Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good Manners.

I recently received a thank-you note in the mail.  A hand-written thank-you note, thank you very much!  Okay, hand-written is a stretch.  It is more hand-drawn.  And it is from my favorite 3-year-old, Zuzu.  She is the older sister of Ramona, who now has three of my Shush Bunnies and is their biggest fan.  Zuzu was rather crestfallen when she did not find a pink Shush Bunny with her name on it.  So, I sent her one.  And she, in turn, sent me a thank-you note.

Zuzu's mother, Julie,  (an earlier link didn't work - so I've re-linked to her blog.  She's amazing.) always sends me a thank-you note on a creative card for any small thing I do.  Her mother, Sylvie, is also as thoughtful.   Seeing a pattern?  My friend, Maggie, also sends a lovely note of thanks, sometimes for no special reason.  Her daugher sent me a thank you note for her wedding present before the wedding!  My mother always insisted that we send thank-you notes for any gift or thoughtful gesture of which we were the recipients.  I will admit that I've become rather, er, loosey-goosey about the promptness of my thank-yous.  I see now why she insisted that we sit down the same day we received the gift to write our notes, even on Christmas.  This seems especially important now that I tend to forget my name by mid-morning.

I did not, unfortunately, have children upon which I could pass down this morsel of good manners.  My youngest sister's son was diligent about thanking me for any and every thing I sent or did.  Until he hit college age, that is, and got sucked into the whirlwind of social activities, studies, etc. that goes with it.  That is fine, as my cut-off date in birthday present giving is 21.  My other nephew and niece rarely, if ever, acknowledged a gift.  And that is not because my sister did not try to impress upon them the importance of the act.  Needless to say, after no acknowledgements, no gifts were forthcoming.

I realize I come from a different point in time.  I am from the time before computers, cell phones, email, and instant gratification.  (Geez.  Also before fax machines, microwaves -- BUT waaay after the Ice Age, in my own defense.)  Having good manners made communicating with strangers easier for a shy kid.  People were kinder.  And then there is the matter of the written communication.  And I am not talking email.  When you take the time to sit down with pen and paper, your thoughts are more, well, polished.  You don't run the risk of firing off something in haste - or in anger - then hitting the send button without stopping to consider what you've written.  When you actually have to write it, word by word, it gives you time to think about the person, what you are feeling, and puts a virtual deep breath between writing something potentially hurtful and actually sending it.

Good manners = kindness = compassion = a very good thing.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


(You should pardon the pun.)  While it is still raining like crazy, we did not get the wind speeds they had originally predicted.  There is a lot of flooding around us and some of the local towns have declared an emergency.  Bernie is firmly fixed under my bed -- she held up pretty well until the rolling thunder.  Then it was too much for her.  I don't know how much rain we've had - but it's been coming down hard and heavy since 1:30ish this morning - with a very slight lull of about 5 minutes around 7a.

I've managed to finish a book (unheard of!) and get some tomato sauce on the stove.  In case we had lost power which, knock on my wooden head, we have not, I had dinner slow cooking.  I even got some sewing done and some knitting as well.  Now I am ready to go out and see what there is to see.  I am not good at sitting, no matter how much I have to do inside.  That's what winter's for, right?

During the height of the wind/rain, I ran out to close the coop window and could hear the little brook down below the property line roaring like it was the Mississippi.  I am hoping that the rain lets up enough that I can go down the road to take a look at it.  I know the ducks are very anxious to get out and dabble through the massive puddles.  The llama keeps sticking his nose out of the hoop house to see if the rain is letting up.

I am very, very thankful that we had less damage than they predicted.  There is nothing worse than that helpless feeling you have when you can't guarantee all your "dependents" will be safe.  I was so sorry to hear about the deaths caused by the storm and count my blessings often.  My youngest sister managed to get out of NYC yesterday morning, so I know she's safe on the west coast.  My middle sister is vacationing on the coast of Maine, so there's still one to worry about.  Other than two fairly short power outages, my parents are doing fine in VT - except their cable is down, tantamount to the end of the world.  They'll manage.

Thank you all for your good thoughts and wishes.  I love my blog family!

Oh, boy!

Here we go!  I managed to get every one of my to-do's checked off and everything that's battenable (word?) is battened.  The only real fun is going to be getting out to the barn to throw some hay at the sheep and goats.  They may be a little hungry today. 

I think it's inevitable that we will be without power.  It takes a lot less than Irene to shut everything down.  So I won't be posting again until a) the power is restored, or (more likely) I do it from my office -- if THEY have power tomorrow!

See ya soon!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Me, Myself and Irene - No Love Story.

Sorry!  I just HAD to say it.  I've been following her progression and all her changes since yesterday.  It looks like the storm has dropped in intensity - although, I am not sure what the BIG deal is about a drop of a mere 5 mph when we're talking about 100 mph - and her route has shifted slightly to the east.  This all means (to me) that the timetable for preparedness is now shorter, even though the effects of the storm should be less than first predicted. 

I have, inevitably, made a list.  (Waiting for the sound of bodies dropping in a faint of surprise.)  It is fairly detailed and starts at one end of the property and works around in a circle.  I thought you might all find this hilarious interesting.  First and foremost, stowing all the smaller, loose objects.  Even if our winds only hit around 40 mph, a missed step-in post can do a lot of damage to, say, car windows.  Overlooked poultry netting can get caught in hooves.  Feed bins not lashed down and weighted, can blow over and precious feed (KACHING) will be ruined in the rain.  I am including putting a board over the shed window - the plastic that replaced the previously broken glass won't hold up to much, and there's not much sense in putting something in a structure to protect it, when it will get rained on.

I am also going to take the opportunity to coil hoses, bungee cord my grill and trash cans to the deck, and bring in my precious Meyer Lemon tree.  I am also going to remove the screen off the sliding glass door and stow it in the shed.  I know how much it costs to replace, and don't want to add that expense to everything else.  I've got 10 gals of potable water inside, my Berkey filter reservoir is full.  I'm going to pick up ice tomorrow and put necessary things in the cooler, so I can stay out of the fridge when the power goes off.

I'm going to finish tarping the baled hay in the barn - it is not water tight, and I don't want to lose any bales.  If I have time (haha) I might take the added precaution and make a little tepee inside the barn for the goats.   They are in a pretty sheltered spot, but it may be less traumatic to have a smaller, secure area in which to cuddle up.  I don't think I'll have to worry about filling waterers, given the forecast for inches of rain.  If it wasn't going to blow so hard, I'd set up my water barrel.  I may try to do that anyway.

The oil lamps are filled, with shades cleaned.  I have candles and matches at the ready.  I have both a battery-operated radio (note to self:  buy more batteries) and a hand cranked radio. On my list is to charge my cell phone; pick up cat food, poultry feed and dog food; and check the propane for my grill.  And, best of all, I have my doggies to keep me warm!  In a way, I do hope the storm hits earlier.  I would rather have the ability to assess damage Sunday, rather than wake to it on Monday.  That is NO way to start the week!

Signing off for now.  I'll post tomorrow if I get the chance.   If you are in Irene's path, I hope you are all safe and secure -- and well-prepared.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How many times have I told myself...

NOT to turn the hose on to fill waterers and walk away.  I NEVER. Never. never. remember to turn it off.  And with the days being reduced to 8 hours of daylight, my evening chores are crammed into minutes of daylight, rather than hours.  So, I woke up this morning, turned on the faucet and....nothing.  A dribble.  It was then I remembered I had not turned off the hose.  I let the dogs out and vaulted off the deck and around the corner of the house and turned off the hose.  As if that made one dang bit of difference, as it had been on ALL night.

I have stressed my well more times than I would like to admit.  Doing chores when you're tired, not to mention focus-challenged, can lead to disaster.  As I mumbled and grumbled and dragged out the water bottles to take up to the farm to fill, a tiny, dim light bulb started to form in my fevered brain.  Leon, my furnace guy cum plumber, had put in a trip switch so that, once the water level dropped below 10 lbs, it turned off the pump. Woot!  I scrambled into the crawl space and lifted the lever, praying all the while.  Pressure!  Water!  The well had not been stressed (too much)!  I was saved!

With all the dire warnings of Irene's little dance up the coast, our area may be in for some wind and torrential rains.  I believe in being ultra-ready for anything because, quite frankly, anything can happen these days.  I am going to be collecting and stowing any objects that might become dangerous weapons in the wind's hands.  I'm going to bungee the bejeebers out of all tarped structures.  I am going to hope a tree doesn't fall on anything important.  And I'm going to send my thoughts and prayers to everyone more directly in Irene's path.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shake, Rattle and Roll!

Okay, what's next, there, Ma Nature???  Plague of locusts?  Actually, we have about a zillion grasshoppers this year - many, many, many more than last year.  And the Ash Borers are munching their way across the state.  Geez.

The temblor that ran up the East Coast gave our office building a bit of a shake, but nothing very exciting.  If you've been through it before, that is.  The rest of the office building ran like rats off a sinking ship.  Honestly, it was not very exciting, other than it was MORE exciting than what I was doing at work yesterday.

I think the effects would have been more noticeable in the taller office buildings, as they really can shake by the time the movement works it's way up 30 floors!  Ours is only 7 floors, so it was a bit disappointing.  To me.

Not being home, I didn't have the advantage of the early dog/cat warning system.  They can always tell when something is about to happen.  Did anyone who felt the tremor notice any odd animal behaviour?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I've been thinking about recipes this morning - well, about food, which led me to recipes.  I think about food a lot.  Especially when I am on a diet or, in this case, trying out my non-gluten trial.  You know how it goes -- there is to be NO bread, wheat, fillers, etc., in your diet for six weeks and ALL you want are any and all of the former.  I thought I would try to come up with some recipes that would perk me up while allowing me to stay the course of this non-gluten trial. 

I trotted over to my kitchen island where I have a thick stack of recipes that have caught my fancy on the Internet.  Alot of them are from reading all of your blogs, and a lot of them are from Alana Kellogg's site.  I am especially drawn to vegetarian fare in the summer with its glut of fresh vegetables (read: zucchini).  I also have a sizable cookbook collection.  And I have two recipe card boxes.  And I have a ring binder of mostly tried and true recipes.  And I have my Great Aunt Edie's ancient, falling-apart recipe book that is nearly a hundred years old.  Hmm.  Maybe, if I cooked my way through my recipe cards,  GAE's old binder, my binder, all my cookbooks, and all my printouts, then blogged about it, someone would make it into a movie!  Ah, but, by then, I'd be long gone.  Besides, who would they cast as me, now that Katherine Hepburn is long gone?

Back to subject.  When I opened my recipe card boxes and pulled out those dog-eared index cards and "From the Kitchen of" cards, it was so completely enjoyable!  I spent a good hour going through them, remembering people now long gone who had passed on their special dishes.  Remembering all the dinner parties and patio parties where I first tasted them.  It made me realize that the Age of Internet has really taken the sweetness out of savoring memories.  Got a dozen giant zucchinis in your fridge?  Google "zucchini recipes" and get a zillion hits in a nanosecond.  Or....leaf through the Vegetables section of your recipe box and find JaneAnn's Million Dollar Zucchini Cake.  I mean, really, which would you like to do?  I'm going through my print-outs to ferret out the recipes that I will actually try.  The rest will become scratch paper.  Then I am going to work my way through GAE's recipe binder - heaven help me, I'll probably have to go into a sterile environment and wear gloves, it's so fragile.  But there has to be SOMETHING in there I can eat!  Maybe Ruth's Divine Luncheon Salad?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Three out of four ain't bad.

I am happy to announce that the rabbit cage buyer drove an hour and a half and bought all the cages!  My three lambs left for their new home yesterday afternoon and, Miguel is a mere memory and a bare patch on the driveway.  The Duck Guy did not show.  Nor did he call.  I am secretly hoping that he will email me again (with some "woe is me" tale) so I can tell him what I think of his lack of respect for my time.

As far as work on the LISTx3, I managed to clean out the goats' house and do a little cleaning of my house.  That was in between downpours and thunderstorms.  The forecast had been for a "slight" chance in the afternoon.  The sky opened up shortly after I had hung out the wash.  I am pretty happy with all I got done and will take a crack at a few other items during the week, as time and weather allow.  My neighbor is going to assess whether it is possible to move my lattice house (sans the lattice) into the sheep's area for more shelter this winter.  That would not only save me time but money.  Both of which are in short supply!  With the frame already finished, I would only have to roof and side it.

I was VERY surprised at the lack of reaction by the ewes to the departure of their lambs.  I am sure that some of that was due to the fact that I threw a load of hay at them immediately after the lambs left.  Without Juni standing on the hay wagon, it was easier to get at the good bits.  And is it sure is blissfully more quiet without Hazel.  She was always the first to let go with the lamb alarm, setting off the rest.  I do miss Juni's funny little blaatting and his sweet little face looking up for treats.  There was no crying for babes last night, and no crying for babes this morning.  I think the weaning process was complete.

My Chinese Red Beans are finally growing!  I will get a picture or two tonight.  I have left the Navajo Trail of Tears beans to dry on the vine, and I am almost finished with the Kentucky Wonders.  I am beaned-out.  Now, if the gosh-darn zucchini would call it quits, I could clean out that bed and concentrate on drying the Swiss Chard.  I need to prepare one end of the covered bed for kale and spinach planting.  I'm curious to see if it will be as successful as last year's accidental planting!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I am not a fan of weddings, as weddings go.  I feel that all that money spent on caterers, flowers, parties, booze, etc. could go into buying a nice piece of land with a house and a barn.  But that's just my bias.  I attended a wedding on Saturday that was so beautiful and loving, that it made me happy that I had jumped into my party clothes and made the trip.  The wedding couple, C and S, have been together for a while.  They have had their ups and downs, but the relationship held together and love grew stronger.  C is the daughter of a very dear friend.  She is a beautiful young woman, smart and sassy, sweet and tender. 

The wedding was held on the grounds of the Darrow School, the site of one of the oldest Shaker settlements in the area.  The day was a rarefied one, the views were breath-taking.  The guests were a mix of young and old, from infants to a few nonagenarians.  Friends and family were involved in every process - an aunt made the cake, a friend forged their rings.  Love flowed -- you could almost put your hand out and touch it.  The bride, accompanied by both her parents, was piped in.  That, of course, had me weeping in the pews.  My friend, M, a writer and poet, read a poem she wrote for her daughter.  I think it took everything C had to keep from bawling.  I didn't need restraint, so I bawled.  Thank goodness my pew-mate had tissues.

I didn't get to stay for the dancing - there were sheep, dogs, and goats to feed and chickens to lock up for the night.  But I had a marvelous time and met some completely outstanding women from New Mexico (M lived there for many years) who, I am sure, added some whee-ha to the party!

Here are a few pictures.

M with the ring bearer and brother.

Directions to all the important places.

Breathtaking vistas.
Hank, the Best Dog, watching C approach.

The bride and family

M taking it all in.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Not so much Comings, as Goings.

Hasta la vista, Miguel.
Thursday evening, as I paced and fumed waited patiently for someone who never showed up, I took the time to look over the "grounds" and took a good look at Miguel.  You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned Miguel much.  After going through the winter with a nice 6-foot coat of snow, he fired right up this spring.  Then the tires kept going flat, then the battery connections got covered with acid stuff, then the mice invaded, then he wouldn't start.  I had thought about selling it to someone with car knowledge but, upon closer inspection of the incredibly rusted frame, I decided that if I was too afraid to drive him, I sure shouldn't sell him to someone else to drive.  I had loaded his bed in the spring with the last of the junk that had been bequeathed to me by the previous owners when the tire thing happened.  Then he wouldn't start.  So, there he sat, listing to port, rear view mirrors wrapped in feedbags to ward off the evil red bird, old bits of cages, broken glass, old mailboxes, broken hive frames poking out of his bed, parked in the driveway. "Cripe," I thought.  "This is a scene from the Beverly Hillbillies, without the Beverly".

Not ten minutes later, the dog alarm went off and a car pulled into the driveway.  Thinking it was the ingrate who was supposed to come look at my ducks, I approached the guy in a less-than-friendly manner.  Turns out, he was a neighbor who buys scrap metal and had spotted Miguel.  After about a half hour (mostly filled with detailed recounts of his entire life including ex-wives), we had a deal and Miguel (and most of the junk) will be leaving Sunday.  Sunday may also be the day the lambs leave.  And, if the idiot who wanted the ducks actually comes through and shows up, two of the ducks will be heading out as well. 

I am looking at this as an opportunity to spruce the place up a bit.  If time and weather allows, I will wash down the front of the house and rid it of it's mold coating.  I might even weed around the currants and mulch them.  I might even vacuum out my car.  Whoa, there!  I do find it difficult to balance all the animal needs/work with other things that need to be dealt with - home repairs, car cleaning, weeding, planting, etc.  But I do feel I need to work on gaining more of a balance.  I need someone to organize me -- Erin!!!  Sylvie!!!  Putting on my big girl panties, I have decided to take myself in hand and make three lists.  One will be animal-related (coop - still not finished; etc.), the second being house-related (mold, remove Christmas lights left by last owners), and car (vacuum, clean upholstery).  Then I will, each week, try to knock one thing off each list.  I will have to try and further balance the workload by breaking the major jobs into steps, and knocking off a step each week.  Am I over-thinking this?  Am I doomed to fail?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Get along, little lambies.

Yessiree, three of the little squirts will be heading to lush new fields (we are keeping this news from those who are left behind) either Sunday or next weekend.  Although I did end up parting with a lamb that I had intended to keep (Juni), I am happy that they will have a good home and even happier that I will have three less mouths to feed!  Their new home is a large (70 acre) reclaimed horse farm a couple of hours from here.  They wanted Juni because he is the only ram lamb that wasn't wethered and they want to breed Icelandics.  I will miss his knobby little head and funny blat-blat voice.  But I WILL NOT miss Hazel's glass-shattering baas!  I figure, with 70 acres, they won't notice what a bigmouth she is.... Ah, but I am sure it will be very noisy for a time after their departure. 

The ducks may be going to a new home as well, as soon as the person who answered my ad and I get our connections connected.  Things are settling well towards winter.  I aim to make my life a little more streamlined this year. 

The last of the corn went into the canner this morning!!!  Yowsah!  Just as I was about to pat myself on the back and put my canner away, I discovered a ton o' beans on the vines.  Looks like there is still some canning in my immediate future.  At least the canning time is a lot less.  My poor dogs haven't been on a nice long walk all week - I don't ever leave my pressure canner unattended for more than 15-20 mins.  I have permission to walk the perimeter of my neighbor's field with the dogs so, if it doesn't rain Sunday morning, I will make it up to them.  It is a very LARGE field and I am sure there are lots of interesting things to see (and smell), so they will be very happy dogs.

Today I am wearing a skirt.  I am adding this to shock my friends.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Well, Shush my Bunny!

I have been working on a little crafty-type thing to put on my Etsy site.  These have been very popular with the grand-daughters of friends, so I'm working on a mess of them.

Lying down on the job.
Introducing the Shush Bunnies!  They are made from flannel (or terry) and lightly stuffed with lavender buds and polyfill.  While their main purpose is to provide a sweet, soothing sleep companion for you on your pillow, they also tend to become the boon companions of small people, and are dragged around until they are soft, flat little rags.  Once I get more of them made, I will link to my Etsy site.  (Nothing like some good, old-fashioned and blatant self-promotion.)  I used to try to make the faces all the same, but that rarely worked.  My sewing skills are different from early morning to night.  But it gives them each their own 'look'.  I am also working on another crafty-type thing but that, my dears, is at the polar opposite end of the degree of difficulty scale.  It will be a while before I post a picture of it.

So far, I've canned 11 pints and 3 quarts of corn, and have one more batch to process.  Preparing the corn in the evening, then canning it in the morning has been successful so far.  But I will be happy to see the last ear of those 4+ dozen safely in a jar.  Tonight I am meeting a prospective lamb-buyer at the homestead.  Please cross your collective toes and fingers.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Life as a Country Western Song.

(All together now) "Oh, I'm a drivin' down the mountain with my front wheel comin' off!"

Given that I drive an older model car and have driven it for many miles (just passed 180,000), I am very tuned-in to it's little squeaks, grunts, bangs, and other noises.  This morning on my way UP the mountain, I detected a different sound - a sort of quiet 'thump, thump'.  Hmmm. It was just barely detectable and I was thinking that I ought to stop at my garage and have them look at the wheel.

Then, I was coming DOWN the mountain and the volume turned up.  And got louder with a definite metallic quality to it.  By then I was running through what I thought it might be and how serious it was, and if I could make it to the garage.  Then I was praying and inching along and finally (and fittingly) was able to pull into the parking lot of a church's community center.  I called the garage and they sent someone out.  Did I mention it was pouring rain, too? 

He turned the wheel, looked at it with a flashlight, then grasped the wheel and... it almost came off!  The lug nuts were so loose they were within millimeters of coming off.  Holy Crap! (as Kayten would say).  He tightened them up and followed me to the garage.  Where the verdict was that they were old and worn out.  Well, aren't we all?  Speaking for myself, of course, especially after that drive.  They replaced all of the lug nuts with shiny new (read: expensive) ones.

I am wondering if, just by some odd chance, it was because they were not tightened all the way after my last visit three weeks ago?

"Oh, I'm a drivin' myself on new lug nuts, straight into the poorhouse, m'dear."

The end.

Monday, August 15, 2011

This is fun!

Thank you for the idea, Carolyn  - I love haiku(ing) 'tho I wouldn't quit my day job...

Chickens lay few eggs
Must I send in a masseuse
walk on chicken backs

Family fun is not
birthday full of miffs and sniffs
orphan status optional?

Beans and greens get cut
Pressure not just in canner
Ears coming out my ears

Although rain threatened all day yesterday, it didn't fall in earnest until last night and into this morning.  Thankfully (this is Scrappy talking) there was a let-up just as I let them out in the yard.  As soon as they came in, it started up again.  After a weekend of everything out-of-sync, it was a nice feeling to be in rhythm with nature again for, even as I am Princess DeNial, daughter of the Queen of DeNial, I am facing up to the fact that I may be gluten intolerant.  And, even though I am facing up to it, I have already worked out in my fevered mind ways of sneaking in bits of the bread I love.  Cripe.  Isn't it funny how, when you know you can. not. have. bread/chocolate/dairy/etc.  it becomes the only thing you want?

I noted in my daily egg-laying journal, my hens have produced 8 eggs every day for the past four days.  I would be thrilled with this if I had 8 hens.  But I have over 20.  So, I am not thrilled.  I've checked them for parasites, I've upped their feed rations, I've cleaned their nesting boxes out every other day.  Ergo, the masseuse crack.  Heads will roll if the eggs don't.

I did a lot of pressure canning over the weekend - 12 pints of green beans, 6 pints and a quart of mixed vegetables, with 3.6 dozen ears of corn to go.  I also dried six zucchini squash, four yellow squash and a large bunch of Swiss chard.  I doubt if this will end anytime soon, as the beans, squash and chard are going gangbusters.  Wish I could say the same for the tomatoes.  Plenty of fruit on those miserable plants, but not a blush of color on most of them.  My next indoor project is to catalogue my canned goods.  While I can feel the first stirrings of tomato-mania in my heart, I need to come to grips with what I already have.  I need to battle the seasonal "Channeling of the Prairie Housewife" (the one with a family of 8).  I may need an intervention.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"I want my Grandmother's vegetables!"

or "What happens when you fiddle around with Nature".  Somehow, I wasn't really surprised when I read an article today that reported that the handful of green beans my mother was eating in 1950 had 43% more calcium than the handful of green beans I am eating today.  And less flavor, apparently.  (I had not yet appeared on the earth to eat said green beans.)  All those carefully developed high-production crops have given us lots and lots of bland, less nutritious food. 

I am completely flummoxed by our (as a society) inability to catch on to the "more is not more" reality of food, clothing, gadgets, appliances, cars, you name it.  I tell you, if everyone was forced to live with all their trash, you'd see a new dawning of the "use it up, wear it out, make it do" motto.  Imagine a world where mothers couldn't toss disposable diapers into the trash.  There would be quite a few cloth diapers hanging on the line.  We are such a throw-away country, that it's not going to be easy to turn it in the right direction.

So, hurray for us'ns who plant gardens with heritage, non-hybrid vegetables.  And hurray for all those mothers who suck it up and wash diapers. 

I will now get off my soapbox and eat my heritage beans (am currently enjoying a large crop of Navajo Trail of Tears).  What heritage and non-hybrid seeds have you planted in your gardens with success?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I'll take a case of black pins, please.

While most people bring me t-shirts from their travels (they know I never go anywhere and feel sorry for me), one of my 'bosses' thinks outside of the box.  She recently went to a conference in New Orleans and brought me this:

 I apologize for the poor quality of the photograph, as it was taken with my phone.  It is a Voodoo doll.  Complete with one White Pin (Good Wishes for friends) and one Black Pin (Evil Wishes for non-friends).  I have pinned it up (with neutral green and yellow tacks) near my computer.  I feel humbled by the power that has been handed me.  Her youngest daughter, G, who draws me pictures and entertains me no-end when she's in the office, was quite upset that her mother was giving me this powerful totem of good and evil.  I had to call her to tell her that I was okay and that I was only going to use it as a decoration.  Mwwwahahaha.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

All the signs are there.

I am definitely NOT a night owl.  I am a rooster.  Well, a female rooster.  You know what I mean.  I have a list (what a surprise, right?) at which, lately, I have not been chipping away.  Last night I realized it was because I have been waiting until I am home from work to do most of the chipping-away-at.  I pull in my driveway around 6:30 every night.  After I push my way through the happy dogs, I let them out, setting off the sheep alarm.  Then back in we go; I change into barn clothes, feed the dogs, collect the (puny) eggs while checking on the poultry; then off to the goaties I go, setting off the goatie alarm.  I give them their grain ration, then grab the wagon and head for the hay. I drop hay into the goats' hay crate, then schlep the hay and grain ration to the sheep.  Toss hay onto the feeder, try to sneak in to dump their grain (never, ever get away with it), get mobbed, feed them, stagger out of the gate, check the water levels, and go back inside.  Then I take the dogs for a short walk.  Then I collapse in a heap and forget all about my list and want only a nice cuppa and a Murder She Wrote episode on my DVD player. 

Compare my morning:

Bounce-ish out of bed at 4a.  Let dogs out with "No Barking!" warning.  They ignore this and race off the deck to defend the chicken yard from whatever.  Turn lights on, turn radio on, make coffee.  Check email.  Slice zucchini and put in dehydrator.  Heat milk for yogurt.  Cut out flannel Shush Bunnies (soon to appear on my etsy site).  Let dogs in.  Write a letter.  Change into barn clothes and feed dogs and cats, and police the litter boxes.  Take dogs for long walk.  Eat breakfast.  Pack lunch.  Feed and water chickens and ducks.  Let goaties out and give morning grain and hay rations.  Hay and water sheep (notice, I do not "schlep" in the morning?  I have a spring to my step).  Back inside to set up the ironing board and iron enough clothes to tide me over the week.  Get dressed for work and out the door I go.  Drive to feed mill and pick up poultry and sheep feed.  Drive to work.

I find that I spend a lot of time in the evening thinking about the time I waste sleeping.  I need to work on that mindset if I am going to continue my mornings with a spring in my step. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

Ah, for a cat's life...

Kramer catching some zzzs.

Boy, oh, boy, do I wish I could sleep that soundly!  I am always so amazed when I watch my cats.  They can go from the complete collapse pictured above to supersonic, low-flying mode across the back of the couch in about a nanosecond.  They take leisurely baths - with particular attention to inner ears, face and top of head, thanks to a buddy.  Of course, this then usually leads to biting and rassling.  They can spot a small, loose item from six miles and pounce on it.  It is usually a heavy, LOUD object that is whapped across the wood floor in the early hours of the morning.

If you have any doubt as to whether an object is safe from cats, it is not.  They can read your mind.  They have their dog-terrorizing routine down to a hairsbreadth of getting caught by said dog.  They are the reason tear-proof screening was invented.

They are infinitely interesting and entertaining.  I want to be my cats.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Zucchini Kind of Weekend

I fall victim to zucchini longing every single summer.  I can.not.wait for the first one.  But, there is never just ONE.  Not to mention well-intentioned neighbors who slip giant squash in my mailbox.  So, I decided to tackle some of the larger zukes this weekend.

Zucchini Boats

Stuffed with ground pork, onion, garlic and (something I have a lot of) chopped Swiss chard.  I also managed to top it with cheddar cheese, just because I could.  Delish.

Zucchini Fritters

I was inspired by Carolyn at Krazo Acres and yep - they are tasty!  I have had them for breakfast, lunch and look out dinner!

Summer Squash Casserole

This is a summer stand-by. I made this to take to my friend Els' commemorative gathering this afternoon. As it involves an entire bag of herb stuffing/dressing (depending on where y'all are from) and a stick of melted butter, how bad could it be?

Next Up

Friday, August 5, 2011

An Apple a Day...

can be bad for your health - if you're a groundhog!  All year long, it's been one thing after another with my chickens.  There was the usual winter slow down on egg production (boosted once in a while when I put a 60W bulb in the coop for heat on the coldest days); then there were the first batch of broody hens (who always -- always -- hunker down in the primo nesting boxes); then it was too hot.  Now we're back to THREE broody hens in the -- you guessed it! -- primo nesting boxes.  I've been yanking them out every morning and every afternoon, so we are about down to one and a half broody hens.  The latest wrinkle?  A young groundhog has been waddling in and eating all the chicken feed on the floor of the coop.  This has caused quite a ruckus in the coop, as the chickens are not fond of groundhog-y types of critters.  So they have been staying out of the coop.  That means they are not laying eggs, as my chickens are very regimented and only lay in the nesting boxes.

I've tried bombing what I thought was its tunnel.  Guess not, as the little bugger was back chowing down 20 minutes after bombing.  I've tried blocking off it's access under the shed, but it just dug over, under or around whatever I put in front of it.  So I baited a box trap last night with a sliced apple and, this morning as I was harvesting some of my fingerling potatoes, I heard a clink.  It was an expensive breakfast for this fella.  He was excised from the farm this morning.

I sure hope this makes a difference in egg production.  And I hope this groundhog was an only child.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Local - What does it mean, exactly?

You all know how I feel about certain terms -- "baby" vegetables come to mind.  Another bugaboo is the loosey-goosey use of "local".  As soon as one of these terms gets hot, everyone and their Uncle Vanya is using it to describe their merchandise or produce.  According to the WSJ, Wal-Mart has jumped on the local bandwagon as well.   As soon as I read that, I thought, "oh-oh, local is going the way of organic."  Wal-Mart, it seems, is embracing local food for two reasons - they save on fossil fuel costs by limiting their shipping distances, and they are opening the door of a large new market with deep pockets.  This can be both good and bad for local farmers across the country.  Slipping under the sheets with Wal-Mart can be a double-edged sword.   As far as the new "local" fanaticsm, my personal feeling is that a lot of the local food embracers fall right off the wagon as soon as they realize that "local" means they can't get blueberries in January.  But, I digress.

Also discussed in the article was what "local" means to three food retailers who are also on the "local" bandwagon:

Safeway says it doesn't consider food locally grown if it takes more than an 8 hour drive from field to store.

Kroger defines locally grown very loosely.  It can mean grown in the same state, or within the same "region" of the country.

Supervalu varies from store to store.  Some of their stores call produce that comes from neighboring states "local".

I have a much tighter vision of "local" food.  My front yard, for instance.  Or my friend Marianne's greenhouse about twenty minutes away.  Since I live in an area of New York state that butts up against both Vermont and Massachusetts, is produce from those states local?

A local farm (approx. 10 miles from me) markets its sweet corn as "native" corn.  Some people I have talked to think they grow Indian corn.  Maybe "native" vegetables will be the next hot marketing term?

What is your definition of "local" produce/food/goods?  Is local food a fad?  Or are people finally getting it?

Monday, August 1, 2011

What??? It's Monday already???

A week of vacation has come and gone and what do I have to show for it?  I don't remember.  I did get a lot done, although not enough.  But I have come to the conclusion that I will never, ever get as much done as I want to, so what the heck. 

I dug up my Yukon Golds and have two plantings of fingerlings to go.  My onions remain disappointing.  My beans are in utter chaos.  My battle against Japanese beetles continues to wage every day.  My battle against technology seems to be waged every other day.  I got my back deck cleaned off and did some sizable weeding, although that is a battle I will not win this year.  I got more hay in the barn, got to spend a lovely afternoon listening to Haydn and Mahler on the lawn at Tanglewood.  Made Chicken Ballotine which would have been amazing, had I focused enough to see that I chose one of my age-unknown freezer chickens instead of a nice, tender Red.  I now have experienced real rubber chicken!

I made some headway on my farm plan, did some major reorganizing, and picked blueberries.  I spent time with girlfriends and watched episodes of The Closer in the middle of the afternoon.  I canned.  I baked.  I made cheese, yogurt and butter.  I relaxed.

Now I am back hard at it.  But feeling better able to rassle with whatever comes my way.  Hallelujah!