Sunday, October 24, 2010

RJ's Big Adventure

Monday morning at ^:00 it was still as dark as the middle of the night. The only light was from the headlights on the mule. RJ ranged behind, beside and in front of me. He has no respect for the mule and darts in front of it, so you have to keep as eye on him when he comes along side. RJ bolted in front of me. I slammed on the brakes, skidding slightly on the loose gravel, narrowly missing him. He ran toward the big walnut trees. I continued to the barn.

When I got there I turned on the lights and music and went to get Libby. She is the lead mare so I get her out first. Then I got a whiff of skunk. I looked around the barn for the source. RJ was walking in the door with his head down and his tail between his legs. I now know the source of the stench.

I quickly put Libby and Claire in the pasture and clean the stall, frantically trying to see how to get the dog clean. We are shorthanded at the library and Lee is doing an early morning bus run. I remember using tomato juice on our dogs from childhood, but they were outside dogs and surely there is something better.

RJ, in the meantime was working desperately to remove the smell. He was rolling in the wet grass and rubbing his neck and face by pushing himself along the grass with his hind legs. When that proved fruitless, he rolled in the dirt in the turnouts. I was worried that he would roll in the horse urine, but in reality it couldn't get worse. And who knows? The acid might help! If it does, I hope it doesn't become a popular cure. Can you imagine men across the country taking car of dogs in this fashion? Yeah, me, too.

Next RJ rolled around and around in Claire's stall. The floor had a lot of shavings in it. I was impressed. Was it smart thinking or was he just desperate? It didn't work, but by this time he was a mess. Muddy and covered in shavings and stinking to high heaven.

When I got to the house, poor RJ was fed outside and locked out. While I fixed my break, I fired up the laptop and searched for the "recipe" for removing skunk stench.

Here it is. It's simple and you can remember it.

1 quart 3% Hydrogen Peroxide, make sure it isn't expired. It has been sitting there for years.

1/4 cup baking soda, you know the stuff in the yellow box.

2 teaspoons of liquid soap

Mix it all in an open bucket. Don't plan on saving it. A closed container may explode.

Use rubber gloves and work it into the coat. Don't get it in the eyes. It will sting. Then let it sit 5 minutes. If you have any left over, pour it down the sink.

I left Lee a message on his cell. He couldn't answer and I knew that, but I wanted him to know to stop on the way home. Then I tied the poor dog in the garage and went to work. I knew Lee would be home in the next hour or so, but I still felt bad for the sad little boy.

One part of message included an offer to come home at lunch when more people would be at the library. Honest. Nonetheless, my wonderful husband managed to buy the Hydrogen Peroxide and get the job done. He even gave RJ a regular bath after to make him smell good. It didn't completely work, but it was WAY better. The first night when we closed the door to our room to keep him confined, It was pretty bad. I had to open the bedroom window and keep the ceiling fan on low all night. I keep thinking we will wash him again, but it has just been too darn cold. Maybe it will wear off. Eventually. That's the plan at any rate.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Coconut Macaroons

This is one of my favorite recipes. It calls for egg whites, but I hate to throw away the yolks, so I like to make it when I make creme brulee, which calls for egg yolks! Last week I made some croissant bread pudding and it called for a lot of egg yolks ,so I saved the whites and here they are. I had 8 and the recipe calls for 4 so I doubled it. I will put in the original recipe for you, but if the quantities look large, that is why! This recipe is from the Epicurious web site.

Coconut Macaroons

4 large egg white
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour

In a heavy sauce pan stir together all the ingredients. You may want to sift the flour. I don't always and it works fine. It looks like too much in the way of dry ingredients, but the egg yolks are gooey enough to mix in well.

Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly for 5 minutes. I leave it for short periods of time, like to put the ingredients back in the pantry, but don't leave it longer than a few seconds. Then turn it up to medium high and this time I mean it when I say stir constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes. The mixture will thicken and pull away from the sides. DO NOT OVERCOOK.

Transfer to a bowl and cool slightly. Then cover completely with plastic wrap and chill for one hour or so until it is just cold.

Preheat oven to 300. Drop by heaping teaspoons (or use a cookie scoop) onto buttered baking sheets. My preference is to use Silpats. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the are pale golden brown. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Fall Colors

This is probably the best weekend for the fall color viewing from our front and back porches. Quite a few trees are dropping their leaves before all of the trees have changed. I think this is probably because we have had such a dry summer and the trees are stressed.

We have porch swings with wonderful cushions, thanks to my great kids. So sitting and viewing is big fun. It's great to sit out there and watch the cat hunt or just hang around. The dog likes to fetch the ball...if by fetch you included not always bringing it back to you.

We let the horses out in the yard today, versus being put inside generous pastures. I like to let them roam around when we can be here and keep an eye on them. The whole 60 acres is not fenced, but it has so many rolling hills and trees it is impossible for them to know that, so they stick around the barn. They do take occasional forays up the hill, but that is the fun part!

The back porch has the advantage of being screened, although we really don't get much in the way of biting bugs. Now stink bugs...we are getting tons of them, but so is everyone else! The view from the back porch allows us the illusion that we are the only people for miles around. Pretty cool. it's hard to imagine a more beautiful place to live.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

James River Clean up

I got a message from Kevin Costello on my county email. He was organizing a clean up day for the James River in coordination with the Twin River Outfitters. I knew Kevin because he is in charge of the county tourism office and Lee and I were now models in all the Upper James River brochures and web sites. We also knew the Twin River Outfitters because they had donated the use of the canoes and their services for the photo shoot.

The original date had to be postponed because we had so much rain. The water was up 3 feet and it "looked like chocolate milk." So it was this weekend. Unfortunately, it was a holiday weekend for the county. Monday is Columbus Day. So a lot of people had made vacation plans. Including Kevin. So when Lee and I showed up only one other guy was there. His name was Rich Maxwell. With John from Twin Rivers ( he and his brother are twins, hence the name of their company )that was only two canoes. There were some other groups and individuals that showed up to clean the landings, but we were the only water based clean up group.

We put in at the Springwood ramp. There were some Class I rapids as we put in, so we didn't even look for debris until we got through that. Right away we started finding tires. They were filled with putrid, black mud and ooze. Even after a good rinsing the bottom of the canoe held lovely, wet bilge water that we kept for the whole trip.

The other group kept mostly to the left side and we worked the right. At times the right side was so sheer that there was nowhere for trash to land, so we drifted left and got trash behind them. At times we were quite far apart and then we would catch up. We each kind of did our own thing.

Sometimes we were able to snag trash with the T of the paddles. That was nice. If not, we had to beach the canoe and one of us had to get out and retrieve the junk while the other tried to hold the canoe in place. Now I'm old and my hips don't like being bent all day, so it was nice to be the one in the front of the boat so that I could get out. I needed to straighten out my hips. Once, Lee wanted to get out. We went nose first into the beach to hold the boat. The water was so clear that it looked more shallow than it was and when Lee stepped out, he sank down and as one leg was still in the boat it tipped us sideways so that we took on water and I had my left side submerged. I am not proud of the fact that I said something mean about that. Something along the lines of, "Just because you are falling in, don't take me with you!" How mean is that? Sorry, Lee.

He managed to right the boat pick up the garbage and then we got out a jar from the trash bag and we bailed off and on for the rest of the journey. Water kept coming from the tires as we bounced around and the sloshing water made it hard to stay upright. In addition, the tires made us top heavy and they would shift a bit from side to side. It made navigation in the other rapids quite tricky for two novice paddlers.

There is a art to paddling. Lee is so much stronger than I that if we both pick a side and paddle, the boat will turn to the side I am using. So Lee has to switch sides to keep us straight. But just when you get the boat going straight and switch to the other side, it keeps on going the other way. So you have to under correct. I had to switch sides due to sheer weakness. I had to let the other side get tired and sore, too! So Lee had to watch what I was doing, watch the way the boat was going and look for garbage. It sounds like a lot of work, and it was, but it was fun, too. The air was clear and warm. It has just started to get cold, so the leaves are turning beautiful colors. The water was mostly smooth as glass, with just a few rocks to keep you on your toes. A perfect day

Add to all of that the idea that we were helping our community and our environment and you would be hard pressed to come up with a better way to spend a Saturday in Fall. Count us in for next year!

Extra Special Brownies

Friday was Rena's birthday and if you ask her what she wants...for pretty much ANY occasion, she will say, something special, like brownies. That is even MORE true on her birthday, so I wanted to make some special brownies and here is what I did.

Extra Special Brownies

Two of your favorite brownie mixes for a 8X8 pan
ingredients necessary to make two boxes, usually eggs, water and oil
Oreo cookies, I used Double Stuff

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 Tablespoons butter, softened
4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt..just a pinch
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat pan to the temperature on the box. Spray a 9 X 13 pan with Pam. Mix the first box according to directions. Spread evenly in pan. Crush or chop 2 rows of Oreos and sprinkle on top.

Mix the second box according to directions. Carefully drizzle and then spread over the OREOS. Bake according to the directions, test with a toothpick.

While it is baking, clean up and start the frosting. Cream the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla and the salt. Add the cocoa powder and mix slowly until mixed together and then mix faster to get it nice and smooth. Add the powdered sugar a cup at a time. Again, first mix slowly and then faster to fully incorporate the sugar.

By this time the brownies should be done. Let them cool while you fix coffee for breakfast and make your lunch for tomorrow. Still not cool?? Clean the cook top and scrub the sink. When the brownies, spread the frosting. Wash the last of the dishes. Cut them big or little, depending on how many people you have to feed.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

You never know if RJ wants to ride down to the barn or run. This morning I started down the road while he was still trying to decide where to pee. It is an important decision and takes him quite a bit of searching. Sometimes while driving down the hill a rabbit will bolt out of the grass and run across the road to the wooded hillside. If RJ is in the Mule he will jump out and take off after the rabbit. I try to stop or hang on to him, but he doesn't even mind rolling end over end in his quest for a good chase. I worry I will run him over.

This morning he was chasing something, but it was 0 dark 30 and I couldn't see him behind me. I could only see where the headlights were. I noticed something rustling in the tall grass to the side of the road and started slowing to allow the wee beastie to cross in front of me. Much to my dismay, I saw a small skunk waddle out across the road. Now even a skunk in a hurry doesn't go real fast, so I stopped and gave it plenty of room. It wouldn't do to make him mad or scared!

My next thought was, "Where is RJ?" I could just imagine what he would do with a skunk! Fortunately, he was still busy behind me and never noticed. I did not want to spend the next week keeping him outside and washing him in tomato juice!

As I got to the barn, I took a wide turn so I could back up to the doors. This makes it easier to load the muck buckets and then I am heading towards the compost pile. I looked up towards the house. It was still pitch dark and when I turned off the Mule I could see all the stars so clearly. Orion was above the house. That was fortunate, because it is one of the few constellations that I know.

After I finished at the barn I went up to the house and fed RJ. When I patted him on the neck and back, I found something crusty and foul smelling. I am almost gagging as I write this. He loves to roll in dead animals and other putrid smelly places, but now he had brought this in the house and I WANTED MY BREAKFAST!

I had to wash him the best I could. The rag came back dark brown and covered in long black dog hairs. THIS IS IN MY HOUSE. I cleaned him up the best I could without a full bath. I had to get to work and Lee was already gone. Can you imagine if he had had a confrontation with the skunk? I guess it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Mountain Magic in Fall

The plan was to help clean up the James River and then head to Buchanan for the Fall celebration. The James clean up was cancelled because of the rain last week. The river was too high and too fast to safely climb around in it for the clean up. It has been postponed until next Saturday. I will have to decide whether to wear my knee high muck boots or the beach shoes I wear in Hawaii for snorkeling and walking on the reefs. I would not like the boots to fill with water and leave me stuck!

So the big outing for this week was to Buchanan for the Mountain Magic in Fall Festival. We waited too long. Neither one of us was hungry so we waited until 3:00. It closed at 5:00 so we thought there would be plenty of time.

By the time we parked and walked up to Main Street, most of the cars for the car show were gone. Lee was disappointed, but held back the tears! I took quite a few pictures because I want my friend Marcy in California to come out one year and be a vendor. I doubt it would pay for her ticket, but it would be fun anyway!

Of course the most important vendors are the ones that sell the food! That is why we had to wait until we were hungry and that is why we missed the car show! I guess we'll know better next year. Go early, eat often, look at cars!

The music is always fun. They set up the stage in the parking lot between the bank and the drug store. I love a drug store with a fountain. Reminds me of the movie Murphy's Romance, but I have yet to see James Garner there. The streets are full of families and happy kids and I would have to say, that is better than James Garner...probably...maybe.

I did buy a T-shirt this year. I can't wear it to work in the library, so I guess it will be my "work and laze around the house" shirt! Next Saturday it will be my "clean up the James" shirt. I'll try to take pictures. If I drop the camera in the water it will be my excuse to get a good one. I bought a book on digital photography from Doris so there is no longer any excuse for lousy pictures!