Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Plague of Worms

Last night was a windy mess. It was the kind of day when I wish to have a wind turbine to generate free electricity. Because it has been reasonably warm I didn't close the barn doors. When the wind started howling and the rain began blowing sideways and shaking the house I woke up and worried about it. I tend to worry about things I cannot change on a general basis. Ok, I could have gone down to the barn at 3:30 in the morning when the wind was threatening to blow the house off the hill, but I didn't want to.

So this morning I was apprehensive as to what I would find when I got to the barn. I slept in (8:00) as I had been awake during the night for a few hours listening to the wind and worrying. I wish I had taken my camera as the whole front part of the barn was covered in worms. Not tens of worms, but hundreds of worms. A plague of worms, if you will.

After doing the usual clean up in the stalls and letting the horses out, I had to sweep the wee little beasties out the door. Sadly most of them were on exposed concrete and had mostly dried to a not quite crispy yet not fully functional mess. I tried not to make it worse, but really, I wasn't going to pick up each one and carefully place them in the dirt. They had been blown in about 15 feet into the barn and 10 feet on either side of the doors.

When sweeping them out of the tack and feed room portion of the barn I noticed that most of the mouse traps had been sprung when the wind had flipped them over. I have a preference in mouse traps. I like the ones that kill them dead and have a large piece of faux cheese as the trigger. Setting them is tricky, but I wear gloves. This makes it harder to do yet less painful when it snaps ME.

One of the traps held a dead mouse and so I dumped him in the trash and reset the trap. Sure, you can dump the whole thing and not touch anything, but, once again, I wear gloves and I am cheap. They cost about 50 cents each! I must admit that when I haven't found the dead mouse until a few days have passed and it is a disgusting mess, I do toss the trap with the mouse. Not THAT cheap.

As I was sweeping mostly dead worms and disposing of a very dead mousie I was thinking of my breakfast up at the house just waiting for me. Yes, an Atkins bar is breakfast if that is all you eat in the morning! Is there something wrong with me that I am not grossed out by gross things? Or is it good that I am turning into a country girl and not squeamish about silly things? All I know is, I won't be butchering a hog anytime soon. Not quite there yet.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


I got up today with the intention of riding. I have about given up on Libby. So now I am going to concentrate on Claire and look to sell Libby. So I put on my riding jeans. Those are the jeans that about 4 inches too long. That way when I am in the saddle they don't ride up and expose my boots. Lee Riders. Fashion statement.

Then Lee comes in from cutting firewood and tells me it is getting colder and windy. Well, poo (insert scatological comment of choice here). So I went out with the electric trimmer to start on the garden for the winter trimming. I used up the battery and then realized it wasn't that cold or windy. Of course, I was working on the leeward side of the house, but I had it in my mind to ride so I finished up and changed boots and went to the barn.

I have ridden Claire quite a few times, but never on my own with no one around and with Libby screaming like a 2 year old being dropped at preschool for the first time. Assuming 2 year olds run and buck and fart and generally make a big fat scene! We started off slow with lots of turns, working our way towards the far side of the pasture. At this point Libby kicks it into high gear (you mean all that other WASN'T high gear?) and I start easing Claire back to the barn. Naturally the wind also picks up and Claire starts to speed up. I slow her down and she starts to buck. I was afraid of this. I am too old to fall off a horse. Fortunately for me I have been bucked by meaner horses than Claire, who usually is a sweetie. So I was able to pull her head up. She wasn't really serious about getting me off. Then I was able to think clearly enough to use one rein to pull her head sideways and up and get her stopped.

My heart was pounding at this point and I wanted to jump off and quit. If I did that it would almost be as bad as letting her dump me and then quitting. (Bad behavior means I get to go back with my very best bud, Libby? Let's buck!) So I forced myself to lower my hands, sit deep and walk a lot of patterns until we were both settled. Of course, I kept the barn between me and the wind and the crazy nut in the pasture! Then I stopped on a high note and put Claire away.

I know horses are herd animals and love to be together, but I think I will go down to one animal. That way she will have to attach to me and maybe even RJ. I think that will make for a calmer ride.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Cauliflower Leek Puree

Lee and I had our Thanksgiving meal more than a week ago. Travis and Vanessa were unable to come, but our girls came and so we had it early. It is jarring when in a grocery store and they are still touting Thanksgiving and shoving turkeys at us. Wasn't that last week??? The good part is that Christmas music doesn't seem all THAT early....

So, while it is Thanksgiving, we didn't want or need a huge carb laden meal. So we decided...wait, that sounds like we had a meeting and figured all this out...I decided to have a turkey breast and use the Cauliflower-Leek Puree recipe from the Atkins web site. It looks rather bland and cauliflower is not my favorite, but Lee likes it and I shouldn't be having potatoes any time soon. So that is what we had with the small edition of peas because it was such a bland white bread appearing meal. Well, there was that whole grain roll with which we indulged.

On the subject of peas, our daughter, Trista tells us that there is a "sauce" called pea wet. It seems that when you prepare Mushy Peas, an English treat, well, food item, there is a greenish foam on top. This is then scooped off and ladled over chips (the English version of french fries). Chips with pea wet sounds disgusting, but never having eaten them, I can't speak from experience. Try it yourself and report back.

Cauliflower-Leek Puree
original recipe from Atkins.com

3 cup cauliflower, separated into florets
1 leek, white and green part
1 tsp salt, divided
3 Tbl butter
3 Tbl heavy cream
1/8 tsp nutmeg

You will get almost 6 cups from one cauliflower, so I made the whole thing. The leeks I bought came in a package of three, so I used all the white parts from the three and a bit of the green.

Cook them in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water for 15 minutes, until very tender.

Drain and return to the pan to remove excess moisture. The recipe call for a food processor to be used to puree this in batches with the butter and cream. I have a hand blender and that is far superior. Just add the butter and salt to the pan and puree until smooth. Then add salt and pepper and a dash of nutmeg. I like to put a dollop of butter on the top to look , well, buttery.

In keeping with a low carb meal, I sliced some strawberries and sprinkled some Splenda on them. Stir and set aside. When ready to serve add a dollop of Cool Whip or a spritz of whipped cream. It looks decadent, yet it isn't!


In anticipation of pigging out over the next few days, I made a quiche and a salad for a light dinner. I used the recipe from Rich Donnis. He was a very good friend of ours from our old stomping grounds, Granite Bay, CA. His father was a chef and he grew up making wonderful food and he and his wife Mary were wonderful hosts. We went on a trip to Tahoe together and they made this wonderful quiche and generously provided the recipe for us.


9" pastry shell
8 slices bacon, diced
1/2 lb swiss cheese, shredded
1 TBL flour
1/2 tsp salt
dash nutmeg
3 eggs beaten
1 3/4 cup milk

I tend to use shortcuts when available, so here is what I did. I bought a frozen pie shell. Use one and save the other for a future date. Bake for 7 minutes in a 350 oven. I use pie weights that I place on a bit of foil to keep them clean and so they don't sink into the crust. When removing the pie shell lower the heat to 325.

While the crust is cooking I microwave some pre-cooked bacon. I cook as many pieces as will crowd their way onto a plate ( 10 or 12, they're thin) and then turn them out onto a paper towel. Blot. Then whisk the other ingredients except the cheese and the nutmeg. It tends to fall to the bottom of the bowl.

Using the paper towel, crush the bacon and dump...I mean place, it in the empty pie shell. Save the paper towel to wipe the plate used for cooking. It can then be placed in the dishwasher. Add a 6 oz package of shredded swiss. Sure, you can buy a block and then shred it, but I am talking easy here.

Add the egg mixture and then using a microplane, grate a bit of nutmeg over the top. OK. Here is when I am inconsistent. I like the fresh stuff better and I have a microplane, so that is what I do. You can sprinkle it from the spice container. I doubt it will make a difference.

Bake at 325 for 35 to 40 minutes. You can slide a knife in the center and if it comes out clean, but damp, you are ready. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Major Wood

Two things happened to get Lee and me in the woods, today. First, it is getting colder and Lee has been looking into something to keep the shop a bit warmer in the winter. Not warm, just not freezing. Last year he got a heater that attached to the propane tank we use for the grill and it was not enough. Now he is considering a wood burning stove. After all we have wood to burn up in the woods...get it???

So, last night found us driving to Vinton after dark to look at a stove we found on Craig's List. It wasn't until we were partway there that Lee said that he hoped we weren't heading to our doom. (Cue scary music) Perhaps we were being lured there to be murdered and robbed as has been done in the past. The house was old and had narrow hallways and the stove we came to look at was in the basement. The dark, scary, under lit basement. The dank ...OK, you get the idea.

Suffice it to say, the stove was too small for our needs and we left, all in one piece. In fact the owner was the youth pastor at his church. I called Tara on the way home and we decided I would clue her in next time we go on a "dangerous" excursion. What if we were killed and there was no one to feed the animals? And when did things get reversed and we have to check in with our kids? I thought that was WAY down the road!

The second thing that happened was the loss of some big trees. I mean really big. Oak tree from Daniel Boone days big. (OK. I am a child of TV in the 60's. I have no other reference point for way back when in some vague place close to here.) It seems to be the neighbor's tree, but it has fallen into our "yard". When you have around 60 acres, yard is not the right word, but work with me on this. We have about 10 to 15 acres of woods up to the ridge line and the neighbor behind us has about the same down the back side our the hill behind our house. He runs cows and sometimes a tree will fall and take out the barbed wire between our two properties. Then we get bovine visitors. RJ LOOOVES bovine visitors. Or maybe the right word is hates them. At any rate he runs and barks at them. If they run home, this is very fun. If they stand there staring at him he has no clue what to do. Except more running and barking. All of these things are fun for RJ.

So now a HUGE tree is blocking our trail to the top of the ridge and it has knocked down the barbed wire. We don't have cows here, yet, so maybe he has sold them or moved them to another pasture. Or maybe it is just a matter of time, but we have to do something about it.

Lee and I went up to cut enough to at least allow us up the trail. This is no small undertaking...remember that whole big tree thing? Lee used the chain saw and I used the loppers and the machete to get the smaller branches off. These we moved to the side of the trail to be dealt with another time. The trail is maybe 5 feet wide and we cleared it and loaded the wood worth burning into the truck. The plan was to cut them into lengths at a future date. We loaded until we were too tired to heave the logs up any higher. We barely made a dent in the tree.

Enter Roy Gross. On my last visit to the library, Jackie told me that Roy had cut up a tree for her. She didn't have to deal with a dead tree and Roy got some free wood for his fireplace. So now I have placed a call to Super Roy. (Faster than a speeding delivery truck more powerful than our too small chainsaw.) He will be coming in a few days to see what he can do. I hope he has a big chain saw and then we can cut the tree into lengths that the tractor can pull down the hill. We don't want to chew up the road or have the trunk slide down the hill and take the tractor (and Lee) with it!

It might not be possible, but I want to try and use part of the trunk to make a bench. I have seen them where a wedge, one quarter of the circumference is removed and then legs or saved portions of branches are used to fashion a bench. I don't know if I'm capable of fashioning one that is comfortable or at least usable, but I think it would be fun to try. I have some wood carving tools I would like to use and surely there is enough wood to sand out any errors, or chainsaw any errors, and try again! I'll let you know.

After 4 years of living here, I have finally worn out my leather gloves. I thought I could keep using them, but the middle finger is worn through and every time I threw a log on the truck it scraped my finger. So out with the old and in with the new. As for the title of this piece, I will have you know that that is the comment Lee made when he saw how much work this little project was going to be. So all of you shaking your heads and commenting on my lack of decorum, shame on you :-)!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mug Rugs

Even though I no longer work at the library, I don't want to lose the friends I have made there. Doris is a crafter and former co-worker and we both wanted to take a class at the Trinity School House Quilt Shop. They were not offering quilt classes until next year, so last Saturday we took a wool felt applique class to make mug rugs. I have done some applique, but it sounded like fun and I'm glad I went.

Now what, you might ask, is a mug rug. Well, it seems that they are something along the lines of a coaster for hot drinks, you know, those in mugs. The pattern book we purchased for the class had a lot of rustic type patterns for different seasons and themes, but our kits for the class were for the snowman. It had these little fingers all around the out side of the circle and then we were to cut out rounds of red felt to attach to the fingers. It makes for a rather unwieldy mug rug, but that was the pattern.

I learned some tricks to make applique go faster and easier. If you trace the pattern onto freezer paper, you can iron it to the felt and it will stay in place while you cut out the pattern. You can even peel it off and reuse it a few times. We also learned about Steam A Seam (SAS). You trace and cut out the pattern on the SAS and then remove the backing and steam it onto the fabric. After cutting out the pattern, you remove the remaining paper and it leaves a thin layer of glue that doesn't become permanent until you steam in onto the fabric. You don't have to pin it to the fabric and then stitch it in place. It goes a lot faster and doesn't move around and is very cool. Because of the rustic nature of the pattern, I didn't have to worry about perfect even stitches and that was very freeing and made the project go a lot faster.

After a morning of camaraderie and lots of tracing and cutting we all came away with a partially completed snowman and an extra kit to make another at home. I wasn't fond of the fingers all around so I left them off and had extra red and black felt. Enough to make two more rugs. I didn't quite have enough cream colored felt for another face, so I covered the gap with a red scarf. Then I had to do some hats in red and I changed the stick nose for a carrot and added a pipe. I was thinking about adding a black hatband, but I ran out of oomph.

Plus, once the rugs are in use, you can't see the face anyway. I could just cut up black felt and be done with it. Of course, where's the fun in that!

So I put them all together and they are kind of cute. If I was a better artist or had some cute patterns, I might make some more. That is, if I heard from various children that they were dying to have a mug rug of their very own. And they told me the theme they wanted. I DO want to try making a tea cozy.

Here's the thing about black felt, though. People with white cats should not use it. For any reason. And that's all I'll say about that.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nashville Night in Buchanan

One of the really cool things about living in or near a small town is the community spirit. Most weeks there is a fund raiser of some sort. We've gone to meals to fund missions and bake and yard sales to help out families with medical problems. Last night it was a fund raiser to help the Food Pantry. There are a lot of people in Botetourt that live paycheck to paycheck and an unexpected expense that can mean a little belt tightening to us may mean no food on the table for them. The Food Pantry fills a real need here and helps a lot of families.

So when our neighbor, Rose called and told us about a fundraiser we thought it was a good idea. We love the historic Buchanan Theater and there was to be a concert there called Nashville Night in Buchanan. Now I love country music and thought it might be a pleasant evening with friends for a good cause. It turned out to be so much more than that.

There were four young men up on the small stage with guitars and stools. (Well, one man complained of being 35 and creaky. Seriously? Suck it up buddy. You are in the prime and it goes downhill from here!) It was not a polished performance with light shows and pyrotechnics. It was four hot young songwriters from Nashville that had come here with a friend from Buchanan, Matt Ramsey. (Hometown boy makes good and comes back to help the local Food Pantry.) They were relaxed and easy to listen to and when they forgot a lyric they laughed and hummed and kept on going. Matt Ramsey pointed out that if you remember all the words to all the songs you wrote, you weren't writing enough songs! They had all collaborated in different combinations with each other on songs and went down the line picking a favorite they had written. They told funny or touching or just plain interesting stories on the songs and what they were thinking when they were written. Quite a few of them were currently being produced with top performers and it was fun to get a sneak peak of some wonderful new songs. It was so good.

The four young men were Matt Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, Matt Jenkins and Josh Osborne. Remember those names. I am the type of listener that likes to read the liner notes on an album. OK. THAT ages me. Are they still called albums? Nonetheless, I like to see who wrote the song or who played what instrument. Now I will have some more names to look for.

After hearing of their writing retreats and some of the collaboration that goes on in the Nashville music scene, I think that following these young men would be a better reality show than that of the Kardashians. Let's hear about some talented people making good decisions for a change. Could a show about the positive work? I don't know, but I sure would like to see someone try that. Wish I knew Ryan Seacrest.