Wednesday, September 10, 2014

THOSE people...

"THOOOOSE People".
We all know them, no matter our line of work, we ALL know them. THOSE people who are actively engaged in every meaningful conversation (even if the-rest-of-us are still looking for a pen). THOSE people who are actively engaged in every event, schedule, after-hours service, and committee (even when the-rest-of-us are not sure our shoes match). THOSE people who let the words "let's figure this out" escape from their lips far more often and far, FAR in advance of any words that resemble "can't" or "won't" (even when the-rest-of-us "can't" get the key in the bathroom door fast enough). THOSE people who are probably helping everyone in the workplace to the degree that they are probably only able to do their actual job somewhere between REM sleep and the first time their spouse snores or steals the covers.  THOSE people, who almost never ask for much at all from their co-workers, but never forget to do something extra - including hand written thank you notes to folks who were really only doing what they should be doing, just because it meant something extra to "THAT" person (grammar freaks like me - just roll with that last sentence, ok?).  

This is my 23rd year teaching. Once in a while I have been one of THOSE people. More often, however, I have been inspired by THOSE people (and I unabashedly steal their ideas. It's teaching people, we all do it). THOSE people have their own jobs and duties for which they are responsible, and because they are THOSE people, they take that responsibility to heart with such depth that they cannot imagine being unable to meet that responsibility. Sometimes THOSE people make a simple request, and the rest of us are presented with a choice: help or hurt. Seems simple, right? Surely if one of THOSE people needed something so small - especially on the far greater stage of the work we all do together - we should be able to find a solution, right?


Sometimes, THOSE people need the rest of us to amplify their voice and (read this with a dramatic echo effect) champion a cause (cause... cause...)!. THOSE people, more often than not, are an inspiration to those around them, and they might be a bit uncomfortable at hearing that, but they would appreciate it. Sometimes, though, they just need the-rest-of-us to help with that simple request. 

If you know one of THOSE people, go ahead: for just a brief moment in time, BE one of THOSE people. Help 'em out. Remember the choice? If you won't (that word!) help, then at least be quiet and don't hurt. Why?

because I've got THOSE people's backs. and I'm a pain in the ass....

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's time to get serious about this...

It has been 13 months since I last posted, and WOWZA! The changes that have happened in the last year could fill volumes of posts, but that would get tedious in this little blog so I will hit the highlights because, as the title says, it is time to get serious about this blog.

I write this looking out the french doors to the backyard (yes, french doors and backyard - I have moved!) where my 5 little seven-week old pullets are hanging out in their little chicken tractor giving themselves dustbaths in REAL DIRT! Thus far in their little lives they have been in the brooder or playpen or plain grass, but today I set them over a bare patch on the lawn and they are quite taken with it. They are three Delawares (Mara, Cora, and Bess) and two Marans (Mathilda and Amelia) and will be added to the other eight in the flock in the next few weeks as the coop expansion is completed. What? Oh, what do I mean "...the other eight..."? Guess I had better back up, but I'll give the condensed version...

My friends, Gary and Suzanne, listened to God's call and moved to Tennessee where Gary has a new job with a huge dairy back there. Naturally, the matter of their 9-acre farm here needed to be settled. The short version of this is that, after much prayer on everyone's part, I now live on the farm. It was hard to leave the barn (mostly, Susan, Dave, Katie, Brooke, and all the horses with whom Jericho was friends. It was also the only home Sailor had ever known, and while she just wants to be wherever I am, I still worried if she would adjust. I worried for no reason, of course). Gary and Suzanne and their boys AND the dairy goats, dogs, ducks, cats all made it to Tennessee with some serious adventure under their belts. My adventures continue, too.

The place came with Blue (a Queensland mix), Kasey (a 31-year old arthritic mare who stays because she could not trailer), and two hens whose names I did not know, so I called them Copper and Bronzie. That took the total up to: 2 dogs, 1 cat, 5 hens and a roo, and 2 horses.  Oh, and a gigantic rat in the barn, but he is not part of the family. Especially since Buster ate him. Shortly after I moved in, the family of several of my special needs students GAVE me two miniature donkeys named Penny and Paula. I was instantly in love! Total number of critters was at 12, when Copper, the hen, was "dispatched" by either a hawk that could not lift her out of the run or the other hens. Down to 11. My sister-in-law and a co-worker rescued a calico from the banks of the Kings River, and guess where the funny little thing now lives. The original plan was that she and Buster would be great mousers together, but she has a funny little "hitch-in-her-git-along" and slightly disproportionately short legs. Additionally, I've had her since March and she is no bigger now than she was then. The great outdoors, no matter how much she longs for it, is not destined to be her playground. I am still working on a way to let her enjoy it, but it just isn't safe for her. Especially with Blue.

Ahhh yes, Blue. The day before I moved in I went over to get the keys and Blue bit me. She didn't break the skin, but she left a bruise. Gary had really wanted to leave her as a guard dog, and they really couldn't take her to Tennessee, so this little biting development was a speed bump. We decided to see how she did after they were all gone, and I am quite happy about that.  After all the chaos of moving (the Harpers out, me in) she settled down and now is an unbelievably lovable, loyal, wonderful dog. She is still a guard dog - PG&E, the propane company, the tree-trimming company that clears the powerlines will not come on the property unless I am home. This is a good thing. Sailor is not entirely convinced, however. Blue usually stays out in the garden, garage, barns, and between pastures, and Sailor gets the house and backyard (mama's girl!). Now and then Blue gets to come in the backyard and the two dogs give each other their space, but Blue wants to play so I have to keep an eye on it (her version of play vexes Sailor a bit). Blue catches rabbits (although, so have Buster and Sailor!),  protects us all from the coyotes howling waaaaayyyy down the road, alerted me to the rattlesnake in the garage last week, and tries to kill the basketball. She gives hugs, and bites the water from the power nozzle of the hose, and owns a piece of my heart. She has even, in the last two weeks, learned to back off a visitor on only one command, and yes - this was an issue. While Blue listens to me on most things now, she still harasses the horses by barking and jumping at the fence when they are there, and some day she may learn the hard way.

The horses - Kasey is old, arthritic, creaky, and sweet. She didn't like it when I had to treat her eye for an infection, but she is a champ with letting me at two hooves in the morning and two in the evening to treat her thrush. She needs to come in under the barn awning in the winter storms, but she just stands by the gate, staring out for Jericho. Jericho likes having a companion, and also likes the mini donkeys, talking over the fence with them and leaning over to give them a little nudge or nip. Obviously, the jennies are not pasture with the big horses! There is a clearing up the hill and to the west/southwest in the pastures that might make a good place for a (small) arena to work Jericho. God knows, Jericho needs to be lunged and driven and saddled! I had hoped it would be a project for this summer, but it will have to wait.

So, the chickens are next. I began with three hens and a roo when I moved here. The place came with two hens, one died, so then I had 4 hens. In March I decided I wanted Marans for the dark brown eggs so I ordered them from the local feed supply store and they said it would probably be June for the Marans. Somewhere in between March and June, a friend of a friend needed to find a new home for her last three hens. She was putting it off because they were her favorites and she wanted a good home for them. Our mutual friend suggested me, and a week or so later I brought home Goldie, Beauty, and Cinnamon. Cinnamon wanted to roost on my shoulder the first evening, and Goldie still lets me pick her up and pet her, but they are really just quite settled in with the others and doing just fine! In June I went to get the Marans, and was disappointed. They had shipped the day before, but had not arrived and that was not the norm for this company. I waited overnight imagining all sorts of terrible things - squished in a freight truck, roasting in the back of some post office. I was thrilled the next day when I got my three-day old chicks, but there were only two, not the three I had ordered, so I took the Marans and three Delaware as well. Now I have an even dozen hens and one rooster. The new chicks are now about 7 weeks old and stay in a playpen in the house most of the time and go outside in the dresser-converted-to-chicken-tractor. I hope to finish the new coop in the next week so I can get everyone transitioned in together.

In a nutshell, here is my farm family on our little 9-acres, closer to work and church:
  • Dogs: Sailor & Blue
  • Cats: Buster & Widget
  • Horses: Jericho & Kasey
  • Mini Donkeys: Penny & Paula
  • Hens: Winkin, Blinkin, Nod, Bronzie, Goldie, Beauty, Cinnamon, Mara, Cora, Bess, Mathilda, & Amelia
  • Mr. Roo
  • A barn owl, a screech owl up the hill, too many cottontail rabbits,  MADDENING gophers, and the occassional snake.
More to come - especially more than just a run-down of the move!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Catching up with summer...

My last post was Rodeo Weekend? Yikes, it has been a long time between posts.  I suppose that is a direct result of crazy end-of-the-school-year goings-on.  In the last several weeks there have been finals schedules, promotion ceremonies, graduation, testing schedules, local/primary elections, the beginning of summer school, council and worship team meetings at church, and somewhere in between - working in the garden.  There has been much progress in that regard, which has brought me considerable satisfaction and peace in the midst of all the other chaos that has been anything but satisfying or peaceful.
When our local bond measure for our schools did not pass, the district had to begin the toughest spending cuts of all, even though much fat has been trimmed in each of the last few years.  Little remains to be cut, so now all district employees will be receiving a 7% paycut this fall, anticipated to last for the next 5 years.  Ouch. I was finally getting to the point at which "month-to-month" was beginning to change into "having a little for a rainy day".  Not yet, it seems.  The day after I heard the first rumor of this, I went out and spoke to the owner of a local small business about evening and weekend work.  Things are not looking good right now, so any solace I find in the garden, with the dog, horse, chickens, and critters is most welcome.  Beginning in the fall, there will be little time for anything but work, so my plan for the next 4 weeks this summer is to get many projects finished and hyper-organized so that I can take advantage of the wee hours of the morning (my favorite time of day) and my few evenings at home to spend with Sailor, Jericho, and the farm projects that make me happy. 
One of the things that makes me happy is my hilarious "Hillbilly" garden gate. It is constructed of scrap fence boards, broken garden stakes, small poultry screen, and a couple of hinges.  It is place awkwardly, but effectively, as it keeps the chickens out of my veggies (which was the point, of course)!

My pumpkin, melon, patty-pan, and cucumber seeds took FOREVER to sprout, but now everything I planted is coming up and it won't be long before I need to start canning like a mad-woman. The Tollhouse blackberries should be ready soon, and I won't make the same mistake I did last year: only bought one flat!  This time I will buy as many flats as they will let one person buy, and freeze what I cannot turn into jelly right away. That is, of course, if they make it home from the stand (mmmmm.... purple mouth).  They are, technically, boysenberries, and they are the most amazing berry I have ever eaten.  These berries are wild, but a few local farmers have managed to cultivate them in order to harvest small crops each year.  It is my hope to someday be blessed enough to have a small farm with some of these berries growing like crazy. Boysenberry jelly from Tollhouse berries, strawberries from the valley, corn from Fresno State, peaches and nectarines from Dad's trees, plus all the crops from my tiny little 8'x 8' garden should keep me PLENTY busy canning in the next few weeks!  Whoo hoo!

I made a funky rain-gutter garden on the east side of the dog kennel as an experiment.  It began with a panel of fencing left from the church fence that blew down at Christmas time - thank you Judy and Ron Aylward for helping me load the panel!  I knocked out a few boards to allow breezes and a view for Sailor (those were recycled for use in the rest of the garden), zip-tied the structure to the chain-link, screwed the rain gutter brackets to the fence, put up the gutters, and filled with soil and seed!  Recall, please, that I said "experiment". Umm, yeah.  The gutters are a bit too shallow for even basil and baby lettuce (much of which birds got when seeds).  I have now planted dianthus in the top, and think that I will transplant some thyme there and further research useful herbs that can tolerate a shallow root base.  I had to try!!!

I am very pleased with an impulse purchase, and if the photo ever loads from my phone you will get to see it! I bought one each of a green-blossomed and hot pink blossomed tobacco plant (nicotiana "perfume") and put them in the planter I had reserved for lemon verbena. I still would love a good place for the lemon verbena, but am not sorry about the impulse buy. They are beautiful, hardy, and smell quite lovely.  In fact, next spring I intend to plant more of them in with the scatter mix for the bees. 

Well, this post was largely about the mundane, but tomorrow I will post about the WONDERFUL visit I had with Aunt Jean and Uncle Mac up at the cabin on Father's Day.  That lovely evening provided much more interesting chat about family history that is far more provocative than scrap gates and radishes (oh, yeah - my radishes are deeeee-lish)!


Jericho - my sweet boy!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rodeo Weekend...

Well, the 98th annual Clovis Rodeo is drawing to a close, and I confess to a little feeling of nostalgia.  My parents are members of the Rodeo Association, and spent Thursday and Friday nights up in the VIP booth watching the bull riding and other action. My brother Tom and his family, Mom & Dad, Uncle Tom and my cousin Debi's daughter, Christine, all joined me for the annual pancake breakfast at the Clovis Veteran's Memorial building then we walked over to the parade. We had a nice time, and it was fun to see some of my special needs students in the parade, a colleague sitting on the curb with her grandkids just across the street from us, and my cousin Alethia on the float for the restaurant at which she works. It reminded me that, even though Clovis has grown to over 90,000 people, and we mountain folks are not technically "Clovis", we really are pretty small town.

I am nostalgic, though, about the days when my brothers, cousins, and I were kids.  Rodeo weekend is always the last full weekend in April, so was around the time of PopPop Wright's birthday.  All my cousins on Dad's side of the family would come from all over the West Coast for a weekend of sunburns, food, playing, plotting, cowboys, falling asleep in cool sheets, and waking up knowing you were in the best place in the whole world - with family.

When we got up in the mornings Granny and Pop Pop often had a little routine: We were up and about, and - without fail - Granny was loooong up and busy, but Pop Pop would still be "asleep".  Granny would tell him it was time to get up, and he would snore louder. So Granny would get a cup of cold water, motion us to come in the room, then - just as Pop Pop was in the middle of a very convincing, dramatic snore - pour water on his face! He would sputter and cough and say something like, "Oh, is it time to get up?" as we shrieked with laughter. I don't remember how old I was when I figured out the whole thing was a game, but even then I still wanted to watch. Granny and Pop Pop together were quite a sweet team!

When we got old enough, Dad let us cousins help with the Lion's Club pancake breakfast.  We kids were probably the only ones there who were sober, even at 7:00 am, but boy -howdy! did those Lion's guys have fun making pancakes for the masses.  Some of them had pretty impressive skills with tossing a pancake through a basketball hoop or across the room onto someone's plate.  We children got to crack eggs into a HUGE stock pot one year.  That year, those eggs had extra crunch and calcium from the egg shells and seasoning from the arms of 4 - 7-year olds trying to retrieve the shells.  Mmmm - - delish! 

Our parents were not without humor, of course.  They were very convincing in their enthusiasm for turning the crank on the ice cream maker, and "Tom Sawyered" us into vying for a turn at the crank.  I can't wait to try that out on some unsuspecting kid with a vast excess of energy.  In the meantime, when I want homemade, I use my Cuisinart.

The crowd which assembled at 406 Sierra usually included the Christiansens (from Big Creek), and the Girards, and an occassional "old timer" from the mountains or Southern Cal Edison.  Granny and Pop Pop wove a tapestry of friendship, family, and goodness that, I have observed, continues to live in my cousins and brothers to this day.  We are not together as often as when we were kids, but there is an ease in our relationships that is a testament to the roots our Granny & Pop Pop gave us.  My cousin Terri and I would always pretend we were glued together when it came time for them to return to Cathedral City, and a few times we were persistent enough that our parents must have been annoyed. I think Granny and Pop Pop made that glue.

We loved the horses, cowboys, the whistle of the trains that used to run right through Old Town Clovis, the taste of fresh peaches and homemade ice cream, and the sound of our family's laughter as we stood just oustide the light of the front porch listening to the grown-ups share stories. Mostly, though, we loved being there - together.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The newest addition to our barn family... Meet Mr. Roo!  He is very chatty, pretty calm and sweet, and the ladies like him. Whoo hoo!
(or, rather, Cock-a-doodle-doo!)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Beginning the 2012 garden!

Welcome to my tiny little garden! I have had a small garden the last few summers, but this year am getting quite ambitious. I've done some reading up on square foot gardening, companion plants, and various other matters pertaining to growing veggies in our region.  It never ceases to amaze me that even within our "zone" we have so many micro-zones. I am going to rely far more heavily on experienced locals than other sources, but am also willing to experiment with a combination of all. With that said, I am NOT going to experiment with what I do and do not like, so my garden will contain many of the "usual" suspects (especially pickling cukes! I LOOOVE dill pickles...). The real experiment this year will be two-fold: how many vegetables can I grow successfully in this manner; and, how good will I be at succession plantings for fall/winter crops such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. 

The photos below show the early preparation of the garden... Enjoy the tour!

 Above: On the left is the dog kennel/chicken coop. There are ten 2'x2' raised beds (thanks, Dad!) in this view. Top center is a little seating area and the shallow area I use for seasonal bee-mix flowers. These are Susan's (landlord) hens - mine are wandering around the other side of the truck.

Above: the 4'x8' bed has served as a great herb garden for a few years (again, Thanks, Dad!) This is the view from the landing on the way up to the apartment-over-the-barn. Clearly, I have no problem growing oregano, thyme, or rosemary, and the chives, garlic chives (thanks Dora Cundiff!), and parsley are coming back. The gaping hole in the upper left of the bed is from the the Greek Oregano that I transplanted elsewhere since it was being overtaken by the Italian Oregano. There is a political commentary in there, I'm sure...

A little seating area for morning coffee or evening wine... Looks hillbilly right now, but when the pavers are in under the table, the ground cover fills in, and there are sweet peas climbing up the side of the chicken coop it will be lovely! Need to put pine shavings down in that coop, though, to avoid the stinkies.

A view from the north end, facing the barn. Getting excited about the next couple of weeks and getting the seed into the ground!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Welcome to the Barn!

Winkin', Blinkin', and Nod!

My little animal family lives over the barn on 40-acres in the Sierra.  We are, as the crow flies, almost equidistant (north to south) between Yosemite and Mt. Whitney (the highest peak in the lower 48!)  Our barn-home is at an elevation low enough to grow most things we like in our garden, but high enough to get a little snow in the winter.  I should be clear, now that the 3 chicks are big enough to be outside without a heat lamp, the only members of the family who live over the barn are the dog and I.  The cat lives wherever he wants, except inside.  The horse lives in the pasture, and the chickens live in the dog kennel-soon-to-be-converted-into-kennel/chicken coop. 
Our landlords are terrific - letting us have the dog, kennel, chickens, garden, etc, right outside the barn.  Susan works with my horse (because he's 4 and still not quite saddle broke and I need as much training as he) and has several other equine friends on the property to keep Jericho company. She also has a few cattle, including a bull who is almost as sweet as a dog (he'll lick you if you give him hay...)
First family update: My family = me, Sailor (my mini-Aussie), Jericho (my quarterhorse), Buster (the cat which tolerates us and eats HUGE rats), and Winkin', Blinkin', and Nod (my little pullet hens).  Winkin' is a Barred Rock, Blinkin' is an Australorp, and sweet little Noddy is an Easter Egger.  Sometimes we have raccoons, deer, bats, coyotes, mountain lions, fox, bobcats, skunk, and rattlesnakes, but they do not live here.  They simply visit.  Rattlesnakes sometimes die here, a just consequence for entering a certain proximity to, well, me or my dog! .  Occassionally the bats will come inside, and I tend to get a little girly when they fly at me, but I'm not too wimpy to get them out by myself. 
I love living on a farm, and hope to have one of my own someday.  Right now, the only thing missing from our little family is a hot guy and a couple of kids (the people kind, not the goat kind).  Hmmm... the goat kind are alright too.  Probably cheaper than the people kind...
Anyway - welcome to the barn!