Living in the Wild.

We don’t actually live in the wild. It is not like we don’t have electricity or flush toilets or anything. We live in a house just like a good number of you. With all the normal amenities. But sometimes it can feel a bit wild. This morning was one of those mornings.

This morning I came downstairs. I am normally the first one up in the morning, and to my surprise it sounded like there was someone else up. To add to that, many of the lights were on. This by itself does not mean anything, if you live with teenagers you understand their aversion to turning off lights. But it did sound like someone else was up.

I have learned my lesson, of living with three black belts, two brown belts and many other children who are also trained in martial arts to some level, you don’t startle them. So I came downstairs and just walked into the eat-in kitchen like normal. To my surprise, there was no one there.

I am not a morning person so despite the fact that I was awake and upright, It took me a moment to take in what I was seeing. The garage door leading into the house was open. At first my heart started to beat faster. There had been a noise. I didn’t see anyone, I still heard the noise and the garage door is open.

Let’s back up for a moment. Our kitchen counters are set up like a “U” so there are parts of the kitchen proper that you can’t see until you are in the kitchen. So my anxiety was a bit high, but not too high I mean really what would someone be doing in our kitchen rummaging around in our cupboards. Did the dishwasher repairman come in the middle of the night to fix the dishwasher that has never worked quite right?

I took a hesitant step further. The noise sounded odd.

Now, we raise animals for various reasons. The reasons are not the important part here. But we do keep them out of the house. They are not pets, they are farm animals. You will occasionally see us bring one or two of the baby goats into the house, but that is in an attempt to get them used to humans. Several of the adult goats we have are not mean to humans, but they don’t like them, so they run away all the time. We want them to come to us, for other reasons than food, or at least not run away. That is another story. The point is that for the most part, our animals don’t come in the house, and they normally are supposed to be in their own areas. Goats in their enclosure and chickens in their coop.

I took a step closer to the kitchen, still a bit nervous because I could not see what was making the noise. As I rounded the corner, I spotted them. About a dozen of our laying hens had gotten out of their coop, and into the garage during the night, and apparently the last of the kids to come in in the evening didn’t check to make sure the door was latched, so now we had chickens, that were not ready to eat, in our kitchen!

It took a couple of minutes and more than one pass, but I eventually did get them out of the house. For those of you, who sometimes ask, this is what our life is like.


The Hazards of Backyard Hens


You probably already know that my family and I have been experimenting with some small scale farming. You can even read about some of our adventures here

Lately I have been looking at changing our life. Much, if not all of this is still up in the air, but there will have to be some changes. Since I still don’t know what those changes are going to be, I really can’t talk about them here, but here is what I did want to talk about.

Today my lovely wife sent me a link for a DIY HEPA filter. Our newest son is having some breathing issues so we are experimenting with things that might help him out a bit. The HEPA filter is just one of those things. I would send you the link but really it is just a box fan and a decent HEPA filter from the hardware store. It looks like a great idea and we are going to give it a try.
This DIY video lead to other DIY projects, Solar heaters and alternate heating systems and then eventually to this one entitled Off-grid, handcrafted life on Oregon farm & workshop I am not going to embed that video but I did want to share the link for those of you that are interested.

Shortly after we started this whole farming business, we found the video below which is really rather funny. And it is meant to be. About half way in at about the 1 minute 20 second mark she started talking about how chickens are a gateway livestock. Watching the above video today reminded me of how far from that gateway livestock we have come, and things that I would have thought nuts a few years ago but don’t think are that far out there now. It is that last line that gets me. Before you know it…

here is the update
Today, I looked at plots of land in the midwest. Seriously looked. With no current job prospects in the area, I seriously looked.

Anyway, enjoy the video. It really is very funny.

Remembering Isabel

isabel_with Mom and DadAs almost always happens in life, things did not turn out the way that we planned. As my wife pointed out, we make plans and God laughs.

I suppose I should back up and explain a little. For those of you who don’t know today is our daughter’s birthday. Unfortunately she was only with us for a short time, and most of that was spent trying to keep her alive. She was born And died the same day.
So we had made plans to go to Mass at our church, and then go to the Cemetery and spend some time there checking out the newly laid head stone and some time just wandering around looking at the rest of the cemetery. After that we would just spend a quite day at home with the family. (Seriously we should have known better than plan a quiet day at home.)

It started earlier this month when we learned there would be no daily Mass this week at our parish since the priest would be out of town. Not a problem we can find another Daily Mass to go to. Right! Well some how we kind of messed that up.

Then yesterday we discovered that we had a leak on the second floor of the house that was leaking into the kitchen. The water was turned off. Turns out it was a drain pipe to the sink In the master bathroom, but before we could discover and stop the leak, there was a lot of dry wall that needed to be removed. Translation there is a rather large hole in the ceiling of our kitchen right now.

I started to work on said hole this morning but things didn’t go as I had hoped and well, the work had to stop.

Off we headed to the Cemetery. Honestly this went very well. The headstone is beautiful

20131106-204807.jpg. It was great to see it.

We came home to find our sheep out of their pen. We got them back in their pen, but decided to move it since we were out there already. While we were doing so, I got tangled up in the fence and sprained my ankle.

After a while of normal maintenance we realized it was worse than normal, and required a trip to urgent care. Good news it is just a sprain and no other damage the bad new is that the trip got me a splint, and several days of “light duty.”

Back to the hole in the ceiling. Guess that won’t get fixed any time in the next few days. Something about climbing around on ladders in a splint seems like a bad idea.

It was not a bad day. I don’t want you to think that I am looking for sympathy here. Yes, we wish we could celebrate today differently, but we can’t. We are all learning to deal with that. And besides the trip to urgent care it was a pretty normal day around the house.

While we were gone to Urgent care the kids made a banana cream cake, a normal cake with banana pudding, sliced banana’s whipped cream, and crushed ‘nilla wafers over the top, and the older ones made dinner. It was good to come home to.

Our kids are happy. A little weird at times, but then they would not be our kids if they weren’t a little weird. And My wife and I are pretty happy, a little on the insane side but happy. And we are thankful. Thankful for the short time we got to spend with Isabel. Thankful for the folks who were so very helpful last year in our time of need, and the ones who have continued to be helpful since then. We are thankful for the children we have and get to hold and the ones who we only got to hold the one time.

So yes, we are saddened by this day. But I am taking it as a day to remember our little one, by spending time with the rest of her family and taking stock of everything we have.

I Herd That

DSC02308Recently I read a post by one of my friends and co-founders of Flying Island Press, Zachary Ricks called Going Straight. Before you read on, I am going to ask you to go read his post, most of what I am about to say is not going to make sense unless you do.

Ok you read it right?


I’ll wait.

We’re good now right?

Before I get into this two deep let me say two things.

First, my farming experience has come as an adult. I don’t think it lessens it, but it does make it different. My experience is also on a much smaller scale, you might call it hobby farming, heck you might even call what I am doing just goofing around. Whatever you want to call it, it is different than what he has experienced.

Second, I am going to use some humor here. I am not in anyway meaning to lessen the message that Mr. Ricks is sending. He has a good message here and I am hopefully going to add to it and not take away from it. We are both using the farming metaphor to describe life, and well that just lends itself to some pretty humorous things. Not the least of which is the idea of two “old men” arguing about which kind of farming is a better metaphor for life.

Mr. Ricks starts with the premise that if you are going to get anywhere in life, if you want to reach your goals you need to look straight ahead and plow your rows straight by keeping your eyes on your goal. If you do then you will make nice straight lines. While I was reading this, I could not help but think about the very small amount of “creating rows” I have done. First, I will say that I have never done this with a tractor. All of our farming has been done by hand. The biggest power tiller that you can rent from your local supply store is the largest piece of equipment that I have used on our farm. That being said the tiller (and yes I know that is different than disking and that is different than plowing but hey I gotta start somewhere) I have used on the 3+ acres that we messed with this year, yanked me around until I was sore even after days of trying to pick the rocks out of the soil, and I never had anything that looked like a straight line. When we went back and use the furrower the story was much the same. Then we had a string guiding us and I was still all over the place. I guess it does not mean that we had a bad field, just that we had one that didn’t have straight lines as hard as we tried. So while I like the idea of keeping your eyes on the end of the field and getting straight to your goals, it is not something I really have any experience with.

Well one of the reasons that we make straight lines in our fields is that we want to be able to use equipment in helping us to continue the growing process. We want to have it help us spray the crops to keep the weeds down and of course water. If your lines aren’t straight, then when you run your equipment through you’re going to run over some of your crops.

What does this have to do with life? Simple. If you don’t keep your eyes on where you are going and keep your “lines straight” you are going to have a hard time later, some of the work that you did in the past will get lost, because you didn’t do it in the right order, or it was off track. You might even waste time redoing things because you didn’t understand enough to have done it right in the first place. You might find yourself at the end of the field, (the end of a project) only to realize that you plowed the wrong field. These are very real dangers, and very good reasons for keeping your eyes on your final goal.

Crew_working_DSC02345While I don’t have any experience plowing and making strait rows, one of the things that I do have some experience in, is herding animals and pulling weeds. For me, while the idea of keeping your eyes on your goal makes a lot of sense, I find myself having to make sure that not only am I headed in the right direction, but also that the animals that I am trying to herd are going there as well. That means taking my eyes off the end goal. That sometimes means running around side to side to keep the strays from wandering off. It means some turning my back on the goal so that I can run back and get a sheep that has decided to be stubborn. It is these side trips that can, from time to time, tell you if an animal is sick, tell you if you have missed a spot where they could graze, figure out which ones of them are the leaders (if you don’t know already,) and in general get a good look at your animals. Some times you even learn that you and a new sheep needed a bath.

These side trips in life, let you know what you are missing. You might find things that interest you, they might give you ideas about future projects, or help you to realize that you have a problem. While you always want to keep an eye on that end goal, you don’t want to be chasing “sheep” all day, some times it is good to move from side to side and look at things from a new angle. You might just find out something about yourself that you didn’t know before. But you to want to keep an eye on where you are going so that you don’t end up getting completely side tracked and not making it to your goal.

As for the weeds, well, while you are down on your hands and knees pulling weeds it is a good idea to know where in the field you are, but over all that can some times make things worse. If you have ever worked on a really large project, one that felt overwhelming, you likely know the virtue of just keeping your head down and moving forward, because if you look at the end goal too much you will get depressed because it seems too far away. Along with not letting your self get overwhelmed, there are things that need a level of detail that you can’t give them if you have only half your focus on them. If you are weeding along with your eyes on the end of the field, to make sure that you are in your row, then you might start pulling up the plants that you are there to weed around. Sure, it might mean that you accidentally change rows, or that you reach the end of the row before you realize it (won’t that be a pleasant surprise,) but it also means that you have given the little details the level of attention they need.

If you look closely to this picture you will see that the thing I have around me is a baby sling.  There is a baby in there, but I am also using it to help me hold the apples I pick. I am such a good dad. Here baby, hold these apples that are bigger than your head.I don’t think any one way is right. Mr. Ricks points out that not keeping straight means that it will take you longer to reach your goals. He is right. Some times it feels like it takes way too long to move the sheep from the barn to the pen only a hundred feet away, but as I said some times it gives you a new perspective. Then again some times it is just down right annoying. When you are trying to get ready for work and need to get the sheep moved, the chickens fed and the children all up and started on their day before you get yourself out the door.

Can life be described as one farming metaphor or another? Likely not. I guess what I am saying here is that you have to be flexible. Everything in your life is likely there for a reason. If that means you get to make nice straight rows, awesome. If that means that you spend a while running after sheep, or down on your hands and knees in the dirt, well that is part of life too. Keep open, keep flexible, and don’t get discouraged if your life is not always straight, you can do better next time.

Thank you to Zachary Ricks for the great post, and wonderful ideas. You can learn more about him and what he is up to at his site Mad Poet Files Trust me you want to keep an eye there, beyond being wise, he is also a wonderful story teller. His book Battle Hymn is awesome and I am eagerly awaiting the next one in the series.