Friday, December 28, 2007

A Soldier For Christmas

This year has been the most magickal of Christmases in the times that I can remember. None of us put a big emphasis on gifts- and what we did give or receive were either hand made or from the heart. Nothing compares to the experiences we had as a family and the blending of all our extended families this year. And the Smokies are such a magickal place anyway.

This story is about what happened the Sunday before Christmas, after we left the Snyder family get together in Franklin, NC.

As we were driving back on Hwy. 441, towards Cherokee, NC, the full moon of December was just clearing the mountains. It was not quite dark yet, so the sky was a purple color, just beyond lavender. As we pulled into Cherokee, the moon had become iridescent against the deepening midnight blue. Mars shown clearly in its' place conjunct the moon.

Cherokee at Christmas time is probably one of the most magical and spiritual places on earth- the only traffic is local, the lights around the old part of downtown Cherokee twinkle in a timeless silence as the Oconaluftee river flows steadily through the town. This is a memory of Christmas past for me.

As we started up the mountain, the kids were asleep in the back seat, and hubby and I chatted absently. There is a place on the road on the NC side where you can see the lights of Cherokee in the distance, somehow breathtaking and reassuring at the same time. And as we reached the top of Newfound Gap, traffic picked up a bit from folks taking time for the moment as we were.

Suddenly, a gust of wind shook the van. Since we had had a big blow the night before over on our side of the mountain, I tend to pay attention when the wind speaks. And as we drove past the peak, I soon knew why.

Cars were slowing down and passing something on the road. I though that it had to be a bear or something, but I was surprised to see a man running along with a head lamp on his head and thumb held out, wearing camouflage clothing. And cars continued to pass by as we stopped to offer help. as it turned out, he was doing some 'extreme personal best' hiking and camping with a buddy and his buddy had hurt his leg up on the Clingman's dome road. This fellow had told his friend to get to the gate at Clingman's and he would get down to Sugarlands to pick up the car and come back up for his friend.

So, we made a place for him in our stuffed vehicle and started back down the road. As we talked to him, he told us he was an Air Force soldier stationed out of Ft. Campbell waiting to be deployed and he and his buddy were on the mountain for Christmas before being shipped out after the holidays. The kids all connected with him since they were closest to him in age and they talked about movies and popular cultural icons thay all had in common. I told him about my cousin Jonathan who did tours overseas and had been stationed out of Ft. Stuart, so he and I connected there as well.

Too soon we arrived at Sugarlands and in those 20 minutes, all of us in the van received a gift greater that any worldly item could ever be. In 20 minutes, we all found a heart connection with someone we did not know and helped them to help someone else. In 20 minutes, I felt what it was like to have a son who was being sent overseas to a conflict from which he might not return and connected with all the mothers who have had to face that situation. And at the end of those 20 minutes, we still did not know his name of where he was from, but it doesn't matter.

As we left him in the parking lot, he tried to give hubby some gas money, which he refused- he did give the young soldier his business card and I told the soldier to send us post cards from where he goes. Then we left Sugarlands and the dance was over.

I feel sad that we live in a world where a soldier in need keeps getting passed by vehicles because of the fear we now have of each other. I feel honored to have been given the greatest gift I have ever received, and to have had the time, even though it was only 20 minutes, to share our family stories with someone who was not home for Christmas.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Catching up.....

'Tractor Girl' meets 'Tank Girl' at Dragon*Con 2007- Lori Petty was a guest there this year....

Mr. Butters found himself a home- a much valued and loved home- with a nice lady dog about his same size and temperment. They are very happy together and I wish his new mommy and daddy much love and happiness!

I've got lot's to write about since I last spoke- Dory and I have had lots of adventures this past summer and fall, some together and some apart, but all tons of fun. We shared the week at the Swannanoa School for Culinary Arts, and the whole family went to Dragon*Con-we all have our tickets for next year in hand. And we went to Silver Hammer as a family and had a really good time. So much more to talk about.....

It's a busy week coming up- I've got CPA stuff to do and a trip to NC to pick up our all natural beef from the farm there- plus a bunch of goat stories.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


This is Butters.

Butters is a wonderful little one year old red Min-Pin. He is neutered and up to date on all his shots and worming. He crates, rides and leads easily, plus he is housbroken. As with any small dog, you must pay attention to his potty signals. He is good with kids and plays well with other dogs and cats.
Butters needs to find a new home because he likes chickens way too much, and we cannot have a dog here that kills our egg layers.
We need to get a small adoption fee for him, since we've done all his neutering, etc. and he can come back here always, in case he does not work out. Please write to me if you would like to apply as his forever home.
Thank you-

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Secret

The secret is that there are no secrets.

The Four Seasons

Grease, Sugar, Salt and Starch-

In the south, we are brought up with the use of lard or Crisco and white flour. The old Crisco commercial showed it all coming back after frying except for one tablespoon, which is deceptive because chicken also adds its' own fats to the blend, so you are not getting the real picture. These days, milk fat, or butter fat, is what we watch and consume. Lot's of calcium that way.

What I really focus on is salt and sugar. Not so much starch beacuse we just don't use it around the house- bread is a hearty blend of whole grains and sprouted things, so you have a good nutritious loaf, but we just don't eat a lot of it, prefering to get fiber elsewhere.

OTOH, sugar is a demon. Being a 50's baby, the baby formulas of the day contained an ingredient called 'dextri-maltos'. Today that is 'malto-dextrin.' Both are fancy name for SUGAR! This is nothing our parents had any knowledge of- in reality, it was all to sell products and increase big corporate powers. What we see now is the result, and it does seem the pendulum is swinging back the other way- many fast food places are seeing the light for healthier foods.

Since the boomers of the 50's are aging, we are seeing massive diabetes in our US population- as working mothers went back to work there in the 50's and 60's, babies were put on packaged foods with added salt and sugar. This has become a recipie for disaster in the new millenium.

It takes about 2-3 weeks to clear ones pallet of salt so the taste of food changes and actually becomes more sensitive. It takes far longer to clear ones pallet of sugar, if it ever really becomes clear- a candida (yeast) infection tends to accompany a sugar addiction, and many sources of dis-ease go along with that- Epstein Barr, fibromyalgia, etc.

It gets to the point that a person must be ever vigilant of what they buy in the store- or grow their own garden. IMHO, store food is dead food, so growing a garden or buying locally grown vegetables are the only way to nourish your body.

If you look at the labels on packaged foods, you will see very high sodium in soups- 38% or more! To me, 1% is high. Soft drinks are another bugaboo- even though they have between 1%-3% sodium, the phosphoric acid in them can melt meat if left there- and we puit this in our bodies! Phosphoric acid causes arthritis-like symptoms as well as gout-like symptoms in the ankles so badly that walking is impossible. I won't even go there with aspartame- which is linked to MS symptoms and brain damage.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Living with Spina Bifida

When I was little, mom tells me that she would see me limping and call my attention to it- of course, I would tell her I wasn't limping, I was doing my kid thing and had no point of reference. Later on at 16, I had what the diet Dr. termed 'bursitis' in my left hip while I was made to take those infernal amphetamines for weight loss (another story for another time- not a good one) and also placed me on Bute, a very powerful anti-inflamatory.

It wasn't until I was working for the City of Kingsport and injured my back that we x-rayed the lower spine and found Spina Bifida Occulta- a non-fused vertabrae- that actually posed no problem at the time, but as I have aged I now have some serious problems with it.

Well, actually, in looking back, the SBO did cause problems as a child- constipation, urinary tract infections, legs falling asleep, one leg shorter than the other, etc. All the usual symptoms one finds in researching SBO. I guess no one put two and two together, even with pediatric x-rays not catching it .

Right now, at age 50, with a weight problem, menopause, heart issues due to the amphetamines, spinal degeneration in the lumbar and cervical areas, and the actual vertabrae itself, each day presents a new challenge. The Dr. put me on neutrontin, which is a good nerve med, but it makes me 'stoopid'. I tend to only take it as I really need it, which is less than 2x a week.

I also learned to put my hips back in line with my spine several years ago by self manipulation- laying on my back, flexing my ankles and feet to place pressure on my spine similar to a sort of soft traction and leaning into it so the pelvis and spine would 'pop!' and the pain would go away for a day. My husband helps me get my upper back in line and I generally stay in less pain than I would have otherwise.

The big issue is that I farm like this. And I have learned my limitations. When we had a small house fire here in 2000, I was coming out of a big healing crisis and the smoke caused me to have pleurisy, so my health was set back a few years. This last summer of 2006 was the first summer that I can remember for a long time that I was not knocked down in the middle of the day so I had to sleep for several hours when the ozone and heat index go up.

The key for me has been to focus on what I can do, rather than what I cannot do.

When I was no longer able to carry a 50 lb. bag of feed over my shoulder, we had several options: my daughter helps me as she also has goats, we also purchased a cart to move bags around and even though I can still 'buck' hay into the truck and unload it from the truck, it has become very difficult for me to carry it place to place, hence the flow and construction of the new shed for hay storage. We set up 'self waterers' in all the goat areas and use big round bales of hay 75% of the time, rather than square bales. The tractor has been a God-send so that we can get a lot of tasks done quickly on our own. All in all, working smarter, not harder.

Still, there are big challenges- keeping goat numbers down is the biggest one. We have a farm worker that comes in a couple of times a week to help with up keep and such, plus construction and removal. When the new shed is up and running fully, the water line piped in so the sink works, I'll be able to milk by machine rather than bending over to milk by hand in a very tiring position.

Coming through some recent family drama has also put me ahead of my physical challenges by helping me to see who is real- and who is not. And having the understanding that it was never mine to begin with, even though as a child I had no control over it. There is one major relationship that I want to have healed more than anything else though....

Life is good. Working through my sore back and left side several times a day helps me be thankful for all that I have because so many have so much less than I do- and I am not speaking of money or wealth. One can be wealthy and have lots of friends and still have no life. I have a life that means something, not just to me, but also I've recently found out a lot of other folks think so too.

I guess I am doing something right.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Strawberry Vendor

Each Wednesday she set up her tables at the East End Farmer's Market. If she was early enough, which was her usual want, she got the best spot right under the big oak tree in the center of the market complex. She then would set up an amazing display of her berries- so many different sizes and kinds of strawberries, each with the sweet and distinct smell of red, ripe fruit, but each kind of berry with its' own distinct flavor.

Some of the berries were very large and plump, but with a tart and suprising taste, just right for eating. And some of the berries were smaller and just as plump, but with a solid center and a sweetness just right for canning so you did not have to add so much sugar to the recipie.

The vendor placed boxes of these lovely berries in tantilizing arrangements on her tables- some in boxes, some in large crates and some for a 'pick your own' mix. The children liked these- she loved the children and all the children who came to her tables were given some berries to savor and if there were any really hungry children, she would bring along some sandwiches and some beverages to make sure no one left hungry.

Because she also liked to watch and interact people, she was the first vendor to sell out of everything before noon when the market closed. She never had a deaf ear for her customers and always listened to them as they shared bits of their lives with her. Many times, all she could do was smile and give a hug for encouragement, but she also had time to speak in her still, small voice so folks leaned in to listen carefully to her words.

She remembered the man who had lost everything and gave him words to encourage him- he came back a year later to thank her and offered to lend a hand.

She remembered the child who was so vulnerable during a big upheaval in his life when his parents divorced- all she could do for this child was to hug him and say, 'I believe in you'.

The vendor remembered the woman who came to her booth, so very sure that she knew the one, true, right and only way a thing can be- and she watched the woman pick a box of berries that were very bright red, plump on the surface and of the solid kind. These were the ones that had to be used quickly or they would perish quickly and mold from the higher sugar content. Later, the vendor found that there was another box just like that one had some bad berries at the bottom and took it away.

The vendor hoped that the woman did not get bad berries and would perhaps bring the box back to her to exchange them instead of blaming her for selling bad berries- it was important to the vendor to make sure her offerings were of the finest kind, but she could not help it when people did not tell her there was a problem. In any case, this was a lesson for the woman to learn.
It was noon and the vendor used her cell phone to call a friend after she had torn down her tables and placed them in her vehicle- no berries left over today.

'Gabriel, have Michael and Raphael meet me at the archade in about an hour and half. I'm going for lunch and maybe play some games. Tell Uriel not to worry if I am a little late coming back through the Gates.'

'Certainly Sir- we'll be ready in an hour and a half. And Sir- knowing you like to play with the children, there's a group from a church camp also having lunch there and staying to play awhile.'

'Thank you Gabriel, that is my greatest joy.'
What if? Think about it......

Thursday, May 24, 2007

How to sell a goat

Since the how not to sell a goat days, I've made a few decisions, mostly based on good business practices when entering into a buyer/seller contract.

Anyone who buys animals from me now signs a general bill of sale that is short, sweet and to the point- name address and phone of both parties, ID of the animal in question and a statement of general good health of the animal(s) being purchased. A statement of no garantees, real or implied, that the animal will preform as it did at my farm is included since there are so many factors once the animal leaves my premises that I have no control over. If the person wants testing of any sort, the test results noted in the text.

This protects both parties in case of any misunderstandings, or foolishness on the part of the buyer.

There are two copies, each person signs one, and the signature of a witness is included, then each person has a copy for their own files.

That's about it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How 'not' to sell a goat....

Or more aptly, lessons learned when dealing with people who cannot be taught, no matter how you try. You goat folks know the kind- give them all the information they require and then they still will not listen to your advice, then blame you when something goes wrong.

A few years ago, I got a call from someone who had been refered to me by another person who had a few goats they had purchased from me. These Christian folks were already goat owners and were milking the does they did have. I told the lady that I had two or three milk does they may be interested in, but needed to come look to inspect the does before they chose one for purchase- this entails milking the does, looking at the feet, eyes, checking for illness, running your hands over them to get their feel, their flatness of bone and dairy character, etc.

After all, my goal is to make sure that you get the doe 'you' want, not the doe 'I' think you want.

The lady said 'oh no, we can't come look because my father is very ill, could you please pick one out for us.' I asked several pertinant questions such as how are the goats housed, how do you treat them if they are ill, and most especially, what do you feed them (they were feeding oats). I made sure to say that this doe needs to get fed this much a day so she can sustain herself and the kid, and give you some milk too. She seemed to have good answers, so I said I'll do this to help you.

So I picked out a yearling first freshener and her little wether kid. Mind you, this was a family milker doe, not a high dollar animal. We agreed to a meeting place for delivery and I went over all the information with her again, even written down- all feed numbers, etc.- to make sure she was up to speed on how I cared for my animals, so she could make sure the doe transitioned into her herd as easily as possible. All seemed fine as I left.

Two weeks later, I got a call from the father who told me that 'this doe is sick, she has cancer and it's your fault- you sold me a sick doe. She won't give any milk and her gut stinks'. (I'm getting whiff of a seriously dysfunctional family here.)

So, I asked again, what are you feeding her- are you feeding her the feed I told you I fed my does? (No, we are feeding her oats.)Are you feeding her away from the other goats? (No, everyone gets fed together. [goats chase the weakest of the herd away from feed- like little Jimmy Schwartz at school getting his head put in a toilet by bullies]) How about her hay- goats need dry, well kept hay? (The big bale is in the middle of the pen and she can go get it if she wants it.)

Essentially, these folks did not listen to one word I repeatedly had said and then blamed me for their management problems! They agreed to give it one more week and promised to do what I had said.

Forward one week- I get another call- 'This goat is sick! You sold us a sick goat!' So I make an arrangement pick the goat up while also being told 'no, no, no...' over and over again- 'it is not our problem, it is yours!' (The excrement meter pegged all the way over with this one.)

When I picked up that poor little doe, she had lost about 15 lbs.- which is very precious weight for a yearling who is nursing a kid. I took a sample of her urine in front of the lady and luckily, she was not into ketosis from being starved, at least not yet.

I also took pictures of the doe and how emaciated she was- she was a body score on maybe 1 1/2- when she left my place, she was about score of at least 2 1/2, which is not bad for a first freshener just settling in to a lactation and nursing a kid. The doe had no mammary tissue so she could not even make milk for her kid! I fed her as much hay as she wanted- which was a lot, she ate for several hours- and the next day when my vet got here for the annual visit, he checked the doe out and pronounced her healthy, but very underweight.

I never heard from those folks again, who were certainly not the Christian people they presented themselves to be, and I still hear their voices raised in abject denial that they were indeed responsible for the condition of that doe by not listening to nor following my detailed written instructions, and by refusing to hear any portion of the goat management wisdom being given to them. "It's not our fault, it's YOUR fault!'

The doe was re-homed about 6 weeks later when she had gained back the weight and was able to feed her kid. Margarita Rosita went to a wonderful Dr. that worked for 'Dr's Without borders', who was also a pastor. I hope she has a happy and productive life with her new family.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Come To The Table: Food, Faith and Farms

This past weekend, I went to Asheville, NC and attended a conference sponsored by theNC Council Of Churches having to do with discussing the connection between food, faith and farms.

Rev. Brian Cole from All Souls Cathedral in Asheville, NC spoke first and discussed how we as Christians can affect our churches understanding the role of the good steward plays in a ministry that serves the hungry and displaced can benefit our communities. He reminded us that in Exodus 16, the Manna from Heaven assures us that God is the source of our food and that the dietary laws of Levitcus were there for good reason. In Luke, we look at who Jesus sat down and broke bread with- the poor, sick and afflicted- this created community. And that in Mathew 25, when the people of God feed the hungry, doing so becomes a way of doing justice.

Also, The Rule of St. Benedict, who wrote as if the world is falling apart- Ch. 39- 'the proper amount of food'. " Nothing is more contrary to being a Chrisitan than gluttony."

So, food is a moral issue. In many churches, this moral vision is starved. It has become more about how much money can the church raise off the backs of their parishoners rather than how much work for the good of the community by feeding the hungry or creating programs for sustainability in a rapidly changing economy.

The Bible is an outdoor document. And so much of Christianity has become an indoor activity.
Rev. Cole related one story from his early days as a Pastor where one KY farmer's wife said 'Farming is the holiest activity that can happen. '

Suggested reading- Thomas Merton's works. Wendell Barry: 'Jaybird Crowe'. 'Practicing OurFaith' Series. Books that seek to make sacred connections. Also, "We plow God's fields".

Next, Mr. Charlie Jackson of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) spoke concerning food and farms in NC- these are both important to all of us in other states-

The biggest problem is that the US is losing farms at an alarming rate to developers. So, much of our large sources of food production are failing- the small farmer and projects that include community outreach are going to become the biggest source of food production. Farmer's Markets, local food and community supported agriculture is the best way to deal with this changing paradym.

Churches can help by sponsoring markets in their parking lots- also, a church can sponsor things like a community garden, or contact local growers to ask if they will allow a church to glean the fields after the farmer's harvest is in so the food can then be used and distributed among the needy.

Kitty Schaller, executive director of MANNA Foodbank ( spoke about how so many folks who were able to make their own way now find they are marginalized by a sudden downsizing and job change. Again, our changing economy has forced so many people into a role of not being able to make it any longer- the 'working poor' who suddenly have no health care, housing they can no longer afford, and a support system that turns their back on them. (This is an important one to me as my father became one of these people after the firm he worked for downsized, moved out of the city we lived in and he lost his job- though no fault of his own- and his own family turned their backs on him when he was unable to recover from those devastating effects.)

These are the sorts of folks we see, especially in an intercity ministry- these working poor who feel they will not be able to survive and become angry, with drug or alcohol issues, and often trouble with the law.

The one thing we can give them is a good and healthful diet, full of fresh vegetables and fruit, but less carbohydrates which contribute to health issues and obesity. In food baskets, it is important to remember that fresh vegies are a priority.

Steve Hodges from the Jubilee Project is from Sneedville, TN- this is a faith based non-profit working with farmers from several counties in eastTN to make value added foods and start a farm-to-school project. Their current project is the potato wedge product that can be introduced into local schools, churches and other institutions.

Steve introduced himself to me and as it happens he knows a neighbor of mine who is on the board of directors with him and also another worker for good in my area whom I have had the pleasure to know for many years.

We enjoyed a lunch of locally made breads, and soup and salad from locally grown sources. After an afternoon of round table discussion, we went on a farm tour of two different local growers.

In NC, these farms are very much on the fore-front. In TN, it all seems about 'how much money can you make for the state', with very little emphasis on how to co-operate with each other- ie. so few farmer's markets as compared to the headspace of NC. Forgive me, this is one of my sticking points.....

If you are reading this in TN and would like to get involved with the Appalachian Grown project, visit or . The listing online is free and they welcome all farms and other endeavors from the whole Appalachian region. As our economy changes, local food becomes that much more important as we begin to take care ofeach other more instead of relying on our government or outside sources for food and sustainabilty.

Encourage your churches and communities to grow a small garden to feed the people who need help and know that each small thing done with great love to help someone else in need is sufficient in the eyes of God.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Dogs do the most interesting things......

This is Gir, my daughter Kat's Min-Pin. You've seen Invader Zim, I'm sure. Doom, doom, doom. dah-doom, doom dah-doom doom doom doom....

Gir, also known as Gerty-Berty, Gir-Doo, Gerty-B and several other names used to call a small very vocal dog- the kind Gary Larsen wrote about in the cartoon 'nervous little dogs prepare for their day, rules the house. Gir also has a very short learning curve- she 'gets it' really quickly.
Yesterday, she came up to me with an egg in her mouth. The chickens are a bit indiscriminant about their laying habits, so the dogs get fresh eggs frequently. Not thinking, I took that egg away and threw it out not knowing how long it had been there. She was patient becasue she knew that goodies come her way anytime I am in the kitchen.
So today, Gir came in from her morning run and ran back to where I was at the computer, and dropped an egg at my feet! Smart doggie! I picked it up and praised her, then took it to the kitchen after I finished my emails and cooked it right up for her! She knows a good thing when she sees it.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Unto the Gentles of the Knowne World....

....Lady Gregoria Anne du Lac sends greetings! It certainly has been a long time. Many thanks to Lady Jerusha for this archival photo. Since I am definitely of the 'Old School' in the SCA, I have a lot of catching up to do and lots of stories to tell of my travels. Also, please keep in mind that I will likely switch back and forth between mundane-speak and SCA-speak in theprocess of this set of blogs so it will be easier to explain in terms for those SCAer's of a city persuasion that would like to make the move from city living to country living and perhaps how to do it on your own, with little or no help from a bank or other modern mundane worldly financial entanglements. In the mundane, we are using solar, wind and geothermal power sources to enable us to get 'off the grid', as well as sustainable agricultural practices to keep food sources local.

From journeys long and through lands far and wide, this is a window into the world here at Glastonbury Farm. This past winter, we began a new milk shed for my goats and their feed, which will become a craft shop as soonly as a more correct milk parlour is built, which could take a couple of more years.

The excavation for the new manor house cannot happen until the a few things take place, one of which is the construction of the new shed and the destruction of the old shed. I currently milk in this shed and it is not a very pleasant place as the chickens have taken residence.

A curious thing happened as we began the new shed- several levels of what appear to be an old medieval manor raised itself out of the dirt as we began to peel back the layers of time. This old manor may be several hundred years old, or possibly even almost twenty years old. In any case, this is to document the archeological records of the old manor and the construction of the new manor house and grounds. If any scholar wishes to visit and observe the process, you are all most welcome to come- just let us know ahead of time.

I'm going to attempt to do a weekly update on each level of Glastonbury Farm since it began as some of the oldest levels are still here and functioning. These will also be illuminated with photos and drawings of the oldest positionings of the structures here. The old gate house, called 'The Dragon's Gatehouse', is still in use somewhat, and while the structural integrety is still there, the house itself does need to some work to complete it. The chances are it will be deconstructed and then reconstructed in some manner after the new manor house is built.

This is a photo of the new shed foundation as it was framed in. In the background is ' The Dragon's Gatehouse'. We found an old midden behind the house with all sorts of curious objects and broken tools. You will also see in the background one of the 'caravans' that some travelers decided to sell and it is now used as supplemental housing for my older daughter. Discovered to be from the 'level 7' configuration of Glastonbury Farm, it is still of some use, but will be offered for sale here in the near future. The cleared area up the hill and to the left of the photo is the bottom of the clearing for the new manor house.

Above, we see the new shed framed in and in the background is the area cleared for the excavation of the foundation for the new manor house. We have done all the proper augeries and dousings, and have offered prayers so that the foundation construction will go well and not fall over into the swamp next door, which is also called 'mud waller flats'. We have been assured by the local thaumaturge and several out of state alchemists that the dragons and gnomes are well satisfied with the gifts we've given them in exchange for allowing us to build here.

These are our Town Crier's, Violet- left, and Willard- right. Along with the poultry constabulary of roosters Wakie-Wakie (that's what he says) and Mohammed (Upon Whom Be Peace!- When you pick him up, he shouts 'Allah! Allah!'), and a grimace of guineas, the farm stays running smoothly- no ticks or other bad insect pests.

This is our 'Fore-goat', Ammalyn Starchild, who oversees construction and keeps an eye on things. She also milks a gallon or so of milk a day, so she's a keeper here at the farm. Ammalyn is a Saanen dairy goat, also called Gessenay, which comes from the Saanen Valley in Switzerland.

Look for us in the next installment, at least each week. As we get more into the workings of things here at the farm, I hope folks will comment or ask questions on how we have done this or that or perhaps offer suggestions as to how we can do things more easily.

Thanks for stopping by- Lady Greggy, somewhere in the "Land of Shining Water'

Monday, March 19, 2007

Hard Scrabble vs. City Minded

This is Our Lady of the Harvest. More about why she is here later- sorry it is a thumbnail picture.
We bought our land here in 1989, and moved onto it in 1990, with only our hands as our tools- not many city folks care to do what we do- it actually involves doing some physical labor, getting your hands dirty, living with no indoor plumbing for a couple of years and dirt under your fingernails for months on end. The girls did enjoy their muck bucket bath tub when they were little though.
First the cabin came, then an outbuilding for the goats and then more outbuildings...if you cannot stand living in what city folks term 'a big nasty mess', then please don't do what we did- It is like doing the mortgage trip thing in very slow motion- the very same thing as, but almost to the point of entropy. On the other hand, if you want to have a satisfied soul at the end of the day, along with no mortgage, total creative control, not 'beholden-to' anyone for anything to do with your property other than yearly land taxes, then the rural sustainable lifestyle may be for you.
And you may find that you are a different person than you thought you were.
Walking away from the matrix of the modern day 'normal' 'get it and spend it', credit card lifestyle is well....more 'normal' than the afore mentioned 'normal' lifestyle. Keep in mind that the word 'normal' is a judging word- a word that denotes rather a lack of courage. Besides, when one gets a comment like 'you have a pioneer spirit' from an MBE recipent (Member of the British Empire) who barely knows you and a comment of 'Eeeewwww!' from family, well who are you going to listen to? 'Normal' is in the eye of the beholder- what is normal for me may not be normal for you, but each form is just as valid and wholesome to each person.
After all, no farms = no food.
To the city folks that go 'Eeeewwww!', I usually say ' are you going to stand there complaining and critisizing or are you going to pick up a hammer and pound a few nails with me?' These folks really need to get their heads wrapped around Habitat for Humanity or Heiffer Project. Or even the Manna Food Bank. If you can't pound nails, then learn to use a measuring tape and marker to measure the length on a 2x4 for the person who cuts the wood!
Still, at the end of the day, I have so much to be thankful for.
Each year, we do a farm blessing. Father Andreas comes out to bless the farm and the animals- he's excited about blessing our tractor- he says he's so happy to be a country priest. We have a potluck lunch after the blessing- which takes place after Pascha, Easter for all you heterodox and pagans. :-) This year, we will be holding it on the future site of Our Lady of the Woods Chapel- a place for all people to experience the Mother of God in all her forms. Our Lady of the Harvest will be there, along with Kwan Yin, the Bodhisaatva of Compassion and Our Lady of Einsiedlin (Switzerland), one of the Black Madonnas of Europe. The name Einsiedlin means 'Place of the Hermit'- I went there during a band trip with the Dobyns-Bennett HS band in 1972- the Cathedral there is enormous and beautiful. It is the first place in my life that I met the Living Lady in one of her myriad and eternal forms.
The foundation for the Chapel is there, but it needs work before I would trust people on the platform. I'll blog more about this as we come closer to the date, as yet undecided, but after Pascha, so I can cook!
Have a blessed Oestarra, ya'll! Christ is Risen! Indeed He is Risen!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

For the honor.....

It's 5am here and the next round of kidding is in the offing- we are on baby watch and bleary eyed to say the least. I am making it through with the help of medication for my Spina Bifida- don't worry, it is the 'occulta' kind that we found on a x-ray in the 80's, so I can still function. It has been a quick two weeks since the last two does kidded and all girls. 4 of them, Annie and Laurie, and Lucy and Ethel. Yeah, I know- Lucy and Ethel's daddy was named Desperado, called 'Desi'- someone had to do the obvious. :-)
There comes a time for most folks that it is also painfully obvious that working with people becomes a big chore- which is why I like living in the woods, away from most type A's. Some folks take nasty medications to help them deal with other people's personalities. And some folks just keep going into the same rut with the same type of people that have no respect. These folks are generally really good people, but they tend to be enablers- 'give give give give give' all day long to folks who have no intention of returning the exchange. I fall into that catagory. I own it. I do come by it honestly- growing up, my mom was an enabler- her thing was money/food/stuff= love. Dad did his best to keep her satisfied (he couldn't), but his own addiction to 'more more more more' was too strong. His addiciton became hers in short order- it happens when you don't have much when you are growing up and then suddenly have everything you want.
Lest I become maudlin, here is the point of the story- and it is about goats. Some years ago, when I had been in goats for only a few years, I had done some trading around- 'a goat for a goat' sort of thing with another person. I registered that animal I traded for with the name I chose and used him. When I was done with the buck that I had traded for, I asked the person if they wanted the buck back- they said yes. Of course, my goats were long gone by then- this gave them everything and left me with nothing, so we agreed verbally that I'd get back equal value of some sort- goat equipment, etc. That was OK, since I trusted the person.
Sometime during the next couple of years, the person's spouse got hurt on the job and they began to sell off their animals. That's alright, I said, I am patient, I know you will keep your word. So, over the next couple of years after that, each time I would ask for the trade to be honored- either following an advertisement for their equipment for sale or on my own- the person would say 'we need the money'. OK, I thought, they are still in a tight situation, I am patient, I know they are honorable. Even last summer when I asked after an ad for more equipment being sold, I was told again 'we need the money'- this was getting way too old.
So most recently, I saw yet another ad for more equipment and I went a bit further in asking by also asking folks publically to wait until I could bring this to a head privately. Interestingly enough, the person now said that I must be mistaking them for someone else- they did not owe me anything and refused to even deal with the subject. OK. Let's examine this from a persective of 'letting go'- In the end, it is all just 'stuff' after all.
Doing business on a handshake used to be the norm everywhere- today, it ain't so common. I recognize that this went on way too long, but from the perspective of the other person, I know I could not live with myself if I did not honor a situation, no matter how long it had gone on- my connection with God is way too strong to not recognize that I would be very much out of Grace to not make it right in the other person's mind as best I could. NOTE: This may discount stupidity on the part of the other person who will not understand, no matter what you do since some folks cannot be taught- this is where a written contract or bill of sale comes in, but I digress and that's another story- whooo boy, is that another story.
The lesson, for business purposes, is to always get it in writing. And make sure each party has a signed copy of the agreement.
The lesson, for spiritual purposes, is to 'trust in God, but always tie your camel' (old Arab saying). IE. keep the beast tied. If things do not work out as agreed and you are the one that gets the short end of the stick, let it go and let God take care of it. Be nice, let the folks know you see what they are doing and that you deplore their lack of honor, but do it nicely. God will take care of it in the fullness of time. Then go and do more work for the good.
Cherokee Wisdom
A Grandfather and his grandson were sitting under a tree, fishing by a stream. The Grandfather
said to his grandson, 'Inside of everyone there are two wolves fighting each other. One is an evil, angry wolf. The other is a kind, benevolent wolf.'
The grandson thought a minute and said, 'Grandfather, which wolf wins?'
The Grandfather paused a moment and answered, 'The one that I feed.'

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Rainy day Tuesday.....

I was supposed to go to a seminar on handling animals in disasters, but I woke up a bit too late to get all the chores done before the start of the thing an hour and bit's drive from here at UT in Knoxville. I've got goats telling me they want to kid, so who knows when that is going to happen, but the look is sure in their eyes and I don't really want to spend the day away from them. Those long suffering looks that convey the weight of the world- oh my! If I had their worries I'd be a goat- which I am anyway, I'm a Capricorn, born on December 25th. Don't worry about the birthday thing, I got over that a long time ago- in fact, I'm telling folks not to get me Christmas presents, or even birthday gifts, any longer- I've got all I want. I don't need any more 'stuff'. Except for maybe a new AI kit (artificial insemination) so I can use all those dead frozen billy-goats in my nitrogen tank. Or a preg-tone ultra-sound machine.
Bucks are an essential part of a goat farm- either you have them or you don't- some of them can be quite amusing as babies, but absolute lothario's as adults. Take Chicago for example- he's a sweetie pie, but bucks are 'supposed to' have gone out of rut this time of year- yeah, right. Everyone else has. The weather says otherwise for Chicago. It is still colder than dammit and we are carrying water because the hoses are frozen. My pregnant does like to waddle right up to me when I am carrying two full buckets- and who's got his nose stuck up where we won't mention in polite company? Yep, himself. (Gee, maybe they want me!) So we all do this circle dance around me a couple of times until I get around the behinds of some of them and make a dash to the portable water trough. So I smell of 'au d' buc' for a while- and I also use the same barn clothes over and over again until they stand up in the corner by themselves. This conserves water as there is no need to use the washer so much if I do it this way. Sometimes I venture into Newport to the feed store, or just up to get gas at Jack's Market, in my barn clothes- I earned that badge of honor, by golly!
I could put him in the buck pen, but he is still in rut and we don't need 'fighting boys on parade'. Their dominance dances (ahem!) can get quite rough, but it is also amusing to see who the 'bitch' is from day to day. So, Chicago runs loose for now and takes the girls who are the closest 'ladies in waiting' up into the woods to browse a bit-
It still looks like rain, but then it always looks like rain here, unless the weather changes- which is usually about 15 minutes between changes.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Chance would be a fine thing......

The snow from yesterday seems to have gone the way of things enough to let us get in and out of the hollar. I was supposed to go Saturday to pick up some does and take Rosie along- we seem to be conspiring to go on a restaurant critic's tour of BBQ places and other interesting side bars. Maybe Brown Mtn. Or Max Patch. Well enough, since Ammy came back into heat and Chicago bred her. I don't mind late babies from him.
So, the doe excursion is to take place today-
Anyway, I'm waiting for the hens to start laying- we've had fresh milk and cheese from one doe- Ammy, above- and for more of the does to kid, some are due this coming week, so I 'll attempt to get some shots up of the process. I'll put some recipies with goat cheese up soon too- my stufed Portabella mushrooms are to die for.....
We actually got the vinyl flooring on the shed sub-floor before the snow hit- and with any luck we will get the first wall up this coming weekend- 'if' the weather holds, yeah- right....I'll put the process of that up on webshots soon-

Sunday, February 18, 2007

It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.....

Back in 1994, I bought my first dairy goat- Bonanza Jelly Bean- a Saanen/Nubian cross doe who initiated me into the wonders of goat milk- and off I went into the goat world. I had had a little white 'brush nanny'- aptly named 'Nanny' (pictured above)- a couple of years after I got back from University and taught horsemanship to young girls. The person who stands out in my mind at that time as one who pointed me in the direction of living on the land was Dr. Vicken Totten, who was a resident at the hospital my mother worked at. As one of those 'failure to launch' types, I did not leave Kingsport until I was 30 years old. Whew!
And here I am now, just turned 50, meno-pausal- children raised, working towards a licensed cheese dairy in the Gatlinburg market- and having the opportunity to breed a wonderful breed of goat- the Golden Guernsey from the Isle of Guernsey in the UK channel isles. Not many of those around- about 450 +/- purebred breeding females worldwide.

On this blog, you may find interesting pictures of things around the farm- daily scenes, dogs, goats, kidding season, recipes and this I like to do- Grandfather Moountain Highand Games, all things Scottish, The Wizard of OZ, goat shows, etc.- things like that.
You will also find things about the natural world and all natural ways of creating glowing health and woman's natural wisdom. Like the header says- 'go to the mountians and drink goat milk'-
Go with God and in good health- Betsy