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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Losing it...

My week has gone:

Keys?  Gone.
Cell phone?  Gone.
Head?  Apparently, not attached.

I managed to completely lose my keys.  Luckily, I had spares, but still....I have misplaced them before, but they are usually found after a thorough search (sprinkled with spicy language) in a jacket pocket, car floor boards, under the hutch, in the laundry hamper.  This time?  Nada.

Last night I arrived home, schlepped some delivered boxes in the house, let the dogs out, and discovered ... no cell phone.  Once again, a thorough search (sprinkled with both spicy and salty language) uncovered .... still no cell phone.  That's not too bad, 'cause I still have my computer and email so in case I am marooned on my desert island of a farmet, I can still be in contact with the world, right?

Not so.  Every time I brought up my email account, the computer froze.

Sigh.  More salty, spicy language.  By now, the dogs were studiously avoiding me.  Even Pepper, which is saying something.

I made a cup of tea (the British really do have something there), sat down with my knitting and managed to ignore the stupid demons (you know, those little voices in your head that dress you down for being such an ignoramus as to have lost both keys AND phone - and then move onto every other stupid thing you've done in your life). 

This morning, I ran a thorough virus scan on the computer (without salty or spicy language) and did not try to open it.  I then tottered into the office where I discovered my phone.  On my desk.

Still looking for my keys.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Whazat???

I was driving over the mountain this morning, when I crested a ridge and was blinded!  Sun!  Holey Mackerel!  I could barely see where I was going, having been reduced to mole-vision by the gloom of the last many weeks.   I groped around for the Beloved Sunglasses and spent the rest of the drive sighing happily, as Vitamin D3 found its way to my inner being.  It made me feel so good, that I only blinked slightly when presented with the total at the pet mart checkout.

Speaking of shopping, the day after Christmas, I pulled on my BGPs (which are looking a bit tattered, I might add), and headed to the closest mall.  I had to get chicken feed, so was going in that general direction.  The reason I was driven to such madness was that I had a gift card for a certain store that was due to expire.  And, being cheap frugal, I was not going to let it go to waste.  I got my 100# of feed, took a deep breath, drove on and circled the mall, looking for a non-packed parking space near the outside entrance.  I was NOT going through the mall.  When I walked in, I almost staggered from the excess in front of me. It hit me that I had not been in a regular clothing/department store for more than 3 years.  All of my clothes and general shopping is done either at thrift stores, online or through the closets of generous friends with great taste (Oh, how I miss you, Sylvie...) 

My goal was to take my $25 gift card and buy a top or two for work.  Oy!  There was an ocean of packed racks everywhere I looked!  Too many colors!  Too much everything!  However, I lucked out and had entered the store right into an area of a designer who had less gaudy stuff.  So I hyperventilated my way around, snatched two sweaters off the first rack I came to and asked a store employee if the sale signs applied to them.  She scanned them and - woot! - 60% off!  I quickly grabbed two more tops and tottered to the checkout.  Along with 40 other women, all of whom had returns.  Oy, OY.  A very attractive young woman from cosmetics sauntered up to our line and offered to check out anyone who was interested.  I was quickly in her perfumey wake and checked out with no problem.  The average price of the four items I bought - before sale - was $49.  After applying my gift card, I only had to pony up $18!  I was so excited.  The lovely young woman gushed, "Oh, you saved ONE HUNDRED AND TWELVE DOLLARS!"  To which I replied, "Can you imagine the markup on this stuff?"  She looked at me disapprovingly.  I was clearly not appreciating what Macy's had done for me.  The entire experience took less than 15 minutes, even though it felt like hours and, although I wanted to get a couple pair of knee socks (mine resemble Swiss cheese), the thought of another checkout line did me in.  I fled with my purchases. 

I still need knee socks (yes, I know I knit, but I need these socks THIS winter...) and my BGPs need replacing.  After all of those warnings about the state of your underwear, vis a vis an accident, my mother would be SHOCKED of the sight of mine.  However, I do believe I will be ordering them online.  I don't think my nerves could take another foray into Excessville.  It will take me at least three years to get over it.



Monday, December 29, 2014

Ho, ho, heehaw.

Well, that was fast and furious.  Oddly enough, the build-up and follow-through were pretty busy, while the actual event (Christmas) was exceptionally quiet.  One thing I have realized with having five days off - when I retire, the dogs are going to need hobbies that don't involve second-to-second contact with me.

I have apparently caught the Mama Pea organizing bug, as I was a whirlwind of sorting, piling, cleaning and resorting, piling and more cleaning yesterday.  However, very UNLIKE her, I have little focus and can work furiously and diligently only for a half day before I am inexorably drawn to fifteen other things that really don't need doing.  This new year, I am fully embracing the weirdness of me and...whatever.

My youngest DS got this great shot of the granddogs on Christmas.  You will note the total focus - it is, after all, food.  Also notice the tiny bow on top of Pepper's noggin.  I tell you, you could graft a beaver on his head and he wouldn't care - as long as there was food involved.

"Princess" Pepper, Scrappy and Lovey
After vowing never to bake again (at least for a week), I baked a batch of GF, dairy-free gingerbread cookies to take to my neighbor's annual holiday party.  One of our mutual neighbors was bringing her daughter, who was allergic or hyper sensitive to everything.  Unfortunately, they did not come, so now I have enough GF/DF cookies to last the year.  Oh, darn....not.  They are pretty good, if I do say so myself.

Sunday, in my cleaning frenzy, I went to step down off my step stool and missed the last step.  This was no great travesty, as it wasn't far to the floor.  But I hit the floor hard enough to send a shock wave up my spine, into my jaw and it cracked an ancient filling.  A perfect end to an imperfect year.  I had been meaning to call to make an appointment with my old dentist - from about six years ago - so this morning I called, whined into the phone and they were very nice.  They would squeeze me in tomorrow afternoon.  She called back to say that someone had cancelled and I could come in even earlier.  Groovy!  Then she called again later this morning and informed me, in an incredibly icy tone, that they had discovered that I had sent a copy of my records to a new dentist back in 200-whatever, and it was their policy to never let me darken their doorstep again.  Wha?  Those are my words, but it is a very close translation to their policy.  Hoot!  I guess there is a dark side to a small, family practice.  A sort of, "Well, Missy, you've made your bed now go lie in it!"  So I am back to waiting for the entire dental staff of my present mega-practice to all come back from their two week vacation to squeeze me in in about a month - and try to jam a very expensive fix down my gullet, you should pardon the expression.  I loathe dentists.

Are you making your list of New Year's Resolutions?  I like to do it, if for nothing more than a mental exercise.  I am unlikely to develop many (if any) good habits, as the only habits I seem to glom onto are baaaad... :)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Best wishes to you all on this Holiday Season!

May we practice more peace than war; more love than harm; more compassion than inhumanity.  Sending out hugs to you all...


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Very High SQUEE Rating.

Every year, my darling girl Santa J in PA remembers all of us.  And I mean ALL of us - right down to the flock of chickens.  I had pulled into the carport/garage after a particularly grueling nighttime commute this last week, to find a large package perched on the wheelbarrow.  (Aside here - my postman is the bees' knees.)  I thought it was a missing package from Amazon that had become one of those shipping horror stories.  But it wasn't!  It was from Santa J!  And it weighed a ton.

I staggered into the house, clutching it in my arms, where it was met with a great deal of enthusiasm  - but outies first.  After gathering eggs and tossing hay at the sheep/llama, I was free to come in and open it.  I tell you, I am about 6 years old when I open her packages...and there are three pair of bright little eyes on me during each and every move.

I will have to describe most of the contents, as they have already been put to use, but there was one particular parcel that was just for me:

The Real Thing (a little darkish)


And the Almost As Good as the Real Thing


SQUEE!!!!!  Honestly, I can hardly wait to get into it.

Also from Santa J were:  Bully Strips for the dogs; Greenie tuna treats for the cats; a protein block for the chickens; a bag of butterscotch horse/llama/sheep treats!  I mean, what else is there?

We love our Santa J.

Monday, December 22, 2014

A Well-Oiled Machine.

This post could also be titled, "The Importance of Being Flexible".  As I toddled about on Saturday, doing my usual chores as well as a stop at the vet for Scrappy's booster vaccine shot and to pick up a sandwich tray for my favorite guys at my mechanic's, I was unaware that there was drama unfolding at my parents' house.  This was because my dad is now not able to function well in emergencies and was unable to call me.  As I sat in the Midas waiting room having them look at my front tires, and having a delightful chat with my DS Melanie who I hadn't seen in ages, I wasn't in any rush.  When Scrappy and I walked up the path to their back door, my dad met us and informed me that Mom 'had fallen' and wouldn't let him call an ambulance.  I sprinted the rest of the way. 

Long story short, she had tripped over a 3 gal. water jug on the kitchen floor, and went down squarely on her face.  And there she lay for over an hour, waiting for me to arrive.  Seeing as my mother is at least as stubborn as I am - if not more, as she is, after all, the source of the stubborn gene - no ambulance was called and we managed to get her down into the car with Dad.  And Scrappy.  They are very lucky to be so close to a very good hospital with an excellent emergency room staff.  She got right in and CAT scans were ordered.  Miraculously, nothing was broken, but she now sported two shiners and her sighted eye was swollen shut, rendering her blind. 

They wouldn't release her unless someone (other than Dad) was with her 24 hours, so I promised and we went back to their place.  I got them settled, then raced home, did chores and threw the other two dogs in the car.  My DS from New Hampshire came over on Sunday and will be staying until Wednesday, when my youngest sister from NYC will be coming up.  Every time there is an emergency, I am reminded that my mother and father had planned on having five boys.  They quit after three girls.  I feel quite smug that the Universe knew better....

It's important, when you have elderly parents, to have a plan.  Our plan was pretty loosey-goosey, as we have never sat down, all three of us (with or without parents) to discuss what-ifs.  It is also a testimony to the strength and love of our small family that we can spring into action without a thought - and that we love our parents mightily - and we love each other just as much.  I am so happy to have my sisters and parents in my life.  I am a mightily lucky duck.

P.S.  I am also mightily lucky to have my three great dogs - who not only were real troopers, but entertained and calmed the three of us, Mom, Dad and me.

P.P.S.  The moral of this post, if there is one, is to have a plan!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wrestling with the Spirit of Christmas.

I am not a lover of holidays.  It may be because I am so turned-off by the tsunami of Christmas ads, bad music, non-stop commercialism that starts earlier every year.  It may be because I am older and crankier.  It may be because all the hoo-ha exacerbates the fact that I am solo.  There is also the fact that my family is small, there are no little tots over which to squeak and squeal (I do that over my dogs.  In private.) and we are never able to all get together at the same time.  I have, over the years, begun a campaign to stave off the dark mantle that starts to settle over me mid-November.  I put on holiday music and change the lyrics to entertain the dogs.  I find something to bake.  I focus on the multitude of good things in my life.  This year I am tempted to dress the dogs up in embarrassingly silly get-ups and take their pictures.  I may put reindeer antlers on my cow, Jasmine.  She is very good-natured, as long as I have a cow treat.

One of the good things about a small family with no tots in attendance, is that we can skip the gifts.  Not only ease my financial burden, but it puts all ones focus on the gathering, the food, the music, the being there.  It is way more special.  Plus, it doesn't add stuff to my pile of stuff.  **I swear I will clean out my craft/office/dog/cat/room this winter**

Any gifting I do is homemade.  Whether the recipients want it or not...however, I doubt if the Barn Crew will turn down cinnamon rolls, nor will the postman, nor will the transfer station guys.  I do some selective gifting - homemade chicken liver pate for my neighbor - and other giftings that I am not at liberty to divulge.  New traditions that are a highlight of my holiday season is breakfast with my neighbor, Nancy, early on a weekday morning before work.  And possibly working in a gossip/knitting/catch-up session with my DS Melanie (HINT HINT HINT). 

Speaking of gifting, my 'boss' - whom I love to pieces - always overdoes it at Christmas.  She staggered in with a hefty basket that contained a lovely scarf (handmade by women in Nepal), a very nice girlie-type set of lotion and shower gel, a gift card for Amazon.com, an amaryllis bulb kit, and ... a re-gift.  I hooted with laughter when I opened that bag (containing two precious - read: expensive - bottles containing balsamic vinegar and a wild mushroom sage infused EVOO) and a card dropped out.  It thanked her for 'having' this couple over for dinner.  I am not complaining, envisioning as I am, that infused oil drizzled over some al dente pasta.  Providing I can find some GF pasta I can tolerate.

I am a firm believer in re-gifting.  As one who liberally bestows gifts on the unsuspecting, I always add to my greetings that they should feel free to pass it on if they don't want/need it.  That does not bother me at all.  What's the consensus out there on re-gifting?  Yay or Nay?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Hate greasy pots and pans?



You need a Weeno-Rooter.  I ran across a great deal on chicken thighs and pressure-canned 24 qts of chicken and broth for the dogs.  There is nothing I hate more than to have to deal with grease up to my shoulder when I wash my largest stock pot.  Ergo - the Weeno-Rooter.  Or, Pepper Pot Licker.  I may just rent him out.

He rotated the pot as he cleaned.  He's very efficient.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

My very first Advent Calendar!

Believe it or not, even at my (ahem) advanced age, I never, every had an Advent Calendar.  I secretly coveted those of my friends in school.  I came close dozens of times to buying one of my very own.  I also came close more dozens of times making my own.  But, as is always the case, a combination of procrastination and my pesky lack of focus delayed me past a reasonable deadline.

Then, this came in the mail:




My first, very own, lovely, wonderful Advent Calendar!  I love it!  Gifted to me by the eminently talented, lovely and muy compasivo Chicken Mama!

You are the BEST!  Plus, what magic did you use to find the time to make this?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Inspiration! Inspiration? Where art thou?

Or, Monday Musings gone all whiny-like.

I am wallowing in the too-little-daylight blues.  I really do need to give myself a swift kick in the tush, but I'm not as limber as I used to be.  I have sat down four times to compose a pithy post, only to stare, blankly, at the screen.  The only reason I'm typing now, is that I'm at work (please don't rat me out) and trying to appear bustling.  Sometimes the only way to get through writer's block is to force your way through.

I had thought about borrowing Tami's ploy and posting the alphabet.  I thought I would start in reverse order, though, because that is more my style.  Back-ass-wards.  The only thing I could come up with for Z, however, was zebra.  When I was a tot, I had a stuffed zebra that I named Eeyore.  Yes, yes, I know that Eeyore was a donkey without a tail, but the beauty of being a child is that there are no boundaries as far as your imagination goes.  Why do we lose so much of that when we are older?  I also had a doll named Poor Pitiful Pearl.  It was supposed to be a homely doll, but I thought she was spunky and beautiful.  Too bad I don't still have her, as I'm sure she'd be a valuable relic by now.  As much as I loved my PPP, I had nothing but disdain for my Barbies.

While the "Z" has given me a little pep in the writing department, I doubt if I will continue on.  I chafe at restrictions (including restrictive jeans...snort).  The weekend was pretty much on a par with all weekends, with the exception of getting to stand on tall ladders in gale force, arctic winds trying to attach another tarp to my fuel tank enclosure.  Gee, that was fun.  I did get a smidgen more in the holiday mood when I put up my parents' cute little tree.  They have always had a fresh tree - with the rare exception of last year.  We will give it a week to relax, and my dad will take his time putting the lights on.  As he grows older (92 and counting), he becomes more focused on individual tasks.  Sort of like obsessive.  So, I am sure the lights will be perfectly placed and evenly spaced.

Sunday morning, I had my early birthday breakfast with my friend, Maggie.  She is my oldest friend up here.  I have known her 15 years.  I always look forward to spending time with her - she is one of those people who make you feel lighter and happier after spending 15 minutes in their presence.  I also like this type of birthday celebration.  I return the favor for her birthday - a win-win, win-win.  Then I came home and roasted a pie pumpkin and made peanut butter pumpkin dog biscuits.  Once I was nice and warm, I forced myself outside to schlep 100# of chicken feed to their bin and wrestle with the aforementioned tarp.  I have long ago resigned myself to having to do jobs, no matter what the weather, since I usually have only one day to do them.  And Ma Nature can be a tough broad with a quirky sense of humor.

The sheep got three pumpkins (frozen/thawed/frozen/thawed) and were very happy.  Norman has gotten over his fear of pumpkins and can gnaw them down with the best of them.  I begrudgingly put up outdoor holiday lights - but only because I can't see from the garage to the front door at night.  It sure ain't because I'm in the mood...I did, however, put up my twinkly lights across the mantelpiece and that always mellows me out.

By golly, I wrote a whole post!  Of drivel, however....

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Plus Side of Snow.

While I might have been grumbling (putting it mildly) about shoveling a quarter- mile of paths through a foot+ of heavy, wet, icy snow on Thanksgiving morning, it did have it's positive side.  Apparently, being trapped in the coop with only their nesting boxes to keep them occupied, has joggled the hens' memories.  I am now getting three or four eggs a day!  This has been the longest dry spell as far as eggs go, ever on the Little Lucky.  I have a total of 24 chickens - three are roosters, about half are getting on in years, and the rest should be laying their little hearts out.  The reality is, I have gone over 27 days without one. single. egg.  Sluggards.

However, even my Peanut (banty) is back in the boxes.  So, while the days continue to shrink into 4 hours of so-called daylight, the hens are back to work.  The irony is not lost on me...but I will count my blessings and my eggs.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Well, the ocean's blue, ain't it?

Being frugal and prone to use every last scrap of everything can have interesting consequences.  Besides being way ahead of the gourmands on the fusion front, it can lead to rather spectacular results.  Take my dinner last night.

I had made a paella-like dish for my sister on Wednesday night, not wanting anything remotely close to turkey.  I had leftover mussels, clams, clam juice and a nice piece of cod in the freezer.  Perfecto!  I would make seafood chowder for dinner!

Rummaging in my vege bin, I found white and purple carrots and a half an onion.  In my root cellar aka the guest room closet, I found potatoes and garlic.  All set.  I set about dicing and chopping and threw it all in a pan with the broth and then snuck in some knitting while it all simmered.  Once the vege was tender, I tossed in the cod and shellfish and stood in wonder as it turned blue.  Wow. Obviously, the purple carrots had worked their magic.  I added a little milk and it turned a lovely shade of blue-lilac.

The photograph doesn't do it justice.

While I thoroughly enjoyed both the flavor and color, I was also glad I didn't have company for dinner.

This also brought back a memory of fixing dinner for my parents when I was a twenty-something.  I wanted to create an elegant and memorable meal, so I made Cornish hens stuffed with rice, sultanas and pistachios.  Unfortunately, I used the red pistachios and the subsequent stuffing was a lovely but shocking shade of pink.  My mother was quite gracious about it....

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Good People.


This was my Thanksgiving view.  We got over a foot of snow on Wednesday into Thanksgiving morning.  What a treat! (dripping sarcasm here...)  My sister was driving up from Newark NJ to spend Thanksgiving with us.  In a rental car.  With no snow tires, shovel, flares, blankets or other winter gear.  Bless her heart, she made it to within 15 miles of me, averaging 30 mph.  It took almost six hours.  She made it to the first hill on her long journey, and then she could go no further.

An aside here,  For those of you who think that our highway departments - who face winter every stinkin year, and who had been listening, I am sure, to the same dire warnings of the oncoming nor'easter for a week prior to its arrival - would have had the roads cleared to make sure that this, the most-traveled day of THE ENTIRE YEAR, would be safe, would be wrong.  Not a plow in sight.  I do believe they sit in their garages waiting for the clock to strike overtime.  Dastards.  I digress.

She and I had been in regular contact through the white-knuckle drive.  We were both a wreck, but I wasn't driving.  I was cleaning surfaces - something I do when I am highly stressed.  She said she was going to try to get her car off the road and was going to knock on the door of a house that was nearby with the lights on.  The next call came minutes later - she had parked her car in their driveway and could I pick her up.  I got the address and headed out - even with four wheel drive, the road was treacherous.  I am still amazed that she made it as far as she did in one piece.

Turns out she had knocked on the perfect door.  The Universe had directed her to a family who is the poster-family for kindness, warmth and hospitality.  Not only did they insist she park her car in their nice, shoveled driveway, but invited her in to use the bathroom, made her a cup of tea and fed her cookies.  They let her leave her car overnight so that we could come get it the next morning when the roads were clear (triple overtime guarantees clear roads).  When we arrived to pick up her car, they had cleaned it off before they left for their own Thanksgiving trip.  I tell you, the whole experience gave me a new and kinder view on humanity.

The storm abated and left every surface with a coating of snow.  It was beautiful.  Until I had to shovel it...


Pepper loves his Aunt Cynthia and was quite crushed when I didn't bring her back on Thursday.  He has been watching the cats and has discovered a way to insert himself in your view at every level.  My sister heads back today, thankfully with clear roads and nothing more than arctic temperatures.  If this is an omen of winter to come, I might as well sew myself into my long johns right now.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Aargh, Matey! Happy Dancing. Dastards.

Since there's no way I could put together a cohesive post today, I am going to subject you to more randomness. 

I did some research before ordering a new, small batch of laying 'hens'.  Black Langshans sounded perfect:  Large, docile, dual purpose homestead birds.  Ahem.  Someone must have switched birds in the incubator.  My Black Langshans are large, lunatic, dual purpose birds.  AND four of the six were roos.  I think there must be a hitch in my giddyup as far as the usual Little Lucky female mojo goes.

As there is only room for one - maybe two, depending on temperament - roosters on the LLF, two of the four lunatics were destined for the freezer this past weekend.  My neighbor and I have the best deal of all deals - I buy and raise them.  He processes and we split the resulting meat.  As Sunday was the best of the two days, I went in the coop to grab the 'volunteers' early in the morning.  It was total, utter, complete chaos.  I finally managed to grab-hold of two of them and stuffed them unceremoniously into the dog crate (cat crate being too small).

I then went about my usual morning chores.  As I was coming out of the barn with the sheep's hay, a neighbor was driving by.  He slammed on the brakes, rolled down the window and hollered, "Hey, you okay?"  I didn't figure I looked any worse than I usually do around the farm, so said yes.  I went in the house for a cup of tea and, as I leaned over the sink, blood dripped into it.  Damn.  The roos had gotten me right across the left cheek.  A little clean-up, a schmear of triple antibiotic ointment and we were good to go.  I look like a pirate.

Not wanting to jinx it, I have kept the fact that my sister and BIL were buying a house two doors down from my parents pretty much to myself.  I found out this weekend that the closing happened and they will move in full time in April!  Oh, my, did that produce an hour of happy dancing.  That got me thinking about happy dances.  Does everyone do pretty much the same thing?  My happy dance goes like this:  rapid rounds of fist pumping, followed by hip-swinging, fancy footwork, some rythmic foot-stomping, and all accompanied by woohooing.  What's yours look like?

Now, the dastards.  Not the first word that came to mind, but....sensitive souls might be reading.  I keep track of all the blogs I read through Blogger.  Well, someone (thestuffthatkeepsmeawake) has been hijacked by a blog called craft design architecture ideas.  It has flooded my reader to the point that I cannot find the blogs I want to read in all the crap.  I am highly ticked off.  And nowhere can I find a way to contact Blogger to let them know.  Darn and dagnabit. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Musings

Most spam that hits my inbox is pretty boring.  However, I now have a favorite spam:

Sender:  Support
Subject:  Broken emails is repaired.

All I can say is, thank god.

In my neck of the woods, this is the time of year when you start to see signs up for Holiday Church Bazaars.  I always get a warm, fuzzy feeling about them, but haven't been to one since I was a squirt.  We were members of a small, Episcopal church in Lorain, Ohio.  My father was a layman, my mother poured coffee after the service (always in hat and gloves - those were such different days).  The men of the church put on the spaghetti dinner to die for, and the woman all worked their crocheted/knitted magic for the Christmas Bazaar.  I thought it was the most wonderful thing in the world - all kinds of things that were in my limited budget.  (These were the times of the 50-cents-a-week allowance.  Did I just hear a Millennium hit the ground in a faint??)  I was riveted by the toilet paper doll cover.  I secretly longed for one but, if I recall correctly, it would have cost the equivalent of a month's allowance.  I did some of my best Christmas shopping there.  I am so tempted to check out the modern day bazaar - will there be an array of toilet paper covers?  Can I still cover my Christmas shopping within my allowance?  (Which, I'm afraid, is almost the same as when I was six.)  Friends and family, beware.

I was also in the church choir.  Every week at practice, we weighed heavily on the patience of our very patient choir mistress, Mrs. Pfaff.  I can still see her face as we drolly sang, "...and He forgetSNOT his own...", titter, titter.  That poor woman.  Every Sunday we would pony up as the mothers hovered over us, tying our bows (which I loathed) and trying to keep order.  I learned how to whistle in the choir.  Unfortunately, it was during a particularly long pause in in the sermon...

If I Google my blog name, it comes up on top.  Right under it is a listing for E-I-E-I OMG! 87 Hot Farmer's Daughters.  I wonder two things:  How many prospective readers have I lost to that much-more-provocative title?  And:  That Farmer must have been one hot ticket to have produced 87 daughters.  Punctuation, folks, punctuation...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Oooh, baby, it's cold outside!

Almost nothing of Lovey was visible this morning.


She was wondering what fresh hell this day would bring.  Her enthusiasm for winter wanes by the day.  Pepper was disguised as a brown fleece lump and Scrappy was pretending to sleep so he wouldn't have to go outside.  The Cruel Food Woman (that would be I) shooed them out into the frigid morning, where business was carried out at a brisk pace.  It feels like January.  The kitchen wasn't as warm as I would have liked it - mostly because the heat duct was blocked by a feline body.  So I roasted a butternut squash.  Nothing like adding heat and aroma at the same time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I'm gaining on it!

I managed to get all my beets canned.  And all my applesauce canned.  And it only took me a month.  For some reason, I was not all fired-up as I usually am.  I allowed the beets and apples to reside in my fridge (taking up any available space left by the behemoth cabbages - which are still there...) while I blithely ignored them.  It was ridiculous.

So I pulled up my BGPs and got at it on Saturday.  I canned regular diced beets, then whipped up some spiced pickled beets.  Then, since I was on a roll, I pulled out the apples and peeled and pared my little heart out.  The sheep and llama were thrilled with the peels and cores.  I tell you, the way to a llama's heart is paved with apple peels.

You'd think, with all the whinging and whining and carrying-on, that there would be acres of counter top covered with canned goods.  This was it:

All my beets were Chiogga
or Golden.
I will have to say, in my own defense, that I had to deal with (and am still dealing with) an unexpected fridge full of chard.  (BTW, the score is Me: 4  Voles: 0 - if you don't count the bushel of beets and rows of chard they demolished.)  But, still.  I mean, really.

For the record, I will now be making applesauce in full hazmat.  While stirring away, a molten blob of applesauce erupted out of the pot and hit me square in the eye!  Thank goodness it landed in the space right above the tear duct and not IN my eye.  Geez.  I had to very gingerly apply my handy-dandy aloe plant juice.  It's getting so that I'm not safe in or out of the house!

Pic from Amazon.com halloween
costume

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Himself.

It should come as no surprise that Pepper is not an easy subject to photograph.  As soon as he knows that you want him to do something - such as sit still for two seconds - he does the opposite.  I guess that is why I am so fond of dachshunds.  They remind me of me.

His sweater was finished early yesterday morning, just in time for the low teens of the morning.  As soon as I put it on him, he spent every waking hour trying to get it off.  I would come in the room to find him with the one-shoulder look, having managed to pry his flibber out of one sleeve.  In order to save the sweater, I only put it on him before bed - for the double-layer effect - and to go outside.  We seem to have reached d├ętente.

I finally put him on the table so
he couldn't go far.

He is rather adorable, if I do say so.
It's his saving grace.

Lovey, on the other hand, loves her jacket and wears it all of the time.  I am hoping that she will feel the same about her soon-to-be sweater.

I have everyone's rapt attention - I am
standing next to the crunchy treat jar...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Well....


No matter how often I hear the weather forecast that predicts the first snow, it always takes me by surprise.  It had just started falling, very gently, last night and this morning we had three inches fluffed up on the deck.  Lovey has never seen snow.  It only slowed her down for one nanosecond before she embraced it wholeheartedly and went romping off through the poultry yard - flinging nosefuls of it in the air.  Pepper was not as impressed, to put it mildly.  I had to forcibly remove him from his burrito wrapping, bed hair and all, and plop him unceremoniously on the path I had shoveled for him.  He gave me a withering glance over his shoulder before stalking off down the steps.  Where he left me a nice little present/bomb right in the middle of where I have to walk.  Touche!

I am 99% finished with his first sweater - having cobbled it together with odd lots from my stash.  At least it is washable and not pink.  I'm saving the pink for my girl...

(Seeing this pic reminds me that I left the latest mouse carcass on the bird feeder - off camera to the left.  Thank goodness (haha) it's not going above the mid 30s today.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Projects of the knitting kind.

I finally finished all the hatware for the little noggins.  I am now ready to start on Pepper's first sweater - I figure, given the fact that he's about 2.5 inches off the ground, he will need multiple sweaters.  One to wear while the others are washed and dried.  It's amazing how much fuss is involved with such a small dog.  Scrappy needs:  hugs, treats, hugs.  So that's easy enough.  Lovey needs:  hugs, treats and exercise.  Ditto.  Well, maybe a sweater, too.  Pepper needs:  a hearing aid, combing, hugs, anal gland cleaning, an extreme amount of treats, sweaters, blankets, and a whole lotta patience from his person...

I did manage to take pictures of the last of the kiddie lot:

 





My table is not red-orange, but so goes the weirdness of my phone camera.  Top to bottom:
Baby bonnet (color is a lovely blue-gray) with apple button and embroidered flower in front for my friend, Rosie's great-niece.  Twins' earflap hats with i-chord ties.  Twins' big sister's alpaca pixie hat with ties.  If you don't look closely (and if you do, well, you deserve what you see...:-/), they turned out pretty well.  It's fun to knit small things.  The bonnet was particularly fun because you knit it in one piece, starting from the chin strap.  And, gasp, it involved short rows!  And I wasn't afraid!!

Once Pepper's sweater is finished, I will have him model it.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Why sharing your life with dogs makes you smarter.

(Or, the alternate heading:  Why sharing your life with dogs can drive you to distraction and adult beverages.)

All of my dogs in my adult life have also been adults - or downright oldsters.  I LOVE me my oldster dogs.  Now I have a youngster - Lovey - and it is such a joy.  Until she shreds things.  And then.  Then there is Pepperoni.  NOT a youngster by any stretch of the imagination at age 13.  Minus 22 teeth.  But those remaining five teeth in his tiny noggin can do more damage than any puppy I've been up against.

Case in point - the Mouse Obsession Period.  That period when he ripped off (or gummed off, it was plenty soggy) a portion of the back of the couch skirting and chewed a lamp cord to bits.  He was a very lucky dog, in that it was plugged into the timer, so there was no juice with which to toast those five teeth.  Bugger.


I am sure it will come as no surprise to most of you that I was not inclined to replace my lamp, but to fix it.  I mean, how hard could it be?  I have numerous reference books on home repairs.  There is YouTube.  There is How-to-whatever.  I trotted off to Home Depot and bought a replacement cord.  It was over six bucks!  Really?

I then sat down to deconstruct the lamp.  I do have to admit that deconstructing stuff is way more fun than constructing it.  I have taken things apart gleefully since I was a kid.  Even the exploding golf ball didn't dampen my obsession.

A half hour later, I had managed to work my way through the lamp, using every screwdriver and wrench in my tool box.  I was following the cord, hoping to find the end where I could easily (cough) detach the chewed cord and attach the new one.  It was not easy.  This was because the lamp had been made in China for the new THROWITAWAY generation of Americans.  Pfft.  I had to cut the cord at the screw-on-thingy part (more tech-talk) and then go searching around for a replacement - I was determined not to spend another cent on this project.  I did finally find a replacement (of sorts) at my neighbor's.  He never throws anything away, thank goodness. 


I spent another hour, threading the new cord through the disassembled lamp, reassembling it as I went.  Paging carefully through my Readers Digest Home Repair Manual (thanks Mom and Dad), I was happy that the attachment looked easy.  Except for the fact that my replacement cord had no definition between silver and bronze (ground and live).  Sigh.  I looked at the package.  Made in China.  I took a technical leap (eeny, meeny, miney, moe....) and connected them.  Then I screwed in the bulb and plugged it in.  It lit!  So I finished my Jerry-rigged job and put the shade on and plugged it in.  It did NOT turn on.  I put it in the guest room to haul out for another day when I was feeling smarter.....

Friday, November 7, 2014

Oh, yum.

Excuse the pan - it's my most useful size
and I won't get rid of it.
Sometimes, being gluten free is not onerous.  Such as when I discovered these Blueberry Millet Muffins.  I used the last of the 2013 blueberries, the last two of my own eggs, my own raw milk yogurt and my new favorite grain: millet.  Or birdseed, as my neighbor pointed out.

These were the leftover batter muffins - it made about a dozen and a half, but these are large - and a chance to use an impulse purchase (fancy paper muffin cups).  For the rest, I used my can't-live-without silicone muffin cups.  I love them - easy to use, easy to clean, nothing heads to the landfill.

You can find the recipe here.   I used frozen blueberries, so my muffins have a lovely, sort of indigo undertone.  And indigo is my favorite color - next to any shade of green.  At first I thought having the raw millet interspersed in the muffin would be ... odd.  But I found that they lend a nice, satisfying, toothsome crunch.  (I love that word - toothsome - something that Pepper can only dream about.  I would think that "gumsome" would be more appropriate in his case.)

****

Yesterday I spent driving my parents around.  My mother had her eye treatment for macular degeneration in the city, so we have a tradition (my family is BIG on traditions) of going to eat at their favorite Chinese restaurant, ordering the same thing for lunch each time, then off to the medical center we go.  Unfortunately, we are always WAY early.  This means the wait is longer than the usual long wait.  There is nothing that tries the patience (of me) more than to sit for over an hour with two people who look at their watches and comment about the wait every five seconds.  I brought knitting to create some Zen vibes for me.  Speaking of which, I have now completed all of the small-fry knitting with the exception of some embroidery work on the bonnet.  I will take a pic of what I have not already mailed.  And I am hoping that the recipients will turn a kind eye on the imperfections (....Wes....xoxo).

****

I also squeezed in a much-needed haircut before picking up my parents.  And listened to the horrific account of her battle with a psycho husband over custody of their sons.  Good, goD.  The man is pure evil.  It made me appreciate even more, coming home to my dogs and cats.  At least there is no evil involved there, just the occasional cause-me-to-lose-my-mind thing.  Which, lately, has Pepper's little paw mark on it.

A few minutes after I got home (dark at 5:15), I got a call about joining friends at a book signing/reading in a nearby town.  Had I not been gone all day, I would have considered it, but I will not leave the dogs alone that long.  Plus, it was not an author who would make me consider an exception, as I find him to be one of those whiny types.  I almost reconsidered when I learned that he was bringing his dog, however.  You can see where my priorities lie.

****

The weekend holds a crummy weather forecast, lots of outside chores (funny how the two seem to always go together...), dinner with my parents at their favorite restaurant, a long over-due Girls' Night get together (I'm bringing Pink Lemonade Vodka Jello Shots - I'm bad...), a hay delivery (hallelujah - let's hope it happens), and I finally tackle the beets.  Speaking of which - do any of you have suggestions on how to tackle a vole problem?  I have tried a few things, to no avail.  I am considering poisoning the buggers, but am leery about poison in the garden, even though it will be used sparingly and in tunnels, and a full six months before planting season.  I figure there is a wealth of knowledge and experience out there....

Monday, November 3, 2014

Switching Modes.

Before there is any of the "thank goodness for winter now I can sit and do all those fun things I've been dreaming of since the onset of spring" stuff, there is Autumn.  I think that, although it IS my favoritest season of all, Fall is the most stressful of them all.  The day shrinks, the weather stinks (hey!  I'm a poet and don't know it!  But my feet show it - they's longfellows...heehee) things ramp up at the office, and the Universe picks up on my angst and whaps me. 

If I let my guard down even for a teensy, weensy second, I pay for it.  Case in point:  As soon as August nears it's end, I start to winterize my car.  This involves strewing peppermint-infused cloth bits from head to tail light.  Mice look for winter lodgings early, I have found.  I did not do this.  So...one crawled up into somewhere (most likely involving the heating unit) and died.  It has taken weeks to get to the point where I don't have to drive with my windows down while breathing through my mouth.  I did discover a nice, cozy mouse nest in the spare tire well.  I over-pepperminted and now have to crack the windows so my nose doesn't burn. 

The chickens are winterized because they have not laid ONE SINGLE EGG in over 13 days.  I figured a light in the coop might help.  And while I was lighting their residence, I decided to hook up their waterer heater.  And put more shavings inside.  And feed them more.  Ingrates.

Next up are the sheep and llama-by-default.  I spent yesterday afternoon cleaning out the hay storage part of their barn and setting up a higher barrier so that Apria cannot get her three teeth on a hay bale and haul it down so they can all gorge (and get squashed in the process).  My attempts were met by eight hairy eyeballs and only time will tell if it will work.  It was good to get things organized, though, and the set up is much better.  I should be getting a load of hay next Saturday - we are ready!

The cover over my fuel oil tank needs replacing.  The sheep need more space for winter, which entails emptying and moving the double composter, removing the sheathing from that side of the barn, framing out another 10x8 foot space and getting it enclosed.  I need to finish cleaning out the garden.  I need to clean up the peonies, bee balm and hostas.  I need a new snow shovel.  I need to move the sheep feeder through three paddocks, all uphill.  I need another three months and someone else's bank account.

Since this is the season of stocking up and I am not one to be able to walk away from a bargain, no matter how insane it might be, I had stopped a a local farm and was getting some winter squash since I had none (and none of my neighbors had any, either), when I happened to see a sign for 50# of small cull winter potatoes for $12.  With a free pie pumpkin thrown in.  Did I need 50# of potatoes?  Why even ask.  They were in the back of my car before you could say "Bob's my uncle".  I portioned them out amongst friends and then took about 20 pounds to a food pantry just south of me.  It was such an educational visit.  The people sitting in the church kitchen waiting for their bags to be put together were exhausted.  Exhausted from poverty; exhausted from life.  I realized that I live in an area where people are very lucky if they can find employment or, even better, get out of Dodge and find more opportunities for a better life.  I am darn lucky to have the wherewithal to grow my own food or, for that matter, to be able to own a car to drive to somewhere and buy local.  As you know, I am very big on buying/eating local.  I figured it was high time to put my money where my mouth is, so I drove back up to the farm and got another 50# of potatoes.  It's the best I can do because, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I have way more mouth than money....

Thursday, October 30, 2014

My Favorite Yarn.

I finally got my act together and took a quick snap of three of the 7 (8?) skeins I got from my DS, Melanie.  Her business is called "Dyenamics Yarn" and it is all hand-dyed.  In the MOST luscious colors.  I am very lucky in that I can text her and ask when the yarn store is open.  Then I zip over and fall upon the tubs of glorious colors.  I am hoping that, by opening nagging her, I will move her along towards getting her Etsy shop up so that everyone can partake of this yarny goodness.
(I am done now, Mel...for now...)

These skeins are all superwash merino.  She also has lovely natural wool from her Shetland sheep, some beautiful white Cormo yarn (worsted?) and tons of wonderful self-striping sock yarn. 

L to R - Starry Starry Night, Ivy and Iris

Since I am trying to be disciplined (never an easy task) and check off at least one item a day from the dreaded List, I will try to take a pic of my pile 'o knitting projects. before I send them all off.  Three went out in the post last week and I am hoping to get the last two mailings out this next week.  I have a mighty Chilly Dog waiting for his sweater....

Monday, October 27, 2014

Got Quirks?

Hoo boy, do I!  This weekend proved a disaster to my pre-winter outside prep work, thanks to cold drizzle or downright rain all weekend.  I did manage to knock a few things off the list, but very few.  Instead, I focused on inside work.  As I was out of granola again, that moved to the top of my list.  And, in the process, I managed to sort through, rearrange, toss out, and organize my dried stuff.  I found a small jar of dried strawberries and tons of dried apples.  Into the granola they went.

The quirky part of all this blah-blah-blah, is that I hate mixing the granola.  HATE it.  Because the only way I can make it the way I like it (with clumpy little bits of peanut butter), is to mix it with my hands.  I suffer from some kind of hand-phobia-thingy.  If I have to mix anything with my hands that may stick to my hands, I end up - after about one minute - running to the sink, holding my hands up, crying "ACK! ACK! ACK!" or something similar.  I cannot wait to get whatever it is off my hands.  You can imagine how long it takes me to mix up a meatloaf.  It's weird.  But, what is even weirder is that I discovered that I do not have the same reaction if I only mix whatever with one hand.  If one hand stays coating-free, I am fine.  Call the "head" doctor!

Mostly yesterday, though, I played hooky from my list and I knitted.  And knitted.  I have, so far, finished two pixie hats, a baby bonnet, a pair of fingerless mitts, and am zeroing in on another tot hat with earflaps and ties.  To go - another bonnet and another earflap hat.  I am a knitting fool.  This is abetted by my new stash of my favorite yarn - "Dye-namics" - from my DS Melanie!  I am going to take a picture of the remaining skeins and post them - her colorways are wonderful and she has the most wonderful sock-weight yarn that is between sport and fingering.  My mother (91 and still an avid sock-knitter) will only knit with Melanie's yarn.  I was very excited to hear that she is (finally) putting up an Etsy site.  Which I will plug mercilessly because A) she is my DS and I love her; B) her yarn is the BEST; and C) her colors and self-stripers are amazing.  And it's all hand-dyed and reasonably priced.  Who could ask for more?  No one.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Sorry State of Affairs.

I awoke yesterday morning without a voice.  This shouldn't be much of a problem, except for my Alvin and the Chipmunks routine.  The dogs stared in disbelief when I let out my breathy squeaks.  Then they ignored me.  I took a sick day and managed to slog around, downing cups of sick tea, Emergen-C, and water.  I also managed to finish knitting a toddler pixie hat, planted my winter peas, albeit not as many as I had hoped, since I pooped out quickly, and dry canned beans.  

That last little item is such a lifesaver! I had thought that I had to pre-soak the beans before I canned them and never remembered to.  Then my friend Jane from the late and lamented blog, Hard Work Homestead, clued me in.  These little pints of beans will be so useful!

I woke up this morning with a little more basso in my breathy squeak, but whatever reserves I had were used up within the first hour at work.  I am back to silence.  The dogs are still happy.  Especially Pepper, who now feels he has a reason for not responding....

***

Another sad state of affairs is the total lack of basic living skills had by many young people.  The young fellow with whom I work draggled in to show me his new winter coat (made in China) that he had purchased five days ago.  The buttons were already working themselves loose.  And he had no idea how to fix them.  None.  Nor, apparently, did his girlfriend.  Sigh.  I battened them down and told him that I was going to make him (and his girlfriend) a sewing kit and would teach him how to use it.  I mean....really.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Close Encounters of the Wild Kind.

Now that the days contain three hours of light...our morning constitutional is taken in the very early dawn.  Lovey is not fond of the darkish.  We totter down the steps from the front deck to the path, scattering rabbits in every direction.  Scrappy is not interested in wildlife.  Lovey is too spooked to care and I have a firm grip on "Killer's" leash.  All 10 lbs of him.

The road is nice and quiet and the sheep - for a change - just stare at us without bleating.  Our first encounter this morning involved a good-sized black and white 'kitty'.  Not.  Pepe le Pew was about 30 feet in front of us, waddling across the road.  Knowing that I did not have to fear some lunacy from Scrappy or Lovey, I scooped up "Jaws" and waited politely until PleP was well out of sight.  Down went "Snapper" and off we went, Lovey glued to my ankles.  The rest of the walk was uneventful, until we turned to head back home.

A very, very large coyote came out of the field and stopped in the middle of the road and stared at us.  Once again, I scooped up the "Morsel on a Leash", this time with Lovey AND Scrappy stuck to my side, and waited politely.  For a long time.  I swear he was waiting for me to blink.  I didn't.  He finally ambled across the road and up the hill into the woods.  We waited for another long moment before we started off.  I did not put the morsel down until we were on our driveway.

Wow.

*You will notice that Pepper/Pepperoni/Killer/Snapper/Jaws/Stinky/HeyYou has many aliases.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A questioning mind is a busy mind.

It's a good thing to have - a questioning mind.  It's better if the mind asks important questions like, "What is the meaning of life?", rather than, "Who are the idiots who designed this poultry waterer?!?"  I am sure I'm not alone when I wonder if any of the nimrods involved in the design of poultry waterers ever had to clean one.  I sincerely doubt it. 

My mind asked many questions this weekend.  Towit:  "If I have three pieces of applesauce cake and then go clean the chicken coop, will the intake of calories/expending of calories be a draw?"  Or, "If I give Lovey a piece of rawhide, will she be distracted enough to leave the applesauce cake alone?"  Or, "Why do dogs eat rabbit poop?"

I had a busy and productive weekend - Saturday threw me a few curve balls but, I am nothing if not flexible.  I was going to hang out two loads of laundry, pick apples early in the morning, then circle back, get feed, drive to VT, drop off two bags at Goodwill, pick up scratch feed (another ploy in my so far unsuccessful attempt to motivate the hens back into laying eggs - sluggards), get cheap gas, visit with my parents, pick up eggs (the shame of it) and my weekly pumpkin from a farm stand on my way home, then start on my to-do list.  I did it all but the apple-picking.  As I headed south to the apple farm, it started to rain (so much for the early start on my laundry).  I got feed, and headed north to VT.  After lunch with my parents, I headed over to an apple farm on the NY/VT border and picked up a couple bags of utility apples, then headed south towards home.  As luck would have it, the farmer was at his farm stand - I have been wanting to meet him for months.  I was sure he was in his 90s, but he is in his 70s.  Farming is a hard way to make a living.  Delightful man - we had a lively talk about cows, dairy farms, taxes (inevitable, if you live in the Vampire State of NY), land values, neighbors, chickens, the good old days.  I got a dozen eggs and a lovely pumpkin (for $1) and his promise that I could have all the pumpkins he didn't sell for my sheep.  Dave and I are now on a first-name basis.

I have found that the best way to get anything done after a morning like that, is to keep moving.  No sitting allowed!  I took the dogs out for a romp, then headed toward the garden. 

**Aside - I am starting to remind myself of Dave from Alvin and the Chipmunks.  I let the dogs out, they run around and do their business, Lovey and Scrappy trot back.  Where's Pepper?  "Pepper."  "Pepper!"  "PEPPER!!"  "PEPPER!!!!!"  He walks back at a maddeningly slow pace, avoiding eye contact, "oKAY!"

I made a millet and broccoli bake that was good, albeit too salty.  I need to heed my instincts - I thought there was too much in the recipe, but followed it blindly through.  I marked it for next time.  It was tasty - cooked millet, roasted broccoli, a cheddar cheese sauce, and more cheese. 

Sunday, I got up, made the aforementioned applesauce cake - my favorite GF baked good - walked the dogs, did more laundry, and went back outside.  I got the poultry yard cleaned up, cleaned the chicken coop, raked the sheep yard, did some manure-moving, did more garden clean up and planted my garlic.  I also cleaned my Berkey filters (six months late on that job) and did some housecleaning.  I had invited my neighbor over for dinner on purpose.  I realize that, if I do not have a reason to stop, I will work twelve hours straight.  This is not what I want to do on a Sunday.  So I worked until four, did my evening chores early, and made an inventive meatloaf.  This entails poking around in the freezer and fridge, looking for things that need using, and that could possible disappear nicely into a wad of cooked meat.  I ended up using a pound of grassfed ground beef, a half pound of breakfast sausage, the rest of some thawed garlic scape pesto, GF bread crumbs, a precious egg, and I basted it with homemade chili sauce.  It was a success!  I was also going to try olive oil, herb mashed potatoes, in my efforts to diet, but was too knackered by then.  I used my own Kennebecs, homemade raw milk yogurt, an assortment of fresh herbs that haven't been frozen in my garden, and my homemade butter.  For a vege, I sliced Brussels sprouts very thinly, sauteed some of my thinly sliced onions in bacon fat, and then stirred the sprouts in and slowly cooked it until semi-roasted.  The nice thing about older neighbors is that they are all for leaving early....

After dishes, I fell asleep over my latest knitting project and toted the wiener dog off to bed.





Friday, October 10, 2014

Sequeing into Winter.

 


This is my favorite tree.  It positively glows red - like a huge, brief flare. 

I have been working on getting the garden and outside ready for winter.  This entails checking off my extensive list.  Having learned from (many) mistakes over the years, I keep a master list in a notebook and check it off each fall.  Too many things have fallen through the cracks when I attempt to re-make the list each year.

 
Every year I try to add one thing to make winter easier.  Things like heated water buckets, outside lighting and...the garage.  I still get all giddy about it.  It may not be much, but it is going to make my wintertime life easier.  I will be able to store my wheelbarrows and Snow Wolf in it.  I will not have to scrap an inch of ice off my windows.  I will be easier to live with.

 

The kids will benefit from this, believe you me.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fall bounty.

 

While I am secretly relieved that tomato season has come and gone, I actively excited about what has to be my favorite vege season - autumn!  I L.O.V.E. squash, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, carrots - you get the drift.  I especially love roasted vege and, most especially, Brussels sprouts.

My BFF Sylvie makes the best roast vegetables ever.  EVER.  I can take the same vegetables, in the same pan, at the same temperature, for the same amount of time and mine are not as good.  She is the vegetable whisperer.  That does not stop me, however.  I roast vegetables at the drop of a hat.  Especially now that the heat from the oven is a welcomed addition to my chilly house.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Girding ourselves in fleece.

I suppose I must throw in the towel and admit that summer is - sigh - over.  It was a crisp 30* this morning and the frost was on the pumpkins.  And the popcorn.  And the deck.

I had left Pepper sound asleep on the chair-and-a-half, swaddled in a towel, snoring away, when I went to bed.  At 2A, I was jolted out of sleep by pitiful wailing and scratchings at my bedroom door.  I opened it, looked down, and there was the pitiful black and tan mop, shivering and looking up mournfully.  Then he bolted through the door and flung himself at my bed.  I snuggled him between pillows and down comforter and he was out.  I took pity on him and let him sleep as long as he wanted - he lasted until 7!  Not a morning dog.

When I got up for good, I went into the living room to find Lovey trying to crawl under Scrappy.  I rummaged around and found Bernie's fleece coat (which she abhorred) and put it on Lovey.  After she decided that it was not going to attack and consumer her, she decided it was very nice.  I built a fire in the fireplace, made a cuppa and sat down with my knitting.


All, in all, a very fine start to a Monday morning.  Not counting having to clean up the mouse bits, strewn down the hall...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The week that was...

wonderful.  After working myself into a frenzy to get everything ready (and cleaner) for my sister and parents, I set off for South Portland, Maine, early Friday morning.  I could not have asked for better weather.  In fact, I could say that Friday, Saturday and Sunday were the nicest weather in quite a long time.  Obviously, the stars and Universe aligned and took pity on me.  Kidding.

I am not going to bore you with the details of my short-but-sweet vacation, but here's the gist:

Wardrobe Infusion - I packed very light, knowing that we would be heading to the local Goodwill almost upon my arrival.  I was not disappointed, thanks to the almost supernatural talents toward winnowing out the best of the best by Sylvie.  I now have new khakis and five new tops.  That does not include the lovely scarf, jeans and shirts that I inherited from Sylvie's personal winnowing.  AND it does not include the great long sleeved tees that I got at my favorite discount, Maine-only department store - Reny's.  I LOVE Reny's.

My daily (almost) dose of Dog.  Hard to believe he is cuter in person.  A sweet-natured, adorable cuddler.  Cosmos is the adopted dog of Sylvie's daughter, Julie and family.  Lucky dog.  Lucky family.  A better match couldn't have been made in, well, the Cosmos!


 
Views, saltwater, sea air, ship traffic, clear skies, picturesque walks (did I mention the weather was glorious?).

The lighthouse at Fort Williams Park in
Cape Elizabeth.
 
Off the coast - looking towards the harbor.

Empty freighter making its way back
out to sea - I lost the bet as to how long it
would take to reach us.

The ruins of the mansion on Fort Lee.

Close up.
Bug Light - my favorite Portland
lighthouse.

Two giant ocean liners in port.
 
Great food!  And great Drink!  And even greater Conversation!

Jim, preparing the best crab cakes I have
ever eaten!

I capped the trip off with a quick in/and/out visit to Portland's Trader Joe's.  It was perfection.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Moving along.

After a very emotional weekend, I finally woke up this morning without, "is it all worth it?" being the first thing on my mind.  I have concluded that, yes, it is all worth it.  Good times, bad times, sad times.

Sunday, I tried the "if I start working on stuff and keep working on stuff and don't quit until I am half-comatose, maybe I will sleep" approach.  I have to admit, I did, indeed, sleep Sunday night.  But I was so exhausted that I had a hangover feeling on Monday that didn't (drat) have anything to do with the aftermath (and enjoyment) of adult beverages.  In any event, I got my garage up (with massive amounts of help from my neighbor).

That's right!  Whee-haw!  Good old Kyle has a snug bunk for the winter.  And, for the first time in weeks, I did not have to wipe down all the windows on my car in the morning.  We have been having warmish days and frigid nights, the combination of which coats all exposed surfaces with heavy dew.  I will try to remember to take a picture of Garagie - providing I still have working brain cells enough to remember.

On Sunday, I roasted a half bushel of Italian peppers (medium hot), peeled them - cursing mightily - and canned them this morning.  I cut and froze another bunch of sweet peppers and stuffed them in the freezer.  I roasted a chicken in my friend, Lisa's clay roaster.  I baked a plum crumble.  I baked for the barn and went to spend some quality time with Jasmine and Alice.  I got caught up on the local gossip.  I worked in the garden.  I dug a hole and tucked Cookie and his BFF Woody's cremains securely in.  I piled a million rocks on it.  It's a challenge, hole-digging.  It took a shovel, pick ax, post hole digger, and steel rod, not to mention finally getting down on my knees and digging with my hands.  It took over an hour.  But, it was cathartic.

I also hand-pulled most of the thorny weeds that were not-so-slowly taking over the middle sheep paddock.  All in all, it was a physically exhausting day - it was just what I needed.

Now I have to focus on cleaning the house and getting everything ready for the arrival of my house sitter.  My DS Cynthia is coming for a long weekend to look after things, freeing me to travel to South Portland to visit my BFF Sylvia.  It's a short trip, but oh-so needed.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Freaky Friday.

It's been a long week, filled with mostly lows.  Not that we didn't fight hard for some highs.  Sleep has eluded me most nights this week, as I am listening so intently for any sound from the sick room.  This has led to an odd shift in my schedule.

Dewy spider web in the mint
this morning.
Yesterday, I was back up to the vet early in the morning.  A new course of meds were prescribed and we returned hopeful.  They did not help, however.  As these new meds had to be given mid-day, I took a mental health day and spent it intermittently checking on Cookie and ripping things out of my garden.  There is something so cathartic about ripping out dying tomato plants, especially when you're thinking about ripping the liver out of the Universe.  Nice visual, no?

The dogs and cats have been clinging to me like various sized-strips of Velcro.  I don't know how many times I almost squashed Pepper.  They know something is amiss.  When I was done cleaning out the garden, I turned my wrath on my bags of broccoli and froze most of it.  Then I whirled around and ripped out noxious weeds in the sheep pasture.  Then I raked grass seed in with fury and muscled the lemon and fig trees inside (temps in the low 30*s forecast for this morning).

I was exhausted but, I didn't want to sleep.  I assume this was because I thought that I could conjure up some miracle by sheer fortitude.  Well, I couldn't.  At midnight, when I awoke the first time, I got up, bundled up, snapped on my headlamp and moved the youngster chickens to their halfway house.  One would think, being chickens, that they would be all loggy and limp.  Not.  These are the screaming and fainting variety, no matter what the description of the breed said.  But they are moved.

Then I came in and went back to bed and to sleep.  Until 2.  Then I forced myself to sleep and was sorry I did.  Two and a half hours of diabolical dreams had me willing myself awake at 4:30.

I made the call to the vet this morning.  Cookie has not eaten anything since Monday.  He can't keep anything down.  He is like an 85 year old man with extreme anemia.  We had a talk this morning, Cookie and I.  I explained everything as best I could and he didn't seem to complain.  I will sure miss my Pollyanna Man.  A beautiful, loving and endlessly cheerful guy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Is it just my imagination?

Or do I actually have a target printed on my back.

My boy in healthier days.
This morning started off with Cookie, my large sweetie-pie 14 y/o cat, projectile vomiting blood.  It was scary.  I managed to get the basic chores done, called my vet, rolled Cookie in a towel like a burrito and slipped him into his carrier.  Then shot off to the vet's office a half hour away.

The vet just called me to tell me that he is one sick boy.  No surprise there.  But what was a complete surprise was the cause - he has, in layman's terms, the equivalent of cat malaria.  And a very serious case of it.  Malaria?  Really?  He is an indoor only cat - as are all three.

Even more odd is that my vet has seen two other cases besides Cookie.  Which is alarming, in that I have two other cats.  Although he said it has not been a 'familial' occurence in the other cases, there is that big target on my back.

Excuse me while I go check the balance on my credit card....

Monday, September 15, 2014

What a beautiful sight.


My weekend goal was to finish the tomatoes.  Finito.  Over and out.  As I hefted the last of the diced tomatoes out of the canner, I did a happy dance.  Now the real challenge - going through the stock and sorting out the old from the new, the never-will-be-touched, from the eat-all-the-time.  I am gearing up for a challenge - to not set foot in a grocery store for a year.  To not buy anything but coffee, oil and grains for a year.  I imagine meals will get pretty interesting in the latter months of '15.

It turned out to be a perfect fall weekend.  Saturday was mostly rainy - fine for indoor work (of which there was plenty).  I picked up feed and stopped to walk with a couple of friends just before the rains started.   I did not do my overload of cooking this weekend, deciding to work on emptying the bushel baskets that were haunting me.  I did manage to check off a few of the to-dos on my list - clean out the small coop, laundry, clean the cat's room, vacuum.  While turning the sheep out into their weekend paddock, I happened to look to the far corner of the front fence.  That darned Linden.  I finally found where he had broken out - he took down the corner t-post, brace and reinforcement and squeezed his tubby body under the fence.  They were in confinement the rest of the weekend - and until further notice.  Until I get the time to repair the fence, that is.

As I sat down with a glass of kombucha, enjoying the end of the canning, my dog alarm went off and a friend stopped by with a large bag of plums.  Sigh.  As soon as the cherry tomatoes are out of the dehydrator, looks like plums are next up.

I still have to deal with the plethora of beets, kale, chard and my winter supply of applesauce.  Oh, right.  And the peppers.  Looks like I better keep the canner out.

Kramer took advantage of the empty planter and brief sunshine on Sunday.

Friday, September 12, 2014

More Hot Stuff.

Curtido.
The last of the chili peppers went into the Excalibur this morning, with one tray of jalapenos.  I have about three more trays-worth and the hot peppers are done.  Since the guest room/root cellar is also my drying room, I had to move the potatoes, garlic and curtido to a cooler spot.  I decided to try it - it's been fermenting for a couple of weeks.  It still had a nice crunch, so I capped up the smaller jar and put it in the fridge.  It is a spicy sauerkraut type condiment.  I really like it and can sit it paired with all kinds of things.  The larger jar will continue to ferment for another week or so both for more probiotic content and because I  have no room in the fridge! 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hot stuff.

While that could have been me about a hundred years ago, today it refers to my most recent kitchen-work.  Dehydrating hot peppers.  Thanks to the bounty of Moses Farm (those Moses of the Grandma Moses Moses...), I had a nice pile of various hot peppers to dry.  I love, love, love spicy food - although it doesn't like me as much as it used to.  Even so, I still try to spice things up as much as I can take.  This usually means a violent coughing/choking jag at the onset, then my system settles down and I can carry on. 

These beautiful chili peppers are destined to be dried and ground:


Shortly after this was taken, I had to go to the back of the house.  In that short time span, Lovey - she who has decided to surf the counters - carted off a line of them into the living room.  I do believe she only got one tooth in one pepper before there was some serious and lengthy slurping of the water dish.  Good thing she didn't try to taste test the habaneros...

Besides all the tomato processing, I am going to take advantage of the lovely peppers (non-hot) and make up a few batches of a great vegetarian stuffed pepper recipe.  Following the lead of my hero, Mama Pea, I am going to freeze up a number of future dinners.  Bring on winter!  (Kidding.  It can just take it's good old time and arrive in January....)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The faster I go, the behinder I get.

You won't be hearing a lot from me the next week or so.  I am canning my hiney off and trying to keep up with the endless list of to-dos outside.  I thought I would give you a quick update so you didn't think I had fallen off the edge of the earth.

My tomatoes were very "meh" this year.  Since I have access to a cornucopia of tomatoes and peppers at the farm field, I think I may restrict my tomato-growing to a couple of cherries and an heirloom or two.  (Would someone volunteer to remind me in the Spring?  Before the seed catalogues arrive?)  My peppers are taking an ICE AGE to ripen, thanks to the weird weather this summer.  After going through a week of high, humid temps, we are now in the 40s in the morning.  My peppers are confused.  I have to yank the cucumbers this weekend - I am so over them.  Thanks to very little rain, my beloved popcorn is starting to topple - I am watering them morning and night now.  I kept waiting for Ma Nature to step in.  Fickle wench.

The small coop needs cleaning out this weekend, so that I can get it ready for the Screaming Meemies - also known as the Langshans.  I have never, in my poultry raising history, had such a hysterical bunch.  This should be fun.  The enclosure needs to be replaced, but there is no time on my schedule for the next few months to do it, so it's been relegated to next year.  We will all have to manage.

I am dehydrating peppers and canning various tomato products on a daily basis.  I think I may follow my friend, Fiona's lead and start dehydrating tomatoes with snipped basil on top.  What a great snack idea!  Also on the list of to-dos is to sort through my canning stock to see what needs using up.  My great plan to catalogue my canned goods was derailed this past winter by....who knows....so I am paying for it now.

Work has been exceptionally stressful these past two weeks.  It's a reporting period, which is bad enough, but now that I am a Team Of One, all the rest of the duties are keeping me hopping.  The good thing is that it makes the day go fast.  The bad thing is that it means I am quickly depleting my wine supply...

I went out last night to feed the sheep and, lo and behold, Linden was on the wrong side of the fence.  The gate was intact, there were no holes, lifts, pushdowns or other breaches of the fence line.  The only thing I could figure was that he managed to squeeze his 'fluffy' self through the bungee'd gate and pop out the other side.  He has always been my problem child.  I had to trot quickly into the barn and get a scoop of grain to lure him back in.  He must have been out for a while, as he was pretty darn thirsty.  I have now (I hope) Lindenized the gate.

 
All's well that ends well.
Hard to believe that THAT can fit through
this...


There were two heavy-duty bungees
on the gate.  There are now THREE.