Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Zombie Mixer

After only four loaves of bread and three batches of cookies, my KitchenAid broke down again.

It hasn't really been the same since Paul took it apart & replaced the worm gear.  Didn't sound the same and didn't have the same "oomph" it used to have.  I was able to make 1/2 whole wheat 1/2 white bread with the mixer only complaining a little, but when I tried a 3/4 whole wheat bread, it vocalized it's protest quite loudly and eventually just bit the dust.

Paul took it apart again and the worm gear that was just replaced was already worn.  Luckily I bought two of them when I placed the order so we had the part on hand for immediate re-assembly, but it makes me wonder why the gear lasted fifteen years, but the replacement lasted only hours.  Is something else causing the gear to wear or is it just crappy replacement parts (I did use "authentic" KitchenAid parts)?

After my personal mechanic put the mixer back together, I went back to using it.  But this time I made sure I made my cookie doughs first, then went on to 1/2 whole wheat breads.  And the mixer is starting to protest already.  After only four bread doughs.  I do not want to be without a mixer for our annual Cookie Baking Bonanza next month, so I figured I'd just have to - oh the horror - knead dough by hand.   So now I have a mixer that isn't quite "alive", but not yet dead.

I did, however, pick up a used all-in-one bread makers for $10 and if I venture out to town again I'm going to hit the resale shops to see if there are anymore I can pick up.  I'm not sure if they will be able to handle a 100% whole wheat bread.  But even if it can take some of the load off my mixer, I'll use them for my bread baking until I decide what the fate of my existing KitchenAid and do a little more research (i.e. procrastinate) on a new mixer that can actually handle a loaf of my whole wheat bread.

Or, I can just make bread like people have been doing for the past, say, million years.  I'll probably have less fresh bread around the house....but then I'll probably end up with less "dough" around my midsection.  Which is probably definitely a good thing.

Friday, November 22, 2013

An Early Christmas (Goose).....


"Why I hate Geese"

Sorry Mom, but his butt is all but cooked.  Or smoked.  Haven't decided which one yet.  And unless I get distracted / lazy / preoccupied, his time on this earth is now measured in mere days.

I honestly believe we tried pretty darned hard to keep Pew-Pew a "nice" goose.  Rhiannon or I hand fed him grain, petted him, gave him a kiddie pool to swim in and tried to treat him like a pet as opposed to just livestock.  Then a few months ago he started running after Rhiannon.  He would chase the car when Paul came home from work and even run up behind him trying to bite him.  Of course, we gave Pew-Pew a swift kick in the gooseass if he bit us or went after Rhiannon, but other than that, he was far from abused.

It's not like I haven't given Pew-Pew a dozen or more chances to prove that he isn't, in fact, a total butthole.  And honestly, now I feel a bit guilty that I haven't wrung his neck sooner.  Rhiannon will not even go out in the yard unless Pew-Pew is locked up with the goats.  And if he is outside the pen and Rhiannon & he happen to cross paths, she starts running and crying.  She won't step off the porch to get in the car unless Paul, Grandma or I are there to make sure the pathway is goose-free.  My mother thinks I'm horrible for wanting to lop his head off (even though just yesterday he attacked her), but I really do feel guilty for keeping an animal around that totally terrifies my child.

I worked with a woman that told me she wouldn't go into the goat / chicken pen because she's afraid of chickens.  I didn't understand how anyone could be afraid of a stupid, practically flightless, overweight bird that she probably eats on a regular basis.  She said she was traumatized as a child by having to collect eggs on her grandparent's farm and the chickens would peck her or flap after her. And now because of me, sometime in the future, Rhiannon will be confiding in her best friend that she is terrified of geese.  Because years ago her mother kept an evil bastard goose that would run after her and bite her and whack her with his wings.

Rhiannon & Pew-Pew in happier days.
When he wasn't a total prick.
Sometimes I decide to leave the goose in the goat / chicken pen so Rhiannon can actually play out in the yard.  About two weeks ago I've noticed that he's even chasing the goats while he's in the pen.  I was secretly hoping that one of them would stomp his feathered butt into the ground or bust his skull with a well-placed horn (thus making my decision to have impromptu goose for supper that very evening an easy one), but he actually holds his ground.  And after watching him at it for a while just this evening, I think he's trying to breed them.  He'll walk up to them when they've got their heads in a feed bucket or in the manger, kind'a peck at their hindquarters and then try to "walk" up their back.  And when the goats finally get sick of it and swing their heads around to say "That's freaking enough!", he gets mad and bites at their faces and chases them around.

I feed Pew-Pew each and every morning & evening.  I'm not sure if he has been civil with me because of that, or because the time he did show aggressive behavior I punted his butt across the yard.  But apparently cracked corn only goes so far to keep a goose's behavior in check because last week I got a nasty bite on the forearm and this evening when taking the empty grain bucket from him, he bit me in the ass as I walked away.  Oh, and did I mention that he is even louder and more vocally annoying that even Pickles?  I never thought I'd find another animal that would out "yell" Pickles.  He just won't shut up.  I don't even think I've heard Pickles in the last month.  Which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing except her bleating is just drowned out by the stupid honking.

So there's my reasoning for planning a dinner based upon the carcass of a once-unbelievably-cute, flappy-footed pet.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

I've given up hunting

Had to do a reality check this past week.  I was hoping to get just one more squirrel to fill up the frying pan so I brought out the .22 when I saw one out back by the feeder.  Took my time, took aim, and missed.  Not once, not twice, but three times.  Squirrels ain't the brightest rodents around, and will often just jump a little bit when a shot goes off nearby, so my shots were actually on the same individual.

Talk about embarrassing.  And pathetic.  There was no way I was going to continue hunting if I could not be relatively sure of my shots.  Wounding a squirrel to run off into the woods to slowly die is bad enough, there was no way I was going to chance an off shot with a deer.

It was obviously time to do some practice shooting.

Paul set up some targets and I plinked away.  Did some adjusting on the sights.  Did some more plinking.  Adjust sights.  Plink.  And then when I was somewhat satisfied at my grouping, I stopped for the day.

Day two & plinked some more with the .22.

Day three, more plinking.

I'm disappointed in myself.  There is no reason that I couldn't be practicing once a week.  And until I get a better, more consistent grouping on my targets, the squirrels and deer will be getting a reprieve (much to the relief of my mother).

So.  When was the last time YOU practiced with your firearm(s)?  Are you confident enough to take that squirrel at 60 yards?  Are you sure that the shot you're about to take on that big buck is going to drop him right away, or will you have to track him down for hours, or worse, lose him to die a slow and painful death?

I don't want that to happen to me, so I'm off to practice some more.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Competing for Supper

Last week I noticed a a Red tail hawk hanging around the house.  Like, close enough that I could easily throw a rock and hit it.  And I've been having the "shoot or don't shoot" debate in my head.  Back in my Suburban Days, I would have never, ever even thought about blasting a hawk.  But back then, I didn't have tasty livestock that were vulnerable to the razor sharp beak and talons of the raptor family.

We've had a couple of sharp shinned hawks hanging out here over the summer, but they weren't nearly as close to the house and chickens and I honestly wonder if they are big enough to take a hen.  Regardless, I've been known to take the shotgun outside and blast a warning shot to scare them off.

The Red tail, however, was much, much bigger and much more tolerant of my yelling and arm waving.  And I know why he was staying around here.  The squirrels have been going bonkers lately, stuffing their little rodent maws with acorns and shoving them into some hidden cache in the woods.  There were a crapload of squirrels.  Like, one could almost step on them while walking through the woods.

So I suppose I can't blame Mr. Red tail for his preference of perching areas as the potential for a squirrel supper was probably pretty good.  And the fact that he hasn't plucked the little rooster chick from the goat yard is good news.

Since we didn't want the Red tail to have all the fun (and meat), Paul and Rhiannon took a little hike behind the house yesterday evening and got a nice, plump squirrel.

Not enough to make supper out of, but I'm hoping if the winds ever die down today I'll be able to get another two and we'll be eating high on the hog, er, I mean, squirrel.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Deep Down Freeze

I just LOVE my big chest freezer.  Nineteen cubic feet of space to keep homegrown, wild and store bought goodies preserved at a nippy zero degrees Fahrenheit.

There are, of course, disadvantages of having that much food in there.  The most recent disadvantage that comes to mind is having to pull something out of the very bottom of the freezer:

I can jussssst reach the bottom if I stand on one foot and lean over into the chest.  My latest freezer grab was a package of pork sausage.  Way at the bottom.  Because we're almost out.  (Quiet sobbing)

Other obvious disadvantages are reliance on an uninterrupted power supply and the fact that we tend to occasionally lose items in there to freezer burn.  Charlie and the chickens don't so much mind that as they have some mighty fine dining when a freezer burnt meal comes their way, but it's food that we could have eaten and money down the drain.  And when the power does go out, we can only manage to go three days (depending on the ambient room temperature) without having to pull out the generator and power the freezer up.  During the ice storm in 2009, we were without power for thirteen days.  The generator wasn't used to run the well, provide hot water or keep us in electric lighting, but to keep our chest freezers operating.  Of course, just weeks earlier we put a half steer and a hog in there.

Even though the freezer is still pretty much full now, it is not entirely filled with food items.  When we take food items out, we replace it with a soda bottle filled with water.  A full freezer operates more efficiently.  And if the power were to go out, all those frozen soda bottles will keep the freezer colder for longer.

Deer season has already started here.  Hopefully we'll fill our deer tags and have another hog sent to the butcher in the very near future so venison and bacon will soon replace those frozen bottles.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Last Minute Suppers

I normally like to have supper at the kitchen table.  Meat, veggies, bread on real plates and cloth napkins.  I try to have it ready when Paul gets home from work so we can all sit together as a family and relax a bit.  But sometimes (ok, more than just sometimes) circumstances warrant that the supper not only be a quick & easily prepared meal, but one served on tv trays in front of the television.

Rhiannon has been sick for a while and although she's getting better, today was an "off" day.  And I was trying to catch up on housework so it was getting pretty late in the afternoon before I had even though of what I was going to make for supper.  So I went with one of my "OMG, what am I gonn'a make" favorites.  Sloppy Joe Pie.

I grabbed a sleeve of ground beef from the depths of the freezer (and almost got lost in there), chucked it in a pot on the stove and turned the heat on.  While the beef was cooking, I folded a load of laundry, went to the pantry and (luckily) found a can of Sloppy Joe mix, opened it up and plopped it in the pot of cooked ground beef and kept it on low.

Whipped up a batch of biscuits, threw another load of clothes in the washer.  Rescued a dinosaur from the clutches of the "bad" dinosaur gang and helped Rhiannon put them in jail (i.e. pillows propped up against the couch).

After incarcerating the velociraptors, I went back in the kitchen to finish up our evening meal.  Which basically meant pouring the sloppy joe mixture into a baking dish, slapping some American cheese on top, then dropping spoonfulls of the biscuit mix on top of that.  Popped that sucker into a 400 degree oven, went outside to feed the goats & shut up the chickens, came back inside and served everyone a steaming hot bowl of Sloppy Joe Pie while we watched The Empire Strikes Back.
Dinner and a Movie with Annabelle Rhiannon

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Burning through Daylight Savings

I hate Daylight Savings.  I mean, really.  Not only because it's darker "earlier", but because every stinking year I tell myself that although I will set the clocks back an hour I will still get up at the "normal" time, thus giving myself an extra hour of time to do something-or-other.  This is just as bad as my New Year's Resolution to get up earlier and exercise and not eat so many cookies, etc., etc., etc.

This "getting up earlier" never seems to last for long anyhow (maybe slightly longer than my no-cookies resolution) and then four months later after being accustomed to waking up at the appointed hour, I lose an hour of sleep in order to go back to the previous time schedule.

The goats don't care if it's 6 o'clock or 7 o'clock.  They want to be fed.  Like now.  The chickens are obviously indifferent to the numbers on my watch as the darned roosters will start crowing hours before sunrise and then they march their little feet into the coop about ten minutes before dark regardless of how many times the little wooden cuckoo pokes it's head out of my wooden wall clock. And the cat will wake me up to be fed exactly one hour before the alarm rings, the first stinking morning after the time change (how the hell do they know???).

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all run our lives based upon nature's clock instead of the one on our cellphones?  Back in the olden days, I suspect that is how it happened.  And back in the really, really olden days, I'm betting that once the sun went down, you'd better be hunkered down in your cave or teepee or sod house before the wolves and other nocturnal predators came looking for a late night homo sapien snackie.

But now we've got time clocks to punch, schedules to keep and electricity to light up the darkness when we would normally be hitting the pillow.  All in an attempt to make a day somehow contain twenty-five hours.

Where was I going with this anyways?  You know.....I have no idea.

Maybe I'm just up too late.  But it's "really" only 11 pm instead of midnight, so that's ok.
I'll get around to changing the clock....

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Near Death Experience of an Old (kitchen) Friend

Today, during the bread dough mixing portion of my baking marathon, I noticed a louder than usual noise coming from my beloved KitchenAid mixer (Heavy Duty, 325-watt version).  I turned off the mixer and readjusted the ball of dough in the bowl.  Turned it on again.  Noise was worse.  Then before I could stop it, IT stopped.  Of course, in the middle of my dough-mixing.  Had to finish two loaves by hand (oh, the humanity!!  I know, I know, I'm lazy).

After putting the loaves into the oven, I started my diagnostic evaluation of what was wrong with my mixer.  By putting my flour, honey, salt, yeast and measuring cups away......and calling for Paul.

Oh, my poor KitchenAid
While he was taking apart the mixer, I went online to see if there were any documents or diagrams that I could pull up and found quite a few sites that said the problem was probably with the worm drive gear (whatever the hell that is).  And as Paul pulled some more stuff off the mixer, it did indeed appear that the wormdrivegearthingy was the culprit in my KitchenAid catastrophe.  
Red arrow showing where the worn part is, just in case you were wondering.
It's a nylon (i.e. hard plastic) gear that was worn down to practically nothing on one side, thus causing the mixer to not so much mix anything thicker than pudding.  Apparently the worn gear was no longer able to put up with my heavy whole wheat oatmeal honey bread.

As Paul cleaned the grease off the parts, he found a part number conveniently stamped on the gear.  He continued with his mechanic-ing and I pulled up a few sites that had KitchenAid parts, found the most economically friendly one, and now for the low-low price of only $9.96 I will again have a fully functioning well as having a spare gear on hand!

Although I was glad that my wonderful, intelligent, sexy, mechanically inclined husband was able to figure out the problem and order the replacement parts, I do have to admit that I was secretly hoping the mixer was toast so I could buy a bigger, better one.  Oh well.  At least we didn't have to fork out $400.

Maybe Santa will shove a KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer (available with free shipping via Amazon, just in case somebody was wondering...hint-hint) down the chimney in a few years.