Friday, June 25, 2010

My old friend

This old girl (and she is a girl) has been with me for a long time. Yesterday, in the blazing heat (what was I thinking?), I took her out for a spin. It was the first time I'd been on her in quite a while. I decided that I couldn't stand looking at the weeds in the donkey lot another minute and so I mowed them down. We keep the donkeys in a sparse paddock behind the barn because sometime before we got Jenny, she foundered and she can't be put on lush grass anymore. I feel bad for them, but know we are doing the right thing to keep her walking around healthy.

There is a story behind my old friend. She was mine in my "past life" and came with me when I married Mike, almost 12 years ago. I like to remind him that I'm probably one of the few women he would ever meet who would come into marriage equipped with her own tractor (and come to think of it, I came with a chain saw, too!). Blue was the only tractor we had for years after we moved out here to the farm, but a few years back, Mike decided he really needed something bigger and stronger (you know.......more manly). He now has a big John Deere, complete with enclosed cab, air conditioning and stereo radio. It pulls a huge bat-wing mower and can make short work of fields that take me hours to mow on Blue (and he stays cool while he's doing it!). So mainly we use her to mow the small places. Mike puts a big blade on the back of Blue to work on our driveway when we get gully-washers, so she sees a little action for other farm duties that the big John Deere can't do. She's getting some age on her and she's fading some, but hey, I am too.

I suspect she'll still be on the job long after I'm gone.

Monday, June 21, 2010

And that's the week that was

In a word...frustrating! I have been without internet service more often than not and seen Windstream technicians more than I would ever hope and still don't think the problem is completely solved. The kicker in all this is that my husband, the least internet savvy person any of us might know, was the one who figured out what the main problem apparently happened to be. We have a satellite dish television receiver (there is no cable located within 10 miles of here) and it is also connected to our phone line so that the receiver can be updated continuously. Turns out, there should have been a filter on the line and there was not. Yesterday's technician said it is a common problem, yet none of the guys who have worked on our system thought of it!! Go figure. I tease my husband a lot (and sometimes complain) about how he wants to over-think almost everything, but I will admit this is one time when all that pondering came in handy!

Anyway...........the high point of the weekend was that we put the boat in the water for the first time this year and it was great. No hitches. Everything worked just as it should, even after sitting in the barnyard all winter! And, aside from the fact that there was still a fair amount of stuff floating around from our recent flood, the river was wonderful. I actually felt myself relaxing completely for the first time in weeks.

This week is predicted to be almost unbearably hot and my main concern is keeping my animals, if not comfortable, at least healthy through the worst of it. The sheep are good about finding a shady spot and staying there during the day, then doing their grazing during the night when it is cooler. The alpacas and llamas are my biggest concern. They are not built for 95 degree weather. This morning I let them all into the barn aisle, where there is cross-ventilation and put two fans on them. I'll be checking on them throughout the day and, if they need it, I will mist them down with water to lower their body temperature.

As for me, I'm not complaining about being stuck in the house working on patient files today, though I might consider going outside, if I could hang out like these guys.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blueberry coolness

It has been so, so hot here. We are full into the summer weather pattern of hot humid days, with afternoon thunderstorms popping up, giving a breath or two of cooler air before the sun comes back out and outdoors turns into a steam bath. Thank goodness for air-conditioning is all I can say! The sheep have got the answer for this kind of weather. They just lay low all during the day and when the sun goes down, they get about the business of grazing.

I have been without internet for most of the last week (again!) and finally had a "go-to-pieces" with the people at Windstream. (I suggested to them that maybe I would just start paying for my internet service only when it worked, which would cut the bill at least in half. They didn't think that was an option.) The result was a very nice technician showed up this morning and spent about an hour trying to make things work the way they are supposed to work. So, I'm holding my breath, and I imagine he is too because he gave me his cell phone number to call him directly, should it start to malfunction again.

So what have I been doing with myself? I've been making a little summertime food again. Blueberry Crumble is an easy, light dessert that is mostly guilt-free. It's a recipe from Cooking Light and, at this time of year when blueberries are in season, it's cool, fresh and refreshing.

Here's the recipe-

5 cups fresh blueberries
9" low fat graham cracker crust (make your own or buy ready made)
8 oz low fat sour cream
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 Tablespoon flour

crumble topping-
1 Tablespoon melted butter
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs (I make my own from leftover bread)

Place blueberries in crust. Mix brown sugar, vanilla, flour, lemon rind and sour cream. Pour over berries. Mix breadcrumbs, melted butter and sugar. Sprinkle over top of pie. Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes or until top is browned. Cool before serving.

We like this chilled (and it's good with a dollop of whipped cream-if it won't make you feel too guilty!) I don't think I have ever served this without getting a request for the recipe. It's a great hot weather treat.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Some (slow) progress

front of building (that's the barn just beyond)

I haven't mentioned the studio lately because my frustration level has been pretty high. It's no wonder contractors in general have such a bad reputation. Why can they just do what they tell you they are going to do, when they tell you they are going to do it? It's been slow going over here because weeks go by when no one shows up to work and things have not been scheduled properly, so we end up waiting and waiting and waiting. (And believe me when I tell you, waiting is not my strong suit!) At this point, we are more than two months past the projected finish date. The latest "promise" from the contractor is that all is supposed to be finished one week from today. Anybody want to place any bets on that? Anyway.......I do believe the end is in sight.

looking out the back windows

looking down toward the house

Something happens when you live in the country a long time. You get accustomed to not seeing anyone every time you go in and out of the house. I know it's not just me because I have friends who have recently had projects going and they feel the same. I find it incredibly distracting and disturbing to have people working here. I just want them to hurry up and let me have my space and privacy back. So, now the problem is that I'm mad when they don't show up to work and I'm mad when they are here and want them gone! It's a lose-lose situation! Oh well, I guess this falls under the category of no pain/no gain. I've waited more than 30 years to have a place of my own to work in and I don't suppose a few more weeks (please, not months!) will kill me.

I love so much about this building already. There are many, many windows for such a small structure and the light in there is wonderful. Plus, I sure can't complain about the views. It's sheep, alpacas and llamas in all directions. I can just picture myself in there spinning, weaving, dyeing, knitting. All of it and all of my "stuff" contained in one place instead of all over. No more dyeing in the barn aisle or on the garage porch. Yeah, for that!

looking from dye room toward kitchen

So, here is where we are today and I'm hoping very, very soon to have pictures of the finished project. (I'm having the same dilemma that Sara faced when she built her "wool house" last summer. Calling it a studio seems a little grandiose for the kinds of things I do, but so far I've not come up with anything better. Any suggestions?)

Monday, June 7, 2010


Yes, I'm still here. After a week of very erratic internet service, things seem to be working a little better this morning. (Let's just say, Windstream is not my friend!) Of course, out here in the boondocks, we aren't allowed to have all our services working at the same time, so last night the satellite for the television quit receiving signals. Sigh... It's not that we watch much of anything at this time of year, except the News Hour and the weather first thing in the morning and last thing at night. It's the idea that we pay dearly for the service to be there when we want it and it's often not! Rant over. (On second thought, given what's in the news these days it's probably a blessing to have no television reception.)

Don't know about where you are, but we are having a banner year for clover. I can't remember ever seeing so many white clover blooms in our pastures. The sheep, of course, are loving it. Yesterday I turned the ewes and lambs out into what we call the triangle field (because it was a triangle when we moved here-now it's a big rectangle, but we just keep calling it the triangle-old habits and all that). It's been somewhat confusing for the lambs to be in such a large area and there's been much calling back and forth when the lambs lose their mothers. I love the sight of the birds riding around on the backs of the ewes and lambs. It just strikes me as so funny! The sheep are completely oblivious.

I'm being forced to use my new camera these days because my beloved old one isn't working. The date for the photography workshop with Gale Zucker is coming up quickly and I can hardly wait to learn in a relaxed, no pressure way, how to take better pictures. Gale assures me that no one has the need of a fancy camera. The whole workshop is geared toward taking better pictures with the equipment you have. The openings for the class are limited, so if you are thinking about joining us for a really fun weekend, please go here and sign up today. Gale took the pictures for the book, Shear Spirit, and reading the different reviews of her previous workshops, I think I can safely say we are going to have a great time. (And as an added bonus, we'll being going on a short "wine and cheese" llama trek at my friend, Lindy's beautiful farm, at the end of class time on Saturday.)