Thursday, September 18, 2014

I was sitting outside downtown last night knitting while waiting for my husband to bring pizza to the table. Two kids walked by, a little girl age 7 and her brother age 5. 5 looked at me and shouted in his excitement, "IS THAT YARN?! Do you have YARN?! Like for a KITTEN?!!!" They were very bright and inquisitive and curious and forward kids. I smiled and replied that yes, this is yarn, exactly as kittens universally love, and its very soft. I offered the yarn to 5 and for a moment he existed for that yarn. He squoze it, really dug in. He rolled it around in his hands. He noted the ball was attached to a string that was attached to something I was doing and he got right into the physics of the situation, winding and unwinding, carefully. I suggested his sister might like a turn. He handed over Precious Yarn right away with no hesitation to share.

7 was more interested in the knitting itself and I was so happy to hand her a wrap I had stashed in my bag so she could pour over the details of a Knitted Thing without unraveling the knitting on my needles. She noticed that knitting is full of holes. I explained that knitted things are actually made of holes and we all shared a very excited wonder-filled laugh about the irony of holes creating warm things. 7 thought it might be nice to know how to knit but was worried about the sharpness of the needle. Rather than using words she communicated in silence, pricking her left pointer finger with her right, while wincing. I held up the knitting needles so she could feel for herself the softness of their tips. I told her she was old enough to learn how to knit but she pointed out, rightly, that she couldn't do it by herself. She would need someone to help her learn how to knit. She said this with a resignation and tacit understanding that no such is help available.

The whole lesson took about four minutes, embodied principles of math and science, art, and physical intelligence. It was quite possibly richer in a visceral way than anything that happened to those kids at school this week and more memorable. It was free. It was unscripted and genuine. It had a clear note of truth, beauty, and pleasure for everyone involved.

Picture 7 and 5 two years from now. After two years in the school system, how might we expect them to be different? We all know exactly what they will have been taught, both intentionally and unintentionally. The curriculum for that age is predicable, purposefully average, institutional. Everyone who has been there has felt the results.

Homeschooling is a thing made of holes creating a loose interconnected vibrant warm colorful fabric of infinite possibility and shape. Homeschooling looks into the worried longing eyes of a bright child with the authority ability and intention to say, "Yes, here, let me show you how" in an atmosphere of love without competition, with an understanding of time bound only by issues of practically, for reasons driven by curiosity, yearning, and tangible needs.

More often these days I encounter that same look of worry and longing in the eyes of young parents. Its not as easy to say, "Yes, here, let me show you how" to them. They've already been well trained in, "No, not right now, it won't work, we don't have time, we don't know how, these things are necessarily procedural, we can't."

                                                                                                                           image credit   ~ RWR

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The backdoor to our house rotted out and it took the floor, subfloor, and insulation with it. But not, thank goodness, the sill of the house. We also lost associated siding. All of which had to be replaced. Insurance helped a lot and we took the opportunity to upgrade our truly ugly cheap plastic floors to oak. Plain and simple. We are very pleased with the results, one continuous floor downstairs. 
 
It should wear well and last a hundred years. This is a floor someone could pull out and use in another house someday. That feels worthwhile. Not always doing the cheapest fix feels like a gain.
Meanwhile, 3 days ago this remarkable fellow was hit by a car AGAIN. That makes 4 times he's been hit and hit hard. Two of the hits were witnessed by humans who were certain, both times, he would not live. He walked away. Jackson, dear boy, how is this possible? Please stay out of the road.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Here's Courtney moments after she had Callie. You can see the red chain she's wearing and I was so heartbroken not to find, when she failed to report for work two days later. Both are well and happy now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dear Husband is still home sick with the endless cough. Dr. Bruce agreed with me that it might be pertussis, so he's been tested. Our community has been alerted. And we're waiting it out. Well, I'm waiting it out. First Ry, then H, now J. I'm hoping my daily quart of warm fresh milk at work is keeping me safe. Damn, we really NEED to buy our own cow.

Meanwhile, our house is full of workers installing the new floor. We are sick and (still) tired and very excited. We've evacuated to the coffee house in Saxapahaw. All here together, everyone with their own computer, drinking coffee, digging the awesome tunes, and watching the light change over the river. It feels like fall outside. I'm shopping for wall paper. Life is good.

Time to cross the parking lot for grass fed burgers in the gas station. Gotta love the new south!

Monday, September 8, 2014

One of the important differences between cows on pasture and cows living in confinement is that cows on pasture must be counted constantly. They are brought into the barn from pasture. Huge amounts of hay and a bit of grain are served down their lane, they start eating, and as they eat they are counted. We are into fall calving season now. As each dry cow calves, the milk cows will rise in number from 20 to 36. Sunday morning I should have had 22 cows eating in the lane. I counted 21. So I counted them 3 more times, thinking surely I was mistaken.

All newly fresh cows, cows who have just calved, wear red plastic necklaces around their necks for quick identification. They are held back and milked last so their milk can be saved individually for their own calves. At this point I should have had 2 red chains, Dakota and Courtney. Dakota was there.

Missing a cow is not good. Missing a newly fresh cow made my blood run cold. Fresh dairy cows are susceptible to a condition called milk fever. So much calcium is going into their milk, they can't pull it from their bones fast enough to keep up with their own needs. The first symptom of milk fever is cold ears. If you see a fresh cow looking a little weird you feel their ears. If they are cold, you administer calcium. And you do it right away because milk fever can progress quickly and it can be fatal. Courtney was missing.

Still desperately hoping I was counting incorrectly, I went to find a flashlight, a halter, and our herd boss, Allison. It was 5:15 a.m. and black dark outside when I knocked on her door. Hearing a fresh cow was missing, she didn't even pause to change out of her pajamas or put on boots. We ran for the cart, turned off the pasture fence, and drove across the fields. I was still half-believing I'd made some silly mistake, Courtney was standing somewhere obvious, and I was actually apologizing for waking my boss when our light reflected eyes out in the darkness, silent pleading kind of eyes. I think we both felt a momentary flash of panic. Allison cried out Courtney's name.

We flew into action. Courtney was down and bloated. Milk fever could kill her but bloat might kill her faster. We had to get her head up and Allison knew just what to do. She had me push on Courtney's head while she haltered her and tied her head to her back hoof. It sounds awkward and painful and I'm sure it was, but Courtney was so bloated she was feet up and almost on her back. We had to keep her head higher than her stomachs to keep her from aspirating digestive fluid.

Approximately 90 seconds later I was sitting in the dark in a field on the downhill side of Courtney, doing my best to prop up her shoulder. Despite getting thrown off twice, I sat next to her and rubbed her neck and told her Allison was going to save her. I sang Amazing Grace to her several times in a low humming cowy kind of way. It was entirely possible she might die while we waited there. You can bet your ass, I was praying. Allison was getting medicine and supplies.

From the time Allison got back with all the tools we needed and more help on the way, everything moved very fast. We got a lot of mineral oil down Courtney's throat plus a calcium drench, and set an IV into her milk vein. Several bottles of calcium plus extra fluids were administered. With the arrival of the farm owners we had plenty of hands to help. Courtney was rolled almost all the way over to a more proper sitting position for a cow and propped up with a hay bale. Light was beginning to brighten the sky in the east. The milk cows were standing alone in the lane on the other side of the farm wondering what was going on. Allison was holding the IV needle, Courtney's owner was holding IV bottles at the proper height, and I was looking on. I reached down and loosened the halter across Courtney's nose. We were all calm. She knew, understood fully, we were helping her.

I left them all there and went to milk the cows. An hour later, as unbelievable as this sounds, Courtney walked herself across the farm, down the lane, and into the holding pen to be milked. She showed up right on time, joining Dakota as I was finishing up with other milkers. Bloat and milk fever are both mechanical issues. If corrected, the cows recover completely and almost instantly---usually. So it was with Courtney.

I, however, was wasted for the rest of the day. That afternoon I was almost too tired to walk myself across the level floor of the hardware store. She said she was going to rest, but I'm sure Allison worked the rest of the day and milked the cows last night. The adrenaline rush hit both of us, we both wrestled that cow in a field in the dark. But Allison did most of the heavy lifting while shouldering the burden for Courtney's life. She is an amazing woman. I'm lucky I get to work for her and I love my job. There is always so much to learn, each day is unique, and often filled with wonder. But it took a full day before I recovered enough energy to even type out this story. Whew.

Friday, September 5, 2014

3:20 today, message from my boss: "Courtney is going into labor. I give her 30 minutes and there will be baby." Ry and I were out the door at 3:25 and the baby, a gorgeous heifer named Callie, was born about 4:00. I have the best job ever.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Evenings out for teens have been super fun for them, and give me time for wandering.
 That's lightening in the sky. The moon was behind me. Don't think I've ever caught lightening before.