Monday, December 30, 2013

Feels Like Forever. . .

. . . since I've had a chance to sit and write a blog post.  So, so much going on in preparation for the Christmas holidays--it's really not just one holiday when you have the get-together with your own children, the get-together with your parents and sibling and his family, the get-together with your in-laws young and old, the Christmas Choral service at church the Sunday before Christmas (DD2 and I were part of the choir), the Christmas Eve service at church, the Christmas Day service at church (in which the choir also sang and I managed to be one of the descanting group of sopranos who sang the 'high g' without killing it.  Yay me!!). . .

Add to that an ice storm that knocked power out for three days; three days in which I was trying to finish my Christmas baking (nope, didn't happen--oven uses too much 'juice' to run off the generator), Christmas gift sewing (ended up being by hand and taking way longer than planned), and preparations for a trip to SC to see DS1 and his family.  We almost didn't make it on our road trip to see him, as we couldn't very well leave the house sitter/animal caretaker (DH's 17yo nephew) in charge of the generator and a bunch of animals he was unfamiliar with (city boy).  So we didn't know for sure if our trip was a go until about 30 hours before we were supposed to leave, when the power actually did come back on.

All the gifts (other than the baked ones) did get finished in time, the power came on just before midnight on Christmas Eve, and I even managed to knit an entire sock--adult sized--in about twelve hours on the ride down to SC so that K3 got a pair of them for Christmas instead of just one!  (Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of them for my files. . . )

Anyway, January is right around the corner, and I have so many posts I'd like to do in the coming year.  God willing and the power stays on, I won't have such a long absence from blogging any more.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Zero Degrees, and I Feel Fine!

For the first time in a long time, I am warm!  Which is kind of ironic since the thermometer read exactly zero degrees this morning when I went out to do chores.

But I am much warmer at zero, when things are good and frozen, the air is clear and dry, than I am at say thirty or forty when it's cloudy and damp outside.  Damp does not like me.  Or, should I say, I do not like damp.  Chills me to the bone.

Zero, however, I tend to like.  Zero, I can be out in for hours, and feel nice and toasty, with a smile on my face.

Of course, my insulated bibs and coat help, as do the thick socks and clunky cold-weather boots, fur-lined hat, and gloves that make my hands look like they might maybe belong to Mickey Mouse (as in, round, rather than long and tapered like my fingers actually are).

Here are a few pictures I took this morning at the horse farm while I was outdoors.

view to the west as the sun was not quite over the tree line to the east

zero degrees and I feel fine
(just not smiling because taking a selfie at zero degrees with your glove off in order to push the camera button is no laughing matter!)

Yes, you are seeing that right.  I did post a picture of myself.  Hoping that my cold weather gear and my bright yellow sunglasses make me unrecognizable, so not in violation of my 'no identifiable pictures of my family' rule.  LOL.

Bring on the cold, especially when the coldest days tend to be the clearest ones, where the sun shines the brightest.  We can all use a good dose of Vitamin D straight from the source. I just have to absorb it through my face, which is the only thing uncovered in these temperatures!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Bit By Bit

That is how I decided to approach the holidays this year: bit by bit.  For the past several years (okay, maybe more than several, since I can't think back to when I wasn't stressed by the upcoming Christmas hoopla/family obligations) I have not had holiday spirit.  Oh, I've looked forward to celebrating Jesus' birth, so maybe I had the right holiday spirit, just not the one that society considers spirit.  Most of my relatives sure don't seem to think so.

Anyway, I have not looked forward to the purchasing of gifts to give, the decorating, the sending of cards, the baking, the mandatory appearances at family gatherings with my parents and sibling as well as DH's siblings and mother, in a long, long time.  Which is sad, because when my children were little, we did a lot of baking and decorating together, and it was fun times.  Somewhere between the youngest one hitting first grade and the eldest graduating from high school (they are 8 grades apart), I lost the joyful anticipation of Christmas.  It was not joy, it was not fun, it was work.  More stuff to try to get done when I was all ready so overloaded.  Or, at least, I felt so very overloaded.  Like I had to measure up to someone else's standard of spirit, and I just couldn't hit that mark.

So, when Thanksgiving rolled around this year, and DD1 asked me when I was going to decorate for Christmas, I put her off, saying "Well, Advent hasn't even started yet.  So definitely not until then."

She accepted this.  She's been going to church since she was two days old.  She knows that the first Sunday of Advent is the true start to the holiday season.  That Advent is the beginning of the Christmas preparation, not the unlocking of the store doors at the start of the first Black Friday sale.

But it got me to thinking.  Instead of dragging everything out in one fell swoop and spending an entire day unpacking our holiday decor, then placing it around the house, then putting away the storage boxes and bags, why not do it a little at a time?  Kind of like an Advent calendar, where you open one door each day of Advent, until on Christmas morning all the doors are opened.  Why couldn't I decorate bit by bit, throughout Advent, until all my decorations were in place on Christmas?

I made a list of the things I decorate with (I confess, I made the list while sitting in the maple tree on the last day of firearm deer season, LOL).  Amazingly, it came out to roughly 25 items, which is how many days there are in Advent.  What a coincidence!

Suddenly, Christmas didn't seem quite so oppressive.  Didn't seem like such a Herculean task ahead of me.  I could do this!

And so I have.  First came the small, plain trees.  One is a wooden pine tree that DD1 painted in youth group many years ago.  The other is a beeswax candle molded in the shape of a spruce tree.  Both are less than nine inches tall.  Both happen to fit very nicely on the entertainment center, at the bottom left corner of the TV.  It was such a little thing, placing those two trees in the living room by the TV, but it made the house feel more cheery.  I had begun decorating for Christmas.

Day by day, I have set out or hung on the walls other little things: a plastic canvas angel with a banner reading "PEACE" that my grandmother made for me decades ago, the rustic wooden snowman faces--bearing the names of DH and myself and each of our children--that hang from a ribbon and was a gift from an aunt and uncle after DD2 was born, the paper Christmas tree made from old Christmas card fronts by one of the kids so long ago none of us really remember who made it in what grade, the stained glass angel that holds a votive candle that was a gift from one of my students back when I taught 5th & 6th grade Sunday School, the gold "present" that is a music box and was another gift from a former Sunday School student, the small red bows that tie to the spindles of the banister for the stairs going to our second floor, the wreath that is hung on the front door by a golden deer bracket that fits over top of the door, the fake pine garland over the doorway between the dining room and living room. . .

All little things, but in their insignificance lies their charm:  it is just one little thing to put out today, taking no more than five minutes of my time.  Not Herculean at all.  And as the days go by and their numbers grow, I find that I am enjoying this holiday season more than I have in years.  Each item, taken by itself, has meaning to me.  I think about how I came to own each item, who made it or gave it to me, and how much each of those people have touched my life.

Bit by bit.  Really, isn't that the way we get through everything in life?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Breadmaking Oops

Yesterday, I was having what I am beginning to refer to as 'menopause brain'.  It's kind of like a record with a scratch in it:  everything goes along like normal, then suddenly there is a moment of "what was that?!?" where the needle hit the scratch and skipped a little.

For me, it happened while I was making bread for the coming week.  I got out all the ingredients, the mixing bowl, the measuring cups and spoons.  I began measuring ingredients and adding them to the mixing bowl.  I stirred them all together.  I began kneading the bread.

At which point, something about the feel of the bread under my palms just wasn't right.  It registered in my brain:  Did I add the yeast?

Suddenly, I doubted myself.  I ran through a mental replay of what I had measured and added to the bowl just minutes before.  I couldn't remember measuring the yeast.

To double check, I looked at the teaspoon, which is the one used only for measuring yeast (all the other ingredients are in tablespoons or cups).  I could not see any little yeasts on the teaspoon.  Usually, a few stick to it after I dump it over the mixing bowl.

Hmm.  Too late now.  Can't add the yeast after all the flour has been worked in to take up the moisture.

I finished kneading the dough and set it to rise as usual.  Then, just to be safe, I mixed up a second batch, making sure to put in the yeast.

An hour later, it was quite clear that I definitely had not  put yeast in the first batch of dough.  It sat sullenly in it's bowl, not any larger than it had been when I first put it there.  The second batch had doubled, filling it's bowl (both bowls are the same size, I have two Pyrex bowls specifically for rising dough in).

I went ahead and treated the second batch of dough as normal--punching it down and shaping into loaves, then setting it aside in loaf pans for a second rise.  Once risen again, I baked those two loaves.

The first batch of dough I determined I would experiment with rather than call it a complete loss and feed to the chickens.  I took out my two largest cookie sheets and greased them.  Then I divided the unleavened dough in half, and rolled each piece into a thin rectangle roughly the size of the cookie sheets.

One dough rectangle I brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.  The other, I brushed with melted butter and sprinkled freshly grated Parmesan over top.  Then I baked them at 425 degrees for roughly 20 minutes.  I say roughly because I started with ten minutes, then didn't think they looked done enough and added a few more minutes to the timer.  This happened a few times, so I lost track of the exact cooking time.  Plus, my ovens are a bit out of whack, not keeping a constant temperature all the time and through the entire oven, so some edges got burnt.

Anyway, they came out edible.  Not great, and not exactly like crackers (which was what I was attempting), but definitely edible.  I think they would be good dipped in hummus like pita bread.

butter & Parmesan

olive oil & sea salt

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Yesterday after work, I spent the afternoon doing some sewing.  I worked up a couple of Christmas gifts: the his n' hers aprons I was planning for DS1 and K2.

His is a pretty plain apron pattern, cut straight and with straps that tie behind the neck and at the waist.  Hers is a more feminine pattern, with gathered skirt, bodice that is cut to fit over the bosom; and a tie that goes over the head, then through a pair of casings in the arm area, and out to tie around the waist.

I love how the aprons turned out, and really hope that they like them too.

In fact, I like them so much that I went ahead and sewed up an apron for DD1 also, out of a zigzag fabric I had bought last summer after she admired it while we were fabric shopping for something else.

It is hard to see the colors in the photo of the finished apron.  The fabric itself is purple, black, light blue, and white.

DD2 caught me in the act of making the camo ones, and judging by the way she enthused over them, I suspect she would like an apron also.  I know that I'm all ready thinking of sewing myself a new one (the last apron I made myself is now about 14 years old and looking pretty well worn). 

And maybe DS2 would like an apron. . . he does like to cook and since leaving the college dorm for off-campus housing tends to be the house cook no matter whom his housemates are. They all seem to figure out that his cooking is better and more filling than fast food and have offered to cover his share of the grocery bill if he will cook dinner for everyone in the house several nights a week.

This may turn out to be the Christmas of The Aprons, LOL.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


The other day, I happened to be working outside (cleaning out the chicken coop and rebedding it for winter, if you must know), when I spotted sundogs in the sky.

For those who have never heard the term 'sundog', it is a small rainbow on one side of the sun or another, sometimes both, usually seen on a fairly clear day, and created by sunlight shining through ice crystals in the atmosphere.  The scientific name is parhelion.

I have a thing about sundogs.  I always get excited when I spot them, and I have seen them at all times of the year, not just during the colder months.  Sometimes they are brighter than others.  Sometimes there is an accompanying ring around the sun, with a sun dog at equal distances to the left and right of the sun.

Always, I never have a camera with me, usually because most of the time I have seen them, I have been driving.

Actually, this time I was driving too.  But I was driving the tractor (loader bucket full of chicken litter and headed for the compost pile near the garden), and I was able to park it and run to the house for the camera.

Finally armed with a camera, I proceeded to attempt to get a picture of the phenomena.  No matter which setting I tried, the camera was not able to get the colors of the sundogs as sharply as my eyes did (and even more sharply when I wore sunglasses, perhaps I should have tried putting them over the camera lens, LOL).  But I did get a couple of pictures where they at least show up, even if the colors are washed out.

This picture is the best one, you can clearly see both sundogs, and part of the ring around the sun.

Have I said yet, on this blog, how much I love working outside and observing nature?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Gifts In Progress

Now that deer season is over (well, the part that I most actively take part in, anyway--it's back to bow season now with about a week of 'late antlerless' firearm around Christmas time), my focus turns to working in earnest on handmade Christmas presents.  I've actually been working on them since October, but not as high priority, more as free time kind of things.  This week, however, that all changes.  Gift creation time becomes much higher on the activities list.

So far, I've finished two creations for K3: a knit stuffed horse and a pair of socks.  Her socks I made from yarn I had leftover after making my yellow/green/blue socks pictured in my post Still Knitting.

I have also knit up a few dishcloths to give to a friend.

Plus, there is a variety of jams and some pints of maple syrup in my cellar that will be given as gifts too.

In the works currently:
  • a batch of homemade vanilla is finishing aging, ready to be bottled this weekend
  • packaging of calendula and black-eyed susan seeds from my flowerbeds
  • a jar of homemade taco seasoning mix (will season 8 pounds of meat; in other words, 8 taco dinners)
  • a dishcloth with a snowflake on it

Soon to be started:
  • aprons for K2 (pink camo), DS1 (regular camo) and maybe a small one for K3 if I have big enough camo scraps from making her mommy and daddy's aprons
  • 'bowl holders' for at least 3 people on my list, maybe more (if you don't know what they are, google it.  Saw these at a craft show two weeks ago and thought what an awesome idea) 
  • quilted casserole tote for my mom
  • socks for K2 and if time, more socks for K3 using the leftover yarn from K2's socks
  • knit camo hat for DH (he actually requested I knit him something!!)
  • a knitted, stuffed horse for my 2yo niece
  • crocheted 'scrubbies' of nylon net to give with the dishcloths

I also plan to do some edibles closer to the time they will actually be given:
  • peanut brittle
  • toffee
  • fudge
  • buckeyes
As you can see, there is lots for me to create in the next 22 days!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Homemade Sausage!

Today is the last day of firearm deer season.  It is also the last day of November, and my last thankfulness post.  Honestly, I'm a bit thankful for both!

Deer season is a long haul, trying to squeeze in my normal work hours plus daily household/homesteading chores and still find several hours to sit in the woods and hunt.  It is two straight weeks of running hard and no sleeping in, not on Saturday, not on Sunday.

We could just buy more beef from the grocery store, and skip deer hunting all together.  Would be easier.

But not nearly as interesting, as healthy, or as good tasting.  Not to mention all the cool nature-observing stuff we'd miss out on by not sitting in the woods for 45-105 hours each November.

Plus, if we didn't deer hunt, didn't depend so heavily on deer season to provide us with the majority of the red meat in our diet, we wouldn't now be the happy owners of a sausage stuffer!

Two years ago we started making our own summer sausage.  First, using a boxed seasoning mix (and casings) and the stuffer attachment for a Kitchenaid mixer.  That worked, but not optimally, and took a long, long time.

Last year we tried again with the boxed mix and casings, and the stuffing tube that came with our meat grinder.  A little bit faster, but still time consuming.

Attempting to use it to make hunters' sticks, with casings we bought from our local meat counter (they sell hunters sticks, and were willing to sell us a sleeve of their casings when DH asked) was a big FAIL.  Oh, they tasted great, but we didn't have a small enough stuffer tube to use them with.  Ended up trying to stuff the casings using my cookie press.  2 cups of meat at a time.  Lots of air bubbles from refilling the press frequently, lots of frustration trying to hold the casing tight on the smallest end of the press, lots of grumbling.  More than a little marital strife.

This year, we  skipped the boxed spices and casings, instead purchasing casings in the two sizes we desired, and using my inventory of bulk spices to make our own recipes.  DH also went and bought a real honest to goodness sausage stuffer.

It holds 15 pounds of meat at a time, an entire batch of summer sausage or hunter's sticks.  And it came with small, medium, and large stuffing tubes.  Summer sausage size, bratwurst size, and hunter stick/hot dog size.

It stuffs casings quickly, cleanly, and easily.  No more grumbling, no more marital strife; only happy faces and lots of deer sausage!

batch of hunter sticks, stuffed and ready to cook

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Garden

An early spring picture of the garden, several years ago.  Each year, it begins like this.  And grows into something like this by late June or early July:

And then I get camera happy and take all kinds of picture of vegetables growing in the garden, and DH rolls his eyes because of all the space those pictures take up on the computer.  To be honest, I might just have more pictures of vegetables and flowers and animals than of family members. . . maybe.

I am really thankful for our garden.  Even though it is a lot of work.  It provides us with not just wholesome food, but also exercise (all the weeding!!) and subject matter for practicing my photography skills.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I see a lot of sunrises.  Nearly ever day of the year, I am up early enough to see the sun make it's daily appearance in the eastern sky.

You'd think it would get old after a while.  That once I'd seen a few hundred sunrises, I'd have seen them all.

But it doesn't.  Get old, that is.  Sure, getting up early every morning gets tedious and there are lots of days I'd much rather sleep in.  But the sunrises themselves never get ho-hum.  They are always changing, never the exact same color scheme often enough to get boring.

I'm thankful for all the sunrises I get to witness.

September sunrise at the horse farm

over the field at this little place here

foggy sunrise over the field

crystalline sunrise over the field

sunrise from the deer stand, Nov 15, 2013

November sunrise through the bedroom window

spring sunrise over the marsh

sunrise at the horse farm,
plane jet trails making a cross

another sunrise at the horse farm


It's been a while since I posted, and I'm quite behind on my thankfulness posts for November.

Last week, we were without power for 132 hours.  That is 5.5 days.  Even though we have a generator, not having electric power to the house put quite a crimp in things.  You see, we don't run our generator 'round the clock when the power is out.  And we don't power every single thing in the house with it either.  Plus, there's the daily run to town to fill the gas cans to fuel the generator with. . .

So, once the power was finally restored, there was a lot of chores to catch up on.  Hence my lack of posting.

I am really thankful to have electricity back, and be somewhat back into the groove now.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A New Perch

Well, not really new as in just now installed at this little place here.  New as in, new for me.  This particular 'perch' is a platform DH built about 18 feet up a huge maple tree on our east line back in the woods.  He has taken several nice bucks from it and a handful of does since it came into existence about eight or nine years ago.  But until this past weekend, I had never been up on it myself, had never sat and hunted from it.

Several stars aligned to make this suddenly happen, LOL.  DH had taken his 7-point buck on Friday evening (from the maple platform).  DS2 was home to hunt and would be using his own tree stand on the NW edge of the woods.  A good friend of DH's was staying and hunting with us that weekend, and had a stand hung about 2/3 of the way along the south line.  DD1 wanted to hunt, and she doesn't like being up in trees, which meant she got the apple blind (and therefore the playset was not available for me to hunt from because it is within 20 feet of the apple blind).  My only available option was the double stand, which is so close to the stand on the south line that if the apple blind or playset are also being used at that time, you only have one small area that is safe to shoot at.  Of course, I was not very happy about being stuck with that option.  Plus, Saturday was windy, and the double is close to the field, where most of the wind comes from.

So, DH, all ready having his buck, and being rather low on sleep, offered to stay in from hunting that morning, and give me use of the maple platform.  What an awesome husband!  (Reality:  he was tired, has all ready shot two deer this year and wanted to sleep in more than he wanted to hunt at 6:30 a.m.).

He showed me how to strap myself into the safety harness, explained where on the tree to attach it when I got to the top of the long ladder, and sent me on my way.  Apparently, he was more worried about me falling out of the tree than he let on, because I had barely walked to the far edge of this little place here, climbed the ladder, tethered myself to a branch of the maple, and gotten seated, when I got a text asking if I was securely strapped in yet.  Or, maybe he was just thinking how much more cool hunting stuff he could buy with my life insurance money. . . ;0)

Although the deer were scarce that day, I did enjoy getting the experience of being in the maple tree.  Being loose (except my 4-5' long strap from the top of my harness to the tree limb) on a 2' x 3' platform eighteen feet in the air is a whole different thing than sitting in a tree stand 12-15' above the ground with rails all around you.

looking down from my perch

view to the north

view to the west

I'm thankful I got the opportunity to hunt from the maple platform.  I got to see an aerial view of a part of the woods I had not yet hunted.  I also got to briefly fantasize about myself flying on my tether like a kite, should a big gust of wind knock me off the platform.  Luckily, that didn't happen.  Apparently I weigh enough to not be blown off by a measly 40 mph wind gust!  The thought did keep me entertained while the deer were few and far between (and out of shooting range, way off to the west in the brush).

Thursday, November 21, 2013

My New Hunting Hat

With hunting season here again, I was recently reminded of an ongoing problem for the two weeks of late November that make up firearm deer season:  DH can not identify his own orange hat.

Now, this is a problem because it means that there is a chance that when you go to suit up and hit the woods to hunt some deer, your orange hat will not be where you left it.  It will, instead, be on DH's head and he will insist that it is his.  Leaving you with two choices:  insist it is yours and then help DH find where his actually is, or give in and borrow the orange hat of someone who is not hunting that particular day (like, say, DS2 who is not around to hunt currently).  I prefer to use my own hat, for a number of reasons, including the fact that I have a small head compared to the rest of the family (I'm also the shortest, even though I'm 5' 7" tall!) which makes everyone else's hats just a bit loose on me.

Well, this past week I came up with a solution, at least for me.  Everyone else will still have to deal with DH's hat-stealing tendencies.  But for myself, I thought up something that will keep my orange hunting hat safely off DH's head:

I made myself a new one.  One that is small, and 'girly' with many small cables.  It won't fit his head, and it obviously is not his--it has the wrong texture and doesn't look like a hunting hat 'should'.

I got some bright orange yarn (yes, it can be found, I used Encore in worsted weight that is 75% acrylic and 25% wool), follwed a pattern out of the Fall 2013 issue of knitsimple magazine (page 74, #11 cabled hat--leaving off the pompom on the top and the french knots for decoration the magazine showed it in), and knit up my own new hunting hat.

It's not as blaze orange as the fleece gaiter I wear around my neck on cold windy hunting days, but it's close enough to work.  It is actually almost exactly the same shade as DH's hunting hat, which I think goes to show that there are variations of blaze orange.

Anyway, it works (keeps my head warm and prevents it getting shot off), and DH can definitely tell it is not his.  For this, I am thankful.  Mission accomplished.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Glad to Have a Generator

I am thankful that last winter, DH finally bought a generator.  It was something we looked at purchasing when we built the house at this little place here in 2002/2003, but, well, construction always runs over budget (especially when the institution giving you the construction loan comes back 30% of the way into the project and cuts your funding 10%. . . and again when you are half completed, and again. . .) and so a generator got shelved to the 'someday when we can afford it' list.

Anyway, we didn't buy a generator until this past winter, when the power went out during a below-zero spell and the electric company said it would be three days before they got to us.  That was the straw that broke the camel's back, as it were, and DH went out and purchased a generator so that we could at least keep the heat on enough to prevent the plumbing from freezing.

Currently, we are running on generator power again.  A big storm blew through on Sunday afternoon, and our electricity went out about 4:30 p.m.  This time of year, when temperatures are a little more moderate than they were when DH bought the generator, we don't worry so much about the power going out because the pipes aren't going to freeze, and it is cool enough that our garage can be used as a giant refrigerator.  The chest freezer is full enough that it will maintain itself for about two days as long as no one opens it.  So we didn't fire up the generator right away; we lit the oil lamps, cooked dinner on the stove top (which is gas), and went to bed an hour or so earlier than we would have otherwise.

But the next morning, the electric company still did not have an estimated restoration time for our electricity.  Knowing how big of a storm it was, and that there are 100s of thousands of people in the lower part of Michigan without power because of that storm, DH pulled the generator out, filled it with gas, and fired it up.

Now, when we run on our generator, we are still roughing it a bit.  Because it is not one of those huge, expensive ones that can run a whole house like nothing is wrong at all.  No, it is smaller, and so we pick and choose what is on while the generator is running.  We can run the blower on the wood boiler (thus having heat in the house), the main fridge, and the chest freezer at one time.  But no lights, and not the well pump for water.  So, we cycle back and forth, getting the fridge and freezer cooled down to optimum temp again before cutting one or both of those, and turning the well pump on long enough to refill the pressure tank (from which we can get a limited supply of water without power).  Or, we run one room of lights and outlets so cell phones and computers can be recharged for work and school the next day.  Then, when we go to bed, the generator is again shut off, to save gas (and $$$), since while we are sleeping we won't be opening the fridge, or notice if the house cools off 10 degrees since there is also no heat.  But we don't use the oven, or anything else that draws a lot of current, and we don't get to shower much.  Last night DH shut off everything except the bathroom lights and the well pump and we each got to take a very quick shower--oh, that felt so good!

Now, nearly 65 hours after the power went out, and the electric company saying it might be Friday afternoon before it comes back on, I am really, really thankful that we have a generator.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Squirrel TV

Since it is deer season, I have been watching what I refer to as "Squirrel TV".  Squirrel TV is when you sit, in the deer stand, seeing no deer, but watching squirrels scamper around the woods going about their daily activities.

I am thankful for Squirrel TV because it keeps you from getting totally bored between deer sightings, it's educational, and because it can be downright funny.

Some episodes of Squirrel TV that I have been privileged to watch are:

Predator! About the time that three squirrels who were having a good time jumping around in the leaves together and running around on fallen trees were spotted by a barred owl. Who then sat silently watching them until. . . the owl suddenly swooped down out of its tree and attempted to snatch one of the squirrels off of a log!!  The squirrel saw the owl coming at the last minute, gave a mighty yell (yes, squirrels really can yell mightily!), and ducked sideways, falling off the log and avoiding the owl's talons.  The squirrel then proceeded to run as fast as it could into a hole in a nearby tree while the owl flew off, foiled.

Corn Harvest.  About the year that the field at this little place here was in corn.  By deer season, the ears of corn had dried down and hung heavy, upside down, on the corn stalks.  Resourceful squirrels, looking to add to their stores of winter food supplies, climbed the corn stalks, then climbed down to the silk-ends of the ears of corn, and hung there, until the ear of corn broke free from the stalk.  At which point the squirrels would carry the ears off to where ever it was they were caching their corn.  (Watching a squirrel hang by it's front paws from an ear of corn, body stretched full out and not touching the ground was something I had never seen before.)

Apple Picking. Where a squirrel repeatedly climbs up to the outermost branches of an apple tree , picks an apple, then carries the apple in it's mouth back down to ground level.  There, it proceeds to sit and eat the apple.  This can be quite a process, involving climbing nearby trees and jumping into the thin branches of the apple tree.  And sometimes missing and grasping wildly for anything to break it's fall (and amazingly, always catching onto some filament-like branch that is strong enough to bear the weight of the squirrel and save it from crashing to earth.)

Leaf Gathering.  In this episode, a squirrel chooses leaves to line it's nest high in the tree tops.  Apparently only certain leaves will do, sometimes they are found on the ground and sometimes they are picked from the tree they still cling to in their dead and brown state.  All leaves chosen must be dried crispy, but then stuffed into cheek pouches to be carried up into the tree top again to the nest, where they are unloaded and arranged just so.

Squirrel Identification.  Where you learn how many different varieties of squirrels live in your locale.  In this episode, two or even three different kinds of squirrels are shown within a ten-foot radius of each other.  The ones most often show are fox squirrels, gray squirrels, and black squirrels.  The smaller red squirrels are not usually part of the woodsy group, and are normally seen more in the trees lining the fencerows.  You can see the size difference between the gray ones and the fox and black ones.  You can also hear the slightly different voices they have.  And see that the fox ones seem to be the most aggressive and territorial.

Squirrel Location.  This one features hearing noises in the brush or leaves, and trying to locate the exact source of the noise.  Which 99.9% of the time turns out to be a squirrel, not a deer.  Darn it!

Saturday, November 16, 2013


We ate tenderloins for lunch today, after coming in from the morning hunt.  Tenderloins means. . . we have fresh venison hanging!

I am thankful that DH got himself a nice buck last night.  A wide-racked 7-point that really wanted to be a 10-point.  He had one brow tine broken off (which would have made him an eight), and had two more tines that were not quite an inch long (which would have made him a ten).

Good eating, no matter how many points he had, or didn't have.  :0)

Time To Sit

I confess, I'm falling behind on these thankfulness posts.  And the reason I'm falling behind is that the last several days have been challenging.  I either a) had no internet to post my thankfulness, or b) was in a mood this is the opposite of thankful, or c) in the deer stand.

So, now that I have internet and am in a better mood and am not currently in the deer stand, here is something I'm thankful for:

Time to sit in the woods, staring at trees, and watching for deer.  (You had to know I was going to work deer hunting into this month's posts somehow, right?)

Friday was Opening Day, and, as I have for the past handful of years, I took it off of work.  Even turned down a subbing job at the middle school.  Because I can.  I don't need that 3-7 hours of pay enough to miss out on spending a day deer hunting.

And for that, I am thankful.  There have been many times in my life when it didn't matter that it was Opening Day, we needed ever penny that I could earn in order to make sure the bills got paid.  (DH has, for the last 15 years, used one of his paid vacation days for Opening Day).  There have also been many years when I couldn't hunt because my kids needed a ride to school and back; making it pretty impossible, during the years that I had kids in the Lutheran Elementary School, for me to be in the woods early in the morning and middle of the afternoon.

Time spent sitting in the woods, waiting for deer to amble by, is not time wasted.  It is time that I spend relaxing, as well as observing nature.  I've learned to identify trees by bark rather than leaves, while sitting waiting for deer.  I've learned flight patterns of many different types of birds, as well as their songs, while sitting waiting for deer.  I've seen fox, and coyotes, and turkey while sitting and waiting for deer.

I've also written many Christmas newsletters during deer season, on a pocket sized notebook, while sitting and waiting for deer.  Figured out two weeks worth of menus while sitting and waiting for deer.  Read many books (including Anna Karenina!!) while sitting and waiting for deer.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to spend time sitting, waiting for deer.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Little Cat

Of the three abandoned kittens I brought into the house three weeks ago, one has survived and even thrived.  He has been dubbed "Little Cat", which was my attempt at not naming him because he cannot stay.  He still needs a new home, due to DS2's allergies, but my idea of not naming him kind of backfired.  Because now all of us call him Little Cat, and he recognizes it as himself and will come running when you call "Little Cat, where are you?"

While I am running into a wall with trying to find him a home other than here without resorting to listing him on Craigslist, I am thankful that he has grown and thrived.  Having him indoors and under my care has been an amazing experience.  To see him go from pretty helpless, not even knowing how to feed himself, wash himself, or even poop or pee on his own, to a nearly seven week old cat that is litter trained, eats anything he now finds on the floor in addition to his kitten food, climbs, stalks, pounces, wrestles, and seems to have an instinct for hunting that leads me to hope he will make someone a good mouser, well that has been incredible.

Unfortunately, it makes it harder, as the days go by, to not just say "Well, Little Cat, you can stay here, in my house, with me."  In fact, DH, the man who claims he doesn't like cats, has recently been seen playing with Little Cat, and letting Little Cat sit on his shoulder.

It's mighty hard to resist a face like this looking up at you after climbing all the way up the couch to sit on your lap:

It's also hard to resist a cuddly little bugger who looks adorable sleeping in the crook of your arm like this (the noise of the camera woke him up):

I am thankful to have Little Cat in my life, even though it will (hopefully) be a temporary thing.

Getting the Cabbage Taken Care Of.

Thankfulness #12 for this month:  I'm thankful that I got the cabbage-- lots, and lots of cabbage, this many, in fact --taken care of.  Some of it went to friends who did not have a cabbage bounty of their own, some of it became cabbage rolls (both for dinner and for the freezer to dole out into DH's lunch box in the months to come), some became freezer slaw.  Most of it got chopped into thin strands, salted, and packed into the big 10 gallon crock DH's grandmother gave me years ago, where it will spend the next six week s fermenting into sauerkraut.

Inside the crock:  cabbage salted and packed; after a little while the salt draws enough juice from the cabbage that it is submerged.  I then covered the cabbage shreds with muslin, tucking the muslin in well on the edges.  Then a plate is placed over that, and gallon baggies filled with water (for weight) put on top of the plate. The idea is to keep the cabbage itself submerged, so no air (and germs) can get to it during the fermentation process.

Then the crock itself is covered with a cloth, as shown above.  After that, I convince DH to carry it to the basement for me. The crock empty weighs probably close to 20 pounds, and it has about 30 pounds of cabbage stuffed into it at the moment, plus two gallons of water at 8 pounds each. . . 

The basement has an ideal temperature range for fermenting, keeping the cabbage around 70 degrees for the length of the fermentation process.

In the next six weeks, the making of kraut doesn't require much effort from me.  Mostly it's the hours washing and shredding and salting and packing in the beginning, and the canning at the end that need my attention.  Other than that it just sits and does it's thing. And smells a bit, which is another reason it's in the basement and not on the main floor of the house!

Monday, November 11, 2013


Today is Veteran's Day, and all over the internet and the media everyone is thankful for our veterans, our freedom, our military.  I am too.  Only, I am thankful more than just today. I am thankful for those who lost their lives in service to our country; who had a part in keeping these United States free.  But more than that, and what I am daily thankful for  are the lives that were not lost in military service.

I am thankful that my maternal grandfather did not lose his life in World War II, even though he suffered battle wounds that left him with a lift in his shoe and a slight limp for the rest of his life.  I am thankful he made it home from Europe alive.  Because had he not lived through his time of Army service, my mother would have never been born.  And without her, I would never have been born.  So I am very thankful that Grandpa's life was spared.

I am thankful that my father did not lose his life in the Vietnam War.  Because I was born ten months after he completed his service in the Marine Corps.  Had he not made it home alive, I would not have been born.  (See a theme here?)

I am thankful that my cousin did not lose his life in any of his many tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he is about to retire from the Marine Corps at the ripe "old" age of 40.

I am thankful that my eldest son, DS1, has completed his active duty in the Marine Corps without harm.  Had he not returned from his deployments, not only would I forever mourn a son, I would not currently be a grandmother.

I am very, very thankful for the service of these particular men, and that God has spared them from the ultimate sacrifice to their country.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I am so thankful for the abundance of apples we have at this little place here.  DH and I are just in awe over the number of different types of apples we have growing wild.  I am still trying to identify them; I'm convinced that some are not just wild sports but might actually be named heirloom varieties.

These are from a tree located on our north fence line on the edge of the pasture/hayfield, 
and currently referred to as "the red pasture apple" until I find out exactly what kind it is.  
Ripening late, and seeming to be very cold hardy, it is firm with white flesh.

They are pretty to look at, tasty to eat fresh, but unfortunately made rather a bland pie.
So, mark this tree for storage apples, or maybe cider; but not pies.
There is another tree, maybe 20 yards away, that is also a very late season apple, but it looks and tastes totally different.  That one is a russet of some sort, with the characteristic yellow/brown coloration, flesh that is butter yellow and a very 'spicy' taste.  That one we've marked as a contributor to future batches of cider.

This apple tree is on a different part of our north fence line.  It is an early season apple, ripening in the summer, and if I remember right, it has a taste more like berries than apple.  I suspect it might be what is called a "Strawberry" apple.  Whatever it is, I want to try to harvest more apples from it in the future.  They seem to have a very short time from ripe to rotten, and not at all a storage type.

Mostly, so far, the wild apple trees at this little place here have fed the wildlife more than they have the human population.  As evidenced in this picture, where a very nice buck was snapped hanging out under one of the many apple trees where our woods meet our field.

And this squirrel, whom I watched climb the tree, carefully walk all the way to the very end of the branch this apple hung on, pick the apple, and climb down closer to ground level before enjoying the fruit of it's labor.

Even woodpeckers will eat the apples in the winter, not being put off at all by the brown, shriveled exterior of the mummified fruit.

In a bumper year like 2013 has been, I think there are plenty of apples for both the wildlife and the humans.  We will be watching certain trees in future years, and taking some of the apples for our own enjoyment--and cider making if we can get a hold of a real cider press!  Or even find one we can haul our apples to for the pressing.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


A few pictures of the horses I am thankful to have known.

My first horse.  He was a character.  It is because of him, I think, that I became a fearless rider and got into training horses.  He was an Arabian, and definitely knew more than I did when I started with him.  He used that to his advantage, and didn't care to work any harder than he had to.  And when I (or my trainer) told him he had to, well, watch out!  My very first year of showing horses, in my western equitation class at the county fair, he let loose with a bucking spell that sent me flying.  I tucked and rolled, hit the ground, popped to my feet, caught him, and was back in the saddle before the judge could really process what had just happened.  Although I did not finish in the ribbons, I did complete the class.

This horse in this picture, an Arabian mare, technically belonged to my mother, not me.  We bought her as a coming two year old, with the plans that she'd be my mother's horse and we would ride together, me on my horse and Mom on hers.  I don't think my mother ever did get on this horse, she was a quick little mare that could leave you hanging in mid-air when she turned and you didn't! This one was the first horse I ever broke out from scratch. She taught me to always pay attention! When Mom sold her, after I got married, this mare ended up becoming a lesson horse at a stable I had worked at.

This was my main show horse during my horse showing career, which lasted until 1991 when I moved far, far away (500 miles!) with DH. This gelding is the half-brother to the mare in the previous picture, foaled the same year, only his mother was an Arabian/Quarter Horse cross instead of a full-blooded Arab.  I started working with him when he was a 2 year old and purchased him when he was three.  He was the second horse I ever broke out.  We had quite a good show career together, until I sold him in early 1992.

Even though he changed hands a couple of times, I was able to keep tabs on him. He spent a handful of years on the Arab show circuit without me, and after surviving a bout of EPM which left him with a hitch in his get-along, he left the show circuit for a career as a horse in a therapeutic riding program for disabled people. In 2006 he came back into my life when I purchased him for my daughters to ride.  Much older, he had greyed out like many Arab and Arab-crossed horses do.  I refer to him in my blog as The Old Man, he is 29 years old now and pretty much retired.

The Old Man, spring 2013

Still loving work, just not as durable as he used to be.

For a brief time in high school I did gymkhana events, such as barrel racing, on the palomino in this picture.   It was great fun, and I earned many points for my high school equestrian team with her.  She was the "aunt" of The Old Man, being a half-sister of his mother.  With her, I found a love for speed and tight turns.

From doing gymkhana on the high school equestrian team, I turned my interests to learning dressage.  Three short years after the barrel racing picture was taken, I could be found riding a big Belgian/Quarter Horse cross at a dressage facility where I both worked and learned.  This horse was the biggest I had ever ridden, and she was like a freight train.  She could run away with me at the walk because she simply would plow right through my aids until I had learned enough to keep her from doing so.  She was a huge change from all the Arabs I had ridden up until that point.  They were easy to manhandle and make stop.  Her, not so much.  This mare, and the things I learned from her, were of great use when I bought my own dressage horse prospect many years (and three children) later.

The Pony, purchased for my children a week before DD2 was born.  I had known him (and ridden him a few times) during my 4-H years, he had been owned by several different families in my 4-H club, changing owners as his outgrew him and younger children came along.  We were his final family, he developed Cushings and I had him put down in 2004 when he was 32 years old.

The Mare.  A warmblood, Holsteiner to be specific.  I purchased her as a very green 12 year old (she hadn't been ridden since age 4, when she had been backed enough to go at a walk and trot). I have put in all her training since above the very basic of basics she got at age 4, and although we haven't shown (getting back into showing just didn't pan out for me what with family and time and finances and all), she and I work at roughly Second Level together.  Although, now that she's 24 years old, she's semi-retired.

This is The Quarter Horse.  The one I bought despite having been convinced, for decades, that I would never own a Quarter Horse because they just weren't challenging enough to ride.  This one changed my mind.  He has the best movement of any QH I've ever seen, he is a natural dressage horse.  He has a very quick mind, too.  So I bought him.  He is the young whipper snapper who is coming behind The Mare, her replacement as she gets closer to being geriatric.

I know at the beginning of this post, I said a "few" pictures.  Reading all this way, you're probably thinking "that's a lot of pictures!"  It is just a handful of the horses I have known through the years.  Most of the ones I have worked with, some just in-hand, some in the saddle, I do not have pictures of.  But they all taught me something along the way.

I am thankful for my teachers, the horses.