Tuesday, January 18, 2011

2010 wrap-up; 2011 goals

January: I turned 44. I had a party. It was Very Good. I attended Sharon Astyk's Apprentice Weekend at Gleanings Farm near Albany. She mentions this year's here: scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2011/01/garden_design_class_february_-.php. It was also Very Good! We knitted by the wood stove. We cooked on the wood-burning cook stove. We milked goats. Alexa and I talked a bit about raising rabbits for protein. We did a bit on herbal remedies and how to prepare/preserve them. We ate and laughed a LOT. When I got home, I was Seriously Coveting a woodburning cookstove, and since I'd already had a wall removed between my kitchen and living room to accommodate a woodstove, I decided to upgrade my plan. I located a 1909 Glenwood K cookstove in Eastern Mass on Craigslist, and purchased same. (I did have a bit of a wait until Steve, the all-around Useful Handyman, could bring it back to WMass for me) I started my final semester (barring one summer class) of my MA. I had a Shakespeare class at the Renaissance Center (fabulous!) and a Literary Theory class at Smith College (also terrific, in different ways).

February: Amanda turned 10. How did that happen? The children spent February vacation with the Other Parent so they could go skiing and stuff. By the way, OP, here in Massachusetts we just say skiing. If you need to specify, you say "water skiing". Otherwise it's safely assumed to mean what you insist on calling "snow skiing".

March: March came in, wet and muddy as an ill-mannered dog. Gosh, I wish I could remember where I read that!
The children and I went to the Smith College Bulb Show again. It looked and smelled divine!

April: Managed not to lose my mind as I finished up final papers. I was very satisfied with them! The children were with me for April vacation, which was lovely, as the weather was turning nice. They got to come over to Smith with me for my classes, and a roommate of one of the young ladies in my class watched them while I was in class. They ran around on the grass, had snacks in the student union, and said it was good fun. I saw footage of the volcanoes in Iceland... there was a man wearing an Icelandic sweater (no, really? go figure) in shades of blue... and I got to thinking, I need one of those! Then I realized that I was about to graduate with my MA, and I could probably just make one. I bought wool.

May: Beginning of May was very warm, and we lost a black buck (rabbit) to heat on Beltane. It was quite sad. Later in the month we lost another rabbit to heat, a pregnant doe, who died in our arms as we tried to cool her. It was heart-breaking. The children and I talked it over, then offered her body to homeschooling friends for a biology lesson. I hoped that in doing so, some small benefit could come from the rabbit's death.
I finished the two classes and though I still owed three credits, went through Commencement. Mom and the children came, of course, as did my girlfriend Christina (with her children!), and her husband (who's faculty, and stood to give me a hug as I crossed the stage). Other faculty friends were onstage as well, which was lovely. My friend Alicia was graduating, too; her daughter Clara is Amy Charlotte's best friend. It was a lovely day! The following weekend I had a big party to celebrate. What a great time we had. The house and yard were full of people I like, there were children on the swingset, playing soccer, playing with the rabbits... I can't imagine a better party. I started knitting on the Icelandic sweater.

June: Adam turned 12, Amy Charlotte turned 7, school ended with a flurry of parties and birthday cupcakes. Adam "graduated" from 6th grade, earning awards in both math and art!
Steve started building the long-awaited barn, using locally sourced pine barn boards. I read in her LJ that Lady Karelia was going to be in the vicinity, so we arranged to meet up at the Forest Park Zoo in Springfield. We had a really fabulous day! In fact, it was so much fun that she and her son came back again the next day, here to the house. The children got on beautifully (her son is Adam's age) and a Good Time Was Had By All. A few days later I had a minor surgery on my neck to remove what turned out to be a bone spur. The incision has healed up nicely, so I don't have to deal with the Frankenstein look. The day after that, we made our annual pilgrimage to the Cape to visit with my brother, SIL, and four nieces. Again, we had a lovely time, though I couldn't swim due to the stitches.

On the 1st, I finally did what I've been saying I was going to do for a year-plus, and chopped off my hair. And I do mean chopped. A friend described the cut as a crew cut, and though I wanted to argue, I couldn't.
See, my Great Plan was to get rid of all the colored stuff at once, because I didn't think I could endure watching it grow out, becoming brassier and brassier. So... off it came. I sent a 21" ponytail to Locks of Love and called myself satisfied. I took my last class, "Writing and the Teaching of Writing," through the Western Mass Writing Project. Billed as a K-16 class, it was filled with mostly middle- and high-school teachers who've been doing the job for years. I really enjoyed the class, and in a nice symmetry, one of the teachers of this my last class was a man who'd been a teacher in my high school from when I was 14. The first Tuesday in July, which was also the first day of the class, was 100.6*F, the hottest I can recall since moving back up here. It was horrible, and one of my best Cinnamon does died from the heat. She was in the shade, and had water to drink, but it was just too hot for her. We grieved. The cookstove made its way from Eastern Mass to Steve's place to the Good Time Stove Company www.goodtimestove.com/ in Ashfield, where it was fully rehabbed. It's GORGEOUS.

August: I took the children up to Niagara Falls, both New York and Ontario, for a weekend. What a fabulous trip. We had a great time. They were so excited to stand on the bridge over the Niagara River and scream, "I'm in the the US! Now I'm in Canada!" After this trip, they went to the Other Parent's for 2 weeks, and since they're not allowed to call me from there, I took the opportunity to nip out to the UK for a lovely vacation. It will definitely require its own post, though. While on said trip, I finished the Icelandic sweater. When I returned, I entered it into the Cummington Fair, a local agricultural fair, where the children like to show the rabbits. Actually, we entered quite a number of exhibits (rabbits, sweater, bread, brownies, art) and did quite respectably. My sweater won a 3rd place ribbon! The lady who won the 1st place ribbon TOTALLY deserved it - not only was her sweater much more complicated than mine (a Fisherman's pattern, which is scary stitchwork) but she had raised and sheared the alpaca and spun the wool herself. *sigh* My white bread took a 1st place ribbon; my brownies took at 2nd place ribbon. The rabbits cleaned up in their respective categories, since relatively few youth raise and/or show larger breeds. We were blessed again by the company of Lady Karelia and her son, who came to the fair with us!

September: Adam started middle school. Huh-what? He loves it, bless him. I'm so thankful that his experience in that building is so different than mine was! My girlfriend Donna came up on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. We worked on making order from chaos upstairs in the children's and guest rooms. On Sunday night I fell ill, and was the sickest I've been in years, if ever, for two solid weeks. Turned out to be a bacterium associated with food poisoning called Campylobacter, and I'm here to tell you it was NASTY. I lost 20 pounds in 3 weeks, and it was until Christmas before I felt better.

October: I continued to feel crappy. I couldn't even stand up to sing, lest I come over dizzy. Made Choral Society rehearsals a Lot Less Fun. Steve finished the barn, at long last, and we moved the hens into it. Despite feeling crappy, and having to ask him to shovel out the shed/henhouse, I did manage to powerwash the shed clean. Boy, did it need it. It was very satisfying.

November: Steve brought the cookstove and we put it in the kitchen on a dolly, pending finding someone to install a stovepipe up through the roof for me. I was Not Patient. I had to have a colonoscopy/endoscopy, which wasn't too horrible. I also had a referral to an orthopedist about the PITA I've had since a year ago Thanksgiving. Turns out NOT to be a muscle problem at all, but rather a disc problem causing sciatica. Urgh! All that PT time misdirected! I resumed PT with a new focus. We adopted two formerly-feral kittens from the local shelter to be our barn cats. I wanted to call them Dobby and Winky, but was overruled. The male (B/W tuxedo) is called Spot, and the female (tabby, I'm told) is called Bengal.

December: Had an MRI of my back, followed by an epidural shot of cortisone, which did not do as much as I'd hoped. Finally got a stovepipe installed a week and a half before Christmas! I LOVE LOVE LOVE this cookstove.
The warmth of a wood stove is just something entirely different from any central heat source. I am learning how to cook in and on it; on is not so hard, but my wood isn't as dry and seasoned as I'd like, so it's hard to get the fire hot enough to heat and maintain good heat in the oven. Christmas was fantastic this year! The children were home with me (hurray) and we had a lovely day. We cooked a roast in the oven, and it was delicious.

Now, to follow up from last year's summary: I started 2010 with 46 rabbits. While we were up over 100 a few times with litters this summer and fall, we presently have (runs to count) 86-ish. Yikes. I started with 42 hens, added some, subtracted some, and have just over 60 at present. The barn being finished, complete with ferocious (if under 5 pounds!) cats, next project will be to add a good fence so we can get our dairy goats and beef cow. The gardens did poorly again, though some of that was problems sowing at appropriate times due to graduate school, followed by horrendous heat, and then by being really, really sick during harvest time. I did manage to can some tomatoes, though. I built a new bed, 15x16', divided into three 5x16' sections. The rear-most bed is asparagus; the middle bed was potatoes (which did ok, since I didn't irrigate), and the bed next to the driveway was soup beans, which I never quite got out to harvest. The blueberry bushes did have fruit, but the birds got it. The peach tree and one of the apple trees in the front yard both had fruit which mysteriously vanished just as it was almost ripe. I blame the squirrels. I loathe squirrels. The bulbs I planted two summers ago were supplemented by more bulbs this spring from the Smith College Bulb Show, and the bed was really quite lovely. I also planted zinnias and marigolds, which joined the perennial coneflowers and black-eyed Susans and peonies. The overseeding of the front lawn turned out pretty well, even during August and September when it was so, so dry. I did experiment with tractoring rabbits; growth rate was slower, but acceptable. My intention is to pursue this program for the next few years, keeping back the largest doe from each litter and the largest buck from each group of litters in each breed, in the hope of selecting for good growth on a mixed grass-and-pellet diet. Feed prices won't be coming down, I don't think, so more sustainable is good. The dogs, who were old, lame, and deaf last year are older, still lame, and more deaf this year. Sheba is 14 1/2, Decker is 14, and Lily is a lovely 6 - still energetic but a bit less wild.

The goals I had for 2010:

I want to finish my Masters. DONE!
I'd like to get my wood stove installed and working. DONE!
I'd like to get rid of about 20% of the stuff in my house - yard sale, Craigslist, consignment, Salvation Army, etc. Still working on this one, now with a firm plan of action, complete with spreadsheet.
I want to keep singing. Yup, still singing.
I want to get all the moving parts of my body working properly again, and keep them that way. Yeah, this one is a bit problematic. The correct diagnosis on the back/PITA helps a lot with this. I did get the blown-up elbow working again, though.
I want to work out in the gym at least three times every week, and continue with Weight Watchers, such that I reach my goal weight (between 142-148). I'm not sure where I am presently, but it's slightly north of 170. Um, yeah. So my gym closed down abruptly, and I haven't bothered joining another one. I did lose those 20 pounds in 3 weeks in September, but they came back, drat them. WW got too expensive. So... I'll keep working on this one, ok?
I'd like to get five litters from each of my 15 does in 2010. The girls did great this year, despite heat problems. We'll keep on breeding for meat and breed preservation this year!
I'd like to get to more rabbit shows this year - not a huge goal, since we only showed in one fair last year. Nope, we only went to that same one this year, though Adam came home with a trophy from it!
I want to get the shed built, the fencing up, and add the goats and the beefer cow. 16x20' shed turned into 20x30' barn, and I'm glad - I would have cursed myself in 5 years if I'd stayed small. We ran out of autumn on the fencing, though, so that'll go in come spring when the ground isn't so hard ("Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone"). No goats before fences. Repeat after me, friends: No goats before fences!

And for 2011, some similar goals:
Follow the plan with spreadsheet and tame the beast that is a house with too much stuff in it.
Get moving parts working properly, and keep them that way. PT and home exercise are essential to this goal.
Manage weight. Yup, need to do that.
Continue to breed for show, meat, and breed preservation. Select for excellent growth on pasture.
Show the rabbits - it's good for the breeds, and it's good for sales of brood stock.
As mentioned above, put up fencing, get dairy goats and beef cow.
And some new ones:
Contact the local Adult Ed folks and set up to teach some classes - I'm thinking knitting, mending, cooking, menu-planning, gardening, sustainable living, food preservation (canning, both methods; freezing), life skills for children. Suggestions are welcome!
Pursue licensure to sell rabbit to the public. Nobody is quite sure whose purview this is - I've talked to town hall, state ag folks, and federal ag folks. Everyone thinks it's a great idea; nobody knows who's on first. *sigh* Well, it's not the first time I will have blazed a trail, right?
Get back on my bike/drive less. This is good for health, thrift, and the planet.


  1. Love the new haircut. And the woodstove is gorgeous. I've got to make room for one as I really miss cooking on it.

  2. I am equally jealous of YOUR stove as I was of Sharon's! Great job on getting your goals done, and good luck with next years! I'm de-cluttering too, and aiming to actually PLANT this year. And totally coveting a treadle sewing machine...