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.