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The Grand Adventure

In case you missed it, we bought a farm.

Really, we bought 5 acres in rural Wyoming and turned it into a farm. It was a “horse property”, but horses eat money, and my wife had always wanted goats. So we turned it into a goat farm. And chickens, aka “mini raptors”. Almost did pigs, too, for a minute. Peppa and George were very cute. J made sure they were very well cared for, giving them lots of delicious scraps and plenty of social and grazing time. We could never have brought ourselves to butcher them.

Goats are pretty sweet. They’re like slightly looney dogs, but you can milk ’em. They love to climb things and get into trouble. But mostly they love to follow you everywhere, especially when you have grain or treats. They have their own little personalities.. One of ours, Princess, loved to sip my wife’s drinks while we sat and hung out with them. Girl Crush, the first and only one we bred on our own farm, never stopped smiling. Ginger, a later addition to the herd, wouldn’t eat her grain without head scratchies and kisses. And Fancy.. oh Fancy. A prodigious milker who would just stand there without a care in the world as long as we were by her side.

We had a fluctuating herd size of anywhere from 4 (at the start) to 28 (at the peak). Plus the egg-laying chickens, which we never got eggs from due to a very sneaky snake that we discovered two days too late. We had about a dozen chickens after the dust settled (not all baby chicks make it, as you can imagine). We also had ducks for a minute, but we quickly discovered they weren’t for us. Then there were the guinea fowl — they’re like guard-dogs but in bird form, they sound the alarm when predators are near, and if you’ve got enough of ’em, they can take on small game like foxes with no problem.

But to really keep everybody safe, you need a LGD — livestock guardian dog. Enter Moose. Moose was a Great Pyrenees – Akbash mix, and he was the best boy we could ask for. We picked him up as a months-old puppy from a farm in South Dakota (where we actually obtained a lot of these animals, interestingly enough). He was great with the kids, he loved his goats, and he enjoyed guarding the property. He did eat a chicken, though. That as traumatic, mostly because she was J’s favorite, Sassy — a ridiculous fluffy white and gray Silkie hen, and pretty rare, from what I understood.

Theres always stuff to do and build on a farm. Luckily, one of things I enjoy in my spare time, is building stuff. I built a “chick brooder” or two (it’s a box for raising baby chickens in) — first out of cardboard, then a real nice wood one with chicken-wire windows and roosting-bar. I also got to build a hay feeder for the goats, constructed mostly of framing beams and a cattle-panel cut in half. I’ll include pictures of all this at some point.

Now, we “needed” barn cats (true, actually, because we did have mice), so we got Snickerdoodle and Oreo, then later, Mouse & Cheeseburger. We tried to convince the kids (and ourselves) that these were supposed to be semi-feral mousers, but they were just doo dang cuddly; they were domesticated within days. (Not to say we took them inside; no, they were just very people-friendly.) They still did their job — or at least, they would have, if we’d kept the farm long enough for them to grow up.

J loved all her animals. She’d look at me with those adorable pleading brown eyes and I couldn’t say “no” to the latest acquisition. But each one had a place and a purpose. And she handled them all with such care and grace. Even when it was hard, and she needed my help, she’d do everything she could before roping me in. Of course, I enjoyed it just as much. Perhaps it’s my Nebraskan farmer roots on my dad’s side, or my general inability to sit still and do nothing, but I loved working outside with the animals too. And I love J more than anything, so I would, and will, always do anything to make her smile.

One of the most incredible experiences on our farm was having our first few live goat births right there in our very own barn (which was actually the garage, using large dog kennels as birthing pens). The first birth, from a doe named Bomb-dot-com, a Nigerian dwarf, was fairly smooth. We had the birthing pen set up with lots of pine shavings blankets, and J was on & off the phone with her goat mentor (and original owner of said doe & several others that we’d bought) the whole time. We had the towels, the suction thingy, and lots of patience. Bombomb almost had the kid while we were out of town, but thankfully she waited til we got home that night. J had to help pull then kid out just a little bit, but the birth went just fine. The miracle of life — never gets old. We named her Aristi, the first born. She was black and white with a little mini-goat marking on her side, and very healthy.

Our next kidding was a bit more scary. Pepper, the sweetest Nubian doe in the world, was hangin out in the birthing pen, and we were keeping our eyes on her. She suddenly started pushing, apparently, but we think she’d been trying for longer. When we got to her, we had to pull out the first kid (a boy), and it got pretty bloody. The second followed quickly, a girl. The boy wouldn’t stand, while the girl started looking more healthy. Neither would nurse, at first, but the girl caught on. The boy wasn’t looking good. There’s something called “floppy kid syndrome”, which we almost suspected he had, but we think what really happened was that he was stuck in the birth canal for a long time and we didn’t know.

J. nursed these babies with such care and devotion. She stayed up all night with a feeding tube and blankets and baby wipes. She gave the boy selenium so he could try to stand and walk, after learning that a selenium deficiency was a possible cause of the issues. Hours upon hours she coaxed him to nurse and stand, worried about his tiny little throat from the feeding tube, wiping him clean any time he had yellow runnies. We ended up giving them to Pepper’s original owner, after doing everything we could to make them healthy babies. That was hard on J, giving them back, but they are now living healthy and happy goat-lives, thanks to her tireless care. She saved that boy kid’s life, that’s for sure!

J was made to be a mom, both human and animal. She loves hard, with such a deep care and devotion that is nothing short of incredible. Her dedication to giving these animals a happy healthy life was a beautiful thing to see and be a part of. We made so many great memories on our little farm.

But farms a lot of work. Like, a LOT. Too much, as it turns out, for our current lifestyle and family dynamic. Our kids, bless their hearts, are just a bit too “city”. Plus, we found that we felt stifled and stuck in a way that was new and disappointing. Bring in a small rural town of less than 2000 people, you start to get tired of the same old 2 restaurants (where 1 gives you food poisoning and the other is closed on Sundays), and 1 grocery store (with no health food and expired meats), and 2 gas stations (both of which are overpriced because they can). So you keep driving 45 minutes each way to the closest big city multiple times a week, never having enough time to actually have any FUN there because you’re too busy trying to squeeze out every possible errand you can from the one trip so you don’t have to turn around and do it again in 2 days.

On top of all that, we missed our family. The kids needed grandparents, and we needed the free babysitting. (kidding, sorta.. not really.) And we all needed more friends, the teenager included. Don’t get me wrong, we made a few friends in Wyoming that’ll last a good long while. But nothing really beats a Grandma and Crampa (as our toddler calls him) being less than 20 minutes away. But we’ll miss Wyoming.. we still do. The freedom and open spaces, the good people and the lack of income tax. And the GOATS!!

So we up and moved again to central Oregon. And that’s where the adventure continues…

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Weddington

Say what?

I think it started with a typo she made in a text, but it became one of our inside-jokes, where we started ending things with “ington”, like Paddington — Campington (our first family camping trip), Yardington (our backyard landscaping plans that we built for the wedding), and of course, Weddington itself.

The day was a blur, in the best possible way. We actually stayed at our hotel the night before, as well as night-of, to get some time away from kids. Thankfully Grandma and Grandpa had flown in early to keep them busy and fed and loved while we had our couple-time. That morning, I departed for home to help with wedding setup while she had her gals come do the bridal thing. You know, mimosas, hair & makeup, silly selfies.

The vendors – floral, catering, photog & video – started to arrive at the house, while the nanny wrangled kiddos. I loved being able to help my little boys with their ties and suspenders. Plus I got a sneak-peek at the food and flowers before anybody, which was pretty sweet! Yet in the midst of the scramble, I realized that I had no white undershirt for my suit. Thankfully my sister was able to pick some up on her way in from the airport. I paid the favor forward to our eldest teen who didn’t have a button-up shirt to wear; I had a nice hunter-green number that we’d luckily left out from our furious honeymoon-packing.

When she was arriving to “finish” getting ready (read: more mimosas and formal pictures), I DID avoid peeking, respecting the tradition that I not see her in her wedding dress before she walked down the aisle. (Although I did see it when she picked it out at the store.. Sshhh it’s a secret!)

We’d written a note to each other to read on the morning of, in the hours before the big event. Hers was the sweetest, most thoughtful and precious thing I’d read. And of course, being me, I bungled mine like a big doofus. Thank God she loves me anyway.

So I’m standing out in the backyard, which has now become a wedding venue. (Well, really the whole house was; and this was no small task, involving several hours of deep cleaning and herding kids from one side to the other so they didn’t ruin the aforementioned cleanliness, and booting the dogs out to boarding camps for several days. This is why people pay for venues. But we truly loved the way we did it, despite the sprinkled bits of chaos.) My dad and I step up to the.. what do you call it? The arch, the flower-adorned wood frame under which we’d perform the ceremony and declare our eternal love and devotion. (No, not me and my dad; me and HER! Jeez people.) The arbor. Thanks Google.

Anyway, we chat idly for a bit while people take their seats. It’s a beautiful day, not too hot, and our best man C. is workin the pre-wedding playlist. (Link to follow!) J and I picked out all the music ourselves, including an instrumental Star Wars themed aisle-walk piece that was, honestly, so special to me because she knew how much I loved Star Wars and wanted me to have this big part of myself in what most of our culture considers a primarily (if not solely) bride-focused event.

But I’ll tell you what. As soon as she stepped out that back door into the aisle, I forgot about the music. I didn’t even hear a sound. I lost track of where my feet were.

She. took. my. breath. away.

I’ll never forget the way she looked. Deep adoring brown eyes. Lustrous brunette locks in gentle waves, crowned by the most delicate white pearl & lace. And the dress! Oh ho. The plunging neckline, the white silk, the gorgeous subtlety of so many tiny lacy leaves. And her lovely ivory heels with matching delicate detail. Perfection, she was. Beauty and love and desire and devotion. I could barely stand! I took her hands as soon as I could and held on for dear life, because this moment– this WAS life. She IS my life.

I barely remember my dad’s officiating, which really is no knock on him; I was just so hyper-focused on my beloved bride, J, standing there, seeing me like nobody ever has, accepting me like nobody ever could, and loving me like nobody ever did. We read our vows with trembling voice and breath, tied our Cord of Three Strands, and exchanged our beautiful hand-picked rings. That moment she said “I do” was the happiest moment of my life. Followed immediately, of course, by “You may now kiss the bride!”

We also had a Star Wars song picked out for exiting (walking down? up?) the aisle together, but again, I barely remember hearing it, because I was so ready to escape for a moment into our bedroom (which had become the bridal suite) for a moment alone to breathe and embrace and cherish that moment with her. Then of course we had to assemble for formal pictures — and we got some super adorable ones, including our whole family together (me and her and our kids), which was no small feat with a toddler in a tux mind you!

Thankfully, after that mad scramble, we came back to ourselves with our first dance. “Love Me Like You Do”, a remix by Sleeping At Last; very sweet and intimate song. And once again I simply shut out the world around us and it became just her and me, in warm adoring embrace. I know this will always be where we return to, in times of trouble or tribulation. This is home for my heart and soul. She is my safe place, my calm and peace.

We spent some time with our guests, as you do, and loved on our kids because we knew we wouldn’t be seeing them for a few days (honeymoon time!). Then we ditched the party to finish our photos at the winery where we were staying. Our villa was literally right next to the vines! We got so many amazing pictures, made memories and did adorable, romantic, silly things together. Then we met some of the fam for dinner, since a lot of them came form out of state and didn’t get much time with us. Yet again, though, we ditched them to be alone — are we sensing a pattern here? Hey, we’re allowed to be a little selfish; it’s our wedding! It was a night to remember.

Our honeymoon took us to the most adorable little cabin in Idyllwild, complete with private hot tub. We toured the town, bought way too many things, cooked and ate delicious food, and spent hours talking in the jacuzzi. We even beat Jenga! Yes, literally, we took the tower as high as it would go having no layers of 3 remaining (all 1’s and 2’s). And of course I made fire. In the fireplace, that is.

Doing all this has taught me something. When God answers your prayers, and blesses you with an incredible, amazing partner, you don’t wait and see what happens. You get grateful, you get busy, and you give her your all. Because she’s giving me her all. She is my wife — my supportive, loving, caring, kind, generous, beautiful, smart, giving, best-friend, equal-partner, team-mate, self-sacrificing, treat-me-like-a-king, WIFE. And there’s no denying that. I love her more every day.

So. What have we been doing since then? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned! But, as they say in Harry Potter, “I solemnly swear we are up to no good!” =P

Stumbles I’ve Learned From

Today we have another guest post from Arlene! Show her lots of love. =)

I belong to several professional groups just for members with a certain outlook, either contained within a larger group, or a separate one. These allow a bit of social interaction where certain words, terms and expectations are common to the group. I still belong to some wider ones – and sometimes I forget that not everyone knows how software works; other than what they hear on the news or have read about.

In looking over the groups recently, there seems to be an emerging awareness of identity and what we do with it – outside of creating, in some spaces, a personal brand around some aspects of that identity.

One of the people shared a link to Identity Stories, and I thought I might share a couple of my related experiences, in hopes that my awkward blunders would bring awareness to others. Or in some situations, at least a smile of empathy. And I’ve made many blunders over the years – along with a few things I did correctly.

One of the ones I handled badly enough to make me blush years later was at a local shop that I frequented. I had brought someone in there, and saw the new hire, with lovely long hair that I instantly envied (both thicker and longer than mine, which was only mid-back at the time) and made the assumption that this was a female. I admit it was bolstered by the fact that the owner had mentioned that he had received only two applicants, both female. I guess I missed this one – the greeting of “Hello, ma’am – It’s good to have you here!” shocked the young man, and it showed on his face when he turned around.

Recovery was slow – looking back, very much too slow. I spent a good five minutes mentally kicking myself for my presumption. Okay, to anyone else, it looked like I was hiding in a corner – and that would have a ring of truth, too. The truth that I had likely hurt his feelings finally came to the forefront of my mind, and I made my way to the front, trying desperately to rehearse what I could say to apologize. What actually came out was parts of three potential things: “I’m an idiot. I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you can forgive me.” None of which was put together, mentally, so I figured I’d failed.

And looking back, the only thing that would have been better was to have said something – anything – then, rather than wander off with my mouth open like an out-of-water fish.

I’ve done this since. I’m looking at a reflection of vested, hard-hatted, and dressed nearly the same construction workers – and one has a full beard – I still sometimes hold the door for “the gentlemen”, even if one is female. The last one that this happened with giggled at me – I had noticed this wasn’t a gentleman, looked horrified, and blushed. Which helped. I need to watch this: the season where workers are out and mud-covered has started, and I am trying to improve.

The one that still baffles me was a blind person with a cane. We were on a narrow temporary walkway while the sidewalk was being refurbished, and I scrunched up on the railing to avoid the cane. (That thing looked like it would hurt! And I didn’t want them to need to apologize for tapping me with it.) I still haven’t figured out a better response – if you know, teach me!

Located where I am, there are not always a lot of different people, nor languages, nor cultures that are obvious (which saddens me). Unlike some here, that try and force a conformity on everyone they meet, I do make an attempt to listen, and empathize as much as possible with people that are unlike me – which, if you think about it, is everyone. If you hear someone making a statement, presume that they do know what they are talking about – context is everything. And empathize. And don’t try and solve the issue, unless asked; they may trust you to simply listen, and let them work it out in their own mind. And now the hard part: be aware of this for a while – you may see it unspoken in other people.

I guess what I’ve learned over the many years is “Mistakes happen. Own up to them quickly, and try and do better. And don’t kick yourself for mistakes, once you’ve acknowledged them.” This applies to so many areas of life; I still have a hard time with this.

Recognizing differences can be a tough thing. Even something as obvious-to-me as the examples I’ve given here, might get overlooked by another, and be deeply effecting for someone else. This is a good place to apply the golden rule of “treat others as you want to be treated,” and take the time to learn from your stumbles.

Excellent and poignant reminders. Always treat others with respect and dignity, and if you aren’t sure how to handle a situation, or you stumble, don’t be afraid to admit it and ask for help! Love & light.

N.

LlamaLimo Log: Ever have a Bad Day?

For a driver, most days aren’t bad — you get the person in that car, and they do their own thing. A few try and talk your ear off, or sit silent, staring out the window. Those type average out. But then you get those that are Having A Bad Day. That phrase will soon make you want to hide — ask any driver. The horrid part is, it may not be anything that actually happens to them; they could get a text or call and it would start. You learn to keep a close eye out for the signs.

Since Alice moved out, much to the relief of our night drivers — the parties going on after she was sound asleep not only made you wonder exactly how hard she slept, but also made walking outside an adventure, not to mention trying to squeeze the car into or out of the driveway — these situations seemed to have slowed. No more Josh “walking his dog” and then coming to chat; the drama of young people and their relationships had moved to another area. And Bob, coming over to pee on tires just as you were ready to back up, was starting to become a distant memory. I should have guessed it was too good to last.

One of the longer-term residents of the neighborhood, Adam, had his ups and downs recently. We were aware of it, as he was of the temperament to either be sullen and walk off his thoughts, or to create ideas and things, and to experiment with solutions to issues that were tough to solve, even for experts. With him in the area, there was never a lack of conversation on widely divergent topics to listen in on, when he and his friends got together — those varied depending on how welcoming he was, and frankly, how dangerous the experiments were.

After a bout with his now-ex girlfriend, Adam had gone into a cycle of Bad Days, and then found something to reignite his passion. He now would wave, and the group of people around got smaller, which normally was a good sign that he was working on something that wouldn’t burn, let off weird noises, or need to be transported someplace “to test it out”. The music they played usually suited our tastes, and even the winter season didn’t seem to slow things much.

However, something happened, and Adam Had A Bad Day. The music stopped, the people vanished, and the hours-long walks after dark started. There were no requests for rides, or only for short ones — a mile or so and back to pick up cheese-flavored puffed corn (his snack of choice). The silence bothered me, but not enough to really be too worried about it. The rides Adam asked for were quick enough that even A Bad Day shouldn’t affect me much.

The weather has been cyclic — snow, then cold, then nearly spring temperatures, and repeat. We actually had snow on the ground for a few days (and the local police force frantic with accidents, caused by those who forget that even if snow looks pretty, it isn’t nice to drive through once it melts and refreezes). We were being cautious, and telling folks that the ride would likely take twice as long as usual.

Adam called, and seemed up and cheerful — and wanted more than puffed corn. I personally was thankful for this; it was my turn to grab lunch for the office, and I wanted a particular sandwich that was a bit out of the way. So when Adam called, and wanted a ride to that same place — well, life just works sometimes, doesn’t it? I sent the order in from the business fax (yes, I know, but that’s how they wanted it done!) and gathered the keys, my jacket, and left out the door, with anticipation of a fresh, hot sandwich and my favorite fizzy drink in my future.

Little did I know that seemingly everyone in the world had decided that today was the day to go out. Traffic, normally even on a warm summer day, would have been half of what it was now — add in the ice-covered roadways, and you had to plan for potential disaster. One look at the higher-traffic roads, and I decided to take an alternate route. Which wasn’t a good idea — apparently I drove by something or someone that was not good for Adam.

I hear Adam shift, and look in the mirror just in time to see the hood of the hoodie go over his head. This is not good; it’s time to worry when the hood is tugged down. A telltale sign with Adam is that the more you can see of his head, the better things are going. Even when it feels below zero outside. So, hoping that this is only a brief mood, we keep going. And, it looks like I made the correct choice — there was nearly an accident outside the restaurant with someone trying to turn in, and the car didn’t want to stop even to cross traffic. At least I’m going the correct direction just to turn in!

Yes, you guessed correctly – there is a line for the drive-up window. Thankfully not long enough that there’s a danger of getting the car hit, but enough to be a wait. And Adam’s hood is still down. This means that he is now Having A Bad Day. And I’m the only one that is close enough to listen if he wants to talk.

There are days that I physically check from the back seats to make sure there isn’t a bar-tending license, or even psychology degree, visible from there. Some folks just want to talk things out, and that’s fine with me — I can listen and drive in circles for them. But some expect me to have opinions at best, and answers that will work for them in any situation. I once made the mistake of making a comment that solved one person’s problems — soon I had all of their friends in the car for literally weeks, wanting answers. Now I know why gurus choose the top of the mountain. Some of them actually got angry with me that I didn’t have a ready solution to their problem!

And the hood just got tugged down again, thankfully after he passed me his written order, and the money to pay for it. He’s still silent, so the radio plays quietly in the car, competing with the rap from the car in front of us, the new country from a parked car nearby, and something else that was making the entire car vibrate directly across from us in line. I guess I should have be thankful they had the windows up.

Thankfully, they turned off the music before rolling down the window to order. I looked to make a comment to Adam, and the words stopped — the hood was down below the mustache, and tears were flowing. As if sensing my gaze, he turned violently away from the building, and a slight sob escaped.

After several rounds of mental cursing, I decide, since the Bad Day is obviously getting worse without me doing anything, I’d wait until I was spoken to, or one of the other signs that the Bad Day was spreading. I went back to listening to music, and watching the cars go sideways down the road I was facing.

Oh come on! Whoever you are in the blue car — make up your mind before you get to the speaker! You’ve been in line for over three minutes now, and the menu is the same as it’s been for the last six months. You should at least know what you want, and even if they reordered the menu, you should be able to find it in less than the two full minutes you’ve been sitting there staring at the sign. Well, at least the line at the pay window is gone — but I bet I’ll be done with my order (I’m two cars back) before that person gets done paying.

Finally I get to the speaker, and tell them there will be two tickets on this order. Thankfully, the voice on the speaker is familiar, so it isn’t going to be an issue. I mention the business name, and make sure the order is rang up correctly. I start on Adam’s order, and get as far as the drink before that blue car pulls up to the pickup window. I was almost correct; another two seconds, and I’m pulling forward. Adam is still inside his hoodie, and facing away from the building — did he fall asleep? And since silence seems to be a good thing, I’m darned if I’m going to disturb him to hand him food and drink — so while keeping an eye on the line, I pull out a drink holder for the company, and one for his food and drink. With that settled, I pull up to pay.

There is a comment from the cashier that the fried items are about a minute from done, so I nod and finish paperwork for this half of the ride, while waiting my turn to pick up food. This also allows me to clear things out, and make sure that my logs don’t have drink spilled on them. I’m bad about this — I know I should do it, but some days you get rushed, and then never take the time to put things back. Plus, what better to do while waiting for…

FOOD!

I apologize for that, but this place gives the food as fresh as possible, and make sure it’s correct before handing it out. The drinks for the office came in a carrier, with Adam’s handed out separately. And then, hot, wonderful meals — all in their own bags, and labeled with names for my order. With only moments to get everything arranged, I set things onto the seat, and in the carriers, and got out of the way of the next person. A shift forward a few feet so as to let the next car access the window, and then some moving things around to make sure nothing slides onto the floor if I were to try and stop in a hurry.

Adam is now seriously Having A Bad Day — even the scent of food isn’t enough to bring him out. But things aren’t getting worse, so silence isn’t a bad thing, especially with the roads as they are. Sliding into a pole because you take your attention off the road isn’t an image I want presented of the company. Carefully moving forward, and watching for other drivers, we turn onto the main road; back toward Adam’s house, in lieu of any other communication.

A block later, and the flood of words starts. Adam is still turtled in his hoodie, but that doesn’t seem to stop him. I think this is what must have been disturbing him — the words cover everything from jeans that didn’t fit that morning, to his issues at work, and “finding another job” problems. It’s good that he doesn’t seem to expect a response, because I’d have issues getting a word in! The narrative is broken by sobs, and a request to go home promptly. At a red light, I hand back his large drink, and hear the straw suck air before we’ve gone two blocks.

The hood is up a bit, and the silence doesn’t feel as strained as the ride completes. I sit here, hoping that the telephone doesn’t ring and send him one direction or another. He mentions that a particular friend is coming to visit later, and I sigh silently in relief — that one is a good listener, and may be able to bring him back to normal.

The bill Adam hands me is enough to cover the fare, and he walks off while I’m getting change. Throwing the car in park, I grab his food (which he forgot), along with the change from both the meal and the fare, and catch up to him. He takes the food, and looks at the money, then walks in the house. Okay — even when Having A Bad Day, he still in generous with the tip. I stuff the money from the food bill into his mail box (it’s an old-style through-the-door one) and head back to provide lunch for the crew.

Then discover, while getting out of the car, that I had given my sandwich — the one I’d been dreaming about for days — to Adam!

Shrugging my shoulders, I resign myself to enjoying my drink and his lunch. And it isn’t so Bad after all.

driver only carries five dollars change and random other junk
Are you MacGyver??!?