Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Over the river

We weren't able to decorate cookies last night, due to Number Three Son's Tae Kwon Do testing running late. He tested for his blue belt and passed with flying colors. Three kicks to break his board, which is pretty awesome considering he was doing a step-behind-side-kick to break. He is always on such a high after testing, it is a huge ego boost for him to succeed. I love it.

So, we decorated cookies this afternoon. I whipped up some colored icing and fished out the sprinkles, chocolate chips and M&Ms from the cupboard. Surprisingly, most of the icing did end up on the gingerbread men rather than on my monkeys. Great fun was had and the sugar high from snitching candy and licking iced fingers only lasted for an hour or so.

Even Hubby participated in the decorating. While baking them on Saturday, I had experimented with pressing some of the dough through a garlic press, trying to make gingerbread hair. On one of the cookies I used the 'hair' to make a long beard. After baking, hubby and I realized this particular 'man' looked very much like an 'Ood,' which for those of you who aren't Dr. Who fans (you poor souls), is a particular alien with face tendrils. So hubby laid claim to that cookie and decorated it appropriately.

It may be awhile before I post again; tomorrow morning we are all heading over the river (several rivers, in fact) and through the woods (again, many different woods) to Grandmother's house for Christmas. It will be a lovely, family-filled holiday and we are all looking forward to it. I just hope the heavy snow holds off until we get there ...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Morning so far

I woke up late to the smell of pancakes. Downstairs the boys are just finishing their breakfast and hubby hands me a plate and a cup of tea. Owen and Graham rush back upstairs to play and Benjamin climbs up to sit on my knee while I eat.

Benjamin tells me 'I want a snack' and points to the countertop. 'You just ate breakfast' I say. Benjamin says 'I want one of those' and slides off my knee to point to the tupperware full of naked gingerbread men that I baked last night. 'You can't have one of those,' Hubby says. Benjamin's face begins to pout. I tell him, 'We'll decorate those when I come home.'

'But I already have one,' he says. Hubby and I look at eachother. 'Can you open that container, Benjamin?' Hubby asks. Benjamin grabs the tupperware and pries off the lid in mere seconds. 'Did you already have one of those this morning?' I ask him. 'Yes, I did.' He is very pleased with himself. I smile. 'Well, no more until later.' 'Okay,' he says and scampers off to find his brothers.

A little bit later I bundle up and head out to work. We've gotten a few inches of new snow since last night, light airy snow that brushes easily from my windshield. Sally Cat and Calico run toward me, hoping for table scraps. Sorry kitties, we ate all the pancakes. I tell them they'll likely have lots of meaty bone leftovers from our spare rib supper tonight.

The goats bleat raggedly at me. The first bleats of the day are a bit hoarse, like the first words spoken in the morning. They stand at the door of their barn, staring at me. I tell them I'll give them grain when I get home. They watch me as I get into the car and drive out of the yard.

Seven minutes later I am at the park. Two cars have been here before me, leaving their tire tracks in the new snow. They must have scared the deer away from the office; all I see are trails of tracks loping away into the trees.

I walk up to the building and see the stalagmite icicle beneath our furnace vent. I am reminded to check the LP level on the tank -- down to 22%. Better call the co-op tomorrow morning for a delivery.

Inside the office it is warm and quiet. I sit at my desk and look up to see the pictures Graham drew for me on post-it notes hanging on the wall. They are pictures of him and me holding hands. On one he drew us inside a house, and asked me to write 'I love you.' He is in kindergarten, still learning to write. Soon he will be able to write his own love letters to me.

I sigh, and try to focus on work. There are lots of deadlines coming up, lots of reports to write before the end of the year. But all I can think about is decorating gingerbread cookies and how much frosting will stick to my kids vs. the cookies this evening. And how much fun we will have, listening to Christmas carols and sneaking gingerbread bites.

I smile. It's been a good morning so far.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Things and other things

The family has mostly recovered from the stomach funk. I am the only one that has any lingering effects, the details of which I will spare the reader. Needless to say I am still fairly weak, which makes it a whole lot harder trying to catch up with all the stuff that didn't get done last week. I still have presents to wrap, cookies to bake, an entire house to clean and errands to run. And only four more days in which to do it, before we leave for Grandma's house on the 22nd.

We'll have two Christmas' this year, one on the proper date at Grandma's house, and another on New Years Day at our house. Hence the need for house cleaning. Hubby's father and brothers with their families will be staying with us for several days. Lots of family and kids and fun, but lots of preparation to be done. I haven't even thought about menu planning yet. It's hard to ponder cooking when the thought of a simple cheese sandwich makes you emit tiny gurgling, gagging sounds.

The weather outside right now is cold, about 20 degrees, which is not as cold as it was last week but is still cold enough. It's also very grey outside. And very still. The days are so short that even now, at 3:30 in the afternoon, the skies are starting to darken.

The weather echoes my mood. I'm feeling kinda grey. Partly due to the recent sick, but also due to several things going on with my extended family. Several not-very-good things that I can't really talk about, because they don't directly involve me but still affect me. Not just one or two things, but several things that have piled upon eachother this holiday season.

So, I am trying to look around for other things, more cheerful things to think (and write) about. Let's see.

One thing -- our goats are back! And hopefully bred. After being gone so long, it is strange to suddenly hear them bleat at me whenever I go outside. Strange, but comforting.

Another thing -- Number Two Son had his kindergarten Christmas concert at school yesterday, which was very fun. Here is his class with their antlers on, preparing to do the 'reindeer hokey-pokey.'

Another thing -- Number Three Son pooped in the toilet again today. Might not seem like a big deal to most folks, but for parents with little ones who stubbornly refuse potty training, it is. We've been potty training for two weeks now, with little progress to show for it, but we have faith that eventually something will click in that young brain of his and he'll start heading for the bathroom all on his own.

There are many other cheerful things of course. Health, happiness, security, home, love -- all the things that really count. I just need to focus on the good things, and not get bogged down by the rest.

I hope all of you are happy and healthy and hopeful this holiday season. Much thanks to all of you who leave comments on this weblog, I do enjoy hearing from all of you! Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dropping like flies

Okay, Number Two Son is feeling much better. That's the good news. However, Hubby, Number One Son and Number Three Son are now down and out with this stomach bug thing. So, I guess it's only time til I get it too. There's nothing like taking care of a house full of sickies, knowing that the clock is ticking on your intestinal well-being as well. Gah.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No longer naked

The tree is trimmed. And so far (knock on wood) no ornaments have broken. The needles are very prickly, enough so to discourage tiny fingers and tiny paws from grabbing at the pretty danglies.

Number Two Son has had a stomach bug for the last day and a half, but we think he is over the worst of it. This evening he was mostly back to his old self, arguing with his younger brother over legos.

It is very cold here. Our house was built in 1912, with little insulation and lots of drafts. If there's no wind, it stays fairly warm, but if the wind is howling (like it is right now) we can definitely feel the cold spots. The thermostat is kept at 62, but in the cold spots (brown chair by the window, downstairs bath, boys' bedroom) it can get downright chilly.

I've been traveling a lot recently. Trip to St. Paul, trip to New Ulm, trip to Spicer. Next week I go back to St. Paul to pick the goats up from the breeder. Fingers crossed for better birth results next spring than we had this spring. Fingers crossed for a couple (or trio or quad) of bouncing fuzzy kids in April.

Our quarter beef arrived this week and is now safely stored away in a basement freezer, alongside the pork we got in September. This quarter was smaller than others we've had. It ended up being about half the amount of meat as the hog we got. Oh well. Must've been a small cow. How now, small cow?

It's late, and I'm a bit loopy. Sorry for the rambling. Time to hit the hay.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Tis the season

We got a Christmas tree! It is standing in our dining room, naked and unadorned, but it is up. Tomorrow night we will put on lights, garland, star and ornaments, and turn off all the lights in the house to see the tree at its best. Then hubby will brave the frigid temps to hang our Christmas lights outside. Already the chocolate advent calendars are hung on the walls, and boxes of Christmas cards are stacked on the table, waiting to be written and mailed. It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.

Tonight we watched our first television Christmas special: Phineas and Ferb's Christmas. Not one of the classics, but we liked it. Soon we will begin to see the real classic holiday shows, like 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer', 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas', and 'The Christmas Story.'

But my all-time favorite TV special has gotta be 'A Year Without a Santa Claus,' if only for that song. You know, THAT song. You know the one I'm talking about.

Oh, heck. Let's all sing along!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jumpin' Jehosafat

Land sakes, deary me, heavens to Betsy! It's been a long time since my last post. These past few weeks have FLOWN by. We've been treated to some wonderful late fall weather. Right now a few flurries are floating down outside, a herald of colder temps for the next week.

No, I haven't butchered the roosters yet. And it looks like it won't happen before next week anyway. Besides, I've still got three bushels of apples in the root cellar to process. Nevertheless, we've managed to finish up just about all of our autumn tasks. Goat barn cleaned out, chicken coop cleaned out, yard tidied up (mostly), garden cleaned up, garlic planted, fences around two apple trees, and snow fence up.

And our new hens have started to lay! The eggs we get these first few weeks will be smaller sized, aka 'pullet eggs.' But they taste just as good, with their orangey orange yolks and hard, colorful shells. We've got a half-ton of chicken feed stored for them, plus a hundred bales of hay in the barn for the goats. We're set on livestock feed for the winter.

Overall, this summer was a good one on the farm front. Yeah, we had another chicken massacre, and we had some garden failures (potato blight and sweet corn slump), but overall it was a good year. I grew (and processed) more garden goodies this year than in any other year past. The goats are doing well, and my latest shearing might actually be sale-able if I find time to wash and sort it. We've got a new root cellar and a stocked pantry. We put up a new chicken fence and managed to raise fifteen new chickens to add to our flock. So, overall, we're doing pretty good.

There are two things that I wanted to accomplish this year that didn't get done. I wanted to have a hand pump installed on the top of our well, and I wanted to get a woodstove. Both of those things are pretty spendy, and relatively hard to find, and I just never managed to get it done. Hopefully old man winter will hold off on any really bad, electricity-killing blizzards til next season.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Broken dormancy

A few days ago I went down into the root cellar and saw tiny spikes of carrot stem sticking up out of the damp sand. This November has been so mild my cellar hasn't been able to maintain the near-freezing temps needed to keep carrots in dormancy. So, I had a choice: do nothing and risk having most of my carrots turn to mush before I could use them, or process them to keep them from spoiling. I decided to process them.

Then, I had another choice: canning or freezing. Since my family prefers the taste of canned carrots, and since freezer space is definitely at a premium these days, I chose to can. Hubby spent a good chunk of the day Friday cleaning and chopping carrots while I was at work. Saturday morning the canning began in earnest. A visiting brother-in-law (thanks Nate!) was even roped in to help.

The canning continued off and on during the day, interspersed with a trip to town, playing with monkeys, a hot hotseat Civilization III game on the computer, and meal preparation. I finally put the pressure canner to rest at 2 am. I was determined to get it all done, and I did.

So, now we have 22 quarts and ten pints of canned carrots. And I now have the wisdom to keep my carrots in the ground until late fall, when the temperature in my root cellar is cold enough to stop carrot stems from growing up through the sand. Another lesson learned.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Running with scissors

Number Two Son found a scissors the other day. I should have known something was up when he was quiet for longer than fifteen minutes upstairs. He came downstairs, smiling a mile wide, with his hands over his forehead.

My brother and sister-in-law, who were visiting, saw his new 'do and burst out laughing. Half of his bangs were missing. He kept smiling until his Dad and I told him we were going to have to shave the rest of his hair off his head. Then he wasn't so sure.

Half an hour later I found him crying upstairs. He didn't want his head shaved. I said we had to, so it wouldn't look silly when he went to school. I told him his hair would grow out again, eventually. When? he said. By Christmas, I said. He said he didn't want to go to school until Christmas.

We took him to the barber, and he got a haircut. Not shaved, but definitely shorter. He's fine with it, and is okay with going to school on Monday.

He says he will never cut his hair again. We'll see about that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dead chicken walking

Chicken butchering day is quickly approaching. If I have time to do it this weekend, I'll do it. Otherwise, it may have to wait until after Thanksgiving.

Before the dog attack this summer, we were planning to butcher about twenty chickens. After the attack, that number was reduced significantly. Right now I have seven roosters and eleven hens. If I want to hatch my own eggs next spring, I'll need to keep two roosters. Three, to be on the safe side. So that means four roosters have got to go.

I've made my choices. On the poultry equivalent of death row are:

My buff orpington rooster.

My three newer Ameracauna (Easter egger) roosters.

Those roosters spared from the chopping block are:

My old broken-toe Ameracauna rooster. He's over three years old now, and his meat would probably be too tough to eat. Besides, he's proven himself a survivor, he and the two remaining older hens. And he's not aggressive at all toward people, as some roosters become.

My brown leghorn rooster. Being a leghorn, there wouldn't be much meat on him anyway. And I think he's purdy.

Lastly, my salmon faverolle roo. He wins a spot on the living list because after the dog attack, when my injured hen (also a salmon faverolle) was hiding in the coop recovering from her injuries, he stayed with her and kept her company. Yeah, I'm a big softy. Not a softy enough to let all the chickens live, of course.

I'm a little nervous about the whole butchering experience. I've done it on another person's farm, with other people's help, but never here by myself. Hubby will be helping, of course. Hubby will do the actual deed, and I'll do the hot water dunk. Hubby will pull off the feathers, and I'll do the gutting. It's all very straight forward. I've got everything planned. I've done it before, and I know I can do it this time.

But I'm still nervous.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

All things apple

Over the past few weeks, 90% of my food preservation efforts have revolved around apples. I'm not complaining, mind you. I am very happy to have more apples than I know what to do with. We've canned sliced apples, dried apple rings, made apple cider and baked apple pie. Last night hubby helped me core and quarter another peck of apples in order to make apple jelly.

I cooked the apple quarters until they were soft, and then mashed and strained them through several layers of cheesecloth. Number three son helped smoosh the apple bits around in the strainer.

The juice was cooked, and then sugar was added.

The juice and sugar mixture was brought to a boil, then simmered for twenty minutes. I added a bit of cinnamon to give it an apple pie flavor, then poured the jelly into jars. Five minutes in a hot water bath, and I had eight half-pints of apple jelly.

I also made applesauce several days ago. Virtually the same process, only you don't use cheesecloth when you strain it. Just use a regular colander. Some recipes say to put the apple mush through a food mill. To me, that seems like a lot of extra work, especially since I really don't like using food mills. Just strain it through a large-holed colander, which will catch most of the bits of skin.

Cook the applesauce on the stove until you reach the consistency you desire. Add honey or sugar if you want a sweetened sauce.

One large stockpot full of apples made six quarts of sauce. These quarts will be added to the large supply of applesauce I made, and we haven't finished up yet, from last fall. We have applesauce with meals sometimes, but mostly I use the sauce in little tupperware cups for my kids' school lunches.

Even after all of these apple endeavors, I still have a couple of sacks of apples still in my root cellar. They have some blemishes, so my kids will look askance if I hand them one to eat fresh. I will have to be more creative, I think, in order to use them up. Maybe some apple chutney? Frozen apple cake? Apple cider vinegar?

Any suggestions from you folks out there? Just make sure it doesn't involve the use of a food mill ...

I don't like poetry

For the most part, this is true. To me most poems are, well, too uppity. Too full of themselves. Too elitist. Give me a good paragraph, short story, novel anytime over a poem.

I think I got off on the wrong foot with poetry. I blame Penny Swanum's eleventh grade creative writing class. I took it because I loved to write stories. It didn't occur to me that she would make us write poetry too.

She did. All the other kids wrote poems about serious, meaningful stuff. Stuff about their teenage angst-filled lives.

I wrote poems about how much I hated poetry.

To give Ms. Swanum credit, she didn't frown on my writings. In fact, she critiqued my poems just like she critiqued everyone elses. Which, in some ways, made me even more disgruntled.

Anyway. As I said before, I think I got off on the wrong foot with poetry. I find myself, every once in awhile, more frequently as the years go by, reading a poem I like. Maybe all this time, all this time I've been disliking poetry, I just haven't been reading the right stuff. Somehow, I've been missing out on all the really good poetry.

Like a poem my blogging/cow forum friend Liz shared recently. It goes like this.


She Dreamed of Cows
by Norah Pollard

I knew a woman who washed her hair and bathed
her body and put on the nightgown she'd worn
as a bride and lay down with a .38 in her right hand.
Before she did the thing, she went over her life.
She started at the beginning and recalled everything—
all the shame, sorrow, regret and loss.
This took her a long time into the night
and a long time crying out in rage and grief and disbelief—
until sleep captured her and bore her down.

She dreamed of a green pasture and a green oak tree.
She dreamed of cows. She dreamed she stood
under the tree and the brown and white cows
came slowly up from the pond and stood near her.
Some butted her gently and they licked her bare arms
with their great coarse drooling tongues. Their eyes, wet as
shining water, regarded her. They came closer and began to
press their warm flanks against her, and as they pressed
an almost unendurable joy came over her and
lifted her like a warm wind and she could fly.
She flew over the tree and she flew over the field and
she flew with the cows.

When the woman woke, she rose and went to the mirror.
She looked a long time at her living self.
Then she went down to the kitchen which the sun had made all
yellow, and she made tea. She drank it at the table, slowly,
all the while touching her arms where the cows had licked.

"She Dreamed of Cows" by Norah Pollard, from Death & Rapture in the Animal Kingdom. © Antrim House, 2009.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Capsule of life

I dig seeds. Not only my own garden seeds, but seeds from wild, uncultivated plants. I am entranced by them. Each little seed is a tiny capsule of life waiting to grow. It can lay dormant for months, years, decades even. Then one day, given the right amount of warmth and water, it suddenly becomes alive. To me, that is truly amazing.

On one of my recent walks through the park, I looked for seeds. At this time of year, they are easy to spot.

Some plants use animals to spread their seed to new areas. Of these, some grow fruit that animals eat (and then poop). I did manage to see a few hardy fruit on my walk -- rosehips still red on the stem, and tiny hard grapes wrinkled on the vine.

Other plants grow burrs that will stick into an animal's fur. Plants like burdock, cocklebur and foxtail grass all do this. Burdock grows abundantly in my yard, especially near the chicken coop. Woe betide the person who wears a knitted sweater while visiting my chickens.

Many plants have adapted their seeds to be spread by wind. It seems many prairie plants have this characteristic, which makes sense given how windy it is on the prairie.

The seeds of the maple tree, with their insect wings that catch the wind.

Seeds from the ash tree, which 'helicopter' when they fall.

A fuzzy mass of cattail seeds.

Milkweed seeds, each one attached to thin strands of silk that float away in the breeze.

Well, that's my park naturalist program for the day. Hope you enjoyed it!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sippin' cider

Today was a good day. Late in the morning we gathered the troops and piled into the car, heading south along the lake road to my friend's house to pick more apples. We picked about three bushels worth of dimpled, less-than-perfect fruit and then headed back north along the lake road to Big Stone Apple Ranch, the sole remaining apple orchard in operation along Big Stone Lake.

When we moved here eleven years ago, there were three orchards on the lake. One orchard became neglected over time and eventually closed a few years ago. Another orchard owner decided to mow down all his beautiful apple trees and turn his land into an RV resort. So, now there's just one orchard left. And the owner is a wonderful lady who gave two hours of her time this afternoon (and two free bushels of apples) to help us press cider.

Here's Bette, the orchard owner, showing us the ins and outs of the cider press. My boys are staring at the lovely cider coming out of the spout below.

I am holding a electrical drill-like turner-thing (official lingo) that is hooked up to the apple chopper-upper (more lingo). The boys are feeding apples into the chopper, which spits the pieces into a wooden bucket below. The bucket is lined with a heavy-duty mesh cloth bag.

Here is the chopper-upper thing. It makes quick work of whole apples.

After the wooden bucket gets full, the lid is put over top and the screw press gets turned. The boys all wanted to help turn the press.

Graham couldn't quite turn the crank all the way around.

Look at the beautiful cider pouring out. My youngest said at one point, 'it's peeing apple juice.' Undetered by the imagery, we all dipped in a cup to get a taste of freshly pressed cider, right from the press. The scent alone was heavenly. The taste was beyond heavenly.

From five bushels of apples we got about twelve gallons of cider. We poured most of it into jugs and bags and put it into the freezer. We put a pitcher of cider in our fridge, but it's being drunk so quickly I doubt it will last til morning. Even as I write, I am sitting at the computer desk with a mug of cider at my side.

Actually, it is empty. I'd better stop writing and go get myself some more.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Two thumbs up

Two nights ago I had the opportunity to see a screening of the movie Fresh. The Land Stewardship Project of Minnesota sponsored the showing. We were treated to locally made apple cider (just pressed that afternoon from Big Stone Apple Ranch) and locally grown popcorn. If you think there are too many 'locally grown's in that last sentence, I say to you -- there can never be too many 'locally grown's in any sentence about food!

Okay, me watching 'Fresh' is like the Pope watching a movie about how great Catholicism is. Preaching to the choir, as they say. But I still enjoyed it tremendously. I'm not great at putting thoughts into words, and when people ask me why local food is important, I usually blabber a lot about 'sustainability' and 'carbon footprint' and 'industrial agriculture.' Those terms may mean things to some people, but not to everybody.

But you can't watch this movie and not understand. This movie shows you why our food system is so screwed up right now. It doesn't go into the gritty grisly details like Food Inc. does (another good movie that I've yet to see). It is more hopeful, and more motivational. It will leave you feeling empowered to try to do something, to go out and find ways to feed yourself and your family in a more healthy (for you, for the environment, and for society) way.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lost thyme

Foolish me. I thought that I could bring in a few of my potted outside plants and set them next to a window for the winter. I have two pots of rosemary, one hollyhock awaiting a nice fall day for transplant, and one pot of thyme.

Our cats have decided that the pot of thyme is a most excellent place to curl up and view the outside world. I suppose the flanking rosemary plants make it seem even more inviting. I must admit the cats are very cute while curled up in the pot; however, my thyme is taking a beating. Although, I'm not sure I could keep the cats out even if I tried. They are most insistent. Hmm.

I've got it -- caltrops. I'll have to find some caltrops to put in the pot. Either that, or plant some cacti in with the herbs.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Hitchcockian afternoon

The black snake, more like a swarm this time, returned to our house one day last week. When I drove home from work I could see some of them on the roadway by our house. I parked in the driveway and got out of the car. Apparently I disturbed them, for they all rose out of our grove and began flying in waves over our yard.

My husband told me they had been there for awhile, circling the house for over an hour. They would rise and fall from the yard to the sky, to the trees, to the house, to the yard, to the trees, to the sky, over and over and over again.

Finally they flew a little northward to the neighbor's old soybean field. All that black in the picture above is birds, not soil. Now I have a little better understanding of how passenger pigeons, back before they went extinct, could blot out the sun as they flew through the sky, enormous clouds of birds stretched horizon to horizon. I wish I could have seen that. But I'm glad I get to see this.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Having cake and eating it too

Yesterday we carved our pumpkins. Hubby opened up the tops, the boys scooped out the goop and drew on the faces, and then Hubby carved the faces out. They had a lot of fun, and were very proud of their pumpkin masterpieces.

I saved some seeds from the green pumpkin, simply because I thought it beautiful and the flesh inside was very thick. I bought it from a neighbor, and she grew a number of different varieties so the seeds probably won't breed true, but who knows. It's worth a shot. I'll plant it in an isolated part of the yard for an experiment next year. If I like the results, I'll keep the seeds.

When I was going to university several (many) years ago, one of my classmates who was from Belize once expressed his dislike for Halloween pumpkin carving. He was amazed that our country wasted so much food in this matter.

That got me to thinking. I like to think of myself as somewhat socially conscious. But I also enjoy our cultural traditions. What's truly amazing is that I live in a country where, for most people, this choice is academic. I don't actually need to choose between carving a pumpkin or feeding my family. I'm lucky enough that I can do both. But, obviously, there are lots and lots of people out there that aren't nearly as fortunate as I am.

We received a Heifer International Gift Catalog in the mail a few days ago. We've never received a catalog before. Is the timing a coincidence? Normally I refuse to respond to phone or mail marketing; however, I think I will make an exception in this case. I feel like celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving a little differently this year, celebrating my fortune of living in a country where I can have my cake (or pumpkin) and eat it too.

Now I have to decide: rabbits, bees or trees?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Free to good home

We still have one kitten left from this summer's cat crop. Here she is, drinking leftover-from-supper chicken noodle soup. She is very sweet, furry, and has no problem being picked up or petted, unlike our other outside cats. Anybody out there want a kitten?

Right now we have three-and-a-half adult cats hanging around the farm. Calico Cat, the one that we managed to catch and spay last year, comes and goes. The other three (Pepper, Sally and Zoe) stay close by. If I could manage to catch any of those three female felines, I would have them spayed in a second. But they won't let me touch them, unless I'm feeding them. If they have food in front of them, they are usually too busy scarfing it down to pay attention to me. But if I tried to grab hold of them they would shred my arm to pieces.

Mother Nature actually does a pretty good job of keeping our cat numbers low. We had four litters this year, totaling about eighteen kittens. Of those, we adopted one for an inside cat, brought two to the humane society, and have the remaining one still outside. The others -- well, let's just say the others didn't meet with such a kind fate.

I'm quite pleased that we only have one kitten left from the summer. I don't want any more outdoor cats. A friend of mine tells me that when they moved out to their farmstead, they had just one male and one female cat. Now, nine years later, they have over thirty. And she feeds them all.

Another farmer friend of mine wasn't so soft-hearted. At one point the cat population on his farm totaled thirty-nine cats. He decided that enough was enough, and got his shotgun down from the rack. Now he has none.

I don't want to have to do that.

Maybe I'll put an ad in the paper. One cute and friendly, brown tabby kitten. Free to good home.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Busily winding down

This has been such a hectic week. We drove out to the Cities to celebrate my sister's wedding last Wednesday. Numerous relatives from Canada also came down, so we had a grand time visiting with them. Hubby, boys and I also attended a friend's pig roast. It was five fun-filled days away from home, but when we finally arrived back home yesterday we were all exhausted. We need a vacation after our vacation.

The day before we left I pulled the Brussels Sprouts out of the garden. Number Two Son helped pluck the sprouts off the stems. After a quick blanch they went into the freezer. I planted twelve plants and got enough for eight meals. Next year I'll plant more.

While at my parent's house, all the young boys went out to pick apples from the backyard tree. This tree bent over in a wind storm last year, but stayed alive. Dad wanted to cut it down but we all convinced him to let it live. It seems to be growing just as well as if it were upright. And picking apples from it is a whole lot easier now. The branches are mostly horizontal.

The goats are at the breeder until early December, so hubby and Number One Son went out this evening to begin cleaning out the goat barn. They got half-way done before it turned dark. We're supposed to get three days of rain, so the rest of the job might have to wait a bit.

It's the time of year when my body is telling me to hibernate. Maybe I was a bear in a previous life. All I want to do is stay under a warm blanket and sleep. The weather is changing so quickly and I feel unprepared for winter. I'm scatterbrained. Distracted. Tired. I should be out cleaning up the garden but the task seems too great. The basement needs a good cleaning, too. And the front porch. And the closets. The whole house, in fact.

But I am sleepy. Very very sleepy. Zzzzzzz.