Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Let it snow, let it blow

It is snowing again. I love snow. Unfortunately, I need to drive 400 miles to pick up Bella, the new puppy, on Thursday. I really want to pick her up, but I may need to drive the big truck (10 mpg) in order to do so. Or I could wait a few days and drive the small truck. (20 mpg) Hmmm. What to do. I also will need to plow the driveway so that a) I can get out with either truck, and b) so that the propane guy can deliver. Heat is a good thing. I've been trying to figure out how and where I could put a wood stove for supplemental heat. It would be good in an emergency and would be cheaper as well. I also need to figure out how the stove pipes would work so as to not catch the roof on fire. I may need to talk to a professional about that one.

The seed catalogs have already started to arrive. It seems a little early. I've already seen some new things I'd like to grow. I'm going to get a big bag of corn seeds to grow corn for the pigs. I really need to cut my feed costs for next year. Folks are already selling weaner pigs in the paper and online. It seems a little early for that too. It is supposed to be bone chilling cold later this week. After we get a foot of snow tonight, that is. It's hard to pretend that spring is near.

Jenny and her three boys have plans to move in later this spring. It will be a mighty time. Having children in the house will be a big change of pace for me. But a welcome one. What an adventure. What a blessing. I have been so truly blessed. I don't know how I can fully express my gratitude for the grace I have been shown to me. What a gift.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A prayer for guidance

MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

- Thomas Merton, "Thoughts in Solitude"

Friday, December 24, 2010

And to all a good night...

Well, it's Christmas Eve and I haven't written much this month. A wonderful new woman in my life has proved to be such a blessing. At some point in the future, she may move out to the homestead with a crew of three young boys. What a blessing. What a gift.

I am in California for a rare weekend away from the farmstead to celebrate Christmas with my family. What a blessing.

Tomorrow morning I hope to attend Mass at a local Catholic Parish with family. What a joy.

I hope this holiday season finds you and yours well and at peace. Blessed be.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Prayer for the day

"Take my memory, my understanding, my imagination, my body, my will, my entire self. God, I give it all to you. Give me only your grace and your love. That is enough." - Saint Ignatius of Loyola

My tractor was buried in a 5 foot snow drift in the driveway. I spent an hour digging it out enough to move it. Then I put the chains on, which I should have done before it snowed, and began plowing. After clearing about ten feet of drive, I have a 50 yard driveway, the tire fell off and shredded. I sat there in shocked silence. Snowflakes drifting peacefully down around me. I shut off the tractor...and laughed. God, I am truly getting the gift now. I really mean that it is a gift. The gift of humility. The gift of practicing serenity. The gift of facing overwhelming adversity with a little grace. Of knowing my small little place in God's universe.

That is not to say I never blow my top at broken shoelaces. But this particular instance was so completely "not funny" that it was funny. What else can you do but laugh. The driveway will get plowed. Or maybe it'll melt away in spring. Whichever comes first I suppose.

Grace and love. That is enough. And I am given those things if I ask. If I let go of anger and self-pity. If I let go of my entire self. If I even let go of everything I hold dear. God, I am willing that you should have all of me good and bad, root and branch. Just leave me your grace and love...that is enough.

I have been truly blessed. Everything I "have" is such a gift. Except that I do not really have it. It is not mine. It is all temporary. Like the tire on the tractor. One minute it is a tire, the next it is shredded rubber. In the end, all I really have is God's grace and God's love. And that is enough.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I went to Oregon to spend Thanksgiving with my girlfriend's family. I ended up getting snowed in. It was a scramble to find people to watch the goats, but I am so blessed that I was able to find friends and neighbors to pitch in for a couple of days. I ended up spending a couple of extra days and it was wonderful.

There was a one day break in the storms and I was able to make it home. All the animals were safe and sound. Then a new round of storms hit the inland Northwest. I got more snow and high winds. Still have electricity though.

There are four foot drifts in the driveway. I got the tractor stuck trying to dig them out. I am practically snowed in again here. It was much more fun being snowed in with a beautiful woman than it is being snowed in all alone except for the animals. I'll have to chain up the tractor, get it unstuck, and plow the rest of the driveway tomorrow.

Geese are flying over the Palouse. Pretty soon I'll be out to set up a hunting blind and decoys in the hayfield. I can hardly wait.

What a gift it is to be living in such a beautiful, wild place. Despite a touch of cabin fever, I wouldn't trade it for a million bucks. Hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving with friends and family.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Seasons changing

It's steel head season. Especially now that I've filled the freezer with a deer. I'm still waterfowl hunting as often as possible too though. In fact, it won't be long until the geese and mallards will be flying over my hay field. At that point in the season I just hunt in the back of the house. It's not quite as exciting as going up to the lakes, but it's a whole lot easier.

We are having a huge blizzard right now. The highway is closed and I am snowed in. I managed to get out to town to go to the hardware store this afternoon and the roads were pretty bad. I'm not surprised that they closed it.

I nailed up some plywood over the old windows in the barn to keep the worst of the wind out from where the goats are. They seem to be keeping warm enough by curling up together. In fact, the barn cats were sleeping with the goats when I went out to check on them last night. I'm just feeding them lots and keeping them out of the wind. I've been going out every couple of hours to break up the ice in the water trough. There is no power out at the barn to hook up a heating element for the trough. If anybody knows of a solar powered heating element for a watering trough let me know.

I'm going to have to haul hot water in 7.5 gallon jugs out to the barn in the morning in the tractor. The water trough will be frozen solid by then. That will not be a fun chore in -20 windchill weather. The chickens usually do OK, although I haven't checked them since this afternoon. I may put a heat lamp in their coop tomorrow when the temperature really dips.

I have been blessed to meet a wonderful woman. She is such a gift in my life. She, and all my other great friends, are such a blessing in my life. Stay warm everybody. Winter is here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wind Storm

I had a huge wind storm here the other day! 85 mph winds, lightning, rain, and hail. Wow! It was scary. I had a window blow in, a tree come down, and power lines across the road. I had no power or water for almost two days. It was a couple of long and sleepless nights. The neighbor's barn roof blew off and pieces of it are scattered all the way to my property a mile a way.

The intensity and stress and lack of sleep really knocked me out of commission. I am finally getting back to a more regular sleep schedule, hopefully, and trying to get caught up. I had to miss teaching for a couple of days.

I was fairly well prepared and the event helped me see a few areas where I'd like to be a little more prepared. I'd like to have an extra propane tank on hand for my outdoor stove. I'd like to have a generator to power the freezer for a couple of days. And I'd like to actually have put water in my 55 gallon food grade emergency water barrel. That's right, I have an emergency water barrel, but I had been wanting to clean it out with some baking soda to make it smell a little fresher. So when the storm hit, the barrel was empty. Now that the power and water are back on I'll make sure to fill it.

I am so grateful that the power is back on, that the big tree fell away from my house, and that all my critters are safe. And I am truly blessed that I have such good friends who helped me and prayed with me during this stressful time.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Love never fails

"There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13

I realized that I hadn't posted very many pictures of Maggie the princess. She is queen of all she surveys.

I had a splendid day yesterday with a new friend. We walked around the mountain artist community of Joseph, Oregon. Had a leisurely lunch and hiked to a waterfall in the first snow of the year. It was stunning. I am filled with hope, and faith, and love. Hopeful that our friendship will continue to grow and flower. Full of faith that God will guide us. I am feeling so truly, truly blessed. I am filled with gratitude for all the love and grace that I have received. What a truly wonderful day. Have a blessed Sunday.

Friday, November 12, 2010


I canned the sauerkraut last night. It spent about three weeks in the crock fermenting. It is amazing. In the last three years I've only had one successful batch of sauerkraut. This is my best kraut ever. It's crispy and tangy. I had sausage and sauerkraut for dinner. What have you canned this year that has gone particularly well?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pickled sprouts

Up close and personal with some pickled Brussels sprouts. Yum! I've never pickled sprouts before. I think they will be good. They certainly look good. As much as I have grumbled about my garden this year, I have been blessed in the brassica department. Lots of cabbage, broccoli, and sprouts.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cowboy guns

I'm not personally into assault rifles although I don't mind if you are. I do like "cowboy" guns though. Here are three lever actions in classic calibers. A Marlin 45-70, a Winchester 30-30, and a Henry .22. I've hunted with all three at various times.

So many hunters are using guns that are scoped to shoot at 300 yards, but I've rarely shot at game more than 50 yards. Only this year's deer at about 125 yards and that was barely within my comfortable range for an ethical shot.

I'm doing some late night cleaning and may even get around to canning some pickled Brussels sprouts. I enjoy them in some V-8 juice. Minus the vodka please.

I had a major gas leak last night. I couldn't get in touch with the propane company, so I eventually called the fire department. They said one spark would have blown the whole place up. I was pretty stressed out. I usually don't stay stressed for long, but last night just threw me for a loop. Luckily I was able to talk with some good friends both last night and this morning. Said a few prayers. A little "please" and a lot of "thank you."

I calmed down by this morning and was able to go and teach for a while. It was good to get out of myself and focus on helping someone else. Nothing like being of service to get your head on straight. It is such a blessing to have a job that allows me to be of service to others in such a clear-cut way.

I am so blessed to have such good friends that are there for me when things are crazy. And trust me, things were pretty crazy last night. Well, back to cleaning and canning.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A new friend

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born." Anais Nin

Well, I have made a new friend. It is a fresh, new, exciting time. Meeting her has been such a blessing. Wondering what new world will be born.

Fall in the barnyard

After what seems like a whole week of clouds and rain, the sun came out. The barn cats were out and playing. The chickens looked less forlorn. The goats seemed pleased with the change. And I was loving it. I'd rather it was either sunny and hot or cold and snowy. Cold and rainy is just not my favorite.

I cleaned out the goat barn today. I always let the goats wander around the farm while I clean. They don't seem to get into too much trouble. They climb on the tractor, eat evergreen trees, chase the cats... They just act like curious goats on a new adventure. Carissima has been getting out occasionally, but she doesn't go far. She is just there waiting to get her treats and get put to bed in the evening when I go out to do chores.

Colleen is going to come over and sight in her rifle to go deer hunting Sunday night on the property. It will be nice to see both Colleen and Luna. I haven't seen them much lately. I plan on going duck hunting on Monday unless I am up late skinning Colleen's deer.

I spent a relaxing day working on the farm today. Just puttering around going from one task to the next. I picked up some windows to put on the goat's side of the barn. They'll need them come winter. Which is probably right around the corner. Tomorrow will be a busy day with Mass, meeting with friends, more farm work, then hunting with Colleen. I am so blessed.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

To love all things

From today's scripture reading at Mass-

For you love all things that are
and loathe nothing that you have made;
for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.
And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?

I found this reading really valuable. How can I hate or loath someone or something when it is just another example of God's handiwork? I may not understand some people. I may not enjoy their company. I may not agree with their political convictions. But does that give me permission to hate them? In this political year, tempers are running hot. I've deliberately left politics out of this blog, and I'm not going to insert them now. But in a general sort of way, I've been disappointed at the inability of us as Americans to have a civil dialogue.

I have a very good friend whose political views are different from my own. We've consciously decided to either have a pleasant dialogue or not to talk politics at all. We have plenty of things in common. We don't need to discuss politics to have something to talk about.

So, back to the scripture. It gave me pause today on two levels. On the one hand, as I mentioned above, how can I hate someone else when they are creations of God. On another level, how can I get down on myself when I am a creature of God too? I may not like everything about myself. I may wish to change. I certainly hope to grow on this journey through life. But to hate myself is unacceptable. I am exactly who God made me to be, and God doesn't make junk.

So my thought for the day is to love thy neighbor and also to love thyself. I need to remember to treat myself well. Take time to pray and meditate. Eat well. Sleep enough. Do something I love doing. Have a blessed night.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Doing the impossible

Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
- Saint Francis of Assisi

By keeping my heart where my hands are I find that I accomplish the impossible. By doing the next necessary task, by doing the next right thing, the thing that is right in front of me to do I move from the necessary to the impossible.

When I started working on my teaching certificate in special education I was able to take one night class a semester. I worked during the day teaching severely emotionally challenged teens in a locked psychiatric ward. Not how I envisioned my teaching career going, but it paid the bills. At the time it seemed like and impossibility that I would ever get my degree. Five years later I finished that degree. In my last semester I was helping a professor teach her class and she asked if I needed a part time job. The job started at 6 hours a week. It grew and grew as I added more students and 4 years later I still have that job and it is the most amazing job I've ever had. All I did was the next thing in front of me and very slowly the pieces all fell into place.

Now I find myself living all the dreams I dreamed 25 years ago when I was just 18. I've always known that I wanted to teach part time and live on a farm. I just couldn't see how that was ever going to happen. At times during my life it seemed like I couldn't be any farther from that goal. Now that I am here I can see that everything I went through, both good and bad, was just another necessary step on the path that lead to this farm and this life. At the time I couldn't see how what I was doing had anything to do with getting here. Now I see that it was all part of the journey.

I have been truly blessed. You can't get here from where I was. It's impossible. In fact, you can't even see here from there. But in God all things are possible. By taking the next necessary action, God has led me here. By doing the next necessary thing, the impossible has been accomplished. What a beautiful, beautiful thing it is.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Sausage Making

The first of many rounds of sausage making. With the venison from this years deer and some pork fat I had in the freezer I made a simple breakfast sausage. I'm on a mission to finish processing the harvest and cleaning the house. Oh, and cleaning the barnyard too. I've vowed to stay home all weekend. No hunting or fishing. The second picture is one of Luna playing after the ducks had finished flying. She is such an amazing dog. Unfortunately there were no ducks for Luna to retrieve that day.

I have just been amazed at how blessed I am to have such a wonderful job. I had a great meeting with the parents of one of the children I work with. To watch a student go from a non-reader to a reader in such a short amount of time. He begs me to read with him when we are supposed to be doing math. It is hard to resist such a request.

I'm also going to spend some time with friends this weekend. Probably go to Mass with a friend too. I've been thinking a lot about my spirituality this week. Bouncing ideas off a friend of mine. Trying to find my way on that spiritual journey I am on. It has been a long and winding road, that's for sure. Until next time, stay mindful. Mindful of the beauty of every moment and every thought and every action.

Monday, October 25, 2010

memories of spring

Mama Carrissima enjoying the spring greenery. I've been thinking about watching the Palouse go through the seasons. Spring, with the wheat sprouting and turning green. Things coming back to life. The garlic coming up 1st in the garden. Excitement as each new variety of plant makes its arrival. Summer, with the vegetables coming in. Some fly-fishing in the rivers and creeks. The hummingbirds returning. Fall with the brown wheat stubble. The ducks and geese take wing and pass through from the north. Winter with a long hibernation. Even the chickens are starting to lay fewer eggs now.

I was only gone for one night, but I guess the goats didn't like missing their treats. They broke out of the pen for the first time. They didn't go far. I guess they just got bored and were looking for something to do. A couple of the chickens have moved permenantly from the hen house to the hay barn with the goats and pigs. I think they are surviving by eating the pig feed. I don't know where they are roosting or laying.

Winter is a time of contemplation for me. The world seems asleep and dreaming. Dreaming of spring. Saving it's energy to burst out in a torrent of verdant growth. Soon I will breed Carissima and maybe Whisper. This spring's rebirth will include goat kids! Ah, what a mighty time it will be.

I am so blessed. I am being gently cradled and cared for by a gracious and loving God. By good and loving friends. By bountiful Mother Nature.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Blessed with a deer

Hi all, I was blessed with a deer tonight. It was 15 minutes before the end of shooting light and I heard a rustling in the wheat stubble. About 200 yards away I saw a deer running. Then another, then another. Six deer emerged all told. I glassed them through my scope, but they were still too far. They ran a little then stopped. Still too far. They ran a little closer. Then a little closer. I didn't think they would stop, but one stopped and looked behind her. I took one shot at 125 yards. About my maximum distance. She ran about 50 yards and crumpled up. I found out later I had shot through the shoulder and into the heart. A perfect ethical shot.

It took me almost an hour to find the deer. She blended in perfectly with the wheat. I was getting worried that I wouldn't find her. I finally backtracked to a creek bed and found a couple of drops of blood. I was then able to follow the blood trail through the wheat.

I gutted her out. I almost threw up while gutting her. I always feel that way. Sad and elated at the same time.

I'm resting for a little bit and then I have to hang and skin her.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Luna puppy in the blind

Here are some photos I took of Luna in the duck blind the other day. I am going hunting with her and a friend next weekend too. We are renting a cabin in a state park on the lake we hunt on. The cabins are pretty cheap and worth the time and gas saved driving out there early in the morning.

I am going to the cabin with Colleen, my ex. One might think it is not a good idea to spend the weekend in a one room cabin with your ex-girlfriend. Especially with a handful of shotguns around. Actually, we are getting along quite well now that we don't live together.

I contacted a breeder about getting a new puppy. Colleen got custody of Luna, although I have visitation rights. I love Luna so much, but I want a puppy in my home all the time.

Well, struggling to get the farm ready for winter. There's garlic to plant, harvest to process, apples to pick, ground to till, hogs to butcher...the list goes on and on and on. Teaching is going great. I just seem to be relaxed and at peace even when the pace is hectic. Funny how that works. Sometimes the smallest things seem overwhelming. Other times the place can be falling to pieces and it all seems alright somehow.

I feel so truly blessed that Colleen and I are getting along in a situation that might cause tension and resentment for many people. Life is just really, really wonderful.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What I have to give.

"Each one of us here today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, Lord, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it is those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding."
- Norman Maclean

I am going duck hunting with Luna in the morning. I have a friend in need, but what I have to offer them is either not the part they need or not the part they want. I know how to still my torment. I find peace in God. And I find God in the forests, waters, and farms of the beautiful land I live in. I take time to see the divine in the world around me. My peace and my serenity are a priority. Above work, above money, above pleasing others, above being "liked". It is only by making myself whole that I am able to fit myself to be of maximum service to God and my fellow man. And maybe that is where my peace and strength really come from. From being of maximum service.

So I am going hunting. My friend will not, or thinks they cannot, go with me. Maybe they can't. Maybe it is not what they need. But it is what I have to offer.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Luna's first duck!

Happy puppy! Luna retrieved her first duck this morning. There were hardly any birds flying this morning. It was warm but raining. A few birds right at dawn, but nothing to take a shot at. Then, an hour after dawn, a flock of about 20 mallards bowed up and were looking to come into the decoys. They flared away at the last moment. I managed to shoot one, but it went down in a big patch of cattails. "Oh no!", I thought "we're never going to find that bird." Luna had heard the gun and seen the bird go down, so she knew it was around somewhere. She searched for about ten minutes before finding the bird, a hen mallard. She was a little hesitant to pick it up at first. She pointed at it which was kind of amusing. I had to wade out a little bit into the cattails and tell her to, "get the bird" which is the command for retrieving. She was just about the happiest puppy I've ever seen.

Tomorrow morning I leave for deer and elk camp. I'm feeling a little worn out from all the teaching and early morning duck hunts. I'm actually feeling a little lonely here in this big old house by myself. I'll have friends coming up to camp on and off, so I won't be totally alone out there. Colleen is coming up to hunt one afternoon.

This morning hunting and even driving home I felt at peace. Not worrying about goats or pigs or teaching or home repairs. Just enjoying the morning. I am so very, very blessed.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

ducks with Luna

Duck season opened last weekend. I went two days. One alone and one with Colleen and Luna. I shot two ducks the first day and, sadly, none the second. We still had fun. Although Luna retrieved the decoys...a very bad habit to start.

I arrived at the lake at about 3:00 or 4:00 am. I paddled in to the duck blind by moonlight. The stars, the mist on the lake, the moon. It was just so beautiful. Sitting and waiting for the dawn. It is just about one of my favorite things in the whole world. So peaceful and serene. And then, at dawn, if you're lucky, the ducks start whistling through the air. Ahhhh.

This weekend I am going up to set up deer and elk camp. I'm leaving Saturday right after I milk the goats. It is always a wonderful little getaway. I fill the truck with firewood, lanterns, guns, tents and tarps...and a million other things. Colleen will come up for a day to hunt. A couple of other friends will come up and spend some time. One will be bringing his 10 year old nephew. I will be taking a couple of days off from teaching and farming. I have a 4-H family coming in to watch the animals.

I will be hunting primarily for deer and elk. Although if I get a shot on a bear, I'll take that too. I look forward to a splendid long weekend. I am so blessed. God has been so good to me. I hope that God will help me fill my freezer with healthy wild game this weekend.

I'll be sure to post pictures.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Dawn on the homestead

Dawn on the homestead. I took these pictures on the way out to the fields to hunt partridge with Luna. She really needs some more training and discipline. At least in her partridge hunting. She seems to do better with pheasants. I am going duck hunting this morning without her. Then Luna and Colleen and I will go on Sunday morning.

I am so excited for opening day of ducks I can't sleep. I'm supposed to wake up in two and a half hours to get ready and drive out to the lake. I'm not sleepy at all. At this point I think I'm just going to stay up. It's been so hot here I don't know if the ducks will even be at the lake yet. I guess I'll just have to see.

It's supposed to cool off starting Monday. Which will be good because I am setting up deer and elk camp on Saturday the 9th. Season opens Sunday. I will be gone for four days. I have a farm-sitter that I found through 4-H. I'm really happy to get a couple days break from the farm. I've been setting up deer camp on opening weekend for years. It is a really relaxing time. I don't drink or play cards, so I just get time to hunt and to sit around the campfire meditating on the stars or on the flames flickering in the fire. It is truly a blessing to have the opportunity to get out into the woods in fall.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Peace in your heart and mind

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.(Philippians 4:7)

How do I find peace in my daily life? In my heart and in my mind. I haven't had as much peace this last couple of days as I would like. I think the key, for me, is to approach my actions with mindfulness and prayerfully. Milking the goats, feeding them their treats, collecting eggs, feeding the pigs, even cleaning the farmstead.

I've had Luna, the puppy, living with me the last couple of days. She's been a handful, but we've also been able to get out and get some partridge hunting in. Do I get frustrated when she makes mistakes, or do I laugh and accept that she is a 9 month old puppy?

How am I approaching my work as a teacher? Am I waiting for the hour to end, so I can get home to other things? Or am I being present for my students?

When I am milking Carrissima at dawn, I look out the small barn window and see the sun rising above the Palouse hills. I usually say a little prayer. Instead of thinking about how I'd rather be sitting inside with a cup of coffee, I try to be present with the animals, with myself, and with God. I try to remember how blessed I truly am for everything I have been given.

I took Luna out this morning at 3 am. The stars and moon were so beautiful. I just stood and marveled at the glory of the night sky.

Have a blessed day.

Friday, September 24, 2010

A day with the critters

I got to spend a couple of afternoons after teaching just communing with the critters. Caspian, the little boy goat, is almost as big as his mother. He's into head butting everything in sight. Including me. The barn cats were playing with each other. The goats were happy to get some cuddling from me. The pigs aren't very cuddly, in fact I try to avoid getting my tasty fingers anywhere near their mouths. I was trying different weeds to see what they'd eat. They prefer expensive pig feed. But they will eat windfall apples and cooked zucchini.

Had a wonderful dinner with friends. Homemade tortilla chips, beans, homemade salsa, and spicy ground beef. Just an evening of good food and fellowship. I am feeling at peace tonight. I "aced" a really challenging week of teaching, spent time with friends, and spent time with my animals. All is well. I am truly blessed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How prepared are you?

I am borrowing, and expanding, on a topic I read on Small Farm Girl's Blog. How prepared am I really for an emergency. Many of us in homesteading circles talk about "being prepared" by growing a garden, canning the harvest, raising animals, hunting, survival skills, owning firearms, but what about being physically prepared? Can I walk a mile to a phone if the car breaks down on a country road? Can I walk ten miles?

What about if the energy supply is interrupted? Can I do all of the work on my farm without the help of gasoline powered machinery? I currently haul water in a tractor loader from the house to the barn in 7.5 gallon containers. Those suckers are heavy. (62.55 lbs to be exact) Could I haul it without the tractor? Can I haul the 50 pound feed bags? Buck hay bales?

I had some injuries a while back. I broke an ankle really badly. Then, when I recovered from that, had knee surgery for some torn cartilage. I was off my feet for a year and gained 35 pounds. For the last few years I never got serious about getting back into shape. Now I have gotten serious and it is a challenge. I've lost about 20 pounds and would like to lose another 20. I'm definitely much stronger. It feels great. I've lost the weight and gained the strength by hiking, walking, biking, hunting, and working on the farm. That coupled with moderate, sensible dietary changes. Changing a burger to a salad for lunch. Eating one pork chop instead of two for dinner.

Being prepared for life, for hardship, for disaster is something I consider important. Why ignore the physical? Being prepared means just what it meant in Boy Scouts. Be prepared physically, mentally, and spiritually. God has given me a beautiful body, it is up to me to take care of it to the best of my ability.

I was blessed with the opportunity to work on all three aspects of fitness yesterday. Physical work on the farm, intellectually work on a teaching conundrum I was having, and spiritual work being of service to some friends. Life is so wonderful. I have been so truly blessed.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A splendid day in the field!

What a glorious day! Luna and I spent the entire day together. We hunted partridge and quail all day. We hunted my property and the property of the neighboring farmers. I have permission from all of the big farms around here.

The stubble on the wheat fields was perfect for partridge. The day started out flushing a covey of partridge almost right away. They flushed far out and flew about 150 yards. We followed them through two barbed wire fences, across the dry creek bed, and up a steep hill. We flushed them a few more times, each time flying 100+ yards, and eventually got a couple of shots. No birds yet. This went on for most of the morning. Eventually Luna and I bagged one gray partridge. Luna made an excellent retrieve of the lively, wounded bird.

Worn out from hiking up and down hills all morning, Luna and I came home and took a nap together.

We went out again when it cooled off in the afternoon. We bagged one more bird, a beautiful crossing shot, and called it a day. We came home exhausted and sore. After Mass and chores tomorrow, Luna and Colleen and I plan to hunt again.

What a splendid day in the field. I am so blessed. The fall air, the dew on the wheat stubble, the exercise, a dog and a gun, smell of gunpowder, working the birds, just everything was perfect. Tomorrow promises to be just as wonderful. I really needed a good weekend of rest and recreation. What a spiritual blessing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Take counsel

"Do everything with counsel,
and you will not repent when you have done it" (Eccles. 32:24).

I have made plenty of bad decisions in my life. Most of them without talking things over with another person. Or worse yet, ignoring the thoughts of others. In the end a person has to follow their heart, but it is still better to take counsel with friends, family, or a spiritual adviser.

I have a handful of good friends and family members that I go to for counsel. I don't know that I'm seeking advice so much as just another person to go over the scenario with.

In addition to seeking counsel, I want to reach out to be supportive of others. Not to give advice but to comfort, to listen, to care, and to share my experience, strength, and hope.

I'm spending the afternoon again today working hard on the farm. Getting as much done as possible so that I can relax this weekend without feeling so overwhelmed. I'm getting a ton of things done.

I met with some friends over lunch today. I am so blessed to have such wonderful, open, caring friends. Stay well.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another work day on the farm

I work everyday on the farm, but it seems I need to dedicate at least one day a week to just getting down to it and working ALL day on chores. Today I am making goat's milk cheddar cheese, cleaning the kitchen until it's spotless, cleaning the mud-room, getting caught up with all the animal chores, cleaning the goat barn, and maybe harvesting a little. Tomorrow I'll be more focused on the outdoor work. Harvesting especially.

The animals are doing great. None of them starved while I was going through my stressed out, overwhelmed phase. The pigs are getting huge. They still have some time to go though. I'm feeding them as many garden leftovers as I can. Just trying to find what they'll eat. They loved the corn stalks.

The tobacco plants are stunted, but they look like they are healthy. Healthy tobacco, now that's an oxymoron. I should be able to process them into a usable product. I've lamented the rest of the garden enough, so I guess I'll just let it go.

I've been starting to tie steelhead flies in the evening. I'm by no means an expert at tying flies, but practice makes perfect. Fishing season is starting to ramp up. The steelhead should be moving into the smaller rivers soon. I've spent a lot of time grouse hunting without a great deal of success. I've bagged a couple. Partridge opens on Saturday and I've seen three coveys of about 20 birds each on the property. I plan on hunting for them Saturday and Sunday with Luna. I'll be sure to post pictures.

The teaching year has been going well. I am so blessed to have such a great job working with such wonderful families. I feel like I'm being cradled in the arms of a loving God. Safe and cared for. I have everything I need. I have been blessed with a life beyond my wildest dreams.

Well, back to work. :-)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Work smart

I'm feeling a lot more comfortable and confident on the farm today. I dedicated a whole day to farm chores. I also am doing a more conscious job of scheduling my time. Instead of trying to do everything all the time I'm working on a manageable schedule that includes teaching, farming, recreation, AND time to sit and do nothing.

Yesterday I got a ton accomplished on the farm. Built a new hay feeder for the goat kids, fixed the chainsaw, bucked up a downed tree, got all the feeding in order, cleaned the goats' water troughs, and more. I was able to meet with friends in the evening and not be worried about the farm.

Today I am watching Luna all day. I'm going to do just a couple of things on the farm, then go grouse hunting, then meet with some friends. There should be plenty of time to relax. The only major thing on the farm agenda is cleaning out the goat barn. Yuck.

I feeling much better. More at peace. Less overwhelmed. I've got a bunch of fun stuff planned with friends this weekend. Some target shooting, some grouse hunting, and Colleen is treating me to dinner at a restaurant for my birthday. I'm going to attempt to tie some steelhead flies too. I'm not an expert fly-tier but I find it fun and relaxing.

Well, I hope this fall weekend finds you all well.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Overwhelmed homesteader

Phew! Things have been overwhelming here on the homestead. Colleen and I separated a while back and this is just not a one person job. The school year started and I am back to teaching a full load - which is actually about 20-30 hours a week for me.

Between the goats, pigs, chickens, garden to be harvested, fruit trees to be harvested, canning, and garden prepping for next year I am really, really busy. I look around and I don't feel like I have time for all the tasks to be done.

My recreational and spiritual time, which are often the same, are starting to suffer. I went steel head fishing for two hours after work last night and all I could think about were all the farm chores I was neglecting.

On a lighter note, here is a picture of Luna with her first forest grouse. Fish and game lumps all of the forest dwelling grouse into one category, but this one is a ruffed grouse. She doesn't quite have the concept down, but she was definitely helpful in the process.

The picture above is of the pigs eating apples from a friend's tree that blew down in a storm. I've got bushels of them and the pigs love them.

I'm looking forward to harvesting my trees and making apple butter and apple sauce. Also...APPLE PIE!

Hunting season is heating up. It is one of the most spiritual and fulfilling times of the year for me. Of course, it is nice to replenish the freezer, but more importantly it is a time when I can get out into the woods and just focus on being in tune with the natural world in a special and intense way.

Walking slowly through the woods and looking and listening for signs of game. Calling in ducks and geese. Thanking God for the animal whose life I have taken to feed myself and my friends.

Well, looks like I have some praying and meditating to do. Find a way to approach my tasks with a little grace instead of a feeling of irritation. There simply will not be time in the day to do everything I want to do the way I want to do it. But, I guess, that is life. Time to count my blessings and be grateful. It's not what I HAVE to do, it's what I GET to do, and for that I am truly blessed.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

fall bird hunting

Luna and I have been hunting up a storm lately. We hunted pheasants on Sunday and grouse on Monday. The pheasant hunt was successful. Luna flushed five pheasants and we, Colleen and I, shot four. The grouse hunt was a little different. Luna has never been grouse hunting and wasn't completely clear on the concept. She did flush two grouse, but neither one offered an opportunity for a clean shot.

She loves hunting but seems to burn out after a few hours. Me, I'd hunt all day.

I love the fall. The hunting seasons are opening. The hot weather is subsiding. It's harvest time in the garden. The school year is starting fresh and exciting. Steelhead season is just around the corner.

I've arranged an animal-sitter for deer/elk hunting camp this October. I am so excited. I found a local family through 4-H that should work out well. I will go up into the foothills where I hunt and set up a camp for about four days. Various friends come up to camp each year to hunt or just hang out around the fire. It is one of the highlights of my year.

Colleen and I had pheasant piccata for dinner last night. It was great. I imagine you could also make it with chicken. I've also used venison for the same recipe.

1. Cut your pheasant breast into 1/4 thick fillets and soak in milk for three hours.
2. Coat the breast in flour and brown in three tablespoons of butter.
3. Pour in a cup of white wine and simmer for an additional 2 minutes.
4. Remove the fillets to a warm plate and add a handful of fresh, snipped parsley, three tablespoons of capers, and three tablespoons of lemon juice.
5. Simmer the sauce down until it is thick and serve over the warm pheasant breasts.

It is such a pleasure to enjoy a wild game meal with friends. I am so truly blessed.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vision Quest

I went backpacking alone in the Seven Devils Wilderness Area in central Idaho last weekend. It was amazing. What a spiritual adventure.

In the words of the Psalmist, "I look up into the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help comes from the Lord, creator of all heaven and earth." My spiritual help comes from the mountains. It comes in God's own cathedral.

After hiking each day, I had plenty of time to pray and meditate with no distractions. No phone or internet, work or meetings. Just the wind playing in the tree-tops.

I caught a few trout on the fly-rod. Saw some beautiful mule deer. A few different kinds of birds. Just a relaxing time.

I was able to hike with a 50 pound pack for almost 20 miles in 2.5 days. It felt great to get out and push my body a little bit. Yes, age and old injuries slowed me down, but I did better than I had expected. If I keep up with the diet and exercise I should be in great shape for this year's hunting season.

I am so grateful to the friend who watched the farm for me. All the animals did just fine. It was good to see all the critters again but a little overwhelming to get back into it. I am working to set up a couple of possible farm-sitters so that I am able to do some of the trips I traditionally do each year. I usually take a few days off for the opening of deer and elk season, so I'll try to do that again this year.

I am so blessed to live in such a beautiful place, with such wonderful friends. God has been so good to me, I just want to share it with everyone I meet.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What's a 100 year old barn without...barn cats

The latest addition to the barnyard is two kittens. I hope they earn their keep by catching some of the thousands of mice that live in the barn. They seem to get along with the goats well enough.

Taking care of the animals and the garden as well as teaching a few hours of summer school is keeping me pretty busy. I still have time to spend a couple of hours with friends each day though. My days have gotten into a peaceful rhythm of caring for the animals, gardening, seeing friends in the heat of the day, and then putting the animals up for the night.

Is anybody else having a banner year for flies? I've got them everywhere. Not just in the barn but in the house too. I'm sure it will taper off as the nights cool off a bit which should happen soon. Right now though it's about 90 degrees. It hasn't rained here in 6 weeks.

I'm going to get the opportunity to go backpacking in a mountain range called the Seven Devils. I'm going to hike 20 miles in two and a half days. I should have time to get some nice fly-fishing in as well. I'll be stopping the first night along a large creek and the second night will be at one of three possible lakes. There are rumored to be plenty of trout. It'll be nice to get up into the mountains for a few days before the regular school year starts. A friend will be farm-sitting for me.

Each day, at the end of the day, I take some time to pray and meditate and gratefully reflect on all my blessings. I am truly blessed.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Caspian drives the tractor.

I was cleaning out the goat pen, that reminds me I have to lay new straw, and all of the goats decided that the moving tractor was like a carnival ride. Whisper got in the bucket and wouldn't get out. I eventually just started driving really slowly with her in there. Later Caspian decided he wanted to drive.

The pigs are coming along nicely. Contrary to popular belief, pigs will not eat anything and everything. My pigs at least do not like uncooked beets. They love the beet greens but won't eat the beets themselves. They also do not like funky old carrots from the root cellar. There is plenty they do like though. On today's menu was leftover spaghetti, bread scraps, and salad scraps. They are getting more used to me, but they still won't let me touch them.

I've been keeping busy with friends still spending some time with Colleen and Luna. Colleen is going to farm-sit for me in August and maybe September. I may also be able to get another farm-sitter to watch the critters while Colleen and I take Luna grouse hunting/camping.

I am going backpacking with a friend of mine at the end of August. It will be my only extended backcountry trip this summer. I'll be hiking up to a river and lake in the Seven Devils wilderness to camp and fly-fish for a couple of days. I can't wait. I'm getting in better physical shape and should be able to make the trip, although I'm sure it will be challenging. My friend is a little (a lot) younger than I am, so I hope I don't slow him down too much.

Hunting season is coming up, so I think I have to apply for my elk unit and my extra doe tag. I'm not really an expert elk hunter, but I haven't given up yet. I certainly hope I get at least one deer this year. Idaho is such beautiful country. It has so much to offer a homesteader and hunter. The soil is great for growing, at least in my region, and wilderness opportunities abound. I feel truly blessed to live here.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

July on the homestead

End of July on the homestead. I canned my first batch of spicy pickled beets. It was 90 degrees so I canned outside. This nifty outdoor stove is a life saver when it's hot out.

The rabbits at a lot of the beets. Of course, they just nibble on one a little bit then move on to the next. I'm about ready to start sitting in the garden in a lawn chair with an iced tea and a 20 gauge. Rabbit stew.

The goats like the ruined beets. The pigs, interestingly enough, love the beet greens but don't eat the beets.
I've been coaxing the pigs into being more social with me by feeding them the beet greens and a little goat's milk. Hate to spare the goat's milk, but they love it. They are getting a little more tolerant of me.
In this hot weather, the pigs have been using their wallow more. Enlarging it slowly. I suppose eventually the whole pen will be one big wallow.

I've been helping a young man from a nearby town get back on his feet. It's a good feeling. He had a little trouble with the law enforcement folks. I've been giving him rides to AA meetings and helping him look for a place to live. He really seems to be turning around. It's a good feeling for me. I am blessed to be able to use the gifts I have received to be of service to others. Life is good.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Pigs doing better

The pigs are doing much better. They still hide in the barn a lot of the time, but they will come out to the wallow and pen sometimes. It is hot! 95 degrees in the shade. I'm pretty new at pigs, but I can imagine they don't like the sun too much.

They've been eating and drinking plenty. They like most scraps. They are growing fast. I guess I'm only a little worried.

It's been almost impossible to get out into the garden to weed and harvest. The sun has just been blazing. I harvested some beets tonight after the sun went down. I plan to do some weeding in the morning after I get the goats milked and the critters set up for the day. I've been checking on all the critters every few hours to make sure they are OK in the heat.

Sunday's sermon was on "ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, and knock and the door shall be opened." It was a good sermon and a good theme for me to think about this week. I need to humbly admit I need help and then ask for it. God will provide if I only ask.

It's weird to be all alone in this big old farmhouse. I've been reaching out socially to my friends. It's been great to spend so much time with others recently. I went to a BBQ last night. And I've been able to reach out to others in need too. Being of service to others helps me keep my mind off of my own troubles. Life is good. I am truly blessed.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Making hay part 2

Well, the sun has certainly been shining and I got my hay baled the other day. The neighbor did the actual baling. He'll be coming to pick up his share soon I'm guessing. That'll still leave me with plenty for the goats. Grass hay prices are so low it's hardly worth selling. I'd like to get it up into the loft, but I have yet to think of an easy way to do that. Besides hiring teenagers. Teenagers are the easiest way, but I don't think I can afford it. I haven't completed the great barn clean-out, so I can't really leave it on the first floor. Plus I worry about mice getting into it. I need some barn cats, but I still have this owl problem. The owls seem to prefer rabbits and my chickens when dining.

I mucked out the goat section of the barn today. It was actually dirtier than I expected. Goats must pee a lot. Gross. The goats were whipping through the alfalfa and spreading half of it on the ground, so I gave them some grass hay today. They seem to make a little bit less of a mess with that. I think the alfalfa has more calcium, so I'm going to keep giving them both.

I met some friends in town around lunchtime, and I will be getting together with some other friends tonight. It is a blessing to have so many and such good friends. Living out in the country makes me appreciate being around people all the more.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

weaner pig adventures

I picked up the two weaner pigs last night. I was exhausted from a case of insomnia and had to drive 70 miles to get them. I got them home in the back of my pickup. Grabbing them out of the truck and getting them into the barn was a dusty, squealing, squirming battle. I got them settled for the night though.

This morning I went to check on them and they promptly bolted out the gate, down the hay field and into the overgrown creek. I looked and looked but couldn't find them. Eventually I gave up, hoping they would come back on their own. Eventually they did and I got them settled in again before I had to go teach. I think I probably smelled like pig, goat, and hay as I didn't have time to shower before going to teach.

All is peaceful on the homestead. The goats are put away, the chickens are safe, and the pigs are in a corner of the barn. I'm making goat's milk cheddar cheese. What a glorious life. Tomorrow will dawn a new and beautiful day. I am indeed blessed.