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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Well, the ocean's blue, ain't it?

Being frugal and prone to use every last scrap of everything can have interesting consequences.  Besides being way ahead of the gourmands on the fusion front, it can lead to rather spectacular results.  Take my dinner last night.

I had made a paella-like dish for my sister on Wednesday night, not wanting anything remotely close to turkey.  I had leftover mussels, clams, clam juice and a nice piece of cod in the freezer.  Perfecto!  I would make seafood chowder for dinner!

Rummaging in my vege bin, I found white and purple carrots and a half an onion.  In my root cellar aka the guest room closet, I found potatoes and garlic.  All set.  I set about dicing and chopping and threw it all in a pan with the broth and then snuck in some knitting while it all simmered.  Once the vege was tender, I tossed in the cod and shellfish and stood in wonder as it turned blue.  Wow. Obviously, the purple carrots had worked their magic.  I added a little milk and it turned a lovely shade of blue-lilac.

The photograph doesn't do it justice.

While I thoroughly enjoyed both the flavor and color, I was also glad I didn't have company for dinner.

This also brought back a memory of fixing dinner for my parents when I was a twenty-something.  I wanted to create an elegant and memorable meal, so I made Cornish hens stuffed with rice, sultanas and pistachios.  Unfortunately, I used the red pistachios and the subsequent stuffing was a lovely but shocking shade of pink.  My mother was quite gracious about it....

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Good People.


This was my Thanksgiving view.  We got over a foot of snow on Wednesday into Thanksgiving morning.  What a treat! (dripping sarcasm here...)  My sister was driving up from Newark NJ to spend Thanksgiving with us.  In a rental car.  With no snow tires, shovel, flares, blankets or other winter gear.  Bless her heart, she made it to within 15 miles of me, averaging 30 mph.  It took almost six hours.  She made it to the first hill on her long journey, and then she could go no further.

An aside here,  For those of you who think that our highway departments - who face winter every stinkin year, and who had been listening, I am sure, to the same dire warnings of the oncoming nor'easter for a week prior to its arrival - would have had the roads cleared to make sure that this, the most-traveled day of THE ENTIRE YEAR, would be safe, would be wrong.  Not a plow in sight.  I do believe they sit in their garages waiting for the clock to strike overtime.  Dastards.  I digress.

She and I had been in regular contact through the white-knuckle drive.  We were both a wreck, but I wasn't driving.  I was cleaning surfaces - something I do when I am highly stressed.  She said she was going to try to get her car off the road and was going to knock on the door of a house that was nearby with the lights on.  The next call came minutes later - she had parked her car in their driveway and could I pick her up.  I got the address and headed out - even with four wheel drive, the road was treacherous.  I am still amazed that she made it as far as she did in one piece.

Turns out she had knocked on the perfect door.  The Universe had directed her to a family who is the poster-family for kindness, warmth and hospitality.  Not only did they insist she park her car in their nice, shoveled driveway, but invited her in to use the bathroom, made her a cup of tea and fed her cookies.  They let her leave her car overnight so that we could come get it the next morning when the roads were clear (triple overtime guarantees clear roads).  When we arrived to pick up her car, they had cleaned it off before they left for their own Thanksgiving trip.  I tell you, the whole experience gave me a new and kinder view on humanity.

The storm abated and left every surface with a coating of snow.  It was beautiful.  Until I had to shovel it...


Pepper loves his Aunt Cynthia and was quite crushed when I didn't bring her back on Thursday.  He has been watching the cats and has discovered a way to insert himself in your view at every level.  My sister heads back today, thankfully with clear roads and nothing more than arctic temperatures.  If this is an omen of winter to come, I might as well sew myself into my long johns right now.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Aargh, Matey! Happy Dancing. Dastards.

Since there's no way I could put together a cohesive post today, I am going to subject you to more randomness. 

I did some research before ordering a new, small batch of laying 'hens'.  Black Langshans sounded perfect:  Large, docile, dual purpose homestead birds.  Ahem.  Someone must have switched birds in the incubator.  My Black Langshans are large, lunatic, dual purpose birds.  AND four of the six were roos.  I think there must be a hitch in my giddyup as far as the usual Little Lucky female mojo goes.

As there is only room for one - maybe two, depending on temperament - roosters on the LLF, two of the four lunatics were destined for the freezer this past weekend.  My neighbor and I have the best deal of all deals - I buy and raise them.  He processes and we split the resulting meat.  As Sunday was the best of the two days, I went in the coop to grab the 'volunteers' early in the morning.  It was total, utter, complete chaos.  I finally managed to grab-hold of two of them and stuffed them unceremoniously into the dog crate (cat crate being too small).

I then went about my usual morning chores.  As I was coming out of the barn with the sheep's hay, a neighbor was driving by.  He slammed on the brakes, rolled down the window and hollered, "Hey, you okay?"  I didn't figure I looked any worse than I usually do around the farm, so said yes.  I went in the house for a cup of tea and, as I leaned over the sink, blood dripped into it.  Damn.  The roos had gotten me right across the left cheek.  A little clean-up, a schmear of triple antibiotic ointment and we were good to go.  I look like a pirate.

Not wanting to jinx it, I have kept the fact that my sister and BIL were buying a house two doors down from my parents pretty much to myself.  I found out this weekend that the closing happened and they will move in full time in April!  Oh, my, did that produce an hour of happy dancing.  That got me thinking about happy dances.  Does everyone do pretty much the same thing?  My happy dance goes like this:  rapid rounds of fist pumping, followed by hip-swinging, fancy footwork, some rythmic foot-stomping, and all accompanied by woohooing.  What's yours look like?

Now, the dastards.  Not the first word that came to mind, but....sensitive souls might be reading.  I keep track of all the blogs I read through Blogger.  Well, someone (thestuffthatkeepsmeawake) has been hijacked by a blog called craft design architecture ideas.  It has flooded my reader to the point that I cannot find the blogs I want to read in all the crap.  I am highly ticked off.  And nowhere can I find a way to contact Blogger to let them know.  Darn and dagnabit. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Musings

Most spam that hits my inbox is pretty boring.  However, I now have a favorite spam:

Sender:  Support
Subject:  Broken emails is repaired.

All I can say is, thank god.

In my neck of the woods, this is the time of year when you start to see signs up for Holiday Church Bazaars.  I always get a warm, fuzzy feeling about them, but haven't been to one since I was a squirt.  We were members of a small, Episcopal church in Lorain, Ohio.  My father was a layman, my mother poured coffee after the service (always in hat and gloves - those were such different days).  The men of the church put on the spaghetti dinner to die for, and the woman all worked their crocheted/knitted magic for the Christmas Bazaar.  I thought it was the most wonderful thing in the world - all kinds of things that were in my limited budget.  (These were the times of the 50-cents-a-week allowance.  Did I just hear a Millennium hit the ground in a faint??)  I was riveted by the toilet paper doll cover.  I secretly longed for one but, if I recall correctly, it would have cost the equivalent of a month's allowance.  I did some of my best Christmas shopping there.  I am so tempted to check out the modern day bazaar - will there be an array of toilet paper covers?  Can I still cover my Christmas shopping within my allowance?  (Which, I'm afraid, is almost the same as when I was six.)  Friends and family, beware.

I was also in the church choir.  Every week at practice, we weighed heavily on the patience of our very patient choir mistress, Mrs. Pfaff.  I can still see her face as we drolly sang, "...and He forgetSNOT his own...", titter, titter.  That poor woman.  Every Sunday we would pony up as the mothers hovered over us, tying our bows (which I loathed) and trying to keep order.  I learned how to whistle in the choir.  Unfortunately, it was during a particularly long pause in in the sermon...

If I Google my blog name, it comes up on top.  Right under it is a listing for E-I-E-I OMG! 87 Hot Farmer's Daughters.  I wonder two things:  How many prospective readers have I lost to that much-more-provocative title?  And:  That Farmer must have been one hot ticket to have produced 87 daughters.  Punctuation, folks, punctuation...

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Oooh, baby, it's cold outside!

Almost nothing of Lovey was visible this morning.


She was wondering what fresh hell this day would bring.  Her enthusiasm for winter wanes by the day.  Pepper was disguised as a brown fleece lump and Scrappy was pretending to sleep so he wouldn't have to go outside.  The Cruel Food Woman (that would be I) shooed them out into the frigid morning, where business was carried out at a brisk pace.  It feels like January.  The kitchen wasn't as warm as I would have liked it - mostly because the heat duct was blocked by a feline body.  So I roasted a butternut squash.  Nothing like adding heat and aroma at the same time.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I'm gaining on it!

I managed to get all my beets canned.  And all my applesauce canned.  And it only took me a month.  For some reason, I was not all fired-up as I usually am.  I allowed the beets and apples to reside in my fridge (taking up any available space left by the behemoth cabbages - which are still there...) while I blithely ignored them.  It was ridiculous.

So I pulled up my BGPs and got at it on Saturday.  I canned regular diced beets, then whipped up some spiced pickled beets.  Then, since I was on a roll, I pulled out the apples and peeled and pared my little heart out.  The sheep and llama were thrilled with the peels and cores.  I tell you, the way to a llama's heart is paved with apple peels.

You'd think, with all the whinging and whining and carrying-on, that there would be acres of counter top covered with canned goods.  This was it:

All my beets were Chiogga
or Golden.
I will have to say, in my own defense, that I had to deal with (and am still dealing with) an unexpected fridge full of chard.  (BTW, the score is Me: 4  Voles: 0 - if you don't count the bushel of beets and rows of chard they demolished.)  But, still.  I mean, really.

For the record, I will now be making applesauce in full hazmat.  While stirring away, a molten blob of applesauce erupted out of the pot and hit me square in the eye!  Thank goodness it landed in the space right above the tear duct and not IN my eye.  Geez.  I had to very gingerly apply my handy-dandy aloe plant juice.  It's getting so that I'm not safe in or out of the house!

Pic from Amazon.com halloween
costume

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Himself.

It should come as no surprise that Pepper is not an easy subject to photograph.  As soon as he knows that you want him to do something - such as sit still for two seconds - he does the opposite.  I guess that is why I am so fond of dachshunds.  They remind me of me.

His sweater was finished early yesterday morning, just in time for the low teens of the morning.  As soon as I put it on him, he spent every waking hour trying to get it off.  I would come in the room to find him with the one-shoulder look, having managed to pry his flibber out of one sleeve.  In order to save the sweater, I only put it on him before bed - for the double-layer effect - and to go outside.  We seem to have reached d├ętente.

I finally put him on the table so
he couldn't go far.

He is rather adorable, if I do say so.
It's his saving grace.

Lovey, on the other hand, loves her jacket and wears it all of the time.  I am hoping that she will feel the same about her soon-to-be sweater.

I have everyone's rapt attention - I am
standing next to the crunchy treat jar...

Friday, November 14, 2014

Well....


No matter how often I hear the weather forecast that predicts the first snow, it always takes me by surprise.  It had just started falling, very gently, last night and this morning we had three inches fluffed up on the deck.  Lovey has never seen snow.  It only slowed her down for one nanosecond before she embraced it wholeheartedly and went romping off through the poultry yard - flinging nosefuls of it in the air.  Pepper was not as impressed, to put it mildly.  I had to forcibly remove him from his burrito wrapping, bed hair and all, and plop him unceremoniously on the path I had shoveled for him.  He gave me a withering glance over his shoulder before stalking off down the steps.  Where he left me a nice little present/bomb right in the middle of where I have to walk.  Touche!

I am 99% finished with his first sweater - having cobbled it together with odd lots from my stash.  At least it is washable and not pink.  I'm saving the pink for my girl...

(Seeing this pic reminds me that I left the latest mouse carcass on the bird feeder - off camera to the left.  Thank goodness (haha) it's not going above the mid 30s today.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Projects of the knitting kind.

I finally finished all the hatware for the little noggins.  I am now ready to start on Pepper's first sweater - I figure, given the fact that he's about 2.5 inches off the ground, he will need multiple sweaters.  One to wear while the others are washed and dried.  It's amazing how much fuss is involved with such a small dog.  Scrappy needs:  hugs, treats, hugs.  So that's easy enough.  Lovey needs:  hugs, treats and exercise.  Ditto.  Well, maybe a sweater, too.  Pepper needs:  a hearing aid, combing, hugs, anal gland cleaning, an extreme amount of treats, sweaters, blankets, and a whole lotta patience from his person...

I did manage to take pictures of the last of the kiddie lot:

 





My table is not red-orange, but so goes the weirdness of my phone camera.  Top to bottom:
Baby bonnet (color is a lovely blue-gray) with apple button and embroidered flower in front for my friend, Rosie's great-niece.  Twins' earflap hats with i-chord ties.  Twins' big sister's alpaca pixie hat with ties.  If you don't look closely (and if you do, well, you deserve what you see...:-/), they turned out pretty well.  It's fun to knit small things.  The bonnet was particularly fun because you knit it in one piece, starting from the chin strap.  And, gasp, it involved short rows!  And I wasn't afraid!!

Once Pepper's sweater is finished, I will have him model it.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Why sharing your life with dogs makes you smarter.

(Or, the alternate heading:  Why sharing your life with dogs can drive you to distraction and adult beverages.)

All of my dogs in my adult life have also been adults - or downright oldsters.  I LOVE me my oldster dogs.  Now I have a youngster - Lovey - and it is such a joy.  Until she shreds things.  And then.  Then there is Pepperoni.  NOT a youngster by any stretch of the imagination at age 13.  Minus 22 teeth.  But those remaining five teeth in his tiny noggin can do more damage than any puppy I've been up against.

Case in point - the Mouse Obsession Period.  That period when he ripped off (or gummed off, it was plenty soggy) a portion of the back of the couch skirting and chewed a lamp cord to bits.  He was a very lucky dog, in that it was plugged into the timer, so there was no juice with which to toast those five teeth.  Bugger.


I am sure it will come as no surprise to most of you that I was not inclined to replace my lamp, but to fix it.  I mean, how hard could it be?  I have numerous reference books on home repairs.  There is YouTube.  There is How-to-whatever.  I trotted off to Home Depot and bought a replacement cord.  It was over six bucks!  Really?

I then sat down to deconstruct the lamp.  I do have to admit that deconstructing stuff is way more fun than constructing it.  I have taken things apart gleefully since I was a kid.  Even the exploding golf ball didn't dampen my obsession.

A half hour later, I had managed to work my way through the lamp, using every screwdriver and wrench in my tool box.  I was following the cord, hoping to find the end where I could easily (cough) detach the chewed cord and attach the new one.  It was not easy.  This was because the lamp had been made in China for the new THROWITAWAY generation of Americans.  Pfft.  I had to cut the cord at the screw-on-thingy part (more tech-talk) and then go searching around for a replacement - I was determined not to spend another cent on this project.  I did finally find a replacement (of sorts) at my neighbor's.  He never throws anything away, thank goodness. 


I spent another hour, threading the new cord through the disassembled lamp, reassembling it as I went.  Paging carefully through my Readers Digest Home Repair Manual (thanks Mom and Dad), I was happy that the attachment looked easy.  Except for the fact that my replacement cord had no definition between silver and bronze (ground and live).  Sigh.  I looked at the package.  Made in China.  I took a technical leap (eeny, meeny, miney, moe....) and connected them.  Then I screwed in the bulb and plugged it in.  It lit!  So I finished my Jerry-rigged job and put the shade on and plugged it in.  It did NOT turn on.  I put it in the guest room to haul out for another day when I was feeling smarter.....

Friday, November 7, 2014

Oh, yum.

Excuse the pan - it's my most useful size
and I won't get rid of it.
Sometimes, being gluten free is not onerous.  Such as when I discovered these Blueberry Millet Muffins.  I used the last of the 2013 blueberries, the last two of my own eggs, my own raw milk yogurt and my new favorite grain: millet.  Or birdseed, as my neighbor pointed out.

These were the leftover batter muffins - it made about a dozen and a half, but these are large - and a chance to use an impulse purchase (fancy paper muffin cups).  For the rest, I used my can't-live-without silicone muffin cups.  I love them - easy to use, easy to clean, nothing heads to the landfill.

You can find the recipe here.   I used frozen blueberries, so my muffins have a lovely, sort of indigo undertone.  And indigo is my favorite color - next to any shade of green.  At first I thought having the raw millet interspersed in the muffin would be ... odd.  But I found that they lend a nice, satisfying, toothsome crunch.  (I love that word - toothsome - something that Pepper can only dream about.  I would think that "gumsome" would be more appropriate in his case.)

****

Yesterday I spent driving my parents around.  My mother had her eye treatment for macular degeneration in the city, so we have a tradition (my family is BIG on traditions) of going to eat at their favorite Chinese restaurant, ordering the same thing for lunch each time, then off to the medical center we go.  Unfortunately, we are always WAY early.  This means the wait is longer than the usual long wait.  There is nothing that tries the patience (of me) more than to sit for over an hour with two people who look at their watches and comment about the wait every five seconds.  I brought knitting to create some Zen vibes for me.  Speaking of which, I have now completed all of the small-fry knitting with the exception of some embroidery work on the bonnet.  I will take a pic of what I have not already mailed.  And I am hoping that the recipients will turn a kind eye on the imperfections (....Wes....xoxo).

****

I also squeezed in a much-needed haircut before picking up my parents.  And listened to the horrific account of her battle with a psycho husband over custody of their sons.  Good, goD.  The man is pure evil.  It made me appreciate even more, coming home to my dogs and cats.  At least there is no evil involved there, just the occasional cause-me-to-lose-my-mind thing.  Which, lately, has Pepper's little paw mark on it.

A few minutes after I got home (dark at 5:15), I got a call about joining friends at a book signing/reading in a nearby town.  Had I not been gone all day, I would have considered it, but I will not leave the dogs alone that long.  Plus, it was not an author who would make me consider an exception, as I find him to be one of those whiny types.  I almost reconsidered when I learned that he was bringing his dog, however.  You can see where my priorities lie.

****

The weekend holds a crummy weather forecast, lots of outside chores (funny how the two seem to always go together...), dinner with my parents at their favorite restaurant, a long over-due Girls' Night get together (I'm bringing Pink Lemonade Vodka Jello Shots - I'm bad...), a hay delivery (hallelujah - let's hope it happens), and I finally tackle the beets.  Speaking of which - do any of you have suggestions on how to tackle a vole problem?  I have tried a few things, to no avail.  I am considering poisoning the buggers, but am leery about poison in the garden, even though it will be used sparingly and in tunnels, and a full six months before planting season.  I figure there is a wealth of knowledge and experience out there....

Monday, November 3, 2014

Switching Modes.

Before there is any of the "thank goodness for winter now I can sit and do all those fun things I've been dreaming of since the onset of spring" stuff, there is Autumn.  I think that, although it IS my favoritest season of all, Fall is the most stressful of them all.  The day shrinks, the weather stinks (hey!  I'm a poet and don't know it!  But my feet show it - they's longfellows...heehee) things ramp up at the office, and the Universe picks up on my angst and whaps me. 

If I let my guard down even for a teensy, weensy second, I pay for it.  Case in point:  As soon as August nears it's end, I start to winterize my car.  This involves strewing peppermint-infused cloth bits from head to tail light.  Mice look for winter lodgings early, I have found.  I did not do this.  So...one crawled up into somewhere (most likely involving the heating unit) and died.  It has taken weeks to get to the point where I don't have to drive with my windows down while breathing through my mouth.  I did discover a nice, cozy mouse nest in the spare tire well.  I over-pepperminted and now have to crack the windows so my nose doesn't burn. 

The chickens are winterized because they have not laid ONE SINGLE EGG in over 13 days.  I figured a light in the coop might help.  And while I was lighting their residence, I decided to hook up their waterer heater.  And put more shavings inside.  And feed them more.  Ingrates.

Next up are the sheep and llama-by-default.  I spent yesterday afternoon cleaning out the hay storage part of their barn and setting up a higher barrier so that Apria cannot get her three teeth on a hay bale and haul it down so they can all gorge (and get squashed in the process).  My attempts were met by eight hairy eyeballs and only time will tell if it will work.  It was good to get things organized, though, and the set up is much better.  I should be getting a load of hay next Saturday - we are ready!

The cover over my fuel oil tank needs replacing.  The sheep need more space for winter, which entails emptying and moving the double composter, removing the sheathing from that side of the barn, framing out another 10x8 foot space and getting it enclosed.  I need to finish cleaning out the garden.  I need to clean up the peonies, bee balm and hostas.  I need a new snow shovel.  I need to move the sheep feeder through three paddocks, all uphill.  I need another three months and someone else's bank account.

Since this is the season of stocking up and I am not one to be able to walk away from a bargain, no matter how insane it might be, I had stopped a a local farm and was getting some winter squash since I had none (and none of my neighbors had any, either), when I happened to see a sign for 50# of small cull winter potatoes for $12.  With a free pie pumpkin thrown in.  Did I need 50# of potatoes?  Why even ask.  They were in the back of my car before you could say "Bob's my uncle".  I portioned them out amongst friends and then took about 20 pounds to a food pantry just south of me.  It was such an educational visit.  The people sitting in the church kitchen waiting for their bags to be put together were exhausted.  Exhausted from poverty; exhausted from life.  I realized that I live in an area where people are very lucky if they can find employment or, even better, get out of Dodge and find more opportunities for a better life.  I am darn lucky to have the wherewithal to grow my own food or, for that matter, to be able to own a car to drive to somewhere and buy local.  As you know, I am very big on buying/eating local.  I figured it was high time to put my money where my mouth is, so I drove back up to the farm and got another 50# of potatoes.  It's the best I can do because, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I have way more mouth than money....