Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Unusual Date

Yesterday Steve took the afternoon off and we hung out. We drove around town and found the local cemetery. For some reason I have a strange fascination with cemeteries; I know, probably makes me weird.

I wish I could interview those who have gone before me and see what their life was like. Why, in one case one couple lost 8 infants. Those must have been such hard times. I’m sure it was probably something minor, something that we have meds for today, but it was a devastating thing for them back then. Or how it must have felt for one family to lose their 5 year old daughter and then a month later to lose their newborn son.

It is odd to think that many of them wouldn’t know what an automobile is, let alone a microwave, TV or internet. They wouldn’t understand how to turn on a computer, what electricity is and so forth. It is odd to think that, in many cases, they are wearing clothing from the early 1800s, buried in a wooden box just 6 feet below where I stand. It made me sad to see all the infants, small children and the graves that just have a plain stone as a marker. The small nameless stones I figured are most likely babies, forever to be forgotten by those who visit today. Babies, whose parents who were so excited by their expected arrival and so saddened by their early departure are now just noted by an oversized, scarcely legible, flat rock barely poking its way out of the ground. It would be pretty interesting to know the stories behind the hundreds families who are brought together in death.

Many stones were just a flat piece of sand stone hand carved with a simple name, no dates. Johannas. I thought of those who painstakingly carved the names. I imagine many tears were shed as the tool slowly and repeatedly ran across the stone etching each letter. So simple, so plain, but yet I it represented a life of potential and joy that was snuffed out so prematurely. I was reminded of my own brother’s premature passing almost 10 years ago, and tears came to my eyes as thought about the grief that each stone represents. How many went to their own grave still mourning their loss? And then I thought about God and the hope that we have that death is not a final goodbye. We don’t grieve as the world grieves, but our hope is in Him, the one who himself came out of the grave.

After walking up and down each row, holding hands and commenting about what was on our heart as we observed, we stopped in town and quietly shared a calzone and went home. An unusual but fulfilling date; I felt somehow more connected to the town we now call home.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


I love Craigslist, ask anyone who really knows me. It’s helping me make our place what I want it to be; and in the process has brought some pretty remarkable people across my path. Today I answered an ad for some workbenches and met an interesting and wise person.

Carl lives near the county line. He built this home, horse barn, party house, shop etc. with his own hands. A well worn cowboy hat sits perched atop his peppered hair, his dark boyish eyes sparkle as he speaks. His weathered skin, dark eyes and high cheekbones give away his Native American decent; that and the 14’ totem pole in the front yard. My guess is he carved that with his own hands as well. The epitome of a mountain man, I guess him to be in his late 50’s although his life experiences lead me to believe him older.

A free spirit, he has his home up for sale, has purchased a yacht and plans to spend the rest of his days sailing the globe. A former horse trainer, Ferrier and auctioneer, he tells me he is ready for a change. He has spent the last 20 some years taking a blank 10 acre slate and making it into an efficient, well-designed homestead for his family. As he speaks, I find his wisdom innate. It’s natural, instinctive and I can’t seem to get enough of it. I ask questions, trying to unlock the deep-seated expertise he seems to spew so effortlessly at the prompting of a simple question.

He explains in detail how he welded the horse feeders adorning the barn he built and how he put the trusses together to look like an old bridge, as if I were going home to do the same. “Check out my corral and viewing station, when you build one, build it like this…” he quipped as he went on to explain the virtues of his design.. “Come back with a camera and take some pictures; if you need help with your barn design, let me know, I’ve built 24 structures, I can give you some good ideas.” I didn’t plan to build a barn when I awoke this morning, but now I was ready to go home and put my hand to it.

I was there and gone in less than 30 minutes, but I felt I had somehow obtained enough wisdom to go home and actually design and build my entire farm, yet at the same time I felt I had just scratched the surface of what he had to share.

“Keep in touch and come back soon, I’ll clean out my barn and you can have what you want…do you need some corral gates?” You bet I do, I’ll take whatever you have as long as I can pick your brain and get some wisdom along with it. Carl thought he was just getting rid of a couple of well used workbenches worth only a few bucks; I don’t think he realized that what he really gave me was incalculable. I look forward to going back this weekend with Josh to load up on some of Carl’s cast-offs and to pick his brain. I’ll take his advice and bring a camera when I do.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Wind

For Two days straight the wind has howled and whipped leaves & weeds through the air. On top of that temperatures have hovered around freezing. I dreaded having to take the dog out before I retired to bed, but finally decided I had put that chore off long enough. Stepping out into the brisk night air, I heard the wind surging through the pines on the mountain. The roar was deafening, sounding like a mighty rushing river. I had a feeling it would be a long night, full of creaks, bumps and thumps.

Being on a mountainside along a winding canyon brings sustained winds through the likes of which most don’t see. I now understand the pines I saw as a kid that only had branches on one side or were so gnarled that they reminded me of a decrepit old man with a walking stick. Many here have closable shutters to keep the windows from blowing out. We’ve been told by the neighbors that our position, sheltered by a berm and large boulders (several times the size of the house), shields us somewhat from the brunt of things, although for the last two days I’ve not been so sure. We had 106 mph wind the first week we were here, but summer had moderated the winds for the most part. However once again we are in the windy season, said to last till May. Yesterday I awoke to find the grill had blown from the back of the house to the side. It’s a large stainless steel grill requiring two people to move. This morning I found the 210 gallon water tank in the front yard. I had been held in place by a 2’ high deck, but had lifted over and went around the side of the house, planting itself in the front. It has become somewhat of a game lying in bed trying to figure out what just thumped along the deck and blew past the windows. Today things are supposed to calm; I have to walk the property around the house and collect everything.

Steve returns tonight from a two week China trip. I am glad to have him back, as I hate having to be the Mom and Dad at times. I miss the companionship he provides and the stability around the house with the kids. There is usually an underlying power struggle between me & Josh while he is away. At 17 he doesn’t want his mama telling him what to do or disciplining him. It can make for challenging times.

I found out yesterday I got accepted into a cardiovascular study at the University. I’m excited to be a part of that. Its physician supervised and provides me with a lot of free tests, blood work and sessions with a dietitian. The object of the study is to determine the effects of diet & exercise on the cardiovascular system over time. I have my first session on Monday.

The hens have been laying quite well, brown and light green eggs. Lucy has finally matured and is laying mostly large double yolkers. I’d like to add a Black Copper Marans rooster to the flock this spring. They originated in Marans, France and lay dark Chocolate colored eggs…the hens, not the roos. The roosters are just beautiful, strutting around with a stately, old world look.

I finally feel a bit caught up on work this week. I've shipped out all current orders and just need to do some duplicating & assembling of product. I've got a couple of upcoming meetings I need to prep & ship, but otherwise I don't have that just-treading-water feeling. It is nice to have my office just a flight of stairs away.

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The Hens' eggs. They really are green, the picture doesn't do them justice.

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The house, basking in the fall colors, nestled among the rock outcropping & berm. A seasonal creek runs from the back of the house, along the side and down the front.

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A Black Copper Marans roo

Monday, October 15, 2007

An Update

First, no I haven’t fallen off a cliff, been eaten by a mountain lion or come down with bird flu. And, second, I didn’t know so many people were actually interested in what goes on around the old homestead. So, I’ll try to be more on the ball in the future. Actually, I’ve just been extremely busy lately.

My sister Deb & her husband Paul stopped by on their way through to California. It was a short stay, but it was really nice to see them. They managed to get a small moving van up the mountain with little problem. Their daughter is moving out to the coast and they are the delivery service for her life’s accumulation of goodies.

We had Rachel again for three days. She was a hoot as usual. We had so much fun with her. She was dancing a jig and, not being the shy type, decided to let us put the camera on her; I will try to upload that soon. We laughed till we cried. She insisted I let her take a chicken home. But I told her she could have two and keep them at Aunt Denise’s farm and come to take care of them; she liked that idea. So I guess one could say I’m a chicken boarder.

I acquired 6 new young laying hens, bartering plucking services for them. Plucked 8 and got 6, not bad. They are Arauconas so the eggs are green, pretty cool. And, I may have a hook up with the local feed store guy to barter plucking for feed, hope that works out. He has some turkeys he will be wanting to do soon and I can always use some free feed since I’ve had to keep them penned up lately.

We made a trip into Sam’s to stock up on basics for winter, its 60 miles from us, so we made it a day. We replaced the tires on the truck; the old ones are too worn to make the climb this winter. We also picked up some kitchen staples. Among other things, 50 lbs of popcorn for those cold winter nights in front of the fire. I’ve been burning the woodstove lately trying to take the chill out of the night air. We were supposed to have snow last night, but it must have been a little too warm. Thank goodness as we have had about 2-3 inches of rain. That would make for a lot of snow. The high country was in a winter snow advisory, I’m sure they have a foot or two by now. It’s a damp 35 degrees here as I sit and type, but a cozy 71 inside, thanks to the wood burner. As I look out the window this morning, I see a dusting on the top of our mountain, down to about 8,000 feet.

My parents came to visit for a week, they left this morning. Words can’t express how much I enjoyed their visit. We met them in town and Josh drove the truck home while I rode with them, guiding the way up to the house. They laughed in disbelief at the roads, deciding their own country roads were actually in great shape comparatively. It took a good 30 min to get up to the house from town, but we made it with all luggage and auto parts intact. They fell in love with the house and our great views.

We stayed up and laughed and talked till late at night, reminiscing about old times. We also went up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park, went out to eat, did some sight seeing, visited my sister Melissa who lives just 40 min from me, puttered around and hit a good “free stuff” garage sale. Mom was amazed at how people just give stuff away here. I got some great stuff for free, including a nice drop leaf table, a rotisserie, 3 sheet sets, 3 boxes of candles, a large popcorn can full of screws, nails and random shop items, and some other random stuff. Dad fixed the kids shower. Finally, after 4 months, they have their shower working. Dad is one of those rare people who can fix anything…and I mean anything. Turns out there were a couple pieces missing from someone trying to repair it previously. It works like a charm and I am so thankful.

We had yet to see a skunk till my parents' visit. Of course, Hershey our lab had to chase it into the garage and corner it there. I was pretty much the largest skunk I’ve ever seen with extremely active spray glands. Why is it that I was nominated to remove it from the premises? First I had to figure out where the heck it was, pretty hard to determine between the watering eyes, burning throat and runny nose. Of course it was dark out as well and rather hard to see. I finally figured out it was between several leftover wardrobe boxes that had been filled with packing paper and stuck in the garage. I grabbed a push broom and tried to poke the boxes near it, expecting it to run out and be on its merry way, but it wasn’t that easy. It decided the garage was a safer place than trying to out run the dog. Several minutes of pushing, with a box between me and it, and I finally managed to push it out of the garage. Almost a week later and the garage still reeks. I burned all 7 wardrobe boxes and various other items in an attempt to get rid of the smell, but with the dampness, it is still pretty strong. A friend who works for a cleaning chemical distributor is giving us some concrete wash specifically for skunk spray and such. Sure hope that does the trick.

The rest of the time has been spent on work, trying to play catch up from the days of having company. I’m behind, but expect to catch up this week. That’s a nice thing about working out of the house, I can work when I want and the office is just a flight of steps away.

I want to say thanks to all who have e-mailed and called wondering if things are okay with us. I’ve just put out so much during the past weeks that by the time I start to wind down I can’t think straight anymore. Mom asked if I ever stop or idle my engines. I think I will consider it when the kids are grown and gone, but till then, I plan to go full bore!

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Mom & Dad's visit. Josh, Em & Hershey saying goodbye.