Friday, December 31, 2010

It's the New Year! It's Gotta be Better, Right?

Um, yeah, sure.
Sitting here on December 31, 2010, with a 60-mph-whiteout blizzard raging outside, I am cozy and secure. The woodstove is cranking out the heat, and needs to be fed every two hours or so; the clever animals are snuggled down in the hay beds I made for them in the pole barns. We had homemade waffles and homegrown eggs for breakfast. The freezers are full of produce, not to mention 1/4 of a cow and almost a whole butchered hog, still. Mike is baking bread in the kitchen, hoping that the flickering power stays on long enough for the oven to bake it. Jars of produce, of apples and apple butter and even apple jelly sit on the shelves downstairs, next to 60-lb, 5 gallon buckets of rice, wheat, oats, sugar, and honey, snuggled in with # 10-sized, freeze-dried cans of fruit and vegies, dried spices and flavorings.

And yet, here I sit, going over seed catalogs, drawing out the garden - the garden that right now is frozen, six inches down, under its blanket of snow, that looks like a barren wasteland instead of the virulently productive summertime landscape it becomes. Why on earth when I have so much already, would I want more, more, more? What sort of paranoid fantasy is churning my guts and driving me to choose another spring of hard labor, another summer of endless harvesting and canning and dehydrating and preserving? What sort of maniac would wear themselves out, every year like this?

I bought a lot of seeds already, this past summer, when the stores put them on sale, clearance racks full of unwanted, discarded, picked over seeds. Then they were 97 cents a pack (few people realize that seeds will germinate 2-3 years after the year for which they are produced and packaged). I bought fall trees and grapevines on sale, that sit in my greenhouse right now, barely warmed to above freezing, going thru their cold-hardening without exposing them to the 30-below temps and pounding wind that they will have to be strong enough to endure next year. What do I need an orchard or a vineyard for?

The seed catalogs sent to me this week are giving the lie to the "YAY! No more recession!" pathetic fantasies that are gripping the media and every talking head with a passionate frenzy. The seed prices haven't doubled - they've tripled, some even quadrupled, just since last spring. Of course, seed companies had to pay more this year; for fuel, for water, for shipping, for fertilizer in the fields to produce these tiny seeds, as well as for printing and packaging and producing their glossy colorful catalogs.

If seed is higher this year, produce costs will be higher this summer. If it takes more to produce it, then the end costs will be higher. This is just simple math, anyone can do it. If weather plays a factor, prices will leap upward. Look at Florida, just this week, where fresh vegetable prices at the farmers' markets doubled in one week. Literally doubled. They said it was because of the two previous frosts, and that was a part of it, of course. But when a farmer has to pay double for his fuel, his production, and his own expenses, the buyer of his produce will pay for it.

It has been a long time since we have seen food shortages; few alive now remember (or, they choose not to remember) the sanded sugar, the green meat, the wilted vegetables that stores were passing off at high prices in the late 70's and early 80's. Back then, folks grumbled and whimpered and whined, and ate soy burger instead of beefburger, ate whatever they could afford, cut out sweets and coffee. This year, I have a feeling things will be different... and not just because the prices will be so high, or the stores will be so empty.

Things will be different because the mouth-breathers, the gullibles, the same ones who fell for the "Everyone deserves a home!" political, media-driven housing bubbles and dot-com bubbles, are falling for the media and governmental lies that "Everything is looking up! I'm fine, you're fine, we're all gonna be just FINE!" self-congratulatory wolf cookies they have desperately, frenetically, believed in, over and over again. When, once again, it turns out to not be true - this time not just resulting in bankruptcies, housing repos, and moving in with Mom and Dad, but real base desperation and hunger for basic necessities - things will be very bad. Those who still believe that the world owes them a living will be shocked to their core when they realize they have become grasshoppers, out in the cold with no food, no where to go, and no one to care for them. They will be angry. They will be resentful. And they will take it out on those who 'have' - have a little more, have a little security, have a little job or a little income or enough foresight to pre-plan.

Me, I'm not too worried about divulging what I have on here. Those who read this, who have failed to plan will not be able to make it this far; they will run out of not only fuel and food, but the incentive to go to the back of beyond, when there is so much to take all around them - and so many unarmed, undefended, unprotected sheeple around them to take from. The folks around me have the same attitude as I - we have what we have, we are armed and won't allow not only ourselves, but each other to have it removed from us easily. We work hard, we stock up, we grow what we can and share what we have, we keep our guns loaded and our powder dry - and wait.

Yes, Happy New Year - here's hoping that all the signs that I see, all of the plans that I've made, all of the work that I'm doing and have done are totally unecessary; that they are merely the paranoid fantasies of someone who thinks that most folks are self-righteous, self-promulgating assholes who firmly believe that their survival is paramount, when they have never lifted a finger to ensure it, other than to sign their EBT application or Welfare deposit slip, or to beat an old lady to death for her Social Security check.

But - what if they aren't? What if I'm right? What are YOU doing to ensure your own survival?

Monday, December 20, 2010

No Catharsis for Most

Not too many folks believe it, but I am actually a kind person. For example, a woman owned a 26 year old horse and had no where to keep it. I told her she could leave it on our property, for free - as long as she paid for its feed and hay. Well, finances being what they were, she didn't feed it. I won't let any animal starve if I can help it, so we paid for feed and bought it hay. Finally the horse - old and crippled and arthritic - had to go. I told the woman that she would have to put it down. She finally got a relative to come and get it and have it shot and buried on their property.

A year passed, and we had written off the expenditures of the horse as a bad debt. Suddenly, this past weekend, a Christmas card arrived from this woman - with a $500 check inside. We were stunned, pleasantly so - and I told her. It had taken her 3 years to crawl out from her bad debt and miserable divorce, yet she paid it off at last. She said it was a catharsis for her - to pay off every debt she owed.

And I look around me at all of the miserable people, whining that they can't get ahead, that no one will help them, that no one will succor them, that no one cares. Most of them have been cared for all of their lives; expect someone, anyone, the government, their neighbors, their families, their friends, to pay for what they want and need. They take and take and take, with no thought of what they owe. They walk away from debts they incurred as if those debts had nothing to do with them. They insist that because they can do what any rabbit does - screw and breed - that the world OWES them and their ever-so-precious (usually spoiled, rude, obnoxious, demanding) brats. They vote for people who promise them more and more, never caring who is paying the penalty or the bills for those politicians who promise them freedom from want. Some of these greedy, grasping morons actually believe that President Obama is using his own money to pay their bills, while others believe that the Federal Government has lots of free money, and when they run out, they print more. There is no economic education any more; no responsibility, and no need for them. People are stupid and believe what they are told - that they DESERVE the sweat off of other peoples' brows.

These people in their whining self-pitying misery will never know the freedom of paying off one's debts, the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing financial success, of raising children who strike out on their own and succeed. They will never know the extreme pleasure of getting a call from their daughter, as I did last month; that this tall, willowy, wonderful child, who worked three jobs to put herself thru college (even with scholarships and grants) got a job that pays $75,000 a year with benefits. They will never know the joy of success, of overcoming failure, of becoming adults who take responsibility and life into their own hands and wrest all that they can from it.

I heard a great quote yesterday, and it rings true - "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death". The sad part is that they are too stupid to even know that they are starving.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Can't Dance, Too Cold to Hunt Crickets

It's early morning, and it's cold - 9 degrees. The kiln I fired off yesterday heated the whole house from it's little cavity in the basement; it is now cooling. I can't wait to open it to see my newest creations - gifts for family and friends and co-workers.

There's a pork roast thawing since last night too; from the pig we bought butchered from a local rancher. Grass-fed and luscious, about $.50 a pound, that pig will last s a long, LONG time; bacon, hams, roasts, ribs. They even saved the fat for me, which I rendered into lard.

We might get a snow day tomorrow; it is supposed to start snowing tonight again. It's not so much the snow that is bad - it is the ice underneath, that makes the paved roads treacherous enough, but also makes the gravel paths to the local ranches impassable. Since we have next Friday off too (a failed experimental push to put our school calendar at 4-day weeks), that would mean a possible 3-day work week. Not good for the January paycheck, but WTH - I can get more stuff done.

One of my friends asked if any of our family was coming for Christmas; I told her , no. Half are in Vegas, half around Savannah. She suggested we all meet half-way. I laughed, I said, "I AM half-way!" but everyone is working, busy with their own lives - exactly how I raised them to be.

I took Mike to see the cardiologist this past Friday. He had an 'incident' the previous Friday, where his ankles suddenly became swollen, almost as big as his thighs (thighs once described as 'braugh!' by an Irish nurse). Tests all week, then the visiting cardiologist saw the results Thursday and insisted we see him this past Friday. The cardiologist said Mike needed a heart cath. It has to be done in Lincoln, 5 and a half hours away. It only takes 3 hours - but if they put a stint in, they'll keep him overnight.

I'm not too worried - shit happens, one deals, and that's the end of it. So rather than making that almost-6-hour trip, waiting, then either scrabbling for a motel room at the last minute or driving back ANOTHER 6 hours, (and who knows what the weather will be - snow or ice or bright and clear) I made motel reservations for both the night before and the night after. We'll leave the day before, drive slowly, take our time, get a good rest, then go to the appointment. Then - no matter what happens - we'll have the motel room for that night, too. Sleep well, then back home again.

But not just ANY motel. Since my current job includes making reservations for over 30 people, all over the state at different times for different events, I 'know' most of the motels in the big cities and tiny hamlets. I know what Mike requires - a comfy room that includes, not just a bed for me, but a recliner for him, because he cannot sleep in a normal, 'flat' bed. Peace and quiet. Safety and accessibility. Short access to food. Maybe a pool; definitely a whirlpool, to take away and stretch out the tightened muscles from the long drive. We are going to make a little 'holiday trip' out of it; since we are expecting no one, and I'll have two and a half weeks off work for Christmas vacation, we are going to make the most of it. So - why not the Embassy Suites? It is what the local folks call "spendy" - not your $39 a night place. But - nice. And close to the hospital.

Also importantly, if I have to spend that night overnight while he is in the hospital, I don't want to have to go out and about looking for food or maybe a bar in which to have a (single, calming) drink. If I want to explore, there are amenities snuggled right up to the motel in the next block - antique shops, and something called "The Haymarket" which I assume (from the descriptions and satellite pictures) is a lot like City Market in Savannah. Maybe I can find something cute and fun to take away his fear and trepidation about still another potential surgery.

This is what I do, this is what my life is like now. While my friends are all agonizing over what to buy everyone for Christmas, who's coming to the feast, who's cooking, which family members are going to be a pain or get drunk or whose kids will tumble into the tree, I am busy struggling for calm, for normalcy, for an even and steady flow to my life. Grasping at small joys, creating small pleasures, turning fear and pain into comfort and stability. WTH - I can't dance, and it's too cold to hunt crickets. "It is what it is" - another pretty common local idiom.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Foodie Confessions

I love to cook and bake. I love to try new tastes, new flavors, new twists on old recipes. Sweet potatoes? Sure, you can dot them with butter, cover them with brown sugar and cinnamon, top them with marshmallows. But I like to take things a little further. Add a can of mandarin orange pieces, juice and all. Add some chopped walnuts or pecans. Maybe a little maple syrup?

Recipes? Hmmmm... my daughter asked for my recipes when she went away to college. So that year for Christmas, I designed a flip-up, full page calendar book - with corresponding monthly recipes; Easter, St. Patrick's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas - even picnic and grill recipes. Bean dishes for the cold months. Recipes that took advantage of each harvest each month. Recipes for homemade pasta, recipes for pies and cakes and cookies, and recipes for everyday meals as well.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are always my days to shine. Dad used to have a drop-in, open-house kind of holiday attitude, and there had to be football snackages for the early afternoon, food for the big meal, and evening snackages for the folks wandering around with drinks in their hands. So cooking for the holidays at our house started at 4 AM and didn't finish until late afternoon.

I always make at least 3 kinds of pie for the holidays; fresh pumpkin (not from a can), pecan, and the third one varies depending on the harvest for that year. It could be cherry, apple, or blueberry, but all are served with real whipped cream. Dad and I hated Cool Whip, and never allowed it on the table. Those nasty airy little fluffy "salads" people make with it gave us the heebie-jeebies.

Mike has never carved a turkey at our house. It isn't his fault - I even bought him an electric knife. But my turkey is so moist that it falls off of the bone. I make what my Southern friends call "Yankee stuffing" - crumbled bread, lots of onion and celery, garlic, salt, pepper, and some secret spices that make it piquant and biting. Halfway through the turkey's baking time, I snatch it out of the oven and pack it full of this stuffing til its little bones crack and it can't keep its little legs together. Then I baste it even more heavily than I did at the start (more real butter and spices) and put it back in the oven to finish. I use a sturdy roaster with a tight lid that keeps the juices and flavors inside. When I take it out of the oven and pull off that lid, you'd better step back! - the steam will curl your hair and fog your contacts!

We have mashed potatoes and gravy. I never use fake or dried potatoes; I always boil wonderful red potatoes, then whip them into a frenzy with a 1/2 pound of butter, a little milk or cream, salt, pepper, and parsley. Sometimes I like to pop them under the broiler for a minute to get a light brown crust.

Yeast rolls. On the yeast rolls I sometimes cheat and buy store-bought if I don't have time; otherwise I make some plain, and some with grated cheddar cheese and spices.

My deviled eggs are weird, apparently. I like them to be flavorful, not bland; the yolks are whipped with lemon juice, garlic and onion powder, worchestershire sauce, mustard and mayo; sprinkled with parsley and paprika for color. Folks eat 'em like cookies.

I make chocolate rum balls, and a "Drunken Sot" fruitcake that soaks in French Brandy and dark rum for six weeks. No candied fruit ever even accidentally falls into that fruitcake batter; it is all liquor-soaked fruit with a rich cake dough to bind it all together.

Only butter, not margarine or fake butter, is ever served at my table; real cheese, not cheese mix, real flavorings, not artificial. I take pride in using only the best ingredients; if all I have available are cheap imitations, I don't make that recipe. No substitutions, please!

I'd love to tell you the measurements for all of these recipes, but to be honest I haven't measured anything in years. I add stuff until it looks right, or smells right, or tastes right, then serve it. Cooking is my creativity, my joy, my pleasure, and watching peoples' faces light up when they bite gives me the greatest pleasure of all!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thankful? Um, OK

You have no idea what it's like.

Every day, coming down the stairs, wondering if your partner is awake, asleep, or unconscious.

Some days are 'good', days in which he laughs and makes you laugh, silly things you say to each other, keeping it going. He has a whole 'cow conspiracy' theory, now, that cows are plotting to take over the world. They have lookouts. They are opposed to the horses, but sometimes use them as decoys. They gather around the phone lines, making calls to other groups gathered around other phone lines, communicating in vastly stealthy ways that humans never seem to notice. His mind had always been very creative; he should have been the writer, not me. The things he has come up with in the past have kept me thoughtful, inspired me, kept me laughing.

We haven't slept together in years, because we can't. He has to sleep in a "V" position; sharply done. He can only sleep on his back. He slept in a recliner the first two years; I bought him a bed that has that 'memory foam' in it, that raises head and feet like a hospital bed. It's the only way he can sleep. I have my own room upstairs, with a pillowtop queen size mattress where I sleep - usually on my side, stretched out.

He always was a little OCD; concentrated so hard on what he was doing that he could not notice any distractions. It's why he was a helluva firefighter as well as a paramedic; no one and nothing would change his thought processes and actions. Now, though, the OCD is pronounced; to complete a task - ANY task - he has to concentrate fully on it, or he wanders away and forgets. His palm pilot has lists on top of lists on top of lists. Not only does he write down 'mow the yard' but he also writes down "pick up limbs" , "check the gas in the mower", "Check the mower tires", "empty the bag into the compost pile". He is still creative - in a determined sort of way. He keeps track of every different bread recipe he tries or changes, even down to the length of knead time, how much extra flour he uses, etc.

When we sat in front of the lawyer for the last time, he told us that the medics and attorneys for Workers' Comp had given him an approximate death date. In other words, based on his type of injuries and surgeries, as well as the following medications that he would be on 'for the rest of his life' - they had stamped him with an expected expiration date. Most people in his situation rot away quickly, emotionally and physically; stop taking their meds, stop going to the docs, stop wanting to live. It's why they didn't want to promise him his retirement payments, and why Social Security fought so hard against giving him back the money he put in for years - they were waiting for him to die. Of course they'd have to pay his spouse much less.

The drugs made him vicious and violent at first, then they made him forget... forget the past 20 years of marriage, forget the feelings he had as both a man and a husband. Those were hard times at first - like having someone who loves you and whom you love suddenly get Altzheimers, the vicious cruel kind of mindlessness. He didn't understand the people around him any more. He didn't understand the traffic whizzing by him when he drove. He didn't understand stores and clerks and the people with whom he used to interact every day. They spoke a different language, had a different thought process, ran around and over him as if he didn't exist any more, which added to his confusion. This frightened him, and the fear made him angry, lash out, violent. Because I knew that this was not him, was just the fear, the pain, the confusion that overwhelmed him, I put up with the violence - even when it was turned on me. I fled when I had to, to save my life - but I always came back, because I knew he was not really abusive. This new person was not the man I married, but was a desperate, confused stranger in pain, who needed someone to protect him.

So now we are where there are almost no people. Where those who do live around us are easy to remember; names, faces, habits - because there are so few of them. He knows the chickens and the cows and the horse and the dogs because he interacts with them every day, all day. His woodworking shop and small engine repair shop are his refuge; where he can think carefully about projects, and do them incrementally until he gets them perfect, with no one to disturb his thoughts. Where food and weather are the main topics of conversation in the house. Where he can plan a whole Halloween or Christmas decoration extravaganza weeks in advance without being interrupted. Where his hours in front of the TV or the computer are mindless escapes from his ever-present pain and his few 'responsibilities'.

From a deeply passionate, loving, demonstrative marriage we have settled into a comfortable caretaker/patient existence; still mutually dependent, but differently. Like a steadily dripping waterfall, we have worn a groove into the rock of our marriage, and it is a comfortable if uneventful trap. Emotions aren't permitted, they cause upset and aren't worth the trouble. No pressure to perform, unless you count that the cows need food occasionally in a blizzard, or that the wind whips around the house and peels the occasional piece off and has to be repaired. All is quiet; the long days and nights silently blending into one another. He has outlived his "expiration date", and continues to do so, unmolested and uneventfully.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Heh heh heh heh

I love Halloween.
Ever since I was a kid, or won the costume contest against 30 friends and co-workers, when I was dressed as a hooker in a glittering red jersey dress with a $100 bill pinned to my bosom, or dressed my own kids in homemade fun and/or terrifying costumes, I've loved Fright Night. It's playtime for everyone; kids and grownups alike.

There was the time we spent $1000 at Spencer's for the Haunted House, and the fire chief ran screaming from his office when we set up the zombie who ripped his own head off on the chief's desk. The year we hung our son from the tree and he grabbed at the munchkins going underneath, sending them screaming down the street. Corn syrup and red food dye makes killer oozy blood; blacklight makes everything weird, glowing, and spooky; there's all sorts of things you can do, on a budget or not.

Last year the kids in our neighborhood were depressed because we were out of town for Halloween. But not half as depressed as we were, not being there! This year we'll make up for it. The headstones are already set out; the coffin awaits its zombie, the pumpkinheaded scarecrow is tied upright to the cornstalks in abject terror. But there's more to come... the shrieking ghost that will rise from one of the graves, blowing smoke, the eight-foot spider with the glowing eyes, the cobwebs that have yet to be strung, lights and sounds and horrible music are all either en route or still waiting in the basement for their chance to instill sudden gasping fear.

This year I'm going for Tim Burton's Red Queen look. My long grey hair can be easily tortured into that red mop, and the dress and tiny crown will be perfect - as will the makeup. I do love the Halloween makeup; the fun changing of an ordinary face into something funny or ghastly or gross. Oh, and there's a costume contest and dance at the Casino the Saturday night before Halloween - maybe I can reprise my previous successes!

Yes, I have experience in stage makeup; I used to do everyones' makeup in the plays I was in, long ago. When the makeup artist for The Wizard of Oz (a friend of one of our stage managers who came to our play to help and critique) takes one look at you, smiles approvingly, and says, "SHE'S GOT IT! Now, the rest of you, do the same!" - you know you've got to be pretty good. Now that I'm back in an area that puts on plays and productions as a matter of course and competition, I am having a blast teaching the kids (and adults) all that I've learned over the years, and not just on Halloween.

On Halloween you can step outside of yourself, play and pretend just like you did when you were five. You can be anyone you want; no rules, no bans, no snotty people sneering down at you from self-imposed superciliousness or spewing sniggering sarcasm. Those who don't play can leave their porch lights off and pretend that latex-scarred evil isn't lurking around every lilac bush, or small furry unhinged animals aren't traipsing past their manicured lawns. Who needs them? It's Halloween! Let's PLAY!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Some Just Don't Get It

People are all about "saving money", you've got Clark Howard on TV and all sorts of folks in all sorts of ways repeating the same old "here's how to save money!" garbage from 10, 20, even 50 years before, recycled from books they've read and magazine stories they've ingested from the supermarket checkout counters.

Coupons? Worthless pieces of paper. I remember the "Coupon Lady" who spent hours salvaging coupons from magazines, newspapers, mailouts, etc. She was touted as "saving" hundreds of dollars a year. Here's a hint, genius - when you spend money on newspapers and magazines to get the coupons, you aren't saving a damned thing. When you buy the overpriced name brands with a 15 cent off coupon for 30 cents more than the store brand, you are wasting 15 cents a can/package. Store brands come from the same places as name brand products - they just have different labels.

Buy in bulk, carve out a closet space with shelves, and rotate your purchases so that the cans you bought 3 years ago don't explode, and you'll save money - especially since prices are inching up weekly. Better yet, buy another freezer and start buying the BIG cans and bags and freezing portions; or learn to can, and buy farmer's market produce and can it yourself. A dented can that is not leaking can be bought at warehouse and big box sales; buy them. If you are uncomfortable with particularly deep dents, open the cans and freeze or recan them.

Many of the 'cheap' imported produce "specials" have rotted or green produce in the mix - not to mention that anything grown outside of the US isn't regulated as to fertilizer and pesticides. That poor Brazilian is just as likely to use human feces to fertilize or American-banned DDT to de-bug his produce as you are to drop by the Home Depot and pick up a can of bug spray on your way out.

Meat is a common staple where I live now; I can buy 1/4 of a grassfed free-range cow and have it cut to order - 300 lbs of beef for $400. That includes everything from ribs to ribeyes, burger to brisket. There are still meat processors in every major town, though, and they usually have good deals on bulk meat purchases, and will cut/grind it for you too. My cow in the freezer shares space with the remnants of last year's deer hunt of 2 big 60-lb-after-butchering mulies, and until recently the carcasses of several hunted turkeys. (I LOOVE turkey and it doesn't last long at my house). If you can't or don't hunt, most hunters only want the cape and head of the deer, if you ask them for the meat they will often give it to you.

Learn how to do things. Learn how to bake bread - and buy 50 lb bags of flour instead of the 5 or 10 lb sacks. You'd be surprised how much cheaper it is than buying 1-3 loaves of bread once or twice a week at the store - and it is better for you; no preservatives and you can put in REAL whole wheat flour, make French baguette bread for garlic bread, etc. Learn how to make pasta - pasta is soooo simple; one egg, a cup of flour, a dash of salt, a little water and a sharp knife and a rolling pin, and you can make a bunch of pasta, enough for 2 meals for 4-6 people. Better yet, you can add spices and flavorings and make everything from garlic/basil pasta to almond-flavored dessert pasta. Once you really get into it, a Kitchen-Aid mixer with attachments will make ravioli, lasagna, and all types of pasta shapes easily. Another thing I use my Kitchen-Aid mixer for is not just kneading bread but (with other attachments) grinding meat into hamburger, slicing it for jerky, juicing fruit, and even finely grinding fruit for rollups and other desserts. Yes I can do all these things by hand - but since I buy in bulk and make things in bulk, the Kitchen-Aid makes the process faster and more uniform. Learn how to grow vegies, and learn how to treat them so that they are bigger and better than last year. Raspberries will keep those bratty kids down the block out of your yard. Fruit trees are not only decorative, but will produce for years - as long as you can keep said brats down the street away from them.

The 4 must-have implements in my kitchen for bulk buying and processing are: A BIG pressure-cooker canner (to water-bath low acid fruits and vegies is dangerous, and you can even can meats, soups, and whole dinners under pressure!), a dehydrator (sundried tomatoes without the flies, dehydrated onions, dehydrated cabbage for soups and stews, banana chips for snacking or preservation - the opportunities are endless), my trusty Kitchen-Aid mixer - or you can use a blender, a grinder/chopper, and/or a knife - and a freezer. I have two of the latter - a big standup that we use for 'now' stuff like the homemade bread, butter (bought in bulk) milk, opened bags of vegies that we are using, etc. The big chest freezer in the basement is for the big meats and big veggie and fruit bags.

Don't tell me, "ooh, that's a lot of work!" or "I don't have TIME" or "I have KIDS!" - I have been doing this for 40 years. Yes, 40 years, usually holding down 2 jobs; and my kids not only learned how to cook but how to shuck corn, how to can, how to dehydrate, how to garden, how to do every and anything for themselves - and they learned how to butcher and process chickens and larger meat as well. Clark Howard and the Coupon Lady be damned - they don't have a CLUE how to save real money over time. Let them natter on about credit cards and things that most people don't have or can't afford any more - it's time to get back to basics. The basics I've lived for 40 years, through good times and bad.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lovely Beef

I have several definitions of mendacity. One is "wolf cookies". Another is "bat guano". Another -which I am given to in sudden extreme circumstances - is my "Ahhhh...AAAhhhh...BULLSHIT!" sneeze. I've been sneezing a lot lately...

This morning, like most Saturdays, I woke up with the full intent of chillin' online, checking out the prices on the drapes I plan on buying at JCPenney's, watching the weather, chatting with my online friends. I thought that today was a good day to investigate recipes that involve raspberries or strawberries with chocolate, too. It just felt like a fruit-and-chocolate day... having a freezer full of fruit and a shelf of hard-candied and liquid chocolate is comforting. I buy supplies twice a year now, and knowing what I have on hand, and that I can make anything without running to a store, is kinda fun. It was not to be.

I had forgotten that today was the much-touted "Restore Honor" rally in Washington DC. I had a friend send me a live link to it. So I watched. As usual, there were hundreds of thousands of people there - and little media. The MainStream Media likes to pretend that the Tea Partiers and conservatives are small in number, sorta like Jim Jones' adherents or Branch Davidians - just a bunch of kooks who will immolate themselves, or eventually do something stupidly illegal so that they are immolated. I know that they are much more. And what they are should sink dread and fear into any unemotional observer.

Because, you see, much like the AntiWar movement, the Martin Luther King movement, any social movement that stirs hearts and minds, the Tea Partiers have been co-opted. Co-opted by snake-oil salesmen like Glenn Beck, a heretofore unknown who vented spleen and spittle on staunch Constitutionalists as little as two years ago. People like Sarah Palin, who supported John McCain - McCain, who intentionally used her as "th' woman" in his campaign, who is a friend of LaRaza and a notorious two-faced liar. Sarah started out as a maverick and ended up as a mouthpiece for the status-quo neo-conservatives. These two, and many others like them, have worked tirelessly to deny the stark realities that are staring millions in their faces - the realities of job losses, home losses, doubled taxes, increased costs, deflation and inflation that are eating their homes, families, and pocketbooks alive. A bunch of soothing wolf cookies and bat guano spread over the deeply passionate and unthinking masses, who lap it up like chocolate.

While the Tea Party movement started as a virulent protest against a two-party, entitlement-minded oligarchy, it has been neutered and soothed by the neo-cons into believing that the Democrats are the Evil Ones, that only a return to a Republican, religion-based oligarchy can save them. The names will change, but the thievery will remain.

We did the same thing to our bull calf last week. We already have a herd bull, thick-muscled and strong, black as night, hung like - well, a bull - who carries three colors and is naturally polled (dehorned) to breed cows that will be of different colors, but of strong lineage and polled as well. Our bull is going to be our herd bull for many years to come; he has already enthusiastically mounted the cows we bought with him after the cows gave birth to two lovely (and unrelated) calves - a bull and a heifer. A rampant and handsome, born to breed, well-hung young bull was one too many bulls in the paddock - so we banded his testicles and 'nutted', 'steered' him - whatever suits your delicate sensibilities. We will keep him tame, calm him, fatten him, and butcher him when he is full-grown and weighted. You have to do this when you are trying to maintain a line of specificity; the breed traits the bull calf carried (horned, small female udders, only two colors) were not what we wanted to continue in our herd. He will make some lovely beef, though.

And that is what the neo-cons have done to the Tea Partiers; they have seduced them with soft lies, petted and stroked them, lured them into the stalls, flipped them over and slipped bands of glorified promises onto their balls, then turned them loose among the herd, to mouth their platitudes until their balls atrophy and drop off. Then they are ripe for the butchering; the herd bulls will continue their own lineage, undaunted by and ignoring the ball-less, ignorant steers who walk briefly among them, mooing helplessly and ineffectually for their own place at the hay bales.

Monday, August 9, 2010

But - But - We're Saving the Planet!!!

Two months ago, I drove 2.5 hours to Rapid City, South Dakota. It is the closest place with a Cabela's - from which I order online a lot of the time, as well as shop the store whenever I am up that way. I dearly love Cabela's - Bass Pro Shop is a piss-poor imitation. Cabela's has sold me a wonderful cast-iron grill/smoker, some excellent silk long underwear, all manner of fishing and hunting equipment. On that last trip, I picked out an outstanding 30.30, a great fitted scope, and some ammunition for all of my varied weapons, as well as the 30.30. They treat you like gold at Cabela's - one gets all manner of stuff from all of the different departments, and they hold everything for you behind the individual counters until you go up to the checkout - then the personnel bring everything to you at the register, and even load it onto the truck for you.

I live in Nebraska, but am perfectly able (with the usual background check) to buy a rifle or shotgun plus ammo in another state. They are a little more chary about handguns - but it's possible as well.

Today I learned that the States, my own among them, are putting on - painting classes. Sounds insane, right - I mean, who hasn't gotten tired of their wall colors and planned a new decorating scheme, taped up the corners and outlets, and renewed a room or two - or even a whole house, inside and out? How hard can it be? Who the hell needs a CLASS to PAINT??

Well, the EPA says that you do. And every single state has to hold these classes so that people can get certified in the right way, the GREEN way, to apply paint. Here's the kicker - If you DON'T pay the $200 per person for the class - you can't paint your house. Ever again, after October 1st, 2010. Not one interior wall. Not one inch of trim. If you get caught painting your house, inside or out, you can be ARRESTED, CHARGED, and FINED.

This is all part and parcel of the Federal Government directive on the steps you must take to sell your home. Even if you never have any intention of selling your home, the fact is that all homes must now be maintained - to EPA standards. The painting classes are just the start - there are also windows, doors, and insulation, as well as heating and air conditioning that, if replaced, repaired, or installed, you will have to take classes to do so - and if you do not meet the EPA's standards for maintaining a "green home", you WILL BE FINED.

So, let me make this clear for you. I can go across state lines, purchase enough weapons and ammunition for my own private war if I so choose, and people will nod and smile, joke and laugh, fit the scopes for me, even let me take practice shots, and load the things for me if requested. They'll even load them into my pickup and thank me for my patronage. But - if I go to the Home Depot in the same town as Cabela's, and buy paint, insulation, or parts for my heater, I can be investigated, ARRESTED, CHARGED, and FINED by the Federal Government - or any designated representatives thereof.

Does anyone else find this LUDICROUS?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Abiding Unhappiness

You can always tell when there is a recession; the TV is covered up with 'new and exciting inventions' as people struggle to make a buck on their fondest ideas. Everyone from Dyson to the Bassmaster is hawking the latest thing to make your life easier, more productive, happier, etc.

Lots of folks think that I am a miserable old soul, always grumbling and griping. The truth is that I am unbearably happy in my own life, for the most part. I choose to be. I know that 'things' don't make me happy - but making things, creating things, growing things, and having people buy those things - or enjoying those things myself - makes me happy. Right now there are 150 tiny baby poinsettias in my greenhouse, stretching toward the sunlight, growing new leaves, loving the moist and humid heat I have to artificially provide for them (it is normally about 90 deg with 35% humidity here in the summer). As it cools off here the end of September, I''ll be moving them to my nice warm (50 deg) basement, restricting their sunlight to gro-lites for only 12 hours a day, to make them bloom by the end of November. I already have two places where I will put them for sale. I already have the pretty gold, green, and red foil to wrap the pots in. The challenge won't be in selling them to make the money - but in making them perform exactly how I want, and sharing that performance with others.

I eat things simply; whole-wheat or oat homemade bread, locally grown beef, chicken, and fish. I don't require a lot, and I only like spending money on things that will grow my farm. I don't party a lot, because I 1) don't have time, 2) have too much on my mind and too much on my plate to have a day-after sleep-in. One of the stores I shop online had a massive clearance sale; I bought dress pants for $5 and work dresses, skirts, and blouses for $10. Not that cheap material or poorly sewn crap you get at WalMart or the outlet stores, either... good stuff, sturdy stuff, well made stuff that no one else bought at a premium price.

Yet I watch people going on trips that they can't afford, and then desperately playing catch-up to pay their bills. I watch people spending money as soon as they make it, insisting that they 'deserve a break', 'have a right to enjoy themselves'. OK, maybe they do. But why they need to grasp their 'happiness' with both hands, cling to it desperately, rub their faces all over it like a child with new velvet, then throw it away and regret it less than a month later is beyond me. Why they need the changes, the constant newness, to revitalize themselves and make themselves feel worthwhile all over again is beyond my comprehension. They stink of anxiety, fear, and desperation the way old nursing homes stink of pee, no matter how vigorously you try to clean them, paint them, and make them new.

Either you and your life are worthwhile, or -they're not. Either what you do, who you are, and where you're going are important - or they are not. When you vibrate so rapidly and so desperately that you are in reality standing still, you aren't really moving at all. When your needs cannot be met and your longings cannot be fulfilled no matter how much you run to and fro, buying first this, than that, to make yourself feel better, you are not succeeding at anything... except deepening your own desperation.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Everything is FINE.

It's coming. That indefatigable, irreversible moment of destruction - like lying in the water bleeding, and watching the sharks circling.

Now Bernanke is saying "the economic future is uncertain".

What a dyed-in-the-wool, Kenyesian-rhetoric, mouth-drooling liar he is.

The economic future is damned certain - and it is the politicians and the media who are insisting that no one should panic, no one should worry, just a little problem, no worries. They are as full of shit as a Christmas turkey. The reason they are not telling you the truth is simple - they are as terrified as anyone else, but if they SAY it, then it happens more quickly.

For 20 years I wrote about, protested about, and yelled about Austrian economics being the only way to save this economy. For 20 years people said, Why save it? It's fine. Don't be silly. This is working. Austrian economics is a pipe dream, a fantasy. It won't get too bad. We're fine. We are all fine. So what if governmental regulations shipped all of our manufacturing jobs overseas? We didn't want to work in manufacturing anyway. Look, you can buy everything so much cheaper at WalMart now! Why fix things when you can buy another for less? My job is just fine. Everything is just fine. Look how our areas and communities are growing and prospering! Look how many people are buying houses here! Don't worry, we'll have plenty of money for roads and schools from the taxes! You don't know what you are talking about, siddown and hush and stop aggravating us. Everything is FINE.

Ghost towns of subdivisions. People losing their homes. Losing their jobs. Living hand to mouth and pretending for the sake of pride that they are home-cooking to be more centered on the family, not because they can't afford to go out and eat. Like the administration and the media, no one wants to admit the truth - because to admit it is to make it real. But Everything is Fine.

Service jobs that went away when no one that could afford the services. Infrastructure getting more and more expensive, while empty houses sit, collecting no tax revenues, liabilities to the community, the remaining taxpayers. Food prices going up - have you noticed the meat at the meat counters lately? That is an indicator of the economy. Are there weirdly brown sections in your burger? Are they starting to sell meat that doesn't look "right"? What's that odd green spot on that steak, and why is it more than $3.00 a pound? Sugar, flour, rice - all the staples inching up in price, week by week. And the "global economy" that everyone touted is bringing in more and more questionable food and medicines from countries no one cared about 10 years ago... countries that don't have rules, countries that historically have never cared about their populace or what they ingested. But Everything is Fine.

To save us all, the government is borrowing money desperately, not just from children who haven't even been born yet in this country, but from other countries. China held our debt but has since sold it to Japan. We are swapping our money on a new world order now; the same tired dollars that have no value, trading them for nothing, basing them on nothing, pretending that a dollar is still worth a dollar even though it can't buy as much as it did last week, last month, last year. But everything is Fine.

The unemployed sit on their backsides because if they accept one of those paltry service jobs, they'll make less and spend more than they would sitting at home collecting a government check. It's everyone else's fault, and everyone else's problem. No need to take personal responsibility for one's votes and choices. Because unemployment isn't the employers' problem any more, it isn't even the States' problem - it like most everything else has been taken over by the Federal Government. That's OK, though - the Feds print their money, they have plenty to spare. Most don't know and don't care where their checks come from - as long as they show up in their mailboxes every week. Everything is Fine.

When folks grouse to me about how expensive everything is, how their jobs are in danger or gone or going, I just shake my head. Stagflation, deflation, inflation; they are all just weird egghead words to them, that mean nothing. The Great Depression was a bad historical period in the nation's history, but the teachers and the books all say that could never, will never, happen again, like Noah's Great Flood. We've been promised. We'll be fine. We'll tough this out like we always have. Sure, things are kinda rough right now, but we'll be Fine. Got a lil garden growing in the back yard. Got a couple of things I can sell to tide me over. Got a 401K that is tanking, but it'll rebound soon. I'm fine. Everything will be Fine.

Why do you think I was so adamant that developers pay up front to provide infrastructure for people who hadn't even moved there yet?

You can't expose the Emperor or his nakedness to the people who refuse to see. When - if - they finally, irrefutably, have no choice but to see, they will panic. They will point fingers and blame. They will feel justified in demanding their entitlements - everything from the spoiled and rotten food still in the grocery stores, to their checks, to their lifestyles and their lives.

When Darwin finally is proven right once again, those who have never had to, learned to, or tried to survive will be swept like the lemmings that they are to the sea. It will be a sea of violence, of self-serving humanity, swamping themselves and each other in violence, selfishness, depredation, and rage fueled by desperation. There won't be polite hoboes wandering from town to town, knocking on doors, asking for work. That is what the politicians and Bernanke won't tell you, as they wait for November and the January swear-ins, hoping to be able to stave off the ultimate, to place the blame on someone, anyone, else. To say it is to make it real. And it isn't time to make it real - yet. Those who want to blame Obama or the Tea Parties or Fox News or the New Black Panthers or whatever or whomever will end up just as hungry, just as poor, just as third-world-country broke. Have you got at least two years of food stored away? - because you can bet that your nouveau-hero Glenn Beck does.

You see, this has been coming for 74 years, through every administration, through every Presidency, through every Sturm und Drang of every political and social fight. And everyone sat through it all, watched it without knowing what they were watching, denying the trends, arguing about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin instead of what really mattered. Most watched agape at the magicians' right hand tossing sparkly lights, ignoring that his left hand was delving into their pockets, laughing in glorious surprise when the magician produced the victim's empty wallet in front of him! What a neat trick! Do it again!

Yup, everything is FINE.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My vacation

My job only lasts 10 months out of the year, so I get 2 months of "vacation". Two months of freedom, yippee!!

OK, so I still wake up at 5:30 every morning. There's so much to be done! The greenhouse is up already, and there are plants in it for my fall sale/opening. The garden is (mostly) weeded and I have lettuce and spinach and peas to harvest. The onions are HUGE - good grief! - and still not near ready to pull. The cows and chickens need their feeding twice a day and the trough needs filling every other day. Gracie the horse nickers at me over the fence whenever she isn't out in the fields enjoying the sun and green grass. Some days I get time to go up on the hill with her, and we just sit and talk for hours, not saying a word.

Spring brought me babies - two bull calves, kittens, and a new Australian shepherd/heeler cross puppy I am training to herd. So they keep me busy. The Momcow who had the last baby, Pauline, has completely changed her attitude. She has gone from a shy and quiet little heifer to a first-time MOTHER with attitude.

I have been working in the ceramics shop downstairs, too. I've got some more dwarfs to paint and a nice pitcher and bowl for my bedroom to decorate. Not to mention the fact that I've got some really nice canisters that were given to me by someone who moved - they are like blank canvases, and I am painting local scenes on them. I took pictures of some really nice windmills and old buildings around here to get my perspectives right. But what I really love are the snow scenes!

I've started an orchard, too; last year I put apples, big pie cherries, gooseberries, and plums in, this year it's more apples, the little sand cherries for jam, and some pears. They are just sticks with leaves right now, of course, but they'll grow. Like the sand cherries and peaches where I used to live, they'll provide me with some great fruit, as long as I am patient.

My neighbor Sarah is having her second child in three months; I am quietly working on a little baby quilt for her. Did you ever notice that the first baby gets all the cool stuff, but the second one - not so much? Because of where we live, I found a cute tiny cowboy and cowgirl print, and a nice bold ropin bronc-bustin print. (Here it applies to both boys and girls! One of my 'pets' at school has a voice like an angel -and barrel races, ropes and ties cattle in rodeo performances all summer. )Put those two prints together with some other 'inanimate' blocks and it will be so cute!

Oh, we'll go to the dam and the falls and get some fishing in this year. The water is so clear you can see 8 feet straight down to the bottom, and the bass and trout and crappie are huge. Fed from underground springs and runoff from the mountains, over miles and miles of sand under and on top of the ground, the water is cold, too... plunge into that on a 90 degree day and it takes your breath away! The new pup loves to plunge into water and then dry off on the grass. At a garage sale, we found a set of binoculars for $25 that has a digital camera built in, so I can't wait to try that out in the evenings when we go watch our wildlife wander.

I guess it doesn't sound like much of a vacation to most folks; it may in fact sound a lot like work! But not being at anyone's beck and call, not having to answer the phone, not having to sit in a building for 9 hours a day, is pure pleasure.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Change? I got yer Change...

I love change.

I am easily bored. Boring people gripe my ears. Stupid people, who eagerly grab at anything or nothing to worship and follow or scream and rant and rave about, bore me. I like intelligent conversation, witty repartee, not the sandbox "Yeah? Well you're stupid too, so nyah!" style of argument. I like debate. I like incisive wit, and have a passion for puns, double entendres, anything that proves that my companions are thinking, not merely emoting.

I love the violent thunderstorms and the silent snows; the blasting blizzards and the sunlit spring tumble of fresh unfrozen water freed at last from its bounds. I like the struggling two leaves that become four, than six, then a hundred, the flowers that burst into bloom and then into fruit.

I like change that is progressive, natural; not forced or false or that steps or tumbles backward. I like change that is challenge and thought and effort and work and deed, not mouthing platitudes for the latitudes. I like change that means something positive, not something detrimental. That could include the changes of a shoreline that a hurricane creates, or the change in landscape that an earthquake dictates, or the change in foliage that a firestorm demands. These things can have positive influences, when looked at from a perspective of growth and progression.

I don't like change that suits a personal or political agenda, or demands that everyone ELSE change for someone else's goals. I don't believe that all change is good, even if it is inevitable. I believe that one has to step back, and unemotionally determine the good and bad of change, the future of the change or without it, compare the two, and consciously decide between change or no-change. Thoughtless and/or emotionally-inspired change rarely has a good outcome, no matter how many people wish it could be so.

The two things that never change are: 1) People want to, desperately need to, be empowered. Whether that empowerment comes from forcing others to their way of thinking/believing/praying/living, or from being a part of a group that fights that force, people seek empowerment. Very few can empower themselves, enrich their own lives through their own actions - most insist that by stomping on other people they empower themselves. They are wrong, and can never figure out why, like serial killers or rapists, their latest victims still do not satisfy that aching, sucking, black hole in their gut.

The other thing that never changes is that 2) most people don't recognize a good change, a healthy change, a change for the better. They believe they do, they think they do, they cast about endlessly for someone to tell them a 'good' change from a 'bad' change. Terrified of being wrong, they will follow anyone who sagely or vociferously says that this or that change is good for them. They haven't the self confidence to know what is right for them, much less for others, and so trust others to tell them what is right or wrong. Again, there is that black sucking hole of self doubt in their middles, that they will never own, admit to, or claim.

I'd like to say that I have never felt that self-doubt, but that would be a pompous lie. I have doubts. I have fears, and fears that my doubts are true. These doubts keep me from falling for the "change is good!" scenario, when common sense, rationality, and careful study proves that not all change is good or inevitable. These doubts cause me to think, to investigate, to compare, to ponder, to hyper-project many months, even years, into the future, to determine if proposed change is good - or if it is just something that someone else wants to change, to empower themselves over others. Over me.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


OK, it barely made it to the news; a mere 2.7 earthquake on the Richter scale, 60 miles east of me. Yawn. I didn't feel it... it was after all early in the AM on a school day, and I was busy getting the bulletins out to the kids and teachers, filling out the paperwork and making the class advisements, getting everything ready for next Monday which will be a half-day and a pain in my rear. Too many people get overexcited about the damnedest things where, if they would just take a breath, they would realize that accomplishment isn't dependent on the panic principle.

I have made a friend with a retiree from the USGS; a funny and friendly older gent who hides his engineering knowledge and voluminous skills under a 'hail fellow well met' kind of attitude. He is going to be loaning me a book about the area and its faults and earthquakes; a voluminous research with pictures. I like that kinda thing. I like learning things I didn't know before. I may have to cruise down and check out the fault line - or is it a fold line? - west of us.

No, I don't operate on the Panic Principle. Never have. Don't like drama queens and kings. Believe everything can be handled with reason, understanding, preparation, and a calm approach. I love it when the NOAA warning system goes off, telling me that a tornado may be approaching. I figure that everything I can tie down has already been tied down, I can only do so much - and then clean up afterwards if necessary. So I go outside with my camera and get kewl pics of the skies and clouds and rainbows, and wait to see if there will be any damage. There rarely is.Like most fears, when they pass, you get to realize how little good panic and hysteria really do. Even though some people need that constant upheaval in their lives, I don't.

I have always liked the quote, the Litany Against Fear, from Dune. "I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain."

Fear is overrated. Experience, now. Experience is key. So even when one has a fear, the only way to overcome it is to attack what one fears, educate oneself about every tiny fact of it, let the fear become understanding and accomplishment instead. Then one has a wealth of knowledge or experience on which to draw.

It isn't that I am fearless. I am a reasonable human, though, who can gauge levels of potential and determine all possible and likely outcomes, then act (or not act) accordingly. So no I don't fear earthquakes or tornadoes, any more than I feared hurricanes or floods or mouth-breathers. I simply gauge appropriate defenses against them before they occur, and responses to them afterwards. Only I remain.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Kleptocracy

There are people whom many call 'products of the entitlement mindset' - people who honestly do believe that the world owes them a living. They are catered to by the bleeding hearts who say, "But look their children are starving!" or "Everyone deserves a home!" or other fatuous and ultimately self-serving platitudes. We have now evolved into a whole generation of people who see absolutely nothing wrong with taking other peoples' earnings, profits, and property, even their lives, to suit their own demands and requirements.

The cashier at Wal Mart who rings up her friends' groceries, only charging for one out of every 5 items. The door-greeter and security guards who look the other way as people carry unpaid-for items out of the store. The clerk who takes things home from the job. The person who doesn't use their real name or address to seek medical care. The purchasing agent for any bureaucracy that adds items onto a purchase order that never get used at the bureaucracy, but instead get taken directly to his or her home - sometimes even shipped there. The judge who goes into a high-end car dealership to 'test-drive' a vehicle - and doesn't bring it back for over a week. The politician who superciliously informs people that they "owe" him and his wife vacations, or the use of public property for his own private interests. All of these are real people, all of these things happen all of the time, all of these things cost everyone by raising prices or using tax dollars to pay for their stealing. Because, call it what you like, it is stealing.

What happens in a disaster, like in Haiti or Chile? The kleptocracy steps in, just like they did in the aftermath of Katrina, taking whatever they need - or sometimes, all too often, things they don't need, just to have, or to trade or sell. And everyone makes a joke or turns the other way - or excuses them - "They don't know any better." "They needed it." Or my personal favorite - "Let them have it! They can't help themselves!" - yes, they can help themselves. And they do, to everything that isn't nailed down or red-hot, or protected by highly armed, highly criticized owners of that property. "Why don't they just give it to them?"

I always note that the ones who exclaim the latter are NOT the ones who are being invaded or assaulted; those who, in fact, think that it can never, will never happen to them. The shopkeeper snatching an hour of sleep here or there, his shotguns by his side, probably thought that, too. Yes, the exact same thing that those beat-up or heavily-armed people thought, six months or a year ago.

As the economy bottoms out, as schools close and more and more people are laid off, as things slowly fall into an economic mire, I wonder just how long all of those self-righteous people, living in their safe and gated communities, think they can hold out against the kleptocracy that they encouraged and pitied last year and this year. Do they really think that unarmed security guards will fight and die to protect them and their property? Do they really think that, in the event of a hurricane, massive flood, power outage, earthquake, pandemic, or any 'natural' or unnatural disaster, that they are safe? Or will they be crying out, "Where am I going and why am I in this handbasket?"

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Here is my Whole Cloth

Almost two years here.

Things are getting pretty intense; and no I don't mean politically or socially. They are intense for me, because doing what I've always wanted to do was a scary jump into a void. Not of knowledge, I had that. Not of experience, because I've had that, too. But of occurrences. When single threads start coming together to make a whole cloth, the cloth sometimes has colors that one does not expect. The challenges of weaving together a life from different threads are, in a word, multitudinous.

Who, after all, believed that this was what I really wanted? So many folks came up to me and said, "If I'd'a known you were like THAT..." and "You can't be SERIOUS!" and even "You'll be back!" - the folks who obviously didn't know me at all, of course.

I have things on my webpage and blog now that would interest no one in Beaufort or Jasper County, certainly no one whom I used to hang out with. How many of you would want to view the graphic pictures of my boss cow, Billy Jean, delivering her first calf? To me it is a miracle, and not just of birth, but of life and future and hope and change that matters personally, not in some unreal fantasy or phony political promise. How many of those folks who used to buy my eggs back in Hardeeville could relate to the fact that here there are no ordinances to ban my chickens, that my cows can be seen from the road in front of my house, that my eggs are the biggest and brownest and most sought after in town? How many of you would marvel at the progress of my reversible quilt, with the summer fruits on one side, the Christmas colors on the other, and the ruffles all around? Would you want to hear of the fourth snowiest season ever recorded that occurred this year, of what fun it is to whisk through snow-covered streets and skid into turns on ice, or to watch the snow drift down like tiny cellophane flakes?

Would you want to see pictures of the day-old calf gamboling happily around his mom, or the way the other cow and even the bull babysit him, or the way they all lay together in the afternoon sun, a happy and content family? Do you want to hear how we bake our own bread, fill our woodbox for the next snowstorm, take out the ashes and put them with the manure and kitchen scraps to compost? Do you care how we clean out the coop and corral, sludging through manure that we see as glorious and full of natural fertilizer and mulch, good for our growing things, an endless circle of life? Do you care if we steer the newborn bull for processing later, or keep him whole to sell his semen to promote good breed traits? Do you want to know if we will band or use the paste to dehorn him, do you care if he appears to be a successful production of homozygous traits?

Do you want to know that my lupus lesion has quit splitting open and has stopped oozing and bleeding, and that my body is actually starting to clean itself out and correct all the damage done by fast foods and a faster lifestyle? Do you care that my DH, whom so many were so interested in insulting and trashing just for being married to me, has found a quiet joy again in building things and working on engines, and working with animals who do not judge him, who do not scream at him and curse him as most of his patients did, who appreciate what he does for them - and who are fond of him and show it? Do you care that he no longer has to work a 60-hour work week, but can take his time as his pain levels dictate, and work at his own speed, and still be respected and included in a comfortable and friendly lifestyle?

I am happy to have left the WalMart and Starbucks world behind. I am content in what I have chosen. Folks say that I should write a book about what "really went on" the past 20 years, but you know what? None of it was important, as much as they like to think it was. Mean and angry and perpetually cruel people banding together to tear each other apart have no interest for me - or, now that I'm gone from their sights, in me, either. Any book I write will be about the joys, the hardships, the overcoming, the successes, even the failures; the building of my life the way I choose, not fighting those who choose different paths and want to drag me vociferously with them, or down if I do not agree with them.

Here I am, weaving the threads of all of my knowledge, all of my experiences, and all of my desires into a whole cloth, something to last, something to remember, something that is real and able to be felt, held, and used in a good clean manner. Something that all of the naysayers and eternally self-involved can never take away. Here is life. Here is joy. Here is hard work and success and achievement, sweat and dirt and tiny green plants poking their way into the sun, tiny newborns growing to full and heavy production. Here is blood and bone, feather and fur, knife and axe and fingers separating meat from skin, nitty and gritty and hay and manure, life and death in its most definite beginnings and ends. Here are long silent nights and endless silent days, with nothing but the cackling of an egg-laying hen or the indulgent moo of a mothering cow, or even the gobbling of the wild turkeys or the far-off howls of the yotes being hunted once again. Here is my whole cloth.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Season's Greetings

I have a passion for seasons. I don't like the vaseline-smeared-lens-fantasy of always-summer-at-the-beach ideal of eternal joy.

Let there be fall, with the wet-leaves smell, the crisp bite of the first fire that scents the air with a smoky promise of good warmth, to challenge that fresh clean first cold snap. The rustle of leaves that betrays the squirrel in the tree, or the sneaking deer coming up to the pond for the evening drink. The 'settling' conversations of turkeys in the trees outside my bedroom window as the night moves in ever earlier, ruining their little foraging plans and causing them to grumble. The deep lowing of the cattle over the hill, clearly heard in the evening chill, as the coyotes howl and whine and complain around them, looking for a victim amidst the sharp hooves and willing horns.

Let there be spring; the tulips pushing through the ground as mightily as they can, hard green heads against the hard gray grass. The gray branches of the maples and cottonwoods suddenly covered in soft green fuzz as the new leaves struggle to stretch to the sky, juxtaposed against the cedars and loblollies, blacker and more ponderous with the gentle new growth around them. They are the old dogs, the sturdy dogs, who have survived another winter with their foliage and dignity intact, and now hover over the giggling new growth, growly and protective over the spring growth, guarding it from the sudden and capriciously violent spring storms. Small fluffy chicks peeking out from uinder their mothers, shy and skittish, while the hens dare the roosters to come one step closer. New calves are staggering and investigating, running too far and bleating, returning to a lowing and comforting, never perturbed mother.

Let there be summer - a brief one, anyway. One that lets the garden tumble over itself in wild abandon; the lilacs bushy and throwing their purple raiment about like careless silk scarves, draping the burgeoning sunflowers and shy salvia with extra color. Green beans snapping in the sun, heavy tomatoes hanging in red Christmas-ornament colors, begging to be picked to free the branches to reach higher. Pumpkin, watermelon, and canteloupe vines sprawling across the rows in wild abandon, throwing out first the golden flowers as big as your hands, then the green balls of fruit that hide so much promise in their juicy interiors. The potato plants reaching for the sky, burying their gold like misers underneath layers of mulch and sand. The ground-hugging strawberries that nestle together like gossips, sharing their pollen and secrets with the bees, pregnant with the hope of a red and glorious birth. The apple, cherry, blueberry and gooseberry trees and bushes that rise disdainfully above them, waving their arms full of flowers and then proud and multicolored fruit. The calves are playing next to their mothers or dozing in the hot afternoon sun, the chicks are becoming aggressive as their teenage temperaments emerge; either trying to crow or racing each other endlessly after whatever bug enters their domain. The rush to can or dehydrate or collect the bounty, put it away to be enjoyed all year long. The rush to fatten, arrange, prepare to butcher or smoke or skin or defeather before the long-hanging sun finally settles into a brief and cooler nap. The endless sweat puddling in the clothing, drawing dirt and bugs, dripping in salted brine from your hair and face, so that a sudden plunge into the icy trough is a welcome but brief relief.

Ah, but winter! Winter is the best! Stomping in from the ice and snow outside, stripping off the layers of coats and snowproof overalls, thick heavy boots and gloves endlessly soiled by tramping through the toil. One makes quick work of feedup time; keeping the heated trough full of water for the big critters, knocking off the ice from the chicken waterer, piling up the snow from last week's blizzard as a wall to protect the chicken coop from tomorrow's predicted snows. Brushing the glittering snow from the cows' and horse's backs where it has melted to their heat, then refrozen in a winter ice cap to their heavy winter fur. Tracking rabbits in the snowy moonlight, scanning the sparkling starlit sky for any sign of those elusive wonders, the Northern Lights. Bright sunshiny days where 'diamond dust' - those glittery sparkles of frozen humidity that dance in the breeze, too light to fall to the ground - swirls around you in a softly billowing cloud of glory. Long black nights where the only sound is the crackling of the wood in the woodstove, the "ping" and "pang" of the cold metal stovepipe heating under a new assault of freshly blazing firewood, the rumble of the slowly collapsing log pile as it sacrifices itself in agonizing slow-motion to heat and light. Days of planning, days of dreaming over the seed catalogs and order books - what shall we have this year? What new adventures shall we undertake once the frost line permits the plow to cut instead of bounce? Endless evenings in the sewing room working on the next quilt, or in the ceramics room, painting pictures of sunlight and shadow on smooth clay canvas. No rushing, no hysterical to and fro, no gotta go see-buy-have-possess. Just the slow drowsy glide of one short day into the next long night; a chance to dream, to read, to think, to plan. Like the earth, a knowing that spring will come, and a restful preparation for that coming. A conviction that perfection can be attained, that this year and every one following can only get better and better, as the seasons slide into each other with graceful endless subtlety.