Monday, July 21, 2008


I have been having very vivid, very odd dreams lately.

My friend Craig and I were waterskiing on a large mountain lake, with an old man from church named Joe driving the speedboat. We were barefoot, and neither of us had waterskied before, but it came quite easy, enough so that I was rather proud to be able to flash the peace sign to the admiring onlookers on shore.

A plantet was discovered with liquid water, a stable climate, and a CO2 atmosphere. Rockets were sent carrying plant seeds, which would sprout into trees, shrubs, and grasses, producing oxygen and rendering the place habitable. But there were no soil fungi, so all the plants died. So rockets were sent carrying soil fungi, which also died because no plant roots had broken up the soil. Once that all got worked out, the plants failed to reproduce because there were no critters to polinate them. So rockets were sent carrying bees, moths, hummingbirds. These didn't make it because by the time they arrived, all the flowering plants had given up, leaving them nothing to eat. And so on.

I learned that a friend of my long-deceased grandma Diemer was alive, well, and in good health and mind, living very near the old ranch in southern Colorado. I was excited to call her and ask her questions about the lives of my maternal ancestors.

And so on and so on. Is something wrong with me, Herr Doktor?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pond Therapy

Last night, we floated around our pond in an inflatable boat.

This is something we have done since we first dug the pond several years ago. Around sunset, we get in the boat and float around until we decide to go in. Sometimes we talk; other times we sing. Occasionally the guitar finds its way into the boat; other times there is just comfortable silence. Stargazing and bat watching tend to happen. The only rule is that nothing stressful or negative is allowed on the pond.

Sarah and I are both convinced that the divorce rate would plummet if every couple had a pond and a row boat.

It has been a very fulfilling summer, but a very frustrating one, too. There has been almost no down-time. Not counting firewood expeditions, we have only been to the mountains twice!! It seems like this summer has been one hard job after another, made more frustrating by my uncanny ability to find every conceivable wrong way to do something before stumbling on the correct way. We're both really, really tired, in a way that couples aren't supposed to be until they have kids.

And we had only done pond therapy twice all summer. The pond is clear and clean (benefits of the new liner) and more beautiful than ever, but the days have left us more in the mood for collapsing into bed than for inflating a boat. Amazing how stress and exhaustion reduce life to mere survival.

But last night, the evening was cool, the chicks were bedded down, the sunset was spectacular, and the work was done for the day. I blew up the boat. We got in and shoved off, and almost immediately the world changed. The waterfall drowned out barking dogs. The water level was low enough that we didn't have to worry about prying eyes. Sarah and I were alone in the world. Alone, and thankful.

We talked about how good it is to have a pond and a boat. How wonderful it is to have water clear enough that we could actually see fish from the boat! How blessed we are to live in a place where we can see the Milky Way from the front yard. How amazing all of our trees and bushes are doing. How good it will be to have fresh eggs and fried chicken all winter, with lots to share. We shared favorite childhood memories, and discussed the amazing spiritual journey from which God seems to have returned us--changed, but safe and sound.

Around ten, the timer turned off the waterfall, and everything was still. Sarah had brought along a flashlight for the walk back to the house, and we got it out and shined it into the clear water. In a couple minutes, the light had attracted a swarm of water fleas. Now, unlike their terrestrial namesakes, these critters are not nasty parasitic insects. What they are is almost-microscopic crustaceans, relatives of those hideous sea creatures we pay lots of money to eat at fancy restaurants. They eat single celled algae, and are thus largely responsible for our crystal-clear water. They, in turn, are good chow for fish, and are thus largely responsible for some rather obese goldfish and minnows.

The baby minnows showed up first, eating the water fleas, darting around in the light. Then we started shining the light all over the pond. Everywhere we pointed it, something amazing. Fat goldfish, deep crimson in the night, some of whom we haven't seen for weeks. Bugs. Even the rocks in the pond look different by flashlight.

Today we cut two loads of firewood. I mowed hay for the chickens. Dirty, hard, hot work. But last night, for a little while, we remembered what all the hard work is for. And for a little while, the world was perfect.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fast Times at Wilson Manor

I spent most of the day today out in the yard. This has become the normal way of things, much to the detrement of both my graduate GPA and my musical career. Wilson Manor has been undergoing quite a transformation this summer.

Since not much happens in Wyoming without water, we started with the pond. Roberto brought over his big scooper and dug it out, then, with a little help from some extremely good friends, we moved a 900 pound piece of rubber into it. After all the friends went home (smart friends), we moved several tons of rocks into the hole so it would look all nifty. Then we filled it up (it holds water, more or less), threw in some fish to eat mosquitoes, and moved on to the next project.

Trees. New ones. 200 of them. Digging holes on our land feels sort of like scraping paint with a toothpick. So again Rob came to the rescue, punching nice, deep holes through the hard clay with his power auger. After that, planting was easy. We now have lots and lots of cottonwoods, native plums, chokecherries, and junipers, planted in several windbreaks, mostly to protect things that aren’t there yet. Also in the ground are some apricots, sand cherries, and an oak tree. Of course, all of these are very small and don’t look like much…yet.

So, now we have water and trees. How to bring the two together? Last summer I spent around 9 hours per week hauling hoses around the yard. That wasn’t happening again. So this past spring we took several crash courses in drip irrigation. Once the trees were in the ground, we got the equipment and I installed a quarter-mile long drip line. And get this: It works perfectly! Now I go out at bed time, turn on the pump, and wake up in the morning to nice, healthy, well-soaked trees. Getting work done while I sleep. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

So, now we have both planted trees and taken steps to assure they don’t die—something new we’re trying this year. Are we content that soon we will be wallowing in fruit, relishing newfound privacy, slinging our hammock in the shade? Ha.

We had been talking about getting a few chickens for quite a while. A fateful day came when Sarah reported the price of eggs, and we decided to go for it. Just a few, understand, to learn the ropes and get started.

Well, this is getting long, so I’ll make a long story short. One thing led to another, and we are now the proud parents of one hundred twenty four baby chickens. No, that isn’t a typo. They live in a large coop creatively constructed out of recycled scrap wood. Almost all of them are roosters that will go in the freezer as soon as they get big enough to be annoying and/or delicious. We’ll keep the hens for eggs, of course, and one rooster to help keep them safe (and pay back the neighbors for their annoying dogs. Mwuah ha ha ha ha haaaaa!)

Oh, there’s more—the outdoor run for the McNuggets currently under construction, then the raised garden beds, not to mention cutting firewood, painting the coop, spraying noxious weeds, always a favorite. But you know, things are starting to feel reasonably under control around here…