Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The New Normal...

What? People are talking about the “New Normal” as if we have reached a level of stasis in this pandemic situation. This supports a point I made early on in this pandemic: People will get tired and will quit making the effort pandemic panic requires – especially in the face of dubious cost vs. benefit facts.

One way to quit is to call this situation The New Normal. Lower your expectations; stop grieving over the losses, and get on with living despite the uncertainty of, well, everything!

We are not close to a New Normal, and I am not willing to capitulate to one. I will find routines and habits that sustain me during this world-wide upheaval, but I will not call it Normal.

Not much of what is happening now is sustainable. Adjustments are still being made to supply us with what is needed for life and health, and more will be as our states begin to let go of the powers they have seized. Please God, they relent and release! And soon…

People like to predict that there will nevermore be hand-shaking or hugs. There will be no church services, or large gatherings of any kind. We will all be wearing masks whenever we are in public.

I think it is far too soon to dump practices that have been part of human contact from time immemorial. We are made to be together, to have community, to express our respect, affection, camaraderie through touch and presence. That is normal – and we will find a way to return to those things that strengthen and sustain us. We don’t need to give up and accept a New Normal that is devoid of them. We will innovate and likely return to many former practices because every generation has had challenges to “normal” life.

Now is the time for us to work hard to incorporate our timeless and precious values into what will become a new normal. We need to discern the good and strive to keep them; and evaluate the new with clarity before accepting them. This could be a great opportunity for us to define, refine and communicate the beliefs behind our actions. And to know them for ourselves…

It’s going to take patience and courage. It won’t be without conflict, but I pray that when we are in a New Normal we will be able to say the important things are still with us -- and are even better than before.

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Raspberries Don't Know There's A Pandemic...

...and they are just growing in the usual way.

They look very nice, by the way, which is a welcome change from last year.

As we look through the baby field, we see some winter damage here and there but it is minor.

Quite different than last year when the babies had to be cut off because there was so little green.

Last year's babies have recovered. They look beautiful!

I'm not sure what to call them because they have never had a harvest -- but they are not first year plants. "Youngsters" might be an apt moniker, as opposed to "babies" which we also have.

If it weren't for a global pandemic going on, we'd be feeling quite excited about the coming harvest. Unfortunately there are two big unknowns facing us now: Will there be a market for our crop? And what kind of constraints will be required to harvest it?

We're starting to get some info on the constraints and it is worrisome. Social distancing requires more space on sorting lines, which means half as many people to do the work. It could take twice as long to get the fruit over the lines -- and we only have 5 weeks to get it done. It's not like the berries will wait for us!

It's going to be another interesting season in ways we had never anticipated.

Makes us even more thankful for lovely, normal growing conditions!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Snuggly, Cuddly Winston...

…as he is known to my granddaughters, was born on April 20, right on schedule. Indeed, Clemmie was pregnant.  Remember when I doubted?

I’d been watching her closely for a few days and signs were showing that it was close. I locked her in the pen overnight on the 19th and checked on her during the night. She was indignant about the separation, and nothing happened. I let her out the next morning, and soon, it was obvious that the birth was imminent!

Birthing is such an amazing event, in any species, and I was excited and nervous that it would go well. My first kidding had ended up at the vet clinic, so I was hoping for a normal easy birth this time…like most of them are.

But that was not to be. The first goat baby emerged, head first (that’s good) but no feet. Its front legs were folded back, making the shoulders and the body too large for moving through. When I confirmed that baby was in the wrong position, I called the vet for help. Unfortunately, all the vets were on calls at that particular time. Clemmie and I were on our own.

I did the best I could, but the baby was very stuck but alive. Clemmie and I worked hard and finally got the baby out – but it took too long. The little doe was limp and would not be revived no matter how much I tried to bring her back.

This is the worst of animal husbandry. Having never dealt with a stuck baby before, I know there are things that I did wrong. Whether better choices would have saved the baby is unknown, and make no difference now, but I wish I had done some things differently. The fact is that it was an unusually large baby – over 4 lbs. – and those births tend to be problematic with mixed results. After it was clear that the beautiful little doe was gone, I admit that I bawled my eyes out.

Fortunately, I didn’t have much time to cry as, only a short time later, Winston slipped right out into the world without a problem! He was barely 3lbs -- tiny but full of spunk. Soon he was trying to stand and making tiny goat bleats – littlest loud voice ever! Clemmie was cleaning him off and nickering to him as she had the first baby. I was so relieved that we didn’t have another problem.

Or so I thought.

These were Clemmie’s first babies, and the birth was traumatic and after Winston was cleaned and dry, she then decided she wanted nothing to do with the whole situation. She began to act very aggressively to the baby boy, actually butting him hard and knocking him away from her! I had to intervene to protect him. Spunky little Winston wasn’t deterred and kept approaching his mom for a drink of milk and she kept trying to avoid him or to butt him into next week!

Baby goats are so amazing! Tiny little things, in short order they are acting like…goats! No sleepy eyes-closed beginnings for them like puppies and kittens. Within minutes they are on their feet, heading to their momma and butting her, looking for milk. But coupled with their amazing innate ability is a real lack of good spatial relationship as they can spend a lot of time butting momma not in the udder, but in the shoulder, or the chest, or the leg – seriously pursuing that fountain of milk but not even close to the spigot. It’s so frustrating to watch!

Babies do best when they get to eat colostrum in the first hour of life. It can be maddening to watch them fumble around the mom, butting and bumping and missing the nipple by a millimeter or a mile! Add to that a momma who will not stand for it…well, it gets a little tense. You want that antibody and nutrient rich colostrum in that baby so it does not get weak and fade away.

I needed to enlist some help. Caitlin came as did my goat expert friend, Kat. It took the three of us – two to hold on to Clemmie and one to get Winston on the nipple. When we finally got him there, he wouldn’t nurse! Could we just have ALL the problems please? Nothing was coming easily for this birth!

We spent the rest of the day struggling through nursing sessions. On the positive, Clemmie kept getting less aggressive and more accepting – but no milk seemed to be consumed. Late in the day, with Winston’s tummy feeling flat and empty, I finally called the vet to come check if he needed a tube feeding. Might as well not wait until the middle of the night. It had already been 5 hours with little to no food for him. We left the two alone while we waited for the vet.

When Dr. Holly came, it seemed that Winston’s tummy was not as flat. We tried again to help him nurse and though Clemmie was still not keen on it (think kicking the leg I was holding onto with great vigor!), Winston was sucking and getting some nourishment! Hurrah! Dr. Holly said it would be a detriment to tube feed at that point, and that she thought they had turned a corner. The recommendation was to hold momma down for nursing every couple hours through the night. “It will be hell for the next 12 hours,” she said, “but I think they are going to be fine.”

We separated them from the other goats and they relaxed and bedded down together. A few hours earlier, I didn’t know that I’d ever see that! It was hopeful. Thankfully, Winston’s spunk kept him strong until he finally got some nourishment. When I went to attempt the next forced nursing, I found him with a nice round little belly and realized that it was no longer necessary! He and momma had found their groove…and not a minute too soon for me!

The next day I found an attentive mom and a feisty little buck in the pen, and I almost cried to see that everything was normal. Now I could be glad that I had embarked on another baby goat adventure. The previous day, I had been thinking NEVER AGAIN!

I still feel badly about the beautiful little doe that didn’t make it. Losing her left me undone for the next several days. Even though I understand the risks that come with animal husbandry, it’s still very hard to go through when you love your animals inordinately much, as I do.

I’m so glad we have Winston, so named as the Churchills were Winston and Clementine! He is doing very well. He does all the things the big goats do, just in a miniature version which is adorable and comical. Today he became strong enough to jump up on the lowest of the spool tables we have, and now has access from there to the highest ones. So much fun to watch!

Emma and Kit cannot wait to hold him each time they come by and it’s my delight to watch them enjoy! They both had decided on names for him on their own: Snuggles & Cuddles. Their moms told them that Grandma was going to choose the name but I allowed that we could combine. Thus the long moniker "Snuggly Cuddly Winston".

Watching them learn to hold him properly, and have them ask questions about him is why I’ve gone to the work of goats. I want my grands to learn to care for animals and love them and be able to learn all that I did from my early years on a dairy farm. My plan was for cows, originally, but The Farmer said they would take too much room. Plan B was goats, and I’m so glad I’ve gotten to know these lovely little animals! Personality plus, and easy to work with…well, most of the time.

Maybe the third kidding will be charmed…

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Impromptu Field Trip...

Sooooo...When I took Rosie out for her morning duties today, I decided to trust her. Bad choice. She's been doing so well with coming when called and sticking around me while I walk. I felt safe to take her on a quick walkabout to get the duties done.

I don't know if it was the wind, or that she figured out I didn't have nibbles of cheese in my pocket, or if she saw the empty parking lot and thought it was a great time to visit the casino -- but she took off. You can tell right away when she is not going to hear a thing you say just by her gait...and her increasing speed.

I do not run unless I am being chased but I did quicken my pace and began to holler and then wheedle, trying to get a response. As I crossed the road into the parking lot, a Border Patrolman passing by decided to pull into the lot. He parked.

He must have been wondering why I was there. He couldn't see the little red streak that was fiendishly flying around the building to the back. He just saw a lone woman walking up to building that has been closed for weeks. Hmmm.

Rosie continued around the west side and I hurried – but not when she was looking because that would turn into a highly desired chase which she always wins. Already, I was losing sight of her. Perhaps, the Patrolman would see my distress and as part of community service help me catch the dog. Or not. I didn't want to ask and I didn't have time!

I caught a glimpse of Rosie headed north and then east so I decided to take a chance of intercepting her on the opposite side of the casino – where the garbage cans are . I actually JOGGED (huff, huff) back the way I had come and made it to the east side before she did. This had everything to do with Rosie’s investigation of said garbage cans, not my speed.

When she rounded the corner, I squatted down and said in my happiest voice, “Rosie! There you are! Here you go! Good girl!” (Oh the hypocrisy!!) She came flying to me and passed right around, out of reach. Of course. She is not dumb.

I knew it was time to employ The Move and not much time to do it – despite the humiliation of having a Border Patrolman witness it. It was the only way I might get the dog  before we traveled into residential areas.(More humilitation!) I fell to the ground, arms in front of me, and started to make slightly convulsive movements, while saying “Rosie, Rosie!”

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I have no shame…or rather, I knew more shame was possible if I didn’t do The Move.

And, she fell for it! She rushed to me, full of concern and ready to lick my face. I nabbed her by the collar. IN CUSTODY!

Then I hoisted her up, huffed my way through the parking lot, smiling and waving to the Patrolman. Might as well be friendly as well as entertaining. Because of my foolish trust, I had no leash with me and had to carry the 28lb Rosie all the way back home. There was no way I was going to risk putting her down and having to do it all over again especially in front of that Patrolman. Ohforgoodness.

I should be thankful that the casino was closed. Otherwise there would have been many witnesses. And I should be thankful for garbage cans. And that I learned The Move and it worked. And that I don’t have to work out again this week. And for ibuprofen.

And for leashes, which furthermore are mandatory.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Some Encouragement for Unexpected Homeschooling...

Now that a version of homeschooling has been forced upon so many, I thought I would share with you some of what I learned as a homeschooling mom.

We homeschooled our kids for 5 years. Homeschooling was a pretty fresh concept at that time – late 80’s, early 90’s. I thought it would be a good fit for our farming lifestyle, which consumes all of our summertime. I wasn’t ready to send my kids away for the best part of their day. I had a strong-willed kid who I was afraid would be categorized unfairly for his…uh…individualistic way of approaching life if he was in a classroom. I love learning and wanted to share my kids experiences of discovery.

These were mostly good reasons – but as it turned out, I wasn’t very good at homeschooling. And I didn’t like it either.

Don’t get me wrong – we did have a lot of good time together for which I am grateful. Seeing my kids learn to read, and love reading, was a highlight. Having time throughout the year, not just summer, to do things together was a great blessing. And I loved seeing the kids integrate academic learning with life experiences on the farm.

But daily, it was a struggle. Finally, I was so burned out that we decided to end our homeschooling efforts. The kids went into school all at once – a fifth grader, fourth grader and second grader.

And you know what? They were all okay. They were ahead in some areas and behind in others but by the second semester, they were pretty much where they were supposed to be. Academically, they were just fine. Socially, they had to learn courage to be the new kids in an environment that was familiar to everyone else – but they did it. And we all grew.

I say this first so you know that as long as you’re trying, you’re not going to wreck your kid’s life by being a less than stellar homeschooling parent. So just put that fear away for good.

Now let me share some things with you that I discovered would have helped my schooling at home experience had I understood them back then:

1.      If there are deficiencies in your parenting, schooling at home will reveal them. Because I was inconsistent in training our kids, I got inconsistent obedience and respect. Just what I earned. If your kids take your words as a suggestion, rather than an instruction, you’re going to have a lot of trouble homeschooling. I was mostly concerned that everyone was happy and based my leadership on achieving that. You can’t make everyone happy all the time. Duh. But oh how I tried! I didn’t recognize the value that feeling bad can have on building our character. Eventually, after many frustrations, fears and tears, I learned that I should be more concerned with feeling RIGHT than feeling GOOD – for myself and my kids. Homeschooling is a hothouse that causes bad parenting habits to explode. And for me, they did. If I had a better handle on parenting, homeschooling would not have been such a struggle. So if you are struggling, honestly assess your parenting. Are you inconsistent? Unclear on what/when you expect your kids to do? Do you let things go because you are doubtful that your expectations are reasonable? Or because it feels like a lost cause? The best thing you can do to make homeschooling better is to work on fixing the parenting issues you discover. And even if that’s the only thing you get out of this distance learning experience, it will be the best thing you could do.

2.      Forget about the fear that your child will not perform well enough and get far behind. Unlike a homeschooling parent who has the sole responsibility to meet the requirements of their child’s academic results, you have an expert to help you. Your child’s teacher can give you a big picture assessment of how he/she is doing. And if they get behind, next year you will have another expert teacher to help them catch up. So just stop worrying about that. Academic progress often has different speeds as kids grow up.

3.      Don’t fall into the black hole of perfectionism. It is so easy to start looking at every little thing the kids do for schoolwork and try to micromanage every answer. I had to admit that my pride was all wrapped up in their daily work. If they didn’t get it right, I felt it was a reflection of my ability as a teacher and parent. Your kids’ schoolwork doesn’t prove or disprove your worth as a human being…or theirs either. Look at the wrong answers just as a measure of what is learned, and what still needs to be learned. That’s really all it is.

4.      If you get caught in the trees, try to back up and look for the forest. Discern the principle that is being taught in the lessons and strive to make progress toward that end. Don’t put too much importance on each individual worksheet! Sometimes comprehension won’t come just by doing worksheets. Don’t be afraid to use other methods and again, measure your progress against the principle, not the pages accomplished. Is the reading getting better, even if in small increments? Is math understood a little better than last week? Pat yourself on the back; progress is being made!

5.      Read lots! My oldest loved to read the Readers Digest and learned a lot of stuff that way. Have a lot of different things available to read – we always had Popular Mechanics and Horse magazines, even Lego and Playmobil catalogs, along with books of all sorts. Read aloud to them an ongoing story instead of watching a tv show together. So much language and vocabulary is learned just by reading, reading, reading!

6.      Be flexible. Not all school activities translate well to a home environment. It’s okay to improvise to make things work better for your learners. And when we had a day where we were all on the struggle bus, it helped to break out of the rut by going outside, creating with art supplies, doing a work project, or reading aloud. Some days it was better to do math by measuring stuff for a project. Doing life skill activities can jolt kids out of a bad attitude, and they’re still learning academic principles.

7.      Have grace for yourself and your kids. You will butt heads. You will have kids with bad attitudes, and maybe a mom too! But it will pass. Deal with the character issues as best you can, then forgive each other and move on. And with distance learning have grace for your child’s teacher. They don’t know how it’s going at your home, and they’re trying to do something they’ve never done before either. Don’t resent the expectations they have and the work they have sent – but give yourself the flexibility and grace to adjust as needed. After all, everyone involved is just doing their best to redeem the opportunities for learning out of this unforeseen circumstance.

Lastly, try to make the most of this opportunity of having more time together. It will never come again. From my perspective as a grandma, that time of my life now feels like it flew by. Don’t think it’s a fail if you’re feeling like it’s a struggle. Likely, there will come a day when you look back and see just why God allowed it and you’ll be grateful for it.

That’s how I feel about my years of homeschooling. True, they were not a great success, and it was a struggle – but it led me to some painful discoveries that became great blessings to my life. The most important tool you have for these hard times is the way you choose to look at them. I encourage you to expect that there is a diamond under the rock God is tumbling in our lives right now.

Someday soon, you can pass the teacher hats back to the experts, God bless them! And you can just be Mom again – but with a new appreciation for what it means to get an education!

**Please understand that sharing my less than successful experience with homeschooling in no way detracts from the amazing opportunity it can be.Nor does it diminish the many wonderful families I know that have done an excellent job.  I write from the perspective of encouraging those who have had it thrust upon them and are struggling with the responsibility.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Little Cheerful Farm...my goat raising hobby...

Sweet Clementine! 

So back in November, I told the story (on Instagram) of my adventure bringing my girl goats to be bred. It was 2 days before Thanksgiving, and instead of cleaning my house and preparing for twenty-some guests that would be coming, I was bringing goats on a date.

And it ended up being only one goat because once I lifted her into the crate in the back of the pickup, I didn’t have enough strength to fight the other one and get her in. So Clementine and I went off to meet VooDoo, the moon-spotted buck.

They seemed to get along famously. I visited with Kat, VooDoo’s owner and goat expert. When Clemmie and VooDoo seemed to tire of each others' company, Kat and her husband, Chris, graciously helped me load Clemmie back into the truck. If they hadn't, I might have had to leave her there until my strength returned. We drove the 40 minutes to home. Clemmie went back in the barn, and I took some ibuprofen and got to work preparing for Thanksgiving. It takes 5 months for goat babies to be ready so I just let myself forget about it for a while.

As time went by, I was not seeing any definite signs of pregnancy, and occasionally, I saw things that made me doubt there was one. I will spare you the details. Goats, because they are ruminants, always look quite wide, with large bellies. That’s a sign of a healthy goat. So I knew that it would not be until the last month of gestation that I would feel more certain that babies were on the way.
Fluffy winter hair...wide belly!

...But her brother, Bo, is even wider!

A couple of weeks ago, I was hanging out in the goat pen trying to get samples of poop from each one of the goats. Yes – that is one of the things I do for fun. Actually, this is not my favorite animal husbandry activity, but a necessary evil as we need to periodically check them for parasites. (And no one had any! Yay me for being a good goat mom!) Anyway, I was waiting, and waiting, and waiting to pounce when someone produced. Most of the time if you just look at them, they poop – but of course, not that day.

The goats started in on the usual heat butting and strutting and I was shocked to see Clemmie displaying some highly flirtatious behavior. {GASP!} Pregnant goats don’t have the need or desire to be flirtatious – but there was Clemmie doing the goat version of the JLo halftime show! {GASP AGAIN!}

My heart sunk as this seemed to confirm my doubts about the presence of baby goats. I was quite disappointed. I really could have used the good cheer and excitement that baby goats would add to life – especially this year! Now I’d have to wait another whole year! I consulted with Kat, my goat coach, and she said it did seem unlikely that a pregnant goat would act that way…or a decent one, in my estimation.

So I quit worrying about preparations.

And then, last Sunday, Kit wanted to go see the goats and we all traipsed out to watch them. Imogene & Bo were head butting, and Clemmie carefully jumped up on the big wooden spool… and she did it kind of slowly, like she felt heavy or something…I said nothing, but later that night when I fed the goats, I caught Clemmie and checked her over.

I found that Clemmie has a little udder! Which means she’s getting ready to make milk --- because SHE’S GOT TO FEED SOME BABIES SOON!

Oh Joy, Oh Rapture unconfined!!!! Hope has returned for baby goat fun this year!!

And today I spent the day thoroughly cleaning the goat pen and the barn. I have a shopping list of supplies to acquire! I can’t believe that we WILL have babies here by the end of the month!
I’m not sure how I’m going to let you all in on the enjoyment what with quarantining and social distancing…Maybe a drive-by goat exhibit?

I’ll let you know!
Tidy little barn...

...fresh fluffy shavings...

Clemmie and her mom, Imogene,
enjoying their pedestals.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

I'm trying...

I really have plenty of things that I could be doing...

But none of those things seem to be getting done. I tend to keep checking my phone, for what, I don't know. Well, I suppose I'm hoping for some sign that this weird interval in 2020 is coming to an end, and a good end. Haven't seen that sign yet.

And then there is the pursuit of  things that will make me feel better -- but you can only eat so much food, escape in so much TV and reading, and crafting seems a little taxing to my overly distracted brain.

Finally disgusted with myself, I decided to take myself in hand and get a project done that I have been putting off for a couple of years. Time to maintain the beaten up baseboards in this house. The trim in the utility room gets a lot of wear as that is the room we come in and out of the most. Being a farm house, there are lots of heavy shoes and boots, less than clean hands and tools that make contact with the baseboards and door trim. Paint was missing, dings were obvious. I determined to make a great upgrade on Tuesday afternoon.

I was sure this would make me feel accomplished and motivated for further projects of improvement, and future days of quarantine fulfillment.

So I washed all the trim down, made sure that areas where the paint was flaking were unflaked and smooth, mixed the paint well, and then began to apply.

Of course, it took more time than I expected. It requires a lot of time on your knees. And a steady hand to keep the paint from the floor, or the wall, or the cabinets...which, for me, means it also takes a lot of wiping up, and trying to get paint off surfaces that weren't intended for paint.

It became obvious that a second coat was needed, as painting white on even worn white is hard to see. Greaaatttt...

I began to notice that my back was not happy with getting up and down, and the knees were starting to burn a little. I didn't get finished in time to fix dinner, so had to return to painting afterwards.

The day after, my knees, back and hands were so sore, and a day of recuperation was in order. A sunny day allowed me to inspect the results of my efforts with a clarity not available while I painted.

The conclusion is that the trim in my house needs to look very bad before my painting it is an improvement.

This has freed up my time for more TV watching, reading and eating because 5 more rooms of trim no longer look like they need maintenance. #tookcareofthatproblem  #goodbyeprojects 

And that's the news from the Northwood Ranch, where the people are few, the goats are fluffy, the dog is bored and the raspberries are growing.

About Me

Needing an outlet for various thoughts rattling in my head, I've created two blogs -- One about my real life (leslieisverbose.blogspot.com) and one where I can vent. (leslievents.blogspot.com)