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D is for Determination

determinationLately things have been standing in my way of my goals, objectives and dreams. I’ve felt like curling up in ball, crying and drowning myself in a pool of chocolate. Fortunately, I haven’t  been able to find a vat of chocolate big enough in which to submerge myself.  Also, my mama taught me that the only real thing standing between me and a dream is me.  In order to achieve what you set out to do, you have to take steps toward that goal.

A friend asked me the other day how I was able to get the things done I say I’m going to do.  It’s been a long road of discovery.  The first and hardest lesson was not to over commit myself.  When I was a kid, my brother dated a girl who always told me she was going to do things with me, take me to lunch, go see a movie, cut my hair, etc. She NEVER followed through.  It hurt me to the core. I remember talking to Mama about it and I told her that I would never promise someone that I would do something and not do it.  That’s been a hard oath to fulfill, but I try.  One thing is for certain, if I tell a kid I’m going to do something, I do it.

When I was teaching high school, I would promise my class that if everyone passed the test, I’d make them cookies. I can’t tell you how many times I was up at 3 AM baking. I’d made a bargain. The students studied (or cheated, who knows?) and everyone passed the test. I  had to hold up my end of the bargain.

Over the years, I’ve come to understand my limitations. I learned not to give all the classes tests on the same day, or the same week for that matter. I learned to make cookie dough on the weekend when I had free time. I’d freeze the dough and bake the cookies when I needed them.

I’ve also learned to set realistic goals. For example, the likelihood of me climbing Mount Everest, or the hill to my upper field, is nonexistent. The likelihood of me cooking a four-course, gourmet dinner for my mother’s birthday is very high. I know my skills. I know my abilities and I know my willingness to do certain things. There’s no way in the world I’m going to read the owner’s manual of my new camera. Just not going to happen.  I will take the camera out, play with it and learn how to use it.  Will I know everything it is capable of doing? Nope. Do I care? Nope. I’m not going to be taking action shots at a football game anytime soon. I’ll use it for things I want to use it for. If the need arises for those action shots, then I’ll read up on how to use the camera for them.

cat determiniationWhat is a realistic goal for me, isn’t realistic for others. When I told my parents that I wanted to write a book, my dad smiled and my mother gasped in horror.  I had no idea how to write a novel, but I knew how to write. I’d taught English for years and written scores of grant applications (great works of fiction.) This was a realistic goal for me. For my mother? No way. She can’t even write a sentiment on a birthday card. If she’s feeling particularly effusive, she’ll write: happy, happy birthday.

My current goal is to finish the urban fantasy I’m writing, Loch Lonnie.  My 14 year old cat got cancer and required a great deal of care. Then, he died. (Yes, I’m still in mourning.) My computer crashed and I lost 2 weeks of work. (No lectures of backing up documents, please. I’m an idiot and didn’t do it as often as i should have.) I broke my kneecap, which is now probably going to result in the need for surgery. Livestock has gotten ill and required a great deal of care.  Other farm issues have required attention. Organizations I belong to have had a great deal of infighting and drama.  I haven’t written in weeks. But you know what? Even though all those things have happened, the only reason that book isn’t finished is because I haven’t written. It’s me standing in my own way, nothing else.

Sure, those are legitimate excuses, but the bottom line is the only way Loch Lonnie is going to be finished is if I sit down and write. Mama was right. I’m determined to get the first draft of the book finished by the end of this year.  And you know what? I will.

If it is to be, it is up to me.

Simple as that.



Best Advice Ever

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. It’s an erotica blog and you see pictures of pigs and get somewhat squeamish. I promise it’s nothing that disgusting, but it is “the rest of the story” the bit that couldn’t be shared on my other blog.  So, just go with me and enjoy my attempt at assisting a sow farrow.

Last fall, my mother very innocently said she’d like to “buy a few animals for the farm.”  Who am I to deny my mama, right?

We did some research and decided we wanted to purchase heritage breed animals–animals that were used a hundred years ago, but due to commercial farming were nearly bred out of existence.  Farmers bred animals for their specific features and ended up with different breeds that would have larger litters, grow faster, be weaned earlier, etc.  in order to make bigger profits. It makes sense, but we wanted to concentrate on those original animals, the animals that were deemed threatened or critical by the American Livestock Conservancy.

We got some books, did some reading and visited a friend’s farm. That’s all it takes, right? Shoot, we have 120 acres of prime Ozark clay and rock. We read how it was done, what else could a person possibly need to do!

Back in October, my other brother Darryl and I drove to Missouri to purchase a breeding quad of Ozark Mulefoot hogs. They are the sweetest things you’ll ever   sm14 sm16 sm28  meet.  Jed, Ava, Clementine and Ellen May.  Clementine gave birth in April with no mishaps or problems at all. She had five, fat, adorable babies. Oh goodness. So very, very cute!  Things were going great. We anxiously awaited the arrival of Ellen May’s litter.

Ellen May decided to be difficult. Well, I’m sure she decided she was going to go up into the woods and have her babies in peace, but we decided she needed our help.  Yeah, right. Help. The scene from Gone with the Wind about “I don’t know nothing about birthing no babies” kept running through my mind. As if I knew how to assist a sow give birth.

I knew the signs that she was about to go into labor. She was hanging out by herself, and after becoming getting increasingly intimate with her, I determined that she was lactating.  Sows give birth approximately twelve hours after they start to lactate. Of course, I had no idea when she actually started lactating. It could have been that very second, four hours previously, or as I’d hoped eleven and a half hours previously.

Like a good Mulefoot, she had made a nice nest in the woods. We didn’t want her to give birth on top of the ridge because a HUGE rainstorm was heading our way. The piglets getting wet and chilled would mean their deaths, not to mention the fact that the hillside where she was residing always ends up in the creek at the bottom of the holler. Didn’t want piglets in the creek.

So, Ma and I go to work. We try every way possible to get Ellen May to the shed. Food, prodding, Oreos, nada, nothing would lure her from her nesting area. So, I go to the shed, load my Subaru with a ton of hay and head back up the hill to give her some bedding. By the time I got to the top of the hill, Ellen May had decided to go to the shed. I go back to the shed, unload the hay and get her settled. She ate a nice dinner and all was well. Until, she headed straight back to her nest. After at least three hours of running up and down that damn hillside, we decided she was going to stay there and we’d check on her first thing in the morning.

I do NOT do mornings. Arising before 7 a.m. goes against every fiber of my being, unless I’m going fishing or there’s an amorous man lying next to me. Well, I was up by 6 and headed to the hog pen. Of course, Ellen May wasn’t in the shed. I unplugged the fence and drove to the upper ridge where she’d been the night before. I spotted her, called Ma on the two-way radio and climbed through the fence.

There was a weak, squirmy little piglet lying in the middle of the woods.  I picked him up, cleaned him off and took him to Ellen May. When Ma arrived, I scoured the woods looking for more babies. Nothing.  I plopped next to Ellen May wondering what was going on. Was she still in labor?  As I sat there, a squealing piglet emerged from a pile of leaves. I quickly grabbed it and took him to his mama. Then, I scoured the woods one more time. Then, another. It’s an acre and a half lot, but it’s all uphill. I figure if it were flat, it would be the equivalent to 90 acres. I covered the hillside twenty times as Mama sat with Ellen May.  Surely she wasn’t finished giving birth. There were only two piglets.

I ran to the house and grabbed those books. Ma and I sat in the rain and read everything we could find. I went to every website known to pigdom, trying to figure out what we should do.  Yes, I know now, we should’ve stayed up with her all night. So, please don’t lecture me on that. Lesson learned!!

As we sat there, watching Ellen May, we saw no signs of labor. I ran to the house and called the vet. The earliest anyone could get out here was 3 p.m. We had to do something. We reread all the books and the information I printed out from various websites. Finally, it came the time that we knew what we had to do. One of us had to go in.

Another read of Kelly Klober’s Dirt Hog yielded the best advice I’ve ever heard. “Never put your hand in to a pig’s dry vagina.”  Another trip to my house. I grabbed latex gloves. Then, I had to figure out what lube should be used. Astroglide has sugar in it and can lead to yeast infections. I quickly discarded it because I had no idea how I could tackle Ellen May and administer a dose of plain yoghurt into her privates. That left some Kama Sutra stuff, but it was scented and I didn’t think that would work either. Then, I saw the bottle of Wet Platinum and I wasn’t about to use a $40 bottle of lube on a hog. I was somewhat disconcerted by the fact that I had so many bottles of lubricant.

Back when I was in junior high, I was reading an issue of Cosmo while my cousin was getting it on with some guy in the other room.  The article was about the use of Vaseline as a lubricant. I had no idea what that meant, but I can assure you reading the words that the use of Vaseline could result in it turning “rancid in the vagina” left a lasting impression. Vaseline has NEVER been near my lady bits.

The thought of a pig having a rancid vagina wasn’t pleasant either, but my options were either taking a tub of Vaseline to the hillside or showing up with a bag full of various lubes and asking my mother which would would do the trick. I chose to risk Ellen May going rancid.

Back to the hillside. I climbed through the fence and sat next to Ma and Ellen May.  I thought discovering whether or not she was lactating was a bit personal. Trust me, that was nothing.

I’ll spare you the gory details, but Ellen May was done. We had two piglets.

I can’t for the life of me imagine that I would’ve tried to inspect Ellen May without using some sort of lubrication, but reading Kelly Klober’s words not only made me laugh, hysterically, during a very tense moment, they saved me from doing something stupid. Well, something else stupid. Why on earth I didn’t stay with Ellen May in the woods all night is beyond me. My gut told me to, but my butt told me it was time for bed.

Farming isn’t for the faint of heart.

We now have a farrowing house and hope this experience is NEVER repeated.

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