Thursday, March 21, 2013

LiveSTRONG at the YMCA -- Reflection Question

Our most recent reflection question was "Where is your favorite place?"

We all thought for a moment then started the round of answers. Most of us said the beach, any beach; one said a local lake, while another was more specific and said a lake in Vermont. I found it interesting that their favorite places were centered around water, lots of water. Group-wide their favorite places was almost unanimous, the beach. Well, almost ... . Then it was my turn.

My answer, on the other hand, was, is, and will always be my home. My husband and I have lived here for more than twelve years and have molded it to fit our needs, wants, and dreams. It's where all the things I love live. Why would I want to go somewhere else to fulfill my dreams? They're right here.

Someone in the group asked if there was a special place on the ranch. That group moves kind of fast so I couldn't take too long to think about it. I thought for the whole minute they gave me then said that if there was such a place, then it would have to be our barn, mainly because it's where our horses and baby goats live, even though it's the place that requires the most work (aka mucking, if know what I mean but we moved out here to get physical exercise).

We moved to the county in 2000 so we could have two horses and live happily ever after. In 2009 we got our first horse (finally) then in 2011 we got the second one. So far ... so good but we have much to learn. Learning is most of the fun. We look forward to it.
It's taken a while for us to acquire the head-stalls, collars, and saddles but we have them now. Please know that when we started, neither one of us knew what a head-stall was, nor did we know what gullett or rigging meant. Sigh ... those are critical elements in saddles so we had to learn what they meant before we could even come close to purchasing our saddles. Who knew that saddles come in different sizes? Who knew that bits do different things to different types of horses? That would be us -- owners of two first-time-ever-in-their-lives horses. Yep. Got all that figured out now.

We have a few trails in place and plan on cutting through the property at some point so we can have more trails. Fortunately, one of our neighbors said we could ride on his property any time we wanted. Although, I'll call first because he enjoys target shooting -- just to check in.

But that question "Where is your favorite place?" stayed on my mind all day. It was on my mind as I worked my way through the day's activities. Then I noticed the cats.

Most of the cats lounged throughout the house (we have four indoor and one outdoor cat who has apparently moved inside for the winter); some were napping while others were chasing each other; and one is always bird watching out the dinning room window. (That's why I put the bird feeder outside the window, not to frustrate the cats but to enjoy the birds. Ah hummm ... that's why we have indoor cats ... so we'll have alive wild birds.)

I don't nap often but when I do John and Ms Kitty lay on top of me so we can keep each other warm. Then all three of us start purring. Who wouldn't go into deep rim sleep with a purring cat on your chest and another at your feet? It is so blissful that I look forward to an occasional nap. John and Ms Kitty must like our like naps too because they're always close to me.

The dogs are either asleep on the sofas, in their crates, or playing in the back yard. Interacting with them throughout the day, every day is enriching. Between household chores, we'll sometime work on sitting or staying (of course we need hotdog treats). Recently we started walking down the driveway and back (it's about half a mile one way). I walk one dog at a time so we can have one-on-one time with each other. That's probably the second most relaxing time of my day following the cat-purring nap, of course.

Goats are the most incredible creatures on earth and I'm honored to have had the experience of living and working with them. Each has its own personality, likes, dis-likes, and behaviors. Most are loving but some are honery and stubborn. I now the difference between "I don't think so" and "NO'. It's the intensity of the kick. Trust me on this and you'll save yourself a few bruises. Call me if you want details. Drinking their milk is worth all the work and affection. It is without question the most delicious drink I have ever had. I also use their milk to make soaps and lotions because it is healthy for our skin. Goat milk is as good for your outside as it is for your inside.

Then there's the chickens. They always have agendas; chasing one another; catching bugs; grazing; scratching; or bathing in the dirt. We keep them as healthy and clean as possible because they give us delicious fresh eggs every day and their poop, aged of course, goes into the compost pile.

Ah ... my compost piles, I have several. There's poop mountain, which is a mixture of horse and goat waste from both barns; it's in two or three different piles depending on it's age. A good poop pile is like fine wine, the older it is, the better it is. Since we have plenty, I only use the oldest, best, most aged compost, five years or older, depending on where I dig.  (My secret spot, shhhhhh.) Digging and turning poop mountain gives me another excuse to play with my tractor. Although I enjoy its power and go-anywhere-ness, my favorite thing is the front bucket. With it I can literally move mountains and enjoy it. UGH power! Did I mention that I love mowing with my tractor?

There's the chicken poop; it's loaded with microbes. I recently dug out at least three years of chicken waste from the chicken coop. Whoooeeee. Now I keep it moist, let the chickens dig for bugs and we're in business.

Their little feet scratch and seek out bugs much better than I ever could. Besides, having some one else break up the soil is a good thing. The more they dig and peck the compost, the better and richer it becomes. We recently bought sixteen baby chicks so our flock has grown from four to twenty. We'll have plenty of poop. Perfect.

Then there's the vermicompost pile for our kitchen waste. Years ago I bought several hundred red wigglers and never looked back. Those little guys make the most p-r-i-m-e   compost. Last year I built a garden made of up this compost and the veges exploded with color and fruit.

Oh my goodness. My vegetable garden. This year is it's second year so I can hardly wait for the right time of year to plant the veges and companion plants. I'm expanding the garden this year by surrounding the existing rows with straw bales. That'll be fun having more fresh food. Last year I planted mostly annuals and only had a few perennial vegetables but have added more blue berry, cranberry, and muscadine plants. 

This is my first vegetable garden, ever. And being a city girl, admittedly I had no idea how much work was involved. But more than that I had no idea how wonderful the fresh food tasted. It's the shortest distance I've ever traveled for food and we're spoiled. Besides digging in a garden made of rich soil full of red wiggles makes me aware of Mother Nature and her complex organisms. 

The bees are next to the vegetable garden -- facing southeast so they can get the morning sun. The bees and I usually work the garden together -- most of the time. However last year one lady did run me out of the garden. It seems as though she was much more interested in gardening than I was so I let her have it. If she wants to pollinate a few flowers instead of letting me weed, then that's OK with me. I can come back later. We've only had the bees one year so we're still learning about them. Again, we look forward to it.

The pollinator garden is almost ready for it's flowers. It's located behind the bees and next to the vegetable garden, near the well. Again, this garden contains the best soil our aged poop mountain can offer. I'm planting it mostly with flowers that bees enjoy but if a few butterflies and other beneficial insects want to settle in, that's a good thing.

So, what's my favorite place? It's my home because that's where all the things I love live -- most especially it's where my husband and I live together. We do these chores together; we enjoy the ranch together. He's helped me deliver baby goats (although he's not keen on milking), clean barns, walk dogs, clean cat cages, plant fruit trees, bury goats, and build outbuildings. He's in charge of the TV remote when it doesn't work, all electrical issues, some plumbing, automatic waters, doing the dishes, and tucking in critters at night all after working all day long. He's incredible and the love of my life.

The real answer is that my favorite place is where my husband is. He is my home. It doesn't matter where we live, just so we're together.

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