Thursday, July 19, 2012

Heat and Relief

Heat.  It's all I can think about these days.  It's been a long, hot, and dry summer.  And it's not over yet.  All week long Joey works in the heat, I escape it in the library, and then we return to our hot house and try not to make it any hotter by cooking, washing dishes under hot water, or even moving.  My legs stick to the leather couch.  When I don't know where the dog is I find him sleeping in the bathtub.  Maybe it's cooler in there.

Our pasture, corn field, gardens, yard, and checking account have been dried out and squeezed within an inch of its life.  Every weekend has been full of weddings and running back to the suburbs.  Too much concrete, too much heat, and too much money.  I am grateful for the time spent with family and friends.  But I am also ready to spend more than a few days at my own house, work a full workweek, tend to my parched gardens.

Last week, we got a little respite in the form of a long weekend vacation with some friends, a couple and their little boy.  We drove 12 hours through the night after work last Wednesday, out of the state of Illinois, through the North Woods of Wisconsin, to catch the 7:30 am ferry to Madeline Island on Lake Superior.  We spent the next few days kayaking, canoeing, and relishing many hours swimming in the cold, clear waters of the Great Lake.  We walked barefoot in sand and green grass, made sand castles, and threw a tennis ball into the water for Jip to retrieve, over and over again.  We lounged on the screen porch and finished good books, ate baked beans out of the can cooked over a campfire.  I ate two grilled lake trout, with lemon and tartar sauce.  I slept in an cottage with 5 screened windows and a lantern for light.  I took a solitary bike ride.  I became closer to my friend Anna.  I watched Back to the Future with her nine-year old boy who had never seen it before and then talked about time travel.  I came home with tan lines and bug bites.

And a little bit of clarity.

True, our air-conditioner is broken.  But our energy bill was waaay lower than usual.  And I guess it was low enough so that I still haven't found the time to call a repair man.  Plus, we need the extra money to pay for all the water we're giving to the sheep and the gardens.

Yes, our acre of sweet corn that we were hoping to sell at the farmer's market looks like we are growing baby corn for Chinese restaurants.  But, our hungry sheep have willingly been eating all the corn stalks we can give them.  (and broccoli plants and green beans...)

No, we haven't seen any rain for weeks going on months.  But, I haven't had to use my dryer to dry laundry once this summer (another reason our energy bill was low...and maybe also the fact that we've been gone more than we've been home this summer).

So you take the good with the bad.  Also, I bought myself a pair of flip-flops on vacation that are made out of yoga mats and they are so heavenly comfy I can't feel bad when I'm wearing them. :)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th!

Happy Fourth of July!  This is one of my favorite holidays, probably because I spend every 4th of July with my family at our cottage on Lake Superior.  This year, I am sadly still in Illinois while my parents and sister celebrate in Wisconsin because our friend is getting married on Friday.  But, this morning I got to walk around our little farm and think about how great it is to live in a country where two 25 year-old kids from the city can own their own farm and some sheep, work at jobs we love, and shoot off fireworks over a soybean field to celebrate.

Joey's latest project.  And yes, he saw something like this in a movie where the people lived in a commune.

So that's a little slice of my American pie.  Can't believe it's been three years since Joey proposed on the 4th on our dock on Lake Superior, under the glow of the moon. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Good Things

1. It rained!  Hallelujah.  Nothing like the wild storms other parts of the country (and even state) have been getting, but we'll take what we can get.  Our pasture/sheep/garden/pumpkins/sweetcorn was thirsty!

2. Today is like a Friday (I know, it's only Tuesday) but the 4th of July is tomorrow so the library is closed and Joey is in a wedding on Friday back in our hometown so we are driving home tomorrow for a nice little stay at home.  Yay, two-day workweek! (boo, lousy paycheck!)

3. My parents have a pool.  I'll definitely be getting my swim on in suburbia this weekend.  Funny side note- we bought Jip and Daisy a plastic kiddie pool earlier this summer to splash around in and last night I was standing in the backyard and looking at the garden and realized that instead of one kiddie pool, we now have two of the exact same pools in our yard.  Neither one of us know how we got an extra pool; it hasn't even been that windy lately.  And the funny thing is that I'm pretty sure that there have been two pools for a couple days and we've been too busy/stressed/distracted with work and livestock that neither one of us even noticed.  Oops.

4. I get to see one of my best friends this weekend!  I've known her since we were in kindergarten and we've been best friends since we worked on a project together in 5th grade.  She was one of my bridesmaids and now she is getting married in September.  She has her final dress fitting this weekend and I get to join her and say hello to the seamstress that fitted my wedding dress more than a year and a half ago (has it been that long?)

5. I got a new car!  With all the craziness lately, I forgot to mention that I bought a new car a couple of weeks ago.  It's a used Toyota Matrix and so far, I am loving it!  It really takes stress off my back to have a reliable car again!

6. We're going on vacation next week!  Since we couldn't make it up to my parent's cabin on Madeline Island on Lake Superior for the 4th of July this year (1st time not going in 14 years = major sad face), we decided to invite some of our friends that we've gotten pretty close with in the last two years.  We're going Thursday through Monday and it basically takes the whole day to get there, but it's sooo worth it.  I'm excited to share our favorite place with our friends.

I've been stressed lately, so I decided to appreciate the little things.  I stopped and smelled the roses.  And they sure smelled nice.  Hope you have some exciting things going on in your life as well!  Can you believe tomorrow is already July 4th?!?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Learning the hard way

Our pasture cannot support our sheep.  There's almost nothing there for them to eat.  They have eaten the grass down to the dirt and without any rain, it can't keep up.  We don't have any hope of the grass growing unless we keep the sheep off it.  Which means moving them onto someone's pasture or fencing them up by the barn and paying for hay and grain.

So far, we've moved the rams to a fenced-in, filled-in pool in our friends' backyard.  We've moved wire fence panels around our backyard for the ewes and lambs.  And now we've tried moving them to pasture in the next town over.

Every day, on Joey's drive to work, he noticed an empty fenced pasture filled with overgrown grasses.  He found out who it belonged to and asked if we could pay to keep some of our sheep there for awhile.  Luckily, the guy who owned the pasture didn't want any money for the use of his pasture, so it seemed like a pretty good deal.  Joey spent a couple nights last week walking around the fence and looking for weak spots or holes and yesterday, he bought some new fence posts and wire and worked in the hot sun for 4 hours, fixing the fence so we could bring the ewes over to stay for a few weeks.

We borrowed the neighbor's sheep trailer, loaded the 6 ewes, and drove them to the new pasture.  Unfortunately, there was no way to get the trailer close to the pasture gate because of trees and toys in the guy's yard.  And the sheep aren't halter-broke so we had to try to push each sheep individually towards the pasture gate.  And when they didn't cooperate, Joey carried them.  We were very afraid of them getting away from us, not only because they are flighty, but also because the pasture is next to the county highway and we didn't want the sheep running into the road.

After carrying two over, we could see that the barbed wire fencing was way too far apart for our small sheep.  And a minute later, one ran right through the fence and bolted.  After a couple of frantic minutes chasing it around the trailer, we finally got it back inside.  Joey carried another ewe to the pasture, hoping that if they were all in together, they would stay put.  At this point, we were drenched in sweat, exhausted, and starting to feel all the work had been in vain.

I know that Joey was frustrated from working on the fences all week and all that day, but I didn't want to risk the sheep getting out.  I was pretty sure if one jumped out, they all would follow.  He told me it was my call and I felt pretty terrible about making a decision because he had done so much work, but we decided to take them all home again.

So after many wasted hours of maneuvering sheep and trailers, we're back to square one again.  And we're running out of options.  Hay is expensive because it's been so dry.  We have too many sheep on one acre.  And we haven't made a single dollar of profit in the two years we've had them.  The are beginning to feel like a very expensive, back-breaking, heart-breaking hobby.  I guess this is farming.  And we are figuring things out the hard way.  It's not for the lighthearted and empty-walleted.

We might have to sell the lambs sooner than we thought.