Wednesday, November 27, 2013


It looks to be a quiet Thanksgiving this year.  It will just be the three of us. I've had quieter ones, when I was single in CA and all my family was 3000 miles away.  Back then I did up the whole bird and all the sides and desserts for myself, and I will do up the whole thing for the three of us tomorrow, then we will live on the leftovers for as long as they last.

I bought the biggest bird I could find, 22 lbs.  When else is meat 55 cents a pound???  The leftovers freeze well and we'll live off the thing for a few weeks, too bad we are a dark meat family and they have bred these monsters to be all breast meat.

 I have a streusel topped apple pie in the freezer, made during the apple  processing craziness of the fall. (As soon as I am done wit this post I will pull it out to defrost) All the ingredients to make a pumpkin pie waiting in the pantry. I'm hoping to work it so that my daughter will volunteer to make it.

We have three kinds of cranberry sauce, I like the whole berry, and my husband likes the jellied with the can marks displayed. We have to have the cranberry orange relish, because it cuts the greasy blandness of the gravy, plus it's yummy.

We do something that my family looks at with horror, we do the marshmallow sweet potato casserole after a couple of years in the South it seemed like it was time to try it and and it has won its place at the table. I never understood the green bean casserole thing, mushy, salty, with the fake onion things on top, blah!  If you enjoy it, you can have my portion.

All of this is just the warm up, because the day after Thanksgiving is the best!  The menu barely varies from year to year.  Breakfast is pie and coffee.  Lunch is an overstuffed sandwich with turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, with either Miracle Whip or mayo (depending on which side of the divide you sit on) and a  glass of coffee milk ( the Rhode Island official state beverage).  Dinner is hot turkey sandwiches  with cranberry orange relish, with more pie and a cup of tea.

I hope all sixteen of my readers have an enjoyable holiday with their families!!  Drive safely!

Sunday, November 24, 2013


The chickens are free again, after a couple of days of no eggs, it seemed unfair to imprison them.   They probably need more daylight, chickens don't lay well during the short days of the year, so they need to have a little supplementary light.  I'm a little leery of plugging anything in and putting it out there (see January 31st's post), so I'm looking into rechargeable or solar possibilities.  There is also the possibility that I just hold off until spring and they will pick up laying all by themselves.

The first thing they did when I freed them was to remove all of the mulch that I had over the front garden looking for the bugs that had been sheltering there.  Thanks girls.

 The book I read most recently has haunted me a bit.  No, it isn't horror or anything, well maybe it is...

American Nations, A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard, it continues the light bulb that lit  when I read Albion's Seed by David Hackett Fischer, a few years back.  It is an analysis of the different original cultures of the current regions of North America (mostly European, the Native Americans didn't get the option of having their cultures extend to the present in most of the regions--but that situation is partly analyzed in Jared Diamond's book, Guns, Germs and Steel). 

I could write pages and pages about what I took away from the book, but the most important point I took away was a bit scary.   I boils down to the objectives and viewpoints of the Yankeedom  and the Left Coast regions  are irreconcilable with the objectives of the regions of the Deep South (political power to few, no emphasis on education except for the ruling families) and Greater Appalachia (folks from the war torn north of England and Ireland settled here, shoot to protect your family, a few families control the political scene and money, distaste for whomever is in power) and the Far West. There will never be peace or an easy political process, to satisfy one group, the other has to give up everything.  If he is right, then the implications for our nation are chilling.

Anyway, the premise is that the original culture of an area persists in various forms in the current society of that area.  Meaning that the New England, Upstate New York and most northern parts of the Great Lakes region are extensions of the Puritan's beliefs, with the religion watered down as scientific discoveries gave other explanations.  The part that survived is the ethic of strong education, community participation in the government and the need to work toward a stronger society through social experimentation, he calls it Yankeedom.  Being a product of Yankeedom I wouldn't have agreed with him until I moved out of the area and lived among several of the other regions and felt as if I had landed on another planet (with the exception that all the shopping centers were identical, all that differed was the roofing detail).  The book clearly had a Yankeedom bias, the author hails from Maine.

Right now I'm living on the border of Midlands and Tidewater with a tiny hint of Yankeedom from time to time, since the original settlers of this part of Maryland were Puritans.  My mom at one point in her first visit made a comment about a gentleman we met saying, "I didn't know they had Old Yankees down here!" and she was right.  I've bumped into a few of them now and then, one of them runs the saddlery shop where my husband and daughter get some of their horse gear.

The Puritans were overrun pretty early on by Tidewater, who are now being overrun by Midlanders (eastern Pennsylvania-live and let live types, work hard, keep to themselves).   I see more Midlanders as I head toward DC and as I drive away from DC I cross into Tidewater-land. The local Facebook page for information and events sometimes has inquiries about strange booming noises (probably military) or sounds of shotguns, etc.  The Midlanders don't like folks shooting near their suburbs.  The Tidewater folks are still doing what they have always done, even though all their neighbors have sold their farms to Midlanders who developed giant suburbs for other Midlanders, who generally don't shoot near houses  One person posted that these folks had moved to the country and that they need to just accept that they are in the country now. He hasn't noticed that his "country" is being paved and built up. The Midlander's freedom to feel safe in their house is conflicting with the Tidewater's freedom to shoot their gun where ever they choose.

It is really weird that some folks here draw out their vowels in a southern type accent and others have a more clipped vowel northern accent and they can be from neighboring towns and their families have been here for generations.  I heard both the "y'all" and "you guys" shouted from the sidelines of the soccer field, one coach "y'all=ed" the other "you guys-ed".  The blend worked, they won the county tournament.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

One Brown Egg

Finally, one day before the chickens turn 26 weeks old, we have our first egg.
It's probably not the first that they have laid, but it is the first we have.  I locked them in the chicken run yesterday, instead of letting them run about the yard.  In one corner, I placed a recycle bin filled with wood shavings and a white supermarket egg to give them a hint of what I wanted them to do (with no risk of mixing up which egg is fresh since all the girls are brown egg laying breeds).  One of them obliged, but I have no idea which one.  They are locked in again today.   Leftover rice really helped encourage them.  While I stepped outside to photograph the egg, they all lined up and stared at me from inside the run, seemingly indignant that I would lock them in for a second day.  Sorry girls, it will probably be a week or so.  They need to get used to laying their eggs in the recycle bin instead of some hidden spot in the yard, leaving the eggs to feed the big possum.

I've spent some time reading Sandor Katz's Art of Fermentation.  It makes me wish it was the beginning of the growing season instead of heading into the winter.  I've been wanting to try some vegetable ferments beyond the kimchi experiments, but couldn't figure out exactly where I would do put some of this stuff.  Our not quite 1300 square foot home is not equipped with what my grandparents referred to as "cold cupboards", closets on the north side of the house that were unheated and used to store food.  We do not have a basement, but as the weekend projects have reminded me, we do have a crawl space.  We have been removing insulation that was installed with the paper outward-trapping moisture-and either flipping it or replacing it, depending on its condition--a horrible, nasty job requiring tyvek suits, goggles, face masks, gloves,lots and lots of crawling on the ground and lots and lots of time.  The area of the crawl space nearest the hatch opening is high enough to sit up in (for me, but not my husband) and could be a reasonable storage spot for some kimchi, sauerkraut, kosher dills or who knows!  I could always dig a bit of a pit to help insulate against temperature changes--but first the fiberglass insulation under the floor boards.

I have to be more careful with the bread ferments, the sour dough bread, pancakes, appams, etc., because of the 1500 calorie issue.  The breads (sigh) add up quickly.  I did try sour dough pancakes this weekend, they weren't sour tasting because I added baking soda shortly before cooking them.  I fancied them up with apples and cinnamon inside, and a bit of my apple butter on top.  They came out pretty well, but I'm going to tweak the recipe a little.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Foal

My computer took on some nasty malware last week, so I had to send it to rehab.

It took several days.  

Not having a computer for almost a week while camping is one thing, but trying to live an everyday life without one is another.  My daughter kept asking if she could look up words, so that she could do her homework.  I kept pointing to the dictionary.  She'd sigh.

I wanted to know the weather forecast, I had to wait for it on the radio (we don't have a tv connected to the outer world).  I wanted to check what the specials were in the grocery stores, I had to pull out the flyers that come in Wednesday's mail.  News? Radio, again.  Pay bills?  Call my husband at work to do it.  I was living in a time warp.

Now the box is back under the table and healthy again.  Now I can write about what happened last week, besides the time warp.

Every week on Monday, my husband feeds a friend's horses.  One horse has been looking ill and behaving strangely.  Last Thanksgiving, she had been found hanging out with the stallion, so they had some suspicions of what it might be.  The vet said, "Not pregnant.", twice, one of the times was just a couple of weeks ago.  Last Monday, my husband had all the feed buckets prepped and was toting them to the paddocks when he noticed a chestnut foal lying on the ground next to the ill looking mare.  After he called the owner, then he called home, my daughter, the horse nut, had her shoes on in record time.  We bundled up and dove into the car.  Twenty minutes later we pulled up, and charged over to the paddock.  The foal was lying on the ground in a little bed of hay that my husband had arranged for it, but it was still on the ground.  Usually a horse is up on its feet within an hour of birth, the baby was clean and dry, so it had been born more than an hour earlier. In a few minutes it struggled, placed its front legs on the ground, hoisted itself  a little and tipped over.  It tried again with the same result.  It lay back down in the hay and slept.

Preparing to "walk" the foal to the paddock.

The temperature dropped as the sun set, we put on our hats and gloves.  The owner arrived just as the light was disappearing and set right to work setting up a paddock for the mare and baby. Once it was ready, we prepared to move the baby.  It wasn't a simple job.  The owner and I bent over double to support the weight of the foal and tried to "walk" it the length of the original paddock, around the next paddock and inside to the sheltered spot lined with a foot of loose hay with a heat lamp.  His fore legs kept crossing and had to be uncrossed repeatedly.  He could not support any of his weight.  It was like carrying a bag of wood pellets bent in half, and having it get caught on something repeatedly.  My husband led the mom just a few feet behind us and my daughter led the other mare "D", who had been nickering to and nuzzling the baby more than the mother "R".  The object was to make sure that neither Mom nor the second mare freaked out over loss of sight of the baby.  About halfway through the promenade, the mom butted me with her nose a few times letting me know that as an infrequent visitor I was not a suitable person to be handling her baby.  The owner carried on despite her blown back and neck brace.  When the baby finally settled into the deep hay it disappeared from the mare's view and she thrashed back and forth in the little paddock nearly stepping on the foal with each pace.  I was sent to the feed room get some sweet grain. The owner grabber the scoop held the grain next to the baby's head.  Finally, spotting the baby, the horse's muscles palpably relaxed, she nickered to the foal, then ate the grain.

It was then an idyllic scene, a paddock with the mom  chewing her grain and baby tucked in the hay, a red heat lamp providing the warm glow.  The second mare quietly watching over everything.  We then went home for the night.

The next day the baby still couldn't stand, so he couldn't feed.  He couldn't suck well either, even from a bottle.

Trying to drink.

 For two days my husband and daughter (and the owner's daughter) helped care for the little guy, but he just wasn't strong enough to even nurse properly.  I brought food for  the humans,  as we spent the third evening trying to get a few ounces into the foal and help him nurse from Mom.  He fell over at one point and his eyes looked relieved to be back on the ground.

Before we left I reminded my daughter to say goodbye to everyone, so she did, including the foal, which was my intention..

On that, his third night, he died in his sleep.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Fermenting Ideas

It's that quiet time between soccer and basketball seasons, a time when dinners do not need to be rushed, homework can be put off a little later and the weekend schedules are what we make of them.  I'm sure I'll figure out something to do in all the extra time.  I have eleven books out of the library that have food themes, mostly recipe books.  I'm on a 1540 calorie diet.  I may be setting myself up...

I finished Michael Pollan's Cooked a couple of weeks ago and now the books that intrigued me from his bibliography are arriving through inter-library loan.  The section of Cooked that grabbed me was one that I had played with off and on, but had forgotten about between moving, gardening, parenting, job hunting and the bugs (which I will come back to).  Pollan refers to the section as Earth, he uses the ancient elements to structure his book, so for him "earth" is the process of fermentation. 

A few years back in the deep-dark-mid-life-grad-school days, I filled some of my time growing Chinese cabbages and daikon radishes in Florida (among many other things).  They grew wonderfully in the mild fall and winters, so well that I had to figure out what to do with them, which wasn't hard, because at that point in life I was battling a kimchi addiction.  At five bucks a quart, the kimchi habit bit into the teensy grocery budget.  Soon I was searching on-line for a reasonable recipe that someone who was not Korean could consume without reaching their capacin limits within the first mouthful.  A helpful clerk in the Asian grocery made sure I had all the right ingredients, while trying to get his mind around an American making kimchi.  A few minutes later the cashier looked into my basket and said, "You're making kimchi???" I replied, "Of course!"  The Korean people who I have spoken to about kimchi give it the status of both a mark of pride for the Koreans and as a cure-all of sorts, a means to maintain health. A proud look appeared in her eyes, but then she looked at me and I saw uncertainty.  After a few moment of chatting, she made sure that next time I planted radishes I would plant the Korean "mu" with its green shoulders, not the pure white Chinese daikon.

I hauled my ingredients home and proceeded to rub salt into the cabbage and daikon, and within a mere five days I had a plastic tub of kimchi stowed in a cooler in bottom the small, dark coat closet.  It was wonderful.  A few weeks later when the next growth of cabbage was ready I made another batch.  That evening my husband walked two steps into the house, pulled himself up short and said, "You made kimchi again, didn't you?" It was a little fragrant, maybe a bit pungent and somewhat stinky.  Perfect.

After fermenting several vats of kimchi, my addiction was cured. I haven't made it since (going on about six years now), then I read Michael Pollan, I might have to do it again.  I had been toying with the idea this past spring, but the bugs, slugs  and caterpillars conspired against my kimchi dreams.  The cabbage was unusable.  It looked like someone had fired a shotgun loaded with bird shot at it.  Next year, I will do the floating row covers that my husband had recommended (and I  blew off his suggestion, oops).  I did see some bai tsai (Chinese white cabbage) in the grocery store last week though, hmmmm...

The other thing that reading Pollan's book set me back onto was sourdough bread.  I had a starter a two years ago, and was having pretty good success with it.  Things got crazy when we bought the house and moved in six weeks flat and the starter went somewhere in the process, probably into the compost.  I began a new starter, but this time I was trying to do wild yeasts and whole grain and it has been less successful.  It smells right, but I have created two very different "lead" breads from it. I now have plenty of bread crumbs in the freezer, on 1500 calories a day there is no room for food that is sort of okay. 

The rising just isn't happening in the whole grain doughs.  A few tweaks and we'll see what happens.  In the meantime, I'll be reading Sandor Katz's The Art of Fermentation, quickly, because it has no renewals!  Who knows where this will take me!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Up in the Sky

I have been bemoaning the lack of birds at my feeder and suspected that the reason was that I was the equivalent of the lady who passes out Smarties on Halloween and by my current evidence, my guess appears to have been correct.
I am now the lady who hands out full size candy bars from an unguarded bowl. 

I had bought a less expensive bird seed, and it had made a difference, it wasn't the stuff the birds craved, someone else was passing out something better.  During my weekly grocery shop I picked up a bag of sunflower seeds, went home mixed them into my bird seed and voila two days later the diversity and population size of the birds in my backyard has soared. (pun intended)  The pine tree has a line of birds waiting for a turn at the feeder and the nearby bushes bounce up and down with all the avian activity.

Some poor neighbor is probably wondering where all the birds went, their mid-grade birdseed just isn't measuring up anymore.

I haven't even started with the suet cakes yet.

I've been out hauling manure for the garden again, I have extended the front garden bed by about six feet, with more to come, so that that back garden can be converted to a thin strip of veggies and the remainder converted into either currants or shade tolerant flowers or both.

It has been great working outside lately, the temperature is just right, there is little humidity and the blue sky intensifies all the other colors.  Up in that sky have been some interesting clouds, a new hobby of mine.  The library had had a book faced out on one of its shelves a few weeks ago called The Cloudspotter's Guide: The Science, History, and Culture of Clouds  by Gavin Pretor-Pinney.  I remember the elementary lessons on the types of clouds, but the old lesson meant little until I spent some time reading about each of the types, the weather that it indicates and some of the factors that will determine its shape and type. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fall, I think.

I heard my first public Christmas carol of the season yesterday, at the gas station.  It felt right in that it was crisp and cool, with a touch of winter in the fall air, but it was missing one thing--digesting turkey.  I prefer my Christmas season to be short and intense, the tree goes up a few days before Santa comes, cookies baked, traveling, wrapping presents, (all bought before the turkey comes on the scene, I hate to wait in lines and I like to have a choice) all that holiday cheer crammed into a week and a half.  Some folks like to start the holiday shortly after the kids return to school, but I don't belong to that club.  Unfortunately, we've had to bend the "no carols before the turkey" rule in the past few years. My daughter is in the school band and each year they have a winter concert featuring songs that the students have been practicing since September--so those chestnuts have already been audibly roasting in our house for a while.  Luckily, the chestnuts roast more beautifully each year.

The leaves peaked here this past week and are now starting to fade and drop, that must mean that it is time to start hauling manure again to make new raised beds in the front yard.  The back garden is too close to those walnut trees causing too much shade and juglone issues.  This past year the tomatoes all stretched laterally toward the sun, I'd tie them back and a few days later the new growth would be straining back in that direction. This coming year I won't fight it, they will receive the garden where the pumpkins went wild with full sun blazing above.  I will tote in soil for a new garden bed for the pumpkins over the next few months.

Snacking on millet
What eggs?
The chickens are enjoying their extended adolescence, they are due to start laying any day now, in fact, they might be laying and hiding their eggs from us, ignoring that lovely next box I installed for them.  They will be 24 weeks old tomorrow, according to the books and websites they can start laying anytime from 20-26 weeks, but there has been no sign of eggs.  They have started to make horrendous noises that sound like strangling geese, which chickens do during and after laying an egg.  I have searched to see if their are any little warm brown orbs awaiting us, but I have found nothing.

The girls are also enjoying all the millet that falls from the bird feeder. The birds are starting to discover it, but the squirrels will need to remove their fuzzy little behinds once in a while for the wild birds to have any chance of tasting the sunflower seeds.  The first winter we were here, we didn't see any squirrels, this year we are very nearly overrun with the critters.  Maybe it is because we have had two mild winters in a row, or maybe it is because I asked the neighbor kid with the BB gun not to use it on our property. (When we bought the house we had to replace two windows because BBs had damaged them.)

Three more "starting at 500K" houses have begun to be erected down the street. I have visited people who live in similar homes, they seem like giant caverns and are not very homey.  The ones I have seen have almost no furniture in them, so they seem that much more cavernous.   I find it interesting that the lower ceilinged rooms adjacent to the caverns have furniture and appear as if they are used, unlike the cavernous spaces. The practical New Englander in me thinks about the heating bills for cathedral ceilings. I am certainly glad that I won't be writing those checks.  The tree hugger in me thinks about the energy wastage associated with having those soaring ceilings and the real spacial needs of an average family.  The city planner in me thinks about the traffic that will be caused by the sprawling American landscape and the disconnected society caused by poor neighborhood design.  The farmer in me thinks about the loss of the farmland that the houses have usurped and that it would be cool if they landscaped with food bearing plants.  The mom in me thinks about how many more kids will be crammed onto my daughter's bus (which was an issue earlier this year), they forget when they set the bus capacity that each child will be bearing a 25 lb or more backpack and half of those students will tote band instruments three times a week.  I hope no one  in those new houses plays the tuba. It would still be better than the third world buses I have ridden with women carrying baskets of flowers or crates of chickens on their heads, with everyone packed so tightly that there was no chance of standees falling down if the bus stopped suddenly.
I digress, but my whole blog is one giant digression...

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Wildlife Refuge

We had our first frost last night, so we fired up the pellet stove. It was nice to wake up in a house that wasn't chilly.  Those in-between days when it is pretty cold at night but hit mid-sixties in the day are challenging, too warm for the pellet stove and too cold to be comfortable.

I did my final harvest of warm season veggies last night in anticipation of the frost.
There are enough peppers to make a new batch of (mostly) jalapeno pepper jelly. With my canning frenzy, I have come to the realization that I need more shelves in my pantry, yet another project to conquer.  The chill has also reminded me that I haven't found the right fabric for curtains in the kitchen/dining area.  I've been carrying around my yardage calculations for a few weeks  since I'm trying to pair it with another errand into the areas. The fabric shops seem to claim a certain radius around themselves, I can drive west 45 minutes to one (Hancock), northeast about 55 minutes to another (Hobby Lobby) and due south for 55 minutes to another (Jo Ann).  Many of the fabric sellers on-line do not seem the have the yardage required to cover four 62 inch long windows, which comes to 10-12 yards.  Gotta drive!

I'm looking out those exposed windows to the bird feeder, which I just filled for the first time this season about two days ago.  The chickens love whatever the squirrels spill, but the wild birds have not yet discovered it. I hope we have the variety that we had in the past year the usual chickadees, robins, sparrows, blue jays, titmice, nuthatches, cardinals, juncos, wrens, then there are (spring and summer) bluebirds (they like the posts we put in for the blackberries), blue gray gnat catchers (had to look them up, again spring/summer), Baltimore orioles, flickers, red bellied woodpeckers, pileated  woodpeckers, mockingbirds, catbirds, brown thrashers, and when a deer gets hit on the road (they have a crossing nearby) the black and turkey vultures (nasty, stinky things), oh yeah, wild turkeys (mom and five babies).  Then, of course, we have mammals deer, bunnies, a big possum, saw a fox once, a bazillion moles that make the lawn squishy. The moles are the reason some of the hawks (red tailed and red shouldered) come--they sit on the "lawn" and wait--then pounce on a mole when it comes up).  Nasty little moles ate the roots of my parsley!  Go Hawks!

The other day in the back yard we had two deer, a  crow and a bunny all just sitting on the lawn near each other, my husband said that it looked like it was an idyllic scene straight out of an old Disney movie and that we should hear perky music in the background.  Much of the land around us platted for development and now the recession is easing the 500K houses are going in, so our wildlife refuge of a backyard will probably be short lived.

Time to fill the feeder, I hope the squirrels will save a little for the birds today.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Apple Butter and Politics

The bag of apples is gone.  It is now proudly displayed on the pantry shelves in jars of applesauce, apple chutney (which tastes like a mincemeat from the Indian subcontinent), apple butter (my daughter thinks it is a full slice of apple pie with a crumb topping per spoonful-must make more), and  the make-do (scorched) apple BBQ sauce which has been given the thumbs up by all tasters.  While I was on a roll and all the equipment was out I made jalapeno jelly from the 3.5 lbs of jalapenos still hanging on the plants, pumpkin butter and toasted pumpkin seeds.  There are more pumpkins left, I need to find more to do with them now that I have discovered that it is not recommended for home canners to can it because of the severe variations in acidity--it can turn very nasty-so we have a freezer full of pumpkin butter. (Remember the photos of the pumpkin patch gone wild in the front yard?)

A little stress can make me very productive, you see, I'm married to a government worker.  The paycheck/no paycheck issue hung over us for a bit.  We knew he would be working--he works no matter what is going on, even during hurricanes.  I just felt better knowing that even if we were going to eat beans and rice for the second half of the month we could have some applesauce with it and spice the beans up with jalapeno jelly.  We'll believe in paychecks when one gets deposited into the checking account,  the HR managers and clerks are furloughed.
With all of the strange and violent behavior that has occurred in the area (DC Metro) I have been waiting for the conversation to  turn to our neglected mental health system, it seems that folks touch on it for half a sound bite and then run the other way.  The Reagan administration pretty much took apart the US mental health system and we have been puzzled by some of the strange happenings since then--school shootings have become a regular occurrence, the shooting in the movie theater, the Navy Yard shooting, the car chase around the Capitol with a baby in the back seat, and today a man immolated himself on the National Mall.  These folks needed help, some had received some help, but clearly not enough. 

I remember a few years back when a coworker was struggling to get her teenage daughter some treatment, but there weren't any pediatric beds available anywhere in the state.    Instead the family spent many evenings in the emergency room whenever the daughter turned for the worst.  They were always sent home after the situation was stabilized, there were no beds. The only way her daughter might have been admitted was if she had attempted suicide.  There are many steps before a kid tries to kill themselves that the healthcare system could help, if there isn't a near complete absence of facilities for youth.

We, as a nation, need to start talking and doing something about re-establishing our mental health care system.  We need everyone to have access to the mental healthcare system, rich or poor.  There is a way to do it that is already law, but by the rhetoric it is hard to discern that.  After more people have access to the system then it is time to build some infrastructure (this is backward, but the capacity needs to be shown to get the funding) and provide real mental health care to our nation for the first time in nearly thirty years.  Otherwise, we can keep putting the folks who need help in prison or  cemeteries, which doesn't sound civilized to me.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Applesauce and Triplets!

I sit here with the ticking of an old fashioned timer keeping me in check.  There is a kettle of apples cooking down to mush on the stove, and I have a tendency to zone into whatever I'm doing and lose the rest of the world, including the soon to be applesauce and apple butter.  I bought the timer because I thought it might be low tech enough for my daughter to ignore it, she makes all my timers disappear into the blackhole of her room.  It seems to be working.

About the apples-last week I missed the farmer's market, but I wanted some of the apples from the orchard that is just a couple of miles from my house, most of the markets they sell at are around DC, and that makes it harder for us in the 'burbs to get apples from around the corner.  I spoke to them on the phone and they encouraged me to come the next day at a time when they knew that they would be around.  I arrived to find two women running a machine cleaning apples, one was one of the owners. I chose some Johnathan apples, Asian pears, and a jug of cider.  I mentioned that eons ago my family used to buy drops for making applesauce and asked if those days were gone due to issues of food safety.  It turns out that I could get drops, and that if I picked them off the ground myself they were free.  My favorite price, free.  Her husband had promised me the 25cent tour over the phone the previous day, and he soon showed up with his jeep to give me a look around the property, so while he was giving me the tour we picked 3/4 of a bushel of apples off the ground.
The bag, almost empty!

I was giddy at scoring the big bag of apples.  I had thought the days of being able to afford to make apple sauce were gone until our own apple trees mature.

As soon as I arrived home I pulled out my canning kettle,

the canning jars and the food mill.

 Washed everything and started chopping, simmering and squishing.  The second batch is on right now, but I think I scorched it a bit, maybe I'll make that chutney or an apple BBQ sauce to hide the smoky flavor...hmmm.

On the goat front, the goat lease is moving forward and the mamma  goat delivered her babies on Tuesday morning.  The triplets are adorable and their mom's milk will be available in a few weeks, yaaay!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Predatory Salt and Vinegar Chips

For the past year and a half I have been making great efforts to get into shape and lose a bit of weight.  I have slimmed a bit while gaining a couple of pounds.  During this same time my thyroid decided that it was done and now I have to combat the slow metabolism that comes with hypothyroidism.  Sigh.  I ran for a little over a year, if you could call it running, on some days jogging would have been an over-optimistic term.  I never enjoyed running, it did what I needed it to do, but that is it. I turned to swimming at the beginning of the summer, something I greatly enjoy.  I swam all summer until we took our vacation a couple weeks ago, during the time we were gone the local pool closed for its yearly maintenance, a total of three weeks.  I figured while we were away in the mountains I'd hike daily and then when I returned I would run for the last couple of weeks until the pool was open again.

All Wrong.

The beginning of the trip featured quite a bit of rain, it was relaxing, but it wasn't calorie burning.  My fellow vacationers helped to maintain a pretty high level of junk food in the cabin, so even if I had been hiking every day there was no way to burn off all the s'mores and chips.  One four mile hike on a mountainside, a few short walks and pedal boat races on the lake were all my activity.  (It was a wonderful trip, we all enjoyed the trip and would probably do  it all again.  It wasn't great for my waistline though.)

I returned home, the residual junk food stowed in the house, taunting me. I was ready to run to burn it all.  Then the evening after we returned, I was walking to say goodnight to my daughter, and tripped over a suitcase waiting to be unpacked.  The "OW!" I let out must have indicated that this wasn't just the ordinary trip, because both my husband and my daughter immediately asked if I was okay with a touch of alarm in their voices.  I saw stars for a moment.  It wasn't too bad, so I said goodnight to my daughter, read for a bit and headed to bed myself.  During the night my little toe throbbed and throbbed.  My husband suggested that it might be broken and I knew he was right. A few hours later it turned a splotched purple and continued to throb, so the next day I limped into a store and bought some first aid tape and buddy taped it.  I know going to the doctor would get me a co-pay, an x-ray and a little clean tape, but that is all.  You can't splint or cast a toe. It isn't a horrible injury, just achy and annoying.

So much for running, I aggravate it doing chores around the house, never mind a three mile jog.  Now, I wait for the pool to be open again, there is still one more week to go.  I have excess energy that needs to be used up, but moving around too much on my feet makes my toe ache.  I just need a little patience, will power, a healed toe, a new thyroid and to walk into the pantry to chuck all the sweet and salty-crunchy foods still lurking there. (I need a cartoon of  predatory looking bags of salt and vinegar chips and Indian Boondi Masala plotting an attack with a package of sadistic Oreo's and to insert here.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

DIY -- Doing a Great Deal for a "Great Deal"

Where has the summer gone??
I've had blog ideas accumulating, but I just haven't had the moment to write.  I have a few minutes, let's see what I can get on the screen.

I haven't talked about the garden lately, but it is doing quite well.  Tomorrow, I will put my pumpkins out to cure in the sun, I haven't counted them, but there seem to be quite a few.  The tomatoes have been making up for last year's poor showing.  This year's favorite is green zebra, nice and tangy. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words, that is a nickel under the tomato(es).  These are two tomatoes that merged to form one massive tomato, (fraternal conjoined twins??) it was 5.5 inches across:
It was yummy, we ate it within 20 minutes of it being picked, most of the 20 minutes was spent trying to get a good shot of it.

The goat lease is moving forward, here is the goat who will be providing out milk. I should have taken a bird's eye view of her, she is is probably carrying triplets and from that view it really shows.

One of the reasons that I haven't had time to write is that after getting a "great deal" on a dining table and chairs, I had a great deal of work to do.  The chairs needed new foam and upholstery, the whole set needed a good scrub and a coat of paint.  The couple I bought it from referred to the set as "Nana's table".  Well, it appears that Nana was a two pack a day smoker, the chairs had a thick coating of tar and nicotine.  Some of it came off and some of it didn't.  The mustardy colored set appeared to have originally have been off white, with off white seat covers.
After washing
The deconstruction, the beginning

Hadn't seen a chair put together like this before.

 After spending an hour or so washing the pieces, I spent about 10 hours pulling all of the staples out of the seats (not kidding, there were thousands of them). 
Making progress with a little company.

Nasty Chair Cover


Then I had to order foam on the internet for the cushions, find fabric, find the right color paint and...a month after I started I have now finished, this is how I spent my summer.  This is why I haven't had time to write.

Next  the window treatments, eventually.

For the vicarious poultry keepers:
11 weeks old

Sunday, July 28, 2013


We've taken a step back from buying a goat.  As I said in the final line of my last post, I was feeling like this goat was taking over my life, and I wasn't liking that feeling.  We were talking to a goat farmer who mentioned that we should register any goat we bought in my daughter's name, because she would be showing it in 4H.  Later my daughter took me aside and asked quietly if having her name on the goat meant that she had to take care of it.  It gave me pause.  She clearly does not understand the meaning of showing animals through 4H and everything that entails, because, yes, she would need to care for the goat. 

I realized that my daughter wants to be the goat's "auntie", not "mommy".  She wants to play with it, brush it, shave it and trim nails (if she feels inclined that day) and then leave it with someone else to clean the barn, nurse it when it is sick, and to do the drudge work of feeding and watering it every day. If we boarded it most of that would be taken care of, but the farmer did note that most people end up taking the goat home, because they get tired of driving back and forth all of the time.  I knew that I would end up the primary caretaker, even if my daughter did do much of the physical care, it  was going to be up to me to provide the necessary nagging to insure that it actually happened.  Goats can live 14 years, my daughter will probably be home for seven more and then be sent off to college.  In order for goats to give milk they have to have babies pretty regularly, I could see the future, the passionate pleas to keep the cute little babies,  and me left with a full herd to care for.

I spoke with the farmer and let her know that I needed more time to think about it and that I didn't think that we were ready to make the jump.  She suggested that we lease a goat instead, we can legally drink milk from a goat we are leasing.  I haven't seen any paperwork yet, but it sounds interesting.

As I said before, all this for pudding!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

All this, for Pudding

Before I dive into my topic today, I just thought I would note that we were very happy to discover that the baby bunnies are alive despite all of their early trials.  My daughter and her friend spotted them hopping out of the zebra grass onto the lawn yesterday evening. 

Onto my topic:

I would really love to have a glass of milk, but at the moment I cannot.  A glass of milk will probably cost me in the neighborhood of $200-350, to start, and I will have to wait a year for it.  I haven't had cow's milk since 1995 when I discovered that the reason I was always sick was that I was flooding my system with a food that I loved, but sending my immune system into the stratosphere.  My sister's allergist suggested that she give up milk to see if it helped her and within a few days she was on the phone with me saying, "You have to give up milk, just for a few days, to see what happens!"  I did.  Within three days I realized that I was making myself sick with cow's milk, my energy returned, my skin cleared, my head stopped hurting, the fog was a revelation.

I'm allergic to cow's milk and anything with the slightest trace of cow's milk.  It took a while in the early dark days of the internet to find all the secret names of cow's milk that appear on food labels and all the sneaky places that it turns up--canned tuna for example, who would think to check canned tuna for cow's milk products??? Frozen whole chicken breasts? Whole turkeys (injected with broth and whey for moistness)?? Pepperoni?  French fries? Salt and Vinegar chips??  It was goodbye to most of the processed foods in my diet.

To get real milk, I have to have goat's milk, which isn't easy.  The goat's milk and goat's milk powder available in grocery stores tastes like the smell of a male goat when the females are in season, "musk" is too nice of a word for it, "rank" and "stench" are getting closer. 

I know from experience that goat's milk directly from the farm can be glorious, in Florida it was pretty easy to find.  I just had to tell the farmer that it was for pets and/or livestock and they could sell it to me, in the state where I live now that won't work.  There are no dairies that have processing facilities in the area, so to have a glass of milk I am going to have to buy a goat.  Since we don't have the facilities or experience of raising goats and since we can't afford to buy two (or more) and equip a mini farm, I am buying one and it will board with a farmer not too far away.  She'll provide the care it will need and lots of buddies to hang around with. 

I'll get the milk.  I'll be able to make pudding that sets, a white sauce once in a while, my decaf will taste better and it goes really well with Oreos (thank you Nabisco for taking the milk out of Oreos a couple of years back, I had missed them) and big slices of cake (the couple of times a year that I have them).  I will make my own yogurt and cheese and not have to drive nearly thirty miles to the closest health food store.

I like the idea that it is not a highly processed food like soy milk and almond milk, that the calcium in it is not just calcium supplements ground up and blended into it.  It has significant protein, unlike rice milk and almond milk. 
Best of all it tastes like milk, cow's milk drinkers might disagree, but it tastes like milk to me, a person who hasn't had milk (on purpose) in 18 years.

My daughter, who has spent many of her weekends over the years on goat farms is ecstatic, she loves goats.  In Florida, it took about two hours every weekend to buy our milk. She loves the fact that we will go visit our goat regularly, she has been helping the farmer already trimming hooves and shaving them.  We haven't even picked out our baby yet, we need to look at some that have been born already on another farm and decide if we want one of those or one that will be born in September from one of the sweet and very pregnant goats we have met so far.  My daughter is all ready to show it in 4H, we just found a group nearby...this goat may take over our lives.  All this for pudding.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Conflicted Gardener Follow Up

Nature is a cruel thing.  My husband thinks that found Mama Bunny in a patch of weeds in the back yard, she didn't seem to have any injury, but she was stiff and there were flies hovering around her.  I didn't get a chance to go out that evening before the sun set. When I went out the next morning, there was no sign that she had ever been there.  Some creature of the night probably dragged her into the woods nearby.

We haven't seen her in several days, so I am guessing that it really was her not some other rabbit out there.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Baby Bunnies--The Conflicted Gardener

Finding a nest of baby bunnies turns everyone to mush, but upon reflection the gardener in me says, "Oh, no!!"

My sister and her husband came to visit for several days. After seeing the sights and kicking back they, usually busy people, suddenly needed to do something productive.  My brother-in-law keyed in on the over-grown mass of zebra grass that I had done battle with in May only to extract a tiny piece of it.  So, after dinner one evening he headed out back with a shovel and proceeded to dig out half of the mass for me.  It was only after we had removed one of the two giant clumps and used a pruning saw to chop it into three smaller sections did he head over to remove the second.  It was then he noticed the fluffs of fur, the little ears, the baby bunnies, who nested between the ginormous clumps.  Before he had started the project he asked about the variety of snakes that lived around us, but it never occurred to him to inquire about bunnies.

For the last couple of weeks we had noticed that around dinner time a good sized wild rabbit was hanging about near our back door.  Not usually a problem except for the good sized pointer who comes down the stairs every evening for her walk and bolts across the yard in frenzied pursuit of this bunny  with an unprepared human hanging on to the other end of the leash being jerked down the  three steps and across the lawn, struggling to get a foothold to pull the scent crazed dog back.

We had thought that maybe a neighbor had been feeding the rabbit, because it didn't seem to run whenever we came out the door, it just sat and watched us.  I started calling the rabbit Pierre, it was such a regular.  Well, now we know, I had it all wrong, this was no Pierre, Paige maybe, but not Pierre.  She was just guarding her nest and providing a diversion for the dog.

Standing over the little cuties we all started trying to figure out how to cover them up without hurting them and to encourage their mom to return.  We covered them with some of the straw mulch from an empty bed in the garden (where I had planted cantaloupe seeds only to find that something, probably a rabbit, had chomped the tops off of the two week old seedlings) to simulate the removed grass.

The chickens, sensing freshly turned soil, started scratching away, quickly removing some of our new mulch layer.  I set my daughter to pruning a lilac bush that had not had any care for probably a decade or two, and she laid the leafy branches gently over the nest.  Meanwhile I replanted the zebra grass on the steep hillside on the northwest side of the house to help reduce erosion.

Paige was seen in the yard this morning, not near the nest, but she is still around.  We haven't dared peek in on the little ones in case the worst has happened.  The zebra grass looks like it will take on the hill, I just need to water it a bit today. Now there is a known technique for getting the mass of grass removed and divided, my husband and I will remove the second clump in a few weeks when  the babies are grown and out.

After doing all this I laugh at myself, I'll probably spend the next couple of years trying to find creative ways to keep those little ones, and their babies, out of my garden. Dividing up the grass will create more bunny nesting spaces too!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Seeing Red...Berries


The raspberries are ripe!  They grow with no attention needed, just mowing to keep them from taking over the yard.  I picked about a pint of them in six minutes this morning, and then went back later to pick three more pints.  I decided the rest can wait until dinner time when they will be shaded, it is 87 degrees and nearly eighty percent humidity, there's no need to cook  myself out there.

 The only drawback to picking raspberries is in their defense mechanism, many tiny velcro-like prickles with a few larger firmer thorns, to get at the really good ones I need to wear pants and in this heat that is challenging.

nasty little prickles

Thai Take out tray of Berries













I made raspberry syrup this afternoon and I will probably make raspberry pancakes one day this weekend (Sunday??).  Our house guests think it is really cool to go out into the yard pick a few berries, throw them in the blender with a few other things to have smoothies in the morning.
On top of raspberries, the Alpine strawberries just started producing yesterday...teeny, intensely flavored. A quarter of a fingernail sized berry made us all groan with delight.  Note to myself, I must plant more of these next year.
Alpine Strawberries- Mignonette

Apache Blackberry
Not all the berries are red, the Apache blackberries are ripening, there are only a few, but that is more than we were expecting.  The first one was disappointing, but we're going to wait an extra day or so for the next few, until they fall off the vine into our hands, just to make sure the sugar has fully developed.

Then there is the squash and melon patch, the land of the over achievers.

Raised bed garden in front yard
No nice, neat, rectangular garden to mow around!

We are still eating the zucchini bread and zucchini pickles, there are two big zukes on the counter and two more just about eating size in the garden.  The way those things grow they should be about the right size by sunset.  The cooking pumpkins are doing fabulously, two are almost ripe and there are dozens more headed that way.  If you have a good recipe that has pumpkin in it please send it along, I am going to need it.  After I'm done with this post I will be looking up how to cook squash blossoms, there are plenty of male blossoms out there, no sense in letting them go to waste!
The veggie garden in the back is coming along.  The first eggplant will be ready this week, the peppers are producing, the tomatoes have been waiting for some sunshine and we finally seem to have some, maybe they will ripen in the next few days.

Sweet Cooking Pumpkin

Yellow Pear Tomatoes


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How many Pageviews??

I love to read the statistics that are generated by my blog, the number of pageviews sorted by country, sorted by referring website and all.  The problem is that they don't add up.

 The section on the total number of pageviews is always significantly higher than the pageviews sorted for each posting (which I think gives me the most accurate count of readers), sometimes double or triple the number.  I wonder how that happens?

The referring websites sometimes make me a little nervous, I keep getting pageviews referred by a blog that was taken down some time ago.  Then there are the three  very different addresses that show a high number of pageviews that when I click on the links all three send me to a single weight loss page, the type which makes me rapidly click away, because it seems false..( I haven't written about anything on weight-loss, probably because I can't seem to lose any, I'm thinner, more toned, but  weigh two more pounds than when I started exercising and reforming my diet a year and a quarter ago.)

Then there are the web rating pages that assess the value of the webpage, they sometimes provide more hits than what I believe to be my actual readership.

The country of origin for the page views raises my eyebrows. Saudi Arabia?  Malaysia? Indonesia?  China? The Netherlands?  The Ukraine? (this country started showing up when I started commenting on the Boston Marathon bombing, is it a coincidence?) Brazil? A quarter of the hits this blog receives are from Russia, maybe there are a bunch of  folks in Russia who are really into my chickens (and I would love to hear from them if they are) but some how I doubt it.  Germany comes pretty high on the list also,  If anyone from those countries is reading my blog, I'd love to hear from them.  Actually, I'd love to hear from anyone who reads the blog, then I know that the pageviews aren't just webcrawlers, but real people!!!