Archive for February, 2010

Stitches and Cones

Sometimes Sugar gets what we lovingly call “The Crazies.” When she gets The Crazies, she begins running full speed in whatever direction she is facing until she meets an obstacle (like the edge of our property). Then she’ll stop in a way that resembles a skier at the bottom of a hill, dirt flying everywhere, turn around, and start running in a new direction. A few people have independently commented to us that they think she might be part whippet, and to see her run, I wouldn’t doubt it. At full speed, I would guess that she’s running at least 25 miles an hour, maybe more. When she gets The Crazies, she is having more puppy-like fun than almost any other time. She loves it. But it doesn’t always leave her with the best judgment regarding her own safety.

So this last weekend during a bout of The Crazies, she got too close to something–we think the raspberry bushes are the culprit. I never knew raspberry bushes had such nasty thorns, but they do. But whether it was the raspberry bushes or something else, Sugar came in with a nasty gash on her hind leg (as well as a milder one on her front). It was pretty bad…I’ll spare you the gorier details, but needless to say I could see down to the muscle.  And our brave little pup patiently (and surely painfully) stood still while we poured iodine and bactine into it, never even letting out a whimper. It was obvious she was in pain, but I could also see that she trusted us to take care of her.

Despite our best efforts, it became clear she needed stitches. So she got a date with Dreamland and woke up to a stiched up leg and a brand new collar. The Elizabethan Collar bascially makes sure that she can’t lick the area, thus tearing out the stitches or introducing infection. She’s not happy about it.

The collar basically means that she can’t navigate in her usual way. She’s always bumping into things. She can’t sleep in her crate because she can’t move around the space with the collar on (and we can’t take it off at night because we can’t supervise her). It’s much harder to eat. She’s afraid to go to the bathroom with it on. Needless to say, it’s been the source of a lot of discomfort and fear for her. Sometimes I wish I could speak dog language, and then I could just explain how it’s for her own good, how it’s not a punishment, and how it’s not forever. But for now, I suppose, she just has to trust us even though we can’t explain.

I was thinking the other day about how similar this situation is to our own faith lives. How often do we go through periods of discomfort, of fear, of not understanding the purpose of things? How often do we just have to trust that God knows something we don’t? We all have Elizabethan collars in our own spiritual lives. We all have stitches that are healing, and God sometimes keeps us from licking our wounds for our own good.

Sugar would probably say that being in the collar is the hardest job. But as her “mom,” I have to say that watching her suffer and knowing that she doesn’t understand is pretty hard, too. I wonder if God experiences that? I think so–that God struggles with our struggle. That God’s compassion reaches out to us in those moments. And that God continues to assure us that there is a purpose for the discomfort, and that God will take care of us each step of the way.

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Seeds

Photo provided by freefoto.com

As my body continued to heal from this doozie of a cold, I spent some time yesterday ordering our seeds from an heirloom seed company.  It was exciting. I never thought that, at 29 years old, I’d get such a thrill from ordering seeds on a rainy weekend afternoon.

About a month ago, Robert and I spent a cold winter evening planning our garden and making our seed lists, so I had all of the information at my fingertips. All I needed to do was actually order them–and, strangely enough, this small act made our homesteading seem all the more real.  It was like when I ordered the bees. Planning was one thing, but clicking “Order” suddenly made sure that it was going to happen. Or, at least, we’d make a good attempt. Regardless, it became an inevitable part of the story.

Some of the things we ordered will simply come as seed packets: eggplant, cucumber, lettuce, carrots, kale, spinach, green beans, leeks, onions, butternut squash, pumpkins, arugula, and various edible herbs. We’ll also get seeds for the flowers and herbs that will surround our garden and help to lure the bees: lavender, bee balm, borage, hyssop, chinese aster, star of the veld, zulu prince daisies, and ox-eye sunflowers. And then there will be the large sunflowers that will help to create a windbreak: velvet queen sunflower, evening sunflower, and a mix of others.  All these will arrive in small packages and hopefully fill our small space with beautiful colors and healthy meals.

We also ordered garlic, potatoes, and tomatoes, which will arrive at various times of year. The potatoes will arrive in mid-April, and will come in 2 1/2 pound bags. We’ll have to plant those in an entire separate area, because potatoes don’t play well with other vegetables. They wreak havoc on the soil and attract all sorts of bugs (which is why conventionally grown potatoes can harbor some of the most toxic pesticides around).  They’ll take a certain amount of attentiveness and care from year to year, so we plan on rotating them in various spots on the property. However, they won’t get to hang out with the rest of their culinary friends in the garden. Besides the potatoes, we’ll be getting tomato transplants in mid-May. May 15th is the last day for potential frost in the area, so we can’t get them any earlier than that. Tehachapi is known for its short growing season, but hopefully next year we’ll have the greenhouse up and running and won’t have to worry about that as much. The tomatoes are especially exciting because we’ll be getting some of our favorite varieties–Cherokee Purple and Green Zebra. We’ll also be getting a variety called “Amish Paste,” which will be good for canning and cooking. Finally, we’ll be getting garlic bulbs in early September. We’ll plant them when the rest of the garden is beginning to wind down, when the pumpkins and winter squashes are demanding our attention, and when the ground begins to get cold again. I plan to plant a lot of garlic over the years–we’re big fans in this Italian household.

These seeds bring us one step closer to our dream of living off of the land. We also looked through hatchery websites last night and picked out some heritage chicken breeds that might make it into the running for our tiny flock.  But more on that later. We still have a lot of work to do before we can order those chicks. We just need to take it one wonderful step at a time.

Sick…again

Hi friends! Sorry I haven’t been posting the last couple of days. I had a cold that caught up to me and really knocked the wind out of me. I promise I’ll write soon…perhaps later today or tomorrow. We’re due to get some more rain here, and the fog has really rolled in during the last few hours. So, because of the rain, we probably won’t get to finish our garden fence this weekend. We’ll see, though…weather reports aren’t always right!

Sugar and I pose during my brother's birthday party earlier this week

Small Tastes and Good Fences

Our weekend was filled with various guests–friends and family, young and old alike. We were blessed to open our home to people from all corners of our lives. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for this place…it was as we had always hoped, even when it was simply a dream of ours: a place of sanctuary, of peace, of warmth and love. It certainly isn’t of our own doing that we have this place (God has been the mapmaker of this plan), but we are going to do the best we can to do it justice.

We’ve had a nice dose of warm weather over the past few weeks.  As a result, we’re getting the first taste of Spring here in Tehachapi.

It’s like the little trumpets are heralding an end to the cold–soon enough, soon enough. I can’t wait for the land to errupt in what everyone has assured me is a dizzying array of flowers, the best of which is a ring of lilacs within our driveway circle.  Our oak trees will become full, and green grass will poke its head through the (temporarily) soft earth. We’ll find out if our fruit trees and grape vines have survived the years previous to us taking stewardship; unfortunately, we’ve been told, they didn’t get enough water or pruning or pest protection. But I have hope.

Finally, we’ve made a lot of progress on our little garden plot. The trenches were dug all the way around, and gopher wire was put about a foot down. Once we filled in the earth around the gopher wire, we began to construct our fence. We’re almost done; all we need to do is construct a gate for each remaining side and finish it off.

Hope everyone has a beautiful, gratitude-filled week.

PS…I’d like to share an inspiring blog that I found earlier this morning. Before Fall of 2008, it was a simply a woman’s joyful musings on motherhood and her life in general. But following a plane crash in which she and her husband barely survived, it has become an inspirational testament of her courage. She embraces every day with a courage that I could only hope to have, and gives me pause when I consider the “stresses” of my daily life.  I encourage you to check it out: http://nieniedialogues.blogspot.com

My Valentine from God

Well, the sun has finally come out and melted all our snow, and my body has decided to respond joyfully by coming down with a cold. 😦 Therefore, I’ve decided to spend the day resting, taking vitamin C, catching up on episodes of “The Office,” and reading old emails from my first few weeks dating my husband.

It’s been four years–it seems like so long ago and yet it seems like such a small amount of time. I kind of divide my life into two sections: Before Rob (B.R.) and After Rob (A.R.). My B.R. years seem to blend together into a mish-mash of preparation, of God’s seed-planting years. My A.R. years seem to be when my life really began to blossom. When I began to become who I was meant to be.

I found this in an email I had written just 10 days after our first date:

I have faith that our paths have crossed with a definite purpose, like I said. There is work we are supposed to do, ways in which we are supposed to help each other. While I am doing my best not to “figure God out” and jump to the conclusions of what that means, I do have a deep intuition that at the heart of it all, we are here to help one another grow.

How my husband has helped me grow. I am stronger, happier, and more in love with life and with God than ever before. I truly feel like I have begun to live out my purpose on this earth, and he has become my partner in doing so. I feel so grateful, so blessed that he is the one that walks this journey with me. God knew so much better than I when he planned out this humble life of mine.

So, on this Valentine’s Day weekend, I’m actually most grateful for the Valentine that God sent to me in the form of a man. Through my husband, I have learned more about how to see the world with God’s eyes; I’ve learned more about how to love whole-heartedly, to be humble, to be compassionate, and to be courageous.  And I’ve learned that God shows the depth of God’s love in ways we could never even imagine for ourselves. That’s why I’m so glad that God never listened to my many, many plans.

The Hillside

 

The other day I was taking Sugar out to the backyard for a break from housework and a little fun throwing ball. As soon as we stepped out the back door, her ears perked up and her back arched. She stood at full attention, eyes fixed on the hillside. The air was still and cold, the clouds hung low, and the light was dimming in the early evening. I squinted, following her gaze, and then the hillside began to move.

There is a herd of cattle that comes down every so often into the area just beyond our back yard. This was the closest I had ever seen them–not twenty feet from where I was standing. And yet they blended so well into the hillside. They were hues of beige and light brown, but it was the calves that drew the most attention. They were snowy white and hopping around happily, completely unaware that potential predators had just walked out a back door just a few feet away.

Of course, the threat to them was, in reality, very low. I was in awe and my dog was a bit frightened by the large, slow moving beasts. But there was a beauty of that shared moment. Together we stood, Sugar and I, breathing in this piece of unhindered nature, of wildness, of countryside. I felt happier and more fulfilled watching a herd of wild cattle on a hillside than I ever did in the fast-paced life of the city.

After an eternal moment, the adult cattle noticed my presence and began to usher the younger ones back up the hillside. The blended back in to the landscape, perceptible only by flashes of moving color. Andthen,  just like that…they were gone. I breathed a word of thanks to them for our brief encounter, and then led Sugar out to the front of the property for a game of fetch.

It’s good to be home.

Progress and rainy days

It’s a rainy day here at the homestead. We’ve had a wonderful week–during the day I’ve been working on the house and the land, and in the evenings we’ve been spending a lot of time with new friends.

For a surprise, I cleaned out the garage for Rob and laid out his tools so he can put them in order. Our garage had exploded into a mess of wood bits, sawdust, grout, paint, half-filled water buckets, and trash from our week of bathroom construction, and I knew that the mess was weighing on him. So I took a sunny afternon and cleared the trash (5 construction trash bags full!) up to the barn, swept, and put things in order.  After all…he works so hard to make this dream happen. I want to make his time here at home as calm and enjoyable as possible, because I truly appreciate that sacrifice. He’s quite a man, my husband.

I’ve also got almost 3 sides of our “gopher fort” dug, chicken-wired, and filled. I had to call off the digging today because the rains have settled in for a couple of days. But once they’ve passed through and softened up the earth even more, I’ll be back at it.

Speaking of our garden, our fencing arrived this week. Which means after the underground gate is in, we’ll be digging post-holes and setting up our cedar fencing. I’m excited about that. We also spent a lot of time looking through an organic heritage seed catalog and picking out our seeds. I’ll be ordering them in the next few days, although they’ll arrive throughout the year (some seeds and some seedlings) depending on what type of veggie it is.

Another exciting event of the week: the former owner of this house was watching his friends’ chickens while they were on vacation, and pulled me along for the ride. I got to meet 8 pretty laying hens, and we plucked four eggs from the roost. He let us keep them, and we were eating honest-to-goodness farm fresh eggs the next morning. I can’t wait until we have our own, but we have a lot of work to do on the coop and the fencing before we get there.

Our beehive equipment also arrived! We’ll be spending some time this raining weekend assembling it all. All the books I’ve been reading say that it’s a good idea to get everything assembled and ready a few months ahead of time–that way, when the bees arrive, all you have to worry about it getting them settled in. Since our bees are set to arrive April 16th, I think we’re right on schedule.

Our evenings were spent at the houses of our new friends. It’s been quite a blessing to have only been in town 8 weeks and already have people with whom we enjoy spending our time.  I’m also beginning to appreciate the gift of knowing people that are different–different beliefs, different lifestyles, different values, different hobbies. Many of my friends from college and grad school were people who were strikingly similar in our core belief systems and interests. I’m not sure if that was just dumb luck or if being involved so closely with LMU Campus Ministry shaped it, but there is was. This was a blessing to me at the time, because it helped me to become more comfortable with my newfound place in the church, in my faith journey, and in my own self-confidence as an increasingly independent woman. But now I find myself appreciating that I can share my life (and faith and values) with people who don’t necessarily share them in the same way. I can appreciate where they come from and why they see the world a certain way. Being in seminary really  began that part of my journey, and living in Tehachapi is continuing it.

Finally, the big news on the homestead: we’re hoping to trade in one of our cars this weekend for a truck (well, kind of a truck). We’ve been looking at different trucks and have our eye on a Ford Expedition that is in our price range. It has the power and (hopefully) the room of a truck, so it can haul a small animal trailer or have a few hay bales stuck in the back. At the same time, it has plenty of room for what we hope to be an expanding family. So we’ll see how it all turns out. If we like the test drive and like what they offer us for the car, we’ll have a dependable four-wheel drive for our next snowstorm.