Archive for November, 2007

Connectedness over the years

November 22, 2007

About 100 years ago…well, actually more like 40 years ago, I taught school for two years, just out of college, before children.  The first year I taught in South Amherst, Ohio, while John got a MAT at Oberlin.  The second year, we moved back east, equidistant between both sets of parents, to East Windsor, N.J.  He taught 7th grade math in Princeton; I taught fifth grade in Hightstown.  In my class were some wonderful students.  One of them, Bernadette, whose entire cadre of siblings, along with herself, were our babysitters over 12 years or so, eventually moved to Germany and married a member of a town band who had an exchange relationship with the high school band in Hightstown. Because of the babysitting link, we stayed in touch, and still are today.  Another of the students, after 22 years of not being in touch with her, contacted her recently, and she told him about me.  He immediately told another student of mine, with whom he’s maintained contact since high school…and I got emails from both of them a month or so ago.

Yesterday, Jim visited me, along with his son, John, and an old friend who was visiting him from Florida for the holiday.  I remember him at age 10: “James” then (I didn’t dare call him Jimmy!  He scorned such names!) was bright, interesting, had a sense of humor, a lovely smile, was a good student, thoughtful, fun.  And yesterday, “Jim” (finally!) got out of the car and turned to face me, standing on the porch.  I could still see his father in him, whom he resembled rather a lot in grade school, but now, his mother was also there in his facial structure.  Joyce died several years ago of cancer, so it was good to see her still there in her son.  Jim still is interesting, has a sense of humor, a lovely smile, is thoughtful, and intelligent, and fun. It was great to re-connect after all those years.  And his son is absolutely delightful.  John is a junior at Plymouth State in NH and studying to be a meteorologist.  He says when he tells others, he sometimes gets the response: “Oh, wow!  Meteors are so cool!  Great that you’re studying them.”

It was a short visit. Friend, Jane, had flown in in the wee hours the night before, and Jim was hosting Thanksgiving dinner today.  They spent hours on the road yesterday, picking up John, coming here, and returning to Jim’s home to get ready for today.  It was a lovely visit.  It is so good to see a former student turn out so well.  I hope we see him more often, and can get to know him, adult to adult.

The other student, Steve, lives in Pa.  Perhaps we’ll get to see him, too.  I still have somewhat of a score to settle with him over some skunk cabbage antics on our post “My Side of the Mountain” all day survival walk in the woods.  I think James might have been part of that as well, though I can’t quite remember…hmm…

Today, we went to Cedar Hill Continuing Care Facility where John’s mother lives, and had Thanksgiving dinner with her.  They offer families dinner there, and turn the activities room into a lovely, homey dining room, where several families came to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with their loved ones who require nursing care.  The staff spent the last couple of days baking pies like crazy, and cooking up a storm.  It was a lovely meal, much appreciated.  What a great thing for such a place to do.  It’s typical of this facility.  They try very hard to be more than a nursing home…and they succeed.

Came home to dismal fog, rain, possibly later freezing rain, dark misty afternoon, and not much to do…very conducive to napping, which we both ended up doing.  Now, I have to think about some sort of simple dinner, and then, perhaps Netflix, our entertainment for the evening. I looked at the movie schedules, but there appears to be nothing out there I’d want to see: a lot of violent movies and a couple of kid movies.  Thank God for Netflix.

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all.

First snow

November 21, 2007

This was the morning when Lucas was to come to help me put the sheep in gender groups: breeding time is over. It seemed awfully dark at 6:40, and when I got out there, I saw why: it was snowing, the snow barely discernible in the semi-dark. I spent an hour moving gates around one handed, and locking the main group in the shed by moving said gates around and throwing out grain where I wanted them to go. I avoided feeding the other three groups,  so we could bribe them with grain to go where we wanted them to go.  Lucas arrived at 8 a.m. and in a little under an hour, we had all the sheep in two groups: three rams in the ram pen, and all the girls in the main paddock, AND the second coopworth ram, Quadius (he was a quadruplet) in the truck! Lucas left, and I drove very slowly in the snow to Unity, just past Claremont, to deliver Quadi to Cora and Ron to breed their coopworth ewes. I drove 25, even in four wheel drive, which probably irritated the people behind me, but not for long, for when there were cars behind me, I pulled off and let them pass: seemed like the polite thing to do. Ron got Quadi out and in with his new “girlfriends” and he went right to work. Then he showed me his freezer with wall to wall hanging deer carcasses: he’s cut 110 deer so far this year. During hunting season this fine butcher does NO domestic animals, so if you don’t get your lambs to him by Sept. 1, it has to wait until Jan. 1. He has a nickname, Bozo, because he used to have red hair, before it turned grey! When I called over there to make sure he was there, one of his assistant butchers answered the phone, “Bozo’s”. I love it up here!

When I got home, and got my boots and jacket and such off, I realized I meant to take a photo, and was too lazy to get dressed in winter clothing again, so I stepped out onto the porch and took this photo. It is pretty well the same scene as the sunset I recorded recently…only this was 11 a.m. in the morning. Beautiful! I love snow. We had about 3-1/2 inches. Here is the photo:

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It’s out!

November 9, 2007

Well, this morning it was a brisk 24 degrees, so it sure was good to be able to wear my warm wool winter hunting jacket to feed the animals. Yup! That’s right! That means he took the fixator out yesterday. Yahoo! Now, for those of you who have been wondering…I guess it depends on your definition of pain: if you define pain as severe, sharp, makes you faint or throw up, NO, it wasn’t painful. However, it was pretty ache-ful…for about 2 seconds as each of the rods was unscrewed. After that, it was fine. It is a little achy this a.m. as it was yesterday afternoon, but nothing to write home about. It is so great not having metal rods protruding from my bones! and the holes from which they came (which looked disgusting just after being pulled) are pretty much healed over. By tomorrow, they will be totally scabbed up, if it takes that long. The wounds hurt a bit, of course. I have a splint, to wear 90 % of the time, except when I’m doing “range of motion” exercises. Okay, bored yet? I feel like Lyndon Johnson showing off my scar. But I’m so thrilled to be free of that thing!

Weird thing: I mentioned chicken killing, and the resident, whose job it was to distract me while the ortho pulled the rods, kept asking questions about the process…until the ortho doc says, “Stop, stop, I can’t stand it. Blech! No more.” This is a guy who spends his days with blood and guts! Here he is pulling these things from my bones and flesh, refusing me novacaine, wondering if we anesthetize the chickens to cut their throats. WHAT??? Anyway, I brought him a pound cake I made, which he seemed thrilled with…glad I didn’t bring him a fresh chicken, like country folks did docs in days of yore: he probably would have fainted. I think he is going to get a copy of “The Omnivore’s Dilemna.” Geez! (And those of you who haven’t read it, please DO! You may never buy beef in a supermarket again. I sure don’t!)

My sister’s son and daughter in law had a little baby girl I’d love to go see, but N.J. is six hours away, and I’m not too comfortable with one weak hand, driving the N.Y. Thruway and New Jersey turnpike. Perhaps next week it will be stronger and so will I. She will be there til next Sunday (lives in CA) so it will be a good opportunity for me to see her, too. Let’s hope…

The Meat Birds are in! (done in?)

November 7, 2007

Yesterday it rained lightly all morning.  No matter: the meat birds and turkeys still had to be caught and put in cages, and brought up to the house/barn to await “portable chicken killing man” as we call him: Ray Garcia, from Cabin View Farms, in Littleton, N.H.  He drove up at around 10:30, in his big ol’ truck, pulling one of those big white trailer/boxes behind.  After greetings, and introductions to the Springfield Eagle Times reporter, here to interview him and take photos (before the killing began: who wants to see photos of chickens with their necks being cut off?), he opened the back of the box.  On the one door is a price list; on the other is two killing cones, under which he put two large garbage cans, lined with sturdy plastic bags.  The cones dip down into the cans so you can’t actually see the necks being pierced, and the blood…very discreet, for those who are squeamish.  Then, out came the big plucking machine, the propane heating coil and huge bucket, and a tarp so the feathers don’t end up all over the driveway.  Then, he hooked up to my electricity and water, filled the bucket/pot over the heating coil, lit that, put some soap in the bucket with the water, and a thermometer and it began to heat.  Meanwhile, he got some ice from the back of his monster pick up, put it in a big tub in back of the white box trailer, and filled that with cold water.  Then, he scrubbed his knives and counter surfaces, and we brought the cages with the turkeys in them close to his center of operation.  The reporter, Julia Lloyd Wright, left before the killing began.  Four hours later, we had several empty cages, 43 chickens (40 meat birds and 3 marans roos from a summer hatch, still small, but good for soup) and 8 turkeys, in plastic bags.  Lucas, once again saving my life by coming and making this all happen, my wrist still in fixator, precluding lifting, and getting dirty, brought the birds in, I weighed them, and we stuffed them in the refrigerators (one upstairs, one in basement) to cool off for 24 hours. Today, in shifts, I’ll carry a few at a time and put them in the deep freeze in the barn.  We have our poultry in the freezer for the year.  That also means five fewer waterers and four fewer feeders to attend to each day.  And, all the laying hens are transferred to winter quarters, right next to the sheep. Three of the four roos are in the ram pen for the winter, scrounging food from their supply, eating worm eggs (are there any?) from the ram poop, which helps with worm load enormously.  I throw them some organic whole grain each day when I feed the rams, and they run around pecking and eating the grains of corn and soybeans and wheat while the sheep eat their rations.  Twelve more days and the sheep go back in gender groups for the winter, eliminating another two waterers and pens to haul grain and hay to each day.  In some ways, winter is much easier: you just have to carefully navigate the path from house to shed, when ice and snow are there…which is often for the snow, occasionally for the ice.  That freezer is going to be chock full of food…and the beef quarter comes in December.  I wonder if I”ll need another freezer…then there’s the lamb to be slaughtered in January…well, I could put that off a little, and she’s small, wpn’t yield all that much meat, maybe 15 or 20 pounds…Well, there’s always the neighbors’ freezers, I guess.

Tomorrow, theoretically, the fixator comes off.  The doc assures me that unscrewing these four metal posts from my bones and ripping them through my flesh won’t hurt.  I’ll let you know!

I love this place!

November 4, 2007

Here’s what it looked like at 5:45 p.m. last night from our front porch, or for that matter, looking out the living room window.

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Fifteen minutes before I took the photo, the sky was all yellow where the red is in the photo, and I thought, “Well, okay, we just might get the rain predicted from the hurricane coming north.”  And then, the red appeared.  Note that the camera really didn’t do the colors justice: it was about 5 times as intense as pictured…but still, quite lovely.  I DO love this place!

Today is the first day back on Eastern Standard time, so I woke up early.  I am looking forward to it’s being light at 6:30, instead of 7:30, at least temporarily!  I can get the chores done earlier.  Last night, one of the rams was ramming something…not quite sure why: they have girlfriends enough to amuse them.  Maybe he was hungry…or smelled a girl NOT in his group in heat.  Rams are peculiar during breeding season…they really seem to be slaves to their testosterone.  Poor things.  Luckily, in a couple of weeks, it will pass, and they’ll settle down for the winter, only getting rambunctious when one of the unbred lambs goes into heat, which will happen every 18 days for a few months in winter…Then, when a ewe gets very near to lambing, the rams will act up again, something which might help me determine if a lamb is soon due, if I paid enough attention to it.  Usually, I don’t…

And tonight, it will be dark an hour sooner, around 5 p.m. or so.  Winter is soon upon us…but not really until the days start to get longer again, one of the amazing miracles of the year for me: while the temperatures plummet after Christmas, there is hope of spring, visible in two minutes more of light each day, approximately, reminding us that this, too, will end and it WILL warm up, if not for another three months!  I love winter, but come mid-February, it starts to get a little old!


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