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.