Saturday, November 22, 2008


On a day like today, when it's in the low twenties outside and maybe 35 degrees in our bedroom, the sideways snow is blowing, and we're expected to get 6-12 inches before the end of the day, it's nice to have a memory of a warm, pleasant day to dream about as I huddle by the woodstove.

The last nice day we had was about a week ago. It was 65 degrees and sunny, and I was outside raking leaves. I raked up several piles, then went to get the trash can to stuff the leaves in for transport to the compost heap. When I returned, I found that Mia had discovered the piles and was very pleased that I had thought to make so many comfy beds for her.

Surely you didn't expect the Princess to sleep on that nasty hard GROUND, did you?

Alas, that bright day when I was so warm I had to take my sweater off is but a distant memory now. There will be no more shedding of layers. From here on out, I'll be piling them on.

Suddenly, winter seems to stretch into eternity . . .

Friday, November 21, 2008

What Not To Wear--Blackrock Edition

I remember a long, long time ago, in the distant past when I had cable, watching that show "What Not To Wear." Annoyed the shit out of me, that show. Those smug hosts pissed me off, digging through people's closets, laughing and making snide, bitchy comments about the clothes those people wear on a daily basis. I wanted to give both those patronizing bastards a boot to the head.

I don't want to give them a boot to the head now--I just want them to live a day in my life and see how well their fancy clothes fare at Blackrock.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love to dress up, and I do it pretty well when I need to. But it drives me to the brink of insanity to think that there are people watching these shows who think that their wardrobe isn't good enough because some dink on t.v. is criticizing the wearing of comfortable shoes. Real life requires real clothes sometimes, and those clothes are not always fashionable.

A short list of things that would be totally inappropriate to wear at Blackrock:

1) Three-inch spike heels. I don't care how long they make your legs look or how slenderizing they are to your figure, if you get stuck in the mud, you will not look elegant and fashionable. You will look ridiculous.

2) The perfect (and crazy expensive) black pant. (Why can't those assholes just call them pants, like everyone else? No, they must be "the black pant.") Good in theory, bad in practice when three dogs and two cats have deposited five pounds of fur on that $300 black pant.

3) A classic camisole and cardigan. Cute? Yes. Feminine? Yes. Warm enough for Blackrock? Not a gelato's chance in hell. You're better off with flannel-lined jeans and an alpaca sweater.

4) Thong underwear. You try to chase sheep in thong underwear and tell me how that works out for you.

5) Accessories. Hoop earrings and necklaces will get caught in the firewood that must be carried on a daily basis. Rings will be lost when hauling water. Tattoos are okay.

So if you ever visit me, remember--forget the dress pants. Pack the sweatpants. You'll thank me in the end.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Awhile ago, I mentioned in passing that I was in band at one time in my checkered past.* And I practically DARED you to guess what instrument I played, never thinking anyone actually would.

Except Jive Turkey did.

Yes, J.T., you may have been joking and making the stupidest and most outrageous guess you could think of, but I did indeed play the tuba. And I must relay to you that any time this comes up (which is not often), A. always remarks that only fat kids play the tuba. Well, I am here to dispel that myth. I was never fat, and I did play the tuba.

Why the tuba? Hell, I don't know. We got to try out a bunch of instruments in fifth grade, and maybe I just liked how big the mouthpiece was. Or the fact that I didn't have to carry it around. Or even buy my own instrument, because for some reason, the school had their own tubas. Whatever, I played it. For the three years of middle school, anyway. I dropped it when I got to high school and concentrated on soccer instead. But I did get to go to Disneyland with our band when I was in seventh grade, so that was pretty cool. But not as cool as going to Europe with my soccer team, so soccer wins again.

And anyone who would like to make any sneering comments about how only geeks are in band, go ahead. But be prepared for a throw-down. Just remember that I can carry fifty-pound sacks of chicken feed, and I practice throw-downs on sheep. I may be a geek, but I'm a strong geek.

Any more band geeks out there? C'mon, don't be shy. Let's hear it: What did you play?

* Not really on the checkered part.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Full Circle

Way back in the spring, I showed you a salad of lettuce and radishes from our garden. And not just because it was so pretty (although it was), but because that salad was the first of our garden produce and signaled the beginning of my complete spurning of the produce section at the grocery store. I just love it when I can spurn the produce section at the grocery store.

In a pleasing bit of symmetry, last night we had a meal that used some of the last of the produce pulled straight from the garden. Six months almost to the day from that salad of lettuce and radishes in May, and last night's meal included . . .

Did you see this one coming?

These came from a fall planting we did in late September. We might get a few more things out of the garden--collards, celery root, maybe some spinach if we're very, very lucky. And of course, there's all the stuff that's been canned and stored. I still haven't had to buy anything from the produce department at the grocery store. Well, except lemons and limes, but I consider those necessary purchases, because we can't grow them and we NEED them for our cocktails. Priorities, please.

But for the most part, the garden is pretty much finished for the season. It's a little bit of a relief, in a way, because of all the work associated with it. But it's also scary. Because now I have to venture into the produce section and purchase vegetables. With money. And instead of walking out my door 20 feet and picking them, I'll have to drive an hour round-trip to get them. And I won't know where they came from. And they won't be mine.

I don't know if I can handle this.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Winter Comes to Blackrock*

Hey, remember this view? The very picture of lush, fecund summer beauty, right?

This is that same view today:

I suddenly feel the need for hot chocolate and a blazing fire.

Notice that the lake is visible once again, because all the leaves are off the trees. This also makes for an unobstructed path for the howling winds off the lake, which result in the infamous Blackrock Sideways Snow. Fun!

Is it winter at your house yet?

* If I ever decide to write a Gothic novel, this is totally going to be my title.

Monday, November 17, 2008

FAIR WARNING: Dead Deer Ahead

If the thought of cutting up a dead animal is repellent to you, don't read this. Otherwise, read on!

You knew I had to do a post about the butchering, didn't you? I know that half of you have no desire to read about butchering, and the other half are only reading with the kind of horrified curiosity that causes people to stare at car wrecks. Which is kind of what this deer was, come to think of it. What can I say? This is my life.

We started at about 9 a.m. yesterday. A. does the initial skinning, which takes about half an hour, and then he cuts the various parts into the larger cuts. That's when I take over. I do all the trimming, cleaning, wrapping, labeling, and everything else. Because I'm a control freak. And I think that careless butchering is the reason that most venison tastes nasty.

Here's the thing with venison: If you leave in any connective tissue, fat, or silverskin, it will have a gross, gamy taste. Some people LIKE the taste of game. I am not one of those people. I am convinced the meat is rendered milder by aging it for a few days, boning all the pieces, trimming it carefully, and brining it for a bit to draw out some of the blood. So after A. cuts it into pieces and bones them, he drops them in a big pot filled with brine. After about half an hour, I take them out of the brine and trim them, cutting off every tiny bit of connective tissue and silverskin. It takes for-damn-ever and always seems to result in my filleting a bit of my hand off as well (OW), but our venison last year was absolutely perfect. Who am I to argue with those results?

Mia was hanging around for the initial skinning. Can you IMAGINE the torture? Here's the very thing she spends half her life chasing in the woods. It's hanging right there! And we won't let her lick it! We're such cruel dog-parents.


Do you see how I took a photo when A. was blocking the view of the deer? That's for you sensitive types out there. I'm so indulgent.

Shortly after this, I had to lock Mia in the pen, from whence she watched the rest of the butchering with bated breath and drooling mouth. But don't feel too sorry for her--she got a big-ass leg bone to gnaw on later. She couldn't believe her luck. She ran off with it and kept looking back, like surely we would be coming to take this wonderful prize away.

After the brining and trimming comes the wrapping (first in plastic wrap, then in butcher paper), the labeling, and the cutting up of dog scraps. The dogs made out like bandits this year, because half the meat was bruised from the car that killed the deer. I think we ended up with more dog scraps than human food. Lucky dogs.

This is the meat we ended up with (for the humans).

Please admire my professional wrapping job.

The pot holds the scraps that we used later to make sausage. Which was a fun process itself, because this year, instead of using the 130-year-old manual meat grinder that A.'s great-grandparents brought from Pennsylvania, we used the 50-year-old electric meat grinder that belonged to A.'s grandmother. It was pretty exciting. And a hell of a lot easier.

So, the final tally: About 20 pounds of human food and about 30 pounds of dog food. Between the half-cow, the three lambs, and Bambi there, our freezer is as full as it can get. We're ready for winter.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

These Are My People

A short story about deer butchering, venison liver pate, and blending with your surroundings . . .

On Friday I took a trip to the next (larger) village over to get some milk and look for a book at their library. I wanted a book on how to butcher a deer. Because, of course, we HAVE a deer to be butchered. We did it last year for the first time and we used this fantastic book* that had step-by-step instructions, diagrams, recipes, etc. Photos, too, which would probably make most of you gag, but were exceedingly helpful. But that book came from The City library, and I did not want to drive there just for that book.

So. Into the little library I went, where I wandered around the hunting section and the cooking section to see what I could find. The very nice librarian there saw me wandering and asked what she could help me find. I hesitated for a second, because it seemed kind of weird, to me, to be asking for a book on how to butcher a deer. I was made aware last year when I checked out that fantastic book at The City library how unusual it is for anyone to butcher their own. And I know most people bring them to a processing place and don't do it themselves. But I told her exactly what I was looking for.

Not only did she not look in the least surprised, she apologized when she told me they didn't have anything, thanked me for reminding her to put out a display of game cookery books, and then proceeded to tell me how much she loves venison liver pate (EW). And THEN, the random dude sitting at the computer near us chimed in to say that he was leaving the next day for Cooperstown to hunt on his land there. Well then.

Yup, these are my people. It's so nice to feel like we fit in.

* I did actually get to The City library yesterday, where I found that in their big sorting and weeding out job last year, they had discarded all the books they had had last year on game processing and cooking. Stupid city people.