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.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Any botanists with exceptionally good eyesight and a forgiving nature out there?

I have been trying to figure out what plant this is - and please forgive the blurry image, as I kept forgetting to take my camera when I walked the dogs and ended up aiming and shooting out of my car window on my way to work.  It seems to be a bush of some type, with a long cluster of pink flowers that become a long cluster of dark berries.  I am curious as to whether these are edible berries.

Hopefully, you can bigify this.

Since the weekend was el-stinko, as far as the weather went, and there was no way I was going to be able to do any of my outdoor chores, I focused my laser-like vision (hahahahahaha) on indoors.  I had found a big jar of very old pinto beans (dry), so I decided to can them.  For me, pressure canning requires two days, as I have the focus of a ping pong ball.  Interestingly, two of the 10 pint jars did not seal.  The flats were new, I did not overfill the jar.  Hmmm.  So it looks like chili is in my near future.  I also made a pear upside down cake (GF), as I had a nice little pile of seckl pears.  And I was getting a half-bushel more.  I made ham/bean soup, soon to be canned.  I made great breakfast bars for the barn - a recipe from my mother - that is easy and good (oats, raisins, egg, brown sugar, cinnamon, milk,...) I made good headway on the latest project on the needles, a woolen cardigan, knit from bulky yarn.  I did my laundry, hung it inside, cleaned five bathrooms (3 at my mother's), vacuumed, dusted (gasp), did mounds of dishes, brushed both dogs (I am STILL getting a woodchuck-sized ball o' fuzz off Bernice), and listened to the first four discs of a recorded book on Thomas Jefferson.

I had a friend to dinner last night and tested a new recipe that, luckily, turned out great - it's an African based stew made in one pot.  Of course, not reading the directions closely as usual, I almost missed the fact that it needed to be made in the traditional method, which included preparations begun six hours before cooking!  And -- are you ready for this? -- it included sweet potatoes, of which I managed to grow FIVE.  I am so excited.  It was enough of a success (tiny), that I will try them again next year.

Today we are weathering the remnants of Karen, and I am sitting here hoping that all the hatches have been battened.  I dislike sitting in the midst of a storm, thinking about it raging over my Little Lucky Farm without me.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Peek at the Peak.

Every year, I watch closely so I won't miss the peak colors.  It seems as if it goes along rather monochromatically for weeks, then, WHAM!  Everything is glowing red, gold and brilliant orange.  And then all the leaves fall off.

I was able to snap a quick picture on my way to work yesterday.  Good thing, as most of the leaves were on the ground this morning! 

Okay, slightly enhanced, but it came out dull.
Which it wasn't.

Other LLF news: Giovanni (once known as Chadwick), is going off to a new farm this weekend.  Not that I don't like the little booger, but I think I have another rooster or two in the mix and four is too many.  Actually, more than one is too many, but we'll see how it goes.  I have one of Murray McMurray's infamous FREE EXOTIC CHICKs, who, I believe, is a Cuckoo Maran roo.  In which case, he gets to stay as long as he plays nice.  Then there's the little Ameracauna posse of three unknowns.  It may get pretty noisy in a couple of months.  Luckily for me, in a couple of months, it will be cold as heck and my windows will be closed.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Is there a Kefir Anonymous?

If there is - I better sign up.  Ever since I first tasted kefir, I was hooked.  But I don't like to buy things at a supermarket when I know I can make it myself (stifle that laugh, Sylvie...)  However, to make kefir, one needs kefir grains and there were none in my neighborhood, in my region, in my local circle of friends.

Then Leigh, of 5 Acres & A Dream, very generously offered to send me some (thank you, thank you, thank you).  I have never looked back.  I have kefir for breakfast (homemade granola drowned in it), I take kefir to work for lunch.  I have kefir for dessert (or dinner - depending on how much time I have or have not).  I drink it plain, with frozen smushed fruit (blueberry, raspberry, strawberry).  I L.O.V.E. the stuff!

Raspberry Kefir - my latest rendition.
I have given the heave-ho to yogurt, and have given my heart to kefir.  I would highly recommend that you get yourself some kefir grains and make a batch.  It couldn't be easier:  put kefir grains in a clean, glass jar.  Add 2-2-1/2 Cups fresh milk.  Stir.  Store in a cool, dark place, like a cupboard.  Wait 24-48 hours and voila!  Kefir!  I tend to like my kefir pretty tangy, so it ages 48 hours.  Pour your kefir through a sieve, reserving the grains, refrigerate, and start all over again.  Easy peasy.