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

Elsie comes to stay

So this happened. After nearly a year and a half, my search for a dog has come to an end. I’ve poured over every Aussie rescue, adoption agency and Craigslist post within 200 miles looking for a new companion. Too many times I’ve sent in applications for adoptions, only to be told that I either don’t meet the irrationally high bar for qualifying to adopt or that someone beat me to it. The one dog I did go meet, growled at me the first time we laid eyes on each other. I was looking for a full blood female Aussie. Preferably one that would show up in the dark (not all dark colors) and that wouldn’t bite kids or goats, which is fairly common among the breed. Recently I decided that the time had come to act and that I was being too picky. Granted, I could have just gone to a breeder and chosen the perfect creature off a menu, but I preferred the idea of getting an animal that someone else didn’t think was worth the trouble. There’s just something about “the unwanted” that has a delightful resonance to me. As my fruitless search continued, I began to consider dogs with less than perfect lineage, as long as they were still stock dogs. It’s remarkable what passes as an Aussie mix in the eyes of shelter web managers. An awful lot of the dogs looked exactly nothing like an Aussie. In my vast and worldly opinion (aka the meaningless mutterings of an aging buffoon) there’s too damn much pit bull blood out there. And after my first boy, Panama, got his front leg nearly ripped off by one, I just can’t abide having one in my house. I fail to see the attraction to having a live hand-grenade sleeping at the foot of my bed. My sister has 2 of them now. Dunno.

So me and this wee beastie are going to give it a go. Her name is Elsie. That’s long for LC. Because I’m a dork. She was the runt of her litter. Her mom is an Aussie but apparently a bit of a tramp. The dad is some sort of Border Collie mix. Spreading it around must run in his family. Her litter was born on January 15 and promptly dumped at a high-kill shelter somewhere in North Carolina. Save-a-Mutt pulled them out and put them into foster care in Mt. Airy, NC, where she stayed until this past Friday. After getting pumped full of veterinary drugs, she was loaded onto a van and delivered to a Petsmart parking lot at 10:00 Saturday night. I felt like we (there were 6 other groups ) were a bunch of drug hounds waiting on our dealer. There were couples, young and old, a group of 3 women in their early 20s and me.

This is her immediately after getting out of the van. I had found a small plot of grass in the parking lot and plopped her down into it. I think Leah referred to her as a crispy critter when I sent her the picture. Elsie was wobbly and didn’t seem to know what to do. “Who’s this strange man with the giant beard?” When I put her in the car, she just stared at me for the entire hour and a half ride home. A tiny girl out in the confusing world of big hairless monkeys. One who had been taken from her mom, probably too early, suddenly and with no explanation. Then schlepped around from shelter to foster home. Always with no expectations. Then 2 days in a van, alone and vibrating. I can’t imagine what that must have been like.

The last day and a half has been rough, particularly for Maly. He’s very confused by this little girl we brought into the house. They get along well but he wants to take things further than either she or we are willing to allow. But he’s a smart guy and seems to be getting the point. Can’t be easy for him. New dog, getting all the attention he used to get, can’t hump her, everybody gets mad when he tries. Crazy monkeys.

As if a new puppy wasn’t enough of a change, Leah went and got this yesterday.

10 little peeps, destined for the freezer. Because why not? They’ll spend a few weeks in the greenhouse scratching around while their feathers come in and then they’ll move out to the chicken tractor I put together last month. Life goes on.

BLD studios is dead. Long live BLD studios

I got a message from my sister last night. Not one I ever wanted.

Nothing could have prepared me for this image. 400 E 2nd ave, former home to BLD studios in Columbus, Ohio, is now a rubble pile. My brain grinds a bit slow sometimes and this is one of them. Today it all sank in. It feels like learning that my first true love was brutally murdered, dismembered and tossed into the garbage. It fully defined my reality for almost a decade. I knew that building nearly as well as the men who built it. I knew its secrets. It knew mine. I could feel the souls of the men who died there. The place was alive to me. The day was filled with memories. Discovering the secret rooms. Hiding my own caches in them. The things I would never share with person, I entrusted to that structure. Now they are simply more debris. Shattered and crushed. Like the lovely dreams I would spin while walking the halls. The echoes of a century of occupation whispering in my ear. The muted clomping of heavy boots at the end of a long ago workday. Voices raised in anger laughter prayer blasphemy. The ephemeral residue of acts of gentle kindness and unspeakable cruelty. Any structure of that age is saturated with the energy of what went on there. It permeates the very fabric of its mass.

And now it’s gone. Like a missing tooth. As though it never existed. Nowhere but in the memories of those who went there.

But that was yesterday. Many yesterdays ago. Lifetimes ago in fact. To dwell there is needless sentimentality. And that only leads to death. Being stuck in the past is, by my reckoning, what has led to many of the major issues we face today. Whether as a community, a nation or simply as the human race. I remember learning of the Dadaists in post WW1 Europe or the Situationists in 60’s France calling for the museums to be burned. The great historical monuments being razed. Railing against the crushing weight of history and the ways in which that weight has held humanity down. Where the Situationists talked of the Spectacle, the Dadaists we’re captivated by the frenetic energy of life and the ways in which new technologies (mass produced automobiles and the airplane) were reshaping life. “Look forward,” they said. The past is dead. Let it pass.

The similarities are not lost on me of how my current situation rhymes with the same themes they were grappling with. While the scale and scope are obviously different to the point of being incomparable, I can see the barn fire as my own personal mini WW1 with the devastation and loss of life. But to pine for what was, to allow myself the luxury of sentimental self flagellation, would be a disservice to not only myself and Leah, but to the very memories of what was. It was a time. Mistakes were made. Victories great and small were celebrated. But that chapter has ended. A new chapter has begun.

These are the tools that will move us forward. The materials I will use to build a better world. Or at least my tiny corner of it. It took a bit of doing, but I finally managed to acquire 3 corrugated grain bins. Funny bit there. These bins were originally erected in Indiana. I bought them from a guy in Vermont, which means they actually passed within 2 miles of BLD farm while in transit, only to spend a year in Vermont before turning around and coming back to Ohio. For some reason I never really considered just exactly HOW one of these things went together. It would have been obvious if I had disassembled them, but I did not. The one I took apart in Montana some years ago was fairly straight forward. These things though… I’ve got 2 large boxes of metal bits that don’t really make a lot of sense. I got 4 drying fans and only 2 blower chutes. There are some red paddle things. Not all the ring sections are the same length. And, AND no instructions.

I’ve finalized the drawings and submitted them to the City Zoning office for permits. Then we begin again. Like the mythological Phoenix rising from the ashes of its own demise. The footprint looks a lot like what the house will eventually be. There will be more than twice the square footage of internal space and a large loafing shed for winter. This will allow for a much larger flock, of both goats and chickens, if and when I ever decide to expand.

I must mention that I have been surprised by the number of people who are shocked that I’m actually rebuilding, not only the barn, but the menagerie as well. Granted, these are people who don’t know me very well. But I’m still perplexed that anyone would think that giving up is an option after a loss like this. It must be something akin to what drives people to suicide following a bad breakup. Not rebuilding was never an option. I mean, come on, did Europe just roll over and give up? Or Japan? No. They took their licks, weighed their options and moved on. In many cases, like Japan, devastating war allowed them the space to modernize. If you’ve read all of what I’ve written, you’ll know that I see the fire as a cleansing, a chance to start over. This is me starting over, again.

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┬áThe 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.