A Blink, Two Skinks, and the Patio Sink

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Have you noticed that the older you get, the faster by time seems to fly? I have. Blink, and you've missed it. Oy. I can't believe we're at the end of another school year already! Hard to tell who is more excited though; the students or the faculty (I'm thinking faculty, definitely ;o) To anyone outside the school system - and I've been right there with you - I'm sure you're thinking something along the lines of "Sure must be nice to have your summers off!" All I can tell you is that time is soooo earned. Until I started working in a school I had no idea how much a school year would take out of you mentally and emotionally. Summer vacations and school breaks are critical times for the adults to get a desperately needed recharge before returning to the front lines. Because our children have so much more to deal with than we did back in the day, a teacher's job has become exponentially more challenging.

Even for those of us who function more peripherally, (I interpret for a deaf student), the typical school day is incredibly draining emotionally. Add to that the mountains of paperwork now required of teachers (sadly, our society is becoming increasingly litigious), the struggle to manage classes that are far too large and often unruly (what ever happened to well-mannered kids?), and a steady decline in support from both administration and the majority of parents it's no wonder the burnout rate is so high. According to Forbes (this article), the teacher burnout rate in 2011 was 46% within the first five years; even higher than it is for doctors. Who'd a thunk it? I'm sure it's gone up since then, too. Without these much-needed breaks, I have no doubt this number would be twice that. Having worked in several different systems over the past 18 years I can attest that some schools are definitely better working environments than others, but the stress levels are high everywhere. Personally, after working with a deaf elementary student on a military base, I have to say it would be nice if every person on the planet came with a C.O. (Commanding Officer). At least then you'd have someone to go to when you exhausted all other avenues trying to work with a parent (and you'd better believe they get the job done, too!)  Although I have been known to refer to DH as my own C.O., it's from a completely different direction (to wit: "Captain Oblivious", HeHe).

Can you guess what this is? I'll give you a hint: it's not a snake - honest! My picture happy galpal Sarah and I went on a ['nother-other] photo bender a couple of weeks ago, and came across the strangest critter I think I've ever seen outside of a zoo (well, that and the high school hallways ;o) Although he slithered around like a snake, he also had four legs with long toes like a chameleon that he used to walk. Weird, right? Sarah and I sat there making up names for him, and came up with "Ssslizzard". We both went home and looked him up on line to find he is actually called a "Red Headed Skink". Have you ever heard of those? I hadn't. Personally, I was kind of partial to "Ssslizzard" but since nobody asked me I suppose we'll stick with Skink for now.

Since Skinks eat bugs, I'm definitely considering them one of the good guys. *laugh* This one is called a "Five Line Skink" (some neat kid-friendly info here). See how she tucked up her legs along her body to slither along? How weird is that? Skinks are fairly widespread throughout the United States, and are partial to wooded areas with access to sunny spots. Believe it or not, there are more than 1,200 different subspecies of Skinks. Pretty impressive. Sadly, Mom doesn't seem to have much in the way of maternal instincts. She kicks the kids out a few days after they've hatched, telling them they are ready to leave the nest. Then again, when you consider how stressed out our kids can make us (particularly when they hit their teenage years) she might just be onto something...

For those of you who may wish to avert your eyes, I'm going to say a very bad word now: Project. Please excuse me for swearing. The laundry tub in the photo is a long overdue checklist item for our visitor area. This little P-word has been neglected for some time; initially, the weather (too cold), then I broke my arm, and again back to the weather (too wet). Obviously, this statement is easily verified by not only the faded green on the box but also by the disgusting amount of dust and dirt it has accumulated; which means now I get to clean it first (joy). Anyhoo, I've decided to go public with its impending transformation (ha) and twist my own arm, so to speak (translation: Get a move on chickie! ;o) My grand plan is to turn this [formerly] pristine white laundry sink into something rustic. I have some ideas on what I want to do, though I'm not sure if they will work or not. Here's hoping! Looks like next week's post will be all about that.

Wishing you a blessed week and as always, thank you so much for reading this far!

I am SUCH a Loser...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I don't distract well. Are you kidding? I have enough trouble finishing tasks when I'm completely focused on them. Interrupt me, and everything just goes kaflooey. Where was I? What was I doing again? Argh! So frustrating. My thoughts these days too often feel scattered and I the older I get, the more trouble I seem to have reining them in. The feeling is best summed up by Jackie Chan's comment, "Your focus needs more focus." in the Karate Kid. That's just so, well, me :oP It boggles my brain how I can remember the words of a song I learned in the first grade, but am totally unable to remember what on earth I did with something I just had in my hot little hands ten minutes ago. *snarl* I'm pretty sure if I could get back all of the time I've wasted searching frantically for things I put somewhere [or another], I'd wind up with an extra year at my disposal (and wouldn't that be nice?). Maybe, just maybe, if I stopped setting things down in random places I wouldn't have to search for them so often. I'm thinking....velcro. What do you think?

One of the things that's fun about horses is having an open line of communication when training or, as I'd rather think of it, playing with a purpose (sounds lots more fun that way, doesn't it? ;o) Anyway, the horses will sometimes ask questions or offer behaviors when we're together to see how I react. I try to be attentive (though sometimes I'm oblivious) and offer immediate feedback; either a "No, we're not doing that right now", "Good girl/boy" or a "No ma'am/sir" depending on the question asked or behavior offered.  If you are not quite sure what I'm talking about when I say an offered behavior, a simple example would be when you are teaching your dog to lay down but he sits (the behavior offered) when you cue him to lay. Usually, he'll look to you for approval right away (the question asked). This is because he is not 100% sure exactly what it is you want him to do, so he offers a certain behavior to see if that's what you want. Does that make sense? I'll add that Mad Max, [photo inset] our resident hoovenile delinquent, wins hooves down for not only asking the most questions but also receiving the most "No sirs!", interspersed with regular "Absolutely NOTs!". Sometimes I do have to work really hard not to laugh at some of his antics (click here, here and here for some examples), even when he makes me crazed. Of course sometimes the horses just offer up a behavior out of the blue...

Case in point? A long time ago we used to put a heavy rope across the hill to keep the girls down at the bottom while we brought in a new roll of hay for them. Horses are not real big on waiting patiently when it comes to important things like hay and we didn't want them running around by the gate to the boys' pasture while it was open, either. Once we finished the girls' stalls, I would just close their doors while we did the hay. One day last year, after a long day, I realized I had forgotten to lock the doors and the girls were already out after finishing supper. Nuts. Since they stayed well away from the pasture gate while DH went in and out, we decided to not worry about the rope any more. Several months later I was headed up the hill to the gate to let DH out to get a new roll for the girls, when I looked back to see that Rina had stopped everyone at the bottom of the hill and was looking at me expectantly. I hollered out "Good girl Rina, hold!" and continued up the hill to open the gate. Now I really didn't expect that to work, but believe it or not they all stayed there. We ended up with a nice compromise: The girls now wait politely at the bottom of the hill - without a rope - but I tell them to "come ahead" as soon as DH gets through the gate with the hay. Isn't that a hoot?

There are just a handful of days left in the school year. Hard to tell who's more ecstatic; the kids or the faculty. Probably a tie. *grin* I finished this tatting project to match a homemade candle [photo inset] for a gift, and I also have a baby blanket to finish. Once school's out, it will be a boatload of cleaning and organizing on the home front, and then - IhopeIhopeIhope - I can get down to some serious organizing of the thousands of photos on my hard drive, completion of the pages on this blog, plus a massive overhaul of the Epic Farms website. Amazing, the lofty goals you can set with a functional internet connection. *laugh* Of course I'll probably have to start all over again trying to figure out how to use the web design software; safe bet it's all been changed since the last time... Old dogs and new tricks - here we go again! *facepalm*

As always, thank you so much for reading this far and have a blessed week!

OHHHH, I wanna be an airborne ranger.....

Saturday, May 16, 2015

*Coffee and a doughnut post*

Funny song if you're old enough to remember it from The Breakfast Club (sure does get stuck in your head though), but as a concept I find it painful. Don't get me wrong: The airborne part's okay, but that landing's really gonna get you. Every once in awhile, I suffer from self-inflicted stupidity *cough* delusions of grandeur. I forget about all my medical misadventures, which have greatly dissipated and become easier to ignore. I get the notion that I am, once again, Wonder Woman. As if I ever were, right? *snort* Um, no. Nuh-uh. Not even close. In any case, such was my frame of mind a couple of months ago; with a crammed calendar and a to do list that once again runneth over. *sigh* How do these things happen? Somehow it doesn't seem to matter how much "stuff" I erase from my calender, there's always five more things to take each one's place. Do you struggle with that too? The good news in all of this, is that what I was doing was definitely working (Terramin Clay, D3, and strength training for my Osteopenia). The bad news being that I verified this information in the worst possible way. Then again, this is me we're talking about here, right? Oh, yeah. *rolls eyes*

My recent road to recovery from various illnesses and afflictions spanning almost an entire decade (specific details coming soon to the Health Yerself page) has been largely managed with an anything and everything I can think of/find approach that might help my body get back into some kind of shape. That is to say, beyond the pathetic one it was in. I started trying to jog up the low rise to Cinnamon's bucket every afternoon in an attempt to improve my coordination a.k.a. gross motor skills (and they were, most definitely, GROSS). Initially my gait was a lurching, lumbering mess and I was incredibly thankful that nobody but the horses could see me. At first, Cinnamon stayed near his bucket watching me intently; probably trying to figure out what on earth the crazy lady was up to this time. HehHeh. Before long though, Cinnamon started meeting me at the gate and accompanying me up the hill. After the first few weeks, my gait began to stabilize and Cinnamon started jogging in slow-mo with his head down right next to me as though he was offering encouragement. Cool. As the months went by, my gait continued to improve and after almost a year, we were dashing up the hill in tandem.

Sooo, when I wind up stressed because I was stupid er, tried to take on too much at once, I end up blowing a physical fuse. Ever the busy bee, that's me. Not to mention slow learner. *sigh* Overloading the agenda is kind of like playing Russian Roulette; you never know precisely which stressed out straw will be the one to kill off the camel (or something like that anyway). It can manifest itself in many ways, but this particular time it happened to be with the dreaded "foot drop". Now if you've never heard of foot drop, it is a neurological issue where the front of your foot suddenly "drops" downward. It often happens in mid step, which causes you to trip or stumble and can easily result in a fall. It also makes you feel like an idiot. I hadn't had a problem with it for almost a year, hence it's disappearance from my memory banks (otherwise known as: sure didn't see that one coming). 


One Sunday afternoon a couple of months ago, tired but game, I was racing up the hill with my equine coach when my foot suddenly dropped. Since I was on an incline, I only had time to think ACK! before I found myself airborne. Because I was holding a feed bucket in my left hand - which went soaring in the opposite direction - my right hand was the first to slam into the ground, with the full force of my weight behind it. I heard a very unpleasant pop and rolled over on my back to lay there for a moment staring blankly at the sky. Man oh man did that hurt; I sure hope I didn't sprain it, but I think I did. Way to go, GraceYeesh. Heaving myself to my feet, I awkwardly swept most of the feed back into the bucket and turned to see Cinnamon giving me the fish eye from a safe distance. Apparently I had scared him half to death when I deviated so violently from the program, and he was now eyeballing me suspiciously lest I decide to exhibit any more alarming behavior ;o)

By the time I finished scooping feed for the next day with my left hand (and wasn't that an interesting adventure?) my right arm was throbbing horribly. I grabbed some horse bandages and went inside to put ice on it, because ice fixes everything, right? Not this time chickie. Raspberries. I got DH to help me wrap it up and went to bed. A smart person probably would have thought to at least pop some Tylenol, but apparently I'm not too bright because I didn't take anything which made for a very long night. Thankfully, the next day was a teacher workday and I could ask the school nurse how much damage I'd done. Turns out that I had a hairline fracture just below my right wrist. How special. I wound up with a Pepto-Bismol pink cast for about six weeks (shown at the bottom of this post if you missed it), and then this lovely splint for two more. I am still using the splint when lifting weights and unloading bags of feed, but I am essentially (thank the Lord!) healed. 

I learned how to fingerspell left-handed and that I will never, EVER be a southpaw ;o) I also discovered that an oven mitt makes a marvelous emergency mitten, and the equine/bovine OB gloves the vets use beat the pants off plastic bags in the shower for covering a cast. So there you have it, the whole tragic tale. *grin* Well there was one more interesting learning experience that came out of it. Because the fracture was so close to the wrist, I found myself completely unable to crochet. Obviously drawing and painting were out, as were the rest of my normal creative endeavors. It didn't take long for the DT's to set in. So what's a crafty girl gonna do? 

Learn to needle tat, of course! Although it felt like the last act of a desperate woman, it wasn't as hard as I thought it might be. I found an idiot friendly bookmark pattern to use for my first project:
If you can crochet, needle tatting is fairly easy to figure out. It's best to watch a video first and start with a large size thread. This is size 10, but I practiced with size 5 first. Here's the finished bookmark: Not too bad for a one-armed wonder, eh?
Up Next (I hope): The patio plumbing project (excuse me for swearing ;o) which will be to transform a rather uninteresting laundry tub into something that is functional AND fun for the visitor area before we install it. I would lament how late we are in just getting to this stage, but since God's timing is perfect who am I to argue, right? *laugh*  

As always, thank you so much for reading this far and have a blessed week everyone!

The Point of the Pages

Sunday, May 10, 2015

When I decided to revamp this blog I not only gave consideration to its overall appearance, I also spent considerable time thinking about exactly how I wanted to share various information with you. I love the writing process; it's very cathartic and I totally enjoy pounding out my weekly posts. It occurred to me, however, that I had some other things that I really wanted to share but those things didn't quite mesh with my idea of a weekly blog post. One example would be pictures. I love looking through photographs, and know lots of other folks who do as well. Do you? While I always add pictures to my posts, I have [literally] thousands of them on my computer; photography being a favorite hobby of mine. Some of them are even worth sharing; at least I think they might be (Ha).
I gave some thought to the things that were most important to me to share, and decided to turn them into the tabbed pages you see across the top of the blog. Once upon a time I would have written these things on Squidoo, but sadly they sold out to Hub Pages awhile back. I was terribly disappointed in this, if for no other reason than Epic Farms was a partner charity and it had been a source of regular [albeit small] donations for the farm. *sigh*  I opted to go with the photography page first, as it seemed the easiest (and, well, there may possibly be a little fun for me mixed up in there too ;o) While I have concentrated heavily on the photography page, I am also adding bits and pieces to the other pages as I can. I hope you are enjoying the new responsive layout as much as I am!
Speaking of layouts, my [new] friend Carrie at True You Templates has graciously offered a coupon code for my readers and friends. If you're looking to responsively revamp (this post) your own blog, this will definitely make you smile. Simply visit Carrie's Etsy shop True You Templates, pick your favorite template, and then use the coupon code: JenSentMe for a special discount. Etsy apparently prefers you shout your coupon codes out loud and clear, so it will actually be in holler mode: JENSENTME. I think my favorite template is the Big Blue Daisy (sadly, it didn't quite go with my horsey/countrygal/rustic theme or you'd so be looking at that right now ;o) I will say that for me it was a tough choice between Shabby Chic and Antique Papers. Happy responsive renovating!
Next week, I'll tell you all about a fabulous faceplant in the pasture awhile back (otherwise known as my fall from grace*), some interesting DIY discoveries plus some new and exciting creative endeavors. *Grace being a nickname I have for myself; spoken often and totally dripping with large quantities of sarcasm (see photo and yep, that would be my very own arm *sigh*). For my horsey friends, I'm temporarily sidetracked editing photos like a crazy woman but summer break is almost here; I'll have some more horse happy posts before too long never fear! Ever get hit with that random urge to make things rhyme? Apparently I do ;o)
As always, thank you so much for reading this far and have a blessed week and a marvelous Mother's Day!

Aftermath: A Picture Happy Post

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Okay, the happy part of that title may be a debatable issue. To clarify, happy as in "full of" [pictures] and happy to be in one piece, as well. Although I had planned to get a lot more work done on this blog last weekend, things didn't quite go according to plan (mine, that is). How does it go again? Ah yes: If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans. Yep, that'd be it all right.
Have you ever heard of straight line winds? Other than a vague recollection of hearing the term during some weather segment somewhere, I was largely unaware of (okay, mostly oblivious to) this particular atmospheric phenomena - up until last weekend that is. Saturday's weather prediction was for strong thunderstorms at night. Definitely not what any of us were hoping for, since we'd been getting the same soaking that plagued most of the rest of the country and nothing but cloudy skies in between. It started drizzling just before 6 o'clock, right as I headed outside to feed the furballs. I remember thinking, "Lovely. I so enjoy feeding in the rain. Blech." Grumble, grumble.
About the time I put my hand on the knob to open the patio door, the weather took a sudden and violent turn. The wind
kicked up drastically, the bottom fell out (torrential rain), thunder rumbled, lightning cracked and the storm outside became so loud I could no longer hear the radio that was playing right next to me. A few seconds later, the power went out. Awesome. I noticed that instead of seeking shelter, the horses were huddled up together outside of their stalls. Never a good sign. I saw them all spook (jump/get scared), mill around a bit and then tightly regroup. Hm. What seemed like an eternity later [10 minutes, in actuality] everything suddenly stopped.
While I knew it wasn't a tornado, I wasn't sure exactly what had just happened other than a humdinger of a storm just blasted through my neighborhood in record time. Thankful that everyone seemed to be in one piece, I took a deep breath, opened the door, and...

Ummm hello, Dorothy? I don't think we're in Kansas any more.

For one thing, we definitely had more tree in the front yard than I remembered...

And oh my, is that line there on the fence and all tangled in the tree what I think it is? Yep, sure is. Power lines. 

Ruh-Roh. That doesn't look too good.

Yikes, whatta mess. I had to hop the fence and walk down our neighbor's driveway because not only were the power lines strewn all across our front yard, they were also across our driveway. Fabulous. Guess I'll be staying home for awhile, eh?

Nope. Doesn't look any better from this side either. The driveway on the right (the one with the dangling power line) would be ours. How special. *sigh*

There's part of the huge oak that came crashing down (the menfolk - ha always wanted to use that word - cleared what they could out of the way for the workers).

And that splintered stump would be what's left of said mighty oak. That was one BIG tree, eh? :o)

Nowadays when our power goes out, it comes back on fairly quickly. When Hurricane Opal blew through here in 1995, she knocked out 11 out of the 13 coop substations (talk about getting beaned). We ended up going without electricity for almost two weeks in mid-July, which was horrible (and welcome to rural living *laugh*). They made so many improvements when they rebuilt, we've rarely had much of a problem since then. Maybe it was because DH bought a generator. This, however, was a little bigger than a short term electrical hiccup. Turns out that about 30,000 people were without power as a result of that storm. Holy cow - this may take awhile. 

Saturday evening turned into night, and I was thankful it wasn't July. Sunday morning rolled around and I went on a short picture taking bender since I couldn't go anywhere. I was grateful to have a crochet project to work on and alternated between that, watching TV and listening to the radio until it was time to feed the horses Sunday evening. I walked outside, and what did I see?

HOORAY! The cavalry has arrived :o)

One of the lineman came and asked me about the tree in the back. Wait. There's one in the back too? Oy. I walked around the house to look, and sure enough...

Well isn't that pretty? Yeesh.

As DH wandered up the hill to talk to the men in white hats (ha, ha - get it? ;o) it occurred to me that I should probably go hang out with the horses - otherwise entitled "man my post" - until the workers finished. Chain saws and falling tree limbs are not exactly horse-happy events don'tcha know and I'd just as soon keep everyone calm.

Taya, with her love of power tools (this post and this post), was front and center to watch the action. 

Rina, Lady and Bella were not quite as enthusiastic.

And the boys? Well, they didn't care at all.

The only thing Mad Max was even remotely interested in was EATING HIS SUPPER. Hello? What's the holdup woman? Do you know what time it is? I'm ready to eat right now. Shake a leg, will ya? 

So. That was my wild and crazy weekend. Although I still haven't heard anything about exactly how strong the winds were, early estimates are that the damage will exceed that caused by Hurricane Opal. Crazy stuff, that. So what did you guys do for excitement last weekend? Hopefully, not the same thing we did ;o)

As always, thank you for reading this far and have a blessed week everyone! OH-OH-OH! Before I forget, I've added quite a few more photos to the "Feathers" Slideshow (it's here, if you're interested).

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