March 29, 2011

the farmer takes a wife

This evening, after supper, I walked with my husband (who carried our son) and three daughters, back behind the barn and along the ridge through the cornfields to the neighbor's pig barn to watch giant tractors bring their manure-spreaders in to be filled.

One was green (John Deere).  The other was red (Case IH).  The green one had huge double wheels.  The red one was hinged in the middle ("articulated", to those in the know).  Both pulled 7300-gallon tanks of liquid manure, the weight spread over three sets of tires (the front two could be lifted free from the ground).

My daughters held their noses and exclaimed over how big the tractors' wheels were.  My son, ears covered by his fleece cap but his little legs sticking out, chilly, where his pantlegs had ridden up, just gazed around in wonder at the wide, wide world.

I watched them, my children.  I am their mother - these offspring so foreign to me, sometimes.  They know so much about tractors, growing things, and manure.

We drove out to buy milk from a neighbor's dairy this morning.  We spotted some new calves and day-dreamed about having one at our house.  Sugar, in her 9-year-old wisdom,  said we couldn't keep it in the barn, though, or it might get hoof disease.  Hoof disease?!  Was that in the science curriculum somewhere that I missed?

On the way home,  I admired the green growing in a field and Sugar said it was probably rye.  

After we (well, I) had marveled long enough at the giant tractors, we headed back home over the cornfields.  Sugar and Spice ran ahead, hair flying brilliant in the setting sun.  Nice stayed with me, hanging on to my arm and telling me what a nice mommy I was.  Lil' Snip bounced along on Daddy's arm and just looked and looked and looked.

I wonder what he was thinking ....

March 28, 2011


In the last couple of months, I've been de-cluttering here and there, as inspiration strikes me (thanks to Don Aslett's book: Clutter's Last Stand).  It feels great to clear out the junk, but I'm discovering some peculiar attachments.  

Empty boxes, for instance.  They are so useful.  So full of potential.  Think of the things they could hold!  The things we could use them for - why, organization!  Covering with cute paper for toy storage boxes.  Carrying a meal to a friend.  Shipping pottery pieces.  Stabilizing a full crockpot during transport.  Facilitating the wrapping of oddly shaped gifts.  And so on.  Don Aslett (or was it Sandra Felton of the Messies Manual?), advises keeping only four boxes of various shapes and tossing the rest.  I compromised (and felt strangely consoled) by using the boxes for the junk I'm giving away.

Chairs, too, claimed my affection.  The one at my desk has a caned seat, and (despite its dubious strength) brings me joy every time I look at it.  The dark wood armchair in our bedroom is incredibly comfortable, although seldom used for seating.  In my attic is a "telephone chair" with a charming calico-covered seat and an attached stand and shelf for the phone and phone book.  The beautiful heirloom rocking chair in the spare room is upholstered in ancient gold tweed but the seat is too deep to get out of easily.  It's a lot harder to part with chairs than cardboard boxes.  The chairs stay, for now.

I was already aware of my infatuation with books.  What caught me off-guard as I pulled one after  the other off the shelf was how many of my books evoked guilt in me (to the tune of "I should read this/there's so much good information in here.").  I liberated myself of FOUR big boxes.  No more vertical stacks on the shelves.

And then, of course there was the clothing:  baby clothing, children's clothing saved for next season, maternity clothing, and "pre-pregnancy" clothing, not to mention surplus coats and shoes.  Thinking of those who could use these right now (as opposed to me, "sometime" in the future) steeled me to be ruthless.  Five bags to pass on....

Toys were hard to get rid of - for me, anyway.  My daughters didn't seem to experience any pangs when they decided to give away my favorites.

But, despite all my wrenching feelings of attachment, out my Stuff went - box after merciless box of books, toys, clothes and all.Preview

I had some discouraging moments of contemplating how encumbered I've been by my Stuff, but mostly the high of de-cluttering has been sufficient to keep me from wallowing in regrets.  Emptying spaces has the exhilarating effect of directing my focus forward rather than backward.

It was cathartic:  when I cleared out an area and trucked the Stuff away, the house felt more spacious, airy, lighter with less Stuff.  I feel better able to pay attention to what I'm doing after some "shoulds" have been evicted. Possibilities seem to have multiplied.  I could get that door painted now.  I could rearrange the girls' room.  Start on that comforter for Isaiah.  Use that adorable flannel to make pajama bottoms for the girls.  Finally paint the trim in our bedroom....

.....Figure out how to keep the clutter I cleared out of my house from showing up on my to-do list....

March 22, 2011

fresh air

It's officially spring, and with my favorite season come some decidedly unfavorite things: allergies and post-winter slumps.

What to do about allergies? Drink raw milk. Consume nettles (as tea, or blanched like spinach). Fast. Avoid sugar and refined starches. Saline nasal spray (*shudder*). Neti pot (*double shudder*). Exercise. Avoid contact with pollen (i.e. stay inside, windows closed, all the beautiful season long). If all else fails, surrender to the wonder of modern medicine and dose yourself (you know what I mean - see your doctor for an Rx) with whatever chemicals will do the trick.

The post-winter slump, though, is the real kicker: the worst of winter is over, you've had a few sunny, springlike days, flowers are starting to poke through the warming soil, and your to-do list soars optimistically .... and then, bam! you find yourself sitting around listlessly wondering what happened and what will make it go away. Perky friends exhort you to go outside and enjoy the sunshine! Go for a walk! But you can't seem to find the motivation to get out of the recliner to see if they're right.

Food loses its appeal. Books or movies are just a vehicle to get you to the end of another day. Sleep offers scant respite. Hour plods after hour ..... It all feels vaguely familiar; will it ever end?

Days pass this way.

And then one morning ...

... you wake up and find your mind working again. You think of things to do and - voila! - do them! And it's not an effort anymore. You clean. You cook. You look at people with interest and answer them with a smile that involves more than just your mouth muscles.

What has changed?! The weather is no nicer and no nastier. The chores are no less onerous than before. Your friends have not suddenly blossomed into brilliant comedians. But the slump is over. It's a gift.

Quick! Don't analyze it - just go and live while the living's good!

"The unexamined life may not be worth living, but the life too closely examined may not be lived at all." Mark Twain (apologies to Socrates).
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