Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oh, Those Tricky Chicks

Just when you think you know your chickens, they go ahead and surprise you. I mean, you'd think a creature with the brainpower of the average root vegetable would be predictable. But no. You just never know what those crazy birds will do next.

Let us take--for a completely random example, as if you didn't see this narcissistic turn coming--MY chickens, for instance. I thought I knew them. I thought they were disdainful of any additions to their store-bought chicken feed, for one thing. I have tried at various times to give them half-frozen greens from the garden, stale bread, apple peelings . . . all to no avail. They turned their stupid beaks up at this nice fresh food and went on eating their artificial feed. Even though lots of OTHER people swear by giving their chickens all the scraps and old produce hanging around and claim their chickens love it. It really made me wonder what was wrong with MY chickens. Do I have the chicken equivalent of a picky toddler who refuses to consume anything other than pasta? Are they retarded in some way (other than the retardation of your average chicken, I mean, which is pretty substantial)?

Then, faced with about half a dozen starting-to-rot apples, I decided on a whim to cut one up and throw it in the chicken coop on Tuesday. By yesterday morning, it was completely gone. Oh. I don't know WHY they changed their tiny little minds, but they ate the apple, so that's something.

And another thing about those chickens. I thought it was understood that they were done laying eggs for the winter. Everyone says chickens don't lay in the winter unless they are exposed to artificial light. Everyone says chickens go through natural cycles with the sun and I shouldn't be expecting eggs until the days get longer.

Everyone didn't count on Poppy, that crazy chook*. You will recall, perhaps, that Poppy surprised me last year by laying her very first eggs around this time. Which is also the time, coincidentally, of the LEAST daylight in the whole year. Poppy, rebel that she is, doesn't seem to care about the conventional chicken wisdom. Yesterday, the same day I discovered that the chickens have spontaneously decided to eat apple pieces, I also decided to check the nesting box for the first time in a few days, just in case. I found two eggs in the nesting box. These are the first eggs I have found since this one over a month ago.

Now, I know it was Poppy because I only have two hens and they lay different colored eggs. Poppy's are green and Penny's are brown. Makes it easy to know who's producing and who's letting the team down. But if it hadn't been for the color, I would have thought they were Penny's. Because Poppy has never laid her eggs in the nesting box we built for the purpose (see, she really is a rebel). On TOP of the nesting box, sure. All over the floor of the coop, all the time. But IN the nesting box? No. And yet, there they were. Two green eggs sitting in the nesting box. Maybe she wanted to pay me back for the apple.

Or maybe she's just a chicken and therefore subject to no reasoning capabilities whatsoever. I'm going with that one.

* "Chook" is an Australian word for chicken. I think it's really fun to say and write. Try to work it into a conversation today.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy? Sad? Just Ask the Weather Station!

A. got one of those digital weather stations for Christmas. It has a sensor that goes outside, with the readout screen inside. The screen has lots of information on it: moon phases, weather forecast icons, time, and of course, temperature and humidity. It displays the temperature and humidity both outside and inside. And here's where it gets good. Not only does it tell you what the temperature and humidity are in your house, it also has a little icon that functions as a "comfort level indicator." The icons are happy and sad faces.

Oh yes, they are.

If I may quote directly from the teeny tiny instruction manual that measures perhaps three inches and features minuscule type guaranteed to cause eyestrain:

"The comfort level indicator:

Comfortable: A happy face icon indicating a temperature level between 68 degrees F. and 78.6 degrees F. and relative humidity reading between 45% and 65%.

Uncomfortable: A sad face icon indicating any value outside the comfortable range."

Well. Guess where Blackrock falls on the comfort scale? The room the weather station is in currently reads at a toasty 43 degrees. SAD FACE. It's going to be many months before there is any happiness in that room, according to the weather station.

What I would like to know, however, is who decided that 68-78.6 degrees is the comfort range? I mean, maybe for a room you're sitting around reading in. But a bedroom? I can't sleep in a room that's 68 degrees. Why do they not take personal preference into account? Why is the weather station judging my comfort with a SAD FACE? How dare the weather station attempt to dictate my happiness with its soulless electronic measurements?

I'm telling you, the world is going to hell in a digital handbasket.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Glamor Continues

Our refrigerator has been making some worrisome noises lately. It seems to be running an awful lot, and being unnecessarily loud about it, too. I noted this some time ago and, in the great tradition of the large flightless bird, decided to figuratively stick my head in the sand and ignore the problem.

Then the MiL brought home Martha Stewart's magazine. It was just sitting there by my chair, so I started flipping through it, zipping right past the craft stuff and idly skimming a section on how to make your home more efficient. Which is where I saw the little tip that your refrigerator's condenser coils are supposed to be cleaned twice a year. This gave me pause, as I considered the fact that our refrigerator is now almost five years old and, to the best of my knowledge, had never had its coils cleaned. Unless A. or the MiL snuck in there and did it when I wasn't looking. I think that is unlikely.

Although I knew this little bit of housekeeping scheduling already, it never occurred to me to actually do it. I mean, who does? Do you clean your refrigerator coils twice a year? (If you do, don't tell me.) But I thought maybe five years might be stretching the boundaries of acceptable slovenly housekeeping, and might also possibly be contributing to refrigerator distress. So I decided to clean the coils.

This required, of course, moving the refrigerator. Which then revealed the floor underneath the refrigerator. Which is, of course, something you never really want to have to face. Because it is disgusting. The filth on the back of the refrigerator and the wall behind it was also revealed. It was gross.

But never mind that for now! Let's get to the coils! Which are . . . where are the coils? Ah, cleverly concealed behind this crappy cardboard piece on the bottom of the refrigerator. The cardboard is, I must assume, meant to keep the innards of the refrigerator free of dirt and debris. If that is in fact its function, it fails. And yet, it is screwed into the refrigerator with tiny little bolts that must be removed. Which requires a trip out to the shop, where of course I will never be able to find the right sized wrench for those tiny bolts, so I had to use needle nose pliers. They are not the right tool for the job and kept slipping off, so it took twice as long to remove the bolts as it should.

Keep in mind, please, that I am now seven months pregnant and getting on and off the kitchen floor, as well as bending over to unscrew the bolts, means there is much undignified scrambling and heaving. Possibly also some very attractive grunting sounds. It wasn't a pretty sight. Also, it made my back hurt.

But soldiering on! To the coils! Which were, predictably, filthy, and yet so constructed that it is impossible to get them all clean. Without removing them, that is, and that would require getting a service person out and would probably cost $100, so I just had to do the best I could and hope that the dust that was left would just disappear on its own. Sure.

Then back on went the useless cardboard piece with its irritating tiny bolts that the needle nose pliers can't grip properly. Then I cleaned the wall, the floor, and the side of the refrigerator. Then I moved the refrigerator back into position and plugged it back in. Then I took to the couch to rest after my ordeal.

Twice a year? Really? I think not.

Monday, December 28, 2009


The Ultimate Cake

What you see there is my birthday cake. I saw the recipe here months ago and thought to myself that that was the cake for me. I also thought to myself that there was no way I would make that cake myself, what with the multiple steps and hours required to put it all together. See, it's three layers of chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting, AND THEN a chocolate glaze.

I mean, really. Who would go to all that trouble for a cake?

Luckily, someone I happen to live with would.

The MiL, dauntless baker that she is, spent most of yesterday afternoon engaged in cake preparation, so that when A. and I got home from dinner (ravioli with meatballs--yum) there was this towering cake, looking all artistic and tasting, I must tell you, even better than it looked.

Be warned, however: This is a serious cake. For real. I am not known for my restraint when it comes to cake eating, but even I couldn't have eaten two pieces of this. But then, that might have had something to do with the heavy Italian meal consumed prior to the cake. In any case, it is an exceedingly rich cake. Which makes it just to my taste.

Incidentally, the MiL asked me who I was going to get to help me eat all this cake. I pretended that maybe I would bring some to a New Year's Eve party we will be attending, but honestly? I'll probably eat it mostly by myself. Because I am just that greedy.

And this cake really is just that good.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Today is a very exciting day! And to convey that excitement, I'm going to end every sentence with an exclamation point! Like so! See?! It can even be done in conjunction with a QUESTION MARK! AND CAPS!

Okay, that's enough excitement in the form of exclamation points. How annoying is that?


The reason it's such an exciting day is that today is my birthday. And that means that on this blog, which is already all about me, I can be even more me-centric than I am normally. Except I'm not really sure how that's possible, since pretty much every post is already all about mememememe, every day of the year.

Yeah, so. I don't really have anything particularly self-centered to say today. Just that today is the glorious celebration of my birth. Today, I am 30 years old.

Happy birthday to MEEEEEE! You may commence cheery birthday wishes in the comments now.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Know what kills that Christmas-y feeling dead? Cold, miserable rain that melts all the snow and turns everything all brown and sodden.

Bah humbug to you too, rain, you winter killjoy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Twisted Christmas Cheer

My family always had a tradition where any gifts from out-of-town relatives could be opened Christmas Eve. This was great when I was a kid, because you know how hard it is to wait until Christmas Day to open everything. And it's still great, because I still love to open presents and I've decided to keep the tradition alive by opening my family's presents on Christmas Eve. Gifts sent from Arizona certainly qualify as out of town.

So last night, A., the MiL, and I all opened our out-of-town presents. There were several wonderful gifts in there, but honestly? The most enjoyment came from the bows that were stuck on top of the wrapped gifts. You know the kind, with the little square of adhesive on the back to make them stick to the box? Well, they also stick very nicely to a dog's head.

All wrapped up and no place to go.

I actually laughed so hard I cried. As the MiL remarked, I have something of a low sense of humor.

Mia failed to get the joke. She just wanted me to stop howling with laughter so she could go to sleep. With a bow on her head. HAAAAAAA!!!

And then, because I just can't leave well enough alone, I decided what I REALLY needed was a picture of Mia wearing a Santa hat.

Internet humiliation: My gift to my dogs this Christmas season.

However. Her head is not so much vertical as horizontal, which meant I couldn't actually pull the hat on her head. So I had to just hold it there and take the picture. It still conveys the appropriate message, though.

And that message is: A very merry, laughter-filled Christmas to you--from Mia Clause and the whole insane Blackrock crew.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Living Up to Its Name

I just think it's nifty that Christmas cactuses* bloom so obligingly at, you know, Christmas every year. Just like the name promises. It's just so . . . reassuring.

Right on time for botanical season's greetings.

Merry Christmas Eve!

* I am well aware that the plural of "cactus" is "cacti," but that just looks and sounds so pretentious, I can't make myself use it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Farewell to Rita

Here's lookin' at you, pup . . .

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cookbook Snobbery?

Last night, faced with a piece of top round beef and suddenly remembering that A. used to sometimes make chicken-fried steak with this cut of meat, I managed to convince A. that maybe he should resurrect that particular meal of fried fat covered in liquid fat (mmm, cream gravy . . .). Not that it took much convincing. He really likes fried foods. But I really don't like to make them, so he only has them when he makes them.


It had been years since he had made chicken-fried steak, and he wanted to consult a recipe. No problem, said I. It's, like, a classic American dish. There should be a recipe for it in every cookbook we have (well, not the Lebanese cookbook, maybe). First I tried Best Recipes from Cook's Illustrated. No chicken-fried steak. Okay. Maybe in The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook? It's a farmy kind of thing. Nope, no chicken-fried steak. Joy of Cooking, The New York Times Cookbook, The Best Recipes in the World, The Way To Cook, The Good Housekeeping Cookbook . . . Not a single one of these books had a recipe for chicken-fried steak. In fact, the only cookbook that did was the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. And their recipe was weird, calling for an initial frying of the meat followed by 45 minutes of simmering, which sounds gross to me since wouldn't the crispy coating just get soggy and fall off?

In the end, A. ended up consulting the omniscient Internet for a suitable recipe. But it left me wondering: why don't these cookbooks have this recipe? Is it too low class? Is it possible that a cookbook that has Spam recipes (hello, Good Housekeeping circa 1973!) considered chicken-fried steak beneath notice?

The MiL suggested that maybe chicken-fried steak is just one of those recipes that's so basic a recipe isn't considered necessary. Or maybe it's just a dish so inevitably associated with diners that it didn't make it into cookbooks for home use. Whatever, it was weird.

But the chicken-fried steak was really good.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Getting Ready

Well. The MiL has found Rita's new family. They came yesterday to meet Rita, and will be taking her away on Wednesday.

Logically, it's clear that this is best. Rita is a young, very active, and still immature dog that demands a disproportionate amount of my time and attention during the day. Three dogs was already verging on too many; four WAS too many, especially with a baby coming. Rita really needed to go to people who could give her all their attention and love.

Intellectually, I know all that. But emotionally? It's so hard to let any of my dogs go. Even if they aren't all actually MY dogs, and I knew all along she'd be going eventually. I've spent almost a year taking care of her, and she really is such a nice dog.

But. She'll be a nice dog for her new family too, and she'll probably be happier there without the competition of three other dogs. We'll no doubt be more sad about her going than she will be. And in the meantime, there will be lots of petting and attention for Rita.

And lots more when she gets to her new home. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

P.S. I really should add here that when the family was here yesterday, the lady said to her sons, "You're going to have a sister now, like you always wanted." I think she was only partly kidding. This is obviously a woman who is worthy of Rita.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Yet More High Fashion, Maternity-style

I have taken to stopping by the Salvation Army thrift store every time I go by it in the Small City to check out their maternity section. The "section" in question actually being about two feet of rack space, we're not talking a large selection. But, since it's a thrift store, the items change and turn over quickly, so you never know what you might find.

Last time I was in there, I got lucky. There was a red dress in my size. A kind of shirt dress, with a collar, which meant not a lot of spilling over cleavage. YAY! I have noticed that the makers of maternity wear seem to have this idea that if people focus on your chest, they won't pay as much attention to the rapidly expanding belly. Or something. Whatever, I don't appreciate the plunging necklines on maternity clothes. Besides making me a wee bit self-conscious, they also make me cold.


So there was this dress, with three-quarter sleeves, and it was red, and it fit me, and we have various holiday gatherings coming up, so . . . I bought it. Four bucks. I love thrift stores.

The dress was somewhat short, about mid-thigh, but since I was planning on wearing it with tights and knee-high boots, I figured that didn't matter so much. I had some vague thoughts of maybe going to a real store to see if I could find tights or leggings specifically made for pregnant women. Except I never got to a real store and last night we went to a party to which I wanted to wear the dress. Which left me jerry-rigging my pre-pregnancy black tights so they wouldn't sag immediately and bind me at the knees.

I safety-pinned them to my bra. Oh yes, I did.

This worked well, and I had no problems with knee binding. However. It did pose some challenges of a bathroom-related nature. So I made sure to go to the bathroom before we left home. Then, after two hours of eating and drinking (drinking seltzer--BOOOOORING), I made A. take me home so I wouldn't have to hang out in someone else's bathroom for like ten minutes unpinning and re-pinning while anyone else who wished to use said bathroom stood outside wondering what the hell could be taking so long in there.

So if anyone reading this was at that party last night and was wondering why we didn't stay very long? Now you know. I had to unpin myself so I could use the toilet.

And a very happy holiday to you, too!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Miracle Juice

A. is on the slow road to recovery, but is still feeling some of the effects of the flu. One of those effects is a constant need for liquids. His liquids of choice? Lemonade and mulberry juice. He says the mulberry juice in particular seems to have energizing qualities.

So, not only does mulberry juice contribute to some excellent cocktails, it will also bring you back from the near-death experience of the flu.

Or at least keep you hydrated, which is almost the same thing.

Friday, December 18, 2009


A. is still sick. This flu is a bitch, man. So, in an effort to both comfort and sustain the invalid, last night I prepared for him his preferred sick food: The Nourishment.

The Nourishment is custard. But not just ANY custard. It's a custard recipe I got from a cookbook I have called The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook, written by Christopher Kimball, the bow-tied founder of Cook's Illustrated. I'm not such a fan of Mr. Kimball (really, dude--the bow tie? nothing but an irritating affectation), but I am a fan of many of his recipes. And this recipe, which is actually called "American Baked Custard" in the book, is one of the good ones. It calls for a full cup of heavy cream, among other things. And it's the cream that makes it nourishing, of course. And delicious, but that goes without saying.

Now, it would never have occurred to me on my own to make custard for A. when he's sick, because I'm not really a custard person myself. Too eggy. So it's not a comforting thing for me. But I learned very early on in our marriage (after a particularly nasty cold when A. mentioned in a self-pitying tone that all he really wanted to eat was custard) that The Nourishment is what makes A. feel loved and cared for. And so he gets The Nourishment when he's sick.

Personally, I prefer things like leek and potato soup when I'm sick; anything with pureed potatoes is guaranteed to make me feel better.

What about you, duckies? What nourishment do you long for when you're feeling sickly?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Winter Produce

It's definitely winter. There's snow on the ground, snow falling outside, wind and plummeting temperatures . . . the whole works. But there are still vegetables in the garden. I think that's just nifty.

The harvesting of those vegetables, however, is distinctly less nifty. The collards aren't so bad--they just have to be cut off the stem. But the parsnips and leeks need to be dug up. And that requires spending some time out in the wintery weather, scraping away a layer of snow and half-frozen leaves (which help keep the ground from freezing around the vegetables) with a shovel that has ice on the handle. It's not quite as pleasant as plucking tomatoes from the vine in the warm sunshine, that's for sure.

On the up side, we have the perfect house for storing apples. All those apples I picked up the other day from the orchard couldn't fit in the refrigerator. The cellar is too damp, the first pantry* can get below freezing. But the house itself is perfect cold storage. At least the unheated parts. So I put the apples in the parlor, which gets no heat at all but has the advantage of being downstairs so I don't have to climb stairs to get to the apples. Handy.

Incidentally, I made leek and potato soup with those leeks. And that soup is pretty much the epitome of the Dirty Vegetable experience. Yuck. Tasted good, though, so I guess that makes up for mud in the sink.

I think I'll be going now. Peace out.

* Yes, there is a second pantry as well. But before you get all misty-eyed imagining the advantages of having two big pantries, I should tell you that both are almost outdoors, and are therefore subject to the vagaries of weather and rodents. There's not a lot of food stored in them, is what I'm saying. Mostly empty jars and canners and things.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ice Breakers

Know what's an immediate conversation starter? Sheep. Even if the person you're talking to doesn't have sheep, they'll have lots of questions about your sheep. And if that person has sheep of their own? Well. The conversation could go on for hours.

I have noted this before, and had another demonstration of it the other day when I stopped at the local orchard to stock up on apples before they close for the season. I heard some sheep somewhere on the property as I was walking into the shop. I didn't know they had sheep at all, since the sheep are kind of in the back out of sight. I was talking to the proprietor as I was getting my apples and before I knew it, 15 minutes had gone by and we were debating the relative merits of different varieties of hay and how often the sheep should be grained in the winter.

It's times like these that I have to laugh at myself (silently, of course, because the alternative would be way creepy). Because really, when did I become the person who can speak intelligently about first-cut hay and supplements? Sometime in the last couple of years, apparently.

This life. It just keeps on surprising me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy(?) Birthday

A. started getting sick yesterday. He woke up at 3:30 this morning with fever and chills. As I was getting him some aspirin, it occurred to me that 3:30 a.m. meant it was officially December 15. So I wished him happy birthday. He's 29 today. The flu is his birthday present, apparently.

So, instead of a happy birthday, I will now wish a healthy birthday to my incomparable husband: builder of gates, ponds, and barns; fearless chef; and the innovative mind that brought us the woodchuck snow plow.

The world is a more interesting place because he's in it.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Good Times

Nothing starts the week off right like cleaning out the woodstove and inhaling enough ashes that the tissue is gray when I blow my nose.


Happy Monday! How's your week starting out?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Do I HAVE To Have a Title?

Because it's not as if this post has a theme or a point or anything. I'm not even sure I really have a post here. Things I was considering this morning:

1) Why the dogs were allocated all over the place in weird spots this morning. On a normal morning, Mia, Rita, and Leda are in the small pen by the house and Otty is in the back hall (she'll jump out of the pen). The MiL put the dogs away last night, and I got up this morning to find Mia in the kitchen, Otty and Rita in the back hall, and Leda by herself in the pasture. There were apparently high jinks and adventures after I went to bed last night involving misplaced dogs and one very confused and frustrated MiL. Also, Rita is running around on three legs. She seems to have pulled a muscle in her back leg. It was all very discombobulating.

What a great word "discombobulating" is.

2) The Williams-Sonoma catalog is ridiculous. Who buys this stuff? Who has $400 to spend on a knife? And how can I get in touch with those people and convince them to send some money to ME instead, since they seem only too willing to part with said money?

3) After I peel and eat an orange, I usually just rinse my hands off instead of washing them with soap. I love the unexpected whiffs of orange scent that I catch for a little while afterward. It's so refreshing. My hands smell like orange peel right now, incidentally.

4) Today is the last day of hunting season. Well, regular deer hunting, that is. It's still black powder season for a week or so. But so few people take advantage of the black powder season that we don't worry about it too much. This is nice because when the dogs sneak off, we no longer have to wonder if they're going to get shot by a hunter before they get home. We do still have to worry about them dragging bits and pieces of deer carcasses home for quite some time, however. The skulls are really my favorite. Ew.

5) There is no heat in the study at the moment, which means my hands are freezing and I don't want to type anymore.

Over and out.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cold and Windy

That pretty much says it all about the weather the past few days. I've been trying to stay indoors as much as possible. This kind of weather is just inhospitable.

Mia and Rita say the couch in the kitchen is very hospitable and that's where you'll find THEM, thanks.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Chickens, Raccoons, and Dogs--Oh My

Yesterday afternoon A. let a few of the sheep out of the pasture to wander around and graze on whatever grass they could find. Later in the afternoon, he went out to put them back in their pasture. I stayed inside, because the wind was blowing at a sustained 40 miles an hour and I didn't want to leave my warm chair.

Helpful? Yup, that's me.

Next thing I know, there's the sound of pounding feet on the back stairs. I could not imagine what A. might need to herd his sheep that was located upstairs, and was that urgent. But still, I was too lazy to leave my warm chair. Two minutes later, A. came crashing through the door announcing he had shot a raccoon in the ram pasture. He spotted the coon near the chicken coop, where it had undoubtedly been snacking on the chicken food. Luckily, the chickens had run off, because it was definitely big enough to kill a chicken.

A., knowing how vicious raccoons can be, and also knowing that there is a strong likelihood that a raccoon out in the daytime is rabid, elected to not go after it with a stick. Smart man. So he raced back to the house, upstairs, where he grabbed his gun and ran back to the ram pasture. There he found that the dogs had treed the coon. And then he shot it out of the tree.

Some of you may think raccoons are cute. You would not think they were cute if you could see what they will do to chickens if given the opportunity. Without going into the gory details, I'll just say that coons don't just kill chickens. So it was really best that this coon was killed, especially given the possibility that it was rabid. That said, I was not particularly enthused about viewing the coon, but A. wanted me to see it, so I dutifully trooped up the pasture. I agreed that yes, it was very large, and yes, the dogs were very good dogs for helping in the hunt. Then I ran back inside because my face was freezing off in the wind.

You just never know what a day at Blackrock will bring.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Satan's Wire

I have this thing with chicken wire. The thing being that I absolutely hate it, and yet cannot avoid it.

I think this is true for anyone who has to work with chicken wire. It's just so . . . poky. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of handling this marvelous stuff, chicken wire is cheap, flexible, lightweight wire fencing. The holes in it are only about an inch in diameter, which means it can keep out everything larger than a mouse. I suspect this is what gave chicken wire its name, since it will keep out anything large enough to prey on a chicken.

However, in light of its wretched and malevolent characteristics, I propose finding another appropriate name for this wire. My current favorite at the moment is Satan's wire. Catchy, no?

You might surmise, based on this little rant, that I had a run-in with chicken wire yesterday. You would be correct. A. put some of the sheep in the paddock near the house, so I had to cover over the livestock gate in the paddock so Rita couldn't climb through the slats to chase the sheep around and eat their mineral. She sometimes loves the sheep a little too much.

This project required dealing with a ten-foot piece of chicken wire. Among the many irritating things about chicken wire: it curls in on itself given the slightest opportunity; it snags on anything you might be passing as you carry it (branches, fences, blades of grass); and it scratches viciously.

It's the last one that really irritates me. See, chicken wire (or Satan's wire, as I believe I will actually begin to refer to it) is cut to fit whatever it's being used for. That means that every one of those little holes, all the way down the strip of fencing, has to be snipped. And that results in multiple sharp bits of wire sticking out from the edges of the fencing. These sharp bits are what scratch the shit out of my hands every time I have to deal with Satan's wire*. Yesterday's little project resulted in eight (yes, I counted) little bleeding scratches on both hands, which felt just DUCKY when I got vinegar on my hands while making dinner last night.

Those sharp bits are also what catch on my clothing every time I go in and out of gates with the wire on them, which is almost all of them. Because as evil as this fencing material is, it is also virtually indispensable if you have animals.

You might call it a necessary evil. I'm just going to call it Satan's wire, myself.

* Allow me to forestall all comments along the lines of, "Just wear gloves, you moron." No. I can't do this kind of work with gloves on. Any gloves thick enough to withstand poking by wire are clumsy and awkward and I can't twist wire or do anything else requiring any kind of dexterity when I'm wearing them. So there.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Laundry Weather

Hanging laundry on the line when there's snow on the ground seems counter-intuitive.

And yet . . .

That was yesterday. And despite the snow and the fact that the sun went away about two minutes after I took that photo, the clothes did get almost dry. I just had to throw them in the dryer for about 20 minutes to finish up. So snow should be no obstacle to hanging laundry*.

This morning, however . . .

Not a good laundry day.

Winter has finally really arrived.

* The freezing cold hands that result from handling wet laundry outside when it's 25 degrees might be an obstacle, though.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Betcha Can't Guess What I Did Yesterday

Wait. You DID guess? Damn, you're good.

Okay. Blackrock is ready. BRING ON THE CHRISTMAS.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tree Farmin'

We went to get our Christmas tree yesterday. Yes, it's a real one. And no, it is not from our back 40.

We don't have a back 40. Because we don't have that much land. Sad.


We go to someone else's back 40. And by that I don't mean one of those spiffy tree farms where they have carolers and horse-drawn sleigh rides and cocoa for the kiddies, in addition to trees. No, I mean someone's house surrounded by firs and spruces, where they leave a hacksaw hanging on their barn door and you can wander around their property, cut your tree, and drop ten bucks into a bird feeder.

I'm not joking about the hacksaw on the barn door. Or the bird feeder. They don't even have a sign. But they do have some pre-cut trees that they leave in their front yard, in case you don't want to cut your own. We ended up paying the extra five dollars for a pre-cut one. But we still walked around their property for awhile, because Mia was with us and it was nice to let her run around without fear of her getting shot by a hunter.

I also got to view some massive pine logs that A. scored. His sister is caretaker on a property where the owner wanted to cut down a bunch of trees and didn't care what happened to the trees after they were cut. These trees were hundred-year-old Ponderosa pines and English walnuts. And he didn't care about the wood. Then again, he lives in Florida, so what's he going to do with a dozen felled trees?


The owner may not have cared about the trees, but A. did. Deeply. He went over there while the tree service guys were working and managed to get them to haul the cut trees up to his friend's property to await the arrival of a guy with a portable sawmill. The pine logs, which are about a foot and half in diameter, are going to be cut into huge pine boards. Eat your heart out, Dad.

I don't have pictures of any of this stuff because the batteries in the camera I brought with me were dead. Because I am cursed when it comes to cameras. So just imagine a large collie frolicking amidst the evergreens and many enormous pine logs, and you've got my day yesterday.

The end.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Running Hot

I have this problem with my internal thermostat. That is, it's set to keep me as warm as possible in our cold-ass house. The problem comes in when I go anywhere else. I overheat like a car with a bum radiator. Every time.

It doesn't matter if I wear short sleeves. Which I do when I leave our house, even in the coldest part of winter. It doesn't matter if I'm drinking ice water. It is absolutely inevitable that half an hour after entering a normally heated home, my face will be bright red (thanks to my Irish ancestors for this charming trait!) and people will start asking me if I'm okay. They're no doubt worried I'm about to pass out. That's how flushed I get.

A.'s family has become accustomed to seeing me looking like some kind of florid drunkard, since I look like this at every holiday gathering. Other people still get alarmed by it, though.

We went to two parties yesterday. One was at a family member's house, which meant I could get beet red (and I did!) and no one would really remark on it. The other was at a non-family member's house. Which meant I found a spot between two open windows (it was a really crowded cocktail party--the open windows were needed to cool the inferno) and basked in the 30-degree breeze.

The annoying part of this is that I'm still cold in my own house most of the time. I just can't win.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Good Morning

I woke up early, but stayed in bed and read for a little while before I got up.

The fire started up again when I opened the drafts on the woodstove, so I didn't have to mess around with newspaper and kindling and billows of smoke.

It was cold enough that the mud had mostly frozen and solidified.

The sheep didn't notice me when I first got up to the pasture to let the dogs out, so it was blessedly quiet and peaceful. For about thirty seconds, anyway.

The dogs raced around and played nicely together without fighting.

I got my coffee just right (I don't ever measure anything, so it can be kind of hit or miss).

Happy Saturday morning, duckies.

Friday, December 4, 2009

How Happy Is Your State?

Well, according to the Yahoo! article I saw just now (we just love these Yahoo! articles--they make us feel so GOOD about ourselves), my state isn't in the top ten. In fact, based on the research results used, I suspect New York would be somewhere in the bottom ten.

This research was collected from Gallup information. And how's this for ridiculous? The information was analyzed by (among others) a dude from the University of Cambridge. In England. Why an English scientist was studying American happiness is beyond me, but whatever floats your boat, you crazy Brit.


The sweeping conclusion is that the happiest states are those that are wealthy and tolerant. Which explains why New York is nowhere in the top ten. Wealthy? This state never emerged from the Great Depression. Tolerant? Um. Not so much. And so, New Yorkers (upstate New Yorkers anyway--New York City residents are a whole 'nother animal) are miserable! How neat and convenient!

Also how stupid. I mean, I wouldn't argue that upstate New Yorkers are not the jolliest bunch of people you'll encounter. In fact, I have remarked more than once that a certain dour and pessimistic attitude seems to be prevalent around here (in direct contrast to my own sunny nature--OF COURSE). But I think these people rejoice in their dourness! They enjoy being miserable! I don't think the study took that into account.

What do you think poppets? Do you live in a happy state?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rodney Dangerfield and I

We get no respect.

Yesterday morning Otty and Rita decided to go on a little walkabout. They got through the fence and wandered over to our neighbor's, who called to tell me she had seen them. So I went to the top of the pasture and called them, knowing they had to still be within hearing range. No response.

I called them intermittently for the next twenty minutes with no success. I, who feeds them, loves them, showers them with affection, and tends them when they're sick. Then A., who does none of those things, came home. He called them and they were at the pasture gate within 45 seconds.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Sheep Talkers

I have mentioned before that we have some particularly loud sheep. Cotswold sheep don't do gentle baaing. They do strident, obnoxious maaing. Frequently and at length. The frequency increases in the winter when they start getting supplemental feedings of grain. If they see a person, or even just hear a person, they start vocalizing their desire for more food. So the noise level goes up in the winter. Know what else makes the sheep louder? When people talk to them.

Oh yes.

Do not ask me what it is about sheep that makes people so inclined to maa at them, but it's like a compulsion. Seriously. I have heard men, women, children, neighbors, workmen, perfect strangers maaing back and forth with the sheep. At length. Once, I heard one of our neighbors' guests who didn't seem to be able to make the appropriate sheep sound, so she just yelled, "Hey, sheep!" Over and over and over. And of course, they maaed back at her.

Of course, these people don't know I'm there and can hear them. Which is why they do it. Because frankly, it's pretty stupid. But it's like they can't help themselves. Like when you're in an echo-y canyon and you just can't help but yell "Echo!" even though you know it's dumb and cliched. Apparently, the sheep echo is just as irresistible.

Incidentally, I do not have this compulsion. My immediate reaction to the sheep maaing is to mutter angrily and swear at them for making so much damn noise ALL THE TIME. They have lost their novelty for me, obviously.

But if you ever come visit, feel free to have a conversation with the sheep. As long as I'm not here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Being Civilized Is Exhausting

I don't know how you people do it.

We were anticipating a visit from a Somewhat Important Person yesterday, a person we had never met and who was therefore unaware of our true woodchuck lifestyle. Because this Somewhat Important Person was visiting in a professional capacity, we felt it behooved us to not frighten him off with a shotgun in the parlor and four lunging dogs. So, we had to pick up the house a little. And shut the dogs away.

Our house is pretty impressive when it's all cleaned up. Thank God for inherited antique splendor. So we did the whirlwind clean-up that always occurs when you hear someone is coming in ten minutes (don't pretend you don't do this--I know you do). But in our case, our whirlwind clean-up required the removal of a couple of tackle boxes and fishing poles from the front porch; the remains of a vole on the patio; the aforementioned shotgun from the parlor (what? it's hunting season!); about three dozen books from a table in the dining room (literacy is nothing to be ashamed of, but it is awfully cluttery); and a bright orange jacket (hunting season again). THEN, just when I was about to get a cup of coffee and escape upstairs, I spied the cat vomit on the rug in the dining room.

Nice, cats. Thanks so much for your assistance.

I did manage to get that cleaned up before Mr. Somewhat Important Person arrived. He exclaimed appropriately about our elegant home. I suspect the elegant impression would have been somewhat compromised had he stepped in cat vomit.

I won't tell if you won't.

P.S. Well. I appear to be featured on a tiny, obscure little site called I Am Bossy today. This is roughly equivalent to a band with a YouTube video being featured on MTV. And OF COURSE today's post involves cat vomit. Welcome to my life, Bossy readers! Bossy posted a photo that went along with this post back in March. Interestingly enough, I have been wearing that exact same sweater for the past three days. Perhaps I could use some new clothes . . .

Monday, November 30, 2009

Signs of the Season

Know how I know Christmas is almost here? I mean, besides the relentless barrage of decorations in stores and seasonal songs on the radio, not to mention the endless commercials on television? (Thank you, American media, for killing the Christmas spirit before it even starts!) I know because we have oranges and grapefruit in the kitchen.

I know this doesn't seem remarkable for most people. However. I don't ever buy those fruits, despite loving citrus with a great and abiding passion. Citrus fruits are my most favoritest. Unfortunate, since I live in a place where no variety of citrus will grow outside. But apples do. In great abundance. And pears, and peaches, and apricots . . . these are the fruits that I grow and buy, since we're surrounded by orchards that grow these things. But no citrus.

This is especially sad because I have very fond memories of swinging in the hammock at my parents' old house in Tucson, Arizona, picking tangerines from the tree next to the hammock, eating them and spitting seeds at the dog. Good times. And those tangerines were always ready right around Christmas.

Now, of course, we have to buy citrus fruit. And the only time we do is at Christmas, when the MiL's brother sells big boxes of oranges and grapefruits as a fundraiser for the Lions Club. Or something like that. I'm not sure of the organization that sells them, but I do know I have two big boxes of oranges and grapefruits in the kitchen. Christmas time is here again.

What are your signs of the season, duckies?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

I'm Learning

Yesterday when A. and I were driving to a party, we passed a farm with some reddish-brown cows in a field. I knew they weren't Holsteins, so in my continuing quest to not sound like an ignorant jackass about All Things Rural, I asked A., "What kind of cows are those? Herefords?" And he said yes, those were Herefords.

I can't tell you how unreasonably proud I was that I guessed right. It's the little things.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Windy Country

I was lying in bed last night, reading before I went to sleep, and vaguely noticing a sound. If I haven't mentioned it before, I should say that I seem to be overly sensitive to sounds. Especially repetitive, droning sounds, like our refrigerator running or the high-pitched electronic sound of a computer or television. I can't ignore them like most people seem to be able to do. I always register them as an irritating noise, much like a mosquito.


So there was this noise last night that I was kind of half paying attention to as I was reading, because it seemed so constant. Unconsciously, I had labeled it the whoosh of cars on the road. But it was far too constant for that. Finally, with a start of realization that brought this subconscious musing to the forefront, I realized it was the sound of the wind outside. The sound of the wind whooshing up from the lake in a continuous gale. A winter sound.

And, um . . . that's all. Carry on.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Menu--Straight Up

Guest count: 21


Sausage rolls
Stuffed grape leaves
Smoked trout mousse
Cheese, crackers, and pepper jelly
Deviled eggs
Cheese biscuits

Main Meal
Turkey with stuffing
Pork loin with stuffing
Pureed squash
Mashed potatoes
Brussels sprouts
Green salad
Phyllo squares with leeks and some kind of cheese like feta or ricotta
Yeast rolls

Cherry pie
Blackberry pie
Black raspberry pie
Two apple pies
Pumpkin pie
Individual creme caramels
Cranberry cheesecake with orange and cranberry compote

What'd you have for Thankgsiving?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Not Your Typical Thanksgiving Post

But then, when did I ever aspire to "typical"?

So! Happy Thanksgiving, my darling duckies! Are you all gearing up for some good food and serious gluttony? Are your appetites whetted for your annual pants blow-out? Good! Then let's talk about rotting food!

(What? Is this in bad taste? HAAAA!!! Geddit? Bad taste? Food? Just a little Thanksgiving humor for you.)

I have mentioned some rot in the potatoes. I have mentioned that the green cabbages rotted spectacularly and turned into sluggy, stinky piles of goo in the Pit of Despair. And now? We can add the shallots and purple cabbages to the list of rot.

The shallots are hanging in a net bag in the outside pantry. I've been noting signs of distress from them when I pull one or two out to cook with, but I've been avoiding dumping them all out and sorting them. I did that yesterday, though. A few were totally rotted, almost all of the rest had some signs of rot, but were still usable. So, one rotten chore down.

I could smell the purple cabbages when I was in the Pit. You'll recall that the smell is how I knew the green cabbages were goners. So when I smelled that particularly unappealing odor again (I can't really describe it, but I'm sure you can guess it ain't exactly roses), I knew I was in for a treat. I put it off for a couple of days, but yesterday I screwed up my face and my courage, held my breath, and pulled the bag of cabbages out of the Pit.

There were only two left, and they had some very attractive slime and rot on the outsides, but they were mostly still okay. Now, had these been purchased cabbages, I probably would've chucked 'em straight in the compost, because removing layers of slimy rot is pretty high on the list of things I prefer to avoid. But I grew these suckers. I weeded them, I watered them, I spent a lot of time on them. I was going to salvage what I could. So I plunged into the slime (GROSS) and cleaned them up until only good, non-rotted cabbage remained. That was about three-quarters of the original cabbages, so it was worth the time, I guess. Then I made it into German red cabbage. I now have five quarts of it to freeze.

Oh, and the onions I used in the German cabbage? Also starting to rot. Of course. All I can say is it's a damn good thing I haven't been sick with this man-cub. There is no room for additional nausea in my already gag-inducing life.

And on that happy and appetizing note, I wish you all the happiest of Thanksgivings! May your gravy be plentiful and your vegetables un-rotted.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Chicken Programming

I've been holding out on you. I haven't told you that my chickens are failures. They have not been providing me with my eggs, and since that's the only function of a chicken as far as I can see (it's not like they're stimulating conversationalists or anything), they are failures if they do not lay the eggs.

It started over a month ago. At first I just assumed they were taking a break, maybe getting ready to molt (they don't lay when they're molting, apparently). And then I saw unmistakable evidence of an animal burrowing into the coop. The obvious conclusion was that there was a rat. Where there is animal feed, there are rats. The dogs usually exterminate rats for us, so we've never had a real problem with them (THANK GOD, because EW). But apparently, one rat was hiding out under the barn next to the coop and sneaking into the coop through the ram pasture, which is fenced off so the dogs can't get in. I can only assume the nasty rat was attracted by the chicken food, and then decided to make the eggs his second course. Thankfully, I never saw the creature, although every night I expected it to launch itself out of the coop and attach itself to my face when I went to close up the little chicken hatch.

An unlikely scenario, but horrifying in my imagination nonetheless.

Unluckily for the rat, he was greedy enough to make the poison we put out for him his third course, or perhaps his appetizer. Whatever, I am now assuming the rat is dead, because yesterday I found an egg in the coop.

About damn time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Expect the Unexpected

Just a typical night, bringing the dogs up to the pasture around seven so they could clock in for their sheep-protecting night shift. Except . . . no Leda. She didn't come when I called, hadn't appeared by the time the other dogs were in the pasture. Then I remembered that the MiL had mentioned Leda didn't seem to be around when the MiL got home. That's unusual, because Leda is left loose all the time and always greets anyone who drives up to the house.

Now Otty jumps the fence with regularity. Rita has been known to go missing if given the opportunity. But Leda? The staid old maid? Maybe, I thought, she lost her head because it's hunting season and she jumped the fence in search of a deer carcass. And then couldn't get back over the fence. So I trudged around the perimeter of the property with my flashlight, calling her and checking the fenceline. No Leda.

Then I got to the very last corner, over by the compost piles. And there was Leda. INSIDE the compost heap. It appears she jumped in there to snack on some particularly appealing rotting food, and then didn't want to jump back out again. So she just sat there for an hour or so, amid the compost. And of course, our dogs don't bark when they're stuck somewhere. They just stand there quietly waiting for someone to rescue them. Which I did, by sticking my flashlight in my mouth and undoing the wire on one corner of the snow fence around the compost pile. Then I brought her up to the pasture to join the others.

Just another day in the life of a dog steward.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Morning Pie for All!

When we went to bed last night, the MiL was making apple pies (one for us, one for a party at work). When we got up this morning, there was apple pie for breakfast.

I believe the world would be a much happier place if everyone started their work week with apple pie for breakfast.

(Thanks, MiL! It was delish!)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Well Then

When I was in the Small City on Friday, I stopped by the Salvation Army thrift store to see if I could find another pair of maternity jeans (I didn't). There were maybe six or seven other cars in the parking lot when I got there. And I noticed as I was walking into the store that my car was by far the most decrepit in the Salvation Army parking lot.

I'm sure that says something. But I don't think I want to know what it says.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Good Times in the Small City

I have mentioned, in passing, the Small City, which is the city closest to our house. It is, as you may have guessed (if you're REALLY SMART) pretty small. It is also, for the most part, kind of stuck in 1985. And I mean that in the best way possible. There is a "mall," which has about two dozen stores, MAYBE, and features JC Penney. Home Depot did open in the Small City a few years ago, but there are a lot more independent stores that have been around a long time. There is still no Target.

But there IS a movie theater. Two, even. One of them has four screens, the other six. Neither of the theaters has stadium seating. It is still possible at these throwback theaters to buy popcorn and soda for five dollars. For both, not each. And it is possible to walk into those theaters on the opening day of New Moon* ten minutes before the movie starts and sit in an almost empty theater. Which I did yesterday. It was, granted, the middle of a workday. But I counted 23 other people in the theater, and that is BY FAR the most crowded I have ever seen a theater in the Small City.

And that is why I love the Small City. (Well, that and the fact that it has a farm store. Which is right next to the theater I went to. Which is why I went to the movie, because I was buying chicken food and the movie was starting in 10 minutes.)

* In case you've been living in a cave, this is the newest of the "Twilight" movies about teenager vampires and werewolves.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lies. All Lies.

Lennie's comment yesterday about being warmer this winter due to pregnancy made me mad (don't worry, Lennie--I'm not mad at you). Because a LOT of people told me this, starting way back in the summer. And to be honest, I was kind of counting on it. I was dreaming of a winter when my hands and feet weren't always cold, when my nose would be warm at night, when I could fling away my wool sweaters and romp around in, like, a cotton t-shirt and sweatshirt.

This is not going to happen.

I understand there are real physiological reasons for women being warmer while they're pregnant (increased blood supply, mostly), but I'm not. And that's only one of the standard pregnancy side effects that don't seem to apply to me.

I have not felt the crazy urge to scrub all the grout in my bathroom with a toothbrush in a fit of nesting.

I have not had any weird cravings for something I never normally want to eat, like liver (GROSS). Or even a craving strong enough that I was willing to actually go out of my way to procure a food.

I am not glowing. I know this because no one has said so. And isn't that some kind of given, that people immediately respond to pregnant women by gushing, "Oh, you're glowing!" So I must really not be glowing.

I have not had erratic, hormonally-driven emotional fits. You know, crying over a commercial, screaming at people for no good reason, all those good things that are usually attributed to pregnancy. One day, I may decide to behave like a raging bitch for no good reason, because I might as well get some use out of this convenient excuse.

I'm sure there are more, because my usual reaction to books about pregnancy or other people's stories is that no, that does not sound familiar. And it is my understanding that a lot of women don't experience "typical" pregnancies, so who decided what's typical? Maybe nothing is typical! Maybe the medical community is trying to dictate a woman's experience! Maybe it's all a BIG CONSPIRACY!

Maybe I need to go have some breakfast before I start seeing black helicopters. Have a nice weekend, duckies!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Buried Alive in Bed

We have come to a tricky time of year in regards to our bed coverings. The question at hand: To down, or not to down?

See, there comes a point every late fall where the decision is made to put the down comforter on the bed. The decision is mostly made by me, and I usually give in only reluctantly after much pleading by A. He loves the down comforter. The weight of it makes him feel cozy and safe from the admittedly brutal cold we experience in our bedroom.


The weight is the problem for me. Because in addition to the down comforter, we also have flannel sheets and two wool blankets--one moderately light and one very heavy*. The combined weight of all of these coverings is substantial. And it makes me feel a little like I'm buried neck deep in a grave. It is also, however, absolutely the only way to be even moderately comfortable when sleeping in a room that holds steady at 45 degrees.

So while the down comforter is not yet on the bed, it's only a matter of time. And in the meantime, tell me, duckies: Do you like to be pinned to your bed by the weight of your covers, or do you prefer free and easy sleeping?

* Incidentally, the very heavy wool blanket was a wedding present to us from the MiL's friend Mary in MN. I know Mary reads this site, and so I would like to publicly state for her benefit that that was one of the very best wedding presents we received. Thank you for saving us from certain death in our sleep from the cold, Mary. We owe you.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Solution to All My Problems

Well, all my problems involving droopy pantaloons, that is. A topic that is on my mind at present as I wander around doing chores and holding up a pair of A.'s pants with one hand. The solution came to me in a flash of brilliance as I bent over to grab a t-shirt out of the laundry basket to hang on the line and very nearly lost my precarious hold on my (A.'s) pants. Such a simple, practical solution, too: suspenders*.

Yes, suspenders. Beloved of men with beer guts everywhere. And what do I have but the gestational equivalent of a beer gut? And who says men with beer guts are the only ones allowed to sport such a fashionable item of clothing?

Now I just need to figure out where to find a pair . . .

* Or braces, if you want to be British today. Sometimes it's fun to be British. At least in word choices.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The View from Above

The four dogs spend their days outside, hanging around the property, sleeping in the sun. They occasionally rouse themselves to bark at passing cyclists, but for the most part it's pretty chill. Until I go outside. And then? NON-STOP FUN AND EXCITEMENT.

I don't know why they get so excited when I step outside the door, since 99% of the time all I'm doing is dumping the compost or getting more firewood. And yet, they react as if I'm going to shower them with treats or take them on a walk or something equally thrilling. Then, when all I do is stand there and give them a pat on the head or two, they manufacture their own excitement. Meaning they all press against my legs and start whirling and biting each other's ears and feet. Playing.

I'm flattered they want to include me in their little games, except I end up with the weight of four squirming dogs pressing against my knees, which is not as much fun for me as it is for them. The only way to avoid it is to keep moving--you stop and you're sunk.

Oh well, it's nice to be loved, even if only by four crazed dogs.

Monday, November 16, 2009

And a Happy Monday to You, Too

I just logged into my Yahoo account and glanced at the "news" story they always highlight before you click through to e-mail. The title of this particular one was, "Stressful Careers that Pay Badly." Can you imagine sitting at your desk on a Monday morning, logging into Yahoo for a little distraction from your misery, and reading that your job not only sucks, but is badly paid to boot? I mean, I'm sure those people KNOW their jobs suck, and almost everyone thinks they aren't paid enough, but still. Bad timing on the part of Yahoo.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

This Can't Be Healthy

The bamboo shade on our bedroom window is covered in a thin film of greenish mold. Time to break out the Lysol.

For those of you who long to live in a grand historical home, specifically a stone historical home: Are you prepared for moldy window blinds? Because they come along with the history.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Friday Night with the FFA

We went out last night. This is a rare occurrence. Especially for me. However, last night was the annual fundraiser for the Future Farmers of America. So we went.

Now, just where do you think the Future Farmers of America would have a fundraiser?

DINGDINGDING! Yes! On a FARM! Specifically, on a giant dairy farm, in that farm's absolutely enormous shop. Really. HUUUUGE. The shop has to be big enough to fit all the massive combines and other large machinery that are now a part of farming, so it's about the size of a high school gymnasium. And insulated and heated. Sort of. It even had bathrooms. Well, ONE bathroom indoors, which was allocated to the women. The men were directed to an outside porta-potty. Except it didn't look like there was any light out there, so I'm guessing a good number of the intoxicated males in the crowd--and there were many--probably just wandered into the dark and peed on the ground.

I didn't investigate, however.


The venue was none too big, because there were at least 300 people in attendance. There was good food (chicken barbecue--a local institution), giant tubs of iced beer and a whole table full of wine (sometimes being pregnant is kind of drag--this was one of those times), a silent auction, and . . . The Farmer's Challenge.

Cue gameshow music!

The Farmer's Challenge is a quiz contest. Think Jeopardy! for rural people. The questions were all about animals and tractors and stuff. Which meant I knew the answers to exactly four of the fifty questions--the miscellaneous category questions about movies and country music. Luckily, we were in teams, and A. and the MiL, plus a retired dairy farmer, were on my team. Unluckily, it was a really hard quiz and we only answered 23 out of 50 questions correctly. So we didn't win.

However, the winning team only got 28 correct, so we didn't do too badly. And the prize is a big, ugly trophy in the image of a grain silo. So, you know, no hard feelings that we didn't go home with that.

What we did go home with (from the silent auction) was a literal ton of grass hay (though we did not literally go home with it, as we were driving my car and a ton of hay is not going to fit in a Nissan), a giant container of Round-Up weed killer (with feed cap included!), many tickets to university sporting events, and some free Arm & Hammer products (baking soda, toothpaste, and deodorant--wheee!), because one of the organizer's best friends sells Arm & Hammer products and donated like $20,000 worth of products.

Chicken barbecue, beer, The Farmer's Challenge, hay, and free Arm & Hammer products. Does a Friday night get any better than that?

Friday, November 13, 2009

An Ode to the Humble Oreo

There are some foods beloved in childhood that have not stood the test of time or the maturation of my adult taste buds. Case in point: Kraft Macaroni and cheese. Loved that stuff when I was a kid. Now it just tastes like chemicals. ORANGE chemicals. Yum.

However, there is one food that I still love with the same passion I had when I was a child. And that is the Oreo.

Oreos were a staple in my house when I was growing up. Our big cookie jar would just fit one entire package, and a full package was purchased every week. This seems like a lot, but there were five of us. And a few of us (I include myself here) were definite cookie monsters.

I don't buy Oreos very often anymore. Mostly because when I do, I eat the whole package by myself within a couple of days. I can somewhat justify this* by saying that this is the only time I will voluntarily drink a glass of milk. It's a rule I have for myself: I must drink the small glass of milk used to dunk the Oreos (until they're soft and mushy, but not falling apart--it's a delicate balance). Therefore, Oreos mean calcium. It's for THE BABY!



Enough about me. What about you, duckies? Is there a beloved childhood food that you still love? Or one that you now loathe?

* Except not really, because I am not completely delusional.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I need to keep a professional photographer on staff*. That way, when I tell you that there was heavy fog this morning and it all froze into a surprisingly beautiful covering of hoarfrost on everything, I might actually be able to post a picture that shows you what I'm talking about.

But I don't have a professional photographer on staff. And I am most certainly not a professional photographer myself. So, once again, I must ask you to dust off those seldom-used imaginations and just try to visualize it for yourselves.

It really is pretty, though.

* "On staff." What a joke. The staff around here consists of me and A. And they're volunteer positions.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Haute Couture at Going Country

I've been thinking a lot about clothes lately. Mostly because mine have become so annoying. I am officially in Maternity Wear. And let me say this about maternity pants: They always feel like they're falling off. Seriously, I spend all my time yanking my pants up. It's very attractive, I'm sure. Even MORE attractive? When I wear A.'s old clothes for manual labor, so I don't ruin my so-called "nice" clothes. Let me tell you, there is nothing more appealing than a woman in an extra-large long sleeved t-shirt and paint-stained men's khakis.

Lord help me.


You know what I miss most from my previous, normal wardrobe? My flannel-lined jeans. They are also quite ugly, but at least they stay UP and keep me WARM. And I can't wear them this winter. This saddens me. They are, despite their ugliness, my favorite item of clothing.

I still remember my favorite item of clothing when I was in third grade, by the way. It was this pale yellow sweater with three pastel-colored (blue, pink, and green) bows in the center of it. I wore it for my first day at my new school in Alaska. I was totally stylin'. Yes, in a pale yellow sweater with bows. What can I say? It was the 80s. And I was eight years old.


I think today I need to stop making it all about me and instead ask YOU to share with ME your most favoritest item of clothing. So what about it, duckies: Woolly socks? Flannel p.j.'s? The perfect t-shirt? Kick-ass boots? What makes you happy whenever you wear it?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

This Looks Familiar . . .

Laundry, burning leaves, seemingly dead dogs in the sun . . . yes, we've seen this before.

Then again, some repetition is inevitable, I suppose. I mean, this IS post #600.

Good Lord.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Nasty Chore--DODGED

It was a wonderful Indian summer day yesterday, 60 degrees and sunny all day. So how did we celebrate? With manual labor, but of course! This IS Blackrock, after all. There was much raking and burning of leaves, laundry on the line, and gutters cleaned.

And about those gutters.

This is a task that in the past has fallen to me. It is a disgusting job, what with all the rotted plant material and insects that have collected in the gutters. Also a precarious job, as some of the gutters are pretty high. Also a tedious job, as the extension ladder gets inched along the miles of gutters, with the gutter cleaner ascending and descending the ladder multiple times. And this year, since I think climbing extension ladders is not on the list of Recommended Activities While Pregnant, the nastiness, precariousness, and tedium was ALL A. All I did was steady the ladder and sweep up the mess afterward. It was great. I think we should do it this way every year.

A. might not agree.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Woodchuck Saturday

Yesterday A. and I attended the craft fair put on annually by the MiL's church. This is actually the first year I've gone. While I am filled with admiration for people who can craft, I do not generally find a lot of use for craft items. However, I felt it was time for an outing (yes, the craft fair TOTALLY COUNTS--in my cloistered life, anyway), so away we went.

It was way bigger than I expected. It's held at the local high school, in the school's gym, lunch room, and front entry hall. There were something like 50 vendors there, selling everything from knitted items to pottery to wood furniture. We walked through the whole thing, admiring many fine crafts, and what did we buy? An old, rusty metal snow shovel for 50 cents. Because of course we did.

Then we came home and I managed to convince A. that it was a fine time to work on getting a headboard on our bed frame. Now that it's cold and the condensation is starting to drip down the wall behind our heads at night and all. I wanted a headboard on the bed before we got to the point that our pillows were freezing to the wall.

How I wish I were joking about that.

But instead of just going to the store and buying a bed frame with headboard included, like NORMAL people, we instead spent two hours disassembling A.'s childhood bed frame (a double) so we could scavenge the headboard and re-attach it to the cheap metal frame that came with our bed (a queen). This required drills and hammers and extra boards and all other kinds of fun. Most of which was done by A., while I did things like wipe thick layers of dust off of every surface we uncovered (GROSS) and attempt to hold things steady while he drilled (I mostly failed). Then we put up the MiL's old bed in the room A'.s old bed had been in, since the MiL now has the high four-poster bed that used to be in the north bedroom before we painted that room and moved the bed out so there is NO bed in the north bedroom anymore.

Got all that?


In sum: Cheap used metal snow shovel+free headboard=one fine woodchuck Saturday.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


You know what's great when I'm feeling less than inspired about possible topics? Questions. Because THEN, all I have to do is answer the questions! No thought required! Brilliant! And lazy!

So, thanks to Anonymous who asked the following questions, which I will now answer in lieu of any kind of real post.

1) My recipe for collard greens. Recipe? What? I don't really have one. For straight-up greens, I usually just saute diced onion and garlic in olive oil, then chuck in the cleaned and chopped greens to stew in their own juices (and a little water) until they're done. And I don't like crunchy greens, so that's awhile. Sometimes I use chicken stock instead of water. Sometimes I dice and cook bacon first, then add the onions and garlic to that and proceed. Sometimes I am far, far too lazy to deal with the cleaning and prepping of greens, and I say screw it and get out the green beans I froze this summer.

I'm just being honest here.

2) My recipe for chard. See above, except no onions or bacon. And no additional water required, as chard is generally juicier than collards. But still the laziness and green bean fall-back occasionally.

3) How well cabbages keep in the cellar. Totally dependent on the cabbage. And the temperature and humidity in your cellar. You may recall the total failure of the green cabbages to keep in the cellar for even a month, with exceedingly disgusting results. But then, this was a really wet year, so they were maybe kind of damp going into storage. Generally, green cabbages don't keep as well as purple cabbages. We had a variety of purple cabbage last year that lasted until February. They were specifically identified as long keepers. We'll see how this year's purple cabbages do. They're a different variety.

That's all for now. Unless there are more questions.

Friday, November 6, 2009

One More Nasty Chore

My life seems to be filled with an above-average number of gross tasks. Yesterday was no exception, although at least it did not involve animal vomit or excrement. Always a plus. No, this time it involved rotting potatoes. And fruit flies. FUN!

See, I noticed the other day when I fetched some potatoes from the boxes in the Pit of Despair that some of the boxes had little fruit flies around them. Well, they LOOK like fruit flies, anyway. My insect identification skills are not exactly expert level, so they could be something else. Whatever, they're tiny little winged things that hover around. Further investigation revealed some potatoes with spots of white mold on them, and one box with a potato on the bottom that had just turned into one big pile of disgusting goo. Yum.

Have you heard the phrase "One rotten apple will spoil the whole bunch"? Same goes for potatoes. Which meant I needed to get the rotten ones out. Which meant going through every box and examining every potato. With a flashlight, because that particular room in the Pit of Despair has no light. So I stood there in the dark, pulling out potatoes and examining them with my flashlight, occasionally encountering slimy rot with my hands (GROSS), and waving away the little fly things.

It was way fun.

However, the good news is that I don't think this is The Blight. There weren't that many potatoes affected, and the bad ones mostly just had some spots of white mold on them, most likely caused by being not entirely dry when they were stored. Because it was impossible to get ANYTHING entirely dry this summer, what with the constant rain and all. Seriously, I kept expecting the Ark to show up any day and the dogs and sheep to march on two by two.


So yes, I did the nasty chore. My love for mashed potatoes conquered my reluctance to sort the potatoes, and I can be assured of many, many bowls of mashed potatoes and cheese to come. Thank God.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Harvesting Harvesting, Tra La Tra La

Don't ask me what that little jingle in the title is. I have no idea. Although I do somehow picture the seven dwarfs when I say it in my head.

My head is a scary and lonely place.


More harvesting. More filthy vegetables. More likelihood that I will, one day, actually have to enter the produce section of the grocery store for more than the lemons required for cocktails.

But I can't contemplate that sad day yet. Instead, let's contemplate my harvest from yesterday. WHEEE!

The last of the radishes, the last of the beets, not even close to the last of the leeks, a random volunteer squash that was delicious, and a couple of potatoes from the cellar.

We had the leeks (stewed), the squash (baked and mashed with butter), and the potatoes (baked) for dinner last night, with some of the most recent lamb chops from this year's lambs (broiled--and scrumptious). The beets and radishes will have to wait until tomorrow. My patience for dirty vegetables was exhausted last night by the time I finished dealing with the leeks and potatoes.

I think you could probably read something very obscene into that last sentence, but my mind is too pure for such things.

Have a nice day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

No One Say "Nesting"

Going to my parents' house always results in a cleaning frenzy when I return home. Because their house is so clean, you see. Of course, it's also only a few years old, which makes it just a wee bit easier to clean. And they have no animals. And no woodstove. And the house is surrounded by pavement instead of mud. And it's just the two of them.

Obviously, I do not aspire to their level of cleanliness, because frankly, it ain't gonna happen at Blackrock, with all its animals and 150-year-old dirt.


Monday I did the routine cleaning: the picking up, the dusting, the vacuuming, the sweeping. Yesterday I cleaned the chandeliers in the downstairs rooms. Why? I don't know. Because they were covered in cobwebs and the little plastic fake candle parts at the base of the bulbs were covered in fly specks. Good enough reasons, I guess. Then, since I had a dish pan full of soapy water to wash the candle thingies, I also washed some of the random glassware in the dining room that gets filthy when the woodstove is going: candlesticks, vases, the tray of whiskey glasses and decanter on the sideboard.

Here's the annoying thing about doing things like this: It's not all that noticeable. It's not as if someone would walk in and exclaim over the lack of cobwebs on my chandeliers. But they WOULD notice if the cobwebs were still there. And that is pretty much why I don't bother with this stuff on a regular basis. Self-satisfaction is not enough; I need validation from others, apparently.

BUT. Do you know what ELSE I did yesterday? I unclogged our bathroom sink. It was pretty gross, but ultimately much more satisfying than cleaning the chandeliers. I guess I would be a better plumber than housemaid.

Make of that what you will.