Andrew's Blog

A City Boy Making His Way in the Country
January 2011

Kitchen sink 1, Andrew 0.

I have once again been “schooled” (as the kids would say) by yet another piece of household machinery.  Or rather, household physics.  Sinks scare me.  If they overflow, at best, they can create a messy situation.  At worst, they can destroy things. Hardwood floors are no match for sitting puddles of water.  Upholstery is a sitting duck.  And cabinets, like a WWI trench survivor, may be changed forever.

And so, it is with great trepidation that I attempt to fix anything sink related.  Some things are better left to the professionals.  But last night, my kitchen sink backed up – both sides of the sink mind you.  After heavy doses of baking soda and vinegar, along with vigorous plunging, I gave up.  Before bed, the water line had receded.  There can be miracles when you believe!

This morning, after walking the dog, I noticed the sink was filled up again.  Both of them.  So much for miracles.  And imagine my surprise when I stepped in something wet which, for a split second, I feared was dog pee.  Oh no, it was just the dishwasher leaking.  Odd since I hadn’t turned on the dishwasher.  It was 5:50 a.m., so what could I do?  I threw some towels down and went back to bed.

A few hours later it was still leaking.  The plumber was called.  It’s always nice when a professional arrives and say, “this doesn’t look good!”  But after cleaning something I believe to be called the “trap,” and administering some more vigorous plunging, everything cleared up.  I paid them and they left.  Perhaps their plunging was more vigorous then mine.  Or maybe I’m a bit clueless.  I lean towards the later.  I’m confident in my plunging ability.

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Llamas, beautiful llamas.

Today the llamas arrived.  On the left is Richard, the sweet husband of Hyacinth, a sassy and diva-esque llama.  We were told she was a “brat.”  I’m not really sure what that means.  She does eat all the food, and she does do what she wants to do, but doesn’t that just make her a strong, independent woman in today’s society?  Here at Orchard House, we appreciate confidence with little splash of Whitney Houston.  It keeps things interesting.

So the llamas aren’t too thrilled with their barn as of yet.  And that’s odd, as it is about as cold outside as it can possibly be without me crying.  They are slowly moving towards the barn, though, as I have put some hay in a wheelbarrow and keep feeding them handfuls of grain.  If they want to stay out all night, god bless them.  I’ll be under my duvet.

Our one concern is that Richard still has his halter on and we missed the split second opportunity we had to remove it.  So we wait.  We are working on Richard’s terms now.  If I were a llama, or any other farm animal for that matter, I would’t want to wear a halter – just think about the itching.  If it doesn’t come off tonight, we’ll get it tomorrow.  There is always tomorrow.  (Please make your predictable Annie or Gone with the Wind reference right now.  I’ll wait.  Thank you.)

And so this city boy has made it one step closer to country gentleman.  I use words like “barn,” and “hay,” and “halter.”  While I may still be hiking up that steep learning curve to country living, every day brings new discoveries and progress.  I have attempted to back up my horse trailer twice now.  Once, getting hay yesterday, with extensive coaching.  And today, getting the llamas, when I handed over the reigns of the GMC to a driver with greater skill.  I may just get my diploma in country living when I can parallel park with my trailer.  Ugh.  Maybe I’ll just go for my GED.

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Build it and they will come.

The “starter” barn is complete.  And here are few immediate observations.

1) It’s quite tall.  There’s room for giraffe!  And I’ve always wanted to ride one!

2) It’s open at the top through the overhang.  Great for the summer as the heat will escape.  Questionable for the winter.

3) There was a large pile of debris left over from it’s creation.  The Amish, apparently, like to build, but not clean up.

This building has been a long time coming.  Sometimes it was too cold to work, and sometimes I was told it was “too mushy” outside to build.  Wasn’t Washington, D.C. built on a marsh?  I thought we conquered the “mushy” problems of construction when we settled Florida.  But, for all my complaining, it has been finished.  The fence goes up on Friday and the llamas arrive Saturday.  Soon bison will be roaming in the hills.  I wonder if Ted Turner will sell me some of his stock?

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Loss and Rebirth.

Sadly, as we were busy embracing the New Year at Orchard House, on New Years Day, we lost an immediate family member. As we continue to grieve his loss, I am reminded of the cycle of birth and death ever present in our daily lives.

Although we may be blanketed in snow, underground seedling are preparing for their spring assault.  They will push through the earth, soak up as much sun and water as possible, and then either feed another living being or fall back to the ground, only to sustain another generation of plants to emerge next year.

On the farm, our animals are brought to us with a purpose in mind.  The Orchard House menagerie are here to live out their lives at pasture.  Every season, babies may be born and elderly animals grow slightly frailer.  Nothing is permanent on the farm.  We are constantly changing with every new season and every new year.  We are reminded most cruelly of this cycle when a family member passes.  Beloved mothers and fathers, our grandparents, and even trusted companions that have slept by our sides for years will eventually succumb to the inevitable.

While to some this may be tragic, I see hope.  Every year, a new season will welcome newborns into the world, seed a farrow meadow with wildflowers, and bring the promise of a year better than the last.  I recently heard a man describe the power of an earthquake that destroyed his house.  “It reminds you of how small you really are.”  We may have met 2011 under a cloud of sorrow and pain, but there are greater forces at work in our lives.  We celebrate the longevity and creativity of a life lost, and understand a bit more the wisdom of our past generations.  We will emerge richer, with a renewed commitment to live our lives as if every day were a new year.

Rest in peace Leon.  The choirs of heaven are now stronger by one glorious operatic baritone.

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