Sunday, October 31, 2010

Maybe, if I close my eyes....

then open them, all that white stuff will be gone!  Every year, winter sneaks up on me and takes me by surprise.  I know it's coming and, in a perverse way, I look forward to it.  But, then it is here and I am shocked!  At least I'm consistent.  I have a pretty good headstart on winter-readiness, but there is still a BIG LIST.  The small comfort I had taken knowing that next weekend was pretty much free, was dissolved after a call from my Icelandic breeder friends in Dansville.  I am now having overnight company from Friday night through Sunday night.  Whee-haw!

p.s.  Anyone know what kind of pumpkin/squash that big, warty thing is?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Are you speaking or asking? Pardon my rant.

At the risk of sounding like a cranky old lady, what is it with the weird intonation of almost everyone under 30?  It hit me today that, even on NPR (which, I believe, is slowly sinking into the morass of bad media), reporters all have that irritating habit of putting the inflection on the end of their sentence, making it not so much a statement as a question.  After listening to an hour of this, I have to turn off the radio.  I long for strong speakers, with professional, moderated voices.  Thinking of Walter Cronkite makes me feel all teary.  It seems we are surrounded by young men and women who have a slightly flat, whiny tone and sound so querulous.  I find myself muttering, "Oh, just spit it out, will you?"  See?  I am asking a question there. 

As I was growing up, dinner was served at 6 p.m. sharp (Eastern Standard Time).  Part of the dining experience - besides practicing our good manners:  no elbows on the table, no fidgeting - was the "Word for the Day".  My father pronounced it and we were expected to look it up and use it.  I am old enough to have missed New Math (thank goodness), but learned to write cursive by slowly forming the letters in chalk on the blackboard, and practiced, practiced, practiced good grammar.  What was learned at school, was stressed at home.  So I literally cringe when I hear, "Me and Mike went..."  Me went? 

And don't even get me started on "invite", as in, "Did you send him an invite?"  I plead guilty to jazzy punctuation, but, alas and alack (smidgen of Shakespeare in HS), this old fogey is getting left behind in the literary and grammatical dust.

Monday, October 25, 2010

There are fang marks in everything!

Kramer with Alien Eyes

It started this weekend.  I had left a batch of muffins to cool on the kitchen island.  I came back 15 minutes later to find tiny punctures in the tops of Every One.  I left a half-loaf of bread wrapped in foil on the counter.  For TEN minutes.  It looked like a sieve.  This morning, having packed my lunch, I went into the bedroom to change into barn clothes.  I came out to dessert was missing.  Mind you, this was a slab of Whole Wheat Bread with Raisins.  With a recipe that calls for two cups of molasses, even a smallish portion of it weighed a good pound.  I immediately headed back to the lair and found it wedged under a table, with the corner of the plastic bag chewed off and, yes, fang marks on my dessert.  I snatched it from Kramer's jaws and put it in another zip baggy and double bagged the lunch and put it in my tote.  If I could have padlocked it, I would have.  Do kittens go through a teething stage? 

I related the sordid events to a friend, who was horrified that I just went ahead and ate the kitten-ravaged dessert.  I decided not to tell her about my finding a nice, fat caterpillar on top of last week's salad and saving it for my chickens, whilst (;o) I ate the greens.

Slim with matching Alien Eyes

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chickens, cheese, friends, lessons and bad acoustics.

Nettle Meadow Farm - Home of the **Kunik**.

Waiting for cheese on the dry front porch.
  I didn't get as many pictures taken as I wanted to, as it intermittently rained and shined all day.  And it mostly rained when I was outside the truck with my camera.  These were taken on the long front porch of Nettle Meadow Farm's farm/cheese house, where it was dark, but dry.  Melanie, Marianne and I had driven an hour to the abattoir to deliver our feathered pre-food products (aka meat chickens) and had time to drive another hour+ to Nettle Meadow Farm.  They produce some of the best cheese anywhere on this small farm, using goat and sheep milk and Jersey cow cream.  My absolutely favorite cheese is their Kunik, a blend of goat milk and Jersey cream.  It is almost like eating cheese/cake.  We were able to wander around the farm a bit, but the cheesemakers were up to their elbows at work so we were unable to spend any time with them.  However, we did get to meet some very fetching Friesian sheep, adorable Nigerian Dwarf goats, and an obliging farm manager who really seems to love his job.  Did I mention that they are selling some of same fetching sheeps' lambs?  I didn't?

We also got to spend the time talking and laughing, discussing everything from politics to farming methods.  Melanie had packed the most amazingly good sandwiches for the trip - pesto, mozz, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts on farm rolls.  They were delicious!  We stopped in a lovely gift shop and gallery where I found the perfect birthday present for a certain Els in Holland (in case you're reading this, Els, I'm not telling what it is), and overall had a wonderful time.  We picked up our now-food birds and had an interesting discussion with the processor on the vagaries of state regulations and what causes some birds to grow more than others - especially when they are from the same chick batch.  Melanie and I had birds that weighed in substantially less than Marianne's.  I think that we ended up figuring it was a combination of too-low-protein food (me) and predominately female birds (Mel) versus mostly male birds raised on high-protein organic feed and given 24/7 access to same.  Plus pasture, which I did not have.  It was interesting and I have tucked away the details for next year's birds.

After we got back and stowed birds and carriers in appropriate cars and freezers, we sampled a new Nettle Farm cheese called "Three Sisters".  It is made from a blend of goat and sheep milk, and Jersey cream.  It had a pronounced 'goat' flavor, with some definite 'sheep' and ended with a nice tangy-ness on the tongue.  And I discovered whole wheat saltine crackers!  Who knew?!  The day's discoveries were not over, however, as Melanie and I managed to squeeze in a quick felted-soap lesson.  She also bestowed upon me a large bag of arugula straight from her garden.  I believe arugula is my favorite green - with Swiss chard and kale coming in a close second.

After a lot of hugs, squeals and kisses (my new MO upon arriving home - hoping to overcome any anxiety over kittens in residence), the chores were quickly done and I headed out to the Town rabies clinic, where I volunteer twice a year.  As this is held in the Town's garage, a large, cavernous cement and metal building with puny heating system, by the time the line for dog inoculations forms, there is an impenetrable din.  The cats (6-7p) may be unhappy, but they do not vocalize like the dogs.  With the dogs, it's a combination of excitement and fear.  Lots of beagles, hounds and dachshunds.  I love seeing the dogs and their owners - great big, beefy farmers with Chihuahuas, young mothers with exuberant huskies and kids in tow, seniors with their senior dogs.  It's also a great opportunity to find out what's going on and who's doing what to whom.  When I came home and through the door for a second time, much later, there were more hugs, squeals and kisses.  Especially for Scrappy, who, sans diaper, did not pee in the house.  Yeah, Scrappy!  Extra hugs for you!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Life is better than television.

Tomorrow the Fricassees go off to Freezer Camp, I get to visit my Favorite Cheese Maker In The World, and it's the Bi-Annual Town Rabies Clinic!  Could there be a more exciting line-up?  This is better than television, which I have not watched for over 8 years now.  I own a television set, but it's used for playing DVDs.  I have no dish, cable or antenna.  It is blissful without television.  Can I have missed much, not knowing about which stars are dancing?  Not knowing any Surviving Big Losers?  Honestly, even the titles of these shows give me the willies.  Listening to the radio is about as close as I want to come to knowing what's going on in the world.  It would be lovely to have a Good News Station - that is something I'd tune into daily.  Mostly, I listen to music (everything from the Wailing Jennies to Bach), or listen to clocks ticking, knitting needles clicking, kittens tear-assing around, the sighs, scratches, snores of the dogs.  In the spring and summer, open windows expand my repertoire to birds, sheep, chickens and ducks.  Unfortunately, it also expands to gravel pit noises and endless truck traffic, but I'm beginning to tune those out.  I can hear my neighbor's cows and the occasional dog.  At night, I hear coyotes and foxes, and the same dogs.  Wind in the trees, rain on the roof.  So very much nicer than television.

Stay tuned for the juicy details of tomorrow's doings.

And Happy Birthday, Fiona

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Slow learner. That would be I.

I now have an inkling of what I missed in not having children.  It's a little late, and I'm a little slow.  I am going out tonight to buy another Doggie Pull-Up (or Pull-Over, in this case) for Pee-boy.  I was faced with a sodden diaper last night and had to leave for a meeting.  So I had to *gasp* leave him un-fettered for two whole hours!  I was a wreck, sitting in the meeting wringing my hands and wondering what furniture was getting the treatment.  When I flew through the door, expecting the worst, all I was met with were wagging tails.  Yay!  Crunchy treats abounded.  But I'm still going to get a back-up.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My life with Diaper Boy.

I have tried treats, play, walks, love, pleas, and threats.  So far, Scrappy is still applying passive/agressive behavior to the kittens being in the house.  Translated:  he pees inside and often.  And now Bernie is joining in.  Bernie, however, will suffer silently for a lot longer before she is pushed over the edge.  I finally put Scrappy in the equivalent of a doggie diaper.  Bernie only pees on the dog beds, so I wrapped the innerds of the beds in large garbage bags and she is so alarmed by the attending rustles and crinkles, that she quit peeing on them.  It is, though, a losing battle.  I am completely attached to the kittens and the older cats don't seem to mind them.  But, since Scrappy shows no signs of turning off the faucet and Bernie has become Velcro Dog, I cannot keep torturing them.  Even with endless Crunchy Treats, they are still miserable.  My laundry loads will shrink, but I sure will miss the amazing cuteness of the kittens.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Cleveland Christmas Party - my friend Johanna (on Santa's lap), her son & ex-DIL, and a very young me
(to left of her son).  Circa late 80s.
One of my inside projects is cleaning out and organizing my office.  This will be no easy task, as it is also my craft room and also populated by both dogs and cats at will.  But I have a strong vision of the finished project, so I forge ahead.  As I was tackling the stacks last night in a free moment, I came across a box of photographs.  As I fingered through them, I was transported (rather willy-nilly, as they weren't in any kind of order) back through my life.  And before I knew it, two hours had passed.  In that two hours, I relieved family celebrations, old boyfriends, old apartments, European travel, friends who have passed away, my salad years.

Salad years?  If anything, THESE are my salad years, as I am usually trying to watch my weight and grow my own fixings.  Back then, I could eat anything and did.  Mostly, it wasn't salads.  Sigh.  I digress.

A lot of these photographs were less than perfect.  Some were a little fuzzy, some bore the obvious signs of a bad-hair era.  These photographs were taken before the era of instant gratification - although I did and do have my much-loved Polaroids - and before you could censor yourself.  I have never liked having my picture taken and there are very few photographs of myself that I like.  There are actually only two:  one taken when I was in my early 20s, I believe, with my mother, both of us hysterically laughing; the other taken at a sidewalk cafe in Paris on my first trip abroad.  After that, it was all downhill.  I have also discovered that I seem to be obsessed with bagpipers.  There are dozens of pictures of bagpipers - parades, festivals, funerals.  What can it mean???  It was such an emotional rollercoaster, coming across pictures of my younger self, a dear friend who died of lung cancer, sorely missed, my life in Holland.  It was so nice having actual photographs, bits of glossy paper, to look at - just as it is comforting having actual books to hold in my hand and read.  And here I sit typing about it, into a post which goes into my blog, which goes out into the blogosphere.  Life is so interesting, isn't it?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hold onto your hats, I've been ruminating.

I was raised in a small x-burb of a smallish city in Ohio.  We lived in one of those unimaginative tract developments laid out with a t-square in what once was farmland.  There was one main street with side streets laid at right angles, all ending on a narrow dirt track that ran parallel along a forlorn strip of woods at the end of the side roads.  To the north was Lake Erie, to the south were fields.  In the early days, it was a place of young families, stay-at-home-moms, carpooling, and bridge players.  Everyone was in the same boat and kids ran around freely with neighborly supervision.  Mothers came out at dinner time and called you in.  And, depending on the season, you hightailed it in with frozen fingers and toes, or you dragged your feet, scratched a trail behind you with a stick, and did just about anything but hurry.  As we grew up, families sold and moved to areas with better school systems and the development suffered.

Many years and many moves later, I have ended up in upstate New York - not to be confused in any way with downstate - in a small village within a small town.  This village in which I live has a lot of that same sense of community with which I grew up.  While everyone knows your business, they also know when someone has hit hard times, due to illness, loss of work, or just bad luck.  There are five churches in the town/village, and all congregations reach out to those who need them.  There are movie nights for free family entertainment, clothing drives, a food pantry.  When word gets out that a family has been struck by illness, there is a line of of local women bearing casseroles, cakes, roasts and side dishes at their front door.  I am blessed with amazing friends and good neighbors.  I really love it here.  (Other than the fact that NY State is the top Nanny State, over-regulated, over-taxed, governed by idiots.)

Before I moved here, I lived in a small town just one county further south.  I lived there for seven years and, in that time, I made one friend - Maggie, who I still cherish.  And she lived in another town.  No one helped each other.  There were feuds and fights and nasty letters in the local paper.  It has made me wonder what makes such a difference in small towns that are so close, geographically speaking.

The pre-here town (p-town) had a long history and had flourished with its mills and businesses back in the day.  Now-town (n-town) has a long history and flourished with mills and businesses back in the day.  Both lost most of their industries and have struggled for years.  P-town is closer to The City, and now has a lot of full-time City residents - especially after 9-11.  There is a big disparity between the wealthy cityfolks and poor townfolks.  N-town also has its wealthy residents, but they tend to be artists and writers who like the anonymity of a very rural setting.  We've got lots of "hollers" here - dirt roads that lead way back, up the mountains - and that is where they settle.  From my non-scientific study, it seems that the biggest difference is that the families here tend to stick around for generations; it's not unusual for three or four generations to still be living within a mile of each other.  Back in p-town, as soon as they're able, the young people skedaddle and don't look back.  Another difference - and I may be way off here - is that n-town is basically a rural, farming community and there is an ingrained sense of dignity and the worth of hard work that infuses a lot of the families here.  Of course, there are slackers and drunks and crooks, too, but they have very little impact on the solid sense of community of the place.  P-town is more settled, with more affluent towns clustered around it.  It just seemed angry and envious and petty.  There was a pervading sense of resentment and entitlement.  I was very glad to leave.

I am curious to know what you think makes a good sense of community.  I've lived in small, medium and very large cities with the contrasting large, small, smaller sense of community in each.  I am not a romantic when it comes to farms, farming and farmers.  It's dirty, hard work and there is no time off for good behaviour.  Is it this shared hardship that brings out that intimacy that seems to be shared in this little village?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Squeezing it in.

Dealing with diminished daylight hours brings on a whole new set of challenges for us work-outside-the-home-and-still-farmstead-ers.  It means that, while I still rise at the ungodly hour of 4:30 every morning, the sun doesn't rise until after 6:30.  I putter around until it starts to get light - knitting some mornings and baking others.  This morning I cut up the brownies I made last night and made icing so I could decorate them for my farmer/neighbor's birthday (H-A-P-P-Y-B.-D.-D-O-U-G-! == exclamation point added to round out the dozen).  Then I feed the dogs and cats, slip the dogs into their classy orange vests for our walk (hunting season is upon us) and fast-walk up the road and back, and throw down my breakfast.  And since I insist on spoiling every darn creature in my care, I need to cut up apples for the sheep, dish up leftovers for the chickens and pull up clover for the rabbits whilst there still IS clover.  (I love using "whilst".)  If I am focused and fast enough, and if nothing goes amiss, I will have time to do something extra - like mulch my garlic.  Obviously, I am a morning person.  Everything goes downhill after 2 p.m.  All I need now is someone to follow me around with a camera to jazz up my posts.  Of course, if I had someone to follow me around with a camera, I would be putting that person to work and no pictures would be taken anyway!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What a Great Day!

Another jam-packed day, but it was packed will all good stuff!  I headed out early-ish this morning with my friend, Marianne, to Springfield, MA, for the Scottish Highland Cattle Event at the Big E.  This was the first time I had the opportunity to get up close to these gorgeous animals - it was heaven.  One of the best things about attending the judging is that you get some insight as to what makes a *great* Scottish Highland cow.  However, Marianne and I both agreed that the majority of the cows/bulls/heifers that were there had very short hair - something not attractive to either of us.  But she is in the market for one and we were able to examine some lovely livestock and pick up tips and business cards. 

Breeder from Maine explaining the fine points to Marianne.
   Next, I got 75 bales of hay in the barn!  I just can't tell you how comforting that is -- and I have up to 130 more available for winter.  It is better than money in the bank.  Wait a minute -- let's just say that it is AS good as money in the bank, since my money in my bank has to pay for said hay.  Have I mentioned how wonderful my neighbors are?  My dairy-farmer neighbor is generous enough to donate his time and farm truck to pick up hay with me.  They can drop the bales from the barn into the bed of the truck, then we drive down the mountain and dump the lot in front of the hayport.  All I have to do is stack it.  And, of course, no matter how much I assured them that I was more than capable of stacking it myself, the farmer and his barn helper dove right in and stacked the lot six bales high (a miracle) in about 15 minutes.  I was more than grateful, I was teary.  There is a nice, warm, coffeecake in their future (tomorrow morning)!  That's all the pay they will take.  Lordamighty, I am a lucky woman. 

Not a great action shot - but you get the general idea.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The World is My Trash Can.

Not my trash can, you understand - I've got two and I use them - but there seems to be a new trend in dealing with unwanted items.  Every spring there arises a crop of tires at the sides of the country roads around me.  They start way back in the woods, where people have tossed them over the winter.  Then a group of local septuagenarians puts on their hiking gear and slogs into the underbrush to pull them out to the side of the road.  Sometimes the county trucks actually comes along and pick them up, but most likely not and they slowly become weed-filled planters.

Next are the piles - some large, some small - of various unwanted items ranging up from paint cans, broken toys and household goods, to upholstered furniture.  No item can be too damaged or deranged to be placed out in a pile by the side of the road.  Sometimes there's a handwritten "FREE" sign put in the general area of the pile.  Most times, it's just understood.  And who wouldn't want that large, stained, lilac and magenta flower print sofa that's been sitting out there in three or four downpours over the past two months?  The common practice here is to have a yard sale/tag sale/garage sale and put all the things that didn't sell in a heap by the road until it is picked over (of which I am guilty on occasion) and slowly becomes a shapeless, sodden mass.  While I do enjoy the thrill of discovering something I covet in a free pile, let's use our heads, people.  Give it a week, then transport that stuff to be reused, recycled or piled in one of the towering landfills.  As much as I dislike adding anything to landfills (don't even get me started on disposable diapers), better there than at the side of the road.

But my pet peeve is the trash that is thrown out of car windows.  Finish your Stewart's chili?  Toss it out the window, followed twenty feet later by the plastic spoon with which you ate it.  Finish your beer?  Out it goes.  Enjoy your McMeal, then drive around with the remnants in your car for over an hour until you come to a nice, pristine country road.  Heave ho!  It drives me crazy.  Does this happen in your neck of the woods?

Monday, October 4, 2010

I am an All-Day Sucker.

I was going to go into confessional mode, 'fessing up to being a real sucker.  Then I realized that just plain "sucker" wasn't strong enough.  No, siree.  I am a gen-u-ine, dyed in the wool, all-day-and-then-some sucker.  Animal rescue people can see me coming a mile away.  Case in point:
The Boyz.
I would love to have better pictures, but they move too fast.  It started out innocently enough.  Cookie is now the size of a 5 gallon cookie jar.  He has no one to play with.  He sits around and eats.  I thought it would be nice to get him a youngish brother or sister.  A cat of his own.  Once on the phone with the rescue group, however, it got totally out of hand.  What started as a quest for a 2 y/o male or female cat, ended with me bringing home Kramer and Slim - both under a year old.  It has been a long time since I've had kittens, and I'm feeling like a grandmother who is faced with raising her toddler grandkids.  Jiminy Christmas!  We're all tiptoe-ing around with our hair standing on end.  Trying to find something positive about this (and there are many positive things about kittens), I am now forced to focus and pay more attention to my surroundings:  "Is there something loose on the counter?"  "Did I put all the food in the fridge?"  I am also laughing more.

Interestingly enough, all Cookie does is hiss at them.  Bernie is stoically taking on yet more cats (Kramer is very friendly and likes her); Scrappy has peed twice in the house; Tippet looked at me and squinted, then turned her back on them.  She doesn't mind them if they don't bother her while she's eating, sleeping, or walking across the floor.  They're growing on me.  Almost literally.