Monday, September 30, 2013

Going Off-Homestead

I deliberately chose to ignore my weighty list yesterday to go hiking up a mountain.  In retrospect, I may have been suffering from delusions of youth.  It was ... are you sitting down? ... a date.  It involved breathtaking vistas, a picnic I did not have to pack, interesting conversation, and a mini-concert at the end.  It also involved mostly uphill trekking, long patches of mud, a million rocks, and MILES of trails.

This is why it was all worth it:
View at the trail head

Looking West from the mountain.

Nature's chimney

Entrance to the Snow Hole
There were lots of points where the scene laid out before us was breathtaking.  Unfortunately, my breath was already being taken up in panting gasps - which I valiantly tried to cover with coughing, pointing my camera and pretending to take a picture so I could recover.  The trail was on the NY/MA border - I believe it's the Taconic Trail.  Much too late, I discovered that my hiking companion thinks nothing of hiking the trail from his house (in Pownal, VT), all 26 miles to this point.  Had I known, I would have cited an old football injury and done a more sane hike.  But, all in all, it was a lovely day.  Plus, he knew all the native plants and trees, could give me the Latin names for the various fungi we encountered (while I sagely nodded and said, Um hum.)

I barely made it home in time to do chores and meet the nice young woman who bought my beloved Lulabelle.  She raises and shows goats (plus), has chickens (plus plus), loved Lulabelle's bumper stickers (plus, plus, plus), was recently separated (boo) and has two adorable children, no car and limited funds.  It was a perfect match.  We worked out a payment schedule and her brother drove Lulabelle off to her new home.  Plateless.  I love these country folks.

My day was perfectly ended by some companionable knitting with my friend, Melanie, accompanied by a bowl of dark cherry ice cream, a Gluten Free shortbread cookie, and a nice mug of tea.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Yes, I made that up.  Because I can.  I love the Power of Blog. 

I was sitting in the office the other day, thinking back to 15 years ago, when I moved up here from The City.  I cannot believe it was 15 years ago.  Of course, neither can I believe I am over 40 - but we won't go there.  Some of the early highlights of my life North of the Center of Civilization (or so they say) were:

Leaving a package on the bus (I didn't have a car), realizing I had done so after I got to the office, calling the bus company, meeting the same bus with a different driver on its next round - where the driver stopped, got off and handed me my package.

Standing at the bus stop waiting for my home bound bus and noticing a big, burly guy in a football jersey, blue jeans, pantyhose and high heels.

Going on a meet/greet first date with a guy who tossed a baby seat in the back of the car, told me he wasn't married and didn't have kids, drove to a cheap beer joint, got out of the car and headed for the door (without checking to see if I was out of the car), went in (without holding the door open for me), surprisingly, did NOT ask for separate checks, and then the first question out of his mouth was:  "If I came home really late and you had made dinner for me, would you be pissed?"  My answer was:  "No.  Because I will never be anywhere you are, dinner made or not."  End of date.

My cats, Tippet and Woody, lying on their separate windowsills in my glorious apartment - looking out of the windows at bushes and birds, instead of Brooklyn rooftops.  My first home here was in a beautiful, 70 year old apartment complex that was built in the English Tudor style - with hardwood floors, high ceilings, and a working fireplace.  If anything went wrong, it was fixed the same day.  I could use that now - where is the maintenance crew when I need them?!

Buying a car over the phone - a used Geo Metro - and having the dealer send someone almost an hour south to pick me up and bring me to the dealership to get it.

Driving the same car way north to spend an entire day taking kayaking lessons - after doing nothing more strenuous than dodging traffic and subway rats for three years.  I was so tired driving home, I was shaking.  And slept the entire rest of the weekend.

Opening my first paycheck and realizing I had taken a 50% hit in my salary.

It was totally worth it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

From Apples to the Apples of My Eye.

Saturday dawned as the perfect day to go apple-picking with a carload of gal friends.  We go to a local orchard in Massachusetts - our local can range from NY to VT to MA.  This orchard is along the mountains (the charming fellow who was directing cars said they were the Appalachians - I'd have to check) and the views on a day like Saturday are glorious.

I went with L and her sister, AM, and our friend N.  L's sister (as is L and N) is from downstate - she lives in the City.  And she is a chatterbox.  N and I finished up ahead of them and, as we sat at a picnic table waiting for them, we could make out their progress by the sound of AM's voice, going up and down the rows.  It was a lovely, fun morning.

When they dropped me off, I hit the ground running, as I had my sister and her son staying with me that night.  I swept up a badger-sized wad of cat/dog hair (Why is it that none of them are bald as an egg?  They should ALL be!), cleaned both bathrooms, the kitchen, my bedroom, the guestroom, did my chores, and got presentable.  We were all going to converge on my parents' house to celebrate my mom's 90th birthday.  It was an interesting and diverse group - and it was the first time in a loooong time that we had all been together.  Dinner was at my mom's favorite restaurant - which happens to be mine as well.  A wonderful time was had by all.

So my day started with apple-picking and ended with the Apples of My Eye.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Where, oh, where, can my little banty be?

There she...used to be!

I am impressed.  The little dickens JUST started laying - and she's already made herself a dandy little nest and got busy.  And broody.  I had the worst time finding her - I looked all over and discovered her in the rhubarb bed, hunkered down over her not-so-little stash.  Unfortunately, we are not wanting baby banties now (or ever), so she was unceremoniously hauled off the nest and put in for the night.  I put a feeding tub over it and will spirit them off when she's not looking.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Happy Birthday to My Wonderful Mother!

My mom hit the big 9-0 today!  She is so amazing - still beautiful, still going strong.  Love you to pieces.

Mom and her brother, my Uncle Jimmy.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

That's why there are laptops, Dear.

What I walked in to this morning - a massive water leak.  What is not in view - all the sodden files that were on my desk.  Sigh.

Monday, September 16, 2013

How to raise Escargot without really trying.

We were blessed with ONE nice day so far this month.  And not many last month.  Or the month before.  I had allowed myself to be drawn into the web of lies that is our local weather forecasting, and had looked forward to a productive weekend.  It is always better if I can spread my voluminous to-do list over two days, as opposed to one.  Because (shockingly) there are only 24 hours in one day and I do need to sleep an hour or two.

It was not to be.  Friday: Wet mist and overcast.  Saturday: Wet mist and overcast.  So Sunday it was boots on the ground and flat out.  Today was supposed to be sunny.  Monday:  Wet mist and overcast.  But it wasn't a total loss.  Imagine my delight in discovering that here, all along, I have been raising a surprise 'crop'.  That's right - Call me Frenchie and dip me in Merlot.  I've been raising Escargot!  I have very thoughtfully provided them with a large bed of delectable kale, while Pa Nature has kept them nice and moist so they can slide around with ease: munching here, munching there. 

I wonder if I can sell the locals on home preserved, free range, organic, natural, humanely raised escargot.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Old Dogs. The Pluses and Minuses.

I have never had a puppy.  All my dogs came to me as older (or middle-aged) adults, along with all their mountains of doggy baggage.  I have recently been going through a roller coaster of health issues with Bernice, which is why I have been mostly absent from my blog (and why I gave you the lame banty post yesterday).  On Sunday, Bernice was herself.  On Monday, she was a disconnected, stumbling, incontinent, frail dog that I barely recognized.  She wouldn't eat or drink.  She couldn't focus.  It was terrifying, heart-breaking and sleep-depriving.  Also, expensive.  I am lucky that I have finally found a wonderful vet and I hope he keeps practicing until we're both too old to have pets.  In my case, that would be well into the 100s.  I am a glutton for punishment.  This morning, Bernice finally ate something.  Cat food.  She turned away from the sauteed ground round, ground chuck, simmered organic chicken with broth.  What turned her around this morning was a small tin of Tuna & Whitefish glop.  Sigh.  Like most parents, my children prefer McDs.

Bernice is in the records as "Approx 11/Unknown".  When I adopted her, I was told she was four.  I have found that "four" is the standard age of any adult dog whose history is a mystery.  The vet I had when I adopted her thought she could be as old as eight.  So, Bernice is either 11 or 15.  I am guessing that she's closer to 15.  She came to me a bundle of nerves and anxiety.  She is, after 7 years in my care, a slightly better bundle of nerves and anxiety.  But she is all mine and I love her with all my heart.

So, why would I adopt a dog when there was a pretty good chance our time together would be limited?  When there was a pretty good chance that the ensuing vet bills would keep me in debt and brown bag lunches?  Because I firmly believe that every single old, stray, abandoned, abused, misused, unloved dog (cat, goat, sheep, llama, elephant, platypus) deserves a chance to experience a loving home.  Even if it's for a year.  Or even less.   The pure joy they experience (and you by default) as they come to realize that this - this place with the comfy furniture, soft beds, long walks, good food, and all the love they can handle - is now their reality.  It is all for them.  It's worth the Doggy Depends. 

So I will happily feed her Fancy Feast Tuna & Whitefish three times a day - with a spoon, if necessary.  We are not out of the woods yet, and there is still my 'youngster', Scrappy (13) to consider but, we oldsters have to stick together.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Monday, September 9, 2013

MacGyver would have been proud.

A little of this, a little of that.  Some leftover lumber from various projects.  A box of bright nails from my beekeeping days.  My dandy little Tomboy hammer.  Measuring twelve times come Tuesday and then measuring once more. 

Voila!  Brooder Condo~!  Plus, when it's not a brooder, it will store the bins that store the brooder (and chicken related) supplies.  And I only hit my finger once.

Another reason I am NOT missing my dryer.  My house is small, so I need all the storage space I can get.  These bins will contain garden stuff (row cloth, garden gloves, tools, fertilizers, etc.) and all my brooder supplies when they're not being put into service as a brooder.  I tend to use tubs as they are light, easy to clean and the sides are high enough (at least at the beginning) to keep everyone corralled.  I use those old-fashioned adjustable screens across the top, and put the brooder lights on that - it's close enough to keep them warm and I downscale the light as they get older.  (100 watt/60 watt/40 watt).  Then out they go into the preteen coop.  There, they are gradually introduced (via a screen door) to their future flockmates.  By the time they are old enough to be added into the main flock, they are used to seeing each other and there has been no rough stuff - other than the obligatory peck on the head to let them know where they fall on the pecking order.  So far, so good.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Being thankful for small problems.

Lately, I have been reminded every day of how very small my problems are.  And how thankful I am for that fact.  It has been and continues to be a very tough year for my friends - which is hard on my heart, as I feel frustrated and helpless on their behalf. 

I am a naturally skeptical person, but I have come to believe in the power of positive thought.  It can have an almost magical effect - sometimes physically, sometimes soulfully.  I would appreciate it if you all would send some positive thoughts to my friend, Melanie, and her family.  They are traveling through very stormy waters right now and can use all the help they can get.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Never a dull moment.

Apparently, even though my hearing of late has been less than stereo, I can 'sense' goat angst.  Tuesday morning, I thought I heard more than the usual hysteria from the goat barn.  Through closed windows and doors.  I high-stepped out the door, across the deck, took the corner on one wheel and heard Apple in distress.  Since I am too old and inflexible to leap tall fences without seriously harming myself, I had to pause and unhook the gate.  Apple had managed to get her noggin wrapped in a piece of baling twine and was almost hanging herself.  Thank goodness she and I have a 'relationship'.  As soon as she saw me, she relaxed and let me untangle her.  Then they ALL realized I was in the barn without a food offering.  The din.

Wednesday morning.  Rinse.  Repeat.  This time, she had gotten her head jammed in the opening in one of the pallets I use as a divider fence.  I thought I was going to have to grease up her little noggin to get it out, but we managed.  She is always grateful.  Then, the din.

Wednesday early evening.  I am heading down the mountain and my oil pressure indicator starts flashing.  Upon arrival in my driveway, I let the engine cool down slightly, spend a goodly amount of time trying to locate the carefully placed (hidden) unlatcher for the front hood, and discover that I have about a tablespoon of oil left in the car.  I add two quarts and put one in the boot just in case - I am scheduled for an oil change on Saturday.  Which, I am sure, will also involve finding and fixing an oil leak.

Later Wednesday evening.  Tiny manages to wedge himself between the little coop and the fence.  Tightly.

A little later that same evening.  Alice thinks that is a GREAT idea.  I gave Squeak the Stink Eye, in case he had any big ideas.

Is it any wonder I can never get anything done?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Laboring Day Weekend

Mostly, it was labored breathing weekend, as the humidity was so high it was like breathing through a wet sponge.  I'm not even going to ask why - why, when a nice, long weekend comes along it does everything in its power to be difficult to work in.  It's just because.

Pretty much how the last 8 days have looked.

My typical errand-filled Saturday was followed by making apple cider with Melanie, which was FUN (and delicious....) as she provided the Macs, Marianne's trees provided some tart drops and some equally delicious Honey Crisps.  We took the apple mash up to M's pigs, who were thrilled to get the treats.

I also spent a considerable amount of time dealing with my tomatoes - the small tomatoes are erupting faster than I can pick them.  While I dearly love the black cherry tomatoes, they have been splitting almost as soon as they start to ripen.  I have to be very vigilant in order to get even a few that aren't spoiled.  This year I tried a red pear-shaped heirloom from a local grower and it's so-so.  Same splitting problem.  The grape tomato plant is buried in the jungle of larger plants so I really have to bushwhack my way in to find ripe ones.  I have been freezing the smaller tomatoes and dicing and canning the larger ones.  I finally got a grip on myself and I am NOT going to go pick my usual bushel of Romas.  I have enough canned to last me into next year.

I made a stop at the local farm stand (well, local as in less than an hour from me...) that has the you-pick tomatoes and peppers for their sweet corn.  I was thrilled to find their summer melon sale was in full swing - buy one large bag and get the same free! After giving my parents a few, and the neighbor who cuts my grass some, too, I still had a few of my own:

Yet another bounty to be dealt with.  But what sweet labor that is...