Friday, May 30, 2014

The Truth About My "Glamorous" Life


Drinking your tea from a bone china cup is a small and inexpensive luxury if you already own the cup ! Use the things you already have.

          Yes, I live a glorious and glamorous life.  I eat blueberries, raspberries, baked potatoes I grow myself, and occasionally chocolate. I drink my tea in a bone china cup, because it's a simple luxury.  I am afraid that this is where the glamor ends.

              This is a bit more typical of life here.  Because my husband did not want the demands of  horses, you may recall, my husband allowed me to get my four horses (two at a time) only if I agreed to personally purchase all the supplies, feed them, maintain their hooves,  give the immunizations, brush them, turn them out and return them to the barn each day,  assist the farrier and the equine vet, and pay for it all. (Yes, I know it's a run on sentence.)   This includes, but is not limited to mucking the stalls, the horse pasture, and the disposal of horse manure.   The mucking has given me firm arms and a much smaller waist and so it's not all bad.   However, the mucking and disposal of manure has been a bit more difficult than I had anticipated.    Each morning, I rise very early and I muck out all the urine soaked pine shavings, urine soaked hay remainders,  and actual manure from the concrete floored stalls of the barn.  I place all of it in a large wheelbarrow. After I mop all those floors, I move on to disposal.  The wheelbarrow was quite a challenge at first.  After each rain it was so heavy that ultimately I had to have two holes drilled into it.  Now the rain empties nicely so that all I have in the wheelbarrow is what is intended.  While the horses are eating, I open the gate and sneak the heavy wheelbarrow out of the pasture and quite a distance away on the edge of the forest.  I empty it there, and then I trudge back in my rubberized muck boots which are a little too conducive for my taste, to the development of athlete's foot !  . Later in the afternoon, I muck the pasture.   I haven't thought much about the pile of manure accumulating on the forest edge.   Normally, my husband uses his tractor to truck alpaca manure to a manure pile which is quite a distance from their location. I thought he would probably eventually do this for the horse manure. But, in this instance, I would have been wrong.   A giant mountain of manure has accumulated for the horses in the thirteen months that they have lived here at the farm.   After the first five months, my builder who was here on another barn related issue entirely, took his bobcat and moved five months worth of manure, stirring it into an area I will eventually use as garden. I therefore did have somewhat of a reprieve.   Interestingly,  horse manure composts pretty readily.  It's very hot here for most of the year, and when what I affectionately call Manure Mountain heats up, you can actually watch the steam rise from it.   I wondered if  I could burn it, but my builder thought it was too close to the forest.  I noticed this week that Manure Mountain was growing rather tall green grass, which looks a lot like Kentucky 31.  I don't really want a permanent grass mountain at that location. So, my crack force of me, myself and I really should get going on it.

If my husband is searching for a meaningful birthday gift for me, he really should have a custom silver pitchfork pin made for me.  Unfortunately, he doesn't read my blog since it ultimately resulted in my getting horses !

              Fortunately, the remaining Manure Mountain has composted nicely into really fine blackish brown soil which looks and smells a lot like the soil my Nana used to stir into her garden before she grew carrots, greenbeans, apples and marigolds in England.   If Nana could shovel all that dirt and manage that garden, certainly so could I.

             So today I donned cotton socks, rubberized muck boots, and cool light colored clothing in order to avoid the ticks.  I sprayed my boots with DEET 40% in the hope that I wouldn't be a tick magnet.    The plan was to attack Manure Mountain and redistribute the composted manure to places on the farm where it could be used.    Fortunately, a broad pitchfork picks up a large cluster of composted material not unlike a rather large piece of shredded wheat.   The weather was cool here today and so after animal care, I was able to move quite a bit.   I moved some of it to flower beds which had already bloomed.  I moved some to an area near the barn which is still in recovery and could use some organic material.   By one o'clock, I was getting tired and a little dirty.   At one point I decided to stop manually trucking the bails of manure, and I started throwing them to another region using the pitchfork.   Perhaps a stronger person could do this more effectively, but a couple of times soil wound up on my light jacket.   I decided to break when I found that as the mountain disappeared, the mush below is not completely composted. I marched around in a mashed manure tea until I could do no more.  About that time, one of my sons and his friend finished replacing a serpentine belt on the friend's car and they decided to help a bit.  Funny how two of them were more effective in a short period of time than me, myself and I (all three of us) working for hours were.

This is a highly trained and efficient manure manufacture device !

            There is now a short plateau of composting manure and hay where Manure Mountain once stood. I hope to do a bit more on this tomorrow.   The fact is that farm life, if you decide to raise animals, plant almost anything, and then maintain flower beds, vegetable gardens, yards or anything else is fairly labor intensive. We can save ourselves quite a bit of the backbreaking work by planning what we do there carefully.  Raised beds for many things have proven to be less labor intensive than our attempts in the past to till, amend and plant our rocky and partially clay soil.   Planning some of the more difficult work on cooler days, sometimes even in a misty rain can also be a big help.

            My final point is that in a disaster or an emergency you may well need more physical reserve than you have now.  Most of us have grown to being comfortable using cars instead of walking and slowly diminishing the amount of tedious physical work we do.  In an emergency we might need to walk quite a distance.  We might need to carry a backpack that is heavy. We might need to carry a pet or pet supplies.  I am not advocating that we all start weightlifting. I am not even advocating spending money to commute to a gymnasium.  I am advocating looking at the work that is necessary at your house, and planning ways of doing it yourself in order to remain active. This might be gardening.  It could be raking. It could be walking a dog as much as he needs to stay slim and more than you are doing now.  It could be parking the car a little farther from the mall than you might ordinarily do, and then walking in.  If it's not a comfortably safe place to walk, then consider spending more time walking in the mall.  Meet a friend and tell them your objective is to walk as much as you can.

           My point is not to stretch anyone beyond what they can do.  My point is not to have you increase activity to the point where you lose weight and muscle along with it.  My point is that everyone should be working on simple baby steps to being more fit especially in consideration of any known medical issues we already have.  My parents and my grandparents passed in their eighties and nineties.  All of them were either working full time at a career they loved, or they were physically quite active in other ways.   My Nana walked more than I do now on a regular basis through her eighties. She planted in her garden, weeded and harvested, and looked great doing it.  She carried bushels of apples from her trees to the house and then made pies and cobblers.  I don't remember her dieting, and she did occasionally have a piece of her own apple crumb pie after dinner.  When she went places with me, we walked.  Being British and having lived through the war where it was not a given that women learn to drive there, she and I walked everywhere. This meant that when I had an ice cream, so did she.  I remember on one of the visits my father made to us being amazed at how much he could lift.  Even in his eighties, he walked a great deal, could work hard and could lift boxes of books better than I.   He continued to function that well until he passed.

Okay, so I wouldn't wear this color. But we all should own a pair of comfortable athletic shoes.

            Remember that the weight on the scale should never have been our primary focus. Staying active and busy and enjoying activity in our lives should be.  If we are sufficiently active and healthy enough to engage in activities we like, then chances are that we will be healthy enough to meet the episodic demands that an evacuation or a regional disaster will bring to us, our pets, and to our families.


Sunnybrook Farm said...

When I did Archaeology west of Lexington at a site from the 1700s which would have been frontier there and where people were supposed to be using wooden bowls and cups, living in the wilderness. We found high quality imported china and glass with lots of decorations. They had their bit of luxury out there in the cabin at the foot of the mountains.
I built up my clay soil by putting manure right on the garden all year round, I had to plow at first but now it is to where I can till the manure in and didn't plow at all this year. People don't realize how hard it is to plant in clay but it takes time and work to loosen it up. Lots of throwing rock over the fence. A fence is the big thing, I use old pallets but they built fences to keep animals out hundreds of years ago.

Navy91 said...

You are absolutely right! That is why I bought a lawnmower and started mowing my own grass this year...for the first time in 6 years. It's funny, I used to hate mowing grass, but now I rather enjoy it. I've lost 30 pounds over the last year or so and I'm feeling better than I have in a long time, which probably has EVERYTHING to do with why I am enjoying it! :-)

JaneofVirginia said...

Exactly ! At first, taking on a new physical habit is tough. Then it becomes almost tolerable, then tolerable. Now, it's not only part of my routine, but I feel better with the higher level of activity. I also find the higher level of activity to be emotionally centering. I feel more capable of managing whatever comes.

deborah harvey said...

hi. a thought?
perhaps if you had a few more raised beds you could transfer the manure directly there. they would lie fallow until the composting is complete.
then, every so often, let the raised beds in use lie fallow and switch to the new ones.
then the manure could be moved once and done!
used to watch a canadian garden program on pbs years ago. while the compost heap was still composting the gardeners grew squashes there. double purpose.
deb h.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thank you for posting this. On our first farm, it was part of a plantation with a rather small farm house. In their trash pile we found fragments of flow blue china, which was quite expensive at that time. Thanks for your perspective, especially as it applies to Virginia.

JaneofVirginia said...

Sounds like a great idea. I will work on that. Thanks for posting.

Dani said...

Reckon after all that work you are more than entitled to a cup of (bone china) tea.

Yeah, between housework and gardening who needs to go to a ruddy gym...?!

JaneofVirginia said...


Thanks for the post ! I know you have plenty to do there, as well !
Yes, when I think about the money people spend on a gymn, I cringe. You and I could work their abs, glutes, and everything else with some cleaning, planting, weeding, and animal care !

Tewshooz said...

I so miss my horses and taking care of them. Composted horse manure is wonderful for soil....there are many people who pay for that stuff. I used to live near a stable and they would sell their straw/manure by the pickup load. I think the human body was meant to be active and to work. I have severe limits now, but I still get out and do what I can. Exercise is the key to a healthy life.

JaneofVirginia said...

Exactly ! Very few people don't have some limit or another with regard to their physical activity. Even some of my doctors have knee issues or other problems. They still are active in the manner in which they are able. Compared to my parents at my age, I am considerably more impaired than they. However, I will work to get back the best level of function I can and hold it for as long as possible. Thanks for posting.

kymber said...

sweet Jane - i sure do wish i had some bone china - bahahahahah! the key to a healthy life, like all of our grandparents and great-grandparents knew is a healthy level of activity. and to understand the seasons - spring, summer and fall are very active seasons...and winter is for reading and sewing and learning and going to bed early, because the sun goes down so early, and getting up late, because the sunrise is so late. it's a perfect cycle! man, you sure do have your hands full all day and you didn't even mention taking care of all of the rescue dogs. i love the fact that you love your animals and take such good care of them - i know that they truly appreciate all that you do, some of which is icky and blecky - bahahahahah! but you do it because you are a trooper. i admire your intelligence, wit and writing capability....but i think what i love most about you is how you care for your animals.

much love to you and yours, including all of the animals, always. now git yer butt up here to NS!!! your friend,

JaneofVirginia said...

I love to take care of the animals. The local pound was trying to get me to take some additional ones on Saturday, but I can't take on more veterinary and special food expenses for them.
Last week we sheared the older alpacas, and this weekend, we sheared the younger ones, except for one. He is the most easily handled one, and we decided to leave him for last.
I need to get to NS to check on and clean the house again. We have someone who checks on it each day, but it's not the same as we need to do. Unfortunately, it takes money to make the trip and to do the maintenance. In addition, I must pay someone who come to take care of the horses. I hope to get up there sometime this year, although this time, I think we will be taking the new ferry to Yarmouth rather than the flight to Halifax.

lotta joy said...

It was kind of your husband to "allow" you to have such a momentous burden all to yourself. lol

I worry about you. Of all the blogs I read, I never comment on the ones that brag of their folly of "accomplishments". For the most part, they blather on regarding their immense planting of a vegetable garden and catching a few fish, as they talk of their heavy work schedules.

You, on the other hand, do not brag, but state succinctly of such a heavy work load that would cause many men to wither and walk away. You have much, and tend to it with dedication, devotion, and more true work ethics than I've ever seen on self-exalted and self-proclaimed prepper sites. And your land is barren of spare parts, tires, rusted and discarded junk. You take PRIDE where others take credit. I am so proud of you I could burst.

And you do it with grace, dignity, and knowledge. YOU, my hero, are the true example of being totally self-sufficient and proficient in all you do. May your china cup be forever filled to overflowing. I love you, dear friend.

JaneofVirginia said...

I appreciate all the kind words and the appreciation. I think though that we are all simply on a journey, and it's about the journey rather than the destination. I think that you may be seeing on other blogs, closer to the beginning of a journey, and I have owned this particular rocky (and honestly formerly quite junky) plot for quite a few years.
I share more of the sheer work of what is going on here because after Daniel died, I really wanted to evaporate myself. Instead of evaporating, I ate whatever I wanted (his portions too) and I did as little as I could get away with doing. (I did basic animal care and the kids helped me,) The work ethic comes from knowing Daniel is watching while I make the best of a difficult situation, and because my kids need to see how we work past the adversities we are given in life. I assure you, I screw up probably as much as anyone else does, I just may not report that here quite as readily, unless there is something important to be learned that I would like to pass along. Best wishes to you and yours,

lotta joy said...

You, dear friend, have suffered the cruelties and injustices of a life full of medical horror. So many never experience more than a sore throat and you did what any mother would do. You ate, and walked, and moved through the days bereft and feeling all the sorrow a mother can tolerate. Then, like Lazarus, you not only stood, you made the lives of suffering animals better, tended to your flock: both human and horses, and never once bragged or screamed for help.

You can be as humble as is your want. I reserve the right as a friend to sing your praises.

JaneofVirginia said...

Thank you for that, LJ. However, the time eventually comes that after you decompensate and feel good and sorry for yourself and whatever life threw on you, when all there is left to do is to get it together, and salvage what is left. That's all I did, and believe me, that took enough time ! I also always felt that Daniel could "see" what I was doing, and I wanted him to see that I was made of better stuff and that I could take the joy he brought to be as my child while he was here, and use the rest of my time here constructively. Daniel was always extremely honest, and I must admit to being more plain spoken in his memory than I used to be.

lotta joy said...

Daniel has as many reasons to be proud of his mother as you have to be proud of your son. And a more handsome child I have NEVER seen.

JaneofVirginia said...

I always thought he was a handsome child........but I will admit my complete bias ! LOL