Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Last Week Was Hard for Hearts...


Last Wednesday morning, Daisie and I went out to do the morning duties. Mine are to feed and water the goats; hers are to…take care of business, and scout around the farm while she waits for me.

When I said, “Time to go fix your breakfast, Daisie!”, she didn’t respond with the usual enthusiasm, and walked slowly toward the house. Daisie has perfected the slow walk. It’s unbelievable how slowly she can put one foot in front of the other! But she usually only uses that strategy for times when a) she sees the toenail clippers in my hand, b) we are standing next to the hose and call her to come get her feet washed. Oddly, this time she was walking slower and slower as we went to the house. She stopped before the steps and stayed there, so I wondered if she was not hungry but wanted to lay on her bed on the deck. I put it out and when I came back to her, I saw that her back legs were slowly folding up under her. She was collapsing in slow motion!

I picked her up and carried her into the house where, under her own power, she walked into her crate – and again began a slow collapse. I got her settled in, and watched her huff to breathe, and twitch now and then. I checked the color of her gums. They were pale, and the capillary refill was slow. She had a blank stare.

I thought I was watching her die from a heart attack right before my eyes! I considered packing her up to the vet, but she was too unstable at the moment. If she truly was dying, I did not want to subject her to all kinds of heroic measures to save her life. She is 11 years old, and she doesn’t love going to the vet. I didn’t want her to die with great stress.

Randy and I watched her closely. Caitlin came and listened to her heart with her stethoscope. It was beating fast, but by that time, Daisie was breathing easier, and her gums were returning to pink color with better refill. Finally, she went to sleep, and after a long nap, she returned to her normal self. By evening, she was bounding outside for a visit with the goats and wanting a walk.

I thought the trouble was past.

But the next morning, at the very same time, during the same activity, Daisie began to stagger on her way back to the house, losing her balance, falling to the sidewalk, and stiffening like a seizure was taking place! I picked her up and got her into the house, where she lay huffing, glazed-eyed, weak and twitching again.

Because the timing was almost exactly the same, I feared that she was getting into some kind of poison when out on her duty run, and it was causing the symptoms. A recent rain had brought out a new crop of mushrooms, was that it? Was there something in the compost pile? As we waited for the vet’s office to open, Randy & I walked her usual circle, looking for some evidence.

Randy thought he had figured it out when he realized that there were some crumbs of rodenticide in a little trailer where he had been refilling bait traps for the field. But, Daisie doesn’t usually go up into a trailer to sniff or eat, and it was a pretty immediate reaction for something ingested. We were unsure. Still, I took the MSDS info with me when we went into the vet.

By the time we got there, Daisie was looking quite well, already back to her normal self. Dr. Erickson checked her over, and said that it did not seem to be poisoning. It was likely that she had a heart problem.

I left her there to have bloodwork, a chest x-ray and an EKG done. We were heavy-hearted thinking that our dear old faithful could be facing that day we knew was coming. She’s 11 years old. We know it is coming, and already, I wonder if I will find her in bed, never to wake again…which would be my preference for how she goes.

But I found out that I was not ready for that at all, and was pretty much a weepy mess when Dr. Erickson told us that she has a significant heart arrhythmia. Her heart was fibrillating and not pumping blood effectively, causing the episodes where she was severely short of oxygen, so she collapsed. There was medicine to try – sometimes it helps, sometimes it hurts. If we did not try, Daisie would have more episodes, and one of them might cause her to drop dead.

Dear old Daisie! The Best Dog in the World! The boxer who was our calm, easy-going comfort after losing two boxer puppies before her. When she was younger, we always said to her, “You know the rule: Don’t die!” We’d had too much of that, and her gentle personality, and desire to be near us kept her from harm. This time, I started to remind her, through my tears, of the rule…but I could only say, “Don’t suffer.”

I’m humbled, and must admit, that I was quite undone at the prospect of a life without our Old Faithful. I’ve said before that these are the times you pay the price for all the good your pets have given you. And I wasn’t handling it very well. I can’t imagine the strength employed by those who are suffering much greater losses as they deal with cancers, and diseases, injuries and deaths! I laud your courage, friends, and admire your strength. God bless you!

As it turned out, the medicine the vet prescribed has helped Daisie get back to normal. She has not had any more episodes, and is as energetic as she was before. She probably has as good a prognosis now, as she did before her collapses.


So, in effect, nothing is different than it was before, -- and everything is different than it was before as we are much more aware that the days are short. But they are still good, and I’m so thankful for bonus time!

Daisie and I enjoyed a long stroll today. She'd been missing investigating the smells of the fields. :)

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Summer shout outs...

So, I’ve accepted that Summer is over, and I’ve decided to make it official by 1) putting away my pool and hammock, 2) tossing most of my flower pots, and 3) putting out the Leaves Wallflower scent warmer…a little bit of apple, a little bit of spice, and something else that I think smells like drying leaves.

The house smells like Fall…and I love that.

Despite having a lot of summer to enjoy after harvest, I did feel the usual regret that I didn’t make the most of my summer days. This leads me to believe that I will always feel that I didn’t do enough summer things when I recognize the days are getting shorter. I think it is a throwback to that sad feeling that school is going to start, and I’m going to miss the freedom of summer. But it is totally a bogus feeling (feelings LIE). Since we started growing berries 30 (yes 30!) YEARS ago, summer is NOT a time of freedom, and I just don’t get to do many summer things, nor will I ever. But Fall? Fall is my favorite, and freedom!

Anyway, before I jump into Fall, I want to give a shout out to some things that always get me through the heat of summer, which can seem a lot like suffering, to me.

First, Otter Pops – you refresh me like nothing else can, and so quickly!

Second, Not Hot Tub – 10 foot diameter of 2 feet of cool water, big enough to lay on a floatie and idly twirl with the current of the circulation. You turn my yard into my own personal resort! I thank you – and if it wasn’t for the people working so hard around us as I float your shallow, yet beautiful water, I would be out there every day. Some days, I just don’t have the heart to flaunt my life of ease – or endure the taunting about it.

Third, Air Conditioning – You know I didn’t want you when we built this house. I thought you were not necessary. I thought you were a luxury we could survive without. Foolish woman! In this instance, I appreciate The Farmer’s disregard for my opinion. He was right. I didn’t look ahead to see an older me that needed the cool to be any kind of productive in the summer. You make my life doable.

Fourth, my newest discovery – The Cooling Gel Pad! You are a wonder! What restful sleep I have because of you! You are the trauma kit for overheating. I’m so glad that day that I looked at those ads for a cooling pad for dogs, thinking “lucky dogs…”, it occurred to me that perhaps you didn’t HAVE to be a dog to benefit from one. So glad I realized that if it turned out to be a goofy idea, I could say I bought it for the dog. So glad that The Farmer goes to bed later than I and did not see I was sleeping on a dog cooling pad until after I knew it worked, and would not give it up for anything! Your cool gel presence under my shoulders just draws out the heat from the environment, and from my internal heater of Hades, the Hot Flash. I now see a way to go on, even if my hormones never stabilize. Truly, you have made my summer so much more pleasant, as more sleep makes for a more pleasant me…anytime of day.

If you suffer from sleeplessness during hot summer nights, and hot flash occurrences, YOU NEED TO GET ONE OF THESE!



I don’t know why they haven’t marketed them for these purposes before! They could put cute fabric covers on them, and make coordinating storage bags, and maybe add a lavender scent – to make your sleep time the best ever! But, likely, they would then charge twice as much, and I would still just buy one with a paw print on it because it works the same.
Either way, it was the best discovery of this summer, and portends to have great value all year round. So on to Fall! I’ll sleep well then too, and this year, I’ve done with summer regrets. It’s September, and I’m going to enjoy my freedom from this time forth until the days start getting longer!


Saturday, August 27, 2016

I almost chickened out...and I'm so glad I didn't!

I love the Fair, and the reason I love the Fair is that I have many good memories of my days there showing my 4H heifers. My sisters and I would be there from early morning to late night, doing stall duty, washing our animals, practicing our showmanship, pitching out the stalls each morning – and nervously participating in classes for animal type and showmanship. The Fair becomes its own little community during that week, and the camaraderie and competitiveness makes for a lot of entertainment with a bit of drama mixed in. It was a week like no other in the entire year, and we couldn’t wait for it to come.

I was privileged to be a member of a 4H club that still endures – Dairyland 4H Club celebrated 50 years of continuous operation this year. The club started with a number of young men from the Northwood & North Lynden areas. I believe that Debbie Van Mersbergen, the little sister of some of those boys was the first girl to be interested. The boys in the club had to take a vote about whether they would allow girls to join, and when they approved this move, my sisters and I were recruited to be Debbie’s companions.

It was a prime way to begin, I must say, as those big brothers and cousins would do anything that we didn’t know how to do, or were too scared to do. Even better, the guys were great fitters and showmen, so we had the best in our corner as we learned what how to show and judge dairy animals.

A few weeks ago, I heard that part of the celebration of 50 years of Dairyland at the Fair, was a showmanship contest for alumni of the club.

It was tempting…but as I am skilled at looking foolish without even trying, my default decision is to forgo the opportunity to look foolish by consent. I have not shown a cow since 1978. That’s…30some…A LONG TIME AGO!

But I often say how much I miss cows, and truthfully, the chance to show one again, no matter how embarrassing the outcome, still tempted me…And then I got a hold of myself, and said, “Self! What wouldn’t you give to get to handle a cow again? Isn’t a little humiliation worth the experience?”
So Self signed up…and then pep-talked one of my sisters into joining.

Self got a little carried away after that and smack-talked Sister Erin, saying how glad Self was that now she knew she would beat at least ONE person.

Self should know better, as she said this to the sister that has hunted wild animals in Africa, and attempted a climb of Mt. Baker…

Oh, Self.

So Thursday evening at the Fair, Erin and I arrived early to spend the requisite time of nervousness required when attempting to appear proficient at something you have not done for thirty-some years.
It was about this time that it occurred to me that I do have a bad shoulder, and should I get a fractious animal, it could be problematic. We also realized that neither of us had ever shown a cow, only heifers, so we stood in quiet consultation at the edge of the ring, reminding each other of all the rules and tips we could remember.

We would be showing in the 3rd class that evening…the Old Timers.

And I am grateful for that because it was an excellent review watching the Youngsters and the Middle Agers, though it began in a very perplexing way when the judge decided to have some fun and made the Youngsters pick up feet, and answer weird questions, and take weird maneuvers with their animals. Erin and I looked at each other in shock. We did not know that showing had changed so much! This was probably going to be more embarrassing than we thought.

Thankfully, then the judge explained that he was having some fun and seeing if the Youngsters would do anything he said. Ha! They did, like good showmen. And Whew! We wouldn’t have to.

The bleachers around the show ring were full of people come to see the spectacle. We hadn’t counted on that much audience, and about this time, I realized that another possible opportunity for embarrassment could be that I might collapse. After a day of HOT, HOT weather, in which I am prone to feel ill, and then potentially wrestling an animal around the ring in a HOT, HOT barn, my lack of general fitness might make me succumb to a fate worse than placing last.

And so I prayed.

Our turn in the ring arrived and wonder of wonders, I didn’t have to show a cow. I drew a summer yearling Guernsey heifer named, Dreamgirl…And that’s just what she wanted to do – dream. She wasn’t just reluctant to leave her hay; she refused. It took some prodding to get her out of the straw bedding and down the aisle to the ring. At least I didn’t have to worry about her running away, though she did make some attempts to thwart movement in the appropriate direction, but overall, she was okay. And it was great to have my hands on a bovine again, and be in the ring, doing the maneuvers that hopefully made my animal look it’s best. I made sure to stroke her dewlap (the soft skin flap that hangs below the cow’s neck – softest, smoothest part of the cow!) because I’ve always loved to do that. It had nothing to do with good showing and everything to do with missing cows!

Frankly, Dreamgirl and I were not a great team. I think I made her look good but not great, and when I got to trade animals for a big, sweet, calm cow, SHE made me look good. The judge asked me to back her up, and she did, good girl, and kept going when he told me not to stop! I was the back-up champion…if there was such a thing.

Going in to this competition, we didn’t expect the amount of serious scrutiny that we got from Mr. Jay Lancaster, the judge. He made us work, even testing whether we could handle our animals well enough to get their front feet on a board on the ground. (Not something cows like to do!) And while we had to do some serious work, there was a lot of laughing, and joking, and just general enjoyment for each of us showing,  -- and the judge, who knew he wouldn’t have any angry parent talking to him afterwards.

It was hard for me to see what Erin was doing in the ring because of her position in the circle, but every time I caught a glimpse, she looked good. Because some of the participants in the ring had shown for many more years than had we, and had their own family herds, we didn’t expect to finish high. We, vanity of vanities, hoped not to finish last.



So I felt great glee when I saw the judge pull my sister into first place in the Old Timers class! He called her the cow-whisperer as she talked to her heifer throughout their time in the ring, and kept her calm, and looking pretty. Erin was unruffled --even when her heifer didn’t want to cooperate, and was covering her arm with slobber, and she obviously had a good time making her heifer look great. I was proud of her! My sis has grit. She determines to make it work, unlike someone else who spends too much time thinking about fainting and bad shoulders and losing control of her animal.

I placed out of the ribbons, coming in 5th, or in the top of the also rans, which I felt was respectable. I didn’t do anything dumb, neither did I faint! And OH did I have fun!

Even better, Erin went on to win the overall competition when the winners from all 3 classes returned to the ring. The judge complimented all of us on our showmanship, and the Dairyland club for producing so many capable showmen.

It made me proud to be part of such a fine group of people, and to have had the influence of Bud Lenssen (our 4H leader for many years) and others who taught us the skill of showmanship, and the character of good competition. It really was a great blessing in my growing years; and it was also a blessing now to see so many friends from long ago, and reminisce over the memories of good times and hard work.

I’m so grateful to the current leaders and parents of Dairyland 4H for giving us the opportunity to celebrate its great history, and to have the fun of showing again. Hope someday there are great-grandkids celebrating more anniversaries.


And Self, though you really botched it when you smack-talked Sister, but I’m proud of you for not taking the usual easy road, and doing something that stretched you. It was worth the risk.

Friday, August 12, 2016

What's been happening on The Farm this week...

The Farmer and his right hand man, Jake, are busy with the undoing of 12.5 acres of berries. We have 10 acres that are at least 20 years old, and showing it. We have only been doing 5 acres per year, but these are so tired that Randy can’t bear to fiddle with them one year longer. So one 5 acre section will get an extra year to lie fallow – and that won’t hurt it a bit.

As well, we have 2.5 acres of a new variety that we regret planting. They have only produced one year, and they have some nice qualities: nice upright growth habit, large firm fruit and they pick clean. However, they lack the deep color and good flavor of the traditional Meeker variety, our mainstay.

…And, it seems, the block frozen market’s mainstay. As some new varieties come into the market, buyers are specifying that they want Meeker only product. They are dependent on the Meeker flavor and color for their product recipes and don't want to have to re-test, and re-make their system.So our 2.5 acres of experimenting with Cascade Harvest became a real nuisance. It had to be picked separately, and we had to find an order without varietal specs in which to pack it. It required special handling every picking.

 We are nothing if not about efficiency here, so they had to go.

Thus the regret – because now we have 12.5 acres of replanting preparation work. Lately, they have cut down the plants tied to the top wire (500 plants per row, 32 rows). Taken the staples out that hold the top wires to the posts, and the wire vices in the end posts. Pulled and rolled up the top wire. Pulled out the side wires and rolled them up. Removed the wraps that hold the suspended drip tape to the wire, and saved all of them...boxes & boxes. Took end posts out of one field and put them in place in the newest planting. Did regular maintenance mowing, and put wires up to highest hook, holding in the canes growing for next years crop.

And that’s not all of it, but you get the idea…


Here you can see the side wires pulled out of the Cascade Harvest. 

Wire ready for pick up...and you can see that canes in this row are cut short for the first two post lengths...Because every day for the goats evening feeding, I come out here and cut a large bunch of canes for them to eat. They LOVE them. Raspberries are gourmet to them, and hey! free food. It's a win-win! Oh how they would love to get out into this!


Here are the rows that Jake has cut down. The canes that have fruited are dying down, and because we knew we would be taking these rows out, we did not allow new canes to grow -- less foliage to have to work into the soil. But it's still a lot of volume!


Also this week, Randy hired some of our winter workers in to do the first tie on the baby field. These Meekers were planted at the end of May, and are growing well. To keep them upright and out of the way so that Randy can go through the rows with the tractor without damaging the canes, they were tied up to the top wire, even though they don't reach it yet. This means, as well, that Randy & Jake had to get top wires out in this field, stapled to the posts, and end posts placed so the wires could be tightened for the load. These babies will continue to grow, and will be re-tied later in the Fall.


Last year's Meeker babies have grown beautifully this year, and barring winter damage, should do well next spring.


Bonus for the week! Randy was able to get a whole bunch of manure hauled on the 5 acres that we will plant in the spring. It stinks, but people! it's the circle of life!


The intense pressure of harvest is past, but there is still the pressure of much to accomplish before the fall rains set in. Long days are still the norm for The Farmer. Usually, the sun has set before the work of the day ends. We are thankful for a good week of productivity this week, with room to enjoy the good things that farm life offers.


Author's note: I corrected the amount of plants per row. 500 NOT 1500...oops! Still a lot of plants.






Monday, July 18, 2016

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...


...well, almost.

Usually, we are returning to normal life after harvest in the middle of August, not the middle of July!

We finished picking last Friday, the earliest finish ever. Monday the 11th was our last day of picking into flats for the processing plant. We were fortunate to make arrangements for picking for juice (into barrels) for the final time over the field. When it came to Friday, we only had a half day of picking left -- and after the kids had worked 4 hours for 4 barrels, Randy said, "It looks like we were done yesterday."

Oh well, we were close.

And could be certain that we had not left too many berries out in the field -- a good way to end.

Now we are back to normal living, still plenty of work to do, but not the pressure, or the unceasing schedule. No kids laughing on the deck at lunchtime. Not so many back rubs for Daisie. No more reminders about food safety rules, No more visiting with great kids, who are funny and clever, and kind. No more Otter Pop or ice cream bar breaks.

But it's all good. The crop quantity was good. The quality was great in spite of all the showery days that we picked through. There was very little mold. No breakdowns. The crew were troupers, working in showers for twelve of the thirty-one days the machines were in the field. That's a lot! No complaints, and good attitudes.

Our harvest spanned 5 weeks -- 35 days, picking on 31 days, rained out 3 days, off for one.

Inevitably, after being together day after day, and doing the exact same things day after day, we are all eager for the final day to arrive.

But when it does, it always seems like an abrupt end. There's just a touch of sadness that you won't be seeing these people who have been your whole world for the last 35 days daily anymore.

We all decided that we should have one more get-together with everyone there...a Turn In Your Hours Party. But already, the crew is busy with new things. Some can make it one day, others can't make it til another, some are already out of town...It usually goes that way. We want to, but it's hard to work it out.

Everyone goes back to their regularly scheduled programming...with good memories of another summer on a job that seemed like it would go on forever, but is already in the rear view mirror.

It's a nice view. Now onward...


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Abner & Dexter...


Abner and Dexter left home today…

Ten weeks have already passed since that eventful May evening they were born.

In the meantime, I pondered whether to keep all the babies but realizing how overnight I went from a pair of goats, to a HERD of 6, I thought it the better part of valor, to part with two.

As God would arrange it, my friend, Jamie – whom I mentored in prayer group when she was in high school – was quite interested in becoming a goat farmer. She saw my baby goat posts on Facebook and she with her animal lover youngest son, Lincoln, came to visit.

And they were bit by the goat-lover bug. Perrrrfect!

Soon she brought Kyla and Bennett, her other animal lover kiddos. Eventually, her husband, Eric, who was not completely immune to the goat-lover sickness, came too, and acquiesced to the majority of goat fanatics in his family, saying YES, the goats could be added to their little farm.

In my opinion, this was indeed, perfect!!

Before the babies were born, I had decided I would keep any girls, so Clementine was a keeper, no question. After that it was very difficult to decide…I love Dexter’s coloring the best, speckles are my favorite. Abner has the symmetrical markings, though not the coloring of his momma, and he is the most laid back. Bo is striking with his bovine markings, and he is the friendliest of all…

After much, agonizing, I decided that Bo was the boy that was going to stay. If Jamie and her family wanted them, Abner and Dexter were theirs.

They spent the next few weeks coming often to visit, winning the skittish Dexter and shy Abner over with their quiet attention, and well-placed raisin treats. Eventually, Dexter was coming up to them without coaxing. Abner was a relaxed heap in their arms. I was privileged to hear the giggles and see the excitement of the kids – human ones, playing and snuggling the caprine ones. And don’t think that Jamie wasn’t in on it…She was as excited – maybe more so – than her daughter and sons!

I loved their visits, and they were wise to invest the time, because by today, Abner and Dexter knew them well, and trusted them. They knew their smell and that they always brought treats and fun. So without much ado, Abner and Dexter went into the crate on their way to a new home.

Jamie and I had expected a bit more drama – desperate bleating at the separation of mom and babies. There was some noise-making when they left the pen, but then it was mostly a non-event. Imogene did not cry like she has when I had taken the kids to the vet. Clementine was unfazed. Bo looked around for someone to play with, and eventually decided that Barnaby would do. They butted heads for a while and rammed each other off the teeter totter. Then it was business as usual.

Jamie reported that on her end of the transaction, Abner and Dexter were a bit cautious but very curious about their new home but soon were eating, playing on their new table, and napping.

It seems we had our timing right, and Jamie’s visits made a nice easy transition for the boys. I couldn’t be happier about the home they have! Jamie and I are peas in a pod when it comes to loving our animals. They will get the proper care, and lots of love – and I can still visit them now and then! Part of my goat farm dream was that I might be able to provide animals to others who would enjoy them. Already that has come true, in a better way than I could have imagined.

So I am not sad tonight. I am thankful, and happy. If Imogene was crying, I admit that then I might be too. But if she knows that the time is right, and it’s all good, I think I can handle it too.



Best wishes Little Cheerful Abner & Dexter! We’ll always love you. Go bring good cheer like you were raised up to do.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Garden Grumblings...


I'm drinking coffee, and looking out my west window where a big dark bank of clouds is hanging. Not encouraging. But -- I am thankful for a good breeze that's drying the bushes, and brief sun breaks. Should be a better day than yesterday was.

Because we picked for a LONG day on Wednesday, we were able to let the kids go home after a half day yesterday. We had covered all the fields that were a day late on being picked because of our July 4th holiday. Of course, it stopped raining when we stopped working...

But it was okay. The kids were troupers, once again. Oh, I appreciate them! We'll pick it up today where we left off, not really behind on our rotation, and not under great pressure to cover ground.

I was planning to work on my garden, and clean the goat pen today. One thing I like, and one, I don't. Rain may keep me from doing the one I don't like (the garden); but it won't keep me from cleaning the goat pen. I love doing that! For a person who is not really into details, it's much easier to get a goat pen clean than a house!

My flowerbeds are reaching a stage where I do enjoy them as they are yielding bouquets for my table. Don't the zinnias look good in the old milk glass vase? :)

The garden? Not yielding much but aggravation despite the early start. I wish the Farmer had more time to give to the garden crops, though maybe after our early harvest, he will. My plantings are looking puny. I'm not sure why I keep planting more garden...What is the big compulsion for me to add work I don't enjoy for results that are barely profitable to my summer? Somehow I have defined this as "responsible", and heaven forbid that I should be IRresponsible!!!

The amount of veggies I harvest really does not justify the compost problem I create by growing them... The cost of seed and plants outpaces the value of the yield, especially when you consider that the veggies I am growing are at their cheapest in the store at the same time. If garden yields are good, you need to can. Canning {anguished face}-- I look forward to the day when I can retire from canning. You always need to can on the sunniest, hottest days of the summer, when you could be sitting in the Not Hot Tub reading a book, or when you want to go to the Fair.

And yet, every spring, I feel hopeful and enthusiastic and plant the boxes full. This year I even added 20, count them, 20 dahlias!

Spring fever is real, folks. I am perennially delusional when it comes to spring planting...and am paying for it now. I can only hope that August brings renewed enthusiasm because of a sufficient harvest...But it won't be until after the beans are canned and in the pantry. I can guarantee that.

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)