Friday, August 31, 2012

chickens, podcasts, and chainsaws.

Yeah. It's an interesting mix over here today.

Yesterday was such a good day. A great day. Not because it went well, but because I started the day at 4 am, listening to Jon Bernie. With a cup of tea and a dark sky with bright planets, it was - glorious. And by glorious, I mean that I cried a lot, in a good way. I am absolutely in love with my new ipod. In one tiny little square, I have an entire sangha.

The 4 to 6 am time slot impacts the rest of my day so much. The last month or so, those hours have been filled with nightmares, and with me being too exhausted to get up to avoid them. But this week, I've (mostly) been up. Listening.

The goodness helped me through a massive chicken challenge. Well, a challenge to my stress levels, anyway. My one good, thriving garden is just starting to have tomatoes come in. This, after losing all of the squash, cukes, and zukes to a massive bug infestation. I just planted seeds for fall crops. And. We have meat birds out there. By "we," I mean the person who owns the farm, and supposedly, I will be receiving a few birds in exchange for all the veg we've shared. The chickens free range. They are not supposed to. Containment of birds is the owner's job; I did as much as I could do without it being my property. Anyway - I don't even feel like bitching about it much. Just that yesterday, all 26 birds were inside my garden fence, having uprooted some tomatoes to take dust baths. Having eaten all the beet greens, newly planted seeds, and lots of tomatoes. Not their fault - they're chickens. They were hungry and thirsty, and they found what they needed. So while I was quite angry, I also noticed the calm in there, the post-sangha calm. I also noticed how sad I felt, and why. Nothing here is my place. The birds, the gardens, this home I've lived in for seven years, the spaces and places I move in. 

I came home and took Bo to the beach. Found loads of heart rocks. Felt peaceful and calm and sad. Felt thankful and happy to be here at the water with our very happy dog. Found wild apple trees loaded with apples that I will go back and forage today. It was a good day, all of it in its way.

Today, I woke up exhausted, and put off Jon Bernie til noon. The power company has been outside my windows all day, chainsawing down trees and scrub growth. This neighborhood has changed so much lately. More traffic, more noise, more crime. Fewer trees. The sadness has stayed from yesterday, and the calm replaced by more grief. It's alright. I feel, I don't know, more alright with the rhythm of it. It's more leave-taking, seeing the end of here circling around. It means I am weepy today.

I will be a weepy commando in just a few minutes. A friend and I are introducing her not-quite-6-month old daughter to the finer skills of trespassing and foraging. Wild apples and weepiness. That's the news from right here.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

meat, part two

Or part three. I'm not sure.

Just a quick little note, a process for me. Am going to dinner at the old farm next week. Casually, the owner says, "we just got Louie back from the butcher, so we'll have beef something."

Louie was my first bull calf. He was just a few weeks old when I first arrived at the farm. When he was small, we were buddies. I halter trained him. Those original owners hoped to sell him to someone who just wanted "a sweet ol' lawn bull;" in ten years of raising dairy cows, they sent one to slaughter, and then couldn't bring themselves to eat the meat. The new owners did not have that sentiment. The dairy business is also, by default, the meat business. Bull calves are stud replacements or they are beef. After they took over, we sent several bull calves to slaughter. Calves I'd bottle fed. With them, it was just facts. There is no farming without death.

Knowing that they intended to slaughter Louie was - different. He was my first farm guy. Louie was a love. So much of a love, he didn't realize he was a very large animal. By the time he outgrew the calf pens, it had become a little dangerous for me to get in there to feed him. The way we played around when he was tiny was not wise when he outweighed me. By the end of my time at the farm, I couldn't go near his paddocks; he had no idea he was dangerous. He either thought I was a cow, or he thought he wasn't a bull. Either way, unwise. A rookie mistake I made.

So it's strange still, to see a freezer full of meat. I spent a day or so thinking about it. Wondering if this is another of those times when I will question the categories in my mind, question whether meat-eating is a choice I still want to make. But then I think. This morning I remember - Louie lived on acres of pasture, with other cows and bulls. He had a fantastic bull life. You can either have a never-Louie, because there are no wandering herds of wild cows somewhere where creatures live out some magical "natural" life, or you can have a brief Louie, raised well and with kindness.

I wonder if it is as simple as that, a small switch in my thinking. A pet bull, with my own added emotionalizing, or a real bull.

Not sure yet.


Friday, August 24, 2012

and again...


Three years, one month, twelve days, and I seem to be in a strange loop again. A loop of nightmares, middle insomnia, and almost every morning waking up thinking - wait. What happened? What? Shaking my mind, questioning it. Are you sure?

Dead. Really? That man. That one. Really. Jesus. That is insane.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

a willingness for beauty

Okay - another bee update. Yesterday was rained out, so no super removal. I did spend a lot of the day, too much of the day, trying to organize the people who'd offered their help. As a person who instinctively and impulsively offers help and follows through with those offers, I find lack of follow through vexing. Vexing is actually a gentle way of putting it. People who offer and then seem irritated at being asked to follow through especially push some pretty tender spots in my emotional make-up. I also had someone who offered to pick up and deliver some equipment for me insist on being paid for their time and mileage after they dropped said equipment off. My bad. I assumed it was a kindness, not a business transaction.

But those disappointments are not what I want to focus on today. In meditation last night, I realized how much I have taken responsibility for right outcome with this, what a burden that has been to me, and how much I have allowed this to enrage and irritate me. This morning, I read a few things that also shifted my orientation from dread about the upcoming honey harvest to a willingness to find it beautiful. I reminded myself that my responsibility is to show up and to be present, to listen to myself. That there is too much else involved for me to claim sole responsibility for outcome. That and a full-coverage bee suit, and I was calm and ready.

The first helper was actually there when I got there, smoker going, equipment ready. He was around my age, dressed how matt would have been, which helped immensely. As it turned out the three other people who said they would help never came. But the helper I had was calm, respectful, funny. He was in no way patronizing as some of the older potential helpers had been via email. He remembered me announcing that my partner had died at a beekeeping meeting that first year. He had a perfectly calm response to my few teary moments speaking of matt. He encouraged me to really think about whether I was going to give up beekeeping, but didn't try to convince me not to. He did most of the work and was not one bit annoyed or impatient with the bees or with me. It was, quite simply, beautiful. A gift to me.

So now I am home. Five supers full of honey waiting to be uncapped and spun out. Podcasts loaded on the ipod for background. This went well. Willingness for beauty really helped me out today.


Saturday, August 18, 2012

rain date

Oh I was hoping to be done with honey harvest today.... but it is raining, and you can't pull honey supers in the rain. Or when it's cloudy. Bees do not like cloudy.

It's funny how sway-able I am. Some farm owning friends of mine offered to let me move my hives out there, so when tending time comes, there are more hands on deck. For a moment, I thought this was great. A family! People care! It will be fun! And then I remember - I really don't enjoy beekeeping anymore. I don't plan on living here for much longer, so starting a new bee-yard relationship is irresponsible. I don't need more encumbrances. I do not like the version of me that comes out when beekeeping is intense. As another friend said yesterday, "I think there are things you can do that feel connected with matt that don't involve you being stung repeatedly."

I am just such a try again, and try harder person.

And this is the thing - sometimes, if something is stressful or hard, I think: sweet me, you witnessed matt dying randomly and accidentally. Compared to that, this is nothing. Relax. You can do this. And then other times, faced with something hard and stressful, I think: WTF am I doing? I just watched matt die, randomly and accidentally. Why am I wasting any time at all doing sh*it that makes me mad?

Certainly a context change in there. It comes down to what is worth it and what is not. What is hard, but will help me or be satisfying in the end, and what is hard but not worth the pay off, if there even is any pay off. Will confronting this ease my way at all? Or bring me closer to peacefulness? Or even just create something that I will actually use? I feel like I am walking this line repeatedly in big things and small. Streamlining.

On that note, I am off. Refinishing furniture, finishing a project matt had started. Unlikely to be stung doing it.


Friday, August 17, 2012

bees, 2

I am done being a beekeeper.

You are supposed to be here for this shit. I am not supposed to be getting mobbed and stung and fucked with. YOU are supposed to be here and we are supposed to be doing this together. Right now, I hate bees. I hate them. I don't know why they are aggressive like this, but I can't get anywhere near them. Not that it does any good, but right now I just want to leave the damn hive open where I left it and let the bees figure it out themselves - fall over, get rained on, I do not care. Nor came out there, all suited up, to help, but I can't even run the smoker without hundreds of very angry bees stinging me through my clothes.

So now I am home, still shaking. More from the YOU SHOULD BE HERE to deal with this than with the actual upset at bees. Though I am definitely still upset about bees. So now I am waiting to hear if I can find another full body armor bee suit so I can go back there again today and get this done. And go back tomorrow to actually remove the supers.

This is my last weekend as a beekeeper. Angry bees + not having you here to do this stuff with me = fuck this shit.

Sorry for the language, me.

update - well I'm home now, and calmer. Fully suited, two of us managed to get the supers off, excluder on, and supers back on, all without incident. Giant bee suits make a big difference. However, I have just learned that I missed an important part of the whole bee excluder thing, so the whole fiasco of today may be completely worthless. Whatever. Two of three helpers for tomorrow cancelled; now trying to find new helpers. Repeatedly asking for help, repeatedly trying to pin down people who said they would help and then stopped responding, trying to organize a bunch of people who are trying very kindly to squeeze me in somewhere, matching a whole bunch of peoples' schedules to the weather - I really don't need beekeeping to remind me how much of a non-priority I am, as it should be, in other peoples' lives. So. Thank you to the hoardes of bees for making my decision very clear and easy.

For now, I am going to take benadryl, eat dinner, and try not to think about tomorrow.

Monday, August 13, 2012



"...the world of “acceptance" is a whole new world of suffering in its own right."

Again with the good words. Much needed on this crabby at-war-with-myself morning.

I am a strange morning person. I love the very early morning. And - early morning is often when I am the most inwardly crabby. Little wars. Things need changing.


Sunday, August 12, 2012


A cake photo, from the iphone. I didn't have my camera at the party, so I'm hoping there are some better ones out there that someone else took. Castle cake. It was awesome.




Sunday the 12th. Three years and one month. Today, I am making a pink princess castle cake for the little one born one month After. I'll post some photos after it's assembled (the cake, not the child). It is weird to me, all of it. All of this. All of everything.

I guess that's it. That's all. It is weird to still eat and bake and cook, to care whether the cake has the proper proportions ~ the flags need to be just a bit higher to balance the width of the base ~ to be in the stream of "normal" life. I mean ever at all, not just cake. I feel like I am eternally missing my center, here in the land of function.

But that cake will not build itself, and 12th or no, I need to get to it.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

the helpers

On my mind a lot these days - what is a nurturing environment for me? Is there anything that would bring back my Before self? Or at least encourage it? It is so hard to shake the anxiety of impending doom, of guarding against more loss, of knowing I do not have it in me to deal with another emergency. Though there has only been one emergency in over 41 years, it was a doozy. It is hard to not guard against more. Hard to choose something other than anxiety. I understand me, I just wish it wasn't so. I miss my normalcy. I miss trusting that everything is alright, or that it will be so. I had far more of my former mojo in the months soon After - closer to impact, I was more me. I resent the shrinking smallness of my world and of my mind. I have faded.

I titled this post the helpers, I remember now. It's because of this blog - He writes so often of adventure, of being willing to open and to soften and to see. I want to be back there. Want to feel that peace and calm and trust again. To be the adventure I used to be. I am not. And I am not in enough places that feed me, that bring it out, that nurture me. I am tired of feeling this way, both repulsed and saddened by the infectious non-adventure and anxiety in me. If I have to live this, and I do, man I want my peace back.


And this just showed up in my inbox today. Nice. Thank you.


Saturday, August 4, 2012


I got my first stings of the season this morning. Overdue, really. Except I got caught in that not-helpful mind loop of: you got stung because you are stressed. No. Getting stung made me stressed. Well maybe you are trying to hide your crabbiness from the bees and they see through it. But - the stinging made me crabby! ...sigh. Regardless, more honey supers were added; tall enough now that I can't see into the top box, and could barely see into the one below that. Should have harvested a week ago. This is the first time we will have two harvests in one year.

This marks my fifth (wow) year of beekeeping, and my fourth time harvesting without you Matthew P. It has been different each year After and Since - the first fall, a horrible bumbling experience with strangers who claimed experience, followed by a repeat effort with broken extractors shooting blue sparks while your friend, her daughter, and I stuck screwdrivers into the wiring to try and make it work. The second fall was sweeter and quiet, though my heart was too broken to feel anything but sad. I didn't even harvest last year; just didn't have it in me, and the bees didn't either. This year, however, those honey boxes are full full full, and I need to find a team to stand in your stead.

The peach tree that used to stand beside our hives is gone. That first fall as beekeepers, we harvested honey and dipped ripe peaches into broken combs - excellent timing, that tree. The yard owners took it down last year, or maybe the year before, after years of declining yields. The seat we built beneath the tree, where you used to go each morning to meditate and watch the bees, that is gone too. There's not really a place for a seat now. I don't watch them like we did; I rarely check on them. Not the way we did together, anyway. I'm disappointed in myself that I am not calm around the bees as I was Before. I am a lazy beekeeper now, and feel less confident, that's for sure.

But I will begin to assemble a team - harder than it seems, as I'm finding many people afraid of bees - and be full of wonder and awe and all of that again, slicing open the comb, seeing the colors, guessing at their source. It was such a celebration that first year. The following years, while not grim, were simply efficient. This year, I think, it will be a celebration again. Although a very different one.

My hand is swelling some. Time for homeopathics and benadryl. And more emails finding people unafraid of bees, or willing to become that way.