Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Let's talk towels.

I know, I know.  How lame does that sound?  I've been off-line for a week and this is the best I can do?  Well, yes it is.

My definition of the 'perfect' bath towel was always a vision of large fluffiness.  No pastels, please.  For it to be extra perfect, it should be straight out of the dryer, a warm, soft wrap that would make you want to cocoon on the tile floor and curl up in bliss.

My definition has changed.  As I have traveled along on my journey to simplify my life, one of the luxuries jettisoned was my dryer.  I had a perfectly serviceable dryer that I picked up on Freecycle, and it served me well for a good eight years.  Heaven knows how old it was to begin with.  I vowed, however, that once it died, I would not replace it.  From then on, drying clothes - towels included - was done on the laundry line, weather permitting, or on the drying rack.  This brought the state of my bath towels to...sandpapery-ness.  I did all the suggested things - white vinegar in the rinse water, snapping them pre-and après drying.  They were still crispy.  I don't have many overnight guests but the ones I've had have issued deep, long-suffering sighs upon seeing their clean-but-crispy bath towels attractively arranged in the guest room.  I've saved more water that way....snort.

What to do?  Turkish towels! 

I heard about them through a blog post I stumbled upon and decided to give one a try.  Once I got over the tassel-thing (I am not a fan of tassels), plus the fact that they don't instantly blot up moisture, I decided they were the towels for me.  They are cotton, dry quickly, tend away from crunchiness, and come in a vast array of jazzy patterns (although the one I purchased was decidedly not jazzy).  No more crunchy towels.  Of course, they are a little on the Spartan side, but what do you expect from someone who's best childhood memory was cannonballing her nekkid little butt off a big, flat rock into the icy cold waters of a Northern Ontario lake at o'dark thirty?  BGPs, people!  BGPs!

Have any of you tried Turkish towels?  Opinions?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Velvet Tacquito

Saturday was a heady mix of all things 'duck', setting up the electronet for the sheep and tending to some much-ignored domestic tasks.  As I surveyed the groundhog-sized dust bunnies, nose-smeared windows, dust-covered surfaces, debris-covered floor mats, and piles o' stuff, I realized just how far I've fallen down the Good Housekeeping scale.  I really must get more organized.  Really.  I did as much as I could before cleaning myself up (a whole nuther subject) and motoring off to meet with my middle sis, BIL, mother and father, to celebrate Dad's 94th birthday.  It's always an experience to go out with my father.  It reinforces how completely thankful I am that my sister is the one taking care of them.  She has the patience of Job.

Sunday, I spent a fun-filled morning doing more domestic chores, then motored off to run all my errands with The Pepperoni in tow.  He was scheduled for a spa session with his favorite groomer.

First, we dropped off recycling at the transfer station - where he poked his little head out of the window all the better to receive oohs and aahs and the accompanying head pats - then we had a nice visit with my friend, Marianne, and her granddog, Henry - a French Bulldog puppy.  Henry, as adorable as he is, is very mouthy and was a bit much for TP and my sandals. 

While TP was being pampered by Casey, our very favorite groomer, I ran six errands: pet store for litter; grocery store #1 for cat/dog food (on sale and coupon); grocery store #2 for $.99/# chicken for Scrappy's food and chicken bread; filled gas tank; Home Debt for screws for roof; grocery store #3 for $1.89/# ground beef for more Mr. Honey-Bunny food; then back to the groomer.  
He now collects lint.  All over.
Not the best picture (he is not a cooperator) but he got a buzz-cut and is now the texture of a velvet tacquito with a plumey tail.  He is enjoying the extra attention garnered by the fact that I can't keep my hands off of him... :)
The beautiful shades of Summer.
I am starting to get tomatoes and was gifted some lovely beets, cucumbers, zucchinis, yellow tomatoes, and beautiful red carrots.  (Don't you love that smiley sponge?)  I had better get hopping with my processing and preserving!

By the time TP and I got home, I was wiped out.  I usually do all my errands on Saturday so that I have a day to recover - and do all the other stuff.  It didn't work out that way this past weekend, so I just had to be satisfied (ha) with what I was able to accomplish.  I did get two gates made for the never-ending duck project.  This has made my rather complicated system of moving ducks in, out and around easier.  I am also working on acclimating the pullets so that they can be integrated into the big coop.  I will have to get some pics of the Salmon Faverolles.  They are such interesting-looking chickens - sort of like owlets.  This is working out, most of the time.  I figured it was at least a way for them to have a fighting chance at having access to water during the day - living with the KY Babes means that every available water source is empty within a half hour.  Last night, however, there was a blip.  I had gotten invited to go out for wings and mojitos by a group of women that I really like.  Problem is - and always is - that they are all retired and I am not.  I figured I could spend one hour.  Well, not surprisingly, it was so much fun I spent two hours and didn't make it home until it was pretty dark.  I had to search around for the poor pullets - Bunny, the bantam rooster, and his fav girl had made it over the fence and into their coop.  The rest of them were huddled here and there and had to be scooped up and hand-delivered.  Then the KY Babes had accidently shut the door to their home before they were in, so they were out and hysterical.  Then the Anconas were out and it was all alien now because it was different - as in, dark.  It took forever to get them all shut in for the night.  So much for socializing.

And on that of the women said to me as I was hustling away from the table, "Oh, that's right - you poor thing - you have no life!"  Wha?  Au contrare!  I have the life I love!  I felt rather smug, as they were all sitting around mitching and boaning (as Mama Pea would say) about their husbands, the time on their hands, blah, blah, blah.  Pfft.  An hour later, I was feeling a tad less smug after charging about in the dark after ducks and pullets.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The cukes are cuking and other musings.

What a surprise to find that I'm actually living in a tropical rain forest, when all this time I thought I was in the northern-ish part of the US.  Heavy on the sarcasm there. As much as 'this' plum blossom is wilting and suffering under the oppression of this summer, the cukes are cuking...

My window box edition.
The lemons are lemoning...

Oh, glorious Meyer Lemon Tree!
How I adore you!
The llama is wishing for an in-ground pool...

The method is this - front legs in, then back legs in, then
belly flop!  Then the wilted Plum Blossom runs out
with the hose and we start all over again.

The vege over-floweth....
A stunning leaf from a red cabbage.
The cabbage weren't bad either.  No how.
It was steamy inside, as well as outside...

Corn relish
Things were out-ed...

I had the WORST time parting with this.
But, really... #237
I have moved 238 objects out of my house/shed/yard/life so far.  The last few - my vintage shredder above and my bicycle - were almost fails.  BUT, I have not used that shredder - well, ever.  I have moved it with me for a good part of two decades and that just doesn't make sense.  The bicycle was tough because I still am in denial as to my exercise capabilities.  It went to a very nice woman who is a hospice nurse and needed it much more than my lame self.

Speaking of lame, I have been in denial for months that I needed to do something about my lack of flexibility and worsening hips and knees.  I mean, I am in such bad shape for someone in their 30s...(snort).  I loathe doctors but did decide to see a chiropractor.  Excellent idea!  She has been working away at trying to get me straightened out for about three weeks.  Last week she suggested I go for a deep tissue massage.  Nelly.  I know what those are.  I still remember one I had 30 years ago.  But I tugged up my BGPs and went for an hour workout this morning.  Wow.  My musculature (or whatever you call it) is very reminiscent of a macramé project gone very bad.  Knots!  Knots on my knots!  It was a workout for both me and the masseuse.  As I staggered out the door, she called after me - "Don't forget to drink gallons of water and take a couple of Advil.  We let loose LOTS of toxins!"  Eeeuw.  I feel taller but rather bruised and wonder if I'll glow in the dark tonight.

I find myself drawn to You Tube vlogs (even thought it seems obvious what a 'vlog' is, it took me f.o.r.e.v.e.r. to figure it out) where chatty young mothers (usually self-sufficient, frugal gals) burble on about their homeschooling, grocery deals, etc., etc.  WHAT is wrong with me??  Then I start wondering why these women - with at least two school age children - are going on and on about having to face unwashed dishes in the morning, loads and loads of laundry, feeding cats.  These women have - wait for it - children.  MINIONS.  However, their minions are still in bed at 8 in the morning while their mothers clean their clothes and wash their dishes.  It's just wrong.  I must have missed that whole part where being part of a household included pitching in to help it run smoothly.  I'm going to have to wean myself off of these videos.  It's not helping my blood pressure.

Last week, while stumbling around in my canned good storage room (aka the Cat Room), I grabbed what I perceived to be a jar of dark jam.  Of some sort.  Of some year in the past.  Way past.  This information had to be gleaned from squinting at a jar - unmarked as to contents and date - in a rather dim room.  I skipped back to the kitchen, popped it open and found....still not sure.  I believe it once was a berry jam - blueberry, most likely, since I never have enough blackberries to make jam.  I eat them as fast as I can cram them in.  This firmish mass had become...sort of nothing.  It wasn't bad.  It wasn't good.  It was meh.  I thought I might as well use it as tart filling, so I rustled up some GF pie dough and then re-thought it.  Honestly?  This stuff was so 'nothing' that I didn't want to waste a pie crust on it (and the stick of butter therein).  What to do?  Faint flicker of light -  most likely a kerosene light.  Long, long, long ago, when we were kids and spending idyllic summers in Northern Ontario, there was a woman who baked the MOST incredible pies, tarts and breads on our little lake.  In retrospect, she must have done so in a wood-fired stove/oven, because there was no electricity or running water in any of the cabins.  She made raisin butter tarts that I still remember.  Well, I fished out my mom's 1943 cookbook and found the recipe (called Chess Tarts here in the states).  With the first bite, I was jettisoned back to those wonderful days.  It was living off the grid before it was trendy.  Food was kept cool in an abandoned martin den.  We had to take the boat to the dock and drive to the lumber mill to get big blocks of ice to put in coolers and in our ice fridge.  We played Chinese checkers until it was too dark to see in the log cabin that was hand-built by my grandfather.

I was musing away - dreamily remembering the lake shore, playing with our Troll dolls - when I realized that tart #3 was heading mouth-ward.  Whoa. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Drip. Drip. Drip.

That would be every ounce of fluid in my body rising to the surface of my skin and dripping down my face, neck, arms.  Lovely image, no?  I was out at 5:30 this morning, trying to beat the heat.  Forget about beating the humidity - it's like breathing through a damp cloth out there.  As I slogged around, filling endless water containers (why DUCKS, for Nat's sake???), dodging mud holes (see previous question) and filling feeding dishes, I kept up a mantra - August, then SEPTEMBER.  August, then SEPTEMBER.  That did make me feel slightly better, but not a whit cooler.  I am going to drag out the second kiddie pool and see if I can't make a nice, cool foot bath for my poor, hot llama.

Even Lovey, our girl from the Deep South, only travels at a canter, instead of a gallop.  Forget Scrappy (who - thanks for asking - is doing much better now that he's almost fully back on his raw diet!) and The Pepperoni looks miserable.  He stands outside and stares dolefully at me.  He's a hot mess.  I tried giving him a squirt with the hose, but all I received as thanks was a lot of drama.  I've got an appointment with the groomer next weekend - he may get a buzz cut.  That, I am sure, will bring on a freak snow storm.

I have, ahead of me, corn relish to can.  I can hardly wait, given the weekend forecast matches exactly the daily forecast of Panama.  Joy.  I have a stack of things to do, tropical heat or not, so I will just have to pull up my BGPs (even the thought of that gives me a rash) and try to get everything done.  Maybe, if I start a o'dark thirty, I may have a chance to get halfway through my list.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Two out of three ain't bad.

Well, it certainly wasn't a boring weekend.   I'd give it an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 - one being *snore* and ten being *AAAIIIIIRRRGH!*  I will admit to having a V&T for medicinal reasons last night.  My nerves, you know.

I tried three new recipes - two were amazing and one was downright awful.   Friday night, I made a pizza.  With a sweet potato crust.  What the..? you say?  It was m.a.r.v.e.l.o.u.s.  And the half inch of melted cheese on top was totally offset by the nutritious crust.  Really.  I'm sure that's written down somewhere.  I would be sharing a pic of this marvelous invention, but I et it all up.  In my defense, it was not a large pizza. 

Next out of the kitchen - while I was on the sweet potato kick - were healthy creamsicles.  The "healthy" should have flashed red warning lights but I chose to ignore the alarm bells in my head and carried on.  They were, in a word, gawdawful.  Three ingredients - whole coconut milk, sweet potato, oranges.  Pateeeuwwwi.  I'm not even going to link to the recipe so that I can protect your taste buds.  You're welcome.

Lastly, as my weekend ran down into Sunday evening, I made a fresh corn and zucchini pie.  OMG.  Even with an 'oops' (as in when will I learn that I NEED to wear my glasses), it was awesome-sauce.

It took a great deal of willpower
to stop eating this.
Mine was sort of a rectangular pie, as I was too tired to dig out my pie plate from the back of the bottom cupboard.  Easy clean-up when you line it with parchment paper!

Lots of berries at the top!
Saturday morning, it poured rain.  This did not bode well for my planned birthday blueberry picking with my sister.  However, the clouds parted and the day progressed into a bright, sunny day.  It was so bright and sunny that my sister and I took to hiding from it in the bushes.  I picked under my all-time best of 15#, but did get an admirable 11#.  Then, Sunday morning, I was up at the top of our plateau picking more!  Another beautiful morning with only birdsong, breezes and the occasional car.  It was a beautiful way to start the day.  Had I known what lay ahead, I would have hidden in the bushes until the snow fell.

A nice way to spend a morning
I made up for (and exceeded) my personal best.  Total for two days:  20#.  I am set for winter.

The light at the end of the tunnel.
Not being satisfied with having to freeze 20# of blueberries, I picked up a bag of (supposedly) 55 ears of sweet corn.  Sunday was filled with shucking and de-cobbing, bagging and freezing.  I was disappointed in the corn, though.  It was from a farm stand known for their wonderful corn - however, there were only 53 ears in the bag and there was a LOT of worm damage.  A message to the farm did not bring satisfactory answers.  Still, I am set for a couple of years.  I only do corn every other year.

Heaps o' corn!
There was also work in the garden - garlic, shallots and a few onions were pulled and put in the barn to cure.  The garlic was fair-to-good.  The only disappointing heads were due to the lack of rain and idiocy of the gardener.  She neglected to cut off all the scapes.  Shallots and onions were also small, due to the dry weather.  A lot of weeding was done.  Floors were washed.  And washed again.
Because Scrappy (Mr. Pee Me A River) seems to be struggling with some incontinence.  This is a dog that doesn't just pee a puddle - OH no.  He must move through ROOMs peeing.  Given his age - 16, and the fact that he rarely commits this faux pas, I started thinking diabetes.  He has been drinking a lot of water.  Of course, it's also summer and a hot, dry one at that, so it's hard to tell.  Then, this morning, as I velcroed on the Cummerbund of Shame, a dim light bulb flickered.  I had been feeding them a raw diet, but it was too expensive to continue with three dogs.  I had switched them back to kibble and I think that might be the culprit.  It's a high-end ($$$) food and I supplement it with eggs and broth, but it might be affecting my old boy.  I'm going to ease him back into a raw diet and see if that makes a difference.
Just so I could start my Monday off in style, there was Duck Drama.  I have, as you may know, if you're following the lunacy, sixteen ducks in three different age groups.  The Anconas (large, white with black markings, rare breed) are the oldest; the Cayugas (black from head to flappy foot) are the middles; and the Cayuga/Blue Swedish Crosses (or KY Babes) are the youngest.  The KY Babes include a little fellow with a club foot.  I did not, as Good Goose Mama Pea did, catch the deformity and put a little brace on when it was young.  It gets along okay, but it is obviously challenged.  One of the others seems to have 'Angel Wings' - a deformity wherein the wings stick out at a 45-degree angle.  Trying to make a long story short (ha), today I decided that they have all seen each other and everything seems to be copacetic, so I would let the Babes out to enjoy the yard and the little pool.  I am on the other side of the fence doing something or other, when I hear frantic peeping and lots of noise.  I hot-footed it through the gate and found all four of the Anconas on top of little Hopalong, pecking it~!  It seems the Anconas will continue to be a rare breed, as the four I have are now moved to the top of the processing list.  The Cayugas do not bother them at all and have intermixed with the Babes with no signs of violence or aggression.  The Babes got the safety and room of both runs today and I will have to come up with a Plan X to make sure they get space and get it safely.
I was glad to get to the office where the only violence occurs over the last cup of Dark Magic coffee.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

What doesn't belong in this picture?

Well, it certainly isn't the rain!  Hooray!  Notice anything "dead" center?  There is a long-dead Birch that was supposed to be cut down in the spring, but a house wren moved into the bird-house gourd that I forgot was there.  

I am happy with the colors of the chairs and tables.  The lovage, cukes, parsley, and lemongrass (which needs a larger pot!) are doing well, while the rosemary and chervil are so-so.

Today is supposed to be blueberry picking day, so I hope the weather clears up.  If not, at least I won't have to wash them!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Summertime and the Eatin' is Easy...

Breakfast in a jar - homemade granola,
fresh blueberries, peaches and almond
Breakfast at home - Easy over eggs on farinata,
iced coffee, peaches and getting ready to start The List.

This is why I grow round zucchini!  Local grass-fed
beef, home-canned tomato sauce, last year's chopped peppers
fresh herbs, local cheese.
The fact that it is now August has quite taken my breath away!  We have logged over 4" of rain, so I am starting to relax my death-grip on my water buckets.  This coming Saturday, to celebrate my middle sis' birthday, we are off to pick pounds and pounds of blueberries.  I am also hoping to get some day-old corn on sale from my favorite farm stand.  It's all in the timing.  This year's canning adventures are going to be pretty tame - the ubiquitous diced tomatoes, pizza sauce, ketchup, corn, corn relish, salsa, applesauce.  No plums for spiced plum jam, darn it.  No peaches (of the bulk kind) for dried peaches.  I am going to freeze corn, too, as I finally found a good recipe to do so (thank you Kristina!)  Of course, there is the reality that I must defrost my large freezer before I put anything else in it.  It's on The List.

Monday, August 1, 2016

How to Attract Rain in Four Easy Steps

1.  Put three full loads of laundry on the line.
2.  Leave your car windows open.
3.  Forget you have a bucketful of duck feed on the deck.
4.  Do a chick swap with your neighbor because they all looked alike at that age and you couldn't tell a rooster from a hen.

Youbetcha - it works every time.  "Bunny" the roo and I got all sodden, as I tried to slip him unobtrusively into the small coop Saturday night.  I dashed out Sunday morning, after realizing that this was not going to be our usual 3 minute sprinkle, and dragged in the sodden clothes I had hung up on Saturday afternoon.  I let the ducks eat all of the soupy mash.  I took a bundle of towels and dried off my car seats. 

After months of only the odd sprinkle, we got over two inches of rain.  It rained all Saturday night and almost all day Sunday, which caused me to discover that my rain jacket is no longer water repellant.  I changed clothes four times.  I am hoping that the forecast for more rain today and tomorrow will come to pass.  This is a giant step in the right direction, but I won't breathe a sigh of relief until we get a couple more inches.  It will be nice not to have to schlep water home from the farm every morning.

It seems that Bunny, my "FREE EXOTIC CHICK" from my Murray McMurray order, is a bantam.  Sigh.  I love bantams, but so do the hawks.  He is peanut-sized and seems very mild-mannered (which is why the moniker, Bunny).  He managed to live through a day of bossy-pants pullets, although he did sail over the fence to perch atop Duck Hut 2 for a break.  But he placidly let me pick him up and carry him around while I finished afternoon chores (tucked in my rain jacket pocket - the only rain-proof part) without a fuss.  I put him back inside the little coop and, by evening chores, they were all copacetic. 

I had opened the enclosure around DH2 to encourage the Cayugas to explore the yard.  They were promptly herded back by my DHDs - Duck Herding Ducks - the Anconas.  There was no aggression - they just thought they needed to be back inside their fence.  This happened multiple times until the Cayugas just ignored them and waddled in a pack to some grassy bits.

Not much got done this weekend, but I am trying to take a more sane approach to my weekends.  Even if it kills me.  Which it might.  I chafe.