Friday, April 29, 2011

say I'm the only bee in your bonnet

At the behest of Magic Brian I am chronicling the bee-related events of our Commune of Weirdos. Perhaps this is a way in which I can provide value to the group? 'Cause I'm sick of feeling like a deadbeat.

Our beehives are finally completed! The model we're using is called a top bar hive. In the extremely minimal study I've done on beekeeping it seems that, as with cheesemaking, all the fancy, task-specific equipment and processes are vanities of affluence. You can make cheese on an open fire and strain it through an old sweater into a coffee can, and you can use any old scraps of stuff to make a beehive. As long as they have somewhere to make their comb and fill it with their barf, they're cool. In a top bar hive there are bars set across the top of the trough-looking thing that is the hive. The bees build their combs hanging down from the bars and fill them with babies and honey. Or something. You can't use a centrifuge to extract the honey, and you don't get as much honey from it, but top bar hives are easy and cheap to build (for some, namely, not me or John). Plus it's an ancient method, and everybody knows the ancient ways are best. Like leeching and stoning!I joke. I am very excited about this, because it's supposedly much better for the bees, and what with all the CCD and pesticide death, I think they could use a break, don't you?
We're putting the bees in tonight, or tomorrow morning if tonight is too cold. Evidently bees come by the pound--I'm getting three pounds--and it makes me laugh to think of someone getting one of those old-timey scoops and dipping it into a big bin of bees, and filling a feed sack or something. That would be funny.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

kill crush destroy

I am despondent, inconsolable and racked with sorrow.

Last night was the planning and zoning meeting re: BIODIESEL RUINS OUR TOWN, and they voted in favor of changing the zoning to allow it.

John has advised me against full candor at this time, since we have to live here, so I will merely say that we cannot let this happen. We cannot allow our community to be ruined.

For any of my neighbors who want to be involved, the meeting at which the city council will hear public comment and make a decision on this is on May 11th at 7:00.

May 11th. 7:00. Please help us.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I would hate my disappointment to show

This morning was the first time since I started milking Hazel that our children had to drink the milk plain--they chose to drink a cup of it, rather than eat it on their cereal, which would have masked the dreaded (and very minimal) goat taste, so I am confused. Grant was wonderful and drank it down without fanfare. Emmett balked a little, but eventually drank all of his. Ike got teary-eyed and kept dry-heaving after drinking a mouthful of it, and what little he drank was only because I threatened him with physical harm--well, more embarrassment than harm, because I said I was going to pour it all over him. I attempted to appeal to their humanity by discussing with them the living conditions in a commercial dairy, and they sympathized, but not enough to change their behavior. I said that this is the only milk we will be drinking until winter, so they'd better get used to it. I told them that they could either drink it or stay home from their cousin Olivia's birthday party (where there will be professional face-painting and general awesomeness), and they know from past experience that I am not screwing around with this and if I make a threat I WILL DO IT, and Ike was willing to accept that as well. But the prospect of it being poured down his throat and all over his head was enough to get him to take a few drama-queeny swallows. Willa ate it on her cereal, but poured what was left in the bowl down the drain.

What a bunch of babies.

To be fair, the milk will taste better once I get some fresh bedding in the hutch, but it is nothing like the goat milk you get from the store. It just tastes slightly not-cowy, is all. Ridiculous. Unfortunately, I have four gallons of cow milk waiting for me at the hippie food store that are going to need to be used pronto. Yogurt and cheese, I guess. I wish I had an aging cave.

Today I'm going to finish assembling our beehive, and I think the bees are coming on Saturday.

We have decided to back off on dogs for a while, until we find one that won't run away if it's off leash. The dogs most suited for us, in exercise demands, non-roaminess, and compatibility with children and other animals, are, like, Mastiffs and Great Danes and Swissys. Neat. I'll just buy a renovated school bus to haul around my giant, human-sized dog. I love those dogs, and I have always wanted a Greater Swiss (by "always" I mean "since I first saw the Mortimers' enormous horse of a dog"), but they are muy caro, and will not fit in our car.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

and though he'll never come back she's dressed in black

Some thoughts I want to explore:

It's a pity I didn't live during Jane Austen's time, because the fashions are uniquely suited to flat-chested, pear-shaped girls like me. But boy, wouldn't it suck to be anything but landed gentry in those days?

Reflecting on the animal holes I have dug reminds me that whenever I'm watching, say, a western, and somebody dies, I know they're fudging on the gravedigging scene. Because even if they are strapping youths doing the digging, they're going to be there for half a day AT LEAST, and that's if more than one person is digging. Also I need to choose a different place to bury our animals, because the place we've been putting them is full of potato-sized rocks.

And I got a gallon of milk from Hazel in less than twelve hours. She is the coolest goat we have ever owned.

Friday, April 22, 2011

I'll often stop and think about them

Let me tell you about Aggie.

Two months ago I saw her on the Humane Society's website and fell in love. It took us about three minutes to know she was the right dog for us. She was not perfect. She bit us if we grabbed her feet without warning, she growled at first when we tried to get her out from under the bed, and she had a few accidents in the house. But she was quiet, and sweet, and calm. Plus she loved me the most, which is very gratifying, in a selfish way. I worked with her every day and she was doing really well, calming down about her feet, sitting and lying down on command, and coming when she was called. She loved cheese as her treat. She followed me everywhere, but she was starting to open up to the rest of the family too, and curled up behind the chair in the parlor while we had story time.

The Humane Society thinks from the information they have on her that she was a puppy mill mom, which is why she was so poorly socialized. That is a discussion for another day, but it does make me hope that the last four months of her life (two with her foster mom, two with us) helped to make up somewhat for the terrible abuse she had likely suffered.

Yesterday the kids got home from school, and she wanted to go outside with Emmett when he went out to do his chores. She's been great about staying on our property, with just a few excursions over to the neighbors'. She's never gone across the road until yesterday. But when she went out with Emmett she ran off and didn't come back in with him. I asked the kids to go call her, but she didn't come back, which was weird. We went out the front door and our neighbor across the street was on her way over and said that a woman driving by had just hit Aggie. What's sad is is that she was probably running down the sidewalk, and when the kids went out the back door and called her she turned to come home and ran right into the path of the car. She was dead by the time I got to her.

We lifted her into our wheelbarrow and took her home. We put her on the patio to keep her from getting rained on. There is a hole in the bottom of the wheelbarrow and her blood dripped onto the patio.

This morning I dug a hole for her. I have dug so many dead animal holes. We all said nice things about her, and decided to bury her collar and tags with her so she looked like a pet, instead of some wandering stray.

It's sad and upsetting, and I feel guilty about how she died, but I do think that the time she spent with us was happy. There was such a difference in her, even in the short time we had her. She was relaxed and happy, and loved to play outside with us. The most surprising thing about it was how much Emmett loved her. He was the one who was most opposed to having a dog--he was vehement about it. But he loved Aggie, and always wanted her to sit on his lap and lick his face. Even John felt like if there was a dog to have, she was it. Ugh, it's just frustrating. But we took care of her, we loved her, and we did our best. You know, other than the part where we got her killed.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Aggie just got killed by a car and it's my fault.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

have you heard the word is love?

My mom is cleaning out the cowshed (so called because it's in the pasture, not because it had cows in it) and brought me over a big stack of my junk. There were a bunch of porcelain dolls that she just took to the DI for me, and some poor kook is going to show up there and feel like they hit the jackpot. One of them was a gift from a bizarre and creepy boyfriend I had when I was a junior in high school, and the whole thing is made of porcelain, even the body, with movable arms and legs. I think his mom made it.

Anyway, as I was saying, I have a pile of papers from when I was in elementary school, and a box of letters from one of the few guys I dated who was an actual decent human being. His penmanship was incredible. It looked like a font. When he would make a mistake he'd cut out a tiny piece of paper and glue it over the mistake, because he often wrote letters on yellow legal paper and didn't have any correction fluid that color. He was (and I assume still is) a terrific guy, but to put it bluntly, we would not have been equally yoked. He was funny and smart and all that, but I think there would have been problems due to my, ah, let's call it "artistic temperament and lackadaisical approach to cleanliness." Plus he liked running way more than I do. His dad used to eat ice cream floats of mint chocolate chip and Pepsi Free. Weird.

In the box of letters are some pictures of him, and I was going to throw them away with the letters, but do you think his mom might want them? My mom says toss them, but John says, "NO! Give them to his mom! Of course she wants them!" He is very sentimental. He's what keeps me from becoming a sociopath. Or is it psychopath? Hard to say.

In the stack of elementary school papers is a penmanship exercise from when I was in probably first grade, and it's the lyrics to "The Word" from Rubber Soul. See how hardcore a Beatles fan I am? I think I'll frame it. There is also my report card from kindergarten, and areas in which I got Satisfactory Minus are "accepts responsibility," "completes tasks accurately and promptly (Mrs. Niederhauser says "is easily distracted")," and "uses time effectively." I guess the leopard doesn't change its spots? But there were good things on it, too, like "well coordinated." Also I was good in music and art and "shows confidence," and I recognized basic colors and geometrical shapes.

My kids had a good time looking through my stuff, and exclaimed, "Mom, you were always smart!" Aren't they wonderful children?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

see how tender is my song

Let me describe for you the truck I just passed. Big, red, lifted Dodge. Vinyl skinhead insignia all over the hood. On the rear window more skinhead insignia, angel and devil naked mudflap girls, and a misogynistic saying that referred to "stupid girls."

Isn't the world a classy place?

I wonder if his girlfriend did the vinyl for him on her Cricut?

Monday, April 18, 2011

sheep may safely graze

Stupid rain. It rains so much that I'm not even very thankful for it, and then when I really want some, say in July, it won't be anywhere to be found. That's a pretty selfish way to behave, rain.

I think vanilla pudding is great. I don't know how the instant mix ever got any traction, because it's not even the same thing. And it's not like Totino's pizzas, which are not pizza but are still good. I used to eat Totino's pizzas like crackers. Now I have to be all guarded about what I eat or kaboom. It's a real problem.

We disbudded Julia and Long Tall Sally tonight. I always have a panic attack about it, and feel like the six to eight seconds it takes to get a good copper ring around the horn are more like six to eight days, and I always think the copper ring is dark enough and I've done a good job, but usually I don't and they end up with scurs. But tonight I think I really did do a good job. I had a breakthrough last year when I disbudded my friend Barbie's goats (we're friends, Barbie, right?), and I can finally get kind of zen about the whole thing, and trust John to hold the baby's head still enough that nothing bad happens, like burning and death. You have to allow yourself to be vulnerable, and really believe in the other person, you know? You just have to take a chance.

You should see our former chicken pen/current milking shed. It is the coolest. So (comparatively) clean, so organized, with a light and a stool . . . I can't wait. I'm nerdy about milking, and the funny thing is that if I had been born fifty or eighty years ago and this kind of nonsense were required and expected of me, I would pitch a fit like you would not believe. Sure, I believe there's honor in hard labor and all that jazz, but boy, do I hate people thinking they're the boss of me. I don't know how I would ever reenter the traditional workforce, which is why I think I'll look into being a mercenary. Say what you want, at least you're the master of your own schedule. And I bet I could have a bunch of dogs.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

a short play about apples

John: "Boy, look at these apples."
Me: "They're fine. I ate one yesterday."
John: "Why would they have aged like that?"
Me: "Because they're organic and they don't have any preservatives on them."
John: "Are they frozen?"
Me: "No, they're organic, and they don't have any preservatives on them."
John: "So they're frozen."


(turns out they are frozen, after all)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

then we'll have some more fried ham

I used to look at people who said, "I don't have time to read magazines" and think, "Look, if you think I'm lazy just say so." I mean, who doesn't have time to read magazines? Do they expect me to believe that they're so engaged in Higher Pursuits or whatever that they literally do not have a half hour to sit down with a smut rag or two? Bull.

But then yesterday I once again glanced wistfully at my now month-old issue of Lucky and thought, "If only." It's not that I don't have time, it's just that for possibly the first time in my adult life I am sort of working on things according to their priority--within reason, obviously. I did read David Sedaris's new book, am still slogging through The Emperor of All Maladies, and have begun Angle of Repose, but I've mainly been doing much-needed maintenance on my house and yard. There hasn't been a time when I've felt like I could sit down and find out what new impractical pieces are missing from my spring/summer wardrobe. It is a weird feeling, this tiny hint of responsibility.

I won't let it go to my head, though, because yesterday afternoon Willa was supposed to go to the intermediate school to help one of my cute young women in her Child Development class, and I totally spaced it, just happily painting my chicken coop with teak oil out on the driveway. She called me last night to say that she had Willa's name tag, and I was utterly mortified. She was gracious and forgiving, but I could tell she was disappointed, and I feel terrible. It's inexcusable of me to have flaked out on her like this. I hope brownies will help.

My goal for today is to perform an exorcism on the old chicken coop to get it ready for milking. It is a health hazard. But first I have to go extract Willa from next door. I told her it was too early to go play, but sometimes she does not behave honorably.

Monday, April 11, 2011

when the sun shines we'll shine together

Not too long ago I was coerced into using a kitchen tool called a pineapple corer/slicer or slicer/corer or some fool thing. Talk about a ridiculous and worthless invention. It's the best way I've seen so far to ruin a perfectly good pineapple, as it doesn't so much slice as smash the pineapple and get juice all over creation, and the plastic is so weak that as you push down to guide it through the pineapple it goes all skittywompus and takes out a big cylinder of good pineapple, leaving the core intact.

I'm still upset about it.

Tonight we're picking up our new chicken coop from a guy in American Fork who builds and sells them for a very reasonable price. Farming would be much cheaper if we didn't have to pay everybody else to do our work for us. But we're those gross people who have all kinds of strong opinions about How It Should Be Done, derived almost exclusively from books and the internet, and little to no practical experience. Is there anyone more annoying?

Regarding the biodiesel plant: Planning and Zoning was unable to vote at the last meeting, and they had to talk to a land use attorney, so they're meeting again on April 27th to give it the yes or no vote (hopefully no). But that's only a recommendation, and when the city council meets on May 11th they can still do whatever they like, and unfortunately the city council all seems to think it's just a really splendid idea to have the main thoroughfare into our city be an industrial park. And not just any industrial park, but one that permeates the air for a mile and a half in every direction with the stench of rancid oil. Can you blame, them, really? What a classy joint we'll be! Welcome to our fair city, visitors! We call it Stinktown.


Friday, April 8, 2011

half of what I say is meaningless

I am just so filled with happiness that I can't contain myself.

The goat babies are thriving and getting cuter all the time, and they're black, which I have always wanted! Finola was a terrific mother, but her percentage of successful deliveries was lacking. She was always throwing dead kids, and it always seemed to be the black ones that didn't make it. Oh, I remember that morning when my uncle Kenny and I both had our hands up there trying to figure out what was going on, and we still didn't find the baby, and then when she finally delivered it it was all yucky and starting to decay. Good times.

Hazel is a great mom--not as oppressively nurturing as Finola, but not at all inattentive. For example, she doesn't lick her babies' bottoms until they're raw and sore. She has warmed right up to me as I've been spending part of every day out there. Maybe she has forgiven me for buying her from Kathy. She seems like Finola 2.0, the version without severe emotional and reproductive problems. Her udder is beautiful, soft and pliable, and feels like one of those Gertie balls you get from frou frou toy stores. I am interested to find out what her milk tastes like when she's not being housed next to the buck.

Last night we had our Bee Summit 2011, and we'll be building the hives on Saturday. Once again I need to tell you how fortunate I am to live by all these wonderful kookoopantses. John and I bring very little to the table other than gameness, but I did make them banana ice cream and hot fudge sauce, so perhaps that will help make up for our deficiencies.

I bought a chicken coop this morning, sort of. I've got to get those chickens out of our shed so I can use it as a milking parlor. They are entirely too selfish and messy.

I think we've got the babies named, but I'm waiting to see if I have to put Kathy's herd name before mine, in which case I won't have room for the names I want. We're trying for Lovely Rita (Ree-Tuh, not Reeduh), Long Tall Sally, and Julia.

Aggie can go outside and poop by herself now, and that is a HUGE RELIEF for both of us. I think she feels a little bit violated when we're standing on the other end of the leash, and it gives her performance anxiety.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

to all the dank I've loved before

Our basement is a pit, pure and simple. It's so bad that even I, who blithely welcome visitors with the statement, "Hi, sorry about our house," am embarrassed about it. It is a malformed warren of dank, musty rooms with a congested viper's nest of pipes and ductwork running over the ceiling. The walls are a leprous assortment of wallpaper and flaking plaster peeling off in layers. It smells like mold and sweaty boys and dog.

It makes me reflect on Basements I Have Known.

When I was in college our choir went on "tour" to southern Utah, and my friend Margaret and I had to stay in the basement bedroom of a host family we only half-jokingly called the Klopeks. The bed was lumpy and rickety, the headboard was tufted vinyl caked in dust, with pieces of gum stuck here and there in the hollows the buttons made. Around the perimeter of the room were stacks of magazines, newspapers, small appliances, and general clutter (they were hoarders!). Next door to our room was the bedroom of their groaning behemoth of a son; hairy, greasy, clad in tight red shorts and a blue tank top, leering at us and following us around the house--thundering, actually, with his yawning bulk spilling out of what clothing he did have on. Margaret and I were terrified and more than a little thankful we had the safety in numbers of being in the same room. He didn't end up murdering us after all.

My room when I was growing up was in the basement, and it was decent. My mom made the best of a bad business. Once she painted a Care Bear mural on my wall. You can get away with that kind of thing in a basement. I liked my basement well enough that the basement in this house made me feel pleasantly reminiscent.

But the thing I wanted to say is this: because our basement is a pit, I don't feel bad about the boys tearing off strips of wallpaper, or drawing on the walls, because it's all going to have to be dealt with someday, and we'll just fight about one less thing until then. So they have pictures taped to and drawn on and phrases written on their walls. And next to Grant's bed, right next to his head, he has written,

"This part of the wall is wrong. It grows darker and darker."

And I am thoroughly creeped out. I don't know what his motivation was for writing it, and I'm afraid to ask.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

though I spend my days in conversation

I'm having the devil's own time trying to name our babies, all of which are still living, yay! I was considering some jewel-y names like Pearl, Beryl and Opal, which are nice and old-ladyish, but are they kind of smurfy? Goat people are NOTORIOUS for using just the stupidest names, and I'm afraid I'm being assimilated. Abhor-->pity-->embrace, that sort of thing.

I'm open to suggestions.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

have you tried the hot pocket hot pocket?

John feeding the bambina while wearing a promotional t-shirt for a tractor dealership. Life's a funny thing, isn't it?

Willa is raggedy but proud. She was a good helper and hung on to the baby keeping her warm while I was busy dipping navels.

This is the one who looks like Finola.

The squatty one is in the back, and in the foreground is our little project, standing on her own. Look at her legs! She's gorgeous.

Proud mama. She likes dates and raisins.

gee, I think you're swell

We have baby goats, which I wasn't expecting for another two weeks. It's not good that I wasn't out there until they were dry. Two of them are be-bopping around like they're supposed to, but the third is a little sketchy. We almost lost her yesterday, but crisis was averted thanks to Magic Wendy and her cayenne tincture. We'll have to keep a close eye on her, but yesterday afternoon she was able to drink from a bottle, and last night she even nursed on her own, and can sort of stand up now. She also pooped on my glove, which is gross, but it does mean that something's moving through there. I just got in from checking them, and she seems to be a little bit better, though she still needs help finding the teat. Baby goats are idiots, and there is nothing more frustrating than trying to help them eat. It's probably microhusbanding, but I like to make sure I see each baby eating on its own, and sometimes they just need a little assistance figuring out where the spigot is. They squirm around and fight you while you're trying to guide them in the right direction, then they yell about how hungry they are, often while the teat is in their mouth.

I hope they all live--three girls is extraordinary luck. Now we get to name them, which you know is my favorite part.

Last night we disbudded the magic neighbors' goats--two bucklings, too bad for them--and one of them is unbelievably gorgeous. His ears are brown with black edging, he has a white splash down the side--I'll just have to take a picture so you'll believe me. Our little collective may want to keep him intact, so we have two completely unrelated lines running in our herds.

Also it looks like we'll be getting bees this spring. The collective wants to do a different style of hive that doesn't throw off as much honey, but it's plenty for a family, and is much less stressful for the bees. And since bees in general are not really in a great emotional place right now, that's fine with me.

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but I feel incredibly lucky and blessed that we moved here, to a place that has a bunch of other hippies who want to garden and raise goats and chickens and bees and pigs (someday!), and be responsible and respectful about it. We are a bunch of weird losers, and we glory and revel in it. You watch, we're going to be mind-melding next.

I'll get some pictures of the babies once it's light and you can be jealous of our agrarian utopia.

Monday, April 4, 2011

I just want this horse to have a good home or be food

I made the lemon yogurt I wanted, and it's pretty tasty, which may be due to the lemon pie filling at the bottom of the cup. Who can say?

I took Aggie for a potty break in John's parents' neighborhood on Saturday night, and while I was running home through the sleet I noticed the poop bag in my hand was suddenly much lighter, so I had to retrace my steps down the street in the pitch black until I found the clump of poop that had gone flying out of the bag. Then I scraped it off the road.

When we were leaving for Logan on Saturday we saw a white poodle relieving himself in our front yard, and another dog wandering down the sidewalk wearing a red diaper.

Last night we finished All Creatures Great and Small with Grant and Emmett. I think we'll do The Giver next.

There is a silly article about laundry in this month's Better Homes and Gardens that purports to be showing you time-saving tips, but is really just about adding even more items to your to-do list, such as decanting your laundry soap from those hideous cardboard boxes into big glass jars, and putting your dryer sheets into a ceramic tray where they can be pretty and scent the air at the same time! Marvelous. I'll just keep my soap and dryer sheets in their stupid boxes in the cabinet with all of the other proles, thanks.

Friday, April 1, 2011

I want your everything as long as it's free

So, my bathroom is finally completeish. I thought maybe I would die of old age before it was done, and there are still a few things to take care of, like caulking the tub to the base and putting a threshold at the door and putting a wall bracket on the shower riser, but these are piddly and of little concern. The bathroom is functional, and even if I say it myself, it looks pretty cool. The floor especially, which was my idea because I am the mayor of this. Here are some pictures.
Here's our new faucet. I was able to keep my sink, which was important to me, since it brings that elementary-school je ne sais quoi that is so desired in the small bathrooms of today.
And the tub no longer looks like it came from a tenement. It was no small feat to find a faucet for it, either.
So it only took four months to make a few superficial changes to our bathroom! Ugh, I can't believe it took that long. We are doofuses. We could not have done it without our long-suffering and talented neighbors. We are forever in their debt.

My session with Aggie's foster mom/dog behaviorist went really well, and I feel positively charged with alpha energy. Watch out, dominant dogs! I am the boss of you!