It must be spring, I’m bleeding…

First nice weekend of the season. That means a garden and an orchard that needs weeding. It includes slightly overgrown game trails that need work with the machete. It involves frightening the deer.
(Seriously, I went out to throw some stuff in the composter this morning. It’s across the open backyard, close to an ancient two-horse barn in an advanced state of falling down. I’m about ten feet away from the composter, minding my own business, when a little black-tail deer pops up from where she had bedded down, and scampers back to the far corner of the space, where she can flee down the side of the hill to safety.)
I’ve got a pair of horse troughs out for her and her kids. One is in the upper meadow, over by the pumphouse. The other is across the driveway from the orchard, close to the septic drain field. And I frequently put out deer licks for her to get all the trace minerals she needs.
They’re almost pets, in case you couldn’t guess.
One of my neighbors, years ago, said she sat for thirty minutes one day and watched momma give birth to twins at the bottom of my long driveway. I have no idea if the one I saw today was momma or one of her daughters. I never bothered to figure out how long black-tail live in the semi-wild exurbs of the Central Cascades. (If any of you know, an email would be nice.)
And, it’s spring. That means Fabulous Publisher Babe™ and I get up kinda early on a Sunday to go into town for breakfast. I had a serious hankering for chicken-fried steak for breakfast, but there ain’t nothing approximating it at the grocery. (And I asked around.) And I did not have the mood to make it for myself from scratch today.
So back still early from breakfast, and walking around, getting in my steps.(The fitbit is a terrible taskmaster.) I have a long driveway, and I can cross over to a neighbor’s driveway easily, so it makes a nice loop for about a thousand steps.
Fabulous Publisher Babe™ looks at me like I’m nuts when I grab my work gloves out of the back of the pickup. “It’s a farm. There’s always something needs doing.” I was afraid she was going to hurt herself rolling her eyes at me, but she grabbed her gloves as well and we went to walking.
Yesterday, I had been pulling up vine maple and some similar scrub weed trees by the roots to clear things. They grow shallow and the dirt is soft. Today, it was scotchbroom everywhere that needed to be pulled up.
Have I mentioned that I have brambles of blackberry and salmonberry everywhere? Unless I wear long sleeves, I get ripped, cut, spiked, etc. (Hence, the spring and bleeding.)
And I got critters around here. They kind of mat down the weeds and salal bushes on the hillside. Mostly several deer and at least one small herd of elk. (Came around the corner getting home early from work one day over the winter and stumbled into a bull, eight cows, and two babies that had been hanging out in the septic field. Most of them bounced up the side hill and hid, but the matriarch gave me the stink eye as I parked, smiled at her, and walked in the front door, from maybe fifty feet away. Watched them from the living room window for the next twenty minutes before they ambled off.)
For today’s afternoon walk, after some time working on the latest Jessica Keller novel, instead of walking the driveways, I grabbed the machete and we went overland over the top of the hill and down the back. There’s a trail, mostly. It involves winding around a little, following old paths a little grown over. And a machete. And blackberry and groundberry vines every-bloody-where.
I cut, I pull, I toss. Fabulous Publisher Babe follows, also pulling and tossing. There are deadfalls that need to be moved to one side so I can get in there with a saw later in the spring and chop them up for a burn. They always have hidden nubs and branches that catch me blindside. There are ferns everywhere that need to be stomped down and eventually moved out of existence. Down to the bottom of the hill we go, re-hacking a trail I put down two or three years ago.
Then down and up the side-hill. I have a pond at the bottom of the hill that never gets more than about a meter deep in summer. And maybe another thirty cm deeper in the winter.
There’s a trail that runs alongside it, but it’s a swamp right now, until the water recedes and the ground dries out. So we go up the side of the hill. This is an old game trail the deer have put down, filled with all sorts of places that they bed down. And a lot of deadfalls. And it is spring.
Machete work. In the middle of stinging nettles and thorn bushes.
Just now, counting my forearms, I have blood in eight places. And that’s after I took a shower because I had grown a little funky.
But it is a gorgeous day. Just looked at the thermometer in the orchard box and it is sunny and right at 80F. Kitty is stretched out on her palace, or her windowsill, or in the sun in the middle of the kitchen, thinking important kitty thoughts.
There is a sirloin roast in the oven turning to heaven right now. Went down to Cash and Carry in the middle of winter and paid $30 for a 15 lb hunk of sirloin the size of a small dog. Hacked off a couple of roasts and a number of steaks. Been munching on that all winter. This is about the last piece left to kill.
Tenderize it with a fillet knife. Rub with cayenne, garlic, dill, salt, pepper. Rub the triangle with melted butter. Slice up a sweet pepper, a pair of tomatoes, a parsnip, and a sweet potato. Cover with a sauce made from more spices and chopped garlic and Damiana liquour. Put it all in a dutch oven on 200F for four hours.
That’s my idea of paradise on a Sunday afternoon. Fabulous Publisher Babe™ and I were wondering what other people were up to. My suggestion was sports bars and the playoffs.
Noise. People. Yuck.
I bought this piece of land when I did because I don’t really like people. I mean, y’all are nice in controlled increments, and I’m nowhere near as twitchy as she can be, or my buddy C. But today, the only person I talked to that I wasn’t married to was the waitress. (Kitty doesn’t count because everything is interpretive dance with her.)
My dream is to be selling enough books on a weekly basis that I can walk away from the day job and spend half my life out here on the farm, doing farm stuff. Growing fruits and making booze from them. Planting a vegetable garden. Writing. Psychologically abusing medium to large ungulates. You know, fun.
(The other half would be in town, at her house, but she’s got a lovely backyard where the hedges are twenty feet tall and mostly solid. I can hear you, but can’t see. And then I’m annoying Northern Flickers and getting attitude from hummingbirds. And everything we want to do is in walking distance, so I don’t have to drive with people that should never have been allowed to own cars in the first place.)
Yes, I know I’m rambling. I will have a purpose, eventually.
She and I took a very good out-of-town friend to dinner the other night, just before we put him on the plane to fly back to the East Coast.
He’s always a little astounded at us, and not just the still-honeymooning part. She and I take a radically different approach to life than just about anybody else we know.
It comes down to “being all in.”
If is worth doing, do it right. Do it all. Do it now.
For example, she’s a coffee nut (y’all knew that, right?). And I do mean nerd. She bought her own counter-top roaster and I take her down to my favorite brewing supply place in Tukwila, WA (Larry’s Brewing Supply moved from Kent over the winter, now they’re in the Southcenter area), and she buys green coffee beans. At home, she roasts them herself.
She’s even got a grimoire where she tracks the kind of bean, the ambient temperature and humidity, the timing, the results, and the taste.
Our friend isn’t like that. He didn’t get it. (And I don’t just mean home-roasted coffee.) So she sat him down, walked him through the entire process, and sent him home with enough custom-roasted beans to either get him through a couple of days, or get him hooked. (I hope the latter, but I can’t want more out of life than you do.)
What do you want out of life? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? If you suddenly had enough money to walk away from the day job tomorrow, what would you do?
I’m getting to the point where I’m no longer really amazed that most people can’t answer that question.
They don’t dream. And if they do, they don’t figure out where they want to be, and the day that they want to be there, and then make it happen.
They don’t plan.
I know.
I spent my 40th birthday on Trafalgar Square in London thinking about that. This farm is the result.
When I met her, she opened up the possibility that I could transform from being merely a storyteller into a writer, and make money at it. Not much, yet. But enough that I know it can be done. That I can meet people who have done it, are doing it, have become it.
I can live on the farm. I can live (part-time) in the city. I can write. I can be successful.
But more importantly, I can be happy, because I took the time to identify what it was that would make me happy.
Have you done the same, yet?

p.s. the parsnip and sweet potato could have roasted a little longer (or had some more juice to stew in), but OMG that sirloin was perfect. Just the right amount of medium rare to be heaven. Yum.

One thought on “It must be spring, I’m bleeding…

  1. Barry Melius

    Interesting post,made me ponder my situation. Years ago I decided that the word happy didn’t work for me that satisfy fit better. I wanted a life that satisfied. It has to satisfy at an increasingly deeper level over time,it would have to be centered around growth and sharing. Words are very personal and I suspect our two words have a personal meaning that is similiar on the inside even if the details vary widely. I have a life that satisfies deeply,you have a life that is making you happy. Living our dreams,can we ask for more.

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