Sunday, November 30, 2014

It's Over

Firearm deer season, that is.  Sundown tonight ended Michigan's firearm deer season.  And boy, did it suck.

That's what I'm hearing, so it's not just based on my own dismal hunting experience this season that I make such a negative judgement.  Two straight weeks of hunting, with only one day that I didn't go out (more on that later).  No deer for me, even though I hunted twice a day on weekends and (just about) every evening during the week. No deer for DH, who hunted morning and night, every day for the entire two weeks.  No deer for DS1, who hunted a handful of times.  No deer for DH's buddy who lived with us the first week of deer season.

The only one who can claim a harvested deer to their name is K2, and she shot hers on opening morning.  It was kind of small, by our standards, only weighing in at 100 pounds dressed.  But, apparently, that is a decent size for deer where she comes from, or so we've been told.  And, since she has been the only one to put venison in the freezer this year, we can't tease her too much about taking a 'little one'.

But really, the deer were few and far between.  Where we used to see a dozen in one sitting quite easily, and herds of two or even three dozen on a really good day, this year I think six was the daily record for deer sightings.  I saw those, and they came in two groups of three, staying far enough away that I didn't have a shot at any of them.  Most days, we sat and saw nothing, heard nothing, not even shots in the neighborhood (which, around here, could be several miles away).

I sat and watched the sun come up. Which, when you are surrounded by trees, doesn't look like much.

 I sat and watched birds wake up and come out to feed.


black-capped chickadee

northern flicker

downy woodpecker

red-bellied woodpecker

And on days when not even the birds came out, I sat and looked at evidence of where they'd been.

woodpecker holes in a tree trunk

woodpecker holes in the railing of the 'playset' blind

Other days I looked at things the birds hadn't managed to eat yet.
inchworm, incredibly still alive after a week of temps below freezing
(this photo was taken on the first warm day)

spider with a leg-span no wider than a pencil eraser

rose hips

Sometimes I watched squirrels.

gray squirrel

fox squirrel

fox squirrel

gray squirrel

One morning, there was a black squirrel who had found an apple under some leaves, and it scampered up a tree with it's prize.  However, there were two gray squirrels nearby who either had seen the apple, or could smell it.  One of them followed the black squirrel up the tree, where it proceeded to jump on the black squirrel, making it drop it's apple.  Those three squirrels spent an hour chasing each other in circles and up and down trees stealing that apple from each other.

Sometimes there were no birds or squirrels to watch, so I took pictures of fungus and mosses that appeared on warm, moist days.

yellow fungus on a stump

orange 'jelly fungus' on a living tree limb

moss on some decaying wood

Many days, it was cold, with high temperatures that did not get above freezing.  Some days it snowed.

snow collecting on the top of the door to the apple blind

One day was so bitter cold that I froze to my gun and my tree stand.  Yes, literally.  What little bit of moisture was on my gloves froze to the metal parts of my shotgun, and the bottoms of my boots froze to the metal platform of the tree stand.  I was so bundled up, only my eyes were showing.  I took a selfie, and sent it to DD1 at college.  She said it looked like I was wearing 'some kind of hunting burka'.

very unflattering selfie on a frigid day

Other days, it was warm, and there was either fog, or rain.

just a light mist

rainy evening

While waiting fruitlessly for deer to come my way, I pondered things like how far up it was into the maple tree.

And how far down it is from the platform of the maple to the ground.

And how it's my balance, alertness, and one little nylon strap (connected to a harness under my coat) around a tree limb that is keeping me safely in the tree instead of falling to certain bodily harm.

I didn't just contemplate the maple stand.  I also thought about the little deck we have at the bottom of the ladder to the double stand. How it came to us in one of those scrap lumber 'junk' piles given to us a few years ago by our friend the junk man, and makes a nice stable base for the ladder.

I also thought about things most people never get a chance to see, like a puddle in a small hollow on the top of a tree limb about fifteen feet up in the air.

And how the light reflected off the water held there.

And when I got bored with that, I looked at the mud on the toes of my boots, one warm muddy morning.

Sitting in the deer blind or tree stand in the late afternoons sometimes provided a view of a pretty sunset.

In the past two weeks, I have been in the woods at least once a day, every day, with the exception of the afternoon we were having 25 mph winds with gusts up to 45 mph.  I wimped out.  Too windy; the wind carries your scent too much, and, well, it's just plain miserable being out in that, whether you are in a tree or in an enclosed blind.

All in all, the hours I spent in the woods weren't a total waste even though they didn't result in any meat in my freezer.  For the most part, they were relaxing.  Except for the one morning when, after the sun came up, I noticed this:

my footprint from the evening before, lined in green
deer footprint over my footprint, lined in red

Those rotten deer!  They had been by the apple blind in the night, between the time I came in from it after dark, and when I returned to it just before dawn.  That morning there were deer tracks over my own footprints, right up to the door of the blind!  I sat there and stewed all morning hunt, imagining the deer thumbing their noses at me and saying "nyah-nyah nyah-nyah, you can't catch us!"  And, apparently, they were right.  Because they are in the woods somewhere and not on my dinner plate.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Challenge #41: Use Up That Turkey!

It's the day after Thanksgiving.  What's in your fridge?  Leftovers?

I'm betting more than a few of us have turkey in our fridge.  Several pounds of it.  So, what do you do?

Well, if you are like my mother in law (yes, I'm going to slam her today), you just drag it out, meal after meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner, until it's gone.  The same blasted turkey, reheated over and over and over until the last (very dried out by now) morsel is gone.

That has never been my style.  While I do eat leftovers quite willingly, I have a bit of trouble choking down leftover meat. In my opinion, it's just never as good the second time.

Which is why, when I have meat left from a meal, I plan to use it in another meal that is totally different.  So, at this little place here, we never have turkey, turkey, turkey, in the days after Thanksgiving, just drug out of the fridge and microwaved until we can't stand it any longer.

Nope.  Tonight we are having turkey noodle soup (mainly because it can simmer while I am out hunting later this afternoon, and be ready to eat when all us hunters come in from the woods.)  Another meal, not necessarily even tomorrow, will be turkey pot pie.  Turkey sandwiches for lunches for those who like that sort of thing (not me--I'm picky).   Then, if there is any turkey left after that, the rest might be put into baggies holding 2-3 cups diced turkey and stuck in the freezer for meals next month.  Or, if there's only a few cups left, and we're not totally sick of turkey by then, we might have turkey tetrazzini on Monday.

Come to think of it, Monday would be an excellent time to make turkey tetrazzini; DD2's cheer/football banquet is Monday and I am supposed to bring a dish to pass.  It's a done deal. Turkey tetrazzini on Monday.  :0)

Get creative.  Use up that turkey.  Just not exactly the same way you ate it yesterday.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Yarn Along 15: Finally!!

Joining in with Ginny for another Yarn Along.

Look!  Look!  The Athos socks are finally finished!!!  Not blocked yet, so it's really hard to see the design on the legs and tops of the feet, but they are off the needles!  Phew!

man sized socks,
way to big for K3's little feet 

close up, you can kind of see the design

I can't tell you how glad I am to have finished those socks.  Now I can finally move on to other things.  I'm a little reluctant to start any more big knitting projects at the moment (though I have yarn and a pattern for my first-ever adult sized sweater just waiting for January to get here), so I have a bunch of small projects lined up.

Last night I got half of one of them done.  I found this pattern for these cute little mitten ornaments on ravelry, and last night I tested it out.  A bit fiddly with juggling  dpns and so few stitches, especially for the thumbs, but it did knit up really quick.  I plan to knit it's mate tonight, and then do several more pair to give as gifts.

How about you?  What are you knitting currently?  Any Christmas knitting going on?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Sometimes I Can't

I did not post a challenge on Friday.  After the previous week's challenge about focusing, and doing what you need to do, it's really been bugging me that I did not blog on Friday and put up a weekly challenge.  I mean, how lame is that?  I couldn't even follow through on my own challenge.

But sometimes I can't.  Sometimes I hit the wall; there is just too much being thrown at me by life, by other people, by the weather, by the season, etc.  Sometimes it's all I can do to get up, make meals, go to work, be nice to the people I run into throughout my day.  Sometimes I really, really, just want to hibernate and pretend no one exists except for me.  But I can't, and so I slog along at bare-minimum mode for a little while.

Right now, work and hunting and eating are my three must-do items each day.  Deer season is not a recreational activity so much as it is a long two week haul of trying to get as much red meat in the freezer for the next year as possible.  Sort of like sap season in the early spring, when you make syrup or don't get any at all.  Sort of like the gardening/canning season where you plant and weed and water and harvest and preserve, or you miss out on a whole lot of good wholesome food for a little money.  Deer season is my two-week window to get lean red meat for the mere cost of a license and a shotgun shell.

Yes, I do get some quiet time in the woods during deer season, like I mentioned last week in a post or two.  But to be brutally honest, deer season is damn exhausting.  I have to do my job outside the home, I have to do my job inside the home (cooking, laundry, bill paying, being Mom, etc) AND I have to sit in the woods during as many daylight hours as possible in fifteen days.

Right now, it's the second week of deer season.  I'm whupped.  I'm ready for it to be over, yet I have no venison in my freezer.  I want venison.  I need venison, not just for the nutrition, but also for my budget (go price 60 pounds of lean beef burger, roasts, and steaks and see how much money that costs--way more than the pennies per pound one dead deer costs me).

Right now, I want to work on Christmas presents.  I want to sew.  I want to quilt.  I want to knit. I want to paint and craft.  I want to sleep in on the weekend.  I want to sit down and do a jigsaw puzzle. I want to write blog post after blog post on all the topics I've thought of while sitting in the deer blind seeing zero deer.

But I can't.  Because right now is not the season for that.  It is the season for harvesting deer, and they don't just walk up, knock on your door, and keel over conveniently on the front porch.  I have to go out to where they are (or where they're supposed to be, gosh darn it!!) and wait for them.  Only seven more hunting days left this year.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Growling Chair

Getting up early and walking out to the deer stand before sunrise takes some dedication.  Especially when it's cold and you're tired.

Getting up early and walking out to a deer stand--in the dark--that no one has checked all summer takes some determination.

Getting up early, walking out in the dark to a deer stand that no one has checked all summer, sitting down on the chair, hearing growling under your derriere, and not jumping up and running out the door takes some guts.

Or maybe stupidity, considering that in past summers we had a raccoon take up residence in that exact deer stand.

In my defense, as I sat there, in the dark, and my brain told me that yes, I was hearing an animal growl, I immediately flicked on my little flashlight that I keep in the pocket of my hunting coat, and shone it on the floor.  I looked all around my seat (but didn't get up), and what I saw was that the growling definitely was not coming from a raccoon or opossum: the scat on the floor was too small for either of those animals.  It looked more like large mouse poop.  Therefore, not an animal that was capable of inflicting great bodily harm or subjecting myself to rabies shots. (I hope)

So I shut off the flash light and commenced to settle in to hunt.  At which point, whatever was growling quit making noise and instead seemed to be moving around inside the back of my chair!!!

Which caused me to do a quick calculation of how many layers of clothing I was wearing, approximately how thick those layers of clothing were, and how long the teeth of a mouse, mink, weasel or squirrel might be.  Because those were my suspected chair-mates based on the feces on the floor.

My calculation assured me that I was most likely bite-proof, and so I stopped worrying and started hunting.  But later in the morning, on my way out of the blind, I took a couple of pictures of holes I found in the seat and the back rest of the chair.  And once in the house, I spent a few minutes googling things like "do mice growl?" and "what noises does a mink make?" and "how small of a hole can a squirrel fit through?"

hole in the back rest of the chair (about shoulder height)

hole in the seat of the chair

Based on my research, and repeat sightings near my blind on subsequent sittings in the same deer stand over the next couple of days, I have concluded that the growling creature in my chair the other morning was most likely an eastern gray squirrel.  Not sure if it's a him or a her, but it sure is a pretty shade of silver right now.  And seems to be quite happy to stay out of the blind while I'm in there.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Yarn Along 14: Hunting and Knitting

Joining in with Ginny on this cold and snowy Wednesday.

Firearm deer season started on Saturday, so I haven't actually done much knitting in the past several days.  It's been too cold to take my knitting to the blind with me (ever try to knit while wearing big thick gloves?  Doesn't work.), so the picture below is actually a pic I took last hunting season.  The little bit of knitting I have done in the past five days has taken place in the warmth of my living room rather than in the deer blind or tree stand.

when you're 18 feet up a tree,
 hopefully it won't matter that the yarn is not camouflage patterned

I've only managed to get one pattern repeat--16 rows--done on the final Athos sock this week. 

I'm somewhat perturbed that it isn't finished yet, but then again, I've worked about 27 hours and hunted about 19 hours in the past seven days.  When I haven't been hunting or working, I've been trying like crazy to keep up with my regular household duties (you know, cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, taking care of chickens and grandchildren, etc.).  And, of course, I have to sleep sometimes too.

The one thing I have managed to do a lot of is reading.  Hunting is an excellent time to get some reading done.  After all, you need to sit quietly so as to not scare off any potential dinner--I mean, any deer--and being bored makes most people fidgety. So while I'm waiting for deer to meander my way, I do a lot of reading.  Read a page, scan the woods for deer, read a page, scan for deer, read a page. . . When you are sitting for three or fours at a stretch you can get a lot of pages read this way.

I finished The Meaning of Names, which I really enjoyed even though it was a bit heavy of subject matter (and there's a twist at the end!), then proceeded to read Comfort & Joy on Sunday (two hunting sessions), and started Homeward Bound on Monday.  Comfort & Joy was a much lighter and fast read compared to The Meaning of Names, but I do recommend both of them.  

So far I am liking Homeward Bound; it is interesting since many of the homesteading/self-sufficiency/crafty/attachment parenting types of things I have been doing since the early 1990s are now considered a movement and I'm more of a cool sage and guru than an odd-ball on the fringe now.  Having spent most of my adult life defending my out-of-step from society lifestyle, it's kind of uplifting to now be considered someone with valuable knowledge to share,  LOL.  If you aren't familiar with my journey from born-in-the-Detroit-suburbs city child to can-do-anything country dwelling earth mama, check out this old post.  It talks a little bit about the impetuous for my lifestyle, and I assure you it has nothing political, environmental, or trendy about it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

And Then a Turkey Fell From the Sky. . .

Firearm deer hunting started last Saturday.  I've been hunting hard, every morning and evening that I am not at work (so, twice each on Saturday and Sunday, once Monday, and plan to head out soon for this afternoon's hunt).  DH has the whole week off, so he's been hunting harder: twice a day every day.

Yet neither one of us has venison to show for our efforts.  The deer have been scarce, to say the least.  I have seen, in a total of 16 hours of hunting, exactly three deer.  One that never came out of the brush for me to get a shot at (she was pushed by another hunting going into the woods), and two that didn't come out until after dark.

So, I've been back to my usual hunting season activities of looking at trees, trying to take pictures of birds and squirrels, and generally enjoying the quiet and solitude that is unavailable in my home since I share it with six other people.  Seven if you count DH's friend who has a (nasty, in my opinion) habit of moving in with us during deer season (perhaps a topic for another post some other day).  Out in the blind I might be freezing my ass  nose off--we are having a January-like spell of weather currently--and not killing any deer so far, but at least no one expects me to wait on them and I'm having some uninterrupted quiet time to think!

Generally, during hunting season I think through my holiday gift list and prioritize which gifts I can make and which ones I need to purchase.  I also spend more time reading than any other time of the year.  And, of course, I observe the woods and its' inhabitants.

So far, the woodpeckers have been abundant, but camera shy.  I watched a rabbit for about half-an-hour on Sunday morning, but did not have the camera with me to take pictures with. And, I confess, as I was watching the rabbit, to mentally figuring out how much damage a 20 gauge slug would do to such a small animal, and wondering if I just shot it in the head, which I wouldn't eat anyway, if there would be enough meat left to cook for dinner; justifying the taking of the rabbit's life.  In the end, I kept my gun down and just watched the rabbit.  Perhaps I will take up rabbit hunting next year, after I buy some game load.

The strangest thing that has happened so far was when I was sitting out yesterday afternoon.  I had been out in the blind for about twenty minutes when DH walked out to go sit in the maple stand.  As he walked to the far eastern corner of the woods, I could hear crashing around between me and him.  Getting excited, guessing that he'd spooked up a deer or two, I got my gun up and started peering intently out the windows of the apple blind where I was sitting.  Surely soon I would see a deer coming my way.

Body tense with anticipation, I leaned forward, scanning to the northeast.   Looking, looking. . . watching for deer. . .

And then a turkey fell from the sky.  Right in front of me.  Literally not more than 25 feet away.  And because of the way the windows in the blind are designed as short wide slits in the wall, (about 5-6 inches high) I had not seen the turkey up in the tree that it must have been in.  Nor did I hear it at all--usually you can hear turkeys flapping and crashing when they go up to roost or come down from the treetops.

So, imagine how much I jumped when suddenly this full grown turkey hen silently falls directly in front of my blind!!

To say I was surprised would be an understatement.  As quickly as possible, I unzipped my coat and pulled out the camera (I keep it inside my coat so the cold doesn't wear the batteries down) in order to get pictures.  The turkey, meanwhile, nonchalantly walked a semi-circle through the brush, coming out to the west of my blind, where I was lucky enough to get one picture of her during the split second she was in a clearing.

I might not have any cool stories of monster bucks or harvested does to tell so far this hunting season, but I do have a story about the turkey that fell from the sky.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Challenge #40: Focus

This has been a tough week for me: starting a new job, yet keeping up with my normal house and homestead chores, and getting ready for deer hunting (which starts at sun-up tomorrow).  Staying focused on my personal to-do list and not getting sidetracked by other people's needs and wants has been difficult.

More than difficult.  It has taken immense concentration and determination on my part.

I mean, here it is, after nine p.m. on Friday, and I am just now sitting down to write this week's challenge.  I have been on the go since six a.m., and with the tasks of the day (mine and those tossed at me by others), I was really tempted to skip the whole challenge thing this week.

But then I realized that posting a Friday challenge is part of my routine, and what I've most craved this week was to be able to stick to my familiar routine.  So, here it is; this week's challenge.

Focus.  No matter what else is going on around you at the moment, focus on what it is that you want to happen.  What you want to do.  What you most need in order to feel like you are in control rather than being blown around in the wind created by others around you.

Focus.  Take five minutes to evaluate what is on your to-do list, toss off the things that don't really belong on your list, and circle or double underline the things on the list that are most important to you.  Then do those things.  The rest can wait, or maybe someone else can do them (if they don't really belong to you anyway.)

Here is what I had planned for today:

  1. work (5 hours plus travel time)
  2. do my big monthly grocery/livestock feed shopping (3-4 hours, including putting everything away once brought home)
  3. cook dinner (1 hour)
  4. get my deer hunting stuff set out for in the morning (30 min or so)
  5. post this week's challenge
There were, of course, many additional things that came up in the past fifteen hours, and most of them I dealt with.  But as the day got late and the sun went down, I started to assert my personal list more than what others had listed for me. I felt like I still had unfinished business and was not totally satisfied with how my day had gone.  I decided that I had to do make my list a priority and delay any requests that would keep me from finishing my list.

And now, with this post, I have crossed off the final item that I had planned to accomplish today.  If I hadn't made a conscious decision to focus, however, you'd be checking my blog today, and tomorrow, and Sunday, and being disappointed that I'd missed another Friday challenge because life got in the way.  And I would be frustrated that I'd let a Friday slip by without posting.  I mean, if I didn't like writing blog posts, I wouldn't have started a blog in the first place.  It's important to me.  It's a creative outlet.

Now it's your turn.  This weekend, or sometime this coming week, recognize when you are in a similar situation, and then decide to focus on what is most important to you.  Then do it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Yarn Along #13: The End is Near

My, how the week seems to fly.  It's Wednesday again all ready, time to join Ginny's yarn along.

Cold, cloudy, and snow flurries in the wind here today.  I'm home from work, changed into warm clothes, had a big mug of hot chocolate, and now I'm ready to show what I've been knitting and reading for the past seven days.

Athos sock #2 is in the home stretch.  Last week I vowed to focus on just this sock for seven days, resisting the urge to cast on anything new.  That paid off big time: the heel is finished, and I have 4 pattern repeats on the foot left to do (56 rows) before it is time to do the toe.  I feel like this sock has taken forever, but the end is near now.  Hopefully next week I will be gloating over a completed sock.

I am still reading The Meaning of Names.  I haven't spend much time reading in the past week, but when I have a minute or two, I grab for this book.  I'm enjoying it (so far) as much as I thought I would, and it isn't too complicated of a storyline to follow despite the multiple interruptions in my reading time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Four Loaves of Bread, Seven Gallons of Milk, and a Half-Pint of Jam

That is what we used to go through in a week, year in and year out, when my four kids were growing up.  Of course we ate other things too, but those three items were permanently on the grocery list.  At least, the bread and milk were; after a while I began canning my own jam.  My yearly goal was to can 50 half-pints of strawberry jam, as that was the family favorite.  I finally accomplished it the year before DS1 graduated and left home.

We also easily went through an entire 250 pound (on the hoof) hog, and three deer in twelve months. Twenty four chickens?  No problem.  Ate those too, and then some.

I got really good at taking recipes, most of which are written for 4 servings if they are an entree, and multiplying them.  DH and I used to joke that our kitchen, with it's 5-burner stove and extra large pots and pans, looked like I was cooking for an army.

Then the kids started to leave home.  Honestly, we didn't notice much difference in food consumption when DS1 left; mainly because DS2 and DD1 were hitting their stride as teenage eaters right about then.  But when DS2 left home, I realized I didn't need to multiply recipes anymore.  Not unless I wanted to put some in the freezer for future use.  I could even get away with only buying milk twice a week!!

Two months ago, after DD1 moved out and before any hint of DS1 & family moving back in, DD2 asked me what I would do next year, when she goes off to college. With only DH and I to feed, would we eat the same dish two days in a row in order to use it up?  Or would I put half into the freezer?  Would I start buying milk by the half-gallon so it didn't go sour before getting all drank up?
 We were down to drinking just 1 gallon per week at that point. I figured I could probably get an entire gallon drank before it went bad, if I bought it with a far enough out expiration date.  Or, maybe I'd just talk to the friend a few miles over that got dairy goats this summer. . .

Then everything in the south (Carolina, that is) went south, and I find myself in not a household of three planning to go down to two occupants before the next ten months is up, but in a household of seven.  Thankfully one of the seven isn't on solid food yet!

Fortunately, cooking for six is still pretty natural to me.  Because, with DS1, K2, and K3 all eating here daily, we are back to four loaves of bread (made now, not boughten), seven gallons of milk, and a half-pint of jam each week.  An entire hog would be most welcome in my freezer.  And three deer also.  I'm all ready running a little short on chickens.

Monday, November 10, 2014


This morning, I started my new job.  Which, actually, isn't a job, but the beginning of my own horse business.

You see, I am working at a different farm than I have been for the last decade-plus.  But I don't work for them.  I am not their employee.  That is not the way the pay  system is set up.  This is becoming more and more common at horse farms and other similar places: you hire in to perform a set of tasks, and you are paid as a 1099 employee (meaning you pay the taxes on your income, not the farm--and they don't have to offer you health insurance) rather than being hired in to work x number of hours on y days a week.  In other words, an independent contractor.  Self-employed.

Which is really ironic, as I've been wanting to have my own horse business for a long, long time (since I was sixteen), yet the time, finances, real estate, etc never aligned perfectly in order for me to do so.  And when I decided to look for some other farm to work at so that it would be possible for me to leave the situation I was in at the other farm (the decade-plus one), I didn't think of it as going out on my own.

Honestly, until this morning I thought of it as a stepping stone; a way to make a (much needed) break from the other farm while I get all my ducks in a row to pursue a business loan (this winter/next spring) to get the start up funds I need for finishing off the horse facility we began at this little place here when we seeded pastures, built the shell of the barn, and began growing hay more than a handful of years ago.  A horse farm was the original intent for purchasing this raw piece of land, way back in 2001 when we made an offer on it.

Two weeks ago, when I accepted the position at the new farm, I thought I was just biding time (and earning cash) waiting for next spring to get here when it would be construction season again--as in, once the ground thaws for putting in fence posts, running water lines, etc since I don't have the cash on hand to begin that stuff now before winter hits.

But actually, I just started my self-employed horse business.  I'm freelancing, as it were, at the new horse farm doing much of the same things I will be doing at my own horse farm once all the physical structure is installed.  Which means, as a self-employed person, the rubber knee boots I bought this afternoon to replace the ones that cracked and sprung a leak yesterday, are now a business expense.  A write-off against those income taxes I will have to pay.  And the miles I drove to get to the new farm (and home again) are also a business expense.

I'm kinda liking this.  I was so afraid to jump into self-employment partially because I couldn't see how to juggle the monetary stuff.  Yet, today it's so clear.  Need new boots to do the horse-related job because the ground is currently very muddy?  Buy the dang boots and write them off instead of worrying how to squeeze such a purchase into our personal budget (in other words, out of DH's paycheck).  Stop worrying about the 9 miles further drive to the new barn each day versus the old barn.  Those extra miles are now worth their weight in gold in reducing our income tax responsibility at the end of the year.  Gloves from last winter worn out and in need of replacing so my hands don't freeze this winter?  Just like the boots:  go get some good warm work gloves, write them off, and enjoy having fingers that stay supple and toasty instead of stiff and icy.

Just think; I have all winter to get the hang of this self-employed/business owner thing before laying out a big chunk of change (or signing on a loan) to complete my own farm at this little place here.  And, all the while, I am making contacts who are all potential future clients.

Win-win.  Not to mention I'm starting to feel like my lifelong goal of working for myself and no one else is actually obtainable.  A dream that really will come true.

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Why is it that people get upset if you say something about "training" a child?  Why do they get offended and say things like "that is degrading; children are not dogs!"

What is training?  Is it not, at it's simplest definition, instructing someone or something in a particular area?

Yes, we train dogs.  We train them to not urinate or defecate in our homes, but rather do those sorts of things outdoors.  We train them to come, to sit, to stay, to walk politely on a lease.  We train them to not bark at everything under the sun.

We also train horses.  We train them to walk nicely on a lead rope and not bulldoze their handler.  We train them to carry riders, or to pull carts.

We adults typically are 'trained' when we start a new job.  We don't just jump full-bore into a new work environment without going through a training or orientation session first.

So why can't we refer to teaching our children as training them?  It's not diminishing their value to speak as such.  Nor is it degrading to their little psyches.  It's just the plain truth.  We are teaching--training--them how to behave in an acceptable manner in a variety of situations.  Otherwise, how are they ever going to know how to get along in this world?

I was trained. I have trained my kids.  I am training my grandkids.  I'm not going to put some other modern day mumbo-jumbo politically correct, don't-dare-offend-anyone sort of phrasing to it.

(End rant)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Challenge #39: Use It Up

Looking around this week, and trying to conglomerate ever more stuff (DS1 & family still unpacking boxes that have been in my garage for going on six weeks now) into the closets, cupboards, and pantry, I am finding tons of things stashed here and there that really should be used, not stored.

Some of it is obvious:  the food stuffs and other consumables from DS1's house in South Carolina obviously need to be eaten, laundry washed with, behinds wiped with, etc rather than just being kept in a box or closet for months (or years).  Some of it is less obvious, like the miniature bottles of shampoo and conditioner that now take up an entire plastic basket under the bathroom sink.

You know, the sorts of little bottles that you find in hotel rooms when you arrive for a stay.  How many of you travel for work, stay in hotels, and bring home those little bottles of hotel shampoo, conditioner, and lotion?  If you are not the traveling one, how about your spouse or significant other?

My hubby has been bringing those home at least a few times a year, for almost twenty years now.  And, since the majority of his trips are corporate travel, he's usually staying in decent hotels, sometimes even really posh ones (in other words, salon-type products!).  Early on, he got into the habit of bringing home the shampoo, conditioner, and lotion bottles with him. Honestly, he started it because he wanted to bring the kids a 'treat' from his trips as sort of a consolation for him being gone from home so long, and we never had much money to spend on treats (or salon-type products!).  So, he'd bring them the unopened soap, shampoo, lotion, notepad with hotel name, etc.  They thought it was the coolest thing!

Even when the kids outgrew the novelty of the little bottles, DH kept bringing that stuff home because it was awful useful for tossing into an overnight bag when they would spend the night with a friend, or go to camp, or whatever.  Why lug an entire bottle of shampoo with you when you only needed two or three head-washings worth?  Little bottle it is.

But then, we started reducing head count (and shampoo use) at home as the kids grew up and left, yet at the same time, DH's corporate travels ramped up.  Now I find myself with dozens of the little bottles, all stashed in an overflowing basket under my bathroom sink.

At the same time, I find myself with normal size bottles of shampoo and conditioner in my shower that are nearly empty.  As in, time to add shampoo and conditioner to the shopping list.

Cue the light bulb above my head.  Inspiration!  I pledge not to buy any more shampoo or conditioner until I have used up every one of those little bottles in the basket.  By my rudimentary calculations, that should be sometime next spring, if not summer.

How about you?  What can you find stashed in the dark recesses of your home that you could use up rather than continue to store for 'someday'?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Yarn Along #12 Sock It To Me!

Busy Wednesday, I was beginning to think I might not get a chance to join Ginny's Yarn Along this week.  And I even have a finished (well, off the needles, still in need of blocking) object to show off:

The oaklet shawl:

Now that it's done, and knowing who I intend to give it to, I kind of wish I'd gone ahead and done the math to make the shawl a bit larger.  Oh well, The intended recipient is most likely to wear it around her neck than over her shoulders anyway.

I finally feel like I've gotten to spend some time knitting again in the past week.  Not only did I finish the oaklet shawl, I managed to get three (of four) pattern repeats done on the leg of Athos sock #2.   Yay!  That means I will be working on the heel this weekend :0)

I'm getting rather anxious to be done with this pair of socks.  Normally a second sock only takes me a week or so to get done, and I'd originally planned to have the entire pair done by the end of October.  Which means, according to my time table I'm running behind.  Therefore, no casting on anything new until this sock is done!  I need to focus. Sock. . . sock. . . sock. . .

Reading wise, I started the book Quiet over the weekend.  It's kind of interesting, but a bit dry.  I will keep reading it, but wanted something a little quicker as my main  reading.  So, yesterday I picked up The Meaning of Names from the library.  I've only gotten into the second chapter so far, but I think I will like this book.  It is a fiction account of a German-American family in the Midwest during WW1.  I can (just barely) remember my great-grandmother --who was first generation German-American, born in 1889 and died in 1984 when I was 12 years old--talking about how, during the World Wars, they were careful to not speak German in public and how they were discriminated against because of their ethnicity.  So even though I am a long time removed from that era, this book is something I can relate to.  I'm looking forward to reading further.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


After several years of contemplating and about a year of off and on looking, I have found myself standing on the edge of opportunity, and I've decided to make the jump.  There is, of course, some fallout to sift through, but I'm convinced that in the long run, this is the direction I am supposed to go.

Next week, I will be employed at a different horse farm.  It will be a few more hours per week, for more money per hour, and only horse-related tasks required.  Feed, turnout, clean and bed stalls.  No more housekeeping, no more errand running, no more pulling weeds or trimming shrubs around the owner's home, no more running around behind the other employee and being expected to pick up their slack while listening to the boss tell me how that person does 1/3 the work they used to yet she doesn't want to fire them.

(Yeah, I've gotten rather sour about my work situation.)

I won't be able to move my horses to the new farm because they are full up for the winter (34 head). That will be okay, I think. Because now I will be a paying boarder instead of a work-for-board boarder. Which means I can be picky about the care my horses receive and not be expected to just settle for mediocre (on the part of what the other worker isn't doing well). As much as I don't like to give money a whole lot of importance, there are times when you can't deny it's power.

I  also think it will be okay because hopefully in the spring we will be ready to move my horses home to this little place here.  So it will only be about six more months of dealing with the other farm in any way.  In the grand scheme of things six months isn't very long at all.  Not when you look back and know that I have, in some way or another worked there for most of the past twenty years.  Six months is a drop in the bucket.

So, anyway, while it might not sound like all that big of a deal, for me this is HUGE. I am no longer going to be pretty much a private stablehand/housekeeper/errand runner.  No, I am getting back into the public eye, the active horse industry. My time will no longer be spent hidden away on a farm that is itself in retirement; where no one comes and goes anymore.  Now I will be making connections that will, if they work out they way I intend, roll this job into the teaching and horse training career that I have wanted for decades.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

So I Went to the Auction Last Weekend. . .

Two auctions, actually, as the weekly hay, straw & small livestock auction was Saturday morning, and then the last monthly consignment auction of the year was on Sunday morning.

I had gone to the Saturday auction looking for some pullets to replace the nine that got 'lost' in the dog/chicken incident the second day after DS1 and company had moved in.  Because of course of 11 pullet chicks I'd raised this year to replace my old hens so that we'd have farm fresh eggs this winter, all but two were killed.  And the two survivors were traumatized so badly they have not yet started to lay. Getting as late in the year as it is, and the lack of long hours of daylight for the next several months, there is a pretty good chance they won't start laying now until about mid-February.

Three older biddies laying every other day and three more wounded and healing (so, not laying) do not create enough eggs each week to meet our increased needs.  Or even our normal needs, not counting the extra people in the house now.  So I need to come up with some pullets in lay.  Ordering started pullets from the hatchery at $17-20 each plus shipping is too rich for my blood.  Even the few and far between I was finding on Craigslist were in the $10-12 range.  So, the auction appeared to be my only hope for finding affordable young, productive birds.

Anyway, there were a lot of birds at the auction last Saturday.  Mainly old hens and roosters.  A few pens of chicks that looked a whole lot like meat birds rather than layers.  I set my sights on about five pens, three of which had obviously mature birds in them but their feathers were full and glossy, indicating good health and that they've all ready finished their molt for the year so therefore are ready to lay again.  The other two pens had smaller birds that I thought might possibly be pullets, also with good feathers indicating healthy birds.  Some of the other pens held obvious laying hens, supposedly young, but with ragged feathers and red, upset skin showing. Not the kind of birds I wanted to bring into my flock.

Of the five pens I had my eye on, I ended up winning one, a pen of three nice young hens.  Two are obvious crossbreds, and the third I think is a black Australorp.

the new girls

The head and neck on this one remind me of some silver Hamburgs I used to have, yet her body is heavier than a Hamburg, and she has feathering on her legs more like a Cochin or Brahma.

As you can see, the blue one (gray feathers) has a muff and beard like an Aracauna or Ameracauna, but she also has feathered legs like a Brahma or Cochin. Yet, she is not as big and hefty in body as either of those two breeds.

What breeds they are really doesn't matter.  As long as they lay, I don't care their parentage.  And lay they do.  It's really nice to go from seeing one or two eggs in the nest each day to seeing this:

On Sunday, I went to 'early church' (aka the 8:00 a.m. church service instead of the 10:30 service I usually attend) and then over to the consignment auction which began at 10:00.  The day before, while there looking for chickens, DH had noticed that there were several lots of potted or burlap balled trees, and he hoped we might be able to pick up a dozen or so of them to plant along the edge of the field  out by the road on the part of our frontage that is south of our driveway.  I had noticed some 'antiques' that I was interested in getting and putting to practical use at this little place here:  a couple galvanized wash tubs and a 3-gallon crock.

Turned out that the wash tubs and the crock went for way more than I had in mind to pay for them.  And most of the trees did too--if we wanted to pay nursery prices we would just go to the nursery instead of taking chances with auction trees.  I did, however, manage to win two lots (one was 5 trees, the other was 4) of Norway Spruce for about half the cost of comparable trees at the nursery.

DH, DS1 and I planted them the next afternoon.

The idea is that in ten years they will be tall enough and full enough to make a nice screen for the road and the neighbor's house across the street.

While we were planting, I decided to leave one of the trees in it's pot--we dug the hole and set the tree pot and all down into it, then did not fill the dirt back in around it--so that we can bring it in the house in mid-December and use it as a Christmas tree, then take it outside immediately after Christmas and plant it then.

In the last five years or so I've gotten away from having a tall Christmas tree, mainly because if it's tall enough to reach the ceiling it is also quite wide at the base and therefore  takes up a lot of floor space in the living room where we need all the space we can get to seat our family.  The tree I chose to reserve for Christmas this year is about 3.5 feet tall, not including the pot, and should do nicely on a small table or stand (probably built with cinder blocks).

the designated Christmas tree