Friday, February 28, 2014

Random Thinking

  My blog name really doesn't seem to fit anymore.

  But I think I'm too attached to it to let it go.

  Conundrum, this is.

  Your thoughts?

Ain't Done Yet

  I was born in Virginia. I hail from Oregon. I love Mississippi. Can't stand New Mexico. Right now I'm looking out a window and seeing Missouri countryside. I've changed locations many times in my life. And just like a person can change locations, your life can change, personality can change, opinions can change... Be ready for it folks; you can't stop it, and neither can I. The only thing we can really do is be willing to accept the change in ourselves, and in those around us.

  I've changed since December. Missouri has changed me. Shucks, I'm still changing, and that without remedy. For the most part the change has been good. I'm a different person than who I was back in Oregon, and frankly... I don't want to go back to being who I was. This girl in Missouri... She looks the same, but she's not. She's more confident. More open. More willing to be around people. She feels safer somehow. Her guard is down here; and as she's shed the layers of aloofness, fear, and insecurity, she's turned into a different person. She laughs more. She's happier. 

Some point fingers and say I've become immature; that I've backslid into becoming a worse person than I was before I left... I can see how they would think and say this. Back in Oregon I was so reserved and introverted that people just plain couldn't see what I was really like. I wouldn't let them. Why? I don't really know. Maybe I was too scared... I was scared that they wouldn't like me if they found out what I was like on the inside. Maybe it was the false sense of propriety that I had in my head. There was a set of standards in this noggin' of mine, and I certainly knew that I didn't meet my own standards. Maybe it was peer pressure; thinking I "had" to be like everyone else around me. 

  Coming to Missouri was a breath of fresh air. No one here knew me. No one here said I had to be a certain way. I could let my hidden self out and the folks here could either accept me or reject me. I'm done hiding. The introvert in me still wanted to take the changing slowly, and it's taken the help of some to pull me out of this shell... But by golly am I coming! I can see how people would think and say that I've "backslid". The Caity back in Oregon was dreadfully quiet and serious. When you saw her, anyway... More often than not she was outside, away from people. Or on the computer, ignoring people. She listened to pretty generic music, didn't really have a sense of style, was a picky eater, and to be dead honest -- she was pretty self absorbed. She had one goal in mind and that was to have a successful farm. Saying it was tunnel vision would be putting it lightly. 

  The Caity here in Missouri still has flaws, to be sure. Oh heavens do I still have flaws and problems... But I've at least finally taken that awful mask off and have stopped hiding and trying to be someone I'm not. I am unabashedly myself; take me or leave me. Yes, I've finally learned to love coffee. And I'm becoming such a hardcore fan of Dr. Who and Sherlock that it's almost scary. I'm learning that people are truly enjoyable to  be around. I actually seek out company these days!! And yes, I've rediscovered those chip things called "Doritos". *grin* And Dr. Pepper. I play airsoft with a bunch of guys. My music tastes have changed and grown to where you'll now find an insane amount of Lecrae on my Grooveshark playlist, right along with Toby Mac, Chase Rice, and other contemporary artists. And I will not apologize for those tastes either. The biggest change? The sense of joy I have. I have never had this feeling of contentment and joy in my life. My spiritual life is better than it's ever been, my relationships with people are better than ever... I'm just -- happy! In the end, I think that's it: Some point fingers and say I've become immature, but really what they're seeing is a happiness that they've never seen in me before. I can see how people would think and say that... But there's a difference between immaturity and happiness. In the end, there is. I don't think my maturity level has changed any, but the happiness level is startlingly different. Shucks, I even sing in the car now (this statement will only make sense if you've ever gone anywhere in a vehicle with my family. Multiple people have commented that our silence in the car is creepy/unnerving). 

  I don't want to go back to being who I was in Oregon. Won't go back. I can only hope that y'all can accept my changing self. 'Cause I ain't done yet... 

 And for the record, Lecrae's song, 'Background' is awesome. If you're into that sort of stuff anyway... 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Workers Gotta' Work

   Last Thursday through Saturday were pretty good days, all things considered. If you looked at the entirety of each day, they were pretty darn good days. Awesome weather (sunny and hitting the 50's!), good company, full work days... You know how it goes. But there was one thing that was really throwing a monkey wrench in things and making me miserable. One thing. Want to know what it was?

   Gyp. My dog.

   We hit one of those dark points in life, and we're only juuuuuuuust starting to come out of it. It's been rough.

   To explain a bit more, I've been seeing before my very eyes what happens when you get a high-drive working dog and you deny him any work. You have a mess on your hands. An animal that is one inch away from snapping and going haywire. 

   When I bought Gyp last year, I had a very pointed reason for getting him; I needed a stock dog that was high-drive and brave enough to help me with cows and hogs. A tireless worker who could tramp about all day with me and not be afraid to be working with very large animals that weigh a minimum of 600 lbs and a maximum of 1,500 lbs. 

  Gyp was a super mellow pup... He showed an incredible amount of natural talent in herding, but gosh was he laid back! I can't even count the number of times I wondered if he would really have the steel to be the worker I needed him to be. But what can you do? Gyp and I just went along with life. And then I brought my mellow canine to Missouri. All seemed great... For the first two months. 

   Then the beast erupted. I spent three years searching for an *extremely* particular bloodline of English Shepherd before I bought Gyp. I'd done my homework and knew what bloodlines had the best herding instinct. To be dead honest, I was looking for a dog that would be as similar to a Border Collie as possible, without it actually being a Border Collie. And I found those bloodlines... I got myself a pup that I knew would one day be a dog that could work from sun-up to sun-down and still want to keep going. English Shepherds are a great breed; they really are. But you get what you pay for. Most of these dogs remain mellow and relaxed all their days, but when you specifically seek out a dog that will be a working machine... You get it. 

   I brought Gyp to Missouri, thinking that he'd get to spend his days following me around and helping out. That we'd just keep trucking along like we did in Oregon and we'd be inseparable pals. Plunk down to reality: My host family has a Boxer/Lab cross that hates him, so he stays up with the extended family's two Rough Collies. Sure, he's got a roomy place to run, and he's got two playmates to romp with; but he's denied a job. I take him up there early in the morning, before milking time, and then get him late at night when it's time for bed. I really don't see him at all during the day. But I hear him bark... And bark... And bark. He used to be a very quiet dog. Not any more though. Phooey. He goes bananas being locked up and not being able to socialize with people. So he does the most logical thing he can think of: Bark. 

   By the time I let him out at night, he's a wound-up, hyper little troll; he used to be a well behaved boy during the walks to and from the dog pen but now he ignores all but the harshest voice command as he chases after unsuspecting barn cats and guinea birds (which is a huge no-no around here). He and I eventually get down to the main house, and I used to let him run around in the dark for a few hours each night since I knew he never wandered from sight. Now? He runs off. Like, really runs off. Poof! That dog's gone. I can't blame him too horribly much since I know he's just trying to get energy out, and he's dealing with tracking instincts. But it's still not okay. Not only am I ready for bed, but who knows what trouble he'd get into. Not to mention the fact that his working drive is coming on so strong these days that all he wants to do is herd the cattle that are around here.

  So to keep him from running off, I've done the most logical thing I could think up. I denied him those 2-3 hours of running time and brought him inside immediately, where he stays in my bedroom (dogs really aren't allowed inside the house, but he's allowed in the bedroom at night). Imagine trying to sleep, but all you can hear is what sounds like a hyperventilating dog. He's breathing so hard and fast from pent-up energy that he doesn't know what else to do with himself! After grumbling at him two or three times in a half-asleep state, he finally shifts to the only other thing he knows to do. Pace. Okay, now we're not sleeping to the lullaby of an increased respiration rate of a spastic canine, but instead to clicking claws on hardwood floor. Take your pick. The clicking claws may not seem as bad, but after about four hours of it... You start thinking up really dark thoughts towards the maker of offending noises. 

  The pinnacle of all this is when you realize that your life is changing, and this could very well be your last year of farming. That energetic working dog could be facing a life in town for the next few years... And that is where I'm finding myself right now. I bought a herding dog, and now one year later I'm finding that I don't need one... My time of cows and hogs is possibly coming to an end. I'm okay with this, but my dog is not. 

 All of Saturday and half of Sunday was spent agonizing what to do about this problem. I love that dog, but this current situation isn't fair for him and he's too good of a dog to ruin. I'm only three months into this internship and he's slipping into becoming a rebellious wreck that no one wants around. I thought about it, prayed about it, sought counsel... By that point, I was okay with giving him away to a good home that would give him the work he needed. He means enough to me that I was willing to set aside my selfish wants and see to it that he had an outlet for his energy. But deep down, I still knew I'd be bawling if/when someone came and took him away. 

  Gyp needs a job. ANY job. He just needs to know he has a daily purpose, and has a way to use all that energy in a positive form. I thought about starting up running again, since spring is coming, but I can't keep up with that dog! Shucks, back when he was a pup he could go about 5 - 6 miles before he started to get tired. He can go a heck of a lot farther these days, and I'm no marathon runner.

 Sunday morning dawned and in the midst of church (I promise I really was paying attention. This idea just kinda' came out of nowhere), I had a sudden inspiration. Urban mushing. Duh. Why didn't I think of this sooner!?!? I looked into this a few months ago, but had totally forgotten about it! It was a total light bulb moment. Eureka!! 

  Not familiar with "urban mushing"? Here's what it is:

  Yeah, it's dog sledding on wheels. You use a specially designed scooter, and special racing harnesses, and once your dog is trained, then you're off and running (pun intended)! LOL. Urban mushing is pretty popular in some circles and you'll see all sorts of dogs doing this... Hounds, retrievers, pitbulls, border collies, poodles, spaniels, and of course huskies. This is an awesome sport to do if you've got a dog with too much energy, and you're not a runner. The back country roads that surround this small Missouri farm would be perfect for Gyp and I to cruise on, and hey, if we do end up in town, then we'll have all the roads we could dream of racing on. It's a win-win if you ask me. Gyp will finally have a job and an energy outlet, and I will have the coolest looking rig to ride on.

  The harness for this stuff is only $25, so hopefully that'll get ordered in the next couple of days and the two of us can start ground training and working on voice/whistle commands. It may be that in some later time in life it will become more apparent that Gyp needs a working home, and I will once again have to face the possibility of finding a new owner... But I'm not going down without a fight. I'll exhaust all other options first.

 And so... The bow-hunting, tractor-driving, truck-loving, airsoft-playing, crazy, country girl is now going to take on urban mushing.

Just when you thought I couldn't get any weirder. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Today, One Year Ago

   February 22nd, 2013. Today, one year ago. I usually don't remember what happened on any specific day, a year ago, but the 22nd still sticks out pretty sharply. Today, one year ago? Do you remember? Mattie died. My favorite cow of all time. We went through what seemed like hell for seven long days, and in the end I lost both her, and her calf. The vet still says it was a freak happening... Could have happened to anyone, anywhere, anytime. I still say it was my fault.

 She was a good cow. The best.

P.S. If you're new here, and aren't sure what the story is, you can find all the posts about it by clicking HERE.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Unplanned Sabbatical

  I'm not dead. You probably thought I was though, huh? Maybe I got the plague here in Missouri and passed away? Or maybe the cows turned rabid (come to think of it, can cows turn rabid? All I can think of is Old Yeller in bovine form... It ain't workin'.) and ate me? Or, or - what if a tornado blew through and swirled me off to Oz!?!? Gadzooks! Anything could happen to a girl on her own!!

 Okay, whatever... No I'm not dead. Or fighting off rabid cows. Or following the yellow brick road to Oz because my sparkly shoes broke down and can't spirit me back to Kansas Missouri (the Tardis was broken too). 

  I've been gone from the blog for over a month. That's the longest time in my 6 years of writing that I've ever left. And at least during the other times I at least gave notice of my leave. During this period of time, I've gotten comments from y'all, wondering what happened, I've gotten emails from y'all, imploring me to get back to work, I've gotten Facebook messages, phone calls... I'm sorry guys. I just -- needed a break. It was an unplanned, spur-of-the-moment sabbatical. After 6 years of writing - and each year growing in intensity with the writing load - I had a burn out. Big time. The very thought of looking at my blog was unappealing. In the month that I was gone, I never once even logged in to the blog in an attempt to write. I'm sorry. I blew it big time. I think part of the problem has been that I haven't had a great place to write, and I don't have a camera; I have a hard time writing if I don't have a good spot to type, and don't have pictures to share! But, as of yesterday morning, I've found a good area in my host family's art studio (which is upstairs) to hide and write, and I think I get to buy a camera of my own in a couple weeks! And over this past week, I've begun to miss writing. For the first time in weeks, I really, really missed talking to you guys, and tapping away at this keyboard of mine. So here I am at last. I can make no promises as to how often I'll write over the next couple of weeks, but I don't think I'll be disappearing again at least. 

 So let's see... If there haven't been any plagues, rabid cows, or trips to see the great and powerful wizard of Oz, then what in the world have I been up to!? Folks, it would take too long to tell you all the stories. ;) In a nutshell though? Snow, snow, snow, snow, and more snow. That sums it up. 

Fine. There was more than that. *huff* There's been cheese making, soap making, dealing with frostbite on one of the dairy cows (I'm hoping to do a post about that), cutting and stacking 2 acres worth of wood (SO stinkin' glad we got that finished!!), late nights watching Dr. Who, a quick trip to Oregon and back (left last Saturday, got home late Wednesday night) to see the family, driving these good people crazy, and basically just starting to fall in love with the state of Missouri. Yeah. Alright fine, that's a bit more than just "snow". 

  I apologize again for disappearing off the face of the earth! I really needed that break though. And in the end that's really not bad... A month-long sabbatical every six years? Huh. Somehow I think I'm still getting the short end of the stick here. ;) Alright, toodle-pip and cheerio everyone. I need to finish up making a Parmesan cheese which is half-done and sitting in a pot on the wood stove, and then with luck I'll be outside by afternoon doing some target practice with a rifle. :)