Friday, September 30, 2011

this is country music

You need hands, rough not soft, to come and warm you up up in that cold hayloft.
Let me hold you, little darling, in my big strong arms,
Can't get these kind of muscles anywhere but a farm.
Hey, I'm a country man, a city boy can't do the things I can.
I can grow my own groceries and salt cure a ham.
Hey baby, I'm a country man.
-- Country Man, Luke Bryan 

Over the last few months, my eldest's musical tastes have been changing to a steady diet of country music. It makes some sense, given that he has been working hard in the fields and driving tractors, and a common theme of country music songs is working hard in the fields and driving tractors. It also doesn't hurt that it is what his friends and girlfriend listen to.

I can only dream that it means he eventually knows how to salt cure a ham.

As he is controller of the car radio (except when his father is driving), it also means that all of us have been subjected to a steady diet of country music. The younger two complained bitterly at first but now they go around humming "Colder Weather" and "Hunt You Down" so it seems the indoctrination is complete.

Here are some notes from my months of listening to country music:
  • There is a lot of talk about drinking, so much so that my 12 year old commented on it. Beer, whiskey and tequila seem to be the beverages of choice.
  • You need to know who Hank Williams is.
  • You need to know where Nashville is.
  • You need to know what Nashville is.
  • It helps to know the various tractor colors.
  • It helps to appreciate rhymes. My personal favorite pair is "millionaire" and "obituary." (Hint: you need to add an extra "ee" to the end of "millionaire" to make it work.)

A week ago, I accompanied Primo and his girlfriend (ack) to a country music concert (double ack). It was her 16th birthday present from him. They were kind enough to invite me along, mostly because they needed me to drive them. They probably thought their chances of a chauffeured ride were better if they didn't ask me to kill time in the most dangerous city in the U.S.

The title is a clue to the artist. Here's another clue: an illuminating cell phone shot. See the trademark white hat?

OK, I'll tell you. It was Brad Paisley (and Blake Shelton and Jarrod Niemann). We weren't that close except during the middle of the concert, when he came on to a special platform in the seats and we were only ten feet away. His concert was quite good, I must admit, and I managed to get the kids home safely at 1 am, which was my biggest concern.

It only served to cement Primo's devotion to the genre. He presented his birthday list yesterday: cowboy boots, cowboy hat, large belt buckle and matching decorated belt, Wrangler's jeans, flannel shirts. He is hoping to get in some line dancing when we go to Ohio in a few months, with any luck in his new duds.

His father has no idea where he went wrong.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

back to school

Tonight was the last of the back-to-school nights. Fittingly, Terzo's was the finale. It was the usual craziness of getting Primo to his high school cross-country meet with the added sauce of shopping for a new pair of running shoes for Secondo, who managed to lose his entire middle school cross-country gear when he left it on the bus yesterday.

So things were a little rushed, but I was patting myself on the back because I managed to get a somewhat home-cooked meal down my family's gullets before my LSH and I had to rush back out the door.

Until my second-grader took one look at what I was wearing -- what I would consider clothes suitable for working in my LSH's office (no jeans! unstained shirt! non-sneaker shoes!) -- and said:

"It's back to school night. Aren't you going to dress a little nice?"


Friday, September 23, 2011

begging for mercy

It never fails... We have a full afternoon to evening slate of cross-country practice / piano lessons / computer work in the office / middle school back-to-school night, and what does my sophomore announce at 4 pm?

He needs a costume for history class the next day.* Specifically, he needs to dress up as Mercy Lewis, one of the Salem witch trial accusers, and can he borrow a black shirt and skirt from me?

Keep in mind that he is now pushing 6 feet, and built like a running back. Something from my closet was not an option, though I did appreciate the thought that I dress like a puritan.

Luckily, my mom bequeathed a black faux fur cape to us a few months ago (along with my wedding dress, my grandmother's old furs, a coat I last wore in college, and various other garments I had stowed in their attic about 20 years ago). When I called to question why on earth I would ever need an opera cape—after all, where do I go?—she was quick to point out that I had entirely missed the point. Think Halloween, she said.

Not two days later, Secondo came home in a panic, needing an Edgar Allan Poe costume for class the next day.** He was thrilled when I pulled out the cape, and apparently used it to great effect in a dramatic exit.

I called my mom and added it to the list of Things For Which I Owe Her Greatly. It's a very long list.

So back to good old Mercy Lewis... Ten minutes, a few table linens, a white apron I forgot I owned, said black cape and a plethora of safety pins: voila!

He let me take this picture on the condition that I not post it on Facebook. I made no promises about this blog.

* Not a case of teenage procrastination. She gave them the assignment that afternoon.

** Entirely possible that it was a case of pre-teen procrastination.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

happy ending

Every so often, we get a happy ending around here -- which is nice to keep in mind when we get a not-so-happy ending around here, such as the lamb that died Sunday due to bloat. (A very heavy dew on a very rich patch of pasture seemingly caused horrendous digestive issues. Sometimes these things are clear only in hindsight.)

But remember the bottle baby?

Secondo called him Little Mr. Man, and was quite devoted to him.

So was Little Mr. Man's sister. For all that his mother rejected him, she cared for him as much as a sibling lamb can. She was always aware of where he was, always by his side. Even if he was under the weather and curled up in a corner, rather than playing with the other lambs, she was curled up with him. Her attentiveness was quite touching.

I warned Secondo not to get too attached. These things often don't end up so great around farms. Secondo did his best, but gosh darn it, the lamb had personality.

Just in the nick of time, I got an e-mail: did we have any bottle babies for sale? A local horse farm keeps a few sheep around for color and lawn-mowing duties, and since several elderly ovine residents had passed on, they were in the market for two new ones.

Did I have the pair for them.

We paid a visit to them a few days ago, and Little Mr. Man had not forgotten. He immediately came running up when he saw the boys -- sheep are quite good at recognizing faces.

I think you need the occasional happy ending just to keep plugging away sometimes.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Stick a fork in me. I am officially done.

The Garden State Sheep Breeders Festival was last weekend. The farm booth looked its best ever, I think.

It was a good weekend but I must admit that going into it, visions of cancellation danced through my head. The thought that I am waaaay overextended started nibbling at my brain sometime in the end of August, and hasn't let go since. This is new for me. My usual state of mind is: "One more thing? Sure, no problem! I'll fit it in somewhere!"

Now I am just a quivering mass of exhaustion, begging for mercy and/or a peaceful day in a quiet home. Same thing.

I'll say one thing for this change in thinking: it made it very easy for me to say a polite but definitive "no thanks!" when I was approached to be the head of a new community initiative. My inner voice was actually screaming "hell no!" My inner voice tends to be a little less polite. I try to edit it before it escapes, but I am not always successful.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

first day 2011

Better late (compared to the rest of the country, it seems) than never!

Primo started his sophomore year of high school bright and early yesterday.

Actually not that bright. It was so early that a flash was necessary to catch him on the way to the bus stop, a.k.a. the end of our driveway.

The other two started today, in usual shift fashion. Secondo made his way to seventh grade a little over an hour after his older brother had left...

The little one was just waking up at that point, and raring to go to second grade. He headed out for the bus an hour later, but it never showed up. Argh!

Back to a routine! Just in the nick of time, as I am hard at work getting ready for the Garden State Sheep Breeders Festival this weekend. I started later than ever this year, and it will be down to the wire to see how much I can finish in the next few days.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

a week later

As I listen to the crickets chirp outside on this clear September night, it is hard to believe that just one week ago, we were slogging through Hurricane Irene. The boys initially had a high ol' time that evening playing in the mud and puddles that the torrential rains produced in our backyard:

Apologies for the poor quality; it was quite rainy at that point

The darkness eventually called them in, and we listened with half an ear to the ever-increasing intensity of the winds. At 10 pm, I went to do some laundry (I was desperate to get it finished before we lost power; I knew it was inevitable) and discovered a smallish but ever-increasing puddle in the basement. Just like that, the struggle was ON.

I mopped while my LSH and Primo fixed the issue; the younger two were in bed already. At that point, we lost power and our internet/cable connection -- and thus all communication with the outside world. Our generator kicked in, but it didn't help us with the problem of what the heck was happening out there. The only thing that offered a shred of hope was this handy device, an emergency radio powered by battery/plug-in/hand-crank:

We received it from my parents a few Christmases back. At the time, we didn't appreciate its potential usefulness. Now, I don't know how we would have made it through the night without it. At 11 pm we received several frantic texts from concerned friends and relations that a tornado warning had been issued for our area -- a TORNADO warning, in NJ!!! -- and we needed to get into our basement right quick. The boys set up a temporary bed, and the dog was happy enough to join them.

They were having a ball, except Terzo, who slept through the entire thing.

We had to use the set-up again at 2:30 am, when another tornado warning was issued. My LSH and I took turns throughout that dark night monitoring the radio and checking the basement.

Did I say dark? I meant pitch black, darker than dark, darkest before the dawn, dark. It was a long night, and we were so fortunate that we suffered no damage greater than lack of sleep. It turns out that the modern convenience I missed most was the little color-coded interactive radar weather map. Without that, I felt like I had no idea what was happening out there, and could only slog through listening to the voices on the radio -- NJ 101.5 did a spectacular job throughout it all -- and wait for the sunrise to see more clearly.

We did get eventually get our power (and cable and internet and phone) back on Wednesday night, and I have been playing catch-up every since, with no complaints from me. How can I complain? So many had it so very much worse.