Thursday, June 27, 2013

Welcome to Panama, NY.

I don't know if there is actually a Panama, NY, but I feel as if I have been transported to sub-tropical-ness.  True to the calendar, summer arrived on schedule and we went from cool wetness to hot wetness.  Every day has brought high temperatures and high humidity, which culminate in strong thunderstorms.  This brings LOTS of rain, which cools us down to damp fog, which burns off when we repeat the process.  This has been every day for the past five or so days, to be continued into .... ? 

To get the full effect, biggify.
While my garden seems to love it, I am having a hard time keeping a running tie with the weeds.  And poor Bernice!  She was such a mess this morning, that she wouldn't eat breakfast, wouldn't take a treat, wouldn't even look at a dish of yogurt (her favorite - Greek).  I had to practically drag her out of the house this morning to prove that there were no looming Boomers.  She slunk down the road, tail wrapped up under her belly.  I imagine that anyone driving by thought I had beaten her.  Sigh.  Scrappy can barely go two steps without trying to eat the numerous deer flies that attack us.  We are not a happy crowd of three, straggling down the road.

My home computer is pretty much dead and my work computer contracted a virus.  Ergo the silence.  I finally decided to put the Blogger app on my phone so I will be able to post if desperate.  Don't expect Melville when I have to tap it all out with my fat finger.

With the weather we've had, every thing is in super-blossom mode.  My peonies are more abundant and beautiful than they have been in the seven years I've lived here.  I rescued this bunch after they were knocked flat by another downpour.  They remind me of exotic, feathered birds.

I hope to have more pix soon - if the rains ever stop long enough for me to focus.  And, yes, I wish I could send most of this wetness to those of you suffering through drought.  I dream of a time when everyone gets just enough of everything they want and need.  Wouldn't that be loverly?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Monday Musings.

I have come to realize that I approach knitting  the same way I approach my life - only loosely configured around the pattern, full-steam ahead, almost always with mistakes at the start.  I then consider the mistakes good learning experiences, but don't fix them.  In knitting, it's usually too far to go back; in life it's too late.

I'm finding more and more people on the road who seem to be navigating through short bursts of consciousness -- "OH, right.  I'm driving a car!"  No doubt texting.  That's when I realize how different I am from a, say, 20 y/o.  If I were to text while driving I would a) have to find my glasses; b) slip my iPhone out of its knitted case; c) try to only hit one key with my fat finger; d) you get the picture.  It's not happening.  As my friend, Marty, used to say -- "I may be nuts, but I'm not crazy."

Roadside monuments that commemorate the sites where loved ones have lost their lives, tend to say so much about the person.  Kay's is so beautiful, I can't stop yet, as it makes me cry when I see it.  Then there are the young men whose monuments show tattooed visages, draped with beer cans and notes.  I don't know that it's a great idea to memorialize death by drunk driving.  The utility truck driver who lost his life at the bottom of the mountain near me has a large, hand-made wooden cross with his name burned into it.  It is not temporary - it's an installation.  He must have been a pretty great guy. 

The older I get, the less interested I am in rekindling links with distant relatives (distant in both the figurative and literal sense).  This could have something to do with the fact that their visits are usually on weekends, which, as most of you will agree, are sacred.  I am so far behind, I can see myself coming and going.  It's getting to the point where the only reason I would leave the homestead on a Saturday/Sunday is if Raul Julia came back just to see me.  Hubba hubba.  I believe I'm safe there.

I'm having a terrible time making up my mind about the goats.  I do NOT want four goats.  I will gladly usher Sage to a new home (bon voyage and good luck - don't let the barn door hit you in the ass on the way out).  I was going to include Willo in the package, leaving a more manageable number of two - Uncle Chickie and Apple.  But then, yesterday morning, I went out to feed everyone and there were Willo and Apple, lying side by side, their tiny mouths working their tiny cuds.  So, now I'm back to just Sage hitting the exit door.

This year I am fussing with my garden much more than any previous year.  And I'm not sure why.  I circle it every morning and every evening, plucking weeds, giving encouragement to the potatoes and squash.  Cursing the chipmunks and the slugs (which I think are responsible for my sweet potato damage).  I feel that my garden is more important than it ever was before.  It helps me focus and makes me happy when I see things growing (could it be any more of a miracle - the amount of biomass in one tiny seed?)  I love my garden.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Muffins.

Here's the recipe, based on the Cappuccino Chocolate Chip Muffin recipe from Cooking Free.  It has, as always, been made 'mine'.


1-1/4 Cups Flour Blend*/**
1 Cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2/3 Cup packed light brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder (I have left this out in the past with no ill effects)
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules or espresso powder (ditto)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 Cup 2% milk (cow, rice or soy) - I used whole, raw cow's milk
1/2 Cup warm brewed coffee (110 degrees) - you could just use water;
              there is so much cocoa in this that you can hardly taste the coffee anyway...
1/4 Cup canola oil
2 large eggs (or 1/2 Cup silken tofu for vegan version)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 Cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 Cup finely chopped nuts of your choice
             (I did not add nuts.  I am weird about nuts.  I only like them by themselves.)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease 12-cup muffin pan (or use paper liners or, as I did, finally find a use for the silicone muffin liners that have been languishing, forgotten in your pantry.)

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, sugar, xanthan gum, gelatin, coffee granules, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda.  Add milk, coffee, oil, eggs, and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until thoroughly blended.  Gently stir in chips.

Divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (is this really possible?  I think not.)  Bake for 20-25 minutes until tops of muffins are very firm.  Remove from oven.  Cool out of pan so bottoms don't get soggy.  There is nothing worse than a soggy bottom.  Serve slightly warm.  Since these are gluten free, they have a very limited shelf life.  I hold out two - one for me and one to grow on - and cool, wrap and freeze the rest.

*Her flour mix is:  1.5 Cups sorghum flour; 1.5 Cups potato starch; 1 Cup tapioca flour; 1/2 Cup corn flour, almond flour, bean flour or chestnut flour.

**I use Gluten Free Mama's Almond Flour Mix or Coconut Flour Mix.  You could also use any other GF flour mix (Bob's) or, if you're not 'special' just use flour.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Comfort food that's kind to you.

Like most of us, I start searching the cupboards when I'm under stress.  In my life BGI (before gluten intolerance), I would head for the Mac 'n Cheese, or a Big Mac, or anything that included an unhealthy amount of fat, salt, cheese, and carbs.  It may not have eased the stress, but MAN oh MAN, it was tasty!  Now that I am trying to be kinder to myself - not to mention trying to maintain my weight loss - it's a little more frustrating to come up with something that will soothe my soul and tickle my tastebuds.  Good gawd.  That sounds like sappy advertising drivel. 

I have found two such sources of comfort+food.  I had found a great cookbook used online - Cooking Free by Carol Fenster - that contains gluten free recipes that are good.  I mean, really, really good!  One of those recipes is for chocolate muffins.  These muffins were easy to throw together, contained limited sugar (brown sugar) and were ultra-chocolaty (a full cup of cocoa powder).  I had originally made them for the barn crew, then tried one to make sure I wasn't going to poison them.  OMG.  I took half of the muffins off their plate and put them in the freezer.  I am glad I did.  I have needed the comfort.

The other wonderful comfort+food I found was through a great cooking blog - The Kitchn .  I have made many of their featured recipes.  This one, however, has become one of my favorites - the 3 ingredient energy bars.  It is so simple even I can do it.  One cup pitted dates + One cup dried fruit + One cup nuts.  The bar you see in the photo was dates+dried cranberries+almonds.  Everything goes in the food processor, where it is processed until it clumps into a ball(ish).  Then it's spread on waxed paper or plastic wrap, patted into a square, wrapped and refrigerated 2 hours or overnight.  Take it out, cut into bars and refrigerate or freeze.  Wonderfully comforting.  The trick is not to get TOO comfortable, if you know what I mean....

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Other Things.

My sister took these pix of Pria this morning.  I was struck by the strong resemblance to her camel relatives.  Luckily, not actually struck.  Hoosier had been quite a spitter.  I think it was out of self-preservation, as he was much shorter and the sheep were always in his business and in his feeder.  Pria is much larger and therefore isn't as bothered by the pesky sheep.  I have only witnessed one spitting incident and it was when Linden decided to try and climb the fence to reach her feeder.  Sheep seem to be oblivious to llama spit.  I am not - it's nasty.

She is also suffering from 'rain hair'.  As are we all.  Another strong storm came through yesterday in the late afternoon, with high winds, black skies and a downpour.  There was even some hail.  Apparently, this is our new 'normal'.  Every weather change is ushered in in an extreme way.  Whoopdeedodah.  They are also forecasting the same for today, before we segue into some more normal normal weather for this time of year.  Just in time for the actual summer.

I hope to have garden pix for you later this week.  I broke down and bought a garden tool - an amazingly difficult choice, as I have always and only used hand-me-down tools or tools picked up for a dollar or less at yard sales.  But extreme times call for extreme measures.  I got a stirrup hoe and I LOVE IT.  So well worth the money.

A 2013 Garden List:

Kale (two types)
Swiss Chard (two types)
Beets (three types)
Beans (I lost count)
Snow Peas (yellow ones - because I like the flowers)
Tomatoes (don't ask)
Cukes (two types)
Basil (pallid)
Japanese Eggplant (I am a glutton for punishment)
Peppers (lost count)
Radishes (the kind stuck in that tape stuff)
Onions (don't ask - but it's over the top)
Garlic (scapes appearing!)
Potatoes (five types - from my favorite potato people: Wood Prairie)
Sweet Potatoes (just cuz I can)
Zucchini (of course)
Yellow Squash (ditto)
Sweet Meat (looking iffy)
Fairytale Pumpkins (ditto)
Pumpkin (forgot the type - little ones - is that specific enough?  Orange little ones?)
Lettuce (various and sundry)
Jerusalem Artichokes (in case the potates are puny)
Horseradish (doing alarmingly well)

In other words, enough of a garden - if everything comes up - to feed a family of sixteen.  Oh, if only the dogs liked vegetables...

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Frister.

My favorite picture of Kay
Fr-ister (Friend+Sister) is a name that Kay and I came up with to describe our relationship.  She was also a neighbor, comic, creative, gifted, generous, and an entire alphabet soup of wonderful adjectives.  We lost her in a freak accident on the evening of June 13.  To say it was devastating is such an understatement.  It was a sucker punch in the gut. 

Kay was a sweet onion of a woman.  An exuberant package of many layers.  She went at everything full-tilt with such a huge amount of enthusiasm that you couldn't help but be swept along.  She made everything seem more exciting.  She was equal parts outspoken, creative, infuriating, funny, and talented.  She had a lovely singing voice.  Kay possessed a sharp mind and a tender heart.  She clothed numerous babies in beautifully knitted garments, as well as gifting her family and friends.  Her generosity was boundless and never-ending.  The number of lives she touched with her wonderful self is really astounding.

Kay with Phoebe I
When I had shoulder surgery, Kay arrived every morning (and she was NOT a morning person) ready to take over my farm chores.  And she repeated the process every morning and evening for a week.  When she entered a room, she was an explosion of bags of knitting projects, purse, keys -- she was so alive! And now that she is gone, the whole world seems to be off-kilter.  She was so completely integrated into my life that I feel as if I have lost a physical part of myself.  I don't know what I will do without her.

Kay left behind a husband, two children, five grandchildren, a large extended family, countless friends who were like family, and even more people whose lives she touched and who loved her for it.  If you met her, there is no way you could ever forget her.  Nor would you want to.  My heart, love and prayers go out to her family.  I love you, my Frister.

Friday, June 14, 2013


Last night I lost someone I loved dearly, someone who was an intricate part of my life.  It was very sudden and now I am raw and heartbroken and need some time to process the news.  Please pray for her family.  Thanks for understanding and I will be back soon.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How Doth My Garden Grow?

I didn't have to go through the trouble of preparing special mushroom logs, I can tell you.  I've got mushrooms growing in the onion bed.  Mushrooms growing in the garlic.  The ground is totally saturated.  The basil is pale.  Everything is well-watered, but there has been no sun, no heat.  Another day in Paradise.  Since we are all subject to the same vagrancies of Nature (and here I'm debating as to whether we are dealing with a Father Nature, as opposed to a Mother Nature), there is not much to be done but to slog through.  I am thankful that we DO have water, but I wish it was not all at once.  I was going to take pictures of the garden this morning rained.  And it will rain tomorrow.  And it will rain Friday.  Sigh.

The hops vine is exuberant!
For the first time since I put this garden in, I have lost potatoes to rot.  I think it was a combination of Father Nature and Me.  I planted too early, thinking that spring had arrived and summer was next.  Wrong.  Spring came.  Then winter came back for an encore.  Then spring came.  Then winter couldn't leave it alone.  Winter seems to be a big ham. 

The weather is even getting to Sage the Siren.  She usually stands in the shelter of the doorway to the barn and screams her displeasure that I have appeared and dinner has not.  Now she is just soggy like everyone else and just looks at me balefully.  There does seem to be a break in the rain today, although we are forecast to have more rain and possibly thunder tonight.  My farmer neighbors cannot get into their fields.  But the cows are happy - and clean!

I integrated the pullets into the big-girl coop this past weekend and it has been successful.  Pretty much.  The Blue Laced Red Wyandottes (BLRW - I'm not typing that whole thing again!) seem to be the most confident of the lot.  I got four straight-run BLRW chicks and, as far as I can tell at this point, two were roos.  One went to live at Melanie's farm and one is in line to replace Kees, who is in line to live the Life of Riley in Massachusetts.  One of the Ameraucanas has adapted well.  The other is Super Wimp.  The Cuckoo Marans?  Let's just say they are aptly named.  My friend, Linda's six pullets are still living with the Littles, so that is causing some confusion on all fronts.  My pullets don't understand why they are not in there with them, while her pullets are wondering why they are not out there with mine.  The good news is that all of my pullets now go into the big coop at night with no herding involved.  Of the six mystery bantams (aka the Littles) I brought home from the feed store, three are Golden Seabrights (1 roo, 2 hens) and three are D'Uccles (2 roos, 1 hen).  The little Seabright roo has been crowing all week.  This rattles Kees no end, although he doesn't seem to equate the Littles with chickens, and keeps trying to find his rival when he's right in front of him.  With this constant rain, the poultry are all in varying states of damp.  I fear I will have to check them for mold pretty soon.

I know that they say every cloud has a silver lining, but at this rate, we are down to tin foil. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Finding My Inner Tweenie

As I draped myself, exhausted, over my chair-and-a-half (it's not easy to drape over one-quarter of a CAAH - the rest of it belongs to the Boyz), I thought - and not for the first time - how another weekend whizzed by full of work.  And more work.  And some more work.  And there wasn't any fun in there.  Of course, the doelings are fun, although they are not speaking to me at the moment.  It was wormer/vaccine/drench time and they were so very unhappy about the shots.  Honestly, it's just like kids.  Hey!  No kidding!  Hey!  I did it again!  (I'll stop now.)

They were so happy to see me (Kay was my left and right hand) until they found there was a needle involved.  They screamed bloody murder.  It was deafening.  Chickie was not too bad and even Sage gave up and submitted without too much hub-bub.  This may be because I finally put collars on them.  I know.  I am a very slow learner.

Back to my original line of thinking.  Fun.  I know I've had this conversation before and somehow, the importance of fun always gets lost in the shuffle of my daily life.  I do - mostly - enjoy what I do.  I love the garden; I love the animals; I love the hard, physical labor.  But it's not enough.  I've tried going solo to movies.  Meh.  I've tried going solo to art exhibits.  Meh-ish.  I've tried Tai Chi.  My complete lack of focus makes it frustrating.  So, what to do?

Horseback riding lessons!  I was, as most tween-age girls, completely horse-crazy.  I still am, but I have learned that if you don't have the money or the acreage, you are just plain crazy to have one.  While I was driving along a route that I don't often take this morning, I saw a brand-spankin-new riding stable!  Right nearby!  Time to dust off my cowgirl boots and see if I can find a nifty cowgirl shirt with fancy stitching and pearl snaps! 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How I Distract Myself.

While suffering (silently :-/) through the power outage last week, I found myself at loose ends.  I couldn't wash anything (no water), I had gone up to the farm to get water for the livestock, I had finished two books.  It was too freakin hot to do anything outside (I am a hot weather wimp).  I had broom swept the floors, dusted and cleaned windows.  I had paced and fumed.

I walked out to the chicken yard and noticed they were all huddled in the shade opposite the rhubarb patch.  Quickly darting in  - "quickly" is relevant, as I usually set up some intricate process of access to things that need to be chicken-proofed.  These quickly become me-proofed as well.  I cut four pounds of stems and proceeded to make a batch of rhubarb wine. 

I go by the motto:  When Life Hands You [insert vegetable/fruit], Make Wine.

We'll see how it is.  Besides pink.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Words escape me.

It has been such a wacky past few days, that I couldn't sum it up coherently.  That about says it.

Wednesday night we got hit with a violent thunderstorm.  It was fast, furious and downright terrifying.  The power went off and did not come back on for two days.  I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to "Jane" at the utility company for my meltdown when finally told the truth about when the power would come on.  And it was still a lie.

Meet Gennie:

May I also say publicly that I do not deserve my family.  I really did try not to whine (and I didn't, really.  Really.) about the lack of water, light and loss of food.  It happens when you're tied to the grid (damn grid) and live out in the backwater.  Or in the hollars, as they say here.  My sister and BIL came down on Saturday to visit and meet the goaties and brought Gennie with them.  They had had a powwow and decided that I needed all the help they could muster.  I could have cried for joy.  Actually, I did.

I am as superstitious as the next person, so I figured that, having now become armed with a Plan B, the power will never go off again.  There were bad storms all around us last night, but it seems that the Power Of Gennie held true.  All we got was much cooler temps and a nice rain.  Hallelujah!