Sunday, February 25, 2007

Baby, oh baby!

My beloved blog-pal, the lovely Andrea of Andrea After Hours has just welcomed a new baby boy, Joel!

Please join me in congratulating her and wishing her well at her blog, which has been updated with some photographs of just the cutest little baby ever, as well as quite an amazing birth story.

Best wishes Andrea, you sweet little mama! From my family to yours, we love you and are so happy for you and your husband. Two little boys! How sweet!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Truth in parody

So today I was trying to explain to nine-year-old Alex what parody was, and brought in guest lecturer Weird Al Yankovic.

We watched quite a few of his videos on YouTube, including the one above which I think cuts at the heart of our crappy eBay obsessed culture. I'd not seen this one before and thought I'd post it for my readers to enjoy.

There were others we watched as well, like parodies of Michael Jackson's Beat It and Bad, redone by Weird Al as Eat It and Fat.

To put them in context, I showed her the original Jackson videos. We were in the middle of watching Beat It when she turned to me and said, "Michael Jackson used to be black?"

"Uh, yeah," I repled, realizing that I should have warned her. She's only nine and the glimpses of him she's caught on television have always been post nose jobs, hair extensions and skin-bleachings.

"Well, he looks white now," she said.

"Well, that's because he had surgery and changed his skin color. And then he did other stuff later, like putting a ferris wheel in his back yard and having weird sleepover parties, but I'll tell you about that when you're older."

"How much older?"

"About 36,"I replied.

Alex looked back at the screen. "I think he looked better when he was black. He shouldn't have messed himself up like that."

"Hmmm. Here it is," I said. I had the dictionary now and was pointing to the word "parody." We often read definitions together to help her remember them.

I read the definitions aloud: "Parody - 1 : a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule 2 : a feeble or ridiculous imitation"

And there we had two examples of the word, Weird Al's songs for the first and Michael Jackson for the second.

Two lessons in one. Bonus. Thanks, guys.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Dog and pony show

Well, OK. So that might be a bit of a mischaracterization. Toby the pomeranian is a dog, but at 2,000 pounds Jake the Percheron is hardly a pony. But they are now my two newest animal friends and the subject of an article I wrote earlier this week.

I spent Saturday with Jake, Toby and their human companion Terry. A week earlier I'd had to venture into the neighboring farm town and what I saw as I passed through made me slam on brakes in the middle of the road. It was Terry driving Jake right down Main Street. And sitting on top of Jake's broad back was Toby.

I jumped out of the car and ran over to them. I know a story when I see one and wasn't about to let this one get away. I introduced myself as a writer and asked Terry if I could do a feature on him and his unusual couples.

"Sure," he said, so last Saturday I went out and spent the morning riding around town with Terry, Toby and Jake. I took about 200 pictures; I sold some along with the story and so I'm posting a few others here.

Even though it was frickin' freezing outside, I had a great time. Toby is a tiny showman who seems to know people are watching. He literally struck poses on the horse's back whenever someone came by. Jake is intimidating, even to a longtime horse-owner like me. At one point during our ride he became skittish of a van being off-loaded from a car carrier. All I could think was "God, if this horse decides to take off we are just so screwed." But Terry just gave Jake a little slack and let him trot on by. Later, after we got back to his farm, he showed me a special trick he uses to help keep Jake calm; he stuffs pieces of foam in Jake's ears to muffle the loud sounds that might spook him.

As for Terry, he's just the nicest guy I've ever met, and very easy to talk to. We discussed all kinds of things - our pets and families, books we've read, society, philosophy, God, parenthood... Even if he hadn't had a giant horse and a tiny dog I would have enjoyed hanging out with him.

Terry, who's had Jake for about five years said about two years ago he just decided to put Toby up on his back to see how the horse would react. When Jake didn't appear to mind, he started putting the dog up on the horse in the pasture. When he was sure the little dog was surefooted enough to stay on board he started taking Toby out on trips through town.

Terry enjoys taking the pair out because he loves the reactions of onlookers, especially children. There are a lot of disadvantaged kids in the area, and his visits never fail to put smiles on those little faces.

Unfortunately, the area is also rapidly developing due the recent addition of a gated community on the outskirts of town. Businesses are moving in. A super Wal Mart is slated to be built right across the street from his little farm.

With it will come more traffic, more motorists on cell phones, more motorists in a hurry to get from here to there, perhaps too much in a hurry to slow down - even for a dog on a horse. Terry worries that it won't be long before it may not be safe to drive Jake on the roads.

That will be a sad day when it comes. It's characters like Terry who give little towns their soul. You can see a Wal-Mart just about anwyhere. But really, how often do you see a dog riding a horse?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Like father like son

So last night Lucas decided it might be fun to try and climb on top of my sewing studio counter top. His dad happened upon his little adventure too late; the footstool Lucas was using slipped out from under him and the result was a gash above our young son's eye.

Now, I'm no stranger to blood and gore. I've played midwife to dogs and livestock and doctored up wildlife who came in with compound fractures and exposed organs. But the sight of my little boy being toted into the kitchen with a stream of blood streaming down his face was something else entirely. Larry set a howling Lucas in a chair and pressed some paper towels to his bleeding brow. "Hold this," he said. "I'll get a washcloth."

That's when everything started going black. By the time Larry came back in I was sitting on the floor. Seeing how pale I was, instructed me to lay down.

I really didn't have a choice. Everything was spinning, no matter how hard I tried to level them out. I felt sick. Then I got sick and it wasn't until Larry had slowed Lucas' bleeding that I was able to go back over and assess the wound.
I felt like such a wimp, but any embarrassment was replaced by relief when I realized that the gash wasn't as deep as first thought. A good cleaning and some butterfly bandages stopped the bleeding and today Lucas is actually proud of his new "boo-boo," which will likely leave a faint scar.

His father has a number of interesting scars. The latest one is a zig-zag mark on his forehead just above his right eye, earned in December when a four-inch piece of pipe popped up and hit him. It still hurts sometimes, and when it does we always ask him if Lord Voldemort is near. Almost three months later, the joke hasn't gotten old. To us.

Larry also has several scars on his hands. One came during a mishap installing a fence several years ago. But the most impressive one was the infamous Lizard Attack scar, earned when a 4-foot Crocodile Monitor mistook his hand for a mouse and ripped through several fingers. It was so ghastly that the nurses in the ER queued up for a look. My husband. The one-man-freak-show.

I only have one scar, a small one on the base of my wrist that came courtesy of Ranger, the first hawk I ever handled. In my naivete, I was worried about being bitten but quickly learned the danger of raptors is not the beak but the claws. Ranger, a huge red-tailed hawk that ended up living with me for a decade, managed to grab my wrist and sink right in. And there was nothing I could do but wait for her to decide I wasn't a threat and release me. When she did, she left a permanent reminder to always wear gloves, even if the raptor seems weak.
Jessica, John and Alex are scar-free. Wesley has a faint scar on his face that Jessica gave him years ago when she scratched him - quite accidentally - when they were playing. Wes was about three at the time and the scar, which started out under his eye, migrated down his face as he grew into manhood.

Who knows what scars are in our kids' future. Hopefully not too many. But for now, Lucas seems pretty proud of his first one. He's practically swaggering this morning, and quite proud to have a story to tell.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 ya' think?

Yeah, this pretty much sums it up.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Old Barn

It is nice to be missed, and the emails and comments I've gotten during my haitus from blogging have been much appreciated. You can credit fortune - or lack of it - with my absence. My erstwhile editing stint appears to have dried up for more than the short term this time, which means I'm having to hustle freelance assignments. When I'm not hustling, I'm writing. And when I'm not writing, I'm sewing in a renewed committment to my sideline bohemian clothing business.

But more on that later. It's not been all work and no play. I did find time Saturday to go out and photograph the amazing old barn that sits on a farm about five miles from my house. The farm itself used to be an old "test" farm, where the state developed new techniques for producing bigger and better livestocks and crops. The current owners are the sons of our former family veterinarian, who sadly has passed on. They inherited the property from him, and even when he bought it decades ago the buildings were already in disrepair.

Today the brothers raise horses and other livestock and sell hay from the farm and have restored a couple of the smaller barns. But the estimates for restoring the grand dairy barn that is the showpiece of the property is daunting --$40,00 for the roof alone. They're hoping to have the place put on the historic register so they can qualify for restoration funds. I hope they can. It will be grand restored, but even in its current state the barn is still majestic.

Here are some more shots of the old dairy barn. Enjoy!

The Loft -- Being in the loft was like being in a cathedral. There floor is concrete, which should tell you something about the solidity of the structure. Hay used to be stored in the loft years ago and thrown through a hole in the loft floor to the stalls below. A set of very steep concrete stairs, visible through one of the barn's broken window, lead up to the loft. The only disappointment after making the climb? No barn owls. I was sure there'd be barn owls, but none live there.

The Silos -- There are about six of them. The one in the first shot here was my favorite; the little ladder room on the outside of this one reminded me of a castle tower. I half-expected to see a princess toss her long braid from the window. Wesley's girlfriend, Courtney, went with me to the farm and we couldn't resist climbing inside the silos. The second shot, taken from inside one of the silos, is one of my favorites; the lighting is perfect.

The roof - It's lined with what I guess are old turbines. This one had a broken weather vane on its top.

Other shots from the farm

There were lots of horses - many of them pregnant broodmares - but this boarder turned out to be mine and Courtney's favorite. He followed us along the fenceline and demanded attention.

One of the restored buildings - a small, narrow barn that used to house bulls - sits beside a farm pond. We watched a herd of deer bound across the field behind it, but my zoom wasn't powerful enough to get a good shot of them.