Monday, April 24, 2017

Fingers crossed

I just showed the other apartment and she is friends with the current tenant, who raved about me and the neighborhood (which scares many people off). So the woman wants to put down a deposit to move in. Fingers crossed that all becomes actualized. I like her and think it could be good for all of us. 

And a young man is messaging about the studio by my house. We will have him meet Ziggy because it is up to her. He admits he is more of a cat person. 

To get all these things lined up this week would be nice. 

So much reading to do. Time to sit in the hammock.

She already paid the deposit.  We're set.  I've got a tenant!  In big part probably due to my current tenant speaking so highly of me.  This isn't the ONLY reason to treat people well, but it's certainly one reason.  

Now let's see how this other guy works out.  

Sunday, April 23, 2017


A friend of a friend of a friend just came to get eggs. 

A friend in Minnesota - whom I met through FB, as we had some mutual friends, but then we became friends in real life and his wife and he are quite dear to me and we visit each with each other when they are here or I am there - had posted about cured egg yolks.  This sounds really interesting and I want to try. And I posted about drowning in eggs, and someone posted about wanting some yard-fresh eggs, and she was here within an hours.  She met Ziggy, which is always good for us to practice, and I wouldn't accept money from her.

And it's got me thinking of what else could we barter within our extended networks?  Obviously eggs are a premium commodity for many of us (though friends from whom I wanted banana pups weren't that impressed) and if my tomatoes produce so will those, but what else?  What other goods and services can be exchanged in a system beyond commerce? 

My tenant's friend has asked to see the apartment this afternoon.  If my current tenant finds me a new tenant to be her neighbor, there will be a finder's reward for sure - beyond eggs.  I would probably give her my weedwhacker as it's time for me to upgrade to a non-electric one. 

I'm not good at these things and I just want to give things away because it's uncomfortable to negotiate, but I have to believe that strategy will work for me long-term. 

well that didn't turn out like I'd hoped

The forecast kept changing and by the time we left to go camping there was a 70% chance of thunderstorms in the night.

I called the camping trip at about 9:30 pm, within 7 minutes had the truck loaded and we were out. Ziggy's recall has never been quicker than me calling her to get in the truck and escape thunderstorms.

It didn't actually rain on us by then - I don't mind rain and my tent is pretty good.  But, the sky was lit up with electricity so Ziggy was on edge, and my Thermarest was completely collapsed so I was sleeping on the ground and I was thinking: for what purpose am I killing my back and being exhausted and unable to read for class?  Plus, the forecast kept changing and then it looked like a good chance it would be raining 6 am -10 am and who wants to camp and hike in the rain?  Not Ziggy, and I wanted her to have a good experience, and not me because I hadn't brought my rain jacket.  So, we gave up and came home. 

The drive home had a sky lit up with lightning that looked like it was ripping apart the heavens.  IT was intense.  While the rain wasn't bad, the electricity of the storm was very heavy - no wonder my dog was freaked out.

She tried to be a good dog, she really did.  But camping may not be our thing.  We've now tried two different cabins, one of them two or three times, and she puts up with it and has moments of joyfulness, but it's not really her thing.  Ziggy likes being home.  IT's really not her thing to have to stay in a hot tent with me (I had the rain fly on to be protected, so no ventilation). 

I sent a picture of her hiding under the truck to her godmother who said: poor, scared Ziggy.  Which helped me see how scared she really was.  On the one hand, a little fear of being left behind in the country is a good thing because it means she doesn't wander off - she stays close.  I appreciate that very much.  On the other, I don't want to push her into situations that terrorize her.  Being struck by lightning would do that. (Though let me be honest: my discomfort was the final straw that sent us home.  Wondering if I need to get a new sleeping pad or if REI will replace it ... ) 

So, today will hopefully be productive though I'm still tired since we didn't get home until 11:30.  Then I slept like a stone, which would not have happened had we stayed.  I just have too much going on to have a sleepless night. 

Now poor Ziggy won't let me out of her sight.  I should spend more time away from her on the weekends.  It's hard because I have so much to do at home on the weekends and I don't want to go out because people drain my energy.  But, a few days home with the dog and she gets nervous about me leaving her - so I shouldn't let her get used to me being so available. 

OK, time to unload the truck and read and plan meals for the week and clean the tent and finish fortifying the chicken coop and weed the bed for collards and show the house and train the dog and grocery shop and so on. 

Really need to focus on school, but a friend told me about Leopold benches and suggested that's what I need in my front yard and I agree!  I would make two smallish ones and paint them purple.  But, that has to wait three more weeks and for me to repair the power cord on my circular saw that I cut right through. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

my uncle's niece

My uncle - with whom I share a birthday and who has always been my favorite relative - lives in the rural midwest (nearest big city of 600 people is an hour away - but it has a grocery store) and is a cattle and dry wheat and other things farmer (no irrigation).  He works harder than anyone I've ever met in my life.  We would spend every summer with them and I'd go for walks followed by a herd of cattle (they're such curious animals), roll around in the truck when the wheat was combined, wonder how the hell he could spend so much time under the hot sun. 

He works fucking hard.  He never complained but I'd sometimes see how bone tired he was a lot of the time.  He was the sanest member of my family even though he had reason not to be - two tours of drafted active duty in Vietnam left deep scars. 

He and my aunt (no children) were childhood sweethearts (she told me the story of when the draft notification came, it still vivid in her mind so many years later) and are a good team.  She keeps the house running and makes money with things like Amway and mail order collectibles (she has a trailer full of dolls and things - I don't really understand it).  (Not sure what verb tense to use as they're nearing 70 - I sure hope that they've been able to retire.  Oh, nope - a Google search shows they're still working.)

I don't glamorize their difficult life, the waiting for rain - it's why I'm very fond of my job-with-regular-paycheck-and-sick-time.  I know that they had downtime in the winters, when we were never around, but the summers were so very busy constantly - immediate needs for harvest based on weather.  Actual real needs, not the fake emergencies like at my job - which I've learned to manage much better than I'd ever expect. 

It's a really hard life but also they love it in many ways. 

I was thinking of him this morning and how I'd sometimes see him in the mornings grasping a cup of coffee, staring into the distance.  By that time he would have already done many morning chores and was plotting out the rest of the day in his mind. 

In contrast, I was just struggling to boil some water to make coffee, having just fed the chickens.  I'm bone tired from hauling all that dirt and other chores yesterday, though I'm city-girl tired.  And I was wishing that I had a coffee pot like his, where you just push a button and come back in to some coffee.  My system - which I've used since 1992 - is a single cup drip filter.  A plastic cone that I put a paper filter into, fill with freshly-ground coffee, and boil water and first bloom then brew.  All of it - from putting filtered water in the kettle to putting half and half in the finished product - takes maybe 7 minutes.  I'm usually putting away dishes and such during that time. I just haven't worked out the best system of doing it while feeding chickens, etc.  The normal coffee pots (which I have never owned and refuse to drink coffee from as a general principle because life is short and I refuse to drink bad coffee) are so convenient, especially when loaded up the night before (as my aunt would always do) - if not with a timer, just push a button and off you go and then come back to coffee made. 

Little things that I think about.  Figuring out morning routine with poultry.  And Catahooligan, who is wound up today - she keeps stealing socks and bringing them to me, as though to tell me to put them on and let's go walk already.  Oh, poor dog - no walk for you this morning. 

I would like to leave to go camping in about five and a half hours but I'm still not certain of going.  I'm tired.  I'm stiff and sore.  I think I can shake all that off, but it's a lot of packing and prepping for 24 hours, and I still need to read a bunch. 

Yesterday outside I tanned nicely.  Wasn't even thinking about it.  I rarely put on sunscreen for doing work outside.  I do sunscreen for things like kayaking or hiking long distances.  I don't like to burn, and I can see how tanning is skin damage too - but vitamin D is a very good thing. 

If I start packing up, the dog will get so annoying - she stays underfoot every single step and panics if she loses sight of me, afraid that I'm off on a great grand adventure and I've forgotten her.  I appreciate her enthusiasm but it's logistically annoying.  It was easier at my last house where I could pull the truck into the backyard with the gate closed - and she'd just sit in the truck and refuse to get out. 

I keep thinking that the right tenant will show up for my apartment.  The pictures, which reflect the colors of the walls, appeal to a certain kind of person - nearly all women.  The walls aren't pink, but it's apparently really a woman's space.  Every time a boyfriend moves in, I know the days are numbered before they'll move on.  Though I'm perplexed at how dirty these current tenants have made the walls - filthy dirty, smudges everywhere.  So, the paint is 40% off this weekend so I'm off this morning to buy a few gallons.  While it won't be an exact match with the walls and if I have to paint I'll have to paint a whole plane, it will be close enough to not require exacting detail or a second coat.  I love the color of the walls, and people of good taste do, too.  These are not your landlord's beige walls. 

I may need to paint the studio apartment behind my house - the walls are a saturated turquoise and I don't have a paint match, so they get dinged up.  We'll see.  People have also loved those - the tenant moving out says how much she's loved her little blue apartment.

Both tenants moving out have used the word "wonderful" to describe me and I don't know if they're blowing smoke up my ass to get their deposits back or if they mean it.  OR both. I am a strong believer that business transactions can be win-win, which includes renting property.  I'm not warm and fuzzy, and I will evict when necessary, but I'm not trying to exploit or take advantage of people or situations.  Leverage, yes.  Exploit, no. 

So I need to channel my uncle and move my lazy bones along and head into this day.  If we don't go camping, I'll regret it. 

dirt: moved

I finally finished moving the seven cubic yards of dirt I go some weeks back.  I had used it to fill in garden beds, make mounds to grow squash, etc.  With the rest I wasn't sure what to do so I hauled it all to the back corner of my yard, which had been pretty low, and I plan to cover it with a tarp and hope it stays relatively weed-free.  We'll see what Ziggy says about the tarp - she's claimed this dirt hill as hers and she usually has strong opinions.  She likes to run up it and around it and rest in the coolness of it. 

I have a totally hilarious dog.  Who is obsessed with eating fertilizer, which I'd put into the garden bed in the backyard (the only one back there) and then planted okra and then fenced off with bird netting.  Well, she just moves the netting and snacks.  I can't control the netting, but she can just fine.  Don't know if any okra will grow as her footprints pushed the seeds deeper.  We'll see.  I can replant.

I did a little reading but nearly enough.  I continued work on the chicken coop but didn't finish it - still one side to strengthen.  And probably locks to add. 

As I neared the end of the pile of dirt I took a break to put on another reinforcement panel on the coop, and across the street a mother-daughter called out and asked if they could see the chickens.  COULD THEY?  I've been waiting for them!  We first met when Ziggy broke into their backyard, which the mother says is a story they tell each other all the time.  They're super sweet and I like them a lot.  The little girl is just so inquisitive and the mother is such a cheerleader for her.  They're adorable.  I pointed out right beside the chicken coop that the zucchini seeds are popping up and the little girl said: "Are you a ... lady farmer?" with such excitement as though she was asking if I'm Batman.   I laughed but - wouldn't that be a cool thing to be? 

Some assholes stole my lemon and lime trees from my front yard.  That's disheartening.  It happened at my other house with a crepe myrtle, and this is more aggravating because I did so much planning about their planting and the time was right and they were getting established.  They probably killed the goddamn trees, the mother fuckers. 

And this is why I need to put locks on my coop.  Because there are assholes.  Like the assholes today who followed a woman into her house to rob her at gunpoint.  At fucking 1 pm.

This is why I have my dog, because of shit like this.  She's not 100% effective but she freaks people out.  She's intimidating. 

So, I'll get lemon tree from friends who gave me the chickens.  IT's scraggly and hopefully nobody steals it.  I wonder if I should spraypaint it or something.  Wouldn't want to hurt the tree though.  So, there's that.  Now I just want a lime tree again.  When I was at my other house I pulled some calamondin off the tree which is thriving, and I've really been enjoying it squeezed in water.

Speaking of water, I need to start getting organized for camping!  If I can walk tomorrow (it was a lot of hard labor today), then we're going to go.  Fuck schoolwork.  Well, not really - I'll take it with me.  I can read while camping. What else to do when camping alone once it's too dark to hike. 

Super glad I called in sick to work today. 

These chickens are hilarious - they have such personalities.  Look forward to them having more space (netting to arrive MOnday - and if somebody steals it I will be SO PISSED OFF because it's fucking expensive).  The red who was flying up at me has chilled on that - it was obvious that I didn't like it and I think she's actually quite friendly, not trying to terrorize me.  She stands and watches me very closely even when I'm pounding nails into the coop.  I'd think that would bother them but they're like: meh.  After having a dog who is so overly sensitive to EVERYTHING, having chickens who are pretty damn chill is such a relief. 

Ziggy is obsessed with hard-boiled eggs, which is great because I froze a bunch of eggs accidentally (my top fridge shelf gets too cold) and they cracked so I boiled them for her.  The chickens are obsessed with bolted mizuna and wormy kale, which is also great.  I appear obsessed with their poop, based upon how I clean it out every day and toss it into the composter. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

early to rise

I really need to figure out a way to make myself go to bed earlier.  Any suggestions?

I now need a full eight hours of sleep.  Before I was able to go to bed 10-11ish and wake up 6ish.  But now I need a full two hours of in the morning - let out chickens, drink coffee and check email, walk dog, water garden, shower, make breakfast, drive - and if I get to work late, I have to stay late.  So I need to be up no later than 6 am sharp.  Which means I need to be in bed falling asleep by 10 pm sharp. 

I've tried putting an alarm on my laptop to tell me when it's time to go to bed but I find myself thinking: oh, just one more task.  Last night it was "oh but I just need to vacuum."  The previous night it was: "Oh, I just have to make this list." 

I wish seven hours of sleep per night were enough because 11 pm-6 am would be great.  But I need the full eight or I'm straggling. 

Also, these chickens propel me to getting up earlier - they really want to be up and out of the coop when the sun rises.  They want their water and food and to stretch their wings.

Every week I have class until 9 pm which kind of throws me because it takes time to wind down after getting home.

Well, maybe going out camping will help, even if only one night.  To be away from artificial light -though i'll take my headlamp and stash of batteries to read once the sun goes down.  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

calling in well

The weather has been just too fucking nice to sit in an office, so I'm calling in "sick" tomorrow.  Stomach bug, probably. 

I have SO MUCH FUCKING SHIT to do, but I also want to go camping.

The truth of the matter is that I have way too many things to do and work is getting in my way.  So is school.  Tomorrow I need to: move 3 cu yards of dirt, fertilize and plant a bunch of okra, complete making the chicken coop fort Knox, make and install tomato supports, buy paint, and so on.  I may need to show the apartment. 

The other crappy news for me is that my tenant is moving out - the one here at my house.  And she's moving out like 36 hours before I have to leave town for a week, which is really sucky timing for getting a tenant in right away.  She's moving back to Oregon - New Orleans isn't working out like she'd hoped.  Which doesn't surprise me - this is a hard fucking city, and that's why I said she should only do a six-month lease instead of the year that she thought she wanted.  The really bad thing there - on top of the money when my mortgage just got jacked up 50% - is that Ziggy will be utterly bereft.  Ziggy adores her and has loved their time together, and this is going to be really hard on her.  Finding another tenant who loves dogs so much and is so patient - that will be hard. 

So I have TWO apartments coming open soon and ZERO new tenants lined up which is stressful on numerous levels.  Because I have final exams soon and I'm so behind.

Deep breaths. 

After I call in sick, I want to work my ass off, and then Saturday afternoon I want to say "fuck it" and go to the forest.  It's our last chance for a long time and I think sleeping outside is just what I need to refocus and rejuvenate. 

What I want to believe is that things will all work out.  They usually do.  And I can cover a few months without tenants if I have to.  I don't WANT to, but I have a home equity loan to tide me over - it's why I don't keep a nestegg but instead try to vigorously pay down debt, knowing I can tap into that when necessary.  This may be necessary because insurance is coming due soon. 

Does anyone here judge me for calling in sick to work?   It's been a hard thing to come 'round to, and I usually only do it when things are slow and I can be out without undue burden on others.  When I know that if I don't take some time off that either physically or mentally things will get much worse.  It seems to me like I do it a lot, but over 2 and 1/4 year, I've only used up six days?  Wait, how can that be right?  Hm. 

Yeah, I'll definitely be calling in and getting an early start with hauling dirt. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

and also

I know that violence happens everywhere but it's so pervasive here.  IT seems we're back to a murder a day - multiple shootings every day for damn sure. 

Today someone sort of lazily tried to get me to stop my car (standing in the road, waving).  I was not stopping.

I'm tired of living in a place where stopping would easily get me killed.  Carjackings are happening all the time. 

The rough aspects of New Orleans are gorgeous and fucking tough. 

the itch is real

I went to my other house to check that the key I think is for that house is right, and while I love that house and the apartments and all that it has been for me, I've got no desire to move back.  And I realize that part of why I'm itchy with my current situation is that people are moving in.  Lots are getting filled in.  Neighbors built a deck that overlooks my backyard.  More traffic.

I grew up in the wilderness.  I don't know how many acres, but it was completely surrounded by forest.  I'd hike up the creek to more wilderness.  I'd cross the road to the ocean which was a park.  There was so much goddamn wilderness and when I was old enough to drive it was often to drive up mountains and then keep on climbing.  I became friends with a girl whose father owned an island and it was fucking magical to go out there in many ways. 

I like the comforts of cities but good lordy me do I like privacy that vast expanses of land provide.  And it's not just the way that I grew up - it's how we spent the summers, on very large farms far from cities.  I know how to entertain myself. 

I think that I"ve always known that I'd tire of city life and want to go back to my roots.  But if I'm moving to a farm I need to do it before I get too much older. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

answers can be simple

Sugar cane.

Vinyl covered fencing.

Those are my recent simple answers.  I have a corner of my yard - maybe just ten feet - and they built a deck on their house so people are now always staring over into my yard.  I don't like it.  So I thought: replace those fence boards with 8'.  Um, cost and hassle.  Put in some banana trees.  OK, but watering and fertilizing? 

Sugar cane.

I have some at my old house because my awesome neighbor who passed away a year or two ago had brought some from her small Louisiana town when she was homesick and stuck it in the ground and it spread into my yard and now it is kind of a menace how it blocks the backdoor, but I like it.  And I would really like it blocking the view. And it grows FAST, and it's free to me, and no hassle care.  And at least one of my friends really loves to chew on sugar cane. 

Vinyl-coated fencing - I got some to put around the chicken coop in the back, as a kind of second barrier to keep Ziggy away from the chickens and I sprung for the nice stuff because: no rusting and no cutting me.  It's 2" x 3" which is also a great size for many other things.  When I moved the chickens up front, I put it in the corner of the yard to shield them and for zucchini and cucumbers to grow up.  Then I cut pieces and am covering the coop with it - my thinking is: this fencing installed with poultry staples on the outside will stop a critter from being able to remove the 1/4" fencing that is stapled (with a staple gun, so not solid) from the inside.  Two layers, this coop is Fort Knox.  It looks like a chook prison.  But, if it keeps them safe, it's good. 

I'll also use it to make these stakes for tomatoes, to save money on tomato cages.

And then I'll be out.  But it's been so useful, I might just get some more.  Shoulda gone with the 100 feet roll.  Oh well. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

impulse purchases

I am on the verge of purchasing some quite expensive poultry netting with solar-powered electrification. 


1. The chooks would get much more space to roam about.  (While the coop I got was advertised for eight chickens, it's tight with six.)
2.  They would be protected while roaming about.
3.  I would use it to wrap around the coop so there would be greater protection all around.
4.  Their diet would be better with this greater access to grass/weeds/bugs.  (Though: even THEY don't like the grass up front.  I'm telling you, this grass is the wickedest thickest grass I've ever seen.  It's so difficult.  Fantastic for people who want turf and have a heavy-duty lawnmower, but that's not me.)
5.  They would fulfill their primary job for me: removing the grass and fertilizing the ground.  While they don't much like the grass, they will destroy it with time.  (Less than a day on a spot in the backyard and they obliterated all green beneath them.  Not so up front.)
6.  I won't have to keep jerry-rigging up haphazard solutions to the lack of space.  

1.  Cost.  It's literally hundreds of dollars. 

I go back and forth about it.  Yes, of course I can rig up something cheaper, but I don't have much spare time.  (Because I'm using it all by researching my options on-line.)  After school's out in a month i'll have more time but that's too long to wait for space and safety solutions since I put them in the front. 

So here's how I justify it potentially: I got a quote from landscapers to develop my front yard - which was likely just taking a backhoe and removing the sod and dumping new garden soil on top - and it cost more than this netting.  If the chickens do it, it's much better for the soil and I'd end up with much better ground to garden with.  Plus they can help every time the seasons change with clearing the old crops and tilling the soil and eating bugs.  The netting would allow flexibility for me to move it wherever I like.  (Plus: his plans were only exactly what I had thrown out as ideas and he would plant the lime tree too close to the others.  I like him quite a lot but I don't think this front yard was a good project for us to do together.) 

Plus: eggs. I mean, that conversation isn't really happening because I obviously already committed.  The poultry is here.  I don't know if that means I'll get more chickens later or what I"ll do when these chickens stop producing - but I don't have to know.  I'll figure it out.  Like I say, the eggs are lagniappe - what I really want them for is their ground clearing and tilling work.  To have a whole system in place.  And this poultry netting will make that possible. 

YEs, I could get less expensive netting, without electricity.  But I also need the security that it provides.  And it's solar-powered with outlet recharger backup which is all nice.  I've done a ton of research - including extensive chatting with their salespeople - and it's a good product built to last. 

I'm clearly talking myself into this.  I just got my bills all under control and want to live frugally, but ... yeah.

So, yesterday Ziggy was a couch potato.  I think that moving the chickens to the front reduced her stress levels so significantly that she was able to finally exhale and she mostly slept and looked kind of pathetic.  This morning she's raring to go though, already offering toys and indicating a strong preference that we go for a walk right now.  I'll start some laundry, take her out, hang laundry, go meet chicken friend and get their coop (not sure what I'll do with it but I'll figure it out - probably for now just scrub it down and store it), get their worm bin and take to my tenant and check out that she really is handling the yardwork that is her duty that she says she's doing, etc.  Then a lot of reading and I tell you - it's hard as fuck.  The weather is so perfect these days and I hate not being out in it ALL THE TIME. I have a short paper to write.  I need to get caught up on the dog training and work with Ziggy.  I need to cook - a frittata likely.  Because I have a TON of eggs.  And I should plan meals for the week and go shopping and also go to the feed store to get chicken feed.  And list the apartment for rent.  And do more reading.  And secure the coop, and plant collards and chard, and maybe order banana trees.  And put in a fence trellis.  And move dirt, and plant cucumbers and squash to go on the trellis.  Oh, so much dirt to move.  Once I get my weedwhacker back and I can work on clearing that area in the back and move dirt to plant okra. I really want my driveway back so it would be great to finish moving dirt, though highly unlikely this weekend.  Sigh. 

Sheesh, that's more than I can do in the two days I have left with this weekend.  I sure do wish I didn't have to work in an office for a living.  Sigh.  Oh, and I have to cut the grass. 

OH, we did go to agility last week but I don't think we'll do it again.  I liked the woman and Ziggy did very well with her, but Ziggy was WAY over threshold because there is a dog right next to the agility field that was barking aggressively.  How obnoxious.  So Ziggy was way stressed out by that.  Plus the woman was trying to help with training but some of her advice is antiquated - like "make the dog sit before opening the door" and "don't let the dog on the sofa, ever."  No, no, no.  What's important is that she not rush out of doors, which she no longer does.  And that if I ask her to move off the sofa that she do, which she does.  What people don't understand is: Ziggy at home with me is awesome.  She exhibits all sorts of awesome impulse control and she's the best little companion and right-hand dog.  It's the rest of the world stress that sets her off and makes her brain shut down because it's too much adrenaline.  That has nothing to do with whether I let her on the sofa. 

OK, time to face the day.  It's another gorgeous one. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

to the front

The chickens got moved to the front yard.  I just couldn't keep Ziggy on leash any longer.  The coop was fucking heavy and I got help from a 64-year-old friend.  Because middle-aged women can do anything, even chicken magic.  She got eggs as her reward and said: wait, this is a lot of eggs, are you sure? (it was about 9)  I looked at her and scoffed.  These birds are giving me four-six eggs per day.  How many eggs can one person and one dog eat?  (Because yes, Ziggy gets hardboiled eggs, especially those that are slightly cracked.)

The neighbors are awe-struck by these chickens and everytime Ziggy goes crazy I look out and there are people standing and staring at them.  Two conversations: one with my direct neighbor, all in Spanish because she just said screw it to trying in English.  She's from Chiapas and I was so delighted to hear that because: agricultural revolutionaries!  She said she loves the countryside and so does her husband (which I knew from our conversations - and our contest to "who can make their frontyard more country?").  I asked if they'd be willing to take care of the chickens when I have to travel and she was exuberantly agreeable to doing anything I need. 

I'm having the hardest damn time reading for school.  So much to do and the motivation does not exist.  I had a two-hour window yesterday afternoon that I spent in the hammock with my book.  I read two pages, but I sure did enjoy laying in the hammock otherwise.  I don't know how to force myself to read - if I say: "OK, I have to sit here for 30 minutes," then 30 minutes pass with the book in front of me but no reading.  IF I say: "OK, I have to sit here until I read this chapter" then I sit and do nothing until an emergency or a phone call or something else happens to interrupt.  I'm awful. 

I just have so many chores and they distract me.  I need to put wire on the outside of the coop with fasteners that can't be ripped up, to protect them.  And I had this great idea to put up a fence along the edge of the yard as kind of a barrier but also to be used as a trellis for cucumbers and squash.  And now I really need to move that huge pile of dirt because I really need to park in the space where it is.  And I need to replace some fence boards in the back that Ziggy showed me are decayed straight through.  And cook - I have a ton of vegetables to eat but they don't prepare themselves (I want a salad with chinese cabbage and chicken, and I want a frittata with mizuna or green beans).  And work the bed with fertilizer and then plant collards and chard.  And and and and and and and and and ... Maybe my neighbor has a friend from Chiapas who needs a green card and we could marry and he be my farmer buddy.

To be fair, I was really lazy yesterday because of backpain.  I really just wanted to sleep all day because of the pain that was bad enough to induce nausea and general malaise.  I am somewhat better today but still should take it slow. 

I'm on the edge of ordering some electrified poultry netting (with solar charger) to let the gallinas run free and protected.  They could still be there for hawks but I'm more concerned about cats and stray dogs and raccoons - especially as I could just let them have the run when I'm home and paying attention.  I wouldn't be able to save all of them from a hawk attack but they wouldn't be obliterated.  I'm excited about them removing my grass for me. 

Ah, fuck me.  My tenants at my old house are moving out.  They've been there for almost three years (first her, then he moved in later) so I can't complain.  But ... now is not such a great time, especially with short notice and my final exam coming up and such. 

Maybe there's not much to do to repair it.  Maybe it'll just be a matter of a few hours.

Maybe.  Sigh. It's always more work than I expect.

Maybe my neighbor here can do any necessary repairs.  It's just hard with the language barrier and it's awkward because of giving money to neighbors, etc.   I asked him to repair my gate here and he said he'll do it tomorrow so we'll see how that is.  I've seen some of his work so I know he does a good job, but it can be hard.  Today when we were talking about the gate, he told me of things he'd repaired here for the seller of the house and he was told to half-ass it, like caulking rotted soffits.  If things work out well, I may have him take care of all those things since he already knows the issues and it's convenient. 

This may change things with my other tenant - she may need to start sharing the yard.  We'll see what happens. 

I may find things that aren't the tenants' fault at all - like leaking roof or something that they haven't noticed or told me about. So it could be a bigger deal than I'd like.  But, she did tell me last month that they would be looking to move out in the next few months so it's not a surprise, and better to get it done, I guess.  I could charge more rent, too. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

lady problems

I took time off work for a long weekend for two things: yardwork and camping/hiking.  Oh, and carry a chicken coop.

And then my back rebelled.  IT's the L3 of course.  I woke up in some pain and i just got worse throughout the day.  If I stood up straight, my legs were numb and difficult to move.  So I have a magic chiropractor and her staff usually fits me in right away, and because she is amazing we look whole system.  I often get back pain on the first day of my period, which can be managed with manganese and time.   This was different, though.  My L3 - which is connected to the uterus - was so tight that it'd pulled everything else out badly.  And while sometimes when I get this knotted up and twisted it can work itself out, the numb legs were alarming.  And sometimes it gets worse and I am not a fan of when I can't move at all. 

And one of the things that I like about my chiropractor is that I said to her: "So, will I be able to go hiking and camping with my dog tomorrow?" and she said, "Sure."  She never tries to limit me - she will advise things when asked directly* but I think she trusts my good judgment to stop when I hurt.  She also doesn't say: you have to come back twice a week, or anything like that.  We have a very fluid relationship.

Anyway, I feel somewhat better today but definitely not ready to haul heavy gear or sit in a truck two hours or sleep on the ground or any of that. 

Which is actually a good thing because I REALLY need to get read up for class - I've fallen egregiously behind.  So I see a day of sitting in a hammock with my fearless pup. 

I keep coming back to this and I think it needs to happen: chickens in the front yard.  Ziggy is so stressed and worked up about them in the backyard, which even though they don't seem stressed they will be when I let her off-leash and she lunges and barks every time one of them flaps their wings.  I have thoughts of how to beef up security - padlocks on all the gates/door, another layer of fencing attached to the outside and out the sides - and to give them more room (an additional run to hook to the current run, to use when I'm semi-supervising).  I can put up shade for the one side and actually the front yard is easier to control the sun and it is gone in the afternoon which is nice for summer.  The other advantage for me and them is that I'm gardening in the front yard so I can easily toss the caterpillars and greens in their run as I'm checking the garden. 

The downsides?  Well, first, we're illegal.  Only four pets are allowed per household in the city limit, and this would be seven.  But in the slim chance that I get reported and cited, I think I could maybe give three of the chickens to my tenant at my other house and then we're fine.  I don't particularly want to because I'd have to be responsible for their setup, but it's a fall-back plan.  Second, I think they're more exposed to predators up front because Ziggy doesn't have patrolling rights there.  That potentially includes humans who may want to steal them or even just be assholes and let them out (and I say that because I used to hang out with assholes like that and when we'd get drunk and high we'd think things like that were funny).  Third, less interaction with them - I like seeing and watching them.  But, they don't care about me and they won't feel anything's missing.  And I do spend some time in the front with the garden.  And maybe as Ziggy gets adjusted to seeing them in the front she won't see them as such demonic terrorists and we could move them to the back.

I had an email exchange with a soapmaker, a woman here who wrote on backyard chickens and the need for a chicken bunker.  She told me that her couch potato lovable lump beagle killed four chickens which was shocking to all involved.  Well, Ziggy being a chicken killer would surprise exactly no one, so I want to remove that from happening.  There are sometimes loose dogs in the neighborhood so I do need to beef up security but the difference is the random stray dog as opposed to a pretty smart Catahoula who would have 12 hours a day to examine the coop and scheme up ways to invade it.  She's not usually very obsessed with things but that destruction would become her life goal, and she would terrorize them. 

IF I felt that the threat level was high, I could also pretty easily electrify the coop to keep out predators.  I've never seen a raccoon over here, but I'm sure they exist.  Lots of neighborhood cats, etc.  I wouldn't want to put an electric fence up in the backyard because of Ziggy and my understanding of the Catahoula brain.  But stranger danger?  Hell yeah I'll electrocute it. 

So, yeah.  I think the front yard is my answer.  Once my back is better and I have a buddy to help move it.

A trip to Lowe's is in the near future.  After I walk the poor long-suffering Catahooligan who really just wants her yard back but will adapt to a regular walking schedule if she has to. 

Ok, but really: studying.  #1 priority for today. 

*I went to see her first because of my hip flexors.  The doctors all said I'd need surgery to fix them because they're torn.  She said: yeah, I can't help you with torn tissue.  But she told me what to avoid (stairs, ellipticals, that sort of thing) and marveled at how my legs had down workarounds by overcompensating with significant muscle mass to overcome the issue.  And it's been ten years without surgery.  I'm running no marathons, but I'm able to walk still. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

how to eat vegetables

Breakfast: sweet potato shredded and sauteed with one Korean sausage link; 2 eggs cooked on top

Lunch:  leftover lamb and collards (both procured at farmers market)

Dinner: boiled potatoes tossed with mizuna from front yard, roasted chicken

OK, I don't really need the chicken for dinner but I'll have a bite and leave the rest to strip and repurpose.

Oh and dessert after I take my poor suffering beast out for a walk: local strawberries and yogurt.  Yum.  If I can find a good local milk supplier I'll start making my own yogurt again.  My dog loves it and I hear it's good for chickens.  And it does taste better fresh, with some local honey and yum. 

It's also salad time so that would be good with the chicken - maybe a big cucumber salad.  Tomatoes. 

I'd like to be here for the farmers market on Thursday but we may be going out camping.  WE'll see. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

bad news, good news

It will be awhile before I trust Ziggy to be loose in the yard with the chickens.  She's already improved drastically, but their quick moves freak her out.  She's absolutely certain that they are demonic terrorists, and she absolutely loses her shit if we approach.  Tenant was hanging out with us and when she got up to leave she was going to see the chickens and Ziggy absolutely freaked out, so tenant backed up and walked to her apartment and Ziggy spent the whole walk looking at tenant, looking at chickens, and back and forth.  Absolute high alert, sure that we are in grave danger.  If I go anywhere near them, Ziggy is ready to rip apart the fence she's tied to. 

Probably better for her to see them as mortal enemies than as prey, as I can teach her pretty easily to overcome her aversion to things that she's afraid of.  OK, not exactly easy, but we know this drill. 

The good news is: I was worried about our worktrip in June and having her not have access to a yard.  Even before I moved here and put in a dog door, Ziggy basically always had free run of the house and yard when not kept crated.  I wasn't so much worried about her having an accident or anything (since she never has), but just that it would stress her out and that we don't know how to communicate that she needs to go out.  But, today I learned that we do actually.  She whined and I said: you better be telling the truth, and she was absolutely telling the truth and with just a little walking the yard she pooped and then peed.  Which means she can be an apartment dog for a week without any great difficulty.  She's not a wild barnyard beast. 

Wow, I never expected these chickens to be so easy from the beginning.  They put themselves in the coop.  I went out at dusk with some strawberries, expecting there to be drama.  These poor chickens have been through a lot today and they may not recognize a coop for what it is as it's so different.  But when I went out, four of the six were in.  The other two were waiting their turns and would hop in and see it wasn't time for them yet and hop back out.  I encouraged them with words alone and soon everyone was in and I closed the door. 

I guess after taking on the Ziggy Project I deserve easy pets, but these guys are beyond easy.  The only thing I don't much like is how much they stare at me.  They already know I'm the foodbag lady and they come rushing if I talk to them, but they like to watch me across the yard as though waiting for me to tell them what's up.  No wonder they're freaking Ziggy out so bad, with all their staring at us. 

The girls are here

This is one chill flock of chickens.  They seem unperturbed about being moved, losing their rooster, and being in a totally new spot.  I just opened up the dog crate that they traveled in and they said: "hey! let's go!" and they ran into the coop/run.  I'm still working on getting them out of the run and into the coop before they lay eggs on the ground, but I think we'll get it.  (ETA: I've now collected two eggs from the coop and seen most of them up there so I think they'll get it.)

It's a small coop/run but it will work for awhile.  Within 20 minutes they made dirt bath areas and had dirt bath parties.  They're delighted. They're pretty nice birds though one pecked me when I was too slow with the scratch I was trying to lure them into the coop with.  She didn't hurt but started training me.

My dog is completely out of control with all this situation and it's going to be hard for us.  She was already so over threshold with my travel and return and being off the drugs, so now she's just lost it.  Freaking out like an insane beast.  So, slower than I'd hoped, but we'll get there.  She can just be so exhausting. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017


I'm in another town.

Leaving that furry face is hard and gets harder the closer we get.  She loves her friends but was not happy about being left there.  I don't pack in advance because it stresses her out.  She kind of kept it together pretty well today until I zipped up her bag and took it to the door and then she was leaping straight up in the air.  I GET TO GO.  Yeah, I really need to take her camping soon.

I"m in a town that I think I like even though it's sprawly with chain stores.  I just had a fantastic dinner, a hipster foodie place, and I was not disappointed even though they couldn't tell me WHICH mustard greens were in the rice (which was fantastic) and rabbit and broccoli and egg.   The rice was perfectly cooked, with a little crunch, and something left a charred taste and it was just so so good. 

Night 2 and I'm alive.  I'm cranky and exhausted but really my whole new slacker vibe is paying off.  First - I don't hustle.  Other people hustle to do things I used to hustle to do.  I sometimes build up points by doing the hard stuff - like shutting somebody down.  DOWN.  "But - but - but" NO. "Well, I have to call a person who outranks you."  "YOu are welcome to do that."  And then I got a posse of people who outrank THAT person and I was ready for war but she didn't come for me because only an idiot does that more than once.  It makes me think of this time I went out with a Puerto Rican friend and a large Black woman ran into her and spilled drinks.  She started to get all blustery with my friend and causing a ruckus and my friend just got real, real fast.  There was finger wagging and: "I ain't white, bitch.  Don't try to start that shit with me." And there are so many layers of complexity to analyzing that moment that sticks with me always, but for today the lesson that I carry is: don't come for me. Because I will channel my inner Maxine Waters.

Image result for maxine water how to come for me

What else? 

I presented some hard things to people and it could have turned south but I was butterfly-flitting.  I had fancy pretty spreadsheets and I had a plan, and they succumbed to my charms.

A number of people told me how much they appreciate me and what a great job I'm doing.  Suckers.  I'm slacking like a villain.

Oh oh - I happened to run into a woman that was totally bizarre, not related to work, when I was out.  She recognized me.  I didn't recognize her because (a) she used to have the most awesome natural hair and now she has some straightened colored coif, and (b) we hardly knew each other.  Like, maybe we spoke a few times in passing.  She was a government worker with abused children and I was an attorney for the kids.  I generally had a very good relationship with the low-level workers, but their supervisors saw me as a thorn.  There was the time the agency attorney announced that all staff were forbidden from speaking to me - then was when a worker had taken one of my kids and put him basically in a completely inappropriate and restrictive setting across the state and woudln't tell me where he was.  WRONG AND ILLEGAL, and I made them pay.

I loved that job.  I really, really loved it.  I loved mostly making a difference every day in kids' lives and helping them through what is for many kids the absolute worst that their lives can be.  My connection to my clients was really important and it fueled my passion and ferocity.  I was a brand-new lawyer and I was fierce.  I worked with just the best people - amazing opposing counsel who taught me so much and judges who did their very best by kids.  An attorney supervisor who stayed out of my way - I would get frustrated with him for not training or supporting me but letting me learn on my own was the best.

Why don't I call that guy and ask for my old job back? Well, I did.  First, it can't be in New Orleans.  And while I'm culturally ok with that, financially that would be hard since my house is there.  Second, it would cut my pay almost in half.  That seems really irresponsible financially.  Third, it would be going backwards in some ways.  Just because it was the perfect job for me a decade ago doesn't mean it still is.  I've changed.  I now don't want to go to court because i don't want to wear a suit.  I've learned the art of slacking.

For her to remember me though just like that, calling out my whole name when she hasn't seen me in many years - that's impressive.  She was also very happy to see me and said she remembers my good work.  Which is rewarding.  If I could just live with that salary.  Sigh.

I had to arrange a meeting for lunch and so I got to the room to set up and then I went ahead to eat and a man working there said: "Ma'am, you're gonna need some tabasco for that gumbo there."  "But, you dont' have Crystal!  I'm from NEw Orleans, this area!  I need Crystal hot sauce."

Well it turned out that it was fine with the tabasco, and that he is a retired teacher and was a teacher in New Orleans and after Katrina when they fired all the teachers (such an injustice) he stayed in this other part of the state and raised his kids and taught and now retired.   And he just seemed to really enjoy our conversation, and I did too.  No idea why he approached me and thought me approachable but I appreciate men who do, and I know he wanted more time but work called. 

I ended up in conversation with a co-worker and we commiserated about security at our building, how they're always trying to force us to banter with them and share personal secrets.  "I want to be polite, not forced friendliness."  "EXACTLY!  ME TOO!  I thought I was the only one!"  Taht was a bonding experience and she's so sweet and sent me an email about our exchange later.  We were interrupted by a man who KEPT INTERRUPTING and wanting to chat and I kept ignoring him and wanted to talk to my new friend, and then it became clear that he was there to talk to me not her.  Why?  I'm rejecting you. At this point I'm beginning to worry that the very strong "don't approach me" vibes I give off are not working. 

Which makes me laugh to think about when a VIP came over and said: what are y'all laughing at? and I didn't want to say, but: "My dog, but I know how you make fun of me for my dog."  He turns to my co-worker and says: "Look, here's what I'm saying: her dog is medicated.  What does that say?  Your dog is so depressed that you're its owner that you have to give it anti-depressants.  How pathetic of an owner do you have to be?" but he said it so funny I laughed until I cried. 

So, this trip hasn't been awful.  But I'd rather be home.  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

flit like a butterfly

While my job is exasperating and ridiculous, I don't hate it right now.  I've adjusted it to me in many ways.  I sometimes know how to tell people "no" in a way that they feel like winners.  I dance around the myriad personalities and opinions to just sneak in what needs to be done.  Like, I was asked to get something signed.  OK, but I had to get FOUR layers of approval first and these are busy people.  Through a series of emails and phone calls, I got it done in record time.  And then the person who should have but hadn't signed it for the past ten years said: well, that was easy.  Easy? No.  STrategically accomplished with minimum drama?  Yes. 

You'd think after over two years that I'd figure things out, but the rules and leadership are constantly changing.  What the previous person always wanted done the new person is opposed to, etc.  It's a constant dance.  The funniest is when the new person says: I want this. And I say well, this other person who approves it won't accept it like that, so let's word it this way.  And he usually now says: that's a great idea. 

He has stopped looping me in on every damn thing which is good and bad - bad if I can't intervene before things become a problem, but good because he doesn't get on my nerves as much.  And he told somebody outside our organization that I do a very good job but that they want to hire my boss instead of promoting me because they want that other person to do something else.  That is something that I can do but I don't want to, so this is fabulous.  NOt as fabulous is that something else is not something we need to do, and actually we need that person to do other things which now apparently will still be on me, but basically: I still won't have to wear a suit.  I may sound ridiculous but I do not like wearing a suit.  At the jobs I've had where I've had to wear suits, I've been constantly aggravated and uncomfortable. 

People say: dress like the job you want to have, and so I dress slovenly.  I dress as poorly as I can get away with.  It's more comfortable, more frugal, and less threatening.  People: I don't ever want to wear heels again.  They're THE WORST.  I prefer cowboy boots and jeans though I'm only allowed that one day per week. 

I had a long conversation with my advisor recently and we found our common ground: we both lack ambition.  We fall into roles with responsibility if things need to be done, but we have no desire to be in charge or upwardly mobile or any of that.  I just want to work my 40 hours per week and then have my life.  I don't want these people bothering me outside that time because I'll be too busy moving chicken manure and growing far more food than I know what to do with. I don't want a PhD because I want to be prestigious - I want it because I'm curious and like to finish things I start.  But I'd rather be cutting pressure-treated 2x4s to frame the chicken coop that I will figure out how to convert to a tractor.  And I want a portable table saw because I'm a menace with my current set-up. I want to grow things in dirt and see what works and what doesn't.  I want to walk and train my dog so she's less of a jackass.  I don't want stress at work, I don't want the drama that comes of being in charge.  

I just want a drama-free life. 

Monday, April 3, 2017


The wife of your lover who died last February messages to say hello and see how you're doing.

The son of your lover who died this January posts on Facebook about missing his daddy, posting a memory of an exchange they had that captures the essence of that man.

Love and loss.  How the world turns. But it still can make me suck my breath in hard.

She and I only met once and it was awkward. They weren't married and she and I knew of each other. He wasn't a dirty cheater or anything like that.  I haven't met the son yet but I assume I will someday. It's a small town, we have mutual friends. We'll both be missing his daddy.

I've seen a lot of photos posted of both of these men and it's even more obvious how much they loved me. How their eyes softened and warmed and danced when I took the picture.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

chickens in six days

What I am most excited about for getting chickens is turning shit to shit, trash to treasure.


I have a lot of things to feed the birds.  I have fantasies of them someday free ranging my backyard and picking bugs and weeds; even until then they will have a bounty of so very many weeds especially if I can rig up a tractor device. 

Every time now that I pick a caterpillar off a plant, pull off some leaves with bug eggs, rip out some weeds, contemplate removing cool weather crops to put in the warm weather ones - I think: soon.  Soon I will have little gremlins to devour these things with delight and to provide me with manure, to make better soil. 

The soil here is ok but what doesn't need compost?  In the dirt to the front of my house that I've now turned twice, having six weeks of cover crops seems to have made quite a difference.  I imagine how rich it will be once some batches of compost are worked in.

I think of planting banana trees and how they're heavy feeders and I think confidently: yeah, give me a little time to collect and age it, and you'll be fine. 

I haven't found a great source of compost here.  It's always far too woody, and I don't toss enough produce to make much (it's been a year with the compost bin I have, and only one side is only 1/3 done.  Though maybe I should switch to the other side and let what I have compost without adding more, if the black soldier flies are on the job.

Anyway, I hauled dirt like a madwoman today and I hurt.  Sore sore sore.  Trying to power through with reading, but, alas. 

Finished the coop with some help from my neighbor on cutting the door - why they would sell a coop without a door makes no sense to me, but oh well.  It's a very secure door, probably too secure so will be a pain in the ass to open and close every day.  It's a first attempt.  It's a pure example of jerry-rigged.  Maybe someday I'll build a real coop. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saturday snapshots

This morning I headed out the bayou for a wildflower walk.  'Tis the season.  It was really nice - the weather was gorgeous, and I learned new plants.

As I drove back over the Mississippi, I was listening to my very favorite radio show, one done in New Orleans.  The person is a very highly accomplished journalist and has worked all over the world and now she's here in New Orleans interviewing people about music.  It's a wonderful show.  There was a part in her interview today that made me laugh until tears flowed, it was so funny.  And so I Facebooked that and tagged her, because somehow I was able to send her a friend request at some point, and she COMMENTED ON MY POST.  She's my hugest celebrity crush and she references me by name and continues the joke with me. 

Then I went and got a sno-ball at my favorite place and spent the hour in line chatting with a young girl and two men visiting here for a bachelor party.  We anguished over our decisions, I stopped everyone in line for reviews of their choices.  I was utterly shameless in a way that New Orleans encourages. 

And then I saw a tree overloaded with the fruit that my dead lover's son makes into punch and is harvesting across the city, so I posted that on his Facebook wall. 

And now I'm home with a heap of digging and dirt moving and water protecting and construction to do to get ready for garden and chickens.  My trusty Catahoula at my side. 

Ziggy: unfiltered

Taking Ziggy off the Prozac is bringing back her personality and making even more certain that I did the right thing to be adamant about getting her off it.   

Typical scene: me assembling a chicken coop.  Her running loops around the yard and playing vigorously with toys.  Totally out of my hair but ready to jump in any moment I call. 

She's back to sleeping a normal amount, not a zombie-ish 20+ hours per day. 

She's back to putting me to bed and waking me up in the mornings. 

But she's still handling stress like a champ.  This morning we were on a walk passing by a dog barking from the yard, a man she always gives a look to (and used to bark at), and a stranger coming out of the house talking to us.  Three triggers and she assessed them and then looked at me.  Huge progress!  Two days ago we got all buckled up to go out for a walk, I opened the door, and an aggressive Rottweiler from down the street was running free.  I said, "What?" and Ziggy did a "hey" bark.  The Rott walked away and Ziggy sat down and watched it.  Not freaking out, not barking or lunging, just waiting for me to decide what we were going to do (we went to the backyard for frisbee because I wasn't wanting to wrestle that Rott - its people are jerks). 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

collards and berries and lamb, oh my

I went to the farmer's market with a bundle of cash and a burning passion to eat local.  And away I came with local strawberries, eggs, ground lamb, drum (fish), yogurt, collards, sweet potatoes, calendula plant, tomatoes, and I forget what else.


IT's a tiny little thing in a parking lot once a week and today was a doozy of a thunderstorm, but most of them were still there.  Unfortunately not my carrot woman, and I really wanted to make a carrot salad so I guess I'll use regular carrots to go with the fabulous ones I got a couple weeks ago.  When I stayed a few months in France I got addicted to these supermarket carrot salads and for some reason the thought of making them myself had never occurred to me.  But now that I have a food processor: easy peasy. 

Obviously first I need to eat the drum.  Maybe with that carrot salad for dinner tonight.  And then I'll make a dish with meatballs from the lamb cooked with collards and apricots.  Strawberries in the yogurt.  Sweet potatoes and eggs for breakfast.  Calendula in the herb garden.  Tomatoes with the rest of the feta that I love so much.

And that's it I think.

The lamb and egg people were super helpful and nice and I wonder if they would collect lamb bones for my Catahooligan.  Soon I'll have my own eggs but I'll buy other things from them.   OH, I should have gotten some lettuce for the tomatoes and feta.  Oh well.  I have a little bit in my front yard. 

A cooperative of African-American farmers was back this week so I made sure to hit them up and ask what is coming up next with them.  The guy there today was very helpful - sometimes a guy there has no idea what he's selling or how people eat it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

love and loss

I realized yesterday that I don't actually hate my job right now.  I'm just so depressed that I'm having a hard time with everything. 

I keep cycling through the grief stages with HNIC which is silly but I get angry at him and then in denial, and then I get wracked with sadness and loss.  And i know that I just have to ride it out and let it go on its own - there's absolutely nothing I can do.  Talking or medicating won't help - I'm just really sad about losing my friend.  It's also amplified because of getting to know his son on Facebook - I see pieces of the worldview, the smile, the humor.

I just really fucking miss my friend - or the expectation of him. I didn't have to see him that often to know he was always there.  I think of things and think of texting or emailing him and then I remember.  I have conversations with him in my mind.  I just really sad. 

And now that Ziggy is cycling off hte Prozac, her EI is back and she's all over this.  She's my ballast.  Literally, because she's lying on my feet right now.  The way she tucks me into bed is just about the cutest thing ever - how she feels duty-bound to lay with me until I fall asleep, or close enough.

My friend's dog died of cancer two days ago.  Only seven years old.  It happens, a lot recently it seems.  And he loved his dog as I love Ziggy, and the devastation is so deep.  A special dog is sewn to your soul, and that being ripped away causes such pain.

Yesterday Ziggy got loose and ran the streets.  IT was entirely my fault - I left the garage door open, absent-mindedly.  She'd been outside 10-15 minutes and I thought she was chewing on a bone.  Then the doorbell rang and my tenant was holding her - as soon as Ziggy had seen her car pull up, she ran over cheerfully and it was a quick catch.  Oh my goodness how proud of herself my dog was, beaming with self-satisfaction at having just run the streets.  But also proud of being caught and of being brought home.  She was happy to see me.  I would like to think that she would have eventually run right back into the house.  She doesn't want to leave me, she just wants to make her own adventure. 

And what I don't think about is how differently that could have ended.  What if she'd been hit by a car?  She's recently decided that chasing them is fun (ever since a terrier did it to us when we were out on a country road).  What if she'd scared people?  What if she bit one, even accidentally if she thought they were playing? 

A man had been sitting in his car and marveled at my tenant's courage in grabbing the wild beast.  He was too afraid to face her wild eyes, and my tenant just scoffed. 

I can't even really think through all the bad things that could have happened.  She could have run away, been killed, been aggressive and reported.  It all comes back to: I don't want to lose my dog.  She grounds me, she is my ballast. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

more good food

I just had a dinner of salmon cakes and cucumber-dill-feta salad.  Lunch was kale-potato-bean-sausage soup. 

I know how incredibly lucky I am to have the resources to eat so well.  I look forward to many frittatas in my future with eggs from my chickens (if Ziggy doesn't make a feast of them) and vegetables from my garden.  I don't even much like frittatas but I will learn to make them how I like.

Things are moving forward at the Stardust Homestead.  Tomorrow I am scheduled to get the garden bed which I will need to assemble and locate, and then I will order dirt.  Minimum of 6 cubic yards so I need a plan.  When I called to ask about it, I called a place that isn't super near so I'd never gone before despite hearing good things about them.  The delivery charge is $45, but when I add up the wear and tear of a full load multiple times on my truck along with the drive and having to take time off work - well, it's worth it to avoid doing it myself.  And the best part was the woman who answered the phone - what an absolute delight she was.  Before I knew it we were sharing gardening secrets and stories. 

I think that i will put the chickens in the back corner by the house with the man on power tools.  They're located right by AC units now and it doesn't bother them a bit.  I think the chickens will do very well here - they are curious and content.  They are also not unfamiliar with dogs and so they won't overreact to Ziggy, and my friends are very matter-of-fact and if the chickens die it's not the end of the world.  They didn't even name them this time.  I don't know the breed -they were generic "brown egg layers" but the hens seem on the small side.  I'll get them in two weeks.  I think I'll just order a damn coop because I'm not super crazy about theirs and the construction of a run is more than I need to do. 

The rooster is a lovely gent but his amor is making the hens super plucked and my friends think that they need to get rid of him.  Plus it's illegal to have a rooster in city limits.  I could probably get away with it and he does seem a lovely rooster other than that (he kept giving me the eye, a protective fellow), but with all the stress of moving to a new place and having a dog around more - I worry that the hens may turn on each other with the wounds he inflicts.  And I trust my friends' judgment. 

OK, time to read.  A friend just called wanting to stop by so I need to get on my game and finish work.  After I pack up the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  Yum.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

coops on my mind

The chickens are mine for the taking.  I plan to go over and meet them this weekend.  If they're mean and ugly, I won't take them.  Chances of that are low, as they are my friends' beloved pets. 

The question becomes: how to introduce them and Ziggy Stardust. 

I've asked the behavioral vet and will put it out to some dog groups to see advice.  What I'm thinking is of putting them in the front yard for awhile in a tractor coop.  Let them rip up my lawn and prep it for gardening and save me the work! Then I can have Ziggy interact with them completely supervised by me. 

In the backyard I'd put their current coop and put up a fence around it as more protection, and move them there when I'm feeling like Ziggy won't rip through things to eat them.  She in general isn't a rip through things kind of dog, but one never knows and I want her to prove herself. 

The ideal would be that eventually I could have them roam free in the backyard (at least when I'm home) and Ziggy would have free access to the yard without my constant supervision and would be more protector than predator.  I don't know if that can happen with chickens we receive as adults, but it's good to have goals.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

bwak bwak

As I swung in the hammock today, I said to Ziggy: you know what this backyard is missing? Chickens.

And then I learned that a friend got a job across the country, and the last time I saw her she asked: so if I get this job, how many chickens will you take?

I think that if Ziggy were to raise chickens from babies that she would understand her role to protect them.  With older chickens, there would be training.  And maybe tragedy, but life would go on.  Well not for the prey, but yeah. 

IF I could train her right, Ziggy would LOVE having chickens.  A JOB!  She could protect them from all evil.  She could watch them and be entertained. 

Anyway, I'm not sure of this of course.  But it could be a lot of fun.  And tasty eggs and good fertilizer! 

no worms

I just ordered a raised bed kit because I NEED TO GROW THINGS and the grass in my front yard is way too thick to deal with anyway other than solarizing and that process won't be over until August and then there's cover crops to plant, and yeah.  A raised bed it is.  I had sworn off all purchases until I paid off my credit card, but ... yeah. 

Speaking of beds, my dog is on mine.  She slept with me last night.  Well part of the night at least.  And I don't know how to break up with my dog, but I don't sleep well with her in the bed and she's going to have to move back out onto the couch.  She never sleeps with me unless something's wrong, so who knows what's up. 

We went to the vet today.  ZIGGY IS HEARTWORM FREE!!  Also intestinal worm free.

The vet tech whom she ADORES was not at work today but as I was kind of whining about that, the vet (not the usual vet) said: "It's ok, Ziggy.  I'm his sister."

What!?  How cool is that?! 

Ziggy didn't buy it.  She wanted her Matthew.  Ziggy is NOT a feminist.  We'll work on that. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

and then there are days like today

Low-stress at work.  I ignore what irritates me.

Meeting with advisor went well.  Again he wishes that all students are like me. He doesn't mean it because I'm a pain in the ass, but I am motivated to finish and stay on track.  First step: choose committee.  His friend who lives elsewhere, whom I took a distance course with, offered to him last week again that he would be happy to be on my committee.  Which is kind.  And a stats prof I had recently said he would serve, and he's kind.  I'm going to contact my old advisor to see if he'll come along for the ride even though he's retired.  I miss him.  He's old and infirm but he's still kicking.  He's brilliant and he has always brought the best out in me intellectually.

That could be my committee.

And then we figure what I should be studying for exams.  And I start to draft a proposal.  I really need to get on that because I have ideas but they could be bullshit and I don't know yet.

"Yes, you are absolutely on track," he said, when he finally let me left.  My advisor likes talking.  We always have fun conversations.

The vet said taking Ziggy off Prozac is as easy as just not giving it to her anymore.

I spoke with an agility trainer who has reactive dogs and agreed to do private lessons with us until we can transition to a group class.

Then Ziggy and I sat outside, I swung in the hammock as she laid nearby, surveying her domain.

Then the tenant came home after a weekend away and we caught up.  Under the sunny skies. And when I researched some things for her I saw some interesting outdoorsy opportunities I want to take advantage of. Some iris spying and other such things.

My pile of horse manure was steaming hot this morning.  Literally.  That's what composting looks like!

So much more good stuff to report but I've got some bad eye strain so trying to limit time here.  Bad headache, no work today.  

In an excited state last night I emailed advisor asking what he thinks about me changing my dissertation topic to food.  I think that would be a lot more fun and I'd meet fun people in my research.  Mostly urban farming and gathering.  There's old stuff and new stuff with this. 

Ziggy and I just stopped at a tree to pick fruit that has a folk name in New Orleans, which HNIC's son is obsessed with.  Truly obsessed.  And he'll move on but for right now it's really fascinating to watch his journey with this.  He's trying to make his living hustling with this fruit - making products from the fruit itself as well as using the local name for other commercial entertainment ventures.  Credit to him for giving me some good ideas, like the thousands of times his father did. 

And I've realized that so much of me wanting to move West is because I mss my closest friends and life is short.  BFF is years older than HNIC was when he died and The Driver, whose 1-year-death anniversary just passed.  I want to be close to my people.  We're not immortal. 

But, that will wait.  OR I will learn to live with the fear of loss. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

wild boar sausage

I just spent more than I wanted to on wild boar sausage, and most of it will go to the dog because it's with pork and I don't really eat pork, but I'll let it other foods season a bit. 

I like local food.  There was this wild boar sausage made in Louisiana and a venison sausage made in TX, but that had nitrates in it.  Plus, Catahoulas are bred for hunting wild boars, so this was really made for the Z'Dust.  And while it's not cheap, it's cheaper than dog treats better than Milk-Bone.  (I tried to take Ziggy for a walk on a long line to work on recall but as soon as she realized all I had were boring kibble and dry biscuit treats, I was dead to her.  I'm always in the market for high-reward treats that don't make me second guess myself.  I won't give her much cheese, no sugar, low salt, etc.  But yesterday I caught her counter surfing to lick the knife that had marionberry jam on it so I can't judge her tastes as anything but excellent.  She got pieces of chicken that I'd cooked with artichoke hearts and tomatoes and mozzarella and she was very delighted to do anything for that.)

Wild boars can be really destructive and hunting them humanely is good for the ecosystem balance.  Turning them into an edible sausage is way better than letting their carcasses rot in a landfill.  And maybe it's hype but when I look at the website of this company, I see local jobs and a mission - they give profits to reforestation projects, that sort of thing.  So, we'll see how it tastes. 

There are interesting food things here.  It's unfair of me to say that I don't like the food here - I just mean the really heavy stuff in restaurants.  There are plenty of things to appreciate.  Like red beans on Mondays.  And there is a local fresh food scene that I just need to devote my resources to.  It is more expensive, but if food is going to be my greatest expense then I may as well speak with my wallet.

My goal too is to wean myself off of Costco.  I just paid to renew my membership because I was standing there with the fantastic feta I can get there, and the organic ground beef, and the tuna I really like - oh and the lunch-sized portions of fried rice that make life possible.  But, I can move away from Costco and not renew again. And if I really want something there, I can go with friends who have a membership.  

The thing to always remember about New Orleans is that electricity is fragile.  In a storm, we can easily go without for ten days.  Everything in the freezer dies and that really sucks.  So, freezing - the way I grew up preserving food - isn't the best here.  No need to stock up. 

And, some things are great prices there - like the avocado oil I've gotten accustomed to using.  But I have five pounds of almonds in my cupboard and am completely at a loss of what to do with what seemed like a great purchase idea. And a $55/year membership cost distributed over the cost of those great deals - well, it's not something that most single people need, probably. 

The main reason I went to the store was to get tuna in oil for the dog.  To make high-reward treats for her.  And then I got these ice cream bars that I'd heard the guys speak of on the radio - the outside is locally-roasted frozen coffee (fair trade) and the inside is locally-made ice cream.  I am here to tell you: that's two great tastes that taste great together.  Yum.  A special treat for all the manure I hauled.  It was a truckload, and now it's in a big pile in my front yard.  I'll turn it every so often, keep it damp.  IT's a lot of horse urine on pine bedding and fresh alfalfa, and when I was grabbing it (I push it into a bucket and dump in the back of the truck), it was already all hot inside.  Nice composting magic there.

And were I not to make compost, it would go to the landfill.  I break onto police property to get to this stable and crawl into a dumpster.  It's not glamorous. 

If you're here for the glamor, keep moving on. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017


I just did some math. 

If I leave my job in, say, 2 years and 2 months, then I could pull out my contributions to the pension plan.  That would be "x."  (I would turn around and reinvest it, so let's assume 8% interest until I'm 60.  And because I don't recall how to calculate capitalized interest, let's just round it to 2x.) 

If I stay in my job for another 2 years and 3 months, then I will be eligible to receive a pension beginning when I'm 60 and going until I die (and eligibility for health insurance then, which is a concern in this regime - I would have to pay, but cheaper than market rates).  If I live until 80, that would be "y."  y= 9x

The value of staying in my job for another two years and three months is y-2x.  And that would be equivalent to approximately three years of salary after taxes.  Well, maybe two and a half - a lot of my deductions aren't tax but instead are investments and such. 

But still.

The bottom line is that if I were to stay here until I finish my PhD, then the financial benefit to me is really significant - like not having to work an extra 2.5 years into retirement. 

I may not live to 80.  I may.  I may live to 100, and then it's so incredibly worth it. 

I may die before 60 and then my survivors would get the lump sum payout.

Maybe I did the math wrong here.  I'm tired.  But it looks right.  It looks like such a no-brainer that I need to suck it up and ride on for at least until July 2019.  Which is when I plan to have a massive roadtrip, perhaps with new vehicle, definitely with hound.  (If the Kia Niro is with AWD then.) 

OF course, when have I ever let money be my primary motivation? 

but there's no marathon tomorrow

Today I just could not be bothered to go to the store and I thought that baking bread sounded like a fabulous idea. 

Oh, right.  I don't bake bread because then I eat bread.  Sigh.  The question is not: why does bread make me fat?  The question is: why am I not fatter?  Because even though it was not my best loaf of bread by a longshot, slathered in marionberry jam it is still magnificent. 

into the woods

Today I went to lunch with a friend who works for the same organization - but in a totally different department so we never see each other.  In fact, I thought he'd moved - which was his plan when I last saw him.  But, he and his boyfriend broke up and the need to move with him abated. So, he's still here.  Discontent.  Not actively, just sort of like: meh, is this it?  I want more.

And I told him why I'm still at my job: because what kind of privilege do I have on my ass to think that a job should be fulfilling?  Seriously, a job is good if it pays bills to appreciate other parts of life, and that's all you can really expect.  More is lagniappe, and I need to stop my belly aching about the bullshit.

But we're both ready to move on.  Waiting for magic to happen.

And one of my best friends called and we had a long talk.  We don't call often, we're more the kind to show up.  I miss her and her family and I miss living with them in a crazy world of Costco food and baseball clothes.  Last I lived there, I was recovering from chikungunya and I was pretty miserable and didn't want to explore amazing hiking.  Not at all.

But now?

Well, I wouldn't live with them - they also have a dog who has behavioral challenges with other dogs.  She would not appreciate Ziggy's bluster.

But Ziggy's godmother is two hours away, with a room for us.  It's a very provincial place, exasperatingly so.  But it's with national forest on two sides and I have countless memories of hiking with Selma.  It also has a very good healthy food scene with many options.

Why is it that right now what I'm most obsessed with it wilderness and good food?  I know it's privilege speaking, but going to a regular grocery store fills me with dismay with the ridiculously processed garbage that people are eating.  That I eat, when I go there.  Of course there is ridiculously processed garbage at Trader Joe and Whole Foods and the farmers markets, but it's easier to balance with strawberries and kale and oat bran.  On a regular basis I eat minimally processed foods and I feel pretty good - I'd feel better without sugar and limited carbs, but I'm doing pretty well.  (Upcoming menu: feta/beet/kale/farro salad; mizuna (from garden) with potatoes; tacos; cabbage stir fry; maybe some bread.)

What concerns me is my retreat from social justice.  I would rather go live in Oregon with its legal marijuana than keep up the struggle here?  What is wrong with me?  

I want to go camping, and one of my other best friends lives there as well and her children are now expert campers who are DFW.  They are wild ones, Ziggy's soulmates.  Their mother and I spent so very many hours in high school berry picking, camping, hiking - the things I want back in my life.  And the freedom provided by having a place for my dog to be that is not an inconvenience is so freeing.

I looked at staff jobs at my undergrad alma mater and I may apply.  I could get my PhD from someplace better than where I am now, at no cost. 

And yes, it always feels so confining there in Oregon - with all the lawabiding and blinding whiteness.  I have not forgotten.  So maybe I wouldn't buy a house there, maybe I would be there for a while until other priorities emerge.  Maybe I would buy a cabin in the woods and live there on weekends.  Maybe go back to teaching and become an administrator and work on school reform. 

Well, it's all a pipe dream.  I would have to buckle down and apply and have a whole lotta luck. 

Truth is: I'm really comfortable right where I am.  Uncomfortable too. 

What I love about New Orleans is: the diversity, the local people, the smell of the air, the architecture.  I don't love the parades, the tourist scene, the food - the things that most people live for here.  These things don't appeal to me.  The crime is frightening, the corruption, the perpetuation of inequality.  Can I do anything about those things?  I haven't figured it out.  Maybe I need to step back and think about it.  Maybe it's ok to leave for awhile. 

Or maybe I'm just running away like a coward when faced with the enormity of the task ahead and just want to eat some pot-laced chocolate and go Walden with the Z-Dust. 

Or maybe this is continued grieving for one of the people I loved most here and his guidance.  Maybe it's just hard to live in a place with so many shared memories with him.  Maybe his death put into perspective that life is damn short. 

Maybe it's grieving for friendships here that aren't really standing the test of time and grumpiness.  Maybe my job is making me so misanthropic that I am unable to put energy into relationships. 

Maybe Summer Coming is an unpleasant thought. 

Maybe approaching 50 makes me want to be closer with the people I love most.  To return to the place that nurtured my desire for communal living.  People here live that way but it is usually by family relationships - there it is with chosen bonds. 

Maybe I want better quality of life for my dog, who is (so far) fantastic on hikes. 

I just really really really miss the wilderness, and I may not always have the physical ability to enjoy it as I can now.  And maybe I don't really want a PhD but instead a degree in ecology, and working at a very good university could make it happen.  Or maybe I want both.

Life is short. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Somebody I know professionally just got his dream promotion, leaving his job possibly open in the future at some unknown time. 

I said, shamelessly: "Well, if you want me to apply, keep me looped in."

Ball in his court because he'd be my boss. 

I realize within about three minutes, I would drop everything to move for that job because it's in Arkansas.  NEAR NATIONAL FORESTS. 

Good lord people, this lack of hiking is KILLING ME. 

And it's a seven hour drive, so I could keep a pied de terre here.  If I so desired. 

I don't know that it will be a possibility.  Probably a promotion from within. 

But, it's telling how quickly I was ready to give up everything here. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

in the woods

Today Ziggy and I skipped out on life and headed to the forest, where we went for some walks.  I haven't found the best places for us to walk yet, so there were some shortish walks and then "turn around, let's go back and try another way."  There was a fair amount of mud and water to stop me, as well as deep brush.  I was hoping for us to go on an official trail but there were about four vehicles there and people hanging out at campsites and so ... um, no.  I could keep her on a long line until we're up the trail a bit (so she won't try to raid the camps) and then hope for the best if we encounter other people and dogs, but I wasn't really feeling it. 

So, I'm glad we checked it out before planning to camp there.

Our last stop was the spot I'd found before - well, Ziggy found it actually I think - that seems like a great spot to camp.  It's very shady which could mean buggy, but I think it's worth a shot.  It's so peaceful.  I'd also take trash bags to pick up after people.  Today I saw a discarded needle so, yeah.  There's that to think about.

This of course really makes me miss the west.  I miss all the long hikes with the dogs I've known and loved, especially in Alaska.  Oh, how I miss Alaska.  Sigh.  

I checked out entirely from work - no checking email today and I even turned off my work phone.  If they are going to never give me credit for fucking anything, if I'm always going to be their whipping girl, then FUCK THEM.  I'm not on call on my days off.  I'm so frustrated and pissed off about my stupid fuck job, and I needed a break, and this did me good.

And it made me remember AGAIN that I am fortunate, but that I really need to use my time off for my own damn purposes.  I need to do more important things, or more interesting things.  I am hardwired for my job to define me, but this job is stupid, so I need things OUTSIDE that. And of course a really bad side effect of the job is that I distance myself and don't trust people even outside of work - I just want to be alone with my dog, who is trustworthy.  People suck.  So I need important interesting interests that don't require me to spend much time with other people.

My dog is trustworthy and also clingy.  We got back from our long drives and walks and all she wanted to do was sit and stare at me.  Now she only wants to be as close to me as physically possible.  I went to class and I'm sure she thought I was going out to the forest again without her.

I wish we lived nearer.  It's 1.5 hour drive. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

a Ziggy twin?

Scrolling through Facebook ... I get a lot of posts now about dogs because of some groups I joined.  Giving advice, reading others' - it's helpful.

And then I see this picture:

Image may contain: dog

and I think OHMYGOSH somebody has a dog that looks EXACTLY LIKE ZIGGY STARDUST!  Who is this???  We must immediately become friends!

And then I realize that my tenant is posting a picture of my dog lounging on her bed. 

And it's even better because the more love Ziggy lives, the better.