Baby Steps…and Baby Invasions

So, before I fell super sick, we were working on about 2463 projects, all of which are in various degrees of planning or completion. Although most of the daily “stuff the Mama does” has gone undone in my absence, we have been making some progress on some other things.
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The tractor is once again operational. We’ve upgraded the starter and alternator to a 12 Volt system, and as a result had to put in a new ignition switch as well. Figured if we were going to replace it, we might as well prevent the problem from occurring again. Once my honey got all that done, the first of the produce beds got disced, so we are one step closer to planting!

If the weather would only cooperate a little more, it would be lovely. We had a series of unexpected crazy weather days last week. As in, literally 68 degrees one day and wet slushy snow the very next morning. We lost some plant starts, not enough to make me cry, but enough that it was a loss. One of our favorite local farms, Bennett Orchards, got hit far harder than we did. After a six hour stint of temps in the 20’s, despite smudge pots and helicopters, they lost their ENTIRE 2016 peach crop. We pick and buy bushels of peaches and blueberries from them each year for canning, I’ll miss them a lot this year. Thankfully, so far it looks as if the blueberries came through the freeze.
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And our Flemish Giant Rabbit doe appears to have some surprises in store for us as well. She has taken up fur pulling and nesting, and trying to rip my fingers from my hands when I feed, water and clean in her hutch, so it seems she may have already been bred and kits may be imminent. She’s not typically nasty, the rabbit growling and snarling are kind of scary.

The off-the-farm work boss called us last week to remove a large swing set from one of their rental properties, due to concerns about its age, insurance, and the potential for injury to some vacationer’s child. Since the components of the swing set were pretty well thrashed, we decided to save the frame to build a new chicken coop / tractor. I’m hoping to get a jump on that project this weekend, we’ll see how I feel.
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Ryan’s personal 7-egg incubator that he waited so patiently for has epically failed to hatch anything at all. It will likely be trashed after one more attempt with just a couple of eggs to insure that it’s incubator error and not ours. That was a disappointment, but he took it in stride. Having new babies hatching in the big one softened the blow. The season’s next large incubator hatch is due Sunday.

We’ve been peddling a few chicks from home, it’s been nice to have clients and visitors to the farm again. With me being sick, that extra few dollars here and there has sure been a help, too. Our first two hatching egg sales on Ebay have been completed (with a third preparing to sell in just a few moments)  and Ry’s birds now hopefully have offspring growing in Massachusetts and Oakland, California at a school!

We have some new breeds of chickens / chicks. Some Silkies, Lavender Aracaunas, and Blue Laced Red Wyandotte bantams have arrived! The first four of our Black Copper Marans chicks are doing quite well, too!

In our most exciting and happy news, one of my grown children’s families will be coming on the 7th of next month for an extended stay. The babies are invading! They’ve been toying with the idea of a permanent move up this way for quite some time, and recent events in the neighborhood they live in gave them a few more reasons. Dad’s already secured comparable work locally, and my girl and I are making plans for some much needed support for her, and possibly school. I’m excited to have a partner for the shop, and it looks like her artistic and crafty talents may get a pretty serious workout this year. Additionally, the extra hands around here will be a blessed relief, and I think we will make much more progress than I planned on for this year! Now, to figure out where to put six more bodies in this camp!

Hope everyone is enjoying the change of seasons, hope things are going well for all!

 

 

Grandmuffin Madness

I’ve been a little lax with the posting of late and I apologize. It’s been an uber-busy week.

Terminal broke-ness resulted in me actually having to go and work this week…like, GASP…outside the farm. It was heinous and horrible, but necessary, I’m afraid.  Good timing, though, with my wee man being out of town. Cleaning super funky rental units crawling with insect life that the tenants chose to not take with them for the move for your part time boss will distract you from anything else you’d be prone to put at the top of the whine list. Like missing your 8 year old, who’s off on a Dad visit.

I joked with the boss this week I was going to fire his exterminator and put diapers on a tribe of my chickens and turn them loose in the next one to deal with the insect pets. I’ll call them the “cockroach containment unit”. Environmentally friendly. Chemical free. What’s not to love? Oh, yeah…free feed in the form of pestilence and disease with six legs. Ok, maybe NOT my million dollar idea.

But Friday, all was once again right with the world, Ryan was back home, and my eldest and her hubby and brood of four girls were coming for the weekend. I have been covered up in glorious girly grandmuffin madness all weekend long.

Sometimes I feel like since we didn’t go anywhere or take them to DO anything that I’ve failed at Me-mawing. But the weather was icky, it rained all day Saturday and today was a frigid windy mess. And I found out that as usual, I worry too much, because they mostly just had a blast.

We had eggs hatching in the incubator and we wore a trench of a path from the back door to the incubator / brooder shed with flashlights checking on the progress of hatching peeps. Teagan, my eldest granddaughter, the self proclaimed “chicken mama”, spent a large portion of her weekend on egg collection duty and incubator watch. She takes these duties very seriously.
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We had Easter Bunny tracks through the kitchen this morning, and a two acre egg hunt this afternoon. We’ll be running over the un-found eggs for months to come with the tractor.image

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I occasionally refer to my grandgirls as feral children when they’re here. In the most loving way, of course. Mostly because they walk through the door with the confident assurance that they know exactly who is running the show from that point on, and it is no one over 4 foot tall. They have one of two speeds on this farm at all times. Full tilt boogie and comatose exhaustion. There is no happy medium.

The shoes come off for the duration of their stay and the dirt begins accumulating on tiny faces. The back door never stops swinging and is rarely shut properly. There is very little that a pouty face and threatened tears won’t get you. Or get you out of. Or tiny arms slung around your neck, laden with motives because why should we not have candy before breakfast? The popsicle stash ebbs and flows in great waves. We eat what we please, we play till we crash from exhaustion, and then we get up and do it all over again. Bedtime? What’s bedtime? Pap and Memaws = anarchy. We have soup for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. There are toys in every square foot of the house and stray socks and blankies and stuffed animals, and we all love it. It’s completely unorganized chaos. It’s glorious.

And thankfully, my daughter and her husband accept that. Or they’re just tired. Either way, I love them so much for allowing me to turn their kids into a tiny tribe of anarchists when they come through the door. I miss them already.

 

 

 

Apricot Lane Farms

I just want to share with everyone a project that I have adored watching the progress of over the last several years. Although we could never dream of doing anything on quite this grand a scale, it’s inspiring and amazing what they’ve been able to accomplish on their own little piece of the planet.

I went to high school with filmmaker John Chester. He and his beautiful wife Molly took on this mission several years ago. You can view a short film about the project that has been featured by Oprah Winfrey, along with others they’ve made at this link.  Apricot Lane Farms

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. 🙂

Happy Sunday!

Zealotry and Zen

I find zealotry in all its forms completely distasteful. There is no faster way to completely dissuade me from a point of view than to try and ram it down my throat. This is on my mind this morning because I’m having a bit of a dilemma.  I respect a person having courage of conviction, and I pride myself on being a somewhat informed and educated person. I welcome new learning experiences of all sorts, and dissenting viewpoints. However, at the end of the day, it’s my right to decide whether I agree or disagree, and once I’ve done that, continued argument isn’t likely to do anything but push me farther from your school of thought.

Having said that, it’s important to qualify that we’re not “churchy” people…but we are “faith” people.  I had so much church foisted on me by two warring factions as a child, I vowed solemnly not to do that to my own children.  I have a wonderful relationship with the God of my own understanding. He may or may not be similar to yours, and frankly, I don’t care. I talk to him, he answers me in his own time and way, and my attendance in a house of worship of any denomination isn’t a requirement for that relationship. And that is all I have to say about that. Because I believe it should be a personal matter, and advertising your affiliation with or status within any religion, house of religion, or organization doesn’t make you any better at being a decent human than anyone else, myself included.  SO back to my dilemma.

My eight year old is a Cub Scout. He enjoys it, it’s a positive thing in his life, we enjoy the family based activities. As long as that continues to be the case, we’ll continue to be a part of the Scouts program.

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This week, Ryan is the “Star Student” in his classroom. This affords the classroom monarch a few privileges, one of which is to share something with his class that he enjoys. A toy, book, photographs, etc. With zero direction from either us or the Scouts, Ryan went to his teacher and asked if he could wear his scout uniform instead of his school uniform today, and share about some of the cool things he’s done in Scouts. She’s consented.

So I’m currently finishing up laundering said uniform, but I’m doing so with more than a few misgivings. You see, enrollment in Scouts programs is down. A lot. Some because of unfortunate events in the news in past years, but a good portion of it can be attributed to the fact that the Scouts aren’t allowed in most schools anymore. While there used to be a Scouts signup table at every school open house, winter carnival, etc…they’re now conspicuously absent.

You see, the Scouts, even though it’s a non-denominational organization, has some God going on. God’s in the book, the Scout Oath, and “Scout Sunday” involves attending your sponsoring or local church one Sunday per calendar year. (Completely optional)  It’s not a church program, it’s a community program. Boys and their families are welcome to take part in the program with any or no religious affiliation.

So, of course…there’s someone, somewhere, everywhere… who has decided to make noise about that.  One parental meltdown is all it takes for Scouting to be unwelcome at a school. One parent who feels that the mere mention or presence of a program that even makes mention of God is an effort to “indoctrinate” their child, separation of church and state, blah, blah, blah.

It’s absurdly funny to me that the most adamant of these objectors are most often the people who are so gung-ho about tolerance for and about protecting everyone’s right to their own feelings and beliefs. They tend to be more intolerant than anyone I’ve ever seen. The right to one’s own feelings and beliefs only applies for them when it doesn’t conflict with their own agenda. Am I the only one who sees this as complete hypocrisy?

I take serious issue with that. One of the most beautiful principles this country was founded on was Freedom. Freedom to think, speak, believe, worship, not worship, vote, object or abstain AS WE PLEASE in all matters. Blessed autonomy. So why do we now suddenly expect schools, workplaces, public places to police and insulate us completely from the beliefs or ideas of others? What happened to the right to and common sense to just be secure enough in your own convictions to respectfully tolerate those of others? To just BE, and let everyone else BE…

This is how I’ve tried to raise my kids. To know that…Not everyone is like you. And that’s ok. It’s their right to be different just as much as it’s yours. It’s for you to decide what you believe in and how you want to carry yourself as a person. 10710712_953048228055375_7582096015899745441_n.jpg

So, I’m sending my kid to school today in his Scouts uniform. With the dread that I’ll get a phone call later. That my little boy will be confused and hurt and not understand what is possibly threatening or objectionable about a program that he has fun in, that teaches him to be a good person, a responsible citizen, and a good steward of the environment. That he will come home feeling there’s something bad or wrong about being a Scout. That my son’s teacher will be called away from her class for a stern talking to, and that I’ll get a phone call citing the School dress code and uniform policy and have to take my child a proper plain polo shirt. I’m steeling myself for that, because I’m not quite sure how gracefully I’ll handle it. Tact and vocal filtering really aren’t my strong suit. Especially where my wee ones are involved.

I miss America. I don’t know when we became a land so hyper focused on insulating everyone else’s little baby feelings that we became afraid to have our own. There’s something that feels inherently wrong with that. I really miss America.

 

 

 

 

 

Springing Forward

All the hoopla surrounding the Daylight Savings Time nonsense mystifies me. All over my news feed there are complainers and whiners about losing a precious hour and having to change the clocks…really? Does anyone still own that many manual clocks that it’s a life-altering, I must complain about it via my social network this instant, time-sucking event?

I mean, COME ON!

I don’t know about you, but here are a few things I considered before deciding whether I wanted to jump on the bandwagon and complain too. All the cool kids are doing it.

It probably took longer to compose that status than the combined time to change any and all clocks that needed it.

YOU DID NOT LOSE AN HOUR! It’s the self-same hour that you celebrated gaining last fall. You simply borrowed it, and now you’re giving it back.

Nearly all of the time-telling devices in this house are digital and connected to a network of some sort, so they had already changed themselves by the time I shuffled myself out of the rack this morning in search of coffee. And we don’t even own anything fancy or new. The average age of electronics in this house is 9 years. The digital clock on the coffeemaker was an hour behind, it took me exactly two button presses to change it. It took me longer to remove the lid from my sugar canister. Same with the microwave (3 buttons) when I realized that the coffee had been made by someone who left in the dark to go fish for a while before going to borrow us a working chainsaw, so it’s shut itself off and is only warm – ish.

There are only two other clocks in this house that need manually changing, one is my Mother’s anniversary clock, which I touch only once a year. It never “fell back”, so “springing forward” now makes it correct again. Winning! Same goes for the one over the kitchen sink, which no one has looked at one time in six years, because everyone relies so heavily on phones and tablets and the like. I looked at it this morning. It sports some rather impressive cobwebs because “spring cleaning” hasn’t happened here since at least last summer. (Possibly the one before, but who’s counting?) It also has stopped. The battery must be dead. Which might have been yesterday, or three years ago. How would I know? I never look at the darn thing.

Meet The New Beauty

Hallelujah, she is here!  A moment six long years in waiting. I am beside myself and happier than if you just handed me a basket full of fuzzy puppies!

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What I also am is utterly and completely exhausted. It’s been a ridiculously long day, but we finally got the left pasture bush hogged before dark. We definitely had to put this gorgeous girl to work straightaway.

Ryan found a fox den in two years worth of growth.

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I would write more, but I have an appointment with my tub and a date with my pillow. Today is definitely (barring momentous family days) one of our happiest occasions here to date!

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Spring Fever and Hen Hunting

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My, such gorgeous weather the last two days. Our emergency Tractor Supply biddies have moved to a hoop coop outside with a light at night. They’ve been having quite the big time scratching and doing chicken things. They’ve discovered bugs, and grass and that’s always fun to watch. I confess I’m the sort of sucker that even after all this time, may have been caught lying down in the warm grass watching them for a bit today.

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Radar the lamb is a bit peeved. Now that he’s started sucking down the lamb chow with great gusto, I’ve cut him back to two bottles a day, and he, too, is a full time outside lamb with run in hut privileges. He still has no buddies, and Sophie the goat has decided to grudgingly accept his presence with only the occasional head butt to remind him she’s the boss. I hate to break it to her, but he’ll outsize her within a month, likely. She might want to start cutting him some slack.

We went and picked up 8 of last years Rhode Island hens from a friend’s farm today. They’re swapping out some of last year’s birds, so Ryan’s red roos got a pile of new galpals today. I’m hoping the travel didn’t wig them out too badly, and they commence right back to laying. I want the eggs for the incubator. The shipped Marans hatching eggs should be here within a day or two, and I dislike running a half full incubator. Knowing where they came from, (he operates a closed flock as well and his birds, frankly, probably live better and have better access to medical care than we humans do) we made a rare exception to the quarantine policy. I’ll just be keeping a closer eye on them than usual to make sure that wasn’t a bad call.

We did manage to take a brief break today and squeeze in a dockside lunch and some quick fishing in our travels today. And this fish definitely makes me look fat…oh, wait, no , it’s not the fish…lol. But, as it was the only one caught today…so my winter weight and I are right here with him.

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I have an appointment with a gentleman near the auction next week to pick up four English Lavender Orpingtons, and one Friday to pick up a Black Copper Marans rooster and two hens. They both have their own pens ready, and I will likely just let the Orpingtons go ahead and hopefully brood their own batch of fluffy chicks, as they tend to be broody and make great Mamas.

The part for our intended new tractor should be in tomorrow, and it should be fixed up and here ready to work before the weekend. Provided no one else decides to have a gun battle anywhere near my grown children’s homes, looks like this may have been a banner week and a great way to start off the spring season!

Hope everyone else has been out enjoying all this sunshine and warmth!

 

Strutting Roosters and Ryans

My little manchild has gotten rather serious about his chickens. First of all, we woke up yesterday morning to this March Madness. There was cursing. Mine. In fairness to me, it was pre-coffee and I am not ever responsible for what comes out of my face before the coffee goes in it. 20160304_073551.jpg

Heavy, wet snow, coming down in great white clumps. It was a teacher inservice day at school anyway, so there was no closing or delay announcement to wait for. Most eight year old boys would immediately want to get out and play in it. Ryan stared out the window and declared “Naaah. I’m actually kind of tired of snow.” He asked me if his new incubator would come today, and I guessed probably not. We’re waiting on a small incubator I ordered for Ry at a ridiculous discount because it’s going to take forever to get here from the bowels of some overseas shipping system. I really don’t want to fire up and tend our huge cabinet style one for just a few eggs, so I ordered Ryan a personal one. It’s a little seven egg number so he can hatch his personal birds, and be solely responsible. (Without risking that he whacks 300 fertile eggs with an “I forgot” because he’s, well, an 8 year old boy.) But it’s shiny and new and digital and has a fancy schmancy automatic egg turner so he’s a little excited.

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Ryan at 3 or 4, checking “The Beast”…our homemade incubator.

So, since we didn’t have to post up in the front window and watch for the mail lady, we suited up and went off to the Southern States in the next town over. We have new birds from the auction, I was out of chicken meds and running low on feed.  Before we left, I sent Tony up to the attic in search of one of the ancient Little Giant styrofoam incubators we retired a couple of years ago, because patience and shipping through customs are not big with small boys. We set it up to test it and off we went.

Ry and I cruised the “chicken section” and lusted after all sorts of things that had my internal “No” recording working overtime, but I relented and sprung for a 14$ egg candler for him. Mostly because I don’t want my child goofing around with the current system of candling eggs here, which involves  drilling a hole in a metal soup can and using the highest wattage kazillion degree bare lightbulb as a redneck engineered projector.

We came home and trudged across the “frozen tundra” to medicate our quarantined auction chickens, feed, and check for eggs. Ryan has big dreams for this season’s egg and peep sales. He’s going to buy a go-kart with a Jeep body and headlights for his four wheeler and maybe a car, you see. 🙂20160304_080810.jpg

So yesterday was a banner day here. Tony left for work with goods from the farm. Certainly not the first time for that. I’ve seen him sell roosters out of the back of the old Subaru station wagon to the built-in ethnic market that comprises a good portion of his employer’s rental tenants.

But yesterday was new in that, for the first time, the “goods” in question were the first ever batch of eggs from Ryan’s personal birds. They were packed carefully and shipped off to a tenant who pre-ordered them.

T came home from work and presented Ryan with $3.50 and an order for two dozen more for Sunday.

 

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We may have created a monster.

 

Ryan and I spent most of the rest of the day indoors yesterday shopping online for hatching eggs. The go kart Jeep has been all but forgotten. He’s focused on his egg empire now.  I think I’m in trouble.

 

 

Take a kid fishing.

Take a kid fishing. Any kid, any age, (just ask the parents first, or it’s kidnapping) any time. Just do it. Nothing compares to the look on a child’s face when they just caught a fish for the first time. It’s joy and amazement and pride and awe all rolled into one big bowl of awesome.

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My Grandaughter Teagan

 

Over the years, I have seen my honey take countless wee ones fishing and make sure they catch at least one fish. I’ve seen him cast sidelong glances at lurking little ones watching furtively from a safe distance at one of the local parks.  I’ve watched him set poles, pick up a soda and sandwich, or a tangled mess of tackle just as a rod tip started to jiggle. And then it’s always the same.

“Hey! You there…young man (or young lady)…I need a hand. Grab that pole there! Quickly! I think there might be something on there. Help me out…I’m tied up with this here.”

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Ryan, my youngest

He always thinks he’s so sneaky about it. That I don’t notice that he’s just a big bowl of gruffness coated jello when it comes to kids and fishing. If there’s a dutifully watching parent or grandparent near who doesn’t make a move to take a photo,  he will do it himself.  He’ll patiently instruct the child on the best way to hold the fish so it looks the biggest, memorialize the moment and ask the adult for a number or email to send the photo to. Because that photo isn’t for him.  If it’s a monstrous pig of a fish, he’ll ask the adult if it’s ok to submit the child’s photo and name to the local tack shop’s site. More often than I can remember, it’s ended up there, and occasionally even in the paper. He’s never, ever in them…he’s the machine that hums away quietly in the background. Here’s a rare one of him with one of my own boys at 12. Meet Justin, and his first bass.

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What he doesn’t think I notice is the light in his own eyes. How he looks just like a big kid himself. How he chuckles quietly to himself later as he updates his Facebook status with his favorite words. “Another first fishy today! Take a kid fishing!”

I could quite literally take this man out on the priciest charter boat anywhere, drop him smack in the middle of a school of prize sportfish. He could battle and bail them all day long and I would never, ever, come close to seeing the light in his eyes when he watches a child pull their very first sunny out of a tiny pond.  In fact, he mated his way through his late teens on local charter boats. There isn’t a money fish alive that can draw him away from a kid with a bass on the line.  Here’s a photo off of our wall…apologies for the flashback, but it’s old and stuck to the glass inside the frame.

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I’ve lost count of the “first fishys”. I’ve lost count of the “Let’s stop here for just a second and see what’s shaking here at the spillway. I hear the perch might be running’s.” The poles come out of the truck, the bag of bloodworms or hidden jug of minnows appears seemingly from thin air, and I know we’re going to be late to whatever destination we were headed for. And I can’t even be mad. I love him all over again.

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Spring’s coming on. Take a kid fishing.

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Beauty is in the eye of the determined.

10485366_1187124057981123_2848459601193225218_nA photo I took over our pasture this fall.

Sometimes it’s easy for me to find beauty. Sometimes it seems overwhelmingly, ridiculously impossible. We’re surrounded daily by so much ugliness and evil and hatred and contention on a daily basis that it becomes the norm. Immersed in it. Drowning in a media borne sea of 50 foot waves of awfulness and despair, clinging to nothing but a photo or memory of a baby or a sunset for hope of survival.    Don’t believe me? Watch the newscast. Scroll through your local news station’s Facebook feed. Just for the sake of this exercise, grab a piece of scratch paper and a pen. Make two columns. One for positive, hopeful or uplifting, and one for “stuff that angers, horrifies, scares, nauseates, saddens, or in generally makes me feel like crap.” Go ahead, I’ll wait. Here’s mine. For the first 46 items on my local news station’s feed. (Discounting sports articles)20160227_191635 (1).jpg

 

43 to 3.  Really? See my conveniently labeled columns entitled “Crap” and “Yay!” (I’m a simple gal.) Forty flipping three craptastic articles featuring (in no particular order at all) murder, mayhem, car crashes, rape, ridiculousness,  bomb threats, fires, abuse, arson, assault, suicide, burglary, drug use, overdoses, death, destruction, natural disasters, embezzlement, and dissent. One puff piece about a local teacher of the year, one about the future of Punkin Chunkin that really could go either way (but my right column was lonely), and one about the upcoming local fishing season. I skipped over sports articles.

It even surprised me, actually. I’ve literally stopped watching the news for this very reason.  I’ve made jokes for years to my family that if I ever hit the lottery, I was going to buy a mountain, encircle it with an electrified razor wire topped ten foot fence and cloister my entire family there, and any other sane friends who would like to come along. A place to secede from the world’s ever growing insanity. It’s only half a joke. Like this right here.

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Or maybe a “tiny house” village. Like this one, only located on said imaginary mountain.

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But until then, I just have to boycott the network news media, (because it’s all bad, all the time) and continue my daily search for what’s good and lovely and uplifting in the world. I don’t think of it as willful ignorance, I think of it as sanity preservation.

I still have to send my remaining minor child off to school every day without lurking fear based imagining of an elementary school bathroom heroin overdose or a psycho school shooter.  And without using any sort of “happy pills” because I’m in recovery and my program and my sponsor both tell me that’s to be avoided.

So for now…these are my ” happy pills.” Here are some photos over the years that we’ve taken. These are some of our happiest moments. The most beautiful ones. Where the world is not a cesspool of crazy, and we’re consciously looking for and finding the beauty. Because beauty is in the eye of the determined, not the beholder. Some things are just ugly, and you can’t make them feel any different.