Saturday, October 18, 2014

Not Quite an Edwardian Farm

It's that overwhelming time of year when farm work goes completely nuts. You'd think that with the weather changing and everything going dormant, we'd be pretty much done for the year. Time for hot chocolate and some quality writing time, right?

I wish.

Because the animals are spending more time indoors in their various barns, coops and stalls, that means more cleaning. The cooler weather means everyone is eating more, too. That means more trips to the feed store, or alternatively, setting up the barn to store extra feed in such a way that the rats can't infest and spoil it. I haven't decided which route to go, which means I have some feed in a half-assed situation that is sort of okay, and some feed that I'll have to keep running down to the feed store to re-buy every three weeks or so.

Shorter days means fewer daylight hours in which to do this stuff. It was dark at 7pm today. And when I woke at 7am, it was pretty darned dim outside. Plus, I have a long list of things I want done before spring. Remember the anti-deer fence around the vegetable garden? Didn't get finished. Now there's a new-ish plan that hopefully will be better in the long run, but there are some potential issues that have to be addressed if the plan is going to work.

I've been watching BBC's Edwardian Farm, and it's actually helped me a lot as far as trying to sort out priorities and setting things up so that they'll work more efficiently (which means less work for me in the long run.) All technology has done has taken some of the back-breaking out of the work. The work itself remains the same. And since we don't have nifty things like tractors around here (or horses, alas,) then any and all insights that might help are very welcome.

The farm on the show is both simplified and more complicated, probably to make for more interesting viewing and to make sure that a lot of history gets some stage time that it otherwise might not. After all, in the end, the show is an educational venture first and foremost. It's been doing a splendid job, and I'm learning a lot from watching. Small details jump out at me, like the depth of turned earth when they're plowing to suit various crops, and how their schedules adapt to the seasons. They take advantage of every single moment of every day. That inspires me to attempt to do the same, or at least look at how I budget my time.

For a while I used to get up early so that I could work out and have some quiet time in which to write. Now I'm thinking about getting up early to try to get some of those farm chores that just aren't getting done often enough (like cleaning and repairs) as a form of exercise and using the remaining time before work to write. Gone are the days when I could do some chores after work. Even when I work 'early' there's too little daylight left by the time I get home to do anything except maybe race around and make sure the animals are all okay.

This all means that even when I retire, I'll still have more work than I know what to do with. Typical farm life. I love it, but there are times when I think about how lovely it would be to sleep in or have a day off. But I would miss my animals, and I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing. Good work, no regrets.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Genius Thief

I got to babysit a shoplifter. Apparently, he was a bad-ass and had done prison time (he'd recently turned 18) though he repeatedly asked if he could call his mother, and was quite concerned about whether or not he would be put under arrest.

The thing is, he was already under arrest. This was difficult for him to understand, though it was explained to him several times.

There were a lot of things he found difficult to understand.

For example, he didn't think he was a thief. When our loss prevention guy pointed out that he'd stolen stuff, and that, by definition, makes him a thief, he tried to wheedle around it saying that he's not only a thief. I didn't want to ruffle his little baby feathers, but it did sort of beg the question as far as what else he might be. Fashion model? I think not.

When asked why he stole, he replied that he wanted to go fishing. Okay, then.

When asked if he had money to pay for stuff, he said he had a dollar. (He took about twenty dollars worth of stuff.) He said he intended to pay for one of the items. It was worth more than a dollar. Hmm. He wanted to know if he could just pay for the stuff and leave. No, he couldn't, but out of curiosity, how would he pay for it? He would ask his friend for money. Did his friend have money, he was asked? He hung his head and mumbled no, his friend didn't have money either.

I realized then that I was in the presence of a mastermind criminal.

When asked what he did prison time for, he said that someone's uncle was on the property being scary and that he'd threatened him with a gun to get him to leave. When asked what kind of gun, he paused for a very long time, and finally came up with an airsoft gun. I guess it's possible that this may have actually happened. He was seventeen at the time and said he did three months. And he wasn't afraid of jail, he said, just prison.

He did look like a very, very sad kitty when the officer arrived and put him in cuffs.

So there you have it. A typical criminal, who now has an arrest and citation on his record, should he ever seek employment beyond fishing, which seems unlikely but hey, he may want some sort of job someday. Eventually. Maybe.

I felt a little bad for him, but you know, it's all about choices. Children take things that don't belong to them because they aren't socialized, and when they can't have what they want right now they kick and scream and put up a fuss or sneak it later. Adults recognize things like ownership, community, responsibility ... and these things are awesome, wonderful things. To a thief they're things that get in the way of immediate gratification, and are stupid. But an adult sees that:

With ownership, I can keep and take care of things. With no agreement of ownership, anyone can take anything and there's no point in taking care of stuff, having nice things, or even assurance of some safety within the home. In fact, the concept of home is fragile and one of the things that thieves destroy is a sense of personal space and haven. Thieves are, of course, outraged and upset when people break into their homes and take their stuff ....

Community: awesome. People looking out for each other, watching each others' backs, helping uphold rules that make things like homes and ownership work. Having a community is core to being able to have celebrations, conducting business, and finding help with jobs that are too big or complicated to do by ourselves. Thief boy doesn't get that his mode of providing for himself relies on the existence of a community. Without it, he wouldn't have a store to steal from. He can disdain law-abiding citizens all he wants, but without them he would be taking his life into his own hands to go onto private property in a non-community, isolated area where the resident is accustomed to protecting his own property by him or herself and takes care of their own business.

Responsibility. It sounds like a drag until you realize it has two sides: the stuff you need to do, and the fact that you can do it – you are able to respond. Responsibility sounds initially like slavery, but it is in fact freedom. Responsible people have options, capability, and by accepting the requirements of society, grow to become more and more able through practice of taking responsibility. By being a responsible mother, I become a better parent. By being a responsible animal owner, I can't help but become a better livestock owner and cat lover. When you take action to fulfill your to-do list, through action and practice you become better at things like your job, and fishing, and keeping house, and managing money. If you practice. If you work at it. If you learn and grow and change and adapt. These aren't easy things to do, btw. It's easier just to grab and demand and whine and spend most of your time sleeping both literally and figuratively, like a child. Thankfully, most children instinctively learn and adapt and change. But some get stuck at one stage or another and feel that they have all the resources and knowledge required to get by. I find it odd that so many of them get stuck at a stage when they have almost no resources or knowledge that can help them provide for themselves.

Thieves tend to consider themselves smarter than us idiots who pay for stuff that's so easy to take. I doubt he ever thought through the idea that if everyone stole, there would be no place to steal from because there would be no point in having things like stores and possessions and ... anyway.

So I gazed in wonder upon the genius before me, and thanked the stars that I am a fool.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Fan Robber

Sometimes it saves my sanity to look at it all as good blogging material when customers do things that might make me crazy if I thought about it too much.

So this guy comes in wielding a fan. Not carrying, not holding. He looks like he's ready to use this fan as a weapon. He wants to get a new fan, because apparently the fan he's wielding doesn't work. (I feel safer already.) Do we have any fans?

I have a few fans, but not the kind that redistribute air. I say, no, we have no fans. I resist mentioning that we've had no fans for a month because it appears that he bought this fan when we actually had them, and therefore, he hasn't actually done this to himself. He has no receipt, no box, just the fan. We look it up. We can give him $6.99 for it, since he has no receipt. He claims he paid $12.99. I'm not unsympathetic, but he has no proof of that, so .... $6.99, is all we can offer. Sorry.

But that's not acceptable for him. He wants a fan. Again, not unsympathetic here, but we have no fans. At all. There may not be any fans in our quadrant of the universe. I don't suggest this, but it occurs to me that he should take the $6.99 and see what he can get on Amazon. Which won't help him today, but hey, at least he'll have a fan. Besides, big box arriving in the mail – who doesn't like that?

He sees a fan sitting on top of the counter. What about that fan? he asks. Sorry, we can't trade for that fan. That fan is for store use. 

Well, you owe me a fan. Technically, yes, but that fan belongs to someone. We can't just give you someone else's fan. I'm afraid all we can offer you is a refund.

This is where he crosses into jerk territory. I don't care. I want that fan. We can't give that fan to you, my boss explains again. Someone else paid for it. It isn't our fan to give you. 

He sees another fan. What about that fan?

I can imagine S.'s expression if we gave this guy her fan. Sorry, but we can't give you that fan either. That belongs to someone. It's bought and paid for.

What about that fan?

Now everyone is losing their patience. Sir, that fan is also owned by an employee, who bought and paid for it with their own money, just like all the other fans you see at the registers. We can't give you that fan. There are no fans available in this store at all. All we can offer you, without a receipt, is $6.99. 

He stormed out with his fan. I felt badly for him, and yet ... was he really suggesting that we just take K.'s or S.'s or A.'s fan? I suppose we could reimburse them, but then they'd have no fan, and as I mentioned earlier, there are no fans to be had anywhere nearby. I know he wants a fan very badly, and the store does owe him a fan, but that doesn't justify stealing someone else's fan, though he probably didn't see it that way. After all, we owe him a fan.

If I was a mean person, I might have taken a sheet of paper and folded him a fan (for free!) but I let him go with his weapon fan and sincerely hoped he found a better solution than demanding other people's property. Maybe he didn't truly understand. Or maybe he didn't distinguish between the store and the employees, who work together but are in fact separate things with separate budgets and separate forms of existence.*

Or maybe, he just didn't care.



* I've even heard that employees have families and get to go home and stuff, and that they can take their personal possessions, like purses and shoes and even fans, home with them if they want. Crazy, I know!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Thinking Ahead More Than Two Seconds

Okay, people. You've made me cranky again. Not you, my devoted readers, but those other people who drive me crazy sometimes, despite my best efforts to be kind, understanding, compassionate, etc.

I was at the Warehouse Store Which Shall Not Be Invoked (okay, maybe I will. It's Costco) putting my stuff into the trunk of my car, minding my own business. The folks in the neighboring car seemed unable to mind theirs, however. I put stuff from the cart into reusable bags, since they didn't give me a box. Didn't even offer, but that's okay. The last thing I need is one more box to burn. He noticed that I loaded slippers, and said, "Slippers. It's ninety degree weather."

Oh.
My.
GAWD!!!!!

Can some people not think ahead for more than two seconds? Seriously. It's September. Guess what? In two months it's going to get cold, if it even takes that long. Three months and we're starting to get uncomfortably chilly. Four months and it's going to be sixty-mile-an-hour gusts, snow and ice, wind chill down below zero F and guess what? You will not find a single slipper at Costco then.

I see this at my store all the time. The intelligent people see fans in March and go oh, hmm. Is my fan still working? And they go home and dig it out and test it and lo and behold! It doesn't work. And they deal with it the following week by picking up a new fan. Meanwhile, the grasshopper people go, hey, look at the idiots buying fans in March. It's cold out there! And the first hot day in July they run to the store, looking for a fan, and complain about the lack of selection. Or worse, they show up on the first 100+F degree day, looking for a fan, and there are none to be found. What about swimming pools? Sold out. Swimming pool toys? Got some divers and squirt guns, nothing else. Goggles? Gone. Flip flops? Do you wear size 4?

They are so used to getting exactly what they want exactly when they want, they have no idea what to do with places like Costco and my store where there isn't room to store the entire universe, and even if there was, the warehouses and distributors don't have the room to have it either. Yes, they keep pushing the seasons earlier and earlier. It's supply and demand. Manufacturers produce only so much stuff. Buyers buy them as soon as manufacturers offer them for sale, before they're sold out. They don't want to hold them in their warehouses because that costs money, so they ship it out and buy the next thing available. This will never change.

This will never change.

Those who wait, be it the customer, the store, or the distributor, will not get what they need. They might get the dregs if they're lucky.

Our ancestors grew up with this concept thoroughly ingrained. InGRAINed. If they didn't store grain over the winter, they starved. They couldn't go pick it up at the store. If they needed a coat for winter, they made it during the summer because they couldn't buy it in winter. They had to make it.

Even the super-huge massive stores like Walmart often don't carry everything year-round. Sometimes, due to the manufacturing and distribution schedules, it simply isn't available. And even if it is available, who is to say that you could battle your way through the ice and snow to get to it? I wonder how many awful wrecks would be avoided if people didn't rush to the stores after the snow has already started to fall to buy necessities that they could have stocked up on in, you know, October.

Or September.

So, ignoramuses of the universe, take heed. If you have slippers, fine, don't buy them in September (which to me doesn't seem unreasonably early anyway.) But don't come crying to me if you can't get nice ones for a decent price in January. At the very least, don't make fun of me for buying mine early, when I see really nice ones for a very, very nice price.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Shelter


We built a new shed for our baby boy goaties! The days are growing shorter, which means young goat hearts are turning to thoughts of love. The baby girls are much to young to be mommies, so we had to separate our buckling, Thurston, from the others. Goats don't do well alone, so Gilligan, the wether we got at the same time as Thurston, will be keeping him company. And although goats are very hardy, they still need things like shelter, a source of fresh water, a small daily ration of grain, salts, baking soda, hoof trimming, stable spray when the flies get too bad, lice control, and daily health checks.

All the goats share a fence line, so they can still see each other and graze close together provided both groups are willing. In January we'll be able to put them all together again. In the meantime, every few hours or so, Gilligan and Thurston realize they're 'alone' and bawl. That usually gets the girls bawling back at them. I've had some short nights as a result.

There's one huge bonus to isolating two goats in the lower pasture. Thurston and Gilligan have been spending most of their time eating blackberries. They've really done a good job getting the brush down in a very short time. That whole section was starting to overgrow, and now it's reasonable again. I can foresee a day when the lower pasture is all grass like the upper pasture, and another large patch of this invasive weed will be eradicated. Yay!

In other news, we have at least three feral kittens living in and near the barn, and we're officially on chick watch, as it's getting close to time for some eggs to hatch. We just got a good tip about feed from our neighbors which will help our hatch-through considerably. Sadly, it may be too late for this group, but we're keeping our fingers crossed.

Stay tuned: we're going to try to trap the kittens so that they can be taken to the vet for shots, spaying/neutering, and a general health check. This is the plan, but they're sly little cuties and we may not be able to catch them. Wish us, and the kittens, luck.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

My Garden and Two Spiders




A couple of things about spiders ....

I'm an arachnophobe. It took decades for me to be able to be around them whilst remaining somewhat rational. I was even afraid of killing them. I'm generally averse to killing things just because I don't like them or because I'm afraid of them, but I was also so physically revolted and terrified of them that their deaths and dead bodies were just as bad as the living things.

Years later, through education and working on being around them and observing, I'm now able to garden with them. It's not easy. They have to be 'my' spiders, the spiders that live outside in my garden and who generally leave me alone and if they happened to hitch a ride on me by accident, they're as eager to get away from me as I am to have them off of me.

I want to mention a couple in particular today.

The first is the so-called common garden spider, which I've found to be somewhat uncommon in my area.

I love these spiders. They're huge, which makes them somewhat easy to spot (so I can keep my distance) and they tend to make their webs in or around very tall grass, at least in my garden, so they've never once (so far) stretched their webs across one of my paths and nailed me in the face.

They're also artists. They weave something down the middle of their orb web to look like something an insect might want to land on, or that at least blends in a bit with the wheat and other grasses they prefer.


The other kind, although I garden with them side-by-side all the time (not by choice, they're extremely profuse) I'm not so fond of. They lurk on pale flowers and kill bees. Now, if it was a bee here and a bee there, I wouldn't mind so much. But these are first-rate bee killers, and they don't seem to have an off switch. I've seen one kill a bee when it had several dead ones already, and I can't imagine a spider that size needing that much food. But, what do I know? Maybe they lay a single egg on each one or something like that. I call them white crab spiders, but I'm not sure what they're really called. This time of year most of the ones I found were tiny. In spring, when I have my first flush of rose blossoms, they're all over the white roses, and the cream and apricot ones, and they also lurk near the pale pollen on my giant tree peonies.

I won't go on an active campaign to destroy them all, but I also don't care for them and given half of an excuse to mush one, I will. I also snip flowers that are the least bit faded that have them on them and put them in the compost. I'm sure that doesn't do much to them, but maybe, on their way to find a new pale flower, they'll be eaten by the heaps of jumping spiders and other hunting-style spiders that roam through the grass.

Happy gardening!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Reading that will Never go Viral

So here's me reading as Tammy Owen from House of Goats. I want to go into Muppet Show mode and continue that with "the continuing stooory of a quack who's gone to the dogs." (From Veterinary Hospital: here's an example.) Or in my case a suburban mom who's gone to the goats.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24pmoRe-H2U

I tried to embed this video, but apparently the software can't find me. Ugh.  I'll try to add it later.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Angry Red Chest

This angry red chest is one of the many reasons why I haven't blogged in forever. Sorry for the long and unannounced hiatus!

I've rediscovered fishing. I've only gone twice, but considering that it takes the whole day away as far as days off from my day job ....

Totally worth it. It was warmer yesterday than last time, and I didn't put on massive amounts of sunscreen like last time, so I got singed quite a bit more due to shedding of the jacket early and having only some SPF 8 protection (and apparently very spottily applied at that.) Where I actually had a decent amount of sunscreen, the pink has already faded. Where I missed, well, it's still angry at me, like pink Hulk angry, only without the awesome amount of muscle mass.

On my other days off I've been feverishly working on book designs for clients. Here's a big thank you to those clients! I very much appreciate the business. But of course business before blogging, so ....

And I'm still quite massively busy, but I managed to squeak in a few moments this morning for this burning apology.

Quick updates: Hateful Bob, our first chick to be raised by his mother hen, is doing fine, except for the part where all the other birds other than his mom pick on him. Poor thing! And, he was attacked  by a hawk, and miraculously survived. Hateful Bob is one tough bird. Side effect, the birds are stuck in the coop except for an hour or two at dusk, which they hate and I hate too, but it's necessary for their safety. I'm hoping to get out there today (yay, two days off in a row!) and set up some sort of run other than the little patch of dirt we've got enclosed outside their coop door so they have some grass time.

The four baby goats, Thurston, Ginger, MaryAnne and Gilligan, are doing very well and continue to be very cute.

House projects continue handsomely, which in sailor-speak means slowly (and carefully). I don't know about the carefully part, but we're moving along with the Great Kitchen Cleanup and the Decluttering Project of Doom.

I have a reading later this month in Hillsboro, OR and a presentation about letter writing in August for a library.

There's me, first in line, sans angry red chest.


I hope everyone is have a fabulous and angry-red-chest-free July!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The value of a blink

I'm definitely one of those people who believe that writers should write every day, and painters should paint every day, musicians should play music every day, etc. Even if it's just a few minutes. I think that the reason that many don't is because they decide, either consciously or unconsciously, that because those few minutes feel shallow and they can't really get under the surface of things before they have to stop, there's no value to a fifteen minute art sit-down or the addition of a single paragraph to a manuscript.

I think there's a lot of value. I haven't tried to put this into words before, so I hope you'll be patient with me while I thrash it out.

Probably the least important part, and the part that is a focus of programs like Nanowrimo, is that those individual paragraphs add up. And they do. But this is super-easy to shrug off, because if you feel like you don't get to go deep, they're probably lousy paragraphs anyway. I think they always have the potential to be just as good as anything else you might write, but we're discussing writer mentality here, and even I wonder if I might not be writing stupid crud when I sit down for fifteen minutes before work and tap out a quarter of a scene.

I think it's more important to look at it as mental exercise. At first it might be true that those paragraphs written in stolen moments are probably not worth much, but with daily practice, you can't help but get better at dropping in and making quick additions.

Ooo, here's a good one: I don't stop thinking about my books when I go to work, and I get some great ideas there. Or maybe while grocery shopping I'll pick up a can of olives that are on sale and I'll think oh, oh! the contrast of salmony pink/red with purple-y black! and I'll dash home and splash some colors onto a new blank Photoshop screen. I might not have time to do anything more than that, but it's there for me to riff off of when I get some more time. And for those who rely on inspiration, having that inspired moment captured is a good and precious thing, even if they didn't have time to see it through to completion. And an incomplete gesture of inspiration is the norm, unless you're one of those rare people who completes an entire project in a single day. Even then, wouldn't it be nice to have something small and perfect and good every day?

Speaking of incomplete gestures and notes of inspiration, there's no rule that says that when you sit down and write, it has to be on the prose within the manuscript. Especially for books but also for short stories and art, I take notes which end up scattered on all different sizes, shapes and colors of paper all around my desk. Note-taking and planning is also creative time, my friends, and very valuable creative time. That is definitely part of the writing every day rule, and shouldn't be undervalued.

These are all good and true things. So, no more excuses. Write every day, even if it's just for a blink. After all, if we didn't blink, our eyes would dry out. So it is with the arts.