Monday, August 31, 2009

what to do . . .

Yesterday was an interesting day mostly because it was really cold outside, and it felt like camping weather. The sun was shining brightly, the breeze was blowing, and there was a chill of fall coming right across the fields. So on a day like that, what is one to do in the country?

Well, to begin with, for such a cool day I built a fire. After it was tended to a bit, I altered and added some details to our butchering station. Seems like I got the "chicken" fever now! I stained the wood a dark walnut oil to help diffuse the red color and to make the drippings a little easier to clean up. In addition, I added a wooden decorative finial, some burnt coffee cans to catch the drips, and some more wood for the footing to make it more stable (and give it a Frank Lloyd Wright design look) As an artist, it's hard just to make things functional without making it aesthetically nice as well. Beauty and function is my motto.

After that project, I decided to butcher another chicken to practice cutting the bird into parts. Here's the result of my work. Two legs, two wings, two boneless breasts, two tenders, and a neck. Looks like it came right out of the store!

I had to take it one step further and grill the fresh chicken on the open fire. I had a make-shift grill on the fire I started in the morning, and the embers were ready to cook the meat. Ildi decided that she also wanted me to cook some steak.

While I was cooking and tending to the dinner, I let the boys practice a little before this upcoming hunting season. It is fun to watch them them scope in their rifles and work at hitting their targets.

We had a short visit from the neighbors after supper to make this one of the most pleasant days I have had. As we were sitting out by the fire while the sun went down, both my neighbor and I thought "It doesn't get much better than this!"

Saturday, August 29, 2009

the learning curve . . .

Wow did we ever learn a heep tonight after going through our very FIRST butchering session! It was one of those times that as we were doing it, we were already making changes for the next time we process birds. It's a good thing that we only went through a few birds to learn some needed, valuable steps for next time we work on it. I started off demonstrating the way to bleed, scald, and pluck the feathers first. The children were a little nervous, and excited, to process their own birds.

Grandma came over for a visit today not knowing that we were going to be butchering. She helped out by giving the children encouragement and instruction on taking out the pin feathers. Notice the bird in the cone behind her. :) The first attempt at bleeding taught us that we needed to cut the cones shorter so we could get their heads out the bottom of the cone. And as well, that we needed sharper knives. I had an Amish friend of mine build me the cone station were we can process four birds at a time.

The children did a god job working through the whole process from start to finish of the whole butchering process. Next time we are going to work at individual stations to make it run a little smoother, do the jobs we are good at, the work we like best in the process, and to get more done in less time.

Friday, August 28, 2009

sharpen your knives . . .

This first week of school is now over and I am actually looking forward to starting next week. I am teaching at two different schools, and am working with elementary students this year. What is making me excited about work is the amount of enthusiasm and support I am receiving at both schools. Not only are people excited that I am working there, but I am also getting the chance to use the technology equipment that it stored. Why is it stored away you ask? Because it is new technology that teachers are not familiar with. Hopefully I can entice some of the staff to use it, and have it make their teaching delivery more engaging.

On the home front, we are one day away from butchering our meat birds. Last night the children and I watched a couple of youtube videos done by the Salatin family on processing chickens. Tonight they sharpened their knives and have been getting they other essentials ready for the big day. I'll be sure to capture some photos of the event. It really has been a long time coming!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

all together . . .

The mad rush was on yesterday. Since I moved schools this year, and went down to teaching the elementary students instead of teaching at the middle school. Instead of teaching at one school full time, I am teaching at two schools part time to make a full time position. What that means, is that I have to set up two rooms for art. For the past few days I have been working on making two sets of everything, like procedures and rules, and today need to split up all my materials to accommodate each school. I am almost done with one school, and on Monday I need to set up the other classroom. School starts the following day so I need to get a move on it!

On the home front we have been gleaning lots of vegetables from the garden. Notice the family collecting the potatoes we harvested this year. All together we probably grew three bushel of them. Next year we will have to plant way more than that to create a surplus for winter, and to keep some for seed.

And Macy celebrated her twelfth birthday this year. Lemon pie was the "cake." We had the neighbors over for supper and desert to commemorate the event. Small event celebration. . . but nice!

I'll upload a few more pictures on my FB account of the things here around the farm.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

a few new things . . .

A few new things to post about this late Saturday morning.

Grandma's visit for a few days was pleasant. She was also surprised how nice it was to be in the country! When we talked, she said she was not sure how she would like being in a place that was so quiet. For example, only a few cars go down our road a day. She is used to traffic noise all day, and most of the night. She also falls asleep to the sound of the television. She is a news junkie, and like most people, has the TV on all day for background noise. Well, at our house, we haven't had a television for several years. No background noise happens here except the cicadas, occasional birds, and children. The first night she said it was difficult to fall asleep. After the first two days, she started to acclimate to the "no noise" sound of the country.

The chickens (meat birds) are getting close to butchering. I have three weeks to solidify the process of dressing out the entire bird. Two weeks ago, I visited a new friend's home while he was butchering. After he dressed out the first one, he walked me through the process of going from start to finish on butchering. It wasn't difficult at all, and I feel somewhat confident about butchering my own now. I do want to spend some time learning all the part of the insides so I can use it as a biology lesson for the children.

Schools about ready to start. Next week I will report for the teacher in-service days and then the students come the following Monday. This year my time is split between two schools, and I will be working with the kindergarten through fourth grade students. I am glad that I won't have as much of the attitude the junior high students had last year.

This summer has been full of making and shipping art. In addition, I started "hauling" for the first time. By "hauling," (the term the Amish use to describe driving them places) I have visited Indiana and several areas of Ohio that I had not previously seen before. Not only have I visited new places, but I have also learned a lot more about the Amish culture. Years ago, I knew quite a bit about the Amish folks, but now after being friends with so many families, I feel like I know more about who and what they are, because I know them personally, and have had long conversations about their lifestyle and belief systems.

And lastly, I finally hired a property management company to rent my California house. It is so hard finding and dealing with renters so far away that I decided to give someone a chance to do it for me. Last year, it sat empty for most of the year, and then a family needing a "quick fix" rented it for a few months. Hopefully the company can get a family in it that is willing to stay for a few years until the market for homes changes a bit. I intend on keeping it for awhile longer, and then completely cutting the ties with banks and properties in CA. Being a landlord from afar is not going to work for me. :)

Sunday, August 9, 2009

grandma's visit . . .

The last couple of days has been a nice treat for us out here in the country. Grandma came to visit!

On Thursday afternoon, we went to Columbus to pick Grandma up. She flew in from Los Angeles, and will be staying until Tuesday. This is her first trip out here to visit, and her first experience with us living on the farm.

Monday, August 3, 2009

spending time . . .

Years ago I used to volunteer to do a lot of the extra-curricular things at school. The Yearbook was one of those jobs. One of the great pains of doing the yearbook for a school is that it was due right around Spring Break time. So inevitably, I would spend some of my break time finishing the yearbook before going back to school. At times, if I didn't finish the page layouts then, I would mentally punish myself saying that "I need to get them done" and then drag them back to school when break was over only to finish them for the next two weeks AFTER SCHOOL! Meanwhile, my break time was not mentally relaxing at all.

In another snippet, Christmas break was always fun except for the part where I would count the days of break I had left dreading that as each day passed, I was one day closer to going back to work.

Summer break was the same. Time off, relaxing, going places, doing things, and the nagging notion that it would one day end and I would have to be back at my post at school.

I am writing about these mental gymnastic ideas to talk about a change that happened in my thinking years ago. It has been extremely helpful, and after you experience the same change, you to will find that your time spent "at work" and "at home" will be much more meaningful, pleasurable and productive.

The first change came with a change of phrases. When I worked in the restaurant industry, people used to say "I have to work" when talking about what shift they were working. I decided to change my phrase to "I get to work." Seems small and insignificant, but it sure did change my attitude about going to work. I no longer wasted my off work time by dreading the fact that in a few hours I needed to go to work. Simple action with huge results. I used the time I had off instead of wasting it thinking and dreading about going to work.

The second change came with taking work home from school on my off time to "catch up" on. The yearbook example above is a great illustration. I spent most of my break time badgering myself about what I needed to get done instead of spending time relaxing and getting refreshed to go back and teach again. And then there was the paper grading guilt. I took papers home each evening to grade thinking that I was going to grade them after the children went to bed. By that time, I was tired too, and should have been going to bed as well. Instead, I spent time punishing myself that I again did not do it, and then added the EXTRA work of hauling the papers back and forth to school. Undone. Now I don't take any work home from school. School work stays at school, and home work is at home. What I don't get done at school simply waits until the next day. It has helped me to be more productive at school, and instead of choosing to relax and talk with colleagues, I do some of that work knowing that my time spent there affects my time spent at home.

I could give you several other examples that detail how thinking affects the physical circumstances of your life. I think though, the point has been made. In summary, the way we choose to THINK about our time, directly affects the way we SPEND our time. We all have the same 24 hour period. It doesn't slow down, or speed up for anyone. Each of us "has" time to do the things we want to do. The question is . . . "Are we doing what we want to do?" If not, it is time for a change.