Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Notes on the Farm - Sent from my iPhone

Life's pretty funny. We spent Saturday morning in downtown Austin cashing in our AT&T gift cards for shiny new iPhones and then promptly went next door to Starbuck's to play with our toys. Basically this meant that I browsed the internet with the thing and Jer started adding as many free apps as possible. We didn't talk to each other at all. Just drank our coffees, played with the new technology, and watched as the huge Whole Foods across the street became packed with strolling shoppers. Three hours later found us up to our ankles in raw manure, putting out a fresh round bale for the livestock and snipping the ropes that encase the hay. It was a far cry from our urban morning. It's not a knee-slapper, but our life has become pretty funny in its contrasts - if for nothing else.

I see that Jeremy mentioned the sparkling new chainsaw I was gifted. Let's be honest: it's the adult version of a Fisher-Price "My First Chainsaw." It makes all the right noises, but it's basically a baby chainsaw with training wheels. Since I have no idea what I'm doing and sport fairly inadequate arm muscles, it's perfect! I'm proud to say that I took out two cedar trees (saplings) and cut an entire trunk (stick) for firewood! Because of My First Chainsaw, my land contributions will be many.

And a word on Boo. Oh holy crap - that was quite an experience. I re-read a post prior to the ordeal in which I nonchalantly stated that I would help as much "as the vet will let me." HA! HA! HA! Aaaaaaahhahaha! Boy oh boy was I being pompous. As it turns out, I have a fairly impressive gag reflex when it comes to the following: scalpels, pain, blood, scalpels, blood, but mostly - testicle removal. Sorry people, I'm just telling it like it is. Jeremy did, in fact, watch the entire ordeal the way one might watch a train wreck. It was riveting enough that he was unable to avert his eyes, however he kept one fist in his mouth the entire time, wincing throughout and periodically exclaiming, "HOLY CRAP!" and "EEEWWEeeeeeoooowwwwwW!" So - he provided some additional drama that wasn't very productive. My favorite part was when he thought the procedure was finished and said, "Ok, it's done, you can look now," at which point I tentatively peeked out from behind a tree in time to see the vet begin work on the second (because, Jeremy, there are TWO) testicle. He quickly apologized for his error and pushed me behind the tree again. That's as many details as I'll give, unless you ask for more details, and then I'm happy to provide them. I generally work through trauma best when I can talk about it. Thank you. And for the record - Boo's now a nicer guy in general. He just seems a little more calm, cool, and collected which in turn makes Chula less of a snot. When he annoys her now, she kicks him - and he doesn't kick her back! Progress.

Finally - it deserves an additional note, because it's really exciting: we did meet with a builder who was recommended by a central Texas artist, Lyn Foley, whose own barndominium was recently built by this man. And boy oh boy does he work fast. He blew onto the land like a small tornado; asking questions and setting up appointments with subcontractors for bids and generally getting our firmly-stuck ball - rolling. We have no contracts signed at this point but finally are learning some solid information about what a build entails. In fact, the electric company came out yesterday for a bid on the cost of installing the appropriate number of poles and wires to our home site. After measuring the distance the poles would span from road to house, the man politely scratched his head, chuckled, and suggested we reconsider our home site. As usual, it appears we've chosen something "unconventional" since most people would position their homestead closer to a gate, to a road, to something already hooked up to the 21st century. We, however, have chosen a spot nestled at the edge of the forest and in the far middle spot on the land. Take that convention and technology!! The irony being, of course, that the meeting with the electric company was set-up entirely with the use of my new iPhone. So we're not exactly going off the grid when we get out there, so what. Besides, I've gotten lost in the woods enough times to appreciate the value of a good GPS system on my phone.

In the end - I doubt we move the house location to accomodate the electric company, or the water company, or anyone else since the bulk of the burden and cost falls on us. And we generally like to take the more complicated route for some reason. Regardless, it was a happy holiday and hopefully the beginning of more than just a new year. A new....home? Happy holidays!

Happy Holidays!

Overall, this was a happy holiday season for the Crawley-Kelly-Landes household. We got to spend some quality time with both of our families, Boo seems to be healing nicely, and we got some cool gifts to boot. Thursday and Friday was a whirlwind of brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, grandparents and nephews. It was a good time with lots of food, drink and presents. With that said, I was looking forward to Saturday when we could head to the land and return to a semi-normal state of living. We were able to spend a few hours on Saturday checking on our patient and trying out some of the new toys. Boo seems to be out of the woods since he has been seen actually running around. Jenna swears he is already sweeter. Actually the biggest change is that Chula appears to be nicer. My theory is Boo is less annoying, so she is less agitated when we see her. Maybe she's just taken with the Christmas spirit. There's no way to tell. As for new toys, check out Jenna's new shiny, battery powered chain saw. Watch out trees.

And the "fancy" cup holder with the monogrammed water bottle.

Actually that was a $3 aluminum cup and a $1 magnet dropped in the bottom to hold it to the tractor. I was getting tired of holding my beer between my legs when going for tractor rides. As for the fancy pants water bottle, while a poor substitute for a Lone Star, it fits quite nicely in my cup holder.

What I don't have a picture of is my 500,000 BTU propane torch. I requested a slightly smaller version for burning the thorns off of cactus for the cows to eat, but my overzealous father bought the biggest one he could find. It is awesome! I hooked up my BBQ grill propane tank and proceeded to melt a large stand of cactus. I'll admit, the first time I fired it up and it sounded like I was holding onto a jet engine, I got a little rattled. Once I got over the sound (and the 2 foot flame coming out of the tip) I started to see the potential. Needless to say, I don't have any pics because I had one hand on the torch and one hand on the water hose. I'll fire it up when Jenna's around to document the awesomeness one of these days.

On the house front, we met up with a potential contractor on Sunday. We spent about 3 hours discussing our plans. Rudy (the contractor) met us at the land and we gave him the "grand tour". At which point we jumped into what we want, don't want, etc. After about 1.5 hrs, we moved our discussion to Cafe 290 for some coffee and queso. We both really liked him and how engaged he seemed to be. This impression was strengthened when he called Jenna on Monday 3 different times to discuss various topics regarding the house. He definitely got the ball rolling, so we're meeting with his "dirt guy" on Wednesday to look at the house placement and get an estimate of what the site prep will cost. It's refreshing to work with someone who seems interested and engaged instead of being brushed aside. Overall, it's been a pretty productive week, house-wise.

In summary, it's been a good couple of weeks. Now we have the new year coming up and all that entails...hanging out with old friends, and looking forward to new promises and adventures. Bring it on 2010!

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Man Down

It actually happened. Our little boy Boo will forever remain our little boy Boo. Dr. Crow and her husband met us out at the land on Saturday for the fateful event. They were in their late 20's or early 30's and in the process of building a house on their small acreage. Needless to say, we had some things in common. So, while needles and scalpels were flying, we were discussing the challenges of purchasing land, working with architects, securing appropriate loans, etc. Actually, the Crows were very efficient while still being personable. Surprisingly, once she got past the first couple of shots, I watched the whole thing. I was cringing the whole time, but I actually watched the entire grotesque procedure. I'll give you the entertaining, and not graphic, run-down of the whole event.

Friday night, Jenna doesn't sleep because of the anxiety of her baby Boo going under the knife. I simply try to not to think about the life altering event that will transpire. Saturday morning we wake up bright and early to head to the land to sequester and pay our respects to the unsuspecting patient. When we arrive, Jenna lures big bad Boo (soon to be referred to as little sissy Boo) into the round pen until Dr. Crow arrives. Since that took a whole 5 minutes to accomplish, we had 2 hours to kill until the "appointment." So, Jenna brushed our boy to keep him (and herself) calm. The team showed up and grabbed their gear to begin. Jenna and I are nervously laughing and chatting with these strangers, and then they get down to business. Dr. Crow explains that she will give Boo a sedative that will make him woozy. Then she will give him another drug that won't quite knock him out, but will make him want to lay down, at which point she begins cutting. During the administration of the first drug, I have to look away because I don't do needles. According to Dr. Crow donkeys have this ability to "hide" their veins in their neck muscles as a protective mechanism against predators like coyotes. It's a little known fact that I thought was interesting. One bent syringe later, and Boo was wobbling around like Joe after a tubing trip down the Comal river. At this point, she injected the 2nd drug (again, I had to look away). This is when things got really entertaining. I wanted to take pics and/or video but each time I reached for the camera, Jenna shot me a look that suggested I take this seriously, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Anyway, Boo is definitely feeling no pain now. There is no way in hell he would have pass a field sobriety test as he was trying to walk but was weaving this way and that. Now Dr. Crow and hubby start to try to push him over together so she can begin her work. It turns out Boo is a fighter and was not going down. It was pretty fun to watch. Boo positioned his 4 legs in about the most perfect angles to provide maximum stability even while he wasn't able to control his drooping head. Dr. Crow even commented on how he was putting up such a fight. She gave him another small dosage, but he still refused to be pushed over. To demonstrate how little control of his extremities he actually had, she stuck her finger in his mouth and flopped his tongue out of the side of his mouth and it just stayed there. She commented that if he doesn't retract his tongue, then he is really out of it. I'll never forget this image of a stubborn (they have this reputation for a reason) Boo stabilized against two adults trying to push him over (Jenna and I are just watching...and I'm trying my best not to laugh) while his head is lolling around and his tongue is sticking out of his mouth. Finally, they get him on his side and he isn't moving at all. This is when I begin editing the events, but let's just say there was some cutting, some pulling, and some blood. 20 minutes later, Dr. Crow is cleaning up and trying to coax a very hung over Boo back onto his feet. We paid Dr. Crow and then spent the next couple of hours watching Boo get more and more steady on his feet. We left him in the round pen that night with his mom, Chula. This morning when we went back out, he seemed as good as one could hope keeping in mind what he just went through. He was walking around, but not as energetic as before. I'm guessing the excruciating pain he was feeling in his crotchal region might have something to do with that, but I'm just speculating. Jenna will continue to check on him every day this week after work, but it looks like things went pretty smoothly. So, we finally took care of one big item on our list of things to do. 1 down, 673 more to go.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Definitely Older and Possibly Wiser: Your Boo (and me, too)

Let's take a moment to reflect, shall we? It's been a hell of a year. I'm not commenting generally on the state of the world (wars, economic crises, health care reform, etc, etc). I'm talking, very specifically, about animal husbandry.

Hell of a year.

Looking back, I would do a lot of things differently mostly in regards to bringing the animals to the land before figuring out their purpose in our lives. Also, I would ask more questions of the donkey seller before picking them up. For example, I would have asked if Chula was halter broken. Or, oh, I don't know, I might have asked if she had ever been touched BY A HUMAN BEFORE (trust me, this is essential). The Jenna of today is savvy enough to understand the abusurdity of loading a donkey, who has never before been touched, into a trailer. But I didn't ask. I didn't even ask if the donkey was tame. I just heard "donkey + baby donkey" and got in the car.

The real scenario went something like this -

Jose (donkey seller): "I have the donkey in a pen. Here's a carrot and a halter. Now go in the pen with the halter and tame the donkey."

Jenna: "That doesn't sound safe. Ok, here I go into the pen."

Never, ever, never do what I am doing in the photo above unless you have more experience with these creatures. Luckily Jeremy stayed at a safe distance to get a photo in the event that Chula were to punch me in the face with her hoof.

After the harrowing experience of loading the donkeys and bringing them home, I once again demonstrated my amateur status as a livestock handler. See for yourself:

Apparently I thought that staring Chula in the eyes while holding a carrot would make me her Number One Hero. Hardly.

This was exactly one year and one day ago. It's taken that long, but I've made some progress. I've figured a few (just a few) things out about this large animal business. I have almost totally given up on Chula being a pet. Being a donkey is enough. Boo, however, is a completely different story.

This is how Boo started out. Obnoxiously cute.

Unexpectedly cuddly. A pet.

But then he grew and, as you know, turned into a minor jerk.

Between the sneaky bites, the persistent pestering and his over-attentiveness (aggressiveness) towards the dogs....

incessant curiosity (read: pushiness)...

(I have to constantly keep him in a gentle headlock. Seriously)

we decided enough is enough. The vet has been contacted, the date and time are set, and on Saturday Boo goes from a Jack to a John, or something like that.

I hope he'll forgive me. The vet will knock him out completely at the land, partially to lessen the trauma but also obviously to make the whole process easier for all parties (Few livestock enjoy the luxury of a general anesthetic for castration. Eeesh.)

And so, on the eve of my birthday, I reflect on whether this past year, these encounters with the animals, and aging in general, has made me a better person....

I don't really think so. But it has taught me a lot of stuff about a lot of stuff.

Thanks to you, Boo, I know more about donkeys. I know more about cows now, too. And coyote "scat," as it's called. And the habits of scorpions. The varieties of fireflies. The unbelievable value of a good bale of hay. The overlooked importance of neighbors. Not that it's exactly on the scale of restoring world peace or resolving social stratification, but I've learned a lot. (Jeremy has too but I'm paying tribute to myself here. And to the baby donkey.)

We've come a long way this year and Saturday will be another adventure. I intend to be as involved as the vet will let me. I expect there will be tears (from Jeremy. He can't stand needles), and disgust, and awe. I didn't realize what we were getting into when we pulled the little trailer onto the land and released the animals one year ago. I still don't. Here's to growing older, realizing what you signed up for, and doing it anyways.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

And so it goes.

Back here again - pondering choices about the land, a move to the land, what we want on the land, and on and on. The house plans are done essentially, at least are almost ready for the handful of builders I've gathered to bid on and likely dash our dreams of building. Because of the size and scope of the project, as it's currently drawn on paper, we're both certain this has gone beyond anything reasonable for us to consider. In anticipation of ridiculously high numbers, we've gone back to the drawing board, so to speak. It's not that building is definitely untenable, it's just that once again everything is back on the table.

This means that I'm back to considering some pretty ludicrous options for permanent living arrangements. The imagination is capable of twisting just about anything into an attractive opportunity. I explain these "opportunities" to friends and colleagues who generally smile politely, or cock their heads sideways and squint their eyes - really trying to imagine what I could possibly be thinking. (EX: Telling someone you want to cut a huge old house into four pieces, haul it across the county and patch it back together - but then also conduct an extensive re-model to said house doesn't sound too cost-effective - because it's not). Thank you all for patiently listening, by the way. Just bear with me a little longer.

It's not so simple, you know? This isn't just a question of building or buying a residence on a lot in a neighborhood. The purchase of this land demands that some expansive life questions be answered more prematurely than expected. Do we want to take on a traditional mortgage since it's not just a house we need to pay for - but the land - not to mention the development of many goals we've set in place for the land. Not to mention a kid or two, you never know. And when is the right time to make the move? The wrong time? NOT TO MENTION: there are approximately 150 options - none of which we've completely ruled out.

(Jenna beats head against wall)

We never really discussed all this stuff before getting into the whole rural property business. We were too enamored with the view to consider such things.

And its promixity to the city.

The ridiculous farm creatures.

And the quiet, the space.

In the end, we got the most important decision right. We got the land. This isn't a pressing situation by any means but probably one that's worth some creative thinking. Turns out I'm pretty good at that, and Jeremy's gotten pretty good at being one of my politely smiling audience members.

Ever sit around and wonder where you'll be, this time next year? That's me but maybe 10 times. Each day. I'll probably still be sitting here at my computer browsing Craigslist for a mean deal on a dilapidated farmhouse. No house but still the land. That could be enough.