Monday, February 28, 2011

Extreme Sadness....Extreme Happiness

I have found that living on a farm and ranch amplifies the circle of life and death. At first, it's easy to see the negative aspect of that statement. As I reach deeper to find meaning in what I'm about to write, my emotions get the best of me and tears fall, not just in sorrow, but in happiness too. I have found that those two emotions go hand in hand. You truly cannot feel one, without feeling the other.

Last Monday was one of the saddest I have experienced here on the farm, another death, and this time it was murder. Two years ago, I brought home a bunch of day old chicks from the local tractor supply store. I picked out two of each kind they had, so I ended up with a hodge podge breeds. I will confess, I was never a chicken lover. I suffered salmonella poisoning not one, not two, but three times due to chicken. So I can honestly say, I had no idea that I would fall head over heels for these little fluffs of feathers.

One hen, more than any other, stood out from the flock as they grew up happy and healthy running around the barn, pasture and garden. It was not just her striking black and white plumage, or her Polish wig feathers, it was her personality. We fondly named her Cruella Deville, the character from one of my favorite childhood Disney movies due to her crazy looking head dress.

Cruella thought she was more of a dog than a chicken, I'm sure of it. She would come to us when we called her. She would vocalize happily when she heard or saw us , and would want to be picked up and carried around for a free ride from one place to another. She was the queen of the coop. The roosters were even put in their place by her. She was smart, and for those who have had chickens, you know that "smart" is not always a word that best describes them. She is the first and only chicken, I had ever kissed.

Our flock only go into a coop at night for their safety, otherwise, they are free to roam during the day. They love their freedom. You can see them from the back porch and the side porch busily going back and forth, one minute out by the barn, the next up by the cows in the front pasture and then ending their day nearby the coop in the organic garden area. It is not idyllic as we have lost a few of them to everyday tragedy, a drowning in a trough, a raid by a neighbors dog, 2 stray cat attacks and the various mysterious attack from time to time. In the very beginning we even lost a few to an attack in the coop, but we had modified it over the years to make it more secure, but alas nothing is forever.

The murders began last Friday, I came home to find two of my Guineas dead, one near the coop and one in the pasture. We trapped a raccoon in our live trap and thought we had caught the culprit. That night our coop was raided again (we didn't know how) and a few of my hens were killed. Andy worked on the coop the next morning and thought he had found an area of wire mesh where something might have gotten in, he quickly fixed it. We awoke in the middle of the night on Saturday to the sound of our dogs barking...went outside and found another raccoon in the coop. This time Andy watched him run to the back of the coop and pop out the back. He had been gaining entry through the top, where he had managed to undo a wired shut latch.

After securing the coop one more time, we were sure that all was well. We even delivered several dozen of our eggs to friends in the city that Sunday evening, as they are coveted by our foodie city dwelling friends.  But alas, Monday morning turned out to be the saddest day of all. Our mare Star came to us with a newborn foal and a surprise pregnancy from her previous home. Our yearling Skully was born last year in February, so I knew the new foal would be here any day. Every morning I would go out and check on her to see when we would need to place her in the barn by herself for the impending birth. I was thinking about the horses on this very windy morning and had no idea what I was about to encounter.

As I walked past the coop on the way to the barn, I saw that there was a cat in the live trap. It was a Persian that we had seen roaming around on our property. I suspected she had been dumped by her city family, as countless other domestic house pets get dumped out in the country. It's a sad situation for all involved. Most farmers shoot stray animals that come onto their property. Lucky for this cat, we have enough compassion to know that this was once someones pet. Instead of shooting her, we were taking her to the local feed store. The owner there would give her a new home to help with mice control in the feed warehouse. I was so glad we had caught her, because now I felt like we had possibly solved the flock murders (both inside the coop and out). People should NEVER dump their animals out in the country, their chances of survival are slim and they can cause heartache to others. More free range chickens are killed by dogs and cats than any wild animal.

I took the trap with the cat in it and moved it out of the wind, Andy could transport her later to the feed store. I then opened the coop and my heart hurt. Cruella was in the bottom of the coop, not much was left of her, but I recognized her beautiful feathers. I never thought I could cry so much for a chicken, but to me she was my pet. I loved her so and she was the life of the flock.  Oh how guilty I felt, as we had not protected her enough. How could the coop still be unsafe? It's still so hard to talk about that I'm sobbing trying to write about this coherently. Cruella, you will always have a special place in my heart. You changed my mind about chickens and I thank you for that.

But wait, this entry was about extreme sadness but also extreme happiness. After four days of sadness, a bright spot of happiness emerged on the farm. She came in the form of all legs and long ears. Star had a real surprise for us in the wee hours of Thursday, February 24th. She delivered a beautiful paint filly. My heart once again was filled with love. Love for a newborn, born healthy and full of spirit. Star is a beautiful chestnut paint and so is Skully, her first colt. This newborn completely surprised us as she is a beautiful dark silver and white (possibly turning to black & white), reminding me of another pet that we just laid to rest. The world really does work in mysterious ways.

Welcome Yoshimi translation "Beautiful Reason" in Japanese. We named you for our love of music, an homage to The Flaming Lips for uniting us, for better or for worse. This past week we have experienced both. Extreme sadness, extreme happiness for better or worse and so life and death continues here on the farm.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Our 2010/2011 Freakout Flaming Lips Wedding! Yes, we are THAT couple!

Michelle Coyne captures our bliss

Miss me? I've been busy for a few months, but I have a fantastic and unbelievable excuse. The last time I blogged I had a different last name. My cowboy artist and I tied the knot over the New Year's holiday. Yep, we did it....not once, but twice! And we did it in a big way, a big flaming freakout way (thanks to Wayne & Michelle Coyne and The Flaming Lips).

My skull and Michelle's

Last January after attending the annual New Year's Eve Flaming Lips Freakout in Oklahoma City,  I started the year by blogging about Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips and how his words inspired me to write my new year resolutions for 2010. I lived my life (as much as I could) by those resolutions and my year was flaming fantastic. The power of positive thinking is contagious when you surround yourself and others with love.** for 2010 resolutions, click on above link**

Wayne & Andy after plan was hatched

This is not to say that 2010 was a breeze. We experienced a few hardships, a few deaths, the loss of our crops and a very restricted budget. Instead of getting bogged down in what we didn't have, we made due with what we do have, things like : love, laughter, our animals and each other. As I reflect on the past year, it was full of surprises and adventures ~ the biggest adventure, our journey to unholy matrimony!

us as flaming skeletons
How did we manage to get Wayne Coyne to marry us on stage you ask? Answer: we just asked him. That's the kind of man he is. He is the most positive creature I have ever met and I told Andy that if we ever got married, I wanted Wayne Coyne to perform the ceremony. I didn't expect it to be in front of 10,000 screaming fans and broadcast live around the world on, but hey, it happened!

Our favorite holiday is Halloween and we had promised ourselves that we would participate in Wayne's wild Halloween parade "March of 1000 Flaming Skeletons", so we packed our skull make-up, bought our skeleton costumes and hit the road for the five hour drive to Oklahoma City (a road we know well because of Flaming Lips events).

On the way there, we crafted a note to give to Wayne if we had a chance to talk to him. We tried to make it short and funny. I tucked it safely into my skeleton costume and waited for the perfect chance to hand it to him. That chance never came, as luck would have it, something better happened.

It's a good thing that Andy and I are the self proclaimed king and queen of costumes and face make-up. Our outfits caught Michelle Coyne's photographer eyes and as she was snapping our photos for her incredible art book projects, I asked for a favor. I told her our crazy wedding request and asked if she could help us out. She smiled and said, just go over and ask Wayne, I think he might like that idea.

our psychedelic wedding scroll

So, armed with a shot of Michelle's confidence, we approached Wayne while he was hanging out by the prop truck. To our surprise, he said "yes", he liked the idea and "did I text?". Of course I said "yes, Wayne I text". He then asked for a pen and paper, wrote down his private number and said "text me, text me alot" and that was that. I texted him. I texted him "not" alot , but enough to hatch the wedding plan. He texted us from Oklahoma to Asia and back. Every time I received a text, I still could'nt believe that it was really him on the other end. Who does this for a couple of fans? How incredible that this was actually going to happen.

We spent the end of November and the rest of December assembling our unusual wedding attire. We had decided that we needed a festive illuminated look for a proper freakout wedding. I settled on a vintage "Dolly Parton on Acid" concoction and Andy a psychedelic cowboy. We ordered hundreds of LED lights (thank you China) and spent hours attaching them to our clothes.

The proclamation
 Andy painted a beautiful wedding scroll combining Flaming Lips colors with our hand prints made into chickens (symbolizing our farm life) alien watermelons and Oddfellows imagery (symbolizing our association and commitment of leading a benevolent existence). I wrote a proclamation partly based on the Flaming Lips song "Do You Realize" and partly based on the coroner's scene from one of my favorite childhood movies "The Wizard of Oz".

We drove up the day before the show and got settled in to the beautiful, historic Skirvin Hotel. Wayne asked us to let him know when we got there. He asked if we could do a sound rehearsal with the band and go over the final details. After getting over the excitement of being invited to the rehearsal, we made our way to the back staging area of the Cox center a block from our hotel.

Wayne loves the scroll at rehearsal

Wayne jokes about f&%king up

Wayne greeted us warmly and we unveiled the wedding scroll. We spent the next few minutes pondering Wayne's worries about the nasty commercial chicken farm industry.Wayne re-counted the story of being behind a giant live chicken hauling truck with freezing chickens all huddled up.  He was happy to learn that our chickens were free thinkers and free range roamers (btw-I loved this conversation). After we discussed farming and giant disco ball fabrication (trust me, it went with the chicken story), we got down to business. Our initial intention was to get married after midnight on 1*1*11 but Wayne thought the wedding would set the mood of the evening and decided to do it three songs in as a segue to "She Don't Use Jelly" (one of my favorite songs).

Mr. Bear practices being our escort
 Wayne also had a few surprises up his sleeve, like adding a bear to the festivities. Yes, that's right, you heard me...Mr. Bear would be our escort down the aisle ~ a perfect whimsical touch, that only someone like Wayne, would think of! And a confetti gun and chords of their haunting "Firebird Suite" as an impromptu wedding march. Magical! We practiced several times and felt like we all had it down.

The harp arrives on stage

That night we participated in all the pre-show preparations and we got to see the immense amount of work that goes into a Flaming Lips performance. We even had cake and sang happy birthday to the sound man's daughter ,who happens to be the Coyne's God daughter and had been born during last New Year's Eve Freakout.  Everyone from volunteers blowing up giant balloons with leaf blowers to the roadies were in constant motion, Wayne the grand master puppeteer orchestrating even the minor details.We had a magical moment with the band when the harp was delivered on stage. They all loved it, but Wayne seemed to love it most of all. I snapped my favorite photo of the evening when he sat down to tickle the strings. He was most proud of the bright yellow molded plexi-glass made by a local OKC artist.

My favorite pic of Wayne

After the rehearsal, Andy and I ducked out and grabbed a drink at a tiny local pub in Bricktown. We walked hand in hand marveling at the details of our impending nuptials. On foot, on the way back to the hotel, the skies opened up and a hard downpour of rain and sleet began to fall. We actually took this as a good omen, this same exact thing happened on our first real date three years earlier. We barely slept that night with anticipation.

We went out for lunch the next day and the waitress told us she read about our wedding plans in the paper, turns out a newspaper woman we had befriended during the March of 1000 Flaming Skeletons had put a blurb in the Oklahoma Gazette in the Chicken-Fried-News section.

Wayne is a perfectionist and delivers the maximum amount of entertainment to his fans, it wasn't a surprise to receive a phone call at 3:00 PM on the day of the show to run over and practice the ceremony one more time. We ran through the proclamation and Wayne joked about messing up on something silly, like a name (a self fulfilling prophecy). Here is the rehearsal footage where he gets it right!/video/video.php?v=488731807851&comments

FOX news interview
 All of our friends arrived the next day, and many of them decided to dress up in costume and wear illuminated outfits. We were greeted in the lobby of the hotel by FOX news reporters who had followed one of friends dressed as the silver God Mercury. Next thing you know,we were the lead story on the evening news. This was only the beginning of our incredible night.

the wedding party

we are glowing

The concert began and there was no turning back (not that we wanted to), but the night took on a dream like quality as we were treated like VIPs backstage. There are no words to describe the feeling I had when Mr. Bear came to get us and escorted us on stage. Wayne greeted us with a huge smile and for the moment, it felt like only us and him in the stadium. It was a touching and enchanting moment. We even had to laugh when Wayne fulfilled his own prophecy and called me "Sarah" instead of "Sandra"....oh well, I joked afterward with married the "wrong" woman. Later backstage, Wayne hugged us tight and congratulated us just after midnight. You can watch one of many videos that was taken by the crowd (close-up). Here is the entire ceremony captured by our friend Jason in the audience . There were hundreds of videos being shot all at once, including the livestream on worldwide. Not many people can say they had thousands of balloons and hundreds of pounds of confetti at their wedding reception. We also had the BEST WEDDING BAND ever!

our reception

the moment
We finally joined our dear friends in the audience, who had made the long drive to share in our moment. We got to watch the second portion of the show, the amazing "Soft Bulletin" album set surrounded by friends and well wishers. Every few minutes, fans would come up to congratulate us and ask for a picture. We became instant celebrities for a brief period, even after the concert was over, it took forever to get back to the hotel because of the happy concert goers who wanted to stop and wish us happy new year and happy wedding. Here is an incredible time elapsed video that was mounted at the top of the Cox Center that captures the entire concert process from set up, rehearsal, actual show and breakdown in two minutes (it's amazing)

the wedding walk

We spent 1*1*11 at a Chinese restaurant with old and new friends (lucky new year tradition) and signed our official wedding document with Jason Cohen, dear friend and universal life ordained minister. It may have gotten a little soy sauce on it, but that just makes it even more special. Our wedding, in our eyes, was perfection. This is an open thank you to all who made it possible (all 10,000 of you).

Rev. Jason making us legit

Happy 2011! Wishing everyone love, happiness and many Flaming Lips moments!


Mrs. S.B. Emmons

happy hour @ FMF

happy hour @ FMF
party till the cows come home