Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The week that was...

wonderful.  After working myself into a frenzy to get everything ready (and cleaner) for my sister and parents, I set off for South Portland, Maine, early Friday morning.  I could not have asked for better weather.  In fact, I could say that Friday, Saturday and Sunday were the nicest weather in quite a long time.  Obviously, the stars and Universe aligned and took pity on me.  Kidding.

I am not going to bore you with the details of my short-but-sweet vacation, but here's the gist:

Wardrobe Infusion - I packed very light, knowing that we would be heading to the local Goodwill almost upon my arrival.  I was not disappointed, thanks to the almost supernatural talents toward winnowing out the best of the best by Sylvie.  I now have new khakis and five new tops.  That does not include the lovely scarf, jeans and shirts that I inherited from Sylvie's personal winnowing.  AND it does not include the great long sleeved tees that I got at my favorite discount, Maine-only department store - Reny's.  I LOVE Reny's.

My daily (almost) dose of Dog.  Hard to believe he is cuter in person.  A sweet-natured, adorable cuddler.  Cosmos is the adopted dog of Sylvie's daughter, Julie and family.  Lucky dog.  Lucky family.  A better match couldn't have been made in, well, the Cosmos!

Views, saltwater, sea air, ship traffic, clear skies, picturesque walks (did I mention the weather was glorious?).

The lighthouse at Fort Williams Park in
Cape Elizabeth.
Off the coast - looking towards the harbor.

Empty freighter making its way back
out to sea - I lost the bet as to how long it
would take to reach us.

The ruins of the mansion on Fort Lee.

Close up.
Bug Light - my favorite Portland

Two giant ocean liners in port.
Great food!  And great Drink!  And even greater Conversation!

Jim, preparing the best crab cakes I have
ever eaten!

I capped the trip off with a quick in/and/out visit to Portland's Trader Joe's.  It was perfection.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Moving along.

After a very emotional weekend, I finally woke up this morning without, "is it all worth it?" being the first thing on my mind.  I have concluded that, yes, it is all worth it.  Good times, bad times, sad times.

Sunday, I tried the "if I start working on stuff and keep working on stuff and don't quit until I am half-comatose, maybe I will sleep" approach.  I have to admit, I did, indeed, sleep Sunday night.  But I was so exhausted that I had a hangover feeling on Monday that didn't (drat) have anything to do with the aftermath (and enjoyment) of adult beverages.  In any event, I got my garage up (with massive amounts of help from my neighbor).

That's right!  Whee-haw!  Good old Kyle has a snug bunk for the winter.  And, for the first time in weeks, I did not have to wipe down all the windows on my car in the morning.  We have been having warmish days and frigid nights, the combination of which coats all exposed surfaces with heavy dew.  I will try to remember to take a picture of Garagie - providing I still have working brain cells enough to remember.

On Sunday, I roasted a half bushel of Italian peppers (medium hot), peeled them - cursing mightily - and canned them this morning.  I cut and froze another bunch of sweet peppers and stuffed them in the freezer.  I roasted a chicken in my friend, Lisa's clay roaster.  I baked a plum crumble.  I baked for the barn and went to spend some quality time with Jasmine and Alice.  I got caught up on the local gossip.  I worked in the garden.  I dug a hole and tucked Cookie and his BFF Woody's cremains securely in.  I piled a million rocks on it.  It's a challenge, hole-digging.  It took a shovel, pick ax, post hole digger, and steel rod, not to mention finally getting down on my knees and digging with my hands.  It took over an hour.  But, it was cathartic.

I also hand-pulled most of the thorny weeds that were not-so-slowly taking over the middle sheep paddock.  All in all, it was a physically exhausting day - it was just what I needed.

Now I have to focus on cleaning the house and getting everything ready for the arrival of my house sitter.  My DS Cynthia is coming for a long weekend to look after things, freeing me to travel to South Portland to visit my BFF Sylvia.  It's a short trip, but oh-so needed.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Freaky Friday.

It's been a long week, filled with mostly lows.  Not that we didn't fight hard for some highs.  Sleep has eluded me most nights this week, as I am listening so intently for any sound from the sick room.  This has led to an odd shift in my schedule.

Dewy spider web in the mint
this morning.
Yesterday, I was back up to the vet early in the morning.  A new course of meds were prescribed and we returned hopeful.  They did not help, however.  As these new meds had to be given mid-day, I took a mental health day and spent it intermittently checking on Cookie and ripping things out of my garden.  There is something so cathartic about ripping out dying tomato plants, especially when you're thinking about ripping the liver out of the Universe.  Nice visual, no?

The dogs and cats have been clinging to me like various sized-strips of Velcro.  I don't know how many times I almost squashed Pepper.  They know something is amiss.  When I was done cleaning out the garden, I turned my wrath on my bags of broccoli and froze most of it.  Then I whirled around and ripped out noxious weeds in the sheep pasture.  Then I raked grass seed in with fury and muscled the lemon and fig trees inside (temps in the low 30*s forecast for this morning).

I was exhausted but, I didn't want to sleep.  I assume this was because I thought that I could conjure up some miracle by sheer fortitude.  Well, I couldn't.  At midnight, when I awoke the first time, I got up, bundled up, snapped on my headlamp and moved the youngster chickens to their halfway house.  One would think, being chickens, that they would be all loggy and limp.  Not.  These are the screaming and fainting variety, no matter what the description of the breed said.  But they are moved.

Then I came in and went back to bed and to sleep.  Until 2.  Then I forced myself to sleep and was sorry I did.  Two and a half hours of diabolical dreams had me willing myself awake at 4:30.

I made the call to the vet this morning.  Cookie has not eaten anything since Monday.  He can't keep anything down.  He is like an 85 year old man with extreme anemia.  We had a talk this morning, Cookie and I.  I explained everything as best I could and he didn't seem to complain.  I will sure miss my Pollyanna Man.  A beautiful, loving and endlessly cheerful guy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Is it just my imagination?

Or do I actually have a target printed on my back.

My boy in healthier days.
This morning started off with Cookie, my large sweetie-pie 14 y/o cat, projectile vomiting blood.  It was scary.  I managed to get the basic chores done, called my vet, rolled Cookie in a towel like a burrito and slipped him into his carrier.  Then shot off to the vet's office a half hour away.

The vet just called me to tell me that he is one sick boy.  No surprise there.  But what was a complete surprise was the cause - he has, in layman's terms, the equivalent of cat malaria.  And a very serious case of it.  Malaria?  Really?  He is an indoor only cat - as are all three.

Even more odd is that my vet has seen two other cases besides Cookie.  Which is alarming, in that I have two other cats.  Although he said it has not been a 'familial' occurence in the other cases, there is that big target on my back.

Excuse me while I go check the balance on my credit card....

Monday, September 15, 2014

What a beautiful sight.

My weekend goal was to finish the tomatoes.  Finito.  Over and out.  As I hefted the last of the diced tomatoes out of the canner, I did a happy dance.  Now the real challenge - going through the stock and sorting out the old from the new, the never-will-be-touched, from the eat-all-the-time.  I am gearing up for a challenge - to not set foot in a grocery store for a year.  To not buy anything but coffee, oil and grains for a year.  I imagine meals will get pretty interesting in the latter months of '15.

It turned out to be a perfect fall weekend.  Saturday was mostly rainy - fine for indoor work (of which there was plenty).  I picked up feed and stopped to walk with a couple of friends just before the rains started.   I did not do my overload of cooking this weekend, deciding to work on emptying the bushel baskets that were haunting me.  I did manage to check off a few of the to-dos on my list - clean out the small coop, laundry, clean the cat's room, vacuum.  While turning the sheep out into their weekend paddock, I happened to look to the far corner of the front fence.  That darned Linden.  I finally found where he had broken out - he took down the corner t-post, brace and reinforcement and squeezed his tubby body under the fence.  They were in confinement the rest of the weekend - and until further notice.  Until I get the time to repair the fence, that is.

As I sat down with a glass of kombucha, enjoying the end of the canning, my dog alarm went off and a friend stopped by with a large bag of plums.  Sigh.  As soon as the cherry tomatoes are out of the dehydrator, looks like plums are next up.

I still have to deal with the plethora of beets, kale, chard and my winter supply of applesauce.  Oh, right.  And the peppers.  Looks like I better keep the canner out.

Kramer took advantage of the empty planter and brief sunshine on Sunday.

Friday, September 12, 2014

More Hot Stuff.

The last of the chili peppers went into the Excalibur this morning, with one tray of jalapenos.  I have about three more trays-worth and the hot peppers are done.  Since the guest room/root cellar is also my drying room, I had to move the potatoes, garlic and curtido to a cooler spot.  I decided to try it - it's been fermenting for a couple of weeks.  It still had a nice crunch, so I capped up the smaller jar and put it in the fridge.  It is a spicy sauerkraut type condiment.  I really like it and can sit it paired with all kinds of things.  The larger jar will continue to ferment for another week or so both for more probiotic content and because I  have no room in the fridge! 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Hot stuff.

While that could have been me about a hundred years ago, today it refers to my most recent kitchen-work.  Dehydrating hot peppers.  Thanks to the bounty of Moses Farm (those Moses of the Grandma Moses Moses...), I had a nice pile of various hot peppers to dry.  I love, love, love spicy food - although it doesn't like me as much as it used to.  Even so, I still try to spice things up as much as I can take.  This usually means a violent coughing/choking jag at the onset, then my system settles down and I can carry on. 

These beautiful chili peppers are destined to be dried and ground:

Shortly after this was taken, I had to go to the back of the house.  In that short time span, Lovey - she who has decided to surf the counters - carted off a line of them into the living room.  I do believe she only got one tooth in one pepper before there was some serious and lengthy slurping of the water dish.  Good thing she didn't try to taste test the habaneros...

Besides all the tomato processing, I am going to take advantage of the lovely peppers (non-hot) and make up a few batches of a great vegetarian stuffed pepper recipe.  Following the lead of my hero, Mama Pea, I am going to freeze up a number of future dinners.  Bring on winter!  (Kidding.  It can just take it's good old time and arrive in January....)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The faster I go, the behinder I get.

You won't be hearing a lot from me the next week or so.  I am canning my hiney off and trying to keep up with the endless list of to-dos outside.  I thought I would give you a quick update so you didn't think I had fallen off the edge of the earth.

My tomatoes were very "meh" this year.  Since I have access to a cornucopia of tomatoes and peppers at the farm field, I think I may restrict my tomato-growing to a couple of cherries and an heirloom or two.  (Would someone volunteer to remind me in the Spring?  Before the seed catalogues arrive?)  My peppers are taking an ICE AGE to ripen, thanks to the weird weather this summer.  After going through a week of high, humid temps, we are now in the 40s in the morning.  My peppers are confused.  I have to yank the cucumbers this weekend - I am so over them.  Thanks to very little rain, my beloved popcorn is starting to topple - I am watering them morning and night now.  I kept waiting for Ma Nature to step in.  Fickle wench.

The small coop needs cleaning out this weekend, so that I can get it ready for the Screaming Meemies - also known as the Langshans.  I have never, in my poultry raising history, had such a hysterical bunch.  This should be fun.  The enclosure needs to be replaced, but there is no time on my schedule for the next few months to do it, so it's been relegated to next year.  We will all have to manage.

I am dehydrating peppers and canning various tomato products on a daily basis.  I think I may follow my friend, Fiona's lead and start dehydrating tomatoes with snipped basil on top.  What a great snack idea!  Also on the list of to-dos is to sort through my canning stock to see what needs using up.  My great plan to catalogue my canned goods was derailed this past winter by....who I am paying for it now.

Work has been exceptionally stressful these past two weeks.  It's a reporting period, which is bad enough, but now that I am a Team Of One, all the rest of the duties are keeping me hopping.  The good thing is that it makes the day go fast.  The bad thing is that it means I am quickly depleting my wine supply...

I went out last night to feed the sheep and, lo and behold, Linden was on the wrong side of the fence.  The gate was intact, there were no holes, lifts, pushdowns or other breaches of the fence line.  The only thing I could figure was that he managed to squeeze his 'fluffy' self through the bungee'd gate and pop out the other side.  He has always been my problem child.  I had to trot quickly into the barn and get a scoop of grain to lure him back in.  He must have been out for a while, as he was pretty darn thirsty.  I have now (I hope) Lindenized the gate.

All's well that ends well.
Hard to believe that THAT can fit through

There were two heavy-duty bungees
on the gate.  There are now THREE.

Friday, September 5, 2014

My (bushel) basket overfloweth. Or how I spend my days off.

Lying around, eating bon bons, reading at the beach - they're all overrated.  Give me a day, jam-packed with sustainable activity and I am a happy camper.  (Anyone willing to come down/up/over here and intervene?  Anyone?)

Yesterday was the day the Nuggets went off to Freezer Camp.  And none too soon.  This particular batch of CornishXzombiechickens was immense!  DS Melanie arrived with her trust Subaru Baja at 7:30A and we commenced with the loading.  The first sign of trouble was that the Nuggets were too large and too many to fit in the XL dog crate we always use.  She of Incredibly Fast Thinking (that would be Melanie, not I), took one of my tarps, folded it in half, slid one half on the bed of the truck with the fold facing aft.  (Can you tell my parents were both in the Navy?)  We put up the tailgate, then hefted the Nuggets in pairs into the bed of the truck.  It was packed solid.  Then the other end of the tarp was carefully and securely battened up and over them, with plenty of space for air.

Off we went.  We picked up her husband and dropped him off at his rehab center, then headed the hour north to the processor.  It was a beautiful day for a drive and it is always so much fun to spend time with my DS.  The second mistake was giving in to a large Pumpkin Spice coffee.  This processor is out in the hinterlands - the facility is very basic.  It's for the processing of poultry.  There are no 'His and Her" restrooms.  There are no restrooms.  As we stood, waiting for the birds to cool so we could pack them up and head back, I found myself scoping out the various and sundry outbuildings as to a) blockability, b) no prickly vegetation, c) closeness of vicinity as things were getting dicey.  At the last minute, Jeff came out with our 500# of poultry (kidding - but not by much...), we quickly loaded the Baja and bumped our way to the nearest clean bathroom.  It was close.

As we stood outside talking about this and that, waiting for the process to finish, I noticed a house waaaaaay up on top of a mountain across from his farm.  Turns out the fellow who owns it has a train whistle.  Which he activates every time he wants his wife to bring him a drink.  Day and night.  Especially night.  And he drinks a lot.  So much for the peace and quiet of the country.

We picked DS' husband up from rehab, stopped at her house, got him situated, lugged the Nuggets (now nice and quiet and unstinky) into cooler places, then back into the car we went to go pick tomatoes and peppers from a local farm field.  You know that feeling you get when you spy a pepper plant laden with beautiful, ripe veges?  And you know you will have to do something with said veges besides look lovingly at them?  Well, it overtook me and I came home with this:

The bushel basket at the top is DS Melanie's.
Look at the size of the pepper in comparison to the

Mine was half and half - half tomatoes, half
peppers.  And I am going back for more.

By the time we reached Melanie's house for the third time, we were dragging.  But we schlepped her bushel basket into her house, checked on her husband, fed the sheep, then schlepped the Nuggets (minus her share) back into the Baja, then back to the LLF.  I don't mind saying that I almost wept when I saw my homesweethome.  But more schlepping was in order, then a quick hello to the happy dogs, then off she went again.  I staggered in and called the Nugget shareholders to please, please, please come get them soon.  Which they did.  Then I did my shortened evening chores - no more stuffing those behemoths into the coop at night - came in and collapsed.  Pepper was collapsed on top of me with sympathy exhaustion, 'though he slept all day in front of the fan.  Even Lovey's bounce was half the normal bounciness.  I was in bed and asleep by 8:30.  What a day!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A little of this and a lot of that.

It's taken me some time to recoup from my weekend.  I think I am definitely in need of an intervention - especially during long weekends.  It is the fate, however, of those of us who cultivate gardens and grow and process most of our own foods, that every free minute is spent either harvesting, cleaning, cooking, preserving, planning, canning, etc.  I'm not sure why I feel the drive every summer-into-fall to make sure I have enough food to carry me (and a family of twelve) through the winter.  Make that winters.

In any event, via my neighbor, he who has a garden half the size of a football field but only eats enough for a half a person, I ended up with a pile 'o tomatoes, a giant red cabbage (yes, more), a dozen ears of corn, and a half bushel of squash.  This, on top of my multitude of cukes, my own tomatoes, kale, chard, and beets.  Woof.

Thanks to Tooele Twins' comment on my cabbage post, I whipped up a batch of curtido - it's a sort of Salvadoran Kimchi.  I used a half of a giant cabbage (so far, I've managed to fob off the other half and a whole giant one), two carrots, a chopped hot pepper of some type, the name of which escapes me, Mexican oregano (I only had my own), red pepper flakes, and a thinly sliced onion.  Mix in approximately 3 tablespoons of salt for every five pounds of vege, mix thoroughly and squeeze with your hands, then pound it all until it releases lots of juice.  Once it's mixed well, smoosh it into your crock or jar - mine made about 3/4 of a gallon - weight it and let it ferment.  The recipe said anywhere from three days (crispier) to three weeks (more probiotics).  I am aiming for somewhere in the middle.

I also made a broccoli salad with the rest of my broccoli; a kale salad; a french lentil, cucumber, olive and feta cheese salad; canned 12 pints of roasted tomato sauce; made a new batch of kombucha; baked a loaf of multigrain GF bread for my morning tomato sandwiches; and made a roasted cherry tomato tart on a polenta crust.  Yes, indeed.  It was overkill.

One of the red cabbages that was 'over the hill'.  The chickens
found it quite tasty.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


If it wasn't enough that I have a new driveway and soon-to-be-new-to-me garage, we have won a blue ribbon at the Fair!

Sorry for the lousy photo - I took this last night with a flash.
All plans to retake it this morning were scuttled, as all plans of mine
usually are...

Here she is, in all her glory.
She is trying to get Dotty (front left) and Kookie (front right)
to notice her 'bling' - her ankle bracelet.  They could care less.

DS Melanie's daughter actually won more than one blue ribbon at this year's County Fair.  My girl was the third wheel on her breeding set of Blue Laced Red Wyandottes. 

I have dreamed of winning blue ribbons at the fair for years - when I was young, someone on our street started a 4-H Club.  I was so thrilled.  Until I went to the first meeting.  It was all about the mother trying to force friends on her daughter.  There were no cows.  There were no chickens (well, I DID have a chicken for a while).  There were no goats, calves, pigs (other than Guinea which don't count in my little black book).  Nada.  I never went back.  Then I went to art school and forgot about county fairs.  I still may try to enter something in their jams and jellies category.  It ain't a Jersey, but it's still a ribbon!

Thank you, DS and DSD (daughter)!  We are so proud!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ain't it wonderful?

As you all know by now, it doesn't take much to thrill me.  So it should come as no surprise that I am doing the Happy Dance on .... drum roll .... MY NEW DRIVEWAY!

Obviously, this was an afterthought. The 'old'
driveway turned into mostly grass, then all grass at
the top.

A virtual river of dirt.  A delirium
of earth/stones. 
Modeling my soon-to-be-new-
to-me garage.
And my lunch bag.
The real beauty of this glorious accoutrement is that the driveway was free-ish (this remains to be seen, as I do not believe that free comes without a price) and the garage is free.  Ditto.