Friday, August 27, 2010

Yuppies, school, and fall

Cory smacked me on the forehead with the heel of his hand the other night and said loudly, "Yuppy out!" I was telling him how a little piece of me sometimes still wants to do things associated with yuppiness, so he felt an immediate exorcism was in order to cast out any remaining yuppy. I'm glad I can count on him when I have those moments.

The air is finally starting to cool off and it feels wonderful to be outside. We've been shifting gears for the start of the school year. It's another year of choosing hard things so that good fruit comes later. I've been improvising with materials I have on hand. Our world isn't rocked when school time comes, we just pick up our books and start. So many people tell me they could never homeschool because it must be so hard; but I am always amazed at what people and their kids have to deal with who don't homeschool. Surely, I've got it easier. The kids memorized John 1:1 and 2 last week. We had a wonderful little discussion about the trinity and how big God's brain is compared to ours since it's hard for us to understand how "the Word was with God and the Word was God." They've been outside more since it is finally cooling off some- it's baseball and swinging and reading- just they way a kid's day should be.

The other night Cory came home exhausted, and helped make the gravy seasoned with basil and sage from the garden. We sat down and ate dinner while the kids told him about their science experiment that day; and he told them how good the green beans they picked were. Sam went on and on saying, "Now I know why you wanted a garden Mom! You can just go pick your food and it's free! This gravy is so good, I bet it's because of the stuff in it from the garden! Dad showed me a carrot when we were outside. I bet you can't wait to make those carrots for dinner, Mom!" I was encouraged that they are growing an appreciation for good food and independence.

We recently looked at our project list for the fall:

Make a hoop house hayshed
Weatherproof the house for winter
Clear several new areas for fields
Get plumbing issues straight
Address driveway problems
Clean out the garage
identify and install alternative heating

I think our collective eyes rolled back in our collective heads at that point. One day at a time. One day at a time. We'll see you back here when we can grab a minute; in the meantime enjoy this weather and these days.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Sometimes I happen to notice that I get angry easily... at people.... at the whole culture. As I was thinking about this today when pondering another completely disproportional response I had to a particular situation, I noticed that the word 'agriculture' is almost a smooshing together of the words describing my disposition. When I have to deal with people in any type of stressful situation, I cannot wait to retreat back to my patch of dirt. Having to interact with (most) people tires me emotionally. The exception is when the person isn't trying to get something from me, or persuade me, or sell me something, or assume something about me, or manipulate me, or judge me. As you may guess, my friend list is short; despite what Facebook says... and I am okay with that.

Mom and Dad had some sort of weird gene that passed to a lot of us. I can't name the gene, but if I had to I would call it the "extreme-need-to-make-other-people-comfortable-that-often-backfires(except with the most virtuous of people) because- they-get-so-comfortable-they-feel-empowered-to-do-things (like those described in the preceding paragraph)-that-cause-a-major-anger-reaction-after-they-are-no-longer- present" gene. If it weren't for observing it in some of my siblings, I would think I was the only one with this problem on the planet. That's because no one with this problem ever lets anyone see the anger...that would defy the first part about making them feel comfortable, despite what they do to you.

I don't really have this problem as much with people I actually love. Somehow I seem to extend them more grace, to give them a little more slack, the benefit of the doubt. It actually seems the people I love don't do these things- at least nowhere near as much... maybe I am just good at picking awesome people to love. Other people...I am still learning... trying to figure out how to love them. I guess this comes naturally for some really wonderful Christians out there... but I am still clinging to the verse that covers step one in the love-them process: "Be angry, but do not sin," which might as well come out and say, "be angry, but don't punch them in the face."

How does one go from step one to step two and finally all the way to truly loving people who do such obnoxiously offensive things? I don't know. Keep trying I guess. Recently I got a little bit of an idea from one of my sisters. She shared an example of how many times there are reasons behind why people act a certain way; and if we knew their hurts we would give them way more grace then they would even know what to do with for the way they are acting now. It would be helpful to know their stories up front, wouldn't it? But they won't tell us unless we love them first. Maybe they never tell us. But I think I am starting to see that no one starts out a jerk and no one has to end up one. If we only love people who aren't jerks, love will never be there to penetrate the hearts of the jerks so they stop being jerks. The bible says, "While we were yet (jerks) sinners, Christ died for us." Loving is the only commandment in the New Testament. God knew what we'd be dealing with out here. So it has to be done. Loving jerks, that is.

If you find yourself angry with the culture while you are doing this, though... may I suggest a patch of dirt? While you are out there tending to the trees or bushes or gardens or chickens you can work out all that anger so that when you do have to go back in (to the culture)-- you can do what you need to do. I think this is a wonderful, wonderful secret that has been held by farmers for ages. It's probably why just the word 'farmer' still makes people feel good... like something is right with the world. That's because all this time those men and women I imagine have taken their brothers' offenses (and their own anger about them) and cast them to the sky or ground or water--- anywhere they were working that day---- and then came back, loved them, invited them onto their porch, and gave them a glass of tea. There may be other ways to do this, but I don't know any other way that works for me.

(Special thanks to all the people who have done this for me).

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bigger, Faster, Shiny

Last week I wrote a blog about how we got this house; and about God showing me how my design matches up with this house after all if we just work together to make some changes and line a few things up. I was sure and I believed it. Down to the inch.

Then my faith faltered a bit... over the weekend something came along that was shiny. You know how something shiny catches your eye and distracts you? Well I don't count myself as the type who gets distracted by shiny things anymore. As a matter of fact, much of the peace and happiness I've enjoyed over the recent few years could be linked to disregarding shiny things; or simply put, saying no: no to an activity, no to a commitment, no to an opportunity (oh so many) and no to even some relationships. I was starting to think I was invincible to shiny distractions, but I'm not. A really big shiny one came along.

It caught my attention because I thought maybe we could fast forward a bit and mostly because I thought we could have more time together as a family. I miss my husband a lot. I am grateful for his job, but he works really long hours.

We were informally offered a partnership in the very type of food we are starting to do for ourselves (grassfed beef, etc.) with a farmer who has a massively large piece of property. All of the sudden I decided maybe all the design stuff was something I misheard, because goodness, how shiny this was. I spent the entire week doing my thing that I do... market analysis, profitability margins, feasibility studies, structure options, cashflow and capital considerations etc. etc. (ad nauseum). That's sort of what I do even when I don't want to-- business modeling in my head. Some people lay awake at night and think about the show they just watched on TV. I lay awake and run a feasibility analysis for my latest idea. It's true. [side note: just so you aren't confused, I have two core businesses: my art business and my idea business. The idea business will launch multiple sub-businesses but I will not manage those long term... oh, and then there is the farm business which will be Cory's, should we do it].

So anyway, we are admittedly enamored by the farmstead lifestyle and the lure of self-employment for both of us. It's what we are working toward. This opportunity looked like that, but bigger and faster. So I took a week. Today was my meeting. I'm not sorry I took a week. Sure, I got behind on a few things, but now I know. I had dismissed the opportunity earlier in the year but the lure of Cory being included was, I think, sufficient grounds for the time it took to give it ample consideration. When all is said and done the terms won't make sense for us. We don't do risk like we used to, we are a little older and a little wiser. We also don't burn time like we used to because we are simply...older.

I pulled back into my driveway at the end of the day today and couldn't help but smile to myself. Our cows were there waiting on us, everything was still lovely and peaceful...and smaller and slower.... and it seems that's just the way I like it. The work on the house that needs to be done didn't seem so bad after all, and I felt at ease again. I am reassured and still believe God has designed this house, this place and plenty of good plans for us, down to the inch. I will get to the work I need to each day, and Lord let it be just enough so that I don't miss a day of my babies growing or an evening of putting dinner in front of the man I love.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Roosters. I don't recommend them. As I've mentioned, this term "animal husbandry" was a polite way of addressing what animals do in their bedroom, or on your front yard, as it stands. I don't like to know about these things and I sure as heck don't want to witness them when they become strange. My rooster has decided that the five female ducks are more attractive to him than his two hens, and he has been attacking them. I don't particularly enjoy, run-out-and-shoo-the-rooster-off-the-duck patrol. As if I don't have enough to do.

I say rooster needs to lose his head. Cory says we need a rooster if society goes awry so that he can fertilize some eggs to hatch and replenish our flock. Me: You think it will be so bad we can't find a rooster? Cory: We're not getting rid of the rooster. Me: Okay I am starting to think we are a little bit out there like everyone else thinks. Cory: We're not getting rid of the rooster.

I hate arguments with him. You can't get him to stop saying the same thing over and over unless you splash water in his face. I don't recommend this. In summary, I don't recommend roosters and I don't recommend splashing water in your husband's face. If you do the first, you may have to do the second so just don't get a rooster. Unless you don't have ducks. Then it might be okay. But slapping and splashing are still out.

I should have realized the thing was going to be getting frisky soon because he obviously just went through puberty. He started trying to crow and just got out one scratchy syllable. Over the last several weeks he's added one syllable at a time, and volume, until he finally reached a full cocka-doodle-doo. So, every morning, instead of just my neighbors' co-dependent insomniac roosters' crowing (there's one on each side), there are now three. We call it the A.M. crow-off, though it happens randomly throughout the day too.

Other than that, I am sharing some pictures from our last week or so. We harvested our first basil...the boys found a frog and a bluejay's nest with babies that were almost ready to fly, judging from their feathers. Cory cut down a dying. leaning tree and chopped it up for firewood after replacing the chainsaw blade. Fall is now just around the corner and I am wondering how that is even possible.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Four Brothers- part 1, brother 1

That was a title of a 2005 movie starring Mark Wahlburg. It was about two black and two white boys who had been adopted and raised by the same woman, and how they handled things when someone killed their mom. (I caught an edited tv version several years ago; I'm pretty sure the unedited has some bad parts...too bad because it was an awesome movie otherwise). I have five brothers, but three of them I don't know very well- that's just how things pan out in a large family. The other two I am close to. Add Eric and Hinton and there are my four. This post, I will introduce you to Kenny.

Kenny is 45, nine years older than me. I thought Kenny was so cool when I was little that I thought he invented certain cool words like jerk and puke. If Kenny took Mom to the grocery store and I got to ride along I would get to listen to Quiet Riot all the way there. I still know all the words to Mental Health, a classic. Kenny was probably one of the only kids on the planet, when they quit school, whose parents were told, almost in an embarrassed regretful tone by the school administration, that he was so intelligent that he was bored. He made Star War X-wing fighters out of the cardboard from the Lipton tea bag boxes and when he was done, they looked better than our neighbors' manufactured toys. Kenny also took me fishing when I was a kid and let me play Dungeons and Dragons with them every once in a great while. (I was always the woods girl whose card had an archer on it).

He joined the army when I was in the fourth grade and then was exalted to untouchable cool status because he had amazing basic training stories- which were nothing short of exotic to a bunch of kids who barely ever left the hollow. Not only that, but he worked on Apache helicopters. While he was in Texas for his four years, we all moved to South Carolina. When he came back to Pennsylvania after he got out, we weren't there any more. This has always bothered Kenny... but I've learned that all of us have places we can never go back to in life.

When I was in the twelfth grade, Kenny called down to SC and said that if I really wanted to go to Penn State, I could come live with him for the rest of my senior year so that I could get in-state tuition. I packed my bags and left SC like a man who had just wrapped up a prison sentence and was going home (though I am grateful for the friends, bible belt influence, and sweet tea I found there). Penn State wouldn't give me in-state tuition, so Kenny encouraged me to join the Air Force. It was very good for many reasons, probably more than I even know. I almost didn't go when it actually came time to leave for boot camp, but I decided I couldn't let Kenny down after all the help he had given me. I met Cory while I was in the Air Force and was stationed here, in my beloved Virginia.

Kenny is an avid history buff and when he starts talking about the Franks or the Goths I either just nod and smile or come right out and tell him I have no idea what he is talking about. Dumb it down for me, bro, they didn't cover that in the 2 paragraphs my public school text book offered on the subject. There's hope, though, because since I have been homeschooling I am finally learning history. Whenever I visit I try to drop key words to show off and impress my ample-brained sibling. It's kind of amusing and insulting at the same time when the engineers at Harley happen to ask what Kenny thinks of something in the plant and then they present it at one of their management meetings and get promoted. He also knows all about politics- way more information than I could ever handle sifting through- and is decidedly conservative, though his blue collar union dues are funneled to exclusively liberal candidates every damn election year (emphasis and cursing added on his behalf).

All of this bragging is being done completely behind his back, he is not prideful at all. If your car breaks down he will lay his colossal brain down on the dirt and look under it for you to see what is the matter. Kenny is the type of guy that everyone in the family knows they can call if they need anything and he will be there. To be that person is sometimes a burden, but he accepts it because, try as he might, he can't seer out of his make up the good qualities that make him so loyal. He's been working at Harley Davidson for many years now and is about to step out into his own niche business. He carries the same weight most of us in the family have had to carry- the inability to shirk responsibility to pursue our dreams. We've all known since we were very young that there were no free rides in a family of fourteen, and we had to make sure there was food on the table. That makes for a painfully, painfully slow dream pursuit... but the turtle in the story always gets there, doesn't he?

Kenny restored a convertible Firebird and likes to drive it down through the hollow. He loves the hollow more than any of us, I do believe. When he researched our family tree a few years back he found out that our great grandpa lived right around the corner from where we grew up and probably played in the same creeks we did as kids. History, childhood, and natural beauty... no wonder he likes it there.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A note from the non-omniscient

Well, as it turns out, I don't know everything I thought I knew. My last blog was about God and this house and His plans and workings; and yesterday I discovered that I really don't have it all figured out at all. I guess it was the wise Mark Mroz who told me once that sometimes God puts things in motion to get you to a certain place, not because that is the final destination, but so He can take you to the next place. He has to get you to one point in order to launch from there to the next. You live too far away, our long-bearded friend.