Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is it Antisocial if ..........?

Here is the dilemma. It is a cool cloudy dark morning -- not very inviting for me. The chicken coop needs to be opened but the sheep are resting. I don't want to let the sheep out to graze yet but I don't want to give them hay because I am going to let them out in a couple of hours to graze. This saves on hay and they aren't acting hungry-- they are laying down for the most part.

I go down to let the chickens out but I purposefully don't talk to the sheep or even look at them because I don't want them to all run to the gate wanting to come out yet. Beau comes to the gate but I barely make eye contact with him. Then I go around the corner of the garage barn, on my way out, and look back at Beau and mouth to him "I will be back later to let them out".

It feels so strange to not talk to them but here it is an hour later and they are still resting. If I had talked to them and they got up, I would feel guilty for not letting them out or feeding them. Now I feel guilty for not greeting them. I know this is all human stuff but animals must have some kind of social etiquette.

Perhaps, on the other hand, they are asking themselves (right now) if it was rude not to get up to greet me when I came down to the barnyard this morning. 'humans must have some kind of social etiquette'. Who Knows.

I think I will keep observing from the house, and when they get up, I will go down and let them out. Then I will ask them if they thought I was being antisocial this morning.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Thanksgiving and the day after, I was enjoying the part of our family, that was visiting, SO much, that I barely touched a computer or cell phone. (Jen, talk about commas)

The company was superb and the weather delightful! And the food.............. Thanksgiving day, I began giving my thanks, for Jen's talent and tradition of making us croissants. The day started with a bite of an amazing chocolate almond croissant two minutes out of the oven. It's kind of like eating fresh corn; it is always good, but when you have it eight minutes after picking-- it is truly encompassing. For croissants, the precise time is two minutes. The croissant felt like it was hugging me, tucking me into bed, and wafting an exotic foreign fragrance under my nose at the same time. It was near perfect flakiness, near perfect color, and near perfect temperature (only God is Perfect).

The pot next to the croissants is Wades Mills grits to which we added ham Lyndy brought, from her weekend employer and friend, Bashir. A sharp cheddar cheese from Farm to You rounded out the yummy breakfast.

I next gave thanks for the superb brightness and delightfulness of the day served to us and when Lyndy woke up, I gave thanks for family present that day. Later, friends came to join us for dinner, and I was thankful for friends, especially ones so artistic and accomplished in the art of food growing and combining. Our friends added a kale and squash side dish and a cranberry almond tart. The kale dish also had that pick and cook component and a wonderful balance of earthy, sweet, and tart (there were a few cranberries tucked in). The cranberry almond tart was one of the most beautiful things I have ever eaten. It looked sculptured and the blend was just right; offering cranberries not too tart or sweet accompanied by the nutty sweet taste of almonds.

Before we ate our dinner, the animals who reside here were strolling and on cue went to greet our friends as they drove up to the house. When it was nearly time for our dinner, John and David led the animals back to the barnyard and gave them their treat (a handful of grain as usual). I am so thankful that the animals are so polite and well mannered.

Lyndy brought a local free range turkey for dinner. It came with a free home made pumpkin pie... can't beat that. Other traditional dishes completed the menu.

Parts of Thanksgiving Day are always tradition. Parts of Thanksgiving Day are always unknown and come together in harmony. I give thanks for all of it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Powering and Showering People

After many delightful nights with the temperature above freezing, the temperature has suddenly plummeted. John called me to ask me to disconnect the hoses on the outdoor shower. I am glad he called because I would not have thought of it and we just replaced the hoses from the last time they froze and blew out.

The animals have water buckets that plug in, to keep the water from freezing. I wish there was some way we could plug in the pipes and hoses to keep the water in them from freezing. Maybe there is a way but I imagine it would be very expensive. If there is a way, though, that is what I want for Christmas. I really love taking showers outside but I am lazy and don't like turning the water off and disconnecting and reconnecting hoses. Also, it is hard to remember to do it.

Thinking about all of this, reminds me that I want to get in touch with a local guy who is involved with the group Powering People. They are an alternative energy group I want to consult about solar hot water for washing fleeces and felting wool. Think I will shoot an email off tonight.

Maybe there is a way this all fits together.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nibbling While We Weed

I was doing a pretty good job of weeding the dyeing garden but it was going slowly so

Amelia decided to come help. She had been watching me so she knew where to go and what to do.
She did a pretty good job. Some of the others helped too. They wanted to thank me for letting them come up to graze by the house. They do keep moving and the yard seems pretty even-- maybe John will let them do some of the lawn maintenance in the spring if they promise not to eat the fruit trees.

It was 74 degrees today. I wonder if the grass grows when you have a few days around 70 degrees or if it takes a long stretch. So far the sheep have eaten very little of the new hay. I hope the weather holds up a little longer. The great thing about the sheep grazing the dyeing garden is that there is a good supply of a highly nutritious lemon flavored weed I forget the name of. I keep saying I am going to put some in my salads but then I forget. I do nibble when I am weeding though.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Apples & Memories

It is that time of year. Apple time. A very exciting time for me. Lots of memories; of camping and Littleton, of seeing lots of different varieties of apples in farm stands, (or even the grocery store), of recess and yellow jackets, of the sound of that first bite, of that wonderful sweet/tart sticky smell.

As I mentioned the other day, Karen gave me a bag of apples. Did I mention the bag was too heavy for one person to lift? So now I have 2 big bags in the freezer for pies, muffins, or pancakes, and a half gallon of apple sauce and more apples left with no room in the freezer.

I started thinking about recipes that take lots of apples and of course the first one that came to mind was apple butter. That brought back another memory of when John and I were first living together and I was trying to show him what a good cook I was. I decided to make apple butter and went to my go to cookbook of that time, Fanny Farmer. HOw simple-- you just throw the apples in a pot and stir constantly until thick, adding a little sugar and cinnamon along the way if you want. What they didn't say was how long it takes for the apple butter to get thick. Well, it was a long time.

Today, I opened my church cookbook for a recipe and had a good chuckle I wanted to pass along. Here is the recipe. It is from Marie J. Tardy and was dated 1979.

12 bushels apples, peeled, cored &cut into eights, vinegar, salt, 3 gal. water, 80 lbs. sugar, 1/2 lb cinnamon

After peeling, coring and cutting the apples, you will have 8-9 bushel of "snits". At about 6 o'clock the second morning, start to cook the apples. You need a copper kettle which will hold about 30 gallons of apple butter. After fire is started, wash kettle out with vinegar and salt, rinse with clear water. Then add about 3 gallons of water and about 2 bushel of snits. Let them cook about 1 hour, stirring continuously, then begin adding more until all snits cook into a smooth apple sauce. At 2 p.m. Add about 80 pounds of sugar and cook 2 hours more. Then add cinnamon and cook 20 minutes longer. Then dip off into any size jars you wish and seal tight. Apple butter has been known to keep as long as 8 to 10 years. Note: Stir continuously from the beginning of the cooking of the apples until taking the apple butter off so that it doesn't stick and burn.

I have a few ?s. If you start cooking the apples at 6 a.m. what time do you start the fire? What is magical about adding 80lbs. of sugar at 2p.m? And most importantly how many people does it take to make apple butter?

That's all for now-- I have to go give the critters some snits.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Autumn Activities

The sheep and Beau have enjoyed coming up by the house to graze the last few days. The grass is premo and there are many new things to explore. The steps to the shop with the new pumpkin, the circle dyeing garden; where Jumpin Jack learned how to play the wind chimes, and the fringes. Sheep love fringes.

Now that the orchard has no fruit and few leaves, the sheep can enjoy strolling through. All the animals have been on good behavior and I only have to reroute them occasionally.

The browsers are very enthusiastic- I hope I don't regret them being so engaged. Right now their fleeces look beautiful but you never know where they may find burrs. The other day Mira was wearing a tree and John said it was a Halloween costume.

Official training began this morning. Beau is working on following, Amelia is working on letting me stand on her left side, Mira is working on letting me stand on her right side. I hadn't realized, until training began, that they are side sensitive. I wonder what I will find out tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cold Mornings Amazing Afternoons

John said it felt warmer this morning when we got up and it was-- it was 32 degrees outside and 62 degrees inside.

Yesterday, it was 31 degrees outside and 59 degrees inside. We have woken up to a frost everyday for the last week, yes, starting in October. I hope this isn't the beginning of a long winter season.

Once the sun rises over the Blue Ridge Mountains, the day starts warming up and by 9:30 or so I start taking off layers. The problem is, I have to remember where I leave the layers, so I can put them on the next day. This morning I was looking for my down vest and winter hat and remembered I had left them on the railing down at the cabin. The vest was just a little cool and the hat slightly damp but not bad. A short while later I had to take the vest off again-- this time leaving it in the barn with an egg in the pocket.

The chickens don't like the cold mornings. John said they didn't come out until he had left the barnyard, this morning. Usually, they dash out as soon as the door is opened. We only find one or two eggs a day now that the weather and light have changed.

Beau and the sheep don't seem to have noticed or they just don't care. Actually, I think they like it better. Last night, as it cooled off again, they were doing their "four feet off the ground" hop and just generally playing around like lambs do.

It is a good thing I am home most of the day these days. With such short grass in the main pasture I have been letting the animals out for a good part of the day. I have let them come up by the house a couple of times this week and they really like that. Who says sheep are not smart or social. If they hear my voice or see me look at them, they coming running. If I don't want them to come down from up on the pasture, I have to be quiet and not look at them. Sarah will look over at me and if I make eye contact for more than two seconds she brings them all to me. It's great when I want them to come but if I don't--they look at me as if to say why did you call.

With all the Amazing afternoons this week, I have accomplished much. Harvested the last of veggies in the garden, weeded some of the dyeing garden, raked leaves and nuts, fenced part of the top pasture to rejuvenate, and hauled stuff to the compost. Tomorrow, it may rain but I need to make a new hay rack to accommodate more mouths.

I am loving getting so much done but I need some not so great weather to catch up with friends.

Looking for a Bit in a Straw Pile

Yesterday, I experienced intimately, the old adage looking for a needle in a hay stack only I was looking for a screw bit in some straw. It all started out with me making some minor changes to the chicken coop. I put in an additional roost because the new hen that brown 1, 2, and 3 harass all the time was sleeping on top of or in the nesting box area. Last night, the 2 lowest in the pecking order, slept in the middle nesting box together instead of on the new roost. None of them were on it. I hope they try it out soon.

I also replaced a screw in the door latch and I didn't know what sized screw bit I needed so John gave me a few in a small plastic box. Unfortunately, the box was open, when I knocked it over and everything spilled. The floor of the coop is slatted, so I didn't know if they stayed in the coop or fell through. I found one bit and a screw fairly easily but was still missing one or two, many minutes later.

I decided to try to find them with John's big magnet using it both in the coop and under it where some of the straw falls through. The chickens like to scratch around under the coop and when I came with the magnet one hen was doing just that. After a considerable time, I was unsuccessful in finding the bit, but the picture above shows all the stuff I did find (mostly bits of old tools and fencing).

At least I am glad I found all this stuff so the animals won't step on it.