Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Musings.

While I think I have tried the subtle approach to getting what I want, say, for my birthday - there are times when subtlety gets you what someone else thinks you want.  This, then, puts you in a position where you are now the proud owner of something you absolutely detest and will never use, and you have to be gracious and all gushy about it to the gift-giver.  This year, I am taking no chances.  I have emailed a link to both sisters and declared it ALL I want for my birthday this year to my entire family.  I got all giddy and goosebumpy when I saw it.  Some girls want jewelry.  I want the...SNOW WOLF!  Go ahead - you know you want it, too.

It is a rather sad state of affairs when I am HAPPY that a tick chose my shoulder in which to burrow! At least I can see it and reach it. Another of the joys of singlehood - tick checks and itches in awkward places. Thank goodness for those little bamboo scratchers - China be damned. TMI? I'll say...
The coyotes are back. All 100 of them. Since my go-around the last time, I realized that the little sissy-pants "pop" of my .22 does nothing but earn their scorn. I've since discovered that my 1.5 qt., heavy-bottomed saucepan, delivered with some force, flat-bottomed to the top of the deck railing, has an amazingly gun-shot-like sound that really gets everyone's attention - and it carries! I wonder if it comes with a holster? Of course, this will now segue into a childhood memory.

We left off with my casting aside my black patent leather MaryJanes for a terminal case of horse love. I had horse models - my favorite was a rearing Palomino with "flowing" plastic mane. OMG, did I love my horse models. There were three girls in our family, of which I am the eldest. And the bossy-est. Just ask them. Our family was typical of the day - father worked, mother worked in the home, kids toed the line. We did not have a lot of extra money floating around, so we had to take turns when it came to extracurricular activities. I took tap dance classes, then my middle sister took ballet (she WAS graceful), etc. Luckily, my youngest sister was too small to take any classes, so my MS and I were able to double-up for a while. After an endless stream of histrionics, melodrama, moping, and whining, my parents signed me up for horseback riding lessons. Oh Heavenly Day! My father took me to get fitted out with riding gear. I had no interest in English riding, oh, no. I was going to be a cowboy. I came home with powder blue jeans, a matching Western shirt in powder blue and peach plaid, resplendent with pearl-covered snaps, a gen-u-ine cowboy belt with a BIG buckle, and boots. If I had been allowed, I would have had that outfit sewn onto my body and would have worn it until it fell off in tattered shreds.  I had even managed to talk my father into the piece d' resistance - a bolo string tie with fake turquoise decoration.  I was so amazing I couldn't even stand myself!

Fast forward to now.  I was standing in line at the hardware store recently, fishing around in my pockets for change.  I came up with:  a sticky nickel, a pile of goat treat crumbles, a Christmas hanky, a sticky piece of baling twine, and a balled up receipt for something - too sticky to tell.  All that stickiness had to come from something - I cannot, for the life of me, remember what sticky thing had been in my pocket.  While I was rifling my pockets, I happened to focus on the front of my zip-up sweatshirt.  Mistake #1.  That led to looking down at my feet.  Mistake #2.  Which sent a chill through me, as I realized I had not looked in the mirror since 4 a.m. that morning.  And it was a glancing look in the dark - which, of course, doesn't count.  I realized that I had left the house and gone *gasp* out in public wearing manure covered muck boots, jeans that had been dragging through the wet muddiness of the farm and had wicked up same clear to my knees, a sweatshirt that had been in almost continual use for half a week, and my sun-bleached, sweat-stained, battered Vermont ball cap.  Oh, how charming.  And I wonder why I'm single?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Calloo! Callay!

Just a quick post to report that prayers and requests to the Universe worked!  Grayling was found and is awaiting our return from Maine.  She apparently went into an open barn (being the Nosy Nellie that she is), wasn't seen, got locked in and remained there until the barn was opened yesterday.  Poor dear - she bolted out the door and raced home.  She is a bit thin, a bit dehydrated, very hungry but in good shape otherwise.  Oddly enough, Sylvia checked the barn, but it was locked, and has been walking by it all week, calling Grayling.  Who never barked.  And then, there's the question of Grayling's BFF, Poochie.  Who, we believe, is NOT her BFF.  She never indicated Grayling was there.  Hoping, maybe, that Sylvia would adopt her.  We'll never know - her lips are sealed.

On a not so 'bright' note, my poor sister is at the farm bracing for over 6" of snow - which will surely mean power outages region-wide.  I guess this will cure her yearning for farm life.  It makes for an uneasy vacation, I'll tell you.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

I'll be missing you....

over the next few days.  Yes, that's right.  I am on V.A.C.A.T.I.O.N.  My middle sis has bravely volunteered to (wo)man the farm from Friday afternoon until Monday afternoon.  When I sat down to compose the daily to-do list, I ended up calling it "The War and Peace of To-Dos on Susan's Farm".  An apt title, as it ran to three pages, single spaced, with lots of afterthoughts written in pen all over the borders and blank spaces.  Luckily for me - and not so, for her - we will be like ships passing in the night on Friday.  I leave in the morning and she arrives in the afternoon.  I will not be there to see the horror on her face as she spies the stack of paper that is the to-do list.  She is such a brick, though, and loves the animals.  I can leave with a clear conscience - I usually only have a twinge that first evening.  Then, of course, after three days, I can't wait to get back to the chaos.  I guess I must thrive on it, but I sure am looking forward to sleep - beautiful, lovely, elusive sleep - not to mention immersing myself in culture for a whole weekend.

I have alerted the dogs that their Aunt C is coming - they were excited, but that means nothing.  For all they know I was saying, "blah, blah, blah, blah, FOOD, blah blah."  She takes them on multiple walks and lets them lick the plates clean.  It takes me a week to get them back to their disappointed normal.  Thank goodness they have the memory of a fruit fly and don't hold it against me!

If all goes as planned, and I remember my camera, and it doesn't rain continually, I will post all the details when I return.  In the meantime, you all behave yourselves!  And get those sewing machines out.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Package.

When I got home on Monday, there was a big box in front of my door.  I could tell by the hand lettered address and return, plus the gazillion stamps of "Fragile" all over it, that my Krazo Acres winnings had arrived!

Carolyn Renee had sent us kitty litter! Did Black Susan have something
up her furry sleeve?
No -- she sent eggs!  How sweet - I'm still at "0".
NO!  She sent a beautiful teapot and a plethora of tea bags!!!
I had to make sure it was okay for me to post the complete details -- but I tell you, Carolyn Renee is a woman after my own heart!  That box was packed so well - and so "greenly" - that an elephant could have used it as a cushion and the teapot would have survived!  Recycling, reusing and using up is my motto.  I have returned items that have been over packaged with non-recyclable materials before.  But this was perfect!  I have a feeling that Mooberry Farmwife will be seeing a very similar package!

Thank you Carolyn Renee!  The teapot is beautiful (I LOVE the color) and those are all of my favorite teas -- plus some that will become favorites, I'm sure.

p.s.  The outer wrapping was a brown grocery bag - which I have already re-purposed as a pattern for yet another craft project!  Yay!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let's Have an Apron Sew-Off!

Sounds funny, put that way, doesn't it?  Mama Pea had a great idea.  Great, I expect, if you are a sewer.  If you are not, please bear with us.  This is what I'm a'thinkin - the Kick-Off will be Monday, October 31 and we will aim for the week before Thanksgiving, say November 21.  What better impetus than having a bright, shiny new apron to show off during Thanksgiving Dinner!

Do they have to be sewn?  Nope.  They can be sewn, knitted, crocheted, or duct-taped together - or feel free to take a ready-made apron and customize it.  The sky's the limit!  On November 21, we will all post pictures of our aprons and link to each other.  Sound good?  Any takers?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Musings.

Double rainbow last Thursday evening.
There are some people who really, really pique my curiosity.  There are three such persons that I see almost daily.  The first is a woman of a certain age - 'tho it's impossible to tell what age - who I call Walking Woman.  She has long grey hair, parted in the middle, a deeply lined face, and always wears flip flops, a skirt and a plain overblouse.  She walks along the side of the road at quite a clip and very purposefully.  Walks and walks and walks, and walks some more.  She is always walking in the same area on my drive home.  Except for once - I was working out in my yard early this spring and who should walk by on my country road?  The Walking Woman!!!  I was so stunned, I didn't ask her the five million questions that have been forming in my head over the past 4 years.  Apparently, she is related to one of my neighbors in some tenuous way.  We had a short but pleasant conversation about the abundance of wild fruit that is along our roads - then, suddenly, she was walking away.

The other two are also what I would classify as out-of-the-ordinary characters.  Two women, one young, one older, both always (even in summer) clad in full length black coats.  They are tall and gaunt.  The older one always has her head covered - either by a kerchief or a hat.  And they are always in the same place on my way home, walking their dog by a small lake.  As my car comes along, they all freeze and look away.  Except for the dog, who looks quite animated.  They remind me of characters out of an Edward Gorey book.

Who are these people?  Where to they come from and, more importantly, why do they go where they go every day?

Today's scientific question:  Why can't we tickle ourselves?  I am extremely ticklish; if I even think someone might be thinking about tickling me, I fall apart.  Yet, if I try to tickle myself - nothing.  nada.  It's sort of like the difference between washing my hair myself, or going to the hairdresser (or, should it be "stylist"?  I'll have to ask Mary which she prefers) and having her wash it.  It feels so different.  Many years ago, on a faraway island (not far away enough, though) in another life, I used to get my hair cut in Chinatown.  Of course, you know by now that I have always been, um, frugal.  On that island of $100+ haircuts, I got mine cut for $17, PLUS a shiatsu scalp massage.  Holey moley.  It was heaven.  I am sure I was snoring and drooling at the end of the wash, but I didn't care.  And it was a great haircut to boot.

Why does the wind bother me so much?  At any sign of a good gusting, I start to get anxious.  Wind at night will keep me from sleeping.  It kicks in my worry gene big-time.  I start to think of the pioneer women who were out on those lonely, windblown prairies, stuck alone in their sod houses in the inky dark with their children, while their husbands were off.  The ones that survived were certainly made of sterner stuff than I;  I would have folded like a sheet.  I used to work in a high rise on the same island as referenced above, on the 38th floor.  When the wind blew, you could feel the building move.  This was years before 9/11.  Now, I work on the 7th floor and I ain't goin any higher.  I can handle the stairs.

My favorite cartoon character was and has always been Bugs Bunny.  He was a smarty-pants and it gave me a little thrill as a child to see how he always managed to out-maneuver Elmer and everyone else.  Years later, it seemed like he was created for adults, not children.  Every so often, my dad and Uncle Jim (on my mom's side - we used to call him Uncle Mimmy) would drive us to the Saturday matinee - I won't tell you how much it cost (for the day) since then you will think I am a fogey.  Once in a while, they would stay for the show.  If there was a Bugs Bunny cartoon between features (it was a double-header), the two of them would sit and roar with laughter.  It was completely embarrassing for us - we usually managed to edge down the row a few seats, trying to look like we weren't with them.  This was an old movie theater, with a stage and a piano to one side of the audience.  When I was very young, I took tap dancing lessons there, from an old Vaudeville dancer.  His wife played the piano.  After having been turned down by the ballet teacher (as "too clumsy" for the delicate art of ballet), I got my revenge by tap-dancing my way to a solo performance.  I even remember what I wore:  black patent leather MaryJanes, white ankle socks with lace trim, a short, red cotton skirt with bloomer pants (modesty was the name of the game) with matching suspenders, and a white short puffed sleeve blouse.  Not a sequin in sight.  But, I was the cat's meow - the bee's knees - I was going to the TOP!  Look out, Fred Astaire!  Then I discovered horses.  The end.

I Interrupt my usual ramblings for this important request...

This weekend, on Saturday late morning, to be exact, my friend Sylvie's sweet Golden Retriever went missing.  Grayling is so true to her breed, she should be the poster child for GRs.  She NEVER wanders off and Sylvie lives in a heavily wooded, mountained area, so tracking her is very difficult.

It would be greatly appreciated by me, Sylvie and Grayling, if you would all send a prayer, good thought, or message to the Universe for her safe return.  Sylvie is - as is no surprise to those with beloved pets - missing her something terrible.  As are all of us who love Grayling.

Thanks so much.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Drum roll please!

After a secret, highly scientific and completely random selection, I am pleased to announce the winner of my #300 Giveaway!  (Sorry!  I jumped the gun -- hit Publish instead of Save!)


Mooberry Farmwife has won the whole enchilada!  Please send your mailing address to me at swomersley at gmail dot com.  Hooray!  You will have to post pictures on your blog!  Thank you to everyone who entered and put their apron stories up.  You are the greatest!

A Random Act of Kindness.

When I got home from work on Thursday to quickly do my chores and head to the rabies clinic, I found a surprise package in the mailbox!  I think we all get a little shiver of excitement and pleasure when there is something in our mailbox that a) is not a bill, ad, catalogue or other junk and b) has a REAL stamp on it!

Here's what was inside:

I tell you, it almost killed me to leave that package and go to the clinic.  THEN I had to wait until the light was better so I could photograph it ... agony... then I opened it!

Just who do we know who is so talented and thoughtful?  Hmmm?  Yes, ma'ams -- Mama Pea!  These photographs don't do justice to either her beautiful and clever packaging or the potholders themselves.  I have considered putting them between glass and framing them.  A very thoughtful, lovely and much appreciated gift.  xoxoxo

Friday, October 21, 2011

Community Service can be Loud!

Twice a year, our town offers a rabies clinic with $10 rabies and distemper shots for both cats and dogs.  The service is open to anyone and we often get pet owners from other counties and sometimes from other states.  It's organized by our town dog warden (aka, my dairy farmer friend) and the vet volunteers her services and the serum (aka, my sheep vet).  It is held in the Highway Department garage.  And it almost always rains.

And, twice a year, I volunteer to help process the cats and dogs that come through -- and my friend, Kay, volunteers to work with the vet, scruffing, holding, soothing, or whatever else needs to be done to the highly excited/anxious felines and canines (and their people).  It's a great community service, we've all gotten to be a chatty group over the years, and it's a good way for people to license their dogs as well - the Town Clerk is always a volunteer.

We divide the night into first hour: cats and second hour: dogs.  This doesn't always work seamlessly - there are stragglers, people seldom pay any attention to the hours posted, and occasionally a cat makes it's escape and there's a general melee as we try to get hold of it.  Usually someone has to volunteer their jacket as a net. 
And 'jacket' is the key here.  The garage is comprised of cement and metal.  There is almost no heat, the lighting is gruesome and don't even ask me about the acoustics!  Fall or Spring, it's cold and damp.  Last night was the fall clinic.  And, right on cue, it was raining.  The cats and their owners straggled in (there were some amazingly cute kittens!) and there was one escape attempt.  Other than that, it went smoothly.  We can't see outside, but it's pretty evident when the dogs and their people start lining up.  Once we've processed all the cats, we all take a deep breath, syringes are filled, pens are poised, the door is opened and the dogs burst in.  From then on, it's complete chaos.  We yell questions at the owners, the owners yell back the answers.  Dogs hoot and holler, yip and yap, boom and squeak.  Some years we have a lot of small dogs (that's hardest on your ears) - this year we had a lot of hounds.  I don't think I need to elaborate on their particular vocal patterns. 

I had to abandon my tablemates before the end, as there was a Zoning Board meeting that conflicted with the clinic.  I actually hated to go.  It's fun to see the dogs and meet neighbors.  When they've all been run through the gauntlet, the silence is deafening and you can sink back in your wildly uncomfortable metal chair in a state of happy exhaustion, then go home and appreciate the relative sanity of your own menagerie.


The weather forecast for the weekend is brisk but mostly sunny.  That's my kind of weather!  Top-most on the list/s this weekend is starting the run-in shed and rebuild of the greenhouse enclosure.  (You can probably hear me laughing all the way out your way!)  Don't forget to leave a comment for the Apron/Apron Book giveaway!  Winnah announced on Monday!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The trouble with timers.

My preparations for winter are very involved.  Over the years, I have worked to make my life easier during the winter, but it is a long and complicated process, nonetheless.  I have come to rely heavily on timers.  And extension cords.  As a matter of fact, once winter gets a full head of steam, my house resembles an octopus - with extension cord tentacles curling out from both sides. 

On one side of the house are the chickens/ducks.  I provide them with heated water all winter.  This ensures they always have water to drink and it means I don't have to go out every morning and chop through ice.  When it gets really, really cold, I add a light for a little bit of heat.

On the other side of the house are the sheep, llama and goats.  I also provide a heated water source for the sheep, and now have the goats with their own needs in the barn. 

And then there is the problem of light.  Or lack thereof.  Now, by the time I get home, it is almost dark.  My front door is a distance from the driveway and it can get pretty dicey navigating the rough terrain.  I have on my wish list a spotlight that will hit the drive and the chicken yard that is set off by a motion detector.  But anything involving electrical work is mucho expensive, so on the wish list it will stay for a while.  My cheap and colorful answer to lighting my way involves a timer and orange twinkle lights.  It works fine, I use LED lights so they are more economical, and I can regulate it with a timer. 

I also have a timer in the living room so that the house is illuminated when I get home and the dogs are not left in the dark.  I also have a timer for a light in the barn so the goats are not left in the dark and I can see to feed them and get the hay for the sheep when I get home.  Two years ago I invested in an outdoor spotlight that I can flip on from the house that illuminates most of the sheep paddock.  It also makes a good coyote deterrent.  But it was expensive to have installed, and expensive to run.  It's only on for about an hour and a half every night.  Just long enough for the eating machines to munch their way through their hay.

Goodness!  I've rambled on forever without getting to the point of my title!  How odd! (not).  Yesterday, we had a weather front come through and with it, high winds and rain.  This resulted in - not surprisingly - a power outage.  Of course, I was snug in my office during all this drama, and didn't have a clue that the lights had gone out at home.  By the time I got home, it was still blowing rain sideways and it was dark.  I mean, dark EVERYwhere.  The house was dark, the barn was dark.  I can't tell you how much fun it is to go out with your headlamp on (but without my glasses, of course) to try to fathom how to reset the timer in the barn.  The goats were sticking closely to my legs during the whole process.  I don't think they cared for the dark, either.  I finally got the light on and the timer reset.  Then I had to go inside and reset those timers.  And the nine million digital clocks.  I don't reset the microwave because I don't use it.  As a matter of fact, it's on the heave-ho list.

In my Perfect World, I would have power run to all the outbuildings, have it powered by alternative energy sources, and have someone home to take care of it while I commute back from work.  Since my Perfect World is a place far, far, far away, I will juggle my timers and  enjoy my twinkle lights!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The weekend revisited.

Savoy cabbage bought at the Farmers Market.
Isn't it beautiful?
Such a chaotic weekend - I was thither and yon both days.  So was the weather.  Mostly thither, I think.  Saturday I had a long list to work through at my parents', then had to race back to get the barn re-reorganized for my 100 bales of hay (oh, yeah!!!)  My farmer/neighbor picked me up in his new-to-him 1978 truck with a box body and we clacked, clanged, chugged and alternately screeched, jerked and shimmied up the mountain to get the hay.  The engine/exhaust system was so loud we had to yell at each other.  But we made it.  Thankfully, the rain held off long enough for us to toss the bales into the truck, then shimmy, etc. down the mountain, where we stacked all those lovely bales floor-to-ceiling.  I kept opening the door and looking in.  I had to pinch myself!  There is nothing like a nice stock of hay to make the world seem brighter.  And thank goodness I had help stacking.  I am good to stack four-high, but the farmer can heft those babies up six-high!  Even the little goats were appreciative of the added warmth a barnful of hay bale provides.  They have their little Dogloo to sleep in, but the hay helps temper the noise of rain on the metal roof.

While I was waiting to be picked up for the hay ride, I got two raised beds weeded, hoed and raked - ready for garlic planting.  I also started on the mat of weeds that had overtaken my tomato/herb bed.  I left the parsley plants because they were so healthy, although I might have to cover the bed if the temps drop as they are forecast to do later this week.  I squeezed garlic-planting in on Sunday morning - with my high-tech, surefired planting method - broomstick marked at 3".  I still have room, so I am on the look-out for more seed garlic.  So far, I've planted seed garlic from Marianne (it was so big, it was mistaken for Elephant garlic - llama beans!!!), my saved seed garlic from this year's crop, Keeper from The Garlic Store, and Susanville (how could I NOT plant that?), also from The Garlic Store.  Susanville is a softneck variety, while the others are all hardneck.  I'd like to plant the rest of the bed and another third of the second, leaving the rest of the second bed for onions.  I still have to mulch it and I wanted to plant spinach, but ran out of time, light and opportunity. 

On Sunday, I drove up to Melanie's, where she had generously offered to help me fill buckets full of apple drops from their trees for the sheep (and me).  She has had an amazing apple crop!  I love her sheep.  She let them out into the field where we were picking and they rocketed out - leaping and running!  It was wonderful to watch.  They are beautiful Shetlands.  I brought whey for her friendly Tamworth pig, and I always love to watch the amazing array of poultry free ranging around their farm.  It's a little piece of heaven.  Marianne joined us and we had a nice get-together.  I left with the back of the Ford filled with apples and the nice, warm feeling I always have after spending time with the Ms.  I stopped on my way home to make two visits, as I am trying not to do nothing but work all weekend.  They were short but sweet (the visits, that is), and one visit resulted in my gleaning three large, sweet red peppers!  By the time I got home, it started to rain off and on.  I let the sheep out into the back fenced area and got a wire enclosure around one of my two apple trees.  I would love to let them graze without supervision, but Hoosier is way too fond of my little apple trees.  I have one more to protect, then my one surviving cherry.  Then they can have a ball.

Faced with a very small amount of flour remaining in my stash, I had a challenge coming up with something to bake for the barn crew on Sunday morning.  I ended up with Fudge Drops, from the KAF Bakers Companion - one of my favorites.  It only used 3/4C of flour.  Which I had.  Just.  It also calls for 2C of semi-sweet chocolate bits.  The mixture is very much like brownie batter - just a little thicker.  The cookies bake into crackly molten chocolate disks.  They smelled wonderful!  The dogs and I dropped them off at the milking parlor on our morning walk.  They got a five thumbs up!  Now that I am flourless, I am backed to the wall - the next thing I bake MUST be gluten free!

I put on a crock pot full of butternut squash chili, based on the delicious recipe I found over at Thy Hand Hath Provided, for Saturday's dinner and my week of lunches.  I didn't have black beans so I used red beans, but used everything else (I also halved the recipe, since I am the  only one I'm serving!)  Since I was on a winter squash trend, I whipped up a batch of Pumpkin Hummus that was to die for!  I brought it along to dinner Sunday at Sylvie's and it was good!  I will be making this many times this winter.  I got the recipe here.  I didn't swirl the honey on top, nor did I garnish it with chickpeas.  It is incredibly light.  I'm going to try the pumpkin cornbread next, with a non-wheat baking mix I've concocted.  Sylvie made a wonderful stew with butternut squash, apples and apple sausage.  I am still waiting for the recipe (ahem - tap, tap, tap, tap).  Such a healthy, sumptuous weekend!  I got two of my UFOs done - both the cotton tab towels.  I gave one to my mother and the other....well, the holidays are coming. 

My Meyer lemon tree is loaded with lemons and they are finally starting to ripen!  I got out her winter grow light and hung it overhead.  Nothing is too good for my lemon tree.  I also managed to get all of my laundry done and hung out.  Of course, it's still drying, thanks to the rain.  But it's supposed to be clear today and most of tomorrow, so I'm hoping everything will eventually dry on the line.  The weekend was a perfect balance of work and friends.

#300 is the Magic Number!

Just think.  I have been yakking away to all of you nice, patient people 300 times over the past year and a half or so!  Something must be done to reward you for your humorous and supportive comments, your zany wit, the generosity of your advice and counsel.  How about a giveaway!?

I bet you didn't know that I have a collection of VINTAGE (that's for you, Jane) aprons!  I will 'gift' these three wonderful aprons (all cleaned, ironed and starched - all gently used but in great condition - they are vintage, retro antiques, after all) to one lucky winner! 

BUT WAIT!  That's not all -- our lucky winner will also receive a copy of The Apron Book!  It's a great read, full of photographs, remembrances and patterns.  Woot!  The winner will be chosen by random drawing (eyes closed, hand rummaging in hat among tiny bits of paper with your names on them - all very scientific) on Sunday, with the winner announced Monday.  Deadline for entry is midnight Friday.

To enter, just leave a comment below.  You may leave an anecdote about an apron-y memory, but it's not required.  I'm just inherently nosy!  Plus, I love you to pieces.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Musings.

Who ever came up with "kick yourself"?  Have you ever tried?  It's nigh on impossible!  I suppose, if you were double-jointed it could be done.  Otherwise, you'd be left with trying to kick your own ankle.  Which is painful.  Yes, research was done on this subject with much personal sacrifice by yerstruly.

Watches can be very cruel.  Many, many hours can go by in my mind, yet, when I look at my watch, only one real hour has passed.  It is a proven fact that weekend time moves at lightspeed rates, as opposed to workweek time, which crawwwwwls along.

More musing on mirrors.  Besides being startled most times when I look at my image (mind: 30 vs. mirror: reality), during the week I tend to be busy on home-type things right up until moments before I have to jettison myself out the door for my commute to work.  I think it might be helpful to have a glimpse in the mirror BEFORE I walk into the office. 

There is a smoking area - of which the borders are very hazy (harharhar) - outside of our office building.  Most mornings, two young 'gofers' who work for a large law firm in the building are generally hanging out, smoking, slouching and texting like mad, when I enter the building.  This morning, we all went into the elevator at the same time.  They were eyeing my red Netflix dvd return envelope and my Dansko clogs.  I looked them in the eye(s) and said, "Yes, I don't stream, text, tweet, or smoke.  I am SO not cool."  Only middle age has given me the moxie to be myself and proud of it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Winding down and winding uP.

I get all happy on Friday.  I AM TGIF!  I get in my little Ford Focus Wagon and say, encouragingly, "Sweetheart!  It's Friday!  Only one more round of commute for the week and then you get some time off!"  Of course we both know that we only get one day off.  Saturday is a commute of another nature, with just as many miles logged.  Then we drive up the mountain to deliver eggs to our weekly egg customer (this week they had to settle for a half-dozen chicken and a half-dozen duck).  I also get to visit their dog (sweet Georgia, who knows I keep treats in the car) and their two Nigerian wethers, Roger and Wilbur.  More often than not, I am slightly the worse for wear by the time I get back into my car to head to the office.  Good thing there's no wardrobe checker at the door.

Since this weekend is going to be a mixed bag, weather-wise, I will split my time equally between my outdoor lists and my indoor lists.  Some day I will have to go back and re-read these Friday posts.  I am sure they are good for a laugh.  I've tried to get some of my weekend errands done during the week so I can have more usable time on Saturday.  Besides cleaning the house (I swept up a groundhog-sized hair ball this morning! - everyone's shedding!), I want to complete some of my UFOs.  I mean, really, how long will it take to weave in some ends?  I seem to have a real problem with actually finishing these things.  But, the holidays are coming up, I am going to 'do' a craft fair with Sylvie in November, and I want/need to get more on my Etsy site.  So there.  I have such lofty aims, don't I? 

Last night I managed to make a Queso Blanco AND make dinner at the same time.  I guess those fish oil capsules are paying off!  I made the poached salmon with the carrot pilaf and it was great!  Of course, it took longer than 20 minutes because I used long grain brown rice.  And I didn't put toasted pine nuts in the pilaf, I used some chopped sultanas in their place.  Yum!  I am also going to try my hand at some gluten-free baking this weekend.  So far, I have had very mixed results in finding edible food replacements (read: bread/bread products) that are gluten-free.  Glutino's Pretzel Twists are wonderful, but pricey.  I wrote them a nice email telling them so and they sent me coupons!  Cool beans!  But, on the flip side, last weekend, out of sheer desperation, I dropped $6 on a King Arthur Flour Gluten Free Bread Mix.  Here is my description of the outcome:  ick.  I should have heeded the warning bells that were set off when I read the directions on the outside of the package - 3 eggs.  I find it almost impossible to describe the texture of this non-bread product.  Pudding?  Bread?  Pudding Bread?  Even though I hate-hate-hate waste, and especially hate wasting eggs that are few and far between of late, I could only choke down a third of the so-called loaf and gave the rest to the chickens.  THEY loved it.  So I am going to try my own gluten-free baking.  I believe, however, I first must have a stand-up-and-testify moment and acknowledge that there is NO such thing as gluten-free bread.  There.  I've said it.  But, hope springs eternal in this bread-lovin heart.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Falling for Fall.

On my daily commute into the city, I drive along a very windy road at the top of a plateau.  There a a lot of little dots of lakes along the route, surrounded by summer cabins.  This is a particularly pretty spot.  As I was driving up the mountain a couple of days ago, it seemed as if the leaves just went neon.  The reds, oranges and golds were almost blindingly bright.  I managed to find a safe-ish place to pull over and took the snap above.  Then I just stood there, and listened.  There are no gravel pits up there, very few cars.  There was nothing but rustling leaves and bird song.  It was totally, completely, beautiful.  I love Fall.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Just Plain Wednesday.

Yes, yes.  I am a smarty pants.  I'm glad it's Wednesday, though.  Hump Day, it's all downhill from here.  I was equally pleased to realize that I can eke out a work wardrobe for the rest of the week without ironing!  Woot!  I really don't mind ironing, but I like to make an event out of it -- you know, candlelight, soft music, dvd in the player.  What I end up doing is squeezing the ironing board in my bathroom so I can brush my teeth, put on makeup and heat up the iron at the same time - because I've left it to the last minute and have 5 minutes to do all of this and iron something to wear for work.  I am my own worst enemy.

My neighbor is dropping off my riding mower this afternoon.  He had it all summer, with the promise of fixing it for me.  Which was nice, but then I didn't have it all summer.  When I said that it was so wonderful of him to have found time to fix it (not being facetious, I meant it - he's a busy guy), he mumbled something about never minding and he'd tell me about it later.  This means that nothing was wrong with it.  Sigh.

Acacia (aka Cady) is perking right along.  She is the spindliest thing still, but she seems to be getting her old feisty self back.  She made me chase her around the goat paddock this morning.  That's a good thing!  The chickens gave me ZERO eggs yesterday.  Thank goodness for the ducks, who have stepped up to the breakfast plate - I'm getting one-to-two a day.  Since Friday afternoon, I have gotten six chicken eggs.  It's disgustipating.  I will say that this is the first year that so many of them are moulting at the same time.  But, that is no excuse for the Barnevelders.  I'm going to have to have a heart-to-heart with those girls.  My sister called me this weekend and she's already gotten two eggs from her four pullets!  Egads!  Outrage!

In rummaging through my mind (such an interesting journey) this week, trying to come up with dinner ideas, I remembered that I had a great cookbook by Marian Burros, called 20 Minute Menus.  The best thing about this cookbook is the variety and healthfulness of the recipes.  I made a very tasty curried vegetables with lentils two days ago, and will try a poached salmon with cilantro and Turkish carrots tonight.  I don't end up making them within the 20 minute time frame (I used regular lentils instead of red, for instance), but I might see if I can do it tonight.  I had a fleeting thought that I would cook my way through the book and blog about it, but it would become boring to me and to anyone who might read it,  and I might become whiny - as in Julie and Julia.  (Am I the only one who found both the blog and movie irritating?)  Besides, it would take focus; this is a trait that is foreign to me.

I sat down last night and took inventory of all the hand work projects that I have in one form of start-up or another.  I might need an intervention:  knitted linen hand towel - done but ends need weaving in; cotton knitted kitchen towel with button tab - done but ends need weaving in and button chosen and sewn on; another cotton knitted kitchen towel with button tab - on the needles; fingerless mitts, aka texting mitts - one done except for thumb finishing and end weaving, second one on the needles; meditation masks - four new organic cotton covers cut out, need to be sewn, then photographed and put on Etsy; potholder rug - 7 squares done, one on the loom, 15 needed for rug completion; surprise Etsy project - very complicated with lots of hand work needed - about 1/4 done; felted/knit slippers - soles cut, felting cut, need to sew same together and knit tops.

That is one list I probably shouldn't have written down.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Mud wrestling. Without the mud.

Ten years ago, if someone had said to me that trying to wrestle down a fat little lamb would be just another part of my day, I would have snorted my coffee.  The wrong way.  Yet, last night, after my hour commute home in the gloaming light, feeding the dogs, finding my measly egg (as in singular - what the heck are the chickens doing all day?), I girded myself with a canister of anti-lice powder, a coffee can of shepherd's mix and a half bale of hay, and sauntered down to the sheep paddock.  I swear that sheep are like cats - they can read my body language as easily as I can read a map.  Hmm.  Maybe that's not a good analogy.  As easily as I can down a bag of Cape Cod 40% Less Fat Potato Chips.

These are the times when I am glad there are no witnesses - human, that is.  I had the can of feed in one hand and the powder canister shoved in the waistband of my jeans, so that I had a free hand to unlatch my convoluted gate system.  The object of my powdering - Banyan, son of Coco(nut) the Crazy - was already giving me the hairy eyeball.  He used to be such a sweetie-pie.  But, then came the wethering process.  I think that pushed him over the edge, into the crazy genetic soup of his likewise wacky mother.  I did manage to go through my equally convoluted feeding process without raising his suspicions and, while his head was down, I grabbed his rear leg.  What then ensued was a wild, writhing, bucking, wiggling ten minutes until I managed to also get hold of his opposite front leg and pin him to the ground in a full Nelson.  Keep in mind that I am four times (or more) as big as he is.  In the end, we were both panting and I had gotten as much of an anti-lice dousing on me as I had on him.  Maybe more.  After we both recovered, I stood him back up on his little sheep legs and off he tottered to tell Maaaaama all about it.

I went inside, made a cup of lemongrass ginger tea and took a shower.  The end.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Musings.

My favorite Fall tree, across the road.
Okay, it's really just a way to blog on Monday without having to tie all my untamed thoughts into a theme.  Wait.  Monday Musings IS a theme.  Never mind.  I was going to join in on "Wordless Wednesday", but I am never wordless.

When did "Old Fashioned" fall out of fashion, to be replaced by "Retro", or "Vintage", or "Antique"?  And when did Antique go from meaning 100+ years old, to "before 1940"?

Sneezing.  My cats sneeze, my dogs sneeze and, once in a while, a chicken sneezes.  I've even heard my sheep sneeze a time or two.  But, does it count as sneezing when one doesn't have a nose?  I mean, chickens don't really have a nose.  They have a nose/mouth combination.  Is that still sneezing?  I know that turtles yawn (although, apparently, tortoises do not find yawning contagious.  They just yawn when they mean it.  Really - there was a study done on it.)

Which brings me to -- who's bright idea was it to fund a study on whether tortoises are subject to contagious yawning?  Why should we care?  Do the tortoises care?  I would imagine they (the tortoises) found it highly annoying to have some scientist following their every move, their every facial expression (do they have those -- wait!  Let's not give 'them' any ideas for yet another study.)

Why am I still shocked to see that I am not 30 when I look in the mirror?  Will I ever get over it?  Should there be an in-depth study funded by Harvard to find out?

Oh, my inquiring mind....


A few things got checked off The Lists this weekend, although not enough to satisfy me.  I missed an opportunity to scavenge Melanie's apple trees - your voicemail message from yesterday JUST reached me at noon.  Where had it been?  Is there a voicemail purgatory?  Must be. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Gettin' Ready to Rumble!

Are you all sitting down?  The forecast for the "WEEKEND" (yes, both days) is for bright sunshine and balmy temps!  Lawsy, I hope I didn't just jinx myself by putting it out there...  so, given that I got almost nothing done on The Lists last weekend, this is going to be a multiple-list-eggstravaganza.

And speaking of eggs, gak.  Yesterday, a mild, brightly sunny day, garnered zero eggs.  Nada.  Nuthin.  No eggs, no how.  It's got me stumped.  Even my Barnevelder girls, who are youngsters and who are NOT moulting, are not laying.  The only egg I get almost every day is a duck egg.  Well, thank goodness for that.

Yesterday, Kevin Ford came out and sheared the lambs.  I tell you, they were tiny before losing their fleece.  Now they look like a miniature breed.  Except for Linden, who is at the right level for his age/breed.  Acacia is getting back to her noisy, feisty self.  She has learned that she needs to trot right up to the gate in the morning, so I can let her out onto the grass.  As soon as she hears the grain can rattling, she trots off to her own little feed dish.  What a cutie.  And what a relief.  The adult ewes still need to be wormed, but I am making headway.

My plans to get hay this weekend were squelched by a family wedding (the farmer's, not mine) on Saturday and his need to chop corn on Sunday.  He was nice enough to offer to give me hay if I run out before next weekend.  Which I will.  This lull will give me the opportunity to clean out the barn so I can stack the 100 bales without worrying that the little piranhas goats will be able to reach it.  I am also going to see if I can disassemble the lattice house frame (thank goodness I screw everything together) so I can move it and use it as winter shelter for the sheep, with a few alterations.  It's time to move them into a new area so that the old, over-used one has time to recover.  Once I move them, I am going to seed it before winter.  Or so it says on my "Outdoor/Animal" list.  My lists have big ideas.

I've moved the electronet so that the sheep can have some grass, but it will entail some fancy footwork and creative electrical work (neither of which is my forte).  Hey, Apple Pie Gal - ZZZZZZt!  Kidding, I hope.  Because of the way I had to set up the charger to keep the top wire hot, I can't move it.  And because of my elaborate (read: wacky) gate system, I have to put the connecting end of the fencing on the other/opposite side of the gate.  That means I will have to rig up a long connecting wire from the fence to the charger over/across the gate opening using wire, baling twine and plastic tubing.  Since I know that Hoosier is capable of doing the limbo, he will just have to work his way under the wire.  This should be interesting.  But, he's a smart cookie and he loves his grass.

The Babes (surprise chicks) will be integrated into the main coop this weekend.  That will give me one less step in the mornings/evenings.  Then, the small coop will be closed up for the winter, unless I decide to banish the ducks to the small coop.  I am thinking about it.

Much needs to be done in the garden.  Lucy needs to be interred somewhere where the foxes, coyotes and stray dogs won't find her.  There is an over-abundance of llama beans that need shoveling and spreading.  The strawberries need to be given a haircut and mulched. 

I am thinking that I need a partner in all this.  Here are the qualifications:  Must be older than me; must be good with his hands in practical ways (electrical/plumbing/carpentry); must love animals in all sizes and shapes; must be retired and not indigent; must like to cook; must not spend all his time on his dusty-buster; must have a sense of humor; must have the patience of Job; must be a good kisser.  So, if anyone out there is either this person or knows someone who fits this bill, send 'em on down!  While I'm waiting, I think I will tackle my lists.

p.s.  I am going to celebrate either my 20,000th page view or my 300th posting (how I DO go on!) - whichever comes first - with a very special giveaway.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What?! You don't have one?

You can't really say you're a country dweller until you are sporting a baited mousetrap on the passenger side floor of your car.  INSIDE the car, doncha know.  I was going to take a picture of it but, thanks to the guts being pulled out of my fan assembly, there was no heat.  It was below 30 degrees this morning.  My fingers would not function. 

Yes, in the ongoing battle of Susan v. Mice, it's Mice 2 and Susan 1.  I seriously think they have enhanced night vision and, as soon as I've parked my car in the driveway and gone into the house, plans are pulled out, building material gathered, and a small unit of mice invades my car.  There, they build frantically, until every nook, cranny and filter is occupied.

Last Monday, I took the car in for an oil change and mouse-cleaning-out.  I had just had work done under the dashboard from a prior mouse attack less than a week before.  This time, my long-suffering mechanic opened the hood and did a thorough scan of all the places they could get in.  He finally found a plastic barrier that they had chewed through.  So, he reinforced it with wire mesh and told me to put baited mousetraps in the car, just in case there were still mice in residence.  That instilled me with confidence.  I could read the headlines now, "12 Car Pile-Up Caused by Erratic Driving by Hysterical Woman".  It would continue, "local nut-job claims that six mice ran across her feet while she was driving, causing her to channel a medley of 'Smoky and the Bandit' reruns in rapid succession."

So, the mousetrap will stay until Friday.  Then I hope to have the inside of my dashboard, with all it's mysterious "filters", nuts and bolts reassembled so I can get heat without the fear of rodent flambe.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lucy. 2004-2011

A Poem for Lucy

You arrived a ball of fluff
so indiscernible from the soft peeping mass
But not for long, my cheeky girl.

A red-feathered beauty with a soft spot for me
And for you, the same place in my heart
Still there, sweet Lucy, after all these years.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

What I am learning about being Gluten-Free.

I would have to say that the most important thing I've learned is that (gasp) I can live without bread.  There, I've said it.  It's been viewed.  That doesn't mean that I don't really, really miss bread.  What I've also learned is that - so far - it's no problem to go without gluten-free bread.  I have not met one piece, rendition, loaf, slice, crumb or otherwise of GF bread that I can choke down.  Of course, I have just begun this journey so there is still hope that I may find a stand-in.

Another plus side to this (besides feeling better) is that I've lost weight.  I was really surprised at how many things I ate that contained gluten.  This means that the usual snack suspects were no longer on the Good To Eat List.  I am not counting Cape Cod Potato Chips here because those have become an obsession.  Those are on my Don't You Dare Eat List.  The one meal where I feel the loss of gluten most of all is breakfast.  Muffins, coffeecake, toast, scones, sigh.

So, as the saying goes around the farm, I just pulled on my Big Girl Pants and got creative.  This has had some added benefits - I am using grains and flours I've never tried before; some I've never heard of.  Sorghum flour?  Wha?  Guar gum?  er...  There is a wealth of information on the Internet at my fingertips and lots of others have paved the path towards tolerable - yes, even delicious - gluten-free food.  My biggest excitement in the breakfast arena has been rediscovering a food of my childhood.  Fried Mush.  Oooh.  Doesn't that just sound delish?  I was born and raised my first few years in Newport News, Virginia.  Both my parents had been in the Navy and my dad had finished his degree in mechanical engineering in Ohio.  Looking for work, he ended up finding a job at the shipyards in Newport News.  So, in my formative years, I was exposed to hush puppies, spoon bread, mush, and being referred to as "A Mess".  That was a big compliment back then and down there - and, although I can still be referred to as a mess on many occasions, I continue to view it as a positive comment about myself.

Back to topic.  My mother was and is a stellar cook.  My dad was exclusively the Grill Man.  But he also had some 'specialities d' Papa'.  One was fudge and the other was fried mush.  Basically, fried mush is plain speak for sauteed polenta.  I prefer fried mush - it's not pretentious.  It's a Mess.   Sorry, I couldn't help myself.  To make a mess of mush, one simply stirs cornmeal into boiling water with a little salt, stirs it until it's thick, lets it cook for a while, then takes it off the heat.  A quick smear of butter in a loaf pan, pour in the mush, let it cool, then put it in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, slice and fry in butter until slightly crispy around the edges.  Serve with maple syrup.  MmmMmm.  It goes wonderfully with a couple of eggs and bacon.  Or just all by its lonesome in a small pool of real maple syrup.  Mush has given me back Breakfast.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Because Jane wanted it.

There are no photographs with this posting - it came out of the oven, cooled slightly and was devoured.  I could show you a picture of me, sitting at table with my tiny sliver of cake, a bright halo above my head.  But that would be pure fantasy!  Reality would be a slightly pouty me, fork in hand, then the sound of the Hoover!

This recipe was from my latest issue of Taste of Home magazine.  I adapted it to suit my ADD:

French Apple Cake
8 servings (oh, sure, right)

1/2 C. brown sugar
4 T. butter
3 C. apple slices (I used 3 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/2" slices)
lemon juice
3 eggs
3/4 C. granulated sugar
1 C. flour
1 C. butter, melted
4 oz. cream cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare apple slices and toss with lemon juice in a bowl.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the granulated sugar until light.  Add butter and cream cheese and mix well.  Stir in flour and mix until smooth.

*Put 4T. of butter into the bottom of a 10" springform pan and put into the oven to melt.  When melted, sprinkle with brown sugar and put into oven for 10 mins., or until it starts to get oozy.  Remove pan from the oven and place apple slices in the bottom of the pan.  Spread batter over top and smooth.  Bake for 35 minutes.  Let cool slightly, run a knife around the edge to loosen, if necessary, and invert onto a serving dish.  I would highy recommend doing this last step over a sink, not your stovetop.  Nuff said.  Serve warm.

If you click on the link, you'll see a picture of this confection that shows it being served with whipped cream.  I think that's gilding the lily myself...

So, Jane, whip out that Little Dutch Maid and make this cake! 

*The original recipe calls for you to make your own caramel, which means staring at your pan for a loooong time, thinking that you are seeing 'amber' every two minutes.  Pick your poison, so to speak ;o)

Monday Monday.

After a full, sloshy, slimy, boggy, soggy, mucky, yucky weekend, I did end up with just enough time to fire off another potholder.  Unfortunately, I had neither the energy or interest to do so.  I am holding at 6.  I had discovered on Friday that Acacia, the little runty lamb, had very poor body condition - she was very thin and not thriving.  Although it's easy to miss this, given the amount of wool on their little bodies, I fault myself for not checking on a weekly basis to make sure ALL of them are doing well.  This caused me to toss and turn all night long under a hot and hairy layer of guilt.  Saturday morning, while it was just 'misting' and just before the day-long deluge started, I picked Acacia up, wormed her and put her in the goat's area with lots of grass.  Then I had to keep the goats in the barn, since Chicky does not know the meaning of the word "share". 

But, what to do about shelter without access to the barn and a weekend long monsoon forecast? I had inherited a good-sized dog house from my neighbor (a builder) and he had very nicely dropped it at the top of my driveway.  I swear to God, this thing weighed 400 lbs!  It had started raining pretty steadily and Acacia only had trees for shelter.  So, I put on my big girl pants (and big girl rain gear).  I had to move it.  It took over 20 minutes of wet rassling and lots of limited vocabulary words, but I got it inside the fence, put hay and feed in it, and she popped right in, happy as a nice damp clam.  After wrestling with that bad boy, I decided that, should I ever decide to build a house, my neighbor has the job.

Then I zipped off to the Farmers Market - where a few hearty souls stood under pooling tents - and got mums for my mum and me; a big bag of mixed mushrooms (thank you Linda - dripping with sarcasm here - for introducing me to these); a Savoy cabbage the size of a bowling ball - so perfect it almost brought tears to my eyes - for $2; and assorted other vegetables.  Then I zipped back to the apple orchard where I picked my own - out of bushels in their dry store and NOT from the orchard; then to the feed store; gasoline; home.  Then I realized my pork roast was just too puny and put in an emergency call to Marianne, who had a lovely roast - at home and not at the market.  I managed to clean the house, clean the cats' room (whispering this so that all cats reading who do not have their own room won't be jealous), washed dishes, and did a major tidying up, before I raced north to meet Marianne at her house to pick up the roast, then zoomed home to beat my parents up the driveway.  After that, I just gave up, as I really can't do much while they're here.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable visit, with a boisterous firehouse breakfast (the food was just as bad as I remember), some Glenn Miller on the CD player, much cooking and moving around of sheep, lambs and goats, then a lovely dinner with my parents and my neighbors.  There is something so nice and heartwarming about a table set with cloth, flowers and good china, surrounded by people who like each other, are nice and fun, full of good chatter.  And the food - it was good.  I had convinced myself that I would not have any of the French apple cake, since it contained flour.  That resolve disappeared as soon as it was flipped over on its serving plate, all hot, caramel-y, apple-y.  I did, virtuous me, have a very small piece.

Kay brought over her personal trainer (aka Gideon, the Sheltie puppy) to meet everyone.  Scrappy and Bernie were not pleased, so they stayed inside.  We were all entranced by how smart he is.  At least there were glimpses of blue sky yesterday.  There are two more days of showers and rain, then the forecast is much better.  I sure hope so, because I need to get 100 bales of hay this weekend.  Which reminds me.  I am going to have to butter up the farmer - I need him and his truck to get it.  Maybe a lemon meringue pie?