Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Multi-purpose Outhouse

We had some wonderful fall color this year, with the house surrounded by the yellow glow of the big sugar maples that surround us. Then over the course of about 3 days, everything came down in a leafy blizzard and left the yard a few inches deep in leaves. The chickens are beside themselves with all the new scratching opportunities, and now spend hours kicking leaves around.

The outhouse, though not yet fully complete, is now operational. It's all sheeted, and two of the three windows are installed, but it still needs siding. Although it still gets some use, the sawdust toilet in the house isn't a whole lot of fun to empty, so we avoid it as much as possible.

The popularity of this new building is actually much greater than I'd anticipated. One of our new hens has decided that she likes laying her eggs in there (the door, which went on last weekend, doesn't yet have a latch to keep her out). Our barn cats quickly discovered that it's an excellent pick-up spot, great for mooching attention from the human-folk who are briefly immobilized there throughout the day.

I met some of our neighbors for the first time last week, a couple who seem very nice. About 15 minutes after letting the dogs out for a potty break, I received a phone call from them. They live through the woods and across the state highway down a long driveway. Bilbo likes to roam, apparently. We initially thought that Memphis would help show Bilbo where the "home turf" was, but he's been doing his best to corrupt her instead, as she follows him around on his wild explorations.

So, last weekend, we bought an "invisible fence", which is a shock collar triggered by a signal wire you run around the perimeter of your yard. Bilbo made a few forays across the wire with a special spring in his step, but has since decided that staying in the yard is just fine.

I finally decided to open up our new pasture for the animals, even though the back end doesn't have a fence around it. I put up a polywire temporary-fence, which seems to be working alright so far.

Josie's production went up a little once she was back on pasture, and I like not having to shovel manure in the barnyard and haul hay around. This will give us a couple weeks of reprieve until everyone has to start eating hay again. If last year is any indication, we'll probably have some snow here then anyway.

My hunting endeavors haven't gone all that well this year. I saw lots of deer in the first couple weeks of the season, but no bucks that were close enough. I finally resolved to take a doe to get the freezer filled. I took one long shot that I missed, and haven't had an opportunity to take one since. I think they all know it's deer season now, and have become completely nocturnal. In a week or two the rut will start, and then the bucks will start to get careless, or so I hope.

Our horses have some chronic thrush (that's a bacterial infection on their hooves). It's not a big deal, but I need to clean them out and apply medicine daily. At first, Bruce would visibly transfer all of his weight to the foot I was trying to lift, but has since mellowed out and usually cooperates now. Doc would play "ring around the mulberry bush" with me when it was his turn. Now it usually takes a bit of sweet-talking before he'll grudgingly allow me to mess with his feet. Today he kicked loose and stomped on my foot. That felt *wonderful*. Last week the cows banged the metal roof on their hay feeder and spooked the horses while I was cleaning Doc's hoof. I thought I was about to be dismembered, but only got knocked over.

The turkeys are all happily nested in our freezer now, so we won't be running any more turkey-drives back from Stan's house. They were regularly visiting Stan and his wife, apparently feeling quite comfortable among their roving herd of guinea hens, geese, chickens, and peacocks while partaking of the abundant feed. One of the hens learned to tap on their back door looking for handouts. Although we initially planned to do our own butchering, the Amish farm where we've been buying chicken offered to butcher them for $5 apiece, which seemed like a good price. We've eaten one so far, and it was very good. Meat tastes better when images of the butchering process aren't lodged in your memory.

We've been watching the Star Wars series over the last few days, which Henry absolutely loves. Every stick has become a light saber. This evening while I was bottling our milk, he presented me with a light-saber performance outside the kitchen window. It's strange for me to think that I first went to see the new Star Wars movie with my own father when I was exactly his age.

Sci-Fi has always been about reading current trends and extrapolating them to the next step; a way for us to explore and contemplate what may be just around the corner. Back when I was 5, the wonders of space exploration were still very much on people's minds -- and Star Wars extrapolated that trend to a possible future of space-based civilization.

It's clear to me that our future can never be in space, which makes these movies feel quaint to me now. Humans are a product of our own planet, and as such are inseparable from it. The mix of bacteria which make our digestion (and thus our life) possible, is probably found only on this planet. We've developed immunity to untold numbers of pathogens, the mix of which is almost certainly unique to earth. The amount of gravity our skeletons are adapted to, the composition and pressure of the atmosphere we can breathe, and the temperatures we can tolerate are all unique to this planet. We -- and the planet we live on are as unique as a snowflake. Even if we could find and easily travel to other planets which are similar to our own, we could never expect to survive there.

As we've recently entered the era of increasing energy scarcity, the ability to build or fuel spacecraft looks like it will also be in terminal decline. But to me, it seems as if it was a silly dream to begin with. I think that our future -- if we manage to preserve it -- probably looks a lot more like our past.