Saturday, June 20, 2009

I've Failed You

If ever there was a photo-worthy event, capturing seven sheep running across the road behind A. would be it. But I didn't capture it, because I was wielding the stick to encourage a quick crossing so we wouldn't end up with roadkill mutton.

Perhaps an explanation is in order.

A. decided yesterday that he should move the big ewes to our beach, so they could eat the brush and undergrowth that always flourishes in the woody area between the lake and the road. The road is between the house and the beach, so he had to put up an electric fence to keep them off the road. He did that, and then requested my assistance in moving them to their temporary pasture.

So, he led the way with his ever-useful bucket o' corn and I brought up the rear with a bamboo rod to round up stragglers and prod the entire crew on. Once we got to the road (which is a big, two-lane, state road with many large trucks), we waited for a pause in the traffic and then ran across the road with the sheep. I wish the guys in the red pick-up that saw us could have taken a picture of it. I also wish I could have taken a picture of their faces.

The sheep spent the afternoon grazing down there. They stayed on their side of the fence, but I was afraid they would cause an accident anyway, because people kept slowing down or stopping completely to get a better look. I suppose it was a bizarre sight.

I think A. was planning on putting them down there again today, so I'll try to get a photo of our beach-bum sheep sometime today and post it tomorrow. Assuming we can get them across the road again.

Which leads us to the question of the day: Why did the sheep cross the road?

Answer: To eat the buckthorn trees on the other side.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Zen and the Art of Pea Shelling

We had the first garden peas of the year last night. Actually, these were the first peas in a couple of years, because last year the rabbits and slugs ate all the pea plants, so we didn't have any peas last year. That explains why I had forgotten about shelling peas.

Shelling peas is one of those activities that is often described as "Zen." That's really a code word for "a mind-numbing pain in the ass." I think peas win for the crop in the garden that requires the most effort for the smallest return. It took me an hour to pick and shell a cup and a half of peas. Granted, I was slowed down by the fact that my exploded thumbnail is starting to rip off, so I can't really use that one, but still. That's a long damn time.

The upside to spending that much time just to eat peas is it makes you appreciate each and every pea. I actually told A. during dinner that he had better slow down his normal shovel mode of eating and savor the flavor of those peas, because they are a labor of love. He did.

But what it comes down to, of course, is are fresh peas worth the time? And the answer, obviously, is yes. Their texture is much different from frozen peas. It's less mushy, with a little more bite. And of course, they are sweeter and less starchy than frozen peas. So I'll keep on shelling those peas and practicing my meditation.

I am a Zen Pea Master.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Story of a Tavern

Leda the Fluffball went for a spa day yesterday. Though I don't think her spa days are as relaxing as the human kind, since hers involve the removal of vast quantities of hair (rather like waxing, now that I think about it) and the unsnarling of dreadlocks. Because Leda is fluffy, you see, and all that fluff gets gross and matted and dirty and eventually forces the MiL to schedule an appointment with a professional dog groomer to get the fluff under control again.

Now, the grooming is a serious endeavor. A. and I dropped Leda off at 1:30 p.m. and were told to pick her up at 5:30 p.m. Since we weren't really all that close to our house and didn't want to drive home only to repeat the trip in a few hours, we went into the nearby city to go to the library (because A. is just as big of a library geek as I am). We then found ourselves with about an hour to go and decided to go to a tavern that's on the main road near the groomer.

At first, we couldn't even figure out if the place was open. There were no cars in the parking lot, though the beer signs were illuminated. There was a For Sale sign in the front lawn. There were like five doors, but the one that looked like the main entrance had boxes of beer blockading the door. We were just about to leave when A. opened a door at random and found a hall leading to the bar. So we went in.

There was one other person at the bar besides the bartender. The t.v. was showing "Dirty Harry." So A. got a beer and I, being hungry to the point of collapse, got some peanuts. And we sat there watching Clint Eastwood and that really creepy bad guy, shelling peanuts, drinking beer (and water), and eventually, talking to the bartender.

The bartender was the owner. He's trying to sell his bar because business has been down and he wants to retire. His father opened the place in the '60s. The decor has never been changed, as far as I could tell. There were signs all over the place advertising an "All You Can Drink Beer" night on Fridays for $12. I can't think that's a good idea, giving a bunch of good ole boys three hours to down as much beer as they can. This Friday is the first night it's occurring. A. was tempted to go, but this place is too far away to drive home from in the condition he would surely find himself in after drinking as much beer as he could hold in three hours. That is, drunk.

But the absolute piece de resistance, the crowning glory, the thing that made this visit all worthwhile, was a big bottle of Budweiser that had been placed in its own little glass case on the wall right at the end of the bar. A. asked the bartender/owner why that bottle was there. His reply? "Oh, that's my dad. He drank Bud all his life and wanted his ashes kept in the bar after he died."

Rock on.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Is anyone else unreasonably irritated by the term, "comfort food"? I don't know why I hate it so much, but I do. Maybe because it's a cliche that has been BEATEN TO DEATH by newspaper food writers in the last few years. I remember particularly after 9/11, every food section in every newspaper in the country was running articles about how comforting food can be when the national mood is depressed.

Not that I don't agree with the sentiment. No one knows better than I do the power of food to comfort. And the foods that do it are usually something from our childhood. Nostalgia is reassuring, too. A return to a happier, less responsible and stressful time . . . blahblahblah bring on the psychoanalysis.

Do you see where I'm going with this? Yes! It's Audience Participation Day!

Please, try to control your excitement.

Potatoes in pretty much any form comfort me: mashed, baked, fried, or covered in cheese sauce. The humble potato is my rod and my staff, my shoulder to cry on, my light in the dark, my . . . well, I'm sure you get it.

So what about you, duckies? What food do you reach for when it all just gets to be too much?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lockjaw Won't Keep Me From Posting

Remember the evil gate that took my thumb as a sacrifice? Well, apparently my exploding thumb wasn't enough blood for it, because yesterday it stabbed me through the palm.

Yes, that bastard of a gate attacked me again yesterday, this time by sinking a poking-out nail into my left palm when I pushed on it. The nail went pretty deep, but at least it was a relatively new nail and therefore not as rusty as many of the nails I scrape myself on regularly. I can only hope that the newness of the nail will prevent me from getting tetanus.

Stupid-ass gate.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Made with Pride at Blackrock

There are many new skills I have learned here that were not a part of my pre-Blackrock life: flinging dead animals, plumbing in small and disgusting places, butchering deer . . . and now I can add another one.


Okay, so it was only ricotta cheese, which is basically just curdled milk and is probably the easiest cheese in the world to make. But I think I get bonus points for the fact that the milk had been milked from our very own sheep less than 10 minutes before I made ricotta with it.

You want to hear all about it, don't you? Good, because I'm going to tell you.

You'll remember (RIGHT?) that we separated the lambs from their mothers last week. Although the lambs are no longer nursing, the mothers will continue to produce milk for a bit, until their bodies realize they don't need to anymore. But in the interim, the milk can build up and the pressure can be a little uncomfortable for the ewes. So A. decided to milk the ewes a little yesterday, just to relieve the pressure. He did this last year, kind of spur of the moment while we were worming them, and I remember watching the milk coming out onto the ground and thinking what a waste it was. So I told him if he did it this year, I wanted to collect the milk.

He informed me yesterday afternoon that he was going to be milking the ewes. I grabbed a bowl and hoofed it up to the pasture. He milked all three of the ewes who had given birth this year. And there I was, kneeling on the floor of the shed in the pasture, breathing in the pungent odor of sheep shit and catching the milk in my bowl.

You know that line in my profile about wondering every day how I got here? Yesterday's wondering moment was, "How the hell did I end up kneeling in sheep manure on the floor of a shed with a bowl while my husband milks a sheep?"


I ended up with exactly two cups of milk. I strained it through a coffee filter to catch the little gnats and bits of straw and other nastiness that had gotten in there. And then I made ricotta.

I used a method that seemed to be all over the place online. The curdling agent was buttermilk. This seemed a little less ridiculous than using rennet or something similarly specialized, so I tried it. It may have been less ridiculous, but it was not more effective. The curds did not separate when they were supposed to (at 180 degrees, if you must know). So I added some extra vinegar and boiled the milk longer, until I had curds. Then I drained it in muslin (like juicing the mulberries, except not, uh, purple). And then I had ricotta.

I used the ricotta to make a crustless quiche. Also in this quiche, besides the ricotta (which I made myself--did you catch that yet?), there were tomatoes (which I grew and canned myself), spinach and chard (which I grew myself and which I had an overly large bag of in the refrigerator), eggs (which the chickens made themselves, but I fed them!), dill (which I . . . well, you know) and, um, bacon, onion, heavy cream, and parmesan (which I did NOT grow or make or feed myself, but which tasted really damn good so I'm not sorry).

We also had a nice green salad because OH MY GOD THE LETTUCE WILL DESTROY US ALL.

But the quiche was really good. Really, really good.

And I made it myself.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sadly, I Do Not Know the Muffin Man

And since I have not yet made that useful person's acquaintance, I shall have to supply my own muffins.

This morning, while reaching into the refrigerator for the milk for my coffee, I spied a container of defrosted blueberries (picked with great effort by me last summer and frozen). I tend to forget all that frozen fruit is out in the big freezer in the shop. But when I saw that container of blueberries, I was seized with a sudden desire for blueberry muffins. So, this morning I will put aside my normal reluctance to bake and toddle off to the kitchen to make myself some blueberry muffins. And maybe I'll share some with A.

If it were possible to share them through the computer, I would offer you one. But since that technology seems to be slow in coming, I'll just have to eat your muffin for you.