Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Grateful Is As Grateful Does

The Butterfly Posse - Debbie,
Annie and myself
My dear friend and fellow Bona Fide Butterfly Annie Gregson attended a workshop a couple of weeks ago by life coach Jennifer Louden. The day after she was back, Annie left me an adorable blank journal on my porch. On the inside cover, she wrote a touching and inspiring note that, in essence, was to remind me of what we are all capable of doing if we just believe in ourselves.

I am a stationery junkie and as a result have innumerable notebooks, binders and journals scattered about the house, many of them with the first several pages filled in before I move on to something else.  I think I have some sort of papyrus ADD. But this book was so cute, just the right size (and LINED! she knows me!), I had to come up with a special use for it, and something that I would continue to use. 

So I made it my Gratitude Journal. This is not a new idea, but a new idea for me. At the end of each day, before bed, I jot down 5 things I was grateful for that day. No big explanations, just a quick five things. It gets easier with practice and I highly recommend it. It makes you feel good, and who couldn't use a little more of that in their lives? Here are a couple of my favorites from my pages: 

1) Good November weather. Normally the dreariest month, November has been uncharacteristically sunny and dry. Highs in the low 40’s, lows in the 20’s, the sun and lack of wind has made the chill tolerable.  And who couldn't benefit from some extra Vitamin D?
2) Finding my necklace (a gift from Larry) that I feared was lost in a horse stall. It was on the rug in front of the woodstove. 
3) Warm socks. In the morning, I put my socks on the steam dragon on the woodstove. (He was retired from steaming because he didn’t hold much water and filling him was a pain in the neck, but he holds an honorary position on top of the stove.) The socks warm up quick, and then you put them on… heaven!

4)   When the dead whatever under the kitchen cabinet that I can’t get to finally finished decomposing… and stinking. 

5)  Not having to bring in firewood.I love it when Larry gets home early.
6) The view of the lake on my way to/from work every day. Depending on the weather, it can have fog rolling off it, or a purpley sunset reflecting off it, or some other fantastic natural scenic phenomenon. How many people get to see that every day? Which leads me to...
7) Living in an area with no billboards, the scourge of the countryside. Put one plus mark in the APA's column.
8) Having my health, in all its increasingly creaky glory. I see so many folks with ailments, limitations, on a dozen medications, etc. I'm grateful for being as sound as I am at 49 and for the physical work I'm able to do. Although the flexibility thing could use some improvement.
9) County fairs. Okay, this one isn't recent, but there's nothing like a good county fair. They're the epitome of summer country living. This year I took my friend Judy to her first county fair, and her enthusiasm and excitement were infectious.  We ate ourselves sick and laughed ourselves silly.
10) Justice. Sometimes it takes a while to see it. But here's a prime example - a line at the MEN'S bathroom, at the fair.
Wishing all my readers a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with lots of love, laughter and gratitude!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Meanwhile, in the real world..."

Two recent articles in the newspaper, refreshingly non-election or extra-marital affair oriented, caught my attention.

The first was about an ox which was euthanized at the agricultural Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont. This is a school with a working farm whose emphasis is on sustainable agriculture. As a matter of course, the school turns its livestock into products which are served in the dining hall, which is what the words "working farm" and "sustainable agriculture" are all about.

The ox, named "Lou" (first mistake), had a hind leg injury that was continuing to deteriorate. The decision was made to put the big boy down and have him serve his last purpose as a natural food product. Animal rights activists went into a tizzy, going so far as to finding a sanctuary where Lou could live out his days as opposed to becoming the lunch lady special.

The article didn’t elaborate, but I’m assuming that Lou made his way to the dining hall, on a plate. I’m fine if you disagree with me, but the activists’ time could be better spent trying to improve the conditions of large animals processing facilities where inhumane practices run rampant. "How we treat the meat we eat" is the tag line for the Animal Sanctuary, and that’s an important thing to think about. It’s also part of the driving force behind "free-range" and "natural" meat products, and I have no problem eating something that I know had a decent existence on earth, hence the over-used phrase "happy meat." I’m also happy to eat hot dogs and chicken wings and things that, I know, didn’t have a very good (albeit brief) existence before it became packaged in the store, ready for me to buy. It’s the way of the world. But we can do it some honor if we remain mindful of what it took to get there.

Whether he knows it or not, Lou did the right thing.  He honored the college's values of farming and sustainability.

The other story of interest was about a monarch butterfly that was a day late and a dollar short when she emerged from her chrysalis after her brethren had already migrated south for the winter. Fortunately for her, her coming out party was in the butterfly gardens of a self-proclaimed "Butterfly Lady" in Ulster County. "I knew if I just let her go, she’d die," Butterfly Lady said. "But she’s so fabulous she deserves to be in Mexico with all of her millions of brothers and sisters."

This resourceful Butterfly Lady called Southwest Airlines and told them the butterfly’s plight, and they agreed (seriously) to fly both Butterfly Lady and the butterfly to San Antonio, where apparently all the other butterflies have a lay over until their final push to south of the border.

But Butterfly Lady also had to get a permit from the US Dept. of Agriculture to transport a butterfly across state lines. This normally takes months. She got it in two days.

A couple of thoughts. If butterfly was a late bloomer, and didn’t make it south before freezing, that, my friends, is called natural selection. It’s important. It matters. Now, butterfly’s procrastination gene will be allowed to carry on, possibly to the detriment of the entire species (did Butterfly Lady think of THAT?). There’s a reason the slow get left behind/eaten/stuck in tar pits.

I’m glad Southwest Airlines has this kind of disposable income. Yes, it’s good press in the name of "environmental awareness" (gag).  Remember that the next time you’re paying an exorbitant price for airfare. If I can find a squirrel who is pining for a trip to Disney World, maybe I can get a free ride to visit my parents in Orlando.

And let’s not even get started on a governmental agency, that normally can’t get out of its own way, that managed to issue a permit in two days. Remember that the next time you see a New York farm for sale because the owner could no longer rise about the suffocating bureaucracy to make it work.

Just some thoughts.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Jive Turkey, Anyone?

We have seen a bumper crop of turkeys this year. Charley Hill Road should be renamed Turkey Hill Road, but for the birds and not the ice cream. The fall turkey season is but a blip on the radar in our part of the country, lasting a mere 19 days. The spring season is the one of bird high anxiety as it lasts the entire month of May.

We often see flocks crossing the road, usually farther down from our house, but this year the gals have been everywhere, and large flocks, too. One flock hung out in our Pasture A for a couple of days in a row. The horses seem nonplussed but Augie wasn't quite sure what to make of them. They have also been hanging out in the neighbor’s yard across the street and march right down the middle of road to the beat of their own drummer.

Turkeys can, and do, fly. Much like the chickens, they won't be denied their freedom of flight but, also like the chickens, they aren't very good at it. Driving home one day, a turkey and I spooked each other and it started flying, barely getting up and over the roof of the truck. I freaked out because where the heck are you supposed to go when you see that? Far worse is if they actually do hit your vehicle; Cherie hit one with her Tahoe last year and it did several thousands in damage to the front end.

Larry did get a turkey this year, out in Pasture A. I felt very Little House on the Prairie as My Man cut off appendages (of the bird, not himself), gutted it in the field, then brought it back to the house. Larry pulled off what feathers he could while I got a big pot of water boiling, then we dunked the carcass and were amazed at how the feathers came right off. My first dose of reality was that, once stripped of all its feathered frippery, it didn’t look very Butterball. No huge, white meat breasts, no huge turkey legs. It also smelled slightly funky, but I suppose if someone had just gutted me, I wouldn’t smell too great, either. (It made me wonder where do they get those massive turkey legs for Renaissance Fairs, anyway? Is there some mutant turkey farm somewhere?)

The most notable thing about this whole process, from the first exciting sight of the bulky bird pecking about in the field to when it was ready for the freezer, was how small it kept getting with each step. It looked pretty darn big in the field. Once it was dead, it didn’t look that big hanging limply from a fence post. Without feet, wings or a head, it was barely recognizable as a turkey. Without feathers, it was beginning to look a lot like our molting chickens (who, needless to say, were watching all this a bit anxiously). Totally cleaned and ready for the freezer, it was a lot of work for what appears to be a relatively minor amount of eating material. Larry proudly declared, "There’s Thanksgiving dinner!" It’s hard to deny him his enthusiasm, and it’s certainly more than I could have done. I just hope we don’t have to feed too many people on Thanksgiving. Extra helping of stuffing, anyone?