Friday, May 2, 2008

Let Me Fix This for You

So I heard from several people (my mother included) that the reason they weren't commenting is the Google I.D. requirement. I thought this was a Blogger thing, but it turns out, it was just me and my settings all along. Yes, I am sometimes stupider than I appear. Or maybe just as stupid as I appear. Let's not go into that right now, hmmm?

To make it up to you, here is a picture of my actual face. And my actual dog, who is actually thinking, "Would you let go of me, you freak? There's a turkey over there that needs chasing!"

ANYWAY, I have changed the settings so that anyone can comment, whether you're registered or not. You can use the "Name/URL" option even if you don't have a website. Or you can comment anonymously, but why would you want to be anonymous? Unless you're going to say something mean, and then you can just go away.
So now you have no excuses. Get to it.

You Asked

Here is the requested photo of me. Have I mentioned my startling resemblance to Cousin It?

Sara and Carolyn win yesterday's guessing game! And Jive Turkey gets an Honorable Mention for the craziest, and yet most entertaining, guess (because crazy and entertaining is how Jive Turkey rolls). Those things are Walls o' Water. They're protecting our tiny tomato and bell pepper plants from the cruel world for now, so we can manipulate Mother Nature and have tomatoes for, like, 5 months straight. I really like tomatoes. Could you tell? The Walls o' Water (the missing "f" really makes these sound hip, doesn't it?) are made of really heavy plastic that smells exactly like a Slip 'n' Slide, and, I will not lie, they are a pain in the ass to set up. But they seem to be working, and a crippled back is a small price to pay for tomatoes in June.

I still think it looks like alien life forms have set up house in our garden, though.

And yes, Sara, that is indeed Leda the Fluffball. She was guarding me and the Walls o' Water from a squirrel. Thank God she was there, or else who knows what tragedy might have befallen me.

And now! A late-entry question from the aforementioned crazy Turkey, who can once again waste time at work with this blog.

"How in the name of Christopher Cross do you manage not to get attached to all those adorable freaking animals that you...uh...sometimes have to EAT?"

First, did everyone else just flash back to the stylin' duo of Kris Kross and their backwards clothing? Man, was that a more innocent time in hip hop.

Right, moving on. As for eating adorable animals, I suppose there are a couple of answers to this. Personally, I appear to have a naturally hard, cold nature, and anything I don't consider a pet is fine by me as a food source. The sheep are not pets. I don't really like them much; I tolerate them and sometimes find them entertaining, but I haven't exactly bonded with them. The same is true of our turkeys that we kill and eat at Thanksgiving--not pets--food.

Secondly, cute baby animals have a way of growing into not-so-cute adult animals. These lambs are all boys. They are already turning into little rams, displaying the aggression and surliness associated with rams. About the time they are sent to that big freezer in the sky, they will be almost full-grown and will probably spend all their time head-butting each other and trying to hump anything that will stand still. It's much easier to part with something that might try to mow you down if you step into the pasture.

But really, I guess it just comes down to not being squeamish. And I'm not. Don't ask me how I got this way, since my only exposure to meat before coming here was plastic-wrapped at Safeway. But somehow, meat in its original form doesn't really gross me out. I even helped A. butcher the deer he shot last fall, with nary a qualm.

Apparently, I was born for this life. Who knew?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

It's Audience Participation Day!

This is a picture of (part of) the garden. The question of the day is: Can you identify those blue things sitting in the middle of the red plastic like space shuttles awaiting blast-off? Hint: They are not space shuttles. Though that would be cool. You can click on the picture to make it bigger.

And for bonus points, name that dog in the background!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Well Then

I have been vastly underwhelmed by all the lurkers commenting. BECAUSE NONE OF YOU DID. AND I CAN STILL HEAR YOU BREATHING. Not that I am bitter in the slightest. But you can still ask anything you want at any time! And keep coming to read, even if you don't comment! You still like me, even though I yelled at you, right? RIGHT?!

Ahem. My insecurities seem to be getting the better of me today. Perhaps I should move along to the questions I DID get (from Sara and Carolyn, neither of whom are lurkers and both of whom I love because they comment, UNLIKE YOU INGRATES WHO WANT ME TO DO ALL THE WORK).

Jesus, enough with the caps. No more caps today. And onto the questions!

"Why don't you have cows?"--Bah, cows. Who wants cows when you can have sheep? But seriously, the reason we don't have cows? Because A. wanted sheep, and I didn't really want any livestock at all, so we compromised on . . . sheep. I'm okay with the sheep, because I don't want anything around here that's bigger than me. Also, no one who wants to have a life would have a dairy cow especially, because those damned things have to be milked twice a day, every single day, regardless of weather, vacations, or a desire to sleep in on weekends. Whereas the sheep, especially in the summer when they're eating grass, don't require so much care. And we are lazy. So there's that. Also, cow patties are a lot bigger than sheep turds.

"How big of a garden do you put out and what all do you plant?"--I assume this question is about the vegetable garden, not the flower gardens? I hope so anyway, because I don't know jack shit about the flower gardens. The MiL (who is the flower person) points things out to me all the time and tells me their names (often in Latin, which, come on now, this is me), and I nod intelligently and promptly forget it. I think this drives her nuts. But I know a little something about the vegetables, since I actually do work in that garden.

So, how big? Uh, bigger than a breadbox, smaller than a football field? I am the worst at estimating size. But it's a big garden. Maybe the MiL will weigh in with actual square footage, but I know it's bigger than our apartment in Albany. Glad I could clear that up. But I can tell you what we've planted and are planning on planting.

In the ground now are the fall garlic, shallots, dill, radishes, peas, some volunteer lettuce, chives, sage, and chervil, and a few tomato plants (Raad Red, Kellogg's Breakfast, and Moonglow) that are protected by Walls of Water. And some blackberries and Concord grapes. In seed pots waiting to be transplanted are Stupice tomatoes, a Giant Tree tomato, eggplant, bell peppers, hot pepper mix, Anaheim peppers, artichokes, fennel, and celeriac.

Later, we'll plant beets, Roma tomatoes (for fun canning in a sweltering kitchen in August! Sweat adds flavor!) more lettuce, carrots, squash (not sure what kind--Hubbards, I think, and maybe some zucchini?), cucumbers, asparagus, spinach or chard, various herbs, corn (Sugar Queen and another variety I can't remember, I think ), and Green Mountain potatoes. I'm not entirely sure about all of that, since the MiL ordered all the seeds and I'm not sure yet what we have. Let's just say we have good variety.

We also have pear, apple, quince, medlar, and persimmon trees. These bear sporadically, depending on if we remember to spray them in time so they don't get eaten alive. Last year did not go so well. The year before was phenomenal. This year is still up for grabs. Oh, and I think the MiL bought a fig tree this year that has yet to arrive for planting.

I do actually really like gardening. Well, I like eating what comes out of the garden, so I'm willing to put the work in for it. But I don't actually know a lot about it yet, since this is only my second season here to learn about everything. I'm getting better though. I think. Though I may occasionally still pull up vegetables because I think they're weeds. But hey! At least I'm weeding, right?

As for posting a picture of me . . . I will do this once someone takes one with the digital camera. One I approve of. Meaning my hair isn't in Janis Joplin mode (it's just a tad curly) and I'm not wearing the jeans with a patch on the ass. This might take awhile, so just be patient.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I'm Looking at You

I think this blog, like most, has a lot of lurkers. Lurkers are people who read regularly, but never comment. BUT I KNOW YOU'RE OUT THERE. I CAN HEAR YOU BREATHING.

Some people find it intimidating, for whatever reason, to comment on a blog. But I'm going to give you an easy way to de-lurk. I know you have questions, maybe even burning ones, about some of the things you've been reading about. Or maybe you would like to hear more about something in particular: sheep, gardens, A., my fantastic fashion sense? So if you have a question about me, about A., about the animals, about ANYTHING AT ALL, or if you have any requests, just drop on in to the comments section and let me know. Or share a story, make a joke, tell me how much you love me, whatever. Let's make this one of those "online communities" I always read about, but am never a part of. I promise to answer all questions (all two of them, which I'm guessing is about how many I'll get) and honor all requests. Within reason, of course.

I want to see some love, because I'm all about the love. Unless you don't de-lurk, in which case, no love for you.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Secret Stair--My Secret Shame

I cleaned the gutters yesterday--gutters packed full of a half-composted, festering mass of leaves, spruce needles, and black walnuts. So I figured I'm on a roll completing dreaded tasks, and I might as well clean out the Secret Stair today.

The Secret Stair is a very steep, narrow staircase that runs from a door in the library to our bedroom. It's one of three staircases in the house (I told you this was a big house--didn't really believe me, did you?). We used to use the Secret Stair to come downstairs, as it's the most direct route from our bedroom. But then, for various reasons to do with bats and squirrels in the attic, the light fixture for the Secret Stair was commandeered as an electrical outlet for the attic. Since we really felt no desire to stumble down the Secret Stair in the dark, it has since been unused. At least, unused for its intended purpose. But it's such a convenient place to dump things, and then just shut the door. And once that door is closed, the paperwork starts breeding, I swear. Like metal clothes hangers in the closet. It's okay if only one stair is covered with junk (I tell myself this, anyway), but the mess has slowly crept upward until now it's taken over 5 stairs. It's . . . shameful.

Everyone has the equivalent of the Secret Stair (right? RIGHT?). It's the place where we shove paperwork, books, and all the other random detritus of the house when we want to get it out of sight. Or store until we're sufficiently energized to carry upstairs to the bookshelves and filing places in the study. And of course, that day never comes. And then, because it's out of sight, it's definitely out of mind. And it keeps building and building, until one day, you just can't take it anymore. And I can stop starting sentences with "and" now.

The day of reckoning for the Secret Stair has come. I will spend the morning ferrying junk upstairs and filing, storing, and otherwise disposing of all the miscellany that I've been ignoring for months now. I figured if I announced my intention to the Internet, I'd have to do it. Also, I was raised Catholic and apparently still feel the need to unburden myself with confession. And clearly, the Internet can give me absolution for this particular sin of sloth. For my penance, maybe I'll say a Hail Mary while I clean.

Maybe not. But I will do the cleaning part. Frankly, I'd rather clean out gutters.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Shearing Is Not for the Faint of Heart (or the Weak of Stomach)

Yesterday, I wrestled with a sheep. Today, my muscles are in screaming agony. It's all part of the fun of shearing.

There is a professional shearer who makes the rounds in April, but we only have three adult sheep, so we've been doing the shearing ourselves. It has to be done twice a year, especially for our ewes, which are a wool breed (read VERY VERY HAIRY). Because we don't have enough electrical outlets in our house, much less outside where the sheep are, A. bought a pair of hand shears. Also, electric shears are a little pricey. Hence, the hand shears. These are basically glorified scissors. In fact, I was wondering whether our Cutco scissors might be more effective.

Shearing a wool breed sheep with hand shears is an exercise in pain. And I don't even do the actual shearing, just the holding. A. always does the shearing. I'm the backseat shearer, anxiously watching the blade and periodically screeching, "Careful! Her skin is right there!" I'm terrified of cutting the sheep. I especially shudder when A. shears around the udders, because it's possible to cut a nipple right off. And then I would probably throw up, to say nothing of what the sheep might do. Anyway, they always get one or two nicks, but nothing major.

The hands-down most disgusting part of shearing is the cutting off of the dung tags. I bet you can guess what these are. They're hard to cut, being . . . stiff and all. But that's the shit (ha!) you really want to clean up, otherwise they might be susceptible to a particularly gag-me-with-a-spoon-inducing affliction called fly-strike. I won't go into details, but it involves maggots. Yes, farm life is fun. And also, really damn gross sometimes.

After about an hour's hard (haaaaard) labor, we managed to get Coco (that's the sheep) relatively neat-looking. She'll be much cooler and more comfortable now, to say nothing of maggot-free. And much as we enjoy bonding with our sheep by body-slamming them and giving them full-body haircuts, we're thinking that next year, we might use the professional shearer. Because while the cost of the professional shearer is as yet unknown to us, the chance to avoid handling dung tags? Priceless.