[livejournal.com profile] darlong and I have been trying to come to grips with the horror of the massacre at the Sandy Hook school. We're not making much headway. Tears, yes. Understanding, no.

There is no good that can come out of this. I hope, though, that this is the impetus to finally have the national (talk, breakdown, screaming match, war, fucking action) about gun control in the US. Because we cannot, in the name of civility, keep putting it off.

Grace counter_0818, originally uploaded by maystone1.

Grace looking wide-eyed and oh so innocent.

Pixel_0879, originally uploaded by maystone1.

In Pixel's defence, it really is a comfy bed.

I just found out last night that Phil Chrusch ([livejournal.com profile] vchrusch had died back in March of this year. Like so many of us who knew him back in the day, I was concerned because we hadn't heard a word from him in such a long time, so I went to his Facebook to see when his last post was. I saw two comments that sent me flying to Google, and that's where I saw his obituary. All it said was the he died "accidentally at home."

I'm shocked, and I'm sad. We're going to try to track down some of his family or his friend Walter, and see if there's something we can do as a group in his memory.

I just can't quite wrap my head around this.
Quiz: What Kind of Liberal Are You?

My Liberal Identity

You are a Social Justice Crusader, also known as a rights activist. You believe in equality, fairness, and preventing neo-Confederate conservative troglodytes from rolling back fifty years of civil rights gains.

Take the quiz at
About.com Political Humor

I was getting ready for bed, just checking LJ, and suddenly the Post an Entry popped up. Weird. OK, I'll give. Just a short one, though. Maybe with numbers.

1. Definitely with numbers.

2. I've been waiting to post something good, because I don't want to come on here just to post rants. Still waiting :)

3. Wait! I heard from Immigration. Or Dar did because I was out running errands when they called. They said that my application is in process. That's it. It's been 18 months since I sent my latest application in - you might remember that someone from Immigration had called to tell me that I was here illegally and had to start again (headdesk x 1000) - and all I get is "in process." Dar said that they probably really called to see if 1) I were still alive and 2) if so, if I had given up and gone back to the States. So, I don't know. I'm taking it as good news.

4. Many baby alpacas born. Two of them were miracle babies. One other died, and it broke our hearts. Two, possibly three, left to go. One, possibly two, will be born tomorrow because they were medically induced today. It's been a very weird year for everyone and their alpacas. We all suspect it's due to the extremely long, hot summer.

5. We've been in coat and jacket weather for a few weeks now. I really hope we're not going to jump from summer into winter over the course of a month.

6. I've discovered that I'm a very good salesperson for our alpaca products (yarn, hats, scarves, mittens, lots of kits). It turns out that I enjoy talking about alpacas. Who knew? Heh. Plus it just supports my belief that most people are pretty nice. I've had the two top sales days at our booth at the farmers market. But then I've also had a day when I've only made three sales. Now that the weather is cooler, more people are thinking about warm clothing and/or knitting. We fit that bill nicely.

7. Dar has become a master of the dye pot. I'm dead serious. She's developed a way to get various shades (depths?) of the same color on a skein of yarn. It's a beautiful effect. And her variegated dyed yarns are luscious. We have the dyed yarns right on the end of our shop that's nearest to the corridor, and they pull people into the shop like a giant magnet.

8. Considering that I work (volunteer) at a television review site, I actually don't watch much TV. If it weren't for AMC and HBO, I'd probably just tune in to the MSNBC political news at night. And Up With Chris Hayes on weekend mornings.

9. Pixel is getting very round. She looks like a Kliban cat. She's still my baby girl.

10. Now I'm going to bed. Night-night, guys.

I'll save the not-so-good stuff for another day. Aren't you the lucky ones :)
Wow. I'm watching the men's team gymnastics on Canadian TV. China v. Japan. Those guys are crazy good.

Anyway. There's too much to catch up on. It's been brutally hot and humid, but we've had a break these last few days. We worry a lot about the alpacas, but so far they're dealing with it. We spend hours every morning making sure that they all have cold water to drink, their pools are filled, and everyone has been sprayed with a hose to their hearts' content. That last is the real time hog. Some of the alpacas could be (and have been) sprayed for 30 minutes at a time. We don't begrudge them a minute of it, either.

I'm only good for the morning chores. The heat and the sun put my lupus in overdrive, and I'm out of it for the rest of the day. Dar is out there, though, for as long as it takes. Because of her chiari, heat and humidity can be deadly for her. I worry about her a lot, and she did have a few days where things got scary for her. I'm so ready for summer to end.

We have seven crias running around out there being all sorts of adorable. Unfortunately we lost one. Ripley's little girl Inara was born septic, but the vets didn't pick up on it and prescribed the wrong medicine for her. It actually made the infection stronger and spread farther. She died three days later. Dar worked tirelessly to save her, and the little cria fought as hard as she could, too. The vets felt terrible. We don't blame them for this. It was a tough call. They're having a rough year, too. They said that there have been an unusually high number of problem births across all species this summer, and we've certainly seen it on our farm and our friends' farms. Welcome to the new climate, guys. We still have six more births to go. Or is it eight? We're hoping for the best, of course.

Our fiber collective rented a stall at the very popular St. Jacob's Farmers Market, and we've been there for a month now. It's going pretty well, considering that we're brand new and we're selling nice, toasty-warm alpaca products in record-breaking heat:) We get a lot of people stopping in, and we do the education thing about alpacas and their elite fiber. The word is spreading; people are promising to come back when it gets cooler, and I believe them. What is selling well are the yarns that Dar has hand dyed. They pull a lot of people in. The knitters that come by are all squeeing over our products and telling their friends about us. I see some impressive sales coming up in the fall and winter.

I have fun while I'm there. I love talking about alpacas; for as strong an introvert as I am, I'm quite happy to chat up complete strangers about our herd and our products. Plus I'm meeting some interesting people from around the globe. Seriously, St. Jacob's Farmers Market is a very, very big tourist destination. It's a long and tiring day, but it's more than worth it.

I'm woefully behind in posting pictures. My new (refurbished) laptop is wonderful, but it's running the latest version of Mac OSX. Which is good, really, except that none of my camera software is compatible now. Being a newfangled machine, though, my laptop has a memory card reader. Yay! Except it's a bit more complicated to keep track of things, and I'm only motivated and alert in the morning. Which is when I run errands or do the alpaca chores. Hence - I am woefully behind in posting pictures :) I'm trying to catch up with it all, though. And I will.

Ummm. I'm watching very little TV during the summer. I don't go to the movies. I'm not reading that much right now. Man. What the hell do I do with my time? Ha! Seriously, I have no idea. It just seems to go screaming by.

I watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. I usually don't; I'm not much of a fan for the big productions. (Hate Superbowl half-time shows. Hate!) Then I discovered that a lot of journalists I follow on Twitter were posting very funny comments about the fail that was the NBC commentary. One woman in particular (Laura Seay @texasinafrica) covers the news in Africa - which is a continent, not a country, right? - and she was having a verbal stroke over the misinformation and blunders and borderline racism of some of the commentary. It was pretty entertaining. And educational.

Oh! Somewhere, somehow, the chemicals in my body went waaaaaaaaaaaaay out of whack. I spent a couple weeks with my tongue swelling more and more until I couldn't really bite down because it was covering my bottom teeth. Then it started to hurt a great deal; it felt as if it had been burned with blowtorch and then sanded with grit. It was also an ashy red. Very unpleasant. Along with that, I've had a metallic taste in my mouth for months now. Dar figured out that I had a folic acid deficiency. I started taking 1000mg of folic acid daily and another 600mg in my multi-vitamin. Tongue goes back to normal. Yay! Metallic taste completely takes over my mouth to the point that most foods make me gag, and I can't sleep because of the terrible, constant, overwhelming metallic taste in my mouth. Dar figures out that I now have a zinc deficiency because I'm overdoing the folic acid. Now I'm cutting back the folic acid and taking zinc, but there is a prominent warning everywhere zinc is mentioned that I could throw off the copper in my system. I'm afraid to look up what those side effects will be :) So I need to make an appointment with my doctor to get some blood work done and find out just what's what with my blood composition. The zinc is helping. I still can't eat most foods, but the metallic taste is more muted. I'm thankful for that.

There's a lot of stuff going on, but it would take too long to go into it tonight. I'll try to get it out here, but the weather needs to cooperate. In the meantime, here I am, surrounded by cats. Just the way I like things.
I think you may find this article helpful in understanding what happened and what the outcomes may be.
This one wasn't a surprise in so much as we knew the mom was pregnant, but we had no idea she was ready to give birth so soon - or so quickly. I was watering the girls (giving them showers, filling their pools and water buckets) when Dar came over and said simply, "Her water just broke. I'm going for the birthing kit." And there was Michaela on her side, legs stiffly out in front of her. In the 45 seconds that it took for me to turn off the hose, put it down, and walk over to her, the baby's foot was already out. Unfortunately you're supposed to see both feet and a nose, so Dar helped turn the baby, and he just slid out. He's a gorgeous boy (I know I keep saying that, but he really, really is), and he was up and walking in about 30 minutes. He could only manage to walk backwards for a while, so that was frustrating for him and adorable for us. He finally got that all straightened out, and by sunset he was sprinting around the paddock.

We've still got a slew more to go, and I'm here by myself at the moment, which makes me very nervous. Dar had to set up our product at St. Jacobs Market this afternoon, so that left me to keep an eye on things. I hate being the one in charge during birthing season. I've had two births happen on my watch, and both of them were tragic and horrible, and both crias died. I have good reason to be fearful. But it's late in the afternoon now, and no one was looking particularly ready to give birth, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everyone just chills until Dar is back in a few hours. But just to be on the safe side, I'm going out to check on them now.

I still need to load the camera software on the new laptop (the media drive was stuck until last night), but I'll post pictures as soon as I can.
Both Miss M ([livejournal.com profile] darlong's daughter) and I have birthdays in May, so Dar bought us tickets to see 42nd Street at The Stratford Shakespeare Festival. The tickets were for June 2, and when she gave them to us at the end of May, I knew that date meant something else. It finally hit me that one of the members of our alpaca fiber consortium was having an open house, and they'd asked me to take souvenir pictures of visitors posing with our friends' alpacas. I had to cancel out on them, but Dar had bought the tickets many months ago; the Shakespeare Festival tickets sell out early.

The play was a lot of fun, and they did a great job of transferring a sprawling Busby Berkeley musical movie onto a small stage with only a dozen actors. We had third row seats on the side, which is the best of both worlds: We were up close and personal with the actors, and I could see parts of backstage, too. I love being able to watch what's happening off stage - or at least that bit of it available to that sight line. Partway through the last act, I realized I could also see the conductor stationed at the back of the theater - so that was fun, too. I know; I'm a freak.

The bad part about sitting so close to the stage was that I'm sure they saw me nodding off and falling asleep briefly several times toward the end of the first act. I'm still having a bad time with fatigue, but I really thought having a bunch of people energetically tap dancing about 12 feet away from me - with an orchestra going full blast - would have been able to keep the fatigue at bay. But no. In addition, fighting off fatigue brings a lot of nausea with it; I'm not sure why that is, but it's what happens with me anyway. I took some meds during intermission, and that did the trick. I still felt as if I should have hung around and apologized to the actors.

I never did get to see The Hunger Games, and I had no interest in The Avengers. I did some digging around spoilers for Prometheus, and based on those I'm going to skip seeing that in a theater, too. I'd get too drawn into it if I saw it on a big screen, and I know that there are some scenes that I really do not want to have to watch or even sit through. It's easier to distract myself if I'm watching it on TV. Honestly? I'm not sure I could sit through a movie anymore. I tend to catch movies when they're finally released to HBO, but I find I have to watch it several times because I'm called away by something else - or I fall asleep. *hangs head in shame* Based on what happened at 42nd Street, I'd probably fall asleep in the movie theater, too. I am no fun anymore.

I finished The Lost City of Z a while ago. It's a great read, and I highly recommend it to you all. I can believe that Doyle based his Lost World characters on the real-life adventures of explorer Percy Fawcett. On the other hand, I just finished Redshirts, and it was a struggle to get through it. I ended up scanning most of it for anything interesting. It's got a good premise based on an in-joke with Star Trek fans since the show first ran in the '60s, but Scalzi (the author) can't deliver on it. I know I'm in the minority here; it's getting loads of good reviews.

I still have my Rachel Maddow book waiting for me, but it's going to be a busy summer. I'm not sure I'll be able to dig into something that's going to require some close reading. Not only do we have a hundred million babies coming (or maybe it just feels that way), but we also have a number of shows to do. The consortium has rented a booth at the big St. Jacob's Farmers Market; it'll be staffed three days a week, so we'll be rotating through shifts there, plus there a few other venues we're booked into this summer.

We're expecting record-breaking heat and humidity for the next few days. It's not a great time for the babies to be born; they're in as much danger of dying from heat as they are of dying from cold. So of course we can expect a few them to be born in the 100+ degree weather. Because that's just how our girls roll.
This is probably going to be a cross between stream-of-consciousness and a data dump, so here goes.

1. We're surrounded by pregnant alpacas - many more than we'd actually planned for. It seems that one (at least) of the very young boys got really busy last summer while we were assuming that he (they) was too young to be fertile. Now every female who can be pregnant is so, including those who we wanted to have a year off and those who were going to be bred for the first time this summer. We've already had one surprise birth: Satine (who we were giving a year off) quite suddenly last week started moaning and laying on her side. About an hour later, out pops a gorgeous little boy. Surprise!

It's the running joke in the alpaca business that the only way to know for sure if a girl is pregnant is when you see "nose and toes." (Alpacas are born head and front feet first.) It's not quite that bad, but it can many times be frustrating as hell trying to figure out if a female is pregnant; prior to Satine's sudden birth of Sulu (the new boy), we thought we were imagining things when some of the girls who weren't supposed to be pregnant starting looking/acting like they were almost full term.

Now we're on constant cria watch. To make matters even crazier, none of the preggos are behaving the way they usually do. We've been faked out at least five times so far, convinced that a girl was going into final labor only to have her reset herself. It's the same with many of our friends - surprise births, early births. It's crazy this year! We all tend to think that the abnormal weather we had this winter and spring has a lot to do with it.

2. Our big orange cat Holmes almost died last week. We knew he wasn't feeling well, but because it was the weekend and the vet clinic was closed, we were going to wait until Monday morning to bring him in. He took a very bad turn on Sunday night, though, so we rushed him to the vet hospital. He was in renal failure, and it looked pretty grim, but Holmesy-Bear pulled through. He's going to need a bit of special care from now on, and he still has partial kidney failure, but he's still going to be with us for a while.

3. My MacBook bit the dust. Not only did the hard drive die, but the read/write heads also broke. The culprit is cute and fuzzy and goes by the name of Pixel. *sigh* The screen on the MacBook died months ago, so I had the laptop hooked up to a big peripheral monitor. Both of those rested on a little end table in my room; that was really the only space available. Pixel thought it was a dandy jumping-off point for getting onto the window sill, and she sent the laptop crashing to the floor at least twice that I know of. Really, I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did. Anyway, because it would cost more to fix it than to get a refurbished one … I got a refurbished one. A tech friend of ours tracked down a good deal, and it is lovely and shiny, aaaaand I'm still trying to figure out how to use it. It's one of the newfangled computers that uses just a trackpad and swiping gestures to move around among screens. Very confusing to me right now. Also, the person who owned it before had it tuned so the trackpad needs a jackhammer to make an impression, so for now I'm using a mouse until Amber (our friend) can open it up and reset the trackpad. Other than that, though, it's great. Very speedy, great keyboard (really!), and the screen clarity and brightness are phenomenal. Oh, I also switched from Firefox to Chrome (this OS couldn't deal with Firefox), so I have that learning curve, too. But I'm getting there.

(This post could get huge, so I'll break it off here.)

Sandstorm face_0426, originally uploaded by maystone1.

Is he the cutest alpaca boy in the world or what?

I just spent about 90 minutes on iTunes buying old songs and getting very nostalgic. And you know what I realized? Nobody sings anymore. Or dances. Not anyone I know who's in their 40s or younger, anyway. Why? God, my friends and I would spontaneously break into song - or dance - all of the time. [livejournal.com profile] darlong and I do, too, even now. But I've never heard any of my younger friends sing (besides [livejournal.com profile] caerwynx). And never, ever dance around just for the hell of it. What's up with that? I know y'all love music.

I remember my friends and I dancing in the supermarket to the muzak or singing along with it. I still do that, btw, the singing part. And on occasion someone - my age or older - will join in, and we'll grin at each other and continue on with our shopping. There was the time, back in CT, when Carol, Robin, and I started a conga line through the housewares department at the local K-Mart. Just because the music was fun. And another woman (around our age) nearby abandoned her shopping cart and joined in. When the music ended, we all laughed and she said, "You know, my daughter would be so embarrassed by this. She thinks I'm crazy when I ask her to dance with me." We all agreed kids today are weird, and we went back to shopping.

I think we all need more dancing and singing. See to it, OK?
I promised myself that I'd be much better about posting once our shearing weekend was over. Which it is. But I still waited until it's almost too late for me to post. That's the next thing to work on.

I dread shearing weekend. It's a lot of work for preparation, during, and cleanup afterwards. (We still have to clean up outside; we'll have to get on that tomorrow.) It also involves a lot of people: we had 20-25, depending on the day. Only the shearers get paid; everyone else volunteers, for which we're always extremely grateful. For our part, we feed them two snacks and lunch both days, plus dinner on the first day. There's also plenty of water, juice, and soda available throughout the weekend. How well things go depend on the weather and the work crew. This year our work crew was great, but the weather was ridiculously hot. We always shear the same time every year - the second-to-last weekend in May. We've had years when it was cold; years when it was raining like crazy; this is the first year that it was hot. As stressful as shearing can be for the alpacas, they were very, very happy when it was done and they were no longer buried under several pounds of thick fleece.

I was stuck in the kitchen during the whole thing, so I don't have any pictures. I much prefer to work the shearing tables, helping to calm the alpacas, but lupus pretty much put the breaks on that one for the most part. Not that the kitchen was that much better an option this year. I'm still having a rough time dealing with fatigue, and that colors everything I attempt. Thankfully, Dar's daughter was back from college, and she was a huge help with the kitchen madness. Dar did most of the prep baking and cooking, so we did mostly set up, getting the food ready, some cooking, keeping everything filled while people were chowing down, clean up and then prep for the next meal. We were busy most of the time, but at least I could sit for a few minutes here and there, and I got to stay out of the sun.

Dar just posted some pictures from shearing on her FB page. You can see them here. Assuming that link actually works :)

I'm still really wiped out. I have to call it a night and try this again tomorrow. It's a start, though. I'll get back into the swing of things again.
Yeah, I can see this. Although Catelyn, not Lysa.

Your result for Game of Thrones House Quiz...

House Tully

69% Stark, 33% Lannister, 35% Baratheon, 70% Tully, 53% Tyrell, 38% Martell, 27% Targaryen, 51% Greyjoy and 66% Arryn!

- Place high value on honesty and honor

- Stubborn

- Strong interest in doing the right thing

- See clear distinction between right and wrong

- Place family needs above personal needs

- Extremely protective and loyal toward family and friends

- Blunt, and prefers when people are blunt with them

Take Game of Thrones House Quiz at HelloQuizzy

Gatsby_0259, originally uploaded by maystone1.

I walked around the corner to feed the little Suri boys, and there was Gatsby, just hanging out in the pool. He didn't get up when I started scooping out their evening grain, and he only grudgingly got out when I put his food bowl down for him. He's got attitude, our little Gatsby :)

I keep bemoaning the lack of activity on LJ, but I'm one of the problems. There's a quote about trying vs. doing, and I think Yoda is somehow involved. Anyway - here we go.

1. My record of reviewing new shows and having them die a rapid death still holds. First there was The River, and now I have Missing. I can pick 'em. Actually I like both of those shows, warts and all, and I wish they could have another chance. Missing is still on, but the ratings are plummeting, and the word is it's to be canceled. It's really got a lot of potential; the story started off slowly, then became quite gripping. The acting is great. The locales are gorgeous. It suffers from horrible marketing. As did Prime Suspect, which was far and away my favorite new show. I'm still kind of bitter about that one.

I realized that I'm way outside of the mainstream fandoms (even though that sounds like an oxymoron). I never got into Bones or Castle or House; I tried, but none of them took. I hate Sherlock Holmes. (I don't care if Bumbersnatch is to die for. Get another role, please.) Fringe turned me off right from the get-go because they decided to go with lots of gore, at least in the beginning. It may be better now on that score; I know it's beloved by rabid fans, and it does sound really interesting, but it's waaaaay too late to jump into it now. I avoid Big Bang Theory. I have to leave the room when Sheldon is on: I've had roommates like him - they are in no way funny or endearing. However, I really, really like Leonard. Likewise, Chevy Chase's character drove me away from Community. I have a very low tolerance for assholes, especially on TV. Again: not funny, not endearing.

I don't actually watch a lot of fictional TV. Of course I'm damn near welded to the TV when Game of Thrones is on; the same goes for Treme and The Walking Dead. I also try not to miss Dexter or True Blood or Nurse Jackie (love!!). The thing all of those shows have in common? Short seasons and they're not on network television. That appears to be the way to my heart.

In bookish things, I'm almost finished with The Lost City of Z. What a page turner! It's a fascinating read, and it just astounds me that it's all true. It is nearly unbelievable what those explorers put themselves through. [livejournal.com profile] darlong has been on medical missions to the Amazon with Doctors without Borders, and she vouches for how deadly the area can be due to insects and parasites. I had to stop reading the book before bed because it was giving me nightmares.

Even more horrifying than the diseases that struck down so many explorers is the brutality that the European and later North American conquerors inflicted on the indigenous people in the Amazon. The stories of the horrors inflicted on those poor people - by the millions - is the true stuff of nightmares. How does anyone get to be that savage, that callous about another human life? Or about animals, for that matter? I'd like to think we've evolved beyond that point, but I'm not so sure we have.

I don't mean to make it sound as if it's a horror show from page one to the end, but it certainly has those elements to it. Mostly it's exciting and instructive, and now in the final chapters it's showcasing the reality of the people and tribes who were spared contact with the early (and more recent) invaders - their civilization and culture and their advanced knowledge of homeopathic medicine. Fawcett (the main subject of the book) was one of the first Europeans to spread the word about the real Amazon cultures and to try to change the prevailing perspective of the "natives" as being stupid, brutish, weak and sickly. He's a larger than life character, and they truly do not make them like that anymore.

Next up is Rachel Maddow's Drift (thank you again, [livejournal.com profile] caerwynx!). I've heard nothing but praise for this book - even by conservatives - and I kind of worship the ground she walks on, so I'm anticipating a great read.

CG tree_0206, originally uploaded by maystone1.

Cinnamon Girl, like most of our alpacas, loves pine trees. She claimed our old Christmas tree for her own.

I always trip up on those "either/or" tests that they give for determining personality traits (e.g., Myers-Briggs) because they offer every pairing as being mutually exclusive. My biggest pet peeve is "justice or mercy." Sometimes being merciful is being just. For me, it would be more accurate - and descriptive - if they asked "spirit of the law or letter of the law." Just for the record, I choose "spirit of the law."
that's sure what it sounds like out there. And according to [livejournal.com profile] darlong, that's what it felt like, too. Tons of damage everywhere. She and our friend Skye had to wear bandanas over their noses and mouths while doing chores because the dust and dirt was being blown around relentlessly. Deb has damage to the mill. In Kitchenere/Waterloo (biggish urban area 25 miles east of us) easily ten traffic lights were blown off their lines. Either dangling into the intersections or just dropped onto the ground. Trees down everywhere. Surprisingly, we didn't lose power, but I had the bathtub filled just to be safe. Crazy, crazy weather.

I had 2 1/2 hours sleep last night, so I've too loopy to do much of anything today except page through the internet and stare into space. I'd have been a danger to myself and others if I were out in all of that strong wind, so I stayed in. And did not sleep. *headdesk* I'm sure a lot of you know how you reach that tipping point where your body just will not shut down. Yeah, I waved at that as I zoomed by at around, oh, 7AM.

Anyway, this is not a posty post because - loopy. But it is pic spam of our tent boys. I took these a few days ago. I don't know - are three pics equal to a spam?

A few of the boys )

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