What I will tell them about you

The brutal, heart-shattering truth is that Molly and Eleanor are not going to remember as much about Grandpa Chuck as I would like. They are 3 and 5 and their brains aren’t yet able to grasp a bigger picture. They will see pictures and connect with his memory. They will make out his face and maybe recall a voice saying, “Love ya,” but they’ll never get to ask the kind of questions needed to form a richer version of Grandpa’s life here with us.

But, you know what? That will be our job. We will fill in those blanks, however dangerous it may be, as the problem with recalling fond memories is that it clashes conflicting air masses in my brain. The parts that are warmed and joyful at pleasant memories rush over the half is heavy and cold out of missing. But that’s life, isn’t it? Or maybe meteorology? I’m not sure. Whatever it is, I usually end up crying.

Grandpa and his girls


My Sweet Little Girls, there are a few things I want you to know about your Grandpa Chuck.

Your grandfather, above all, was a very generous man. He and grandma made smart decisions, lived within their means and worked hard their whole lives to accumulate enough to share their wealth. Whether financial, automotive, (usually in the form of a minivan) whether it was their love, their time, their attention, grandma’s coupons: They kept none of this wealth for themselves. They poured it all out on us. And on you girls especially. When we were not with him, Grandpa would collect little treasures to share. He’d see things on TV or the Internet that made him think of me or of you or your father. And when we’d visit he’d share them as if he’d been waiting his whole life to tell us the story. It was always clear that he had his sons and daughters and grandkids on his mind when we were apart.

When I first came into your grandpa’s life about 15 years ago, I was intimidated. He’d probably be surprised by that, but the same quick wit and dry humor that drew me to your father originated here–or at least half of it did. :) The trademark Teter Banter is an artform worthy of an audience. Looking back, I really should have put some of those discussions on YouTube. But Grandpa was a private person, and he was perfectly content with an audience of other cerebral Teters, and they all spoke in riddles.

In particular, your Grandpa and your uncles and your dad fed off each other at a rapid pace, firing back retorts, jumping from joke to movie reference to joke-said-8-minutes-ago and a back again. It was eat or be eaten in the most playful and comfortable way. And they did it without props. No booze, no drugs, no smokes. It was pure. I had to be on the top of my game to keep up, but they always made it look easy. For a while I was lucky to understand half of what anybody was talking about. Not surprisingly, it took me a few years to realize he called me, “La-La Lyndsey,” NOT because he simply was emphasizing the first letter in my name.

As the years passed, I was able to keep up and play along a little better. And girls, there may be nothing more fun on this Earth than sitting over on Washington Avenue and chewing the fat with those boys. Some of my favorite discussions came out of that room–whether it was arguments about the shape of chicken nuggets, the various misuse of words, Hitler, show tunes, that unintentionally crude thing Grandma said … my God. I already grieve those moments.

Grandpa with a marshmallow gun. Papa with a trombone? Sure.

In early fall we found out grandpa had lung cancer. I was warned by friends that had gone through it with their own parents that this nasty disease would attack quickly, but I was naive. I had no idea what that would look like in my own family. Surely we had years left with grandpa. Surely there was no rush. But cancer snuck in and robbed grandpa of some time I would rather have spent with him. Time I’d rather shoot the breeze, quite honestly. But as he sat in the hospital, your grandpa told me he could not be upset; that he’d had the privilege and joy of roaming the Earth for 70 years. He’d seen his kids grow up to be good men who married super/perfect wives (Emphasis added.) He had lived to see all of his beautiful grandchildren born. He had held babies and played and lived a rich, full life and and could not complain about a little thing like cancer.

Of course, I told your grandpa I wasn’t ready. I wanted more time with him and more time for you girls to get to know him. He promised to mention this to Peter at the Pearly Gates, to see if maybe he would be offered an reprieve on my account. “I know this is normally not how it goes around here, but my daughter-in-law would rather wait.” It’s exactly that kind of inappropriate and hilarious response that I’m going to miss in the first place.


We didn’t know how quickly it would take him. I would not be surprised if Grandpa Chuck had an idea. I will always claim that Grandpa was a bit clairvoyant. Either that or really lucky. (I’m not sure which theory his lack of winnings at Vegas disproves, but hey, everybody can make their own call.) Grandpa correctly guessed the gender of every single one of his grandkids, and a few that weren’t his own, including my sister’s. He said he’d get, “a feeling,” and looking back I could have saved a lot of money on ultrasounds. Before Seth and I even talked about starting a family, right after your cousins Jacob and Owen were born and we were wondering about the possibility of females in the family, he looked right at me and said, “Now you … you’re going to have girls.” Add in a few more correctly predicted OSU football games, and I’m calling it: wizard.

Even after a round of chemo, just a week before his death, even as cancer was taking his body, he properly called the OSU score in the National Championship game versus the Ducks. I’m just saying. Even the worst kind of cancer in the world could not dull his sorcery.

Grandpa and Elfamor

And while we’re at it … that was such a fun night, girls. A week to the day before grandpa passed, we all packed up and headed down to Washington Avenue to watch the Bucks bring home a National Championship. You girls ran around yelling, “Go Scarlet!” the whole night and grandpa put every ounce of his strength into staying awake for that game. His body wasn’t cooperating, but he fought so hard and he was so brave and he could barely lift his arms to cheer, but he did anyway. He gave us all high fives as the Bucks intercepted to end the game. He was so brave, girls. And he loved you so much. That was the last night you ever saw him, and it was a beautiful night. It could not have been more perfect. Ezekiel Elliot and his midriff. Grandpa with his girls and your grandma and your dad and Uncle Aaron. The Buckeyes could win the National Title every year from here on out, and they might under Urban Meyer, but it will never be as sweet as it was that night.

He loved you girls. He loved you so much. You would spend the night with him and grandma and we’d come to pick you up and he would talk about how incredibly smart and articulate you were. He was always impressed with Molly’s ability to retain information and Eleanor’s insanely huge vocabulary. And he loved to spoil you with Smarties, and always the classic “papascicle,” in those yellow plastic bowls. He’d let you dress him up and pester him and wrestle with him, and he just enjoyed being around you guys. Molly, you told me today that you’re favorite memory was when Grandpa would play Skeletor with you. Eleanor loved to play the Cheerio game.

Grandpa and Molly

I’m so sad, girls. I’m going to miss your grandpa so much. It’s going to be hard to get together as a family without him being there. It just won’t ever be the same. But I’m going to try to take a page from your Grandpa Chuck. I’m going to try to be happy and remember the blessing of the good times we had together. What have I to be upset about? I had a wonderful father-in-law, and we had many good years together. Besides, it probably would never be enough.

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Best. Homestead. Ever.

Violet harvest from earlier this year.

Another growing season is coming to a close, and I don’t know what it is about this last month, but everything seems to be coming together. I think we’re finally grasping some of the complexities of this pasture-based animal husbandry thing, and for the first time, I honestly believe we are doing right by land and beast.

Things are springing to life! Areas of our property that have been fallow or brambles or both for decades are bringing forth clovers and chicory, brassicas and volunteers of everything from tomatillos to sunflowers to squash and buckwheat. The pigs and cows are moving through and gleaning much more from the land than in previous seasons, and as we learn how to move with nature and read the weather and anticipate outcomes, we are causing less damage to the soil by compaction and erosion.

Pretty Hog Salad.

It’s so pretty. And it’s so much work. But it’s deeply rewarding to see it start to pay off. There’s nothing like it. I could die happy and fulfilled at any second.

As I walk the property I see evidence of toil by hands of those who are long gone, and it makes me feel #solidarity with ghosts, and it makes me appreciate centuries of cultivation, selective breeding, building, tearing down, repairing, building again … just the every day labor that makes homestead life possible today.

Add this to the list of treasures your new subdivision is missing

Ohio was, like, a swamp forest, wasn’t it? But this year? This year I did not plant a damn thing, yet was still able to make jelly from violets, wine from dandelions, cider from apples and today we are roasting chestnuts over an open fire. It’s really the least I can do to try not to ruin everything.

I’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve this.

And as soon as we leave, it may go fallow for another 50 years, but the land and the established trees will be waiting for the next guy to uncover some prizes. The elderberries, the blackberries, the old apple trees, the chestnuts and walnuts … the plants and herbs and deliciousness and remedies I don’t even know exist yet? They’ll still be here.

And with each new fence row, each new animal paddock roped off, each new square foot of multiflora rose cut down and each new perfectly good pair of yoga pants ruined, you can feel the centuries of sweat dripped in the hot sun so that you can watch your kids eat their lunch off the ground.

Not all could be saved.

Even as the 100-year-old barn collapses under our watch, even as that beautiful centuries-old centerpiece Elm in the backyard finally succomb to some wretched bug, there is enough new life on the farm to prove we are building something that could last. That is to say … We’re not screwing things up too badly. Maybe in the next 100 years, someone will come along and feel thankful for the work we are doing today.

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Their sacrifice.

Sometimes I hear folks talk about wanting to appreciate the “sacrifice” an animal made so that we can eat meat. I used to talk this way often. I don’t think I’ll be able to talk like that anymore, as this is not true.

Obviously the animal does not choose to give its life up for us, nor would I want it to. If given the option, there is no altruism in pigs. They would fight to stay alive. Sacrifice on their part is impossible. So to imply the animal somehow willingly surrenders its body and accepts any suffering so that we can prepare meat? No thanks. I’ll have none of that. I want my animals to be straight-up murdered without any clue as what is about to happen to them. I want them to be knocked out cold without warning or the slightest hint of unease that something bad might be happening.

This is not always reality, but I am pretty darn sure that for the pigs who died this morning, this was their reality. Watching them from birth, I know how they react when they are stressed or scared, even when there is absolutely no real danger around, and they showed no signs of these things today. Their life up until this point has been one of forward motion. They are constantly moving to new surroundings, to new fields, to new shelters, in and out of trailers … and this was no different. As frustrating as it may be at times, a pig does not generally walk forward if it does not feel at ease. Unless it’s running away, obviously, but this was also not the case.

So I want the only “sacrifice” to be on the human side, as we mourn the loss of an animal’s daily presence and character on the farm. And then we bring it home, we cook its body and feed it to our family. How messed up is that? It’s totally messed up. Anyone who says its not is not thinking about it clearly.

So why kill when it is not necessary? You don’t NEED to eat meat to survive. Why murder? Why not be a vegetarian?

There are times when I look out at my fields and see all the animals I am responsible for and I wonder. All I can say is that I totally understand why vegetarians think meat eaters are all Looney Tunes. Sugar coating the way we tend to do, denying how monstrous we are, must make us seem even more like sociopaths.

If I was not such a theist, I would be a little more hard-pressed to justify this practice of meat-eating, but I can do it. Let’s just say there is no God and human and animals have equal right to roam the Earth until they are old and gray. If that were true, and if these pigs weren’t dying today, they would not have been born in the first place. And isn’t seven months of a comfortable life better than no life at all? Why not take advantage of centuries of selective breeding that allows the pig to be such an intimate part of our lives instead of out fending for themselves in the wild?

If these answers don’t jibe with your diet choices, please, please, please … stop eating meat.

Ultimately, this murderous path is the one that brings more value to my table, to my farm, to my life.

I don’t know.

Anyway, the field trip to the slaughter house was a pretty heavy first day for the adult division of Teter Tot Daycare. The kids, meanwhile, are slaughtering stuffed animals around the house. I am curious how they will view it as they grow up in an environment immersed in these cold hard facts. I worry they will be desensitized to it. I worry I will become desensitized to it. I’ll keep you posted.

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Mad Cow Bowl MVP

I be gettin’ a participation trophy for this crap.

I’m not going to be modest and suggest I’m a stranger to physical triumph. My natural athletic abilities have gained many trophies, championship rings and shoulder-rides out of the stadium into the locker room after the Big Win.

Remember that time I was named “alternate” to my high school track team’s winning regional 4×8 team? I can’t dismiss that stack of Varsity letters for cheer squad. And what about that time in the fifth grade when I was called into the library because NO ONE ELSE IN THE SCHOOL had the dexterity, determination or complete lack of arm girth to reach into the copy machine and pull out the wooden bookmark some punk kid had jammed in there?  Who got the prize box that day, biyatches?

Yes, my name is synonymous with strength, agility and stamina. I should be used to it. Yet occasionally I’ll surprise myself here on the farm.

I have a flighty heifer. (Not some new band or cocktail, you weirdos. It’s what they call a girl cow. A scared one.)  She’s only 3 months old and already just half a foot shy of her 900-pound mama cow. She is a beefy beast and stubborn and hell-bent on getting smashed by a car or farm truck, free-range Peking duck-style.

This baby calf is damn near stronger than me, but usually I tie her to a sturdy post so she doesn’t know that. At least until Maybel startles her as we’re voyaging toward a new pasture, and she jerks and the lead rope slips out of my hand and she’s gone. Forever.

But guess what happened next? Layla ran toward safety. She ran back toward the far end of the property, where no dangers exist; cars, neighbors, angry bulldogs were a distant memory. But it turns out this was just so she could get a half mile running start hurling herself toward death.  She turned around and ran for the road with a gallop fit for the Preakness. Construction traffic is all over the place. I’m screwed. The only thing between her and the inevitable liability insurance nightmare was, well. Me.  Me and my … jazz hands? Spirit fingers?

Anyway I had to grab her lead rope and stop her. I had eighteen seconds to think about how I’d do that. I don’t know if there could ever be enough set-up here to describe the fool’s dream of nabbing a muddy lead rope dragging the ground as the calf wooshes by, but I think it would kind of be like using your arm as a restraint for your passenger during a car accident. In theory, it sounds totally doable. In practice, physics complicates the reflex.

So I watched as she ran toward me. She was gaining speed. Too much speed. Too much cow. There’s no way. And as she drew closer I jumped and she startled and stopped and weaved and with a laser focus on that pink rope, I capitalized on her pause and dove head first on the ground and grabbed a hold of that slippery rope and she took off and the damn thing slid through my hands and burned a few inches of my palm off but somehow?  I hung on. It was some serious Indiana Jones shit. I couldn’t believe it. I climbed up the rope to her halter and the crowd went wild.

And that is the closest I will ever come to knowing what it is like to play in the NFL.

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Jersey boys

My calves are dead. Instagram will never be the same.

We loaded them on the trailer, dropped them off and said goodbye at the butcher, called in cutting instructions, found out their hanging weights … and none of it made me sad. I was disturbed by my lack of emotion until suddenly, driving down Rt. 13 I felt the chill from a few hundred pounds of frozen beef in my van, and surprised myself with a few tears. I guess I am still human after all.

Hi, human.

We’ve been on this animal-killing spree for a while now, and I always worry that eating my animal friends become normal. Will I stop feeling sad? You can’t easily feel reverence for a meal without first feeling sadness for the loss of life, and I’m worried that I won’t always feel the full weight of my brutal actions. Meat eaters cause a great amount of death. We shouldn’t forget that.

But I guess even if I stop sobbing like a baby at the butcher, the relatively small number of meals raised here on the farm allows the luxury of the individual. Meat raised here is not a commodity. It is a joyfully inefficient endeavor, full of intimate manual labor with animals that have faces and stories and at least a few hundred thousand mobile updates.

At the beginning of the Jersey bull calves’ story, they were a scrawny and matching set born a week apart in the summer of 2012.

Here there are, barely worth $30 a piece.

Photogenic little guys, aren’t they?

These were our first steer, born in our fields, and from the day they arrived as boys I knew that one day they’d load on the trailer together and that would be that. Unlike pigs, which are in and out in six months, these dudes had been with us a long time, through a winter, and you always bond a bit more with anything that overwinters on your farm. Plus, JERSEY COW EYES. They’ll get you every time.

Good morning.

We had (have?) no idea what we were doing and they were our guinea pigs for every aspect of raising cattle, from disbudding and castrating to working with and moving animals that were skittish and, well, several hundred pounds. With kicky hooves. Thank God they were giant softies.

Our makeshift squeeze chute …?? Sure.

Remember that first day we let them out on spring pastures and they busted their fence and ran all the way down Bishop Road? Remember how we’d coax them closer and closer until they finally let us scratch their ears? Or how Claire’s calf would sneak up behind you and pull off your toboggan with his tongue? Remember the way the one would relentlessly groom the cat?

He REALLY loved that cat. Just like his mother.

How about the big guy who always hid behind sticks?

No, you’re totally cool, dude. No one can see you.

How many times did Seth wake me up with the words, “You’ve got a calf out,” and they’d reluctantly follow me back to the pasture with their moms. Remember how they were such mama’s boys, and would sprint from their pasture to nurse from the girls, even when they were 900 pounds??

Come on guys. That’s just creepy.

Well, they’re dead now. And they are in my freezer. And they will nourish my family.

Crazy, isn’t it?

Molly meeting Claire’s calf. She thanked him before her steak dinner tonight.

Two lives have been taken so that I can enjoy ribeyes. In their honor, I will try to prepare good meals and eat sitting down with my family or friends. I’ll try not to eat a hamburger while running around Googling on my phone and yelling at children. I’ll try not to waste a precious ounce of it.

I mean, it’s the least I can do for my animal friends.


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My mama pig is better than all the other mama pigs.

The first week or so after a delivery must be torturous for Black Betty. The poor thing has to mobilize her 700-pound frame without squashing her half-pound offspring. And now there are 11 of them running everywhere underfoot, with seemingly no idea that a quarter of mama’s weight applied just about ANYWHERE could crack a spine or snap a leg in an instant.

Those first few days, most people lose pigs. I don’t think there is a pastured pig-raiser out there who does not lose pigs to an injury. That’s why they confine these mamas in farrowing crates in the big leagues. No one wants a squashed pig.

But even in a 4×5 hut, even surrounded by cinder blocks and broken bricks, this girl can tiptoe. She is a rock star. It is truly incredible to watch her move.  “Attentive” does not even begin to describe it. After sounding the alarm with a series of grunts, she lifts one hoof up and gently places it down, moving about a half an inch per step until clear of the nest and on to her destination. She springs into action if one of her idiot babies makes so much as a sneeze.

To sit down, (OH TO SIT DOWN!) she lowers her front end first, waiting to make sure no squeals fill the air, and then slowly does this quad-killing squat (do pigs have quads?) to get the rest of her body down to nurse those babies. Most pigs just flop down and hope for the best. Not this chica. We could all learn something.

Her litters are small, but she’s never had a stillborn baby and she’s never lost a baby once it is born. And this time, she gave me 11, which is plenty for a heritage breed pig. That’s a total of 26 babies born, raised and butchered without incident.

As an added bonus, she never so much as gives me the stink eye as I approach her babies. In fact, most of the time she will leave me to babysit while she rests in the wallow or grabs a bite to eat. I guess those hours of belly scratches are finally paying off.

Cheers for the greatest mama pig ever made. I’m lucky to have found her.

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On waste and loss at the homestead

When my brother-in-law brings home a $4.99 roaster from the grocer, he will eat what he can and toss the carcass without much distress. But when he cooks up one of his homegrown chickens, he takes care to extract every bit of meat from the bone and then makes broth with the carcass.

Same animal protein.  Two different approaches.

We were talking about this during Memorial Day after a raccoon busted up  my cooler and ate about five pounds of home-cured, home-raised bacon we had brought camping.

R.I.P. bacon

Deep breaths. It still hurts a little bit to talk about that.

But I do the exact same thing, don’t you?  If I work for something, I approach it differently. With reverence. And fear. Fear that I’ll fail it somehow. And as more of our Daily Consumption is the result of hours, days, weeks, sometimes a whole year of time and attention, you don’t care about things any less. Loss just hurts a lot more.

Things happen. Each pound of cheese left on the counter overnight; each bunch of kale that wilts in the fridge; each freshly painted wall vandalized by toddlers with markers … It’s all a sucker punch to the gut. And it can be paralyzing.


But I’m getting better at it. I’m starting to accept my fate. I’m writing a book on the matter titled, “My whole life is pointless toil, AND YOU CAN, TOO!” Because let’s face it: I must spend my days redoing everything that has been undone until it needs to be done again.

“There’s always going to be another mountain. You’re always gonna wanna make it move …”

Hanna Montana is my spirit animal.

The point is this: Cows are going to bust in and ruin a garage you spent all night organizing. Those tomatoes you lovingly watered twice per day for three months? They are going to be drowned by summer floods. Those huge pigweeds you just pulled out of the ground? Their absence will allow the sun to shine on smaller pigweed. And then the little pigweed will get bigger and you’ll halfta pull ‘em out again. There’s no stopping it!

Everything turns to dirt! All your life’s work is meaningless! Time ruins everything!  And Maybel is waiting to eat whatever time has forgotten!

Especially if it is dairy.

I’ve just written the book of Ecclesiastes, haven’t I? Was there an evil bulldog in Ecclesiastes?

Anyway, since we’re stuck in this trap, in a world without preservatives, rebuilding everything that is broken, losing all of the hard work, watching helplessly as the fruits of our labors rot on the vine or sours in the fridge … If this is the set of our lives, we might as well make the most of it, right? RIGHT!?

The keys to happiness are as follows: Observe children. Take pictures if you must. Video. They know how to live happily in the moment better than anyone on the planet, regardless of the world of shit that is falling down around them. Slow down and try to enjoy the toil. There will always be more of it and it will never be done, so no point in being miserable. Be joyful on those occasions that something is not wasted or lost or broken. The half-hour window where you pick a raspberry at its peak stage of ripeness. Ten minutes after you’ve finished mowing the lawn, and you crack a beer feeling like Mother Nature is totally under your control.

Loosen up on your grip a little, OK? You know what? Why don’t you just skip the middle man and take that heritage-breed maple-cured, apple-smoked bacon directly to the raccoons?

We’re all going to need a more playful attitude if we wish to survive out here.

Of course, I don’t do any of these things. I scream and I swear and I break things that I’ll just have to fix later. Sometimes I cry, and most of the time I spend at least a few hours being more angry than this peaceful rural life is supposed to call for. I snap at my kids or ignore them. I pound on the steering wheel of my tractor and scream, “I hate you guys and my whole life!!” to a pair of confused bovine. I slam doors. I mean, if we have doors installed at the time.

But my God is merciful and I get other chances.

Sometimes, and this has been happening more often lately, when things go wrong, I can sneak in a breath. Usually it’s cheating because there is a rainbow or Eleanor’s just caught a lightening bug or a berry-stained girl named Molly says she can’t sit still because she is “full of dances” or something, but sometimes I can resist the urge to react violently. And in that space, which also doesn’t last very long, by the way, but sometimes a peace can take hold. And for a second, I can say, “You know what? That’s OK. We’ll just put that up again tomorrow.”

And then I feel like the most powerful person in the universe.

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Dearest Preggo Amanda:

The last time my beautiful sister was ever seen alone in her bathroom.

Just ONE more week until the blessed event! Can you believe it?! And sure, you’ve got the whole “no sleep,” and “random, stabbing and/or crippling pains” thing down already, but are you truly prepared to become a mother? To be sure, there are a few drills you should complete. These drills are designed to increase your resolve and agility in the days before motherhood. If completed, by the time this Bundle of Adversity is sprung on your world, you won’t even flinch!

1.)    From now on, complete your grocery trips with an unrestrained baby goat in your cart. Don’t stop practicing until you are able to keep it from eating the whole loaf of bread through the plastic. I don’t know why they do that.

When the goat cries out, stop to dump a gallon of milk onto your shirt. Familiarize yourself with that sensation and don’t be alarmed by it. That’s just what is going to happen from now on anyway. You need to be able to think on your feet while soaked in dairy product.

Little Goat is ready when you are.

2.)    Start showering with multiple witnesses. Once you become comfortable with this, have witnesses ask rude questions about your most sacred parts, or at minimum, have them spout off bizarre and possibly offensive observations. Something like, “Your neck is thick like a kingsnake!” or “That boob is getting older,” should do the trick.


3.)    Similarly, don’t move your bowels until the door has been pried opened or the lock dismantled. Make sure the toilet does not get flushed until two or more people are fighting over who gets to do it.

4.)    Speaking of poop, squeamish as you may be, it is a good idea to start being more aware of the bowl movements and bladder emptying that is going on around you. Get in the habit of asking your companions if they “have pee or poop in their bellies,” and if they say “no” at intervals of more than three hours, make them sit on the potty anyway—especially if they resist or fidget.

5.)    Surf the Internet while balancing sacks of flour on your legs. Your reflexes need to be tuned to intercept objects as they dive off your lap while you are barely paying attention. If you miss, it’s OK, because I was going to suggest that it is a good idea to periodically empty these sacks of flour on the couch or floor. And yes — Go ahead and use lots of water to clean this mess so the whole thing will form a concrete adhesive. Best to learn that lesson before it counts.

Don’t ask me how I know this.

6.)    MEALTIME with baby brings lots of changes, so ease into the transition before baby arrives: Abandon the concept of preparing a plate for yourself. Instead, eat your lunch on a child-sized plate or two. Spread out the food and mash it all together. Don’t consume until both hot and cold foods have reached room temperature. When it comes to evening meals with Dave, be sure both of you get up from the table at least 6 times. You can fetch clean spoons, refill milk glasses or sprint for paper towels. Be creative. And ALWAYS remember to give away the first and last bite of every meal.

7.)    Stop going to movies. Make sure to catch the previews on TV and listen to your peers talk about movies, however, so you can feel the full force of social life leaving your body. Frequent only those restaurants that serve, “comfort food.” Red Robin, anybody?!

8.)    Your “Popular on Netflix” section MUST look like this:

9.)    Get those safety locks on all the cabinets now! Fumbling with plastic mechanisms engineered for maximum frustration = your new way of life!

10.) This last one is only for the advanced prepper: Place a diaper around an angry badger and give him a can of soda to shake in the crib. Once the badger has punctured the can with his sharp claws and a fountain of sticky is spraying on the walls, see how quickly you can get everything into the tub while keeping bloodshed to a minimum.

Use this one.

Trust me. You will need this skill.

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Excuse me while I freak the eff out for a second.

I’m rolling out a loaf of bread and I mistake plaster dust for flour on the surface of the pizza peel.

I think we’ve taken on … uh … too much.

There are a few demands on our time, money and sanity right now. Between the young children, the livestock, the garden and the home renovation, we exist in a constant state of hot mess.  I barely can hear myself over the power tools, the squealing, and the consistent cell phone beep of  low balance text alerts from my bank.

Not to mention that every single inch of this property contains a project screaming to be finished. SO LOUD! I can barely walk out the door. Every day the pigs uncover a pile of rubble from the previous owners on Possum Street. The front half of an old tractor. A car bumper and a set of tires. An busted disc harrow. An old truck bed full of clay drainage tiles? TWO truck beds full of clay drainage tiles?!? I’m starting to think this is the place where productivity comes to die.

I can imagine the future owners of our farm uncovering a pile of bones, wrenches in hand, attached to something that needs to be fixed or maintained.

Dammit we died trying!!!!

The ridiculous from-scratch cheese-making, butter-churning life was all fine and good until we threw “home renovation” back into the equation. We had slowed our construction pace to a comfortable standstill after the kids were born, but now we’re full road gear into the final phase of kitchen/bathroom gut/rebuild before we can call this place livable. And by “we,” I mean Seth, because our days of working fast together as a team with a single purpose are over. I can no longer help him repair this enraging home. Gone are the halcyon days we would get up early, work without the interruption of lunch breaks, direct creative swear words at this house and go to bed filthy.

Now we are PARENTS with kids who like to play with rusted nails and horsehair plaster and eat three meals per day PLUS SNACKS. They cannot even sleep in a comfortable pile of debris–they demand clean pillows. Ugh. So I can only listen helplessly and serve as distracted support staff, attempting to clear the rubble from the exits and keep the kids and animals alive while he toils.

Seth drives into Columbus, works all day, arrives home and works all night. Hand him a beer next time you see him.

The weird thing is, though, I work best under the influence of terror and the certainty that the work will never get done. But there is a fine line between “feet to the fire” and putting us all in a closed garage with the car running..

I’m joking of course.

The cars cannot even fit in the garage at this point.

AND the garage door track is broken, requiring one person to pull the door down as it closes so that it does not pop back up. Yes, even the sweet release of death would require a day of repairs. I just don’t have time for that these days.

You know what else is broken? The stove burners. And the clothes dryer. And the lawn mower. All of our appliances have the seven-year itch.

That’s right. Seven years. We’ve been existing here seven years. SEVEN YEARS! As Seth says, “It just can’t be not done anymore.” Inspiring words from a war-torn man.

It’s time to finish. Or move to a condo. One of these things is going to happen in 2013.

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Somebody say a few words for the death of a farm icon.

And on March 16, 2013, the Good Lord finally counted to 50.

That’s how I imagined I’d start his eulogy anyway.

Two years ago, we took 49 red broiler chickens to the butcher. We thought we were hauling 50, but when we returned, we saw this in the field:

That’s not a goat.

So we kept our divinely spared and grossly large-breasted meat bird alive on at the farm until he became a staple, showing up in millions of photos as an perfect old-timey accent. His coloring was like a postcard.

Anyone who knows me knows that I despise chickens. They are gross and smelly. But this guy grew on me. Actually, he kept growing in general. He was a broiler originally, and by the end was at least 20 pounds.

We’ve had some good roosters, but this one was the best so far. While other roosters, at some point, inevitably greet you with a face full of spurs, this guy never so much as looked at me funny. He was too fat to fight with anything but the goats, yet I admired his swagger. He owned the place. He had a great crow, which is vital on a homestead, and he was never violent toward the kiddos.


Alas, meat roosters are not really bred to live that long, and his blue comb at the end suggests he had some sort of heart or respiratory illness that done him in. He died in our bathtub. I was with him. It was gross. But the good news is that he is the first chicken to die on this property of something other than a car or predator. We’re keeping them alive longer, I suppose. I think that’s a good thing.

I’m happy for his two years of borrowed time. I’m glad he let me put a Santa hat on him for our Christmas card.

I’ll miss him. I’ll actually miss a rooster. I’ll miss hauling his fat butt into the barn in the middle of the night because he was too big to fit through the cattle panels to roost like the rest of the chickens. I’ll miss kicking him out of the house in the summer, and reminding him he is NOT an inside chicken.

So today we cheer this giant beast, and we raise our glasses to the Best Rooster So Far, who made the most of his two-year reprieve.


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