Mo Bloggin'

A little o' this, a little o' that

Unprecedented

It was holding at 97 until the sun hit.

June 27, 2021
Before I go much further (and I promise I won’t go on and on about it), I just want to tell you how much I am sick of hearing this word (the post title). For the past 18 months it’s all you hear, because, well, unprecedented was kind of the theme for the pandemic. I was surprised when it wasn’t the word of the year for 2020. But all that aside, there really aren’t adequate synonyms for unprecedented, so it’s really the only word for things that are so outside of the norm – way beyond extraordinary or exceptional – that they’re, well, unprecedented.  So here I am, using it for my blog post title, because we are having an unprecedented weekend of extreme hot weather. Temperature records held for decades are dropping like flies, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better (at least one more day to go, according to forecasts, and it will be the worst). Still, that old Linda Ronstadt song has been going through my head (for the chorus) – heat wave!

Western Washington historically gets maybe one or two days in the high 90s per year, during our short, two-month summers, and usually this heat isn’t until late July or early August. So this is, uh, unprecedented not only because of the extreme temps, but the earliness of it. And to think just 10 days ago we were dealing with pouring rain and 60 degree temps, more normal for us for sure. The biggest issue with this heat, though, is the fact that we’re not cooling off at night. We are lucky in this climate that even on our hottest days, it generally cools to the 60s or even 50s. But with this heat wave it’s not dipping below 70 at night, and that’s the biggest problem. Because there’s no way to cool the house down (central AC isn’t a thing here, because we so rarely need it). We’re managing, and drinking gallons of water, but I will be glad for Monday night, when it’s supposed to break.

Me and Farley, and the fuchsia basket I forgot to water, cooling off. Both Farley and the plant were noticeably revived by the soak.

Of all the critters here, the sheep seem to be handling it the best. I had contacted a shearer about 3 weeks ago and we were scheduled, fortuitously it turns out, for Wednesday (June 23) – one of the coolest days of the past 10. (A shoutout to Moonrise Shearing – Gina and crew did a fantastic job!) So they are all shorn and cute, and right now seem to be channeling their ancient desert ancestors, not their more recent Shetland Island predecessors. I have plenty of shade here (which I’ve lamented in past posts, but am grateful for now), but even with that, I just went out to check on them and Jackson is resting in the hot sun (head up, alert) like it’s only 60 degrees out. The rest are mostly in the shade, aside from the few out grazing.

Oh, and this is excellent for the turtles – it’s perfect turtle weather, and good for Haley especially. She’s been dealing with an upper respiratory infection recently, so I’m hoping this heat and sunshine will help (the soonest vet appointment I could get is July 5th!). Don’t mind Mary Shelley. I caught her doing her gymnastics the other day, or tryna to make a break for it, I’m not sure which. 😉

The manroot has made it almost all the way across the gate this year!

June 20, 2021
I started this post almost a month ago now, on a beautiful sunny morning much like the one I’m enjoying now, although we’ve had a hella lotta rain in between, with downpours where I’m sure more than one bird nest was lost – I hate when it comes down in buckets (cloudburst style) any time of year, but especially during nesting season. {Now, with this extreme heat, the risk is again great, especially for swallows nesting in eaves/roof areas.}

I’m in a funky place right now – a little stressed/depressed, and unfortunately my “go to” for this is always inertia rather than the action (any action, really) that would help me move through it. Work in progress there, for sure. A number of things are stressing me and my anxious second nature, but the main thing is of course, the dogs. Farley’s fading, and while he’s not ready to go, there is always a lot of stress around those last few months, especially if you’re lucky enough to have a dog reach Methuselah-age like him (16 at least!). Some days aren’t as good as others, and I tell myself that if he’s not better by the next day I’ll make the call. And he’s always better, and I’m always thankful, but there’s no question that there’s stress around this. He’s watching me now, giving his little high pitched woof-barks (so adorbs, trust me).  Attention barks – although I don’t always know what he wants. And I find that much of the time, neither does he. A treat? A pet? Go outside (we’re outside now).  He’s a little bit senile – at 16 you’re allowed that – and there’s a little bit of the “automaton” to many of the things he does: old habits, so deeply ingrained, that it seems he doesn’t even know why he’s doing them (mostly related to his wanderings around the yard). But he’s still mostly enjoying life. Like an old man of course, not like the sprite that came to me over 15 years ago – blasting a metaphorical hole into the dreariness that my life was at the time, mostly surrounding Cutter’s epilepsy (speaking of anxiety!). I took to him like glue, and he to me, and I remember feeling overwhelmed with how much I adored him, and more than a little guilty  – I love all my dogs deeply, and individually and for who they are, but there’s no denying that sometimes you love one “more than” another. He was so alive and vibrant and so full of spirited bird-dog exuberance that it was impossible not to fall trulymadlydeeply. {lump in throat, blinking rapidly} I’m grateful for every day.

June 1, 2021
One thing I have to say for the pandemic – I got really good at using a laptop keyboard! Working from home (and feeling so fortunate in that) for the past 15 months has given me a lot of insight and lessons. Most of it I already knew, or intuited (how much I would love it was a slam dunk), but the keyboard thing – a wee bonus. (Usually I get a regular keyboard to plug in.) Even the touch pad skills are better, although I still prefer a mouse, and am much more adept with a mouse.

We’re just coming off a 3-day weekend here (which I expanded on either side to a 5-day weekend – so. nice.) and the weather has been lovely – not a cloud in the sky today, and really warm. I’ve been slowly working on some gardening stuff, getting my herbs planted (medicinal and culinary). I decided to utilize the bed next to the porch, and had some reclaiming to do there. It was overgrown with grass, so I peeled out the sod, put a thin layer of sheep shed gleanings (soiled straw and “pellets”), then covered with some “compost” I purchased. Compost is in quotes because I bought a big bag of it and when I opened it looked like nothing more than finely ground wood chips. Oh well. It looks nice and thankfully most all of the herbs aren’t divas. I selected these herbs (medicinal) at a sale I attended with a friend last March, and I had a list of what I wanted (based on the list of items they had available) and wasn’t paying much attention to what these plants preferred with regard to full sun, shade, etc. With all the trees on the property, finding a truly sunny spot (like “full sun” all day long) is next to impossible. When I looked up details on each of the plants, it turned out all of them like…exactly what my little front garden bed can provide. Sun/part shade. Imagine that. So welcome elecampane, wood betony, licorice, and skullcap (so much skullcap!). I’m still working on a spot for the serviceberry, and I managed to overwater the bergamot corms and killed them, so will have to start again there.

Note, this little patch is one of Daisy’s favorite places to dig a day bed on warm days, so I’ll be watching it. And during the winter, in bad weather, she’s prone to taking a big steamy one in there, rather than venturing too far into the wet, yucky weather to do her business. I’m looking at cute garden fences to keep her out, and will have to watch the sheep when they’re out too, since they’re good at gobbling up anything I plant (there used to be a large patch of day lilies there, which evidently were very delicious).

**June 20th update – all of these things have happened. I came out one day to find the licorice plant lying in the heat, wilted and half-dead. Daisy had been out earlier in the day while I was at work inside and stealthily dug a nest. She dug up a few of the skullcap herbs too. Sigh. I replanted the licorice and watered heavily. The licorice perked back up, and we had some cool, wet weather after, so it is mostly recovered. The skullcap, like all members of the mint family, were like, thanks, mate – and the bent/broken stems just took it as an opportunity to spread.  A couple were completely broken off, lying wilted and dead, but I brought them inside and put them in a glass of water. They revived completely and are now covered with hairlike roots, ready to be planted.

A few days after the nest digging, I found a big ol’ Daisy log in there. Sigh again. It had been raining hard, and she doesn’t like to get wet, so a quick trip out the door for potty time is just that when it’s raining out.  And the sheep have tasted all of the new occupants, although they don’t seem interested in the betony, and the elecampane isn’t much of a draw either. They have, however, pulled out the stock plants several times. As a flowering annual I purchased, the stocks hadn’t had enough time to dig in any roots. I’ve replanted, but between being ripped up and dined on multiple times, I’m not expecting much more from them. Which is sad, because the scent is divine. I don’t grow a lot of froo-froo plants here – flowers must either be bee food and/or a good smeller, or part of a plant I’m growing for other reasons (e.g., my herbs) – but stock and phlox will always have a place. I was at the store recently and bought a nice healthy phlox plant, and since it was a two-fer deal, I also got a pot of carnations too, for the fragrance. I know they’re kind of an old lady scent, but I’ve always loved the spicy clove smell of carnations.

It’s cherry season here, and the cherry tree is again laden with fruit for the birds. The robins are fortified, and then there are the black headed grosbeak, cedar waxwings, and western tanagers it brings in. The red huckleberries, on the old growth stumps on either side of the cherry, are also a big draw, especially for the Swainson’s thrush. A northern flicker was in the cherry this morning filling up. Unfortunately a couple of gray squirrels have also been up in there. Rats with cuter outfits, these fat non-natives are destructive and wasteful, and scare off the birds as well. Daisy and Pal keep them treed up there when we’re outside.

Of condors and conservation, and life’s little conundrums

Sitting on the hill behind the house with my besties, writing.

The place where I buy hay for the sheep is a little mom & pop outfit in a rented pole barn the next town over. They’re based in eastern Washington, but truck over hay and other livestock needs (bedding chips, pellets, feed, etc.), as well as seasonal produce from eastern Washington farms at really good prices. Bonus: the hay they stock my sheep will actually eat. I can spend $5 more per bale at the local feed stores (which my wee gourmands think is nasty), but the Mitchells have a good product at a good price and I like giving them my business. One of the things Martha does is give you a “thought for the day”—a quote or saying, printed out on a little slip of paper—when you pay for your goods. This week it was the well-known quote from George Eliot: “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” And it made me smile, because I have just been thinking about the path not taken…

Trixie can’t resist me – she always comes running to me if I sit in the sheep pasture.

It all started when I read an article recently about the woman who was instrumental in the team of wildlife officials, biologists, and government agencies that saved the California condor from the brink of extinction (and to be clear, we’re still not out of the woods – but there are 500 more condors now than the only-23-left-on-earth in 1987). The title of the piece alone had me thinking how lucky she was to not only be in the right place at the right time, but to have the wherewithal to follow her passion. I thought back to my youth and how ignorant and fearful I was about the opportunities in life.

Pal is the only one who will allow this, and Eloise takes advantage.

I was painfully shy as a teenager and our family was struggling. My mom, a single mother, was doing her best, but things were pretty tough. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I took on the anxiety that permeated things, as well as the belief that life was a struggle. Maybe not all the way to “Life’s a shit sandwich and every day you have to take a bite,” but certainly “Life’s a bitch and then you die.” You were destined for a life of hardship, working to make enough money to keep a roof over your head and gas in your car. It wasn’t quite as dreary as all that sounds, but I watched my mom struggle so hard, hard enough that she ended up with serious health issues and, being unable to work, moving 3,000 miles away to live with her sister’s family. (I’d planned to go too, but ended up finding another path.) I had a really tough time coming out of my hard shell of fear (maybe this is why I adore my little box turtles? I understand…?), with a crippling lack of confidence. I was scared of everything – the idea of getting a job after school about paralyzed me (when I could have earned money to help with the family bills – I still feel guilty about this). As I neared my senior year of high school, the idea of college may have been mentioned. I just didn’t know how. I would have had to get a scholarship, which means that I’d have to actually make an effort at school. I skated by easily with a 3.5 GPA, skipping classes when I could, and I can’t remember what my SAT scores were, but I was never motivated to do more. Inertia based on fear based on anxiety based on ignorance. Or something. A nice heady stew there.

Indian plum, or Oso [Oemleria cerasiformis] – always the first to bloom.

Once out of school I began work. First at a fast food restaurant (mercifully brief), then paying a recruiter to get an entry level job at an insurance company (seriously, I had to make payments to the job agency for months, with each paycheck – what kind of f**kery is that? A life’s a shit sandwich confirmation, that’s what! Haha!). And so it began. My family was carless at the time, so as soon as I could swing it, I got a co-signed loan to buy a car (which I couldn’t even drive at first – we didn’t have a car for me to take my driving test until I bought my own car at age 19). And we no longer had to take the bus everywhere (the grocery store being the most arduous). And incrementally, life got better – my older sister was a big part of this, helping with her paycheck too, with her and her roommate living in the same house as me and my mom and brother.

In the work force and out of the public school system I became less shy, and actually made real friends for the first time in what seemed like years. But I never really had a plan; I just worked to keep a roof over my head and gas in the fuel tank, and never knew or planned where I was going, ultimately. I don’t think I’m unique in that, but looking back I do wish I’d been more aware. Day to day was about all I did, all I’ve done, for most of my life (the past decade or so being the exception, kind of). Again, not unique, and nothing “wrong” with this, but I guess it’s not enough for me now. It’s not like I never had an existential thought either – the old “what are we here for?” was not an unknown thought to me. But although I pondered this, I was never able to put it into action.

Now, later in life, I look back and realize that although the idea of college was very distasteful (read: scary) to me at 17, it would have afforded me so much in the confidence department, where I really needed it. I didn’t know what I wanted to “be” or do either, so it was another reason to avoid college – the suggested business degree (barf) and more classrooms sounded about as much fun as giving myself a root canal. I loved animals, always – the one constant in my life – but I didn’t want to go to vet school (after 12 years of school I was done – again, not realizing college is nothing like grade school – and another 8 years of school just didn’t sound appealing).

Over the years I’ve taken CE classes in topics that interested me – creative writing, writing for income, drawing, painting, and the like – but never more than that. In my 40s I went back to school and got my editing certificate and I found I LOVED college and learning. I loved the atmosphere, and even the learning process. It was an eye-opener – like, maybe I had missed out… But the once or twice a week classes after work weren’t easy, either, while working a full time job. And by then I was divorced and needed a steady income – there was zero safety net (pretty much always).

It’s the little things.

It’s only in the last 5 years or so that I’ve thought about what I didn’t do with my life. A product of aging, sure, but now the idea of becoming, say, a biologist, appeals in a way it never did before. Lately it’s the dogs again, and learning more about behavior and training. But as much as I find this stuff fascinating, and important (trying to get a bead on a rescue dog’s impetus – usually fear – for behavior issues), I’m a lousy dog trainer. I have good dogs only because they are good souls at their core, not because I’m trained them that way.

A recent rescue transport – a good boy who needs a new home.

I guess all of this rambling is little more than a bit of wistfulness at not doing more with my life – I feel like I have nothing much to show for the time I’ve been here so far. I think that’s why Rottweiler rescue work has been so fulfilling – it has meaning, and is something outside of myself that feels like I’m making a difference. I’m not saving California condors from extinction, no, but a few throwaway dogs are living much better lives because of what I’m doing. And that’s something. I have a fair amount of knowledge about the natural world (birds, wildlife, local flora), and dogs and dog behaviors, but nothing I feel I could do anything with. I’ve accomplished a lot that I’m proud of, but nothing I feel makes that difference that saving a species makes. (Yes, I realize only a few people have lives like this, who can go down in history or are remembered by name…but still.) I guess I’ll just wrap up these musings with a quote from one of my life heroes – Jane Goodall, who makes me realize there’s time yet, if only I make use of it: “What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” Don’t you just love her?

Me and Far just celebrated number 15 together! How lucky can a gal get? Love him to bits.

Restarting the blog habit

A recent day where the sky had so many hues of blue, and beautiful streaky mares tails (or, more sciency, cirrus uncinus) clouds – magical stuff!

So, hey. It’s been a few. I’m surprised myself that it’s been more than two years since my last post. Wow. That’s a long time! And I’m writing this hoping that it doesn’t end up like a half dozen other posts, in the Word boneyard on my ancient laptop, or stuffed on a thumb drive to be transferred to my other computer for posting. But what got me here, finally, is because a fellow shepherd friend recently contacted me about my “lung thing” (my words) from 6 years ago, and the blog posts I made back then. She has a mystery illness with some similar symptoms and has also been blogging about it occasionally (she mostly posts about her farm and animals, and cooking, knitting and travel adventures and is super regular, posting near daily, unlike yours truly). I love reading her blog, with its many interesting topics, but haven’t been happy to hear of her health struggles, remembering all too well how tough that was.

On a recent post she linked the blog posts I wrote back when I was in the thick of things and I was a little bit gobsmacked when I reread them, for a couple reasons. First, you forget the details. Those entire weekends spent curled up on the sofa except for the bare minimum of animal care, feeling like my head was splitting open (or wishing it would!), or so chilled I thought I’d never get warm. Then, suddenly, roasting hot like I was sitting inside a woodstove. My appetite gone – hungry, but absolutely nothing sounding good to eat. I was down to rice krispies and milk at the end, and even that was meh. I feel really fortunate that I found the doctor I did. I remember getting a little emotional on my last visit with her, when she said, basically, go live your life, you’re fine. And I thanked her as best I could, realizing that she kind of saved my life (I may have said exactly that). If I’d stayed with the first doctor I might still be alive, but it probably wouldn’t be much of a life.

Winter late afternoon sky

The second reason I was kind of struck is that when I reread the posts she linked (they weren’t exclusively about the lung thing), I was like, damn, that’s some kickass writing, Mo. Why aren’t you doing that anymore? Because, girlfriend, you can WRITE. I lapsed on the blog writing in late 2018, partly because 2019 was a busy year. I was writing for money that year, had also taken some classes on writing (pitching to editors), and was working on getting my homebased business launched. So circling back to write a blog post after writing for a client three nights a week just didn’t happen (time!). But towards the end of 2019 my main employer (as a freelance writer) sent me one idiot topic too many, and as I was working on launching my side business, when they stopped sending requests, I just didn’t follow up on why, or lobby to stay employed. It wasn’t terrible pay, as those things go, and I liked working with the editor, but writing about things I disagreed with (bringing your dogs shopping – what stores allowed dogs – ugh) or couldn’t comment on, was really tough.

ANYway, I’ve basically not written anything, like seriously, nothing, for a year now. It’s weird to me, and I don’t quite know why. I can posit a half dozen reasons, but most of them just sound like excuses. Which is because that’s all they are. I wasn’t moved to write is the best, and least satisfying, of them. I don’t think the pandemic year of 2020 had anything to do with it either. There were (are) a lot of stressors in that year of course, not the least of which is the monster we had as president until the election. That guy took a lot of emotional bandwidth and the daily attack of outrages were hard to bear.

But here I am, with lots to say, as always. I don’t want to promise anything about getting back in the groove or back in the saddle or whatever other metaphor you choose. I am hopeful, however, that I WILL get back in the game and start blogging regularly again. I’ve mostly stuck to Instagram – a photo or six and some pithy (or not so pithy – verbosity is still an issue) words and that desire to write, to express myself, to be heard, is fed. Let’s see if we can do better though. A lot has happened in the past couple years, yet everything’s mostly the same, and without regular posts you forget. The time slips by and this past year especially has taught us how precious time is, and how important it is to LIVE your life, not just be alive.

Working from home has many benefits.

So how are all of you? A few of my blogger friends have kept at it in the two years I’ve been gone, although a lot have gotten busy with life and slipped a little too. Everyone out there still doing okay? It’s been a heckuvayear, hasn’t it? Living through history isn’t something I anticipated. At least not to this degree. History is always being made of course, but so often it’s stuff that doesn’t affect us directly. This past year though, whew. Too much to go into here, but each of us was affected profoundly. And some in the worst way possible – losing someone to the virus. Stay safe and wear your masks! We’re almost there.

Me and the old guy, out for a wee hike a couple weeks ago.

Oy! {hi!} Didja miss me?

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We had a gloriously dry October – the fall color was stunning.

And oy! for the other meaning {face palm}! Again I’ve let my blog slide. And again I can say “the longest gap ever.” It speaks volumes, I know. But really, it’s been busy. I’ve had a full summer, and have spent a lot of time wrestling with “stuff.” Time slips by quickly, and even though I’ve written a half dozen blog posts since June, I’m obviously not getting all the way to WordPress with them. No promises this time about getting back on schedule (I don’t want to embarrass myself again), but fingers are crossed, wood is being touched/knocked, and, well, here’s hoping.

Rio with ball

Foster dog Rio – I had to tether him for the first few days, until he got used to the sheep and property.  He stayed here two weeks until the absolute perfect home for him came along.

The biggest issue, and one of my favorite things over the past 4 months, has been Rottweiler rescue, but it also took over my life. Again. It is one of the more rewarding and fulfilling things I’ve done in a long while (reliving my 20s – ha!), and when I realized I was forsaking all other tasks (including the most important one of all—re-engineering my future income!), I realized–with the help and wise council of a dear friend, who is also an amazing life coach–that I had to let it go. Again. At least for now. There were some lovely dogs that came through, and a few homes I could only dream about (I’m talking about you, Max), but ultimately it came down to the same thing it came down to in 1995–too many Rottweilers and not enough qualified homes. A lot of the recent dogs have “issues” too, that will take a special home and hand to rehabilitate the dogs (resource guarding, anxiety, fears, and other behavioral challenges), making them very, very hard to place (if anyone is interested in them—and not many are—then they need to be very experienced dog people, preferably Rottweiler experience). I hope to take up rescue again in six months or so, once I get the biz launched and a steady income flowing in. By then I will have quit the life-draining day job (and attendant soul-sucking commute) and will not only have more time (fingers crossed) but be in a much better place emotionally.

IMG_20181102_184440_140I’m excited about the future plans, and (still) terrified at the same time. I know I can do this, but the overwhelm can be a little intense at times. I’ve been keeping busy with a couple of side jobs, including writing for Rover.com (see a couple of my articles here: https://www.rover.com/blog/is-my-dog-fighting-or-playing-how-to-tell-the-difference/ and https://www.rover.com/blog/dog-wheezing-when-to-worry/; I have my business cards, am still working on revisions to/refining my website, and working on updating my LinkedIn page as well. I am taking classes and trainings (online) and trying to get back on track with focusing on this (vs. the tug of Rottweiler rescue). There’s a lot going on as I ramp up for this, not the least of which are the “head games” with myself. When I stop and settle myself, I am confident, and know I’ll have success and prosperity in this new chapter in my life, where I leave everything I have known (with regards to earning income) behind, and strike out into the territory ahead. I want to say it’s unknown territory, but hundreds of thousands have done or are doing the same, so it’s not like there isn’t a path to follow. Still, with little effort I can terrify myself into inertia, hiding under the proverbial covers, or watching TV to zone out and escape my fears. I’m not very productive at times, yet that still small voice inside keeps me on track.

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Farley with Blackcap. So cute! The dogs routinely squeeze Blackcap off of the chair, but the Setter boys will usually share. Daisy just lays on top of her.

Meanwhile, my own beasts–canine, feline, and ovine, not to mention apinae (the bees)– keep me happy and comforted. The dogs are doing their daily heavy lifting, keeping me joyful and grounded. Just stepping over the threshold every evening, after a long day and commute, lifts my heart and my step. The cats are each paragons of supreme feline energy, and each affectionate in her own, inimitable way. And my little flock of sheep make me happy as well. (My #julyphotoproject, Faces of MacFinn Farm, on Instagram has photos of every single resident here.)

I recently had a farm tour here (a group of fiber enthusiasts touring Shetland sheep farms) and realized, again, how much I love keeping sheep, and my wee flock. Yes, I still need to whittle down the numbers, but I really like the flock size too. Selling 3 or 5 would help ease pressure on the pasture, reduce the hay bill, and result in lighter work with regard to clean up, but when they run around as a group (as they did for the tour – a fellow blogger on the tour described it as “performed like a drill team”) and provide me with their bucolic sheepy energy, chewing cud on the hillside on a sunny fall day, well, it doesn’t get much better than this.

And, exciting news, I found a new MacFinn resident back in October (after the #julyphotoproject). As I was feeding the sheep after work one evening, I saw this guy, right in the middle of the opening to the pasture. He was about 8 inches long, and I scooped him (or her) up and took photos, thinking this had to be some kind of escaped pet lizard, although given where I found him and my proximity to neighbors, and the relatively cold weather (for a reptile) I couldn’t figure out how to make sense of that scenario/premise. I brought him inside and put him under a light, offered mealworms, and he basically told me he wasn’t a tame creature (didn’t like the light, shunned the mealworms). I turned off the light and he calmed down, and by the time I did some google research, I realized he was probably a native. Specifically a Northern Alligator Lizard. Knock me over with a feather! I’ve been roaming the Cascade foothills pretty much my whole life and have never, ever seen one, or even knew that they existed. I released him the next morning (a foggy, cold morning – I felt bad putting a reptile outside in this weather, but…), letting him loose in the exact place I found him the night before. He scurried off into the sheep pasture (too close to cloven hooves for my comfort, but hey) and I was chuffed to know that I had this new-to-me, very cool resident here at MacFinn. I’ve seen amphibians (frogs and salamanders) and plenty of birds and mammals, but this is the first reptile. So Nature continues to provide awe and inspiration and wonder. That’s why I remain in love with her.

As I come up to my annual solar return tomorrow, I am even more appreciative of my friends and family, connections and relationships that, over time, have become deeper and more meaningful. Two “pre-func” events, a long luncheon with longtime, dear friends on Saturday and then dinner with other longtime, dear friends on Sunday, made my weekend a special one, realizing how lucky I am.

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Always late but worth the wait?

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The evenings stretch on for hours and it is glorious.

The days seem to fly by. Despite the fact that they’re 16 hours long right now (speaking of DAYlight hours, of course). I have been busy with life, trying to keep up with Jungle Season growth (not succeeding), shearing (also not succeeding – I passed the halfway mark, but still have 7 sheep to shear – all the wild ones are left), and regular chores. One thing I AM making progress on, however, is my Plan for the next chapter of work life. I have been reading and learning as much as I can, beginning the transition work. I updated my website again. I like it a ton better now (compared to them major overhaul/ update I did in…was it March?), but I still consider it a work in progress. I have been learning a lot about virtual assistance work and am doing worksheets and exercises to refine my specialty/s. I haven’t actively sought out clients on this yet, but that will be the next step. I am also taking a fabulous class for launching my writing a bigger way. It’s called “Pitch Like A Honey Badger” and is fabulous, and really forcing me out of my comfort zone. I have a long way to go yet (although the class is over in 2 or 3 more weeks), but have learned a ton already. I got behind on the lessons (this is an online class, BTW – something where I usually have a hard time with follow through) because I was busy working for a client. I was contracted to create their newsletter and because it was behind (before it came to me), there was a hustle to get it all done. I literally started receiving the info the first week in June and had it done in less than 3 weeks. It felt good, but between becoming familiar with the content and layout, making sure I had all the pieces, and placing them in the right order, all while working the day job, going to a sheep workshop, taking care of the critters and farm, well, it’s no wonder I’m a wee bit behind. It’s all good, and all of it feels really good, and I am excited (even in my moments of “I don’t know if I can do this and make enough to live on” panic) for the future. My hope is to launch my business/go solo by the end of September or October. Terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. That’s only 3 or 4 months away and I have a LOT to do in the meantime. It would be nice to have a nice fat cushion of a bank account to sit on while I ramped up, and really have time to focus on it, but doing the side hustle thing for a few more months will have to work. I can do this!

I have also been reading some astrology and numerology reports (oh yeah, I go there – I’ve been woowoo for years) that have reinforced to me that the time is now. My numerology report had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up (I’m a 22/4, having an 8 year), and the weekly astrology update I get (NorthPoint Journal) has been hitting it out of the park with regard to resonance for the past couple of months. Lots of Aha moments resounding and it’s helpful to know I’m on the right path. In fact, with Mars going retrograde until the end of August, I’m glad for the extra time to get my ducks in a row before I launch.

In other news, the critters are all well. No lambs this  year, so it’s been a lot more relaxed with the sheep. I need to reduce the flock by at least five, but beyond two that I know I want to get rid of, I’m having a hard time with deciding who should go or stay. I really like all of them, and the friendly ones are endearing as heck.  If I could find a home where I knew they’d be fiber pets, I could maaaaybe let the 3 boys go – Rudy, TJ and Shadow. I would like to breed again this fall, for 2019 lambs, but can’t really consider it until I reduce the head count a bit. The property ran out of fodder about 10 sheep ago (the flock numbers 17 right now) and I am resigned to feeding hay  year round instead of just 10 months a year. Ah well. It would be nice to have another pasture to rotate them to, but then I’d probably just have more of them. And on top of it, I have a garage full of fleeces I need to sell, with this year’s still needing to be skirted. Part of the reason behind my wish to work for myself is the time I hope to free up (1 ½ to 2 hours per day of commute time alone – almost 10 hours a week!) and not feel so overwhelmed after a long day of work and commute. There’s a mild depression going on too, with the day job just feeling…done. Despite my post in December citing the new offices and job “funk” easing up, some recent changes have me again very unhappy and feeling both undervalued and disregarded. But ultimately, it’s just the final cuff to the head from the Universe, trying to get my attention, and I’m heeding it now. Finally.

The dogs are well. Just celebrated my year 7 anniversary with Daisy, and Pal’s year 8 is coming up in about 6 weeks. Time really does fly. After Braider’s rescue last fall (even though I was a foster failure) I finally took the plunge on something I’ve been contemplating for close to 2 years now, and applied to once again become the Rottweiler breed rep for Seattle Purebred Dog Rescue. I know it seems crazy, with everything else going on, but it also seems so right. I was involved with SPDR at the very beginning – I went to their very first organizational meeting in 1987, and was their first newsletter editor, back in the days of paste-up (I named the newsletter “SPDR Speaks” – and I’m still proud of that one), and became their Rottweiler breed rep from about 1988 through 1995. It was hellish, because the breed’s popularity was exploding then and, coupled with some horrid, high-profile attacks with human deaths, no one wanted to adopt them. I think the last year I was rep I had 500 incoming dogs and nowhere to place them. It took two decades to recover from that – ha! (Not really kidding, though – the burnout was bad.) But I’m hopeful that we won’t have the same kind of numbers plus, the biggie, is now we have the internet and especially social media, which wasn’t even a dream back then. Email sure (although not everyone was connected back then), but it was a lonely, hard job to do. Fingers crossed it goes smoothly and I can make a difference. I helped to place an English Setter recently, and that felt really good (social media rocks it here), so I’m hoping I can be just as helpful with Rottweilers. Let me know if you want to be a foster home for a Rottweiler!

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Misty May morning.

 

Where have you been, Mo?

IMG_20180307_091524_939So I’m a wee bit behind. Again. Life has been busy, and the past four months full of newsy bits for blog posts that often don’t make it out of my head, with at least a half dozen posts that did make it out of the brain pan, but none more than a paragraph or two long. I tend to do mini-blogs of sorts, via my Instagram account (@MacFinnFarm). I find that Instagram is my favorite social media to post on. A photo and a caption (sometimes a bit of a story with the caption) and it satisfies that blogging urge. Some things, though, need actual words, not just the picture/s. I won’t bore us all with a 2,000 word catch up blog for everything I’ve been doing since December 29, but will get back in the proverbial saddle here.

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We’ve had an incredibly wet April, and while I grow weary and frustrated, the native flora just rolls with it. Here’s an Indian Plum (Oemleria cerasiformis), which grows all over the property (and the sheep love it), always the first to bloom, and always a welcome sight to these winter weary eyes.

I know my December took me down in the dumps—as I mentioned, the loss of Braider was a hard loss for me, despite only knowing him for two months. For the two months after it was all I could think about when I sat down to write. And although I’ve wanted to write about him and about what happened in more detail, and I have a few thoughts on paper here and there, for now he’s all mine, still held close to my heart. The grief has subsided, and I no longer immediately tear up when I think of him or speak of him (although often it’s only force of will…and a quick pivot to another topic). Part of what I need to poke at is why it hit me so hard. The money wasn’t it, that I know for sure. I have ideas, but want to “journal it out” to come to any conclusions on that. Another part of me just doesn’t care why, because the why doesn’t matter. It just is.

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Braider’s lightcatcher – you can see the sprinkle of his ashes down the center.

I’ve had a lot of activity on the personal improvement front. I’m working my way through a couple of books, with writing exercises, on writing/the writing path. And I’ve started a physical exercise program of sorts (kind of sputtering start, but I am committed to this). I’ve known for a while that I’m out of shape. The girth is another matter altogether, but the strength and stamina are the two things I know I really want to get back on track. I was doing some gardening a couple of weeks ago and that’s when I really realized how frippin’ out of shape I am. I was kind of caught by surprise—it’s worse than I thought. I was able to do what I needed to do, but it was harder than it should have been. So I purchased a yoga program and am doing a little of that (it’s online, and the buffering is maddening), some equipment, and am back to the basics. I can’t even do one sit-up, which, when I tried to do it, didn’t really surprise me, but it did shock me, if that makes any sense. My core strength, which is SO important for ongoing health and overall strength, is in the toilet. Time to change all that! Funny how I can muck out the sheep pen, but have almost no core strength. And because of that, the stress and wear and tear on everything else is more intense. I’m enthused about getting stronger, and exercising (mostly strength and core training vs. aerobic work right now). And then I’m going to work on the rest of it. Because this year is the year I’m breaking out.

There’s a lot more on the horizon—work I’m doing to improve my skills, learning about my options, and finally get the solopreneur gig going is on the front burner. I know I’m really, really good at what I do at the day job. Recent changes there, though, made me feel less than valued. Long story, and this isn’t the place for that topic (at least not now, because I know that I’m not the only one who’s experienced this sort of frustration), but I’ve updated my website (which still needs work but looks so much better!) and am working on a business plan that will bring me the prosperity and job satisfaction I yearn for and deserve. And eliminate my hated commute. Like most of us, I’ve done a lot of things in my life that have called for courage, not the least of which is buying my farm and getting livestock, running the farm as a solo female farmer (pulling lambs during a difficult birth, vaccinating, castrating lambs, the works), fixing or building things by myself, and heck, even opening up a hive of angry honeybees or “clapping” a visiting black bear off the property (the bear doesn’t really scare me much, although I guess it probably should).  But that stuff is nothing compared to the fear I have of going out on my own for my income. Nothing else can even hold a candle to this fear. The deepest part of me knows I can do this, and that it—that I—will succeed beyond my wildest dreams, but the terror around this is poop-my-pants real. I will have to work hard—the side hustle for the next few months is not to be taken lightly. But that’s all part of getting in shape. As my physical body gets back into shape, as I grow stronger and more sure of my abilities, the mind will follow.

The mind is a curious thing in how it can terrorize one into playing small, and staying “safe” even as it destroys your health and happiness. I am coming up on my 13th anniversary in my current job (a decade longer than I intended to stay there, when I accepted the job offer in 2005). It’s been good to me in general – I’ve learned a lot about myself, I’ve been through a lot of big personal/life changes with the job there as my steady rock, and I’ve gained confidence in my skills – but now it’s time to move it along, to do what I’m meant to do, be who I’m meant to be. I can’t wait to see myself on the other side, and am excited about my plans (like, really, really, REALLY excited) as I work on them. That alone tells me I’m on the right track. The fear will rise up, and might even immobilize me at times, but the fear can suck it. I am Maureen.  I am Mo. I am Modog. I am MaurFinn. And I am MacFinn. Hear me roar (I’m learning how from Daisy, my little lioness [she’s a Leo, not surprisingly]). I simply cannot wait to blow my own mind with my madskillz and awesomeness.

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A friend sent this to me recently (thanks, JS!), and it really hit home.  On top of the words hitting home, it’s by an author whose own journey to success I admire a lot and it is now posted in several key places so I’ll see it multiple times every day.  I am committed.

That’s a wrap

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The little homestead. MacFinn Farm.

Here we are again, at the end of another trip around the sun, the holiday season winding up, the days growing longer (even if we can’t tell yet). The year ended with mixed reviews for me. Mostly it’s just another year, with highs and lows in equal measure (although I’m not keeping score there), but so much going on in my country politically is upsetting, with nearly every day bringing a new outrage from the nation’s capitol. It’s too much to take in some days, and my blog, as I’ve designed it (at least this one), isn’t a place for that discussion. I have faith our ship will right itself, but it’s going to require all hands on deck to do so.

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I cry nearly every time I think of him. He was truly exceptional. I am lucky to have had him even for just two months.

A personal loss hit me hard a couple weeks ago – I’m still too raw to write about it here, and may never, but a friend called it a tragedy, for that is what it felt like. Because I dislike (intensely) when people are cryptic about these things, for now I can only say, in a nutshell, that I lost my darling Braider—after only two months with me—to a sudden onset, acute autoimmune condition. More information, for now, is here. It has left me devastated, but I simply cannot end the year with this as the marker. So I am going to focus on some really good, even great things that happened in the past few months.

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I took three ewe lambs to their new home on Whidbey Island a couple of weeks ago. Minnie’s black ewe lamb, Trixie’s white ewe lamb, and Cinnamon’s girl, Ginger.

One thing, which maybe isn’t a big deal to others, but is kinda awesome for me, is I finally got my new kitchen faucet installed. New kitchen faucet, you say? Yes! For an embarrassingly long time (like, over a year) I’ve been dealing with a faucet that had almost no flow. Water trickled out in a leisurely way, with a gallon jug taking several minutes to fill. It was getting worse and worse. I checked the water hoses under the sink, but my water filter’s faucet had/has great pressure, and though tiny in comparison, filled at 4 times the rate of the main faucet. I looked at it from underneath, thinking I could take it apart and remove grit (the likely culprit) but when I looked, I could see there’d be no accessing anything there. So, I planned to replace it. I was looking forward to getting a single handle with a pull down sprayer. I shopped and shopped, but never pulled the trigger. Finally, last August, I settled on a design by Moen that also had good reviews. I bought it at the local box store so, if I had to, it would be easier it return. It sat in the box for weeks, then months. I was waiting until my water filter tanks needed replacing (a major operation and I figured it would be a good time to install the faucet).  In early November, at long last, the water filter needed replacing. I put it off, and put it off, intimidated by the faucet job. I watched YouTube videos on replacing kitchen faucets. I read the instruction manual. I procrastinated. I contemplated, a few dozen times, calling a plumber. Then, Thanksgiving week, while I had some extra days off, I did it. I pulled everything out from under the sink, got the water filter tanks moved out and grabbed a couple old rugs and some towels for support for my back. I got the wrenches and pliers and whatever else I could think of. Then, after almost chickening out, I started in. And three hours later (and only one run to the hardware store and one phone a friend (the two fellas I called weren’t around, so I had to soldier on without advice)), it was in!

And it looks FABULOUS, if I do say so myself. The water comes out at a normal flow, the pull down sprayer is awesome (I had eliminated the side sprayer that was here when I installed the water filter faucet back in 2011) and, who knew, the sink itself stays a million times cleaner than it did with the trickle faucet.  It’s nice to rinse a dishrag or kitchen sponge and have it really rinse clean, and the whole kitchen stays cleaner because of it.  I ROCK!

Another great thing is my job got cooler. A couple months ago I wrote about my deep unhappiness with things in that department, mostly due to my own yearning for something more, but also because of some “challenging dynamics.” The dynamics have changed, although the work load is still crazy at times, and best of all, my location has changed. My company moved to a new office (only a couple blocks away from the old one) and the new workplace is wonderful. It’s in a brand new building, and the office interior design is open and clean and bright. No more rat maze of gray, six-foot high cubicle walls. My desk, while still essentially a cubicle, is open and airy and is a corner office. Seriously, it’s one of the nicest locations in the entire office, IMO, and I’m still pinching myself, wondering what I did to deserve it (well, other than hard work and dedication). I have a stand desk, too – a real one. My old one was one of those desktop lift jobs, clunky and heavy and hard to get just right. This one moves up and down at the touch of a button. I find I stand a lot more now because it’s so ergonomically comfortable. The view of little ol’ downtown Bellevue is wonderful, with a peek-a-boo view of Lake Washington and the I-90 floating bridge. In our first or second week here a pair of bald eagles were wheeling around over a nearby building. The evening lights are really pretty, and I just realized as I wrote this that I look down (over) at the location where I bought my first car, many, many years ago, before Bellevue had a single high-rise. The Pontiac dealer was on the corner of NE 8th and 108th, and my bus went by it every day on the way home from my first job. I used to stare at the shiny new cars as we waited at the stoplight, and locked in on one of the models on the lot, and bought my little Sunbird – a hatchback, so I had a car for my first dog, Mikey, to ride in. Times change; priorities, not so much.

20171225_015008Last on the list here, we wound up the year with a fabulous white Christmas, the best one ever in all my years here (I’ve lived here most of my life, but spent some early years in New Jersey, where white Christmases were common). It snowed all Christmas Eve, and by the morning there were about 6 inches of white covering the world. It’s Puget Sound snow, so not light and fluffy, but we’d been cold and dry for the week prior to the snow (versus the typical rainy and wet), so it wasn’t the usual half-slush we get. I spent a quiet day at home with the dogs (recovering from a cold virus that was kicking my butt), alternately playing outside with them (Daisy LOVES the snow) and then coming inside to curl up with a hot mug of tea and watching Christmas movies while eating way too much Christmas chocolate. It was perfect.

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Daisy, looking fine with her herd of wee Shetlands.

Giving thanks to doG

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An early snow (really early!) on November 5 turned everything into a winter wonderland even before the leaves changed color.  I love snow!

We’re winding up the Thanksgiving weekend here in the U.S., and I’m not looking forward to going back to the real world of commuting and working tomorrow, but alas, a winning lottery ticket is not yet mine. I took the entire week off (so have been off work for 9 days now – heaven) and the dogs have loved it as much as I have, sleeping in with me on the couple of days I did that, and enjoying the days hanging out with me (even when we’re stuck inside because of the torrential downpours), instead of waiting all day long for me to come home from work. I am lucky to have them. And, as I mentioned in my last post, we are up one now, with my “Failed Foster” status. It’s been many years since I fostered a dog, and I didn’t intend that this one would fail, but this is a clear reason why the word “fail” should not be loaded with such negativity (failing at things is often a sign of progress, but I digress.

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He is obsessed with shadows and reflections.

Formerly known as Raider, this dog is filling a hole I didn’t know existed. As I stood on the porch one rainy evening last week, toweling off FOUR dogs, and wiping 16 paws clean before we went in the house, I had such a deep feeling of…I’m not even sure what the word is…completion is the closest to it, but still not perfect. Somehow the circle is now closed.  As the four of them stood around me, waiting their turn, standing back or pushing at the closed door to get inside, the gap I didn’t know was there was filled, the puzzle piece found and placed in the vacant spot. It was a nearly audible click as I stood there, surrounded by 300 pounds of dogs, with these four hearts that surround mine and give meaning to my days.

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Raider came to me when I offered to foster him. My friend had placed him with “W” two years ago, from a rescue situation. Raider was shipped here from Chicago in 2015, having ended up homeless when his owner had passed away and the family didn’t want him. He was 4 years old when he came to the Northwest to live with W, a loving home with two adults and a companion dog who all adored him. Then W got sick.  W’s wife had had a bad fall and broken her leg badly, so was using a walker. When W got sick, then sicker, she knew that Raider had to be placed, as they were not able to continue caring for him. W did not want to consider the idea, and became very upset. My friend knew Raider would need a new home, but since the doctors said W “had a few more months,” we just waited. Unfortunately it was only a couple weeks when Mrs. W called. Sadly, W had passed away, and for the second time in his life, Raider was in need of a home due to a death in the family.

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I took him in, wondering why I said I would do this (softie for Rottweilers, and wanted to help my friend out) and hoping against hope that it would work until we could find him a home. With my three dogs, three cats, and flock of sheep, there was a lot to integrate. My friend brought a giant crate for him (Impact brand – I am now coveting more of these crates, as this one is only a borrow), a giant orthopedic bed (which my other three dogs say is really nice) and a stand-up feeding station, plus Raider. It turns out I had little to worry about.

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He’s not the cuddle bug that Daisy is (yet?), but who could resist this? 117 pounds of squishy-faced cuteness.

This dog…this dog is nearly perfect to me.  He reminds me of all that have gone before him (and oh, how I am mush for a boy Rottweiler – putty in their paws, really, but they never seem to take advantage of it to run the show, unlike a Rottweiler bitch, who will come in with her paws on her hips, virtual arms akimbo, and tell you how it’s going to be (in the nicest way possible, of course)). The boys just melt me. I tried to remain strong – the first week as my three adjusted, and then the second week, as Raider showed us more of himself. There were a few scuffles – once when I fed raw meaty bones on Raider’s second or third day here (facepalm to my own stupidity there!) and tensions were high, Farley took on Raider in the kitchen. WTF, Far – this dog is twice your size! Raider didn’t engage other than to protect himself, when he could easily have taken Farley down with one paw tied behind his back. Then another time Farley was playing with a stuffie – it took Far a week before he would finally offer me a toy (normally a multiple daily occurrence) with Raider here – and Raider thought “Weeee! I love stuffies too, let’s play tug!” Farley tore into him, and I had an instant dogfight at my feet. Again, Raider only protected himself, and the YIPE! I heard in the 5-second scuffle was from him.  As was the tuft of hair on the floor afterwards. He learned that Farley doesn’t play with other dogs, only me, and when he growls that goofy warble of a Setter growl (heart!), he isn’t kidding. Got it. But beyond Daisy pushing and pushing and pushing on Raider, always jealous of any attention I give him and always eager to show him who’s boss (when we ALL already know bitches get the job done), he integrated beyond my wildest expectations.

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Don’t let this soft face and swishing tail, or the spots, fool you – this guy is a tiger (I often call him my tiger, and he’s taken it to heart).

So it was easy to write this bio to find him a home. The rescue person from Chicago, involved in his 2015 placement, said she had a good home there for him and we could just ship him back. I put my foot down at this. While I appreciated her help/offer, I was already fierce in my protectiveness. When the Perfect Home showed up a few days later, it was easy to sing his praises to them. But as I pulled away from our “get acquainted” meeting, I realized that even if they were a better home than I was (only one other dog, and two of them, so Raider would get more one-on-one attention than he gets from me), I didn’t know if I could give him up. I had tried so hard to keep logic and emotion separated, sure that the emotion I felt was just feeling sorry for his sad story of losing two homes due to his owners dying. “But,” said Emotion, “if he is so damn perfect why aren’t you keeping him? He’s squishy-faced-cute {swoon!} on top of it.” Then Logic replied, “Um, try the houseful of dogs you already have, Mo? Bandwidth? Cost? Room? Seriously? WTH?”  When the Perfect Home called me a couple of days later to reluctantly pass on him (timing/logistics), I realized I could pull the ad. I was walking two feet off the ground after I hung up the phone. He was placed. He is mine.

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His first vet visit (for a broken toenail), about a month after I got him.  He’s woozy from sedation here, but the toe healed up beautifully.

I’ve rechristened him Braider, after going through a number of iterations rhyming with Raider. Normally I have no problem changing a rescue dog’s name–and even recommend it—but he responded so beautifully to it, and it was patently obvious he had been loved by both of his previous owners.  But I couldn’t live with such a “guy name” as Raider. As a writer, I know that words have power, and naming dogs these sorts of “aggressive” names doesn’t sit well with me. I tried Tater, Vader, Bader, Brader, and all sorts of variations before settling on Braider, which works for the meaning – he came in and braided us all together, bringing his gentleness and good manners and his beautiful Rottweiler heart.  I am his.

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Braider Finn.  Heart him.

Absolute Trust

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I said a fond farewell to a glorious summer. I will miss you – come back soon!

I adopted a dog recently. Another dog. It wasn’t intended—I have three already, and adding a fourth wasn’t something that I planned in any way. I am, however, a softie for a sad story and an outright pushover when it comes to Rottweilers and English Setters. This was a foster gone wrong, for I am, once again, a Foster Failure (well-known in the dog rescue world). But in the end it was so right that the only one surprised by it was me (all my friends knew long before I did, even though it took me less than two weeks to figure it out). So we are four now (seven again, if you count the cats, or eight, if you count moi).

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Seriously.  Who could resist this mug?

I’ll explain how this all came about in more detail in another post, for this post is about my first lesson from my new guy.  This dog, Raider is his original name, came to me after his owner, sadly, passed away. I’d offered to foster him when I heard about the situation, and we all thought it wouldn’t be for a few months.  Cancer, however, had another timeline.

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The beautiful fall clouds provide wonder as I sit in traffic in the last mile of my daily commute.

Raider had every reason to be freaked out and spooky – this wasn’t the first time he was in this situation and he had to be wondering, again, why his life was turned upside down. He’d just spent most of the day in a crate in my friend’s car, someone whom he really didn’t know, and came into my house with an underlying confidence that only a well-loved dog could have. And a dog with a stable temperament. He wasn’t 100 percent comfortable – some of his behaviors that first evening showed us his main coping mechanism, chasing shadows – but his worry about things didn’t turn into fear, and even in his worry, he coped. He’d essentially just landed on Mars and while you could see he was putting up a front (excessive sniffing, focusing on shadows on the floor and reflections on the ceiling) as he experienced this new landscape and companions, he coped. And coped well. He was (and is) polite and respectful, gentle and easy going, thoughtful and well-behaved. He dealt with it all beautifully, making it easy to fall for him.

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The sheep haven’t been getting out as much as they’d like – the new guy isn’t quite ready for that.

Me, I’ve been struggling a bit with life lately – deeply unhappy with certain aspects of it, even as I know how blessed and lucky I am. I seem to go through this struggle annually, or near to, and every single time I say “this year for sure” for making the changes I want to make with my source of income, with my home and farm, and with myself. It’s embarrassing how many times I’ve had this conversation; I’m ashamed to say it’s going on almost two decades now. And while I’ve made some huge leaps and progress in that time, here I am once again, unhappy with where I am and devolving bit by bit, by letting outside things influence me (I KNOW better), and becoming the worst version of myself. I don’t like that person, and have been trying to evolve away from that fearful, worried, stressful, and even snarly, victim-version of me that no one likes. To the one I know I am inside, the one who can rise up even with adversity, and rise above it. The one who, instead of reverting to old habits and coping mechanisms – chasing shadows, as it were – in adversity, is able to see to the truth and maintain the course.  This is who I strive to be. This is almost verbatim from a post I made almost two years ago, yet I didn’t follow through, things eased up, and I didn’t make the changes. Again.

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So I’m once again hitting the books. A book title came across my radar recently, mentioned by a coworker who’s having similar struggles. When I looked it up on the library website to place a hold, I found that there was more than one book (and author) with this title: “Pivot.” So I checked out both of them. The original one mentioned by my coworker is by Jenny Blake and has a rocket-fuel subtitle: “The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One.” I’m in! I’ve been listening to the recorded version in the car on my commute and it’s been instructing me, as I sit in traffic looking for a way to do things differently, on the nuts and bolts of how to do that. The other one, by Adam Markel, is a little quieter and no less powerful. Its subtitle reads “The Art and Science of Reinventing Your Career and Life.”  This one is probably more in tune with where I am right now – a little broken, a little ashamed at being in this spot again, and needing a light to guide my way. To get past the fear and coping mechanisms to that goal Me. Like Jenny Blake’s Pivot it has some insightful views into where I am now (indeed, why else would someone pick up these books?), but Adam Markel goes even further. He talks about the “first fifty pages” and how often we buy books of this type and never get beyond reading the first fifty pages. What, has he been in my house and seen the stack by my bedside? (And I think he’s being generous with fifty pages.) And to further the theory, he likens this to a person’s LIFE never getting beyond the first fifty pages, asking “What else are you ‘fifty-paging’ in your life?” It was like he threw down the gauntlet. I am challenged by this and am determined to get all the way though the book – you’re ON, Mr. Markel!

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While I dread the coming rain, fall is showing me why I shouldn’t despair.

Raider, now Braider, came in without knowing anything about what was coming (although I give him too little credit here – these sentient beings know much more than we can ever know), yet maintained his grace and absolute trust – in humans, in his situation, in his life. Sure, you can argue that he didn’t know any better, but I would argue, vehemently if not scientifically, that he does. And once again, I need to follow my dogs’ lead.

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Maybe not as gratuitously cute as I like to end my blogs, but they are simply awe-inspiring.  To think that a wee spider makes these cathedrals of air and gossamer silk…I don’t know if there’s a prettier way to trap and devour a meal.

Still no rain, still hot, and still wonderful

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These crazy maples.

The summer is slowly waning and I am trying to soak up every moment that I can. The days are already over 2 hours shorter than they were in June, but we still have plenty of sunshine and heat during the days. I am in awe of the beauty, day after day. I look at the baked-dry hard ground and wonder how it will ever become wet again, just as I wonder in January if it will ever, ever become dry again.  I need to plant a couple things, but the ground is so rock hard and dry, I’m waiting.

 

The beasts are enjoying the weather as well. The sheep maybe not as much, since forage has been scarce for weeks now. They’ve eaten everything they can reach that’s edible (to their palates), and without rain, nothing’s growing back yet. After my leaky pipe escapade last spring, I’m reluctant to tap the well any more than I need to, so haven’t been watering as much as I’ve done in the past. Regardless, the well can’t keep up with that kind of volume (irrigation-levels) anyway. The grass is mostly brown and dry so I’ve been feeding them hay for months now, as I usually do (we’re done with grazing by July, most years – a two-month season at best). I bought a couple of tons of hay a month ago. It was a good price, but there is a prodigious amount of waste as it’s sneakily stemmy stuff.  A third-cutting orchard grass, it’s green and fairly soft, unlike the spiky handle of first cutting (which is a waste of money, with this crew).  They like this stuff and eat it well enough, but there are wheelbarrows-worth of what is essentially straw to haul out of the pen each week, after they’ve eaten all the green. It’s really nice not to have to run to the feed store every weekend, and that’s a plus, but the savings ratio to the increased waste (and extra work) ratio – it’s a wash, really.  And at least the straw is light and easy to load up/haul.

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One of these is not like the others.  And she doesn’t eat hay, either.  The sheep loved the delivery of hay.

The lambs are growing at a good pace, with a couple of them nearly as big as an adult (or so it seems – there’s a lot of fluff with the lambswool coats they’re wearing). I’ve placed a couple of ads on FB groups I belong to, but though there’s some interest, no one’s that interested. Craigslist is the next step, and I’ve girded my loins and placed an ad there. My goal is to get the flock down to winter numbers (10 or 11) by November 1. I have a couple favorites out of the new lambs who are definitely staying, and wish I had room for just a couple more. I really like Meg’s white wether.  He’s a confident little guy (stands up to Daisy!), with curlicue horns and great conformation, plus what looks to be a very nice fleece. I am wavering on him still. Part of what makes me hesitate is his friendliness. I am ridiculously swayed by this anymore. I am sorely tired of freak-out sheep and am slowly weeding out those that are too spooky. I was going to sell Rudy, but the little guy has just grown on me. I hopehopehope his fleece will be nice, so my sentimentality will be rewarded. At this point his lamb fleece is soft but fairly open, so it’s hard to say.

Right now the termites are hatching, providing the annual feast for spiders, bats, and all manner of insectivores, including dragonflies – I’ve seen them nab a termite in midflight and it is so cool! Sadly, my chickens aren’t here to enjoy the bounty. I remember how they’d stay up late this time of year, long past their bedtime, as the new termites flew out from the rotted stump near the coop, hopping up to catch the hapless termites, new to flying and clumsy with their long wings. I miss the chooks, but it’s getting less and less sharp. Knowing it was necessary for my health didn’t make it any easier but so far it seems like it made a difference. A lot of people have asked me about my health, how the ol’ lungs are doing, etc. I feel good – better than I have in, well, years (since 2014, at any rate). The lung thing slammed into my life in November of that year. For the first time in two years I’ve been meeting my Fitbit goal nearly every day, and my weekly reports from Fitbit are no longer something I’d rather delete. And I do this without even trying—just everyday activity. On work days, most of my steps are between 5 pm and midnight, and it’s so great to be able to do things without thinking, and even if I get out of breath, it’s only a moment and I’m okay, where before I would have to stand huffing and puffing for a long time before I caught my breath. I wear my respirator mask any time I am working a lot with the hay. I have to say that I’ve occasionally been less strict with it (because, frankly, it’s a pain in the arse in the heat) but every time I do this I kick myself.

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Pal, looking like a Saluki mix.  The dog can run, and he does!  It’s hard to keep weight on him this time of year.  I wish I were half as fit as he is.

Another beautiful evening is winding down. It’s shortly after 8 p.m. as I write this and dark is coming on fast. The sun set at 7:43 tonight, and we’re down to a little over 13 hours of daylight now, compared with nearly 16 daylight hours in June. I need to put the sheep in their pen for the night, but am stretching out the quiet, the twilight magic, for as long as I can.

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Gratuitous cuteness: The old guy, Farley, with his new toy.  Heart this dog to bits!

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