Thursday, March 31, 2011

The QE2s

Hurray!  Internet connection is back - although a little hinky.  Here are shots of the wideloads.  Freyda, Flora's daughter, may have her lambs at any moment (hopefully NOT in the middle of the night) - but most likely during tomorrow's nor'easter, if my current luck holds.

Clockwise from top:  Juno (black), Coco(nut), Freyda, Bartlett, Flora

A rear-on shot of Flora, with Juno to her left and the cause of her discomfort to her right

No Lambs. No Internet. Nerves Fraying.

Still no Internet service at the house.  A hopeful sign this morning was spotting the Fairpoint truck on my road.  They've got two more days before I start paring a week off my monthly bill.  Freyda continues to look imminent - I wouldn't have guess that her udder could get larger, but that bad-boy is HUGE.  It looks like she will go first, with her mother a close second.  And, since they are forecasting a nor'easter starting this evening, my guess is that she will have them tomorrow in the 12 inches of snow they are calling for.  I finished the second lamb sweater this morning -- let's hope she doesn't have triplets!

Last night I came home to find that someone had eaten about a 2 foot by 2 inch portion of carpeting fiber.  After doing a thorough search (during which I discovered all my missing pens) I had to figure that Bernie, my weird, nutty dog, had eaten the whole thing.  During the next two and a half hours, I was back and forth on the phone with the vet's emergency service and squirting hydrogen peroxide down her gullet.  I have never known a dog who could resist tossing her cookies for so long.  Eventually, the whole soggy mess came up.  I figure there was an orange-sized clump of carpeting fiber in her tummy.  That would have been pretty darn awful had it worked its way through her system.  Now we are just keeping a close eye on her.  Since I figured that she did the damage out of pure angst -- her compadre has been kept in his crate while I'm gone (aka, Mr. Peebody) -- he is now free to roam with his belly band.  Honestly -- I'm afraid to ask what's next.

If, by some miracle, my Internet service is back up tonight, I will download the pix I have taken of the QE2s.  Right now, I am very happy to be in the safe normalcy of my office.  I doubt anyone here will eat the carpet.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lots Doin'

Thanks to a downed DSL since Saturday morning, there has been no posting - no downloading of pix, either.  And no lambs, dagnabit.  Just when I think that Freyda can't go another five minutes, she continues blissfully along, chewing her cud.  I did get photographs of their large bee-hinds, but cannot download until my Internet service is restored.  A very nice young man at Fairport's technical help line, for whom English is not a first language, told me they are "very, very, very" busy and it may be some long while.  I will take my payment off auto-pilot and reduce it in daily increments until I have full service.

A little excitement was had yesterday on the homestead.  I heard a ruckus outside that included the ducks -- a new wrinkle -- so I raced out to the deck in time to see a large mink chasing the chickens around the yard.  I let the dogs go and Bernie herded him into the now-empty coop, where I slammed the door shut.  Meanwhile, Scrapping was sidling off to a far corner of the yard, nonchalantly peeing his way in the opposite direction.  Killer, he is not.  I figured a rifle would not be appropriate in such a small space, so I called in a neighbor who drove up a few minutes later, pistol in hand.  At first I thought the mink had managed to get out, but I spotted him trying to become one with the shadows in a lower nesting box.  Crafty fellow.  The neighbor dispatched him and I buried him over the fence, a very healthy male specimen.  I would have felt badly about it if it had been almost anything but a mink/weasel/vicious killer.

Over at the farm, I whipped up an Apple Cobbler Cake for the barn crew to celebrate Jasmine's freshening, and the arrival of tiny Alice.  Alice continues to thrive - and she is, if I do say so myself, the cutest, smartest sweetest calf in the world.  Even the farmer, who is rather numb to calf-cuteness, called her a "cute little feller".  I am trying to get a better shot of her, but she is very bouncy when I'm there - I mean "bottle".  Who could ask for anything more?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Meet Tiny Alice.

True to the nature of all critters that procreate in my care (or, in this case, under the influence of my feminine mojo), Jasmine presented us with Alice yesterday afternoon.  The farmer called me minutes after the happy event and told me she "looks just like a little deer".  And so she does.  Alice is being bottle-fed, since Jas is a member of the dairy team.  She took her bottle like a pro!  One down and eight more to go.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Reaching back in time.

As I was noodling around last night, trying to come up with an idea for dinner that was a) fast; b) used only ingredients I had on hand; and c) could be stretched into lunch service over a couple of days, I remembered my mother's Salmon Loaf recipe.

Blowing the dust off the top of my recipe card box, I realized that I almost never open it.  When I need inspiration, I turn to one of my (too) many cookbooks or the Internet.  While the quickly-assembled salmon loaf was in the oven, I took the time to leaf through the recipe cards.  It was as much fun as looking through a photo album - bringing back wonderful memories not only of the dishes created, but of family and friends.  My Great Aunt Edie's Chicken and Rice (Pollo con Arroz - we thought it was very exotic, in a foreign language and all) which was about the only dish she cooked, and we cooked it together fairly often.  A recipe for Mary Ann's Golden Meatball Bake brought back a forgotten neighbor in Cleveland Heights, OH, who used to call me furtively, then we'd both sneak to the very back of our adjoining properties to share a pint of a new flavor of ice cream.  I think I will turn to my little box of memories more often.  There's my dad's famous marinated, grilled flank steak recipe with mushrooms, and Gloria's Smothered Pork Chops to try again.  Many of the recipe cards are, let's say, heavier on prose than measure, such as my mom's instruction to mix it to the consistency of "falling apart".  I knew exactly how it was supposed to look.

I am wondering how many of us use or even have these treasure troves -- if you do, do you use it?  Want to share a favorite?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bee Pollen Update.

It's been a week and a half since I started taking bee pollen on a daily basis.  Not one for anything in moderation, I jumped right in and have been taking a teaspoon a day, instead of starting with a few granules a day.   (Unfortunately, I have no hope of redemption on this aspect of my life - it's hardwired into me since childhood.)  It's been interesting to note how adding pollen to my life has impacted me.

The first few days, I ended up so completely tired and drained of energy, that all I wanted to do was to curl in a ball and sleep a few months.  I recognized the feeling - my immune system was in high gear, battling the foreign particles that had invaded my body, much like the outbreak of allergy season.  Gradually, though, I have ended up feeling very energetic by the afternoon.  This is entirely NOT like me.  I am a morning person and my most active period of the day is from 4 a.m. to about 12 p.m.  Then it's all downhill.  Not lately.  I have actually been filing (GASP) this afternoon.  I am starting to think that this bee pollen business is pretty great.  I am going to up the dosage after two weeks by about twice as much a quarter teaspoon to see what develops.  I am aiming for a tablespoon a day.  I may experiment with dropping my Vitamin D along the line to see if that impacts my energy level.  Since we are still only getting about two hours of sun a week, there continues to be a battle between me vs. S.A.D.  We're tied at present.  If I have enough energy tonight, I believe I will start knitting sweaters for lambies.  I better knit fast, no?

....and waiting.

I doubt if I will have to wait much longer.  How do I know that lambing is imminent?  Because it has been snowing since 7 this morning, and the entire week looks like crapola.  That's a sure sign that everyone will go into labor.  Sigh.  I even took my camera out this morning in order to get pics of the QE2s, but it was snowing too hard to get a good shot. 

Jasmine isn't cooperating, either, and she's in a nice, warm barn.  Geezlooeez.  I am hoping that the snow changes to rain, as predicted, so I don't have as much 'fun' on my trip home tonight.  Stay tuned.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Seems like I have been doing a lot of waiting lately - and it's not over yet. 

I'm still waiting for Spring ~ but the circle of earth around the big pine tree in my front yard is growing by the day.  More and more of my raised beds are appearing in the snow.  There is the slightest hint of buds on the forsythia bush.  I heard a red winged blackbird.  The Canada geese are back, as are the mourning doves.  Everyone that's been around all Winter has changed their tune to the top ten Spring song hits.

I'm waiting for Jasmine to freshen ~ I visit every morning and scratch her ears, chin, neck and face.  She's really bagged up and looks uncomfortable.  Her due date is the 20th.  The farmer has promised to call me the moment she calves.  We are hoping for a heifer.

I'm waiting for lambs ~ It will be a toss-up as to who goes first: Freyda or Flora.  Freyda spends more and more time gazing distractedly off into the distance.  Both ewes resemble the QE2 on little stick legs.  Kay continues to visit every day.  I sit in my office by my phone.

I feel like an expectant father.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring Cleaning - or Kill the Klutter!

I think that, in my case, spring cleaning is too benign a term for what needs doing.  I think that "Kill the Klutter" is my new motto.  A more aggressive, take-no-captives approach to five years of denial.  As a matter of fact, I may just have a t-shirt made up.  Whoa~that means adding something to the household. 

As I am working to KTK, I have put things in piles.  These, of course, are different than the piles I'm attempting to kill.  I have a giant bag for Goodwill - clothes only.  Then there is a large box for Goodwill - knick-knacks, doodads, pointy things, heavy things.  Then there is the recycling bag for papers.  Then there is the craigslist pile.  I put things on craigslist that are free and offered for sale.  I used to use freecycle but had so many problems with rude, lazy people that I gave up.  Not that I haven't had problems with craigslist. 

I posted the following things on craigslist recently:  dvd player (free - it's very inexpensive, non-fancy and I said so).  I got 5 emails in response.  3 wanted pictures, 1 wanted a warranty, 1 wanted to know where my town was located, 1 said she lived close and could pick it up right away.  Guess who got it?  I also posted a Ryobi cordless chainsaw with charger for free.  I was flooded with email.  The majority offered me long, involved stories of why they should have it.  And most of them lived anywhere from an hour to two hours away and wanted me to deliver it.  A couple offered me a bribe of $5 - and also wanted me to deliver it.  I picked the most reasonable response from someone who lived reasonably close.  Whether he arrives is anyone's guess.  But the response that really drives me over the edge are the people who want to know where your town is located, you tell them, you go through days of back and forth emails working out a schedule, then they inform you a week later that it's too far.  Now, these people obviously have access to a computer - they are emailing you, after all.  So, what?  They can't Google my town?  The last one got a link to a Google map as a response.

All done.  There, I feel better.  Thank you for listening.

As for the klutter - I am making headway.  I have not forgotten my closet.  But I have come to realize that I must be suffering from AADD, because I cannot make myself stay in one spot for more than a half hour.  I am tackling it in sections and that seems to work for me.  I did take "before" pictures so....when I finally have an "after" picture, I will post it - warts and all.  Spring must be coming - I heard my first Red Winged Blackbird this morning!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Importance of Networking.

Last week I attended a presentation at a neighboring town's library by a Community Fund, based in Albany.  I had heard a great deal about groups like this - a good, local source of both training and funding for small businesses.  The small room was packed with people from youngsters to oldsters.  The trio who presented the information were relaxed, well-informed, and well-spoken.  They teased questions from the audience - as I'm sure a lot of you know, small town, rural folks tend to be less inclined to speaking than they are to listening.  But the Fund people were very good at what they do, and before long, hands rose around the room and frustrations bubbled up about regulations, confusing terms, fear of business plans and red tape, the lack of good employees.  The Fund people encouraged discussion and made notes, their goal being to go back to their office and put together answers to our questions and needs. 

One of the themes that kept circulating around the room, was the need for a way to network with the many talented people in a community.  As everyone around the room introduced themselves, there appeared an accountant, a business plan writer, a lawyer, a handyman, a housecleaner, a school bus driver, a couple of farmers, a family with entrepreneurial sons, a mechanic.  It was clear that there is a need for a venue for networking in the community.

That got me thinking (and talking to Mel, who attended with me) about how great it would be to form a network of farming/homesteading women as a resource to all.  There are so many smart, creative women out here that know so much - have worked out all the kinks and have found better ways to do things.  As is apparent from all the homesteading wannabes (myself included) and fledgling farmettes, this seems to be a trend that is gaining strength.  There is a lot of mis-information out there as well.  That is one of the drawbacks of trends.  When something is hot, everyone wants in on it and pretty soon the market is flooded with books and blogs and t-shirts from people who can sure market themselves, but don't have the sense to come in out of the rain.  Or bring their livestock in either.

I am curious as to how many of you have had or have been mentors.  I am very lucky because I have smart, creative friends who have had a headstart on me and have been willing and generous with their knowledge.  What do you think about such a project - a network of farming women?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Bee Brave!

Last night our group of four (plus Bill....) graduated from our beekeeping course.  It was a mixed bag - the course, that is.  First and foremost, the Bennington County Beekeepers Club, Ltd. was a gracious and generous host.  These five classes were presented for free (you could join the club for $10 if you felt so inclined) and while there was quite a bit of wandering off-subject, there were many nuggets of wisdom offered by beekeepers who have plied their trade for almost 70 years between them.  There was more information than one could absorb.  There were props.  There were powerpoint presentations.  There were free samples.  There were snacks!  And, best of all, there were 5 opportunities to network and meet other beekeepers.  We were even handed a certificate at the end of class!  I was truly sorry to see it end.

Some of the topics that generated a lot of interest were bee pollen and honey for health and bee venom therapy.  One of the presenters practices bee venom therapy and brought a few bees to class last night.  I happened to be having a great deal of trouble with my right hand.  Soooo....he stung me.  Rather, the bee he held in his tweezers stung me.  Of the myriad of woes afflicting my hand - arthritis, ganglion cyst, carpal tunnel - the carpal tunnel seems to be most painful right now.  So he placed the stinger right dead center over the carpal tunnel.  What happened?  After the pain somewhat subsided (and, truth be told, the intensity of the sting took my mind off the pain of the carpal tunnel ;o), lo and behold, it felt better.  But, even more amazing was that almost half of my ganglion cycst has disappeared!  I will try it again.  I am not allergic, and the discomfort of the sting and it's residual itchiness is a very small price to pay for relief.  It has also boosted my esteem for the sweet honey bee to epic proportions!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What I think about at 3 a.m.

"What if this winter doesn't end until June, and all four ewes have lambs in the sleet and I only have one - okay two - hoop houses to shelter them and the llama hogs one?"

A.  Flora and her twins can have the office (there's a foldout bed).  Cocoa and her twins can have the cats' room (it has the best light and carpeted furniture).  Juno and her lambs can have the guest room (best feng shui in the house).  Freyda and her lambs can have the laundry room (it's small, but I can knock out the wall adjoining the guest bath so they can have a shower).

B.  I'll buy an RV and they can live in it until summer.

C.  I can reconfigure the hayport, fence off the hay bales, rig a half-door for light, plug in a heat lamp.

I like "C", but I would still have to dig out the gates and a pathway to the hayport, convince the ewes it's in their own best interest and they should quietly follow me in an orderly line when lambing time is near.

Maybe I'll check craigslist for an RV.  Do you think they'd take eggs in trade?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Sunday was a full day of rain.  It literally rained all day and most of the night.  This was followed by sleet, ice and snow.  Just a little farewell gesture by winter.  Let's hope it's a farewell gesture.  I have a very tall birch tree in the back near the sheep.  The ice brought it almost literally to its knees, if it had had any.  If you can see past the blue feeders on the fence, you will see the top of the tree on the ground.  It was amazing.  I am so glad this tree can bend without breaking - but I am hoping that the two days of a little warmer weather will melt all the ice and allow the tree to reach its graceful height again before the snow that's predicted for later in the week.  
If you biggify, you can see the top of the tree just past the blue feeders.
The sheep are pretty much oblivious, as long as there is hay available.  While putting out their mineral block this weekend, I was able to observe that two of the ewes are way ahead of where I thought they would be on the lambing front.  From the looks of it, Cocoa(nut) and Freyda will be lambing this month.  Eek.  I need to clean out the hoop house and de-llamafy it, but they spent all day Sunday and most of Monday all crammed in there.  Let's hope I have a chance this weekend.  Two years ago, when Flora and Cocoa(nut) lambed, they picked the coldest, rawest day of the month.  I am relieved that all four of them won't be lambing, one after the other.  I wonder if I can get maternity leave?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Family Treasures.

My Mother's Wedgewood Pattern.
     Growing up, one of the main reasons we looked forward to holiday meals was because it meant that the 'good china' would be used.  Food always tasted better when served on these beautiful dishes.  My mother picked out this pattern, along with her sterling silver flatware pattern and crystal glassware, as was the custom of brides in the 40s.  My parents painstakingly added bits and pieces as they had the extra money, and today there is a service for 8, along with some lovely serving pieces.  As time went on, the dishes were used less and less - they had to be washed by hand, no dishwasher please!  There were grandchildren, grandpets and all other potential causes for mishaps.  I am now the very, very lucky recipient of this set of china.  I don't have the grandchildren, but I do have the granddogs/cats, so every piece is safely ensconced in my hutch.  I like to use them whenever I can - although I don't use them for just me.  I recently served a very simple supper of soup, salad and crusty bread for my friend, Sylvie, and me.  I served it on the Wedgewood.  It was fabulous.  I wonder - do women have good china now?  Do they just use it for the odd family holiday?  My everyday dishes are a varied mish-mash of Bennington Potter seconds (read: wavy), and some pieces of lovely French china I picked up at a Goodwill for $2.  What do you serve your special meals on?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Look at me -- I'm a Bumble Bee!!

Meyers Lemon Tree

A little over a year ago, I splurged and bought a two-year old Meyers Lemon tree.  I love Meyers lemons and figured I could grow my own - one more step on my road to self-sufficiency.  These trees grow well in containers and I happened to have a nice, large pot that will be sufficient for the next five years.  I baby this tree like you wouldn't believe.  It enjoys a sunny vista near the sliding glass doors.  I hang a grow light over it from November through May.  It is misted every other day.  It is fertilized every month with special organic food made especially for citrus trees.  I water it diligently.  Last year it provided me with 7 large lemons!  This year, it has burst into bloom and I very carefully put on my bumble bee wings and, with a fine-haired paintbrush in hand, I flit from blossom to blossom and spread the pollen.  I am hoping for an even bigger crop this year! 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Question for You Canners.

In my efforts to eat out of my pantry/freezer, I delved into a jar of hamburger dill pickles that I made this past summer.  The smells of dill and garlic were wonderful, they looked perfect, they were....completely soggy.  I have made other types of pickles and they survived the canning process just fine.  What do you think happened with these?  Were they cut too thin?  Processed too long?  They taste just fine, but there is nothing more depressing than a soggy slice of pickle.  How fortuitous that I found this recipe in my email box:  Polish Dill Pickle Soup!  Hmmm.  I have about 12 pints of hamburger dill pickles.  How many bowls of Polish Dill Pickle Soup can I eat?

More on thrumming.

The basic 'ingredients'.

The photographs aren't the greatest, but I hope you can get the general idea.  Melanie should be the one showing how this is done, because I saw her thrummed mitten and it was awesome!  Can we all ask Melanie to oblige?  Melanie?  Are you reading this?  Please don't let the rest of the world think that this is the only way to thrum a mitten....

I found a tutorial that will give you a better (read: neater) view of thrumming mittens.  I did not use roving, as I had all those nice, lanolin-y bits from Flora to use.  With lots of fiber (vegetable matter) thrown in for free!  I tend to perversely NOT like symmetry.  I think this is a hold-out from the very contrary kid that I have always been.  In any event, this mitten will not only be w.a.r.m, but it will add lanolin to my dry skin.  Who could ask for more?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I've been thrumming.

Don't you love that word?  It sounds like something you would do, standing out on your deck in the sunlight.  I had never heard of it before Melanie introduced me to thrummed mittens.  The answer to my cold-hand prayers.  So, armed with a nice wool worsted yarn from Webs, and a bag full of Flora's lanolin-laden fleece trimmings, I have been knitting away in the wee morning hours.  I have one done except for the thumb, and will start on the second one tomorrow morning.  I'll post pictures of my progress.  I am hoping that, like washing your car, knitting thrummed mittens will ensure that the temperature will rise and the snow will melt!  Dream on!