Sunday, September 9, 2018

What She Did This Summer

A few years ago, I mentioned that DD2 was working at a nearby State Park for the summer, and that her stories of things experienced there in three short months could fill a book.  Last summer, she did a six-week study abroad in Peru, then returned to finish out the summer working at the same State Park where her new experiences good and bad (a boating accident resulting in a drowning death that she happened to be the first park staff on the scene for. . .) continued.  This summer, yep, she again worked at that State Park--need I say she really loves that job?--but only part time as she also secured an internship at a wildlife rehab center about a half-hour from home.  The internship was 30 hours a week, unpaid, but as her field is wildlife ecology and management, the opportunity will hopefully go far in helping her obtain a good full time job after she graduates from college next May.

She worked her rear end off between the internship and the job at the park, but she loved every minute of time spent at either place.  The State Park story collection grew. The cool things she got to do at the wildlife rehab were relayed to DH and I nearly every evening when she arrived home.  The number and kinds of wild animals she got to care for, even though this particular rehab only accepts small animals (and a few fawns that go on to a different rehab center once they are past the bottle feeding stage) surprised me.

One particular animal brought in soon after she began her internship was a baby mink.  Now, we've seen a few mink in our rural neighborhood at this little place here, but overall they are few and far between.  We've never seen one closer than about 10 yards while sitting it a tree stand deer hunting, or about 5 yards while driving down the road in a car. We've never seen a baby mink.  To be able to not just see this very young mink, but also to hold it and bottle feed it really was a high point of DD2's summer.

Mink  have a reputation for being vicious, and they truly are.  Except, apparently, in the instance of orphaned or injured young mink who wind up in wildlife rehab centers and occasionally bond with a particular human caretaker.  Can you guess who this little mink decided was it's new mother?

If you said DD2, you're correct.  As it grew, it rejected (and bit) all the other workers at the wildlife rehab.  But when DD2 was on duty, not only could she feed it and clean it's cage (and then when it needed more space to run and play it's own little room) without getting bitten, it would try to engage her in play much like a puppy or kitten.

The summer went on, the mink developed into a healthy juvenile mink that learned to eat mice and fish for it's own supper (minnows in a wading pool), and DD2's internship drew to an end.  Right about the time for her to be done, the mink was matured to the point of being ready for release back into the wild.

The wildlife director decided that DD2 should definitely be present for the big release day.  So plans were made to release the mink on DD2's next to last day of her internship.  Travel about an hour away to a good safe habitat for the mink would be required, but first all the other animals at the rehab would have to be fed and cared for.  DD2 invited me to go along and help out with 'breakfast' for the animals that day so that hopefully things would go faster (also because she needed to be to work at the State Park that afternoon and would be driving separately from the wildlife director).

So, I got to cut up fruit for cedar waxwings, foxes, and baby skunks!  I also got a tour of the wildlife rehab center while helping DD2 to deliver food to each type of bird and mammal there.  I took lots of pictures and even got to pet squirrels, foxes, skunks, fawns, and that mink (who apparently doesn't bite people if DD2 is holding him at the time).  It was very cool.

Would you pet these babies?

Hungry little skunks.

"I'm hungry too!" 
Grey fox kit not waiting her turn.

"Got some food for me?"
Red squirrel.

"Just leave ours in the corner and go."
Juvenile red foxes did not want people in their space.

Mink looking for fish.

"Did somebody say breakfast?"

"I'm hungry!"

Once everyone was finally fed, and the other intern had been left with instructions for those animals ad birds that would need feeding again in the next hour or so, the director, DD2, the mink and I hit the road to the mink's new home. 

I think I'd like to live here, how about you?

Releasing the mink into the wild is something I will never forget (nor will DD2, I'm sure!). We stayed quite a while watching as he ventured out exploring and then returned to DD2 to check in and see if it was safe. 

Not quite ready to let go.

What is this strange new place?

Found a big rock.

Still looking to DD2 for security.

Each time the mink went out a little further and further from DD2, until finally we slipped away while he was distracted cavorting in some weeds at the edge of the river that ran through his new home.

Wild mink
Live free
Be happy

Friday, September 7, 2018

Technology, Go Away (Otherwise Known As: Unplug My Life)

Technology is nice.  I do, after all, have a blog.  And to wash my clothes, all I have to do is throw them in the washing machine, add some soap and push a few buttons.  Pretty effortless compared to the few times that I have washed clothes, by hand, in a bathtub. (Washing this way is not so bad. Wringing the excess water from the clothes, however, is the pits).  Having a freezer to keep a year's worth of venison and chicken in is pretty nice too.  And when my dishwasher takes care of the majority of the dirty dishes for me, day after day, I really appreciate that.

So I'm not totally anti-technology.  I am, however, getting rather fed up with how technology lets things intrude on our personal lives.

DH's employer issued him a smart phone a handful of years ago.  The idea was, for their employees who are required to be out of the office frequently on work-related travel (in DH's case, development and testing trips for future model cars), a smart phone would make work easier.  From pretty much anywhere on the road, they can communicate with everyone back in the 'office' that they need to be in touch with on a daily basis in order to keep the program rolling in a timely fashion.  They can get texts, they can read and send emails, they can send documents back and forth without having to be seated at a desk in a permanent location. They can get test data without actually having to be present for 100% of the tests.  And with the hands-free feature in the cars, they can even 'attend' meetings that are happening hundreds of miles and a few time zones away all while they are driving, testing, developing on work related trips.  Efficient. Cost-effective.

Except that it means work is now done, at times, at 9:00 or 10:00 or even 11:00 p.m. on my living room couch or dining room table.  A time that used to be private, family time.  Work (in the form of conference calls to far away countries) is now done at 6:30 in the morning, while eating breakfast. Work is now done on Sunday morning, sitting in a pew, just before church starts.  Work is now done from a tent, on a family camping trip that the rest of us have been waiting months for DH to be available for.  And now I too can work for this company (might I say unofficially and for no pay) by reading important texts and emails to DH while he drives us to a 'relaxing' destination on one of his 'vacation' days. Funny, I thought if you were using one of your vacation days allotted to you by your employer, you did no work for your employer that day!

Do I sound a little bitter?

I am!  It's ironic that back when we were engaged, when DH was entering his senior year of college and we were researching companies that he might wish to make a career with, I commented that I did not want to be a "corporate wife".  I didn't want to schmooze with his co-workers and higher ups in social situations.  I didn't want my lifestyle, or my time, to be controlled by a company.  I wanted his work to be a separate thing from our family life:  something he put specific hours into five days a week, but that never came home with him, never infringed on our time with our children or each other, never dictated when I could do things.  He agreed whole-heartedly.  Work was something you did, then left at the office.  It had no reason to come to our house, to take his mind away from his family during those off duty hours he was at home.  It especially had no need to affect me in any way other than being  a regular deposit into our joint bank account.

HA!  I can't count the missed birthdays and anniversaries because he was required to be out of town on a business trip.  I can't count the times in recent years that I have been pretty much forced to attended corporate meetings for a company I don't work for, because I couldn't not hear what was on speaker phone, or hands free in the car, just feet away from me.   I really don't care to overhear a discussion about the fuel regulations imposed by foreign governments an ocean away for upcoming vehicle models while I'm eating my bacon and eggs, thank you. Seriously, if I wanted to work in that kind of environment, attending meetings at all hours of the day, night, and sometimes on weekends, I wouldn't have, decades ago, decided to forego college and its professional degrees.

Now that technology has made it so easy to work from where-ever DH is, my objections to being controlled by a company aren't met by whole hearted agreement.  They are met by either denial ("go somewhere else if you don't want to overhear my meeting"), or acquiescence ("that's the way it is anymore, deal with it").  Sometimes I just want to thrown that darn phone (and company issued laptop, too,) into the nearest water hole. Or run it over repeatedly with the tractor. That, however, isn't an acceptable (to the company) way of dealing with it.  To me, being driven away from an entire floor of my home, or away from a long ride in our private vehicle or vacations with my husband, isn't acceptable either, and is not how I should have to "deal with it".

Corporate issued technology, go away!  Leave me alone!  I don't want you in my life.  You have no right to take up my time.  I never signed a contract giving you the power to dictate my schedule.

And if you want my husband after 8 hours or on weekends or 'vacation days', at least pay him overtime.  Because I can't do my household and homestead chores plus keep up with the ones he's too busy/unavailable to do, and his (based on 40-hours a week and hasn't paid overtime in nearly 20 years) salary surely doesn't allow us to pay for a landscaper or a maintenance guy. We won't even go into the strain it puts on family relationships since there is no money in the world that can fix that.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Yarn Along: September

I am joining Ginny today for this month's installment of the Yarn Along.

The past month was very busy with harvesting and canning the garden goodness, but looking back on what I've also knit and read in that time frame, well, I'm amazed!  I do think the earlier darkness in the evenings as well as the horrible spells of heat and humidity (after a point, I refused to do any canning if the indoor temperature was going to be hitting the upper 80s due to the high humidity and relentless sunshine outside and lack of air conditioning inside) played a large part in all the knitting and reading.

I was able finish my Polka Dot Party socks near the end of August.  I still don't like the heels, and the socks came out a little bit less stretchy than I find comfortable, but overall I do like them. They were a good first attempt at fair isle/color work in a sock, and I learned a lot.  I will definitely make another pair sometime in the future, but go up a needle size and substitute in a different heel next time. I guess I just prefer a gusset heel.

I have to confess that I took a short break from the polka dot socks just before working the heel on sock #2. . . that dreaded heel ;0).  I whipped up another UP dish cloth to send back to college with DD2 before settling in to tackle the sock's heel.  The dish cloth was a quick project that gave me some instant gratification.

UP dish cloth

And then, as soon as the second sock of the polka dot socks was off the needles, I began my next sock project: a pair of UP socks (pattern, as well as the dish cloth pattern, found in the Knit The UP! book I bought at Sew Irresistible in Houghton this past April).  The main color is the limited edition Knit Picks Sock Lab from this Spring, which just so happened to be in Michigan Tech's colors, and I used an off white for the contrast (as the UP is snow covered almost the majority of the year.)

This pattern is super easy.  I whipped off the first sock in less than a week!  I love it, and I know DD2 will love it.  

hot off the needles, unblocked

What I didn't expect was that DS2 would stop in over the holiday weekend and see the sock in progress.  Apparently I should have ordered two skeins of the Sock Lab yarn, as it is now unavailable in that exact color combo.  From the look on his face, it was quite obvious that DS2 would like a pair of socks in honor of his alma mater as well.  

Would any readers happen to have purchased that yarn and be willing to sell me a skein in the black/gold colorway???

Meanwhile, with all that knitting and canning going on, I still managed to read several books.  All of which I enjoyed and would highly recommend, especially The Sea Keepers Daughters.  That one was not one I though I'd actually finish as I worked my way through the first couple of chapters and wasn't really 'feeling' the story.  Yet, it soon picked up and ended up being one of those can't-put-it-down kinds of books for me.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Good Problem To Have

In the past week, I have been kept so busy it seems I barely have time to sleep. It's a problem.  But, it's a good problem to have.  Definitely a first world problem, and even more elite than that as I doubt many Americans have this particular problem.

You see, I have more food than I can keep up with, and I'm running like a chicken with it's head cut off just trying to preserve all this food before it spoils.

Speaking of chicken, that was the first long day of food preservation in the past seven days.  My mid-June batch of broilers went to the processor early one morning.  I dropped them off, went to work, and after my morning's work was complete, I picked them up again.  Rather than having them shrink wrapped, I told the processor to just throw them into several large bags, because I would be parting out most of them once I got home.

My plan had been to freeze maybe 10 of them as roasting chickens; taking the ones that weighed 3.5-4 pounds and freezing them whole, in individual bags.  The rest, and especially any that were 5 pounds, I would cut into boneless breasts, leg quarters, and what I refer to as "soup carcases" (the bird, minus legs and breasts, that I will toss into a pot and boil until the meat is fall off the bone tender, and then use meat and resulting broth for soups, casseroles, pot pies, etc).

Turned out that none of my birds weighed less than 4.5 pounds.  The processor had praised them, telling me I'd raised a "really good looking batch of birds", and now that I was weighing them out, I could see why he'd complimented them. Not a scrawny bird in the bunch; they were each meaty and well rounded.  A couple even topped six pounds.

It took me about three hours to weigh, sort, cut, package, and freeze 26 broilers and one rotten rooster (that I'd had enough of his shenanigans, so he went to the processor too).  And once done with that, I still had to clean and disinfect the kitchen, cook dinner, and see what in the garden needed harvesting that day.

Harvesting the garden has definitely morphed from a fun "what ripe veggies will I find today?" scavenger hunt to a flat out chore.  My back aches from bending and picking, not to mention from carrying full half-bushel baskets.  Suddenly just about everything is ripe today.  And more is ripe tomorrow.  And more the next day. And the day after that. It's hard to find the time each day to work, take care of the late-July batch of broilers (who recently moved from the brooder to the grow out pen), cook meals, harvest the garden and preserve what was harvested. 

It's hard to use my kitchen, it's so full of baskets of freshly picked veggies.  Baskets on the counters, baskets on the floor.  Baskets on the stools.

So much food!  So much fresh, healthy goodness!  I'm so exhausted!

Such a first world problem.  I'm so blessed.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The End, My Friend

August started out with problems for The Old Man, my ancient half-Arabian horse. 

While he looked good, his vitals were okay, and his activity level remained normal, he went on a hunger strike.  For some reason, he decided that, for about 24 hours, he didn't want his pelleted senior horse feed.  He still grazed, and he still gummed hay (his molars being long gone, all he could do was mash the hay into wet cuds and then spit them out), but the pellets were unappetizing.

Then, after a day of turning up his nose, he began to eat them again, although not nearly as much as he needed to since they really were his only sustenance what with not having teeth to masticate the grass and hay with.  Some days he ate 1/2 his serving per feeding, other days he ate maybe 1/4.

This went on for a few days.  And then came the last day.  He ate only a few bites of his breakfast, and the barn owner called to tell me.  I went out to check on him as soon as I was done with work, around noon.  With the exception of flared nostrils and somewhat heavy breathing, he looked and acted normal.  He didn't even look like he was losing any weight despite having cut his daily intake drastically for five days.  For good measure, I took his temperature (oh the humility!  The rudeness!  The indecency!), which was in the normal range, ruling out illness. 

I was about to go home for some lunch, with the plan of returning in a few hours to check on him, when suddenly he seemed to be having a hard time breathing.  His inhalations got very loud.  His eyes got alarmed, and his body language changed.  He went from calm to looking very agitated.  He came trotting up to me, stopped, almost lay down, then stood upright again, his sides heaving.

He paced, his breathing becoming louder and louder.  I called the vet. When he'd first gone off his feed the week before, I had told myself that if I needed to call the vet, I would be putting The Old Man to sleep.  But hearing him now, and seeing how distressed he had become, I knew it was time.  I couldn't wait to see what happened, let him go for hours and see if he got better.  This didn't look or sound (especially sound!) like it was going to go away on it's own.

The receptionist at the vet's office could hear The Old Man's breathing through the phone, even though when I called I was standing probably 12 feet away from him.  She immediately looked up which vet was on a call closest to my area, and called them.  Within 20 minutes, the familiar red truck with the white vet box pulled into the driveway.

By this time, The Old Man was literally roaring each time he tried to draw a breath.  He was also staggering, having a hard time staying up right. Less than two minutes after the vet laid eyes on him, she was retrieving the euthanasia kit (a giant syringe of the pink juice the vets use on horses) from that white box.  He was already on his knees before she even inserted the needle into his jugular.  It was clearly time to ease him out of this life.

I had no regrets about ending his life.  He was clearly in distress.  I do wish that I'd done it perhaps a few days sooner, and avoided whatever it was (pulmonary embolism?) that had made him incapable of breathing in the end. 

The Old Man
April 1984 - August 2018
a very old horse indeed

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Yarn Along: August

Happy August!  (Didn't July go fast?!?)  Happy Yarn Along!  I'm joining Ginny this afternoon for the August Yarn Along.

I'm still working on my Polka Dot Party Socks.  Sock #1 is done, sock #2 is nearly to the heel portion.  While I'm dreading doing the heel (wrap and turn heels are just not my thing), I'm really hoping to get this sock finished in the next couple of weeks. I'm dying to start my next pair--pattern and yarn all picked out and everything, with a finished project deadline of early October in mind.

Meanwhile, the garden has me busy canning just about every other day.  Cucumbers are going strong, my peas are finally filling out their pods, the bush beans are ready to burst into production and I need to pull up (and can) my beets before the deer eat them all!

I'm reading little these days.  I currently have a couple books from the library; Berry The Hatchet is a light reading mystery, and Quiltmakers 1000 Blocks is eye candy and inspiration for projects this fall.  Summer surely is a busy time of year, and I'm dreaming of hours in front of my sewing machine once the garden is finished for the season.

Thursday, July 26, 2018


This appears to be a good cucumber year in my garden.  I planted several rows, as I typically do, hoping for enough productive plants to allow me to make at least a dozen quarts of dill pickles. This year, unlike most, the majority of the cukes I planted not only sprouted, but they grew.  Not only did they grow, but they have been prolifically blooming, with apparently awesome pollination rates based on the numbers of  pickle sized cucumbers I have been harvesting pretty much every other day for over a week and a half now.

Which means I've been canning pickles nearly every other day for more than 10 days now!  It takes more than a handful of cucumbers to fill a quart sized jar, so most canning batches have been in the two or three quart range.  After not picking cukes for three days straight, I did fill not just FIVE quart jars with dill pickles, but I also sliced the overly large cucumbers into rings that tallied up to 9 pints of hamburger dills.

So far I am totaling 13 quarts of dill pickles, plus those 9 pints of hamburger slices.  And the cucumbers are still coming!!  Thankfully the pickle recipe I use is pretty simple and quick, if you don't count the overnight soak in lime water and the three hours of soaking in fresh water after that.  After a few years of experimentation with different recipes, and a few adaptations of my own, this is the recipes I have come up with to make the flavor of dill pickles that my family likes:

Dill Pickles

freshly picked pickling cucumbers 3-5 inches in length
1/4 cup pickling lime
1/2 gallon water

Wash the cucumbers and remove the blossom from the end.  Put into a large non-metal bowl--metal will react with the lime.  (I use a plastic bowl, as the lime will leave an ugly but harmless film on glass). Mix the lime in to the water (be careful not to breathe in the lime; it's not good for your lungs) and pour over the cucumbers.  Make sure all the cucumbers can be submerged in the lime water; depending on how many cukes you have, you may need to mix up a bit more lime solution.

Let the cucumbers soak in the lime water overnight (or about 8-10 hours).  Drain off the water, rinse out the bowl, and rinse the cucumbers thoroughly to remove lime residue.  Then put the cucumbers back in the bowl, and cover with fresh, cold water.  Let soak 1 hour and repeat the drain-rinse-soak cycle twice more for a total of three hours of soaking in fresh water.

fresh water soak

Near the end of the third round of soaking, fill your water bath canner about 3/4 full and put it on the stove on high heat.  Also, in a separate large pan or pot, make a solution of

1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon pickling salt
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

for each quart jar of pickles you will be making.  (In other words, if I have enough pickles to fill 2 quarts I use 2 cups each of vinegar and water, 2 Tbsp salt and 1 tsp turmeric.  6 quarts would need 6 cups each vinegar and water, 6 Tbsp salt and 3 tsp turmeric).

Heat this mixture to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, into each quart jar put

2 heads dill
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
as many cucumbers as you can stuff in the jar leaving 1/4 inch head space.

Let the filled jars sit in a sink of very hot water while your vinegar solution simmers.  Once the simmering time has been met, and the jars are warmed from being in the hot water, ladle the vinegar solution into the jars, removing air bubbles and leaving 1/4" head space.  Put on lids and rings, and load into your now boiling water bath canner.  Make sure jars are covered with at least one inch of water.  When canner resumes boiling, process your pickles for 15 minutes.  Remove from the canner, and let cool for at least 12 hours before testing seals.

To develop proper flavor, your pickles should age at least two weeks before eating.

Today is going to be another pickle making day; I picked 52 more little cukes yesterday afternoon.