Sunday, December 27, 2009

One of my Christmas gifts

This is one of my favorite Christmas gifts, a soap mold.  James made it for me using a big block of wood, a drill and a hole saw bit.  It worked so well.  I put vaseline around the edges of each mold before pouring the soap into it and once it was hardened it pushed right out.  You can see 3 other bars of soap I made using the bottom of some plastic containers, peanut butter, honey and a water bottle.  It was much harder getting the soap out of those molds.  I had to cut the plastic from the one that was made from a water bottle to get the soap out.  Looks like cheese doesn't it?  It's so orange because it's made with red palm oil (in addition to other oils) which is very orange.  It's also made with coconut oil.  The combination of the 2 is going to erase our wrinkles.  Maybe I should take a before picture, and then in a year, an after picture.  Of course there are always ways to erase fine lines on pictures using the computer.  I've learned that. Now it cures for at least 4 weeks before we can use it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fun with Photobucket

I love playing with Photobucket. Aren't we lovely?  You should try it.  Go to and sign up for an account.  It's free.  All you have to do next is download your photos and you can do all kinds of things with them.  You can also download videos.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"Only a chicken"

If only I could think of my farm animals as "only a farm animal" or livestock.  Today one of my chickens died.  He was my favorite and I had only adopted him a week ago.  His name was Benny.  He was a little bantam rooster.  Since the snow fell he always looked cold to me.  At night he'd be tucked up under one of the hen's or the other rooster's wing.  I thought it was so cute how they'd let him do that.  He loved for me to hold him and put him in my coat.  This morning when I went out to feed them he ran to me to be picked up.  I think he would have stayed in my coat all day.  I had to put him down so I could get something done.  About half an hour ago I went out to the barn planning to put him in a fanny pack so I could have James take my picture with him for my blog.  I found him dead with his head all bloody up under the barn.  One of the goats must have stepped on him or shoved him up under there.  I picked him up and looked for some life in him.  I tried to be brave, only a lump in my throat, no tears.  Yet.  I took him inside the house and decided to feel for a heartbeat one more time before I put his body in the woods beside our house.  He was getting cold so I knew this little yellow body would no longer cuddle with me and peep softly.  It wasn't till James asked me about him that the tears came.  Like the understanding husband he is, he told me he was sorry.  I choked back, "it's only a chicken".  He said, "Yeah, but it was Benny".

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas card

I don't send out Christmas cards and I don't usually like those E-cards but someone told me about Smilebox and I had to try it.  After figuring it out I discovered I could do even more with my pictures on Photobucket.   Also, we got about 19 inches of snow so sitting at my computer seemed a lot more fun than shoveling.  I'll probably add more snow pictures but here's the first take. 
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Thursday, December 17, 2009

End of year letters

Two nights ago on Jay Leno 2 young women sang a song mocking people who send letters in their Christmas cards bragging about their family's accomplishments that year, or share really weird information like I may do in my blog.  I usually like letters in cards though.  I don't care if it's a xeroxed (do people say "xeroxed" anymore?)  letter or not.  I like being caught up on what's been going on.  Pictures are always nice too.  I did received a card today though that was pretty incredible.  I won't go in to detail but it was a brag letter like you can't even imagine.  If someone told me these things in person I wouldn't know what to say.  Maybe, "wow, your child is so awesome.  You must be so proud", would be appropriate.  That's not what I'd want to say though.  In my head I might be saying, "Are you serious?  Aren't you even a little embarrassed to be saying these things to us mere mortals?" 

If any of you send me a year end letter, seriously, I'd love to get it.  I promise I won't make fun......really, I like them.  A little bragging is ok.  A LOT of bragging  just may make people talk about you in their blog.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Craigslist. Who can you trust?

I've done my share of Craigslisting.  I've listed my goats for sale but they didn't sell that way.  I bought 5 of the 6 goats I own on Craigslist, and I've tried bartering on there but that didn't go through.  Oh, I also got a chainlink kennel from there.  This week I saw an ad for a free chicken coop, fencing and 4 chickens.  I called about them and they'd already had someone interested but said they'd call me if it fell through.  It did.  She wanted the coop and chickens gone right away.  I made arrangements to pick it up the next morning.  My husband and I picked up a 19 year old son of a friend of ours to provide some extra muscle.  Not enough, it turned out.  We would have needed at least 3 or 4 more men to pick this coop up.  It was very well built and there was no way the 3 of us could have carried it to the truck.  We headed home and I called the lady and told her she could offer it up again since we couldn't get it.  I was disappointed.

The thing that I found so interesting about this experience is the way this woman shared information with me.  The day I arranged to pick it up she told me she didn't mind if I came when they weren't there.  She said the house would be unlocked if I needed to use a phone or the bathroom.  She told me where she would be that day, which was more than an hour away.  Why would she tell a complete stranger this?  Maybe I have an honest voice over the phone.  After she got my message that we couldn't lift it she called and said if I really wanted it maybe I could disassemble it and get it home.   For some reason she really wants me to have it.  While she said I could take my time getting the coop, she does want the chickens gone ASAP.  I spoke to her again today for probably 15 minutes.  By now we've become phone friends.   I told her I would come tomorrow with my son and we'd get the chickens and begin taking the coop apart.  Again she told me something I wonder if she would have told a man who answered the ad.  She told me she was home alone, that her husband and son were out of town this week.   My husband and I have been known to invite complete strangers to our home but for some reason this seemed strange to even me.  I don't know why, since we knew a guy for only 2 or 3 days and invited him to house sit for us for 3 weeks while we were out of the country.  Still......

Gifted Dogs

I'm going to pretend the boxer in this video is mine. 


Friday, December 11, 2009

More dress-up

Here's the cutoff sweatshirt look.  He seemed pleased with this more macho look.  Doesn't he looked pleased?

Stay warm

Here's Lex in his new sweater.  I haven't decided if he likes it or not but I think he looks really cute in it.

Someone please tell me what's wrong with me.

Ok, that should get a few comments.  Seriously, I can't figure out why most people we know seem to enjoy hanging Christmas decorations and I have no desire to hang even a stocking.  There's probably not a room in my parent's house that doesn't have lights or decorations in it.  I didn't get that gene from them I guess.  I also didn't get the house cleaning gene from them, but that's for another blog entry.  I have happy memories of Christmas as a child.  I couldn't wait to pick out a tree and help decorate it.  I loved all the lights, especially those big outdoor bulbs we used to use.  Our front door was sometimes covered in a foil wrapping paper with a bow or wreath on it.  My mom baked lots of Christmas cookies and mailed cards.  The cards they received they hung on the door.  There was Christmas everywhere.  One day when my son is my age will he be keeping a blog (or whatever people will do then) and tell of his Christmas-less house growing up?  When he's married and has kids and they go all out during the holiday, will he tell his kids, "Grandma never decorated our house"?  I used to decorate but I'm not sure if he'd remember that since it's been so long.  Last year since our house repairs were about done I asked him if we should put a tree up.  He said, "no, it's just one more thing to clean up".  YES, EXACTLY!  I'm afraid I've turned him into me.

I do love Christmas though.  I love singing Christmas carols and getting together with family and friends.  I like making my own presents.  I have no idea if the recipients like them all that much, but hey, it's the thought that counts, right?  Today I'm working on some presents but I won't say what they are.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The best neighbors you could ask for

This is Shirley and Feenie, our neighbors and good friends across the creek.  I know I've mentioned Feenie in my blog before but I don't think I've introduced you to Shirley until now.  Today I showed up at their house unannounced like always.  They've never turned me away and always seem happy to see me.  Go figure.  After spending an hour or 2 there I got up to leave and they said (as it seems to be custom to say here in the valley) "what are you leaving so soon for?  You don't have to go".  You could stay 6 hours and that's what older people in the country say.  They act like you just got there.   I don't know if they really mean it or if that's kind of like saying goodbye.  I really don't think they're faking it though because there's no pretense about them.  I can always let my hair down and be myself in their home. 

I asked them to put these Santa hats on and they did.  You see, they'd do just about anything for me and I'd do the same for them.  Today I helped them put together 2 plastic snowmen with lights in them.  When we were finished Feenie said the sweetest words, "well, you're about as helpful as a button on a shit-house door".

Lots of people don't even know who their neighbors are.   That's too bad.  Of course we don't know all our neighbors personally, but most of us wave when we pass each other in the car.  It's what people do here.  One of my sisters was visiting once and said she felt like waving to everyone because they all waved at us.

Our teenage son's car broke down once just yards from our driveway.  We weren't home to help so when he called us we told him to wait by the car and someone would eventually stop and help.  It was only minutes until someone pushed him into the driveway.  I can't go for a walk without someone offering me a ride.  I could go on and on about how neighborly people are here.  Like Green Acres, it's the place to be.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Blackberry Wine

A few days ago I bottled 79 bottles of blackberry and wineberry wines.  The next day I made labels, glued them on and then instead of putting them right into my homemade PVC wine rack, I put them on our chest freezer so I could take a picture of them all lined up so I could post the picture on my blog.  It makes me happy to see them standing so proud side by side.  See how I spend my days?  I still have 11 gallons of wine to bottle but they're not ready yet.  I don't have high hopes for the pawpaw wine but I'm hoping the wild grape will be pretty tasty. 

We've been without internet service for 3 days and that just about drove us crazy.  I don't know how we got by before.  James and I are addicted, that's for sure.  We made a trip to our library yesterday so we could check email and catch up on all the very important things we've been missing, like the newest listings on Craigslist, Freecycle, Facebook entries, etc.  I had 18 emails and before I signed off I had 4 more.  I'm a very important person, you know.  Ebay, Amazon, James Fralinger salt water taffee and the likes are always sending me important messages.  After 2 conversations with the people at CenturyLink, a very nice repairman, Jim, came out and got us back online.  It may not last though because we've had lots of trouble with our internet in the last year, but for the time being I'm happy to be able to sit here and type this. I now have CenturyLink Jim's cellphone number programmed into my phone. 

One thing I did enjoy about not having internet to distract me is I took time to sit and read a really good book, Blackberry Wine, by Joanne Harris, the author of Chocolat.  I highly recommend it.  It will make you want to make your own wine, plant a garden or vineyard, or maybe even move to France.  Like in the book, I think I hear one of my wines talking to me.  And no, I haven't been drinking, yet.  Cheers.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Remembering the dead

I remember celebrating All Saints Day at our church in Salisbury, NC where they would call out all the names of the church members who had died in the past year.  It was a very somber occasion.  We all sat there quietly waiting for it to be over.  At least I did.  It didn't seem like we were really celebrating the lives of the dead.  It seemed like we were just remembering that they died.  Maybe I should have tried looking at it a different way.

Yesterday I was peeling apples and as I did it I was remembering my Mom Mom C. who passed away 2 (or has it been 3?) years ago.  When I was a kid I remember watching her peel apples with a paring knife and she could peel the whole thing with the peel staying in one piece.  I thought that was amazing.  Most of my memories of Mom Mom are in the kitchen.  I have a windbreaker jacket and a necklace that always reminds me of my friend Jean who was my running partner and best friend and died of breast cancer 12 years ago.  We have some shiny tin cups that sweat when they have something cold in them.  I will never see them without thinking of my other Mom Mom B.  She used to serve us Fresca soda which I never had anywhere else until I was older.  Of course there are many other things that remind me of my grandmothers but these are a few that stand out in my mind the most often.  There are many reminders in our house of my father-in-law who liked to put his initials on or in everything he owned.  There are tattoos of RFP all over our house.  Not only do I remember him because of his labels but because he was such a good recycler of things.  He made all kinds of things out of leftover "stuff".  When I made my cheese press out of an old plastic pitcher it reminded me of him.

These are much happier ways for me to remember friends and family who passed, and these little things are just a piece of how they touch me.

Cheddar update

The cheddar cheese I made was sufficiently dry (I hope) so today I covered it with wax.  It looks like a giant red wickless candle.

I'm in the process of making gouda today.  It seems more complex than making cheddar.  I may even try to smoke it when it's done.  If this goes well I will attempt Swiss cheese which looks even harder.

Hooray! I can go on vacations now.

As all 5 of you who read this know I've found the whole goat milking adventure a challenge and learning experience.  I've dodged kicking feet, lost a few pans of milk because of a hoof stepping in it, had milk run down my wrists, sprayed myself and James numerous times, had many cramps in my hands and been frustrated again and again.  Finally, I think I've got it down and everyone behaves pretty well on the milking stand (for the most part).  It took me 3 months to get to this point though.  You can't imagine my surprise and excitement when this morning Lucas came over (a new friend of ours) and milked all three goats somewhat easily.  He was a natural.  I don't know if it's because he has milked cows before or he's just that good.  Even milking cows couldn't have prepared him for Strawberry's tiny teats.  How a man could get his fingers around those tiny things  is beyond me.  What this means is we can now go to PA to see my family around Christmas and I won't have to worry about our furry family back at home.

Many people told me I wouldn't be able to leave home now that we have goats but I just felt sure I'd find someone who could help out.  Sometimes I worry my luck can't last.   How can someone be so lucky for 46 years without her luck running out?  Do other people feel this way?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bonding with sheep

My friend and I trade off help at each others "farm".  She and I met at a party and soon found out we were both new to sheep and goats.  She has 6 sheep and I have 6 goats.  It works out well.  She also has a llama, Bo (or Beau).  Today was my turn to help her with her animals.  The llama was the easiest.  He's very motivated by food so it was easy to get him where we wanted him.  All I had to do was hold his rope.  Susan did the trimming. He's a handsome fella.

The sheep are a bit harder.  They're more nervous and we have to trick them to get them in the pen.  We flip them onto their backs and most of them stay very still for the trimming.  If they're kept on their backs too long they start to squirm.  I'm the holder while Susan did the manicures, no polish.  We did, however, do some aromatherapy with some special oil that's supposed to help their digestion.  I think that's what she told me.  It smelled really good.  We put it on their ankles and tummies.   I did the last 2 trimmings.  I sang songs or talked to them.  I'm sure they were soothed by my angelic voice.  Susan may not have enjoyed it as much but she didn't tell me to quit.

Now I smell like sheep or sheep manure.  mmmmm.  I ran some errands afterwards.  I wonder if anyone smelled me.   Oh well, we live in Rockbridge County, VA.  I bet a lot of people smell like farm animals around here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Rainy Days And Mondays

It's rainy and it's Monday but it didn't get me down, though sometimes I do feel a little grumpy on Mondays.  I can't really explain it.   Not today though.  I had plenty of things to keep me busy and that's a good thing.

When we got back from a walk yesterday we found 17 lbs of venison in our refrigerator with a note on the door that said, deer meat in the fridge,  Love, Manley.  We don't hunt but it's rare the month of November passes without someone bringing us some of their recent kill.  We love it.  Manley got 3 deer this weekend and was generous enough to share some with us.  I had never heard of canned venison until we moved to rural Virginia.  I've known plenty of deer hunters, but none that I knew of canned their venison.  They froze it.  A few years ago someone told us about it and we must have looked a little skeptical because just a little later he brought us a jar.  We were amazed.  It was delicious - very tender (but not mushy) and not gamey at all. 

Today we had to decide what to do with the 2 very giant pieces of meat.  James suggested we can some of it.  I had forgotten about the canned meat.  I told him I'd do it.  Usually he does all our canning and freezing.  I'm glad he does.  It's time consuming and you must follow directions and pay close attention to the timing.  I usually have a hard time staying focused on monotonous jobs that take a while to complete.  It's good it was raining because it forced me to stay indoors and give my full attention to the venison.  I hope it turns out okay.  I canned 7 quarts and froze the rest.  I'm looking forward to some good stew.  The picture here doesn't look very appetizing but I'm still feeling pretty good about it.

I also made my first cheddar cheese today.  Last week I received my cheese making cultures, salt and wax.  I built my own press which is nothing to look at but it worked.  It took 2 gallons of goat milk to make about 2 1/2 pounds of cheese.  It's very easy to make but does require you to stay nearby while you very slowly increase the temperature of the milk.  It was very different from the mozzarella, chevre and ricotta cheeses I usually make.  I had to cut the curds with a knife and then I watched as they shrunk as the whey came out of them.  After the heating was done I drained the whey and saved it to make ricotta later.  I put the curds in my cheese mold/press, made from an old plastic pitcher which I drilled holes in and made shorter.  The press part is a piece of PVC (painted red from another project) with a plastic yogurt container lid glued to the bottom of it.  First it had to be pressed with 20 lbs of weight for 15 minutes.  Next I removed the cheese from the press and cheese cloth, turned it upside down and put it back in the press and added 15 more lbs of weight.  I'm using dumbbells for my weight.  It sat for another hour then I turned it again and put 50 lbs on it.  Notice how the cheese is white.  They sell coloring so I could have made the cheese orange but it seemed silly to me since it wouldn't change the flavor.  I wonder why they color the cheddar cheese we buy.  Tomorrow morning I can remove it from the form, salt the sides and let it dry for a few days (I think) and then I seal it in wax and wait..........and wait.   The recipe says it can be eaten in 4 weeks but is best if you wait 12 weeks.   I don't think I can do that.  My homemade wine never gets a chance to age for a year because I keep wanting to taste it.  I should hide the cheese from myself.  That shouldn't be so hard to do.  I lose things all the time.  I hope I find it before the dogs or mice do.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Who needs a seamstress?

The zipper on one of my favorite pair of pants broke.  I love these pants and hated the thought of giving them up all because of a split zipper.  They were Adam's pants at one time but he outgrew them and left them in a pile in his room when he went off to college.  James and I dug through the pile and claimed what we liked and would fit us.  I got 2 pairs of jeans and a pair of cargo pants.  The cargo pants are the ones that needed fixing.

I went to Wal-Mart and bought a new zipper thinking maybe, just maybe, I could figure out how to fix them myself.  I can mend things so they work but it never looks very good.  I'm a horrible hemmer but I do it anyway.  Everything I sew has to be ripped out at least once (usually twice) before I get it right.  The first thing I did was tear out the old zipper, studying how it was put in there.  Next I Googled "how to replace a jeans zipper".  TaDa! there it was with instructions and pictures.  I wanted to see what a zipper foot looked like too so I knew which one I was supposed to use on my machine.  I've had the same machine for 20 years but I still don't know everything there is to know about it, mind you, it's a very basic machine.  I went back to my machine armed with knowledge.  I can do this!  Okay, so not on the first try but I did do it.  I sewed half of it in and then realized I had it in backwards.  The little zipper handle thingy was on the inside of the pants.  I'm sure it would have worked but it might be kind of tough having my hand on the inside of my jeans each time I had to zip them.  I ripped it out and tried again.  I'd have posted a picture of the finished product but I know you wouldn't be as impressed with me as I am.  I'm definitely wearing them tomorrow.

Today a zipper.   Tomorrow?  Who knows.  The sky's the limit.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Killing animals

Sounds horrible doesn't it?  In Barbara Kingsolver's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, she tells of their day harvesting turkeys and roosters.  At first it really bothers her but then they find ways to make light of it even though they still feel kind of bad about it.  The holding room is death row "where the animals have time to get their emotional affairs in order".  They make comments like, "dead rooster walking", you know, like from the movie.  They laugh about the feathers sticking all over their bodies.  One of the children starts taking things out of the bucket where they throw the heads, feet and guts.  He puts on a show by making the heads talk and uses the other body parts as props.  She talks of how people say to her, "I could never eat something I raised".  She explains to them that at least she knows they had a good life before she kills them.  What else would be the purpose of raising turkeys if you weren't going to eat them?  I doubt they make very good pets and  I don't know of anyone that raises them for eggs.  I used to feel the same way as those people who challenged her and I have yet to kill one of my own animals but I do plan to eat some of our chickens one day and I guess I'll have to help in the processing (that doesn't sound as bad as killing).

Kingsolver writes that most of us know that everything we eat was formerly alive, both plant and animal.  It's the animals we've assigned some rights "while the saintly plants we maim and behead with moral impunity".  Which brings me to vegetarians.  I've never been one or thought that I could become one.  I like meat too much.  I never thought of this ........"If we draw the okay-to-kill line between animal and plant, and thus exclude meat, fowl, and fish from our diet on moral grounds, we still must live with the fact that every sack of flour and every soybean-based block of tofu came from a field where countless winged and furry lives were extinguished in the plowing, cultivating, and harvest.  An estimated 67 million birds die each year from pesticide exposure on U.S. farms.  Foxes, rabbits, and bobolinks are starved out of their homes or dismembered by the sickle mower".  I just never thought about that.  Great points.

So am I trying to make myself feel better about killing an animal?  Probably.  I do have to admit to killing an animal on purpose, a salamandar.  I still feel a little bit bad about it.  I used it for fishing, just put the hook right through it's tiny body and watched  it squirm and quickly threw it out in the water.  I don't think I even caught a fish on it.  Oh yeah, I've killed many fish too. 

Where am I going with this?  I'm not sure.  This will probably come up again next year when we have hatching chicks and find out that most of them are roosters.   I guess I'm just enjoying this book and thought I'd share some of the parts I find interesting.  You should read it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"I like you because you're unusual"

That's what a woman told me Saturday night.  She's in her 70's I'd guess.  I told her I get that a lot.  That's not really true but I have been told other things that have similar implications.  I have to wonder what it was I did that night that made her think I'm unusual.  We'd met one other time several years ago and we only spent maybe 4 hours together at this party Saturday night so there had to be something I did.  Did she think anyone else there was unusual?  I took her comment as a compliment only because it was prefaced by, "I like you because".  She was an unusual woman herself.

A few years back my parents were visiting us.  They met another older friend of ours who was telling my folks how much she enjoys me.  My mom said, "she's our different one".  Was she saying I'm odd or just different from my sisters?  They too are very different from each other so that doesn't really make sense.   I don't remember being offended I just remember thinking it was a strange remark.  Sorry Mom.

Another time I was with some girlfriends and I told them when Adam was grown up and supporting himself maybe James and I would buy nice clothes for ourselves.  My one friend said, "no, Karen, don't do that.  That's what we love about you".  She loves that I dress like a slob?  That, I thought, was funny. 

I know from some of the things James says that he likes people thinking he's unusual and I really don't mind if people say that about me.  I just wonder what it is that people see.  I wish I could see myself from someone else's perspective.  Or do I?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Contemplating Intelligence

This week my husband's aunt was telling us about a baby who was slow to develop.  My husband said, "watch him turn out to be a genius".  I said, "I hope not". This led me to think more about how much some people value a high IQ,  advanced degrees, etc.  I happened to marry someone who is very intelligent and has an advanced degree.  Is that why I fell in love with him?  I don't think so but maybe it played a small part in it.  It's possible I fell for him in spite of how smart he is.  It's hard for me to say 22 years later.

I doubt anyone has ever thought of me as a brilliant mind and that's okay.  Most of the people I admire most are positive people.......... curious, fun, humble, energetic, sensitive and happy people.  Having a high IQ is a gift, something you're lucky to be born with (maybe).  It's not something you earned so does it make you special?  Maybe it does and maybe it doesn't.  I don't think it's your intelligence that makes you special.  I think it's what you do with what you're given that makes you someone to be admired.  I've met plenty of gifted people who I'd rather not hang out with.  Humble they were not.  Maybe it's sour grapes on my part but I don't think so.

Yesterday we went to the funeral of a 69 year old woman who was outlived by her 96 year old mother.  We talked to the mother after the funeral and she told us how much she was going to miss her daughter.  Even though she was very sad she still had a smile for us.  She is blind and now uses a wheelchair because of a fall she had earlier this year.  In spite of all this she just keeps on going.  I think this lady is one of the neatest people.  I know nothing about her education, very little about her background  or what she was like as a young person.  What I do know about her is that she is strong, funny, positive and absolutely someone I would like to spend more time with. 

Our son is in college now and struggles at times with his grades.  My wish for him is not that he graduate in the top of his class, but that he graduates with a feeling of accomplishment in what he's set out to do, that he enjoys these years in school and makes some lasting friendships or at least has great memories of friends he made while he was there.  I hope his future brings many successes in the way of happiness, satisfaction and a sense of well being, and I hope when he's 96 his tattoo on his back, "NO REGRETS", is even more meaningful to him than it may be now.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My dogs surprised me and made me proud

Do these faces look like they could hurt anything?

We got chickens back in March.  Their fence and coop are on the other side of our dog's invisible fence.  We've seen what Rosie and Lex (our sweet boxers) can do to small, wild animals.  If you want to see evidence just go into our field to find yesterday's catch, a groundhog who didn't know better than to come out of its hole.  When we got the chickens we were sure the dogs would get one if they had the chance.  Well today they had the perfect opportunity.  Our chickens have been free ranging all over our yard and we've seen our dogs ignore them but we still didn't completely trust them.  Today though, the chickens were right near the house, far from their fence and way inside the dog's invisible fence.  I thought I'd test the dogs.  I let them out and they ran right into the circle of chickens.  The chickens scattered but didn't run far away.  Neither dog touched the chickens.  All they did was sniff where the chickens were rooting around to see what they were digging for.  I was shocked, to say the least.  I'm so proud and relieved.  Now we can get some Indian Runner ducks to keep the bugs out of our garden.

I'm editing this post to tell you Rosie almost got a chicken this weekend.  She got a mouthful of feathers but didn't hurt it.  I guess we still can't trust her:(

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Birdbath turned barn art

I've made two attempts at making a birdbath out of leftover roofing copper.  Both attempts are now hung up somewhere and called "art".  My mother-in-law asked me to make her a birdbath for Christmas.  I thought copper would be really pretty and lightweight so she could take it back to Ohio with her when she left this week.  After beating the copper with a rubber mallet, and trying to be oh-so-very-careful, they both still got tiny holes in them.  I could make one out of concrete and tile but I don't want to pay for shipping concrete and I don't think she could easily move it either.  I'm trying to come up with another idea.  Anyone?



Thursday, November 12, 2009

May I ruin your Thanksgiving meal?

I'm reading the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  The story is about how her family moved to rural VA and vowed that for one whole year they would only buy or eat food raised either by themselves or someone in their community or they would do without.  I love the idea of producing our own food or buying locally but if you saw my grocery cart this week you'd see that I haven't completely bought into the idea of doing without like the Kingsolvers did.  As I review my last paragraph I'm chewing on a piece of black licorice which, of course, I didn't make and I don't know where it came from.  Hmmm, just read the bag, manufactured in Hershey, PA, only 5 hours away.  That doesn't seem too bad except for the fact that the ingredients to make it could have come from anywhere.

There is one thing I bought this week that I now wish I didn't, after reading what I read today, and its our Thanksgiving turkey.  I don't know what I was thinking, probably, "well, that's a good price".  One of the reasons we raise our own chickens is so we can provide our own eggs and meat and know where it came from and that the chickens were treated as humanely as possible.  That thought didn't cross my mind when I purchased this turkey.  Barbara writes that 99% of all turkeys Americans buy are a single breed; the Broad-Breasted White, a quick-fattening monster bred specifically for the industrial-scale setting.  If one of these birds escaped slaughter they wouldn't live to be a year old because they get so heavy their legs collapse.  They're incapable of flying, foraging or mating.  That's right, reproduction.  Genes that make turkeys behave like animals are useless to a creature packed wing-to-wing with thousands of others, and might cause it to get uppity or suicidal, so those genes have been bred out of the pool.  To make more of these turkeys the sperm must be artificially extracted from male turkeys by a person, a professional turkey sperm-wrangler, and artificially introduced to the hens, and that's all I'm going to say about that.  See, there's a job out there for everyone but that's a sad job.

I wish I could return the turkey.  There's so much more I could say about this book but I'll save it for another post.  Time to milk the goats.

Has Anyone Seen Bob?   

Sometimes I wonder if I find this stuff funnier than most people.  I just read my husband's blog, so much deeper and thoughtful than what entertains me, and I ponder, how did we end up married?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Leaky Roof

We humans are funny.  We make statements that make no sense.  Like when something happens, say.... our  roof springs a leak.  We say, "oh great, this is just what I need today".  Like any day would be a better day?  Or, "isn't this just my luck", when it has nothing to do with our luck at all.  It could happen to anyone, lucky or not.

Guess what happened today.  Yup, you got it.  I walked into our kitchen and saw a drip fall to the floor.  I looked up to see the plaster and paint on the ceiling kind of bubbled up.  "Just perfect", I thought.  James got a ladder and climbed up into the attic.  He put a large pan up there to catch the water.  I called the roofer who installed our copper roof 4 or 5 years ago (which is supposed to last 100 years or more) and told him of the leak.  He'll be out Saturday to look at it.

Neither James nor I got all that upset by it.  Afterall, it was a rainy day and we didn't have much else to do.  Also, it gave me something to write about on my blog.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Soup in a pumpkin
The link above is to a recipe for soup you cook in a pumpkin.  A friend told me about it so I searched the internet till I found a similar recipe.  We have several small pumpkins from our garden waiting to be used for something so this sounded like a perfect way to use 2 of them.  The recipe called for one 6 lb pumpkin.  You're supposed to serve the soup into bowls from it but  I used 2 small ones that we ate out of.   As we ate the soup we scraped pumpkin from the sides.  It was delicious.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Natural born mothers

Some of us are more maternal than others.  I love being a mom but can't imagine having more than 1 or 2 children.  How do you find the time, energy and all the other stuff that you need to be a mom when you have more than 2?  I suppose God knows what he's doing when he gives more (or less) children to some, although I'm wondering what He was thinking when he gave Octomom  her last litter. I know I shouldn't have typed this.  Oh well, I'll pretend I'm Twittering and this is what came to mind.

The reason I brought this up really has nothing to do with humans at all.  It has to do with my goats.  I know that comes as a huge surprise to most of you.  Yes, I have goats on the brain.  It could be worse, no?

As I told you 2 posts ago, we sold Polly's twins and she was very upset about it.  That left us with one baby, Clifford, who belongs to Strawberry.  Or does he?  Today I think Polly adopted Clifford and Clifford adopted Polly.  He's been following her everywhere and she's letting him.  She's even letting him nurse.  Tonight I may have to milk all the does because I don't know how much milk Clifford is taking and from who.  Strawberry doesn't even seem to care that Polly is mothering her son.  I think if she was human she would be single with no children.   Not everyone was meant to be a mother.

More tears

Today I had more tears in my eyes but not from crying.  James dug some horseradish root for me and I ground it up.  We'll try it tonight with our venison.  You know how someone asks you to smell milk to see if it's bad and you just have to do it?  That's exactly how it was when I made the horseradish.  Everyone said, "it's so strong you'll want to grind it outdoors," and, "keep it away from your face because it's really potent".  As I pealed it I thought it didn't smell strong at all.  I couldn't believe what everyone said about it so of course once I ground it up I just had to stick my whole face in the food processor.   Shiver-me-timbers!   An inferno indeed.  I can't wait to taste it.  I've never had fresh horseradish.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I'm a horrible farmer

Farmers are supposed to be tough aren't they?  They're supposed to raise animals to eat or make a profit, a business right?.  I know they're not supposed to cry when they sell their animals.  Well, that's what I did today, cried like a baby when Chaps and Telly left for their new home.  Hearing Polly (their mom) cry didn't help things at all.  I had to go inside so I couldn't hear her.  It's really silly because I'm thrilled to death with the family they're going to live with.  It's exactly what I wanted.  Ethan (the son) and Cheryl (the mom) seemed excited to take them home, just like I am when I get a new goat.  As I stood there stupidly crying Cheryl hugged me and invited me to deliver Clifford to their farm when he's old enough (about 3 more weeks) and I can see Telly and Chaps again.   Clifford was his charming self and won them over once again wanting to be held and bouncing around to entertain them.  Ethan wanted to take him home today.  The young lady in the photo is a family friend who seemed just as interested in the babies as Ethan and Cheryl.  Maybe her family would like some babies next Spring when Luti and Pessa kid.  Hopefully they won't have boys that we have to find homes for.

So now we'll have more milk.  That's what I wanted, right?  Right.  I'm feeling tougher already.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I've made mozzarella before out of both store bought organic cow's milk and raw cow's milk from a nearby farm.  Today I made it out of my own goat's milk.  Not only is it more delicious, I also got more cheese out of a gallon of milk.  Our goats have a pretty high butterfat content, maybe that's the reason.  When I was done making mozzarella I made ricotta out of the leftover whey.  I felt really good about my success with the mozzarella because earlier this week my attempt at chevre (goat cheese) didn't go as well.  The chevre was more like yogurt which I'm eating on my cereal in the mornings so it wasn't a total bust. 

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Greenhouse is ready for action

Yesterday I finished building the guts of the greenhouse.  The table in the back came out of our garage.  The 2 tables on the sides are an old sign Adam brought home from the campground down the road.  I cut it in half and put legs on them.  Underneath the one on the right is a box built out of old oak fencing for James to put manure and compost in to heat the greenhouse.  The top board is hinged so he can fold it down so a shovel fits in.  On the back table I used cut off sections from our columns as shelf support.  I drilled holes in them so they could be filled with dirt and plants could grow through the holes.  We've decided to cover the tables with plastic for fear the tables will rot from all the water.  It's not very pretty but I think it's going to work.  Hopefully I'll take some pictures later to show you lots of green plants and vegetables growing in there.

In the second picture you can see new grass growing around the greenhouse.  That's winter wheat James planted.  Soon we're going to run out of our  wheat from a few years ago that we use for our bread.  I don't think this will be ready by the time that runs out.  He planted wheat in 3 different gardens in the past 2 weeks.

Our first Calendar Girls photo

Maybe you have to have seen the movie Calendar Girls to appreciate this picture.  Of course we thought we were hilarious.  I kept telling my friends about the movie so some of us watched it together.  We thought it would be fun to take pictures of ourselves on our hikes in various poses.  Here's our first one.  There were 5 of us in the photo but one woman (much shyer than the rest of us) edited herself out and it was on her camera so she could do that.  She was afraid we'd send it to her Sunday school class.  Good thing because look, here it is for all the world to see.  I thought it was very tasteful.

It all came about because, I'll call her Rebecca, got so hot she stripped down to her bra to hike.  Not a jog bra, a regular white one.  I should mention, we never passed a soul on this hike.  Most of the rest of us took our tops off too but we had on sports bras.  When we stopped for a rest we decided to take this picture.  There was one other photo taken on this hike but it's on Rebecca's camera and for her to do with what she likes, which is probably save it for her own viewing.  We came to a pond and Rebecca, being Rebecca, went swimming.  I'm sure you can guess what she was (or wasn't) wearing.  The rest of us chose to keep our clothes on.  I took the picture.  It's pretty good.  She's somewhat hidden behind a rock. 

Last hike we didn't take any Calendar Girls pictures.  We hike again Tuesday, Nov. 5th.  Anyone care to join us?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Some days everything goes your way.

Today was my day.  I almost hate to say that for fear something bad will happen before I go to bed.  Seriously, I had the most wonderful day.  Yes, I have a lot of great days but today was even better than usual.  I went to pick up my two new goats, Principessa and Luti.  They're big goats, probably twice the size of my others.  I didn't have a dog crate big enough for the 2 of them so I took the station wagon and they rode with me like the dogs do.  I think Luti liked it.  Principessa cried every now and then, at least I think it was a cry.  They peed 3 times.  Oh well.  The car has over 300,000 miles on it and has dog hair all over.  Not much could hurt it.  When I got back home I drove into the pasture and let the goats out to explore.  I had all the others closed up so they could meet each other through the fences. 

As I was heading back to the house my phone rang.  Someone saw my ad at the local farm store and wanted to come see Telly and Chaps, my almost 10 week old wethers.  They got here 30 minutes later.  Not only did they want to buy Telly and Chaps but Clifford also won them over and they want him too.  Of course he can't leave his mom for 5 more weeks but they left a deposit for all of them.  All the goats were on their best behaviour and couldn't have acted any sweeter.  I trained them well.  They will be pets on a large horse farm.  I'm sure their 8 year old son will love them.

To top off the day, I milked Principessa (we'll call her Pessa) and it was like no milking experience I've had yet.  Really, I was almost giddy.  Milking a big goat is nothing like milking a dwarf.  It all went so fast and she didn't budge the whole time I was milking.  I didn't even need James' help.  I just tasted the milk and it was delicious.

As I look out my window now the sky is a beautiful pink and blue.  In this picture you can see some glowing eyes.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hike to Mt. Pleasant and Mt. Pompey

Look past the picture of me to see the beautiful views we had yesterday on our hike.  Up until yesterday I had been thinking it had been a pretty unremarkable Fall, but then I went on this hike with the Wayfaring Women (my women's hiking group) and the colors of the leaves were spectacular.  There were 11 of us on the hike, a record for us.  Usually there are 5 or 6 hiking. 

My friend, Rebecca, named our group.  It was her idea to form it in the first place.  She's a real planner so she called me and Laura up and we had our first meeting to plan a women's hiking group more than 3 years ago.  She cracks me up.  She even wrote a poem about the Wayfaring Women Of Rockbridge County.  Rebecca likes theme parties, adventures and has her family sing jingles on their answering machine.  She has more energy than just about anyone I know.  Anyway, she's a great person to have on our hikes because she is always enthusiastic.  At first I wasn't sure I liked the whole idea of committing to monthly hikes.   Hmmm, commitment.  I thought I liked the idea of spur-of-the-moment hikes but I know if we didn't plan and write them on our calendar it would never happen.  The women in the group are religious and not religious, Republican and Democrat which makes for some interesting discussions at times but mostly we have lots in common and we all love the outdoors.  

Sunday, October 18, 2009

We have soap

My goat milk soap looks like it turned out.  It was nice and firm so I could cut it.  I still wore my gloves when cutting because I was afraid it could still burn me.  Four weeks to go now until we get to try it out.  It smells interesting with just a hint of rosemary.  Maybe next time I make it I'll add a fragrence.  This time it's eau naturale.  Looking at the picture it looks like a pepper cheese, doesn't it?  Kind of makes me hungry. 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Goat milk soap

Today I made my first attempt at making goat milk soap.  I won't know till tomorrow if it turned out or not.  Actually, I won't know if it's any good until 4 weeks from now when it's fully cured.  Who'd have thought soap could be so expensive to make and so dangerous?  I didn't, that's for sure.  I really knew nothing about soap making.  The ingredients are expensive, cocoanut oil, palm kernal oil, olive oil, almond oil, sodium hydroxide (which I was really scared to work with) and goat milk.  I sure hope it turns out and we like it.  I put rosemary in it. 

I wore my rubber gloves and goggles when I was working with the lye (sodium hydroxide) and was so careful because I read a horrible story about a young child pouring it down his front and losing some of his eyesight and burning his skin terribly.  How can something so caustic be used in something we bathe with?  Crazy! 

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

More ideas

I have all these eggs.  What should I do with them?  It's a shame to throw away all those shells.   Of course we eat the eggs but the shells are so pretty, surely they could be useful for something.  I have a few ideas.  One of the ideas seemed brilliant but, like the paint-sprayer-milking-machine-idea, it didn't go quite like I pictured.  First I used my Dremel to drill a tiny hole in one end of 4 eggs and a little larger hole in the other end.  I blew out the egg to save for eating later.  To clean the egg inside and out I put the shells in boiling water with vinegar in it.  I boiled them for, oh, maybe 15 minutes.  I read that the outside of the shell has a coating on it and it was removed by boiling in vinegar water and then wiping them off.  The shells were lighter in color and not as pretty.  I drained the shells and let them dry.  Next I put them in very hot vinegar water with orange food coloring in it hoping to make the eggs pumpkin colored.  They barely changed colors at all.  Oh well, it didn't matter because I was going to coat them in sugar anyway.  First I rolled them in a thinned down Elmers glue water then rolled them in sugar.  I didn't have enough glue in the water I guess because the sugar stuck all clumpy-like in some places and popped off later.  I rinsed them off and started again with more glue.  This time it stuck but still wasn't beautiful.  The next job was to fill them with chocolate with a little almond flavoring.  I melted the chocolate and put it in a plastic baggy with a hole cut in the corner.  I squeezed the chocolate into the larger of the 2 holes in the egg which I didn't make nearly big enough.  The chocolate was burning my hand because I couldn't do it fast enough.  Can you guess what happened next?  Because the egg shell got so hot the sugar melted off.  Crimini!  I rinsed the egg again and drew a face on it.  So now I have one egg filled with chocolate.  I gave up on the rest.  I thought it would be a really neat idea to crack open an egg and find it filled with chocolate. 

Here's my next idea for the egg shells, fill them with homemade goat milk soap.  They'd make really cool soap molds don't you think?  I'll let you know how it goes.

It worked!

My milker worked, not perfect, but it worked.  It needs a few adjustments but I'm pretty pleased.  If you have no idea what I'm talking about read the post below this one for an explanation.

The only glitch is the baby bottle nipple.  I need to get another 20 cc syringe so I can attach the tubing directly to it so I won't need a nipple.  The nipple collapses when the pressure is too great.  For some reason it worked really well on one of Strawberry's teats but not the other.  I'm going to get this right.  Maybe the milker will stretch her teats so I can milk by hand.  I don't think she minded this at all.  She kept right on eating and ignoring the milking.  Hooray!

Some ideas make perfect sense

until you try them.  I try to be clever and save some money but it doesn't always work that way.  Here's my latest.  Ever since baby goat Clifford was born I've been concerned how I was going to milk his mama, Strawberry.  Her teats are itty bitty.  She makes Polly seem very buxom.   Okay, I guess you don't call a goat buxom, but you get the idea.  Polly would be a D cup compared to Strawberry's AAA.  So I went to my trusty goat forum because I remembered reading how people made their own milkers so they didn't have to do it by hand.  An electric milking machine is about $1,500.00.  The cheapest hand held, manual milker is $45.00.  The folks on the forum posted pictures of their homemade milkers and I thought I could make one too.  I went to our farm store and bought an Allflex Ultra Precision Syringe for $19.00.  I also bought a 20 cc plastic syringe and removed the plunger.  I attached the small end of the plastic syringe to the tube of the Allflex applicator syringe and went out to try it on Strawberry.  It was a bust, not enough suction.  I was disappointed and glad I saved the receipt for the $19.00 applicator syringe.  Hmmmm, I couldn't quit there.  I remembered we had a Wagner Power Painter that sucks the paint through a tube into the machine and sprays out the other end.  Sounded like a milking machine to me.  I spent many hours yesterday cleaning it out and studying how it worked.  I attached the plastic syringe to the sucking end after cutting the end of the syringe off to make it just a tube with a flange at one end.  That's a picture of it above without the plastic syringe attached.  The only problem I could see was that it had to stay primed with liquid to keep sucking.  When we tried it this morning I had a bucket of water in the stall with me along with the machine and extension cord (it was pretty cramped in there).  I primed the sprayer and then quickly held the syringe cup on Strawberry.  James held the sprayer hose over the bucket and let the water run through.  He was instructed by me to move it to the pan when he saw milk begin to come through.  It worked!  Well, it worked until I removed it from one teat and put it on the other.  It lost its suction real fast and we got no more milk.  Poor Strawberry, she's such a trooper to put up with my nonsense.  The machine was very loud and I could tell she didn't like it but she stood there and hardly moved.

Back to the drawing board.  I went on the internet and looked up the Maggidan's Milker available for $45.00, thinking maybe I should just break down and buy it.  Oh my gosh, the milker looked exactly like the first Allflex Ultra Precision Syringe only with a shorter tube.  Aha!  That's what I need to do, make the tubing shorter like James suggested the first day.  I didn't cut it because I was afraid it wouldn't work and then I couldn't return it and get my money back.  So I cut it.  When I went to attach the plastic syringe I remembered I had cut the end off it to fit the large tube on the paint sprayer so it was too big to fix to the rubber tubing so I took a baby bottle nipple, which I had in case I had to feed one of my babies, and put it on the end of the plastic syringe and cut a little bit larger hole in the sucking end for the tubing.  Can you picture it?  I'm sure you can't so here's another picture.  I attached the piece of cut off tubing to the spray end of the Allflex "gun" and ran that tube into a canning jar with a hole drilled in the lid.  Everything was attached with electrician's tape.  Very professional.  Ask me how it works.  I don't know because I haven't tried it yet.  I'm feeling confident though.  I'll post the results when I have them, along with some other ideas I have involving eggs, Halloween and soap making.  One of my friends told me I have too much time on my hands.  Impossible!

Julie and Julia

I haven't been to a movie in years.  We usually watch movies from home on long after the movie has been in the theater.  Last night 2 of my girlfriends and I went to see Julie and Julia.  I'm so glad I did.  If you haven't seen this movie you should.  As I typed that I'm wondering if everyone would love it as much as we did.  I love to cook and I like to blog but I don't think it matters if you know anything about Julia Child, blogging, cooking or not.  It's still very funny and touching and the food and drink will make your mouth water.  They depict Julia as a hilarious, high-spirited, amazon of a woman whom everyone seemed to love.  Meryl Streep is magnificent.  The young woman, Julie, is also great.  She has a depressing job and her husband talks her into keeping a blog.  She decides to cook all the recipes in one of Julia's cookbooks in one year and blog about it every day.  She falls in love with her idea of Julia Child and becomes obsessed with everything Julia.  You'll fall in love with her too.  The movie jumps back and forth between the 2 and had my attention till the very end.  I won't tell you anymore about it just in case you go see it.  Tonight I'm going back again with James.  We have a cheap movie theater nearby, $4.00 last night and $5 or $6 tonight.

Today I'm making sourdough bread but I feel like I should make something heavenly and French for dinner.

Bon Appetit              P.S. After seeing this movie I feel like I should be much more creative with my blog. 

Monday, October 5, 2009

Clifford's birth

I decided to post the link with video of Clifford's birth so you can decide whether you want to watch it or not.  The ending is very disappointing because right after his head comes out I walk in front of the camera and the video stops.  You miss the good part of seeing the tiny guy right after he's born.  I'm afraid we were too wrapped up in it all and weren't that concerned about the video at the time.  Sorry. 
I bet if you go on YouTube you can see a goat birth on there.  You can find just about anything on YouTube.   Here it is if you'd like to see.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Elk Cliff Clifford

The link above is to a video of Clifford, my new baby.  Actually he's Witty and Strawberry's baby.  In the video Clifford turns around a few times so you can see all sides of him.  I also have a video of the birth but I'm not sure if people would like to see that or not so I'll think about it and maybe post it later.  I don't think I'll ever get tired of watching kids be born.  It's so exciting and we've been lucky that we've had easy kiddings so far.  It's interesting seeing the difference in mothering between Polly and Strawberry.  For the first few weeks of Telly and Chap's lives Polly rarely left their sides.  Strawberry, on the other hand, goes out to graze while Clifford is sleeping.  Clifford seems to be more independant too.  When he's tired of her attention he finds a little hideaway to take a nap where Strawberry can't get to him to lick him.  Different strokes for different goats I guess.

To be continued.....

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Shabby Chic Goat House

Okay, so it's not beautiful, but it's functional, the boys love it and it will do the job that I intended.  Both Jake and Witty have inspected it and given their stamp of approval.  That's good enough for me.  Also, it was fun to build.  Now I can house 4 boys.  Hopefully Strawberry will have girls and I won't need to put them in here.  It looks like Strawberry is going to have her babies in the next day or so.  I'll set my alarm so I can get up during the night tonight to check on her.  Her ligaments are gone which means the clock is ticking.  I'm not near as nervous this time as I was for my last goat kid delivery.  I hope I'm not being too cool about it and all will go well.   

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A tiny goat shed

Today I started building a very small goat shed out of pallets.  If I don't sell my 2 little bucklings by the time they're 3 months old I'm going to want to separate them from their mom so they'll have to go in the fence with the big boys, that's why I decided to build this little house for them.  We have several pallets lying around and some old oak fencing some friends gave us so I used that.  The only thing I'll have to buy is some roofing and maybe some more screws or nails since I'm running out of the ones I need.  Jake and Witty have been really big helpers.  I'm building it to the right of Witty and Jake's house and will extend the roof over to that one so it will create a covered breezeway between the two. I'l take more pictures when it's done. 

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Playing Dress Up

Everyone loves playing dress up don't they?  I was going through my pictures today and came across quite a few of us dressed in unusual attire.  Here are just a few.  I  think the dogs enjoy it as much as we do.
When my sisters and I were little we used to dress our dog, Ginger, in our clothes.  I don't know if they remember that or not.  I'm sure Mom and Dad have those pictures somewhere.   What is it about pretending to be someone else that is so much fun?    Last October we went to a hobo and gypsy party around Halloween.  I won a prize for my costume.  James couldn't stand to look at me with my tooth blacked out like it was but it didn't bother me even when I looked in the mirror and saw how ugly I looked.  Of course, as you can see, I haven't posted that picture on here so maybe I feel a little more self conscious about it that I'm admitting to.    Really, the reason I don't like that picture is because I have a double chin in it.  Only 34 more days till Halloween.  Seems like once Halloween is past Christmas is not far behind.  I've already been thinking about what to give as Christmas gifts this year.  I may even send out Christmas cards which we haven't done in a long time.  I have an idea for a card and it involves costumes but I won't be the one dressing up.