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Monday, November 24, 2014

State of the Homestead


I won't lie. Things still aren't normal around here since Tank passed away. We keep seeing him in his favorite spots and we'll break down and cry when we hand out his favorite treats. The other dogs have been so sweet. They seem to sense our deep sadness and try to cheer us up, giving us kisses and hugs. Of all the dogs, Iko misses Tank most. They were very close.

We mope a lot. I hadn't had any desire to go online though I've tried to answer emails and personal messages. Thank you for that guys. Your heartfelt condolences meant a lot to both me and Greg.

All these babies are gone except for the big guy in the middle.

In an effort to get back to the world of the living, I'll start out with a homestead report.

Garden: We wuz robbed! I try to keep up with weather changes. I knew the polar vortex was going to hit as far south as Texas, so Greg and I covered several beds of tender veggies with sturdy tents of heavy plastic. I ran out of plastic so I dug up the few remaining pepper plants in a last ditch effort to save them.

The polar vortex was harder than the plastic cover could endure. ALL the plants died. Now I wish I had tried to put them in pots. I especially hated losing all my tomato plants that were full of plump, but still green tomatoes.

The onions, garlic, strawberries, bok choy, and beets survived without any protection and did just fine.

The hard freeze lasted almost a week but we're back to the upper 60s again. Generally, we don't get real cold here until January and February.

Chickens: The Marans will head for the big chicken coop in the sky within the next couple of months. I just have to make room in my freezer. Despite our best efforts we haven't stopped them from eating their own eggs, so they'll have to go. 

Come 2015, we'll probably incubate some eggs from the black Australorps. The hens are getting a little old and they'll need to be replaced next year. They're good chickens. Calm, friendly, and good layers. The Marans on the other hand are all a little schizoid. I should've put them in the freezer months ago.

Rabbits: We've had no luck at all procuring another blue New Zealand. I've decided to settle for another breed until the right one shows up.
  
Freestanding hay manger
Goats: I finally let the boys run with the girls. I might as well. I think the bums did the dirty deed back in October when Greg fed the animals for me. He didn't secure the latch to the locked position, and goats being goats, they figured out how to slide the latch open. My gut feeling is that two of the three girls are pregnant, but I won't know for sure until their udders fill up.

When they were set free, the boys chased the girls (as boys do), but once the girls started ramming them with those sharp, pointy horns, they finally settled down.

Greg built me a hay manger. It holds almost an entire bale of hay and is off the floor so it doesn't take up any more space. Goats are notorious for wasting hay and we hope this will slow them down.

Future Plans: We're thinking of moving animals around. Greg saw a friend's layout for a chicken coop/run that looked like a luxury resort for chickens. We'd like to start moving more of the animals to a centralized location so we'll build the new chicken cabana near the goats.

The rabbits in turn will move into the existing chicken coop and run. It's built like an aviary so no predators can get in. It'll give them more room to move around and allow them to have their babies in a more natural environment. Since the enclosed yard is big enough, I might also grow some miniature trees or grapes under the protection of all that fencing.

This Thursday is Thanksgiving in the US. We plan on having a quiet holiday this year, but I'll still put out a big spread, enough for man and dogs.

Don't forget to take pictures of your holiday table. I'd like to do a fun blog hop to show off everyone's holiday table on December 29th. I even created a blog badge for the event. Here's the original post with the details.

Feel free to take one of the images below for your blog. If you can't copy it, email me and I'll send you the jpg.

What will you be serving for the holidays? For Thanksgiving, we usually have turkey but since we'll be alone this year, I'll be serving duck. For Christmas I found an excellent recipe for rib roast. The trick is to find a roast that won't break the bank! 

What are you serving this year?

 



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

RIP, Tank

We said goodbye to our angel yesterday.

One last smile for his daddy.

Tank took a turn for the worse yesterday morning. I knew it was his time. He probably would've died on his own the next day but we didn't want him to suffer. He meant too much to us for that.

We adopted him ten and half years ago from a rescue group. He was a lanky two-year old with a head too big for his body. Oh, but how we grew to love him. You couldn't help but fall in love with him.

Although his very appearance could scare the bejeebers out of you when you first encounter him, he was the sweetest, kindest, and most compassionate soul you could ever meet.

He was first and always Greg's boy. I'm so glad he hung on until Greg retired. They had many plans for midday naps and raiding the pantry for snacks. I wish they could've done more of that.

It's eerily quiet at my house. Tank was the quiet one but for some reason all the other dogs have suddenly gone silent. No one is barking or rabble-rousing. Each of them have taken turns sleeping on Tank's bed, even Nana, who prefers to nap from the high perch of the couch. 

It's as if they're grieving too, or maybe they're sensing our immense sadness. It's hard for me to even grasp the words to describe our heartache.  

Tank was the best of dogs and he's left a giant hole in our hearts. He lived far longer than anyone expected despite being riddled by tumors and severe arthritis. A trooper to the end. Happy until the end.

Rest now, my baby, and wait for us.


Everyone is keeping vigil with Tank until it's time for us to go to the vet.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Show Me Your Table

One of the perks Greg received after working 40 years with his company was a very generous gift award, good for a huge catalog of things.

For himself, he got an Ipad Air and one of those fancy, schmancy ladders that contorts into all sorts of heights. He bought me a balance ball chair and a food processor. What money was left he exchanged for restaurant and retail store gift certificates.

Anyway, today I want to talk about the food processor. I'm always suspect of small kitchen appliances, but I was greatly pleased with this one. It's a Cuisinart Prep 9-cup

It's got a heavy duty motor that chops, slices, and purees without any effort at all. I love this thing! I made coleslaw the other day and it was absolutely flawless. 

Later, Greg made homemade peanut butter. While most machines struggle and overheat when crushing peanuts, this one did the job like a dream. It took Greg longer to clean the machine than it did to make the peanut butter.

In short, if you're looking for a food processor, I can recommend this one. I'm so glad we got it.

***

With the year winding down, I've noticed that blog and Facebook posts are becoming fewer and thankfully less promo-happy. I guess everyone is gearing up for the holidays.

With that in mind, I think I'll stick with my current schedule until January when I'll go to twice a week posts.

In the meantime, I thought of something that might be neat to do. This year, I plan to photograph our Thanksgiving and/or Christmas meals (whichever turns out nicer). Would you guys be willing to join me in doing an impromptu blog hop showing off your holiday table?

You don't have to write anything, just show off your spread in pictures. I thought we could post them to our blogs on Monday, December 29.

If you want to join, leave a comment (with a contact email) or email me privately with your blog url. On December 29th, I'll link to each of your blogs here, on Facebook, and Twitter.

I love to see how people eat and entertain so I hope you'll join me. Who's with me? Will you share your holiday table?

This doesn't have to be limited to us. If you have friends who want to join, point them over here and we'll have a big smorgasbord of holiday pictures to share and inspire us on December 29th.
 

Monday, November 10, 2014

What's your Superpower?

The other day, a total stranger paid a really nice compliment to a cover I designed. (It hasn't been released to the public yet). 

My very favorite part about designing is being able to glean the essence of the book and put that nebulous quality on a cover. It's such a subtle thing, but if I can pull it off, it makes a big statement.

You might think my superpower is being a good designer, but that's only a side effect of my real superpower. I happen to have killer observational skills...that is, when I choose to pay attention. LOL.

Alas, I'm oblivious to most things around me unless I want to notice. I think it's a safety mechanism for me so I'm not drowning my brain with too much information.

When I do notice, I discover some amazing nuances. That's why Greg thinks I read minds. In reality, I just happen to notice body language and the subtle inflections in people's voices. 

It's the same gift that helps me anticipate sickness with my animals. I can tell before they show outward symptoms that something is not right. It's saved a life on more than one occasion so I'm particularly glad about this 'superpower'.

Greg thinks that's why we've managed to keep old Tank alive for as long as we have. I hope so.

If only I was that aware about myself. Believe it or not, I haven't gotten rid of this cold or whatever it is I've got. It's better, but I've already had two rounds of antibiotics and it's still lingering. I'm afraid it might be strep, which always kicks my butt and throws me to the curb.

Your turn. Dig deep. What's your superpower? Is there a superpower you wish you had?

Me, I've always wanted to being able to eat anything I want without gaining weight. :grin:


Monday, November 3, 2014

Fun and Fooey

I had my first weekend with a full time husband. It was great! We slept in. He helped me with the animals and my garden, and Sunday, we spent the day in Canton, TX where they host Trade Days. It's one of the biggest flea markets in the country, maybe the world. It's spread over hundreds of acres, and we only tackled part of it.

Saturday, I threw him a little party. It was originally supposed to be a surprise, but my partner-in-crime had a family emergency and I had to pull it together solo. It worked out fine. 

We got to visit with friends we hadn't seen in a very long time and had a chance to chat with others who couldn't make it that night. In short, we had a fabulous time. Good company, good food, flowing wine, and lots of stories to tell.

It was a perfect evening! Greg was so touched by all the attention.

Ah, but there's another side to all the warm, fuzzy feelings about having a husband again.

Do you remember several months ago when I mentioned threatened to start a series called, Things My Husband Does?

Greg has already given me fodder for several topics. Apparently, having a full time husband is going to require some time for adjustment.

I've inherited a serious problem now that I'm responsible to cook for someone regularly.

Here's my question to you for today.  Do you know what you're going to make for dinner (breakfast or lunch) every day of the week? Who decides the menu, you or your significant other (or family)?

Greg always gives me the, "I don't know what I feel like eating" line. Yet if I suggest some ideas, he invariably shoots them down because it's not quite what his discerning taste buds had in mind. 

What's taste got to do with it? It's food. Just eat it.

Worse yet, I must ask him about dinner hours ahead of time so I can take whatever I need out of the freezer. It never fails that he doesn't know what he wants until about 15 minutes before he's hungry.

I'm happy with leftovers three days in a row but I can't get away with that with Greg.

Back when we lived together, he'd eat whatever I put in front of him, but 15 years of independence has made him particular about what he wants to eat and when. Greg rarely cooked at home, so he was used to restaurant food at least 80% of the time.

I made up a list of menu items and I've considered letting him choose from the list. Unfortunately, what's happened on more than one occasion is that I'll have taken out a pre-approved item from the freezer only to find that he had changed his mind. Oy!

To his credit, Greg never complains what I put in front of him, though occasionally I do get the puppy-dog eyes because he got hamburger instead of rib-eye. 

I want to prepare food he enjoys but I'm not one of those creative cooks who could whip up veal Marsala without a lot of prep work and research. I'm more of a "eat it; it won't kill you" kind of cook. Yes. It's always an adventure at my table.

How do you handle the menu at your house? 

A big basket of peppers, okra, cukes, and squash. I picked a couple of watermelons too but I forgot to take a picture. 

Any suggestions on what to do with so many peppers?

I'll freeze the bell peppers, pickle the cubanelle and banana peppers, and stuff some of the jalapenos, but I still have loads more on the vine. What would you try?