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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

You'll have to use your imagination.

No pictures with this post - it falls under the "what I won't do" category.


I have been feeding the lone barn cat - a few others come and go - over at my neighbor's late father's farmhouse every morning.  This arose after I realized the farmer was putting poison rat bait in the barn AND feeding the barn cat.  Argh!  So we worked out a deal where I feed the cat on the farmhouse porch so that I can make sure she won't rely on a diet of poisoned mice.  She's still a huntress, but at least she's so well-fed she's not eating her catch.


Every morning between 6:30-7, I drive to the farm and leave dry food for her.  If she is there, I also give her a tin of wet food.  While I won't say we are chums, after months of slow motions and ridiculous baby talk, she at least does not bolt off and hide when I'm there.  We've reached a sort of d├ętente.  If she is not waiting for me, I just leave dry food, not wanting to attract unwanted dinner guests.


The Sunday following Thanksgiving, I had heated up some generic sausage/cheese/egg/biscuit breakfast sandwiches for the guys - a break from sugar for them and a break from baking for me.  I decided to deliver the sandwiches first, and then feed the cat.  Except...


As I slowed down going past the farmhouse - checking to see if she was on the porch, waiting for me - I happened to look up at a large maple tree at the side of the driveway.  Waaaay at the top, teetering on a small branch, was the cat.  I slammed the brakes on, swerved into the driveway, put the car in neutral and jumped out.  She was hollering up a storm.  I was trying to talk her down - with a little success, as she sidled down to a less fragile branch about two feet below.  I knew that there was no way I could climb up there to get her because: a.  my joints throbbed just thinking about it and there wasn't a ladder handy; and b.  she would have torn me to ribbons.  We're not THAT close.


What to do, what to do.  We stared at each other for a few minutes, then I turned around with my back facing the tree trunk and bent over.  There was a moment or two of hesitation (wherein I was praying no one would drive by and wonder what the heck I was doing), then she dropped like a stone onto my back and bounced onto the ground.  Let me say two things - she's VERY well-fed and I am so very grateful that I was wearing my heavy-duty, twill down vest.  We both took a moment to recover and then I served her breakfast.  The guys got lukewarm sandwiches.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Everything got done but the laundry.

And the dusting.  And the applesauce. ...
When standing on the precipice of an extended weekend, I tend to make overblown lists.  It's like I have no real concept of time - or that, magically, long weekends are really, really long.
With four days stretching ahead - I picked up a pen and went wild.  However, I was pleasantly surprised when I did a recap last night.  In fact, I was quite smug.

The cooking got done:
Pumpkin Pie
Cranberry Curd Tart
Crustless Cranberry Pie


Four Ingredient PB Cookies
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup


Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Baked Apples
Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish
(two batches)
GRAVY
There was preserving:
8 quarts of turkey broth
There was humiliation:
Yes, I am one of THOSE mothers.
There was a chicken conga line:

Trees were cut down. 
A long-term UFO was finished.
The wind chimes were fixed.
There was an avalanche (and more shoveling):
The metal roof "self-cleared".
There was an amazing amount of adorable-ness:
My nephew, niece-in-law, and grandnephew.

Words escape me.
Oh, my heart of hearts.
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and were mesmerized by Adrian, the cherub pictured above.  He entertained us through dinner - had I been more on the ball, I would have filmed his method of testing food.  His mother (the beautiful Sabrina) would spoon in a morsel, his tiny face would scrunch up as he registered the foreign object, then - depending on the outcome - he would break into a big smile, or a scrunchy frown.  It was fascinating.

I cavalierly offered to drive my youngest sister to her bus for her trip back down to the City.  We left with plenty of time...had the bus station still been in the location I remembered.  From 15 years ago.   I managed to get her there before the bus left - by putting my car in its path.  Luckily, the driver chose not to run us over.  Oy.


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

And then there was Winter.

On Friday, looking ahead to the forecast, I scurried to get the bulk of the most important 'winterizing' things done before the four inches of snow on Sunday.  This proved rather pleasant, as Saturday's temperature was close to 70, with gentle breezes and sunshine.  Jumpin' Jehoshaphat.  When I looked out of the window on Sunday, I thought I had been transported to another dimension.  Instead of the four inches, we got 20.  And that was on the low end for our area. 




Trees down?  Check.
Power outage?  Check.
Snow load?  Check.
Wine?  Check.




It had started early Sunday morning, so I was able to get out and leave a big pile 'o food for the feral cat I feed at the barn.  That was the last time I was able to leave the house until this morning.  It pulled trees down until they snapped.  It came down heavy and wet.  I had to use the roof rake on the car port twice and gawd knows how many times I shoveled my usual network of paths.


The ducks are in shock.  There was loud, indignant quacking going on in the duck hut Sunday morning, but when I finally shoveled to their door and opened it, there was silence.  Four little heads stretched out on long necks and then shot back inside.  The older chickens weren't happy, but know the drill.  The younger ones spent all their time trying NOT to touch the evil cold wet stuff.


And it snowed and snowed and snowed.  The power went out just as I was about to plug in my batch of yogurt, so I wrapped it in a towel and shoved it into a cooler.  We were lucky, as our power was only out for about five hours.  The area just south of us didn't get theirs back on line until late yesterday morning.  I kept eyeing the hoop house warily and finally strapped on my snow shoes and clomped down to rake it off.  I was lucky, as it wasn't that cold yet and the gate fasteners weren't frozen shut.  I left the gate open.  The poor sheep had the brunt of the tree damage.  There is a huge pine tree bent onto their feeder (it hasn't snapped yet, but....) and the snow is so deep they have a hard time trudging through it.  As I shoveled the quarter mile path to the barn (including a path from barn to their water bucket), I had to practice my non-existent limbo skills more than a few times.  As I wrenched the barn door open....I heard harp music and angels singing.  In front of my dazzled eyes was a wall of hay bales!  My farmer neighbor had come sometime after Saturday's afternoon feed and delivered and stacked my winter hay.  I almost wept. 







After the power came back on, I squeezed in a batch of granola - just in case it went out again.  There were also some exciting developments due to our new metal roof - the snow load slowly creeps down and looms over the eaves, complete with deadly-looking icicles, which, as they melt, leave treacherous shallows of ice right outside ones doors.  Very exciting, indeed.  The Pepperoni shot out of the back door, hit the ice, did a mad scramble, went off the deck and into a pile of snow at least three times his height.  We all froze.  Then a small, black nose poked up, followed by a snow-covered face.  He was fine!  Even Lovey was tippy-toeing across the deck after that performance.  And I have been watching Scrappy like a hawk.  He is a bit unsteady on his old pins, and I don't want any falls, sprains, breaks, or other catastrophes to befall my boy.  We spent most of the day in front of the fireplace - the dogs wrapped burrito-style in their blankets, cats curled on beds by the fire and me with my book and knitting.  It wasn't bad at all.  Except for the having-to-go-out-and-shovel-way-too-often part.




Monday morning revealed another 10 inches or so of lighter, fluffier snow, so back out I went.  There was no way I could have lived through shoveling my driveway, too, so I had to take the day off.  As is usually the case, over the mountain, in the city, there was no snow.  None.  It is so bizarre.  Thank goodness for camera phones.  Our snowfall even made the news in the Big City.  Woot.  My neighbor showed up with his plow around 3:30 and I felt as if I was out of bondage.  I snow-shoed in from the road to feed the feral cat this morning - she was very happy to see me!




I'm taking this as a test-run for my winter preps.  Or lack thereof.  So far, I'd give myself a C.  I did not get the ducks' heated water dish in and it will be a real pain now, with all that snow.  I forgot to put out the bird feeders.  I did not clean the waterers and put them away.  I did remember to shovel to my gate and then from the gate to the feed bin - with snow as deep as we have, you have to shovel more than once.  Waiting to shovel at the end will kill you!  Time to put on my two-alarm fluorescent socks in case I go head-first into a ditch!  I will try to get some shots of the tree damage - now that I have a leg-up, so to speak, on the shoveling part and can use both hands.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Formicalifera

(My apologies to all entomologists)






With winter looming large and my 'to-do-before-winter" list looming larger,  I am feeling much like an ant-hopper (my rendition above).  I have to admit that, even though I think of myself as all Ant - a bustling bundle of focused energy (ha!), I am, more often than not, a grasshopper.  "Oh, look at that moon!"  "Oh, let's bake cookies - the chicken coop can wait!"  "Oh, let's check email to see if anyone is thinking about me - I can clean the waterers tomorrow!"  Sooner or later, the Ant checks in and takes over - but the stress level has been bumped up a few (hundred) notches, thanks to that pesky Grasshopper.  I am making slooooooow but steady headway with my list, but the cold weather is lurking just outside my mental periphery and it's making me...antsy.  Sorry, just couldn't help myself.  If all goes well (HA! again), my winter supply of hay should be delivered and stacked, my bathroom pipes will be re-insulated, the waterers will be cleaned and hung up in the shed, the strawberries will be pruned and mulched, the hostas will be cleaned up, the sheep yard will be raked, the duck house and chicken coop will be cleaned out, electric will be run and heaters hooked up, and my floors will be steam-cleaned by the end of this weekend.  Oh, DREAM ON, Ant Sweezie! (snort)


How are you all doing with your winter preps?  Come on - make me feel even worse!  :)


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Thank you, Moon. And, What Purty Taters!


Full Beaver Super Moon!





That last post was a mess, so I deleted it.  Never write when your heart is not engaged.  I was not in a good state from the day after the election until yesterday.  Not good at all.  I was aghast and in denial.  Then I was mad.  Then I was depressed and felt frustrated and helpless.  (Therein lies the reason for my reference to the stages of grief - grief for fear that I have lost everything that I hold dear, like country,  the rights of ALL humans.)  I lost my appetite, my sense of humor, my hope.  Then, last night on my drive home, I looked up and BINGO!  There was that huge, beautiful moon!  It was gorgeous!  I almost careened off the road from the sheer wonder of it.  And that is when I realized that, if I could still be moved to such wonder, there was still hope.  So I'm moving on.  That's not to say I've reached the acceptance stage.  I have not, nor will I ever.  However, since this blog is in no way, never was and never will be, a political forum, that is all I'm saying about that.  However, Aunt Sweezie still has a lot to say, so I'm sure we will hear from her soon...




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One of my favorite things to plant in my garden is potatoes.  There is just something so thrilling about digging into the soil and finding treasure!  This year I planted four kinds - Red Norlands, Bintjes, Rose Finn fingerlings, and Magic Mollys.  The Norlands are by far my favorite and have always provided an abundant crop of creamy white, red-skinned potatoes.  Bintjes are a favorite from my time in the Netherlands and I was thrilled to find them here!  They are a wonderful, versatile yellow-fleshed potato and did very well this year.  The fingerlings were disappointing and, truth be told, I am not a fan.  They are on the dry side, for my taste.  The exciting potato this year was the Magic Molly.  How could I have NOT planted a potato with that name?  While the crop was only fair, there were some good-sized spuds and I gave them a try.  I will say that they are quite spectacular-looking - deep blue skin and flesh, almost purple.  But they are a high-moisture spud that doesn't hold up well to steaming, boiling or mashing.  Another roasting spud.  I'm glad I tried them, but I think I will stick with my two favorites.



Magic Mollys from The Maine
Potato Lady





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Because of my dad's dementia, my sisters and I have worked out a way to get my mother out of the house to keep her from losing her mind (and patience).  My sister who looks after them, does an amazing job of keeping things interesting and moving along.  My youngest sister makes a trip north as often as possible to spend a couple of days, which relieves my middle sis and provides a great deal of entertainment...  Every so often, Mom comes to my place for an overnight visit.  I get her Bestie to come for tea and leave the two of them to gab on for hours.  Then Mom and I have a nice dinner together and enjoy each other's company, while the dogs take turns piling on Grandma.  I try to find something interesting to do that won't wear her to a frazzle.  She's a little unsteady on her pins, so we limit it to short visits with my wonderful friends.  This past Saturday, her Bestie (who is also my neighbor) said that she would really love it if Mom would come and stay overnight with her (and her husband) some weekend.  Mom was flabbergasted and thrilled.  So now we have another piece to the Cheer Mom Up puzzle!




I also got to spend time with Melanie on our second installment of Knit Fest.  I made soup this time - roasted butternut with a side of GF Dill/Cottage Cheese Popovers.  My popovers were heavy on the "over" and very light on the "pop".  Sigh.  You can try and try, but GF just ain't the same.  I am working on socks #3 in a lovely colorway, dyed by Melanie, called "Shroom".  I am going to have to force myself to stop sock-knitting for a while, since the holidays are galloping toward us and I have a list of projects to finish before Christmas.  I am hoping to convince the last of the hold-outs that I do not wish to receive gifts.  A homemade bauble is just dandy, but I do not want anyone to spend any money.  Firstly, I don't need more 'stuff' and secondly, I am gearing up for a year of no-spending.  Not one dollar.  Only needs will be filled, nothing else.  I have a retirement date and I need to pare down any debt I have to as close to Nil as possible by then.  Of course, I am hoping that the new developments in the White House/Congress do not turn the stock market belly-up.  I don't have the 8-10 years it took me to recover from the last idiot's handiwork.  And I don't want to be slaving away into my 70s.


I am trying to make peace with the fact that I am woefully behind on my winter preps.  There are a few things that must be done but, for the rest?  Well, whatever.  It's my new mantra.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

There are so many benefits...

to having sisters that are neater than you.  When my darling middle sis house/farm sat for me, she brought along her floor steamer.  I never knew such a thing existed!  She cleaned the kitchen, dining room, living room and hallway floors.  Twice.  She very sweetly suggested that they may need yet another go-around.  Ha.  Back in my other life, my floors were pretty much spotless.  Then I added dogs, cats and the farm.  I never looked back and my floors never were the same.  I will say, though, it is awfully nice to have someone come in and do the type of cleaning that I don't have time for.  Or, more honestly, that - should I have the time - falls to the bottom of my list of what I WANT to do.

When my sisters come to visit/stay, surfaces are cleaned and dusted.  Refrigerators are cleaned.  Stove tops are cleaned.  It's a wonderful thing.

Deciding to beat the crowds, I was at our local polling station (the old lumber yard, now the town municipal "complex" - although the only thing complex about it was how our dodgy town supervisor managed to force it through and shove it down our throats) by 6:30AM.  The matriarch of all things official in our town (the dowager duchess, complete with full make-up with a theatrical bent at 6AM), declared, when I walked in, "THAT IS SUE - SHE LIVES ON WATSON ROAD IN CHERRY PLAIN.  ZONE TWO!!!!"  In my ten years of living in my town, I have had to reintroduce myself every freaking year.  Apparently, I've made the grade.  I have arrived.  I also ran into two women who I don't often get to see, so we leaned against our cars in the parking lot and caught up.  Very reminiscent of the local farmers leaning on their pick-ups, but we were an assortment of Volvo, Ford sedan and small SUV.  And two of the women was in heels.  Guess which one wasn't.

Sauerkraut is made!  I forced myself to get it done Saturday night.  It's so easy to talk myself into putting things off, but I have finally learned that procrastination can circle round and bite you in the hiney.  So, toothpicks holding eyelids up, I pounded way past my bedtime.  This year I cut back on the amount of blueberries, as I didn't want to stain my very own kraut pounder blue.  I processed only one cabbage this year - it was a 12 pounder from my neighbor!  Woot!  I also got gifted with a bunch of chard, a bag of organic carrots and an acorn squash!  AND had a completely wonderful visit with my sister from a different mother, Melanie on Sunday!  She brought corn chowder, the vege and her knitting.  What a delightful way to end a weekend.  We knitted and talked and talked and knitted.  She finished a pair of socks in a colorway that I have always coveted (she dyes and sells her own yarn).  She then...GAVE THEM TO ME!  I doubt if that day could have gotten any better.  We are going to try it again this Sunday.

I allowed myself this pure enjoyment because I managed to some things crossed off my list.  I took a car load of trash and recycling to the transfer station.  I got Linden's hooves trimmed.  I raked the sheep yard, moved the divider fence and shoveled and moved a huge pile of llama/sheep beans.  I baked another loaf of Einkorn bread - safely cooled in the padlocked laundry room.  Then I swept the ceiling and walls of the chicken coop, shoveled out the front third and scraped surfaces.  Because of all kinds of planned and unplanned events, I am woefully behind in my winter preps.  The major one is cleaning out the coop.  But, since I am nothing if not flexible, I've downgraded it to shoveling out the area under the roosts and leaving the rest until spring.  The fall clean-up is mostly feathers, anyway, and those will break down and create more insulation for winter.  The ducks have now been banned from co-mingling with the hens because they are so messy and empty the chicken waterer all over the floor.  All that needs done now, besides some heavy lifting this weekend, is running the electricity out there and setting up the water heater.

Headway is being made.  Halleluiah.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

What happens when you are not firing on all cylinders.

Even on my best days, there is always a chance that a cylinder (or five) is missing in the firing-on line-up.  Lately, after the stressful few weeks leading up to Juno's death and then that sneaky flu, I am lucky if one cylinder has the moxie to stand up and be counted.  A varying degree of mistakes are made - some irritating and some rather heart-stopping.

Case(s) in point:  Two weeks ago, I came home and went to let the dogs out.  But, wait.  There are sheep in my back yard.  Thank goodness the gate on the deck was latched.  The dogs were left to pee on the deck (The Pepperoni obliged immediately, while the other two at least looked guilty), while I rather calmly (or so I hoped), sauntered out and tried to nudge the boys back through the gate THAT I HAD LEFT OPEN.  Also, luckily, Apria was still within the confines of the fence, having not sensed that there was a small opening that the Fat Boy (Linden) had squeezed through.  I got crazy Norman in the back part of the paddock and then lured Fat Boy in with a pan of grain, then had to go through a series of open/close/herd with Norman. Whew.

Four days later:  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Same scenario.  Same GATE LEFT OPEN.

This past Monday?  While I was busy ignoring my 'head cold', I went to pick up taters at the local farm (some for me, some for the local food pantry), came home and let the dogs out into an (apparently) empty back yard.  Two seconds later, Lovey dashes to the left and Norman rockets into sight, trying unsuccessfully to vault his rotund self over the fence.  Scrappy didn't notice and The Pepperoni, having sized up the new kids, turned a blind eye.  Thank goodness Lovey listens to me.  I got the dogs back on the deck and, because SOMEONE HAD LEFT THE SAME SHEEP GATE OPEN AGAIN, all three - sheep and llama - were out.  I ignored Apria in the front yard and worked on the sheep.  I am now an expert on sheep and blind llama psychology.  Ignore them, turn your back on them and pretend with every fiber of your body that you are NOT going to head to the barn for grain.  If they have any inkling at all, that you are heading for the grain barrel, you don't stand a chance, they will run you over and rush the barn.  I managed to pull it off and get all three back under lock and key.  I have written "LOCK THE DAMN GATE" in black Sharpie on the gate itself.   Next step is a tattoo.