I think my high school cafeteria used to serve “tuna surprise,” and I want to assure you that I’m not eating my chickens. But I did get a nice surprise this morning!
I went out to let the chickens and guinea fowl out this morning before work, and was chatting with Fancy Pants, Bertie, and Gertie as usual, when I heard the sounds of some rooster-on-hen action going on. I turned my head to see Clarence working away on a black-and-white hen. Since I have three of those, I couldn’t tell who it was until the act was finished.
Lo and behold, it was Hedley, the former Hedy, who I’d renamed because I thought they were a rooster. Well, I guess not, since neither of the other roosters has shown an interest in each other, which rules out rooster love. This is a real relief for me, since my hen to rooster ratio is already a bit off (need more hens). AND we have discovered that Gray Gertie is a guinea cock, not a guinea hen (based on his calls, and now his unfortunate hen-chasing behavior).
Now I know who’s laying the white eggs, too, since Hedley is way bigger than Henley, the other Ancona hen, who has a pink comb (for those of you keeping notes). It’s always something with these guys. At least all is well in the world of Big Red, the hen who is a member of the horse herd.
I got this photo of her yesterday, running over to the water bucket when she realized it was her favorite time of day: when the water is fresh and full for her easy access. That is one pampered solo hen, with her special feed bag of treats and water bucket.
This morning, Lee was reading over my recent posts, and he spotted a couple of typos. While I was fixing one, I found another. It’s great to have another set of eyes to look over things for you.
One of the errors was pretty funny, in which I called Lee’s brother, Jim, his father. He’s Chris’s father, not Lee’s! That gave us a good laugh.
Then, Lee said he wrote about being grateful for typos in his journal today (he always says what he’s grateful for as he plans his day and does the dozens of other activities his journaling system entails. He kindly shared it with me:
Gratitude: Typos and awkward, ambiguous sentences are mistakes we all make and I believe we can all admit to. They give us the opportunity to practice gracefully admitting our imperfections. Hopefully we can apply these lessons to other areas of our lives.
Lee Bruns, personal journal
I thought that was a lovely way to look at our human slip-ups, as chances to practice grace and acknowledge our all-too-human slips.
That said, you can always let me know if you see a typo, or if you don’t understand something I’m trying to convey here. Since I’m mostly just “thinking as I type” here, I’m bound to get lost at times. I appreciate the chance to interact with readers, anyway!
And now, I must shift to what will be a difficult volunteer group meeting, if they get to the hard topic before I have to leave for a paid work meeting.
Before I explain that, I want to share that Apache, my beloved paint gelding, is feeling a whole lot better. He’s able to be in the little pasture with the poor quality grass 24/7 again. The next goal would be to get to hang out with the other horses again, but that might not happen.
How we know he’s feeling fine again is a little story. Sara and I were doing horse chores together Saturday night. She remembered she needed to pick some peppers over by the cabin, so we walked Apache over there as part of his exercise program, such as it is. I dropped his lead to let him graze over by the old chicken coop, while we went over to the vegetable garden. I got all excited over some overripe tomatoes for the chickens, and didn’t think about Apache.
Suddenly, he made that horse alarm sound. I turned around to see him take off trotting down the drive, Arabian tail flying high. Next, I heard loud braying on the other side of the huge bales of silage. Apparently, Fiona had panicked because she couldn’t see Apache.
As I followed him, I saw Fiona breathlessly arrive, having been “stuck” in the race (not really). They still appeared a bit wound up, and sure enough, they took off again, heading to the other two horses, who were nearby in their pasture. THIS is when I knew Apache felt okay. He proceeded to not just trot, but canter over there, with a few added jumps. Obviously his feet felt good.
The two of them visited the other horses, then came back to me and Sara, breathing hard and ready to go back in their area and eat their dinner. Yep, he’s feeling better.
Evidence of Pain
Yesterday, we were looking at Apache’s feet, and it was really easy to see a line, about an inch above the end of his hooves. When Sara picked up his front feet, we could easily see where his hoof wall had separated from the inner part. That’s why he could barely walk for so long. Ow!
Luckily, hooves grow out, and now the separated area seems to be in the part he can’t feel anymore (like the ends of our fingernails versus the nail beds). I’m glad we were able to help him and keep the issue from becoming chronic.
Now we have to get some muscle back on him, and make sure he doesn’t get any thinner. Wow, this is the first time we’ve ever had THAT weight problem on him!
Have you ever read a book and wanted to start over immediately after finishing it? Have you ever wanted to make everyone you care about read a book? Have you ever wanted to give a book a big hug and thank it? I have. And this is the book: How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi (2019). I am so grateful that I saw an interview with Kendi by Stephen Colbert that convinced me to stop procrastinating and get this book!
You see, a lot of books, films, journal articles, etc., on racism have annoyed me, but I never could quite put my finger on why. Thus, I was reluctant to read this book, even with all the great reviews and recommendations from people I respect. But, ha! Now I know why I was so annoyed! My internal definition of racism, though not very well thought out and rather ineffable, was more like Kendi’s definition. And I didn’t have his term for antiracism in my vocabulary, but the ideas were back there, churning away, making me feel like I was missing something.
I was missing the ideas in this book. As I read through each chapter, I learned more and more about how the times I lived in shaped my views, and WHY some of the things I kept hearing bothered me (things like Black people can’t be racist). Now it’s clear that anyone can express racist ideas or do racist things. People aren’t racist, ideas are. And people who have done racist things in the past can do antiracist things, even before they know what those are in Kendi’s definition.
My favorite assertion he makes, though, is that we all will have both racist and antiracist thoughts. We can’t help it, living in this society. Kendi brings this home with a vengeance as he talks about his own journey and attitudes toward race in the US. Some of the most powerful parts of the book are where he breaks down his own mistakes and shows that he learned from them and moved forward with new knowledge. We ALL can do that.
Kendi thanks his editor for his help with the way the book is organized. I thank Chris Jackson, too. The structure of the book is complex, as it interweaves stories of Kendi’s life with research and analysis. Here’s how Kendi put it:
“This book was quite difficult to wrap my head around and write–the chronological personal narrative interspersed with a series of connected chapter themes that build on each other like a stepladder to antiracism.”
How to Be an Antiracist, p. 239
This writer and technical editor was very impressed with every bit of the structure of the book, and how well the content flows. Dang. Life goals.
But, if the book was written like a textbook, I’d still have lapped it up like someone thirsty for a concoction they didn’t know existed. I just kept repeating, “yes, yes,” to myself with every page. I saw my own mistakes, I saw where my instincts were good but my actions weren’t, I saw areas for growth, and I saw things I could be proud of in my past.
Like Kendi, I got most of my ideas about racism and antiracism in graduate school, where I was surrounded by a mini United Nations of people from all over the world (I studied linguistics at the University of Illinois, which had a large program and did a lot of research on languages from Africa and India). When you work closely with people from different cultures, religions, and backgrounds, you quickly learn that there are people you like and people you don’t like in every group, but MOST IMPORTANT you end up losing the idea that YOUR culture is better than anyone else’s. I got an early start on realizing that no culture is without flaws and sad histories, but that no culture is without beauty, joy, and precious traits that should be treasured.
However, Kendi put these ideas into words way better than I ever could, so I’m grateful to him for giving me words and concepts to express my beliefs and goals.
I’m putting this book right next to The Color Purple and Where the Crawdads Sing among my favorites, ever.
Stuff I Learned
I want you to read this book. Still, I want to share a couple of the things I learned, having read way too much history from the perspective of the dominant culture, and being totally unaware of a few important ideas (to me, at least).
Race as a concept didn’t exist until 400 years ago! How did I now know THAT? It was invented to support the slave trade from Africa to Europe and later the US. Before that, people identified themselves by their cultural groups (tribes, kingdoms, etc.) not skin color.
The combinations of racist ideas with sexist, homophobic, and other ways of dividing people can lead to an entire system of X is “better” than Y (meaning they have more opportunities for education, jobs, and safe places to live).
All that stuff we tried to do in the 70s and 80s, with integrating schools by busing Black kids for hours to give them “equal” education was misguided. What we really need is for everyone to have the same opportunities right where they live. Black neighborhoods, Hispanic neighborhoods, Asian neighborhoods, and others are no better or worse than each other. Given equal access to power and influence, we could all thrive equally.
And this: racism is not about ignorance and hatred; it’s about power and influence. Power is what needs to be equally distributed among all of us. And that, my friends, is why I identify so strongly with social democrats, as does Kendi. If we all share, we can all thrive. And we can still have free markets and all that, just without one group having all the power.
See the quotes in the images for other gleanings.
I wax political. And I note, as Kendi does, that getting to the place in our society that I outline here (from him, sorta), is not likely. He likens racism to a Stage 4 cancer in our society. It’s one that is growing and growing. But some of those cancers can be eradicated by hard work and a multi-factored approach (chemo, radiation, diet, attitude). Maybe racism can be eliminated if we work from an antiracist perspective to deal with the actual causes of the problem, rather than applying bandages.
Since summarizing books is not my best skill, I wanted to share this nice summary from the publisher. I hope it will encourage you to take a chance on being made uncomfortable sometimes, but go ahead and read How to Be an Antiracist so you can help build a just and equitable world where we can respect each other as we are.
Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At its core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their poisonous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.
Today I got more things over to my new office, which was fun. I was really excited to unpack my fake wood stove and see how it looks. It’s not bad at all!
I keep trying things on the mantel. I’ll eventually be happy. There will be a lot of plant and seating movement before I’m totally happy. I also brought over my very old bookcase just to hold things until other shelves are done.
Much of today was spent with Lee building this shelving unit for me. It has the slash of wood theme the barn door and other furnishings have.
There were a few adventures and mis-steps, but we achieved furniture-hood! Lee is not fond of pictorial “destructions.”
That unit matches my rolling drawer unit, and the filing cabinet that is the last piece I need to fetch from across the street.
Lee and I enjoyed a well deserved rest as he used my nice desk chair. Ahh. I’ll have less back pain with it!
Lee insisted on a picture of him and his “desk.” He will eventually bring in his nicer one, but as soon as we can actually occupy the building, we’ll be using that room for our team members for a short while.
The middle stretch of stair rail is fabricated, by the way. It and the top will get painted and installed on Monday, I hope. Then we can get inspected!
Oh yeah, now that the giant box is gone, the bathroom is as done as it will be for a while.
Here’s a few more pictures. I’m mainly taking these for my own records in case I want to try something again. And I like looking at the room; I admit it. This will be it for a while, though!
Usually the biggest criminal activity on our road at the ranch is people driving way too fast (once you know how to drive weird and avoid the potholes, I guess you can do that). Mandi and I are watching YOU, white dually that is not Gary’s and shiny red pickup!
We worry about it, because we have two neighbors who jog or walk down the road often, a guy on the world’s slowest scooter, and a family that enjoys going down the road in their utility vehicle. These seem like easy targets for someone driving fast and looking at their phone (like the above folks).
However, today, there’s evidence of a Federal crime, right at the edge of our property, where the Vrazels’ other cattle are!
Someone shot up the mailbox of the family across the street from us rather thoroughly. At first I thought someone had put a firecracker in it, but then I saw all the shotgun shells. Whoa!
It’s odd that all the other mailboxes were fine. Sure, there can be many explanations. Maybe it was a birthday prank. Maybe they planned to get a new mailbox and shot up the old one for fun. Right next to the road, near valuable livestock, and in line of sight of our house. Glad they just blasted parallel to the road, I guess.
Feel free to imagine the reactions among our family. The one I am not scared sh**less of involves another game cam to detect vehicles. I didn’t call the sheriff, since it isn’t my mailbox and I’m pretty sure the mail carrier will report it. Federal crime, tampering with mailboxes!
Anyway, I feel bad for the neighbors, since the mailbox may have had sentimental value, having belonged to the previous resident, their family matriarch. Sniff.
What an achievement! We have half a safe stair rail at the new office. Today, Chris got the big rail all painted a shiny black. It was cool how he held it up.
Later he and our strong assistant administrator, Meghan, hauled the gigantic contraption upstairs. I think they’re both glad that only has to happen once!
It looks pretty good, doesn’t it? I’m obviously feeling very safe now that it’s screwed in. Yes. Safety achieved. Now he’s working on the smaller stair section, which shouldn’t take too long.
As for my office, I just did a few little things. I brought over the big art pieces and even hung my favorite! Tomorrow the rest of the furniture comes, other than the computer. Can’t actually work here until it’s all certified.
I ordered lighter and pinker rugs for the seating areas and a very pink chair to put in the dark corner. All was deeplyon sale, so if it looks awful, I can change it.
It was nice to get home from work and think about what’s eternal.
One thing is learning. I’m loving the book I’m reading, perhaps too much. The person who wrote How to Be an Antiracist has managed to clarify all sorts of muddy questions and gut feelings I have about race, class, and political systems. Perhaps this is not the most relaxing book ever, but it makes so much sense that my brain feels tidier or something. More on this when I’m done!
The other eternal thing is life going on about its cycles. I’m surrounded by birth, death, old age, and metamorphosis every day. The new calf, Nicole’s son who will arrive in a month, the lady in Cameron who died in the fire and had cooked all those burgers, Lee and me, a butterfly. I treasure all of it!
Now to stop writing so much and share photos of what relaxes me.
Today I spent my lunch hour moving some of the things I can carry myself over to my new office. First, Chris helped me position the desk on the rug, so we know that will work fine.
Then, I brought in my plants, who will be happy to have a “home” at last. I was able to bring over my hat rack, chairs, and some big decor items, and it already is looking cozy.
Most of the stuff in the office will shift around as we finish things off, but it makes me happy already.
This weekend I will get the filing cabinet and rolling drawers moved over, as well as a bookcase I’m gonna use until Chris makes the built-ins behind my door.
My office chair will come in from the ranch house, too (that one fits better in the room. And I’ll build the big bookcase that’s in a box in the bathroom. I’m hoping Lee can help hold up some parts while I put it together. I want to let Chris concentrate on the stair rails.
After that, all the furnishing will be done. We are still waiting for the glass in the interior window and the shelves that will go in there. That will hold shiny glass stuff. The glass top for the desk is also important, especially since leaving the doors outside for so long has additionally “aged” them. More character! I do have a smaller piece of glass on my current desk that will be a fine substitute.
And Chris said he would build a cool custom shelving unit behind the door, which will be triangular. I have a hanging light fixture for the seating area that will need some work to install, plus something to hang the spider plant from.
But I can use the office while that’s going on, for sure. And I can leave things in the old office until there’s a spot for them. I hope you enjoy the current pictures, and look forward to Phase 3 (with maybe some art, too!) as much as I do. It’s the most exciting thing of my quarantine period! Well, maybe next to Rip the bull calf.
Two hours later: I already decided I didn’t like the way the chair looks in the above photo, so I moved it.