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Monday, January 25, 2016

The Twists and Turns of my Crazy Life

We've been watching the news about the terrible blizzard in the northeast.

The worst blizzard I can recall was the Blizzard of '67 in Chicago. The city was at a standstill. All I remember was that we didn't have school. 

I was a little like Hermione Granger. I was afraid my grades would suffer if I stayed away too long, so I fretted more than enjoyed the time off.

From what Greg told me, he was just the opposite. He'd go out at first light, building snow forts, snowmen, and having snow fights. He'd come home only long enough to change into dry clothes and then be off again. 

I like to listen to Greg's childhood stories. He led such a colorful life. My daring exploits didn't start until I hit my teens.

Most of my adventures (before marriage) had to do with extra schooling or summer jobs. My parents didn't think art was a good career choice so they refused to send me to art school. I decided if I wanted any kind of art training, I'd have to pay for it myself.


I worked summers and after school to pay for life drawing classes. It was the first time I'd seen a naked man. Back then no one thought to prohibit a then 16 year old girl from those kind of classes. Hand to heart though, I was such a serious student the model could've been Gerard Butler and I would've still concentrated on sinew and bone.

My next challenge was to make enough money to attend the Art Institute of Chicago--but then fate intervened. Greg married me and whisked me away to Texas. 

I hated Texas at first. It was so different from what I had known and it looked as if I'd never finish college. But what I thought were obstacles and setbacks were really training grounds for even grander adventures. 

My first job was as a veterinary surgical assistant. I absorbed everything I could from a great vet who encouraged me to follow in his footsteps. As much as I loved animals, I knew it wasn't where I wanted to stay. I drifted not knowing what I wanted to do in this outback when my first dog died suddenly. It was the worst day of my young life.

It was Joey who made me go back to college. The cemetery where we buried her was a stone's throw from the university.  One day after I'd gone to visit her, I stopped in at the Registrar's office and picked up a catalog. The rest is history.

And then there was the homesteading dream. Back in the day, we had soaked up every issue of Mother Earth News. (I still have all the early issues from the 70s.) It was our shared love of nature that kept us dreaming for a little parcel of land. Over the years it seemed like it would never happen, but hardheadedness and patience has its virtues. 

Kismet has played into our life too. At least we don't have blizzards.

Good luck, my northern friends. Hunker down until it's over.

Have you ever found obstacles and hardships to be a blessing in disguise? Maybe it's the way we handle the hard times that decides the final outcome.  

What was you're favorite adventure when you were a kid?


Monday, January 18, 2016

State of the Homestead

This blog has MOVED to www.MariaZanniniHome.com
 
This will probably be the last State of the Homestead on this blog. But it'll be back on the new blog with more harrowing tales of scraped knuckles and black and blue shins. 

I sometimes wonder what it would be like not to have a single scrape or bruise for more than a day.

Goats: It's official. All the goats will be gone by this summer. We'd like to travel and it's too much of an imposition on friends to look after animals that like to knock you down for laughs. I'm going to miss these guys. The goats I have now are all young with no bad habits. 

Ray Charles is a little pushy but he's not mean like his father--may he rest in gravy. The girls are both pregnant. This is why I'll have to wait until their babies are born (and weaned) before I sell them.

We might get miniature goats once we settle down again, but time will tell. We would like to raise a pig or two. We've raised them before and they are relatively easy to handle as long as they have a sturdy fence. There is nothing like FRESH bacon. After one bite, you'd think you died and went to heaven.

And we're still in talks about raising a cow for the freezer. This is the only animal we wouldn't butcher ourselves. It's a big animal that needs to be processed quickly, so if we get one, we'll be sending him out to professionals.


Rabbits: We have new bunnies! Gray, black, and blonde. If one of the grays are male I'll be keeping him as future breeding stock. I think this year I'll sell Ruby, the white New Zealand, and Frodo, the mixed breed rabbit. 

Frodo is too small to mate with my girls easily, and Ruby is too big. Belle, the blue New Zealand, is just the right size. I like her temperament too.

I'm still on the hunt for another blue New Zealand, but still no luck. 

video


Chickens: Since we ran out of eggs too soon last year, we put a light in the chicken coop to encourage egg laying. Hens lay according to the length of day, not by temperature or season. 

I'm getting 10-12 eggs a day now. Plenty to share and to incubate. I'll start incubating eggs at the end of the month and will have chicks to sell by March.

I have younger chickens waiting in the wings too. They'll be my new layers for 2016. I'll be selling the 2 year olds this year.

Nana and Iko: Just recently, Nana started picking fights with Iko. Now this is stupid on two counts. #1: She knows that's unacceptable. #2: Iko outweighs her by nearly twice. 

She's lucky he's so laid back, but he's not a pushover. If he ever decides enough is enough he could seriously hurt her.

To save her from her own foolishness, I took her to the vet to make sure there were no physical problems. The vet felt this was strictly a behavioral issue. While we talked we came to realize I was the catalyst. Nana is so possessive of me she gets annoyed when anyone (including Greg) gets too much attention from me.

Now that Greg lives with me full time, she's gotten used to the idea she has to share me with him, but as an alpha, she refuses to allow any other dog to get between us. 

What to do? I got the names of a couple of animal behaviorists, but first I'm trying an experiment on my own. I've increased her training, keeping her at 'stay' longer, or telling her to move slowly when I say, 'slow down'. 

If I hear so much as a whispered growl, she immediately loses all rights to me for about 5 minutes. (Five minutes is nearly a lifetime in dog time.)

So far we've not had a single issue. Nana is smart. Border collies are like the Einsteins of the dog world. I stopped training her at basic commands, but I think I need to expand. She needs to learn I love all my babies equally, even the big two-legged one that hogs the bed she shares with me.

On the homestead: We've had a relatively mild winter so far. On days when it's pleasant, we've been getting ready for spring. The other day, we took down a damaged tree that was too close to the house. Greg cut them into logs, but we'll leave the splitting for another day. That's usually my job.

 













We've also cleaned coops and rabbit hutches, cut the asparagus bed down to 2 inches, and even built a new transitional mini-pen for baby rabbits and chicks.

Below is a few seconds of Greg troweling a cement floor for the transitional mini-pen.

video

Next week when it warms up again, it'll be time to turn over the garden and prep it for planting in March. My potatoes are ready to put in now, so there's no time to waste.

So what's new at your end? Will you put in a garden, or at least a little pot of herbs?

Have you ever had a troublesome pet? What did you do to solve the problem? I'm really hoping Nana is smart enough to grasp the concept of sharing. 

Do you have any big task ahead of you in 2016? 

Regular visitors at our front yard.



















Monday, January 11, 2016

Updatery

Updates: I am closing in on my new web site. I know it must seem like I'm moving in slow motion, but there've been obstacles that keep smacking me in the head. My face is starting to look like a frying pan.


First, it was my domain name. Someone is squatting on it. Rather than wait for its renewal, I've decided to change it just enough to make it my own.

Then it was the host provider. Holy moley! How many of them are there out there? I've been systematically reading their reviews and narrowing the field. For the top contenders, I've even gone so far as to go into their chat rooms and ask a couple of simple questions to see how they answer the same question.

I think I've decided on the winner. I've got to email them a couple more questions to make sure.

Finally, it's been Wordpress. It's a big step to move away from the comfort of a blog I know well, and potentially lose all the readers I have now. Using Wordpress.org means I'll have to start completely from scratch and select which plug ins I'll need to make it look professional.

I'm hoping to create a very clean page. I'll post only a couple of times a week at first. As I get the hang of it, postings will increase. 

--I promise. All good stuff!

Lottery: Of course if I hit that billion dollar lottery this Wednesday, you won't hear from me ever again. LOL!

I don't gamble, but I plan to make an exception just this once. It's always that odd duck that ends up winning, right? I could be that duck!

The Homestead: We're battening down the hatches for the next month and a half. This is our winter. Too cold to work outside, but I can start indoor activities like starting seeds, incubating eggs, and cleaning out the clutter in my file cabinet.

Greg hates me during this part of the year. I start bouncing off the walls when I'm cooped up too long. Maybe I'm a free-range human. Yeah, that's it. Free-range.

Yoga: Sadly, I have to give up my yoga class. Man, I'll miss that place. Their prices have gotten too high for me. It's been extraordinarily helpful for my pinched nerve and bad knees, but from now on all my stretches will have to be in front of my tv. Hopefully, I'll have the fortitude to practice on my own. Pretty sure Greg won't be joining me. Wuss!

January is the month when all the big bills come in. We've paid off the property taxes, and a big chunk of the new solar array Greg is building. He might be a wuss on the mat, but he does come in handy when it comes to building things. 

By the end of the month we'll be doing taxes. Not looking forward to that. No matter how prepared we are, by the time we finish filing, it feels like we'd been run over by a cement truck. Why is that? It's not like we'll owe them money.

So, US folks, will you be playing that humongous lottery this week? The last I heard it was 1.3 BILLION dollars. Insane! What would you do if you won even a piece of it?

Do you get stir-crazy when you're cooped up for too long, or is Greg right in thinking he married a border collie on a sugar high? I go through this every year. Surely I'm not the only one.



Monday, January 4, 2016

What Would You Do In 1942

I had a peculiar dream the other day. I dreamt that Greg and I had somehow gone back in time to 1942. (Luckily, we looked as if we were in our 30s.) It appeared as if we were somewhere in the Philippines--not a good place to be in the middle of World War II.

An American ship had landed and Greg was quickly recruited and reprimanded for not enlisting earlier. Meanwhile I was left behind because a warship was no place for a woman. We'd meet up again in another year or so, but we were left in a quandary of what to do next. If we couldn't find a way back, where would we fit in 1940s society?

I never found out if we made it back to our own time, but it brought up some interesting conversations over breakfast the next day.

Greg and I are fervent students of history. Greg in particular is well versed in World War II and what was happening in the world at that time. In the dream he was quite handy to have around since he knew where all the major battles had been fought.


We discussed how he could warn generals about what to expect, but I argued that it would be useless. Who would listen to us?

The best we could do, in my opinion, is affect our own future. For instance, if we were stuck in the 1940s, Greg might go into aeronautical engineering since he knows enough science of what makes a modern jet better than the best minds of the 1940s.

Me, I'd probably go into finance. Women would be rare enough in finance, but if you made enough profitable choices people wouldn't care as long as you made them money. Besides I'd kinda like to break those glass ceilings again.

The possibilities are endless and exciting.

If you found yourself in 1942, what would you do with your life?

What do you plan to do in 2016? The world is wide open.