Monday, April 29, 2013

Friends in Low Places

After I typed this title, I realized that it sounds bad, but I mean it in the best way possible.  These friends are the ones who get down in the leaf debris in the woods to search out morel mushrooms, and then share them with us.  For dinner tonight, we enjoyed a dozen or more morels, dipped in egg wash, rolled in Ritz cracker crumbs and Parmesan cheese, then browned in butter.  DEEEE-lightful!

Following our dinner, I visited my other friends in low places in the garden - the asparagus, which is popping up all over.  I will need to cut some tomorrow, before it gets too big!

They are several inches taller than they were on Saturday, when I spent hours and hours in low places, getting more and more discouraged.  I sat in the dirt and dug out miles and miles of sorrel and their blasted tentacle like roots.  I ran out of steam with about 50 square feet to go.  Since then, the rain has softened things up, so maybe it will go easier in the next day or two (if I can eke out some time!)

While I was digging this weekend, the girls practiced riding bikes.  We are thinking of going to the beach again this summer, and would like to take our bikes along this time.  L, however, was still using training wheels...mostly because we hadn't taken the time to really work with her without them.  JP spent a lot of time running after her, and holding on to the back of her seat while she wobbled around on the concrete. 

What really worked, and worked as well with J 2 years ago, was sending her down the slope in the yard on the bicycle without training wheels.  The momentum she gained going fast down the hill allowed her to learn to balance, and the grass was a nice, soft place to land when she had trouble stopping.  It only took a couple of trips down the hill before she was zipping around like a pro on her bike.

All the biking this weekend convinced us of 3 things:  1)  J is too big for her bike,  2) L is too big for her bike, and 3)  When JP's bike fell down out of the barn rafters last summer, the wheels got bent out of shape and they no longer go around.  After assessing all the options, we decided that JP and J need new bikes.  L will graduate to J's bike.  Mine is still ok.  Bike shuffling all around is in order.

What better way to usher in a new season of sunshine and warm weather, than on our bikes.  I hope we can ride a lot this summer!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Bedtime Stories

For Christmas, the girls received the entire collection of books by Roald Dahl (probably best known for "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory").  We have been reading through them before bedtime since the first of the year, and just finished up "Danny the Champion of the World."

In the story, one of the characters speaks about their fondness for "toad in the hole" at tea time.  Being unfamiliar with this British specialty, we researched it on-line.  It turns out to be a dish similar to a Yorkshire pudding or a savory Swedish pancake, but with sausages nestled in it.

(What exactly a Yorkshire pudding is proves to be a bit more difficult to describe.  I ate it at home as a child, when my mother would fix it with drippings from a roast beef.  Basically you bake a thin batter made of flour, milk, and eggs at high heat until it puffs up in the middle and the edges get crispy, then you serve it with gravy.  Sounds yummy, right?)

We decided that it was something we needed to try at least once, so I whipped up a "toad in the hole" for dinner tonight.  It was delicious!

Here's the recipe, should you care to try it.  I adapted it from one I found on Allrecipes.

Toad in the Hole

12 oz. breakfast sausage links
4 1/2 t oil (I used bacon fat)
6 eggs
3 c flour
2 c milk
salt & pepper to taste

Melt fat in large cast iron skillet or 9 x 13 metal baking dish under the broiler.  Add sausages and broil for 1-2 minutes until spotty browned.  Meanwhile, whip eggs, then add remaining ingredients and mix well.  Pour batter into pan with oil and sausages, turn oven down to 400*, and bake for about 20 minutes or until the center is puffy and the edges are browned.  Serves 6.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sorrel Sorrows

Now that we've mostly tamed the unruly and nasty multiflora roses up here (only the ones on the ridge, mind you...there are still huge ones in the woods and across the road by the creek), I've discovered my next most hated weed:  Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella). 

Photo courtesy of

Last summer I weeded, fertilized and mulched around most of the trees we have planted, the nine ornamental pears along the drive, the blueberries in the garden, and over half of the orchard fruit trees.  As soon as I did that, the Sheep Sorrel took over around each of them.

Today I had planned to tackle weeding the stretch of garden down towards the bottom.  There is a section of about 10 feet by 50 feet between the asparagus bed and the last row of raised beds that hasn't been attended.  Once I got started, I realized that it is coming up almost solid with Sheep Sorrel. 

I used to enjoy this plant as a child.  It is an easily identifiable edible weed with a vinegary flavor.  We would frequently add leaves of sorrel to our salads when I was young.  Now, I am waging war with this obnoxious plant.  It not only spreads by seed (and I'm positive that no sorrel went to seed in my garden last year,) but by rhizomes as well.  I worked for a couple of hours digging those suckers out today, and several times followed root systems that went on for 2-3 feet, with little plants every few inches.  Needless to say, I did not get very far in my weeding!

I finally gave up and came inside to educate myself on the eradication of Sheep Sorrel on the Internet.  What I discovered was quite interesting, and fairly encouraging!  It seems that sorrel grows well in poor soil - no surprise there...that part of the garden has never really been amended.  In fact, some farmers see its growth as a sign that they need to lime the soil.  These plants enjoy acidic, low nitrogen environments.  So, amending the soil with fertilizer and lime, along with diligence on my part with weeding, should eventually eradicate the sorrel, or at least get it to a manageable level.  I was going to plant tomatoes down there this year, but perhaps I should plant my beans there instead?

After my discouraging morning in the garden, we spent some time across the road by the creek this afternoon.  This area of our property has been neglected for decades, and is unfortunately down stream from several families who see fit to throw all their trash out in their back yards.  A couple of years ago, we found some hardy apple trees down there, overgrown amongst grape vines and multiflora roses, some of which are 10 feet tall (the roses, that is!)  They need a lot of TLC, but there is so much potential down there.

A couple of years ago, the land around the creek was extremely marshy and muddy.  My Dad spent a day pulling a bunch of trash, including old tires and fallen trees, out of the creek.  Since then, it is running better and flooding less.  The land has dried out.  Today, for the first time, I got a picture of that area as it could be:  a meadow, dotted with apple trees, and nary a broken bucket or pop can to be seen. 

We have been doing our part to get it that way!  We hauled a 55 gallon trash bag and a large bin full of trash out of there today, along with a 5 gallon bucket full of broken glass and what appears to be the shattered tank of a toilet.  UGH!  We have also been trying for a couple of years, to get a neighbor to clear the area with his bulldozer. 

Perhaps 2013 is the year of the Wisecarver Run Reclamation Project.  We'll see what we can get accomplished!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Gone But Not Forgotten

Lately I've been feeling a bit lonely and forgotten up here on the ridge.  I've been aching for a good chat with my friends, and it hasn't worked out because we are all so freakin busy.

Half-way through the week, JP (who is such a good man) suggested that we invite everyone out for a cook out this weekend.  At first I was resistant.  I wanted to hang out and be lazy this's been a long week for me too.  I gradually warmed to the idea, and...ta da...

We pulled it off:  another successful cook out on the ridge.  I think everyone had a good time, with the possible exception of little W, who had an earache.  We all picked up where we left off, chatted, joked, told stories on our kids, and ate entirely too much.  In the meantime the kiddos all ran around outside collecting bugs, climbing up and down out of the tree house, playing ball and swinging.

I keep being reminded of what a good bunch of people we have the fortune of having a community with.  It is a bitter sweet feeling, knowing that the group used to be so much BIGGER, and missing the company of those who have moved on. 

Hey all you good people in IN and WA, we missed you this afternoon!  Please know that you are loved by a whole bunch of wonderful people in the Burg.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I'm So Ronery

I can't believe how quiet it is in the house!  All I can hear are the birds singing through the open windows, and the dogs' toenails clicking on the floor.

Both the girls are at school today, so I have a flitting preview of what it could be like next year, should L finally make up her mind to go to school.  

The dogs and I have already taken a long walk, and I put together a little cold frame of my Mom's so that I can put my seedlings outside.  I have a million and one other things I could be doing, but I was hoping that I could FINALLY get together with my girlfriends has literally been 2 months since I've seen any of them for more than a minute or two. 

Unfortunately, they are busy with a million and one other things of their own, so after feeling sorry for myself briefly, I watched this clip from the movie "Team America."  It cheered me immensely. 

Now I am prioritizing my much coveted free time like this:

1.  Drink coffee outside on porch swing and read book

2.  Take shower

3.  Decide what to do next

It's pretty hard core and strenuous, but I think I'm up to it.

Monday, April 15, 2013

"Aha" Moment

What is it about Mondays?  Four days in a row with no yelling, and it all went to pieces this afternoon.

I did have a moment this morning where I was talking myself down from a mighty yell.  This is my one Monday morning a month that I have to work, and L was to ride with me to the office to be picked up there by my parents, so I was pushing her to get a move on.  She sat on the day bed with her arms crossed and a frown on her face, and started screaming.  "I don't WANT to go to your office!  I HATE your office!"  (Not true...she begs to go there.)

L:  I'm NOT going!  I WON'T get ready!

Me (calm at this point):  You always ask to come to my's your chance!

L:  Uh-uh.  I don't want to go.

Me (getting slightly irritated):  There is no other option.  No one else will be here.  Please help me out and get ready.

L (tear sliding down her cheek):  NO!

Me (counting to 10 under my breath):  I don't have time for this!

Then the light bulb went on above my head.  Walking away and setting the timer, counting, threatening, yelling...NONE of it was going to work.  And ALL of those options were going to take time that I didn't feel like I had to spare.  What she needed right then was empathy.

So, I sat down beside her, and finally was able to determine that she didn't want to go because she was embarrassed about her haircut, she thought it looked "ugly"!  So I promised her that it looked very nice, it just was very different.  Since she went for 7 years without bangs, the change would take some getting used to for all of us.  I told her that the people who would see her loved her anyway, and no hair cut would change that.

That worked!  She dried her tears, came upstairs and got dressed.  This doesn't mean that she didn't take 4 or 5 breaks to play with the dogs, and she was still 15 or more minutes late starting school work.

Now if I could just figure out how to get her ready in an hour's time every morning...THAT would save a lot of frustration and near-yelling incidents too!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Tree House Take II

A month or so ago, JP noticed that the beam supporting the tree house was bowed.

The bowed supporting beam

It worried him significantly, so he removed the ladder, and put the tree house off limits until further notice.

After some internet searching, he found a used, steel I-Beam listed on Craig's List about 45 minutes North.  The price was right, so a couple of weeks ago, we headed off on a Saturday afternoon, pulling the trailer with JP's truck.  It took 4 men to load the 18 foot beast into the trailer (which is only 12 feet long.)

The following day, JP drove it to our Handyman friend's farm, where they cut it into a 12 foot length.

The girls used it for a balance beam to do gymnastics under the garage lean-to for about a week.  Last week, I scrubbed the heck out of it with a wire brush, spray painted the entire thing with Rust Stop, then painted it with Rustoleum Enamel.

Shiny new paint job!

This afternoon, JP and my Dad jacked the tree house up off the supporting beam, and ever-so-carefully replaced it with the I-Beam.

I-Beam in place under the tree house

As soon as the ladder was replaced, the girls scurried up there with an armful of baby dolls each, and haven't been seen since.

Notice L's "bangs", which she
cut herself this afternoon!

Tree house B&B:  back in service.

Raised Bed Gardening - Year 3

Our goal when beginning our garden on Poplar Ridge was to gradually transfer into the No-Till method, as it is more sustainable for the soil...and probably easier too!  That roto-tiller is pretty tough to manhandle.  Last year, that didn't work out very well.  We used old hay to mulch with, which worked really well as mulch, but seeded in a lot of grass in the beds. 

When I put the garden "to bed" for the winter after that first year, I basically just said "Sayanara, see you in the Spring," and didn't look back.  I was homeschooling 2 kids for the first time, working part time, and with soccer 4 nights a week plus violin lessons and practice for both girls, I was going a little nuts and was eager to be finished with it.

We had a mild winter and early Spring that year, so by the time we got out to begin planting the garden, the beds were so overgrown with weeds, that we had to mow them with the push mower AND use the broad fork just so that we could get the hand-held tiller in there to break up the soil.

The soil wasn't that great to start with either.  This area is known for producing mostly clay and shale, which is good for the Natural Gas Industry, but not so great for gardeners.  We have slowly been working in compost, and old hay.  We had the chickens out there one winter as well, so a few of the beds got some chicken poo fertilizer too.

Last year, I took more time, and weeded the beds well in the Fall.  We also got a bunch of leaves, thanks to friends with a huge deciduous tree in their back yard, and the fact that we bought a big Ford truck last summer.  Most of the leaves just blow off the ridge up here, but they do pile up against things like fences, so we gathered and shredded the ones we found and covered each bed with a thick layer of leaves last Fall.  I added wood ash to most beds as I cleaned out the wood stoves over the winter.

This spring, the soil beneath the leaves is rich, soft and dark.  The beds are relatively weed free.  The broad forking, to loosen the soil is SO much easier!  I have spent about an hour and a half over several days, and have 12 out of 16 beds done.  I am turning up fat, pink earthworms with each fork full of soil.  There are fewer and fewer clods of clay to break up, or rocks to pick out. 

This afternoon, my Mom and I planted 3 beds full of potatoes (these are the tiny ones left from last year's crop, which sprouted foot long tentacles in the basement over the winter.)  We also planted root crops (carrots, beets and parsnips) and spinach.  Half of the beds are planted!  We are pulling aside the un-decayed leaves, and planting rows of seeds.  We hope to pull the leaves back around the plants, once they are up, to serve as mulch.

Long story short, we are learning, through trial and error, how to make our garden grow.  We are also successfully transforming the clay into lovely loam.

I sat in the porch swing to rest for awhile after all of that digging.  I felt like a Queen...all around me were beautiful flowers, greening juvenile trees, and a garden full of happy, healthy raised beds.

Job well done, Poplar Ridge Gardeners, job well done!

Saturday, April 13, 2013


JP noticed this feather fiasco in the living room yesterday afternoon:

I asked the dogs about it, but they aren't talking.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring Has Sprung!

Some warm weather and a little rain over the past week have really caused things to start bursting out all over!  I couldn't help wandering around this afternoon and checking to see what is coming up!

My Hellebores, which are supposed to bloom in
February, finally flowered a couple of weeks
ago...right when the Crocus quit.

Another Hellebore

Daffodils and Hyacinth...the rest of the
flower bed looks pretty bad!

This little forsythia bloomed for the first time this
year! I can't tell you how many times the poor
thing has been run over and otherwise abused.

A peach tree is blooming in the orchard, and most of the other trees are getting leaves. One apple tree, and one cherry tree appear to be dead, and another apple is iffy. I might have to replace a couple of trees this spring.

The Weeping Cherries started blooming the
day before yesterday.  They get more
gorgeous every year!

This is the first year that all 9 of my
ornamental pears made it...and are blooming!

Strawberries in the garden...

No sign of asparagus in the garden yet. Hopefully I'll have more time this weekend to plant some more things out there!

A giant molehill?

The grass is greening up nicely. At some point we need to lay pipe in this giant ditch to run the gray water out into the woods and push the dirt back in. When that pile of dirt was frozen this winter, it worked really well to stop runaway sleds and inner tubes!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Down the Tubes

Three days in a row now I've lost my temper and yelled.  I wish I didn't have to admit this, but it's the ugly truth.  I feel so miserable now, that I'm finding it hard to pull myself up by my Bogs straps and move on. 

Ugly, ugly altercation with J this evening - I have anticipated an argument with her about clothes at SOME POINT, but didn't really expect it at age 10!  She and I are not seeing eye to eye about wearing shorts to school.  I was raised believing that shorts were not appropriate school wear (even before I went to Catholic School!)  JP persuaded me that times have changed and as long as they are "nice", she should be able to wear them to school.  Now it appears that she and the parents have different definitions of "nice" shorts - apparently only one pair fit that category for her, and they happen to be a pair that don't make the cut for us.


JP makes the good point that we can't let her run the show when it comes to laying down rules.  Meaning, I suppose, that at some point she will just have to follow the rules we make, no matter how antiquated she feels they are.  I get that.

At the same time, it tears me up to hear her sobbing downstairs, completely mortified at the selection we have given her.  I remember how it feels to wear "un-cool" clothes to school.  I remember how, at the time, my parents just didn't seem to get the picture of how awful it was.

On the other hand, my parents would never have tolerated the fits she pitched tonight:  the screaming and stomping and eye rolling and sighing.  I won't either.

At the same time, whose example do you think she is following when she melts down and explodes into flames when she is extremely frustrated or feels taken advantage of?  Right...mine.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm the one who taught her to respond to tough situations that way.

I'm feeling very...twisted.

So now I have a very, VERY good reason to start all over again tomorrow, trying to move myself and this home into a calmer, more loving place.  I need to model the appropriate lady-like behavior in any situation, whether I'm wearing my "nice" shorts or not.  End of discussion.

Daisy Dog

My parents little dog, Daisy, passed away this afternoon after a short illness.

She was a brave little thing, friendly and bright.  It's amazing how big of a hole a small dog can leave in your life, but we will all miss seeing her sweet little face.

Maybe she's out there somewhere now, chasing deer...her favorite past time.

Sleeping in a sun beam

Snuggles with J

Daisy, Grandmom and L
Zach and Daisy

Another tiny grave under the old oak tree

Monday, April 8, 2013


I made it for an entire week without yelling at my kids, although there were lots of really close moments, where I had to remind myself what I was trying to accomplish over and over again.  Today, despite reminding myself, L did the exact thing that I had told her NOT to do for about the 5th time, and my entire head went up in flames.  We both cried about it.

Now I just have to pick up the pieces and go on...try even harder tomorrow.


The rest of today went fairly well.  J came home with no homework to do because of our state mandated testing looming over the school for the next week and a half.  The whole thing is starting to irritate me.  The school is making a HUGE deal out of the testing:  they have been sending notes home for 2 weeks about getting enough sleep, eating well, getting to school on time, etc, etc during the testing.  Today they had a Pep Rally, where the Principal handed out sugar packets to everyone (I still haven't figured out the significance of that!)  I keep telling J not to worry to much about it, since it is really for testing the teachers and the school, not her individually.  "But you told me that I'm always supposed to do my best!"  she exclaimed.

"Of course.  Always do your best in everything you do.  Just don't lose sleep worrying about these crazy tests."  I told her.  I'm not sure what else to do, although this year, honestly, she seems pretty calm.

At violin and piano lessons (occurring simultaneously about 2 blocks apart) this evening, both girls were commended for excellent work by their instructors.  (Warm fuzzies!)

We had a good weekend too.  It was beautiful on Saturday, so I spent the entire day outside:  hanging out laundry, working in the garden, cleaning out the chicken house, etc.  The girls joined me later on when J was finally feeling better after her stomach virus early Friday morning.  JP stayed in and worked on taxes all day.  I'm pleased to announce that the taxes are in and so are the peas, greens and radishes.

After an all too brief thunder storm on Sunday evening, we saw a rainbow draped over the chicken run.  It was a promise that Spring is here at last.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Bunk Beds

One down side to having bunk beds is that if someone would throw up in the top bunk, it would

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Load of Bull

Actually, it was steer.  The big difference, I think, is that ours had no cojones.  The load in question was nearly 400 lbs of grass fed, local beef that L and I picked up at the butcher this morning...and we got only a half!  After much rearranging, I was able to fit all of it into the deep freeze downstairs, but not another thing will fit at this point in time.

I now have 2 days down in my no-yelling challenge.  Yesterday I didn't feel quite as good about it.  I didn't technically yell, but it was close - extremely close.  We had a day full of all sorts of extra errands, along with the regular ones.  After arriving home later than expected, and needing to get dinner started, I was faced with children who were reluctant to do chores/homework/practicing, AND learning that one of them did something disobedient that was noted by someone else.  Of course, when confronted, both girls immediately said, "It wasn't me!" That witching hour right there almost did me in.  Luckily JP arrived home just in the nick of time and took over.

Have you ever told your children that whatever they may have done, they will never be punished as much for it as they will be for lying about it?  JP and I have told the girls that more times than I can remember.  I think maybe, just maybe, the true meaning of that hit home with the girls last night.  This time, we had a method of determining exactly who was at fault in the incident.  We sat both girls down and told them that the guilty party will be punished by giving their allowance to the injured party for one month.  If that person does not confess guilt, they will also lose one month of TV or movie watching and computer games.  That did it!  The child in question whispered her confession first to JP, and then to myself.  Later she took her allowance for the week to the victim and apologised.

Whew!  Lesson learned.

In order to maintain a yelling-free home, I need to be more aware of my yelling triggers, one of which has always been the witching hour - that 1 or 2 hour stretch of time between school and when JP gets home from work.  It's a stressful time, with plenty going on, so I need to learn to prepare myself to deal with it graciously, lovingly and QUIETLY.  Lately I have been fixing myself a cup of tea during the witching hour, but frequently I never get to drink it.  The solution perhaps, is to make the tea BEFORE witching hour begins.  That way the caffeine and warm fuzzies can be working their magic internally while the witching goes on all around me.

It's worth a try.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rhinos Disturb Me!

The girls are sleeping, and I am patting myself on the back.  I officially made it through one day without yelling - not once!

I have been mulling around the whole "Orange Rhino" thing all day, and the image just isn't working for me.  Rhinos are kinda scarey, and although I realize that I'm probably scarey when I'm all worked up and yelling, I can't reconcile with that sort of scarey.  They are also not the most feminine of images, although I'm sure I will anger many female rhinos by saying that.

The thing I picture when I lose it is my entire head going up in flames.  Something like this:

Fire Head, designed by COKA

Whaddya think...a Hot Mama?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Y. A. (Yellers Anonymous)

Hello, my name is Country Girl, and I yelled at my daughter today.

Now I feel wretched, especially since I read this article in Huffington Post at the request of my husband over the weekend.  It was very convicting.

I can come up with all sorts of excuses:  I grew up with yelling in my home, I don't handle stress well, my daughter was being impossible, I had a bad day and this was the last straw, etc, etc.  They are just excuses, however, nothing should be bad enough to make me lose control with anyone, let alone a child.

So why do I keep doing it?  It's easy, I guess.  I blow my top and feel better for a fleeting millisecond before the shame and guilt flood in and stay and stay and stay.  It's amazing that I don't remember this terrible feeling that I have right now the next time I get to the end of my rope.

Quitting is just not that easy, as anyone who has battled an addiction could tell you - even something that is so unhealthy for everyone involved.  I've tried so many times to keep my emotions under control, and it's worked...for awhile.  Then another stressful day or insolent child incident can make me fall off the wagon again.

So, I'm taking the advice of this anonymous Mom, and admitting to the world that I am an "Orange Rhino".  I am committing myself, again, to love more and yell less.  I want so much to feel like I've done a decent job both as a person and as a parent when I go to bed at night.  I want my girls to stop yelling too - something they have learned from me, I'm sure.

Who's with me?