Wednesday, November 28, 2012
The work is hard. Swinging the maul overhead, letting it fall. Sometimes it pierces the wood exposing a clean fault and other times it bounces off in a spray of water. I worked for under an hour and noted how weak I felt. Certainly if I did this more often I would get stronger. After I had split a few wheelbarrow loads I went back to my desk and I must say the physical exertion really cleared my head. Later in the afternoon I walked to the back of the property and eye-balled some fallen trees that I could easily buck up, I also picked up an armload of twigs to burn. Big or small, it's all fuel. I spoke to my neighbor and he'll sell me some bucked up wood. Maple, I think he said. Hardwood. It won't be a pretty year for firewood but I think I will make it through.
Friday, November 23, 2012
Last years meatbirds in their plastic kiddy pool.
The chickens need my attention. Now that we are fully submerged in fall and it is wet and getting wetter out, I can lose interest in the chickens. They stop laying and go to bed early. I am still feeding them, at pretty good expense; organic, non-gmo, soy free, whatever, food. And I am buying eggs from the grocery store. There are 6 hens at the moment. 3 are young and viable as layers, 3 are older and molting. I am thinking about butchering the non-laying members over the next little while and then in the spring get some new chicks to reinvigorate the flock. These old gals only lay for a few years and then you feed them and listen to them squawk for 4 more years all the while attracting raccoons, sucking back the feed and making it uncomfortable for the younger hens to relax and produce eggs. I like the idea of raising birds that are reasonable to eat after they are done laying and with that in mind keeping to a strict 2 yr rotation of laying and then butchering for food. Some old timer told me once they would kill the birds before winter so they didn't have to feed and care for them during the cold months, I can see why. I did sit with them awhile yesterday, thanksgiving and gave thanks to the silly 6 of them as they pecked around doing their little chicken dance. I cleaned their house, their water tubs and gave them a mountain of fresh straw in the outside cage since they would be contained there for the weekend.
One of the things I do like about keeping the chickens is the creation of the system I employ to take care of them. I want the whole operation to be efficient and easy to use and so I have tried to work toward that. My goal is to offer the chickens maximum comfort for a minimum effort on my part. So far it's worked out pretty well and now I want to work on making the output aspect of the operation more efficient. More eggs and a little meat now and then without too much work or worry. The trouble with raising the big bunch of meatbirds is that they need near constant attention, they are so programmed to eat they have to be fed twice a day and their cage has to be cleaned at least once a day. I cannot stress this enough. Meatbirds are disgusting shitting machines and unless you are keeping them in a pasture setting the pen must be cleaned and it is disgusting and interacting with the birds is grim as they are not a smart group. I prefer the idea of a few free-range chickens that lived like real chickens, laid a few eggs and then got stewed up one at time. This is how a farm wife would do it. I will devise a system for this operation next. The tools required to butcher a chicken are fairly straightforward, the only pieces I need are a propane burner and an over-sized scalding pot. I imagine you need an extra basin with warm water to aid in plucking. The nasty bits can be buried and turned into rich fertilizer in the garden. This seems doable to me.
I had a lovely conversation with one of my neighbors the day before Thanksgiving. He keeps horses and I found him out near the road with a bucket of apples and the 4 head of horses and 1 mule all standing around him eating from his hands as he passed each one an apple holding it tightly while they bit down into it, and then passing the remaining half to next waiting muzzle. We talked about the expense and care that goes into owning the horses, he pack rides with them several times a year around the state. He towed 25,000lbs of truck trailer and beast over the Washington Lookout Pass to ride for 2 days in Mazama with his daughter and some friends. He admitted is was expensive hard work but he said he got a lot out of it too, the pleasure of horses is incalculable. Watching him as we talked, the horses waiting in line around him based on rank, the mule licked salt near his feet. His red and white paint gelding was closest nuzzling his arm and neck, it was touching how he just let the horse gently explore him. No matter the size of the creature you look after it's a mutually beneficial experience. His horses, my chickens, the activity of care-taking gives us much more than rides and eggs. It keeps us moving in the world and conscious of life around us.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012
Christmas is looming on the horizon. I get near daily reminders from my young protege that the countdown is on, the expectations building. I used to be into buying gifts, long ago in a land called Los Angeles when plastic filled my wallet. I recall distinctly staring into my medicine cabinet at 5 or 6 matching bottles branded perfectly for my particular demographic, cleanser, toner, moisturizer, fixatives. I felt completely complete staring at those frosted bottles with their signature grey tops. I had graduated from the green kind and would soon be onto the next iteration but something happened and I stopped consuming, stopped feeding that internal emptiness with stuff. The cards got paid off and the accounts were closed. I feel no ill will toward the consumer society that surrounds me, my lack of consumption is not a political act I just don't want to buy stuff for the sake of buying stuff. My budgets are pretty tight lately and so I can't rationalize a spending balloon at a time of year when I need things like heating fuel and warm sox. I look around my studio and house and I have mountains of supplies waiting to be put to good use, an excess of raw materials. I like giving gifts and I like making things and I like to keep my hands and brain busy when the nights grow long. This year I have decided to embroider some small pieces for the people on my list who I know already have more stuff than they could extract quickly from a burning house. I do like Christmas and one of the things I like best about it is decorating the tree, hanging all the ornaments that various people have given me over the years. I unwrap them carefully one-by-one from the tissue beds where they have been laying dormant waiting to spark my memory with warm thoughts about their origins. This year as I have done in the past I set about creating those memories for others and in the process I feel full and warm and I am pretty sure that's a valid experience for this time of year.
Here's a finished piece that has already found a home next door with my good friend. She was quite pleased with it and I was too. Mission accomplished.
Friday, November 2, 2012
I made this for a book cover I was working on but ultimately it was just an excuse to play a little bit with painting on chip board, some collage with lovely green images cut out of Vanity Fair. I made the photo of myself in my office. I like the back view, it is our most unfamiliar view of ourselves and I think represents all we don't know about ourselves. The brown leather suitcase was my mothers. She kept all her important documents in it. I should consider keeping her ashes in this case instead of the cardboard box where they currently reside. So many things to do. I was cleaning the studio tonight, the ritual reclamation of the creative space and the return to it. I made this piece when the weather was still warm and it came out as a burst, unselfconsciously. Because it was not chosen for the book cover, I cast it aside and then due to occurrences this week when I came across it tonight I decided to accept it as a valid creation. I have been reconnecting with some long time ago contacts in my field and that has set me to thinking about the nature of this work I do and helps me to see all that I have done and how to make it better. It's a time of gentleness.