Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fire Safety

My Mom had a very “exciting” weekend.  We’ve had some rain during the week and the burn ban was officially lifted for the county, so she went to burn some papers in the outdoor chiminea.  What seemed like a pretty safe & harmless thing to do turned out to be not such a good idea.  The wind was blowing & an ember blew out of the chiminea into the surrounding grass.  Mom was right there so she went to stomp it out, but the little spark turned into a flame & she couldn’t keep up with it.  In just a few seconds the wind had blown the spark into a trail of flames and it was moving too quickly for her to extinguish.  She called the neighbors to tell them to get their hoses out to protect their yards from the quickly moving flames and had Wally call the fire department.  The fire department got on scene with three brush trucks and quickly extinguished the grass fire.   
Mom is still very upset, and I’m sure she won’t be thrilled to know that I’ve blogged about it, but this gives me the opportunity to remind everyone about fire safety. 
Even with my Mom right there, a small spark turned about two acres of grass into a crunchy & blackened area.  If she were not there or if the volunteer fire department weren’t available as quickly as they were, it could have been a LOT worse.
Regardless if there isn't a burn ban, always make sure that the weather is perfect (yes, PERFECT) for conducting a controlled burn – even if it’s in an outdoor chimney / fireplace.  Check to see that the relative humidity is at least 40% - the higher the better.  Make sure that there is very, very little or no wind.  Do you have a water source & hose available?  Have you made a fire break?  Have you removed all combustibles from the burn area?  And of course, don’t leave a fire unattended.  If it’s going to be a larger burn, have you notified your local fire department?  Some areas may require a permit for burns.
We just started up our wood stove this evening.  There are a lot of people that heat with wood, either using an outdoor wood furnace or an indoor wood stove.  Is your wood pile far enough from your house?  It may be more convenient to have ricks of wood stored right by the house but it’s definitely not safe.  Is your indoor wood pile too close to the stove?  Do you have the proper flooring under your stove?  Around the stove?  If a spark gets out, do you have the means to immediately snuff it out safely?  Make sure to clean out the flu or chimney once a year.
Do you have a fire extinguisher by the stove AND in every room?  This sounds a bit overkill, but what happens if you’re in the bedroom & the fire is just beyond the bedroom.  An extinguisher in the kitchen won’t do you any good if the fire is between you & the kitchen.
Sorry if I’m sounding like a crotchety old nag, but I hope that someone may read this and say, “Hey, I forgot about that”.  Paul & I joined our local volunteer fire department a few years ago and the training we received (and continue to receive) has been very helpful to us.  Of course, don’t think my crummy little blog is going to prepare you for a fire.  Talk to your local fire department or city and see if there are any fire safety classes available.  It is well worth your time if you’re able to attend one of the classes.
Keep warm & safe!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

No. 2

I’ve had to chip ice out of the water buckets the past two mornings as it’s been in the lower 20’s overnight.  Can’t say I look forward to the rest of winter. Only good thing about it is that the chiggers & ticks are gone.  
Even though the ground was still a smidge smooshy, I went to rake out the area around the goat manger.  It’s probably been close to four months since I’ve cleaned up the hay around there & it definitely needed a good mucking-out.  As anyone who’s ever had the pleasure of owning a goat, you can attest to the fact that they are notorious wasters of hay.  I pitched out an unbelievable amount of trampled hay from the area around the manger.  It drives me to cursing every time I clean up after them.  I can’t imagine how many bales of perfectly good hay gets tossed & trampled around by those nit-picky buggers.  I even made the slats in the manger closer together this year so they can’t get their heads inside of it thinking that it would reduce the amount of spoiled hay.  Ha.
I’m hoping that once we get Ms. Melman & the mini-horse (still haven’t picked a name for him yet) in with them that they will pick through what the pompous-diva-goats don’t want.  Until then, I will continue my cursing about the discarded goat fodder and continue telling myself, “What wonderful compost this will make.”
Speaking of compost, Paul made me a different composting bin out of some wood pallets we acquired from a friend.  The one I originally made was made out of cattle panels & some boards, but it didn’t have a front so the chickens were constantly “aerating” it for me.  In other words, making a total mess out of it.  The chickens won’t be able to scratch around in this one, though I have found a few of them have made it up to the top.  But at least the stuff will stay inside the bin. 
One side is already filled and I’m not even half way finished with mucking out the goat area.  Even though it’s winter, it should have a good start as there is plenty of goat / chicken poop stomped in with the hay.  I think we’re going to have to make an additional larger pile somewhere farther out – away from the chickens.  There is so much stuff that can be composted around here if we just set up an area for it to cook.  We haven’t even started raking the leaves and during the summer months I’d like to start bagging up the grass from the mower & put that in the compost heap.  I’m also going to call a few of the local lawn care & tree service companies in town to see if they want to dump their yard waste at our place.  I called the local stables last year to see what they did with their used stall shavings / manure and they told me they charge by the pickup load.  Charge???  I don’t think so.  If it were free I’d probably go pick some up once in a while, but the heak if I was going to pay THEM for me to haul off their poop.  Goodness knows we’ve got enough poop around here (although any avid composter will tell you that there is never enough poop).  How many times can I type the word “poop” in one paragraph? 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thank Y'alls

Thanksgiving is usually quite the gluttonous day for us.  Since moving here, we try to get a wild turkey, but for reasons not quite understood, the benevolent DNR has decided that there aren’t enough turkeys around to justify a hunt.  For the past TWO years.  What a crock.  They must be counting turkey numbers in the town square because we (and other’s we’ve talked with) seem to be overwhelmed with the buggers. But I regress….

Turkey (store bought - again), a honey-baked ham, potato something-or-other, dressing, cranberry sauce, rolls, gravy, pie.  And of course, green bean casserole.  Is it even Thanksgiving without a green bean casserole?  I know my Mom is sick of it, even at once a year (maybe twice, I’m lucky if I can swing it again at Christmas), but I LOVE the stuff.   I could eat it once a week.  Really.
Since I’ve been old enough to host dinner, the cranberry sauce has been homemade.  It only takes a bag of cranberries, some water, sugar & about 15 minutes on the stove.  How could you NOT want to have freshly made cranberry sauce?  For reasons unknown to me, I think my Dad still prefers the canned stuff (ick, ick, icky!).  I have vivid memories of Thanksgiving’s past when the table would be set with Crazy Aunt Harriet’s finest dinnerware, a beautiful turkey, all the fixings…..and then the canned cranberry glop.  And it would be placed ceremoniously on one of the fine serving dishes, tell-tale ribbed markings still highly visible on the gelatinous mass.  Would it have killed somebody to just mash it up a bit so it at least LOOKS like it just wasn’t plopped out of a tin can???

We were hoping to have a large crowd this year, but our friends from Chicago couldn’t make it & a few other local guests we invited opted out.  Makes me wonder if it’s me or something.  Hmmmm.  Or it could be that I threatened my city-friend that I was going to serve woodchuck & goat instead of a Butterball.  The locals probably would HAVE come if I told them that.  So it was just Paul, Rhiannon, Grandma & Grandpa and me.  Although I still cooked for an army.  Can you say “Leftovers”?!?
Anyways.  All this heavy-duty eating eventually leads me to my favorite spot; the couch.  I think there is a picture after every Thanksgiving & Christmas dinner of me comatose on the couch.  Regardless of which house we happen to be at.  So if you ever invite me over for a Holiday Feast, make sure you have an extra couch for me to continue my “Oh my god I can’t believe I ate that much” tradition. 

So there I lay, and I think about how wonderful it is to have a loving family, great friends and a home in the country. 
Thank you Paul for putting up with my sometimes questionable homesteading antics.
Thank you Mom for giving me that extra push to get some of those “I’ll do it eventually” projects done (or at least started). But thank you most of all for you being a wonderful Grandma !
Thank you Dad & Christine for understanding my decision to move over 600 miles away from the both of you.  And for making the horribly long trips here to visit me.
Thank you Wally for taking the time to snap all those wonderful photos of Rhiannon (that I never remember to take).
Thank you Kathy for not ostracizing me because of my change of residence.  Oh, and for all those chocolates.  And the closet full of outfits for Rhiannon.
And to the rest of my family and friends, thanks for all those other things that I’m just too ignorant to remember.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
I’m going back to the couch now.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pies, Pies and more Pies

Getting ready for tomorrow’s feast.  I made three, yes three pies.  Or cakes, or whatever you want to call them.  There are only going to be five of us here tomorrow for dinner and one of us is under two years old.  Somebody’s going to end up in a sugar-induced diabetic coma.

Goat Cheese Cheesecake.  As we’ve had a surplus of goat milk / cheese here on occasion, I’ve found several recipes for a “ricotta” type cheesecake to use up our excess cheese.  This one is darned near simple enough for a two-year old to make.  3 cups of fresh goat cheese (a ricotta-like cheese I make using vinegar to set the curd & then just strain it), 3 eggs, 1 cup sugar, 1 Tbsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. lemon juice, ½ tsp. salt.  Mix it all together ‘till it’s fluffy & scoop it into a pre-baked pie shell or graham cracker crust.  I used a basic pie crust recipe with the addition of some sugar & cinnamon.  Think I may top it off with some blueberry compote or maybe a cranberry syrup tomorrow before serving.
Pecan Pie.  I always disliked it when there was too much “goo” in the pie and not enough nuts.  Come on, it’s PECAN pie, not goo pie.  I use the recipe in The Joy of Cooking but instead of just one cup of pecans, I put in two cups.  I used a basic pie crust for this.
Apple Something-or-Other.  I had made a double batch of the sweet pie crust for the cheesecake, so I had a ball of the sweet dough left over.  And I couldn’t just let it go to waste.  And the chicken bucket on the counter was full of stuff so I couldn’t put it in there without having an overflow problem.  And the dog just ate so I couldn’t give it to her.  And if I put it in the freezer I would more than likely forget about it.  Ok, I admit I was just looking for some other yummy thing to make.  So I baked the pie crust & went about looking for something to dump into it.  Found a jar of apple pie filling I canned two summers ago then topped it off with a crumbly crust made from melted butter, oatmeal, sugar, molasses and cinnamon.  Then just popped it in the oven to crunchy up the topping.
I hope these can make it through the night!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

End of the Seemingly-Endless Egg Extravaganza

Daylight has been waning for two months now and about half of the hens are molting. We used to have electricity to the barn (hillbilly style; long extension cords from the garage to the barn) which I would use to light the chicken coop just before dark.  Since the goats managed to pull one of the trees the cord was hanging from (I told you it was hillbilly), I took the extension cord down before one of the goats chomped through it and electrocuted itself.  So I haven’t had any supplemental light to trick the chickens into a longer laying cycle.
All this means not only do we have half-naked, ugly chickens running around, but our plethora of eggs has turned into somewhat of a shortage.  We’re still getting at least two, maybe four a day, but with winter just around the corner we’ll be getting even fewer than that. 
Breakfast almost always consists of some sort of egg dish; scrambled eggs, quiche, egg casserole, egg sandwiches, egg burritos.  I’m sure going to miss that.  I think we only had to buy store eggs twice the past two winters for baking or other dishes that required eggs when we were out.  If we’re totally out of eggs again this winter I’ll try to find somebody local with fresh eggs instead of stooping so low as to buy them from the grocery store.  Hello, my name is Carolyn, and I’m an Egg Snob.
Only three eggs today Mommy.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

PO'd Kitty

Two Thursday’s ago I caught a feral cat that was slinking around the chicken / goat area.  Ended up putting him in the garage in a large dog crate with some water, food, litter box & a bunch of fluffy towels.  I really don’t know if it was a he or she, but I’ll just call it a “him”.  I was hoping to gentle him up a bit but even after a week of trying, it was still just crazy.  I finally decided to move him to the barn so he’d have more room & so I could sit in there in hopes of getting the cat used to me.  I cleaned out one of the enclosed pens and put food, water, litter & a fluffy cat bed in there.  I donned welding gloves & DH’s Carhart jacket & went in the dog crate to relocate kitty to it’s new home.  That did NOT go well.  After getting bit (even through the welding gloves) & a small scratch on the face, a LOT of hissing / growling / howling and much fuss, I finally transferred the franticly ferocious feline to the barn stall.  I’ve never seen a cat go crazy like that; jumping around & climbing up the wire windows.  I left for a while to find him up in the rafters, gazing at me with eyes that said “I totally, totally hate your guts”.  Evening came & I fed the goats, put the chickens away & said goodnight to the cat.   

I went to milk the goats & let the chickens out yesterday morning & to check on insane-cat.  He had finished off an entire bowl of cat chow, pooped in the litter box, shredded up his blanket…..and was gone.  There was a loose section of chicken wire at the top of the enclosure & he had managed to squeeze through it to freedom. 
I’m a bit upset.  But mostly at myself.  I should have known after the botched cat-transfer that this cat was not going to, nor probably ever wanted to be tamed in the least bit (yes Paul, you were right, you’re always right, ok, now let it go).  I’ve made friends of dozens of “feral” cats in my suburban life, so this was a first at not being able to get a cat to warm up to me.  I have to remind myself that there are countless numbers of wild cats running around.  And not all of them want to have humans for companions or even close neighbors.  I’m sure that most of them are perfectly happy with what the forest provides for them and are able to have a wonderful life without me providing them with cat chow shaped like little fish and catnip-filled fake mice. 
I’m not sure what I’ll do if I find him wandering around here again; guess I’ll just deal with it then.  In the meantime, all I can say is, “Good luck to you, Mr. Insane-Cat.  And I’m sorry for pissing you off.”                                                                                                          

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Acorn Smoothies

We finally got some much-needed rain yesterday morning and light rain again today.  Not a lot, but I’ll take it.  The burn ban was also finally lifted, so just about everyone was burning leaves.  The scent of the burning leaves, stoked fireplaces and wet leaves filled the air with a wonder Fall Fragrance. 
I’ve been keeping Rhiannon busy by having her pick up acorns around the house.  Granted, she puts two in the bucket and immediately dumps them out again, but hey, it’s keeping her occupied for a while.  The ones that I pick & manage to keep in a bucket have been going to Pan (our Nigerian Dwarf buck) and the freezer goat in the backyard pen.  I put about two cups of them in with their grain rations.  They like it and it saves some money on feed so it’s a win-win situation.  I’ve also been giving them to our does as treats.  We’ve had a bumper crop of acorns this year so I’m hoping that the rain doesn’t sour them before I can pick up some more. 
The goats will eat the acorns whole, but the chickens can’t so I thought I’d try grinding them up for them.  I put a couple handfuls of acorns in my craft blender (i.e. cheap blender) and whizzed them until they were chopped up pretty fine.  
Took it out to the goat / chicken pen to see if the chickens would eat the acorn meal. The chickens didn’t even get a bite as the goats mobbed me at the gate & finished off the bowl.  So I went back in to blend up some more.  I dumped a bunch in their scrap bin, but they just kind’a picked at it.  After I put some whey in with it they seemed to be much more interested.  Acorn & Whey smoothies for the chickens!  What spoiled livestock I have.
I saved some of the blender acorns (minus the whey) for the goat’s evening feeding & everyone got some in their bowls.  Bowls were licked clean.  So from now until the acorns are gone I’m going to supplement some of their usual grain with the blender acorns during the evening feedings.  Gott’a love ‘dem A’kerns!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

BBQ Pork Sam-iches

Our fire department has a Pig Roast every year the first week in October and since there was leftover chopped pork, the firefighters each got a bag to take home.  So I stuck our bags in the freezer for a future fast meal.  Since I hadn’t taken anything out of the freezer yesterday, I took out the pork since it would be quicker to heat up (on the stove….still no microwave).  So we had BBQ pork sandwiches tonight.
1 ¼ cup milk (warmed)
1 egg, beaten
2 Tablespoons oil
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 ¾ cup flour
2 teaspoons yeast
After kneading, roll into balls & flatten them out just a bit on a greased cookie sheet.  Let rise until they look like, well, rolls.  Bake at 350 degrees for 9-12 minutes.  Makes 10 – 12.
BBQ Sauce
1 cup EACH, Brown Sugar, Ketchup
½ cup EACH, Water, Onion, Corn Syrup
½ Tablespoon EACH, Garlic Powder, Prepared Mustard
½ teaspoon EACH, Onion Salt, Celery Salt
¼ cup Molasses
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 can (6 oz.) Tomato Paste

Combine all into sauce pan or pot & mix until well blended.  Heat on medium until bubbly & hot.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Needful Things

I usually have a cup of hot tea every morning and today was no different.  And as usual, for one reason or another, I never get to drink it before it gets cold so I end up re-heating it several times before I hit the bottom.  So I pop my mug into the microwave, hit the Start button & instead of the normal humming sound, it makes an awful buzzing / grinding sound.  Immediately hit Stop & open door wondering if a fork or spoon or something unnatural to the interior of a microwave had managed to get in there.  Nope.  Just my harmless, cold cup of Vanilla Chai tea.  Hit the Start button again & the same horrible microwave-death-rattle resonates throughout the kitchen.  How bad could it be?  Maybe I’ll just ignore the funny noise, hope that the door doesn’t blow off or my head doesn’t get micro’ed while I’m sitting there staring at it. 

Well, Paul heard the racket & put the kibosh on the attempt to warm my tea.  And just in case I don’t heed his warning to NOT use the microwave, he unplugs it to make sure that I CAN’T use it.  No, it’s not like I couldn’t just plug the thing back in.  Well, I guess I could, but it’s one of those above the stove units & the plug is located way up in the wall behind a cabinet so it wouldn’t be easy to plug back in even if I wanted to.  My diabolical plan to continue using it when he’s outside has been foiled.
So, how does one re-heat a cup of tea sans microwave?  Get out a small sauce pan, dump the tea in it, heat it up on the stove & then attempt to pour heated tea back into mug without spilling all of it over the countertop.  I had to do this three times before I finished my tea.  I get sidetracked a lot and I don’t guzzle my hot beverages, so the re-heating of tea is done about half a dozen times a day. 
Hungry?  How about leftover spaghetti & veggies?  Sounds like a good lunch, I’ll just pot it into the micr…..oh, it’s broke.  Dump all into a sauce pan, turn on heat to low so it doesn’t scorch, keep stirring it so spaghetti doesn’t stick to bottom of pan, and continue stirring until it finally becomes barely lukewarm.  Warm up the tortillas for Mu Shu Pork dinner?  No probl……..oh yeah.  Yes, I know it sounds pathetic.  It’s not like I have to start a fire in a wood cookstove or anything, we have an electric stove so I just turn the dial & viola – instant heat.  I suppose I’ve taken my microwave for granted all these years.  My apparent lack of appreciation caused its little microchip feelings to be hurt so it had finally forsaken me. 
I had been wanting to get a smaller counter-top microwave eventually.  The one above the stove takes up too much room & I can just barely get my pressure canner to fit on the stove because of it.  So I guess it’s not all that bad….now I have an excuse to get rid of it & replace it with a smaller vent / hood.
We’re going to the “big” town to pick up some tractor parts & stock up the pantry sometime this week.  Maybe we’ll come home with a microwave.   And this time I’ll try to say nice things to my new time-saving, food-warming appliance.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Vexed sailors cursed the Rain, for which poor shepherds prayed in vain. - Edmund Waller

It finally rained last night, but it was light & lasted maybe fifteen minutes; barely enough to keep the dust down on the gravel roads. The past week we’ve been seeing overcast skies, but no precipitation.  I can’t remember the last time we got a good rain.  According to the local newspaper, the area only received ½ an inch of rain in October, and I don’t think our place even saw that much.  It’s been a chore just to keep the new fruit trees watered, not to mention depressing as I’m pretty much watering what look like big sticks now that the leaves have fallen off.  It also drives my Mom crazy because every time she comes to visit, it looks like her car was next to Mount St. Helens in '80.
Been working on the bedroom flooring.  Of course, it’s taking a lot longer than I had expected.  But hopefully we’ll finish reinstalling the doors & trim tomorrow.  
The stray has been eating & drinking well & even warming up to me a little bit.  Still don’t know if it’s a he or a she as I’ve only been able to touch it on the head for a second before it freaked out.  Other than that, nothing really exciting happening.
Took a neat picture a few nights ago & thought I’d share it with everyone:

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kitty n' Granola

Well, it took less than an hour to catch the stray cat in the live trap last night so I set up one of the animal crates in the garage with litter, food & water & let him out of the trap into that.  At least there’s more room in there & a bit warmer. 
I called the local Humane Society this morning.  They only take strays that are in the city limits & told me to call the county animal control.  How nice.   I called the county animal control & they said if it’s wild they just take it to the vet & put it down.  Well, it’s definitely not sitting on my lap purring, but what cat would be after being dumped off, hungry, tricked into walking into a metal trap & then put into another cage in an unfamiliar area.  I’m going to spend a little more time with it when Paul’s home to watch Rhiannon & see what happens.  It’s eaten some more chicken & cat chow & last I checked was sleeping on the pile of towels Paul put in the crate.   I still have to call the local vet offices to see if anyone is looking for a barn kitty and I’ll put an ad in the local paper.  Basically a shot in the dark, but you never know.

Rhiannon & I made some Granola this afternoon.  Oatmeal, puffed rice, puffed wheat, dried coconut flakes, sunflower seeds, raisins & some cinnamon.  Pretty boring, but I’m out of a lot of dried goodies.  Guess it’s time to place a bulk foods order again.
I usually make the granola with a honey / maple syrup solution, but I wanted to try making my own sugar syrup.  As usual, I didn’t use any recipe so I just dumped a bunch of sugar, molasses and a little bit of water in a pot & heated it up.  Added some veggie oil, a bit of vanilla, some honey powder, dumped it all in the huge bowl of dried ingredients and stirred away.  Put it in the oven for about 40 minutes at 275 degrees & stirred once in a while.  Guess I didn’t let the syrup mixture heat up enough as there were still sugar crystals present in the mixture.  Oh well, it still tastes good.  Can’t wait to make some yogurt so I can sprinkle granola on top.  Or just eat it with some milk.  Or put it on some ice cream.  Or as a topping on cobbler.  Or pie.  Or……..

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Paul's gonna KILL me!

Hi, my name is Carolyn......

Went to Shut up the Chickens.  Or, in other words, I went outside to shut the door to the chicken coop & to make sure all were inside safe & snug.  As it was already dark, I had my handy-dandy flashlight with me and did a sweep of the immediate area near the goat / chicken coop.  And peering out from under the coop were two shining green eyes.  Of course, I always forget to bring a firearm with me.  I know I should make it a habit but I’m either too lazy or just forgetful.  Anyhow, I jog back to the house, grab the .22 and head back out to the barn where those green eyes are still staring at me.  We haven’t had any raccoons or opossums lately – at least none that have taken to snacking on our poultry so I was a bit surprised.  I make sure I know where all the goats are – they’re all in the corner of the goat pen as just about anything freaks them out – then duck down to get a better look at exactly what kind of animal is crouched under the barn.  It runs out & scales the fence like nothing.  Kind’a weird.  A raccoon isn’t that fast & the opossums just kind of pace back & forth on the fence line when encountered. 
So I go back in the house and trade the .22 for some pieces of leftover chicken to put in the live trap.  Before I can set the trap, the green eyes are back, but this time just outside of the pen.  And they belong to a small cat.  Now what am I supposed to do?  I’m not going to shoot a cat unless it was a bobcat and even then I feel really, really badly about it.  Why am I such a sucker for cats?  Why is it any different putting a bullet between the eyes of a opossum than it is of a stray feline?
So I set the trap with some chicken, scatter some pieces around the trap & take another look-see around.  The cat is now hiding under one of the trucks.  So I do what any feline fanatic would; “Here kitty, kitty, kitty”.  Nothing.  But it’s not running away.  “Here kitty, kitty, kitty” and I move a bit closer until it scoots out from under the truck into the woods.  At almost the exact same time I hear the scream & hoot of our local Barred Owl. 
What to do now?  Being a self-proclaimed crazy-cat-lady I have several things going through my head.  I hope that s/he gets trapped before the owl makes a snack out of it.  But then what?  Do I take it to the local “humane” society (where they will probably eventually put it down anyhow)?  Ask around if anyone wants a stray cat (very unlikely)? Try to tame it & keep it as a barn cat?  Paul is already giving me the “eye”.  Meaning “I’m going to divorce you if you bring in any more stray animals”. 
I’m actually a bit surprised that we haven’t had any strays dumped here already.  It seems that’s just what people do around here; find a stray animal, chuck in it the pickup truck, take a little drive to the outskirts of town & dump it down a dead end road.  This fits the description of our place exactly.
We, or rather I, have a 14 year old indoor cat and two 3-5 year old indoor / outdoor cats.  The in/out cats basically go in & out of the house – like six million times a day – but are kept inside at night.  I know that we have some mice in the barn so it WOULD be nice to have a cat in the barn.  I could keep the cat food and water in the barn & I could also lock it up at night with the rest of the goats / chickens so everyone would be safe & warm.  Assuming that it doesn’t eat the chickens.  Or freak out the goats.  Or the other in/out cats get in a fight with it.  Or I become attached and want to bring it into the house.  At which point I will be homeless because Paul will have kicked me out.
Ugh.  Hi, my name is Carolyn and I’m a crazy-cat-lady.  And I have the mug to prove it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Na-a-a-a-a. Na. Na. NAAAAAAAAAAA! Na, naaa, naa. Na. N-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A ..aaaaaa. Na. naa. Or “Will you PLEASE shut up already!”

Annette had been in heat yesterday & the day before.
Ask me how I know.
Nettie was bred just under a month ago and Annette was in heat at almost the same time, though I didn’t have her bred.  I’m trying to have all three does kid about three to four weeks apart, not only so they will each have the kidding stall several weeks to themselves, but because I’m going to try to have milk year-round next year.  It’s somewhat of a relief to have a couple of months off milking, especially in the dead of winter.  But it’s such a bummer to not have any fresh milk.  I’d freeze some milk for the off time, but we really don’t have enough freezer space to do that.  Especially if Paul gets a deer or two in the freezer this season (hint-hint Paul, if you’re reading this).  I have, however, been freezing some of the ricotta cheese since it’s practically coming out my ears.  I really need to make a lasagna or two & put that in the freezer.
I took little Miss I’m-not-gonna-shut-up-until-I-see-my-boyfriend out of the main goat area to the buck pen.  Where Mr. Stink-o, aka Pan, was wearing a trench on the fence line from pacing back & forth.  I had Annette on a lead & just stayed there until it looked like Pan hit the mark & she did the archy-back thing twice.  Did the same thing yesterday.  I debated keeping her in the buck pen, but changed my mind after remembering how utterly stinky Nettie was when I left her down there for just half a day (see “Goat Wash” blog if you missed it).
Annette has been so worked up the past two days that I got under half the milk I normally get from her.  Not only has she been relentlessly yelling, but she’s been off her feed.  I just got in from milking just a bit ago & she’s just now starting to seem interested in eating her grain. 
Oh, and I think Ishtar is in heat now.  It’s been kind’a difficult to figure out her heat cycle.  Both Nettie & Annette have white skin on their behind, so even if they weren’t yelling or tail flagging, I can usually tell because they get a little pink back there.  Ishtar has black splotches on her nose, udders and behind, so it’s not as easy to tell from the color of her rear.  And she doesn’t yell either, maybe just a little bit of tail wagging.  So I’m going to mark my calendar for three weeks from now & have her bred then.  Although I still haven’t decided if I’m going to try to line up another Saanen buck for her or just breed her to Pan (a Nigerian Dwarf) again. 
Ah, the trials and tribulations of Goat-Luv’n.
I’m going to go get me a tall glass of milk now.
No kitty, that’s MY glass of milk.
*heard off in the distance (Naaa...na.  NA A A A A A)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Farmers get up before dawn & other such nonsense

Well, maybe it’s that way for other people, but it sure doesn’t work like that around here.  I’m up before dawn only if I know there will be a lot of things going on during the day, if something really noisy wakes me, or if Rhiannon and I are somehow already up with Paul (who does, in fact, get up before dawn).  Paul is constantly after me to wake up early so I can take care of the animals.  I see no problem with milking the goats at 8 or even 9 am as opposed to before the sun has even peeked over the horizon.  As long as everyone gets milked, fed, watered, etc. every day in a somewhat scheduled fashion, I figure I’m doing great!  Besides – chickens don’t wear watches.  Although with the time change this weekend, I may have to check their little feet for a Timex because they were giving me the “chicken eye” when I went to let them out this morning – an hour later than normal.

There are only two things I'm really adamant about; processing the goat milk & keeping track of breeding / kidding dates.  Up until just recently I had been selling some of my extra goat milk and Rhiannon has been drinking it, so I was a bit paranoid about not making anyone sick.  So I try extra hard to keep everything squeaky clean & get the milk in the freezer quickly. 
Since I'm such a worry wart, having accurate breeding dates keeps me calm(er).  Otherwise I'd be in the barn for weeks just waiting for the goats to pop.  Granted, I'm much better now at detecting the signs of impending goat-labor, but I'd still be checking on them fifty times a day if I wasn't sure when they were due to kid.
Other than those two things, I guess I’m pretty lax about chores around here.  Is that good?  Bad?  Don’t know.  But that’s just how it’s going now. Goodness knows that our garden would supply better yields if I were weeding more. Would I have lost so many blueberry bushes if I did a soil analysis first?  Watered them more?  Maybe the goats could enjoy more fresh hay if I weren’t too lazy to bag up the green stuff for them instead of letting it just get blown out the mower.  The wood cook stove is still sitting in the basement instead of outside in the "future" summer kitchen.  The house is in a constant state of sorta-clean and sorta-finished. 
But our freezer and pantry are full.  We have fresh eggs, milk, cheese.  Homemade bread with wild grape jelly.  Paul has a job in this bummer of an economy.  My family loves me.  And what would I aspire to do next if all were “perfect” around here?  How completely boring that would be!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I've been busy. Really, I have!

Not that I really have to justify my reasons for not blogging, but it makes me feel a little less guilty if I can make a legitimate excuse.
For those of you who haven’t heard me complaining (or screaming) about the lack of “proper” floor coverings in the living room & bedroom, I’ll give you a synopsis:  When we bought this house five years ago, the inside was pretty disgusting.  The previous owners had cats, not because I knew them, or saw said felines, but because the owners left buckets of used litter & other such tell-tale clues inside the house.  This included stained & practically saturated carpeting.  I hate carpeting.  I hated carpeting before this house, but this just made my irrational hatred towards an inanimate object even more intense.  So the first thing I did was to rip the carpeting out of the entire first floor.  And when I say entire first floor, I mean that to include the kitchen and bathrooms.  Come on.  Who puts carpeting in a bathroom?  And this was the really thick carpeting.  Yeah, I know it feels real soft & fuzzy on your feet in the winter, but for goodness sakes……pee gets on the carpet in the bathroom – I don’t care how careful you are about your aim – pee still gets on the carpet!  Ok, I've finished venting.  And I apologize if some of you have carpet in your bath or kitchen.  If it works for you, great.  But it obviously isn’t for those of us who are either not very clean, or have animals & live on a farm.
When the carpeting was gone, we realized why it was probably put down in the first place (besides being cheap).  There is a hump in the middle of the house going from one end to the other.  Putting anything other than carpeting down would mean that the main beam of the house (the cause of the hump) would have to be fixed.  And as we soon realized, that was not going to be an easy, or cheap, thing to do.  So between a mixture of procrastination, lack of funds and general heated arguments between Paul and I, the floor remained pretty much the same as after the carpeting-exile.  At one point I painted the floors so it didn’t look so hillybilly-ish, but it still looked like, well, painted plywood underlayment.
So, to continue telling you about exactly why I haven’t been blogging…..
I finally bought some laminate flooring & started installing it in the bedroom this week.  I’ve always liked the idea & look of real wood flooring, but after much deliberation and some of my own testing (i.e. gouging, cutting, scraping, setting aflame) of the materials, I figured the laminate was the way to go.  It’s a wide-plank “hand-scraped oak”.  It’s slow going as I’ve never done it before, but it isn’t rocket science.  After it’s been in for a while, I’ll decide if we’re going to put that in the rest of the house.  Hopefully it won’t take too long.

Installing flooring wasn’t the only thing going on here.  One of Paul’s co-workers was nice enough to give us a box of pears so I canned them and got eight quart jars.  I can never pack them tight enough to avoid such a large “empty” space at the bottom after they’ve been processed.  I wonder if I should just smoosh them in the jars, but I’d hate to bruise the fruit in the process.  I used a light syrup to pack them in (one cup sugar for every two cups water) and water bath canned them for 30 minutes.  I’d like to try and make some spiced pears if we are lucky to get any more & have them for Christmas.

Since we’d been pretty busy, I hadn’t defrosted anything from the freezer for dinner so I made homemade corn dogs.  I haven’t had a corn dog in years so I thought it would be a nice treat. 
Corn Dog Batter
1 Cup Flour
1 Cup Cornmeal
1 teaspoon EACH, Salt & Baking Powder
4 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Eggs
3/4 Cup Milk (I put in just a bit more)
Take your hot dogs, cut them up now if you want smaller ones, then dry them off.  Put them in a bag of flour, shake it up then brush off almost all of the flour.  Dip them in the batter & fry them in a pan of oil until browned then place on a paper towel lined plate and enjoy!. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween & 'Za

Guess what we had for dinner over the weekend?
It’s definitely NOT Chicago pizza, but it’s darned good anyhow.  I would have put more goat cheese on top, but I didn’t want the racks in the oven to buckle with the weight.
Pizza Dough
1 Tablespoon Yeast
1 ½ Cups warm water
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons oil
4 cups flour
Pinch of sugar
Pizza Sauce – mix following ingredients together
1 can (6 oz.) Tomato Paste
½ cup water
1 teaspoon EACH, Oregano, Basil, Salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon oil
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese
I use half of the dough for the actual pizza & the other half I roll out onto a baking sheet for breadsticks.  I brush olive oil on the dough then sprinkle with garlic salt & parmesan cheese  & cut into sticks.  The pizza dough is rolled out & put onto a mesh pizza screen.  I let both of them rise for at least 30 minutes in a warm spot.  Bake in 375 degree oven.  About 12 minutes for the dough, then take it out to put on the sauce, cheese and toppings & stick it back in the oven until cheese / toppings are done.  Keep the breadsticks in the oven until browned. 
My Mom’s church is had a “Trunk or Treat” in their parking lot yesterday evening.  You bring your vehicle & decorate the trunk (or bed of the truck in our case) and hand out Halloween goodies to the kids.  I thought that was a great idea.  There are a lot of kids who live out in the country & can’t really go door-to-door for Halloween trick or treating.  Goodness knows the five years we’ve been here there has never been a trick-or-treater come down to our house.  I’m sure there have been other things like this in the past, but not having a child before, I never took note of it. 
I didn’t decorate the truck like I had originally planned, just kind of tossed it together at the last minute.  But we brought lots of toys & candy so I don’t think the kids even noticed our “Blah” truck.  Next year we’ll bring the “Haunted Trailer” to the event…..if I don’t procrastinate like I did this year.
There were lots of vehicles decorated & some even had games to play for candy / prizes.  Someone even brought two of those huge blow-up jumpy / slide things.  Which Rhiannon could NOT get enough of.  I stayed in the jumping area with her so she wouldn’t get smooshed by the older kids, and even after I thought she had totally exhausted herself, she would just scream like a banshee if we took her out.  
Hope everyone had a great Halloween!