Friday, February 28, 2014

For Shame!

Dog Shaming

Not to beat this topic to death, but JP forwarded me this article from our local paper this morning regarding dogs feeling shame.

I thought I'd photograph the contrite Stella, who was shaking so badly that it took several shots to get one that wasn't blurred.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February is the Longest Month!

I have just come in from outside, where it is hovering near 17 or 18 degrees today.  I am sitting here in my long underwear (it's a great look, btw) and not feeling inclined to do much of anything.  I just finished treating the hens with permethrin dust for the lice problem - 13 out of 15 are infested. 

After I got all of the poison and lice exposed clothing in the washer, I spent less than an hour with my Dad in the wood shop, varnishing tongue and groove panels that are soon to become wainscoting in our dining room. 

Have I accomplished enough for the day yet?

February needs to end.  It is d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g along, making the worst month (although January is also in contention for that honor this year) last FOREVER. 

We have had 10 snow days and 11 two hour delays since New Year.  The low temp of 2014 is -10 F, and although we had 2 days of 40 degrees and sun over the weekend, for the remainder of February the ground has been frozen solid and snow covered.

I'm tired.  I'm done.  I don't want to schlep water out to the chickens 3 times a day any more.  I'm tired of stacking wood, and checking the wood burner which results in becoming completely smokey smelling.  I'm sick of bundling up every time I head outside to do one or more of the above.  I don't want to have a fight with my daughters every morning about wearing their winter coats (they rebel - say the coats make them "look fat!")  I'm exhausted from feeling anxious every time I drive up or down our driveway, wondering if I'm going to slide over the edge into the woods, or skid right out into the road in front of a truck.

Apparently Stella is having some late winter psychosis as well.  Last Friday, before we left for the movie, JP asked "do you trust the dog enough to leave her out of her kennel while we are gone?"  I told him no, but relented after closing the doors to every room, removing books and pillows that she's been known to gnaw on, and treating the legs of the chairs with bitter apple (she's been known to gnaw those too!)  We came home to find this:

She clawed a hole in JP's new(ish) recliner (that we bought last year to replace the other one she chewed on!)  She was punished and put in jail for the remainder of the night.  She slunk around guiltily for several days, but  I had mostly forgiven her by yesterday...until she clawed the same spot some more while I was down at the bottom of the driveway picking up the girls from the bus.

There is another Polar Vortex pushing down into PA until this weekend.  At that point, they are calling for another 1-3 inches of snow or freezing rain.  It seems that March won't be starting out much better.

Oh the humanity!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Everything is Awesome!

**Just a word of warning...if you don't want this catchy little tune stuck in your head for the next 48 hours, DO NOT click on the link below.**

We took the girls out for dinner and to see The Lego Movie on Friday evening, then went through the McDonald's drive through for hot apple pies on the way home.  It was nice to do something fun for a change, and spur of the moment like that.  We found The Lego Movie surprisingly fun.

The weather this weekend has been lovely - blue sky and sunshine, with temperatures in the high 40's to 50's.  The girls were outside most of the time, playing in the woods with sticks, their pocket knives, and a slingshot.  This afternoon the temperatures have dropped, and it is grey and rainy - forecast is for snow tonight...probably just in time for a 2 hour delay in the morning.  (We haven't had one for almost a week!)

Yesterday I discovered that at least one of my hens has chicken lice, which means that most likely they all do.  I spent several hours thoroughly cleaning out the hen houses yesterday, including the nest boxes, and dusting everything (including some of the hens) liberally with diatomaceous earth.  I also installed a "dusting box" in the chicken barge - a kitty litter box filled with sand and diatomaceous earth.  (My research confirmed that lice are more of a problem in the winter when the chickens are unable to dust bathe.)  Unfortunately, I fear that I will have to find the dreaded Sevin dust, and treat all of the hens for several weeks.  I want the lice AND Sevin gone before we get peeps in the Spring!

JP and I worked on wood again yesterday.  This time, we should have about 4 weeks worth stocked up, which should get us through winter - barring another polar vortex coming through (which is also forecast for next week.)

I had the chance to hang the girls' sheets on the line to dry in the fresh air and sunshine.  I also scooped up a bucket full of dog poo that has long been buried beneath the snow drifts.  I found a bunch of other things that had also disappeared in snow drifts, including our friend's eyeglass lens (lost in sledding accident last weekend), a chainsaw wrench, my stocking cap, the cover for the air conditioner, and plenty of trash.

Today we had a huge ham dinner with my parents at their house, and are having a relaxing and quiet afternoon.  It is very satisfying to work hard, and then chill (and at our age, the chilling part is mandatory after a full day of manual labor!)  It has been an awesome weekend, and I am very content.  Everything is awesome!

Thursday, February 20, 2014


I have been doing some research lately.

For example, yesterday I determined that the snow in the country is much more attractive than the snow in town.  It is whiter and more pristine, although there are more piles of deer poo and ATV or snowmobile tracks.

It is also clear, without too much in-depth research, that the snow is finally melting.  It is clearest on the driveway, which has not been exposed in weeks (leading to the 2nd rescheduling of the Sears repairman visit to fix my leaking washer.)

Sunrise Monday morning...

Sunrise this morning!

Last night, the family and I discovered that in a head-to-head taste test, 4 out of 4 tasters vastly preferred Nutella to Jif with hazelnuts.  No surprise there.

This morning, some olfactory research led me to the conclusion that these 2 shaggy beasts cannot go another day without a trim and a bath.

After a few hours of very involved research, the living room looked like this, and both dogs had their nails clipped, ears cleaned, teeth brushed, baths and they were brushed. 

Stella had a trim, and it was clear that there was absolutely no way that Kali was getting a trim by anyone other than a professional!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Big Melt

We are 2 for 2 so far this week with 2 hour delays.  The extra time in the mornings is not a bad thing, but the snow and ice on the roads and driveway is still no fun. 

It is our second day with temps above freezing, so the driveway is now the perfect mix of slush on ice.  Dad has been doing a great job of keeping it cleared this winter, and honestly, I made it up every time I tried with my AWD van.

I am feeling an enormous amount of relief, because I think this signals the beginning of the end of winter.  Oh, I know we will probably get more snow.  I just think it is unlikely that we will get huge amounts of it, or that the temperatures will stay below freezing for days on end.  It will snow, then melt, then green into Spring.  That's my hope!

Great floes of snow are beginning to slide off the metal roofs of Mom and Dad's cabin and the barn.  The pristine snow is getting mushy and greyish, and the mud is beginning to peek through. 

The chickens are venturing further from the coops lately.  I think the PTSD counseling may be helping to overcome their fear of flying predators, and they are getting coop fever.

It is a perfect time of year for soup, and I purchased a big bunch of asparagus just yesterday to whip up a batch of the best asparagus soup I've ever tasted.

Creamy Asparagus Soup
-Cook's Country Magazine
2 lbs asparagus
3 T unsalted butter
2 small leeks, sliced thin
3 1/2 c chicken broth
1/2 c frozen peas
2 T grated Parmesan
1/4 c heavy cream (I use half and half)
1/2 t lemon juice
-Cut tips from asparagus spears and chop stalks into 1/2 in pieces.  Melt 1 1/2 T butter in Dutch over over med-hi heat, add tips and cook until tender approx 2 min.  Set aside
-Add remaining butter, asparagus, leeks, 1/2 t salt and 1/8 t pepper and cook over med-lo heat until softened, approx 10 min.
-Add broth to pot and bring to a boil over med-hi heat, then reduce to med-lo and simmer until veggies are tender, about 5 min.  Stir in peas and Parm.  Puree with immersion blender, then stir in cream, lemon juice and asparagus tips.
-Serves 6.

Yum.  Enjoy it, and please refrain from relieving yourselves in the hatstands following this meal!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Winter Continues...

Another week, more snow.
Another snow day - the girls are now scheduled to go to school for an extra week in June.
Another weekend of cutting wood and shoveling snow.
This is getting tiresome!

It snowed all day on Thursday.  The girls decided to hold the Winter Olympics on Poplar Ridge.  I made medals out of bottle caps painted gold, silver and bronze, hot glued to ribbons.  We printed out flags:  J was from Russia, and L was from Austria.  They participated in snow boarding, ice skating, and "jump lift" (a new event which involves jumping over the "ice" from family room sofa to family room poof.)

On Friday, L's class had a brief Valentine party.  We put together these cards for her friends from Currant.  I think they turned out pretty cute! 

I put new batteries in all of the smoke alarms, because I LOVE my family!

Friday night, it snowed some more, and half the day Saturday.  The girls had a friend over, and did Olympic bobsledding down the hill, resulting in another gold medal and the loss of one of C's glasses lenses in a snow drift.  J made a bag out of duct tape.

Saturday, JP and I cut, split and stacked more wood, and JP and Dad shoveled and plowed:  repeat of every weekend lately.  To change things up a bit, some friends came out for dessert and conversation.  It was the best part of the day!

Last night, JP hiked up the hill behind my parents to take pictures of our house in the snow.

Today, the occasional flurries have turned into 2 more inches of snow and haven't stopped.  We ventured up North, and discovered a Mexican grocery, where we purchased Masa (corn flour), tomatillos, and papaya.  We also purchased hot chicken tacos from an outdoor stand, and ate them at a picnic table in the snow. 

We are introducing the girls to "Rear Window" right now, and sampling the salsa verde that I made from half of the needs tweaking.

So, that's the news from Poplar Ridge.  More snow, and we have yet to see whether the girls have school again tomorrow.  I'm just grateful that we are warm, our power has stayed on, and none of us has had any auto accidents in the snow and ice.  Now I'm off to watch Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stuart.  I wish you a warm and snuggly beginning to your new week.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Ta Da!

Here it is...the finished pantry!  I painted the walls and did some other touch up this morning, so now everything is done...down to the hooks for our aprons!

Finally - a door on my pantry!

Built in shelves created more room, so things
are easier to get to.

There is a locking Liquor Cabinet on the back of
the door - it's super heavy, so the door is hung
on barn door sliders!

And here are our aprons...all ready to don before
cooking up something great in the kitchen!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Share the Warmth...Again

It has been an eventful weekend, and it is snowing again.  The forecasted 1-2 inches has already accumulated 3-4 inches, and is
still coming down...should make for an eventful Monday morning as well.  JP and Dad are out plowing now.

Yesterday morning, the girls and I, along with our friend, C, attended the "Share the Warmth" service project at the Elementary School.  The girls each made a knotted fleece blanket to give to someone in need.  They were a bit disappointed this year because they will not be able to participate in distributing them (half are going to a Domestic Violence Shelter north of here, and the other half are going to a Children's Hospital south of here.)

We returned home to discover that the red tailed hawk had slaughtered another one of our Golden Comet hens...2 gone in as many days!  L spent the afternoon having another 2 hour fit about the clothing that she did not want to wear.  J had a much nicer time hanging with her friend in town.

I forced JP to attend a fund raiser for our Public Library yesterday evening - a wine tasting at a local restaraunt.  We weren't in the best of moods before heading out because of our unpleasant afternoon.  It was so crowded, that there was standing room only, and not much space to even move around.  We made our way through and said our pre-requisite "hellos" to my fellow Board members and other aquaintances, and then beat it.  Next time we'll just make a monetary donation!

Today, we made our way slowly through the accumulating snow to the Olive Garden north of here for my "Birthday Dinner" - just a few weeks late.  Our "check engine" light went on last night on the way home from the Wine Tasting, which automatically turns OFF our traction control and anti-lock brakes.  Consequently, the van wasn't handling like it normally should (thankfully JP was driving!)  We had a nice meal, and a nice time together.

This afternoon, the girls have been working on putting together a puppet show.  J is the Producer/Director/Resident Diva, and is clomping around in high heels, sunglasses, an over sized purse, and a zebra striped scarf.  L has all the preparations made for the show, and is now working on her valentine box for school. 

We got a new cook book last week, so I tried a new recipe Friday night.  It is also a great way to share the warmth...a quick and yummy week night meal recipe, so I will share it with you!

Skillet Lasagna
-The Complete Cook's Country TV Show Cookbook

28 oz can diced tomatoes (I used crushed tomatoes as we don't like tomato chunks)
1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
salt & pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 t red pepper flakes
1 lb meatloaf mix (I used ground turkey, as we are trying to limit red meat)
10 curly-edged lasagna noodles, broken into
      2 in lengths
8 ox tomato sauce
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese + 2 T
8 oz ricotta
3 T chopped fresh basil

Pour tomatoes into 4 c measuring cup, add water until it measures 4 cups.  Heat oil in 12 in skillet over med heat until shimmering.  Add onion and 1/2 t salt, cook until onion begins to brown (5 min.)  Stir in garlic and pepper flakes and cook 30 sec until fragrant (**I think I would add 1 tsp oregano at this point too**.)  Add meat and cook until no longer pink (4 min.)  Scatter pasta over meat, but do not stir.  Pour tomato mixture and sauce over pasta, cover and bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to med-lo and simmer, stirring occasionally, until pasta is tender, about 20 min.  Off heat, stir in 1/2 cup Parm and season with salt & pepper.  Dollop heaping tablespoons of ricotta over top, cover and let sit for 5 min.  Sprinkle with basil & remaining Parm before serving. 

Enjoy.  Stay warm.  Watch Olympics.  Gear up for Monday!

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Chicken Hawk Strikes Again

Another weekend is upon us, and another snow storm is on the horizon.  We ended up having 2 snow days last week...pretty typical of late.  It is calm and quiet at the moment:  JP is reading, the dogs have finished eating and are snoozing on their blanket, J has just finished her homework and the girls are both "getting ready for bed" (a pursuit that can last hours if we let it.)  We are recording the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

JP got off work before I did today...amazing!  He rushed home, up our driveway that is a sheet of ice, and moved another 7 logs from the big stack to underneath the barn lean-to.  I guess we are working on wood again tomorrow!

When the girls and I finally reached home after Voice Lessons and a quick stop at the Library, then the Grocery store, they headed out to feed the chickens and gather eggs.  J  burst into the house just a few minutes later with tears streaming down her cheeks.  "There's a dead hen!" she sobbed.

Sure enough.  It appears that our nemesis, the Chicken Hawk, has paid another visit to the chicken run.  I saw him just yesterday, swooping low over the run, then disappearing into the woods down the hill.  This time, the victim was one of our Golden Comet Hens - a superb layer.

If you have a minute, check out this clip of Henery Hawk learning about what Chicken Hawks do.

In the kitchen, I found yet another surprise.  My Dad hung the new door for my pantry while we were away!  On the other side of the door is a cabinet which will have a locking door.  I will post another picture when that is finished - if possible (it's close quarters in there!)

So...even though we ended the week on a sad note, things are looking up...and the whole weekend is ahead of us - hip hip hooray!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Kiss it Goodbye

We had a lovely weekend.  The temperature on Saturday edged into the 40's and we all ventured outside to take great lung fulls of fresh air.  The chickens finally emerged from being cooped up in their coops, and I was able to spread fresh wood shavings inside. 

JP cut up the logs that we had previously moved under the barn lean-to, and used the splitter to split most of them, then I stacked them all close to the wood burner.  He estimates that we worked on 2 cords of wood.

Lauren helped my Dad tap the Maples and gather sap.

By Sunday, the skies were cloudy, and I assumed (wrongly) that Punxatawney Phil the groundhog did not see his shadow.  It began to rain, and JP and I were feeling the kind of pain that 40-somethings feel when they have handled 2 cords of wood the day before.

At dinner time, the rain turned to sleet and then to snow.

I was awakened at 5:05 AM this morning by the automated call notifying us of yet another Snow Day.  Now we can kiss our day off after Easter goodbye.  The only break that is left from now until Memorial day, May 30th, is Good Friday.

Did we pout?  (Yes, a little.)  Did we lay around and complain of boredom?  Did we watch endless mindless Netflix shows?  NO!

We plowed so that JP could slide down the hill to work. 

I shoveled snow (8 inches of it) to make paths for the chickens.

We organized J's cubby holes full of junk, as well as the storage area.

Found some Mr. Yuk stickers in J's stash...
We played in the snow.

We had a tea party with Grandmom.

JP came home early and plowed some more.

Just got word that we have a 2 hour delay tomorrow.  2 hour delays we can do.  My chocolate stash is getting seriously low for another Snow Day!