Tuesday, August 26, 2008

would i be crazy to get my own goat?

diapers on my clothes line

We got some bad news yesterday, not the bad news we were expecting, not the bad news that's always lurking around the corner and which we rarely talk about, no, this was bad news for which we were completely unprepared.

The goats at the nearby farm where we've been buying raw goat milk for the last several months or so are not producing anymore!! Goat milk season is over!!

Did you know goats produce seasonally? I should read up on the details before I open my trap about it, but I am going to guess that it's more difficult to sustain lactation with goats than it is for, say, cows. If we wanted cow milk, we'd still be up a creek, though, because the same farm has a waiting list for cow milk as long as my arm. But we made a choice to stop consuming cow dairy a decade ago and have no plans to start again. It's hard to compare something you can reference presently with something you barely remember from the past, but I think I like goat milk a lot better, anyway. Less, uh, cow-y. Ha! (You know how people dismiss goat dairy on account of its goatiness? well.)

I have not broken the news to the children yet. My daughter, especially, will take it hard. Sure we can start buying boxes of pasteurized Meyenberg again, but can you believe that inferior product is more expensive than what we were buying fresh, raw, local? I had my suspicions about raw milk when we started, but the taste difference is great. It will be hard to go back.

And, no, diapers on the line have nothing to do with an unexpected dearth of goat dairy, but I've already posted a couple picture-less entries in a row and so I threw that one in, just because. I took it on a day the sun finally came out last week, after bringing in several rain-soaked loads to be tossed, in defeat, into the electric dryer.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

vault toilets vs. flush toilets

This isn't the blog entry I want to be writing, the one peppered with recent pictures and words selected with a moderate bit of care. But I keep getting to the end of the day and I find that I didn't have time, or the clear head, or the organization required to have remembered to pull photos off of the camera first, and it's not working out the way I really want it to, so I don't do anything at all.

What I'm really doing right now is buttoning up plans for September camping. Not one, but two trips in the works. The husband has already requested days off (days! plural! several, even! in a row!!) and now it's just up to me to decide on specific destinations.

We might stay, for our first little trip, at one of the large, sprawling coastal State campgrounds. We like one in particular for its easy beach access. The amenities that seem to draw other families, though, are lost on us, and, if I'm being direct here, maybe a little distracting. Yurt camping sounds fun (and roomy!) and we'd love to give it a go sometime, but as long as we have a dog and no place to leave her, it's the tent for us. And since we're in a tent and not a motor home with satellite and pull-outs, we don't need electricity. Most campgrounds have full hook-ups on some sites, some offer this at every site. We can skip it all together. Here's where the distraction comes in: nothing says camping like hearing your "neighbor's" rig blaring cable television. So while we're willing to overlook those things that obviously work and attract other people but which aren't necessary for us at all, we'd like to make our second September trip (and probably our last of the season) to someplace a little more remote and woodsy and private.

The problem with woodsy and private is that, more often than not, the bathroom situation is a little sketchy. I grew up camping with my grandparents in a little tear drop trailer pulled behind a big boat of a Buick and parked anyplace that looked like a good place to park. So my formative years were well acclimated into the custom of bathroom habits without bathrooms and it's not a problem or a phobia or anything of mine now. I don't need a nice bathroom and I certainly don't need a shower (while camping), but the truth is I'd almost rather have no bathroom than a port-a-potty. I don't have to describe the process to make you understand why it's so distasteful to me; I am going to assume that any reader feels the same way (except, possibly men, who can stand up and avoid touching the seat, if they wish, but would still have to hear that silent quiet falling sound and the terrible flat splashing that follows, but maybe my reaction to those sounds are my own strange quirk and not anything of concern to anyone else, man or no).

We want wooded trails for hiking and to hear the chipmunks and the birds calling for our crumbs and some kind of water nearby and all of those forest sounds muffled by the loamy hush of camping under evergreens, but not, if we can help it, the cartoon network.

When it comes down to it: I'd really prefer plumbing. But a hole in the ground can be good enough. And sometimes good enough really is that. It's not everything, it's not ideal, but it's something, and it's enough.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

what do you do with the mad that you feel?

Well, today I made a phone call, sent an email and wrote a post card. But unless my local pbs affiliate makes a drastic change to the fall scheduling line-up, I'm still going to be mad.

I just learned that PBS will no longer be sending member stations the daily syndicate of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood episodes, but simply one episode a week, for broadcast on Saturday mornings.

Then I discovered that individual stations could choose to get the daily episodes beforehand, or purchase them separately (I'm not completely clear on the protocol) and air them as they were intended: five days a week.

Surely my local station would take this option. Surely, in their commitment to quality programming and "viewers like me", they would choose to continue to dedicate the time, storage, cost and commitment involved to a longstanding gem like Mister Rogers instead of yet another short-lived animated disaster.

It seems like every fall, PBS parades out a few new shows, some of which stick around a while, but none like Mister Rogers.

When I spoke to someone in Member Services at OPB, she asked, "you do know that new episodes haven't been made in over fifteen years, right?"

"But," I countered, "new children are born every day!"

Giving Mr. Rogers the axe (and please, no patronizing reminders about how he'll still be aired on Saturday mornings, we all know that's where they put shows on pbs to die and by next year, he'll disappear completely) is like, well, like telling your Grandma to take her pecan pie and handmade quilts and stick it, you'd rather eat twizzlers with some chippie you met on the myspace. Which is to say, of course Mister Rogers is outdated, and thank goodness!

So you think I'm a sap who hates change, eh? I'm not opposed to all modernization, sometimes they surprise us with a worthwhile new program. And, my great disappointment regarding this terrible development is not steeped in nostalgia alone. Sure, I grew up watching Fred and the gang (did you know I even met Mr. McFeely a few years ago, had my picture taken with him and have a singed photo?), and yes, I recall with enormous fondness the eleven thirty time slot, during which my girl and I would snuggle up on the floor for a sweet half hour before lunch. But I currently value the presence of Mister Rogers in the life of my boy. I recognize the benefit the exposure to such a well-designed, gentle program has on any child who watches.

My personal warm fuzzies don't obscure the truth of Fred Rogers: he provides a safe place for children, where feelings are valid and important, where people are treated with respect, and conflicts are resolved peaceably, where grammar is correct and children are spoken to like they are intelligent and curious and capable (which they are!), and there are never last resorts for attention involving fart jokes and flashing lights. Maybe the fashions are dated. Maybe the guests are less relevant now (Yo Yo Ma instead of, say, Hannah Montana?). Maybe somebody thinks modern children aren't interested in how people make books (or balloons or shoes or toilets).

What will be offered in place of this kind grandfather of children's programming? How can they possibly take something so well loved and expected, so a part of our national public television culture, and kill it off with nary a vote or an apology or a carefully crafted eulogy? Did they think no one would care? I care. And I hope you do, too.

I urge you to call your local station. Send them a letter. Drop a postcard in the mail to PBS headquarters. It might not make a difference. But it's worth it to try.

save mister rogers

You've Got To Do It

© 1969 Fred M. Rogers

You can make belive it happens,
Or pretend that something's true.
You can wish or hope or contemplate
A thing you'd like to do.
But until you start to do it,
You will never see it through.
'Cause the make-believe pretending
Just won't do it for you

You've got to do it.
Every little bit
You've got to do it, do it, do it, do it
And when you're through,
You can know who did,
For you did it, you did it, you did it.

If you want to ride a bicycle
And ride it straight and tall.
You can't simply sit and look at it
"Cause it won't move at all.
But it's you who have to try it.
And it's you who have to fall (sometimes)
If you want to ride a bicycle
And ride it straight and tall.

You've got to do it.
Every little bit
You've got to do it, do it, do it, do it
And when you're through,
You can know who did,
For you did it, you did it, you did it.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

an even dozen


In six months, that young couple there, visiting White Sands National Monument on a bright and windy Sunday morning in February of 1996, will be married. They'll have an appointment at the Washington County Courthouse for 10 am on a Thursday, the 16th of August. It will be the day after she moved to Oregon. Following a ten month courtship, half of which was long-distance, he will have flown down to West Texas to accompany her on the long Northwestern drive. They rolled into town late, unpacked her crammed little ford escort in the dark.

The civil marriage ceremony was conducted in a drab office. They had no friends and family present; they asked the couple who married earlier to please remain in the room as witnesses. It was a business transaction, say this, sign here, okay. By half past ten they were married. They drove back to their apartment, stopped in at a diner on the way for an early lunch, sandwiches.

They didn't have a party. They didn't have cake. They didn't think to ask anyone to take their picture together. The only picture from that day, just after she got dressed that morning:

wedding day

She looks happy, doesn't she? Can you feel her nerves, her hesitance? Her brave smile? Can you tell that she won't sleep the following night, from worry? In one day she moved to a new place, got a new name, catapulted into a new life where she knew not one person (she wanted to count him, but did she really know him, really? It all happened so fast).

If you're the happier ever after sort, then I probably don't want to hear about it. It's not a cushy litter ride, the bumps and rough spots buffered by a layer of tufted pillows, peeled grapes in a bowl by our sides. It's hard work. But we're still in it, and I think that counts for something.

Celebratory plans involve garage cleaning and yard maintenance. We'll leave the dinners out and special excursions to the sort of people who are comfortable paying teenaged babysitters or have local grandparents. (maybe when the children are older, she sighs). The day will go by generally unnoticed, much like the first one.

Which, as it turns out, is okay. I've seen some big happy parties that fell apart soon afterward. We carefully step over the broken glass and confetti, plodding along.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

one part melancholy two parts mirth

hold hands

Feeling a little wayward lately, there's some waiting going on, some worrying, some working with our heads down, biding time. But I'm still here. Wishing I had more to give but glad I have as much as I do. Grateful that, despite the waning summer which wasn't quite what I expected, wanted, summer to be like, there have been sweet moments. There are always sweet moments. And I keep them to myself lately because I can't distill the details just right into the stories anyway and I want to savor every little good bit.

The children walk ahead of me and I lag just far enough behind to take pictures. I keep a canvas bag on my shoulder, stocked with water and keys and wallet, and we head to the park, by way of the store, the library, the book shop. We stop along the way for ripe blackberries, growing wild and invasive, delicious intruders we bake in dishes with oats and almonds and agave nectar.

We eat our dinners on the back patio, with the grapes and the hazelnuts, and the cats chasing through unmown grass. It is very pleasant.

I've been cooking up greens, always the greens. I missed all the kale at the farmer's market a few weeks ago and came home, instead, with chard. And so I have been choosing chard, intentionally, since then. Cooking it up, like usual, with much garlic and salt and just a dash of cider vinegar. More tender, I think, and delicate than the kale; just right for this season.

The other night, the husband asked about a second serving and I admitted, apologetically, that I'd spooned the remaining greens into my own bowl, red chard that, when cooked, infuses its stem's bright red into the garlic, turning the cloves a surprising valentine pink.

And so the boy piped up (my boy so cute, the essence of everything adorable always glinting in his sparkly eyes, his crinkled nose, his smile) and offered to his dad:

"You can have some of my kale"

To which the dad replied, "Thanks!"

And then the boy sang out, "That not kale, that Chard!!!" which was followed by the sort of laughter one could only describe, if one were the adjective using sort or the movie reviewing sort, as uproarious. His laugh is contagious and we shared one hilarious family incident, which, continued, as hilarious incidents involving two year olds often do, with an enthusiastic request to "do it again!"

That might be an Only In Our House kind of story, only in our house is a joking Gotcha! HaHa! moment about a comedic mix-up of two leafy greens.

Friday, August 08, 2008

a most unlucky day

I veer towards hyperbole, it's true. So maybe not the most but certainly lacking in any semblance of Good Fortune. The laundry list includes: falling, in a seemingly choreographed, slo-mo, comedic way, not once but twice (and having the jarred back and re-injured old-broken-foot to prove it); playing nursemaid to the husband's worst migraine ever (which, if you knew his history of migraine's is saying a lot); losing one of the tiny opal stud earrings I've worn every moment for the last 4 years (almost to the day, purchased at a little roadside trading post in Northern Arizona in early August '04, the day we moved to Phoenix. I noticed, after a shower, that the stud was gone but, oddly, the back was still in place, stuck to my earlobe, weird); and then, in the search for the missing earring (which was, sadly, not located), I broke a mirror. I don't go for that superstitious stuff (not really, I tried being superstitious once but, as it turns out, that didn't really work out for me, and not leaving my purse or wallet on the floor didn't make me any richer) but who wants to break a mirror? All those shards!

The following photo is a recent self-portrait and, perhaps, the last time you'll see me wearing those tiny round opals. I am, boiled down and summarized, dispassionate and cynical but, inexplicably, sentimental about the little things. I found another little set of studs in my jewelry box, some yellow stone cut into a skewed square, and that is what I'm wearing now, but it feels more auspicious and foretelling of New Chapters and mile markers than when, for example, I hack off my hair or move to a new house. Those tiny little earrings lived, in my ears, in six different places with me, so you can see why even homes don't feel all that permanent anymore.

dreams of sun (and other things)

I didn't intend to come here with a list of complaints and an inadequate wad of towels sopping up the discontent oozing out from under my door. But that's the way it goes sometimes. I'd like to tell you about other things (blueberries! painting! watermelon! media reviews!) but the first step is usually pulling pictures off the rebel and onto flickr and then posting one or two here and my picture maintenance is falling short, just a lot of falling short lately, generally speaking.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

litmus test

My daughter startled out of one of her quiet, thinky spells with this question the other night, "If you had to have a magical creature living in your attic, and what you really wanted was a centaur, but you could only choose a hag or a werewolf, which would you pick?"

She said she can tell a lot about a person based on their answer, but when I asked what she can tell, she hmphed. Who am I to know her secrets?