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Thursday, December 31, 2009

I Need Structure

I have a post today at Homemakers Who Work about routine and getting back to a schedule. My Plan to get back on track...

Sans Microwave

Three weeks ago our microwave bit the dust. My gut reaction was to moan and groan and then check the sales fliers for a good deal, but instead we decided to try going without. Initially it was very hard, I mean how else do you warm up a cup of coffee, or make a couple Morning Star sausage links for breakfast? Microwave popcorn, quick defrost of meat, melt white 'chocolate' for our traditional xmas pretzels?

However humans are adaptable creatures and thrive under adverse conditions! I have learned that warming water for tea is almost as fast on the stove, taking meat out ahead of time is a wonderful thing, the stove *gasp* works great for breakfast links, and we don't eat the prepackaged 'must microwave' stuff anyway-except sometimes for lunches at work. I think we will try the old fashioned popcorn in a kettle tonight (with REAL butter) for a new years treat. I will need another small sauce pan to make this work long term.

We have decided to go without -our future (off grid?) home will be small and spare; cutting back on electricity use and the extra clutter of bulky appliances is how we explained the situation to our curious mom-in-law but maybe it was just plain old contrariness-I'll never tell!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter Walk

This weekend my husband and I ditched the children :) and took a much needed woods walk. It was about 15 degrees but sunny and no wind. I had my new Carharts and was ready to roll! We walked our newly surveyed 20 acres and then slipped into Dad's adjacent woods. It was a great work-out! I didn't think we had enough snow to warrant the snow shoes but we forgot what the wind does out there. The sun and the sweat and the dream of things to come were just what we both needed!

An 'island' of grass with lots of mouse activity

Birds in the fencerow



Friday, December 18, 2009


Following this link from Homemakers Who Work? Sorry-I have a sick kid today--I will write a nice (maybe naughty) post this afternoon! Check back soon. Kris

This week I received an e-mail from my state professional association, it was a copy of an email sent to MY state legislators informing them that WI veterinarians are against the raw milk bill. What? When did I say that? Did I miss some poll? The e-mail got me going for several reasons. I am FOR raw milk; at least give us, the unthinking masses the chance to choose. I am also paying association dues to be misrepresented. The WVMA (and national AVMA) is also very much for NAIS--another topic you do not want to get me started on! The threshold has been broken-I am ticked, these blog rants are a way for me to blow off a little steam before I settle down and write a good logical, professional(but still mad) letter to the WVMA.

Wisconsin is agriculture. In fact the county in which I live used to be known for having more Holsteins than humans! Due to historically low milk prices (something on the order of $0.84/gallon) to the farmer-they are bleeding red ink this year. A combination of declining milk exports and high prices for feed have created an estimated 'average' loss of $47 per cow each month. Farms are going out of business (which by the way does not mean less milk produced-someone buys and milks those cows), which means people loosing their livelihoods, their retirement equity, and in most cases their homes. Farmers are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

The whole and local food movement has created a demand for raw unprocessed milk. Dairymen who sell milk fresh from the farm can make $4-7 per gallon, a living wage-unfortunately this is illegal in WI. The bill in front of the State would allow class A dairies to apply for a raw milk permit and legally sell unprocessed-straight from the cow milk, without being held liable for possible damages-unless obviously negligent. Bonus-they can pay their mortgage, pay their bills, and have something left over for retirement.

Yes, you can get sick from raw milk. It's going to happen. Listeria, brucella, e. Coli, Q fever-there are all sorts of nasties which can live and multiply in milk. But wouldn't you rather have permitted farms selling milk or black-market, under the table sales? To have a raw permit-the dairies should have scheduled bulk tank sampling and cultures, a Johne's negative herd. It is a win-win situation. People get the product they want, the state gets permit revenues, the farmer gets a financially viable business ( and oh yeah large animal DVM's have increased revenue from the additional testing as well as farmer who can actually pay their bills each month!)

The milk safety issue is an interesting one. There is the acute illness we can see and measure when there is a local outbreak of gastrointestinal disease, this is (relatively) easy to lay blame on contaminated milk (or peanut butter or spinach). But what about the chronic health problems which lead from a life-time of eating processed, dead foods? There is no way to measure something like that. As a person of Northern European descent, I believe my body is more capable of dealing with the occasional bacterium in a traditional food like whole milk than in highly processed dead food. I trust eons of natural selection and symbiosis over 100 years of 'progress'. Which is the safer food? Food scientists are really smart and we have come a long way, but I don't think we have come close to understanding the subtlety and complexity of nutrition.

Come on Wisconsin-at least pretend you care about your farmers more than you cater to agribusiness.

Some links to look at for more info

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Health Care Muddle

Is health care a constitutionally protected right? Is it right up there with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Do we have a responsibility to provide the same level of health care to everyone across the board? Or is health care something you earn; work hard, take responsibility for your own life, don't have kids until you can afford them, etc. The price I pay for being a Libra is I can see both sides of the argument. Both have merit. I fall somewhere in the middle I suppose, but all the shades of grey are difficult-it would be so much easier if things were black and white.
In theory I am a survival of the fittest kind of gal, and while supporting the weakest member of a society is good for those weak individuals it is bad for the society as a whole in the long run. Sorry if that is offensive, but I am too much of the Darwinian biologist to think any other way. I do not believe access to health care is something our society is mandated to provide to every member of society, but I would support health care for every child under the age of 18 yrs. I would also support a national health care pool from which you could not be excluded based on pre-existing conditions. But not free. Free is not free, free means people with income pay for those without. I have worked very hard for a long time and would rather not support someone who has made poor choices and screwed around with his /her life. There are all sorts of extenuating circumstances though-mental illness for example.
It is all just a muddy mess. What sort of solutions do you see?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

After the Snow

We are one of only a few households without a snow blower in our NC Wisconsin neighborhood. I'm not sure if it is stubbornness or frugality (actually I am sure it is a healthy dose of BOTH), but we have resisted buying an expensive noisy beast.
We only get a handful of big heavy snows each winter, the remainder comes in 1-3 inch increments-easily handled with a shovel, the only kicker is the snowplow leavings across the driveway.
Last week we received 11.5 inches of snow-it was light and fluffy but still a lot of material to move...enter our best friend after a big snow-the snow scoop.

We have a double lot on a corner which translates to a block worth's of sidewalk! So I love this thing, no lifting the snow. I can push it with my body if my arms get tired, and even when full loaded with heavy snow it is easy to 'drive' it up a snowbank then a quick jerk backwards deposits the snow.

The south side done-only wide enough for one person and a dog-good enough!

Second half to go-down to the telephone pole,this is the second time through-after the winds stopped!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Stepping off a Cliff ?

The enormity of what we are doing is sinking in. It is one thing to sit around the campfire and say "let's move to the country" after a beautiful summer day of gardening and hiking and playing. Another thing entirely to consider 5 long months of snow and wind and darkness. To be confronted daily with mother nature at her fiercest and most beautiful; to realize that as an individual (or even as a species)that I am NOT special, that I AM vulnerable, that my survival depends on how well prepared I am.
I admit I got a little weirded-out driving out to the property last week with -20 wind chill to meet the surveyors. I had to borrow my hubbies 4 wheel drive(to make it up the -plowed- driveway). I also had to borrow his Carhart's because I don't have decent warm clothes. I was feeling a little over my head. But I accept this challenge. We can do this-our family does not belong in town anymore-we have outgrown it.
The land purchase is going forward. Since we have agreed to the land price, Mr. Nice Farmer is working very hard to be sure we hit no other snags. We should be finalized around the end of the month!


All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas layin' in the sun,
Talkin' 'bout the things
They woulda-coulda-shoulda done...
But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
All ran away and hid
From one little did

I've been full of shouldas and wouldas,
Thanks Shel Silverstien for showing me the way

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Garden Plans (and snow)

The view towards the rabbit hutches: the girls have been making trails :)

My poor little car!

We have been hit with snow like the rest of the midwest, maybe 8 inches? It is hard to tell with the drifting. The wind shifted to the north last night and the poor bunnies nest box opening face north-they had a bit of snow in their little houses. We got the plastic up for them this morning! I have been pretty complacent with this long mild fall.

Tom has been reading 'The Good Life' by helen and scott nearing. I read it a while ago and got it out to re-read part again...We were both struck by their sense of order and doing things the 'right' way. Their disciplined approach appeals to both of us-something to file away for future use. Tom is interested in being more involved in the garden this year! I would love that-it is good to work TOGETHER on something.

With a couple of months of eating foods we have grown and stored, I have a better idea of what works for our family. The dehydrated carrots are WONDERFUL for casseroles and soups. We certainly want to plan for more carrots -planted in succession, next year. The frozen green beans have also been really good in casseroles and soups. I don't think you can beat dried beans for ease of growth and storage. More varieties next year! The sun dried tomatoes in oil are little treasures too. We certainly need to get the solar food drier running next year.

The 150 Lbs of potatoes are doing well. We dug them up too early and some are beginning to show some sprouting activity. The yellow onions are fine in the basement closet too. (Don't try to store red ones!)

I can hardly wait for the seed catalogs to start arriving!

Tomorrow I pull out the snow shoes and 'supervise' the surveying. It has gotten more complicated now that we are buying a 4+ acre portion and creating a 15 acre 'sublot' to put on the land contract; more fees to pay the county government.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Don't 'Fall Down the Stairs'

The Christmas tree is up; snow is on the way (up to one foot of the stuff!), we have a cookie baking extravaganza planned for next weekend and guess what? It’s beginning to feel like Christmas! Finally.
I have a bad attitude about eating on a diet, this weekend I ate grilled cheese sandwiches (homemade sourdough-mmm!) and eggnog with no regrets! My co-worker gave me a great quote “just because you tripped down a couple stairs, don’t throw yourself down the rest of the stairway”. Something to that effect, anyway. She’s right-and she should know-- she has lost 57 lbs. with WW and exercise. I almost didn’t go to workout this morning; I was grumpy and ugly. Then I reminded myself that it wasn’t optional. I am working on increasing my running (jogging) distances, gradually working up from 1minute jog, 1 minute walk, repeat. Today I ran a total of 0.8 miles. It isn’t pretty but I felt great doing it and the liberating thing about being (nearly) 40 is the complete and utter disregard I have for how I may look to others! It just doesn’t matter-I wish I could go back and give this peace and acceptance to myself at 17.
We were scheduled to have the land surveyed on Wednesday-it is supposed to be blizzard-like, if so it will be put off until next week. Nothing else to report here.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Today I have a post at HWW about mindfulness and living in the moment. Enjoy the holiday season, every moment!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Plant Sex

No one guessed what the pictures in the previous post were...plant porn. Electron microscope photos of pollen enhanced with color. Once giftmas (oops christmas) is history-I will break out my old paints and see if they are all dried up or still usable! It's been years.

A helpful radio announcer reminded me that there is only 20 days until, I better order gifts for the girls. They have been circling and cutting out pictures from the catalogs we receive for months! Everyone else is covered, I think.

I have been working out 3-4 days per week. I feel great. The scale is not moving much (5#) but my blue jeans are much looser-as in I can pull them off without unbuttoning. Its something, I'll take it 5# at a time.

The land contract on our 20 acres is going forward. We will buy outright 4 acres plus the 33x800ft driveway, and write a contract with Mr Nice Farmer for the rest. The surveying will happen next week -to the tune of $1,000 ouch! The builder we will use is available for next summer. We will get together with him sometime in january to go over our scribbled plans.

I need to work on a post for tomorrow's Homemakers Who Work. I think I will talk about my personal hero the FlyLady...interested...come visit us there.

(i don't think I posted these from this summer)

Erin before her first class--she's crazy nervous but it doesn't show

Lizzy on Beljit with trainer Liz Rice-Beula

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This weekend i participated in an Alternative Holiday market at the Universalist Unitarian Church. A group called the Simple Sustainable Living Network (SSLN) meets at he church and hosts the market. ArkWorks Farm had a table at the market and Dad-looking for a little moral support-invited me to market my primitive wood crafts there as well. Making these wooden signs has been a bit of a hobby over the past year-not technically challenging or particularly creative but they keep my fingers in the paint pot so to speak. All proceeds were to go to the local Women's Community Center-except I had no proceeds! A lot of looking but no buying. I am not crushed! Now I have plenty of christmas gifts to give away! I was happy with my quality of work, etc and it was fun to get out of my little world. Dad sold a few chickens and made alot of new contacts and reconnected with many old teacher colleagues. We were tabled right next to the farmer we buy our grass fed beef from and what a great guy-very serious about his cattle and improving the his land. There may be a possibility of working with him in the future.

It was really important for me to get out of myself this weekend, i realized how self involved I have become-work, land, plans, family. Nothing else-nada. I need to get out more, raise my horizons. I really miss the SSLN people-we have not been meeting because everything had fallen to the 2 founders with no one else willing to take up the reins. Perhaps I can... I also missed the UU church -last winter I went to a few services and I think I will go back for more this winter.

Other fun things-I continue to wrestle with my career-I am so blessed to be able to be in a position to DECIDE how to make a living. Specialize or generalize. One of the reason I am balking at the direction of specialization and increased standards of care is I am not comfortable with an increased level of responsibility, I am afraid of being held to a higher standard and found inadequate. I am smart but not brilliant, I am a good veterinarian but not great-my strengths are empathy and compassion not logic. That is why I am afraid of the direction our clinic is headed-but perhaps my strengthss will be needed even more now.

I found these pictures in the recent National Geographic magazine (thanks Mom!)

They really stirred the artist in me. I may have to break out the acrylics again. I haven't felt the tug to paint in a long time but the color and shapes did something to me that I won't ignore. Do you know what they are?? I'll tell you next time!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hiding Under the Covers

Did your mom ever tell you 'if you don't have anything good to say...'? Well I've been pretty quiet lately for that very reason. Last week was one of those black times for me. It seems every few months around my period I have a few days where I just want to crawl under the covers, curl up and cry-for no particular reason. Or get under those covers with a big piece of chocolate and a book. I've been exercising regularly and not eating much sugar so I know those are NOT contributing factors. I think narcissism and depression are on opposite ends of a spectrum which is too self-involved. Both personalities focus inwardly-thinking only of themselves, but where the narcissist has these grandiose ideas and inflated self-worth, the depressed person is focused inwardly on their own misery and anxiety. Take these ideas for what they are worth, just some random thoughts.
I was on medication for post-partum depression 10+ years ago and hated the zombie deadness. No pain, but no joy either. I am generally a pretty buoyant person, I will take the few days of chocolate under the covers over steady state zombie any day.
I am coming back to myself now, hormones are normalizing and I was kicked out of my little cocoon of self-involvement to be an vendor at an Alternative Holiday Market. More on that later-i am still sorting through some ideas which have been planted in this fertile ground between my ears. (fertile or just full of shit-time will tell)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

MOSES Conference

Are any of you Midwestern readers going to the MOSES (midwest organic and sustainable education service) Organic Farming Conference in LaCrosse, WI this Febuary?? I just learned of this organization and (if we actually have a place to farm next year)DH and I would like to attend. They have a wonderful mentoring program for new organic farmers! I was just wondering if any of you Midwestern folks are going, it would be fun to meet you!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Specialist or Generalist?

So I'm a bit of a doomer. These days if you haven't had an uneasy feeling about the future you must be completely sleepwalking through life-eyes wide shut. I have been waking up to the fact that the status-quo will change, has to change as we run out of cheap energy, as sea levels rise and human migration occurs. I have no idea when any of this will happen or how; will it be slow and orderly or an apocalyptic four horsemen type ordeal? I have written before about adapting being the key to making the best of changes/surviving an apocalypse. This is the background coloring my general take on the future -yeah, cheery.
I am approaching a crossroad in my career where I need to decide -specialist or generalist. Our clinic has been changing alot over the past year, the level of care has gone up, we are providing really quality medicine and looking to push our selves further-with the purchase of an ultrasound-Doppler flow so our ACVIM DVM can start doing cardiology consults along with standard abdominal US. I have to admit to coasting a bit in the last two years- I have not been burned out and not very focused on my career. If I wish to perform at MY self-expected level within this practice I have some work to do, focused continuing education, a big backlog of journals to digest- I have NO wish to be the practice owner who is years behind, medically speaking. Part of me is excited by this prospect-we have a great group of veterinarians and clients who would appreciate this level of care for their beloved babies. This is the route the industry tells us a 'healthy practice' should strive for; specialization and a high standard of care (along with a healthy bottom line).

But the flip side is that I am feeling increasingly uncomfortable about where we are headed. We can do X for your dog, it but should we? Human health care costs have spiraled so high, and I can see similar things happening to veterinary care (but minus the insurance issues!). I am legally obligated to inform a client about the 'standard of care' for a particular issue. With the advent of the Internet the standard of care for Smallsville Wisconsin is the same as that in the most affluent Manhattan neighborhood. I can't bear to see my clients wrestle with the idea that the best option for their pet's condition is a procedure or medication which is so far out of their reach financially, I can't bear to see them feel like a failure because they cannot afford the best care or even the second best care. But it has to be offered. Period. Even to little old ladies with rusted out barely running cars, who are already supporting their unemployed daughter in FL and has a diabetic 14 yr old cat who really needs a dental (sorry, she is one of my clients!)

With our (planned) move to our (planned) homestead next summer, I have the opportunity to re-think my career. Perhaps I should become a generalist. Instead of investing my time into brushing up on cutting edge small animal medicine, I should learn (or should I say re-learn) about beef cows, small ruminants, and chickens. Will the need shift away from animals as surrogate children and back to animals as tools for survival with-in my working lifetime? Will pharmaceuticals be available at a reasonable price for animals? Should I concentrate on husbandry -not letting them get sick in the first place-will people be willing to pay $ (or firewood) for that? Should I learn to be a veterinary herbalist and grow my own medicine. This is where I am leaning, it scares the crap out of me, honestly.

Thanks for reading my rambling-I need to put thoughts into words and paragraphs to see how they hit my 'gut'. In writing this out I can see where my heart is taking me. Now to figure out how to make it work and still pay the bills.

PS-Mr Nice Farmer is interested in pursuing the land contract (maybe he needs the money just a little bit more than he let on). We would buy outright the easement and the building site (maybe 4 acres?) and write a contract for the rest. That will make the bank happy, and me too!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Setbacks-plural-as in more than one!

Setback number one: call from nice bank lady, the appraised value of the 20 acres is $40,000. Nice farmer wants no less than $3,000 per acre. If we want to proceed we will have to come up with the difference. Instead of the $7,500 down payment we were anticipating, we would have to cough up $27,500. Yikes. We have it, but it would not leave us much for a house. I am fairly certain nice farmer will not bring his price down, he has said this before. I am fairly certain we will not spend the lion's share of our hoarded savings on land down payment. Delaying the move into a more sustainable home/lifestyle is not something I am willing to do. I am anxious enough as it is about waiting until spring to build/sell our house. I continue to wonder when this house of cards we call an economy will come down around us. I worry about inflation and interest rates. I just plain worry. Time to think outside the box.

Setback number two: actually not a setback but a not moving forward. Less than 1 lb loss last week. I swam 4 times last week, but didn't keep track of food intake. My little shortcut was not helpful and I have learned a lesson. Write it ALL down and have a plan the night before. I was/am pissed for faltering but in a good-strengthening resolve kind of way. Lifting weights yesterday helped alot. I forgot how much I loved lifting, not I just need to find my old Powerman5000 and Metallica cassettes to put in my Walkman- ha, ha.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A New Week

What a great morning! I am feeling very energized and optimistic. I just retruned from the YMCA -I swam for 30 minutes. I used their 'swim flippers' and felt like I got a much better work-out-more resistance for my leg muscles (plus going fast is much more fun). Once my endurance is better I will look into adult swimming lessons so I can be a 'real' swimmer :)

I have found myself sort of 'wandering' on my days off. When I am not working I don't really know what to do with myself. Garden is done, food storage is done, there are no 'fires' to put out. Not that my checkbook is balanced and the house is clean, etc but there is no emergency demanding my attention so I sort mess around here and fool around with that, not really accomplishing anything.

My solution is the start my FlyLady routines again. It you are a hopelessly disorganized, easily sidetracked kind of person (like me) adding these little routines to your days/weeks will help! I need to know what I have scheduled myself to do so I don't spend half the morning making lists and priorizing , etc, etc instead of just doing them (15 minutes at a time -you can do anything for 15 minutes !)

Another postive note. I have found my brain again! It has been at least 3 weeks since I have 'lost' my wallet (or keys, or fill-in-the-blank-here). This is a good thing I was worrying that I was an early Alzheimers candidate, but it was really just too much stress.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Head Gaskets and Commitment

I took my 2002 Saturn in for routine maintenance last week. It has had a slow oil leak for months ( I add a quart every 3-5 weeks ). Turns out it is need of a new head gasket to the tune of $1000. I am tempted to just let it be but at some point coolant will get into the oil and that would spell the end of the engine.

My knee jerk reaction was 'Oh well-time to get a new car'. On further reflection I think it will be worth while to fix it. The car is paid for, still gets 32-35mpg (when I drive the speed limit!), has pretty new tires, recently replaced brakes, and has a history of being an easy keeper aside from normal wear and tear. I suffer from car envy frequently and we could easily afford to buy a new car, but just because we CAN afford a new car does not mean we SHOULD buy a new car.

I will continue to practice my Buddhist 'not wanting' and delayed gratification.
DH thinks he can fix it with the help of a friend who has more tools (and a heated garage).

On another note relating to long term commitments-I joined our YMCA yesterday and went swimming. Maybe swimming is to strong of a word! I dog paddled with a kickboard, practicing rotary breathing then backstroking when I realised kicking and breathing at the same time was too complicated for me! Today I went back for recumbant bike and weights. My feet are still too sore to do more than 10 minutes walking without complaint-even with good shoes. Sigh.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lovelock and The Vanishing Face of Gaia

I just listened to an interview of James Lovelock on NPR. I have been an admirer of his work since my 3rd year of college when I took a course built around his first Gaia book -yes this was 1991 and UW-Madison, the liberal center of the Midwest -an entire 3 credit course! Coolest class I ever took. My take-away points were 1) the earth system is incredibly more complex and subtle than even our smartest think-tanks can imagine, 2) Gaia (with or without us) will survive, even if we as a species completely foul our nest.
Love lock's message seems very much the same, but with a less rosy outlook on the human species. He contends that global warming is with us for thousands of years, even if we could turn off CO2 production NOW. Warming, flooding, migration, wars, and starvation will happen no matter what. Through our actions we may be able to change the degree somewhat. His hope is that after our world-wide visit from the four horsemen we will emerge as a species more enlightened, climate change having driven us to evolve once again through genetic selection
The radio personality laughed nervously through-out the segment, as she tried to get him to lighten-up and say well of course we can turn things around, of course everything will be okay. He steadfastly refused to give in to her need for reassurance. His best advice to the future generation of humanity was to learn how to adapt to a changing world. Learn how to survive, and be ready to move to a location less affected with drought, flood, pestilence or famine. Heavy stuff.
Dr Lovelock is a serious scientist, respected as a forward thinker but also more than 90 years old. Old men are wise but often fatalistic. Worth considering, but not driving yourself crazy over.
How can you adapt? How do you prepare your children to survive. More crazy dreams for me tonight I'll bet.

Wild Dreams

I have a post today at Homemakers Who Work about my fun with sourdough starter!

My first week of WW was pretty good, lost 2 lbs though I was hoping for something more dramatic. I got a little depressed about the reality of this weight loss goal... 50lbs divided by 2 lbs per week equals flipping forever. But the journey starts with a single step and all that. I can choose to give up and feel bad or I can plug along 2 pounds at a time. I have the opportunity to choose where I want to be in 25 weeks. I can see myself getting really bored with the point counting though. I will work on standardizing my meals a little so I don't have to think too much about what I should eat for lunch, etc. I will also start the Y.

I had the craziest dream. I walked out of my business without locking the door, when I returned later that night the cash drawer was empty-I was so mad! The dream then switched to me finding a rave going on, all these sophisticated, beautiful people having a great time in my office. In the dream I was very short, wearing dumpy clothes and felt very insignificant. It doesn't take a therapy session to figure this one out. I have been wrestling with what to do career-wise. I am not really comfortable about being the boss, I am not business/accounting/inventory/human resources savvy-nor particularly motivated to become so. So sell the beast-my partner is willing to buy my % back. But it is profitable, there is job security which goes along with being an owner, as well as a certain prestige which goes along with ownership. My dream was obviously the result of my subconscious wrestling match. Should I continue to party with the beautiful people or walk out and let the money be stolen from the cash drawer?? Time will tell.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Signed, Sealed...

The Offer to Purchase has been accepted, and I take it to the bank tomorrow!! I am beyond happy. I feel as if I am finally at a place in my life where I am doing and not just flapping my lips. Very empowering and it is spilling over into other parts of my life-taking the reins so to speak.
According to the loan officer it should take 2-3 weeks until we can close. I have already been sketching floor plans-we are planning an approx 1100 square foot house for the 4 of us. I am looking forward to building a house which really fits our family's needs now and with an eye to the future. Passive solar design with a very open design. We really like the idea of very small bedrooms and a larger central space that can be used for multiple activities.
Redundancy is big for me-if no power is available via the grid, whether peak oil or just an ice storm; how will we heat, cook, pump water, etc? We will certainly take advantage of the great incentives for installing PV and solar hot water. There is some uncertainty about whether we will try for off grid or net metering-it all comes down to $ though-many of the incentives are offered by the utility provider. No provider=significantly lower incentive. Fun times!
We had a good visit with my sister's family this weekend. It was decided that our Christmas exchange would be different this year. We will each bring a wrapped homemade gift, draw numbers and either select a present or 'steal' someones gift. It should be fun, with less stress and less cost. Now if only I could convince my DH's family to do the same. Sigh.
Putting the pumpkin whole into the oven working very well. I will certainly do that again. I didn't puree it however and it had the consistancy of snot. Lesson learned! I had 4 quart bags of the cooked pumpkin/squash in the fridge and my seven year old came to me wondering why I was thawing out so many eggs? I think she was hoping for many quiches. It is true that our pasture raised eggs were the same color as the deep orange squash-the things kids notice!

This is two 'homemade' eggs compared to a store bought. The color is poor in the shot, and these were January eggs-no pasture, no bugs, and they are still kicking butt!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Tired girl here-just a quick ramble...
Joined WW yesterday and my new motto is 'Failing to Plan = Planning to Fail'
Did you know that 3 slices of frozen pepperoni pizza is equal the number of 'points' I should be eating in an entire day? Wow-no wonder I am fat!
I am focused and excited about this change.
Good shoes make a huge difference!
As soon as we loose the nice weather I will join the YMCA, but for right now I will keep plugging away at the fall pick up. I am reconsidering the advantages of a 1 acre lawn and many mature trees. I love being out there working, but it's just a pointless task-except to keep the green lawn looking nice so we can sell this sucker next year!
I had rotten winter squash (really rotten-in a puddle-ick!) so I cleaned that up and threw a questionable pumpkin and one squash into the oven today.
We will give the bank our signed Offer to Purchase next week and we should be able to close in 2-3 weeks.

Monday, November 2, 2009

First Things First

Before heading to work today I stopped to get some new athletic shoes. I have been walking more and my old shoes... are pretty old. My feet had been getting progressively more painful, to the point where I don't go stocking-footed anymore. I spend most of my day on my feet and the work shoes weren't helping much either, those chunky soled leather shoes are completely flat inside-no support to be found. The new shoes are New Balance (made in the USA) and pretty utilitarian- but function above form any day! I also threw away all the extra Halloween candy. This was hard- I am having extreme sugar craving. But I wanted to start off on an honest and accurate accounting so there was no 'just one taste'. It all got dumped.
Tomorrow AM I will walk. Wednesday AM is a WW meeting. Baby steps.

I almost forgot-Saturday we butchered our buns- they were 14 weeks old. It was much smoother this time. DH used his 22 and I did the rest. I now have three beautiful very thick fur pelts to tan. I believe I will try to make myself a Christmas present (instead of giving my best stuff away!) I am picturing rabbit fur lined mitts. We'll see.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Six Bag Limit

Apparently I have a six bag limit, bags of leaves that is. We missed our village's curb-side leaf pick up last week. That's okay because I would rather see those leaves improving that clay garden soil, but we still have to bag them up and drive them out. Today the weather was cooperative and I set out with alot of enthusiasm. Running the mower with bag attached and dumping the shredded green and brown into large plastic bags. A neighbor works at KRAFT and gets us these ?60- 90? gallon clear plastic bags, which would otherwise be waste.

I could only fill up 6 of these bags before I was pooped. My feet hurt and I was just tired. This is a problem. I have never really felt limited by my physical strength or endurance. Perhaps this is because I have realistic expectations of what my 39 year old body could do. But today I couldn't even fulfill my reasonable expectations. By spring I will need so much more out of my body; it's time for a change.

I am 40 - 50 lbs overweight, have crunchy knees(not painful but loud!), carpal tunnel, and now I think plantar fasciitis. What am I waiting for -diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease? It stops now. I don't have the work excuse -I'm only at 25-30 hours per week. The girls are old enough to be very independent. I am in charge of most of the food coming out of the kitchen as well as the grocery shopping. My excuses are running out.

My subconscious is afraid-what if I try-really try and I can't do it? I've turned over a new leaf :) more times than I can count. How will this be different? I have some ideas. First, my goals will not be scale related but behavior related, as in meeting my goals of veggies, fruit and whole grains and number of minutes of physical activity rather than 2 lbs a week. I can control my behavior and the behavior will affect the scale. Second, I am going to re-join the YMCA- I need to get back to swimming to take things easy on my joints until my weight gets to a healthier place. Third, I am going to develop a kick-ass support network by blogging about my goals and progress along with joining Weight Watchers.

The tone of the posts will change somewhat -but it's my blog, so there!! All you lurkers out there-speak up! I'd love to know you are out there keeping me honest.


I had a post at Homemakers Who Work Yesterday. Talking about turning your hobby into a small business. Why not?

Friday, October 30, 2009

When I Retire...

Skepticism runs deep in my psyche along with a mistrust of the often touted ‘expert opinion’. I also dig my heels in when I feel I am being sold something with scare tactics-as in do this OR ELSE.

I put money aside every paycheck into my 401K, I save into our emergency fund (and now house fund) money market account, I put extra toward the principle of our mortgage (which translates as ‘death-grip’ BTW). But I have a tip about this hot new investment that I plan to give a whirl-MYSELF!

Last year’s financial crisis was something of a revelation for me. Watching my carefully gathered funds just vanish made me feel helpless, just totally powerless. It was soon after that I reduced my 401K deduction drastically. Instead of putting money in a precarious house of cards, I wanted to invest in my own house-my own homestead-my own ‘retirement’. Yes, my taxable income is higher, but I feel it is a small price to pay for honoring that inner-voice.

I have made the decision to look at retirement in a whole different light. For many, retirement is the tantalizing carrot dangling just out of reach, waiting as a reward for 40 years of unrewarding work. 'When I retire I will be able to enjoy my life.' 'When I retire I can really get into my hobbies.' I don’t have any intention of waiting.

My investment in our future is starting now, while I am still healthy and strong. My husband and I can still break ground, install fencing, and start an orchard; if I wait until 65 that will not happen. I do not plan to retire to The Village in Florida, or play a lot of golf, or go on cruises when I am old. I foresee myself working part-time until I am physically unable (I do love my career when I can find balance!). I see myself helping to raise my (great?) grandchildren.

Compound interest is a wonderful thing and don’t get me wrong-I will continue to save and invest. But I am going to ‘diversify my portfolio’ just a little!

Twenty years down the road-worst case scenario: my 401K retirement nest egg may dry up and blow away, the FDIC may not be able to keep up with banking collapses, food and fuel prices may skyrocket. But with acreage owned, goats in the shed and potatoes in the clamp, I can feed myself. With a wood plot and a passive solar design I can stay warm. With solar panels I can pump water. You get the idea. I may not be saving for the future but I sure as hell am investing in my future.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


The driveway

Yesterday was fun -tromping around in the mud, imagining the possibilities...but i am also scared sh@t-less! It's time to put my money where my mouth is-literally. The 20 acres passed the perc test -marginal- but a pass. So once I have the county's paperwork in hand (next week) we will take the plunge. I have butterflies! I am getting out of my comfort zone. Am I really going to follow my dreams and take responsibility for creating my own life vision? Yes, yes I am.
Time to start thinking about floor plans and farm layout. And of course continuing to save, save, save!


Further thought on this subject...I have bundled all my anxiety about making fundamental changes into this land purchase. Buying and building -not such a big deal, moving family to the sticks -still not such a big deal, selling my share of the clinic and (while still working part-time) and turning away from a high cash flow lifestyle -well that is where things get a little dicey! The journey starts with a single step and we are taking a very sane approach to this. The point is happiness, security and sustainability. When we find our 'happy spot' we will know it!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

One 'Door' Closes...

The fixer-upper is off the table. The trustee for the estate decided he could not sell it for the low price he offered. That's okay. I am at peace and am in a state of openness to what might happen. That sounds really new-age dippy but there it is. Tomorrow I meet the soil test man and the backhoe at the 20 acres of field which butts up against my dad's woods. If the soil will perk test for a septic system then we wiil buy it. If it doesn't and a holding tank is our only option then we will not. Period. (there is another parcel of land for sale 1/2 mile down the road) (with a woods) (in the preferred school district-no 'school choice' and meeting the bus on the corner-only 50 yards, but still). I am excited about building our own 'ARK'. Passive solar, wood heat, water collection systems, off grid (maybe).
I'll let you know what happens tomorrow -if I have time before scooting off to work!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Extreme Gardening

Extreme, as in extremely late! The combination of schedule, wet weather and long distance gardening has resulted in a very neglected garden. I haven't been back since my last collection of produce around the first hard frost. Yesterday was clear, we were available and winter will be upon us soon. Time to git er done! I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by the size of the job and the two inches of snow which had fallen overnight! But the sun eventually peeked out, we had the first snow ball fight of the year and I had some helpers as you can see! I removed cartloads of slimy tomato plants, swiss chard (note to self- still looking good after repeated freezes), corn stalks, a couple of forgotten mouse chewed turnips and other large vegetation. The girls loved swinging the machete and jumping on the few squishy pumpkins, they also had a short game of batting practice with some immature squash! It was muddy, cold work. (Second note to self- pull this stuff out before it gets slimy--gross) I was unsure about how to go about putting the garden 'to bed' for the winter. Although this is a temporary garden for me-hopefully I will use it only one more year before having my own (!!!)- I wanted to try a no till method. I have 6 beds of 3x15 feet in addition to a 2 foot bed all along the outside fence, then three larger areas where I planted potatoes, winter squash and tomatoes this year. I did not plan to till the 6 beds- I wanted to treat them like permanent beds. What I did this fall was to pull out the large woody plant material, spread a 6-10 inch layer of mowed leaves/grass over the bed and turned it into the soil with a fork, about 6 inches deep. My rationale was to incorporated the organic matter into the deeper layers of soil and give the worms some time this fall and again next spring time to work on it. The soil in this part of the county in very clay-like. I did manage to get 4/6 beds handled in this way. I will try to get back out again to put more leaves on the other two but NOT turn it in- maybe I will not notice a difference and won't have to work so hard! :) Three of six done! The tomato waste yard-makes me very sad, but think of all those heirloom volunteers next year!

Tom spent a good long time in the woods recharging his batteries, scouting a location for his deer stand. He was happy about the snow fall and was able to track several groups of deer-his tally was 2 grouse, 6 wood cocks, and 5 deer sighted-pretty good for one morning! Then we had some time to play too-the girls headed to the slough to play in puddles. (I just sat on a rock-too tired to move!) They created paths and made snowballs to float in the water, oops water goes over the tops of boots! Thank goodness I know these girls and have extras packed for the ride home! Snow ball incoming!! This video makes me the end you will clearly hear my 7 year old say 'Oh Shit', cracks me up every time.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Wanting and Waiting...My 'marshmallow' test

Have you heard of the famous marshmallow test? First performed by Walter Mischel at Stanford University in the 1960's, the marshmallow test was a measure of delayed gratification for 4 year olds. The children were told they could have this marshmallow NOW or wait and receive 2. The kids who were successful in waiting employed specific strategies-playing with the marshmallow or otherwise pretending it was something other than an ooey gooey yummy treat. The kids who could wait not only got a second marshmallow but, on average, an extra 210 points on their SAT scores. I have been using a similiar technique to deal with the waiting and the wanting which goes along with this land/farm purchase.

The four noble truths of Buddism teaches that craving and attachments are the root of human suffering and disquiet. If you can end craving, you can bring yourself to a quiet, peaceful place. This is what I have been working on. Rather than let myself become embroiled in the wanting and all the tension that stirs up, I am letting it go. The right solution will come if I don't push too hard and 'surrender to the stream'. A little new-age I know, but it's working for me.

Thanks for all the support by the way, it took all day yesterday -reading, painting, and puttering to get back to normal (or as close as I can get anyway!). When I put days like that into my 'Your Money or Your Life' hourly wage determination, things look a little different!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The past two work days have been bad. Everything is sick, everybody loves their pet-but has limited funds-what can you do for me that won't cost alot...hmmm I have two choices really 1) guess (my crystal ball solution) 2) the 2 cent lead flavored cure (my super sensitive spouses solution). I have put three animals to sleep in the past 24 hours. The sobbing owner kind, the 'tell me i am doing the right thing' kind, the home euthanasia with the single mom and her two kids crying as i listen for the last heart beatkind. i am really just out of answers, out of solutions, just dry and shriveled up inside. I really don't think i can do this job much longer without loosing the compassion and empathy which is what makes it all worth while.

bad bad bad.

don't worry too much -i'll be better after i have had a chance to paint and do some yoga.

Monday, October 19, 2009


Just a mix of stuff today-nothing coherent. The cabbage is sitting quietly in their jars--no overflow or weird smells, which leaves me wondering-is it too cold, is it fermenting at all? IDK but Wednesday is day ten and I am supposed to process and store the kraut then. We'll see.
I made some of our stored winter squash last night for supper (split in half, scooped out, and baked w/ a little water on a cookie sheet) Yuck! Even I -the squash lover,thought it had the consistency of snot. This was a Sweet Meat from Baker's. Somebody tell me...will a winter squash which is not quite mature have this texture. It's outside was still streaked with green and the center cavity was not yet 'fiberous'. Hopefully that was the problem!
I spent some time working on crafts for an Alternative Holiday Market our local UU church puts on the weekend after thanksgiving. I started making primitive signs last winter and thought it was a lot of fun. This will be a market test for me. Will people pay money for these things-is it a viable hobby/business/tax deduction. I decided I would donate all proceeds minus paint costs to The Women's Community, a local non profit which supports women who have been victims of domestic abuse. It just felt right. This hobby is not about money but about healing (me and now others!) and balance.
Erin is out sick from school today-I am so happy we can be home for her. We decided to not vaccinate our girls for H1N1-the health dept. was running a free clinic at their school. I just didn't feel right about it. We don't routinely do seasonal influenza either. I hope this decision doesn't turn around and bite us in the ass.
We have not heard anything about the fixer-upper. He offered us a low price and when I bit, he changed his mind. I told him the place was just not worth the higher price to us, for the low price we could afford to fix it to meet our desires. He is playing us pure and simple and that is not a game I will play. I am at a place where I have my 'wanting' in check. It's a house and some land-nothing more, very rational, very cut and dried. His deadline was this Sunday and he has not called, so I will make the call today.
I have a post about guilt and loosing a pet on HWW today.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Something Simmering in the Kitchen...

...and it's not the soup! It was ME. This weekend I realized I was getting resentful about spending so much time in the kitchen; making bread, cooking healthy food, doing dishes by hand, packing kids lunches and wrapping up the food storage. I was getting pissy about my self imposed kitchen duty. So I'm done-kinda, sorta. The garden is done, the girls can make their own sandwiches and put in the freezer Sunday afternoon, next pay period I will get the broken dishwasher replaced, and I will stop trying to be Martha Stewart in the kitchen (until I think it is fun again). It started out as a lot of fun but I began putting more and more pressure on myself, somewhere alot the way it became not fun and just something I should do-those damn shoulds get me every time. I remembered that the purpose for slowing down my work schedule is to ENJOY the things I have- not add more to my plate. (take the power, Kris)
Once the weather co-operates and stops raining I will get my garden put to bed, lay that project aside and turn inward to the home, my relationships, and ART. I have neglected my creativity for a long time and I can hear it calling to me (with a little outside help-thank you).

This is what I want to get back to:

Property update: we are trying to purchase the fixer-upper for a price that WILL allow us to fix it up and not necessitate two full-time working parents! The fellow who offered us the low, low price is apparently not the final decision maker and he is now waffling. I nicely and politely (we will be neighbors either way) to knock it off and give us a purchase price by this weekend or we will buy the open field! (I really don't want that, but I won't let him know !!)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Homemade Kraut

I have been trying to figure out what to do with these cabbages I brought in from the garden two weeks family (who are not big veggie eaters) was eaten several batches of cabbage soup, fried cabbage, and boiled dinner. They are on the verge of a cabbage revolt. I have these two heads sitting in my basement cold room. I have been wanting to make sauerkraut but not motivated enough to make the set-up I have seen various places on the web. My Nov/Dec issue of Countryside had a solution. Pack sterilized quart jars with shredded cabbage, add 1tsp vinegar, 1tsp salt and 1tsp sugar and cover with boiling water. Place sterilized lids and rings on jars-DO NOT TIGHTEN RINGS. Place jars in a shallow container to catch the fermentation overflow in a 60-70 degree location for 10 days. After 10 days has elapsed, remove lids, wash and re sterilize. Wipe jar tops, replace lids, hand tighten and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

I found one medium cabbage filled 5 quart jars. I will let you know how they turn out in a few weeks. Now one more cabbage to go...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

...Or Door No. 2

I'd love to see her make it through another 80 years

To continue my previous topic, choice number 2 is a real fixer-upper. 10 acres with 30 yr old house, 50x90ft metal pole shed in okay shape, barn which needs a new roof ASAP and some structural work (est $18,000), garage type wooden building which looked rough to me (but our builder friend said actually seemed pretty sound), mature apple trees and raspberry bushes, established gardens, well probably not code ($7,000), original hand dug well which will need to be filled ( $$??), and septic system which will need to be replaced, thanks to a new county (state?) law ($15,000). The interior of the house will need to be gutted (it's icky, really). Despite all this we are considering it. The asking price is the same as the 20 acres of vacant farm field (which would also need a well and septic). God help me but this is the one I am leaning toward.
It is also right next to Dad's place, the previously mentioned 20 is directly behind this 10. We will eventually want more than 10 acres, but this is where having a family member right across the fence who has more than they want to care for comes in very handy. We are having visions of some type of cooperative family farm. Raising pasture meat chickens and turkeys.

South end of house (white) and stand alone screen porch (summer kitchen?)

Pole building- in better shape than most things on the property but also holds alot of misc crap from 20+ years of hard use.

The garage type building-the 'lean to' ends are really leaning aren't they?

Behind Door No. 1...

Looking from Dad's woods to choice #1

For anyone new to this site here is our of four in NC Wisconsin. Two daughters ages 7 and 11, public school education with no plans to change that-the girls are creative, happy and healthy. We are both working professionals-my husband is Materials Manager for the engineering division of a company which makes (among other things) control panels for hydroelectric projects (think Hoover Dam)-as much job security as you can find these days. I am a small animal veterinarian- partner in our group of two small practices, I am working part time right now, pulling myself back from the slippery slope of career burnout. We are looking for something simpler, something more meaningful. I am nervous about peak oil, collapse of our economy, etc, etc. We have had some small experiences with growing our own food-chickens, rabbits and garden and have found it very rewarding. I want to spend time with my girls- I let strangers care for them through daycare and after school programs for too long, I do not want to look back and regret it.
We are looking at two different pieces of property. They are both adjacent to my fathers retirement farm, about 30 minutes from our current suburban home. He has 40 acres, a mix of meadow and slough and woods. He wishes for my sister and I to inherit this property eventually and short term he wants to 'share' or lease some of his acreage with us. We have been camping out there for three summers. It has given us a glimpse of what is possible and I am so thankful to have had that confidence builder available to me. However, we do not want to wait until we retire to create our farm. We want to do the work now while we are strong, and raise our children learning where their food comes from. I suspect this may be a life skill more important than a bachelor's degree. There will be no retirement for us just a shedding of our outside careers.

Shot last week toward to rear of the 20

This is choice number one: 20 acres of southward sloping farm field, no road frontage to speak of just a 20ft x 1000 ft lane back to the 20. The site is only 500 feet wide but 1/4 (?) mile long. We build an off grid solar powered home 1100 square feet, no immediate plans for outbuildings but over next few years would build a workshop for DH and a small barn/shed for me and the girls (horse, goat?, pig?).
Pro's- new construction, built how we wish, off grid (or $12,000 to run power back there) sounds very cool, very green in theory until we hit the third week of cloudy winter weather and have to run the back up generator to take a shower, can't even see a neighbor from back here.
Con's- start from scratch-no trees, just thick slippery clay soil, expensive-even without considering the PV required -because we really have no idea at this point what we will need, adjacent 100+ acres of farm field -large tractor traffic spring planting/plowing, spraying god knows what, harvesting, then fall spraying liquid cow shit. The driveway to tractors/trucks use is right next to our lane running back.

This procession of trucks and stink happens every spring and fall. Because of the narrow width, our proposed building site will be within 200ft of this.

Overall my concerns are cost-one of my considerations is to not spend a huge amount of money- i want us to have the option of being a single income family. But I sure love being hidden back here and going off grid.

I'll post the second option tomorrow-we are winterizing the camper today aand i will have pictures of what's behind door no.2 then!