Sunday, December 27, 2015

The green, green grass of home

Feel free to listen to this 
as you read because you'll probably sing it anyway after reading the title of my blog.  I just asked James if he knew this song and he didn't (which shocked me) so maybe everyone doesn't know this song like I thought.

The song speaks of a few things on my mind tonight.

James and I went to visit my family in PA for Christmas like we do most years.  It's always good to touch the green, green grass of my childhood home and be with my mom, sisters, their families and friends.  I was worried there would be a cloud hovering over us because it was our first year without Dad.  While it was different, it wasn't because  of Dad.  He was definitely there in spirit.  Mom decided to spend Christmas eve. and the first half of Christmas day in the hospital so we had other things on our mind than Dad's absence.  Mom is home and doing much better and was able to celebrate with everyone after her scare.

The end of this song goes, Yes, they'll all come to see me in the shade of that old oak tree as they lay me 'neath the green, green grass of home.  Mom and I went to visit Dad's grave on the 26th.  Dad lived in Bucks County his whole life and I'm sure there's no place he'd rather be laid to rest.  If he could have been buried in the shade of the maple trees on Stoopville Road that might have been even better.  Though it was sad, it was ok because he was as close to home as he could be.

We returned today to learn that a dear friend died on Christmas Eve.  It makes us so sad we didn't get to see him since he's been sick but we'll be there when he's laid to rest near his home.  He could play the clarinet like nobody's business and I'm sure could have played Green, Green Grass of Home without even seeing the music.  

On a happier note, it was so great to return to my own home where the grass is as green as we've ever seen it in December.  This weather has been incredible.  It was 75 degrees here today.  We haven't had to feed hay to the animals yet because the grass is still growing.  

It's always so much fun to have the animals gather around me when I get home.  They seem like they really missed me or maybe I just want to think that.  Keri, Rex, Willo and Jaz followed me everywhere I went.  Willo was especially affectionate.  

Some of our yard isn't so green.  We're adding on to the house so the east side is more mud than grass.
We have a lot of projects going on here but it's nice that someone else is in charge of this one.  We get to sit back and watch professionals do things the right way, unlike the kitchen sink/countertop I'm working on. This deserves a blog of its own.  Hopefully, if all goes well, in another week I'll be posting a final reveal and it will look better than this.  There's a long story behind this.
Adam and Melissa are getting married here in June so that's motivation to get some things done that needed doing long ago.  Our pergola had some rot issues so we're rebuilding.  Two weekends ago we put up some new cedar.  It all needs to be put in place but at least we got it up where it belongs.
It's been a month since I last blogged but I have good intentions of doing better in 2016.  
A belated merry Christmas to you all.  

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Friendsgiving part 2

I could get used to meals like this but my jeans are telling me it's a bad idea.  Tonight we shared another meal (and many laughs) with the same two families we feasted with on Thanksgiving.  We've never cooked a goat in our wood fired oven but Omar showed us it was something we should attempt again.  It was quite an event.

Omar showed up around 10AM to cut the meat into reasonable sizes to fit in pans and into the oven.  He researched it online and came up with a rub and a plan.

James was his helper.  I stayed out of it for the most part.  You know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen.  This cook always has too many opinions so I knew I should keep out of it.
It took longer to cook than expected so when our other new friends arrived they helped by offering their expert advice and got their hands greasy.  The women very happily let the men have control.  I like this picture of 4 men watching the meat go back in the oven.
I'm glad it took a while for the dinner to cook because it gave us all more time to be together.  As you can see, there's more food on this table than this number of people could eat.
We're already making plans for our next gathering.  There will always be food involved with this group, I feel pretty sure of this. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

My big fat Greek Thanksgiving

And I mean FAT.  I don't think I've ever seen so much food served at a Thanksgiving meal as I did today.  Two days ago we got an invitation to join some friends of ours at a friend of theirs.  It seemed a bit odd go to some strangers' house for a holiday dinner when we didn't even know their last name.  I asked our friend, Omar, if it was really ok for us to show up and he assured me that this is common practice for other cultures to invite a bunch of people, i.e., friends of friends.  Omar is from Honduras.

The hosts were Greek and excellent cooks.  They own a restaurant so I don't know why I'd expect anything less.  I wish I took pictures of our appetizers because it was a meal in itself.  I had to pace myself eating the delicious lamb chops even though I could have eaten many more.  I bet there were 50 lamb chops on the platter.

When we moved indoors there was a feast waiting for us.  I was already full and then I saw this.
You can't see it all in this picture.  Turkey, more lamb, rice, pasta, potatoes, green beans, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes,  well, you get it.  All the while there was plenty of wine being passed around and the hostess kept asking why we weren't eating or drinking more.  It was hard to say no.

I'm beginning to think they didn't want us to leave unless we rolled out their door instead of walking. At least 6 desserts were served, a few I'd never heard of.
James and Adam are going to be very disappointed in my traditional American Thanksgiving meal next year if we eat at home.  I may have to learn some Greek recipes and invite friends of friends to our house.  I can't imagine cooking that much food though.  I have a heating pad on my stomach now.

Happy Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


I had an experience last week I don't think I'll have again.  My friend Lornie and I went to see Stevie Wonder in concert. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing.  I didn't even know I wanted to see Stevie Wonder in concert, but what the hey, I was game.  I had no idea what was in store for me.  Where do I begin?  The talent on stage was incredible.  Not only were we entertained by the genius named Stevie Wonder, but all the folks behind him, at least 30 or more performers, put on a show that I doubt could be matched. Just when we thought we'd heard the most amazing voice or musician, one of his background singers or other talent outshone the last.

I'm embarrassed to say I thought Stevie was in his late 70s, only to find he's just 65 years old.  The reason I thought this is probably because he's been performing since he was signed with Motown when he was 11 years old.  He's been in the public eye for most of his life.  There's so much I want to say about what I learned about him that night but instead I'll just share a few videos of him performing.  He's all about peace, love and understanding.  That was the theme of the concert.
I so wish I had a video of him playing harmonica because that was one of my favorite parts of his performance.  The concert began at 8:00 (we were 35 minutes late because of the heavy concert traffic) and didn't end till 12:20. I didn't get to bed till after 2 AM but it was well worth it.   

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The internet and DIY projects

I spend lots of time doing searches on the internet for, oh gosh, so many things.  From home improvement, soap making, animal ailments, recipes, crafts, travel destinations, to do-it-yourself ideas.  I have come to love Pinterest and and of course YouTube, especially since we're getting ready to add on to our house.  I'm getting lots of ideas.  Probably so many I'm going to drive our builder nuts.  Last week we went to look at some reclaimed barn wood for flooring at Appalachian Woods in nearby Stuarts Draft.  We've bought flooring and old beams from them in the past and have been really happy with it.  While we were there the salesman said, "your kitchen floor is on our website".  One of the salesman even has the picture on his business card.  We thought that was kind of cool.

Today I was doing a search for reclaimed barn wood flooring to help me decide what widths we might want.  I like seeing what other people have done with their house.  On the first search page of pinterest under that search our kitchen floor appeared.
It took a moment for me to recognize it was our house.  I don't know why this continues to amuse me but it does.  I'll do a search for something and stumble upon my own blog or pictures from my blog.  I've been blogging for 6 1/2 years - 853 posts so there's a good chance Google will direct me to my own stuff since I find me so interesting :)

Today I'm making monterey jack cheese.  Those of you who make hard cheeses know it takes a long time to make but there's quite a bit of down time while waiting for cultures and rennet to do their jobs.  It's a very good excuse for me to waste time on my computer.  Stir curds, Google concrete sinks, stir curds some more, Google countertops.  Here's a concrete sink I'd like to make for our new bathroom.  Maybe not exactly this but something more free form than a typical sink.
I'm preparing now (lots of hours on Youtube) to rebuild a new concrete kitchen countertop with an integrated sink.  I made our countertops more than 10 years ago and they've been great but I know I can do a better job this time.  Also, after a year or so my kitchen sink got cracked and my countertop was built specifically for this sink.  It's not as easy as just installing a new one.  I think the original sink cost $800.00 and it now has risen to almost $1,700.00. I refuse to pay that for something that cracks so easily.  I tried tiling the bottom and sides of the sink but the grout is always dirty and tiles are constantly falling out.  I'm ready for something new and excited about working with concrete again.  Here are my concrete projects to date.  Remember this was 10+ years ago and my first attempts.
I think this round table was my next experiment.
Then our kitchen countertops.  Note, the cracked sink.

Lastly was our outdoor kitchen countertop and shelves around the pizza oven and bbq.
Looking at that last picture I see another project.  We're rebuilding the pergola.  We're just waiting for the cedar to dry before replacing the above 2X6s.  It smells heavenly just outside our back door.  Mmmmm, cedar.  Can you smell it?
One more thing about concrete.  Yesterday I helped with a really cool concrete bar.  My friends Jane and Shep Rouse own Rockbridge Vineyard.  They've added on a larger tasting room  The cool thing about the space is they've taken down the old silo to bar height and put a round countertop on it.  I was so excited to play a very little part in it.
Here's Jane vibrating the bubbles out of the concrete using an old sawzall without the blade.  I can't wait to see it when it's done.
My cheese is almost ready for the press and I'm about to write up my list of things to buy at Lowes so I can get my hands dirty.  I can't wait.  Oh my, where has the day gone?

Sunday, November 8, 2015


For months now something has been digging tunnels inside my milking barn.  The critters were leaving big holes everywhere with big piles of dirt beside them.  They've dug a tunnel so deep under the spot I sit when I milk that I've had to fill it with 2X6's.

I've seen mice in the barn but never anything bigger.  It wasn't until a few weeks ago when something ate its way through Rubbermaid feed bins that I decided I needed to put a stop to the destruction once and for all.  I built a trap out of a 5 gallon bucket with a soda bottle covered with peanut butter.  The idea was for the pest to climb onto the bottle to get the peanut butter and fall into the bucket of water when the bottle spun.  The first morning when I checked the trap I saw whatever it was had licked all the peanut butter off the bottle without ever having stepped on it.  I figured it must be pretty big.
Next I set up a trail cam to see if I could get some pictures of it.  I also set a regular spring loaded rat trap.  The next morning I found a very large rat in the trap (not the bucket) and when I looked at the pictures on the trail cam I saw the dead rat in the trap and another large rat walking nearby.  I've now caught 3 rats in the spring traps and none in the bucket.  I wonder how many more I'll catch.  It's disgusting.  When the goats walk in to be milked they seem a bit leery and look around the space.  I'm sure they've seen the rats.  Not only did the rats do lots of damage but Keri goes nuts digging for them and leaves even bigger holes.

Some other pests are of my own making.  We have about 24 chickens who follow us everywhere we go looking for handouts.  I had to stop feeding Bug (our cat) on the patio because the chickens were eating her food.  They poop all over the patio and when it rains they sit on the steps by the back door.
One day I heard soft knocking on the door and when to see if someone was here only to find a chicken pecking the door.  I'm sure she was asking to come in out of the rain.
If we don't close the door tight they walk right in the house.  Yogi and the chicken were both curious about the other.  It was actually quite cute.
Also cute is the way my animals share food and milk.
 Notice the one spotted "goat".

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Olga's makeover

Several years ago I gave Olga to James for Christmas.  She's been watching over his gardens for a long time and the stress of it has weathered her, poor girl.
 So sad.
Well, today she got a makeover and she's holding her head much higher because of it.
She wasn't comfortable with the blond wig because she remembered what rain did to her brown one so we came up with a better idea.

Olga is looking so fierce, no one will mess with James' garden now.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Ready for Halloween a little early

Gosh, I can't believe I haven't blogged in 25 days.  Just building the suspense for Halloween, I guess.  After Christmas, this is probably my favorite holiday.

Animals are so much funnier in costumes than humans. The fact that they trust me and let me make them look adorable makes it that much more special.  This year it was harder coming  up with ideas.  Also, I didn't get any cow or pig photos, which was disappointing.  I did, however, get some cute pictures of Baxter.  Of all the animals, he's the perfect mannequin.  If I needed to try out a costume I put it on him first because he stood very still until I got things just right and took a picture.   Here we have Ladybug Baxter.
And loofah Baxter
Rex was also a pretty good sport.  I don't know what he is, but he sure looks happy.
The donkeys are just happy for attention no matter what I do to them.  Willo looks very sophisticated in cap and gown, doesn't she?
As long as there was food to eat the goats were fine with letting me strap this or that on.  Mrs. Butterworth couldn't decide on the angel or ladybug costume so I let her pose in both.

I think Luti rocked the loofah and shower cap.
But mine was more colorful.
 And I'm much more of a showoff.
No costume for Cooper this year but a little buck shaming seemed appropriate for him.
Not to be left out, even one of the chickens was in the Halloween spirit.  She asked for a little candy corn but it was way past her bedtime and she'd already brushed her beak so no candy for her.
I'm not sure what to think of this last character.

I have so many favorite pictures of him I didn't know which ones to post.
Happy Halloween, everyone.

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Raisa chose to have her baby during the threat of hurricane Joaquin.  Luckily we didn't get as much rain as was predicted and no heavy winds.  Lennon was born Oct. 2nd and hasn't seen a dry day yet.  Maybe tomorrow he'll discover what sunshine is.  He's a real sweetie and so far loves being scratched and cuddled.  Raisa doesn't mind me snuggling with him but she's not at all happy about Keri and Rex getting too close.  Today she seemed less nervous with them around.  Papa is pretty protective of him too.  After I laid on the ground with him for 10 minutes Papa came over to sniff him and tell him to get up and go to mom, which Lennon did.

I was kind of hoping for a girl but another boy is ok.  One year we'll get a heifer.