My Day In Pictures

This literally and figuratively sums up my week. It’s late (yes, 10 pm on a Friday is late) and I just want to be home. My husband took a few hours off work and we went to see David Sedaris. I needed that laugh. Now, I’m very capable of putting the limp-along on but I did mention it is late and I’m oh so deflated after this week? Instead, my husband is going to pick me up and this will be dealt with tomorrow.

Along with this:

And tomorrow I’ll have all day to cuddle with these:

The egg is in there for size comparison. As in – they exited an egg that size mere hours before. Granted, cuddling will have to wait till I pick my husband up from work, deal with the flat, and a filthy dog.

New Farmer Level Unlocked

Spring has made everyone on the farm a bit frisky. We’ve never had two drakes going into spring and it turns out, it is a bad, bad, bad idea. One drake can “satisfy” up to fourteen ducks. They can actually mate females to death. This past fall, we were unclear if one bird was a male or female so we kept it. We called it Hermes and well, he finally matured. Turns out it, it was him. Going into this spring, we have one female goose, three females ducks, and two drakes.

Hoss (the goose), Serenity (far right) and Beakers (drake from the first batch of birds) taking a break in the yard this afternoon.

The two times we have dispatched our extra drakes, I have had friends come over to do the dispatching in the fall. They kill them, I process them. We have known that we need to take care of the extra drake and I was going to ask a friend like usual. However, as I was headed to work on Thursday, ready to ask someone, I had an epiphany. We have 22 duck eggs in the incubator. While we raise them for eggs, we have to do something with the drakes. If we are going to continue to raise ducks, we need to be able to dispatch them ourselves.

I shared this with my husband. He was not thrilled but he agreed that we needed to do this. We agreed we would do it on Sunday since he would be on his 48hr. shift Friday and Saturday (his new work schedule as May 1st – 48 hours on, 96 hours off). This way we were not rushed.

Plants Outside
My version of a reduced garden. Ha! Always a bit out of control when it comes to planting. My garden gets bigger and bigger every year.

Today was the first day in the 60Fs so I worked on moving my starts outside in shorts and flip-flops. Most of the plants are still in their containers but I did plant the greenhouse (cucumbers, basil, a few flowers, tomatoes, and peppers), a few watermelon and tomatoes in outside containers, plus a flower planter. The rest will have to wait till we get the new garden area ready. I worry that it may not be warm enough yet for them outside but hopefully, I insulated them well enough. They have simply outgrown the space I have inside. They’ll enjoy the natural sunlight and I’ll enjoy the reduced electrical bill. We shall see how they held up tomorrow morning. Maynard also finally discovered the catnip I planted. I didn’t shoo him away since I did plant it for him. Though if he eats it all now, he will not have any come this winter. Though I guess I can simply plant him more.

Maynard discovering his fresh catnip.

While gardening, I let the dogs, cat, and birds roam free. I noticed that Serenity (a group of our birds were named after the Firefly series) had a bald patch on the back of her head from constant mating. Then I noticed she was having issues with one of her eyes. I figure also from constant male harassment. So I did it. I found the hatchet, I picked up the younger drake, and I put up the other birds away. We had a moment of calm and then I dispatched him. It was quick. It took me less than one hour from start to having him in the crockpot. This is my favorite way to cook duck. It ends up shredded duck meat which makes excellent tacos.

I will say killing my birds is not one of my favorite parts of farming but it is part of raising poultry. It is also a part I want to continue. I have a hard time buying meat at the store because I worry about the treatment of the animals. I know my birds have had a great life. They are truly free-range. This fall, we will fill our freezers with more ducks. Next summer, meat chickens. Holy shit, new farmer level unlocked! Celebrating with wine and Dr. Who. I hope the ladies will enjoy some peace tonight.

Simply Empowering

When I was living in D.C., I heard about a program called Girls on the Run (GOTR). I looked into it but with the long commute to and from work, I was never able to participate. Fast forward a few years when I move back to Alaska and GOTR is brought to Fairbanks. I signed up to coach and even raised funds through their Solemate program.

GOTR is a program designed to empower young girls through running. I participated as a coach for one semester while working a full-time job, going to school full time, and student teaching. Then medical issues hit and I had to bow out.

Today was this current group of young women’s end of GOTR season 5K run and celebration. Margaret from work went with me – the above photo is of her painting a runner’s face. Pre-race there is face painting and hair spray. I ended up with a blue and white heart plus covered in hair glitter. It’s for the kids, right? Then I ran with the girls on their journey. I encouraged them, I asked them about their day, and we had fun in the sun as a big supportive community for these young women. A celebration of them and their achievement – they moved their amazing bodies three whole miles!

I see myself in them. I started to run when I was about six and haven’t stopped since. I hope they continue to run. It is amazing what running can do both mentally and phsycially.

I went looking for the photo of me before my SoleMate fundraiser marathon. I found so many running photos! I also notice that I’m smiling in all of them – even the ones that were taken at the finish. That good old runner’s high! Simply looking at my past running photos make me grin ear to ear. In three weeks, I’ll be doing my 4th sprint triathlon with my mother. It took me a few years for me to convince my mom to try it and now she is unstoppable. Challenging both your mind and body is simply empowering.

And today, a team of runners attempted to break the 2-hour marathon. Almost. 23 seconds shy! It was something to watch! To think a human can run 26 miles in a little over 2 hours in absolutely AMAZING! I imagine in my lifetime, the 2-hour barrier will be broken. Probably not by me, but I do hope to do a sub-4 marathon eventually.







Cabbage and Mud

Before I went outside to take care of the ducks, I made sure the cookies were put up, and the baby gates were in place. I forgot the damn cabbage. Did you know you can leave fresh eggs on the counter at room temperature? The answer is no, no we cannot leave our fresh duck eggs on the counter. My dogs will eat anything and everything. If it is on the counter, it must be yummy. Even a quick trip to the bathroom, the counters must be food free, those mongrels will take advantage of me when my pants are down. They have no mercy.

The baby gates. We have no children, yet our house is littered with baby gates and mud. Lots of mud. Baby gates allow me to keep my dirty dogs confined to one area of the house. My dogs are the dogs that after wallowing in a huge mud puddle would then go roll in my bed. FullSizeRender 10.jpg

They are, for the most part, well-behaved but they are dogs. Alaskan dogs. It is spring, and so we are all bound to get a bit muddy and a hankering for fresh veggies.





The Art of Providing Comfort

The week after I finished Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, her husband died. This book held personal details of her loving marriage to her husband, Dave Goldberg and I was devastated for her.

Recently, I received my TIME magazine with Sheryl on the cover. She is promoting her new book on grief and how to behave when someone you know is grieving. I almost put handle instead of behave, but we do not need to be handled. I have been in a state of grieving for about three years. I grieve about my husband’s illness. I grieve about the inability to have children naturally, or if I’ll ever have children. Talking to a friend about the loss of her sister to suicide, she said it hurt that people avoided the topic and her. Our response to grief and other’s pain seems universal. We avoid it and them. We don’t know what to say so we say nothing. Or if we say anything, it is a quick line we have heard from movie and TV, “I’m sorry for you loss”, “It is going to be okay.” etc.

When you are grieving, you see it so clearly how humans simply do not know what to do with someone that is grieving. Those that have been through it seem to handle it the best. They know what comforted them and what deepened their sadness. They know that a question inquiring at their well-being with the honest intent to listen to the response no matter how uncomfortable it makes them is the best medicine. Then after listening to not give uneducated advice or more of those cliché sayings “Time heals all wounds.” One of the worst thing someone has ever said to a friend, “It was just a dog.” Do not put a value or judge someone’s pain. Do not put a time limit on someone’s grief. Sometimes stupid stuff comes out of our mouths, it happens, apologize instead of thinking it didn’t bother them or hear it.

I will not proclaim myself an expert, and I know I’ve said some stuff that I later regretted. It is something I’m working on, and I’m striving to do it better because I hate seeing those I love in pain. I know nothing I can say will make that pain go away, but I hope my presence will lessen the emotional burden and suffering.

I will read Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Option B.

I recommend reading her interview in TIME. Sheryl Sandberg’s interview:

I read this post at the start of April. It sums up why we need to stop saying “I’m sorry for your loss” and alternatives.

Here is probably the best action list I have ever read on being a good friend to someone that is grieving.

Becoming better support for those in a state of grief is something we could all use a bit of practice on. As we get older and wiser, we will inevitability be on both sides of it.

I feel ya, sista!

Today was my niece’s 5th birthday, and she got this plastic pooping puppy. It came with instructions on how to load the poop, how to make the dog go poop, how to wind up the dog to get it ready to walk, and how to make the dog walk. She was merely interested in loading the poop and dumping it out. Everyone else at the table felt the need to tell her how to do it. No, you have to push the tail to make it poop, don’t just dump it out. You can’t pull the leash off, it has to be attached to it like this. It ended with her screaming at a few of the adults because she sincerely wanted to be left to play with her dog the way she felt fit. There was no right way to play with it. Where did the adults get off instructing her how to use her toy?

That is exactly why people undergoing fertility treatment do not tell others about any of it. We are fucking going to do it the way we feel fit, and we don’t need you to tell us we are doing it wrong because we aren’t. I very much understood my niece’s frustration. I may resort to her tactics to get people to back off because it worked pretty damn well.

Our Out of Control Hobby Farm

Today was bee day! Since my husband is working all weekend, I skipped out of work early with a co-worker to come home to hive our bees. The first big shake of bees out of the box had Margaret taking a few steps back, but she was eager to try shaking out the 2nd hive.

I work at a museum and curate a collection of biologic material from mammals, plants, birds, fish, and insects for genetic and molecular research.

Currently, at home, I curate almost the equivalent minus the fish. We call it Birch Fire Farm though it is really out of control hobbies and a love of all things living instead of a true farm. I may be in denial. Maybe it is a farm?

Mammalogy: There is Juneau, my first dog ever. She turns 14 this summer. My mom didn’t want me to get a dog so young (early 20s) and warned me about the vet bills. She jinxed us because that dog has been diagnosed with everything. When I don’t think she can get anything else, we are back at the vet’s office.

Then there is Adenine that is turning 11 this fall though doesn’t act her age. She keeps the house safe from s-q-u-i-r-r-e-l-s. Can’t say that out loud or she looses her shit. I think she heard me type that because she is at the front door itching to go out. Don’t worry, she has never harmed a s-q-u-i-r-r-e-l, she simply likes to stare at them in trees. For hours.

Echo is our IVF puppy that is a little over a year. It has been a long time since we have had a puppy. Her sheer joy when we go for a run together is contagious. Between the three of them, our house is always disgusting. Currently, there is newspaper on the entryway floor in an attempt to contain the springtime mud.

Then we have Maynard, our first failed frozen embryo transfer cat that we got from a friend needing to rehome him. We pretty much do as he tells us to and in exchange, he keeps my garden vole free. There is a lot of sass in that 11lb. package.

Ornithology: In a deluxe coop, we have our flock of Ancona ducks (Beakers, Serenity, Underbite, Hermes, and China) and an American Buff goose named Hoss. Our other goose, Buffy passed away this winter. We keep the ladies for eggs, and unfortunately, the males are dispatched (aka eaten) though we currently have two (Beakers and Hermes – we were confused on Hermes sex for awhile). While they are cute, it isn’t cute what too many males will do to the females. We are still working on the “no means no” with them. We also have 26 Ancona duck eggs in the incubator that should hatch the 2nd week in May. My husband needs to be reigned in on this. What the hell are we going to do with that many ducks?!?!?! Guess everyone is going to be getting eggs and duck jerky for Christmas.

Botany: Then I have my plant stand. I’m not sure how much I save by doing this or if I save anything at all by starting my garden from seed instead of buying starts, but it simply makes the snowy spring in Alaska more springish. These won’t be heading outside till June 1st. That is if we get the new garden plot ready in time. The snow needs to melt faster! We also have several birch trees tapped around the lot and are waiting for the sap to run. My husband is working with the local coop to see how it is all done. He’ll give them our sap, help process it, and then split the birch syrup with them. The first year attempting this.

Mycology: We shall see how this goes. My husband inoculated fresh-cut trees last summer. Once the snow melts, we hope to have pearl, oyster, and turkey tail mushrooms. I’m still not sure how to keep the s-q-u-i-r-r-e-l-s from them. May have to leave Ade dog out there 24/7.

Entomology: We have two hives. This year, the green hive has the New World Carniolans bees and the purple an Alaska Hybrid. This is our 2nd summer curating bees. The first year, even with a round of IVF and a double hernia surgery resulting in a neglected hive and loosing a hive, we ended up with a gallon of honey. I’m optimistic this year will be even better. We are going to even attempt to overwinter them.

Crap, the goose is stuck on the wrong side of the fence and can’t figure it out. Time to go be a farmer because according to the internet, we do indeed have a farm.

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