Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Switcheroo

Since there was an overwhelming desire to acquire my cherished spiral bound cookbook (ahem), I am pulling the ole switcheroo on y'all!  In it's place, I give you "The Farmer's Wife Cookbook"!  This is also a spiral-bound hardback book - published in 1996, it is a compilation of recipes and good, old-timey advice to farm wives.  It is interspersed with wonderful articles from the 30s covering everything from the comfort of hot soup to choosing a refrigerator.   The Farmer's Wife was a monthly magazine that ran from 1893 to 1939, a kinder, gentler era when life on the farm was what some of us (speaking for myself here) wish it was today.  I figured you are just the right crowd to appreciate this book!

Same 'rules' - just comment if you're interested.  I will be employing Kramer's sticky paws in order to choose a winner of this book and the cheese book over the weekend.  (He is very adept at fishing things out of bowls - just ask how I know...)  And I will announce the winners on Monday.  Now, I'm off to dig more paths - I plum forgot about the need to put water in a bucket and get it to the sheep!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Got Resolutions?

I've got tons!  But, this year I'm starting early, since I tend to run out of steam and/or discipline early on.  Besides the usual healthier eating, more exercise, kinder/gentler resolutions, I am going to become a whirlwind of feng shui (wait -- that's definitely an oxymoron!) - I'm going to wrap myself in feng-shui-ism and purge.  It is a formidable task, but it is time.  Either that, or someone will find me years later, mummified under a pile of Country Living magazines. 

In the spirit of the new feng shui me, I am downsizing my considerable cookbook collection.  That also has to do with the healthier eating me, but one resolution at at time.  I've just put a bunch on Freecycle, but there are two that were more...special.  And, as I know my sweet readers are incredibly good cooks and all-round gourmands, I am going to give them away here. 

First is Ricki Carroll's "Home Cheese Making" - I believe the most recent edition.  Paperback and chock-full of great cheese-making recipes and instructions.  I have a dog-eared copy that I use often.  This is much more pristine!

Second is "The Caprilands Kitchen Book" - paperback, spiral-bound.  I happen to have a soft spot for all spiral-bound, local recipe compilations, which is evident in my bulging shelves of cookery books.  I'm not sure of the year, but this is a quaint collection from a Connecticut herb farm/restaurant.

Just comment below and let me know which book you would like.  I will randomly pick the winners (providing there are more than two comments, LOL!)  Bon Appetit, as my hero, Julia would say!


The sun came out and it all looked so beautiful -- it also helped that I had a degree of separation from my shoveling marathon.  The forecast is for 40 degrees and rain by the weekend!  Wow!  I am trying to get a picture of the Jones Family - a small mob of sparrows that have taken up noisy residence in the trees and bushes around my place.  I love to hear them carrying on in the morning - possibly discussing their dreams of the night before?

Since our small family is spread out, we don't get to celebrate Christmas on Christmas.  We are all converging in Vermont this weekend to celebrate Christmas/New Year's, so it's bought me an extra week to put together my reluctant Christmas gift stocking.  I am hoping for a couple of rousing games of Scrabble and Farmopoly!  Such excitement!!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow - the grim facts at the light of day.

Once I catch my breath and rest my old back, I will try to get some pictures of the pathways so far.  It took me an hour and a half to get hay to the sheep.  You can see below how close they are.  I just can't wait to tackle the rabbits/chickens/ducks.  Never mind getting out my front door... It looks like we got between 2-3 feet of snow, with drifts up to 5 feet.  The sheep and llama were all crammed in one hoophouse, with a 4 foot drift sealing the entrance.  They were quite happy to see me.

Looking over at the sheep (there's a table and chairs under all that snow).

The snow load collapsed the roof of my greenhouse extension.

Looking out the front window.

Looking toward the chicken yard.

Snow on the deck up to my waist.
 Just came in to refuel, then out I go.  Chickens will be okay with food and water, but the rabbits need water, as their waterers freeze quickly.  I will have to un-bury the fuel tank from under the greenhouse disaster so the vent isn't blocked for too long.  Too bad I'm not 20 -- this would be an adventure.  Right now it is - quite literally - a pain in my a**.  Well, I am off to ply Mr. Shovel towards the rabbits - wish me luck!

Snow Day.

There just weren't enough exclamation points to make my point.  Woke up to high winds and snow up to my waist on the deck.  Pictures and the 'grim' details to follow.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

New Year. New Look.

Plus, I am bored and waiting for 1:00 p.m. so I can scoot home and get 50 bales of hay!  Yay!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Agony of De Feet.

Actually, de feet ain't as bad as de fingers!  The circulation is not great in my 'extremities' - I love that word - it makes your hands and feet sound  Ergo, this frigid weather wreaks havoc on fingers and toes when they have to clomp around in the snow and handle water, hay, latches, doors, etc.  Gloves are strictly out, as my fingers turn to icicles within seconds.  Mittens work well, but it's like working with packing crates at the end of your arms.  So I keep looking for the perfect glove/mitten/hand thing-y.  What do y'all wear on your "extremities" in frigid weather?

On an entirely different topic, my baking countdown is giving me the willies.  I found myself wide awake at 3:30 this morning, going over my list(s).  I've opted for sweet/savory treats this year, as opposed to baking a dozen different kinds of cookies.  I find cookie-baking mind-numbing.  I don't mind eating them, mind you, but baking them irritates me - all that shuffling around of baking sheets, spatula-ing off endless discs onto cooling trays, keeping them out of paws' way.  I digress.  I am on my fifth nut mix.  It's fun!  And healthier, if you watch the salt and butter.  And use only dark chocolate...I am trying to make this a healthier Christmas while still keeping the treats a treat.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I waver on my opinions of traditions.  In our family, a Christmas tradition is to make gingerbread men.  And not any ordinary gingerbread men.  This tradition dates back to my great grandfather (and beyond) - Harry Smith was a highly talented mechanical engineer and, from all reports, a completely wonderful man - full of fun and mischief.  In the top picture you can see the trappings of our tradition - my GGF's handmade cookie cutter (complete with holes in those tricky corners so you can poke out the dough), the original Gingerbread Man typed poem that inspired everything, typed on my GGF's letterhead, the gingerbread recipe written in my Great Aunt Edie's unmistakable loopy handwriting, the layout of the icing, and the matchsticks that are used to poke out those pesky sticky hat brims. 

The "Accoutrements".

The genius behind our tradition.
I first started baking these guys with my Great Aunt Edie, back in Cleveland.  She was very rigid about proper gingerbreadmanship.  No jaunty tilts to hat brims or feet.  Not too thick.  Not too thin.  No googly eyes (cloves).  And while we whipped up the 4 dozen ginger boys (as she called them), she would drill me on state capitols.  After Edie died, the tradition moved to me and my mom.  It is a very fun afternoon of working together - she gets everything organized and cuts the cloves (a dreaded job) and we work in unison - me mixing, rolling out and cutting; she places facial features and clove eyes.  My dad's job is to ice them.  To strict instructions.

This year it all fell apart.  I have been having a difficult time with Christmas this year, and I found myself standing for hours in my kitchen doing the rolling, cutting, baking and the *&#*$ cloves.  Alone.  It was not fun.  But, after whining and muttering for an hour, I started to focus on years past and it turned out to be a work of love.  However, my Great Aunt Edie must have been twirling in the afterlife - I had thick, thin, goofy, googly ginger boys.  And I even forgot to complete the required facial features on the last four.  Ack!
(from right: too jaunty, too fat, just right.)
The alpaca cookie is for my friend Kay.

Bad day for the Boys.

Yesterday, the Boyz had their wellness visit (aka meet the vet).  I found that, if they could see each other from their carriers, the drive was much quieter.  Slim is now not-so-slim (10 lbs) and Kramer weighs in at 8 lbs.  Slim found the entire process traumatic and also found the plastic cradle of the scales to be reassuring, so there he stayed - he of the Big Eyes.  Kramer was busy smooching up to the vet and vet tech until he had his temperature taken (ahem).  Then it was Kramer of the Big Eyes.  Both are fine and I managed to get out of the vet's office with a bill under $150.  Unheard of!

When I got home, I scooted out to collect eggs and was horrified to see what I thought was a bundle of dead Junior!  Turns out he had been doing his Mr. Macho through the chicken wire fence with Kees, my Barnevelder rooster, and had gotten his sizable spur caught in the fence.  How long he had been lying there with his foot in the air is unknown, but he was reeling around after I put him in the coop.  I made sure his leg wasn't broken - I think he just was a little numb.  I would hope that that would make him leery of boxing through the fence, but I doubt it.

Then Scrappy threw up his dinner, making it a perfect ending to a bad day for the boys.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What I Did on My Vacation.

Amazingly, by the time we were an hour into the trip, I completely relaxed and forgot about the farm.  Really.  It was a great vacation - in every conceivable way.  It was short enough, long enough, active enough and restful enough.  It did help that I was traveling with a good friend who is simpatico. 

In no particular order, we:

Walked through some real estate
Met Sylvie's daughter, Julie (beautiful AND talented), SIL Dave (amazing father), the kidlings (Henry, Eli, Zuzu, and Ramona - all bright, fun and gorgeous)

Eli (left) and Henry (right)
Flying Ramona and Zuzu modeling her Halloween costume.

Sylvie reading to Zuzu (who has BLUE eyes, not red, darn it)
Visited Bug Light

Sylvie on our walk to Bug Light

Bug Light.
Wandered around an architectural salvage warehouse
Squeezed through the amazing Picnic Maine Holiday Craft Fair at the beautiful Maine Irish Heritage Center
Ate Thai food
Walked some more

View from the walking path around the bay
Found a) the greatest Goodwill ever

My $13 Jones of NY coat! (with a glass of Two-Buck-Chuck)
b) the country's largest Trader Joe's

It brings me to tears just thinking about it.
Drove to Freeport
Walked even more

Inside Sylvie's little pied-`a-terre.

View off the deck of same.

One thing that really impressed me was the friendliness of every single person we met.  That included people walking their dogs, toll booth workers, store clerks, gas station attendants, people in line.  Every. Single. One.  You would have to live in New York to understand the sheer magnitude of this!

Everything at the farm was great - with the exception of dog antics (a peanut butter eating event, followed by the emptying of the compost pail).  Everyone was happy to see me and the feeling was very mutual.  We managed to pull up my driveway just when the snow started, so our timing was perfect.  Thank you, Sylvie, for the best long weekend ever; thank you, Julie, for your warm hospitality; and thank you, Ellen, for making it possible for me to go!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I'm baaaack!

Alive and well, and very well-rested!  Who knew how good four consecutive nights of 10 hours of sleep could feel?  I am sorting the pics and will post about my mini-vacation soon. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The lists are getting longer.

I am about to take my first non-sheep, non-working vacation in a very long time.  I am going to see Maine for the first time ever with a very dear friend who will be (sigh) moving there as soon as her house sells.  While I am excited to go, it also has me tied in knots.  This is what happens when you don't leave the farm for a loooong time.  The vacation has necessitated the making of many lists.  I have the "To Do Before I Leave" list, the "What to Pack" list, the "Main List" for the farm sitter, the "Misc. List" for the farm sitter, the "Quirks of the House List" for the farm sitter, the "In Case of Emergency List" for the farm sitter.   This last one is giving me the willies.  And causing a complete lack of sleep.  My farm sitter is a capable, energetic 23 y/o farmer who farm sits in the winter while her fields are sleeping.  I am trying to relax and let go and it is akin to peeling someones death-grip off a steering wheel at the brink of an abyss.  Okay, it's not really that bad.  I should concentrate on my "What to Pack" list - that is much more positive - knitting projects, 100 crossword puzzles I haven't had the time to work on, a book I've been dying to read "The Forgotten Pollinators", camera (pictures to come when I get back), and my trip itinerary that doesn't have one farm- or animal-related chore on it, and some non-kitten time to work on a writing project.  I'm sure I will be fine.  Now, where did I put that large bottle of Rescue Remedy???

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Local Guys.

Ready to load.

After years of disappointment vis a vis finding a high quality, non-Chinese-made-ingredient poultry feed that was also affordable, I heard about a local supplier and glommed onto them faster than white on rice.  They mix and grind their own poultry feed, along with sheep, goat, llama and equine feeds.  My chickens L.U.V. their feed.  It smells so good, I like to drive around for a few days with a couple of 50# bags in the back of my car.  That may have to do with the fact that there's molasses in it.... None of the ingredients are from China.  Most of the ingredients (with the exception of oats - from Canada) are grown in Massachusetts.  Plus, it is reasonable in an age of rocketing feed prices and they are really, really, really nice people. 

It is a no-frills place, a big, barn-like structure with an open bay that you back into.  Robby is always grinding feed and filling bags when I pull in - covered in dust with a big smile.  They heat their little office with a small wood burning stove and receipts are hand-written.  They also load your car/truck.  It's only a 15-20 minute drive, which is equal to a hop, skip & jump where I live.

If I ordered even more, I could custom-mix my feed.  If I COULD afford to order more at a time, I would add more calcium and add kelp meal.  But, for my small flock, it is easier to just add it myself.  I also add Diatomaceous Earth (food grade) to keep parasites at a minimum.  Rule of thumb?  Every time I start to see a messy chicken butt, I add DE to their feed.  So far (fingers crossed) it works like a charm.

Snowy Sunday Walk

My road - before dump truck traffic.

Eating snowflakes.

Is it time to go home yet?
Just a dusting of snow on Sunday - woke up to 8+ inches this morning (Tuesday).  Sunday mornings are so nice to walk the dogs -- almost everyone but the farmers are sleeping in, there are no dump trucks roiling up the road, and we get to surprise turkeys and deer.  This causes Bernie to go straight up and forward, so I have to be on my toes, or I'll end up on my tush.  Bernie loves, loves, loves snow.  She leaps and dives into it, shoves her whole head into a snow bank and is downright frisky.  Scrappy?  Not so much.  Actually, not at all.  He is high drama in the snow.  I can tell when he's had enough -- he begins to slow down, then a slight limp appears.  The limp is then magnified by 1000 and the offended paw begins to tremble.  And, if I don't come to his aid within nanoseconds, his whole being trembles.  I have to take my gloves off, coo and croon sweet nothings in his ear, while rubbing the offended paw.  Then we all turn around and he prances home.  Character.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What the.....????

I recently read one of my favorite bloggers relate a dream she had had - it had ALL the trappings of an anxiety dream; not a surprise, given the current pressure she's under.  I have my own favorite anxiety dreams which modesty prevents me from relating to even you, my darling readers.  But this morning I had the strangest dream I have ever had in my whole adult life!  I only remember the bit that happened just before I woke up.  And, since it didn't entail sex, nudity, talking animals or foreign languages, I thought I'd put it out there and see what you think:

I am in a hotel and walk down a long hall.  The walls, ceiling and plush carpeting are all a rich golden color.  I come to a set of double doors with very fancy hardware and pull it open.  There, in front of me, is a huge ballroom, also golden, with massive chandeliers just dripping with sparkling crystal thingies.  And, on the tile floor, THOUSANDS of little tin dishes holding one raw Brussels sprout.  All lined up in perfect order.  Wall-to-wall Brussels sprouts.

Don't get me wrong - I love Brussels sprouts.  But - what the...!  Have I been invaded by aliens?  I cannot, for the life of me, get meaning from this dream!  What's next, vats of sauerkraut?  What do YOU think it means?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Tale of Two Els(es?)

I have two friends named Els.  Both are Dutch - one lives in the Netherlands and one lives about 6 miles from me.  Both are incredibly artistic and gifted.  And both are beautiful, inside and out.  Do you think it's the affect of the North Sea?  Or, Noordzee?  I'm still trying to decide.  I am just happy that they are my friends and in my life.  They inspire me every time I think of them, but I am not a sculptor and I'm JUST learning to weave.  They inspire me so much that I've named all my Barnevelder pullets "Els".  I am sure the Els(es) would be thrilled to know that....

My Els in Holland is a sculptor.  I have watched from afar as she went through four years of art school - while holding down a full-time job.  I watched her progress from talented to amazingly talented.  You can see her beautiful work here.

My Els from Holland is a weaver.  She weaves many lovely things, but she is most well-known for her transparencies.  These are woven from fine linen threads and hung in your window.  They are so amazing - she does most of them to order, weaving in everything from farm animals (I am trading for a sheep!) to birds and trees.  You can see samples of her work here.  She donated transparencies for our town library's children's reading room - all in Winnie the Pooh designs.  I can look at them for hours.

Now, is it the name?  The rarified air in the Netherlands?  In the genes?  I am guessing that it's all of the above.  Do you have artistic friends that inspire you?

Monday, November 29, 2010


Growing up in a family where both parents had been in the Navy, we have a lot of nautical terms woven into our vernacular.  "Red sky in morning, Sailor take warning; Red sky at night, Sailor's delight", is one that's stuck.  So is hollering, "ON DECK!!" when you drop something.  This was the sky this morning - so, no matter what the weatherman says, I'm expecting weather.  Hopefully, not really, really bad weather.  While I can brave through snowstorms, rain, thunder and lightning, I am a pure fraidy cat when it comes to wind.  I cannot sleep through it.  I lie in bed listening so hard my ears hurt for sounds of roofs being ripped off, sheep flying, rabbits calling for their mommy (that would be I).  About 99.9 percent of the time, when I look outside in the morning, the worst thing that has happened are a few branches down and a tarp halfway off.  But it still gives me the willies.

Thanksgiving?  I did not pull out my soapbox, have my say or even hint around.  There was too much hubbub which included my great-nephew who took issue with just about everything that went on.  He's a cutie, but nearing that terrible-twos phase.  It makes my two kittens seem so quiet and tame.  I don't know how older parents can take it.  My holiday can be summed up thusly:  ate too much, drank too little, drove too much, slept too little.  A nice balance, more or less. 

Happy Birthday!

To Slim!  He turned one year old yesterday.  He also discovered the hearth.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Going and Coming.

Looking up the street at the state capitol.
Across the street from where I work.

I thought it would be interesting to share where I go every week day morning at 10:30, and what I come back to.  It is also interesting to contemplate what those two words mean to me:  Going.  Coming.  Going has a cold feeling - like going away. 

Wetlands behind my property.

 Coming always sounds warm and inviting, like coming home.  I am a real solid dyed-in-the-wool homebody, so going is always difficult and coming home is glorious.  Coming home is also accentuated by some beautiful views (when the days are longer than 2 hours).  The views are very lovely on the going part of my daily commute - but, by being part of the going, they are not quite as lovely as they could be.

End of the road.

If dinner isn't coming soon, I'm going to find
someone who loves me more.  As if.
Last Wednesday, I got to enjoy the overnight company of friends whom I love - and got to revel a bit in Deerhounds, my favorite 'breed' (besides Dachshunds - their polar opposite).  I had to watch how much I gushed, as Scrappy is very sensitive to which way the love meter is turning.  They brought me their last skein of Flora's yarn, which has instilled in me a need to skirt her fleece and get it spun.  They also brought me some of their wonderful fingering weight Icelandic/Alpaca blend.  There is no such thing as too much yarn!!!  A looong winter stretches before me.  Yah!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A great start to my day.

What's left.  It's not nearly enough.

Not only is the sun shining, but I am now the most popular girl at the barn!  And I owe it all to....Mama Pea!  After rising at my usual 4:30, I decided to tackle her Apple Squares.  And, yes, the dough is tricky.  But it is SO worth the effort.  I am also happy to report that my last stash of Marianne's apples are faring well in my high-tech root cellar.  A plastic crate covered with a thick towel and topped with a plastic garbage bag.  This was the first time in years of Sunday baking to the barn that they didn't modestly wait until I had left to dig in.  The farmer grabbed the fork and said that he wasn't risking there being anything left after he did the milking.  It got moans and raves.  I said I owed it all to my baking muse, Mama Pea.  He said he could kiss her.  I said that Papa Pea might take umbrage to that.  Instead, he sends his high regards.  I have hidden the remainder in the cooled oven - but I can still hear its siren song....

The colors are even better  in person - so gorgeous!

And another Mama Pea surprise - my nice postman left a package on Miguel's front seat with yesterday's mail (only discovered this morning).  There is a baby in New York that is going to be wrapped in the most beautiful quilt!  I almost wished I had a baby myself.  Then I remembered my two kittens and felt that was quite enough youth in my life.  Thank you and a warm hug to my friend in Minnesota!

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Day in the Life.

Suzy in Chiot's Run posted a day in her life and dared - well, suggested - that her readers do the same.  I thought that a Sunday would be a more interesting day.  Little did I know...

4:30 a.m.  I am awake and contemplating lying in until 5:00 a.m.  Much clickety-clacking of dog toenails on the floor outside of my closed bedroom door.  I get up.

4:45-5:45 a.m.  I knit, trying to complete a Christmas gift and the Baby Surprise Jacket for Els' imminent grandchild.  I listen to our local NPR station in the mornings.  I am sitting with Kramer on my lap (he's staying), Tippet snugged next to me on one side, Cookie on the other and Scrappy at the far end of the couch, wrapped up in his fleece blanket.  The temperature outside is 30 degrees/inside 58 degrees.

5:45-6:00 a.m.  I put a load of laundry in the washing machine and turn on the dryer - which I forgot to do last night, even though there was a large note taped to the kitchen cabinet to remind me.

6:00-7:30 a.m. I mix up Mama Pea's Cranberry Almond Cake for the guys at the farm and put it in the oven.  I put it in the oven and feed the dogs (kibble and heated leftover won ton soup with chopped hard boiled duck eggs).  I feed the cats, clean the litter boxes, move the laundry around, change into my outdoor clothes.

7:30-8:30 a.m.  I take the dogs on a short walk because I don't want to burn the cake.  We hear lots of gun fire -- deer hunting season already?  There's a lot of interesting scat on the side of the road.  The dogs notice ALL of it.  I get back in time to rescue the cake.  I put it to cool in the laundry room - the only cat/dog safe space in the house.

8:30 a.m. - I finish the cake, slice up half of it and drive it up to the farm - stick my head in to say hello and stop on the road to see Jasmine, who is looking divine.  The laundry is hung on the line to dry.

9:00 - 11:00 a.m. - I scrape out a large pumpkin, cut it and put it in the oven to roast.  The seeds and goop go out to the sheep, then I give them their hay.  They are still p**ed off that they're on a diet.  I start on the chickens and rabbits, when my dairy farmer neighbor pulls up the driveway and yells "We got a situation here, can you help?"  His bull and four young heifers broke out of the fencing and are down my road terrifying the weekenders.  The entire farmer family (all in pickups) show up and disburse.  I am stationed at the intersection armed with....a stick.  I am thinking I should have a bazooka.  The ensuing chaos resulted in me *running* about a half-mile.  This is something I have only done a handful of times in my life, as I regard running as unnatural.  Much sweat, muck, and hollering later, the recalcitrant are back in a fenced-in area.  May I add here that Jasmine and her sister, Rosebud, have NEVER breached the fence.  Jersey girls are the best.

11:00-12:45 p.m. - I return home and finish the poultry/rabbit chores, then roll up my sleeves and start to erect the rabbits' winter housing.  I spend a lot of time calling KW Cages many bad names.  The urine guards are NOT the same as the instructions say they are, and interfere with putting in feeders.  In order to install the feeders, I have to get out the bolt cutters and cut holes in the cages.  What the heck?  I get them put together anyway and take a 15 min. break for a glass of Marianne's delicious apple cider!

Rabbits in their new, snug digs.

1:00-5:00 p.m. - My neighbor Vic arrives to help me put a tarp on the greenhouse structure over my outdoor fuel tank.  He also remembers to bring a handle for the hayport door.  His memory is waay better than mine, and he's waay older.  I continue to tick things off my list -- I am a woman on a mission!  Kay arrives in bunny-grooming garb and an absolutely adorable hat she knit and we (read: Kay) start with clipping nails on Ginger and Chamomile, my chubby non-fiber rabbits.  I quickly take the laundry off the line, then we move to Blue (Mr. Adorable) who parts with a huge amount of beautiful fiber after an intense hour of mostly Kay's work.  I am very good at hovering.  I had taken a great shot of Kay in action, but it was getting dark and it didn't turn out :o(  I doubt if Kay would be willing to go through that again, anytime soon.  Now in the dark, we had all five rabbits with trimmed nails in their new digs, the last two done under the glow of my headlamp.  Kay left for home, and I finished putting up the water bottles with same head lamp.

5:00-9:00 p.m. -  Dogs are fed, Tippet gets her evening snack, dinner is put in the oven, sheep get their hay, I collect my ONE egg from the freeloaders, freeloaders are tucked in for the night.  I pour a nice big glass of wine, put on a Murder She Wrote DVD, and eat dinner.  The other half of the pumpkin is in the oven.  By 8:30 I am ready for bed, only to discover I still have to put the mattress cover on, make the bed and put away the laundry.

9:05 p.m. - The phone rings.  It's my friend from the endless weekend saying they'd like to stay over Wednesday night because they're buying another sheep.  I say yes and go to bed.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


It's the first Barnevelder egg!  I had expected it to be darker, I will admit, but it is a beautiful egg nonetheless.  And I had expected to find it in their nesting box.  Instead, it was sitting in the muck in their run.  It must have taken the pullet by surprise -- "OMG, what's happening?"  I can't wait to see if there are any other little brown surprises waiting for me IN the nesting boxes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What I learned this weekend.

It was such an informative weekend!  Here's what I learned:

1.  I can still entertain while battling a cold (without compromising the health of my guests)
2.  Beef stew in the slow cooker does not take kindly to late dinner guests
3.  Even though I wake up at 4:30 a.m., it is not early enough when you have to make breakfast for said guests and get them out of the door by 7 a.m. AND feed dogs, cats, walk said dogs, feed sheep, chickens, rabbits and ducks, and hit the road before 11 a.m.
4.  My sheep are fat.
5.  Never even mind the lard butt on the llama.
6.  I cannot visit and cook at the same time.
7.  When pressed for time, nothing beats 5 minute ice cream
8.  House guests are captive guinea pigs.
9.  No matter how well-trained your dogs are, they can un-train in a nanosecond when it comes to food.
10.  Kittens make A LOT of noise (okay - I already knew this)
11.  I am tied with Job in the patience department
12.  I am not lonely when by myself.  There is n.o.t.h.i.n.g. like the sound of nothing.

Friday, November 5, 2010

That's enough about me. Now let's talk about me.

I am answering Chicken Mama's challenge - although, I am embarrassed to admit I have no idea what a "meme" is - and list 25 things about me.  Let's see if I can do this in a stream-of-consciousness way and not in my usual over-edited way (but with spellcheck...)

1.  I prefer animals to people.
2.  I hated school after grade school but I love learning.  Go figure.
3.  I can type 105 wpm pretty much without error.
4.  I wear socks to bed as soon as the temperature drops below 50.
5.  Sometimes I forget to comb my hair all day.  Even when I go into work.
6.  I have long conversations with my dogs, cats, sheep, llamas.  But not with my chickens or rabbits.  Bias?
7.  All I wanted to be when I was growing up was a sculptor/cowgirl.
8.  I have a Fine Arts background and work as a legal researcher.
9.  I still cry every time I think of the time I had to have my parents' dog, Jetta, put to sleep.  Years ago.
10.  I can't sleep past 4:30 a.m. even on weekends - if I do, I get cranky.
11.  I would love to live in the middle of nowhere, by myself, with my furred friends, with no one else about, being totally self-sufficient and off-grid.
12.  I do most of my baking between 4:30 - 6:30 a.m.
13.  I am addicted to a certain kind of potato chip.
14.  I would rather drink Champagne than water - even for breakfast, if I could get away with it.
15.  I cheated on a math test in 9th grade.
16.  I still hold a grudge against my high school speech teacher, Mr. Higgie, for not telling me I was pronouncing "Freud" wrong (read: Freeooood), making me the laughing stock of my class.
17.  I was an alto in church choir and sing at every opportunity - especially to the dogs - and especially songs from musicals.
18.  I listen to classical music if I'm stuck in traffic because it's the only thing that quenches my road rage.
19.  I drive too fast.
20.  I would like to learn how to play a mandolin before I'm too old to function.
21.  I don't have any friends from where I grew up - most of my friends were made in the last 15 years of my life.  And they are the best friends anyone can have.
22.  I can't stick to a diet or a budget.
23.  I close my eyes or leave the room during scary bits of movies.
24.  I have watched the Wizard of Oz over 50 times.
25.  I know all the words to "The Jabberwocky".

Anyone else?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Becoming attached to inanimate objects.

Yesterday, I dropped off my 8 year old car for some body work.  I am tooling around in my farmer-neighbor's elderly father's late wife's car.  How's that for a sentence!  It has been sitting outside pretty much full time since I moved in - almost 5 years.  It is a little creaky because it doesn't get used.  I got advice like, "don't worry about all the lights on the dash - don't mean a thing."  Lights that spell out, "anti lock", and "check engine NOW", and my personal bugaboo, "low tire".  Plus some other dire warnings that are Greek to me.

It dawned on me, as I crept up the mountain to a chorus of odd noises, how completely attached to my car I am.  It fits me like a glove.  First, it's a manual transmission - my transmission of choice, since learning to drive in Cleveland's lake effect snow.  I find myself flailing about, trying to find the clutch and shift knob.  Then there's the gas mileage.  I will have to say that my 2003 Ford Focus Wagon gets great gas mileage.  Over 30 mpg.  How can you not love that -- especially if you have a long commute. 

But it's even more than the obvious.  It's how the seat feels.  It's all the little quirks - the radio volume knob that, when you initially turn the volume down, makes it get louder.  Then, there's the change in my ashtray.  The dog treats in my center arm rest.  The half-inch of debris on the floor mats.  The floor mats themselves.  The bits of hay hanging like fringe from the back ceiling.  Geez, I could go on and on. 

Since the body work is being done as a favor by a neighbor for practically peanuts, I can't call and whine and ask when it will be done.  So I will just have to make the best of it -- I think, confidentially, that this car is thrilled to be out on the road.  What started as a creaky sound is now a nice, satisfied hum. 

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Maybe, if I close my eyes....

then open them, all that white stuff will be gone!  Every year, winter sneaks up on me and takes me by surprise.  I know it's coming and, in a perverse way, I look forward to it.  But, then it is here and I am shocked!  At least I'm consistent.  I have a pretty good headstart on winter-readiness, but there is still a BIG LIST.  The small comfort I had taken knowing that next weekend was pretty much free, was dissolved after a call from my Icelandic breeder friends in Dansville.  I am now having overnight company from Friday night through Sunday night.  Whee-haw!

p.s.  Anyone know what kind of pumpkin/squash that big, warty thing is?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Are you speaking or asking? Pardon my rant.

At the risk of sounding like a cranky old lady, what is it with the weird intonation of almost everyone under 30?  It hit me today that, even on NPR (which, I believe, is slowly sinking into the morass of bad media), reporters all have that irritating habit of putting the inflection on the end of their sentence, making it not so much a statement as a question.  After listening to an hour of this, I have to turn off the radio.  I long for strong speakers, with professional, moderated voices.  Thinking of Walter Cronkite makes me feel all teary.  It seems we are surrounded by young men and women who have a slightly flat, whiny tone and sound so querulous.  I find myself muttering, "Oh, just spit it out, will you?"  See?  I am asking a question there. 

As I was growing up, dinner was served at 6 p.m. sharp (Eastern Standard Time).  Part of the dining experience - besides practicing our good manners:  no elbows on the table, no fidgeting - was the "Word for the Day".  My father pronounced it and we were expected to look it up and use it.  I am old enough to have missed New Math (thank goodness), but learned to write cursive by slowly forming the letters in chalk on the blackboard, and practiced, practiced, practiced good grammar.  What was learned at school, was stressed at home.  So I literally cringe when I hear, "Me and Mike went..."  Me went? 

And don't even get me started on "invite", as in, "Did you send him an invite?"  I plead guilty to jazzy punctuation, but, alas and alack (smidgen of Shakespeare in HS), this old fogey is getting left behind in the literary and grammatical dust.

Monday, October 25, 2010

There are fang marks in everything!

Kramer with Alien Eyes

It started this weekend.  I had left a batch of muffins to cool on the kitchen island.  I came back 15 minutes later to find tiny punctures in the tops of Every One.  I left a half-loaf of bread wrapped in foil on the counter.  For TEN minutes.  It looked like a sieve.  This morning, having packed my lunch, I went into the bedroom to change into barn clothes.  I came out to dessert was missing.  Mind you, this was a slab of Whole Wheat Bread with Raisins.  With a recipe that calls for two cups of molasses, even a smallish portion of it weighed a good pound.  I immediately headed back to the lair and found it wedged under a table, with the corner of the plastic bag chewed off and, yes, fang marks on my dessert.  I snatched it from Kramer's jaws and put it in another zip baggy and double bagged the lunch and put it in my tote.  If I could have padlocked it, I would have.  Do kittens go through a teething stage? 

I related the sordid events to a friend, who was horrified that I just went ahead and ate the kitten-ravaged dessert.  I decided not to tell her about my finding a nice, fat caterpillar on top of last week's salad and saving it for my chickens, whilst (;o) I ate the greens.

Slim with matching Alien Eyes

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chickens, cheese, friends, lessons and bad acoustics.

Nettle Meadow Farm - Home of the **Kunik**.

Waiting for cheese on the dry front porch.
  I didn't get as many pictures taken as I wanted to, as it intermittently rained and shined all day.  And it mostly rained when I was outside the truck with my camera.  These were taken on the long front porch of Nettle Meadow Farm's farm/cheese house, where it was dark, but dry.  Melanie, Marianne and I had driven an hour to the abattoir to deliver our feathered pre-food products (aka meat chickens) and had time to drive another hour+ to Nettle Meadow Farm.  They produce some of the best cheese anywhere on this small farm, using goat and sheep milk and Jersey cow cream.  My absolutely favorite cheese is their Kunik, a blend of goat milk and Jersey cream.  It is almost like eating cheese/cake.  We were able to wander around the farm a bit, but the cheesemakers were up to their elbows at work so we were unable to spend any time with them.  However, we did get to meet some very fetching Friesian sheep, adorable Nigerian Dwarf goats, and an obliging farm manager who really seems to love his job.  Did I mention that they are selling some of same fetching sheeps' lambs?  I didn't?

We also got to spend the time talking and laughing, discussing everything from politics to farming methods.  Melanie had packed the most amazingly good sandwiches for the trip - pesto, mozz, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts on farm rolls.  They were delicious!  We stopped in a lovely gift shop and gallery where I found the perfect birthday present for a certain Els in Holland (in case you're reading this, Els, I'm not telling what it is), and overall had a wonderful time.  We picked up our now-food birds and had an interesting discussion with the processor on the vagaries of state regulations and what causes some birds to grow more than others - especially when they are from the same chick batch.  Melanie and I had birds that weighed in substantially less than Marianne's.  I think that we ended up figuring it was a combination of too-low-protein food (me) and predominately female birds (Mel) versus mostly male birds raised on high-protein organic feed and given 24/7 access to same.  Plus pasture, which I did not have.  It was interesting and I have tucked away the details for next year's birds.

After we got back and stowed birds and carriers in appropriate cars and freezers, we sampled a new Nettle Farm cheese called "Three Sisters".  It is made from a blend of goat and sheep milk, and Jersey cream.  It had a pronounced 'goat' flavor, with some definite 'sheep' and ended with a nice tangy-ness on the tongue.  And I discovered whole wheat saltine crackers!  Who knew?!  The day's discoveries were not over, however, as Melanie and I managed to squeeze in a quick felted-soap lesson.  She also bestowed upon me a large bag of arugula straight from her garden.  I believe arugula is my favorite green - with Swiss chard and kale coming in a close second.

After a lot of hugs, squeals and kisses (my new MO upon arriving home - hoping to overcome any anxiety over kittens in residence), the chores were quickly done and I headed out to the Town rabies clinic, where I volunteer twice a year.  As this is held in the Town's garage, a large, cavernous cement and metal building with puny heating system, by the time the line for dog inoculations forms, there is an impenetrable din.  The cats (6-7p) may be unhappy, but they do not vocalize like the dogs.  With the dogs, it's a combination of excitement and fear.  Lots of beagles, hounds and dachshunds.  I love seeing the dogs and their owners - great big, beefy farmers with Chihuahuas, young mothers with exuberant huskies and kids in tow, seniors with their senior dogs.  It's also a great opportunity to find out what's going on and who's doing what to whom.  When I came home and through the door for a second time, much later, there were more hugs, squeals and kisses.  Especially for Scrappy, who, sans diaper, did not pee in the house.  Yeah, Scrappy!  Extra hugs for you!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Life is better than television.

Tomorrow the Fricassees go off to Freezer Camp, I get to visit my Favorite Cheese Maker In The World, and it's the Bi-Annual Town Rabies Clinic!  Could there be a more exciting line-up?  This is better than television, which I have not watched for over 8 years now.  I own a television set, but it's used for playing DVDs.  I have no dish, cable or antenna.  It is blissful without television.  Can I have missed much, not knowing about which stars are dancing?  Not knowing any Surviving Big Losers?  Honestly, even the titles of these shows give me the willies.  Listening to the radio is about as close as I want to come to knowing what's going on in the world.  It would be lovely to have a Good News Station - that is something I'd tune into daily.  Mostly, I listen to music (everything from the Wailing Jennies to Bach), or listen to clocks ticking, knitting needles clicking, kittens tear-assing around, the sighs, scratches, snores of the dogs.  In the spring and summer, open windows expand my repertoire to birds, sheep, chickens and ducks.  Unfortunately, it also expands to gravel pit noises and endless truck traffic, but I'm beginning to tune those out.  I can hear my neighbor's cows and the occasional dog.  At night, I hear coyotes and foxes, and the same dogs.  Wind in the trees, rain on the roof.  So very much nicer than television.

Stay tuned for the juicy details of tomorrow's doings.

And Happy Birthday, Fiona

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Slow learner. That would be I.

I now have an inkling of what I missed in not having children.  It's a little late, and I'm a little slow.  I am going out tonight to buy another Doggie Pull-Up (or Pull-Over, in this case) for Pee-boy.  I was faced with a sodden diaper last night and had to leave for a meeting.  So I had to *gasp* leave him un-fettered for two whole hours!  I was a wreck, sitting in the meeting wringing my hands and wondering what furniture was getting the treatment.  When I flew through the door, expecting the worst, all I was met with were wagging tails.  Yay!  Crunchy treats abounded.  But I'm still going to get a back-up.

Monday, October 18, 2010

My life with Diaper Boy.

I have tried treats, play, walks, love, pleas, and threats.  So far, Scrappy is still applying passive/agressive behavior to the kittens being in the house.  Translated:  he pees inside and often.  And now Bernie is joining in.  Bernie, however, will suffer silently for a lot longer before she is pushed over the edge.  I finally put Scrappy in the equivalent of a doggie diaper.  Bernie only pees on the dog beds, so I wrapped the innerds of the beds in large garbage bags and she is so alarmed by the attending rustles and crinkles, that she quit peeing on them.  It is, though, a losing battle.  I am completely attached to the kittens and the older cats don't seem to mind them.  But, since Scrappy shows no signs of turning off the faucet and Bernie has become Velcro Dog, I cannot keep torturing them.  Even with endless Crunchy Treats, they are still miserable.  My laundry loads will shrink, but I sure will miss the amazing cuteness of the kittens.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Cleveland Christmas Party - my friend Johanna (on Santa's lap), her son & ex-DIL, and a very young me
(to left of her son).  Circa late 80s.
One of my inside projects is cleaning out and organizing my office.  This will be no easy task, as it is also my craft room and also populated by both dogs and cats at will.  But I have a strong vision of the finished project, so I forge ahead.  As I was tackling the stacks last night in a free moment, I came across a box of photographs.  As I fingered through them, I was transported (rather willy-nilly, as they weren't in any kind of order) back through my life.  And before I knew it, two hours had passed.  In that two hours, I relieved family celebrations, old boyfriends, old apartments, European travel, friends who have passed away, my salad years.

Salad years?  If anything, THESE are my salad years, as I am usually trying to watch my weight and grow my own fixings.  Back then, I could eat anything and did.  Mostly, it wasn't salads.  Sigh.  I digress.

A lot of these photographs were less than perfect.  Some were a little fuzzy, some bore the obvious signs of a bad-hair era.  These photographs were taken before the era of instant gratification - although I did and do have my much-loved Polaroids - and before you could censor yourself.  I have never liked having my picture taken and there are very few photographs of myself that I like.  There are actually only two:  one taken when I was in my early 20s, I believe, with my mother, both of us hysterically laughing; the other taken at a sidewalk cafe in Paris on my first trip abroad.  After that, it was all downhill.  I have also discovered that I seem to be obsessed with bagpipers.  There are dozens of pictures of bagpipers - parades, festivals, funerals.  What can it mean???  It was such an emotional rollercoaster, coming across pictures of my younger self, a dear friend who died of lung cancer, sorely missed, my life in Holland.  It was so nice having actual photographs, bits of glossy paper, to look at - just as it is comforting having actual books to hold in my hand and read.  And here I sit typing about it, into a post which goes into my blog, which goes out into the blogosphere.  Life is so interesting, isn't it?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hold onto your hats, I've been ruminating.

I was raised in a small x-burb of a smallish city in Ohio.  We lived in one of those unimaginative tract developments laid out with a t-square in what once was farmland.  There was one main street with side streets laid at right angles, all ending on a narrow dirt track that ran parallel along a forlorn strip of woods at the end of the side roads.  To the north was Lake Erie, to the south were fields.  In the early days, it was a place of young families, stay-at-home-moms, carpooling, and bridge players.  Everyone was in the same boat and kids ran around freely with neighborly supervision.  Mothers came out at dinner time and called you in.  And, depending on the season, you hightailed it in with frozen fingers and toes, or you dragged your feet, scratched a trail behind you with a stick, and did just about anything but hurry.  As we grew up, families sold and moved to areas with better school systems and the development suffered.

Many years and many moves later, I have ended up in upstate New York - not to be confused in any way with downstate - in a small village within a small town.  This village in which I live has a lot of that same sense of community with which I grew up.  While everyone knows your business, they also know when someone has hit hard times, due to illness, loss of work, or just bad luck.  There are five churches in the town/village, and all congregations reach out to those who need them.  There are movie nights for free family entertainment, clothing drives, a food pantry.  When word gets out that a family has been struck by illness, there is a line of of local women bearing casseroles, cakes, roasts and side dishes at their front door.  I am blessed with amazing friends and good neighbors.  I really love it here.  (Other than the fact that NY State is the top Nanny State, over-regulated, over-taxed, governed by idiots.)

Before I moved here, I lived in a small town just one county further south.  I lived there for seven years and, in that time, I made one friend - Maggie, who I still cherish.  And she lived in another town.  No one helped each other.  There were feuds and fights and nasty letters in the local paper.  It has made me wonder what makes such a difference in small towns that are so close, geographically speaking.

The pre-here town (p-town) had a long history and had flourished with its mills and businesses back in the day.  Now-town (n-town) has a long history and flourished with mills and businesses back in the day.  Both lost most of their industries and have struggled for years.  P-town is closer to The City, and now has a lot of full-time City residents - especially after 9-11.  There is a big disparity between the wealthy cityfolks and poor townfolks.  N-town also has its wealthy residents, but they tend to be artists and writers who like the anonymity of a very rural setting.  We've got lots of "hollers" here - dirt roads that lead way back, up the mountains - and that is where they settle.  From my non-scientific study, it seems that the biggest difference is that the families here tend to stick around for generations; it's not unusual for three or four generations to still be living within a mile of each other.  Back in p-town, as soon as they're able, the young people skedaddle and don't look back.  Another difference - and I may be way off here - is that n-town is basically a rural, farming community and there is an ingrained sense of dignity and the worth of hard work that infuses a lot of the families here.  Of course, there are slackers and drunks and crooks, too, but they have very little impact on the solid sense of community of the place.  P-town is more settled, with more affluent towns clustered around it.  It just seemed angry and envious and petty.  There was a pervading sense of resentment and entitlement.  I was very glad to leave.

I am curious to know what you think makes a good sense of community.  I've lived in small, medium and very large cities with the contrasting large, small, smaller sense of community in each.  I am not a romantic when it comes to farms, farming and farmers.  It's dirty, hard work and there is no time off for good behaviour.  Is it this shared hardship that brings out that intimacy that seems to be shared in this little village?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Squeezing it in.

Dealing with diminished daylight hours brings on a whole new set of challenges for us work-outside-the-home-and-still-farmstead-ers.  It means that, while I still rise at the ungodly hour of 4:30 every morning, the sun doesn't rise until after 6:30.  I putter around until it starts to get light - knitting some mornings and baking others.  This morning I cut up the brownies I made last night and made icing so I could decorate them for my farmer/neighbor's birthday (H-A-P-P-Y-B.-D.-D-O-U-G-! == exclamation point added to round out the dozen).  Then I feed the dogs and cats, slip the dogs into their classy orange vests for our walk (hunting season is upon us) and fast-walk up the road and back, and throw down my breakfast.  And since I insist on spoiling every darn creature in my care, I need to cut up apples for the sheep, dish up leftovers for the chickens and pull up clover for the rabbits whilst there still IS clover.  (I love using "whilst".)  If I am focused and fast enough, and if nothing goes amiss, I will have time to do something extra - like mulch my garlic.  Obviously, I am a morning person.  Everything goes downhill after 2 p.m.  All I need now is someone to follow me around with a camera to jazz up my posts.  Of course, if I had someone to follow me around with a camera, I would be putting that person to work and no pictures would be taken anyway!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What a Great Day!

Another jam-packed day, but it was packed will all good stuff!  I headed out early-ish this morning with my friend, Marianne, to Springfield, MA, for the Scottish Highland Cattle Event at the Big E.  This was the first time I had the opportunity to get up close to these gorgeous animals - it was heaven.  One of the best things about attending the judging is that you get some insight as to what makes a *great* Scottish Highland cow.  However, Marianne and I both agreed that the majority of the cows/bulls/heifers that were there had very short hair - something not attractive to either of us.  But she is in the market for one and we were able to examine some lovely livestock and pick up tips and business cards. 

Breeder from Maine explaining the fine points to Marianne.
   Next, I got 75 bales of hay in the barn!  I just can't tell you how comforting that is -- and I have up to 130 more available for winter.  It is better than money in the bank.  Wait a minute -- let's just say that it is AS good as money in the bank, since my money in my bank has to pay for said hay.  Have I mentioned how wonderful my neighbors are?  My dairy-farmer neighbor is generous enough to donate his time and farm truck to pick up hay with me.  They can drop the bales from the barn into the bed of the truck, then we drive down the mountain and dump the lot in front of the hayport.  All I have to do is stack it.  And, of course, no matter how much I assured them that I was more than capable of stacking it myself, the farmer and his barn helper dove right in and stacked the lot six bales high (a miracle) in about 15 minutes.  I was more than grateful, I was teary.  There is a nice, warm, coffeecake in their future (tomorrow morning)!  That's all the pay they will take.  Lordamighty, I am a lucky woman. 

Not a great action shot - but you get the general idea.