Sunday, August 22, 2010

Different Meanings of "Air Show"

This weekend our local airport is hosting Wings Over Wine County, the annual air show.  This event entails lots of booths and planes, both civilian and military, on display at the Charles Schulz Airport in Santa Rosa, as well as sky-high entertainment.

I remember going to air shows as a child.  My favorite part was always the Thunderbirds in their sleek, fast jets, flying in formations and performing amazing aerial feats.

I grew up on Chuck Yeager and the space program.  Everything was so exciting - how far, how fast, how high can we go?  As I recently posted on my Facebook page, it was a time when people dreamed big and reached for goals with enthusiasm and hope, rather than out of desperation.  The sky was the limit - or was it?  We could go beyond the sky.

Yesterday, we heard the jets flying, so Becca and I started looking for where they were.  We discovered that the old sheep pasture near our house offered a really good and easily accessible vantage point.  We brought Breezy, our Shar-Pei/American Bulldog mix, out.  I turned over an empty metal water trough, and we sat in the sun with a cool breeze blowing our hair.

We ooh'd and aah'd as the jet flew straight up into the air, seemingly never going to stop - whizzing past, the turns and spins - it was so fun to see.  A couple of times, the plane banked and came right over our property, the noise rumbling in an exciting way.  (Breezy was unfazed, by the way.)  We heard the roar of smaller planes, and looked up to see a group of five Mustangs zooming literally over our house as they made a circle and headed back toward the air field.  After a while, the action moved lower and we couldn’t see anything, since it was beneath the ridge of the hills between us and the air field.  We went on back inside.

A few minutes later, I heard the sound of a jet again, and I shouted to Becca, “Jet!” as I put my shoes on to head outside.  She grabbed hers, and we went back to our perch on the hill to watch another F-15 put on a show for us.

As I was rushing out the door this time, however, I had a sudden and unsettling realization.  In my world, the sound of a fast military jet is a source of excitement, getting to watch the acrobatic show.  A woman on the other side of the world, with a 12-year-old daughter and goats outside her house, would find her heart beating in a completely different fashion.  The sound would signal menace and danger, rather than a show for entertainment purposes.  Every now and then, the mental veil that hides the real reason for these spectacular vehicles is ripped away, and I am confronted with the ugly reality that the child inside of me doesn’t want to see.  Doesn’t want to comprehend.  Isn’t really ready for.

So I live with the duality and the discomfort.  Air shows aren’t just entertainment, as a friend recently posted, they're also propaganda.  For the most part, it’s a big military advertisement, a recruiting tool.  I try to find the space inside me that allows me to enjoy the entertainment aspects of it.  I reject the killing that they stand for.  I hope for a world in which these are relics of a bygone era, before mankind evolved beyond killing as a means to resolve disagreements.  I doubt I’ll see that in my lifetime.  Yet, I might.  I never thought that in my lifetime I’d see an African-American behind the desk in the Oval Office doing anything other than cleaning or maintenance, either.  Times change.  I hope and pray that they will change for the better.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lots Going On!

This has been a pretty unique 24 hours.  Where to begin?

First, with 48 hours ago, approximately.  While at Jessica and Cory’s place for an awesome birthday BBQ for Lorna (whose birthday is the day after mine), we discovered a litter of feral kittens and their mom were living in the foreclosed house next door.  When the kids went over to investigate they found 5 kittens, one malnourished mama, and two dead kittens.  Operation Rescue was enacted, and two kittens were gathered up.  (Since then, Jessica has arranged with Forgotten Felines to borrow a trap to catch the rest and mama, get the kittens healthy, tame and re-homed, spay mama and make sure she is healthy, perhaps find her a home if she was domesticated at one point, or allow her to be free if she is truly wild.)

I couldn’t resist adopting one.  Since Tiger passed in May, Star Kitty has not been the same, and I think he needs a roaming and snuggle buddy.

The plan is for this little guy (below) to grow into a fierce barn cat that can keep up with Star as a mouser and pet.  We have named him Boots, after Puss-in-Boots from the Shrek movie with the incredible, heart-melting eyes.

Jessica kept him and his brother Sunday night and Monday, to allow us time to pick up our cat carrier to bring him home.  Because she needed to work late last night, she brought him to our house.  Poor thing was very frightened, and would quiver in our hands when held, until we had petted and calmed him down a little.  Last night and this morning, he is more of a kitten - he is purring, rubbing his head against our hands, rolling over in our lap for belly scratches, and turning into a real love bug.  He is eating well as of tonight (yay!) and used the litter box all on his own tonight, too (double-yay!).

Jessi took care of Boots at her work again today and we both took him to the vet for a check-up this afternoon.  She missed an opportunity for a fecal sample when he had an accident on Jessica’s co-worker Angie (sorry, Ang!).  He is healthy, 1 lb 2 oz, and doing really well.  I did discover last night that his tail is broken at the end.  (I texted Jessica after the discovery, “His widdle tail is broken. :-( " )  The vet said that it has started to form a joint, so it’s going to be a bit crooked at the tip.  It will give him character.

As if that weren’t enough, the bucklings are raging with hormones.  They have been getting stinky over the last few days, and when I came home last night, Ebony was blubbering and attacking his brother as if he meant it.  Salsa was very eager to get out of there.  I opened the gate just enough for her to escape, and she didn’t hesitate or turn back.  I gingerly put leashes on the boys and led them to their crate in the barn, which is now being secured with an extra lock so they don’t escape and impregnate the herd at night.  I am envisioning a leash threaded through a pole so that I can easily keep them at arm’s length, because all they want to do is rub their stinky bad selves all over me!

This morning there was no hesitation - they had to be separated from mom, period.  I put a new battery on the PermaNet fencing to make sure Salsa knew that it meant business, and after milking her, put her in with the rest of the herd.  She walked right in without hesitation, probably happy to be back to her more normal pre-delivery routine.  Imbri immediately challenged her, and they were still sparring when I left for work this morning.  Everyone seemed to have settled in well by the time I got home tonight.

The bucklings came out of the barn last, and again, I veeery carefully, and as much at arm's length as possible (while dodging them), put leashes on and kept their leashes long as we walked (skipped, humped, ran, dashed, stopped) down the driveway.  They normally run around the corner of the shed and see their mom at the gate, then pull hard on me to get there, trying to knock the gate open to get in and nurse after being separated from her all night.  Boy, were they surprised this morning!  They stopped stock still after rounding the gate, then walked to the gate yelling their heads off for her.  I had to go inside to get them in the pen, quickly unhook them, and leave them in, still confused and calling for their mom.  Salsa?  She was too busy head butting with Imbri to listen.  Later, I heard her, so I went out to check and see if she was going to try to breach the fence, but she was eating alfalfa, absent-mindedly calling back to them with her mouth full.  She was totally fine.

Tonight was the first time milking Salsa after she’d been separated from her bucklings during the day.  I have been used to her giving a smidge over 2 quarts in the morning, so figured that would be about what we’d get tonight.  I WAS WRONG.  I was milking away and the bucket was getting fuller and fuller.  I asked Becca to get me another one, because I could tell this wouldn’t hold it all.  The bucket was filled to the top so that when I moved it, some sloshed out.  I usually eyeball the measurement in the 2 quart or 1.5 liter jars and know that she gives about 2 quarts.  Tonight I measured it.  She gave a solid 3 quarts.  Shock.  This means over a gallon a milk a day is what we are going to have at the IBTC farm.  I need more milk bottles, and I need to get started on making stuff immediately!  More goat’s milk soap.  Yogurt.  Cajeta.  Ice cream.  Cheese.  We tried Quark at the Farmer’s Market this weekend, and I could make some of that.  I have some serious cooking ahead of me!

All in all, a very busy, different, couple of days.  I am exhausted.  Time to get a few things done here, get Becca set up for the first day of school tomorrow, and hit the sack.  Tomorrow, another new routine to start getting used to, and oh no - I forgot to get lunch stuff...

Guess we’re getting up earlier tomorrow than I expected.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


I stepped out the back door this morning, and caught a whiff of something on the breeze that made my heart sink and the lump of panic to start to grip my throat again.  It was the scent of a buck in rut.  OMGNO.

This was the first year I bred a goat on my own.  Everything went smoothly, but Salsa delivered two bucklings, which I knew would be difficult to find homes for.  They are absolutely gorgeous boys, one black, one cream.  We named them Ebony and Ivory.

 For four months now, I have struggled with making the decision of whether to neuter them or not.  Wethers (neutered male goats) are easier to home, but often end up in the freezer.  These two are beautiful goats, and I really wanted them to be able to make beautiful goat babies.  By the time I knew that I wanted to neuter them, they had grown too large for me to band them.  The only other option was $150 to $200 to have the vet do it surgically.

I've had them posted on for sale for two weeks now, and not a single response, other than a message from the local goat rescue to be careful because goats listed on craigslist often end up as food.  I've been reducing the price, knowing that I didn't want to just list them for free without at least having a shot at recouping some of the expense of caring for them.

Now we are in a more difficult situation.  With them in rut, I need to separate them from their mom, which is going to be a heartbreaking thing to do while they are still close enough to call to each other.  They are still nursing, too.

I've modified the ad and will give it a couple more days before contacting the rescue.  I hate to do that, because I feel like it was my poor decision-making (or lack of quick enough decision-making) that created a problem I'm going to lay at someone else's door.  They are a rescue, however, and this is something they've chosen to do, so ... I guess it's not like abandoning them or bringing them to the animal shelter.  If I home the bucklings with the rescue, I will contribute to their upkeep through donations, too.

So now I know - when "blessed" with bucklings, just go ahead and wether them as early as possible.  It will save us all a lot of trouble.  And STINK.

If anyone knows of someone that might be interested in these bucklings, please let me know, or send them my email address or the link to this blog post.  Also - if you are looking for a charitable organization to help out, Goat Rescue of Sonoma County (they don't just rescue goats, but all large farm animals) is a very worthy cause.  They prefer non-cash donations, and one way to help is to put money on their account at Larsen's Feed in Cotati.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I have been under a lot of stress recently.  Feeling overwhelmed, trapped, stuck, frustrated, incapable, incompetent, and so on.  It all ran the gamut of every negative feeling you could think of.  I woke up sick to my stomach from the worry, and walked around with a lump in my throat.  It's been like gritting my teeth contantly to keep up a happy facade, to just keep going, while my mind has whirled with possible solutions, ideas, ways to work things out.  All underneath that is the thin line of hope and understanding that all will be okay, but it's been only a glimmer.

Sometimes it takes times like this to open our eyes.

When I let go of the worry and take in the world around me, everything is better, clearer, cleaner, brighter.  It was especially nice today that the overcast weather cleared so it was lighter earlier and warmer than it has been so far this cool summer.  When I was working outside, I noticed the fresh smells, the mint and oregano, the oak and bay trees, the wet concrete around the potted plants I watered.  I had a list a mile long of things I wanted to do, but I took this afternoon for me.  I puttered around the house. I read a little.  I watched a few television programs I'd taped.  I petted the dogs, cleaned the pool.  It was a peaceful time and I really enjoyed it.

Becca was with her oldest sister and her husband at the fair and destruction derby, so evening chores, which are normally shared, was just me.  The first time I needed to do those without her, it was a challenge, as the routine is different than in the morning, and there are more goats running around at once than usual.  They are really getting into a good routine, though.  Other than Lily and the bucklings, they really don't wander off anymore - all of them know to run to the barn, where FOOD is waiting.  This makes the evening chores easier.  Even Mr. Moonshine is doing better, not dashing to his mother's milkstand to steal her grain.  Luna helps with that, because they share a lead and she pulls back on him, urging him to just get to the barn, already.

When we spotted the rattlesnake near the house a few weeks ago, a friend suggested that we could sing songs to make plenty of noise to warn rattlesnakes to move out of our way.  I thought that was a good idea, but didn't implement it.  Becca and I don't do a lot of singing on our own, though we do love to sing along with the radio.  One exception to this was a couple weeks ago, when I remembered a song I'd heard as a teen.  It started as I was filling water buckets for the goats, and "There's a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza" started running through my head.  I was pondering the fun of this song, a duet with a funny ending, when I remembered the "Buffalo Boy" song that my friends Erik and Pete used to sing.  It's a silly song, made even sillier and funnier when one guy is singing the girl's part.  I told Becca I wanted her to hear this, and explained how it was originally performed.  She put up with it for the first verse, and then it started to get funny, and she really enjoyed it.  She did have to stop me after one verse to ask me, "What are chillens?"  "It's slang for children."  "Oh."

Well, tonight, I was in the mood for music.  But I didn't want to play the radio loudly in the house, or turn on Pandora on the Blackberry.  I decided to sing myself.  It was hard to start, even though I was alone.  I haven't really sung much for many years.  I didn't trust that I could do it, and even though it was just me, didn't want to be embarrassed.  I started off cautiously, slowly, softly.  "When you're down and troubled, and you need a helping hand, and nothing, oh nothing is going right."  By the end, I was confident, and wow - this felt good!  I moved on to another, and another.  It was quite an eclectic mix, and I was loving the freedom.  No one was around.  Not only was Becca away, but the advantages to living out in the middle of NOWHERE, where I wouldn't bother anyone or be embarrassed, were so freeing.  The goats must have thought I was nuts, but I didn't care.  I huffed and puffed through while the bucklings jumped and played and tugged on their leads.  As I milked Salsa I had a one-way conversation with her about why there were no songs about goats that I knew of.  I suggested that we should write one, but - well ... Maybe there's a reason there's no songs about goats.

As is always the case, music brings memories, brings people, brings places, to mind.  As I sing, ghosts of memory are at my shoulder.  Some I am so thankful for, so happy to see and remember.  Some I wonder about today, what they are doing, do they ever remember, or was this not as important?  One I have questions for that I think will never be answered.  The writings in a yearbook that I re-read many times and pondered and wondered about, but we never talked about it - and probably never will.  I wonder if they even remember what they wrote in my yearbook; I don't think I remember anything I wrote in anyone else's.  My having that writing in the book hardwires the moment in my brain, and all the unasked questions from 30 years ago.

As I sang, the fears and worries fell away.  I felt stronger.  I felt more alive.  I felt more me.  And I felt such gratitude for the people who helped bring these moments into my life - the people that started this years ago, and the threads keep moving forward, still blessing me.  As is the case when I feel that gratitude, I don't want to leave it unsaid, so to one person I dropped a line after chores were done.  I sat on the front porch in the fading light and quiet, with the cat winding his way around my ankles, and pulled out my Blackberry, because I didn't want to go inside the house and lose the focus.  And I thanked him.  Thank you for the music.  Thank you for the memories.  Thank you for blessing me and being a light in my life.

When I am grateful for what I have, what I have been blessed with, past and present, the world is not as scary for a moment.  It's not as overwhelming.  Small thank-you's said with love and true gratitude help make those small blessings grow.  They give me strength by allowing me to share - to pass along the positive feelings.

So I am grateful tonight.  For my beautiful daughters.  For my wonderful parents.  For siblings.  For my loving, far-flung extended family.  For friends, near and far, past and present.  For ES, BK, CG, JCC, LBH, LDF and more.  Bless you.  You came to mind tonight in a positive way.  And I thank you.