Saturday, December 7, 2019

There's No Escaping Sheep

At least, not if you're married to A., who considers life a sad and empty thing if there aren't wool-bearers somewhere on the property.

The last sheep we had were the three ram lambs A. bought to fatten over the summer and feed us over the winter. The last proper flock we had was at least five years ago.

It was a long, sad five years for A.

But no more! For yesterday, the sheep man brought home the beginnings of his new flock.


Those are Merinos. A. drove to the southern part of the state to get them (sleeping in the open trailer on the open range so he could be at the ranch early in the morning, but that's another story) and got them from a large sheep operation that was shipping older ewes to Mexico. There are six ewes there and one ram lamb. Most, if not all, of the ewes are probably pregnant and could have a lamb anytime in the next couple of weeks.

A good start to a flock, indeed.

Although A. and the children were very excited at the arrival of the sheep, you know who wasn't? Samson. 

Well, that's not strictly accurate. He got excited all right. As soon as he caught the scent of the sheep when A. was preparing to unload them, he galloped right across the pasture and jumped two five-foot-high fences to get away from them.

Twenty-three-year-old horses are NOT supposed to do that.

Luckily, we live in a ghost town, so he can run quite a ways before he gets to anything. What he did was make a beeline for one of our neighbors about half a mile away to visit her horse. A. went after him and brought him home with no trouble, and thankfully no injuries from his athletic endeavors.

Then A. spent some time in the pasture with Samson and his halter, feeding him hay, patting him, and reassuring him that his new pasture-mates were nothing to be afraid of. He's fine now.

Don't even think about trying to leap that fence again, Samson.

I have no idea why Samson freaked out the way he did. He's been around plenty of cows, but I guess the scent is different. Luckily, the sheep are accustomed to both horses and dogs, so they were perfectly placid.

Anyway. The current menagerie stands at four chickens, two puppies, one horse, and seven sheep, and who knows how many lambs to come.

At least it's never boring around here.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Friday Food: Mostly Courtesy of Rafael


Short version: Chocolate-chip pancakes

Long version: Yup. That's it. It was just Poppy and me for dinner still, so I made chocolate-chip pancakes.

I could try to justify it by telling you that we ate leftover fried rice with lots of vegetables for breakfast, and vegetable soup for lunch, so we got in our healthy food for the day early. And I could virtuously claim that the pancakes are made of buckwheat flour, which is higher in protein than wheat flour, plus yogurt, eggs, and milk.

And then I would sing, "Mom is great, give us the chocolate pancake."*

But really? They were chocolate-chip pancakes. And they were highly satisfying. So there.

And here we have an unrelated photo of Poppy in action:

Faster than a speeding bullet when fueled by chocolate-chip pancakes.


Short version: Meatloaf, baked potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and onions, frozen peas

Long version: I think it's obvious from the completeness of this meal that the family was reunited for dinner this night.


Short version: Leftovers

Long version: Cubby and I went to the 4-H awards, which included a catered dinner of beef, mashed potatoes, salad, and desserts. Everyone else had leftover meatloaf, rice, baked potato, and peas.


Short version: Scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage links, bread and butter, pinto beans, green salad

Long version: My children get incredibly excited about sausage links. Jack actually said, "Sausage! It's just like dessert for us!"

If you say so, Jack.

The green salad was a romaine mix in a bag from the store, and the whole thing tasted like chlorine. Plus, I always feel as if all bagged lettuce is infected with salmonella. All in all, not the most enjoyable salad experience.

I miss my own lettuce.


Short version: Venison and hominy stew, roasted vegetables

Long version: Rafael stopped by on Saturday with a smoked leg of venison and the ribs from the deer. His son-in-law shot it and did the smoking. He gave it to Rafael for his dog, but Rafael wasn't about to waste it on his dog when he knew perfectly well we would eat it.

Yes. We will certainly eat this kind of dog food.

A. cut the meat off the ribs and used it to make one of his chili stews with hominy in it. No pig's feet this time, but only because he didn't know I had put them in the big freezer.

The roasted vegetables included the biggest sweet potato in the world. Seriously. This thing was like four times the size of even a big sweet potato. Rafael got it from the commodities drop-off--which is essentially free food for old people who don't get Social Security--and gave it to us because he knew he would never be able to eat it on his own.

We wouldn't have eaten all it ourselves either, but it gave me an idea . . .


Short version: Leftover meatloaf or A.'s stew, bread and butter, raw tomatoes

Long version: The family ate leftovers while I took a big platter of various roasted vegetables--including the gigantic sweet potato--to the school staff holiday party. So clever. And tasty.


Short version: Cabbage and venison soup, fried venison and potatoes, bread and butter

Long version: One of the pieces of meat Rafael gave us was a smoked leg. I cut as much meat off as I could, then boiled the bone to make stock. The meat left after the stock was made had pretty much no flavor, because all the smokiness went into the stock.

I used that stock, plus the smoked meat I had cut off, to make the soup, along with onion, carrot, potato, and cabbage.

The flavorless meat I fried in a lot of sheep tallow with onion, garlic, potatoes, and paprika. Half the family ate this and half ate the soup.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

* That whole stand-up routine was one of the funniest things ever, and is therefore even more disappointingly ruined by our current knowledge of Bill Cosby's character. Or lack thereof.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Friday Food: Thanksgiving Fried Rice for Two

A. took the boys to Tucson on Tuesday, which is quite obvious in my cooking. In that I kind of . . . stopped. But don't worry! We still ate.


Short version: Cube steak tacos, Mexican slaw, pinto beans

Long version: I found one more package of cube steaks in the freezer, which I marinated with olive oil, vinegar, chile powder, and cumin, then seared and cut thin for tacos.

They were a little bland, unfortunately, but nothing a little salsa couldn't fix.


Short version: Miss Amelia's chicken soup, bread and butter, leftover tacos

Long version: I hadn't taken any meat out to thaw and was vaguely planning on making tuna patties when Miss Amelia's daughter showed up with a large jar of soup her mother had made for us. It was a chicken soup with celery, potatoes, carrots, and I think barley. Or maybe brown rice. Something kind of chewy, at any rate.

In any case, it was good. That's what most of us had. A. and Charlie, who is not a soup fan, had the rest of the cube steak plus three leftover kibbeh heated up with salsa and put in tortillas with cheese.


Short version: Beef ribs, accidental tongue, roasted potatoes, green salad

Long version: Yeah, about that tongue . . . I did not want the tongue from the cow we bought last year. But somehow I ended up with a package clearly labeled "tongue."

Not clearly enough, apparently, as I grabbed it thinking it was another package of beef ribs and didn't realize until after everything had braised for several hours that there was one thing in there that looked nothing like ribs. Because it was a tongue.

A tongue is very, very identifiable, FYI. I mean, it looks just like what it is. And cows have very large tongues.

I've never cooked a tongue before--and wouldn't have this time had I known what it was--but I think they're supposed to be peeled first. You know, to get rid of the tough covering that has the tastebuds on it. (GROSS.)

I was kind of slicing it open and examining the edible part inside when Cubby wandered into the kitchen and asked what was for dinner.

Could I resist? No. I stuck the very-recognizable large tongue right in his face and cheerily said, "Cow tongue!"

His response? "NO WAY! Hey Charlie, we're having cow tongue for dinner!"

So then we had to have cow tongue for dinner.

It tasted fine, although the texture was a little soft for me. The kids liked it. Nevertheless, I couldn't face more dissection of the tongue, and cut up what was left for the dogs. They liked it, too.


Short version: Meat+rice+cheese, Mexican-style

Long version: This was the remainder of the meat from the beef ribs (NOT THE TONGUE) that I put in the skillet with some green chiles and salsa before adding the cooked rice and shredded cheese.


Short version: Vegetable and bean soup, bread and butter, cheese

Long version: A. left early this morning with the boys to go to Tucson to see family, leaving just Poppy and me at home. It was horribly windy and I was freezing all day. So I made soup, because vegetable soup and cheese is my idea of a perfect meal. And there were no militant carnivores around.


Short version: Second verse, same as the first

Long version: More soup. More cheese. More bread. Why cook again if I don't have to? WHEEEE!

Sampling the chocolate chip cookies we made this day. Also whee.


Short version: Fried rice, chocolate chip cookies

Long version: In honor of the holiday, I decided we should have something other than leftovers. Although, since I used leftover rice and leftover roasted bell pepper and onion in the fried rice, I'm not sure it counts.

Please admire my fancy Thanksgiving tablescape:

Paper-plate-and-Dixie-cup turkey courtesy of Jack's preschool Thanksgiving craft project.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

Thursday, November 28, 2019


Yup. For this whole messy, chaotic life. And especially for the mess- and chaos-makers.

Happy Thanksgiving, my lovelies. I hope it's filled with the best kind of chaos.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Waiting on the World To Change

It is currently 31 degrees, dry, and windy. But when I get up tomorrow it will be snowing. And it will continue snowing most of tomorrow and tomorrow night.

I was not dreaming of a white Thanksgiving, if only because it makes animal care so much more difficult. They still need food and water, even if their hay is covered in six inches of snow and the outside tap is frozen. And even if the power goes out, which is a distinct possibility.

So I took some measures to ensure that no matter what happens tomorrow, I can feed and water our growing menagerie without too much aggravation.

First I placed a large tub in A.'s office--which has a door leading directly into the shop--and filled it with water. That way I'll have plenty of water to put in buckets for the horse, chickens, and dogs, with or without a functioning tap or water pump.

No one needs to go in and out of that door anyway, right?

I used some rocks to secure a tarp over part of Samson's hay in the pasture, because it's not under cover and if it snows as much as they think it will, he might have a hard time getting to it. I might have to dig the tarp out a bit, but at least once it's moveable, I can just flip it off to uncover the dry hay underneath.

For the chickens, I cooked a couple of the greenish pumpkins from the volunteer plants. They'll probably stay in their coop for a couple of days, and having food for them to peck at keeps them from pecking at each other.

And finally, for the humans, Poppy and I made chocolate chip cookies.

I suppose we could eat some pumpkin, too, but cookies sounded much more appealing.

Okay, Mama N. I'm ready as I'll ever be. Bring on the Thanksgiving snow. (But not too much, okay? Thanks.)

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Greek Romances and "The Hobbit"

Charlie recently finished reading The Hobbit and was fascinated by the roman numerals used for the chapters in that book. I explained what each letter stood for and how to read them in order to figure out what number was represented.

It took me a few minutes, though, to connect that with his question this morning: "How do you type Greek romances on the computer?"

Greek/Roman, numerals/romances. Same same.

And also very funny.

Friday, November 22, 2019

Friday Food: Thanks for the Photo, Sis

Apparently, I didn't take a single picture this week. But just as I was about to start typing this up, my sister sent me a photo from nine years ago. Kismet.


Short version: Pizza elk, rice, frozen green peas

Long version: "Pizza elk"=seared elk pieces mixed with leftover marinara sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese.

Just like you would get in Naples. Ahem.


Short version: Elk skillet, frozen green beans

Long version: A. took pity on me and prepped some more elk, deciding to make a recipe he found for a "one-pot Mexican beef and rice" or something.

You know what he made? He made meat+rice+cheese.

It always works, no matter what you call it.


Short version: Pork roast, roasted potatoes, frozen green peas

Long version: Time for an elk break! I pulled out some kind of random, on-sale sirloin pork roast that's been in the freezer for awhile. I coated it in a spice mixture of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and thyme and roasted it until my meat thermometer said it was done.

The thermometer lied. I pulled the roast out and started slicing it, only to find it all pink in the middle*.


So I sliced it anyway, then added it back to the sauce I had quickly made with the pork juices, some beef stock, and mustard and put it back in the oven for a few more minutes. It turned out pretty well in the end.


Short version: A smorgasbord of previously cooked proteins, bread and butter, frozen green beans

Long version: This was not my plan for dinner. My plan, however, did not include getting home late from a 4-H meeting that I thought was on Wednesday.


I didn't realize the meeting was this day until I was halfway through my workday and unable to pivot on my dinner plan for after work. Luckily, there were quite a few different kinds of leftover meat, so I just heated all the meats up, divvied them out, added bread and butter and the green beans, and listened to all the complaints because everyone didn't have the EXACT SAME food and everyone wanted what the person next to him had.

Kids are fun.

And speaking of kids and fun! Here we have the promised photo courtesy of my sister, featuring Baby Cubby eating my knee:

The accompanying e-mail from my sister said, "You look so young and carefree." Yeah, nine years and three kids ago, I guess we did.


Short version: Elk kibbeh with yogurt sauce, roasted potatoes, sauteed mushrooms/tomatoes/onions, fried cabbage

Long version: Kibbeh--which is a sort of Middle Eastern meatball traditionally made with bulghur--seemed like a good use for some of the elk meat. I made it in the food processor, adding chunks of elk, onion, leftover rice, egg, cumin, salt, and pepper and whirling it around until it formed a very unappetizing and sticky paste that I rolled into balls. These were waiting for me in the refrigerator on Monday, but were just fine waiting until Tuesday.

I just baked those until they were cooked through.

The yogurt sauce is plain yogurt, mashed garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and is really good on both the kibbeh and the roasted potatoes.

The tomatoes in the mushrooms were the very last of the tomatoes picked by Jack and Poppy over a month ago. Almost all of them eventually turned red. These ones were kind of sad and wrinkled, but still tasty.


Short version: Fiesta scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, pinto beans, apple slices

Long version: Fiesta=cheese and salsa. Obviously.

When I was roasting the potatoes the day before, I put about double what I needed on the pan and roasted them until they were soft and then removed half of them to save for the next day.

Well, I thought they were soft. They weren't, quite, which was annoying.

The pinto beans were just plain beans I had cooked a few days before to have on hand.

And we had apple slices instead of a vegetable because I'm down to cabbage and a couple of carrots for a vegetable. I even used up all the frozen vegetables. But we did have fresh apples, which is kind of odd. The kids were happy, though. They thought it was a great treat.

There are those low expectations working out for me again.


Short version: Leftover kibbeh, bean and vegetable soup, garlic bread, cheese

Long version: I was going for a kind of minestrone with the soup, and it was kind of like minestrone. Needed more tomato, though.

The carrots in it were the tiny ones from our second planting that I harvested after the hard freeze last month. None of them were thicker than a pencil and not even as long, and I was thinking it wasn't even worth the effort in digging them up and washing them. But then I ended up with a cup of carrots for the soup, so I guess it was worth it in the end. It always is.

Okay, your turn! What'd you eat this week?

* Yes, I know current advice is that pork can be a little pink, but this was a LOT pink, and anyway, I don't like it pink. Still freaks me out, no matter what the recommendations by food people are these days.