Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On a tear.

Since I had officially pronounced last week the WORST WEEK EVER, following my terror-stricken trip down the mountain and a DayFromHell at the office on Friday, I did what I usually do when I have been stressed to the max.  I filled every waking hour, Saturday-Sunday, with work.  Work I like.

The dogs and I took two good, long walks, plus a few short walks.  One was even in the snow, although Bernie and I were the only members of the group who enjoyed that one.

I moved furniture and ripped up all the carpeting, padding and tack boards in the living room.  Then I took my needle-nosed pliers and pulled each and every staple out of the floor.  All 60,000 of them.  Then I took my cordless drill/screwdriver and tightened every last screw - and pounded every last nail in flush with the surface.  Then I cut the carpeting and padding into manageable pieces and hauled them to the transfer station.

Then Bernie had a meltdown because it was just TOO different.  Then she got over it.  Then I started a fire in the fireplace and we had another meltdown.  Then she got over it.  Then I took down the folding screen between living room and kitchen, and moved it between dining room and kitchen.  Then Bernie gave up.  She was a good girl, given all of the upheaval and change, alot of it right around her feeding station. 

Cats ALWAYS have to be the first on anything.
Speaking of change, I put down the first five rows of tiles on the living room floor - many more to go, but this is a pay-as-you-go project.  The transformation of the room is quite remarkable.  Of course, so is the noise level, which prompted me to do some canine pedicures.  And, even as careful as I am, I managed to nick the quick on one of Scrappy's nails.  It's amazing how much blood can be produced by one little nick.  I stuck his paw in some styptic powder while he got all faint and dramatic.  He doesn't need much prompting.  I even showed him the dime-sized piece of skin I had worn off my finger.  I wasn't all whining and moaning.  He wasn't impressed and demanded extra treats for mental and emotional anguish. 

Hand ground spelt flour, cheddar, garlic, yumminess.
I also managed to get feed, get gas, worm a cat (fun), worm the goats, worm ONE sheep, do laundry (twice, thanks to blood stains on the sofa cover), go to the dairy farm, and bake a GF coffee cake (FAIL - it was, on one hand, gummy and, on the other hand, gritty).  I also did a lot of knitting and cleaning.  The only downside to the weekend were persistent computer problems.  It's off to the computer doctor, hoping for some magic.  By Sunday night, I was exhausted and happy and had almost forgotten about the dreaded job.  It's always very satisfying to check a lot of things off the lists.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Musings.

Besides being overrun with squirrels this winter, the rabbit population seems to be keeping pace as well.  When I go out in the mornings, it looks like there was a Rabbit Jamboree all over the front, back and side yards!  Many fast and furious renditions of the Hokey-Pokey.  Lately, not only do I have to shoo (polite word for shoot at) squirrels off the birdfeeder on the deck railing, but there is a resident deck bunny as well.  Contrary to my War of the Squirrelz, I tend to have a soft spot in my heart for rabbits.  When I was a kid, I found a rabbit that had been hit by a car and injured, so, weeping copious tears, I brought it home and put it in a cardboard box lined with one of my mother's towels.  My uncle, the veterinarian, happened to be visiting (probably hoping for Mom's fabulous meatloaf dinner) and, with even more copious tears, I pleaded with him to "save my bunny!"  I don't recall any eye-rolling, but I am sure there was plenty.  He rummaged through his black bag and came up with some iodine, which he promptly poured on the abrasions on the rabbit's hind leg.  At which point the rabbit came fully back to life and tore through the house, kids and adults chasing behind him.  We finally managed to get the front door open and he shot out to freedom.  Then there was the time when Dad accidentally ran over a rabbit on the road.  A chorus of three wailers from the backseat and an ocean of tears.  We refused to talk to him.  My poor, long-suffering Dad.

On an oddly-related subject, I have, at this late point, come to like celery.  Not exactly earth-shattering news, but I have managed to loathe it most of my life.  I can trace the core of my celery-abhorrence to my brief stint in the hospital at 17 to get my tonsils out.  Expecting ice cream, I got endless bowls of institutional cream of celery soup.  Gak.  After that, the only way I would eat it was with a heavy load of peanut butter gracing the groove in a ratio of 100:1 (PB:celery).  This new appreciation for celery has come gradually and from the fact that I am so frugal by nature.  My co-worker, who is constantly bemoaning her weight, brings a large package of celery to work every week, a virtuous attempt at eating a more healthy diet.  This usually lasts for one day.  Then the celery languishes in the office refrigerator for the rest of the week, along with the carrots and other vegetables and fresh fruit that is shunned for restaurant meals.  Then she throws it all out.  OMG.  So I go and fish it all out of the trash and take it home.  Where I have to use it or show myself as a phoney-baloney.  Quite honestly, I had to choke it down the first week or so.  Now I add it to almost everything.  Except soup.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Wake me when the snow's gone.

We have been hard-pressed to get much walking in the past week.  Lots of icy-ness - ice on the deck, ice on the walkway, ice on the driveway, ice on the road.  This hasn't bothered Scrappy much.  He is just as happy to rocket out the back door in search of squirrel invaders.  Bernie and I miss our walks.  We're hoping to get a couple of nice, long walks tucked into the weekend.  Ice permitting.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The importance of focus and do-wogs.

I am going to have to go out and slog through the snow this morning to search the interior of my car for Bluie.  Bluie became separated from my right ear somewhere between sliding into the snow drift and careening towards the trees last night.  Let me back up (if only I had been able to...)

I knew there was "weather" coming our way for my evening commute last night.  The forecast was for rain that would eventually turn to sleet, and then to snow.  So, having gone through this routine a few (thousand) times, I planned my trip home accordingly.  Which was fine until I got a call on my cell phone on my way home and chattered away - oblivious to the sensible part of my brain which was yelling - DO NOT TAKE THE MOUNTAIN ROUTE!  I did, indeed, take the mountain route because it is the rote route.  In doing so, the eventual change to snow happened a lot faster because of the elevation (what happened to 'hot air rises'?)  By the time my focus kicked in, I was past the PONR (point of no return) and had to forge onward.  I still chattered away, although my teeth were beginning to clench.  As I crept along where no car had gone before me, in driving snow, twisting roads and no light or clear road markers, I finally shrieked into the phone - "I've got to go - we've got FOG!"  I will spare you the gory details, but the final, very steep descent to level ground and my farm-sweet-farm, was made by inches, brakes to the floor, with the car sliding sideways - luckily into the high snow banks - then toward the ditches and trees, then back and forth, until I finally reached the bottom.  This is where a utility truck met it's demise (along with the driver, very unfortunately) a very sobering thought that was constantly in the back of my mind.  By the time I reached my mailbox, my hands were shaking so hard, I couldn't get it open.  I'll tackle that this morning, too.

I have just printed out a little sign to be taped to my dashboard:  NO MOUNTAIN ROAD UNTIL APRIL.  I owe my safe arrival last night to a combination of the skill that driving for years in Cleveland and in this mountain area during winters has given me - and to divine intervention.

Since I was so completely wired, I didn't make it to bed and to blissful sleep until much after my normal bedtime.  And then, clearly and distinctly, do-wog retching woke me abruptly from a sound sleep at 3A.  Bernie had been eating the rug again.  Out they went - hopefully, Bernie brought up her early breakfast by herself - there was too much snow and darkness to tell - and I went to work duct-taping every exposed edge on the rug.  I didn't bother to go back to bed. 

I sit here, with my fourth cup of coffee, contemplating giving up my job and do-wogs.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday Musings.

It is humanly impossible to maintain a diet during February.  This was my mantra as I slid the world's greatest comfort food into my oven last night:  Buffalo Chicken Lasagna.  You read that right.  I tried to make light (pun intended) of the fact that I used partially skim milk mozz and ricotta.  And, after all, I HAD to make a dent in the case of brown rice lasagna noodles I got from the co-op, didn't I?  I hunted down (then changed my mind) low-fat white cheddar.  I mean, really.  I rationalized that it was chicken and not beef that went into the sauce.  I called upon my foggy recollection that spicy foods were not only good for you, but ramped up the metabolism (hot wing sauce - aLOT of it).  But I couldn't pull out of my hat-of-delusion any rationale for the 7 oz of blue cheese.  But, let me tell you, it was G.O.O.D.  Picture hot wings without finger-eating and bones, all cheesy and oozy and gooey.  God help me.  As it made enough for a small army, I was very, very good and cut it up in single-serving portions and froze it.  ASAP.  Is it Farch yet?

This morning, I made a three-hour round trip journey to meet and deliver some of my Barnevelder hens to their new and enthusiastic owner.  It was a little intimidating to wake up to very low single digits this morning (a whole 3 degrees) and there was a tiny bit of whining to be heard.  Especially when I realized I had forgotten to dig out a space behind my chicken yard gate to allow me to open it.  Soooo, I paraded a dazed hen out of the coop, across the poultry yard, through the house and out the front door into the waiting crate four times.  Canines and felines were very excited.  Barnevelders are some of the most mellow chickens ever and didn't seem to mind the trip.  It was a beautiful morning, temperature be damned, and the route from my house to Greenfield, MA is so picturesque - it winds up and around and over the mountains, with a hairpin turn and spectacular views, through park lands and past icy streams.  It was, all-in-all, a most pleasant journey.

And now I am doing my very best to ignore the fact that I tore up a portion of the living room carpet and need to start tiling.  I did order all my seeds, strawberries and replacement chicks this weekend.  I also spent most of Sunday talking.  Pity the poor person who lands within my reach that is interested in farming, homesteading and animals.  Two such souls were subjected to hours of my jabbering and they were very good sports about it.  All the arrangements have been made for Sage's 'lying in' at the end of March.  I will have to get a good back view shot of her.  She looks like a tiny steamboat.  Or a barnlet.  It also appears that Chickie is going through sympathy gains to make her feel less alone.  He is very sweet that way.

Friday, February 15, 2013


Thanks to my lovely little Jersey cow, Jasmine (and her BFF, Rosebud), I get a lot of cream when I pick up milk from the dairy farm.  Lots.  I usually skim it off and freeze it until I have enough to make a batch of butter.  Since I was snowbound this past weekend, in between bouts of shoveling (1/4 mile of paths) and knitting (hand towel finished - up to one and three-quarters socks), I decided to thaw the cream and make butter.

Little did I know that I would spend most of the afternoon at it - I uncovered over a gallon of cream in the freezer!  Thank goodness for Churnie (and, if you look closely, you'll find Churnie's helper - Mixie - in the background...)

I found this gem on eBay a few years ago.  It's an old Sears churn in pristine condition - perfect to crank away while watching a DVD.  However, given the sheer amount of cream, I did also press Churnie's friend and helper, the Mixie into service as well.  I ended up with almost two pounds of butter!  (Of which there is no picture, as the ones I took resembled over-exposed yellow blobs, which are now in the freezer.)  If I keep this up, I will have to start searching for a churn with an electric motor.  I'm not getting any younger....


Celebrating POST Valentine's Day, the official winner of the mystery Valentine's Day giveaway is....


Randomly selected (evidence of which would be posted if I could figure out how to put it on here...) this morning - Linda, please send your mailing address (again)!  Such talent out there!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine Fake-u.

(Not to be confused with a haiku, which it ain't.)

Kisses, cuddles, koochy-koo
Will read about them
But not get them, boo-hoo.

Just to show there are no hard feelings for those of you who DO get all of the above, along with chocolates, flowers and dinner out, I have decided to throw an impromptu giveaway.  And I have no idea what I'm giving away, but it will be something nice.  Or interesting. 

To be entered, write your own fake-u on a Valentine's Day theme in the comment section.  Cut off for entry will be midnight tonight.  Winner will be chosen and announced tomorrow.

Have fun - and don't make me cry.... :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Some recipes should come with warnings.

I have found a LOT of good recipes through my blogging friends.  There are some that are my go-to recipes, which is especially helpful for GF cooking.  Then there are recipes that I should never - ever - have even tried (darn you, Nancy).

I hate to admit it, but this recipe is so good, that I have had fleeting fantasies of cranberry-hoarding.  I mean hoarding as in taking everything out of my freezer and packing it solid with bags of the red berries.  A couple of deep breathes usually get me out of trouble.

The missing portion was shipped to my parents.  Minus one
"small" slice to make sure it was safe.  Honest.

Crustless Cranberry Pie
Gluten-Free Version
Adapted from Nancy's Adaptation of the Original
(got it?)

1 Cup Gluten Free Flour (I use GF Mama's Almond flour blend)
1 teaspoon guar gum
1 Cup white sugar (I use less)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Cups cranberry, fresh or frozen
1/2 Cup dried currants
1/2 Cup butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs, beaten
Zest from one orange
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 inch pie pan.

Combine flour, sugar, guar gum, and salt.  Stir in the zest and add cranberries and currants, tossing to coat.  Stir in butter, eggs and vanilla.  Frozen cranberries will make the batter very stiff.  Spread batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until browned around the edges and lightly browned on the top.  Serve warm (or cold, or room temperature; on a plate, in your hand, out of the pan; standing, sitting).

I cannot tell you how well this keeps because I have to give it away almost as soon as it cools.  This pie should come with the following warning:  "Baker Beware - You Won't Want to Share!" Or "If It Passes Those Lips, It Will Stick on Those Hips!"  Consider yourself on high alert.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Monday Musings. Running It Up the Flagpole Edition.

Musing my way through the pea-soup fog recently, inching my way home, I was thinking about Erma Bombeck, Ann Landers, Dear Abby, and the rest of the grand old girls of sage advice.  That got me thinking - hey!  I am big on handing out advice, asked for or not!  Just ask my two younger sisters.  I am, indeed, a bossy-pants, albeit those pants are a little looser now.  Not the bossy part, I am tight with my bossy-ness.

Along this line of thought, I noodled around an idea to run a regular/weekly (ish) post offering my humble services as patcher of fences, mender of hearts, a virtual shoulder to whine on. became "Dear Aunt Sweezie".  If there is a dilemma in your life that begs to be addressed, a burning question that needs answering, send an email to  I will do my best to answer all requests/questions within reason (and don't ask me why there is air;  Bill Cosby already covered that).  

What do you say?  Are you willing to indulge me?  Enable me?  Go along for the ride?  If nothing else, it can help us laugh our way through winter!  And let's see if I can keep up with my multiple personalities~.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Is it Farch yet?

While I'm not exactly whining, I am getting a leeeetle tired of winter.  Ever so.  Leeetle.  The novelty of having to spend twenty minutes putting on layers to walk the dogs in the morning has worn thin.  The chickens, having had spent way too many hours in close contact with their incessantly, chattering African relatives, have a glassy look to their eyes.  Things are breaking down, freezing, sticking.  Everyone's got cabin fever.

The upside of this winter seems to be a lack of rodent activity (not counting the squirrels, who are in a PIA class of their own).  I am hoping that they were all frozen out, died a horrible death, and those that survived went looking for a kinder, gentler place to pillage.  It is gradually getting lighter, the days are longer, so I have unplugged one of my multiple timers.  A little less cha-ching! on the monthly electric bill.  I am finally getting more than four eggs a day.  This means, in a month or three, the chickens will once again be earning most of their keep.

The 2013 Garden Plan has been started.  Slightly.  Ever so slightly.  I got the notebook out and sharpened my pencil.  Which involved finding my pencil sharpener.  Which was buried in the craft/knitting closet.  It's a wonder I can find clean socks.  Actually, I am knitting some clean socks.

Speaking of knitting, I realized this morning that I have six projects in some level of started-ness.  I have one and one-quarter socks knitted.  One quarter (or less) of a cotton cardigan on the needles.  One cotton hand towel cast on.  I've got my 32nd hexi-puff on the needles for my beekeeper quilt.  Only 400 more to go!  I have started yet another cabled ear warmer.  I discovered I did not finish the other iPod sweater I started.  And I have the needles, yarn and pattern all ready for a very lovely lacy cowl that I want very badly to make NOW.  Oy.

Another fun thing to do while you're waiting for Farch, is to go through the Murray McMurray catalog.  And make two lists:  the Wish List, where you list all 500 of the various breeds of chicken, ducks, goose, and turkey youngsters that you wish you could order.  Please notice there was no mention of Guinea fowl.  Then you sigh deeply and forlornly and make out the very much shorter practical list.  Okay.  Maybe practical is not the correct word.  How about 'realistic'?  Unrealistically necessary list?  Whatever.  It's the list that you've talked yourself into believing that you MUST have.  So far, after much stops, starts, erasures and additions, I am looking at four black Silkies, two Aracaunas, two Marans, two Blue Laced Red Wyandottes (how could you NOT order these?), and a partridge.  Kidding on the partridge.  This list also means that there are some of the existing group that will have to go.  I have most of my Barnevelders listed on craigslist, although it is a little early for the seasonal chicken frenzy.

Since the weather forecast for tomorrow involves a range of a few inches of snow to a few feet (I believe this is called "covering your ass bases"), I made a quick trip to the feed mill so I wouldn't be caught without chicken feed.  The mere thought makes my blood run cold - as cold as their glassy little eyes....

How are you all faring on your way to Farch?  Any tips to keep the rest of us sane?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Kul-cha, and other goings-on.

I live in a very interesting area of upstate NY - right on the border of Massachusetts/Berkshires, and not far from Vermont.  This, quite frankly, is its saving grace.  While you can still reach The City in about two and a half hours, you don't have to drive all that far to find some top-notch museums, music, arts, theater and almost any other branch off the cultural tree you can think of.   I happen to be a fan of local theater, although sometimes it can make you squirm.  Especially the musicals - think nails on a chalkboard.

As marvelous as all the kul-cha is around here, it is the natural beauty of the various mountain ranges (you folks out west would refer to them as 'hills'), forests, lakes, rivers, parks, and wildlife that surround me that really makes me love it.  It is beautiful here - even when it's 9 degrees.  Not AS beautiful, but beautiful nonetheless.

So it is extra wonderful when you can combine the two:

Sylvie in front of the Clark Museum's back entrance.

Looking from the back entrance towards the hiking trails.

Lovely Winter landscape.
 The Clark Art Museum is located in Williamstown, MA.  It is a gem.  During the winter, admission is free and they have wonderful programs throughout the spring, summer and fall that mix art, music and families.  They recently created two hiking trails throughout their extensive property and Sylvie and I took the one with steps.  It was a good workout, the views were wonderful and it was fun to have someone non-furry to hike with :).

Living in this area, you are liable to run into all kinds of people.  A case in point:  Sunday morning, we went to the local firehouse breakfast to surprise a couple of mutual friends.  You do NOT go to the breakfast for the food.  When asked if there was whole wheat toast, our 'server' answered, "There is whole WHITE toast."  However, the people watching is great fun.  A lone fellow, Sunday paper in hand, came in towards the end of our stay, and sat at the far end of our table.  He had a grey complexion, grey hair and beard (both scraggly), a knit cap clamped on his head, and many layers of what looked like thermal undies, topped with fleece.  Sylvie noticed he was reading the Sunday NYT, so asked if she could read the headlines on the sections he had read and put aside.  That simple question launched him into a 20 minute monologue about his son at RPI (and the amount of the tuition - hefty), his wife who has a highly paid job at Columbia (they live in The City and have a weekend home here), his four-year-old daughter (he has three kids, each 14 years apart), his retirement (the amount he gets every month PLUS the additional LARGE amount he gets for having a minor), ad nauseum.  We finally had to start putting on our jackets and edging away - before we became snarky. 

We had a lovely lunch at a Thai restaurant, where I discovered an Indian restaurant had moved in next to it -- I L.O.V.E. Indian food!  I will have to go, even if it means creating great angst in my heart because I can't eat the naan. 

With all this good food, good kul-cha and boon companionship, it's no wonder I am still giddy!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Monday Musings.

This morning had a bittersweet start to the day on the LLF, as Bernice, Scrappy and I stood at the front windows and waved (and woofed) goodbye to our friend, Sylvie.  She had spent the weekend with us and it was FUN!  I think Bernice is particularly blue about her departure, as she is very fond of Sylvie, who lavishes attention on her.

On my way up and over the mountain this morning, I was musing about nourishment.  Not the big bowl of comfort food that we all covet this time of year, but that elusive nourishment for your soul; your spirit.  There are many ingredients that can combine to bring yourself soul-nourishment:  music, art, books, poetry, family, friends, a vast night sky; six hours of uninterrupted knitting.  For me, at this age and time, I find that good female friends are the ones that fill me with comfort and a sense of well-being.

This was not always the case.  From childhood through my 30s and into my 40s, all of my best friends were men.  I did not cotton much to women's groups - probably a holdover from my gawd-awful high school days.  And, because I moved almost constantly - every two years - I didn't hold onto friendships with either sex.  My oldest friend was from my Cleveland days and he was a gem.  We stayed in touch through letters (handwritten ones - remember those?) for years, right up until he passed away a few years ago.  Keeping friendships alive and growing is a real art and takes work.  My parents still have friends from their school days.  They are much better at it than I am.  But do not lament for me!  (You were all getting ready to, weren't you?)  Since I have moved to upstate NY, I have found wonderful friends (not forgetting my oldest friend, Els - who is actually much younger! - who saw me through dark days in a foreign country and is permanently woven into the fabric of my life.)  And all of them are women.

Last night, Sylvie and I went to a birthday party thrown every year by two sisters with birthdays a day apart.  This is a special party - by invitation only, a large group of women who have known each other, sometimes for years, who come together for food, drink and celebration.  Most bring a soup, salad or appetizer to share, and there were some amazing desserts - none of which were gluten-free, dammit.  Or whoopee.  It depends on your view.  As part of the birthday celebration, everyone was invited to share something creative with the group.  My first reaction upon hearing this (I was invited with Sylvie, who is part and parcel of the group), was, "Oh, no.  Not one of those women-things."  Well, shut-my-mouth.  I sat in a circle while one after the other of these amazingly fun and talented women read poetry, shared photographs, sang original compositions, and, in one case, unwrapped in front of our astonished eyes the most exquisite piece of handmade ceramics that engendered a full-group - "oooooooh!"  I had to be torn away.  Although, in retrospect, Sylvie's timing was perfect - I was saved the angst of those delectable desserts.  The sheer enormity of the talent, humor and kindness in this group of friends was enough to leave me speechless.  And that is saying something.

I woke up this morning feeling like I had been transported to a spa, where my spirit had been boosted, cares washed away.  What a wonderful feeling.  I'm sure I'll get over it..... : ^ )

p.s.  Next Musings will include a little announcement. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

What am I? Chopped liver?

Some of you remember that I have a llama.  She has noticed that the camera has been pointed in every direction but hers. 

Is that your camera pointed at me? (Nose close-up
for Jane.)

About bloody time!

Do I stick my nose in your food?  Back off, girlfriend...
Much better.
Apria is a far cry from my boy, Hoosier.  She's bigger, crankier, and much more camel-like.  Some of it may have to do with the fact that she's mostly blind.  Some of it may have to do with the fact that she's middle-aged (just ask me how I know this to be true).  Some of it may have to do with the fact that she's just spitting distance from her nasty-camel relatives in the gene pool.  This spring, I have to have her hooves trimmed.  HAVE to.  I may need to call the zoo and have them send out the guy with the rhino tranquilizer dart gun.  At least my shearer had vision of foresight and sheared her closely enough that we can squeeze another year in between shearings. 

While I'm not happy that the woman with whom I dealt on the llama-trade lied like a rug and took full advantage of my naive-ness, I guess Apria could have ended up in a worse place.  At least she is well-fed, she got the ten-pound matted fur coat trimmed off and we pretty much don't mess with her.  She's got her two sheep to look after, shelter and goat t.v.  What more can you ask for?