Horses and hay and a house of cards

Maggie beats Charlie to the barn
The house of cards on which I stand is wobbling.  Will I fall?  I am hiding here in this beautiful place, trying to write. Will I finish the edits to my two books before the life of my dreams falls apart?

The most recent card to fall was the rain last night. I allowed myself to be convinced it would only rain a little bit, not enough to hurt the hay if we cut it.  The best time to bale the hay had passed. Maybe the storms would completely skip over us, like they have before. Against my better judgement, I said yes– okay, cut it.

Charlie is heading for the barn before it rains.

Charlie is heading for the barn before it rains.

If you were in the Midwest last night, or are in the East today, or if you watched the news, you know what happened.  IT POURED!

So now, 70% of my hay crop–what I use to feed my horses throughout the winter–is ruined.  It’s soaked, beige-gray in color. Useless.  And if the wet hay lying in the field doesn’t get baled soon, it will ruin any hopes for hay crops in the future.  The wet muck will smother the plants beneath if it doesn’t get removed–possibly kill them.

Today the sun is shining, but will the hay dry enough to be baled? On Saturday it’s supposed to rain again, maybe for another two days.  I believe the weatherman this time.  Granted, he’s been wrong 80% of the time in the past, no maybe 90%, when weather he claimed was a sure thing failed to materialize. So today is the only chance we have to get the hay up.

After eighteen years of growing our own hay, this is the worse outcome ever!  Horse hay is not supposed to get wet once it is cut.  Rain turns it into cow hay or, of even less value, compost.  I’m worried I won’t have anything to feed my horses through the winter.

Where is everybody?

Where is everybody?

Having no hay would be the first card falling for me–the house of cards on which I stand.  The bad economy has been devastating for us these last five years, like for so many others.  I’ve been barely holding on.

Now I feel like I’m slipping.  I’m even having dreams where I am so overwhelmed, I decide I actually want to move. But it was only a dream. Wasn’t it? Will one rain storm put my way of life in jeopardy? The first of many cards to fall?  I hope not.

If circumstances became so bad that I had to move, it would mean giving up on a life-long dream.  Living on this land has been a dream come true for me.  I’m not ready to let it go.

If I had to, it would mean moving all that I have accumulated in these past eighteen years of living in one place. The disruption would be so great, it would put the screeches on a promising writing career.  I’m editing two books, one of which has already won multiple awards at writers’ conferences.  I have feedback for a rewrite.  Now all I need is the time and focus to finish it.

I have a window of opportunity here–with editors and agents.  I don’t want to screw it up.  I fear that I might.  Okay, I said it. That is my biggest fear right now.  Not that I wouldn’t survive, but that I wouldn’t succeed.

So, I’ve lost one card of the foundation on which I stand. That’s it. I can’t take any more right now. No more problems. Please. I just need some time, some uninterrupted time, so that I can finish the editing process.

I’ll keep you posted to let you know if the Universe is listening.

Is anyone listening?

Is anyone listening?

Sometimes I wonder if anyone out there in the internet world is listening to me.  So, if you are there, please leave a comment. It would cheer me on greatly.  A Follow-me by E-mail would be nice, too.  Thanks for listening, whoever you are. When times are hard, it helps just to be heard.

Waiting in Stillness for the Storm

Stormy Sky One

I waited for the storm throughout last night, my sleep smothered by the humidity that had invaded the house.  Nothing came. Not the storm. Nor the sleep.

I  gave up trying for sleep at six this morning, dressed and went outside into the stillness.  No wind from any direction. It was like the storm was waiting, holding back or being held back. A leaf on the giant tree in our backyard moved from the flap of a birds wing.  Even their song was muted. Eerie. My skin crawled. On this day, my world is too still.  Too quiet. I hold my breath too.  The suspense builds. The tension straining.

Stormy Sky Two
The horses, Charlie, Sonia and Maggie are locked up in the barn, munching on one of the last bales of hay from last summer’s crop. Chewing helps keep them calm. They don’t like storms any more than me. I left the lights on in the barn to diminish the shock of lightning and thunder and wind if it comes. When it comes.

Weather radar puts us in a red zone. Severe thunderstorms, high winds, hail, maybe even tornados.  The hay in the field has been cut. It lays in flat rows to dry. Then it will be raked into a continuous braided row that spirals inward to the middle of the field. The rake lifts the hay off the ground and flips it to dry the underside, preparing it to be baled.

The baler picks up the hay, smashes it into flakes and ties it into square bales. If the wind blows hard, the braid will be broken, scattering the hay haphazardly in the field, making it difficult for the baler to scoop it up.

If it rains before the hay can be baled, the water will leach out the nutrients, turning the hay from luscious green to lifeless grey.  The heavier the rain, the more life is drained away.

We grow organic hay for our horses, a lovely mix of grass with a bit of alfalfa.  If the hay is not dried when it is baled, it will mold–creating a toxic feed for any horse. Only cows will be able to eat it without getting sick, but we don’t have any cows.

The words “Make hay while the sun shines” run through my brain.  This is the first cutting, always the biggest of any season. The drought-diminished harvest of last year is all but gone. We need this hay.

Stormy Sky ThreeBut will the rain come too soon and ruin the hay for my horses?  Will it rain heavy? Or will it just sprinkle and skip over us as it has so many times before when big storms have been predicted?

There’s no way of knowing.  There’s just the waiting.  And the praying.  A tension that makes my skin crawl and boggles my mind, making the time unusable for anything but worry.

And so I wait in the stillness for the storm.  And pray it doesn’t come.  Not today.  Not tomorrow.  Not until the hay is baled and put under cover and all the animals are safe inside. Then, let the rain come. But not today.

10 PM LIGHTNING STORM

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A hot summer on the farm, watering and writing

With only two weeks to prepare before my Midwest Writer’s Workshop in Muncie, Indiana, I’m squeezing writing time in between chores in the garden, the barn and the hay field.  Oh yes, and then there’s cleaning all the leaves out of the pool that have fallen from the surrounding trees decimated from the drought.

The mostly alfalfa and clover hay has just been raked and will be baled later today. Not much there, but with all the bugs, it had to be cut to protect the plants.

The hay was raked this morning.  It looks better than I thought it would because, after no rain for weeks, it poured for twenty minutes just one hour after it was cut on Monday. (That leaches out much of the nutrition and color.)  It was one of those oddball cloud bursts that only blessed a few farms with the much needed moisture.  Oh well.  The hay will due–there’s not much of it anyway–and I’m happy for the trees and grass getting a bit of a drink and a reprieve for me because I didn’t need to water my garden on Tuesday.

The new sprinkler heads make it easier to water without waste.

Speaking of the garden, it’s starting to produce.  We’ve had raspberries for months, but they’re almost finished now–the Asian beetles and some little hard-shelled, black bug variety have found their way into them.  The zucchini and summer squash plants have been popping out new veggies to pick everyday for a  couple of weeks now, to the point that to keep them from going bad, I’m making them into a cold squash soup.  It’s great for those days when I come in, hot from weeding and watering, and too tired to cook.  I steamed them with a red onion, blended them with the remaining water, and put it all in the fridge.  When I’m ready for a quick meal, I ladle some into a bowl, add some spice–salt & pepper, powdered garlic, and a wonderful pizza spice I found in the back of the spice cupboard–top it off with some soy parmesan cheese, and sit down with a good book.

I pulled these beans out because of a white powder mildew, but new ones are already emerging.

I made my first cole slaw from my garden cabbage, using the outer leaves only.  Not the usual because they were a much deeper green than what most people use to make slaw, but with the carrot, cider vinegar and soy-sour cream, it was perfect for my taste.  I’m pretty close to being a Vegan now that I’ve given up dairy, but I can’t resist an occasional piece of fish.  Good protein and a nice change of pace from all the soy.

I think one of these is Collard but I don’t know which, nor the name of the other. Can you help?

This is a funny plant on the right. I have no idea what it is, when or how to pick or how to prepare it.

Next, I need to find a way to use my Greens.  Since I don’t eat meat,  cooking them with bacon just won’t work.  I’ve read not to add salt until you’re ready to eat because it pulls out all the water from the leaves and makes it blah.  Also, the internet featured tons of warnings not to overcook Greens.  I’m not even sure which ones I grew.  I know I have Kale and one of them is Collard greens, I think, but don’t know the other two.  That’s what I get for buying plants with labels on the peat pot that has to be torn off in order to plant.  I know, I should have written it down somewhere.  I still have lots to learn in the garden, but it’s a fun process muddling my way through.

He’s getting terribly thin, but he’s still a lover boy.

On the animal front, Bailer (named because that’s where he was born–in the hay bailer–to a ferrel momma cat) is looking pretty sad.  I feed him special can food from the vet on the kitchen counter away from the other cats (though I give them–Tyler, JD and Patrick– a taste of the good stuff off the butter knife that I use to section it out of the can into Bailer’s bowl).  I hope with the expensive food and extra attention, he will put on a few pounds or at least not lose anymore.  When I pick him up, there’s hardly anything left of him.  He’s my “baby boy,” favorite status since Patches died.  When he’s not outside (which is now only in nice weather during the day because he’s so old and I worry), he’s in my lap.  Patrick, the next-oldest cat, likes to push his way in, but I usually make them take turns.  Otherwise, I have claws flying right in the middle of a favorite show, like NEWSROOM.

Have you seen it, it’s the new series written by Allen Sorkin on HBO.  It’s a don’t miss if you liked West Wing or The American President.  Greg and I watch it with cats in our laps and Max at our feet.

He’s my guardian and constant companion.