Introducing: Ponder

Wren on May 29th, 2014

No complicated adventure in simple living is complete without a baby goat. Them’s the rules. So allow me to introduce Ponderosa Impala, Ponder for short!

I had no idea that we would add goats back into our lives any time soon. As renters, and without a firm plan for our cash-flow, we had back-burnered getting new goats. Besides, our grief from losing our pygmies Wicca and Niabi is still fresh.

We had told our landlords about our life with goats. They actually had been thinking of getting some for brush clearing around their property (their house and ours) especially because of the bumper crop of poison oak. C.T. and I were excited about brush goats as a solution to the poison oak. As soon as we moved in, our dog Tuatha carried the oils into the cabin and Papa C.T. erupted into an impressive rash on both arms. As the less allergic partner, I wasn’t looking forward to pulling up the thousands of poison oak plants that continue to creep toward our walls. Besides getting rid of that threat, we just enjoy life with goats.

After a few conversations with our landlords about the cost and responsibility of goats we decided to share a micro herd of three or four dairy goats. Because we are in country with large predators—coyotes, bears, mountain lions, etc., we agreed the herd would include a trained Livestock Guard Dog. If the first herd member is any indication, much blogging will follow!

Ponder is a two week old doe from a large scale dairy on the other side of Chico. She was in a pen with about thirty other newborns, Like all the others she was taken from her mother at birth and bottle-fed. All the does were crowded in the barn. I don’t know how much outside time they get. Ponder’s life will be different. I’ll continue

While she waits to move to the barn, we are her herd. She has a crate in the house and a movable playpen in the yard.

her bottle feedings for another six weeks. I’ve known about bottle babies for a long time but I never made the commitment until now. Although I think she should get all of her mother’s milk, I’m enjoying this unique relationship and I’m glad that this discarded goat is on the track for long and happy life.

Ponder is a perfect baby. She transitioned from her barn to the car with minimal drama. The dairy’s Livestock Guard Dog tried to eat Tuatha. But other than that, smooth. Very little crying compared to my first goat, Tabitha, nearly twenty-five years ago or so. But Tabby was older. I adopted her at weaning. Being so young, Ponder has bonded with me and C.T. and Tuatha very quickly, following us around like a little long legged shadow. Leeloo, our cat, is another story. With the baby goat being just barely taller than her, Leeloo feels pretty threatened. Plus, all of a sudden she’s the middle child. ‘Nuff said.

Long legs and a long road ahead of her...

At two weeks old, Ponder is already nibbling plants she encounters, getting ready for her job as a brush goat. While Ponder eats, grows, and waits for her herd to arrive, I’ll continue to research temporary fencing and plan adaptations to our landlords’ horse barn. We have an appointment to visit with a friend of a friend who does brush goats for a living. She has LGD pups trained and ready for new homes. We’ll see!

Who will join her? We’ll probably get wethers, castrated males. Ouch, I know. It sounds cruel. But it actually gives male goats not desirable for breeding a chance at life. Unaltered bucks have a strong odor, are often aggressive and urinate on themselves. Intentionally. Most humans find them hard to live with and with only about one in a thousand bucks being saved for breeding, weathering removes all these unwelcome traits and saves many from slaughter by making them very friendly, affectionate goats. They make great pets, companion animals for solitary horses, etc., and brush goats! Over the decades that I had pygmy goats, half were does and half were wethers.

I was attracted to pygmies for their dwarf size. Patti, my partner at the time I started, insisted I could not have a pet I couldn’t carry by myself, in case of emergency. That’s always made good sense to me and I have stuck to it. but little Ponder is an Alpine dairy goat. She’ll grow to about one hundred thirty pounds. Larger goats will be a new experience for me!

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Damn right, my Craigslist vampire. I posted an ad seeking a job, not seeking to augment your hand job.

[I'm distracted in the moment by the fact that some webpage review site flagged Hippie Chick Diaries as inappropriate for children because of the phrase "Japanese fantail pussywillows." But I bet they miss the above retort altogether...]

Let me find a beginning to this story and roll it out.

Our fresh start in Calfornia requires that I find work. Besides searching posts of job offerings, I posted my own ad, describing what kind of work I seek and my background. I posted it under resumes. In the ad I clearly state that replies can be by phone or email, NO TEXTING. I hate texting. And like an employer, I judge respondents on whether they can follow these directions. Of course I get a few automated spam texts.

But after two days the only phone response I’ve gotten was from a man I’ll call Jake. I could try to make the pseudonym more meaningful, but I don’t think my writer’s collection of baby name books will provide me with a name that means “self-absorbed to the point of being incapable of recognizing the autonomy and personhood of women.”

It’s a story of my desperation to create cash-flow for myself colliding with his skill in plausible deniability. That’s why I gave him any time at all. He asked about my ad. He said he was “in the law,” and needed an assistant. He didn’t sound businesslike, but he stayed enough in the content of my posting that I kept giving him a few more seconds, another minute, to make sure that he was not a possible employer who tragically lacked phone skills.

When he revealed that he was in New York City (his Manhattan area code told me as much), that he would be in my area soon, that he wanted to meet me and send me his picture, I cut him off. Regretfully, I’m being metaphorical.

I informed him outright that I had no interest in receiving his picture and that I placed the ad looking for employment in my field, nothing else. “Just in case, can’t I send my picture? You never know…” Oh, believe me, I know. We’re done, and I’m being nice here.

“The woman always gets to say no. You know it’s true. The woman always gets to say no.” I hung up, knowing he would not hear anything other than what he wanted to hear.

But for the other Jakes out there, who just want to be loved and who are not triggered at the moment, let’s look at why women always say no to you. First, Jake answered a resume ad with his veiled request for sex/companionship. Dude, you’re using power (offering a job, honestly or not) to get sex. You deserve a take down. Secondly, and I want Jakes and all readers to appreciate this on a structural level:  Here’s how questions work. You have one person who is an asker and another person is the answerer. The asker asks the question. That’s why that person is called the asker. The other person, the target/object/receiver/victim of the question, is the answerer. It’s definitional. The asker of a question is the asker. That person doesn’t get to say yes or no. The asnwerer of the question gets to respond with yes or no. This is how asking questions works. It’s the physics of questions.

So Jake, if you call me on the phone and you ask me a  question, like, “Can I send you my picture?” You called me. You are the asker. I get to do the answering part. You don’t get to do both. You’re allowed to have whatever feelings are authentic for you regarding my answer. But you don’t get to blame me for being the answerer when you started the interaction by being an asker.

Jake might be wondering why he’s always the asker, never an answerer. Always a bridesmaid, right? Well Jake, you might want to check your self absorption, which led you to call a job seeker with a sexual request. (You can walk into a Mexican restaurant and order Chinese, but don’t expect to succeed in your goal.) Check your male privilege that has you, yet again, attempting to use power, such as pretending to offer a job, to get a woman to talk to you much longer than I imagine most women do, face to face.

Want to be loved? Be lovable. Be lovable by being safe. Want to be asked? Be safe by learning to modulate your male privilege and  honor social boundaries. And while you’re trying to figure out what the hell I’m talking about, yes, Jake, the woman always gets to say no. It’s structural, the way a table is not a chair, even if you decide to sit on it. Why, then, blame others when it’s not comfortable, or someone asks you to move?

—Wren Tuatha
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A Couch Makes a Home

Wren on May 9th, 2014

Tuatha and his plush toy counterpart consider the merits of the new addition to the household.

To me a couch, like a car, is a very important data point of self expression. A couch mirrors the style, even the personality of its owner/rider. It’s a sanctuary, a love nest, a theater seat, infirmary cot, magic carpet, and of course, pet magnet.

My couch has always been an anchor, whatever house I lived in. Like cars, I’ve gone through many, and am usually the final owner. When I sold my house in Louisville to move to Heathcote and sold my tapestry-fabriced two-recliner “couch potato” couch to my old roommate Jane, it was kind of a big deal. Just to remember the ultimate couch, I kept two if its cushions! Still have ‘em.

Like friends of mine who live in their cars or out of suitcases, I went couchless for several years while I resided in the tiny springhouse at Heathcote Community. Inside my little stone hut my bed doubled as my couch. And there were couches to be ridden in Heathcote’s common house, the mill. So I didn’t lack the comfort of couches.

When I moved into a larger space at Heathcote, I took an old school bus seat out of the barn to be my couch. The novelty of the school bus seat didn’t make up for its lack of comfort, nor the fact that it was heavy and dangerous when it tipped over, which it did often. It was not a sanctuary of any kind.

So I eventually got a thrift store couch, the colors of which matched my green rug beautifully for years until C.T. pointed out that the springs of the back were giving up. Comfort gone, purpose gone. Next!

Tuatha puts some miles on the orange couch.

Someone leaving Heathcote gifted me an interesting Duncan Pyle couch, extra long and low with carved wood accents and uncompromisingly orange fabric. I would have hauled that couch to California with me, but it spent a very unkind year in storage and had a smell.

So I ventured on, couchless, and the universe kept providing me with stand ins—first a plaid couch and love seat set at the ranch house in Temple Hills, Maryland where I lived for nearly a year and then, yes, the landlord of our log cabin here in Magalia agreed to leave a vinyl couch in place for us. A house is not a home without a couch.

Yet, vinyl, ick. Great stand in but my eyes would always scan the thrift and antique stores up and down Skyway, the main drag here on the ridge. Sure enough, I saw something special and C.T. and I turned around. Carved wood trim, more padded and cozy than the Duncan Pyle, it needs reupholstering, but Honey, don’t we all? The owner let us have it for $50 and he delivered it to our cabin a couple of days later. He even took the vinyl couch away, which, it turns out, the landlord had bought from this same dealer before. Couch recycling.

On the list of things we need to replace or buy in our move, the couch was a low priority. But this was a great find at a great price. And as we continue to unpack, arrange our things and hang pictures, and watch movies from our new old couch, this cabin in the woods is really starting to feel like a home!

Resurfacing in California

Wren on May 2nd, 2014

Two organisms in their native environment.

C.T.: How long can you tread water?

Wren: For the rest of my life.

Today finds me settled in a log cabin on a mountain, mostly unpacked. Our thirteen year-old dog is lame, trying to decide his attachment to life. C.T. has just received his new computer and mine arrives on Monday. We’ve waded through the mythology of internet service in remote locations and we continue to debate with the DMV and the credit union that our address actually exists. There’s not curbside trash or recycling pickup here. And as we ponder where to hang pictures and whether the local natural remedy will cure C.T.’s “welcome to the woods” poison oak, we are also anxiously waiting for a refund from our moving company, who claimed our worldly goods weighed three-thousand more pounds than they did.

Our new home, a rented log cabin above Chico, CA.

Looks like I’m about ten blog posts behind, eh?

As I consider where to begin, C.T. admonishes me not to look as he folds his clean shirt “gap style,” which I refuse to do. I have always folded mine the way my mother showed me, and the habit is strong. It reminds me of what we tell our consensus students about giving up the habits of voting and competition in favor of consensus culture. It feels awkward at first, and takes longer. Eventually, like dancing or bicycling, it’s in your muscles and it’s even hard to explain to others how to do it. But in the case of shirt folding, I have punted by telling C.T. the “gap style” is corporate and I won’t do it on principle. Old dogs, new tricks.

So I should probably begin with the dog—more valuable to us than anything we sent on the moving truck, of course. I adopted Tuatha when he was eight weeks old and he’s been my child substitute, lens on living, and my companion through adventures and changes. Being a sheltie (read: intelligent, eager to please and learn) and being with me almost constantly from that young age, he became a very interactive little being. I’ve joked that I should have named him Pinnochio, not because of his long sheltie nose, but because he tries so hard to be a real boy. We developed a language of words, signs and movements that each of us do to communicate often complex ideas to the other. This amazed C.T. when he first became privy to it.

Tuatha v. autumn on the Heathcote playground.

As a mother to infant Tuatha, I took his education seriously. He went to puppy classes, obedience training, and classes for his Canine Good Citizen certificate. My health prevented me from following with agility classes and doggie acting camp. But we made a little agility course at home and the kids who grew up with him at Heathcote Community were his daily playmates.

I read The Art of Raising a Puppy by the Monks of New Skete and took Tuatha to shopping malls for socialization. Shopping Malls were stimulating to my little extrovert, but it’s the Heathcote playground where Tuatha the jock was forged. I used to supervise him there for hours a day. as Heathcoters and visitors walked by on their way to whatever meeting or chore, they would accept his invitations to play soccer or roll the skateboard so he could kill it. His play days were hours long, with a never ending stream of people joining him. I think this is how he came to view life.

The Heathcote land was a sheltered place for Tuatha’s sheltered life. He could adventure with the kids over acre after acre of woods. If I was too busy to give him attention, he would slip off unattended, following some path known only to him, resembling some Family Circus cartoon, no doubt, ending up at our neighbors, the Anackers, on the opposite ridge from our home. His path clearly involved trips to the stream, because he would always be wet when he met me at the Anackers’. Although I would have worried the entire time that I was looking for him, he would arrive happy, knowing I would always find him.

Plotting the next NYC getaway?

After losing our home at Heathcote, we landed in Staten Island for a while. He tried his disappearing act while our host was distracted, bringing in several boxes. Tuatha was missing in the wilds of NYC for several hours. We combed the blocks, calling. After giving up for the night, we were shocked to hear our host’s boarder hollering to us. Tuatha, disoriented, had recognized her getting off a bus blocks away and followed her home!!!

For the last year or so we’ve been trying to get to the bottom of some health issues. The vets have labeled him an unusual case, which is no surprise and no fun. Tuatha’s chest fills up with fluid and his lungs can’t expand enough. He can’t get a breath. The typical causes ruled out, we have simply controlled it with steroids. He did well for months and seemed to handle in stride the five day, four night car ride from Maryland to California.

Then a week ago he woke up lame, refusing to put weight on one leg and seeming to be in a weakened state. Arthritis seems to be the immediate cause of his sore leg, but Tuatha himself seems to be on the fence about whether he wants to push through this or not. Today is a better day than yesterday.

Yesterday had me calling local vets in my new town and lining up possible home euthanasia. Knowing our options, we will give the medicine a few days.

Having many pets over my lifetime, dogs, cats, ducks, goats, I’ve been through it. Infirmity and death have always been part of the deal. Some of the losses I’ve experienced have been spiritual and satisfying. Others have left me with regret. I’ve had months to adjust to the reality of losing Tuatha. And I’ll sort out what it means to me in the years to come. But right now my attention is on making him comfortable, following his lead, and encouraging him to give healing a chance.

C.T. is setting up his new computer. The pine forest is quiet. The guy called and rescheduled our couch delivery to tomorrow. Leeloo, our cat, is curled up in the middle of Tuatha’s bed. We interpret this as solidarity, not imperialism. Even so, Tuatha has decided to lie down beside his bed, enjoying Leeloo’s company without actually coming into contact that might result in, well, claws…