Monday, December 31, 2012

Monday Musings - The Reflective Edition.

When did 'they' start naming winter storms?  I really, honestly, would like to take most members of the media and drop kick them off the fiscal cliff (along with ALL of the members of Congress). 

It has been another interesting year here, at Little Lucky Farm. 

2012 was a veritable roller coaster.  There were some firsts (Ratz, Guineas, 500 posts!), some hellos (Apria) and goodbyes (Flora), some bon voyages (Sylvie).  But, what I am reflecting on the most is that it was not a happy year, not a satisfying year. 

So, move over 2012!  2013 is going to be the Year of Happiness!  As I type this, I am sitting in front of the computer wearing my dad's cast off work coveralls - he's shrunk down to a twig, so I (being his only son, heehee) inherited the coveralls.  The pants are rolled up six times, as are the sleeves.  The crotch is about two inches higher than my knees (how DO those kids navigate with their pants around their knees?  Can anyone tell me?).  I have been mending and taping the living room walls, building fires in the fireplace (and not seeing much of Bernie), picking out paint colors, and gearing up to rip up the living room carpet.  I am having fun!  And I am actually photographing the process, so stay tuned. 

In looking back, I realized that the entire year had gone by without a blip in my happiness meter.  Well, one large blip, but overall, flat as a pancake.  I have been sitting on the LLF waiting for happiness to arrive with enough suitcases packed for a lifetime.  It ain't going to happen.  There are, be in no doubt, a lot of things here that make my heart sing - the glorious nature that surrounds me, my dogs, my cats, my sheep, my llama, my chickens.  The jury is still out on the Guineas.  I have dear, good friends.  But mostly, I live a solitary life.  I don't think this is going to change anytime soon, so it's time to take action.  Besides, I am not getting any younger and I want to make sure my happiness meter is pinging away. 

I like to keep my resolutions vague - but I'd like to keep this one.  Any resolutions you'd like to share?


Thursday, December 27, 2012

The good news. The bad news.

There's no way to sugarcoat this. 

 I have found a wonderful gluten-free pastry recipe.

Yes, it's both good news and bad news.  Before I stumbled upon this amazing combination of most edible ingredients, I had the excuse (and the weight loss to support) not to ever eat another piece of pie.  *Sob*  Yet, faced with the prospect of Christmas traditions falling willy-nilly by the wayside, I just had to make a mincemeat pie.  H.A.D. to.  I did lots of research and this is what I came up with:

Gluten Free Mama Almond Blend Flour and Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Pastry Recipe.  The mincemeat was mine - canned three years ago and almost forgotten in a corner of my canning cupboard.  As part of my resolve to get organized and work/eat my way through my voluminous canned stores, I found four pints of mincemeat.  And it was darned good, too! 

(The link to the Bob's Recipe site is down temporarily, so here it is, with my changes)

Easy as Pie Crust (Gluten Free)*

1-1/2 Cups GF All Purpose Flour (I used GF Mama Almond Blend)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup Margarine (I used Earth Balance Shortening)
4 Tablespoons cold milk

The recipe directs you to cut fat into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter.  I am too impatient for that.  I put the dry ingredients into the food processor, pulsed it a few times, then added the cold shortening cut into cubes, pulsed it until it was crumbly, with some pea-sized pieces of shortening.  Then I sprinkled the cold milk on top and pulsed until it clumped together.  I gathered it into a loose ball and rolled it out between two pieces of waxed paper. 

To bake the pie crust alone, bake at 400 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes.  With pie filling, bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees F for an additional 40 minutes.  Be careful to check the edges of the crust for over-browning and cover with foil if it gets too brown too fast.

*The recipe is for a single crust - I doubled it with no problem, although I did have to add more milk - about a half cup, plus two tablespoons.

I apologize for not having taken a picture.  By the time I thought about it, dinner was over and the remaining pie had been divided up between my parents and guest.  I am very well acquainted with my total lack of self-control - I cannot be trusted alone with pie.  And now I have to try to ignore the soft, pleading whispers from my two four-pound bags of GFM's Almond Blend beckoning me from the freezer - "Make More Pie.  Make More Pie".  LALALALALALA.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Tuesday Musings - The Holiday Edition.

It's a day to muse about traditions.  As I grew up, our Christmas holiday was steeped in tradition.  When we were young, we would go to bed on Christmas Eve, practically vibrating with excitement.  We would be torn between going to bed early so we could go to sleep and make Christmas come faster, or refusing to go to sleep so we could hear Santa coming through the front door (no chimney).  We each had a stocking that would be hung at the foot of our beds - this was, in retrospect, the only way my parents could sleep past 4 AM.  Not surprisingly, I was up that early even then.  Also, in retrospect, my incredibly light sleeping habits must have caused my poor parents to have to out-last me, finally filling our stockings at a wee hour, when I had given up the battle and had fallen asleep.  We would wake up and shriek as quietly as possible, going through every precious object in our stocking.  One year, when I was 7, I got a miniature tool kit - the hammer to which I still have.  We got chocolate coins wrapped in gold paper, a tangerine, socks, and other small, inexpensive items which thrilled us no end.  One year we all got Troll dolls and that kept us occupied for years!

Once my parents gave up trying to sleep through the kerfufle, we were herded - wide-eyed (and rapidly trying to size up our piles*) - past the Christmas tree to the kitchen, where we had to have the obligatory breakfast.  My middle sister and I wolfed down our food, while my poor youngest sister, piddled around with hers.  I think the entire experience must have been traumatic for her - there was nothing worse than my slow-eating sister being between me and my Christmas gifts.  Once we had all eaten and my parents were up to their second cup of coffee, we raced into the living room.  But, no tearing of paper and rending of boxes for us.  We had to each open one, then we would take turns taking a present to each of our parents.  Then we had to write down on a list who gave us what for the thank you notes.  And there was no giant pile of presents, either.  We each got a few 'practical' things - socks, underwear - then we would get a smallish surprise and then one larger surprise, and some small things from aunties.  It was a long, drawn out morning and it was wonderful.  After a decent interval, we were sent off to get dressed and then we played with whatever treasures we had gotten from Santa for the rest of the day.

Our traditions shifted around as we got older, moved away from home and my sisters had families of their own.  As our needs grew fewer, so did our need and desire for 'stuff'.  My youngest sister moved to the West Coast, and my middle sister now has a challenging job that sometimes (as in this year) requires that she works holidays.  We have adapted by downsizing our tradition to food.  Every Christmas Eve we have oyster stew and a hot, Italian sandwich.  Now, thanks to yours truly, we are shifting again.  The oyster stew stays, but the sandwiches are out.  Same deal with Christmas Day - standing rib roast, vegetable, Yorkshire pudding - has morphed slightly to SRR, vegetable and roasted fingerling potatoes.  Such sacrifice.  :) 

As the years have passed, our focus has become more on the fact that we can enjoy each other's company, have a fire in the fireplace, holiday music playing, share a meal, and reflect on the year past.  That is a fine tradition.

I wish you all a very, very Merry Christmas - a holiday filled with family and friends, steeped in love. 

*Not that this will come as a surprise, but I was such a pain in the butt as a kid.  I would ferret out any and all presents that my parents tried their best to hide until Christmas.  I could have been a professional second story (wo)man.  There was no nook, no cranny that was safe! 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

We interrupt this weekend...

for a short, picture-filled post (!!!)

I found this in my mailbox - I presume Scrappy (aka Bert Lahr in a Dog Suit) snuck this in.  He's not so smart.  There wasn't a stamp on it.  Smarty-pants dogs.

My sister came for a short but sweet visit Monday night.

What do you give someone for Christmas when they have everything?  Why, a framed redwork  rendition (anatomically correct, no less) of a Tamworth boar.  Yes, I need to do more work on my lettering - but I like to think of it as "primitive".  That's still in vogue, right?

Some pics of the wind damage at my parents' house in Vermont.  It's quite a mess!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Still here.

I did, however, believe this morning at 2A that we would be blown off the planet and out into the cosmos.  Gale force winds ripped the plastic off the hoops and managed to pull the iron rebar posts straight out of the ground - my compost bins were scattered, limbs were down, BUT, contrary to recent events, all of the Guineas were in the coop.  They must know their weather, since for the first time in days, all six were huddled on the roost inside last night. 

It was ever so much fun to do chores in the cold, torrential, horizontal rain.  As I struggled against the wind, trying to keep a firm grasp on both the feed bucket and the hay, three furry noses poked out from the shed.  That was all that emerged.  So it was breakfast in bed this morning for the woolies.  When I opened the chicken door, the chickens and Pearlies all ran out, then slammed on the brakes and ran back in.  I decided to harvest some of the Swiss chard since the cover was off, I was already soaking wet, and I wouldn't be able to get the plastic back on until tomorrow morning - it may all be dead by then.

My trip into work this morning was ... interesting.  Trees were down, limbs were down, power outages darkened traffic lights.  There were three detours - which made me happy that I had taken the time over the years to develop alternative routes.  I needed them all this morning.

I would say that the Mayan calendar went out with a bang, and the Winter Solstice started with the same.  I am glad that it was rain and not snow, but - wait!  If it had been snow, I could have stayed home!  I hope all of you in the path of the storm are safe and snug at home.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Crying Wolf.

With daylight lasting four hours now (or so it seems), it is dark when I roll up my driveway.  When I get out of the car and stand and listen, I can tell if the Pearlies are in or out of the coop.  Unlike chickens, they are ALWAYS NOISY.  This makes me wonder how they have lasted as a species.  It's as if they are sitting on their branches crying out - HEY OWLS!  HERE WE ARE!  NOM, NOM, NOM!

It gives me pangs every single night.  But there is little I can do other than quit my job and stay home to herd them into the coop every night.  Interestingly, of the six (two boys, four girls), two Pearlies always go into the coop at night.  The boys.  The girls, apparently, feel the need to sit out in the open, becoming sodden masses, just so they can have something to talk about in the morning.  Yesterday morning, there was some wet snow, so that really put the squeeze in their girdles.  I let them come down and carry on without doing my usual run in the bathrobe to let them into the coop (after the fact).

Once everyone was out and chattering up a storm, I went to do my sheep/goat/llama chores.  As I was getting ready to hay the sheep, I heard a deafening uproar.  This is nothing new or unusual.  Everything they do is deafening.  So I ignored them.  Then I heard Kees and that got my attention.  Even though he is an hysteric, the presence of the Pearlies has taken the wind out of his sails.  I don't think he can compete with the drama.  As I came around the corner of the yard toward the deck, I looked up to see a hawk the size of a VW Beetle poised in the Guineas' tree, ready to pounce.  Jumpin Jehosaphat!  I scared him off and then the Guineas all ran into the coop, where they remained for a full fifteen minutes.  Completely quiet.  I guess I better fine tune my alert meter.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Musings.

I was thinking that it would be nice to be a sheep for a day - especially when faced with your favorite meal.  That way, you could have a rumen and enjoy that meal all day long!  This kind of musing is a sure sign that I need a break from all this commuting.

And would it be too much to ask for car designers to put the gas tank on the same side of the car?  One of my most humbling moments was the night I rumbled up to the gas pump in my brandspankinnew black MR2 Turbo thinking I was stinkin hot, only to have the attendant look at me and say, "the gas tank is on the other side (you idiot)."  Took the steam out of my bustle instantly.  However, that car was definitely my favorite car of all time.  An incredibly hot little number - black with cream interior, two seats, spoiler, manual transmission.  It was the only time my practical side lost out to my IMUSTHAVEIT side - if you don't count my brief and painful Renault Le Car ownership. 

Life in a very small town can be either stultifying or fascinating - sometimes both in the same day.  After almost seven years here, I finally garnered an invitation to "the" exclusive holiday party up the hollow.  My first few forays up the hollow were as "guest".  Apparently, I passed muster.  One of the pluses of being invited is that I am usually the youngest attendee by at least ten years.  The hostess is in her 80s, has a pack of much-loved rescue dogs (or, "doe-awgs", as she says), the house is old, rather sprawling, way up a dirt road, and is floor to ceiling covered in wonderful art.  That she lives there on her own, year-round, fills me with both hope and admiration.  There were two themes of discussion this evening: the town supervisor and doe-awgs.  The wine is great, the food is "interesting" - and very limited from my GF perspective, so there's no fear of overeating - and you don't have to stay late. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

A tear in the fabric.

It does seem that the very fabric of all that's good and precious in this world is starting to tear at the seams.  The endless, senseless violence and carnage that seems to be occurring every day paints a grim picture of what we have become.  You can argue the usual suspects: violent computer games, unsupervised children, a disassociation from compassion.  But the fact is that violent/disassociated young adults + unlimited access to automatic weapons = 18 children gunned down in their elementary school.  We may never know what caused this tragedy, but does it really matter what the cause?  Our society better sit up and smell the coffee.  And we better ALL sit up and make our government tackle the gun problem.  There is NO reason WHATSOEVER for any person to have access to an semi-automatic or automatic weapon or a handgun.  None. 

My thoughts and prayers go out to the parents, siblings, family, and friends of those lost in Newtown. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Celebrating the Twelves.

How cool is it that it is the twelfth day of the twelfth month of the twelfth year of this new millennium?  And there won't be any 13/13/13.  Or 14/14/14.  This is it! 

In honor of the Twelves, here are twelve things about me that you didn't know you were dying to find out about.  (Got that???)
  1. I was born on the first day of the first month - but I was NOT the first baby of the new year in Newport News, Virginia.  Which would have garnered my parents some cool swag.  Instead, all they got was a ruined New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and a baby with colic.
  2. I taught myself to play the guitar (not well) but fancied myself the Ohio version of Joni Mitchell.  I used to play guitar with my sister - she played the flute - and I would make her laugh so she couldn't play.
  3. I speak passable Spanish and Dutch (although I am getting rusty on both counts).
  4. I had a pet skunk named Pooh, who I trained to walk with a harness and a leash.  Unfortunately, he was high-strung and used to bite me when he got nervous.  Which was all the time.
  5. I used to be married to a rodeo guy.
  6. One year, I made a lot of my spending money shooting pool.
  7. I am terrified of deep bodies of water.
  8. Because I almost drowned water-skiing in a lake (my dad saved me) and because of the movie, "Jaws".
  9. I am fascinated by knots.
  10. I wanted to be a famous female sculptor.
  11. I can type 120 wpm
  12. I collect shaped stones, feathers, and small, shiny objects.
So - enough about me!  How about you?  Are you celebrating the Twelves?  Doing anything special today?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

'Tis the season....

to hang on by your fingernails.  I spent all of Saturday doing errands and baking gingerbread men with my mother.   Then all of Sunday alternating inside chores with outside chores and spending the entire day on my feet.  By the time 4:30P hit (my self-imposed cut-off time - except for feeding the group) on Sunday, my back ached, my head ached and I was prone on the floor.  Where Bernice, in a surprising move, gave me a little kiss on the tip of my nose.  My recovery was instant.

Of course, I can't list all I did because some of it's secret.  Let's just say that I am 90 percent ready for the holidays.  It wasn't all work - I got some good cardio-vascular exercise in the afternoon.  When I emptied the poultry feed into their rodent-proof (so far) feed can, I shook the bag to empty it fully and sent the Posse of Pearlies up and over the fence - and into the tick/muck/reed/brier infested bog in the no(w)oman's land in the back.  Where they stuck together in a little clump and wouldn't move.  Soooo, I had to slog down, getting shredded, to herd them back up the hill towards the safety of the fence.  Twenty minutes later, they were back where they were supposed to be.  Except for Lonesome Georgette, my oddball.  Twenty minutes later than the first twenty minutes, she was safely back with the group.  While I was messing around back there, I discovered that Sandy had blown an entire 4x8 panel of T-11 off the back of the coop.  Said panel was wedged halfway down the hill in some trees.  That took another twenty or so minutes to pry it loose and drag it back up the hill.  Replacing it will be saved for another day of fun.

I also Chickie-proofed his hay feeder (I hope), put a pumpkin out for my fluffy (they ain't fat) sheep, visited with Melanie twice (!!) when she came to pick up llama beans and drop off bacon (!!!), did lots of cooking, crafting, cleaning, etc., etc.  Then I had an Ipswich Swizzle, watched a Christmas movie and went to bed.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Musings.

My, oh, my.  It's a different world we live in.  I remember a tall, grave (but kindly) bear sporting a park ranger's hat telling me that only I could prevent forest fires.  Now he's all attitude and telling me to Get My Smoky On.  Just what the heck is "my smoky"?  Makes me either want to pull out my paisley velour smoking jacket and light up, or look for leather. 

"As the crow flies."  Do crows fly straighter than other birds?  There is a spot during my commute where I crest the plateau and I can see the city.  If I was a crow, it would be a much shorter commute.  But, then, why would I fly to the city?  The country is much nicer, especially for crows.  And on the subject of birds, this fall there seems to be a bumper crop of Mourning Doves over-nighting in the pines next to the goat barn.  They are so fidgety and easily frightened (sort of like lots of feathered Bernies), that I find myself tiptoeing under the pines on my way to feed the goats, making all kinds of reassuring noises so that they know I am not going to harm them.  Nothing worked until I started singing to them.  They seem to prefer Joni Mitchell.  (Does that make me certifiable?)  I think I am making progress!  Last night there was only some minor cooing and fluttering.   I am very fond of Mourning Doves.  They remind me of fragile bits of Southwestern Indian pottery.

Since a lot of my musing occurs while I commute, we are back on the road.  I realized that, when I come to a bend in the road (and, believe me, there is not a straight bit of road for miles around me!), I tend to accelerate into the turn.  Just a bit.  Not, of course, if it's raining, sleeting, snowing or anything inclement (just in case there is a Driving Instructor reading this with his marking pencil ready to give me demerits...)  This is a habit I picked up from a fellow I used to work for back in the Dark Ages of Advertising in Cleveland.  He had been a professional race car driver in his youth.  We had a client about 50 miles south of Cleveland that we met with on a regular basis and on the way to their offices we passed a race track (not an official one - one with miniature race cars).  On our way back to Cleveland, we would stop at the track and race.  He was extremely competitive and I am no slouch in that department, either.  However, he was better (and my boss....).  I only beat him once and he didn't talk to me for a week.  It was hard, but I let him win from then on.  : /  In another chapter of the DAoAiC,  the ad agency I worked for decided to try some bonding exercises to mend the inevitable rift between the creative and the 'client' sides of the business.  They came up with some odd hybrid of volleyball and slam dancing (my interpretation, but it was played in a room with padding on the walls).  Well, let me tell you, everyone on BOTH sides wanted me on their team.  I was fiercesome!  I made up for lack of size with lots of "attitude".  Besides, I could jump and spike like nobody's business.  I have since calmed down.  Really.  That and a couple of rotator cuff operations.  And I'd need help getting up.  Anyone seen my cane????

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pucker up!

This may be the best year yet for my Meyer Lemon crop!  I took six off the tree and there are -- 24 -- left!!!!!  I "heart" my Meyer Lemon Tree!  Of course, I will be faced with 30 lovely lemons all within a week or so - oh, poor me...

This tree is about four years old - I've had it for about three years.  Pretty soon I will have to re-pot it, as most of the nutrients in the soil will have been used up.  I water it once week, keep it in a sunny spot (it has its own light starting in January) and feed it an organic citrus fertilizer approximately once a month.  I measure out the fertilizer the same way I measure when I cook - randomly.  As soon as the weather warms up and there's no chance of frost, out she goes.

Can someone tell me why this refuses to right itself?

Poor baby can hardly hold its head up.

I foresee lemon curd, candied lemon peel, frozen lemon juice....loverly.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

My Own Worst Enemy.

Can I get an "Amen!" from all you cat owners?  I have three cats - and somehow, they have ended up being:  all male, all black and white, all three sizes:  small, medium, x-large.  One specializes in mice and plastic bags.  One specializes in feats of acrobatic daring and theft of loose objects.  One specializes in eating anything that doesn't move faster than he does and trying to get Bernice to lick his head.

Very early this morning, I start to hear the objects hitting the floor.  The size and composition vary from morning to morning.  This morning's sounded plastic.  Lots of high, squeaking sounds as whatever it was  was scraped along the floor.  I put the pillow over my head and went tried to go back to sleep.

Not long afterward, I gave up and got up.  It had started raining and I was tempted to let the cats out with the dogs. They are all hot-to-trot to get out anyway.  Kidding.  As I stumbled around in the dark, looking for the light, I kicked something.  Turns out that Medium (aka Onceslim) had unearthed a plastic container of catnip from gawdknowswhere.  There were numerous fang marks on the container, but the lid had stayed on.  Amazing!

Before I had my first cup of coffee (this is an important part of the story...) I thought, "Oh, FINE.  You want this catnip?  You want it?  Well, HERE!"  Then I proceeded to sprinkle a liberal amount over their scratching wave.  Then I had my coffee.

Ten minutes later, I am sitting here listening to howling, mewling, whacking, flipping, drooling, and a variety of indescribable things going on in the living room.

I am, indeed, my own worst enemy.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Squirreliminator.

The line has been drawn.  Boundaries have been over-stepped.  My bank account is being affected.  Thanks to last winter-that-wasn't, besides my War on Ratz, I have been overrun by every imaginable rodent population.  Grey squirrels are chewing on feed cans, prying them open, waltzing brazenly into the chicken coop.  Red squirrels are just plum crazy - they fling themselves across the deck like lunatic acrobats.  All they need are glitter tights and capes.  Geezloueeze. 

Figuring it was safe (from bear intervention) to put out the birdseed, I allowed myself to fall into a false sense of normalcy.  I love to watch the birds flitting about, grabbing a seed with their little talons and zipping away, tiny chickadees whisking about your head.  I love my cardinal couple, even though he still seems fixated with my car rear view mirrors.  I love the Jones Family Sparrows, all million-and-a-half of them (most of whom lounge around in the chicken coop all day).  I get goosebumps when I sight a nuthatch.  But, do I enjoy watching Dom (DeLuise) and Orson (Welles) draping their fur-clad-sumo-like girths over my bird feeders?  I do not.  Nor do I like their cousins, Fatty (Arbuckle) and Fat (Boy).  Or their brothers Lard (Butt) and Big (Booty).  You get the picture.

So far these grey-coated buckets of suet have chewed my bird feeders to bits, eaten every bit of seed meant for the birds, damaged feed pails, and godknowswhatelse.  I have thrown rocks at them, curses at them, have sic'd Scrappy on them (he's mostly into the opening shot out of the door, then quickly goes downhill after that).  I have had enough.

Enter the {{Squirreliminator}}.

Also known as the Gamo Hornet .177 Air Rifle.  Oh, yah.  This baby shoots TWO kinds of pellets (.177 for regular vermin/varmints and .22 for big game like - what? - opossums?).  It is probably the only weapon I am safe with.  I've been practicing by hitting a cardboard box (once in a while) and by making thinly veiled threats to the squirrels.  The only drawback I can see - well, one of two - is that it breaks very hard to load.  By the time I wrestle with it and squint my way to loading the teeny, tiny pellet in the teeny, tiny hole, most of the varmints have packed their maws with seed and have headed to their lairs.  But I'm determined.   However, there is one other tiny drawback.  I don't think I actually want to hit them.  I gave Orson (or was it Fatty?) a goose yesterday and I was walking around wringing my hands for an hour.  I am rather hoping that word will get around and they will go find a less deadly place to pillage.

Very truly yours,

Sweezie The Wuss

Sunday, December 2, 2012

(Pre) Monday Musings.

Or, what can happen after four cups of coffee by 7A on a Sunday morning - well, it gets me off the hook tomorrow!

I recently had a conversation with someone where the subject of smells setting off memories came up.  One of the smells discussed had to do with shoe polish.  Which eventually led me to rummage around to find my shoe polishing kit (charm school : shoe polishing kit).  It's amazing what happens to shoe polish that hasn't been touched for 39 years...  I picked up a new can of Kiwi Brown shoe polish this weekend and, having no idea how inflation has affected the price of shoe polish, actually gasped when I saw the price for a small tin!  I bought it anyway and came home and polished my Danskos.  I wonder how many people actually polish their shoes these days?  Of course, this train of musing led me to remember my neighbors in one of my past lives.  They lived next door and had three daughters - one just a teenager, one just into her tweens and a surprise - the toddler.  The oldest daughter was beautiful and she and the toddler got the lion's share of their parents' attention.  Which left B, the middle rather awkward daughter with braces, feeling adrift and angry.  She ended up in my kitchen at some point almost every day.  I was very fond of her.  However, this particular musing is about her older sister - a more self-centered, limited creature of any age I have never met.  I was there when she, in excited tones, discovered that shoe polish made her shoes shiny!  There was much cheering.  I had to leave the room.  May I interject that B made straight As in school?

Does Art imitate Life?  Or does Life imitate Art?  I am thinking of creating a regular feature entitled "Daze of Their Lives".  And I'm sure I'll have the pants sued off me.  I am sure you all know by now that I do not watch television and have not for quite some years (aren't I the virtuous one?)  But, really, do I need to when all I have to do to get my daytime soap opera fix is to sit in the Midas waiting room for an hour?  Let me introduce you to the cast of characters:  Older Woman, overweight, cane, car problems.  Older Man, prior heavy smoker, permanently attached to portable oxygen tank (limited supply - clock ticking), various mechanics, trio of women - #1 indeterminate age; #2 20s; #3 teenager, Linda - weekend manager with heart of gold.  Within the hour, the Older Woman opined on everything from toilet paper brands to knee replacements (she'd had 4).  The Older Man rasped out his views on the cost of car repairs and the deficiencies of the medical system.  Linda mediated with #2 who had been sold a car (sight unseen) which they held under a mechanic's lien.  Apparently, the owner had sold the car to a number of people/friends, had collected umpteen dollars but owed over two grand to the garage.  #1 made a stream of veiled and outward threats of bodily harm to the owner, then sidled up to me to say she wished she could knit, as her daughter (#3) was pregnant and expecting a baby!  #3 looked to be about 15 and terrified.  The mechanics zipped in and out with accounts of seizures, dog bites, hunting accidents, and any number of other catastrophes.  I ask you, do I really NEED television?

True confession - I had a momentary thought about buying a big flat screen television set last night on which to watch my DVDs.  Luckily, it was just that - momentary.  I do have a terrible weakness for gadgets...

The following is a mental clip of my thought process while knitting something (my first pair of fingered gloves!!) out of baby alpaca yarn:  "Oooooh.  This is so soft.  I love knitting with alpaca.  Hmmmm.  Alpacas are small.  And I only have the two sheep now.  Hmmm.  I think Apria would like someone(s) else to look after.  Hey!  Maybe she'd like an alpaca(s) - it could be like having a little sister(s)!  I bet she'd like sisters!  And the goats!  Hey!  The goats may like having something new to look at.  I think they have been bored.  Hey!  Then I could breed them and they'd have babies and I would have baby alpaca yarn......"  Thankfully, by the time I had my second cup of coffee, this inane thought process had died of its own accord.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Giving Thanks.

I am (very) thankful for Fridays - and, perversely, I am thankful for the job that allows me to be thankful for Fridays.

I am thankful that I have such funny, nutty dogs.  I think Scrappy is trying to communicate with me on a different plane.  I keep waiting to hear him tell me what he wants in English - we've tried Dutch, Spanish, and ASL.  We're getting close.  And, yes, I tend to anthropomorphicize everything - it's part of my charm... :)

I am thankful that physical space does not dim the strength of my friendships; in fact, it seems to strengthen them. 

I am thankful for baby alpaca yarn.  I just LOVE baby alpaca yarn.  But, no, I am not going to raise baby alpacas or any other alpaca.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Musings.

I have started romancing the Me.  It all started when I was doing a blitzkrieg clean through the house - nothing like facing wind and snow to make you suddenly very interested in cleaning the inside of the house.  I took a look at my bed and realized that I had never made pillow shams for the back pillows.  I guess I figured that I was the only one looking at them and who cared.  Well, gosh darn it, I do!  So I hauled out my sewing machine and imagination (heaven forbid I use a pattern....) and whipped up two shams in about a half hour.  And they are darn nice!  It becomes too easy to forget to treat yourself nicely.  To make your space pleasant to look at just for you.  I doubt very much if I will be dragging out the good china and lighting the candles with every meal, but I am going to try not to slide down that slippery slope....

Speaking of romance, I spent most of Friday afternoon standing around watching goat sex.  I had been hanging up my three loads of laundry, trying to make the most of the last lovely day for quite a while, when I happened to look over at the goats.  Sage was wagging her tail like a dog and cozying up to Chickie at every opportunity.  He was not buying all this "friendliness" and avoided her like the plague.  I dropped the laundry basket and sprinted into the house -- we had heat!!!  I emailed my friend AnnMarie, who called me and we arranged for her to bring one of her bucks over for a 'date'.  So, there in the last nice day of fall, with the sun shining, everyone - including the sheep and llama, who were lined up along the fence line - stood around nonchalantly while my little baby doe became a future milking doe (we hope).  AnnMarie and I talked farms, goats, DIY, llamas, feed prices, vet bills, self-reliance, and milking stands.  Her handsome little buck, Troy, was in heaven and he and Sage hit it off famously.

As AnnMarie drove away with a sleepy but happy Troy in the back of her old van, it struck me that there is much kindness and generosity in the world.  This was the first time AnnMarie and I had ever met - actually.  She doesn't know me from Adam, and vice versa.  She has a Nigerian Dwarf dairy operation - a small one - but she hand milks 25 does every day.  And cares for a bunch of rescued llamas.  She works hard and manages to scrape by.  Yet, here she was, taking a chunk of time out of her busy afternoon for my benefit.  She is also taking Sage and Chick to their own little section of her farm three weeks before Sage is due so she'll be there when Sage kids (and has promised to call me no matter what the time).  She will then teach Sage how to milk.  And me, too.  And, when we're comfortable with it, she will send the Chickie/Sage/kids family home with a milking stand that her brother is making.  For free.  Asking nothing at all in exchange for all of this time and effort.  She knows that I am trying to sell Sage and figured it would be an easier sale with a doe in milk.

As bad as things are in the world, there are plenty of good, kind and generous people.  As a matter of fact, alot of them are floating right out there - not so far away - in the blogosphere.  It gives you comfort and courage to know that it's not all bad and it's okay to be hopeful.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Giving Thanks.

I am thankful that I have tons of leftovers and won't have to cook a meal for three months.  I am thankful that I love turkey.  And thankful that we are able to put this bounty on our tables and share a day filled with good food and love, even if (one of us) would rather have been at a restaurant having someone else go through all the fuss and wash the dishes.

I am thankful for second chances.

I am thankful that the grand-dogs did not decorate the lovely Oriental rug with the remnants of their own Thanksgiving feast.  They are good dogs.

I am thankful for GF cornbread so that I can have stuffing (is it still stuffing if it's not put in the turkey?  Or does that make it something else?  Dressing?  But that would connote that it's ON the turkey.  Which it wasn't).  Sometimes I'm not so thankful for my wondering mind.

I am thankful I didn't have to wear my Fat Pants.

I am thankful that the cats didn't hold it against me for not taking them to the grandparents.  This gave them the opportunity to find every plastic bag not safely stowed out of reach and chew the ends off.  What is it with cats and plastic bags?  Can anyone tell me?

I am thankful for Todays and for Next Weeks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

How we winterize on the LLF.

A pictorial post.

We put our garden to bed.

We give our rainbarrel a rinse and dry.

We tuck our strawberries in under a nice, thick straw mulch.

We put light where we'll need it.

We batten down the deck chairs.

We secure our alternate fuel source (and spruce up our bird feeders).

We polish our silver.

Okay, I'm kidding about the silver.  I actually polished it while sitting out Sandy.  When I get very anxious, I need to do something repetitive and mind-numbing.  Ergo, the silver polishing.  You can take the girl out of charm school, but you can't take the charm school out of the girl...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Musings.

It's funny how you can think about something, talk about it, muse and mull over it for days and then - BINGO! An offhand remark parts the clouds and there is the answer, standing in a sunbeam with seraphims and cherubs flitting about.  I am obviously carried away, or ought to be.  My home phone (land line for you techies) went dead a week ago.  I didn't realize it until that Sunday, when I was madly punching in the number for the gravel pit owner who was operating ILLEGALLY on Sunday (at 6:30A, on top of it all).  Nothing.  I was speaking to my inner ear.  There is nothing more infuriating than being infuriated already and then having your phone let you down.

I called the phone company and they sent someone out fairly quickly - two days later.  But everything was fine on the outside.  That meant I would have to have them come in and find the problem.  And pay for it.  I knew it was the mousies.  It's always the mousies.  Or the ratz.  How odd, I thought, that I can get DSL service but no phone signal.  Hmmm.  How odd.....hmmmm.  I've just given you a little glimpse into the inner workings of me.  Scary, ain't it?  I mentioned this to Kay's hubby at our Zoning Board meeting.  He said, "then the DSL line/phone line to the box is fine.  What about your other line?"  THWACK.  Sound of palm meeting forehead.  I went home, unplugged my phone from the other, non-working line, and plugged it into the office line.  It worked.  Then the same wonderful neighbor, Kay, came up with one of those two-outlet thingys and I am now back in business until spring - when I am brave enough to crawl under my crawl space to fix the other line.  Or, maybe summer.  Of 2022.

I have a penchant for used things.  I prefer older, used furniture to new stuff.  Old furniture has a history.  Sometimes you know its provenance and other times you can just imagine.  I have two rocking chairs -  one belonged to an aunt on my dad's side, and one belonged to my Great Aunt Edie, on my mom's side.  GAE could knit complicated patterns while sipping her evening scotch, listening to the radio, smoking her one-a-day cigarette, and watching the news, AND carrying on a conversation with you.  She could knit a house and all the furniture.  She and I began the family tradition of making gingerbread men (or "boys", as she put it) in her kitchen every December.  As we worked away, she would grill me on state capitols.  After she passed away, my mom and I took it up and have been doing it ever since.  Without the state capitols. 

Okay, back to the furniture.  Sheesh.  I would guess that about 99% of my furniture is not new.  When I moved into LLF, I had nothing.  Nada.  My parents, bless their hearts, gave me one of their extra beds.  I bought a used patio table and chairs that functioned as my dining room table and chairs for months.  Then a chance encounter on freecycle led me to a nice woman who came to pick up an extra lock set I had listed.  She looked at my empty house and said, "Do you need furniture?"  She gave me a solid maple dining table, two dressers, two nightstands, and a mirror.  All of which I still have.  Slowly, but surely, I have picked up a chair here, a table there.  Lately, I have been rethinking my space and all that's in it (besides too much).  One of the things I'm eyeing - in the 'out-the-door' way - is one of the rocking chairs.  But I am hesitating because of....guilt.  Should I keep it because it was my aunt's?  I wasn't particularly (at all) close to her.  Will her spirit rattle the doors and toss pots across the kitchen if I move it on?  Being a big chicken liver, it remains in my guest room where I don't have to look at it.  What do you think?

Saturday, November 17, 2012

In "Vest" ed

The winner of the Support My Habit child's vest is ....


Sandy, please email your mailing info to me at swomersley at gmail dot com!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Giving Thanks.

I am thankful that my cats allow me to live with them and share their furniture.  I am so very lucky that I can act as a launching pad, scratching post, and accepter of their offerings of mouse parts.

I am so thankful that Scrappy continues to forgive me for not feeding him treats 24/7.  I am thankful that he leaves his toys and chewed marrow bones scattered about in strategic places, which allows me the opportunity to practice my balancing act.

I am thankful that I have created such a firm bond with the Guineas that they wait outside on various high roosts until I arrive home in the pitch dark to try to guide them into the safety of the coop.

I am very thankful that the chickens have taken such a long break in laying eggs that I don't have to worry about collecting them, or gathering enough to pay for their upkeep.

I am thankful for my sense of humor - which is sometimes all I have left by the end of the week.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Please help me support my habit...

That should draw an interesting crowd...

As the weather cools, my habit becomes more intense.  The cravings, the yearnings, the obsessing...oy!  My focus, already on shaky ground, becomes as fragmented as light through a prism.  Or like trying to herd cats, or push string....

I sidle about, small bags of it hidden in my work satchel, scattered on the coffee table, on the dining room table, on my dresser.  I indulge whenever I can - squeezing in a quick fix while in the doctor's office, waiting in line, waiting for 5:30, sitting while covered with sleeping cats....

I'm a knitting junkie and I need your help.  In my defense, as someone who has the focus of a fruit fly, knitting something small and fast is just indescribably alluring.  Just look at some of my WIPs, if you don't believe me:

Tribbles - (this is all your fault, Jaime!)

Beekeepers Quilt - I got sucked right into the vortex and it will only take me three or four years to complete a lap-size quilt...I blame it on the tribbles...

Socks - Must. Knit. Socks.  I discovered I had an entire storage tub filled with sock yarn. OY.

Cotton Cardigan - Cast on in early June as a neck-down sweater.  I am closing in on two inches.

Black Cotton Sleeveless Shell - Cast on in the distant past - so distant, I don't remember exactly what I was thinking or when I was thinking it.  Left to lie fallow after five inches of booooring stocking knit.  Are you seeing a pattern here?  Anything that entails more than 20 minutes of covert knitting is tossed to the side to lie woefully unappreciated and ignored.

Various Holiday Gifts - Which cannot be described for obvious reasons...

Toddler's Cotton Vest - THIS is why I need your help!  As you know, I don't have children.  Ergo, I don't have grandchildren.  Nor do I interact with children on any regular basis.  Yet, I persist in knitting children's garments.  They are small.  They are fast.  They are cute.  Need I say more?

The colors are a little different than pictured - the blue is
closer to the green in color and the green is more
of a celery-meets-sage green.
 How can you help?  By entering my giveaway to win this little vest so I can justify knitting another child-sized garment!  Now, before you get all excited (if any of you are getting excited, that is), a few disclaimers:

  • This is not knit by one of Martha's minions.  This is knit by me.  So it is bound to be imperfect.
  • This is NOT a cat-free home.  They own it and I just live here.
  • This is knit out of dreamy, organic, hand spun cotton.  You cannot toss this into the machine.  You will have to hand wash it and block it flat to dry it. 
  • Although I followed the pattern for a 1 Y/O, I have no idea if this will fit a 1 Y/O so you'll have to go by the measurements, which are:  12 inches across the chest; 11 inches from top of shoulder to bottom of ruffle; 4 inches at arm hole.
Will you help me?  If you love me you will...  Have mercy on me and leave a comment of any size, shape or color below.  I will choose a winner by random on Saturday, November 17.  Deadline for entry is midnight, Friday, November 16.  I can only ship to the continental U.S. - sorry - overseas postal rates are too steep!  I've spent all my money on yarn (and dog food), you see...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Musings.

I've been thinking about the difference and quality of noise lately.  Back a millennium ago, I lived in The City, and was constantly surrounded by noise.  24/7/365.  It was quite a shock the first few months - I literally felt as if I was being physically assailed.  After about six months, while I wouldn't say I was used to it, I more or less ignored it.  Except for the cacophony of car alarms all night long.  You'd have to be dead or deaf to ignore that.  Then I fled The City and moved north - not to the country, but to a suburb.  Still noisy, but different noise: lawnmowers, car horns, leaf blowers, car radios, cars, dogs.  Then I moved to my little rural place.  Last week, needing some quiet contemplation and the solace of the endless, starry sky (another big plus living in the middle of nowhere), I went out and stood on the deck.  And listened.  There was the occasional dog bark, a cow mooing, the faint sound of Phoebe's name being called, one of the Guineas got a bee in his/her bonnet briefly, then Kees crowed - getting in the last word, then distance coyotes and the wind rustling the leaves.  While the country is noisy in a way all its own, the difference is that it is noisy against a vast, silent canvas.  The silence, like the sky, is so wondrous, it can almost bring you to tears.

If I had the track record of the local weather guys (notice - no women), not only would I be tossed out on my derriere after doing such a terrible job, I'd be hard-pressed to find similar employment anywhere.  Yet, day after day, week after week, they get it wrong.  Geez.  In the spirit of full disclosure, this line of thinking was occurring last Thursday night as I inched along the slippery, icy, snaky road over the mountain in a blizzard - while the weather guy told me that the evening would be perfectly fine, clear skies and just a tad cold.  Good thing he wasn't sitting next to me.

On the subject of driving, I have been taking the Defensive Driving Course online (a Godsend) and it's made me realize a few things:  a) I tend to fall into the Aggressive Driver category; b) I am easily influenced by dire warnings (I will never between midnight Saturday and 3 AM Sunday, I will sleep 8 hours a night, I will give up my LSD habit -- KIDDING); c) I may never drive again.  Seriously, besides the benefit of having 10% taken off my insurance every year for three years, it really does catch you up as to how dangerous all this commuting could be.  Given that I have to drive, I'm just going to put on my big girl pants and do it - safely and on high alert.  However, I will NOT be found frolicking in the ocean.  I did watch "Jaws", after all.

I've been watching Apria and the remaining two sheep, Juno and Linden.  The loss of their mother/grandmother seemed to throw the sheep off for a couple of days, then they moved on.  Apria, however, continues to 'count' her sheep.  Since she is quite visually challenged, she keeps tabs on her charges by placing her nose on each sheep as they squeeze by at feeding time.  One...two...three.  Now it's one...two... and she waits for number three.  She has been doing this twice a day, every day since Flora left us.  I may throw the goaties in there just to break the mold, so to speak.  THAT would give her something to think about.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


And I am thankful that my friend, Kay, and her Maremma, Phoebe, have been reunited!  That's right!  Phoebe was found many miles from home - in the bordering state of Massachusetts.  That's a long way by paw.  She's thin and covered with ticks, but so happy to be home.  Hurray!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Giving Thanks.

I am very thankful that I had five years to enjoy the sheep-ness of Flora.  She was the matriarch even then, the steady one, the patient one (with my bunglings).  She had beautiful lambs and I am thankful that I have Juno, her first born on this farm, and Linden, her grandson who inherited her sweet nature and beautiful fleece.  (I forgot to add how thankful I am for R's wonderful photographs...)

I am thankful that I have a job that supports me and all my dependents.  I am not quite as thankful for the long commute, but thankfully I only have to make the trip five days a week!

I am thankful that I live in a country that offers me so many freedoms - freedom to cast my vote.  Freedom to speak my mind (or write it).  Freedom to live where I want, move when I want, or to put signs in my front yard - even though someone feels equally free to be able to steal them...

I am thankful that I live in a place where I have enough room to grow my food and can have my furred and feathered friends that add so much to my life, my happiness and my well-being.

And I am always thankful for those Americans who have fought for and defended the freedoms I hold dear.  I cannot literally or figuratively thank them enough. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thinking outside of the lettuce.

Faced with the need to plan a week of packed lunches that ALWAYS include a salad, I was stymied.  I had managed to nurse a few lettuce plants along in my cold frame, but the bulk of what was left was made into Flora's last meal (she loved lettuce - the good girl).   I have made the decision to eat seasonally this winter.  You know me - I "heart" a challenge.  I figure I have a well-stocked pantry and am fairly creative, so I should be able to see myself through....100+ salads....hmmm.

The first one I made was with brown lentils, chopped tart apples, chopped, cooked potato, chopped red onion and parsley.  I precooked the potatoes and cooled them, then I presoaked the lentils, heated olive oil in a pan and stirred in curry and sea salt, then added the lentils, coated them in the spices and added water to cover, simmering them until they were just done.  I drained the lentils and cooled them to room temperature.  While the lentils were cooking, I cored and chopped the apples and tossed them with lemon juice.  When everything was about the same temperature, I threw it all together, added some chopped red onion and the surviving parsley from my window box and mixed it well.  Surprisingly good!  You have to admit - it sounds, well, odd.  This made enough to keep me going through three lunches, plus a little for my parents.  I didn't tell them everything that was in it, as sometimes, TMI can cause a more timid person from exploring new taste sensations, if you know what I mean.  I believe that mothers call it "hiding the veggies".

I have a nice head of cabbage in the fridge, more apples, a few oranges, there are dilly beans, corn salsa, pickled beets, tins of sardines and tuna, all KINDS of things.  I have nuts in the freezer, dried cranberries, there is leftover turkey coming up - I think I will make it! 

My favorite way to pack a salad for lunch?  I prepare the dressing and pour a small amount in the bottom of a wide-mouthed Mason jar.  Then I layer the salad, starting with the heartiest ingredients that won't mind a nice dressing soak.  Twist on the lid, and BobsYerUncle!   They can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days, depending on the ingredients, and all you have to do before eating is shake the jar well.  I was feeling quite smug about this method until I ran across it on the Internet.  I'm still calling it mine.

Do you have some creative salad ideas?  Share!!!!  With 100+ salads ahead of me, I need all the help I can get...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


A word that means both "Hello" and "Goodbye" seems appropriate to use for my sweet Flora.

The vet came last night and helped her on to a more peaceful journey.  So, as I said goodbye to my dear girl, I imagined that a bright, sunlit meadow full of lush, green grass was waiting to say hello to her.  Aloha, Flora.  I will miss you something awful.

Flora with the first LLF lamb

Monday, November 5, 2012

Monday Musings.

Self-sufficient.  Self-sustaining.  I wonder, is sufficient enough?  Is sustaining just the minimum?  Should we be self-thriving?  There are times when I feel that this is all such a struggle, and what is it for in the end?  I think that part of the joy for me is the process - the learning of new things; the challenges.  Can I stop at the store and buy a bottle of vanilla extract?  Of course.  But I would rather make my own.  A lot of the things I have learned have been out of necessity.  I am a one-income family and my time is spread pretty thin.  That combination is ripe for self-instruction!  I can't call the vet for every injection, so I learned how to do it myself.  Clogged drains, rodent problems, plumbing problems, holes in the wall, broken thises and thats, I call me. 

I am not a doom-and-gloom, end-of-the-world type.  I am ever hopeful.  A long time ago, I decided that this type of outlook was way healthier for me and I'm sticking to it.  I have gone through a lot to get where I am today, and I would like to think that I am getting close to self-thriving.  I would like to think that I am pretty much up to any challenge - because I'm not afraid of failing.  Joel Salatin gave a great example in his latest book about a baby just beginning to stand on her own - she struggles up on her own two feet, then teeters and falls back down.  Her parents and grandparents cheer her on - they are so proud!  Do they say, "Rosemary, if you can't stand up correctly, just go sit down".  (I am flagrantly paraphrasing).  It seems to me that we all tend to lose our cheering section as we get older.  Hell's bells - if you don't have one, create your own cheering section!  There is nothing wrong with feeling proud of what you can do, no matter what it is.  I don't trail regrets behind me like Marley's chains because I believe that things happen for a reason.  Sometimes that reason eludes you for years...other times, it's pretty obvious.  If this path I've chosen becomes an onerous and unhappy trek, then I'll stop and reassess.  Otherwise, I'm going to enjoy the journey and any twists and turns still left in it.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Giving thanks.

SweetLand Farm had a great idea and I am stealing it.  I hope she doesn't order to end this week on an 'up' note, and to continue the trend, I am going to list some things I am thankful for every Friday.  That is the plan - although I chafe at restrictions, as you know.  I may list them on random days.  I refuse to be pigeon-holed...

I am so very thankful, first of all, for all of you.  This single-homesteading business can wear you down when there's no one there to share the joys and sorrows.  Y'all are my rock.

I am thankful every minute of every day for the people I love - for my parents who retain their senses of humor, enough fortitude to be on their own at their age, for loving and supporting me no matter what I put them through.  For my sisters and my girlfriends and everyone else - you know who you are.  If not, I am slipping and I vow to do better!

I am thankful that I am able to live the life I do on my own, no matter how stressful it can be at times.  Mostly, it is wonderful.

These characters would fall under "The Ones I Love."

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hard Choices

One of the hardest things I've had to learn is that, no matter how difficult, heartbreaking, miserable, awful and tearful a decision might be, the buck stops with me.  I am the one who decided to bring the sheep/llama/chickens/turkeys/pigs/rabbits/quail/Guineas/cats/dogs/betas to Little Lucky Farm.  By taking that step, I stepped up and took responsibility for their care, health and happiness.  And I honestly feel (well, most of the time) that I am doing the best job I can. 

It's all just peachy keeno when things are going well.  When there is no hitch in the lambing, when you're out being mobbed for treats, handing out the hay.  But things can also go very wrong.  Like the time I went out to find a lamb rigid with a dangerously high fever brought about by tetanus - which was brought about because I didn't vaccinate them in a timely manner.  I was lucky and found her in time - and managed to race the hour to the vet, who saved her.  It was an expensive lesson, but only in hard cash, thank goodness.

Now I am faced with my all-time least favorite decision.  One that I would gladly hand off to just about anyone.  I have to make a quality of life decision.  It's not like these animals can tap me on the shoulder and say, "Hey, there.  I'm not enjoying my life here and I would appreciate it if you would help me out.  And whatever you decide is fine by me."  Flora has hit a wall and I was up most of the night thinking about what to do.  She totters around, she chews her cud, she is skin and bones.  It's not parasites - it's probably a combination of old age and cardiac problems and heaven only knows what else.  She will eat her grain, lying down to rest frequently.  More and more frequently.  It would be a lot easier if she showed signs of suffering.  But that old girl is a stoic.

So I have taken the first step and called the vet.  The next is to decide a day and time.  Then there are the logistics of what to do when she's 'late'.  She has to be moved.  She has to be buried.  The latter is the most difficult because I live on 90% stone.  Thankfully, my dairy farmer neighbor has offered to help. 

When all is done, the only thing left is the missing her. 

P.S.  Since we're on the subject of tough stuff, I'd appreciate it if you all would send some 'head homeward' thoughts this way.  Kay's dear Phoebe, her LGD, was apparently frightened out of her wits when their silo came down in the storm on Monday, ran off and hasn't come home.  We are all concerned for her and her brother misses her terribly.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Well, not yet, actually.  We are still in alert mode, as the wind gusts are still pretty robust.  Robust sounds so much better than "freakin scary", doesn't it?  I am very happy to report that we did not lose power throughout the storm.  I credit that to my storing-up of 15 gallons of water, just in case.  It happens every time.  Should I poo-poo the threat and NOT stock up, the power goes out. 

There is nothing so eerie than lying awake and hearing the wind shrieking outside under a full moon.  Then you hear things and try to picture what is flying through the air.  There were downed trees, there remains a tree/wire situation that doesn't look good, but I have not been able to report it to the utility - needless to say, their lines are busy and none of the automated choices got near what I needed.  I am now due for a call-back in 22-32 minutes.  My composters are pretty much all over the next county, some hatches were battened better than others, so to speak.  There is some tarp damage on the run-in that I knew about - but between the sheets of sideways rain and 60+ mph wind gusts, I had to let it be.  Once the wind dies down to 30 mph, I will go out and start repairs.   When I went to let the poultry out, I found that 7 of the Jones Family Sparrows had snuck inside and spent a much safer night than their brethren!

This was one humongous storm - and we were very, very lucky.  As much as I love the ocean, I am so glad I don't live on the coast.  I hope we hear from some of our favorite bloggers (Erin?  Carolyn?  Jane?) since I know that this was just one of the exciting events Ma Nature had planned for us.  And I am glad I moved out of the city!  However, no matter what disaster is handed to NYC, the Big Apple rolls up their sleeves, gets busy and gets it done.  It reminds me - in more ways than one - of an ant farm.

I hope that everyone got through the storm in one piece.  Just to show you it's not all work and no play around here, I give you...

The 2012 LLF Halloween Pumpkin!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Musings.

I recently had a reminder of how much music influenced my life - and how I remembered high (and low) points by certain songs. 

For instance, I left the U.S. to live in the Netherlands right at the peak of popularity for Achy Breaky Heart (1992).  Some would say I left to get as far away from that song as possible.  They may be right, as none of the other reasons panned out.  I lived in the southern part of the country, which was more rural and few people in my neighborhood spoke English, let alone played "Achy Breaky Heart" ad nauseum.  That was 20 years ago!  Holey Cow!  Aside:  Isn't it interesting that, in almost any country in the world, there is a North/South, or East/West and each disparages the other for one reason or another.  In the northern province (Amsterdam, Rotterdam), they looked down on the southerners as rubes.  In the south (Eindhoven, Nuenen), they viewed the northerners as devious and untrustworthy.  This is a broad generalization, of course, much like here.  And that was 20-freakin-years ago.  But there was definitely a distinction.

Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne" transports me to the Badlands of South Dakota, the summer of 1969.  Oh, the angst of those teenage years!

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young were the heated heart of my misspent youth.  Or maybe that was Jimi Hendrix?  There was a LOT of music in the heated heart of my misspent youth.  I was winding down to a kinder and gentler point with Simon and Garfunkel.  Art Garfunkel's album, Garfunkel, is just dreamy.  It makes me want to slow dance for a week.

Now, I listen to the Wailin Jennys and all kinds of bits and pieces of past and present and new music.  My favorite cleaning music?  Well, it's broken into two categories:  vacuuming (Aretha Franklin) and dusting (Johnny Mathis).  And you should hear me belt out the chorus to Beethoven's 9th Symphony!!  Maybe you shouldn't.  At least the dogs don't howl.

Speaking of cleaning, I am now in full Anti-Mouse Mode.  The little buggers are chewing away in the crawl space and I have declared war.  I spent the weekend pulling out everything from the lower cupboards and scouring them.  Then I assessed all spots where the nasty vermin could come in.  Hundreds.  Then I stuffed steel wool in the larger holes and put cotton balls saturated with peppermint essential oil in strategic places along the back wall.  I then took the opportunity to get rid of half of the junk that was in the cupboards that I didn't need, didn't use, or didn't remember what it was for. 

They've closed both the NYC and our upstate office in advance of Sandy - I'm holding onto the thought that they are erring on the side of caution in our case and NOT that they know something I don't.  I am very grateful that I can ride out whatever comes our way at home.  There is nothing worse, for me, to be sitting in my office, staring in the direction of home, wondering if everyone is safe.  The wind has just picked up a bit and the dogs are restless.  The whole weekend has had the feeling of waiting.  I hope that everyone in the storm's path comes through safe and sound.  I'll see you on the flip side of Sandy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I "Heart" YouTube.

How, in God's name, did I manage before YouTube?  I am definitely a 'see it to learn it' type of person.  I am very visually-oriented.  School was onerous because of this 'limitation' - I could read something until I memorized it, but I did not necessarily 'get' it.  Except for The Jaberwocky.  I have been known to recite the entire thing without the least bit of prompting.  Other than a glass of wine or three.  It took me YEARS to learn how to knit socks because of that wonky bit about turning the heel and the gusset thingy.  My mother finally got tired of hearing me whine about it and sat me down and showed me.  Once.  I've been knitting socks for years now.

So, faced with installing the door closer on my recently hung (by me with help from the Lithuanian Lawn Guy - who was somewhat more of a hindrance because he thought he knew more than I and, frighteningly, didn't) storm door, I hit a wall.  I looked at the directions in both English and Spanish (both made equal sense), looked at the pictures, and....nada/nothing (I did, however, pick up some bilingual-ness).  I put it down and walked away for a day, hoping that distance would lift the veil.  It didn't.  I tried to ignore it, but that's hard to do, when the wind catches your brand new door and tries to rip it off its hinges.  I am sure some of you will scoff, but I am definitely mechanically challenged.  That, however, never stops me.

(Small watt light bulb) Aha!  YouTube!  You can learn the Macarena - why not how to install a door closer?  And there he was, No-Nonsense Guy, showing me how to install my door closer.  I "heart" Mr. No-Nonsense Guy, too.  A mere ten minutes later....


One small step for most.  One big, fat relief for me!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I hugged. Kay shot.

It doesn't take much to induce me to hug my sheep.  I love them.  I love how they feel and smell all lanolin-y.  So, to celebrate Hug-A-Sheep-Day, I did.
Flora and her daughter, Juno.

Taking advantage now - I don't know how many hugs I have
left with Flora.


Juno the love bug.

Sweet Linden - Flora's grandson.

I can't think of a nicer way to spend a day.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I'm surprised I made it back alive.

After going through a very frustrating hour this morning trying to boot up my creaky old Dell computer, I decided to just let it take its good old time and I would walk away from it (and therefore not be tempted pound it into shards).  I decided to take the dogs for their morning walk earlier than usual.  Since there is very little light these early mornings, we all put on our safety vests and I added my headlamp, which clips to the visor of my hat.  I had gotten both dogs special collars that have running lights - but if I happen to look at them, I get dizzy and nauseous.  It's weird.  Out we go on our adventure - halfway down the driveway, two rabbits bolted across our path.  Thankfully, I had a firm grip on the leashes, as the rabbits went in opposite directions and the dogs divided their attentions as well.  As we got to the road, a flock of turkeys exploded out of the woods, scaring the Jiminy Christmas out of all of us.  I should have turned around right then.

We were at about the halfway point in our walk when Bernice (aka Bernie - everyone was referring to her as "him"), shot ahead and to the left.  I figured squirrel or rabbit.  Oh, no.  It was some carrion that the coyotes had worked over and she decided she'd take up where they left off.  Even Scrappy was horrified.  I pried her off and we continued with B on a six-inch lead.  Finally, after all business had been done, we headed back towards home.  I managed to remember the carrion and had B on a short lead until we were safely out of her reach.  It was a good thing since a car came whipping down the road, throwing up gravel and clouds of dust and just missed us.  It was the town supervisor's wife, Mrs. Leadfoot.  I was never so glad to see my own front door!

I am so glad I moved the country for the peace and quiet.  It's a jungle out there!!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Making the most of it.

This past weekend was a weekend full of list-checking-off activities.  Just to keep it interesting, I am juggling three lists and I managed to tick off an impressive amount of things from all three!  Plus some that were more "essence of list".  Like the fact that my 80-something year old neighbor told me that he had, on his daily walks - not once, not twice but - THREE TIMES removed Chickie's head from entrapment in the gate between the sheep/goat areas.  Apparently, Chickie is big-time hot-to trot to get into the sheep area.  I put an extra clip on the gate and that has done the job.  Or so I hope.

I got feed (ouch), then dog/cat supplies (OUCH), checked on my parents, gave my mom a haircut, got gas, got a couple of things from Home Depot for my arsenal in the Great Ratz War, dropped off a book for M (spreading the Salatin word), and made it home in time to bake some GF brownies for the dairy barn, do chores, clip my peonies, cut down the strawberries, visit with my neighbors, and move three loads of firewood onto the deck.  I also took straw over to a friend's and shared a glass of wine and some much-appreciated adult female conversation.  Then I finished my waaaaaay belated Pay It Forward gifties, and toddled off to bed.  I was going to paint the run-in, but it was still pretty wet from the non-stop Gray Condition of the past two weeks. 

Sunday brought much cooler temps, but the sun did finally come out - mostly - and the breeze helped to further dry things off.  I got three loads of laundry on the line, and then I tackled the run-in.  I have to tell you that it is very, very, very difficult to get things done when the sheep are hell-bent on "helping" you.  Usually, I send them off to the grassy part, but the last time I did that, Flora over-did it and I almost lost her.  She does not know the meaning of the word "stop" when it comes to grass, and it's too hard on her old ticker.  I did finally manage to bore them to tears and they left me alone when there was nothing food-like in the offering.

Another little chore off List B:

Yes, I know it's off-level.  I could lie to you and say I meant to paint it that way.  But I won't.  It's hard to be kneeling on rocks and concentrate on leveling things at the same time.  However, I already came up with a way to make it look "cool", like I meant it to be slightly off level, and will work on that this coming weekend.    With knee pads.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Musings.

Isn't it interesting how one misspelled word - or one missing punctuation mark - can change the entire meaning of something?  As in:  Let's eat Grandma. vs. Let's eat, Grandma.  Or:  Benny's Best fried doe vs. Benny's Best fried dough.  Hmmm.  Maybe Benny MEANT doe on the last one.  There were a lot of pickup trucks with rifle racks in the parking lot.  I wasn't in the mood to hang around and ask, as I was trying to take an 'artful' shot off Hog Back Mountain while keeping one eye on the Lincoln.

One of the joys of cooler weather, is that the stand of pines that is in the front of the house bursts into full pine-y-ness.  They give off the most wonderful, pungent pine scent.  It's so wonderful that almost everyone that walks down the road will stop and sniff the air.  I like to go stand in the middle of it and just inhale.  I wish that I could replicate that exact scent in a candle, or in perfume.  But the only pine scented candles I can find are sort of syrupy piney something.  And what gives with most vanilla candles?  That ain't no vanilla, baby.  That is chem-nilla.  I wonder if I rubbed myself all over with the pine needles I could pass it off as perfume....

Cats are totally perverse.  I will sit at the computer with Kramer clamoring to be held.  He drapes across my left shoulder, purring loudly and, after a few minutes of a warm, purring body in close proximity, my eyes start to close, I relax and breath deeply.  Then he digs his talons into my shoulder and launches.  And I fall for it every. single. time.

I really enjoy watching the poultry scene from my bedroom window - I can watch them without their being aware of me.  Because, if they catch sight of me, they all lift their fluffy bloomers and come running.  Not all of my chickens have names.  I only name the ones with distinct personalities.  Good thing, too, as sometimes remembering my own name is a challenge.
There is Marie-Claire, a Cuckoo Maran who was rescued from her life in a large plastic tub in someones living room.  She lays an egg every once in a great while, is around 5 y/o, and is my best surrogate mother.  Because of her upbringing, she has a funny kind of skipping, pigeon-toed gait.

And there is Kees "Big Daddy" Roo, my Barnevelder rooster.  We are presently just referring to him as "Daddy" since he lost his major tail feathers to molting.  He pulls his best Elvis routine on the girls who, more often than not, give him the cold shoulder.  This does not dampen his ardor, but he is respectful and not too hard on the girls.

Then there is Rosie's Girl, an Austerlorp with large, lustrous dark eyes.  She is also an oldster by hen standards.  And let's not forget $40 Freddie (aka Freddie the Bearded Lady), who has recovered quite nicely from her bumblefoot with just a trace of a limp.  And Big Sally and Big Betty, the new girls.  When they come running, the ground shakes!  And there is dear E-Claire, surrogate daughter of Marie-Claire, daughter of the old roo, Junior.  And Violet, the Blue Andalusian, who lived through her narrow escape from Bernie.

Now I also get to enjoy watching the posse of Pearlies, a constantly moving speckled clump of burbling prehistoric wonders.  LOUD prehistoric wonders.  So far, only one of the posse has made himself stand out.  Lonesome George.

Who needs television?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Comfort Food - GF Style.

After a brief (and mostly missed by me) break in the Gray Condition, it's back.  This endless grayness called for some serious Comfort Food.  While the 'old' me would have whipped up a turkey-roaster full of mac and cheese/heavy on the cheese, the 'new' me sat in deep thought last night and noodled it over.  Noodles!  I made one of my new favorite comfort foods, full-on comfort low-on fat and no gluten.  I did not take pictures, of course.  If I thought my photography skills were rocky before spending a few days with a professional photographer, the aftermath may find me never lifting my camera again.  Kidding!  I'm not that intimidated.  But, I do now try to look at what is in the viewer with a more careful eye.  I will need a few thousand more lessons.

Pork, Apple and Miso Noodle Soup

(based, albeit loosely, on a recipe from the September 2012 issue of Eating Well Magazine)

Approx 10 oz of ground pork
2 tart, crisp apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups water
pkg rice noodles
1/4 cup of white miso (and, yes, I have two kinds of miso lurking in my fridge...)

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, cook the pork until there is no pink on the outside, stirring to break the larger pieces up.  If the pork is not lean (and mine never is), pour off most of the fat.  Your dogs will thank you when it appears on their breakfast kibble.  Stir in the apples and cook until slightly tender, stirring occassionally - about 2-3 minutes.  Add the chicken broth and water and bring to a boil.  Add the noodles and cook according to package directions or to your own taste.  Just before the noodles are done, carefully scoop out about a half-cup of the cooking liquid and stir it into the miso in a small bowl.  Return the miso mixture to the soup and stir in.  Remove from heat and serve.  You'll want to wrap your arms around your soup bowl and give it a great, big hug!