Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hey homeslice

There's a small chance you wondered what happened. There's a very big chance you didn't. That's the difference between you and me. When there's something brewing for me or someone I care about then it's all consuming. In the worst way. You're probably the "other kind of person" who says "meh" with a shoulder shrug when something's brewing that you can't control. If that's what you're like then I really want to be like you. In the worst way.

The deal is that there's really no deal yet. As expected, the appraisal, which should have been completed last week - was not. We got a slightly disturbing call from the appraiser who flippantly mentioned that, before even checking, he was pretty sure "no comps exist for what you're trying to build," and went on to bluntly ask, "did you really believe, in this market, you could build a nice house in the country?"

OH! Silly, SILLY ME. Because we're real estate experts and all, from way back. We should know better (punctuated with a palm-to-forehead slap). See, those are the kind of comments that make me want to do something really outrageous as a form of self expression, like start breaking dishes, or punch a wall. After investing a lot of time and money into this project, it's infuriating to only be certain whether the project can actually happen until the last possible moment. Does that make any sense at all? To anyone? No, not if you're reasonable. As I clearly am (aside from the violent tendencies as mentioned above).

It's times like these that I truly wish I could dig deep and conjure the laid back, super chill homegirl version of Jenna that surely resides somewhere in my psyche. That chick would definitely do the shoulder shrug and peace out on the whole situation (yep, I just wrote peace out). THAT CHICK would embrace the uncertainty and understand that what you can't control only makes you frustrated, and life's too short for that nonsense. THAT CHICK is a bada&% mother.

That chick don't exist.

So it's just me and some pathetic attempts to keep cool amidst this blindingly stupid process. In fact, I'm trying very hard to mimic Jer's reaction to this whole ordeal. He's been eating AND sleeping normally. Like, every day. How is that possible?! I have a lot to learn. In the meantime I'll continue to work on developing my inner homeslice - that incredibly relaxed person who just let's things roll.

Jenna out.

A Sure Sign's spring:

The view of chicken butts in the nest box means the girls are laying again. This also means that once more their lives will be spared by the frustrated Farmer Jer who is just about sick of early morning chicken-rescues and chicken-shushings and piles of chicken crap without the reward of eggs. We've had a few eggs here and there over the past few weeks but today a line actually formed on the ramp that leads to the nest box = a glorious sight for the disgruntled chicken-owner and a wonderful sign for this winter-hater.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Another Secret I Can't Keep

I've never been much for keeping secrets.

There. I said it.

To any of my girls reading: I love you very much and have likely kept your secrets, but I promise it wasn't ever easy for me. Maybe it's because I need drama the way I also need oxygen. So, if I know something's goin' on then it's pretty hard to shut up about it if, by shutting up, I am not somehow also stirring the pot.

Oh dear. I just re-read that sentence. It doesn't paint a very pretty picture, huh? All I mean is that when it comes to keeping secrets that might cause excitement or unrest then I can't, cain't, cannot keep it secret. So sue me.

Which leads me to this: there MAY (heavy emphasis on the "may") be house news. All the busy work we've been up to in regards to the house has been kept quiet on purpose. After so many stops and starts, it started to smack of desperation and no one, not even moi, likes to follow a desperate story with no happy conclusion. And probably neither do you.

I planned to keep quiet all the way up until the house was built, or at least until we closed on the loan; perhaps share some grand pictures of a ribbon cutting over a freshly poured foundation. But then I thought better of it. Because while I don't like reading a desperate story, I sure don't mind telling one (There it is again: drama).

So. The unkept secret is that we've been busy - capital "B" - when it comes to the house. The month of January was exclusively dedicated to pitting builders against each other for a bid, engaging a new lender, finishing the house designs and then (happily) saying goodbye to the designer. There have been lots of comprises and deals struck and promises made. And now that it's (almost) all said and done, we've come out of this process with our 4th builder. 2nd lender. 2nd designer. 2nd foundation engineer. And a completely different type of house.

In order to increase our chances to have the plans appraised at equal value to the expected cost of the build, we completely tossed out the metal building. And metal siding. So what we've got is a perfectly conventional, hardi-plank sided home. No frills and nothing to make a lender squirrely. It's a very house-y house.

The picture above is Jeremy digging the first "profile hole" for the septic man. The second picture is of Jenna awkwardly posing in a completed septic hole.

And if you were wondering, there's just no good way to pose in a septic hole, probably because one should never pose in a septic hole. Bottom line is that these pictures folks, yes THESE PICTURES, are proof that one way or another, we will forge ahead. The appraisal has been ordered and should be complete by week's end. We've got the cost down to bare bones and the house is as conventional as they come. If this one doesn't go through then it's not going to happen. Not now and not for a long time. If that bridge comes, then we'll cross it.

Whew! Now that I got it off my chest, I sincerely hope my "secret" wasn't too disappointing. But what were you expecting? It's pretty much just donkeys and houses around here.

The Haunting

Boy oh boy it's almost spring, can you feel it? Here the weather is turning into that nearly perfect, in-between-things season. It's dry and breezy and it smells like things brewing right there beneath your feet. Grasses and wildflowers and weeds and wild onions - they're down there just stretching out and thinking about waking up again. The sun is out longer, just long enough again, finally. And, oh lord, don't you think it's time? This winter felt long.

This weekend's weather made me so festive that I broke out the 'ol hipstamatic which, for some reason, always seems to make pictures look like it's summer. Circa 1976. (I guess. I wasn't even a twinkle in anyone's eye in 1976...)

Boo and his minions feel it too. They're clearly grateful not to wake up with a coat covered in frost.

Winter was exhausting for everyone, but for this baby donkey, in particular.

He collapsed suddenly, and quite dramatically, in a pile. With a little sigh. Shut his eyes and sunbathed. Take a load off, Boo.

But then today, as I was locking gates and putting things in their place, a wind came from the north, just over the forest. A cold, cold breeze that instantly caused goosebumps. As if on cue, a hoot owl called from the same direction. Long and low and four times in succession.

This winter hasn't left us yet. It lingers like some old spirit not yet ready to move along. But it will move along soon enough.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Farmer. Innovator. Hero. - OR - Ode to Jeremy

Jer wears lots of hats around here. By day he's a manager and engineer and by night and weekend he's fixer, creator, and problem solver. Maybe this is due to his natural curiosity about how things work, but in the evenings and on the weekends, I always find him somewhere (living room, or kitchen, or shed at land, or trailer, or pasture) holding pieces of something that he has just taken apart and is trying to either fix or improve upon. It's the most foreign type of curiosity to me since I come from the "if it ain't broke" school with an advanced degree in "if it IS broke, throw it away immediately." With Jeremy in my life, everything broken is fixed, made new, and innovated into something else. If you're on a budget, then he's a handy guy to have around.

When the pipes froze at the land this week we decided the only option was to bring water from our house out to the trough. I never thought through the mechanics of filling the back of Buster with water and driving 30 miles, and assumed Jer had it all figured out. So when the time came to water the animals, we were both slightly horrified to learn that the house pipes were now frozen too. Never one to be deterred, Jer pulled his little ski cap firmly down on his head and marched into the garage from which a series of loud scraping and banging sounds started to eminate. I heard the garage door open and slam several times and each time I shouted "What are you doing!" he'd shout back,"Don't worry about it." then "SLAM" then "door open" "Um. Do you need help? What's happening?" followed by,"Don't worry about it." then "SLAM." Then a loud pop and hissing sounds, crunching leaves, and the image of Jer crouched down by an exterior faucet, blow torch in hand, thawing the faucet. These innovative moments are arrived at after an extensive process of elimination. I found the washing machine pulled out of its position in the garage, tired old pipes and hoses attached to its faucet that led out the garage and into the back of Buster. Tools were askew. A ladder was crooked. We may never know exactly what carnage took place in order to arrive at the blow torch solution. But baby that water started flowing and as soon as it did Jer yelled that I should "grab trash bags quick!" which I was then directed to set inside a large trashcan whose lid blew away in this week's wind storm. So there we were, standing in the back of our plumbing truck, filling garbage bags with water and placing them in a lidless trashcan, then filling countless coolers, our hands covered in water that immediately froze. The neighbors, I am certain, don't even flinch anymore when they see these sorts of front yard antics. After watching Jer work on a tractor in the front yard for a week, along with having us hose out a manure filled horse trailer in the driveway, nothing surprises these good people. Can you blame them?

Once Buster was filled with water receptacles, strapped down firmly, we took off to the land hopeful that the pond-hating donkeys had not yet shriveled up and died in their possibly dehydrated state.

What we found there was....snow!


(Woods and dry creek bed.)

(Woodpile behind house site.)

(House site!)

And, thankfully, 8 healthy animals. We quickly drained coolers into the trough while the animals looked on in awe. It was clear that they actually weren't that thirsty at all but just hopeful the water we were dumping would turn into giant grains of sweet feed. As usual, and despite our best intentions, we were a huge disappointment to the livestock since we came bearing water only.

Our heroic attempts made in Operation: Donkey Survival were basically pointless. It's apparent they set aside their distaste for pond water and managed to keep themselves hydrated this week. But still. I'm pretty sure we, specifically Jeremy, are heroes - to no one in particular.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Angry Chicken Hates Snow

Oh boy - the girls are upset this morning. Since the hens have never seen snow, they woke up to a blanket of white on the ground and were completely confused. As they stare at the ground and turn their heads this way and that to figure it out, it's obvious what they're thinking: "Can I walk in it? If I jump off my perch - will the ground even HOLD ME?! WHAT'S WITH ALL THAT WHITE CRAP?!"

So here it is, 8:30 am, almost 2 hours past their normal wake-up hour - and still they sit roosting, glaring angrily at the ground. I don't understand this logic since they were perfectly happy to skate on the frozen water, but frozen rain has completely thrown them. Jeremy placed one hen, Yolanda, on the ground just to demonstrate the safety of the snow. She has been standing in the same spot for 10 minutese now, giving Jeremy the stink eye.

Luckily the dogs take an entirely opposite approach to snow which, for them, is some sort of time machine and transports them all back to the age of 10 months. I know this because, once outside, each one began running in circles, barking, jumping on each other, chasing tails, and rolling around like they only did when they were puppies. Snow is a strange and magical thing down in these parts.

As soon as the ice melts we're taking Buster for a spin to try out his 4 wheel drive and bring water to pond-water-hating donkeys. And there may be snow at the land! Snow! At the land! How about that?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ok, We Get it. It's Still Winter.

Geez. I didn't realize that my premature spring-like post would anger the cold weather Gods. But seriously, did my comment really merit this 16 degree nonsense plus the blustery winds? I get it! It's still winter! You win.

The cold weather truly doesn't bother us too much since it's always nicely broken up by random days with 80 degree temps and humidity. So I can handle it. What really drives us crazy is the additional worry it causes for the livestock creatures we are supposed to keep alive. The frigid temps require daily (twice daily, probably) trips to the land to break up frozen water troughs and count animal heads. And those trips are just another obnoxious reminder that we STILL don't live out there. Today, the neighbor's pipes that we use for the water trough were frozen solid. There was absolutely no turning that baby back on to fill up the trough, which we had disconnected. This means that only one third of the water remained, half of which was a sheet of ice. Even the pond was half frozen, with evidence that it would mostly be ice by tomorrow morning. Since the donkeys refuse to drink from the pond, I need to devise a sneaky plan to haul water out there for the trough and keep it warm (without electricity, mind you). Any ideas? Anyone?


Luckily, my chickens continue to provide the comic relief needed in these sorts of situations. Our hens approach everything with complete fascination, curiosity and bravery so when their kiddie pool of water froze over, the girls each climbed right on in and skated across. Because hey, if you can't drink the water, then you may as well skate on it - right? They've really got the lemons into lemonade ideology down pat.

Even though for us it's just a few really rough days, overall it's been a cold, cold winter. Winter. Not Spring. I won't make that mistake again.