Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thankfulness XVI

This will be my last daily "Thankfulness" post, since it is the last day of November. Just in time for December, the weather turned cold, and it's been snowing on and off since I got up this morning. It is nice and warm inside, however, since I have fires crackling in BOTH wood stoves. It is lovely to have the temperature inside hovering around 70, when outside it plunged to 34. I am very thankful for the "free heat" that the wood stoves provide.

December is turning out to be an extremely busy month. I'm trying to prepare myself, but I'm still not ready to drag out the holiday ornaments and put up the tree. I will put up the girls' Playmobile advent calendar tonight though.

The girls are begging for me to read Christmas books with them, so I must run. I hope that you all took the time to think about those things that you were grateful for this month. It definitely kept me in a better frame of mind...most of the time!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thankfulness XV

After another treadmill workout this morning, the girls and I buckled down and worked hard. We got all our school work done before lunch, and I actually got to work this afternoon with a few minutes to spare!

After a busy day at the office, it was wonderful to come home to my family! We worked together to get dinner on the table, then watched a movie together in front of a crackling fire in the family room.

Tonight I am thankful for harmony at home. It doesn't happen all the time that all the pieces fall into place like this, but it is blissful when it does.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kali's Big Day

Both JP and Dad were out hunting this morning. JP had his walkie talkies turned on in the house, so I got to hear about the experiences of the group hunting with our neighbors. One of them got a 4 point buck, only legal because of 3 tines on one side, and one an 8 point. One of them cut his forehead because his scope was too close when he fired (I have the greatest of sympathy for him, having had a similar experience in the past.) One guy suggested that they give up and go golfing. Personally, I decided not to go out today. This first week is for antlered deer only, and I very rarely see bucks up here. I'll try to slip out next week when I can work on decreasing the female population.

Poor Kali is sound asleep on the couch. She had quite a day today! I confused her right off the bat by not letting her go on a walk this morning, but hurried her out to pee in the backyard, then rushed her right back in. I walked on the treadmill this morning, which was only recently moved from the garage into the house. (I need to photo document the garage project at some point...)

Kali, instead, played with these 3 cuties today.



She got a complete make-over!



After dinner this evening, L went out with Kali and I to empty the compost bucket. It was pitch black, but I had my head light on, the bucket in one hand, and L's hand in the other. Kali went tearing off, completely thrilled to be able to run around outside. On our way back the the house, we suddenly heard a CRASH as Kali ran head first into the metal fencing around my flower bed. She fell down and rolled down the hill in the mud. The poor thing came limping up to us, muddy and embarrassed.

After we sponged her off with warm water, and checked her for boo-boos, Kali seemed to be feeling pretty much back to normal. It wasn't long afterwards, however, that I finished her coat that I had been working on all day. I meant to get this done BEFORE hunting season started, but I am thankful that it is finally done, after sitting on my desk for about 3 months, for the SECOND day of rifle season. Of course, I made her model it, which seemed to cause even more embarrassment. In fact, she felt so awkward in it that she tried to walk as little as possible while wearing it, and then did so in a stiff legged gait.



That wasn't the end of the torture for poor Kali,she got her hair brushed and her teeth brushed as well! As you can see in the picture above, we know it is time to get her trimmed when we can no longer identify her eyes. It's time.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thankfulness XII & XIII

It is one month exactly until L's birthday. A lot is going on in that 4 weeks...J's violin recital, hunting season, the Christmas Parade, at least 5 Doctor appointments, decorating for Christmas, sending Christmas cards, Christmas, and hopefully somewhere, a birthday party for L. Poor thing, her birthday is during the busiest time of the year, and often overlooked. The problem this year is trying to find time for a party when all of her friends will actually be around and before the driveway is impassable by those without 4WD.

Kali and I took our walks yesterday and today. Now we will be stuck inside for a few weeks except for the necessary stuff. SIGH.

This is what I was thankful for yesterday. Can you see it back there?



One last, lonely zinnia smiling out of my otherwise sleeping flower bed.



Today I am thankful for these ladies.



Even though we are only getting one or two eggs a day now, look at the results of a season's worth of chicken poo on the yard. You can tell that the grass is thicker and darker green in the places that I've been pulling the coop up and down for the past several months.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankfulness XI

Black Friday was a brilliantly sunny day. The hens got a chance to scratch in the garden. I found an egg out there when I rounded them up to herd them back to their coop, the first time that has ever happened!

Kali and I need to get our morning walks in. We only have 2 days left until we can't walk for a while due to hunting season.

The girls bundled their baby dolls up into the red wagon and took them out for some fresh air.

I shredded about 8 pounds of pork and seasoned it for tamales, we are planning to make them tomorrow.

Today I am thankful for blue skies and mild weather. I'm sure that these days are numbered before the cold of winter sets in and grey skies prevail. I am saving the sunshine up in my pocket. I'll let a little bit out every day in February so that I won't shrivel up and implode in the grey-ness.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Count Your Blessings

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm feeling full, warm and loved this evening. We watched "White Christmas" this afternoon. Now I have the song running through my mind: "...If you're worried, and you can't sleep, try counting your blessings instead of sheep. Then you'll fall asleep counting your blessings!"

Today I am thankful for many things. I'm thankful for the delicious meal we enjoyed this afternoon. I enjoyed cooking it, running out to my garden bed several times for fresh thyme. I'm thankful that the girls played nicely together all day. I'm thankful that we sat together this morning to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for awhile.

Most of all, I am thankful for my friends and family. Several friends and several family members took the time today to send messages to me, wishing us a wonderful day, and expressing thankfulness for our friendships and family ties. I sent nothing to anyone. This doesn't mean that I didn't think about how much I appreciate all those special people in my life, I did, many times.

So this is it! This is the message to tell all of you out there whom I love so much (and you know who you are) that I am thankful for each of you more than I can express in words. Some of you are my family by birth or marriage, and some of you became my family when I had none close to me. All of you are dear, appreciated and loved.




I hope you all are also feeling warm, full and loved this evening. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Moooooove Over!

We only had a half day of school today, the first time in the 4 years we've been doing cyber school that we ever had a half day scheduled! I was extremely glad to knock off early and defrost my deep freeze downstairs.

I have been working over the past 2 weeks to clean out this deep freeze a bit. The upstairs one is chock full of fruit and veggies: black raspberries, strawberries, peaches, applesauce, freezer jam, corn, beans and pumpkin. I had several 7 pound chickens that ended up too dry when I roasted them, so over the past several days, I cooked 2 of them in the crock pot, picked out the bones, and currently 8 pints worth of chicken meat and broth are pressure canning on the stove.

This morning, I removed the remaining items to ice chests, and defrosted and wiped down the freezer. All this was in preparation of the arrival today of a quarter of a steer, raised by a friend of mine in Greene County. Now my downstairs freezer is jam-packed with beef! I took inventory of my shelves of canned goods and the full freezers, and felt my chest swell with pride and satisfaction. I am thankful today for this ample supply of food that my family will enjoy for the next year.

In addition, I can't express how thankful I am for a break from Cyber School for the next 5 days! It is much needed and was much anticipated.

Now it is time to bake some pies. Have a wonderful holiday with your loved ones this week!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Do-Over

Yesterday was not a stellar day, as you might have surmised from my post last night. I am not feeling well, and consequently have less tolerance for things that don't go the way I'd like. Both girls, especially L, apparently woke up on the "wrong side of the bed" (J tells me that L always gets out of bed on the same side every day!) They were both quarrelsome and short tempered as well. J had several episodes where she stomped off to grumble about how unfair Mommy's rules are. I texted JP several times, urging him to come home quickly before I ran away or did something else equally irresponsible.

This morning, I awoke to another grey, chilly, rainy day, but this time I was thankful for the chance to start over. Each day gives me another opportunity to either make up for the day before, finish what I've started, or make beautiful memories. I'm aiming for the latter.

I had meant to write a post about the barn cats, Bert and Ernie, yesterday before everything went terribly awry. Every morning I find a rodent or two on the veranda, gifts from the kitties, I believe. I am extremely thankful that the kitties are keeping our home rodent free. Yesterday I found gifts of a tiny shrew and a frog, so they are apparently keeping the amphibians at bay as well.

Over

I am thankful that this day is over.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thankfulness V & VI

I want to quickly post the things I was thankful for over the weekend before I fall asleep. I didn't sleep well this weekend because I have a cold and sinus congestion that makes it difficult to breathe easily. I pulled muscles in my back yesterday while moving the chicken coop...I think it weighs somewhere around 400 pounds. This evening, JP and I watched "Sense and Sensibility" while I leaned against a heating pad. I got so comfy that I started nodding off toward the end of the movie.

Yesterday, I was thankful for continuing good weather. It was very blustery up on the ridge, but sunny enough to allow me to let the chickens into the garden and clean out their coop while they were busy scratching in the dirt. There wasn't any way for them to get out of the wind in the garden, however, and all the Sisters were eager to return to their clean coop in a few hours. I'm not sure how much longer I will be able to hose down the hen house without risking frostbite and icicles.

This morning I was thankful for the opportunity to sleep in a bit. Miss J had woken early (she does this every day that she does not have school...school days are a different matter!) and drawn a picture that she was very proud of. She crawled into bed beside me at 8:30 and fidgeted until I got up so she could show it off. Even so, I still got an extra hour to slumber than I do during the week.

Tomorrow is my extra clinic day for the month, and I am not looking forward to the crazy morning. I am no longer thinking clearly, and need to reclaim that skill before I head to the office, so I am calling it a day!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Little Bird!

Today I am thankful for my oldest child, a 9 year old who is the most trying, sweetest, brightest, most beautiful child ever...with the exception of my youngest child. She was SO excited for her birthday party tonight, that she was up at first daylight, ready to start.

She invited 4 of her friends for dinner and a sleepover, all of whom are lovely young ladies. They started by painting each other's toenails, and ended in a pile on the floor of the family room downstairs, completely exhausted from dancing to ABBA and chattering for the past 5 hours!

J wanted a treasure map cake this year, after seeing an example in one of my Family Fun magazines, so I gave it a try. I used an excellent recipe that I tried a few weeks back for Chocolate Peanut Butter cupcakes.



I thought it turned out well, especially the tiny treasure chest and parrots.



At this very moment, I am thankful that all 6 beautiful girls in our house tonight are sleeping peacefully, with ABBA songs dancing through their dreams.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thankfulness III

I'm having a hard time feeling thankful for anything this morning. It's been one of those mornings. You know, the kind where the kids are grouchy and slouching around, you are running way behind schedule and haven't even had a shower, and the coffee is taking way TOO long to be ready. Oh wait, is that every morning?

I couldn't get a fire started in the chilly house this morning. For some reason, it is next to impossible to light a fire in the woodstove when the stove is cold. JP tells me that it has something to do with the flue and how it doesn't draw, but blow when it's cold. Having passed Physics in college, I feel like I have some sort of idea that it's all related somehow, but it's a bit foggy. I surprised myself by lighting a fire right up yesterday afternoon in front of my friend, no doubt I appeared incredibly adept at homesteading at that moment.

Twenty minutes after trying to get the blasted thing going this morning, I gave up. JP took over and finally got it blazing. (I'm sure that I set the stage for his great success.) In any case, my morning walk was cut short by 15 minutes, and I didn't get a shower because I spent so long kneeling on the cold, glass hearth this morning.

Today, I am thankful for this little woodstove that is a pain in the &*^%$ sometimes. I think back to that long, cold, dark February week 2 years ago when this stove was the only thing that allowed us to remain in our home when the power was out for 8 days. I remember L scurrying up the stairs with her clothes in her arms to get dressed for Preschool in front of the fire last winter. I relish the heat radiating out of it's little iron sides to take the chill off an Autumn night. I am looking forward to having another little stove warming up the school room downstairs!

It worked! I am already feeling warmer in my heart as well as my toes. Here's hoping the rest of the day goes more as planned!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thankfulness II

It was foggy this morning when Kali and I headed off on our morning walk. Because it is hunting season, and we are surrounded by avid hunters, we stick to a tried and true route that keeps us on our property for the entire 20 minute walk. This means that I take a narrow path between the trees that descends almost vertically for 50 feet, then takes an abrupt left at the bottom of the hill and widens into an almost flat road through the woods.

When I reached the bottom of the hill this morning, I could hardly recognize my surroundings! Kali knew by her nose that we were in the right place, as well as the number of deer that wandered along the path overnight. With the background of white fog, I could have thought that I had stepped into a black and white photograph if it weren't for the blanket of rust colored leaves covering the ground.

It looked completely different on my walk 2 days ago. At that time, the trees still clung to a few amber leaves, and emerald patches of grass peeked through the debris on the ground.

Today, I am thankful that I live in this place. On Poplar Ridge, every path holds a different surprise every day, and the beauty of all 4 seasons is on display just outside my window. Even though I complain about it, I enjoy working on our "farm". I love the fact that you can see the stars during the clear, quiet nights, and that we have found ways to co-exist with the deer who love this ridge top as much as I do.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thankfulness

Someone mentioned to me today that they were posting "30 Days of Thankfulness" on their Facebook page: one thing a day, all month long that they were thankful for. I don't do Facebook, but I am thankful for many, many things. Even though I'm starting late, I can still list something every day for the remainder of the month that I am thankful for...it could be a good exercise now that the sunshine disappears so early every evening.

Tonight I am thankful that I had nothing to do! This is big stuff here. Yesterday I completed every thing on my list, and was able to lounge in bed and read for fun for a while before getting to bed on time (another thing that doesn't happen very often.) This evening, the girls and I had to rush to a meeting, but after they went to bed, it was all free time...nothing pressing. It's a wonderful feeling!

Before I jinx it, I'm going to bed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Wooly Worms in the Woodpile

Another weekend has come and gone! We worked hard, and we took time for fun, too!

JP and I got the hearth and stove board that I tiled installed in the family room downstairs, brought the woodstove out of storage, and re-arranged in the storage area to keep cardboard boxes away from the area of the chimney pipes. Dad helped JP get the stove pipes installed.



We celebrated my Mom's birthday with a big ham dinner, cake and ice cream at our house.



The girls helped JP and I fill up the wood stack on the back veranda, and made a new stack in the covered window well near the main door. This will be for the stove downstairs, with easy access from the storage room.

I uncovered several rust and black striped Wooly Worms curled up in the wood pile. Supposedly the width of their stripes has some bearing on the coldness of the winter to come.

We met some friends to watch the movie, "Puss in Boots".

We also fit in our yearly Fall Family Photo shoot for "school" pictures for the girls, and a family pic for our yearly Christmas cards.



The next round of school and work is about to roll around once again in a few hours. And so it goes!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Twigs

I acquired a book of Haiku this Fall, that are translated from Japanese. I think a few of them may have lost some beauty in the translation, but I enjoyed these couple:

Of what use are twigs

but to sweep up a litter

of fallen petals?

-Buson

Poor crying cricket,

perhaps your little husband

was caught by our cat.

-Kikaku

I must go begging

for water...morning glories

have captured my well.

-Chiyo


This one is mine...


The Hunter's Moon gleams

white in the eyes of a herd

of cows in my yard.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bad Idea

We have a number of balding chickens at the moment. Every morning when I move the Chicken coop around, they leave behind a pile of feathers. (This picture isn't of my hen, by the way, mine don't look QUITE that bad!)



Apparently they are moulting, and apparently that is a sign of good layers. (I've been googling "bald chickens".) I can't really complain about their laying...all Spring and Summer we have averaged 7 egg/day from the 9 Sisters. What I read mentions "egg laying cycles" and when the hens reach the end of these cycles, all their feathers fall out, and they grow new ones.

J is quite concerned that they chose a cool-ish time of the year to go nekked. It is a bit disconcerting to see their pale, pimpled chicken skin out and about when I'm in my fleece in the mornings! This, like the reduction in their egg laying, is evidently linked to the decreasing daylight. They don't feed for as many hours daily, consequently have poorer nutrition, and loose their feathers. It all seems very sad, but moulting is apparently a natural phenomenon with birds.

I must say, the decreasing daylight is making me want to pull my own feathers out! The sky was getting dim-ish by the time I left work at 10 to 5 last evening, and pitch black by the time we arrived at the High School pool for some swimming time at 6:15. I'm hoping that I adjust to Daylight Savings Time before I'm tempted to start parading around with my pink, pimply bum hanging out!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Do You Read Me?

Where do the weekends go? I had much more on my to-do list that never actually happened!

I hadn't planned on cleaning out the garage, but my Dad asked us to clear out one half of it so that he can work on walls and ceiling this coming week. He has completed the insulation in the ceiling, and added on to the gas line over the past week. Today, JP and I moved the 10 foot workbench and 3 sets of shelving over toward one wall. In the process, we moved some things up to storage in the attic above the garage, and pitched a few things...definitely a profitable task overall! We were able to arrange things so that we can still fit both vehicles in, so no scraping of windows for us in the mornings! The bicycles have all moved to the barn for the time being, until we can hang them from the garage walls.

We got some target practice in, and JP and I both sighted in our rifles for hunting. I still need lots and lots of practice! I hold my breath when I aim and shoot, which JP tells me is a big no-no. The good news is that I no longer have a fear of getting slammed in the face and requiring sutures. The bad news is that I am still not too good of a shot. This makes me concerned about actually hunting. Will my conscience allow me to kill an animal when it comes right down to it? Ok...well, I know I can kill a mouse in cold blood, but haven't actually tried something bigger than a rodent. If I do attempt to shoot a deer, what it I hurt it, but don't kill it? So many issues to worry about! It will give me something to do since I'm no longer worrying about making it to soccer practice 3 nights a week!

The chickens had the run of the garden for most of the day yesterday. They had such a good time, that they tried to sneak out today while I was feeding them...the little rascals! They had a special treat this morning that they evidently enjoyed: cornmeal mush. I started making a pot full last night so that we could have fried mush for breakfast today, but half way through, I thought it smelled sort of stale. I put it in a pan for the chickens, and made another batch for us with new cornmeal. Those ladies gobbled it up as fast as I could toss it in their pen this morning!

The girls spent most of the weekend outdoors, and have slept wonderfully as a consequence. As another consequence, I have had piles of filthy clothes to wash! JP gave them an old set of walkie-talkies yesterday morning (thus the reference in the title today.) The girls set out with walkie talkies and back packs to roam all over the property, looking for "mysteries". I lowered them lunch in a bucket from the deck, which they carried along with them and snacked on all afternoon. I found them at one point climbing all over the pile of logs we have curing for next winter's fire wood.



Today they road their bikes in circles and figure 8's in front of the garage while JP and I worked. We had to break for a couple of bike wrecks. At one point I brought out a tray of crackers, cheeses and pineapple. We all descended on this like a flock of birds and picked the tray clean.

I have dried 3 loads of laundry on the line this weekend. I enjoy holding the clothes up to my face to inhale the smell of wild and free Poplar Ridge in the midst of folding. There is another load running now, to be ready to hang out in the morning. This one includes the back packs that went adventuring this weekend!

I need to go finish my last piece of mending and put the sewing machine away. The house cleaning will have to wait, as I'm too tired at the moment, and I still need to prep materials for school in the AM. Another weekend has come and gone. Even if we had nothing to show for it, we were able to spend time in the Fall sunshine, which will be just a delicious memory come dreary February.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One Fine Day (In which the van finally gets fixed, I am a bad farmer, J finishes a novel, and school continues to last forever)

There. That about says it all!

We also have tried to take advantage of the beautiful weather the past couple of days. Yesterday afternoon I drained all the water hoses, coiled them up and stored them in the barn for the winter. I covered the air conditioner. J and I found all the pigs in the flower gardens, cleaned them up, and stored them in the attic. I searched all around under both lean-to's with the giant magnet for stray nails and screws from construction. I blew all the leaves out from in front of the door and garage. It was all very satisfying.

This afternoon, I managed to grout the wall board that I tiled about 3 weeks ago. This will be afixed to the wall downstairs behind the woodstove that we will install in the family room. We also sat for an hour at the mechanics while they FINALLY finished fixing my van. I drove it away with no more screeching brakes or knocking struts. That too was satisfying.

Monday night I neglected to cover the peas. Tonight it is still in the 50's, so I will skip. they still have perky looking blossoms, although the greenery is somewhat wilted. I bought 2 - 50 pound bags of chicken feed at Agway this evening. When I took some out to the hens, they hopped off their perches, where they had settled for the night, and began gobbling. They had been down to mere dregs. I still don't completely have the hang of this farming thing!

J finished reading "Caddie Woodlawn" this week. She is finally beginning to read books that I consider to be of more substance. This summer she read "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe", "The Magician's Nephew", and "The Boy Who Ate Stars", by Kochka (translated from French, about a boy with autism). She spent last school year reading all 45 Magic Tree House books, so this is definitely a step up! I'm proud of her!

I am definitely enjoying the freedom from soccer this week, although we are still eating our dinner late, due to staying outside until dark and glitches in schedules that are beyond my control. At least I am feeling MUCH less stressed. The four of us laughed at dinner tonight, with Billy Joel playing in the background. The kids were acting goofy, and for a change, I laughed at them instead of grumbling...much more pleasant!

Schoolwork never seems to get finished, which is unchanged. I do feel, however, that we are finally getting "into a groove". Perhaps when we are grooving, it will go faster! We did have a good time dancing to Tchaikovsky with the dog during music class. At least we don't have any stupid pet pictures like these.

That's about it from Poplar Ridge this week.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Extracurricular Liberation Day

It is finally here! Starting tonight, I have no pressing evening activities to run to on a weekly basis. Well...until I start taking the girls to the pool once a week. Tonight, however, we plan to celebrate by having a Girls' Night. The girls and I will watch girlie princess movies and give each other pedicures and eat junk food while JP works late.

Our last scheduled activity of October was trick-or-treat. I very nearly cancelled, as it began sprinkling on our way to the small town we are invited to every year. The sprinkling occurred, on and off, for most of the night. It got heavier as we completed our 2 block circuit, which is when we usually head back anyway.



The girls picked out their costumes last year, and we bought them at Target for 80% off after Halloween 2010.



J was a Snow Princess, complete with luminescent skin and white eye make up.



L was a Southern Belle, with a beauty spot for good measure.

We got cold and damp, so hurried home to warm up by the fire afterward. As the girls were digging into their candy, I told them to slow down, "Only two pieces each!", I said.

"What?" JP countered, "It's Halloween!"

"Oh all right, 3 pieces." I conceded, while I tossed the remainder of last year's Halloween candy.

I'm such a softy!