Thursday, December 26, 2019

Lots of Christmas Spirit(s)

After a much frenzied catch-up with the holiday, I managed to get everything done and get out of the door less than a half hour late!  That's a record.  The 'kids' got invited to Christmas, so there was much packing of treats, leashes, holiday clothing (forgive me - I can't help it.  I am one of THOSE dog moms) and Peanut's booster seat.  All the gifties were wrapped, two kinds of cookies baked (nut balls, my mom's favorite, and a new one - pecan pie bars, which may become a standard), the nut loaf prepared and packed into the loaf pan, a new cheese ball sat, plump, on its Christmas plate, pint jars of "Sweezie's" Irish Cream and Coquito (Puerto Rican Egg Nog) in their own box.  I was a paragon of orderliness.  Until I reached Vermont and realized I had forgotten the Christmas stockings.

In all modesty and abject humbleness, I will say that the nut loaf was superb!  However, I now remember why I don't make it often - it takes quite a while to assemble and uses almost every pan in  your kitchen, not to mention small appliances.  It's worth it, if just once a year.  I also made a new kind of cheese ball that was quite a hit.  Unfortunately, there are no pictures of either, since I started at 4A on the nut loaf and didn't stop until I stumbled out the door at 10A to load the car.

The dogs were perfect - from suffering through their Christmas sweater/JimJams, to not begging too much.  They had way too many treats and Peanut was in heaven, jumping from lap to lap.  Then their auntie gave them their squeaky toys and it was happy pandemonium.
My little reindeer

He actually liked them!
Our atypical menu (for us) was nut loaf, roasted asparagus, an amazing squash/chickpea curry dish that my sister made, rice pilaf, and a salted maple pie for dessert.  The highlight of our day was a very posh Christmas drink that my sister made:
There was actual edible gold glitter on the rim and floating on the surface - cool!  After one of these, we all reverted to 10 years old and put gold glitter on our lips and eyelids.  My mother was quite amused.

When we finally straggled home, the dogs went right to their sofa, under their blankets and didn't move until I made them go out this morning.  A good time was had by all!

I hope y'all had the kind of holiday you hoped for!
Isn't she darling?

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Late but not Lost

I am finally in the holiday spirit.  Now that it's Christmas Eve, I'd say that I slid in without a moment to spare!  I was looking through my photographs and found an odd assortment that somehow never made it onto the blog.  So, in no particular order...
The Headless Cat

Roasted cauliflower with tahini, pomegranate and

Mashed roasted purple yams

No caption needed

Tiny Tim, the Farm Bunny

Lovey loves her new blanket

Unknown hybrid from Marianne's farm - still intact
since it was picked in early October.

Tiny Tim has a friend!

Christmas Gift Plan B
The holidays are very pared down this year.  It's just the 'girls', since losing dad in October.  My sister, bless her heart, announced that Christmas dinner will be all vegetarian this year.  This has given me the opportunity to make my nut/mushroom loaf with mushroom gravy!  We are doing stockings, although I will be thrilled to have a no-gift holiday next year - it's my mission!  I've been knitting like crazy - there are five stockings, so I managed to squeak out 3 pairs of socks and two pairs of fingerless mitts.  Plus a pair of mittens for my neighbor and a pair of fingerless mitts for a coworker in the City.  Yeesh.  My mother's socks are drying on the sock blockers as I type.

Marianne is always tough to gift.  This year I decided to bake them my favorite Christmas cake - a cranberry cake that is mostly butter, sugar, eggs and cranberries.  Held together with flour.  Since our local grocery stores have, apparently, decided that no one needs fresh cranberries after Thanksgiving, I was forced to use a bag of frozen berries.  That cake took FOREVER to bake!  Instead of an hour, it was almost two and a half hours.  I finally pulled it out of the oven at 9:45P and let it cool slightly before taking it out of the cake form.  Except....I fell asleep and it sat in it's cake form, welding itself to the metal, for almost an hour.  I draped foil over it and went to bed.  In the morning, armed with my third cup of coffee, I contemplated the mess and decided to cut it into slices, which I then formed into a spiral on the cake stand and festooned with holiday cellophane.  I minced into Marianne's and told her that I not only had brought dessert, but I even cut it into individual slices to make it easier.  Aren't I the virtuous one!?  Thank goD, it tasted fine and everyone loved it.

The 'kids' get to spend Christmas with us, so I am very happy.  With any luck (plus treats and having extra hands to help) I will get photos of them in their Christmas sweaters.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday - whichever and whatever you celebrate!

Monday, December 16, 2019

I’m tired of being special.


Ripped off


I am officially tired of being 'special'.  In a 'special' area where we get double to triple the forecast snowfall levels.  Of having a roofer say, "Wow.  I've never seen that before in all my 30 years of roofing in this area."  Of having the pleasure of being the recipient of 'extreme conditions'.  Yessiree.
I'm over it.

The car goes into the body shop (fingers crossed that the snowfall doesn't exceed even our 'special' area) tomorrow morning.  I had a roofer out to assess the damage to my roof from the last snowfall - the same one that collapsed the carport (which purported to stand up to most weather, except for extreme conditions) and after viewing the carnage of my sheered off vents, said that he had never seen anything like it. 

I would relish an extended period of boring.  I'd like to visit the Land of the Snooze.  Let me stay for a while in Hotel Ennui.


Monday, December 9, 2019

Just call me Princess Squeaky Wheel

I am not an unreasonable person. - most of the time, although I have had my moments.  I realize that in this time of Black Fridays, Cyber Mondays and all around Maniac Monthies, things that are shipped can be delayed.  Throw in the giant snow storms and you have a hot mess.  I understand.


Recently, I had placed the autoship order for dog food through, who uses FedEx for deliveries.  I order this automatically every six weeks.  (Let me say here that I love - they are totally awesome for a mega company.  Let's hope they stay that way.)  I also placed my Christmas dog/cat order a few days later.  In between, all of the above happened (the black cyber mania AND the snow storm).  I expected delayed shipments and I had a little stash of dog food that would hold me almost a week.

Being obsessive organized, I viewed the 'track your shipment' information every once in a while, just for fun.  Then I started to see a weird trend.  My package would be out for delivery at 7:47AM, then back in the facility at 12:54PM.  Next day, same scenario, slightly different times.  Third day, ditto.  Meanwhile, I received two UPS shipments, one in the midst of the storm.  FedEx? (insert the sound of crickets.)  I called Chewy to see if they knew what was going on.  They did not, but were friendly and made concerned sounds.  After four starts and stops, my first package was finally delivered.  I had run out of the dogs' food, but had been feeding them kibble with chopped Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, mixed with warm broth.  Poor dears...

When the same ricochet pattern started happening on the second package, I had had enough.  There was the back and forth three times, with the final delivery scheduled for three days in the future!  There was no snow storm at this point.  I called Chewy's again and, after suggesting that they not renew their FedEx contract and letting them know that, while I thought they were the cat's jimjams, I was not happy with their shipments.  I mean, if it's delayed, then - by gum (not my exact words...) - say it's delayed.  I can deal with delay.  My life is a series of Plan Bs!  Ahem.

They credited $15 on my order.  That took the puff out of my huff.

Then it was time to contact FedEx customer service.  Which was almost impossible.  I could not get a human.  In desperation, I pounded "0" when trapped in the automated loop and was finally directed to customer service.  After a very long wait, I was finally connected to a person.  I then let them know what I thought about their on again/off again notifications and wanted an explanation for the three-day gap in final delivery (if it WOULD be the final delivery).  They started a file to investigate and told me that, if I hadn't heard back from anyone by Monday evening, I should call back on Tuesday.  This was Saturday and the final delivery was scheduled for Tuesday.  I pointed out to her that none of this was helpful and that I would be urging Chewy's to switch to UPS. 

My package arrived the next day.  On a Sunday.  It must have involved divine intervention.

(squeak, squeak, squeak)

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Five down, too little too late for six, and Groundhog Day comes early.

I managed to get the front walk shoveled but, when I reached the carport, I was too late. Damn.   I had to send for the Calvary in order to get my car out. Unfortunately, there was body damage so I’ve had to deal with my insurance company. This is the first time I have ever dealt with them for a claim, and it will be the last. Anyhoo, I’ve got a date with the collision guy on Wednesday and hopefully will get my car back quickly.

 I closed everybody up last night Dash four of the hands have decided to camp out in an out building. Not that I blame them, as one of them is at the bottom of the pecking order and is probably tired of all the abuse. But it just adds another step to my already busy chore list. Chickens. I came inside, drew the curtains, had an adult beverage (or three) and called it a day. This morning, when I ventured out, I found we got another 8+ inches of snow! Jiminy cricket. Joyce, feel free to come up and share the snow love. Bring a shovel.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Four down, two to go.

A foot of snow so far, with round two coming up this afternoon. The deck shoveled ✔️, path to the barn ✔️, path to the chickens ✔️, front door cleared ✔️.  Still to go: path to the driveway, roof raking carport and fuel tank cover. There is not enough coffee in the world today.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

image via giphy

It's going to be a very small gathering of girls this holiday, but we will make it as festive as possible.  (My sister has mentioned something about purple yams and edible glitter....I'm not sure if that is a combination or a choice, but what ho!)

My contribution is to ask (demand) that everyone choose a Native name to honor Native Americans on this day.  My own name will be Laughing Owl .  What would be your Native name of choice?


Friday, November 22, 2019

Country Living: Myth & Reality. The Seasons: Spring.



Oh, what glorious clear blue skies!  It is so awesome to stand on the deck with my morning coffee and listen to the sweet notes of birdsong, letting my eyes rest on the delicate green haze of the first leaves and the soft beginnings of grass.  It's just so wonderful, peaceful and bucolic that I think I might invite my poor, city friends for dinner this weekend - I'm sure they would love the fresh air, quiet clucking of the hens and sweet faces of the sheep.


Oh, good gawd.  I just lost my Wellie in the mud, again.  Will it ever stop raining?  Will I ever be able to put my winter coat away?  Doesn't it figure.  I've  invited six for dinner this weekend and they've sprayed the field next door with liquid shite.  I wonder if it's possible to eat while wearing Hazmat suits. For crying out loud, Reggie!  Would you PLEASE give the hens a break, you sex maniac!  Dotty!  Quit attacking the Blondies!  Who's bleeding?!?   I HEAR you, Norman!  The entire county hears you!  I will bring your hay out in a minute.  Just let me pick these black flies out of my coffee. 

*I will be periodically entertaining you with my interpretations of the Myth and Reality of Country Living.  Let the cow pies fall where they may.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The dangers of home canning.

Now that I have  your attention.  I will clarify that title.  The dangers of MY home canning.  Those of  you who have followed me for the last 9 years (!!!) know that I have a tendency to channel a 1930s prairie housewife with nine kids, when it comes to canning.  I have had one go at purging - pretty much chucking out (composting) anything older than 2012.  Yes, I still have canned tomatoes from 2012, but those things are like Styrofoam (not in taste and texture, hopefully), in that they last for years.
A gratuitous pic of Slimmie on his lambskin.
However, I still managed to delude myself that I could tell what the myriad of unlabeled jars contained.  That is why, on the weekend, when I was fixing my version of TexMex, I dumped a pint jar of mincemeat onto my rice and beans, instead of salsa.  I am an adventurous eater, but even I have my limits.  I scraped off as much as possible, separated the bits with rice clinging to them for the chickens who will eat almost everything, and then saved the rest of the mincemeat for breakfast.  On my granola.  It was a new taste sensation.  I will now be going through the unlabeled jars under bright lights before opening another.

Luckily, a couple of other dishes fared better - spinach/chard quiche and polenta in my Instant Pot.  Years ago, when I had just moved to the area and was on the search for friends, I met my Other Els.  She was a weaver of exceptional talent (I have one of her linen transparencies with a sheep in my kitchen window), a lovely woman and friend - and a great cook and gardener.  She gave me a little piece of lovage, which I have managed not to kill, and that now towers above everything in the herb garden.  She also was an excellent quiche-maker.  The family was vegetarian, so she was a wizard with vege.  I had forgotten - until this weekend - that she would spread a layer of Dijon mustard on the bottom of the crust, then put a layer of cheese, then the vege, then the custard.  In one bite, you got a crispy crust (cheese), tang (mustard), chew (vege), and creaminess (custard).  That's just what I did with mine and it is good!  Which is lucky, as I will be eating it all week.
Half the box of the infamous shiitakes
I came across a video on Youtube that showed how to make polenta in an instant pot - what ho!  Just what I needed - hot, creamy comfort food.  I was also dying to try my polenta grits from the Mill at Janie's Farm.  It took me about 25 minutes to produce a vat of creamy polenta with just the slightest bit of chewiness (my preferred texture).  The bonus was that the leftovers will/have become fried mush (a specialty of my dad's when we were growing up).  That is basically sliced, cold polenta, fried in a generously buttered pan until crispy on both sides, then served with maple syrup.

From the barnyard - there was an unexplained dust-up between the Blondie sisters, resulting in the bloodied head of one of the girls.  I have no idea what started it, but I saw blood on the outside of one of the nesting boxes after I had let them out - leaving me searching vainly for the wounded party.  I finally spotted her bloody head and that night, under the light of my trusty headlamp, I cleaned her up as best as I could and dabbed on some antibiotic.  She seemed just fine this morning and there hasn't been more violence.  It's always something.

It was a weekend of bits and bobs - I managed to repair the bird feeder for my railing; I got a pedicure and now sport magenta toes; I changed the filters on my Berkey; I toted trash and recycling to the transfer station; I delivered eggs to my neighbors; I found a home for the cross-country skis; I loaded two 50# bags of chicken feed into their bin (why is it that a 50# bag now feels as if it weighs twice that much?)  I restacked some hay, did a little rearranging in the living room, and managed a meager attempt at housecleaning.  I also spent a lot of time listening to an audio book that I cannot leave to just car time - so far, I have listened to three in the series by Anne Cleeves upon which the series Shetland is based.  Besides terrific writing, character development and plot lines that hold you in their grip right up to the end, it's read by a Scotsman.  Lawsymercy, I am such a sucker for the birrs and twirls of a deep Scotch voice.  If someone told me he was wearing a kilt while reading the script, I don't think I could deal with it.
These nuts were in one of the empty egg
cartons given to me by my neighbors.
There is a very unhappy squirrel somewhere.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

My life as an Aesop's fable and a Winter weather sampler.

Image from Etsy

My grasshopper days are over.  After looking ahead at the Arctic temperatures forecast for our area (and most of the country), I morphed into an ant - all action!  Well, in my mind I was all action.  Truth be told, there was an alarming amount of whining going on.  I managed to get the carport pushed that extra 10 percent and it is organized and ALL of my car fits inside!  I cut back the last peony bush (headlamp) and stored the garden tools in the barn.  I drained the rain barrels and hoses, stacked buckets, emptied the ducks' bathtub and hauled out the bird feeders.  I have to do some reworking on my railing feeder, thanks to the pergola collapsing on it last winter, but otherwise, we are ready.

I made a pot of vegetable soup and a vat of chili last weekend and divided it up for lunches, present and future.  Lovey's fleece jacket has been washed and the big fleece sofa blankets are out.  Fuel oil will be delivered today.  Just as I was about to pat myself smugly on my back for how ready for winter I was, the lamp timer died.  Haha, I was prepared - I had a back up timer!  Which died a day later.  I was working myself into righteous indignation over the poor quality of everything, when I realized they were both about ten years old.  The dogs will have to bask in the glow of my salt lamp until I get another timer this coming weekend.

This morning brought an entire winter weather sampler - within an hour, we had rain, sleet, ice and then, snow.  Even though we had been receiving dire weather warnings for over a week, the local road crews apparently missed the news.  Nary a snow plow was seen.  It was an exciting drive to work. 

Now that I am in full hygge mode, I have made my list of winter gift knitting and am very hopeful that I will get it done.  As long as time stands still or moves backwards.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Goodbye daylight, my old friend.

(You can thank Terry for that heading.  I've been humming Simon & Garfinkel for days.)  My biggest beef (or tofu, for you vegans) is that shorter days happen just when you need them to be twice as long as normal.  My neighbor across the road/up the hill sent me a concerned email saying that he had seen bobbing lights early in the morning and in the evening in my front yard.  Yes, I said.  You saw my headlamp.  The only way I can stay even ten steps behind where I need to be, is by squeezing in to-dos by the light of my headlamp.

Ergo, the dahlia bulbs got yoinked up and placed in a feed sack with peat moss by the dim light of my headlamp.  The peonies got trimmed down and support cages put away by the same headlamp.  The rest of the kale has been harvested (in what weak daylight we've had), along with most of the Swiss chard, although I have left some under cover to see how long it holds up.  My herbs have been harvested, handed out and hung to dry.  My tiny onions have been wept over (kidding - sort of) and the garden has been pretty much put to bed.

In the midst of all this, we got a hellova storm.  It seems, nowadays, that every change in temperature comes with its own near-catastrophic event.  Thursday it rain all day.  Then, around 11P, I awoke to the sound of a train rushing past the house.  I'm used to these high wind gusts, where you clamp your teeth and hope that you don't hear something large go 'thump!' in the night.  But this was a long, seemingly endless gust.  I was sure that nothing would be left when I went out in the morning.  It didn't even blow the lid off the trash can.  Apparently, it was a high wind.  They measured 56 mph wind gusts in my area.  Geezloueeze.

There is still a lot to dead-head out in the beds, but it is now the least of my worries. I have done my food shopping for November, moved tools into the barn for the winter, given Slimmie's room and good cleaning and reorganizing (of which he was none too pleased - cats are such creatures of habit), the winter curtains are up, summer curtains washed and stowed away.  I got a load of firewood in and my sister (bless her heart) came down to help me with the pre-winter coop cleaning.  I am always so amazed at how fast a job goes with more than one - and how much more fun it is.  I made another pot of soup, so now I have at least two weeks' worth of lunches in the freezer.

I also got a text from Marianne saying that they had a lot of shiitake mushrooms and did I want some?  Into the car I hopped and came back with 'some' in a box (I would have inserted a photograph here, but Blogger had other ideas).  Envision a box that held a dozen pint canning jars.  Now envision a mound of shiitake mushrooms the size of cup saucers - about 5 pounds of them!  I got out the dehydrator and got busy.  I now have about 2 gallons of dried shiitake mushrooms that should last a while.  A decade or so.

I find it ironic that, when I finally remember to pull myself together and take pics for you, Blogger decides it is not allowing the insertion - nay, even the ability to connect with them - of any images.  I will add them randomly to a later post.

Yesterday, taking advantage of the extra hour of daylight, I firmly yanked my BGPs up to my armpits (you're welcome for that visual) and tackled the carport.  I hauled out all the remaining flotsam of the ill-fated yard sale, sorted my garden supplies, moved all the garden implements to the barn, hefted, sorted, cussed and finally got it to the point where I can get 95% of my car inside.  I have to spread some straw and align my wheelbarrows and I will be all set.  I took photos of all the yard sale remnants and put them on Facebook for free.  Six of them will be marched out the door tonight.  Progress!  I'm giving the rest a week, then off to Goodwill they go.  Virtuosity is my middle name.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Sister time.

If there was an upside to dad's passing, it was that my two sisters and I got to spend some quality time together.  We carved our Halloween pumpkins and went apple-picking at a lovely local orchard. 

I got mine hollowed out, but then all creative thought screeched to a halt.  I had to noodle it around for another two days before I carved mine.
I heard a lot of hissing from Slimmie and then the dogs started barking up a storm - there was an intruder on the deck!
I feel it's important to keep them on their toes...

It was a perfect day to go apple-picking and I was introduced to a new (to me) variety of apple - the Liberty.  It is a smaller, dark red apple that is very sweet and not too soft.  A delicious eating apple. You can see Connie and I hard at it in the bottom picture.

I had a bag of second apples that Marianne had given me, so I tried out a new gluten free apple crisp.  I really loved the apple part, but the crisp part was too thick for me.  A new take on flavoring the apples was to add two tablespoons of bourbon and two tablespoons of water, with cinnamon, lemon juice and a little cornstarch.  The crisp topping called for oatmeal, a little melted butter, chopped pecans, almond flour, and Greek yogurt.  It wasn't bad at all, but definitely was better eaten warm.  I'll be experimenting over the fall and winter - since I will be the recipient of many organic apple 'seconds'.  I sure don't mind a spot or two, or three - especially for cooking apples!

This week I launch into Soup Season - with a new recipe for pumpkin and black bean soup.  It also has a diced sweet potato and a little minced jalapeno, so it sounds divine.  I will report back!

Because of recent events, I am very behind on my winter prep, so I am taking Thursday and Friday off.  Of course, it will rain all day tomorrow and Friday is forecast for 45 mph wind gusts.  That will put the coop cleaning off until Saturday, when it's dry and not windy - just very cold.  Has to be done, so I am going to dig out my mittens!  Good thing I have lots to do, both inside and out, so that no minute is wasted.  Woohoo!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Saying goodbye.

Dad.  1922-2019

I am very lucky to have had my father around for so long.  He was sharp as a tack until he hit 90, and then dementia crept in and robbed him of his memory and, finally, his dignity.  It is a shitty condition, if you'll pardon my French.  As a family, we are totally blessed with a sister who's super power is sublime compassion, patience, humor and strength.  She has, basically, put her life aside for the past five years to be a full-time caregiver.  And now, there is mom.  Thankfully, she does NOT have dementia.  But she is 96 and all signs point to more years ahead.

As we sat waiting for the funeral folks to arrive to spirit dad away (pun intended), we all agreed that we had made it through the past five years thanks to good wine (that would be the three sisters), close family ties and dark humor.  And humor was needed in the last couple of weeks.  In the middle of dad's fairly rapid decline at the end, the septic system backed up and ceased functioning.  There was my sister, with two old ladies (mom - 96 and her sister - 94), and our dying father.  Here is where level-headedness, preparedness and humor come to bear.

Anyone who has dealt with the very elderly knows that the topic of conversation from rising in the morning to toddling off to bed in some way involves 'elimination' (my mother's choice of terms).  The magic of prune juice; the mystery of Metamucil; the benefits of dried apricots; how much water you drink; the need for the morning cup of coffee to 'get things working'.  As my sister pointed out, there was a dire lack of 'movement' with the ladies until the septic system quit working.  Enter the potty chair (senior edition).  All of a sudden, there was lots of 'movement'.  As they shuffled back and forth down the hall on matching walkers, each would whisper to my sister, "I've left you a little package, heehee."  My sister, figuring she had enough potty bags to last a week, ran out in two days.  Snort.

There were many frantic calls placed to their septic service who, I might add, showed a complete lack of compassion and appalling customer service.  I tried my guys (they of the dimpled, blue-eyed blond fellow), who would have loved to have helped, but could not cross state lines.  They did give me a name - Uncle Bob's Septic Service - in Bennington and thank goodness they did.  Uncle Bob's dropped what they were doing and headed over.  The pumper wasn't working, but they spent two hours trying to find the tank, then managed to clear the pipe so that it worked.  My sister went out to thank them and found that the supervisor had recently lost his mother to cancer and the two of them stood next to the open septic tank, sobbing.  They also donated a snazzy new lid so that the tank would be easier to find in the future.  Uncle Bob's now has customers for life.

Connie sent a text to us early last Saturday saying that she thought dad would probably not last the day.  I flung food at the dogs, sent an email to my neighbor, asking him to let the chickens out when it was light enough, and I headed to VT.  It was a long day and dad finally left us in the afternoon.  It was sad and it was a relief.

So, that is where I have been.  We are now tying up loose ends and focusing our love and affection on mom.  She's quite jazzed about it.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Good golly.

Yesterday, I had to pinch hit for my middle sister and looked after my dad (97, dementia), my mom (96, almost chair-bound), my aunt (at 94, the youngster), and my BIL (basically, he tries.)  From 7:30 to 4:30.  I must have been totally delusional, bringing all my knitting projects and envisioning a cozy afternoon, knitting, tea, lalala.  Lalala for sure.  There is nothing quite so frustrating and maddening than a parent (or any person) in full-blown dementia.  I know that many of you have gone through, or are going through this painful experience, and my heart is with you.  I now believe that my sister has super powers.  I do not.  By the time I straggled home, I was exhausted.  Too exhausted to remember that we were in for a Nor'easter last night.

Fast forward to 11P, when the wind took on locomotive sound effects and the rain (what I could see through the gloom) was horizontal.  Then the power went out.  Tough nuggets, I was back to bed.  When I awoke at 3A, the lights were back on and I went around (foolishly) and reset all the clocks.  Then I made a cup of coffee, sat down with a book and the lights went out.  Will I ever learn?  The storm was still in full force, so I should have known.  I felt my way into the blackout supply area (back bathroom with it's glowy new toilet) and snagged three of my favorite solar light sources.

I sat back and listened to the storm, snugged Slimmie next to me and watched the blanketed enchilada dogs on the couch.  It was surprisingly peaceful.

The dogs, bless them, trudged out to do their business twice - we tried to time it in a lull.  Lull meaning the rain was no longer horizontal.  I went out when it was light enough to see and spent 20 minutes gathering buckets and other small objects that were all over the homestead.  I also watched the crows, who seemed to be having a ball, flying into the wind and hovering in place.

The drive into work involved dodging floods, branches, large limbs and whole trees.  I checked the rain gauge as I left and we already had four inches of rain!  It was such a relief to reach the parking garage!  Now I am off for home and the fall town rabies clinic.  After yesterday, three hours in a huge, cavernous metal building with no heat, filling hypos as fast as my little fingers can move, surrounded by an endless and frantic stream of barking dogs,screeching cats and hysterical owners, will seem like a walk in the park.


Monday, October 14, 2019

OMG a new toilet! and a sweet surprise.

I'm not sure what this says about my social life, but OMG I got a new toilet!  It had been languishing in its giant box for over two years - waiting for me to make up my mind as to whether I was going to put it in or have someone who actually knows what they're doing put it in.  Luckily, common sense won out over delusions of competence and time.  It also helps that I finally found a plumber that will a) show up; b) come on a weekend (Sunday); c) not charge me an arm and a leg.  As it turned out, the Pat loved the plumber almost as much as he loves my handiguy, Billy.  I had to shut the door in order to let him work in peace.  The Pat wanted to be 'helpful', as did Lovey, but...

Saturday was a lovely day - one of those glowing fall days in the Northeast that makes all the leaves look luminous.  It was warmish, with a nice breeze and everyone seemed to be in a happy mood.  Lovey gets the zoomies in this weather, so I try to let her out in the back fenced-in part of the sheep paddock so she can safely get it out of her system.  The Pat just ricochets around, yapping.

I got my hair cut, met my sister at the farmers market, visited with a couple of farmers that I know, admired the pies at the apple pie contest table, and made my parental pilgrimage of the week.  Then I did a little shopping and stopped to see Marianne and hit the transfer station on my way home.  It was a very pleasant day, but I was knackered when I finally came through the front door.  Knackered or not, the sheep were bleating, and the dogs were pointedly looking at their empty food dishes.  Just as I collapsed on the sofa after evening chores, there was a knock at the front door (setting off the deafening dog alarm).  It was my neighbor up the road - with a pint jar of his own honey as a thank you for planting all the flowering perennials enjoyed by his bees!  Woot!

Sunday was a stay-at-home day.  I fed the farm cats and then applied myself to garden clean up and house clean up.  The fence is down, rolled up and stashed away for the winter.  I've gone around the raised beds with the weed trimmer, the grass has had its final mowing, and a goodly amount of trimming, yoinking and cleaning up has been done outside.  I steam cleaned the kitchen floor (I so love my floor steamer), did three loads of laundry and got it on the line, vacuumed and dusted(ish) and cleaned the bathroom so as not to horrify the plumber, then got dinner started.  I had invited my neighbor who mows and trims for me over for Sunday dinner.  As I sashayed around the kitchen, thinking about my new toilet and clean kitchen floor (so, so, smugly), I looked down and realized that my package of cornstarch had sprung a leak.  As any of you who have dealt with cornstarch knows, this is a disaster of epic proportions.  The more you try to contain it, the more it wafts over every surface within an arm's reach.  Within a nanosecond, I had cornstarch on my counter, floor, shoes, pants and dogs.  It doesn't pay to be smug.  By the time my neighbor arrived, everything had been recleaned and was in order - except, of course, for the cook.  My hair was standing on end (probably generously dusted with cornstarch) and I had started adult libations without him.

And then it was Monday.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

There are definite drawbacks to having the focus of a fruit fly.

Bulgarian Carrot Peppers
When I was frolicking through my seed catalogs this past February, I came across the Bulgarian Carrot Pepper.  Ooooh, thought I, a sweet orange pepper that looks like a carrot!  So I bought a packet of seeds.  Did I read the actual description of the plant?  No, I did not, because my fruit fly brain was off to the next shiny photograph.

Even the Universe tried to intervene.  I started my seeds this year and, after three tries, only had one surviving Bulgarian seedling.  Did I heed the Universe?  No, no I did not.  I ran out of room in the pepper bed and planted the lone Bulgarian seedling near my cucumbers.  Where it was, more or less, overcome by the lemon balm, did not flourish, and I totally forgot about it.  Why?  (Chorus:  Fruit Fly Brain!!!)  As I was yoinking out the frost-zapped plants on Sunday, I uncovered two Bulgarian peppers.  I was so thrilled!  Today, I minced up a pepper and sprinkled it over my salad, quite smug with my localvore self.

I am still not able to speak without choking.  I feel as if the roof of my mouth has been in a house fire.  My nose is running like a spring brook.  All I can say is, CARROT?  Really?  To me, carrot connotes sweetness; rootiness.  Not freaking five alarm heat!  I suggest the following change to the name of the pepper - Bulgarian Napalm Pepper.  Can I get an amen?

Monday, October 7, 2019

The (garden) party's over.

We got walloped with below 30 on Friday night and that was it for the garden.  Am I the only one that did a happy dance when I realized it was kaput?  No matter how charged up I am in the spring, by October I am over it.  What a first world problem.

I had a surprise (another reason for a happy dance) visit by my BFF, so I took a half day off on Friday to beat a hasty retreat home so I could vacuum and raid the garden.  I picked everything that I thought would be usable, then tucked the kale, Swiss chard and herb bed under sheets for the night.  Sylvie took me out to dinner at the one (and only) wonderful local restaurant - true Mexican with the best fish tacos EVER. 

The house is festooned with flowers, both in containers and in pots:
My lovely Mandevilla
The fig tree looks like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, a drab little twig.  The Meyers Lemon looks good but has few lemons.  Not a surprise, as I had to do a major root trimming, repotting with it in the spring.  I covered the geraniums, but am loathe to pot them up and over-winter them in the house.  They take up a lot of space and I am always worried that Slimmie will start eating the leaves - even though they are kept in a room behind closed doors.

I have a box of green tomatoes, four zucchinis, three Bulgarian orange peppers, and a counter full of tomatoes in varying stages of ripeness.

I have quite a few pre-winter chores to do, but I am armed with my lists and will try to pick off at least one or two a day.  While I was out hanging up the washing, I decided to clean out the bluebird house.  Is this not the coolest thing?
Tidy Purple Martin nest on the bottom.
Total chaos of the Wren on the top.

One of the over-winter chores I will NOT have to do involves the turkeys.  They went to Marianne's farm yesterday and I am a happy woman.  I wouldn't have minded if they would have cohabited with the chickens, but oh, no.  No inside warm, dry shelter for them.  They much preferred to roost outdoors in the wind, rain and cold.  I swear we've bred the sense right out of them.

Saturday was a little too exciting, with the spotting of an obviously rabid raccoon.  While I was on high alert - following his erratic path, searching for my .22, I was also so sorry for him/her.  What a terrible disease.  By the time I was locked and loaded, he was gone.  I called all the neighbors to have them be on their toes, but no one has seen him.  Poor bugger.

Sunday afternoon, I beat feet out to the garden and yoinked up all the plants that were hit by the frost.  I'm down to Swiss chard and kale.  At this point, the kale is pretty tough, so I am leaving it to its own devices, while I repurposed the cucumber trellis over the Swiss chard so that I can tent it with plastic and try to stretch it into the winter.  I had wanted to plant arugula and spinach in the cold frame but have not done it, not having had the time, with one thing and another.  Next weekend I plant the garlic and cross my fingers.  It will be nice to put the garden to bed for the winter.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

A lesson in patience.

The Big Move finally took place on Friday and Saturday.  The office administrator and her assistant, and the IT guy came up and we all held our breath - hoping the moving guys would show up on Saturday, too.  My 15 emails requesting assurance that they would be at our building Saturday morning - but what time? - were answered with one email.  Containing one word.  Yes.

We did what we could on Friday afternoon, since we didn't have a locking door until then.  The OA and and AOA left for their hotel, leaving the IT guy and me to run around like lunatics.  I was back at the office at 8A and - halleluiah - the mover was there.  But, wait.  There was L - in charge and with YEARS (hint hint) of experience; R - an adorable 300+ lb young man with loads of personality but little moving experience; and J - an adorable 90 lb young man with even less moving experience.

This is what we had to move:  an executive suite of furniture which included a massive desk with attached built in wall and cabinets.  Easily over 6' high by 6' wide.  A massive conference room table.  Two massive TV screens.  A lot of art.  Four oversized modern, heavy chairs.  A massively massive reception desk - with a full top and front slab of 1-1/2" marble.  Are you starting to see the problem here?

I won't go into the gory details, but we had to nix the built in part of the desk because it would not fit in the elevator and had originally been hefted up 8 floors by some very disgruntled professional movers.  We also had to nix the reception desk because a) it took our IT guy to figure out how to detach the return part of the desk (after almost an hour's struggle by L) and b) when it finally was detached (the new space is much smaller and the full piece would not fit), the front section, resplendent in it's marble armor, was totally unbalanced and would have toppled forward if I moved too suddenly.

During the entire event (9 hours), the OA and AOA took their supervisory seats in the new space - all the better to direct the action (or inaction) - while the IT guy and I worked our respective butts off.  Let me tell you, by the time I steered my shaky self up my driveway, I was knackered.  I managed to stumble through dog-cat-sheep-llama-chicken-duck-turkey feeding before collapsing in my chair with a glass of wine.  I was comatose by 8:30 and slept 8 hours.  I took a 2 hour nap on Sunday and then slept another 8 hours.  I am now back to my normal 6.  Holey guacamoley.  I am now dealing with the hot mess that is the new office.  And finishing up with the hot mess that was our office.

I do like the new space - it is airy and light and I am surrounded by offices with actual people in them.  Plus I don't have to take the elevator, now being on the second floor.  Of course, after 22 years, I've taken the elevator to the old floor six times on autopilot.  At least the worst is over and I can now concentrate on condensing all the junk into a space that is one-sixth the size of the old one!  I call it training for my next life chapter.
The movers enjoyed my apple cake - eating it
was the only thing they did quickly.

Monday, September 23, 2019

I can explain.

You will notice, of course, that this is NOT a photograph of the Shaker Museum or anything remotely Shaker-ish.  This, instead, is a pictorial description of how I felt, sitting in the Wash House at the Shaker Museum Mount Lebanon.  No matter how good my intention to arrive early and look around, I only managed to rush into the venue at the last second.  And we were sitting in a large wooden building with no open windows, sun pouring through those closed windows, working with wool and it was 88 degrees with 125% humidity.

Unbeknownst to me, there are multiple Shaker sites.  In my stubborn, itty-bitty, single-minded head, I ventured out on Saturday (with plenty of time, I thought) to the Hancock Shaker Village in MASSACHUSETTS.  Never mind that every reference to the event was for the Shaker Museum Mount Lebanon in NEW YORK.  When I arrived in MASSACHUSETTS, the one alert brain cell managed to struggle to the foreground and yell "Hey, you!  Where did it say Massachusetts on that invitation???"  I sat for a moment and then pulled out the GPS.  Son of a gun.  There was another Shaker site a mere 8 miles away - in New York.  By the time I actually got within range (many sharp right turns and poor signage), I followed a Prius out of desperation, thinking that the driver - a woman around my age - looked like she might be a knitter.  How is that for logic?  I was right, and we both followed more poor signage until we made it to the Wash House.

In spite of the sultry weather, it was a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours and I was disappointed when it was time to go.  I managed 3/4 of one square to everyone's two completed squares, but I have never been a fast knitter.  **This reminds me of a video clip I saw some years ago - there was a Europe's Fastest Knitter (don't quote me on the name) contest and a young Dutch woman had been training intensely for the event.  It had come down to this determined young woman and a grandmotherly contestant from the Shetland Islands.  It was interesting to watch them - the young woman working herself into a hot mess, while the SI knitter sat serenely, knitting needles a blur.  She won.  It's nice to know - when you reach a certain age - that experience counts for something.  Too bad it hasn't sharpened my sense of direction.

I got my first local apples of the season this weekend and whipped out a GF apple cake yesterday.  It was mighty tasty.  I had a friend over for dinner - she has devoted the past 30+ years to bringing an endangered breed of cow back from the brink of extinction, single-handedly - and is now struggling because it is expensive to feed them and, since she is still doing it alone, she cannot have a full-time job and raise cattle.  She is a year older than I and I really don't know how she does it.  Still working through my freezer (I wonder where I stashed my family of 8?), I made a beef stew in the slow cooker with Randall beef, sweet onions, organic local carrots, and local shiitake mushrooms, cooked in red wine with herbs.  This was served over garlic mashed potatoes with an awesome shredded carrot and orange salad.  Yummo!  I always make plenty so that I can send dinner guests home with leftovers.  Then the dogs and I crashed after washing up (they are so helpful...)

And now?  Back to the grind!

Friday, September 20, 2019


I would have been a lot happier about it being Friday, if the thermometer wasn't registering 38 degrees.  I shouldn't complain, as the morning before (actually - more middle of the night) was 33!!!  Since I do not have television, listen to the radio or read the news, I would have completely missed the Frost Warning.  Because, it is mid SEPTEMBER and I am not thinking about things freezing yet.  I happened to be procrastinating doing my evening chores and was thumbing through Facebook.  On a local news channel story, I saw the red banner - Frost Warning.  I looked at the date of the article to see if a) it was fake news and b) if it was real news, but from last year.  No such luck.  It was real news and it was actually going to get low enough for the chance of frost in mid SEPTEMBER.  (You can see that I am still in denial.)  Sighing mightily, I slogged off to get covers for the lemon tree, fig tree, basil, and mandevilla vine.  By the time I was finished, my deck looked like the dress rehearsal for a Halloween play.

I was very glad I forced myself out of denial and into reality.  The top of the lemon tree's sheet was frozen.  There was ice on my windshield!  Holeygeezloueeze.  Yes, yes, I know, Joyce.  But -- again -- mid SEPTEMBER.  Now that I am on alert, I check the weather each evening.  It looks like the next week or so is back to more normal night time temperatures.  I should hope.

I have had to rummage around and find sweaters in the morning, then peel them off mid-day, as the temperatures go back into the high sixties/low seventies.  I have yet to go out into the garden to see if there is any frost damage.  I may get up in the wee hours but, since we already are down to six hours of daylight, I don't end up with time enough to do more than basic chores in the morning before work and it's dangerously close to darkness when I get home.  Last night, after work, I met someone to hand off a cast iron frying pan (I did feel that having five was a little too close to hoarding), then swung by my neighbor's to pick up a block of feta that he picked up from BJ's for me.  I paid over $4 for a small, dinky piece of feta at the local grocery store and this bad boy is over two pounds (think 2/3 of your standard brick but in cheese form) and was $10.  Pfft.  I am going to miss my garden this winter - food prices continue to go up.

Tomorrow, along with my weekly trip to Goodwill and swing by the parental palace, I am going to a free knitting clinic at a local-ish Shaker Museum.  I am determined to go out and meet new people, as I feel I am starting to lean towards feral.  I love this museum - it's a restored Shaker community in a lovely rural setting - and the clinic is to knit squares for a charitable cause.  What is not to love?  If I have my wits about me, I will take pictures.  Sunday will be a work day, but I am having a friend over for dinner in the early evening - that way, I will have to stop myself at a decent hour.  It's a sad state of affairs when you have to try and trick yourself - and it works.  I am hoping, also, to unload more items that are cluttering up my psyche (you know, avarice, gluttony, whiney-ness, hehe...)

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


I miss my view of cows when I do my daily run to feed the farm cats.  The landscape seems poorer without them.

With the departure of his dairy herd, my farmer becomes another casualty in the war on small farmers.  When I first moved to the area, there were small dairy farms dotted over the county.  My neighbor farmer was one of the smallest, yet he was the last one to fold.  He hung on by his fingernails because it was all he knew - it had been his father's dairy farm and his grandfather's before him.  Now the barn is empty, except for a few heifers and calves, and his prize Hereford bull (I now know from whence cometh the term "beefcake" - wowza!)  The farm is being leveled out, cleaned and tidied to hasten its sale.

Another local dairy farm - no longer housing a milking herd - has adapted by raising calves up to heifers for the big dairies.  They started in 1853 as a very diverse farm - cattle, sheep, poultry, swine and maple syrup production.  Over the years they diversified even further, by putting in a cheese house, producing wool, chickens, ducks, calves, pigs, lambs, and lumber.  In the 1960s, new laws governing necessary equipment for dairy farms in New York State (aka the "Nanny" State) forced farmers to either phase out of milk production all together or to focus on milk exclusively.  Once diversity was gone, farmers lost control over their futures.  There are now no small dairy farms in our county. 

On a happier note, the farm cat, Gracie, is letting me pet her!  It has only taken four years!  Sheesh.  Her current 'partner', a lovely orange striped fellow, is very feral and will not get within 10 feet of me.  I hope that whomever buys the farm is a cat lover.  I have set up a Plan B, however, and will work with a rescue to catch Gracie and see if we can place her in a home, while her current partner will most likely be placed as a barn cat. 

Last weekend I started the process of deconstructing my garden.  I can tell you that planting it in the spring is a whole lot more fun.  The days are warm, but the nights have gotten down to the high 30s already!  Hang on, there, Ma Nature!  It's only September! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Leveling out.

Things are finally settled into their normal state of controlled chaos.  Lovey has stopped standing outside of the closed guest room door and whining softly - which she did every morning that Els was here.  I believe she has given up hoping that Els would take her home with her and now has resigned herself that she's stuck here.  Heehee.
My furry, plump Velcro nugget continues to be glued to my side every morning and evening.  I am letting him soak up the love, before I upend his world again and take him to the vet for his annual checkup.  I'm sure he's going to need some dental work, so I am going to try to dovetail the two appointments.  I don't know that I can stand two round trips with the full siren effects in the car.

I canned 11 pints of crushed tomatoes and four half pints of sauce over the weekend.  I have another big pot of will-be sauce on the stove and a final counter top full of ripening tomatoes.  I may have to stay away from Marianne for a few weeks... poor me.

Objects are trickling out of the house - either on craigslist or to Goodwill - but it will be a long time before I am satisfied that things have been minimized. 

My furnace will be serviced tomorrow.  Winter is inevitable.  This is also the year of septic service, wherein I gaze in admiration at the blond Adonis who mans the truck.  Were I thirty years younger...

Laundry is caught up, beds have been changed to autumn apparel and I am ready to tackle my own apparel.  It's next up on the Purge List.

I leave you with pictures of Reggie (who seems to have a crush on Dimples the Duck), the Extreme Lounge Chair and Hopzilla.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

I was up. I was down. There was a lot of zucchini involved.


Right off the bat, I would like to say...
Amen, Lucy.  Amen.

It's very true, that time flies when you're having fun.  My week with Els was here and gone in the blink of an eye - and it was a darn good thing that we were forced to say goodbye quickly at the train station.  (Who's cutting the onions??)  It was a weepy trip home.

Just when I thought that I would be able to take a breather, this happened.

Second round of Marianne's tomatoes.

My own garden started producing!
I had to go back in for a bigger trug!

My neighbor dropped off a 'few' tomatoes
Then, this.
A dozen ears of corn, ready to freeze.

The first round of Marianne's tomatoes!

Once I was assured that Els liked zucchini, I pulled out the stops on my zucchini recipe repertoire.  There were zoodles, of course, and a find-sounding-but-meh-tasting savory vegetable cheesecake (heavy on the zucchini).  There was Lemon Zucchini Bread with Lemon Glaze, again.  There was Tomato and Cheddar pie.  There were Grilled Fish Packets with... yep.  There were smoothies for breakfast and cheese and bread for lunch.  There were MANY cups of tea.  There was peace and quiet.

And, there was...weeding.  Who knew that there was someone out there who LIKED to weed?!
Red noodle beans on the left; yard long
beans on the right.  Zucchini straight ahead.

The cosmos went crazy!

Dahlias and kale

Cucumbers and dahlias and...
no weeds!

Pepper bed with... no weeds!

The lovely Els.
I delayed in relating this exciting news until I knew she was safely in the Netherlands and couldn't be kidnapped by my gardening friends.

While we were lounging on the deck, discussing the true meaning of life and enjoying the hummingbirds, I suddenly found myself still talking to Els, but looking at the sky through the top of the pergola.  My deck chair had decided to become an extreme lounge chair.  I would have carried on talking, but all my blood was being pumped to my head.  Looks like I will be searching for 'new' deck furniture in the spring.  Having guests was also the key to my guest shower head going on strike.  I have very hard water and faithfully soak the shower head in white vinegar to keep it flowing.  Apparently, it had had enough.  I managed to get my handyguy to come down at 9P to wrest the thing off so that I could get to HD in the morning to buy a replacement.  He was then good enough to come back down to put it on.  Who knew Teflon tape was a thing?  So - shower is go, chair is gone.  But summer is over and my days of lounging are over, too.