Saturday, October 11, 2008

Never-ending Q&A at G.C.

I didn't actually expect to get this many questions, but I promised I would answer them all. So let us continue, shall we?

What are your guilty pleasures?

If they're guilty pleasures, then why would I reveal them to you? Okay, okay. Very occasionally, I'll take a nap in the afternoon. This makes me feel guilty because I know I should be doing something useful, but sometimes I give in to the Afternoon Drowsy. Also, I really, really like to eat snack foods. I don't indulge very often (for which my ass thanks me, I'm sure) but some of the things that make me feel guilty when I eat them: chips and salsa, White Cheddar Cheez-Its, potato chips (though weirdly, I only like the Reduced-fat Ruffles--and NOT the ones with Olestra because that, um, "leakage" thing they had a problem with when it was first introduced really skeeved me out). And lots and lots of brownies. Also also, sometimes I'll have a cocktail before 5 p.m. Not at like noon or anything, but maybe 4 p.m. I know--NAUGHTY.

Something that makes you squeamish?

I don't much enjoy disposing of dead, decomposing animals. I realize I am not unique in this, but I suspect I am required to do this more than the average Jane. Or Joe, for that matter. The other day, I had to take care of two birds that had drowned in barrels of water in the garden. They had been in there awhile and were not pleasant. And on that very same day, I had to fling a skunk that had been run over right at the entrance to our driveway. It wasn't decomposing, but it had, um, exploded a little bit. I do not like it when the insides are outside, if you know what I'm saying. But other than dead things, I don't like picking up live things like slugs or snakes.

Scene in a movie that always makes you cry?

I don't really like watching movies that make me cry. I do tear up a little bit at that song, "The Wind Beneath My Wings."

I can't believe I just admitted that to the entire Internet.

Do you ever find yourself singing the Green Acres theme song? Like when in the Cistern?

No. Because A) I don't know the Green Acres song, never having seen the show, and B) if I am forced to go in the cistern, the only thing I do in there is cuss.

So are you teaching your sister to can during her visit?

No. Canning is not a particularly applicable skill for a veterinarian living in Tucson, Arizona. She's not a big cooking/kitchen person, anyway. Though she did watch me make grape juice yesterday.

What movie/TV show that features farm life actually got it right or closest to right?

This is a hard one for me only because I don't actually watch much TV and don't recall a lot of movies set in the country. However, remember "Funny Farm" with Chevy Chase? The frustration and disillusionment in that movie are pretty real, as is the inherent humor in dropping an urban person (like me) in a country setting (like here). And "Nobody's Fool" with Paul Newman (RIP), based on the book by Richard Russo, is as accurate a portrayal of small-town losers in upstate New York as you'll ever see.

To be continued (and finished, we hope) tomorrow . . .

Friday, October 10, 2008

This Is Kristin's Brain on Sleep Deprivation

Hi! I was up until two o'clock this morning! Wheee! There's a funny story here, of course. And I know you're just DYING to hear it, so grab your coffee/martini/beverage of choice, and settle in.

Yesterday was the day my sister arrived for a short visit. Her plane was due at the airport in The Big City at 4:42 p.m. I had the timing all down. It's an hour and a half from the airport in The Big City to our house. So I'd pick her up, we'd zoom home and arrive just in time for dinner. I made dinner ahead of time and kept it in the oven. I checked her flight stats online, saw her first flight was delayed a bit, but her second flight had left on time. I left the house at 2:45 p.m., just to give myself an extra half hour cushion in case she actually got in early. She called my house at 3 p.m. to tell me she had missed her connection and DON'T COME TO THE AIRPORT.

Too late.

I'm sure many of you stopped up there on the "she called my house" part. I can picture you knitting your brows in befuddlement as to why she didn't just call my cell phone. Surely that would be more sensible. And it would. If I had a cell phone. But I don't. And before you get all, "What kind of loser doesn't have a cell phone?" I'll tell you. A loser with an extra $40 a month. That's $480 a year. WHO'S THE LOSER NOW, SUCKAS?

However. It would have been nice to have had a cell phone yesterday. Then I wouldn't have been sitting in an airport an hour and a half from my house, watching everyone from the Atlanta flight come through security. Except my sister. When I was sure there were no more people coming, I used a pay phone (remember those?) to call her cell phone. Whereupon she told me about the missed flight and that she wouldn't be arriving until 11:30 p.m. It was now 5 p.m. Shit.

I started to go home, because I don't know my way around this Big City and had no idea where there might be a place I could wile away six and a half hours. But I also really didn't want to drive an extra 150 miles round trip. Then, off the freeway, I saw the huge red sign of a Staples, glowing like a beacon. And I thought, "Where there is Staples, there will be more chains." So I exited the freeway, right onto the Magnificent Strip Mall Mile.

And lo and behold, the first place I saw was a bookstore. It even had a pay phone next to it, which I used to call A. to tell him I would be staying in the Big City until my sister arrived and please take the stew out of the oven so the house doesn't burn down. Then I went into the bookstore, which turned out to be an awesome discount bookstore where I spent an hour and got two books for nine dollars. I asked the clerk if there was a movie theater on that road. And of course, there was, a couple of miles away. I passed every chain restaurant IN THE WORLD on that road. It was kind of amazing. Unfortunately, the most ethnic restaurant I saw was Taco Bell, so I had to settle for Boston Market (mmm, mac and cheese . . .).

I stopped at Marshall's before going to the movie because while it had been 75 degrees with glaring sun at home, it was now 60 degrees with a stiff wind and I didn't have a jacket. So I bought a fairly ugly yet gratifyingly cheap sweater at Marshall's and continued to the movie theater. Where I saw a pretty terrible movie (My Best Friend's Girl--DON'T GO SEE THIS). The movie got out at 9 p.m., leaving me with two and a half hours to go. Luckily, Starbucks was OF COURSE on the Magnificent Strip Mall Mile, so I parked myself in one of their chairs, downed a double espresso, and began reading one of my books.

I noticed there was an awful lot of traffic in this Starbucks, and they all seemed . . . young. I didn't make the college connection until later. When some dude who looked about 15 sat down on the couch next to the chair I was slumped in and asked what I was reading. What I was reading was a book entitled "Bright Lights, Big Ass." I elected to not divulge the actual title and instead told him it was a chick book. Then he asked if I went to college there. I'm pretty sure I snorted in the midst of my laughter while I told him that no, I graduated from college awhile ago. Seven years ago. And then, since I felt sufficiently old, I decided it was time to go.

So we got home at 1 a.m. and then I lay awake for an hour, trying to will myself to go to sleep. And then I woke up at 6:30 this morning. OF COURSE. But no matter, because I got my day out. Even if it was a night out.

I'll get back to the Q&A later. Or maybe tomorrow. You must be patient, Grasshopper. Learn to bend with the breezes like a tree, lest you snap.

Holy Christ, do I need some sleep . . .

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Questions, Answers, and Photos

I'm thinking it would be nice to vary the Q&A a little bit. So today, while I will answer some of the questions, I will also be throwing in photos and other randomness at intervals. I KNOW--how wild and crazy am I?

So, question first:

If you had a day without Blackrock and all its worries and cares . . .what would you do for the day?

First of all, Krysta, you don't mind that I edited your question, do you? That's not how you wrote it, and I wish I could be that free and easy, but my inner proofreader comes out and I just can't bear to leave it alone. I'm sorry if I've offended you, but these are just things you have to learn to accept about me. And love, if possible.

Christ, how about we move on to the actual answer.

I have a hard time imagining a day without Blackrock. Like, I wouldn't have to do anything here? Well, if I didn't have to get up in the morning to make A.'s breakfast and lunch, and let the animals out, I probably . . . wouldn't get up. Until maybe 8 a.m. My God, the indulgence. And then, I'd . . . umm . . . Okay, this is hard. How sad is it that I'm having a hard time thinking of what I want to do? I guess I'd probably get dressed in Off-the-Property Clothes, maybe even wear jewelry (I KNOW--lame), and drive to The City. Where I would go to a movie (I love movies, but never go), eat lunch at an ethnic restaurant--Thai, preferably--and get a massage. Then I would eat dinner out, too. What's really sad is that I could do this anytime I wanted really, I just feel bad indulging myself this way. Like, everyone else is at work, so I shouldn't be playing hooky. Damn that Catholic guilt, anyway.

We interrupt this regularly scheduled Q&A to bring you . . . potatoes.

Wanna see how many potatoes we got out of that one row last weekend? Sure you do.

ONE ROW. Do you understand my fear of the potatoes now?

And now, back to your regularly scheduled Q&A.

What five books/movies/CDs would you bring with you if you were stranded on an island?

Now Drew just HAD to be clever and answer this himself in the comments, despite the fact that I clearly stated this is all about ME. Have you learned nothing in your reading of this site, Drew?

Okay, so I'm assuming a couple of things here. I'm assuming the question is really if I couldn't get off the island, what books/movies/CDs would entertain me for the rest of my life. And also, I'm assuming you meant five total, not five of each. This is a really hard question, by the way.

Movie: The Princess Bride; Books: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Farmer Boy; CDs: Classic Queen, Otis Redding's Greatest Hits

But I want to take lots more, and I could change that list a million times.

Okay, BREAK!

And now, Produce as Art. I call this "Accidental Still Life."

Stop and smell the apples.

Accidental because I didn't arrange this stuff like this, I just dumped it on the table and noticed later how pretty it was. Don't you just love it when that happens?

I'll answer the last of the questions tomorrow. This is your last chance to ask more before the end of the Q&A. So get on the stick!*

*That is a really dirty expression.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Q&A at G.C.--Take Two

You ask, I answer . . . again.

How did you learn how to can? 'Cause I know it wasn't from your formative years...

Everyone say hi to my sister! She does not know how to can, because, as she alluded to, this was not a part of our education growing up. I learned from the MiL and the Ball Blue Book. And also, by making some really stupid mistakes. (Fountains of chicken fat come to mind . . . )I sat in on a couple of tomato and jam canning sessions (read: sat on my ass and watched the MiL do all the work), where I absorbed the basics of getting jars ready and sealing them. Once you know how to do that, the rest of it is just recipes and timing. Which is what the Ball Blue Book provides. It's fun! It's rewarding! It's a lot of damn work! But the payoff comes when I go down into the Pit of Despair and see all those jars lined up and ready to feed us through the winter. And then, you know, actually open them and eat the stuff, because it's lame to do all the work only to have it all sit for like five years, gathering dust and spider webs.

I find myself worrying about whether the dogs have shelter out there in the pasture all night. Do they have a dog house, a tent, a little shed? Where do they go to sleep--surely not on the ground? Mary in MN (owner of one small dog who has two beds to choose from).

Oh, Mary in MN, what a kind-hearted person you must be. Unlike us. We're cold and hard and we make the dogs sleep out in that pasture with no shelter. I haven't heard any complaints yet. What you must realize is that the collies are as much outside dogs as inside dogs. They do come in the house (when they're not filthy or reeking of skunk), where they have a couch in the kitchen and a bed on the floor in the living room. But when they're outside, they don't give a damn about the weather. There IS a shed up in the pasture, it's just that the sheep hog it all (heehee--geddit? the sheep hog it? never mind). The dogs mostly sleep under the trees and brush next to the fence. We try not to leave them up there when we know it's going to rain, because the one thing they're not wild about is getting really wet. They also have a smaller pen by the house that has a very warm cave in it made of straw bales. Anyway, they spend most of the night barking at intruding squirrels--there's not a whole lot of sleeping going on up there.

question: were you this obsessed about gardening before you married A?

No. Prior to Blackrock, the only gardening I had done was under duress. We had a vegetable garden in Alaska when I was young, but I don't recall working in it voluntarily. It's my new hobby. I have what some might call an obsession with food (I think that's a little strong, personally), so growing my own is a logical extension of that. And then, of course, we moved into this house with a huge, already-established garden, and I have the time, so I garden. By the way, A. saw this and said, "Make sure you tell them that A. does not make you garden. In fact, A. kind of hates gardening." So let the record show that I garden of my own accord and not because of any pressure by A. Also, I think it's awesome he's referring to himself in the third person using his blog initial. My work here is done.

Okay, I think that's enough for now. To be continued . . .

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Q&A at G.C.

You ask, I answer.

So I shouldn't ask you what function the endoplasmic reticulum serves?

No. But since you brought it up . . . The endoplasmic reticulum is responsible for protein translation, sequestration of calcium, and the production and storage of glycogen, steroids, and other macromolecules.*

Okay...How about, how did you and A meet?

A. and I met when we were interns at the Arizona State Senate. We both went to college in Arizona, graduated in December of 2001, and began the internship program. I was employed by the Democratic caucus; he was a part of the supposedly non-partisan Research Department. We were both assigned to the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environment Committee. Love bloomed amidst bills regarding toxic black mold and the clean up of brownfields. It was very romantic.

And what exactly did this country boy do to make you give up your high-class city ways?

Who said I was high-class? I was living in a straight-up ghetto in Phoenix. It wasn't exactly a high-rise in New York City. The first four years of our relationship were spent in cities. First in Phoenix, then in Albany, New York, where he went to law school. A. does not do well living in cities. He gets a little crazy. It was always understood that he would eventually end up back at Blackrock; he was just putting in his time until he could move back home. I married him knowing that this house (and country living) came with the deal. And it turned out to be not such a bad deal, at that.

* Of COURSE I just knew that. Wikipedia had NOTHING to do with it.

To be continued . . .

Okay, continuing.

What if my chickens still have bald butts in the winter?

I read this and was all, "What the hell?" A. read this and was all, "Those chickens need more space--they're pecking at each other." And then I was all, "Ew." How's that for an answer.

Do I get them toupees?

Do you knit? You could knit little butt-cozies for them. Like the ones for toilet paper.

And yes, what DID turn you from city to country?

I kind of answered this above, but as for ME turning into a country girl . . . one benefit of being a military child and moving all the time is a chameleon-like ability to blend and adapt. I adapt very, very well to new situations and new roles.

At what point did it seem normal to have lamb pelts on your barn floor?

I have not yet reached that point. Believe me, I still look in that barn and wonder what this freak show is that I seem to be a part of.

And could you tell who was who?

No. But then, I tried not to look too closely.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fantastic Fall Fun on the Funny Farm

It was a very fall-ish weekend at Blackrock. The autumnal activities began with the splitting and stacking of wood on Saturday morning. Then we continued the fun with the harvesting of a row of potatoes. We had one row of a baking variety of potato that grew faster and died down sooner than the all-purpose variety planted in the other six rows. So the Bake Kings were ready for harvest. I like to harvest potatoes when A. is home so he can dig them up and I can pick them up. This works out well for both of us, because I don't like to dig and he doesn't like to bend over. We got well over a hundred fairly large potatoes from that one row. Would anyone like to do the math to figure out what that means for the total potato harvest when we get to the next six rows?

Let me save you the work: It's gonna be a shitload of potatoes.

But the fun did not end there! Oh no! Next on the autumn agenda: Picking pears. This was also a two-person activity, as I needed A. to both hold the ladder for me and fend off the ram with a stick when he got too interested in the pears. The chickens share the pasture with the ram (and the pear tree), so they were scratching around in there, too. We decided to let Mia in with us, figuring it would be a good opportunity to teach her to leave the chickens alone. We needn't have worried about her bothering the chickens--she was far too interested in the pears. She and Donnie the Ram were both quite interested in the pears. In fact, they came to blows over them at one point.

So picture this scene: I'm balanced precariously on a tilting step-ladder, getting my face ripped up by branches and stretching for all the pears I can reach. Below me, the ram and the dog are waiting expectantly for a pear to drop. When a pear does drop, both go for it. If the ram gets it first, Mia lets him have it. If Mia gets it first, Donnie tries to butt her to get it. She snaps at his face and he runs away. He runs to the wheelbarrow where the pears are being deposited, prompting me to yell at A., who is holding the ladder so I don't fall down and break my crown, and A. lets go of the ladder to fend the ram (and occasionally the dog) off from the treasure trove of pears in the wheelbarrow. Meanwhile, the chickens are running around and the ewes are yelling in the next pasture because they're not getting any pears.

What a peaceful, bucolic rural scene.

Anyway, there was a lot of harvesting. I also picked some grapes and made some more grape juice. Oh, and we picked some apples. And let us not forget the tomatoes, which have not yet surrendered.

After the harvest comes the canning. I anticipate a week full of sugar syrup and peeling of pears. Yay. Luckily, my sister arrives on Thursday for a visit, and you'd better believe I'll be putting her to work. Isn't that what family is for?

P.S. I promise I'll begin answering The Questions tomorrow. Or maybe Wednesday. Definitely this week. Glad I could clear THAT up . . .