Saturday, June 6, 2009


A little less than a year ago, we became the proud possessors of a very old, yet still functioning, propane clothes dryer. And I was very, very happy. It was the first clothes dryer ever at Blackrock, and it signaled freedom from the laundromat in the winter. I did not miss the laundromat and all the freaks that hang out there this past winter. But I did wonder: Would I become dependent on the dryer? Would I forsake my trusty old clothesline even in summer months in favor of the ease of throwing clothes in the dryer without the inconvenience of hauling heavy, wet clothes up the cellar stairs and clipping them all to the line?

Would I get LAZY?

The answer, I am proud to say, is no. As soon as it was warm enough, I started hanging all my clothes outside again. I haven't used the dryer in months. Sure, the dryer is convenient and I still love it with a great and burning passion in the winter when my only other option is the laundromat, but otherwise . . . I kind of love hanging clothes on the line. Dryers are hard on clothes. You can't shrink anything involuntarily on a clothesline.

There is also the weird but undeniable fact that I get a great feeling of peace and satisfaction seeing the clothes filling the line and flapping in the breeze. Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Because I am a nut who revels in domesticity.

And so I remain loyal to my clothesline. At least until it's 40 degrees with a driving rain. And then I'll take up with my dryer again.

I'm fickle like that.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Garden Update

There are no freaky supposedly edible creatures with tentacles in today's post. You're welcome! Instead, I thought we should tour the garden. The nice, innocent, wholesome garden. Because I spent a long time there yesterday wielding my hoe to kill the weeds and hill the corn, and now my left arm has seized up into a permanent cramp.

I hate hilling. As I may have whined to you before.


Yes, corn is supposed to be hilled, just like potatoes. I didn't do it last year, and several of our corn plants toppled right over. Whoopsy. So I'm trying to be more diligent this year with the hilling, even though it makes me say very bad words and rue the day I ever decided to plant ANYTHING that needs hilling, much less plant half the garden with such things.

That's right. I said rue.

There are lettuce and spinach planted in between the corn. The corn is supposed to shade the greens and keep them from bolting too fast. Except the timing may be a little off here, because the greens are already pretty big, and the corn isn't shading anything yet. Stupid, useless, high-maintenance corn.


Of course, the hilling wasn't the only thing that kept me out there with the hoe. I was also attacking the ever-present weeds. This time of year, I'm pretty consistent with the weeding. It's not until later that it all goes to hell. I figure if I can just keep ahead of the weeds until the plants are big enough to hold their own, I'll be good. That will probably be about mid-July, when I give up entirely and let the scary jungle-like growth of upstate New York take over.

The garlic is big enough to fight back already. So are the shallots. But those tiny beets, chard, and parsnips in the background? They need me.

The tomatoes are sulking and refusing to grow in any significant manner. They do not dig the 40 degree nights we've been having. The San Marzanos, in particular, are saying, "Lady, this is SO NOT Italy." Is it a bad sign that my tomatoes talk to me?

Don't answer that.

But their trellis network? Still BAD ASS.

Nothing else is really appreciating the cool nights, either. Except for the peas and the lettuce. Oh my God, the lettuce. I went out yesterday and harvested a massive dishpan full of lettuce. And there is more. There is ALWAYS more. I could make salad for the entire village and still have some left over. We do this every year. We do three separate plantings of lettuce, and then they hit all at once, leaving us drowning in leafy greens.

One of three lettuce beds. Also, flowering blackberries, the barn, and a shitload of weeds. Pretty.

So that's it for the photos. There's lots more in the garden, of course--potatoes, various squashes, beans, carrots, and on and on and on--but they're mostly too small to show up well in photos yet. Give them time. Well, time, and some heat would be nice, too.

As the tomatoes said, definitely not Italy.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Freakish Sea Creatures--They're What's for Dinner!

I may have given you the impression here that A. can't cook. That's not actually true. He can cook, he just hasn't in awhile. He used to cook sometimes when he was in law school and I was working full-time. His specialities were stuffed meat and fried meat. Sometimes stuffed AND fried at the same time. Not so much with the vegetables. The whole idea of a "balanced meal" kind of slides by him.

Anyway, he hasn't been cooking because he's been working 10 hours a day and I've been home, so food was my responsibility. But now that he's quit his job and is home (surprise!), he can cook again. And what did he choose to cook on his first foray into the kitchen in about three years?

Help me, Jesus.

In case your Disgusting Seafood Identification skills are a little rusty, allow me to help you: that's a whole octopus. Thankfully, minus the head, but still. Whole. Intact. Long tentacles still attached to the body and everything. And you can't see it, but one of those tentacles actually wrapped around a wooden spoon that was in the sink. When A. lifted the thing for this photo, the spoon rose up with the octopus. OH MY GOD. I can only assume it was an involuntary contraction, because the thing was definitely dead. I only know that because it, uh, didn't have a head and all.


So A. bought this whole octopus at the regular old grocery store like three months ago, along with some salt cod and dried calamari or something. The dried calamari he ate. The salt cod I actually cooked with. The octopus . . . well, the octopus sat there in the freezer, because neither the MiL nor I wanted anything to do with it. And A. wasn't cooking. But now he is! So let's have the octopus for dinner! YAY!

So here's what he did: He boiled the whole thing in a pot of water for a couple of hours. Then he drained it, cut it into chunks, dipped the chunks into egg and then seasoned flour, and deep-fried the chunks in lard and canola oil.

Actual words that came from A.'s mouth during this process:

1) "Hey, cool. It's writhing around in the water. Come look!" (And then I said, "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?")

2) "Huh. It's turned the water purple." (And then I said, "STOP TELLING ME THESE THINGS IF YOU WANT ME TO EAT THIS.")

Oh God.

Also of note was that while A. was cutting the octopus into chunks, one of the tentacles fell on the kitchen floor and Mia wouldn't eat it. Mia will eat ANYTHING that falls on the floor--raw onion, lemons, possibly coins. Belle the Devil Cat, however, DID eat it. I tried not to see those as ominous signs.

But in the end, it was . . . not bad. I'm not a seafood person, so I didn't love it, but it wasn't overpoweringly fishy-tasting. It was fairly tender, because of the boiling before the frying. I didn't so much dig the texture of the little sucker things from the tentacles, but all in all, could've been worse. A. and the MiL agreed that it tasted like fried clams, but more tender and a little sweeter. So. Yeah. Purple water aside, pretty good.

We also had hush puppies, made from a recipe from this cookbook, that were YUUUUM. And a green salad, because there are three lettuce beds in the garden that are attempting to stage a coup and take over. But the octopus was the real star of the show, of course.

So, who wants to come for dinner next time A. cooks?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Things I'm Not Good At

And there you were, thinking I could do anything (RIGHT?). Sadly, no. I have my limitations. They include:

Drawing. There is not one artistic atom in my body. My drawing skills began and ended at stick figures.

Parallel parking. I have the depth perception of a near-sighted baboon (and no, I have no idea if baboons are near-sighted). Also related to this is my complete inability to judge distances. This is why I plant things in the garden using an actual ruler, because there is NO WAY I'm going to accurately measure six inches by eye. I've accepted this about myself.

Tree identification. Despite numerous tutorials by A. on this subject, I still can't tell a locust from a horse chestnut. Mostly because I just don't care. Besides, why should I bother? I can just ask A.

Painting. And here we come to my current project. I kind of suck at painting. Walls, I mean, not pictures (though I most definitely suck at that, too). I lack the necessary patience to do a careful job. At the moment, I'm finally painting the closet in the study. The study itself was painted a nice cheery yellow. That was over two years ago. The closet, however, has remained an ugly sky blue. This is the speed at which projects are completed at Blackrock. So I figured that even if I do a not-so-pretty job with the painting, at least A) it's finally getting painted and B) it's a closet that's going to be covered with bookshelves, so no one will really see, anyway. This is how I justify my slapdash painting method, anyway.

So tell me, poppets: What are YOU less than skilled at?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Because What We Really Needed Were More Animals

Did you know that a sheep flock inspires the same sort of dissatisfied, crazed greed that monetary accumulation does? Yes. A. was so happy when he bought his first sheep a couple of years ago. He had two ewes for a long time. Then he got the ram, and he discovered that three sheep were even better than two. As the flock has grown, so has his desire to have more and more sheep. I'm not sure where the frenzy will end. I'm afraid to ask.

The newest additions to the flock were ferried home last night:

The glow in their eyes isn't the flash; that's the devil peering out.

Those are two Cotswold ewe lambs. As I mentioned awhile ago in my sheep primer, Cotswolds are a loud breed. These two seem to be conforming to the breed standard. I could hear them yelling all the way up the driveway and they didn't shut up until we left the pasture.

Cotswolds should be sold with complimentary earplugs.

And of course, the two grown-up Cotswolds were yelling right back at them. It was incredibly loud while we were getting all the sheep situated. But now they're all hanging in the pasture, eating grass and getting to know one another. Our current sheep count is 13. An unlucky number, but I'm sure it won't stay that way for long. Not if A. the sheep-collector has his way.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Dang. I was SO PREPARED for my post today. I actually knew what I was going to write about. In direct contrast to the many, many days I sit down at the computer, spend a good, oh, 30 seconds in deep thought and contemplation, and then end up posting something profound about pajamas.


The MiL drove several hours yesterday with two of the remaining puppies so a lady who shows collies could pick one to buy. A. and I got home from various errands just as the MiL was about to leave, and I actually ran upstairs to get the camera and take a photo of them in their crates so I could post the, "one more puppy down!" update today.

They went straight from the Puppy Penitentiary to solitary confinement.

And then the lady decided she didn't want either one of them. Poor rejected puppies. And poor MiL, who drove eight hours round-trip and returned home with both puppies. Though I did still manage to make this "I don't have a post!" whinging into, uh, a post. Huh, how about that.

This blogging thing, man. It just comes naturally to me.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

How I Spent My Saturday Afternoon

Sitting on the lakeshore.
Drinking wine.
Talking. (With real, actual people--not just my dogs.)
Listening to a band play Johnny Cash covers.
Watching the sun set over the lake.
Staring into a bonfire.

What did you do yesterday afternoon, duckies?