Tuesday, November 12, 2019

My life as an Aesop's fable and a Winter weather sampler.

Image from Etsy

My grasshopper days are over.  After looking ahead at the Arctic temperatures forecast for our area (and most of the country), I morphed into an ant - all action!  Well, in my mind I was all action.  Truth be told, there was an alarming amount of whining going on.  I managed to get the carport pushed that extra 10 percent and it is organized and ALL of my car fits inside!  I cut back the last peony bush (headlamp) and stored the garden tools in the barn.  I drained the rain barrels and hoses, stacked buckets, emptied the ducks' bathtub and hauled out the bird feeders.  I have to do some reworking on my railing feeder, thanks to the pergola collapsing on it last winter, but otherwise, we are ready.

I made a pot of vegetable soup and a vat of chili last weekend and divided it up for lunches, present and future.  Lovey's fleece jacket has been washed and the big fleece sofa blankets are out.  Fuel oil will be delivered today.  Just as I was about to pat myself smugly on my back for how ready for winter I was, the lamp timer died.  Haha, I was prepared - I had a back up timer!  Which died a day later.  I was working myself into righteous indignation over the poor quality of everything, when I realized they were both about ten years old.  The dogs will have to bask in the glow of my salt lamp until I get another timer this coming weekend.

This morning brought an entire winter weather sampler - within an hour, we had rain, sleet, ice and then, snow.  Even though we had been receiving dire weather warnings for over a week, the local road crews apparently missed the news.  Nary a snow plow was seen.  It was an exciting drive to work. 

Now that I am in full hygge mode, I have made my list of winter gift knitting and am very hopeful that I will get it done.  As long as time stands still or moves backwards.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Goodbye daylight, my old friend.

(You can thank Terry for that heading.  I've been humming Simon & Garfinkel for days.)  My biggest beef (or tofu, for you vegans) is that shorter days happen just when you need them to be twice as long as normal.  My neighbor across the road/up the hill sent me a concerned email saying that he had seen bobbing lights early in the morning and in the evening in my front yard.  Yes, I said.  You saw my headlamp.  The only way I can stay even ten steps behind where I need to be, is by squeezing in to-dos by the light of my headlamp.

Ergo, the dahlia bulbs got yoinked up and placed in a feed sack with peat moss by the dim light of my headlamp.  The peonies got trimmed down and support cages put away by the same headlamp.  The rest of the kale has been harvested (in what weak daylight we've had), along with most of the Swiss chard, although I have left some under cover to see how long it holds up.  My herbs have been harvested, handed out and hung to dry.  My tiny onions have been wept over (kidding - sort of) and the garden has been pretty much put to bed.

In the midst of all this, we got a hellova storm.  It seems, nowadays, that every change in temperature comes with its own near-catastrophic event.  Thursday it rain all day.  Then, around 11P, I awoke to the sound of a train rushing past the house.  I'm used to these high wind gusts, where you clamp your teeth and hope that you don't hear something large go 'thump!' in the night.  But this was a long, seemingly endless gust.  I was sure that nothing would be left when I went out in the morning.  It didn't even blow the lid off the trash can.  Apparently, it was a high wind.  They measured 56 mph wind gusts in my area.  Geezloueeze.

There is still a lot to dead-head out in the beds, but it is now the least of my worries. I have done my food shopping for November, moved tools into the barn for the winter, given Slimmie's room and good cleaning and reorganizing (of which he was none too pleased - cats are such creatures of habit), the winter curtains are up, summer curtains washed and stowed away.  I got a load of firewood in and my sister (bless her heart) came down to help me with the pre-winter coop cleaning.  I am always so amazed at how fast a job goes with more than one - and how much more fun it is.  I made another pot of soup, so now I have at least two weeks' worth of lunches in the freezer.

I also got a text from Marianne saying that they had a lot of shiitake mushrooms and did I want some?  Into the car I hopped and came back with 'some' in a box (I would have inserted a photograph here, but Blogger had other ideas).  Envision a box that held a dozen pint canning jars.  Now envision a mound of shiitake mushrooms the size of cup saucers - about 5 pounds of them!  I got out the dehydrator and got busy.  I now have about 2 gallons of dried shiitake mushrooms that should last a while.  A decade or so.

I find it ironic that, when I finally remember to pull myself together and take pics for you, Blogger decides it is not allowing the insertion - nay, even the ability to connect with them - of any images.  I will add them randomly to a later post.

Yesterday, taking advantage of the extra hour of daylight, I firmly yanked my BGPs up to my armpits (you're welcome for that visual) and tackled the carport.  I hauled out all the remaining flotsam of the ill-fated yard sale, sorted my garden supplies, moved all the garden implements to the barn, hefted, sorted, cussed and finally got it to the point where I can get 95% of my car inside.  I have to spread some straw and align my wheelbarrows and I will be all set.  I took photos of all the yard sale remnants and put them on Facebook for free.  Six of them will be marched out the door tonight.  Progress!  I'm giving the rest a week, then off to Goodwill they go.  Virtuosity is my middle name.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Sister time.

If there was an upside to dad's passing, it was that my two sisters and I got to spend some quality time together.  We carved our Halloween pumpkins and went apple-picking at a lovely local orchard. 

I got mine hollowed out, but then all creative thought screeched to a halt.  I had to noodle it around for another two days before I carved mine.
I heard a lot of hissing from Slimmie and then the dogs started barking up a storm - there was an intruder on the deck!
I feel it's important to keep them on their toes...

It was a perfect day to go apple-picking and I was introduced to a new (to me) variety of apple - the Liberty.  It is a smaller, dark red apple that is very sweet and not too soft.  A delicious eating apple. You can see Connie and I hard at it in the bottom picture.

I had a bag of second apples that Marianne had given me, so I tried out a new gluten free apple crisp.  I really loved the apple part, but the crisp part was too thick for me.  A new take on flavoring the apples was to add two tablespoons of bourbon and two tablespoons of water, with cinnamon, lemon juice and a little cornstarch.  The crisp topping called for oatmeal, a little melted butter, chopped pecans, almond flour, and Greek yogurt.  It wasn't bad at all, but definitely was better eaten warm.  I'll be experimenting over the fall and winter - since I will be the recipient of many organic apple 'seconds'.  I sure don't mind a spot or two, or three - especially for cooking apples!

This week I launch into Soup Season - with a new recipe for pumpkin and black bean soup.  It also has a diced sweet potato and a little minced jalapeno, so it sounds divine.  I will report back!

Because of recent events, I am very behind on my winter prep, so I am taking Thursday and Friday off.  Of course, it will rain all day tomorrow and Friday is forecast for 45 mph wind gusts.  That will put the coop cleaning off until Saturday, when it's dry and not windy - just very cold.  Has to be done, so I am going to dig out my mittens!  Good thing I have lots to do, both inside and out, so that no minute is wasted.  Woohoo!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Saying goodbye.

Dad.  1922-2019

I am very lucky to have had my father around for so long.  He was sharp as a tack until he hit 90, and then dementia crept in and robbed him of his memory and, finally, his dignity.  It is a shitty condition, if you'll pardon my French.  As a family, we are totally blessed with a sister who's super power is sublime compassion, patience, humor and strength.  She has, basically, put her life aside for the past five years to be a full-time caregiver.  And now, there is mom.  Thankfully, she does NOT have dementia.  But she is 96 and all signs point to more years ahead.

As we sat waiting for the funeral folks to arrive to spirit dad away (pun intended), we all agreed that we had made it through the past five years thanks to good wine (that would be the three sisters), close family ties and dark humor.  And humor was needed in the last couple of weeks.  In the middle of dad's fairly rapid decline at the end, the septic system backed up and ceased functioning.  There was my sister, with two old ladies (mom - 96 and her sister - 94), and our dying father.  Here is where level-headedness, preparedness and humor come to bear.

Anyone who has dealt with the very elderly knows that the topic of conversation from rising in the morning to toddling off to bed in some way involves 'elimination' (my mother's choice of terms).  The magic of prune juice; the mystery of Metamucil; the benefits of dried apricots; how much water you drink; the need for the morning cup of coffee to 'get things working'.  As my sister pointed out, there was a dire lack of 'movement' with the ladies until the septic system quit working.  Enter the potty chair (senior edition).  All of a sudden, there was lots of 'movement'.  As they shuffled back and forth down the hall on matching walkers, each would whisper to my sister, "I've left you a little package, heehee."  My sister, figuring she had enough potty bags to last a week, ran out in two days.  Snort.

There were many frantic calls placed to their septic service who, I might add, showed a complete lack of compassion and appalling customer service.  I tried my guys (they of the dimpled, blue-eyed blond fellow), who would have loved to have helped, but could not cross state lines.  They did give me a name - Uncle Bob's Septic Service - in Bennington and thank goodness they did.  Uncle Bob's dropped what they were doing and headed over.  The pumper wasn't working, but they spent two hours trying to find the tank, then managed to clear the pipe so that it worked.  My sister went out to thank them and found that the supervisor had recently lost his mother to cancer and the two of them stood next to the open septic tank, sobbing.  They also donated a snazzy new lid so that the tank would be easier to find in the future.  Uncle Bob's now has customers for life.

Connie sent a text to us early last Saturday saying that she thought dad would probably not last the day.  I flung food at the dogs, sent an email to my neighbor, asking him to let the chickens out when it was light enough, and I headed to VT.  It was a long day and dad finally left us in the afternoon.  It was sad and it was a relief.

So, that is where I have been.  We are now tying up loose ends and focusing our love and affection on mom.  She's quite jazzed about it.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Good golly.

Yesterday, I had to pinch hit for my middle sister and looked after my dad (97, dementia), my mom (96, almost chair-bound), my aunt (at 94, the youngster), and my BIL (basically, he tries.)  From 7:30 to 4:30.  I must have been totally delusional, bringing all my knitting projects and envisioning a cozy afternoon, knitting, tea, lalala.  Lalala for sure.  There is nothing quite so frustrating and maddening than a parent (or any person) in full-blown dementia.  I know that many of you have gone through, or are going through this painful experience, and my heart is with you.  I now believe that my sister has super powers.  I do not.  By the time I straggled home, I was exhausted.  Too exhausted to remember that we were in for a Nor'easter last night.

Fast forward to 11P, when the wind took on locomotive sound effects and the rain (what I could see through the gloom) was horizontal.  Then the power went out.  Tough nuggets, I was back to bed.  When I awoke at 3A, the lights were back on and I went around (foolishly) and reset all the clocks.  Then I made a cup of coffee, sat down with a book and the lights went out.  Will I ever learn?  The storm was still in full force, so I should have known.  I felt my way into the blackout supply area (back bathroom with it's glowy new toilet) and snagged three of my favorite solar light sources.

I sat back and listened to the storm, snugged Slimmie next to me and watched the blanketed enchilada dogs on the couch.  It was surprisingly peaceful.

The dogs, bless them, trudged out to do their business twice - we tried to time it in a lull.  Lull meaning the rain was no longer horizontal.  I went out when it was light enough to see and spent 20 minutes gathering buckets and other small objects that were all over the homestead.  I also watched the crows, who seemed to be having a ball, flying into the wind and hovering in place.

The drive into work involved dodging floods, branches, large limbs and whole trees.  I checked the rain gauge as I left and we already had four inches of rain!  It was such a relief to reach the parking garage!  Now I am off for home and the fall town rabies clinic.  After yesterday, three hours in a huge, cavernous metal building with no heat, filling hypos as fast as my little fingers can move, surrounded by an endless and frantic stream of barking dogs,screeching cats and hysterical owners, will seem like a walk in the park.


Monday, October 14, 2019

OMG a new toilet! and a sweet surprise.

I'm not sure what this says about my social life, but OMG I got a new toilet!  It had been languishing in its giant box for over two years - waiting for me to make up my mind as to whether I was going to put it in or have someone who actually knows what they're doing put it in.  Luckily, common sense won out over delusions of competence and time.  It also helps that I finally found a plumber that will a) show up; b) come on a weekend (Sunday); c) not charge me an arm and a leg.  As it turned out, the Pat loved the plumber almost as much as he loves my handiguy, Billy.  I had to shut the door in order to let him work in peace.  The Pat wanted to be 'helpful', as did Lovey, but...

Saturday was a lovely day - one of those glowing fall days in the Northeast that makes all the leaves look luminous.  It was warmish, with a nice breeze and everyone seemed to be in a happy mood.  Lovey gets the zoomies in this weather, so I try to let her out in the back fenced-in part of the sheep paddock so she can safely get it out of her system.  The Pat just ricochets around, yapping.

I got my hair cut, met my sister at the farmers market, visited with a couple of farmers that I know, admired the pies at the apple pie contest table, and made my parental pilgrimage of the week.  Then I did a little shopping and stopped to see Marianne and hit the transfer station on my way home.  It was a very pleasant day, but I was knackered when I finally came through the front door.  Knackered or not, the sheep were bleating, and the dogs were pointedly looking at their empty food dishes.  Just as I collapsed on the sofa after evening chores, there was a knock at the front door (setting off the deafening dog alarm).  It was my neighbor up the road - with a pint jar of his own honey as a thank you for planting all the flowering perennials enjoyed by his bees!  Woot!

Sunday was a stay-at-home day.  I fed the farm cats and then applied myself to garden clean up and house clean up.  The fence is down, rolled up and stashed away for the winter.  I've gone around the raised beds with the weed trimmer, the grass has had its final mowing, and a goodly amount of trimming, yoinking and cleaning up has been done outside.  I steam cleaned the kitchen floor (I so love my floor steamer), did three loads of laundry and got it on the line, vacuumed and dusted(ish) and cleaned the bathroom so as not to horrify the plumber, then got dinner started.  I had invited my neighbor who mows and trims for me over for Sunday dinner.  As I sashayed around the kitchen, thinking about my new toilet and clean kitchen floor (so, so, smugly), I looked down and realized that my package of cornstarch had sprung a leak.  As any of you who have dealt with cornstarch knows, this is a disaster of epic proportions.  The more you try to contain it, the more it wafts over every surface within an arm's reach.  Within a nanosecond, I had cornstarch on my counter, floor, shoes, pants and dogs.  It doesn't pay to be smug.  By the time my neighbor arrived, everything had been recleaned and was in order - except, of course, for the cook.  My hair was standing on end (probably generously dusted with cornstarch) and I had started adult libations without him.

And then it was Monday.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

There are definite drawbacks to having the focus of a fruit fly.

Bulgarian Carrot Peppers
When I was frolicking through my seed catalogs this past February, I came across the Bulgarian Carrot Pepper.  Ooooh, thought I, a sweet orange pepper that looks like a carrot!  So I bought a packet of seeds.  Did I read the actual description of the plant?  No, I did not, because my fruit fly brain was off to the next shiny photograph.

Even the Universe tried to intervene.  I started my seeds this year and, after three tries, only had one surviving Bulgarian seedling.  Did I heed the Universe?  No, no I did not.  I ran out of room in the pepper bed and planted the lone Bulgarian seedling near my cucumbers.  Where it was, more or less, overcome by the lemon balm, did not flourish, and I totally forgot about it.  Why?  (Chorus:  Fruit Fly Brain!!!)  As I was yoinking out the frost-zapped plants on Sunday, I uncovered two Bulgarian peppers.  I was so thrilled!  Today, I minced up a pepper and sprinkled it over my salad, quite smug with my localvore self.

I am still not able to speak without choking.  I feel as if the roof of my mouth has been in a house fire.  My nose is running like a spring brook.  All I can say is, CARROT?  Really?  To me, carrot connotes sweetness; rootiness.  Not freaking five alarm heat!  I suggest the following change to the name of the pepper - Bulgarian Napalm Pepper.  Can I get an amen?