Tuesday, December 30, 2014

December's end...

 A rough ending to a rough year. Looking ahead to some easier times, hopefully.  We're in the middle of a vehicle crisis right now that's costing us in the neighborhood of 1200 dollars...not a lot by some standards, but pretty much a wipeout by ours. Just when it seemed we were starting to get a little caught up...

 Isn't that the way of it ?  This is one of the VERY few times I wish we had a credit card...just to soften the edges a little.  But...but.  We made that decision and it's best to stick by it. Although, we may be re-visiting it soon. Who knows.  We have only 4 more truck payments left and we could be rid of that.  The truck is in the shop...originally for a ball joint, alignment and tie rod job. To the tune of only 400 dollars, which is easily doable. Not pleasant and not ideal, but doable.  And after that was done, the mechanic took it out for a test drive and came directly back to his garage and called us after putting it back up on the lift. The rear end is shot. He called this morning, found another one and parts and labor for what needs doing is another 800 dollars, Sigh...We trust him, so don't immediately think what  comes to mind. When we took it in, we had had it at another place who quoted us 900 for the 400 job he did. That's what we told him needed repaired and so he didn't even look at anything else. 

 I'm tired. It's been a rough year.  If one more thing happens, I swear I''ll go over the edge. lol Just let this year be over.


  On a bright note...we had a nice quiet Christmas and party on the 20th was a huge success.  There were about 35 people in my home, and we ate like big dogs and talked and laughed and finally the last of them left about 10:30.  (Note to self: if I ever do this again, set a start and END time.)  It was great fun and everyone had a good time. I was exhausted for 2 days afterwards. lol

  The temperatures have been dropping the past few days and it's finally feeling like winter. Xmas day was about 50 degrees. Crazy. Still no snow here, but Sunday night we had a seriously hard frost that almost looked like snow, and completely froze the pond.  Brrrr....

  I have a MEN blog to get written (almost late) and a nap to take (only slept 4 hours last night, from 5 AM til 10 AM.  Went to bed but couldn't sleep, and the Irishman was snoring like a freight train and that was the final straw. SO, I just got back up and waited for his alarm to go off. lol Then I stumbled back to bed and was asleep within an hour. SO really, only 4 hours of sleep I guess.

  Need to get something going for supper too...although it might just be breakfast.tonight. Not sure. 

 Have to go up and make a partial payment to the mechanic when he gets home from work (he's having to drive my car, so I am semi-stranded), but at least he's only working 8 hour shifts this week because of the holiday.  Also have to make the 20 minute drive to the credit union to get some money out of the savings account. He gets paid this week, but not til Friday.

  I seem to be having some side effects from the bp medication. Why now? I've been on this same one for almost 4 months.  Sheesh... strange hissing/ringing in my ears. Palpitations. Silly stuff.  One of my nursey friends said it was probably the meds, so I looked it up on the Mayo clinic website and sure enough, there it was. Crikey.

 Wanted to stop in here and wish you ll a very Happy New Year. Didn't realize it's been over 2 weeks since I posted. Oops...I'll do better next year.   (wink)

  Blessings of prosperity and peace on us all....


Friday, December 19, 2014

Heavens to Betsey ! December has taken over my life ! !

The weather has been up and down, some cold, some warm, some snow, some sun. I have been overrun with the spirit of the Holydays this year.  I've decorated my house, my garage, my dog.  Anything that holds still long enough has a ribbon or a garland or an ornament on it. lol  I am throwing a party (tomorrow night, in fact). Today I will start the cooking for that...4 soups, assorted breads and relish trays, crackers, cream cheese plates with red pepper jelly on one half and jalapeno jelly on the other.  Chips and salsa.   I've instructed the guests to bring cookies and candies.  And a couple to bring more bread and crackers. Just in case. lol

  I've been cleaning the past couple of days. No point in getting too far ahead of myself in that department, or by the time of the party it won't look like anything was cleaned at all.  Yesterday my son came over and helped me take the teapot collection off the top if the cabinets so I could scrub the greasy dusty kitchen dirt off of them. Then he scrubbed the fronts of the cabinets. I finished up cleaning and organizing the shelves. Finding lots of stuff to throw away.  The worst of it was the bottom lazy susan ...in the corner where cabinets meet, I have 2 lazy susans, one on top and one on bottom.  The bottom one was really dirty. It's where most of the spices are, so it's used a lot. It's also right by the stove...you can imagine. I still have a long list of things to do...one of the reasons I'm up so early. Been up since 4 AM, got the Irishman off to work, and am finishing my coffee. Then I'll get busy. I'll make 2 of the soups today and the other 2 tomorrow morning.  I've been digging out my crystal relish plates.  I have most of the stuff I need I think.  As usual, it will be what it will be. I'll either get everything on my list done or I won't. The guest list has gotten a little out of hand, and I need to call my neighbors and make sure we can use the lot next door for parking, (They are coming too.) There could be anywhere from 20-40 people here, as the past couple of days, people have been asking if they can bring a friend, or can they bring their kids... and of course I say yes. It should be fun.  I'm charging my camera battery, so there should be pictures galore to share next week...once I recover.  lol  And, it looks like the weather is going to cooperate, with temps in the low 40's for Saturday. 

  I belong to a group that is a bunch of women of assorted ages that gets together once a month for a Goddess Circle.  We were getting together on the solstice, which is Sunday, and now they've changed it to today. That is going to throw a bit of a wrench in my plans... part of the reason I'm up so early. I would skip it, but I promised to take a woman with me this month and she's so excited I don't dare not go. lol  It'll be fine...I'm sure that long about 3 PM I'm gonna be ready for a break. lol   Everything will be fine...the house looks very festive and clean enough (almost). I have lots of candles to light and  there will be so many people here that no one will notice that I haven't cleaned the carpets.  I'm counting on those clean shiny sparkly tea pots directing everyone's attention up high, and away from the floor.  lol

  Is everyone ready for Xmas ?  I don't have too much to buy. I already have the Irishman's.  The boy doesn't want anything, so I'm going to get him a few 25 dollar gas cards, lol.    And as for me, I told the Irishman that all I really want is an Excalibur dehydrator for my birthday and Xmas present combined, and I want to find a deal on it.  So, I am in charge of that and will probably wait until after the 25th to even look. I did hint that he could buy me a new fish tank filter today when he stops at the pet store today. He just shook his head. lol  (Am I so weird? )  I have 2 filters on my big tank (which has too many fish in it), but one of them is an older smaller one and I would really like to have another Whispersoft. They are a pretty good filter. And I'm having a little trouble clearing up the water after this last tank cleaning.  sigh.... it's cloudy. I like it sparkling clear.

  Posted my 4th Mother Earth News blog two days ago.  It's so fun doing this....and this one has already had  122 shares.  YeeHaw. I'm still on cloud 9 over all this,  as you can tell.

  Things will quiet down here at Honeysuckle Hill after Saturday. I have a friend coming down from the state capitol and she's going to spend the night Saturday. That will be fun.  We'll have some time on Sunday to sip tea and catch up.  Hopefully she'll be able to come down a little early on Saturday too. That would be nice.

 The seed catalogs are starting to arrive.  The canning jars are starting to stack up again. At one point I was out of empty jars. We've been eating out of the pantry consistently.  It's still full.  lol  All the soups I am making are coming directly out of my food storage...canned, frozen and dehydrated. This party is really just a food show.  LOL  I'll be pulling pickled beets, pickled okra, pickled peppers, pickled green tomatoes and dilly green beans out of the pantry for the relish trays.  The daughter (15) of one of my friends asked me on Facebook if I would please make that yummy spice cake that I made for her mom's birthday for her since she's coming to my party.  It's the old fashioned oatmeal spice cake and it's fast, easy and cheap. of course I will !  Guess I have to fit that into today's stuff too.  It will only take a minute...and will be a nice change from Xmas cookies if anybody wants it. Just so she gets first dibs, she won't mind sharing.  lol  Looks like we're going to have an interesting range of ages of kids...I was going to make some Xmas stockings for them, but suddenly the number was too big for me to handle.  So, I guess I'll just buy some candy canes and let it go. 

  So, time to get busy. Merry Christmas to you all, in case I don't get back here before then.




Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Blissful Sunday

  It's a quiet Sunday morning here on Honeysuckle Hill. The Irishman was up early to make a trip down south for an assembly and generally, when he's up, I'm up.   So I've been up as well, since the butt crack of dawn (4 AM).  Might be a nap in my future. lol

  I've made a list of things I want to get done today that include mundane things, like making the bed and cleaning the kitchen. More extensive messes, like cleaning the aquarium.  And fun stuff, like writing in the blogs.  I have to go to another town and pick someone up later today, around 3, and so I won't have a lot of time to do a lot of things today. But that's okay.

 I can't tell you how strange my morning routines are ...unsettling almost, now that I don't have chickens to be 2 focal points of the day. Not that I still don't have enough to do, with 3 dogs and 4 cats and a husband.  It just seems so...different.  I can't wait til spring to have chickens again. They ground me.

 The weather here has been very erratic, with temps in the 20's or 65.  It has been sunny, raining, foggy and frosted. And we had snow flurries one day. It's enough to make your head spin. But at least we're not experiencing  some of the weather around the country.  Thankful for that. The past couple of days have been so grey and bleak that you almost don't want to get out of bed.  A couple of people I know that suffer from depression are having a really hard time. More things for me to be grateful for   1 ) that I don't suffer from that and 2) that I have friends.

  Having a big bowl of leftover beef stew for breakfast. Because I can. lol  It's really hitting the spot too.  Do you ever eat weird  (to some) breakfasts ? I remember in my early 20's I was on a kick of eating big green salads for breakfast. I was a waitress in this small town in northern California, and I would bicycle to work every morning (about 20 miles as I zigzagged through the pear orchards) and get to work early and go in the kitchen and make myself a giant salad of lettuces and eggs and cheese and veggies and wheat toast. lol  My boss would say--Geez--let me make you an omelet! But nope--I wanted a light and healthy breakfast to keep me going.  Boy, to have that kind of energy again !  Then I would work a hectic 8 hour shift and bicycle back home again.  Needles to say, I weighed in at about 102 soaking wet back then.  lol

  Well, I'm doing it.  Planning a big Christ,mas party here at my little house. So far about 25 people have rsvp'd to say they're coming. I'm going to do a soup  and breads buffet, with whatever little accoutrements I deem necessary (relish trays, chips and salsas, vegetable snack plates) and have asked everyone to bring holiday cookies or candy. I'll have coffees, hot chocolate and hot spiced cider for beverages.   I'm going to enlist the aid of a friend who's pretty crafty and make up some Christmas stockings for the kiddos that will be here.  It will be fun. Another friend is going to help me get the house ready (she cleans for extra $$) . Hopefully today and tomorrow I will get the boy to help me get the Holyday decorations in the house from storage.  I don't want to put them up unti I get some cleaning done though, so there's no big hurry for that.

  Speaking of that boy...bless his heart. This past week he took his poor old mom's car and put new brakes on the back and repaired a cover under the front end that had come loose and was hanging down to the road almost. He's a handy guy to have around...

  Alrighty then. Now that I've eaten that bowl of stew I feel like going back to bed. lol  That didn't work so well. Guess I'll get off here and get moving....or go lay down.  We'll see...


Monday, December 1, 2014

Buh-Bye, November !

End of the road and beginning of the end. 2014 has been an interesting year, that much I know.   Lots of ups and downs and many many lessons.  So here we come December...today is the first day  of the last 31 days of the year. Sometimes it went flying by and sometimes it didn't seem like it was ever gonna be over. But, here we are.  

  Thanksgiving was lovely, at my brothers house who lives about 40 miles from me. Most of the gang was there, but lots were not. Had a couple of babies, a lot of old people and a few in between.  The food was good and the family time was even better. We got home to our fur babies before 6 PM, so that was good.  On Friday we were invited to a potluck with some friends...since I didn't have any leftovers to bring I went through the pantry and pulled out some jars and made a to-die-for carrot and sweet potato soup.  A cream soup with no dairy in it. With fresh ginger in it.  It was great--and I need to write that recipe down before I forget how I made it.  It was a fun time meeting lots of new people and seeing a few older friends--haven't known any of them terribly long.  It was fun, but I have to tell you...on the way home I looked at the Irishman and said..man, those kids made me feel really old. He laughed and said that he was pretty sure that the oldest of them all was about 20 years younger than he was.  Guess I just don't fit in as well anymore with the younger crowds.  In my head, anyway. lol There were lots of young children at this potluck too. I'd guess the age range for them was about 4 months to 10 years ?  LOTS of energy. It was fun watching them and not being responsible for any of them. lol And watching the dynamics of these children of young hippies (for lack of a better word).  What DO they call themselves ?  I'm out of the loop... Big brothers taunting little sisters, boys fashioning guns out of sticks, playing bad guys. Running and chasing and screaming and whispering...some things never change. Sent me back in my mind to the days when my son was little and we would all sit around watching the kids play at the farm. Getting muddy, running through the barns...just having a great time. Unfettered. Wild.  A long, long time  ago.   Sigh...

 It's Monday. And there are a million things I could be doing, but instead I'm fooling around on the cyber highway to nowhere.  I didn't do much yesterday besides some cooking.  Spent a lazy Sunday at home by myself, reading and resting. I did make a bread pudding with leftover Thanksgiving rolls and coconut milk. It turned out really great.  Then for supper I made a pot of Posole...an awesome pork and hominy stew seasoned with Mexican spices. The weather yesterday was perfect for it. It started out really nice and warm and then suddenly, in the middle of the afternoon changed it's mind and dropped over 20 degrees in an hour. It's been cold ever since. At about 2 AM we had a little sleet storm and the ice is still out there, because today's high is only about 32.  It went down into the 20's last night.   So, we dined and watched a movie and all was warm and comfy, both in our bellies and in our house.

 Tomorrow I go down for my service commitment, a 4 hour stint in a generally boring office, answering the occasional phone call, selling the occasional book.  I need to call and reschedule my chiropractor appointment that I cancelled last week. I guess. I've seen him now (a new guy) about 4 times (I think) maybe 5. The problem in my shoulder/neck/hands --whatever it is--doesn't seem to be getting any better. My hands and arms are getting so numb at night that it wakes me up.  I need sleep !  lol  Not to mention that it hurts...

 I don't think there is anything on the docket for this upcoming week, but I haven't turned the calendar over yet, so I could be wrong. lol   I need to start looking for a 2015 calendar too...the big one that lays flat on your desktop. I write the due date of bills on it and any appointments we have.  And any other pertinent data. Like paydays.  lol  I can usually find one at the dollar general, but I think last year I had to go to Office Depot to get one. Anyway... Not sure that I'm buying much of anything for Christmas prezzies...a few gas gift cards for my son and maybe a point and shoot digital camera for the Irishman.   We have reached that stage of life where we just really don't need much of anything. We'll have a nice dinner together and spend the day watching movies probably. Oh...and I am going to have a Christmas party this year I think. The Irishman's been wanting to do it and I keep dragging my feet. But it isn't really that much work...a couple of soups, some artisan breads and have everyone bring cookies. Hot spiced cider, hot chocolate and coffee for drinks.  I've been invited to a small party on the 14th, but so far that's the only thing happening I guess.  Methinks I'd better make a decision and get with the cleaning if it's going to happen. lol  My kitchen and office are really the only places in need of a serious cleaning, and in the kitchen it's mostly the cabinets.  Doors and shelves. Amazing how dirty they get when you only clean a couple of times a year. lol  A little Murphy's oil soap will work wonders. It's mostly getting the ambition to do it. lol  And then putting up some decorations. I never put them up before the second week of December, because I leave them up through my birthday, January 6th, which is the 12th Day of Christmas. Works out pretty good.  There have been Christmas decorations and lights up around here since 2 weeks before Thanksgiving.  People just looking for some extra cheer, I reckon.  It's all good.

 OK--I'm outta here.  Stay warm and cozy through this wintry month, y'all.  


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Goodbye, Chickens of Honeysuckle Hill...

  Today we said goodbye to our chickens.   They haven't been laying for a few months now...and they are 3 years old.  It was their time, as time goes. Animals who don't carry their weight on the homestead don't generally get to stay too long, as the costs of their feed and general care become  a burden. 

  I love my chickens, and somehow, this is the first time we've had to actually butcher them. Last winter was really hard on them, I think. We always keep the heat lamps going in the coop so they don't freeze to death, but the extra cold winter seemed to take a toll on them this time. Whatever the reason, the day came. I had to leave.  I'm not proud of that, but seriously, my son and husband were better off without me here.  I did take over the process once the deed was all done and they were brought into the house.  All 7 of them are presently simmering away in my big roaster in the kitchen. Since they weren't young birds, I thought I'd cook them down and can the stock and the meat, if it's tender enough. We'll see. Once they didn't resemble my girls anymore, I was okay doing the cutting up and cooking.  I did cry all the way to town, when I left them to take care of the butchering. 

  It's a little silly and a little not. We do eat meat. I know where food comes from. It's not anything except that I am so tenderhearted when it comes to my animals. I took good care of these girls for 3 years, and petted them and held them and was always delighted  to see them come out of the coop every morning. Delighted to gather eggs. Delighted to watch them peck and scratch in the dirt and fuss with one another.  Delighted in having chickens all the way around.  Just not this part. 

 Like having to put a sick dog or a cat to sleep, this is one of the responsibilities you take on when you have animals. Chickens are a little different, but not as much as you'd think. We have had chickens killed by raccoons.  That was horrible.  We have had chickens get sick and die. That was bad enough. But to make a plan and follow through with it  was another thing entirely. We have talked about raising meat birds before, and wondered if we could handle the butchering process.  It seemed like maybe it would be easier to just be vegetarians, since we don't eat THAT much meat anyway. lol  The price of feed has been going up and up and it almost isn't financially feasible to raise your own eggs if what you're looking for is a bargain. On the other hand, the eggs are SO much better than anything you can buy in the store that it is a choice you are willing to make.  Or, at least, we are.

  They are forecasting a winter even worse than last year for this part of the country. That was part of our decision. As the price of electricity keeps going up, that is another consideration. It's hard to keep a coop heated enough to be useful. The age of the chickens was another thing we had to think about. It doesn't get any easier the older they get.  Our 9 year old coop is in need of repairs too--it needs a new roof and needs some insulating done.  We knocked it together with materials we had on hand and frankly, I'm surprised it help up this long.   And no eggs. That was the final point. For some reason they stopped laying completely. 

  In the spring, we will build a new coop. Enlarge the run and plant the entire floor of the chicken run with alfalfa grass or something.  It needs to be dug out and leveled anyway...between chickens and erosion, I've nearly killed myself in there at night a couple of times. And when it rains, it's really bad.  So, we'll renovate and get it ready for new chicks next spring.  I think. I do like having chickens.  I just have to remember that there is a circle of life in the world. It's in my world here at Honeysuckle Hill and it's at your house too. I knew the first time was going to be hard. Maybe it will get easier. Maybe it won't.  I know it has affected us all, even though it was all carried out as humanely as possible. And I know it is a part of life...birth and death. All of us beings, animal and man, come to this world to carry out our purpose. Feeding others is the highest calling there can be, I am pretty sure. I feel that in my soul when I feed wild birds in winter, when I care for stray animals and now, when my chickens will feed me and my  family.  That's how I want to see this.  That's how I feel when I share my garden bounty with others. Or when I teach or share my knowledge of raising or cooking food. 

  I am thankful.  Thankful to the chickens who gave me eggs for breakfast for a long time and who now will give me stock for soups to help us through the long dark winter.  Thankful for the opportunity to share my life with  a couple of men who are loving and compassionate in their words and their actions.  And who can do the things that I cannot do, when they need to be done.



Sunday, November 16, 2014

It has arrived...

 This picture was taken pretty early in the day...we probably got another 1.5 inches as time went on.  It's about 17 degrees and a little breezy out there.  And really beautiful.

  It's easy to like the weather when you don't have to go out in it if you don't want to.  All day I've been listening to people moan and groan about it, but heavens to Betsy--it IS the middle of November.  Of course, this is probably not the song I'll be singing by February, when I'm tired of the mess and the limitations and the all around depressing grey days that go on and on and on. lol

 I spent most of the day at home alone...just me and the critters. I had a pretty slow and relaxing day...made a big pot of creamy potato soup.  I opened a quart and a pint of the pork that I canned a few months ago and opened my last jar of home made bbq sauce and had bbq pork sandwiches on big hoagie rolls with soup for supper. We watched a movie, a light and silly comedy with Paul Rudd and Steve Carell. I read for a while this afternoon. This morning I finished my next blog post for Mother Earth News. I had been having some issues with posting photographs in the system they use, and finally emailed my "guy" about it. He sent me back an email and said someone else was having problems too, and IT was looking at it. So...the next time I tried, I got it to work. Yay !  So that was finished and submitted.  I folded the very last load of clothes that were in the dryer, workclothes that he will never take out of the dryer. They are always the last load that I do, because he is at work when I start it. I finish all the rest of the laundry and get them all washed dried folded and put away. Then I start that last load with the dirty workclothes from the week, stop the machine and wait for him to get home so we can wash what he's wearing and start the week with all clean clothes.  I get them washed and out in the dryer and then I always think this will be the week when he'll get his work clothes out and put them away. But he doesn't.  So, I either get them out or he will take them out one piece at a time in the morning when he is dressing for work. It drives me insane.

  I guess if this is one of the biggest sources of discontent in my marriage, we must be doing okay.  LOL  

 I got my first seed catalog this weekend.  Hold On !!  They don't usually start coming until after Christmas, do they ? I was excited and surprised to see it. At that point, the garden still had chives and parsley out there. I appreciate the seed catalogs that come in the dead of winter, filling me with hope and bliss at the thought of spring and gardens. Not so much in November when I am barely finished with all the hard work from gardening this year.

 The soup was very good...I have been experimenting with making dairy free (pretty much. anyway--I still use butter) cream soups lately. We don't use regular milk hardly at all. I do keep some cans of evaporated milk in the pantry. I also have a box of instant milk that I use in some bread recipes and when I have to make a batch of instant hot chocolate.  I have used white beans (canellini)  pureed for the thickener, I have used basmati rice too. I have used coconut milk.  There are lots of things to try. But with potato soup, I generally just make the mirepoix base with lots of celery, onions, carrots and garlic, add spring water, and then chop the scrubbed white potatoes and toss 'em in. Add some salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Cook until the potatoes are soft, then ladle out vegetables and broth into the Vitamix and puree. It gives the soup a lovely texture, as well as rich taste.  Sometimes I will also add about half a package of cream cheese to it...but not always. It gives it a layer of richness that is grand without a whole lot of dairy. 

  Tomorrow I guess I will be making a run to the market if the roads aren't too bad to pick up some wide mouth lids. I need to make a big batch of bbq sauce and can it. I used my last jar and I cannot abide store bought sauce anymore. lol  One of the problems with making things yourself all the time. I make mine from a cheaters recipe that starts with a number 10 can of ketchup. Or 2, depending on how much I want to make.  I can it in pints.  It's  a fairly easy recipe that I figured out once costs me around t 40 cents a pint to make.  And it is GOOD.  It has ketchup, tomato paste, brown sugar, molasses, liquid hickory smoke, and spices in it.  Sometimes I add finely minced onion and garlic, but not usually.  It doesn't take very long to make or can...I always pressure can it.  If I make a big enough batch of it, I can get away with only making 2 or 3 times a year. We eat a lot of bbq...plus I use it on top of meatloaf, mixed with ketchup. And inside meatballs when I make those. 

  It's getting late and I have that cold weather-hibernation feeling, so I think I'm going to head for bed.  All the critters are in and the house is quiet. Paco was gone for a couple of days after one of the dogs chased him outside...but he's back and has been in the house without leaving now for the past 48 hours + .  He's a bit of a wild boy, but am hoping he'll decide to stay. He's so adorable...
 As you can see, he's made himself right at home in here with me. 

  Here's wishing you all a restful night....


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Life's Dilemmas...

This is a daily scene in my house. Add 4 cats and a bird.  All scattered hither and yon. All in the house today because it's like 20 degrees and snow flurries and too cold for them to stay outside more than 5 or 10 minutes...every 2 hours.  Aarrrggghhhh !!!  How am I supposed to vacuum?  How am I supposed to get anything done ?  lol

 I have never been so un-motivated in my life. (I don't think).  My house is in dire need of attention. My  pantry  needs re-organized and inventoried.  I need to write. My NaNo is behind, I have a blog post due for MEN  soon.  On a bright note, I am putting away my dehydrators and canner for a while. lol  The only thing I have left to can is  [maybe] one more batch of soup. The Cowboy Soup, which I can do anytime really. The gardens are down.  We are butchering the chickens on Saturday, and they will go straight into the electric roaster to be cooked down for broth and meat and I will can that too, because there is not one tiny bit of room left in my freezer. It's time for the chickens...they haven't been laying for months and we will not feed them through the winter. The cost of feed and electricity to keep the coop warm enough for them requires that they pay their way, and they are not doing that. This will be the first time we have ever butchered our chickens ...and though I am not looking forward to it, it must be done. The boys will do it while I'm gone.  LOL  This is farm life.  You either pay your way or you go.  It's been a strange year for chickens and egg production...I'm not the only one. I've talked to several people who have had this problem.  Weather ??  Feed ??  Who knows.

  Next spring I will go back to a straight flock of Rhode Island Reds though...they have been the best all around chickens yet.

  I finished up the last batch of spearmint.  Dried most of it, tossed some of it into the compost. And Started a quart jar of oil infused with spearmint. I used grapeseed oil. It's sitting there in the dark, where it will be for 2-3 weeks. Can't wait to see how it turns out.

  Making big plans for Thanksgiving at my brothers. I am in charge of rolls, crockpot corn and a dessert that is not pie. I'm thinking maybe a fresh fruit trifle...,made with home made pound cake instead of angel food cake, and lots of rich whipped cream. Might change my mind and do the angel food cake...it would make a much lighter dessert...we'll just have to see how it plays out.  Or...maybe a beautiful pound cake with a blueberry concoction to pour over it. Hmmm.... the possibilities are endless...

 Sir Paco the cat is playing hard to get again and will not come in the last 2 nights.  It has been in the low 20's and I am worried about him of course.  He sleeps up in the attic of the garage, we finally figured out. Junko has been staying out there with him, and then comes in at daybreak and sleeps in a warm spot all day.  One of the dogs hauled a huge skeleton up into the front yard...must be a young deer, but maybe a coyote. I can't tell. No legs...just the backbone and ribs.   The bones are pretty much bleached. Generally we wind up with at least the rotting carcasses of  a field dressed dead deer in the yard.  Sigh...

  Life on Honeysuckle Hill.  It waxes and wanes. It blooms and dies. It goes round and round and we all hang on for dear life until it slows down enough to let go. And we dance and we sing and we follow the seasons , one after another. from here to there and back again.  And the season of rest and hibernation is almost upon us.  We actually had some snow today...just flurries for a bit and then some big fat fluffy flakes fell from the sky for about 10 minutes. A preview of things to come.  Bring it--I'm ready for a good excuse to stay home and not leave the hill.




Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday...AGAIN ????

This last week has gone by so quickly. Busy of course. And some emotional/mental struggles. And some health issues.  lol  That big old wheel keeps on turnin'...

  I did get the pumpkin all done finally...in the wake of dental appointments and sore throats and stomach issues.  Almost 3 gallons of assorted spiced and salted seeds, all tucked away in the pantry. The rest of that pumpkin (2 water bath canners full of chunks)  cooked, dehydrated and pulverized into powder (less than a quart jar for all of that.  YIKES !!   Picked up another big bag of spearmint that will be mostly an experiment in oil infusion. (Part of today's list, if I ever get on with it).  The usual cleaning and cooking and lots of napping.  It's a miracle anything got done.  OH--AND...finally this---

So I've been alternately buzzing on Cloud 9 and napping, okay ? lol  

Isn't this a pretty picture? This was in the sink still, I think...

 I just loved the look of the form and textures in this...lol

Yesterday I roasted a chicken for supper and so the carcass and another small carcass that I had in the freezer have been in the small crockpot all night  simmering away. Smells really comforting in this house.  There's just something about the smell of chicken soup/broth, isn't there ?

Tonight the Irishman is going to the discussion group so I will have a sandwich or something for him to eat on the road. I'll eat leftovers probably. I am sitting this discussion out I've decided. It's just not that interesting to me and I have been so tired lately.  It's easier for me to not go. Next time I'll be back at it and rarin' to go...we usually take a short break at the end of the year, since the holidays get a little whacky for everyone. So, that will be a nice long break for me.  Next year will be busy...

I have had a curious experience at the dentist office and am kind of in limbo right now.  I have talked about this on Facebook and gotten all kinds of great support and advice (lol).  I went to a new (to this area) dental office at the end of October for an abscess in my jaw.  They got me right in, rushed me through 10 kinds of xrays and exams, rushed me through to the office and told me I needed to have all my teeth pulled and it was time for dentures. I was stunned, to say the least.  Not that I haven't thought that at some point in my life this would happen. I have a long history of bad teeth. Family bad teeth. Childhood bad teeth,  I had about 10K dollars of work done on my teeth about 13 years ago.  This abscess occurred at the base of a tooth that had a lot of saving work done on it back then, and has been loose since the car accident in May.  I fully expected a course of antibiotics and having it extracted. But for them to come at me with pull them all and wear dentures...well...that knocked me for a loop. My teeth aren't the greatest, but I don't think they all need to go. I tried to discuss this with the dentist (a young Chinese woman) and she wouldn't hear of it.  At least that's how it felt to me. Granted, I was in a lot of pain at the time...  Long story short, I went in for what I thought was the extraction (after several days on the penicillin)  even though I had tried to call several times to see if I should still come, because I have developed a sore throat. I couldn't get ahold of anyone and it was time to go or miss the appointment, so I went. When I got there, I talked to the girl at the desk and she said she had just gotten my message.  They whisked me back and instead of doing the extraction, they started fitting me for the denture mold.  I had a sore throat and kept gagging and she kept saying Breathe thru your nose...it was awful.  When she was done, I asked about the extraction and she said, no, they'll pull them all at the same time. I was shocked...I was supposed to go this morning.  I called and cancelled last night.  I started reading online reviews through Consumer Affairs about this group IN GENERAL...not the local office, which is brand new...and it scared the beejeezus out of me. I'm going to get a second opinion.

Lovely surprise...I just took some bills and Netflix movies down to the mailbox. Apparently I had not picked up the mail on Saturday (I coulda sworn...)  and it was full. Including a package for me. It turned out to be the 2015 Creativity and Parkinson's Calendar  that my good friend Tim has a watercolor drawing in.  How awesome is that ???

So, my today (I slept until almost 11 o'clock in the morning after going to bed at 2 !!!!! )  is waddling along at a duck being carried by a snail's pace.  I did get dressed right about noon--I am not a heathen, people !  lol Now I'm having a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast and going through the mail. I poured the last of a quart of milk that I had bought to make some pudding and then never did...and as usual, it's already giving me a stomach ache. When will I accept the fact that I simply cannot drink cows milk ?  Sheesh...

Alright. I should do something productive...like make a dentist appointment or something.  Or clean house. It is really beautiful out there today. A last ditch effort by Mother nature to  say she loves us before all hell breaks loose. Tomorrow's daytime temps are supposed to be 20-25 degrees lower than todays  and continue to plummet, with nighttime temps in the low 20's.  

  I guess it's really here.


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Falling into November...

 The leaves are falling, the temps are falling.  This morning the temperature had climbed all the way to 30 by 9 AM.  It's chilly, but not rainy, so I guess that's good. Autumn has made her debut. Welcome, old girl... it's really beautiful around these parts. All the reds and golds and browns. I thought about taking today off and going out for a while with my camera to take some last ditch photographs of the beauty, but I have SO much to do today. Laundry, last minute garden preservations (carrots, peppers, etc.), finish up the 3 lbs of spearmint that is drying in various places around my house, and all the pumpkins that are in the garage.  I have to get these things done because the upcoming week is going to be pretty busy for me. I might still get up off my butt and at l;eat take off for an hour or so and shoot some pictures.

 I have a bunch of peppers that are going to be canned into Unstuffed Bell Pepper Soup.  I have  to make sure I have enough jars for this, and of course lids too.  I think I do. I have been eating things out of the pantry regularly and so am collecting some more empty jars. (My rule is that after October 1st, I can officially start eating out of my pantry stores. LOL  Any time before that I eat out of the garden).  I have a 5 gallon bucket full of carrot greens that need to be made into pesto.  I made a recipe the other night (we had a guest for supper) that was a warm chickpea and carrot greens salad. It was awesome people !!!  I also found a recipe that looks suspiciously like a Seaweed Salad, only it is made with carrot greens, and I seriously want to try that. The carrots and their tops are looking a little wilty (they were pulled Friday afternoon before the first frost) so I'm going to take that bucket and fill it with cold water and see if I can shock those greens back while washing the muddy carrots.  lol

  This is National Novel Writing Month too...starting yesterday.  NaNoWriMo is one of the highlights of my year, even though I sometimes don't finish my novella.  I started writing yesterday on Nov. 1st (that's the rules) and have gotten about 1200 words down so far.  I was just thinking that it's crazy sometimes how...the more I have on my plate and the more I have to do, the more I do and the more I get done.  When I have some downtown from having a ton to do...I get lazy and sometimes accomplish almost nothing.  Once an old timer in AA told me (I was on a committee) to always ask the busy people for help--they are the ones who get things done. He was right.  The title of my 50,000 word novel is ...A Rainy October.  And that's all I'll tell you for now.  (Of course the title could change at any moment, but for now, that's what it is. LOL)

  I am going to go start a load of laundry. It can be going while I write here... okay. So the first of  3 loads of laundry is sorted and started,  the carrots are in the bathtub full of cold water and I stopped and made my bed on my way through. I am finishing up the first 3 pound bag of spearmint...last night I manicured and trimmed and filled 2 dehydrators and 3 brown paper bags. I think I am going to prefer the old paper bag method...I don't know. The mint just seems like it is losing it's potency in the dehydrator. Or maybe it's just me.  I guess when I steep some in boiling water for tea, I will know for sure. I have another 3 pound bag coming...I had no idea how to even visualize what a pound of mint looked like, lol.   But to give you an idea, here's part of a 3 pound bag...  

That's a kitchen can sized garbage bag.  My plan for all this mint is a couple of things...one is obviously, Tea.  I also want to try my hand at infusing oil with spearmint. And my wonderful friend Crystal tells me that she makes a mesmerizing pesto using mint. All of which intrigue me to no end. And I will certainly have plenty, lol.  Crystal is the goddess that is an herbalist,  farmer at a CSA with her handsome husband Eric, and mother extraordinaire to her 2 beautiful children Cayan and Iris.  One of those women that you meet and immediately think--I HAVE to have that woman in my life !!! I am blessed to call her my friend.

   It's not going to get real warm today. Low 50's they say and there isn't a lot of sunshine out there. I'm still in my elegant soft cotton nightgown that looks like something my grandma would have worn, and my Joe Boxer longjohns with socks and Birkenstocks. (How's that for a visual ???) I could get dressed, but...

  Tomorrow starts a busy week again, filled with another workshop  (Herbs and Edible Weeds) followed by a potluck. After that I'll head over to meet my husband at a speaker meeting to hear our friend Jeff share his ES&H. Monday also starts another of Oprah and Deepak Chopra's 21 day guided meditation series that I am going to do.  Tuesday morning I have a dentist appointment  to have some work done, followed (I hope) by my volunteer commitment at the Service Office.  I also have to vote in there somewhere...probably first thing in the morning before I head to the dentist.  Wednesday will be a slow day with just the usual stuff. Thursday I have another dentist appointment at 5 PM.  More work.

  Somewhere in there I have a car trunk full of pumpkins to massacre and keep seeds from. (Actually, the pumpkins are now residing in the garage, not in the trunk. My wonderful son came in yesterday morning and said  "...hey, I took all those pumpkins out and put them in the garage. I didn't think you wanted to drive around all day with them in there."   I have another 3 pounds of mint to pick up. I'm still looking for beets. I didn't grow any and no one seems to have any.  My novel will be calling me to work on it every day, hopefully a minimum of 1200-1500 words.  I also have blog posts to start writing for the Mother Earth News, as soon as they let me know when the first one is being published.

  My busy life. A good thing. Now...shall I get dressed? I need to call my little market and see of they have 8 pounds of their freshly ground beef available to can that soup...



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A busy week..and a crazy wonderful heartbreaking life...

The last pictures of my sweet old baby boy...he has wasted away to nothing and got to where he could no longer hold himself up. He was only halfway okay if he was being held by one of us. We loved him until the bitter[sweet] end, and took him to the vet on Thursday to be euthanized.  The people at our vet's office are so sweet and compassionate and they let me hold him until the very last breath seeped out. And I cried all the way there, all the time I was there and all the way home. (And of course, I'm crying now...)  There's a big hole in our little family. He was here for over 7 years...maybe more.

 When I got home, I busied myself with housework and tried to not just sit around and cry.  I worked for several hours like a madwoman. At about 4 o'clock I walked down the drive to the mailbox and there was a young yellow kitten walking up the middle of the road crying. This road:

 I approached her and she didn't run off and so I picked her up. She was frail, starved and so happy to be picked up--she snuggled right into my neck.  I asked her if PoPo had sent her...but she wouldn't say. I brought her in the house and looked her over and fed her.  Something had gotten ahold of her, she had a chunk of meat out of her groin/belly area. I put some neosporin on it and she moved right in. She wasn't afraid of the dogs--more afraid of the cats, actually.  So, whoever dumped her out here must have had dogs. She settled right in and seemed to be fine.

The next morning I had to go back to the vet and pick up Paco, who had been neutered.  I asked them about some wormer for this kitten and they gave me a small syringe with .5 ml of wormer in it. I had seen the roundworms in her stool and am kind of an old hat at this stuff.  We gave her the stuff...and within about 6 hours she started acting strange and crying pitifully. She was of course having some diarrhea , but wasn't interested in food. She acted like she could barely walk.  She was crying piteously. It was horrible...and I wrapped her in a towel and put her in a cat carrier, thinking that maybe I needed to get her away from the other cats.  I started googling symptoms and trying to decide if I should take her to the emergency animal hospital...I called them and they said sometimes cats have reactions to the wormer. They said if I thought she couldn't wait to bring her in. If she could wait until morning, the emergency fee would drop by 50 dollars. (One of my friends offered to pay the vet bills if I would care for her. 2 other friends offered me $$ to help pay for the vet bill. How blessed am I ?)   The Irishman had been out of town for 2 days and was due back any minute. I tried to decide whether to wait for him or just go ?  I decided I would check on her again and just take her. I went to the back room where I had put the carrier...and she was dead.  I was shocked, to say the least. From the time she started showing the strange symptoms to death was only like 3 hours !  When the Irishman walked in the door, I fell in his arms crying. 

 It was like she just came here to be loved a little and die.

  I'm just getting too old for this.

So...we loved and we lost.  And isn't that just life ?  And our little homestead is back to 4 cats and 3 dogs, as Sir Paco has decided we aren't such a bad family and is going to stick around.  He's been sleeping in the house with the cooler weather and  I'm glad.

And for some good news....I have been sitting on this for a few weeks waiting for all the ducks to line up and the final decisions to be made...and as of yesterday I am officially a member of the Mother Earth News blogging family.  I got the official (lol) letter of acceptance after emails back and forth and filling out their application and bio/history, and submitting a sample post.  I am VERY excited to be doing this, as I have been an off and on subscriber to this magazine since it came out in the early 70's.   A woman sent him one of my posts from Dragon Woman's Kitchen, he loved it, and invited me to apply to be a blogger. I will write a blog post every 2 weeks. I don't really know all the details yet, but am honored to be a part of it all.  I feel like I died and went to old hippie heaven.  lol

 Our family has 2 new babies coming--brothers having babies--and I attended a baby shower last Sunday. It was fun and so good to see the happy mom and pop. It seems so strange that all my little babies are having babies...

  I got to meet up with a woman I am friends with on a homesteading site today...a lovely woman who cooked me a delectable Moroccan meal  and we talked and talked for hours.  She only lives about and hour or so from me. What fun !!!!    I already felt like we were friends, but now I REALLY feel like we are friends ! lol

  I am heading for bed because I have another early morning tomorrow...attending a Permaculture/Hegelkulter  workshop that starts at 8:30 AM.  After that I am picking up about 10 pounds (or is it 5 ??)  of spearmint and a butt load of pumpkin seeds.  My sister is in town from Florida and I thought we were getting together, but she only has a small space when she can pencil me in and that is not working with the workshop I'm attending. So...I probably won't be seeing her. Apparently the past couple of days she has been here and is about 12 miles from me. You all know this story....grrrrrr.... I knew she was coming, but didn't know details...she texted me this afternoon...I just keep repeating the Serenity Prayer...over and over...."God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I CAN, and the wisdom to know the difference."   People and their priorities...shaking my head...

  Sending love and light to all of you....


Monday, October 20, 2014

The girl been MIA...and there's no rainbows and unicorns today.

This is my road. In early autumn.

 I can tell you that it goes nowhere, but that wouldn't be quite true. It actually goes everywhere...unless you just want to stay on Honeysuckle Hill without ever leaving.  It's a gravel road, two lanes (I guess--there's no lines on it delineate lanes, but still...) and it's exactly wide enough for 2 cars or a car and a truck to pass. As long as you pay attention. 

 This time of year, around these parts, you are competing with lots of farm equipment...tractors, combines, threshers, hay wagons, and semi trucks full to the brim with all manner of corn and soybeans that have been harvested.  If you drive a little car like mine, there is really no competition.  Heavy equipment wins every time.  It's a fact of life that if you must drive the back roads, you'd better leave early and learn some patience. 

 I have been busy with any number of things around here lately. Bits and bobs of canning and dehydrating.  Cooking, as usual. Baby showers and birthday parties. Life on life's terms, as we say in my 12 step program.  IN other words, it's a comin' so you might as well hold on tight and enjoy the ride. I got all the green tomato salsa canned. Almost 2 dozen jars.  If there's ever a green tomato salsa shortage in the world, you know where to come. 

 The world is coming unhinged out there and I am more and more glad to stay home.  Ebola has arrived on our shores.  I just saw tonight that there has been another new case  found, this one in Lebanon, MO. Which is a little close to me for my taste.  The police are still shooting unarmed black teens. The riots across the river are still ongoing . They've cooled down a bit, but not stopped. And I can only imagine what;s going to happen when the verdict is in on the police officer who shot Micheal Brown.  Elections are looming and everyone is about out of their minds over everything. I have never been more grateful to not have tv. I get enough news off the internet.  The food supply is being slowly poisoned and manipulated  by greedy corporate whores...what in the world is going on out there ?  Butter is up over 5 dollars a pound.  Meat around here is almost unaffordable.  My chickens aren't laying and so are going to be butchered in the next week or so.  My cat Lazarus is dying again. maybe for good this time. I am sad and being extra loving and showering him with TLC...this is his 3rd attempt and I wish we could just get it over with. He's staggering around like a zombie cat, can't keep his balance and sleeps for hours and hours on end.  He won't eat.  It's exhausting to watch. I really want to let him die naturally and at home.  I'm doing my best.

  It's  crazy I tell you.  

  It's also 1:30 and I need to go to bed. I have a chiro appointment at 10:30, which means I have to be ready to leave here by 9:45 ...because I have to travel up that road and behind all those tractors and try to get the 30 minute trip made in less than 45 minutes.

 I wanted to stop in and say I haven't run off,  I haven't stopped blogging,  and I haven't died.  Yet.

I'll try to come back in the next couple of days and maybe let you in on some good news.



Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Grateful for Sundays...

  LOL   Grateful for opportunities to laugh and make fun of myself.  LBVS   (That's Facebook lingo for Laughing, But Very Serious).  Ha.


  What happened ??  I must have been sucked into some Twilight Zone type vortex, because it was Sunday and I started this and now suddenly it's Wednesday !

  Truthfully...I have not been that busy.


 This morning, however, I got out of bed, had some coffee and went to work.   I started a big pot of chicken and rice soup to take to a friend who has been sick for a few days now. Some kind of virus.  Not

...but some kind of bad bug.   

 After I got the soup going (yes, almost all my stuff from my pantry--yea!!)...I headed for the back yard with a 5 gallon bucket, a half bushel wicker type basket, a cardboard apple box (half peck), some garden shears and a small sharp knife.   Almost sounds like a safari expedition,. doesn't it ? lol
 I attacked the tomato plants (which, btw, still look like early July plants--I swear, not even drooping or turning yellow or brown still).  I got this  

I'm going to use them to make salsa verde.  There were a few ripe ones out there, but it's OCTOBER people !!  The days are not getting hot enough to ripen tomatoes and even though we are nowhere near a frost yet (I don't think)I decided to pick all the green tomatoes. I'm gonna wash and cut out spots and then throw these bad boys in the vitamix. along with some garlic, chiles, onions and cilantro. A bit of spices (cumin, black pepper, salt).  Add some vinegar, taste it and then bring it to a boil and can it.  Yum.

  After the tomatoes were done (And I had rested a bit),  I went after the peppers.

 This basket is bells, Anaheims, jalapenos and cayennes. The bell peppers are beautiful There are still some little ones out there. We'll see what they do. In the meantime I'll use some of these for stuffed peppers for supper tomorrow and probably freeze the rest. I've already dehydrated quite a few...

  After another bit of a resting my back  (and checking on the soup), I got the shears out and started cutting basil, parsley and tarragon to bring in and dehydrate.  Not a bad haul.

 I usually dry these things in the back closet, but thought I'd use the dehydrator this time...not sure if I'm liking the results...  I still have chives out there to cut and dry too.  I took my little sharp knife and harvested 8 more butternut squash. Small ones, but a good size for the 2 of us. The ones that have been curing in the garage are ready to come in and take their place under the guest bed -they sleep like babies on their own little cardboard sheets.  lol  I think I'll dry the chives the way I always do...they retain the color better.  I just chop them and spread them out on large baking pans around my kitchen for a few days. Easy Peasy.  

Well...I'm a little achy (back and knee mostly) and a little tired (not been sleeping too well the past few days)  and thinking  I might hit the hay a little earlier tonight than I've been doing. My hours have been getting erratic again and that does me no good at all.  I try to set a bedtime and stick to it...and then I start to drift. And before you know it, I'm staying up until after 2 AM again.  And getting up at 8:30, looking and feeling like something the cat dragged in.

  On a bright note, my blood pressure seems to have leveled out, and the growth removed from my face was benign.  

  We take what we can get, right ??  lol

  And tomorrow, I'll be getting this green tomato salsa canned.  What are you up to ???