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 Shadow in the Dark

“This  suspense is terrible. I hope it will last”   Oscar  Wilde 1-8-08 004

Today I am transporting all of us back in time. We are going back to my families’ 11 acres of land in River Falls, Wisconsin during the year 2008.

It is dusk, and my family and I have just come back from a summer campfire in the woods. We all settle in for the night, in our 27 foot Palomino Puma travel trailer. The outside world does not seem very far away in our plastic home, with the night sounds pressing in through our thin walls, open windows and the woods wrapped around us on all four sides. Mother Nature gently invites herself inside our dwelling with a variety of animal sounds, including hoo- hoohoo’s, and yip-yips, long into the night.

On this peaceful night in the woods, we are all busying ourselves with something, when our daughter Caroline asks, “Is Jemie outside? Jemie is our 80-pound Black Lab. No, Jemie was not outside. Caroline then proceeds to tell us that there is definitely SOMETHING outside. She is peering out the front of the travel trailer into the pitch black. We have no outside light, so whatever she is seeing is just a shadow. We all race over to the window, most likely envisioning a wide range of creatures. Could one of the goats gotten lose? Is there a coyote lurking around? Are the deer looking for a place to lie down for the night? All possibilities, I suppose. Caroline goes on to tell us that this shadow was REALLY big. We all have our noses plastered to the window, looking intently into the dark. Then, we all see it. An outline in the dark, about 40 feet from the travel trailer, moving up and down…stop…up and down…stop. Oh my God,what is that? It is huge! The first thing that I think of is a moose. A moose? What the hell am I thinking? A bear…too small. It moves again, away from the travel trailer. Goosebumps on my arms begin jumping up and screaming, “Run…hide!”

My husband Chris bravely opens the door and heads outside. The gigantic shadow is now on the move up the driveway. We waited to hear screams, growls, flesh ripping (maybe not flesh ripping), but we heard nothing but the rustling of many feet on the gravel driveway. My husband finally yells to come outside and we see the creature in its true form. It was an enormous…cow. Yes, a cow was in our “front yard”. We live in the country, so a cow isn’t that surprising and probably should have been the first thing I thought of. I am not quite used to country living yet, so a cow in the yard is far from a first thought.

It is now halfway up the steep driveway. We all jump in the car and follow it up the hill. By the time we are up to the driveway, we see that the cow is now heading back down the other side of the hill. It is heading into the woods, and towards the road below our property. We wind the car down the driveway and around our property, exhilarated by the possibility of meeting it on the road below ( yes, I know it’s a cow). We arrive just in time to see the beast entering the woods on the other side of the road. Tree branches are breaking and crashing to the ground, and we see the back-end of the cow disappearing into the dense forest. There are no roads into those woods, so the adventure has come to an end, leaving such possibilities for the next. We wish the creature well in finding its way back home safely, as my family and I find our way too.

Birthday Party in the Barn

“Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.”
Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation

Luna; our soon to be champion milk producer

We know we are there…we pass the stone sign that says Poplar Hill Farm and head down the long driveway towards the many red barns in the distance. My anticipation is killing me. There are two baby goats, born just days ago, ready for us to be their new family. Of course, they know nothing of this new family. They are single-mindedly waiting for the warmed bottles of milk to show up again and fill their hungry bellies.

As we pull up near the main house, we see two barns. I notice right away the adult goats peek their heads out of the barn door. They are curious. Despite the frigid temperatures, we roll down the windows and take in the eclectic mawwwww, mawwwww, mawwwww coming from everywhere. There is another barn that is full of younger looking goats and I wonder if our kids are tucked away in there somewhere.

The owner of Poplar Hill Farm meets us by one of the barns and asks us if we want to take a tour. As we wander from barn to barn, room to room, I am listening for our baby goats. He has still not told us where they are. As we enter the last building, where the goat’s milk is pasteurized, I finally hear the first maw that is like nothing I have ever heard. The farmer just keeps talking over the calls, but I am barely able to contain my joy. They are in that room, right there, behind that very door.

He finally grabs two bottles that have been warming in the sink, and we walk through the door into an office and a makeshift nursery. The choir of baby goats begins the second we walk in, each having a distinct and heart-wrenching call. There are 3 kids, two of which will be ours, Luna the Saanen and Areida the Alpine.

He hands Caroline and Sabrina the bottles, and gives them some basic instructions, and off they go. They are feeding their Luna and Areida, a moment I will never forget. It was over in a matter of minutes. We sign the papers, hand over the cash and we are heading to the car. The farmer asks, “What are you putting the goats in?” “Ahhh, we have some towels,” we answer. He tells us that should be “interesting”. We get a clue on the way home and buy a plastic laundry basket that they both fit into with room to spare. They quickly curl up and fall asleep.

One year later…a birthday party in the barn. Carrots, pine tree branches and vitamin C tablets for all! We sit in the straw, scratch their chests, and let them pull our jacket zippers up and down, up and down, up and down…

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Katniss the Rooster

iphone fencev 029“A sense of calm came over me.  More and more often I found myself thinking, “This is where I belong.  This is what I came into this world to do.”
―    Jane Goodall

This story begins on a cold morning in December, but not too cold, and shortly after what I consider to be early. I am standing before the sliding glass door, peering out at some of the telltale signs of winter. I am ready to brave the elements. As I walk to the barn, one thought is flooding my mind… ROOSTER; our little Katniss, the bantam cockerel with the ever-growing ego. He is not unlike the “surprise” baby that results from a moment of spontaneous passion. This rooster resulted from a moment of spontaneous shopping at Tractor Supply, without thought of the repercussions of the unsexed chicken. We lucked out and only ended up with 2 roosters out of the 10 chicks purchased, one being a peaceful and somewhat androgynous little guy.

On this particular day, I made my way into the barn without any trouble. I began my chores with the sprinkling of the scratch grain for the chickens. The grain hides in a grey plastic bin that I need to bend over to open, leaving me particularly vulnerable to rooster attacks. I have to admit, each time I lift my head triumphantly with the full container of grain, the bin’s lid securely shut, and the possible attack averted, I am lulled into a false sense of rooster confidence. This is when I begin telling myself the story that our unspoken agreement of civility and friendship, due to my watering, sheltering, and feeding him, has finally settled in and attacks are something of the past. Denial is a powerful thing.

As I began my usual struggle with the God-forsaken lock on the goat gate, the foot-tall monster overpowered me. Katniss fully seized this moment of distracted frustration with a stealthy jump onto a haystack, giving him the running start for nothing other than my head. I have to admit, I have had a head attack before, but nothing like this one. It was as if I had a saddle on my head and he was riding the mechanical bull. He hung on tightly as I shook vigorously and screamed profanities. I was wearing a knitted hat, which gave him a sturdy place to dig into.  The climax came when I noticed the goats staring at me with a look of terror. Looking into their eyes, I knew this had to end. I gave him a very powerful wallop as I swung my head towards the ground and off he flew.

You know how “they” say never discipline your children when you are angry. Well, “they” are right. I had my newly sharpened pitchfork in my hand before he had time to mutter cockle-doodly-sorry. I imagined myself doing the 1, 2, 3-pull slaughter technique, with his head on the ground, under my foot and his feet tightly gripped in my furious hands. Deep breath…

Amazingly, Katniss is still living happily in our barn today and probably will for the rest of his days. You know… he could change.