Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On the ball or under it?


Since there seems to be a rather large lull in winter right now (JINXED), I quit procrastinating and dragged out my garden planning accessories this past weekend.  Those being:  binder, graph paper, mechanical pencil, seed catalogs, seed packets, notebook.  I cleared off the dining room table (except for my centerpiece - above - which I use for inspiration), made a pot of tea and took my seat.  Then I got up, gave the dogs crunchy treats, meandered about for a half hour, and forced myself back into my chair.  Hello Brain!?!  Hello!?! 

Every year, I promise myself that I will not buy one more seed packet, as I have TONS of seeds that still have life in them.  And it's not like I am planting for a family of six.  Nevertheless, I take my garden very seriously, as it provides all of my fresh produce and most of my preserved (canned/dried/ frozen) for the year.  Last year, for some reason, I never sat down with paper and pencil and plotted the garden.  It was a big mistake.  Everything went in rather willy-nilly and it showed.  Sweet peas planted on the bean trellis were engulfed and stunted.  Cukes were put in a hard to reach place and were the cause of much...colorful language.  Beans were disorderly.  Peppers were puny.  Tomatoes fell down.  Basil was squeezed out.  It was a mess.  Because there was no order, it was difficult to keep track of what did well and why.

New last year were tomatillos.  They grew like crazy and produced tons of fruit.  I think I got a half bushel from two plants.  However, other than the rather exotic thought of tomatillos, I did not care for them as much as I thought I would, so they are off the list for this year.  New this year are leeks.  In my quest for a passable carrot crop (2016 or Bust!),  I have decided to dedicate one bed to carrots and leeks (because they are best friends).  I am going to dig in a pile o' sand into that bed, add a pile o' llama beans and hope for the best.  This will include actually thinning the seedlings - rather than thinking about it.  I am weak.

Last year's potato crop was very uneven.  The fingerlings were disappointing, while the Red Norlands were the size of large Russets, but there were few.  I've ordered potatoes from a new source this year - The Maine Potato Lady - in the hopes that I will find a good, organic seed potato that will produce.  I grow my taters in tater bags and in tires, which seems to work well.  Usually. 

The chipmunks (buggers) made harvesting my strawberry crop almost impossible.  In order to be able to out maneuver them in order to get to the ripe berries before they did, I had to resort to putting bird netting over the entire bed.  This made picking them a real pain.  I ended up ripping holes in the top so that I could reach most of them without having to remove the covering each time and replacing it and pinning it down.  Needless to say, the weeds thought this was marvelous and overtook the entire bed.  I had to rip out the plants (most of which were on the old side, truth be told) and will replant this spring.  The Chipmunkinator is coming out early.

Beans.  Well, those purple pod pole beans were superhuman - or superbeanan!  I have so many seeds from these beans that I will gladly send seeds to whomever wants a hugely healthy, thriving pole bean.  Just send me an email with your mailing address.   Seriously.  I have two quart jars full of seeds.  I am going to plant whatever is in my seed stock this year - some are a little dated, but since I only need a few plants of each, I am sure there is enough viable seed stock to set me up. 

My goal at the end of this new gardening season (may it be the best yet for everyone!) is to end up with enough of my own seeds that I do not have to buy anything but seed potatoes and onions next year.  This may mean that no seed catalogues can enter the house.  I am, as I said, weak.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday musings 22-28

This week, it's all about stacks.



1 - A stack of my mom's old chair cushions.  They are still serviceable, but I can't give them to Goodwill (risk of infestation....) and I already have twenty assorted cat beds.  They are too large for my dining room chairs, so out they go.  They are my landfill nightmare, which is why I have been hanging onto them for years.  I hope I don't get nightmares.
2 - This is a very nice, small teapot but I already have a nice, small teapot.  And a nice medium teapot.  And a nice large get the idea.  But I have clung to it for years because it is cute.  And green.  Very little logic is involved. 
3 - I am letting go of some of my cookbooks - a painful process, but it has to be done.  In this stack are:  Cooking Free, Literary Feast, Porridge Sisters Vegan Cookbook, and A Return to Cooking.  An eclectic mix, to say the least.
4 - I am tired of saying I am going to learn to paint watercolors.  I am not.  I am too heavy-handed for watercolors, according to all of my art instructors in my previous life.  I was also deemed to heavy-handed to use a lightweight women's bowling ball and was always given a heavy one, which I flung down the lane with not a thought to precision.  I was also warned of being too heavy-handed with a pool cue, although I did support myself for a bit in college, heavy-handed or not.
5 - Where the heck did these come from?
6 - Another painfully slow process will be culling knitting patterns and the yarn stash (ouch).  But, really.  A stack (albeit a small stack) of patterns - mittens, dishtowel and dishcloths.  MANY more to go.
7 - A very nice LLBean barn coat in navy corduroy.  It went out the door on my sister this weekend which is why you are seeing the artist's rendering....

Friday, January 22, 2016

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

...and I'll supply the entertainment.

After completely disregarding my vow to simplify my life, I scheduled both my annual physical and blood donation on the same day.  I was up at the crap of dawn (as Kay would have said) - my usual time of rising - tried to focus on things other than I could not have even one cup of coffee, spent some time on my latest knitting project (to be revealed), and fed the dogs early.  As soon as it was lightish, I battled my way to the sheep feeder with their winter grain ration (it's like wading through bumper cars), then threw some hay in their feeder.  I did chicken chores, took a 5 minute shower and left the house at 7:30 for my 8:15 appointment.  Luckily, the only traffic on the road at that hour were feed trucks, milk trucks and me.  It helped that it was a holiday - no school buses!

I like everything about my doctor's office except for the fact that they are as cheap as I am with the heat.  Geez.  My doctor and her staff are the polar opposites of the doctor I had been going to for years.  Laid back, open to suggestion, willing to take as much time as needed to talk to you, let you babble on, do not force medication on you.  The only drawback is that the laid back attitude sometimes leaches into the checkout system.  I was standing, slumped against the wall (fasting will do that to you), waiting for a very elderly woman to finish checking out.  Who couldn't hear well and was, apparently, accompanied by her loud, bossy daughter.  Who, apparently, felt that NONE of us could hear well.  I was finally saved by one of the check IN ladies and was given my paperwork for the lab.  After my brief and mostly pain-free visit to Mrs. Dracula, I was off for the day.  Except for the six errands between the doctor's office and home.

I pulled up the driveway with just enough time to let the dogs out and have a quick bite (and a cup o' joe or three) before doing some quick house cleaning and heading out to the local firehouse for my appointment for the blood drive.  I have to say that the folks who work these blood drives are very nice.  They are efficient, friendly and professional.  As I jabbered along with Stephanie, my check-in (adorable) young woman, I learned that she had a grandmother who had raised sheep, sheared them and had won numerous awards for her knitted blankets.  As I lay supine on the cot, squeezing my squeeze ball, I contemplated the level of filth on the ceiling fan blades.  I listened to bad music and the babbling of voices around me.  It was rather nice to have down time and do something good at the same time.

Steven (a gentle, bearded giant), unhooked me and made sure I was good to toddle over to the snacks and drink table, which was manned by a pair of slightly disinterested high school seniors - this drive being part of the community service duty.  I sat on my folding chair, chatting with the town supervisor (who I caught breaking his no-carb diet with a few - dozen - packets of cheese crackers).  Then I felt slightly lightheaded.  I figured it would pass and it did, sort of.  As in pass out.  Next thing I knew, I was lying on the floor with my feet elevated, gazing into the worried face of the giant.  Well, that was different.  After a few minutes, we tried it again, and I was now sitting at the table with a pair of less disinterested high school seniors.  In fact, they looked downright alarmed.  A few minutes later?  Rinse, wash, repeat.  This time, Steven slowly and gently, but firmly guided me back to a cot, where I got to contemplate the mummified flies clinging to the fringe on the flag of NYS.  He would not take my word that I was okay - not that I blame him.  Another fifteen minutes pass and I am starting to flop like a beached fish because I want down.  He practically carried me back to the snacks table where I promised to down two bottles of water and a container of juice.  By then, I was down to one alarmed high school senior who turned out to be delightful.  We had a grand time discussing colleges, traveling, school sports, and girls.

When I was finally allowed to leave on my own power, I turned to the young fellow and asked if he was doing this for community service credit.  He said that, yes, he was and it had been really, really boring until I turned up.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Monday Musings 15-21

(Disclaimer: The items presented in these weekly musings are being used purely as a cathartic way to purge my closets and give a squeeze to my creative juices.  They are not being offered up to burden the drawers and closets of my readers...that being said, if there is something here that you have waited for all your life, who am I to stand in your way?)

The odd bunch. 





Heaven only knows how I acquired #1.  It has been languishing in a drawer for years.  I did put it on my mantel once.  It only took a nanosecond before it was spotted by the cats.  You know the rest of the story.

#2 was glued to the bottom of dish #5 as a sort of cake stand.  It would not have supported a Twinkie.  As in the shelf bird, a nanosecond after I received it (it was a Christmas gift), the cordial glass parted company with the plate.  I suppose I should have counted it as one item, but, since it's in two pieces...

#3 I have a bad habit of never trying on clothes before I buy them.  I think the main reason is that I refuse to subject myself to dressing room lighting.  Wouldn't you think that they would put in soft, complimentary lights, giving you the illusion that, possibly, you ARE Adele?  Instead, I seem to be an emissary of the Creature of the Black Lagoon.  I'd rather take my chances with non-fitting clothes.   Ergo, this nice top that a) does nothing for me but bad things and b) doesn't fit.  It has been rescued by my sis, on who it looks fabulous.

#4-5  The plate at the top and the plate at the bottom were both Christmas gifts.  The plate at the top was a clear glass plate that now dons a decoupage bottom.  We know the story of the plate at the bottom.

#6  A total of 61 glow-in-the-dark rubber eyeballs and one rubbery ring that used to flash on and off.  Don't ask.

#7  One of SIX nut crackers that I own.  Why?  Haven't a clue.

Friday, January 15, 2016

It's all about the buttons.

Do you remember waaaaaay back when, when I was chugging along on a larger-than-normal knitting project?  I had finally finished it and then it languished.  For months - nay - years.  My excuse was that I had to find just the right buttons.  I did.  This past late summer, Kay's daughter and husband started parting with her giant, bottomless stash in a series of (painful for all) tailgate sales.  I spied these buttons and remembered when she got them.  She had come bustling over - chaos in motion, at least one knitting bag, probably two or three (she had at least six projects in the works at all times), purse, keys, exuberance - and showed me these buttons.  They were thin slices of walnut shells.  She never got the chance to use them on the perfect project, but I have.  And it's not like I need these buttons to remind me of her - I still think of her every single day - but it's awful nice to look down and see them and know that she would approve.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

A little ray of sunshine.

It's hard to tell from this angle, but in that little patch of sunlight are: Lovey, Pepperoni, Kramer and Slimbo.  Quadruple the heat!  Scrappy is happy to be tucked into his fleece blanket on the sweet spot on the sofa.  I am just amazed to see sun!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Monday Musings 8-14


I am having a rather good time rummaging around in my stuff and tossing things in the "out you go" bin.  There were no takers for the prior items, other than the Anchor Hocking dish.  So into the Goodwill bin they went.
Now to this week's selection.  I have had this big (BIG) comfy down jacket for a long time and it's saying something that I have not stained it, ripped it or generally destroyed it.  My mother has the exact same jacket.  The last time I wore this was when a well-meaning sales clerk exclaimed, "Why look at you two!  You look exactly alike!  Twins!"  First, let me state that being told I look like my mother is an extreme compliment, as she is a beautiful woman (inside and out).  However...being told that I look exactly like a 91 year old is not high on my list.  I would much rather hear -  "OMG!  It's Adele!!!!"  (Yes, yes - snowball's chance in hell and all that, but a girl can dream...)  So my red jacket is ready for a new home.
Number 2 is a Brooks Brothers heavy men's XL (although I'd say it's really a large) sweater.  A neighbor gave it to me.  I'm not sure why.  I already have the Geezer and I'm sticking with it.  This is a beautiful sweater and it needs a new, loving home.  (Aside:  Where the heck does "sweater" come from?  I mean, don't you put one on to keep warm?  Isn't it cold when you don your sweater?)
Number 3.  Yes, it's a fitbit.  I direct you to the Magpie Syndrome explanation.  There are two reasons this is on its way out.  First, I tend to balk when feeling that I am expected to walk a certain number of steps per day.  There's too much pressure.  If I have a fairly sedentary day at work and it's raining cats and dogs when I get home and all dark and dreary, am I expected to slog out and hot-foot my way to 10,000 steps?  Run in place?  Second, it was just this reason that my dearest friend, Kay, lost her life on a dark, dreary, rainy night - trying to cram in those last steps to top her record.  It needs to go to someone who is more disciplined than I am.
Number 4.  This was thrifted and I was taken in by its cute, pineapple-y charms.  That was six years ago and I have never used it.  Out it goes.
Numbers 5-7.  I could have lumped these under one category of "media" but I'm not gonna.  Honestly?  I cannot take one more viewing of Barbara Stanwyck doing slapstick.  I prefer the charming comedian Cary Grant to the charming rogue.  Valerie June has a great voice but every single song on this CD sounds the same.  These are destined for the library.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Welcome to my world.

Remember her?

It's a good thing she is as cute as she is, because she turning out to be as sharp as a marble.  I have a pretty good deal going with my dairy farmer neighbor:  he keeps my cow, Jasmine, we split the AI costs, I get milk whenever I need it.  It's almost perfect.  Jazzie's first calf was a heifer - Alice - who also lives at the farm.  Then it was a whole long line of bull calves until this last Christmas.  Because it's a working dairy farm, staffed by a middle-aged farmer and some less than stellar farm help, calves have to transition from bottle to bucket fairly quickly.  This has not been an issue guessed it .... Daisy.  I have been toddling up to the farm every morning at 6:30 to work with her, trying to kick up that dim bulb - OH! The BUCKET!  This has complicated my already complicated morning.  Starting January 4, I have new hours, thanks to the Merger From Hell (MFH).  I have to go in earlier, which means ratcheting up my morning game.  I already get up at 4A, which allows me some quiet time to knit and read my daily journal entry on my path to enlightenment (right Mama Pea?)  This also means the doglets are getting breakfast at 6 (no complaints heard so far), then to the farm, then back for my own breakfast, then out to do chickens and sheep, then back in to do a superfast shower, flash dry, reasonable facsimile of work clothes, then out the door for my hour's commute.  This seems to work, although there is no room for glitches.  And you know there are always glitches.

This morning I walked into the barn to find the farmer with his hair on end and an armful of tools.  The water system that waters the cows was not working on a quarter of the barn, so 15 cows were not getting water.  Plus it was the morning the milk truck was coming.  I put myself in overdrive and fed all the calves (saving Daisy for last because, well, she's as sharp as a marble).  Then I grabbed two 5 gallon buckets and watered all the cows in the dry zone (motivated because my dear Jazzie is in that section).  Then I rocketed home, snorted down my oatmeal, threw feed at everyone outside and made it in to find...I had no time to shower.

Since there is definitely a slight but noticeable Eau de Cow Barn about me, I am keeping a low profile.  TGIF.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Winter arrives.

And Lovey is not amused.

Neither is her person, who is on her way to the mechanics.  0 degrees.  Ho, ho, pfft.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Monday Musings 1-7

This feels a lot like True Confessions.  The following are the first (well, first-ish) victims of the great purge. 

1)  I attribute most of this selection to the Magpie Syndrome.  You know, a bright, shiny object pops up and you lose your mind.  So it goes with the Crocs.  Though, they are not bright nor are they shiny.  Nor do they fit well or do anything to jazz up my wardrobe.  M/W size 6/8, if anyone is looking for a pair....

2)  Not all things should be purchased online.  At 4 AM.  This manicure kit looked more like something Edward Scissorhands would pull out than what I had in mind...
3)  This Anchor Hocking covered dish protected my cheese stash for years.  Then I moved into this house with its confined (and not-too-useful-in-my-book) side/by/side fridge.  It was too commodious so off it goes.  It has already found a new home, thanks to Facebook.
4)   I have dragged this adorable but amazingly difficult to fill rabbit eared salt mill around for decades.  Time for it to go.
5) A potato ricer.  Really?  And I needed it .... why?  It is another example of my weakness for kitchen implements.  It is a very nice, sturdy tool but I mash my taters with an ancient masher and I ain't going to change.  No how.
6) How many kitchen thermometers does one need?  Not as many as I have in my kitchen gizmo drawer, that's for sure.  A nice thermometer but I don't use it.
7)  I love this spiral cutter, but I got a new one for Christmas and I am afraid she (who will go unnamed and who never sets a foot in my house) will notice if I am using a different one.  Guilt strikes again.  These things are so cool and I am sure it will ease the burden of someone's zucchini bumper crop.