Saturday, January 20, 2018

Some Kind of a Farm

In a humble, modest tone, I have been known to say "our farm," and to use a hashtag "little farm"

But are we? Or, do we? Is this a farm?

We keep chickens, and have goats. The goats are more like vegetarian dogs, than draught animals, and they don't give milk. I've never slaughtered a hen. I have been tempted to pummel a rooster, or two. The garden does produce vegetables, and we have fruit trees, but our regular produce comes in a Trader Joes bag. Our best home-grown tomatoes have been whatever volunteers pop up. We might subsist if we could live on rosemary, lemons, lilikoi and lavender, with loads of apples in June. It concerns me that much of what we get in abundance is produce that is best served baked, sweetened... pies, breads, cakes, preserves, anything with eggs, butter, and sugar. And eggs have been scarce since about last October, because our hens are old.


1. an area of land and its buildings used for growing crops and rearing animals
synonyms: ranch, farmstead, plantation, estate, hobby farm

1. make one's living by growing crops or keeping livestock.

Well. I think it's safe to say we are not the verb. No one here is making a living at this. We have a noun farm. We grow crops, we have land and buildings that we have put to the purpose of growing food, and rearing animals (however coddled and useless they may be.)

And maybe "useless" is mean. The goats don't give milk only because I won't breed them. But they make us laugh, make us happy, keep us amused, and engaged, and moving. The chickens have laid dozens and dozens and dozens of eggs, and every time I see a hen run across the lawn to greet me, I feel light, encouraged, humble. Those are almost intangible gains, I know, but they are not useless. I think I am just exploring these thoughts and feelings, because sometimes keeping nine old hens, and building up flower beds, again, seems frivolous, and makes me feel sheepish.

I admit, I am loathe to say hobby farm. It sounds like I am Marie Antoinette playing at living a provincial life, and... I may as well add, I don't want to be be Marie Antoinette, playing at a provincial life, because I am more inclined to fancy myself Elizabeth Bennet, at Longbourn... geese in the courtyard, white linens flapping in a breeze and dappled sunlight. Hardships aside, I cannot help fancying the cottage, in Devonshire, where Elinor and Marianne wove reed hats, and set off on long walks, read poetry, did needlework. True, they could not afford to keep horses, or eat meat regularly, but they did have Betsy, the maid and cook, and Thomas, the handyman.

There is a meme I added to my "This is Me" Pinterest Board... Princess Aurora, looking gorgeous, but fraught, declares "Sheesh... after talking to the birds all morning, all I want to do is go home, do a little sewing, and take a nap!"

It's true... I am not a busy bee.

For the longest time, especially when the children were smaller, younger, I would have those same Jane Austen scenarios playing in my head, and I would despair at how far removed I was from the romantic pictures, the pastoral scenes with women in long gowns and clean aprons, hand-sewing, while reciting French poetry, and a nicely laid table for dinner. Even their chickens looked productive, yet well-rested, never molting, of course. It wasn't until recently, when I popped in the Pride and Prejudice disc to play while folding heaps of laundry, that a very obvious detail became clear to me... maids, cooks, gardeners, butlers, field hands! We are lucky enough to get some help with jobs around here, and that's lovely, for sure. But all those years when I felt small and incompetent for not having three meals cooked, and a garden tended, hand-sewn clothes on the children, knitting on needles, a pie cooling in the window, white linens flapping in a breeze and dappled sunlight, it turns out I was not incompetent... I was understaffed!

Starting this post, it wasn't my intention to confess that I harbor romantic ideals about housekeeping and farming, and yet am quite disinclined to labor tirelessly. Our goats are silly, and so am I. Our hens may not lay another egg, and neither... oh, never mind.

There is a heap of clean laundry obscuring the sofa. I'm about to play a Jane Austen movie, and delight in the wit and beauty of an idealized time and place, while my chickens scratch and peck around our little farm, and then I may get to the bottom of that laundry. This is not a hard life. It is complicated, and has its challenges, but it has an abundance of goodness, too... choices, views, opportunities, birds we can talk to, and time for naps.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Cat Portraiture in 23 Steps

Step One: Find a cat...

Step Two

Step Three

Step Four

Step Five

Step Six

Step Seven

Step Eight

Step Nine

Step Ten

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Step 12

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Step 17

Step 18

Step 19

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Step 23
And voilà!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Quoting a Physicist...

January 2

Coming up with a title for this post was almost as hard as deciding to blog at all. Then I remembered a favorite quote, actually, it's a book title, from Richard Feynman, the physicist. He wrote "What Do You Care What Other People Think?" I recommend the book, and I would like to embrace the sentiment... because I really should care less what other people think. Far too much of my blog slow-down is a result of being concerned about criticism from certain people over what I write, don't write, overshare, and take interest in.

There it is.

I have grappled with remarks and accusations that directly admonish, accuse, ridicule, and criticize me and my social media presence. And it has just about shut me down completely... here, on FB, emotionally, physically. It's made a hard year (or three) even harder; quite crap, in fact. I have been introspective, and confounded, self-critical, embarrassed, and apologetic. And I have been miserable. And the thing is... as concerned and inward-looking as I have been, as much as I've worked to assess my values, efforts, narrative, presence, it occurs to me that the critics aren't here. The critics don't hang out with me, or know me... they aren't involved in our daily lives, and I am not calling on them to bail me out, or asking them to 'like' my posts, fight my battles, sing my praises. I've been waiting... waiting to see what shutting-up could yield, waiting to see if those critics would like me better, find me more worth their time and interest, if I just backed-off, sat back, made myself smaller. I can't deny it... I want to be liked and likable, I want to be successful, admirable, especially to the people I have liked and admired all of my life. But, it's no good trying to be someone else, hoping to be the kind of whatever that makes me appealing to them. It's no good not being me, however objectionable, loud, messy, weird, liberal, or sensitive people see me as being. Either I am the embodiment of my body, mind and soul, my interests, skills, and ambitions, or I am nothing. I have cared a great deal too much what other people think, and it's made me small and despondent, meager... my soul feels gaunt.

And the critics? They're just people with their own bodies and souls, agendas, and ideals, and they're carrying on, living, believing what they do, and I am not stopping them. But I want to take back my will, and a sense of self-worth that is not so dependent on what other people think. In the time that I have been quieter, smaller, I have noticed that the people who do care, who are here, who can accept my good and bad parts, they see me. They aren't showing up out of obligation, or begrudgingly. They aren't asking me to be anyone else, act like someone else, be less than my own self. I used to still worry about what I could lose by showing my dance, singing my songs, being myself. I pay too much attention to the ones who don't like me... demonstrative, over-sharing, objectionable, loud, messy, weird, liberal, sensitive, clumsy, uncool me, and I want this to change. Time is running out, and I don't want to waste any more of it worrying what other people think...

January 3

Our winter break has been sweet. And bittersweet. I miss so much of what, whom, we lost. I miss my Grandmother, terribly. "Terribly" is that adjective that we use, a figure of speech. But now, I think I know it better. The missing, the longing and sadness and deep grief I feel is dire and unspeakable, awful, and grave... it is terrible to feel so emotional, to have such a longing for what cannot be, can never be. I won't speak of it, cannot speak of it, but the truth is: I am inconsolable. And it's not much better with Mister Washburn Foo. And so, you see... our holidays, and liberties, company, the lights on the tree, the carols, and old movies, the spirit of Christmas has been sweet, but always with the unspeakable terribleness that I cannot seem to cope with.

My Instagram page is all cats and sketchbooks, flowers in the garden, and an almost insatiable yearning to see beauty, to hold it, and feel it, and make any of it that I possibly can.

January 4

January 5

January 6

He's a junior! Being more emotional than rational, I cannot understand how this is possible, already. I am sure if I would look at a calendar, add units, and count months, it would all make sense. But just going by my feelings, it seems so soon. He'll be starting a last semester of classes to pass the time, while he waits to hear from the school he hopes to transfer to, then he can be a math major, like he always wanted.

January 7

The day after Christmas we set off a chain reaction that is, to do this day, sending shock waves through the Bird House...

*Chango cannot retract his old man claws, and he made a tear in our bed sheet.
*The tear grew, and made the sheet a total loss.
*I decided to wash the mattress pad cover, while the sheets were off... and realized the foam pad was awful. Gross. etc
*After 23 years, we decided that buying another foam pad was a waste, if we were only covering a horrible mattress.
*We were reminded that our king bed is "eastern" and Costco only sells "western" and so we had to go to Ikea.
*I fell deeply, spinally, horizontally in love with a mattress, and all of my economical and rational inhibitions were dashed!
*Ikea promised next day delivery!
*We had to race home and clean our room.
*I got the harebrained notion to finally arrange our furniture the way I had been dreaming and imagining and plotting to do for seven years... and that entailed huge, huge, huge upheaval and lugging, which Geoff could only observe, because he's still in recovery from surgery.
*Things and parts and stuff shifted from our room, out of the hall, down the stairs, and throughout the house, in preparation for removal of the old mattress, and the arrival of the really big, new one.
*I chased dust bunnies from here to the curb, for what felt like days.
*The new mattress (even without a real boxspring) is so ginormous, that we can hardly see the headboard or the footboard, and I was afraid of falling from the bed... but I love it. I love it. I love it. I think I am even getting stronger abs from launching myself up to get into it.
*I love it. I love it. I love it.
*There has been sleep. You guys, I am tearing up a little. Actual sleep.

This was the little family meeting we were having about a very special visit, and Alex and Max having their wisdom teeth pulled. I got another harebrained idea, and each of them were about to have four wisdom teeth removed, because I thought it would be easier to get all done at once.

Sorry, boys.

The Very Special Visit! Max, Tamsyn, Maria, William, Alex, and Bambi. Tamsyn! From Virginia, no from Edinburgh, wait, no, from Paris, by way of India! It's been way too long since we last saw her. She's in graduate school, in Paris, and while on break, she came to California, and this moment... seeing these children together, it made my heart overflow, and feel so thankful and joyful. (Pinching myself, and gently reminding me, too, that I have been very fortunate.)

January 8

This is my submission for whatever photo contest calls for "The Epitome of Ungulate Love and Adorableness." I will win that contest with this entry.

No pictures of Alex and Max, home from the oral surgeon. No video, either. It was rough, and they were dear, sweet patients, that would have loved to spend a better quality of time with Tamsyn, while on their school break.

January 10

Do you do this? Accommodate a pampered fluff nugget when he won't get off the bed, so you make the bed around his fluffy butt? Apparently, it's what I do. And then I take a picture and share it on Instagram. It's who I am, it's what I do.

Maria was inspired by the birthday card Belinda gave me... from when I turned fifty. The original photograph was taken in Venice, 1952, by Georges Dambier, of Francoise Dambier. Maria's drawing... well, it just keeps getting better and better. And I guess it's not a surprise, considering how much she practices and studies. And the best part is... she enjoys it.

Tamysn was such an easy going guest. And really, more like one of the family than a visitor. It was so nice to have the kind of visit where ordinary pastimes and relaxed time together was the order of each day.

And she made us dinner! A fabulous Indian dinner. How good? So good that we had her make everything, again, the next night, so William could learn the recipes. (Still recovering, Alex opted to be out of the picture. But he did love the soft, vegetarian meal.)

I miss her singing. So much. When we were neighbors, when she was like one of my own, we had the regular enjoyment of her singing. I think Chango remembered her, just at this moment. He is very hard of hearing, but if you could see how he watched her, and moved closer and closer, peering into her face... I know he was remembering her.

And. I kept thinking, Mister Foo is going to walk over here, any minute. He loves music, and singing. And I kept waiting, thinking, Where is that Foo? It was only later, I recalled, he's gone.

January 11

Tamsyn, and Mister Foo, and old blog posts... this is why I had to come back here, and post, again, so I would have more stories to look back on, more memories to revisit, plans to recall, moments to share. Years from now, I don't want to find that I was too shy to write something down, too conservative to discuss an idea, or self-conscious to post a photograph. I could do this in a paper journal, and leave it on a shelf, I know. But Tamsyn is in Paris, and so is Grant. And my Mom is in Oregon, and other family is in Wisconsin, and I have a friend in Massachusetts, others in Australia, one in England, another in Spain, and it's nice to stay in touch, to hear from them, and let them have some glimpses of how we are getting on. It was really dear finding old pictures, and details from ordinary days when we lived next door to Tamsyn, when we tried new things together, and shared adventures, even from other times when we had to say farewell.

January 14

Maybe, Chickenblog will just become a Cat Blog, with loads of expressive cat photos.

Maybe, I'll post artsy photographs of chamomile tea, the damp texture like a watercolor painting, and I'll add a few lines of obtuse poetry about dappled sunlight on winter mornings. Or I could write long essays about the nature of art, and ratastic expressionism in the modern era.

Something. I think I will keep doing something, here.

January 15

Cairo had it coming.

Now I need to take care of laundry. It's okay if you didn't read all of this post, if you only skimmed through the pictures. It's okay if you think blogging is weird or obsessive, or pointless, but... please, no need to mention that to me. I am just trying to do good, where I can, to think about things, deeply, or just scratch the surface.

The first sweet peas. I'm pinching myself.
January 16