Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Speechless

Last Sunday, Clancy finished installing the maple flooring in my kitchen. This was his birthday present to me, or so I thought.

I got busy vacuuming up the mess because our good friend, Gail, had just called to say she'd be over a little after noon. Clancy and I had decided a while back to hire Gail to build our cabinets, since she is an excellent cabinet maker and we love to have things in our house made by friends. I assumed Clancy had asked her over to take the measurements against the new flooring while he had the temporary sink-cupboard pulled out.

When I switched off the vacuum and walked through the kitchen to say "Hi" this is what I saw:

Gail and Clancy installing the exact cupboards I had drawn sketches of, over and over, for years.
I was undone.

It is a very humbling experience to realize people love you and care about you, want you to be happy, and were listening to you when you talked about your dreams.

This is the new cupboard that will hold the sink. We still have to install the counter top, the sink from the house I grew up in, and the hinges on the cabinet doors. (The first-choice hinges didn't fit because the wood used for construction was thicker than modern cabinetry.)
My dad gave Clancy the wood-gorgeous clear white pine. Clancy successfully conspired to have the cabinets built and he supplied the materials. Gail made the cabinets in record time. And even though I intend to paint them a creamy white, I think they are beautiful already. (the walls are not really electric yellow-more of a butter yellow)
Words cannot express how thankful I am to the friends and family in on the surprise. My mother took care of the boys the whole weekend so Clancy could get the floor finished in time. I did wonder about that, Mom. Selena kept the secret. Gail was absolutely silent. :) And my dear Mom-in-law gave me a new sink faucet for my birthday to celebrate the progress on the kitchen. You are all too good to me.
Even though we've been too busy this week to make any more progress on the kitchen, I sit on the floor in there every day, just admiring the beauty of what is to come. Needless to say, the dogs and their scratchy little toenails are drawn like magnets to the unblemished new flooring. They know they are not supposed to be in this room. But the kitchen does have the best sunshine in the house.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Big Red and the Incredible Hulk


Winter is on the way. Time to get a few things tucked in before the snow flies. As usual, a long series of steps are necessary to cross even a single task off the to-do list...
Objective: Get the chickens into a coop.
Two weeks ago the chickens were advertised for a ridiculous price in the local paper. My own boys and my young nephew were quite excited about spending the potential monetary gain until they realized they would have to say "good-bye" to the chickens. Oh, the tears. A nice young girl called about the chickens. I told her, reluctantly, they were no longer available.
I surrendered the cute little renovated playhouse to the "Save the Chickens" cause. It is the perfect size for a small flock of poultry. My small flock of sheep have outgrown it.
Challenge: Position the coop near the house.
The soon-to-be coop is sitting out in the middle of the sheep pasture. No security, no electricity, no chance I'm walking clear across the farm every freezing winter morning to feed chickens. Built on skids, the tiny building was designed to be portable. It does, however, require a bobcat or a tractor to pull it.
Facts: The bobcat is unavailable this weekend. I do not know how to drive the tractor myself. A hulking pickup truck is marooned in the only acceptable location for the coop.
Solution: Clancy.
Although my husband has plenty of more important things to do, I have reached the end of my patience with the whole chicken situation. I announced Thursday that the chickens would get moved this weekend. I am relatively sure Clancy agreed to my ultimatum because he intended to move some dirt with the tractor for a neighbor on Sunday anyway.
This evening, Clancy pulled the battery out of the old Massey and installed it in the old green Ford he uses perhaps once a year. (It was supposed to be the snowplow truck but the plow broke. So now we use it as our "in and out" vehicle during spring when the road is impassible with mud and we park our daily drivers two miles away at Mom and Dad's place.) Being the primitive beast that it is, the Ford roared to life with a ferocious spew of blue smoke. Temporarily engulfed, it chugged away from it's heavy cloud of fumes to it's new resting spot beside the shed that used to be a chicken coop. Then my dear husband lugged the battery out of the truck and back to the rarely used tractor. Being the primitive beast that it is, the tractor roared to life with a ferocious spew of blue smoke...
Clancy took a run up and down the driveway with the back blade since he had the thing running. Tomorrow he'll crawl the tractor two miles an hour toward the neighbor's house which is three miles away. When he returns, from what he estimates will be a four hour job, he will pull the new chicken coop into position and I will cease to nag him about it. I seriously wonder if he has factored travel time into his schedule. We shall see...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Trumpeter Swans



Since last Friday, Trumpeter Swans have been flocking to Boston Lake. They seem to be gathering together for their upcoming migratory flight.
One pair of swans, and their two pearly grey cygnets, have been on the lake for quite a few weeks. They swim as a family unit distinct from the incoming swans.
On Saturday morning, as I drove past the south end of the lake where the road actually is the shoreline, I counted fourteen swans. They were so close to the road that I held my breath and slowed the truck. Incredible. Eventually they drifted farther away from the shore and I went on my way.
Later that same day I snapped this photo. Unfortunately, I had just adjusted the camera to produce the least-dense image possible. Again, I missed my opportunity to share a really stunning photo of these magnificent birds. But I will never forget the awesome beauty of seeing so many Trumpeters at once.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It's Going to be a Great Day!



I love this day. For the longest time I thought I was the only person on Earth that was fortunate enough to have October 19th be her birthday. My condescending little self felt just a tiny bit sorry for everyone else. The day I discovered that thousands of other people were born on this same day I burned with indignation and jealousy. Obviously, I had a lot to learn about sharing!
I usually dig out my old photo albums the night before my birthday, so I can reminisce over years past. Last night, as I looked back at my childhood photos, I noticed that my mother always took great pains to make my birthday a special day for me. Thank you, Mom.
Birthdays were pretty simple back then, but they were shared with people I loved. Mom always made a beautiful cake. The cake was always served on the very-special-and-oh-so-novel-rotating-cake plate that played "Happy Birthday" like a music box. I got to wear my best dress around the house. Mom fixed my hair and sometimes put ribbons in it. My grandparents were invited over for the evening, as well as my cousins and neighbor friends. And as hard as it was to bear back then, I got to savor the anticipation of opening my presents all day long. The experience was one I looked forward to with delight every year. And even though I keep getting older, I still feel a sense of celebration over the fact. Which is way better than dreading it...I did that when I turned 30 and it was no fun.
It has become a habit to reflect on my life around my birthday. I'm a whole year older. Am I where I want to be? Usually there is at least one glaring problem that I resolve to give attention to in the coming year. This year there are two. (Truthfully there are dozens but I asked God to help me narrow it down into a realistic goal.) One is largely spiritual. The other is purely domestic:
1. Taken directly from Beth Moore's Breaking Free Bible study: "Being created for God's glory means two marvelous truths to those who are called by His name: *God wants to make Himself recognizable to us* and *God wants to make Himself recognizable through us*" This statement fell into my heart and illuminated areas of my life that are sorely lacking in commitment to Christ. I feel very compelled to focus on this in the coming year. I also feel relief, because I knew something wasn't right in my soul, but I hadn't really identified it. I believe God answered my prayer for a clear direction.
2. I must make cleaning my house a habit. When it comes to housework, I feel just like Jonah when he was asked to go to Nineveh: I run in the opposite direction. Last night I listed things I would rather do and (this is gross) treating full blown fly strike on my ram's head wound ranked higher than doing the dishes. Something has to change. I used to pray that I would learn to enjoy house chores. Now I'm just going to pray for the self discipline to DO them. This means I will be singing aloud to my Roger Miller CD at the top of my lungs at least once a day to drown out the voice in my head screaming "I hate this job!" I'll have to employ the CD, because I know for a fact I have never accomplished more than 5 consecutive minutes of house cleaning without it. Hopefully my family is willing to audibly suffer for a more organized home.
So what am I going to do on this blustery October birthday of mine?
I'm going to shower with rose scented soap this morning. Then I'm going to put on somthing that matches the gorgeous scarf my dearest friend, Kimberly, sent me. (Thank you, thank you! I love it!!) After that I'm going to drive to Gonvic to discuss my farm soil's mineral deficiencies with a nutritionist that can provide a custom mineral/salt mix for my flock of sheep. If all goes well, the boys and I will stop for ice cream while we are up there. Back at home I will have to clean house! and get the boys ready to go camping. Drop them off with their chaperons. Then get myself ready to be surprised. Clancy hasn't revealed what his plan is, but he mentioned that I would probably want to put on clean clothes. (Translation: "Please be wearing something besides rubber boots and that nasty barn coat by 5:30pm.") Sounds like fun...whatever it is.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rachel and Her Flock


I just love my girls!
Now that it's fall, I have a lot of flock maintenance to do. The ewes need to be evaluated for internal parasites and de-wormed if necessary. They also need their hooves trimmed. Our soft clay soil doesn't wear the hoof material away very well.
These aren't really hard jobs. I just set up my three sided catch pen made out of cattle panels. I install it between the place where two rolls of electronet meet. Then I feed the girls their corn treat in there for a few days until they don't worry about stepping in and out of the small space. Once their flight response has been sufficiently dulled by greed, I close it and capture the flock.
The trick is to catch Rachel. (The grey ewe front and center in the photo) She's a savvy ewe that has no desire to be my pet. I usually defer to her preferences because, after all, she is the matriarch and I respect her judgement. But I can't just let her run wild through the countryside without hoof trimming and shearing. So twice a year, I have to employ the catch pen. In the spring I use it to take her out to pasture. In the fall I use it to bring her back up to the pens near the house. The rest of the girls would follow me and a grain bucket. Those girls are greedy little cuddle-bugs that won't leave me alone. I usually can de-worm each of them without the rest of the flock even catching on to the fact that, one by one, I'm sticking a syringe into their mouths. But not Rachel. She always knows what's up.
The last two times I used the catch pen, Rachel refused to go into it with the rest of the flock. She decided to forgo the corn for the sake of her independence. Eventually, I got fed up and just took the other ewes to the destination. Rachel was left behind in the old pen. By the time we got back from working with the other ewes, Rachel had accepted her fate. I put the pen back by her fence, opened it up, put corn inside, and waited. She walked right in. I let her eat the corn. Then she willingly walked toward the flock while Clancy and I pulled the pen in that direction. (I suppose it's hard to be queen without one's subjects.)
It's rather tedious to accommodate Rachel and her demand for special treatment. She's a smart ewe, though, and I've learned to respect her decisions the way I accepted my grandmother's decisions. I always think of Rachel as older and wiser than myself. In the end, Rachel is the easiest ewe to handle. She dislikes being caught, but once she is caught, she accepts the situation with grace and cooperation. Her more friendly underlings are perfectly willing to be caught, but they are exceedingly intolerant of being parked on their hind-ends to get their toenails clipped. Rachel is a dream to trim and shear.
So that is what I have to look forward to: 6 ewes that are happy to walk into the catch pen, and 1 ewe that refuses to do so. 1 ewe that sits quietly for manicures, 6 ewes that try to turn themselves inside out to escape the insulting shepherd. I better get busy if I'm going to have those girls ready to meet the rams by Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Surprise...

Last night I tried and tried to get one of my good autumn photos to load. I was so tired of grey in all my posts. I wanted some color! But those photos were too dense for my dial-up.
Look what I woke up to this morning. SNOW! And lots of it. With my grainy old cam-corder I snapped this picture of a sumac branch against the snow. It will have to suffice for the color I craved since the whole farm turned shades of grey last night. I took it around 7am so the light was pretty bad too. You probably get the idea though.

The winter storm really raged last night. Winds were strong from the west and they coated everything with more than 2 inches of wet, dense snow. Snow ball snow.
I took a little walk this morning only to find my lilac bushes by the lake and the round pen bent low under the oppressive weight of clinging ice and mush. They looked like drop cookies pressed down with a fork.
The electronet around the ram pen was down in three places. I can hardly believe I didn't have rams all over the yard this morning. It would have been easy for them to just step right over the fence buried in the snow. I'm grateful they decided to behave.

Monday, October 8, 2007

North Side-Completed!


Here it is...the north side of the house with all of it's siding. Woohoo!
We worked in the light rain yesterday to finish the last bit of siding and repair the fascia.
The scaffolding was too high for our ladders so Clancy had to crawl in and out of the bedroom window. He reminded me of when we were actually building the house...we used to tromp in and out of any window hole on the second floor. There was also a huge pile of sawdust inside where the boards got cut.
It seems like a snail's pace to get the siding finished. But we've come so far. To get a better perspective it does help to look back at where we were last year at this time.
Onward to the South Gable Peak!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Sunday Brunch Buffet


North Side-Continued 2


We almost made it up to the gable peak last night. But not quite. There are about 6 boards left to go. Clancy stained most of it by the light of a large halogen bulb while I made pancakes for our late supper.
Heavy rains moved in early this morning. We have some pre-stained boards we can hang if the conditions under that peak are not too wet. The piece of fascia that blew down in a storm can be reinstalled. Then we can remove the scaffolding and celebrate one more side completed.
(Except for the tiny amount needed to frame the front door. But that can't be completed until the door frames are put in. We hope to achieve that this fall still, but the larger areas are priority right now.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Here...Chick Chick Chick...



Red Light-Green Light! It's a long name for a hen, I know. But this little chicken plays the game so well, it is a fitting moniker.
All of our 6 chickens were bought from our local kindergarten class when they were little puff balls. Teacher pried them from the death grip of 5 year-olds with sticky fingers and put them in a little cardboard box for us. Needless to say, those chickies fled from human touch the minute we set them loose on the farm.
Well, a few weeks ago I noticed this hen seemed to be nearby quite often. Pretty soon she was constantly 3 inches off my heel. If I turned to look at her, she froze. I guess I didn't see her if she stood still.
Of course, if I was on my way to give a bit of treat to the ewes, I'd toss a bit to this hen. Admittedly, I was flattered that she had decided to take an interest in the people that supposedly run this farm. All I have to do now is step out the back door and this biddy comes hustling across the yard to greet me.
Eventually, the rest of the flock caught on to our little game and the rooster had to take charge of the situation. He sprints into second place so Red Light-Green Light doesn't get all the credit for the corn. He likes to keep the other hens thinking he has something to do with the bounty raining from the short heaven that is my old ice-cream pail. Surely, it must be his crow that calls down the manna.
Plump little Red Light-Green Light follows me even after the scratch has been flung. Maybe she thinks I have something better in my pail just for her. And what do you know: a few kernels left that I offer in my hands. She gingerly pecks them up. I gently reach out to stroke her feathers since she is so near. NOPE-that's not going to happen! She maneuvers just out of reach. Too many memories of kindergarten class, I guess.

Monday, October 1, 2007

North Side-Continued



Well...we've had some delays. The weather didn't cooperate this weekend for us. Reinforcing the scaffolding also took a lot more work than planned. But you really don't want to be that high up with a support hanging by one nail.
This morning I had to run to town to get another gallon of stain. This afternoon I used the sunny weather to pre-stain a bunch of long boards. When we work on the peaks it is nice to not have to return to that height to stain everything.
Last night, Clancy called me out to see the view of the house shown in the second photo. I cried. It was the first time in all these years that I have seen this angle of the house with siding and without scaffolding. I think it looks beautiful-even with the construction mess.