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Archive for the ‘Goats’ Category

She did it! My wee Nugget, my Isla Elizabeth, the light of my heart and life, my sweet pea of 3yrs and 8 months, made it through a full 6 hr day at our local Waldorf school, without any tears and no calls to Mama from the teacher!

Heading to the car for her first day at school!

Heading to the car for her first day at school!

I can not, however, say the same for Mommy. Yes, I shed quite a few tears, and thought of her constantly, and had butterflies in my stomach as I sped north to pick her up at 2:45….. but at least I did not call the teacher. I almost did. I reached for the phone several times. But each time I breathed deeply and set it back down… and distracted myself – just like I told her to do if she missed me.

We tried the last school year – 8 consecutive tries which stretched into Oct of ’11. But she just could not stay alone, and I could no longer spend the days with her at school. If she wasn’t ready, then she wasn’t ready. There was no need to force it. We said we would talk about it again after Christmas… but she wasn’t ready then either. We said we would talk about it this past August… but she still wasn’t ready. But after 4 weeks in Reno, NV in November, spending every day with Papa riding bikes and playing with other children at the nearby playground, she was READY. She REALLY wanted time with other kids. And most of her friends were in school, which meant they had no time for playdates.

We were in Reno for my Lyme treatment. I thought I could get through this latest relapse on my own, without the help of my usual, trusted clinic. But I just could not get back on my feet at any level of functionality that would work for me. 50% of the norm is not acceptable, especially when you consider what the “norm” looks like for someone with Chronic Lyme. So we packed up the family and left the farm for an entire 5  1/2 weeks. We split up the drive west with a stop in Zion National Park, and the drive back east with a visit with the Grands. And while I read in a reclining chair with an IV dripping salvation slowly into my veins, received multiple daily injections, colonics, lymphatic drainage treatments, chiropractic appointments, and a series of tests that seemed to have no end, Randy became Mr. Mom – full time. Because I was not even available at night, due to the reaction to the treatment. I’ll spare you the treatment details as they were not fun, but the result was Isla and Randy developed a strong father-daughter bond and she became a pro on her balance bike! Nothing like a bit of pavement and bike paths to really open up the world to a kid and her dad.

One afternoon when I returned from the clinic, Isla rushed into my arms. “Mama! I played with a great big black girl today on the slides!” I chuckled and said, “Do you mean the girl was bigger than you and had dark skin?” This translation was confirmed and I was entertained for some time with each and every detail of their time together. Living in a town where there are few Afro-Americans, I was tickled at her excitement and experience. And each day there was a new story of her adventures with new kids – different ages, different genders and different ethnic backgrounds – many not even sharing a common language with my daughter.

One evening I was sitting in bed with a book, feeling like I had been run over by a mack truck, when she quietly walked in and climbed into bed with me. “I wish I could make your Lyme go away Mama,” she said softly. “Can I read next to you?” I nodded with a smile and brushed away my tears. She pulled out her book and started to look through the pages next to me. The uncharacteristic stillness caused me to glance down at my little clone, and I noticed she was staring into space, deep in thought over some dilemma, the same scowl of concentration on her face I so often wear on my own. “Mama?” she said. “I think I need a bruthah. Could you find a little boy without any parents to be my bruthah?”

This request is a bit more poignant than it might seem as she had had a brother who had died at birth. And it wasn’t the first time she has requested a sibling. With me at 50 and Randy… ah, snipped, we won’t be producing any siblings the “natural” way. But what it made me realize, was that she was lonely. As an only child, staying at home with mommy most days, she was craving playmates.

As we drove homeward across the hundreds of miles of basin and range, Randy and I had a lot of time to talk (when we weren’t listening to Charlotte’s Wed or Little House on the Prairie). We discussed getting back into foster care again – Isla was old enough now. And we discussed updating our homestudy for adoption – because you never know when a baby might miraculously fall from the sky into your waiting arms, right? We could never afford the normal adoption-through-an-agency route. We have learned over the years between the loss of Isla’s older brother and her own arrival, adoption is for rich folk… which we are not. But a private adoption….. we might be able to handle. Or an adoption through foster care.

It’s much more complicated than I make it sound, but the bottom line was… it was time. Time to try school again. And I had decided a year and a half ago that there was only one school I felt I could trust with the care of my darling child – Waldorf. We first discovered the Taos Waldorf School when we cared for a 10 yr old foster child who was in 3rd grade there. I fell in love with the school immediately. And over 4 yrs later, I still cry when I go there. I don’t know what it is – the safety? The nurturing environment? The animals, gardens, greenhouse, apiary and orchards? The teachers exuding love? The simple environment based in Nature? The smell of fresh baked bread and simmering soup? I want to regress and become a child and feed “Cookies and Cream”, the enormous angora rabbit, or milk the nubian goats, or pet the ducks and chickens, or walk to the “magic grove” and climb into the massive arms of the old cottonwood tree, like climbing back into my mother’s lap.

But there were two obstacles: money, and an available spot. I waited patiently until school was back in session from the holidays before calling to inquire. And I was greatly relieved to learn that there WAS a space available for the Tues/Thurs attendance I hoped for. Wew! One down….

Next was money – being a private school with no funding to speak of, the only way we could afford it was if I could find work. Ah, that would be… PAYING work. And that is no easy task when you have a VERY limited number of specific hours in which you are available to work. Thankfully, the Universe seemed determined to support this monumental change in our family’s lives. A dear friend was loosing her nanny, right at the same time Isla was beginning school. She needed someone to care for her 1 yr old so she could continue her own career, telecommuting from home. And her hours were flexible, and enough. Good thing I adore her wee lassie as I have not been paid that little is a very, very long time. Even my own 17 yr old babysitter chastised me and said I should not take less than $15/hr. “But dear, I pay YOU 10 an hour.” “Yes, but I am 17 and you are 50, MacLaren – with a child!” But this is all a mute point as I am not interested in starting up my old business designing houses (for $45/hr), nor would I be able to with so few hours available. The important thing is when all is said and done, I come out about $2 ahead per month. Or something like that. It sits uncomfortably in my gut, but I can deal.

And so, Isla had her first day at school last week, with mama of course – a re-introductory visit day. But yesterday, she stayed the full day, WITHOUT me! I was beaming with pride from ear to ear! I played with her after school in the frigid playground, and treated her to a decaf chai at her favorite cafe. She spewed a non-stop string of stories from her day, stopping only to guzzle her well earned beverage. Her whole demeanor seemed to have shifted. She was cooperative and polite with me, thanking me over and over for taking her to school. I could not stop smiling. She seemed so different – so grown up.

And Randy brought her home a beautiful pink rose and big hugs of congratulations. It is so hard to believe that she really did it! And tomorrow is day 2 and she can barely wait. Sigh…

I can’t deny it anymore. It’s true! Our bonnie wee lassie is growing up!

Isla's congratulatory tostada dinner complete with a pink rose from Papa!

Isla’s congratulatory tostada dinner complete with a pink rose from Papa!

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I realize I said my next farm to-do item was harvesting Bucky, our meat goat we raised since last spring. But we must roll with the punches of farm life, eh? Last night my farmer friend called requesting to bring over his 2 doelings. He was anxious to get them in on some of the hot action of the royal boudoir. And less than 24 hrs later – here they are!

Katniss (gray and black - the screamer of the twosome), and Prim (brown and gray, the quieter of the two).

Katniss (gray and black – the screamer of the twosome), and Prim (brown and gray, the quieter of the two).

Meet Katniss and Prim, close relatives of my own goats and pre-empters of their kinsman’s fast approaching demise. Prim is, in fact, our Bucky’s sister, and Katniss is half sister to Fiona, Bucky and Prim. And Hazelnut is auntie to Bucky, Prim and Katniss, and mama to Fiona. I know, caprine kinships can sound a bit like the genealogical archives of a West Virginia Appalachia mountain family. But the important thing to keep track of is that King Arthur is no one’s Uncle Daddy.

“But he IS, ah, Katniss’….. grandpa,” informed Chris with a concerned look in his eye. We both shifted our weight from one foot to the other, finding great interest in a passing magpie. Chris rubbed the stubble of his red beard thoughtfully.

But putting the sketchy family tree aside, there’s about to be a lot of action at Back Porch Farm. King now has his harem of courtly ladies and the only question is who will go into heat first. I am considering selling tickets for front row dinning room window seats. Perhaps a complimentary glass of vino and plate of goat cheese and bruschetta? It could be a timely opportunity to make some cash for which there is a list of projects waiting. I might even compete with the Superbowl. Isla could easily be in charge of the half time entertainment. What do you think, 50 bucks a seat? (No pun intended, surely!)

Just back in from evening feeding and putting to bed our suddenly doubled herd. The new doelings are crying like they’re being led to slaughter, and perhaps deflowering is not too far off the mark. But I know the painful mourning is for their mothers from whom they have never been separated, before tonight. Poor little nuggets. I sat on a play stump for some cuddles which Katniss and Prim lost no time in taking advantage of. Their knobby, little heads thrust strongly under each of my arm pits, trying together to topple me off the stump backwards. I regained my balance ungracefully to a snotty, royal snort in my face from the massive head of King. I’ve got to admit I am finding a fond spot in my heart for that stinky, old fellow. His massive back is at such a convenient height for petting, something that ranks high on the likability chart once you’ve turned 50.

I also have to admit I like the additional barnyard members. It helps to satisfy my insatiable mommy need to take care of creatures. I like the rush of fur and lips, the tasting of my gloved fingers, the nibbling on the string of my hood, pushing and leaning for attention, the smell of alfalfa hay on snow, and the warmth of unconditional, furry love. Lots and lots of love. It surges between us like the ebb and flow of the ocean tides…. love out… love in… love out… love in….

Like the soft, milky breath of a newborn kid.

The new improved herd, 50% larger and more absorbent (of grain and hay and water anyway)!

The new improved herd, 50% larger and more absorbent (of grain and hay and water anyway)!

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It was a first date and I had the jitters. And with royalty no less! Out the southern window I could see the truck turning onto our road, snow kicking up beneath the back tires, the bobbing headlights cutting through a frigid twilight. I adjusted the shoulder straps of my Carhartt overalls, smoothed the mud crusted legs over my thighs, and hoped they didn’t make me look too fat.

And then I saw him – King Arthur himself – riding high and proud in the back of the pickup, his crusty beard cutting a path before him like a rusty saber. Damn, he was HUGE.

I fumbled on my muck boots and tripped into the front courtyard, head lamp gleaming from atop my wool hat. Jim and I shook hands, our collective breath clouding our first introduction. He asked if I had something that could be used as a ramp. I ran around to the shed and dragged back our pet ramp, previously used for an old Pyrenees. That worked fine for his Lordship, and “King” stiffly decended down his red carpet.

And that was when the reek hit me.

I had heard about how buck goats smelled, I had read about it in books, but experiencing it firsthand was… shocking! I struggled with the rising of my stomach as my gag reflex threatened with menace. But I kept smiling, swallowed stoically, and petted the old goat on his sticky, knobby head. Uck. He was the height of an Irish Wolfhound, his back as high as my waist. More like a small pony in fact. And scruffy, and old, and ugly, and did I mention stinky? Have I mentioned yet the way he STUNK?

Together we led King Arthur into his new digs, the palapa in our barnyard pen. I had safely locked the girls and Bucky in the barn before his arrival – no need to have introductions in the dark. He was enthusiastic about his royal welcome: the bowl of grain rations, the fat flake of alfalfa, the throne of fresh straw, and the shiny new bucket of warm water. Jim and I locked his gate and I gave a quick tour of the barn and yard with the short versions of goatie intros (Jim to my goats). The temperature was already plummeting, fast heading down to it’s predicted -13. We slapped our arms against our sides, stomped our rubberized feet in the snow, made a few quick remarks that required a brief laugh in response, and then high tailed it back to our respective warm retreats – me to the house and Jim to his truck.

And that was that. For that night anyway.

Randy did the animal chores and milking in the morning as I got Isla her kefir and toast. This process was constantly interrupted by my need to run to the north window and watch the courtly proceedings as the caprine courtship commenced. Gates and doors were flung wide with great fanfare and Hazelnut had been mounted and well serviced, in -13 degree temps, before the royal trumpets of sunrise had even sounded! Damn! Not bad for a 10 yr old buck. And he only took a short smoke break before he was chasing her amorously around the pen for a second go, upper lip curled back, neck stretched forward, and tongue flapping and blabbing loudly in Hazelnut’s nether regions like her tail was a microphone and he a punk rocker. Fiona and Bucky, both around 10 months old, were terrified, running away in short bursts of speed to huddle together, necks entwined, behind a sage brush. But they, too, were fascinated, and did not run TOO far off. They were just as glued to the scene as we were. Up close animal sex can really bring out the voyeur aspects of humans and animals alike I guess.

King Arthur has proven to be quite sweet, beneath all that horny, lusting, sexual freight train of hormones and stench. It’s a good thing, seeing as he’ll be here for something like a month. I couldn’t help but notice Jim’s hopefully comment that if we wanted to keep him longer – we could. Ha! Fat chance that! But we do need to be sure we are getting our money’s worth out of the elderly gentleman. First Fiona has to go back into heat (she had her heat a week before King arrived), be successfully bred, and then we need to see if either of our does go back into estrus again 21 days after experiencing the Wild Thang. Pregnancy needs to be confirmed before we get our sweet smelling barnyard back because I plan to have TWO milking goats this spring and a pen full of bouncing baby kids!

King Arthur, the resident "Dirty Ole Man"

King Arthur, the resident “Dirty Ole Man”

Himself.

Himself.

Which brings me to Bucky, our current buckling with the wanky left ear and pronounced overbite. Having been castrated at a young age, he, fortunately, does NOT share King’s “ode de cologne”. What a sweet little skewer of kabobs he is, that little nugget of tenderness. It’s fortunate my deep feelings for him do not exceed the limits of my stomach lining. With King Arthur settled in to impregnate the ladies, Bucky is next on the farm to do list. I have stressed away many sleepless nights imagining the process of harvesting a goat for meat. I have read the most graphic of blogs to learn all the standard ways. I have talked to farm friends to file away as much technical information as I can. Some of the details are still foggy, such as what sort of gun to use and where exactly to place the muzzle on his head bone. Some say behind the eye, some say the back of the head. One website showed the forehead. My nurse friend says I need to find the medulla oblongata and shoot there to scramble all signals immediately. He also lent me a game butchering book which I have yet to look through. I figure the butchering of a deer and the butchering of a goat should be about the same as they are both ruminates. I hope I am right.

But my main goal is for Bucky to experience as little pain as possible, and to know he was loved (well, sort of), respected, well cared for, and had a very pleasant life with us, albeit short. Isla will participate in the blessing we say over him and the thanks we give his goatie spirit for the sacrifice of his body so that we may eat it. I have not yet decided if she will be present when he is shot. She has asked to be. She also wanted to see the headless roosters Randy butchered, the the body of our hen who was savagely decapitated by a weasel. She is pretty tough that way for a 3 yr old – a farm girl through and through. We have talked openly about Bucky’s fate from when we brought him home last spring until the present. She understands. She tells friends that Bucky is our freezer goat. “Everything has to eat,” she explains with an off handed shrug of her delicate shoulders. And we would like to take responsibility in as much of our animal meat procurement as possible, knowing that the animals were treated well, fed well, and lived a healthy life. And also that they were dispatched in as humane a way as possible. I do not want a repeat of the demise of Fiona and Bucky’s father back at their birth farm. I was not present, but heard it took 3 shots to drop Lancelot, and that he went berserk in between, pumping out so much adrenalin that the dogs would not even touch his meat.

And so I pray my shot will be true, because I have volunteered to pull the trigger….

….and the time is nearly nigh.

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A perfect evening I almost missed.

I was on my way to the bath, 2 fingers of single malt scotch over 2 cubes of ice, tinkling in my hand. I was behind the Lyme curtain, in a haze of achy joints and muscles, exhausted from just making it through another day of mommyhood and farm life. All I could think of was BATH. ACETAMINOPHEN. SCOTCH. But I looked back…. and saw…. Randy, who was also exhausted from a hard day of work, still in his BLM uniform, unshowered, running hot water in the sink to tackle 24 hrs worth of dishes… then feed the animals… and then cook dinner… while keeping an eye on Isla. All while I was in the tub. Crap. I may be in a Lyme relapse, but that was just plain unfair.

“How about if I feed the animals first honey?” He turned towards me with gratefulness in his eyes. Gratefulness. Not resentment. Not sarcasm. Not anger. That is this man I married. “That would be great,” he smiled. “Thanks.”

And that was how my perfect evening began.

I truly thought I was still going to the bath, but before I knew it, Isla and I were filling water tubes and petting the goaties and counting eggs into the basket. For the first time I let Isla scoop out the grain rations herself and mix them in the big red bowl. I have been working hard on this – resisting the urge to be a helicopter mom. And I fought the urge then to look over my shoulder and instruct and micromanage. To my proud delight – I won my internal battle by busying myself tossing hay flakes to the goats. Then Isla filled chicken feed tubes and scattered scratch while I set things up for morning milking. We got lost collecting perfect turkey feathers that Thomas has been moulting – snow white with flat, black tips. I have an idea of selling them on EBay one day. We did our best to pet Noche, our one and only 2012 chick, but she is still rather skittish. (At least we hope she is a she.) Then we dropped the eggs off in the kitchen and I retrieved my scotch to follow Isla around the yard on her balance bike.

“Watch me Mama!” She careened around the garden fence with no chance of Mama catching her. That girl needs a pedal bike, I thought. Molly, the Pyrenees, did a much better job of keeping up than I. Randy had wandered out into the garden with our big metal harvest bowl to get some veggies for dinner. I stopped and we talked about our days while leaning on the fence. Isla yelled to me from behind the chicken coop, still waiting for me to watch her. (!!!) I walked slowly around the corner of our 3 Sisters patch and commented on 2 new winter squash fruits getting started on the edges. No telling what was happening in the middle – it was an absolute jungle of red flint corn, Taos Pueblo red beans, winter squash and amish pumpkins. The paths I had carefully raked in Spring, had disappeared in July. I’ll have to remember to give the plants a more generous spacing next summer. On the east run of fencing I leaned over and checked the Calypso beans. A few pods were dry. They were ready to begin harvesting. Isla adores shelling the colorful dried beans. And there is something so satisfying about digging your hands into a bowl of hard, cool, shiny, colorful beans – Ireland Creek Annie (greenish-white), Calypso (black and white) and the Taos red beans (brick red) – and hearing the shooshing and tinkling sounds as they bounce back into their ceramic bowl.

I rendezvoused back with Isla near the play set. We watched a large spider in it’s hole for a few minutes. I thought it might be a tarantula, but it was not. But we did coax it an inch or so out into the light. And then I offered to push my nugget on her swing. This may seem like a normal occurrence, but the truth is that it’s rare. Randy is the one who swings her in the evening when he comes home. I am too busy working around the farm or house in the days, or too tired in the evenings. I have never been one of those “make and do” sort of moms who has time for activities with my child. Isla and I spend our time together doing house or farm chores. She has her own broom and mop, her own tool belt with real tools, her own rake and shovel. When we muck out the coop, we do it together, filling her wheel barrow first and then mine. And in the rare moments I can read a mommy-farm blog, I savour in the fantasy of being like them – art and sewing projects, music time, general creativity. But I am not, sigh. That was why this moment was so very sweet and special.

We counted the swings together to 30 and then she pumped her legs and swung herself. Randy and I chatted more through the 7′ high sunflowers. Isabelle and Thomas flapped their prehistoric wings up to their roosts, and watched us from their bleachers, pink wattles wagging as they retained their balance. The Tommys alighted one after another, sidestepping closer to mom. Then Father sun dropped below the low western clouds and lit the landscape with a sudden shot of alpine glow. It was like a pink filter had been dropped over my eyes. I sat in the second swing and Isla slowed beside me. And for the next 15 minutes we watched the spectacular scene, side by side, as it changed from moment to moment, making sure we checked over our shoulders as well. The swatch of dusty rose tiptoed up the mountains at our backs, and launched off the top off Taos Mountain into lavender and powder blue. The setting sun said goodnight, leaving the horizon blazing in neon salmon, hot yellow, and smears of blueberry. A curtain of pale purple virga reached its fingers toward the parched desert land, but was intercepted by the low relative humidity, never realizing it’s distant goal. Too bad for our garden, but stunning to our eyes. A baker’s dozen of grackles flapped over our heads heading to their roost on the eastern hills. Thomas gobbled. Molly barked. Willie crowed. And in perfect synch, Jay Jay, the neighborhood’s donkey let loose a rusty, winding bray! The scent of grilling burgers reached my nose – burgers from the 1/4 cow we buy each year – local, organic and pasture raised. And grilling slabs of zucchini – I could smell them too. The color slowly faded from the sky, starting from behind us and retreating over our heads toward the west.

“Let’s go set the table Sweetpea.” This was Isla new responsibility, since the child proof lock had busted on the silverware drawer and she was cutting with sharp knives now anyway. She also decided to start filling all 3 of our water cups for meals as well. She can reach the water dispenser on the fridge and the enamel camping cups are pretty safe to carry. So what if I skate through a river of spilled water – she is learning and she feels valued and responsible. That’s what tile floors are for. Then we grabbed the flashlight and went back to the barn to put everyone to bed.

With Hazelnut in her new stall, and the kids busy chowing on the grain in theirs, Isla was able to give Bucky a big hug. As he is usually too rambunctious and nibbly, this was a very sweet moment. Bucky is soon to be our freezer goat and Isla knows we need to give him lots of love now, as we’ll be eating him this winter. Fiona, our doeling, is an easy snuggler, always gentle and willing, and she responded to her attention with the usual love in her brown eyes. Then together we counted the chickens through the coop window and latched their coop door and fence door. We said goodnight to the turkeys as we passed quickly beneath them, reaching high to touch each one lightly on his or her tail or breast. Then we headed back to the house, hand in hand in the darkening twilight.

As I paused to drink in the night, count the stars and heft my daughter to my hip, I thought, “This was such a perfect night. Sure, hot baths are great too, but this was…… PERFECTION.”

And to think that I had almost missed it.

August garden

Isabelle with a Tommy under each wing facing opposite directions

Another spectacular high desert sunset from our farm

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For my 50th birthday, I got a new pair of telemark ski boots from my husband! And generous birthday checks from my dad and in-laws. And I might be getting some financial help from a certain little brother towards the purchase of a compound bow. I organized a 3 day raft trip for my family and a handful of friends and ate my favorite flourless chocolate cake, complete with candles, on the banks of the river. All for my celebration of turning half a century.

And I also got a relapse of my Chronic Lyme Disease. I don’t remember asking for THAT gift…. Or did I?

It’s easy to see how I “set myself up” in hindsight, but very difficult to push away denial in the moment as the freight train is barreling through the mountain pass. The freight train I speak of would be my life and the mountain pass all the distractions in it’s path. I can look back now, as I groan from the deep aching pains in my muscles and joints, and see how I created my own perfect storm.

Yup…. It really started with Spring…. or maybe even late winter when the construction of the pole barn for the goats began… Those were fun and exciting days, but also stressful, as we had a deadline of when the goats were arriving. Stress is a killer for those of us with CLD (Chronic Lyme Disease). Six consecutive weekends of work parties with supportive friends completed our barn raising. I was either with the boys slinging my hammer, or in the house with Isla preparing a mid day feast for the crowd. I was also the project boss – in charge of design and being sure the materials were all on hand for the day of work. It was exhilarating to watch MY barn slowly raise up from the snowy ground… but stressful and exhausting too.

Then came the goats and my goat-owner-trial-by-fire began. Intense! This was all MY thing, a long time dream of mine. Randy did not want the goats. I struggled alone through fear and worry as I taught myself to milk the mama, bottle feed 2 kids, and keep them happy and safe.

Next was garden time. This began with the planting of indoor starters, tilling and raking beds in prep for planting the garden, and a new garden addition that was around 400 to 500 square feet. In our horrific soil we have to hand spade the ground first to break it, then till in 2 directions, then rake out rocks, then add whatever supplement of compost we have, then till a third time, then rake the soil into raised beds creating the paths, then plant, and THEN set up the drip irrigation! Oh, I forgot fencing. Randy handled the new fencing and 3/4 of the spading, but I did the rest. And that was just plain STUPID. I do enjoy pushing myself hard when my health is holding, but this was idiotic. I overdid it for many weekends in a row, as well as weekdays when I had the energy. While I was wrestling with the tiller in the garden addition, Randy planted ALL of the massive garden single handedly. Then I planted the addition. And I think that was when my Borrelia burgdorferi began to yawn, stretch and rub it’s sleepy eyes.

In the midst of the garden work the chicken coop was moved beside the barn with the help of 8 strong hands, and fencing was placed around it to separate goats and chickens. Soon after I found a pair of Royal Palm turkeys for trade and brought them home. Not a lot of stress and physical labor getting the dog house moved into the goat pen for the turkeys and getting them established. But certainly some.

But then the poultry drama really began. I brought home a borrowed broody bird and settled her into the broody house on top of 5 of our eggs and 18 expensive, rare breed, bought eggs. While she set on her clutch, the turkey hen went broody and began to set on a total of 18 eggs. 3 of our 5 chicken eggs hatched and a big ZERO of the 18 bought eggs. So I hustled around to two different feed stores and brought home 14 babies to tuck under the mama’s wing. After the addition of 17 chicks to our flock, the 3 chick deaths were sad, but not unexpected. But the gray fox that managed to get into the pen and kill 14 chicks and the mom – now that laid a MASSIVE emotional burden on my shoulders. And the Lyme spirochetes, hiding deep in the cells of my draining body, were on alert – they knew a chance may be coming soon for them to pounce once more.

Grief and Guilt drove me to long hours of further wrapping of the pen, securing it from all angles and heights. And creating a pen around the poultry nursery to keep goat kids from jumping off the roofs of the broody houses. Turkey poults hatched, but only five. Two of the five died leaving us with three. I was sad and disappointed. A second broody bird was borrowed and brought home to sit on top of 12 of our eggs. Meanwhile a woman in WI supposedly put 20 or so of her rare breed eggs into her incubator for me. The plan was to ship us the day old chicks who’s age would be within a day or two of the chicks hatched on our farm. But only ONE of our 12 eggs hatched and the woman in WI never put the eggs in her incubator. And she never bothered to tell me!

My plan was to double my flock this year introducing some rare breeds who laid dark chocolate brown eggs, more Americaunas (the blue-green egg layers), and some white eggs layers. AND a batch of turkey poults to sell for Thanksgiving dinners. One turkey hen will go back to the original owners of the turkey pair as agreed, one hen we would like to keep for breeding, and one turkey would be for our table. But we still don’t know the sexes. Doubtful we’ll be making any money there however, unless they are all toms. And as for doubling my chicken flock – Ha! From all the stress, loss, efforts and money invested, we end up with ONE CHICK. The joke between Randy and I is that it will probably grow up to be a rooster. However, we have LOST 2 laying hens this year to natural deaths (non-predator related), so it’s not looking good for an increase in egg production on our farm. As I write all this down, I realize I have not given the year’s poultry stresses enough weight in the Lyme equation. I think the cumulation has contributed a great deal towards this current relapse.

A year and a half ago, Randy asked what I wanted to do for my 50th birthday. Without hesitation, I said, “A raft trip down the Chama River with all my friends!” It sounded like the perfect birthday celebration! We got our permit application into the lottery in time, and were drawn for the requested weekend. The trip was on. I am the planner/organizer of the family and I LOVE doing it! All the projects and undertakings mentioned above were at my urging and pushing. Randy is garden boss, I am animal boss. And of course there is overlap. But when it comes to overall farm planning, I am self-proclaimed boss of all. (That was why I ended up doing the majority of the garden addition. It was MY idea.) Plus, when I was pregnant with Isla, it was agreed: We would buy land, create a little urban homestead, and I would run the farm and raise our daughter at home. And 3 years later, here I find myself, running our farm and raising our daughter, living the life I dreamed of. But if this career is going to work for me, I am going to have to learn to live without having ALL of my goals and dreams manifested over night.

But back to the river. The time was finally upon us and my Big 5-0 loomed in the very near future. Invites were sent out several months in advance, gear organized, menus planned and shuttles arranged. 3 weeks before launch, one family of 3 bailed. I was sad as I was looking forward to getting to know them better. We have a lot of interests in common and their daughter is only 5 months older than ours. The day before launch, my dear friend and her family of 4 had to bail as her 16 yr old was horribly ill. I was extremely sad they were canceling. I had been so looking forward to initiating them into the rafting life style and sharing this part of my life and passion with them all.

In the week leading up to launch, there seemed to be no end to the last minutes projects that needed to be completed before leaving. The turkey poults were passing easily through the chain link nursery fence, leaving their distressed mother behind. And one even continued right through the stucco netting of the goat pen out into the free world! That would NOT do! So the nursery chain link needed to be wrapped with smaller holed poultry netting and wired on. The drip irrigation needed to be finished on the garden addition and re-routed to become a 4th irrigation zone on it’s own. The garden needed harvesting and the access processed and in the freezer (a MASSIVE job). Weeding needed to be done and squash bugs had to be picked off by hand before they devastated our crop. River gear needed going through, the menu planned and bought for, and all group gear packed. Then our personal gear needed packing. THEN the house needed to be cleaned for the house sitter, and my house sitter novella edited for goats and turkeys.

It then occurred to me this was the first time we had left the farm since getting the goats and the turkeys! No WONDER I was feeling such panic and stress! I was leaving my newest babies in the care of another for 4 days. Any number of horrors could befall them in that short interval.

Three days before launch I felt the fear swirling into the dark depth of my chest. Using good judgement, I paid a friend to come help me with Isla and processing the harvest. Then again to clean the house. And I also commandeered another friend to help out over the final 2 days with whatever needed doing. The night before our final prep day there was no more denying it. I KNEW I was in trouble. I could feel the deep aching in my body, sensed the depression flooding in extinguishing all my internal fire, and a depth of exhaustion that was frightenly familiar. The warning bells began to ring. LOUDLY.

But what could I do then? I persevered… I couldn’t bail on my own trip! I busted my ass for the final prep and pack day and we drove away from the farm that evening, my heart aching with fear, my body aching from the attacking spirochetes. We spent the night in a cabin at the launch site and the next morning was more ass busting of rigging rafts, re-packing gear, and packing it all on the rafts. As the organizer I was feeling completely overwhelmed and (dare I say it?) honestly, so very relieved that 2 families had bailed and we were down to only 10. If our poor 16 yr old baby-sitter had not gotten deathly ill, causing her whole family to stay home, I would have been rowing an additional raft myself WHILE taking care of my 3 yr old and the group! I do not know if I could have done it in the state of decline I was already in.

And then on the river…. the blessed river…. which is usually my place to relax and recharge. Randy brought to my appalled attention that this was my first time organizing and being the “leader” of a group raft trip of more than 4 people. What? How could that be? Really? And we had started the trip with 17! Yet one more reason for my emotional and physical overwhelm and exhaustion. I was a wreck internally, while doing my best not to show it externally. Unfortunately for my family, Randy and Isla saw plenty of my wretchedness as my crankiness spilled out sideways in their directions. And it rained, and rained, and rained on the trip. It was the wettest Chama trip I remember in my history of 7 trips down. Isla was needy and difficult, certainly reacting to my own neediness and stress. And I was exhausted and concerned about everything running smoothly. It was hard. I was so relieved to discover that everyone else had had a great time, despite the rain! But the bummer for me was that this trip was my birthday trip and I did NOT have a good time. Because I was completely wasted and taking a full face plant into my current relapse of Lyme.

Lyme sucks. There is no other way to say it. One of the hardest things is that you look fine on the surface, so you just appear to be a lazy, cranky, complaining human suffering hypochondriac delusions. Being a person who thrives with goals and projects to constantly be working on, it hits me where it hurts most. It dumps a big bucket of river water on all my fiery passion. I drops me into depression and apathy. I was so down after we returned from the river that I didn’t even want to check if any chicks had hatched. That says a lot.

Many people ask “How do you feel?” or “How do your symptoms manifest?” Well, I know it is a bit different for each individual, but for me, the main one is pain. I am used to living with a mild level of chronic pain that never really goes away. But in a relapse the pain is much more intense. It reminds me of the pain that accompanies a very bad flu bug – body aches that leave you writhing and moaning in bed sort of pain. Pain in the muscles, pain in the joints. Arthritic symptoms that are mild in the good times become claw shaped hands in the morning with a relapse. Thank God Randy has taken over morning milkings because my hands hurt so badly in the morning that I am not sure I could do it. Before this relapse I sometimes had to rub my hands under hot water before heading to the barn with the milk pail. I’ll find out in a couple days what lengths I have to go to now, as Randy leaves town Fri for an over night backpacking trip.

Brain fog is a large symptom. My neurological symptoms have always been tough for me. Word choice can be very difficult when speaking. Sometimes I can not finish a sentence, as I stop to work out the next word and then forget what the sentence and thought was about. I walk into a room and can’t remember what the reason was. I can not remember to call people back or return emails. I can’t remember what I am supposed to do. I often forget simple things like brushing my and Isla’s teeth in the morning, or brushing our hair. I feel like I am walking through a thick fog, a dream, a surreal land. Sometimes I hear my own voice as though it’s far away or another person speaking. I can have a thought but can not voice it. Writing can be quite entertaining at times when I go back to edit. There are typos and entire words that aren’t even CLOSE to what I meant to have in their places.

Depression sets in leaving me numb, unmotivated, and apathetic. I feel shame and have a strong sense of self-loathing. I feel like I am a bad person – a bad mother, a bad wife, and bad friend. I feel so dependent and needy that it disgusts me. I feel like a pathetic burden on my friends and husband. I want to isolate and suffer in solitude where I won’t effect anyone else. I want to push people away so they can’t see me like this. Even people close to me. I am dreadfully emotional. I want to crawl into a cave and sob for eternity.

And the exhaustion can be so intense that I can not get out of bed. My kid begs me to get up and I am not sure how to do it. I sit in a filthy house and can’t imagine how I will ever get it clean and organized again. I know I need to do at least SOME work at home but there are days I simply can’t. Nothing.

Fortunately I am describing the worst case scenario days, and they are not all this bad. But I cycle in and out, up and down. Yesterday was a great day! My dearest mama friend and her entire family came over for the day. While her husband worked me over on his massage table for 2 solid hours, my friend took our 3 collective kiddos out to the garden and harvested for an hour or so, then came inside and start dealing with harvest as well as making lunch for us all, and doing the dishes in her wake. They were saviors. I was overflowing with love when they left and felt so very hopeful again. I was able to get a lot done, even after they left!

But today I am paying the piper for too much fun yesterday. I am back at the bottom – not quite in the dregs yet, but hovering only a bit above. The house looks like a cyclone hit it. And I just don’t care.

The other side of Lyme is the Tough Love Teacher. It always has something to teach me, whether I am interested in learning it or not. What I am learning through this relapse is gratitude, forgiveness, humility, gentleness. I am learning to love myself and take this one day at a time. I am learning that no one will die if they have to live in a house that is filthier that the goat barn. I am learning that my husband can actually enjoy milking our goat at 5:30AM! I am learning to stop, breath, feel grateful for all I have – grateful for the water I am drinking, the food I eat from our garden, the fresh milk I make my kefir with. I am learning to reach out to the higher power of my choosing and ask for help, strength, support and guidance on my healing path. I am learning that my friends and community love me and are there for me. I am overwhelmed with the offers of help, the prayers sent, the love poured upon me. I am learning to open my heart and receive these gifts, which is a damn hard thing for a self-sufficient, stubborn, fiery, Scot-Irish girl like myself. I am forgiving myself. I am drinking slow pots of tea. Lots of them. On the porch. While the weeds grow in the garden like Little Shop of Horrors.

OK Lyme Disease – you’ve got me again. But I will do my damnedest to stay afloat and see my glass half full. I open my heart and  embrace your lessons and choose to see this relapse as an opportunity.

An opportunity to learn, heal, and grow.

PS: Good news! I stared this post about a week ago and it has taken some time and energy to edit. But during this editing, I have seen a marked improvement in my energy with a dramatic decrease in my pain. It would appear the protocol I set out for myself is working. I feel very hopeful that I have caught this crash in time. Perhaps I won’t plummet ALL the way down this time around. Keep your fingers crossed for me…..

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It begins with a back massage and a little acupressure for those trigger points…. a long massage… very LONG…. possibly 3 minutes. The hen crouches motionless under the massive weight of her 30 lb masseur. No feathers are flying, this is not the violent rape of a rooster. After just the right amount of time, the tom’s talons become still and he slowly crouches down on his lady’s back, lowering his massive wings towards the ground in an avian embrace… and waits for her to give the word. The suspense builds, and then, without warning, she suddenly flips her 16″ tail up in the air, the tom wraps his tail around the side and under, and… SCORE! 10 POINTS!  I could set my watch to their punctuality. Every morning, just as I am heading back to the gate with the milking pail (wishing it was a little more full), the foreplay begins. Isla and I watch with rapt attention, determined to catch a glimpse of a “turkey weenie”. But so far I have only seen the deposit left at the bank as the door closes at the end of the business day.

I brought home our adult pair of Royal Palm turkeys in the back of my 4-Runner. Isabelle could barely turn in the medium sized dog carrier and Thomas strutted freely back and forth gobbling at the gawking drivers behind us. As we crept through the bottle neck of Plaza traffic, his gobble sounded like a PA system through the open windows, causing chiropractic mishaps to all the rubbernecking tourists. Isla sat mere inches in front of him in her car seat with her hands planted firmly over her ears for the entire drive home.

As Randy was at work (his paying job), the transfer of the turkeys would be on my own, while keeping my 3 yr old from melting down and my Pyrenees from having Thanksgiving dinner early. My initial shock at seeing their size (the internet said they were a small breed) had worn off by the time we arrived home and now my heart palpitations were all in response to the big question: How is the hell am I going to get them to the goat pen by myself?

First I got Isla out of her car seat, then we put our excitable Molly in the house to graze freely on the cat food while we were otherwise occupied. I wanted to release both birds into the goat pen simultaneously, so they would not stress about being alone. I carefully opened the hatch, stretched my arm inside, and caressed Thomas’ broad back, slipping my arm around him in a big bear hug. UGH. Gawd he was heavy! With the big boy wrapped in my arms I grabbed the handle of the dog carrier. This was certainly the world’s most awkward way to carry 40 lbs of potential dinner. Crap – the 1st gate. I slowly squatted, setting Isabelle’s carrier on the ground, opened the gate, and squatted once more to heft her back up. That’s when the top of the carrier parted from the bottom and Isabelle started to walk right out! AHHHH! Of course the excitement caused Thomas to start flapping and Isla to start crying. (A quick clarification here – Isabelle is a turkey, Isla is my daughter.)

I managed to push Isabelle back into the carrier while containing Thomas’ prehistoric wings and claws. Somewhere in the back of my brain I was aware I would have a bruise on the side of my face from the battering I had just received from his wings. It felt like wrestling with an out of control 747. Somehow I reattached the lid, and secured the hen inside once more, this time leaving her in the gravel by the car. I carried Thomas to the 2nd gate – the entrance to the goat pen and his future home. I had read that roosters and toms can fight to the death so I wanted the poultry intros to be over time. As I struggled to open the latch Thomas saw the goats and the goats saw Thomas. All hell broke loose! The goats ran away into their barn ma-ahing fearfully, and Thomas tried desperately to take to the sky! I now giggle at my fear of breaking his wings as I wrestled him down to the ground. It would take a front end loader to break a wing on a turkey tom! I could sense the stickiness of blood welling up on my belly from my growing list of battle wounds. But, I finally got him back in my arms and carried him in, shoving him into the commandeered dog house we claimed for their new home. We hoped the pair would eventually raise a veritable feast for us and our friends, so the boudoir felt important. A few deep breaths, and back for Isabelle. Once they were both introduced into their house, shown their food and water, I was ready for a stiff martini. At noon.

So far, life with turkeys has been very enjoyable. Royal Palms are an endangered, heritage breed that were developed by crossing Black, Bronze, Naragansette and native turkeys. They are slow growing, small (HA!), and considered the most beautiful of all the turkey breeds. They are good foragers, thrifty to keep, and an excellent choice for a small farm who wants “slow food”. We had been discussing raising turkeys for 2 years, and were feeling more serious about it this spring. But a few minutes on line reminded me of the brooding box phase and I knew I simply did not have the time and energy to raise poults (turkey chicks) by hand. If only I could buy some adult turkeys…. preferably Naragansettes. A few weeks later a good friend asked if I had seen the posting on the local Facebook Barter Bank page for the pr of turkeys. I quickly pulled up the page and posted a comment so I could be “in line”. I had one person ahead of me who was interested. Some quick research on Royal Palms gave me enough education to realize this was the perfect breed of turkey and the perfect arrangement! And the next day I got the news that I’d won the turkey lottery!

Since bringing them home, I have grown quiet found of Isabelle and Thomas. Thomas is a masterpiece of Nature – almost hideous on first glance with his bald, bumpy blue and white head, his wattle that resembles bright red intestines spilling down his neck, and a limp, red snood that drips over one side of his curved beak. But after a few hours, his beauty starts to emerge: that blue head is the color of the New Mexico summer sky, his red, the color of fresh blood. And as his mood changes, so do his colors. The red becomes a pale pinkish white and a few clouds come across his blue sky baldness. When very frightened (as in when I brought him home), his snood turns gray white and contracts up into a little cone that sticks out from the top of his beak. It is fascinating, and I haven’t even gotten to his feathers yet. He is snow white with a black end band on most of his feathers. When he deals out the hand of his magnificent tail in a full strut, it is a beautiful fan of black tips over white. He fluffs his body feathers, with his back feathers standing erect, and blows up his chest airbags with a thump. If he knew more about his frankenturkey cousins, the Butterballs, he might not make his chest look so delicious. Then he vibrates his body and airbags, creating a sound like distant thunder, and scrapes his wing tips noisily along the ground for emphasis. Over and over he displays in this way as if to say “Look at me! Aren’t I a handsome, fearsome beast?” Yes Thomas, you most certainly are. But when I herd him with open hands into the embrace of my arms, he cowards between my bent knees. His head and face change to white/gray and he turns away from me like a small boy away from a gushing, perfumed aunt. He squeaks out a small whimper that simply makes me want to snuggle him closer. All that boasting display of color and thunder, but inside is just this sweet, shy little boy.

Isabelle is 1/2 the size of her mate and just as sweet. She is pure white with pale pink bald head and wattle. In as much as Thomas is gaudy and flashing, she is demure and classy, waiting quietly to be noticed. She will let me stroke her gently without walking away, something Thomas won’t stand still for as it would affect his image. Although Thomas services Isabelle religiously each morning, and struts around her in his finest array waiting for her attention, Isabelle pines through the fence at Little Willie the rooster, pacing back and forth, whistling and pipping and cooing. Her windy whisperings of sweet nothings would make any man weak in the knees, regardless of the species. (Randy came in quite affected by it this morning.) This poultry love triangle is almost painful to watch. I would let the birds mingle unsegregated, as the turkeys both show a painful desire to be with the chickens, except for the risk of injury . Both Isabelle and Thomas have ended up on the chicken side of the tracks a few times and the result was not encouraging. Little Willie was bleeding profusely from his comb and wattle and Thomas lost a handful of chest feathers. When I caught Isabelle in the coop pen she and Willie were sparring and I am not sure where it would have gone without intervention. And the previous owners said Thomas had been mounting their chicken hens and being quite rough about it. We plan to fence in a large area (1/8 acre) for some pasturing for all the animals as soon as we can. I will let the group cruise together then while I shepherd them from a camping chair with a good book. We’ll see if they can all get along in a larger space filled with new and interesting distractions.

But for now we will chug along, dreaming of a nicer turkey roost, a turkey addition on the goat barn, a brood of little poults, and keep trying to catch a glimpse of the elusive “turkey weenie”.

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Well, not many people would call Santa Fe “the city”, but when comparing to Taos, it feels that way to me.

I had an allergy testing appointment – one of those FUN ones with a total of 76 individual pricks over both forearms and biceps. And then the nurse says “DO NOT SCRATCH!!!” And, as my arms felt like they were covered with 50,000 crawling ants, with welts popping up like prairie dogs, that warning made me want to punch… something! Good thing she was so sweet. So I sat there in the testing room, reading my book on how to run a small goat dairy, after being hastily hooked up to oxygen when they feared I was going into anaphylactic shock. I was starving for something green. I was not allowed to eat ANYTHING with Vitamin C in it for 3 full days prior, as Vitamin C can mask the histamine response to an allergy, subsequently giving false negative results. That means no fruits and no vegetables. It was almost funny, except it wasn’t. So when I wasn’t reading about lactation curves, and getting a high off the O2, I was fantasizing about the trough of salad I was going to have in just a few… more… minutes.

I arrived at the restaurant, excited to have lunch with my new friend. She is a wonderful woman who has a heart the size of the state of Texas she hails from. She arrived with an ear to ear grin, even more beautiful than when I first met her last fall – outside AND in. Being with her is akin to being washed from head to toe with love, acceptance, and appreciation. Is there anyone who can’t use a dose of those? We had lots to talk about over soup, salad, and a hot chai for me. In the parking lot I passed off her delivery: goat milk, goat kefir, kefir grains, goat chevre, olive bruschetta, and 1 doz eggs. My second ever goat product sale! And I drove reluctantly away, with my back seat full of generous gifts for the family, and my heart even fuller from her presence.

It was a good thing she had filled me up with positive energy, because I was heading for the emotional dungeon….

Disney World. Or at least that is what a mall feels like to me. But I had been forced into it – I had to buy new bras. I am embarrassed to admit I was still subsisting off the same two nursing bras I had bought 3 years ago, and my daughter had been weaned for 6 months! Not only were these 2 archeological antiquities threadbare, they were WAY too big now. Imagine a pair of hammocks with tiny, limp, water balloons hiding in the depths of each, swinging glumly, side by side, a bit like Eyore’s tail. Breast feeding is hard on a woman’s body image, I’ll tell you! As I pulled into a parking space I thought back to Hazelnut’s shriveled, pendulous teats this morning as I walked away with my  milking pail a 1/3 full. The resemblance was uncanny. Except for the hair (thank god). But my mama friend told me I probably needed to be measured as I would be a totally different size by now (Size F – for Flaccid), and this was the only place I knew to go for this demeaning task. I might even prefer a mammogram. Because I was now walking, al beit with extreme difficulty, toward THAT store! You know… THAT ONE! The dreaded VICTORIA’S SECRET! And I can tell you what her secret is too: 10% of the female population, or less, can actually wear the bras in this store! HA! And guess where my water balloons fall on that statistic? (yes, down to my belly button – I know, I know!)

I was cranky with anticipation, so the store barely had a chance. But I walked boldly in, sheilding my eyes from the relentless spread of neon colors, and ignoring my frayed pants hem 3 inches above my sockless shoes. I smelled of goats. I barely cared. I took one lap and headed back out the entrance. There was NOTHING for me in there! Who WERE those mannequins modeled after anyway?? And how many retouches did that poster take? Grrr….. I took a deep breath, pivoted on my dirty heels caked with “nanny berries”, and re-entered, only slightly more composed. I found a sales chick (because I could not have called her a woman) and asked where the non-neon bras were without underwire and push up pads. She said they had two models without underwire and neither were push ups. The “regular” colors (black, white and nude) were in the drawers. She showed me, then pushed a lock of dyed hair from her eye, stiff with a milking pail full of hair gel. They were padded. I explained I did not need a padded bra (nor had I since I’d been 11). She said all their bras were “lined” (as in – with foam). I sighed. She measured me, with my arms outstretched like a sacrificial maiden (and I hoped hysterically that my pits REALLY stank), and gave me several choices to try. Again I heaved a sigh. When asked how the bras were fitting, I unabashedly opened the dressing room door, grabbed a pinch full of loose skin from the sides of the bra cups, lifted them up in synch, and said, “Not very well.” I saw the girl glance instead at my arms which were riddled with what appeared to be track marks of an intravenous drug user. “Allergy testing”, I said and smiled. She smiled back. One look at my country mouse farm clothes was all it took to convince her of the truth. I probably didn’t look like I’d been “shooting up” with my morning coffee.

So I said a grouchy farewell to Disney World and drove out through the maze of parking, still wearing my boob-beaten, sweat filled bra, feeling like a little test mouse in a research maze. Mini Mouse perhaps? And the further away I got from the neon pink thong bikinis and neon green pushup bras, the better I felt. I headed north, deciding what I might need to fully return myself to my former dignity. Hmmm… perhaps a quick stop at Home Depot to fondle some power tools? Some heavy petting with the coveted Dewalt table saw? Naw, I didn’t have the guts to get across the 6 lanes of traffic in time. Then my steering wheel started pulling to the right… HARD. Whoa! Right into the Toyota dealership! Time to drool over some Tundra trucks I guess. I asked for my favorite salesman, a 6′-5″ Isreali who had changed his name to Aspen Leaf after immigrating. One of my favorite past times is picking on him until he cracks a smile. I’ve bought 3 Toyotas from him trying. But Aspen was not in and there were no used crew cab Tundras.

The only thing still missing was my always dependable Attitude Adjuster (nope, not the margarita – I was still driving). CHOCOLATE! So back on the road to figure out where that fancy pants chocolate store was. The 18′ stretch limo parked in back clued me in. I slowly sipped my Havana Rum hot chocolate back to my Happy Place as I read about manger designs and how to trim a hoof correctly. Ahh. In my body once more. Time to head home.

A fierce windstorm buffeted me violently just north of Espanola, followed by driving rain of a spring squall. But as I enter the Gorge of the Rio Grande, the rain shifted to a gentle drizzle, just enough to keep my intermittent wipers clicking rhythmically across the crack in my windshield. The gorge opened up through Rinconda and the flood plain burst forth with a symphony of greens and pastels! Fruit orchards were heavy with blossom and lilacs flashed past in ice cream colors: lovely lavender, very berry and violent violet! Spreading, long leaf willows struggled to release new leaflets from their winter bondage. Purple catkins drooped heavily from the stately cottonwoods that marched along the river bank. In another week or two they would release their namesake fluff on the wind to go forth and propagate. Then the walls closed back in and I happily dodged fallen rocks while watching the sinuous Rio wind it’s way up the rift of shiny, black basalt. As a rainbow appeared from behind a tall cliff, I was overcome with a feeling of expansive gratitude. OK, that was hard on my ego, but I am SO thankful to have these 2 teats – I mean breasts – that nurtured my child for 2-1/2 yrs. I am SO thankful to have a husband who loves me whether he finds those breasts at my waist or above it.

And I am SO thankful to have a daughter who will grow up free of the damaging, sexualizing media of television and magazines, reveling in her strong, athletic body, knowing what REAL woman’s bodies REALLY look like.

And believing that every body is perfect…

…just as it is.

Hazelnut and I can relate around REAL mammaries (and daughters).

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