Farm In Autumn

A Poem of Halloween At The Farm

Season of warm colors: red barns, flaxen sun, yellow and orange harvest compliment each other as the farm readies for the day.
Ripened squash scattered atop the mahogany soil, fields spreading flat as far as the eye can see.
Signs hung out inviting passersby to sample the offerings of a long summer’s bounty.
Smell of roasted corn drifts through the crisp air and cider is offered to visitors.
Rain boots of every color adorn feet, following the path of mud and straw to the corn maze.
Rustling groves of tall green stalks hide shady corridors that beckon those who dare to enter.
Wagons loaded with pumpkins are drawn to the scales, delighted children hugging them in anticipation.
As the day shifts light to dark, so to, does the tone and setting.
Country highways fill with bright lights as the brave make their way to the haunted farm.
Muddy parking lots fill quickly as souls bundled against the cold file through the gates.
Ghouls and evil clowns entertain those in line awaiting their fate.
Screams from within evoke nervous looks and giggles, exhalations silhouetted in the glare of lights.
Once in, the macabre awaits them in every dark corner, every hidden space as couples clutch each other in fear.
Witches, skeletons, mad surgeons and the walking dead long to possess their souls: struggling against chains, restrained by bars.
Out at the end to safety with smiles and relieved laughter.
Happy revelers depart for home intact.
Travelers gone, parking lots empty, the farmers set about harvesting the night crop.
In a windowless barn in a far corner of the property, they begin with the heads.

 

 

My Junk

Our property, no matter how hard we try, is very rough looking around the edges. Development will come later than we originally anticipated. We expect things to change within the next year and a half but for now the place looks junky.

We try our best to keep things organized but it’s difficult to make rust, metal, tarps and trailers appear attractive. Our newer neighbors are building around us and I’m thinking a tarp along the property line with a picture of a house might be a nice touch-  or a gigantic f**k you. Just kidding 🙂 My husband insists it doesn’t look that bad and points out other people’s yards while we’re out to make me feel better. It’s rural America after all.

My quest for gold has given rise to a new especially trashy looking collection of buckets, dirt piles, mud piles, pots and pans, holes in the ground and a plethora of tools for metallurgy that lay strewn about outside our shed. Ironic how something so stunning may potentially be the byproduct of such a mess.

I have a large Tupperware container full of useful stuff. It’s all attached together and when I grab something, everything comes out at the same time:  brackets, screens, parts of tools I’ve dismantled to make “better” versions of the old, hooks, buckets, parts of old stoves and a set of unused clothes pins we bought on the road a couple of summers ago.

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Two of my homemade furnaces made of clay and old parts.

Being on a budget, I have to make due with what we have and the farmer’s dump on the hillside has been the go-to place for everything from mangled but still usable rusty tools to household appliances and parts to old vehicles. I figure the original users would appreciate me resurrecting them. I have harvested screen, fencing, bones (not human), marbles, two can openers, assorted remnants of seventy year old kitchenware and numerous other items. There is even a pair of egg beaters fused with a tree.

The other day I got distracted on my way to repair the water line in the trailer when I veered toward the hillside. My son came home from school in time to see me wandering away from the dump with an armful of tools for the pipe repair (which I never put down), part of a shovel, part of a leftover wheel from a child’s wagon, a long sharp object, an old tractor carburetor, and a candle holder. This stuff comes in handy.

I left the mangled bird cage behind; this time.

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Try to beat this.

Here It Comes Again

Winter.

Forget fall. Autumn and spring seem fleeting in this part of the country. Blistering heat, wildfires, and drought suddenly give way to moderate temperatures with some  sprinkles. That lasts about a day and fall is done. The only other sure sign that the changing of the guard is occurring is junior’s empty bed. School has begun.

As Winter cannonballs itself onto the scene, it gives me the impression of being alive.  It’s a supernatural being that changes not only the landscape but your frame of mind. For us, living in the rough, winter grabs hold of your thought processes and emotions and dominates. You can’t not think about it as you have to rearrange your entire life around it. It won’t be ignored.

The first year we were here Winter seemed to wage a battle against us. Being invasive by nature, it crept into our trailer and froze our water pipes as I systematically hunted down each draft and cold spot and crammed whatever material I could find into crevices and holes.

Since we couldn’t wash our dishes inside due to the frozen pipes, I piled them all in a big tub to take to the shelter we were temporarily staying in to wash. They were forgotten and the whole lot froze into a huge dishburg that didn’t thaw until spring What Happened To Our Dishes Last Winter.

One morning I was inspired to write a poem when I noticed frost creeping up the inside trim of the door: Cold. Giving it a name and acknowledging it as a sentient being helped me to deal with it.

Cold

 I’m not looking forward to all of the work ahead of us.  The what-ifs have begun to play over and over in my mind: What if the car gets stuck again. What if the water pipes freeze. What if we run out of wood. What if.

I compiled a never ending to-do list last week. Everything from insulating the windows and doors, skirt the RV, take down the tent we never used after I set it up last summer, hang all of the extension cords, chop and stockpile the wood. Today we bought an ax to dispatch the trees on the hillside for firewood. I personally don’t like chainsaws due to lack of experience and being from King County.

I try to temper my snowmageddon anxiety by reminding myself that if the car gets stuck we have shovels, portable pads to place under the tires for traction, and salt. We developed a protocol for dealing with the rest of the issues like keeping the hoses in the basement of the fifth wheel between uses. We run a heater fan in that space 24/7 to keep those and the water pipes thawed.

I buffer my anxiety with thoughts of sledding, creating snow sculptures and of course, Christmas. I’m not sure the thought scale is even but we asked for this. We wanted four seasons and we got two and two quarters. It’s better than the 365 days of rain in the Puget Sound region we left behind.

Writing also helps stave off winter worries. I’m looking forward to sitting by the crackling fireplace making blog posts while I thaw out. The construction of the fireplace is the single best improvement we made regarding winter and it has a story of it’s own.

Two Years Ago Today

We left King County Washington; Destined for our new home on the range.

Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down  A Dream played on the radio as the first hint of daylight tinted the eastern sky. We were driving a 1986 Ford F-250 my husband lovingly called Bridgette pulling a 2001 Jayco Light travel trailer with a very unhappy cat stowed inside. We were on the home stretch of Hwy 395 headed for Colville Washington.

That was two years ago today.

The space between that day and now has been packed with memories a person cannot make up; plenty of material for a blog. Survival trumped all else for the first year while we carved a place for ourselves amongst the Ponderosa Pines on the iron rich bedrock.  Survival is still the main theme of daily life out here.

To be cliche, I have cried and I have laughed in almost equal measure during the past two years and things will continue to be tough until we finally build a real house. Water is coming from a spring we dug and we get our energy from two gas generators and a solar power system. I’ll be so glad when a glass of water and a shower non longer involve moving mountains.

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 We gained a new cat and relocated another feral one. We’ve learned a lot about setting up systems for every day needs and making them work. We put up a huge portable shed and half built another that’s coming down eventually. We’re still living in a fifth wheel but plan on building a small log home as soon as a deal we have in the works comes through.

I’m not looking forward to another winter of zero degree temps as the fall equinox approaches although we’ve kind of learned how to drive in the snow and have a fireplace to keep us warm.

We’ve learned to live with the wild life for the most part and our garden is two years old and full of half eaten tomatoes and squash. I’m  growing a gigantic pumpkin that I’m proud of and we introduced morel mushroom spores to the side of our property where they were absent. We even discovered small amounts of fine gold after looking for two years.

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 Looking forward, we’re  a lot wiser now but have an understanding that humility is a necessary state of mind out here. Never take anything for granted and never get over confident.

Perhaps most remarkable is that we’re even starting to get along with the neighbors. That’s true progress.

 

Yard Carp, Gobblers, Cats, Skunks One Brown Bear And One White Rabbit

“Tell Dale to make sure the door is shut because wild animals are getting into the house”.

This was my response when our son left the trailer door open on accident the last two nights and as near as we can figure, one feral cat and one skunk who like cat food paid us a visit. We got rid of the cat door for a reason.

Learning to live with the “locals” has consisted mainly of putting up fences and keeping doors shut because we don’t necessarily want them in for dinner (unless it’s a gobbler).

My husband loves the “hordes” of turkeys that cross the property daily. The adults have a crop of youngsters that make peeping sounds and are currently cute. I wonder at what point does a turkey stop peeping and start gobbling? Is the transition from cute to ridiculous slow or overnight?


Deer are called yard carp around here and they have finally made it into our garden. The fence is almost seven feet tall but apparently not high enough. They still prefer tomatoes and squash leaves. I put a motion sensor light near the garden after considering making the fence even higher. I was on my way with supplies in hand when I got distracted by one thing or another. That was enough to derail the project until next year.

Seeing a white rabbit feels lucky; not so much a bear.

In addition to our other friends, a very large muscular cat or bobcat decided our place would make some great new territory so we trapped and relocated it farther out into the hills last week. Hope it doesn’t find it’s way back Homeward Bound style.

We spend all of this time and energy keeping the animals at bay then go and bring more home. That would be our cats.

Hiding In Plain Sight

Gold was there all along but how to collect it?

I’ve been playing in the mud and dirt for three weeks. I’ve sifted, classified, melted, roasted, shaken, stirred, and thrown buckets of it in frustration because I found gold. It’s everywhere but you can’t see it. It is in the form of micro or flour gold. Tiny particles were infused into the rocks during their formation rather than in visible quantities in quartz veins.

For collecting and refining purposes, this a huge problem. Separating the small particles from the rest of the riffraff is near impossible unless a prospector has the equipment. The extras include iron, silica, clay, organic material, maybe silver and copper also.

To make things even more difficult, gold is hydrophobic; it doesn’t like water and tends to repel it when it’s small in form. The kind of gold dust we have here likes to float right over the edge of a gold pan so you have to add dish soap or Jet Dry to make it sink to the bottom of the pan. This leaves me two choices: sink it or take advantage of it’s hydrophobia to separate it from the other materials.

Commercially, a process called flotation is used to float the gold to the surface of the water but for me, my food processor and some dish soap suffice. I’m the woman of the house so when I ruin my own dishes and appliances, I don’t have to explain. I took the cast iron skillet, a metal mixing bowl, our only really big spoon, and the use of the electric mixer for my purposes. Most of these items will never see service in the kitchen again.

Outside in my “shop” it’s mayhem. Piles of dirt, tools, kitchen utensils, a homemade sluice, a store bought sluice, a blow torch, cut up coffee cans and all other manner of weapons lay strewn about in a generally circular area. I tend not to put stuff away in my feverish quest for the golden metal so there is an area that looks like junk fallout.

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 Despite all of the backyard refining I have yet to build a furnace capable of melting a crucible full of Borax and concentrates. I have yet to effectively separate the materials in an efficient manner. I have yet to determine how much gold we actually have per pound or ton nor am I sure if it will be worth the effort to refine it.

Maybe my slow cooker will work?

 

Holes

Give me a shovel and I’m happy.

I grew up in Utah in a middle size town named Roy. My Dad passed away months before I was born but I’m told our house was brand new when my parents bought it. No landscaping was in place when they moved in. Most people laid or planted grass and a farmer who still owned many acres worked his land behind us well after he was surrounded by “civilization”.

Our yard, however, was different for two reasons: First, we had a commercial size playground set that attracted every kid for miles and secondly, because my father had the foresight to leave the back quarter in it’s natural state. The rear fence was lined by four huge trees for climbing and the rest was dirt.

Mud is the perfect toy. It’s great for the immune system, and is superior to the most expensive of Lego sets.  You can mold it, make highways for your matchbook cars, or create mud pies. The possibilities are endless for a kid with a bucket, a shovel and a four year old imagination. Essentially, I grew up in the dirt.

Fast forward to adulthood and the continuing fascination with digging. While we were on the road looking for property to buy a couple of years ago, I dug a few test holes out in the woods looking for water. I knew we were going to be roughing it and I wanted practice. I youtubed instructions on how to dig a water well with nothing but PVC pipe and was successful at one point. My husband promised me that when we got our own property, I could dig any time of day and for as long as I wanted. I couldn’t wait.

Now that our realm is measured in acres rather than feet and there is no HOA from hell to tell me what I can and can’t do, I dig to my heart’s content. I need only the slightest excuse to grab a shovel and open the ground whether it be in search of water, gold, artifacts or to plumb the depths of a fault (a couple of months ago, I got about three feet down before I realized I wasn’t going to run into lava).

When we first got to our new property, I went looking for a likely place for water. To my delight, I found it a little over a foot down and we have have used the springs along a hillside for our water supply without digging a deep well.

I subsequently dug several other test wells and named them alpha hole, beta hole, etc. Most I’ve since filled in lest someone happen along in the middle of the night without a flashlight and break a leg.

Recently, with the drought and all, I began eyeballing a spot I suspected may have been a well for the original occupants of the property seventy years before our arrival. The rocks seemed to be piled into a depression that gave me the impression of a filled-in well.

Although I’d previously dug down about five feet, the idea of digging deeper was daunting because of the terrain and brush surrounding it. With our current water supply dwindling however, I surveyed the area again and finally made the decision to excavate.

Me and my husband spent about a week clearing vegetation and moving the already existing piles of rock farther away from the hole. We spent day after day digging by hand, pick and shovel farther down into the earth until I heard my husband exclaim excitedly “look at this!”. I looked down to where he pointed and saw water actually squirting up and out of a crack in the rock.

We already had water in the bottom of the hole but this was what we were looking for. A strong new water supply. To our best estimates, our new well is producing about a hundred fifty to two hundred gallons a day. Plenty for ourselves and our garden.

We set the pump and laid the hose and power cord over a tree we placed across the opening, cleaned up the bottom and sides and we’re back in business! I felt a great sense of relief and was doubly glad I’d decided to go through with the back breaking project.

My latest excavations are test holes for gold. I currently have about five or six of those going. But I really don’t need an excuse to dig any more.

Reading The Slingshot Balls

Decoding the universe through marbles.

I wrote a blog titled “I’ve Lost My Marbles” last year. It was about how searching for my lost slingshot balls put me into an almost altered state of mind. Today I once again found myself contemplating the universe while looking for the projectiles.

I took up ball slinging a year and a half ago whilst trying to shoot down a yellow jacket nest. I was bored. We didn’t have a lot of money and rocks were my ammunition. I kept it up, bought lots of balls, made a slingshot ball return device (which has now been decommissioned,) and kept practicing.

Although I’m on my way to becoming a crack shot (give it a year or two more) those balls still disappear quite efficiently in the long grass and pine needles surrounding my target. For some reason, the search for them; the wandering around with intent on my mind, puts me into a sort of contemplative state and I feel as if I see things differently.

Where each ball is, how it’s hidden, and how I find it is a clue as to how I believe the universe works. They’re all there but they aren’t. They’re gone when not observed. You can walk past one and miss it only to turn around and see it from a different point of view. It all depends on how you look at it.

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 Is the universe a single thing viewed from an infinite number of perspectives? Is everything connected in some way that is a giveaway of the underlying oneness? Has God created us to experience time and space through ourselves? Am I full of shit?

Symbolism makes perfect sense within the framework of recent scientific theory and has also been relied upon for thousands of years. I’m discovering that if a particular belief’s been around for a long time, it’s probably solid.

Think of Tarot cards for instance. A few years ago I would have laughed at the notion of cards being shuffled and their order revealing some sort of future outcome. Today, I’m not so sure. The same for reading tea leaves.

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 My daughter once said to me “if you want to know what’s going on in your subconscious, take a look around you”. That’s probably one of the most profound statements I’ve ever heard given the theory you are what you think.

On occasion, when I go outside, I try to see what the world is saying to me through nature. It seems logical that the natural world is the most perfect manifestation of creation; untouched by human will or hand. Why not pay attention?

I believe the universe, God, or what have you, speaks to us; communicates to us through connections. Intuition has led to some of the most notable inventions and breakthroughs in history.

Looking for my slingshot balls helps me to exercise that part of my brain that I believe has access to that space between the smallest space and past the boundaries of the universe.

If only I could find a practical application for this. Like coming up with a better garden tool or maybe I could do slingshot ball readings.

 

Ant Invasion – A Poem

One, two, three…..thousands…

Crawling on my countertop
Sugar ants they just won’t stop
From the ground they formed a line
Up the stairs they climbed and climbed
In the door across the floor
Saw them, freaked, and slammed my door
Didn’t work they went beneath
Thousands marching past my feet
Mix the borax, sugar, water
Ant buffet go get the swatter
On the glasses plates and pans
Swarming on my noodles, cans
Every bit of food’s a target
Vacuum over under carpet
Vinegar is my new friend
Bring their ant trail to an end
In the bedroom gone too far
Me and them it’s time to spar
To the store for some more bait
Set it out and sit and wait
Bare no grudge against the mass
But it’s them who did trespass
They’re a part of nature’s order
But my doorjamb is their border

“Are You Sure That’s The Cat”?

One night when we were still living in our twenty foot travel trailer our cat jumped onto the top of our canvas canopy and collapsed it onto us as we lay in bed. As I was holding the animal up off of myself and screeching about the damned thing, my half asleep husband mumbled “are you sure that’s the cat”?

This story is similar.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard one of our two cats munching in our dining room and for some reason, I decided to get up. I stumbled out of bed, put my robe on and made my way out into the kitchen to see what was up or to get a snack or something.

We’d just installed a cat door so we wouldn’t have to let the felines in and out of the house fifty thousand times a day. It was great once we’d taught them the “ins and outs”. They could now come and go as they pleased at whatever time of day it was.

I sleepily shambled down the stairs and flipped on the light only to see a skunk in my RV. I can’t remember exactly what I shouted but the poor thing ran into a corner then out the “cat” door which was now officially a skunk door.

I sniffed and to my great relief, realized it hadn’t sprayed. I wondered if it was the same one I’d dumped out of a cage in the middle of the night a couple of months earlier.

What’s a good name for a skunk?