Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tribute to a Neighbor's House

Wow... what a mess. I just walked up the driveway and poked around a bit (carefully!). I did NOT go inside or near walls that looked "iffy". No need to add further tragedy to the day. And wouldn't you know it, the wood pellets they wouldn't sell me (the renters might need them) are now a beautiful golden pile of unburnt but well-soaked sawdust. *sigh* Ah, well, we have 1 bag left and hopefully nicer days before us.

I hope I don't upset anyone by posting these pictures. There are/were no personal belongings or otherwise identifiable things. It's so strange to see a home you were familiar with in such a state. I am so grateful no one was in there.

This first picture is looking from the rear of the house straight south. In the left foreground is the former wood-pellets. Even though there are none to be had locally, and only very expensive ones regionally, I will try not to be bitter... You can see a basement access in the lower part of the picture. There were walls here. Towards the right is the rear of the refrigerator and to the left is the unique stove/oven with a microwave or additional oven above it.

This next picture is similar, angling a bit to the right (southwest). The room with the tall window was a bedroom.

This is looking somewhat upward into the living room, which is the front (south), eastern side of the house. This part of the roof/ceiling still exists, somewhat.

Here we are looking southwest again, from what would have been the back door towards the rear of the east wall. You can see kitchen cabinetry on the left, and the oven-combo barely on the right. I know she loved that secondary unit atop the stove, but couldn't take it with her. :(

This is along the western wall of the house, looking south again. You can see the eaves of the roof hanging down and resting on the ground by the foundation of the house. Wood shingles.

This is the suburban that belongs to the family that lives in the 5th wheel camper. The firefighters must've moved it, but obviously it was parked a bit near the house. You can't see it in the picture, but the headrest of the driver's seat is burned/melted along the side.

You can see the windows on the backseat and rear side are cracked.

They might need a new front blinker...

Now, I am no detective, despite my former diligence in watching CSI... However, I noticed a few things. There were at least four of these cans tossed into the yard, perhaps by the firefighters. Two or three had the can-bottoms bulging or blown out. Seems to me I recall my neighbor telling me the renters' apartment lease was up on April 1. That would be tomorrow.

If I had to guess (and I don't), I'd say the renters might've been removing any unwanted inhabitants before they began their move-in. In the above pictures, the stove/oven was not snug up against the refrigerator like it usually is. There is a propane supply to the house, and while I don't know for certain that it was for the oven, there's a good chance that it was. And maybe it had a pilot light...? If that is indeed what happened, I am so glad it waited until everyone was out. I don't know why it would take so long, though. I would assume the foggers would have been set last evening... the house was smoldering and damage was done by 6 this morning, but the firemen were still there. I don't know when the call came in but I assume it was early morning.

Life goes on, though. I don't know what the intended-renters will do. The nearby cows, however, plan to keep on grazing...

Chariots Afire

And other things. I'm in the process of trying to prep the garden. I say "trying to" because I keep running into obstacles, of course. The former pigpen needed clearing out; moving hay bales, pallets, cattle panels, fence posts, electric fencing, plastic sheeting, etc. I plan to drag the cultivator thru the area with the tractor, but can't adjust the cultivator without a 1" wrench and that I can't find. Hubby is working 6 days now, and if he had his work truck here... I also can't dig up the ground rod that was for the small fence charger; can't drag the cultivator till that thing is out... and hubby is working. He was going to do it for me this morning before he left, but we both were distracted by our neighbor's house burning to the ground. This is NOT the same neighbor that was complaining about my pig housing last weekend. However, if they thought the pig house messed up their view... That is, we are about 1000-1200 feet from the road. Our driveway passes thru 2 other properties between us and the road, and we own all the land to the west of their 1- and 2-acre plots. The Complaining Neighbors live nearest us, on 1 acre. The house closest to the road (original farmhouse for the original 20 acres) on 2 acres is what burned. And I do mean burned. Thankfully, the owners moved to California a few weeks ago, and I don't think their renters had moved in (much). There was a family in a 5th wheel that parked in their backyard, but their truck and trailer left last night at some point, perhaps to go camping. Their suburban, however, was parked a bit near the house, and I think that might need a paint job.

I moved the chicken house the other day. Those hens were happy to get to new ground and green grass. They scratched dirt-holes to bathe in, and I surrounded an area with 80 feet of electric poultry netting for them. I haven't plugged in the netting, but if the kids don't stop climbing in to find eggs, I may need to... 11 eggs yesterday, total. One was cracked in the nest, so Trudy got it. 4 today, but I expect more. They are late-to-lay.

I think our Rare Chick is an Araucana rooster. Quite pretty, he is. We still have him and a Red rooster, which I'm not too sure about. Generally the hens stay in the netted area and the roosters circle it trying to find a way in. I'm a little creeped out at the idea of eating fertilized chicken eggs, though there are some who advocate it, nutritionally.

We got our low-rpm juicer the other day, and are looking forward to using it. I tried to make some v-8 for Hubby's lunch, and, well, I'm glad he likes beets. Ick.

We've retired the use of our microwave, being convinced that it's not beneficial (if not downright hazardous), and got a great Oster Toaster Oven at Costco instead. I love it.

Yesterday I made Cauliflower-Potato Soup with half the cream cheese and butter, and it was incredible. I've long loved a recipe for potato soup but rarely make it due to the excessive butter required to make it. This one is fairly lean. In fact, 1/6 recipe (about 1 1/3 cups) has 354 calories (the way I made it). God bless my NutriGenie program. Hubby is doing very well on his diet, and I'm glad to find some tastey meals that he can enjoy.

I'm still trying to work out a way to move the pig to the trees to root out. Maybe take her for a walk on a leash? Leash her and make a pseudo-electric alleyway where I want her to go? I can't risk her rooting up the neighbor's lawn, but the entire purpose of having her (them) was to deal with those trees.

I bet she could do it in no time at all. If she wasn't busy running off or maybe dragging me with the leash. Maybe tie the leash to the truck hitch? Hmm... I really am crazy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pigging Out

Yesterday was a gorgeous 72 degrees or so; today it's 50, maybe (update: make that 37), and the wind is blowing every bucket and barrel toward the east fence. It's a blessing, really, because we were running out of clean dishes. There is still a lot of indoor work to be done, but I need a break.

We got 6 eggs yesterday, I think, so the gals are gearing up. The first chicken to lay (I assume) is up to life-sized eggs. And I boiled up the last of the Oakdell Omega 3 eggs so now everything on hand is home-grown! Yay!

On Sunday, we had finally prepared an enclosure for Trudy at the south end of the pasture so she could root up those trees that are the reason for her existence. I spent Saturday making a shade/wind shelter for her; a hoophouse style thing partly covered in aluminum sheet metal roofing. Ugly, but functional. After working a couple weeks getting fencing in order, we strung the dual-wires, moved the shelter down there, and hooked up the charger, then came back to the house to eat and rest before moving the pig. While here, I got a phone call from our neighbor. Those particular neighbors are lovely, sweet folks... But they have their manicured single-acre, and want the rest of us to follow suit, I guess. The conversation went something like this:

I answered the phone, "Hello?"
"Hi, this is {lovely sweet neighbor lady}."
"Oh, hi {lovely sweet neighbor lady}, how are you doing?"
"Well, not too good, today."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that."
"I just got home and I noticed you guys are putting a... metal shed? up here by the road?"
"Oh, no, it's not a metal shed. It's a shade shelter for our pig, whom we are moving up there to root out those terrible trees that won't die."

This explanation did not ease her fears about a "metal shed" being there. She continued to repeat, many times, how they are working hard to "clean up" the area, and how our doing this "wasn't tactful," and how would we feel if she came by our house (it's about 300 feet from their property) and put something like that. I explained that it was temporary, and we chose that area because of the trees. She pressed me for a time frame, and I said that Trudy digs holes very fast, and we will be putting grain down around the trees to hasten the process. She wanted a time frame. "Let's say a month, but hopefully less than 2 weeks" I told her. Her response? "Tell you what. I'll compromise with you. In a week we'll be able to tell what kind of mess it will be, you know, feed buckets and all that, and we'll reassess things then."



This is my property. It's zoned for agriculture. If I want to, I can line your backyard with pigpens! I did NOT say that. I did, point out that the land was zoned for ag, that we couldn't sell it or even divide it, and if it wasn't this pig, it would be something, sometime. She offered up her brother and his machinery to dig out the trees. Thanks. I've been here 4 years trying to rezone, sell, lease, the land, only to be shot down at every opportunity. Now that we've decided to steward it ourselves, people get cranky. And while I DO understand that my handiwork wasn't exactly picturesque, that really couldn't be a factor in my decisions here. I suppose they would be happier if we leased it to a farmer who would spray toxins of all kinds, and plant some GM crop.

As it turned out, they think we've done them a favor.

We loaded the troughs and such in the pickup and unplugged Trudy's enclosure fence. Let me quote here, a segment from Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living.
If your pigs are used to the slop bucket, so that they know you and
look forward to your visits... all you have to do if they do get out is run
get the bucket and they'll follow you anywhere - even right back into their
Another volume Trudy has yet to read, apparently. My bucket was even full of grain. Her favorite, or so I thought. It did take some patient coaxing to get her over that fence line. But once she was past it, she looked around and said, "Grain bucket? What grain bucket?" and started rooting up the front lawn. Hubby caught her by the tail, but that had limited success. He went to get a rope, and she kept rooting the lawn. At this point we were just trying to get her back where she started, forget the new pen 1/4 mile or so south! Then she made her way thru the kids' play area, then into the backyard, where she kicked up her heels and grunted and barked. She even found her way into the north pasture where she would come close to Hubby but not let him put that rope on her. Apparently last year's horse-apples are tastier than a bucket of grain. Go figure. At this point Hubby laid down his rope and went to retrieve his .22. I would've taken a picture of all of this, but I was busy on the phone with the mobile butcher to see what he charges for emergency house calls. Sadly, he was busy until Monday late morning, so cutting her up would be our responsibility, if hubby shot her. Hubby also had his filet knife in his back pocket; what a well-prepared guy. Our perimeter fencing isn't, really, and if Trudy decided to root up that lovely manicured acre between us and the road, she would've been chops for sure. As it happened, she did follow the grain bucket in spurts, and we were able to get her in the general vicinity of her pen. Hubby got the brilliant idea of stringing some poly-wire (not hooked up) to make an alley toward her entrance, and she followed it nicely into her pen. It's amazing how quickly one can go from loving this lifestyle to 'what the heck was I thinking???' We decided she needed new ground anyway, and that we would do it adjacent to her existing area so as to minimize the tourist-type habits she has. I retrieved the ugly shade shelter as a windstorm blew up, removing half of the sheet-metal roofing and sending at least one piece east, I think to Oz. Yesterday I finished her new pen, wired it into the big field-charger, and moved the cattle panels without her noticing, from the old pen to new. She rooted it up in 10 minutes, I think.

SO - I got a lovely message on the answering machine, "Thank you so so sooo much for moving that... thing. We really really appreciate it a lot." Now to let her enjoy the delusion of a covenantal neighborhood for a time.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The weather has been just gorgeous. Last Saturday we went into town for my father-in-law's birthday barbecue. The bank-sign across the street read 77 degrees; I think the official temp that day was 74. Nice. And we are expecting snow and/or rain on Wednesday. At least I've done and hung out most of the laundry at this point.

Four eggs today, so far. These adolescent hens just don't know when they're supposed to lay, I guess. Not that it's a problem; the girls love the perpetual egg-hunting. Aflac is laying again, daily, and Trudy enjoys the extra protein with breakfast. If we can find the eggs, that is. We could just stop looking for awhile, and have a very natural Resurrection Day egg-hunt. Off topic, but it's so annoying to celebrate that Day with symbols of a not-so-holy pagan tradition. So we don't, usually. At least no one's promoting ham at Passover.

Picked up a few pieces of loin (?) from the butcher today. I really like his place; they work from home and are tucked away down a dirt lane, surrounded by trees (we don't exactly have a lot of them around here), rocks (of course) and on a hillside. Lucky ducks, I think they're in Zone 6. Anyway, their ... meat... cutting... place is right by their home; like a converted garage almost. A large slab of what I learned to be Angus was hanging right inside the door. He's just right for us, I think. Very small; he guarantees that you get back the precise animal you sent, clean, efficient, and knowlegeable. I took the chops home and cooked them up. And I had a couple bites (don't tell the midwife). And the verdict is..... (drum roll)...... it's tasty. I took some pictures and will post them at a later time, I hope. (Update: Here they are:) I seasoned with RealSalt and Mrs.' Dash's Table Blend (don't ask me how we ended up paying $5 for a teeny bottle of salt-free seasoning only to add salt a la carte) and broiled them. I overdid it, but it still was good. I haven't bought pork in ages. Years. I mean, I get some bacon occasionally, for soups and whatnot, and enjoy lasagna with sausage, but as for buying or cooking an actual cut of pork... let's just say I'm not exactly experienced. So I'll take over-done for my first try. I removed the fat rind after broiling, and could detect a.... different... odor with it, but it didn't seem to be a problem for the meat. I instructed the butcher to mix the sausage leanly. I hope it will be ok. Naturally, Trudy is in heat today, I think. *sigh* Maybe it's for the better though. Perhaps we should have a "One-Pregnant-Female-at-a-Time-Allowed-on-the-Premises" rule.

The Federal Government returned to us a tiny portion of the money they took. 'Bout time, too. Now to prioritize a list of expenditures. Ropes to replace the bad ones on the kids' big swing, wooden fence posts to make the pasture fence actually work (who makes a quarter-mile of fencing with nothing but t-posts? And don't even ask what he did with the corners...), more cattle-panels to make lovely pea-arbors in the garden to shade lettuce and entertain kids, paint for the house (please!), maybe a few fruit trees and 800 feet of pipe to put water to them, a galvanized garbage can to try my hand at smoking bacon (that'll be a blog post, no doubt), and maybe more.

Now to go scrub the broiler-pan...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beware the Ides of March

Hopefully today will be a good day for us, but Zeke's butcher will be here within a couple hours, so maybe we should've named him Julius. Still no word from the breeder. I think I will send a letter and his registration papers at a later date.

Had my first appointment with the midwife yesterday. Went very well. Though she tells me I shouldn't eat pork. Figures. The day before the butcher arrives! I asked if I could eat my own pork, sans hormones, antibiotics, and the like, and she grudgingly allowed me once a week. With the comment that, "you know, eating pork is about as close as you can get to eating human flesh." I didn't bother to say that if I were really really hungry, and there was unused human flesh around, I would probably eat it. So hubby's naturopath wants him off beef (that freezer is mine now, I guess) and mine wants me off pork, so menu planning is going to get really crazy around here. On a better note, however, she did a little voodoo and stretching and fixed my chronically painful hip! That in itself is worth the whole prenatal/delivery charge. It was out of place, I guess. Which she "knew" intuitively before I explained the details. Hmmm... And no extra charge for the psychic diagnosis. She also thinks this one will be a boy! What an unusual o.b. visit, I must say.

Oh, I am supposed to avoid cow's milk, but when I asked about my favorite organic grass-fed kind, she said that was ok, as long as I didn't overdo it. And to keep from having more giant babies, I must avoid sugar. BUT - honey, sorghum, real maple syrup, and evaporated cane juice is a-ok, so this won't be so bad (as long as I don't get too fat). Now to find some chocolate chips made with butter and cane juice. Hmm...

I need to go read the Storey's Guide to Raising Chicks to my chickens. Why do none of my livestock know how they're supposed to be? Pigs don't respect electric fencing as quick as I thought they would, and whichever of the 26 hens is laying doesn't know she's to do it very early in the morning before I get up. It's not like I'm out there at 6:00 a.m. either. I'm usually to their place by 9:30 or so, but the little teeny egg isn't there until afternoon, perhaps. And they're all the same age; perhaps my little layer sits closer to the light in the evenings? She's been laying for a week, and no sign of any more than just the one.

Warming up again today!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Prenatal Greenery

Let me clarify: Though this greenery is housed in a plastic baggie, it is NOT the same prenatal greenery my mother admitted to using while pregnant with me. She never answered my questions as to the pain of labor, because, in her words, she "couldn't remember" (said with a smirk on her face). I have long known that I have a wonderful excuse for any insanity I may exhibit. I do not have to be responsible for any word or action I ever commit! What a wonderful pass-card! Thanks mom (too bad I haven't had a chance to use it)! Rest her soul, she passed away almost 7 years ago, about 2 1/2 weeks after my wedding.
This is a prenatal 'tea', prescribed by a midwife. It is a combination of nettle, comfrey, alfalfa, and raspberry leaf. It is supposed to keep cravings at bay and such. If I took it every day like I'm supposed to, perhaps I could tell you if it works. What I need is a tea that dampens those hormonal emotions. Perhaps that's why my mother preferred... never mind. I'd like to go on record here and now that I have never, EVER inhaled that other type of greenery, nor touched or seen it, to my knowledge. Call me sheltered (clueless, more likely). I should be more stoic, this go-round, but perception IS reality, and even when I know I'll look back on these times and shake my head at the intensity and acuteness of what I feel, it still seems pretty real when it happens. And perhaps pregnancy lends itself toward a deeper focus on family and support than is usual.

But since the family I want and need is not available to me, I shall continue, with renewed effort, to be the kind of family I lack. Both to my own children as they grow, and to others who will receive it. My prayer is that God will make the connections for us that will glorify Him in our lives and in others'.

It's supposed to be near 70 today!

Friday, March 09, 2007


A bit. In spurts. March came in with winds and swirling snow. It melted finally this week. February and March are consistently the hardest months for me. There are no festive holidays to look forward to and bake for. No seasonal songs to warm the heart. The wood pellets have run out and none are for sale anywhere. Mud is tracked in the house at a constant rate. I have my garden plans to keep me busy, though, and soon I will begin to start some seeds (and seeds do I have...). We have no crocuses or forsythia, no grape hyacinth or other spring-ey bulbs popping out. But I discovered that the rhubarb is trying to peek up! I think I recall it making it's appearance as early as January, but that was at our other house, and it faced northwest, not straight north. This rhubarb is older than me. At our old house, the neighbor (who has lived there since the early 60's) said that the rhubarb had been there since before he moved in. The previous residents had done their best to dig, poison, burn it, but it prevailed. Then it was vacant for a year, and suffered drought, and still it prevailed. I took care of it, and when I moved, I dug up a chunk or two to bring with me. I don't know what 'breed' of rhubarb it is, but I'm happy it is so hardy. I enjoy rhubarb, but will have to see how it does with honey, as we're trying to get rid of the sugar stuff.

In other news, yesterday in the henhouse I made a most delightful discovery. I found an egg! Now, the poor girls hadn't had their nest boxes installed, and the little thing was just being tossed around on the straw floor. The kids were very excited and have been looking for more. I red-necked the nest box installation, and used a rope and ratchet strap to put it where it needs to be. I put hay in them but as of this morning, it didn't look like they'd been used. Hopefully the next time a hen gets the urge, she'll figure out it's a good place to go.

The egg, however, isn't very big. It's pretty cute, though. You can see it next to the crayon for reference, and in the carton it's with some of the Omega-3 brown eggs I get at costco.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Today I made cheese. Cheese curds, I suppose. It's the second time I've gone to a local milk-processing center to learn and make the curds. They only make them about once a month, and I have been blessed to acquire the whey from their curd-making to feed my pigs. They finally figured I could be coerced into actually manufacturing said whey (and the cheese curds as a byproduct?). I'm glad to report that they came out perfectly; I wish I'd had my camera. It just happened to work out that Gi-gi was in town, and delayed her departure long enough to allow me to go and work. There were no teeth loose enough in the house to be threatened by her presence, so I went without worry.

The differences between Gi-gi and a typical babysitter are wide, and varied. A babysitter costs money. Gi-gi gives much of what she has away, as she "has everything she needs anyway." A babysitter probably dirties dishes and such (I say probably because I haven't had one in years) and Gi-gi is a white tornado, doing laundry, changing sheets, washing dishes, vacuuming floors. That she has macular degeneration and can't really see if something is dirty or not is a moot point (although, her intuition leads her accurately to the conclusion that probably everything needs cleaned around here). It really puts me in my place to have my 80-year-old, half-blind grandmother running circles around me and getting more done in a day with my house and kids than I do. But anyways; as long as I keep the kids in their strait jackets, the house should stay decent for 10 minutes.

We have scheduled the butcher for Zeke. We are just not certain what the best route is. The breeder keeps saying they're just waiting for a bit more info from ???, but they have not gotten back to us, and I think it's been close to a month now. I'm not 100% certain that Zeke is sterile, but I AM certain that I can't afford to caretake a boar that couldn't be hired out for breeding, and I know he wouldn't measure up in that department. I could keep waiting and see if he manages to impregnate Trudy, but then I'm looking at a higher probability of boar-taint (which would render the entire investment worthless). We figure it must be best to cut our losses here, before we get in any deeper. Hopefully Trudy can root up the little trees on her own, once we get her out there.

In other news: We are expecting a new member of the family come September. We are very happy. And while I wasn't exactly planning to post this news here, I have a need to vent a bit, so I shall. Please forgive me (and skip this part if you want - it's long and full of controversial philosophy). Why do you suppose it is that such news is interpreted as an invitation to advise about family-planning issues? To be fair, probably 90% of friends and family have expressed joy about this. But it's that other 10% that is getting to me. It could've been my mistake of using the term "surprise", which somehow sounds like "accident" to some. Let me clarify; we have no accidents. No one slipped on a bar of soap. We are cognizant of (and participatory in) the human side of creating new life. It was no accident. I espouse the belief that in a God-honoring marriage certain activities take place. And whether you are using 10 methods to decrease your chances of creating life or zero methods, there IS a chance. Part of holy matrimony, I believe, is embracing that chance, however big or small. So while we may be surprised, we are not shocked, or in awe, or astonished. And we certainly do not have 'accidents' in this department. Secondly, where did this...attitude... come from? That more than one or two children is irresponsible, or burdensome, or to be avoided? I suppose if I planned to keep each of my children dressed in new clothes, attending private school, enrolled in piano and violin and ballet and soccer and swimming and etc etc etc, it could get burdensome. But those are not burdens placed upon a parent because they had children. Those are burdens placed by the parents' own priorities and values. Don't get me wrong; I fully acknowledge the huge responsibility of raising and shaping a soul on this earth, but it is a responsibility that should be undertaken with deep gratitude and humility. Not resignation. As to 3+ children being 'irresponsible', there could be a case made for that. I would say having children you cannot care for, materially or otherwise (state-funded care, absentee fathers, absentee mothers) could be considered irresponsible. Some would argue that more humans = more problems for the earth. People use resources, use energy, eat food, drive cars, live in houses. Very true. But I think it comes down to a person's values, again. I try to base my values in the Bible, which I believe to be the Word of God. One of God's first instructions was for his ultimate creation (man) to tend the Garden. We must caretake the creation. Dominion does not mean license to abuse, but license to use and replenish. To make productive. Harvest the garden and fertilize it; ready the soil for more increase. Another early instruction was 'be fruitful and multiply'. We could say that commandment was fulfilled at x billion number of people. But nowhere in scripture does it ever refer to children or offspring as burdens. In fact, children are a blessing, a heritage from God. When God was pleased and pouring out his blessings, the people always "increased". I don't think they were just putting on weight. Currently, many parts of the world are dealing with decreasing birth rates and an aging population. Russia has poisoned it's land to such an extent that there is much sterility among it's peoples. China has long-since enforced it's one-child plan, Africa is dying under AIDS, Europe is sidelining the family ideal in favor of pursuit of self, and if we discount immigration, even America would be shrinking. I believe the only part of the world currently expanding is the Middle East. That considered, should we not be thanking those families, who make a priority of raising good humans for the glory of God? There are plenty of people who choose to have many children and raise them as an afterthought. Unknown dads, fractured families, drugs, abuse, etc. If the rest of us sit back and say, "wow, we don't want to bring children into a world full of that", who will we count on to better the world for that generation?

You can try to affect the future by changing public policy, or buying carbon-offsets, or buying land to keep it away from developers. However, if we do right, and God gives us grace, we will have at least three people in that future, to caretake this Garden and show others how to do the same.