The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Get Crackin’ July 7, 2012

So much yet to do. The biggest item is off the list: make sure the automatic coop door opener really works. Although I bought it last year (paid for a pricey rush delivery in fact) it sat uninstalled all year long in my garage, as I just couldn’t manage to do it myself as I’d planned. Even bought a sawsall to make the cut in the wall – really, how hard could it be? As I set out I discovered, hard enough. Maybe if I’d had more practice with the saw – which was much harder to control than I’d expected – I’d have been able to cut myself a hole into which I could then install the door. But I simply couldn’t manage it. The whole project, for as simple and straight forward as it looked was too much for me to muster on my own, and in the end I hired my brother to watch over my flock as we left town for a couple of days on divorce business. (And I gave the sawsall to a kid who mowed my 5 acre lawn in trade.)

This year, having a much larger flock and hoping to go away for a much longer time, I simply had to get it installed. When I unpacked it, we discovered chimpmunks had not only filled the entire thing with corn (the industrious little fella was dead at the bottom of his own cache) but had cut both the cord that pulled the door up as well as the wiring that told it to do so. God bless this handyman that I found at random from the local Pennysaver. He fixed it. And installed it. Then, as it began to appear a task completed, the timer got knocked to the ground by the birds on the first night, and came apart in pieces. Day two of coop preparations, four days to departure. I was beginning to panic. Lower back pain had me all but immobile, and now this. Swearing like a sailor, I wrestled the pieces back together in the obscene heat of the garage. It worked, but not quite as it should have. It took two more days until we had both a successful raising of the coop door on its own as well as a successful lowering of the door. Hooray! Right? Nope.

First night it was the new guys. The chicks – who are now just about full grown chicken size, but who eat like teenagers and don’t know the routine of the mature flock quite yet – they haven’t figured out where to go at night. At dark, when all the others are high on their roosting bars, safe for the night, the younguns are in a crowded clump on the ground, huddling for safety. How else do young ones learn but to be taught? I’d thought they’d imitate the elders, but no, apparently it’s up to Elihu and me. So, one by one, Elihu puts the little guys through the tiny open door, where I then take them and place them on a roosting bar. We are teaching them. We hope. Day one it’s forced. Day two, the timer still isn’t working right, so we miss an opportunity. Day three – complete success! Out on their own in the morning, up and safe on their roosts by nightfall! And the tidy little door shut all by itself! Houston, we have liftoff!

Except for Maximus, who walks around the empty pen, waiting for us to come and talk to him. He fits through the small door just fine, but for some reason he has chosen not to follow his flock. He’d rather wait for me to come out and make my nightly check; he likes to talk to me. He gurgles and grunts low to me, follows me on my feeding and watering chores, stays ever close. “Oh Max” I cry to him in frustration. “You’re supposed to use the door too!” Maybe he needs some teaching like the little ones did. I can’t open the door or I’ll throw off its timing, so instead I open the large door with the diamond patterned window panes (Elihu called it the ‘Shirley Nelson door’ the moment he saw it cuz he said it looked ‘just like the kind of door a woman named Shirley Nelson would have in her house’.!) I pick up my soft, white goose and I carry him across the threshold, depositing him gently inside. “You must go inside with everybody else, Max” I scold. I’m happy to see the little ones have all now found their own spots on the new roosting bars. All seems well. If only the goose would go in on his own. I’m prompted to do some googling on the subject of geese and raccoons – could a raccoon, of which we have plenty, really take down my gander, attitude and all? I learn that yes, he could. So I have a goose problem still. Earlier I’d had too much testosterone in the pen, so I’d placed Bald Mountain on his own in the brooder pen for the week. Sorry, you’ll be ok big guy. It’s still a lot better than being stuck in a tiny cage for the 4H poultry show at the county fair for a week…But what to do with the goose? I’m trying to make it so that ALL my birds go in, roost and the door closes. Period. So the gal who’ll watch them has only to fill the food and water. That itself if enough of a chore. One more dilemma to solve before we go. Geez. Will we go at all? I wonder.

While I try to get every last piece of laundry folded and put away, and while I refresh my bed with a seldom-washed sheet still hot from the dryer, Elihu takes up a corner to help me make my bed as we begin to discuss the Max situation. It is clear that we cannot simply leave him outside in the pen. He will likely be gotten. The only option is our garage. Full of crap, some garbage, much of it not – in fact there are many nice things still left from my mid century life that I need to find good homes for.  But I do not want to come home in a week to find the furniture chewed on, green sloppy goose shit all over the cement floor… but what choice do we have? “Look”, Elihu begins, “it’s not a tiny garage, he’s got enough room. You just have to cover up the nice stuff and make Max his own little area. Wood shavings in that corner by the brooder pen. That’s all he needs. He’ll be fine”. Good lil man. Yes, if we doctor up that one last open bit of garage and make it his, he’ll be comfortable. Leave a fan on. He’ll be ok. And I can put up the baby gate by the door so that when our chicken sitter comes to set out food she won’t get goosed by our goose. (Sweet creature to me, to everyone else he is his master’s protector. )

All the while, my back continues to morph and shift, to become something foreign and new. I’ve had lower back episodes – one or two a year – for the past decade. I always bounced back within a week, nothing was ever any different afterward, and in fact it was all but forgotten by a month out. But this time I blew it, I guess. I went to a chiropractor. Initially , my experience was insightful and educational to a certain degree, but holy shit! That man actually did something to me! I was glad to leave my first appointment standing straight – when I’d walked in hunched over and to one side. But today it is a vastly different situation. I think I’d gladly take back my initial posture if I could get rid of this: I am now asymmetrical, my spine is twisted – as in no longer a straight line up and down – and my back sounds like jiffy pop being made on a stove… almost any movement at all and there’s a crackling sound. No pain, but the sound is new and disconcerting. And that I feel I’m a walking S is weird too. I can do stretches, breathe in deep, visualize my stretch and so forth… but nope. Nothing doin. I cannot straighten myself out. I seem to now have a new problem on top of the original one I’d come in for. !!!! I was so ready to receive this as the wholistic means of treatment and health from here forward…A practice that took into consideration the whole body, stress level,  diet, movement…but in reality it seems much more focused on simply vertabrae related ‘subluxations.’, one of which I believe the good doctor may himself have created. I know I sound a little paranoid here, but I’ve gone from a situation which though uncomfortable, was at the least, familiar, and at best, something I knew how to manage. But this popcorn popping, s – curving back is altogether new to me. What do I do with this? It’s annoying as hell! I can’t carry my bag on my left shoulder because I’m so newly outta whack. Huh? No one told men that new problems would likely pop up…. did they? Did I miss the handout?

Bed made. Kid asleep. Post slogged through, perhaps less intelligible than most, but well, it’s done. Soon I’ll update you on our itinerary. Our plans have changed so many times that to have posted updates as they occured would only confuse. This we know: I will drive us, with my new little popcorn-popping back, to the historic Mayflower II. (We’re smack in the middle of a historic kid’s book about a young boy on a whaling ship – and he speaks of my own mother’s home town, New Bedford, as if it were modern day New York City. It will be fun to see the town so described in the novel.) Yup, we’ll see the ship, then promptly ship out to visit my Uncle Paul and Aunt Sandy. Cousin Rusty seems a lot like my brother Andrew; he’s 50 and still lives at home. He slinks in and out, says very little and what he does remains mostly mystery to his family. Then there’s Janice, his younger sister and my other cousin. While younger than me, she is a grandmother. Yeeks. My paternal grandma had my dad at 45. Janice musta had hers in her late teens. Crazy. But for us, the craziest thing will be hearing ‘that accent’. We don’t often hear people who sound much different from ourselves, so it’ll be fun to be in the area and hear this local accent. Elihu will get a big kick out of it.

We have two decadent nights in Wareham, and nothing but beach and family to fill our time. Oh, and maybe a visit to the Plimouth Town Living Museum where the actors in costume speak as they did some 400 years ago, and where they don’t break character, where they serve food of the time sans utensils. That, we just might go see. Whale watching will have to wait. Money and time don’t allow it this run.

Next, our question is to return home? Or to continue west, via New Haven to New York City. My back pain will likely play a large role in this decision. We have yet to contact our NYC friends with the latest timetable, so friends, if you’re reading, please know things have been tricky. I hope that I may leave it at that and not cause hurt feelings or piss people off.  I’m also aware some may have altered plans on our account. Hope not too much. We’ll ask if you might receive us Tuesday, maybe also Wednesday night?? And Jersey friends, maybe the following two nights with you?

Little time. Lot and lots to do. I think I may even have forgotten how to pack. Hoooo – I’m woozy tired now. I’m gonna go and rest my crackin’ back so tomorrow I can start crackin’ the whip….

 

House Guest June 30, 2012

Elihu’s father is here. He arrived on Thursday, and he leaves early tomorrow. More accurately, we drive him to the airport bright and early tomorrow. Which will be a bit of a feat in that we’ve just had two Fareed-style nights ending way past midnight. I don’t try much to change it; Elihu is so happy to have both his parents in the same place that I let the evening grow later and later, knowing that soon enough it will be a tiny, quiet house again with just we two.

My back is not much better. Fareed says I look like a pregnant woman from the back when I walk. I can either hunch over forward supported by a cane, or lean way back, waddling side to side. Not much room for comfort. I’m almost out of the muscle relaxers my local doc kindly prescribed for me a couple months ago during the last back episode, but thankfully have only to wait one more day for the chiropractor. I admit, I’m putting all my hopes in him. I don’t know how I’ll manage to make our proposed trip if I don’t get better. But honestly, I don’t know how we’ll make it anyway. A few kind people have been more than generous in our travel campaign, but in spite of sending out an additional hundred emails to friends and students, we haven’t received any donations besides those first few, so I’m really wondering how this can work.

And besides, I’m beginning to feel a little sick about my open solicitation for money. Was I too honest? I am poor, but do I need to be so blatant about it? I thought if I likened the gift to the purchase of an ice cream cone it might lighten things up a bit. Now I just don’t know. Without the benefit of a live audience I have no idea how my show is going over. I see the stats and discover that people in Pakistan are reading my posts. Relatives? I think first. Might they help us out? But no – it couldn’t be. The Haques fairly swept me under the family rug when Fareed changed families. (Jill and the boys are welcomed at family gatherings, while my absence has neither been explained nor asked about.) Besides, Riaz has always been the one to send money back home – not the other way ’round. I need to just relax about this. But I can’t! Between my back and students’ summer vacation plans I’ve already lost so much income these past two months. It’s crazy. I made less than half my usual take. So now what?

I’ll ask Fareed before he leaves.  Maybe there’s a soft spot in him somewhere. And I know there’s a cushion of some sort; after all, no matter how broke he tells us that he is, he always manages to take us out to dinner, he seems to have enough for impromtu purchases, admission tickets and such, and he has enough to take a bus and a taxi if need be. Maybe he can set aside his feelings that I’m asking too much – maybe he can for a moment picture his son visiting the Mayflower, seeing a whale, visiting with kids with Achromatopsia, seeing New York City for himself. Maybe. Sometimes I feel a little pang inside when I hear that Elihu has just had another ‘first’ visit to some place significant – and that he was there without me. But I set it aside, knowing that’s not really what’s important, that such thinking is more about me than Elihu’s own benefit. But still. I realize as the parent who’s not a part of much of his son’s life, it’s gotta sting. And to help fund that kind of event – to help make it possible in the first place – that might even hurt a little. I don’t know. But just like I did with you, I gotta ask.

You know how when it rains, it pours? Been a good summer storm over here recently. Thursday night, with back out, Fareed here (oh, did I mention I got pulled over en route to the airport for speeding – then got an additional seat belt violation cuz lil man was out of his seat, having a post-dentist appointment tantrum about not wanting to get braces? Sheesh.) and heat now soaring, I discover that the pipes that evacuate my kitchen skins both ruptured at the same time, and greasy, soapy water came cascading all over my kitchen floor as I stood doing the dishes after supper. Really? Ok. I can take it. Clean it up. Call the plumber. Friday morning the plumbers came. Did a nice job. Didn’t even take long, plus they had positive anecdotal stories about chiropractors. But last night, with a profound sinking of heart, I noticed that my beautiful (remember, it’s all relative, but for me, it is beautiful) laminate ‘wood’ floor began to buckle. And not only that, but small bubbles have formed just under the laminate. Crap crap crap. I allowed myself some bitter complaints last night, but today I will try my damned best to pretend that it’s all ok, and that in fact nothing has changed. And next week I’ll figure out what to do about the $500 plumber’s bill. For now, it’s moment by moment.

I did manage to get out of bed last night to shut all the windows after the house had cooled off. That’s key. By early afternoon the heat will have caught up with the tiny house, and we may have to find a distraction someplace else, but for now it is very pleasant inside. By the time the midday heat gets a hold of the place, we’ll probably be on the way to visit the local aviation museum – which will be especially meaningful for the boys as they have been making a wooden model of a WWII plane (for the past half dozen visits!) and to see the real things will no doubt be inspiring. The air conditioning will be inspiring too, I imagine.

The roosters are crowing, and I am reminded of how hot it must be getting in the coop. I’m going to go and let them out for the day – and this time, rather than keeping them behind their newly installed fence (the original culprit behind this wave of back trouble), I will in fact let them have the run of the place. Much cooler shade to be had in the trees, more cool grass and tasty bugs as well. So off I go, hopefully finding distraction in this and other domestic tasks so that the bubbling kitchen floor doesn’t grab a hold of me as it did last night. I’ll put the rug back. That should help.

Just wish my other concerns were as easy to remedy as throwing down a rug or seeing a house guest off on the plane.

 

Travel Campaign link:

http://www.gofundme.com/q1ke4

 

Back, Soon Forth June 27, 2012

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Mommy Mind — wingmother @ 4:17 am
Tags: , ,

This current episode with my back going out hasn’t wrapped itself up as tidily as it always had in the past. Normally after about a week I’d be back to my old self. Not so this time; I am left with a constant, low grade pain which still makes getting in and out of chairs something of an event. Having been given so very many recommendations by folks to visit a chiropractor, I finally made an appointment to see one this week. Chiropractors have always been sort of a mystery to me – I see their signs all over; quaint little offices in small, once residential houses, practices tucked away in obscure strip malls, nestled in between insurance agencies and tax preparers’ offices in dingy, outdated buildings… seeming, in my eyes at any rate, to be perched on the perimeter of the ‘real’ medical community, doing who-knows-what in those out-of-the-way little offices, a laying on of hands, grotesque crackling sounds emanating from the patient at the final torturous alignment…

In this moment I still see a chiropractor’s office as a strange, mysterious nether world floating somewhere between Western and Eastern medicine and having something of a cult-ish quality to it. This interpretation is all of my own doing, I know, and I’m not even sure why I feel this way. It might stem from my mom. She is the queen of back problems. I asked her if she’d ever been to one. She told me that she hadn’t, and it was precisely because she was concerned it might be a painful and unpleasant experience. I seem to remember her nay-saying the profession a time or two in my growing up, so maybe that’s it… So I admit it, I don’t get it yet – but obviously many, many people do get it; they do know how important a good chiropractor is. In two days’ time I’ll have a new perspective on it. I’m hoping it will be the start of something good. At least I’m being proactive. Yeah, and I’ll also do some crunches once I’m able. This whole thing has me a little more concerned about keeping myself in shape, healthy and pain free. From here forward I’m going to have to be much more mindful of how I use my body.

My immediate goal is to recover my strength enough to make a 1000 mile car trip in July with Elihu. He’s yet to meet some relatives – and he and I have yet to ever take a vacation in fact. Vacations weren’t something my family ever did when I was growing up, nor did I ever do so with my husband (we traveled along with the concerts and festivals. Lovely as it was, it was never a true vacation. Early sound checks and late night jam sessions do not a vacation make). This summer, Elihu is nine and I believe a fine age in which to meet his relatives, take his first dip in the Atlantic, meet some other folks with Achromatopsia – and finally see that big city downstate that he’s heard so much about. ! (As a musician I played NYC fairly frequently – and that was when I was living in Chicago. Now I actually live in New York – but I still haven’t been there. In fact, I haven’t been to the city since Elihu was born. Having kids sure does change all that.)

I need to get myself well and strong, because, as you see, I have an important trip to make. One I do not intend to back out of. Lead on, to the chiropractor’s…

 

Back at It Again June 21, 2012

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Farm Life — wingmother @ 9:37 am
Tags: , , ,

Can’t say I’ve actually thrown my back out again; there was no one event which landed me on the ground in a lightening flash of pain, but rather this time it’s been gradual. Each day my back has been springing up in pain at a certain twisting or bending point culminating in a situation today which has me unable to sit in any one position for long or pick anything of substance off the ground.

I know, I know. Core muscles. Yes, got it. I spend so much time fixing things and doing chores and taking care of chickens and kids that it just hasn’t made it into the daily routine. But I know, I know. I should floss, meditate and do sit ups. Yeah. Not quite there. But with this being event number three in the back department in as many months, I’m seriously thinking about a couple of reps in the morning. Doesn’t sound so intimidating. Not when the alternative is walking around bent over like a humpback octogenarian.

I did get a fair amount of work done this week as I slowly worked my back into submission. After having driven eight fence posts into rocky soil (Greenfield is notorious for being very hard to dig in) and having put up some 120 linear feet of chicken wire – complete with working gate – my body was feeling it, but not so much my back specifically. So with no red flags, I continued my work. My new fence was not the success I’d thought it to be when I made my up-beat post about DIY pride. Yes, it was up, no it did not keep the hens in. Oh, initially it did. For about an hour or two. When they first realized their confinement they lined up at the perimeter, staring out at my with big ‘love me’ eyes, pleading to be released. As I would not help them, they helped themselves. Within a couple of hours everyone save Max (too big to squeeze under) was out and about, underfoot and leaving fresh poop all over my front steps once again. This required the big guns. Our neighbor and his dad have a homemade mill, and they were kind enough to not only cut some scraps for me, but to deliver them. Zac even placed the big ones neatly along the bottom of the fence where they were intended. I simply placed down the rest. Not much labor, but again enough to begin to tip the scales.

My hens were now contained – a huge advance for us and one step closer to getting out of here this summer – yet I had more before me. I’d made nesting boxes last fall but petered out of DIY steam and left them on the floor of the coop for the winter. Tired of waiting for some handyman to come to the rescue (this is a busy time and none will take my piddly little jobs. Very frustrating.) I decided I’d just do it myself. So I screwed on some L brackets, then hoisted the shelf up and above my waist – oh oh, it’s getting dicey, I can feel it…  Out-of-shape muscles shuddered to hold it in place while I leaned in with my drill and tried to get them secured to the wall. I did it, and it was something that had to be done. But I do think that was the moment when my back had had enough. I noticed I was unable to stand up straight after that project.

A few more chores later – several trips carrying two five-gallon buckets of water down the hill to the garden, beginning to shovel the year’s poop and litter out of the coop (heavy stuff), washing the grimy walls of my house that face the driveway, moving all the unused tools back to the garage – after these tasks and more, my back has finally had it. Slept last night on a heating pad despite the fact that it was 85 degrees in my bedroom. Felt better this morning, so I know I’m on the right track. And I’ve just about accomplished all that I can do myself. So in the end, it was worth it. I’m used to muscling through things, but what I’m not used to is a body that doesn’t follow my lead. I never thought aging would get in my way. Getting older is for other people, right? Reading glasses? Those are for wimpy mamby pambies… and me. Who can’t open a jar? Can you imagine arthritis so bad that you can’t even do that? Well, yes. I can.

Ah, mortality. I still don’t get it; that I too am being swept down the river. I too am aging. My body is simply not able to plow through life’s tasks without a bit more TLC. Damn. Really? Me too? There must be some mistake. Right? As I make the merest shift in my seat while sitting here, writing, a searing mass of pain stabs at me from out of nowhere, reminding me that it’s all true. Crap. Still so much to do, but alas, I just don’t think I can do it today. I have students coming later; I need to make sure I’m doing ok by the time they arrive. Elihu can amuse himself with his rc helicopters and books, so I suppose the best thing I can do right now is accept my mortality…

…and go back to bed.