Monday, July 21, 2014

The lawn nazi and more than I can chew

This life, this one that I love, in its current form, is more than I can chew.

If I didn't already accept that, the last 48 hours have forced me to.

Forty-eight hours ago is when the lady next door ambushed me as I got out of my car with the 13-year-old to yell at me about my grass. Yes, grass. From 300 feet away, for everyone and God to hear, she berated me about the state of my yard. I was forced to tell the 13-year-old to go inside. Then I went over to introduce myself and take the beating.

Yes, the grass has been a bit long this season and I have not weeded a single flower bed. Yes, that part is true.

She was A.N.G.R.Y.. About long grass, about weeds, about a manure pile she can see from her yard, about not everyone (read - all residents, past and present, of my house) not conforming to her values.

But she didn't care that I'm busting my a*s trying to turn this property into a working farm - from scratch.

I love farms! I grew up on a farm! But we took care of ours!

She didn't care that I do all the work on the farm myself in addition to my day job.

My husband works full-time and he's out here every night working on the yard.

She didn't care that I don't have a husband to help every night. Or any night. I work alone.

So hire someone!

She didn't care that I didn't have the budget to hire someone to cut the grass.

You're rich! You can afford it!

Ahh. Yes, she was especially angry that a rich person would let a weed grow. Apparently the previous owners had told her I was rich. Ha. Exactly how they came to that conclusion is unclear. Maybe having two properties. They hadn't reached the other logical conclusion - that two properties means two loans, more debt, less free cash.

I didn't mention that I'm also a single parent, or that I prioritize the 13-year-old over the weeds, but she wouldn't have cared anyway.

She wouldn't have cared that I also prioritize the animals over the weeds.

She also didn't know or care that my 83-year-old father had collapsed earlier this summer after mowing this yard. Despite her apparent vigilance, she missed the ambulances pulling up to the house with sirens. She missed seeing him taken out on a stretcher - in the service of grass. (He's fine, now.)

She didn't bother to find out, before she called the township to complain, or before she ambushed me, that the reason the grass went unchecked early in the summer was because not one, but BOTH mowers on the property had broken down. Neither was a day under 20-years-old and both were passed down from property owner to owner. She didn't care that I got to be the lucky owner holding those hot potato mowers when they did finally die. I had to buy a new tractor (with all my riches) and it took a good long time for it to be delivered, while the grass continued to grow.

She was just angry, full stop. Mad. Pissed. Outraged. Beside herself.

She revealed a lot about herself.

Judgemental. Narrow-minded. Self-righteous. And scariest of all - watchful.

This was the first time I'd met her. Of the four adults living in the two properties that abut this house, she's the only one I hadn't met since taking possession in October. I see now that that was not an accident. She is not the welcoming type.

But she is the watchful type. Truthfully, I thought the complaints were coming from someone observing from the road, so I'd concentrated on the front of the property by the road, not the part that abuts her backyard.

Now that I know it's my nearest neighbor, I am particularly stressed. I don't like to be watched as I come and go and I don't like to be ambushed. Who does?

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon in the house instead of outside working, because I was too discouraged to go out and risk another berating. I made the best of it by trying to line up some people to come help clear some downed trees by the old house and help upgrade my fences, all things on my existing to do list.

I also added a new item. A hedge. A very tall and fast-growing hedge between me and this lady. Someone's coming tonight to give me an estimate. My riches are dwindling though, so I don't know how I'll pay for it.

The final straw, the clear writing on the wall, happened this morning. This is the reason I am inside writing a blog post instead of outside working.

I waited until this morning when I thought the neighbor'd be gone to go out and finish mowing the acre that abuts her property (this, despite the fact that the township told me I'm not required to mow it, it being agricultural land and all.) Then I went next door to the farm house (our old house) and continued mowing there. There is always mowing to do after all.

At first I thought it was a reaction to an insect bite. I got wuzzy, I got nauseous, my vision went dark, and had I not sat down, I would have fallen down.

One of my big fears, as a single parent, is that something will happen to me before my child is grown, so I try not to take chances. Before I completely passed out alone in the yard I made my way back to the barn, where my barn helper was cleaning stalls and asked her to watch me. In case I did pass out. She called 911 and it was deja vu all over again, except instead of my 83-year-old father, it was me.

The paramedics said it wasn't an allergic reaction and it didn't look like a toxic bite though they couldn't be sure without taking me to the hospital, which I refused. What they were sure of was that my blood pressure had fallen dangerously low and I needed to stop working. They said heatstroke, but it wasn't all that hot and I know hot. I grew up in hot.

I think it was the extra stress of the neighbor.

So, I have to figure out a way to get everything done without a hidden stack of treasure to finance it, without a partner to do the heavy lifting, and without killing myself. I am still convinced that it is possible, if I can get past the start-up stage, just not sure how to get there from here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Zeus goes to boot camp

Pony news.

Zeus has gone for training.

Like many of our ponies, Zeus came to us as the last man standing from a rescue situation. We took him in last fall, pretty much sight unseen. We think he's around 3-to 4-years-old. He's maybe 13 hands tall with a good solid build, but his breeding is anybody's guess. People who've seen him have speculated some mix of quarter horse, draft horse, and/or mustang. In any case, he's cute and he moves with grace.

As far as we can tell, he has zero training, except for the simple handling he gets here on the ground. He's sweet-tempered, but, well, just a weeeeee bit high strung. When agitated, he goes up on his back legs. Sometimes he tries to go over walls and that is his big vice.

We have an arrangement with a trainer across the street who instructs the 13-year-old in riding, but also has agreed to do basic training with any pony I might bring her. It's an informal arrangement, but steady, and it works well for us. Two rescues I brought her are now the regular mounts of riders who use them for jumping and dressage. Another (Annie, the 20-year-old Amish cart horse) is retired and lives with us. A fourth (Josie, the leopard appaloosa ex-broodmare) got some training, but turned out to be 'ill-suited' for it. That's equestrian-speak for she dumped anybody who tried to get her to go faster than a walk. So she's living at home too. I like Josie and we get along on the ground, so it's ok.

I can't afford to board Zeus long-term myself, so we've been waiting for a moment when a stall stands empty anyway, in between real boarders. We want to do some short-term basic evaluation, just to see if he's got any potential as a riding pony.

Yesterday was that day. A boarder left abruptly over the weekend and we got the call on Wednesday. Bring Zeus now.

Because he is very attached to Josie, and can be a bit of a handful when upset, several people came with me to walk him across the street. He handled it alright though and spent the rest of the day cooling his heels in his new stall. I can tell he's upset, but not overly so. I think it helps that he knows he's only a short walk from home - he can see it from his dutch door. On the other hand, he's used to living in a herd where he can come and go in and out of his stall at will and see everything that's going on in the barn. Across the street is more traditional. He's now inside in a separate stall with high walls and bars across the front. He can see the 13-year-old's pony across the aisle and maybe one or two other horses, but that's it.

He did try to go over his dutch door yesterday afternoon, sigh.

The 13-year-old and I went over this morning to check on him. He seemed happy enough to see us. We took him for a peek at the indoor arena. He was cautious, but not too much so. I think once he gets the routine, he'll be fine. Eventually, he'll get to go outside during the day with a couple of the other ponies. And once the trainer starts handling him he'll be even better.

For my part, I'm really looking forward to watching him develop.

Monday, July 7, 2014

The littlest ram

We have some new names at Tyche’s Run.

When I went to pick up the Black Welsh sheep the other day, I got to meet the husband- the guy who’d been taking care of the flock for three years. The sheep were ready to go -- neatly corralled into a small pen by the driveway. First thing the guy said?

“You’ll probably want to cull those two,” pointing to the two littlest lambs, a dainty ewe and minuscule ram. I remembered the lamb stuck in the fence all alone the day I came to visit. His tiny black horns were now visible on the top of his pretty head.  Not a ewe afterall. Regardless, I was happy to see him well.

I must have looked confused though.

Of course, as the owner, you can do whatever you like, but…well, they were a surprise.”

He paused.

“Dad got in with his daughters. So, anyways, you can cull them.”


I didn’t cull them.

I just brought them home and named them Jethro and Ellie Mae. 

Apart from dad, the herdsire, (renamed Jed) and a gray-muzzled older ewe, Jethro and Ellie Mae are the only two I can reliably recognize.  Maybe because they’re the smallest, or maybe because they have the biggest personalities.

To prove my point, I offer this video of Jethro calling his flock in for the night. He’s all of 4 weeks old. The video’s a little long (2 minutes), but there’s some awfully cute bouncing at the end. And I’m telling you, this is just a hint of what’s to come with this little guy, I can feel it.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Murphy's law and goats

This morning:

Riversong's bedhead
Up close

Lessons learned:

1) If a fancy fiber goat can find a way to destroy its fleece, it will.
2) Clearly God did not intend there to be such a thing as fancy goats.
3) Never feed hay with chaff again. Ever.