Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Things are heating up out there!

Speaking strictly for the wildlife, that is.  For the first time ever, I have three male Cardinals at the feeders!  And one female.  I watched as the guys staked out their territories - one at the flat feeder on the deck railing; one on the ground, under the sunflower feeder; one on a tree branch.  The little minx darted from one to the other until there was much fluffing of feathers and mock battles.  It was fascinating.  It's also interesting that the male juncos will tolerate any other bird on the feeder at the same time, except another junco.

At least the ice is buried.
Can you tell that I spent an inordinate amount of time stalling this morning?  We did not awaken to three feet of snow.  Or two.  Or one (although we're working on one).  But there is plenty and more is coming, and the wind and single-digit temps make it challenging.  I had to do a quick path for the Short One - who made it exactly three inches out of the door before he did his business and hurried back in - at 5A, but delayed having to deal with the rest of it.

It's not that I mind shoveling - I really don't.  It's mindless, repetitive, cardio work and I can let my mind wander as I go.  It's the shoveling gear that gets to me.  All those layers.  I get quite claustrophobic in the winter.  It is such a long, frustrating process that I am loathe to repeat it more than I have to.  While I can't give you a head-to-toe, here's the head gear. 

I look like a ninja...
Below that is:  long underwear, wool socks, jeans, Carhartt coveralls, boots, flannel shirt, fleece vest, wool scarf, down parka, Dork hat, thermal mittens.  And you can bet your Aunt Mabel that five minutes into the work, you are in desperate need of your hankie, which is buried under four layers.

I am such a fashionista!
I was very pleased to realize that a scarf I had knit when I faced down my short row phobia, turned out to be absolutely perfect for winter work - it's like a bandanna scarf and you can handily pull it up over your nose and it stays there.

The scarf is actually brown.
I have done all my pathways once, with two shoveling on both front and back deck.  I shoveled the walk to the carport and cleared it, shoveled a launch pad for my plow guy (or, if he doesn't show up, I can at least back out and get a running start down the driveway), cleared the mailbox (they may deliver the post in rain, sleet or snow, but the mail has to make it into the box to go out...) and then came in and made a cuppa.  I tried not to let the fact that the back deck was again covered in 3 inches of snow depress me thoroughly.  At least I don't have to drive in it.

I think I will now tackle the remaining three shelves in the pantry/cat room so that I can check that item off my list.  Which shows you how low I will go to avoid re-layering.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Polishing up the snow shovel and other fun winter storm activities.

I have given up listening to weather forecasts.  So far, we will be getting anywhere from 3 to 36 inches of snow, depending on which prediction of gloom and disaster you listen to.  I think that's a pretty ridiculous range.  Of course, directionally-challenged as I am, I got myself stirred to a froth when they said that Southeastern VT should get 30".  OMG!  My parents!  Me!  Then I realized that we are on the SouthWESTERN side.  Disaster avoided.  Other than we are in a special place that is much higher than even Vermont, fercryinoutload.  I guess I will be able to decide by tomorrow afternoon.

My winter storm preparation consists of:  polishing (really) my show shovel so that the snow doesn't stick to it and make me say bad words while I shovel away at my two miles of pathways.  Multiple times; cleaning and filling all waterers for chickens and sheep; changing the shavings in the nesting boxes so the eggs are not covered by bored, poopy feet prints; putting a nice layer of clean straw in the barn for extended timeouts taken by sheep and llama; strategic placement of extra shovels; filling bird feeders (now have gone through 50# of black oil sunflower seeds and 40# of regular feed and 11 suet blocks - they're killing me!); water jugs filled; roof rake at the ready for the carport; plenty of firewood inside.  That is about all I can do.

I've got plenty to do on my snow day tomorrow.  I pulled out my cardigan that had never gotten finished.  I did my usual slipshod method of sewing the pieces together and it looked like poop.  So I had shoved it on a shelf and left it.  I pulled it out yesterday, labored over my lousy but intricately woven-in sewing job and got it all apart.  Then I put my Joni Mitchell cds on and started resewing it.  I got it all assembled and, this morning, started finishing the neck.  Hooray!  Only five rows to go.  Then I need to find five neato buttons.  But at least the knitting is done.  I got this burst of energy from basking in the sun of a breakfast visit with my friend Maggie Budd.  She should bottle her glorious, warm and wonderful energy.* 

Since Pepper refuses to wear his sweater for more than five minutes, I will have to have a pile of towels by the back door.  I don't think Lovey has seen two feet of snow, so that should be interesting.  It will most definitely put a hitch in her giddyap, when she tries plowing through the drifts.  My poor southern baby.  I have checked my stores of Aleve and I am ready for anything.  Almost.

*She got me a Sunday NYT paper for my birthday.  You may think this odd, but it has always been an indulgence of mine - made extremely infrequent when they raised the price to $6!  I mean, really.  As I luxuriated through the sections, it struck me that I had moved in a direction so foreign from what was on those pages, so foreign from the life I used to lead (I lived in the City for four years).  It was like reading about an entirely alien country.  I love the country in which I live now.  Semi-feral, true friends, good food, self-reliance.  It is all very, very good.

Friday, January 23, 2015


I have been ruminating about surfaces lately.  I have no idea why.  I tend to glom onto a thought like a terrier sometimes and off I go.  Then, again, most times I couldn't hang onto a thought even if it came with handles.

Winter surfaces can be very tricky.  Thanks to three inches of rain this past Sunday, the carport is a skating rink.  As is the driveway, the pathways, the front yard.  But the carport is smooth as glass.  The rest of the homestead is like walking on frozen choppy waves.  We had about six inches or more of snow, which turned into four inches of thick slush.  Then I have to walk through it, then it freezes.  I can carefully pick my way around it during daylight hours, but it is an Olympic sport at night.  Especially with the little "bombs" that Pepper leaves down the pathway to the chicken coop.

*I was thinking about Fiona's comment yesterday - a children's book about Pepper.  What would it be titled?  How about:  "Pepper.  Pepper!  PEPPER!!!!!  Tales of a Dog with Selective Deafness."*

Then there are my inside surfaces.  There is not, I am sorry to say, a clean surface in the house.  I had just cleared off the dining room table and thoroughly scrubbed it, when I turned my back, turned around again and found Slim/Slom/Salami lying on it.  It was still damp, for Ned's sake.  I thought cats hated dampness... 

I decided to hang a small, oval mirror that I had picked up some years ago at an estate sale (which lamp had languished in the craft closet until discovery this past weekend), so I cleaned it up, put it down, got hammer and picture hook, then hung it up and looked at it.  There was a perfect cat paw print smack dab in the center.  Sigh.

*The position of the mirror came about when I realized I had left the house, driven an hour, entered my office, worked an hour, before realizing I had not combed my hair.  Alas, the feral state is encroaching....

And let's not forget those vertical surfaces - glass.  An ever re-appearing layer of dog-nose-gunk.

Dusty surfaces abound in the house.  I blame the abundance of dust on the fact that there is almost no ambient light that points it out, thanks to our gloomy winter.  And then there's that pesky lack of focus.  I have started down the hallway to retrieve my handy duster so many times, only to swerve into another room, onto another chore.  Then there is this:

Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world's out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it's not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.

A wonderful poem by Rose Milligan.  And who wouldn't take the word of someone named "Rose" to heart?  It is my Domestic Creed.

P.S.  I just found my next most favorite spam email:  You can bury male sluggishness.  Hot darn!!!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Problem with Purging.

(Say that fast, ten times.  It's fun!)  There are quite a few problems with purging, come to think of it.  First, there is the rule that, as soon as an item that you've been squirreling away for years leaves the premises, you will need it.  Then there is the larger mess that is created when you start the (apparently) smaller mess.  Then there is that darn lack of focus.  Speaking for myself, of course. 

I puffed myself up to a nice stressful level (it's the only way I can really do a good purge) and marched into my laundry/tool/gardening/feed room.  I deflated as flat as a pancake in a nanosecond.  I turned heel, coward that I am, and marched right out and shut the door.  I then did little, inconsequential things.  Purgettes or purgies, if you will.  About mid-morning I gave myself a good talking-to, dug up a spiral notebook, glasses and pen and marched to the cat/canning storage room.  After an hour of ignoring the actual jars and boxes by busying myself with reorganizing empty jars, I started taking inventory.  It was scary.  After three hours, working through lunch, I had four pages filled and still had three large shelves to go.  But my bones were creaky and I heard a lot of tippy-tappy toenails in the hallway - that, "OMG, MOM!  We gotta go out NOW!" kind of staccato. 

Have you cat owners (or, those of you owned by cats) noticed that anything you put on the floor is immediately laid upon?  Box, bag, paper, it doesn't matter.  I think I spent as much time moving cats as I did moving boxes.

While I did find some things I thought I was out of - mincemeat, although that's a guess since there was no label or date on the jars - there were a lot of mystery jars.  Lots.  And lots.  By then my brain hurt and I could not recall what year I decided to try peach pit jelly.  But I am pretty sure that those 12 little rosy-filled jars are PPJ.  Then there are the 14 half-pints of some dark jam stuff.  Ditto on the unlabeled/undated.  I reached far into the cobwebs (of my mind) to try to remember the last time I made jam.  2012?  2011?  1852?  Towards the end, I was scribbling down "? Applesauce?  Peachsauce?  ????"  I gave in and up, and will take up the last of it another day.  Sometime in the future.  Honest.

Besides Slim/Slom/Salami and the Plastic Bag Incident this past weekend, I also was greeted by Pepper the Cat Food Eating Dog, slinking out of the cats' room, trying to look nonchalant.  He failed.  He had managed to squirm his little carcass between the door jamb and the baby gate and had Hoovered up 2/3s of their dry food before I caught him.  Visions of pancreatitis danced in my brain.  He was not a happy camper for the rest of the day.  He drank copious amounts of water - which meant watching him like a hawk, as all dachshunds would much rather pee on your carpet than outside in the snow.  Or outside at all.  He's been on a prison diet of white rice and chicken broth for two days.  I'm surprised he's not gnawing on the furniture.  However, he does seem to have perked up and is back spinning for his dinner.  Never a dull moment.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Channeling the Mediterranean and a GC Update.

Gloom.  That about sums up the winter so far.  The up side (there is ALWAYS an upside, albeit a tiny one) is that the frigid temperatures are not as long-lasting as last year's.  They are punctuated by a spike in temps with rain.  Joy. 

Finding myself the recipient of five days in a row where I was not at my office, I decided to de-stress by going on a purge.  Of my crafting closet.  It turned out to be a half-purge, as I ran out of steam after just going through the fabric half of the closet.  In my defense, I already had a sort-of organized system, using the word "organized" very loosely.  I crammed all the fabric, wrapping paper and that sort of thing on the left, and crammed all the yarn, various crafting trends I lost focus in, painting stuff and all things fiber on the right.  It was a frightful mess.  The last straw was when I had a small gift bag that I wanted to keep (along with the other 505 gift bags I knew I would need...someday) and opened the door quickly, shoved it in, and slammed the door so nothing would tumble around my ears.  Sad, sad, sad. 

Taking a deep breath, pulling on my BGPs (the same sorry ones I've been pulling on for years - haven't had the gumption to enter a store since the holidays), I made a pot of tea and charged in.  Four hours later, I had two of my favorite pop-up bags (from Sylvie, who tries even from afar to whip me into shape) spilling over with oddments and bodkins.  There were two pillow forms (new in the bag), yards of fabric, sewing notions, craft supplies, gift bags...., wrapping paper, gift tags, all kinds of stuff.  I managed to shove everything into a 30+ gallon trash bag and put it on Freecycle.  I know, I know.  I am a glutton for punishment.  I had six requests within 5 minutes of listing it.  They ranged from:  I WANT IT!  to "I want it and am in North Adams if you can deliver it today".  North Adams is a 45 min drive.  I got downright snarky - in my heading, I had dutifully listed the location.  Very clearly.  One woman wanted to know if I was in another town.  In another state.  I informed her I was with the bag in the town listed.  The first normal sounding person was due to pick it up Saturday night.  She never showed.  Apparently, something came up and she forgot.  Sigh.  I declined to hold it for her until next weekend.  No. 2 showed up and lugged it off.  Besides the aggravation of having to deal with the knuckleheads, it was such a great feeling - getting all that stuff out of the house.  I was going to continue with my yarn side, but I have too much emotional attachment to my yarn, so am waiting until my backbone regenerates.

I bet you are wondering what the heck the Mediterranean has to do with all that.  Well, nothing.  As usual, I went rambling on and on.  The Mediterranean has to do with my Meyers lemons.  I had a nice crop this year, even with my shameless neglect of my adored tree.  But what to do with all those lemons coming ripe at the same moment?  For once, I did not go online.  I moseyed over to my cookbook shelves and pulled out my favorite wintertime reading - Mediterranean Vegetarian Feasts, by Aglaia Kremezi.  Lawsymersy, if this book doesn't make you feel all warm and balmy, nothing will!  It is one of my favorites.  I had spied a recipe for preserved lemons in there, so leafed through to see if I had what was needed.  Close enough (my motto). 

Voila! (or Eureka! since we are referring to Greece...)

The whole process made the kitchen smell all lemony (in that distinct Meyers' way) and sunny.  I left a few lemons for fresh use, but I cannot wait to try these out.  I have my eye on about seventeen recipes in the book...

Which leads me to (more quickly than usual...) the GC update.  I realized this weekend, that I need to quit cooking for a while.  I am not using up the prepared things in my freezer as fast as I need to.  I think I have "Must Cook" hardwired into my brain on weekends.  I made a deal with myself that I would only make soup.  I always take something up to my parents (at 91, my mother is tired of cooking - go figure), so soup is what they get.  I did roast a half-chicken from my stash, then made chicken stock and tidbits for the dogs, along with a nice chicken pot pie with a GF biscuit crust.  Meh on the crust.  I need to make my own baking mixes.  I am now set for the week.

Now that the warm snap is gone - down to single digits again tomorrow night - I may just live on soup.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday Musings and a Great Challenge Update.

In my out-with-the-old approach with this new year, I started listing things for sale and for free.  I am on some fiber groups on FB - mostly to see what kind of fleece there is out there and who has Icelandic and how much they charge.  I'm trying to get myself motivated to finish skirting and cleaning my 500 fleeces (fleeci?) and move it out of the house.  Before spring - when it will be 503 fleeces/i.  I decided to sell some leftover supplies from my wayward weaving days - five spools of carpet warp.  No big deal.  Well, it has all turned into a big stinky mess.  The woman who 'bought' it couldn't manage PayPal, so was sending a check.  Me, she-who-lacks-common-sense, said okey-dokey, just send me a check.  Then I mailed the warp.  And waited.  And waited.  And sent messages.  And waited some more.  Nada.  I went to the group administrator and she was very nice (didn't call me an idiot) and tried to reach her.  More nada.  So I posted what happened and, lo and behold, NonPayingWoman popped up with lame excuses.  I mean, really.  But, what was really interesting (and the gist of this long, rambling paragraph) were the comments to my post.  It was everything from someone, indeed, calling me an idiot (I didn't take offense), then six more people calling her an idiot for calling me an idiot, it was wild.   It remains to be seen if this nimrod will send me a check.

This social media stuff is very alarming to me.  Call me a fogey, but it seems that the anonymity of it all seems to give people the license to be vicious.  And, on the opposite end of the spectrum, the huge success of people posting a video of everything they do in a day is very sad,  Really?  Do I care if Michael brushes his teeth for six minutes?  Or that Mindy moved in with her boyfriend?  I do not.  To me it seems as if so many young people are putting their own lives on hold, while they sit and stare at someone else's lame life.  Sad, sad, sad.  Get out there and experience life, you whippersnappers!  That's an order from Aunt Sweezie.

My Non-Grocery List
 Enough of that.  Let's all sit and read about my Great Challenge.  (snort)  I've decided to do a weekly update - aiming for Mondays, but you know how it goes...  I am going to set up a separate tab to list everything I use during this quest.  Anything I grew/processed myself or that is local will be in bold.  I have also decided (since Mama Pea was concerned about my greens intake :)) that there are some things I can replenish - things in season, like carrots and greens - with the caveat that they all be locally grown.  This means hunting down winter farmers markets.  I think there are a couple around.  Also, there is a local coffee roaster, so I am saved.  You do not want me to post anything if I've run out of coffee,  Trust me on this.

One of my Big Daddys that didn't freeze.
So far, I have made:

Oatmeal with blueberries
Lentil soup
Corn/sweet potato soup
Sweet/sour beef with rice

For a full list of ingredients (this will help me figure out what I do and do not need to plant next year) take a look at the tab.  It will also become very apparent that I have a food 'situation'....

P.S. If anyone can clue me in on how to get my second page included here, I would greatly appreciate it.
Technically Challenged

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Coming up for (warmer) air.

Top of the mountain -
my drive to work.
We made it pretty much unscathed through the worst of the arctic weather.  I believe that was only because we did not get the high winds (or as much of them) as predicted.  But the house was all snap, crackle, pop all night, the dogs were double-blanketed, Kramer slept with me.  It must have been cold, because he did not move from under his double-down nest. 

It's almost impossible to photograph black cats.
Especially when you are a "challenged" photographer.
Kramer's little pink/black nose is nested
right next to Pepper's black head.
I had kept the master bathroom cabinet open and the faucets on drip-mode because that is the only water line that freezes.  However, the faucet still functioned while the toilet did not.  I rummaged around and found my heating pad, plugged it in, and wrapped it like a cosy around the water line to the tank.  In a half-hour, it was running again.  Bingo!

While I still won't put the thermostat up over 55* (hey - anyone want to come visit during the winter??), I do turn on the electric heater in the living room.  I just can't wait to get my electric bill for this month. 

The dogs don't go further than two feet from the steps of the deck.  Pepper shot out the door last night and made a beeline for the chicken coop, outside of which is a rich deposit of his favorite snack.  Ahem.  Lovey was right behind him.  BUT, while Lovey was able to make it back to the deck without freezing her paws (she goes so fast she levitates), Pepper only limped halfway and stopped.  I was prepared and trotted out to retrieve him.  He went on something pitiful until I put him down inside the door - then he shot off to see if there was a molecule of dog dinner that he missed in any of the three bowls.  Drama queen. 

Scrappy is much more dramatic.  It's all in slow motion with the great, sorrowful brown eyes upon you.  I do feel for them, with their cold paws.  I rub his paws between my hands until they warm up, while he leans against me and sighs.  I hope he lives forever.

The wool blanket curtain seemed to do the trick in the coop, although the brown leghorn shows signs of frostbite.  Not surprisingly, as the combs of the leghorns are not suited for any temps under 60.  But she is a trooper and always commandeers the same nesting box for the night.  It does help keep the warmth around her.  I had layered the boxes with a nice thick mulch of shavings so none of the eggs froze.  While I wouldn't call it balmy inside, it wasn't bad.  They had no interest in coming outside at all.  I moved the curtain over and opened their little door, just in case someone changed their mind.  I'd much rather let some fresh air in, than keep it too warm and damp.  Nothing knocks off chickens faster than respiratory illnesses.

From all signs, the sheep called a truce and were all snugged up in the barn.  Apria takes the main stage (center court) and the sheep cosy up around her.  They were all outside waiting for me this morning, looking no worse for the weather.

I, however, had to wear so many layers it made me worry that I would fall over and lay there until spring.  Kay used to say that I ought to wear blaze orange so that someone would spot me.  Not a bad idea.  Even though I let the car warm up before heading off to work, it took me most of the hour drive to thaw my fingers.  My feet still felt like blocks of ice.  The forecast for the next few days is a slow inching up of the temps to a downright balmy 20*!!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Winter hath arrive-ed.

Don't get all excited. This was taken in 2013.  I was going to try to PhotoShop some snow onto a picture I took of the same space, but couldn't muster up the gumption.  We now have arctic temps with no snow.  That is, really, my least favorite of all winter scenarios.  I would much rather have a big ole pile o' snow than the bare, frozen ground. 

I blame the lack of snow on the fact that I finally got my car under cover.  The Universe has a perverse sense of humor, it seems.  My Snow-Wolf is tucked away under the same car port, gathering dust.  The warm, wet spell we had before the deep-freeze, churned my driveway into a Pollock-esque canvas of rock-hard hillocks and splats.  (Now, there's a descriptive sentence for you....)

I miss my frostless outdoor faucet.  Sure, it's still there, but the water can't flow if the faucet is frozen.  And, of course, the sheep and llama are drinking water like it's the Gobi out there.  Ditto the chickens.

However, even with all the cursing and schlepping, I find myself in a much perkier mood than the usual gloom that settles across my thoughts this time of year.  There may be ice in the air, but there's a spring in my step.  Of course, it could also be due to the fact that I managed to consume three times my usual daily caffeine allotment before 9A.

This morning was pretty chilly in the house.  I turn my thermostat down to 50* when I am a) sleeping or b) not home.  I was getting the stink eye everywhere I looked - Kramer (the skinny cat) may not get warm until July and has been stuffing his bony carcass into the heating vent closest to me - to make sure I suffer as well.  Slim (now Slom or Salami) has enough body fat to keep him nice a toasty up to -50*.  Lovey, my Southern Belle, was tightly wrapped in two blankies this morning.  Scrappy was happy in his one fleece blankie, while Pepper was hard to discern from his bed/blanket.  I just put on more layers and tell them to man-up.  Or (wo)man-up as the case may be.  Wha dain't kill ya, will mek ya strong, as my old farmer neighbor used to say.


I started my Big Adventure on January 1.  I will try not shop for groceries all year.  I will live off my stores of jars (many), my freezer (crammed), my wits (erk...)  I am curious to see how far I can go before I break, snap, crumble am forced to succumb.  I do, honestly, have an amazing amount of canned, frozen and dried food.  My meal plan will be pretty interesting by June, I betcha.  One of the more colorful fusions - you know, pickled jalapeno strawberry jam pinto bean burgers.  Wish me luck.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Coincidence or .....

When I owned my Ford Focus wagon (still remembered very fondly), I used to drive by a house that had the exact same year, model and color in their driveway.  "Good taste," I'd think, as I tootled by.  Then I got the Doomed Subaru (not remembered fondly - trying hard to forget it,  Possibly when the loan is paid off next year...sigh).  The Doppelganger Ford disappeared for a week to be replaced by...a silver/grey old model Subaru Forester.  Not exactly the same, but enough like it to make my head swivel sharply when I drove by.

When the Subaru committed hari kari, I got the Hyundai Tuscan.  With which I am very happy.  Today, driving for my birthday foray into a yarn store, I found myself driving behind the exact same car - year, model, color.  Any guesses as into which driveway it pulled?  Yep.  I swear I had goosebumps for the next ten miles.

I was tempted to pull in behind it and check to see if it was a manual transmission.  But...what if it were?

Better to let those sleeping devil dogs lie....