Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Musings. Looking Back.

I am attempting to look back at 2013 with love.  And humor.  It ain't easy.  I do believe that, if you look hard enough, you can find love and humor in almost everything.  Especially in memories.  And as time passes, it runs them through a fine sieve in kindness and you are left with mostly good memories.  Of course, when you reach an age, alot of those memories are adrift somewhere in that foggy ocean you call your mind - along with your glasses, that matching sock and last week's crossword puzzle.

Kay.  Her death was a huge loss for me, and I think about her almost every day.  But I am thinking of her more often with love and humor - I've adopted her mantra as my own:  Holy Crap!  It covers every situation, both bad and good.  I see her dear face in my mind and it makes me smile.  I pull out my large braising pan and thank God for her idiosyncrasies and manic focus (and unsurpassed pan cleaning skills.)  I hope to be the kind of friend that she was to so many, although I'll be happy to be that kind of friend to fewer.  She had supernatural friendship powers and I do not.

Bernie.  This one is a little tougher because it is still raw.  But I can see her coming to the back door with a pile of snow on her nose, ears straight up, almost bouncing with happiness that it was winter.  I think of the UPS guy, leaving packages at the top of the driveway because of the "mad dog" - he never knew what a marshmallow she was, and I never told him.  Bernie running the cats over to beat Scrappy to their food dishes - making sure to get those last molecules of Fancy Feast in case they left a trace.  Tiptoeing past her back room 'lair' only to realize she's not there to disturb.

The Great Turkey Project.  Besides learning that the LLF female mojo had let me down - I also learned my limits.  I'm pretty adept at adding things into the routine, as long as I do it gradually, and everything was humming along - until winter.  Two of the boys found a new home and Thomas now thinks he's a large chicken.

The importance of lists.  The wheels fell of the list cart this year and I realized how important lists are.  To me.  With the focus of a fruit fly, I went willy-nilly through the homestead and didn't get one really important thing accomplished.  I managed to drop an empty rubber feed dish over the banty hen's nest of eggs (When?  In the Summer?) to discourage her and then forgot about the nest.  I'd remember every now and then, but forgot again and then, when I did think about it, I would figure I'd wait until the dead of winter, as the nest full of eggs was probably a toxic bomb waiting to go off.  It never made it to The List.

Friends.  My biggest blessing.  I have the best friends in the Universe and I love them all to pieces.

I think the most obvious and recurring theme song of 2013 has been that "The Old Grey Mare Just Ain't What She Used to Be."  I have to face reality (eeek) and realize that no matter how ageless I assume myself to be, I am NOT 30.  I cannot have everything I want, the way I want it.  This year I labored away and got not alot of joy out of it.  I don't intend to repeat the experience.

I will now go sit down and write down my list.  And stick to it.  Today.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays to You...

I wish you all the very Merriest of all Christmases and a Wonderful New Year!  May you and yours be blessed with health, happiness and good friends ~~

And thank you from the bottom of my heart (and Scrappy's, too) for your kind words, thoughts and prayers on the loss of our Bernice.  I cannot express how much they meant to me.  Hugs to you all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


I had to say goodbye to my sweet girl this morning.  When she left us, she took a large portion of my heart. I'm going to take a hiatus from blogging for a bit.  See you soon.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ho, Ho, Holey Cow!

Santa dropped off a big box on our front stoop this past weekend via the ever-obliging favorite USPS guy, Don.  Thankfully, before the big snow storm.  There was a whole lot of interest in this box by the furred occupants of LLF.

No wonder!

And may I say that Santa Claus no only thought of Scrappy, Bernie and the Boyz, she also included the goats, sheep, llama, turkey, and chickens in her largesse!  And me!!!! 

Santie loves catz better 'cause we gotz two

What do you mean, Santa has enough

We L.O.V.E. Santa Claus!!! (You know who you are....)

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Musings - Winter/Holiday Edition.

Our Christmas stockings were really the highlight of the day - unfortunately for my parents, we had no mantle on which to hang them, so they were hung on the end of our bed frames.  This was no problem for my sisters - those sisters who fell right to sleep and slept through anything.  This was a problem for me.  And for my poor, sleep-deprived parents.  I was so jigged about Santa coming that I could not sleep a wink!  They had to wait me out.  I think they were greatly relieved when I found out there was no actual Santa Claus.  In our stockings, among the tangerines, gold covered chocolate coins, and new pair of socks, were some real treasures - a horse model (oh Heaven!), handknit mittens (from Mama Claus), tool kit (oh Double Dog Heaven!)  Whatever we received, we were thrilled beyond words to get it.  I remember sitting on the floor in the living room, my parents on the sofa, coffee in hand, while we took turns opening ours and bringing them their gifts, too.  It was a wonderful time.

Why I do not have a live (or any) Christmas tree.  Simple:  Catz.  Back in a prior life, when I was married, we had a great house that just cried out for a Christmas tree.  So off to the back half acre I went and cut down a nice-sized tree.  I had been schlepping ornaments around with me on my multiple moves for years - how nice to be able to actually display them!  The tree went up, lights and ornaments went on, a festive, holiday adult beverage was enjoyed by the fire and then off to bed.  I should interject here that we had two cats - Figaro and Newton (get it? nudge, nudge, wink, wink)  Fig was a lunatic and Newton was my boy.  Very early Christmas morning I awoke, blinked and blinked again.  My half of the bed was completely covered with ornaments.  Only my half.  Ex got nada.  Says something for the wisdom of catz...  Of course, I am implying that this was a GOOD thing.  Ahem.

As I gingerly slid from underneath the covers, I put on my slippers and followed the trail of ornaments through the hall, down the stairs and.....there was the bare nekkid tree.  With Fig firmly ensconced in the lights, trapped like a rat.  It took me 10 minutes just to get him loose.  I removed what little was left on the tree, pulled on my boots and coat, and dragged the tree outside where I propped it in the corner of the deck and let the birds enjoy it.  That was the first - and last - Christmas tree.  I would hate to think what would become of one today - OnceSlim the Flying Squirrel, Kramer The Tooth and Jabba the Cookie would make short work of it.

One of my most outstanding winter memories involved the West Side Market in Cleveland, Ohio.  For those of you who have not experienced this gem, I weep for you.  It is the thing I miss most about anywhere I've ever lived.  And that's saying something.  (Except for Els in Holland.  But she's not a thing, she's a wonderful, kind, talented friend and I miss her something terrible.)  Deep one winter, the winter before I was to move to the Netherlands, coincidentally, I was renting a tiny apartment in the upstairs of an old Victorian house located in an historic district (Ohio City) of Cleveland.  It was a Saturday and there was a full-blown blizzard underway.  I was all snug in my tiny nest, reading A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle.  About one third of the way into the book, I was overcome by an immediate need to have a baguette, cheese and a bottle of wine.  (If you've read the book, you will understand the urgency.)  So I put on fifteen layers of clothes and battled my way against wind and snow to the market - about a half-mile as the crow flies (or flew - as this is past tense...).  I walked through the door and was overcome by the smells of smoked meat, coffee, pastries.  It was warm and the lights reflecting in the tiled interior were all golden.  I swear I heard angels singing.  I made my purchases (including fresh butter and homemade jam for the rest of the baguette in the morning) and trudged my way home.  It was marvelous.

Friday, December 13, 2013

It's a Jungle in Here!

Two FOs and counting. 

Hedgehog (Purl Bee)

Alligator Scarf (Morehouse)

I hope their mother forgives me for knitting with wool......

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blueberry Pie Sauerkraut

Blueberry Pie Sauerkraut
(From a recipe in Taproot Magazine Issue: 7)

2 heads cabbage (green, red or both - I had two small regular green and one large Savoy)
3 tart apples (I don't know that I would add these next time - they didn't add much to the flavoring)
1 qt frozen blueberries
4 tablespoons salt (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional, but I would add them next time)

Core cabbages and shred as thinly as possible. Place in a large vessel (is this related to a vestment?) that can take a beating. (I used my favorite giant ceramic mixing bowl.)  Add about 3 T of salt and mix well. Don’t be afraid to use your hands. Pound the sliced cabbage with a kraut pounder or other pounding tool until it begins to release liquid (a few minutes).

Peel and core your apples and slice them about 1/4 inch thick. add to the mix and test the salt, adding the additional tablespoon if needed. Rule of thumb when making sauerkraut is to taste the mixture and add enough salt so that it is more salty than you would like if you were to eat it straight up, but not so salty that you feel like spitting it out.

Pound the mixture a little bit more to break up the apples somewhat and release more juice. Add the blueberries last, partially thawed so as not to obliterate them, and pound again, lightly. If you are opting for caraway, add seeds now. Stir it all up.

Using a two gallon crock or other container (I used half gallon Mason jars), put a couple handfuls of mixture into fermenting vessel at a time, pressing down to bring the juices up as you go. There should be liquid covering your kraut when you get near to the top of the jar. Leave an inch of room at the top. Weight top to keep kraut submerged. You can use a cabbage leaf with a rock on top.  If using mason jars, lightly screw on the lids and place in a roasting pan to catch any juices that bubble out from the lids.

In three days, test your kraut. It should be ready to eat, but can ferment up to several weeks. Once it reaches the degree of crunchy/soft that you want, store in the refrigerator. It will continue to ferment at a much slower rate in cold storage.  I let mine ferment a little under two weeks, then put it in the fridge.  It is slightly crunchy, which is how I like my sauerkraut.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

It's Blue!! It's Good!!

It's Apple Blueberry Pie Sauerkraut!!!  And they said it couldn't be done....

I will admit to some trepidation - after all, this is my first foray into
fermented foods.  But, Eureka!  Good thing I like it - there are three half-gallon
Mason jars of it in my fridge.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Monday Musings.

The onset of the Holiday Season, always plunges me into a deep pool of nostalgia.  It doesn't take much to send me rocketing backwards in time.  I was thinking, recently, of Christmas parties.  Back many lifetimes ago, I was part of a creative team in an advertising agency in Cleveland.  I was a pretty fair artist, but lacked the killer instinct that was necessary to 'make it'.  It had seemed like the right move in the progression of art school to advertising, but they were (and probably still are) two different things.  Nevertheless, being part of a creative group was a lot of fun!  I vaguely (ahem) remember the holiday season being a long string of interconnected parties.  That was back in the day when I could get away with wearing hot pants.  .  .  never mind.  (TMI???)

When I was married, we had a gang that we socialized with (the group of the Cold Bird notoriety) and every holiday was a reason to throw a party.  Then I was divorced and that was the end of that.  Of that gang.  I did have a good friend, Rip, who was a Host Extraordinaire.  He was a wonderful guy, well-loved, many-friended.  He passed away a few years ago and, with his passing, so ended my ties to Cleveland and an end to an era.  After that, I bounced around over a continent or two and eventually landed in the City.  There was a seismic change in my social life after that - I do think that, the larger the city the more difficult it is to find one's tribe.  Which does seem perverse.  I mean, there you are, surrounded by millions of people, but alone all the same. 

Then I was here.  Of course, I am sure that my age has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the fact that now my idea of a hot party is the local library's annual soiree - usually consisting of  a handful of people shoveling down free food and grousing about the limited booze.  And then there is the 'invitation only' party way up at the top of the hollow (oxymoron?) where the local grand dame holds court, surrounded by the chosen few and her mob of rescue dogs.  I love it.

My very favorite party?  A fire in the fireplace, a nice bottle of wine and a party of six.  Me, Bernice, Scrappy, Cookie, OnceSlim, and Kramer.  Suits me to a tee.

The Right Equipment.

I am a fairly novice seamstress, but I can sew a straight line (most of the time) and can read a pattern.  I like being able to make things for myself (and the dogs) - especially when I can reuse, upcycle and make do.  I would love to learn how to quilt, but I fear that I have two big strikes against me:  the focus of a fruit fly and I am math-challenged.

My very favorite sewing machine - the one I use for almost everything - is my mother's old Singer Featherweight.  She got this when she graduated from college - 1949, I believe.  This little gem is built like a tank (and weighs almost as much), has NEVER broken down, and - other than the occasional belt replacement - has functioned flawlessly for all these years.  I recently had to track down a repair person to replace the original cords that run from the pedal to the machine.  I (luckily) noticed there were breaks along the cord just before Kramer clamped his jaws on it.  That would have put a sparkle in his eyes. 

I was very lucky and found a repair guy that works out of his house - right on my pathway to work!  He can and will work on any type of sewing machine and told me lots of interesting things about the early Singers.  Cool beans.  He also has an adorable dog.  Who quickly discovered that I drive around with dog treats. 

For fancier sewing, I have an older Husqvarna (Husky 145).  It is desperately in need of a once-over and now that I've found my repair guy, it's next on the list.  Right under car repairs, vet bills, fuel oil, and gasoline.

I have my holiday gifts to make, a few pair of pants to hem, and my exciting new project - flannel-lined window shades for my living room windows!  I have a real problem with window 'dressing'.  Mostly, I like them bare-nekkid.  That is a problem, however, if I happen to be bare-nekkid.  I don't think the neighbors are ready for that.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Another Important Tool for the Homestead Arsenal!

I know that many of you (including yours truly) have been following 5 Acres and a Dream's blog for years.  Leigh is a treasure trove of information and encouragement for homesteaders - beginner to advanced.  I don't know how many times I have gone to her very useful resource listing and found the answers to prickly questions.

There have been tantalizing little wafts of the existence of 'a book' over the past few months, and I am very happy and excited to see that it is REAL!  Leigh is launched and has announced a giveaway of a copy of the book on her blog here.  So hop on over and enter!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Comfort Food : Health Food -- Oxymoron??

Not when that comfort food is Quinoa and Winter Squash Bake! 

Amazingly, it has completely, totally, firmly, and bodaciously kicked mac 'n cheeze's butt on my list of favorite comfort foods.  (Truth Alert:  Mac 'n Cheeze is STILL on the list, but rice pasta has taken some of the comfort out of it.)  I came across this recipe on my favorite cooking blog - The Kitchn.  And then I came across my giant Sweet Meat Squash, squatting there in my root cellar (aka the guest room closet).  And that behemoth was developing a soft spot - HORRORS!!!!  Karma?  Kismet?  I think yes.

I lopped off half the squash, cut out the soft spot, and still had over two pounds of diced squash.

(Slight Aside)  This was the first time I have grown Sweet Meat squash and just put one plant in.  It gifted me with two squash - a large and a ginormous.  After tasting this squash, I may plant my entire garden in it.  And red Kuri.

(Back on subject)  In the process of making the dish, I discovered my new favorite food:  roasted squash.  I have had it on salads, by itself, tossed with EVO, salt and pepper.  I could live on the stuff - and given the leftover portion of my ginormo squash, I just may for a month or so.

Here, for your viewing, reading, eating pleasure, is the recipe:

Quinoa & Winter Squash Bake
from The Kitchn
Serves 8
(My notes/changes/comments in italics)

1-1/2 lbs butternut or other winter squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 T olive oil (plus more for brushing on the top)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 T ground flax seeds (I had flaxseed meal and used that)
1/2 cup + 1T water
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced (I used four because I could...)
1 tsp each, finely chopped fresh marjoram, rosemary, sage and thyme  (Not surprisingly, this being  December, I did NOT have fresh herbs - so I used a half tsp each marjoram, sage & thyme.  I did have a potted rosemary plant, so used fresh.)
1/2 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 cups cooked quinoa (they recommend cooking it in vege broth, but I had turkey broth so used that.)
1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
3 T currants or chopped dried cranberries (I used cranberries)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss cubed squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in oven until tender, about 30 minutes.  Turn halfway through.  Remove from oven and lower the temperature to 350 degrees.

Combine flax and water in a medium bowl and stir with a fork until thickened.  Mash half of the squash using a fork or food processor.  Add the mashed squash to the flax mixture and stir to combine well.  Set aside.
(I just mashed it in the same bowl with the flax, as I am the only one here that washes dishes...)

Heat 1 T olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic and herbs and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and translucent.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Add quinoa and mashed squash/flax mixture to the onions, along with the paprika, nutmeg, 2 tsp of salt (don't skip) and a few (dozen) cracks of pepper.  Stir until well combined.  Add remaining cubed squash, pumpkin seeds and currants/cranberries and stir to combine.  Adjust seasonings if needed. 

Transfer mixture to a greased 9-inch pie plate or similar sized oven proof dish.  Press down firmly and evenly and brush top with a little olive oil.  Bake until set and edges are browned, about 40 mins.  Slice and serve warm or at room temperature.  Leftovers will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to a week.

Comfort food, baby, comfort food!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Monday Musings.

I have lots of 'things' that remind me of friends and relatives - both living and passed.  A large braising pan that I use frequently reminds me of my friend, Kay, sadly lost to us this year.  I had been cooking something or other and - as is frequently the case (because I will NEVER learn) - was multi-tasking.  My brain+multi-tasking is like oil+water.  It does not mix.  I ended up outside and by the time I came in, the whatever had become a blackened crust, one with the pan.  Just then, Kay called and I whined on and on about ruining my favorite pan.  "Hold on!" she cried and hung up.  Four minutes later, she was bustling through the door.  She took the pan, turned around, and said, over her shoulder, "I'll be back in a little while with the pan."  About a half hour later, she once again bustled through the door (Kay never walked, she bustled) holding my pan which looked better than new.  She was so very special on so may levels.

My all-time favorite sweater is a green/blue mohair cardigan with fancy, lacy panels down the front and down the sleeves.  This was knit by my Great Aunt Edie.  About 35 years ago.  She even made the matching buttons.  She and I had a mutual love of anything green.  She struggled with my backassward way of knitting and finally gave up, happy that I actually loved to knit - no matter how odd it was.  She and I also shared the Christmas tradition of making the gingerbread men; I have very fond memories of the two of us in her tiny kitchen, dusted with flour, GA Edie grilling me on the state capitols.  She was a real stickler on maintaining the dignity of the cookie men.  I had a tendency to put them in different positions.  She would follow closely behind me as I transferred the dough boys to the baking sheets, straightening a leg here, an arm there.  Strictly by the book.  She smoked exactly one cigarette every evening with her daily Scotch.  Our dachshund, Inger, adored her.  So did we.

This time of year I often think back over past holidays - the year I spilled the beans to my youngest sister that our parents had gotten her a toy sewing machine.  I was one of THOSE children - the ones that ferreted out even the most well-hidden gifts.  Good gawd, I was an exasperating child.  Or trying to get high on Whiskey Balls - those delectable spirit-sodden cookies my mother used to bake.  I didn't manage to get a toot on, but I sure did develop a stomach ache.  Or the thrill of coming out into the living room and finding the tree lights on, and our little piles of presents.  Mine was not the age of excess, for which I am very thankful.  We got one 'big' present, and lots of little treasures.  And all three of us would get some of the same things.  I still have the little hammer that came with our first tool kits.

What is the reasoning behind scented trash bags?  Do they really think that imbuing the plastic with Eau d' Sickeningly Sweet Floral Scent will take out the - say, rancid onion smell?  Cat litter?  Those potatoes you discovered in the back of the vegetable bin that have been there since early 2012?  Why are we constantly trying to cover up smells?  It makes me think of those city folks who are all giddy to have a country place, and then are jolted upright in their designer Carharts when the farmer next to them spreads manure on his fields.  Instead of spraying chemicals, I may add.  Although, truth be told, my farmer neighbor does both. 

And, speaking of scents, who is in charge of  those vanilla scents?  I have yet to find a candle, spray or any other scent-releasing method that calls itself vanilla and actually smells like vanilla.  I tend to be sensitive to strong smells that lean in the fake floral direction.  As in GAG.  The only candles I can burn are unscented or pine.  Pine that smells like pine.  Now, if I could find a lemon-scented candle that smelled like real lemons, I would burn those babies day and night...

Friday, November 29, 2013

Savoring Leftovers - The Good, the Bad, the Weird.

I will admit that, like pizza, I prefer the day after leftovers to the original meal.  I will say, however, that the turkey this year was one of the best ever - the brine recipe I used is a keeper!  I also ended up brining the bird for 48 hours instead of overnight.  One advantage of our present climate is that it is cold enough to make the great outdoors an extension of the refrigerator.

I've got the carcass (not mine, the turkey's) in my big stock pot, simmering away with roasted vegetables.  I've got a pile 'o leftover bird waiting a white chili makeover (tomorrow - I've got the day off today).  There was no stuffing for this girl, but there was no lack of delicious food for me to choose from.  And how did the the meal pan (pun intended) out?  Here's a review of my recipe adventures:

Turkey - New brine recipe is GOOD.  Basically - two quarts of apple juice (I used unsweetened, natural), one cup of kosher salt, one gallon of water, five pounds of ice cubes.  Dissolve the salt in the juice/water combo, put your turkey breast down, put ice cubes on top and add more water to submerge, if necessary.  I brine my turkey in a giant zip loc bag in a cooler.  You could skip the bag and just use a cooler, but I find it easier to clean everything.  Plus I usually have to transport the turkey for cooking, so it works out much better.  We roasted it without adding anything else, although my sister popped half a large onion and half a head of unpeeled garlic in the cavity.  I am using both in the stock.

Cranberry Relish - Last year I made it with fresh, unfrozen berries.  It was better. This year I made it with frozen berries.  GOOD (but better with fresh berries).  The recipe is Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish (the famous, Pepto Bismol pink relish from an NPR personality's mother).  It is an unusual recipe but we all love it.  

Carrot Mash - A hands-down GREAT recipe.  I will make this often.

Mincemeat Pie with Gluten Free Crust - Mincemeat was GOOD (if I do say so myself, it being homemade).  The crust was BAD. This was the first time I have been disappointed in a Gluten Free Mama mix.  It was difficult to roll out, so it ended up thicker than I like.  This made it tricky to bake - and even with my handy silicone crust protector, the edges were toast (and not in a good way) by the time the top browned sufficiently.  I may tweak it a bit, as I have four more mixes.

Now, for the WEIRD.  The Gluten-Free and Vegan Chai-Spiced Pumpkin Bars.  Somehow, I missed the fact that they were not baked.   And the reference to "Vegan" should have raised an eyebrow.  But I was so focused on the Pumpkin and Gluten Free, that I missed the warning signs.  Once I got over the shock that it was not baked, it still sounded promising - with a crust that included dates, oats, coconut and pumpkin seeds.  However, the filling/topping, being pumpkin puree with no binder, sat atop the crust like weird, cold pudding.  I will not make it again.  Surprisingly, I have loads left.  The chickens will be dining well...

All in all, it was a great meal, made more so by the inclusion of family - those at the table, and those that couldn't be with us, but were in our thoughts and fond remembrances.  There is so much for which I am thankful.  I hope everyone had the day they desired.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday Musings.

It is so funny/odd that, every year when the temps plummet and the snow falls, I sit back and sigh in relief.  Of course, it doesn't last long - this relief.  But it's like I now have permission to do some fun things inside.  Never mind that I am still doing not-fun-but-necessary things outside.  Two things happened earlier than usual now that winter has set its sights on me - I've had to rig up the light in the coop (usually I am not compelled to do it until mid-January at the earliest), and I've started to cling to my vision of next year's garden like a sailor on a life raft.  Already.  And the seed catalogs haven't even arrived.  Oh, Nellie.  It's going to be a long winter.

I also tend to forget that not everyone on the LLF has experienced the joy of snow.  When I open the chicken door, Dotty is the first out (Speckled Sussex).  Close behind are the banty sisters, Pippi and Dora.  Sunday morning we were greeted by arctic temperatures, plus a nice, brisk gale force wind, plus snow.  As the banties shot out the door, they lifted off and flew frantically around in a circle, not wanting to land on that awful, scary white stuff.  WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS!?!  They managed to only hit the ground just in front of their door, where they scooted inside and stayed.

I am trying to figure out whether I have a mental blind spot, or if it is just a matter of being in too much of a hurry all the time.  Example:  I am knitting an alligator scarf for my large animal vet's little boy.  This is one of my all-time favorite kid's knitting projects.  I have made more than three.  Yet, I kept making a mistake at the same point.  Over and over.  I'd look at the pattern, knit away, and end up with way too many stitches.  When I finally took a deep breath and frogged out the six rows, I looked at the pattern again.  Miraculously, there was another step on the same line that I had read over and over.  And missed.  Geezloueeze.  Now that I fully comprehend what I am doing (duh), I am zipping along.  Because I have another gator scarf to make for a certain dinosaur-loving cutie pie as an early birthday present.  I am making Aidon's little brother a matching (colorwise) hedgehog, as he is just a tiny boy. 

This same blind spot reared its ugly little head again yesterday, when I went to make my Big Lunch Cook Off.  I apparently only read (comprehended) half of the recipe.  I missed the part where they say to make it a day ahead.  Ah, well.  It was still fine - Shredded beef, tomatoes and wine over polenta.  And I tried a new side - Carrot Mash - to see if I liked it.  I did.  So that will appear on the Thanksgiving table.  I also made my very favorite in the whole world GF dessert - Crustless Cranberry Pie.  This recipe is thanks to Little Homestead in Boise, who adapted it deliciously, and I then adapted it to be gluten free.  OMG, I love this pie. 

So far the Apple Pie Blueberry Sauerkraut is coming along fine.  I keep it in the guest room - which is the second-coldest room in the house (guests beware...)  My bedroom is the coldest.  There is nothing quite like snuggling under the fleece sheets/down blanket/down duvet, with only one's nose in the cold.  The only downside is the fact that it's very difficult to force yourself out of your warm little burrow in the morning.  I wait until the tap-tap-tapping of Scrappy's toenails outside of my bedroom door take on a frantic tempo...

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What's been coming out of the kitchen.

I've been working on using up some of the overabundance that is my pantry/freezer/canning shelves.  Not only did I process the nuggets - 'tho not all for me, thank goodness - but I got a surprise infusion of pork.  Such problems to have....

I gleaned two good-sized cabbages from a neighbor and vowed to make sauerkraut this year.  But, not just plain ole sauerkraut.  Apple Pie Blueberry Sauerkraut!  I mean, why start with the basics?  I have no idea how this is going to taste, but I had:  Cabbages + Apples + 15 lbs of frozen Blueberries.  I took it as a sign from the Universe that I should whip this up.

I have a batch of hard cider burbling away, and the rhubarb wine was bottled and is resting six (sob) months.  The good thing about the wait is that I will have rhubarb ready to harvest for more - should this be drinkable.

On the menu for the weekly Big Lunch Cookoff was a Chicken Stew with Kale and White Beans.  I loved it, although it was not a one-pot meal - it actually dirtied quite a few trays, dishes and utensils, so it is on my Try It Again After a Long Period of Time so I Will Forget Its Complexity list.  I have managed to have it every day for lunch - today being the last day.  And I still like it.  Which is a good thing, as I have a lot of kale tucked away under the hoops.  Next week's BLC is looking like it will feature a slow braised beef with tomatoes and wine, served over polenta.  Oooh, baby. 

I'm working on some different side dishes for Thanksgiving.  I mean, there are millions of side dish recipes out there - why not try some?  One that's caught my eye is Carrot Mash.  It's mashed carrots with orange zest, mint, butter and cream.  There's not one bad thing in it.  Other than fat and cholesterol.  But who's counting?  I am sure I can remake it to be healthier, but I'm giving it its full-fat shot on the first try.  Another recipe that caught my attention is for gluten free pumpkin pie bars.  I'm bringing a mincemeat pie and I might just throw these in for the heck of it.

What's on everyone's menu for T'Day?  Anyone venturing out into unchartered territory?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Monday Musings.

This is rather a sad musing tale.

The Sorry Drunk in the Trailer House is another one of the sagas I've been following in the 8 years I've traveled my work/home route. Almost to the end of my mountain road - on the to-work end - was a sagging old trailer home. The curtains in the windows were in tatters, the yard was a quilt of bare earth and weedy patches. There was a good-sized Rottweiler chained to the front steps. The inhabitant of the trailer was a character that looked like his blood had been almost fully replaced by alcohol. Disheveled, dirty, he was never wearing clothing that fit the climate that day. He walked down the side of the road to what I assumed was work of some sort. Occasionally, I would see him sitting at the intersection of the mountain road and the main road, waiting. I began to get concerned about the dog when I realized it had no shelter during the day. And no water bowl. And no food bowl. So one morning, I threw a bag of dry dog food in the back of the car, along with a jug of water and two extra dishes. I was a little leery of approaching him (LARGE intact male), but figured I was armed with food and good intentions, so I had a pretty good chance of convincing him I was friendly. I filled the food bowl and the water bowl and put them well within reach. He turned out to be a sweet dog, who was very happy to see the food. I put the bag of food, along with a note, around the back of the trailer and left. This went on for some time - his food dish was filled as long as I provided the food.  I also found out that I had to provide the water.  It dawned on me that this fellow was either squatting or hadn't paid the rent in a very long time and the landlord wanted him out.  Just as obvious was the fact that the dog was there to keep people away.  I am not a fan of keeping dogs chained up all day without shelter, so I brought it to the attention of my friend and neighbor, the local dog warden.  In rural areas, all the dog wardens are pals, so I knew that he would contact the right authority and that the dog would be treated well.

(My god.  This is turning into War and Peace....)

A couple of days later, the dog was gone.  A couple of weeks later, all this poor sap's worldly possessions were put out in the front yard; a sad little pile.  Bit by bit, pieces of his estate disappeared - free piles are a big thing around here.  There was evidence that he wasn't going quietly.  Each day there was a new day of battle between the land lord and Bill the Barnacle (as I came to think of him).  I think at one point BTB was living in the little shed for a while.  Eventually, though, he gave up and moved on.  The trailer was completely gutted and has had a complete renovation and is very spiffy.  While I will never know what happened to BTB, I do know that his dog got a very good home with a family that loves him to pieces.  A happy ending for one of the pair.


Have you ever eaten something that makes your teeth squeak?  I made some lentil/greens soup and decided to put a dash of lemon juice in it.  Geez.  It tasted fine, but it made my teeth feel squeaky.  That got me to thinking about a cake someone made me preGI (gluten intolerance).  It was a very sweet, dense cake with caramel in it.  One bite and it glued itself onto my teeth.  If I had been wearing braces, I would still be dealing with it, ten years later. 

I am having to deal with my Onset Winter Claustrophobia, caused by all the layers of clothing I have to wear.  I sometimes feel like a turtle on its back when I get behind the wheel in office clothes, wool scarf, heavy gloves, heavy coat.  I like cold weather but hate having to pile on all those outer garments.  It's the same feeling I get when I have to mix something with my hands and it sticks to them.  I have to wash my hands ever five seconds or I get the heebie jeebies.  Hmm.  I wonder what Aunt Sweezie would have to say about that.

Friday, November 15, 2013

When everything goes to Hell in a handbasket.

I was hesitant to write this post - I didn't want to sound all whiny and complaining.  But, really, I'm not.  There are many things involved in this lifestyle that are not fun.  They are not cheap.  They age you and make you miserable and unhappy.  Luckily, there are many more things that make you happy.  If there weren't, we would all implode.

Since I have received a few emails from people who are considering venturing into this homesteady lifestyle at middle age, I thought it was important to cover some of the shineola that can happen to turn bliss into blisters.  Pull out the hankies - this is going to be a long one.

My particular set of circumstances puts me as a single, middle-aged homesteader - with a full time job away from the farm.  This brings its own set of challenges.  I am certain that, if I had just stuck with a garden and a handful of chickens, my life would have been much easier.  I am, however, not one to settle for easy.  I had decided early on that I wanted to experience as much and and as full a homesteading, self-sufficient life as I possibly could.  Over the years (8), I have raised bees (fail), pigs (fail), sheep (good), goats (bad), quail (fail), rabbits (see quail), turkeys (fail - but it didn't stop me from starting all over again), egg laying chickens (good), meat chickens (good-ish).  I also have Jasmine and Alice, Jersey cows, but I am not raising them - my farmer neighbor is.  So, needless to say, they are doing fine.  They should thank me from the bottoms of their sweet bovine Jersey hearts that I am not all they have.

In many ways, it is amazing that I am where I am now.  My biggest problem?  I did not have A Plan.  I may be a list kind of girl, but I am not a plan kind of girl.  Lists fit my fruit-fly-like focus.  Plans mean having to sit down with pencil and paper and look into the future, planning obvious steps along the way.  I am more of a Carpe Diem sort.  That is all well and fine if it's just me and my loyal dogs.  But when I start adding livestock into the mix, things can go terribly wrong.  I am setting myself up as an example of what NOT to do.

With me so far?

Things started to head south in May.  After having paid way too much for my supposed-to-be-registerable-pedigreed-up-the-wahzoo (whole nuther story) Nigerian Dwarf goats, I had big plans to add dairy to my homestead.  Somehow, I blanked out on the fact that I have two Jersey cows down the road at my neighbors.  Oh, no, I needed the Whole Milking Experience.  So Sage was bred, she had two beautiful doelings, and she came home so we could start milking.  In my own defense, Sage is a pill.  Had I ended up with a non-feral, patient doe, things might have worked out better.  But I did not.  I figured I had about 40 minutes in the morning for milking.  That should be plenty of time.  After three straight mornings of wrestling with the lunatic for 35 minutes to get her onto the milking stand, I gave up.  Threw in the milker.  I still get plenty of nice, raw milk from Jasmine, but now I am saddled with four goats that suck all the air out of the room.

Then Kay died.  That had a huge impact on me - not only because I lost such a dear friend, but because she was the veterinary glue that held LLF together.  I'd like to point out here that it is very, very, very important - if you have decided to add livestock to your homesteading dream - that you learn basic veterinary skills.  You'll have to give shots, drenches, etc. on your own, unless you have a good vet and very deep pockets.  I have a good vet, but my pockets are so shallow, they are sewn shut.  It turns out I was double-lucky.  I have a friend who is now my "Kay".  And she is not judgemental, which is good, because I am hard enough on myself as is.  She is helping me dehorn the goats and I had asked her to take a look at the sheep, as Linden and Norman limp off and on.  After wrestling with the goats, she had just enough time to check the sheep - it could have been hoof rot, but thank goodness it wasn't.  Linden just needed a trim on one foot, but poor Linden had broken three of his four hoof nails.  This was because:  a) his hooves grew long; b) the ground has been wet; c) I did not check his hooves.  Trimming hooves is Animal Care 101.  I failed the course, and Linden has to suffer for it.  We are in the process of working on his feet, and I am keeping the ground around the run-in shed as dry as possible.

Granted, it could have been worse.  But I have been overstretched for some time and it's beginning to tear things around the edges.  What have I learned?  I cannot allow the goats to suck all the time out of my day - then other things suffer (Linden/Norman).  The chicken coop, which usually has a nice pre-fall clean out, has not been touched.  There were unexpected expenses that tapped the emergency fund (apparently, everything in my life is an emergency), savings and future savings.  While it's knocked the wind out of me, I will regroup and it will work out.  But not having had a plan early on set me up for this fall.

There.  That's off my chest and I hope that helps anyone reading this who is just starting out not to repeat my mistakes.  Of course, even when you plan everything to the nth degree, there are always surprises.  But that's part of the fun.  Being flexible, having good friends and a strong community, and - most of all - having a sense of humor, can get you through the rough bits.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

First Snow and Turkeys.

Technically, it is not the first snow - just the first that stuck.  The doelings were afraid of it, leaning waaaay out of the barn to see if it was safe before planting a hoof in the stuff.

My sister and I moved the three toms:  Wynken, Blynken and Noddy, to their new quarters on Saturday.  It is nice and toasty and they have plenty of room.  They also have their own feeder, which thrilled them no end.  They had been intimidated by the chickens, so I don't think they were getting a whole lot to eat.  They also have their own water, a nice flake of hay to keep them busy, an awesome roost (Give me five, Connie!!!) and now they have a view.  They will stay securely in their hoophouse for at least a week.  I'm trying my darnedest to keep them from flying up in the trees to roost at night, hoping that clipped wings and imprinting on their new home will help.

If you look closely, you can see their white tail and wing feathers - sorry for the poor quality of the shots, but it was cold outside!

Norman is wondering what fresh hell has been placed in his paddock.

Monday, November 11, 2013

And a fun time was had by all. Except for the goats.

I spent two days with my middle sister over the weekend - she drove over from New Hampshire on Friday and drove back on Sunday.  It's a long drive (three and a half hours) and she doesn't have much 'her' time, so I was very grateful that she spent ALL her 'her' time with me!

We kicked off the visit with lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, then a blissful walkabout in the neighboring Barnes and Noble.  It is so interesting how rural I've become...walking into the mall was like walking on the moon.  It felt so completely alien - from the sounds and smells, the lighting, the shiny surfaces...woo.  While we oohed and aahed over the books, we both came across a small picture book that sent us into hysterical laughter.  Needless to say, we each bought a copy and have continued to hoot about it all weekend.  Neither of us is particularly fond of 'crass' humor, yet this humor is definitely on the crass side - but done with such finesse that it's incredibly funny.  To us.  :)

I also got to go into the great, big JoAnn Fabrics store - heaven!  I picked up some flannel for jammie bottoms, some flannel to repair my old flannel robe that is beginning to embarrass even me, some fleece for Scrappy's winter inside jacket - I'm tired of his blankie ending up on the floor and the ensuing accusing looks.  I also picked up some bright wool yarn with which to knit a couple of holiday/birthday alligator scarves. 

We whipped up a gluten free, garlic scape pesto, (last - sob) sliced tomato, cheddar pizza and talked our heads off.  Bernice was so happy to have her Auntie C there (she loves both of her Aunties), she spent the entire evening on the couch, curled up in a happy ball, her head on Auntie C's lap.  We both went to Vermont to work on checking a few items off the parental to-do list - then we suffered through the grocery store and Wal-Mart, before fleeing to the peace of the farm.  Relatively speaking, of course.  We managed to erect a sturdy perch in the hoop house for the Great Turkey Relocation Project.  We were so excited that our plan for the perch worked perfectly, that we went to do one of those "high five" moves and neither one of us got it right.  It was another hysterical moment -- I wish we had it on video.  Then, bolstered by a glass of nice red wine, we crept out in the dark, head beams on, and moved the turkeys from the chicken coop to their new digs.  Let me tell you, those boys are BIG.  Noddy, C's charge, was so entranced by the moment that he practically swooned in her arms.  They will now spend a week learning to imprint (ohpleasegod) their new home before I let them out. 

Sunday morning was a cold, grey day, with dark clouds spitting icy rain every so often.  Perfect weather to band little goat horns.  I jest.  But that was the day we had, so my friend, AnnMarie (without whom I could not do what I do) and her brother, Farmhand, and I rounded up Sage, Chick and Apple and banded their horns.  Both Sage and Chick were disbudded by the breeders young son - an amazing fact.  I mean, would you let your inexperienced kid learn on a buyer's very expensive goat kids?  I think not - but that's what happened.  Needless to say, it was not successful and both Chick and Sage were growing scurs that were curving dangerously close to their noggins.  Apple?  Well, we were just about 100% sure she was polled (hornless).  Until little pointy horns grew up out of her hard little head.  Willo was, indeed, polled.  There was a LOT of screaming involved and only a little of it was mine.  Seriously, it does not hurt.  But it will be uncomfortable as the bands slowly kill off the horn material and they drop off.  An interesting bit of information - in case one of them whacks their horn and it bleeds (usually aLOT), AnnMarie said to keep flour in the barn - it stops up the bleeding and won't irritate their eyes like other alum based blood stop products.  Cool!  I had been clinging hanging onto a bag of whole wheat pastry flour in the freezer.  Now I know why. 

In the midst of the goat rodeo, my dear sis had to slip away.  We were all sad that night, but hope she comes back soon!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Morning rituals.

Coffee.  Knitting.  More coffee.  I am currently working on a sock - toe down on two circular needles.  I have yet to master the two-at-a-time, which I really should try.  It's a struggle to start the second one after the first is finished.  What usually happens is that I decide to knit something simple to break the monotony of the sock knitting and then get totally distracted and off on a tear of some sort. 

Coffee of the season is Pumpkin Spice with a dash of half and half.  Oh, yum!  I love this little knitting bag - it's perfect for a small project.  It was a thank you gift from my Icelandic Sheep friends for bunking them for the Big E Fiber show one year.  It was a lovely and thoughtful gift.

My sister is due in for a two-day visit and I am so looking forward to it.  I love it when my sisters visit.  Heck, I love it when ANYBODY visits... :)  Other than taking advantage of another set of hands for the Great Turkey Relocation Project, there is nothing on the agenda.  This could be a good thing, or a bad thing, given recent events.

Bernie is perking up, but continues to be challenging in the meals department.  And in the stuff the capsule down her gullet department.  That dog can clamp those jaws like nothing I've ever seen.  A crocodile has nothing on Bernice. 

Scrappy is rather enjoying Bernice's convalescing, as he gets her 'rejects'.  Terrible, tasteless things like organic chicken simmered in filtered water with a scoop of organic jasmine rice.  Sigh.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Put a knife in me. I'm done.

Being in a hurry ALL the time, makes you vulnerable to injury.  Listen to this old sage, Grasshoppers.  I managed to twist my ankle last Thursday night, racing around trying to get everything done because I'd gone and allowed myself to HAVE FUN.  That will show me.  I had a friend over for dinner and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.  The trade-off, however, was that I didn't get to finish all the chores, so was rushing around in the inky darkness and missed a hole.  Actually, I didn't miss it and therein lies the problem.

That put me lame-ish for Friday chores, so I decided to use a personal day to ease up on the ankle.  Is anyone surprised to know that it didn't work?  I know that most of you can relate to this:  sitting inside, reading a book, trying not to feel guilt-ridden while you look outside and see all the things that should be getting done.  Finally, I couldn't stand it and tackled some small jobs.  Luckily, Friday night was Girls' Nite and I was engulfed in conversation, good food and some deadly Apple Pie Moonshine.  Suffice to say, Saturday morning was a little blurred from the get-go.  I had to take Miss Bernice for a shampoo and set :) and was to meet M to pick up pork.  In my logical brain - which is actually an oxymoron, since logic really has nothing to do with how I live most of the time - I would bring B in, wait until she was washed and dried, then meet M and go home to clean before my parents arrived for their overnighter.  What actually happened was that I had to drop B off, then kill three hours.  This is not usually a problem if I plan for it.  But when I all of a sudden get a three hour gap in my plan, I fall apart.  Instead of making the most of the time, I drove to a little riverside park near a covered bridge and drank a cup of coffee while listening to Car Talk.  Fielding several suspicious looks from passersby.

Ripped home with B, pork and unplanned grocery purchases just in time to rip out again to store some of the pork in a neighbor's freezer, rip home and clean parents arrived.  That means everything stops.  Which it did, except for my mind which was still racing along.  Then we picked up the same neighbor and drove to dinner - a payback from my parents to this neighbor who has done them many kindnesses.  Back home to do chores in the near-dark and find a turkey on top of the shed.  NO!  I had to hunt down my clothesline prop pole and herd him off the roof into the yard, then get them headed in the right direction and into the coop.

Sunday morning was another land speed record of talking to my parents, checking my watch (which I had remembered to dial back - stoopid time change), then gather them up and rip off to the firehouse breakfast.  This is a once-a-month event known not for its food, but for its people watching.  We met another two of my friends there, who more than entertained my parents and most of the nearby tables.  And, seeing that it was the beginning of an election week, we played "Spot the Politician".  Then we sauntered back to the LLF where my dad swept off both decks and I started dinner prep.  Their best friends, who are also my neighbors, were coming for an early dinner.  Then everybody left.

Thanks to the stoopid time change, I did not sleep most of the night.  I don't have trouble with springing forward, but falling back throws me for a loop.  I dragged myself out of bed at 1:30A and called it a night.  All that ripping around had not helped the ankle, so I just decided to take another personal day.  This time I limited myself and only did some very small things, including repairing my deck railing bird feeder.  The dogs were thrilled that I had been home four days in a row.  I went to bed nice and early, and woke up Tuesday morning to find that Bernice had gone from bouncy puppy to near death.  Again.  I was opening the vet's office with his staff that morning and we ran more tests this time.  And this time we found the cause of this overnight sensation.  A high fever and a baseball-sized tumor on her spleen.  Poor kid.  So we are back to two doses of penicillin a day, cajoling her into eating (two cans of Fancy Feast consumed this morning) and slowly nursing her back to health.  The good news is, it's her spleen - which can be removed.  The bad news is, it's her spleen - which could rupture and cause internal bleeding. 

I was thinking this morning, "thank goodness this awful year is almost over."  Then I had an eerie recollection of saying the same thing last year.......dum-de-dum-dum.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday Musings.

Going along on my usual to/from work route, I was musing on how many years I had passed each of the houses along the spine of the mountain.  There are particular houses that stand out in my memory, and each of these houses has had a story built from the random musings of 8 years.  I'll share my imagined stories of them from time to time.  Let's start with...

The Little Old Lady with the Black Beehive Hairdo House.  Her small house is at a bend in the road that let's me know I am getting close to home.  It is as neat as a pin, with two matching, weathered outdoor statuary deer.  When I first was aware of her, she had just gotten out of her car and was moving briskly toward the front stairs.  Her hair was a rigid, inky black beehive, piled straight up - at least a foot - on top of her diminutive head.  It has enough hairspray on it to catch the sunlight and glisten!  I almost went off the road.  I was captivated, and have kept an eye on her house ever since.  Once in a while on nice mornings, she would be seated on her white plastic chair on the small stoop in front of the front door - coffee cup in hand, glistening black adornment on her head.  I would toot and wave and she waved back.  Then I didn't see her outside for the longest time.  Then her car was gone.  Fully a month later, I saw her car there again and my spirits lifted.  But I didn't see her for another six months.  She was sitting on her white plastic chair, with her hands folded in her lap.  Gone was the magnificent beehive, replaced with a short, white cap of her natural hair.  I tooted hello, but she didn't glance up or wave.  I was sad.  She is still there - I can see the lights on as I drive home in the evening.  Her car is gone - most likely sold by the family.  I still toot the horn as I go by in the morning.  We cannot fight the toll of the years, glistening black beehive notwithstanding.

Beehive hairdos always make me think about a neighbor on the street where I grew up.  Mrs. S. (we would NEVER have used an adult's first name! It would have been the equivalent of uttering "Voldemort" for you whippersnappers) was a hairdresser by trade and wore her hair in an industrial strength beehive.  She also chain smoked and would fascinate us, as she rasped out a conversation, cigarette firmly gripped in the corner of her mouth.  It got very exciting when the cigarette ash was particularly long, and her conversation got more and more animated.  We held our breath, waiting for that ash to hit the ground.  We were so easily amused back then...  Like our family, they had a VW Beetle as a second car because they were cheap.  And both cars had manual transmissions.  While Mrs. S. drove hers like a German tank captain, our mother never mastered the art of shifting.  We clung to the hand straps for dear life as we whiplashed from first to second gear.  So, naturally, when we got into the car with Mrs. S., we immediately reached for the straps.  It always annoyed her.  In those days, and in that neighborhood, all the families were interchangeable.  When it was time for vaccinations, a rotating roster of mothers would load up all the kids and drive them to the clinic, where we sat around the perimeter of the room on metal chairs, waiting our turns.  I hated being last - you had to sit through all the screaming, which made your (well, my heated) imagination create images of bloody needles and evil doctors. 

As I've gone through the years, I found that I wasn't far off the mark.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Some girls might like flowers....

I prefer Pak Choi.

My dinner guest last Sunday night arrived with:  This amazing Pak Choi, a large bunch of scallions, Mutsu apples, Russet potatoes, summer squash (!!), and his guitar.  All from his garden (except for the guitar, of course).  I am still in awe of this Pak Choi.

On Saturday, as I was filling my gas tank in Vermont (10 cents a gallon cheaper), I happened to look across the street ---- and saw this amazing little house!  If you bigify the picture, you will notice that the house was built around a travel trailer!  Also note that their garage in the background is twice as big as their house.  A common site in this part of the world.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Musings.

It's back.

I'm trying to decide whether the reason no one offers to help me load my car at Home Debt is because a) people are no longer very helpful; b) I am usually in my barn clothes and scary-looking; c) I am usually hefting things in myself and my brute strength is intimidating; d) all of the above.

I find aftershave and perfume alarming.  Our building superintendent at the office (you remember him - he of the puddle-depth) is now hugging me at every opportunity.  Apparently, the 'chasm' in our age difference is beginning to shrink.  Unfortunately, and although I am a big fan of real, honest-to-god hugs, I walk away reeking of some treacly aftershave he wears.  And let me tell you, that stuff has a LOOOONG shelf life.  The sheep find it alarming, too.  The fellow who is the boss of our transfer station (dump) is another perfumy character.  I have learned how to side-step him, though, so my weekends are scent-free.  If you don't count the sheep/goat/llama/chicken/turkey/cat/dog poop.

Why, oh, why does the Mamas & Papas' "Dream a Little Dream of Me" keep looping through my mind?  It is driving me crazy!!

I think I have moved out of the State of Denial and into a Plane of Special Blindness; especially when it comes to my living room floor.  Yes, it is still not completed.  There may be, oh, three hours of work left, tops.  And yet..the only time I think about it is when I am safely 30 miles away from it.  I can be thinking positive thoughts - having one of "those" talks with myself all the way home (you know the ones - the ones that start with, "Now, Susan, what IS it with you and the flooring project?  You know you can do it.  You know you must do it.  There's no time like the present.  Yada.  Yada.  Yada.)...and yet...somewhere around the 25 mile mark, the iron curtain in my mind comes down with a clank and there's no more flooring in my cognizant future.  This PoSB has also seemed to have affected my ability to finish my potholder rug and my cardigan.

I had every intention of moving the trio of turkeys - now named, Wynken, Blynken and Noddy - to the hoop house in the center sheep paddock.  They are getting to be big boys (apparently, the LLF Female Mojo doesn't work on turkeys) and it's getting kind of snug in the coop at night.  Then, a few days ago while rushing around outside in the morning, trying to cram in as much as possible into the 2 hours of daylight, a big hawk swooped down into the poultry yard.  Yikes!!!  Where was Roguefort?  Under a bush.  Who saved the day?  Wynken.  I'm either going to have to get a braver rooster or keep the hens under the watchful eye of the Big Boyz.

I had to describe my job to someone today, and I described it thusly:  A long, long, flat boring road across the plains for miles.  Then there's an alien attack.  Then I'm back on that road.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday's Word

Born out of boredom...and my usual musings...I'm going to do a month (or so) of Thursday's Words.  (Are those heads I hear?  Dropping on keyboards?  Still with me?)  And, no, not Wednesday's Words.  I am nothing if not contrary.


col·lo·qui·al·ism (k-lkw--lzm) --  I love that! k-lkw-lzm!

1. Colloquial style or quality.

2. A colloquial expression.

  Here's my example - "She's a whistler!"  My neighbor uses this on a regular basis and I LOVE it.  It could mean anything - other than, of course, someone who whistles.  That would be too blase.    What examples can you come up with?  

p.s.  Have you noticed that I never have a Wordless Wednesday?  That's because I am not capable of being quiet.  If I had just pictures, there would be lengthy, War and Peace captions.  Yak, yak, yak.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Random-ness, or I am a Babbling Brook.

I had been waiting until I got my thoughts in a row before I composed a post.  Frankly, those cows will NEVER come home.  So here's a long and random, stream of consciousness post for your Tuesday.

I have been thinking that it would be fun to host a Halloween party.  Then I sat down to make a list of people I could invite and realized that most of them are not around - having moved, passed on, got busy, had major life upheavals.  This was slightly depressing.  I hauled out my three holiday decorations (fake lit pumpkin bought at a major discount for no discernible reason; black cat face a friend made and I love; my adorable quilted spooky pot holders from YouKnowWho) and that's the short and tall of it.

I am still picking strawberries.  That's right.  It's almost the end of October and I am picking about a pint every other day.  Of BIG strawberries.  I will be sad to see them go - there are lots more unripe berries and even flowers, but we are entering into the freeze zone, so they are not long for this world.  My raised beds are pretty easy to maintain - I've cleaned up most of them, with the exception of raking out all the mushy little cherry tomatoes from the tomato bed.  Once that's done - if ever, the way I'm feeling - all that's left is to set up the hoops over the kale and Swiss chard beds in preparation for...snow.  There, I've said it.

After getting random whiffs of gas for quite a while (says Cleo, Queen of DeNial), I finally called the propane company that delivers my gas to ask them to take a look.  HELLO!  We went into full terrorist attack mode.  I had to leave the office and drive an hour to the house to meet the service guy.  They had padlocked my tank.  After performing a host of tests, it was determined that they were in the clear and it was a problem with my stove.  They then re-padlocked the tank and left.  WTH?  This would mean that, had I wished to have the stove serviced to fix the problem, I would have to coordinate (hahahahahaha) the repair call with the gas tech call.  Which would mean that I would have to pay two more service calls, whatever the repair bill was, and that would all have to come together in a perfect universe of schedules that does not exist on this plane.  I huffed my way to my favorite Vermont family-owned appliance store on Saturday and bought a new one.  I realized that this was the first time I had actually been in the store.  I have purchased my other two appliances (freezer, washer) over the phone.  I had the gas company on my cell and coordinated the delivery of the stove with the arrival of the gas company rep.  Easy peasy.


Old stove.

New stove.

After going from Friday to Monday morning with no stove/oven, the stove arrived but the gas company tech did not.  A call to their Customer Service Manager (who needs another job - that doesn't involve contact with the public) revealed that - Oh, lo and behold! - my appointment was actually at 1P.  I will not go into the gory details, but the delivery guys were gems, disconnected my old stove, even though they were not 'allowed', and hauled it away.  The gas company guy didn't show up until almost 4P.  Why is it that people are so fast and loose with other people's time?

Huff.  Bernie, who has, up to this point, spent most of her time in the very back room away from us, is now sharing Scrappy's sofa.  Apparently, he doesn't mind.

I swear Bernie sleeps with her eyes open.  As  you
can tell, it's been cold at night...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Day Off Shenanigans

I do believe that the only days 'off' that count as non-work days, are the ones that happen by chance.  You know - Mental Health Days.  As soon as I pre-plan a day off, it ends up being busier than any three normal days in a row.  Case in point?  This past Thursday.

It started Wednesday night, when I borrowed Melanie's cruck (car/truck) for a trip up to the poultry processor Thursday morning.  She didn't get home until around 9:30ish, so I didn't get back until 10-ish.  Then Bernie decided to have a walkabout in the yard and didn't arrive at the back door until 10:30.  Then I woke up at 3:30 in the morning, thinking about everything I had to do in order to leave the house by 7:45.  The forecast had been for rain, off and on, throughout the day.  I can tell you when it rained:  at 6A, when I went outside in the dark to transport the Nuggets (CornishX) to the tarped crate on the back of M's cruck.  As soon as I had them all secured, the rain stopped.  Thanks, Pa Nature.  I threw hay and feed at everyone, apologized for the lack of a morning walk to the dogs, and headed up to Melanie's.  She had agreed to keep me company.  And she did the driving!  Melanie is awesome.  The trip up to the nearest processor is about an hour and a half due north.  It turned out to be a lovely morning and we made good time.  As we sat around waiting for the end product, we were entertained by Cinnamon:

She sniffed out the bucket of apples
in the back of the cruck.

The Nuggets enroute.

Lovely view from M's.

We also got the good news that the fellow who runs the facility will be relocating to a new location that is MUCH closer to us.  Yay! 

On our way back, we stopped for lunch at a new restaurant that is run by a woman who supports local food and artisans.  The food was good and reasonable, and M and I cased it out as a possible meeting place for a spinning group...we hope.  Then on to pick up a cider press, glean a greenhouse, herd a loose heifer, drop M off, pick up apples, drive home, sort poultry, deliver some to a neighbor, return home, feed everyone (apologize to the dogs AGAIN for no afternoon walk), and hightail it to the town complex for the Rabies Clinic, where I volunteer twice a year.  This year, I worked with the vet.  This had always been Kay's job (she was very qualified, by the way - whereas, I have no veterinary skills, but am very ethusiastic!)  Frankly, I think the vet was relieved that I was NOT doing the paperwork, as I have the focus of a fruit fly and invariably messed it up.  This vet is one of our area's large animal vets - as an interesting aside, it seems as though the large majority of vets entering and in this field, in our area at least, are women - and she a warm, lovely person as well as a terrific vet.  After getting the hang of filling syringes (I dreamt about syringes) and putting a loving but firm headlock on dogs and cats that needed it, I finally stumbled in the front door at 8:30.  Only to have to go out with the headlamp and herd the turkeys into the safety of the coop.  I can tell you when it rained again.  8:33P.

I love my days off.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Zee Winaire!

(Those of you who actually DO speak French - please excuse me...)

The winner of the

is Michelle!  Michelle, email me your mailing address, s'il vous plait, and I will pop this in the mail to you.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Oooh la la!

Have I got a giveaway por vous!  In having a serious sit-me-down with my knitting books, I have decided to let a few go out to someone who will do more with them than ogle their pages. 

Here's the first:

I was swept right in with the beautiful photography and lovely patterns.  Once the swoony part wore off, I realized that this book was a) out of my league - talentwise, and b) none of the lovely, girly patterns would be serviceable on the farm.  (**UPDATED**)  This book of patterns includes hats, shawls, gloves, socks and lots of other beautiful patterns!

If any of yall out there have some knitting skills and would love to create one of these beautiful designs, put your name in the comments - along with anything French that comes to mind.  I will be pulling a winner out of the chapeau on Friday.

Bon chance!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Apple Lovers and Using Up Stores.

A neighbor has been giving me bucketfuls of small apple falls from her trees.  I pick through the buckets and save the larger ones for saucing, while the smaller, gnarlier ones go to the outdoor dependents.  Pria, who avoided me like the human plague, now practically runs me over when she sees me.  While I like to think it's because she has come to know and love me, it's all due to apples.  She is crazy about apples.  I used to just toss a few handfuls into their paddock, but she is about 90% blind, so that doesn't work well - because Linden is crazier about apples and is very fast on his hooves for a portly type.  So I am left with hand-feeding (and checking to see if any fingers are missing) Pria.  Norman was bewildered by apples.  I smooshed them, I cut them in pieces.  I even would bite them in half for him.  (TMI?)  I finally found the perfect combination of smooshy, but not too brown and flattened enough that he can get his little mouth around them.  I wish I had taken a picture of his face when he first actually ate one.  His eyes got wide and he looked at me like, OMG!  So THIS is what it's all about?  Norman is, however, the craziest of all about graham crackers - and I have to be feeling plenty brave before I go out and offer him any.

OMG!  It's the Apple Lady!

Crap.  She only has a camera.

The goats are sort of so-so about apples and I really have to smoosh them up good before they will deign to try them.  I am always amazed that their mouths are so small - especially with all the NOISE that comes out of them...

I managed to get a lot done over the weekend, though - as always - not as much as I had hoped.  I was battling a head cold since early last week, and Saturday it sort of got the better of me.  So I did a few things outside, with lots of tea-drinking and knitting in between.  I also managed to can 8 pints and 4 quarts of homemade beef chili.  I had to make it fairly mild, as some of it goes to my parents, but I can doctor it up when I fix my own.  Applesauce and apple mincemeat were also on the to-do list, and the applesauce got done, but the apple mincemeat didn't hit the top of the stove until early this morning.  I'm thinking of lacing half of the kettle-ful with something alcoholic (what IS it with me and the boozy stuff this fall?  Is it - like stripes on a caterpillar - a sign of a hard winter?)  There is something wonderful about making a mess o' mincemeat tarts in the middle of winter.  Mmmmmm!

During my latest processing frenzy, I became aware that I was running very low on pint jars.  Why?  Because I have stockpiled way too many canned goods and I am not using them as quickly and as often as I should.  This caused a stockpile inventory which showed a huge amount of pickles.  From as long as 7 years ago.  Not only am I not a big pickle eater, I am a picky pickle eater.  I love my neighbor's pickles and I love Sylvia's mother's recipe.  So I have about 10 pints of pickles that I have no intention of ever eating.  Time for a purge!  I also discovered 10 pints of forgotten canned sweet corn.  Time to go into action.  And, thanks to a timely post by Mama Pea (my hero) via Jane's wonderful cookbook, I made some corn fritters (GF) that were wonderful.  I teamed them with homemade applesauce (2012) and homemade Greek-style yogurt.  It made me realize that I need to use up what I have - so I am going to make at least two meals a week with what's on my canning shelves.  Let's see how creative I get!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Some things I've learned and prepping for Winter.

Remember to put my glasses on before snatching up small dark blobs on the carpet.  One might be a somnolent wasp. 

Do NOT get your fingers between Pria and her pumpkin. 

Pria is wild about pumpkin - skin, pulp, seeds and all.  (See above)

Even the strongest sense of denial will not make the gawd-awful mess in the crawl space go away.  Think dessicated rat carcass.  Heebie-jeebie time.  Where's my hazmat suit when I need it?

Always remember to wear my slippers when I venture out of my bedroom in the morning.  I have cats.  'Nuf said.


Ah, Fall.  The season of the List(s).  I have an outside list (portioned into Chickens/Poultry/Sheep/Goats/Garden/House/Yard/Etc.).  I have an inside list.  I have a car list.  I have a clothing list.  And then there are the Miscellaneous Lists.  This is the time of year when bright spots of neon appear on front and back doors - "RMBR 2 CHG SLR BATS" and "RMBR 2 TRN OFF GT LT" and let's not forget to "RMBR ON/GAR B4 HAY".  It helps if you know the secret code. 

After trying all types of gloves, mittens and other handwear, I have landed on wool/silk glove liners under anything I wear on my hands.  My fingers go cold and numb immediately when the temps drop below 40 degrees.  That makes doing anything almost impossible.  I just ordered new glove liners, as I really give them a beating.  There is only so much darning you can do on those babies.  I've got my Bog boots at the ready, timers primed and plugged in, straw bales stacked and ready, wine cellar filled....and let's not forget those brandy pears....

It feels like I was just getting ready to do my Spring prep.  This year has really flown by.  Are you ready for Winter?  What's the best Winter tip you've got?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Much ado about ... little, tiny pears.

Yesterday was a day off.  Sort of.  I drove my parents into the city for my mother's annual eye maintenance (that's what we call it).  It is always a pleasant day - I get to spend time with them, we get to stop at their favorite Chinese restaurant for lunch, I take them on a different route each year just to get my dad all excited about new sights.  Yesterday was a perfect fall day - the violent storm on Monday led to clear, blue skies, cool temps and the vistas along the route from Vermont into New York were beautiful.  That being said, it's a lot of driving.

And since I did get home earlier than my usual evening arrival, I thought I would tackle the half-bushel of Seckel pears that had been sitting on my counter since Sunday.  I had gotten a bee in my bonnet about transforming the beautiful little pears into glistening jars of candied brandy pears.  I am constantly amazed at the disconnect between my vivid and wildly romanticized imagination and the reality of what I actually end up with.  There must be Pollyanna in my genes.  In my overheated imagination, I saw perfect, tiny Seckel pears glimmering in a heady brew of brandy-laden, cinnamon-scented syrup.  Are you still with me?  Lots of eye-rolling going on out there?

The Seckel Pears of my dreams...not of my reality.

After four hours of sorting, peeling, cursing, dropping, more cursing, I ended up with a rather puny mound of wounded pear shapes that left me with a mere four pints of pale, weird forms floating in their aromatic, boozy brew.   I mean, really.  Did I actually think about how unlikely it was to find eight pounds of PERFECT pears in a half-bushel of falls that were jumbled in a big plastic bag?  Did I actually consider that these pears were grown organically, with little oversight and just may be less than perfectly shaped?  Did I actually imagine peeling ten pounds of teeny, tiny little lumpy, misshapen pears would be a snap?  Obviously, I must have been under the influence of the boozy content of the syrup.

Next year - same recipe, different pears.