Before You Go


ImageThere are some things that I need to tell you before you go, my pup. The other day when we played the stick game that’s always been your favorite, I understood that time has passed without me, somehow. Of course, I know how old you are, you’ve been with us from the age of five weeks, but suddenly, here we are, marking your 14th year, and I, for my own benefit, have allowed the hints of your age to go unnoticed, as if by mere acknowledgment what is already the truth will simply be too much for me to bare. I don’t want to put my burdens on you, like I’ve always done. I just need to say these things now, before you go, because once you’re gone the words will clog in my throat and hinder my speech, and while I know you’ll hear them anyway, I need to be holding you close, stroking your soft ears, and receiving your loving puppy dog smooches as I say them. I will tell you the truth, as you’ve always done for me. This is the Story of Your Life, my dear one, and I will try to inject the same honesty, loyalty, joy and love that you’ve so selflessly given throughout the story of mine.

From that very first day, so long ago, a lifetime ago really, as I was virtually a child and certainly acted like one, there was something different about you. I like to think that what makes you so special was meant for me, and how wonderful that it arrived in the form of a wet nosed and wiggly puppy. You’ve always been well mannered and behaved, so it couldn’t have been you who stole the pot roast right off the kitchen table and gobbled it up quickly, before there was any hope of it’s salvation. We even wrote a jaunty poem for the occasion:

“Cujo, Cujo, Brianna’s son. Stole a roast and away he run.”

Luckily, we found this hilarious and so you weren’t reprimanded over it, nor were you the time you ate the pound of butter which you proceeded to vomit up in about 50 different locations of the house! We agreed that everyone makes mistakes, especially rambunctious tweens, which is what you would have been at the time. When you were small, there was nothing  better than a ride in the truck. You were so tiny that you’d crawl up dad’s chest and get yourself comfy cozy in the curve of his neck. A little later, when you entered the awkward phase, it became apparent that you had a very strange relationship with the windshield wipers. You loved ’em, but at the same time you HATED ’em. It’s just occurred to me that it’s been quite awhile since I’ve had to wipe nose and tongue smears from my windshield, but then, I guess we all grow up at some point. There are so many Cujo stories that to tell them all now would take years, but I promise I will tell some to you everyday, before you go.

There are no words to perfectly define what I hold in my heart for you. I will try to remember each and every nickname you’ve inspired for yourself over the years, several of which I’m sure you hate being that you’re a tough and strong pit bull, (” You know it’s Middy Doo, when the rugs are all askew”) but you’ve always come when called, no matter the nickname used,( even ” Tootie Fruity,”) provided a “delicious treat” is waiting for you.

While your doggly attributes are vast, it’s the deeper, secret parts of you that make you so very special. Those things about you that even perfect strangers have no trouble picking up on. Do you remember how sad it was when Grampa left us? Gram became very sick and depressed and you refused to leave the spot beside her on the bed for days. She later told me that it was you who saved her. It was you who gave the comfort and companionship she so desperately needed to make it through such a terrible time. It’s like you were born with an intrinsic radar that is capable of picking up the wide range of emotions in the humans around you. It’s like you’re a human yourself, only far better at it than any of us can hope to be.

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I need you to know that we’ll be OK as I can tell that’s something that already worries you. Strange for a long time, but OK. I know I promised you the truth, Froggy Doggy, and the truth is that I don’t know life without you. I was 17  the day you wagged your tail into our hearts and now I’m in my 30’s. An entire novel has been written in the time between and I just don’t know how to write the remaining chapters without you in them as you’re a main character. My friend, you’ve done your job too well. There will never be another worthy of the name “Tootin’ Heimer Schmidt.” And that’s the truth.

I suppose that what I really need you to know, before you go, is how much I thank you. Your burden in life has been the worry you feel for our family, and I want to thank you for the hourly perimeter checks, for how safe I feel when dad’s not home, just because I have you, and most importantly, for loving and protecting my babies in a way that shows me you understand how important they are. You’ve never been jealous or cruel. You’ve never snapped, even under the utmost of provocation. Your role in our family is one I will try in vein to replace, once I figure out just how exactly, I’m going to continue without you. Together, pup dog, we’ve pretty much seen it all. You, more than anyone, has seen me at my most desperate and tortured, frenzied and stressed, angry and malicious, unsure and terrified.  And it’s you, more than anyone, that I can trust with the parts of me I’d rather no one see. I will wait, watch and listen for a sign that you’re with me, if not physically, at least in spirit. Your name may float to me in the whisper of the wind, or perhaps I’ll feel the faintest hint of your tail brush my arm while I’m sleeping. I’ll awaken and put my palm to my cheek, where the memory of your sweet puppy kisses is but a vague tingle.

You are my best friend, my constant companion, my canine soul mate, my safe place, and I love you so very much. It will be these things I’ll murmur  into the silky folds of your floppy  ” bat dog” ear just before you go. Take them as your truth, my pup. Take them with you so that a piece of me might come too.

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Rudy’s Arrival


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Recently I heard that chickens are slowly forgetting how to hatch their own chics. I’m not sure how much stock I put in that but I suppose it could be true. I know that my chickens get “broody” once in awhile, although not all will sit on a clutch right up to the “due date,” which leaves me in a fairly disturbing conundrum, as I’m left with the job of sitting it out for them, which not only takes me away from my very busy life but is vaguely uncomfortable as well. Just kidding! It’s EXTREMELY uncomfortable!
Anyway, last year one of the girls DID sit it out on her own. Being that it was my first time experiencing such a thing, I was thrilled to discover that the eggs were beginning to hatch. While I was disappointed in Rudy the rooster for not playing a more parental role, I found the hen to be an excellent mother. So ferocious was she in protecting the eggs that she even attacked our pit bull…and won! It’s something we’re not supposed to talk about, but it really paints the picture of motherly devotion.
The first chic finally emerged from the warm cocoon of his egg. What a struggle he endured and he certainly looked worse for wear. Scrawny, soaked, and exhausted, he was one of the cutest things we’d ever seen. Our excitement was near bubbling over as we painfully awaited the hatching of the remaining 10 eggs. And waited, and waited. And…nothing. One egg out of 11 hatched and the rest were duds. But we weren’t disappointed at all! We’d just witnessed the hatching of the very first chic at Carey On Farm and we were elated! Cheers rang out through the barnyard and we set up chairs just so as to watch the fascinating relationship between hen and chic. It was like a miracle! That is until I realized I had to do something with the 10 remaining duds.
This was something I hadn’t been prepared to face (I am a newby after all) and the thought of discovering a partially developed chic fetus was a tad more than I could bare. I left them with the hen a few more days but after awhile it was obvious that I had to get rid of them. I thought burying them was a great idea. We even had a respectful memorial in their honor.  A few tears were shed at the thought of what might have been, and we built a headstone made of rocks and twigs to mark their final resting place. It didn’t occur to me until the dog dug them up and rolled in them that we had held a funeral for 10 rotten eggs that had never been fertilized in the first place, but I kept that joke from the boys.
It’s been almost a year since our first chic hatched and I still haven’t gotten the smell completely out of the dog, but the hens are getting broody once again, and with spring stirs new life. With my head in my hands I can only wonder what the year ahead might bring. Besides baby chics, of course.

Farm Life’s A Hard Life


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I am a farming vegetarian. There, it’s out. Before you give me a hard time, stop and imagine what it’s like for me. I’m basically a poop scooping, piglet delivering, egg collecting hypocrite. And that only begins the long list of ways you’ll find me lacking. I suck at a myriad of activities that other women find as simple as breathing. A comprehensive list of said sucking is as follows. Let us begin:

* COOKING
As a farm wife, my culinary pallet is cultured to the extreme. I take great pride in the fact that I have mastered the art of boiling the tenderest, juiciest and most succulent hot dogs west of the rockies. However, don’t envy me too much as I’m more of a master manipulator than 5 star chef. Should you find yourself in a bind when company arrives unexpectedly,take a page from my book with this brilliant cooking scheme, and watch the looks of awe and wonder on your guests faces. Go to the freezer and take a huge amount of time rummaging around in there. Mutter something under your breath like ” well, where is it? I know I saw it in here this morning! ” You may have to use an unnaturally loud voice for that part so your husband (who CAN cook) can hear you over the general conversation. Keep in mind that you’re only trying to create the illusion that you know what you’re doing and have a large stock of deodorant on hand for the awkward moments. I don’t know about you, but I sweat when I’m nervous. Anyway, if he was worth marrying at all he’ll catch the subtle look of wild desperation you throw at him eventually although your company may wonder where you picked up that strange facial tick. When he finally comes to your aid, position the freezer door in such a way so you’re not overheard. I will remind you that while your guests can’t see your face or hear what you’re saying, they CAN observe any foot stomping on your part, that in my opinion, is a must use tool in the kitchen. Shortly after you persuade your husband to save you (never be above bribery. This is a key point people! ) you remove yourself from behind the freezer door and make a HUGE show of pouring the wine. People tend to forget everything if you get them drunk enough.

*CLEANING
I’m always flabbergasted when I walk into other people’s homes. Do their floors ALWAYS shine like that? And is that really the faint aroma of apple blossom burst wafting from the bathroom? My bathroom smells like something burst in there too, you know, so there! Why is it that the day you decide to bring your poopy bottomed chicken into the house for a bath is the same day your in laws drop by for a visit? It’s also the same day your dog vomited on the floor, someone spilled milk down the cabinet and the weekend’s dishes are piled to the ceiling. Oh yeah, that’s everyday. Enough said.

*PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING WOMANLY
Yep. In a nutshell. I am the farthest thing from society’s view of housewife that ever was. Guilty as charged. But here’s the thing: I don’t care! My soufflé may flop, and my house probably smells bad (I’m not sure of this as I think I’m just used to the stench) but I can do lot’s of other stuff. I can throw 20 tons of hay just as well as any man, I can make it through a difficult farrowing singlehandedly, and I’ve taught my boys to believe in themselves no matter what society has to say. I work hard, love hard and play hard. While I’m certainly not the epitome of the word “farmwife,” I think I’m doing alright. And that’s all that matters.

The Barn. A Retrospective.


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Am I the only one who finds solace in the warm comforts of a barn? There’s something about the way the sun filters through the roof slats that makes the magic waltz of dust motes seem another world entirely. True, some would turn their noses at the smell, but for those I feel pity. What a shame it must be to let a trifle thing such as acres of shit stop one from seeking the other, less smelly treasures that farms, and particularly barns have to offer. In fact, my barn is a place I find it hard to stay out of. During farrowing season, I’ve even been found curled up next to the warmth of a half ton hog, blatantly snoring, and my husband takes a great deal of offense to this. Maybe that’s the point? Just kidding. (I’m not really.)
Anyway, I think my problem is that I genuinely prefer the company of animals to that of people. No offense. (Really. Most of my friends have been categorized as at LEAST 1/8 animal, which explains everything.)
While others find the crow of the rooster intensely annoying, I find just the opposite. When the angry, intimidating, red numbers of the bedside clock smugly announce that I am the absolute last human alive on the face of the planet and that I will forever be ensconced in the prison that is my mind,  my dear friend Rudy (the rooster) proves 3am wrong with his own announcement. I am not alone. The haunting, lonely cry of my rooster in the middle of the night just may be the most pasifying sound I’ve ever heard. As long as the cock is singing it’s midnight melody, everything is taken care of. (Thought I’d pass up that opportunity,  didn’t you?)
And it’s not just the feathered fowl that make me feel at home. When the world has let you down, and “assholes” is the only word that accurately describes the human race, my advice is simple. Go and sing to your swine. They truly appreciate it, even if no one else does.
It is a liberating feeling to gain the trust of an animal that, frankly, could easily take your life. Even my boys are too grown up now to show the elation that my presence creates in the barnyard. Nowhere else am I that joyously received. ( Cocks excluded, of course. )
A warm muzzle nuzzle in the neck is just the thing to remedy a bad case of the winter blues.
So, when life gives you a swift kick, limp outside to the healing sanctuary of your barn. Take a book with you, a cup of tea perhaps. Snuggle into the warm embrace of the hay pile and take a deep breath in (through your nose. I dare you.)