KW Homestead

Pasture Raised Poultry from Our Family to Yours

Tag: rituals and memories (page 1 of 2)

goodbye, sweet bridey: the best friend anyone could hope for

bridey the dog

dear, sweet bridey!

what can i begin to say about bridey, the most wonderful dog? i guess i can begin by saying that on september 7, she stopped living. it’s been hard to process because jason and i had to launch ourselves into wedding preparation, and at first i felt like i didn’t get enough time to properly mourn her death. then, the more i thought about it, the more i realized that she would have wanted it that way. given a choice, and knowing her, she would have rather the world continue on around her, just as she always preferred. let me explain further…

ever since i “inherited” her from my friend and roommate who moved to mexico, she and i have always had a quiet, “no need to discuss it” relationship. she never really liked a lot of attention, and when i had friends over she would visit with them for a minute and then promptly dismiss herself and go find her solitary corner to lay in. she never really followed me around the house like bolt does; she always did her own thing and enjoyed her alone time. “strange for a dog,” i always thought. she always seemed so solitary and certainly didn’t like people hugging her or getting too close to her face.

we had an understanding, she and i… we were best friends, but we didn’t need to constantly hang out or be on top of each other (as some dogs like to do). she never slept in the bedroom with me, always preferring to stay on her bed by the front of the house and guard the door. she would bark when she heard strange noises and walk around the house all stiff-legged, just ready for the bad guys to come in. they never did, of course, and i’m sure that’s due largely in part to her bravery and commitment to protecting her house and her friend.

she didn’t care much for other dogs, and just like she was with people, she would visit with them for a little bit and then walk away for some alone time. she and i were partners, best friends, companions. she was always there, no matter what and during my entire adult life, beginning when i was 18, she lived with me and watched over me.

she died on a saturday, about 3 weeks before jason and i got married, almost as though she knew she didn’t need to stick around to take care of me anymore. she was 15 years old, and she had a good long life for a dog. right up until the last few weeks she continued to have fun. her hearing was mostly gone, and jason and i spent many an afternoon laughing at the funny antics that an old, deaf dog can get into. she had certainly gone a little bit senile (who can blame her, living with me for almost a decade?), and would forget that she was walking sometimes and just stop and stand. she had also started to become restless in her old age, and would walk around and get her feet tangled up in her leash. up until the end, her eye sight was alright and that was our best communication with her, that and petting her.

i’m also grateful to her because she taught bolt a little bit about how to be a good dog. she had to put up with a lot from him, and even though i know she secretly enjoyed it, it was still tiresome.

when i walk around our land, i can see her everywhere: in the briar patch where she got lost one morning in the predawn and i had to crawl in and rescue her; on bridey’s run which is named after her because once she started going downhill on that trail her legs would take over and she wouldn’t be able to slow down or stop until she fell over; by her grave, which is at the end of bridey’s run covered in hay and waiting for the clover to grow next spring.

she was such a good friend to me and my family and i will never forget her. i know that her patience, calm demeanor, and laid back and fun-loving attitude will never be matched in another dog that we may have. she was unique and kind and understanding.

the day we decided to put her to sleep was a hard one. we knew that it was coming, because for months she had been wearing diapers (she could no longer control her bathroom urges) and weeks before she had started walking around in the kitchen when we were at work and getting horribly stuck in furniture and spending all day stuck. even after we confined her to the kitchen, and tried to move furniture around, she would find a way to get stuck under the dining room table or even under a regular chair.

we knew she was near the end when she stopped wanting to eat bread, her favorite food of all time (once, she stole freshly baked bread from the counter and hid pieces of it in the sofa and under my pillow for later). she stopped eating everything, couldn’t stand up or support herself if we stood her up, and couldn’t get her mouth to work to drink water. we didn’t want her to dehydrate or starve as her last experience on earth, so we decided to put her to sleep.

i was able to talk to her before the end, thank her for all that she was and that she had done for me, and tell her how much i loved her. i was able to lay with her and pet her and just love her and be with her.

afterwards, i was able to carry her body in my arms down to the grave and lay her in with her favorite rug, some flowers, some bread, a chew toy, and her favorite stuffed animal from years ago. we also sent her with some chicken feathers, since she used to love to chase chickens.


bridey is laid to rest.

jason and i dug the hole and we covered her up together. her grave is right at the end of bridey’s run, and will forever be visible to anyone walking the path to our pond. she will always be here with us, on our land.

bridey was an amazing friend and companion for so long, and we will miss her.

we will miss her, and although we’ve said goodbye, we’ve not said goodbye forever.


wedding symbols continue…

as jason and i were walking around in the yard yesterday and looking at things, i noticed that a little special something was still out in the yard. we cleaned up what we thought was everything from the wedding on sunday, but i discovered a symbolic element that was left behind, becoming more meaningful since it was the last wedding remnant left.

the sun sets over our surprise...

the sun sets over our surprise…

our champagne glasses, given to us as a pair by my mother and filled with champagne by jason’s mother, were still sitting on a hidden wooden log together right beside where we took our after-wedding pictures. those are the glasses that we raised as jason’s mom toasted to our new, exciting life together, and although we drank some of the champagne for the toast, i suppose we were forced to set the glasses down while taking pictures. there they sat for three nights and three days, until we stumbled upon them again.

sounds like a scene from a fairy tale, doesn’t it? a fairy tale that ends with a magically blessed life made even sweeter by two untouched chalices, that withstood a trinity of days and nights and remained unbroken, still holding the memory of that very special toast!

what a perfect pair... solidarity!

what a perfect pair… solidarity!


our (ochre) wedding on the homestead was a success!

we’re back!

finally our posting will return to our normal 5-posts-a-week-schedule  since we’ve gotten married!

two days ago we got hitched in the backyard, and there will certainly be more information coming soon about just how we pulled it off!

thanks so much to the  many who pitched in and helped us out on our big day (which was everyone who came!!!). we appreciate all of the well wishes  and we are overwhelmed with gratitude and joy.

it was a great, emotional day, and now our married life begins!

a lotta bit of happy and a lotta bit of sad: our first chick

on monday, may 26th, our first baby chicken was born here at the homestead. our first baby anything, for that matter, and it was all very exciting.

the dedicated hens sat on their eggs for 21 days (the incubation period for chickens) and even though we started with 12 eggs, only 1 baby was born. this is because not all of the eggs were fertilized and some of the eggs were busted over time as the many broody hens switched from nest to nest. next time, to prevent this egg-breaking issue, we plan to give the broody hens a better, more private space to sit. i was super excited about the baby being born because 2 fertilized eggs were accidentally crushed only a few days before their hatch date. while it was very interesting to get to examine the nearly born babies, it was also a little sad to know that they came so close to emerging into the world but just never got to. i conducted funerals for both.

so when the first chick was born, i just had to give her a name. i knew there was a chance that she wouldn’t make it (as is the case with all animal infants), but i just couldn’t help it. i named her primera, since “primero” in spanish means “first.”

another really exciting thing about primera, besides the fact that she was here (!!!), was that she was a cross between rex (our black and white speckled barred rock rooster) and one of the tan/golden buff orpington hens. this means that she was a kooky and amazing color blend! her belly was golden fading to bronze, fading to silver, fading to gray. her back was mostly dark gray but she had a golden “crown” of feathers on her head. i was lucky enough to  hold her during her first two days and she was beautiful and lively.


interestingly, the mothers (yes, two!) that sat on her while she hatched and claimed motherhood, were two black bantam hens. bantams can be better mothers than standards and our bantams are older and a little more mature than our standards. i felt like it was lucky that she had a more experienced mother, and two of them… even better!

on wednesday, may 28th, her third day of life, her mothers took her out of the nest box and into the outside world (as is the norm for all chicks’ coming-out-parties). i have no way of knowing what her time was like in the outside world or how long she was outside (jason and i were both at work).

when i came home and went to feed the chickens that day, i found that she had died. maybe i’m too emotional (i really don’t think so) but it was horrible to see such a new little life no longer alive. her body was laying a few feet from the chicken house and all of the other chickens were going about their daily business. my guess is that her two bantam mothers brought her out in the world and the other chickens (the standards and maybe even some of the bantams) thought she was an intruder and attacked her. and what can two smaller mothers do against a bunch of bigger chickens? nothing really. afterwards, i read up on what could have happened, and i found that this behavior is not uncommon but also not expected. i can perhaps credit it to having the two flocks living together, creating an atmosphere of competition (?). i also think it was harder since there was only one of her, and she was not part of a group.

i was really mad at all of the chickens for a day or two, until i remembered that i can’t humanize them. they are animals. they are important animals–special things–but they are not human and therefore cannot be blamed for “blindly” following instinct. they are not truly guilty, just as i am not guilty for having failed to protect her.

it has been a learning experience, though, and this had taught me what to do differently next time we hatch chicks. for example, i am definitely going to fully separate the new mothers and their babies from the rest of the flock until the babies are at least a few weeks old and less likely to be assaulted. i am also learning something that  i really already knew… that when you raise animals, some of them die. sometimes they die because of health reasons, sometimes they die because of circumstance or lack of understanding on your part. i do know now, that as long as we are trying our best to be good stewards of the animal families that we raise, it is okay. it is the cycle of life, after all.

some things die and some things live, and how can i presume to know the reasons why the universe moves the way it does?

primera’s funeral was conducted “peruvian-style” with jason’s help, and we buried her under a crab apple in the front yard. i thanked her for coming to stay with us for a while and i will not forget her and what she meant to us… that life is possible.

life is always possible.


we will be taking a break from hatching chicks for a few weeks, and then after that time, once we are better prepared and if some hens are still broody, we will try again.



a day in the homestead life: her day

i just realized that i haven’t yet written a post detailing a typical day in our life from my perspective. so, i’ve decided to do just that! this is certainly a typical spring day, with longer daylight hours and better weather for planting and outdoor chores.

so, here is my typical day in our homestead life:

5:40 am

  • roll out of bed and put on my coveralls. i take the dogs out to pee and open the chicken house and feed the chickens their first of two daily meals. also, since we’ve gotten the geese, i’ve been letting them out of their nighttime enclosure and into their larger pen. they immediately head for the kiddie pool and start drinking and splashing about.
  • luckily, during this time of year the sun is already on the rise (still not sunrise, though) so all of my morning chores are easier and more fun to complete!
  • i load up the car, complete with the chicken bucket that i use to collect my students’ lunch leftovers for feeding to the chickens, my lunch, and my breakfast (which i eat during the 1 hour commute to work).

6:15-7:15 am

  • this is my drive-to-work time, which usually consists of listening to the radio and munching on my breakfast, i would rather be recording podcasts or writing songs, but i still have to get organized for doing things like that.
  • luckily it is easy to enjoy the car ride to work because i slowly get my brain geared up for working with kids and i get to enjoy the lovely country views (which in spring are filled with lots of horses, donkeys, goats, chickens, and flowers!).

3:00 pm

  • i get off of work and begin the drive home, sometimes later than 3:00.

4:00 pm

  • once i get home i let both dogs out, and often have to clean up after bridey who has probably peed inside, pooped inside, or both. i unload the car and start on the everyday afternoon farm/outside chores.

these everyday chores are:

  • dump and refill the “goose pond,” which is their beloved kiddie pool, and their water. i also feed the geese their afternoon grain.
  • feed the chickens the leftover scraps from my students’ lunch and their afternoon grain, refill their water, and collect eggs. collecting eggs can either be simple or not, depending on the mood of rex, our standard rooster, and whether or not he feels territorial and pushy. the hens also sometimes lay eggs under the house (perhaps they’ve wised up and realized that i take their eggs that end up in the nest boxes) and so i have to fish/roll those out with a metal hook.
  • feed the dogs their afternoon/evening meal and feed the cat.
  • wash the eggs, dry them, and put them in the fridge for storage. lately i’ve been washing goose eggs too, which are so amazing!
bolt, hanging out with me during afternoon chore time!

bolt, hanging out with me during afternoon chore time!

5:00 pm

sometimes my daily afternoon chores are completed by 5:00, sometimes not. once they are complete, i move on to other farm chores which don’t necessarily need to happen every day. these other tasks are often a little more creative and less routine. some of these, which i happened to do yesterday and today, are:

  • water our new seedlings that are growing in trays
  • water the flowers i’ve planted in pots, and the new mums that jason brought home from work the other day!
  • stake cages around our newly planted fruit trees and bushes
  • water our fruit trees/bushes
  • tie white tagging tape around the tops of each cage so we can see where not to step (the cages are really hard to see since the metal is so thin and dark)
  • jason and i moved the goose pen yesterday–our plan is to move them to fresh pasture every 2 days
  • i also finally figured out how to plug the holes (where the spill drain used to be) at the top of my 2 cast iron/enamel tubs for soaking my mushroom logs. i used circular cuttings from an old mahogany door and layers of a thin, deflated, old tire. i placed the tire materials over the hole and hammered the wooden plugs into the hole. this pushed both rubber and wood partially into the hole, filling in all gaps and making a nearly-watertight barrier.
  • after determining that my plugs worked yesterday, today i went about soaking 1/4 of my logs, 7 in each tub (batch 1–the batch labeled with orange marking tape). they will soak overnight and i’ll lean them back up against the corn crib tomorrow!
two bathtubs filled with soaking mushroom logs!

two bathtubs filled with soaking mushroom logs!


today's batch for soaking was the "orange batch." labeled with flagging tape so i can keep straight the info about when logs  was soaked

today’s batch for soaking was the “orange batch,” labeled with flagging tape so i can keep straight the info about when logs were soaked.

my rigged plug--working well!

my rigged plug–working well!

in addition to these chores, jason spent yesterday digging his hand-dug pond out even more, planting more fruit bushes, watering plants and the seeded garden beds, and beginning to build our newest bed: a raised hugelkulture bed downhill from our others.

8:30 pm

  • sometime around dark we head inside, eat dinner, and try to rest a little.

bedtime and pre-bedtime (anywhere from 10:00 pm to 12:00 am)

  • one of us always writes a post in the evenings (monday–friday)
  • we take the dogs back out to pee
  • lock up the chicken house
  • close the geese into their smaller, fenced enclosure

and that is a general idea of what we do in this spring season to keep the homestead running and fruitful. some days we do more outdoor, farm-related chores, and other days we do less. it just depends, really, on our mood and the homestead necessities!


low budget, homemade save-the-dates for our (ochre) wedding

last week we designed and completed our save the dates for our wedding. we really wanted the design to be simple and we decided that making/printing them ourselves would be cheaper and more fun!

i bought a multi-colored pack of card stock, which included 50 sheets of each color: yellow, cream, green, blue, and gray, and i also bought small, cream-colored envelopes designed to fit 1/4 of a regular sheet of paper.

i designed the save-the-dates so that 4 of them would fit on each page, landscape style. this allowed them to fit perfectly in the envelopes and also meant that we only had to print 15 pages (since we only needed about 60 or so save-the-dates). we chose the blue card stock for our save-the-dates and will likely use the other 4 colors in some form when we design the official invitations in the next few months.

the overall design for the save-the-dates is not very complicated. the card is one-sided and on the left we chose a simple clip art image of a black and white farm (house, field, and silo). on the right half of the page we included the special event, our names, and the general location (our city).

even though the design and printing did not take very long, there were other details that did take some time: when i bought the card stock and envelopes i also bought a do-it-yourself stamp kit and decided that the old-fashioned look of the stamp would be a nice addition to the cards!

it took forever to properly place the letters in the stamp for each of the 3 designs i wanted to use, but in the end i loved how the cards and envelopes looked!


the back of our save-the-date cards, stamped and ready to be mailed!

i used the stamp for:

  • our return address on the front of the envelope
  • the words kuska wiñasun homestead on the back of the save-the-dates cards
  • a design i put over the flap of the envelop once it was sealed, that included our initials (with a little house symbol in between) and our wedding date (see the picture above)!

i also added a little bit of color to the black-and-white image of the farm, using a silver sharpie for some shine!

and that was it, really!

i’ve also made a spreadsheet which includes all households and has columns for the number of people invited for each household, if their save-the-date has been mailed, if their official invitation has been mailed, how many people are confirmed as coming, etc. although i won’t be looking at most of the columns in this spreadsheet until months from now, making it was very helpful in making sure that i didn’t skip anyone or address two envelopes to the same household! it makes me feel very on top of the whole thing–which is key for weddings, as i understand it!

almost 6 months until the wedding, now! wow!



wedding on the homestead: doing it our (ochre) way

we are getting married!

well, not yet. not until september 27!

and yet, of course, it is time to start brainstorming and setting some wedding plans in motion. plans, plans, plans!

first of all, i would like to say as the future bride/legal life partner that this is an exciting time! we might not be celebrating our wedding in the classic way, but we are celebrating it with style (our own!) and love!


it’s us: jason and emma!

as jason and i discussed what we wanted the ceremony/big-fun-time-party to be like, we quickly realized that we wanted to give as much or more as we were getting. now considering that we aren’t wealthy folks, we can’t give expensive things or pay for the hotel rooms of our loved ones. but, we can give of ourselves in as comprehensive a way as possible! we realized that we want our loved ones to know that we are grateful that they have chosen to share our big event and our lives with us, and we can do that by sharing with them our way of life, with many of our philosophies embedded within.

here are a few things that we are doing our ochre way style:

  • wedding location: it will be here, on our homestead. we will be celebrating in our backyard and we’ll have the barn, paths through the woods, and the pond for people to explore!
  • family roles throughout the ceremony: we plan to include family members in the ceremony, either as speakers or as “officiants” of some sort–we’re not exactly sure in what manner but we know it will include our moms and dads in more meaningful ways than in a traditional wedding.
  • decorations: the wedding is going to be informal but with certain style elements! i’ve got a wide color scheme–basically all fall leaf colors (any shade of red, yellow-orange, green, and brown) and we plan on asking all family and friends to wear some fall colors so that we can be a sea of fall leaves together. everyone is really part of this wedding and i want everyone to be constantly aware of our shared identities and family community! my entourage (a joke–since i am not calling them my “bridesmaids”) will each wear one of the fall colors (in whatever shade or style they decide!). decorations will be things like wooden vases, wild flowers, etc.

us visiting arches national park (we’re the two goofy looking ones in the front!)

  • an extended timeline: most of jason’s family live outside the state and we definitely want to enjoy them as much as we can while they are visiting. partially for this reason, and partially because i have always found weddings to be way to whirlwindishly short when they start in the evening, we’ve chosen to begin our wedding celebrations in the early afternoon. this way, jason and i will have hours of time to spend time with loved ones, building our excitement together as one big extended family, and doing what all families do best: eating, drinking, and dancing.
  • the food: we decided that outsourcing the food production and the meal wasn’t going to work for us. so, we’ve decided to prepare most of the meal ourselves with some help from close family members. we’ve included favorite family recipes, delicious homegrown crops, and even a version of an earth oven for baking meat and vegetables that i learned how to make and use in peru, where jason and i met.
  • the music: it will be dance, dance, dance music! dancing is one of my favorite things on the planet and i’m sure almost all of our family and friends will shake some booty with us. and i’m really excited about the songs we’ll be playing and how we will build our playlist… my next step in wedding planning is to email everybody (and their momma) and ask them to send me a list of some of their favorite songs. i can’t wait to see everyone jump up for their chosen songs during the night!
  • party favors: i can’t say what they will be (i don’t want to give the secret away just yet), but i can say that they will be homegrown and homemade items!

i intended for this to be a short list of our plans for our lifelong partnership ceremony/wedding, but as you can see, i got carried away! i will leave you with this and move on to printing our save-the-date cards we just finished designing last night (another thing we wanted to make/do ourselves!). 7 months to go…


natural childbirth and birth centers: the beginning

i’m still shocked and awed by my recent experience at natural beginnings birth and wellness center.

my close friend delivered her first child, a daughter, early yesterday morning, february 20th. i’ve spent the past few months talking with my friend about all sorts of birthing expectations and pregnancy experiences. so much of this whole experience has opened my eyes, and while i considered myself to be moderately well-informed about natural birth (if one really can be without witnessing one or giving birth oneself) all the reading and learning and listening can’t prepare for the amazing experience that is natural childbirth.

the past two days have been bizarre for me… i sometimes forget what i have seen and “come to” thinking about the depth of the experience and how it is so truly unlike most other experiences routinely seen in the modern world.

one part science experiment, one part adventure, and one part god, natural birth is truly remarkable. i won’t speak in too much detail today… i first need to talk with my friend and ask her how much she is comfortable with me mentioning, but i will give the highlights.

birth center logo

a great birth center in statesville, nc!

first of all, i was excited to see the birth center where her daughter was born, since this birth center in statesville, nc is only 1 of 2 in the state and we are possibly interested in birthing our child at this same location in the future. i found the staff to be amazing… calm, collected, relaxed, and knowledgeable. also, they were willing to talk and answer all of my placental and other questions!

my friend had her child via water birth, as did another one of my close friends. she relayed her enthusiasm over being able to labor in the water throughout the experience, and it was apparent that being in the water was soothing and easier on her body. she was able to move around whenever she wanted and she was the first one to touch her newborn girl, plucking her out of the water with joy and awe on her face and exclaiming “our baby!”

witnessing a natural birth is truly difficult to explain. one thing that i can say about it, is that it is inspiring! in the past few days i have felt empowered in new, different ways… thinking: if my friend can so gracefully and beautifully birth a spiritual human entity into the world, what do i have to worry about or complain about? i have never seen anyone work so hard in my life, without complaint.

this experience has caused me to realize that strength is so much more innate and animal than we realize. that our animal selves know what to do, and how to do it. to immediately decide that a drugged and numb labor and birth is the ideal is fallacy. not only does an unquestioned leap into a hospital bed deprive a woman of an amazing animal experience, but it also deprives her of an amazing spiritual one, too.

i will have much more to say about my experience of the birth soon, but for now i can only say how much my friend inspires and awes me. if only one day i can be as heroic and as humble as she is, then i will truly know the beginnings of motherhood.


children’s homestead books: it’s never too early or too late to start collecting

jason and i are still a few years off from having children but we started collecting children’s books 2 years ago when we worked, for a short time, organizing thousands of books for an old book store.

both of us have always loved books, and i especially have always cherished children’s books. when he and i combined our libraries, we ended up with a double serving of every harry potter book and various other folk tales, fairy tales, myths, and legends for children.

courtesy of abee5

after viewing many kid’s books at the old book store, we realized that a lot of them were in alignment with the life lessons and science/nature topics that we really hoped our child would have in their children’s books. so, we decided to buy a lot of them for our future child(ren)!

among the ones that drew our eye the most were those that were set on a farm, homestead, or in and among nature. some of the titles that i was most excited to see and read were:

  • henrietta and the hat, written by mabel watts and illustrated by joan miller–in this tale, henrietta the horse desires a farmer’s hat. but, once the farmer is done with it, he uses it for other things and does not give it to her. over time, the hat gets worn out, all the while becoming more and more perfect for henrietta. in the end, perhaps she gets the hat after all…
  • the great race, written and illustrated by paul goble–based on cheyenne and sioux mythologies, this beautifully illustrated tale tells how humans gained control over the mighty buffalo, with the help of a certain magpie ally.
  • stopping by woods on a snowy evening,written by robert frost and illustrated by susan jeffers–this beautifully illustrated version of robert frost’s classic poem is illustrated in simple, black-and-white with splashes of color throughout. a treat!

although we chose many fiction books (oh, how i love fiction–especially fantasy and/or magical realism), i noticed that we trended toward choosing books that were based around the animal world (as many kid’s books are) where the main characters prove to be very brave and/or kind and unfailing loving.

the non-fiction that we chose were very science and fact based, usually also about animals or nature. some of my favorites of these are:

  • bats, written by celia brand–this book is one of many of the eyes on nature series, which features many species of animals and includes dozens and dozens of fantastic bat close-up photos and interesting facts.
  • desert discoveries, written by ginger wadsworth and illustrated by john carrozza–this book hosts beautiful drawings of desert animals with accompanying factoids. kids are also asked to find certain animals in a picture, and the book thus becomes a where’s waldo? of the desert!
  • water dance, written and illustrated by thomas locker–this peaceful text talks about the water cycle in a rare, poetic form. this book certainly inspires awe in me.

also, we selected some books from the early 1900s which amazed us! one of these is called trees every child should know by julia e. rogers (copyright 1909) and it is a full length, 250+ page guide to identifying trees native to the united states. i was immediately excited about the potential for this book to educate me about trees just as much as my children. and, what a concept that needs renewing… the fact that there are trees that every kid should know!

i’ve realized through the process of creating a children’s library in our home, how selective i actually am about the kinds of books that my children will read–at least at first. of course our library will grow once these children actually exist, and the shelves will undoubtedly be lined with ballerina and/or zombie tales, but for their early years i would like them to start off by connecting to reading in a different way. i want their reading to be linked with learning, awe, and the true nature of the world–that’s why i am drawn to books about nature, science, “magic,” and relationships.

the way i see it, there will be plenty of time for them to identify other exciting themes and topics that they want to read about (and i by no means plan to limit their interests in any way), but in the beginning of their understanding of reading, i want to be able to read them books into which i can graft my own awe and joy, so that my excitement about nature, animals, loving, and living will be palpable for them.

later, when they can read the words themselves, i fully expect to see them reading some books that i would not have been caught dead opening in my own childhood (really? the power rangers?).

it would seem that the books we’ve chosen supplement very well what we have chosen to do here on our homestead: work towards self-reliance, build relationships that last with each other and our land and animals, value nature and all that comes with that, and find awe and joy in the little (but very big!) things in life.

this is my sense of peace and happiness and i hope to instill that in my children, in a small part through the books that they hear me read to them as babies and as little, young, monkey kids.


old lady dog: a friend, a mess

today i came home from work to an interesting scene, one not very unlike other scenes jason and i have both experienced…

let me preface by saying that our sweet, older dog, bridey, is getting a little loopy as she gets older. she just turned 15 and i’ve had her since she was 7. so, needless to say, she’s been one of my very best pals over the years. she’s always been there for me, silently supporting me and/or speedily running from the vacuum (in her youth, anyway. now she loves the vacuum).

bridey, napping with bolt in july 2013

bridey, napping with bolt in july 2013

in the last 6 months jason and i have noticed a change in her. she has lost most of her hearing (this decline into deafness actually started about a year and a half ago) and her eyesight isn’t the greatest anymore. sometimes she misses the doorway and veers a bit towards the door-frame. concerning, but also comical.

i’ve discovered, actually, that most of what an old dog does is both concerning and comical. perhaps we find humor in the changes because there is nothing else we can do. we know that her time with us will end, but we hope it will end later rather than sooner. and we also want to be sure that she continues to have a good time in her last years.

perhaps bringing the ridiculous and pushy puppy, bolt, home wasn’t her favorite thing, but i think that having his youth and spunk around has made her feel a little younger herself. she seems to be annoyed by him most of the time, but when we separate them for her sake, she looks over the gate at bolt longingly (one of our jokes is that she’s simply forgotten that bolt is as annoying as he actually is).

her memory has also gone, for sure. she remembers us, but sometimes thinks it makes sense to bite at us or walk in circles. sometimes she goes the opposite way when she knows it’s time for a walk… perhaps she knows of a secret back door that jason and i are neglecting.

her new favorite bizarre activity is to bite the edge of the water bowl when the water has run out (and it does often because she trips over it and knocks it over a few times a week so we keep less water in it and refill more often). and when i say bite, i mean bite. you can hear her old lady teeth banging up against that thing from a mile away!

in addition to her failing memory and auditory and visual senses, she has also lost some control over her bowels and bladder, as can be expected. we tried a lot of different approaches to dealing with this since when we are gone for the day she gets too confused and forgets that she’s pooped on her bed and lays in it or steps in it and tracks it everywhere. we tried crating her (which we never did before because in her youth she would rather explode than use the bathroom in the house) and that only worked to a certain degree. it caused her to think that she should try to hold it longer, but if she had to go she would always end up laying in it. ahh!

we tried keeping her in the hallway while bolt was in the kitchen but the hallway is carpeted and a few times she somehow pooped in her own water dish. seriously. i had never seen anything like that before. our theory is that she got turned around and “stuck” in a corner and then let it fly.

the latest method has been the best; we’ve kept her in the kitchen with bolt. we decided that he’s old enough to leave her alone for most of the day and if she uses the bathroom the vinyl can certainly handle it. the last few months she’s been doing much better, and we’ve barely had any accidents.

and then today happened…

i came home to find pee drops and smears (where she had laid on the ground after laying in pee) all over the kitchen, poop on 2 of the rugs with other little bits of poop strewn all over the room.

the worst part, though, was this: bolt’s bed (which is made out of a synthetic material) had become a cauldron of poop soup. the middle of the bed was water tight enough to hold a lot of pee and within the pee i found some poop that had dissolved. so, poop soup.

poop soup.

the cleanup was unappealing, as you can imagine, but i have long since gotten used to strange concoctions that bridey accidentally prepares for us while we are at work. the thing that i was most grateful for was that neither dog had anything on them–i have no idea why–so neither needed a bath to rid us of dog-doused-in-poop-soup.

this story illustrates, once again, how bridey is aging and getting a little loopy. and while i used to complain and get downright angry about these kinds of things, in recent months i simply just feel lucky to know her. lucky to know her after all these years.

she’s been my best friend for a long time, and always held up her end of the bargain–loving me and looking out for “bad guys” as best she can. i hope she continues to have fun on the farm and share with us her old lady dog “scents of humor.”

i’ve done a little emotional preparation for the time when she’ll leave us, and dr. pitcairn’s complete guide to natural health for dogs and cats has an excellent chapter about loss and letting go of pets when the time is right.

but for now, bridey continues to make our days better, albeit somewhat messier. but, isn’t that all that life is anyway? different sorts of messes and learning to love and appreciate through them all? bridey is one hell of a mess, but also one hell of a friend.

and i am grateful everyday to see her face.


–to bridey, my first life partner

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