Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Looking for Sunshine

It was like a phantom limb. All day, I was putting on the emergency brake that wasn't there and trying to shift a car that has automatic transmission. Seeing a stop ahead, I pushed the clutch to the floor, only it wasn't the clutch, it was the brake, causing Anna to grab the "oh, crap" handle. I suppose it will only take a few days to adjust to driving ol' Eugene again.

There are signs of spring. Roxie the miniature horse tried to rub off her hide in the barn yesterday, a sure sign of shedding. Taking a comb, I was able to remove several pounds of hair from her backside. There is mud everywhere. And yet, looking out the window, snowflakes are peacefully floating to the ground. At least, it would be peaceful if eight year olds were calm and quiet in the morning.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Navigation

Would it be too much to expect a little feedback? A "jolly good" or "brilliant turn"? I would even accept negative comments such as "you bloody idiot, I said turn left". But Mildred remains silent, unless she is "recalculating". Mildred, being our borrowed GPS system during our travels this weekend to yet more college auditions for Lauren. Mildred, if you haven't noticed, is British.

Could they not make these systems a bit more entertaining? I mean, you're in the car for hours sometimes. Could Mildred not tell me a joke? Perhaps chide us for not trusting her and taking another route that makes me more confident? "What, you don't trust me?" I trusted her yesterday, taking a "short cut" that took me off the highway and onto state highways, twisting and turning, and turning again. In the dark. No, Mildred, you don't always know best. Still, Lauren punched buttons and fed back to me information such as our arrival time, and it did help when we mistakenly put in the address at the 500 block instead of the 5000 block. Mildred got us out of the inner city.

Sometimes, we would change Mildred into Lola. "Recalulando!" Now, in Googling this, I see that one can sometimes record voices and sayings into the GPS. One guy programmed Karen, his Australian guide to say "Oh dear! You have gone astray". Well, I have to return this to it's rightful owner when our travels are over, so perhaps I shouldn't fool with it. What a surprise it would be to my mother (Mildred's owner) when Mildred cusses her!

I did not take Eugene (our aging van) on the trip, fearing it would just be too much for him. Instead, we took dh's car "Rex" with a manual transmission. Now, I've owned sports cars before with a manual transmission, so I wasn't completely out of the water, but was not thrilled to run into Friday rush hour traffic in a larger city and negotiating around three accidents. The constant shifting was getting to me. Less than subtle, I nearly popped a wheelie one time, throwing Lauren into paroxysms of laughter.

In case you were wondering, my dear daughter is auditioning to become a piano performance major and is doing quite well, thank you. We've enjoyed traveling together, comparing the schools and our insights into what it would be like to attend there. Not allowed to watch the auditions nor having to take placement tests, I have confined my observations to the quality of their coffee and toilet paper and perhaps how I like the buildings. From college to college, they are so very different. More on that another day.

Notes
Happy, Happy Birthday to my Baby Boy! You have brought nothing but joy to us!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Being Catty

Many men claim to not like cats, but I've got your number. It's because of the litter box. Jack, a red tabby who is very old, cleared the room (so to speak) the other day. I was, of course, notified. Why not just take care of it? Well, "I never wanted cats in the first place!"

But it is not true of all men. The sweet cat to the left belongs to my father-in-law when he is not enjoying the sunshine of Florida. And in dh's defense, he showed his undying love for me by cleaning the cat box each time I was pregnant. Even though he didn't want cats.
Notes:
Last night, the black hen, Aunt Mary, got up off her nest of nine eggs and abandoned them. One was broken and showed no development. I've not candled the others yet to see if they were at least developing some. Was it too cold? Interestingly, it was 21 days exactly. Can she count?

Each morning, there are two starlings in the dog cage where we keep the white silkie rooster. We open the door, and in a panic, they escape. The chickens do not seem to mind their wild companions, even sharing the food bowl. I will have to do a major cleanup of the barn come spring, for the starlings leave behind a great mess.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gender Issues

Lauren mused that her friends frequently named their musical instruments and that she should name our piano. Since it was made in Japan, I suggested Michiko, a common Japanese girl name.

"It's a boy," she said solemnly.

"A boy? How do you know?"

"It would just be too weird to be running my fingers up and down a girl."

Bird Leaves

Birds filled the ash tree outside our house as I sat having tea with a friend. They kept coming, more and more, filling the bare tree until it looked like fluffy leaves were growing on it in the dead of winter.

They were robins! What were robins doing here? Are they not spring birds? Is spring around the corner? Please God.

It turned out that the tree was the waiting area for your turn at the holly bush at the corner of the house. It was a boiling mass of birds, flapping and grabbing, eating the red berries. Soon, the bush was stripped and the birds left. I wonder where they are headed?

Notes:
Always have an extra heat lamp on hand for the chickens, so that when one burns out, you don't find yourself at Walmart at 9 PM.

Today or tomorrow is the day that the chicks will hatch, if they will

I am asked about the horses. We've been leaving them in. It is too cold (23F), wind blowing, and up to their knees, higher on Jorgen and the minis, and there is no point. They just stand at the round bale and eat anyway. We do let them romp in the paddock while we clean stalls. Maybe I'll get a video of that.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

As promised, here is dh's recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup:

Soup ingredients:

1 onion chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
1 - 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
48 oz. chicken broth
1 - 16 oz. bag of frozen corn
1 - 4 oz. can chopped green chiles
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (or equivalent dried)
2 boneless chicken breast halves, cooked and cut into bite size pieces.

1. In medium pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil. Stir in spices, broth and tomatoes. Bring to boil, then simmer 10 minutes.

2. Add corn, chile peppers, and chicken. Simmer 10 more minutes.

Serve with tortilla chips, sliced avocado, sour cream, shredded Monterey Jack cheese, chopped green onions, and if you are snowed in like me, a giant margarita.


Someone Has Moved Me To Alaska Without My Permission




video

video

Monday, February 15, 2010

Snow Much


Lauren's Recital



Lauren plays "Les Adieux" (Beethoven) February 14, 2010

Matrimonily Correct

It wasn't that I was jealous or anthing. She wasn't that pretty, but she was thin, and the go-go boots (a term that firmly sets how old I am) were hot. Her plaid skirt was short, almost shorter than the red scarf that hung down from her neck. Had she been going to a PTA meeting, all the moms would have been snitting to each other behind their hands. But it wasn't a PTA meeting, and she was up on the altar, a communion minister.

"Did you see the woman at church?" I asked dh.

"Which woman?" he asked cautiously.

"The one with the boots," I answered descriptively. "And the skirt."

"Oh, that woman. yes." Of course, he knows to carefully pick his way around the eggshells strewn through this conversation - acknowledging that I am right- that she was inappropriately dressed to be on the altar - yet not admitting that her attire was at all, shall we say, intriguing. "I was thinking the same thing as you," he said. "Honestly."

My dh is so smart.

Notes:
It snows more. People: get a new joke. We all know the irony of the snowfall and global warming.

This week was most stressful, and at the same time, rewarding. It is the season of endings and beginnings. Lauren continues to audition at colleges, looking for her new life. Anna was recognized by nearby city's visual artist association as an "emerging artist". Recitals, family visits, field trip. All good.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Sinking Feeling

You never know what you'll get out of a field trip, and what memories you will retain. I'll remember the doors closing on the elevator and the laughter as I warned our packed group of twenty-three, "Don't anyone fart." (That was for the benefit of the boys.) I realized that I missed scuba diving, a wistful feeling, something I've not done in years. The name "Major Archibald Butt", whose crew must have had to call him "Major Butt". I wondered if his son was "Harry".

Still, it is somber experience to see the artifacts of the Titanic and realize, that although it was just a plate or toothbrush, some person that lived and died on that boat had used it. Some placards talked about how children were separated from parents, put in another boat. How terrifying. And of course, the heart wrenching separation of husband and wife.

Speaking of separation, I found this in the barn. No body was found.

The starlings are back. One seems to have misplaced his leg. Each night, they gather in the barn or get up into the heat lamp of the chicken coop. Each morning, they fly out the barn door, or run stupidly into the rafters of the barn.

A glacier has formed on our metal barn roof and has begun to slowly move. Icicles hanging down have turned inward on the barn as a result of the weight of the snow. The snow threatens the barn with its sharp points.


Snowy afternoon

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Cold


Children nowadays don't get the opportunity to do as much meaningful work as their forefathers did: chopping wood, gathering eggs, naturally feeling an integral part of the success and survival of the family. It's good for a boy to carry wood.


I've taught a friend of mine a little too well that duct tape can be used in almost any situation. Knowing that we rarely get enough snow to warrant buying snow pants or snow boots, she didn't, thereby ensuring that we'd get loads of it. It's her fault that my property is now two feet under. Her boy, pictured above, loves, as boys do, to play in the snow. It is very cold and when the pants get wet, it is colder still. What to do? Buy snow pants? Of course, if she did, the snow would immediately disappear. Duct tape! She took a pair of old sweat pants and covered them with duct tape. Instant redneck, hillbilly snow pants! They worked great. I'm a bad influence.

Notes to self:
If the forecast is for lots of snow, buy hay and chicken feed BEFORE it snows.

Happy Birthday to dh. You'll never catch up to me, though! Love you!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Louise the Lettuce Thief

video

Yesterday, I heard a collective gasp from behind me. "SHE HAS THE NEW FACEBOOK!" my daughters protested. "No fair!"

Truthfully, I couldn't tell the difference until they pointed out that my many unanswered notices were now at the top or something. I don't pay attention anymore. Facebook changes its "look" more than apparently some women change their bras. (If you are that woman, I don't know you.) I usually only check it once a day, so I'm not sure how I rated this special treatment. Some people are just blessed that way.

Notes:
I've figured out how to fix my problem with scheduled posts !!! Yes! Now I more consistently blog.

Somehow, Aunt Mary (bantam hen) got locked out of the barn today, perhaps as early as noon. If so, the eggs may have gotten too cold. They're not due until Ash Wednesday. If they don't hatch we'll have to try again. Dh says Aunt Rita NEVER would have left the nest to eat. Fail! Lauren feels badly, but dh says no, it was Aunt Mary's fault.

As you saw in the video, Louise really likes lettuce. She steals it from the scraps for the chickens. I guess she needs more greens in her diet.

Expecting 3 -4 inches of snow tonight. Stupid groundhog.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

In Which I Make a Total Fool of Myself

My hands shook a bit as I took the syringe and jabbed it into the breast of the chicken. I tried to depress the plunger, but couldn't get it to budge.

"Mom, I don't think you even got it through the skin," Lauren observed. Sure enough, it was just through the feathers and pushing on the skin. Chicken skin is tough.

I pinched the chest skin and carefully inserted the needle. The syringe held enough of a drug to sedate a 1200 pound horse, left from Bay's fatal colic. I never got to use it on him. Surely, if it would sedate a horse, it would euthanize a chicken. I needed to dispose of the drug safely, and I needed to put this chicken out of her misery. Using the drug, I could kill two birds with one stone. (Sorry, it was an unavoidable pun.)

I was, in fact, a little nervous using it, having heard about a man who almost lost a finger after accidentally injecting himself. But still, the syringe would not work. I pulled it out. Dang. The needle was bent. Plan B. Remove the needle and push the liquid down her throat.

Removing the needle, I pried open her beak, and the liquid leaked out (I never could get the plunger to move). I'm not sure how much the chicken got, but a couple of cc's went on my hand. As I washed my hand, I looked over at the chicken. Absolutely no effect. I decided to go down to the house to wash up better. While walking, I began to wonder to myself if I could in fact absorb some of the sedative myself through skin. And I began to panic.

At the house, I began to feel a bit weird, like one does shortly before passing out. What had I done? My hands tingled. We should go to the emergency room, I decided, just in case. My mouth was dry, my throat felt tight. My heart pounded. As we drove, I finally had the foresight to call the equine vet. He laughed. Laughed! He'd had this stuff on him many times, and as long as I had promptly washed it, I would be fine.

I told dh to pull over to the Stuff Mart and get me a bottle of water. While he went in, I practiced my old scuba diving techniques of calming myself and controlling my heart and breathing. I had just freaked myself out. I drank the water, and after taking two years off dh's life, I was okay. We turned around and went home.

Lauren and dh later reminded me that I had two Excedrin in my system to fight a terrible sinus headache, and I'd already told both it had made me a bit dizzy and shaky. My slight cold had made my throat sore all week. It wasn't the horse drug. Still, it was a stupid thing to do. Headlines: Woman dies trying to kill a chicken.

In case you are wondering about the poor chicken in my account of "poor me", she had septic peritonitis, I think. She hadn't layed in years, and wasn't egg bound. She smelled like death. By yesterday, her eyes were closed, and she was not eating, hardly moving, but surprisingly her head was alert. Hard to euthanize something that still seems aware. But I think she was in pain.

So, today, at the advice of my cousin-in-law, I bought a can of starter fluid (after showing my ID - cough). It's made of ether. I sprayed the whole can in a plastic container with a lid and put in my sad chicken. Internet sources said she'd be asleep three minutes later, dead in thirty. FIFTEEN minutes later, the chicken sat looking around when I peeked. Will nothing kill the chicken??? I carried the container down to the house to shorten my distance to checking on her, perhaps stirring up the ether, which tends to sink and perhaps wasn't reaching her beak. She started dozing. And now, she is at the big coop in the sky. May she rest in peace.

Cauna lived at least six, maybe seven years and delighted us with double yolked eggs now and again that were the biggest eggs I've ever seen in my life from a chicken, and I thank her for that.

Notes:
My studies on how to humanely kill a chicken also revealed that I was indeed responsible for a chickie death. The chickie had lopped off its toe somehow, and thinking to clean it, I sprayed first aid spray on it which contains benzocaine, lethal to chickens. I didn't know. Well, that also might be a way to dispatch a chicken.

It is Super Bowl Sunday. I am going to play Scrabble with the girls and if you want to know my favorite team, you'll first have to tell me who is playing.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

A Hidden World


8 a.m. this morning

"Mom, did you know that there are more dust mites in a house than people on the whole planet?" William mused while we drove one day. (In my house, I believe it.) This comes from watching science shows on TV rather than Spongebob. "They eat nothing but skin cells. Do you think they get tired of eating only skin cells?"

Honestly, that is something I had never contemplated: the boring diet of the lowly dust mite.

"Perhaps," I ventured, "each person's skin has a different taste for variety. And maybe different places on the body have a different taste."

As soon as I said that, I knew I'd headed down the wrong cart path.
"Yeah, like smelly armpit skin! How about skin from corns on feet? Or, how about butt skin?" Okay, time to redirect the conversation as we discussed the color of mites, how many legs, why they have so many legs, if you could see them with the naked eye, how long they live.........

Notes:
Lauren's audition at a college was canceled yesterday. Snow. See photo.
Anna was hoping to go to art class today. See photo.

I finally made sour sourdough. The secret seems to be not to rush. It takes more than one day to let the starter work.

Note to self: when making Tortilla Soup, diced jalapenos are not the same thing as diced green chilis. HOT!


Friday, February 05, 2010

Through the Looking Glass

video

From the fish's perspective.



Lauren has been multi-tasking lately, preparing for college auditions, school work, and a multitude of other activities. I knew it had taken a toll when she asked me if I knew where the "pole huncher" was. (Hole puncher, in case you are also on overload.) Laughing at dinner, Anna said, "That just sounds wrong!" William picked up on our mirth and began talking, "It's like you hunch your pole. Get it?" He did not, and thought our mirth was a direct result of what he was saying, rather than the fact he had no idea how what he was saying sounded. He kept at it, moving the words around to see the comedic effect, all the while not understanding why we were laughing. Finally, we got control and told him to STOP!

This reminds me of hearing that recently, the girls watched the movie Aladdin with William. After, they told me how much they enjoyed seeing it now, realizing how much had gone over their heads when they had watched it as children.

Notes:
Lauren and I are supposed to go to a music school audition tomorrow. They are expecting, however, 8-12 inches of snow. I'm not quite used to driving under such conditions.

Here, it is raining. The sound of it on the tin roof of the barn is very comforting. The horses stay in, munch their hay and stay out of the cold. The chickens keep them company.

Ah, trip cancelled. I will read to William and enjoy the rain.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Change the World with Facebook

Thousands of teens are spending brain cells this week searching the bandwidths for photos of famous people who they resemble. I first heard it from my teens who said they were, I thought, looking for a doppelwanger. They fell down laughing. Not a doppelwanger, they said. A doppelganger. How was I to know? Do I speak German? Anna again had to fall to the ground when I mistakenly referred to one photo of "Keith Ledger". What? Oh, yeah, Heath. Do I spend my days memorizing celebrity names? No. Anyway, I feel like Snape, and some mornings, look like him, too. Not exactly a flattering profile photo.

Recently, the Facebook craze was posting your bra color. If only we could get all this thought and brain power directed to world peace or writing music or doing HOMEWORK! Okay, I've just lost all my young adult readers, so I'll let you go laugh at the old lady.

BTW, doppelwanger is a real word having something to do with wallets or something really dirty, which is what my daughters said it sounded like.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

"Ain't No Thing But a Chicken Wing"

"The capstone on my grave will say I was downed by a slimy green turd," complained dh at dinner tonight. His complaint was the "presents" left by our free-ranged chickens who roost in the barn. The world is their toilet, and they often leave droppings on the concrete. All of us who do barn chores know the heart dropping feeling of our feet slipping out from under us, only to catch ourselves but wrenching our backs in the process. I guess you had to be there, but we all bonded with our mutual bad luck of nearly cracking our skulls, nearly killed by a chicken.

Perhaps I could solve this problem, I mused. Lester Rooster has turned mean. I mean, really mean. He hadn't been, up until the day he ran up Lauren's back as she bent to fill the food dish. Surprised her a bit. After that day, he began attacking everyone, meaning me and Lauren. Except for a little concern for my eyes, I'm not afraid of him. In fact, I'm pretty good at catching him by his legs as he leaps up. Hanging him by his legs, his hen came to attack me in his defense. SO, Lester has to go. I'm sure someone wants Chicken-n-Dumplin's for Sunday dinner (don't tell William).

If Lester goes, Simon Peter (Rooster) can have the coop with all the hens but the bantams, who can have the smaller chicken tractor. Voila! No attacks by the rooster, and no cracked skulls on the concrete.

I must also find a home for Judas, the silkie rooster who is supposed to be a silkie hen. Judas is too small to let out with the other chickens, and is lonely. How do we know? Lauren reports he thinks her black glove is a bantam hen, if you know what I mean. Time to find him a home. Or maybe he can have the black bantams I have as his girls, but no babies! I don't need more chickens!

Aunt Rita's sister, who I guess should be Aunt Mary (since my Aunt Rita's sister was Mary and this hen is my hen Aunt Rita's sister), is sitting on 9 full sized eggs for a friend of mine. One week down, two to go.

And Cauna hangs in there, a very old chicken with a swollen abdomen. My Internet search indicated that she could die any day, but found a reference to a hen who lived with this condition for 3 years! Please, no. Not much to do though. I guess in the wild, the 'possums would have taken care of her.

Epitaph for a chicken farmer:

Here he lies,
Now he's dead,
Slipped on a chicken turd
And cracked his head.

I guess I better do something about the chickens.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Wilson lives in a jar on my kitchen counter top. I have to remember to feed him (her?) every two weeks or so, but lately it has been daily as I try to discover the secret of the sour in sourdough. Wilson is my sourdough starter, named for the volleyball "friend" in the movie "Castaway" with Tom Hanks. (My girls named it.)

I'm up five extra pounds trying to capture the true sour taste. Although the starter works and produces marvelous loaves of bread, only one so far was actually sour enough for me and I'm not sure what I did that time.

My sister accused me of sending her anthrax through the mail, because when I ordered Wilson, who is free of charge for a self-addressed stamped envelope, I put an envelope in for her as well. I thought it would at least come with some explanation. Rather, it came with a baggie of white powder and a sticker with the website, prompting her phone call. She'd recognized my handwriting, so if I do indeed decide to send a less benign mailing, I'll have to cut the letters out of a magazine and paste them on the envelope.

Wilson has an impressive genealogy, tracing his roots back to the Oregon Trail. You can order free Wilson online to make your own starter. Yet, there doesn't seem to be much difference between him and the sourdough starter that I made myself last year from wild yeast in the air. I'll keep trying, but in the meantime, that sour smell in my house? It isn't from old dishrags. It's just Wilson.

Notes
That old hen is still alive. Amazing. She's looking pitiful though.
Lester the Rooster has turned mean. Anyone want him to eat?

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