Monday, June 26, 2017

Snap Crackle Creak

We're on a roll.

Saturday, my DS and I went on the next of our 'adventures'.  This one involved a whole lotta driving with swag at the end.  She had never seen one of my lists, so was quite taken aback to see the size of it.  I did have to confess that Everything was included on that list - sort of a stream of unconsciousness listing.  In order, we:

Hit my local Trader Joe's (local in less than two hours away).
Hit Marshalls, where we did some damage.
Hit JoAnn Fabrics, where I did some damage.
Hit the Asian Supermarket, where we spent way too much time, wandering the aisles, oohing and aahing.

L-R oyster mushrooms, fresh rice vermicelli, GF soy
sauce, toasted sesame oil, baby bok choi, Asian sweet potato
It was dangerous, going into that market - we hadn't had time for lunch.  They have a wide a dazzling array of fresh produce, a lot of which I have never heard.  I couldn't resist a pound of fresh oyster mushrooms for 4.49/lb and a pound of baby bok choi for 2.29!  We vowed to make a separate trip back.

By the time I had dropped her off and driven home from VT, I was bushed!  I managed to do chores and make dinner, and pick two more gallons of strawberries!

Up to 4.5 gallons picked
I was too tired to do much with them, other than wash them.  On Sunday moring, springing (snap, crackle, creak) out of bed at the crack of dawn, I made a grain-free fruit crisp with fresh strawberries and frozen blueberries.  I then hard-boiled a dozen duck eggs because, well, because.  I'm going to have to get more creative with eggs.  The ducks had been off laying in another hidden nest - which I can't find, for the life of me! - so I have been putting them under lock and key in their own yard.  They are not happy about it, but it beats stumbling upon a nest with six dozen eggs at some point at the end of summer!

I made some sun tea and put it in my new dispenser (part of my Marshall's haul)!  Which turned out to be a piece of junk - at least the spout is.  I wondered why it was so cheap.... Luckily, I found a replacement tap online, so I am hoping that it works and that I can actually use it.

The only thing I like right now,
is that it is a good size - 1 gal.
I also fed the farm cats and visited with my Jasmine, dropped of baked goods and shared gossip with the farmer.  And trotted home with a milk can of fresh milk!  This is a perfect size - it holds exactly one gallon and one quart.  That was enough for two batches of Mama Pea's cottage cheese and a quart of yogurt.

While the cheese was 'cheesing', I went outside and tackled a few of the items on The List.  Laundry was washed and hung on the line.  I started to re-sink the posts on the ducks' enclosure, but I kept hitting rock.  I am going to have to reconfigure the fencing.  I also 'hilled' the potatoes, meaning I added another tire and filled it with compost.  I was one tire short, so I had to improvise on the last one with a length of plastic fencing.  We'll see how it does.  I moved my small, short bird bath into the front garden, and exchanged it for a larger, graceful one that I got for an outrageously low price from my friend, Nancy.  She had a vintage/antique business for years and is now in the process of drastic downsizing so they can sell their house and move to Cape Cod. 

 I did some weeding, but there is so much still to do.  Before I collapsed, I took a few shots of the garden - weeds and all.  There's much more to do, but we are making progress. 

Red currants are coming!

Beans - note spotty germination.  But, really,
how many bean plants does one
person need?

Onions.  I planted them closer than
usual, because I use every other one for

Two-tier-tire potato plants in foreground,
with jerry-rigged extension in
background.  Bintjas.

Weedy pepper bed with volunteer


Three kinds of squash
Things are coming along.  The trouble is, everything needs weeding and I don't have the focus to stay with one bed until it's finished.  This results is the chicken-without-a-head approach that doesn't do much good.  I have been working on the two beds in the front of the house, as it dawned on me that my entryway looks like crap, to be blunt.  I had pulled out the barberry bushes, covered it with weed cloth, and put just enough wood mulch on it to hold it down.  Then promptly forgot it existed.  Which is no easy task, as I have to walk by it at least twice a day.  I started to develop the raised bed on the parallel side of the front walk.  It is about half done.  You can see where this is heading - then there is the flower bed in the back, which is about one-third done, and the old herb bed which is completely taken over by mint.  I'd clone myself, if it wouldn't be unfair to the world to have two of me in it.  There always seems to be some interruption...

Last night, as I was taking down my laundry and heading in to make dinner, there was a big barney in the hoop house.  As I glanced over, I saw the big, bully rooster chasing a slightly smaller rooster out of the door and into the fence.  Which zapped the poor guy.  Who then lost his pea-sized mind and started racing from corner to corner, bully in close pursuit, getting zapped at every turn.  I high-tailed it down, rescued the reeling roo and then turned the stink eye on the bully.  He shot out of the fence and I managed to corral him and get him by one leg.  I then heaved him over the fence, where he landed with a splat on the ground.  That knocked the starch out of him for quite a while.  By the time I was ready to close them up for the night, he had recovered and was sidling back inside.  Hah, I thought.

This morning, he was at it again, so I grabbed him by two legs and hauled him into the duck yard and into the isolation unit.  Where he will stay until he goes off to Freezer Camp next Saturday.  Honestly.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Acting my age. That would be my imagined age.

It's so interesting to look in the mirror.  I am often taken by surprise and left wondering who is staring back at me!  In my mind, I am in my 30s - maybe early 40s (my favorite years).  Someone forgot to let the old broad in the mirror in on the secret.

Along with age comes all sorts of 'benefits'.  You get to fill your weeks with appointments for 'preventative' check-ups and procedures.  One of my favorites is the colonoscopy.  It's right up there with major dental surgery without the benefit of Novocain.  After putting it off for 11+ years (it took that long to almost forget my first one), I was brow-beaten into having another yesterday.  By far, the worst part is the prep.  You also lose two days of your young life.  I suffered through Wednesday and then was driven to the medical center early yesterday with a caffeine-withdrawal headache and a bad attitude.  I will spare you the details because, you know, TMI.

The colonoscopist (or whatever they're called) was a rather charming older man with a well-practiced bedside manner.  The nurses were adorable and we got into a lively discussion on all things poultry (one grew up on a dairy farm and the other has always had ducks).  During the follow-up session, my true, adolescent colors shone true.

Doctor M.  - "Because of the polyp (I had one small, lousy polyp) and your sister's polyps, you need to have this done every five years."

Me - "And who's going to make me?  I won't be able to forget how much I hate it in five years.  I can't take it.  Who's idea was the prep work, anyway?  The Marquis de Sade?"

Doctor M. - "See you in five years."

Me - "Don't forget to take a good picture, 'cause you ain't seeing it again..."

Doctor M.  Eye roll.

I had a giant cup of coffee on the way home - which did have some calming effect on my nerves.  Then I laid about the house and whined for a while.  All under the watchful eyes of Nurse Lovey and Nurse Bert.

Nurse Lovey keeping a safe distance
until Mom's coffee kicks in.
Mr. Knows Something is Up.
Trying to do my best to guarantee that there would be nothing but healthy pink colon in my future (TMI????), I eased my way back into the land of the nourished with a broccoli quiche.  My neighbor had given me a nice, smallish head of broccoli from his garden and, you know, I have a few eggs lying around.  My new, better self also had a green smoothie for breakfast this morning - frozen chopped pineapple, fresh strawberries, a frozen banana, half a small frozen avocado, a good fistful of kale from the garden and water.  I felt absolutely virtuous.

In my ready-made GF pie crust
because I was recovering and faint and...
Thanks to the plentiful rain (although too much rain does take its toll on flavor) and the mid-summer like temps, the strawberry bed is over-producing.  It could also have something to do with the fact that I squeezed 50 plants into a 4x8 bed.  If nothing else, there are so many strawberries that the chipmunks can't keep up with them - I actually have two gallons of berries in the fridge!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Slow on the Upswing, Hope in the Wind and the Recipe

I am not much good in hot, humid weather.  Everything droops and drips - it's not pretty.  My energy level plummets and the best I can hope for are little spurts of activity spurred by pure panic.  Of all the large items on The List for the weekend, only one - and not completely - got done.  I had to placate my guilty conscience with a smattering of small things checked off.  Sea Witch re-hung (for the fifteenth time) on my bathroom wall.  Check.  Dig up thistles before they flower and invade.  Check.  Shovel out the hoop house.  Check-ish.  Staple chicken wire to the bottom of the Duck Huts before they get in there and lay their eggs.  Well....

After cursing and cussing and shooing my "helpers", I managed to get the perimeter of both Duck Huts covered in chicken wire.  I had spent too much time on my hands and knees, fishing out the odd duck egg.  As I finished and walked away, smugly thinking I had fixed their little red wagon,
I glanced back and...  I tore up one corner of the outer hut and fished out a bucketful of eggs.  I was not quite fast enough.

I also hung my prayer flags on the pergola.  I have had them for years and years, and had been waiting for the right place and time.  It might not be totally correct, but I am hoping that intent counts.  As I watch them flutter to and fro, I am filled with hope that the "to" will direct some peace to my heart, home and life, while "fro" will send peace, love and acceptance out into the world.  Both parties are in need.

I also rassled with my hops vine, trying to tame the beast to work its way across the pergola.  It seems to be intent on taking over the deck and everything on it.

The one big job was weeding the garden.  I am making headway, but no way near the finish.  Of course, there IS no finish when it comes to weeding, is there?  I have had to replant the basil - almost a month of rain and cold temps made my plants a sorry lot.  The warmer weather has really boosted the squash, while the cukes are rather static.  Bean germination was so-so.  My sweetpeas did not germinate at all.  Round two on beet-planting resulted in about 10 seeds germinating - they will have to be replanted.  The onions, garlic and shallots are doing well.  As are the potatoes, which need a second tire and filling-in.  Dahlias that I planted in the front were very disappointing.

And, to top off the 90% humidity of the weekend, I had a neighbor over for dinner and used the oven most of the day.  What was I thinking?  I made a quiche and roasted asparagus, as well as ... you guessed it ... spoon bread!

Here is the recipe:

From Cooking Free, by Carol Fenster

2 large eggs
1 cup plain yogurt or 3/4 cup 2% milk (any kind - soy, cow, almond)
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
2 T canola oil
1 can (4 oz) diced green chilies (optional)
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1tsp baking powder
1 tsp garlic salt
1 cup corn kernels (frozen is fine)
1 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese (cow or soy)

Preheat oven to 350*.  Great 9" cast iron skillet or 9" round or square non-stick pan.  Beat eggs with whisk in large bowl.  Add yogurt or milk, onion, oil, and chilies and mix well.  in another bowl, combine cornmeal, baking powder, and garlic salt.  Add to egg mixture.  Stir in corn and 1/2 cup of cheddar.  (She notes here that, if using soy cheese, mix the full cup into the batter.)  Batter will be soft.  Pour into prepared pan.  Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup (cow) cheese on top and bake 40-50 minutes until top is golden brown.

*Disclaimer : so far, as fruit-fly-focused as I am, I have a) put three eggs in; b) put 1 cup of cow milk in; c) upped the onions; d) put 3 T of oil in; e) put chopped scallions in because the tin I thought was chilies was, indeed, chipotle in adobe sauce.  I also added way more cheese.  In every instance, it turned out only slightly different and every bit as tasty - it's bomb-proof!

Lovey contemplating getting
her paws muddy.  She passed.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Local Yokels and True Confessions

Living in a very small community that lies within traveling distance of some very large mega-cities, can make for some interesting observations.

I serve on the Zoning Board of Appeals for our village.  We do not have a lot of action, by any means, but every once in a while, things get hopping.  As we try to bring the village into the 19th 20th Century (kicking and screaming all the way), we walk a thin line between keeping the bucolic feel of the place while actively seeking businesses to join us and help us grow.  And cover more of the tax base.  I was also part of the Comprehensive Planning Committee.  Getting people to focus on the future and planning for careful, thoughtful growth was akin to herding cats or pushing string.  We did our best and came up with a good, cohesive plan, but, in the end, it boiled down to everyone wanting change as long as nothing was different.  Le sigh.

We recently welcomed a fellow and his visionary aquaponic lettuce and fish farm business - he is transforming the 100 acres of decaying greenhouses that were left derelict, victims of cheap South American roses.  He has big plans and some of those plans seem to be rewriting town regs to better fit his vision.  

Last night we sat through a slipshod presentation requesting a special permit for a variance.  This was for another business - also welcomed - that is already in the construction stage.  I do believe the fellow thought he would sit down with us yokels without any preparation or supporting documents and steamroll the process.

Surprise!  Our board consists of two retired teachers, a civil engineer, a retired publisher, a Ph.D. that works for a college, and a blogger (by gawd).  We gave him a resounding thumbs down on his request.  All while being terribly polite about it.


Hello.  My name is Sweezie and I am addicted to Ersatz Spoonbread.  It started innocently enough - I was searching for a non-sweet, GF, bread-like substitute to fill that hole left by the departure of gluten from my diet.  Every replacement I came up with was dry and grainy, and very unsatisfying.  Then I discovered this "spoon bread" recipe.  I was born in the South and have spent some little time (off and on) there.  I know my spoon bread.  This ain't it.  BUT... it not only is the most satisfying cornbread/spoonbread-ish thing I have ever eaten, it is also a wonderful vessel for my alarmingly large supply of frozen corn!  I call it a vegetable side dish.  I dare anyone to contradict me.

It has, what I call, the essentials of life - eggs, cheese, yogurt, fresh corn, and cheese.  Did I mention cheese?  It is very easy to whip up (I should know, as I've made it at least four times over the past two weeks) and has served me well as comfort food.  I found the recipe in a cookbook I picked up at a flea market book sale - "Cooking Free".  I am also in love with her apple spice cake.   If you are interested, let me know and I will post the recipe. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Picasso Purple and Poultry

Summer bypassed spring and arrived with a thud on Saturday.  By Sunday, it was 92* in the shade.  I am soooo glad the climate is not changing.  On Saturday, I did some quick chores in the morning and then gussied up and met my sister at the Clark Museum in Williamstown, MA.  We had decided to get a family membership because a) it's a wonderful museum; b) we are determined to insert culture into our lives; c) the membership prices were on sale...

The museum, which always was a delight, has undergone a multi-million-dollar renovation.  It is beautiful.

One of three levels of reflecting pools with
an amazing view

Shore-to-shore lily pads on a pond

One of the new buildings with great
The grounds have been kept unmowed, except for a small mowed border (see above) which leave the rest in tall grasses, wildflowers and native plants.  There are so many birds, too!  The museum campus is quite large and there are a variety of trails for hiking, strolling and, in the winter, snowshoeing.  Connie and I will be taking advantage of the trails, as well.

The Picasso exhibit was great, as was another small exhibit that featured an artist I like very much who doesn't seem to be well-known:  Lawrence Alma Tadem.  We had a light lunch and then sat by the largest reflecting pool and admired the view, caught up on the latest adventures of The Parents and Auntie, discussed this and that, and generally had a great time.  Driving back home (a very scenic drive over mountains), I realized that it was the most at-peace I had felt in weeks, maybe months.  I love my sisters.

I seem to have a preponderance of purple going on in the flower beds.  I will admit to being an extremely unfocused gardener.  My planting 'scheme' consists of getting plants from friends and family and them plopping them into an empty (as in weed-less) spot, with no real care as to size or color.  It's come back to bite me.  I'm working on moving my daylilies out of the flower bed before they completely take it over - I'm going to replant them on the outside of the chicken fence.  Chickens, it seems, find them delish.

L-R Nettles, Japanese irises (from my mother),
some other pretty purple flower and the dreaded
daylilies.  Notice the grapevine invasion in
I did try to add some bits of color around the place, as I find it's almost as important to plant for your soul as it is for your stomach.  This is the happy bit I see when I go out to feed the girls in the morning.

And then.  There is the Godzilla Vine.

It's hard to believe that this behemoth started as one small, inoffensive-looking little hops vine.  I am afraid that, if I fell asleep on the deck chair, I would wake up wrapped in its boa constrictor grasp...

Gray Ranger

The Gray Rangers are an entirely different breed than the Frankenchickens.  I expected them to be more active - of course, compared to the Cornish X, any action is more active - but they are pretty static.  One precocious character is crowing already - they are 8 weeks old - and while they are fairly good-sized, they are not as fast-growing.  They do not, blessedly, teem around your ankles when  you appear - a trait of the CX that gave me the willies.  This year I am keeping careful track of what it's costing me to raise them.  So far, feeding them costs $14/week.  That does not include the cost of the chicks, the replacement battery for the charger and any other costs - like the added electrical usage while brooding them.  The results will decide whether I keep this up or not.  It's a pain in the beehind, frankly, and it might turn out to be less costly to buy a free-range organic bird from a local source.  I figure they have about two more weeks - because that is all I can stand. 

I leave you with a picture of the Alabama Tater Hound (aka The Yam) on his favorite perch near the fan.  I have tried to leave the fleece pad off, since it is so hot, but they find it and drag it back.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Cows Cats and Books.

Apparently, I will be dining on a casserole of Humble Pie this weekend.  After going on and on (and on) about how wonderful the Jersey cow is, as compared to the Holstein and Ayrshire, I catch sight of this when I went to feed the barn cats this week.

Jasmine.  Meandering.

Followed by her errant daughter (biggify)
The problem with these pictures is that milking starts around 7:00 AM and these were taken at 8.  Which means all the other cows - those Holsteins and Ayrshires - are standing nicely in their stanchions being milked.  I was on the farmhouse porch, tsk-tsking in Jasmine's direction.  She, in cow-like stoicism, ignored me.  And walked even slower.  Apparently, they are ALWAYS the last to come in - and sometimes they don't bother, if there is a nice patch of grass or apple falls that have caught their fancy.  It's a good thing both are good milkers.

I tried to get pictures of the two semi-feral cats that I have been feeding now for over a year, but they are too twitchy.  For quite a while it was Grace, a little grey tabby female with a high, tiny voice.  We've gotten to the point that I can lightly pat her head.  For a nanosecond.  About three or four months ago, a male cat, handsome in a beat-up kind of way, so I have named him Bogey, started appearing at breakfast.  He must have been someone's cat at some point in his life.  I can actually stroke his head and back for a minute or two, evoking loud purrs.  But Grace is in charge -  there is no doubt about that.  I am pretty sure that both have been spayed/neutered because there have been other male cats that have come and gone, and Grace has not presented me with kittens.

A pair of barn swallows have built a muddy nest atop wind chimes that are hanging from the porch.  My morning visits are now dive-bombed by agitated parents.  Can't wait until those birdlets fledge!


I have been turning to reading before bed, to try to calm my mind.  I didn't want to delve into anything in my usual genre - murder mysteries - for obvious reasons.  So I have taken to reading about food and cooking.  The first book I read is called "Home Cooking" by Laurie Colwin.  It's a used paperback that I picked up at my favorite book source - Thriftbooks.  What a great read!  She has a delightful sense of humor and each chapter is short - like a mouthful!  I would highly recommend this book if you can find a copy.  I have now delved into something a little (lot) less light, entitled "The Potlikker Papers; a Food History of the Modern South" by John Edge.  I got this through the library.  It is a fascinating account of how food played a major role in the evolution of the South.  I've just started it, but am enjoying it immensely.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Moving On

We are creaking along the fragile path of recovery here at the LLF.  It's fraught, but we are nothing if not resilient.  I managed to get some more things checked off The List - nothing large, but the little things count, too.  Our weather has been entirely un-Spring-like.  Mornings have been in the upper 30s, with days filled with clouds, drizzle and downright downpours.  During the month of May we had 17 days of rain.  17.  That is more than half of the month!  I wouldn't even mind that much rain, if it were at least seasonably warm.  I envision my bean seeds huddling together for warmth, while trying to keep their feet dry.  Pfft.

Some satisfying points on the weekend were:

Now that I've discovered pedicures,
there is no holding me back.

The finishing touches - weaving in
the ends on my Caron Cake shawl.
I will have pics of the garden soon - if it every stops raining/drizzling so that I can safely get my camera outside.  So far, most of the squash seeds have popped up - but not all.  Some of the beans have pushed through, but not all.  None of my sweet peas have arrived, as well as my beets and chard.  Slugs - who, I am sure, are reveling all night in this weather - have taken down one basil seedling and three kale seedlings.  I have given all my seedlings little moats of crushed egg shells, along with a sprinkling of Sluggo.  Yesterday I planted the last of the flower seeds - nasturtiums, zinnia, calendula, and cosmos.  I also planted two pots of dahlias - I am always lured in by the beautiful pictures and completely forget that I have to dig them out in the fall.  I potted up a jalapeno for my sister and weeded the front flower bed.  My peonies have budded and I am hoping to grace the dining room table with a vase of my favorite flowers by this weekend. 

Last night I had my friend, Cynthia, over for dinner.  She will be taking Lovey in.  I ended up making meatloaf (in June!!), mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.  A perfect fall dinner.  Cynthia has an older female dog and we are waiting until she is over the bridge before transitioning Lovey. 

I want to thank you all, with all my heart, for your support and loving comments.  Every one of your comments has helped ease the pain I feel by making me feel less lonely and very loved.

Friday, June 2, 2017

When life flips you on your head and you're not wearing a helmet.

They say that hindsight is always 20/20.  I don't know that that's true - especially when you are looking back through misty lenses.  I am sure that there were signs that I ignored or missed and, if I could rub a lamp and ask a genie for one wish, it would be to rewind my life to last Sunday morning.

Saturday I had thrown in the towel on coop-cleaning, having staggered through four giant economy-sized loads of cement-like chicken manure.  Sunday morning, after going through the usual chores and routine, I suited up, gave the dogs their marrow bones early - since I was going to be ignoring them for most of the day - and went out to finish the job.  After two loads, I came in for water and a break and all was well.  I finished up the last two loads and came in to get the rhubarb cake I had made for the barn guys and my LLG, who was out putting up the finishing touches on my lawn care.  I walked in and knew right away that all was not well.

I found my Pepperoni in the kitchen.  Dead.  Apparently, he and Lovey had an altercation and he was the loser.  The details after that are a little fuzzy.  There was screaming (mine), which brought the LLG on the run.  I am so glad that he was there, as he bustled in and took care of my little man.  I made a series of fairly incoherent phone calls and texts, one of which was to my vet.  I fully intended to have Lovey euthanized.  I am very thankful that she talked me out of it, as I would have had another heavy load of guilt added to my already unbearable burden.

Lovey will eventually be going to live with a friend who will provide her with a good life.  She is a dog rescuer, lives by herself and has no animal smaller than a cow to worry about.  In the meantime, I am trying to come to terms with this dog that I loved so much and now hate/love.  I honestly did not think that I could ever hurt as much as I did when I lost Scrappy.  I was wrong.  I hurt so much it is white-hot.  I have discovered the opposite of 'white' noise - my head is now filled with 'black' noise.  I can't wait to leave in the morning to go to work and, when I return, I sit in the driveway dreading the moment when I walk in the house to no yodeling.  I dread meal time - no Pepperoni to circle the kitchen island, yodeling away.  I dread mornings when he is not snugged up against me.  I dread evenings for the same reason.  I dread going to bed and waking up.  I am waiting for time to deaden the pain, which, I know, will happen.

Thank you all for your kind thoughts, love and prayers.  Life on the homestead goes on.  It's just going to be more difficult for a while.