Monday, April 21, 2008

Zoom! Zoom!

Sorry I've been away, but things have been busy. In addition to learning a new creative skill involving Photoshop CS for my paying gig, I've been playing Garden Gnome for Larry as we enter Farmer's Market season. It's a good time to be able to grow things, and I plan a blog post with some serious thoughts on that later this week if I have time.

But not today. This is a more lighthearted post, seeing as how I have some awesome photos from the air show this weekend. My aunt and uncle live by the airport where the US Air Force Thunderbirds flew this weekend - a great free venue - so we celebrated our first successful Saturday market by treating ourselves and the kids to a couple of hours of high-flying fun. I love the air show, despite the fact that about a gazillion gallons of fuel are exhausted for our entertainment. But whatever. The noise is awesome, and from a photographic standpoint the air show is a real challenge. Because the planes shoot over before the sound catches up with them,  if you aren't watching you can miss some good shots. I was lucky; my dad and a couple of gentleman in the crowd volunteered to be spotters for me so I'd be sure to get these gems:

Notice the Thunderbird painted under the plane

Flying in formation

It's amazing how in synch these guys were

My fave shot. Notice how the pilot's looking our way.

Coming right for us
Oh, the picture at the very top of this page was enhanced with Photoshop, but I still think it looks cool. If you want to see more shots from the air show let me know and I'll post more pics. I've got loads of them and could make a separate post of them if interest warrants. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Getting my goat

This past weekend my friend April and I went to a dairy goat farm near Smithfield, North Carolina. Ever since visiting her farm over Easter and seeing her dairy goats, our family has been interested in having a few of our own - both because goats are interesting animals but also because we try to be self-sufficient and would like to supplement our homegrown eggs and veggies with milk and cheese.

My intention was to start with a little male goat that would eventually be neutered. Many male goats are drowned at birth or sold for meat by dairy operations, and the way we looked at it, bottle raising a baby would not only give one a chance, but give us an idea of what to expect later when our own does had kids. If we decided it wasn't for us, a neutered male goat would still be a good a good pet. Besides, even if we do end up with does, we'll outsource the breeding. Castrated bucks make nice companions; intact ones are very pungent. With the assortment of animal smells already emanating from our place, Goat Musk might be enough to send the neighbors right over the edge.

The farm we visited was very nice, and had lots of Nubian goats. I'd intended to bring home a Nubian and we'd done lots of research, so I felt prepared to ask all the right questions. But I wasn't prepared to find that the farm also had Toggenburgs, a breed I had not researched. I actually thought they were prettier than the Nubians; they looked a bit like deer to me. One of the ladies who was there buying adults had owned Toggs for years and said they were easier to handle. The only downside, she said, was that the breed's milk was a little lower in butterfat. With my first goat being a buck, milk quality wasn't an issue so I asked the owner of the farm to show me what young Toggs she had.

There were several, and while the smallest ones were the cutest, they were already spoken for, She suggested a slightly older one that was running with the Nubians in the kid pen. She turned him out and aside from chewing on my hair, the kid ignored me. I looked back over to the Nubians, which were plentiful but still didn't see anything I liked as much as the Toggenburgs. And even though this one seemed a bit more interested in his surroundings than in me, April reassured me that once I got him home and fed him he'd bond to me in a heartbeat. 

I decided to take him.

Later April came over and said, "You know you just saved a life..."

She explained that the mother of this little Toggenburg was part Alpine - not enough that anyone could even tell - but the fraction was enough to make this particular Toggenburg baby useless in an operation that deals with registered dairy goats. As a "grade" goat, this little guy was destined for slaughter. In fact, the owner told me later that had I not taken him she'd have sold him to the local Mexicans the next day.

I wasn't mad at the owner; she's a farmer and farmers are pragmatic people. Still, I'd wanted our first goat to be one we'd saved. It made me ecstatic to know that I'd kept this little guy from ending up in a chalupa.

So we put him in the back seat of April's truck and brought him home, along with five Maran chicks that I'd been wanting to get for my home flock. They rode in the box beside the goat.

Once we got him home, we realized pretty quickly that life with a goat was going to be a whole lot busier. It's kind of like having another child, only one that eats magazines. We've had to hide every shred of paper, and underestimated how quickly "Toby" would catch on to the feeding routine. As soon as I take the bottles out to mix his formula he runs across the kitchen and tries to climb up on the counter to oversee operations. The children have gotten really good at heading him off at the pass. 

Oh, and yes I know it may seem unusual to keep a goat in the house but it's pretty common to raise bottle-babies indoors. Toby quite likes being inside, and after a good romp in the yard where his favorite "toy" has turned out to be my car, he heads for the door, human kids in hot pursuit. Back inside he crashes in his favorite chair until it's time to either eat or play again.

The other animals find him fascinating. The corgis want to herd him (although he turns the tables on them), the cats want to climb on him and the ponies seemed to think he is a foal.

He's wonderful company for the human kids, too. Today Alex and Lucas and Toby played Mountain Climbers on the hay bale.

If I'd known how much fun dairy goats would be, I'd have gotten one sooner! We're currently in the process of converting the garden shed to a dairy goat shed for a couple of does. I'll be writing lots more about Toby, of course, but he won't stay a baby for long. And hopefully the next "new kids" I'll write about will be ones born here.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Over at A Blade of Grass, Hopper is musing:

I ask myself questions and try not to answer by reason. I keep looking in my sketch book for hints or the words of writers. Kerouac said, accept loss forever. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But that's just more reason -- who can accept loss never had anything worth losing to start -- and it's certainly not me. Perhaps someday that may change and I'll let go; the fuel in the fireplace will finally meet its match.

My heart says that day is not today and that some things I still can't accept.

I can so relate.

Here I am, breezing along the Primrose Path of my early forties when I'm forced to realize that The Wheel has just clicked another notch.

That happens once in a while, the clicking sound that stops in me in my tracks, gasping. One of the last times it happened was at my grandfather's funeral. I was sitting there behind my father, who always has seemed so strong, so much larger than life. And I looked at him - really looked at him - and for the first time saw him not as a father, but as a mortal man. I took note of his slumped shoulders and increasing frailty. It wasn't much mind you; it's more pronounced now. But I remember it was there, in that moment, when I first noticed it. And then I looked up at the front of the church where my grandfather's casket sat and had this image of a diving board. Below it was a pool and a ripple of water where grandpa had gone in. My dad was moving up the board next, and behind him me and my sisters. In the natural progression of things, I realized, he'd be next into the pool. And then us.....

Maybe it's good to be reminded of one's mortality. It makes us appreciate The Now. But when one is truly happy with life - and I count myself in that blessed minority - there can be a certain reluctance to see things change too much.

Lately, the click of The Wheel has gotten me thinking again. This latest click was caused by two events - my oldest daughter's engagement and my mother's possible cancer diagnosis.

I went over and saw my mother the other day. We had coffee together as we always do and discussed the usual subjects, her cats and her yard. She badgered me to pet the shy orange tabby she rescued, and pointed to the abundance of squirrels on her feeders. I want to think that I could go over there any day for as long as I want and have the same conversation followed by the same goodbye kiss routine we share. If I peck her on the cheek and turn away, she calls me back.

"I get the last kiss," she'll say, and then leaves a red lipstick print on my face. She likes to have the last word, too, and usually does. It's one of the things in my life I can count on.

But I know one day, unless I die first, she will be gone. I never really thought much about it before. Now I think about it a lot.

Then there are my children. My youngest are still at home, and there are days when I'm juggling chores and writing deadlines and their endless little demands and think, "Geesh, will this ever end?"

The answer is a loud, clicking "Yes!" But now I'm not sure I want it to. I want to cling to these days of beautiful chaos - the endless questions, the skinned knees, the grubby hands filled with a gift of dandelions plucked from the yard. Before I know it they'll be out on the nest and - like my eldest - preparing to establish a household of their own. That will be a good thing, a mark of my success, that I got them that far.

And yet...

The clicks get my attention, make me realize how fast life is moving. It's like being in a car. When you're looking ahead the trip seems to be going at a reasonable pace. But look out that side window and you realize just how fast the scenery rushing by. Maybe that's why it's best to keep your eyes on the road. 

I'm not saying I want to stop life; even the changes that scare me always manage to bring new and wonderful things. But sometimes I do wish I could grab it by the leash and tie it to a rock for a while. Not forever, just until I catch my breath....

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Musical Interlude

There's lots going on, and I've got some cool pictures and whatnot to post. But not today. I'm must too busy with paying work to blog right now. So until I can offer you something else, please amuse yourself with my new favorite political parody. Laughing Wolf originally tipped me off to this little jewel, and it just gets funnier every time I see it: