Monday, August 28, 2017

Apples, Potatoes and a Fat Lip.

I've started making a working list off of The List (can you tell I am obsessed with lists?) that I can tackle over the weekends.  I mean, some of this stuff HAS to get done!  I am happy to say that I got all but three things done, and one of those was struck off - stop at a feed store for dog treats and canned cat food.  After my mother's remark that Lovey looked "like a loaf of bread", she is on a diet.  And so am I, in solidarity.  I have also decided to cut back on the feral cat food output, by giving them a can of wet food every other day, as opposed to every day with their kibble.  I might change that in the winter, depending on how they seem to be faring.

I weeded a couple of raised beds and pulled the pathetic bean plants.  I also harvested the potatoes.
As with the rest of the garden this year, it was a disappointing harvest.  I do buy my year's supply from a local farm, but there is nothing like growing some of your own to tide you over.  This year I planted only two kinds:  Red Norlands and Bintjes.  I have had a great deal of success with the Red Norlands.  Until this year.  A very small harvest - both in size of the spuds and number of the little devils.  My Bintjes were much better.  This is a potato that I discovered while living in The Netherlands and was thrilled to find organic seed potatoes here.  I probably got a 8:1 ratio of seed potatoes to harvest potatoes ~ yay!

I also got the electric net fence up for the sheep, so that they could graze the hill.  I don't worry too much about them starving - as my mother would say, they are very loaf-shaped.  Linden is very much akin to a blimp on toothpicks.  Since all three are together at all times, it is very difficult to sort out any type of different feeding regimen.  Linden tends to fat (I can feel his pain), while Norman is like a pony and needs more protein.  The llama, of course, needs more than either of them.  I was very lucky to get a call from a neighbor who has an early apple tree that was dropping apples like crazy.  They are in the process of moving out of state, so they wanted to know if I'd like the drops for the animals.  I hotfooted it over and collected two five gallon buckets-worth!  I have been giving them apple treats since then.  Norman, however, will only eat apple peels.  He is an odd duck.

Speaking of apples, on Saturday, Lovey and I whizzed through my errands, stopping at my friend, Marianne's, to drop off eggs.  She, in turn, gave me 12 pounds of an organic, heritage apple called State Fair, and a large bag of gorgeous RIPE tomatoes.  OMG.  On my agenda for Sunday was:  finish washing front of house and applesauce!  I also managed to bake some apple muffins for the barn - a hit, since over half the dozen disappeared in the first five minutes. 

Before venturing into the kitchen on Sunday, I had to run the weed trimmer under the electric netting and get the sheep out.  As I yanked furiously at a stuck gate, it opened.  Fast.

After three hours under an ice cube compress.
I am very thankful that the wire fence missed my face and that all I got was a fat lip from the impact of the PVC frame.  Lovely.

One of the reasons I was looking forward to applesauce-making (other than the finished product) was that I would finally be able to use my birthday present to myself - an apple peeler/corer/slicer!  I had not opened it since I got it at the beginning of the year.  When I did, I learned two things:  Quit being so cheap and there should be a law about seeing the instructions online BEFORE buying a product.

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I laid eyes on the 'instruction' sheet.  It's bad enough every cotton-picking-thing you buy is made in China (my "Cheap" lesson), but for Natssake, couldn't they hire someone who is at least reasonably fluent in English to write the instructions?  You can biggify, but here's the gist:

"III Operation Step:  *Fix (1) to the place as the structure schematic drawing; *Press (15) vigorously on the desktop, turn (14) by left hand (place as the picture show), the whole peeler fixed on the smooth desktop; Press (4), move the screw axis to the home position; *Stuck (15) by (11), let (6) far from the spiral rod, in order to make enough space to install an apple or a pear", etc.  Please note:  Please put the pedicle on the tri-fork when fix the apple, pear. 

Many bad things were said - in English - in the kitchen that morning.  I finally figured it out by trial and error.  I like the process but now hate my peeler.  However, Norman is very happy that he had quite a large bowl of peels - in varying degrees of length, width and depth.  I had, apparently, neglected to put the pedicle on the tri-fork.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mind Wandering

It's interesting what little bits of flotsam float around in my noggin.  Sometimes it's like a gentle flow, going around little flat rocks of conscious thoughts.  Other times, it's a churning sea of space junk.  Whoa.  I'm not sure where that came from.

This morning, I was up early in the frosty August morning (anyone notice the discordant adjective there?), re-covered Lovey in her fleece blanket and tried to talk myself into finishing my iced coffee.  Brrr.  It was 46 degrees, for crimineysake.  I was bound and determined to get all my morning chores done and be out the door early, since I have to leave the office early on Friday - trying to make up some time so that it all doesn't get deducted from my PTO.  I was in fine form until.... I went to feed the barn cats and discovered the dairy farmer trying to round up a recalcitrant cow, who was leading him on a merry chase.  Unfortunately, his morning helper is less than helpful, having only one speed, which is reverse.

I drove past the farmhouse and positioned my car across the road, hopefully blocking one escape route.  I then got out and got a rake and covered another hole.  This cow is a particular problem and the only reason she is not hamburger is that she is a good milker.  It's good to live in an area where a cow on the road does not throw people into a panic - nor do they sit in the road and blow their car horn because you are holding them up from IMPORTANT BUSINESS.  Two fellows in a dump truck stopped and got out to help and the four of us were able to get her moving in the right direction.

Needless to say, I lost the advantage of an early-leave.  I had to double back and feed the cats, then drive into the city.


I think the eclipse has melted the minds of quite a few people in the city.  I had to slam my brakes on six times, in order to avoid hitting the nimrods who a) threw their car doors open without looking to see if traffic was coming; b) walked out into the road between two parked cars - being mesmerized by the IMPORTANT BUSINESS on their phones; c) kept walking after the light turned green because (see b).  After a while, you wonder if you wouldn't be doing the world a favor by hitting some of these idiots.  But I didn't.


I know that quinoa is the new hot thing in grains, but I have to admit to finding it incredibly irritating.  It's so tiny that it gets in between ones teeth - it reminds me of chewing on sand.  Which brings back unhappy memories of childhood on the beach.  The only thing I liked about the beach as a child were the sea shells, the birds and the mysterious piles of seaweed.  Other than that, it was hot.  Sand gets everywhere and it chafes.  All of the photographs my mother took of me on the beach at St. Pete shows a blond tot that looks like she bit a lemon.  Apparently, I took out my unhappiness by systematically snapping the plastic pants of my giant cousin of the same age.  He finally had enough and sat on me.


My Cayuga duck, Cordelia, has taken to laying her egg in their pool.  What is up with that?  Does she just splash around and then - oops!?!  I am only getting one egg in the hut - thank you, Dimples - but am not complaining, as I am still (yay) up to my elbows in eggs.  I know the end of the bounty is near - evidenced by enough feathers in the coop to stuff a mattress - but I am very thankful that I am still getting plenty.  It will be interesting, as I slowly let the flock's numbers drop to a more manageable amount.  I am thinking a dozen.  Only 18 to go.


I have officially killed my fig tree.  This makes me very sad.  I will have to start all over again, but am waiting until spring.  It will be rather a relief to be able to use more than a third of my dining room this winter.


I have also been thinking about friends and friendship a lot.  I am very, very lucky to have such wonderful friends.  I don't have tons of friends, but I have the very best of friends.  I think that having friends is the most important thing in a person's life.  You know who you are and I love you.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Finding color in the garden or don't look for red tomatoes.

This has been, by far, the most odd (in a negative way) gardening season yet.  I have tons of green tomatoes and have, to date, harvested 12 grape tomatoes and two regular tomatoes.  I was lucky to get two quarts of beans.  My peppers are struggling.  BUT, for the first time - ever - I have multiple eggplant coming along.  Of the row of Swiss chard I planted, I have one spindly plant, while a volunteer from last year is huge.  The kale is fine.  The cukes are better than last year, but that's not saying much, as I only got one cuke last year.

So, I enjoy color wherever I can find it.

Volunteer cosmos by the squash

More cosmos - the picture doesn't
do it justice - it is deep, bright orange.

The only one of three dinner
plate dahlias that came up.

I had a great day with my BFF Sylvia, who was visiting from Maine.  Friday was solid rain, but we managed to enjoy the art museum and a great Thai lunch.  She is my go-to person for all things that need an artistic hand/eye.  She is one of the few people I know (actually, the ONLY person I know) who can look at a space and visualize objects within it - all beautifully balanced.  She should have been an interior designer.  Once I get my act together, I will show you the results of her creative influence. 

There are no photographs of the museum trip because, rain.  We got over an inch.  I tried a new recipe for dinner and it is going on the "make again, make often" list.  I found it in the latest issue of Living - Za'tar Roasted Chicken, Potatoes and Greens (or something along those lines).  It's a simple, one-dish recipe and if you don't have Za'tar, but you do have sumac trees, you can make your own!  I am so fond of this seasoning that I am going to do just that.

Saturday morning was about errands done quickly because I had a long list to tackle.  Besides weeding, I had to assemble my new grill (the old one lasted over six years and it was the low-end model!  The guy at Home Depot was impressed...), cleaned off the deck, washed water buckets, put out the mineral block for the llama and sheep (and managed to escape with my life), then I made granola bars, cottage cheese, yogurt, and froze blueberries.  Saturday was also the day that Bertie left for his new home.  It was bittersweet and, although I am now able to breathe easier, we do miss him.  He is in very good hands and his mom reported back that he accompanied her to the farmers market, where she sells her beef every Sunday.  He was a smash hit, with much patting and kissing of his head and lots of attention.  She keeps him on a leash so that there will be no incidents, as many people bring their dogs to the market.  Lovey, meanwhile, has reverted to her anxious state and I am doing my best to reassure her.  We've had to resort to cocooning her in her blanket, much physical contact and I have to go outside with her every time she needs to go out.  Poor lamb. 

To help us both through the transition, I made inside out cheeseburgers (Cynthia's Randall ground beef with a filling of garlic scape pesto and mozz) done to a turn on the new grill and a pile of sweet potato swirly fries, roasted in the oven!  We managed to get through the night...

Ready to pop in the oven - I love my spiralizer!
While weeding my little heart out, I looked at the front of the house and was reminded - for the umpteenth time - that I needed to wash it.  I rate washing the front and sides of my house right up there with latrine cleaning on an industrial level.  However, I pulled on my BGPs, got my environmentally-approved cleaner, a bucket, sponge and scrub brush and had at it.  Unfortunately, I was unable to use a power-washer because a) my vinyl siding is ancient and would be blasted off the house and b) my water source is at the far end and around the corner and would not reach.  So it was good old elbow grease that got it (mostly) done.

Quite a contrast.
I was able to get about 2/3 of the front of the house cleaned and will finish the front next weekend, weather permitting.  While I was grubbing around in the front, I weeded the heck out of the overgrown flower bed.  My original idea, after wrestling out the Barberry bushes, was to split my hostas and spread them along the left bed.  This hasn't happened - no surprise.  I am hoping to do it before the weather turns.

The only break I took on Sunday was to pay a short visit to a group of women who are knitters, spinners, dyers and basket weavers.  The town just south of me was having a big hoopla to celebrate their 150th anniversary and this group of fiber artists were set up at one of the oldest farms in the area.
Dying, spinning, knitting and basket-weaving going on.

I adore miniature donkeys.  Another
big attraction at this farm.

Angling for a head-scratch.
I made yet another new dish last night, but was too pooped to drag out the camera.  It was Mediterranean Zucchini Noodles and it was GOOD!  As  you can tell, I am all about the spiralizer this summer.  The dish was a snap - spiralize your zucchini into spaghetti size, then throw chopped fresh tomatoes (thank you, Marianne), garlic, sundried tomatoes, capers, chopped ripe olives, oregano, and a slurp of EVOO into a pan.  Pour it over your zoodles, add slivered fresh basil and some crumbled feta cheese and delicioso! 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Beef and a Beef

Last weekend, the result of many weeks of negotiating, hard work (none of it mine...) and coordination of various trailers, farm hands and meshing of schedules, came to fruition.

A portion of my friend, Cynthia's, Randall cattle have moved onto my other friend's beautiful farm.  Everyone is thrilled - especially the cows!  To learn more about this lovely, endangered breed and Cynthia's 20+ year journey to bring them back from the edge of extinction, go here

Now, onto a beef(s) of another stripe.  As background - almost totally unrelated because, well, I tend to ramble on - I do not watch television (my small screen is used only for DVD viewing - I have no dish, satellite or other connection), have refused to listen to the radio since last November and do not get a daily paper.  A few weeks ago, while out with my sister, I managed to get myself strong-armed into signing up for four-day delivery of our largest local newspaper.  They hit me at a weak point - in JoAnn Fabrics, of all places - with the offer of a $20 gift card and a limited subscription.  Since we live in the sticks, they have to hire someone to deliver the newspapers in the wee, early hours of the morning.  This is how my very limited subscription rolled out - Thursday: a paper delivered.  Friday:  no paper delivered.  Saturday:  see Friday.  Sunday:  paper delivered.  I called customer service and advised them of the missing papers.  I was credited.  Next week - wash, rinse, repeat.  Third week - I made it to Friday morning and then called customer service and cancelled.  It was then I was informed that my 'credits' meant that they extended my subscription by the number of papers not delivered.  Wonderful.  Not only would the Thursday and Sunday - apparently, the only two days where a live brain cell connected with conscious thought - be stretched out forever, there was so little of the newspaper to read that it was not worth the effort.  I kid you not when I say that a good 65% of the paper was advertisements.

Another beef - actually the original beef that got lost in the random beefs above - is the food editor of this paper and her latest local 'star' chef.  We may live in the capitol of the state, but there is very little of the sophistication (and money) of the unofficial capitol downstate, no matter how hard they try.  I am assuming that the food editor - her little blurb contains many references to her British-ness - was looking for something to do to fill her days, or else a good way to get tax-deductible meals.  She is so verbose and tiresome, that you long for a pair of scissors about two-paragraphs in (and she takes up most of the front section page and part of an inside page!)  I digress - again.  It may just be me, but this description of a four-star dish, really rankled me:  Veal cutlet, Marsala mushrooms, soft polenta, a sunnyside egg, and arugula.  In a heap.  I may not be a gourmand, but veal is pretty mild in the first place, let alone buried under wined mushrooms, a bland glob of mush and a runny egg.  I suppose the arugula is so that it has some color, other than tan, yellow and white, and a bit of flavor.

It seems apparent, even to me, that I need another latte to offset the onset of crankypants.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Food, Fun, Fotos and Bon Voyage, Lacy.

 The weekend started off with a gathering (all too rare now) of the Girlz Night girlz.  There are three of us and we used to get together once a month, rotating between houses.  It was fun and the only time I partake in a martini (I'm a light-weight).  Then lives got busy and complicated and one of the three bought a second house on Cape Cod.  That was not, obviously, me.  It has fizzled down to maybe once a season, so this was a nice surprise.  The other thing that has changed quite a bit is the length of the gathering.  We start at 6 and we used to carry-on until almost 10.  Now, we were out the door and in our cars at 8.  N's local house is on the market and soon it will be two.  Sigh.

Saturday was an interesting day, as I am now making myself open to whatever happens and not beating myself about the head and shoulders over not focusing on my list(s).  I had a good start - four loads of laundry done, sea salt & dark chocolate granola made, refrigerator pickles tucked in the new fridge, water buckets cleaned and refilled, weeds wacked, when I chanced on a Freecycle listing for kombucha scobys.  Woot!  My poor scoby, which I had so carefully dried to keep it on hand, did not rehydrate well.  The offer was limited to that day, so I bundled the dogs into the car and off we went.  I am so glad we did!  The woman's house was in Vermont, down a gravel road to a dirt road to the dead end.  The only house on the road, up in the mountains.  It was like driving into Eden.  She gave me the largest, most healthy-looking scoby I have every seen.  She was in the middle of canning, but took the time to share her vast kombucha knowledge.  She was great!  It was also great that she didn't have chickens, as I took along a dozen fresh eggs as a thank you gift.

Everything was put aside as I rushed home to brew up some sweet tea.  I now have a half-gallon burbling on the counter, with the other half of the scoby in a scoby 'hotel'.  That took a large chunk out of the middle of my day, so I settled for steam cleaning the living room rug (Sylvie's coming!) and cleaned bathrooms, counters and swept mounds of orange fuzz.  Speaking of orange fuzz, Bertie, aka The Yam, will most likely be going to his new mom this coming weekend.  I have, not surprisingly, conflicting emotions about it.  But it is definitely for the best, as he deserves a good home with someone who will love him without reserve.

For Mama Pea - my new
fridge in all it's packed-solid glory.
Saturday night, I tried a new recipe that is definitely a keeper!  I love all things zucchini, so when I saw the recipe for zucchini ravioli, it went to the top of the heap.  I managed to get it in the oven before the fireworks started (severe storm warnings were beeping on my phone from 6P on) and I ended up eating dinner with Slimby curled in a quivering ball on my lap.  Not an easy maneuver.

The recipe is from Half-Baked Harvest and turned out wonderfully, even with my ever-present alterations.  I did not have feta so used ricotta and shredded Pepper Jack, and I added some cooked corn to the filling.  I also got to use my new favorite baking dish, purchased for an amazingly low price while shopping with my sister in NH.  And it is NOT made in China!

My grape tomatoes and basil, Marianne's heirloom
tomatoes.  In my beautiful dish.

Zucchini ravioli on their way into the

Zucchini ravioli on their way into me!

I also found a recipe for zucchini pizza crust, which is next on my list.  Right after the zucchini fritters.  And zucchini bread.

Sunday I made scones for National Scone Week and took them to the barn crew with my homemade blueberry jam.  They are now scone converts, having never had a scone before.  Speaking of my homemade jam, I have now begun the Great Purge.

Part two (of many) of the Great Purge
So far, I have jettisoned sixteen pints of assorted unidentified jamish type of things, two years' worth of non-jellied currant jelly - you get the picture.  Above, there are pickled blueberries (why? why?) and more currant jelly-that-isn't.  And rhubarb chutney from 2009.  Obviously, I do not eat chutney, nor does anyone else in my circle of family and friends.  Hopefully, the chickens will enjoy it.  If not - compost!  I tremble at the thought of what else is lurking in the dark shelves of my canning cabinet...

Sunday was also the day we celebrated my dad's and my second dad's (my neighbors) birthday.  Dad will officially be 95 on Wednesday, while Ray was 93 the previous Wednesday.  My sister's house was the perfect venue (I love her house) and most of our family gathered - we were only missing my nephew from NH and his family, but they were there in our hearts.  A local woman and friend provided live music and it was a very nice get-together.  Martha is a very accomplished violin and fiddle player and has a wide circle of musician friends that she can call on for small gatherings.  This time she was joined by a delightful and talented young man who played the flute.  At my sister's birthday, three years ago (!!) she was accompanied by a keyboard.  It was wonderful!
Tuning up on the beautiful
L-R My Aunt Josie (Mom's sister), Bea (Mom#2,
Mom, Dad, my youngest sister.  Foreground:
our fourth sister, Barb, my nephew, Austin and his
lovely new bride, Rachel.

On the right:  my dog-nephew, Jasper, with my BIL,
and Dad2 in the hat.

BFFs, Bea and my mom

The old cutie, Dad, with his loot.
I made a few stops on my way home, and then let the dogs out and made a quick pass through my garden.  OMG.  I have an actual tomato harvest:

I had to laugh - I have been stalking that tomato for days, waiting for it to turn red.  It is an orange tomato.  LOL!

It's going to be another wild week of unproductive (in list-shrinking terms) days, but I have two friends scheduled to drop by tonight - hopefully during chore time.... then my BFF is coming into town from Maine and I have taken Friday off.  Then Bertie goes home with Cynthia Saturday... then, POOF, the weekend is gone!  I do still have Sunday, but there is a big festival all weekend at the town just south of me and some of the activities are just too alluring...

Before I sign off, I would like to say a little about a wonderful chicken.  Lacy passed away yesterday at the ripe old age of 10.  She was an all-around excellent hen.  Lacy was a silver-laced Wyandotte that I adopted when my dear, sweet, Rosie had to disburse her flock.  Lacy was the matriarch of the henhouse for years, until this one.  She had been demoted to the bottom, but the other hens were never hard on her.  I will miss seeing her rocket out of the coop in the morning.  I will miss her gentle burbles and clucks as she followed me around.  Bon voyage, sweet girl.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

I suppose I should cross "Photographer" off my resume.

Wouldn't you think that attendance at a craftsmen's fair would warrant a slew of photographs?  Well, yes, it would, had the attendee been anyone but yours truly.  I was too busy gawking at all the neato stuff to remember to photograph it.  There were a few times the penny did drop into the slot, so to speak, and those will follow.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable time - both because of the quality of the workmanship on display, the site of the fair and the quality of the company.

I had a strict budget and it was tough, I tell you, TOUGH!  It finally came down to a delightful repurposed sweater cat and an amazing print of a porcupine.  I decided on the former - way cheaper - but am still thinking about the latter.  I did pick up the printmaker's card and may revisit her website and order it.  Such talent.

Here's some (very few) shots of our trip:

After the forecast of rain all day, it turned
out to be lovely.

Wonderful weather vanes

If I had the money, I would have spent a bundle
on this guy's beautiful clay stools.

OMG, I wanted one of these SO badly!
It's been added to my bucket list.

There were so many extraordinary artists!  Everything from leather, clothing, jewelry, ceramics, paintings, lithographs, photography, crafts of all shapes and sizes - there were some giant chickens made from fun fur turned into feathery spikes that were so adorable... - it was just overwhelming.  My sister got a beautiful stained glass hanging that she wants to suspend in front of her French doors in her dining room.  And the music!  There was a bluegrass band that was wonderful - it was difficult to leave our seats, but time was limited and there was so much ground to cover.  The event is held at the Sunapee Resort in Sunapee, NH.  A beautiful spot, even without all the art.  We have made a date to add this to our annual trips. 

We had left extra time for our return trip, having spotted a couple of interesting spots on the way there.  However, we were yakking away and missed a turn and ended up having to go a different route home.  I think that calls for a return trip...


Getting home earlier than usual allowed me to tackle some of the mounting pile of produce in the fridge.  I put together a sort of ratatouille that strained the borders of my largest cutting board.

This needed the BIG pan!
Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to get a pile of wonderful RIPE tomatoes, a gallon bag of green beans and some interesting peppers from my friend, Marianne.  I have tons of tomatoes on the vine.  All green.  I may have ripe tomatoes by September if we ever get warm enough weather.   I did some canning - it's all that I can do to hold myself back - and finally got red currant jelly that jelled.  I also made Cherry Salsa and the jury is still out on that.  It had better be darn good, as it involved four pounds of cherries that had to be stemmed, pitted and chopped.  OMG.

Saturday night was spent with my two favorite guys - the Lithuanian Lawn Guy (aka The Neighbor) and my friend, Denis.  The menu was veal osso bucco, rosemary roasted potatoes and carrots and a French cheese, the name of which escapes me.  Which is a very good thing, as I was tempted to just eat it with a spoon until I keeled over and I daren't keep it in the house.  D's house is up at the end of a hollow, surrounded by mountains and forests and was built in the 1700's.  It's so beautiful up there!

The LLG and Denis
And, introducing "Claude"

Aiiiii.  The squeezability factor is high.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Behold the Knitting! (In all its lumpy imperfection.)

I finally struggled through my first two-color project.  It's finally over.  This is the pot holder in all its imperfect glory - I don't believe more than four of the cross patterns are the same in a row.  And it's rather - let's say 'tense'.  I'm sure I transmitted my angst to the stitches because, either it's a very small version of the original pattern or the model in the photo was a four-year-old with tiny hands.  Anyhoo, it's over and I'm not totally hating it.  I will love it more after a bath and a stretch.  Let's hope I get better at this, as I have three more to go.  I did realize that I read knitting patterns a lot like cooking recipes - I am smitten by the title and the pretty pictures, then sort of skim through the rest.  The pattern repeat was a bit - cockeyed - and I didn't pick that up until I had soldiered on for eight rows.  Frogging out a project in two colors is a whole other thing than one.

I hope to get some things crossed off The List this weekend - currant jelly and cherry salsa are at the top, followed closely by clean out run-in shed and shovel llama beans.  At least it won't be boring.  On Monday, my sister and I are taking a day trip to the League of NH Craftmen's Fair in Lake Sunapee.  With any luck, I will have remembered to charge my phone and will have pictorial evidence of our good time!