Here Comes The Sun

There’s anticipation in the air and it’s not because fall weather makes me nervous that it will frost and finish off the garden. Actually there should be a giant drum role because when we created the first 10 year plan for Blue Rock Station in 1996 we put renewable energy (I barely understood this term) at the end of the goals because it wasn’t an efficient use of money or resources in those days). BUT…In three weeks we will install the solar array that will provide most of the power we will need for the entire farm.

The system we’ve designed is going to be installed in three segments – one the first week of October, and then we’ll add another array in a year, and then, if we need it, another array in 2016. This approach allows us to practice more conservation and also to learn more how we use energy, and how not to go hog wild since it is technically free.

Jay likes to say that when solar energy is readily available (and cheap) people will go crazy using it – “like a bunch of fraternity boys at a party with free booze”. I don’t want to think about energy as “free” because it is not. Many resources (some that are very limited) go in to making the solar array system. Rare minerals are required to create solar panels and those minerals are growing more and more scarce. That’s the reason that the US (and other countries) are exporting used electronics to China – little children are used to extract these rare minerals so they can be re-used. The rare minerals have some very serious side effects when touched by humans. I will leave you to figure out why this isn’t good.

My hope is that this new way of generating electricity will provide us with ways to “think” more honestly about how we live on this land, and how we can learn more about ourselves in our quest to not take away from the future.




THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH                      January 14, 2012            7:00 AM

60.9 F indoors              17.9 F outdoors



When I saw the goats shaking like little children who have just climbed out of the swimming pool I realized I had better rummage through my closet for some warm ski vests or they were going to be in trouble.  This is the first year I’ve had 11 goats so I did my Coco Channel imitation and now all of the goats finally have their own ski vests.  

Tina Fey, the smallest spring goat (73 lbs.) has on a very nice tan knitted vest with a ski vest over top of it.  Trisha, Tina Fey’s sister (78 lbs.) is wearing one of my favorite blue vests.  They all look adorable, and snug as a bug in a rug.

As each goat came out of the milk room with her vest snuggly in place, the other goats were waiting in a line to sniff and admire her new “look”.  I wonder if they are critiquing my choice or just trying to figure out if there was a male involved in the process.

When I called Kati to cancel my lunch date because I really needed to be here to check on the critters throughout the bitterly cold day, she couldn’t stop laughing when I mentioned the need for the ski vests.  I’ve had that reaction before when I’ve talked about using vests to keep goats warm.  On the other hand I’ve never heard anyone laugh about seeing a horse wearing a horse coat.


Last night it was bitter cold again, and the wind was blowing hard.  Isabella, the hen that decided it was not too late to set on eggs in October, refused to go out to the dog kennel in the chicken run.  She’s been living in there at night since the chicks were tiny, but this night she announced in a rather loud manner that she and her eight chicks would be staying inside of the barn.  I’ve learned to listen to animals when they feel so strongly about something but I was none too happy about having to dismantle the cage and put it inside of the barn.

Just as I was trying to take the cage apart – in the bitter wind – Nate pulled up to the gate to feed and water the baby bull, Ernest.  Their yellow lab, Lilly, followed him and was eager to get inside of the gate.  Cadeau caused a big fuss, growling and jumping at her.  She does not listen to anybody so she was pushing and jumping and enjoying the fuss she was creating.

After Nate left, I was still struggling to get the cage apart when I looked up to see Lilly waiting at the gate.  She was very keenly interested in the two small male goats that are housed next to the entrance.  I’m concerned that Lilly is far too intrigued with in any of the animal’s movements, which means she has the potential to kill them.

Between Lilly pacing around, the bitter cold, and the cage not cooperating I was really frustrated.  At one point I threw part of the cage over the fence because I was afraid if I opened the gate the dog would race right in to the young goats.  It was getting dark so I was working against time.

Eventually Lilly left – there was no getting her to leave earlier because she doesn’t obey any commands.  Miss America showed up to save the day by helping to put the cage back together inside of the barn, and all was well except I was in a bad mood extraordinaire by this time, and that’s how I wasted my evening.  Enough said!

As I got into bed I was miserable.  It’s colder in our bedroom with this bitter weather and my new strategy for the winter was to use a little copper heater to bump the temperature from 55F way up to 60F.  Since it’s THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH and the heater runs on electricity I have sworn off of using it until February.  Jay, the other really best heater, is off to the Green Energy Ohio board meeting.  A bad mood, being cold, and thinking about how much work I have to do over the next few days did not contribute to feeling any better this morning.  As I was falling asleep I made myself a promise – no bad mood today.  I am hopeful.




Warmed up waffles

Blue berry syrup



Cheese noodles

Stir-fried vegetables






THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH                      January 13, 2012            6:45 AM

66 F indoors                 16 F outdoors

The wind speed is 25 mph – it’s frigid


 ImageChores with my supervisor CadeauImage Persa kissed by a goddess

The wind is howling but the house is cozy and warm.  That’s exactly how I want to live my life…no matter what is happening outside of  I want things to be calm and even so I can savor the moments.

Yesterday was a calm dreary day.  It drizzled off and on, but the house was full of interesting people.  Persa finished her practice survey with us so she can begin to put together her plan for the new privy.  Jay and I bickered back and forth about how many tires to put into the building, and how many straw bales.  Persa got the idea that even though people want to create a building they aren’t going to agree on all of the aspects, and we got the idea that Persa’s in charge.  She’s going to be great to work with as our first “fellow” in the BRS Fellowship Program.

The afternoon visitors from Hawaii were full of wonder at the house.  We discussed how to ferment coconut juice, and the bottling process.  I can’t imagine living in Hawaii.  When we lived in Florida I loved life during March and April.  The rest of the year I was yearning for Ohio.  The tropics were never home – no good soil, fierce wind when it was cold, lots of bugs, and it was too hot in the summer.  Although we had 19 great years of financial success in the south, and great friends, we never felt attached.

It’s great fun to spend so much time with younger generations.  I don’t recall a time with them that I wished I were younger.  For me, I’m interested in the things they know – their views on the world, and learning things from them that I don’t know.  Younger folks bring energy and inspiration.  They have passion and wonder. 

Before Jay left for his teaching gig he looked at the electric meter up at the barn.  It turns out that by not running electricity, except for our business (during daylight hours), we are using one third of what we normally use in a month.  That’s amazing to me.  In fact, I don’t believe it’s true just yet.  I’ll need more proof later in the month.

After everybody left I checked my emails and someone had written to say they are worried that I don’t eat enough (based on the menu) and that’s the reason I’m so svelte.  That brought a big smile to my face since I’ve never considered myself to be a small eater or svelte (oh, if it were only true).  What made me laugh right out loud was the writer’s inquiry about Jay – I surely am not feeding him enough.  I assured the person that if we had anymore to eat we wouldn’t know what to do.  Miss America might not agree since there are no potato chips or McDonald’s take away.

At the end of chores I checked on Ernest, the Holstein bull.  He’s enjoying the field, and toying with the dogs when the little juvenile delinquents go racing over to the fence to check on him – they love to give him a hearty bark.  I hate that they do this, but the minute I call them back they come running with the same eagerness they used to get over to Ernest.  The minute I’m distracted they race back to Ernest, and then I yell, then they race back.  They know how to savor life.

When Miss America came home she opened a box that someone had sent to her through  Jay and I had guessed correctly that it was from Paulo DaSilva, one half of Miss America’s guardian angle team (Lucilia Silva is the other half).  We had a great laugh when we saw it was 150 tea candles.  Those Brazilians have a razor sharp sense of humor. 

After Jay arrived I was relieved that everyone made it home safely before the ice formed and the snow started to fall.  These are the things that make life grand – the little things like good conversation, new stories, hugs, kisses, a good laugh, and a warm house.  The Happiness Factor was 10 as I went to bed last night.  Not because I was literally “happy” but because everything in life was calm and even for those moments.  I am truly rich.





Cottage Cheese



Kati and friends (my first away excursion since December)


Baked Sweet Potatoes

Sautéed Vegetables



Rosie guarding Ernest


Ernest watching Rosie

THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH   January 10, 2012                5:30 AM

65.3 F  indoors            31 F  outdoors

Sunny again today – whoopee!

TODAY’S HAPPINESS FACTOR:  6 out of 10 Health is a big issue today – nagging at me, in fact

For three weeks I swore I wouldn’t but in the end I had to…the visitor we have right now is not what you would call “normal”, not even for us.  He’s staying down in the field, where he prefers to be at the moment.  Let me explain…

Each morning as I walk the lane to the barn I can look across the field to the farm directly in front of our west field.  A few weeks ago a Holstein calf (white and black) appeared right next to something that sticks up in the field (possibly related to the gas pipeline).  His loafing shed was a tiny building made with three pallets for the sides and something similar for the roof, and he was grazing.  The whole scene made me crazy. 

Since I’ve inherited almost every dog, puppy, cat or kitten they’ve ever brought home I wondered how long it would be before the poor calf got loose and wondered over to Blue Rock Station, as the other critters had done before him.  Even the neighbors make a joke that if they’re missing a critter, just go over to Annie’s – it will be there.

As I milked Tuti I was thinking that people do not necessarily change because they read a how-to book on the proper care of livestock, or how to be more ecological, or how to pare down their “stuff”.  It occurred to me that real change comes from some type of a shift deep in the soul.  I work on that issue daily, especially this month.

As my grandmother would say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  I think I’ve been on that road quite a few times in this life, but I want to have more then good intentions.  My neighbors have been on the road to hell with every animal they’ve collected.  Now there is this poor calf tethered to the pallet loafing shed and it is right in full view of my self-righteous animal self. 

On the weekend I could hear the neighbors using their chain saw, so while I was in the milk room I tried looking more closely at what they were doing – the nosy neighbor syndrome.  It turns out they were cutting down all of the trees along the road because, as they later told me, “One of these days” they are going to build a fence. 

At that point in the conversation I did the one thing I swore I wouldn’t do – I offered them the use of the llama lounge field for the calf.  They looked at each other for permission, bantered back and forth about what to do, and then I said, “I’d feel a lot better about it if he had a place to get in out of the weather and there is still grass for him to eat.”  They looked at each other, then at me and said, “OK”.

The llamas and goats were thrilled to watch this new fangled critter as it walked along the lane to the field.  The neighbor, Nate, says he found the bull calf when he was servicing oil wells as part of his job.  He said it was about three or four days old and just resting near a wellhead.  Later Nate said he had fed it milk replacement, but it looks so thin to me – he says it is because he’s a Holstein.  I say it’s because he hasn’t had one proper bit of food or treatment.

Yesterday was a big day for the dogs and for me.  The dogs barked at the bull calf to announce he didn’t quite belong there.  I’ve named him “Ernest” because he has such serious sad eyes.  After my morning chores I raked some of the hay the goats waste and took it down to make Earnest a hay pad to give him a cushion from the damp ground.  He did “moo” at me a few times, and tried to touch noses with Rosie through the fence. 

He needs a real home – Nate wants to sell him, but Ernest isn’t castrated yet.  What will become of him?  I can’t imagine, and I guess I don’t want to.  Livestock, in general, have a hard life in this country.

As I walked back from the Llama Lounge field I noticed that the pussy willows have set their catkins.  There are a few little white fluffy bunny tails poking up at the top of the highest branches.  It seems like they are a whole month early.  Early pussy willows, a bull in the field, sunshine four days in a row – what’s the world coming to?

Fresh fruit cut up with cottage cheese
Omelettes with veggies
Potato Soup


THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH DIARIES             January 9, 2012     7:15 AM

66 F  indoors            25 F  outdoors

Sunny for four days in a row – still holding the title “The Florida of Ohio”


If life were any better I don’t know what we would doImage


This morning I have a secret to tell – more of a confession really.  It has been over one year since I walked in the woods here.  Yesterday, on the sunniest January day I can remember I took up the walking stick and traipsed the forest of Blue Rock Station.


The morning was spent gathering llama poo to dry for the orders we’ll receive from now until late spring. A gallon bag of the poo, which we label as “llama poo tea” carries a warning – “Not for human consumption”.  People laugh when we tell this on the tour, but honestly, some folks make me wonder how they get through life.


The sun was so warm, that after chores I decided I’d put the extra poo into trays for drying in the plastic bottle green house.  It’s generally too cold to do this activity in January.  As I worked I decided that I would take the afternoon off.  Normally we’d go somewhere, but since I’m totally committed to this experiment I began to think about the forest as a destination.


Jay went with us – the three dogs, Carolyn (the cat) and me.  We started at the site where we want to dam up the end of the holler and create a pond.  After a little discussion about how the new little house will sit (we hope to build a “nest” of some sort in two or three years), we set off down the hill and up the other side of the bigger hill to walk the property line.


On the side we call “John’s property” there is an ugly snow-white block one-story building sitting almost on our property line.  No one lives there, and when the trees are bare in winter we can see this horrible structure John called “The Bunker” from the Overlook. 


At the back of this part of the property (‘pert near’ a mile) we discovered a camouflage tent right inside of the clearly marked line between us, and the neighbors.  What is it about people that makes them build or plop down (beer cans, water bottles and all) something right up against someone else’s property?


It would be difficult to describe what was best about the walk.  When we were up on top of one of the hills we could look down on the llama trek path to see that there are two springs holding water.  We discovered a tiny waterfall we hadn’t noticed before.  The giant sandstone formation we fell in love with the day we first brought Miss America (age two weeks in 1993) here brought back the exciting memories of that day.


And then there was the amazing cat, Carolyn.  She walked the entire time with me.  The dogs raced ahead with Jay, and when he left me to track down the other corner of the property, she stayed.  When he didn’t come back, and the dogs stayed away too we waited awhile.  At one point I was unsure of how to get back home, but the sun was my friend that day – in the west as the afternoon began to fade.


At one point I made myself nervous when I remembered I had left the supper warming on the woodstove.  I could imagine the whole thing burning up – I’ve burned a few things on that woodstove during this first week of experimenting with cooking on the thing.  As I walked the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains with Carolyn I thought about the richness of the forest, and how it is a good thing to travel unfamiliar territory sometimes – it rests the mind from everyday thoughts, and offers many lessons.


When Carolyn and I finally hiked back to the curve on the big hill she was tired, and I was really thirsty.  She’s far too superior (she’s a cat, after all) and independent to allow me to carry her (I tried but met with fierce resistance after a few steps).  It was clear she was really tired but I was afraid to leave her until we were within sight of the house.


The sun was still behind us, and once I saw the field off in the distance I knew where I was going.  Carolyn finally wore out and stayed for a little nap.  I sat down with her to look across the “holler” at the Earthship on the other hillside.  I know I’ve never taken time to do that before.


The house looked so big from this distance.  It looked interesting and inviting.  The Overlook seemed as if it was waiting for some folks to show up for a rest, or a cup of tea or maybe even a bit of a party.  I felt lucky to live there in that place that looked almost foreign on the other hillside.


By chore time Carolyn had returned home.  Jay was full of manly tales of how he had walked to the house, then off to find me (which he did as I was resting with Carolyn), and then back again from John’s property.  Ho hum.  What can I say?


As we were going to bed last night Jay remarked how he was pleased that by turning off the electronics, and the electricity by 5:15 he was forced to end his work day.  I had never noticed that he had a problem with that.  But he was feeling good about taking time – time to rest his mind without a computer game, or researching something of interest.


He also asked me, as I was blowing out the candles to make my way to bed, if I was enjoying the THANKS FOR NOTHING month.  Without hesitating, a warm feeling came into me and I said, “Yes.”





Herbed scrambled eggs

Bagels with cream cheese



Potato cakes

Butternut Squash Soup





Rye bread