Wednesday, June 19, 2013

An Indifferent Monarch: Mr. Wookie

My little man is very sick with bone cancer which started in his jaw and is spreading. I noticed he was drooling some in his sleep and thought a tooth was bothering him, so I took him to the vet for a check-up. We don't go often; he isn't sick, usually, and, since we started him on a special diet for bladder stones, he never goes.

The first visit it was decided to treat him for an infection in spite of the fact that he had no fever and no sign of infection in the mouth. Ten days later, the lump was worse. Since then, he had an x-ray which revealed the spreading cancer in his jaw.

He was given pain meds and sent home to wait to die, "probably within 21 days... during which time he will be in agony."

This was six weeks ago. He has not been in pain, that we can tell (no crying, trembling, balling up, or isolation); he still wants to eat (although that is getting harder as his jaw is now out of alignment and I am hand feeding him four times a day);  he still wants to sleep on me and to taste my food -- just in case it was better than his. In short, he is normal except for the whole jaw thing.

During these weeks, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to know when to let him go. No one should love an animal as I do him. I hold him, kiss him, stroke him, talk with him, feed him from my plate, carry him, wash him, and generally act a fool over him. It might be his indifference to me that keeps me challenged in this one-sided relationship, but I just can't show him how much I love him. Stupid, isn't it? Yet, I do.

I know the day will come when he will no longer be able to drink or will be in pain and I will have to release him. Unlike the roosters, I don't want to see him go. Ever. Yet, I know he will. And, when that day comes, I will lock myself in the bathroom, cry until I am sick, and then bury him wrapped in the blanket I knit him. But,until then, I will enjoy every minute I can with this indifferent monarch.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Time and Second Chances

Daddy was 80 this week; he and Mother celebrated 58 years together as well. It is my late-50-something time of being his first child on Father's Day. I realize that time is, pardon the pun, fleeting. I hear the chorus from "Rocky Horror" singing, "Time is fleeting.... let's do the time warp again..." There just isn't enough of it.

Time has been plaguing me lately. I want more and have no control over it. It fills itself with things that don't contribute to happiness. It ticks away quite contentedly while I run like a crazy woman trying to smash Every Single Thing into that I can. I won't live forever. No one does. Not on this Earth anyhow...

Years ago I was in a terrible car accident that should have left me dead. I remember skidding down the mountain side, watching the inside of my car turn white and feeling myself lifting away. I called out, "God! Please! Don't let me die tonight! I have so many things I need to finish! So many things I want to accomplish! I want to see my son grown! He can't miss the prom!" (It was prom weekend --- you know how important those things are...) A pair of unseen hands grabbed me by the forearms and shoved me backwards as the window shield exploded from the trees breaking over the car.

When the car stopped, it was possible to tell that it had been a car, but not much more. It hit with such force that it knocked the license plate off the back and the trunk flew open. The front seats were in the back; the back seats were in the trunk. My shoes were never found. Remarkably, the only injuries I had were air bag burns on my left hand where I tried to protect my face from the bag as it exploded (my glasses didn't fair so well), bruises from the knees down where the dash hit me as it pushed in, torn tendons in my right foot, and bruises from unseen hands. (The hospital staff took pictures of them to document the fingerprint bruises....)

The ambulance had removed me before the police arrived, so I didn't talk with the policeman on duty until I was naked on a CAT scan being checked for internal injuries. He blew in the door, wrapped his arms around me and cried like a girl. "I knew I was having to make a death call tonight! I don't know how you survived. It is a miracle!" he wept. I showed him my arms to confirm the miracle part.... and he smiled, apologized for rushing in as he had, and then left to call my son.

That was 15 years ago this past January. Sometimes I wonder why I was given this second chance. What was I supposed to do? It is rather like "It's a Wonderful Life." We don't know what difference we may have made or where, but we hope we have. As I listened to my parents talk this past week, reflecting on their lives together and their goals met or not, I realized that it really isn't about ticking off this or that on a list. It is about making the best use of what gifts one has and not about using time well. Time can't win that one. Ever.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Wartime Guide

Doreen Wallace is a new author to me. I discovered this little gem at the National Archives when I was there in April. The Archives has a fascinating exhibit on how the government impacts food supplies; while much of the exhibit focused on wartime gardening, it called to mind how important it is that we continue to garden and grow as much of our food as we can.

I think about this little garden in Okinawa:

This is looking down from The Airman family's balcony. You can see the little bit of earth turned up near the center of the photo and the emerging garden in front of it. Every day at the same time, this little man shuffled out with his shovel and dug for 30 minutes. I timed him and watched (wonder what he would think about being stalked by an old American woman??) him carefully turned every shovelful under as he methodically worked his way back and forth through the garden. By the end of the week, he had turned the entire plot and was planting. Everywhere we went, there were lush gardens -- even on patios and porches. When the tide went out, people would be in the tidal basins with hand woven baskets gathering seaweed and shellfish for dinner. No wonder they live so long; they are close to the Earth and eat what she provides without over processing.

This is all to say that I am enjoying the book; it is written tongue-in-cheek about the City Farmers and their experiments with gardening; and, it has many references to the War, which was just starting, in England in 1940, which displays the heavy awareness of the severity of the coming War. The author reminds her reader that while we want to believe The Government will care for our needs, ultimately it is up to each of us to do our part. Although the message is more than 70 years old, it is still true today. We should garden for our needs as much as we can. Instead of lush yards, what if we grew food? We'd be richer, healthier, and have a better quality of life as a result. All the more reason to get our hands dirty....

Friday, June 7, 2013

Some days...

... things won't post right.... Grrr...

Imagine, if you will, the slope behind my house. Now, imagine just a bit more. There's a little 4 x4 raised bed filled with delicious "tea" herbs --- mint, lemon balm, bee balm, and lavender. Isn't it darling? Can you just imagine how good a cuppa will be from my little tea garden?

Now, do you see what makes me say, "grrrrr..."??? My picture won't upload. At. All.

But trust me, the little tea garden is precious! I just hope to find a little piece of statuary to put in it.. Maybe a fairy?? I'll be keeping my eyes open for one!

Now, imagine another bed next to it filled with fresh, lovely year-old compost from the barn. It has lettuce planted in it. Old fashioned lettuces for us, thank you. Nothing too fancy pants for this old farm girl. Mr. Bunny can't wait for it to come up. He is like me; we are tired of store bought and the weather hasn't been very nice for growing lettuces, yet.

A little cold frame is going up next to these two raised beds so Bunny and I will have lettuce from now on....

If only you could see it... I'll try again later to post pictures...

In the meantime, let's go get our hands dirty, shall we??

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Canning Roosters

Last time I ordered chickens, I messed up and didn't click the "hens only" choice. As fate would have it, we ended up with 20 roosters out of the 50 hens I thought I ordered. We decided that we could can them, however, and that all would be fine.

That was last fall.

All winter I fed these monsters. They fought. They drove my hens crazy. Even when I put them in the "Green Mile" lot, they managed to bribe Louie into escaping his lot and tearing up their fence so they could escape. I think they told him about the trash can of scratch in their lot... Anyhow, there was just no keeping them in and away from the hens. Or me. I was flogged more than I can count, dirty rascals.

I grew to hate these guys. Hate. Them. My poor hens were denuded of feathers. They would gang up on one and assault her, sometimes until she was nearly dead. I'd beat them off with sticks, kick them away, spray them with the water hose, anything to get them to leave the gals alone. I've even been known to grab them by the tail feathers and jerk them out of the henhouse in order to give the girls some relief. Yet, somehow, these nasty roosters would scale the fence and be right back in there.

I really hated them.

I kept looking for someone to kill them. I just couldn't. No matter how much I hated them, I couldn't do it. Twice we thought we had someone, but then something would come up and I'd still have roosters. Finally, though, last week, I found a willing soul and made an execution date. They would die on Sunday.

The Mister and I caught them on Saturday night, put them in the largest dog carriers in the truck bed to wait for their last ride. I admit it; all the way to the other farm, I was saying, "Dead rooster walking on the Green Mile!" It felt good.

Two hours later, we had roosters in the cooler and ready for canning. Roosters are tough, even when they have been grain fed and free range, so we first boiled them for nearly an hour in salty water. Then, they were deboned and the meat put in pint jars and processed for 75 minutes.

While I am not in the mood for rooster right now, I know that come winter, there will be some mighty fine chicken and dumplings, chicken pot pie, and chicken gravy! And the girls? They were calm, happy, and looking so much better yesterday. I guess even chickens wish they didn't have males around sometimes....