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Friends are worth treasuring (even if you get each other in a spot of trouble on occasion).

In my opinion having a "buddy' is the most important part of my successful homestead adventure, and I do mean adventure ... what a trip it's been.

I'm counting success as a state of mind. Even though things are far from perfect around here (there's mud everywhere), I'm happy, content, and feel that I can handle any challenge. Life is good. I have Karen Kitchens to thank for so much; she's my best friend, my mentor, my hero.

My husband and I purchased our piece of wilderness 17 years ago. We were in our early 40s then and had big dreams of building a log cabin, raising our own food, and living off the land. Rick grew up in the country in Florida, I'm a New York City native but always wanted to live the life I'm now living. Unfortunately, mostly due to health issues, my husband has very little interest in the homesteading thing anymore.

I met Karen in 1996. Rick and I needed help putting the roof on our cabin. One of our neighbors ran into Karen's husband (who was looking for work), at the local general store. The neighbor wrote "Sue" and my phone number on Don's hand. When Don got home, Karen wanted to know, "Who the--is Sue?" Well, she and I got together and hit it off. Karen always says it's a good thing we didn't know each other when we were younger, it's hard enough to stay out of trouble as it is.

Karen sold me my first goat; she actually tracked me down at a U-pick farm to sell it to me. Pretty soon Karen and I were going to auctions every other weekend and coming home with everything from weaner pigs to peafowl. My husband threatened to put up a sign at the gate that said "No Karen." The auctions were a couple of hours away, and the best part of those trips were the conversations we had enroute. Karen is knowledgeable about so many skills I needed to learn. She's also taught me many basic truths such as: it's okay to not like your relatives if they're mean; sometimes procrastination is a good thing; you can accomplish almost anything if you really want to. (I think Karen is the original out-of-the-box thinker.) If you don't feel like talking anymore, it's alright to say, "I don't feel like talking anymore." I taught her that worrying doesn't help, don't fear the Internet, and make a decision--even if it's wrong.

Boy, did we have some remarkable auction trips. One time Karen bought 50 electric weed-eaters because they were a "hot deal." You should have heard her husband when we got home! They were living off-grid, no electricity, no phone, no indoor plumbing, and didn't need one electric weed-eater let alone 50.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Another time, Karen and I went to the auction and bought about 30 weaner pigs and a few peafowl, and then went to the beach to camp and go razor clamming, and brought our milking goats with us. We got thrown out of the state park because our goats were munching on the vegetation, so we drove down a logging road to camp and got stuck with Karen's pick-up and four-horse stock trailer. Some kind loggers fixed the truck and pulled us out.

On that same trip we wound up bringing home several large king salmon, too. A couple of rough looking fellows saw our goats, thought they were deer, and were going to shoot them until they saw Karen and me. We got to talking and it turned out these guys were Native-American fishermen. They invited us to come see where they were netting and sold us some nice freshly caught fish really cheap.

For several years Karen and I bought and sold weaner pigs, raised exotic pheasants and ornamental waterfowl, and sold them online. We sold eggs and generally did a little bit of this and a little bit of that. I was stashing all of my "farm-fund" money in a can that I kept under the bed until I couldn't fit anymore in. I counted it and had over $4,000. That's when we decided to become landlords (or landladies). Slumlords was more like it with that first place.

The day after we signed the papers, here came the code enforcer from the county with a shopping list of violations. We got through it with a lot of support from each other (and cash), and now we have two rentals.

Karen has taught me so much, like where to find and how to identity edible mushrooms; the ins and outs of canning; the finer points of catching Dungeness crabs while wading (a.k.a. aerobic crabbing); how to effectively get razor clams (a.k.a. aerobic clamming); how to care for goats and calves and pigs (kicking and screaming I learned how to castrate them); how to back up with a trailer without having a stroke, and on and on. Actually, the only time Karen and I ever got mad at each other involved backing up her four-horse stock trailer attached to her husband's pick-up at night in a downpour with the smell of burning clutch in the air.

I bought a boat a few years ago; fishing is something my husband can still do. He and Karen talk football and baseball while we fish, and fishing with Karen is like bringing a five-year-old along. Sometimes we laugh so hard we cry. Karen and I cut firewood together and occasionally team-up at her place or mine when there's a job that needs more than one pair of hands or more than one strong back. Karen was there for me emotionally while my grandma with Alzheimer's spent the last years of her life with Rick and me. I was there for Karen when her husband Don was diagnosed with cancer and eventually died. I've called Karen at all hours of the day or night when one of my goats is having a difficult birth and she's there (she's a superb goat midwife).

We now have sister Northwest Farm Terriers. I was there to help when her dog had pups, now my dog is due on St. Patrick's Day. Karen turned me on to COUNTRYSIDE, which we both read every issue of cover-to-cover and thoroughly enjoy.

Treasure your good friends and have fun everyday, no woman is an island.

SUE GRISAITIS

1749 CAMP HAYDEN RD

PORT ANGELES, WA 98363
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Title Annotation:Country neighbors
Author:Grisaitis, Sue
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2012
Words:1078
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