satchel with yarn and hook, scissors, a book, a water bottle, my phone (camera). I drag along a three-legged camp stool most days too. Today I have a paper and pen, a tiny clipboard for writing this post to be typed later.

Somedays I just sit, mind wandering, some days I crochet with frantic speed, some days I read and frequently find myself left behind (so engrossed in my book that the goats move away from me without my noticing). I take photos and carry on conversations with the goats. I explore and look for feathers and butterflies. 

It is quiet in the woods, not a breath of air most days and I am usually drenched in sweat in my jeans and boots and long sleeves. Despite the heat I'll sit with them or follow them or lead them to better browse. There are days when I am sorely tempted to stay inside after I finish the milking....on those days when the sweat rolls freely and the humidity is almost visible in the air. But this time of year, I go out. Every day.

One, I believe the girls need the variety and abundance that the unfenced portion of our land has to offer. I ask them to do hard bear kids, to produce milk for 12-15 months. I both recognize and respect the toll that such hard work has on them and I honor it by working hard myself. I can give them 2-3 hours of time each day to nourish themselves, since they nourish me all year long.

Caring for the girls can seem like drudgery if you don't look at it from a certain angle. I've chosen to throw off the idea of drudgery and instead embrace the idea of this being my job as a goatherd. I've chosen to go out each day because it is a privilege to share my life with this is a joy to "graze out," it is MY time to think or read or explore.

I won't lie, there are days when I dread it. I dread it until I'm out there and then I revel in it...I relish being in the midst of the herd in the quiet of the forest.

I know someday my grand plan for electric fences will come to fruition and it will no longer be necessary for me to "graze out" with the girls, but for now I enjoy the time, the quiet, the camaraderie of goats.

The above was written while "grazing out" and before I came across Susannah Conway's August Break Challenge. I've wanted to write more here, but, I'm taking Susannah's challenge to post a picture a day, but with it I am challenging myself to also write each day too.

Susannah Conway's August Break
August 1: Wee Tiny Mushroom in the morning light.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On Writing and Making Space

Well now, I swore to myself I would write more here this summer and ah well, you see how that is going. But I do "write" every day, in my head....long narratives, funny anecdotes, explanations, justifications, and How-Tos. I "write" all day, every day really because there is no one but goats and dogs to talk to most days. I do most of this "writing" while my hands are doing other things.

It is rare for my hands to ever be idle as the chores of the farm are myriad----milking, cleaning, feeding, watering, harvesting, hauling, chopping, slicing, stirring, get it, or maybe you don't. It is impossible to be idle on the a farm because there is always something to be done.

Writing requires quiet and space and permission to ignore everything else for a sustained period of time. I rarely find that quiet and space and as for the permission...well, I can't give myself a day off. I just can't. I'm driven to work until I drop, because the list is so very long and behind that list in another list and another and another. The work is relentless and I feel a heavy sense of responsibility to the animals and land that I care for. Every day is some version of Overwhelmed for me. Somedays I buzz through the list, others I stress and fret and beat myself up for not being Enough, for not being fast, nor efficient.

But yesterday as I began writing this post (longhand on little paper while "grazing out" with the goats), I had lost sight of the ways in which the Universe intervenes sometimes. As I took the goats back to the barnyard and the secure pasture, I nabbed the naughty Midnight swinging him up into my arms and heard an ugly crackle-pop-snap in my back.

I spent the afternoon on the couch in a funk, a stupor, and bored out of my fucking mind. I don't like to be MADE to lie down, but our bodies tell us what they need. Today, I'm nursing my husband lectured me about taking it easy and asking for help and followed it all with, "I don't know why I'm telling you any of this. You aren't going to do it. You're just going to do what you want. You're stubborn" and he was mostly right, but it really isn't about being stubborn, it is about feeling Purposeful and strong. So, although I get overwhelmed at the daily chores sometimes, I need that Purpose to keep me moving,

Today, I am taking it easy and I keep thinking the word "shirk" and reminding myself that I am not actually shirking my responsibilities, but re-prioritizing to put myself first at least for today. I did my morning chores diligently and well, but I can in and cleaned up and fed myself and had a second cup of tea today. I started in on making cheese, which is sometimes a chore, but was today, a joy to create, To take our (mine and Ruby's) hard work and make mozzarella and ricotta for this week's dinners was a celebration.

I've had my lunch and I've given myself this little bit of time to write and now I'm off to my sewing room to create something...but I don't have an agenda, just the Space I need for myself for today at least.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Looking for Hope

Birdhouse Gourd.
In the interest of being totally and truly authentic I must confess that I have some serious Depression issues. Although I am most plagued in the Winter months when days are short and can be gray and dreary too, I struggle with it year round. Most of the time it is just my own malfunctioning neurons, but sometimes it is the world around me that weighs me down.

Generally in the Spring I am full of Hope. The garden is full of promise, there are goats kidding, trees budding, bees buzzing, birds nesting and I can't help but feel hopeful, but this year...well, this year has been different.

The last weeks of February turned to Spring, warm days and warm nights too and oddly enough I suspect that this early Spring is what started all of this downward sliding that I've been doing. The weirdly warm weather caused problems in the greenhouse and I lost most of my seedlings and I'm feeling now like this may have been the beginning of my funk...we have committed to growing our own food because we simply don't trust anyone to meet our very high standards for organic/chemical free. 

 I know, I know. This is the part where I would tell you, "You should know your farmer," and you should, but here's the thing. I am my own farmer and my standards are HIGH. I only know one person who adheres to standards as high as my own and she, like me, just farms for herself and her family. I'm also not always comfortable asking the hard questions (because really, I already know the answers). 

So, we decided that if my seedlings don't make it, then I just won't grow those plants. I say I'm okay with that, but really I can hardly imagine my summer without a garden. Some part of me is like, "Whew, a summer off!" but I know that in reality I will feel like something is missing. Growing my own food is so important to me. Of course, it doesn't help that this is registering as a Failure and there is no fixing it at this late date.

The warm weather has also brought out the neighbors with their mowers and pump sprayers full of glysophate a little early this year. For a couple of weeks now I've listened to the drone of mowers as people mowed every square inch of their property, acres and acres mowed flat. After mowing they head out with the sprayers to nuke the fence lines and kill the "weeds." During this same time, I have been crawling around our property looking for wildflower seedlings, watching the bees sip nectar and collect pollen, looking for "weeds" that goats like to eat and daydreaming about how much more growing I can do and how much LESS mowing. 

I try very hard to live by the motto "live and let live," so I keep my mouth shut as long as the neighbors stay off our property with their poisons (trespassing with their glysophate has been an issue in the past). What generally happens when I witness them spraying is A. paranoia that they are spraying my fence lines (see above), and B. anger that everyone around me is using chemicals. This year has been different. Oh, I got out the binoculars to make sure everyone was staying on their side of the road and yep, I was angry, but then I just got sad. The crippling melancholy of Winter descended on me and I dropped into a major funk that I'm having trouble shaking. I don't want to leave the farm; I feel like I'm surrounded by the enemy. I haven't been eating. I feel like I could begin sobbing every time I think of all those chemicals, all that we are expected to eat, and breath, and spread on our skin without ever questioning it and I can't even escape it at my home because it is all around me. 

I walk each day past the bee hives and encourage our girls to stay close. I caution them that they can't trust the neighbors with their sprayers and GMO corn. I can envision toxic clouds of overspray coming over my fences, settling on my goats' backs, coating the grass, the leaves, the food they eat. My heart is breaking and there seems like nothing I say or do makes a difference. I'm an educator and some part of me believes that if I talk long enough and loud enough someone will hear, but a bigger part of me believes that people are greedy and lazy and selfish and they want their weed-free, green lawns and sweet corn at whatever the cost. The cost for me is too steep.

I think part of my funk is due to the fact that I just can't fit in to this mentality. I have no tribe. I want to live and let live, but yet, I can't help but feel like I need to speak up. When I don't speak up (because I'm living and letting live) I feel guilty. There are all these conflicting emotions and I feel so very strongly about this that I am making myself crazy (literally) because I don't feel like there is any hope at all that people will be convinced to forego chemicals because they want the green lawn, less work, or that fucking GMO sweet corn.

Today, I saw the pump sprayer come back out across the road and something snapped in me....No, no, no y'all, I did not strap on my holster...I went up there and I roped off a buffer zone to keep my girls out of harms way and then I decided that every time some moron brought out the chemicals I would do something pro-active and positive. After I moved the electric fence, I then went all around the property and hung six birdhouses made from gourds I grew on this land, with seeds I've saved over years and years. Seeds that came with me, and will out last me too. I walked the woods slowly and carefully; I let the earth cradle me and give me gifts. I talked to trees; I stood still; I listened. I heard.

The pond was full of ducks who flew, quacking when I crested the hill. In the woods behind me a woodpecker tapped. High above the hawks called, mating. When I reached to pick up a piece of trash, leftovers from previous owners, I found a cardinal feather, red against the brown leaves. Wild plums are blooming and trees are budding and I found peace and calm out there. This farm is truly an oasis from the chaos and stupidity.

The next time I hear mowers droning all day and I see the sprayers out, I'll find another way to lift myself up. This land is the only affirmation I need that my way, our way is THE way. I suspect I'll keep my mouth shut, it is after all their land (but I share the water and air and I can't say that I'll ever stop feeling uneasy). Maybe this post can serve as a call to action too...or a permission stop mowing, stop spraying, leave things be...

PS. Y'all, I just want to say that if you are reading this blog I appreciate it. Despite the fact that I teach writing and harp on the whole Writing Process, blah, blah, blah...everything I write here is a rough draft, straight from my heart with little to no editing or revising.