Tuesday, October 31, 2017

October goes out like a dragon.

My life seems to be ruled by Murphy's Law.  I finally got an entire weekend on my own - no obligations whatsoever! - and I lost half of it to Mother Nature.  Ah, well.  I put some hustle in my bustle Saturday morning and fairly burst out the door at sunrise.  Since I had cleaned the coop and duck chalet the previous Sunday, I focused on the sheep.  The unfortunate thing about my sheep (and also the endearing thing) is that they are very, very helpful.  No matter what I am doing, they are there to snoopervise.  Especially Linden, whose soft, lanolin-y head is always in my business.   A large pumpkin was cut into fourths and put at a safe distance from me.  This always works - for about 15 minutes.  You have to work fast!

First on the list was to reinforce the hay racks in the barn for winter feeding.  I had finally Gerry-rigged them onto the pallet fence that (barely) separates them from the hay, using twelve pieces of baling twine.  I cut them down and screwed them to boards, top and bottom, using large washers so they couldn't man/sheep handle the feeders off the screws.  Then I screwed the boards to the fence, using 3" screws.  One poor rack had had bits of it broken off, so that called for some additional ingenuity - I wired the loop-less ends to the boards, then screwed over the wires so that they couldn't rub them off.  Honestly, sheep.

I also walked the perimeter of the fencing and discovered that I will have to replace almost half of it next year.  Early on, in my homesteading adventure, I had a lovely llama who had the very bad habit of leaning heavily on the fence, in order to reach the greenery on the other side.  This was exacerbated by Linden, my sheep-goat, who took advantage of every weakness and wormed his way under various part of the fence.  Luckily, he is too old and fat to do that now, but the damage has been done.  I've patched the worst places, as we have a lot of coyotes and I do not want them getting under the fence, but it really needs to be replaced.  When I delivered the Sunday morning barn baked goods, I talked to the high school kid that helps with the cows and he is interested in doing the heavy lifting.

I then spent the rest of the day battening down the hatches.  There had been high wind and flooding warnings for days before, so I made sure that all small objects were safely closed away.  I took down my wind chimes and my mirror chain.  I brought in the fig tree and stacked buckets in the barn.  I also tied the pergola to the deck rail.  It has a definite list to port.  I believe I will be calling the "architect" back for a look-see in the spring.

Sunday started with misty-type rain and I headed west of the city, early, to do some errands I have been putting off for months.  I made it back just before the heavy rain to hit - let me just say that ALL dachshunds seem to hate rain - and squeezed in a potty break, then we hunkered down to wait it out.  It was quite a storm.  The wind was howling all night, with waves of rain bashing the house, which didn't do much for my insomnia.  There is nothing like hearing a BAM and then BAM-BAM, and running through all the things that could cause it - trees coming down on your car.  Trees coming down on the car port.  I gave up trying to ignore it at 3 and then managed to get a cup off coffee on before the power went off.  It came on an hour later, then went off again.  Then came on.  After the third time, I gave up resetting the clocks and pulled out my inflatable solar lights and started knitting.

Once the wind died down to a low roar, I stuck my head out and checked the car and carport - both okay!  After that, I cleaned the guest bathroom (I had watched an episode of OCD extreme cleaning and got a shot of inspiration!), fed the dogs and took the day off from work.  I suited up and, other than some major tree branches down and a couple of small trees and a truckload of leaves, there was no damage to the buildings.  The fence was another ball of wax.  At least the worst damage was to an area that the sheep are not in.  My dairy farmer neighbor stopped by to discuss my cows and he happened to have his chainsaw in the truck.  Ten minutes later, the tree was off the fence and I had stacked it in a nice, neat pile.  I believe that a chain saw will be going on my list to Santa.

Thursday, October 26, 2017


Lately, I have been making lists of my quirks.  Just for fun - I obviously have too much time on my hands.  I listed the first ten that came to mind:

1.  I always wash the flatware before the plates or glasses

2.  I do everything right to left, except for hanging the wash
on the line

3.  Everything related to my dogs/cats gets an "ie" sound
on the end (blankie, foodie, bisky)

4.  I never tuck in my sheets or blanket at the foot
of the bed

5.  I fold the excess blanket at the foot and the excess
down blanket at the top

6.  I sing to my ducks every morning

7.  While cooking, I place all ingredients on the right, then
move them to the left as I use them

8.  I iron my dishcloths

9.  I order my cards (credit, membership, etc.) by size
in my wallet instead of by type

10.  I always go through the kitchen and dining area
to go to the hall and back bedrooms, instead of
through the living room - which is shorter.

What about you?  What quirks can you share?

Monday, October 23, 2017

Eggplant Green Tomato Parmesan Lasagna Polenta Casserole

Or, as I like to refer to it, dinner and five lunches.  This is the result of facing a shelf of green tomatoes, some over-ripe red tomatoes and three softening eggplants.

My day started out fairly typically for a Monday.  In an effort to economize, I made a large pumpkin latte at home to help me make it through my commute.  Luckily, there was bumper-to-bumper traffic so that the coffee that spilled down the front of my shirt had plenty of time to dry.

The weather, these past three days, has been glorious.  Clear, blue skies, warmish, light breezes.  On Friday, I took the overland route to the state library and managed to take some pics of the architecture.  Rockefeller strong-armed his will to create a monument to modernism - smack-dab in the middle of an historical area.  You could call him the Robert Moses of Albany.  He bisected a neighborhood of glorious brownstones in order to erect what was, in fact, a monument to him.  I digress.
Looking north towards the State Capitol.  Behold!  The Egg!

One of the state office towers.
Lovely, ain't it?
This is was the existing architecture:
Back entrance (although you cannot
enter) to the Capitol building.

Capitol on right, education monument/building
on left

Too bad the state of the state's education is not
up to the glories of its edifice.
If you walk straight through those
trees, past the multi-towered building dead-
center, you would reach my
non-descript building.
The project slogs on.

It's that time again...
I tried to make a manageable list for the weekend - my new ruse to my over-reaching self - and did a pretty good job of sticking to it.  Saturday, I cleaned the duck hut, cleaned out two raised beds, planted my garlic, and started dead-heading and digging up the dahlia rhizomes.  Then I had to go north.  Sunday morning, I dutifully baked for the barn, visited for a period, then came home and started the fall coop clean.  It is much easier than the spring clean, let me tell you, but it was very, very dusty this year.  That took most of the late morning/early afternoon, so I decided to tick-off one of the long-standing items - recovering the wind

chimes from the farm.  The farmer's dad, Leo, had these lovely chimes on the porch.  I grew quite fond of them, sitting and visiting with Leo every week.  Since the house is now, sadly, going derelict, I asked if I could have them.
Hi-rise housing
My claim had to wait until two hatchings of barn swallows finally fledged.  There was one tiny egg left in the nest.
They are now musically bonging away on the pergola.

During all this activity, I had planted the dogs on the deck on their rugs, with their marrow bones.  Best thing ever - they were busy for almost two hours, before coming up for air.  I called it a day around 6:30, fed everyone and slid my fridge-cleaning dinner in the oven.  We had a quiet night - Lovey on HER sofa, and PB taking up an amazing amount of room for a diminutive being.

Getting the hairy eyeball for taking up
ANY space on HIS chair.

The tail is the only thing

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Fosters, Flutes and Frost

You know when you say yes, then some days go by and certain information makes its way into the dark crevices of your cranium and then....WHAM!?  No?  Some days ago, I got an email from Peanut Butter's foster parents (who I secretly think wish they had never given him up - too bad ... ) asking if there was any way I could look after their current foster for a weekend.  Of course.  I can certainly relate to wanting to get away for the weekend... 

Because we live so far from each other, it was decided that I would toss the dogs in the car after work on Thursday and drive to meet them halfway at a popular dog-rescue-meet-and-greet area.  Sounded great at the time but I failed to realize a) it now gets pitch dark by 7 and b) I loathe driving in the dark.  They failed to realized that the favorite spot was not lit.  After an hour's hair-raising drive, we finally made it to the abyss meeting spot.  They pulled in and we tried our best to light the area with our headlights.  How did it go?  There were four dogs involved; Peanut Butter thought he was going home with them; Lovey, tail firmly cemented to her tummy, was having nothing doing with this new dog, the dark and strange people all in the dark; we were all afraid someone would call the police.  I finally just said the heck with it, put Lovey and Peanut Butter (his foster mother, still trying to get one last cuddle in) in the back seat and put Rusty Jones in the front.  Rusty, poor lad, thought it was the end of the world.  I drove back with Rusty trying to get onto my lap (he's Lovey's size) and everyone else exhausted.  By the time we pulled in, it was 10P and they had not eaten.  Soooo, in we went, with Lovey still giving Rusty The Lip every once in a while.  I got their dinners together and then there was calm.  We took a little time to peruse the chicken yard in the dark, then came inside to collapse.  I had had the foresight to take Friday off, which was a very good thing, as I think I got four hours of sleep.  Everyone settled down and Rusty was actually playing with Lovey and there was much kissing, on and off all day.  I renamed him Velcro and got almost nothing done.
Are you now my mommy?

What's going on over there?

The dark lump is PB...

This is more like it!
Saturday, however, I escaped and met my sister at The Clark in Williamstown, MA, for a telecast of Mozart's The Magic Flute.  OMG!  It was quite wonderful, especially compared to the bizarre rendition of Obsession we had witnessed the previous week.  The costumes, staging and talent were spectacular and I developed a major crush on the baritone.  It was a beautiful autumn day.

NOT the baritone.  He had dimples...
View from the museum parking lot.
Luckily, Rusty's foster parents swung by on their way home Sunday, so I didn't have to repeat the night-time drive.  He was thrilled to see them - having believed he had been abandoned...again.  The four of us (Slimbo ventured out after he was sure the monster was gone) stumbled to our positions (Peanut Butter is back by my side) and made it an early night.

Monday night brought freezing temps.  I knew it was coming but had very little time to spare over the weekend to get things battened down.  I did manage to empty the duck pool and drag in the Meyers Lemon tree - without putting my back out - and repot the geraniums for their indoor hiatus.  Sunday was a very windy, warm day - the precursor to the cold front, thundering toward us.  It brought some rain, so I left the geraniums outside for a free watering.  Yesterday I brought them in, along with the fig tree, and I had all good intentions to cut my herbs when I got home from work.  Instead, I spent ONE HOUR inching through traffic caused when some nimrod rammed into the back of another car in one of two lanes.  I am sure he/she was texting something of incredible importance - the state of their adenoids, perhaps?  I was sure to put the voodoo curse on them as I drove by at one mile an hour.  By the time I pulled into the driveway, it was too dark to clip herbs.  I did a very fast round of evening chores and then put my headlamp on and covered the oregano and marjoram and clipped a few sprigs of pineapple sage.  Everything else was on its own.
Beautiful flowering pineapple sage
I have not had a chance to reconnoiter the garden since the freeze.  I doubt if anything survived except for the kale - that survives almost anything!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The hustle has officially left my bustle.

This is the fifth blog post I've started - the others were deep-sixed, so I'm hoping that this makes it through my filter of mass destruction.  A series of things have dropped me into a deep blue funk and I need to get out of it.  The biggest disappointment was realizing that I would not be able to take a short vacation I had planned (and needed) for quite some time.  I hadn't realized how much I had counted on it until I couldn't go.  I then slipped into that quagmire of feeling that the lifestyle I love so much had become a millstone around my neck.  THEN I realized that that was ridiculous.  I needed to change my thinking.

So I have.  Or at least I am working on it.  As these things tend to go, once the negative energy is radiating out into the Universe, it tends to attract like energy.  Case in point:  I have been spending hours and hours in the company of The Journal of Commerce Import Bulletins.

You see that white piece of paper?  That's as far as I had gotten after three days.  Shoot me.  Each over-sized tome is classified as "fragile", so I have to very gingerly leaf through months' worth of shipping manifest lists until I find the ones I'm looking for, then equally as gingerly scan it without damaging the yellowed pages.  An equally distressing thought is that these "fragile" documents were printed when I was 15!  I feel like a relic...

There are some upsides - I am in a very peaceful environment for hours:
Research floor of the State
I am getting plenty of exercise - the round trip is just under three miles and has to be walked.  And there is lots of cultcha to be absorbed.
One example - it's YUGE!
Our state capitol is a formidable and beautiful edifice, another example of millions of dollars invested in the glory of government.  The most direct route from my office to the State Library is via the underground concourse.  Access is gained to the concourse by passing through two metal detectors, going through the Capitol, and then through the concourse - a long corridor that passes under a road or two.  Both sides of the concourse are populated with fast food restaurants and with items from Mr. Rockefeller's massive Modern Art collection.  To which no one pays any attention.  I am always amazed that these works are hung in a closed area that reeks of McDonald fumes, diesel fumes from the bus garage and, until recently, cigarette smoke.  Geezlouise.  Anyhoo, one walks through the concourse, then down a flight of steps - under another road - then through a series of escalators and elevators that haven't been updated since Eisenhower was in office.  Finally, one emerges into the upper/inner sanctum of all things NYS history.  I make this trip twice a day - I do have my real job, after all.  Scanning these documents has posed a real challenge.  The pages are oversized and are printed (in tiny print) on the aforementioned yellowing, fragile paper.  You cannot flip the thing over and copy it.  The overhead scanners are not capable of scanning the whole page.  I finally came up with a free app on my iPhone that scans and turns the scan into either a jpeg (photo) or pdf (copy) file.  These I email to my office address and then send along to another office.  It is hair-raisingly tedious work.  I am through two and a half years, with two and a half to go.  Geewillikers.

It's nice to come home to this:

Modeling his lovely sweater, gifted to him
by his distant cousin in the Northwest, Mandy.
Of course, the weather is in no way suitable for sweaters, having not dipped below 75 degrees for days.  Having said that, we are due for a freeze tonight into tomorrow morning - this means some swaddling of lemon tree and geraniums.  Repotting geraniums and schlepping the lemon tree inside are on The List.  So far, however, I have not had more than a portion of a day per weekend into which I must cram five-days worth of work.  Not surprisingly, I do not succeed.  I am hoping - after this, another truncated weekend - to get most of my pre-Winter things done by the end of the month.  Har, har, ho, ho, har, har.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Kombucha Korner and Ratty-Tatty Jim-Jams

I have tried and failed to maintain Kombucha over the past year.  My ever-patient source of all things Kombucha, Lisa, has come to my rescue on numerous occasions.  I had thrown in the towel and dehydrated my last SCOBY and moved on, when I came across a Freecycle listing for a free SCOBY in a town not too far from me.  It had been a while since my last attempt, so I pulled up my BGPs and said I would love one.  Well, this time it's magic!  First, the SCOBY I inherited was about an inch thick.  A big, lovely, healthy SCOBY.  Second, the woman who had grown this lovely thing was something of an Earth Goddess type.  I drove quite a distance, following both paved and dirt roads, until I came to a dead end on a very remote dirt road and rolled into a little slice of Heaven, tucked way back into the woods.  If I had known, I would have put the dogs in the car and packed a bag...

She gave me some very good information, handed over this monster SCOBY plus some Kombucha to house it safely, and was thrilled to get a dozen eggs in return. 

It's been over three months and look!

L-R:  New batch of Kombucha fermenting;
Kombucha Hotel; bottled Kombucha in
last fermentation before fridge
(Check out the SCOBY in that jar!)
I even have a SCOBY hotel!  I feel absolutely virtuous.

Hold that feeling.

I admit that I hang onto clothing way past its lifetime.  I will patch, mend, sew, darn, glue, and do whatever necessary to keep it together.  This is particularly true with two items in my wardrobe - my dressing gown/bathrobe and my favorite cotton pullover/sweatshirt thing.

I am inordinately attached to my robe.  It is an LLBean chamois robe that originally belonged to my maternal grandmother - although that is not the source of my sentiment.  She has been gone for - it's got to be over 20 years!  I have patched it, I have put new collar and cuffs and a tie on it.  But it is now literally falling apart at the seams.  Seams I have resewn.  I have not been able to find a robe that I liked as much as this one.  I even ordered a new chamois robe that was woefully poorer in quality.  So I clung onto the original for dear life.  I had to revisit the need for a new robe this fall, as I am afraid the sleeves will fall off and I will freeze.  Lo and behold, I think I have found a replacement that may stand up to this high benchmark!  It's another LLBean robe - even though more and more of their trademark items are falling to Chinese low standards.  I received it yesterday and I think it will stand up to the test of time.  Check with me in 20+ years.

The cotton sweatshirt?  The neck, wrist and hem bands have stretched into a ruffled state and it is rather fragile.  I don't dare wear it.  So it lies supine in a bottom drawer.  I am sentimental to a fault.