Friday Farm Functionals: Trolls Revisited

I didn't have as much disposable income as I would like (though I know that none of my readers can relate to that). So, to satisfy my troll cravings, I ended up buying two little garden gnomes on ebay. They are really adorable. I'm having a very difficult time figuring out where the camera batteries are stashed in the new house, so I'll just have to describe them as quite adorable, five inches tall, and very beardy. The one, whom I have named, "Suspicious Dude," is smiling really big, but also looking sideways at the other, adorably unaffected garden gnome.

Someday, my giant troll will come

*10/31 edit: got a picture!

The Ukrainian Mr. Bean

Miss Tamika had the flue today, and Miss Ruthie with the Gold Tooth fell down the stairs and sprained her ankle, and the old house just must be cleaned up for sale, and that just couldn't be done with Little Z around, so that was how I ended up calling Nataliya and asking if her mother could babysit.

Nataliya's mother does daycare as her main occupation, but there are a few reasons why she is last on our list:

1. She lives too far away.
2. She charges an arm and a leg.
3. She speaks Ukrainian, Russian, Italian, and French, but no English.

Other than that, she's the most fabulous babysitter who ever lived. Just ask her daughter,

"Mom, she is so wonderful, you would not believe it. You truly would not believe! She gets them to eat the vegetables, we have people who say 'my son has never eaten a vegetable' and she gets them to, you wouldn't believe it... and the potty, she gets them to go on the potty... and the-"

"But she speaks no English? Doesn't that make it hard to communicate with the children?"

"Oh, she is so good with them. They understand her, she understands them. We have Russian speaking children, English speaking children, they all understand each other. She is just so wonderful with children! She loves the children."

So, today, we rang her up. I dropped her off with a few instructions, given through Nataliya, who was home and speaks English. When I left her, Little Z was happily playing with Nataliya's son and mother. All appeared well.

I called half-way through the day. Again, Nataliya was home, and all was well.

When I went to pick her up, Nataliya was not home anymore.

Now, when I used to read my spy stories, and the two spies from different countries didn't speak each others' native languages, but they both spoke French, their conversations went like this,

"The drop-off protocol has been changed. The entourage will now correlate with delta code 335-2."
"The drop-off has been delayed. Can we locate the target?"

The conversation between me and Nataliya's mom went a little differently. It was a bit more Me Talk Pretty One Day by Dave Sedaris than, well, like anyone who could actually speak French. I can't really re-create our conversation in English. To sum up our problem: both of us mix up French with other languages- I mostly with Spanish and she with I have no idea what. I did find out, however, that Little Z did not nap, did not poop, ate lots of apples from the apple tree out back, and that she is a very good girl.

Then, Nataliya's mom handed me a digital camera, and said, "Zelma photo." I looked at the pictures on the camera, and there were about thirty of Little Z having the freakin time of her life in the back yard there, playing with Nataliya's son. She was so happy in the pictures that I worried for a moment she would not ever let me take her home again.

Satisfied that I had looked at the photos, Nataliya's mom went back to playing with Little Z, and I found out that Nataliya wasn't kidding; the children really do understand everything she wants them to do. This is because Nataliya's mom is a female, Ukrainian version of Mr. Bean. She gestured, she made funny faces, she grunted, and Little Z understood her perfectly. Little Z pointed to a farm toy on the floor, "farm".

"Farm," Nataliya's mom repeated after Little Z, as she pointed to the plastic toy farm animals.
"Farm," said Little Z again.
"Farm," said Nataliya's mom.

I don't know who was teaching whom. They both looked quite pleased with themselves.

Nature's first green is gold...

... and so is her last.

"Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost is the only poem I have unintentionally memorized. I just loved it so much and read it so many times that I don't have to see the print anymore. I also have a recording of Robert Frost reading it, which I listen to sometimes.

I love fall. It's my favorite season. It's all about death, isn't it? and what's not to love about that?

"The bridge is out!"

It's Sunday morning, Little Z and I are upstairs getting dressed, and I hear this frantic,

"The bridge is out!" from TLBP, just before he runs out the door.

Holy crap! The bridge is out? How does he know this? Where is he going? Is he going to fix it?

I look out the window as I hustle Z down the stairs- the bridge is fine.

Damn. I'm so unobservant. There must be another bridge. I can't believe this crap. Images of TLBP and neighbors (there are two houses up the drive) fixing a bridge, frantically, before our house floats away come into my mind.

Z is taking her time, as usual.

"We have to put our shoes and coats on!" I entreat her, "The bridge is out! We have to go help Daddy!" She smiles lazily,

"Sweater? Boots? Boots! Boots!" and tries to put on my boots.

We finally make it out the door, with proper boots and coats on for helping to mend a bridge that's out. TLBP is outside, raking rocks. The sun is shining. He is smiling the smile of happy farm livin'.

"Which bridge is out?" I ask him.

"Bridge? What bridge?"

"You said, 'the bridge is out,' and then you ran out the door!"

"No, no! I said, 'It's gorgeous out!' Isn't it gorgeous out? The weatherman said it would be rainy and cold today, but it's just gorgeous out! So sunny! Not a cloud in the sky."

More Possible Farm Names- some serious, some silly

Immobile Valley [Started out as "Wandering Valley," but TLBP said, "It's not going anywhere."]

Hidden Valley Ranch [A true description of the place but, sadly, I believe I have heard that name before.]

Land of Lilliput

Robot Ranch

The Old Sutter Place [This is its true name, at the moment, as in, "you bought the old Sutter place, didn't you?" and "This is the old Sutter place, isn't it?]

Pueblo East [But it's not actually a town.]

Angry Acres

Sprouting Acres II (not affiliated with Sprouting Acres)


Blind Bend

Mediocre Meadows

Mucky Meadows [another accurate description]

Dead Beetle Valley [still another accurate description]

Mine [Little Z's contribution]

Helmet Helm

Vila Lite

At this point in the evening, I started reading Shel Silverstein's A Light in the Attic, which I noticed was actually dedicated to me- this may have influenced a few names-

Hiccup Farm

Whatif Farm

Endless Songs

Strange Wind [I can hear the flatulence jokes already]


Wild Barbazzoop

Moon Catch

Feel free to add to the list!

Good Cake

My *great-grandparents on my dad's side, 1966.

Some cakes don't lie.

* This is the Swedish grandmother of, "Ve moste fatten you up!" fame, I think- or was that her mother?

The Witch's Broom


I've recently figured out (like, in the past two years) that I don't see grays and browns like other people do. I seem to be gray/ brown color blind, if you will.

It makes me kind of wonder, what else don't I see the same as other people?

And then I came across this XKCD comic, which says exactly what I was thinking:

(Click to make it BIG.)

Which, if you think about it a little bit too much, actually illustrates exactly the opposite of my point, because if someone else out there was thinking the exact same thing about the world as I was, then maybe I really don't see the world all that differently.

And I thought, for just a moment there, that I was so special. (sigh)

Friday Farm Functionals: Barn Mural and a Name for the Farm

Everywhere I go around here, I see decorative barns.

These ones aren't the actual- when we're done moving and settling in, perhaps I'll get around to taking pictures of the ones I've seen. My favorite has a half-rusted roof made of red, white, and blue sheet metal, with some stars. Such a piece of Americana.

Our barn (aka the Organic Machine House) is white.

Perhaps we should paint our roof in a Swedish flag and name the farm, "Not Quite Sweden". Or... or... or...?

A nihilist is born

Graffiti on a desk in a seventh grade math classroom:

"The cake is a lie."

I'm fascinated by how much of the graffiti I see is not pornographic or obscene, or even offensive in any way. This one makes me wonder, "what cake?" I like the ones that make me wonder. I see a class in my mind, disappointed by a lack of cake, and as the students protest loudly, one quiet girl in red scrapes into her desk, "The cake is a lie." From that day on, she wears only black. Every day now, she sees through the veil of lies to the truth of it all: all cakes are lies. All truths are lies. It's all just one, big, stinking lie. So nothing matters, just like the cake that never was. You might as well bake a cake every day, or bake no cakes at all. What's the big deal with cakes, anyway? She'll go on feeling like this until she turns thirteen and discovers Hermann Hesse.

That old car smell

I had the pleasure of driving TSBP's little old convertible to work today (due to some moving-related logistics). It had the greatest smell. The smell of that car just brought me back, you know? I know you can buy that "New Car" smell in the form of a little tree to hang off of your rear view mirror, but why don't they sell "Old Car" smell? My New Beatle just doesn't smell old enough.

Blow Up Mattresses Rock

We moved the mattress over the weekend. We're taking a very slow, gradual approach to moving, doing a load every day in the car, moving furniture when we can.
We have a queen-sized mattress. We also have a really low ceiling on the new stairway, and the stairway turns. The housing inspector commented on the super-low ceiling and I did not understand the problem. We aren't terribly tall people. But...

When we moved the mattress up the stairs, it was INSANELY DIFFICULT! I pushed and pulled with all my might, TLBP pushed with all his might, and it would move about a quarter of an inch up. Sometimes, it would slide back down. It just got wedged in that corner with the low ceiling. We were stuck. It was horrible. We said horrible things to each other. We had a horrible, screaming conversation on the stairway, wedged between the mattress and the wall,

"*%#@ing PUSH!"
"I AM PUSHING, #@$* #@&* ****!"
"Well, $@%^&& ^&%$## #%@$%% HARDER!"
"%*$# *&(&% *(&(*&$ $#@"

So, you get the picture. Z was at daycare. (I should say, too, that we just talk like this. We never hurt each other's feelings in such ridiculous exchanges. It's just creative on-site motivation therapy.)

Eventually, we just got it up those stairs, a teensy little bit at a time. (I think the cursing helped.) But I warn you, oh friends and relatives: when you come to visit with your lover, you'll be sleeping in matching twin beds! Another large mattress is not going up that stairway. Either that, or it will be an inflated air mattress. How do you feel about blow up mattresses?

Friday Farm Functionals: Flannel Lined Pants

"Avoid ventures which require purchasing new clothing." -Henry David Thoreau

Not that we really need new clothing, mind you. We want new clothing. So, we needn't avoid our venture- but maybe we should avoid the new clothing? I don't know. It's so nice.

Little Z has two pairs of fleece lined pants that her Grandma Kathleen got for her. She wears them a lot. They look so darned comfy! So, when Lands End catalogue came to our new house (first mail! yay!), and it had flannel lined denim pants for him and her, well, you know. We've just got to have them! I mean, we live in Wisconsin, we go outside. It just follows that we need them, right?

The mail catalogue had options for an elastic waste band and stretch or traditional fabric. I'm not an elastic girl, myself, but I appreciate the option. Truthfully, though, I probably won't get them. I never spend more than $20 on pants, simply because I always find the best ones at thrift stores for around $5.

That's where I got my old wool pants. I used to have some wool pants that I wore snowshoeing. Those were the best, warmest pants ever. I got rid of them after I lived in sunny Pueblo too long. I regret it. They were a bit too tight, too, but I've lost weight since then. Darn. I could still be wearing them!

This is the dilemma of stuff, isn't it? Whenever I move, or just randomly, I decide I have too much stuff, and I get rid of stuff- but then, sometimes, I miss the stuff, you know?

Should we get pants? Vote!

The Doll House

My favorite toy as a child was most definitely my doll house. Though I would share it, when asked to, I definitely preferred to play with it alone. It was my own little fantasy world which I did not want to share.

I recall an argument with my best friend, Nikki. I didn't like going to play with Timmy, because he was a boring, whiny little brat, and the only reason anyone liked him was because he had a whole garage full of toys to play with. I refused to go over there on principal. Nikki insisted that I didn't understand, because I had so many toys. I was spoiled, myself, like Timmy.

"I'm not spoiled!" I protested.
"You have a doll house," said Nikki, and gave me her cruel, evil eye. Her sister, Shana, sat next to her as her yes-girl,
"Yeah, you have a doll house!" she accused. I couldn't deny it, could I?

I think- though my memory is hazy- that I got the dollhouse for Christmas in 1977, when I was three. I've always had the impression that my dad built it from a kit or a pattern of some sort, but I'm not sure. I do know that it was a lot of trouble to get it. The furniture of the dollhouse was partly store bought, partly made of thick paper by my then Uncle, David. (Lou and he later divorced and now she's married to Bucky.) We all lived together in a flat in San Francisco around that time. (I have fond memories of hanging on Uncle David's arms- he would pretend that they stretched out. Then he would give me government cheese to eat, which I loved.)

Surprisingly, the paper furniture is still very serviceable. The refrigerator door has been retaped a few times, but the range is in fine shape.

The television, I'm sorry to say, has seen better days. The best part about the TV was that you could put little people inside of it, and pretend your dollhouse people were on TV.

The couch is in excellent condition. It is perhaps a prediction of my past-future self that my dollhouse had two pianos: an upright and a baby grand.

Over the years, many dollhouse people came and went. There were the initial plastic people, with their inexplicable doppelganger cookie monsters. There was that Chinese family- they kept to themselves, mostly. (I'm not sure they spoke English.) They enjoyed sitting on the couch, as they were the only members with bendable limbs. Then there was the mailman, who disappeared inexplicably, but left his mailcar as a sad reminder. Currently, there's an out of work construction worker and his pet crocodile. Elvis is enjoying a second career as a babysitter in the nursery upstairs (although he hasn't changed his clothes yet for the occasion) and Gumby and Pokey showed up a few years ago, apparently finding our house a nice retirement home. There is one Chinese Grandma still lingering, though unfortunately Little Z stuffed her in the coat closet yesterday.

Which brings me to the latest chapter of the Doll House Saga: Little Z is now allowed to play with the doll house. We just moved it to the new house, and I took all of the dollhouse people out of my tote bag and introduced her to them, one by one. Then I left her alone to play.

When I peaked in on her, she was potty-training the little plastic baby. Then she pet the crocodile.

Friday Farm Functionals: 7,000-Lb. Capacity 4-Post Auto Lift/ Storage Lift or Buck Dollars is responsible for my unnecessary tool addiction

This whole "farm functionals" thing has a history that began with our visit to my Aunt Lou and Uncle Buck Dollars in April. While we were there, visiting, the Dollars' family were kind to us, and even let us use their toilets for our personal needs. In the mens toilet, I later learned, there was a certain reading material, the "Northern Tool + Equipment Catalog". Its presence there could be explained by Uncle Buck being something of a mechanical genius who takes apart and repairs player pianos- probably not the specific group of people the Northern Tool Catalog had in mind, but anywho.

TLBP did mention, "Bucky has a great catalog!" while we were visiting; I didn't realize the extent of it until we received one in the mail. I almost threw it in the trash immediately, because that's what I do. Then, I noticed it had TLBP's name on it, and decided to give it to him and have him throw it away. Once he got home and I told him I was going to throw it away, he was appalled to the point that I think he briefly lost faith in all of womankind. This, he assured me, was the catalog to end all catalogs! He had ordered it intentionally! How, how, how could I even consider throwing it away? And how much of his other mail did I habitually throw away, by the way?

Hopefully he will forgive me before the end of time. In the meanwhile, we have fun looking through the Northern Tool Catalog while Little Z plays in the bathtub each night. And this is where I got the idea to have my, "Farm Functionals" each week. Every night, TLBP comes up with a new thing that we "need for the farm,"

"We need this for the outbuilding! Just think how many cars we could store with this! We could get five of them!" I'm just as enthusiastic,

"We could buy seven of them and store fourteen cars in the organic machine house!"

What, you might ask, were we talking about? Why, a 7,000-LB Capacity 4-Post Auto Lift/ Storage Lift, of course. This way, you can raise one car up and store another underneath it! Or, you could raise seven cars up and store seven more underneath them! It's absolutely fantastic! And only $1999.99! Free shipping!

So what do you think, fellow minions? Should we buy a few?

Love, Mom

On my Aunt Lou's latest blog post about Australia (which is interesting, BTW), there's a slightly confusing comment from "Anonymous" which is signed, "Love, Mom." The tone is definitely not that of my Grandma Ruth, and upon rereading it, I decided it must be Aunt Lou's mother-in-law, speaking to her son as though he wrote the blog post. At least, I think that is what's going on.

I have a horrible idea! The next time I want to make a comment on a blog, but I don't want anyone to know it was me, I'll do it anonymously and sign it, "Love, Mom."

"When I read this, it makes me wonder if breast-feeding you for seven years was really the right decision. Love, Mom."

"Sometimes I wonder why this blog is even here. Bless your heart. Love, Mom."

But what would PETA say?

A unique form of protest!

This farmer is shooting milk at police from a cow's udder. I know you can see that, I just thought I would confirm it for you!

He is in Brussels, protesting the low price of milk. Read the article and see the entire, uncropped picture here.

Other People's Stories, Part 6 of ?: Life and Death in the Migrant Worker Camp

I guess I flubbed some details on the last story, but this one I'm pretty sure of. I've heard it several times. In any case, if I do mess it up, the teller of the story is dead, so I guess he won't be telling me I'm wrong... (It'll make for another interesting blog post if he does, though.)

This is not a funny story.

My Grandpa Alvin was born in 1912, which means he came of age right around 1930. He grew up speaking both Spanish and English in El Paso, Texas. (In English, he always said certain Spanish/ English cognates, like "marijuana", with a Spanish pronunciation. I found it endearing.) Alvin bore a very strong resemblance to Henry Fonda, which always lent this story a very "Grapes of Wrath" vision in my mind. He used to tell the same stories over and over, with no worries about if anyone was actually listening. I was always listening. The story goes like this:

Once, in the 30's, when he really needed work, Alvin joined a group of Mexican migrant workers picking fruit.

He knew somehow that this was a bad idea. He knew that they didn't like outsiders. So, he kept a low profile. He tried not to talk too much, so they wouldn't notice his Texas accent. He only made one sort of friend in the few days he worked with them.

This one friend came to Alvin's tent on the third night he worked, late, and said,

"Some of the group have been talking, and they know you aren't Mexican. Tomorrow, they are planning on killing you."

Grandpa Alvin made a quick and quiet departure from the migrant worker camp.

Other People's Stories, Part 5 of ?: "Cocaine"

My Dad, unlike most hippies, leads a second life as a successful country and western musician.* He plays steel guitar.

Years ago, probably in the late 1980's or early 1990's, he played a gig at a high school prom. The band he was with was a country band, but everyone in it could play all sorts of music, so when the kids at the prom didn't seem so into the country, they switched over to rock. The high school principal had chosen a country band in order to keep things under control, so it was not much to the principal's liking when the band veered off into that wild rock n' roll territory. Things really came to a head when the band played the old Eric Clapton hit, "Cocaine." They completely rocked the house. By the end of the song, the entire junior and senior high school class was screaming, "She's all right, she's all right, she's all right, COCAINE!"

They were never invited back.

*And he's probably lost fifty pounds since that picture on his web page was taken. Get a new picture, Dad!

Later Edit: See b0b's comments here for the real story.


It all went off without any real hitches- or, rather, about a dozen hurdles were thrown in our path, but nothing dissuaded us. In short, we bought the farm, and we're still alive!

My favorite room, although I wouldn't actually want to spend time there, is the root cellar. When we looked at the house, it was full of onions the size of melons, and jars and jars of preserves. Now it's waiting to see what we bring:

And every farm needs that back door with the rickety painted wood stairs and the coat hooks:

Although I didn't catch it on film- I ran and got Little Z to show her, first- there was still one hummingbird today, a late traveller. This is the view from the dining room:

The sellers called this, "The Machine Building," but we have no machines in it, so it is currently unnamed. Any ideas, Minions?

I got sick to my stomach late last night. It was almost like I was a kid again who had too much excitement.

Now we begin the tedious task of moving. I'm sure it's worth it, though! I feel as though I have gotten away with a crime, almost, to live in such a place.

Friday Farm Functionals: A Troll

When I lived in Sweden for a year when I was seventeen, my host father there was a lumberjack. When he drank a lot of vodka- which was, admittedly, fairly often- he liked to tell stories about trolls and fairies whom he met in the forest, during his wanderings. Sometimes, when he took me out skiing in the forest, he would suddenly point to a tree trunk and say, "Did you see it? Ah, you were too slow."

Although a troll really isn't that functional on a farm, I think there are things you have only because they bring you joy. And the area is full of them, too. It's one of those things where, when in Rome, have trolls. I don't want a big troll per se. Maybe just a little one to guard the door. A local lady makes them for around $90. I suppose that's $90 that could be spent on much more important things, but then, that doesn't change the fact that I want a troll, now does it?

By the way, today is the day we actually buy the farm, if all goes according to plan. Cross your fingers!


We did what they call the "final walk through" of the new house in the country this evening, and it is so nice. There was a kind note on the table from the sellers, the sort of note that I would like to leave someone, someday. It listed what sorts of fish were in the stream that runs through it, even! And the names of all the neighbors, little tidbits about them, and how to recognize them (which cars they drive). There were the names of some people who like to hunt on the land, saying they would probably contact us soon. They told us the kinds of native grasses they planted in the pasture. Strangely, they didn't mention who planted the huge crop of corn or when they would come and clear it, but maybe they will tell us, tomorrow.

Gosh, it's nice. Fish in the stream, even. The whole thing is sort of like when you find a twenty dollar bill in your pocket that you completely forgot was there, only on a much larger scale.

It all seems incredibly under priced. Hm...

There was this door in the basement... *TLBP remembered it being in one spot, but then it was in a different spot this time... maybe this is like the House of Leaves... maybe that's why it's so cheap?

Nah. It's just nice.

*Tender Lovin' Banjo Player