Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Social Networking...

For those who read my previous post about phones and how much I hate them, it might come as something of a surprise to note that I am a relatively avid social networker.

The difference, I think is the difference between passive and active control. One doesn't control a telephone. When it rings, a phone demands attention right now. On some level, I think most of us find a ringing telephone at least a little inconvenient much of the time. But I can check and update my Facebook page totally at my convenience. Because I think it's convenient and because I actively control when I use it (and also because I'm kind of curious as to what other people are doing), I actually check in on a fairly regular basis.

I got started on Facebook a couple of years ago. I probably wouldn't have jumped on the bandwagon nearly as quickly if I still lived in the area where I grew up simply because I would have been in regular contact with most of my friends and family. As Melissa will attest, I am kind of absent minded a good deal of the time. I originally started my personal page as a way to avoid having to endlessly re-email pictures and updates to family and friends who didn't get included on emails they should have been in on because yours truly forgot to include them in the first place. It worked a treat and it saved me a lot of awkward embarrassment in the process. Even more convenient ! I've also enjoyed getting re-acquainted with a whole bunch of people with whom I'd long ago lost touch.

About a year ago, we designed a Paradigm Farms FB page for our horse business as another (convenient) way of maintaining contact with our clients, many of whom were already on FB. Much to our surprise, our page seems to have attracted a broad following that stretches far beyond our friends and clients and as an added bonus, by cross referencing our blog to our FB page we've gleaned a considerable blog following as well. At the end of the day, getting and keeping the word out there is what it's all about, and doubly so if it can be done in a convenient manner !

Sunday, December 26, 2010


I'm sitting at my desk right now, typing away on my computer while eating a Cadbury Caramilk bar; a much missed Canadian treat of which Melissa ordered me a case as part of my Christmas present. Less than an hour ago, we arose from the table at my in-laws after our third turkey dinner complete with all the fixin's. I was so stuffed I swore up and down that no more food would pass my lips until at least tomorrow noon. So much for that.

When I look back on my childhood, one of the things that amazes me is the plentitude of food that graced our kitchen and pantry at all times of the year. It's a wonder all of us didn't founder on all that food !

Don't get me wrong, Melissa and I set a generous table, and if we know you're coming we'll make sure there is plenty in the larder. If you get up from my table and you're not full, I promise it'll be your fault, not mine. But how many households could accomodate several extra with no notice at virtually any meal like we could do back then ? I know we sure couldn't.

I hope Christmas was a good one for all of you. We're getting ready to feast again to mark the New Year. All I can say right now is ugh, and when you get a minute could you pass the chips ? :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

When I think about Christmas...

When I think about Christmas, I think about the sort of unconditional love and laughter that the very best marriages bring with them.

I think about family and friends who are genuinely happy to be together, even if they saw one another yesterday, and who enjoy one another's company each and every day.

I think about feasting and parties and naps in easy chairs and presents.....yes, presents.....the more with my name on them under the tree, the better (!).

I think about excited little ones and snow and frosty air that lends itself to Christmas stories from grandparents and Santa's visit early on Christmas morning.

I think about little white country churches in the snow and Christmas pudding and happy people singing Christmas songs at the top of their voices and joy and giving and goodwill towards men.

I think about country farm houses with candles in the windows and wreaths and sleigh rides and cook stoves and the smell of wet wool mitts and hats with ear flaps and skating under the stars.

I think about what a blessing of a life I've lived to have experienced every one of the good things I mentioned about Christmas.

Whatever your traditions and wherever Christmas finds you, all the best and Merry Christmas from us to you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Time's a Comin' !

Said my grandad to my grandma. Christmas 1986.

"Is everybody who ought to be here, here ? "


"Reckon we're good to eat."

Everybody meant just that. Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbours and literally anyone who was at loose ends in our little community on Christmas Day was welcome to come break bread with us. In those days, before my generation scattered, there were so many of us that nobody's house would hold us all, so we had our Christmas meal each year on Christmas Day at the community hall, just down the street from my grandparent's house, and we filled it up with our presence and our laughter. Grandma would usually wind up at the piano, and we'd play, sing and eat all day long.

I couldn't imagine our Christmas tradition ever being any different then, but 1986 was the last in a long line of Christmases that my grandad would be able to say those words to grandma. From that day to this one has been a slow playing out of that family tradition as new families began their own Christmas rituals. Lest I sound sad about this, I believe that's as it should be, although I admit to some nostalgia for those days each year as I get older. If I knew then what I know now, I'd have tried to cram in even more fun that I had back then, and that is saying something !

Fast forward twenty four years and, except for chores and barring equine or livestock emergencies, I'll be looking forward to participating in Christmas dinner with my in-laws and their families, including Melissa's grandaddy who, at 94 will be making the trip up from Memphis in a few days. Christmas and the days surrounding it are part of the hand full of days that we completely close the farm to visiting clients; I admit to looking forward to a few day's grace on that front, too !

What are you doing for Christmas this year ? What are your family traditions ?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stall Floor Design - For Laura

In the comment section of my last post, Laura asked a question about how we designed our stall floors in the barn at our new farm. Given my background, it ought to come as no surprise that I absolutely detest poorly designed animal facilities of all types and my biggest bugaboos are poor drainage and inadequate ventilation. (Some people call me eccentric. Just sayin' ! :)) As such, we gave this matter a lot more thought than it might seem to warrant.

Everybody has their own idea about what makes a good stall floor. From a horse's perspective on achieving maximum comfort in a stall, I believe the flooring needs to provide a surface that's clean, dry and soft. There are a whole buncha real good ways of achieving this; additonally we were looking for solutions that were more labour efficient and economical than forking out ten inches of shavings from every wet spot in every stall each day, which is more or less what we do now. Rather than detail everything in writing, I've included a schematic that (I think) is pretty easy to follow.

If anybody has any questions, please feel free to shout 'em out. Obviously, my schematic is not done to scale. The top of the tile drain is roughly 15 inches below the bedding surface in the middle of the stall. The bedding is 6 inches deep all across the stall with the 3/4 stone making up the difference. If I had to guess, I'd say there is roughly 2 inches of 3/4 stone at the walls and (obviously) roughly 9 inches in the middle of the stall.
So far, these stalls have only been used intermittently but I can say with certainty that they drain like nobody's business ! :)
Hope this helps !

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Happiness is....

A lot of folks get the weary dismals this time of year, so I thought I'd start a list of things that make me happy about winter.

1. A steaming hot cup of coffee and some good conversation around the kitchen table after coming in the house for breakfast or dinner on a cold winter day.

2. Running with the goats. Every morning we reposition the fainters from their stall to the goat pen while we feed horses. And every morning, no matter what's come the night before, they hit the door with enthusiasm, running full tilt. Anything that can start the day with that much enthusiasm deserves more than a smile and a moment, so Melissa and I run with them. Honest to goodness we do. Every morning God sends. Never fails to make us smile !

3. Feeling warm sunshine and cold wind on my face while working outside on a crisp, clear day.

4. Being able to work really, really hard and not work up a sweat !

I hope you'll add to my list. What makes you happy about winter ?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Warm or Cold ?

Cool, cold, warm or hot ?

Melissa and I are complete opposites on this topic.

You see, Melissa loves heat, and by this I don't mean Melissa likes it kind of warm. Melissa likes it HOT. She is just beginning to get comfortable when the outside temperature is 80 degrees. Ninety degrees is a comfortable summer day in Melissa's world. Over the course of several years, I have watched her ride, put up hay, build fence, and do all sorts of strenuous tasks with the mercury at or above 100 (very humid) degrees, and I have never heard her complain that it was too hot to complete any task. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that Melissa works outside all summer long wearing jeans and boots and often she's wearing a long sleeved shirt.

Seventy degrees is two shirts and a sweater in Melissa's world. If she's sleeping, it's also a pair of jogging pants over top of a pair of long underwear. I am only moderately surprised by how cold her extremities can get while sitting in a 70 degree house, but it amazes me that her torso can also be seriously cold. Melissa gets all of this honestly enough. Neither of her parents function at all in cold weather, and (so they tell me) they both exhibit all the same symptoms as Melissa !

Frankly I find all of this unbelievable. When it's hot outside (anything over 80 degrees) I want to be wearing the least amount of clothing that is decently possible. If I am working while it's hot and I'm not near any sort of public venue, my normal attire is shorts, socks and work boots. If I have a shirt with me at all, it's usually soaked in water (or my own putrid sweat) and tied around my head. In spite of this, if I'm working strenuously I still look like I am going to have a stroke.

That I live in a place where it's over 80 degrees consistently for five months of the year and part of the time for two months more is a true test of my love to Melissa. If I had my druthers, I prefer cool over hot weather and I always prefer cool nights (say 45 degrees) for sleeping. I set posts and built fence all day today while working in my shirtsleeves (and unlined Carthartt bib overalls) in bright 35 degree sunshine. A little cool, but if I had to choose that or 90, it'd be an easy choice !

Cool, cold or warm ? Which do you prefer ? How about your SO ?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Taste of the North

Well kiddies, we're fixin' to get our first little taste of sustained cold weather (aka winter) this week. As you might imagine given my Canadian heritage and given that I work outside in whatever mother nature throws at us, I've spent some time studying winter.

Winters in southern Middle Tennessee show much wider fluctuation in temperature than one might at first anticipate. Given our relatively low latitude, it's no surprise that we get some very warm winter days, but it can also get surprisingly cold, albeit for short periods of time. Because we retain the right to real warmth all winter long, our severe weather season never really shuts down; we can get severe thunderstorms every month of the year.

Day to day, we seem to spend precious little time at or near "average" conditions here in the winter. We *should* average around 50 degrees in the daytime and a little below freezing at night. More often than not, we seem to arrive at our averages by combining long stretches of weather in the 60's and 70's with periods spent in the 30's and low 40's (which is what we're headed for this week).

It snows here a few times every winter, although the amount of time we spend with any snow cover at all on the ground is measured in hours. Days completely below freezing are relatively rare but they do happen a handful of times each winter. Below zero cold is truly rare....I haven't seen it in my six years here....but it can happen. Same thing with truly heavy snow.

For those of us who work outside all day every day, I think the worst winter weather in Dixie is the sort of day-long sluicing rain and wind combined with a temperature at or below 40 degrees that we seem to get with some regularity in Dec, Jan and Feb. From a comfort perspective, I would personally take 10 degrees and sunny over 38 degrees and pouring rain any day of the week.

I spent the morning putting tank heaters in all our water troughs and making Melissa feel better about herself by blanketing every horse on this farm. I'm off to Home Depot to buy a couple of heavy duty extension cords, a new hose, as well as a bag of grit so I will be fully and totally prepared for winter ! :)

I'm looking forward to lots of long winter evenings spent dozing in my favourite chair, right next to the space heater !