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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Creative Genius or Soap as Art.

In amongst all the 'challenges' of the past few weeks, I managed to squeeze in some Squee Time.  A friend had a bounce of newborn Nigerian Dwarf kids on her farm (I invented that term) and invited me out to visit.  Oy.  We walked around, each snorgling a tiny goat cranium (such a delicious, wonderful smell) and soaking up the endorphins, or whatever they generate, the effect of which fills you with such a sense of bliss and well-being.  After a half hour of this much-needed therapy, I reluctantly put down my little bundle of joy and followed her into the house to check on her latest hatch.

This particular friend is one in a million.  Once she embraces something, there is nothing held back.  The full force of her sizable creative genius is directed at the embraced.  She raises the most adorable and perfect ND goats.  She researches and carefully incubates beautiful chickens.  And the soap.  OMG, the soap.  As we were headed to the brooder room, we passed by the soap cabinet.  Where I slammed on the brakes.

I follow her farm on Facebook, so I have been aware of her soap making progress.  She finally got her shop up and running but, MyAuntJemima!  I had not seen them in person.  I don't know whether to lather it up or frame it!  She is making soap that is a landscape, for Nat's Sake. 

Vitamin Z - It has a citrus scent - heavenly!
I left that afternoon with a precious cargo of soap and my name on 11 chicks to be picked up this coming Sunday.  Unfortunately, I also left without a baby goat.  She thoroughly checked my pockets.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Time.

I had been thinking about time recently - and how I used to be so diligent about wearing a watch.  I think it was also a matter of fashion (yes, I once actually thought about what I was wearing and how it fit into the larger world around me).  At one point I owned six watches!  Now?  I almost never wear one.  It got so frustrating to have the batteries wear down and then have to go in search of someone who would replace them. 

While I was musing away about time and watches, I received an email from someone at invaluable, an online auction house.  He wanted to know if I would be interested in joining in their 'watch' project, posting on my blog about watches.  Whoa.  While I don't, as a rule, do any link-ups with commercial sites, this was sort of, well, serendipitous.  So, I am going to do my usual randomness on watches.  I'm not sure this is what they had in mind (they have lots and lots of very nice watches), but once I get going, there's no reining me in.

My first watch was covered in fake pearl, to match the pearl-studded snap buttons on my pink and green plaid Western cowgirl shirt.  If I could have found fake pearl cowgirl boots, holster and six guns, I would have lived in them.  It was all about the style back then - when I was 9.  I was very careful with that watch and managed to keep it until my second adult move, when the box in which it was carefully packed was stolen.

Aside here - I moved often in my life.  And I moved myself 98% of the time.  Almost every move cost me a box.  Apparently, there were nefarious forces at work.  Even when I moved to the Netherlands, customs managed to 'forget' to put one of my boxes back in the container.  That is how I ended up with a china service for 8 with no dinner plates.

After that, I gradually accumulated six watches - a gold Omega watch, a silver watch, a watch with a fake black alligator skin band, two Swatch watches, and an old wind-up watch that I found in the bottom of a box of buttons I got for a dollar at an estate sale.  I was at the peak of my fashion-ness.  That was also the era in which I wore pink platform shoes with sparkles in the three-inch soles.  And hot pants.  It didn't get more fashionable than that.   How things have changed....

When I worked in the City, my boss wore a Rolex and so did his wife.  He was always buying her lovely gifts - emerald earrings from Tiffany's, 18th Century oil paintings of dogs from Christie's of London (he'd come in early in the morning, bid over the phone, then leave me a message telling me to work out how to get the paintings from London to the City.)  I got to toddle over to the Rolex cleaning suite, hand over her watch and wait in the darkened, plushy waiting room until I was summoned over to collect it.  To me?  It looked like a watch.  A very nice watch, but a watch just the same. 

And, honestly, how much do we need our watches to do for us?  Take our pulse, track our mileage, weigh our protein, assist us with our speed-dating?  I will wear a watch if I have to keep track of time.  Otherwise, time is rather a fuzzy thing.  I am constantly guessing what time it is (most often, wrongly).  I have two (working) watches now.  One is an Orient - a self-winding watch.  The other is a watch that clips to a belt loop, so I can look down and check how far behind I am.... 

The timepiece that I rely on the most, however, is my inner clock.  It routinely wakes me up between 3:55 to 4:14 AM.  Sometimes it runs fast, sometimes slow.  But at least I don't lose it...


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Due Diligence.



One would think that I, legal office worker that I am, would be familiar with that term.  And use it.  Not so.  No matter how old I have gotten, I cannot seem to whip myself into shape.  It will be the undoing of me.

After a winter of record-breaking non-egg-laying, I realized that I need to spruce up the gene pool in the coop.  It's been challenging for the hens - stuck inside for days with (possibly) four roosters, Arctic temperatures, limited sunlight, three feet of snow.  While I can truly empathize (except for the roosters), they continue to vacuum up the feed without providing means to pay for it.  I was trying to get a handle on the various ages of my hens and there is quite a large range - towards the geriatric side.  I have three hens that are over 5 years old.  I have another 6-8 that are around 3.  I have 6 that are 1-2.  I have one that has a perennial sour crop (it's like a monoboob - I refer to her as Mae).  I have too many roosters. 

Last fall, I read an article in Mother Earth News about Icelandic chickens.  This got me all fired up, so I tracked down a breeder who was within a reasonable driving distance.  Because this breed is limited and being carefully brought along, I had to get on a waiting list for chicks.  I made it just in time, as she had more customers than expected chicks.  As I hummed along, all smug in the knowledge that I would have a new influx of egg-layers that were rare and hearty, I happened to read a post on their Facebook page.  I was dismayed.  Here is why:

Icelandic Characteristics / Characteristics I am Looking For:

Feral / Docile
Average egg layers / above average egg layers
Hysterical / Non-hysterical
Insist on flying / Will stay in the yard
No better than average in winter climes / Better than average in winter climes

I am sure that those breeders of Icies just thrill to the wildness of them.  They are also, most likely, people who don't have a big predator problem, are home more than they are away, are very involved in their flock minutia.  I am not they.  However, as I paid for the privilege of being on this waiting list, I will give it a go - with about half the number of chicks that I originally had hoped to buy.  And I will have everything crossed that I don't end up with mostly roosters.  For, while they all say that Icies are an egg/meat breed, they seem to be fairly small, on average.  I fear it's another case of whipping things up into a precious breed frenzy.  I am so susceptible to that whole business - the frenzy stuff.

It has been back to the drawing board for me.  I have not had good luck in trying to help an endangered breed and get the type of hen that I want.  Last year was the year of the Langshan.  They certainly are a large and beautiful chicken, but they are the most flighty birds I have ever had to deal with.  They also make up half of my rooster problem.  I am torn between putting them in the freezer and trying to find someone who wants to use them for other purposes - they are a stunning bird.  I think I may just hit the local feed store and get some Barred Rocks and whatever other normal breeds they have. 

What are your favorite breeds and why?  I am open to any and all suggestions!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Onward and Upward.

Well, it's been an interesting week or so.  I figure that I've run through of all the bad stuff early, so that I can look with my rosy-pink-Pollyanna-glasses at the rest of the year. 

I am chomping at the bit to get out in my garden.  Unfortunately, I still can't see it.  But the volume of snow has gone down noticeably and I am thankful that the weather hasn't taken a sharp turn towards warming.  As much as I long to run my toes through the grass (or mud, for that matter), I don't want to face a flooding problem. I am starting to see the tops of buckets and patches of ground around trees, so things are headed in the right direction.

I've also started a list of spring repairs.  Be still my quavering heart!  I'm up to three pages and I am not finished!!  Gates came apart, fences need mending, there's a hole in the hoop house cover, ice dams wreaked havoc on my chicken yard fence/gate.  A lot of the back deck needs replacing.  The front of the coop needs a major overhaul.  I HAVE to finish the run-in shed.  Etc.  I'm not sure how to best attack the lot of it, but I think I will use the same strategy that I use in approaching my make-up each morning (minimal at best, but I do have to shore up a bit for the office crowd).  One eye at a time.  Or, in this case, one section at a time. I know that there is a precious little period where the ground is too soggy to start on the garden.  That is when I will pounce!  (snort)  First up are the gates and fences.  Then it's poop patrol (for all hooved and pawed residents).  Then coop-cleaning.  That's as far as I've gotten.  Of course, given that I have one day a week to do most of it, that may be as far as I get.  I also want to start more of my own plants this year - on time.  Last year I was a little over-eager and started them too soon.  Too many were so leggy they didn't do well or make it at all.  It's not easy being patient.

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Every year I celebrate St. Patrick's Day the Sunday before the actual day.  I avoid the day itself, as it is too often a day marred by idiots+drinking+driving.  As is usually the case, I have my parents and their besties (my neighbors) over for dinner.  This year I also had my neighbor who makes my life so much easier (as he does for most of his neighbors).  In the past, I would have gotten an expensive cut of brisket, organic taters and carrots and cabbage, whipped up three soda breads - making sure that everything was cooked as traditionally as possible.  Well, let's just say that this year was different.  I had gotten a cheap cut of brisket before my non-shopping at the store vow and had it in the freezer.  I did manage to snag an organic cabbage and carrots at a winter farmers market.  I had potatoes in storage.  I resorted to the crockpot (never to look back, I may add).  I made two GF soda breads that I thought I had ruined due to multi-tasking, but they were fine.  I vacuumed the house to within an inch of it's life, put Pepper in lock down (he injured his back - see 'run of bad stuff' referenced above), did twelve loads of laundry and draped it all over the house on Saturday.  Somewhere around 10A Sunday, I started to hyperventilate.  This happens all the time.  Instead of a go-with-the-flow attitude, I get a OMG-what-if! attitude.  It's not helpful.  Desperate to get myself on a more even keel, I put a meditation cd on the stereo.  By jiminy, it worked!  While it will take years of practice to whip my frantic brain into a single focus, hearing the calm voice settled me down, as I flitted about with my dust mop, going "ooooom" and "aaaaaah".  The dogs were skeptical. 

My parents arrived, Pepper was assigned to my dad's lap (they both loved it), their besties arrived shortly afterward and then it was like hearing birds chattering.  I got to putter around in the kitchen, set the table, heat the plates, serve the food.  It was fun.  After everyone had gone and the dishes were cleaned up, the dogs were all in an exhausted, happy heap.  Pepper was snug in his little bed with a heated rice bag on his back.  Lovey was snoring away, all three marrow bones held close to her chest.  Scrappy was snoring loudly, wrapped in his blankie on the favorite end of the couch.  I was tucked in a chair with the New Yorker magazine and a nice cup of tea.  All was right with my world.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Happy Friday the 13th!!

This is the view coming down my mountain.  Which I got to enjoy on foot this morning after my tire blew out halfway up.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Never a dull moment.

I had been thinking that I needed more cardiovascular exercise in my (nonexistent) regimen.  Norman must have been reading my mind.

This morning, as I rushed around through the melting snow piles doing morning chores, the neighbor's dog decided it was high time for a visit.  Anyone with livestock knows that most do not appreciate the appearance of a dog.  While Apria flared her nostrils and pointed in the right general direction, and Juno stamped her little hoof, with Linden joined to her, shoulder to rump roast, Norman lost his mind.

This is not a large dog.  Nor a mean or vicious dog.  However, Norman didn't care to wait and find out what type of dog this was.  Thanks to the high snow load and shortening fence height, he more or less jumped over the fence.  Then got mired in the snow, which threw him into more of a frenzy - not helped by the stupid dog, who thought it was all a good romp.  I managed to scoop up the dog and goose-step him out of the field of vision, then came back and tried to calm Norman down to medium gear.  It took quite a while and involved a snow shovel and pan of grain.  And no few curse words.

A half-hour later, both of us were all hot and sweaty, but he was on the right side of the fence, trying not to share his grain with the piggies (J&L).  I quickly shoveled down some of the snow around the fence line - no easy task, as it's packed to glacier ice.  Thank goodness for my coal shovel.

Not surprisingly, I was a little late to the office.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Sure signs it's been a long winter...

By the time I reach the office, I am suffering from sea sickness due to millions of frost heaves in the road.
 
I would rather:  clean the toilet/oven/floss my teeth/dust/vacuum/clip dog nails than do morning chores.
 
You feel a sense of giddiness when the night-time temps do not go below the teens.
 
When you discover that you are still wearing your socks as you enter the shower.
 
The cats are sleeping with the dogs on purpose.
 
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I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but thought I would try to end the Longest Winter in the History of Mankind on a humorous note (Note to the Universe - I'm ending it early.  So sue me.)  It's either that or the fact that the sun is out and it's going to be in the mid-thirties (positive) the entire week has made me lightheaded.
 
I had the usual fun weekend - spending lots of $ at the mechanic, parental duties, a nice visit with my middle sister (yay!), errands, wash, rinse, repeat.  I try to make Sunday a no-drive day, but because of my crap-of-dawn appointment with the mechanic, I had to stretch errands out over the two days.  When I awoke on Sunday (I will NEVER adjust to these idiotic time changes), it was.  Snowing.  I will admit that my usual sunny disposition plummeted into despair.  I mean, really?  We haven't had enough?  And who says we haven't?  The poor chickens and sheep suffered, as I refused to go outside.  I begrudgingly went out at 9:30 and did the bare minimum.  Everyone - furred and feathered included - seems to be exhausted by this weather.  When the snow stopped, I did some composting and then went to the transfer station with my recycling.  Where I met more exhausted, grumpy people.  Then I drove to my friend's house to pick up my co-op order and meaty bones for the dogs.  Then I came home and took the dogs for a short walk.  The poor things were so confused!  We have not walked on leash for at least two months.  Just as they were back into the hang of it, a blizzard appeared and we had to double-time back to the house.  I swear I am going to get one of those baby sling things.  It's too difficult handling two leashes with the drama queen doxie in my arms.
 
I fought back by making a favorite, fragrant dish - Mixed Bean Masala with Golden Fragrant Rice.  When I need comfort, I head toward Indian food.  I love this because it is spicy without being too spicy, stewy, multi-layered, and simple.  I adore the rice - bright, vibrant golden yellow from the turmeric, with hints of bay, clove and cinnamon.  YUM.  I packed up two 'TV' dinners (as my mother refers to them) and put them in the freezer to take up next weekend.  I am expanding their culinary horizons.
 
I also blasted through a book between Friday night and Saturday morning.  One of my favorite cartoonists (from The New Yorker) is Roz Chast.  She penned (and colored) a graphic book/memoir, entitled "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?", that was reviewed on NPR.  I LOVE this book.  It takes the reader - pictorially - through her dealings with her aging parents until their deaths.  It is so honest - funny and sad.  I highly recommend it.
 
I am planning to celebrate this 'new extra hour of daylight' by cleaning out the barn when I get home tonight.  I do know how to have fun, don't I?