“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” William Jennings Bryan

Monday, September 28, 2009

September 28, 2009

This weekend has been solemn around here. Nittany, one of our cats, passed away peacefully Saturday afternoon.

Nittany was one of two cats that we had throughout our kids growing up years. The other cat was Sara, who came first, and passed away two years ago from what we suspect was ingesting rat poison used by a neighbor in his tool shed, on one of her escapes from the house. Along the way, we took on a third cat, Odie, who was a stray and shared four years with us before disappearing.

Kath brought Sara home from the Acme grocery store– a young girl was giving away a weaned litter of orange tabbies outside the exit doors to any takers. Kath was a taker! I named Sara originally as short for Syracuse, a favorite college basketball team. After about six months, we thought it would be best if Sara had a playmate, and the whole family headed to the animal shelter in Cape May to pick out a buddy.

For some reason, that trip still is pretty vivid and detailed in my memory. We had no idea where the shelter was, and it took forever to find it. It was at the end of a crumbly asphalt lane that ended at the Cape May canal. The shelter building was old and in poor, but sufficient, repair. Cats and dogs were in all kinds of cages and outside sheds and makeshift shelters...I was having a bit of trouble taking it all in, and while the kids and Kath went to look at the kittens, I took a walk out to the canal and watched the boats until I was called in to see the cat they had picked out. There he was - a ball of grey fur that we came to call Nittany, after a certain college that I had graduated from.

(If you have come to think that I name all the animals, you are mistaken. Odie was really Ude, named by my wife after her college, University of Delaware. Kath also named Snoopie, and other animals we’ve had and have! And our daughter named our dog Nana, and also several chickens. Allen named his duck... )

Both Sara and Nittany were “inside cats”, or house cats. Both were very different in personality. Sara didn’t like to be petted – one or two strokes and then she’d bite! Nittany liked to be petted – for hours at a time. Sara liked wet food; Nittany liked dry. Sara bonded with Kath; Nittany bonded with Steph. Sara was over active; Nittany was content to sleep all day (and night). Sara would play with toys; Nittany could not be bothered most times. Sara would sit on the window sill watching birds; Nittany would sleep on the couch. Sara was skin and bones; Nittany was what you might call plunp. Sara didn’t like the in-laws, especially a certain aunt; Nittany couldn’t be bothered to have an opinion. Both extremes are what made them special.

Losing Nittany this weekend was as if an era had passed away with him – the kids growing up. Now both are off to college and beginning new lives in new places. It brings back the memory of when I went away from home; I left behind my childhood dog, Sarge, who also passed away along with my childhood, but who is still a part of me today in daily memory. Just as I had Sarge, Kath grew up with a big lab named Rufus, who never left her heart, no matter how many animals and pets came after.
Like Sarge and Rufus were to Kath and I, these cats were just as much or more a part of my kids childhoods as their friends, soccer, karate, and high school plays. They were that extra brother and sister that they could always count on to be there, waiting, and listening...and they will be missed very much. They shared a very important time in our kids lives.

Sara and Nittany … we love you, and always will.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

September 20, 2009

My daughter asked me why I didn’t post anything on my blog last week, as she was coming to expect one every Sunday or Monday. I guess I have been going through writer’s block - or maybe writer’s confusion. I seem to think about too many things that I’d like to share so that I can’t really grasp any one of those ideas fully enough to make good. And then when I do come up with something it sounds great in my head, but not so great on paper. Lately, every post that I have tried to write I have set aside for one or both of these reasons.

Maybe my reasons are a symptom of the things that are going on. I am working to get the fall CSA up and running between rainstorms. And we’ve adopted Zippy which I wrote about previously. Zippy hasn’t been acting right so we have been working with the farrier and now the vet to find what’s wrong. The vet was able to diagnose that Zips tore a tendon that attaches the splint bone to the cannon bone – not a serious thing, but painful to the horse until it heals. So I’ve been thinking a lot about that, and spending extra time at the stable.

Then there are my kids – both away at college. No real problems there, but still, they are my kids and will always be on my mind.

Add my day job to that, the rest of the farm and all the animals, crops, and bees, my blog, sometimes volunteering, and my duties as a Quaker co-clerk

So I am pretty busy which makes it very hard sometimes to relax enough to settle down and let things come to me…This hit home the other night while I was taking Snoops for a walk along the outer fence lines. Every so often I take her out there to eat the weeds, sumac, and mulberry sprouts that I can’t get with the mower. As we slowly moved along the fence row, stopping more than walking, I could hear all the cars and trucks going by on the highway that parallels the fence no less than forty feet away. Suddenly, it sounded like my life – rush after rush, faster and faster. And of late, fast and faster has not been fast enough.

The realization stopped me in my tracks. And I just watched Snoopy, just taking her evening one leaf at a time. A few yards away Louie was content, swaying that huge head of his left and right, rhythmically pulling on leaves of grass, without any apparent sign of anxiety. Beyond Louie, the chickens were gathering near their shed readying to roost for the night…and everything fell quiet, despite the traffic going by. The moment was almost like Quaker Meeting. There, in the small clapboard meeting house with its open door and windows, it is always silent, no matter how much noise the world is making.

I need more moments like those. Moments to just know that I breathe. Moments that will bring me back to ground and teach me that more than anything else I am a living being, and not an economic gear in the world engine.

I need to enjoy the quiet more often…and spend more time away from “time”.

Monday, September 7, 2009

September 7, 2009

Ever since I got my goat Snoopie, I have had to answer the question “does she really eat everything?” I used to think that she didn’t, but after I began writing things down, I am slowly changing my mind. Here is a list of some of the “things” she eats and does not eat – of course this list could grow or change at any time…

The “things” Snoopie has eaten:

- poison ivy
- my good hammock
- my wife’s new pool brush
- brooms – plastic and natural
- car bumpers (any car make or model)
- plastic shopping bags- her favorite is from Acme
- jalapeƱo peppers
- house plants (but only when she is in the house)
- poison sumac
- lawn furniture
- bumper stickers – Bush or Obama, it doesn’t matter, but she butts the Palin stickers for whatever reason
- roofing shingles from her “dog house”
- gas cans – preferably when filled with gas
- the cowling on my wife’s riding lawn mower
- tee shirts, especially while I am wearing them
- cobwebs (not spiders, just the cobwebs)

Things Snoopie hasn’t eaten:

- any very expensive “show grade” goat feed that’s supposed to be good for her
- ducks…at least not yet!

I have to admit that this farm was a very different place before Snoops joined us here. Days were very routine. All the other animals pretty much lead predictable lives, which in itself is a good thing. It’s a good thing that a 1200 lb horse is predictable most of the time! But having at least one goat –or any other type of animal- that lives outside the box, giving every shared moment a newness, is exciting. It just doesn’t get any better than that!