Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The train to Looneyville is picking up speed.

This morning, I ran out of gas.  And I don't mean that figuratively.  I have never run out of gas in all my (many) years of driving.  Ever.  I had to call around to see which neighbor a) was awake and b) had a can of gas.  I finally located one who was willing to come save me, but it took him almost a half an hour to go in his garage, get the gas can, put it in his truck, and drive the less-than-a-mile to my driveway.  I thought I was going to go mad.  I didn't want to go back in the house because the routine had already been set in motion and the hounds would commence baying if I made any alteration to the process.  Then, again, once I leave the house, they only recognize me as an intruder in a car, so bayed their tiny heads off anyway.

Earlier that morning, after finally casting off the first sleeve on the sweater from hell, I realized I had been knitting away in denial for the entire sleeve.  Hmm, I had said to myself - OFTEN - how odd that they have you INcrease every X rows on a sleeve.  Oh, well.  Lalalalalalalala.  Once I (ACTUALLY) cast it off, it looked all wrong.  I checked the pattern (now, THERE'S an idea), I realized I was supposed to DEcrease every X rows.  No shineola, Sherlock.  I had to rip it all out, which is so much extra fun with fuzzy thread-weight yarn, and start over.


There's plenty of room on this train, if anyone headed in the same direction....


On a totally different note - IT RAINED.  A short thunderstorm rumbled through last night and it poured!  We got half of an inch and it has been raining off and on all day.  Huzzah!

Monday, July 16, 2018

At least there is color.

We have gotten about 1/4" of rain (.09 ish cm for my friends north and elsewhere) in the past month or more.  I didn't have the courage to look at my egg journal records.  It is as dry as dust.  We did get enough rain (the above-mentioned 1/4") to penetrate the top layer of soil.  By about 1/4".  The watering continues.  The only things flourishing in this weather are the weeds.  Why can't 'they' harness that ability to thrive in every adverse condition and put it into vegetable seed production?  Why, I ask you?

While my vegetables are struggling, all flowering things are thriving.  Of course, I am watering them, too.  There's got to be SOMETHING to look forward to in the garden.
Front deck
Interestingly, these geraniums have been over-wintered for four years.  They were so pathetic, leggy and spindly this spring, that I swore this was their last year.  I am prepared to eat my words...

I had given up entirely on two of my large beds this year and weeded them completely (five wheelbarrow-loads between the two!) and am letting them go fallow this year.  One is covered in cardboard, while my (what-would-I-do-without-him) 83 y/o neighbor brings his little Honda tiller over and gives the second one a good tilling every two weeks or so.  I covet that tiller.  In the process of weeding the beds, I potted up five good-sized pots of lemon balm.  It grows rampant through the garden.  I put them on Facebook for free and they were gone in two days.
Not the greatest contrast.
As far as colorful vege, it ain't happening here.  I did pull my first 'harvest' of a half-grown cuke because I had a hankering for one and needed something to perk up my lunch salad.  I was pleased to see a quantity of them growing on the vines.  I will try to do a garden post next time.  With photos, no less!  However, when I went up to Marianne's farm for my weekend stint on Saturday, I drove away with a bag full of color:
Carrots!  Beets!
We spent a good hour and a half weeding the entire greenhouse, then moved next door to put down a soil/compost mix and plant kohlrabi, romaine and more beets in the ground garden next to the greenhouse.  I will have to get a photograph of their hugelkultur beds - they are amazing!  Dwarf fruit trees, flowers and vege.  With a view - of course, every inch of their farm offers a view.  I will be taking Friday off to help her weed what needs to be weeded in her flower beds (she's part of a town garden tour on Saturday).  I really enjoy working along side her - she is my source for all things news and has a wealth of knowledge about just about everything.  I also trotted home with three zukes (be still my heart!), microgreens, shiitakes and lettuce.  Booty!!!

Here is some gratuitous color - for Theresa.  The new Cat Room curtain.  This was made from a leftover piece of batik that I bought at a yard sale in a previous life.  I wish I had had enough to make a summer dress out of it - I love the colors!

It is sheer enough to let in some light, but shades the room enough that Slimmie can collapse in relative coolness during hot spells.  Mostly, he goes from place to place on the kitchen floor.  You have to keep a lively eye out, as you negotiate around my place!

Other than the usual drudgery, I did get some cooking done in the wee hours - I made some of Mama Pea's infamous cottage cheese, I made a pan of zucchini roll-ups (thin strips of zukes rolled around a mixture of ricotta- made from the whey from the cream cheese - egg, corn and fresh herbs, sprinkled with a half-jar of leftover mild salsa), teriyaki chicken with pineapple in the Instant Pot (disappointing results), and oatmeal raisin cookies for the barn crew - actually, just my neighbor, as his teenage helper has turned into a wimp, and an inconsiderate wimp at that.  He's left my farmer doing everything alone for three days running.  This has provided the proverbial straw and he has put his farm on the market.  Sigh.  Sometimes I don't like change.

Last Friday morning, I had rummaged around in my big freezer (trying to empty it so I can defrost it and sell it) and found two packages of frozen, shredded zucchini from last year.  In a fit of mad experimentation, I let a package thaw and made my ultra-favorite GF pizza crust Friday night - shredded zucchini, squeezed dry, mixed with eggs, almond flour and cheese.  O.M.G.  It was perfect!  I can now have it all winter long.  My love affair with zucchini has reached a new, deeper level... :)

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Ketchup, Catsup, Catchup. I'm behind.

Doesn't that look inviting?  Too bad I haven't had time to plant my tush in either one of those chairs.  Also, I'm afraid that, if I spend too much time there, the hops vine will consume me.  I am bound and determined - with that perfect cosmic concoction of no biting flies, less humidity, ducks at nap time, sun at a low angle, and a perfect little breeze - to sit out and enjoy it this weekend.

It has been all about weeding.  It is what I do every available moment.  I even dreamt about weeding last night.  Thanks to my slothfulness last year, the weeds got a root-hold and are doing their best to retain it.  The purslane is rampant.  The sheep sorrel is downright scary.  Then there are the grasses - snake, crab, hellish stuff.  Every morning at 6:30, I am trotting outside with my watering implements, to nurse my little garden along.  I do equal parts watering and weeding.  Then I weed my way across the front of the house, down the side, around the back and into the chicken yard, where there is nothing to weed. 

Mr. Butters has been a pain.  He is an adorable pain, which is the only thing that saves him in most moments, but a pain nonetheless.  Last night I came home to find he had peed on the rug by the deck door.  He had no excuse, as I let them out multiple times.  But he was too busy sticking his pointy little nose into every bush, crevice and crack to bother taking care of business.  Then I let them out into their fenced area, went inside for three minutes, and only Lovey showed up at the door.  After a frantic ten minute screamfest, I found him, nonchalantly sniffing around the big pine tree in the front yard.  He meandered back in his own sweet time and sealed his fate.  Back into the crate he goes.
I have harvested nothing but collards and kale.  There are a few promising cukes coming along, but my jalapenos are puny.  My one sweet pepper plant looks healthy, but there are no flowers.  Thank goodness for Marianne's farm!  They do a good business with their microgreens, but the pea shoots grow so fast, they are beyond micro in the blink of an eye.  I just happen to LOVE pea shoots, so I get a gallon bag of them every week.  Bliss!  My neighbor gave me my first zucchini and I almost cried.  Looks like I will have to get my act together an get back into my garden next year.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The importance of good resources.

I was very thrilled to be asked by Molly at Ulysses Press to review Leigh Tate's latest book, Preppers Livestock Handbook.  No one has officially asked for my opinion before - they usually get it, whether they asked for it or not!  While the book has been reviewed by many, more adept than I at this reviewing stuff, here's my two-cents-worth.

Let me start off by saying how much easier my start in homesteading would have been, had I had this book on my shelf.  Over the years - usually after the fact - I have amassed a hodge-podge of reference materials, covering everything from chicken breeds to bee-keeping, to housing, to fencing, to first aid.  While many are perfectly good books, they are usually rather...over-written.  You have to wade through a lot of text that impedes getting to the point - that nugget of information you need NOW.

Preppers Livestock Handbook is, in true Leigh Tate style, well-researched, well-organized, well-written, and concise.  It has, in one manageable volume, everything one needs when planning the best homestead set up for their circumstances.  I am quite impressed by the range of subjects covered and by the fact that the pertinent information - the boots-on-the-ground stuff - has been pared down to easily give you what you need to know to make good, informed decisions.

As a long-time follower of Leigh and Dan, and their great blog, 5 Acres and a Dream, I am not surprised that this is such a great book.  And, while all of the information on different breeds, their pros and cons, care and considerations, is a terrific resource, the part of the book that really resonated with me was Chapter 10 - Keeping Things Manageable.  This chapter is worth its weight in gold.  When you are first realizing your dream of a lifetime (which is what it is to most of us), it is so easy to get carried away.  Not only does this put a great strain on the homesteading newcomer, but it puts an unnecessary burden on your budget and often, as in my case, causes losses that need not have been lost.

No matter how long you've been homesteading, this book gives the reader a new, fresh look at their homestead.  Once again, Leigh has it the nail on the head.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Reining in my plastic life.

I made a pledge to do my best to make July a No-Plastic month.  As is usually the case, I presumed it would be a snap.  Wrong-o.  Plastic has invaded every nook and cranny of my life.  It is in/on/with/made of everything I touch, it seems.

After coming to grips with this fact, I decided that I would aim for not bringing any plastic into my home for a month.  The upside of this is that a) I will save money and b) it will stretch my creative abilities to their max. 

I have been keeping track of how things are packaged over the last few months, as I got ready for the challenge.  It's sort of like jogging in place before a marathon, without the ibuprofen.  I would say that 99.9% of anything I ordered online came with some sort of non-recyclable, plastic packaging.  A few were pretty creative themselves.  I got some adorable mugs from Calamity Ware and they came in a veritable Matryoshka of cardboard boxes; a total of 4 boxes, nesting tightly within each other, with the mugs individually wrapped in plastic in the final box.  Then there was the book that was heavily wrapped in plastic bubble wrap and enclosed in a bubble wrap mailing envelope.  I ordered a used copy of Plastic Free - How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too.  Ironically, it arrived in a plastic dust cover.  When I go to the grocery store, the majority of items I tend to buy are packaged in plastic.  If I am not right on top of the people manning the checkouts, everything would be triple bagged.   I already schlep my reusable bags to every store I frequent.  If I forget them, I have to come up with creative ways to juggle purchases to the car (pockets are my life).  Then there are the epic fails - like my experience ordering frozen dog food (each package came in it's own giant box, lined with Styrofoam - my nemesis - containing dry ice).  I've gotten the packaging fairly well under control on that end, ordering a freeze-dried, human-grade food that is in a box.  In a  plastic bag in a box.  However, it looks as though I will be buying only used furniture.  I have been looking for a storage unit to help organize my craft/yarn/office room make-over,  for quite some time.  I found the perfect one, on sale, at a big box store in May.  It had to be ordered, so I did so.  Had I ordered it in July, I would have had to send it back as soon as I opened the box and looked inside - it was a plasti-phobe's nightmare.
Damn Styrofoam again
In an interesting twist - my local Wal-Mart (which I usually avoid like the plague) was the only place I could find organic fish emulsion fertilizer (in a plastic bottle).  They also are one of the few establishments that will take your plastic bags for recycling - they sell themselves as very 'green'.  However, when I got to the checkout, the woman refused to put my purchases in the bag I brought.  I had to do it myself.  It's not that I mind bagging my own, but really?  I don't think that the corporate message has trickled down.  The only reason I will enter the store again, is to use their bag recycling.
I needed to get cheddar, but cannot buy it at the grocery because it is in a plastic-wrapped block.  I did a little calling around and found two local places that carry large wheels of cheddar that I can get cut to order and wrapped in paper.  Score!  It costs more, but it is worth it in the long run, me thinks.  The upside about all this mental canoodling, is that I find myself thinking of creative solutions to all kinds of things.  I was watching a podcast about a young woman and her family who homestead in Arkansas, and I was admiring her gardening/harvesting apron.  I looked it up online and it was pricy.  I think I can make my own rendition at a fraction of the price.  The wheels have already started turning.  After all, I finally remembered how to thread my sewing machine.
If I can stem the inflow of plastic and reuse what I already have accumulated until it falls apart (but never goes away), I will rest easier.  I grew up (my teenagish years) at the dawn of Earth Day.  Those principles have stuck with me ever since and the one thing that stands out most starkly in my mind is the fact that there is no Away, as in throwing something away.  It goes somewhere.  Unfortunately, it often goes into the oceans and streams and rivers.  It goes into landfills.  It is blown to the sides of the road, up in tree branches.  This is a finite planet.  There are already too many people on it and those people are creating too much trash.  If more people would become aware of the amount of plastic trash they are generating for future generations - as in all their kids/grandkids/great-grandkids - maybe the trend will turn.

Hope springs eternal.
If you are interested in joining in, here is the link.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Hell. I've got pictures.

So, this is what it's like.
Fifteen minutes later, it was 100.
Notice the interior temp.
Were it the only day of such extremes, I might not be complaining as mightily.  However, this was just one of many.  Saturday's high was 98 with high humidity.  Sunday reached 100, ditto on the humidity.  Monday dipped slightly to 99 (humidity again), Tuesday was balmy at 98 (blah, blah, blah on the humidity), and yesterday it was back to 100 (etc.)  I do not function in this weather.  At all.

This was the scene inside Casa Little Lucky:

Which is cooler?  Laminate or


What the....?!

That's more like it.
Butters did remain a fleece blanket burrito right up until 98 degrees.  Then, even he couldn't take it.  You will notice that he very much resembles a baby walrus - that would be the unknown-but-large quantity of dog food he snarfed up after breaking into the laundry room.  He is both busy and naughty.  I cannot keep him in his crate in this weather, so we have to trust each other - not.

Needless to say, not much got accomplished - again.  This so goes against my very being.  I do manage to weed and water in the wee hours, but I did not bake my pies for the annual local library event on the Fourth.  The first time in years.  I just couldn't face turning on the oven.

My new grass is loving the heat - and added sunshine, after all the sumac trees were cleared.
Phase One is complete.
The sheep and llama were very appreciative of the sumac branches, as they love them.  I fed them in the early morning, so they could eat before retreating to the barn for the day.  There has been much filling of wading pools and water buckets.  And bird baths.  And water dishes.  And adult sippy cups.
Linden (Tubby) and Norman (Nutty)

Apria works on early morning hay.
There has been very little knitting, no surprise, but I am slowly working my way through two sweaters.  Because I am a masochist, apparently.  For mindless knitting, I'm working on a shawl/scarf.  There are shortie socks to be cast on.  I had planned to finish my summer pillow shams (from last year...) but just couldn't work up enough energy to face that much movement.

I did whip up a double batch of garlic scape pesto, because I had to cut the scapes and I needed to do SOMETHING.  I love this stuff and use it often.  I'm doing a trade with a neighbor who grows a lot of garlic - he gives me his scapes and I give him back some pesto. 
After freezing, I pop these in jars and use as
On a bright note, I got to meet my new doctor on Tuesday.  I LOVE her!  I haven't been this hopeful about a doctor in years - years, I tell you!  First, she is a long way from retiring.  Second, she has a farm.  Third, she gave me the name and number of her acupuncturist.  Fourth, she is interested in herbal and alternative treatments.  And - I was so excited about this - she told me about tick prevention (tick tubes) and told me how to make my own!  OMG.  What's not to love?

Monday, July 2, 2018

The Weekend of Prostration.

I have almost nothing to show for the entire weekend.  There was a tiny bit of cooking - Deviled Egg Macaroni Salad for a cookout at my sister's on Saturday.  Rhubarb Juice, because I am hooked on it.  Tuna Salad Macaroni Salad (GF) because I knew I had to eat something for lunches this week.

Besides the foray to familyville on Saturday, I spent the rest of the weekend prostrate.  When I wasn't filling water buckets and wading pools.  I spent hours, sighing mightily and saying - in a weakened voice - "Oh, y'all.  I'm about to die from this heat."  Every once in a while, my tut-tut-ing inner voice would sneer, "Oh, go pull up your damp BGPs and DO something!"  Luckily for me, even the inner voice had the starch taken out of it in this weather. 

I managed to:

Weed in the wee hours of Saturday and Sunday morning.
Sell all of my eggs.  My Summer Lake customers are back in full force!
Take the dogs for ice cream.
Water everything in the wee hours of Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
Put up my tobacco cloth over the currants and blueberries.
Sew up a curtain for the cat's room.

That last one - which should have taken, oh, 10 minutes, took over an hour.  You know how, in your mind, you can just pick things up where you left off - seamlessly?  Even though you left off MONTHS almost a YEAR ago?  And maybe you're no longer the sharpest tack in the box and it takes some effort to remember, say, anything?

I forgot how to thread my sewing machine.  I did some version of it and - no surprise - it bunched, snagged, tore, jammed and did a variety of things that whipped me into a frenzy.  I then stood up, took a deep breath, got some iced rhubarb juice and went prostrate for 15 minutes.  Then I was back at it and figured out that I had missed about 2/3rds of the most important steps in threading it.  Sigh.  I was then too lazy to look for better thread and tried, unsuccessfully, to use a spool that Lovey had gnawed on in her early, anxious years.  Fernatssake.  Another glass of rhubarb juice (See?  I'm hooked!) and a breather, and I rustled up a good spool of thread and it took me less than 10 minutes to finish the curtain.  I had put a sheer in the cat room window to let in light, but this brutal weather was just too much.  I found a lovely dark blue batik remnant and now it's cooler, darker and pretty as well!  Poor Slimmie is nothing but a slow-moving puddle in this weather, sweet furry lumpkin.

Mr. Butters insists on being ON me, with his hot, sweaty little body.  Lovey just looks miserable and tries to find new, cooler places.  I have a series of four fans going and, even so, I was pretty unhappy having to leave them alone for another brutal day.  Yesterday, the thermometer peaked at 99 degrees, not factoring in the 70% humidity.  Today is supposed to be the same.  Just shoot me.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Wild Thangs

If this morning's commute is any kind of a precursor of events to come this week, hold onto your hat!  I had to stop for:  wild turkeys; BEAR CUBS; porcupine; deer; grouse.  While four of the five are reasonably common, bear cubs are not.  I was laboring up my mountain (CLOSE TO HOME) when I spotted what I first thought were obese Labradors.  While I was tsking their owners for a) letting them get to that state and then, b) letting them run loose, a tiny voice in the back of my brain pan said - dogs : no / bears : yes.  They scampered into the woods before I got close enough to see their beady eyes.  Which is probably a good thing, as they seemed young enough to still have their mama close by.  After hearing the story about a woman (on the same mountain) having her car attacked and totaled by a cow moose with a bad attitude, I was in no mood to hang around to see if she would come along.

I got so much done this weekend!  Woot, woot, woot!  Of course, only about half of it was on The List, but it still counts.  Because I added, then crossed off all the extraneous stuff.  I do not consider it cheating, since you asked.

The weather was sort of crummy on Saturday, as the Big Rain forecast for our area dissolved into dribbles on and off all day.  I did a drop-off run to the local food pantry (reducing the clutter in my laundry room significantly, as it's the only safe place to store food stuffs in a house that contains the Flying Sausage, aka Butters), picked up 100# of poultry feed from the local supplier, then headed home and hit the ground running.  With help from my neighbor and his trusty chainsaw, all the sumac trees were taken down in the section of the chicken yard that was fenced off for grass rejuvenation.  Then another hour was devoted to clearing the debris, followed by another hour of yoinking weeds, then another two and a half hours were spent with shovel, pickax, trowel and iron bar, trying - to no avail, alas - to dig out an oak tree seedling and move it to its new home.  After following a large tap root (with no extraneous root system) for more than a foot and a half, the root zigged east and south and there was no way I could extract it.  I was quite unhappy about it, as I love trees and had hoped to move it out of the flower bed close to the house to the new, grassy oasis in the back.  At least I have a hole ready for a potential tree.  I will have to start keeping my eyes open for a likely candidate.

By the time I threw in the trowel/shovel/pick/rod, I was mud from head to toe, as rain drizzled on me the entire time.  The temperature on Saturday didn't rise above 60 degrees, so it was pure heaven to go inside and peel off the wet clothes, shower and put on nice, dry everything!  The dogs spent a contented day, gnawing on their marrow bones and watching me labor in the rain from the dry coziness of their sofa. 

There were many other small things ticked off the list - repair mirror chain, put a new layer of shavings in the duck hut and nesting boxes, switch poultry waterers (which I can now fill from my rain barrel!!!), weed the garlic, repair another window screen, etc., etc.  I hit bed early and didn't move until 4A.

Sunday, I was out by 6:30, as there was more rain forecast for the day.  I made four wheelbarrow runs, clearing out all the weeds I pulled from the grassy plain in back.  I also noticed that the platform on which I had balanced my rain barrel had partially collapsed from the weight.  You know those times when you do something sort of half-assed and you know it's half-assed and will probably end in a bad way, but you do it anyway because you're in a hurry/lazy?  I did manage to prop up one end with part of a cement block and will have to wait until it's empty again (how ironic) to fix it.  I am sure we will now be inundated with rain because I need it empty.

I then loaded my car with various flotsam and debris that I have been collecting and zipped off to the transfer station.  Where they were having their coffee and couldn't help me unload.  Harumph.  I was then off to Marianne's for my farm stint.  We weeded and fertilized everything in the greenhouse (she has fist-sized tomatoes!), admired her ducks and then headed in for an iced coffee and a nice chat.  I really do love these 'work' days.  I was back home in time for the rain, so focused on the inside of the house.  I did get my mirror chain rehung - I love it so much, Joyce! - and then vacuumed, swept, cleaned bathrooms, and made a grass fed beef/Marianne's mushrooms ragout with GF mushroom noodles for dinner.  Yummo!  I did not bake one thing this weekend.  I'm sure the barn guys are in shock (or mourning), but I took the day off.  My latest favorite DVD series is New Tricks and two DVDs arrived in Saturday's post!  Huzzah!

I awoke this morning feeling virtuous.  I also awoke way too early because someone (SLIMMIE) managed to get my bedroom door open and I was wide awake at 2:30.  I put in two hours on my sweaters (yes, I am knitting tandem sweaters because I am certifiable), then cleaned up the kitchen, washed eggs and made my lunch using the swag I picked up on Sunday:
Spinach, beet microgreens, my lettuce, cilantro
microgreens, shaved sweet onion, Kalamata olives
I also made a kale/spinach quiche over the weekend for lunches.  Speaking of swag - I swaggered past the only large mirror I own and was abhorred to catch a glimpse of myself - egad.  So a strict food regimen has been handed to me by me.  Swagger, indeed.  More like, Run!  Run away!  If nothing else, the exercise would do me good...

Thursday, June 21, 2018

My next life (or the Big Plan B).

In my next life, I would like to put my name in to come back as a handyman.  I am very over having to wait for others to get things done.

I started rounding up someone to reinstall my fencing in April.  It is almost July and it's 1/3 done.  I'm not complaining about the quality of the work, as this young fellow is doing a splendid job with the existing fencing (which I was told had to be completely yet another local 'expert').  The posts are pounded solidly in.  The fencing is pulled as taut as possible, straightened and reclipped.  But holeymotherofzeus, it's moving at a snail's pace. 

El Blimpo (aka Linden) has gotten out three times, the latest being yesterday.  There is nothing like pulling into the driveway after a harrowing commute to find your fat sheep mowing your lawn.  With the dogs barking like lunatics (legs crossed) and the above-referenced young fellow pulling into the driveway behind me, it was touch-and-go getting fatboy back through the gate, with all the external factors - stranger, noisy dogs, cars in the road.  After getting him safely back to where he belonged, I did a perimeter check and he had either squeezed under or climbed over a section that had not been fixed yet.


The deposit has been mailed to the chimney people.  I had called the insurance company and, yes, they would cover it. deductible was less than $200 below the estimate.  I have to pony up the dough.  This will entail my taking apart my bed, dealing with the fleece and taking vacation time.  I sure know how to have fun!  I am not in a hurry, as I still have to come up with the balance and that will take some finagling.  While I have my bedroom in tear-down mode, I am going to try and get someone (hahahahahaha) in to replace the ceiling fan and, while I have a live body, fix a dead outlet and remove the VW sized microwave/fan combo from over my stove and replace it with a hood.  I guess I had better start now, as it seems to take months to actually get someone to show up.

On a positive note, Layla and her new person are going gangbusters!  It is a veritable love fest, from all accounts.  This makes me so happy.  I have rebuffed two other foster offers, as I am still making up with my two petunias.  Butters has finally relaxed slightly, but he is still clingier than usual.  As is Lovey.  At least she has lost her worry lines.

I have taken this weekend off, as far as going to VT or anywhere else, for that matter - other than my work-for-vege stint at the farm.  This means that the to-do list has reached chapter book status.  I'll try not to wear you all out with my Monday post...  There is a slight chance of rain (pleasegod) so I have an alternate (PB) list for the inside.  It's time to make the rhubarb BBQ sauce, a rhubarb kuchen and Scotch eggs.  I believe I am covered, no matter what the weather.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Another 6.

I am happy to report that Layla went out on trial (rescue speak) on Saturday.  From getting no interest at all, she was totally mobbed by Saturday morning.  Of course, the adoption venue was an hour southwest of me and still, not a flat road to be had.  Once Layla takes her Dramamine, she is fine for those long rides.  I had gotten permission from the board to allow Layla to be taken on trial from the venue - no sense adding another hour's drive or five to the process - and we had to sneak out the back, there were so many people lining up for her.  Sheesh.  But the woman who has 'hopefully' adopted her is perfect.
I will miss this pixie.
Then it was a two hour drive up to Vermont, where I had to divide what little time was left between my parents and younger sister (up for a day and a half) and my middle sister and her son and grandson.  Then back to the ranch.  When I walked in the door, Layla-less, Lovey and Butters went wild.  All the gates are gone, my house seems twice as large, we are back to our routine and everyone is happy.  I will not forget her, though.  Besides the fact that she was the most adorable and loving dog, I will be sweeping up piles of long, white dog hair for years.
Bathed, happy and clingy.

Having left the house at 9 and pulling back into the driveway at 5, it was another workday.  I decided I was too knackered to tackle anything but laundry and invited a neighbor over for a glass of wine under the pergola.

I took Sunday 'off', as in refused to leave the house - except to deliver baked goods to the barn and feed the farm cats - and, wouldn't you know, we got a spike in the heat, with temps soaring into the low 90s.  So much for tackling the rest of the garden.  Luckily, I had plenty to do inside.  First and foremost, was to track down the source of the sweet smell (gak) of decomposition emanating from Slimmie's room.  I figured he had missed a mouse and I had to practically take the room apart to find it.  It, of course, had crawled under the five-shelf canning unit that was NOT on rollers.  Sigh.  Breathing through my mouth (double gak), I had to take everything off the shelves and maneuver the unit out, scoop up the offending corpse and double-time it out the back door and down to the woods.  Then it was back in, de-scent the carpeting and area the best I could, move the unit back, wipe it down and restack all the cans, boxes, etc.  It took an unscheduled hour.  Well, the hour had been scheduled for staining my plant stand for the deck.  Just another Plan B.

A few things were ticked off the list, but it wasn't a very fruitful weekend.  We have not had a measurable rain for weeks and the ground is parched.  Today is another heat alert, with high temps and humidity, so I was up and out early, watering what most needs it and filling Apria's wading pool.  There is a chance of rain this afternoon and I hope it happens.  If I can get both rain barrels filled, I will have less of a chance of emptying my well.

Progress is being made on the sweater from h-e-double-hockey-sticks.  I finally reached the bottom of the plain knit and am now doing....god help me...inches of 1x1 ribbing.  With the equivalent of fuzzy thread and long toothpicks.  What was I thinking???  Still, I do love the yarn, skinny little thing, and I love the color.  I should be able to wear it by next spring.
Lace weight Merino yarn in "Lettuce".
Slimmie is again snugged next to me in the morning, although he now hooks a claw or two into my clothing so that I can't get away.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Making hay while the sun shines.

I met up with my sister to take advantage of the Members Day at the glorious Clark Art Institute, in Williamstown, MA.  It just happened to coincide with one of the most glorious days, weather-wise, that we've had in a long while.

C and I have a family membership to the Clark, and we try to get to an exhibit whenever possible.  This is problematic, as she is burdened with the daily care of our parents and I am burdened with the full time job, plus my furry family and homestead upkeep.  However, this was a special occasion, as the museum, which was usually closed on this day, opened to members only. 

We enjoyed one of the new exhibits - The Art of Iron - and we are saving the second (Women Artists in Paris - 1850-1900) for our next meet-up.  We perused the gift shop and enjoyed a glass of complimentary lemonade while lounging around their reflecting pool, the expansive views calming our minds and temporarily muscling out other worries.  It was absolutely wonderful.
Left to right - dog collars and bear muzzle.  I think
the first collar would look fetching on Peanut Butter.

Beautiful iron bull

An ornate lectern and fancy

How's this for a coffee mill?

Lovely ironwork tree against the
beautiful grounds

Reflecting pool

Lovely architecture
 We only spent about an hour and a half, but it was just what the doctor ordered.  Both of us left refreshed, souls nourished, world problems on their way to be solved.

Monday, June 11, 2018

On a scale of 1 - 10, I'd give it a 6.

Yes, another weekend of Plan Bs.  You'd think I'd be used to it by now, but still I carry on.

Most disappointing of all, was the fact that Layla's potential adopter backed out at the last minute.  An entire week of answering questions, scheduling and rescheduling, yada yada, and they left a voicemail message (called late at night so there was a very good chance I would not answer the phone, cowards!) saying they decided "it wasn't the right time".  Good lord.  I have a feeling it was because she isn't "a breed" and their last dog was a little purebred something or other.  Whatever.  Obviously, they did not deserve her.  I picked up some giant marrow bones and treated all three (and me, by default) to a blissful Sunday afternoon of gnawing.

On Saturday, I left the house at 8:15 and pulled in the driveway at 5:15.  The dogs are starting to demand I show some ID when I walk in the door - honestly, it's as bad as working six days a week.  I didn't set up my farm work on Sunday, because I didn't find out I'd be home until that morning. This gave me the opportunity to overwork on Sunday - see?  I didn't remember and no one reminded me.  I am not safe on my own.

Fence work is to start this week.  Supposedly, but I will believe it when I see it.  In the meantime, I picked up a mineral block for the sheep and they were thrilled and it will keep them occupied for at least half of the week.

A neighbor very generously gave me plant starts from her lovely garden.  At 5:30 on Sunday afternoon.  Sigh.  I had just spent from 8:30 - 5:15 weeding and planting and cleaning up.  I watered her plants well and put them in shade.  I hope they can hold up until I can squeeze in time to plant them.  We had spent a lovely 20 minutes in her peaceful backyard with a glass of wine (from 5:30-5:50 on Saturday -- see?  I'm now micromanaging my social time...) where we both bemoaned the fact that, since we are single, have homes, work full time, we never have time to do anything except on weekends.  This proves my theory that people may listen to you, but they don't hear you.  Ergo, she shows up at the end of my weekend with six plants that need to be put in the ground.  I still don't know where I'm putting four of the six plants, but I guess I'll figure that out.

Saturday night I baked a rhubarb pie, using a Martha Stewart recipe that was easy to adapt to GF.  It sure was a mess, but YUM!  Of course, it was a mess because I followed the recipe for a normal 9" pie crust and all pre-made GF crusts (as well as any type of baked good) is much smaller.  So you can be sure you are paying wa-a-a-a-y more for it than a regular pie crust (or any baked good).  Nevertheless, it was delicious.  I will make another for the local library's Pie a la Mode celebration during the Fourth of July parade.  Maybe I'll go crazy and make one of each - GF and normal.
Thank goodness it was on foil AND parchment,
or I'd be eating it off the baking tray...
I also did my variation of Hawaiian burgers on Sunday, in my effort to spruce up my eating habits on the weekend (as in a balanced meal).  My version consists of ground pork, minced scallions, ginger, allspice, s/p, grilled and topped with reduced Balsamic vinegar and a grilled slice of pineapple on top!  I added grilled asparagus and oven baked sweet potato fries.  I forced myself to forgo pie for dessert...

The garden is finally taking shape - this is the latest ever.  However, we do need rain - badly.  I think I may have jinxed us by putting in a second rain barrel.  I have enough rain in the original barrel to water the garden judiciously for another week or so.  There isn't a solid forecast for rain in the next 10 days, though.  Let's hope they are wrong!
You can see how close the truck
traffic is.
About 90% of the worst weeds are gone.  Three
areas are going to be covered in weed cloth/cardboard/whatever
so that I have a fighting chance next year.

Currant bushes are laden with future fruit!

Biggify to see the blueberries.
This seems to be a good year for fruit (excuse me while I turn around six time, rapidly, counter-clockwise, speaking Dutch and twirling a baton - just to take the jinx off that last statement...)

Friday, June 8, 2018

I didn't want it to end.

I don't usually do book reviews because a) I rarely have time to read and b) I rarely can find something that I love when I do have time.  So, I turned to my bestie, Sylvie - she of the impeccable everything.  She gave me a reading list and, since I still don't have time to read a real book, I have been borrowing them on CDs from the library.  The first book was Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah .  It started out a little slow for me because I was not impressed with the daughters and felt like shaking them silly through most of my commute.  Then the mother started to take more of center stage and, by the end, it moved me tp tears.

Next up was News of the World.  I can hardly find enough words to convey how much I loved - adored - this book.

I was overcome with disappointment when it ended because I could have listened to it for weeks on end.  I am going to buy it, but I'm not sure whether to buy the printed book or opt for the recorded book.  I will have to say that the narrator truly enhanced the quality of the story, although it didn't need enhancing - wonderful characters, developed skillfully and believably until it was hard not to feel this was a real story.  Her language is so wonderful (sorry for all the 'wonderfuls', but it is) that it's almost musical.  It's rare that the spoken or read word can conjure up such vivid visions for me.  I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

I'm now listening to Watership Down, a classic I have not read in years.  I do have to be careful with all these great reads, however.  If I reach the parking garage during a particularly good passage, I will sit and listen and forget I have to hie me upstairs!  I've made it by the skin of my teeth more than a few times!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Inner Magnet.

Do you have those days when your inner magnet has you so firmly attached to a comfy surface that you are almost forced to rip your pants off the sofa?  It has been very un-summer-like the past few days (sorry, Joyce) with morning temps in the low 40s.  This has me unable to fully summer-ize my bed linens, closet and anything else.  The only thing I have done, is to put up the summer sheers in the living room windows.  I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop, weather-wise.

This kind of weather is very confusing to me.  In my mind, I know what lies outside - the war of the weeds, the endless to-do list - but the chill in the air is telling me, "cocoon! cocoon! hygge! hygge!", so I curl on my chair with my furry heaters clustered around me, swaddled in a woolen shawl, latest knitting on my lap.  The magnet is fully engaged and I swear I heard my jeans rip when I finally wrenched myself up and into action this morning.

The seeded "No Chicken Zone" off the deck

Rain barrel in situ.  Now, all I need
is, as the Navajo say, real male rain.

The rhubarb explodeth!
We have had overcast, drizzly skies with very little real rain.  I need a gully-washer to fill my brandy-new rain barrel so I can quit hauling 5 gallon buckets of water over hellshalfacre for the poultry!  The rhubarb is particularly lush this year and I have been raiding it every other day.  I have discovered rhubarb juice and there is no looking back!
Bunny and the Girls are plotting their
invasion of the Chicken Free Zone.
Trying not to hyperventilate over all the clearing of the flower beds that needs to be done, I am, instead, enjoying the beauty that has been able to overcome the weeds.
My all-time favorite flowers.
As far as what little garden I have this year, it's holding its own, but I have noticed that the voles are already digging fox holes.  Anyone have any non-toxic anti-vole advice?  I may resort to traps.
Cucumbers, a stray sunflower, lemon balm
and a few piddly onions that braved the winter.

Four tomato plants, because I have to,
jalapenos and one sweet banana pepper.
(Notice Sweet Sandy's OK irrigation system...)

Two kinds of kale and collards

The herb bed mostly survived - the
golden oregano is wild, the sage held up and the Greek
oregano is holding its own.  I planted cilantro
and parsley.  Dill, chives and lemon balm are
rampant throughout the garden.
Even my darling, dear Meyer Lemon tree is starting to perk up. 
If you biggify, you can see new
leaves and flower buds!
Inside, I finished one of my favorite fast projects - the hanging hand towel. 
I am using it for the dirtier jobs because I am having a hard time getting this baby dirty...
I did manage to dry my clean eggs with it,
but mostly I like to look at it and sigh with
Even Princess Pea realizes how special it is and guards it from Slimmie, who likes to rub his face on all things fabric.
She works for biscuits.
I may be losing my little guardian, as there has been a flurry of applications to adopt her.  We have our first meet-and-greet this Sunday.  It's going to be hard to let her go.

Monday, June 4, 2018


I have written myself a note that I will NOT work myself into such a state on Sunday, that I am comatose at 7P.  I am sure that note will get lost in the mail between now and next weekend, but I always have good intentions.

Saturday was spent mainly in the car.  I had to take Princess Pea (aka Layla) to an adoption event an hour away.  This entailed rushing around like a crazy person to get sheets on the line, doing chores, moving the sheep to another bit of greenery, taking down the electric fencing, giving PP her Dramamine for the trip, trying to look less bedraggled than I was and heading out through weekend traffic into a shopping strip mall.  Only marginally less loathsome (in my mind) than an enclosed mall.  When we arrived (PP having only thrown up a little) right on time, no one from the rescue group was there.  I am learning that they operate on Island time.  Or Rescue time.   And this is nothing against these great people, as they all give up their weekend/weekdays to help dogs find great homes.  I just need to relax.  (hahhahahhahheeehehhee)  It was a little chaotic because the pet store was also holding a vaccination clinic.  Princess Pea did her darnedest to prove she is the sweetest dog ever, walking on her hind legs, little front paws waving.  She did have some mild interest - and you'll have to excuse me because I am going to go on a bit of a ranting aside...

What is with people?  Why on GGE do they recognize that she is adorable, trained, loving, sweet tempered and then totally lose interest because she's a 'senior'?  Seriously?  And what?  She's ten, she's a small dog, she's healthy.  She can live another 5-8 years.  When I adopted the best dog in the Universe - Scrappy Doo - he was 9.  And he was a medium-large dog.  I had him in my life for almost another 9 years!  These senior dogs are perfection.  And, if not perfection, they deserve special treatment.  They deserve the very best of EVERYTHING.  I am, of course, glad that none of these people adopted her because, clearly, they don't deserve her.  I'm done.  For the moment.
Seriously, what is not to love
about this dog?
Unfortunately, due to a large list of things that had to get done, PP and I were only able to stay for an hour and a half.  I did get to meet a few of the rescue volunteers that I had never met in person, so that was nice.  Another Dramamine for the trip home - she is such a little trooper - and I dropped her off, picked up Mr. Butters, and headed for a local humane society another 40 minutes in the opposite direction.  I had placed an order from and it had been erroneously delivered to them.  Apparently, automatically pulls up and delivers to the last address, even though that address is used, say, once a millennium.  Anyway, the humane society was very nice about it and held my package and gave me a credit for the inconvenience.  They are a great group to deal with.  I took Butters with me because he needed to get out of the house and Lovey is still struggling with her torn CCL.  Butters is a very good traveling companion and it was nice to have some Mom/Pup one on one time.  I retrieved my box, was impressed with the facility and staff, and headed home.  Butters and I took a short detour to share a small soft-serve ice cream cone (he got the cone and half of the ice cream).  Back at home, I ticked off a few of the to-do's on my list and spent a lot of time watering.  At the top of that list was adapting my second rain barrel.  Done!
A converted Kalamata barrel -
the chicken's water will smell
like a Greek salad for days!
Sunday was the last firehouse breakfast with the Boys, then off to Marianne's farm for my work-for-vege.  She went to a graduation, so I was left with my task of weeding the greenhouse and got to revel in the beauty of the place.  It sits high on a hill, with a sweeping vista.  It is quiet and there is nothing but birdsong, some lowing of the Highland cows and distant chicken noises.  It is pure Nirvana.
On the way to the greenhouse

There she is!

View from the greenhouse, orchard

Hugelkultur beds, through the
orchard, to the pool.

Barn with raised beds with
strawberries - be still my back!

Scottish Highland cows
Why is it that it's so much more fun to weed someone else's garden?  Of course, their farm is organic and planted on permaculture principles, so I am sure that has something to do with it - nothing like a well-organized, beautiful farm to make labor such a joy!  I managed to get four trug-fuls of weeds pulled and picked up my swag (shiitake and oyster mushrooms, microgreens, tons of mixed greens) made a stop and then hit the ground running when I got home.  I did more laundry in anticipation of an upcoming rainy couple of days, weeded a large bed, took down the fencing around the duck village and moved it into position across the chicken yard.  Two years ago, just as the grass started to come back in the yard, we got about two weeks of torrential rain, followed by high temperatures and drought.  It was enough to kill all of the grass.  I am now in the process of cordoning off portions of the yard so that I can bring the grass back.  Not an easy process, due to the nature of chickens (scratch everything to death!)  I also finished setting up the rain barrel, got the laundry off the line and helped my neighbor load his truck with a bunch of metal crap that had been getting on my nerves for years.  This is shaping up to be the year of the Great Clean Up.  Let's hope so - it feels so, so virtuous and good.  I did not get pictures of my modest garden or the reseeding process because my arms were too tired to hold up my phone.  Egads.  The dogs and I had our dinner and a nice round of DVD viewing, before I went comatose at 9P.  The rain started at 2:14A (yes, I know it precisely) and the temperature this morning was 44!  Quite a difference from the 80 of yesterday!  The rain was very light and there wasn't much to show in the rain barrel (I will get a pic of it posted this week), but, still, when I plant the grass seed after work tonight, it should be enough to give the new grass a boost!