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Archive for July, 2007

So, one thing about this whole homestead plan… The reason our plans are so squishy and undefined: we know next-to-nothing about all this homesteady-type-stuff. There, I said it. I’m a little afraid I’ll be lambasted as naive or fickle or whatnot (right when somebody actually reads this stuff!), just as we’re all a little afraid to have our dreams criticized. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read everything I can get my hands on. I know how I want to build my chicken house and what I think I can reasonably grow in my relatively cool climate. But my hands-on experience amounts to a few days helping out around a friend’s ranch. And hands-on experience is where it’s at. I won’t claim to know how to do anything until I’ve actually done it.

All that is a long way to say that this year I planted my first vegetable garden. Also, that I’d love to get advice and tips if anything makes you wince.

We don’t have much room in our yard. The dogs have domain over the backyard and our town’s resident deer rule the front yard, so we can’t plant anything they’d like up there. So EZ built me 2 raised beds in an enclosure in the back yard. We filled them with soil bought in bulk from a local nursery. Since then, my biggest problem is the plants’ rampant growth.

 The Little Garden that could

The tomatoes are have grows right out the top of their 4′ cages. I think they love that red wall and all the heat it gives off for them.

Tomatoes coming to get you!!!

They are heavy with tomatoes though and we just got the first ripe one. He was little, but tasty! (And I grew that lettuce, too! It just keeps on coming!)

Rawr! Giant hand squash tiny tomato!

The squash are busy trying to shade out the onions (and everything really). I took this picture yesterday and 3 of those squash will be ready to pick tomorrow!

Squash

The mint. Oy, the mint. How the hell will I ever use that much mint?! I’ll have to take up heavy Mint Julep and Mint Tea consumption. I’ll be perpetually drunk and full-bladdered.

May I offer you a nice mint julep?

Now for the problem children. I used to just love the snap beans. They thrust themselves out of the ground so enthusiastically. What lust for life! But they got bored with life pretty quickly, I guess, and now they look like this:

Bah, humbug!

They are curly and short and not even pretending they’re going to produce anything. I’m going to just yank them out of the garden soon, I think. Any other suggestions?

Then there are the snap peas. They have grown tall and are beginning to produce pods, but they just look so damn sad. Now what do I do about them?

Sad

I keep meaning to get up to the areas of the National Forest that are frequented by horses to grab some leftover weed-free straw to use as mulch, but I haven’t yet. However, the weeds seem pretty easy to control if I just spend an extra two minutes pulling them in the morning when I water. I guess I wouldn’t have to water so much if I got some, though.

Anyhow, welcome to my teeny tiny garden. I adore it and love spending time there.

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A good woman

I was out of town on work trip for the last two weeks. While there, I met a woman my age, who seemingly has it all. She is smarter than most of the highly educated people I met there, despite her relatively lower position and education. Gorgeous, funny, sweeter than pie, tough as can be, charming and very personable. I instantly liked her (let’s call her Lily).

During my last night in town, I also met her boyfriend. I instantly disliked him. He just set off my (admittedly strong) radar for jerks immediately. Another friend I made there (who we’ll call Jill) told me later in the evening that he yells at Lily in front of people as a matter of course, that she felt stuck as to what to do. Lily is just not receptive to any negative comments about her boyfriend and Lily’s boyfriend is already onto Jill. He discourages them hanging out and ridicules Lily when she says something that “Jill would say.”

That night, I witnessed it for myself. There was some lame-ass drama about ‘your girlfriend called my girlfriend something mean’ (it was in jest). Words were spoken. Beer bottles were hurled out of trucks. It felt lik High School Redux. Well, Lily’s boyfriend decided it was time to go kick so-and-so’s ass and thought Lily should come with. She refused to go with him and be a party to some fight. And there, in front of everyone, he berated her. He yelled and insulted and talked down to her. It was very clear that this man views Lily as a possession. His love for her goes only as far as his control over her does. It was a pathetic display in my eyes to see a grown man so desperate for control that he would sink to such lows.

I spoke some to Jill about this. I could say something, I told her. I’m leaving tomorrow and what do I care if she shuts me out and doesn’t want to speak to me ever again? I just wanted to hug her and say, ‘this is not how a good man treats the woman he loves. You are a good woman. You deserve a good man.’ But no, Jill told me, she won’t listen. She’s not ready. Well, she may not have been ready, but I wish I’d have said something. My own cowardice and unwillingness to break the status quo bothers me greatly still.

The next morning, I left town. I was driving to meet my loving, repectful husband who treats me as his equal and I got to thinking. I am close to another woman who was willing to accept abusive treatment from her partners. A women who thinks that all she needed was to tough out the bad times and it would all be ok (she’s getting better and better with each relationship). But that toughness is something she shares with Jill and, I think, something a lot of women who settle for less than they deserve also share. They think that they can persevere and shoulder the entire burden of a relationship alone. And they do for quite some time, usually.

What I wish for them is that toughness would grow into strength. Toughness is an ability to endure, to push through the pain and difficulty, but it doesn’t necessarily have a point. Strength on the other hand is a combination of toughness, discerning, and willingness to act. A tough woman powers through the difficulties with only her original goal in mind. She just stays the course. A strong woman has a deeper respect for her self. She will power through difficulties, but she knows when that goal is damaging to her and she’ll make the hard, painful decision to walk away.

These women have all the raw ingredients. I just pray that they can take all that they give to these men who appreciate none of it, and turn it inward. Give themselves the gift of self-respect and true strength.

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I’ve been working away from home in a small Montana town. It’s a big project for my big company, so people come from all over the US to work here. Most of the people are big city folks and mostly from the East. I’ve always felt a little less sophisticated and less culturally aware than people from big cities. A little clunky and a little ignorant, I suppose. The big cities have all this culture and art and fancy things. I appreciate and love my simpler upbringing and quieter life, but I recognize the drawbacks and what I’m missing out on.

My big city counterparts here, well, they’ve surprised me. Mostly people I generally enjoy, but I’m suprised how ignorant and intolerant they are of different cultures within their own country and their own race. The life here is different than big cities and it’s different than a lot of small towns. It is profoundly different from the small southern Arizona town I spent my first 16 years and still more hardcore than the next small Western Colorado town I lived in. Things like the fact that hunting is not mere hobby, or merely a way to attain meat, but is rather a way of life kinda freaks these people out. So, long story short, I’ve heard a lot of ignorant stuff this week. This however, takes the cake. I was at a party last night with my co-workers and I was getting to know a big city girl. We’d gone through the ‘where ya froms’ and all that, and in conversation, I mentioned my husband. She asked me how old I was and I told her I was 26.

“Oh, how long have you been married?” She asked

“Coming up on 2 years in August,” I smiled.

“Oh wow, 24?! So young… I guess that’s just what you do out here, though,” she said, like I was a sad case of arranged marriage and perhaps I’d also had a sexual organ ritually altered.

I tried to explain that, actually, I married for love, not out of social or cultural obligation. Also, what the fuck, bitch?! (Heh. No, actually I was very polite.) I am so lucky that I met such a fantastic man when I was only 21. It surprised me, actually, that I married so young (not that I really married all that young). But when you find a man like that, who you feel like that about, and he feels the same about you? You roll with it.

I was relating the incident to my husband, who is (much) more worldly than myself, but doesn’t have a superiority complex about it, over the phone today. He said, “Well, most big cities have a Little Italy, or a ChinaTown, but there’s no Little Butte or RedneckTown. They probably understand people from other countries better than you do, but they don’t get a lot of the people in their own country.”

I guess the conclusion I came to is that, unless you’ve lived pretty much everywhere, we all have deficiencies in what we should know about the other cultures. The hope is that your Mama and Pop taught you some modicum of politeness and humility and that you need not exert your percieved superiority over other cultures. If you are in a discussion with someone from a culture you don’t understand, ask polite questions, or maybe, just shut your damn mouth and keep your idiotic stereotypes.

Dumbasses come from every culture on Earth. I guess that’s what unites us.

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I’m going to tell you about some of our best friends. A lovely couple who we hunt, hike, fish, backpack, and hang around and drink beer with. They have lots of stories about their outdoor exploits that often sound a little overblown. These stories tell of horrific, dangerous, and comical mishaps that always seem to turn out more or less OK. Maybe the stories are just inflated slightly for comic effect, one tends to think. After this trip with R. and A., I’ll never doubt their stories again.

We went camping with R. and A. the weekend before the 4th of July. We had a beautiful spot with a trail and a stream out of which EZ and R. were constantly pulling fish.

So the first morning, R. and A. and I go for a trail run. R. goes ahead with their dog, Polson, because he’s way faster than us. An hour and 15 later, A. and I are done, having our recovery drink (Rainier beer, of course) in the campground. Polson comes screaming into the campground. He comes and gets pets from everyone and starts playing with sticks. He’s always such a happy dog. After he’d been there for a while, I remarked, “At least we know that R’s not up there with a broken leg, because Polson is totally unconcerned. Either that or he’s a crappy Lassie.” We laugh, ha ha, and go about our business.

20 minutes later, someone says, “Well, I saw some movement in the woods. R. must be almost here.”

5 minutes later, A. says, “Oh SHIT!” and goes bolting up the trail to R., who’ hobbling along with the aid of a long stick. He had a very severe ankle sprain about a half mile up the trail. Unfortunately, it was on his way back after A. and I were done running. So, we wrapped it up and ice it and all that.

Turns out that Polson tripped him, then ran off to the camp and forgot that he left R. in the woods injured while he played with sticks. Sweetest dog I have ever met, ever, but crappy Lassie, indeed.

A few hours later, EZ and I go fishing (he’s teaching me to flyfish). EZ is borrowing R’s fly rod. Eric catches a fish, sets down the rod. I come running over to see the fish and step on the rod. Yep, cracked it. Hopefully, it’s fixable. R. was totally laid back about it, but I felt so bad. I was about to cry telling the gimpy guy that I just broke his rod that’s been in his family for 3 generations.

Then, Sunday morning, we were cooking breakfast and our friend C. (she and her husband showed up for the second night) was starting her white gas backpacking stove for an extra burner, but it was malfunctioning. Probably overpumped. R’s helping out. EZ suggests, “Sometimes you just have to open the tank to let off the air.” EZ usually offers up good, solid advice and almost never bullshit, so people tend to trust him. However, I’m right in the middle of the following sentence when R. opens it: “That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”

It was not only overpumped, but overfilled. White gas flies everywhere. R’s arm is on fire. The trash is on fire. Pine needles on the ground are on fire. Mostly, R’s arm is on fire. We get it put out pretty quickly, but R., who was formerly a pretty hairy guy, now has one bald arm (luckily nothing worse).

All this on one little car-camping trip and yet, right before they leave, R. asks, “Cool. This was fun. So when are we going backpacking again?” and hobbles off into the sunset.

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Barry White is my sweet, old Black Lab. He has never fetched. I’ve never shot a gun within a mile of him, but is clearly gun-shy and thus doesn’t hunt. He doesn’t really play. He mostly lays there. And breathes… a lot. Oh! And he eats. He loves to be in the woods, but he mostly just sits there and smiles. Most of all, he loves love.

Also, due to his deep fear of pretty much anything that goes boom, he is the biggest pill-popper I know. Well, of course, last week was the 4th of July. Of course, we are the last house in City Limits. Of course, fireworks are legal outside of city limits. My neighborhood sounds like the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan the whole week of the 4th of July.

Now, if Barry just got nervous and burrowed in closets and barked a lot like most dogs. We’d just ride it out. But, Barry, he likes to take things to extremes. Which means that when there’s a storm or fireworks, he leaves ‘gifts’ for us all over the house. We’ll find a couch soaked in urine or a huge dookie in an inconvenient spot (well, really, where can a dog poop inside the house that is convenient?). We go through an incredible amount of Nature’s Miracle in the summers, between the firecrackers and the thunderstorms. Well, the most effective way to curb the damage to the house is to give him tranquilizers. I’m not a big fan of over-medication, but be honest, would you want to clean urine out of your couch everytime lightning got within 10 miles of you? (For the record, I’ve tried the desensitization methods. But even with a CD of thunder set on the lowest volume, he freaks out.)

I think he knows when I’m giving him his pill. I generally give it to him inside a piece of cheese. He loves cheese, but he really loves cheese during a thunderstorm. I like to imagine that his thought process when I pull the cheese out of the fridge goes something like, “O, sweet cheese of blissful sleepiness… take me away to my happy place.” Perhaps, he’s actually thinking, “Oh shit, sleepy-cheese. I don’t really want to feel all fuzzy and hungover for the next day, but damnit, I love me some cheese!” I choose the former.

At the moment, I have a panting, digging, distressed Black Lab at my feet under the desk. I just gave him his sleepy-cheese and I’m hoping it kicks in before he takes a dump on my clean clothes basket. You see, now that the fireworks of the 4th of July have subsided, that nasty high pressure ridge all over the West has pushed Arizona’s monsoon aaaaalllll the way north to me. I feel like a kid again (I was raised mostly in AZ), baking in the humid heat through the mid-day and then enjoying a nice, violent, mostly dry thunderstorm by early evening. Poor Barry, he doesn’t really like it so much, but he’s slowing down. Soon he’ll be a droopy, snoring pile of black fur.

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The Baby Monster

This has come and gone before. This intense longing… somewhere below rational thought comes that scream, “Baaaay-beeees!!! Bebes, bebes, bebes!” The first round was before I had even met EZ. I was still in college when I developed an interest in infants, toddlers and older children for the first time in my life. I’d honestly never given them much thought before. I’ve always been more of a dog person, what can I say? At the time, I just mostly noted that, ‘dang, they’re pretty cute. And funny, as well. One day, I might have one. Or I might just hang out with other people’s children.’

The next major episode of the Baby Monster occurred after EZ and I moved to Montana and got married. It was as though my hormones somehow realized that my life was stable and so they sprung into action. Goading me at every possible moment to reproduce. So I, in turn, goaded EZ, ‘When we gonna have babies?” Mostly in jest, but not-so-secretly wishing he’d say, “How about now?” I had gotten into the habit of giving him the occasional baby-needling by the time the Baby Monster had once again gone into hibernation. EZ always deflected these advances in his usual, easy way. “Someday…” he’d say wistfully and change the subject as fast as humanly possible.

I was giving him one such baby-needling at a baseball game a couple weeks ago (yep, our town has a rookie level minor league team. I don’t care for baseball much, but it was 2 dollar microbrew night! Of course, I went!), when Eric blindsided me. “When would you want to be pregnant?”

“Wha..? What? Whaddya mean, ‘when’?” I stammered, scarcely believing that he’d actually taken the bait.

“I dunno. What part of the year, I guess?” Well, I thought, that’s kinda dumb. Like we could pick a month to get pregnant and tada! We would be. “What do you want to skip? Hunting season? Ski season? Rafting season?” I love this man. Despite the apparent naivety, he’s worried about what season I’d miss! I have truly picked a perfect match for me.

Anyhow, we discussed things for awhile, when suddenly I was taken aback by the fact that this might be actually happening, I stalled. “Well, to tell you the truth, I want to wait until we have our property together. I don’t want to derail the homestead, so we should wait until the spring, at least.” I was impressed by my own prudence and careful planning. I was a woman who knew what she wanted and was willing to sacrifice and compromise to get it.

Until I wasn’t.

I woke up the next morning with a raging Baby Monster, louder than it had ever been. ‘How could you have been so stupid? Why in the hell would you say that you want to wait? You don’t want to wait! You want to be pregnant as of yesterday! Or the day before! Not next February!’

I came up with a million and one reasons why we should start trying right now. Unfortunately, when I presented my case to EZ, his 2 or 3 reasons were much better. Even raging hormones can’t compete with logic. Not when you’re married to EZ, anyway. We agreed, we’d start to give it a shot during the winter. That way, even if finding the right property took quite a while, we could still be relatively settled before any tiny humans invaded our lives.

Logic, compromise, reasoning, communication of our feelings and thoughts. These things make a marriage stay strong and help partners come to workable solutions to their disagreements.

Of course, the Baby Monster says Winter starts November 1 and 12:00 am. Set your watches!

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Last night, 2 tires were slashed on our Subaru and one on our truck. I guess the pain of being a suburban white kid in an idyllic town on a lovely 4th of July is so overwhelming that sometimes you’ve just gotta go slash some shit that doesn’t belong to you. I can sympathize. Wait. Actually, no. I can’t.

So, we spent $500 on tires today (you have to replace all 4 on a Subaru AWD). Our insurance’s deductible? $500, of course!

Considering that our vehicles have also randomly had windows broken out and been egged, yes, living in the country is sounding even better today!

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