Saturday, September 29, 2012

Oooh, Mama!

This has got to be the Mother of ALL tomatoes!  Jumpin' Jehoshaphat!!  Almost all of the tomatoes from my lone Old German plant were this size or a tad smaller.  And were they good!  This is a must-grow for next year.  (Are you listening/reading, Marianne....?)

Old German heritage tomato.

And speaking of mothers, mine gave me quite a start yesterday.  I was sitting in my office, minding my own beeswax, when the main line rang.  Since the receptionist was out to lunch, I cover the phones.  I glanced at the Caller I.D. when I picked up the handset and wondered who would be calling from Vermont.  It was my mother!!!  Some background here - my mother never, NEVER calls us.  We call her.  She will want to hear from us but, instead of picking up the phone and calling, she stares at her phone and wills us to call.  And, since we have been trained from birth, we do her bidding.  Having her call me and call me at work made my heart lurch.  Turns out, she wanted to make sure it was okay that her doctor's appointment (to which I was acting as chauffeur) was on a Monday.  This is one of the appointments that is out of town for them, so I take the day off and drive them to and from the appointment.  My father is not allowed to drive out of town under threat of bodily harm.  Once I recovered from the shock that she called me at work, I assured her that it was fine and hung up.  I am glad to know that my blood pressure, heart rate and emotional resilience are flexible and intact.

Friday, September 28, 2012


With the onset of Fall, our daylight hours are shrinking fast.  I swear the days get shorter faster than they get longer.  Cripe.  Did that make any sense?  It's sort of like weekend time - it goes faster than weekday time.  Really.  I timed it.

Rising to the top of my list is setting up the timers.  I have a complicated system of timers on all my various light sources.  While I did invest in new solar walkway lights for the path from driveway to front deck, it's still pretty dark out here in the boondocks.  Phase One of the timer set-up is the goat barn.  This is very helpful in many ways - the goaties are happier when there is light in their barn at night and I am happy because I can close them in when I feed them and they are content to munch away.  That also saves me another trip out in the dark.   Where I sometimes meet creepies - like the opossum I almost tripped over a couple of nights ago.  We both shrieked.  Setting up this particular timer system is rather complicated.  It involves 2 and 3 prong plugs, multiple extension cords, and balancing the whole contraption up out of the reach of the ever-inquisitive goaties. 

Phase Two is setting up a light to come on in the living room so that the dogs aren't in the dark (which seems to be more of a worry for me than them), and allows a little more light to emanate out of the windows onto the front deck.

Phase Three are the festive and holiday-themed outdoor strings of lights.  My October string is orange and it's wrapped around the front deck.  That gives way to the red/white/green lights that adorn the front deck and along the fence line behind the driveway.  About mid-December, it is downright cozy out there. 

Phase Four - the final phase - is for the darkest nights and the longest part of winter.  Mid/late January to early March.  This is when I take pity on the chickens and put a light in their coop.  It has nothing to do with the fact that I am desperate for eggs about then.  Nothing at all.

How do you handle the short dark days?  I am always looking for inspiration.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Small celebrations.

Would they be celebration-ettes?

The Guineas, unbidden, trotted right into the chicken coop Tuesday night and took up residence.  I don't believe I can count on this reasonable behavior, but it was perfect timing as we got rain overnight and that morning.  I slept soundly.

Day Number Nine - the last of Flora's penicillin shots.  We are both happy about that.

Gentle rain instead of thunderstorm - Bernie's had her fill.  She slept soundly, too.

Farmsitter seems to be solid!  Vacation coming up!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


You can sure tell when Summer has transitioned into Fall - I am in the kitchen and happy about it!  This past summer had me avoiding it like the plague.  Thank goodness, there were no two-legged dependents relying on three meals coming out of that particular space in my house.  The only thing I was capable of in 90+ degree days with 150% humidity, was slinging some kibble in a bowl with a splash of heavy cream.  Heavy cream, you say?  Don't ask.

But now -- I was cookin' up a storm this past weekend:  deviled eggs and plum crumble (GF) to go with  fried chicken and the delicious (quinoa) pasta salad my sister made for our mother's surprise birthday picnic; then peach crumble made from the same recipe - not quite as good, but I ran out of plums; my new favorite soup, recipe borrowed from Kim's stellar weekly menu - always a source of inspiration, then a turkey meatloaf stuffed with spinach, accompanied by garlic smashed potatoes for Kay and Nick (rather bland - I forgot the cheese in the stuffing! - but they were kind and et it anyway), and, finally, some of Marianne's amazing pork chops, marinated in soy (Bragg's) and lemon and garlic (see recipe here).  I also squeezed in a round of cheesemaking and have a nice, fresh pound of mozzarella in the fridge. 

My second planting of lettuce - although spotty on the germination front - has yielded enough leafy greens to get me through a couple of weeks.  I'm glad I have the cold frame, as Tuesday morning's temperature (at 4:30) was 32 degrees!  I am going to try to plant some spinach in the 'bald spots' to see if I can keep this up throughout most of the Fall and Winter. 

Speaking of the garden, it is a sorry sight, indeed.  I have prepped two beds for the spring - one will be planted in garlic this fall.  I have to pull out the tomato plants - which are still loaded with tomatoes, but I am so beyond caring - and I am still hopeful that I may get two whole pumpkins and four whole winter squash out of my half acre (not nearly, but still...) of plants that got zapped by powdery mildew.  I will give them a couple more weeks, and then out they go.  I've got my seed garlic ready and will put it in Columbus Day weekend.  I still have to harvest and dry herbs, and transplant my rosemary plant to a pot for safekeeping over winter, and cut down the strawberries to be ready for their nice straw blankie.  The leaves are turning and it's time to tuck things in for the year.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Spontaneous Day....

Off.  There is nothing like a spontaneous day off - for whatever the reason.  For me, it was a cool, cool night, followed by that brilliant blue sky that is typical here when seasons start to shift.  I call it Maxfield Parrish Blue.  The day started out like any other - then I just got a bee in my bonnet and decided that I needed a mental health day.

The best thing about a SDO is that you don't have plans for it.  It just unfolds in front of you.  Sort of.  While I can be spontaneous, there is, after all, The List.  So I got to tick off a couple things from the list, which was very satisfying.  And I had some one-on-one time with the dogs, goats and sheep (not at the same time, of course.  That would NOT have been relaxing.)  Cats choose their own one-on-one time.  Usually, when it is not convenient for you.  But one does not rule cats.  Cats rule everything.

I spent a little time in the kitchen...

I turned these.....

into these.
 I spent a little time doing something creative....

It was time to lose the silk forsythias.
I spent some time on the Ratz War....

The Pearlies show off the new metal-clad entrance
to the chicken coop.

The Ratz had gnawed through half of a 2x4 to
gain access to the coop.  The bottom section will have
to be replaced, but it should throw them off until I
have the time and materials.
 I did some gardening-type stuff...

Hog Panel = Grape Trellis

It was, all in all, a glorious SDO.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Musings.

It always amazes me - the number of emotions evoked by my drive to work every morning.  One would think that, given the fact that I usually have no distractions (no radio, no music, no phone to ear, and no texting), I would just sail along from Point A to Point B, enjoying the view.  But, no.

I do enjoy the landscape on my mountain road - the Swamp Maples are already turning brilliant red and their reflection in the many small lakes and ponds up there is really just breath-taking.  Then I come around a bend and find myself faced with Men At Work signs.  This particular town is hell-bent on cutting down every other tree, in the way or not.  What really set me off was that they were cutting down apple trees!  There were apples all over the road - WASTE, dagnabit, WASTE. 

Then I find myself behind a large pickup.  The driver must have had a very bad experience with the left side of the road, since he spent the next six miles on the wrong side of the double yellow lines.  It didn't seem to bother him in the least bit - but my hair was on end the entire trip - this is a very winding road, with no way of knowing if there is someone else coming toward you around the bends.  I assumed he was either very challenged; had started his morning with a few cups of Irish coffee; or was functioning on short bursts of awareness (the rest of the time being focused on some hand-held device).  It was nerve-wracking.

THEN, I came across a nice, neat pile of trash waiting to be picked up.  Two giant-sized disposable diaper boxes, crammed full of garbage.  Well, let me tell you, if you want to set me off, bring up the subject of disposable diapers.  And there they sat.  The ONLY part of the product that was recyclable (the box) was being used to toss the despicable end product.  Let me tell you, the only thing worse for mankind than the invention of the disposable diaper was the invention of Styrofoam.  Why this country allows mega companies to manufacture and reap the financial bounty of a product that is heaved in stinking piles on Mt. Everest-sized landfills, instead of insisting they recycle them, is just beyond belief.

I was completely exhausted by the time I finally reached the office.  Now I can rest....

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A list is like an onion.

I am going to get all Zen about lists.  Hold onto your hats.

I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing anymore as a simple list.  You know the kind - you put down five items and then you neatly check them off as you progress through your day.  My lists are an enigma to me.  They start out straightforward enough - Call Mom; Feed chickens/Guineas; Dry Plums; Repair coop stoop with metal.  But what actually happens is this:  I call my mother; I go to feed the chickens and find two more holes so I curse all rodents, grab the rake (which is so conveniently stored in the barn - a quarter mile away), then rake a big pile of rocks around the foundation of the coop and stomp on them.  And go back into the house.  Where I find I have not fed either the chickens or Guineas.  So I go back out and feed them.   Hmmm.  Did you see that furtive little non-list item sneak in there? 

I come home from work, after stopping to pick up a tarp.  We have a nasty little storm predicted for the next day and the Guineas, God bless them, will not WILL NOT, roost inside the coop.  I have managed to put backing behind their outdoor roost (not on the list), but they are still exposed above.  So I put up the tarp (after luring them into the enclosure so they won't freak out outside) then I tie it down to within an inch of it's life.  It is now dark, and I cannot affix metal to the coop stoop - because I can't see it.  Another layer has crept in.

On the weekend's list was to cut boards and finish at least two sides of the run-in shed and paint them.  I know, I know, but a girl can dream.  I go out and measure the back, which is only missing one-and-a-half boards at the top, go cut them, struggle with the wet, raw board, get it clamped up and mostly screwed on and....hear a sound much like a steam engine.  It's Flora.  Her chin area, down to her neck is swollen solid and she is rattling away.  Tools down, ladder down, trot them inside and come back to check her out.  Place a call to my animal specialist - Kay - and we decide to dose her with penicillin.  It sounds like a fluid-build-up kind of thing and not (necessarily) a parasite problem.  We compare Use By dates, get the syringes counted out for a 9-day course, rassle the old girl, and it's too late to continue with the shed project.  Yet another layer.

I am not sure if being a homesteader means you are incredibly stubborn, in total denial, as flexible as a Slinky, or all of the above, but it does mean that your lists are like onions, with many, many layers, one interchangeable with the other.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Musings.

About a week before we got our first low temperature, my hummingbirds were gone.  This also coincided, of course, with the day I had thoroughly cleaned, made new nectar and refilled both feeders.  I am constantly amazed at how Nature sends out these warning vibes and how very sensitive to nuances birds and other migrating beings are.  When the hummers disappear, it's always a good thing to remove their feeders, as that is a sign that it's bear season.  I've already had my feeders turned into origami, thank you.

This weekend, I went apple picking at my second-favorite orchard.  Why not my very favorite?  No apples.  It was a tough spring this year (and tough summer), and the too-warm-too-early weather forced the blooming of apple blossoms, which were then hit with a hard freeze.  My FO (favorite orchard) lost most of their apples.  My SFO is further south, in Massachusetts, and their trees were laden.  I was awestruck at the average size of the apples - almost the size of a grapefruit!  When I mentioned this to the nice ladies in the store, they were all, "Oh, isn't it lovely?  Isn't it wonderful?"  And I was all, "No, I'm getting fewer apples.  Large ain't always better."  I didn't really say 'ain't' 'cause it ain't a word.

Which got me thinking about our love affair in this country with BIGNESS.  Super-size, McMansions, giant SUVs, huge quantities of food, things, the list goes on and on.  Really, now, do we need to house a family of three in a 12,000 square foot house?  Do you need that 7 mpg gas-guzzler for shuttling your 8 year old to fencing practice?  If you pay 7.95 for dinner, should the food be mounded up and hanging off your plate in order to be considered "worth the price"?  No to all of it.  All this BIGNESS is piggy-backed on this inane sense of entitlement that seems to be afflicting the populace.  And I don't even want to run up that flag.  (Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.)  I swear, some days (like most), it seems as if this country has lost its collective mind.

On to the next musing, before I pop a blood vessel.  I am trying to figure out why I am not disturbed by the metallic cacophony of the Guineas.  Me - the person who gave the heave-ho to the turkeys and quail because they drove me crazy.  Do these prehistoric fowl have me bewitched?  Nope.  It's just an oddity.  I find them endlessly fascinating.  They are so un-chicken-like.  They travel in a tight wad - no one is left behind.  If someone (naming no names, Lonesome George) IS left behind, there is endless panic and calling, and carrying-on until the tribe is united.  Alas, I believe puberty is setting in, as there have been scuffles within the clan.  I am always sad when everyone doesn't get along.  So, obviously, I am sad alot.  Which is why I do not read a newspaper, have television and mostly ignore any news source.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Wild Thang!

Winner of the Random Giveaway is....

Small Farm Girl!  Congratulations!!

Please send mailing instructions to me at swomersley at gmail dot com.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Random Giveaway!

Just to perk up Friday, I am giving away....

I unleased my inner wild a long time ago, so it's time to pass the torch.  And the book.  While I am not a fan of her magazine, I like most of her books. 

If you would like to be in the drawing, just leave a wild comment below.  Cut-off date for entry is Saturday, midnight.  The winner will be chosen by completely tame but unscientific methods and announced on Sunday!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dealing with the angst of being me.

I bet, if my mother had been a Famous Person when she had me, and if she had had any idea of the 'me' I would turn out to be, she would have named me Angst.  I have been worrying about the planet since the first Earth Day.  (I was a toddler.  Really.)  I worry about recycling - I can envision my trash on a landfill.  I hear sheep bleating in the middle of the night when there is none to be heard.  I read Joel Salatin and feel I must be just like him.  Visions of polar bears swimming in an endless search for ice floes pop up in my mind's eye.  I have to approach the cat litter aisle in my local pet mart with my eyes closed, so I don't see the cats and kittens up for adoption.  That can be painful in so many ways.

Some of my latest angst-driven moments have revolved around laundry detergent.  (It's sad, ain't it?)  I have been making my own since: a) it's cheaper; b) it creates less waste that must be recycled or, gasp, thrown out; c) I know exactly what is in it; and d) it is the thing to do if you are a true homesteader.  The problem is, the one ingredient that I have such a hard time finding is ... time.  Time to make it.  You can search every dang cupboard in my house and you will find no time.  No time in the pantry.  No time in the drawers or closets.  Yet, the weekend approaches and laundry looms.  Tired of losing sleep over the laundry soap dilemma, I took drastic action.  I ordered it online.  The good news?  I found a totally good, non-toxic, non-bad-for-the-environment detergent that is reasonably priced.  And, after opening the box and finding a compromised box seam which allowed a goodly amount of soap powder to scatter about the shipping box, the Seller agreed with my assessment that a plastic bag was in order (reusable, of course) and gave me a $5 credit for my trouble.

The bad news?  I envisioned my box and it's carbon footprint as it came lumbering to me.  And then I headed for the Merlot.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Summer's Over!!!

Can I hear a few amens?  I was stumbling across the living room this morning at 4:30 (dog toys, mouse bits, gnawed marrow bones - it's a jungle in there) when I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a little green light...blinking at me.  What the?  Once I got a light on and let the dogs go barreling out, I realized it was the 'Icy Conditions' light on my new indoor/outdoor remote thermometer.  I repeat, what the??  Then I looked at the outdoor temperature:  34.1 degrees.  It's September 11, folks. 

So, even though it is forecast to go up to 80 tomorrow, I am declaring Summer officially O.V.E.R.  Just to prove my point, I pulled out the cucumber plants, which were way skeevy anyway.

The Pearlies spent a chilly night outside again.  After noodling it over this morning with my herbal tea and no breakfast (had to fast for 14 hours for a blood test - it's gruesome), I decided that, if the Pearlies were too stoopid stubborn to go inside a nice, warm coop for the night, Mohamed would bring the coop to them. Just call me Mohamed Sweezie Mohamed.  I am going to build an enclosure around their roosting area.  It's just what I need - another project.  On this subject, I had an interesting conversation with my doctor.  She has Guineas and likes them.  But her approach to her limited animal husbandry is, what she calls, the Darwin Approach.  She orders 50 keets from Murray McMurray and, after six weeks, lets them loose.  When they've all been either picked off or took off, she orders more.  I told her that I thought this approach was not a great omen for her patients.  She thinks I'm a riot.  I think I am serious.  My approach seems to be Marshmallow Woman - or, I Am Here For You, Please Make My Life A Living Hell.

Hoops are going up over the Swiss chard, which is healthy and dense.  Like nothing else in my garden.  I am still on a day-to-day watch with Flora, but we seem to be making a tiny bit of headway.  Kay (the Angel in cute acorn jewelry) came over on Sunday morning and we rassled sheep, goats and a camel.  They all got Ivermectin shots and Apria got wormed.  She is definitely a five-man project.  So everyone is done for now.  I just checked my second favorite apple orchard and they have apples, so an apple-picking trip may be in this weekend's forecast.  Everything on the job front is static, so I am taking the stance that no news is good news.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday Musings.

I am musing a lot about loss, recently.  And change.  The two don't necessarily go hand-in-hand, but they often are as tighly bound as white-on-rice.  As I get older, change becomes more difficult to weave into my life.  I chafe at it.  I ignore it.  I get cranky.  Eventually, I lie on my back with my feet in the air and give up.  I do think I am spending too much time in four-legged company.

Recently, my friend, Kay, told me about some old-fashioned method that her grandmother used to keep cats from bolting out the door, across the yard and to their inevitable (mostly) doom.  She buttered their paws.  Apparently cats hate having anything on the bottom of their paws, so they run a few steps, stop, then sit down and clean their paws.  By the time they are finished (all you cat-owners know how meticulous this cleaning is - takes forever), they've forgotten why they were in a mad dash and either poke around where they are, or go back in.  Pure, unadulterated common sense.  I just love these wonderful, old-fashioned solutions to problems.  I was wondering why it's so hard to come up with ideas like this now.  I think it's because we are all in such a hurry to get to work/get chores done/hurrysowedon'tmissDWTS that we don't take the time to look around and see what's out there.  I mean, I have three cats.  Do I take the time to watch them closely to see what makes them tick?  No.  Would I have known my cats well enough to know that they HATE anything on their paws?  No.  Interesting.  Does anyone else have some wisdom from their grandmother/father to share?

I am very surprised at how much I am fascinated by the guineas.  Especially since they drive me to distraction on a daily basis.  Case in point:  Saturday afternoon there was a supercell of storms heading our way.  It was quite spectacular on a radar screen.  They were predicting very high winds (60 mph), heavy rain, thunder, lightning, the whole 9 yards.  Since my guineas still will not go into the coop at night, I figured I would wait until they were doing their usual contrary thing - going in during the day - and close them in so they wouldn't get their feathers blown off.  As usual, they were all in except Lonesome George/ette.  Anyone who has owned guineas knows that getting hold of one is tantamount to catching a piglet.  You are killing them.  It is the end of the world.  Torture and hell is at hand.  So I got a towel and managed to drop it on LG and, as I maneuvered him/her into the coop, it caused the same hysteria in the other five and two shot out the door and out of the run, into the main yard.  At that point, it was starting to blow, the rain had started, and I had had it.  I figured they at least had each other, so headed for the house.  Of course, this cavalier approach never lasts, and I ended up making about six attempts to at least get them back in their run.  We were lucky and only got a good downpour and not the tornadoes to the south.  The duo were zipping around the yard trying to avoid the chickens and, when it finally got dark enough for the chickens to go in their coop, I managed to prop open the door to the guinea yard and they went in on their own.  Guinea fowl owning is good for your cardiovascular health, but is aitchdoublehockeysticks on your mental faculties.

A recent word verification (I am not a robot!) was 16 agefit.  My first reaction, was, "Oh, 16!  I wish!"  But do I?  I think not.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Preachin' to the Choir - Why it's good for your soul.

I ran across a glowing tribute to Joel Salatin's book, "Folks, this ain't normal" on a blog (and darned if I can  find it now - pipe up if it was you!) and thought that it was perfect timing for me to read something that spoke my language.  99% of the political speeches broadcast over the airwaves sure don't.  Many family members and some friends think I'm nuts to live like I do - and do the things that I do.  And since I've been feeling a little like the can that's kicked down the road lately (do kids kick cans anymore?), reading this book has been a tonic.

One of the (many) things I like and admire about Joel Salatin is his belief that it is a good thing to read opinions that are contrary to one's own.  I cannot agree more (although, I do draw the line at Rush Limbaugh).  And, while I don't agree with everything Joel Salatin does, I do agree with almost all of what he believes.  I can't recommend this book highly enough.  It's an eye-opener for those who don't fully grasp the true meaning of being environmentally 'friendly'.  And, in a way, it's a startling presentation of how far away we are from being sustainable, safe, and normal.

On the dust jacket, the New York Times (a paper I no longer read - it's gone off the deep end and the typos are atrocious) touts Joel Salatin as "The High Priest of the Pasture."  After shouting "Hallelujah!!!" after each chapter, I couldn't agree more.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons,

it stinks.  *This is a Whine Alert - you have been warned!*  Last Friday, the woman I work with (and have for 14 years) told me she had accepted another job offer and would be leaving in two weeks.  This is a bad thing.  There are only four of us in the office and she is the only attorney.  AND, most importantly, she is the only reason I can stand my job.   I can only see three options, now that we're down to three people and two of them are administrative:  close the office; hire someone to come lead this outpost (can't see a line forming...); or merge our office with another small firm.

Then I went to the podiatrist - where I had checked (I thought) my new coverage with my new health insurance company.  I was informed after the doc had seen me that, since I wasn't diabetic and I wasn't ill - only my initial visit would be covered.  From now on, I would be on my own.  Hmmm.  Maybe I should have known this before the x-rays??

I have been planning a short, but much-needed vacation to visit Sylvia in Maine.  My sister is my homestead-sitter and we had gone over the logistics ad nauseum.  She went off on vacation and, being the nervous type, I emailed her 100 times to make sure everything was hunky-dorey.  Sunday, she called me to tell me she could no longer do it - they had changed her schedule, since she hadn't formally asked for the time off, she didn't get it.

There, I'm done whining.  After a bumpy holiday weekend, I have finally made my peace with the fact that there are things in my life over which I have no control.

On the upside of the weekend, I got to spend a lot of quality time with my favorite beekeeper and road trip partner, Marianne.  She managed to last through six, 12-hour days at the local county fair.  I discovered that being GF keeps me healthier - I was only able to eat a baked potato and it was good!  We both make sure that we buy our food from what Marianne calls the "wooden" buildings.  Those are the locals.  My delicious potato came from the nice ladies at the Methodist Church.

*Only 16 more posts to go before the BGA (big giveaway...)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Monday Musings. Labor Day Version.

Why is it that, while Labor Day is celebrated as a national holiday from labor, so many of us labor on Labor Day?  I actually didn't have much time to muse this past week - and sometimes that's a good thing, as Martha likes to say.

My Labor Day:

So, any of you sitting back with your feet up, iced tea in hand, bon bons at the ready?

Thar she went!

I was surprised that the sign lasted until early this morning.  I heard a rather loud pickup truck rumble by the house and idle.  There is a Yield sign at the corner (which is mostly ignored), so I knew whoever was in the truck would be trespassing and stealing the sign.  When I took the dogs out for their morning walk, it was gone.  So I brought out sign No. 2, which I will prop against my plum tree every day and take in every night (if I can remember).  This way, the bastard will have to steal it in the light of day.  And we all know that rats are nocturnal....