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?