Mo Bloggin'

A little o' this, a little o' that

Archive for the category “Writing and editing”

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.

 

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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.

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.

Four times a charm?

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Moss season.

That’s how many times I’ve tried to compose this post into something coherent and cohesive, either starting anew or adding to the draft in progress. While the likelihood is high that I may fail again, I’m determined to try. It often seems to be a war between what might be my true self—the whiny, bitchy, judgmental, negative, stress puppy that I try to keep in check—and the person I see myself as, the person I strive to be: someone who lets things roll off her back, who doesn’t judge others, who has a positive attitude that infuses all areas of her life. Sigh. Lately it’s been mostly that old, small-self me, and mostly due to stress that I still haven’t gotten a handle on, that I MUST get under control if I’m ever going to get any better. Instead, it’s ramped up to levels I haven’t encountered for several years, mainly due to the day job and trying to do the work of three people at the office while people are out. This has been hugely frustrating to me, and I feel like no matter what I do, there’s no relief. I try to cover work for people who are absent, in addition to my own work, and all of it suffers. My own work is done with less care, the coverage of others’ tasks is haphazard (there was little to no training on most of the tasks I was expected to take on – most of which were unknown to me). If I speak up about the state of things I sound like I’m just making excuses (even to my own ear) yet the impossibility of the situation remains. All this at a time when I’m trying to heal and make time for relaxing and meditating. Instead it’s been triage-mode, and my health has suffered. I am so frustrated with myself for allowing this to happen, for getting so stressed about it that it’s run my internal dialogue all weekend long, with work brought home (to try and catch up on last week and hopefully get ahead for the coming week) hanging over my head all weekend along with my regular chores and work I’d like to do for myself.

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I kind of know just how this hammer must feel, if hammers feel.  I found it out in the woods when I was picking up tree limbs and other winter detritus. It’s been sitting there a little while, I’d say. Nature won this round.

Spending 60 minutes to create a blog post seems indulgent right now, but rather than wait until I have time, or worse, wait until I have time to pretend all is well and that I’m making progress in my journey to good health, I figured I’d let the reality of life write the post this week, however dreary. It’s often part of the reason the gaps between posts go so long, frankly, as I don’t like writing about or dwelling on the negative (even though this comes through regularly), yet getting to a good frame of mind to write positively isn’t always achievable in the free time I have. A friend recently reminded me, as I lamented (before the recent work burdens) about wishing I could have a month off to get caught up with life and to write, that writers just write. They put their writing first, carving out the time above all else—before chores, before work, before leisure – and how it’s not a waiting for the right time to come along. I do get that. I find I need a little more breathing room (ha! A pun!) around it, or else what comes out is a lot of stuff like this. I’ve done morning pages (writing first thing, every day, no matter what), and while it’s been over a decade since I engaged this practice, I remember having to force myself to stop, because I found that the stuff that came out was a lot of internal “yuck” and it became a horrible way to start the day. Perhaps if I stuck with it longer I’d have made a breakthrough and found my way to a higher place. As it was, I was taking a perfectly good morning and ruining it, coloring my entire day with the stuff that got dredged up—feeling bad about myself, about who I was/am, how I move in the world compared to those I admire, my talents being not as good, etc. Still, making time for things that are important to me—my writing among them—is also a key to improving my life wholesale.

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Stinging nettles love it here; their early spring growth is a great spring tonic vegetable – loaded with vitamins and wild good-for-you-ness…once you neutralize the stinging part (by cooking or drying).

So to circle back to the revelations I was making a month ago, with regard to my health and healing, I realized my ability to handle stress is sub par (understatement) – something I’ve known but thought I had handled better than I do. And I am trying to change how I view the world by changing how my brain works. I have to say when you’re sick it’s really, really, really hard to turn the ship around. To replace the fear and worry with positive affirmations is not only difficult but when you are able to do it, it frequently feels false and trite. Sure, my lungs are “strong and healthy, and breathing is easier every day” as I try and catch my breath after walking a half block with a 4% grade incline, stopping to gasp and let my heartbeat calm down. Trying to jog-trot a few dozen yards to make a crosswalk light leaves me huffing and puffing like I just ran a 6-minute mile. And I’ve stopped taking the stairs at work. The one flight up between floors–even taken very slowly—has me puffing enough that our receptionist says “geez, did you run up the stairs?” Perhaps this is dwelling on the negative, but these are also the current realities of my life, and trying to revise the thought process from woe-is-me to a healthy, healing, positive frame of mind, has been and is my challenge.

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While my days of week-long backpacking trips (hauling a pack nearly 1/3 my weight) are behind me, I do plan that I’ll once again be able to go on day hikes with the dogs.

Next post (hopefully sooner than one month out) I’ll talk about some of the very cool books and tools I’ve found that are helping me to slowly turn things around. I’ve had to slow the pace a bit, unfortunately, as the exciting incoming information became overwhelming and I ended up having to disengage from all of it. I know part of this is due to my health in general—the ability to concentrate seems to be another thing that’s in short supply with this condition. A recent long day at work meant that once I got home, after chores and feeding and caring for my very patient animals, that I literally didn’t sit down until 10 p.m. Hitting the books after a day like that isn’t going to happen, and a meditation session will just put me to sleep. So the process has been slow, especially for the past few weeks, when it really needs to be in high gear, or better yet, already set in place. Baby steps.

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Gratuitous cuteness: Daisy snuggled up on a winter’s evening, waiting for momdog (me).

Waiting for Friday

Mungo's Monday morning bed head.

Mungo’s Monday morning bed head.

Another week has begun and the cycle starts anew. Waiting for the weekend. Those two days always have so much promise on Friday, no matter what the weather, plans or lack thereof. If you work for a living in the 9-5 world, wishing your life away becomes part of your routine, your being. Because that’s what we do when we look so forward to two days off that the rest of the week becomes little more than something to get through so you can have those two days. And you cram so much life into those two days! The Friday-eve list of things I want to do—everything from housework/chores and household projects, errands and needed shopping, to side trips, socializing, and entertainment—is usually more stuff than I could do in a week, never mind two measly days.

The cherry tree is going crazy this year!

The cherry tree is going crazy this year!

It’s always been a struggle for me, this bizarre mad rush we all do, clogging the roads to get to a building where we (usually) sit all day in cubeland, in front of a computer, or in meetings to discuss and plan what we’ll do on said computer, then rush back to the sanctuary of home at the end of the day. A twice daily migration, if you will. How did hunting and gathering devolve into this? But for a reason I’ve not been able to bust out of yet, I find this awful pattern, doing work for another in exchange for a paycheck, and being accountable to that other, easier than being accountable to myself. When I have the time off, instead of working toward my own success, I tend to waste a lot of time. I’m really good at telling myself this story – that I’m a Supreme Waster of Time, that the time I spend at R&R is necessary (it is, yes, but not to the detriment of my own success), that my dreams require hard work and financial freedom following those dreams is unattainable without a bankroll to start. It’s insidious.

Daisy hard at work to make me smile.

Daisy hard at work to make me smile.

I come home on weekdays wiped out emotionally and physically. After an arduous (I’m being a wee bit dramatic, sure) commute to work, 7 long hours of word processing work, and a frustrating, sometimes tear-inducing commute home (tears of frustration at everything I’m doing, including being (i.e., allowing myself to be) stuck in rush hour traffic with people who can’t seem to find their gas pedals), I’m instantly buoyed the moment I open the door to the house. The greeting, the warmth, the joy that surrounds my arrival lifts me up and centers me. The grim frown and slow, tired steps are replaced by a beaming smile and lightened heart, the weariness infused with the infectious ebullience of the dogs and cats, sheep and chickens. Sure, most of them are only glad to see me in an associative way – I let them out of their pen and/or feed them (sheep and chickens), but it’s still meaningful. I represent something positive to them, and they are happy to see me. I can’t say the same about the job I go to all day, leaving them—it’s like tearing off a Band-aid every time I leave them for work—to pay for the roof over our heads, the land we live on, the food I feed them, and it’s coming to some sort of a head for me. While I’m grateful for my job, it’s also leaving me with little more satisfaction other than the paycheck every two weeks. And that’s not really enough anymore.

It's been a very warm spring this year. Farley cools off after a round of fetch.

It’s been a very warm spring this year. Farley cools off after a round of fetch (squinty-eyed because I asked him to stay for a minute while I took the photo).

I know my recent health concerns have brought this to a point, as the days’ stresses and unhappiness compound to continue to affect my health adversely, and the overall structure has me struggling with all the existential questions in life. Recent losses by friends’ (mother, sister, beloved aunt) and my own (friend and mentor) add to the ticking clock of “are you just going to talk about it and wish, or are you going to actually do it?” I pulled in the driveway one evening, glum and spent with the day’s travails (woe is me, First World problems to be sure), and picked up the mail before opening the gate to drive in. And found a check for an article I wrote two months ago and sent to the editor. Last I heard, the magazine was maybe not going to be published, but I never heard anything more, and frankly, didn’t expect to. The editor I was working with left her position to be a full time mother while her children are young, and I hadn’t heard from a replacement editor (though wrote to the contact name she had given me in her farewell email – no response). It was one of those days where I felt emotionally bleak, wondering what the heck I was doing and how I could break the bonds and do what I wanted while also being financially safe, with an abundant income to live on.

Part I – on the cover!

Part II.  Check out that sweet byline!

Part II. Check out that sweet byline!

As I opened the envelope, realizing what it was, I knew, as I always have, that this was my answer. Writing the article took less than 6 hours of work, without a crappy commute on either end of it. It paid the equivalent of more than 1½ times what I make (hourly) at the office job – in a position/with a company I’ve been in for 10 years now, and not including a commute (yes, this is a BIG issue for me). Why, then, do I continue to struggle with the reality of it? Sure, I’d have to pay for my own health care and retirement (probably all of that extra 1/2, comparatively speaking), and taxes but no commute, no money spent on parking and fuel (wait – there’s my health care money right there), no coming home at 6 p.m. to face an hour or two of chores – in the winter this is in the dark, and usually in the rain and mud. The chores (caring for my livestock, pets, home and property) that don’t feel like chores on the weekends, when I’m not leaving for 8 or 9 hours to go somewhere else all day, leaving everything I love best in the world. So tell me again, Maureen, why you can’t do this? What kind of monster is hiding under your bed, whispering “can’t” and “not for you” all night long as you toss and turn in your sleep, trying to find the harmony of this current set up when there really is none. The possibilities are endless, as is your talent (word processing, writing, editing), and the faucet of abundance is just waiting for you to get over yourself and turn on the tap.

Gratuitous cuteness: Five inches of healthy banana slug crossing the lawn one evening - I love these guys!

Gratuitous cuteness: Five inches of healthy banana slug crossing the lawn one evening – I love these guys!

Relaunching the blog

129I think this is the longest I’ve gone without posting, but the handwriting has obviously been on the wall (note to self: look up where that saying came from!) for, oh, the past year, with long gaps between my posts, and not even catching up with everything then (cause how could you?).  As another blogger said, I write a blog post every day, it just doesn’t always make it out of my head. I have good intentions, then time takes over (not enough of it) or just a lack of drive when it comes to actually sitting down and putting fingers to keyboard. I’ve even thought about getting one of those voice recognition software programs, where you just speak and it types for you. I still may, someday, but in the little bit of “don’t forget this moment/observation” recordings I’ve done on my smart phone, well, I’m not seeing the speaking of writing as something that’s going to work well (and I have some cringe-worthy recordings to prove it), but that’s a post for another day.

My purpose here today is to relaunch the blog with new focus and direction, up to and including the possibility of a second blog to hone in on…something.  When I started this blog, lo those many years ago (almost 6 years now), I was kind of using it as a way to record my journey from selling one home after living there two decades to finding my new place.  The search for the new place, or The Hunt, as my category states, was the goal, with various riffs along the way about the dogs and my life in general. After I found the new place, I of course blogged about it and all the things I was doing, from fencing to home improvements, along with the addition of the sheep, the bees, the garden, and everything else I’ve been doing here. Soon the care and feeding of everything I’m doing here at the farm became too much to keep up with, with regards to regular blogging.  Or I got lazy about it. Or both.

But I find myself now looking for community.  I love it here, even as I yearn for more—the embarrassing truth—and am looking for ways to connect with others with the same values and dreams, as well as pursuing those dreams myself.  At the top of the list of course, is the somewhat nebulous desire to work from home (I’ve written of this before; the desire is real, the nebulous part is not having any idea if/how I can do this), and to somehow make a living without having to leave for eight or ten hours, with a crappy, planet-killing commute to and from those eight hours elsewhere.  (Thankfully the job I’m commuting to is one I like, with coworkers and an employer I like, so it’s not torturous by any means (just the commute).  So I strive for those connections with others, especially those others that are following their passion and living the dream in a way more in line with my own vision of this for myself.

She makes it very hard to leave every day.

She makes it very hard to leave every day.

I can talk myself out of anything—one of the things I’m really, really good at.  Let’s call it my Virgo moon, always carping and critiquing and seeing what doesn’t work.  Why this could triumph over my Scorpio sun and ascendant is beyond me (well, it’s obviously deeper than three signs in my natal astrological chart) but here I sit, second guessing my abilities, and even my deserve level.  I have so much, have accomplished so much in this pursuit of my little farm, who am I to want more? Why is this not enough?  Am I just greedy?  Why can’t I make this soggy, shady, northwest facing hillside work for me?  And just what do I want?  More land (greedy), better exposure and location (ingrate), more outbuildings and easier access to all the systems to adequately care for it.  For example, currently my compost dump for dumping the soiled bedding and manure from the sheep shed consists of traversing the hillside, across and down, in a slippery, wobbly crossing of 50 yards with a loaded wheelbarrow, dumping said barrow (without losing it over the edge), then wrestling it back up the hill to the shed to be refilled.  Right now six fillings/traverses is about my limit before it starts to get dangerous due to fatigue.  A fall or clonked knee or shin or bashed ankle are usually all I get, but they add up over time, and I sit here typing with a tendonitis issue in my forearm that I’ve been nursing for several months now.  It limits nearly everything I do, and though I’ve curtailed activity and babied it (and completely avoided needed fall chores), it still aches.  I have an appointment for physical therapy next week and am hoping to get back on track soon.

Okay, so this post has taken a completely different direction than the one I intended when I started it (a week ago).  A week ago I was high with the inspiration provided by having gone to a couple of local events where I put myself in the company of those doing what they love—small businesses and blog writers growing a business, people working with wool—the product I grow—and the community around that.  The cynic has since come out, and I see that all of them have partners—usually a husband—who also contributes to the bottom line by providing an income separate from these small businesses.  Meaning, if they failed, they wouldn’t be destitute and out on the street.  Hard decisions would have to be made, no question, but in the meantime they have the luxury of building their business without it as the only income to pay the mortgage or feed the family.

050

Minnie’s twins, Mungo and Trixie – trust me, they’re even more adorable in person.


So what can I do to follow my own passions, to find more contentment in what I’m doing rather than this blasted, near-constant yearning for something more, something closer to “it.”  I have many ideas, and the plan is to get them out of my head and get some action around them.  A lot of the ideas around growing things, be it wool, medicinal herbs, birds of the poultry variety, or green matter (veggies, native plants) may not work here.  I was at an event on Thursday that gave me ideas, ideas that require more work (meaning I need to get my arm better).  I want to increase my beeyard, and plan a medicinal herb and native plant garden (already have a buyer for one of the natives that grows here…if I can part with it), and get some structure—planning and organization–around the sheep products – raw fleeces and wool.  And, lastly, some action around my writing.  Because according to that astrological chart, that’s my Golden Ticket.143

My poor, neglected blog

I have no excuse, other than being my usual busy self. But I look at other farm bloggers – some of people I know, others I’ve gotten to know through their blogs – and wonder how they do it. My fellow shepherd friend, Donna, posts at least three times a week on farm and her other interests; Celi in the Midwest posts EVERY DAY, delightful daily updates on her farm (and of her travels, when she’s able to get away for vacations).  I am in awe of both of them, as I know how hard they work, and how many animals they tend.  But I’ve also noticed they manage to keep their posts a lot shorter than my novellas.  You’d think as an editor, I’d be able to edit my own stuff better.  I could, I suppose, if I posted more frequently like they do, instead of trying to play catch up each time I post.  But since posting this blog tonight took the better part of 90 minutes (not writing it, just trying to log in and get it posted), I remember the other reason this has defeated me before. WordPress doesn’t like Firefox, and it seemed none too happy with Google Chrome tonight either (nor my geriatric XP operating system).  My connection speed was glacial tonight, with every page taking several minutes to load…so who has time for this?  I guess I need to move to my laptop (Win 7) for posting from now on.

The pile.

I can’t tell you how many blogs I write, though, that never make it beyond the grey matter.  I wax poetic as I’m doing whatever it is that keeps me from my blog, composing in my head as I, say, move 12 yards of hog fuel (shredded bark and wood used as mud management/footing in animal pens) delivered one recent Saturday into the sheep pen. It didn’t have to go far (so close, yet so far…), but it was uphill and it was a lot. I was doing the calculations and figured it took about six wheelbarrow loads to move each yard.  I moved over 50 wheelbarrow loads (at 6 cubic feet each) but there’s still some left in the pile (27 cubic feet in a cubic yard). So either they gave me some extra, or the fluffy aspect came into play (it was nice and dry and light, freshly dumped and no rain, so no settling. Or maybe I just have the wrong calculations. 

This is going to take a while.

This is going to take a while.

At any rate, I was darn proud of myself and ended up surprisingly un-sore. I thought that I’d be sore on Sunday, after I’d filled and moved 20 loads on Saturday. But I got up that morning without any real soreness or stiffness. I moved another 33 loads on Sunday afternoon, running out of daylight and moving the last half dozen loads by garage and barn light. For sure I’d be sore on Monday.  But not really.  Tuesday then, in that way that exertion waits a day before the muscles really bind up. Tuesday came and went and nothing much. A little tightness in my calves, and my arms were a little sore, but considering how I felt on Sunday night as I moved the last load, and weakly raked it out (running out of steam), I felt great. 

I felt much better, in fact, than normal activity (not much at this time of year). It won’t surprise anyone that I’m no gym rat, and my activity is usually centered around doing stuff around the property.  My day job is sitting all day in front of a computer, so by the end of a day (especially after the commute home) I’m actually much less limber than I was after moving all that hog fuel, without a few hours of daylight to putter around outside after work.  And the other thing, maybe the bigger thing (from a mental affects the physical standpoint) is the sense of accomplishment I felt, that I rarely/never feel at work, pushing papers (usually virtually) all day long.  This was physical and totally visual – starting with a pile taller than me, and wider/longer than my car, and getting it all moved into the pen over the course of two days.  And

Making progress

Making progress

the best part is seeing how the sheep appreciate it. The hog fuel helps with drainage and once it was in the sheep were using the entire pen in a way they hadn’t been, and sleeping in little beds they scuffed up in the footing, and not having to squish through mud to get to their feeder.  There is the little problem of the stuff becoming wound up in their wool, but considering how the hay has already thrashed their fleeces, I’m not too worried about a little wood chip or three.

Mud free, happy sheep

Mud free, happy sheep

So after that we had a week of frozen weather – I loved it!  No mud is always the best.  At the end of the week, though, the pipes froze – at the well or at the tank – and the pins and needles all week, hoping it wouldn’t, then when it did, takes some of the enjoyment out of the weather.  It was only out about 48 hours, so in addition to thawing water buckets for the sheep and chicken waterers, I was buying jugs of water to keep us all hydrated.  I find I really miss being able to wash my hands properly.  That and it’s awfully cold outside when you have to drop trou to answer the call of nature in subfreezing weather.

Something new

Frosty fleece

Frosty fleece

I’ve been experimenting with different blog themes lately, getting tired of the same old thing.  But it seems like I keep ending up back at the same version I originally started with (revised and updated, but essentially the same layout).  I’m not sure what this says about me.  I could pick that one apart for a while, but will spare us both.  Suffice it to say, I like a clean, easy to read blog, not too austere but not too cluttered looking either.  I like a font I can read, with enough density and size that it doesn’t require a trip to the eye doctor to be able to read a post.  Some of the theme fonts would need a 200 zoom to read easily, others look like they’re ready to fade away.  One them I liked had a font that was a little too large, which was disappointing.

I also like to be able to customize a bit.  A little photo header and background that I can change as the need or whim arises.  Nothing too crazy, yet…  I can’t tell you how many themes I looked at, nor for how long.  I’ve spent a crazy amount of time perusing, previewing, reading theme details, liking one part but disliking another.  After a brief stint recently with an industrial-looking theme, I came back to this one, the updated version of the one I’ve used pretty much since starting this blog in 2009.  And for now I’m going to stick with it [maybe; I just noticed that once posted, all the photos are washed out a notch, until you run your cursor over them…aaargh!].  And instead of perusing the themes for hours after I log in, I’m going to write a blog post.  What a concept!

On the farm front, Colin the ram went home this past weekend. He stayed with us for 35 days, more than enough time to take care of business with the girls.  Ewes cycle every 17 days, so if for some reason he didn’t make it on the first go around he had another chance to find the right rock to stand on.  The past week or so before he left everyone seemed more settled than they had been.  He was more relaxed and the girls just seemed calmer somehow.  I find that they get a little skittery in the fall, as they cycle.  Less friendly,

Minnie looking for chin scritches; she hasn't been this friendly since she was a lamb.

Minnie looking for chin scritches; she hasn’t been this friendly since she was a lamb.

more wary and not as relaxed about every day things.  It’s very subtle, and in the past week or so, the changes I’m seeing are just as subtle.  Oh, Cinnamon and Nona would still rather go through a fence than let me get within 30 feet of them, but even they seem a little more settled somehow.  I’m holding this up as a good sign they’re all percolating.

Colin rode in my car like a champ.  He was a little reluctant to get in the car, but that’s yet another reason to love his small size.  I have 100 pounds on him and lifted his

Colin rode better than any of my dogs ride. A nice calm little guy.

Colin rode better than any of my dogs ride. A nice calm little guy.

front legs and placed them in the car, then picked up his back end and pushed him in (Daisy was beside herself, inside the house at the front window–she has such a thing for Colin).  After a minute or so he settled down for the ride and didn’t even get up when I stopped to get gas, preferring to munch on hay while I filled the car.  When we got to Sally’s he didn’t want to get out!  He’s a nice little guy I’ll kind of miss having around.

Words not needed here.  Daisy hoping Blackcap will run, Blackcap cursing Daisy and all her ancestors.

Not that this eloquence even needs a caption, but really, it’s just Daisy hoping Blackcap will run, and Blackcap cursing Daisy and all her ancestors. Let the games begin.

Another one bites the dust…jacket

Why is it that when I sit down to write my mind goes blank?  I have all these good ideas tumbling around in my head and all I get is dead air when I open up a fresh page to write.

I recently read of another blog that’s going to be published as a book.  I’m not sure if the fellow was soliciting to publishers or if the publisher made him an offer (I’m pretty sure it’s the latter), but it does give one pause.

I will state right now that I never started this blog (four years ago last month!) with anything other than a way to keep up with the little things in life, and didn’t then nor do I now believe it’s anything more than that.  There may be a post or two that could, with minor

My adorable Farley-foo, most handsomest Setter ever!

My adorable Farley-foo, most handsomest Setter ever!

modifications, be reprinted in a magazine, or as part of a book (how-to or memoir), but most of it is just a bit of self-centered nattering about my favorite subjects – the critters, the farm, the garden, and the work to keep all of it going.

But, that said, it does make me think a bit about it all.  Like many bloggers (and non-bloggers) I follow a dozen or so blogs from fellow bloggers.  Usually with similar interests (small farms and/or livestock) or things I’m interested in (cooking), but it’s a fun way to see what others of like minds are up to.  There’s Bliss, a fellow dog (Rottweiler) person, whose Blabs are always entertaining and often thought provoking.  Or Emily in the UK, an apprentice beekeeper who puts my beekeeping practices to shame.  Another is Donna, a fellow Shetland shepherd and mentor, whose ram, Jocko, sired my two ewes’ twin lambs (four lambs total) last year.  And there’s Michelle, another shepherd nearby whose posts are always informative and there’s generally lively discussion on the comments, too.  There are another half dozen or more I read regularly, plus the random blogs I catch here and there.  I’ve learned from other blogs, made recipes posted on them, and admire these other bloggers.

I learned of this latest blog to book deal via the host for my blog, WordPress, touting the blog and the deal.  I went to read it, with it’s romantic sounding name, and left feeling a little deflated (but not defeated!).  It’s another of those stories that make me feel envious, that my life is dull and I have no sense of adventure.  It’s written by an ex-pat living in New Zealand with his partner/husband, and the stories revolving around the 20 acres they purchased where they raise chickens, pigs, sheep and olive trees, and even bottle the olive oil for sale.  The blog posts are sometimes quite long, but usually always entertaining.   Certainly the twist of doing this as a couple of city boys from the U.S.A. in a land as beautiful as New Zealand makes it much more adventurous and appealing than someone who’s just lived her life yearning to be on a farm, surrounded by animals

The sheep hanging out  last weekend.

The sheep hanging out last weekend.

and becoming as self-sufficient as possible while still bathing regularly and paying the power company for lights and heat.  Sure I’ve kept a small flock of chickens for most of my life now (the tipping point came a few years back, much to my wonder – it sure doesn’t seem that long…), and had a few years of dairy goat keeping back in the mid-80s, but mostly it’s just been coveting.  I still think of the property in the Okanogan that I almost went to look at; when I drove by it six months later the people who’d purchased it were doing exactly what I would have – some goats in the front yard (it was 20 or 40 acres with oodles of outbuildings and rolling hills…sigh.  (I’m ready to dash off to view some RE websites now.)

Still, it makes me think, this blog to book thing.  How can I make my blog more interesting, more readable?  And do I really want to?  I’ve been struggling to make it more succinct (not succeeding), but now I wonder.  Maybe if the story is compelling enough it doesn’t need to be shorter, and making the mundane seem, if not profound, then at least appealing and  interesting, with observations and thoughts along the way, is pretty much all we do as bloggers.  I do plenty of that, I think, but it always seems so self-absorbed and kind of icky, so I reel myself in much of the time too.  I’d like to make it more readable–more followers would be great, a real following, so to speak.  Must work on this.

Blue moon

Tonight’s blue moon turns out to be a good analogy for the frequency of my posts here in the past couple of months.  An exaggeration, sure (as that analogy almost always is), but it has been a while.  Good intentions went by the wayside as summer finally hit full swing and the days of sunlight and warmth began. By the time I make it inside each evening I’m usually squeezed for time for the inside chores and turning on the computer doesn’t even happen most weeknight evenings.   That’s changing a bit now as the days grow shorter (sob!) and it’s full dark by 9:00, though after spending eight hours in front of one at the day job, there isn’t much appeal to boot up at home.  Not when there are balls to toss, gardens to weed, eggs to collect, sheep to tend, and even a moment or two of relaxing on the deck with a glass of wine and a book (if only Farley would let me…).

I took a new position at the day job – a lateral move, technically, to a new department – and I’ve been busy, with overtime hours to prove it.  The work is similar, but with a lot more of what I’m good at: editing, formatting, word processing.  I like it a lot, and it’s good to be busy and even needed.  It kind of took me by surprise, and while I’m enjoying the work and staying busy all day,  I also long for a little more down time.  The eternal dilemma (for some of us) of time vs. money.  I’m at a point in life where the time is more valuable than the green stuff (though that’s been true for me pretty much my whole life) so it will be a trick to see how this plays into the coming months, when the newness has worn off and I’m up to speed with the routine tasks.  Right now it doesn’t leave much time for growing my own business, or writing at all.  The one thing I do carve out time for is my down time – the do nothing, lazy Sunday morning stuff, where I sit in bed reading with a cup of tea while the dogs sleep off their breakfasts next to me.  I still feel mildly guilty when I spend a day accomplishing little more than soaking up the sun and puttering around the house and yard.  I know it’s essential to my well being though – mentally as well as physically – and recharging like this is necessary.

Even so, I’ve managed to accomplish a few things over the summer, with more on the docket.  I’m finally getting around to painting the  interior walls.  Some of them.  Soon.  So far I’ve only purchased the paint, but with the holiday weekend I’m hoping to get the entry and part of the living room painted in the next couple of days.  And I’m hoping I like the colors I’ve picked, once they’re on the wall and dry.  I painted my front door (exterior) a couple of weekends ago and am still not sure if I like it.  It was black before, which always looked kind of odd and even a little creepy/ominous to me.  The house is painted a pale yellow with white trim, and the black door was the only thing black.  Even the back door is white.  I thought I’d go with something vibrant, a green or a blue – my favorite colors – in a style similar to those great colored doors you see on row houses in Europe.  After weeks of indecision, and paint chips taped by the door to see how they looked on the yellow and in every lighting, I settled on Monterrey Bay Teal, not too light, not too dark, and a rich mixture of the dark blue-green color I’m drawn to.  I guess I like the color, though next to the pale yellow it looks a wee bit 1980s/1990s teal.  That awful decor theme that was so popular (and I didn’t like even then) – the mauve and teal, with geese graphics as the animal du jour (usually with a mauve or teal bow around their neck, and often wearing an apron).   Maybe it’s just me.  Or maybe it’s time to paint the outside of my little house, too.   Ha!

The garden is finally hitting a bit of a stride.  It’s been a less than stellar year, with germination issues, dog and sheep issues, and lots of insect issues.  I grew different varieties of carrots this year, and either that or the late germination has avoided the rust fly maggots that attacked last year’s crop.  The carrots are gorgeous, but not nearly as tasty for raw eating as last year’s, so I’ll be making lots of my nummy carrot soup.  I already made one vat of it (double recipe) and not much made it to the freezer.  I missed it, so made up for lost time and ate so much I should be orange. mmm.  More this weekend for sure!  The kale crop has been so-so.  It’s definitely not as vigorous as last year, and with more pests (aphids and cabbage worms) to contend with.  The volunteer plants – a variety I didn’t grow last year, and seedlings coming up in places I didn’t sow any seeds – are strongest.  I’m not sure where they came from; I didn’t have any kale even go to seed last year (thinking of some kind of hybrid), so it’s kind of strange.  As with all volunteer plants though, they’re hearty and vigorous, relatively speaking.  The volunteer cucumber plants sprouted weeks after the ones I purposely planted, but are thriving and outproducing the intentionals (same variety, as far as I can tell).  I’ve already harvested 10 pounds of potatoes from the volunteer plants that sprouted.  The mice or meadow voles enjoyed them too, with all of the largest eaten and damaged beyond salvaging.  I’m not sure if they’re digging their own tunnels or repurposing mole tunnels (I have a very active mole in the garden – part of the reason many of the plants aren’t as vigorous as they should be: their roots are high and dry  half the time, as the mole tunnels  under everything looking for worms).

The sheep are well, and the lambs gorgeous with their fluffy first fleeces.  I’m planning to shear them this month…maybe.  They’re all so cute and fluffy now I almost hate to shear them, and I’m still half on the fence with it for this and other reasons, but am afraid if I wait until March I’ll end up with the same problem as last year – too much crap in the fleece and matting issues.  Their little fleeces are beautiful right now, though Pebbles’ daughter, the adorable and super friendly little Minnie, has plenty of junk in her black fleece.  She is dog-like in her friendliness and enjoys attention.  As I scratch her chin and pet her, I find cleavers seeds galore, and bits of leaves and blackberry vine, etc.  Her brother, Fergus, is much the same.  Of Cinnamon’s twins, one is definitely friendly, though she’s loyal to her freaky mom and sister, too.  She will almost come up for petting on her own, and often pushes in with Minnie and Fergus, though contact is brief.  It’s definitely a case of nature over nurture, as her inclination is to be bold and friendly, unlike her mother and sister who are both on high alert and ready to bolt if I even look at them for more than a passing glance.  I wish I could tell them apart, but other than temperament I can’t find any noticeable (to me) distinguishing marks or conformation.

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