Saturday, April 4, 2009

Flotsam and Jetsam

I guess I should finish up the stories from our trip in Arizona. Or post more photos. Or tell you all about our fleet of junker cars that are getting louder and crappier by the day. But . . . I don't want to.

So instead, here's a random list:

1) Does the title of this post remind anyone else of those disgusting eel sidekicks of the evil sea witch in "The Little Mermaid"? No? Just me? Alrighty then.

2) I used to know all the words to all the songs in "The Little Mermaid." AND, I even had a book of piano music for them.

3) You didn't know I used to take piano lessons? Yup, for about a year when I was nine. My teacher's house always smelled like bread, because my lesson day was her bread-baking day. But I never got to eat any of the bread. Boo.

4) I remember nothing of my piano skills now, except for a supremely irritating little ditty called "The Little Indian Song" that I was fond of pounding out at the piano over and over and OVER. The piano was four feet from my sister's bedroom door. I'm not sure she's forgiven me for this yet. But I can still play that song from memory. Practice DOES make permanent.

5) Also on the list of childhood activities I participated in: t-ball, soccer, baseball, Brownies, ballet, tap, hula dancing, and sign language classes. And what do I do now? Nothing. I think I burned out early.

6) I cleaned the computer desk yesterday, which involved sorting many, many papers and discarding an improbable number of pens. What is WITH pens? Why do I have so damned many? Where do they come from? And where do all the caps go?

7) Now I have that virtuous, peaceful feeling that comes from cleaning up a disgusting area of the house. Except A. left an empty beer bottle on the desk last night. And now I'm sitting here looking at it. It is marring the perfection of my clean desk and mocking me.

8) Luckily, A. is making crepes this morning, so I can forgive him.

And on that note, I'm off to eat crepes. Have a nice day!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Story Time

So. At one point, I promised you stories of our adventures in southern Arizona. And I promised I would tell you those soon. Apparently, my definition of "soon" is pretty loose, because here it is more than two weeks later, and I still haven't told you anything about our run for the border or the crazy winery in Nogales or . . . but I get ahead of myself.

Let's begin at the beginning and go on until we reach the end.

The beginning is my parents' house in Tucson. We left around 8 a.m. on a Sunday morning, taking my dad's Toyota Camry, which he was nice enough to lend us for the road trip. I don't think he'll be making that mistake again.


We drove out through South Tucson, eventually reaching this area outside city limits where people have settled who want to have horses and goats and 20 junked cars in their front yard without interference from a homeowners association. If you swap out the cactus for trees and add some water, it looked just like home.


We continued south to Tubac, which A. remembered as a place with the ruins of an old Spanish fort and a couple of dudes with goats. But that was like eight years ago and Tubac has been transformed since then. The old Spanish fort (called a presidio) has been carefully preserved and is now the site of a pretty good museum, and the two guys with goats have made way for an entire artists' community, complete with fake adobe and a billion brightly-colored pots that were probably purchased for two bucks in Mexico to be sold to tourists at five times their value. The museum was good, but the little shops weren't to our taste, so we got back on the road and went to Nogales.

Nogales, in case you don't know, is a border town. We didn't have our passports, so we couldn't cross the border, but we did want to eat lunch on the American side. We wanted Mexican food, of course, but it's kind of hard to find Mexican food five feet from Mexico. McDonalds, Popeye's, Wendy's . . . chain after chain of fast food. We finally found a Mexican restaurant, where A. had pozole and I had chicken mole (pronounced like "mo-lay," not like the rodent), and then we got back on the road to work our way towards Tombstone via Patagonia.

Except on our way down Route 82, the small two-lane road we were on, we passed this ramshackle old barn of a building with a sign advertising "European-style wine." We blew past the sign, then both did a double-take, saying something like, "European-style wine outside Nogales? We gotta go back." So we did. And it was awesome. Most wineries I've been to have been new and sterile and pretty pretentious. This place, Arizona Vineyards, was nothing like that. It was an old, kind of falling-down building. It looked like the entrance to a mine shaft or something. When you walk in, you walk into a huge space that has wine vats on one side, and on the other side is the path that leads you to the tasting room. The path is enclosed by all kinds of random antique junk--thrones, stuffed animal heads--and lit by little white Christmas lights. The tasting room is another mass of antiques. When we got to the tasting room, there was a guy working who looked barely old enough to drink himself. But he was eating pizza, drinking red wine, and blasting Mexican rap. It was fantastic. And the wine was really good, too. We tasted a bunch (for FREEEEE--yay!), then bought a couple of bottles of red and one white and went on our way.

You should totally stop there if you ever get the chance. You know, next time you're on Route 82 outside Nogales.

Next stop was Patagonia, which A. remembered as a pretty sleepy little cow town in the middle of nowhere. Except, once again, that was like eight years ago, and it now appears to have become yet another artists' colony. Are you sensing a theme here? They were having their "Art Walk" the day we were there, which means there were far too many people in town for our liking, so we took a quick look around and then started to Tombstone.

We stopped in Fairbank, a not-very-interesting ghost town on the banks of the San Pedro river, and ended up getting to Tombstone around 4 p.m. After quickly scoping out the motels in town, we ended up staying at The Trail Rider's Inn. The proprietor was this middle-aged, sunburned Englishman who looked like he was perpetually drunk. Or stoned, maybe, but I think drunk, because he told us about his local pub and mentioned that he walks there all the time, and when we went there at 7 p.m. that night, he was parked at the end of bar looking very much like a fixture.

But that all comes later. First, we must venture into Tombstone: The Town Too Tough To Die. Except I think its slogan should be Tombstone: Disneyland with Chaps and Spurs. It's a very carefully preserved (or just re-built, maybe) Old West town, with the dusty street and the board sidewalks. And shop after shop of Indian jewelry and places to get your picture taken wearing slutty barmaid's attire and guys in chaps and cowboy hats walking around impersonating Wyatt Earp. It's all very tacky, but kind of fun. We elected to skip the staged gunfight re-enactments of the shootout at the O.K. corral and instead went to see the biggest rosebush in the world.

You didn't know that the biggest rosebush in the world is in Tombstone, Arizona? Yup, it's in the Guinness Book of World's Records and everything. The bush came from Scotland sometime in the 1880's and was planted in the courtyard of a house in Tombstone, where it has been ever since. You have to pay five bucks to see it, but it is SO WORTH IT. It has a trunk as big as a tree. Seriously, it's about five feet in diameter. And the branches have been trellised overhead, so that when you walk into the courtyard, it's like you're in an outdoor room in which the ceiling is composed of a single rose bush. It was blooming when we were there, but the blooms are pretty small and unimpressive. It's the sheer size of the thing that's impressive. It just goes on and on. Very cool.

That was pretty much it for that day. I have one more day's worth of stories (descending into a mine, off-roading along the border in a Camry. . .), but I think I'll end here for today. And as a reward for reading all the way through this long travelogue, I'll leave you with this:

Playtime with Auntie Mia

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Whys and Wherefores

It's nice that my readers are so curious. Y'all want to be informed. You want to be educated. You want to know how we can eat something as cute as a lamb.

So I'll tell you.

Mayberry Magpie asks . . .
How in the world do you keep from getting attached WHEN IT'S TIME TO SLAUGHTER?

I answer . . .
I'm a cold-hearted bitch and I hate fuzzy, adorable lambs, of course.

OH STOP. I'm just kidding. Only on the hating lambs part, though. Apparently, I AM a cold-hearted bitch, because this does not so much bother me. I can disconnect the image of the fuzzy, adorable lamb with the reality of the lamb shanks that are cooking on the woodstove at this very moment. By the time we get to the End of Days for the chosen ones, they are no longer adorable lambs. Which leads me to . . .

Country Midwife asks . . .
Kristin can you show us a pic of the size of a lamb when they... sniff... go to slaughter? I realize this is superfluous and dumb... but I just CAN'T eat cute or baby animals (lamb, veal, duck, rabbit, etc). But I think I'm thinking little white fuzzy wuzzys go to market... and am now wondering if they are bigger and ... less cute... than I assumed.

I answer . . .
That's not at all dumb, actually. I don't have a picture, but I can tell you that last year, the lambs were over 100 pounds each when they were dispatched. At that stage, they are no longer little white fuzzy wuzzys; they are loud, aggressive, horny, unpleasant rams. They butt each other and hump each other and are generally Not Cute. It's not at all like a calf/veal situation (which I also have a hard time with). These are basically full-grown rams. And by the time it's time for them to go, I kind of hate them and want them off the property. Bring on those lamb shanks!

Country Midwife also asks . . .
How often do you have to midwife a sheep? Do most plop out when you're not watching or are you hands-on?

I answer . . .
I am not an ovine midwife. THANK GOD. With our sheep, at least, we do pretty much nothing at all. I've never even seen the actual birth, just the immediate aftermath. Last year, when they lambed in mid-February and it was below zero, A. had to help dry and warm the lambs when they first came out so they wouldn't freeze, but other than that, we let the mothers do their thing. And they do that very, very well. I suspect this is somewhat dependent on breed. Some breeds have naturally easy births and are good mothers, some have more trouble. Also, some breeds have, like, four lambs at a time and the one mother CAN'T take care of all those lambs, so the shepherds have to help. We really do nothing other than watch to make sure the lambs start nursing properly and the milk ducts aren't blocked or whatever.

Eric asks . . .
What about the Wool? Aren't there any other vegetarians who read this?

I answer . . .
Second question first: Yes, there ARE other vegetarians who read this. Say hi to Sara and Constance! First question second: I'm not sure what the question IS. The wool is . . . there. We shear the sheep once a year and keep the wool to be spun and knit into things. Eventually. We haven't yet gotten to that stage. The MiL also wanted to keep the hides of the lambs we had slaughtered last fall. So we did, and they've been dried in preparation for tanning.

Are you actually asking why we don't just keep all the sheep for wool so we don't have to kill any? Well, for one thing, we like to raise our own food. We raise our vegetables in a huge vegetable garden, and because we are not vegetarians, we raise (some of) our own meat, too. We get plenty of wool from the ewes and one ram that stick around permanently. We're not wool producers, nor do we wish to be. For another thing, boy lambs are extraneous. We only need one ram, and we already have one. Nature just doesn't have much use for a bunch of males. Sorry, men.

Okay! I think that's it! Further questions should be directed to Mia. She's got all the answers.

And now, I think we should end this post on a pleasant note. How about a picture of some baby animals that are definitely not going to be eaten? Yes? Very good.

The fuzzy inmates of The Puppy Penitentiary

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No Babies for YOU

I'm resisting the will of the people today and NOT posting photos of any of the various miniature animals toddling around the pens and pastures of Blackrock. I can do that because this is MY site, and while I am a benevolent dictator, I am still a dictator. And today, I want to talk about the garden. So there.

So! I've been planting things! Yay! Indoors, obviously, as we do not live in California (Finny) and will not be able to set our precious baby plants outside for another month and a half. But there are quite a few things that we grow from seed that need to be started indoors way before the outside planting season starts. Like eggplant. Which I planted way back before I left for Arizona, along with hot peppers. I planted two varieties of eggplant, one called Rosa Bianca that produces these cool roundish pink stripey eggplants, and one called . . . um, the name escapes me, but it produces albino eggplants. Kinda creepy. The hot peppers came from a packet helpfully labeled "Hot Pepper Mix," which means there's no way to tell what you'll get until the peppers form. And even then, no way for ME to tell, since my pepper identification skills are severely lacking.

Not that it matters, since none of the hot peppers have sprouted. The albino eggplant hasn't either. Bastards. But the Rosa Bianca is up and running! Well, running as much as is possible for plants in tiny seed starting containers. Which is . . . not at all. Because plants don't run. Duh.


When I got home from Arizona, I planted the bell peppers, yellow and red kinds. No signs of life from them yet. Yesterday I planted leeks and onions in a flat. And today? The tomatoes go in. DUN DUN DUUUUUN. Let the Tomato Crazy begin!

You know you missed the Tomato Crazy.

All these little seedlings currently reside in the MiL's bathroom, which is the warmest room in the house because of the space heater in there. There's a grow light in there. Also the lovebirds, but they aren't much help with the seed growing. So far, all the seeds have been planted in seed-starting pots I make from empty toilet paper rolls (directions here). They work okay, and I like them because they can be put directly in the ground and the pot will decompose into the soil, but be warned: If you make these, learn from my experience and tie some kitchen twine around each one to keep it from falling apart at the seams when you soak the pots with water. Because that totally happened to me last year.

From tiny seeds mighty gardens grow.

There were a lot of questions about the lambs yesterday, and I'll answer them all. Tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It's a Boy! And Another Boy!


This is Coco and her two fresh-from-the-womb baby boys. That one lying down had been born all of about 10 minutes when this photo was taken. And the one already looking for milk had obviously been born first. You can see that Coco was still in the licking clean stage here, where she licklicklicks the lamb clean and dry. Then it will struggle to its feet and stumble around a little, with a dazed "what just happened" look on its face, until it finds the teat and starts to nurse. From the time they're born from the time they start to nurse is maybe 20 minutes. If all goes well. Which it did. And thank God the sheep know what the hell they're doing, because I sure don't.

Anyway, these two are boys, so, you know, don't get attached. Two more lambs to go, though I think it may be a few days until the last two are born.

Baby Things

Ah, Spring. The season of renewal. The season of rebirth. The season of small, stupid newborn animals that crap all over the place and do themselves injury if left unattended.

Good thing they're so cute.

If Disney ever wants to do an ovine version of Dumbo, I know the perfect lamb for the title role.

It was cold yesterday. Luckily, there's warmth in numbers.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Family Matters

My brother has a 10-month-old daughter. That would be my niece, for those of you who have trouble with family relationships. She is generally a very cheery and personable child, but, like all babies, she occasionally needs to be distracted--while she's being fed, so she won't notice yet another spoonful of unappetizing-looking goo being shoved in her face; when anyone is trying to take a picture, so she's looking at the camera; anytime she crashes to the floor and her face starts to crumple in preparation for wailing . . . you know.

It turns out that I seem to have a particular talent for creating those distractions, despite having no children of my own and very little experience with the wee ones. On this trip to Arizona I became Court Jester for the baby. She's eating and needs to be distracted? Here comes Aunt Kristin to make a wooden spoon dance on her tray just out of her reach! Someone needs to make the baby focus in the general direction of the camera for a photo session? Quick, Aunt Kristin, grab a prop (I used a feather boa) and get her attention! She's getting bored and cranky? DANCE, AUNT MONKEY, DANCE.

And so I came to be known as Aunt Monkey, an appellation that I fear will stick for the rest of my life, knowing my family.

Of course, my position behind the camera, waving feather boas and making an idiot of myself for the kid, means that there are not many photos of the baby and me together. In fact, this may be the only one:

Aunt Monkey pushing the swing, for Her Royal Poopiness must be entertained.

Of course, this child lives 3,000 miles away, which means my talents will not be put to use very often. I'm thinking of hiring myself out at a nominal rate for parents who could use a little child wrangling help. You know, just to stay in practice. They can't call me Aunt Monkey, though.

And because I know that a picture of a human baby won't be enough for you people . . .

Playtime in the puppy pen

No picture of the lamb today, but not for lack of trying. It was really dark and stormy yesterday and I couldn't get close enough to it to get a well-lit photo. Then, when I did get close enough to it after we shut it in the barn, the batteries in the camera were dead. So I went back to the house, got new batteries, trudged back out to the barn (IN THE RAIN), and . . . those batteries were dead too. Sonofabitch.

So, no lamb photo. I'll try again today.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Two for the Price of One

You're all yelling for puppy pictures, so here's one for you. The puppies can be outside in the pen now, where they tussle about playfully and poop as much as they want without someone having to clean up after them. Three cheers for free-range pooping!

Auntie Mia likes free-range pooping, too.

AND NOW! For the big surprise of the day!


This little girl was born last night. Mama there is Cleo, the oldest of the Merinos A. bought last summer. A. noted last night that Cleo had separated herself from the other ewes and wasn't interested in the food he brought out, so he thought she was ready to give birth. Sure enough, at seven this morning A. went out to check and found lambie there already up and frisking about. This is the first lamb of the season, and also the first girl lamb we've ever had. And BECAUSE it's a girl, we'll be keeping her instead of eating her. Which means we can name her. We haven't come up with a name yet, but we're working on it. We're anticipating four more lambs soon. The other two ewes look ready to give birth at any time.

As if I don't get enough bitching about my failure to post puppy pictures every single day, you can now yell at me for not posting lamb pictures. Goody.