Monday, May 22, 2017

Hustle, Bustle

It's been quite the busy week.  Summer arrived on Thursday with temps in the 90s.  Then it abruptly left, being shoved out to sea by a fierce thunderstorm.  Upon the LLF, there was lots of hustle and bustle.  And most of it was not done by yours truly.

A male leg.  Not often (ever) seen
outside or inside this house...
The rest of the leg.
Yes, the skies cleared and the pergola-building commenced!  This  young man delivers firewood at 5:30A in the morning, then works for his father doing construction and landscaping, then works for my dairy farmer neighbor, then does odd jobs to support his young wife (and their soon-to-be-born son).  He had never built a pergola but was up to the challenge.  He showed up every night after his dairy farm job and worked until it was too dark to see.  He started Thursday night - and as we were talking, we glanced up and saw that the sky was black to the east and there were an increasing number of lightning flashes.  Between the two of us, we were able to hustle his tools under cover and he made it home in his little 4x4 before the storm hit us.  Meanwhile, I goose-stepped the dogs out but was unable to get my agitated ducks into their hut for the night.  At least they were behind a fence. 

The hops vine is itchin' to climb over
the new pergola.

I love it!
I had asked him to leave more space than is normal between the crosspieces on top.  I had two motivators - I didn't want it to be too shady and I am too frugal to spend that much money on lumber.  I opted for a rustic structure, so this is built in rough-hewn hemlock.  I'm still contemplating whether I will just polyurethane it and leave it in its natural state, or stain it a light oak and then polyurethane it.  If I need more shade, I can suspend fabric across the top and on the hottest side.  The possibilities are endless!

Sunday was D-Day on getting my garden in.  It was the only day I had to do it.  I walked out the front door at 8A with seeds, gloves and tools and didn't stop until 4P.  I usually wait until Memorial Day weekend to finalize my garden, but I figured it was only a matter of one week's difference.  Besides, next weekend there is rain forecast for Friday, Sunday and Monday.  That only leaves Saturday and it is going to HAVE to be Coop-Cleaning Day.  Joy.

At one point yesterday, I was in the garden, Billy was on the deck and -- the Lithuanian Lawn Guy showed up!

He never lets me photograph him, so I went into stealth-mode.  He mowed my lawn and weed-trimmed the entire garden.  Let me have half his energy at his age - 82.  The dogs were pooped, after trying to keep track of all the activity.  Bertie was asleep by the sliding door (he was totally smitten by Billy), Lovey was dozing on her elevated bed by the front window, chin on sill.  The Pepperoni was conked out on top of the sofa, with a good view out front and back.  I was too tired to take pictures of the garden last night, and this morning it was pouring.  I will try to immortalize my garden in its pristine 'newly planted' state, as this is the last time it will be relatively weed-free!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Slap on the Pontoons, Honey! The Creek's Rising!

I checked my egg diary (yes, I have one and have kept it religiously for 11 years) and it has rained for almost 14 days straight.  This is not conducive to gardening.  Or about anything else except duck-watching.  Even the ducks seem tired of it.  All that greyness has ratcheted my energy level to 1.

Last Thursday I reached the end of my tether and went straight out after work and cleaned out the small coop.  I ran the power out and set up a nice fluffy layer of shavings.  At 5:30 the next morning, I was hooking up the light, putting out water and food, and trotting the Nuggets out in the cat carrier.  I then trotted back in, had a nice latte and wallowed in the chick-less-ness of my laundry room.

Saturday was supposed to rain all day, but we were in luck and it didn't start until 3:15.  I gave myself a pep talk, had three large lattes, and threw myself into action!  That break from the downpours let me run to the food pantry, pick up feed, go to the post office and library, and make it back to tackle the raised beds.  I got five beds rough-hoed, three of those ready for planting, put the hoops up over my (please god) pepper and eggplant bed, adjusted the framework over the blueberry and currant bushes, and made it in before it poured.  And boy, did it!  I think we must have gotten well over 5 inches of rain since mid-April.  It's crazy.  And cold.  I also muscled my Meyers Lemon tree out onto the deck (where the pergola has not been built, sigh), with fervent apologies.  It is not supposed to drop to frost levels, but it did get down to 38*.  I'm keeping a close eye on it.  I need to get the giant fig tree out, but that is a two-person job.  Maybe three.  Everything deck-wise is hinging on the building of the pergola.  But, until we get some dry weather, that's not happening.

All the powdered sugar sank into the buttery
I baked a new variety of cookie for the Barn Guys - Mexican Chocolate Crinkles.  I can't tell you if they were tasty, as this was not a GF recipe, but they were fighting over the last one, so I take that as a good sign.  It may have been the stick-and-a-half of butter....  Mine did not have a nice, white, powdery sugar surface, but they seemed very moist and chewy.  A keeper.  I also baked a strawberry rhubarb crisp for Mother's Day Dinner on Sunday.  It was a new recipe and, while I did like the topping, the fruit was very liquid-y.  The person who wrote the recipe that I 'based' my crisp on was very adamant about not adding cornstarch or any other filler.  She must have 'special, precious' fruit.  LOL.  It tasted fine, though, and my sister made an amazing dinner of sautéed shrimp and mushrooms with cheesy grits.  OMG.  Everyone was moaning around the table! 
Isn't she something?  And at 93!
This falls under the category of DUH.  For quite some time, I have had a lot of trouble with my lower back, hips, knees - you name it.  I wrote it off to age and abuse.  However, the weekend my sisters were over, as I was putting fresh sheets on my bed, I noticed that my mattress had a definite swayback look to it.  I then stood and tried to figure out how old it was.  Good lawd.  It has to be close to 30 years old.  As an experiment, I have been sleeping in the guest room - on the new mattress (less than 10 years old).  The first morning I woke up, tentatively put feet on the ground was a miracle!  Yesterday, I took a deep, shaky breath and bought a new mattress.  What the heck are they stuffing these things with?  Fifty-dollar bills?  Geezlouise.  I tried to convince myself that it was an important investment in my overall health.  But, what I gain in physical health I may lose in emotional trauma.   It arrives in all its glory on Saturday.  It will be nice to be back in my own room - The Pepperoni is so confused.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Oh, my aging tiaras....

Isn't she something?

That sounds a whole lot more interesting than - darn those old crowns (as in dental covers).  I will admit to avoiding the dentist like the plague, even though I am very fond of the hygienist who makes my teeth feel all squeaky-clean.  It's just that, every visit seems to bring dire news.  Those aging tiaras need replacing and they ain't cheap.  My dentist is a tiny, bustling Russian woman who I like in spite of the fact that she is also my dentist - therefore bearer of bad news.

As I lay dozing in their comfy chair, listening to the heavily accented, 'tut-tut-ing' and 'ah, yes, I see that', and 'we will have to...', 'we must...' being volleyed between dentist and hygienist, I managed to weakly interject -

"Pick the most worst thing.  You've got one shot for the indefinite future."

There was a momentary pause.  I could almost hear the wheels turning.  There were a few more 'tuts' and some whispered conversation, but we managed to come up with a plan.  It involved the Queen Mother of my crowns.  The younger sovereigns will have to wait.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


I have been waiting for an occasion to use that word - "olio" - one of my favorite crossword puzzle words that seem to be archaic.   O-li-o (noun); another term for olla podrida; a miscellaneous collection of things; a variety act or show.  That describes the last four days to a 't'.

Besides the fact that everything now squishes - six straight days of rain (although we have a break as I type), with at least six more coming up - my life has taken on the neon colors of barely-controlled chaos.  I'd like to say that I've grown so accustomed to this that I just roll with the currents.  But that would not be the truth.  As always, I face my life as a salmon - always fighting to go upstream.  Gah.

I had taken Friday off so that I could whip the house into shape and get ready for my youngest sister's birthday bash.  Well, bashette - none of us stays up past 9:30.  The three sisters were going to merge at the LLF and feast on lobster, carrot rice, roasted asparagus, excellent champagne, and flourless chocolate cake (aka a slab of fudge).  Connie came over early and we got into gear.  In the rain.  Of course.  Cynthia had to drive up from The City through floods and pestilence and arrived around 7:30. 

Chocolate cake by the light of
the strange birthday candle/music
box that eventually needed to be
Things were going swimmingly until the clock struck 9.  Then the power went out.  And stayed out.  Thankfully, the champagne carried us through until bed time.  I was not able to sleep, however, because I could get no information about when the power would be restored and I had three brooders of chicks in the dark with no heat.  I paced and heaved and sighed all night.  Around midnight, aided by my headlamp, I divided the chicks into two groups for warmth and then swaddled the brooders with a down comforter.  It was a good thing that they were mostly feathered (except their fuzzy heads) and were able to maintain enough warmth to keep themselves comfortable.

By the time daylight arrived (with more rain and wind), there was still no word on power restoration.  I pulled on my waders and slogged out to the generator and got it going.  I am so glad I have it - but it is a small one and not able to power more than one thing at a time.  That meant a rotating schedule of Freezer #1, Brooders, Freezer #2.  The fridge was on its own, not to mention the total lack of running water.  That sent both sisters off early in the morning - you do NOT want three women in the house with no flushing toilets.  Trust me on this.  Saturday was spent with my phone alarm going off every two hours, so that I could unplug one thing and plug in the next thing.  Finally, by late afternoon, the utility company put an estimated restoration time of 11PM on their web site.  I doubted I would be upright by 11PM, so I opted to stay up as along as I could, then cut off the generator and flip the main switch back on.  I tossed and turned until 3A, when the power finally came back on.

Sunday was spent cleaning up Friday's dishes and lots of inside work. was raining.  I almost forgot that Monday was Shearing Day and had to dash out in the drizzle to set up the barn so that the sheep would be dry.  I slept very well Sunday night.

Monday morning dawned overcast, windy and raw, but not raining!  After rushing through the basics, I jumped in the car and drove north to Melanie's, where we rassled small, woolly, horned eel bodies from her sheep cote downhill, alllllll the way up to her front porch, where the power lay.  I was staggering and gasping by the time we got them all in the pen she set up.  Man, oh, man.  Shetlands are small but wiry!  Most of them had horns, so they provided good handles - but they also provided a series of bruises up and down both legs.  The shearer was an hour late, so we got some visit time in, which was a bonus. 
Joe working on an itty-bitty
Shetland.  I love my shearer.

Some beautiful fleece!
Then down the road to stop number two - one sheep with his giant ox friend.  Since this is already a windy post, I will add a little background on this wild sheep.  He was an escapee from a meat sheep herd,  at least 15 miles to the northeast, outside of our town.  He spent months being spotted but never caught.  How he managed to travel up the mountain, through coyote, bear and bobcat country and survive, speaks of his innate wildness.  He ended up sauntering into a friend's barn and planting himself between his pair of giant, gentle oxen.  And there he stayed.  Unfortunately, one of the oxen died in the fall of bone cancer.  The remaining boy seemed very lonely and stuck to his sheepie companion.  An odd couple.
Joe is close to 6' tall.   Just sayin'.

The odd couple
Down the mountain we went to tackled my two fat eels, then down the road to another neighbor for three sheep, an angora goat and two alpacas.  While the neighbor stood, listing and re-listing all his ailments (real or imagined, or both), Joe and I did all the labor.  Honestly.  But it gave me some time to assess this guy's LGDs - who are in sorry shape.  As my shearer noted, love is great but not enough when it comes to animals.  You need to provide care.  At least we make sure whomever needs it gets shorn each year (although the angora goat needs shearing 2x a year - Joe must have sheared off over 20 lbs of matted, filthy fiber).  And don't get me started on hooves.  While the neighbor nattered on, I got a curry comb and started on one of the Maremmas.  The female is friendly - the male is extremely wary.  It was all I could do, not to load both of them in my car and take them home.

By the time I got home, all I wanted was a soft chair and a cup of tea (did I mention that the wind howled through the barn and it spitted snow on us for two hours?)  Instead, I find blood running down Linden's face and Norman sporting red polka dots all over.  Apparently, spring is in the air and, once the fleece is off, feelings run high.  Or they turn into idiots - take your choice.  I managed to slap some blood-stop on Linden's broken scur, then I left them to it.  They eventually calmed down and there was - of course - the rain to clean things up.  Double gah.

On a more mundane (thank goodness) note, I have found my new Favorite Thing.  I ended up making the breakfast I had planned for my sisters, for myself on Sunday.  Baked eggs in crispy prosciutto cups.  OMG.  That led to finding MORE prosciutto in the fridge for another round for the freezer, and then little spinach quiches in muffin cups, too  I am on a roll!  Pepperoni got his summer buzz cut and looks much less fat than I thought he would.  Losing all that hair really put some zing in his step, and he's been orking around like a looney tune since Sunday.  Best of all?   Yesterday evening, just when I was going to slip batch number 2 of my muffin madness into the oven, my handyman arrived with the wood for my pagoda!  Woohoo!  Building starts this week!  If it ever stops raining, that is.  Maybe I should save it for an ark.

Beady little eyes

Stream-lined for summer.  If it
ever arrives.
Wake us up when the sun comes out.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

It's all too, too, PRECIOUS!

(Can you hear the sarcasm dripping off that header?)

Reading Kristina's post this morning (catch it here - if you don't follow her yet - what are you waiting for!) made my hackles rise.  Calcium water?  Really?  One of my pet peeves (and as I get older, I am getting way more peevish) are recipes that include very, very, special, nay - precious - ingredients.  Those ingredients that a) most of us do not have access to and, even if we did, would not pay a gazillion dollars an ounce for something that we'd use once.  You know, like the salt craze.  There is nothing more frustrating than finding a promising recipe, reading through it and finding it littered with "I prefer-s".  All those recipes that include even one "I prefer" are immediately chucked in the trash on this homestead.   "I prefer Dromedary Salt, made from the dried tears of nomadic Saharan camels..."; "I prefer rice threshed against the wrinkled knees of African elephants raised on horseradish".  Know what I mean?  If it means that much to these folks to be On The Cutting Edge of Cuisine, well, bless their hearts.  But keep your recipes targeted in that tiny bulls-eye of the one percent who are desperate to be there with you and have most of the money.  Quit tormenting the rest of us.  Instead, why not come up with some really interesting new combinations of normal ingredients?  Hmmm?

Can you tell I haven't had my quota of coffee yet?

Monday, May 1, 2017

Some Mondays are more Mondays than others.

It started at 2:30A with some loud warbling from the brooder condo.  Remember what I said about the sweet, dulcet tones of the new Nuggets?  Well, I LIED.  My getting up early starts the domino effect - The Pepperoni is first up because he is at the foot of my bed, covered in fleece blankets.  I get the little, cloudy Stink Eye when I approach him.  Much prolonged stretching and Stink-Eyeing goes on before I can scoot him out of the door and into the living room.  Lovey is up next with more stretching but no Stink Eye.  She is a happy girl and glad to see me no matter what time it is.  The Sweet Potato is still slumbering on the sofa.  That stretching is very prolonged, with the slow dragging of 'seal legs' off the sofa.  The last to get into the act is the cat, who is like a fat piece of Velcro.

All three shot out the door in pursuit of...?  The coffee was turned on and I went to check on the Nuggets.  Who were, of course, quietly burbling by this point.  At least I got more knitting done on the triangle Caron Cake shawl.  Things seemed to be progressing well (that should ALWAYS be a sign that the Universe is waiting with the other shoe in hand) and I managed to get my chores done with a whole extra half hour to shower, change and get on the road.  I might even be - *gasp* - early. 

Except for the fact that, when I walked out of my front door, I was confronted by my neighbor's Black Angus bull in the middle of my front yard, eyeing my raised beds.  The llama was in full alert, two fat sheep squeezed in behind her, trying to disappear.  The dogs were barking their heads off.  I inched towards my car, put everything on the front seat and, armed with a windshield ice scraper, went to move him along towards home.  This did not go as hoped, although I did get him, begrudgingly, to move to my side yard.  When he started snorting at me, I decided that I needed something a little larger to even out the odds, so I got in my car and slowly herded him towards home with the Hyundai.  We got to the road and he balked.  I figured he was at least headed in the right direction, so I headed up the mountain, now very late, calling my dairy farmer neighbor to alert him - left a message with the asshat neighbor who cannot seem to keep his bull, cows or screaming grandson within the boundaries of his property, fed the barn cats and raced towards work.

Only to get behind a small compact car going 20 miles an hour (10 on curves - of which there are many) on the mountain road - apparently driven by a midget raisin with white hair and severely challenged driving skills.  Where I stayed for almost 15 miles, until I could reach a stretch with enough visibility that I wouldn't risk driving head-on into another vehicle.  I called the state police to report her when I got to the light that brings me off the mountain and into suburbia.  Even though I was sorely tempted - about every two miles - to just say 'the hell with it!' and speed around her, I have too many dependents to take those chances.  I was afraid that there were many others who wouldn't care.

Things were finally going swimmingly, until I got behind a) an oil truck, b) two school buses, c) a gravel truck, and d) the Raisin's cousin in an old pick-up.  By the time I pulled into the office building's parking lot, I had  managed to reach a Zen-like state.  Most likely caused by the excessive amount of deep breathing that had preceded my arrival.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Beauty+Function, When Your Food is Cute, Progress

When I toddled home last night, I didn't even notice the flat package that my postal carrier had so nicely placed (out of direct view) in my carport, so it wouldn't get wet.  I dragged my bags into the house, fought through the swirling sea of wiggle-butts and whip-tails, let The Pepperoni free* and let them loose out the back door.  There is no end of "Happy to See You" when I get home.  It's wonderful.  After they did their business and came bolting back in, I realized I had forgotten a bag on the back seat of my car.  As I was approaching the car, I just happened to see a white corner peeking up from the wheelbarrow and - there was a package from my BFF, Sylvie, and her partner, Jim!  I raced in, opened it carefully (as it was marked "Fragile") and found this beauty inside:
The color is not true to the original -
it's cherry, I believe
My camera work leaves much to desire and it was pretty dreary outside this morning, but it is one of Jim's beautiful hardwood cutting boards!  OMG.  The inlaid design goes all the way through the wood and it is the most beautiful cutting board ever!  I can't stop with the exclamation points, as it is SO BEAUTIFUL!!!  You can find Jim's woodworking page here.  I spent an inordinate amount of time just gazing at it.  Thank you, Jim - I adore it!


I've run into a little snag.  My Nuggets are Cute.  My Nuggets have Personality.  Up to this point, my annual Nugget-fest was populated by the Creepymeat chicks.  They were cute for a nanosecond, then they were not.  By the time it was time for freezer camp, I was more than happy to see them go.  These Grey Rangers are feisty, active, curious, and ready to break out of the brooder condo at any given opportunity.  They are relatively quiet about it, though, and, while they fling their crumbles hither and yon, they do not poop on every surface available to them.  Sigh.  I am hoping they will morph into something not so cute and meaty, to boot.  (Hey!  I'm a poet and don't know it!)


Progress is being made in small steps, inside, outside and on the knitting needles.

The Pergola
After struggling with windblown deck umbrellas for years, I got the bright idea that I needed a pergola off the back of the house.  I do not do well in direct sunlight, so have had limited use of my deck for 11 years.  I am a slow mover.  At first, I was going to have the pergola built off the back of the house.  Then, I thought, what if I fall madly in love with my pergola, move and can't take it with me?  These, typically, are the types of thoughts I have at o'dark thirty, when I am trying to make up my mind whether to try to fall back asleep or throw in the towel and get up.  I decided on a free-standing pergola that can be moved around the deck, if need be.  Then there was the dilemma of who should build it.  Not I.  I turned to a young fellow who had fixed my under-house freezing plumbing problem.  He is a) reliable; b) honest to a fault; c) reasonable; and d) pretty darn handy in many areas.  He and his also-young wife are expecting their first child and I know that extra money will come in handy.  It is a win-win-win situation.  I whipped up the sketch above and from that shaky rendition, he was able to figure out a materials list.  He and his wife came over last night and we hashed out the details, although I am still trying to pry an estimate for labor out of him.  He is worried he may estimate at too high a price.  Sigh.  I had to reiterate what an estimate was.  Just as an aside, he used to provide firewood for a neighbor down the hollow.  This guy was either high or drunk 20 out of 24 hours in the day.  He brews beer.  Big surprise.  Billy (young guy) would deliver the firewood, get paid, then two days later, the neighbor would show up at his door to pay him again because he forgot he had already paid.  They used to argue about it!  Billy finally quit working with him because of it.  Top that.

Once his labor estimate is in and we decide where to buy the lumber, it's all systems go!  Another project checked off The List.

Progress is slow in the seed-starting arena.  My celery seeds did not germinate.  It's been long enough to incubate a duck egg, so I am thinking they are toast.  It could be due to the fact that I am triply distracted with outside work, inside work, the Nuggets, and Mr. Picky.

Progress has been made, however, with Mr. Picky's eating issues.  I have now arrived at the fact that Bertie has a sensitive system (as witnessed by the beating my hall rug has been taking) and is prone to food boredom.  Gone is the poached chicken - enter the lightly sautéed ground beef.  With sticky rice.  And just ever-so-much expensive kibble.  Luckily, the other two would eat wallpaper paste if it was in their dish, so nothing is wasted but my time.  Meal prep is complicated and time-consuming.  I am waiting to finish up the poached chicken and then everyone gets ground beef.  Honestly.

Even though I have one of my mom's socks still on the needles (and needing to be frogged down to the basic foot because it is too short), a mock-turtle neck, sleeveless black cotton top about 3/4 done - for the last four years - a pair of socks for me started, and a pile of cup cozies started as well, I was drawn like a moth to a flame to this project:

I had never heard of Caron Cake yarn.
Where have I been?!

Curse you, Cheryl (of Acorn to Oak)!  And, thank you, too!  I saw her Caron Cake shawl on her blog (she is so amazingly creative - it boggles) and I was hooked.  I have just started on the decrease part and am determined to finish at least ONE project - especially a large, worsted-weight wool project - before the onset of summer. 

*In the ongoing saga of "What Next!?!", someone - I think it's a joint effort by The Pepperoni and Lovey - was opening TP's crate during the day.  This involved pulling up a lever and moving it to the left.  My fix was to use a carbinger clip on the flip-up handle and, so far, it's working!