December 5, 2017

45 mph winds buffeted the house all night, and at 5 AM roared in the trees while I walked the dogs in the dark.

I am behind on deadlines for work and the threatening sound ratchets my nerves a little tighter.

I think I need to hunt up some happy Christmas hymns to sing along with at barn chores.



November 29, 2017

Last night DH was out working until 9 PM. Apart from barn chores, running into town to pick up meds, and walking the dogs, I had about four free hours. In my life of hurry, this is unbelievable bounty. There are projects and pressing chores everywhere I turn. I could have gotten so much done.

For some reason, however, I did nothing. I have a million tricks to stay disciplined and keep myself on task. I tried none of them. I just turned on the stove and read in front of the fire with the dogs at my feet. Except for a few minutes before falling asleep, I rarely have time to read for pleasure these days. It was cozy.

Today, however, as I look at the list of all the projects waiting to be tackled, messes to be dealt with, and term reports to be written, I am rueful. I have reader’s remorse.

Back to School

November 27, 2017

It is snowing this morning. We have two or three inches of fresh powder. When I walked the dogs in the dark in my coat, boots, and bathrobe, there were coyote tracks down the center of the driveway leading to the barn. That rascal! However, the animals are safe behind the big doors. I could hear Ambrose trying out his reedy teenaged crow inside.

Vacation is over. I worked as hard as I could but only accomplished 20 of the 78 items on my list. Still, the storage unit is cleaned out, the lawn tractors, horse trailer, and sheep fences are all put away. The upstairs window screens have been taken down, dried of ice, and carried to the attic. Yesterday I worked for another few hours on the mudroom paneling (cutting boards on the porch in blowing snow at a windchill of 3°F was slow work). Last night by dinner time I had finished mucking deep bedding out of the main sheep stall.

Everything else will have to roll over to a new list. It’s time to turn my thoughts to the robber barons in 8th grade and Sir Walter Raleigh and John Smith in 7th.

In the meantime DH and I continue to enjoy our propane stove. He is currently reading the paper on his iPad in a rocking chair in front of the fire. I made many mistakes designing and purchasing for this house, but the stove is a solid success. After years of heating with wood, push-button flames and instant coziness seem a stunning luxury. DH has many little jokes. “We need some more kindling.” “I guess I’ll close the damper now.” “Do we have any matches?” “I suppose it’s time to bank the coals.” They all make me happy.

I’m sure someday the miracle will feel old, but not for a while.


Working Steadily

November 25, 2017

Pushing through chores for eight or nine hours a day, I’ve been slowly whittling down my “Vacation To-Do List.” I am getting things done. The storage unit is now empty. Three-quarters of the deep bedding in the sheep stall has been pried up and carried out. The horse trailer is under cover for the winter, as are the lawn tractors. The summer water troughs and temporary fencing are neatly stored.

The problem is that most of the work is invisible. You don’t drive into the farm and tell yourself, “Great job getting the lawnmowers put away!” Or, “Fabulous twenty hours sorting moldy books!”

Every job also takes a long time. Yesterday I spent ninety minutes rolling and tying all my sheep nets. Years ago I had invented a rack for my old truck so I could drive around the fields and roll the fences as I picked them up. That truck finally went for scrap metal. This year I’d dug the fences out of the snow and they’d landed in a spiky snarl inside the barn doorway. Yesterday I took apart the fence rack, screwed it into the barn door, and painstakingly untangled each fence. To do so, I hooked one end of each net on the rack and then laid out it for its 154-foot length, walking it all the way into the pasture. Then I walked its length again, straightening and untangling. Then back again, carefully picking up each post. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. I was reminded of the Boston rope walk in 1770. Imagine doing such tedious work all day long, every day. I’d be ready to provoke the Boston Massacre, too.

Students return to school tomorrow.  Vacation is nearly over. Today I’m going to spend two hours finishing the deep bedding. Then two hours cleaning and organizing the house. Then an hour driving to the dump with a last heavy load of ruined items, and grocery shopping.

After that I’m going to try to start paneling the mudroom. All the work I’ve done has been necessary and I’m happy to have it finished, but I’m yearning to make some visible progress.

Let’s Be Reasonable

November 19, 2017

Rushing through the days, I’ve been daydreaming about my upcoming vacation. A week off! What an opportunity to get things done! Naturally, I’ve been making a mental list.

Be reasonable, I cautioned myself. Make a small list, maybe six things that I can actually finish. Panel the mudroom. Build the sheep paddock. Clean up everything for winter. Muck the deep bedding out of the sheep stall. Plus one or two others.

Of course, when I actually wrote the list, there were 78 chores on it. Thus I decided I would make the “must-do” items bold and red. There were 18 of those. Clearly it’s not my nature to be reasonable.

Yesterday’s parent day was grueling, after a long and grueling week. Today will be easier and will be done by 2 PM.

I am ready for the finish line.

Dump Trip Score

November 18, 2017

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been making regular weekend trips to the dump with ruined items from our storage unit. It’s a sad process. However, last weekend I got lucky.

In the metal pile I found this Vermont Cart from the 1980s. The frame and wheels are in nearly perfect condition. The original exterior-grade plywood sheathing had rotted out and been replaced with OSB. The OSB had rotted out and been patched with a second sheet of OSB. That had rotted in turn.

Obviously this item was calling my name. After decanting my dump load, I hurried in the truck to the Vermont Cart. A man was walking toward it, his eyes alight. My glove reached the handle first.

He stopped. “Nice find,” he said wistfully.

The double layer of soaked and frozen OSB made the cart weigh a ton. I wasn’t sure I could lift it over the tailgate and into the truck. However avarice lent me strength. I levered the icy cart up and then shoved it, puffing, safely in. It was so heavy it offset most of my heavy incoming load.  I paid my $6 fee and drove out of the dump with a light heart.

Next summer I will take the cart apart and replace the OSB with 1/2″ treated plywood from the bunkhouse.

Because you know I need another project.

* * *

… Two more long work days until vacation starts Sunday evening.

Dances With Wolves, Done!

November 17, 2017


Yesterday was a long day with two double classes, making 21 sub sandwiches and baking chocolate chip bread for my 8th graders, and showing Dances with Wolves at night to cap our Native American unit. (I am quite aware of the many criticisms of this movie, and I will touch on them lightly in class today… but these students are thirteen and fourteen years old and beyond my worksheets and lectures, have no frame of reference for Indians and the west at all. This film adds emotional context, however imperfect.) Today is the Dawes Act, forced assimilation, compulsory boarding schools, and natives in the 21st century.

Getting to this landmark in my curriculum is always a relief.

In between other commitments I grabbed an hour to find all my sheep netting fences under the snow and bundle them into the truck, and cut the tarps off the shelters and drag them to the bottom of the pasture. I tried to start the two remaining mowers: no luck.

This morning the wind is buffeting the house, carrying stinging bits of icy snow. I still have a long list to accomplish on the farm before it is buttoned up for winter but I am not free until Sunday afternoon. I’ve scanned the weather report and it appears we will have a single day in the coming weeks above freezing. As I look around, mentally I’m putting next to all the farm chores: I’ll get you Tuesday.

Fingers crossed.