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.