Friday, February 28, 2014

The Joys of Custom Made.

Seeing as I am still a non-coffee drinker (when will it end????), I am slugging away the tea.  I have managed to go through most of my tea stash - thank goodness it has a long shelf life, as I just uncovered a tin of tea from Harrod's in London.  From 1994.  I had gotten a Keurig so that I could curtail my coffee-drinking.  But how would it handle tea?

I have one of those little plastic inserts that you can reuse because I will NOT add my tiny Keurig plastic cups to the Mt. Everest of disposable diapers out there in the landfills (the "away", as in throwing it 'away').  This insert works well with a tea bag.  But it's not quite as strong as I need to drink my tea.  So I dusted off my favorite little teapot - "Tiny".  It's perfect for a little over two big mugs of tea and I can make it as strong as I want.

I have had this teapot for years and years.  It was made by a potter I knew in Cleveland, who was also a friend of my father.  He is still living in Cleveland - in his 80s by now - and still throwing pots occasionally.  This is also the only teapot that does not dribble tea all over the table, my lap, the floor.  There was only one problem with it.  It was naked.  And it's cold in my house.

What to do?

Voila!  A tiny tea cosy!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Let's to put this...

2014 is shaping up to be an ... interesting ... year.  Thanks to the Endless Winter, Apria had her neck fiber chewed off (it's now growing back, thank goodness), one of my hens is getting her front neck feathers picked (first time ever), I have a hen in sick bay with respiratory problems (ditto on the firsts), my budget is so tight you can see its undie lines (not, unfortunately, a first), my job has done a 180.

I was lying in bed doing my Buck Up Mantra:  Onedoorclosesonedooropens.  Rinse.  Repeat.  If that doesn't work, I use the old stand-by:  What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.  I'm not buying either at the moment.  Give me time.  My Pollyanna always kicks in.

After 20 years of service, my co-worker is getting the boot.  The reason?  Management's new policy - TEAM WORK (which, not surprisingly, only is being applied to the support staff) dictates that each secretary covers 5 senior staff.  Never mind that there are/were only two of us here doing soup to nuts.  Since when does One constitute a team, I ask you?  Yes, the entire office (small though it is) is now going to be supported by the team of me.  Our office is an anomaly - a speck, a far-flung outpost of a giant company with tentacles reaching as far as Belgium and South Korea.  It makes absolutely no sense.  Not to mention what a catastrophe it is for my co-worker - she is the main breadwinner, has a daughter graduating from high school and going to college, and has a developmentally challenged child.  It's one thing to be let go because of financial problems (all they do is make money) or pilfering or other bad behavior (she is honest as the day is long).  But this is a low blow.  And it is going to turn my life upside down - different (longer) hours, tons more work.  At the same time, I feel for our HR person; a very sweet, nice woman; who has to deliver the news.

Thank you for listening. 

I have one of my Ameracaunas in sick bay (aka the laundry room), where I have been keeping her quiet and dosing her orally once a day with Tylan 50.  I am hoping I caught whatever she has early enough - there hadn't been any sign of a problem until yesterday morning, as far as I know.  Catching and dosing the loonie tune took most of my precious morning chore time.  She is the hysterical type, which makes getting hold of her and squirting the meds down her gullet an adventure every day.

I am at a loss as to what to do to keep the hens occupied - other than with feather picking.  They have light and heat.  They have fresh stuff to pick through most mornings.  They have the occasional flake of hay to scratch through.  I shovel paths and a playing field.  I guess all we can hope for is an eventual (please make it soon) end to the endless winter.  Since the temperature this morning was in the negative, I take it that the end is NOT in sight.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Miscellany

After a cruel and sadistic Spring-like weekend, Ms. Hyde (aka Ma Nature) is gearing up to drop the Polar Vortex on us again.  All that's done so far is to turn the Little Lucky into an un-Olympic skating rink.  The natives are getting restless.

Thomasina continues to lay an egg every other day.  Now that I know he's a she, there were tons of clues that I missed.  She never tried to fly up in a tree.  She never developed a 'gobble'.  No carbuncle.  My overall egg count is up, but erratic - three eggs one day, 16 the next.  And my egg customer count has increased, so they are finally paying their own way.  For now.  Even my only child, Scrappy, gets a loosely scrambled egg every morning for breakfast.

Speaking of Scrappy, he seems to have settled in to only-child status.  He is even more tolerant of the Boyz.  I have decided to just spoil him rotten, take him everywhere with me (we had an exciting trip through the car wash on Saturday - he barked at all the machines) and wait until another dog finds us.  It is the best way to adopt, I think.  Unless I happen upon a dachshund that is.  Or a Scottish Deerhound.  Neither is likely, so he's safe for now.

Last night I finally made it up to the knitting group at the library.  As I sat with this nice group of women (including my sister from different parents, Melanie), I realized what a duck out of water I am.  In some circles.  The conversation was almost solely about children, childbirth, schools, colleges, anniversaries.  Thank goodness for Melanie, who threw in a reference I could grasp onto every once in a while.  It is very nice, sitting and knitting with people.  But I don't know that I will do it often.

I tried a new recipe that had been nibbling away at my subconsciousness for a while.  Unfortunately, it was better on paper than in the pan.  But it will be sustaining me through a week's worth of lunches.  Sigh.  I also made a batch of ricotta, a pound of butter from a surprise stash of frozen cream I discovered, a loaf of white sandwich type of breadish - I am in the mood for tuna fish salad, and made a gallon of chicken stock.  I also fell off the wagon - I had to stop in at the grocery to pick something up for my parents and ended up walking out with a cabbage.  I paid for it, of course.  And it was local.  Sigh. 

This week will be spent trying to get rid of the ice floe in my driveway before next Saturday, when my elderly neighbor is due for an early dinner.  And to keep myself intact.  I have been keeping my YakTraks permanently on my barn boots.  It went from deep snow to deep slush and then it froze.  Linden keeps limping away - I am waiting for a DVD I ordered on how to properly trim hooves and deal with problems.  With any luck, I will be able to tackle his gimpy foot this weekend.

I'm due to call my car dealer, as I have a list of 'problems' that Kyle has been disclosing as the weeks have passed.  The driver's side door locking mechanism unlocks but doesn't lock.  The passenger seat is broken.  The CD player doesn't work.  Other than that, it looks as if Kyle and I will be an item for quite awhile!

p.s.  Sorry for the moderated comments - I've had so much spam slip through that it's easier to knock it out all at once!  But, at least I did away with the verification! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Making do and embracing the odd.

The hours of 4A-6A are prime knitting time for me.  I always wake up alert and in a good mood.  I am that perky-in-the-morning person that drives people crazy.  I do not, however, make good conversation before my first cup of...tea.  It's good enough for the cats and dog, but limited on a human-to-human level.

After knitting my short row cowl, I decided to tackle a more complicated (cable-wise) pair of mittens, as I reckoned I had enough yarn left for a pair.

Or not.

I liked the pattern (free on Ravelry - Eugenia's Mittens) and they are nice and toasty and have a longer cuff that keeps drafts out.  As I realized I did not have enough yarn for the pair, I went rooting around in my giant, disorganized stash and came up with a close facsimile - weight-wise.  I have decided that I love them - odd or not, perfect...or not.  They are, after all, barn mittens.  I am sure that they will be weekend-out-doing-errands mittens as well.  I embrace their oddness!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Seeds are going...going...gone! And pure randomness.

Thanks to everyone who contacted me for seeds.  I have removed the page and the remainder of the seeds are going to a local community garden - along with all the duplicate gardening tools I have managed to amass over the years.  I just cannot walk away from a perfectly good rake/hoe/shovel for a buck at a yard sale.  Just cannot. 

Thomasina has now laid a second egg.  In the chicken nesting box.  Out of self-defense, I have put in extra-thick wood shaving layers so that she does not mush the chicken eggs while she is shoe-horning herself into the box.  Of course, as expected, the chickens have taken over the larger one that I made especially for her.  Poultry is perverse.  Or is that redundant?

I am looking forward to a brief upswing in the temperatures.  We are forecast for one nice day - tomorrow - and then it's gloomy for the next five.  I miss my garden.  I miss my outdoor faucet.  I miss the sun.  On the upside, there is no lack of moisture (sorry to those folks suffering through massive droughts - wish I could send you some of our snow).  Even though the days are longer, I am not mustering up a whole lot of energy to get things done.  Relatively speaking, of course, as I tend to be an overdoer of things. 

Some 'funny' things - I am still not able to stomach coffee.  I have been a major coffee drinker all my adult life, but since the dreaded flu some weeks ago, I completely lost my taste for it and now only drink tea.  I keep trying but it tastes awful.  I am still trying to drive Kyle like I drove Lulabelle.  He does not shift like she did and we are still dosie-doeing around third gear.  Thank goodness he is patient, whereas I am not.

I've been trying to get a neighbor down off her hollow (why are they called hollows, when they go right up the sides of mountains?) but every time we plan an early supper, it snows.  And she is up in her 80s and neither one of us wants her to drive down her unpaved road in bad weather.  Maybe by May.

I finally finished (except for hemming) my pants-to-skirt project.  This has been languishing in my closet for months.  I will post a picture of it when the hem is done.  Maybe by May.

May is going to be a busy month.

Monday, February 17, 2014

You could have knocked me over with at (turkey) feather!

It goes without saying that everyone on the Little Lucky is suffering from cabin/coop/barn fever.  After the latest onslaught from the Great Endless Winter, I was up at my usual 4A, shuffled to the sliding glass door to let Scrappy out and....caught myself before I slid the door open.  All 16+ inches of snow would have come tumbling into the room.  Heave large, loud sigh.  I shuffled back to the bedroom and threw on my barn clothes, grabbed a broom to keep the snow OUTside, and shoveled a path over the deck, down the steps, through the poultry yard and over to the coop.  Scrappy was glued to my heels.  We then went back into the house, where I steeled myself with a cup of tea (still no coffee, dammit) and contemplated the miles of shoveling still ahead.

Long story short, I ended up shoveling paths to the barn, along the side of the barn, to the front of the barn, down the one paddock slope to the sheep gate, behind the sheep gate, around the water bucket, to the shed, ad nauseum.  Then I strapped on my snowshoes and slogged to the front of the house, where I shoveled some more.  When it snows more than six inches, I cannot get my front door open.  All in all, I think I shoveled for five hours.  Then my dairy farmer neighbor showed up with his tractor and front end loader and removed the four foot ice dam left by the snow plows from the foot of the driveway.  He came back with his plow truck and cleared my driveway.  I love my neighbors.

I've been trying to keep boredom at bay in the chicken coop, as they can get up to all kinds of mischief when they're bored.  I keep an area shoveled in front of their door so that they can come out and I put a flake of hay in the middle, which keeps them entertained for hours.  While they are outside, I take advantage and clean things up inside.  It was on one of these cleaning reconnaissance maneuvers that I discovered someone had laid a very large egg by the chicken door.  I put it in my pocket and didn't think anymore of it.  The next day I was filling their feeder and found Thomas the Turkey crammed (unsuccessfully) in a nesting box.  A tiny, dim bulb clicked on.  Holey Moley - Thomas is a Thomasina!  Now I am busy fashioning a larger nesting box for her, as she tends to smoosh any chicken eggs in the box when she jackknifes her way in.

I provide evergreen branches for the sheep and goats, and have managed to shovel some pathways for the shorties so they can get out and move around.  Looking ahead to this week's forecast, they call for weather in the 40s to 50, with rain.  I can envision going from knee-deep snow to knee-deep mud overnight.  Joy.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Winter Survival: Custard Cups

When you're facing yet another forecast of 14-plus inches of snow and you've just found out that fuel oil is now $4.25/gallon, there is only one thing that will keep you from suicidal thoughts:  custard.

I make my custard from the recipe in my mother's Joy of Cooking - circa 1949.  It was a wedding gift from her sister, my Aunt Josie.  And I make them in the same custard cups that my mother used to make hers in.  When we were kids and were sick, she would make us custard.  On the one day you were actually allowed to be sick.  After that, you had better snap to.  Only under extreme circumstances were we able to languish in bed for more than one day.  The thing that always 'cured' me was the threat of a bowl of milk toast.  Gak.

The basic recipe:  Scald two cups of whole milk, mixed with 1/4 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt.  Beat two eggs thoroughly and very, very gradually, beat in the scalded milk mixture.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and pour into cups.  Grate some fresh nutmeg on top and put them in a pan, adding hot water to reach halfway up your cups.  Cook in a preheated 325 degree oven for 35-45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the custard comes out clean.

As my hero, Julia, would say - Bon Appetit!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Kyle and the burden of being a trendsetter.

My friend, Sylvia, told me that she thought Florence couldn't go on because I had laden her with an old-fashioned name and she was destined to a short life.  So this time around, it's Kyle.  I think (with all digits crossed) that he is a keeper.  After the initial drive, where I was hyper-alert to any noise - should it be a piston about to fire off in the wrong way - I have begun to relax into the drive. 

Scrappy approves.

I have to admit, it's a burden when people are always looking to you for illumination on the latest fashion trends.  All that flying to Paris, to Barcelona, to Buenos Aires, to Cleveland; being whisked from one fashion house to another - the champagne, the Gucci bags, the celebrity status.  It can wear you right out.  Right.

I did, however, turn the office on its collective ear this morning, when I trotted in through the front glass doors with this beauty on my arm.  It is the NEW rubber chicken.  Bag.  It is amazing!  I predict everyone will be sporting one by April.

My sister finds the coolest things!  I LOVE it!
 They are still murmuring about it.  Or about me - they are murmuring after all, and I can't quite make out the words....

Thursday, February 6, 2014

I'm not afraid of no short rows....

It only took me most of my adult life to be able to say that.  Much like cables, I would find a pattern that I loved, look at the directions and see "short rows".  My mind would then go:  "OMG! Short?  Row? Whazat? Parlez-vous francais?  Sprechen sie Deutsch?  Habla usted Espanol?  Greek?!  Latin?!  Gah!!!  I think I'll knit a dishcloth!"  Thanks to my friend, Melanie, I overcame my unreasonable fear of cables and went on to knit cabled headbands to the point where friends fled upon seeing me approach with my knitting bag.

Short rows, however, continued to fill me with about as much affection as I felt for dentists and Calculus.  Until this winter.  I pulled up my Big Girl Panties, got my yarn out, found a pattern I loved, and did what any other knitter with the backbone of damp spaghetti and the mind and focus of a fevered fruit fly would do.  I looked it up on YouTube.  It helped a bit, but my fear kept pitty-patting back to the frontal lobe and I kept getting stymied.  Then I found a good tutorial with detailed pictures, printed every single one out, put them in order and inched my way through my first wrap knitwise, wrap purlwise, pick up wrap, etc.  You would think I was scaling Mt. Everest.  Geez.

This was the perfect pattern for it, because you had to do short rows FOREVER.  By the time I was finished with them, I was knitting short rows in my sleep.  I am hoping that this turns out looking somewhat like the original here.  Or at least like its fifth cousin distantly removed.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Spreading the wealth.

I finally sorted through all my seeds and found (oh, surprise - not) that I have tons of them!  I had signed on for Mike the Gardener's year of seeds and, while there were many that I would use, there were also many seeds for things I do not raise.  That got me thinking - as well as some prodding from Krazo Acres' seed swap idea - that I should put them out there and see if anyone would like them.  I've made a list that I put on a separate page.  As they are taken, I will remove them.  I hate to waste seeds and love the idea of sending them out there to flourish in other gardens!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Picking up the tempo. And the pieces.

I am happy to report that I did pretty much everything on my list for the weekend - and then some.  All I can remember is that I was either cooking or cleaning up after cooking.  Out of the kitchen this weekend:  a loaf of brown rice bread; breakfast bars; gluten free oat bagelishes; sweet potato hash with eggs; mozzarella cheese; two spinach bacon quiches (egg glut!); gluten free brownies for the barn.  I am all cooked-out.

I shoveled up Mount Llama Beans and cleaned all the water buckets, removed the remaining evidence of the hawk carnage out of the coop, and cleared the front and back deck - we are due for a foot of snow tomorrow night, into Wednesday.

I also vacuumed the entire house, mopped the floors, washed the dog goobers off the windows, did all my laundry - except for the sofa cover which is completely and grossly doggified, ironed, watched a DVD, spent time with my parents - where I made kale salad for the twentieth time (I am thrilled my 90 y/o mother loves kale salad), sent my tax stuff off to the accountant, and found a car.  Woot!

After schlepping in and out of six dealerships, used and otherwise, I debated on Saturday afternoon whether to head home and give up (and take six showers - after six car dealers I felt all icky) but I soldiered up north to drop in at a small family-run operation that has been the source of my dairy farm neighbor's three trucks and two cars, his dad's two trucks, his uncles' trucks, his cousins' cars -- the entire clan.  I pulled into the lot and... VOILA!  There it was.  A 2007 Hyundai Tuscan, 5 speed transmission, low mileage, one owner, AWD.  With a price tag that was in the outland of my budget (sort of waaaay outland).  There was no one to-home (as they say hereabouts), so I called when I got home and made an appointment to drive back up yesterday morning.  Thanks to my finely-honed negotiating skills, friendship with the dairy clan, and six chapter tale of woe, I managed to get the price down to where I think I can swing it.  If all goes well, I will drive it off the lot Friday morning.

Just in time, too.  I was just starting to get used to an automatic transmission....