The Cardboard Box of Finland

 

This is a story about Finland, and a tradition that has been occurring for over 75 years. My mom sent me a link to this inspiring story many years ago, and today as I was writing a short essay on welfare reform, my dear mom’s enthusiasm for the cardboard box of Finland emerged in my mind.

In the 1930’s, low-income expectant mothers were given either a cardboard box filled baby items like sheets, blankets, fabric to make clothing, toys, etc. or a cash grant. 95% of families chose the baby box. Throughout the past 75 years, the items have changed to reflect the times, like ready-made clothing, and removing the bottles to promote breastfeeding (This would be considered a promotional subsidy or grant, like our book discusses on page 406. They used the baby box to promote and encourage certain “private activities” like breastfeeding which would benefit the baby’s health, and most likely lessen healthcare expenses.) Here is a list of recent items from the BBC News article Why Finish Babies Sleep in Cardboard Boxes that mothers will find in their baby box:

  • Mattress, mattress cover, undersheet, duvet cover, blanket, sleeping bag/quilt
  • Box itself doubles as a crib
  • Snowsuit, hat, insulated mittens and booties
  • Light hooded suit and knitted overalls
  • Socks and mittens, knitted hat and balaclava
  • Bodysuits, romper suits and leggings in unisex colors and patterns
  • Hooded bath towel, nail scissors, hairbrush, toothbrush, bath thermometer, nappy cream, washcloth
  • Cloth nappy set and muslin squares
  • Picture book and teething toy
  • Bra pads, condomsbaby box

In 1949, the country decided to give the box to all mothers, no matter their income, removing any stigma from receiving a box. The country had a very high infant mortality rate in the 1930s, reaching 65 deaths per 1,000 births. By 1950, this number dropped to 32, and today Finland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world (1.7 deaths per 1000, compared to 5.8 in the United States) (https://www.healthsystemtracker.org/chart-collection/infant-mortality-u-s-compare-countries/#item-infant-mortality-higher-u-s-comparable-countries (Links to an external site.)  In 1949 the government changed the perception of the box from a hand-out to an equalizing gift. This promotional subsidy was and is the “carrot” of the infant mortality and healthcare expense challenges. The box encouraged citizens to see a doctor before the mother-to-be was 4 months pregnant, or they would not receive the grant. The government also made changes to the healthcare system during those 75 years to National Health Care Insurance and a Central Hospital Network.

I do believe that human beings need those carrots and need for government to create responsible public policies that protect and serve the people. I want my representatives to follow more of the Trustee Model, by being informed and exercise their experience and good judgment on critical issues like healthcare. Even if their decisions go against what citizens may feel at a particular time, I want a government and representatives that our Founders envisioned; wise and able to see the bigger picture that the masses may not, like how giving out baby boxes to everyone could create a happier, healthier and more equitable place to live.

Here is a quote from an analysis written by Professor Daniel D. Huff, professor emeritus of social work at Boise State University:   “In 1990 the federal government spent 4.7 billion dollars on all forms of international aid. Pollution control programs received 4.8 billion dollars of federal assistance while both secondary and elementary education were allotted only 8.4 billion dollars. More to the point, while more than 170 billion dollars is expended on assorted varieties of corporate welfare the federal government spends 11 billion dollars on Aid for Dependent Children. The most expensive means-tested welfare program, Medicaid, costs the federal government 30 billion dollars a year or about half of the amount corporations receive each year through assorted tax breaks. S.S.I., the federal program for the disabled, receives 13 billion dollars while American businesses are given 17 billion in direct federal aid.” An example of corporate welfare is the subsidies that are given to the fast-food industry every year. The University of Illinois and UC Berkeley did research to show that “taxpayers pay about 243 billion dollars each year into indirect subsidies to the fast food industry because they pay wages so low that taxpayers must put 243 billion dollars to pay for public benefits for their workers”.  This is also an issue with big box stores like Walmart.

There are many negative and inaccurate perceptions about welfare, like most recipients are African American, or “they” don’t want to work, which creates the negative attitudes about welfare that keep Americans distracted and far from solving the poverty dilemma. If we could shift our perspective out of judgment and focus on the real sources of the problem like discrimination, inequality, racism, gender bias, etc. (which take time and a willingness to change attitudes) and target reductions in the corrupt corporate welfare system, real change could be possible.

So, my vote is for the cardboard box.

 

How Cupcakes Changed My Life

“How you climb a mountain is more important than reaching the top.”
― Yvon Chouinard

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OK, I lied.

Cupcakes didn’t really change my life, yet…

 Cupcakes have helped me see that it isn’t so much about the end product, but how I choose to get there.  

Slowing down and recognizing the possibilities and impact of each moment both nourishes our souls and the world around us. This process can feel both like an inconvenience and a pull on our limited reserves of time, energy, creativity, thoughtfulness, talent, inspiration or money… yet as we give what we think we do not have enough of, our life transforms; we find ourselves asking how we can feel so content and full of a happiness that persists even among the pains of life.

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To build new habits, we need to strengthen our mental muscles. We need to begin by creating a mantra that asks something of ourselves. It isn’t about bettering ourselves or the moment. It is exactly the opposite. It is about learning how to step back into our magnificent selves and live the moment as “we” instead of me.

Here are 16 statements and questions to help get us started on creating a nourishing and slowing mantra:

1) I don’t think I need that.

2) What would the courageous thing to do here?

3) I think I will let that thought go.

4) Could I make a new and inspired choice that leaves the world a better place, or at least no worse?

5) Do I believe in this and how does this impact the world?

6) I am so happy that this action aligns with my values.

7) Who could I teach this to?

8) I choose this instead of that because it gives comfort.

9) Could that be re-used?

10) Is this action just, compassionate and loving?

11)  I am enjoying this moment.

12) Just listen.

13) Deep breath and stand up for what is right.

14) This action promotes well-being for everyone and I am grateful.

15) My actions matter and make a difference.

16) Can I spend a little extra on that which promotes justice?

 As we contemplate the power of the moment and invest in something greater than ourselves, there will be a sense of loss and confusion as the world whizzes by. We question what we are missing… but I have to hurry up. I don’t have time. I need more. I want more. It has to be better. I need more happiness. Grab. Don’t care. Don’t have time. Don’t have time. Too busy. Don’t even remember that I care. Need more. Better. Meeeeeeeee!

Whatever we are doing, including eating, buying, giving, or baking cupcakes, we have limitless possibilities to incite our slowness mantra and ask something of ourselves. What moments of justice, equality and love created that bike, that house, that car, that skirt, that makeup, that phone, that conversation, that text, that email, that bacon, that water, that blanket, that hamburger, that restaurant, that job, and that life-changing cupcake? 

Don’t have time? Make time. Start with one act of slowness, and build from there. These are the moments that begin to build deep and lasting happiness. These moments fill us up with gratitude and abundance because we are being of service in each and every moment. We are shifting our focus from the quick feel-good ending to the long, beautiful and enduring now.

Peace to you and may all your cupcakes be as beautiful inside as out.

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This Sweet Moment

Oh how sweet the moment is, even when it’s not.

We may forget, but every moment is sacred. There are some moments though that remind us of it because the sweetness is pressing up so very close with the inevitable bitterness of life.

This morning, my parents sent me a Snap Chat from the Good Samaritan rehab facility. My mom recently had a stroke after enduring her third brain surgery this year. She was diagnosed with an aggressive malignant brain tumor a year ago, and has undergone radiation and multiple chemo-therapies. The Snap Chat was of a moment in time; the two of them singing the song Good Morning from the musical Singing in the Rain. It simultaneously made me smile and cry as my mom wrestled with the words and my dad smiled as he sang.

Oh, how I sometimes want to refuse the pain, yet there they were singing to me the ying and yang, the ebb and flow, and the coming and going of all of life.

How to Become a Cash-Back Bandit (and a little more compassionate too)

“The best of us must sometimes eat our words.”
J.K. Rowling

It all started after a morning of errands with my husband. We had dropped of books and movies at the library, took a new route to Tractor Supply, and then headed to Woodman’s for groceries.

Later that night, as I was lying in bed, I had an unsettling thought. I had intended to get cash back at all of the stores we shopped at. My husband had an upcoming trip to Germany, and I was being Ms. Frugal,  avoiding cash machine fees.  Where had I gotten cash back? I popped out of bed, looked in my wallet, and found $40.00. Huh. I thought I had gotten cash at two places. I should have $80.00.

I looked at my receipts, and saw the $40.00 cash-back entry on the Tractor Supply receipt. My immediate conclusion was that Tractor Supply had not given me my money.  It made complete sense to me in my sleep deprived (and hormonally sopped) state. And to answer your question now… NO,  I did not look for the second receipt that I most definitely should have been looking for.  I was a lady on a mission.

Early the next morning, I was on my 40 minute quest to Tractor Supply, armed with my receipt and my conviction.  I walked into the store to find the young woman who had checked me out the previous day. As I asked to see the manager, I eyed her and chewed over if she had pocketed my money; maybe X-Men and no expense spared at the concessions?

The manager smiled as she walked up to the register. “How can I help you?”.  I slowly pulled the receipt out of my purse and pointed at the evidence.  She mumbled untruths about last nights reconciled accounts, and there was talk of “going to the back room” to check the books again. I was not backing down. No gift certificates or in store credit either. I wanted cash.

She continued to be disagreeable as she walked towards the registers. She opened the till, counted the money, and handed me the $40.00.  My mission was accomplished.

That night, around the same time I had the original cash-back thought, I had a much, much more terrifying thought that I proclaimed to all who laid near me: Dear God, there was no second cash-back! We had gone through the self-serve line at Woodman’s and were unable to receive cash. Somehow (please don’t judge me) I had completely blanked that out.  My daughters both stared at me with empty expressions, until a smile crept across my older daughters face. Her timing was magnificent…”You robbed Tractor Supply. Oh my God. You really robbed Tractor Supply. You just walked in, demanded money, and they gave it to you!!!”.

And that my friends, is how I came to be known as the Cash-Back Bandit; armed only with my false creed and a crumpled receipt.

Epilogue: The following day, I left early to return to the scene of the crime, with an apology note, $40.00 in hand and some humble pie on my breath. I did not end up doing any hard time, yet I am living with the whispers.

What have I learned?

1) We are not always right! Can you believe it?

2) Think the best of people.

3) Take time to laugh at our mistakes.

4) Forgive and be forgiven.

5) Take the time to really listen to others. They might have something important to say.

6) Take time to process your thoughts. The need to act quickly may be a red flag.

7) Tell your stories, so others can learn from your successes and mistakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WelcomeTree Farm Vision

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“Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Our vision at WelcomeTree Farm is to better the health and happiness of our community and the world as a whole:

* Inspiring personal health, deeper compassion, and environmental mindfulness through organic gardening, whole food plant-based diet, meaningful movement, meditation and a connection with animals and nature.

* Teaching about the benefits of growing an organic garden and being an organic consumer (Our health, healing & preserving our environment, a sense of purpose, spiritual well being, education of a new generation, and our interconnections with all living things…).

* Sharing our passion for ending the destructive forces of factory farming through hands-on educational activities and lectures that cultivate a deeper compassion for all sentient beings. (I plan to visit Farm Sanctuary in Watkin Glen, NY in 2019 to learn more about how we can support the mission to end factory farming).

* Supporting low-income and elderly community members in establishing their own organic gardens (Individuals or families would be supplied with low or no-cost organic vegetable seedlings, tilling or raised-bed construction, and “as-needed” levels of support with planting, weeding, harvesting, and recipe/cooking support).

* Selling, sharing, and donating organic vegetables and fruit to the community that we live in. 

* Actively engaging in our local and government politics to help ensure:

1) The integrity of organic farming.

2) Support of diversified, sustainable farm practices that protect people, animals, and soil health.

3) The right to know what is in our food.

4) Food, shelter and health justice, where food free from pesticides and human/animal abuse, a place to call home, and health care are treated as the basic human rights that they should be.

Would you like to support the WelcomeTree Farm vision? Just click the Donate Button at the top of the page. We will let you know exactly how your contribution helped to further our goals. Please pass along our website to your friends and family. Thank you.

Any questions? Contact Denise at welcometreefarm@me.com.

Living Wabi Sabi

It is not despite our problems, but because of them that our hearts hold everything we need to be joyful.” Taro Gold

iphone fencev 040 I am going to begin with some honesty today: Our barn is really not a barn. It is only a corn crib disguised as a barn.

After spending sometime with the goats and chickens yesterday, I began feeling like a disgruntled corn crib owner. All I could see were all of the problems, and began picturing everyone else’s perfect barns.  I don’t really know who these perfect barn owners are, but I know their barns are better than mine. My thoughts quickly spiraled off into images of Animal Welfare folks coming down the driveway with their take-em-away truck because they had gotten wind of the goat turds that are intermittently found floating in water buckets and hiding in baking soda dispensers.

I suppose it could be all of those farm magazines I read… If someone was coming to my house to write a story about my farm,  I guess I would scrub that sucker down too, put diapers on all of the chickens and goats, and maybe replace the chicken feed bags that keep the wind out with a real tarp. My barn would probably look pretty darn good, in kind of an Ozarks- hillbilly sort of way.

Now, let’s rewind things a bit, to an important memory.

I could barely take it all in when my daughters and I drove up the long driveway to the old farmhouse on 1500 acres of land, and there it was… the little red barn within walking distance of the house. At the time, I knew nothing about corn cribs, so it was a barn to me. We looked at the house and I was giddy, but not as giddy as when the gentleman told me that the corn crib was apart of the agreement. He slid open the heavy old door and I could do nothing but grin. It was a real old barn with its rafters full of spider webs and the sun shining and wind blowing through the broken panes of glass of the four square windows. My senses overloaded with joy. It’s almost like I could see the chickens roosting in the rafters and the goats bedded down together in the golden straw. It was perfectly imperfect.

This memory began flickering as I was contemplating my barn dilemma at the kitchen table. At that same moment, the mailman drove up our driveway, and hopped out with a package. In that package was a book from a friend titled, Living Wabi Sabi by Taro Gold. There sat in front of me a book about an ancient Japanese Buddhist philosophy centering around “…the oddities, the perfectly imperfect uniqueness of you and me and everything…the value of objects, events, and the entirety of life “as is” unpolished, unpredictable, and natural.” It is a book about the empowerment of imperfection.

The book begins with the author’s grandma telling him, ” You will grow to be even happier than you can possibly imagine today.” She was right. After reading the book that same morning, I felt tremendous joy about who I am and the life that I am living.

There is so much beauty in everything that is imperfect, including you and me. The broken window at the peak of barn is like my anxiety, or the open slats that have to be covered to keep the wind out are like my imperfect body, or the never-ending shit that is everywhere, and I mean everywhere (please be careful  where you put your hand) is like the poo of life that just won’t go away no matter how much you try to scrub it. Scrape away one giant pile of frozen shit one day, undoubtedly there will be a new one soon there after.

I guess the more I love and accept my Wabi Sabi corn crib, the more I can love my Wabi Sabi self.

I am including a video of a group of people in Paraguay, South America that seems to embody the Wabi Sabi philosophy. It’s so beautifully imperfect.

How To Keep Your Goat Worm-Free Naturally!

If you own goats or are thinking about it, worming is a critical part of keeping your goats healthy and happy. Chemical wormers are one of the options for de-worming your goats, but I have found that I prefer the herbal method, where prevention and health are the objectives.

Benefits of Herbal Wormers

How do herbal wormers work and what are the benefits?

Specific herbs in herbal worming blends aid in boosting your goat’s immune system, which in turn help to fend off parasites. The herbs act as preventative medicine instead of reactive medicine. Keep your goat healthy and happy and they will be much less likely to become infested with worms.

If your goat already has worms, particular herbs help expel the parasites. They do not like being near the herbs, so they leave the body via the goat’s droppings.

My favorite benefit of herbal wormers is that you do not have to stress out and/or pump your goat full of poison. A happy goat is a healthier goat.

Procuring Herbs

I will assume if you are still reading you are considering the more natural approach to keeping your goat worm free. If you are fully on board, you will need to decide how you will procure your herbs. I have plenty of space to grow the herb blend, yet I have chosen to purchase my herbs on-line from a long-time goat owner and herb specialist (http://fiascofarm.com/herbs/wormer.htm). You may decide to grow them yourself, purchase them in bulk on-line, or order them ready to go as I did. If you are raring to grow, you will need the following ingredients to start your herbal blend: Black Walnut, Fennel, Garlic, Wormwood, Stevia, Hyssop, Thyme, Cucurbita Pepo, and Mugwort. Recipes will vary, but those are some of the basics to get you started.

Five Tricks to Mixing and Administering Herbal Goat Wormer:

1) I use a glass-canning jar and a plastic syringe to administer the herbal wormer. Apply a small amount of olive oil to the tip of the syringe’s plunger so it does not stick while you are releasing the herbs into the goat’s mouth. (I am currently using a more effective syringe to dispense any liquids to my goats. Click to see this update). 

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2) Use very warm water to mix with the herbs. Goats LOVE extra warm water.

3) I mix 2 tablespoon of Molly’s Herbals Formula #2 Weekly Worm Formula and Tonic to approximately 8 ounces of water for my two 160 pound goats (I also tried mixing the herb blend dry with their goat chow, but found that the herbs settled to the bottom as they rooted around in the chow. If you do choose to mix your herbs with feed, I like to use the 3.5 quart Little Giant Mineral Feeder. I have several around the barn for feed, mineral, and baking soda. Liquid form does ensure that they ingest all of the herbs). For my goats, if the mix is too strong, the goats turn their noses up to it and shy away from it the next time I attempt to administer it. They have excellent memories. This makes it important to get it right as soon as possible, but no pressure! Molly’s Herbals includes a dosage chart to help find the right amount for your goat. 

4) Add a tablespoon or so of honey to the liquid blend if your goats do not seem to like the herbs. I have had 100% administration success since adding honey to the mix.

5) Remember to keep your goat’s head looking straight up when feeding them the liquid herbs. This will ensure that the blend is heading to the proper stomach.

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It makes me smile to think about how excited my goats are when they see that glass jar and syringe full of “herb tea” heading their way. I imagine that would not be the case with a syringe full of chemical de-wormer. So, fellow and prospective goat owners, cheers to happy and healthy goats!

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Follow up: My goats are turning 6 in February of 2018! They continue to be healthy, happy, worm-free goats! Here is an added list of 5 of my favorite items that I use with my goats.  Some of these products are affiliate links. If you click and purchase, I make a little extra money to care for the farm.Thanks for your support!

5 Favorite Goat Items

  1. I provide baking soda to my goats at all times (sodium bicarbonate). I sometimes use Arm and Hammer, but I prefer to use a higher quality organic version. It is more expensive, but worth it! Baking soda helps balance the acid in the goat’s rumen,  reducing the chance of bloat.
  2. I use Manna Pro Goat Mineral Supplement as my mineral supplement. The goats love it! Every time I freshen my supply in the barn, I grab a handful of the mineral and the baking soda and feed it to them right out of my hand. It’s like a treat! This is to be given free choice, available at all times. I use the Little Giant Mineral Feeder (3.5 quarts). It has two separate areas for the baking soda and the mineral. It works so great! Just make sure to use large screws to secure it to the wall because they will most likely stand in it. They are very durable though, so no worries! Also try to place it at a height not too high that they can’t reach it, but high enough that it isn’t an accidental toilet:)
  3. I also use the mineral feeder for my goat chow. (I get my chow from Tractor supply. I have always used the brand in the link, but I recently changed to a new Organic feed by Nature’s Best that TS introduced. If you need it delivered, Amazon is the way to go.) I have two goats, so they each get their own compartment to eat from, although they always switch sides halfway through! I give them each a cup or two a day. There are feeding instructions on the bag. I use a plastic container/bin to keep the vermin out of the feed. Make sure it seals up well! The bin in the this link is weather tight, which will reduce the chances of mold, bugs and mice.
  4. I bring warm water to the barn everyday, sometimes twice! Goats love warm/hot water. I have two buckets of water available to the goats at all times. One is my heated bucket during the cold months, and one smaller bucket that I re-fill with hot water. I find the larger buckets hard to carry, so I like a smaller one to re-fill the bigger one. My Saanen Luna knows the red bucket is the steamy hot one. I can’t even get it hung up before she starts slurping down the water!
  5. I purchased the cutest goat coats for Luna and Areida on Etsy this past week from a small business called Coat Your Goat. They are wonderful! We chose canvas on the outside and flannel on the inside. They look like they will wash and wear very well. goat photos 159.JPG

Looking for some fun goaty gift ideas? Here are some of my favorites!
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If you have any questions, feel free to message me!

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A Woman that Inspires Me

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“As  a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and  again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of  thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” Henry David Thoreau

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This blog entry is dedicated to my cousin Jennifer. We grew up together, seeing each other at birthdays, Christmas and other family events and then she went away. I did not understand much about why she no longer came to our family gatherings, but I missed her very much. What I did know was that she was in some kind of trouble. Jennifer recently spoke out publicly about how she was stolen as a young girl from all of us, and herself, into the world of human sex trafficking. She has been on my mind a great deal lately, after connecting with her on Facebook. I see her pictures and the words she writes, and all I feel is grateful that she is alive and taking back her life.

I sat looking at our freshly tilled garden this past week and realized it was like an empty canvas. There it waits, ready to be transformed.

Last year was our first year growing a garden in Illinois. We were horribly unprepared, and behind in our growing schedule. The garden was full of weeds because we did not own a tiller. We rented one for a couple of days, which was not near enough time to finish the job properly. The tomatoes were up front, along with the herbs, and peppers. The sides of the garden were lined with giant sunflowers and zucchini while the back-end held the gourds, potatoes, beans and cucumbers. The weeds bothered me at first, but I made the decision early on to focus on the garden’s beauty and abundance.

The longer I sat near the barn, thinking about last year’s efforts and staring off at the garden, I began to see something else. The garden quite resembled the human spirit, and its amazing ability to bounce back and inspire. Just like each of us, the earth remembers the challenges, mistakes, abuses, and sorrow, but it can be re-claimed and nourished back to health. Each year, the garden only grows stronger through change and learning from the previous year’s joys and mistakes.

Our newly tilled garden made me think of my cousin Jennifer. I wish that I would have asked more questions and reached out to her years ago. This year my garden is in honor of her and her beautiful and resilient spirit. Jenny…you are so very loved.

September 1, 2012 002

The Art of Poop

“Most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.”
Oscar Wilde

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In 2007, my husband and I sold our house near Minneapolis, Minnesota, purchased 11 acres of land right outside of River Falls, Wisconsin, and had a 27 foot Palomino Puma travel trailer dropped into the woods that we decided to call home. 

One of the first things that confounded me about travel trailer living was how we were going to dispose of the “black water”, which is travel trailer lingo for human sewage. We had organized and read about so many things but had not gotten to that incidental. We did have a little time to investigate the best practices of sewage removal, being that the travel trailer tank could take a couple of weeks to “fill”.

After a couple of internet searches, we decided to purchase a black water tote, which quickly became known as the poopy tank (within the confines of our home). Here is a picture of what it looked like:

Poopy tank

We purchased the travel tote at a camping store near Rogers, Minnesota. The wheels were supposed to make getting from here to there easier. I was not quite sure where “there” was yet, but we would find out soon enough. It held approximately 18 gallons of liquid and was on sale for around $125 US dollars.

We came across a dumping station that was conveniently located about 10 minutes from our property, where one could dump black and grey water for the bargain price of $2.50. Now that I was clear on the destination of our tote’s future contents, we were ready to take the plunge and say, “Let it be filled”.

The following are directions by Mark Robinson, ehow.com. on how to empty the travel trailer’s black water tank: (Please skip the bold print unless you are hoping to take a nap sooner than later).

Instructions

  1. Find the black water tank drain port on the travel trailer. This port is normally located underneath the trailer on the same side as the toilet and near the black water tank.
  2. Remove the cap from the drain port. Attach one end of the RV sewer hose to the drain port, making sure that the hooks on the end lock onto the tabs on the drain port.

   3. Feed the RV sewer hose to the dump hole.

   4. Attach the drain fitting onto the other end of the hose and place it into the dump hole. Locate the drain release lever near the black water tank drain port and open it. The tank will proceed to dump its contents. Close the drain after you stop hearing the black water draining from the tank.

   5. Detach the RV sewer hose from the drain port. Use a garden hose to flush out any remaining black water residue from inside the hose. When finished, disconnect the drain fitting and remove the hose from the dump hole.

I am not sure if having those directions could have changed the unfortunate course of events that were about to unfold, but the first couple of fills and dumps were very challenging. The substandard hoses and connections that were included with the tote were not giving us the secure seal you would look for in something that transports “this” type of liquid. We had leakage issues in the car on the way to the dump station and some embarrassing spillage while dumping.

Now we progress to a cold day in mid-November. I do not know the exact date, but time was being noted by how many days we had left to return the poopy tank. It had a 60-day return policy, and we all agreed that the tote needed to go back. We had grown tired of its cheap parts and seeping crevices, but we needed its services one last time.

My husband was once again trying to attach the annoying sewer hose to the drain port while the girls and I watched from the back travel trailer window. The process was proceeding in the usual way; my husband’s tremendous frustration and curse words silenced with the closed windows, while he wielded clamps, hoses, and the tote simultaneously.  And then it happened.. the small cracks and weak seals in the sewer hose finally gave way with an appalling force, spraying everything in its path. The trees,  the windows, the nearby shed, the chicken coop, and my husband were all showered with sewage.  Oh, so very uncivilized.

 

The Mouse and a Kind Stranger

“For too long in this society, we have celebrated unrestrained individualism over common community.”
Joe Biden

Deer Mouse

This is a story of a very lucky mouse, a grateful family and a very kind man…

Several years ago, when my family and I lived on our 11 acres of land, right outside River Falls, Wisconsin, we began to have a mouse problem in our travel trailer. If you have ever listened to a mouse move about in a travel trailer, it is quite different from the sounds in a house. The walls and ceilings are so thin that every little footstep taken, crumb eaten, or squeak squeaked is heard with crisp clarity.

One night, lying in bed, I heard the sound of mouse feet above me in the ceiling. The mouse was very busy bringing food from my kitchen cupboard back into the far end of my bedroom ceiling. It went like this: pitter patter, pitter patter, pitter patter…clunk-tap, scritch-scratch…clunk-tap…pitter patter, pitter patter, pitter patter… nibble-nibble. Walk across the ceiling, enter the kitchen cabinet, step on a plate that teeters and taps the plate below it, grab some chow, head back over the plate…tap, and back into the bedroom to eat dinner. It happened at least 20 times before I finally got up and decided to delicately place a live trap in the kitchen cabinet. I could see the crumbs where the little bugger had found our cereal. I went back to bed, and waited. It took about 5 minutes and 2 or 3 cycles of pitter, tap, scritch, nibble, and I heard the glorious sound of a trap door shutting.

I slowly removed the trap from the cabinet and could feel the weight of the mouse inside. I held the trap tightly, worried that it might escape if I was careless. We have had our share of mice in places they shouldn’t be; sticking my hand in a chicken feed bag and one running up my arm, watching one run across the top of the couch while I am laying on it, or opening a bin and one jumping out onto my foot. My all time favorite was when I was driving down the highway towards Hudson, Wisconsin, and found myself staring into the eyes of a little mouse clinging to the windshield wiper. It had peeked out from under the hood of the car while we were driving 60 miles an hour. He was looking straight at me as his fur whipped wildly and it hung on for dear life.

I was told once that if you let a mouse go close to your home, they will come right back in.  They can find their way back across a football field or something like that. The last mouse intruder was walked to the top of the hill and far down the driveway before being released. It was now 2:00 in the morning, and I was not hip on the idea of walking anywhere, so I decided to set the trap outside the door until morning.

The next morning, as we were getting ready for the day, I remembered our captured mouse friend. I decided to drive it to the end of the driveway, as we were on our way to town.

Halfway into town, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. I saw it again. It did not register for about a minute but I then realized I forgot to let the mouse out of the trap. I had set the trap on the passenger side floor, and somehow it found its way out while we were driving. I quickly pulled over to the side of the road, which was towards the middle median. My daughters were in the back seat, and the mouse had just found its way back to them. Each time the mouse moved, a shriek would escape my lips.

I don’t know if I am stereotyping, but the Deer Mice in our neck of the woods seem very laid back and slow-moving. This particular mouse stopped several times to pick up a crumb, and nibble a bit between escapes from my gloved hands. It never really ran, rather sauntered from here to there. It left me ample time to grab it but was distracted by the screaming, plotting and laughing.

After about 15 minutes, a truck pulled in behind us. A man hopped out of the truck and asked if we needed any help. I explained our predicament to him, he got right in there and had that mouse caught within a minute. I half expected a snicker about our catch and release mouse policy, but not a patronizing peep out of this rugged looking man.

The heart-warming part of the story was that instead of throwing the mouse out into the grassy median of the highway, where we happened to be standing, he crossed the 2-lane highway and released the mouse into an open field. He joked about it finding a new home in the development adjacent to the road.

He said farewell, and off he drove with a nod and a wave. I have wished for all of these years that I could have sent him a thank you note. I am a firm believer in spontaneous acts of kindness and recognizing the kind acts of others. They really do make a difference.