Sunday, October 27, 2013


The Ickmeister
Cat-I-Found-by-the-Side-of-the Road
Yup, this'd be he.
The Ick himself (well, Ich would be more correct, but it looks wrong--unless you speak German) learned his name by day two and comes when you call.  Odd, because what are the chances his name was anything like Ichabod before we got him?

When you pick him up he purrs non-stop, and then sits in your lap like he meant to all along.  Ick has tried very hard to convince me that he's really an indoor cat.  He loves to chase chickens, but you know....really....he's just meant to be inside.  And he shows us all the time by throwing himself at the door and meowing.

And so we've let him in (after a really good flea bath).  Since then he's eaten a 1/8 of a loaf of fresh baked bread and gnawed the top of a monterey jack cheese I was letting dry.  So we've learned to hide food, and he's leaned not to climb on the counters and table--maybe.  And though he fights with Phynn and Charlotte a bit, we're going to let them work it out.  We're hoping the fighting will cease after Phynn and Charlotte are neutered/spayed on Wednesday.  Then, of course, it'll be Icky's turn. 

And hopefully peace and harmony will reign.

But I will still have to hide the cheese.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Oh, Oh, Oh, Who's that Kid with the Oreo Cookie???

I have no idea why that's stuck in my head.  None.  But don't you find it weird that they "discovered" that Oreo cookies are as addictive as cocaine?  Not sure why they did a study on that, to be honest with you.  That was kind of the most interesting part about it.  Hmmmmm........anyway......

Let's get down to it, shall we?  Things have been hopping here, as always.  First, there are the kids.  We are up to the whole "What are you going to be for Halloween?" thing again.  My son knew pretty much right away.  He is a GIANT fan of Minecraft, and wants to be an enderman, which is this thing:

I have no idea what the heck that's supposed to be.  The entire game looks like bad Atari to me, but he loves it, and has bizarrely learned some interesting things from it (like what an ingot is).  It's a building game, it seems, and he loves Legos, so it just works for him.  So he's easy, as all he needs is black clothing and a box for his head.  Love it!  Done.

My daughter, on the other hand, had a hard time.  She always wants to pick what she thinks others would find "cool", but then she's never happy with it.  She 's been happiest when she's chosen something that she would like to be, just because SHE would like to be it, which is really the point in the first place.  So after a lot of deliberation and flip-flopping back and forth, she has decided to be Sam Sparks from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs


THAT one I can get behind.  So we're going with it.  I'm proud of her for picking something (someone?) she wanted to be, not what or who she thought others would want her to be.  Good for her!

In other news, a couple of weeks ago that bear came back again and finished the job.  The bees are D-O-N-E.  I had put them back together, gotten stung, put up a number of "bear preventing" measures, and none of it worked.  The bear guy (or girl) came back and tore both hives apart--there's just no coming back for them.  I am very disappointed, but slightly relieved, only because I had become so allergic it was getting dangerous.  I have begun the cleanup and will salvage any wax possible and then sell the equipment piece by piece.  I guess I'm sticking to maple syrup.  I hope that others will have better success than I did and will keep the bee population up, as it has become so endangered in recent years.  It certainly does not seem that I can help out on that front.

Further on the food front, I have harvested quite a bit of peas from my fall planting--in fact, more, I think, than I got from my spring planting.  I set my son at shelling the last batch I harvested (peeling them, he called it), and it took him over an hour to do it--with help from me and my daughter.
Pea peeling boy

Though I can see that the vines are getting tired and thinking about being done, I am hoping that we'll get another nice batch beforehand.  I am happiest that I seemed to have discovered the variety that works best for me here.  I'm hoping it will perform as well in the spring, and then I'll have a winner.  I have been trying to choose varieties that perform fantastically here, and then stick with them year after year.  This is a complete opposite from what I normally like to do, which is try a little of everything to see how it goes.  But, I have come to the time where I'd like to be able to have one or two varieties of a crop that produces very well and that we like to eat so that I'll have more food to put by, instead of lots of little "experimental" crops.  Ahh....the evolution of the homesteader. 

On the cheese making front, things are chugging along.  Can I just stop here for a minute and tell you how MUCH I love making cheese?  I have no idea if I'm any good at it at all, since most of what I've made lately still has a month to age before testing, but OH!  I love making cheese. 

Beautiful curds

Oh my goodness.  I just do.  It's like magic, you know?  Big pot of milk becomes beautiful chunk of cheese. 

“Cheese - milk's leap toward immortality.”
―Clifton Paul Fadiman
Sage Derby, before the final pressing

Magic!  It's funny, because I do so many things that are so "old", in a way.  I grow food from seed.  I bake bread.  I make soap.  Etc, etc.  Many transformations from one thing to a totally different thing, and many techniques that are old techniques (of course, somewhat revised for today).  But there are very few things that I do that have the ability to transport me back in time the way cheesemaking does.  Working with raw fiber does the same thing for me--sends me right back in time.  Cheesemaking....well, it's just special.

I have decided on a cheese press, I think.  Despite the fact that I really like stacking 50 pounds of bricks up on top of a homemade mold, it's gotten stupid.  Just ask the couple of coffee mug casualties and the flower vase that have bit it since I started with this.  Playing the "when's that going to fall over" game is getting old.  So, though it will have to wait a couple of weeks, I think I have decided to purchase a Dutch cheese press. 


This one, I believe.  I really wanted one of those spring ones, because they are more compact.  However, when I really looked into it, I discovered that the tension doesn't stay the same all the time.  As the cheese compresses, the spring relaxes a bit, and then the weight is off and you're not pressing at a consistent pressure.  Therefore, the spring would have to be adjusted fairly often to maintain the correct pressure on the cheese.  I press my cheeses overnight.  I don't want to get up every few hours to turn the pressure up on my cheese.  Dutch presses are apparently a "set it and forget it" kinda deal.  So yes, they are bigger and kinda oddly shaped, but I think it's the way to go.

Speaking of raw fiber (which we weren't), I am going to the Wool and Fiber Festival tomorrow in Rhinebeck!  Squeeeeee!!!!!  A day to myself!  Just me, no kids, no husband.  I will miss them, but I need a day to myself.  I think one a year is fair, no?  Just me and some sheep and hairy goats and lots of stuff to touch and see!  If you remember, I went last year, had a wonderful time talking to myself all day and just looking, and brought home a bunch of rabbits.  This year?  Still planning on the wonderful time, still planning on talking to myself (can't help that one), but no rabbits.  I love my fluffy bunnies, but I have plenty.  This year I am going to look at yarn and spinning wheels and touch everything, and that's how that's going to go.  I will take pictures.  Stay tuned!

And in closing....

Well, I should tell you that the cat population has increased by one this week, and in an odd way.  Here's the story, which is so odd, it could only happen to me, because odd things happen to me all the time.  I was at work on Wednesday, and was heading home during my lunch break to check on things at the house.  I had 1/2 an hour left, and figured I'd just swing by, make a quick check, and then go back to work.  Ha!  As I was going over a bridge, I saw a cat carrier in the shoulder of the road--a busy-ish road, mind you.  The carrier had the word "free" on it on a card.  I thought "Woo hoo!  A carrier!  I should go get that!".  People chuck out stuff all the time.  A lot of it is junk, but sometimes there's something good.  No, I'm not above picking up someone else's junk, especially if it's usable un-junk.  We could use a second carrier, and this one looked nice.  I pulled over where I could and walked back to it. 

As I got closer, I could swear I heard meowing.  I thought that was odd, but as there are some grasses and stuff around there that are tall, and some houses near, it could have been coming from anywhere.  It was hard to tell through the car noises.  However, I got closer, and through the noise of the traffic, I could hear the meowing was coming from inside the carrier.

Yes, friends, someone had put a cat IN the carrier and left it on the side of the road with the word "free" on it.  Oddly enough, behind it, in the tall grass was a litterbox, a scooper, and a single can of cat food.  I know I'm a sucker. But I'm not going to leave a cat to die on the side of the road in a carrier.  It was only a matter of time before someone sideswiped that carrier and killed the little one inside.

I didn't really think and I had no idea what to do next with the cat.  I picked it up, took a look at the little one, and popped him in the back of the car. When I got to a side street, I pulled over and took a look at him (as I discovered, he is a he).  He's young, under a year old, I'd say, and black as pitch.  That is, except for the little white spot on his tummy. His eyes are pumpkin colored.  He is supremely cool, and seemed to realize I was there to help because he curled up in my lap like we'd known each other forever, and purred like a maniac. 

I eventually got him home and set him up in a very nice, spacious crate in the garage barn, so he would feel safe and not have to compete with the other cats.  He's afraid of all the other cats, but follows people around like "Hey!  Where're we going?  I'm coming with you, ok?".  Like he's known us forever.  Because he's black with pumpkin eyes, and it's near Halloween, his name is Ichabod.  We've been calling him Icky.

Time will tell as to whether he'll hang with us, but I'm hoping so.  Dang boy seems to be magical, because though the crate he's in is wire and fairly open, I don't think he can fit through the bars.  However, I'll see him in there, he'll stay in there for a long time, and then I'll turn my back and he'll be out and behind me.  Realizing he can't be "caged", I opened the door for him, but left the crate as a safe haven.  It is not unusual to see him in one place, however, and then look down suddenly and he's right beside me.  He's very sneaky.

And there you go.  Funny enough, I was thinking a couple of months ago that it was too bad we only have one black cat (a big boy named Percival), when I like them so much.  Then Sarahcat gave birth to a second black cat, and now we have Icky.  Very interesting.  Possibly I should muse on the fact that it's funny that I've never won the lottery?

'Till next time!

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Going Dark

It's finally come down to it.  You know how I said everything seems to be going up except for paychecks?  Well, that's still true.  Prices have gone up, quality has come down, and I have gotten really tired of it.  Last week we received our "new" cable price.  The deal we've been enjoying for the last 2 years is now over, and the cable company would very much like to double what we've been paying, and charge us that.

So my husband got on the phone and said "No", and they played "let's make a deal", and the best the company could do was still too high.  So you know what?  We're turning off the cable.

I un-American.  No TV.  How will we go on?

I imagine, just fine.  I will be honest with you--I watch just about nothing right now.  There is nothing to watch.  I have tried to watch some of the more "popular" shows that I hear about, like Modern Family or that new one with Robin Williams which was so good I forgot it's name already.   I have never seen American Idol, sorry, and I don't watch any of those challenge shows like the dancing one or the cooking one, or that other cooking one.  Or the ones where the guy goes and yells at everybody and makes them feel bad.  Reality TV?  Nope.  And HGTV, which I used to love when it was a craft channel, is now all about flipping houses, people buying HUGE houses because their two kids "need more space" (puhleeze), and other people renovating houses in ways I could never afford.  In reality, my husband and I would sit down for an hour at the end of the day and look through however many channels we had, and nothing would be on.  With rare exception.  And we were still paying for it.  Not to mention the number of commercials.  Don't even get me started there.

So we are saying sayanara to the Idiotbox.  I think there will be a bit of a transition--maybe even a withdrawal period of sorts.  Especially with the kids, who love their Disney channel.  But in the long run, I am truly hoping it will bring us together.  For me, I'm going to be glad that my children won't be told what they "have" to buy to be "cool", and we won't be subject to being berated because we didn't buy a Lexus or some other expensive car, haven't traded in our old cellphones for the latest and greatest (we don't even own cellphones--well, my husband does, but it's technically his company's phone), and then be shown how to accessorize said phones, and I will be triply glad that my daughter will not be barraged with the message that women can never get grey hair, never get wrinkles, and have to dress like prostitutes to make others jealous.  Gee darn.  Seems like I'll be missing out on a lot.

Yes, I've had it.  So finally, finally, I am doing something about it.  Instead of TV, I am looking forward to buying a bunch of board games for us to play as a family (suggestions are very welcome), and finding that our nights are more productive and possibly that our sleep is more restful.  I don't know.  And yes, this is going to be fairly controversial in my family, and I expect a bit of blowback from others.  I realize that TV is an American institution of sorts and that many people take TV very seriously.  I know my own parents are probably going to argue with me about it, from the viewpoint that I'm "taking away" something from my children.  But hear this: I truly believe I'm giving them something back.  I'm giving them back their otherwise wasted time.  I'm giving them back their creativity and imagination.  Though my children have been very limited in the amount of time they are allowed to watch TV, an hour is still an hour that could have been spent elsewhere.  I'm giving them back that hour.  And most of all, I hope against all hope, that I am going to be giving them the gift of time spent together.  All of us.  Together.  As a family.

To me, that's the best part of all.  So TV, adios!  Via con Dios.  Good luck in the house next door.  Because come next month, when our time is up, Chicken Scratch is going dark.  See ya!
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Thursday, October 3, 2013

I'm a Little Smelly Skunk

My husband decided I had slept long enough last night, so at 3 in the morning he woke me up with "Do you smell skunk?"

(This is what passes for romance around here--instead of breakfast in bed and a kiss, I get do you smell skunk.  My life is very, very sexy.)

Anyway, I did not, in fact, smell skunk, and even if I did, I have no concerns about it because A) said skunk was not in my bedroom, and B) I wasn't sleeping outside.  So skunk or no, unless that sucker aimed his tail right through my bedroom window and directly at my previously sleeping face, it wasn't going to effect me. 

I said no, and rolled over to go back to sleep.  But--wouldn't you know it--two minutes later I DID smell skunk, nice and potent too.  Right outside the bedroom window, right where it belongs (as opposed to IN the bedroom, which would be a cause for alarm).  I quickly changed my answer to "yes, I smell skunk" ( I strive to be as acurate as possible you know), rolled over in the direction away from the window, and put the blanket over my nose to go back to sleep.

We've had run-ins with skunks before.  Personally, I ran over one (without killing it--it went under the car and never touched the tires.  It was fine and ran off into the woods.) back when we lived in the 'burbs, and it skunked the car up but good.  While we've been here, a skunk has stunk up in front of our bedroom windows a couple of times, usually in the fall.  So I'm no stranger to it.  Honestly, though I'd never buy a perfume called Eau de Skunk, I don't think it's the WORST smell in the world.  I think it ranks up there with rutting buck, kinda musky and dirty and dark.  It's not lovely, and no thank you to getting sprayed, but when compared to, say, mouldering garbage heap or septic tank, skunk is not too bad at all.  Plus, the little boogers are kinda cute.  Just sayin'.

Anyway, back to the skunk.  The outside of the house smelled, and it came inside, but as nothing inside was effected, there was no cause to worry.  When I woke up at 5:30 to milk I took some extra precautions to be sure I wouldn't startle the skunk when I went outside with the milk pails, and I was off and running.  Oddly enough, when I went out the back door, the smell was out there, too.  I said good morning to Saracat, thought "That was one scared skunk", and went about it.  But then I got to the garage.  And the smell was in there, too.  Hmmmm.....

I quickly looked around.  The smell was pretty potent.  Very strong, in fact.  I thought that possibly the skunk had come in through the cat door.  Whoo boy.  Would the skunk bother Saracat's kittens?  Would it be near the feed?  I tried not to make any noise, just in case it was already scared and would spray me if it got scared further.  The smell got stronger.  It seemed to be right near me.  I s-l-o-w-l-y turned and...

...there was Saracat.

Put this one together yet?

Seems, Saracat, in her midnight ranging, met up with a striped fellow or gal who didn't like her and well, now Saracat is, um, fragrant.  As to her partner in crime, Milo?  Seems Milo (Thor's brother) met the same striped guy.  He smells very nice as well.

And that's my story.  Saracat and Milo will have to smell like skunk for a while, but are no worse the wear otherwise.  I think it will make it more difficult for them to hunt, but as they get fed by us as well, they will live.  In Milo's case, the worst outcome of this is that NO ONE will pet him, because no one will while he smells like that.  But he will live.  And when he de-stinkifies we will pet him again.

Ah yes.  The joys of living with wildlife.  Can't beat it, folks.  You absolutely can't.
I'm a little smelly skunk
Sleeping under someone's bunk
Nobody will sleep with me
'Cause I'm as smelly as can be

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013


So yesterday the government shut down.  Seems the children we put out there to work for us blew it and can't play nicely together.  I'm thinking that calling them children is appropriate here because I know that being an adult means you sometimes do things you don't want to do, but you do it for the greater good.  That means sometimes working with people you don't like and trying to get along even though you really don't.  It sucks, but you do it anyway.  That's part of being an adult--one of those "unfun" things.  Just FYI, Congress. 

I blame lack of parenting.

Anyway, the implications of this shut down are far-reaching and there were many articles yesterday about how the shutdown will affect the average American.  Interestingly, there was a blurb in one of the articles that caught my eye:
Twenty-eight poison ivy-eating goats were removed from the Gateway National Recreation Area in New Jersey after their owner became worried that a government shutdown would shutter the park where the goats had been recruited to eat the pesky weed, according to the Asbury Park Press. The goats had been a “tremendous hit” with parkgoers, the president of the Sandy Hook Foundation told the paper.

WHAT??  UNEMPLOYED GOATS?????  This has gone too far already.

Kudos to NJ for using non-chemical methods to control things like poison ivy, and double kudos on finding goats who will eat the stuff, because mine won't go near it with a 10 foot pole.  But now unemployed?  People!  Something's got to be done.

As I'm pretty sure sarcasm doesn't come across in writing too well, let me say this in all seriousness:  In a time when most people (76%) are living paycheck to paycheck, essentially "laying off"--even temporarily--thousands of workers is a big freaking deal.  If this thing lasts a week, these people lose 1/4 of their monthly pay, as there's no plan in place currently (from what I've read) to pay them back what they're missing.  Ouch.  I have to imagine that's got to hurt everyone hit by this, and my heart absolutely goes out to everyone.  I hope that there will be a speedy end to this for all our sakes.

Dear Congress,

Get your shit together and play nicely.

Ok?  Ok.

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