Friday, December 31, 2010

Last day

This is it, the end of the year, the very last day of 2010.  We are snowbound in our house, for the third blizzard this month.  Temps are hovering around zero, with wind-chills in the minus 20's.  Hubby's family was supposed to come out to celebrate New Year's with us, but the blizzard has kept them away (so far).  Several highways and interstates have closed.  I've heard reports of 8' snow drifts on the highway near Clinton.  Hubby's brother Nate tried to make it out Thursday but couldn't get past Morris.  He is holed up at a hotel for the foreseeable future.

In lieu of any other type of merry-making, we built a fort with chairs and sheets, and are letting the kids sleep in the living room.  We told them they could stay up and watch tv til midnight.  I doubt the two littlest will make it that long.  Benjimouse just doesn't have the stamina, and Graham woke up waaaay early this morning.  I expect them both to crash this side of 11 pm.

So, a very Happy New Year to you all.  2010 was pretty good as far as years go; let's see if we can make 2011 even better.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snow day

Last night I looked at the weather forecast, saw the phrases "Winter Storm Warning",  "4 to 8 inches of snow" and "15 to 20 mph winds" and decided to formally declare a snow day.  When you live in the country, you have the power to declare your own snow days, whether or not the school agrees with you.  The roads by our house are fairly low on the plowing priority list, and I really didn't want to brave the drifts and winds in my measly minivan.  (I drive them to school Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays).  The district eventually came around to the same decision and closed the schools at 12:30 pm.  At home, by that time, we were already knee-deep in a Christmas party.

Benjimouse's preschool class was scheduled to have their Christmas party today, and I felt mildly guilty keeping him away.  So I decided that we would have our own Christmas party.  The kids played a few contentious (when is it not?) games of musical chairs while I prepped, and then we got down to business.

We made gingerbread cookies.  Each kid cut out their shapes and placed them on their tray.  When the first batch came out of the oven, the air filled with the warm spicy scent of cinnamon, cloves and ginger.

I whipped up some colored icing and pulled out the sprinkles and candy decorations.  I did manage to snag a few cookies before they were coated with sugar shellac.  I prefer my gingerbread men au natural.

We decided not to buy a tree this year.  Instead, we made our own.  A few dozen sheets of construction paper, scissors, cookie cutters to trace, markers, a glue stick and some glitter and voilĂ  -- one homemade Christmas tree!

It is hung in our dining room (please ignore the peeling wallpaper in the corner), and tomorrow I'll dig out our tree skirt from the basement and lay it on the floor, underneath the tree.  The only things that are missing are the garland and lights, but those are currently strung around the living room, along with the stockings and our Christmas bells.

We'll have a leisurely morning tomorrow -- school begins two hours late, so we can have a slow breakfast together before the bus picks up the two eldest monkeys.  On Wednesday we head for the Cities for holiday festivities, Part One.  Part Two will be held over New Year's, at our house with hubby's family.

That reminds me, I must pick up some penicillin ...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Early Christmas gift

I bought this rosemary plant two-and-a-half years ago, and this is the first time I've seen it flower.  In the winter, no less!  With the scant light that it gets from a small western window, I am amazed it has summoned the energy to burst into bloom. So far it has three light blue/purple blossoms, but a bud count reveals at least four more are on the way.  I am just so tickled.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tonight's dessert

Rosettes!  Yum!  Rosettes are the lone Scandinavian holiday recipe I ever make.  Never done lefse, lutefisk, swedish meatballs, etc.  Out here in western Minnesota, that's almost considered a crime.  But though I am tall and blond, the only Scandinavian blood in me is Danish, and it's only one-eighth of me besides.  Give me a good English roast beef, a hearty German wurst, or a lovely Dutch pastry and you're talking my food language.

After making twenty or so rosettes, I got sick of standing by the stove and just drizzled the remaining batter in the oil, funnel-cake style.  Double Yum!

His name is Boxy

Graham has a new pet.  It is a boxelder bug.  He caught it a few days ago and asked for a jar to keep it in.  Sure, why not?  Hubby looked on the internet for what boxelder bugs eat, surprise--boxelder trees.  Duh.  I keep forgetting to grab some boxelder seeds when I go to work.  Right now he has a moist cotton ball, and from what we read that is all he really needs.  Or she.  Boxette?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

So much

for the blizzard warning.  We got maybe three inches overnight.  The weathermen were right about the high winds and sub-zero temps, however.  The skies are grey with fog and swirling snow, and I'm sure the three inches of snowfall has drifted high on the county roads.  The scattered homestead groves act like terrific windbreaks, and a car can travel from bare gravel to foot-deep drifts without warning.  Good thing we don't have to be anywhere.

I am taking the opportunity of a home-bound weekend to catch up with my Christmas gift making.  I'd post pictures of what I'm doing, but my family reads this blog and I don't want them to know what they're getting.  Suffice it to say, I've never made these things before, and it is slow going.

A pot of eggs is boiling on the stove for egg salad sandwiches.  The turkey I had planned to cook for supper today isn't fully thawed, so we will have to improvise.  A bag of blueberries is on the counter, waiting for me to do something wonderful with it.  Wonderful, but easy.  I'm thinking a nice fruit crisp.  With ice cream.  That sounds like a pretty good supper.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tuesday afternoon

After leaving Wadena, I drove to Fergus Falls and killed a bit of time shopping at Fleet Farm.  Gotta love Fleet Farm, it's like Macy's for farmers.  When noon rolled around I figured it was time to head back to Ashby to pick up my ex-roosters.

The landscape around Wadena and Fergus is a lot different than around my hometown.  More trees, more hills, and more swamps and bogs. Which is very nice, if you like that sort of thing.  Me, give me a rolling prairie any day and I'm happy.

The snowmobilers had already taken advantage of the recent snowfall.

At 12:30 pm I parked in front of TFC Poultry, and walked inside.

They had lots of different meats for sale.  I was tempted to buy a frozen goose.  I've never tasted goose before.  The idea of having roast goose for a holiday meal appeals to me.  It seems very Victorian.

I walked up to the lady at the counter, and told her who I was.  She smiled and told me to wait there, she'll go find out where my chickens are.  A few minutes later she came back, a look of confusion on her face.  She can't seem to find my chickens.  I joked, 'did they fly away?'  She gave a light laugh, and I realized she's probably heard that one about five hundred times before.  She turned and saw someone coming out of the processing area, in the back of the building.  She asked her where my chickens are.  The processing lady said that they are first on the list to be processed, AFTER LUNCH.  They should be ready for pick-up, say, around 3:30.

What the #*$%?   My blood boiled.  My temper flared.  I tell the woman I was told they would be done by 1 pm.  When I made the appointment, I was told to have them here by 6:30 am, so they could be processed first thing.  The boss himself told me that morning, that he would call me if it would be later than 1 pm.  And here I am, looking at another THREE HOUR wait til I get my chickens.  The counter lady looked at me apologetically.  She recommended a local cafe for lunch.

I am a quiet person by nature, really I am.  But for whatever reason, right then and there in that store, I wanted to scream.  I wanted to throw things.  I wanted to rip all the hamburger patties, sausage links and chicken giblets out of the display cases and kick them across the floor.  But there was no use, my chickens would not be done any faster if I destroyed the place.

I walked outside, got into my car and called my husband. I told him I wouldn't be home til 5 pm, at the earliest.  Fighting back tears, I knew I was tired and emotionally erratic.  Four hours of sleep will do that to a person.  After a few deep breaths, I started the car.  I drove to Alexandria, had lunch and killed more time walking around stores.

At 3:30 pm sharp, I again walked through the door at the poultry processors.  The chickens were waiting for me, and the lady seemed overly helpful, carrying out the box and helping me load them into my cooler.

An hour-and-a-half after leaving finally leaving Ashby, twelve hours after leaving the house that morning, I pull into my driveway.  The sun has gone down, and the sky is a dusky dark blue.  I stomp wearily up the stairs of the deck, open the door, walk into the kitchen, and slump into a chair.  Hubby puts the kettle on for tea, and the kids all come running to give Mom hugs.

Infamy or no, it was a long day.

The murals of Wadena county

There are murals EVERYWHERE in Wadena.

Even in the back alleyways.  Like I said, everywhere.

Tuesday morning

Tuesday was the day that will live in infamy.  For my chickens, at least.  It was the day of destiny for ten of my roosters.  Months before I had made an appointment with the butcher up in Ashby (a 90-minute drive away), the closest abattoir (I just love that word) that handles small-batch poultry processing.  When I made the appointment, the lady stressed that I needed to have them there by 6:30.  That meant leaving my house at 5 am.  Which meant getting up no later than 4:30.  Shower and breakfast be damned.

The night before, hubby helped me catch the unawares roosters and load them into a large dog kennel in my car.  The next morning at 5 am sharp I drove out of the driveway for the journey north. 

At 6:30 am sharp I pulled up in the alley behind the processor.  It was still pitch black, and two other truck-loads of chicken were unloading ahead of me.  I always feel so sorry for the broilers that are brought to butcher, their mutant huge chests bulging outward, their raw pink skin showing through the bare patches of white feathers.  Dried blood and crusted dirt are caked on the feathers that remain.  My chickens are aristocracy in comparison: sleek, full-feathered and clean.

The chickens were unloaded, and I asked when I could pick them up.  The guy said probably around noon, but go upstairs and talk to the boss.  I'm having a fresh service, which means I will pick them up today, chilled but not frozen.  Most folks drop them off and pick them up a few days later, but I didn't want to make the return trip.  So I went upstairs and talked to 'the boss,' who thought they will be done before noon and 1 pm, but I should leave my cell phone number in case it's earlier or later than that.  I gave him the number, and went on my way.  I left Ashby behind me and headed for Wadena, MN, a further 90 minute drive northeast.

I drove into Wadena just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. 

Wadena has a lovely downtown, lots of old brick buildings.

I stop at a cafe for a bit of breakfast.  The dining room is full, and I take a small table near the door.  It's so interesting to see how the older women and men divide themselves: grey-haired women at one table and grey-haired men at another.  I sit near the men's table and listen to them yammer.  I am familiar with their talk, it is pretty much the same as the talk at my hometown cafe.  Lots of jokes, lots of BS, lots of gossip.  And lots of ignorant indignation, mainly against the government.  Which makes me, as a government employee, want to smack them upside the head.  Add to that lots of careless cursing, which makes me want to smack them upside the head even more.  I restrain myself and finish my eggs and hashbrowns.

At 9 am I arrived at my real destination, Buckwheat Growers of Minnesota.  This small coop is where I like to get my chicken feed.  They have a variety of locally grown feeds for all sorts of critters.  They also have organic and transitional feed.  Given the price of organic, I opted this time for transitional ($12.50 for a 50-lb bag).


I got twenty bags of 19% chicken mash loaded into the back of my minivan, and headed on my way.


we have eggs!

Blizzard warning tonight

Six to eight inches of snow with winds up to 40 mph.  As long as the electricity holds out, we will be snug as bugs in rugs.  It's hot cocoa time!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day one

It's begun.