Friday, January 31, 2014

Getting back up to speed.

Albeit a slower speed, but I had a flash a day ago, where I was standing in the kitchen humming away - and it dawned on me that I felt...normal!  What a relief!  I have quite a lot on my agenda for this weekend, but I feel up to it and am looking forward to making some headway.  There is nothing more frustrating than watching the days click along, while your list sits idly by.

On the agenda for the weekend:  bake brown rice bread; GF oat bagels (using the term loosely at best); dog biscuits; skirt one fleece; clean the house; laundry; car shopping; llama bean clean up - buckets full to be spread over my rhubarb bed; light chicken coop clean up - hopefully, the deep freeze will lift long enough for me to chip off surfaces.  I'm having a friend over for breakfast on Sunday for her birthday.  I hope she likes her lap duvet.  I will have to take a picture of it.

I also finished the dreaded hand towel - I do like how it turned out (sorry, it's a little dark) - and I do like the fact that it is securely attached to the oven door handle so that the Boyz don't bat it across the kitchen floor.  I might just knit up another, but it won't be that pattern.  Erk.

I also need to do my weekend cook-off for the week, although I have no idea at this point what it will be.  Since I am working my way through my packed freezer and over-stocked pantry shelves, I am sure I can come up with something!  My goal this year is to not enter the grocery store at. all.  It's going to be tough to go without salad until spring, but I can do it.  I have plenty of vegetables, both frozen and canned, to keep my quota up.  It will be an interesting challenge.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Let's play the Homestead Edition of Clue...

I came home last night, changed to barn boots and headed out to the chicken coop with Scrappy in tow - as usual.  As I scanned the white expanse, my head lamp picked up an image that should not have been there - a dark blot on the landscape.  It was one of my banty hens - dead as a doornail, belly up, feet pointing to the sky.  Crap.  I looked around as best I could in the dark and then eased her out of the snow.  Her back was shredded.  I placed her out of Scrappy's reach and went into the coop.  In the corner, under the lamp and behind the waterer/heater was evidence of a vicious struggle - her little feathers everywhere.  I did a quick head count and everyone else seemed there and intact.  Since it was too dark to tell what had happened, I placed the hen in an empty bin for examination during daylight hours.  It was a sad thing.

Had the roosters gotten in a fight and she was in the wrong place at the wrong time?  Had something gotten into the coop and attacked just her?

This morning I went out to investigate.  Quickly, because it was still below zero.  What I found was evidence of another strike - black feathers this time.  I followed the feathers to one of the chicken structures and....


Fortunately for me, and unfortunately for Mr. Hawk, he did not follow the advice of master criminal minds.  Never, EVER, revisit the scene of your crime.

Mr. Hawk was in the A-frame, snacking on Victim #2, one of my Ameracauna pullets.   Let's just say I will make it my business that this is his last free meal...

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

If it's Tuesday, I must be driving a ....

(fill in the blank)!  Since losing my car to suicide, I have been bouncing between rides.  The price you pay for living way out in the sticks.  (Where did that saying come from?  Do they mean sticks as in trees?  Sticks as in burrs that stick to every surface, furred or clothed?)  I was thinking that it would be very livable to be car-less if I were retired.  I would, of course, occasionally need a car, but, for the most part, I could get along pretty well without one.  (Queen of Denial here - lalalalalala)

I borrowed my dad's 1996 Dodge Ranger pickemup for the first part of my car-less life.  This old guy (the truck) is a reliable back-up and runs like a top.  It does, however, have a wonky speedometer and will only start in neutral.  And it is traction-challenged.  This presents a problem in the present season.  I went from the truck to my friend, Melanie (aka my third sister)'s extra car, a Subaru Baja.  All this bouncing around from vehicle to vehicle has made me realize a few things:  I have the best family and friends in the ENTIRE UNIVERSE; I have reached a point in my life that I crave an automatic transmission; traction is everything.  The dead carcass of my car sits in the mechanic's lot, waiting for me to make up my mind.  Do I continue to hunt for an affordable engine?  Do I scrap her?  I have given myself a deadline of Friday to decide one way or the other.

In other news, the Polar Vortex From Hell continues to plague us.  The chickens are miserable and bored, and even Little Bit has been allowed to stay the coop during the day.  He had been shunned and forced to live out his days in one of the outbuildings, until just about dark - when he edged his way to the door and darted inside, made a beeline for an empty nesting box, and maintained a low profile until he was booted out in the morning.  The sheep and llama are all packed in the run-in shed.  The goats are very vocal about their displeasure at the unending frigidity of the weather.  Scrappy spends all his time wrapped, burrito-like in his fleece blanket - refusing to budge in case Kramer darts in and takes the warm spot.

I am getting a lot done inside.  I tackled my pantry closet and sorted out everything that I had not used/would not be using.  Everything was either recycled to the hens or passed on to my parents (ginger spread, fig preserves).  I finished knitting a pair of socks, only to find that they are child-sized.  Sigh.  Stay tuned for a giveaway.  I am 99% finished with a new cotton/linen hand towel that hangs on the oven door handle.  I find this works best for me, as the cats like to yank them down and then bat them around.  This was a new pattern and one that I will not try again.  For some reason, my brain would not grasp it, so instead of being a piece of light knitting in between heftier projects, it was a pain in the ass.  I have the cross strips of my potholder rug sewn together.  Now all that's needed is for me to find the picture I took of the layout (thank goD I remembered to snap it!) so I can complete it.  I finished a lap duvet - my first limited attempt at quilting - for a friend's birthday and will "wrap" it in a feed bag tote.  Of which I have many...  Next on the needles are a new pair of heavy-duty mittens.  Or maybe I will put some rustle in my bustle and felt the mittens I knitted two years ago.  This week I plan on hauling out the first of many fleeces to skirt.  I have to sort them out - which ones I will clean and process myself (doncha love how confident I sound?) and which ones will go to the mill. 

An interesting end result of the IFH (Influenza from Hell), is that I no longer crave coffee.  I have turned into a tea drinker.  It's weird.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Winter Survival: Nerd Hat with Earflaps

It's no surprise that those of us who have to trudge out in below-zero weather to deal with frozen gates, water, doors, and crabby critters do not hold to fashionista status.  While the indoor motto may be "Less is Better" (as in fuel oil consumption), outside our motto is "Layer it ON!".  One of my favorite pieces of outdoor gear is newly acquired.  I do have the ubiquitous fur-lined bomber hat because they are/were chic.  However, it makes my head hot, slides down over my eyes and is more of a nuisance than a help.  While rummaging around in the sale bin of a local feed store earlier this winter, I came across this:

Modeled by our own Green Nana
It is PERFECT!  Fleece lined, lightweight, nice, snug ear flaps that Velcro under your chin.  It even has a little elastic shirring across the back to hold the back flap close to your neck.  AND it has a fetching little button on the top.  But, best thing of all - it has a bill/visor/brim!  This shades your eyes from the sun (whatzat?), keeps snow from flying in your face, and is the perfect parking spot for the next piece of survival gear - the headlamp!  This is, by far, my favorite bit of gear.  It allows me to see where I'm going, keeps both hands free, and lights up an amazingly large path.

I went through a few renditions of the headlamp before I chanced upon this model.  The first one strapped across my forehead, laden down with six batteries.  It gave me a headache and slowly slid down to the bridge of my nose, rendering me blind.  Next one was a lighter version of that one - with only 4 batteries - which allowed me to step up my nightly chores to a fever pitch before it inevitably slid down my brow.  This is perfecto.  Speaking of light - I am noticing that the days are getting longer - and Puxatawney Phil is due to step up to the plate this coming Sunday.  While I am not a believer in the supernatural powers of rodents, I find myself crossing my fingers and toes for a forecast of early spring.  Lawsymercy do we need it!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Found on the road. Dead.

This morning, approximately 11:30, an unassuming, grey, middle-aged Subaru Forester committed suicide, on a whim, by filleting her engine block with a wild piston.

May it rest/rust in pieces.  Amen.

Well, well, well.

I was going to title this post "An Unfortunate Series of Events", but I believe that has already been done.  I do remember saying to myself, "Pollyanna, you know, 2014 is going to be the BEST YEAR EVER.  You just wait and see.  A year of new adventures, 'firsts', promise, hope, whoop de freakin do."  Okay, I did add that last bit in just recently.  Just now.

Here is my year to date, all 22 days of it, in one, long, run-on sentence, just to take some of the sting out of it:  major car repairs; frozen pipes; fuel oil tank repair; plumbing repairs; sick hen; lame sheep; first flu from hell in over 15 years; pink eye - another first; dead car; major towing bill; foster failure in a bad way.

Yes, besides contracting an influenza virus (bacterial based - is that possible?) which has also led to incurring pink eye for the first time EVER, and having to be out of the office using more sick days than I've accrued (another first), on my way home from the doctor/pharmacist, I was driving down the main road towards home when - BANG - went my car.  All the indicator lights went on, the engine made non-engine sounds, and I managed to get it off to the side of the road before it died.  And did I mention that the temperature WITHOUT wind chill was -11?  So I sat for a bit and laughed because why the heck not at this point?  As I was dialing up AAA, a very nice man pulled over to help.  When we popped the hood, it was obvious that something had broken - probably a belt - which had then ripped off a hose and the entire inside of the engine was covered in oil.  My Good Samaritan gave me a ride all the way home, where I called AAA from the warm comfort of home.  And discovered that Lucy had counter surfed her way across all surfaces, destroying most of my cache of Emergen-C, devouring an entire stick of butter, shredding boxes, knocking anything loose to the floor.  That, combined with another cat incident last night, made me realize that ours was not the right home.  I have no way of keeping her out of the kitchen.  I know I won't remember to keep my counters completely empty.  And I won't always be there to intervene vis a vis Lucy and the cats.  It is very sad, because she is a dear and we were making strides.  But she needs more supervision than I can give her and she needs to be in a cat-free home.

Let me see.  What is the upside to all of this....hmmmm.  Hmmmmmm.  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.  Okay, here goes:  there was a good Samaritan who came to my aid and kept me from freezing solid in my car! AAA can tow the car to my mechanic in Bennington, as it appears to be JUST inside of their tow limit of 25 miles!  I get the first three of those 25 miles FREE.  It will only cost me under $100 for the rest of the tow!  It appears that I managed to battle my way through the flu without having to take antibiotics!  And it only took me a little over a week!  There may be a chance they can fix my car without my needing to find one to use for the rest of the week!  Maybe!  I have to stop now!  I've used up all my exclamation points!!!

(P.S.  I don't know how the damn ad got on my blog, but I don't sponsor them, or them me, or want them anywhere near me.  If you know how to get rid of them, do tell...)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cement shoes, razor blades, damp cotton wool, and an update on Lucy Le Pew.

After years of good health, no sicknesses other than the occasional sniffle - which was quickly vanquished with a few applications of Emergen-C, I was totally unprepared for the major virus that slammed me last week.  Starting Tuesday night, and still in place today I have been clad in cement shoes, feel like I swallowed razor blades, my head is swathed in damp cotton wool, and I whine alot.  The upside is that it is not strep as my doctor originally thought - which means no antibiotics.  I am anti-antibiotics.  But I am frustrated that it won't just go away.  I have drunk gallons of tea - I had one of those 'aha' moments a couple of days ago, when I remembered I had won a dry quart of herbal 'sick' tea mix in a blog giveaway.  I figured out would still be good and rummaged around until I found it. Coincidence or not, after slugging down a quart of the stuff, heavily laced with raw honey, my throat pain eased substantially.  Hooray!  Now I am left with the cement body suit and cotton wool.  I am not a good patient.  I am also glad that I have a long weekend in which to get myself back up to normal strength.  I did, however, take Friday off.  My doctor threatened me, good-naturedly, and I didn't argue.

Lucy had her vet appointment Saturday, so off we slogged the hour and fifteen minutes to their vet.  They are very nice and Lucy is amazing in the car.  No pacing, no panting, no trying to get in the front seat.  She just settles in and enjoys the ride.  (Another upside of this now-head cold is that I cannot smell anything.  Even stinky dog.)  They gave her a once over, took blood, cleaned and medicated her ears (both are infected) and then fired off the info to the rescue.  I was pretty disappointed with their response.  They said to hold off running the blood test for another two weeks (which means I have schlep out there AGAIN), don't want to deal with her ulcerated skin tumor just yet, and generally made the whole trip unnecessary.  Except for the ear treatment.  I don't know if they are holding out for me to step up and adopt her - which I can't afford to do in any conceivable way - hoping that I will be caught between wanting to do the best for her and knowing that it is highly unlikely that anyone would adopt her in her present state.  I am aware of the costs of testing, biopsies, etc.  All to well.  But I don't think that a wait-and-see attitude is necessarily the best - especially when dealing with an unknown tumor and obvious symptoms that something is not working.  Nope, I am not a happy camper.  I'll have to do the best I can for her and enjoy my temporary, but very welcomed lack of smell.  Lucy seems to be settling in just fine.  The cats are still horrified - she still seems to be way too interested in them - Scrappy is stoic.  She's getting close to mastering the steps, she walks on a lead way better and she counter surfs.  This last bit of info is not great - I am not used to a dog that is large enough to cruise the counters.  I have to be diligent about putting things away and out of reach.  Being diligent is difficult when one's brain is swathed in damp cotton wool. I'm lucky I can put one cement-shod foot in front of the other.

Lucy and I walked out of our vet appointment into a heavy snowfall.  It was pretty exciting on the way home.  For me, at least.  She was sacked out in the backseat.  I had just enough time to drop her off before I had to head up to meet a delightful young man who is in the process of building a working farm.  He raises Old Spot pigs, chickens, vegetables and is brimming full of good ideas.  He's just the type of new farmer this country needs, and I sure hope he does well.  I am going to promote his CSA (he does both a Vege and Meat CSA) as much as I can.  Being pretty self-sufficient, I am not in the market for either membership, but I would sure jump on the wagon if I decided to give up gardening and raising my own meat chickens.  He's also a talented web designer - take a look:  Hill Hollow Farm.  We schlepped all over the farm as he gave me the overview of his big plans.  I'm sold.  I was very happy that I had all wheel drive for the trip back down the mountain.  It just made me long for spring even more.  Is it April yet?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Winter Survival: Slipper Socks

Do note the jammie bottoms...

When it comes to heating my house, I take a "less is more" attitude.  This is witnessed by the multiple layers worn by savvy visitors and family upon entering Inicio de Poca Suerte (Home of Little Lucky - I am feeling bilingual).  I can blissfully sail through the chilly atmosphere thanks to a variety of survival gear that I have amassed during the (almost) eight years I've been here.  You've met The Geezer Sweater - now meet "Slipper Socks". 

I came across these in a catalog priced at a deep discount.  Even though I may have purchased them on a whim, I cannot make it through winter mornings without them.  They are (supposedly) hand knit, of thick, pure wool, with a double sole - heavy knit bottom with a sewn-on leather sole.  Honestly, it could be 32 degrees in the house and my toes would be toasty.

I have put on my long-term, many-paged list "Learn to knit slipper socks", but, in the nonce, I have found and purchased a back-up pair.  Way too often I have found some wonderful piece of clothing, pair of shoes, etc., only to find they have been discontinued when I go to replace them.  I am taking no chances this time.  I figure, by the time I thoroughly wear out both pair of slipper socks, I will have mastered making them.  Or so I hope.  Either that, or I change plans and move to New Mexico.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

I Love Lucy.

Even though she's as much a Labrador as I am the reincarnation of Margaret Thatcher, she is a sweet, sweet ...mess.  When I met her Friday night, it was chaotic and dark.  The rescue guy loaded her belongings into the back of the car: bed (stinky), blankie (stinky), Buppy; and then he handed me a large zippy bag full of meds.  Wha?  Then Lucy came out and, even in the dark, there was no hint of Labiness.  "What," I asked D, "screamed LAB when you looked at her?"  "Dunno, they just said she was a Lab."  My confidence in their thoroughness is waning.

She was huge, long-haired, pointy-headed and made of Velcro.  She also has apparent allergies (he wasn't sure as to what she was allergic), a thyroid problem (ergo the stinkiness), lots of bare, flaky skin, and an ulcerated skin tumor.  But, besides that, she was perfect....

Scrappy is still in shock at the appearance of the large, stinky dog, but he is bearing up like the champ he is.  The cats are another story and, if the four of them (Lucy and the Boyz) don't warm up, she may not be able to stay with us.  Which would be a shame, because she's obviously the sweetest dog on the planet who has been bounced around from place to place, with the barest of care and concern.  Drives me nuts.

Saturday was spent begging my groomer friend to squeeze her in (which she did), then her bedding was washed and we have been working on basics - going outside (she does not seem to know what to make of the four steps up/down from the deck), not pulling me on the leash (she is strong!), not chasing the cats, walking on a leash.  I don't think she's been on a walk for a very long time and it took a while for the pulling and weaving to stop.  But it did.  She's a smart girl.  Next up is a visit to the vet - I don't think her thyroid meds are doing the job.  She's stinky already....  Unfortunately, the rescue's vet of preference is on the far west side of the city - a good hour plus with no traffic.  Fortunately, they have weekend hours, so we will be trying to book in next weekend.  I am thinking of her as my project.  She may remain a foster with us, but I will be working on getting her meds and diet aligned so that she has a healthy, non-itchy life ahead.  The Universe, it seems, has spoken....

Lucy with her Buppy

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Surviving Winter: The Geezer

Sure, sure, I know that some of you have the real thing - a living, breathing, warmblooded geezer of your own.  And I do mean geezer in the most complimentary way possible.  I, however, have no warmblooded geezer to call my own.  What I DO have is... The Sweater Also Known As The Geezer.  Or, should I say, The Beloved Geezer Sweater (thank you from the bottom of my heart, Sylvie, for passing it along. xoxo)

It may not help wash the dishes, change my oil, stack firewood, or have other such helpful geezer traits, but it sure as heck keeps me toasty warm.  And I mean toasty!  The Geezer Sweater (GS) must weigh a good 7 lbs.  That is seven pounds of heavy wool.  The sleeves, left unrolled, come down to my knees.  The GS hangs down to below my knees.  It is pure heaven when it's -16 outside and a non-toasty 56 inside.

Slight aside as I step up on my soapbox (which is always handy):  As I listened to the news on the radio yesterday, I heard the President's annointed representative stating why the extension of unemployment insurance was so greatly needed - her complaint?  She had to keep the heat at 58 degrees (...and????) and had lost weight (....and????) because fuel oil and food were expensive.  Not siding one way or the other on the issue, my house is ALWAYS at 58 degrees and most of us try to lose weight or need to.  I am sure she feels both are hardships, but I wonder if there should have been someone else used as an example - someone trying to raise two kids, find a job, keep a roof over her head, manage without a car.  You know, hardships.  I will now alight from my soapbox.

I will introduce you to other parts of my Winter Survival Gear over the next week or two.  And it has nothing whatsoever to do with a dearth of posting material.  None.  Whatsoever.  Really.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tuesday Musings.

I was going to call this post "Tuesday Tidings", but I figured you'd be on to me - a day late and many dollars short.

Musings in no particular order:

When I pulled up to my mailbox last night, after a rather dicey commute on icy roads, it took me almost 10 minutes to extract everything in there:  two birthday cards, birthday presents from both sisters (THANK YOU - I LOVE THEM!!!), Yak Traks (dropped off by my neighbor since I couldn't find my own), a large plastic bag containing more birthday loot from my neighbors and second set of parents, a box containing a jar of home-canned pickled okra (OMG - I can't WAIT), and a cd of Handel's "Messiah".  Gold mine!  You couldn't fit a dime in there.  This says a lot for our rural postal guy, who - thank goD - decided not to retire quite yet.  He does not care if random objects find their way into our mailboxes: notes, empty egg boxes, full egg boxes, the occasional zip baggy of cookies (for him...)

Chickie left the building on Sunday.  Can I get a few hundred "Amens"?  Last seen riding shotgun in AnnMarie's van, he went off to join her band of wether miscreants.  He is now learning how to S.H.A.R.E.  Sage and the girls celebrated with a large pine branch all to themselves.  Just to let me know there were no hard feelings, Chickie managed to wreck the hay feeder (again) and harass Willo to the point that she got stuck in a piece of fencing which was then wedged in the barn.  She was very happy to see me.  Bon Voyage, Nut Job!

Water and ice do not mix.  Unless there is a large dollop of Jack in there, too.  Monday I awoke to ... rain.  And lots of it.  We managed to go from -12 Saturday morning, to 6 Sunday morning to 48 Monday morning.  We were back in the negative this morning.  I have eliminated the phrase "It can't be as bad as last year!" from my vocabulary.  It can be and WORSE.  My motto for 2014 is ... "whatever".

The Forester (Florence), seems to take umbrage with major holidays.  Her check engine light came on during a trip up to VT on Thanksgiving.  Her check engine light came on again on a trip up to VT on New Year's Day.  The next major holiday (and all minor ones, too - just to be safe), we are going nowhere.

Scrappy finally got his Christmas sweater.  Which he hates.  It's so, so, Christmas Story!  I did, however, force him to wear it to make me happy and for some photo ops.

And, yes, the living room floor is still
not done.  I've run out of tiles.  I'll finish it this
month.  Promise.

I gave him a rawhide strip to make up for it, but he just looked at me glumly, so I took it off.  He bounced with glee.  I am one of 'those' parents.  Speaking of...I am going to be a foster mother to a winsome lass of 9 years - Lucci (pronounced "Lucy").  Right after I decided that what we needed was a youngish, medium sized girl with playing power and a love of kitties, Lucci appeared needing a home.  Yes, she is not actually 'youngish' - although Scrappy is 14 going on 2 - and, yes, she is not medium sized, being a black Labrador Retriever.  But she loves kitties.  And people.  And dogs.  And apparently everything.  She joins us on Friday.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Coffee with Cookie.

I always have company when I sit with my coffee and knitting, early in the morning.

My big pfefferneusse.
And what am I?  Chopped liver??

So far, the year has been productive - all three days of it.  I will either be a houseonfire or I will fizzle.  Good thing I am not a betting (wo)man.  While the STORM OF THE YEAR (dripping in sarcasm) raged outside, I finally put on my big girl pants and tackled the kitchen faucet.  Given the fact that I had no idea what I was doing, I got pretty far until I ran out of usable tools.  I had to call in the reserves to borrow a basin wrench. Why is it that men can call men to borrow tools and only get the tools while, when women call men to borrow tools, they have to get the man, too?  Seriously - are they afraid you're going to break it?  That you are a helpless waif?  How helpless do they think I am, when I know to ask for a basin wrench?  Sigh.  In any event, the faucet is a fait accompli and I am so happy with it.  Of course, my aluminum sink was not shiny enough, so I had to clean that.  Then I noticed that my new stove was far from pristine, so I cleaned that.  Then I looked down and noticed the floor and cleaned that.  Then I put on my dark glasses and sat in a corner.

Before sink-cleaning.

Since we're talking about cleaning, Scrappy has been doing his bit to help me out.  He is still confused as to why he is an only child, but he's taking advantage of all the extra love and attention - and it's going to his waist...

Good boy.
Another item checked off the to-do list was the flannel-lined shades for the front windows.  Given our drastic drop in temperature (as I am typing this, the outside temperature has almost reached positive numbers), these have really made a difference at night.  And it makes me feel all snug.  The flannel came from an old flannel sheet, and the fabric is part of my embarrassingly large stash.

The blue is darker than portrayed, with a
blue-on-blue pattern.
During the day, the shades are folded up.
Notice how a certain someone manages to insinuate himself
into almost every picture?

Under the category of "It's Always Something", the sheep are - apparently - bored and have been chewing off Apria's neck fur.  I mean, really????  Plans are for the Chickster to be rehomed this weekend.  Please goD.  If that happens, Apria is going to be moved in with the girls.  This is getting ridiculous.

I am off to tackle a couple more things off of my to-do list.  This would be my indoor to-do list.  As it is blowing and Arctic-like outside, that list can wait for spring.