Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Memories

This was one of my best presents this year....fifty degrees, sunny and calm.  A beautiful day.

We've been having a beautifully mild Fall and, as far as I am concerned, it can stay this way right till Spring. Of course, last Christmas was the warmest on record that year too, so I am not getting my hopes up.  I am just terribly thankful for every one of these lovely days.

I am also thankful to have another Christmas behind me.  I try hard not to be a scrooge about it and spoil things for others, but I mostly just dread Christmas.  It was always a confused time when I was a child and didn't get much better with adulthood.  My father was a dedicated hippie who randomly dabbled in a variety of religions and recreational drugs, often confusing the two.  My mother was an overworked, disowned daughter of Russian Jews who briefly tried out the hippie life after she committed the terrible sin of getting pregnant while in college.  It made for some rather interesting Christmas memories.

Sometimes we had Christmas, sometimes we didn't.  Sometimes we might have had Christmas, but there was no money for it. It was always a time of confusion and stress.

I am trying to change that and I have had some success.  This year, it was a good day.  A beautiful day spent with all my favorite creatures followed by a nice, easy dinner with good friends.  To me, that is what holidays are meant to be.  There is nothing that says "Christmas" quite like scooping poop on a quiet, sunny day.

I didn't get everything done that I meant to this year.  I didn't get a calendar made like I have in the past few years and I didn't send a single card.  If there is anyone out there feeling neglected or left out, please don't take it personally, I neglected everyone this year.  Everyone except for these guys anyways...

They yell at me if I they think there might be even a chance of neglect.  They aren't chewing on the farm equipment out of hunger, that is just for fun.

I did make several batches of my World Famous All Purpose Holiday Fudge, which I would like to share.   Since I missed Christmas, we will call this New Year's fudge. Just in time to get your New Year's diet off track right from the start:)

If you would like some homemade New Year's fudge, leave a comment on this post and I will draw three winners sometime this weekend. 


I didn't mean to be cryptic about the "retirement party".  Unfortunately, it does NOT mean that I get to retire, far from it.  It is just that the puppies like to play in the tire (which used to be a flower bed).  Now it is a dog bed, which Bess "retires" in whenever the weather is dry.

The puppies tire themselves out playing in the tire, then they retire to the tire so that they can rest up for more tiring play in the tire.  I could go on and on, but I know we will all get tired of it.  Unlike some, who generally remain tireless about the tire.

See what I mean?

OK, Moving on.....for those wondering what is going on with the latest job drama....that is terribly tiresome as well.

I really don't have a good answer.  The doctor wanted me to temporarily go back on full duty then have some tests done.  That was all supposed to happen in the past two weeks, but the holidays got in the way and there were no appointments available. Then, the doctor is going on vacation for two weeks and, when all is said and done, nothing will happen until the end of January.

In the mean time, just to make my life more fun, I am going back to the night shift starting tomorrow.  Temporarily? Permanently? I don't know. I know it's just in time for the ice storm moving this way Monday night.

There are murky, secretive stirrings quietly rumbling in the bowels of the bureaucracy, but I am being kept deliberately out of the loop. What it really comes down to is that I need a new job, which is easier said than done, especially around here.

Even if there were jobs, I am not sure what I would do.  People say, "do what you love, follow your dreams", but I am not sure what that is anymore.  When I was young, I wanted to be a vet, but my lungs failed me.  Repeated bouts of chronic pneumonia and the onset of severe allergies kept me out of vet school and left me with a set of lungs not up to the job.  What do you do when dreams have failed and you just have to make a living?

As for moving to some other place...the job issue still remains, although there may be more opportunities somewhere else.  There is really only one reason I stay here, God knows it is not a love of the climate.  It is that the few friends I have are here and won't leave.  Having already lost most of my family and friends, I am reluctant to lose more.  Stupidity, loyalty or common sense - I can't tell which.

So, here are a few things I've thought of trying to pursue...
  • Freelance writing.  Not sure if anyone would actually pay for my writing and if they will, would it pay enough?
  • Online tutoring.  I am actually a pretty good teacher with a heavy background in the sciences.  Maybe brush up on my Biology and Chemistry and see if I can make a living explaining the Kreb's Cycle?
  • Medical coding and billing.  Not terribly exciting, but there are a lot of job openings in the field right now because of federally mandated changes in how it is done and a shortage of coders.  
  • Start an Equine Nutrition Consulting business.  This would be interesting and maybe fun, but I think I might starve doing it since I haven't found anyone who actually wants to pay for such a thing.  
Anybody have any suggestions? I'm not looking to get rich, just to keep supporting myself and my herd without falling back across to the wrong side of the poverty line.  I've spent too much of my life there already.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

In the Land of Giants

Connor usually seems like a good sized dog, weighing in at about 45 pounds of hard muscle.  He always seems to shrink though in the company of all these Maremmas.

It's a good thing he's fast.

This is Rinatta  (sp?), the mother of all the pups, pretending to be all statuesque.  She has her moments though.  She and Maggie (one of the pups), live with RB.

That's Maggie trying to squash the un-squashable Connor, and Rinatta guarding her bone.  A good summation of their personalities. 

And a good view of the size difference.

Then there is the Bess and Connor show....

All day, every day.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Farm Faces

The not-so-miscreant sheep, all still alive and well. 

We did send this year's crop of lambs off so the flock size did get a lot smaller all of a sudden.  Perhaps that is what triggered all the rumors of their demise, but that happens every year.  

If you are wondering whether the moms are missing their lambs, the answer is a resounding NO!! 

They were all heartily sick of dealing with the adolescent shenanigans.  Lambs are oh-so-cute when they are little and everyone loves them, but that wears thin when they turn into a large crowd of rowdy, obnoxious teenagers.  Every one of the ewes heaved a great sigh of relief and sauntered out for an unmolested nap in the sun after the lambs had gone.

All but this one lamb on the left, she is sticking around to join the flock.  That is her sister from last year on the right.

Peace in the realm.

These two will also be leaving soon. Like lambs, pigs are also terribly cute when they are small, but the charm wears thin when they get big enough to use humans as bowling pins. They think that is quite a fun game and it is best to not have to go in there with them.  It is not that they are mean, it is just that they are overly exuberant and have no respect.  Being a bowling pin is not an enviable position, especially not when the "bowling ball" weighs 250 pounds and might eat you if you don't get up quick enough. 

They are photogenic bowling balls though.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Barn Time

It is feeling a lot like winter here today.  I woke to the ground covered in snow and the herd hiding in the barn, out of the wind.  I had hoped that Ramsey wouldn't need his blanket this year, but I have had to get it out a couple of times and he was clearly cold today so out it came.    
Emma was four when she decided that she didn't want a blanket anymore.  Ramsey is three and is not ready to be grown up yet.  Maybe next year.  Who knows though, maybe he will always want his blankie.  He is big, strong and healthy, but he has never been as robust as I would like.  He is also just a wee bit of a spoiled baby.

It was a cold and windy day, but a cozy barn, good company, a warm blanket and a full hay net make it all OK.  It was a good day to hang out in the barn, listening to one of my favorite sounds....

Friday, December 18, 2015

Rumors of Their Demise....

Have been greatly exaggerated. 

There is a rumor circulating around town that all of FB's sheep have perished from some sort of awful disease.  Several times this week, someone has offered FB condolences on this tragedy, which is rather baffling and awkward since the sheep are all perfectly healthy and happy.  

We are not sure where this odd rumor originated, but it is part of living in a very small town.  Gossip and rumors abound.  The creativity of some of them is really quite amazing.

Before I built my farm, I owned a house right in the village.  It was a very old house that had been in the same family since it had been built in the mid 1800's.  They had always been a fixture in the community and an endless source of rumor and speculation as they were thought to be quite wealthy and a bit reclusive.  I came along, all unknowing, and bought the house when the very last of the family passed away.  From what I could tell, she had been a very elderly, never married spinster who had been the subject of intense spculation all her life.  Any unmarried female, living alone around here is the subject of intense speculation.

When I decided to sell the place a few years later in order to build this house, I was rather astounded at the number of "buyers" who showed up just to get a peak at the place.  Most of them went away feeling a bit disappointed that:
  • Yes, it had indoor plumbing
  • Yes, it had electricity (albeit, old and in need of updating.  What old house doesn't?)
  • No, I had never seen a ghost
  • No, I never found any money under the floorboards (I wish!)
  • No, I did not ever find any stray bodies lying around
  • Yes, it did actually have a septic system,
  • and no, it wasn't just a hole in the ground
  • No, it did not have a kitchen.  I had to build that.
  • No, the house was not filled with priceless antiques, if it had been, they were long gone by the time I got there
  • There were no diaries, gems, money, photos, ghosts, pentagrams, or odd sounds.  All of which someone asked me about at least once.
There were bats though.  Ho boy, were there bats!

And for the record, I still don't know anything about a murder that may or may not have taken place in the house or possibly the barn or maybe the house next door or was it the moon?  

Selling that house was an interesting experience.  I Hesitate to even think about the crazy stories that must be circulating about my time there. 

Just so everyone knows, I haven't got any money hidden under the floors either.

But back to the sheep, because we aren't quite done there....

Farm Buddy's sheep are not only alive and well, they are home bodies as well.  They are NOT roaming the countryside or getting in the road.  This is somewhat less baffling as there is indeed a rather large flock of sheep wandering around and getting into trouble just down the road.  They belong to a neighboring farm.  FB's sheep are all present, accounted for and are happily hanging out in the barn, munching on second-cutting hay.  Wandering the countryside or dying of mysterious ailments would be waaaay too much work for a this bunch of fat, spoiled critters.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Fixer's Dilemma

I switched to the day shift about ten weeks ago because I am having terrible trouble with my hands and arms.  After fourteen years working as a histotechnician, the repetitive nature of the job is taking it's toll.  I am having great difficulty with carpal tunnel, cubital tunnel and radial tunnel syndrome, as well as tendinitis and cervical issues.  It got so bad this Fall that I couldn't sleep at all and my arms were numb from the shoulders down.  It is not a new problem, but it went from a minor annoyance to nearly incapacitating after my workload increased dramatically.  I moved to the day shift so I could do "light duty" and go to physical therapy.   

I am better than I was, but by no means cured and, I am not doing anything.  What I am doing at work is still enough to be exacerbating the problem.  I have not been doing much around the farm, trying to give everything a chance to heal.  However, it is unlikely at this point that the doctor is going to clear me to return to my normal job.  My boss does not want to lose me and is willing to make some accommodations, but there is no changing the nature of the job, which is extremely repetitive and requires very fine motor skills.  

Physical therapy, large amounts of Ibuprofen and getting a break from the job has helped a lot.  However, the occupational medicine doctor that I am seeing is telling me that I need to find a new job. 

I always naively thought that Worker's Comp. existed to protect employees.  I am learning the hard way that it is really more the other way around.  An employee can't be fired for getting hurt.  However, if the employee can't, "perform the normal tasks and duties of the job, then the employer can terminate that employee".  It's hard for me to see where the difference lies within that tidy bit of semantics.   

And therein lies my dilemma.  

It is easy to tell someone to go out and find a new job, but I live in one of the most economically depressed areas in the country.  I have spent the last fourteen years working in one of the most highly specialized jobs in existence.  Even the doctors that I work with don't understand what I do.  Years ago, I tried to convince the hospital to let me train in other parts of the lab, but got turned down flat because other people were afraid they would have to reciprocate.  

I could go back to school (again) and study something else, but how do I pay for it and still support myself (and my animals)?  

I've already caused permanent damage to my hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, tendons....What job is there that isn't going to cause more?

If I lose my job, how am I going to support all of us?

I can't find anyone who can tell me what happens next.  I can't even get anyone to tell me if I will at least be eligible for unemployment.   

I keep asking what happens from here and they keep telling me that, "it's up to you, Kris", but it doesn't feel like it is up to me.  I don't work because I want to, I work because I have to.  Where is the choice in that?

I feel very much like I am about to be thrown to the wolves in thanks for my 14 years of labor and expertise.  

I've avoided writing about all of this, but I'm no longer sure why.  Who am I protecting and why? I am having trouble writing about anything else as this little problem has been occupying all my thoughts and creating a great deal of anxiety.  

I haven't come up with a fix for this yet, but the stress is getting to me.  So, I did the only thing there is to do at the moment.  I took a couple of days off, took Connor for a walk...

Went for a ride with RB...

...and took my donkeys for a walk.