Custom Shampoo

It smells amazing like mango. I’m going to miss it when it runs out.

There was a 50 percent off holiday coupon for one of those companies that customizes shampoo to you after you answer a thousand questions. I figured it was the only opportunity i’d have to try it for a decent price. I figured i’d just use it until it was gone and it’d be one of those things i could say i tried. But, for the first time since childhood my hair is soft and vibrant and shiny. I’m hooked and that coupon was one use only. 😦

A Kinesthetic Learner‘s Walk in the Country

I’m a kinesthetic learner. It just means i’m not learning well unless i’m moving. Whether i’m walking, pacing, doing something with my hands, or chewing gum, if i’m not moving, my brain’s not on. That means, to memorize my exam material, in rain or shine, wind or frost, i walk the road with my notebook. It confuses people and they constantly stop to ask me if i’m a runaway or if i need help. They’re very suspicious of what i’m doing. But it’s a free country, people can walk, and i don’t need everyone to understand me all the time. On my walks i always encounter animals, scat, and sometimes carcasses. It’s always an interesting walk and there is a pull to focus more on what’s around me than what’s on the page but once i get in my groove everything else melts away and the memorization begins. My universe becomes the page and my world becomes the information written on it. But enough of the boring bits, here’s a list of things that i’ve encountered on my study walks:

I thought this guy was impressively colorful. I coaxed him onto a leaf and gave him a lift to the side of the road where he wouldn’t be smooshed under a car or truck tire. It’s funny, if i had a garden he’d be the enemy but i dont have any veggie plants so he’s just another fellow animal to me.

A spider

This deer carcass made me so sad. Her foot wasn’t caught on the string of barbed wire. Her back leg had actually gone through a square of the bent fence and then through another square as well and at the height she would have been standing, the only way to get her leg unhung from the fence would be to lift it up, back through the squares in the fence that she had sunk down into. She wouldn’t have been tall enough to do it. So her leg remained hopelessly threaded through the squares in the fence. This was a road that led to so many ranchers’ properties. I hoped to God that this deer had hung herself on the fence at night with coyotes hot on her heels and by sunrise a carcass was all that could be seen, because if i had to know that my neighbors drove past this deer hung in the fence while it was still alive and didnt stop to lift her leg out of there before coyotes or a mountain lion learned of her predicament, i’ll just lose even more respect for humans. Yes, they hunt these creatures and know them as food, but that is sport. There’s no sport in a sitting duck. She ought to have been freed if there were an opportunity. For whatever reason, the coyotes ate what they wanted and didnt return. The buzzards wouldn’t touch her. I am not sure why, but she’s still out there rotting as i type this. Her guts sunk down in her rib cage and its all just mush now. The fur is starting to deteriorate and the skin shrink and turn a strange brown color. She smells of death. Not even the flies are interested. I’m intrigued as to why all the normal animals that would aid in the breakdown process won’t touch her. She’s just there and nothing will disturb her. She remains in the position the coyotes left her strewn in and every time i walk the road to study, the mandible is in the same place and nothing has been disturbed or moved at all. I wonder if one of the sheep farmers would have poisoned the corpse to try to kill the coyotes. I wonder if they would be smart enough to know to stay away or they’d be fooled and fall victim to such a scheme. I have no idea why the buzzards and the flies and the coyotes want nothing to do with her now but its unsettling.

I could be wrong but i am going to guess this is raccoon scat. Feel free to correct if someone knows better.

Stress

This semester i let everything on the homestead go. I had no choice. The interior of the tiny house is covered in dirt. The clothes and sheets are as well. The spiders have webbed up everything. The paint i bought to redo the house trim that’s exposed to the elements and had the old paint peeling off, never got used. The grass is up to my armpits now. The whole thing is just a dumpster fire. But, i have to let it be. Right now i have to get this degree as fast as i can so i can get back to making money to pay the mortgage before the savings account is depleted. In order to save the land, i have to let it go for a while. I was pulling 3 all-nighters at a time. I was sleeping an average of 1 hour a day. I was working (running 7 miles a day) 4 days a week and doing my GIS school work for the other 3 days and all the nights. I finished both courses with an A in each class, created a resume and a public portfolio of my work, and was forced to do an actual contracted month long job for a company within one of my classes. My tutor has a list of reasons why this is a bad idea and i agree with him. Students cant ask for more time when additional requests are made by the client because the semester ends when it ends. Students also cant quit if the client relations go south or become exploitative. So, its probably not a good idea but i did it, and the important thing was, i learned the skills required to make something worthwhile for an actual company to use in their mission. For that i have to thank my online tutor. He is wicked smart and if he doesnt know the answer he knows how to teach himself what he needs to know to get the answer. He’s also the only tutor i’ve ever met that will only tutor one student a day, so if you need four hours, you’ve got four hours of his time. I can honestly say he taught me 75 percent of everything i know about GIS. And then taught me another lesson; that he’s not the answer. He was trying to give me the skillset i needed to answer my own questions, and after a while, i started being able to do research just like he had and answer my own questions before he was able to get back to me. That was an invaluable lesson, i will admit, that i was reluctant and sour to learn. However, now that i know how to answer most of my questions through my own research, i contact my tutor to learn “best practices” for the industry and for more advanced concepts that i cant find literature on.

So, i’m doing this. I’m passing these courses. I’m learning GIS. Im marching ever forwards towards a new career, and i’m giving my best to my day job as well. I’m maintaining 6 chickens and 2 dogs. I’m sleeping 1 hour a night. I am so tired it’s hard to do anything beyond autopilot. But i’m doing it. The exhaustion, the depression, the anxiety…they all creep in on a daily basis. All the things that i was doing are on hold. The books i was writing are on hold. My patchwork quilt is on hold. My study of scripture is on hold. Etsy projects with pressed flowers are on hold. My homestead projects are on hold. Routine maintenance is on hold. Further dog training…on hold. Even the blog and my journal entries were on hold. Sleeping was on hold. I keep thinking, what if i never right this ship, what if i never get this dumpster fire extinguished and back to normal? Is this the end of everything i was working on? And then i remind myself, no silly, this is the way to save everything you were working on. Patience. Twas never a virtue that came naturally to me. Now more than ever it is a skill it would behoove me to master. Instead, i tend to just bury all my fears in food. Like Ellis, i will stress eat the day away. Only, my food allergies and my tiny budget keep me from being a giant human.

Assimilation Day…Week…Month…maybe a Long-term Process

None of the adult chickens ever enjoyed Ellis. Ellis is crazy. There are some things you can’t fix in a chicken and apparently head trauma is one of them. Her skin may have grown back together over her skull but the mental scars run deeper and she is just an absolute total nutter. It’s gotten to a point where she’s basically feral. Neither i or the other chickens can do anything with her. She’s kind of a lone wolf that does her own thing. However, Oakley started out very eager to gain the other chickens’ approval. She would copy their behavior and run around with them trying to be one of the pack. Daisy took a liking to her and began sleeping outside the coop with her and eventually offered her a spot on her roosting bar when nights got cold and the howling coyotes forced the younger chickens indoors for safety. Daisy showed Oakley the ropes of how to be a chicken. She stood up for her against the others when Oakley wanted to eat or drink. She sat with her and taught her how to take a dust bath. Everything was going swimmingly until Oakley decided to peck me, bite me, eat my earring, and pull my hair. Daisy never extended the olive branch again. She beat Oakley up and continued to do the same if either of the juvenile chickens had any more contact with me, friendly or otherwise. Daisy was not having any of it. Nobody was touching her mom. So Oakley lost her spot on Daisy’s roosting bar and slept in the nesting boxes instead. Ellis slept on the floor in the corner of the coop. I stopped trying to interact with the young chickens because each time i did Daisy made them pay for it. I didn’t see much of the young ones for a while.

Then one day i looked into the coop and saw a giant super fat chicken! She was as big as Rosie or bigger. I was so confused. I knew this had to be Ellis because no feathers grew on one side of her head. However, her size suggested i was looking at an adult chicken. It took me a day to figure out what had happened. Ellis did not like any of the other chickens. She distrusted everybody and viewed all chickens as potentially dangerous. This meant that while the other chickens slept inside the coop she slept outside the coop in the dirt. This meant that during the day, when the other chickens were outside scratching for bugs, pruning each other, and dust bathing, she stayed inside the coop all day by herself. There was not much to do in the coop besides lay an egg. The only thing that was in the coop was the food dispenser. While all the other chickens were outside, Ellis parked her butt in the coop and single handedly ate all the food for the day before i came home from work. Ellis was stress eating and hogging all the scratch. This meant Ellis quickly became a mutant neurotic chicken that was now so huge she could barely fly while the other chickens got really good at scavenging for insects and toads. Oh Ellis. What was i going to do with this giant nutter of a chicken? How do you put a screaming antisocial banshee on a diet?!

Ellis and Oakley reach Puberty

One day i noticed something tiny and round lying in the shavings in the stock tank. Upon further inspection, it was an egg. It could only have come from one of the two juvenile chickens, Ellis or Oakley. Yet, they weren’t supposed to be of laying age for another month. Well, the following day, there was another tiny little egg. One of the baby chickens was laying. I speculated that it might be Oakley as she was a tad bigger than Ellis when i got them as chicks. Maybe she was older? the medium brown tiny eggs continued to appear. I decided it was time to switch them to adult feed because the chicken who was laying was likely taking the calcium from her own bones to make the eggs. She needed the adult feed with calcium now. I had been taking them outside and setting them in the chicken tractor right next to the adult chickens for hours at a time but they had never been in the pen. I decided there was nothing to do but try it. So i took the juvenile chickens one at a time and placed them in the pen. It did not go as i would have expected. It was Ellis who ended up having the trouble assimilating, not Oakley. I could explain it but the video does a better job. I will save that for the next post. Three weeks later, tiny cream colored eggs began showing up in the dirt. Ellis laid cream colored eggs and Oakley medium brown. It would take a while for the eggs to reach the size of their older sisters’ as the size of the egg is dictated by the size of the chicken, but over time they would catch up.

Toads that live Dangerously

Since day 1 of the chicken pen’s existence, i’ve always found toads sitting in the water dispenser. At times i find tadpoles swimming around in there, which the chickens go fishing for. These guys take over the water dispenser and just chill in there overnight. I keep telling them that’s a lethal idea. I keep scooping them up and herding them out of the pen. The next evening there’s more. They think this is a pond. The smart ones are gone by dawn. However, those that are not savvy are still there when the sun comes up and the chickens rise. This happened on one such day and i heard a commotion amongst the chickens. I looked over in time to see Daisy grab a whole toad in her beak and take off running. All the other chickens were chasing her, trying to steal her prize. So, Daisy beat the toad about the head by smashing it on a rock, reared her head back, threw it up in the air and opened her beak, gulping twice to swallow the whole thing down her throat. She had a bit of trouble getting the legs down but she managed. The toad was no more. She had swallowed him whole. So, the toads go swimming and muck up the chicken water and the chickens put toad and tadpoles on the menu. Survival of the smartest i guess; only the intelligent toads will survive to create the next generation.

Moonlight Musings

I don’t need a calendar to tell me the season is shifting. I feel winter’s approach rather than read about it. A beautiful moon rose tonight. I’ve been opening and closing and opening again at work. It means i don’t sleep and i do a lot of the chores in the dark. But i can see where i’m going right now, even without the lantern, because of where we are in the moon cycle. The yard is illuminated by moonlight and it is immensely helpful in getting the chores done. The air is cooler at night and in the mornings. It is getting chilly. It is almost time to switch the winter clothes to the house and the summer clothes to the shed. I’ve harvested the sumac and am waiting for it to dry out so i can grind it into powder for this year’s haul of the spice. Most of it is already promised to those i owe favors to for kindnesses extended earlier in the year.

The ants tell me where the water is. The moon tells me what’s in the yard. The sun tells me when it’s time to get up. The horizon tells me what weather is on the way. The weather tells me when the seasons change. The dog tells me when i’m ill and how severe it will be. if she curls up against you and sticks very close for a prolonged period of time, a doozy is coming.

I live in a place where papers and gadgets dont tell me how things are going to be…nature does. This is the only place i feel comfortable. This is the only existence in which i can breathe. I want always to live in a place where nature tells me how things are going to be.

Cashew’s Brush with Death

There came a time in my evening where i looked down and noted that Cashew’s face looked like this. Cashew is an aussie. She doesn’t complain. She doesn’t complain when there’s cactus spines in her foot. She doesn’t complain when she’s covered in fire ants. She doesn’t complain when she runs head first into a fence post, door, rock, or wall. That makes it hard to know what’s going on with her. Sili will tell you when she gets into something. Cashew will just come in the house and lay down like its any other day.

I don’t know when she got bit. She didn’t say anything. There was no yelp or howl, and there wouldn’t have been. Cashew does not complain. This is why when the numerous vets i consulted asked me if she was still eating i told them not to pay attention to that. This dog could be on death’s doorstep and she would still have her dinner and lay down in front of the door like it was any other day. She was like a cat that buried their feces. Best to hide any evidence of illness or injury, lest predators view it as weakness. I looked down and her face was all wacky. I knew i had children’s chewable benadryl in my first aid kit. I kept it there in case of a snake bite, to slow the progression of venom through the bloodstream by decreasing inflammation. It was not a fix for a venomous bite but it would buy time in which one could drive the victim to the hospital. At this point i wasn’t sure if she ate a bee, got stung by a scorpion, or tangled with something worse. All i knew was that i didn’t know so i figured i had better give her the benadryl to err on the side of caution. I pulled the curtain back and grabbed the first aid kit from the shelf. In there was grape flavored chewable childrens benadryl. While i was waiting on the internet connection to come through so i could google the dosage her face ballooned up before my eyes. It seemed to get worse and worse with each passing minute. I hurried to google the dosage and finally figured i couldn’t wait anymore so i went ahead and gave her two of the tablets while i continued to try to connect. Eventually i just called the emergency vet three cities over, in the nearest city with an emergency all-hours vet. She said she couldnt give me any advice but then she did end up calculating that i could give Cashew another half a tablet of benadryl based on her weight.

I gave Cashew all the chewable benadryl she could have and continued the dose every four hours. I did not know if she’d been bit by a wolf spider, stung by a scorpion, eaten a bee…all i knew was that she had facial swelling and facial swelling can lead to airway swelling. Then every second counts. Long story short, i didn’t go to sleep. I stayed up and watched her sleep all night, worried her swelling would reach her airway. I felt i had to monitor her condition closely and keep eyes on her at all times. I got one hour of sleep around dawn when i was so tired i couldn’t think or form words and sleep kind of just happened. I set my alarm to wake up in an hour and when i did wake up her swelling hadn’t gone down even though she’d been on benadryl all night.

Then i saw something that alarmed me. The side of her face had turned red with a line of purple shooting through the center. Then the skin of her whole cheek turned a dark purple color. now i knew it was a snake bite. Nothing else would do that. **** **** ****, i threw shoes on. In my pjs i ran into the yard and tried to put the seats up in the back of the car to form the trunk for Cashew to ride in. There was too much clutter. Frustrated and overwhelmed with a sense of urgency, i abandoned the idea and said aloud, “you’ll just have to ride in the front seat. No time.” I got on the phone with every vet in town. The nearest appointment i could wrangle was 1 pm. It was 8 in the morning. Some vets said they could see me tomorrow or next week. I decided to take the 1 o clock slot but i have no idea why. I knew it would be too late. She had gone all night without anti-venom and now the side of her face was turning purple and spreading up her head. **** i could drive to that city with the emergency vet but as the minutes ticked on and the swelling progressed towards her throat i concluded she wouldn’t make the drive. I kicked myself. Why didn’t i take her last night? My brain answered for me; because you didn’t see what she got bit by and without knowing that, they wouldn’t have given her anti-venom anyway. I felt very powerless and weak. Here my dog was. I knew where i needed to drive her to save her life, and yet, there were no available appointments so i was likely going to watch her suffocate. I suddenly remembered there was one last vet in the nearest town that i hadn’t tried. I prayed to God, crossed my fingers, and made the call. I described the situation to her. Half way through my sentence she said, “how far out are you?” I said “a 30 minute drive”. She said, “hang up, get here now. We’ll see you.”

My heart leapt and in a flood of gratitude i sprang into motion. I put flip flops on and left the house in my pajamas. I put my purse and a leash in the car. I had to lift Cashew onto the seat. She stood at the door but sat down and then laid down at the side of it rather than getting in. I lifted her in and closed the door. I drove to the gate and opened it. I left the gate wide open as we took off down the road. I drove those country roads 20 miles over the speed limit the whole way to town. I drove like a bat out of ****. Beside me, in the seat, Cashew began panting heavily. She was drooling more than usual. The panting did not worry me. When i really started to worry, was when the panting stopped. She stopped panting and started opening and closing her mouth repeatedly but no sound came out. Her tongue was hanging droopily from the side of her mouth and she was just opening and closing her lips. She seemed to panic and was turning around in the seat and falling off the seat as i drove. I was trying to comfort her and assure her i was going to get her there as fast as was humanly possible. I think i was saying, “stay with me. We’re almost there.” I know i was talking to her. I was also trying to drive very fast on some winding roads and pay attention to the cars in front of me. I couldnt really look at her. Her fur disappeared from my hand and i realized she had laid down. Her eyes were half closed and she was staring blankly at the door handle in the passenger seat. I called her name but she did not look up. I patted her aggressively. She did not look up. I could feel the panic rising in me. I prayed to God to let her make it until we reached the parking lot. We were so close.

when i made it to the parking lot i flew into a corner space, jumped out the car, ran around the side of it, lifted Cashew out, and ran into the clinic shouting, “Cashew, possible snake bite!” The woman at the front desk got a vet and told him the snake bite was here. He came right over and he and another man took Cashew from me and hurried her through a door. Then i was standing in a waiting room in my pajamas and flip flops. I looked around. All the people in the waiting room were being seen 30 minutes late because the vet had agreed to take my emergency. I apologized to the people in the waiting room and was surprised to find that many of them were understanding and trying to comfort me and assure me she would be okay while we waited.

The vet returned after a short time and told me that they had examined Cashew and that at the moment she was breathing fine so they were not worried. She had been given a steroid shot and they would give me steroid pills to take home with me. They were going to watch her for allergic reaction to the steroid for a bit and then she would be allowed to leave with me. They said she had definitely been bitten by a snake, either a copperhead or a rattlesnake. They weren’t sure which one. They said i had waited too long for her to have anti-venom so steroids was the way to go now. Whether or not the side of her cheek would come off would depend on how much venom she got in her but she was going to live. I thanked the vets, the reception staff, everyone in the waiting room, and pretty much anyone who would listen. I had had time to think about what it would be like to lose Cashew and return home without her while i was racing her into town in the car.

After 3 or 4 days on steroids her swelling had gone down and she looked pretty normal again. She did not lose her cheek. I finally found the puncture wounds. They were on the top of her snout. The day i brought her home she and Sili went in the dog run. The first thing they did was corner something underneath the dog house in the big hole they were digging to china. I flew through that gate so fast hollering and screaming at the top of my lungs for them to leave it. As soon as i’d seen sili jump back i knew what it was. Neither of them heeded my instruction. I sprinted to the dog house and grabbed both dogs by the fur, hurling them backwards from the dog house. Sure enough, in the darkness under the dog house i could just make out the shape of a coiled snake. “House” i hissed under my breath in a serious tone. Both dogs began sauntering towards the house. I did not want to disturb that snake. I refused to full on yell at the dogs while standing right next to it. I just wanted to get as far away from his or her hiding spot as possible. I would lay into them later.

As soon as i made it in the house i turned to both dogs and said, “you learned nothing, absolutely nothing. Oh my God! You nearly die, i get you home, put your steroids on the counter, and the first thing you go and do is put your face back in a snake, cuz that’s a good idea. Learned nothing, absolutely nothing!”

The dog run was declared out of commission and i barely let them out of the house to pee. I paid a wildlife wrangler 200 dollars to come and comb the entire property for snakes and relocate any found. The guy did not find any snakes or nests. He picked through the whole brush pile and checked underneath the dog house and shed. He even combed the unmowed field. He concluded that the snake had just been passing through, following the rodent population. I told him we did have mice in the field and the shed. He guessed it was a rattlesnake. He said i didnt have enough leaf cover on the ground for copperhead habitat. With the all clear from the wildlife wrangler i felt safe to let the dogs outside again. The experience forever changed my level of perceived safety on our property. Im constantly listening for rattles or rustling of the grass when im walking on the property. I bought a lot more childrens chewable benadryl and restocked the first aid kit with it. I’m grateful to the vet for saving her when no one else would fit us in. I’m grateful to God for watching over her. Im grateful for the first aid kit. Yall, do yourselves a favor and always keep chewable benadryl in there, just in case, especially if you live in the country. It will buy you some valuable driving time.

The Power of Chicken Poop

My Uncle gave me a gift card to a plant nursery one town over for my birthday. I had quit my job, begun working at a grocery, gone back to school, and was relying on help from family to make my mortgage each month. Decorating the porch hadn’t been in the budget this year. So when i received this gift card the first thing i thought about was getting something to hang from the hooks on the porch. Last year i had some really pretty red bougainvillea and i realized that since the blossoms were technically pigmented leaves, they didn’t blow off during high winds and scatter the yard, leaving the plant bare. They were just the plant for the homestead! The plant nursery had pink and lavender bougainvillea. I chose the pink. I thought it would go better with the green paint of the house. I didn’t much care for the color lavender unless it was accompanied by cream or perhaps a vibrant teal. Anyways, the plants were a little bit sad looking when i bought them. The store clerk tried to sell me on the idea of 15 dollar plant food pellets. She said without them it wouldn’t bloom and the plant might not do so well. While i was there a woman came in and said the tree they sold her had died even though she put the plant food on just like they told her. The plants i could see from where i was standing were all a little droopy and i quickly realized these were business people, not plant people. Plant people would never have allowed plants to get to this state and would be embarrassed to sell them looking as they did. This little old lady was being interrogated by these two business women about what she had done to the tree that may have been her fault it died and i stood there waiting my turn to check out thinking, “why are you interrogating her about how she doctored the sick plant…maybe just don’t sell her a half dead tree in the first place?!” I had my grandmother’s genes in me and i knew the plants i was buying were not in such a dire state they couldn’t be saved. They just needed a little tlc. They needed some care and attention. What they needed was not some fancy dancy chemical laden plant food in a pretty bottle. What they needed was nutrients and regular access to water and sun. That, i could give them.

This is what the plants looked like when i first brought them home and watered them. They were a little droopy but they had potential. I took a shovel to the chicken pen and dug up a portion of the dirt floor of the chicken pen. It was dirt mixed with chicken poop that had been created by eating an excellent local feed and the organic fruit and veg i gave them regularly. Also the discarded feed had sprouted in the rain and created little plants which the chickens then ate and pooped out as well. I took this nutrient rich chicken poop/dirt mixture and shoveled a good amount of it into each hanging pot, to cover the exposed roots of the plants that had clearly not seen new soil in a while. Over time, as plants are watered again and again, some of the soil leaves through the holes in the bottom of the pot with the water each time and eventually new soil must be placed on top to replenish the supply and the plant’s access to nutrients, but, i didn’t suspect these were plant people so i didn’t suspect that they knew this. I was happy to have bought the plants because now they could be somewhere where they could thrive. After two days the leaves perked up and stopped drooping. After a week the nutrients from the chicken poop kicked in and the things burst into bloom in an impressive way. The power of chicken poop man. Useful little creatures, they are. They lay bartering tools daily and they poop fertilizer. They also act as a pretty good garbage disposal for the scraps you don’t want smelling up the trash. What more could you ask for?