Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Hello Mud!

If there ever was a post title that will come back to bite me, this is it.

I should add, "Goodbye Ice!"  But I am sure I will now get bitten twice.  We went from layers of ice and snow, to boot-sucking mud, to frozen mud, now to dry mud.  But tomorrow it is supposed to rain, so we may just reverse the process.  One never knows with Fickle Farch.

Love the pattern
This is pretty much how the entire chicken yard looks - with the exception of the reseeded part.  I am hoping the area I reseeded last year will hold its own this spring.  The jury is still out.
Betty Rubble

Connie the Cornish
These two hens are my constant companions, along with Dottie, the Speckled Sussex.  They follow along, talking to me.  Betty is an olive egger.

I was happy to see that the ice has melted between the raised beds, so I will be out layering cardboard this weekend - should I have the time.  Another weekend scheduled to within an inch of its life.  Last weekend, I had more of a social life than I've had in months - I met my friend with the Randall cattle for a glass of wine on Saturday night, and my neighbor took me out for dinner on Sunday.  I managed to squeeze in the complete purging of my linen closet - a thorn in my side for years.  I got two huge bags of the gleanings, so to speak.  One for Goodwill and one for the local shelter.  Progress.

There are signs of spring, on this day of the equinox.  My rhubarb is starting to show signs of life.

You can just see the start of the red buddings, if  you biggify.  I am going to divide a few and transplant them in the front - just to see if they do better with more light.  These are fine - albeit slower to grow - but I'm in the mood to try new things.  I got all charged up about a potato planting scheme, until I realized that I don't have the garden space for it.  Seed starting is kicking off this weekend, too, so I may be burning the midnight oil, trying to get everything done.  I am actually afraid to face my seed packets.  I have a feeling it's gotten out of control.

With the absence of ice, I have let the dogs have their heads and it is so much fun to watch.  Lovey gets a bad case of the zoomies and the Pat is positively airborne.  Sometimes he goes so fast, that his rear end is trying to pass his front end.  Poor kids.  It's been a long winter.  I have to check the yard first, however, as I seem to have inherited a yard bunny.  There's a small rabbit that now lives under the deck and is within view almost every time I go out.  That would be too much excitement for all of us.

Tomorrow I try to get Slimmie into his carry-crate (hahahaha) so I can tote him up to the vet.  He went from tossing up the occasional hairball, to throwing up every morning.  He hasn't lost his appetite or looked or acted poorly, which is reassuring.  I had started him on a new kibble, so I went back to his grain free and he has not thrown up once in the last five days.  Still, it pays to be diligent when your cat/dog gets older.  I just have to maintain the element of surprise tomorrow.  He is not a violent cat, but he is strong and eely.  Wish us luck.  If luck is not on my side, I may have to beg for a house call.

Friday, my sister and I are taking a day trip to NH.  I'm going along as company and comic relief.  I am also dropping my car off at the mechanics.  Yes.  Again.  I am actively looking for another.  Saturday, I am hoping to do a shortened version of my chores, so I can get home and get things done.  Sunday, I am joining a spring hike because...well, because it's spring and I need fresh air.   That, and I need more socialization.  I realized that I had not had any interaction with another human being (in person) Monday and Tuesday.  And I work in an office building!  It's not natural.

Next on my List of Purge is the laundry/furnace/tool room.  Again.  I realized that I had not purged anything, the last time I tackled it.  I just rearranged what was there.  No more.  The gloves are off.  The freezer is pretty much emptied, so I will see if I can defrost it, too.  Then I can put it on the local market and move my smaller chest freezer from the back room.  THEN, I can finish the office/craft room.  THEN...well, you know, there is the rest.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor can't get there from here.

Honestly.  Last Monday, I gave a package to my neighbor to drop at the local post office.  It was a book - media mail - and pretty straightforward.  Or so I thought.  Just on a whim, I thought I would track the package (which was going to Ohio).  Here is its path.  So far.

Cherry Plain, NY

Albany, NY

Detroit, MI

Westland, MI

Pittsburgh, PA

Detroit, MI

"In transit to its destination"

At least Michigan is in the general area of Ohio.  As was Pennsylvania.  We've got the target surrounded.  It boggles the mind.  At this point, I'll be thrilled if it actually reaches its destination.

After years of being the outpost in our megafirm, we (as in yours truly) are being inundated with visiting attorneys this week.  This meant re-commissioning rooms, setting up computers and phones, cleaning, catering, etc.  I wouldn't even mind the earlier than usual mornings, except for the fact that they are occurring on the back of this archaic time change.  Anyone who raises chickens knows that you need daylight in order to open the doors - especially if you are in a predator-laden area.  I've known owls who have swooped down and sauntered through open coop doors to do their worst while it's still dawn and the chickens are in their overnight stupor. 

Speaking of chickens, I have noticed that I tend to lose the old girls in the early spring, as opposed to mid-winter.  It seems like they use up all their energy trying to make it through, only to run out in March.  I've lost one of my Goldies (Buff Orpington), my last Maran, and there is another that is looking wilted.   The one that I secretly despise will probably outlive all the rest and continue to make my life a living hell.

There seems to be sun out this morning - if I remember what sun looks like - but the rest of the week will be overcast.  I may need to buy my Vitamin D3 by the case lot.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Wrap or serape? And my very own Bloody Mary.

I have a fairly strict policy of packing my lunch every day.  It makes sense, both from a financial point of view and from the tried-and-true "I can make that better!" point of view.  No one can top my "Clean Out The Fridge" Salad.

However, during Farch, I cut myself some slack.  There are days when it is all I can do to get out of bed and shuffle off into my routine, let alone plan and pack my lunch.  Yesterday was one of those days.  When I saw -2 degrees on the thermometer, I threw up my hands and yelled "Uncle!"  This always has an interesting affect on my 'kids', who have been snoring softly (and not) from under their toasty piles of fleece blankets.  Jerked out of a sound sleep, Slimmie bolts for his room, Peanut barks madly and nothing in particular, and Lovey just looks worried.

Gluten free cuisine has not permeated much of this city, apparently.  If pushed, one can get a sandwich in a gluten free wrap for an extra buck-fifty.  PASS.  I usually ask for whatever I order without any bread product, but that usually causes panic or blank stares, and they forget anyway.  So I just count it as bonus chicken food.  Yesterday, I ordered a falafel wrap, from my favorite mid-Eastern type carryout place.  With the whole wheat wrap, she says virtuously, as I am trying to make sure my chickens have only the best.

I don't know if it's because I live in a cave, from a gourmand's point of view, or if we just make 'em big up here, but that wrap was the size of a poncho!
I was thinking of putting an umbrella
next to if, for scale
The chickens were thrilled.  They also got the rest of my Indian Butter Chickpeas, which were very good but I faltered after four days in a row.  I've got to remember to halve all the recipes.

I've pretty much finished my anklets - although I forgot that I needed to cast off the top loosely.  Because, you know, I finished the first one two days ago.  Much too long ago to remember.  Then I cast on a sweater. 

About this sweater.  While going through my office/craft room, I decided to winnow out my crafting library.  If there is one thing I know about myself, it is that I am sometimes more crazy about the 'stuff' involved in a craft, than the actual crafting of it.  Geez.  I went through my knitting books and found a) I had one that I hadn't even realized was for crocheting; b) of the remaining books, one contained only one pattern that I would even knit, one didn't even have ONE pattern I would knit, and one was full of patterns I would knit.  I rehomed the crocheting book and the knitting books that are getting the heave-ho, were heaved into my garage sale bin.  Once I settled on a pattern, I had to see if I even owned a sweater quality of yarn.  I may have lots (MEGALOTS) of yarn, but most of it is in single skeins or balls and all 'special'.  I should not have worried.  From the magical land of Oregon (and it IS magical - or, at least, there are magical people there), a box landed on my doorstep that very night, and contained the exact amount of yarn I needed for my sweater.  And then some.  Cue the spooky music.  The yarn was mailed before I even knew I was knitting a sweater.  I swear, it almost gave me goosebumps.  Because - are you sitting down? - it was also in the exact color that I was thinking about.  Lawsymercy.  (You know who you are, you Yarn Fairy, you.)
The Sweater
The yarn
As with all things I jump into, this pattern was unknown territory - knit from the bottom up (first for me), with a shaped form (read: decreasing in pattern - argh).  I sallied forth.  And promptly had to rip it completely back.  Too much sallying, too little focus.  This morning I shunned all social media, made a large cup of strong coffee, and concentrated.  Hi-ho!

If you don't believe that this endless frigid weather can cause one to lose the farm, become that last straw, make grown men weep and babies cry, well then, I am here to tell you that it can make quail go completely postal.   For most of this week, the overnight temperatures have hovered near, or under, zero.  The daytime temperatures haven't been anything to write home about either.  My quail have braved this weather for months - but, apparently, last night was the last straw.  When I uncloaked the hutch this morning, I noticed some bright red dots on the upstairs level.  OMG!  I got the door opened and the largest quail (most likely female) was chasing down her roommates and pecking them bloody!  I removed her and marched her down to the wood line and bid her bon voyage.  The remaining quail were huddled, bloody-headed and unnerved in a far corner.  I hope they can recover, poor things.  I have a feeling the Quail Venture is doomed.  (Really?  And, pray tell, why would you think that????)  Had it not been for my required hour commute this morning, there would have been bourbon in my hot chocolate.

I am going to put my seed-starting set up together this weekend in my hour of unscheduled time.  To hell with the housework.  I need something that evokes sunshine and green things.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Bits and Blobs.

If my life was a load of laundry, it would have been beaten against the rocks on the river this week.  After shuffling into work in my slippers, furry teeth and all (snort) when we last spoke, there was Wednesday.  It took me over two and a half hours to get home - with two very close calls.  I am convinced there is a regional condition called "seasonal amnesia", where a person's mind is wiped clean over the summer of all thoughts and experiences of winter, and all the joys it brings - like driving in it.  I cut my driving teeth on the southern shore of Lake Erie, so I know winter.  There was one winter where I went to work on my cross country skis because I couldn't dig my car out of the parking lot.  Only to find I was the only one there - they had called everyone BUT me to inform them the office was closed.

The very first and foremost rule of thumb to maintaining life and property when the roads are hazardous, is to drive slowly, steadily, and go lightly on the brakes.  Last night, at least three nimrods were driving too fast, realized it, then slammed on their brakes.  One hit the car behind me, but I was watching and maneuvered out of the way.  The second bounced off the exit guardrail to the left of me, but cleared me by a car's length.  The third hit the same guardrail, and then skittered across the road in front of me (about three feet from my car), hit the guardrail to my right and ended up facing the wrong way in the lane to my left.  JM&J.  With rapidly rising blood pressure and the coiffure of a hedgehog, I inched ahead and was finally able to exit off the freeway.  The roads were not that snow-covered, but they were sure icy.  Even with all my 'expertise', I came very close to going off the road and down an embankment.  By the time I got home, I was a wreck. 

Thank goodness it snowed enough to justify working from home, because I couldn't face getting in the car and retracing that route yesterday. 

Then Peanut hurt his back again.  Mysteriously, as always.  We are back to the crate for 4-6 weeks and I am picking up his meds tomorrow.  Tomorrow, I need to get everything done because we are in for another snow 'event' (Winter Storm Xavier, anyone?) from Sunday into Monday.

The domino effect in my side woods:
You'll have to biggify to see the toppled trees
The 'dusting' of snow predicted for Wednesday into Thursday:
Note the roof of the quail hutch.
A couple of gems unearthed in my stress-bashing purge mission:

Dad's first resume from graduation.
Ancient photo from my trip to South Dakota between
my junior and senior years in high school.  I'm holding
Lester Leadercharge - he of the double dimples.
(Hey!  What ever happened to my eyebrows???)
Yesterday, during my lunch break, I went through an entire box of photographs and recycled about 95 percent of them.  As are the contents of my freezer and canning shelves, about 1 percent were labeled, leaving the rest in a vague veil of mystery.  I had the unmitigated pleasure of shredding old boyfriends and keeping all the cat and dog photos.  Hindsight is always so clear, isn't it?

I finished my fancy socks, but haven't taken a photograph of them.  I have started to work on my large stash of forgotten knitting kit projects.  Although the thought of sock-knitting makes my eyes cross, I ran across a kit for Fancy Feet Anklets - Socks for the Week.  Anklets, I thought.  Snap.  I wonder why I haven't worked on these...

Cute, no?
This is why I have not touched them in over
six years. 
Since I was determined to get a least one pair done, I gritted my teeth and slogged through the 61 rows required to make the heel.  61 rows, including 122 wrap-and-turns, then having to pick up all those bloody wraps.  Well, needless to say, I missed a few and I DON'T CARE.  They are worn on my feet, in my shoes, so pffft.  Need I say that I will not be knitting Tuesday's through Sunday's anklets?   I can't even indulge in an adult beverage while knitting this heel, for fear that my socks will look like they've been hit with a scourge of pox if I miss picking up those dadgum wraps.

However, right after the vet, hairdresser, folks, and grocery, I will be hitting the local package store.  Along with everyone and their Uncle Mick, with Winter Storm Xavier looming on the near horizon.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

That slippery slope.

I have reached a new low.  Not only did I forget to brush my teeth this morning (TMI??), but I am sitting at my desk in the office in my .... slippers.


Just sent a text to my middle sister, alerting her that she had better brace for the future.  Let's hope it's not the near future.


Longer post with pictures coming.  We managed to not blow away on Monday, although the pine trees in my little forest took on a domino effect.  No sheep blew by my front window.  The quail survived, yet again, but are actively petitioning their hatchery in California to be rescued from their daily dose of Fresh Hell.  I hope they take me with them.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Me : Cars / Oil : Water / Match : Gasoline

Short Pier : Long Drive.

It occurred to me that I should entitle my memoir "My Life In Cars", but it would have to be X-Rated due to language issues.

On Monday, I drove three different vehicles and none of them was my car.  Let's morph back to Friday.  I am minding my own bees-wax, listening to Rick Bragg's My Southern Journey, thinking of the long weekend stretching ahead, mentally ticking off all the items on my List.  Then, three blocks from my office building, I smelled something burning.  Like rubber.  Since there was no one in front of me, I figured it was my piece of junk car.  I asked the building super - long-suffering Steve - if he could just take a look at it and figure out what could be causing the problem.

His verdict?  The clutch.  OF COURSE.  Because I have redone the wheels, suspension, brakes, suspension, wheels, suspension and the Universe thought I might be in the mood for something different.  I was not.  I tracked down my mechanic and gave him the info and he agreed.  Once again, Saturday found me driving north to the mechanic.  Since it's a full-day repair, I rented a car from Saturday to Monday.  Saturday afternoon, my mechanic called and gave me the good news - it was not my clutch!  I did not need a new clutch!  There was an ominous pause, an audible swallow, and he told me it was the transmission... , instead of an $1100 job, it would be a $3000 job, less if he could find a used transmission from someone who would guarantee it.  He could, however, give me a loaner so that I didn't have to compound my outlay by having to rent a car for the week.

Then these things happened.  I got my rental, which was a 2019 SUV - it was POSH!  And had way too many doodads on it to make me comfortable but, still.  I had to turn it in on Monday.  We had a winter storm on Monday.  After a white knuckle 25 mile drive over slippery roads, I made it back up to VT and turned it in.  I got a ride from the rental company to the mechanic where I found out the loaner had not been returned and wouldn't be returned for another 5-6 hours.  BUT, I could use his truck in the meantime.  His truck was the size of a 747, had 215,000+ miles on it and all kinds of "quirks".  A beggar could not be a chooser, however, and I took it.  It should have included a ladder and crash helmet (I don't want to tell you how ungracefully I clambered into that giant vehicle - barely).  Off I went - 25 miles back home.  Needless to say, I did not get much checked off The List.  I did, however, decide that I was miserable enough to tackle my filing and clear off my desk top.  At 5:30, I clambered back up into the behemoth and bounced my way back up to VT.  Where I collected my loaner.
I couldn't even get it all in the frame.
Luckily, it is only the size of a small school bus, and not an airplane.  However, it has dawned on me that I will be pumping enough gas into this beast to pay for a rental car.  Sigh.  I have added "Find a good, used Toyota Rav 4" to my list.

Since I will grab onto any tiny good thing like a woman drowning, there was a plus:
Yaaaaassss!  I squeezed in a loaf of GF bread - using yeast this time! - and it turned out like bread!  This is a good thing, because I did not have time to do any other cooking and had to make PBJs for lunch.

The other good thing was snuggle time with my girl.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Remoting in and other ramblings.

That dull red was blood-red, just moments
before.  Yo!  Sailors!
Thanks to the Weather, with a capital W, I was forced to stay home Tuesday and Wednesday.  We had, in no particular order, sleet, rain, ice, snow, wind, sleety rain, icy wind, and more snow.  It was a very unusual snow - dryish, as in it didn't stick to my shovel, but abundant, as in it really piled up.  Because it did not stick, it was easy to rake it off of any roof, but it was heavy.  When I let HQ know that I was weathered in (we are into weird-speak now, I see), I was told I could remote in and finish my multiple tasks (yay, tasks!) including my onboarding placeholders.  What?

Sometimes I wonder what planet I woke up on.

I am back in the office today, but my brain seems to be hardwired into thinking it's Friday.  I hope I show up tomorrow, but it's 50/50.

I used a new conditioner this morning and my hair now has a bad case of the flops.  Which, given my genetic make-up, is not a good thing.

In a mad fit of cabin fever, I organized all my patterns.

Just when I thought things were too boring, I had to get a certain someone to the vet.  Out of the blue, there was mad head-shaking-ear-flapping.  Non-ending.  I poked around in the Pat's flappy little ears, but just came up with ear wax.  Into the car went the booster seat, seat belts were strapped in all around and off we went - just before the second round of ice.
My co-pilot in half-mouse-ear pose
We did a quick feeding of the barn cats and were off.  Thankfully, the main roads were in better shape than the secondary, and we made it safely.  After PB made the rounds - front desk, office, hospital - whatever doors are open or people appear, they are all his dear friends - Dr. Hannah dredged out his ears and found the beginnings of a yeast infection.  Then it was on with the tiny muzzle and the nail clippers were applied.  Geez.  High drama screaming, while rapidly wagging his tail.  He is too much.  He got treats and I paid the bill.  Back home, Lovey was thrilled that she hadn't been left an orphan and we got back to normal.  Except, I now have to add ear cleaning and squirting of ointment to our morning/evening schedule.  While it was all fine and dandy with Dr. Hannah, with Mom it's an entire different (and highly dramatic) ball of (ear) wax.

This Saturday, it's a hot time in the old town, with a Valentine's gathering where my sister and I are the youngest in attendance by a long shot.  I am spending Sunday firmly planted at home.  I've made a tiny bit of progress on my office/craft room and I am all fired up!  I may have a desk by the end of the weekend.

As for Valentine's Day - one of many minor holidays I normally ignore - I may rustle up the energy to shape the dogs' dinners into hearts.  Or not.  Bah, heartburn!

Monday, February 11, 2019

A little of this, a little of that and little more of both.

I think I have finally gotten to the point of not struggling against my weekends.  There have been too many Sunday evenings where I am sitting, stewing over lost opportunities, lack of 'fun', frustration at the snail's pace of checking off my to-do list.  While I don't exactly go with the flow - I will never totally be that type of person - I am trying to look at each unexpected turn in the road as an opportunity.  For instance, I took my car in for an oil change and - you guessed it - was there for two and a half hours.  I was prepared.  I had a book on Libby, my ear buds and my knitting.  I was lucky that the repair was covered under warranty, so I counted that as a bonus.  I was there long enough to finish the second sock in a pair; bonus #2.  The downside was that I had brought my freshly washed sheets to pop in the dryer at Mom's, but I ended up not having enough time there for a dryer cycle.  I did my few errands, got my car washed and visited with Marianne for a bit.  Then I went home and draped my sheets over the drying rack.

There is always a bonus when visiting with Marianne - in addition to spending time with her.  She is, what I would define as, fiercely intelligent, cloaked in a generous, modest persona.  I ended up coming home with some massive organic sweet potatoes and two dozen eggs.  Woot!

(Insert sound of dragging soapbox)
I want to veer off and talk about the sorry state of customer service.  It has become a rare commodity.  In my little town, there is a hydroponic lettuce grower who has a ginormous sign in front of their glowing greenhouses:  LETTUCE SOLD HERE.  Local lettuce, all year around?  What's not to love!  The problem is, it seems to be a secret to the employees.  I have made three trips to find the door locked.  It was hard enough finding the right door.  The last two times, there were lights on and the sound of people talking inside.  I was just able to see the lettuce table and it was fully stocked.  No answer to my loud knocking (okay, pounding) on the door.  Crickets.  On Saturday, I was giving it one more try before peppering their Facebook page with barbed comments.  I saw two employees, smoking outside of a different door.  I went to the unmarked lettuce door and it was locked.  I knocked.  I then sashayed around the corner and said, "Hi there.  Your GREAT BIG ASS SIGN by the road says you sell lettuce.  Is there a secret code?  Are your hours a GREAT MYSTERY?  Would one of you please open the door so I can BUY THE LETTUCE YOU ARE ADVERTISING IN YOUR BIG ASS SIGN?  Or words to that effect.  One of them slouched, bitterly, inside and reluctantly unlocked the door.  I bought my lettuce and then yelled, "HAVE A NICE DAY!" before going on my way.  I refrained from slamming the door, should it lock behind me.  Honest to Pete.

Same day, I had stopped at the Aldi's I always visit.  The shelves were a mess, stock was low and there was only one cashier.  And a very, very long line.  The cashier indicated some of us could move to the next register and, lo and behold, another cashier emerged from a door, fairly bristling with indignation, an attitude she maintained throughout all her transactions.  As I paid my bill, I casually suggested she look for a job she would enjoy, as this clearly was not the case.  Pfft.

End of oration.

Let's look at Marianne's sweet potato, shall we?  A much nicer subject:
For reference, it was the size of my forearm!
I did end up getting some things ticked off The List.  I cleaned up the dining room/deck entry area and discovered a treasure:
My dad's school lunch tin
Still in excellent condition
after almost 90 years!
Local lettuce - worth the aggravation!
I had taken one of the last two ducks out of the freezer (we're making progress, although I could use some ideas for frozen, sliced beets...) for my weekly dinner with my neighbor.  Unfortunately, he was down with the flu, so I will be dining in style all week.  I tried a new method - slow cooking - and it worked wonderfully.  I also found a maple bourbon gravy recipe that was mmmmm-good! 

I made up another batch of Greek yogurt (how have I been able to survive without my Instant Pot?),
3 hours and 32 minutes to yogurt!
took the dogs out multiple times, raked up the sheep yard, restacked hay, altered a hoodie for a friend's dog and watched multiple episodes of New Tricks.  It was a very satisfying weekend.  I also got a bit of good news -
The socks fit!

Monday, February 4, 2019

Stepping up to the plate, or Night of the Zombie Rooster!

I felt like Dorothy, stepping out of her house after landing in Oz.  The fact that the temperature on Saturday was NOT subzero was disconcerting.  But very welcome.  The sun even came out.  I am cautiously optimistic that we will have at least a week of relief.

I worked from home on Thursday and half of Friday - Thursday, because it was double-digit below zero without factoring in the wind chill.  Friday, because I had my annual physical that dragged on for half the day, and it just made sense to go home and work, rather than travel another hour plus to the office.  Late afternoon, I trotted out to the coop to top off their feed and check for frozen eggs.  I walked in to find Fritz had been beaten to a bloody pulp by the big asshat rooster, Red.  It was the final straw.

I will admit that I usually push off these unpleasant but necessary tasks on my neighbor.  Frankly, he doesn't enjoy it either and I figured it was time for me to yank up my BGPs and step up to the plate.  Yeesh.  I waited until it was dark (WARNING:  IT'S GOING TO GET GRAPHIC FOR A PARAGRAPH!!), put my headlamp on, grabbed gloves and my air rifle, and headed out to the coop.  Just so I couldn't chicken out (pardon the pun), I marched in, grabbed him by his ankles, marched outside, threw him down on the ground, put my foot on his neck and shot him in the head.  Holymotherofgod!  I had forgotten about the spasmodic results when one has offed a chicken - I swear to the goddess he was coming after me!  I ran around in circles, squealing, while his carcass gyrated after me.  Mercifully, it didn't last long, but I went straight in the house and had two glasses of wine to calm my nerves.  It is not a job I like, but sometimes it has to be done.  He had become very aggressive, attacking me every time my back was turned, and turning on Fritz was the tipping point.  I sure hope Fritz doesn't turn into a jerk.  I do not want to experience Return to Night of the Zombie Rooster.  It has taken him a couple of days to venture out of the coop - he looks left and right, as if waiting for Red to jump him.  His head is healing and I am sure most of his feathers will grow back.  It's too much drama.

It was an unusual weekend of ups and downs.  Luckily, the ups were way better than the downs.  My middle sister got away from the Parents (well, Dad) for an overnighter with me.  The dogs were delirious and even Slimmie was getting in on the attention and love.  Poor Butter Pat was completely worn out from trying to grab ALL the love, ALL the time.  We tried a new local Mexican restaurant and it was fabulous!  I do so love spending time with her.

Efforts in the kitchen were not as rosy.  It is very frustrating to try and make a decent pie crust that's gluten free.  Without gluten to hold it together, you get this:
For the sake of convenience, I typically use King Arthur Flour's GF pie crust mix.  The end result, although totally aggravating and crumbly, tastes good.  Once you piece it back together.  This weekend was all about eggs - quiche, Scotch eggs, egg salad.  Oooh, I thought.  How about I whip up a loaf of GF bread for my egg salad sandwiches?
"Someone" left out the yeast.  Sigh
I did finish my sister's socks and am working away on my last two pair.  Then I think I will take a sock break for a bit.  If I can help myself.
Loved, loved, loved the yarn.
I am on my fourth pair in this pattern - Hermione's Everyday Sock, for those who are wondering.  They are very thick, comfy, warm socks and I know there are some cold nights still to come.  I bet more than three.

This week, I am going to tackle the back room, again.  And start laying out my garden.  I am so ready to get out and dig in the dirt, but it will be a while until I can actually see dirt.  I've got to take advantage of this respite from the brutal cold, to get some things shorn up for the next round, coming up this weekend.  Spring is going to be mighty welcome this year.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Cleo, Queen of Denial

Sun! The claustrophobic deck door
of Winter.
Never mind that I can't see my garden, let alone think of planting anything in it for months.  The sun may be shining (at least, I think it's the sun - it's been so long....) but it has just reached the plus side of the thermometer, just in time to slide back through the night.  I turned my back on reality and threw myself into denial (without a bathing suit, nudge, nudge, wink, wink).

I got all my seeds ordered, found that I already had some in my stash (note to self: this is the year to organize) and got out a brandy-new notebook with which to carefully keep track of this year's garden.  Of course, a lot of this will only happen in a perfect world, a world which I do not populate.  However, I have the best intentions.
Definitely needs organizing. 
Winter peas and mangels, anyone?

New-to-me seed catalog - notice the
Some of the new seeds ordered:

Kajari Melon (Baker Creek)
Green Zebra Tomato (Sweet Yard /Sustainable Seed Co)
Tangerine Tomato (SSCo)
Pineapple Tomato (")
Bulgarian Carrot Pepper (SSCo)
Vintage Wine Tomato (SSCo)
Red Noodle Bean (Pinetree)
Mexican Sour Gherkin (Pinetree)
Crimson Forest Bunching Onions (Pinetree)
Blueberries Tomato (Pinetree)
Delicata Squash (Peaceful Valley)
Plus the usual cast of characters already in stock and waiting - zucchini, cucumbers, onions, garlic (planted in October), chard, kale.  I am trying carrots again.  Yes, I never learn.  However, I am going to try to grow them in buckets.  My motto in re: gardening, is "What the Heck".  I have also caught Marianne in a weak moment and she's offered to start tomato seeds for me...I'm going to start some, too.  I wonder who will have a better turn out....

Since I know I can't actually start any seeds, I will spend the next month or three organizing and laying out the garden.  A few raised beds need new frames and I am going to trellis the melons, noodle beans and gherkins.  I think I will not grow any potatoes this year, as I get plenty from my neighbor.  I am also going to boost the bee, butterfly and hummer plantings, along with growing more of my own herbs. 

It all sounds so wonderful, grand and doable in February, doesn't it?

P.S. Quail made it through another night, bless their little hearts.  One more to go before relief.


Thursday, January 31, 2019

I'm so freakin' happy!

The quail made it through the night!  It hit a low of -15, without factoring in the wind chill (which was -31), which made for a rather sleepless night.  Damn digital remote thermometer.  When I gingerly folded up their wool blanket, I was met by seven pairs of anxious, beady eyes.  I gave them water and checked their food and fluffed all their surrounding blankets.  I will have to get a picture of their polar rig, but it worked.  What a relief.

I'm almost through my last 40 pound bag of bird seed, so will have to pick up another this weekend.  That will make 130 pounds used so far this winter.  The sun is out, so I'm hoping it will get up over zero.  However, the wind chill is still a threat until this afternoon.  The forecast for Sunday is a chance of showers.  We've entered the Twilight Zone.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

If wool yarn has memory, then these socks must have amnesia.

There is nothing quite as frustrating as finally wrenching your boot off, only to find that the sock has decided to stay behind.  Especially when that leaves you wobbling on one foot (just wait, you whippersnappers, it will come to this eventually) and the door mat is full of snow and chicken poop.  And you've left your house shoes conveniently out of reach.  And the cat has decided that this is the moment to rub vigorously against your booted ankle.  It is, as they say, a 'thing' in winter.
Photographic evidence
Yes, work has begun on round two of Polargeddon.  Or Winter Storm Jayden (honestly????).  I have devised a plan for the quail (hatched - the idea - during three successive early mornings of sleeplessness - so we will see how good it is) that involves three wool blankets and two bags of fleece.  Heaven help us.

Snow should break out today, so I am keeping a close eye on the weather.  I am not going to repeat Thursday.  Not nohow, as Lewis Carroll so aptly put it.  (TANGENT ALERT)  I think that Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are my all-time favorite books.  One of the only things I have ever memorized is The Jabberwocky, which I often spouted off, no matter how glazed the eyes of my audience became.  Early on in my working career (present job - earlier version), a group of us went to lunch to celebrate something or other.  Included in the group was a very interesting fellow - a lobbyist with deep connections.  Some way or another, Lewis Carroll came up in conversation and, before you know it, we both went off, quoting The Jabberwocky.  We were fast friends after that.

When I was in college (an Art and English major, can't you tell?) I rendered a version of the original Jabberwocky illustration in fine point pen and ink, on a 4 x 4 foot piece of rice paper.  I was a little OCD in my early 20s.

Back to the present.  If you want to know more, you're going to have to wait for the book.  And the book can't come out until everyone I ever knew before the age of 50 is dead.

I think that the Midwest may be having it worse, weather-wise than we will - my thoughts are with all of you, all my warmest thoughts.  Let's hope this is the last of the Arctic weather and we can get back to a 'normal' February.  I am arming myself with my seed catalogs this weekend - plus my sister is coming for an overnight, which will thrill the dogs and me no end.  I believe it will also include Mexican food and margaritas.

(TANGENT ALERT)  What is with the Japanese and their overwhelming desire to decimate ocean species?  Apparently, they have set their sites on Minke whales - all in the name of research.  I seriously think we need to hunt THEM down and bitch-slap them silly.  Bastards.

(Inhale)  This is why I need to stay away from the news.  I can feel my blood pressure skyrocketing.  Speaking of which, I have my annual physical Friday morning.  That should be interesting.  To everyone in the path of the latest winter onslaught, stay inside, stay warm and wrap yourself in furry bodies, if you are lucky enough to have them around.

Monday, January 28, 2019

We've Got Winners! and Another Dayz in Paradise.

Yes, that is not a typo.  After having a Big Girl Talk with myself (which I usually avoid at all costs), I faced up to the fact that I will probably not learn how to crochet until I get through at least half of my sock yarn.  Which should get me through 2025.  So there are two books and two winners.  Winners were chosen via Random Number Generator.

Book 1 -

Theresa!  of Camp Runamuck.

Book 2 -

Retired Knitter!

Theresa, I have your particulars, so to speak, so I will post the book this week.  Retired Knitter, please contact me via email and give me your mailing address.

Yay, winners!

Last week ended with a bang, figuratively speaking.  We had torrential rain all day Thursday, which fell on frozen ground and caused lots of flooding.  The ground was frozen because it was -12 on Monday.  I wonder how many gods we have pissed off...  A cold front blew through late Thursday afternoon, changing the rain into snow, so my commute home took three tries and lasted two hours.  During the last part of the ordeal, I had to take an alternate route down my mountain through 6 inches of snow on the road, frozen flooding, white out conditions and in the pitch dark.  Life out here is not for the faint-hearted.  I was sorely tempted to kiss the frozen ground in front of my house when I finally got home, but there were two dogs with their legs crossed in the house.

Friday morning, as I was busying myself to get ready for work, a neighbor sent a text telling me to check the news (I don't have television service) because some large boats had broken loose on the upper Hudson River and were zigzagging their way south.  Most of the bridges had been closed.  This means that it is virtually impossible to get from the east into the city.  I worked from home.

Saturday, my volunteer meeting was rescheduled, so I ended up having the whole day - woohoo!  I went to the farm and fed the cats, picked up milk and had a conversation with my farmer.  He is planning on selling his dairy herd in the spring, keeping his heifers and doing nothing but hay.  Another small dairy farmer bites the dust.  It is an alarming trend in my area and in many areas in the Northeast -and across the country.  The price of milk is pitifully low, the cost of feed, insurance, equipment, etc. just keeps going up, and the small farmer ends up barely making ends meet.  There is also an alarming number of suicides among the small farming community because of this.  It breaks my heart.  Jasmine will be retired in the spring and off to (literally) greener pastures, at Marianne's beautiful farm.  And I will have to find another source of raw milk.

I made yogurt and threw together a really good soup.  It had chickpeas, butternut squash, apples, green chilis, vege broth, coconut milk, some chopped red peppers from the freezer, a jar of my home-canned diced tomatoes, garlic, curry powder, and cinnamon.  It was delicious and warming.  I also tackled the end of my apples from Marianne, peeling, coring, slicing and dehydrating them.  They were a little lackluster in the flavor department, so I sprinkled a little cinnamon on them before dehydrating.  The house smelled wonderful!  This also provided a mound of peels and cores for the sheep and llama.

Sunday I finished my sister's socks (yay!) and realized I had knit my fancy socks too long (boo!), so have to rip them down a few inches.  I decided to bake something new for the barn crew and, as I went online to peruse baking sites, I realized that I had an entire cookbook collection that I never use.  Down with the electronics and into the bookcase.  I came across this gem:

Given to my Great Aunt Edie by a friend.
Back before computers - yes,
in the time of dinosaurs

Love this foreword - typewritten
and in much more formal language
than we typically use now
True to the late 50s and early 60s, it leans heavily on canned goods, shortening and isn't shy about introducing bologna as an appetizer.  However, I found a great, simple recipe for a layered coffee cake that I whipped up for the guys.  It got the All Thumbs Up.  I found a couple of other recipes that sounded intriguing, so they will go into the rotation.

It was also my weekend to cook dinner for my neighbor.  I rummaged in the freezer and came up with the last package of ground beef and a package of ground pork.  I decided to make spaghetti and meatballs because I have enough canned tomato products for a regiment.  I managed to use three pints of herb tomato sauce and a quart of diced tomatoes!  Woot!  Only 150 jars to go!
More wonderful smells
Needing something bread-like to go with the pasta, I made gluten free bread sticks.  I used my easy-peasy bagel recipe and just made flatish sticks.  They weren't bad. 
Topped with Trader Joe's Everything
But the Bagel sprinkles

I made tapioca pudding, too, but didn't get a picture of it because tapioca is, well, tapioca.  It went out the door with my neighbor.  My mother used to make it as a treat, being sure to embellish it with a maraschino cherry on top.  She was big on maraschino cherries - one of our favorite salads was the "lighthouse" salad - a leaf of iceberg lettuce, topped with a ring of pineapple, scoop of cottage cheese, half a banana, with a maraschino 'light'.

Just as I was settling in for an evening of New Tricks on the DVD player, accompanied by more knitting, I realized that Peanut and Lovey were crammed on the far end of their sofa - as far away from their usual preferred corner as possible.  Sigh.  Upon inspection, someone had barfed on the cover, pillow and sofa itself.  I suspect Lovey, who tends to eat outside things that she shouldn't.  DVD watching was put aside so that much laundry could be done.  There is no rest for the parent of dogs.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Not everything you'd imagine and a giveaway.

I've put on my armor (thermal long underwear, wool sweater, lined jeans, two pair of wool socks, Carharts, down jacket, wool scarf, dorp hat with ear flaps, glove liners and felted mittens) and trudged through the winter war and made it out the other end.  I remember when I liked winter a lot more.  Now?  Not so much.  All my plans for nesting and resting were for naught, especially when there were beings in my care that are out in the thick of it.
This says it all - but it wasn't the lowest point.
And I have a serious issue with weather forecasters.  For the week prior to this latest onslaught, all we've been hearing is "Snowmegeddon" and "Winter Storm Harvey" (don't get me started on this naming every storm thing) and dire warnings of wind chills to -41 degrees due to high winds.  There was to be blowing snow, power outages, life-threatening cold.  The reality?  We got about 8 inches of snow, topped with an inch of sleet (lovely combination) and, while our temps did plummet to -12 degrees, there were no high winds.  But, by Saturday evening, I had decided that there was no way on Earth that I could protect my quail from high winds and -41 degrees.  So I quickly re-worked the laundry room to set up two large bins where they could ride out the worst of it in relative warmth.  I very carefully waited until dark to move them, one-by-one, directly from their hutch on the deck into their bins and, even after taking all those precautions, I awoke Sunday morning to find that three had died in the night.  I am assuming it was due to stress, as quail are fearful little things.  Had we actually had the dire weather predicted, I wouldn't have felt as bad - but I could have left them in their hutch and just wrapped them to ward off the cold.  Now I have to reverse the procedure and I am terrified that I will cause the rest to die.  Keep us in  your thoughts Wednesday night.

I am glad that the snow came before the Arctic freeze, as it made the shoveling bearable.  I got all the pathways cleared and the out buildings cleaned off, then made chicken vegetable soup with everything I could get my hands on in the fridge.  My neighbor kindly plowed the driveway, so I was able to make a quick trip to the farm to feed the barn cats - knowing full well that I would not be venturing out on Monday.  Monday was brutal.  The chickens are inside the coop with a light on and are holding their own.  Today, the weather is supposed to ease up - just in time for heavy rain on Thursday.  WTH?  Beam me up, Scotty!

Peanut managed to levitate himself outside to do his business - looking reproachfully at me at every opportunity because, you know, I am directly responsible for the weather.  I tried to keep him in sweaters all weekend, but he managed to wiggle out of every one.  The last one was a little snug on his sausage body, so I felt there was a better chance of keeping him clothed.  A half hour later, I heard a 'bump, bump, bump' in the living room and discovered he had pulled both front legs inside the sweater, got stuck, and was flopping around the living room like a stranded seal pup.  Sigh.  At least Lovey keeps hers on.

Enough of the mitching and boaning.  Amazon, quickly becoming my least favorite retail source, bollixed up my order of "Making Winter" - something I was looking forward to reading over the long weekend.  They told me it had been delivered, but the problem was, it wasn't delivered to me.  A very nice customer service rep from some distant country sent me another copy and, wouldn't you know, the original showed up yesterday.  So, their loss is our gain.  I am giving away my extra copy:
It had great recommendations and contains recipes and projects and fiber work.  Unfortunately, all the fiber work is crocheting and, while it's on my list of things to learn, I haven't reached it yet.  That said, there is a cowl in there that I am dying to make, so that might be the motivation.  In any event, it is a lovely book.

To enter, just leave a comment below by midnight, Friday, January 25.  I will announce the winner the following Monday.  (Entries are limited to the Continental US, my apologies to my readers in other countries - the postage is prohibitive.)   Bon chance!

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Week in Review.

Honestly, if the stress from my waning job status and my ghastly commute doesn't get me, these two might.  I came home Monday night to find that Peanut had broken into the laundry room and, with his willing cohort, Lovey, eaten a quantity of organic grower feed for the quail (read: expensive).  He also tried to chew his way into the box of Honest Kitchen dog food, but was stymied.  Good thing, as I imagine he would have exploded.  Not surprisingly, the rest of the week was dealing with the aftermath of the consumption of this great quantity of NON-dog food.  Let's just say that it had a Roto-Rooter effect on their GI systems.  It wasn't pretty.  After a week of bland diet (rice and yogurt and cottage cheese) we seem to be back to normal. 

I have finished the Great Green Socks!  All that's left is weaving in the ends.  Halleluiah! That just leaves finishing one sock in the pair for my sister, one and a half socks for me and most of another pair for me.  And the mittens.  I am already chomping at the bit to cast on three more things and am trying to control certain disaster.  I will have plenty of time to knit this holiday weekend because we are forecast to get upwards of two feet of snow.  Oh, joy.  I will be knitting and shoveling.  Then the temperatures are plummeting Monday night into double digits below zero.  The fun never stops.

For those of you not familiar with thrummed mittens (and, really, why would you be?) here is an example:

Outside and inside of thrummed mittens.
Source is the Yarn Harlot.
As you can see, once these are done, I will have very toasty hands.  The fleece 'thrums' are inside your nice, warm woolen mittens and create a rather custom warm cushion as you wear them.  They also felt slightly, to make them even better for cold weather wear.  Of course, I may not have them done before summer, so they are only a warm glimmer this winter.  I have promised myself that I can cast on something new, once I finish my sister's socks.  I am fighting my urge to knit nothing but my new shiny thing - my toe-up, two-toned, fancy-schmancy pattern socks that I cast on Christmas Eve.  I am trying to learn as many new methods as possible this year.  Anything to help pump up those flabby brain cells.
It's all I want to knit!
Tomorrow is another fully-scheduled day, what with all the pre-Snowmeggedon prep work (clear the barn door so I can do more than squeeze through, shovel poop, stack hay in a more user-friendly manner, add shavings to the coop, clean out the quail trays, pick up the large, economy size bottle of Aleve, spray the roof rake with cooking oil - you know, the usual), parental visit, wash and gas up the car, haircut, recycling/trash stop, and pick up local lettuce.  Then it's time for Hunkerville.  I see a vat of soup in my future, along with some decent bread.  I hate to admit it, but I really did dislike that pricey loaf and fed it to the chickens.  Gah.

If I can, I will post horrifying photos of mountainous snowfall (sorry, Joyce...)

Monday, January 14, 2019

I know, why don't I just whip out a pair of thrummed mittens!

This is why not:
Half of the thrums
Will I ever learn to read directions before I start something?  Will I be destined to suffer disappointment in each new endeavor?  Will Marty marry Betty, or will Betty run off with her hair stylist?  I am afraid I am prone to lack of focus, so will be frustrated at every turn for the rest of my natural life.  I just need to look at it through new glasses - you know, the glasses that turn everything rosy.

Some of the promises I made to myself for this year include yarn-related things.  Okay, most of them include yarn-related things.  I am not allowed to buy a single skein/ball/cake/piece of yarn this year.  I need to start and finish at least half of the multitude of kits and projects that I have squirreled away in the dreaded craft room.  I need to un-dread the craft room.

It had occurred to me that I had a kit for thrummed mittens.  Just the ticket!

Gone.  (This morning's temp dropped
below 0.)
I ferretted around in the yarn bins and found my kit.  I bounced back to the relative warmth of the living room, settled into my chair, opened the package and, finally, read the directions.  Twice.  Then I went on YouTube to just confirm my suspicions.  Yes, these mittens will be done in the summer.  I have been making thrums, every evening, for four nights in a row, and have almost finished enough for the first mitten.  It's not that they are difficult to make - you just have to learn how to draft the roving, you have to get each fluffy bit pretty much the same length and dimension, and you have to do it many, many times.  Let's just say that the state of my thrums is directly related to how I was feeling about the entire project at the time.  Mercy.

My very own Needle Keeper!

The thrum project, on top of the endless green sock project, is starting to make me twitchy.  It's all I can do to keep myself focused on finishing them, so that I do not go off on another tangent and have six projects in varying states of completedness - except for complete.  I just realized that I have four pairs of socks on the needles.  And the thrums, of course. 

Cooking was at a minimum this weekend because it was too cold to even think about emerging from my knitting cocoon - nothing like being wrapped in the Geezer sweater with a pile of furry bodies snugged in around you.  I watched a couple of DVDs - Incredibles 2 (LOVED it!) and Game of Thrones (Season 1 - I know, I am the only adult in the country that has not seen this.  And I may be the only adult in the country to go no further with it.)

Just to notch up the frustration a bit further, I had decided to bite the bullet and try a new gluten free bread recipe.  (Insert a small rant here)  There should be a full disclosure on all gluten free cookbooks (hell, ALL cookbooks) that are sold online.  This one would have included, as a subtitle, "You, too, can bake a $16 loaf of pseudo-bread!"
$16 of meh.
Someone had raved about this book, so I ordered it.  Once I read the first recipe - Easy, Everyday Bread - and it required a cup and a quarter of raw cashew butter - I knew I was going to hate it.  However, I am weak.  As much as I declare I don't miss bread, I lie.  I miss it a lot.  Every day and every meal.  And twice on weekends.  So, I ordered my $16 jar of raw cashew butter - I did look locally, but every equally-expensive jar contained other ingredients - and baked the bread.  Which also required FIVE eggs (two whole eggs and three egg whites).  Honestly?  The resulting loaf was light and well-flavored, but NOT BREAD.  Now I have this cookbook that I will never use again and cannot, with clear conscience, foist on anyone else.  Unless they are gluten intolerant and have very deep pockets.  Pfft.

Before you think that my weekend was bereft of happiness - it was not.  It started out on a high, with a birthday package in my mailbox.  A small box full of treasures from a friend who is a treasure, herself.
Excuse the poor quality - I'll
get a better one and post it again.
She knit me a hat!  A darling owl hat in the most luscious turquois color!  OMG, how I love it!  And I got darling little knitted acorns and some of her beautiful photographs, that have been pinned to my workspace wall.  Also, I finally remembered to pick up my Christmas present from my youngest sister, which has been languishing at my parents' house:
ACK!  Cuteness alert!
I think this mug also represents the state that my very own wiener dog puts me in - he has been on a naughty streak that is driving me to distraction - and it's a very short road, my friends.  Lucky for him, he's an adorable little imp.