How to catch up?: another What’s Goin’ On post

Gentle Reader. You understand–don’t you?–that unsettling feeling in your gut, when you have a BIG JOB that you’ve been putting off (or, maybe, thirty-three of them) and you are facing it–straight into its obstinate, steely eyes–and you take a gulp, square your shoulders . . . and you decide . . . that you can’t face it today after all.

So you just . . . b a c k. . . off and decide to tackle it another hour. Or another day. Or possibly/probably (*sigh*) another week.

That’s the way this blog post feels to me. I have put it off for so long that I can’t figure out how to begin. There’s so much to catch up on, between us.

I have let so much time pass since my last post. 

I used to receive wise counsel from an older mom, who mentored me in mothering matters, years ago. When I confessed to her my severe and utter and complete and distressing ineptitude in keeping up with the responsibilities of my household (“at that time, that is,” she said, breezily. “Things are different now. Now I am able to keep up with everything in my life with ease!“) to her, she would say wisely and mysteriously “just do the next thing, Amy.”

So that’s what I will do. I won’t overthink it. I’ll just do (or write, in this case) the next thing. But first . . . I am going to play a little game with myself. I’ll set a timer (I like this one) for 60 minutes, and no matter what, when the timer goes off, I will push “Publish.” God, help me! Really, . . . I’m not using that as a mere expression here. God, please . . . help me.

So, what’s going on around here?

Amalia graduated from Excelsior! Academy.

Isn’t she lovely? (She isn’t this demure in real life–ha!) 🙂

Excelsior! Academy is our home school. What do you think of the name? The kids and I came up with that a couple of decades ago, when we learned that the motto of the state of New York is “Excelsior,” which means (in Latin) “Ever Higher.” We added the exclamation point, because . . . well. Enthusiasm! (And it makes it more fun to fill out the annual forms dictated by The State. hehee)

“EVER HIGHER!” Isn’t that a great name for a home school? Ever Higher. Always striving to do better, to be better, to work harder and to have the highest standards we can.

I’ve been in denial about this–her graduation–probably since the day she was born. Her birth day, after all, occurred during a raging blizzard in Iowa. I knew that day, as I gazed down into the round, rosy face of my new daughter that here was a surprising little person. Surprising. Brave. Determined. Beautiful.

My heart is not ready for this daughter to move on to college, but my head is very proud of her, indeed, and excited to watch what she will make of the next few years. There. Do I not sound mature? I must say: though she is so much help to her mother (me), she doggedly insists upon packing up superfluous non-college-related possessions, making “to buy for college” lists, registering for classes, and making excited, whispered plans with her fall roomie.

It really is quite inconsiderate of her.

She will blossom and grow, of course, and she will find out what her older siblings found out–that it’s pretty fun to live and study and go to classes with your friends (a big revelation to homeschooled kids, I think!). She’ll come home on weekends now and then and crash and catch up on her sleep, and share her adventures. At least some of them. And she will (hint, Amalia) keep in touch with me through texts, snapchats, and emails. I just know she will.

I won’t talk about how my wretched heart will miss her. That would be miserable for you and me, both. I have been through this before, you know. Four times! It ought to get easier.


Oh! Something that might interest you, for future use: we had a waffle bar for Amalia’s graduation party. It was Amalia’s idea. And if I had my act together (but I don’t) I’d write a post about it, because I’m pretty sure it would be an oft-pinned post. But I’ll just tell you about it. We had three types of waffles (this was one type),  scads of toppings and accoutrements, fruit, homemade lemonade, and iced coffee. Oh, and sausages (“150 sausages?!” Mack was so excited about that.) We pulled it together very, very quickly. My baby sister Mollie came and made waffles for hours and hours. We had lots of other sweet helpers, too.

Here’s my grandie, the Princess of Waffles, Anya, daintily tasting her choice of toppings.

Whoa. Five grad parties down, one to go.

We went on vacation.

We had one day between Amalia’s grad party, and our leaving for a week’s vacay at Lake Superior. I don’t recommend packing for a week-long vacation in one day. I’ve done it before. I can do it. I did it a couple of weeks ago. I don’t recommend it.

It took a minor miracle to get ready in one day. We battened down the hatches, found reliable folks to feed the chooks and keep an eye on the more delicate plants. Then we loaded the car, stuffed Scout into the back, and we left.

Sometimes, you know, you need to leave. It’s lovely to see new places and make memories, and to do fun things that you don’t often have time to do at home. But. I’m a homebody, and when I’m away from home, I have to force myself not to think about it (home) overmuch, lest my heart begin to long for it in a painful way.

Plus, we left a few worries-in-action at Old Depot Farm.

The chooks of an edible flower grower, like myself, occasionally feast on the same flowers that the folks in the fancy restaurants are nibbling on: spent nasturtiums, on this day. 🙂

Problem #1. After nearly two years of peace and quiet and almost no predator problems, suddenly we were under siege, and we had been battling mysterious, cunning, terrible predators for weeks. (I will write this all matter-of-factly, as if it didn’t cause me many sleepless night and teary days, because I’m sitting in a coffee shop, so would prefer to keep my composure.) We lost all our ducks and half our chicken flock during a span of three or four weeks. The ducks were attacked in the coop and left to die. The chickens were torn into pieces and scattered around the yard. Some merely disappeared.

We didn’t just sit around and wring our hands about the devastation, either. From Day One we toiled and worked on this problem. We set live traps. We piled cement blocks, large rocks and buckets of water in front of the front door (don’t judge: we were desperate); we propped the back door closed, too, as best we could. Our chicken coop is showing its age, and the front door and the back door needed refurbishing, which Bryan finally took almost an entire weekend to do (thank you, honey).

We (Mack and I) contemplated (we always contemplate this) sitting out one night with the shotgun, on the roof of the chicken coop. All night long. When the dreaded varmints showed up—-and show up, they would–kaBLOOEY!-–we’d blast them off the planet. Out of the solar system!! Out of the universe!

This plan, of course, would have had more teeth if I could actually stay awake past 9:30 p.m. (sigh) (#tiredoldladyfarmerproblems).

We never did catch anything in the live traps, though we did go through an annoyingly large number of eggs (we used them for bait). And once I gave up on catching anything in the live traps, and we had the doors securely latched, the vile predators became . . . stupid wasteful feed-spillers. Every stinkin’ night, they would do something really destructive and downright mean to our chicken feed supply.

What was happening, it seemed to me, was that since the scoundrels could no longer get at the warm and living chickens in the coop, they were going to make me pay by spilling and wasting the chook feed, and creating a huge mess for me to clean up every morning. Which is what they did. Oh boy, was it peeving!! Wastrals! Jerks! Profligates! Big Meanies!!

All my buckets of sprouted grains? (Here’s how I make them, by the way). They’d spill them–every night– and spread the grain out all over the ground. After the first night, I piled heavy things on top of the buckets–even putting heavy trash barrels upside down over them, with cement blocks on top! They’d topple them, just the same. The bags of cracked corn shut into the chicken tractor? They climbed up through the wires and tore them open with their terrible claws and teeth, spilling the corn all over the ground.

Such meanness. Such waste! Not to mention untidiness!

Problem #2. The other ongoing problem was that Madeline was lost in the house somewhere. Madeline is one of Mack’s chinchillas. The other one, Moxie, was silently getting smaller (could have been my imagination, but I don’t think so) and less and less active, the longer that Madeline stayed At Large. I was so afraid that we were going to have two dead chinchillas on our hands, as it were, when we returned.

Aren’t you glad, at this point in this narrative, that you aren’t us?

We packed up, nevertheless. We left my Mom, Dad, and son Timothy to watch over things at home and I tried not to worry.

We had a marvelous time, actually. We traveled up to Lake Superior, and spent a couple of days exploring the North Shore with its historic sights, waterfalls, and lighthouses, and then we took a ferry across to Madeline Island, and spent a day searching for agates (we didn’t find any) and learning about the island. It was fun. It went by too quickly! It was lovely. We nearly didn’t come back (kidding!).

The Split Rock Lighthouse. I could have stayed there all day. I loved that place. 🙂

On our way home, we stopped and had brunch at my cousin Lisa’s darling Cottage Cafe in Amboy, Minnesota. If you live in that area, or even are just passing through, stop by and have something to eat and tell my cousin that I sent you! It’s a beautiful little cafe, and Lisa is a wonderful cook.

And, when we got home, there were no new chicken slayings, and Madeline was still at large (she has been found since–just yesterday morning, as a matter of fact).

My garden and hoop house are FULL

My longsuffering and patient mentor and garden guru, Gene, continues to bless me in many ways, though I know I must be a Big Trial at times. (“Too Many Questions” for one!)

This summer, after my hoop house plastic blew off in a storm, he gave me enough pieces of shade cloth that I was able to cover the entire thing. (I sewed them all together first.) We decided not to put new plastic on until fall. This decision accomplishes two things: it allows rainwater to wash out the hoop house soil (otherwise, salt can become a problem), and it makes it cooler for me to work in during the summer.

I love, love, love that shade cloth. It really is surprising how much cooler it is, with it in place! Also, I feel a little measure of privacy in there, so I can string up the hammock and pull out my heavy summer books whenever I want to, and nobody is the wiser. 🙂 Except for Sammy, my hoophouse kitty.

Remember that I planted cold-hardy edible flowers in the hoop house last fall? Well, finally they began to collapse and die, and I tore them out and planted other edible flowers, instead. I’ve also got a bed full of heirloom and artisan tomatoes, another bed that is mainly nasturtiums and basil, and the fourth long bed is a combination of baby kale and summer squash. It’s crowded and buggy in there.

I dearly love it. I’m grateful every day that I am healthy and strong enough to do real farm work. 🙂

Okay, Gentle Reader, as you might have guessed, my timer went off long ago. But I think I actually just broke through the Awkward Silence of late, and have got a post here to share with you.

I love ya all, I do. Have a great one!



18 thoughts on “How to catch up?: another What’s Goin’ On post

  1. Jeannie Johansen

    Good for you! I know the weight of some tasks that seem too big to tackle, once completed it feels so good.
    Maybe this will make you feel better about procrastination on writing at least. Most of us get many blog visits in our inbox. We enjoy reading thoughts from lots of different “cyber friends”. When yours shows up it is enjoyable and new. You don’t have to write often…just keep in touch from time to time. It’s always good to hear from you.
    PS beautiful shot of your graduate

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thank you, Jeannie. I love that shot of Amalia, too. 🙂 I took it near the cemetery near my old hometown.

  2. Heather

    Ah, you’ve been dealing with a lot! No wonder you didn’t have the brain space to write a post. So happy and sad to hear about Amalia (sad for you, but you know this is the first step toward more grandchildren). Glad you found the chinchilla. So sad to hear about the poor ducks and chickens. All this life and death stuff is emotionally exhausting when you’re a sensitive soul who feels for everyone of these creatures. That’s how I feel when even one of my plants dies! Can’t imagine finding chicken and duck parts strewn about every morning. Yeuch!

    But it is lovely that the Lord has provided you with other blessings to help you along — so many people and creatures who love you and the wonder of His creation.

  3. Kay

    So happy to see this. While we keep up on FB, I always look forward to your longer blog posts. Sorry about the chooks. Betcha it’s coons. My BEF dispatched 5 from our cattle feed wagon one early morning. This morning there were 5 more (small) ones in there. They won’t be for long. They destroy so much. Only a large cinder block keeps them out of my metal garbage can cat food holder.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I think it was a combination, Kay. I think minks were getting inside the coop, while coons ravaged the feed. Doggone critters! I have no love of coons, even though they are so cute with their little masks.

  4. marshall reagan

    I saw your comment about being organic or not because of the gov. I think they should be encouraging us to go organic instead of them kissing ass to the herbicide companies. I recently had a problem with the power company coming through spraying their herbicides on my property. they killed my blueberry bushes that I had planted years before they extended their line past me ,but because I could not afford a lawyer to fight them I got screwed. I hope to catch them spraying on my property so that I can hold them at gunpoint until the law comes and arrests them for trespassing on my property and for spraying near my gardens which are under the power lines because I do not use chemical herbicides on my property.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Marshall, that rampant spraying is a real problem here, too! I pray every season that the herbicides being sprayed in our areas won’t kill my tender specialty crops.

  5. William

    Hate it when something happens to one of our chickens. We lost two this week because somehow they got out of their area when we weren’t home and two of the large dogs hurt them so badly we had to kill them when we got home and found them. I can’t do anything to the dogs. First I do not know which ones it was and second, it was too long after the fact for the dogs to understand what they were in trouble for. Those facts did not stop Maria for giving them a few good slaps on their hind quarter.
    Happy to see you had a good vacation. Maria was just in the states for a week for a family reunion and had a great time but was glad to get back home.
    We’re in the hot season so we are enjoying mango/papaya smoothies over ice every afternoon inside with the air conditioner on. I do enjoy the thunder and lighting at night, which does cool the area so that we can sleep with the windows open. So my timer went off so I must sigh off.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      OH, those dogs definitely know and remember, Chef. They are just waiting until your back is turned . . .!

      Numm, mango-papaya smoothies sound lovely. It is VERY hot here right now, and our mangoes and papayas, I’m sure, are not nearly as good as yours . . . having traveled many a mile to get to Nebraska. Sadly, sweet corn smoothies are not all that they are cracked up to be!

  6. Cindi

    I do love reading all of your adventures, and am so sorry to hear of the losses from the things that went bump in the night. It is probably a good thing we were not able to connect while you were across the bay as I had an allergy cold sore that made me more like Medusa than usual, and I would have been mortified if you or yours had turned to stone. You adventures on the island made me put it on my “must-do-soon” bucket list.

  7. gene

    You somehow forgot to mention that you also spend many hours every week taking care of things in the garden(s) and then harvesting and cleaning them, and then getting them to market. That is a full time job for me! Some nice pics I haven’t seen!

  8. Tina

    It’s always nice to read another blog post from you, regardless of how long it’s been since the last one. 🙂

    Here’s a good quote for you that I keep up on my ‘fridge:

    It’s the job that’s never started as takes the longest to finish.
    -Old Gaffer

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