Sunday, November 28, 2010


Yesterday we had a state-of-the-union address type conversation in order to sort out what needs to get done. I'm not talking about things like taking out the trash, cleaning gutters, and vacuuming. I'm talking about real dirt-under-your-nails type of activities - things we've shrugged off and ignored for, oh, years. For example, about 5 years ago we decided to rip up the filthy "white" carpet in our house and replace every last inch of the place with saltillo tile. In a sneaky effort to save money, Jer convinced me that laying the tile ourselves would allow us to "take more pride" in our home. Obviously, that's total crap since the labor I put into the floors only makes me resent them. But I digress. The point is that we spent months working on the tile and decided to take a small break from the work before putting in base boards. 5 years later, Jeremy says the break is over (what a task master!) and that it's time to complete the project. At some distant point in the past we also started scraping the 1980's popcorn off of our ceiling and never finished. Add to the list repairs of chicken-pecked house siding and torn window screens (culprit? also chickens). And on and on. And on. Oh folks - that's just the house list.

IF we begin construction in June, we've signed on for site prep duties for the homesite along with the task of trenching in and laying water pipes, clearing a path for electric poles, clearing the large septic field. Making a driveway. Starting/finishing work on all 14 doors. Re-wiring old lights. Re-furbishing the old oven. Researching the actual meaning of "refurbishing" an old oven.

It's quite ludicrous when I see this all written down.

Due to this ludicrous-ness (Yep, it's a word. I just made it up) we felt a "To-Do" list of epic proportions was in order. I rattled off this list while driving to another family Thanksgiving dinner yesterday. Jer recorded the list while I drove and sent it to me via email. I have yet to open the email. I am intimidated.

Which got me thinking. What's the deal with to-do lists anyway? Are they really all that useful? Don't they just create undue stress in an already tense situation (life)? What's with all the added pressure?! Because, come on, if stuff's really that important, don't we usually get around to it in the end? Can I get an amen?

Tonight I am alone in the house while Jer spends the night at the land. It's the perfect opportunity to crack open the list he sent me, face my demons, act like an adult and get moving. But I've been sidetracked by a glass(es) of wine and the Coal Miner's Daughter. And I'd rather work on a very different list.

After careful consideration I've created the following list to help guide me through the spring - if not life. Feel free to use this as your own general road map, and please do re-prioritize as you see fit.


1. DON'T pass up a glass of wine for any reason. Unless it's a really good reason.

2. DON'T over-clean your house. Clean it once in awhile and feel quite proud of your work. Then just forget about it until someone complains.

3. DON'T live by lists. If you feel the urge to create one, just jot stuff down on a post-it and leave it lying around the house. At some point in the future, find the post-it stuck under a magazine. Say "Oops, I forgot to do that" and then shrug your shoulders. It's therapeutic.

4. DON'T, as they say, sweat the small stuff. If you do sweat the small stuff, like myself, then refer to #1.

5. DON'T forget to repeat #4.

6. DON'T ever go through life without a pet or access to some sort of animal.

7. DON'T get pushed around. In any situation.

8. DON'T just trust your instincts; follow them.

9. DON'T pass up a glass of wine for any reason. Oh! I already said that.

10. DON'T listen to me. I'm still working on achieving most of these. But doesn't this beat the hell out of a TO-DO list?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bad, Bad Boo: In Which Boo is Very Bad (Rated PG-13)

Boo is, as you know by now, very bad. But he was not always so tremendously obnoxious. Boo came into our lives as a tiny bundle of fluff from which two extraordinary ears stuck straight out, his body perched precariously atop four knock-kneed, wobbling, and spindled legs. By any measure, Boo was ridiculous. At the time, Boo was named for his birthday, which is Halloween, and being such a teeny bean of a donkey, anything longer than one syllable seemed too overwhelming. Since those early days, however, Boo has earned the name for very unfortunate reasons. As in: "Surprise! I'm right behind you!" or "Surprise! I've been following you this whole time and magically have your entire boot in my mouth!" or (the crowd pleasing) "Surprise! Yes! I am actually biting your ass right now." (And not to digress, but I can now verify the root of the name "ass" for a donkey. It's not because they're stupid - hint, hint). Boo got the right name because of his most prominent characteristic and not because of his birthday, as it turns out. He likes to shock and surprise the hell out of everyone. Boo! (jerk).

I take all of this in stride. As an avid animal lover, I find his behavior endearing since I generally know how to control it and because I'm confident that I am the master of this particular beast. Yes - he's a biter, a surpriser, a puller, pusher, tugger, chewer. But 99% of the time, I know what he's about to do before he does it, and I'm prepared by pushing back or getting him in a little headlock to keep the offending teeth away from people's delicate bits.

99% of the time. That leaves a whole percentage point open for error. When you're talking about a donkey, that's a vast expanse. This long-winded story set-up leads us to a recent day at the land. Jer and I were patting the donkey herd through the "newly" built fence. At this particular moment, we were remarking on the wonderful invention of fences and the beautiful safety and freedom this fence afforded us so as not to always be worried about the donkey sneak attacks we'd grown so accustomed to. With the fence, we created a "controlled environment" in which The Humans exert their power and superiority over The Asses. Order was restored. The world was right. I was enthusiastically discussing the fact of how we so cleverly created a safe distinction between Us and Them; a designated animal space on these wild acres that had gone untended for so many years. At this precise moment I felt something grab me in the most unfortunate place. My eyes shot down in a panic to see that Boo had managed to quietly push his gigantic head through the narrow gate bars while we talked, had managed to slowly crane his neck waaaaaay out towards my chest, had managed to grab onto something and, once there, managed to tug backwards ever. so. slightly.

HOLY OUCH. Needless to say, I screamed and flicked him hard between the eyes until he finally let go, snorting proudly at this crowning attack to top all previous sneak attacks.

We called him Boo for his birthday and then Boo because of how he continually shows up and surprises us. But now? Now, we just call him Boob.

For the Love of Dairy

Big news in the world of cheesemaking (did I lose you already?)!! Here in Austin we are lucky to be down the road from a nationally acclaimed artisinal dairy goat farm, Pure Luck Dairy. Each year, the farm opens its doors for a 3 day, intensive cheese-making workshop that takes particapants from pasture to milk parlor for the full caprine dairy experience. You better believe I've been waiting to sign up for one of these classes. After a long hiatus, Pure Luck recently announced its upcoming winter/spring workshops, and I've already secured a spot. When I explain the workshop, a few folks wrinkle their nose at the prospect of shelling out decent cash to experience goat milking, followed by milk sanitizing, followed by...well, you get the point. This isn't for everyone. But for me it's an exciting step and a real investment in the land.

Remember the land? It's that big lump of dirt that we have to somehow make useful. It's gotten a little lost in the excitement of Marta and the cabin but it's still out there, costing money and growing more tangled by the day. Perhaps my contributions will emerge through goat handling/cheesemaking since my fence-mending and post-hole digging "skills" are just crap. Perhaps a few goats will lead to selling raw milk and fresh cheeses. It won't pay all the bills, but it could bring a bit of spare change and make this girl very happy, to boot.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rollin' in My Massey

Totally stole this from my favorite farm girl blogger over at Cold Antler.

"The milk's chilled" - Aaawww yea, check it:

Friday, November 19, 2010


We just signed and sent off the pre-agreement to build the cabin. Start date: June 2011. There are approximately 53 things that could stop this from happening - the appraisal being the next and biggest obstacle of all. But still, for better or worse, contract's been signed and we're committed. I'll get excited after the appraisal is done. 'Til then, I'll try very hard not to imagine Thanksgiving 2011 at my house.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different

Since it's usually dark when we arrive at the land on Fridays, and since we've decided the entire population of central TX coyote lives on our 15 acres, we don't leave the trailer at night without the essentials. Yes. That's right folks. A gun and a flashlight. I thought we looked like a couple of bada$$ mothers the other night before heading out for a night walk in the woods and decided we should take a very serious photo to illustrate the extent of our bada$$ness. Jer was feeling so legit with his little gun and holster that he couldn't manage a tough guy face. This is the best I could get out of him. We'll have to work on that if he wants to be taken seriously whilst brandishing The Judge (Yes, that is the gun's scientific name). We're not totally country. Yet.

The Swallows

About a month ago my sister, mother, and I took a day trip to a little out-of-the-way town off an out-of-the-way road for some good 'ol fashioned antiquing. One of the vendors we visited specialized in hand painted prints from mid-19th century natural science books. Her booth was smothered in carefully protected images of flowers blooming, snails sliding, fish jumping, and birds floating - wings spread - their anatomy dissected on the page for the hobby-naturalist to enjoy. Mom bought two of the little pictures for me; images I admired but couldn't bring myself to purchase even for their measly price of $20. What did I need with another old picture anyway? But as soon as I got home I immediately placed each into an individual wooden frame. Stuck them on the wall by the couch and realize now I can't pass by the spot without looking at them for a moment. Each picture is a swallow in flight. Although they are painted, the colors are drab; yellowed background with the look of tobacco stains and the birds themselves no more than blackish/gray streaks. From the standpoint of color and interest - they're not much to look at. But there they are everyday, hanging mid-air, so much energy contained in the tiny images, caged within a small frame. Nowhere to go. Ambition-turned-frustration, captured.

When I think about the past year, things I've mentioned and things I haven't, I understand why the pictures hold a smidge of significance. There have been so many stops and starts, and the gathering of energy for some sort of venture, adventure, or change. Then the inevitable obstacle that always lurks and not knowing what form it will take. Maybe it's just the head cold I've been trapped under for days, but lately it feels like I walk within a frame. Like the little swallows. Mustering the nerve for forward motion but not enough to overcome the confines.

There is a Cow in My Canoe

That there's Matilda inspecting the overturned canoe after managing to knock it off its side where it leaned against a tree. She put both front legs in it right after the photo was snapped, trying it out for size, but decided it might not hold her. Mostly I enjoy Seamus's "been there, done that" attitude towards the entire situation. Ah, cows = endless entertainment. Or is that just me?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Change of Name

Slowly, a new routine has emerged. The unspoken agreement is that weekends in our current home are over. We never discussed this fact, yet it's clear that by Friday afternoon, bags and food will be packed, and we'll kiss the chickens and cat goodbye until Sunday evening. No words were necessary to understand that once the trailer arrived, life would shift ever so slightly. But a shift all the same.

Aside from numerous electrical and other tasks involving switches and hoses (I'm already bored with this sentence), one of the first jobs was a new floor. Marta came to us a little more shabby than chic and the state of her floors elicited a slight gag reflex when I first stepped upon them in bare feet. Imagine the filthiest gym shower stall you've seen, but with 3 more years worth of grime and old cheese smell. Yep. Once the 'ol peel and stick "wood" floors were in place, we decided the next upgrade would be an addition to the "kitchen" (I use all room related words loosely when it comes to the trailer. Including the bathroom. Sigh). Jer's magnificent engineering skills were put to good use when he whipped up a new butcher block/table, tripling counterspace, and generally sprucing up the joint.

I don't even have a counter this nice at home! Thank you Ikea/Jer! Thank you very much.

Marta has taken most of Jer's time, which reminds me how useless I still am at the land. I have yet to impressively weild a chainsaw or other sharp instrument. My fence-building skills are limited to "dirt-packing" and "moral support," so unless one of the hoof stock requires individual attention, I'm sort of at a loss. If Jer's not spearheading and overseeing a project, then I'm usually just staring at a tree, and you can only be so discreet when doing this. So, eventually, Jeremy notices that I'm staring at trees, wandering in the woods, collecting Indian tools, and watching the dogs - having a pretty awesome time- and decides a new project must begin.

(I thought that wearing gloves would effectively feign productivity. But he called my bluff since I clearly only wore them to admire my dogs.)

So last weekend we commenced the Great Lean-To Build, 2010. This means that Jenna gets to man the tractor/auger in order to dig post holes while Jeremy breaks up rock and unruly clay. It's a job that involves a lot of cursing and sweating, on his part, and a lot of pulling levers, on mine. As farm tasks go, digging post holes ranks up there with watching a donkey castration. It's best to do no more than once a year.

And yes we did, oh yes we did, meet with the cabin builder. We met for over 2 hours and walked through their model cabins once again, as we did almost two year ago (pulls out hair). And would you believe it?! We love the damn things as much as we did the first time. And would you believe it?! We might be signing a building contract with them in a few weeks. And starting in June. But don't hold us to that, as plans are malleable around here.

So there are lots of changes. Change of house plans, change of routine, and changes of name. I've spent considerable time with the donkey herd, particularly the minis who are rarely mentioned here because I'm so very partial to the original star, Boo. However, those three ladies certainly have distinct enough personalities to merit a few name changes. Regardless of their high intellect, donkeys don't know their names (or, mine don't) so new names are basically symbolic. Fiona becomes Noni, to better suit her curmudgeony demeanor and short stocky physique (think: small Italian grandma). And Jasmine is easily a Jezebel since her....well..ok, she's basically an aggressive b*&%h and just trust that the name fits. And Brownie remains Brownie. The name I hated the most stays the same. She sidles up to everyone without stirring the pot or throwing things off kilter, just like the name of the dessert that everyone brings to potlucks. It (she) goes with everything.

Martha also underwent a change after our recent and manic bout of re-watching Arrested Development. From here on out we'll call her Marta. And yes I am talking about an inanimate object so if you're trying to follow a stream of logic, there is none.

But really the biggest change has to do with a definition. The home pictured in my mind for so long is now completely erased. Home is a cedar cabin. Home is a trailer. Home is the land.

Donkey Sunrise

The donkey herd habitually arrives at the front pasture upon sunrise, which they announce with an alarming amount of synchronicity. Tucked away in Marta, the world is silent, until suddenly five ragged, screeching voices blare from the east. It's a pretty impressive alarm clock, if you're needing to be shocked out of bed at 6am on a Saturday morning. Once their work is done, they promptly curl up and snooze until mid-morning. An odd ritual. But then, an odd creature, so what do you expect.