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Monday, September 17, 2018

Precocious.

Three days ahead of schedule



As I stood in my kitchen Saturday afternoon, listening to the frantic peep of something outside (I thought), I happened to glance down at the incubator and - a quail had hatched!  Three days ahead of schedule!  Out of the 18 eggs I received from Alchemist Farm (I can't say enough good things about them), 9 eggs have hatched as of this morning.  Two more have pipped, so there may be more.


One seems to have a problem with splayed legs, but the rest are thriving.  I had forgotten how fast they move!  The only safe way I can move them from incubator to brooder is in a little bucket with a towel laid loosely on the top.


Hot, humid weather has revisited us (will it NEVER go away?) so not much has been done outside.  We are waiting for the arrival of the remnants of Florence tomorrow. 
Sweater #1
In my quest to get things finished, I blocked Sweater #1 - my green, lace weight cardigan that I love.  I will, however, never again knit a sweater in lace weight yarn.  Sweater #2 will be blocked tonight and then I can move onto socks - my comfort knitting.


My latest obsession
I scored some donut pans and now I am doing all thing donut.  I've made GF Vegan Pumpkin donuts (pictured above) and Apple Cider donuts (not pictured but almost identical looking to the GFVPs).  I give the GFVPs a solid "meh".  They are way too 'wet', if you know what I mean.  The Apple Cider donuts were given to the barn crew and disappeared in about a nanosecond.  I did not coat them with more sugar, as they had plenty of sugar in the mix.  Next week, it's chocolate donuts!  Whee!


Looking ahead at the weather forecast, our hot weather is finally going elsewhere and I have to start thinking about moving tender perennials inside.  My sister gave me a beautiful mandevilla that needs to be over-wintered inside


and I still have to decide whether or not I will be overwintering my geraniums for another winter.  Frugal me says, yes.  It's going to be a little crowded with everyone jammed in - there's the lemon tree and the fig tree, too.  We'll be nice and cozy...


Speaking of cozy, Slimmie has reached maximum relaxed mode...







Monday, September 10, 2018

Down Periscope!

I took a couple of days off last week, both to recover from the previous week and because I had some appointments that would have made it too hectic to be here, there, everywhere and in the office. 


Peanut Butter - also know as The Pat - was whisked off to the vet on Thursday.  This is now part of my daily ritual:


The one on the left is Lovey's...
He managed to, once again, injure a disc in his mad dashing about with the Evil Fly.  We also celebrated the first anniversary of his adoption.  Boy, it seems a whole lot longer than a year - and many of hundreds of dollars under that little bridge.  He is on two pain killers and a muscle relaxer, and is confined - once again - to his crate.  The good news is that Lovey seems to be making progress in healing her torn ACL!   Woohoo!  We take good news where we can.


Since I had a little extra time off, my sister and I met at The Clark and took in a couple of new exhibits.  Our favorite was up the hill behind the museum at a lovely, new space, where we sat mesmerized for quite a while, hooked on the swaying and rustling of Jennifer Steinkamp's birch trees in her Blind Eye exhibit.  It was another hot, humid day, but we decided to opt out of the air-conditioned shuttle and we sauntered off down the trails through the woods to the main museum complex.
The Lunder Center at Stone Hill

Lovely view... :)


Trail down the hill, through the
woods and to the main museum
We then went into Williamstown and had a very nice lunch at a Thai restaurant and caught up on recent events and Dad care.  She is a treasure.


I spent the next day weeding and filing - obviously doing penance for some horrendous crime against the Universe, for which I am apparently getting my comeuppance.  Because of this new bump in the road, I will be only posting sporadically, so I thought it only fair to warn you - and it is not due to health problems, my little petals, just in case you were worried.  Oh, no.  Just a non-ending yuk-fest the Universe is having at my expense.


I leave you with my new posh, fancy-schmancy fuel tank enclosure.  It just warms the cockles of my heart to be able to reuse something of this magnitude.  I had inherited a friend's old deck awning - in perfect shape, just faded.  I've had this in storage for years and, after last year's winter beating, the cheap-ass tarps that come from China, cost a pretty penny and don't last worth a damn, had shredded off the enclosure.  My "new" one has scalloped edges!  How fun!  Excuse the dirty 4x4 holding the long edge down - by the time I finished (with the help of my trusty 84 y/o neighbor), we were both beat and just grabbed the first thing that came to hand.  I have to tell you that it just cheers me up when I go out the back and catch sight of it!
I love the scalloped edges!
Whimsy AND function!




I will pop up and post when I can - and will try and keep up with all your writings as well. xo





Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Up Periscope!

Since there is a lot of time unaccounted for, I will give you the Cliff Notes version of the past week and a half:
 
  • Visit with BFF thwarted - but at least half my house was cleaned.
  • Week from Hell at the office - where the stress meter was off the charts all. week. long.  I believe they want me to retire or commit hari kari.
  • Gluten Free Chinese food - was not.
  • Easy Clambake on the Grill, turned into Not-Quite-As-Easy Clambake in the Oven, thanks to a faulty propane tank
  • The fun continues - Stress level with family jumps a few levels.
  • The Universe intervenes and makes me take naps all day Sunday.
  • Summer decides to revisit and the heat and humidity index does a number on us all.
  • The Butter Pat re-injures his back due to a fly-related incident.
 
Slogging up the front path on Saturday, I spied a box perched on my front deck.  You know that feeling - you are a kid at Christmas and there is a box that is just the right size for that thing you want more than anything in the whole world....and you are almost afraid to open it because it might be underpants....or socks....but then it IS that thing that will make the clouds part and the sun shine?


Not an injured one in the lot.
After I admired them for a while, I ate six.  Then I weighed out enough for my all-time favorite jam and will carefully mete out the rest.  OMG.  They are so delicious.  Michelle, you are an angel.
 
During the stressfest, I managed to make cowboy candy and a new, wonderful zucchini recipe:
My first Cowboy Candy

Zucchini cheddar scones - Gluten Free!
It's been difficult to muster up the energy to do much, inside or out.  Summer appears to be loathe to leave and our heat and humidity spiked - again - and won't be leaving until the end of the week.  I am so totally over it.  I want to take a flame thrower to my garden, but it's too hot. 
 
I did spend the one cool-ish day we had outside:
Freshly weeded and mulched.
I'm going to split and transplant hostas along the back edge of this bed - but it will have to wait until next spring, as it is way too difficult to split hostas that are all leafed out.
 
Since Sunday was a wash and Monday's humidity was of the breathing-through-a-wet-sponge variety, I turned to something on my to-do list.
Small wardrobe - Before
Hole for cords

Tightly fitted shelf insert
(notice mallet)

Second shelf in - no mallet
involved.

Wardrobe - After - Entertainment
Center!
I will have to admit that I was very proud of myself.  It's not of the Ed-Quality, but it is sturdy, fits in the space and is adequate for my needs.  I still need to stain the insert to match and I have plans for murals on the insides of the doors, but it's pretty much done.
Lovey was exhausted from helping me sort
the DVDs.
The only issue is that it crowds out the dog crate.  So, you ask, why is that a problem?  Because Peanut Butter has re-injured his back and must now be confined until it's better.  I don't know how it happened, but it had to involve an ordinary house fly.  The Butter Pat has an intense fear/hatred for flies.  I assume it is because, in his past life of neglect and cruelty, he was confined 24/7 in a crate and the urine, etc. drew flies and it must have been pure hell for him.  The irony of having to confine him to a crate is not lost on me.  I leave him out as much as possible, but he is not the sharpest tack in the box and will try to fling himself up on the sofa, if I'm not watching.  We have an appointment at the vet for his allergy shot, so we will just segue into this new pickle.  Never a dull moment.  Never.


My next dilemma?   How to preserve my bean harvest.
Can?  Freeze?  Dinner?








 
 
 
 



Thursday, August 23, 2018

The cake dilemma.

I have finally found a good, moist, tasty, fairly long-lasting gluten free cake.  An added plus is that it contains zucchini...


However.
A very technical drawing*
The first time I made this gluten free zucchini breakfast cake (sweetened not by sugar, but maple syrup - the pluses are adding up), it was a rather convoluted affair.  I wanted to make it, but didn't have enough of a consecutive chunk of time to go from A to Baked in one go.  So I divided the process up thusly:  measure out dry ingredients into a bowl.  Three days later, add wet ingredients and put in prepared baking pan.  Realize almost immediately that I had left out the melted coconut oil, pull the pan out of the oven, dump the batter back into the mixing bowl, furiously stir in the melted oil, wash and reline baking pan, put back in oven.  I was greatly relieved to find it nice and risen and moist and delish.  (Exhibit B)


HoHA!  Sez I.  I'm going to make it again and THIS time I'm going to make sure I have a nice, uninterrupted (hahahahaha) chunk of time so that there is no forgetting nuthin.  And, thusly, I did so.
However, upon removing the baked cake from the oven, I discovered Exhibit A.


The leavening agent is baking powder with a catalyst of baking soda.  I have been baking for a fair amount of time and although I am not of a scientific nature, I do know that, if you add your carefully measured ingredients (all in-date, nothing expired or close to being so), you should get similar if not identical results.  Same oven.  Same weather conditions, same Moon moving into the path of Saturn.  I also know that, leaving baking powder/soda to sit within a batter can sometimes enhance the rise - but the trick is BATTER, not a pile of dry ingredients.


So, my dears, you of the high baking skills, what happened?  I am hoping to make many more of these cakes because they freeze well and, you know, zucchini.  But I would much rather freeze the cake kind of cake as opposed to the pancake kind of cake.  Thoughts?  xoxoxo




(Both exhibits were equally tasty.  Ergo the technical drawing.)

Monday, August 20, 2018

Some things got done, some didn't.

After a rather tumultuous start to the weekend - a humongous thunderstorm complete with ear-deafening thunder and lightning and torrential downpours on Friday evening - Saturday was only a half-washout with another inch-plus of rain.   I decided that, weather or not (snort), things must get done.

Tableful of goodness

Next on the agenda

Brick bat?  Baseball bat?  Primitive
vegetable club?
As I heard the rumbling of the oncoming thunderstorm, I dashed out, did evening chores and madly clipped nettles.  I managed a few handfuls (gloved handfuls, need I say) in between shuttling hay to the sheep shed, setting rat traps (they're baaaaack!), collecting eggs and feeding dogs, before the skies opened up and chased me inside.  I love a good storm, but am very respectful of lightning.  I had also managed to haul my garlic from the barn, where it had been aging for two weeks.  I now have a big, packed jar of dried nettles and my garlic is cleaned and stored for use over the year.  That leaves the brick bat.  Or the baseball bat.  Or the giant's vegetable club.  Due to other obligations, Marianne and I did not do our farm work this weekend.  She did leave me a basket of produce with her apology for the zucchini.  I will say, it is the largest one I've had to deal with.  It's a good thing I love the stuff, because I have, over the weekend, made two gluten free zucchini breakfast cakes, a double batch of zucchini feta fritters, vegetable fried rice, featuring - you guessed it - zucchini, three zucchini pizza crusts, many quart bags of shredded zucchini...you get the idea.  It's a nice problem to have, too much zucchini.  I am not complaining.


My arugula and planting of salad greens is coming in and I will be planting one last round of salad greens this week.  I ventured out in Saturday's downpour to visit my friend that raises Randall cattle (and took in Bertie) to get 15 pounds of marrow bones for the pups - we had a nice, albeit damp, visit and Bert looks fat and happy.  Sunday was setting up the electric net on the bank for the sheep - it's getting tricky making changes to their grazing, as Apria the llama is now almost totally blind.  There is a lot of voice leading, "Come on, Pri-Pri, that's a girl - this way, this way..."  She eventually works out the right direction but I have to be sure not to have impediments in her way and to have gates open wide enough that she won't get spooked by banging into one. 


I'm spending an inordinate amount of  time watching hummingbird drama.  It's like Star Wars on a very tiny scale - much zooming and squeaking in high dudgeon.  I was relieved to finally see two hummers on the same feeder, but my hopes for d├ętente were dashed when they took off after each other, each one accusing the other of trespass.  I am also enchanted by the evening ballet performed by the dragonflies.  There must be at least 20 of them, whirling and zooping and looping around each other.  I'm not sure why they do it, but it sure is fun to watch.


This week is all about ironing and weeding.  Oh, joy.  And finding someway to keep the crows from destroying my yard.  While I'm happy that they seem to be making it their life's work to rid me of grubs, my yard looks like some maniac went at it with a drill.  Make that 10 maniacs.   I pulled the netting off the currants and had to face the fact that there will not be a harvest this year.  And it's all my fault.  While the red ones were gone, the black ones were riddled by earwigs.  Luckily, I found last year's harvest still in the back of the freezer!  Saved.  Although I am nowhere near winning the battle with the weeds, I am not giving up.  I have my wheelbarrow parked in the back and will spend some time every morning yoinking them out by the handful until I make some headway.  I will spend time in the evening working on the front, which is marginally less bad than the back.  Still pressing on the to-do list is skirting two more bags of Norman's fleece.  That will give me a large enough quantity to make it worthwhile to schlep it to the processor.  There's still plenty to go, but I may be processing some of that myself - much sorting is on the horizon...



Friday, August 17, 2018

Plans

An architect, I am not.  Nor am I a builder of any renown.  Well, maybe a rather infamous builder - as in when real builders look inside the run-in shed and say, "Wow.  And how long has this been standing?"


That does not stop me.  I drew up the plans for the pergola.  The only reason it collapsed was that I did not consider the relativity of snow load vs. tall leggy structure.  We moved it forward by at least three and a half feet and anchored it to the deck railing.  At least I can get my snow rake on the roof now and it has a fighting chance of staying erect this year.


My next project was born of too little sleep and a long string of extremely early mornings.  While I sit, covered in furry bodies - so much fun in the summer - waiting for my first iced coffee to hit my blood stream, I should, really, not be allowed to surf Instagram.  I was mesmerized by photographs of blue quail eggs and the amazing farmers that developed them.  And their superior photography skills.  Then there is the convenient lack of recall.  You know, of how I was downsizing and how I tried quail and was totally done in by their piercing pre-dawn (24 hour) noise.  Yes, that little bit of memory totally eluded me in the wee hours of the morning, as I cackled and ordered a dozen hatching eggs.  Sheesh.  Instead of harkening back to the teeth-gritting racket outside of my bedroom window, I was leaping ahead to figure out when would be the best time to receive them, given fall, incubation and brooding time, etc.  I never look back.  It will be my downfall.  I figure that, even if the gilding comes off the lily, so to speak, I will be able to recoup any outlay fairly quickly.  The eggs will be sold via the farmers market.  Extra quail can be sold as breeding pairs or egg-layers.


After the early, heady days of imagining my own stash of brown speckled, blue eggs, faded into the bright light of reality (see?  I have been reading books!)  I realized I would need somewhere to keep them.  Somewhere that did not involve close proximity to my bedroom window.  Voila!  I do have a barn structure!  It is in the opposite direction of my bedroom and is enclosed.  It will protect the quail over the winter and insulate my shell-like ears from their strident calls.  The sheep may be cursing me, but I am used to that.  As the weather warms, they can be moved outside to the far side (as in far away from me) of the barn, under the pine tree.


I called upon my usual handyman and provided him with direction (Ed, you can close your eyes now.):
Very hi-tech

The details...


We communicate through texting and by my dropping envelopes and instructions on the passenger seat in his truck.  I figured I would give him plenty of notice and make it so that he could build it at home.  I'm sure his wife will be happy about that, although the upside of having him work on the LLF is that his wife, Sam, and his son, Hank, come to see him.  I am rather taken with Hank - he is one, is a complete towhead, and, when prompted, knows what cows, pigs, tractors, Santa, dogs, cats, and chickens say.  He will also tell you he is one.  Plus, the Butter Pat is much happier when held in the arms of his beloved Billy.



Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Crafted words, true words and knitting. One thing is not like the others.

I have been trying to focus on reading more during my 'down' time - say, 3-5A.   Since I tend to obsess, I am slowly easing off the knitting (one sweater 99.9% done, second sweater 90%, scarf/shawl too boring to spend too much time on, socks on the needles).  I can feel myself being drawn towards my BritBox subscription (curse you, Marianne), so I am tempting myself with a stack of physical and virtual books - the latter of which maintains my sanity during my daily commute.


Right now, I am listening to Rough Beauty by Karen Auvinen, a memoir that was enthusiastically referred by Bestie, Sylvie.  I couldn't find it via Libby, my library's audiobook app that allows you to borrow audiobooks from your library for free, so I got it on Audible.  The nice thing about Audible is that you can test listen - very important because a narrator can make or break a book's enjoyment.  I cringingly remember listening to Jane Eyre, where the male narrator took it upon himself to read Jane's parts in a piercing falsetto, or the recent horror read in HIGH DRAMA.  As I have listened to Rough Beauty, I've been swept up with Auvinen's words - with her, you are facing the mountains in Colorado, seeing the swathe of spring flowers and hearing the birds, or sitting in a cabin while the winter winds roar.  She is what I always wanted to be in my heart of hearts - fierce, independent, brave.  I am bracing myself, as I've reached the part where her companion of many years, a fine dog of the Husky persuasion, is reaching the end of his life.  I will most likely have to pull off to the side of the road to get through that or listen to it at home.


For home reading, I am savoring Inland Island, by Josephine Johnson.  This book is out of print - Amazon refers to it as a Story Press endangered classic.  I found my copy through Thriftbooks.  This is also about a woman's observations of nature, but in a totally different voice.  Her language is fierce, amazing and true.  It is not the carefully, albeit lovingly, crafted prose of Auvinen's, but a language that is so completely pure that it's breathtaking.  Descriptions that make your mind take a sudden seat - BAM!  There are whole paragraphs that I have marked with the ever-handy Post-It notes that I want to memorize so that I can summon them up when I want to be reminded how really beautiful words can be.  I will never dismiss the miracle of a lady beetle again.


I still have to face my knitting - my summer-weight green cardigan needs to have its ends woven in and be blocked.  I am quite happy with it.  My worsted weight steel-grey sweater is continuing to challenge me, which I am enjoying immensely.  I had made the mistake of starting an easy knit for waiting rooms, etc., instead of my usual sock project.  Mistake.  It is so mind-numbing that I am loathe to pick it up.  It may be mouldering in its project bag for years.  I have a big list of sock gift-giving so I had better get cracking.  No matter how hard I try to ignore it, the days are getting shorter.  Summer is sprinting by - or should I say flowing by.  We have had over six inches of rain since the beginning of August - the opposite end of the spectrum to our friends on the left coast.


Thanks to friends with gardens, I have had zucchini crust pizza, zucchini fritters, zucchini and sweet corn pie, zucchini breakfast cake.  I am planning on an eggplant Parmesan this weekend, along with more fritter-making, as these freeze well and are a nice, quick dinner when you are mired in February.  Another batch of gazpacho is on the near horizon.  It's nice to be awash in vege - although I do miss growing it myself.  Next year.  Next year.