Friday, November 29, 2013

Savoring Leftovers - The Good, the Bad, the Weird.

I will admit that, like pizza, I prefer the day after leftovers to the original meal.  I will say, however, that the turkey this year was one of the best ever - the brine recipe I used is a keeper!  I also ended up brining the bird for 48 hours instead of overnight.  One advantage of our present climate is that it is cold enough to make the great outdoors an extension of the refrigerator.

I've got the carcass (not mine, the turkey's) in my big stock pot, simmering away with roasted vegetables.  I've got a pile 'o leftover bird waiting a white chili makeover (tomorrow - I've got the day off today).  There was no stuffing for this girl, but there was no lack of delicious food for me to choose from.  And how did the the meal pan (pun intended) out?  Here's a review of my recipe adventures:

Turkey - New brine recipe is GOOD.  Basically - two quarts of apple juice (I used unsweetened, natural), one cup of kosher salt, one gallon of water, five pounds of ice cubes.  Dissolve the salt in the juice/water combo, put your turkey breast down, put ice cubes on top and add more water to submerge, if necessary.  I brine my turkey in a giant zip loc bag in a cooler.  You could skip the bag and just use a cooler, but I find it easier to clean everything.  Plus I usually have to transport the turkey for cooking, so it works out much better.  We roasted it without adding anything else, although my sister popped half a large onion and half a head of unpeeled garlic in the cavity.  I am using both in the stock.

Cranberry Relish - Last year I made it with fresh, unfrozen berries.  It was better. This year I made it with frozen berries.  GOOD (but better with fresh berries).  The recipe is Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish (the famous, Pepto Bismol pink relish from an NPR personality's mother).  It is an unusual recipe but we all love it.  

Carrot Mash - A hands-down GREAT recipe.  I will make this often.

Mincemeat Pie with Gluten Free Crust - Mincemeat was GOOD (if I do say so myself, it being homemade).  The crust was BAD. This was the first time I have been disappointed in a Gluten Free Mama mix.  It was difficult to roll out, so it ended up thicker than I like.  This made it tricky to bake - and even with my handy silicone crust protector, the edges were toast (and not in a good way) by the time the top browned sufficiently.  I may tweak it a bit, as I have four more mixes.

Now, for the WEIRD.  The Gluten-Free and Vegan Chai-Spiced Pumpkin Bars.  Somehow, I missed the fact that they were not baked.   And the reference to "Vegan" should have raised an eyebrow.  But I was so focused on the Pumpkin and Gluten Free, that I missed the warning signs.  Once I got over the shock that it was not baked, it still sounded promising - with a crust that included dates, oats, coconut and pumpkin seeds.  However, the filling/topping, being pumpkin puree with no binder, sat atop the crust like weird, cold pudding.  I will not make it again.  Surprisingly, I have loads left.  The chickens will be dining well...

All in all, it was a great meal, made more so by the inclusion of family - those at the table, and those that couldn't be with us, but were in our thoughts and fond remembrances.  There is so much for which I am thankful.  I hope everyone had the day they desired.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Musings.

It is so funny/odd that, every year when the temps plummet and the snow falls, I sit back and sigh in relief.  Of course, it doesn't last long - this relief.  But it's like I now have permission to do some fun things inside.  Never mind that I am still doing not-fun-but-necessary things outside.  Two things happened earlier than usual now that winter has set its sights on me - I've had to rig up the light in the coop (usually I am not compelled to do it until mid-January at the earliest), and I've started to cling to my vision of next year's garden like a sailor on a life raft.  Already.  And the seed catalogs haven't even arrived.  Oh, Nellie.  It's going to be a long winter.

I also tend to forget that not everyone on the LLF has experienced the joy of snow.  When I open the chicken door, Dotty is the first out (Speckled Sussex).  Close behind are the banty sisters, Pippi and Dora.  Sunday morning we were greeted by arctic temperatures, plus a nice, brisk gale force wind, plus snow.  As the banties shot out the door, they lifted off and flew frantically around in a circle, not wanting to land on that awful, scary white stuff.  WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS!?!  They managed to only hit the ground just in front of their door, where they scooted inside and stayed.

I am trying to figure out whether I have a mental blind spot, or if it is just a matter of being in too much of a hurry all the time.  Example:  I am knitting an alligator scarf for my large animal vet's little boy.  This is one of my all-time favorite kid's knitting projects.  I have made more than three.  Yet, I kept making a mistake at the same point.  Over and over.  I'd look at the pattern, knit away, and end up with way too many stitches.  When I finally took a deep breath and frogged out the six rows, I looked at the pattern again.  Miraculously, there was another step on the same line that I had read over and over.  And missed.  Geezloueeze.  Now that I fully comprehend what I am doing (duh), I am zipping along.  Because I have another gator scarf to make for a certain dinosaur-loving cutie pie as an early birthday present.  I am making Aidon's little brother a matching (colorwise) hedgehog, as he is just a tiny boy. 

This same blind spot reared its ugly little head again yesterday, when I went to make my Big Lunch Cook Off.  I apparently only read (comprehended) half of the recipe.  I missed the part where they say to make it a day ahead.  Ah, well.  It was still fine - Shredded beef, tomatoes and wine over polenta.  And I tried a new side - Carrot Mash - to see if I liked it.  I did.  So that will appear on the Thanksgiving table.  I also made my very favorite in the whole world GF dessert - Crustless Cranberry Pie.  This recipe is thanks to Little Homestead in Boise, who adapted it deliciously, and I then adapted it to be gluten free.  OMG, I love this pie. 

So far the Apple Pie Blueberry Sauerkraut is coming along fine.  I keep it in the guest room - which is the second-coldest room in the house (guests beware...)  My bedroom is the coldest.  There is nothing quite like snuggling under the fleece sheets/down blanket/down duvet, with only one's nose in the cold.  The only downside is the fact that it's very difficult to force yourself out of your warm little burrow in the morning.  I wait until the tap-tap-tapping of Scrappy's toenails outside of my bedroom door take on a frantic tempo...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What's been coming out of the kitchen.

I've been working on using up some of the overabundance that is my pantry/freezer/canning shelves.  Not only did I process the nuggets - 'tho not all for me, thank goodness - but I got a surprise infusion of pork.  Such problems to have....

I gleaned two good-sized cabbages from a neighbor and vowed to make sauerkraut this year.  But, not just plain ole sauerkraut.  Apple Pie Blueberry Sauerkraut!  I mean, why start with the basics?  I have no idea how this is going to taste, but I had:  Cabbages + Apples + 15 lbs of frozen Blueberries.  I took it as a sign from the Universe that I should whip this up.

I have a batch of hard cider burbling away, and the rhubarb wine was bottled and is resting six (sob) months.  The good thing about the wait is that I will have rhubarb ready to harvest for more - should this be drinkable.

On the menu for the weekly Big Lunch Cookoff was a Chicken Stew with Kale and White Beans.  I loved it, although it was not a one-pot meal - it actually dirtied quite a few trays, dishes and utensils, so it is on my Try It Again After a Long Period of Time so I Will Forget Its Complexity list.  I have managed to have it every day for lunch - today being the last day.  And I still like it.  Which is a good thing, as I have a lot of kale tucked away under the hoops.  Next week's BLC is looking like it will feature a slow braised beef with tomatoes and wine, served over polenta.  Oooh, baby. 

I'm working on some different side dishes for Thanksgiving.  I mean, there are millions of side dish recipes out there - why not try some?  One that's caught my eye is Carrot Mash.  It's mashed carrots with orange zest, mint, butter and cream.  There's not one bad thing in it.  Other than fat and cholesterol.  But who's counting?  I am sure I can remake it to be healthier, but I'm giving it its full-fat shot on the first try.  Another recipe that caught my attention is for gluten free pumpkin pie bars.  I'm bringing a mincemeat pie and I might just throw these in for the heck of it.

What's on everyone's menu for T'Day?  Anyone venturing out into unchartered territory?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Musings.

This is rather a sad musing tale.

The Sorry Drunk in the Trailer House is another one of the sagas I've been following in the 8 years I've traveled my work/home route. Almost to the end of my mountain road - on the to-work end - was a sagging old trailer home. The curtains in the windows were in tatters, the yard was a quilt of bare earth and weedy patches. There was a good-sized Rottweiler chained to the front steps. The inhabitant of the trailer was a character that looked like his blood had been almost fully replaced by alcohol. Disheveled, dirty, he was never wearing clothing that fit the climate that day. He walked down the side of the road to what I assumed was work of some sort. Occasionally, I would see him sitting at the intersection of the mountain road and the main road, waiting. I began to get concerned about the dog when I realized it had no shelter during the day. And no water bowl. And no food bowl. So one morning, I threw a bag of dry dog food in the back of the car, along with a jug of water and two extra dishes. I was a little leery of approaching him (LARGE intact male), but figured I was armed with food and good intentions, so I had a pretty good chance of convincing him I was friendly. I filled the food bowl and the water bowl and put them well within reach. He turned out to be a sweet dog, who was very happy to see the food. I put the bag of food, along with a note, around the back of the trailer and left. This went on for some time - his food dish was filled as long as I provided the food.  I also found out that I had to provide the water.  It dawned on me that this fellow was either squatting or hadn't paid the rent in a very long time and the landlord wanted him out.  Just as obvious was the fact that the dog was there to keep people away.  I am not a fan of keeping dogs chained up all day without shelter, so I brought it to the attention of my friend and neighbor, the local dog warden.  In rural areas, all the dog wardens are pals, so I knew that he would contact the right authority and that the dog would be treated well.

(My god.  This is turning into War and Peace....)

A couple of days later, the dog was gone.  A couple of weeks later, all this poor sap's worldly possessions were put out in the front yard; a sad little pile.  Bit by bit, pieces of his estate disappeared - free piles are a big thing around here.  There was evidence that he wasn't going quietly.  Each day there was a new day of battle between the land lord and Bill the Barnacle (as I came to think of him).  I think at one point BTB was living in the little shed for a while.  Eventually, though, he gave up and moved on.  The trailer was completely gutted and has had a complete renovation and is very spiffy.  While I will never know what happened to BTB, I do know that his dog got a very good home with a family that loves him to pieces.  A happy ending for one of the pair.


Have you ever eaten something that makes your teeth squeak?  I made some lentil/greens soup and decided to put a dash of lemon juice in it.  Geez.  It tasted fine, but it made my teeth feel squeaky.  That got me to thinking about a cake someone made me preGI (gluten intolerance).  It was a very sweet, dense cake with caramel in it.  One bite and it glued itself onto my teeth.  If I had been wearing braces, I would still be dealing with it, ten years later. 

I am having to deal with my Onset Winter Claustrophobia, caused by all the layers of clothing I have to wear.  I sometimes feel like a turtle on its back when I get behind the wheel in office clothes, wool scarf, heavy gloves, heavy coat.  I like cold weather but hate having to pile on all those outer garments.  It's the same feeling I get when I have to mix something with my hands and it sticks to them.  I have to wash my hands ever five seconds or I get the heebie jeebies.  Hmm.  I wonder what Aunt Sweezie would have to say about that.

Friday, November 15, 2013

When everything goes to Hell in a handbasket.

I was hesitant to write this post - I didn't want to sound all whiny and complaining.  But, really, I'm not.  There are many things involved in this lifestyle that are not fun.  They are not cheap.  They age you and make you miserable and unhappy.  Luckily, there are many more things that make you happy.  If there weren't, we would all implode.

Since I have received a few emails from people who are considering venturing into this homesteady lifestyle at middle age, I thought it was important to cover some of the shineola that can happen to turn bliss into blisters.  Pull out the hankies - this is going to be a long one.

My particular set of circumstances puts me as a single, middle-aged homesteader - with a full time job away from the farm.  This brings its own set of challenges.  I am certain that, if I had just stuck with a garden and a handful of chickens, my life would have been much easier.  I am, however, not one to settle for easy.  I had decided early on that I wanted to experience as much and and as full a homesteading, self-sufficient life as I possibly could.  Over the years (8), I have raised bees (fail), pigs (fail), sheep (good), goats (bad), quail (fail), rabbits (see quail), turkeys (fail - but it didn't stop me from starting all over again), egg laying chickens (good), meat chickens (good-ish).  I also have Jasmine and Alice, Jersey cows, but I am not raising them - my farmer neighbor is.  So, needless to say, they are doing fine.  They should thank me from the bottoms of their sweet bovine Jersey hearts that I am not all they have.

In many ways, it is amazing that I am where I am now.  My biggest problem?  I did not have A Plan.  I may be a list kind of girl, but I am not a plan kind of girl.  Lists fit my fruit-fly-like focus.  Plans mean having to sit down with pencil and paper and look into the future, planning obvious steps along the way.  I am more of a Carpe Diem sort.  That is all well and fine if it's just me and my loyal dogs.  But when I start adding livestock into the mix, things can go terribly wrong.  I am setting myself up as an example of what NOT to do.

With me so far?

Things started to head south in May.  After having paid way too much for my supposed-to-be-registerable-pedigreed-up-the-wahzoo (whole nuther story) Nigerian Dwarf goats, I had big plans to add dairy to my homestead.  Somehow, I blanked out on the fact that I have two Jersey cows down the road at my neighbors.  Oh, no, I needed the Whole Milking Experience.  So Sage was bred, she had two beautiful doelings, and she came home so we could start milking.  In my own defense, Sage is a pill.  Had I ended up with a non-feral, patient doe, things might have worked out better.  But I did not.  I figured I had about 40 minutes in the morning for milking.  That should be plenty of time.  After three straight mornings of wrestling with the lunatic for 35 minutes to get her onto the milking stand, I gave up.  Threw in the milker.  I still get plenty of nice, raw milk from Jasmine, but now I am saddled with four goats that suck all the air out of the room.

Then Kay died.  That had a huge impact on me - not only because I lost such a dear friend, but because she was the veterinary glue that held LLF together.  I'd like to point out here that it is very, very, very important - if you have decided to add livestock to your homesteading dream - that you learn basic veterinary skills.  You'll have to give shots, drenches, etc. on your own, unless you have a good vet and very deep pockets.  I have a good vet, but my pockets are so shallow, they are sewn shut.  It turns out I was double-lucky.  I have a friend who is now my "Kay".  And she is not judgemental, which is good, because I am hard enough on myself as is.  She is helping me dehorn the goats and I had asked her to take a look at the sheep, as Linden and Norman limp off and on.  After wrestling with the goats, she had just enough time to check the sheep - it could have been hoof rot, but thank goodness it wasn't.  Linden just needed a trim on one foot, but poor Linden had broken three of his four hoof nails.  This was because:  a) his hooves grew long; b) the ground has been wet; c) I did not check his hooves.  Trimming hooves is Animal Care 101.  I failed the course, and Linden has to suffer for it.  We are in the process of working on his feet, and I am keeping the ground around the run-in shed as dry as possible.

Granted, it could have been worse.  But I have been overstretched for some time and it's beginning to tear things around the edges.  What have I learned?  I cannot allow the goats to suck all the time out of my day - then other things suffer (Linden/Norman).  The chicken coop, which usually has a nice pre-fall clean out, has not been touched.  There were unexpected expenses that tapped the emergency fund (apparently, everything in my life is an emergency), savings and future savings.  While it's knocked the wind out of me, I will regroup and it will work out.  But not having had a plan early on set me up for this fall.

There.  That's off my chest and I hope that helps anyone reading this who is just starting out not to repeat my mistakes.  Of course, even when you plan everything to the nth degree, there are always surprises.  But that's part of the fun.  Being flexible, having good friends and a strong community, and - most of all - having a sense of humor, can get you through the rough bits.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

First Snow and Turkeys.

Technically, it is not the first snow - just the first that stuck.  The doelings were afraid of it, leaning waaaay out of the barn to see if it was safe before planting a hoof in the stuff.

My sister and I moved the three toms:  Wynken, Blynken and Noddy, to their new quarters on Saturday.  It is nice and toasty and they have plenty of room.  They also have their own feeder, which thrilled them no end.  They had been intimidated by the chickens, so I don't think they were getting a whole lot to eat.  They also have their own water, a nice flake of hay to keep them busy, an awesome roost (Give me five, Connie!!!) and now they have a view.  They will stay securely in their hoophouse for at least a week.  I'm trying my darnedest to keep them from flying up in the trees to roost at night, hoping that clipped wings and imprinting on their new home will help.

If you look closely, you can see their white tail and wing feathers - sorry for the poor quality of the shots, but it was cold outside!

Norman is wondering what fresh hell has been placed in his paddock.

Monday, November 11, 2013

And a fun time was had by all. Except for the goats.

I spent two days with my middle sister over the weekend - she drove over from New Hampshire on Friday and drove back on Sunday.  It's a long drive (three and a half hours) and she doesn't have much 'her' time, so I was very grateful that she spent ALL her 'her' time with me!

We kicked off the visit with lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, then a blissful walkabout in the neighboring Barnes and Noble.  It is so interesting how rural I've become...walking into the mall was like walking on the moon.  It felt so completely alien - from the sounds and smells, the lighting, the shiny surfaces...woo.  While we oohed and aahed over the books, we both came across a small picture book that sent us into hysterical laughter.  Needless to say, we each bought a copy and have continued to hoot about it all weekend.  Neither of us is particularly fond of 'crass' humor, yet this humor is definitely on the crass side - but done with such finesse that it's incredibly funny.  To us.  :)

I also got to go into the great, big JoAnn Fabrics store - heaven!  I picked up some flannel for jammie bottoms, some flannel to repair my old flannel robe that is beginning to embarrass even me, some fleece for Scrappy's winter inside jacket - I'm tired of his blankie ending up on the floor and the ensuing accusing looks.  I also picked up some bright wool yarn with which to knit a couple of holiday/birthday alligator scarves. 

We whipped up a gluten free, garlic scape pesto, (last - sob) sliced tomato, cheddar pizza and talked our heads off.  Bernice was so happy to have her Auntie C there (she loves both of her Aunties), she spent the entire evening on the couch, curled up in a happy ball, her head on Auntie C's lap.  We both went to Vermont to work on checking a few items off the parental to-do list - then we suffered through the grocery store and Wal-Mart, before fleeing to the peace of the farm.  Relatively speaking, of course.  We managed to erect a sturdy perch in the hoop house for the Great Turkey Relocation Project.  We were so excited that our plan for the perch worked perfectly, that we went to do one of those "high five" moves and neither one of us got it right.  It was another hysterical moment -- I wish we had it on video.  Then, bolstered by a glass of nice red wine, we crept out in the dark, head beams on, and moved the turkeys from the chicken coop to their new digs.  Let me tell you, those boys are BIG.  Noddy, C's charge, was so entranced by the moment that he practically swooned in her arms.  They will now spend a week learning to imprint (ohpleasegod) their new home before I let them out. 

Sunday morning was a cold, grey day, with dark clouds spitting icy rain every so often.  Perfect weather to band little goat horns.  I jest.  But that was the day we had, so my friend, AnnMarie (without whom I could not do what I do) and her brother, Farmhand, and I rounded up Sage, Chick and Apple and banded their horns.  Both Sage and Chick were disbudded by the breeders young son - an amazing fact.  I mean, would you let your inexperienced kid learn on a buyer's very expensive goat kids?  I think not - but that's what happened.  Needless to say, it was not successful and both Chick and Sage were growing scurs that were curving dangerously close to their noggins.  Apple?  Well, we were just about 100% sure she was polled (hornless).  Until little pointy horns grew up out of her hard little head.  Willo was, indeed, polled.  There was a LOT of screaming involved and only a little of it was mine.  Seriously, it does not hurt.  But it will be uncomfortable as the bands slowly kill off the horn material and they drop off.  An interesting bit of information - in case one of them whacks their horn and it bleeds (usually aLOT), AnnMarie said to keep flour in the barn - it stops up the bleeding and won't irritate their eyes like other alum based blood stop products.  Cool!  I had been clinging hanging onto a bag of whole wheat pastry flour in the freezer.  Now I know why. 

In the midst of the goat rodeo, my dear sis had to slip away.  We were all sad that night, but hope she comes back soon!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Morning rituals.

Coffee.  Knitting.  More coffee.  I am currently working on a sock - toe down on two circular needles.  I have yet to master the two-at-a-time, which I really should try.  It's a struggle to start the second one after the first is finished.  What usually happens is that I decide to knit something simple to break the monotony of the sock knitting and then get totally distracted and off on a tear of some sort. 

Coffee of the season is Pumpkin Spice with a dash of half and half.  Oh, yum!  I love this little knitting bag - it's perfect for a small project.  It was a thank you gift from my Icelandic Sheep friends for bunking them for the Big E Fiber show one year.  It was a lovely and thoughtful gift.

My sister is due in for a two-day visit and I am so looking forward to it.  I love it when my sisters visit.  Heck, I love it when ANYBODY visits... :)  Other than taking advantage of another set of hands for the Great Turkey Relocation Project, there is nothing on the agenda.  This could be a good thing, or a bad thing, given recent events.

Bernie is perking up, but continues to be challenging in the meals department.  And in the stuff the capsule down her gullet department.  That dog can clamp those jaws like nothing I've ever seen.  A crocodile has nothing on Bernice. 

Scrappy is rather enjoying Bernice's convalescing, as he gets her 'rejects'.  Terrible, tasteless things like organic chicken simmered in filtered water with a scoop of organic jasmine rice.  Sigh.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Put a knife in me. I'm done.

Being in a hurry ALL the time, makes you vulnerable to injury.  Listen to this old sage, Grasshoppers.  I managed to twist my ankle last Thursday night, racing around trying to get everything done because I'd gone and allowed myself to HAVE FUN.  That will show me.  I had a friend over for dinner and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.  The trade-off, however, was that I didn't get to finish all the chores, so was rushing around in the inky darkness and missed a hole.  Actually, I didn't miss it and therein lies the problem.

That put me lame-ish for Friday chores, so I decided to use a personal day to ease up on the ankle.  Is anyone surprised to know that it didn't work?  I know that most of you can relate to this:  sitting inside, reading a book, trying not to feel guilt-ridden while you look outside and see all the things that should be getting done.  Finally, I couldn't stand it and tackled some small jobs.  Luckily, Friday night was Girls' Nite and I was engulfed in conversation, good food and some deadly Apple Pie Moonshine.  Suffice to say, Saturday morning was a little blurred from the get-go.  I had to take Miss Bernice for a shampoo and set :) and was to meet M to pick up pork.  In my logical brain - which is actually an oxymoron, since logic really has nothing to do with how I live most of the time - I would bring B in, wait until she was washed and dried, then meet M and go home to clean before my parents arrived for their overnighter.  What actually happened was that I had to drop B off, then kill three hours.  This is not usually a problem if I plan for it.  But when I all of a sudden get a three hour gap in my plan, I fall apart.  Instead of making the most of the time, I drove to a little riverside park near a covered bridge and drank a cup of coffee while listening to Car Talk.  Fielding several suspicious looks from passersby.

Ripped home with B, pork and unplanned grocery purchases just in time to rip out again to store some of the pork in a neighbor's freezer, rip home and clean parents arrived.  That means everything stops.  Which it did, except for my mind which was still racing along.  Then we picked up the same neighbor and drove to dinner - a payback from my parents to this neighbor who has done them many kindnesses.  Back home to do chores in the near-dark and find a turkey on top of the shed.  NO!  I had to hunt down my clothesline prop pole and herd him off the roof into the yard, then get them headed in the right direction and into the coop.

Sunday morning was another land speed record of talking to my parents, checking my watch (which I had remembered to dial back - stoopid time change), then gather them up and rip off to the firehouse breakfast.  This is a once-a-month event known not for its food, but for its people watching.  We met another two of my friends there, who more than entertained my parents and most of the nearby tables.  And, seeing that it was the beginning of an election week, we played "Spot the Politician".  Then we sauntered back to the LLF where my dad swept off both decks and I started dinner prep.  Their best friends, who are also my neighbors, were coming for an early dinner.  Then everybody left.

Thanks to the stoopid time change, I did not sleep most of the night.  I don't have trouble with springing forward, but falling back throws me for a loop.  I dragged myself out of bed at 1:30A and called it a night.  All that ripping around had not helped the ankle, so I just decided to take another personal day.  This time I limited myself and only did some very small things, including repairing my deck railing bird feeder.  The dogs were thrilled that I had been home four days in a row.  I went to bed nice and early, and woke up Tuesday morning to find that Bernice had gone from bouncy puppy to near death.  Again.  I was opening the vet's office with his staff that morning and we ran more tests this time.  And this time we found the cause of this overnight sensation.  A high fever and a baseball-sized tumor on her spleen.  Poor kid.  So we are back to two doses of penicillin a day, cajoling her into eating (two cans of Fancy Feast consumed this morning) and slowly nursing her back to health.  The good news is, it's her spleen - which can be removed.  The bad news is, it's her spleen - which could rupture and cause internal bleeding. 

I was thinking this morning, "thank goodness this awful year is almost over."  Then I had an eerie recollection of saying the same thing last year.......dum-de-dum-dum.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday Musings.

Going along on my usual to/from work route, I was musing on how many years I had passed each of the houses along the spine of the mountain.  There are particular houses that stand out in my memory, and each of these houses has had a story built from the random musings of 8 years.  I'll share my imagined stories of them from time to time.  Let's start with...

The Little Old Lady with the Black Beehive Hairdo House.  Her small house is at a bend in the road that let's me know I am getting close to home.  It is as neat as a pin, with two matching, weathered outdoor statuary deer.  When I first was aware of her, she had just gotten out of her car and was moving briskly toward the front stairs.  Her hair was a rigid, inky black beehive, piled straight up - at least a foot - on top of her diminutive head.  It has enough hairspray on it to catch the sunlight and glisten!  I almost went off the road.  I was captivated, and have kept an eye on her house ever since.  Once in a while on nice mornings, she would be seated on her white plastic chair on the small stoop in front of the front door - coffee cup in hand, glistening black adornment on her head.  I would toot and wave and she waved back.  Then I didn't see her outside for the longest time.  Then her car was gone.  Fully a month later, I saw her car there again and my spirits lifted.  But I didn't see her for another six months.  She was sitting on her white plastic chair, with her hands folded in her lap.  Gone was the magnificent beehive, replaced with a short, white cap of her natural hair.  I tooted hello, but she didn't glance up or wave.  I was sad.  She is still there - I can see the lights on as I drive home in the evening.  Her car is gone - most likely sold by the family.  I still toot the horn as I go by in the morning.  We cannot fight the toll of the years, glistening black beehive notwithstanding.

Beehive hairdos always make me think about a neighbor on the street where I grew up.  Mrs. S. (we would NEVER have used an adult's first name! It would have been the equivalent of uttering "Voldemort" for you whippersnappers) was a hairdresser by trade and wore her hair in an industrial strength beehive.  She also chain smoked and would fascinate us, as she rasped out a conversation, cigarette firmly gripped in the corner of her mouth.  It got very exciting when the cigarette ash was particularly long, and her conversation got more and more animated.  We held our breath, waiting for that ash to hit the ground.  We were so easily amused back then...  Like our family, they had a VW Beetle as a second car because they were cheap.  And both cars had manual transmissions.  While Mrs. S. drove hers like a German tank captain, our mother never mastered the art of shifting.  We clung to the hand straps for dear life as we whiplashed from first to second gear.  So, naturally, when we got into the car with Mrs. S., we immediately reached for the straps.  It always annoyed her.  In those days, and in that neighborhood, all the families were interchangeable.  When it was time for vaccinations, a rotating roster of mothers would load up all the kids and drive them to the clinic, where we sat around the perimeter of the room on metal chairs, waiting our turns.  I hated being last - you had to sit through all the screaming, which made your (well, my heated) imagination create images of bloody needles and evil doctors. 

As I've gone through the years, I found that I wasn't far off the mark.