(I stole that title, it's true. Get over it.) It's been more than two weeks since I last sat down to write a note here for reasons partly beyond and partly within my control. We've both been buried with work (the kind that pays the bills, not the fun kind). I was out for much of last week, down on the glorious shores of south Texas where I was lucky enough to see a FULL SIZE model of Columbus's Nina and Pinta ships. Behold the glory:
Don't ask me who that handsome character is in the foreground. There was a sign calling him Santiago but it was never clear how he added value to the exhibit. The South Texas Museum of Natural History didn't teach me too much, but Santiago here really motivated me to inject more enthusiasm into my life every day - he looks so happy - right?
As soon as I returned from this fabulous work trip (and drove through such titillating towns as Tynan, Panna Maria and Stockdale where I came thiiiisss close to stopping at a shady bar called Polecats. Because, come on, that's a once-in-a-lifetime kind of opportunity) - Jer immediately hopped on a plane for Hungary where he's been all week for work. Prior to his trip, his already damaged back went on strike, flipped him the bird, and gave up. The past year of finishing the house and then immediately working on fences, clearing pasture, and building the lean-to's for the barn just pushed things over the edge. Between my work stress and his back, we've been a sorry pair. And more than ever, I have those nagging feelings that I'm always neglecting or forgetting something. Did the laundry go into the dryer? Did I leave the radio on? Is the hose near the chicken house turned off? Did I lock the gate into the goat pasture? Can I trim hooves this weekend? Is the chicken coop too dirty? Did I change the animal water yesterday? Do I have a presentation at the office today?
And on, and on, and on.
Lately, there've been lots of mentions about balance and choosing this for that or whether certain choices are worth the choosing if they lead to the constant concern that everything's being managed. From the outside looking in, I'm sure it seems things here are scattered and without purpose, or that we do a lot of things only so-so. Like we're half-assers. I'm ok with that. Also, keeping up appearances in regards to order stopped mattering as soon as we started spending weekends around campfires at the land, and I found myself in a perpetual state of disarray, smudged with ashes, dirt, or manure. It doesn't matter what it all looks like as long as there's a (genuine) smile on the face. I figure that as long as I have that, then I have almost everything.
Yesterday, in an effort to multi-task, I allowed the goats and puppies to join me down at the garden where I put in one full hour of weeding. This consisted of pulling two weeds, looking up, screaming "BRUCE! BETTY! GET BACK HERE!" pulled two more weeds, stood up to run and pull goats off the pear tree, pulled two more weeds, "BRUCE, BETTY! GET BACK HERE!" - played like a skipping record. I followed this activity by walking back up to the house, tugging the little green wagon behind me, and used it to load the salt block and chicken scratch I'd just bought from Callahan's. As soon as the back door of the car was open, three goats jumped inside - the fourth jumped into the wagon. Despite this, I managed to haul the bags of feed into the wagon, causing a flurry of goat curiosity as they tore at the paper bags, feed spilling onto the ground. Four goat tails wagged furiously.
It's a lot of chaos a lot of the time. In the moments where peace is restored, my lap is usually filled with one or two goats, a guard puppy standing behind me, paw on my shoulder. A chicken struts by. The wind blows through the trees. A hawk circles. The sun sets. We do it all over again.
Soon, the routines will become more, not less, complicated, as we add milkings and more animals to the mix. I love my animals fiercely. The problem is that they're not as charming and pastoral as is conveyed on the pages of Martha Stewart magazines when she does a "tour of the farm" (I'm sure she's got more than one). In those pictures the animals all have distinct animal spaces and are well behaved, plump, and happy. The gardens are trellised and manicured. You can hear the bees humming off the page.
The reality looks more like the tattered old quilt stored at the bottom of a box in storage, or the kind found neatly folded in a stack at an antique shop. It's stitched together by hand and the fabric comes from torn up pillowcases, sweaters, table cloths - whatever was laying around and held some meaning. The colors don't match. It's not until you open her up and spread the thing out that a pattern emerges and it looks just beautiful. Hoping for the order and bliss of Martha's Bedford farm, all glossy on the magazine pages - it's the worst kind of decadence. That's not what this is about. I'm in it for the goat burps, the horrible donkey wheezes, the chill of finding entrails after a coyote strike in the woods - the raw stuff. It might not photograph as pretty but it's real, and it's messy, and it's absolute crazy. stupid. love.