As I previously mentioned I am ok with this. My husband is not. Since he grew up on the East Coast he has had more than his share of winters, when he was 17 he thought he had escaped them for good when he moved to Kauai. Well, I think you can guess how that worked out in the end.
So today he sits by the window glaring at the new fallen snow and asks a suspiciously random question before going out to snow blow the driveway:
Him: “Where do you think they keep Punxsutawney Phil when he is not making predictions that ruin my month?”
Me: “Well he is the fattest groundhog I have ever seen, so I would imagine he is someone’s pet the rest of the time”
Even if you don’t have bees you can still make your own chap stick. It is one of the simplest things ever, I promise. You can find all the supplies you need at Bulk Apothecary or your local health food store and it doesn’t take much money to get started. Unfilled tubes go from $.0 7-$.12 each. Get a hundred, go nuts. You will thank me later.
I like using extra virgin olive oil, most other people use almond oil, coconut oil, vitamin E oil and so on. There are recipes all over the internet. I have gotten great results with the EVOO. I think that the first pressing of any type of oil is always the cleanest. I feel like the extraction of other nonfood oils involves much more processing of the material to get the oil out. In my reckoning EVOO is the cleanest most hypoallergenic option.
I do not believe in Valentines day, the Easter Bunny, Santa Clause, or that unicorns fart rainbows. (A Unicorn’s fart is just like all other horse farts, silly. They SNEEZE confetti AND rainbows. Now you know.) The difference is that I can’t remember ever believing in Valentines day. There were a few years when I did think it made perfect sense for a mutant (possibly radioactive) bunny to run around and hide eggs one random day every year. I mean, why the hell not?!?
We got married over an year and a half ago and it was perfect. Not because everything went the way we planned but because it didn’t.
The only thing I really cared about was having the kids there with us. They dressed as they wanted (one ninja and one Jedi) and were perfectly themselves. I wrote vows just for them but almost could not get them out- they stuck in my throat.
I was so blessed to kneel in our garden and have the chance to say these things to the two of most important people in the world:
“When I tried to figure out what I was going to say to you today I started by trying to define what this day changes between the three of us.
I thought for a long time and I came to the conclusion that while today means many things, it changes nothing for us.
Life is made up of all the choices you make with the time you have and when I chose to be with your father I first made the choice to put your NEEDS before my WANTS.
I have often heard people talking about activities and situations that they “could never do with a spouse without killing them.” My husband and I have done so many of the things others recommend not to I have lost count. For example, we have:
-Worked together in a high stress industry (running the front and back of the house in a busy restaurant)
-Driven across the country together (with all our stuff, two dogs and no real clue where were going)
-Been homeless (for three months after our move cross country, on account of the ‘not know where we were going’ part)
-Lived on a 30 foot sail boat (while running the restaurant together)
-Worked opposite schedules rarely having time with each other.
-Had no money. Ever.
We have delt with injury, death, addiction, family issues, stepfamily issues and so much more and we have come through it all closer than ever. I think this is because we observe first grade playground rules to settle pretty much everything.
This journey is far from over and the things I have learned are immeasurable and priceless. Every once in a while I am privileged to have some positive reinforcement that my thoughts and I are on the right path.
Surrender is not something to submit to or to accept and then bemoan the lack of control it brings. Instead it is the honest and true acceptance that life will take you were you are meant to be. Not that there is some grand design or puppeteer behind it all, only that like a chemical reaction your actions-mixed with your environment and the presence of others have a definate interaction with the outcome that you do not control. Like this interaction of a broken hydrant and a storm.
Like this, a broken hydrant line and a storm make a sculpture.
Years ago we gave up cable and switched to Netflix and Hulu instead. Originally this occurred because we couldn’t afford to pay $160 a month on anything we can’t eat. We have not gone back because we don’t miss it, the bill or the content (frankly we still can’t afford it) This has resulted in a few unforeseen consequences;
1) We have no clue what is going on in the media, award shows, reality love contests, singing/dancing competitions, new movies, new products, popular culture, etc..
and you know what? No one has blown up or burst into flames of ignorance!
Almost four years ago now, my partner (now husband) and I found ourselves in the unenviable position of moving to the East Coast. For us, the timing of the move was not something we had expected. In fact it was years sooner than his ex and him had agreed when they split. He woke to a phone call on what should have been a visitation day with the oldest from their maternal grandpa, “your kids are no longer in the state, they are in Connecticut now.”
No warning, no goodbye, nothing.
The youngest was seven months old and the oldest wasn’t even three.
You shouldn’t hate anything but…I hate ‘black friday.’ I despise the consumerism and mania that it encourages. I find it abhorred that the nation can deftly vacillate from heartfelt appreciation for the things we have- to unabashed and rapid accumulation of new things. Things we are convinced we have to get NOW, why? Mostly because the idiot box said so. I fundamentally object to the sentiment that a sale should motivate you to buy a thing that you do not NEED but WANT. If you get something on sale you are not saving money, YOU ARE SPENDING IT. Spending money is the opposite of saving money.
But I digress…
This year I got a whole new reason to dislike the day after Thanksgiving. While watching a movie with the boys, I got a call from my mom.
Have never known a manicure or file.
And they are bitten rather than clipped.
They have been painted less times than there are fingers to paint.
In many places they are more scar than skin.
The fingers on the right appear to have been badly broken long ago, though they never were.
They often spend their days covered in food, blood or dirt.
Lovingly touching things that make others cringe.
They are not spectacular for how they look but for what they do.
They have created meals that nourish and astound, providing me an income for my modest household.
They have made many things of beauty that fill my house and life.
They have healed and comforted the beings I love.
They are strong and can hold fast when I need them to.
I hope they have given more than they have taken from this world.
Because through helping others they have made me whole.
They have become more than the sum of their parts and I believe that they are truly beautiful.
Mostly I am just grateful to have such tremendous alleys at the tips of my fingers.
Today I am beyond thankful for the simple gift of my hands.
Just in case I am found dead in our house, tied up with yarn and covered with small puncture wounds and scratches- you will know what happened.
Luna did it.
I am beginning to suspect that our cat, Luna blames me for winter. This could become a problem. At first I thought she was just mildly annoyed with the whole outside turning the only color she can’t blend into. As she is an all black cat she is accustom to being a ninja, Navy seal-ghost protocol kind of cat. Able to come and go as she pleases. Unnoticed by everyone but her victims and only then when it is too late. The rest of the year she rarely comes inside. When she does I think it is only to make sure we are still putting food out for her, not that she needs that kind of bipedal charity.
It’s has been a couple weeks since I started down the egg paved road of Pysanka and I am no saner now than when I started. But that train may be on a one way track no matter how I pass my time.
I have learned a lot of fun ways to demolish something you have been working on for half a day. Learn from my mistakes so that some good comes of this OR be sentenced along with me to the scrambled egg diet, ummmm eggs!
I will share some of my most spectacular screw ups, there are more than this.
The sun warmed my face and the sandy wind stung my skin all at the same time, I tasted salt and inhaled the sea. The surf resounded inside my head like empty sea shell waiting for new purpose. The feeling of home these things inspire is overpowering.
It is not attached to a structure but rather a world of sights and sounds, smells and tastes that assure me I belong in them. That we all belong to one another. My place here is secure, familiar yet still exciting and changing with each new discovery.
My sand covered sister sits with our mom making kingdoms out of seaweed and shells while my dad is not much more than a tiny spec out to sea, riding the waves back and forth.
In and out, straining to paddle through the shore brake only to abandon all that progress toward Hawaii and let the ocean carry him back to shore, so that he can turn around and do it again.
Most of my early memories are of secluded beaches and rugged coast lines where two cars in the pullout at the top of the cliff constituted unacceptable crowding. Unless they are your buds, then only unacceptable outcome is not having enough ‘breakfast cylinders’ for the expedition. I was fortunate enough to grow up believing that my childhood was the way all childhoods should be.
My sister and I like to say that we were raised by a pack of rabid surfers and hippies in secret places along the California coast. Team Squeam and the subsequent band ‘The Membranes” was comprised of a few core people but always included whoever happened to be at any gathering or event. My godfather Michael (Mike,) Sara’s god parents Todd and Alison, Alison’s brother Gavan, Tom and his wife Stephanie and our mom and dad were the charter members.
One of my earliest memory from childhood is of playing on the floor by an old wooden lamp stand we had in the living room. My parents came into the room and towered over me, backlit by the bank of windows on the far wall.
“Honey,” they said. I looked up from my mission of reaching the stand’s summit so that I could gain access to what I had become convinced was a magical lamp.
“We have something very important to tell you. You are going to have a little brother or sister soon!”
1……………………. jar of tightly packed, fresh Maine snow
1/2 jar…………..…olive juice
1/2 jar …………….cocktail onion juice
Add as much vodka as necessary (I would not presume to tell you how much to drink or not drink)
There you have it.
Crank up the fire and “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” That is, until the roads get bad and you run out of vodka. Then shit gets real and I realize I need to teach Isis to pull a sled. Can you get a DUI if the dog is sober? I will have to cut her off early.
During the winter I love the excuse to make random things and try new crafts. My sewing machine has gotten a ton of use the past few weeks and the dogs are getting pretty sick of the racket so I decided to try something new. I have always loved intricate processes and the insanely ridiculous easter eggs from the Ukraine have always impressed the crap out of me.
The art of Pysanky loosely translated means; “overly complicated, absurdly involved way to color eggs. That we know how to do and you don’t. Nanner nanner, nanner” (said while making an “L” shape with fingers on forehead and tongue out.) Well, I took that as a challenge no one ever intended to extend. After a quick trip to Amazon and $24 later I waited impatiently for my kit to come. In the meantime and confirming I am my father’s daughter, I jerry-rigged my own Kristka. True to form and never having seen the tool in person I royally screwed it up. After a few REALLY primitive looking etchings (etching is when you use vinegar to dissolve the shell enamel, leaving any spot not covered in wax the original color of the egg) my kit finally arrived!
Ok, technically it is not a recipe for soup at all. Actually it has more to do with keeping our chickens out of the dinner pot than getting them in there.
Unfortunanelty one of the things you have to worry about with a larger flock of chickens is injury. Raising chickens in Maine means you often have to be equally concerned about the weather, predators and other chickens in the flock. All these things can cause serious and sometimes mortal injury to your birds. You never know what new thing the little ‘meep meeps’ are going to get into. I believe that one of the most basic things that a person needs to do with any animal in your care is to pester the ever living shit out of them, on a regular basis. Wait, let me clarify.
I don’t mean poke and prod them just to see them jump. I mean get them used to being handled period. Desensitizing them to as many of the things that freak them out as possible. It will make your life so mush easier when dealing with an injury. Our chickens were raised from two and three week old chicks but you still have to take the effort to get them used to contact in every stage of their life.
First; get them used to the concept of your hands, as they do not have them. Hand feeding is good, but you also want to introduce the idea that hands are not made of food. Chickens have really good eyesight, they can see one small seed in the palm of your hand and precisely pick it off. Offer empty hands to them too till they do not immediate assume that all hands are always offering food. This process is not instant and you will get pecked. You need to be carful not to lash out at them with your hands when they peck at things like freckles, moles and rings. I always tell them “no” and pull my hand back slightly so it is out of range. Eventually they get it, chickens are not quite as stupid as you would think. In fact sometimes it seems like you are dealing with a group of super evil escape artists who can not be contained by any structure man can engineer.
After they are ok with hands start picking them up, so they become used to being held. In the beginning they will require chasing or grabbing but when they are older they will have no problem at all being scooped up. I can get most of them one handed now, which is really helpful when you need to get more than one. The most important thing in the whole process is that none of it should cause them extra stress. After they are comfortable with being off the ground and in your care you can move on to touching their feet, face, beak, wattle, etc while they are being held. When they struggle hold them firmly and securely, until they quite.
Remember to them it is as if a giant alien just came come over, then picked them a fifty feet off the ground. If you are unsure or tentative they will not feel secure and you will not establish any trust between the two of you.
You can not tell any animal to trust you, you have to prove over time and trial that you are worthy of their trust. I’m not going to lie, bringing them food and water everyday helps. Animals remember what you have done to them and so it becomes supper important to treat them with a basic amount of respect. Pay attention to their body language and the noises they make, talk to them. Silly as it sounds, make eye contact. Cluck with them and crow at them, it is actually a ton of fun. I try to see if I can be louder then the boys. If you start from the assumption that they can not understand you or communicate with you then you will limit your interactions with all nature tremendously and you will not have nearly as much fun.
We have two problems in our coop right now. Freezing and fu… fornicating.
In November I had them in an outside enclosure and even though it was wrapped in thick plastic as a wind break some of the roosters still sustained some frostbite to their combs and wattles. Turbo (our Buff) had a massive comb that stood off his head over two inches and a large and droopy wattle. I came out to check on them mid-November and found him with (I shit you not) icicles under his chin. At first I thought it was kind of funny, then I realized it was not good at all. After dipping his wattles repeatedly into the drinking water in below freezing temperatures he had accumulated a layer of ice completely encasing his poor little danglies.
I took him inside and warmed them in water then sat with him in front of the fire till he dried. Since retuning a damp chicken outside would only make things worse. While we sat there, him just standing on my lap. Our dog Honey (our retiree) came over to sniff him. I let her approach since she is really good around the chickens, cat and reptiles. I know she just wanted a little whiff the bright orange thing I have been holding.
Turbo was having none of it and went to peck her right in the eye when she got close. I have to admit I was not expecting that from him. It was surprising to realize that after being grabbed, brought into the house, getting a bath, and sitting just fine (clucking contentedly) for more than 15 min, all without protest, that he did indeed have limits. As well as a very precise way to deal with the fuzzy faced intruder. Honey was not at all impressed and jumped right back on the couch like “well fuck you too!”
This brings us to the other over indulgence of the flock, fornication. When most of the first flock was wiped out we only had three remaining hens. These hens had a jump on the new brood by a month or so. This meant that three of the girls ‘came of age’ before the others and lucky for them became what is commonly referred to as “the favorite hen.” This means that they got a lot of action from the roosters.
There are two things you worry about in this case (and especially with multiple roosters) is the feather loss that results from the mounting process. Specifically the roosters hold on to the feathers on the back of the head with their beak and climb onto the back of the lucky hen and do their business. Hens will squat flat to the ground with their wings out, frankly make it easier for everyone. When they do not accept the proposition, they run away (or try to) squawking loudly at the insult and usually lose more feather as they are yanked out by the insistent randy rooster. I have a few hens with significant feather loss but with all the flock now of legal age the activity is now spread around a lot more. The problem is that the feathers take a long time to grow back.
I watch them every day for redness or bleeding but mostly there is none. Just some very silly looking half bald hens. Gail is the only one who has incurred an injury called “bareback.” It is just what it sounds like, she has no feathers on part of her back anymore. I decided a month ago that all the roosters would now be getting pedicures in order to make sure that they were not able to do any more damage.
Last Sunday (after the bee defection extravaganza) I revisited the various injures of the flock. All the roosters came inside to get something patched up and their nails clipped again. If chickens see blood on other chickens for some reason they will peck at it so if someone has a wound it becomes important to clot the blood flow. This is where the corn starch come in handy, you can also use baking soda but I think that the cornstarch probably stings less. I have not personally verified this theory.
Gail had no cuts or abrasions but I did rub a homemade ‘chicken salve’ on her bare little back.
The salve is made from our honey and wax. It is really simple to put together. I use olive oil for the base and lavender oil. Lavender oil has many medicinal qualities and is an antiseptic. It also contiains Linalol which is an active substance in lavender flowers that heals sores, burns and other wounds and reduces pain and inflammation. It is also used in aromatherapy and most importantly is safe for the chickens to ingest. Unlike tea tree oil which can be too powerful and have a toxic effect on some type of animals.
All in all it was a good days work and I was happy to get all of them looked at and attend to. Honey ignored the parade of interesting smells through her living room. The younger dogs cried at the door of the bathroom most of the time I was in there; “we just want to help, honest.” I did not trust that their intentions where noble so they got shooed away. The chickens on the other hand seemed to handle all the activity just fine. It really made me happy that I had messed with them all so much when they were young. If the process had caused any stress to the chickens or dogs I would have had to clean wounds in a cold chicken coop and that is not ideal for any medical procedure. After all chicken poop while excellent fertilizer has no known antiseptic qualities.
Taking advantage of the momentary warm up I went out to check on the hive’s honey supply. If it gets too low we will have to install a candy board (big block of sugar) to supplement the food for the little buzzers. As I approached I saw that they were flying today, a good sign, I thought.
When it gets below a certain temperature bees become inactive and form a cluster. In that cluster the bees will ‘shiver’ their wing muscles and produce heat. The queen will often leave single cells empty when laying so that during the cold periods worker bees can back into those cells and heat the little block of larva. One ‘heater bee’ can heat 70 surrounding cells. She can reach up to 111º F for almost an hour, I think. After awhile she will have to feed. Pretty awesome.
When I got closer and I saw the usual smattering of bee bodies around the front of the hive and something I had not seen before. Little brownish yellow dots carpeting the snow.
To truly look around and see creation, life, living as it is, is a symphony to behold.
The harmony of sky and sea, mountain and sun can not be accurately inscribed in anything less than itself.
These words are but hollow reflections of the feel of warm sun on your skin, soft rock at your back, a beautiful scene in your eyes and the news of the mountains in your ears.
Animals, plants and me, here together, being nothing other then what we are.
Acting living all under the same sky, chilled by the same breeze and warmed by the same sun.
We are all one.
Whether we realize it or not, we are all part of this thing, this life.
Some never truly enjoy that realization. Some have never sat alone on a mountain top and listened to what god has to say to them.
We are all spoken to.
Nature, the way, is hidden from no one.
It is right outside our doors and ourselves. But you must seek it.
Nature seeks nothing.
It is, that’s it.
Perfect in its kind, one of a kind, yet made of many kinds, all equal, all a part of this one thing.
When two become one and many act in harmony we can see a glimpse of our potential as humans.
Yet we do not act as we know we should and so we will remain as long as we continue to alienate things, say that they are more unlike us then like us, we will never fully appreciate our duty to them or ourselves- to the system as a whole.
We must all truly feel that life is beautiful or we will continue to destroy it without understanding why.
We must put ourselves back in the circle, sit quietly and listen to what god has to say to us.
Because the same thing is said to all living things everyday, that life is a gift.
Be a part of it seek it out, let it make you whole.
So that you may join with others and make something more of the time we have.
Truly live life, because tomorrow is promised to no one all we have is right here and now to do right by those here with us.
To live life in such a manner everyday seems woefully uncommon.
But the wind can blow in any direction its only constant is change. And therein lies hope for what can be.
That the wind will change and we will change with it and live life as we know we should.