Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Legacy of a Friend

In 1999 I was newly installed in a country home, had animals on the property for the first time and was actively involved in an organization called Pegasus Special Riders. Pegasus helped me get back involved in horses after a long hiatus, and I loved being a part of the team. I volunteered with barn chores, sidewalking and leading during lessons and, finally, training volunteers. This last task brought me in contact with a woman who would change my life in myriad ways, and all for the better. Laura showed up one morning for volunteer training, and she claims she appreciated the straight-forward way I had during interaction with the volunteers. I knew right away she was an intelligent and sensitive person, and we became fast friends. Laura is unlike most other people I knew. She is a rural girl but not “country.” She is highly learned and very intelligent, but not arrogant.

 I never knew much at all about native plants and plant communities when I met Laura, but it did not take long for her to expand my knowledge and create a solid appreciation for our natural resources and a desire to live more lightly on the land. Conscientious to a tee, animals under her care are always treated with respect and dignity.

 When I think back I ask myself, “Which came first? The chicken or the coffee?” I was completely unfamiliar with either when I met Laura, and she unashamedly got me hooked on both! I knew I wanted chickens, and she said “You should, you will love them.” I had no idea I really WOULD love them and become enamored with their silly ways, their beautiful feather patterns and the precious warm gifts they would leave for us each morning. Six hens quickly turned to a dozen, then twenty. I had a go-around with meat birds, too, and while that didn’t turn out to be my thing it is not off the table yet for our new place. Likewise, the first time she encouraged me to try a Starbucks chilled Frappuchino with chocolate milk I was SOLD! That led to mochas at the local indy bookstore to brewing my own at home. *gasp!* Now I am adept at brewing a cup or two in my French press and making my own mochas at home with ground chocolate and coconut milk creamer.

 Eager to return the enablement favor, I introduced Laura to my own horses. She had ridden and loved horses all her life, but loved being in contact with the Pegasus horses and taking opportunities to ride with me. When the time came for us to find a new home for one of ours she took the plunge and bought him! He was a great companion for her for a few years until life got too busy for her to spend enough quality time with him and he went on to a new home.

 Laura and I had many great times together. When our kids were younger we would head to the local bookstore, drink coffee and chatter with the store-owner. We would read the organic gardening magazines together and talk about our fantasies of having our own, self-sufficient gardens and animals. She introduced me more fully to the world of art, and helped me fall in love with an artist or two. Many beautiful prints hang in my home now because of Laura’s influence.

Laura was a faithful friend. She still is. She never judged me, at least not to my face! She was always patient and kind and helped me reach my own conclusions on weighty matters. When I struggled she stood by and held me up. When rejoiced she sang with me. When I cried she cried.

 Things are a little different now. We don’t talk as often, seldom, in fact. She is working full-time now, as am I. The farm here keeps me as busy as my professional work does, and spending time any friends is difficult, let alone the ones who also work much. The other night we had a lovely conversation on the phone, and I was reminded again how much I care about and miss her, and what a precious gift she has been in my life. I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that there are several big aspects of my life now that would not be there except by her influence- my school and work careers being among them. It is probably safe to say that she helped me grow as a person more than any other person in my life.

 The only picture I have of her and me together; a terrible one of me but one I cherish nonetheless; a morning we spent canoeing on the Rock River:

I hope I never take her for granted, and that she knows how important she is to me.
 I think I’ll tell her.

Friday, April 20, 2012

How Tight is YOUR Coop?

It is quiet on my work front today, has been for a couple weeks now. A minor back injury has sidelined me and left me chomping at the bit to get going again. I have already learned that to rush it will only be worse. I have still been able to meet with clients and do some drawing and planning, but maintenance has been out of the question, and that includes my gardens here at home. My landscaping (for what its worth) and vegetable -garden-to-come are in shambles. I am about ready to recruit me some boys to get all this back in order and ready to roll for the season!

The good news is that I have managed, with Steve’s much-appreciated help, to get the chicks out to the barn and into their stall-turned-coop. They are now four weeks old, and nearly completely feathered out. They officially look like miniature chickens and not like infants! They sound like infants still, and that is strange.

Back when I had full back function I built the coop door to hold two catch latches and eye-screws to which I can clip a bolt latch. The combination of these will render the coop impenetrable to raccoons…at least by this avenue! They have been known to rip through chicken wire, but that is a gamble I have chosen to take, seeing as how the cost of using the alternative, hardware cloth, is very expensive.

So, the other day I was visiting said chicks in their new home; for some reason they are much bolder and easier to catch out there, so I was catching and cuddling a few. I saw the cat coming to check out the happenings, so I pulled the door tighter to make sure she could not squeeze through. Unfortunately for me, that top latch performed exactly as intended and latched me in. Oooh…did someone (besides me?) manage to get a latch string installed yet? One that would allow someone to unlatch themselves from the coop from the inside? Nope. Dangit. No one was answering phones at the house. The only alternative left me was to unwind pieces of chicken wire where it was exposed on the edges and form a strong enough hook to reach through the wire, snag the tiny hole on the arm of the latch and let myself out. Second attempt was the one that gained me my freedom, whew! Fortunately it was not cold, and Steve was expected home any minute. I was glad, however, not to have to yell for him to let me out. We still got a good laugh at it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday Musings, 3rd edition

It has been a whole week since I updated my blog, and I hope this will not set the pattern for the duration. It HAS been a very busy week, though, and I have hardly had time to sit down and play, let alone come up with something useful to share. My schedule has been amazingly full, which is good AND bad. I have hardly had a chance to finish preparing for the season before it was jump-starting a month early. So nearly every free minute last week was taken up with cleaning and organizing my work stuff and doing that boring admin work. This is all in addition to the regular family stuff like cooking dinner, paying bills, grocery shopping, building a chicken coop, caring for chicks, etc.

We finally got the tractor started and running. It needed to be jump-started last week, but I guess we didn't let it run long enough, for when we tried to start it again the battery was completely dead. but now the pastures are mowed and filling in beautifully, and even the lawn got done with the bush hog. Yes, it was that long. *sigh*

The chicken coop is nearly done, and I am thinking "just in time!" The chicks still have plenty of room to run around their pool/box, but they are getting rowdier by the day. They frequently overturn their waterer, and will scratch their feed into the shavings in about 10 minutes flat. Grr! Plus, their darting and flapping and shrieking has become a nuisance at night. They are still super-cute, though, piling together on their kindergarten-perch or stretching all out on the shavings for a nap. Their wings are nearly completely feathered, and their tails are getting so long. hard to believe they are only two weeks old!

Griffin tried to grab a brat off the counter last night, but I caught him before he could figure out he only scored the bun and not the meat. I gave him a tongue-lashing and banished him outside (boy its great to catch them in the act!) but that hasn't yet deterred him from his behavior. he gets a nice 'come-to-Jesus meetin' " every time I catch him (third time?)to no avail. Not sure what to do about it now.

Steve is off for a couple days, today and tomorrow. Tomorrow we will hit up an art museum and maybe a garden; today is still up in the air. A trip to Barnes and Noble is about all I know for sure. I DO know that it has been awhile since we have spent a day together and I am looking forward to it.

Today or tomorrow I start the Green Smoothie Girl's 12-step program to healthier eating for life ( but I am not looking forward to it. I can probably tolerate a mostly-vegetable smoothie, but I really don't like raw vegetables. Apparently cooking them higher than 116 degrees destroys the good enzymes in them, so I understand the benefit, but for the first time in my healthy-eating journey I am feeling a little distressed about my diet. The program is meant to be accomplished one step per month over a year, so we'll see how it goes. Maybe slow will be the trick.

Guess that's it. The birds are back and in full courtship mode, and barn chores wait for no man.