Tag Archives: community

You Get What You Pay For

While I haven’t written here for a while, I feel an update is definitely due.  This is not that update. :-/

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I’m writing to extol the virtues of the Local Hardware Store which will heretofore be referred to by the acronym LHS.

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Big Box Stores (BBS) like Lowes, Home Depot, Friedmans, Amazon…They have everything a consumer could possibly need! It’s cheaper than going to that little store on the corner, right?  Plus, they present options beyond your wildest dreams, right? How could an LHS compete with the shear magnitude and inventory at one of these places? However, I’ve proven again and again that, in the long run, getting something at your LHS is a lot less expensive than the cheaper big-box store.
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To wit.
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We’ve been dealing with a tricky septic situation here on the ranch for the past month or so, and it finally looks like it might be resolved in the near future. I needed some pretty specialized items and went to Maselli’s, our beloved LHS.  Upon walking in, one of the owners (actually, I’m not sure if he is an owner, but he certainly takes ownership and knows everything) asked if I needed help.  It felt a little like if a major league ball player asked if I needed help with my curve ball.
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YES! I DO! I told him exactly what I needed, and he showed me to the PVC fittings.  I picked out what I thought I needed, asked a few more questions about possible hacks for a flotation ball that popped off the septic pump (I’m currently using a tennis ball…which everyone approved of) and went to check out.  The guy at check out noticed that I had grabbed two different pipe fittings, though they were both three inches in diameter.  He explained that one is for drains, and the other for pressurized systems, and pointed out that the drainage one was noticeably smaller.  Then I held up my pipe, and he asked if I had all purpose glue.  “Regular PVC glue won’t work?”  No, apparently my pipe isn’t the regular type of PVC, so I ran back and got the “290” glue like he said and came back to finish checking out.  He further mentioned that my pipe plug was 6”, just in case, and I told him it was for a different project completely.  He nodded and wished me a good luck.
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This visit to Maselli’sMead Clarke, or my childhood LHS, Smith and Strebels, would have been the same.  The professionals throughout the store offered their specialized help, and the checkout people knew what they were looking at and helped troubleshoot my problem before I had one!
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Based on previous experiences in the BBS’s, I can imagine I would have wandered around without any help, left with different size fittings (even though they’re both three inches), inappropriate glue, and the wrong size pipe-plug.  I’d get home, try all my fittings, glue the ones that did work with the wrong glue, spend time figuring out where I went wrong,  ask Google perhaps, call dad, go back to the store and, after about eight hours, maybe get it right the second time.  Instead, I solved it all the same day with the friendly, non-judgmental help from some real pro’s who love helping other people DIY.
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So yes, BBS’s are cheaper if you don’t count time and frustration.  The prices are lower and so is the quality.  We’ve decided, unequivocally that buying something at an LHS for a little more money, makes up for the time, gas, and soul-drainage spent frequenting BBS’s.
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For the sake of length I’ve refrained from enumerating my BBS follies, and LHS triumphs, but would love to hear about yours! Go LHS!

 

Wow… is that a new post?

We’re back!  Sarah and I took a hiatus from blogging and building and are just now getting back into the swing of things.  The last three months have been a whirlwind of blustery New York weather, Christmas trees, and baby lambs.  Yes, baby lambs and don’t worry… I come bearing pictures!

Anne Bo-Leymb
Anne Bo-Lamb

Every year (for the past three years) a friend and I run a Christmas tree stand at St. Marks Church in the Bowery in Manhattan.  It’s a month of preparation followed by a month of fourteen-hour days slinging conifers in the cold.  The stand is open twenty-four hours a day from Black Friday until Christmas Eve, and is such a unique, enriching community-building experience.  This year a highlight for me was having Sarah come work with us at the stand.  She not only heaved Fraser firs over fences with the fellas, but also put her superb eye towards making wreaths for us.

Sarah Making Wreaths
Sarah making wreaths
Joseph and Sarah + Wreaths
Joseph + Sarah + wreaths
One of Sarah's Wreaths
beautiful wreath!

I also realized that as part of my work for the stand I’ve been building a “tiny house” on the street each year. It’s a 4x8x8 structure that can cozily hold three people making espresso (yes…there’s been an espresso machine).  This year I upped the ante with my newly-acquired building skills, and framed this little house in panels, built in a loft, and salvaged and installed a real door (in the past the door was hinges on a warped piece of plywood).  Next December…when our house is finished…who knows what new additions will be found in the tree stand shack?  Sky-light?  Running water?  H-VAC? We’ll see.

Tree Riders 'Hobo Shack'
Tree Riders’ “Hobo Shack”

Christmas trees wrapped, we flew back to California for some R&R at Tassajara, then back to the sheep ranch,where we had forty new baby lambs to keep track of. Laaammmmbbbiiinnggg Speeeeed! Out of the pot and into the fire we go.  Two of the new babies didn’t bond with their mothers (a pretty common occurrence with first-time ewe mothers) so we are feeding them twice-a-day by bottle.

So the last month has been spent catching up on work with the sheep and lambs and observing the cycle of birth and death (to be continued in another post I’m sure).  We’ve also been tying up loose ends from 2013, and doing some all-important planning for 2014 – house planning, work planning, well-being and health intention-setting, financial planning, and more.  We erased our window, re-categorized some things, and believe that we now have a plan that will take us at least until July of this year…if not Christmas 😉

The tiny house is back to being built nail-by-nail, and Sarah is studying to be a certified interpreter (English-Spanish), and we’ll be posting here as we go…

Now…some sheep.

Our little wether, Cupertino.
Our little wether, Cupertino.
Cupertino and Anne Bo-Lamb relaxing by the tiny house.
Cupertino and Annie relaxing by the tiny house.
Lullabies from Lamby-bies.
Lullabies from Lamby-pies.
Cuper grillin me, as Annie looks on approvingly.
Lambie yawn
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Lambs napping in the shade

Life on the Sheep Ranch

There’s a ranch in Sonoma County, with sheep and cows mostly – some horses, turkeys, bobcats, jackrabbits, a family of deer, and a tall redwood where ravens harass red-tails, and owls just try to blend in.  A three-mile dirt road winds off of a twelve-mile, farm-lined paved road (that leads to ‘civilization’), and at the end of that road is the ranch, a house, and us.    We are caretakers of this land for the owners (who live elsewhere).  Our lives are rich with sheepy-details and sheepy-learnings; we are the shepherds here.

We love this place.  We love the rolling California hills, which were kelly green and smacked of Ireland when we arrived six months ago, and are now a deep, golden-brown .  Here is a little video of us and the property only a few days after we arrived.


We have both lived in plenty of off-grid situations before, but neither of us knew anything about animal husbandry.  There are two flocks of sheep we’re responsible for, one for meat, one for milk, about 150 sheep in total.  We feed them, water them, repair their barn, and generally keep an eye on them.  They tend to get their heads stuck in fences,  sprain ankles, and sometimes they escape their pastures, only to get left behind by the herd.  As herd animals, being alone is the worst.

A month or two after we arrived a mama sheep died, and we raised her baby, who we started calling Lambikin (rhymes with ramekin).  We fed her lamb formula from a bottle twice a day for about two months.  She stayed around our house and slept in a barn across from us rather than wandering with the herd.

Here is a Lambikin photo collection, from our first feeding when she was just a  baby lamb, to a photo from just the other day, where you can see her as the robust, trouble-making teenage lamb that she is now.

Lambie's first feeding. She was terrified of us at first.  But it only took a couple of days for her to change her mind about us, and soon she was following us around.
Lambie’s first feeding. She was terrified of us at first. But it only took a couple of days for her to change her mind, and soon she was following us around.
Lambs don't really like to cuddle or play the ways dogs or cats do.  We guess that as "prey" animals it feels like an attack.  But Lambikin does like having her neck scratched, she also likes bumping up against you so that she knows where you are, and resting her head in your hand.
Lambs don’t really like to cuddle or play the ways dogs or cats do. We think that as prey animals it feels like an attack. But Lambikin does like having her neck scratched, she also likes bumping up against you so that she knows where you are, and resting her head in your hand.
Kind of the best photo of Lambikin ever, with our dear friend's wonderful son.  He was scared of Lambie at first (he'd never seen such an animal before!) and she was scared of him ('cause she's scared of pretty much everything) but they got used to each other and we think they even shared some baby mammal secrets with each other.
Kind of the best photo of Lambikin ever, with our dear friend’s wonderful son. He was scared of Lambie at first (he’d never seen such an animal before!) and she was scared of him (because she’s scared of pretty much everything), but they got used to each other and we think they even shared some baby mammal secrets with each other.
A very patient lamb.
A very patient lamb.
Lambikin on the runway.
Lambikin on the runway.
Lambie is starting to get Sheepie.
Lambie is starting to get Sheepie.

Eventually, and with trepidation, we re-introduced her to the flock.   She is doing really well there.  We think she is a well-adjusted sheep.  When we go out to feed the sheep  they all run away (they always run away, that’s what they do), but Lambie runs towards us baa-ing her baa that is so distinctive only to us.  We love her the most.

This is an experiment.  Testing the waters of living off the map, with the hope of one day parking our tiny house in a place like this.  A place that has room for community; a place with open land where you don’t have to worry about running the tractor into anything and the circadian rhythm of life takes over.  A place where we can step outside and take a deep breath when we need some space to create or wander.

This is one of many seeds being sown right now.  We’re learning new skills at every turn and planning way down in the sub-conscious for something still to come.  What it looks like…well…how can we know?

Or as Lambikin would certainly say…..  Baa.