Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Blessed Event

As our only two faithful readers will recall (you know who you are and we love you), Tom, Rhonda and I braved a couple of blustery, cold days in February to introduce Bessie and Rosebud to the soon-to-be father of their calves, Son of Fat Louie. This exercise was performed after a protracted learning curve during which Tom and I learned to spot both the subtle and not-so-subtle signs of bovine heat, which include: fence pacing, mounting, cologne from CVS, and gaudily uncoordinated shades of lip pencil (or lápiz de labios *snicker*).

The girls were bred a week apart, and if you count exactly 282 days, this makes their due dates November 24 and December 1. Of course, we know this is total nonsense. Neophyte cow owners we may be, but we have fully internalized Rule #1. Rule #1 is that all of the other Rules are entirely subject to your cow’s opinion of them. In our experience with Bessie and Rosebud, their opinions on everything are largely tied to the item’s association with food, the availability of brisket scratches, and the degree to which their opinions correlate with our inconvenience. Especially that last one.

If we start with that assumption, we can precisely narrow down their due dates by identifying the two days in the months of November and December on which the most of the following factors apply: night, a week night, or a night before a holiday that involves substantial preparation (extra points for that one); temperatures below freezing; wind chill greater than 20 degrees; following a day of unusual effort or exertion on our part; conflicting with an important event; measurable precipitation (more extra points); one or both of us sick with the flu; house on fire, regional thermonuclear event in progress and one or more horses developing symptoms of colic. The more of these conditions are present, the better the likelihood of the blessed events.

This simple exercise should determine, with complete accuracy, the date of our new arrivals.

We can hardly wait.


This past week, Tom and I were making pretty good progress on the Ark. We’ve easily exceeded the two of every animal requirement (we apparently have enough to populate a second planet) and we were trying to decide which energy efficiency tax credits would apply to the new construction. Sadly, our work was interrupted when our Bank of Ark Card reduced our credit limit. So we are forced to wait out the deluge from the cozy confines of the chicken coop, which is fortunately well-supplied with eggs, resentful chickens, raw milk and 10 lbs of fresh kale (thank you, Keith and Michelle).

Like many other people this past year, we learned pretty quickly that we will need to change a lot of the assumptions we’d made about our place in the world. It’s becoming apparent to us that “survival of the fittest” probably means “survival of those who can get their heads around their new realities the quickest.” Our strategy involves paying off our few remaining credit balances and being conservative in our spending. These two steps will give us the most flexibility should our situation deteriorate. But when the list of things that can no longer be assumed includes employment and retirement, we really have two choices. We can live in a state of perpetual disappointment mourning the loss of our plan. Or, we can recognize that the small gifts we sometimes give ourselves, like an afternoon with a best friend, are now bright and important events to be savored and remembered.

Last night, while the wind was howling and the rain was blowing sideways, we made our first fire of the season. The horses, cows and other animals were tucked up high and dry for the night and we curled up in bed with a glass of wine, a trashy, Spanish magazine (we are learning, or relearning the language, depending, and we can almost say “lápiz de labios” without snickering), and a mandolin that we are attempting to master. My accent has become so bad from lack of exercise that I sound as if I am speaking Spanglish in southwest Arkansas. Neither of us has yet managed to coax the mandolin through an entire tune, but over the pounding of the rain, we thought we could hear some faint but enthusiastic replies from the direction of the pond. For a few hours, the world was smaller and kinder, and defining the long term wasn’t quite so important.

Okay, so this wasn’t exactly the plan we started with. But we left a lot of really important things off the Beta version (and wrote in some real garbage). Hopefully, Tom and Jorg Plan v.2.1 will have better priorities. And maybe a Gantt chart. I always liked those.

Buenas noches, y’all.

(Photo: Noah's Ark, by Edward Hicks, 1846)