Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Sneak Peek!

This is where the future lies - where I hope to make dreams become reality.  There is much work to be done on the road ahead, but I embrace it gladly.  Clearly there's some pruning and yard work to be done also!  Again, I embrace it, knowing that with each day, I come one step closer to the start of my new adventure.  I am waiting for the day that I can walk outside in the morning to see this view, changing through the seasons, and knowing that I am the caretaker of this land.  I will do my very best to treat my corner of the Earth with the respect and love it deserves.  I am truly blessed by the gentle hand of Mother Nature.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Questions answered

My impending move has spawned a lot of questions from readers and friends.  I thought I'd take a few moments on this lazy Saturday afternoon to answer a few of them.  I figured that writing a blog post might improve my mood since this morning I discovered my propane tank was under 5% and I won't have heat for the rest of the weekend.  I should have checked sooner but I just didn't realize I was going through it that fast.  Oh, bother!!  I finally got the woodstove going and now I am just going to keep it going all weekend!  So, here are my answers to some of the questions I've been asked...feel free to remind me if I've missed any...

1.  What about law school?
Yes, a good question indeed.  I was doing very well in law school.  I had a GPA of 3.45 or so, and was plugging along nicely, with only about 2 semesters left.  So what am I doing about finishing my law degree?  The simple answer is, I'm not.  Finishing, that is.  Lest you throw your arms in the air and call me crazy, let me explain.  I already have 3 degrees.  This would have been my fourth.  It's not as if I'm uneducated.  The purpose of going to law school, for the most part, is to become a lawyer.  I realized, over time, that my heart was not there.  I was not passionate about becoming a lawyer.  I was very interested in certain aspects of the law - notably animal law, patent law, and environmental law.  I have been working as a patent agent for the past 9 years, which is essentially like being a lawyer but only being able to practice 1 form of law - patent law.  Patent agents have to pass a separate exam to be registered to practice before the US Patent Office, and have to have a science or engineering degree.  I enjoyed my job in patent law and thought that being an attorney would expand my skills into contracts and licensing and other aspects of the law.  I determined that in fact, I did not really want the job that the attorneys in my office had.  I did not want their lifestyle.  I did not want their stress.  I wanted something else from life.  It was not a waste of time - I did learn a lot and I have a greater appreciation of the law.  I learned new ways of thinking.  I also learned that it's OK to walk away from something when your heart isn't in it.  It took me a long time to realize that I didn't have to prove anything to anyone, least of all myself, by finishing the degree.  Of course I could have done so, if I'd wanted to.  I didn't want to.  I'm perfectly happy with that decision.

2.  I'm confused - are you going to Nova Scotia or are you going to Canada?
Huh?  Oh....wait....this is a trick question!  No, this was a real question, from several people, even if worded a bit differently.  I quickly realized that a small geography lesson would be useful, especially for my non-Canadian readers.  Canada is divided up into ten "provinces" and three "territories."  These are essentially divisions like the states that make up the United States.  Just like the US, Canada extends from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, and is actually the second largest country in the world, second only to Russia.  Nova Scotia is one of the ten provinces of Canada.  On the map below, it is the bright pink province waaay over on the right hand side.  I will be roughly centrally located within the province of Nova Scotia.
3.  Why do you want to leave Iowa when it's so cold in Canada?
Actually, numerous parts of Canada are warmer than Iowa, including Nova Scotia.  Because Nova Scotia has the constant moderating influence of the Atlantic Ocean, it is actually more temperate than Iowa.  It never gets as cold in the winter, but it never gets as hot in the summer either.  I'm pretty happy with that.  I don't like it when it's really hot and humid.  Here's a map showing the plant hardiness zones from the USDA.  You can see that Iowa is pretty much a 4b to a 5a.  I will be in an area that is a 5b to 6a.  So, the bottom line is, I'm moving somewhere warmer, even though I'm moving north.  Yay!

4.  Is it difficult for you to get your animals (especially a goat) across the border into Canada?
YES!!!  It has taken quite a bit of effort and research for me to determine how to deal with my animals.  The easiest ones are the dog and my barn cat.  They just need records to indicate that they are up-to-date on necessary "normal" shots, such as rabies and feline leukemia.  The 2 angora rabbits need to go to the vet and have a general certificate of health to say that they have no signs of any communicable diseases.  The goat (Lucky Nickel) and sheep (Kenzie) are far more complicated.  They both needed to come from a farm that was certified "scrapie free" for 5 years.  (If you don't know what scrapie is, read here)  Since I had not had the animals or the farm for 5 years, that would not work.  I learned that I could be granted an exception if they were female animals who were spayed (or neutered males).  Since both Lucky Nickel and Kenzie are female, they both need to be spayed.  I have been waiting for the weather to warm up a little before taking them for their operations.  They also need to be tested for brucellosis and tuberculosis, but this has to be done within 30 days of transport, so I can't do that yet.  Then at the border they will be inspected by the on-site vet and assessed for their paperwork.  Llamas are even more complicated, which is why I decided not to take any with me.

5.  Are you scared?  I would never be able to do what you are doing...
I'm not scared.  I'm cautious, but I'm organized, motivated, and careful.  I also know that you only live once.  I never want to look back with regret.  I want to know that I've always lived life to the fullest, as much as I can.  I am the kind of person who loves a challenge.  I don't like it when life becomes mundane and routine, to a point that it nearly numbs the senses.  I love to learn new things, to create new goals, to conquer new obstacles and to reap the rewards.  I embrace life, and I want to be in the driver's seat of my life, not in the passenger seat.  Sometimes it's good to do something that is full of unknown outcomes.  It challenges your creativity, your resourcefulness, and your self-confidence.  To that, I say....bring it on!!  I would rather live my life by leaping into the unknown from time to time, than by wallowing in my comfort zone.  Anybody can do what I'm doing - maybe not in the same way - but anyone can shake things up a little in their own life and make a new road for themselves.  It just takes passion, energy, and a little bit of bravery.  Go for it!


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Lovely Photograph

Lucky Nickel wanted everyone to know that the winner of The Nature Conservancy's 5th Annual Digital Photography Contest is (of course) a goat picture.  And a very beautiful one it is, too.  There are actually a lot of lovely photographs which placed or received honourable mention in the contest, so I encourage you to check out some of the stunning images captured by some very good photographers.

You can also see the winning goat photograph on Flickr at this link.

I didn't put the picture here because it's copyrighted.

In any event, Lucky Nickel would have been rather jealous if I had posted it here.  In fact, I'm sure she'd prefer it if I post this reminder picture of what a sweet little baby she was.  She's always a winner in my books!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It is a day for basking

Hello faithful readers!  Lucky Nickel reporting from the farm!
See how clever I am, using my ear as a sun shield?!  Oh yes, I am not your average goat, my friends.  But, you already know that.  Today is not an average day either.  Why?  Because it's actually beginning to feel like spring!  My lady came outside this morning and she had to unzip her insulated coveralls because they were too hot!  (don't worry, she had clothes on underneath, in case you are wondering)  It is 2 degrees Celsius, which is 37 or so in Fahrenheit (but we only do Celsius at Whispering Acres).  This is particularly exciting for all of us here, so we took the opportunity to bask in the sun and soak up some rays.

I soaked up some rays.
Misky made a bed for herself on top of the hay bale.
She took some time to get it just right.
Then, she soaked up some rays too.
Coffee (that's Misky's mom, the mini Nubian) was jealous.
However, because she is half Nubian, Coffee didn't know what to do.  She's not bright enough to figure out that she should just butt Misky off the bale and lay down there herself.  So she just turned her back on her daughter and stood there basking in the sun also. 
Opal basked beside the small A-frame shelter.
Lotus basked and ate at the same time.
I ventured into the shade to cool down.  Hahaha!  Did I fool you?  I only went into the shade because my lady put some grain down there for me.  In this picture, you can see there is a light breeze, which helps to show off my stunning fybur.
Osmo is a black goat, so he didn't feel a need to bask because he naturally absorbs any sun rays that happen to be found.  He was more interested in sniffing Lotus' bottom!  My lady said Lotus is "in heat" and I said of course she was because she was standing in the sun and that's where the heat is.  Sometimes my lady states the obvious as if it's a revelation.  
Then Osmo did that funny thing he does sometimes with his lips, curling his top lip up.  He looks weird when he does that.  Lotus kept turning her back to him and looking at him and maaaaa-ing, and he looked like he was trying to remember something important, but then he wandered off.  My lady laughed and said "There you go Osmo, that's what happens when you lose your spare brain."
Horton basked while trying to figure out how to get over the fence.
And finally Misky got off the hay bale and guess who took it over!  Kenzie!  Little timid Kenzie got up on the hay bale and basked, as if she was the queen of the castle.
Clearly, the sun has gone to her head.  All of us here on the farm hope that you see some sunshine too this weekend!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sun Dogs in Iowa

No, they're not a new breed of dog that you haven't heard of!  Sun dogs are a weather phenomenon.
They are bright patches of white or coloured light that occur on either side of the sun - sometimes only on one side, and sometimes on both sides.  Generally, they're most visible when the sun is low in the sky - either close to sunrise or sunset.  In the picture below, the sun is to the left (obviously) and then just to the right of the church steeple, you'll see a kind of rainbow blob.  That's a sun dog.
Here in Iowa, it can get pretty cold in the winter.  That's when you might see sun dogs.  The reason is that sun dogs are caused by ice crystals that drift in the air.  The crystals can either be randomly distributed through the air, in which case a ring, or a halo, can be seen around the sun.  With sun dogs, the crystals are sinking through the air and becoming vertically aligned, so that the sunlight that passes through the crystals is refracted horizontally.  That results in sun dogs!  Here's a picture of the right hand sun dog without the sun.  I wish the colours were better in these photographs because they really were like vertical stripe rainbows.
This past week was really obnoxiously cold here, and I saw these sun dogs on my way home from work earlier this week.  I snapped a few random shots with my cell phone.  Believe me, I was not looking at my cell phone at the time.  The camera button is on the side and I just held it up in one hand and snapped.  I had no idea if I'd get any good shots, but when I got home and checked, I had a few decent ones, so that's what I've shown you here.
I wish I could have taken a shot showing both sun dogs, but I could only get one side at a time.  Here's the other side...
As the sun went down, the sun dogs grew more faint.
I like looking at the sky and watching clouds and sunsets.  It's not very often that I get to see more unusual phenomena like sun dogs, but when it happens, it's quite exciting.  If you live in a warmer climate, you probably never get to see them.  I hope you enjoyed seeing them vicariously if that is the case!  If you want to see more sun dogs, there are some great pictures online, including this one from Wikipedia, which is actually taken in central Iowa, showing both sundogs.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

I don't know about where you are...but snowed.

Maybe it didn't snow at all for you.  Maybe you live in the southern hemisphere and you are enjoying your summer holiday.  Maybe you live on the equator and are enjoying summer, as you do every day.  Or maybe you are somewhere else that is being pummeled by unpleasant weather.  I know, it could be much worse.  I could be in Australia, about to be hit by a cyclone, having only recently made it through horrendous flooding.  So really, I ought not to complain.  However, I am going to complain anyway, because I'm having that sort of a day.
I worked from home yesterday because it was a blizzard day.  It was the sort of day when I would prefer that my home desk was positioned such that my peripheral vision wasn't constantly barraged by snow swirls that looked like a herd of polar bears passing by my window.  (Do bears come in herds or flocks?  Or posses?)  I made cornbread in the afternoon and ate some with fresh butter and felt like a period of hibernation would be well advised.  I retired to bed a little early and lay in the darkness for a time watching the continued polar bear migration past my bedroom window, and wondering what it would all look like in the morning.

This morning, the wind was practically gone, there were no more polar bears, and the view outside the window was a still whiteness, with small ridges on the clean white surface.  Some areas of deeper drifting were visible, but overall, it didn't look all that dreadful.  I had a coffee, and contemplated the prospect of snow removal and getting to the barn.  I then had yogurt, and contemplation on the side.  I read my email for work, answered a few, spent some time on a work project, and then thought it might be time to actually feed the critters outside.  Considering the fact that by it was nearly 10 am by then, I should have been clued in to the fact that I had not seen or heard any goat or rooster yet.  Smart cookies, my animals are!
After donning my insulated coveralls, earmuffs, scarf, hat, insulated gloves and my "tall" boots, I opened the garage and surveyed the polar wasteland driveway before me.  Not to be discouraged, I started up the snowblower (thank you for the "easy start" feature, Honda) and dealt with the concrete part of the driveway.  The gravel part is not so easy but fortunately my kind neighbour had sent over his truck with a plow blade to help me with that part.  I determined, somewhat to my surprise, that the snow was a bit deeper than I had expected.  In fact, it was deeper than the height of my snowblower.  This made for some interesting "double layer" snowblowing feats that took quite some time, not to mention dexterity, to accomplish.  Not to worry though, I looked very stylish doing it, because I am a winter fashionista, of course.
I peered around the side of the house and decided that the walk to the barn looked quite manageable, so I hefted a 50 lb bag of sweet feed from the garage and proceeded to walk down the side of the house.  I began to mutter a number of words, none of which have anything to do with "manageable" and most of which I can't even put on this blog because my mother reads it.  Stumbling through the snow with a 50 lb bag of feed is never enjoyable, but it's even worse than usual when the snow is deep enough to push the legs of your insulated coveralls up over the top of your boots, such that when you heave your leg out of the snow, a copious amount of it enters your boot in the process.  I was less than impressed when Lucky Nickel made her appearance and came dashing through the snow like a legless ball of wool (since the snow was so deep it hid her legs entirely) only to stand in front of my leg each time I tried to take another step with the aforementioned bag of feed.  I cannot tell you how long it took me to get to the barn, but it was too long.

Upon recognizing that the food-giver was actually present, the rest of the animals began their usual chorus and I spent the next half hour trudging about with buckets of feed and water and hay bales, occasionally stumbling on hidden blocks of ice under the snow, or other unseen obstacles.  It wasn't difficult to determine that the snowblower was needed in the backyard too, so I retrieved it and plowed out nice little paths for myself (and a certain small white goat.)
This was no easy feat either.  First, the snow was again too deep for the snowblower, and second, I was on grass, so it was a harder job to push the snowblower.  My calf muscles were disgruntled about the entire experience and my knees complained about the incident where I tripped on an unseen chunk of ice and abruptly fell knees-first into the snow, tipped forward, and wallowed about like a beached walrus for a while in an effort to recover.  Of course, Lucky Nickel felt that this was an opportune time to jump on my back and try to play "pull-the-hat-off-the-human" before I managed to heave her off.
Fortunately, all the animals seemed to have come through the storm unscathed.  Kenzie the lamb is loosing some of her old fleece but new, thicker fleece has come in underneath so I'm not worried about her "patchy" looks at the moment.  She is one of Black Pearl's offspring from last June but she still doesn't really look like a full blue-faced Leicester to me, so I don't know what she is.
The donkeys don't seem to give a hoot about the snow.  The goats are in fine form and Osmo, despite the fact that his 'spare brain' has now fallen off somewhere, persists in grunting and sticking his tongue out at the girls despite the weather.  He even tried to get out to Lucky Nickel today, but she was having none of that.
The angora rabbits are probably the warmest animals on the farm, given their thick coats and unruffled expressions.
After all this, I came inside, showered, and dressed in nice new, clean pajamas and my pink "Snuggle Sack" purchased some years ago from Lands End, a silk scarf, purple fingerless mitts, non-matching socks and slippers, and went back to work at my desk.  When one keeps the house at 58 degrees, one must dress appropriately.  And as always, it is important to be a winter fashionista.  Until next time....stay warm!