Thursday, January 31, 2013

Squash Recipe #9: Butternut and Corn Chowder

Here's a recipe we tried last night for the first time.  DH had seen a recipe in the January issue of the in-flight magazine of the airline he flew on for his work related trip earlier this month, and had thought it sounded good.  So when he got home, he tried to describe it to me, although mainly he could only remember 'chowder', corn kernels, butternut squash, and chicken broth.  My suggesting ingredients, based on my culinary knowledge, while he was trying to remember what he'd read apparently was annoying rather than helpful, and he couldn't recall much other than that he'd thought it would be a good soup.

Being the loving wife I am, and you know, still on the lookout for new ways to use my bumper crop of squash, I got on the internet and attempted to find a recipe using those ingredients.  Without much luck.  Oh, I found numerous butternut corn chowder recipes, but really not any using chicken broth.  Most used vegetable broth, from a can.  I however, wanted to use chicken broth, partly because DH was adamant that's what the recipe he'd seen used, and partly because I have several quarts of homemade chicken broth in the freezer.

Finally, I ended up reading a variety of recipes, pulling common ingredients from them, adding my chicken broth, and winging it.  The chowder came out pretty tasty, so I wrote down exactly what I did in order to be able to replicate it in the future.

Butternut Corn Chowder

2 small butternut squash (about 1 pound each)
1 medium (or 3 small) onions
2 Tbsp veggie oil
2 cups corn kernels (thaw if using frozen corn)
1 1/2 tsp curry 
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 quart chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream

  1. First, peel, seed and cut your squash into 1" chunks.  Also chop your onion(s).
  2. In a pot, heat the veggie oil on medium, then add the onion and squash.  Stir occasionally, until onion gets soft, about 5-6 minutes.  
  3. Add the corn and curry powder, and stir well.  Let heat for about 2 minutes, then add salt and pepper.
  4. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes until the squash is tender.
  5. Remove half of the soup from the pot.  In small batches (about a cup and a half), puree in a blender, returning pureed soup to the pot.
  6. Once all the soup is back in the pot, stir in the cream.
At this point, I just turned the heat off and served the soup.  It was hot enough before the addition of the cream that the cream did not cool it off much, so I didn't feel it needed to continue to heat more.

We ate ours with croutons, which was a first for us--having soup with croutons versus crackers, rolls, biscuits, muffins, bread or toast--but is a way many of the chowder recipes I'd seen while trying to find a butternut corn chowder said to serve it.  So I did.  And it was good.

very orange looking chowder

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Knitting. . .Another New Skill

Last week's knitting lesson was sort of a lesson, and sort of not.  DD2 did not go with us (having her first 'real' date that evening--meaning with a male friend to something not school related), and neither DD1 nor DD2 had their ruffled scarves all the way knitted, so we did not learn to finish them by sewing off the ends.  And, since they hadn't completed the previous lesson by knitting the entire skein of yarn for their scarves, along with DD2's absence, the instructor and I decided not to start a new project that evening either.

Instead, I asked her about knitting in the round.  It sounds so intriguing, especially when I keep seeing patterns for things that say 'knit in the round', and people who hear that I am taking knitting lessons ask if I'm learning to 'knit in the round' yet.

She said that she had some circular needles and some yarn I could practice with, and for an hour or so, DD1 and I sat with the instructor and just got the hang of knitting in the round.  I also learned how to knit on, because my tail I started with wasn't quite long enough to fill the circular needles, which is what the instructor wanted us to do.  As she was showing me how to knit on to add stitches to my cast on row, the instructor said "normally I don't show beginners this. . ."  We weren't making anything, just filling the needle with cast on stitches, inserting a row marker, and then knitting and knitting and knitting to our hearts content.  Well, to our time limit, anyway.

It was all about practice and repetition.  It was fun.  I'm not sure, but I think I might like knitting in the round better than knitting on straight needles.  I definitely want to pursue it further.

It has been just over four days since that last lesson.  I have nothing knitting related to work on at home since we didn't start a new project (in hindsight, I wish I'd purchased some circular needles just to I could practice it more at home), and the knitting bug is biting.  So. . . I dug out some straight needles I'd purchased several years ago (when I started  wanting to learn to knit) and a nice soft skein of yarn, and last night I started a plain Jane normal scarf for myself.  Plain Jane in that it will be completely of knit stitches, no ribs, cables or anything fancy.  I'll just knit and knit and knit until I feel the scarf is long enough and then I'll bind off.  Something to keep my hands busy when I'm sitting, and satisfy my urge to knit, because our next lesson is five long days off yet!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Little Homey Touches

I'm not much for knick knacks and doo-dads.  Most of my decorations consist of a few framed pictures hung on the wall. Ten of which contain my kids at various ages and stages.  That only leaves about eight others, one of which is a wedding photo of DH and I.  Another is an aerial photo of our property, which was an anniversary present a couple of years ago.

Point being, I'm naturally more into function than decoration.  Although in the last few months, I've been finding myself adding a bit more embellishment to certain parts of the house.  Lest you think I've gone all foo-foo girly, let me add that part of it has been finding a way to use a few items I want to have without them just being clutter.

One item that helped greatly in this endeavor, was an over-the-toilet cabinet that I snagged at Goodwill this past summer for less than $10.  It was in great shape and didn't even need painting.  I gave it a wash and some new shelf paper inside, and it was ready to set into place.  In addition to holding towels and toilet paper in a location very close to the shower and the commode, it is a great place to display some of my treasures from recent travels.

The top shelf contains a picture of a juvenile bald eagle I took when we delivered DS2 to his freshman year of college, an amaryllis I am growing from a bulb (something I've always wanted to try growing and scored earlier this month at Wally World for 75% off), and a homemade candle in an antique canning jar that was a gift from a friend several years ago.

The bottom shelf holds another canning jar that contains sea shells DH and I collected on a sunset walk along the ocean when we went to Myrtle Beach last summer, a small chunk of granite from where DS2 took us climbing this past August (to show us where he rock climbs/rappels), another picture I took in the U.P. (sunlight and shadows along a tree root woven dirt path in the woods), and a mostly intact conch shell I found during that beach walk with DH last summer.

Nothing fancy, and nothing that cost much of anything, but all have meaning to me.

A new item in my bathroom is a hand soap dispenser I made yesterday from another antique canning jar (this one is also a pale green, and scored from Goodwill for 59 cents!) and the pump portion of a many years old hand soap bottle from the store.  (I get my hand soap by the gallon and just refill existing dispensers until they give up the ghost after a decade or so.)

It was super easy to make.  Basically, I took a lid and ring that I had, poked a hole in the center of the lid (I confess, with a corn stabber aka holder for eating corn on the cob), enlarged the hole by mashing a screwdriver through it, then used a pair of needle nosed pliers to gently pull the edges of the hole larger until the fattest part of the underside of the pump dispenser fit snugly into it.  Then I just trimmed the straw part of the dispenser to the depth of the bottom of the jar, filled the jar with soap, and screwed the lid down with the canning jar ring.  Voila, country style frugally decorative--yet very functional!--hand soap dispenser.

Two more items put to functional yet decorative use reside near my front door in what I suppose you could call the foyer--although it is really where the hallway and front door and stairs to the second story all meet--are my childhood toy chest (made by my maternal grandfather--who died when I was 18--used by me, then used and outgrown by all four of my kids), and a doily handmade by DH's maternal grandmother (who has been deceased for nearly a decade).

The poor aloe plant that sits atop the doily (which makes a great decorative touch to a really not so pretty plant and pot) didn't like the 50-something degrees which the house got down to during our power outage last week.  Prior to that, it was nice and rigid and upright (and occasionally used for treating burns and stings), but now it's rather sad looking and blackened in spots.  It also came into my possession at no cost when I volunteered to re-pot all the plants in one of my children's classrooms about fourteen years ago, and the teacher told me to keep all the 'sprouts' from any of the plants I was working with.

Anyway, the toy chest holds a variety of miscellany, including some seasonal decorations for the walls in that corner of the house and a few afghans that I rotate on the back of the couch with the seasons (handmade by various family members, some long deceased).  But mostly it dresses up the entry way, gives me somewhere other than the floor to put that plant, and holds our most recent family picture--the only one with all eight of us in it--which was taken at DD1's graduation.

Next time you go decluttering in your house, take a good look at your miscellaneous heirlooms and emotional treasures, and see if maybe you can come up with functionally decorative spots to use them rather than having them stuffed into drawers, cabinets, boxes, and basement corners.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Working in the Woods Again

With all the wind storms we've had in the last few months, there are a lot of downed trees out in the woods again.  The Saturday before we lost power (due to 10+ hours of sustained winds about 50 mph), DH and the girls spent most of the day out cleaning up the road in the woods.  They had to cut up several trees that had fallen along the approximately 1/3 mile of "road" (really a two-track path dozed with the tractor the first summer we owned the property) we have back there.

While there, DH eyed a few more trees he wanted to cut up; including two large ones that had fallen across the drainage ditch that is just across our back fence line and separates our woods from the neighbor's field.  However, those two big trees would require more time and more equipment than he had that day.

So, this Saturday, he and I went back there with the tractor, chains, come along, log tongs, machete, and chainsaw.  We spent 4 1/2 hours retrieving those trees.  It wasn't easy.  In fact, at times it was downright scary when they hung up and started to tip the tractor.  Time to stop and reassess the situation!! Tilting sideways or nose-down on a tractor is not high on my list of fun things to do.

We got them, though.  Without tipping the tractor, and with no injuries to either of us, save some scratches from the wild roses that one of them fell on.  (Hence the need for the machete--whacking rose briars.)  At one point, DH was down in that drainage ditch, standing on we weren't sure how thick of ice, his chainsaw held at head height, while he cut through the fork of a big black cherry tree.  Once the fork had been severed from the trunk. leaving us with three parts (left fork, right fork, and trunk which was still attached to a 6' root ball that was frozen to the ground), it was fairly easy for me to drag each big log (left and right forks) across the ditch with the tractor.  Once they were on solid ground, DH cut them up with the chainsaw.

I intended to take some pictures while we were working on the beasts, but, well, my cell phone battery didn't like the cold weather and decided to be too weak to take pictures.  Maybe next time, I'll bring the real camera (and something warm to keep it in!)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sixty-One Hours

That's how long we were without electricity this week.  Based on info we got from the electric company's website, our power went out shortly after three a.m. on Sunday.  On Sunday afternoon, they were telling us it would not be restored until Wednesday night, after nine p.m.  The temperature outside was in the single digits, and wind chills were in the negative teens.  Without electricity to run the pump on the wood boiler, the house was not getting heat, and the wind was making indoor temperatures plummet.

DH went and bought a generator within an hour of getting the electric company's restoration estimate.  Four days without power was not an option.  Based on outdoor weather conditions, and the rate the house was losing heat, he estimated that by Monday night we would be having water pipes indoors freeze.  That would be tragic, as we have lots of water pipes with our hydronic radiant heat being in the floors.  Frozen, burst pipes in the floors would pretty much mean tearing the house apart to repair it from water damage.

And so, we did something we don't like to do:  impulse bought a large ticket item.  No time for research, no time for shopping around.  Go to the local big box store, find that they have very few on the shelf, and get one to bring home and power the essentials with.

From about six p.m. on Sunday, until the electricity was restored after four p.m. on Tuesday (yay, 29 hours earlier than predicted!), we fed the generator gasoline (thankfully at the "low" price of only $3.18 a gallon--it jumped to $3.43 on Wednesday!!) so that we could have a working pump (and damper) on the wood boiler, intermittently run the well pump for water, and power our refrigerator and giant chest freezer (which is full of 3 deer, numerous chickens, a couple turkeys, a little pork and beef, and assorted vegetables).  That was it.  Better than nothing, but still not life as normal.

Toilets could be flushed, but the more often they were flushed, the more often we had to cut power to the freezer so the well pump could be run.  So the "if it's yellow. . ." rule applied for three entire days.

Running water for a shower or bath, not an option.  Sink bathing with a wash cloth was all that was offered.  I can't tell you how good that first shower Tuesday night felt!

Most rooms were without electricity so that it could be 'saved' for the essentials of heat and saving our cold-storage food items.  Two of the three bathrooms do not have windows.  Using those two, even in the day time, required bringing a flash light.  When the power came on on Tuesday, the first comment after someone used the bathroom was "I can pee with the light on!!"  Okay, it sounds funny, but it really was a comment of appreciation for modern conveniences.  It really makes you think about the things you take for granted, like light in the bathroom.

Going to bed at night also meant bringing a flash light so you could see to walk up the stairs.  And back down again in the pre-dawn of morning, plus getting dressed, brushing teeth and hair, etc.  Waking up on time meant bringing your cell phone to bed (usually all cell phones stay downstairs at night, not in the bedrooms) and making sure you set the alarm on it.

Cooking was done on the cook top only, so menus had to be reconfigured to serve only non-baked and non-roasted dishes.  We had venison steaks the first night, then a couple pots of soup:  turkey and chili, which not only fit the bill, but also helped heat the house with their long simmering times (from scratch, of course, cooking 3-5 hours each).  Breakfasts were tough, without a toaster.  'Fried' toast (bread buttered then toasted in a frying pan on the stove) is not as good with eggs as toast made the normal way.

Breakfasts and dinners were cooked by the light of two oil lamps, one next to the cook top and one on the island where all the mixing, measuring, and prep work was done.  Dishes were left from dinner until the sun came up the next day, so they could be washed in good light rather than the dim flickering of the oil lamps.

The living room was the one room DH had connected to the generator.  He had to watch football playoffs on Sunday night, plus DD1 needed to be able to use her computer to complete college assignments that were due the next day.  Not to mention being able to charge our cell phones, which were also our alarm clocks!

All in all, 61 hours of no/reduced electricity wasn't too bad.  I got a lot of things done that normally get put off, like the mending that requires hand-sewing instead of on the sewing machine, and decluttering the study.  Several trash cans worth of old papers went into the wood boiler that day!  We read, we knitted, we talked.  We brainstormed ways to make improvements for the next extended power outage.  DH examined which circuits in the electric panel need to be connected to the generator in the future, figuring what their combined load would be and what the generator's capacity is.

Wednesday, it was good to wake up to heat, and light, and the alarm clock beside the bed, and quiet. . . no generator running outside.  Wednesday also meant washing a whole lot of laundry, three missed days of laundry.  Catching up on emails and other internet related stuff.  Refilling the 'emergency' containers of water kept for watering the animals during an outage.  And using the oven to cook dinner!  What a blessing ovens are.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

One Windy Night.

Last night was extremely windy.  The power went out at least once between 11:00 and 2:00, as when a large thump from outside woke DH and I up at approximately 2:20 a.m. (he looked at his cell phone to determine the time), both of our alarm clocks were blinking.  When they blink, it means the power has gone out, and come back on.

Being very dark, we could not tell what outside had made the large thump, but we could see, barely, the image of branches against the night sky out in the field, so we knew that at least the big oak--really big oak, DH cannot span one side of its trunk with his arms outstretched--in the field had not blown down.  The oak is so big and old it would be a shame to lose it.

We tried to go back to sleep, although the strange noises the wind was making did not make relaxing into sleep easy.  As we lay there, the conversation went something like this:

me:  "The wind sounds wrong."
DH:  "Yes, it's strange."

silence for a few minutes.

me:  "I'm trying to decide if I want to go to sleep, or go to the basement."
DH:  "mm hmm."
me:  "But it's January, and the sky is clear, I can see stars.  You can't have a tornado in Michigan in January, and you can't have a tornado when the sky is clear."
DH:  "Nope. It's just wind, no tornado.  But it sure sounds funny."

Eventually, we went back to sleep.  To be woken up a little while later by the sound of something metallic hitting the ground somewhere near the back of the house.  Now, the alarm clocks are no longer on (I had reset the time before we drifted back to sleep), so I know the power is out.  Eventually I get back to sleep.

We woke up just before 8 a.m. as the sky was becoming light.  Still no power, and the house is chilly.  The really strong winds are sucking the heat right out without electricity to keep hot water circulating from the wood boiler to the house and through the floors.  We get up and get ready for church, sans showers.

When the sun is up higher, and we can see out in the yard and to the barn, I discover what made the loud thump in the middle of the night.  The door to the chicken house, which is on the east side of the coop, has been torn off and now lies in front of the coop, on the south side.  Hmmm.  That's not good!

Long story short, after church DH and I had to install three new (more heavy duty) hinges on the chicken coop door.  He also decided, about 3 p.m., when the electric company finally gave us an estimate of when our electricity would be restored--Wednesday night--that it was time to break down and purchase a generator.  Without one, we, as people, would get along fine by bundling up and just telling ourselves we were polar bear camping indoors (DH and the boys used to go polar bear camping outdoors when they were younger), but our pipes would most likely be frozen and burst by then.  Tomorrow's high temperature is only supposed to be 15 degrees, and Tuesday's forecast isn't any better.

So, tonight, we have new hinges on the chicken coop door, which is latched tight against the cold and predators, and power to our heat system, fridge, and the TV.  So DH can watch the football championships.  Once football is over, he'll shut off the circuit to the living room, and turn on the one for the chest freezer.

Dinner was cooked, by oil lamp light, on the cook top (one of the reasons I went with a gas cook top versus electric:  so I can cook in a power outage).  We enjoyed venison steaks with sauteed onions and mushrooms, peas, and steamed sweet potatoes.  For dessert was no-bake cookies, also made on the cook top.  Just because the power is out doesn't mean we have to starve!

Friday, January 18, 2013

We Progress to a Knitting Project!

Knitting lesson #3 was last night.  No new stitches, but a real honest to goodness project to make.  Scary stuff!

Actually, it isn't as hard as we thought when the instructor first told us what we were to do.  We are making those ruffly scarves that are so popular right now.  And using some pretty funky yarn.  It looks like the yarn itself is crocheted out of thin threads.

This is the skein:

(I decided to do pink and send the finished scarf to K2 for her birthday in a few weeks.  Pink is her favorite color.)

This is what the yarn looks like when you spread it out like the instructor told us to do:

At which point we looked at her like "what??????  How are we supposed to work with this???"

Actually, it is really easy to work with.  You use the loops at the bottom of the yarn.  They spread apart really easily.  As you knit, it is the width of the yarn that makes the ruffle.  

Super easy, just 6 stitches per row, all knit stitches.  After an hour of knitting, this is what mine looks like so far:

I can foresee this being done in a few more hours.  Price at the yarn store to purchase a made scarf identical to this:  $12.  Price on the internet (yeah, I looked, for my own frugal reference): $12-$20 or so.  Price of my skein of yarn last night: $5.99 less my 15% student discount.

Let's see, I can watch tv at night with DH, and knit while I'm doing that, and make a scarf in two nights or so.  Hmmm. . . 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


2013's first carton of eggs!  The "girls"  (aka, my hens) apparently now have enough daylight to get back into production mode.  They started last week, with one egg one day.  Then an egg the next day.  Then a different color egg (so, different hen) the third day.  On the fourth day, I found two eggs in the next boxes. The fifth day, only one egg.  Today, which is somewhere around day 8, I found three eggs, and filled my egg carton!

I'm so glad they aren't going to stay dormant all the way into February, as they have in some years.   Last year, for instance,  I had to call all my chicken owning friends in January and early February, and ask if they happened to have any extra eggs they would sell me in order to avoid having to buy the dreaded 'store eggs'.  This year, I definitely won't have to.  This winter my hens slowly dwindled off production, stretching it out until the last egg carton was filled on December 22nd.  Thankfully I had stockpiled eggs all fall, changing to using egg substitutions in recipes and 'real' eggs just for breakfast, so I never actually ran out of homegrown eggs.  I was down to my last dozen and a half when that first egg of the year appeared last week, though, and was getting nervous.  Now I can breathe easy.

Oh happy day!  A full egg carton and sunshine, and I'm saying life is good.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Holding Down the Fort

DH's latest job-related travel has gone, for me, something like this:

Day 1:  get up at 4:30 a.m. so we can have breakfast together before he leaves for the airport @ 5:15.  Cook breakfast.  Eat breakfast.  Kiss and hug him goodbye--I won't be getting hugs or kisses for 9 days.  Put venison hunter sticks we stuffed yesterday afternoon into oven to cook.  (Our deer hunting 2012 ended with a nice size doe taken at the end of late does season on New Year's eve.)  Do two loads of laundry.  Get dressed (for church), take finished hunter sticks out of oven, drive DS2 into Lansing where he is meeting his ride back to the U.P. (he drove himself down for the semester break, but is leaving his car here with us so we can sell it.  He's looking to get something with four wheel drive. . .).  Go to church after DS2 meets his ride.  Come home from church.  Change clothes.  Remember I forgot to take care of chickens this morning.  Go feed, water and let chickens out of coop.  See that the wood burner damper is stuck again: steam is pouring out the stack on the water jacket.  Uh-oh.  Call DH, who has by now arrived in California.  Get instructions from him on how to close the damper (and hopefully un-stick it so it will work all right on it's own), check water level in boiler (very very low), add water to boiler, stoke boiler which has been stuck on 'high' for who knows how many hours and has nearly burned up all the wood DH stoked it with last night (which should have lasted 24 hours with current weather conditions).  Meanwhile, the summer sausage sticks we also stuffed yesterday have been warming to room temp so I can now give them their time in the oven.  Put 5 three-pound summer sausage logs into the oven.  Have a pb & j for a late lunch (bread and jam homemade, pb not).  Notice that I can hear water rushing in the floors.  Crap.  That is the sound of air in the heating system.  Air that should not be there.  Proceed to call DH (again) out in CA and get instructions on how to bleed the air that is stuck in the system.  Attempt to bleed.  Sounds okay now.  Go mix up a batch of granola.  To hear air again half-hour later.  Bleed again.  Check with DH (again) to make sure I'm doing it right.  Check and rotate summer sausage.  Stir granola that is baking in the lower oven. . . is this the third or fourth time I've stirred it?  Is it done or does it have one more 15-minute session left in the oven?????  losing my mind. . . .

Day 2:  arise with the alarm at 6:30 (hey, sleeping in!  I only have to cook one breakfast--mine--and don't have to pack a lunch--his), check the heating system, which appears A-OK.  Phew.  Continue with normal daily routine.  Remember to stoke the fire.  Goad daughters into following the new division of chores that the three of us agreed on the evening before.  Since DD1 has moved back home, she is of course expected to do chores, unlike when she lived away at college and only came home for short visits.  Surprisingly there was no weeping or gnashing of teeth over chores, and they (mostly--see Day 3) got done.  Overall, a good day.

Day 3: again arise with the alarm, check the heating system.  Things hunky-dory at this little place here, with the exception of having to remind DD2 that she did not take out the trash last night (her chore on Mondays) and tell her she will take it out with her this morning on her way to the school bus.  She does.  All is well.  At the horse farm, however, I find that the person who does the evening feed (who just became employed with us a month ago), not only left the lights on in one of the barns (electric bill, but other than that not a huge deal), but also left the feed room door open (big no-no!) and also apparently never grained the horses in that barn last night because their grain buckets are still all lined up in the feed room with grain measured out into them (not good; her job is to FEED the horses at night).   Oh boy.  As manager I now have to deal with speaking with this employee and disciplining her.  Fun, fun.  Special trip back to the farm in the evening when she is there to speak with her privately and in person about this matter.

Day 4:  alarm clock, check heat system. It's at target temp and sounding ok.  Warm outside--a whopping 32 degrees pre-dawn.  Supposed to be sunny and 40 today.  Everything humming right along until I come home from the horse farm, go in the house and notice a funky smell in the vicinity of the basement stairs.  It's a somethings rotten kind of smell, and try as I might, I can't locate what is making it.  Go through all the squash stored in the basement.  Find a few wrinkly ones that are getting soft, but not smelly.  Take them out and feed them to the chickens, who love this change in their diet.  Source of smell is still unknown.  DH has a long day at work--I don't hear from him until ten p.m.  And so begins my decline to toward the 'day five crash'--typically I'm all right until about the fifth day he is gone, when I get to missing him and start to feel hug & kiss withdrawals really bad.  The less chances he has to give me a call, the harder the crash and ensuing days get.

Day 5:  alarm clock, check heat system, everything still ok.  Beautiful sunrise, try to take pic of it w/my cell phone so I can text it to DH.  No dice.  Cell phone camera can't get the colors. Feel wave of longing to be with DH, to share this sunrise with him in person. And so starts day 5.  Later in the day, I put the pelvic and leg bones from the deer we processed last Saturday out by the chicken coop so that the chickens could clean off the bits of meat we couldn't get when de-boning the hindquarter.  The chickens (and the barn cats) went nuts, the carnivores! Back inside the house, I notice that the funky smell near the stairs has gone away.  Weird.  Still don't know what it was, but glad to not smell it anymore. Finally get a "long" (more than 5 minutes, woo ho!) phone call from DH around 10 p.m.

Day 6: alarm clock, check heat system (chugging along ).  Rain.  It's been raining since the evening before.  Stoke fire with wet firewood.  Let chickens out, and notice that the deer bones (think complete hindquarter skeleton down to lower leg bones) are gone.  Gone!  Hmmm.  Apparently we had a coyote at the chicken house last night.  Really missing Old Dog now, he was good at marking the perimeter of the yard and the barn area, keeping the coyotes away.  Lacking a dog to leave a 'no trespassing sign' for the coyote, should it return to check out the coop area again, I wait until I go out to shut the chickens in at dusk, and I 'mark' near the coop myself.  (yes, yes I did do what you're thinking I did.)  On a side note, if you've never watched the movie Never Cry Wolf you might want to check it out; you might find it entertaining.  See mouse in basement when I go down to put the last load of laundry in the dryer that night.  Gather mousetraps, bait with peanut butter.  Wait in sadistic anticipation of finding a mouse in the trap the next morning.

Day 7: a real chance to sleep in!!! I didn't get up until 8:00 a.m., woo hoo!!  check heat system, which isn't even calling for heat since it's over 55 degrees outside all ready.  Wow!  Is it really January??   Check mousetraps.  Caught one, other two traps are licked clean but not tripped.  Rebait all three. Beautiful day, so I putter around in the garden, mulching things I forgot to mulch in November.  DH really busy out on the road, I don't hear from him but for 10 minutes (which got interrupted 3x by work stuff on his end) late in the day.  Missing him much.  Very, very tired of him being gone.  Hear weather forecast for freezing rain overnight.  Go out to put pick-up into garage so I won't have to scrape the windshield before church in the morning.  Only, I forgot to run the truck today, so it won't start (been having trouble with it for about a month; as long as it gets run daily it starts up fine.  Let it sit more than 24 hours and it doesn't want to fire up.  GRRR!!! )   The battery isn't the problem, so jumping it is useless, although too many attempts at starting it will wear the battery down.  Really, really missing DH now.  Not only won't the truck start, it is sitting dead in front of the garage door that leads to the only available parking spot under a roof.  So I can't even put the Suburban in there as my second choice transportation to church.  Resign myself to having to scrape ice in the morning. . .

Day 8: wake up to rain.  Oh joy!  It's still warm enough to be rain!  In fact, it's all of 39 degrees!  Wood boiler puffing away because now the house wants heat.  Heat system still sounds fine, no sign of any more air bubbles. Praise God I get to church with no problems. After church, DD1 and I work on making her a bedroom in the basement, as DH said she could have instead of moving back in with her younger sister.  We move furniture and exercise equipment (treadmill, stationary bike, free weights) around, hang sheets from the rafters/first floor floor joists to make a visual divider from the rest of the open basement area, and begin to create a bedroom where there was none.  Between the two of us, we haul a single bed frame, box spring, and mattress, plus a 5-drawer dresser from the second floor to the basement.  And then haul a bookshelf up to the first floor study, where, since it is a low bookshelf, I put in on the ledge that is the only part of my one wall of floor to ceiling bookshelves DH started to build me six years ago.  I eye the other bookshelf that remains in the basement, realizing I do have room for that one in the study too.  But that will have to wait another day, because it's past time to cook dinner (which I found out hadn't thawed all the way, so ended up calling an audible with a venison burger soup recipe).  Check mousetraps; dispose of another victim.  Rebait.  Another day of not hearing from DH until nearly bedtime, then having him trying to give me a little time while juggling work-related things on the other side of the country.

Day 9:  now I wake up to ice, having had freezing rain in the night.  Heat still working fine, just have to bust loose the firewood from the pile in order to stoke the wood boiler.  It's not a lot of ice, just enough to glue things together and make for slick spots on flat surfaces.  Off to the horse farm I go, where everything needs to be salted so there will be some traction when it's time to turn horses out for their daily exercise and fresh air.  After a morning of work, I have a dentist appointment (which I insanely scheduled 5 small filling for all at once, making 3/4 of my mouth numb.)  Hmm, perhaps another soup is in order for dinner this night. Remember to check mousetraps.  Caught mouse #3!!  Crazy to rejoice about 3 dead mice, but it is what it is out here in the country.  Rebait.  DH has yet another full day working.  I do manage to get 14 minutes on the phone with him, after nine p.m.,  only 8 of which were intermittently interrupted by co-workers or other work related things on his end of the line.  Yes, I'm glad he has a job, but I wish we could have a life together. . . .  Realize I didn't shut the chickens in yet.  Hope nothing predatory is lurking out at the unsecured coop in the dark.  Throw on boots and coat to go shut chickens in.  "Mark" another spot near the coop, just for good measure, in case the rain washed away the mark I left earlier in the week.  Don't want no coyotes getting my chickens.

Day 10:  13 degrees at wake up time.  check the heat--still working!  Sooo glad I have made it through the last 9 days without anything else going wrong with the wood boiler or having air bubbles in the floor system.  DH returning tonight, so now he can 'save' me if things get funky.  Make sure I stoke the fire, as with the return of the cold, it is going through wood again (have to stoke it full once a day, or 1/2 full twice a day.  I go for doing it massive just once, middle of the day, so I don't have to remember at night and have to stoke it in the dark.)  Rejoice again that DH is coming home:  he can take over the stoking duties.  Check mousetraps, none are tripped, two are stripped.  Hmmm.  Still mice occupying our house, apparently.  Rebait.  It's a good thing everything is operating pretty smoothly at home (despite the mice), because a work is a whole 'nother story. . . having to do my tough love mom act on the new employee.  I'm sorry, but nobody has things come up 3 days out of 5 every single week that makes them a) late for work or b) need to leave work early.  Keeping her on for now, and turning the screws, while I start looking for a reliable replacement.  All the while, remembering that when I was her age I had a kid, DH, a house to keep clean, and two part time jobs that totalled 50+ hours of work each week.  No sympathy for a single, childless college student who doesn't seem to take work seriously.

Sorry for the long, mostly grumbly post.  But, it's 10 days in the life, in case you were thinking you'd love to switch places with me!  Homesteading isn't so very glamorous after all.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Fresh Local Food in January?

When we got snow last month, it had been warm right up until the day it snowed.  And when it snowed a few inches all in one night, the ground underneath stayed soft because of snow being an insulator.  The bare spots where the wind swept through froze solid, but everything blanketed in ankle-deep snow stayed protected from freezing.

Then, we warmed up again.  And the snow melted.  I realized I had never mulched the garlic I planted in the fall, so I figured this warm spell was a perfect chance to go out to the garden and get that done before we had a real freeze that would heave those garlic bulbs right out of the ground, wrecking my chances for a good crop in 2013.

This weekend, I got my garlic mulched finally.  I finally got the grape vines weeded too.  Somehow I always end up neglecting my grape vines late in the season.  Maybe that's why they haven't done much for me so far.

While I was out there, I also pulled some of the tall dead weeds that hadn't been taken care of at the end of the gardening season. The ones that were just standing around making things look bad. In my weed removal efforts, I discovered several green and growing things in my garden--in January!!

a lettuce seedling sprouting where some of the summer's lettuce had bolted and gone to seed

spinach looking better in January than it had in the fall
 (I harvested some and we ate it for dinner on Saturday)

kale that definitely didn't care that the calendar says 'winter'

There are still rutabagas holding out in the garden, and turnips in the feed plot we planted out in the woods.  We might be months off from having juicy red tomatoes or sweet, toothsome ears of corn, but we're still eating fresh and locally grown food in January at this little place here.

Saturday night it rained, and most of Sunday it did too.  Now, on Sunday night, we are getting a fresh coat of snow.  More insulation for the green and growing things!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Early Bird Gets????

We are having a warm spell.  So warm that my house is not calling for heat from the wood boiler today.  It was 54 degrees outside at 9 a.m.  Overcast, light wind from the south, and just plain too warm for not-quite mid-January.

To my surprise, while eating breakfast this morning and looking out the sliding glass door in the dining room, I see Mr. Finch alight on the railing of the deck.  Mr. Finch is a male house finch.  Every year for many now, I have had a pair of house finches who build a nest near my dining room window.  Mr. Finch likes to sit on the deck railing and sing.

I'm surprised to see him because today is only January 12th!  (The 22nd anniversary of the night I met DH, which, incidentally, was also a Saturday).  Usually I don't see Mr. Finch until late March or even early April.  Looking back at my posts from last year, I see he and Mrs. Finch arrived (early) on March 8th last year.  So they are really early this year.

Yes, Mrs. Finch arrived with him.  While I watched Mr. Finch stand on the railing and catch his breath from his long flight home, Mrs. Finch arrived too.

I'm wondering just what kind of winter we are in store for now.  If, perhaps, our Christmas snow is going to be all the accumulation we get this season.  Or, if the early bird is going to get frozen.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Knitting Some More: We Purl

Last night, the daughters and I had our second knitting lesson.  In lesson one, we learned to cast on, and to knit.  In lesson two, we learned to purl and to bind off.  I can only best attempt to describe a purl as a backward knit stitch.  Any more attempt at a detailed explanation would only be more confusing.

After we'd practiced purling for a few rows, the instructor told us she wanted us to try knitting and purling in the same row.  The room got silent, and all needles stopped!!  Then she explained it wasn't impossible, we should just pick a number --preferably the number 2 or the number 3--then knit that many stitches followed by the same number of purl stitches and just alternate until we got to the end of the row.

So we did.  I found it wasn't impossible, but it did require rather a lot of concentration. I even got so brave as the try to do an opposite pattern (purl, purl, knit, knit) after several rows.  When I got to the end of my yarn, I bound off.

This is what I ended up with:

Next week we tackle an actual project!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Climbing the Laundry Mountain

Mount Washmore.  Mount St. Laundry.  Whatever you call it, I'm guessing that if you have kids at home, more often than not you have a geographical phenomenon that occurs in your laundry area.  A hill of dirty clothes, towels, sheets, blankets, etc, etc so large you can hardly see your washing machine, let alone reach it.

Never fear, it can be conquered!  I have scaled it's heights, managed to not die of lack of oxygen (or toxic fumes or substances contained within the mount), and chiseled it down to a gently rolling field.

Back in the day when all my kids were young, and still at home, I had what I called my DLR.  That stood for Daily Laundry Requirement.  It was two loads a day.  Yes, two.  And yes, every day, seven days a week. (I had a couple of bed wetters, you see. . .)  I washed, dried, and put away two full loads of laundry every day of the week, and this method kept the laundry mountain from making a reappearance very often.

If we went away somewhere, like camping or on vacation, every fourth day was designated as Laundry Day.  On Laundry Day, DH would drop me, a load of quarters, and two very large bags of clothes (think military 'sea bags') off at the nearest laundromat. Usually we timed this for right after lunchtime when the laundromat was pretty empty, and I would proceed to spend the next 2-3 hours using about 4 machines at a time to get our laundry caught up.  He took the kids to a park or other fun spot while I did the laundry.  Lest you think I was getting the short end of the fun stick, I loved Laundry Day.  Because I am naturally an introvert, by the fourth day of our vacation/camping trip a couple hours alone in a laundromat with a book was just what I needed to regain my sanity!

When we moved to this little place here, I was able to gain a bit more space for my laundry area, and also a counter for sorting and folding clean laundry onto.  However, it took me a good two years to realize that under this counter was the perfect spot to put a sorting system for the dirty laundry.  With DS1's help (mainly because DH was busy and he also didn't think my idea would work), I installed a couple pieces of scrap 2x4 across the legs that held up each end of the counter.  On those 2x4's I laid a big wide board (I don't remember exactly what it had been in it's first life, perhaps part of a folding door?).

Now I had an upper and a lower area for laundry baskets.  Each area could accommodate three baskets (yes, I actually did own SIX laundry baskets:  two for our camper, and four for the house.)  With six baskets all stowed neatly under the counter, I could keep everyone's dirty laundry off the floor, thus making easy access to the washer and dryer.  I assigned my baskets like this:
  • upper section: light colored clothes (the 'warms'), white socks ('hots'), and 'delicates' (lingerie, and other hand wash items)
  • lower section: dark colored clothes (the 'colds'), jeans, and towels.
Sheets and blankets unfortunately still went on the floor, but one bed's worth of bedding at a time could fit into the washer, so I tried to always make that my first load of the day.

Each day, I would go to my laundry area, see which basket (or baskets) were full, and wash that particular load of laundry.  Since I have the super sized washer and dryer, it was really easy to open the door of the washer and dump the entire basket in.  No counting, no measuring.  If the basket was full but not overflowing, it was exactly the size of a load.

It has been a few years since those days.  After the first child graduated high school and left home for the military (where he quickly learned to wash his own clothes even though I hear they all came out olive drab in the first few loads, including his tightie whities [tightie drabbies?]), I decided it would be good for his siblings to learn how to wash theirs. I made a chart of how to wash each type of laundry (darks, lights, delicates, knits, towels, jeans, etc.)  I assigned each child a day of their own to wash their clothes, with two "open" days each week for catching up if for some reason they were unable to do laundry on their assigned day. I outfitted each child with a hamper of their own.  Now, dirty clothes stayed in their bedrooms (hopefully in their hampers rather than on the floor) until their laundry day arrived.

So there you go.  Two tried and true methods of conquering the laundry mountain.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Squash Recipe #8: Squash Soup

Finally, a new squash recipe!

Last night, I made soup out of squash.  I tweaked a recipe from a book (because not all the ingredients they had listed sounded tasty to me), and my soup came out pretty satisfactory.  It wasn't gross or anything, I'm just not sure we have the palates for a veggie soup that isn't your traditional veggie soup, if you know what I mean.  We're definitely not used to having liquid squash.  Or soup that doesn't have chunks of meat and veggies in it.

If you are interested and want to try it for yourself, here's how I made it:

Squash Soup

1 3-pound butternut squash (or 2 smaller ones to make about 3 pounds)
2 cooking onions
1 quart of chicken broth (you could probably use less--original recipe called for 3 cups but I all ready had it frozen in quart containers)
3/4 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
sour cream (optional)

  • Dice your onions, and peel and dice your squash (remove the 'squash guts' too!).  Then, in the pot you are going to cook your soup in (at least 4 qt size) melt 1-2 Tbsp butter (I suppose you could use veggie oil instead) and saute the onions until tender--roughly 5 minutes.  
  • Add the diced squash, the chicken broth, curry, nutmeg, brown sugar, and salt to the pot.  Bring to a boil. 
  • Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down to medium, put a lid on the pot, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender.
  • When the squash is tender, shut off the stove, and puree the soup in a blender or food processor.  It will take several batches to get it all pureed; I think I did it in 4 batches.  
  • Return the soup to the pot, and stir in the milk.  That's it.  Your soup is now done.

Serve in bowls.  You can swirl a teaspoon or two of sour cream into each bowl of soup if desired.  We did, and liked the way it tasted.

I served this with thick slices of homemade bread topped with Monterey jack cheese and broiled until the cheese melted (2-3 minutes).  It was also good with slices of hot buttered toast (my lunch for today--leftover soup).

Monday, January 7, 2013

Our South Carolina Girls Meet Snow

K2 and K3 were both born in South Carolina.  K2 has never lived in a northern climate, and when she was up visiting us last summer for DD1's graduation, she told us that she had never experienced snow before.  So we all started praying that there would be lots of snow at this little place here when DS1, K2 and K3 came up for Christmas.

All fall, snow for Christmas looked like a bleak prospect.  The temperatures were above average for most of three months.  We had not a single snowfall during firearm deer season.  Only a dusting  during muzzle loading, which was followed by another above-average temperature spell.  Christmas, and our South Carolina girls, were drawing near.  We prayed earnestly.  Please, please God, let us have snow, and cold!  And not just a little snow, but enough for K2 and K3 to get to play in.  Sledding, snowmobiling, making a snowman.  Not just a little cold, but enough that the snow would last more than 24 hours.  Cold that would give K2 a real taste of winter in Michigan.

God always answers prayers.  Sometimes His answer is "Yes", sometimes His answer is "No", and sometimes his answer is "Wait and be patient".  This time, the answer was "Yes."

We got a little bit of snow a few days before Christmas.  The weather stayed below freezing.  We got a little more on Christmas Day.  Even more was predicted for the 26th.

DS1, K2 and K3 arrived early in the morning of the 26th, ahead of the storm.  We had perhaps an inch and a half of snow on the ground at the time of their arrival.  Despite having been in the car over 14 hours (and 900+ miles) and being awake most of the night, K2 was so excited that she took pictures of snow on the toes of her shoes!

On the afternoon of the 26th, snowflakes fell from the sky.  More, and more, and more snowflakes.  About two inches worth of snowflakes.  K2 was excited.  K3, being not quite 8 months old, just looked out the window in wonder at the snow, not knowing she should be excited. I would say perplexed was a better description for her expression.

I had bought K2 a sled as a Christmas gift.  It wasn't fancy, just a pink plastic saucer, but it was the first she'd ever owned.  After dinner, all the kids bundled up (K2 borrowed snow pants and boots from us northern girls), gathered up sleds, piled into the Suburban, and drove into town to the sledding hill.  K3 got to stay at this little place here with Grandma and Grandpa (aka me and DH).

She got her turn at playing in the snow a few days later, when the sun was out and the wind wasn't.    She wasn't so sure about the cold air, and the bright light off the snow made her squint.  But she was happy to sit down while her Mommy made a snowman with her Aunts and Uncle, and Daddy helped Grandpa to get the snowmobiles out.  Happy, that is, until she lost her balance and did a face plant into the snow.

This resulted in much kicking of the legs and fussing.  A few minutes later, she was allowed to go back inside with Grandma, while the snowman building continued and the snowmobile riding commenced.

First, DS1 took K2 for a ride around the yard and hay field (there wasn't enough snow to ride in the bigger crop field, where there are rocks that could damage the track of the snowmobile).

After a few times around as a rider, K2 got to try snowmobiling solo.  DS1 switched her to the not quite so powerful red snowmobile first.  After a cautious loop around the house, K2 got more confident and gained speed.  Maybe we'll turn her into a snow lover yet!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Knitting We Will Go

A while back, I mentioned that I was going to learn to knit soon.  I purchased knitting lessons for my daughters as Christmas gifts, and the local knitting shop that I purchased them from had the unbeatable deal of 1/2 off the second student, with the third (fourth, fifth, etc) student free!  So of course I wanted to be a student too.  I'm the free one ;0)

We had our first lesson last week.  It was scary at first, not knowing what we were in for. I mean, knitting is mysterious, and difficult, right?   My daughters and I nervously arrived at the shop at our scheduled lesson time and waited for the instructor/shop owner to show us what to do.

The instructor told us as beginners, we were going to knitting kindergarten.  And that, just like real kindergarten has big chunky crayons, knitting kindergarten has big chunky needles and yarn.  So we were each outfitted with an oversize pair of needles.  We had our choice between lavender or red.  I chose lavender.

my big chunky needle, almost as thick as my index finger

We also got to each choose a skein of thick yarn.  I of course chose green (of course, because green has been my favorite color my entire life).  

From there, the instructor showed us how to cast on, and we all practiced casting on for about fifteen minutes, getting the hang of how to hold the yarn, how to put the needle through the yarn, and counting how many loops we'd cast.  Once the three of us felt pretty confident in our ability to cast on, the instructor moved us forward into the knit stitch.

For the next forty-five minutes or so, we knit.  It wasn't as mysterious or difficult as I'd thought it would be.  In fact, it was fun.  We knit, and we talked. We knit, and we laughed.  We knit, and we made mistakes, which the instructor showed us how to fix.  Suddenly, we'd been at the knitting shop for an hour and a half. . . time flies when you're having fun.

We went home, taking our needles and yarn with us.  At home, we showed DH what we had learned.  We knit some more.  I wondered why in the world I hadn't learned to do this years ago.  It was relaxing and productive all at the same time.

showing off my knit stitches

Next week, we get to learn how to purl.  We can't wait!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Putting Down A Horse

I've been involved with horses for many years.  I bought my first one in 1984, and have owned horses or worked at horse farms ever since.  Seen a lot of things.  Done a lot of things.  And, it seems in the last 8-10 years, put down a lot of horses.

Now, lest you think I'm some sort of horse killer (my Dad is starting to tease me about being the equine Dr. Kevorkian), let me explain why I'm more and more present at the end of equine life.  Mostly, it's because where I've been in the last 13 years, is at a farm made up mostly of retired and aging horses.  The eldest there will be 31 in March, the youngest 14!  Since the average lifespan for a horse is 25-30 years, well, that should explain it all.

Yesterday we had to make the decision to put down another one.  This was one of the younger ones, not quite 21 years old, but she was in a bad way yesterday morning at breakfast time, and despite having the vet out to treat her, things were getting progressively worse. About 3:00 yesterday afternoon, I made the call to the vet again, and we all knew how the story was most likely going to end.

The problem was colic, which can range from a mild belly ache that a horse comes out of on it's own, to a twisted  or otherwise obstructed gut that ends up rupturing and causing agony, toxemia and death to the horse.  Unlike people and other animals, horses are anatomically incapable of throwing up.  So a 'simple' sour stomach can be fatal for them, due to the build up of gas and pressure in their guts. Next time you have the flu and are wretching miserably, be thankful that you are a human and have the ability to vomit!

With this particular horse, it first appeared she might have a fairly mild colic, and we hoped that it might be reversible.  Even though the horse was uninterested in her breakfast hay, she was laying calmly, breathing slowly, evenly and not labored.  Because there was only sawdust (stall bedding) on one side of her, I could tell she had not been rolling.  Rolling is a common sign of a painful colic, and unfortunately can cause a twisted gut to occur.  One worrying thing, though, was that her ear tips were cold, and she was trembling slightly.  Cold ears on a horse that is indoors, is a sign of shock.  Not good.  That was the main reason we called the vet even though the horse showed no signs of pain.

The vet was able to come within the hour, and treated the horse with some muscle relaxers, which is the common treatment for a colic.  She also 'tubed' the horse, which is inserting a naso-gastric tube through a nostril and into the stomach.  With tubing, the vet can get an idea of the state of the stomach from the smell that will come out of the tube.  The vet can pump in water to 'wash' the stomach (it will come out the tube when the stomach is full, often bringing with it stomach acids and chunks of undigested food) and/or pump in mineral oil.  Oiling a horse will often help them out of a colic if it is caused by a clump of feed or manure that is lodged somewhere along the approximately 70 feet of digestive tract that a horse contains.

Then we waited to see how the horse would do.  All was well for several hours, but when I went to check the horse at 3:00 in the afternoon, she was much worse.  Her breathing was labored, she had definitely been rolling--violently enough to have scrubbed off a patch of hair and skin above one eye--and her ears were ice cold.  After consulting with the owner (of the farm and of this particular horse), I again called the vet out.

The vet came right away, being only about 15 miles down the road at that time, examined the horse again, and tubed her again.  This time, the stomach contents were smellier and darker than they had been when we'd tubed the horse in the morning.  That is a sign that instead of passing along the digestive tract properly, the food matter was being pushed back into the stomach after it had left for the intestines.  Meaning a blockage was there somewhere, and nothing was moving out the end of the digestive tract.  Without surgery (very expensive, and not an option for most retired horses who don't have wealthy owners), there was really no way to remedy the situation.

The owner, the vet, and myself, made the decision to not put the horse through any more suffering, and we prepared to euthanize her.

Euthanizing a horse is pretty simple.  The vet gives them a huge dose of barbiturates, which pretty much causes them to have a heart attack, and that is that.  It is quick, and supposedly painless.  The vet injects the drug into a vein in the horse's neck, and by the time the (large--2 @ 60cc) syringes are empty, the horse's legs are buckling.  You quickly and gently guide the horse to the ground, a few gasps and some reflexive leg movements, and it's done.  The vet will listen to make sure the heart has stopped beating (normally it has by now), touch the eye (it is very sensitive, if the horse is still alive, it will react to this), and pronounce the horse expired.  All this usually takes less than five minutes start to finish.

This was done outside, near the driveway.  To remove a dead horse from inside a building is very difficult.  By taking her outside before performing the euthanasia, we were able to put her down in a spot that made removing the carcass easy.  At the horse farm, we have designated a grassy area near the driveway for this task.

Around here, there is a service we can call to retrieve and dispose of the carcass.  It is not cheap, partially because they have to come from about an hour away, and partially because they have to obtain permits from the Department of Environmental Quality for burying the carcass, which is pretty large (roughly 1000 pounds). They are only allowed so many permits/burials per year. Current price:  $300.  Like I said, not cheap, but it's pretty much our only option in this area anymore.  People with lots of land, and a backhoe, or a friend with a backhoe, do it much cheaper but on the hush-hush so as to not get in trouble with the DEQ.

Yesterday made equine #6 that I personally have held while the vet performed the euthanasia.  That is why my Dad makes the Dr. Kevorkian jokes whenever I mention we had to put another horse to sleep.  What can I say?  If you're around horses long enough, and especially if you manage a horse farm, it's something you will have to do sooner or later.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


I don't know about all of you, but December was a tough one for me.  So much needing done, unexpected auto repairs, having to retrieve DD1 from college out of state (and the rockiness that has been transitioning back to having her living at home again), the death of my grandmother. . .  and less than a week later having to put Old Dog to sleep. . .  Well, I'm really glad to see January get here.

With the new year, I'm pushing the 'reset' button on life.  Taking a deep breath, taking a step back for perspective, taking notes on changes to make and prioritizing things that need to be done, taking charge again.

Reset on my weight loss/exercise efforts, which got totally blown out of the water the last half of December.  I'm glad to only have gained 2 pounds over the holidays, but I miss my daily workouts during the week.  Time to re-implement those.  Not only do they keep me trimmed and toned, but getting a good heart-pounding sweat on boosts my mood for the day too.

Reset my decluttering and cleaning efforts.  Somehow what DD1 was able to fit into half of a dorm room seems to be sprawled throughout my house, no longer containable in a small space.  Add to that the influx of new items from Christmas gifts and I'm getting positively itchy from all the disorganization.

Reset on a daily and weekly schedule now that the holidays are over, guests have returned home (or will be returning soon--DS1 and crew left today, DS2 leaves this weekend to go back to college).  It sure was nice to have all of my children home for the holidays this year, and to see all the extended family that we did, but it will be nice to get back to a predictable routine.

Reset on my menu goals.  I haven't posted any new squash recipes in a few weeks because, well, we slacked off on eating squash.  The one time we did cook it, it was an old favorite method: steaming.  Also with the busy-ness, we fell back into the old high-carb way of eating--lots of pasta, lots of potatoes.  Time to get back to the more balanced protein to carb ratio, with the carbs being veggies other than potatoes.

Reset the household budget.  With tax changes, and other costs increasing, time to examine our income and expenses, check if we are meeting our financial goals, and rewrite the budget if necessary.  It sure would be nice to put a bit more in savings this year, especially since what we had got eaten up with repairs to vehicles (water pump, plugs, wires and O2 sensor on the Suburban; new battery for the little red car) and travel expenses (1500 miles of gas to move DD1 home, plus another 500 miles worth or so--plus a hotel room and eating out--for attending my grandmother's funeral).

How about you?  What things are you wanting to push the reset button on now that a new year is started?