Wednesday, November 30, 2011

(D♥A) Roasted Garlic

Dave and I FINALLY got to spend a day together! YEA!!!! It really hadn't been that long since we had gotten to see each other, but it seemed like it had been forever.

We have both been sick for the last few days. Not sure what Dave had had, a bug of some sort that made him feel bad, and I got up with the Flu last Friday morning. I have been nursing a fever, aches, chills and the croupies for days, then it finally turned into bronchitis. So with us both feeling under the weather, I decided to cook us some Roasted Garlic in my wood stove (my source of winter heat).

Garlic is absolutely WONDERFUL for curing all kinds of ails. I know it is probably best when eaten raw, but roasted just really sounded good last night. So I hunted down my tiny little Dutch Oven that I hadn't used since last winter.

To make Roasted Garlic this way, simply take a full head of garlic, roll it around in your hands and slip the outer 'papery' cover off of it, leaving it fully intact. Just the outer stuff, leave the cloves fully covered. Set the entire garlic head in your little cast iron pot (you can wrap it up in aluminum foil instead, but I am trying to get away from using aluminum.).  Then dribble a little of your favorite cooking oil over the head of garlic, making sure it runs down inside, inbetween the individual cloves. You can use most any kind of cooking oil. I have tried several, and I use to mostly use Virgin Olive Oil. But recently I tried it with some Virgin Sunflower Oil and that has most definitely become my favorite for this purpose. The flavor of it just seems to blend so perfectly well with the garlic. Now, put the lid on your Dutch Oven (or wrap your foil up tightly) and set it in the coals (not on the fire). Turn occasionally to keep from burning. Cook time will vary drastically, depending on how hot your fire and coals are.

When the garlic feels soft when you press on it, it is done. Ours took about 30 minutes. But that time can greatly differ either direction.  The cloves then easily peel and you can either scoop out the garlic or squeeze it out. Just be careful, it gets extremely hot and stays that way for awhile. It is then easy to simply spread on bread, crackers or use for whatever you want to use it for (or just eat as is). It spreads like butter and becomes sweet, losing its harsh, sharp, hot garlic punch. I especially like to toss it into my spaghetti sauce. It is also great to blend into your favorite spreads. The uses are endless.

And so are the health benefits! Garlic is an extremely powerful antiviral (the flu is a virus) and powerful antibiotic. In fact, its antibiotic properties have been said to be as effective as many modern prescription antibiotics, just without the side affects. We split this head of garlic last night, and by the time I got up this morning, my congestion had drastically improved. I was able to take far less medicine today, and felt so much better! I should have done this days ago. We had planned on eating it on some 'everything' bread we had picked up, but changed our minds and decided to eat it on some thin tortilla chips I had. It was yummy that way! I think we will be eating this often this winter to keep down our ills. If you have any questions about it, please feel free to ask. And yes, you can do this in your regular oven, too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

(AF) A Thanksgiving Circus - part 5 (finale)

Every checkout appeared to be open... I think.... you couldn't get close enough to the checkouts to see them. I did take pics with my rinky dink cell phone (digital camera was in the shopping cart) and when I figure how to get them out of my phone, I will post them here. CHECKOUT LINES?? At first glance it just looked like a mass mob of people, no distinguishable lines. But as you visually scanned the mob at the front of the store, and followed it further and further back through the store, you eventually were able to see the end of the lines. The shortest line? Ha, ha, yea, right.

I worked myself through the crowd of shoppers, finally found what appeared to be the end of a line, and parked myself there.... 12:27pm, standing in the center of the shoe department! Front of the store - Checkouts - walkway end to end of the store - clothing department - walkway - shoe department.  Yep, this was going to take awhile. But it was okay, I got the main things I came for. I killed a little time talking to Dave a few minutes (via cell phone) but it was so loud, and reception was so bad, it was difficult to hear. But we still got to say our 'good-nites'. As you looked out across the ocean of people slowly flowing in the direction of the checkouts, hundreds of people were standing, cell phone-to-ear. And throughout the store full of shoppers, people were standing, phone to ear, keeping in contact with people back at home discussing purchase options, and/or, using them as walkie talkies to keep in touch with others in the store in their group, or stationed at other stores (same town, different town, different states even). It was a major overload on the cell phone system and reception was the pits!!! But it was Thanksgiving, and I was so very thankful that, at that moment, there was reception at all so that I could say my nightly good-nites to Dave.

A drone of voices hummed across the store. Those that weren't on cell phones engaged in idle conversation to keep down the boredom of standing in slow moving lines for hours on end. Perfect strangers struck up conversations and made new 'friends.' It was better than Facebook, everyone had a physical body! The woman in front of me was also shopping by herself and we had a great conversation as we patiently waited in line. She owned a camera like the one I was purchasing and was able to, first-handedly, answer my questions about it (If you are reading this, thanks again!). We exchanged crockpot cooking tips, natural living ideas, sustainable living ideas, and several other interesting topics. Our conversation was so enjoyable that the wait in line didn't seem long at all. (Thanks for putting up with my nervous chatter. You unknowingly kept me from a claustrophobia attack, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!)

Before I knew it we were at the checkout. The woman in front of me spied a couple of crockpots in the returns area and jumped over to grab me one, bless her heart, but they were the 7-quart ones, darn it! They were tricky on packaging this year. The packaging looked just like the 6-quart ones, except it said 7 instead of 6 and were nearly triple the price. Oh, well.... I paid for my stuff (including a cheap gallon of water for the car) and headed out to find my car. Fortunately, I had made mental note of the Row Number as I went into the store.  I got to my car (so glad it was fairly warm and not freezing, raining or snowing this year), loaded my stuff, popped the hood and added water. I got in, started it up, and it still sounded HORRIBLE. Rummaged around and found my last quart of oil (I was NOT going back in there for a quart of oil!), popped the hood again, and poured it in (I had added power steering fluid before I left home, poor old car.)  So here I am, woman alone at 1:49am, hood up on my car propped up with my walking cane, masses of people everywhere, and NOT ONE PERSON stopped to see if I needed help!!! I didn't need any, I had it under control, but no one knew that. It spoke volumes for what our world has come to.

Poor old car had had her rest, had her fluids replenished, and drove like she was eager to get out of that mess and get home. We stopped back at Host's house to pick up the Fur Ball. Oh, he was sooo excited to see me! That was the longest I had been away from him since I had taken him home with me. We had a snack of Thanksgiving left-overs and headed HOME.  Thanksgiving Day had finally come to an end. What a day!

It was Thanksgiving, the day to give thanks for all of our innumerable blessings we have received throughout the year. Although, financially, I am so far down I am nearly in a pit with no visible way out, I still have so very many things to be thankful for, so many rich blessings. I am thankful for so many things I couldn't possibly name them all, but I will name a few. I am, of course, extremely thankful for all the things people generally give thanks for. But I am also thankful for things that we so often over look. First, I am extremely thankful (I can't possibly give enough thanks here) for all of my friends and family, both in the physical and cyber world. I couldn't imagine life without them. I am thankful for everyone that has read my posts around the net all year long, and for all of the advice, tips, constructive criticisms and comfort they have given me. I am thankful for taste buds, because without them, we wouldn't be able to enjoy such great holiday meals, and, believe it or not, not everyone has working taste buds. I can't imagine how horrible that would be. And I was thankful for the wonderful Thanksgiving meal that I was able to taste with my taste buds, as not everyone in this world was so blessed to be able to eat such a feast. I am thankful for my sense of smell, with which I was able to smell all of the wonderful aromas throughout the day, and all year long. Not everyone has that sense (I personally know people that don't) and we take if for granted far too much. Although I have to wear glasses now to read, I am so very thankful for my eye sight, with which I can see all of God's beautiful blessings. And, though not so good as it once was, I am extremely thankful for my sense of hearing, which allowed me to enjoy the giggles of my grand kids. I am thankful for the trees that clean our air, give us oxygen, and provide us with many of our day to day, constantly used products. I am thankful for my home and the land that gives me food. I am thankful for the plants and animals that clothe me. I am thankful for the rains and sunshine that makes things grow. I am thankful for the fire that heats my home (It took the rain and sunshine to grow the trees that Dave cut, that is now in my wood stove heating my home.) I am thankful for the ability to breathe and a beating heart. I am thankful that, even riddled with arthritis throughout my entire body, I am still able to move about on my own. I am thankful for a sharp mind. I am thankful for every blessing that has been graciously and undeservingly bestowed upon me, large and minute (all blessings are huge), seen and unseen (all are seen, if we just look closely enough). Regardless of how far down that, on the surface it appears that I am, I can feel a blanket of warm blessings thickly and snuggly wrapped around me, I feel so very loved by my Lord!
And the three best blessing of all this year . . . . After a life full of extra bad relationships, I was graciously blessed last Fall with a most loving and caring relationship with Jonathan before tragically, cancer took him from me and our visual world in March. He was a loving, generous man, a rare find in today's world, so wonderful to me, and I miss him dearly.
I had finally had my wonderful, loving relationship and didn't think I could possibly ever be blessed with another, but, very unexpectedly, a man that I had grown up with in my old neighborhood came back into my life and, once again, I was graciously blessed with another very caring, loving, heart-warming relationship with Joe, who was also taken from this visual world this summer by our extreme, record-breaking heat. Losing him not only left yet another emptiness in me, but an empty hole in the world, as he was such a remarkable, loving, giving person in everything he did. I have no doubt, though, but that Jonathan's and Joe's loving blessings continue on in our world and will forever. The blessings of their love will continue on in my heart forever. I give immeasurable thanks for having been the one to have been blessed with their closest, sincerest love.
Broken hearted and lonely, I didn't think it ever possible to be so fortunate as to be so blessed again with such a wonderful, loving relationship and had resigned myself to settle into and live a single's life, planning out my new life accordingly. Then, very unexpectedly, Dave came into my life.... and, although I don't know what I could have ever possibly done that the Good Lord feels that I deserve it, He has again, graciously blessed me with, not only a wonderful, loving relationship, but a generously, loving man that I hope to have a wonderfully long life with! Thank you Lord, for a year of beautiful blessings far beyond my imagination!!!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

(AF) A Thanksgiving Circus - part 4

I get out of the car, take a deep breath, and head for the door, grabbing an abandoned shopping cart as I passed it. I figured that may be the only chance I had to get one (and I was right). All the way to the door my instinct kept telling me to turn around and run, just go back home, but I just kept repeating to myself, "You can do this, you can do this..." Because, you see, I am claustrophobic. But when I did look back, I was reminded that I couldn't leave because my car was still spewing smoke.

Back up just a little... Years ago, when I first began Black Friday shopping, I got as far at Walmart as pulling into the parking lot and my teenage kids went in with  my list. And I had a hard time even just being in the crowded parking lot. Then after we left there, I would go in with my kids to the not-quite-so-packed stores. After a couple of years of this, my kids made me start going in with them at Walmart. We would still split up with our lists and meet back at the front, but one or two would always stay with me, ready to distract me if a claustrophobia attack hit (actually, it was when). But I could never go into the Electronics Department. I would panic just looking at the crowd in that department! Then, they finally made me go in at Walmart by myself as they went to other stores, but kept phone contact with me. Then last year, I was completely on my own. The kids had finally weaned mom. I am still claustrophobic, sometimes worse than others, but this process we ended up going through over the years has greatly helped. Thanks kids!!!

And now, I was on my own..... and the one item I needed the most was in .... ELECTRONICS!!  Last year I couldn't even make it as far as the DVDs without feeling the panic coming on. But I was going to do this!  But first, the 6-quart Crockpot. The small appliance sale began at 10pm, Electronics at midnight. I have pretty much worn my 4-quart out making so many consecutive batches of Pear Butter. I began to move through the store, elbow-to-elbow with the masses of people (more than I had EVER seen in Walmart all at once), trying to drift my mind into another peaceful place, far, far away. I made it to the area where I thought the small appliances would be (I was also suppose to pick up an electric mini chopper for someone) ... nothing.  I swam through to the next area... lots of nearly bare pallets, but not what I was looking for. I found a clerk and asked him, he assuredly pointed me to the other side of the store! (we are talking, the largest Walmart in Oklahoma, last I checked) Okay, I really could use that Crockpot and it is only 1/3 of its usual cost, so I head over that way ... very, very slowly, each aisle a one-way flow. On my way past Electronics, I noticed that the lines for the midnight sale were already formed and long! It was only 10:15pm! My heart sank, a panic wave began to cross, and I quickly took my mind back to my dreamy place as I moved to the other side of the store. Once there I found lots of pallets, some with a few items left, many completely empty. I was also looking for the $1.28 Bath Towels in that area but quickly found out that they never got them in..... bummer. Found another clerk, asked for the Crockpots and choppers, was pointed in yet another direction.... back on the original side of the store I started on!  Six different places I was sent to! Sheesh!!! I finally found where they had been, but no more Crockpots nor mini choppers. The choppers .... I was told that they only got a few of them in and were gone in about a minute. In years past, even last year, they had several appliances available for this big sale, and LOTS of them in stock. Not this year. All throughout the store there seemed to be only a few items of each thing. But I did get kind of lucky. They had just set out some unadvertised, single cup coffee makers... you know, the kind you just set your coffee cup under. These were really nice, too. They made a really large cup (or small if you wanted), had a permanent filter, and you could use your own grounds or the pods. I had been wanting one of those, but too many necessities were way above it on my list. They weren't in the ad and they had just set them out for $4! Yep, I have one, now. So, on to the Electronics to  gulp  get in line.

I took a deep breath and plunged into the ocean of smelly people. Let me tell you, whoever had the bright idea of starting the sale-of-the-year immediately after masses of people had just stuffed themselves to overflowing with rich, gaseous foods, with no time to shower after the days events and before the sale, needs to be tossed into the Bog of Eternal Stench and left there for a few hours!  There was a loooong stretch of shrink-wrapped pallets and I couldn't see far enough ahead to see where what I was needing was. As long as the lines were, I figured I was out of luck by that point (remember, the lines had started long before 10pm for this stuff), but I was here, so I may as well try. I was there to get a camcorder and a better digital camera (I had been saving gift money and both items were for jaw-dropping prices). I couldn't get close enough to see the plastic wrapped pallets, so I began asking around. I finally found out that the camera I had come for was at the pallet a few feet down (two or three lines down), but the camcorder was over at the other end of electronics! Noooooooooooooo..............  And a clerk said that there were only a few of the camcorders (It, too, was well under half price). I figured that there was now no way I was going to land one, but I was going to try. So I kissed the idea of a better digital camera good-bye and went for the camcorder. Once again, I couldn't figure out which line to get into so I found a clerk and asked, yelling over the people between us. She asked which one I wanted, said there were only a couple left unaccounted for, and told me whom to stand behind in line. She even politely suggested that a few people shift over a little and let me through (I could have hugged her!). It is 11pm, and I am finally in line, surrounded by masses of smelly people, and the excitement of probably finally getting the camcorder that I have been trying to get for 2 years, is far overriding my claustrophobia.     A small child not far behind me was wailing in pure terror at the sight and chaos of the crowd. This was NO PLACE FOR A SMALL CHILD! And those parents were trying to corral about 4 of them!

So we are all anxiously waiting in our lines, an hour to go. We converse some amongst ourselves, while focusing on watching out for pushy people trying to get ahead of us. And they did try! A couple of people were, as I use to be, with a group. So one or two would stay in the line with the cart (we had made a barricade with the carts to keep people from cutting into our line) while the rest of the group went to hunt down other things on their list. Around 11:30 they rolled out the tall, shrink-wrapped cart of electronics. Our line immediately looks for the camcorders, counts them, and recounts the number in the line. Good! There's enough! Other people try harder to move in for the 'kill',. we stop chatting and guard our position. 11:45 comes and they decide to go ahead and pass the stuff out. Oh, the anticipation! We had to wait until they got down to ours... but ... I GOT IT!!! WOOOHOOOOO!!!  dancing santa claus emoticon I did it! All by myself! Now, to get back out of this mob.

I figured there wasn't a chance in the world that there would be one of the digital cameras left (Kodak 14 megapixels with all kinds of bells and whistles for $49), nor the Memory cards, but I was going to swim back through to the other side of Electronics and check anyway. Unbelievable!!! There were just a few of what I needed left! At last, it was time to head for the check-out....

  to be continued (one more) . . . . . . . .

(DF) THE NECESSITY OF ALTERNATIVE ENERGY IN A SELF-SUSTAINING LIFESTYLE

***advance soap box warning*** This is a subject I am likely to get adamant about, so if I get on my soap box and rant and rave a bit, please bear with me. The points I will try to bring forward may be of interest.

In a society such as ours, where electricity has been readily available for many years, far too few people can remember not having it readily available. All sorts of appliances and electronic gadgets fill most homes, some very convenient, others merely annoying. Unfortunately, many of these appliances and gadgets have come to be considered a necessity of life.

This brings us to the real point of this post; energy dependence and the power utility companies have over our lives. Anyone on the grid depends on the power company to provide power to run the aforementioned electrical equipment, (thus the energy dependence). The power the utility company has over us is simple, you pay the company or they cut of the power. In most cases the company you get your power from is the only game in town, so you can't shop around; you simply pay what they ask, or do without.

Friday, the mail carrier brought me a strong reminder of just such facts in the form of my electric bill. Finances being what they are, I had paid the last bill a couple of weeks late, but still before receiving the next bill. It seems I had been one day late a couple of other times in the past year, so my bill now includes a new deposit. This deposit amounts to about four average months of electric usage above the regular charges, so my bill this time is five times the normal bill.

When I consider that I have paid my electric bill every month for the past 25 years without once having my power cut off for non-payment, this seems a bit like an insult. It is nothing personal, of course, this is the way they treat anyone who is late, with no consideration of circumstances or how good the customer has been.

The question is; What can we do about it? The answer is simple; give up electricity or get it somewhere else. But wait, they are the only game in town. Or are they? Fact is, I like a hot shower as much as anyone, and a freezer is nice, (especially when there is plenty of meat). I also enjoy having the fridge, lights, well pump and without the computer I would not be getting this information to you. The welding machine and a wide variety of power tools also come into the mix making the lack of electricity more than a minor inconvenience.

Alright, enough of the soap box. The fact is that it doesn't matter if the way things are currently handled is right or wrong, convenient or inconvenient. This is the way it is RIGHT NOW and it is up to each individual to decide how to, (or whether to), change it for themselves.

For some time, I have been looking for information on alternative energy. There is a flood of information on the net and it can get a little confusing, but the search can be worth it. There are also people out there who have put together courses on about anything you could ask for, but be careful to check reviews. There are always those who are just out for a buck mixed in with those who are legitimate. My main focus on alternative energy has been in the areas of passive solar, solar electric and wind. I am hearing some talk of geothermal but haven't checked into it yet. I have also checked into methane production, but it is pretty dangerous if not done properly, so be careful if you take this path.

Of course, there is the alternative of learning the techniques for living without electricity. I have taken this path in the past and am not opposed to doing it again, if need be, but a little preparation would certainly be in order before making such a drastic shift. Heating and cooking with wood heat, pumping water by hand and washing clothes by hand require some work but are not that bad. Preserving all the food one normally puts in the freezer, and keeping things from spoiling that would normally be in the fridge takes some planing and research. Working with manual hand tools instead of power is a whole set of skills unto itself.

Bottom line: Whatever choices we make, our level of self-sufficiency and, to some extent, our freedom depends on the power company and how we choose to deal with them.

(AF) A Thanksgiving Circus - part 3

The evening is winding down and everyone is saying their good-byes, well, to those they are speaking to, anyway. Overall, it was a pretty nice, enjoyable Thanksgiving and, in the end, I was glad I went: however, I do wish that I could figure out how to get a few of them to give proper Thanks and Honor to the day. All the food was wonderful! The turkey and the pheasant ended up being pretty dry, but they tasted really good. But oh, that ham Son 1 smoked! That ham was absolutely perfect! It had just the right amount of smokey flavor to it, not too much, yet it was still so tender and moist. It is still tender and moist even 4 days later, though there isn't much left, now.  Host had special made me a pumpkin pie with unrefined sugar and a pecan pie where she had ground up the nuts finely so that I could still enjoy one, God love her! (most of my bottom teeth, and several of my upper molars are all gone, so chewing nuts is almost impossible)  We were blessed with such an array of food that it just wasn't possible to try it all.

Now for the wild part ... early 'Black Friday' shopping, eek! When my kids were all a little younger, we all gathered and went shopping together, then when they were all driving, we divided up amongst stores with our lists in hand, keeping in touch via cell phone. But once again, just as last year, I was on my own. There really wasn't too much this year that I thought was worth going for. Usually I pick up what ever new little appliances I have been needing (I try to keep a list going all year and wait for this sale), but there weren't even very many of those in the ads like there usually are, and of the couple listed, I didn't need. Of course, I am broker than broke this year and can't just shop for the fun of it, but the few things I had been needing, I had been waiting for Black Friday to get so that I could hopefully get a really good price on.

This year was different. It should have been called "Stuffed Thursday" shopping. That main sale that I always go to, the one that had the majority of the things I was needing (Walmart), started at 10pm on Thanksgiving this year, instead of 5am on Friday. Usually, I absolutely refuse to go shopping on Thanksgiving. It just doesn't seem right, but I just couldn't let go of the savings this year on the items I needed. So after the last few guests left, I hung around at Host's house a bit longer, ate some more dessert, made a couple more "Happy Thanksgiving" calls, got the Fur Ball settled in on a blanket (this time, he just wasn't going with me), then left a little after 9:00 for the madness at Walmart. (It was too much driving to drive back home, then back into town for the brief period between everyone leaving and going shopping).

I headed out and my car was acting up from the start. The windows were all foggy, inside and out to the point of dripping on the inside, my poor old car doesn't idle without trying to die, I was having a hard time getting my windows to clear so I could see, and time was ticking. I tried wiping them with a towel, but there was this odd, thin film plastered to the inside of my windshield that just seemed to smear everywhere. I am so afraid my heater core may be going out, but that is another story. I ended up having to pull over, crank up my defrosters and idle the car, which finally mostly cleared the windows, but that car really protested! Poor thing just doesn't have enough power to run so many things all at once (engine, lights, defrosters).

Me and my car chug-a-lugged, coughed and lurched all the way to Walmart, foot on break and gas to keep it running every time we hit a stop sign or stop light, and finally made it right at 10pm. Oh, my gosh!!! I had never seen so many cars at Walmart, including all of my Black Friday shopping days! There was a very slow stream of traffic, bumper to bumper, winding up and down all of the parking rows. People were parked EVERYWHERE! Every single parking spot on the lot was filled. Cars were snugly parked, bumper to bumper, up against every inch of curb on the site (I am including the gas station area, too), and, get this, every inch of grass on the property had cars tightly parked on it! People had even jumped the curbs to park in the medians. I never saw anything like it!  And I have been to a lot of BIG sales over the years, ha, ha. But I was determined I was going to find me a spot to park. I followed along with the flow of traffic, riding my break and gas (ouch!), my car loudly protesting the idling speed. At one point it died, but I managed to veer off a little so cars could get around me. I had to let it set a little (people were not happy with me) so I could start it again. I got it started, went a few feet, spied a parking space on my side (someone had just pulled out), but before I could inch a little further, someone from the other lane whipped in front of me and swiped it ... darn it!

I was giving thought to just going on home but there were a couple of items that I really, REALLY needed to get for business purposes, they just hadn't been affordable any other way, I had been waiting for 2 years for a price I could handle while at the same time I had a few dollars in my pocket (a hard combination to come by), and now was THE time to get them. So I continued on, car badly coughing, choking and protesting, finally spied a parking space just as I passed it, and I quickly backed up into it before someone else spied it. I stopped, turned the engine off, and large clouds of smoke billowed out from under the hood (no, it wasn't registering that it was hot). I thought, "Well, looks like I'm here for awhile, now."

to be continued . . . . . . . . . .

Sunday, November 27, 2011

(AF) A Thanksgiving Circus - part 2

Okay, so dinner is finally nearing being ready, and none too soon. A few people had had the bright idea to bring in an array of booze, are using it for appetizers on empty tummies, and unplanned entertainment is about to begin if we don't eat soon. One or two are beginning to feel p-r-e-t-t-y good at this point. Nearly everyone is lending a hand, anxiously trying to get it all on the table. Even one of the young kids is busy away stuffing eggs and celery. The rest of the kids are doing their part sampling the pickles and olives to make sure they are fit for everyone to eat. But wait .... where is SIL?

She doesn't like her hubby's family, feels she is far too good to associate with any of us, and from the moment she had entered the house, she had parked herself in the most recessed corner of the couch, head tightly downward as she closed all of us out, thumbs flying non-stop as she focused on her cell phone (yes, she had kids she as suppose to be watching). And there she sat for the afternoon, never looking at any of us, never joining into any of our conversations, and never uttering a single word to any of us. This is normal for her, she rarely, if ever, speaks to any of us (us women, anyway). Even if they are staying there for a spell.... nope, not a word to us. 

Dinner is finally ready (3 pm), everyone races to the kitchen to mound up their plates .... except .... you guessed it ... SIL. She just continues to sit there, hunkered down in her corner of the couch, thumbs twiddling with her phone. Everyone is eating, talking, laughing, enjoying their food and good conversation (course, I could have stood to wear a pair of wadding boots for some of the topics, lol, but I chose to just shake my head a little, laugh to myself, and keep peace) ...... and SIL just continues on with her thumb twiddling, hilarious and sad at the same time.
Everyone finishes eating, continues conversations for awhile, finally has dessert .... but SIL.... no, no dessert, either. She is still twiddling. Her neck had to be getting sore by then from holding her head down so hard in her effort to shut all of us out.

Little did we know, but right after we started fixing our plates, we had another Earthquake (3.7). I guess that was to assist with shaking our food down in our tummies so we could eat more. We have been feeling those quakes that size, but everything was so chaotic, noisy, and attentions focused on finally eating, that no one noticed, nor heard, the Earthquake. We have been having a lot of small ones all month - some quakes, some aftershocks (and for months past), and we don't usually feel most of them, but that size is usually obvious. (Oklahoma's last 30 days of Earthquake activity)

So everyone is sitting around, hanging out, visiting, making an extra effort to get along, having coffee, tea, drinks, reading through the Black Friday ads, and nibbling on a few more bites of the foods we especially liked. Son 2 has to leave, and Mr. & Mrs. Neighbors and one of their kids finally arrives. Suddenly, SIL is standing, alert, energetic, AND found her voice! It was exactly what most of us expected, but how quickly she came to life was still mouth-dropping funny. Guess I better back up a little so you understand. For the past couple of years, Mr. & Mrs. Neighbor lived next door to Host before they moved to another house. Brother and SIL became the best of friends with Neighbors. And it didn't take us women long to realize that SIL has the hots for Mr. Neighbor. For the longest, each of us suspected it, but kept it to ourselves. Then one day someone mentioned it and the rest said, "Okay, so I'm not the only one that noticed that. It is totally obvious, isn't it!" She does everything she can to get close to him .... asking him to drop stuff off to her at work, having to step over to his house while wifey is at work to get something she "accidentally" left over there, repeatedly having him come over to 'help her' with something she just can't do on the computer, conveniently having to use the laptop on the couch where he has to sit close, instead of the desktop, wearing 'sexy' attire when he is going to be around (eewww), and the obvious list goes on, and on, and on. Poor Brother doesn't seem to have a clue .... yet. Mrs. Neighbor may have caught on because this time, she made sure she sat next to her husband and close, between SIL and Mr. Neighbor. And Mr. Neighbor (currently serving a deferred, felony sentence and stays sloshed much of his off-work time), seems to be totally oblivious to what is going on, which makes SIL work even harder at getting his attentions, which gets pretty entertaining at times.

Okay, so Mr. & Mrs. Neighbor just walked in, and SIL found her legs, energy and voice. Mrs. Neighbor stopped in the living room to say her hellos and visit a moment, while Mr. Neighbor went to the kitchen to deposit the dishes they had brought, SIL following closely behind to 'help' him. She eagerly began chatting with him and telling him how good this food and that food was and made a point to tell him which desserts she had made and brought. She grabbed the plates, handed him one, took herself one, then her energy obviously dropped as Mrs. Neighbor walked in and she handed her a plate. Mr. Neighbor asked, "Haven't you all eaten yet?" I couldn't resist, I spoke up and said, "All of us except her have eaten." He looked so darned puzzled! She hadn't even eaten with her own husband and kids, she had waited to eat with Mr. Neighbor! 

So everyone is eating, nibbling and chatting, but not quite all together. Half of us or so are trying to visit with everyone. SIL only visited with Brother and the Neighbors, and the Neighbors visited only with Brother, SIL, and Son 1, ignoring the rest of us. I think maybe they did say a couple of words at one point to Host. The air is chilling down, kids are wound up from desserts and over stimulation and keep running in and out and holding the door open to talk to each other, which is typical and expected of kids at this point. But that ended up letting little dogs run in. As three of them darted in and ran down the hallway to check out the excited giggles in the kids' room, Mr. Neighbor finally spoke to me. He glared at me and, words slurred from too much 'sauce', said, "Dogs stink!" I just shrugged my shoulders, smiled, and went on down the hall to make sure the kids weren't eating something the dogs would grab. Although I had been immediately catching the dogs and putting them back out, on that note, Cousin B and I decided it was time to let our Fur Balls stay in for a bit and take a nap in our laps. 

to be continued . . . . .

(AF) A Thanksgiving Circus - part 1

Fix yourself something to drink, maybe a snack, sit down, and get comfy. This may get a little long.
Okay, got all that together? Are you ready? Here we go . . . . .

I had been hearing about the Thanksgiving production for weeks.... and weeks .... AND weeks. For the person that was hosting my family's Thanksgiving dinner again this year, that is what it means to her, a production, a show, an attention fix, the actual meaning of Thanksgiving totally lost. So sad! Thanksgiving is about giving thanks for all the many blessings that have been bestowed upon each of us all year long, and the celebration should be mindfully centered around that in a very heart felt fashion. It is NOT 'Show Time' to center the attention around any one person. I did not want to go and ''fuel the fix, but two of my kids and half of my grand kids were going to be there, so I planned to go because I did look forward to getting to spend some time with them. It would have been even better if Dave and I could have spent at least a portion of the day together, but lack of gas funds, improperly running vehicles, and our own families' chaotic plans just didn't allow for that this year. At least we got to talk a few times by phone and we had last Friday evening to celebrate Thanksgiving together. It doesn't matter when you celebrate it, just that you do! I sure did miss him, though! Spending the day with all of my kids would have made it even better, yet, but, as they grow up and have their own families, getting them together all at once gets harder and harder. Yep, my cell phone, bad reception and all, was one of the things I was especially thankful for this Thanksgiving!

I got up bright and early yesterday morning (Thanksgiving) to begin cooking my Stewed Pumpkin' & Pears. I was told not to bring anything, but I did anyway (at least my dish didn't get hidden in the garage this year, in fear that it might upstage someone). It takes quite awhile to cook, so as it simmered in the crock pot, I muttled about my chores doing laundry, feeding, and all that fun stuff. It was such a quiet, peaceful morning around here and I was actually enjoying my time puttering around. Time actually got away from me and I ended up leaving a little later than I had planned, but not by too much later, and it all worked out good anyway. I actually ended up being the third one there, setting aside everyone that lives there, of course.

I unloaded my stuff, hugged my very excited grand kids (such a great feeling!), plugged my crock pot back in (it still needed to simmer some more), and went to get the Fur Ball settled in in the back yard. I was so hoping he would get along with my son's dog. They got along well and really enjoyed romping with each other. And my Fur Ball especially loved playing with the kids. Then Cousin B got her 3 little dinky dogs out of her car and all 5 dogs had a blast playing together all day long! (The cat went into hiding) They were almost as much fun to watch as the kids, and, lol, the dogs actually out numbered the kids this year. What a 'feel good' feeling you get watching a yard full of happy kids and dogs all turned loose together and romping and playing and giggling with bounding energy! Oh, how I needed a video camera! And, *kicks self* I had forgotten my regular camera. Soon my Son 2 arrived and we all visited as we worked on the final dinner touches, which, as holidays go, ended up taking hours, but that's all part of the fun. I was soooo especially glad to get to see Son 2. It had been months since I had gotten to see him.

Next to arrive was my brother and his wife and kids. Pheasant .... yum .... pheasant .... Brother arrived with fresh, smoked pheasant. The wait for dinner suddenly became even harder to endure. Son 1 was smoking a ham, Brother had brought in a smoked turkey turkey smiley and the smoked pheasant, and the aromas of Thanksgiving began to really work their way to everyone's tummies in anticipation. And the nibbling and threats of hand swats began. One more couple and their kids, my mom's former neighbors, was suppose to be there, too, but he ended up having to work and they weren't going to be there until later, at supper time. We weren't about to wait until then to eat. And my aunt and other cousin didn't get to make it, either, but plates mounded with food were sent home to them and we still had a great turn-out.

By now I should always expect some sort of  'stand-out', attention seeking, production from my sister-in-law (SIL in this post) at large gatherings, but when she arrived with Brother, my mouth still dropped with an OMG when she walked through that door (yup, should have remembered that camera). In walks SIL (wife of a high-ranking police officer, mind you) looking like a 2-bit hooker! Her layers, upon layers of caked on, bright and bold make-up would have made Tammy Faye jealous.  And she wore .... a short-sleeved, very bright, very snug fitting, sweater dress, .... fancy, lacy black panty hose (good thing they were panty hose by the way she sat all afternoon, eewww!) .... and black go-go boots! Large fat globs bulged out of her sweater-dress from every place inward curves were suppose to be. It was all I could do not to bust out laughing every time I had to walk past her throughout the day. Was this suppose to be sexy? Far from it! On the contrary, she did serve a good purpose. Every time the tantalizing aromas were getting to us and we were thinking we just couldn't wait another minute until dinner, we only had to go take a peek at her to curb our appetites.
(I am not knocking being overweight at all, I myself am, but tight, form-fitting clothes and fat don't go together and I am just trying to paint a picture here, since I forgot my camera, so please don't take offense.)

Dinner was suppose to be at 2pm, but, as you well know, holiday dinners are rarely ever on time. Just before 2-oclock, I went outside to watch the kids and dogs romping and to visit with Dave a little more, via phone. Right at 2pm someone said that Dinner was about ready, so I went on in only to hear someone say, "wait, we still need to make this... wait, we still need to do that....", so I looked around to see what else I could do to get dinner on the table (actually, it was spread out over the table, counters, and everywhere a spot could be found). Host said the potatoes needed to be mashed, then asked if I could do it. I reminded her that she did not at all like my potatoes (she always gripes for days about them). She absolutely insisted that if I mashed them, she wouldn't complain. Cousin B asked what the difference was. I said that she drained most (not all) of the water off of hers, mashed them with a potato masher, and used very little salt or butter and no milk, leaving them flat and dry. I said that I left a little of the water in them, then added in some milk (cream if I had it), some salt, pepper, and then pulled out the mixer and whipped them until fluffy and creamy. She said, "Now that gets my vote." So I did the potatoes (using half & half).

As I started the potatoes, someone else had been delegated the task of making gravy. Since the meats were all smoked, there were no meat drippings. A jar of bouillon paste had been purchased to make the gravy with. Well, by the time I had finished whipping the potatoes, the person delegated the gravy-making task was still reading the bouillon jar, trying to figure out how to make it (without drippings, with bouillon paste) and how many 'recipes' of it to use for our group. Recipes? Really? for gravy? So I made the gravy, too. I rummaged around and found a couple spoons of bacon fat in the fridge and used it and the bouillon paste to make the gravy with. It came out very smooth and tasty, but, should you ever make it this way, it is not wise to add salt. That bouillon had plenty in it already! Fortunately, I had under salted the potatoes (purposely, for those watching their salt, and I used sea salt at that), so when the potatoes and gravy were put together, it worked out perfectly (thank goodness!).

to be continued . . . . .

Thursday, November 24, 2011

(DF) YET ANOTHER CHICKEN STORY

With the Thanksgiving season comes beautiful fall leaves, lots of cooking for the feast, and of course, cold weather. At least that is the way I remember it but two out of three ain't bad. Anyway, it seems we have all of that except the cold.

Yesterday afternoon, while I prepared to make pies, (yes, pear pies, but that is another story), and other goodies for today's feast, I found it a bit warm in the house. No problem, I just opened the doors and carried on, enjoying the fresh air.

Soon I heard a scratching, pecking sound from the pantry area behind me. Turning, I found the house invaded by a small group of rather pesky creatures. CHICKENS!!!!! As soon as my back was turned, they had found the open door, (with the screen not yet replaced, long story). They were making themselves right at home, just like they belonged inside.

It is, of course, my own fault for not having the screen on and letting the chickens out of the pen. None the less, they have a house of their own and don't need to be in mine, so I chased them out. Within minutes, they were back and in greater numbers. This time, I had to laugh. By the time I returned with the camera, most had gotten the hint and were back outside.

With pictures taken and the chickens once again chased from the house I went back to my cooking. One remained persistent and it became a bit of a game for the rest of the day, leaving me to wonder why I had let them out of their pen in the first place.

By late morning today, before taking food to my sister's house for the much anticipated feast,I glanced in the nest box to find my answer. There were two large brown eggs, as a reminder. Not much, but recently it has been one small egg every two or three days, so the two large ones the same day is quite an increase.

Needless to say, they were out of the pen again today. The eggs are worth the annoyance, and besides, anything that still has me chuckling the next day can't be all bad.

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

(AF) Blasted Chickens!!

It was far too hot this past summer for tomatoe plants to do any more other than sit there looks scraggly and try to stay alive. But as Fall set in and the rain came, they perked up, began to bloom and started setting loads of tomatoes. But as the tomatoes began to get up to any size, the frosts came. So, determined to get at least a handful of fresh, home grown, vine-ripened tomatoes, I have been going out there every time it even hints of dropping below freezing and lovingly covering my big, beautiful tomato plants up with thick blankets, carefully tucking them in.

I have one plant in particular that I have given extra attention to as it was a Cherokee Purple (heirloom) and I not only was drooling at the thought of munching on a few tomatoes from that plant, but I wanted to make sure I got at least one good one to save back seeds for next year. They may be ugly tomatoes, but the flavor just can't be beaten! I have even covered the plants over with netting to keep my free range chickens and the wildlife from bothering them.

But when I went outside this morning to check on my beautiful little tomatoes, those blasted chickens had managed to get up under the netting and pig out on two of my very best ones!    I have three sets of chickens, each to serve a different purpose. Two of those sets are already in pens, but the third have been free-range. I am working on refurbishing an old pen to move them to so they will leave my veggies alone, but I got side-tracked from it. I only had a few things growing at the moment so the chicken pen got pushed to the bottom of the list since I didn't think I would really need it much until next year's growing season was here. Looks like I will either have to put a rush on getting that pen finished, or pull the remainder of the tomatoes and let them ripen in the house. Judging by next week's predicted nightly temps, I probably better just pull my tomatoes off and let the chickens continue to clean the yard of ticks so they don't overwinter.

Although free-range chickens produce even more nutritious eggs, I think mine are going to have to all go in pens most of the time so that I can also have fresh veggies. I will just have to make it a point to feed them a variety of scraps.
Look at all those big, beautiful seeds I missed out on!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

(AF) NO Turkey Skin For DOGS

Awww.. pleeeease... I wanna bite.
 As many of you know, I have a few dogs ... a yard full of Boxers, and the new Fur Ball I rescued last weekend from certain death. As I was outside playing with my canine friends, my thoughts turned to Thanksgiving, I began to think about last year when, as many years as I have had dogs, I still didn't realize how dangerous it was to give a dog turkey skin. I thought I was giving mine a big treat by giving them the skin off of the turkey. But the next thing I knew, one wasn't feeling well at all and had horribly bloody stools!

Fortunately, he pulled through just fine and is now strong as ever. But we were extremely lucky. Apparently, at that stage, it could have just as easily meant death for him. I am sooo glad it wasn't, I learned my lesson and I definitely will never give my dogs skin off of poultry again! Maybe I will toss it out to the opossums so they will leave my chickens alone for a day.

I could sit here and explain to you just what exactly Turkey Skin can do to a dog, but here is an article that is already very well written on the subject, so I strongly suggest taking a peek at it. It also looks like a great site loaded with dog tips. I plan to spend a little time, soon, reading some more around the site, myself.

Also, make sure you DO NOT give your dogs (pets) any of those poultry bones either! You might argue, "But they eat them in the wild." Yes, but those haven't been cooked. (And they are naturally grown, not genetically modified, which totally changes things.)  When natural grown poultry is raw (fresh killed), the bones are still often soft and chewable for the animal eating it (though I still wouldn't suggest giving them even raw chicken bones, especially store bought.) But when the poultry has been cooked, those bones become brittle and splintery. Once inside your pet they can cause all kinds of problems, beginning with the mouth, all the way through to the end (if your pet is still alive by that point.)

Those splintery bones can lodge in your pet's mouth, throat, or anywhere along the way through his/her body. They can, and usually do, poke holes in their digestive track. Even worse, they can poke holes and/or rip and tear your beloved pet's intestines! Yes, sometimes these holes might heal on their own, but often times, your pets die instead.

Your pets may beg and drool for those holiday bones and skins, and it may be fun feeding them to them and watching how happy it makes them, but in the end, their suffering and your heart break (and possible high vet bills) just aren't worth that passing moment of gratitude. So this Thanksgiving, "treat" your pets wisely and keep the dangerous scraps away from them! I bag up my scraps and store them in the fridge until the morning the garbage runs. This keeps the scraps from stinking and keeps the pets out of them.

Thanksgiving Blessings to you and your loved ones, both human and furry!

Monday, November 21, 2011

(D♥A) Thanksgiving Dinner and Square Dancing

Gosh, but I have been busy the past three days! I fully intended to write this post Saturday, but seems I have been going in far too many directions.

Friday evening Dave and I FINALLY got some much needed time together, yea! Although it hadn't really been that long, it seemed like it has been an eternity since we had gotten to see each other in person. A one hour drive, lack of gas funds and improperly working vehicles has really put a kink in our time together. So right now, we are truly thankful for cell phones and unlimited long distance ... dropped calls, bad reception and all.

So what did we go do last Friday evening? Hee, hee, I dragged him to a Square Dance. I belong to a Square Dance club and have for years. Last Friday we were having our annual Thanksgiving Square Dance, complete with an enormous holiday feast,  ham ... turkey ... and ALL the trimmings. 

Normally, our group dances for about an hour, takes a break to eat, then finishes out the evening dancing. But this time we had decided to begin a half hour early and eat before we danced while all the food everyone brought was still hot. On that note, it was a good idea. But I tell ya, it really wasn't such a bright idea overall. Oh, my! Dancing immediately after you have just stuffed every corner of your tummy full of rich, holiday foods was NOT the thing to do!

No, Dave didn't dance, but he was a good sport and went. He finally got to meet several of my friends, we had a great Thanksgiving Dinner together, and, most of all, we got to spend some much needed time together. In fact, it was even relaxed time for a change and not work time. And I think I actually have Dave considering giving Square Dancing lessons a shot.

One of my girlfriends in the group isn't able to dance at the moment, so she lent her husband for the evening to a few of us girls that needed a partner. God love her! (and him for all that dancing on such a full tummy) It had been many months since I had last danced (I use to dance several days a week) and the last time I really wobbled and struggled through only about one or two dances, as my legs were still not healed from my last breaks. And this time, it has only been a couple of months since I dislocated my other knee, but I still did so much better than last time. I was far from smooth, and there was some pain, but I had so much fun it overrode everything! I must do this more often, now, to work some of the kinks back out of my legs. I even managed to get in a couple line dances, Friday night, too.

We had such a great evening together, and thoroughly enjoyed some much needed quality time. But then came Saturday morning and we had to once again, part ways. Dave had a job to attend to for the day and I had to get to the Flea Market. But saying "good-bye" gets harder and harder each and every time we have to. We both long for the day that those "good-byes" are a thing of the past.

(DF) HAPPY CHICKENS

No self-sufficient farm is complete without chickens. There is just no substitute for fresh eggs from free range chickens. There is also no substitute for the frustration of watching that big tomato, day after day, until it is almost ready to pick, only for it to be pecked by a chicken.

It was just such an occasion that prompted me to build a chicken pen before garden planting time this spring. It is a reasonable size pen for about a dozen hens and has a wire top to keep them in and predators out. The only problem is that they are not out in the garden eating bugs and weed seeds. This raises the feed bill and lowers the egg quality.

With the garden harvested or frosted, (except for a row of late turnips), I decided to let the chickens out during the day. They are in a habit of roosting in the hen house, so it will be no problem shutting them up in the evening to keep critters out.

They will have to be penned up in the spring, before the garden is planted, but by then they will have eaten a tremendous quantity of bugs and weed seeds that would have over wintered in the yard and garden.

With the added protein, the eggs are sure to be better and more plentiful. I am really looking forward to increased egg production, and it is truly a pleasure to see the chickens so happily scratching about.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

(DF) GARDEN PLANTING TIME!!! ...........ALREADY????

Of course, everyone knows it isn't REALLY garden planting time, but never hurts to get the ground ready early; right? And the early bird gets the worm etc. Ok, I'll get to the point.

A few days ago, I came across what was left of this year's pitiful potato crop. I had completely forgotten about the small box of spuds that hadn't rotted in the ground. I know, me forgetting about FOOD of all things is hard to believe but work with me on this. When I found them, they were seriously sprouted, more than ready to plant. As things happen, the next day, I read a post about the importance of planting potatoes early, on a blog I view occasionally.

No, I don't think they meant they should be planted THIS EARLY, but it got me thinking. With my naturally curious nature and a background in research, this situation was ripe for an experiment. I have always been inclined to push the limits a bit and test the tried and true methods, and this seemed like a prime opportunity.

At this point, a little background might be in order, so please bear with me. Several years ago, (in the mid-80's), I read a magazine article on a gardening method which involved digging up the soil in small beds, turning the top foot or so of soil and digging up the foot or so below that. I believe the article was in The Mother Earth News, if memory serves. I tried it and compared it to the conventional method of plowing the garden and planting rows. The comparison was interesting, and the beds tended to produce more vegetables on less ground with less watering and weeding. Since that time, I have moved to where I now live and have finally gotten enough rocks out to actually use a shovel.

Back in the here and now. With thoughts of digging up the garden in preparation for spring gardening, reading posts about planting potatoes, and finding potatoes already sprouted, the research experiment wheels started turning. The beds need dug anyway, never too early to add compost, and the moon phase being just past third quarter, (my preferred phase for planting root crops), and the potato sprouts won't last another couple of months. Obviously nothing to lose and knowledge to gain.

So today, it was off to the garden with a pick and shovel. I dug a hole in the garden about three feet by six feet and about eight inches deep, then used the pick to dig up the bottom of the pit about a foot deep. I then placed the potatoes on the bottom, and yes, I know they look very close together but, because the soil is worked up so deep, the roots have plenty of room to grow downward instead of sideways. I then covered the potatoes with compost a couple of inches deep, (it took about a contractor's wheel barrow full). Finally, I put the top layer of garden dirt back in.

Yes, I know the mound looks suspicious, but keep this in mind for fall decorations. A garden full of these beds and all that is lacking is tombstones and cobwebs.

I will certainly keep you all posted as to how this planting compares to later plantings, and it is my hope to plant one bed each month for comparison. Please let me know in the comments, what you think, or better yet, what your experiences have been. And wish me luck on a good potato crop.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

(DF) THE NEIGHBOR'S HORSES????

This morning, after spending a little much needed time with Anna, I was driving home. The morning was nice and the drive enjoyable. As I made my way down the dirt road, nearing home, I noticed a couple of horses grazing in my neighbor's yard. I didn't even know my neighbor had horses, much less let them graze in his yard. Suddenly I realized that my neighbor DOESN'T HAVE HORSES.

You probably already guessed who they belong to. Yes, they are mine, so I hurried home and in no time, was off walking down the road with a feed bucket and rope. Fortunately, no real harm was done and they were no trouble to bring home, but that leads to the question of where they got out.

Honestly, some of my fences aren't that great and the horses COULD have gotten out almost anywhere. Problem is, that after walking the fences, there was no sign of where they actually DID escape.

Time running short, (I was supposed to already be at a local mechanic shop, working for the day), I carried on with the day, hoping I would not return home this evening to find them out again. As luck would have it, they are still here tonight. Tomorrow will undoubtedly find me checking the fences more carefully, just to make sure.

This just serves as a reminder, (as if I needed one), of how quickly plans can change and the fact that I really must be thinking of, and saving for, a new fence.

(AF) Up For Adoption

When you wake up in the morning, sit up in bed, plop those feet down on the floor, and mentally review your schedule for the day, it doesn't always turn out the way you have planned. The day can often bring very unexpected surprises. Today, was just one of those such days.

I spend most weekends working in my two little shops at a near-by flea market. Today I was running late and got there a little later than usual. I stopped to say my 'howdys' to everyone on my way to my space, then went to unlock my door.  But just as I was walking up, there, curled up in the patch of grass in front of my space, was a shabby little black dog.

I asked if the flea market owners had gotten a new dog. Nope, they hadn't. I asked if anyone knew who it belonged to. Nope, no one knew. It had apparently been recently dumped off in the area. They said it had come up there a few days ago, disappeared, then returned last night. His hair is all full of mats and clumps, he is full of fleas & ticks, he is a he but is completely missing his um-hums, and his tail is cropped. He appears well fed but is very cowered down and skittish. He had a big cockle burr stuck tightly where his back leg joins his body and me and another vendor carefully got it cut out. Not so easy, since it was tight against his skin, but he sat so still and patient while we worked on him. Then he went to sleep on my lap, went limp as a dishrag and snuggled right in. He really groaned when I put him down so that I could get back to work. Then next thing I know, every time I sat down, he was back in my lap! I kept trying to find him a home all day, as everyone joked about how the little fur ball had adopted me. NO, NO, NO.... I can't have another dog!

.......And now, he lays curled up next to me, sleeping soundly, as I type on my computer ..... at home. Ugh! I told him to not get comfy, we are finding him a HOME.  So, how did he end up coming home with me? I overheard Mr. Flea Market Owner telling one of the men that he was going to take care of the problem this weekend. He said that he, his 22, and the dog were going to go for a walk in the woods and the dog wasn't coming back!  Noooooooooooo,  that just isn't right! Not even enough time has gone by to find out if it belongs to someone and it just got loose. And, that is just wrong. I asked him about it and he was dead serious. He said he would just go take him out and shoot him and the problem would be over.  So my heart broke, the little dog came home with me, and I am now desperately looking for him a home (plus keeping my eye out to see if anyone claims him, though that isn't likely).

I can't keep him, I am struggling to feed the critters I have now. And I certainly can't afford (time or financially) to keep any more that are simply pets and not earning their keep around here. And having not been raised up from a puppy with my other critters, he is kind of upsetting the Apple Cart around here. So please help me find him a home. After I get him all cleaned up, get the mats out, and get the fleas and ticks off, he should be a beautiful dog. He has a really sweet personality (well, except that he thought my chickens and cats were fun to chase) and is obviously extremely smart. He seems to know several commands. He didn't try to hurt my chickens or cats, he just had fun chasing them. The ones that didn't run, he ignored, lol. I don't know what kind he is so if any of you do, please leave a comment and tell me. But most of all, PLEASE HELP ME FIND HIM A HOME FAST!!! Thank you!!!!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

(AF) Recent Oklahoma Earthquakes

  Here in Oklahoma we are experiencing an avalanche of Earthquakes. Yes, Earthquakes! Oklahoma has always had a tiny one now and then ... less than 30 quakes a year. And they were all small enough that they were rarely ever felt by us humans. But over the past couple of years, the number of Earthquakes has drastically increased. In 2009 the number of quakes increased to just over 50. In 2010 that number soared to over 1000!!! And this year, in 2011, we are expected to easily top last year's count.

A very detectable Earthquake about a year ago left my house with some minor damage, mainly making it difficult for a full closure of my windows. I can close them and still lock them. But several of them now, once closed and latched, still leave a glimmer of air space, which seems to have grown with our current quakes. On one hand, that can be a good thing, as it allows for a constant supply of a little fresh air in the house and a place for toxins (such as from cleaners, wood stove, etc) to escape, but on the other hand, it's letting the cold air whip in and circulate all around me. I hate that, I don't like being cold air flowing around my arthritic legs.

So, what is causing this drastic increase in Earthquake activity here in Oklahoma? There are no concrete answers yet. No one seems to know. Some insist that they are coming from fracking. According to the Associated Press, there are 181 injection wells in the area where the majority of the quakes are coming from. But  the people in the fracking industry say that there is no way that fracking could cause the larger-sized earthquakes we are currently experiencing (larger than usual, including a record breaking quake on November 5, 2011 that gave my house a really good shaking).

We are now having what they are referring to as 'aftershocks' on a regular basis, anywhere from one to as many as a dozen each day. Most are too small for us humans to feel, but I certainly did feel the one last night. It wasn't very big, but there was no mistaking that odd, evil sounding rumble and the uneasiness of the floor under my feet. But I knew before I even heard it that it was coming. My cats told me.

Animals are very in tune to the Earth, much more so than we are. I do believe that we still possess that instinct, but as we evolve into 'lazy, I want it easy, I want it now, I want it yesterday, you do it for me' people, we no longer pay any attention to the natural world around us and instead put our total dependency on the weather forecasters and geologists to just report to us when something is coming, causing us to have sadly lost that instinct. I also have no doubt but that the chemicals in our diets, and chemicals that enter our bodies in other aspects of our life, hamper our connection with our Earth.

I am in awe at how my critters, especially my cats, know when one is coming, and I find myself paying much closer attention to them. I have even been letting one of my better behaved, house-friendly cats stay inside some just so I can observe her and know several hours in advance when a quake is coming. Before we have one, my goats get extra quiet and calm. They all hunker down next to structures, curled up in as near a fetal position as goats can, and seem to focus on a very meditative form of breathing. Even the ones that don't much care for each other will curl up together. They naturally, and instinctively know what to do. They feel it coming, and they prepare. They don't stand in a doorway or hide under a table or in their little houses, they make themselves as small, compacted and sturdy as possible as they hover up against sturdy structures, such as large trees, strong fences or strong buildings.

As the rumbles begin, at that point when you are wondering if it is quake or thunder, my dogs begin to throw frantic fits and bark profusely! It's more a barking of fear and confusion, that at something, but still very intent. They don't do that for thunder, just the Earthquake rumbles. I feel so stupid that I can't tell the difference yet. So I have been paying much closer attention as the critters tell me what is going on, and last night, I was able to tell myself that it was Earthquake rumblings and not thunder.

And then there are the cats, that seem to know faaaarrrr beyond any of the other critters on my little farm, when a quake is coming. My cats' abilities to detect the Earthquakes well in advance is amazing! And I now watch them closely. Sometimes even hours before one hits, my cats will act agitated, squall a pathetic squall, then burrow down in a soft cubby hole against something good and solid. In the event of a crisis, instead of us asking each other what to do, we should really pay much more attention to what our critters do, they know.

I have decided that I want to get back in tune with my own instincts as much as possible. I mean, I can already out-predict the weather man as to rain and storms when I pay attention to my arthritis, but with the increase of multiple elements in our atmosphere, and the always possibility of grids going down, I want to be in tune with my own instincts in as many ways as possible. And I figure the best way is to watch the animals' behaviors while paying extra close attention to what I am feeling, what is going on in my own body when they act up, in accordance with what comes weather wise/atmospheric directly afterwards, and watching for distinct patterns.

As for the increased Earthquakes and aftershocks in Oklahoma, no one appears to know what is causing them, but I think we need to hold on and get prepared for a bumpy ride, because I don't think they are going to stop any time soon, though I do wish they would. If you would like to see a glimpse of Oklahoma's Earthquake activity over the past month, check it out here
Thank you for taking the time to read my post.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

(AF) Moving Towards Self Reliant Living

Dave and I still have a long way to go to make it to total self-reliance, but we are both making lots of headway. I look so forward to the day we are finally there, or at least, close enough that we have most of our daily use needs from our own farm, and then use items from our farm in trade for the remainder few things we need.

As I was sitting down to this scrumptious dinner fit for a king the other day, I had to smile with great satisfaction. The eggs were from my free-range chickens (hee, hee, I finally found where the little darlings were hiding them, now they have moved them again, grrrr... ), the green onions were out of my little fall garden, and the fresh greens (locally grown) I received in trade. It was a wonderful, warm feeling of great satisfaction to know that the majority of my meal came from my own hands, was farm raised, and almost completely void of chemicals. Even the potatoes came from our local produce market.

So how could it have been improved? Well, we could have grown the potatoes ourselves (and will next year), the bacon could have come from our own pigs (Dave is working on getting set up for that, as my old hog pen is way too far gone), the vinegar drizzled over the greens could have been from our own apples (going to take awhile for that, but until then, maybe we will luck into some apples like we did the pears), and the butter I cooked the eggs in could have been from our own cow's milk. Oh, I look so forward to having a good milk cow and making lots of butter, yogurt and cheeses!

But for now, this was visual proof that we are making headway towards our goal and one very, tasty, delicious, satisfying meal!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

(AF) Wonderful Fall Soup!

Oh, the wonderful bounties of Fall! As you know, I have been putting up pears for weeks, now, most of them going into Pear Butter. I still have a couple of bushels left and, although I am extremely thankful for them, I am soooo ready to get to the end of them.

And now that I have quite a few jars of Pear Butter made up and put back, you might find it funny to know that I am now using a few of them as .... money! I always thought the barter system was an excellent idea, and as our economy goes further and further down the tubes, I do believe that the barter system is a monetary system that is coming back with great strength.

Last weekend at the flea market I got a nice, large tote bag and a heavily pocketed duffel bag in trade for a jar of Pear Butter. And then the really good part... I traded a big jar of pear butter for a bushel of fresh picked mixed greens! (turnip and mustard)  Oh, they were wonderful! They were so fresh and practically flawless. So this week, I have been putting up pears and greens (no, not in the same jars, ha, ha)  After I put up several big bags of greens in the freezer, I held out a mess to cook up for now.  And in between putting greens up in the freezer and cooking some for me, I had to make a run into town for a couple of errands. When I stopped at my mom's I remembered that last week, David had seen some young Lamb's Quarters (wild spinach) at her house, and I was so hoping they hadn't been mowed down yet.... It was all still there, yea!!

I decided that I had to add some to my pot of greens and pulled up a good handful of them (pictured above). Usually this time of year they are big and going to seed, but there had been a trailer parked there that had been recently moved and when the sun hit the bare dirt underneath, the little Lamb's Quarters started popping up. What a treat! Well, by today when I started to cook my pot of greens, I decided I wanted to do something a little bit different. I had seen a recipe the other day for a nice soup, made with potatoes, turnip and mustard greens. The more I thought about it, the better it sounded so I decided that now was the time since I had all the fresh ingredients at hand. No, I didn't look the recipe back up. I usually make my soups by dumping this and that in.

I cooked the turnip and mustard greens first, until they were about half done. Then I added in the cleaned and de-stemmed Lamb's quarters (they don't take near so long to cook). At this point I had to add some water (filtered, of course) because the lamb's quarters don't cook down much. On top of all of this I added several peeled and chunked up potatoes and a small to medium, cut up onion. I put the lid on and let it all slow cook until the potatoes were beginning to soften.

While all that was cooking I fried a few slices of bacon. When the potatoes were nearly tender, I added the bacon, grease and all, to the contents of the cooking pot. I sprinkled in some unrefined salt, a little pepper, a couple dashes of Cayenne pepper, gave it a stir, put the lid back on and let it cook some more. When it looked like it was all done, I had to take a bowl out to eat for lunch and test. Yep, it was good!

Now, to make it into creamy soup. With my immersion (stick) blender I pureed it all thoroughly, adding just a bit more water (but it still needs to be a little too thick at this point.) Then, after it looked pretty smooth, I blended in a few pours of whole milk, added a little more salt to taste, and gently heated it back through (Do not boil at this point. It will scorch and get all lumpy, just heat it through, making sure to stir often)
And there you have it! Cream of Fall Harvest Soup (Not really sure what to call it. I'm open to suggestions.) It is delicious!!!  Tonight, I ate it with crackers. But tomorrow, I think I will have to make some cornbread to go with it. And yes, Dave, I will put some up in the freezer to save and share with you.  

CAUTION: If you have cats and dogs and feel inclined to share this with them, please remember that they can't eat onions as it can kill them. When it is all blended up like this we forget the onions are in there. And cats, especially, adore stuff like this with the combo of milk and fresh greens.

(DF) CURRENT FINANCIAL REQUIREMENTS aka "something will come up"

When I was growing up, no matter how tight finances were, or how hopeless things looked, my mother would always say, "something will come up". It made dad furious and personally, by the time I was a teenager, I too was sick of hearing it. Looking back, it seems she was usually right.

In the present, with the economy here on dave's farm being a little slow, (much like just about anywhere else), the bills tend to get paid barely on time instead of the preferred method of paying as soon as they arrive in the mail. To make sure they are paid, things here at home sometimes suffer in favor of making money to cover such necessary expenses as insurance, phone, electric, animal feed and countless others. Much of the past week has been spent on just such activities.

I have been making repairs on a utility trailer which I purchased cheap awhile back as a small investment for just such emergencies. With enough salvaged materials to make the repairs, (with the exception of lumber for the bed), and a willing buyer already lined up, it seemed that all was going well. Unfortunately, things are seldom what they seem.

With several delays, time began to run out. Then, the buyer had unexpected expenses, making it impossible for the purchase to go through in a timely manner, if at all. Still, with the deadline for the auto insurance premium getting uncomfortably close and no cash for lumber, I continued working to finish the project with the consideration that, (you guessed it), "something will come up". In fact, if the truth were known, Anna is probably already sick of that quote.

Tuesday evening, with the auto insurance and phone bill deadlines at the end of the week, a new and unexpected potential buyer showed up in the driveway. Before leaving, he made a nice down payment on the trailer, the remainder to be paid soon, when the trailer is picked up, as is.

This morning, with cash in hand, it was off to town for a visit to the insurance agent and to pay the phone bill. Believe it or not, there was enough left for gas, feed, and a few groceries. I returned home with almost no cash, the next deadline approaching and a renewed faith that "something will come up". So now it is back to work to help see that it does.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

(AF) I Picked the Squash!

  Hey, Dave, I finally picked our squash!

This past spring when it was time to plant zucchini, we had such heavy rains that I decided to wait a bit. Then, when I finally went to plant them, record breaking heat and drought set in. So I decided to plant my zucchini in a giant flower pot I have, up close to my garden hose where it would be easy to water, and partially shaded in the heat of the day.

I planted 3 or 4 kinds of zucchini in that big ole pot, but it was so hot none of the seeds would germinate. Some seeds were new, and some were old, but I do believe the heat was the biggest problem. Determined to get some fresh zucchini, I planted several times. Finally, after over a month of trying, ONE lonely zucchini plant came up. But I wasn't sure which one, so I had to patiently wait for it to grow, bloom, and produce.

And bloom it did! It bloomed heavily. It was so pretty. The plant got enormously huge, bloomed abundantly, and began to put on many little squashes. But much to my dismay, the heat caused them to all wither and fall off, no matter how much I watered it. As the heat dropped down into the lower 90s, I pushed the pot out into more sunshine and kept on pampering my squash plant, determined to get at least a few meals off of it.

Finally, one lonely zucchini began to grow, and grow, and grow. It turned out to be the Cocozelle Zucchini I had planted, the oldest zucchini seeds I had. And I had pretty much used them all up trying to get one to grow. So as much as Dave and I wanted to eat that delicious looking zucchini, we decided to let the first one just grow so that we could save the seeds from it to plant for next year, then we would eat any that came on after that, as it was still blooming heavily.

But no such luck, no more zucchinis set on the plant. Oh, how we wanted to eat this one! But if we did, there wouldn't be any for next year, unless we searched around and hunted down more seeds, as the garden center I purchased these from is no longer in business. I covered the plant over with netting to keep the critters away from it, and babied and pampered that squash like I have never babied a plant before! It wasn't quite ready to pick, yet, when the first few freezes/frosts came, so we even covered it up with blankets and tucked it in each time the temps even looked like they might dip.

And today, the Cocozelle Zucchini looked like it was finally completely ripe and the sturdy plant that it grew from is obviously turning itself off. So I picked it this evening and it is now settled in amongst my pile of winter squashes in my back room. I will admire its beauty for a couple of days, then I will cut it open and see how many seeds we get. I do hope it is a lot. It sure looks yummy and I hope to grow LOTS of them next season!

Cocozelle Zucchini are an heirloom summer squash that came here from Italy. I have read that, even today, they are still the best flavored zucchini on the market. I can't wait to find out!

Monday, November 14, 2011

(AF) Wandering Post

CAUTION: this post may wander around a bit.
 I promise, I will get back to some happy, more cheerful posts shortly. But tonight, I must take opportunity to write this post, because I feel that it is important. 

Today I had the honor of being nominated to take an elderly relative on a looooonnnng drive to her best friend's, son's funeral. I had so much urgent work to get done here today, including pears that are ripening faster than I can get them worked and a bushel of fresh greens to be worked up and frozen, which I had set aside the entire day to work on, but I ended up being the last possible choice, and her friend desperately needed her support, so off we went. There was actually one other person that could have easily made the trip, and had the entire day free, but his excuse, "Sorry, I have to go hunting."


Emotionally, it was extremely hard going to a funeral, even though I didn't know the person deceased (I do know his mother well.)  I really stressed out for the past few days, knowing I was going to have to go. I love Dave dearly, and wouldn't trade him for anything, but you see, it was the beginning of this past summer that I lost my last boyfriend to our historically, record breaking heat. And just the thought of going to a funeral made too many memories and emotions come flooding back.

It was a tough day, but a day well worth experiencing. For anonymity purposes, we will call the deceased and his mom Max and Judy, and my elderly relative, Liz. When we arrived, the indescribable look on Judy's face, that we had made it, made it all worth letting my chores go for the day. She wrapped her arms around the both of us, hugged us tightly, then collapsed as she let her emotions go in the embrace of her best friend. I grabbed and caught her to keep her from hitting the floor, and held on tight until someone could come help us. Judy had desperately needed her friend, and I was so glad I swallowed my own tearful emotions, let my chores go, and drove Liz there.


So, where am I going with this, you might wonder. Well, Max's death was a big shock to many. At the age of only 61 he had died in his sleep. He just laid down, went to sleep, and never woke up. In my book, 61 is pretty darned young! And setting aside the priceless value of getting two best friend's together in a great time of need, one thing that was said in the eulogy made it all worth the trip for me. The person speaking discussed how Max had been a big, fast-paced business man. He was the Suit & Tie kind of person that lived the high speed, high dollar, fancy, multi-big-business owning lifestyle. And as it started to all catch up with him, he decided to trade it all in for a much more simple, healthier lifestyle, jeans and t-shirt included. He had tried to reverse the damages to his body, slow down and get healthy, but, as the speaker put it, our bodies are delicate and it was all too late for his. He couldn't make changes fast enough to get his body back into good health, and his body just plain quit working. Her words gave me a lot to think about, and today, increased my drive and determination even more, to live a much more healthy and simpler life.

Over the years I always thought I lived reasonably healthy, but admit I have lived a very fast-paced, extremely high-stress life, and, as I looked much closer at my diet, I saw that it wasn't so healthy after all. All of it combined has taken it's toll on my body. I have had heart attacks, arthritis in most of my body and numerous other ills and troubles over the years. Some days I get around pretty decently, then some days it is extremely difficult to simply just turn over in bed, much less try and get out of it. But get out of it I do, move around slowly until the joints get going, and go through my day as fast as my body allows, because when you stop, you stop for good. My doctor has classified me as 'disabled' and insists I never work again. And getting hired by anyone is near impossible because I would be such a liability, but I consider myself to still have skills and abilities so I work for myself, and will continue to do so for as long as humanly possible. The doctor, and a few other 'officials' constantly INSIST that I file for disability, but I am just not ready to do that, yet, as I consider myself to still have marketable abilities (I just need a marketable economy).

Okay, I am wandering again.....  After having lost so many loved ones to death over the past year, most deaths that I considered to have been completely avoidable, it got me to thinking much more seriously about improving my own health, taking a closer look at my diet and lifestyle.  As I held the magnifying glass to the foods I eat and beverages I drink, I was horrified at what I have been putting into my body. I can't believe I am still walking at all. So, my journey to a healthier, more natural and chemical free diet began. It is a long process, as your body gets use to (addicted to) all those food chemicals, but the more I eliminate, and the more natural I eat, the better I am feeling and the more energy I have. And at the same time, I decided to adamantly begin the process of simplifying my life to rid myself of much of the extreme stress I have been living under most of my life. And yes, for the most part, I, too, traded in my fancy dress clothes for old jeans, second hand t-shirts, and flannel over-shirts, which I find very comfortable and liberating! I truly hope it isn't too late for me. I am feeling so much better, so much stronger and much more energetic. But our bodies and systems are much more fragile and delicate than most of us realize, and the chemicals we load them down with, WILL eventually catch up and take them from us, leaving behind grieving loved ones.

So take care of your bodies, read those labels, toss out the stuff loaded with chemicals, get up away from that TV, get outside, plant a garden, and reap its benefits of fresh air, exercise and wonderful, chemical free veggies. You will feel better, more energetic and happier. And most of all, you are worth it!

Friday, November 11, 2011

(DF) FREE COLD FRAME?

Maybe not totally free, if one considers the time and a little work as a cost. The materials were, in fact, about as free as it gets. The blocks are some of those I spoke of in a previous post on salvaging blocks, the only money spent was for the amount of gas to drive the tractor less than a half mile. The glass, (one tempered glass panel from a sliding patio door), was free for the taking, simply because the previous owner did not want to pay someone to haul it away after replacing it with a new one. Even the prop stick for the glass, (the broken handle from my wood splitting maul), was free.

The hardest part of construction was getting the blocks level. I had to dig down a few inches on one end because of the hill. The blocks had to be leveled in both directions so the glass would sit flat on top. With the digging done, stacking the blocks was quick and easy. I stacked them without mortar, (in case they ever need moved to another location). The joints are offset for stability.

After digging in a few inches of composted hay, I placed the glass on top and the cold frame is ready for seeds. The addition of the broken handle allows for the glass to be lifted on hot days so there isn't too much heat build up.

Now if I can just find some kale and/or Swiss chard seeds, (or some of the lettuce seeds Anna has left over), to go with the green onions, it could be Christmas salad in the making.