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I wonder when I’ll have to change the title of my blog: “This Circle of Quiet.”  I assumed that country living/rural life was quiet, and it is compared to living in the city.  But, we have 5 pets and a baby on the way.  Its already not very quiet at our house, and I suppose its only going to get louder.  The animals have been more of a handful lately.  Pooping inside, for example.  And, integrating our huge white, polar bear dog with our two medium-sized herding dogs has been an event.  There’s been lots of growling and snarling.  Max got body-slammed by Aspen at one point for getting in her face (I don’t know how else to explain these fights besides making them sound like 13 year old girls in the lunch room.  I went to a ghetto middle school, ok?).

But, I’ve been loving them.  Even when I’m cleaning up their poop (I never realized how amazing Resolve was!), I’m thankful for them.  I’ve been comparing them to kids a lot.  Like, “Okay, its time for everyone to go outside, so I can get some stuff done around the house,” and “I need to give ____ some attention because I haven’t in awhile.”

Aspen is starved for love and attention.  She’s still a working dog.  She’s protecting our sheep and our chickens.  But she won’t stay in the fenced-in area where the sheep are.  She also won’t leave our property (unless she sees us leave), so I think she’s still doing her job pretty well.  She reminds me so much of Max.  We got Max from a shelter and Aspen from a rescue group.  They both have separation anxiety (or some other psychological diagnosis that our human feelings have projected on them), so they need a lot of love.  Even our cats, that were found on the side of the road, are extra affectionate.  I don’t think I would love them all so much if they weren’t so loveable.  Roo, who was the pick of the litter, knows that she’s loved.  She thinks that she’s hot stuff, and she can be sweet and affectionate at times, but she’s also a snob.

As I’m writing, Aspen literally just threw up on the couch that we are cuddling on together.  Its like she knew what I was writing thinking about.  Okay, apologies to all the weak-stomached out there.  I’ll try to limit my bodily fluids talk in the future.

Last week, when E linked up to my post on emyselfandi, I got over 300 hits.  This is about 4 times what my traffic typically is.  So, for my first confession, that is the main reason why I’m linking up today.  That was such an ego boost for my little blog here!

I’m knitting a scarf for me.  I feel a little bit guilty about it, because I’m pregnant and so many of my friends are pregnant.  I should be knitting baby stuff, right?  I knit during my downtime at work.  My co-workers will ask me what I’m making, and I say “A scarf for me, BUT as soon as I finish it, I’m going to start knitting for Baby.”  This is true, but I’m always very quick to mention what I’m going to knit next to avoid any judgmental eyes (that would probably never come).

I miss Knoxville.  So does Gregg.  I idealized moving away, now I idealize moving back.  We like it here on the Eastern Shore (more and more-its rhyme time, apparently).  We love our house and our farm, and I love my job (once I drive the hour to get there).  But, we miss home and the people there.

Aspen

We got a new dog.  Her name is Aspen.  She is enormous.  More than 100 pounds of Great Pyranees?  Probably so.  This is a confession, because she makes 5 pets for us.  But!  She’s a working girl.  Gregg got her to keep predators away from…

Sheep

these three (hopefully) pregnant girls…

Chickens

as well as these mama hens.  I think she’s doing a good job because she spends all night barking.

Last confession, I don’t really like turkey that much.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Sheep

We’ve got sheep.  Three of them.  We don’t actually have them yet, but they have been purchased and wrangled from their former homestead.  Currently, they are living with our friends’ sheep.  We’re hoping that our sheep will mate with our friends’ ram before the weather gets too cold.  Surely they can still mate in the cold, but, for some season, now’s the time for mating.

Chickens

We also still have some chickens.  They aren’t living with us right now either, since they would get eaten.  There’s no protection in the openness of the farm.  So, for protection, Gregg might actually get a Great Pyrenees.  These dogs have been bred to (get this) protect sheep and chickens.  As much as I don’t want another dog, I don’t want Gregg’s sheep and chickens to be another wild animals’ prey.

Garden

We do have a small autumnal (like that word?) garden with some leafy greens growing in it.  Each year, I’m hoping we produce more and more food from our own (rented) land.  With a bigger garden next year, we’ll have more to eat in the summer and maybe even be able to can/freeze some goodies for the fall and winter.  I’ve been happy (and jealous) to see Instagram photos of friends doing the same thing with the produce from their own gardens.  We’ve learning that produce grows quicker than meat is produced.  Duh.  It’ll be nice to produce something on our land, since we won’t be eating lamb for at least a year from now.  Even the chickens won’t really be good egg-layers until next year.

Cow

Our friends with the sheep (okay, their names and Robert and Jen) got wind of a free Holstein (super good dairy cow) that a family in the area is looking to get rid of.  A cow, for free.  Gregg really wants fresh milk (so do I), but he doesn’t want the responsibility of milking it twice a day (I don’t either).  Lazy…but understandable for two suburban kids.  I’m not sure what the latest is on the cow, Gregg mentioned it to me early this week.  I’m not sure if we would keep it at our place or if our friends would keep it at theirs.  Don’t know.  My non-reliable google search tells that such cows will produce anywhere from 5 to 20(!) gallons per day.  We would need to share the wealth.

Slow

A friend asked me how Gregg’s farming was going.  Slow.  I guess that’s why they call the organic/local movement the Slow Food Movement.  Like I mentioned, we might have lamb to eat next Fall, if everything goes as planned, which it may not.  Farming is the slowest of learning processes, because sometimes you don’t know if you’ve made a mistake until months after the initial bad decision was made.  But we’re still learning.  Slowly.

I hope its all worth for us.  For Gregg to do what he loves (and actually love it, not just the idea of it).  I’m definitely guilty of liking the idea more than the reality.  For us to eat what we grow and raise.  For us to know exactly where our food is coming from and what went into growing it/raising it.  I think that will be worth it.

I want to write about this process and talk about it, but we don’t have a lot to really show for ourselves yet.  No meat.  No eggs.  A small amount of produce.  We’re getting there though.  Gregg’s getting there, I’m trying my hardest to be his cheerleader.  Its just the slowest cheer I’ve ever done.

Its been a pleasure, really.  I’m sorry that it took me so long to meet you.  Really, I don’t know why I resisted for so long.  I was making some kind of pointless statement to nobody in particular.  I’ll miss the long hours that we shared together.  I’m just sad to see it all end.

At a time in my life where I have very few friends close by, you and your friends have provided great company for me.

Also, thank you for dedicating your last book to me, I really appreciate it.

Semi-SPOILER ALERT!!

I thought that you were going to die in the end.  And you did, but not in the way I expected.

I just really don’t get what all that drama and discord was/is about over you, your world, and your books.  You teach us that good conquers evil, and that selfless, sacrificial love conquers all.  Sounds like Jesus to me.

Thanks,

Pryor

Our dogs love our new house.  They love sniffing and rubbing themselves into whatever it is that they are sniffing. They love prancing around (and pooping) in the soy fields that surround our house.  (I’m banking on the fact that the soybean farmer doesn’t read my blog, because I don’t think he would appreciate the prancing.)

The dogs have been banished to the kitchen full-time.  We have carpet in the living room and bedroom, and they treat the carpet like the grass.  Digging up carpet and rubbing fur all over it is not ideal for our rental house.

Look how happy they are, though!

Max is having his 12 week(!) check-up with the vet to see how well he’s healed.  I hope it goes well–please, oh, please.  I hope we spent our money well with his surgery.  We just got to a point where we could not keep him down.  We were supposed to give him a much more stringent recovery schedule than we did.  You can’t keep a good dog down!

Organic, free-range, grass-fed. We are becoming more familiar with these kinds of words stamped on our food packaging. We spend $1 to $5 more when we buy these types of vegetables, meats, and eggs, but those words make us feel better about our purchases. On the other hand, spending $1 to $5 less per item, makes us feel better at the check out, when our bill is lighter and our pocketbooks are heavier. For a long time these words have been just that to me, words. For the past couple of months, I’ve learned firsthand why the extra cost is attached to those words.

My husband is producing organic eggs from free-range chickens, and this natural/organic/slow food movement is Hard. Work. Its very romantic-sounding, but there’s not much that’s romantic about the process of actually moving food from the farm to the table. What does free-range mean? Right now, for Gregg, it means building chicken coops from salvaged wood and PVC piping and watching as one of the said coops falls over due to strong gusts of wind. It means setting up an electric fence and hoping the fence protects the chickens from foxes and dogs and birds of prey. It means buying or milling feed to supplement the grass that the chickens eat. During the day, the electric fence is turned off and the chicks freely move in and out of the contained area, scattering around a half acre eating more grass. Sometimes, we recently found out, neighborhood kids chase them with nets when they are outside of the fencing.

At selling time, the eggs will not have “organic” stamped on the side of the crate (he’s actually going to use recycled crates from eggs that our neighbors and friends (we do have a few!) have been saving for us), because he hasn’t been certified by the government. But they will be organic. Also, during their lifetime, the chickens all have beaks and walk around outside and eat grass. Its these conditions that will make their eggs cost more, but their eggs will also be worth more because of the nutrient-richness (made that word up) that results from their way of life. The eggs that are not free-range in the grocery store, and even some that are marked as such, come from chickens with beakless, crowded, indoor lives. Have you seen Food, Inc. or Fresh? Or read anything by Micheal Pollan? These movies and books will change your life. At least, if you can budget for the expense.

On the Eastern Shore, there are two chicken plants. I’ve seen tractor trailers drive down the highway stamped with the company names along with a picture of a sunny farm with a porch, a barn and a shining sun. Then I drive several miles up the road and see the plant with no farm or barn or porch in sight. There is however a stench and a cloud of vultures circling the plant. The plants sell chicken for their meat and not for their eggs, but egg-laying chicken plants, according to those documentaries, look similar to these meat-producing plants.

I was in the grocery store yesterday, and I was drawn toward the sack of onions that said “farm fresh.” The sack didn’t tell me where the onions were from or how they were grown or why they were only $1.30 for 3 pounds. But that “farm fresh,” like the pretty picture of the barn on the side of the truck, drew me in. I wish instead of “farm fresh” or “free-range,” there was a picture of the farmer that raised the chickens or onions or eggs. I’d like to see if he’s inside or outside and if the man in charge is wearing a suit or Carharrt overalls.

You know that scene in the movie Speed when the bus’s gas tank starts leaking?  The camera films the gas gauge on the driver’s panel, and the lever is plummeting towards the E.  I think my car has a gas leak like the Speed bus.  The Eastern Shore is 10 miles across and 70 miles long, so everything is spread out.  It takes anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to get anywhere.  I think I’m getting used to it, everything except the frequent gas fill-ups.

My commute to Chesapeake for my almost-job (still shadowing) is one hour.  In San Francisco, I could walk to work.  The hospital was just over a mile from our apartment.  In Knoxville, I think I drove about three miles to get to work.  I don’t even want to know how many miles it is from our house in the country into suburbia.  But, call me crazy, I’m not minding it so much.  Driving down the Eastern Shore and over the bridge is really quite peaceful, and as soon as I get over the bridge, the culture shock of civilization distracts me for at least fifteen minutes.  Gregg drove me to work yesterday, and when we got over the bridge, he kept saying things like: “Krispie Kreme.”  “Starbucks.”  “Waffle House.”  The only chain stores that we have on the Shore are Wal-Mart (of course), Ace Hardware, some fast-food restaurants, and then there are some old-school department stores from the ’50s.  Peebles and Roses.  Funny, huh?  (Have I wrote about this before?)  The other day on my commute, I listened to the entire hour of NPR’s Morning Edition.  Now I’m completely up to date on the presidential primary race as well as every other important news story.  (Please don’t quiz me.)  And, I have a book on tape set in London.  Its chick lit in which all of the characters speak in a British accent.  Love it.

I don’t know.  I’m writing about this because the commute was the thing that I was worried about when I was contemplating the possibility of working across the bridge, and, I’m happy to say, its turning out okay.

Going to an almost-job has already changed my experience of living here.  I still don’t like that drained feeling that comes after a day’s work, but I’ll take it, since it means that my brain was working hard all day along with my legs and feet and heart.  I’m looking forward to the independence of sitting down and talking with patients on my own.  I remember student teachers during their last semester of college saying, “I’m just ready for my own classroom.”  I’m ready, too.  I’ve had my hand held long enough.  I am very aware that I don’t know everything about women’s health, but I’m ready to share what I do know with patients and ask questions when I need don’t know the answers.

When I first started working as a nurse in the hospital I was so terrified of making a mistake or looking stupid at work.  I’m still scared of that, but it seems lighter than it did back then.  After working with a particular charge nurse in California, I’m surprised I didn’t run and get a retail job as fast as I could.  There’s an expression that nurses eat their young.  Well she not only ate me, but she chewed me up and spit me out so she could do it all again.  That’s gross, sorry.  Seriously though, she almost destroyed my confidence, and I still think about her sometimes.  She was demeaning, condescending, rude.  And I was her special project.  I’m not thankful for that experience, but I think it is helpful for me to look back and see that I don’t react to criticism in the same way any more.  I still don’t like being corrected, but it doesn’t destroy me like it did back then.  It doesn’t ruin my day any more.  Yesterday, the doctor I’m working with corrected me, and I’m happy to say that it hurt my feelings for a little bit, but then I got over it.  I think this is what growing up feels like.

P.S.  I had this post already to go when I turned on the radio and heard various radio hosts talking about The Hunger Games.  I feel like I have to mention it just because not only are people talking about the craze of the movie itself and about how millions(?) of fans are rushing out to see the premier, they’re also talking, at least on the radio, about how it represents the destructive times that we are in and the kind of world that we are leaving for our children.  Yikes.  I honestly hadn’t thought about the books or the movie(s) like that.  I enjoyed reading the books and was thinking about seeing the movie, but I hadn’t thought about what The Hunger Games mean for us here and now.  Food for thought.

Happy Friday.