Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Ram A Lamb (A Ding Dong)

I'm going to tell you about yesterday, for a variety of reasons. We took sheep to the butcher last night.

Yesterday morning I got up early and did some business stuff. I'm relying on borrowed laptops currently as my desktop had a tantrum after a power outage on Monday morning and won't boot up. I don't like laptops, although I must say Sian's isn't bad, but specifically everything took longer than usual because I had to look up passwords, re-do photos I had stored on my own system, and so on. Annoying, but I managed.

We then had to go down to the barn and catch sheep. If you've never tried catching sheep you may not really grasp what I just said, so I shall tell you.

We keep a flock of Jacob sheep. They are not a very large sheep but they have horns (sometimes 4) and they are slightly wild. In the past we have had bottle lambs/spoiled sheep and they are more trouble than the half wild ones, so we go with it. Our flock are less trouble than the "typical" Jacob sheep (by selective breeding) but they still have attitude. When held, they fight.

Tyler was at work, Tom isn't very good at catching sheep, and I have a pulled muscle or ligament or something (I don't have time to get it looked at, it'll heal) in my left thigh and I'm limping, so it was down to Michael to do the most work. Tom manned the door, Michael selected and grabbed, and I helped as much as I could, holding on for dear life, unable to run.

So picture this.

In this space:

We had these sheep ( and a few more):

And the plan was to only let the ones NOT going to the butcher out into the pasture. Simple, right?

What it meant was that we had to catch the biggest ones (including the four-horned ram) and all the girls, get them out of a sliding door while not letting any others out, and while not getting beaten up/mown down by stampeding sheep in the process.

Job #1 was to persuade Sally, the donkey who guards them with the tenacity of Men in Black, or possibly even Mafia minders (we really need to get her some sunglasses) to go out without them, and stay the bleep away from the door. In the end she was tempted out with a carrot. Clich├ęs work remarkably well outside of cartoons, you know.

Then Michael set to grabbing the big rams by the horns, and, with a bit of sweat, swearing, and a level of dodge trickery usually only seen in world class soccer players going for a penalty shot, he did succeed in getting them outside. Then he had a rest and a bottle of water, and wiped his forehead on my shirt (he wasn't wearing one).

Next came the ewes. Easier, right? Smaller, lighter, etc. Ah, but no. They jump. They fight back. Think antelope. After the first two he started calling them "darlin'" and "sweetie" in a rather sarcastic way, and then resorted to "you bitch". Then, right in the middle of the job, one of them butted his hand and broke his middle finger. It went purple very quickly, but also somewhat numb. So he decided to continue before the feeling came back. He was running on undiluted adrenalin, he was so enraged by the runaround the sheep were giving him. By the time we were left with six young rams in the barn, my shirt was soaked from his sweat, we were all covered in flying poo, but with a sense of satisfaction, and then the real pain hit him, and he went inside to get his sister to bind him up.


Later we had to catch the 6 condemned men, eartag them, and get them onto the borrowed horse trailer standing in the barnyard.

Now this was even funnier, because young rams do not stand still while you poke spikes through their ears. But Ontario law says they cannot leave your property without an eartag. I don't bother to tag them when young, because you just have to do it again anyway. They lose their eartags very easily, don't ask me how, I have a closed one (from when we missed) in my pocket, and I see no way of getting it open without pliers...but they manage.

The thing is, the horse trailer has a door that opens downwards. For the animals to walk up, as a ramp. You have seen these, I'm sure. The friend we borrowed it from has it divided inside, but there are no gates other than the rear door/ramp, so once you have one animal inside, you need to hold a sheet of wood across it to stop him getting out, while you load the next one. Somebody has to be wood sheet doorman, during loading, so that's one person lost to that job, right? Then, once you have animals in one side, you need another sheet across the other side. And a second person holding it. That's two down. But you also need a catcher, a barn doorman, and an eartagger. Count 'em. You need a total of 5 people to do this.

So. Thankfully Sian is here, and she came down to the barn, with Lucian, obviously, and her friend Dani was here. Dani has video of this, which will go up on Facebook soon......and Dani did one door on the trailer, while I did the other one. Michael, with his finger bound up, fought the pain and caught the boys, Tom manned the barn door, Sian applied the eartags, and Lucian....well he wandered about, singing, of course, and actually was quite useful in that he kept the dogs amused so they didn't try to help too much, and placated Sally with more carrots. Start 'em young, I say.

The whole day was nuts, but there was a great sense of "got her done", and by the time Martin came home and we all hopped in the truck and took the trailer of sheep to the butcher, we were laughing and telling him stories about it all, whereas at the time there was a lot of bad language.

I am so proud of Michael. He just turned 17, but he was totally a man yesterday, not just in brute strength, but in sense of responsibility to get the job done no matter what. My baby is all grown up.

My life is not like other people's lives. I like my life.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

The Other Version of Mind Your Language

On a much lighter note.....

There cannot be anyone who reads my waffle by now who doesn't know that I can be a bit pedantic about grammar. I'm not as bad as some. No, I'm not. I think we can have fun with language. Nevertheless if you've ever received a text message from me, you know how I am. Everything will be spelled fully, correctly, and there will be upper case letters, punctuation, and everything you might expect from...... GASP....written English. It was also noted this week by certain people (!) that when I type in French all the accents are there. Yes, I have memorized where the commonest ones are (ALT 0233). Because, well, because. Because it doesn't look RIGHT otherwise. I do this for me. Not you. You do as you please.


There are times. I'm a happy-go-lucky person. Life is supposed to be fun. But OH FOR PITY'S SAKE. Is leaving out ONE LETTER really vital? Is your day so filled with important things that you cannot type a w? A w, I said, yes, a w. Are you finding a cure for all known diseases? Are you brokering permanent world peace? Are you developing an organic crop that will feed all the starving children no matter how hot or dry it is? No?


Yesteday, I saw with my own eyes:

Lo Fat.

At first, I thought it was a Chinese gentleman. But then the horror struck me. This was an abbreviation of low fat. An abbreviation from 6 letters to 5 letters. It was not an error. It was repeated throughout the piece, a total of 8 times. By the time I finished reading I was fighting the urge to go round to the home of the person writing it, and beat them to a bloody pulp with a bag of skimmed milk.

But I'm polite. I was well dragged up. I smile sweetly and ignore things like that, or they call me a pedant.

"Oh get over yourself Melanie," they say "It's nothing."

Nothing? This is an example of what it wrong with society! Oh yes it is!

First they leave off the w. Then they shorten everything so we tk lk ths. We have to guess the vowels, like Ancient Hebrew. They managed just fine, you say!

Next we start talking like it too. Eventually we'll just grunt at each other. We'll de-evolve and all you'll hear are noises like pigs.

But it goes beyond language doesn't it? It's too much bother to eat food so we'll just drink our dinners. They'll come in several flavours, maybe. It's too much bother to wear clothes, so we'll just have showers that spray us different colours. It's too much bother to play with our children, so we'll store them in crates until they are old enough to join in the grunting and gargling.

Once upon a time humans cared about poetry and art. Now, so long as things move fast, and go bang, they don't really need any other stimulation.

Yes, I know, it's a sign on old age. I also know every generation does this at a certain age, and the world keeps moving forward.

But I won't join in. I hereby declare I am not part of modern society. I do things my way. I even use semi-colons.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Mind Your Language

And the lesson today is from Ecclesiastes 3....................

WHAT? No, I know it's not a book I quote from very often, but a good quote is a good quote. In any case, I picked it up via Pete Seeger, but let's look at the original:

Ecc 3:1 To every [thing there is] a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

Ecc 3:7 a time to keep silence, and a time to speak

I think one of the most difficult, and also one of the most important things we do in our daily lives is discern when to speak and when not to. I think the basis of most problems we have is in communication. As the only animal with a complex language, communication ought to be something we excel at, and in many ways we do, but in so many others we fail completely.

Which is better, to regret saying nothing, when we should have spoken up, or to regret what we said? Both can be disastrous. I have covered the former many names, in discussions on bullying, today I wish to concentrate on the latter.

My grandmother, and possibly yours too, advised something along the lines of "if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing". It's generally pretty good advice. The meaning behind it is, if you have a judgement in mind, a negative thought, even if you are solicited for your opinion, it is usually better to keep it to yourself. It really doesn't matter if you are right, or if it seems "justified", the chances are it will do more harm than good.

We all have to decide what to say, frequently. It is my considered opinion that many times we simply FORGET that we have a choice. Nobody is forcing these words out of us. No. Not even if they are asking a direct question. We still have the choice to say nothing, or at the very least to say less.

It is all a question of being mindful.

What is a mind? After taking a  Philosophy course earlier this year, I still cannot give you a definition of that, in fact it's less clear now than before I studied it. But it is clear that we all have one, and we all fail to use it sometimes. Words that come out of our mouths that haven't spent long enough going through the filters in our mind, can sometimes lead to problems. It is vital that we think before we speak. Or as my husband says "engage brain before opening gob."

And he should know. As a middle-aged Englishman he's a perfect example of sectors of the population who forget to think before they speak. He's never been the most tactful man, and in fact it can be his straight-talking that is his appeal. When you need a snappy remark, he's your man. He's sharp, he's funny, and he's not politically correct. You can admire that. Unfortunately, as with most people admired for their quick wit and chutzpah, he sometimes gets it very wrong.

So, he and I have discussed this many times. I have asked him, in particular, why sometimes he says things he KNOWS he is going to regret later, and he says "I don't know." And this is the truth.

So it is quite wryly that he offers the advice "engage brain before opening gob," because he knows only too well, what trouble you can get yourself into when you don't.

It is the absolute best advice. If we all took it, all of the time we'd all be better off, so why don't we?

Well, the usual reason is irritation. Not as far gone as anger, perhaps, but let's say our patience is worn thin. It could be from repetition of an annoyance.

These are, actually, the times we are mostly likely to something we regret. It may or may not even be true. Sometimes irritated people say things they don't even mean, really quite ridiculous things. But dammit, once it's out, it's out. There's no getting that genie back into the bottle. When we are impatient, tired, in pain, or actually hopping mad, that's when, more than at normal times, we need to count to ten before a word is spoken.

And if it's going to be published, then it's even more important. Now, it's not only going to be remembered, it's on record. It can be referred back to.

So, even if you forgive somebody for an outburst in emotional extremis, can you forgive something said calmly, archived online?

For that reason, engaging brain before hitting send is the issue. It is a much slower process. I think we can reasonably conclude that everyone who ever puts fingers to keyboard and rattles off a negative thought, has multiple opportunities to stop, think, edit, re-word, and finally delete, rather than putting that negativity out into the world.

There is no excuse. It's not good saying "I spoke in anger." That is no defence.

And if you are not even angry?

I have been visiting the forums at Etsy recently. I learn useful tips, and I also offer advice. I give back help I've received. The whole point of advice is to be positive, and most of it is. It's quite a nice atmosphere. In fact you can even feel the tongue-biting going on, when a new shop opens, the owner seeks advice, and people are incredibly positive about the items being offered. Because sometimes it's crap.

But this is a community of artists. And artists, on the whole don't dismiss something as crap, because in art there is no crap, there are only different tastes, and different experience levels. And, because they are good people, and treat others as they wish to be treated, they don't judged, lest they be judged (eh up, Matthew 7:1, a second quote from that book!).

As a pragmatist, I actually find this a bit daft. Encouraging people who I'd far rather whisper "actually dear, you can't......." goes against the honest part of me. But the other part of me prefers kindness, and leaves it alone.

So it goes back to that other old saying "I'd rather be happy than right" (Douglas Adams, or possibly Buddha, you choose), and I choose often not to judge, or to correct someone, because life's too short for negativity. I like to shrug things off and smile, and enjoy the sunshine and flowers.

Oh don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good intellectual debate, but there are times when it just doesn't matter, when walking away from an argument is not only the best choice all round, it is a choice that suits me, because it avoids messing with my groove.

So, I confess I'm disheartened, and possibly even a little bemused by those who enjoy the negativity. Who relish in the thought of "that told him!" and who delight in upsetting someone and then claiming honesty as their motivation. As I said right at the start, there are times we should not remain silent, but it's all a question of intent. If there is a twisted pleasure in speaking out, when it is not to right some great wrong, when it is inappropriate, when it is only to harm, to wound, to discomfort, or to shock for the sake of it, then I cannot excuse it. I won't excuse it. Now is the time for me to speak out, in fact.

Because unsolicited criticism isn't about being helpful or honest, no, it isn't. It's called an insult. When you insult somebody you might as well punch them. Same thing. An unprovoked attack.

My last quote today is one that I have changed. Completely. Because the original is wrong.

Sticks and stones may break my bones,
They'll set, the pain will go, and my body will return to normal
But names will stick in my head forever.

Grab a plate and throw it on the ground
             -Ok, done.
Did it break?
Now say sorry to it.
Did it go back to the way it was before?
Do you understand?