Tuesday, January 05, 2021

Big Ideas For Keep it Together Farm


I'm in the midst of my busy season, professionally, but have spent parts of the last couple of weeks beginning to think through Phase 2 of my homestead/prep planning. In 2020 I accomplished the following:

1. Getting the water issue with my house fixed and generally getting the house cute and live-able. Though there are still a number of improvements to make.

2. Getting a fairly significant amount of first-round fencing done, though the pasture is still not securely fenced for things like dogs, chickens or intrepid sheep or pigs. Ie: everything except cows or really dumb horses (my neighbor's horses have figured out ways to get onto my side in the past, although that's stopped with the new fencing that runs up one portion of the pasture). 


3. Raising 10 chickens and 1 rooster and getting a fairly simple moveable-ish coop and electric netting and solar charger. Still waiting on the first egg though. Any day now I think...now that the days are getting slightly longer.

4. Getting a new puppy. Hippo is a weirdo, but one I'm glad to have added to my life. Even Birdie, who was initially very unhappy about it, has simmered down. This photo notwithstanding.
5. Garden like no one's watching.




So. What's next?

I knew from the start that I was going to hold off on really getting into livestock until I had more fencing in place. I also knew I was going to start out small, and perhaps never grow particularly big. Enough sheep/pigs to keep me in meat, and with enough extra to maybe cover some of the feeding costs. My overall idea is to have a flock of sheep for meat/skin production, a rotating bunch of chickens and pigs once a year. I see the potential for an extra boost of $$ in the skins, though I haven't run a single business model or numbers simulation to actually know the veracity of my intended idea. No matter. 

So, lately, I've been thinking concurrently about the following:

1. Where I would put an initially small group of sheep. My old barn is not particularly large, but could provide shelter to ~5-7 sheep in inclement weather/during lambing. But I'd like to extend it. This would a) allow for a larger number of sheep to be sheltered while b) providing a place for me to store hay and grain out of the elements. 

    1a. But if I plan to breed my own flock, I will need a separate enclosure for much of the year for a                     ram/wether duo. The barn is situated in a way that it would not be easy to keep the guys and gals                separated without a lot of extra permanent fencing. Or at least sturdy panels of some kind. I think               for the pasture I'd be looking at some kind of basic 'lean to' that they could use to get out of the                   wind/snow/rain when appropriate. But the kind that is portable so I could rotate their grazing area at           least once a week, maybe more. 

    1b. So in addition to the 'where the hay goes' and 'where the boys are' considerations. There is also the              question of breed. My inclination is a cross-breed. I've worked mostly with Icelandics, Shetlands               and E. FriesianxLacaunes. Icelandics have fairly lovely fleece variations and are a more moderately           sized animal. Shetlands also have nice fleece colors but are quite small in my memory.                                Friesian/Lacaunes are generally larger but I've been able to handle them in the past - though those              were purely dairy sheep accustomed to a lot of handling on a daily basis. I'm beginning to get                      interested in the possibility of cross breeding Icelandics and Friesians...this would hopefully result              in larger cuts of meat while retaining the more interesting variation of colors in fleeces (think grays            and blacks and browns along with whites and silvers). What I need to keep in mind is that when you           cross-breed you have to make sure that you're not going to breed a much bigger breed with a smaller           one and thus potentially make lambing very difficult on the ewes. I've begun doing research, and I              see a few examples of such a cross, but it doesn't seem to be super popular. Either that makes me a              genius or a fool. Or inept at research. Take your pick. 

2. I do hope to get ewe lambs this spring. But that would basically mean I would be feeding them til fall when I could breed them. Which I guess means I could start with just, like, three ewes and wait on a        ram til closer to the fall. Giving me more time to set up infrastructure. 

3. What infrastructure you ask? Well I think I'd like to dig and find my water line closer to the barn and add a frost-proof "hydrant" or spigot, so I could get water to animals in that portion of the property more easily. Ie: without running 100 ft + of hose from the house (which is already what I do for the garden). I am also hoping the fencing folks who did my first big parcel can come back and do the pasture. Ultimately I'd like to get water to the pasture too. The other day I walked up to my reservoir/spring box, and there is a steady overflow of water when the reservoir is full (sure, if I take a shower and do laundry it might dip a little, but I think I rarely make a dent in the reservoir's fullness now that the broken pipe is fixed). 

4. Garden you say? So my first year was a fairly successful attempt. I got plenty of tomatoes, though I'll make changes to which varieties I plant. I went so hard on weird heirloom breeds, I didn't have as many just lovely slicers as I would have really enjoyed. Watermelons and cantaloupes too (cantaloupes from seed, watermelons from starter plants). Pests or blight demolished my cucumbers before they were really done producing, but I think I'll just be more diligent about neem oil this year, and maybe plant a 'distracting patch' of squash to lure squash and potato beetles away from the things I care about. I care not one whit about squash. Squash can squash it if you know what I mean. I also plan on at least doubling the number of zinnias and other flowers I plant both in the garden and around the yard. I've added peonies all around the deck and along one section of driveway, but they were transplants from my godmother, and experienced the trauma of a shit ton of heat from a fire, so I don't know how well they'll do, at least in year one of transplantation. Dahlias were a lovely surprise for me, having never grown them myself. Now all my tubers are in a box with wood shavings, awaiting spring. 

5. Well I'm losing any sense of logic in my progression of numbers here, but, soldiering on: I'd also like to get some piggies. I've got plenty of woods for them to root around in...the question is a) how would I get water to them and b) how would I keep them in place. If relying on solar powered fencing, I think the juice wouldn't be nearly consistent enough with all the wood shade, and I feel like running electricity out to the woods would be inordinately expensive (even if, ultimately, I do want to build a tiny house in the woods and a bigger house on the knob, so that expense will have to be addressed at some point). So what I really need to figure out is how to figure out enclosures that don't rely on power, but that are strong enough that the pigs can't dig underneath and then escape. We don't want feral hogs. We want tasty contained future bacon. (These are not my piggies, but they are piglets I actually got to meet).

6.  So maybe it's a matter of having the fencing people do the pasture, but also a section of the woods. I like the idea of putting pigs out on pasture, but that would be a rotational system that will take more time for me to put together. I've put photos in this to make it seem less text-heavy. But then I didn't really think about where to put them. So here you have a random Praying Mantis. You are welcome.

7. I also have been thinking about getting a batch of meat birds. Delawares specifically. They're a little different from the Red Ranger Cornish crosses most folks seem to favor around here, which of course makes them interesting to me. I don't know why, but I've never been particularly smitten with red/white birds. Delawares probably aren't as profitable or efficient. They are ready to be processed in ~ 13 weeks, which is a little longer than those aforementioned breeds. But I'd need a secondary coop/tractor. The one I paid a guy to make wasn't overly expensive, but it's not large enough for more than the 11 birds I have. I was thinking 15-20 meat birds, so a larger coop would be necessary. I do plan on buying more electric poultry fencing, and could possibly put both coops in the same fenced in area (once the new birds were of comparable size to the existing laying flock). Portable electric fencing ain't cheap. I'm already planning on getting a second charger and sheep fencing, which is $600+ and not enough footage without buying another bundle or two. The thing is, these are things I will need forever, so the upfront costs are unavoidable. 

8. With all this hypothetical butchering, I also need to be setting up some extra freezers. I do have a plan for this. My shed is located close to the house and does have power, so my hope is to put in a concrete/cement (I can never remember) floor this spring and put at least one freezer in there to start. 

9. When I do get animals out on the pasture/farther away from where their feed supplies would be, I'll need a mode of transport. I looked at an incredibly used tractor last week. It was a baby Kubota, which is the only brand of tractor I've ever driven, thus my preferred brand from lack of experience. It was old, overworked and had 2000+ hours on it and they were asking $7K!! I politely declined. But I do need some kind of vehicle that can help with certain tasks. I see-saw back and forth between a tractor or an ATV with a solid rear hitch. Honestly the ATV would probably suffice - I could haul grain/hay/water fairly easily with it (I used one for those very reasons back in Ellensburg and it did the trick). I also really would like to get a truck. This is both from a domestic and agricultural POV. The few last pieces of furniture I'd like to get in my life are some kind of sideboard for the living room, a linen chest for the bedroom, and maybe better coffee tables. All of which would entail a larger vehicle than the one I have to collect from wherever I might find them (I'm thinking older/used over fresh and shiny). And while yes, I'm sure if I asked real nicely one of the folks I've gotten to know here who have trucks would be willing to help, I am strangely reluctant to ask. Also, while I may slaughter my own chickens for home use, I would be going to a processing plant for the sheep or pigs, which means I'd need to haul them. Now, somehow this is different to me, and something I could potentially ask others for help with. Either borrowing just a trailer or a truck or both maybe. But ultimately, having a truck is a goal for 2021. 

10. Other goals. Livestock Guardian Dogs. Eventually I'd like to get two, as they work best in a team. I worry that I wouldn't train them effectively. Though if they're properly bred it's in their genetics to stay with the animals they are charged to protect. I just remember these two brother Pyrenees back in NY...they spend more time escaping whatever pasture or pen they were in than protecting sheep. But if the fencing is done well, they shouldn't stray from the territory they've been taught to prowl. 

11. I keep meaning to get an accountant. As a self-employed/freelance worker, I always feel like there may be some way that I could be doing my taxes better. And if I have the goal of trying to make even a spot of money from all this farm stuff, I really need to learn about how to separate my personal income from farm income, and how I can write things off. It gets confusing to me - like if I use my personal money to buy fencing, can that be a farm write-off? Do I have to become an actual LLC or some shit to be legit? 

12. Of almost no importance: the logo/design for the whole thing. I decided a good six years ago that my farm/homestead would be called "Keep it Together Farm." That is, indeed, a Bowfinger reference as well as my life philosophy. So at some point I'd like some signage but that's more vanity that usefulness. 

Saturday, October 03, 2020

I Guess We're All In the Handbasket?

 I'll do another entirely ridiculous round of photos at some point, but right now I'm sitting on my side porch - Birdie by my feet and Hippo nearby - waiting for my phone to charge before I make the hour drive to W. Jefferson to buy my preferred box wine (can't find it anywhere closer), seafood, and a number of other treats and necessities. 

In the last couple of months I've been struggling with the cognitive dissonance of America. I doubt I'm alone on that one. About a year ago I came down here for a two-ish-week stay to determine whether I could 'make a go of it' in an area that was obviously very "red" and pro-Trump. I knew I wasn't going to have a lot of liberal neighbors, but I wanted to get a sense of what the more progressive minded folks in the area thought about overall community and vibes. Everyone I spoke to acknowledged they were in the minority, politics-wise, but that nonetheless the idea of being a good neighbor was still a very large part of what made up the long-time locals' ethos. I've been here full-time since December, and I've largely found that to be true. I have three neighbors in particular who have offered help to me without my even knowing I needed it. Danny came by in the spring and offered to churn up a garden plot for me with his tractor. The slow-going, hand-digging I had been doing was fairly hard work and hadn't got me half as far as what he did in about 20 minutes. Hac helped me as best he could to suss out the issue with my water supply and now mows my lawn at what I can only assume is a discounted rate. Randy also tried his hand at helping with the water issue, and does a little extra mowing for me (well, that's not entirely altruistic, as he gets to bale it up and sell it as hay). No one has been too stand-offish or weird. Granted, I rarely go anywhere and haven't broadened my social circle much outside the farmers' market folks and the aforementioned three neighbors.

I did recently meet another neighbor up the road. She and her husband have a sheep farm, and I had looked forward to meeting them given my own interests and intentions. She was quite friendly and upbeat. I did her a very small favor one week - bringing her meat orders to the market so she didn't have to - and when she came by to pick up the cooler afterwards, we momentarily got into a discussion in my driveway. It was friendly on the whole, but we did somehow touch on politics. I wasn't surprised she voted for Trump in 2016 nor that she planned to do so again this year. What did take me aback is when she said (paraphrased but fairly accurate) "I just think about the America I want my grandkids to live in. Do I want it to be a free country or a communist one? You know George Soros is determined to make it communist." This is so far from what I consider truth, I basically laughed and said "maybe we shouldn't talk politics, would you like half a watermelon from my garden?" The fact that I, too, don't want America to become a communist country, but that she and I have radically different ideas of where the threat comes from stymies my sense of hope. 

Danny, meanwhile, a few months back, asserted that wearing masks was going to cause a secondary pandemic of people "breathing in their own germs" and that masks caused legionnaires disease; a doctor told him. And Hac and I once got into a friendly discussion where we basically agreed that we didn't agree on much. Highlights from that were him saying that Mexican/illegal workers get paid more than white workers/don't pay into social security; that Nancy Pelosi raided the social security coffers to try to impeach Trump; and that all governors had asked Trump to let them decide how to handle the Coronavirus. At one point he said "you know when I watch the news with my wife and see what liberals are saying, I tell her they have the right to their opinion, but they're wrong." And I replied that is pretty much the same thing I think about a lot of conservatives. We laughed, and he left as still a neighborly friend...but geez. Hac also mentioned his concern that a civil war was brewing, and that he was trying to find a little more ammo just in case. He didn't want it. He wasn't gearing for a fight. He's not a member of the Proud Boys, and I wouldn't lump him into a white supremacy box either...and yet, he has this vague idea that shit is going to go down. 

Later on I wondered to myself, if a civil war were to happen. What would that mean for me? Would I suddenly become an enemy to Hac and Danny and Randy? I feel like no. But the many more people I don't know in the area? Who may have noticed my existence? What is also ponderous is that there is a very "woo-woo" organization one town over, all about new methods of spirituality and ghosts and other such stuff. It's not my bag at all, but I did go on a tour of their "campus" last year, and the woman who showed me around mentioned that the founder of the organization recognized that we were in perilous times, and if things were to get crazy, we might be in flash point area, which is why, in the basement of her "peace pentagon" she had a basic bunker constructed. So Hac, a conservative, Christian Republican is seeking more ammo, and a rich liberal woman trying to find the next paradigm shift in spiritual religion...is building a bunker. They couldn't be more far apart ideologically. And yet? They're coming to the same apocalyptic conclusion.

I've been a sucker for apocalypse narratives for years. Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake trilogy has long been a touchstone of the future I most fear. Handmaid's Tale too of course. I've watched The Walking Dead for years less because of zombies or gore, and more because of how they depict a world where infrastructure we all take for granted is simply gone. Water on demand. Electricity. Internet. Grocery stores! I moved where I did when I did in part because I *did* want to be a little off the beaten track if shit hit the fan. But these days I'm not sure what apocalypse I'm waiting for. I am zero percent worried about "black thugs" coming to rural Virginia looking to take anything from me. I am not convinced that any government would really try to "take our guns." People have been pointing to Handmaid's Tale, the television show, as the likely outcome of the recent ACB nomination. As if that would change the minds of anyone who wasn't already opposed to the whole thing. I may live in the middle of nowhere, but I don't know if that makes me any safer than my friends living in NYC or Philadelphia. 

The whole thing bums me out. I don't see a way out of it. And I live in a low-grade fear of what will happen next. The election is so totally being undermined by Trump's offensive to make his base believe that no outcome other than his winning could be true. So let's just say he doesn't win. Do my neighbors just grumble? Or do they get radicalized? Maybe not become vigilantes here, but drive two hours to cities and, what? Burn the houses of liberals? I just can't really fathom that. But if the last four years have demonstrated anything, they have demonstrated that as much as I think of myself as pragmatic, there is an optimistic and naive streak in me that just cannot truly grasp how wide the divide has become. That even "common decency" seems to be a subjective term. If we can't all just get along, what is the next best thing? 

Yesterday I had an outdoor dinner and beer with a friend, and she suggested that maybe this is the one last push. That those who struggle with the white majority disappearing are trying one last time to consolidate power and somehow avoid the inevitable. And that losing this time, they'll maybe just have to give up. This seems highly unlikely. Since Charlottesville I've been saying that it seems like the best that could be hoped for, at least in the next year or two, is that being racist goes back to being something people know they should be ashamed of. Racists have been around this whole time. That's not news. But their feeling that they should have no fear in expressing themselves, and in larger numbers, now that is something that feels slightly new, and reversible. 

I don't know. My phone is now charged. I'm going to go get groceries.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

All The Days

Well, the resurgence in blog popularity on my part wasn't all that strong, now was it? Right now I'm sitting on my deck by the pond, technically 'on call' for my county's Covid-19 hotline. I've been doing three 4-hour shifts for the last two weeks or so, and thus far had one woman call. The call system is via computer/internet, so I can sit outside whilst waiting for calls that I'm fairly certain won't come. I just placed a rather large - in terms of number of items and overall price tag - delivery/shipment order with Lowe's. A mix of garden supplies, chicken coop-related equipment, and the beginning steps of staining/resealing this very deck.

Two trailers of cattle were just dropped off at the pasture/hills directly east of my house. This is a relatively good thing, as I've been told that parcel will be planted with Christmas trees at some point. Obviously not yet. The cattle are all moo-ing away as they get settled, and the horses more north/in front of me all just trotted a little farther afield, in part, I think, because they're not interested in all the cattle racket.

Lowe's purchases and my intentions, a log:
Two wire trellises with slight decorative flourish: I have two potting containers with sweet peas in them...the containers themselves are a) too small for the peas once they continue to grow and b)have no drainage holes on the bottom. So I think that if I want the peas to really make anything of themselves, I'll eventually need to transplant them either into the ground or into a more fitting container. My thought is that one trellis can be for said peas (there are 8 successfully sprouted little green beginnings) and the other can be for green or pole beans if I can find plugs in a week or two.

10 tomato wire thingies: I have every intention of putting at least 10 tomato plants into the ground, but maybe more. So I bought the wires and also bamboo stakes so I'll have enough to support the tomatoes and, also, the peppers I hope to grow. I'm especially stoked to try growing shishito and poblano peppers, as they are my go-to peppers in life.

Lime, chicken wire and 5 ft. t-posts: I've been waffling a lot about chickens. Not that I don't want them, I most certainly do, but I've been vacillating between buying them in-person at Tractor Supply or ordering them online. Mainly this is because I really want specific breeds, which include Silver Laced Wyandottes, Ameracaunas and Sussexes, and each and every time I call Tractor Supply, they either have no chicks or not the breeds I'm most excited about. I should just pull the trigger on ordering them online. I had a 'cart' with my preferred breeds filled out for the last two weeks, and had I placed the order, they would have arrived around June 8th. But I dropped the ball/didn't pull the trigger so now their arrival time would be July 27th. Tomorrow I will call the Tractor Supply place one more time to see if by some miracle they have the chicks I want, and if not, I'll place the order.

The other wiffle/waffle is where to house the chickens. Months ago I downloaded a free schematic to build by own "chick shaw" basically a moveable coop that can be handled by one person. But I realized that I'd need more power tools than I have to put it together (chop saw, skill saw, etc), and the material cost alone would be at least ~$500. That led to my considering just paying someone else for a coop they've built. I kept seeing a relatively local Facebook Market ad by a guy who sells coops for about $300. But I saw mixed reviews and got concerned it was somehow a scam. So now my idea is to turn half of the shed closest to my house into a coop. I'll need to flatten out the dirt floor a little, put chicken wire around the entire interior, as there are gaps/holes in the wood perfect for predatory monsters. Lime will help balance out whatever is in the dirt. T-posts and more chicken wire will divide the space. I'll also need to get roosts and nesting boxes. I'm not sure whether it will work, but I guess I'm giving it the college try.

What else? Oh, bamboo stakes for additional support for a variety of plants. And taller t-posts to start trying to 'fence' the garden area. I've decided to try the 'fishing line' method to at least deter deer from getting into the plot. I imagine the gate/entry I jerry-rig will be the hardest part, and that while the fishing line may prevent deer, I'll still need to consider what to do about rabbits.

I also bought deck cleaner and stain, which I think I already mentioned. I don't have a sander, but may inquire with neighbors about borrowing one, as I think the success of the cleaning/staining/sealing will rely a lot on how well/thorough a job I do prepping the wood ahead of time. Knowing me, it'll still be half-assed.

Oh and wood filler for the flooring area that has been compromised by termites. Another half-assed approach to the problem. I simply don't have the $$ or know-how to take up any of the flooring and replace it with new, so this is the stop-gap measure.

I also still am living in a sofa-free house, which has generally been fine as I do have slightly comfy chairs on which to sit. But there is no avoiding my desire to have a sofa/sofa bed so that I can a) more comfortably be prone without necessarily being in bed and b)that eventually if I have visitors they'll have a slightly more comfortable option than an air mattress. I still have need for a variety of furniture. The kitchen table from my childhood awaits me in Silver Spring, but I can't pick it up during these pandemic times/I will need to rent a van or truck since my car won't be big enough to haul it. I think a sideboard/some kind of additional dresser-like piece of furniture would also be helpful in the living room. The house has a fair amount of storage given its ~800 sqft size, but I am indeed running out of places to put things I don't need on display at all times (old journals, arts and craft supplies, tax records etc.)

Blah blah blah. I have no sense anymore of how this pandemic situation is going. I mean I read multiple articles every day, but that doesn't give me as much clarity as I'd like. Are we still in the thick of it? Since so much of my life hasn't changed because of it, I almost feel a dread in the lifting of restrictions and folks going back to some sort of semi-normal...mainly because it won't change how I spend my time/days. Each time I choose to read a book instead of do something productive, I give myself permission, as the pandemic is nuts. But it's really an excuse and not a real reason not to do things.

I started talking to a guy via Tinder in early March. Our initial plan was to meet up and play trivia once the pandemic became less of a thing. Of course, it only became more of a thing. At one point he suggested we meet and go for a hike, but I demurred. Privately, I like hiking but am not in tip top shape and didn't want the first interaction to be while I was red faced and breathing heavy (not what I shared with him). Additionally (what I did share with him) I do have a general rule that I don't meet strange men from the internet in non-populated places. Murder and all. He took that graciously. But it just feels less and less like he'd be someone I'd actually enjoy meeting. I tried to do fun 'what do we know in our own heads' trivia back and forths with him, which he humored for my two questions to his one...but let it peter out. Then when he again suggested we meet in person, I replied saying a)pandemic no thanks and b)it would just be getting to know each other small talk that we could do online. So then I asked him what he did/what he wished he was doing in a professional way, and he responded that he "doesn't do small talk" then only replied to my question by saying he'd prefer to be a "trust fund philanthropist." Basically he doesn't ask me many questions, hasn't said anything that makes me chuckle, and keeps suggesting we meet in person when THE WORLD is telling us NOT TO. In his last attempt he said that since the pandemic looked to be a continuing thing for months "we should really get over ourselves" and meet. Given that he's mentioned that desire three previous times, it felt very much like he was telling ME to get over myself. Fuck that. I told him that when the seafood market an hour away from my place has soft shell crabs, we can also meet there. Two birds, one stone. I didn't want to completely say fuck you, but honestly whatever frisson of fun there might have been last month has petered off. He has not convinced me that he is a person I want to meet.

Meanwhile, I wish I could also get another puppy. I keep checking the closest animal shelter's facebook page, but they've mainly had strays (strangely often they have pink or camo collars). And I really do want to have a lil pupper to mold as I did Birdie (lol to say I molded this dog is probably an overly bad piece of hubris).

I go back and forth in terms of having too many drinks and calling people. Two weeks back, I reconnected with a friend I hadn't spoken to since I left Philly. She didn't answer, but she called back a couple of days later and we did manage to have a conversation that was entirely lovely. I think I had felt layers of guilt about how our friendship had unraveled and feared she was holding a large (and partially understandable) grudge against me. But it appears all is forgiven (or wasn't even in need of forgiveness) and it was lovely to hear how she and her kids are doing. Touched base, also, with an old farm friend from my first year out in WA. And that, too, was a lovely catch up after a couple of years' of no contact (less fraught more typical 'drifting). Same can be said for a college friend, another high school friend, etc. etc. This behavior - have some drinks and call people - is not pandemic-specific...but the pandemic has given me license to call people I'd usually not consider. Also (soberly) emailed the long-ago ex. I have been smart enough, even while under the influence, to refrain from calling him for both our sakes. I'd only end up feeling embarrassed and awkward. Which is how I felt when I did drunkenly call the more recent ex, though nothing too terrible was said there either, as we ended on generally understanding terms. Still, though, the reply to my email was cordial and strangely comforting. We haven't seen each other in over ten years and broke up even longer ago. As my most successful/long not successful relationship, he unfortunately still has some meaning in my life while I know I have very little in his (married/baby etc.) so his acknowledging my email and sharing a small memory from our shared time together as well as an update about himself gave me a sense that while, yes, of course we weren't meant to be (no matter what my mother said) and, of course, I should have more restraint than wanting to check in, we did share a bit of our youth together and though much of the associated feelings have faded into nothing, oh I don't know really what I"m trying to say. Writing and receiving emails between us felt familiar and no longer fraught with any combination of sadness, disappointment or other negative feelings that were certainly harder to avoid many years ago . Lol...but I think I'll still refrain from going to a wedding that he might attend just for continued self-preservation and dignity. Would I still feel this way if I was as 'farm fit' as I was in WA, or if the more recent ex and I were still together? Hard to say. But here we are.

Well I've certainly been typing up a storm whilst receiving no hotline calls. Cows are still acclimating to their new digs. Horses are hidden from view. A bullfrog occasionally bellows from the pond. Birdie's legs are caked in mud. Bluebirds and goldfinches and red winged black birds and robins and cardinals are all flit and flying around. Swallows seem to have gone elsewhere today.

I haven't been able to get a status about my stimulus check. Not sure whether I will get one, and whether the IRS has the right info to get it to me. I completed my 2019 taxes in February, so technically they have my most recent address on file. But I wrote a check for what I owed, which I think may mean they'll mail me a check instead of using my 2018 routing/banking info. I am continuously concerned about whether the pandemic will ultimately impact my income. Right now is always a slow time in my professional life - usually just an hour or two of billable work on any given day, and sometimes less. But come July/August, things should pick up. But will they? While the timing of my FINALLY buying a place rural and remote was excellently done given the current state of the world, it will be less fortuitous if I can't pay my mortgage in six months.

When mom was dying she wrote a few things down or said them to me. I think the following is something she wrote not something she said, but it amounted to her worrying that perhaps the world was only going to get worse. I think at that juncture in time the BP oil spill was continuing to do damage in the gulf, and the Chilean miners were still trapped below ground. I'll have to see if I can find her wording, but it kind of came down to a 'maybe now is a good time to go, before everything else goes to shit.' Lord what would she make of all this? Of Trump. Of pandemic. Of protests for haircuts. Of 100s of deaths one day, an re-opened beaches the next? Unanswerable, really, what she would think. Though I imagine some combination of appalled, resigned, outraged and slightly bemused would work. That's certainly a set of feelings I have on a daily basis. The thing is, the world keeps not falling quite enough apart. So we're left with splinters and shards of normal and good and irregular and bad, but not quite an all encompassing feeling of either. If even this can't get everyone on the same page, what on earth could?

Monday, March 23, 2020

Pandemic Brings Blogging Back Into Vogue

It's a crazy mixed up world these days. Given my predilection for apocalyptic fiction over the last 25 years or so, I began to worry about what was happening fairly ahead of the America curve. I've spoken with numerous friends over the past couple of weeks, and it has been interesting - the progression of feeling like we were talking about something distant, faraway and abstract to death tolls rising and toilet paper becoming a commodity. A few friends have mentioned my recent choice to move to a very rural place as fairly prescient, or at least well-timed. And it's true, I've wanted to live in the country forever...for the beauty and peace and nature absolutely...but also to be removed from a great part of society if the world began to collapse. I'm not sure if the world is truly and utterly collapsing at this moment in time, but it does seem likely that many more people will die; many more people will lose their ability to make a living; many more people's lives will never be the same. I've expressed this thought to a few friends: while most living at the time could still tell you where they were when JFK was shot, or where they were when they heard about/saw the World Trade towers fall, etc....I don't feel like there is as a defining and universal day for the Coronavirus. Is it the first time I heard reports about something weird happening in China? Is it the first time I heard how important it was to wash my hands and not touch my face? My point is, the day will not be the same for all of us. And the day may just keep resetting. Normal. Normal was never the same after 9/11. And yet it was reestablished as a possibility. So,  I assume, if this doesn't lead to nuclear war, revolution or a near complete wipeout of the human race, some new normal will replace the one we'd gotten accustomed to. Ha. And then climate change will throw that on its head and so on. At this point I'm almost 100% sure that no one reads this anymore. Ah the hey day of loyal readers...so far and long ago. I guess my not writing anything here for 18 month stretches might also come into play.

Well, in any case. Here are some photos - as always not in chronological order - of the recent goings-on in my life with random captions and perhaps a few more hacky thoughts about the pandemic.

I closed on the house December 20th. Almost immediately it became apparent that something was amiss with my water pressure. The pump when the inspector had come out the month before had been constantly running, which the inspector noted shouldn't be the case. But water came out of the sink at a consistent rate and it was probably just a matter of getting a new pump. Upon purchase, a different problem suddenly appeared: if you tried to turn on the water and let it run for longer than about 30 seconds, the pump would shut off and then no water would becoming into the faucet. I delayed moving into the house by about two weeks and consulted with a cast of characters, each of whom had their own hypothesis of what the issue was. I found my spring box and reservoir up in the woods above my house, next to a creek (folks around here prefer to call this particular form of water a 'branch'). I had a pressure tank put in under my counter, as there wasn't one. This helped in a temporary way, as I could plug in the pump and let it run enough to get water in the tank. Or at least that's how I thought it worked. Regardless. The mystery was that up at the reservoir there would be days where it was full - brimming actually to the level of the overflow pipe. But then a couple of days later it would be nearly empty. This is a concrete rectangle in the ground that I have, in fact, jumped into...I couldn't stand up inside of it, but I'd say it's at least 3.5 feet tall and 6 feet long and its width? Oh maybe 4 feet. My point is that is A LOT of water to go missing if you are one person living in a house where you are taking only sporadic showers and have done laundry less than once every two weeks. It was only two weeks ago that I noticed a strange thing...the drain pipe on one side of my house that I thought was for the gutter above it (not using my language skills well here) had frequently had a puddle surrounding it in previous weeks, but I had assumed that was excess gutter rain water/saturated ground, as this has been an incredibly rainy winter. But one day I noticed there was still a big puddle, even though it hadn't rained in a few days. And then I noticed that there was the tiniest - but steadiest - trickle feeding that puddle from under the porch/deck. Of course I got my headlamp and investigated, and followed the trickle to somewhere under the house on the opposite side. If I turned off the main valve to the house, the trickle dissipated and, within minutes the puddle would dry up. This was a very interesting discovery. Then a few days later my neighbor Randy and his buddy Jamie showed up. They'd actually been investigating what was going on with the water whilst I was in TN for a weekend. Haha..country neighbors talk. In any case, it was at that point that Jamie went under the deck/porch from a different angle and found....this. It's not a great photo, but what it is is a fairly substantial (if hyperbolic) LAKE UNDER MY HOUSE. While we couldn't actually lay eyes on the source, it was clear that some pipe under my house was busted, and every time the pump asked for water from the reservoir, a good majority of that water didn't ever make it into the house.
One of the nice things about my bathroom is the clawfoot tub. I got new shower curtains with birds on them, because of course I did. At some point a few months back, my uncle Ed sent me this magazine, which I began reading while taking a bath and having a glass of wine. Baths for a while were the easier choice over showers, as the water pressure was rarely consistent. Baths now get to go back to being more a matter of luxury and comfort than necessity.
The pond is not a feature I totally love. I mean, this is obviously very pretty, and I do like that I think that the pond does attract more peepers and other aquatic creatures I enjoy seeing - there are a few mini fish in there, definitely a lot of frogs. But it's mucky. The branch/stream that feeds it has been generally steady in its supply, but it's all just very muddy. I think the thing to do would be to try and deepen and narrow the path to the pond and put some kind of reenforcing fauna or rocks along the edges to keep it from devolving again. The pond also has way too much algae, and while it's been cold I haven't worried too much about Birdie, that will change in the summer. I have so many things I need fenced already, and this is definitely not what I'd like to deal with first...but I also don't want my dog to die because she can't stop traipsing through the muck and mire and occasionally actually go chest deep in the pond itself.
Back to the house water saga. So my neighbor across the way, H.C., recommended a plumber for me to try named Rick. Rick came out the morning I was going to leave for TN and I showed him the puddle and recounted all the numerous things others had thought or considered in regards to getting me a consistent, reliable and pressurized source of water inside my house. We agreed that upon my return, he'd really get it all resolved. I'd heard it before, but since the puddle/lake were new data points everyone else hadn't had, I was optimistic. He came back, Randy the neighbor stopped by again and we all agreed on a course of action that would probably resolve the issue. We also discovered that the pipe that burst was the one leading to the outdoor spigot, which was unfortunately placed between my pump box and propane tanks. I said I'd dig down and find the water line so that Rick wouldn't have to bring his backhoe out (saving me $$ and allowing me the fine pleasure of digging/manual labor). And dig I did do.
Random things found in one of my two barns. Or this one is more a shed.
My place is 21 acres in size. Just a tad over really. I've been trying to take daily walks around it just because it's mine and I can. It's strange how it feels like a lot of land and just so little all at the same time. My ratio/percentage skills are terrible, but I'd say maybe its 60% woods and 40% pasture/house/cleared land. Here is a pod I saw while walking in the pasture.
How I looked two weeks ago when I was in Tennessee and prepping to go see Arlo Guthrie perform in a cavern with my dad and two of his friends. This was mood one. I so rarely leave my house or interact with other people, and I'm not one to put on lipstick to go to the grocery store, so I did really try to gussy myself up a little.
On another walk I explored the woods mainly, and found plenty of bones. It was my bones walk.
Spoiler alert, I found the waterline and felt pleased with myself.
The day I bought the house was another lipstick occasion.
See where the woods stops at the top of that hill? That's my woods to the left and down:)
Okay so I complained about the pond, but I do really like the view, even with the phone line in play.
The waterline! Water line?
I have thus stayed strong and still only have the Birdster, but I did visit my friend Joan's puppies for a few weeks when they were still so freakin' tiny. I do keep thinking about whether I should be adopting a dog from the local shelter at this specific moment in time - they are a kill shelter and I imagine this situation has put them in a bad bind. I'd prefer to foster but the shelter doesn't have a foster program. Hm. I should reach out to them and see if there's an emergency foster situation in play.
The pasture from a lovely angle. I fell in love with this area because of its swells. These neverending waves of hills and mountains. And this is my own special swell. It's pretty swell. Har har. This week the big excitement has been that I've noticed horse poop in the pasture that is FRESH. I have no horses or livestock of any kind. Yesterday I saw a few hoof prints in a number of different spots. My theory is that at least a couple of my neighbor Danny's 15+ horses must hop the decrepit old fence line, graze on my land, take a little stroll through the woods, and then hop back over when none of us are watching. It makes me smile, but also I keep thinking maybe I should call him and ask if he's counted all his horses lately.
Closing day lipstick and round face.
The most important part of my visit to TN was going to a storage unit there to FINALLY get my real bed. I'd been sleeping on an air mattress since January and while it tried its best to be up to the challenge of daily use for three months, it lost a certain will to retain air and I was getting quite tired of waking up partially sandwiched by a semi-deflated air mattress. This is Birdie on that air mattress when it was still keeping its shape up.
Mood two.
Mood two for Birdie too.
Nice light on a woods walk.
The house from my driveway. It's pretty cute. I always wanted a slightly larger house with more bedrooms for guests and maybe two levels of porches...but most of those were out of my price range or so damaged/fucked up that I would never have been able to afford the rehab even if I learned how to do a lot of it myself.
This is just a view from elsewhere in the county. I believe that is generally looking west maybe a little northwest.
Ah yes. This is from a drive from Bristol, TN back home. I took a longer/more scenic route (they're all long, and they're all scenic, but this one was free of I-81), and found myself at an elevation where more snow had accumulated than would be evident at my place. Pretty.
More bones from the bones walk.
My 'knob.' It's the highest point on my property. I do one day hope to figure out a way to build a house on this spot, but I've got many, many things I need to do first.
Pond heron. Last week there were THREE of them chilling out around the pond. They flew off as soon as they saw me, but I hope to one day be stealthy enough to take a photo of them before they all fly away.
I recplaced my doorknob, as no one seemed to have a key to the existing lock.
Lichen? Fungi?
One element of the area that I hadn't fully understood/done my due diligence on during my exploratory time here in the fall was just how dominant Christmas tree farms are here. I knew they existed, but I hadn't fully understood the feeling of them slowly taking over valleys that I'm now noticing. And, apparently, they fly giant helicopters over the trees and dump pesticides or other chemicals on them. Obviously that is not really my bag, but compared to the fracking I would have been surrounded by if I had chosen to pursue an affordable spot in PA, I think I just have to accept they exist and, in fact, are neighbors on at least one angle of my property line.
Though I now have a bed, two dressers and three chairs, I'm still working on making this place a functional home. Getting a bunch of my favorite trinkets, doo dads and pieces of art has helped make me feel more settled.
Honestly, if I could do it again I would choose just a slightly less vibrant yellow. I was really just trying to find the same color I had on my walls in Ellensburg, WA...but the three years and a different hardware store led to a slightly more garish color than I had really intended. And of course I just stayed the course even once I began worrying over it. I do not, however, in any way regret this wall paper choice. I may eventually move the dartboard and put a tv there, but maybe not.
Mood three. Weirdly blurry.
So last week, I dug the hole to the waterline and then did much of the digging for the trench to the repositioned outdoor spigot. But not all, Rick definitely got in there too and was far more efficient than I was in getting to the proper depth.
A still living tree in a section of woods I call "Dead Tree Alley."
Just another view of the house and landscape. One thing my neighbor Randy told me lately is that hill beyond my house, with the red bard etc...it's all going to be Christmas trees in the next year or so. This really bums me out. I love this view. Christmas trees are planted in such a regimented manner, I don't know, it just won't be the same.
Two people whose hypothesis about what was wrong with my water was totally wrong.

And that, I guess, wraps up this blog post. I didn't really get into the other line of thought I have about the pandemic. Perhaps I'll do so another day. Hopefully not in six months.