Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Belated Merry Christmas!

We all wish you a very Merry Christmas, a happy Yule, a wonderful winter!
Tipper, our new addition to the family.

Bear Claus.

And doesn't Max look happy to be sporting a Santa hat and beard?

Sebastian, who would much rather be in the tropics.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A New Link (and a contest)

Southern Beauty Magazine

One of my favorite bloggers - Christy, from Southern Plate - will be a new contributing editor for Southern Beauty Magazine. If you've never looked at their site
To celebrate, there is a great subscription special: Purchase a one-year subscription of Southern Beauty magazine and receive a Gift Subscription to give away for FREE!

Also, to celebrate the teaming up of Southern Plate and Southern Beauty as well as the holiday season, One VERY lucky Southern Plate reader will win a Beauty Basket, filled with over $200 worth of pampering products for face, hair, and body
- courtesy of Southern Beauty!
This basket will feature high end brands (such as Estee Lauder, Chanel, etc), drugstore brands, AND specialty items!
How do you enter?

Simply click here to visit Southern Beauty’s website. Read the “Welcome to Southern Beauty Magazine” Message in the top left corner and come back here to leave a comment on this post! Somewhere in that comment, say “Hi” to the publisher of Southern Beauty, whose name you’ll find in the Welcome message!

(taken from Southern Plate website to get the wording correct)

Good luck!
Here are the links again in case you missed them:
Click here for Southern Beauty Magazine

Click here for Christy's giveaway post at Southern Plate

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

My dad

Listening to Johnny Cash makes me think of my dad.

Especially Johnny’s later songs – when his voice was still beautiful but had a warble to it. My dad does not have the ability to speak quietly – he has a deep booming voice that makes me think that he could sing like Johnny.

I wish I could put into words what I’m feeling right now. I just came back from spending the weekend with my parents and I didn’t want to leave. Ever. Not that I didn’t want to get back to my children and animals – not that at all. But I think – after all this time – I finally appreciate my parents. I’ve always loved them – sometimes to the point of tears: I remember being 5 or 6 years old, spinning on my swingset, crying because I was thinking about what it would be like to be an adult and not have my mom and dad with me.

Conversation between my dad and me has always been a little awkward. Not bad awkward but just odd. My dad is unbelievably smart and he is staunch in his beliefs. Being a forester, he knows the woods – that is his life. He, like me, is not chatty. Neither one of us can hold a conversation and much prefer to sit in each other’s company and just know the other is there.

My dad worries that I don’t get enough rest. Not true. Like him, I fall asleep everytime I sit down to read or watch television. My dad worries a lot about me. And I’ve given him plenty of reason to worry. I was a teenager who was totally unpredictable. I’ve been divorced twice. I’ve filed bankruptcy. I’ve been sick to the point of being hospitalized for a month.

I want my dad to be around forever. But I can see the proof of aging. He’s walking a little slower and little more unsteady. Sometimes he repeats himself. My mom says he’s getting forgetful. I hate living so far away from them and everytime I visit, I swear that I will come back in a few weeks. I guess I usually do. During the football season, I see them quite often. I just want to spend so much time with them that I have memories enough to keep me when they are gone.

My dad has mellowed as he has gotten older. He doesn’t drink like he used to, he doesn’t get as angry at telemarkers like he used to, he doesn’t send letters to the editor about the injustice of land rapers anymore. Who my dad has become is a guy who loves animals, chocolate, and his family – not necessarily in that order (or maybe so). He’s a man who seems to accept that because of his instability on his feet, people need to be with him as he works in the forests (yes, he still works as a consultant forester!). But he seems to be happy that he has more time to read.

While I’ve always loved my father, I adore who he’s become.

Love you Dad!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I am so thankful for everything that I have! I have nothing to be unhappy about - I have a healthy, mostly happy family. Great kids and a grandson. A kind husband. Parents with whom I love to spend time. Brothers and their families. I have a horse, a llama, 3 goats, 4 chickens, 3 dogs, and many cats. I feel loved by all of them.

What do I have to be unhappy about? I suppose I could be, and I often am. Until I remember all the good that surrounds me. I think that one thing that I have and I often overlook, is my health. I am strong, very strong. I'm able to toss hay bales, cart gallons of water, dig a post hole, put up a fence, build a goathouse. Recently, I had the opportunity to really appreciate my health. This time last week, I was in incredible pain due to muscle spasms in my neck. I couldn't turn my head, I couldn't lift my arms. I had to recruit my family to care for my animals while I lay on the couch having taken muscle relaxers and ibuprofen for my neck.

Luckily I had the good sense to go see the doctor and get some medicine to help relax the muscles and it cleared up after a few days. And it feels so good to be functional again.

I'm lucky that I grew up with a love of reading. Although physically, I may never go to all the countries I would like to visit: Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Ireland; I can visit via books.

I'm thankful for the moral compass that I grew up with. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could never intentionally hurt another living creature.

I'm thankful for the music I can listen to while I'm working. Thankful for all the amazing musical artists that have lived and written music that moves my soul.

I'm thankful for so many, many things.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Some cute knitty markers

Check out this site:
I sure could have used these markers last night working on my first pair of mittens. You can have a chance to win them too! Just leave a comment on this post on her blog (1 entry in the hat of names);
Put a link to that post on your blog, myspace, facebook, whatever, so others can find the contest post (another entry);
Leave another comment on her blog telling her where you put the link (another entry)!

The winner will be announced on December 1st-

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Another Memory

Another Christmas memory . . .
When my oldest daughter and son were young, my Aunt Carol and Uncle Joe always hired Santa, his wife, and elves to come visit their home and surprise all of the kids. Now Santa and his crew usually were (in their regular lives) friends of my cousin Mark. They were the family of a band member in the band that Mark had worked.
And they were fun in a wild and crazy way.
And this was over 20 years ago back when we all didn’t have common sense that we are expected to have these days.

The kids, my mom and dad, aunt and uncle, and the rest of us ALWAYS had such a good time! Santa Claus ho-ho-hoed to the kids’ delight, they were truly in a festive spirit when they came to visit. I can remember the kids squealing when they heard the jing-jing-jingle of the bells as Santa et al came prancing down the street. And after they entered, all the treats of the Christmas season suddenly appeared!

Even as an adult, I had never seen so many cookies. I vaguely remember baking some of them to bring but I think my aunt and mom made nearly all of them. There were cookies and candies of all sorts, coffee, and soda, and juice! Aunt Carol and my mom, her sister and her best friend, always were dressed head to toe in Christmas clothes! The two of them would flit back and forth from the kitchen to the living room making sure that cookie plates were full and drinks weren’t being spilled while my father and uncle sat in chairs observing all the activity. My dad sat grumpily, my uncle participated fully.

I’ll never forget all of the laughter! Even though my uncle has been gone for nearly 15 years, I can still hear his laugh. And I’ll never forget my aunt’s laugh – she and my mom laugh alike – never just a chuckle, but a full belly laugh!

We were all nice and cozy in the dead of winter smack in the middle of the snowbelt. My aunt and uncle didn’t have a very large house so we were all kind of jammed together in the living room among smells of cinnamon, coffee, cigarettes, and . . . . booze!

Mr. and Mrs. Claus – Santa and his wife – were sloshed! No wonder the jolly old elf was so jolly! He had half a tank full! I had always wondered what it was that made Mrs. Claus giggle so much! Now the elves were NOT drunk – they were just pleasant little elves and smelled of peppermint and hot chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, the Claus clan was obnoxiously drunk – they were just merrily drunk (I guess you would have to be to deal with THAT many kids in such close quarters!). They were truly Claus-esque! They made each child feel that the trip had been made especially for him or her! And plastered or not, they were the Clauses and gave their entire selves over to being the Clauses for the entire afternoon (even when they snuck outside for a smoke, they hid so no child would see them).

That’s another Christmas that I hadn’t thought about in a while. Last night I woke up again in a panic that I would have too little, too late for Christmas. But so far, as I poke around in the recesses of my memory, all I’ve been able to come up with in respect to memorable holidays are experiences with people – not with things! I’m hoping that putting these memories on record will help me to avoid a Christmas depression and refocus the meaning of the season. At my house in addition to celebrating Christmas, my kids and I welcome the winter solstice. This is turning out to be a nice tradition in which we honor nature and the cycle of life by offering food and treats to the animals, by being aware of the change of the season, and being thankful for all that nature has to offer.

In spite of the cold and darkness (or perhaps because of it), our celebration has a definite intimate feel to it. We started last Winter Solstice by burning a Yule log or otherwise know as a dura flame log from the grocery store. The kids made peanutbutter and seed pinecones for the birds, they sliced apples for the deer, and we popped popcorn. We recited a poem and enjoyed being out in the night under the star-studded cloudless night. When we came in, we warmed ourselves with hot chocolate and cookies.

Again, the kids don’t talk about the gifts they received last year – I doubt they can remember what they got – but they’ve all reminisced about celebrating the solstice.

Christmas memories

I always have trouble mustering up the Christmas spirit. The year, I suspect, will be more difficult than most.

My favorite Aunt Carol died of cancer in June; I've lost several of my animals; I am faced with the stonecold hard fact that my parents are getting older and one, or both, may not be around for many more Christmases.

So to help remind me of the happy times and of all the blessings I have, I'm going to write about some of the Christmases I remember.


The most memorable Christmas for me was after my husband left me, our 7 yr old daughter, and 3 yr old son. We lived in a small town in the snowbelt at the time and even with all the snow, it didn't seem like Christmas. I felt so bad for my kids - they were hurting and so was I. My son, Ryan, didn't say a word about presents, Santa, or Christmas that year. He had none of the excitement that most all kids have around that time of year. Christmas eve, my soon-to-be ex-father in law stopped to pick us up for a party (I was, and remain to be, on good terms with my in-laws) and when we were walking out of the house, amid the heavy snowfall and wind, we could hear the sound of bells jingling. Under the shine of the streetlight, we saw the most realistic Santa Claus! and he said ho-ho-ho to the kids. Another heavy whoosh of the wind and blinding snow, and Santa was gone. It was truly magical. It was just what we needed - some magic. And what could have been the worst Christmas ever, really turned out to be one of the best.And Ryan, who is now 21, STILL believes in Santa!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It snowed!!!!!

It snowed yesterday!

Fortunately I was home - well, not really fortunate - I was home because my neck/shoulder had cramped up on me and I was in much pain.

But it was amazing - at noon, I took Clover out to graze and by 3:30 when my youngest got off the bus, the ground was covered with snow! We couldn't wait to take the dogs outside! It is so much fun to see Max, Sebastian, and Bear frollick in the first snow of the season.

Sebastian just can't contain himself. He jumps and runs, chases snowflakes, chases Max. Even old Bear was feeling frisky in the brisk air! I can't say that the goats were overly impressed. Bucky sulked in his pen, cuddled under a layer of straw; Bella and Tommy peeked out of their goat house. The chickens didn't seem fazed at all - they simply stood in their yard and pecked at the bread I had given them.

I just love the magic of the first snowfall. I feel this way EVERY first snowfall but by the end of January, I am way less impressed with it. By that time, I've reached a high level of cabin fever.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Good friends

Sebastian is my mammoth yellow labrador retriever. He is also the goofiest, nicest dog I have ever met!

He has this odd habit of sleeping on his back. It doesn't matter if there is already a body there or not.

He loves cats. He loves to cuddle with his pal Dirt, the cat.
He loves to explore with his pals Max and Bear.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Not what you think.

Committed to running, to eating healthy, to not drinking, to thinking peacefully. There have been several times this week when I was so close to not putting on my shoes and hitting the trails. I'm glad I didnt' give in. I would have missed Tuesday evening's run in an old town I used to live in.

I would have missed meeting a nice couple out walking their dogs the other morning.

I would have missed that last smell of autumn before the winter's snow cover it all. I would have missed the look of sheer joy and love on Sebastian's face as he was running with me.

When I run, my mind drifts off in all sorts of directions: sometimes I'm in the Swiss Alps skiing, sometimes I'm out on the warm sandy beaches of North Carolina, sometimes I'm relaxing at a beautiful country bed & breakfast in Maine.

When I'm out running, I solve all the world's problems and sometimes I solve my own. I love running because it is just me and my thoughts -- well, sometimes it is one of my dogs, too and sometimes my daughter runs with me.

I relive my life on my runs. I play the 'what-if' game: what if I had gone on to veterinary school? what if I had applied myself in high school? what if I hadn't married so young or so often? I usually conclude that I am quite satisfied with the way my life has turned out so far. I've got the best kids ever, I have a great husband, and I have my little farm.

Life is good.

Running makes it even better.

Good-bye Jolly Llama

Good-bye Jolly Llama

I’ll miss you.

My male llama Jolly, who has been down for a little over a month, died yesterday. Jolly was injured when he tried to romance his pal, Dolly. Dolly kicked him and apparently injured his spine. The thing about a llama is they are very stoic, very brave. I never knew if Jolly was in pain aside from the few times he would grind his teeth. There is some comfort in knowing that I did everything I could for him. We gave him painkillers to help him feel better, steroids in hopes to build up his strength by counteracting the inflammation around his spinal cord, eye drops when his eyes became infected. He actually was acting as if he felt better. He was able to drink from a bucket if I held up his head, he had a good appetite, but no matter how hard we tried, he couldn’t get up on his feet.

Jolly died on the side of the hill in his pasture. His mate Dolly was with him as was his arch nemesis, Bucky. I recall the other night having a feeling that Jolly was preparing to die. Dolly was sleeping by him which is very unusual. The dogs made a point of walking down to see him. His eyes cleared up and seemed to actually see me.

The next few days will be difficult: Dolly will mourn his death. According to others who have lost animals, it is a good idea to let the body in the area so that he can be mourned in a way that is appropriate for his mate. I will mourn his death. It has been a long time – over a month – since Jolly has been able to stand and give me kisses or follow me down the hill. Over the past several months, we’ve lost a goat, a baby llama, and a chicken. I thought my kids would have a more difficult time but they seem to understand and to go on. They are able to say good-bye but then focus on the animals we have left.

I’m sure in a few days, the pain will subside and I won’t feel like I’m missing something when I go out in the morning and in the evening to see the animals. I hope that wherever Jolly is now; he is running with his baby Sunflower and munching on clover. In tribute, Bear, Sebastian, and Max all went down to where he was lying next to the fence, lifted their legs and peed. I'm not kidding.
The 3 legged salute.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

This little horse

And yet another merry chase begins my weekend.

This morning I went out to feed the crew. Morning chores usually just consist of feeding, watering, hellos and have a good days. But as I'm filling up the chicken's feed dish, who trots up to wish me a good morning but Bella and Tommy! My heart sunk as I realized that the gate to the goat and horse pen hung wide open and Clover was nowhere that I could see.

Now I know both gates were latched when I came out to check last night. But at that time, it didn't matter - Clover was gone. I woke up my husband who had just fallen asleep after working the 3rd shift at a local food plant. I tried to think like a horse - but honestly, having only been a horse owner for a little over a month, I wasn't quite sure if I was thinking like a horse or simply a human trying to think like a horse.

Some things I knew: Clover is afraid to cross the creek. She doesn't like the sound of cars. She doesn't like the sound of her feet on pavement. Knowing these things limited the area in which we would need to search. My husband set off to search the fields across the street and down the road. I went down to her favorite clover munching spots. No Clover. No piles of poop to indicate that she had been there. I roamed the neighbors fields and yards looking suspicious, I'm sure, with my jeans tucked in my barn boots and a severe case of bedhead, and holding a halter and lead. Just further evidence I'm sure, to my neighbors, that I'm more than a little eccentric!

I searched the woods stopping every so often because I was sure that I heard her footsteps or a whinny. I met up with my husband and he hadn't had any luck either. My son, who is such a worrier, came out and searched the yard again. You wouldn't think you would have to look so hard for a horse (who loses a horse?) but her coat matches the colors of autumn and she truly is not very big.

Well, one of the worst things about getting older has been my loss of hearing. I looked at my cell phone and noticed a missed call. Our neighbors had found Clover! It sends chills up my spine to think that she was found next to a major highway but she was safe. Not only did the neighbors find her, but they fed her and put her in a clean stall and then called around until they found my phone number.

How do you thank people for doing something like that? I think, by returning the favor. By doing something for someone else. True, they are horse people and they understand the love of a horse, but they made such an effort in tracking me down. I know there is so much in the news of all the bad things, all the bad people in this world but it seems that I only run into the good people. I have always thought of myself as being somewhat jaded, but I truly have a hard time believing that there are as many bad people in this world as the media would have us think.
Anyway . . . I'm so thankful and so fortunate that this latest farm fiasco ended well. I think the experience will just remind me a little more of how kind the human spirit truly is.

Friday, November 7, 2008

I need to run . . . .

I feel like I've been run over by a train! Just tired: my activity level has changed so much over the past year. After running the Marine Corp Marathon in October and not being respectful of my body's need for recovery, I wasn't really able to run for a few months. I've just not gotten back in the groove. I know if I just get out there, just put on my shoes and get out the door, I'll run. Running makes me feel so good. I think that is one of the most tragic things about human nature: we avoid - fervently- the very things that make us happy.
I love, love, love to run! It makes me feel good, it makes my systems work the way they should. When I run, I just naturally eat right. I am pleasant. Last Christmas my oldest son Ryan gave me a necklace with a runner on it. I do not take it off. It is a constant reminder of what I love. What I love about running is that it is such a clean sport. It is my body doing what it is made to do. I don't hurt the earth, I take nothing from it. It gives me time to think and to enjoy nature. I am foolish for not running now when I can. While my body is strong and healthy.
There is a strong line of type 2 diabetes in my family. Running helps me avoid that. Running keeps me out of the category of invisible middle-aged women. There's nothing wrong with that - I rather enjoy being non-descript and unidentifiable. But running makes me part of another group which is ageless and cultureless. Running gives an introvert like me the opportunity to be part of a larger group in a safe way. I can choose to carry on a conversation with a running mate or I can choose to run alone.
Running makes me special. How self-indulgent is that? I kind of like it. There are really quite many women my age who are runners but in casual conversation, I seem like an anomaly. Maybe I'm an inspiration to other middle-aged women, that they can do this too! Maybe some of the younger women look at me and see that you don't have to rock away your twilight years.
My daughter is a runner. I'm so very, very proud of her. She runs semi-regularly even being a single mother of a nearly 2 year old son. She ran her first half-marathon last March and called me crying with pride. With running no matter how crappy your day is, if you run - it has been a success. And oh, what an esteem booster! Finishing a race, or finishing the runs that you've planned is like giving birth: no one can do it for you.
One of my greatest races was the 2007 Arts Festival race. All of my kids ran in the race and at the time, my oldest son Ryan was running on his own although he didn't participate in the race. It was so neat to run with my daughter and then watch my youngest daughters and son participate in the kids' race. I look forward to the day that my grandson can run, too!
So why is it that I haven't been running for over 3 weeks?! Excuses, laziness, I don't know. There for awhile I was snacking - quite heavily - at night and nothing takes my motivation away like eating before bed. I've decided to stop that - mainly because I don't like to feed my body nasty stuff when it is cold outside and because I don't like that I've not been doing the things I like to do, like running.
So tomorrow morning after I feed the goats, chickens, and llamas, I'll put on my running shoes and go for a run. My dogs won't be too happy - it's hunting season and I run through the woods. Sebastian looks too much like a deer to take him with me.
Tomorrow I'll run and Sunday I'll run. And hopefully I'll keep on running. Everyday until I can't do it anymore.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A fun new blog!

Check this blog out -

I added a quick link in my sidebar. It looks like some good reading!

Happy Election Day!

Happy Election Day!

Here in Pennsylvania it sure doesn’t feel like November – more like winter sliding into spring. With the clock set back to end Daylight Savings Time, it LOOKS like it should be brisk and chilly. But it is actually warm and sunny. Well, not so much today but it was yesterday when I began this post.

Today is Election Day. The act of voting is important to me but I’m afraid that the intricacies of the candidates remain a mystery to me. Honestly, it is not important to me. I am not happy with the two choices. Choosing from two people who I know nothing about really, except what is shared via the media, to rule this country, to keep us safe is ludicrous to me. It is kind of like spitting into the ocean. What I would like to know about them are things that to me, demonstrate what kind of a person s/he really is. What does Barak Obama do when no one is looking? Is John McCain a boxer or briefs kind of guy? What kind of socks does Sarah Palin wear with her blue jeans – seriously, she can’t really like wearing those stuffy suits! What is Joe Biden’s favorite snack?

I do vote – EVERY election. Because it wasn’t all that long ago that women and people of color weren’t given that opportunity. Even when I think it doesn’t matter and that I don’t care, I’m basically disregarding the sacrifices that were made by those who fought for those rights. People like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Ida B. Wells, who risked everything so that we could have the right to vote.

I just wish it was done differently. I wish we could pick a team. A presidential duo from a list representing all areas of the country. It just seems to me that although we will be electing a newbie as president, he will be welcomed in to the fold by ‘seasoned’ governmental veterans. People who may have had the best intentions when elected but once ‘part of the team’ were swayed and influenced by those who served before. How can a handful of new elects change the mindset of a governing body that has beliefs and behaviors so firmly entrenched in their existence?

I can wish, I can hope, and I can - and did - vote. I believe in magic and hope that whoever is put into office, can stay true to their promise and promote real and positive change.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

The witches fly
Across the sky,
The owls go,
"Who? Who? Who?"
The black cats yowl
And green ghosts howl,
"Scary Halloween to you!"
Nina Willis Walter
Everyone is a moon and has a dark side, which he never shows to anybody.
Mark Twain

I love, love, love Halloween! It’s a combination of my favorite things: autumn, ghosts, smells of burning leaves, vibrant oranges, reds, and browns, sweatshirts, rakes, split-rail fences. Halloween takes me back to my childhood when I lived in on a hill in very rural Pennsylvania. I close my eyes and I see the heaps of fallen leaves just waiting for me to jump in to. I can smell pumpkin ‘guts’ and can remember the thrill of sticking my handI had a dusty green sweatshirt that was so soft and fluffy on the inside and my mom would pull the hood down tight to make sure that not one windy breeze hit my ears. I can hear the crackly-crunch of the dried leaves, smell the cold in the air. I can remember the death of the garden. Cornstalks leaning over like old men turning into spirits. Old black rotten tomatoes that would sprout volunteers the following summer. No fear of snakes – it was too cold! We would trick-or-treat in town. Knocking on the doors, often the backdoors that we didn’t get to see during the day. Such a novelty being outside in town at night. Back in the day when we were more likely to get homemade cookies, or apples, or popcorn balls. Back when moms didn’t have to race home after work to grab their kids, throw dinner in (or maybe pick up a quick pizza), before rushing off to beg for candy. Back when Halloween was celebrated on the 31st on not on a Thursday because Halloween falls on a Friday and afterall, there’s a football game that night. Back when Halloween was spelled Hallowe’en (for what reason, I don’t know). Back when school kids learned little songs like:
‘Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate, The first one said, "Oh my, it's getting late." The second one said, "But we don't care." The third one said, "I see witches in the air." The fourth one said, "Let's run, and run, and run." The fifth one said, "Get ready for some fun." Then whoosh
went the wind, and out went the lights, And five little pumpkins rolled out of sight!” (anonymous)

Now that I’m an adult I hold all my Halloween memories close, trying to give those same memories to my children. But times are NOT the same. My parents still come down every home football game to cheer on their beloved Nittany Lions and to show support for JoePa. But mom is in her 70s and doesn’t hear so well and dad is in his 80s and isn’t quite as fiesty as opinionated as I remember – although he IS still quite the chocoholic and most of the Halloween candy my mom buys gets eaten by dad. My favorite aunt is gone so there will be no sweet Halloween card from her this year. Even my kids are more sophisticated in their choices for Halloween costumes this year. Thank goodness though, my husband regresses tremendously around Halloween time. He becomes absolutely giddy with thoughts of trick or treating! I know I’ll let the kids stay up late – energized by the pounds of sugar they’ve eaten despite my warnings that they’ll get sick. I know that tomorrow I’ll have post-Halloween blues. Well maybe not until Sunday since on Saturday the kids and I are going to a Halloween Hoopla with a new group of people who I’ve never met who are part of a sustainable-living community. I saw the advertisement – bring your musical instruments for food, music, and a bonfire – sounds like fun for me! But Sunday will be sad for me for sure. Because the day after Halloween reminds me of the quick slide into the most anxiety producing time of the year for me.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


If a man harbors any sort of fear, it makes him landlord to a ghost. Lloyd Douglas

I’m not sure why, but for the past several weeks I’ve been waking up at around 3:00 or so. Wide awake. Until about 4:30 and have about an hour left till I really need to get up. Then I become very sleepy. I worry – irrationally. I worry about my house being on fire. This is probably because we did have a fire that destroyed most of my family’s house when I was in 3rd grade and because my first husband’s family home burned completely when he was a senior in high school. No one has injured in either of the fires but it has definitely left me with the knowledge that things don’t always happen to someone else and certain paranoia about virtually EVERYTHING! I check and re-check the batteries in our fire alarms. If I feel that I am going to be in an especially deep sleep, I make sure that the doors to the upstairs are left open so that should a fire breakout upstairs, I would be able to hear the alarm. I make sure that the dogs are distributed evenly throughout the first and second floor. Which is ludicrous because except for the chihuahua, I would have to wake Bear and Sebastian to get them to alert the rest of the house. They are very effective guard dogs . . . provided that any break-in or fire occur during their waking hours.

In the middle of the night, I worry about my kids. I feel badly that my son’s coat is a little too small. Not small enough that it is uncomfortable but a little too small. It doesn’t occur to me at night that his winter jacket is a very, very warm, weather resistant jacket that was handed down from his sister and no, it is not pink. I worry that I can’t find any matching gloves or mittens for them to wear for the 2 seconds it takes for them to get on the bus. I need to write myself a note to remind me that we DO have gloves and mittens to keep those little hands warm – they just don’t match which is more than what many, many other people in this world, this country, this state, have. I worry that I haven’t given my older son enough. I feel tremendous guilt that I don’t give him enough. But even in the daytime, I know that although he is a college student, he is my baby and always will be. It is not enough for me to know that he knows that he can always call me, always come home. I just worry that I haven’t given them enough.

In the middle of the night I worry about my animals. I worry that because I don’t have a proper barn that I’m not taking care of them. The fact that they do have shelter and nice cozy places to sleep and get out of the weather doesn’t register in the middle of the night. At 3 a.m. I don’t remember how well I take care of them or that sometimes animals die despite the care we give. I feel guilty that my llama isn’t in a hospital. I feel guilty that I’ve done all that I know to do, have contacted the vet, have been in touch with online experts, and given all prescribed medications and yet Jolly Llama is still lying on the ground unable to walk. I’ve contacted people who have blessed him, who have performed an animal healing spell, I’ve given him herbs, I’ve sung to him, I’ve told him that it is alright to pass on. I worry that I haven’t done enough.

In the middle of the night, I am visited by ghosts. Not the kind of spirits that float in the air and materialize from a mist but ghosts of irrational thoughts, guilts, and worries. My ghosts haunt me with feelings that I’m not good enough,
not good enough,
not good.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I do have more than animals . . . .

Most days by the time I get around to writing in this blog, my animals are my stress relievers. They do provide me with much entertainment, a ton of work, a way more worry than you can imagine.
My children, of course, provide the same entertainment, work, and worry but I'm very protective of them. I find it hard to talk about my kids in generalities whereas it is easy to do so with the animals.
I guess that is kind of odd. I think if I started writing about my kids I wouldn't be able to stop. I have five of them ranging from 26 years old to 9 years old. I also have a nearly 2 year old grandson who, by the way, is the most sweetest blessing! Since the birth of my 26 year old, I've been married three times, divorced twice, have earned a bachelors degree and a masters degree, have been hired four times by the same employer, have moved 5 times, have had 4 miscarriages, made more friends than I can count, learned how to use the computer, become more open to change, well, you get the picture. I've learned different ways to deal with the teenage years, learned not to fret too much about the little things, and learned to truly value the seemingly insignificant stuff.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

How to improve on yesterday . . . .

Well now, after my great horse chase from yesterday (and the resulting tirade about how no one helps out around the house, how I'm left to take care of all the animals, and so on, and so on), I feel that I should make up for the lousy dinner that was foisted on my kids last night. My husband is on vacation and since I was having a hissy fit, he took the hint and threw some chicken nuggets in the oven and left me alone to pout.
It just so happens that I found this awesome blog yesterday -
Really good recipes with a southern flair. I don't know how I came across it but I'm glad that I did. Not only are there recipes but stories about the recipes. Just a really good read! Tonight, I'm planning to make apple muffins and buttermilk biscuits and yes, both will be welcomed by my family. I think I will also make the cheesy scrambled eggs since my husband won't be home and since I left him a message on the answering machine to ppppllllleeeeeeaaaasssseeeeee get out the pork chops to thaw and I know that he hasn't, this will be delicious for a windy, cool, snowy (yes it is supposed to snow tonight in central PA) night.
So check out this blog - some great recipes for the cookin' and the bakin'. I just hope that I'm not chasing a horse tonight!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Merry Chase

Last night the plan was to go home and repair the fence where my goat, Bucky, was escaping. When I got home though - he was already out and waiting for me. If you've never had the chance to spend time with a goat in rut, you don't know what you are missing! They have on their mind only one thing and they bleat this deep, loud bleat while wagging their tongue. It sounds a lot like those 'whaaaaatzzzzzz uuupppp' commercials from football season last year. And Bucky's call sounds ALOT like Beeeeeeellllllllaaaaaa which just so happens to be my doe's name. Well, Bucky loves me (not in 'that' way) and he was very happy to see me. Goats wag their tails and he was bleating and wagging his tail following me around.
Since it was getting dark, I decided that I would let Clover, the horse, out to graze. I usually just put her on her lead and she stays and just munches on the grass. But not tonight. She took off across the neighbor's yard and do you know how dogs tease you when you are chasing them? Stopping until you're almost there and then taking off? That's what Clover was doing. She kept going further and further down the valley. What made it embarrassing was that there was a church function across the road and we were putting on quite a show for the people going into church. What made it worse was that the neighbor teenage kids on the other side of our property were watching. But the most embarrassing part was that Bucky was running after me, every step, bleating BEEELLLLLAAAAA!!!!!
The good news is that I was concentrating so hard on catching Clover - which I eventually did - that I didn't swear out loud in front of the church people, my kids, and the neighbors. And I'm happy to say that this morning when I went out, although Bucky was standing up on his hind legs waiting for me, he was behind the fence and not outside.

Are you looking at me?

This is Dolly Llama. This is one of two llamas we acquired this past June. I never thought a llama would be part of my family. But as it turned out, a local woman had purchased four llamas from someone and needed to get rid of two of them. That's where I come in.

Now I assumed that llamas, being the docile, benevolent creatures they are, would act like big kitty cats. No they do not.

They are big. They do NOT have to like you. You have to earn their trust.

Unfortunately, the manner in which I earned Dolly's trust - and (I hope) her love and respect - is by caring for her partner, Jolly.

A little over two weeks ago, Jolly became very ill with what we think is meningeal worm. The big M-worm for which animals are immunized. For the past 14 days, Jolly has been unable to walk. He has been lying on the ground - we go out and move him every day. I've been feeding him by hand and giving him water via syringe. Sometimes he has a very good appetite and sometimes he doesn't. This morning was not one of his good mornings. But neither was Friday - I thought he would be gone by the time I got home on Friday. But he wasn't and Saturday and yesterday he ate with much gusto.

We've given him all suggested medications. I guess at this point it is up to Jolly. I hope that he understands how much I love him, that I don't care if he is 100%, that I just want him to be well as long as he is not in pain. But that's the thing with llamas, unless you know your llama very well - you have no idea if he is in pain or not.

But I think Dolly sees that I am in it for the long run with these guys. We will grow old together. They are only two years old and have a lifespan of 30+ years so they'll be with me into my 70's. I think Dolly sees that she's not going to be hurt for not listening to me and that they only thing that she can expect from me is love and caring. I have absolutely no idea what kind of history belongs to Dolly and Jolly, but they have it good with me!

And a llama kiss is a good way to start the day!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

I. Eat. Little. Boys.

This is our miniature horse, Clover. She doesn't really eat little boys. My 11 year old daughter has always wanted a horse, has dreamed of having a horse, drawn pictures of horses, read every horse book she could find. Needlesstosay she is flying high in horsie heaven!

Making her happy was a huge factor in buying her this horse but there were so many other things. One of the biggest reasons is my dad. Ever since my earliest memory, I've known my dad loves horses. Everyone who knows my dad knows he loves horses. We grew up in a town which didn't allow farm animals so a horse was out of the question. My parents live there still. My dad is 82 years old and I don't foresee him moving to a farm anytime soon.

My parents come to our home and stay in a camper out in our yard every home football game (yeah Penn State!). The next home football game wasn't for two weeks after we brought Clover home. I couldn't wait for my dad to see her. Now I'm not known for being able to keep a secret - and it was agonizing for me NOT to tell my mom and dad about Clover. I fantasized about the surprise! I envisioned my dad getting out of the car and seeing Clover and falling in love. I also knew that my dad would be very stoic and I also knew in the morning when he got up would be when he went out and really appreciate Clover. He loves walking out and seeing the goats, Tommy and Bella, being stared down by Dolly Llama, and hearing the chickens make their early morning chicken-y noises. If ever a person should have been surrounded by animals, it should have been my dad. I remember a few Thanksgivings ago, I spent the weekend with my parents. My dad had found this skinny little abandoned kitten under the porch of his office. Now my mom, to whom most all of the animal care and chores fall, was not very thrilled to have another cat. But when she saw that skinny, emaciated little babe who clearly was in love with my dad, I knew that Boots had found a home.

I am old. I have just a little farm. And I love, love, love my animals - but I am so incredibly thankful that I'm able to provide my dad the chance to have a taste of the farm life too.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sunflower 7/20/08 - 7/24/08

It is still very painful to write about Sunflower, Dolly's little cria who only lived for 4 days.
She was a surprise for us. My daughter went out to give the llamas fresh water and came running back in to tell us that Dolly had a baby! What a beauty!
At first, I thought that Dolly seemed rather aloof toward Sunflower. But internet searched revealed that llamas are often secretive about nursing their babies and that some babies are 'closet nursers'. But still, Sunflower would walk around and try to nurse on everything. She was walking around and seemed to be healthy.
The following day Sunflower was still walking around but no one had seen her nursing yet. I was concerned but by then Dolly, her mama, seemed to be taking care of her. We just hadn't witnessed her nursing.
On Sunflower's last day on this earth, she still was running around but something seemed different. I tried to give her a bottle which she refused and then the next morning when I went to check on her, she had died.
The kids seemed to accept this better than I did. It still really hurts to think about it. Somehow I feel as if I failed her. It was heartbreaking to see her mommy looking for her, staring at the goathouse where they had slept.
I would love to have a baby llama but not knowing Jolly and Dolly's history, I am opting to have Jolly castrated. I love my adult llamas and if ever there is a youngster needing a home, I would be open to adopting him or her.
After Sunflower died, I remembered feeling as if I wasn't cut out to be a farmer. Death hurts. But then I remembered the good parts: my goats jumping up to see me, Dolly's kisses, Jolly's looks of disgust at me (which always make me laugh), the soft clucking of my chickens, the quietness in the mornings when I go out to feed and water the crew.
While death is a part of farmlife, happiness and joy are a more constant part. I think I'll continue to risk the pain and enjoy the good stuff!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Mountain Morning Homeschool: "The Apron Book" Giveaway!

I haven't blogged in a while. I've been busy with life: at home, at my little farm, and at work. Tomorrow is my birthday - I'll be 46. Yeah! Here is a link to a nice blog I found while reading the Morning Ramble, a favorite of mine.

Mountain Morning Homeschool: "The Apron Book" Giveaway!

I LOVE aprons. Aprons remind me of bread and winter and the color blue. I have green apron that I wear when I remember: usually when I haven't had a chance to change out of my work or church clothes. I can remember the aprons that my grandmother had and I wish that I still had them. I feel more productive when I wear my apron and it is so convenient have pockets and even a loop to hang a hand towel.

I have so much to update: the birth and death of a baby llama, the 'great escape' of Jolly llama and Houdini the goat, the building of a fence . . . just to name a few.

But have a great day and check out this contest!


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Playing hooky

That's what we called it when I was a kid. Not being in school - no valid excuse. I'm not really playing hooky because I had scheduled today as a vacation day. But the original plan was to take the kids to the arts festival. Unfortunately it rained and I must say, I was not disappointed. The thought of fighting masses of kids (not my own) was less than appealing. Actually the kids I can handle, it is their parents that make me want to hurl myself off Old Main Tower.

So today was kind of like a "free day". I thoroughly enjoyed being with my children with no schedule, no pressure to go anywhere or do anything. I needed this break and I needed to be in a place in which I feel I belong.

My world is changing - I know everyone's is but this is MY blog. My aunt, my mom's youngest sister and best friend, died last month. My father fell and badly cut his arm. My dad's dog is dying. In addition to grieving (obviously) for my aunt, who was a HUGE factor in me making it through my 30s, I'm looking at my parents in a different light. It didn't affect me as much when my mom's brother died because I wasn't close to his family. It was horrific when my uncle - my aunt's husband - died from ALS but that was different. My aunt died of lung cancer and I didn't even get myself up to visit her before she died. I didn't get to say goodbye to her. She was someone who always loved me. Who would give me her opinion, who thought I and my kids were great, who always remembered birthdays, anniversarys, and any other holiday. If the shoe had been on the other foot, she would have found a way to visit me.

Llama Love

Or lack there of. A smart person would NOT have bought two llamas with unknown history. Especially if she had no prior experience with llamas or with any other type of animal larger than a dog. But I did want a llama to guard my mininubian goats from coyotes, wild dogs, and other night creatures. And after a little research, learned that two llamas were preferable to one. Because of the cost of a llama, I didn't really think I would ever be able to buy one let alone two. But the camelid gods must have been smiling at me when I saw an ad in a local online sales site for two llamas at a dirt cheap price.

That was the end of May.

We didn't really get a clue that they weren't friend when my husband loaded them on the horse trailer. That went off without a hitch - same for delivering them to our home. But now, almost 6 weeks later, they still are not overly fond of us. I've researched ways to get them to trust me, to be respectful, yadda yadda yadda. They MUST be sheared - their wool is a matted mess. I tried one clip at a time and that SO pissed Dolly off, that she tried to spit at me. But I persist and have succeeded to snip off about 4 hunks of matted hair. Certainly not enough to make a difference!
Is it the makeshift llama hut? I know it is not pretty - not at all. But we'll have a llama house complete with walls and roof and door by winter. They have beautiful trees to hide under, a creek to cool off in (but they won't), and lots and lots of yummy plant food. I give them sweet grain which they l-o-v-e. I talk kindly to them, give them fresh, cool water.
But they are animals. I forget about that sometimes - as much as I would love to cuddle them, they are still animals and I need to respect that. More than hugs and kisses, they appreciate in their animal way, the fresh water and food, the shelter, the safe environment. And that should be enough for me.

Monday, July 7, 2008

A true, rednick farm

If ever I had any doubt that I was a redneck, I doubt no more!

After Houdini's continued escapes from his pen, I've had to put 2 foot chicken wire at the top of the 4 foot chain link fence. In addition to the chicken wire, there are places on which I've used wooden lattice. Makes a nice, country fence!

4th of July evening, our neighbors called to let us know that Houdini had jumped the fence and was sitting atop of our John Deere tractor. Apparently he had escaped, was bouncing around on the trailer, and then settled on the tractor. When he saw me, he ran as fast as he could toward me wagging his little goatie tail! What a sweetheart but sheesh! enough with the jumping already!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Oh my gosh, he loves me!

Houdini, that is. My wether. He's not named Houdini without reason. When I picked him from the breeder, he was the little guy who kept escaping his pen. He jumped the fence, hopped over the goats - I knew Houdini was the only name for him.
I thought we had this covered - we used 4 foot high chainlinked fence for my minigoats. But imagine my surprise when the human kids started hollering for me because Houdini was standing beside the swimming pool watching them jump on the trampoline! When he saw me, he gave a goaty scream and ran to me! I guess he decided that he was going to go looking for his bottle.
Apparently there is part of the fence that dips down and he was able to push it down enough that he could jump out. I'm happy to report that the fence has been fixed. So far now, Houdini is contained. He still is crying for his bottle but is doing it safely within the confines of his own little environment.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Do they make binkies for goats?

Today is day 2 of taking my nearly 3 month old mininubians off the bottle. Starting about a week and a half ago, we gradually gave them less and less milk in their bottle until Sunday we were able to stop completely. Or so I thought. Houdini, my wether, has been hysterical without his bottle! The poor little guy screams - he was waiting for me when I came home from work last night. He gobbled up his grain, nibbled some hay, I thought he was happy. But no, when I walked away he made it perfectly clear that he wanted his bottle. We also have a doe who we've weaned successfully. She gets a little concerned when Houdini is upset but overall, has taken the weaning quite well.
Growing up, although I've always fantasized about having a farm, I never actually spent time at a farm. Before I adopted my little goat family, I had never even touched a goat. I am amazed at how much I love them and how they so quickly became part of the family. True, true, they are animals but they have such distinct personalities: Bella, my doe is a prima donna; Houdini, the wether, is such a clown and is constantly trying to find a way out of his pen; and Bucky is a sweetheart. He tries to act tough but always has to get a head scratch from me. I'm amazed at how intuitive they are. One recent evening, I was feeling very down and went in to sit and watch the goats. They seemed to sense my melancholy and were very calm and gentle. These babies are such treasures.

My little farm. I'm loving it.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

This is my first foray into the blog world. Actually not quite - I've started a blog but can't remember what it was called. I decided that I had to have somewhere to note my experiences in the next phase of my life. I just recently put into motion a dream I've had off and on for most of my life. I purchased some goats, then two llamas (who hate me), and 5 chicks. Actually round two for the chicks. We are all living on eight acres of land with 3 dogs, many cats, 3 of my 5 children, and my husband.

There is something about inching closer to 50. I've always been fearful of getting old and, in fact, have spent way too much time worrying about how old I was and too little time just enjoying the age I was. Now that I've hit the big 4-0, the big 4-5, and am almost 46, I find that I feel a little freer albeit a bit bland. As a middle aged white women - so I've read - I am invisible. I can do things that someone ten years younger could not get away with. I can pass through life undetectable which is good in a way. But sometimes, it is frustrating - sometimes I just want to be noticed. Which, I suppose, is why I pierced my nose, wear funky clothes, and let my hair go wild.

I am a runner. I am a slow runner but I love to run. The act of running makes me visible. Because when one is in a group of runners, all that is noticed are those in the front and those NOT running. I like to run long distances - it is one of the areas in my life of which I am most proud. The first would be my children. I produce great kids! Smart, kind, thoughtful . . . all around fine human beings!

I like the idea that it is expected of me to voice my opinion, to say it 'like it is', to have a sort of authority about things. I hope that no one ever finds out that I really know nothing about anything. I've always been the type to dabble in a little bit of this, a little bit of that. I have a ton of interests but I've not really mastered anything to the point that I am an expert.

Anyway, the high cost of gasoline, the mystery of what-the-heck-is-in-our-food, mad cow disease, salmonella-tomatoes: all have made me jump on the 'Think Globally, eat locally' bandwagon - totally and completely. My garden - if it produces to my expectations -
should provide enough vegetables to keep us in tomatoes, beans, onions, potatoes, and corn for the winter. I purchased a side of beef from a local farmer, bought wheat and a grinder, purchased laying hens - all after reading Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetables, Miracle.

The purpose of this blog is to share my experiences. From my marathon trip with my little brother to the middle Wisconsin to pick up goats to the covert operation required to replace my kids' chicks when the dogs 'found' them, I hope to catalog my efforts to force my family to live a more environment friendly life.

A torrid love affair

 I've written about the ducks quite a bit. It's a little like Peyton Place around here I think. A couple of months ago, the male d...