Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sky shows

Between the autumn equinox, the harvest full moon and Jupiter appearing closer to the earth than in many years, it is an exciting time in the skies.

While in Yellowstone, we missed any chance to photograph Jupiter with the full moon. The first early morning of the full moon, as we left our camp spot to see if the wolves were out, Jupiter was still there, seemingly huge against the mountain but then dropped behind a ridge. As we drove to the location we expected to see wolves, a cloud blocked any chance of seeing Jupiter.

I did get though some of the most beautiful full moon photos I have yet to take. It was a combination of luck and conditions that led to them and I will be sharing them as I get photos sorted in between taking care of issues at the farm that were the result of being gone awhile.

Monday night, back at the farm, we went out into the garden, with a clear sky to the east, the telephoto and a tripod to see if we could capture Jupiter on film. It is still very impressive in the night sky and will be at least through September. We were surprised to actually be able to photograph Jupiter's four moons. [Jupiter]

It was simply amazing to watch it as I listened to the crickets as a reminder of space and nearness all at once-- big to tiny with one so close and the other so far. Out there, in the warm night air, the last of the summer garden around me, it  was impossible not to think about our earth's future, not to wonder what is happening today with our climate (warmer than usual here but the really unusual part is the high humidity with that warmth, like a greenhouse) especially since I had just caught the September 24th episode of Bill Maher (which I had missed being in Yellowstone) with Carl Sagan's wife in particular trying to strongly make the case for what is happening to our planet.

[Ann Druyan] articulately discussed climate change as Andrew Breitbart and another conservative (regular on Maher's show) argued the other side. Check it out on: [YouTube].  I just wish that when conservatives (loosely using that word) attack climate change science, they'd make concern for the dollar less of their argument. It always seems to be about the damage we might do to our economy but what if the scientists (95% of them and about all who are not on oil company payrolls) are right?

I have just been to such a beautiful example of the diversity and wonder of our planet. It's hard to accept it may not stay as it is but that is the reality of life. It is also part of what makes it so precious to protect as best we can for as long as we can. Maybe we can't but wouldn't we like to think we tried?

To fully see our photo of Jupiter and its four moons, click on the image to enlarge. The photo was shot with the Canon Image Stabilizer lens on a tripod at full extension of 250mm and then sharpened with Picasa to further bring out the moons. The time value was extended as far as it could be (1/15) without needing a remote (something on my want list.) 
 If you want to see Jupiter and haven't yet, check the night sky to the east as the sun goes down. It moves up through the sky and then will drop down in the west when the sun rises again.

Monday, September 27, 2010

In the moment on vacation

For the past week, Farm Boss and I were on a vacation to Montana and Yellowstone National Park. It was one of those trips that we didn't know for sure would work until we were driving out the driveway. The date had been pushed aside by farm and other needs until it seemed maybe it would be too late. How good could late September be in the Rocky Mountain high country? Too cold maybe? Possibly snow on 8000 + passes? We really didn't know.

We were, however, off on one of my favorite types of a vacation, one that can go very well or be disappointing as not much was planned. I know that is difficult for many people to do and frankly (evidenced by the large numbers of big tour buses so many places) many don't even want to travel that way. They like an itinerary and maybe some side dishes for options; but for me, it was perfect. Head down the road and trust that what will come next will be evident when it's needed. And, if it's not, then get inventive in coming up with an alternative. Although I had not thought of it as being that way, our high mountain trip was was an example of a being in the moment on pretty much every level.

Tentatively, we knew where we would stay for only two of the nights. There was one big exception-- reservations at Old Faithful Inn for September 24th. You do not do serendipity when it comes to staying at Old Faithful Inn. Well, I guess you could but you'd have to be incredibly lucky with someone else canceling or you'd not be staying there and given how popular I now know fall is at Yellowstone, you might not be staying anywhere else.

Not only tour buses with people from all around the world (you can usually tell from where they have come based on language) but also many in car rentals from other countries made it a very diverse group of people enjoying much of what we were also experiencing.

Although I have been to Yellowstone many times, I have NEVER seen more people there which amazed me given it is almost the end of its season, some places to stay have already closed, and there were only a few families with children since school has started again. I have also NEVER seen more people in places I am not used to seeing people at all. Surprisingly that didn't make it less enjoyable but rather exciting that so many, from around the world, cared about experiencing nature and had likely come there for the same reason I had.

Having been to Yellowstone quite a few times, in my opinion, it's a place not so much for collecting scenery but rather experiences. It's not that it's not pretty but probably there are many places prettier or equally so at least. Yellowstone is more about experiencing nature, not only the powers that formed this earth witnessed at geyser basins, but the force of water cutting rivers and waterfalls through rock and last but not least the animals in an environment where they don't have much to fear from man and can live mostly naturally. Yellowstone is to experience nature and in an environment most of us never have the chance elsewhere to safely do. It is not a place to take for granted as injury or death can come quickly many places.

Forget the talk that too many humans are shallow and only care about watching some silly reality television show. People who come to Yellowstone are not in that mode. Whether they are in a tour bus or on their own, they want something they hope nature will give them.

Basically because of living for the moment, not planning where we'd be or what we'd see or do, we saw so much that it's emotionally making it hard for me to write about it. It was a time of wildlife, photography, scenery, people, dreams, being, and a stream of serendipity. We opened ourselves up to whatever might come and come it did. Realistically, I recognize it could have gone a different way.

Constant traveling instead of renting a house one place had one drawback for me with the painting but we got innovative about that and I got in some enjoyable time with the oils despite the moving on.

I don't know that it's always possible to operate in the moment for any of us. We plan. We fret. We anticipate. We think too much. W e savor past triumphs.Life interferes. The world likes us making tidier plans. The risks of in the moment trips are probably why so many like tours where somebody else gets you where they think you will enjoy being. Group tours could have many lovely moments, but they are planned to offer security as well as stops others have proven to like. They also enable many people to be places they would never dare risk alone. I actually enjoy seeing them-- unless they arrive at an outhouse stop before I do.

An in the moment vacation, where we leave ourselves open to whatever a day brings, could end up  disappointing as what if we don't get to the right places at the right time? Sometimes though, on one of those serendipitous trips, it all does go more than well. One thing leads to another and the whole of it is an encouragement to live life fully and as spontaneously as possible with our senses leading the way.

The bull elk in the top photos represents just one such moment from this trip. The first afternoon, shortly after driving into the park, we turned a corner in the road and saw the tip-off that something was there to be experienced-- other people getting out of cars, some stopped on the road. Once Farm Boss pulled the truck off the pavement, we saw what the excitement was-- a herd of elk on the banks of the Firehole River.

Some of the cows and calves were grazing but the herd bull was taking a nap in the sun, resting that heavy weight of antlers, and totally ignoring the people in the trees with their telephoto lenses and excited expressions.  Because Yellowstone animals are generally protected, from human hunters anyway, people can get closer to them. Getting too close though can prove dangerous (nothing fun about a serendipitous event that ends up being gored-- even if it's fully in the moment).

In this case the elk appeared to not mind, and with many of today's new cameras visible, a lot of possibly beautiful photos were taken to be shared and savored later. Standing on the banks of the Firehole on a grassy bank, the sun shining down on my shoulders, was the first of what were to be many such moments. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Love and Being in the moment II

 "Some say love, it is a river, that drowns the tender reed." from The Rose

Where writing about love got dicey the first time was right here, exactly in this spot. Love just sits there and it is, but life goes on. We make choices. We want to find love from others. We want to feel it for others. We find it or think we do and then something goes wrong. But what goes wrong is with the relationship. Love can't get screwed up. I am not sure real love can even be destroyed. But-- the emotion of love can lead us to not live in the moment probably as much as anything could.

There is nothing wrong with reminiscing about good times with a loved one when the loved one is no longer with us. Everybody does it. We remember how they looked, the time they said this or that, maybe a touch, and that's where it all gets dicey for being in the moment. Emotions flood into the heart (and scientists now say there are some brain type cells in other places in the body including the heart) and we lose touch with where we are or what we are doing. Come on, we have all done it.

Sometimes the kind of love we are bringing up is more the lustful type and other cells in the body are also activated. It all feels pretty good. It's riding on past experiences for current emotions. Does it hurt anybody? Probably not when it's done briefly or infrequently but what if it's not like that, what if it's all encompassing? Then there is no way to live in the moment with ourselves or anybody else.

Now this doesn't have to be about a romantic love. This could be about a place. We loved it so intensely, wanted to be there so much (I have a place like that from my childhood) and no new place can possibly be as beloved by us. What it can do then is not let us be in the moment where we are and it can block any new place from being ever as beloved. Worse, those 'memories' tend to get perfected over time to make no reality capable of matching them.

Love regarding our children is possibly one of the places that being in the moment matters most. First of all who would even have a baby if they thought ahead, anticipating all that can and does go wrong? Nobody in their right minds for sure. Then there is how we love a child, a child who is constantly becoming something new. We have them but only for that moment. They start out very tiny and totally in our care and protection. Little by little the world enters their lives and takes more and more of them. Finally the world takes them all-- and that's what happens when it all has gone perfectly.

There is only one healthy way to be a parent (yeah that sounds dictatorial and I mean it to) and that is to live in each moment as we are raising our children. Experience each thing fully and joyously (sometimes not so joyously) and not anticipate what is coming nor live in what already happened.

To raise children with fear of something bad happening to them would totally incapacitate us to doing anything. We would hold back on truly loving. We'd be missing all the precious moments as they came. And one thing about those moments-- they don't last. Growing means they are going. So love and raising your children is probably the biggest example of being 'in the moment' so you miss nothing, you savor it totally and you release it completely as someday you will do with them.

Releasing them or anything else from your moment does not mean you stop loving them. This is what makes love so complicated to write about as the love just stays there and never goes anywhere with all this changing of outer circumstances. It might deepen but it doesn't require someone else doing anything to hold it to you inside. It's there. But, if you hold onto that so tightly that you don't release it as you move along, as they move along, then where you are with them is never enough. You aren't really fully there.

This might be even more so when it's love of what we would call the romantic or sexual kind. Now love of the romantic kind is often mistaken for lust. There are some clear differences even though love of the romantic kind can lead to those other cells getting all excited. It really isn't the essence of love though. You might call it a fringe benefit. It is not, in my experience, the heart of love.

When we truly love, we are free to be in the moment because nothing else is needed from us. We don't have to dwell on the beloved, the past with them, it's all about what we feel now and what we are doing now. That kind of love doesn't demand anything; so it's in the moment with what is happening. It also is not limited to only loving one person at a time-- even romantically. Now life might force changes in relationship but love that is in the moment is not about relationship; so it expects nothing. It is the most free kind of love.  It also is where living in the moment can be most fully lived.

There is no amen to this topic. I am always learning more about what being in the moment is, what love is. But I write what I know from where I am. Next year, I might know something more and write about it again. Hopefully next year I will be even better at living mindfully, living each moment fully.

Photo is Boulder River in Montana from a few years ago...  a place I love as I do all of Montana (that I've seen so far anyway).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Love and Being in the Moment

This is true love. You don't think this happens every day? from The Princess Bride

When I started out to write this particular blog, intending it to be the last one in this little series on living in the moment, I just started to write which I sometimes do. The first thing I wrote was how basic and simple this was and probably everybody already knew it all.

Then I wrote more words and it got more complicated. If I had had a pencil, I'd have been using an eraser a lot. I went in circles; and if I was doing an abstract, those circles would have wandered all over the place.

Love and being in the moment turned out to not be simple at all and when I got finished with what I had written, I thought, well this whole thing is very important.  I'll let this go anyway but maybe somebody else can straighten it up.

That lasted until I woke up one morning, one of those early ones where I get the chance to lie there awhile, and the whole idea of what I was thinking was circling around in my head until it began to coalesce in a very different way than my first effort. I knew I had to start writing immediately or I'd lose it all. I had to start over without knowing where it'd go and I did just that.

There are many kinds of love and some things that we call love are not at all. The true deal, the kind of love, that really means something, goes beyond an emotion, and it goes beyond action. It is centered deep within us and it can be 'felt' for many things and people all at the same time. Love doesn't get used up and it's not limited.

To think of how love impacts being in the moment is where it all gets touchy and difficult. Although I do 'know' some things about it but not how they fit together, I am not sure there is one big puzzle, where when I put the last piece in, it can be seen as a whole. Love and how it impacts us with being in the moment may not be that simple but love itself isAnd, love itself could be another whole blog, heck a book, just on it. I will leave it that love is not relationship. It doesn't even demand relationship. Love just is.

Love and being in the moment though, that isn't always 'just is.'  So I am going to try again with this and a following blog. This one, about love itself, is a prep for the second one.

To begin at the beginning, love is to feel an emotion inside when a person thinks of the beloved which could be a person, a place, an animal, a spiritual entity, pretty much anything where there is this sensation we call love. Scientists tell us, or used to tell us, that all such thinking and feeling is in the brain; but when we think of love for something/someone, that is not where the emotion centers. It's in the heart.

Those who study chakras won't find that surprising because they have noted where the chakras, energy points, are in the body and the heart chakra is right where we feel this surge of love when we think of our beloveds. If the surge is lower, that's not the same thing and it is more likely to be lust (there is a chakra for that too). I personally think like is more logical and brain centered (Farm Boss disagreed with me). To me love isn't based on logic nor does it even have to make sense. It is not centered in the brain.

True love is concern for the other over ourselves. It is unselfish (that does not mean stupid about it). True love actually looks to what is best for the other and that goes beyond doing what they want automatically. True love sometimes releases the beloved to go on without us. True love is unconditional and forever.  Relationship, even with the beloved, is neither of those things.

True love is both the easiest thing in the world and the hardest. It is hard to explain in words-- hence all the poetry and books about it-- because it's not based on something that can be laid out logically. When it is experienced fully and in the moment, I think it is one of life's greatest pleasures. Where lust might not want to live in the moment, unless that lust is being satisfied (and then it's anxious for when its next satisfaction will come), love doesn't have that problem.

Love is not about an action. It is not about owning or even attempting to own. It's not about what we do or do not do about it. It just is. And what it is, is basic to human and I believe animal survival. Without love, life is not as full and sometimes ceases to exist at all. It's not about others loving us but our capacity to love period.

Where it all gets tricky for me is when I try to think how love fits to being in the moment. And that will come in the next blog as thinking about what love is (comments are welcome with possibly other aspects that I have missed or amplifications) is quite enough for one short blog.

And not that it should be necessary to add but this is all just my opinion. It is what I have experienced and what I bring to it is almost 67 years of living where sometimes I have thought about it deeply and sometimes just let it lie. I have known a diversity of kinds of love in my life (and a few things I called love but weren't), but I don't know it all and likely never will.

The photo is from Montana, at a house we rented there a few years ago which unfortunately ceased being a rental later but was a great spot to be in  Montana outside of Livingston. The rainbow though seems apropos for the way it's this goal and ethereal with all kinds of spiritual connotations to it and yet at the same time a real phenomena.  The myth is we find its start, and we get a pot of gold. We see a lot in life that way that seems to offer that pot of gold one way or another but the beauty of the rainbow never really is about its end.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In the moment as it impacts creativity

The creative process is particularly evocative of this need to be in the moment. It is not satisfying to me what I have done in any past painting or sculpture. Interesting yes, but those are yesterday. They might be part of marketing but they are no longer part of the creative process for me at all. I also cannot anticipate what painting I will be doing next (unless there is a series) or it could stop me cold. The only real satisfaction in creativity, at least for me, is right at the moment I am doing it. In this case, right now writing this blog and trying to be open to the flow of ideas to me.

When I get to anticipating what I might do, how well a painting might work out, when I start thinking will it be as good as the last one, it can paralyze me for moving on it taking the joy right out of the moment.

Painting to me especially requires being in the moment when I see what is out there or in my imagination. It's when I choose the right colors, the brushes, maybe the shape of the palette knife I might want, the size of the canvas. From then on until the first color is on that canvas, it's about just letting it be. This doesn't mean there doesn't have to be craft involved or past learning. I am not someone who believes we just let flow when we haven't bothered to learn a skill set but even learning that skill set can be in the moment as we learn it.

Writing is also like that. Right now if I start thinking of something other than the moment with these ideas and my fingers hitting the keys, I would lose what I was intending to write and have to start over. Writing is very much an 'in the moment' experience for me anyway.

What I think being in the moment does for art is let energy flow freely using whatever medium we have. It is being constantly aware of what is out there. Now I might not always be the best conduit for that energy. Sometimes I have to go back and relearn some techniques or remind myself of rules; but it's in  opening myself to being mindful of what I am feeling, to what I am seeing, that's when I have the best chance of feeling the flow and going with it. I will know it's happening, let my body do what it must, but it's all about now.

It's not like I want to never plan an art project or something I will write. That happens in my head during other things (sometimes distracting me from those moments), but I try not to let them take over what is happening to the point that I am living in a dreamworld. It's easy to have happen and miss the real moments that are right there, right now.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Living in the Moment: Physically

Maybe there is no part of my life that more encourages me to live in the moment than raising livestock. I was not sure why this is but am thinking it involves several aspects. If I anticipate what happens with the newborn animals when they grow up, it can totally take the joy out of the moment. If I get carried away with how well something worked last time, I become less aware it has changed and is not the same this time.

Farm living is really about putting the physical to the moment. It is the same with pretty much any physical activity even as simple as canning food. It is about the moment or a person is apt to be tripped up. I think it involves every physical part of our lives and for a culture that often encourages people to be sidetracked by all kinds of diversions, not living in the moment can lead to physical danger. It's probably as dangerous to be daydreaming while driving as it is to be listening to a voice mail.

Farm work is just a good example on the need to focus on what is in front of us. I think it's why so many full-time ranchers and farmers are grounded in the earth. They aren't as prone (the ones I know) to go off on flights of fancy as if they do, the ground doesn't get plowed, the animals don't get their hooves trimmed or the hay doesn't get in. They can't live on the glory of last year's crop as this year the conditions are different and they have to look at it for what it is, not what it was. They can't be looking over their herd or grass abstractly and miss that something is wrong. Good animal husbandry and growing of any crop requires mindfulness.

Ranch work is about muscles moving through tasks sometimes by rote although you can't forget what you are doing as many jobs have the potential for danger. Maybe that helps a person stay in the moment. Watch that barbed wire you are stringing or it'll whip back and wrap you right up in it. The fence is straight or it's not. There's no room for grays to worry about.

The animals we raise appear to live this way. Something bad happens. It hurts. That's not good but when it's over, they get back to the business of eating. They are by necessity very grounded in earthly needs. Grass is that color. Grass tastes good to eat. I want that plant over there. They live in the moment with their instincts and don't need much planning ahead. We might need the planning ahead sometimes but, I think, the richest way of living is that most of our moments, we are right where we are-- fully.

The following photos might not be what everybody wants to see-- hence this warning. It's our little ewe with the injury, still an ugly abrasion, that Farm Boss is treating with pine tar, an age old treatment to protect patches of raw skin like hers and disinfect naturally. How she reacts to it is to stand stoically because she has no choice-- she's tied to the fence. Then when she is released, she gets right back to the leaves I broke off for her. We have no choice about keeping an eye on the wounds as if it infects again, we have to know right away. It's part of what we constantly try to do with the livestock and sometimes don't do enough of. It's not anticipating or getting upset but just being there-- fully.

Friday, September 17, 2010

In the moment

In writing this blog, I have often been hesitant to write about my life philosophy because who am I to tell anybody else what is a good philosophy of life? Well I have one plus in that I have lived almost 67 years and a few things have seemed to work for me. Would they for anyone else? Now that's where the rub comes in.

The next couple of blogs will be about one of the things I work on in my own life-- living in the moment. Living in the moment is not just about not remembering the past nor not anticipating the future, it is about being truly and fully where I am at that moment.

Really, no matter how we worry or fret over what is yet to be or feel regrets for what was, we can't change anything but the moment in which we are living. We lost someone? We will grieve the loss but we have to let it go as it does us absolutely no good to keep holding on to what was. The moment is all we really have.

Sometimes I feel like my mind is running a thousand miles an hour somewhere. I might not be one to think much about the past but a bevy of other things do pull me this way or that; so when I stop and remind myself-- live in the moment-- it's like something clicks in my head. I realize I haven't really been here at all. At that moment, my whole perspective changes to me and what is around me.

Living in the moment doesn't mean we cannot plan for the future or learn from the past. But if our moments are taken up with either, we are not experiencing the here and now fully. It's easy to become anxious about what is coming. Our culture works on us to do that, but what good does it do?

When I went looking for something online about this living in mindfulness, I found some tips for living this way in Psychology Today:

It's not like remembering the past is bad; nor is imagining some event in the future, like when we will be on a great vacation but we aren't living in those moments. We are experiencing the emotion of them (maybe), but we cannot relive them nor can we anticipate for sure what they will be like when they unfold. If we aren't careful, they can make what is happening right now of less value.

At my age, when I do think back on things I did, which actually I am not one prone to do, those events, that woman, it doesn't seem connected to me. Yes, I did that. The experiences go together to make me who I am today but today is what counts. Sometimes if I am asked a question, I will summon up a memory but to do it more often, what would it accomplish for my today?

Actually letting go of the past or releasing what might yet happen in the future is not the hard part of living in the moment. The hard part is living mindfully, being aware of all we are feeling and seeing right now and not letting our minds wander haphazardly to the last news program or something we need to get done or something we have decided not to do or what someone said to us yesterday. The mind is an unbelievable tool for how it operates, but it can get in our way of actually living where we are.

One morning I woke up thinking about this, about the blog I planned to write and had already laid down a few ideas, and it occurred to me that there were some elements to it that I'd enjoy expanding on; so more coming on the topic of living in the moment.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

the Zen of stacking firewood

 "One way to think of zen is this: a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts."
"Sun is warm, grass is green."
from the Urban Dictionary

I won't say that I'd like to spend months stacking firewood, but there is something very satisfying about doing the amount I do have to do. First of all there is the fact that while doing it I really don't have to think of anything beyond the wood and the job at hand. There is nothing but the moment, the physical labor, the feel of a chunk of wood in my hand, three or four cradled in my arms, the satisfaction of seeing a well-balanced stack grow. The only thinking required is which pieces of wood will make a good crib at the end of the row. The only thing beyond 'the moment' is imagining the winter fires from it. The wood that will be just outside the door  if our power goes out.
Basically there is some good exercise attached to moving the wood from a loose pile to a strong, easy to access stack. Bend and pick up a chunk. Get another. Usually for me four is the maximum at one time and then walk to the stack and decide where these go. There is no room for wondering whether Obama will ever get his mojo back. The only mojo required is mine.

Some years, I have stacked a cord of firewood in a few hours or less. I was younger then. I suppose I could still do it if I really needed to. I don't need to. So I stack some and then go in the house to check online or write something, maybe have lunch, drink a cold drink. When my body feels ready, when I have caught my breath (yes, it is aerobic exercise), I go back out and repeat the whole process.

This year I stacked some of it in the rain which added another pleasing element as it wasn't a cold rain. It didn't even require a coat. It was a nice steady rain where I could hear it falling, hear the creek below the house and then the clunk of the wood as it hit the pile.

Sorting between the firewood we bought, which is wonderfully split, so dry and easy to work with, fairly uniform in size, and the wood that Farm Boss dragged from the back, yields another aspect to the task, a bit like life. Sort the good and easy to add to the pile wood from the difficult and how the heck will that one ever fit in any stack wood.

I suppose it could even yield a philosophical metaphor to the stacking if one wanted to go there, but I'd rather just leave it at one of my favorite jobs around the farm. One I hope to be doing for many years if my body holds up.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


There are some days that just seem to evolve in ways that I would never expect in the morning, and the farm is good at giving us that kind. We had planned to be gone this week-end; but we felt it just wasn't going to work. We could not get everything done if we left; so we redid our plans. Talk about lucky on several counts.

The morning Saturday began with selling lambs. This is my least favorite part of raising sheep. I understand how some feel when the only time money comes into a farm arrives, but for me, it is always accompanied by sadness. I don't raise livestock for the money. It's for the love of the animals and satisfaction in living the country lifestyle. I like knowing we are contributing a real product to other people but that real product is alive and it is painful when the time comes to face the basic reason we can do this.

Thanks to Craig's List, we had found a buyer for all of this year's lambs plus a few from the year before that had not been sold. That means the grass will be doing much better and these lambs went to someone who takes good care of their sheep until such time as they are butchered. He also said he'll be interested in seeing our lambs next year too.

When the sale had been finished, we drove into town to deposit the check, got some more alfalfa and medication for bad sheep feet, and came back to the farm to move irrigation pipe.

We had decided to let the flock out into the main pasture while we moved the pipes. The only time they get out now is when we are around with a gun.

When the sprinklers came up, I stayed for awhile with my Farm Boss's .22 Magnum. I found a spot in the shade of some big trees to watch for trouble. Surprisingly, one black lamb headed away from the herd, right past me as though she didn't see me, and down the slope straight into what we call the swamp although it's pretty dry right now. This is a wooded area and not where sheep generally go at all. Frankly, I had never seen a sheep behave this way as she disappeared from my sight. I had no idea where she had gone or why. That was more wolf behavior than sheep.

When we brought in the rest of the herd, I could not see this lamb at all. I was simply not going to give up on finding her though, and Farm Boss began looking with me. Finally he found her lying partially under an old log. She had gone there to hide in the shade and we realized quickly why. She had a nasty infection on her hip where she had lost wool a week earlier when she had been stuck in the hay pile before Farm Boss noticed her in time to save her life.

This is where the ATV really earned its keep, not that it hadn't been already in moving fencing. He tied her legs together and lifted her onto it before driving her back to the sheep enclosure, shearing her, treating her wound, giving her an antibiotic injection, and putting her in the small pen so we can keep an eye on her, feeding her extra alfalfa before we release her in maybe five days.

That little ewe had gone into the swamp to die and die she would have done had I not been lucky enough to see her go in. It took our determination to find her as she wasn't making a sound or moving.  Even when she was lying on the back of the ATV, when I offered her alfalfa, she ate it. She has a strong will.

I've said it before that raising livestock is often as much luck as anything else. If I had not seen her go in, we'd not have missed her in time. She is a sheep of an independent and stubborn personality. She looks like she will make it, but she likely would not have had we not had some luck and then stubbornness of our own.

Nothing went as we had expected on Saturday as later in the afternoon our son, daughter-in-law, two grandsons and one of their friends came out for some creek fun. The photo below is our son reaching to catch a creek crawdad to show the kids before releasing it back to the creek.

By evening, we were tired, but it had been a very good day!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Labor Day week-end

With a four day week-end because of Labor Day, we made the most of it with getting little and big jobs done around the farm. Many projects evolved. A few happened because the time was right. If this was supposed to be a week-end for vacationing, our vacation was pretty farm oriented  (there was time for watching some DVDs among them one of the worst Randolph Scott movies I have ever seen).

To make the week-end even better, we had good weather, not too hot, not too cold, no rain until Tuesday and then only lightly. I loved the cloud shapes overhead to make the sky more interesting.

First came finally buying a used ATV which will become one of the farm's needed tools. How we got by so long without it or a horse, I don't know when trying to work cattle, but this year, when we had the cow in labor trouble, we knew for sure we had to get something that would do more than the truck, tractor or back-hoe where it comes to helping the animals or even herding them.

The ATV will also be easier on our pasture. You cannot believe the ruts the truck or tractors make when they have to go to the back of the farm for fence work and it's been wet for a long time. Those deep ruts have made doing irrigation this year much more difficult. Hopefully we can get some of that smoothed out before winter sets in.

Farm Boss finally found the right one, heavy duty enough to pull a cow into the barn, maneuverable, and at the right price. That took up Friday between finding it and then him going back with the livestock trailer to get it. Of course, I had to try it out and found they can be fun beneficial. We need a roll bar for it as they can be dangerous especially if used on slopes.

He sheared the horned rams which our regular shearer had not wanted to do given she had been injured before on the bigger animals. Those horns are something to be wary of, but they are so pretty. We are in breeding season right now; so the wool is off none too soon. Nighttime makes for some interesting barnyard sounds to say the least. For the most part, sheep, at least ours, tend to breed at night... more privacy?

Finally, and this all comes in no special order, came partially closing in two sides of the patio between the greenhouse and the back bedroom. This is where I have been painting. Great light and close enough to go in and out while working on a painting. . It will also give us a nice place in the fall and spring to sit in the late afternoon and enjoy a glass of red wine with the wind blocked and the sun able to warm the space as its biggest expanse of plastic faces east. There is even a heater out there for the greenhouse although not sure how economical that would prove to be.

I have a big pile of firewood to stack but am taking my time with it as I enjoy the job but my back lets me know when I have done enough. I give it a break and go back to it when my back has forgotten. I am not sure what makes stacking firewood satisfying but I generally want the job.

Although this year Farm Boss had thrown some wood from our place in the way before the firewood was delivered. It has made it more difficult. I worry when I am out doing it that I will trip over something and take a header. So this has been slower than usual for the stacking part. Next time he does that, he can stack the firewood! No, wait, I like the job. Next time he can stack the uneven wood!

Unfortunately in doing the patio project, we also realized that we have to do some repainting of the house. This is something we had not planned before next year but it cannot be totally put off-- although we won't repaint the whole house just yet. We did choose the paint and bought about half of what we will need.

So it was a laboring, Labor Day but fun too. Living here, sometimes taking a vacation just means staying home. Sure there's work but we could pay for this kind of exercise at a gym and here we not only get it for free, but we get some needed jobs done.
Oh and that 1955 Randolph Scott film, Ten Wanted Men. When I ordered it from Netflix, I expected a B western, which I sometimes enjoy, but this didn't qualify even for a B. Despite being made in Arizona, some in Old Tucson, having Richard Boone as the villain, Dennis Weaver as the sheriff, and a lot of other generally good western character actors, it was just plain laughable which might mean it offered something except, it was not supposed to be laughable.

I was so irked with Scott playing a man who had built up a huge ranch during dangerous times and then showing little judgment of recognizing risk when it was looming. I can tolerate a lot in a western because I like them so much, but they have to have some logic attached. The man he was playing would have been smarter and frankly so should Scott have been in accepting this story. Maybe he was stuck under a contract as he hasn't struck me as someone without commonsense.

I would feel sad about him choosing to make such a lousy story except he redeemed himself by making Ride the High Country in 1962 as his last film and good he retired after it on a high note.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Standards of beauty... or ways to sell something?

Is the following link saying that rubenesque (meaning like the ones Peter Paul Rubens the painter preferred) figures are back in?

Well I frankly doubt it. There is too much money to be made in keeping women wanting their figures to be girl or boy-like (think diet pills, exercise machines, work out clothes, girdles-- they call them something else today but they're still girdles!), but still one does have to wonder what makes for standards of physical beauty.

At first reading the article, for a moment, I thought I had it made even as I had been uncomfortably realizing my own body is in places it never used to be which are definitely not 'in.'  Nah, not so quick as this would, among other things, require a flat abdomen-- something I haven't had since probably fifteen if I had it then. Back then though Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield were the 'in' figures and I still wasn't 'in'. *sigh*

Then there is this article on the Plus Sized Wars over whether there really are even clothes to buy after a woman reaches a certain size (no, I am not there-- yet). While the fashion world has made the sizes seem smaller, women have gotten bigger. Sizes are apparently how we judge ourselves. If it stays a size 10-- even though a size 10 has grown wider-- we're still okay.

There is a point at which weight is a problem for health, but they say it's mostly what is around the waist; so a thin woman with a lot of belly fat might be more at risk than a fat woman who kept her proportions more... shall we say uneven?

The issue for us as women might be to accept who we are, so long as we are healthy (easier said that done when we are bombard by advertisements and movies where the only acceptable figure is a size 0). If we don't, we will never be satisfied. Our other choice is to constantly lose and gain weight which they say is the worst possible thing.

It's not like I wouldn't like to be thinner, but I hate diets. I haven't done them often in my life. When I have, I lost weight; but they weren't a form of eating with which I could live indefinitely which means I eventually gained it back. Same thing with exercise. The only diet or exercise program that would work for me would be ones I could do forever. So far I haven't found that. I like too many things, like red wine, that will eventually find their way back in to my eating plan. 

I see some really skinny, young actresses, many who are not by metabolic nature skinny (when they are, they can eat what they want and not gain weight-- envy envy envy), and feel they are missing so much fun in food. Eating delicious food is certainly not all of life, but it's a pleasing part of it. Portion control helps but some foods just have to go if I  want to lose weight and keep it off.

It's hard to find acceptance that I am never going to again have that figure so many desire. It's really not even what someone else says, but it's when, for many of us, we look in a mirror and see excessive curves where they didn't used to be and where they are not supposed to be. We have been taught to equate fat with unattractive and unhealthy. Today, articles or no articles, occasional advertisement spreads or not, a lush womanly figure is not okay.

Will the truly full figure ever come back and this means without artificially adding it onto an otherwise skinny frame? If it does, it'll probably be when I reach true old age where most all women become thin due to metabolism changes or loss of taste bud sensitivity making it easier to eat less food. In that case, I would once again not be in...

For this post, I decided I needed an illustration of a rubenesque type figure. It's not like I could ask just anyone to do that given it could be considered insulting; so once again I used me with the able assistance of the ever ready to take such a photograph, Farm Boss. This is by our front gate which is really the back gate but it's the way everybody enters our home; so it is by definition the 'front' gate. A garden sculpture of Kwan Yin is beside me. I wonder if she ever had to wrestle with these problems.Clothing fit looser then. That would help!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Oregon family murder

Father murders whole family. Mother murders children. Children murder parents. Brother murders brother. The stories aren't new. They go back to the beginning of mankind recording stories. The fact that they are not new makes them not one bit less horrifying when we open a paper to see they have happened again.

Every time I see another headline, I try to get my head around the act. How can one person decide to murder another? I have less trouble with stranger to stranger murder, horrifying though they also are to me. That's why I keep a loaded gun in my house and know right where it is. Yet, most murders are by someone we knew, someone we trusted, too often someone we loved.

This week when I saw the headlines, I knew the farm where the murders had taken place. It's not that far from where I live. I didn't know the couple who were murdered, but I knew their land, have passed their sign many times as I drove to a nearby town. It stood out because of what they called it-- Abundant Life Farm.

Although I never met these people, I had known the family who farmed that land before them. The murdered couple were like them and us, people who had forged for themselves a farming lifestyle. It was unto the land where they put their dreams, their hopes for their family.

Ranching and farming lifestyles involve family in a way that city lifestyles don't so much unless the family runs a business. Most families go off to work or school, and the various aspects of their lives are separated into boxes. They aren't forced to share so much. Working the land isn't like that. It's integral to your being. You don't arbitrarily choose seasons for things. Land and animals choose those dates if you want to make it work. Farm families live close to the rhythms of the seasons and to each other.

If you really cannot stand reading crime stories, you will want to skip the following link, but it explains more or less what happened, what they know about what happened, and I think the fact that the story went so rapidly beyond our local newspapers to a national source like the Daily Beast (the bodies were discovered August 31) is because we can all so relate to it and at the same time shake our head in horror. [Oregon Family Murder].

Murders in my part of the country are rare. I can only think of three incidents before this in the over 30 years we have lived here. Two of those three though were within families. The greatest risk to human beings of being murdered is by someone we either know or worse, someone near and dear, someone we should be able to trust, someone we might love the most who turns on us and we don't recognize the danger in time.

For me, this particular family's murder has been personal on several levels. One is the shock that murder ever happens. How does one person decide to take another person's life? That boggles my mind. In self-defense, in war, yes, I understand that, but not cold-blooded murder. I can't get my head around how it happens, how you would make such a horrendous, you cannot go back from it, choice.

Then there is another part, beyond knowing these people's land, relating personally to their lifestyle, there is wondering how it is possible that you can do it all right as best you know. You can try to do it with love and sometimes it's not enough to avoid the worst-- and to me, to have your child murder you would be the worst of the worse.

When we  hear of things like this, and they are in newspapers, fiction and poetry, many are like me, wanting to understand the why even though understanding might not help. I guess we think if we understood it, we could prevent it. Maybe we could not.

The murdered couple were among those rare ones who stepped out on their dream. They took the risk to change their lives for a lifestyle they had dreamed about. From all the evidence, they worked hard, they had been loyal parents at least as far as others could know. They thought farm life would be good for the boys, that hard work would build  stronger characters, that their boys would share their dream.  Maybe they waited too long to make the change or didn't wait long enough until their boys were grown and they could live the life themselves... maybe nothing would have helped.

Before I read the articles about the murder, I knew these people had to be devout Christians by the signs on their farm. I didn't know, but was not surprised to learn, they had home schooled their sons. A lot of devout Christians make that choice. Although I understand why parents choose home schooling, know those who have, Farm Boss and I felt our children would do better, imperfect school system though we have, if our children were in public schools, that the socialization, which is without a doubt sometimes negative, was important for their growth as humans.

There is no way to say that home schooling was a factor in what happened. Even though the other family, in this area who were murdered  by their sons,  also home schooled, the boy near Eugene, who killed not only his parents but some in his high school, he had not been home schooled.  He also though had parents that looked like they had done everything they could to help him grow up to be a responsible adult, not one who would murder when things didn't go his way.

It is possible that in the recent murder, the boy (he was 20 when he committed this heinous crime) might have benefited from being less sheltered in growing up. Maybe some emotional problems would have shown up and he could have gotten counseling although many fundamentalist homes, being distrustful of the secular world, would reject that as a solution anyway. I don't know that the parents had not tried to get him help for his seeming inability to find socially acceptable relationships (and the other kind are often regarded as socially unacceptable because of having seen the results). Maybe by the time they saw the problem, the die was cast.

What went wrong with him wasn't just the hard work of farming. It was also a sexual relationship that was so detrimental that any parent would be horrified at his choice and want him to end it. This happens sometimes as kids grow into adulthood. Society, even churches, can't give parents much help for it either. Most such children do not then decide to murder their parents over it nor does it automatically forge a desire to steal what the parents have.

Every time there are such killings, most of us ask the same question. Could it have been prevented? Were there clues? Is it possible to find potential murderers, especially when it's in your own family, before the worst happens? Did it start as children and was ignored? Can parents learn clues and proactively protect the family, or is there really no protection from a loved one who turns violent?

With this boy, it probably would have had to happen before he hooked up with a woman with even greater problems than he had. What need did she meet in his life that explains the power she wielded over him? Or did she just bring out something that was always there? I certainly don't have the answers. The tragedy here is not just what he did to his parents but what he did to himself.

In the newspaper articles, they mentioned a [YouTube of the philosophy by which this couple ran their farm].  If you watch it, you will see nice, conscientious people. I know people like them. In a lot of ways we are like them. We came to the farm with the same kind of dreams. We believed farm life would be good for our kids growing up. We were religious back then. These people were doing it all right probably as best they knew it. I feel such empathy for them over it, so sorrowful.

Some say everything happens for a reason. They say good can come from anything. That is a comforting way to live, to see positive meaning in every event good or bad, but it doesn't work for me. I can look at something logically and see things maybe that maybe... if... possibly... perhaps... could... might have changed a string of events, that we could learn from as a people. That's logically. Spiritually, I don't see one single good thing that could possibly come from something like this. I don't blame a god or credit one.

I hope though that there is something or someone on the other side for them, that their faith was justified in that religion of theirs.  I know some who read here would tell me that there is and will be. I would like to believe that. I don't. I just plain feel sad and so sorry for them and wish there was some way we could stop such things from happening before they end like this. What a terrible waste.

Photo of the couple and their son on their farm from earlier, and then police mug shots of the same son with the woman who is charged with helping him plan the crime-- from Daily Beast.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Painting the abstract

Although the main type of painting I have mostly done could be called impressionism, reflective, or expressionism, I also like what are called abstracts (non-objective) and once in awhile I try my hand at them. I have done huge ones before (when it fails, it fails big time) but for now I am concentrating on doing small ones to see if I can get the feel for them. I wanted to do them to see if it would help loosen me up for the landscapes... maybe

I envy my friend, Parapluie's ability to paint abstracts and consider hers to be among my favorites no matter where I look at others-- Umbrella Painting Journal. What I especially admire in her abstracts is the looseness and the underlying structure. Just painting loose doesn't cut it but being too structured kills it. Good abstracts don't happen regularly (although lucky accidents can happen to anybody. I am still unsure what makes abstracts work, why do some have energy and some simply look like wallpaper?

You know basically anybody can paint a representational painting if they take the time to develop their craft, learn perspective rules, have any kind of eye for what makes a good photograph, and spend time with the work. It really is not that difficult to exactly copy what you see if you learn the craft behind it. What is harder is when you start trying to abstract either that scene in front of you or something inside your head into something totally new.

So while I worked on experimenting with small abstracts (8"x10"), my sheep would see me out there and come over to see what else I might have to offer which led to weeding more of the garden for the kind of treats they enjoy.

My first abstract ended up not really working. It began all orange as I made strokes through it; then it seemed to have a watery feeling and from there it became an ocean and less abstract. Well, at least the colors are abstracted. It is really hard for me to make a painting that doesn't end up being about something.

The second one, I decided to just lay in colors and then what the heck, lay in some more-- basically whatever pleased me. I went in the house in between and read some articles online about how to paint abstracts. Nothing though that I saw was what I hoped to do. This ended up more non-objective, but it does kind of look to me like going into a watery cave with spirit symbols hanging in space. I didn't intend it but even the yellow became like moss hanging from the sides of the cliffs. It might be I have the wrong personality to do abstracts or maybe doing more will get past this need to have them be about something.

Well, I know one thing-- I enjoyed my afternoon playing with the oils as I also simmered a tomato sauce for dinner from fresh tomatoes and the sheep liked their snacks while the garden got an unplanned weeding.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Summer finale

Summer is almost over? How can that be? Didn't it just begin? I know it's not officially over until September 22nd, but it always feels over to me, even though I no longer have kids in school, when August ends. I never am ready for that to happen. With a wet and cooler than usual June, our summer didn't seem to begin until July. Once it got here though, the weather was perfect. We had some hot days but the evenings were always pretty cool. Our first rain since late June, at the farm, came August 30th and was welcomed.

Summer had some wonderful whole family together times. We have more hay in storage than we often have which is good for winter although the animals are eating some of it now as they always do by late summer when the fields, even with irrigation, dry up some. Our fences are in pretty good shape, but we bought more fencing to further increase their security.

Disappointments, I had a few like not getting to Montana (yet anyway), but that was made up for by those family times, one at Klamath Lake but twice with our two oldest grandchildren spending a week at the farm which meant the two youngest had more time here also.  Living about two hundred miles from here, the oldest are not at the farm a lot; so when they are, it's special for them, their cousins, and us.

Another plus for  me was starting to paint again. I am enjoying it especially when I can be outside and paint right from what I am seeing. For now, we set up a space outside, right off our bedroom with a new easel that is portable. I am not remotely where I want to be with painting but just doing it is going to get me there faster than not.

One night, of the last 'grandparenting/ week, we had all four grandchildren sleeping over whose ages range from almost 12 to almost 3. That was interesting to say the least. The youngest has not spent a night away from either daddy or mommy with just us, and he didn't this time as they came back here, after the event they attended, to spend the night also which helped some with him but not totally.

At one point in the evening, before they all went to bed in one room, he let out a screech, the likes of which would send all coyotes running for cover. It was a mix of horror and anger, and turned out he had not seen our long-haired black cat before (BB hides when anybody arrives). When he did this time, it was with BB and Blackie (the short-haired black cat) seeming to attack him-- in his mind anyway, as they tried to get down the hall to our bedroom while he was coming from the opposite direction. I tell you that kid has a yell that could be bottled!  BB will spend a month recuperating from the fear of it and it set him back years from thinking kids are really okay after our granddaughter has spent hours cajoling him into trusting her.  Youngest grandson soon forgot (seemingly) although we kept BB and him apart the rest of his stay.

I always like it when my own kids are sleeping under the same roof with me, but in this case it meant our son and daughter-in-law would be returning late. Deja vu as it felt like when they were teens again and arriving after midnight. I only slept well after I saw the headlights turning into the driveway. I don't care how old they are. Some things never change.

While the two oldest grandchildren were here, they had the usual mix of activities with some fun and some work like helping move irrigation pipe, herding sheep as Farm Boss sheared two more lambs and a ram, blackberry picking, and this time they went out with Farm Boss and fired my .22 for a little target practice. When I was twelve, I got that gun because of dogs attacking our sheep and now my almost twelve year old granddaughter was pretty darned good with it. Now that's a pleasurable thought all its own.

The great thing was when they left, as much as they had missed their folks, they would have liked to spend another night. Can't ask for more than that, always leave them wanting so that they will want to come back. I know these days won't always last, but it's sure nice while they do.

Yes, today, I am tired and at the same time feeling a little let-down from so much youthful energy and now it's so quiet. All the laundry is done.  The house is restored to just us and two cats. I must admit, this was all a lot easier in my 30s than in my late 60s. But it's a good kind of tired. We did it. It was important to do, and we all survived. Now I just have to adjust to summer being over... That's not so easy either.

I wish I could share grandchildren photos here; but if you have Facebook, want to add me, and use your real name there,  you can see them there. I simply cannot put the kids' photos into this blog where so many come anonymously, and I don't feel it's fair or safe for my family. 

The photo of me is August 31st from the webcam here at my computer. It's the new one for the blog and for the first time using Facebook to take it for the profile there. It seems like every season I want to change them, if they last a season.  I did like how the Facebook software used my webcam to size the photo. I liked it better than what I generally get from my own computer software. I liked it for fall.