All posts by bldfarm

EMT/Fire Fighter that's been making things a mess and generally cleaning it up for years and years i like playing with junk and turning it into something useful

Is this true?

Winter is officially over today. A season that will indelibly mark my timeline. A season that I won’t soon forget. One of auspicious beginnings (Asplundh) and devastating endings (barn fire). And all the while, glowing eyes in my peripherals. Coyote dances. Br’er Rabbit laughs. Dionysus drunkenly blurs from form to form.Br'er Rabbit and Tar-Baby.jpg The Tricksters are the most enigmatic characters in human lore. At once reviled and again revered. They, among all the gods and heroes, wielded the power to transgress normative social boundaries in order to expose the underlying truths. Sewing chaos and discord, their lesson are the most profound because they are never simply given. In every case, those lessons are earned in pain suffering blood. I recently heard how Loki, the Norse Trickster, was able to fool even Odin at times, and how in every case, those fooled were better off for it. I was not fooled in order to learn my lessons, but the price was certainly dear. There was no trickery that morning. Nothing but wind, snow and a power surge. There was, perhaps, some level of Cosmic Trickery in getting me to quit my last job as a carpet cleaner. When I put in my notice, I thought that I was heading back into “the Trades.” Not into a whole new line of work. A whole new thought process.

Loki with his mouth sewn shut. 1000 C.E.

Only slightly earlier than the new job, and before winter, if anyone is counting, I dropped out of the activist community. Rather, my tongue got me unceremoniously attacked, slandered and effectively banished, by a mouthy overzealous and overly judgmental vocal minority. That said, I brought it upon myself by saying things that were sure to get a rise out of those same people, even if I didn’t intentionally set out to get that rise out of them. But rise they did. And this was probably the beginning of my latest transformation. I left the Action Medical Community, something which I was part of for almost 20 years. It was my guiding principal for a large portion of those years. It defined me.

Just like Public safety and the Fire Service/EMS defined the first 10 years that I was in Conneaut. Having lost the, once, familiar mooring of that community, I was able to free my mind of the constraints of those same moorings. It gave me the space to transform myself. Then too, leaving the carpet cleaning business allowed me the space and time to reimagine myself as something other than a hammer swinger. It afforded me the room to become a tree trimmer. Just exactly what will come of the barn fire remains to be seen, but I am open to what comes. Whatever shape shifting that is necessary will be welcomed, in spite of the attendant unpleasantness.

It is this shape-shifting that is the hallmark of the Trickster Gods. The ability to transform themselves into whatever character is most pertinent and effective for getting themselves (or others) out of the situation that they have found themselves in. It is in this reimagining of self that the lessons are born; that true growth occurs.

2:10 Friday morning

This is a story I wish I never had to write. My heart aches. But my eyes are clear and I’ve accepted the lessons.

I awoke unsure of the time. Noticing an orange glow from the bedroom window, I wrongly assumed dawn had come, that my alarm had failed. I was wrong. Looking out I saw an 8′ flame standing in the southern peak of the barn and my heart cracked. I can still feel the bewilderment and anguish as I cried out,” MY GOD, THE BARN’S ON FIRE!!”

My god, the girls, my god, THE GIRLS!!!

Leah’s cries seemed to come from another world, as I bolted from the room. I gave her my phone and told her to call 911. I threw on a coat and boots over my sleeping clothes and sprinted to the barn. The windows were dark, which meant the fire was in the loft. I had little hope. Ann’s body was partially blocking the door. In my effort to push it open, my elbow went through the window. Time stopped as I stared into the darkness. The silence was total, nothing moved except the thick smoke. My decade on the fire department told me that only death awaits inside. I dragged Ann clear, but she, though seemingly uninjured, was lifeless and cold. None of the others came forward. My worst fears confirmed. Time started again and I could hear the hissing crackle above in the loft. The fire, fed by the inrush of air from the open door, leapt from the roof, shooting 20′ into the winter storm that had descended upon us the night before.

So I backed off. And waited an eternity for the first responding unit. This is when I snapped the picture above. In that eternal moment.

By the time they left, around 430, my world had changed. Coyote had come to visit, gleefully sewing mischief to teach me a hard cold lesson I never wanted but obviously needed. Here’s the punchline , I would go from that smoking ruin to work 3 16 hour days helping people who had lost power due to trees on power lines in the very same storm. A storm that brought 50+ mph wind gusts and 8″ of snow. There was nothing I could do about the animals. The fire smoldered until a new 2″ snow fall on the following Wednesday stomped it down. See, there were 40 bales of straw and 25 bales of hay in the loft. It would have taken several thousand more gallons of water to eradicate the fire for good. It was Monday evening after work before we could address removing the bodies. Here is where my most profound lessons lie.

Disseminating the news showed me that we finally have true friends in the area. Folks who truly GET IT when it comes to a loss like this. When I asked for folks to check on Leah, they didn’t hesitate. That embrace was inspiring. When I asked for help dealing with the dead, again, they came without hesitation. I could see in their eyes that sense of loss I felt in my gut. Yes, they likely felt for Leah and I, but I suspect they were thinking of their own farms and their own families. In those quiet moments , as we lifted the dead from the cold ground, wreathed in smoke, my heart was lifted, even as I wept. And as I wept, I knew that I wept not for myself, for the loss of brick and mortar, wood and nails, rather I wept for the loss of life. Such fragile creatures, tentative sparks of life, however limited in their self awareness. I wept for the unborn, never having seen the sun. I wept for having failed them. For not guarding them. Not providing them a place to flourish. Coyote took notice of my tears. I believe Coyote smiled his viscous, knowing smile then, safe in the knowledge of a lesson learned. I feel that he also smiled, knowing of how tragedy can draw people together. While the cost of this lesson was steep, I am grateful.

An awkward moment occurred as the fire raged, I smiled. Even then, I could feel Coyote dancing just out of sight. I even laughed at one point. Laughed out loud in fact. If someone had been standing there with me, they would have thought me mad. “I guess I won’t need to be buying feed for a while. Think of all the money I’ll save.”

There are many more lessons to be learned here. I can suspect, at least, the topic of a few of them. But others will remain a mystery until Coyote decides I’m ready for them.

Life is a big funny thing.

Anyone wishing to help us recoup the costs of what I’m sure will be an extensive, expensive process, can go to our How to Help page, and find the donation button. Thank you in advance.

A note to anyone commenting on Facebook. I, Charles, don’t have FB access, so I can’t see any of your posts. If you want to reach out to me directly, contact me at charles@trilliumcenter.org .

Also, this has been a VERY trying time for both Leah and myself. Sharing the news of this event has been slow, due, mainly, to being forced to relive those terrible hours with every retelling. It was hard enough the first time. If we don’t get back to you quickly, please be patient with us.

Some such summer as it is

This is the 2017 Summer Solstice sunset from Conneaut Harbor’s “Mud Pit” Wildlife Sanctuary.

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Life sort of just rolled over my head and got parked there for the last many months. Rolled over me and left a smear of Grease Hog and 2790 splashed up one of my pant legs. I know that the skin on my leg as tuned white and will start to itch/burn as the fluid dissolves it’s way towards neutrality or chemical resolution, which ever comes first. I can never remember. These days I cruise through Erie and clean carpets in empty (and full) apartments and houses. We only run 3 trucks, upwards of 13 hours some days. Usually at least 10. It took me a while to figure out how to do things before I was able to do them without having to think about them. I had to make it a muscle memory and recover physically from bringing my carpet cleaning muscles into shape. (Mostly core) I’m no expert or anything, but chances are I can clean your carpet real good. I cleaned the grout in the kitchen tile with the truck from work and found out that the tile aren’t brown or grey. I have no memory of the grout lines when I moved in here 13 years ago. Turns out that they are BABY BLUE!!! Sometimes there is such a thing as getting stuff TOO CLEAN. I don’t know how I’m ever going to keep them clean now. ugh

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Once the muscles stopped hurting and I could move on my “weekend,” I made some progress in the barn. 10 scoops of 1/4″ screened bank sand, 20 1/4″ screened yellow native clay and 3 large forks of hay/straw.

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I wanted time to see if it would just fall off the vertical Phrag before I brought anyone else in to help.

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The seem along the top of the wall still needs attending to but the walls seem to be staying up. Remarkably, they haven’t really checked the say the 1st layer in the Seedhouse had.

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All the windows are secured with “chicken wire” and most of them are open now. it smells good and is bright and airy in there. Chickens being chickens, they mostly get it that they need to go in the door they came out of… most of them get that. 3 or 5 still get stuck in the barn every night instead of going through the coop’s exterior door. The goats have the run of the rest of the barn, except the feed room and the milking parlor.

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We took Maly walking the other day and there’s a chance he saw the fishes slowly positioning themselves close enough to catch the potential cat food or Frito that may or may not be inbound. They stayed far enough back that if Maly had seen them, which we kind of doubt, he couldn’t have gotten them anyway.

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What the what?!

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I was working over by Camp Peet yesterday and saw something that has deeply confused me. At first I just saw the great circling Raptor and let it pass as “oh yeah, they love here too.” Then on second consideration, I realized, “what the hell are you doing here?”

Turkey Buzzards are native to Ohio and even have their own festival in Hinkley on March 15. Traditional wisdom claims that they return there on that day every year. My own observations over the past decade has shown that, initially, they arrived here in Conneaut a day or 2 before then. Never before have I seen one in February. Certainly not this early in February. Feb 10 to boot!! I’m no meteorologist or ornithologist or any ologist, but I know in my heart of hearts that something very strange is going on. We are cooling out our 2nd batch of maple syrup and looking for another flow to happen shortly. Traditionally, Sugar Maples aren’t tapped until Valentines day around here. Never in JANUARY. This winter was supposed to be cold cold cold and wet. We have gotten our share of wet, rain mostly, but almost none of the cold that we have had in the last few years. I doubt the temp has gone into the single digits here yet. Lake Erie never froze and even the ground never really got frozen more than a few inches. This is opposed to last year when the Lake was 95% frozen and the frost was approaching 40-50″.

Something is going on. Only time will tell us and I figure we won’t know till we can look at it in hindsight.

What can I say? Keep your head on a swivel, your knees bent and a bag packed. Eyes open, no fear.

Ding Ding Ding, end of round one

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Yesterday saw the end of our first batch of syrup making. Leah slaved away at the cooker and stove for what seemed like days on end. With the weather in the mid 50’s and lower 60’s for most of the week, the sap had stopped flowing but there was the risk of it spoiling on us if we didn’t get it cooked down. This meant that we had to get it cooked, soonest. Because of that, we dragged the propane cooker out of the basement and brought the sap to a boil on it before putting it into the big cook pot on the rocket cooker. Not what I would have preferred to do as propane costs money that winter keeps in short supply. But we make do. When the temperature drops back below freezing at night and the sap freezes, only the water freezes, not the sugar. This allows us to pull water out without expending any energy. It also speeds the process along. That didn’t happen this time. Which has to be one of the oddest things I’ve witnessed in the years I’ve cooked sap. Remember, we are in the Northeastern corner of Ohio, and this is JANUARY!!! Why the temperatures are that high is beyond me. But no matter. We got a little over 2 gallons of syrup and the season hasn’t officially started yet. Here’s hoping for a long one.

 

Let the Sap Flow

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The weather outside has certainly turned to the weird. My folks, who live in western Central Ohio, had a low of -2 F just a couple of nights ago. And though it didn’t get that cold here on the shores of Lake Erie, we are facing temps in the 50s tomorrow or the next day. Up and down, up and down. Like a regular ping pong ball. What that means to us, here at the farm, is that the Maple trees will be giving up their life blood in the days ahead. Now, I know that the going wisdom once said that the day to tap trees wasn’t until February 15, we have been tapping our trees in January for, at least, the last few years. Any time the temperature goes above and below the freezing mark can be considered Maple season. So we put out our 20 buckets.

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I decided to tap a bunch of different trees this year. Rather than going all the way to the end of the driveway for the 2 clusters out there, this time the buckets are all right by the house, particularly at the north end of the house. We’ll see how that goes. Several of the trees are pretty small (8-12″) so they only got 1 spiel. Also different this year, I read on some tapping page or other to try and set the spiels either above a large root or below a large limb. Makes a lot of sense. That and to stay away from trees with any large dead sections. Every year we learn a little more. Like drilling the tap holes to 2″ so that the sap can drain from the phloem, cambium, and the xylem. I don’t think I was drilling deep enough before. We shall see.

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We had freezing rain and then rain on top of the 8″ of fresh powder that got laid down in the last few days. This made the snow, Oh So Packable. Leah made a bearded snow creature (I think it is Old Man Winter) to say Thank You to the trees.

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I just rolled up a bunch of giant balls and stacked them up into a lumpy monolith. Maly said that the stick belonged in his mouth, NOT stuck into the snow. Always the critic. I’m looking a little rangy. Winter. Grown ass adults making snow sculptures. We have a long way to go til spring.

 

On being grateful

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North America is again in the grips Old Man Winter. For the most part, this simply means that it’s cold outside and that the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from Sol on it’s endless journey around and around. A time of ice and snow. A time of hearth and home. Time to reflect on all the plans and aspirations of the year to come. For me, this is a time to be inside and figure out exactly what I’m doing with my life. Is any of what I put into motion last year really working out for me? Or is it all for naught? Building projects are put on hold. Only the hardy venture forth to make their mark on the world. All too often I find reason to not be one of those who gets things done out there. Especially once the mercury dips below the freeze point. So I’m left with a lot of time to think. And think. And think.

During this time of seemingly perpetual twilight and snowfall, I can reflect with gratitude on the feeling of the sun on my cheek in July. The sting of sweat in my eye in August. Hearing the rustle of varmints in the tall grass and the soft click and sigh of a warm breeze disturbing the Maple leaves on a summers eve. Winter gives me time to reflect on the shocking red of the Cardinal flower and the purple stains left behind from gathering the tiny Saint John’s Wort flowers. These tiny gifts are what cary me through this bleak cold. Coming out in the morning and finding a thousand Boletus have leapt up from the lawn. Or seeing the Hummingbird’s throat flash in the sun as it drinks from the Lily.

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Winter affords me time to dis-remember Summer’s sticky grasp or the mosquito’s ear whine. It affords me time to think back on the bounty of what the time of heat allows. Apple Sauce, dried greens, tomato soup, peach cobbler. Without winter, these things would be meaningless. Dry red wine and warm honey mead lubricate my ability to see another early sunset. Or the sight of another 6″ of snow to scrape off the driveway. It is the blizzard’s shriek  that allows an appreciation for the fresh scent of a warm spring breeze. The crunch of snow under boot while Orion strides the heavens informs the feeling of grass between the toes beneath the cowering Scorpion. Without winter, summer loses its nuanced flavors, its subtle tones.

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Though I cower indoors, huddled near the fire in this time of darkness, I am grateful for the time allowed. Winter, at least the one’s here in in Ohio’s sharpest corner, are long enough to make Spring’s return all the more joyous.