Of Grit and Bone September 13, 2018

About the title, read this if you’re curious.

6:39 AM. Sun is just coming up.

Normally, about this time, our resident tomcat Barron  comes to the front door and starts scratching.  He wants two things.  First, a snuggle.  He’s the only cat on the property, and since he and Libby (our Labrador) do not like each other, we are Barron’s only family.    I found him a couple of years ago , in the median strip of a 4 lane highway about 2 miles from here.   He was a half-grown kitten at the time.  If I’d not stopped to rescue him, he would have been run over.

Which means he owes me his very life blood.  🙂

(Remember that scene from the Star Wars series? That creature with the big floppy ears)

Second thing he wants is to get fed.  If I leave his food dish out over night, sure as heck, a raccoon or opossum will find it.

Here are some of the issues currently in the mix:

My Dad,  New remodel at work, the Rat Invasion, The apple crop.

I’ll start with my dad.  Dad is 86.  Until a week ago, he was still driving.  Mom and him would go out daily for lunch. They moved to town in May, after 50 plus years on the farm.  Last Tuesday I got a call from my sister in the morning.  Dad had fallen and was en route to the hospital.   Pretty sure he’d broken his leg. (He did)  Quite a bad break.  Doctor told my dad and sister (who is a  nurse) before going into surgery, there was a very real chance he might never be able to walk again.  Surgery went better than expected.  He will be able to walk, (will probably have a limp) but considering the alternative, that was very good news.  My mom, was already scheduled for hip surgery before all of this happened.  Looks like the two of them will both be using walkers in the near future.  They are so thankful to be surrounded by a large network of extended family. That’s the sort of thing you don’t think about when you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, healthy, and living La-Vita Loca. (Living the crazy life.)

It has been so touching, humbling, encouraging, energizing, and inspiring to watch how different ones have stepped  forward to use their individual talents to help out.  One sister is a nurse. She spent the first several nights with dad @ the hospital.  Another sister, has the gift of administration.  Between the two of them, they have coordinated  all of the communication between the various health care entities, rehab,  scheduling who is available to drive when and where.

Wife and I have been  staying overnight with mom, helping drive her to her various appointments, etc.

You may have already seen this action photo of the crew who helped move them in May:

Several of you  have come to mind recently.  (Marilyn, Val, and Di to be specific)  All of you have had to say good-by to your mom within the past couple of years, and that thought has  energized me to make the most of the time with both of my parents.

    Work. I am in the middle of a large remodel.  It has been a mixed bag.  House is situated out in the middle of 40 acres of timber.  Yesterday we could hear the walnuts falling.  It continues to keep me physically fit, and it pays the bills. I get to work with my son on the project. He scheduled his work load to be available to help. Considering, I started taking him to work with me about the time he was 5…he is a gift to have on the crew. On the negative side of the ledger, we’ve just finished  enduring almost 2 weeks of nonstop rain.  Financially that cost me in rental equipment, and lost productivity.  I saw some yellow fungus  starting to grow on the side of house Monday.   One of my new co-workers decided to not show up the day we set roof trusses (between rain showers, over the existing house)  That ticked me off.  His phone has been surgically  attached to his hand so I know he could see me calling to find out where he was.   He didn’t answer.  That proverb about a faithful man…who can find?  Yep, they are getting harder and harder to find.

The rat invasion

Normally I equate rats with an active farmstead with grain and fresh feed supplies..(we don’t have either)  Well, when I got on my lawnmower 3 weeks ago,  4 large healthy rats came tumbling out of the mower deck.  We have a lawnmower with a 6 foot deck.(the mower is in  front rather than underneath.)

Creep-ed  me out.

Two of them were as large as squirrels.  I  had noticed half a dozen holes around the perimeter of our red barn (rat activity) but never gave it any thought until that day.  As I looked around the basement of the barn, I could see multiple spots where the rats had dug tunnels right up through the concrete floor.  The thing is, the barn is less than 100 feet from our 110 year old farmhouse with a limestone foundation.  Come winter, the last thing I want is for that horde to send some scouts over to our house.   So, I bought a 9 pound pail of rat bait.  It was gone in 3 days. Bought a second. Same thing.  Talked to Dave @ the store, he recommended the more expensive stuff. I am on my 3rd 9 pound pail of super-duper, heavy-duty rat bait.  At $50 plus dollars a pail, the novelty has worn off. (and one feeding is supposed to kill them)

There is definitely a life lesson in all of this for me.

And finally the Apple crop.

Another Japanese Beetle invasion decimated 80% of our Gingergold and Honey Crisp apple crop this season.  Each female beetle can lay up to 60 eggs in the fall.  Last season, I thought..it couldn’t get any worse.

Well, it did.

Japanese Beetles on a Ginger gold apple

(I think they look like Christmas tree ornaments.)

Japanese beetles on peaches 2018

We did manage to save 2 bushel of peaches. Bartered for some peach wine, and peach pies from the neighbors.

In spite of the rats, the beetles, the no-shows at work, and the rain,  I have a remarkably flippant, detached attitude most of the time.  I can trace it right back to a book my dad gave me when I was 14.  He said to me, “Junior, you need to read this book.”   

I did.

Norman Vincent Peal’s book, The Power of Positive Thinking.

It changed the trajectory of my life.

Not saying I’m on my game 100% of the time…but can’t imagine what life would feel like to just focus on the nasty.

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Well, time for me to wrap it up.

Bus leaves in 45 minutes. DM

 

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Honest Work

When my husband Matt was about ten years old, his grandfather started taking him to the family cherry orchards on Saturday afternoons.  Matt would work alongside the farm hands, whistling as he went, to let his grandfather know he wasn’t eating any of the cherries intended for the bushel. a full day’s work netted Matt 50 cents.  If his grandfather bought him a hot dog and soda, they called it even.

As a teenager,  his dad would call up from the breakfast table, “Two minutes!”  Matt knew better than to challenge – he was dressed, fed and out raking leaves or tilling soil before the sun had risen over the ridge.

I was horrified by these stories during our first years together.  I mourned for his lost childhood, thinking gratefully of my  Saturday mornings in front of the cartoons, slurping cereal.  After we were married, though, I noticed quickly he’d be done with his chores while I was still cursing over the dishes.  His focus was intense but cheerful.  He got the job done well and quickly because he put himself completely into the task – because he’d learned to enjoy honest work.

No matter if he’s cleaning the gutters or finishing a report, Matt embraces each project as an opportunity for expression.  His lovingly stirred spaghetti sauce says, “I feed and nourish our family.”  His well- weeded garden says, “I savor my connection to the earth.”  Through example after example, he demonstrates the key to happiness in whatever we do.  Matt’s lesson: All work – on the field, in the factory, or on the computer – can be honest and fulfilling, if we approach it from a place of devotion.

As Matt has shown me, honest work is our contribution to the community and to the world, the outward manifestation of our soul’s purpose.   Just as the trees keep the air clean, give us shade, and shower us with fruits and nuts, so too we are we each charged with our task, creating the future, one brick – or compost pile or database or cherry pie – at a time.

By Mariska Van Aalst from the book 50 Things that really matter

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My wife read this to me  this week, said it reminded her of me.

I’m sure our kids have stories to tell.

 

Daughter  pouring concrete with the Papa.

 

Never too young to start. (Grandson and I at his first pour)

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I was thinking about this essay on work again this morning.  We had an early Saturday morning cement pour at my daughters house.  It was a small pour, as far as pours go…just 12 yards of concrete. (See photo @ beginning of this post.)

12 yards = 2 truck loads

Lots of friends and family showed up to get-er-done as they say. Cement truck got there at 7:15 and I was back on the road heading home by 8:30.     I love that my 60-year-old body  enables me to still do this sort of thing.    I did break a sweat, but the rush of endorphins kicked in 3 minutes after I started moving concrete.  I know there will come a day, if I live long enough, that I will leave the concrete work to younger men..but until then…

I’ll round this out with a couple of crew pictures…one taken when I was 19 and the second, this past week.

I love my job.

That’s me holding a can of Old Milwaukee back in the day

Crew photo from earlier this week, just after we finished hand setting (20)  30 ft long by 8 ft high garage trusses.

Later! DM

 

 

 

It Was the chicken taking a dust bath that did it…

Thanksgiving morning 2017.

Granddaughter asleep by my side.

She is two. She and I  were looking at pictures on my phone to keep her occupied, while her parents and my wife tried to get some much-needed sleep.

It was the chicken taking a dust bath that did the trick.

We watched it five time.  It was a forty-second video,  and out she went.

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This past Monday, in the middle of the night, I woke up with vertigo. It was nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It was not the flu.  Mid morning I lost my cookies. (sorry)  No way was I going to be able to work on a roof, so I stayed home.

My first thought was cancer.  Dam stuff had went to my brain.  I have not been diagnosed with cancer…won’t have the biopsy for two more weeks.  We’ve already talked at length about living wills, what to do if we ever find ourselves in various situations. We’ve had those conversations multiple times over the years, while we were both healthy and not under the gun…so all of that gives a quiet back drop to my Thanksgiving 2017.

So,  sitting here this Thanksgiving morning, feeling very thankful and blessed.  The vertigo has subsided.  All of our children are back for Thanksgiving. Two more grand babies on the way, one is a girl, the other, it is still too early to tell.

I am cautiously optimistic that three weeks from now life will go back to normal…but until then, I find myself enjoying the small simple gifts.

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Have you ever seen a chicken taking a dust bath?

If you haven’t, check this out:

Tell me three things you have to be currently thankful for.  I want details. 😉 DM

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Update 12 hours later….here is a picture of me and my 6 grandchildren.  Took this @ lunch today.  It was a trick to keep them all corralled for very long.  Lots of wiggle.

Picking green beans in the rain

It had been thundering for the past half an hour, and then it started to rain.

I was out in the garden picking green beans Tuesday night.

I could feel the anger slowly melting  away.

In the Christian tradition, there is a thought that goes like this….Be angry but do not sin…do not let the sun go down on your anger.

The word sin has all but disappeared in the work a day English language.

Too bad.   It  literally means  “to miss the mark”… a word picture of a faulty bow (bow and arrow) that doesn’t  shoot straight…shoot an arrow with this bow and it will inevitably veer to the left or right.

So there I was grousing a bad attitude about something I could not shake.  I did not want to have a bad attitude but i did…. If I told you what it was that had me vexed, you wouldn’t believe it.  Doesn’t matter. problem was, I could not shake it. Tried everything I knew…

And then it started to rain….and the bad attitude just sort of dissolved…. Not sure how that works, but I like it.

Pause.

Stopped by my mom and dad’s yesterday morning for coffee. They are both in their 80’s….still live on the family farm.  Dad was outside pushing a riding lawnmower onto a trailer.  I got there just in time to help him finish.

I cherish moments like that,  all the more of late… There has been a slew of obituaries in the local paper of people I know….most of them my parents age or younger.

My favorite moment yesterday  happened just before I left.  I asked dad about the young farmer who had recently purchased an adjacent farm dad used to farm.

(I’m scratching my head wondering how that math works…farm ground around here is still in the $5000, to $6000 per acre range, and with current corn and bean prices, dad lost money last season farming that same ground).

Dad said...”The younger generation has never experienced what can happen when the bottom drops out.  I have.  You never forget those things.. I would be very careful just how much debt you take on right now.  One of the salesman in the local John Deere  store told me this week, they are looking at a long term gradual decline in sales, just like back in the 1980’s…”

Listening to my dad validate my concerns did something for me.

It helped me to feel grounded.

Picking green beans in the rain and having coffee with my parents gave me a sense of being grounded.

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When you hear that term “grounded,”   what does that mean to you?  What are some ways that happens in your life?  I want details.

DM

One ton of fresh compost

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

You’ve Got Mail

 

I started writing letters  to a couple of  our kids who live out-of-town last fall. This spring I decided to make letter writing a more intentional part of my life in general…

I want to say, within the past three months, I have received at least a dozen personal letters and notes from all over the place….so there is that possibility, you yourself may get an occasional letter.  Don’t count on it, but it does happen. 😉

In spite of the fact that I now live in the age of e-mail, Facebook message, and who knows what other forms of Internet communication I am out of the loop on, there is something about  a personal letter in my mailbox that  gives me joy like nothing else.   Someone has taken the time to say….

“Thinking of you.”

“You are special.”

and occasionally “I love you! “

It is a  simple act that, continues to give (me) joy weeks and months after the fact.

 I learned on Saturday that one of our grand daughters was heading to camp for the week. She told me her mom was planning on writing her while she was there.

That took me  back in time.

I too went away for the week to camp when I was ten.  I can still remember walking daily to the candy store where personal mail would also be handed out.

Monday..nothing

Tuesday…nothing

Wednesday…nothing.

I think it was finally on a Thursday, I got a letter from mom letting me know, her and dad were thinking about me. I can still remember the feeling of getting her letter forty years later.

My encouragement to you this morning, is to take some time today (or soon) to write that someone you’ve been thinking about writing.

You’ll never regret it, and the person on the other end..well, you will brighten their day.  DM

personal letters

Personal letters currently on my desk, next to my Pig pen cup.

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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. Here is an example:

     Dear John,    We are pretty well, but are fast growing weary of the many changes which now seem to be of daily occurrence.  We now live in a room made in the upper part of the barn next the orchard.

     We reach it by an outside stair.  It is hard carrying up the wood and water.  Once I slipt and fell with an armful of burr oak firewood and sprained my weeping sinew.  The cattle  live in the house now – the cows in the cellar, the horses on the first floor, and the sheep upstairs.  Nan will not go past the cellar door, but we do the best we can.

      The apple trees are dug up and planted upon the cold rocky summit of the observatory where I am sure they will not grow well.  The cattle do not stand the severe weather well this winter.  They stand drawn together like a dog licking a pot.

     Aunt Sally is married, and Lowdy Grahm has whooping cough.  Write soon or sooner.  From your sis Mary.

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?