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September 2013

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Dec. 11, journal sketch

SO nice to be warm, still, despite the huge ice storm across much of the Midlands. I've heard from several friends who are cold and in the dark or are temporarily dispossessed, and I'm so grateful to be here, and home, and able to take care of my animals and do my work.

I washed clothes, cooked dinner, took a shower and washed my hair, all the while SO grateful for my gas stove and hot water and a working dryer.

We lived for 7 years on a little farm in the country--back-to-the-land that we never came from in the first place. It chewed us up and spit us out, and didn't even care enough to laugh at us! Nature is utterly implacable, and if I didn't know it before, I knew it after those 7 years.

Farm life, if you're not well prepared for it, is not for sissies...or idealists, which we certainly were! We were going to go "off the grid," grow all our own everything, live gently on the land. And we gave it a good shot!

We had propane, but we also had a woodstove and a wood-burning cookstove, which I learned to love and appreciate (despite a few spectacular disasters including knocking the stovepipe out of the wall while the stove was nearly red hot!). We had chickens and geese, and goats--and about a million cats. We even tried growing rabbits! (People who are unable to slaughter their own meat should not be growing rabbits and chickens and such. We had pets, and eggs, and manure for the compost.)

We had a huge garden, with all kinds of vegetables, including a permanent asparagus bed and rhubarb with leaves as big as beach umbrellas. There were Concord grapes, raspberries, fruit trees, and a giant compost pile--two of them, which I fed and turned religiously. I tried growing wheat, harvesting it by hand and making haystacks. We "scrapped" farmers' fields for what was left of their corn, with their permission--gleaners for our livestock.

We let the back pasture to the neighbor's horses (until they followed me on a walk and bit me between the shoulder blades, and drank the shallow well bone dry during a drought!), and sharecropped out the front field for corn and soybeans in rotation. We milled the grains and made sourdough bread and were absolutely exhausted.

We survived three droughts, four floods and at least two blizzards-of-the-century. Our pipes froze and broke, and the cats' water froze in their bowls on the kitchen floor. We ran out of wood and propane about the same time, that last year, and when your propane gets low, you KNOW it. There's a stench that is meant to TELL you it's low...like mustard gas.

I knew already. I was freezing!

I got our old truck jammed in a monster drift at the bottom of our drifted-shut driveway, and it was so cold even the big earth-mover couldn't come get us out--the engine was diesel and it wouldn't start. A neighbor took pity on us, came overland and took us out on his tractor, and we ended up staying in a ratty old hotel in town until the weather warmed a little. And decided perhaps we were not cut out to be farmers.

OH yes. I'm incredibly grateful to be here, and warm, and have water come out of faucets even when it's icy out, and snow plows go right up the street in front of my house. I've been grateful every one of the thirty winters I've lived here!

Comments

Great sketch, but I have to tell you my first thought on seeing this journal page was...my gawd she missed her calling, she should have been a doctor, she writes like one..... seriously

Edited at 2007-12-12 02:33 am (UTC)
What, impossible to read?? :-)

And thank you!
Nope not impossible, been reading doc scribbles for years.... one of my many hidden talents
Oh, funny! I forgot about the writing on the journal page! Yeah, I love calligraphy but was NEVER any good at it!

(Anonymous)

Oh my yes! The GOOD ole' days - ha ha ha. And yes, those of us who love animals should not try to raise them for slaughter -- just doesn't work out. I had a goat once that would jump the corral fence and come beg at my kitchen window -- well, he'd bleat at the window anyway and I'd go feed him some treats.
So glad you are safe and warm!!!
Brenda
My cousin and his family had a farm not too far from us--I suggested they name the calf "Dinner," and maybe that would help!

What was I thinking?!?!? Just way too softhearted...and I'm no vegetarian!

Though we did give it a try for a few months during that period--figured if I couldn't kill it, I shouldn't eat it. Then Thanksgiving came and I couldn't face tofurkey. ;-) Now I'm very grateful for those who can do what I can't, because I'm definitely an omnivore!

My goat Secret did that too, but on the neighbor's window, at midnight one Christmas Eve!! She was very sociable, always wanting to visit. Walked right in the house one time...

And thank you, I'm glad too!
Hmm. I, too, could tell that you hadn't spent years teaching calligraphy!!
I'd love to know where you were that was "off the grid" and perhaps out of your mind. DH and I are considering the Liberal North East as our retirement mecca. We dislike the heat of the three seasons that aren't winter here, and the rigidity of some of our Bible Belted neighbors. (They're really sweet until they find out you don't agree with them.) If you know Rick Cusick, I'd recommend you get to know his wife, too. She's a dear one. Stay warm, and I'll hope there's no propane stink in your future.
Um, no. In this case, those that can't, DON'T teach! ;-)

It was in Ray County, Missouri, down a little gravel road and then a quarter mile of narrow gravel driveway, straight down. Yipe!

So where are you now? I guess I've found intolerance--and tolerance!--wherever I've been, but yes, I know what you mean. I don't have much time for anyone telling me what I should believe, think, or vote for, no matter WHAT that might be! :-)

Nope, I don't know Rick or his wife--where are they?

And no propane stink because no propane! Natural gas, here...another reason I love it in town. Running out of propane in January is no laughing matter, and sometimes they can't get the truck TO you. Assuming you have the $3+ a gallon to pay for it...

(Anonymous)

AMEN

Kate to all you've written - AMEN and AMEN! And I just LOVE that sketch of you!!!

Lin

Re: AMEN

Thank you, Miss Lin! I felt a right failure for a while there, but--I'm so grateful I got over it. :-) We had a garden here too, till it got too shady, so the transition wasn't too hard. At that time, you could still hear chickens and cows from my house, but I guess their owner moved or got rid of them, no more bucolic farm sounds...

And thank you, the sketch was fun, even if it doesn't look much like me!
Oooh, I love this sketch.
Thank you, it was fun! Didn't turn out like I'd planned, but fun anyway.