Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Final Stretch

I have 5 more days of Nutcracker madness. We finished staging rehearsal number 2 last night at 7:30, then drove the hour and fifteen minutes home. There was a road block on the country road that leads into my little town which tacked on extra minutes. I was let past without much investigation, but the people in front of me on both sides of the road were checked thoroughly and I was annoyed beyond measure. Why would the MHP need to check licenses at 8:30 p.m. on a small country road whose traffic consists of people coming home from ballet and chicken and feed trucks? I hope there was a good reason because I was sorely inconvenienced.

Sorry, I got side-tracked. Tonight is dress rehearsal for Cast A. Thursday is a morning performance for school children and the Cast B dress rehearsal. Friday brings another performance for school children in the morning and the first paid (honestly I think they make those school children pay, but it is a reduced rate) public performance. Saturday brings a matinee, a tea party, and a night performance. Sunday brings the final matinee and tea party. I love to watch Princess' excitement, but I'm ready for the end. I'm tired of driving.

NaBloPoMo will be over this week too. Though this wasn't the best month for me to reinvigorate my blog after several months of lackadaisical blogging, I'm glad I tried. I needed a jump start.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Question of the day

Is there anything I won't let in the house? I know this looks bad for me, but I have an excuse - a good one. My sister borrowed our incubator so she could hatch some eggs with her three year old. The eggs hatched a few weeks ago. Baby chickens are really nasty pets, if you have to keep them inside. They make a fine dust that gets all over everything. They poop like crazy and turn their food and water over every few minutes. They also get out of the box and keep you up all night.

Once the chicks got out of that cute fuzzy stage and my sister saw the annoying side of chicks, she wanted to bring them back to the farm. Reuniting them with the farm was part of the original agreement, though it is a bit chilly for chicks who aren't fully feathered, so we got a box and a lamp and put them in the dog trot.

Large box in the dog trot worked well for a few days, but last night the chicks were unusually noisy. I think every person was awakened, except Princess who isn't wakened by anything. Every one of us went out into the breezy dog trot to check to see if there had been an unfortunate accident with the light. This morning, they escaped.

K is getting their outside facility ready as I type. We'll install a heat lamp and a warming chamber. They are ready for a bigger and better facility. I'm ready too. I'm liberal with the animals in the dog trot, but I'm not completely insane. They've pooped on my floor. See?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sugaring, Southern Style

In the South, sugar cane is the source of most things sweet. The weather and natural tree selection prevents maple sugaring, so to satisfy the Southern sweet tooth, we grow sugar cane. Just so you know, there are several varieties. Most people here grow two - one for syrup and one for chewing. In the fall, traditionally the weekend after Thanksgiving, the cane is harvested, stripped of its foliage, and then pressed.

In the past the cane press was turned with mules - some still are. Last year my neighbors pressed and cooked the cane the old fashioned way with mules and a wood fire, but this year an old tractor and a huge belt was used to turn the press and a propane fire was used to cook the juice.

I hated to see the change, but training mules and donkeys to walk round and round for hours on end must be a lot of trouble. I also understand that a gas fire is easier to regulate than a wood fire, but you know how I am about the old ways. The second picture is the pulley that is attached to the tractor. Mr. W says they had a lot of technical difficulties early in the morning with the tractor, yet they mostly had it figured out.

Once you get the press turning, you feed the cane through the press without getting your fingers caught. The idea of being pulled into the press just gives me the all-overs. Can you hear my voice of caution warning my children when it was their turn to shove cane through? I'm turning into my mother. Help!!

When the cane comes out the other side it is mashed to pulp. The juice is extracted and is filtered through a burlap bag which will capture all the cane pieces that get left behind. From the bag the juice is stored in a big tub with a spigot. When enough juice is captured, it is released through a pipe into the cooking tray, which unfortunately no one thought to capture in a picture.
The juice is cooked and stirred, stirred and cooked until it is a perfect consistency. Then, it is released into syrup cans and sealed. Yum! Yum! If you continue cooking, you will have cane sugar, though it is a beautiful mocha brown color rather than the white of grocery store sugar. My neighbors buy their sugar, so stop at syrup.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Obviously, I failed

I failed. I didn't write yesterday and I have no intention writing any more than this tonight. Sorry, NaBloPoMo people. I've got some great pictures of a cane syruping that I'll share tomorrow, but I can't do another thing tonight.

Friday, November 23, 2007


I'm cheating NaBloPoMo. Sorry. Here is another picture of Thanksgiving to make my post quota.

My sister usually makes the salad, but she celebrated Thanksgiving with her in-laws this year, so I made a salad - lettuce, toasted pecans, pears, and clementines - tossed with a balsamic vinaigrette. Does this count as cooking?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Gobble Gobble!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Would you please pass the cranberries? Thank you.

Could I get another roll? Thank you.

May I have a little more salad? Thank you.

Is there any more pecan pie? Thank you.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Kitchen - after

Let's start with the kitchen since that is where I will be today. There was tremendous water damage in the kitchen from leaky pipes under the sink. The floors were rotten and the floor joists were rotten. So we pulled up the floor, being careful to save as many boards as possible. We wouldn't have enough old flooring to use it all over the house, so we decided to go with new pine flooring in the kitchen and save the kitchen's old wood to use in the dog trot. Once we could walk without falling through the floor and the house was rejoisted and leveled, we got to make a few fun decisions like cabinets, appliance size, and whether to try to get the paint off the walls or paint over it. The kitchen and the bathroom were the only rooms that had ever been painted. Obviously, we decided to paint the kitchen.

We had the cabinets custom made at the house. I wanted them to seem as if they had been there as long as the house and I wanted them to fit our not so square house. We decided on banded pine flooring (which was my mother's design) for the solid cabinet doors and hardware cloth for the upper doors and the pie safe. The pie safe was original, though the doors were gone. For the cabinet tops we went with Formica everywhere except right next to the stove. There we used tile so I could move things off the heat without damaging anything. We went with this arrangement because I wanted a practical kitchen. I didn't want to spend any time worrying about whether I was going to ruin a counter top. Julia Child also recommended a Formica and tile combo.

After having lived in the kitchen two years, there are a few things that I would have done differently. I would have moved the island back toward the refrigerator to give us more walking room around the table. I would have made the harvest table a little smaller. I would have added a ceiling fan to this room somewhere. And I would have thought long and hard about the lighting. I don't have enough light over the stove and I don't like the counter lights. With tall wooden ceilings darkened by years of wood stove use, light seems to disappear just when you need it.

Mostly, I still love what we did with the kitchen - practical farm, with touches of modernism.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Our house - before

Some of you have been curious about my house, so I thought I would do a before and after series. The house is a little over a hundred and had been rented for about 30 years, maybe more, before we got our hands on it. During this time not much maintenance was done. At some point a longer term renter tacked up some Sheetrock and Formica to the the walls and lowered the ceiling in the same mish-mash manner in hopes of slowing the flow of the winter winds.

The first picture is not a true before picture because the disgusting mildewy cabinets have been ripped out and the dropped ceiling removed, but the patch worked walls and rotten floor give you the feel for the place.

Which leads me to a short detour. Mr. W and I were planning on building a new house on this same property. We went so far as have the site prepared, but each day we went to the top of the hill we passed this old house. Each day one or the other would say, "I wonder what it looks like inside?" or "I wonder how bad it is?" or "Wouldn't that house be interesting?" Renters were still living there so we couldn't just barge in.

One day, the roof of the house started leaking and the renters were referred to us as being the new owners. Mr. W raced over in an attempt get a look at the house to make a good impression as a landlord. He went in and then did everything in his power to get out as fast as he could. The conditions were that bad, yet there was still the feeling of something special. We gave the tenants notice because we didn't think the house was habitable and they left leaving their dog, a nasty couch, and mounds of stinky clothes.

Once we got all that trash out, we started tearing out the dropped ceilings and mismatched drywall. We found the bead board and heart pine siding, the dog trot, the fireplaces, and the curved heat trap in the hallway and never looked back. We abandoned our plan of building and threw ourselves into another rehab project, our third since we moved to Mississippi. Our goal was to keep as much of the original as possible while updating wiring, plumbing, and insulation and making sure you couldn't fall through the floor. Of course we needed to modernize some things, like the kitchen and bathroom. We also needed to get rid of the sky blue, silver, pink, lavender, and black door facings and replace all the doors that had been kicked-in (which was all of them). If we couldn't refurbish the original, we tried to keep the spirit of the old.

As an added bonus, since this had originally been my Great Grandparents home, we had stories from my father, his sisters, and a great aunt to help us rekindle the spirit of the house. We felt good about the work ahead of us. And we had a lot of work ahead of us. We had no idea of the structural problems( a little termite damage, though they don't really like heart pine). We had no idea we would have to find a salvage house to match the bead board. We had no idea we would have to have wood milled to match the pine siding on the exterior. We had no idea that we would have to remove every piece of wood so we could insulate properly.

We had no idea!

Monday, November 19, 2007

More Winter Preparations

I've been slowly preparing for winter. I cleaned the ceiling fans and switched the blade rotation, yesterday. They were filthy - embarrassingly so. I thought about providing a before and after, but I was too embarrassed. With our humidity and open door policy of the summer, the blades are magnets for dust. Even with the blades spinning almost nonstop in the summer, dust just glues itself to the blades.

Taking care of the fans is no small task. Even with the six foot extender bars, our fans are 11 feet from the floor, so a ladder is required to get close enough to do any good. Needing a ladder guarantees the fans don't get cleaned as often as they should. Take my word for it, they were disgusting.

Anyway, I washed the light globes while dusting the fans. In addition to the expected bugs and dust bunnies, I found three Dum-Dums in the globe of the fan in the children's room. I cannot imagine how or why they were there. The aim necessary to have launched three suckers into the small opening the globe provides from 11 feet below is amazing. I know because when no one was looking, I tried to get the candy back in the globe. I couldn't.

We use the fans in winter because we try to rely only on our cast iron fireplace insert to heat this drafty old house. With these reversible fans we push the warm air around and back down to where the people are. With seventeen foot ceilings every little bit helps!

If I can help it I won't clean them again until spring. Maybe someone will leave more candy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Christmas Gifts

If you are family and expecting gifts from my family, read no further if you like surprises.

I suppose it is alright to talk about Christmas since decorations have been up since Halloween and Frankie has already been to a Christmas parade up in Minnesota. Do you remember when I told you about my husband's family deciding to make presents this year rather than buying and how I was going to make one present per month? Well, I didn't do it. In January, Christmas seemed like ages away. March and April had garden and beekeeping chores that made me forget Christmas presents. May, June, and July were spent knee deep in vegetables. August was too hot to think about Christmas. September and October were spent getting into the rhythms of school and activities. November brought Nutcracker rehearsals, though panic began to creep into the far corners of my mind. I did manage to get a few gifts done, but no where close to my goal of having been finished by now.

Princess is a better gifter than I. She is almost finished. She completed these super cute potted plant bugs just this week. They are made of Sculpey and coated paper clips. Aren't they happy? I was hoping to get one of these, but alas, I was not on the pot bug list. She has other gifts wrapped already. How is it possible that I didn't pass on that procrastination gene?

Now, to make something - anything! Suggestions???????

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Nandina is another one of those plants like wisteria, privet, and kudzu that was introduced to Mississippi in gardens or for erosion control and liked the situation so well that they decided to go native. A cousin of mine who works in the academics of natural reforestation told me to de-nandina my hill so as not to encourage invasion. I couldn't bear to rip the hundred year old nandina out, but I did dedicate myself to digging all the invading plants outside of my yard, on the fence rows, and woods.

It is difficult to stand firm in my commitment because Nandina is so pretty. In the spring there is new growth and tiny white flowers. In the fall and winter there are red berries and red and green leaves. If my children and the birds leave them alone, the berries are perfect for Christmas decorations. The foliage and leaves will last weeks. If I leave the foliage and berries outside, I get beautiful color in an otherwise bland gardening season. I also provide berries for birds. Of course, they will eat them, then seed a few more plants, which I have promised to uproot.

Why do I like all of the invasive species and find it so difficult to do the right thing?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Favorites

Mrs. G has a round-up of Friday Favorites over at Derfwad Manor. Here is my contribution.

I love my porch swings. Yes, I have two, one on each end of the front porch. One hundred years ago two swings were installed, one on each end. We are using the same hooks. Occasionally someone will look up and say, "I hope those things don't break," but mostly we forget and just relax and swing, swing and relax.

From my porch perch I can see who is driving down the road, the cows in pasture across the road, the bee hives, the orchard, and the horse. The cats like my sun spot, too. In fact, I rarely get to sit by myself. One, two, or more cats usually find me, especially if I am eating or drinking something.

Sometimes I read, but mostly I just sit and remember how lucky I am to have a porch, a view, and a few cats who think I'm wonderful.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pet Peeve

I wanted to write about something positively uplifting tonight - perhaps another of my favorite things, but I was caught in traffic on the way home from Nutcracker rehearsal and have just walked in the door. My delay gave me fodder for this daily madness for which I have dedicated myself, so all is not lost.

There were apparently two accidents on I-20. My husband called at ballet and told me about them (heard about them on the radio) and suggested I go around. I got distracted leaving the Arts Center and got swooshed out onto the interstate going straight for the accidents. Traffic came to a standstill immediately. I started trying to think of another way to go around the accident, but there wasn't really much I could do for a mile or so. It took me about 30 minutes to go the mile. I had a lot of time to watch people in that thirty minutes. What I saw wasn't particularly positive.

First of all, why do people insist on rushing at full speed down a lane that is obviously closed, just so they can get in line ahead of all the others who are waiting, just so they can wait? Do they not know that merge lanes in accidents are to help ease traffic flow? Can they not understand the concept of the time wasted when they have to needle their way back into the slow moving traffic, especially when those people they need to let them in are annoyed because they went around? Do they not realize that they have gained only a few seconds of drive time?

Secondly, when eighteen wheelers need to get over they need more room than a VW Beetle. Wouldn't traffic flow better if that eighteen wheeler was allowed some space to make a safe transition? When a truck and trailer turn on a blinker they are asking for a kindness. Why is everyone in such a hurry to wait that they can't help someone?

Lastly, why do so many people insist on using the shoulder to try to speed ahead of all the patient souls who are trying to help by maintaining discipline during a frustrating situation? Don't you realize that the shoulders are used by the emergency vehicles and that if you and your 100 friends are in the way the tow trucks behind you won't be able to get to the accident to clear it quickly? Don't you realize that the added time for ambulances to get to the scene could be someone's life?

Maybe driving a happy, yellow bug car is responsible for my positive attitude, but gracious sakes alive I can just visualize a happy roadway in which everyone works together so bad situations are less stressful for everyone. I honestly think everyone would get home sooner.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Second Chance

I have been playing catch-up all day. My time spent away from work is showing in the piles on my desk and a to-do list that seems never ending. I started on one project - my least favorite- and while I was steadily working my way through a mail campaign list, a representative from a magazine starts emailing and calling asking for an ad that is obviously due, though when I bought the ad on Friday the art due date wasn't mentioned. I didn't answer the phone. I didn't respond to his email. He just kept emailing - over and over. Then he emailed and asked if I needed help with the ad.

I'm not sure why, but the last email struck a nerve. I clicked the respond button and tapped out a pert and somewhat snarky retort in which I may have mentioned the insignificance of his publication. Then, I clicked send.

For some unknown reason the email system had a momentary glitch and I got a warning asking if I'd like to send the mail later or use one of my other servers. REPRIEVE! I immediately deleted the email and started working on the ad because I knew he was just doing his job and though there was an obvious miscommunication about the art deadline, it was probably not his fault. I have since emailed the ad with a short note thanking him for his patience.

I'm glad I got a second chance. But isn't that weird?? What are the chances that an email doesn't go through right at the moment you said something totally unprofessional and completely inappropriate?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Less than two weeks

Angela reminded me in her comment for the last post that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. Honestly, it doesn't seem possible for the year to have gone by so quickly. It seems like yesterday that I was doing the Am I My Best Self? questionnaire. I haven't made as much progress as I would have liked on that agenda. I have made some progress, though. I no longer drink one Tab a day. I am down to one a week - alright sometimes two.

Even without Tab, I truly love Thanksgiving - the holiday without all the commercialism unless you count the official starting day of Christmas shopping on the day after. I would love to plan everything and have everyone come to my house. For those hosting this year, I know that sounds crazy. I do get to bring a few dishes. I just love to think about the possibilities, but I also like the tradition.

What about you? What's your favorite Thanksgiving food? Do you like to prepare or attend?

Monday, November 12, 2007


My mother just left. We completed one of our seasonal rituals - the production of the Thanksgiving invitation (We also do Christmas and Easter creations). You would think that getting a few words onto a card would take just a few minutes. We always schedule minutes, but never have we been able to get those few words printed on the cards in the allotted minutes.

We are both obsessed with the perfect card even though we both pretend that it doesn't matter. In fact, today, Mother said, "It doesn't matter. It's going to be super casual this year. I don't even know why I'm sending an invitation." Though it didn't matter, the card selection was not exactly perfect for the occasion, and the attitude was more casual than in years past, we spent much time scrutinizing fonts for size and style, phrasing the invite to create the perfect tone, and creating a ginkgo leaf that had the perfect weight and size for the font and the invitation.

The invitation is printed. Our obsessive-compulsive behaviors noted. Tradition is preserved.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Another favorite thing!

I'm continuing my round-up of favorite things. I was going to wait to combine this favorite with a post on how I run my kitchen, answering questions from past posts like: Do you serve your family enough iodine when you use coarse salt; how many cookbooks do you have; and how do you keep up with your recipes? But desperation and Mrs. G called, and I will post one of my kitchen secrets now.

I love my recipe software, A Cooks Book. I have worked my way through many programs and though all have some similar features, none make me as happy as this work in progress program which I have used about 8 years (just guessing). The individual, Tony Cate, his 3 cats, and his Mac who wrote and upgrade this program listen to the users. He fixes, adds, and improves all the time. But, what I love about this program is that it doesn't need to be fixed that often. It is a small program that doesn't hog up your whole computer. It is as flexible as each individual user. You can import recipes from almost any format and can drag and drop recipes from emails and the web. You can plan meals and print grocery lists. You can search recipes by ingredients, categories, quick lists, publications . . . . And for the health conscious there is nutritional tracking of meals and recipes. Check out the website for all the features. You can even download a demo and try it (Mac users only!).

Combined with another kitchen secret that I will divulge within the week, planning and cooking is a snap.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I know everyone thought I was going to miss a day

I wasn't sure about it myself. I probably need to miss a day to restore a sense of balance, but my sense of competitive spirit and obligation has me lashed to the keyboard. Speaking of obligation . . . Having a daughter who is dancing both casts and both acts of the Nutcracker is more of an obligation than I ever imagined. Not only is there more driving time and more waiting time (I took my pecans for today's four hour session. She was embarrassed.), but there is more time for you to be accosted by The Guild. If I go to any more practices, I will need to get a cot and move in to the studio to fulfill all the tasks they feel I need to complete before performance. Of course, I will have to bring my kitchen with me.

This volunteering thing starts innocuously enough. A friend needs some help making a few favors. Because some other chair person sees me helping, they ask about another small task. Since I stayed backstage last year, it is assumed that I will do backstage duty this year. Then, before you know it I am producing cheese straws for The Nutcracker Tea and The Sugar Plum Tea which have 200 guests each. All this while spending 6 hours away from my home today, 4 hours next Tuesday, 6 hours next Thursday, and 6 hours next Saturday.

I really must learn to say, NO!!!

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Orange Kitten has a Name

After a week or so of trying on names, I have decided to name my kitten after my blogging buddy Zilla. Though I felt a bit forward and a little hesitant crossing the barrier between internet world and physical world, the name fit, and even the children thought Zilla was a sizzily enough name for this handful of sproinky fur. I liked all the other suggested names including blogger Zilla's second suggestion, Sassafras, but saying Zilla makes everyone smile, so Zilla it is.

With this bold move perhaps the bunny episode can be put into the past. Perhaps the kitten will continue to exhibit the traits which make her most Zillaish - stunning intellect, curiosity, and a kind heart. And perhaps saying Zilla every single day will make us all smile.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Unsolicited and Unpaid Advertising

Sometimes I think it sounds like I never buy food and that I make every single thing from scratch. This is a long way from the truth. I am careful, though. I read every single label of every single product that is placed in the cart. I'm not a stickler for organic products, but I find that with organic packaged food the ingredient lists are sometimes shorter, which is what I'm seeking.

Take Suzie's Salted Crackers for example. The ingredient list reads Organic Wheat Flour, Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Salt, Water. Do I care that the package says No Hydrogenated Fats, No Cholesterol, Non GMO, All Natural, Low Fat, 100% Organic? Not really. The ingredient list says it all. Of course it doesn't have all that bad stuff because Suzie uses quality, unadulterated ingredients and made crackers the way they should be made - with four ingredients. This isn't true with all organic foods with healthy claims.

Sometimes the organic varieties of common foods, like crackers have ingredient lists just as long as the standard, commercial brands. The lists are healthier, but still comprise way too much of the package space, and even then the product tastes bland - too healthy.

Give me simplicity. Give me great taste. Give me more products like Suzie's Salted Crackers.

Give me some more thin, crisp, lightly salted crackers. This package is empty.

* You can blame Mrs. G for this one. She did a list yesterday and it seemed fun to share so I will, but I'm not organized enough to do all of my favorites in one day.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

More Bottles to Wash

On Sunday, a farmer brought us another bottle calf. We aren't 100% sure of her story, but I do know she got off to a rough start about a week ago and the mama cow, who is now suffering mastitis bent both sides of one truck and one side of the other when the farm workers were trying to help her. Of course, she was aiming at the workers. I guess they decided it was too dangerous to continue to intercede and gave us the calf. Now, the cow will be able heal without worrying about the calf.

The calf didn't know how to use the bottle because I think they had been tubing her and she had an eye injury. We have had the worse time trying to teach her to drink because calf number one is completely healthy now and tries to take both portions. The first day, I came back from the barn completely wet with dripping milk and calf slobber. Calf number one, affectionately called Big Foot because he is the biggest calf any of us has ever seen - no wonder he killed his mama, nursed my hand, my sweatshirt tail, and my knee. He butted me trying to get more milk until I fell. He pushed in on the new calf, attempting to knock the bottle away so he could get a chance, which wasn't difficult since the new calf hadn't a clue and I had to work her mouth to get anything down her throat

After the second attempt at feeding, we decided we needed to work as a family to feed the calves and get the medicine in the new calf's eye. Keeping Big Foot away from the ears of the other calf, from the bottle, and from upending the feeders was just too much job for one person, especially the children.

Last night we had a breakthrough. The little calf nursed. Sure, Mr. W had to pry her mouth open, but once the bottle was there she sucked. This morning the calves finished their bottles at almost the same time. Hopefully this cold weather won't sneak in and disrupt our progress with these delicate calves.

By the way, the person in the picture is not me. My arms aren't that hairy!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


I just got back from the polls. Mississippi had some state contests and there were many county races. When I go to the polls I have a feel good, patriotic spirit. I took the children and I felt good about that too. Yet, when I walked away from my polling station, I felt let down. I've felt this way for the last few elections. Though I made choices, they didn't feel like real choices. Actually, in many of the races there was no choice - one candidate only, but that's not what I mean. Will choosing one candidate over the other really bring about change or even make a difference? Is there enough difference (besides sex, hair color, weight, height and what not) between our local candidates to even notice?

Maybe next year.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Preparations for the Possible Cold

Even though it was 80° F today we have been slowly preparing for the predicted cold that will supposedly come on Wednesday. Last week I installed a new dryer vent that stifles air and rodent flow. That was one of those laughable projects that should have taken 15 to 20 minutes but took all afternoon and three trips to the hardware store because our 100+ year old house is not square, straight, even, or adaptable. You would have loved to see me squirming around in the mud after I accidentally disconnected the 4" drain pipe that carries the warm, moist air from the dryer to almost the edge of the house. I suppose the house was rejecting attempts at further modernization. That sounds silly, but I do sense that this old house has life. The old wood shrinks and expands with heat and humidity almost like breathing, the breeze running through the dog trot creates energy, and the past is captured like a memory in the hand prints on the 17 foot tall ceiling that have a story of their own. Have I lost my handful of readers yet?

Anyway, I'll get back to the point -maybe. Today, the children moved the lightard, which is a Southern country word, which means the aged stump of a pine tree that is a natural one match fire starter, that I've been using forever, but that I find, just today, is not a standard word and is in no dictionary, (This is when I really crave a set of the OED, not just the miniature set, but the full encyclopedic, book case crushing set.) and small pieces of wood to the front porch. Like that sentence? Very Faulknernesque, don't you think? Since I know about lightard, which is not a dictionary word does that make me a Snopes?

Are you still with me? Tomorrow, we will close the vents to keep the cold air from underneath the house. We'll start seasoning the wood heater with small fires tomorrow, still getting ready for Wednesday night when the temperatures are supposed to dip to fire weather.

Once the temperatures dip Wednesday night they will rise to our normal once again - maybe even to shorts and tee-shirt weather until after Thanksgiving. While some of the work we have done is for winter in general, there is much work involved in preparing for a possible one night frost and I haven't even told you about garden preparations. Sometimes, I think about how easy it would be to walk to a central air and heat panel and and push a button. Yet, I think this house would have felt violated if we had cut into her old, milled on the property, heart pine, tongue and groove, bead-board walls to install vents and intakes, closed the center hall, and lived modernly in this old house. Working with the rhythms of the house and seasons and living off the dead wood on the property seems better - more difficult, but more natural and more fitting.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


We had 63 pounds of pecans cracked at the Co-op last week and there are at least that many on the ground. Sounds like a lot of pecans, doesn't it? But it is only the beginning. The 63 lbs are only the first batch off the first two trees. We have another variety (four trees) that harvest a little later, and the two trees we collected are still throwing pecans at us when we walk outside.

This is a good pecan year. Why, I can't tell you since the early season drought almost killed the mature trees and did kill our 10 baby pecan trees. The two trees in the yard that produce the bigger, earlier pecans get water from the garden and from my children when they choose to do water experiments thereby flooding the yard. I cannot imagine how the others got enough moisture. Perhaps they thought the end was near and gave their last energy to reproduction and will kill over as soon as we get all the wood chopped from the last dead tree.

Anyway, every spare minute is spent picking out pecans. The Co-op didn't have the machine adjusted as well as they did last year and the picking is sloooow. The 63 lbs will be reduced to less than half that amount of pecan meats which is truly depressing, but there will be plenty for some pecan pies made with honey for Thanksgiving and lots for the freezer.

Do you think ballet moms would think I was crazy if brought pecans and picked them while I waited? I don't want to embarrass Princess.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Yellow Dog is Getting Jealous

I'm not kidding. When we have babies - chicks, kittens, or calves- the Yellow Dog needs extra attention so he doesn't do menacing things to the new arrivals. My son took all these pictures in one short span of time and they show a range of Yellow Dog behaviors - watchful protector, curious nurturer, and finally mischievous maniac. When we fully appreciate the Yellow Dog as we should and make him our first priority he stands guard and seems to watch over his realm.

After we've been away for a couple of hours and drive into the driveway he will emerge from wherever he has been sleeping and bark furiously at some imaginary predator. At first, we didn't realize that the protecting he was doing was of his reputation. Then, I left K at home while I ran a local errand and he reported that the Yellow Dog slept the entire time until my front wheel touched the first piece of gravel in the driveway. At this point, the Yellow Dog rushed across the cattle gap and protected the livestock from nothing.

I honestly believe he intends to be the protector of the farm, but he is really a scaredy-cat who is too curious to be a true watch dog. He approaches every car and animal that travels onto or across the property. He barks at the animals, but from afar, maybe even from the front porch, yet he never pursues them. Every car is a potential carrier of new friends. As soon as they emerge, he smells them and wags his tail. He's never met a stranger he didn't like.

He investigates every new farm arrival by sniffing, licking, and then tormenting. He wants to find out just how far he can push the new animals before they attack him. In the second picture he is kissing the new calf, but in the third he is trying to enter the calf's pen so he can chase and nip which is completely prohibited since the calf is having such a tough beginning. But, he still tries, especially when we are watching.

Did you catch that last bit because it is important? All his mischief occurs when we are near and watching. He has never killed a chicken when we were away. He has never run weanling calves through a fence when we weren't watching. He has never tormented a new calf or kitten when we weren't watching. All these clues lead me to believe he is either a very stupid dog or a very smart one. Is he communicating his dominance over all on the farm, including us? Is he asking for attention? Is he completely devoid of the sense that would lead him to the conclusion that we would like him better if he didn't pick up cats by the head, kill chickens, chase cows through the fence, or torment sick calves? Is he jealous?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Play Name that Kitten

I am completely smitten with this little powder puff of a kitten. Her blue eyes set in orange sproinky (Z's word, I'm borrowing) fur are alluring. Her curiosity and self sufficiency are winning. Though her eyes, especially the left one, are still a little runny and her nose scraped, the rest of her seems healthy.

She is finding her place in the animal hierarchy here at Twice Bloomed Farms and has even won the heart of The Yellow Dog and our spit-fire of a cat, McSquizzy. My heart has definitely been won, too. The only hold-outs are Tux, my other favorite, and Buchoochus, the elusive sister of Tux.

According to Z, this heart breaker will like me better once she has found her place. I'm impatient and find myself stalking this kitten, in order to get a chance to scratch behind her ears or tickle her belly. When I'm not stalking her, I'm trying to think of the perfect name.

I need your help. We need a name and I've talked my children in to letting me name this one, since I don't want this kitten stuck with a strange name like McSquizzy, Buchoochus, Rubber Dinghy, Out of Focus, or any of the truly bizarre names my children have bestowed on these unsuspecting victims. So, help me think of a name. Will you?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I'm Completely Insane

But at least you'll know I'll be writing! I was overcome by good intentions and now the reality of being required to write something even when I don't really feel like it, or when I've spent most of the day in the city, or when payroll for 50 people is not yet done, or when my computer wouldn't start this morning when I touched the power button (It was a minor but scary problem since I had no recent backups) has become a blazing truth.

Why don't you join me so I will have more than one friend over there in NaBloPoMo Land. I suspect they are still taking the gullible, the idealistic, and the good intentioned.