Of Grit and Bone 6/10/2017

Read this earlier post if you’re curious about the title (Of Grit and Bone)

Monday evening of this week I had an encounter with a raccoon.

Back story: We have (4) laying hens.  I separated one of them from the rest of the flock recently because they had started to  peck on her.   In case you’ve never been around chickens, they really do have a pecking order and they can be vicious.   The chicken they were picking on is my personal favorite. She is a broody hen….(the impulse to sit on her eggs until they hatch.) That trait has all but disappeared from most chickens. As chicken breeds have been genetically manipulated and bred for specific traits (ie. fast growing for meat, or designed to lay lots of eggs, etc) one of the  unintended consequences has been they have lost their motherly inclination… Things are not any better when it comes to the roosters… by and large, they  have forgotten how to do their courting and mating rituals and  become brutish….Historically, farm chickens would do courting and mating rituals (much like a prairie chicken or wild turkey).

It is really rather disturbing.

Anyway, I went out before dark to lock up the broody hen and there in the doorway to the hen-house, was a raccoon. It  ran into the small area with my broody hen sitting on the perch, not three feet above.  I’ve never heard such a scream, and I’ve been around plenty of raccoons over the years.  It sounded almost demonic. Another (5) minutes and the hen would have been history.  I ran back into the house to grab my 12 gauge, but by the time I returned, the raccoon had escaped into the bowels of the barn.

 

Thursday morning, I got sucked into the middle of a domestic dispute.   Husband and wife were going at each other right in front of me.…and in an unguarded moment, I said something to the wife. She looked so broken and humiliated and said something about him doing this in front of me…

That was a mistake.

I know better….

Yesterday morning I wound up in the ER.   Got nicked by my skill saw on my forearm.  Could have been much worse.  Forty five minutes and three staples later I was back in the saddle.

After my trip to the ER, I crawled  into a 4 ft high attic  to move loose, dusty  insulation.  Temperature was forecast to climb into the 90’s  so wanted to get that part of the project done while it was still cool.

It took the better part of two hours…..reminded me of my days on the farm mowing bales of hay.  You would be covered with dust and chaff…absolutely no air movement.

Good thing I love my job 🙂

This morning my siblings and I went out for breakfast with my parents.  Dad celebrated his 85th birthday today.  What a gift to still be able to hang out with both of my parents.  I don’t take it for granted we  get along.  That even came up in passing while we talked. One of the branches of our family is relatively well off financially, but lots of interpersonal conflict. Before the old man died, he owned  7 farms.  Take a 160 acres farm @ $8,000 an acre times (7)…you get the idea.

How was your week?

Describe it in 10 words or less.  DM

On Writing (1)

I was thumbing through my 2009 Journal the other night and came across a review  Seriouswhimsey had written about me .  I’d forgotten all about it.

Her words stirred something within me.

Here is a portion of what she said:

“I am an explorer.  I love discovering new places in the blogging world.  Once in a while I come across a treasure which absolutely compels me to share it:

      Meet Heart to heart.  The first time I read this Midwest Farmer’s writings, he had me laughing out loud, and wanting to send Christmas Cards to a pig.

     Doug is also a general contractor- a manly man- who happens to have the eye of an artist, a tender heart, a riotous sense of humor, and an adorable wife who looks so young you’d never dreamed they’ve been married thirty years – unless they took their vows when she was, like six….

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OK,  here’s the deal.  It feels like there are two different people in my brain who write on this blog.

Sometimes, the words feel  forced and wooden, and other times I feel relaxed and the words just flow.

(That doesn’t mean I don’t expect to  edit after the fact, because I do…it’s just that sometimes even when I feel the stirring to write the end result is strained, while other times,  the end result does a better job capturing the real me as when I’m  relaxed.)

I am not alone.

Imagine my delight and surprise when I discovered Wordsmith John Muir wrested with the same thing… 🙂

As I continue to slowly make my way through the book  John Muir  His Life and Letters and Other Writings, I came across  the following words last night:

 “…in letters to friends, Muir complained that in town he is unable to compel the right mood for the production of readable articles….”As yet I have accomplished very nearly nothing,” he writes…. “how astoundingly empty and dry – box-like!- is our brain…

     The fact is that Muir’s personal letters, like his conversation, flowed smoothly and easily; but when he sat down to write an article, his critical faculty was called into play, and his thoughts, to employ his own simile, “began to labor like a laden wagon in a bog.” … There was a consequent loss of that spontaneity which made him such a fascinating talker.”

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john muir the writer

John Muir 

Here’s to a new year of fascinating , engaging, and thoughtful writing!  The last thing I want to do is clutter up your inbox with dry,wooden, boring words.

Life is too short.

 

 

 

Of Grit and Bone 10/12/2015

I mentioned last week I am currently reading a book on the life of John Muir (see previous blog post)  There was a letter he’d written his sister Mary who still lived at home in the book.  He longed for more specific  news  on the home front and sent her a sample of the kind of letter he wanted her to write..

” Mary, you should put some grit and bone of that kind in your letters.  I scribble that nonsense only to show you that these small matters which occur in the neighborhood and which you do not think worthy of note are still of interest to us when so far from home”…..Affectionately JOHN

We had guests this summer from the East Coast.  One of my regular blog  readers stopped by with her two daughters on their way home from a family reunion to spend an afternoon with the Mrs and I.  The following is a follow up note I wrote this morning to her based on some suggestions from John Muir on how to write a letter. 😉

Iowa   823 feet above sea level,

October 11, 2015

Dear Lisa

It’s still dark outside as I write…. Been thinking I wanted to jot you a note to stay in touch.

Yesterday was a big day.

Normally I save Saturday’s to play catch up around the farm, but I needed to work on my brother-in-law’s new house. There is still another week of framing to do  before it is ready to shingle.

Before going to work,I  set up the self-serve apple wagon along the highway. That normally takes about 15 to 20 minutes by the time I get all of the signs posted.  After that, I made a mad dash to the farmers market to drop off two  baskets of apples.  Another vendor  graciously offered at the beginning of the season to sell my apples so I didn’t have to set up..   While I love the interaction with the public on a Saturday morning, I have too many other things going this season to carve 3 hours out of a Saturday morning. When I went back at 11 to pick up my apple baskets, only $7.00 worth of fruit had sold.  Judy (another vendor) said she would buy any remaining Suncrisp I had left.

” They make awesome apple pies! she said.

Since there was almost a full bag left, I traded her two bags of peanut butter cookies for 10 pounds of fruit.

I wonder sometimes how many of the older vendors are on fixed incomes.  It has to be hard to bake all of those cookies, breads, and other goodies and have to take them home when  they don’t sell.

There was a light mist in the timber and the low-lying areas as the sun was coming up.  The neighbor’s black Angus spotted me when I stopped to take a picture.

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When I got to the job site, a mist was coming off the bog…

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Mist on the ground

We framed all day,25 feet in the air. Worked until almost 7 o’clock. We do have a lift with a 12 foot cage to work at that height You would NOT catch me up there if I didn’t have that under me. 🙂

My brother-in-law invited me to stay for supper after we finished.  Took a couple more photos on the way home…here is one of my favorites:

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Silhouette 

Well, hope this note finds you well. Write soon!  Your friend DM

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Have you ever lived far from home?  Remember the feeling of getting a personal letter?  Tell me about  a time you heard from someone that really encouraged you.  Why did it?

The Writings Of John Muir

I came across a quote by John Muir earlier this Summer and was struck by the force, word pictures, and the originality of it    Got me to thinking, I wonder if the other things he’d written would have the same zing.  So last week I finally received a book I’d bought on a hunch.

It is called : John Muir His Life and Letters and Other Writings

907 pages of pure escape.

Before discovering that quote (which I will include at the end of this post) the only things I could tell you about the guy was he had something to do with helping to establish some of the National parks with Theodore Roosevelt, had a woods named after him in California, and according to an anecdotal story, climbed a tree in the middle of a thunderstorm “Just to experience it first hand.”

I asked two of the guys I was working with last week if either one of them had heard of John Muir? Neither one of them had, although the guy with the college degree did say, he “thought he’d heard his name before but couldn’t tell you anything about him.”

Give me a book with personal letters and journal entries any day over formal biographies.  They give an intimate glimpse into a person’s life that can’t be done any other way.

I’ve discovered Muir and I share several things in common….(interests and personality traits)  As I’ve shared some of my discoveries  with my wife, repeatedly she’s commented, “Boy, he sounds a lot like you!”  (Even to our shared interest in saving, pressing and drying of wild flowers.)

So there you have it.

I’m all about balance and pacing myself, emotionally, spiritually, etc.

Thought I would give you a little peek into a book that is allowing me  to pull that off currently.

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Here are some excerpts from John Muir.

You may recognize the first one.  Think I included it in a blog post earlier this summer.

“The mountain winds, like the dew and rain, sunshine and snow, are measured and bestowed with love on the forests to develop their strength and beauty. ….  the winds go to every tree, fingering every leaf and branch and furrowed bole; not one is forgotten; the Mountain Pine towering with outstretched arms on the rugged buttresses of the icy peaks, the lowliest and most retiring tenant of the dells; they seek and find them all, caressing them tenderly, bending them in lusty exercise, stimulating their growth, plucking off a leaf or limb as required, or removing an entire tree or grove, now whispering and cooing through the branches like a sleepy child, now roaring like the ocean; the winds blessing the forests, the forests the winds, with ineffable beauty and harmony as the sure result…

….. pines six feet in diameter bending like grasses before a mountain gale…..” 

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“Keep close to nature’s heart….and break clear away once in a while,

 and climb a mountain, or spend a week in the woods.

Wash your spirit clean.”

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john muir quote

How about you?  Did you ever hear about John Muir while you were in school?

If this is the first time you’ve ever heard about him, I would encourage you to look him up on line, then come back here and tell me something you discovered.   DM