Thursday, March 31, 2011

I can't believe another week has flown by already. Papa Bear and I have been trying to balance "busyness" with rest, as we've both been under the weather lately.


Last weekend we put up a bunch of rebar posts and electric polywire to keep the boys out of all the wet areas of the pasture. I bought the rebar posts used from a neighbor farmer. I love finding reusable things for the farm.



So far, they've not been challenging them, despite the yearlings getting rowdier as they wrestle each other for position in the herd.

The front pasture is resembling a small lake more and more every day.  And the pond, well, I think the pond has dreams of becoming an inland sea.


After the fencing was all up and tested (yep, tested it with the back of my fingers - the hotwires worked!), PB wanted to redo the tubing that drains water away from the house when the sump pump runs.  Because it froze solid so many times this winter, he ended up wrapping the whole thing in insulation and heat cable, then encasing it in another tube. 


The challenging part is, the sump pump(s) run at least once every five minutes.  Usually when you are removing the tubing to fix something.  The bare tube on the right is the extra one we popped on the outflow pipe while we were working on the one on the left. Just in case.

The big tube in PB's hands is the outer one that goes over the tube/insulation/heating cord. It has pleats which make it expand from 6' to 20' when the pleats are all pulled out.  They are hard to pop open, but they make a really cool noise, echoing down all that tubing.

It's the little things that amuse us folks in the country.

Like moving my outdoor furniture from the snow-filled firepit in the back yard, up into the front porch. On a sunny day it gets fairly warm on the porch, and now I can sit out there and enjoy it along with the cats.



And of course, more seed-starting.  I planted nearly 3 dozen leeks, 3 dozen more onions (third batch of onions!) and several varieties of herbs.  I use little labels on toothpicks to identify them in the small cell packs.



My bell pepper sprouts are growing like crazy, considering they just broke through a day ago!  The seeds were several years old so I planted quite a few in each pot, thinking I wouldn't get very many sprouts. 

Uh oh, looks like I'll be making more room in the garden for peppers! 


How are you spending this week? Has the weather warmed up in your area?  If so, send some warmth my way!




Friday, March 25, 2011

(Image from here.)

I'd like to introduce you to one of my new favorite blogs, Chickens in the Road. It's written by Suzanne McMinn, who lives on a 40-acre farm in West Virginia with a plethora of animals including chickens, goats, sheep, a cow, dogs and cats.

She also writes about cooking, gardening, and making stuff from scratch. It's a really cool blog, and was even a finalist for Best Photography of a Weblog on the 2011 Bloggies Awards.

If you love farms, or the country, or just want to enjoy a bit of vicarious farm-life, I hope you will check it out.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sometimes winter in MN is just not fair.

Aspendance Alpacas

I could see my yard on Tuesday. The barn was a bit wet, but not white.

Boo

Today, the only signs of spring are my wild and crazy onion sprouts.


Hard to believe they are destined to go into these garden plots.

garden

When winter drags on longer than your final Chemistry exam in college, sometimes all you can do is appreciate the little things.

Little sprouts.

Little blessings.

Little cabin-crazy cats.

Mojojojo

And sometimes, at the end of a long, cold day, at the end of a long, cold winter, the sun drops below the ever-present clouds and lights your world on fire.

sunset

Blessings -

Friday, March 18, 2011

Kali enjoys a roll in the dust on the sidewalk.







Happy Friday everyone!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Monet on the blustery day I'm not the only one around here dying for spring. My boys have spent the better part of the last several days lying in the pasture soaking up the rays during the hours when the sun was shining and temps were finally above freezing. No, I don't have pictures of this because as soon as I exit the house they all jump up and run eagerly to the gate in hopes of a treat. This is fantastic for herd management tasks, since it is so easy to get them to come into the catch pen. But not so hot for taking pics of them lounging around in the sunshine. Of course I could try to take a pic from the house using Papa Bear's awesome Canon Rebel with the long zoom lens... But alas, I can't figure out how to get it out of Macro mode. Shhh - don't tell him that, since I asked him to put it INTO macro mode for me a few weeks ago to take some yarn photos for the Etsy shop I'm building to sell my alpaca yarns. And other nifty stuff. But back to spring fever. So my cats are getting restless in the house, too, after the bloody long, bloody cold winter. Not that we ever let them outside - their outside lives have consisted entirely of roaming the enclosed screen porches and decks at our former houses. But there is definitely something in the air here lately, because they have all taken to massive cat-wrestling sessions as of late, normally something only reserved for special occasions and normally only between Mojo and Kali, who used to wrestle a LOT before itty bitty baby nom (aka, Zoey) showed up to keep the peace. But lately, Zoey has taken to inciting Mojo into wrestling matches as well. Every morning around 5:00am. Right next to my face, sometimes even on my pillow (since that's where Mojo likes to sleep, so that's where Zoey comes wandering over to rile him up). Me? Incite? It is a tad disturbing to wake up to a cat-wrestling-match centimeters from one's face every morning. I poke Mojo and he jumps off the bed, followed by baby nom. Then I turn over and fall back asleep. About 20 minutes later I awake in a Déjà vu to cat fur growling near my face again. Poke, snooze, repeat. If you're a logical person (assuming there are any logical people who read this blog), you're probably asking, "So why don't you just lock all the cats out of your bedroom, if not at night, then once they start acting up in the morning?" Good question. The answer is simple - because our bedroom has no door. See blue curtain in the picture below, next to Mojo. I mean, Duh. So to ease the feline (and human) tension around here lately I have started letting the girls outside on the back steps after I come in from chores in the morning. They think this is ultra-ultra cool because a) there are no screened in walls and b) they are not in harnesses or on leashes. Their bravery has not taken them much beyond the safety of the back steps and along the house, so for now, they get to enjoy this minor freedom. If/when the snow and ice melt and they become much braver, we'll have to temper their freedom with harnesses and leashes I'm afraid. Both of these cats were living wild and free when we adopted them, so I'm sure it's not a big stretch for them to remember what real freedom feels like. Real freedom zips along at about 70mph on our stretch of the highway, which is a short 35yd walk from the house. So the routine is come back from chores and open the back door, where they both wait like tigers ready to spring. They burst outside where baby nom immediately gets into rubbing herself all over the cement stairs. It's really comical but hard to take pictures of, due to the movement and her blackness against a light background. how big is baby nom? SOOO big! If any of you have ever seen the movie How to Train Your Dragon, Zoey reminds us a LOT of Toothless, the Night Fury in the movie. They LOOK a lot a like, I'm not kidding you. And those eyes... my goodness, those green eyes. Toothless the Night Fury? After a few seconds of sniffing around the top step, Kali usually heads down one side of the stairs and Zoey down the other, or they both wander up the east side of the house along the wall where the snow has melted. are you the doorman? The highway noises tend to scare Kali quite easily, so it's not long before she's begging to get back into the house again. Please suh, let me in? Please excuse the peeling paint and chewed up storm door. Our landlord had a dog (or several) before we moved in and the damage is still there. Unfortunately for Mojo, we can't let him outside at all. If he even looks at something other than his special grain-free food, he'll be puking for days. Poor thing. Mojo & our bedroom door Within five minutes, both of the girls go gladly back into the house. I mean, within five minutes, Kali asks to be let inside, and I have to scoop Zoey up and take her with me back inside. After which, calmness ensues for approximately five minutes. What are your spring rituals?

Monday, March 14, 2011

I started my first batch of seeds this weekend. seedling tray About 450 seedlings in the planning stages for this spring!! I've got 'em planned out for seed-starting over the next 10 weeks. jiffy seedstarting mix Ambitious, I know. But I haven't been able to raise anything from seed since 2008, when we moved into the house in Lindstrom which was smack dab in the middle of an oak grove. Read: shady. seeding tool I love this Landware Pro-Seeder. It comes with 3 different sizes of needle tips, for handling seeds in a variety of sizes. The seeds in the bowl are snapdragon, and as you can see, teeny tiny. I was able to pick one seed up at a time with this tool and deposit it exactly where I wanted it in the cell pack. I don't really use it for anything larger, it's easier to do it by hand. But for tiny seeds, I haven't found a better method. In a few short weeks, this entire shelf system will be full of green sprouts getting a head-start on the growing season. seed starting system Just makes it feel more like spring even when it doesn't look like it outside, ya know? What do you do to get ready for spring??
It was a frosty one this morning. 10 degrees. Of course, because it's mid-March, so why shouldn't there still be 2' of snow on the ground and below-freezing temps and hoarfrost. Uff da. frosty trees Stay warm -

Friday, March 11, 2011

blustery palm Hum dum dum ditty dum Hum dum dum Oh the wind is lashing lustily And the trees are thrashing thrustily And the leaves are rustling gustily So it's rather safe to say That it seems that it may turn out to be Feels that it will undoubtedly Looks like a rather blustery day, today It sounds that it may turn out to be Feels that it will undoubtedly Looks like a rather blustery day today ~Winnie the Pooh & the Blustery Day
It really is a blustery day here today in MN. The palm tree photo was from San Carlos, the yard next to Lowell's. I can just pretend it's in the 60's here with no snow today, right?
Hum dum dum...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

It's been a whirlwind week. I still can't believe I'm sitting in my own dining room looking at snow outside the windows instead of flowers.

Arriving home at midnight Tues. night has left me a bit jet-lagged and groggy, which hasn't helped the feeling that I wish I were still enjoying the temperate climate and ocean breezes of the coast. It will be months before spring truly arrives here.

Uff da.

To cheer myself up I am going back through my pictures from last week.

Like visiting Fisherman's Grotto on Fisherman's Wharf for lunch with my aunt and uncle. They recommended the Boston Clam Chowder (scrumptious!) and the fresh dungeness crab (I had the sandwich - yum).

Fresh crab would turn out to be a recurring theme this week - after eating it here I would also later have it fresh cracked, in crab dip and crab salad. Considering I don't normally eat finger food (like cracking crab), this was quite an accomplishment for me.

Fisherman's Grotto
There is a great view from this restaurant but alas, this was one of only 2 days it rained while I was out there so I only caught glimpses of the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog and drizzle.

Fisherman's Wharf
While we ate, my aunt and uncle told me stories of the city and the area, of earthquakes and bridges,the history of the wharf and of an odd little man nicknamed the "bush man," who could often be found on the wharf hiding behind a couple of tree branches and scaring the living bajeevus out of anyone who passed by. Then asking the laughing on-lookers for donations. (Clever way to earn some change, no?)

After lunch I was given a short tour of the city, complete with a climb up Lombard Street and a visit to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill.

I enjoyed reading about Lillie Coit, the San Francisco legend who became the mascot and honorary member of Knickerbocker Engine Co. 5, often accompanying the fire truck as it was hoisted up Telegraph Hill to a blaze.

After her death at age 86, Lillie left one-third of her fortune to the city “to be expended in an appropriate manner for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved.” The tower is the outcome of that donation. Murals ring the walls inside the tower, depicting aspects of California life in 1934 when the paintings were commissioned.

Coit Tower mural
My favorites were those depicting country scenes like this one, where the cows are housed in a pristine barn and attended to by men in white, even receiving a shower!

Although the view of the city and bay was draped in fog, we marveled at this little park at the top of the city and at the fortitude of the residents whose homes perch seemingly precariously on the edges!

As enchanting as the tower and murals were, by far the most beautiful building I visited during this trip was The Palace Hotel. This iconic landmark has graced the city for over 100 years, having been completely rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake.

The Palace Hotel Garden Court
The Garden Court's stained glass dome ceiling graced with Austrian crystal chandeliers is really a sight to behold. Having dabbled in stained glass myself awhile back, I can really appreciate the work and effort that went into building this amazing ceiling.

Garden Court ceiling
After wandering around the Garden Court (which is used as a dining room) we were then drawn into the dimly lit, richly appointed interior of the Pied Piper Bar, so named because of its 1909 Maxfield Parrish mural of "The Pied Piper of Hamlin." Joel the bartender was not nearly as gregarious as Larry in Pescadero, however, he makes a darn fine Long Island Iced Tea.

Or so I'm told.

Pied Piper Bar, Palace Hotel
After checking in and wandering around a bit, Lowell took me over to Yank Sing for deem sum - another first in culinary experiences for me. As you are seated at your table, staff wheel carts of fresh offerings of bite-sized Chinese noms around the restaurant and you pick and choose as they go by.

It was, of course, yummy. Everything I ate this week was yummy. My jeans no longer fit me.

To counter all this great food, I hoodwinked Lowell into attending a hooping class with me later in the evening. My favorite professional hoop dancer, Christabel Zamor of Hoopgirl, teaches a beginners class every Monday night on Divisidero Street about 2 miles from the hotel.

Sadly, Hoopgirl herself was not in attendance this night, but one of her instructors filled in for her, Debbie. She was a lovely girl with long curls and beautiful tattoos on her back and arms. She spoke with an exotic accent.

I had a blast in this class. Having been hooping in the privacy of my living room for awhile now, it was still a good workout but not nearly as strenuous as it was for those (like Lowell) who had just picked up a hoop for the first time that night.

Twenty minutes into the class I looked over and saw Lowell mouthing the words, "You Are Evil!"

I think deep down inside he really did have a fun time though, despite his aching glutes and thighs. If you're ever up for the challenge, hooping is great cardio and a phenomenal core workout, not to mention, just plain fun!

Hoopgirl class!
After catching a cab back to the hotel, we had just enough time to change and head out for... dinner!

Lowell's friend Dana picked us up and we headed over to Chaya Brasserie, which serves a yummy and surprising combination of Japanese and French cuisine.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you that my roasted free-range chicken breast was yummy.

Not only that, the company was utterly delightful. Not that I'm surprised, all of Lowell's friends and coworkers that I met while visiting were engaging and entertaining, and everyone without exception seems to adore him.

The Palace Hotel
After all of this fun, food and excitement, it was time to head back to the hotel and call it a night. Of special interest was the king sized bed, which I had all to myself, with no cats pinning me down in strategic places!

It was sad to awake the next morning realizing I would soon be on a plane back to Minnesnowta.

It is still sad now that I am back.

Not just because of the temperature, the snow, the lack of flowers and sunshine, but because it had been 25 years since I had last spent any measurable amount of time with Lowell.

And now I remembered exactly why it was that I cherished his friendship so much in the first place.

If ever there was a kinder, more generous, loving soul, I have yet to meet him. Hanging with Lowell is like putting on your favorite pair of jeans - perfect fit, and they make you feel great.

Unlike my current pair, which, for some strange reason, do not seem to fit me at all after my week in San Carlos!

Cheers -

Monday, March 7, 2011

Yesterday Lowell took me over to Pescadero, a sweet little town a short but scenic drive on Hwy 92 from San Carlos to Half Moon Bay and then south on Hwy 1 along the coast to Pescadero. I don't have a single picture from the entire day. In my defense, it was drizzling all day, and I had neither an umbrella nor a waterproof camera nor the skills or know-how to take a photo on such a dark, damp day. So in lieu of my own photos, I will be sharing pics from the websites of the places we visited, and from Flikr, a photo sharing website. The drive along the coast was beautiful, despite the drizzle and fog. This stretch of coast is almost entirely undeveloped - lush green hills and state beaches. The coast was often obscured from view by hills and cliffs, but the glimpses I caught offered long rolling waves sweeping the rugged shoreline. Pescadero beach

picture from here

Our first stop was at Harley Farms Goat Dairy, a restored 1910 dairy farm with 200 alpine goats on nine acres of pasture who produce the milk for award-winning chevre, fromage blanc, ricotta and feta cheese. Harley Farms Goat Dairy I wish I could say we saw some of the 96 baby goats born so far in 2011 romping happily in the green pastures at the farm. However, the goats were too smart to stay outdoors in the rain. They were all lounging in the barn, which was off-limits to visitors unless you were signed up for one of their tours, which were all booked up yesterday. Harley Farms Goat Dairy

(Photos above from their website)

So we had to imagine them just as you are. Their gift shop, however, was open, and we did spend some time sampling their yummy goat cheeses and perusing their goat related bath and body products. We also wandered upstairs to the restored Victorian hay loft where they host Farm Dinners at a long wooden table on select dates throughout the year. Harley Farms Goat Dairy

picture from here.

As a bonus, we also got to meet two of the resident cats, who were snoozing on the pillowed benches around the room - a tabby named Carmel (emphasis on the "el") and a black one named Oscar. They were both very friendly and seemed to enjoy a pet and chin scratch. After the farm we headed into Pescadero, stopping first at Arcangeli Grocery for a loaf of their regionally renowned artichoke bread, and then wandering up the street visiting gift shops along the way to Duarte's Tavern, which is regionally renowned for its artichoke soup. I am sensing a yummy theme going here, aren't you? I don't believe I've ever had a vacation where I have eaten so well. But let me backtrack just a moment. One of the gift shops we visited, Luna Sea, which carries an eclectic mix of art and gift novelties, also has a bonus feature - a mellow and utterly adorable Goldendoodle named Pebbles. Lowell and Pebbles are new best friends. I really do wish I had a pic of her, all golden locks and softness. She looked a lot like this cutie. Goldendoodle

picture from here

There is a growing chance there may be one of these dogs in my future. At Duarte's Tavern, we sat at the bar and were entertained by Larry as he told us the tavern's history and served us samples of Cream of Artichoke and Cream of Green Chile soups, accompanied by fresh hot crusty sourdough bread. We took his recommendation and each had a bowl of mixed artichoke/chile soup. Yum-mer. We passed, however, on the fried smelt, or as Larry called them, "fries with eyes." We did, however, sample the olallieberry pie, ala mode. In case you are not familiar with olallieberry (as I was not) its pedigree includes loganberry, youngberry, blackberry, raspberry and yummyberry. Duarte's olallieberry pie

photo from here

Yum yum yummer. As I said, I've been eating very well on this trip. Too well probably. I began to regret my full belly however on the return trip home, which followed Hwy 94, a winding bugger of a highway that cut through the Santa Cruz Mountains. If I had not been riding in the front seat of his truck, Lowell may have rediscovered my creamed artichoke/chile soup. As it was, I just got to admire Lowell's driving (a clutch no less) and the Redwood trees as we careened down the east side of the mountain. The rest of the day was spent relaxing and digesting, topped off later by more of Frank's good cooking, crab salad on fresh artichoke bread. I wonder if my plane ticket dates can be changed... I just may never leave. Cheers -

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Lowell, Muir Woods Lowell and I visited Muir Woods yesterday. The weather forecast was for sun Saturday morning, and rain Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday, so we decided to sneak a trip up there and try to beat the showers. I'm so happy we did. Despite the fact all the parking was full and we had to walk about a half mile from our parking space to get to the park... Despite the fact we randomly picked a benign sounding trail to follow called Ocean View Trail... bigarse hill Despite the fact that this sweet sounding trail happens to contain one bigarse hill of which I cannot write the actual nickname we gave it... Vick enjoying ?Ocean View? Despite the fact that "Ocean View" is a misnomer... Ocean View? Despite the fact this trail took us 2.5 hours to climb (1.2 miles) and .5 hours to descend and my recently exercised San Carlos hill-climbing calves were screaming at me and hunger was chewing its way through my stomach (no food allowed in the park)... Redwoods, Muir Woods It was, truly, amazing. Muir Woods And the smells... oh my, the smells were like nothing you've ever smelled before. Pine and warmth and sunshine and running water and moss and ferns and living breathing trees. smell the pine After all of that hiking and breathing and screaming calves, we needed some rest and sustenance, so we headed into Sausalito and found a charming Italian place called Poggio. After ordering ourselves a Ciao Bella! (a drink of grapefruit juice spiked with Caravella Limoncello decorated with a twist of lemon peel), I had the Di Pollo insalate, which consisted of oak-roasted chicken, pear, candied walnuts, radicchio, and red onion. This was served with hot, crusty Italian breads, by a hot, crusty Italian named Alexander. In other words, yummy topped with yummy served with a side of yummy. Did I mention it was all very yummy? I think we died and went to heaven and when we were resuscitated, we were still in heaven. You'd think a day like this couldn't be topped. However, while we were making the long drive home from Sausalito, Frank was making crab dip with the fresh dungeness crab we cracked Friday night after the crab dinner party Lowell and Frank threw for a few of their friends. The dip was hot out of the oven when we got home. Yummy is a gross understatement. Frank is my new hero. Lowell & Frank crackin' crabs And just because every trip north of SF deserves a grainy photo of the Golden Gate Bridge shot from a moving vehicle, here it is. Golden Gate Bridge Salute!

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