Thursday, December 22, 2016

Goodbye, Precious.

A Most Excellent Dog.
Yesterday was truly the darkest of them all.  I have no words, only tears.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Chilly. China. Whiplash. Death. Timber!

Now, there's a catchy heading...

Lots happening but not a lot of opportunity to post.  So - you get it all at once, you lucky devils.

First, there was this:

Notice the minus sign...
which is not surprising, since I do live in the Northeast and it is winter.  However, there was heat.  I quickly got on the phone and called - pardon the expression - my furnace guy's hot line.  Also as no surprise, there were quite a few of us queued up on the hot line.  And, as there were elderly people living in trailers with no back-up heat source, I was relegated down the line.  A fire was lit in the fireplace and the electric space heaters were put in bathrooms.  We snuggled.

Then there was the good news/bad news - it was not my furnace (good) but it was my thermostat (bad).  Off they went in search of a replacement.  Some hours later, they were back and installed the new thermostat.

Next morning?  Rinse, repeat.  Bad thermostat.  Made in China (really surprised you there, didn't I?)  Second thermostat seems to be holding its own.
Lovey is very happy the new thermostat is
We had a cold front move through - more than one, I believe - behind a gale-force wind.  It was  Then we got eight inches of snow.  Then it rained.  Then it froze.  Herein lies the whiplash effect.  Sunday morning I woke up to rain and 39 degrees.  This morning?  It was 9 degrees.  At least it was in the positive.  Gads.  In between, I was busy shoveling, raking snow off the carport and fuel tank cover, loading sand buckets, chipping piles of icy llama beans, adding layers to duck huts, chicken coops and barn floors.

In amongst these activities, I ladled out the birdseed.  Only later in the day - after noticing a drop-off in bird activity, did I discover there had been a violent death.  Gah!  I believe it was one of my mourning doves.
Nothing but feathers and a little spot of blood.
Between the 8+ inches of snow and then the rain, I was kept on my toes by the slow movement of snow and ice down my shiny new metal roof.  After the close call with The Pepperoni, I am very alert.  The entire back of the roof shed its load right when I was baking my latest GF discovery.  I am blaming the collapse of the loaf on the extremely loud noise the snow load made as it hit my deck.  Not only that, the center was not cooked through, even after an hour and fifteen minutes.  I was loathe to cook it longer, as it would have dried to the consistency of a hockey puck.  Can chickens eat chocolate?

Living in the Northeast in winter is not for sissies.

Monday, December 12, 2016

It's back.

It's true that you can 'smell' snow coming.  Yesterday, as the feeble rays of what passes for sun disappeared behind the clouds, I could smell it.  The funny thing, is that I was standing out in the chicken/duck yard, nose in the air - I looked over and the ducks were standing still, beaks in the air.  I feel  I'm special, all right.  Bring on the padded wagon and the 'special' jacket with the long arms...

I bustled about, trying to get loose ends tucked in before it snowed.  Then I went inside and put on a pot of soup - Ski Country Soup, a family favorite.  That allowed me to clean a little more out of the freezer and mega-stash of canned goods.  I also managed to can 24 pints of vege broth - I had been hoarding my vege-ends in the freezer and thought it would be a perfect weekend to haul them out and make stock.  Imagine my surprise when I uncovered three stuffed gallon zip bags full!  I have one more batch of stock to make - this from an assortment of bones and carcasses (carcassi?) and that's on the schedule for next weekend.  If nothing else, I will go into this winter well-brothed.

Having been sidelined with a sore throat and slight fever (I work with the equivalent of Typhoid Mary - she of many sickly grands), I was hoping that I didn't have her latest acquisition - strep throat.  I don't.  Close call.  Since I was house-bound, I got a few more things (piddly) checked off my list, but every piddly thing helps.  I made a GF version of one of my all-time favorite muffins - one that I have not baked since pre-GF-ness, which has to be 3-4 years now, and I tried it on the barn crew.  Success!  They are Breakfast Muffins - a combo of Bisquick, shredded cheddar and crumbled hot sausage.  I happened to have a box of GF Bisquick so whipped them up.  I would change a few things next time, but all in all, they were tasty.

I also did pawdicures - Lovey is such a breeze to work with, The Pepperoni is like working with a pill bug, and Scrappy - who used to be a walk in the park, is now Mr. Bop-The-Mole with his nails.  Luckily, TP has an appointment with his groomer next weekend - he loves her and lies there like a besotted furry pillow, while she does anything she wants to him.  It's maddening.  I got four loads of laundry done, the drying of which was helped along by a fire in the fireplace most of the weekend.  I also slipped in some reading and knitting.  All in all, it was a pretty descent weekend.

It was a good thing I rested up - I awoke to eight inches of icy snow, so spent a great amount of the morning shoveling.  The ducks have now come to grips with their new cold, white reality and are down the ramp and in their water bowls with hardly a pause.  The same cannot be said of the chickens.  Poor Bunny got booted out of the coop and forlornly went and joined the ducks.  While the poultry yard is plenty big for two roosters, the coop is not.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Les femmes ducks. And Peckito.

After having spent some time observing the four duck-girls, I have named them.

Pardon the dark picture - I have been waiting for more sun, but, then, you wouldn't see this until April.  From left to right:  Cornelia (Cayuga - home hatch), Gertie (Ancona - Melanie hatched), Dolley (Cayuga/Swedish Blue - Kentucky Baby - Fiona!!!), and Dimples (Ancona - home hatch). 

Gertie is the one who protects the flock - she comes at you, head lowered, laughably unthreatening.

Cornelia is the prima donna - bathes in the water dish, no matter who needs a drink.

Dolley is the noisiest - she has the cutest white bib.  She is also non-stop babbling.

Dimples is adorable.

I love the duck footprints in the snow.  You will also note the inevitable fluffy Faverolles.  They still think that the duck yard is theirs - plus, they are still young and light enough to make it over the fence.  (Ah, I remember those days...)

I took this picture of Peckito with his little harem on my way back to the house to get ready for work.  Bunny has the young girls, Peckito has everyone else.  The two roosters look remarkably alike, with Bunny having silver/grey legs and Peckito with bright yellow. 

Peckito with Betty, Biffy, Buffy, and two
of Bunny's girls....

I was so thrilled that I was ahead of the curve on getting out of the door on time, when there was quite a flap in the chicken yard - I had to throw clothes on and race outside.  It must have been a hawk, as everyone was under cover - some under bushes, ducks under their hut and the rest in the coop.  It's always something.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

You'll have to use your imagination.

No pictures with this post - it falls under the "what I won't do" category.

I have been feeding the lone barn cat - a few others come and go - over at my neighbor's late father's farmhouse every morning.  This arose after I realized the farmer was putting poison rat bait in the barn AND feeding the barn cat.  Argh!  So we worked out a deal where I feed the cat on the farmhouse porch so that I can make sure she won't rely on a diet of poisoned mice.  She's still a huntress, but at least she's so well-fed she's not eating her catch.

Every morning between 6:30-7, I drive to the farm and leave dry food for her.  If she is there, I also give her a tin of wet food.  While I won't say we are chums, after months of slow motions and ridiculous baby talk, she at least does not bolt off and hide when I'm there.  We've reached a sort of d├ętente.  If she is not waiting for me, I just leave dry food, not wanting to attract unwanted dinner guests.

The Sunday following Thanksgiving, I had heated up some generic sausage/cheese/egg/biscuit breakfast sandwiches for the guys - a break from sugar for them and a break from baking for me.  I decided to deliver the sandwiches first, and then feed the cat.  Except...

As I slowed down going past the farmhouse - checking to see if she was on the porch, waiting for me - I happened to look up at a large maple tree at the side of the driveway.  Waaaay at the top, teetering on a small branch, was the cat.  I slammed the brakes on, swerved into the driveway, put the car in neutral and jumped out.  She was hollering up a storm.  I was trying to talk her down - with a little success, as she sidled down to a less fragile branch about two feet below.  I knew that there was no way I could climb up there to get her because: a.  my joints throbbed just thinking about it and there wasn't a ladder handy; and b.  she would have torn me to ribbons.  We're not THAT close.

What to do, what to do.  We stared at each other for a few minutes, then I turned around with my back facing the tree trunk and bent over.  There was a moment or two of hesitation (wherein I was praying no one would drive by and wonder what the heck I was doing), then she dropped like a stone onto my back and bounced onto the ground.  Let me say two things - she's VERY well-fed and I am so very grateful that I was wearing my heavy-duty, twill down vest.  We both took a moment to recover and then I served her breakfast.  The guys got lukewarm sandwiches.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Everything got done but the laundry.

And the dusting.  And the applesauce. ...
When standing on the precipice of an extended weekend, I tend to make overblown lists.  It's like I have no real concept of time - or that, magically, long weekends are really, really long.
With four days stretching ahead - I picked up a pen and went wild.  However, I was pleasantly surprised when I did a recap last night.  In fact, I was quite smug.

The cooking got done:
Pumpkin Pie
Cranberry Curd Tart
Crustless Cranberry Pie

Four Ingredient PB Cookies
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Baked Apples
Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish
(two batches)
There was preserving:
8 quarts of turkey broth
There was humiliation:
Yes, I am one of THOSE mothers.
There was a chicken conga line:

Trees were cut down. 
A long-term UFO was finished.
The wind chimes were fixed.
There was an avalanche (and more shoveling):
The metal roof "self-cleared".
There was an amazing amount of adorable-ness:
My nephew, niece-in-law, and grandnephew.

Words escape me.
Oh, my heart of hearts.
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving and were mesmerized by Adrian, the cherub pictured above.  He entertained us through dinner - had I been more on the ball, I would have filmed his method of testing food.  His mother (the beautiful Sabrina) would spoon in a morsel, his tiny face would scrunch up as he registered the foreign object, then - depending on the outcome - he would break into a big smile, or a scrunchy frown.  It was fascinating.

I cavalierly offered to drive my youngest sister to her bus for her trip back down to the City.  We left with plenty of time...had the bus station still been in the location I remembered.  From 15 years ago.   I managed to get her there before the bus left - by putting my car in its path.  Luckily, the driver chose not to run us over.  Oy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

And then there was Winter.

On Friday, looking ahead to the forecast, I scurried to get the bulk of the most important 'winterizing' things done before the four inches of snow on Sunday.  This proved rather pleasant, as Saturday's temperature was close to 70, with gentle breezes and sunshine.  Jumpin' Jehoshaphat.  When I looked out of the window on Sunday, I thought I had been transported to another dimension.  Instead of the four inches, we got 20.  And that was on the low end for our area. 

Trees down?  Check.
Power outage?  Check.
Snow load?  Check.
Wine?  Check.

It had started early Sunday morning, so I was able to get out and leave a big pile 'o food for the feral cat I feed at the barn.  That was the last time I was able to leave the house until this morning.  It pulled trees down until they snapped.  It came down heavy and wet.  I had to use the roof rake on the car port twice and gawd knows how many times I shoveled my usual network of paths.

The ducks are in shock.  There was loud, indignant quacking going on in the duck hut Sunday morning, but when I finally shoveled to their door and opened it, there was silence.  Four little heads stretched out on long necks and then shot back inside.  The older chickens weren't happy, but know the drill.  The younger ones spent all their time trying NOT to touch the evil cold wet stuff.

And it snowed and snowed and snowed.  The power went out just as I was about to plug in my batch of yogurt, so I wrapped it in a towel and shoved it into a cooler.  We were lucky, as our power was only out for about five hours.  The area just south of us didn't get theirs back on line until late yesterday morning.  I kept eyeing the hoop house warily and finally strapped on my snow shoes and clomped down to rake it off.  I was lucky, as it wasn't that cold yet and the gate fasteners weren't frozen shut.  I left the gate open.  The poor sheep had the brunt of the tree damage.  There is a huge pine tree bent onto their feeder (it hasn't snapped yet, but....) and the snow is so deep they have a hard time trudging through it.  As I shoveled the quarter mile path to the barn (including a path from barn to their water bucket), I had to practice my non-existent limbo skills more than a few times.  As I wrenched the barn door open....I heard harp music and angels singing.  In front of my dazzled eyes was a wall of hay bales!  My farmer neighbor had come sometime after Saturday's afternoon feed and delivered and stacked my winter hay.  I almost wept. 

After the power came back on, I squeezed in a batch of granola - just in case it went out again.  There were also some exciting developments due to our new metal roof - the snow load slowly creeps down and looms over the eaves, complete with deadly-looking icicles, which, as they melt, leave treacherous shallows of ice right outside ones doors.  Very exciting, indeed.  The Pepperoni shot out of the back door, hit the ice, did a mad scramble, went off the deck and into a pile of snow at least three times his height.  We all froze.  Then a small, black nose poked up, followed by a snow-covered face.  He was fine!  Even Lovey was tippy-toeing across the deck after that performance.  And I have been watching Scrappy like a hawk.  He is a bit unsteady on his old pins, and I don't want any falls, sprains, breaks, or other catastrophes to befall my boy.  We spent most of the day in front of the fireplace - the dogs wrapped burrito-style in their blankets, cats curled on beds by the fire and me with my book and knitting.  It wasn't bad at all.  Except for the having-to-go-out-and-shovel-way-too-often part.

Monday morning revealed another 10 inches or so of lighter, fluffier snow, so back out I went.  There was no way I could have lived through shoveling my driveway, too, so I had to take the day off.  As is usually the case, over the mountain, in the city, there was no snow.  None.  It is so bizarre.  Thank goodness for camera phones.  Our snowfall even made the news in the Big City.  Woot.  My neighbor showed up with his plow around 3:30 and I felt as if I was out of bondage.  I snow-shoed in from the road to feed the feral cat this morning - she was very happy to see me!

I'm taking this as a test-run for my winter preps.  Or lack thereof.  So far, I'd give myself a C.  I did not get the ducks' heated water dish in and it will be a real pain now, with all that snow.  I forgot to put out the bird feeders.  I did not clean the waterers and put them away.  I did remember to shovel to my gate and then from the gate to the feed bin - with snow as deep as we have, you have to shovel more than once.  Waiting to shovel at the end will kill you!  Time to put on my two-alarm fluorescent socks in case I go head-first into a ditch!  I will try to get some shots of the tree damage - now that I have a leg-up, so to speak, on the shoveling part and can use both hands.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


(My apologies to all entomologists)

With winter looming large and my 'to-do-before-winter" list looming larger,  I am feeling much like an ant-hopper (my rendition above).  I have to admit that, even though I think of myself as all Ant - a bustling bundle of focused energy (ha!), I am, more often than not, a grasshopper.  "Oh, look at that moon!"  "Oh, let's bake cookies - the chicken coop can wait!"  "Oh, let's check email to see if anyone is thinking about me - I can clean the waterers tomorrow!"  Sooner or later, the Ant checks in and takes over - but the stress level has been bumped up a few (hundred) notches, thanks to that pesky Grasshopper.  I am making slooooooow but steady headway with my list, but the cold weather is lurking just outside my mental periphery and it's making me...antsy.  Sorry, just couldn't help myself.  If all goes well (HA! again), my winter supply of hay should be delivered and stacked, my bathroom pipes will be re-insulated, the waterers will be cleaned and hung up in the shed, the strawberries will be pruned and mulched, the hostas will be cleaned up, the sheep yard will be raked, the duck house and chicken coop will be cleaned out, electric will be run and heaters hooked up, and my floors will be steam-cleaned by the end of this weekend.  Oh, DREAM ON, Ant Sweezie! (snort)

How are you all doing with your winter preps?  Come on - make me feel even worse!  :)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Thank you, Moon. And, What Purty Taters!

Full Beaver Super Moon!

That last post was a mess, so I deleted it.  Never write when your heart is not engaged.  I was not in a good state from the day after the election until yesterday.  Not good at all.  I was aghast and in denial.  Then I was mad.  Then I was depressed and felt frustrated and helpless.  (Therein lies the reason for my reference to the stages of grief - grief for fear that I have lost everything that I hold dear, like country,  the rights of ALL humans.)  I lost my appetite, my sense of humor, my hope.  Then, last night on my drive home, I looked up and BINGO!  There was that huge, beautiful moon!  It was gorgeous!  I almost careened off the road from the sheer wonder of it.  And that is when I realized that, if I could still be moved to such wonder, there was still hope.  So I'm moving on.  That's not to say I've reached the acceptance stage.  I have not, nor will I ever.  However, since this blog is in no way, never was and never will be, a political forum, that is all I'm saying about that.  However, Aunt Sweezie still has a lot to say, so I'm sure we will hear from her soon...


One of my favorite things to plant in my garden is potatoes.  There is just something so thrilling about digging into the soil and finding treasure!  This year I planted four kinds - Red Norlands, Bintjes, Rose Finn fingerlings, and Magic Mollys.  The Norlands are by far my favorite and have always provided an abundant crop of creamy white, red-skinned potatoes.  Bintjes are a favorite from my time in the Netherlands and I was thrilled to find them here!  They are a wonderful, versatile yellow-fleshed potato and did very well this year.  The fingerlings were disappointing and, truth be told, I am not a fan.  They are on the dry side, for my taste.  The exciting potato this year was the Magic Molly.  How could I have NOT planted a potato with that name?  While the crop was only fair, there were some good-sized spuds and I gave them a try.  I will say that they are quite spectacular-looking - deep blue skin and flesh, almost purple.  But they are a high-moisture spud that doesn't hold up well to steaming, boiling or mashing.  Another roasting spud.  I'm glad I tried them, but I think I will stick with my two favorites.

Magic Mollys from The Maine
Potato Lady


Because of my dad's dementia, my sisters and I have worked out a way to get my mother out of the house to keep her from losing her mind (and patience).  My sister who looks after them, does an amazing job of keeping things interesting and moving along.  My youngest sister makes a trip north as often as possible to spend a couple of days, which relieves my middle sis and provides a great deal of entertainment...  Every so often, Mom comes to my place for an overnight visit.  I get her Bestie to come for tea and leave the two of them to gab on for hours.  Then Mom and I have a nice dinner together and enjoy each other's company, while the dogs take turns piling on Grandma.  I try to find something interesting to do that won't wear her to a frazzle.  She's a little unsteady on her pins, so we limit it to short visits with my wonderful friends.  This past Saturday, her Bestie (who is also my neighbor) said that she would really love it if Mom would come and stay overnight with her (and her husband) some weekend.  Mom was flabbergasted and thrilled.  So now we have another piece to the Cheer Mom Up puzzle!

I also got to spend time with Melanie on our second installment of Knit Fest.  I made soup this time - roasted butternut with a side of GF Dill/Cottage Cheese Popovers.  My popovers were heavy on the "over" and very light on the "pop".  Sigh.  You can try and try, but GF just ain't the same.  I am working on socks #3 in a lovely colorway, dyed by Melanie, called "Shroom".  I am going to have to force myself to stop sock-knitting for a while, since the holidays are galloping toward us and I have a list of projects to finish before Christmas.  I am hoping to convince the last of the hold-outs that I do not wish to receive gifts.  A homemade bauble is just dandy, but I do not want anyone to spend any money.  Firstly, I don't need more 'stuff' and secondly, I am gearing up for a year of no-spending.  Not one dollar.  Only needs will be filled, nothing else.  I have a retirement date and I need to pare down any debt I have to as close to Nil as possible by then.  Of course, I am hoping that the new developments in the White House/Congress do not turn the stock market belly-up.  I don't have the 8-10 years it took me to recover from the last idiot's handiwork.  And I don't want to be slaving away into my 70s.

I am trying to make peace with the fact that I am woefully behind on my winter preps.  There are a few things that must be done but, for the rest?  Well, whatever.  It's my new mantra.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

There are so many benefits...

to having sisters that are neater than you.  When my darling middle sis house/farm sat for me, she brought along her floor steamer.  I never knew such a thing existed!  She cleaned the kitchen, dining room, living room and hallway floors.  Twice.  She very sweetly suggested that they may need yet another go-around.  Ha.  Back in my other life, my floors were pretty much spotless.  Then I added dogs, cats and the farm.  I never looked back and my floors never were the same.  I will say, though, it is awfully nice to have someone come in and do the type of cleaning that I don't have time for.  Or, more honestly, that - should I have the time - falls to the bottom of my list of what I WANT to do.

When my sisters come to visit/stay, surfaces are cleaned and dusted.  Refrigerators are cleaned.  Stove tops are cleaned.  It's a wonderful thing.

Deciding to beat the crowds, I was at our local polling station (the old lumber yard, now the town municipal "complex" - although the only thing complex about it was how our dodgy town supervisor managed to force it through and shove it down our throats) by 6:30AM.  The matriarch of all things official in our town (the dowager duchess, complete with full make-up with a theatrical bent at 6AM), declared, when I walked in, "THAT IS SUE - SHE LIVES ON WATSON ROAD IN CHERRY PLAIN.  ZONE TWO!!!!"  In my ten years of living in my town, I have had to reintroduce myself every freaking year.  Apparently, I've made the grade.  I have arrived.  I also ran into two women who I don't often get to see, so we leaned against our cars in the parking lot and caught up.  Very reminiscent of the local farmers leaning on their pick-ups, but we were an assortment of Volvo, Ford sedan and small SUV.  And two of the women was in heels.  Guess which one wasn't.

Sauerkraut is made!  I forced myself to get it done Saturday night.  It's so easy to talk myself into putting things off, but I have finally learned that procrastination can circle round and bite you in the hiney.  So, toothpicks holding eyelids up, I pounded way past my bedtime.  This year I cut back on the amount of blueberries, as I didn't want to stain my very own kraut pounder blue.  I processed only one cabbage this year - it was a 12 pounder from my neighbor!  Woot!  I also got gifted with a bunch of chard, a bag of organic carrots and an acorn squash!  AND had a completely wonderful visit with my sister from a different mother, Melanie on Sunday!  She brought corn chowder, the vege and her knitting.  What a delightful way to end a weekend.  We knitted and talked and talked and knitted.  She finished a pair of socks in a colorway that I have always coveted (she dyes and sells her own yarn).  She then...GAVE THEM TO ME!  I doubt if that day could have gotten any better.  We are going to try it again this Sunday.

I allowed myself this pure enjoyment because I managed to some things crossed off my list.  I took a car load of trash and recycling to the transfer station.  I got Linden's hooves trimmed.  I raked the sheep yard, moved the divider fence and shoveled and moved a huge pile of llama/sheep beans.  I baked another loaf of Einkorn bread - safely cooled in the padlocked laundry room.  Then I swept the ceiling and walls of the chicken coop, shoveled out the front third and scraped surfaces.  Because of all kinds of planned and unplanned events, I am woefully behind in my winter preps.  The major one is cleaning out the coop.  But, since I am nothing if not flexible, I've downgraded it to shoveling out the area under the roosts and leaving the rest until spring.  The fall clean-up is mostly feathers, anyway, and those will break down and create more insulation for winter.  The ducks have now been banned from co-mingling with the hens because they are so messy and empty the chicken waterer all over the floor.  All that needs done now, besides some heavy lifting this weekend, is running the electricity out there and setting up the water heater.

Headway is being made.  Halleluiah.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

What happens when you are not firing on all cylinders.

Even on my best days, there is always a chance that a cylinder (or five) is missing in the firing-on line-up.  Lately, after the stressful few weeks leading up to Juno's death and then that sneaky flu, I am lucky if one cylinder has the moxie to stand up and be counted.  A varying degree of mistakes are made - some irritating and some rather heart-stopping.

Case(s) in point:  Two weeks ago, I came home and went to let the dogs out.  But, wait.  There are sheep in my back yard.  Thank goodness the gate on the deck was latched.  The dogs were left to pee on the deck (The Pepperoni obliged immediately, while the other two at least looked guilty), while I rather calmly (or so I hoped), sauntered out and tried to nudge the boys back through the gate THAT I HAD LEFT OPEN.  Also, luckily, Apria was still within the confines of the fence, having not sensed that there was a small opening that the Fat Boy (Linden) had squeezed through.  I got crazy Norman in the back part of the paddock and then lured Fat Boy in with a pan of grain, then had to go through a series of open/close/herd with Norman. Whew.

Four days later:  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Same scenario.  Same GATE LEFT OPEN.

This past Monday?  While I was busy ignoring my 'head cold', I went to pick up taters at the local farm (some for me, some for the local food pantry), came home and let the dogs out into an (apparently) empty back yard.  Two seconds later, Lovey dashes to the left and Norman rockets into sight, trying unsuccessfully to vault his rotund self over the fence.  Scrappy didn't notice and The Pepperoni, having sized up the new kids, turned a blind eye.  Thank goodness Lovey listens to me.  I got the dogs back on the deck and, because SOMEONE HAD LEFT THE SAME SHEEP GATE OPEN AGAIN, all three - sheep and llama - were out.  I ignored Apria in the front yard and worked on the sheep.  I am now an expert on sheep and blind llama psychology.  Ignore them, turn your back on them and pretend with every fiber of your body that you are NOT going to head to the barn for grain.  If they have any inkling at all, that you are heading for the grain barrel, you don't stand a chance, they will run you over and rush the barn.  I managed to pull it off and get all three back under lock and key.  I have written "LOCK THE DAMN GATE" in black Sharpie on the gate itself.   Next step is a tattoo.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Maybe the best customer service EVER.

When you live out in the hinterlands, locating bargains and, basically, shopping for anything can be a real challenge.  As you all know, I don't spoil my dogs at all.  Not one little bit.  Nope.  Just totally.  I feel it's necessary to feed them very well because it is an investment and a responsibility.  I am responsible for their well-being and, by taking care with their diet (cats and all living things that are my dependents), they are healthier and that means less vet bills.  Trying to do this on a budget is very challenging.  Especially when your more inexpensive options are located at the big box pet stores that only open when you are firmly ensconced at work.  Then there is the inability to stop on the way home because they are not on your route and you've already left your dogs alone for 10 hours.
I stumbled across while trying to find a more workable option and have never looked back.  They carry every high quality, medium quality and McDonald's quality pet food in quantity.  They sell them by the case and at a discount that rivals any big box store I've shopped.  They further discount with Autoshipping - a service I use monthly.  They offer free shipping on my orders (which are sizable, given three dogs and two cats).  If that is not brilliant enough, I've had to contact their customer service twice and - well, all I can say is...FABULOUS.  First was a single dented can on an otherwise intact shipment.  They don't send single cans, but credited me the one can.  They answered my email within an hour.  On a weekend.  They were pleasant and humorous and took care of the problem right away.  The last was even more fabulous.  I had ordered a winter coat for Scrappy (poor old guy was the only one without a winter coat!  Bad Mom!) and when it arrived, it was way too big for him.  Let's just say that, while my boy is extra large in my heart, he is more of a medium large in reality.  I contacted customer service via online chat and, within two minutes, my order had been refunded and I was asked to please donate the BRAND NEW, FANCY, SCHMANCY coat to a rescue of my choice.  I was flabbergasted.  Now, it may have been because the package was opened and had been tried on, but still.
I am highly recommending anyone who buys pet food in any quantity to give them a try.  Their website is here.  I am now going to go home and measure the boy.  Winter's coming and Grampy needs a brand new coat.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

No end to the excitement.

How ironic it is, that one should never expect to be able to take a vacation when one works full time, without paying mightily for the time off - whereas, it's fine to take a vacation when you are NOT going to be skipping into a hornet's nest in the office.  But.  Then you'd be retired.  And you wouldn't need a vacation.  Would you?  Ask me in three years.

I took advantage of my dear sis' offer to home sit for me and toddled off to South Portland, Maine, for a short visit with Sylvie.  It was an interesting trip out...

We got everything...
It started as rain, then sleet, then snow, then sleety snow, then rain.

Once again, my GPS turned on me.  I hadn't been out for a couple of years, so I wasn't worried that some of the route didn't look familiar.  Until, three hours later, I was still going through small towns and stop lights.  Egads.  It had decided to take me the shortest route, not the fastest.  It took me over five hours to make the four hour trip.  Rain/snow all the way.  Pfft.

I knew I wasn't home when I woke up
on Saturday.  No dust motes.
I finally arrived and Sylvie and I made our usual pilgrimage to the SoPo Goodwill, we visited a great shoe store, where I got a pair of boots that I adore, then went back to Sylvie and Jim's darling little house for a gourmet meal, a bottle of wine and invigorating conversation.  I felt like such an adult!  Saturday was another rainy day, but we managed to squeeze in quite a lot.  We visited a marvelous farmers market - populated by friendly local farmers with a beautiful array of fall vege - I couldn't get over the abundance!  And the prices were great!  I brought home two big bunches of leeks ($3/bunch) and a huge bag of organic carrots for $4.  I would have moved there just for that market.  Sylvie and I did a quick sweep of Reny's, where I got to check quite a few things off my 'needed clothing' list at great prices.  We packed a lot into Saturday - market, Reny's, trip to an Oceanside park, fish tacos (THE BEST) at Taco Trio, checked out Jim's woodworking gems at a local coffee shop/gallery, and drinks at the bar of a wonderful little restaurant.  Jim's daughter (gorgeous) was the bartender that night.  Then home for another gourmet meal.  I was in a daze of happiness.
The park we visited, Ft. Williams, was scenic even in rainy weather.  There were also plenty of folks there - rain or not.  We saw a man creating these giant soap bubbles and Jim sauntered off to talk to him while Sylvie and I enjoyed the effect of the bubbles on the kids.  Jim had a go and the fellow gave him a homemade bubble maker to use with his grandkids!  Very typical of Portlanders - open and friendly.

Ft. Williams Park

Bubble Man
Bubble Magic!
Speaking of magic...
While Sylvie and I were chatting away and catching up, Jim disappeared.  That evening, just before we set off for drinks at his daughter's bar, he gave me this:

Isn't it lovely?
I had admired Sylvie's mom's stool (beautifully tole-worked) and Jim had made a pattern from it.  I said I would like to commission one, thinking that some day - in the future - Sylvie could bring it with her when she came through.  Jim is a man of action.  He cut, fitted, glued, clamped and sanded this little gem so that I could have it before I left!  Amazing.  And it is a lovely, useful thing.  I can't wait to finish it - I have so many ideas...
My trip back was uneventful - and faster.  The dogs missed me.  Scrappy, it seems, got very stressed and threw up.  My poor boy.  Good thing he recovers quickly.  I had taken Monday off so that I would have a buffer between vacation and work.  Otherwise, I find, one forgets their vacation almost instantly.  However, the Universe had other plans and I woke up Monday with what I thought was a head cold.  By Monday evening it was a full-blown flu.  Blech.  I was down for the count for a couple of days, although I managed to get outside yesterday (it was 65 DEGREES) and prune the peonies and dahlias, yoink the rest of the tomato and pepper plants, and get some washing on the line.  I also made a loaf of einkorn bread (my favorite recipe - 2 hour, non-dairy) so I could have something to go with the endless bowls of soup.  Lovey decided to down half of it while my back was turned.  There were bad words spoken loudly.  All my attempts to break her of this counter-surfing habit have failed.
So back in the saddle today.  I walked into a firestorm and I've been putting out fires all day.  I could use another vacation....

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Woof Stoves

The day after a thoroughly delightful weekend in Maine, I woke up with the flu. I don't have to worry about keeping the chills away – I've got my woof stoves to keep me warm…

A recap of my mini-vacation after I'm back to myself.  Whoever she is.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Thank you all.

Thank all of you for your very kind thoughts and much-appreciated hugs.  I was reflecting on how different Juno's passage was than that of Flora - her mother.  This was entirely due to the vet.  Dr. D and I sat in the barn with Juno from start to finish, and a little longer, out of respect for her excellent-ness.  He spoke kindly to both of us.  He told me stories about being a young vet, the vagrancies of human nature (four deer hunters hit a deer with their truck, then brought it to the vet and paid the large bill to have it treated), we talked about President Kennedy's death, Viking ships, our families, breeds of horses, the anatomy of ruminants.  Juno had her head in my lap and her passage to TNGA was peaceful, although it takes a long time for sheep (and ruminants in general) to give up the fight.

It took us both a few minutes to get up off the barn floor (some much-appreciated levity) and then we moved her to my car.

When I first launched myself into this venture, I was pretty much clueless.  While I don't recommend this approach, it is what it is.  I haven't harmed too many innocent creatures in my sharp learning curve, I am happy to say, but there is always a lingering fear that you could have done more or, even worse, that you were the cause of it all.  As Dr. D and I sat with Juno, we discussed her rather rapid deterioration and how none of the treatments that should have worked, did.  It did make me feel better, but it is an enormous responsibility to make the decision of treatment or death of any living creature.  You spend a lot of time wishing that, as Michelle so aptly put it in her comment, (and I paraphrase) you could keep them alive purely by loving them enough.

We tried to make Juno's removal from the barn as non-threatening as possible for Linden, Apria and Norman.  No one was noticeably affected except for Norman, who is a very sensitive sheep (in a sheep's fight-or-flight reaction, Normal is 100% flight).  He was very upset and he bleated, off and on, for a couple of hours after Juno was gone.  However, this morning - after a liberal dose of graham crackers - he seems to have recovered.

Sheep.  I love them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Saying Good-bye to a Most Excellent Sheep.

Juno as a babe front left.

Sheepie love.

Good n' Plenty

Dr. D and I (and Linden, Norman and Apria) were with Juno as she moved on to her Next Big Adventure today.  It's always so difficult to say good-bye.  Especially to such a very excellent sheep.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Just how flexible am I?

My little patient.

Let's just say that, if my joints were as flexible as my schedule, I could be a yoga master.  After going on four weeks of Juno as a semi-mobile, non-walking/standing patient, I made calls to get an expert opinion.  I talked to the vet at the rabies clinic who was not all that helpful (she's mostly into cows).  I called my new large animal vet who could 'get to me sometime in early November'.  Then, in desperation, I called my favorite (and overworked) vet of all things animals.  And he answered the phone!  At first, it looked like he could not get to us until Wednesday but then found a way to squeeze us in on Saturday.   However, he didn't have the schedule made up and wouldn't know what time until Saturday morning.  So, all things Saturday were put in a holding pattern.  The skies also opened up.  After getting the go-ahead for Saturday early afternoon, I ran down Plan A and revised to Plan B.  This entailed jettisoning the feed run.  I was limited also by the fact that I will be gone for two days next weekend and am handing the whole mess over to my dear sister.  AND my neighbor who continually saves my bacon is on vacation.

I did get most of the other chores and errands done - large Goodwill run (I am keeping up with my quota), Tractor Supply run - dog treats and an emergency bag of scratch feed, parents' for lunch and use of their dryer to fluff dry the down garments.  *Note here:  Be sure to thoroughly check your down coats and vests BEFORE washing them in case of cuts and tears.  This is going in my Do As I Say (not as I do) book.*  By the time I left their house (in VT), it was pouring.  I had just enough time to get home and let the dogs out before Dr. D arrived.  Let me just interject here that I love this man.  Not in the romantic sense, but as a person and a vet he is above all others.  Always cheerful.  Extremely empathetic and willing to try anything.  He listens.  He loves animals.  His practice credo is to treat every patient as if it were your own.  That is why I trust his judgment.  We dashed into the barn and he remarked that Juno seemed to have a very strong life force.  That she does.  She got booster shots, vitamin shots and a steroid.  I was told to lay the calories on and roust her about as often as possible.  We would revisit Wednesday.  All day Saturday, I was in and out of the barn (always in the 3+ inches of rain/sleet/snow we got).  I rousted.  I cajoled.  I plied her with second cut hay and sweet feed and molasses drenches.  She got perkier but still did not stand.  I squished when I walked.  To make myself feel as if I was accomplishing something, I baked these:

Coconut Flour Chocolate Chip Cookies (From Mighty Nest)

(Makes 1 dozen relatively small cookies.  Or so I say...)

1/3 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350*.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.  In a large bowl, whisk flour, melted oil, maple syrup, vanilla, salt, and eggs until the mixture comes together into a thick batter.  It did take a little while for the coconut flour to absorb the liquids.  Fold the chocolate chips into the batter to distribute.   Drop by heaping tablespoon onto the parchment paper.  You have to flatten these slightly, as they will not spread.  Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the edges are golden.  Cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to cool completely on a rack.  Store leftovers (hahahahaha) in the refrigerator.

I felt better, but Juno hadn't changed.  I did a few inside chores (it rained all the day long and all the night long, and added high winds), but not a whole lot was accomplished.  A lot of sock knitting but that doesn't count until you get at least half your list checked off.  So sez me.  I did get the nesting boxes cleaned out and some surfaces scraped off, but nowhere near the 'clean the coop' job I had intended.  Sorry, sis.  On a happy note, both the little hens and the girl ducks put themselves to bed for the night with no help from moi!  Oh, happy day!  All I have to do is go out and close doors.

Sunday, the weather finally cleared up, just in time for us to toddle up the mountain to the cookout.  Imagine my shock at seeing four inches of snow halfway up!  It is three miles from my house to the hosts' house and it was like a totally different climate!  I am glad that I put coats on all the kids, as the wind was whipping around, too.  They were very well-behaved and received.  It was two hours of treats, food, runs, walks, and much patting of heads.  By the time I loaded them into the car for the drive back down the mountain, Pepper was snoring in his soup.  They were out for hours, happy dogs.

Unfortunately, Juno was not so happy.  With all of the added protein to build her strength up, she had developed bloat by evening.  I put in a call to Dr. D and we discussed the fact that, in her weakened state, there was not much hope.  I would do what I could for her and he would come down on his lunch hour to send her on to her next big adventure.  I gave Juno two bicarbonate of soda drenches between 6 and 11:30, and rolled her around and squeezed her a bit.  She seemed to like the attention and burped a couple of times - all of which I took as hopeful signs.  I brought out my knitting and set up my camp stool, and she and I (I did all of the talking...) spent a few companionable hours.  I recounted her birth (in case she forgot it) and my part in in.  I talked about her mother - Flora - and I knitted.  There is something so right about spending time with a very nice sheep and knitting.  At 11:30, I let the boys and Apria into the barn so that she could have company, and sadly took my knitting off to bed.  This morning, I put off going out to check on her because I didn't want to find her gone.

I didn't.  She was back to perky and chewing her cud.  I called the vet to report in and happily rushed around doing morning chores.  I was so happy that I left early so that I could do one of the jobs on my list - take the recycling to the transfer station on my way (sort of) to work.  I had forgotten that they did not open until 9 on Mondays.  Thank goodness I know the crew that works there - they begrudgingly let me do a frantic run-through and get out of their way quickly.

Dr. D and I still have to have the hard talk about Juno, but at least I know she is not suffering.  Now, if I could just get my feet and hands warm again...

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Too good to be true?

I will have to have a few more to make an educated guess.  Grain free chocolate chip cookies with natural sugar (maple syrup).  They are, in a word, DELISH!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Today's lunch.

Put on the sunglasses!
Sock pair No. 2 in a rather gaudy shade of yellow, fluorescent green, olive and tan.  What was I thinking?  It must have been a heck of a sale...  At least, when I'm head-first in a snow drift this winter, with clogs in the air, I will be easier to spot.  I et the Macoun apple.

Heading into another jam-packed weekend with a schedule that has changed sixteen times since Tuesday. I have errands I have to run, feed to buy and my favorite vet is squeezing Juno and I into his already crowded Saturday line-up.  It's going to be a blowsy, rainy weekend, but there is work that must be done outside.  On a bright note, the kids and I have all been invited to a cookout on Sunday - where it's not supposed to rain, but be very windy.  If only weather forecasters were as reliable as a hike in our taxes.  Hope you all have some fun planned in your weekend.  (lalalaMamaPealalala)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Isn't it amazing?

It amazes me how something so small can cause so much havoc?  Yes, it is my annual dosey-do with Lyme's Disease.  After dragging my carcass around for weeks, blaming it on everything BUT Lyme's, I made an appointment to see my NP and got the news.   21 days of doxycycline and I should be right as rain.  Until next year.  I wouldn't even have thought about LD if it weren't for the fact that, what I thought was a fly bite behind my ear had a desiccated tick body firmly attached.  Blech.  Our weather has gone from fall to summer, with highs in the low 80s.  Fornatssake.  I'm afraid my tomatoes will start growing again.

Friday, October 14, 2016

And then there were four....

The silence was deafening this morning.  Yesterday at o' dark thirty, I wrestled eleven ducks into two large dog crates, loaded them in my car and headed north.  One of the downsides of living in this state is the dearth of processors, thanks to over-regulation.  There was one processor who would handle ducks and they were a good distance north of me, with an early cut-off time for drop-off, to boot.

Armed with my trusty GPS, off I went.  An hour and a half later, after going 2.2 miles this way, 3.1 miles that way, 5.6 miles the other way, etc., I was thinking how lucky I was to have my trusty GPS to guide me through this maze of back roads, country lanes, hills and dales.  It guided me all right - right into the back yard of someone who was NOT the processor.   I believe I was within spitting distance of Canada.

Frantic now (having all that quacking in the back did not help sooth my nerves), I drove aimlessly, trying to find a signal so I could call them and report my lost-ness.  I went right into their voicemail.  I left a fairly unintelligible message and begged for mercy and an time extension.  I squinted at my phone (having conveniently forgotten to bring my glasses) and typed in the address again.  Bingo!  I was off - in the wrong direction.  By now my blood pressure was rising and the inside of the car was littered with feathery down and wood shavings - having 11 equally frantic and stinky ducks in near proximity means windows down.  I found a sheriff's way station and rang the bell.  No answer, even though there were about six cars in the parking lot.  I briefly contemplated hitting the big, red EMERGENCY HELP button, but then figured they wouldn't agree that being lost with a car full of ducks constituted a legitimate reason for breaking up their coffee klatch/card game and would arrest me for false emergency.  Back in the car, I tried once again to reach the processor - and did!

Turns out they were very close to where I had been about 45 minutes ago - about 20 miles away.  By the time I pulled into the drive, I was a mess.  But they were very nice about it and did not refuse to take the ducks (that was the awful thought that kept running in loops through my mind).  We briefly discussed the giant turkeys a farmer had dropped off (we had a bet as to what the processed weight would be - I won.  I was closer to the final 42#) and I took myself off. 

Since it was a lovely day and I was close to Vermont, I stopped to pick up my yearly apple supply and headed to my parents' house.  Five cups of tea later, I was finally calm.  I drove back to the processor, loaded the now-quiet ducks into the cooler and headed home.  I also gleaned a happy nugget of news - this guy was merely renting the facilities until he put a processing unit into his own farm - a mere half hour from me!  Woot!

I straggled inside, squeezed the ducks into the freezer, let the dogs out and poured a glass of wine (not necessarily in that order).  The four girls left were very quiet - I imagine they decided to keep a low profile, just in case...  After a little carrying-on this morning, they settled down and seemed to enjoy the fact that they could forage and splash without being assaulted every five minutes.  I am enjoying the quiet until they re-find their voices.

Monday, October 10, 2016

A Little Something From Every Category

It was a productive and interesting weekend.  There was a beautiful backdrop to the fall garden.  The kale continues to thrive.
My favorite tree. 
There was some quality time spent with my sister with an added benefit of hope, love, serenity and inspiration.  We went to help celebrate the 23rd Anniversary of the local Peace Pagoda - always an amazing sight, when coming into the clearing from the woods.

Not your ordinary sight in the NE woods.
It was festooned with colorful paper flowers, flags, banners, food, and flowers.

An altar with food and other offerings had been set up before the Stupa, along with a prayer platform and speaker dais.   Regional, national and local Buddhist monks and the Buddhist nun that lives and works at our local pagoda led the progression with chanting and drum beats.
Local and regional Buddhist monks and nuns.
Buddhist prayers celebrating and giving thanks for the pagoda were given first, followed by an amazing and uplifting array of Jewish, Hindu, Catholic and Protestant prayers that included singing, musical instruments and, lastly, a very powerful poem recited by a very powerful poet.  The entire ceremony was to promote peace. 

Buddhist prayers
Because I had to pick up my frozen raw dog food (what I don't do for them...) which was thawing by the minute, we had to leave early.  We did, however, get to listen to a very moving talk by Oren Lyons, Haudenosaunee Faithkeeper, from the Onondaga Nation.  We were both very sorry to miss the rest of the program, but there was all that expensive, thawing dog food...  Na-Mu-Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo. 

Magnificent beastie.
On our way to my friend's cattle farm to pick up the aforementioned food, we stopped at a farm stand and admired their Scottish Highland cattle.  Especially this guy.  Wow.

Then it was back to the homestead for a hasty lunch of black rice and cumin quinoa and a very short visit.  Sunday, I got to check a few things off the list - plant garlic and shallots, re-stack hay, quality time with Juno, rake sheep yard, pawdicures, garden clean-up, bake bread.  I find I have gotten a lot more energy back with the dropping leaves and temperatures.  The only thing I did not get accomplished was potting the geraniums for over-wintering inside.  Since we have a frost/freeze warning tonight, I will wrap them up and hope for the best - as there will be no more time until next weekend!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Call the Packaging Police!

What were they thinking?
I mean, really?  They could not, say, find a box the size of a shoe box?  They couldn't put it in a padded envelope?  This is so crazy.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

This view.

Coming up to the crest of the plateau.

On the way down to home.
This is the only part of my daily commute that makes it all worthwhile.  I never get tired of this view - it almost doesn't look real.  This time of year, the mountains start to look like bright patchwork quilts, with their reds, oranges and yellows.  Even with the very dry year, there is still a lot of color.  Unfortunately, the leaves drop almost immediately, so it will be a very short and colorful season for the leaf-peepers.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Last of the Harvest

Eeeny, meeny, miney, mo.

Can you pick out the watermelon?  Can we say "dry Summer"?  The cucumber is for seeds, the last of the red peppers and my so-pathetic watermelon.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Zen of Socks

A sure sign of Autumn is when the knitting needles are in action once again.  I discovered - to my horror - that I only had three pair of wool socks!  Lucky for me (snort) I also discovered that I have an entire bin of sock yarn!  What a surprise!  Not.  Being my usual impatient self, I didn't bother to do a crash refresher course on knitting socks on two circular needles.  Oh, no.  I just pulled out those four tiny little filaments and charged ahead.  I truly do think that knitting socks is a form of Zen.  You just have to make it past the beginning - the unnatural posture your hands and fingers have to maintain in order to get those tiny little sticks all going in the same direction.  Bad words were spoken.   Often and loudly.
I am back into my comfortable routine of early morning knitting.  I am even doing some before-bedtime knitting, although it is most likely the time where stitches are dropped.  This makes for more bad words in the morning.  My crew is becoming used to the routine, bad words and all.

This is what happens when I put down
my knitting for a second.
I am guaranteed a lapful whenever I sit down.  And, if I put my knitting down for a nanosecond, Kramer moves in with lightning speed.  I have learned to knit over him and he doesn't seem to mind the occasional poke.  That is The Pepperoni snugged up next to me, under his blanket.
Slimbo feels the Zen...
Slimbo tries to horn in and, if he can't get the primo spot (smooshed next to me), he smooshes next to The Pepperoni, who carries on something awful - from under the blanket.  After a few minutes of this, everyone settles into the Zen.

Slimbo is IN the Zen.
The only added accoutrement to our Zen-ness in the mornings is the high level of dog farts.  I am almost used to The Pepperoni's green aura - he had bodacious farts for such a tiny guy.  However, everyone is getting accustomed to their new diet to various levels of smell-ociousness.  I was forced to turn the exhaust fan on last night and this morning so that I could concentrate on my knitting.  I sure hope their various systems settle down before I have to close up for winter - or it will be a particularly cold one, as I will be forced to keep a window open out of self-defense.