Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Princess Constitutional

Come on out, chickies!  I spread a bale of straw over the snow so you will keep your princess feet warm!

This Ameraucana looks awful, doesn't she?  She's just finishing up her moult, but the reason her back looks like it is only down is that she loves to sit under the heat lamp.  Araucanas (from which Ameraucanas descend) are a South American breed.  I think she is a heat-loving princess.  She'll sit under the heat lamp until her back starts to singe.  Sometimes I come into the barn and she'll be under that red lamp with steam rising off of her -- at least, I think it's steam.  Maybe it's smoke!

Ari Duckass delights in a romp outside.  She ventures off the straw -- not so much the chicken princesses.  She buries her head under the straw, searching for little duck delicacies to gobble up.  And all the while she narrates. 

When the feathers are all fluffed up, these chicken butts look nice and warm, don't they?

They only had a small area covered in straw, but for a while around ten of the birds came outside for fresh air.  It was important to me that they had the opportunity today, because the forecast is for a foot of snow over the weekend, and more coming in the first week of 2010.  And with temperatures dropping and winds picking up, they may not get out again for a while.  I didn't tell them that.

I didn't want to break their princess hearts.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Spirit

The Christmas spirit.  Got it?  Since Thanksgiving I've listened more and more frequently to the all Christmas, all the time radio station.  Chipmunks, Mariah Carey, Bing Crosby, all the favorites.  And then Band-Aid comes on singing Do They Know It's Christmas with the lyric "tonight thank God it's them, instead of you."

And I cry.  Every time.

Because while I live a simple life, and I don't have fancy things, I do have the most important things.

I have Oskar, showing some graying on his muzzle but still exhilarated every morning when I open the door and he can race into the world.  And I have friends who send wonderful, loving holiday cards.

I have Abe, my cuddly old boy.  He wakens me each morning (if 5:00 am is morning to you!) with a pat on the cheek.

We have cookies in the oven.  And lots of cookies on the counter, waiting for a party.

I have Luke, the thinker, who considers me his right-hand girl.  He tells me when, I pour the kibble.  It works for us.

We have heat that works.  Our old house is not toasty, but we are comfortable.

And I have Ulani, aka Stinky Emilio.  Life is never dull with an active girl scheming out her next escapade.

So when I hear the song talking about people starving, with no water, and it says "tonight thank God it's them, instead of you", I do. 

I live a simple life, but I have all the important things.  And in the Christmas spirit, I hope you do, too.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas to You!

Deck the halls with bow-wows jolly!

Oskar and Ulani have been working hard to get our tree beautiful in time for Santa.  Luke and Abe did their part by supervising.

And the chickens and duck?  They did their part, too!

Merry Christmas to all of our readers!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cannibals. No, really, the chickens are cannibals.

Some may find this post graphic.  I tried keeping the photos beyond the "read more" link -- but it is not working.  If you don't want to see the photos, don't go any further!

A couple of days ago I noticed a big clump of red feathers in the hen pen.  It's not unusual to see a single feather or two, they are shed or hens get in a tussle and you end up with a feather or two.  But this was a clump and clearly from a bigger altercation.  I did not see any sign of trouble within the flock, though, so I forgot about it.

Sadly, when I got home today, I found the end result.

Santa's Sweetest Wish

"Oskar, what should we leave under the tree for Santa?"  "PEANUT BRITTLE!"

We got our recipe from the Granite State Candy Shoppe.  Here it is:

3 c sugar
1 c corn syrup
1/2 c water
4-1/2 c peanuts
4 T unsalted butter
2 tsp baking soda

Takes about 1-1/2 hours, 30 minutes active.

Coat a 12x17 inch low-sided pan with spray oil (or rub with butter).

In a heavy 5 qt saucepan with a tight fitting lid, combine sugar, corn syrup and water.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally.

Once the sugar has boiled, leave cover on another minute (creates steam to wash sides of pan).

Remove the lid and reduce heat to medium.  Continue stirring until it reads 230F on candy thermometer (soon, maybe 1 minute).  Add the peanuts and stir with wooden spoon until mixture reaches 300F.  This will take a while, but keep a close eye on it -- the final five degrees happen fast!

Immediately remove from the heat and stir in butter and baking soda.  It will foam up.  Stir thoroughly.

Pour into center of prepared pan and spread out with wooden spoon.  Allow to cool for 1 hour.

Turn brittle out of the pan and snap into pieces.  Enjoy!

We cover the empty peanut cans with our own labels (this one says "I'd rather be eating peanut brittle").  Makes great gifts!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Winter Blast

Winter whooshed through Busy Solitude Farm yesterday, dropping the temperature to single digits, whipping winds up to 50 mph, and bringing snow, then lake effect snow.  The snow is light and fluffy and only a few inches deep, but I still shovel a path to the barn so I don't have to put on boots each time I check the hens.

I wrapped the hen pen with heavy plastic to reduce drafts.  The old barn siding allows lots of air through, and along with the air...

...snow!  This is the "back door" of the barn.  It faces due west and bears the brunt of the winter winds.  I meant to rebuild it this summer, but it's one more item on the "to do" list that never got done.  So I now have to shovel inside the barn as well as the path to it!  You'll also note that the top of the feed can is upside down -- I have a new bag of feed in my car, waiting to get to the barn.  Guess there are still chores to do this morning!

Happily, the chickens (and duck at the waterer) can bask under the heat lamp and with their new plastic wrap stay relatively comfortable inside.  No way are they going outside today!  And good blizzard news, Miss Peep and one of the Ameraucana hens both layed yesterday after two months off!

Last night Oskar looked back over his shoulder as if to say "you expect me to go out in this?"  Next thing I saw was...

...his tracks in the snow, and just a few seconds later...

...he raced back to the door and that was that for the night!

All the schools are closed today -- I'm calling it a snow day, too!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Guest poster: Oskar Goes to the Vet, 1

This morning was my turn to go to the vet.  It's a little hard for me to get into the car these days.

Once I'm in the car hammock, though, I'm ready to roll.

There was traffic on Three Oaks Road this morning.  Instead of going 45, we were held to 25.  Johanna got a little bit testy.

At the coffee shop (which Johanna was in a hurry to reach), we saw the man who always walks two Pugs.  He only had one today, but it turns out the other one does not like snow so she'd stayed home.  I carried on a conversation with them while Johanna got coffee.

At Sawyer Road we discovered part of the traffic problem.  Red Arrow Highway was loaded up with semi trucks re-routed off of I-94.  Later we heard there had been an accident and the interstate was closed for a while.  Luckily, we do not take the interstate to reach the vet!

Guest Poster: Oskar Goes to the Vet, 2

We arrived at Ani-Med in Bridgman and discovered they are all decked out for the holidays.

Tracy had my favorite room all ready for me. I'm always happy to go into this room because... has a bench that's just my size, looking out into the woods where the squirrels run!

Nicky took me to visit the scale. It's a little noisy, but today I didn't mind because I'm still 78!

 I thought I deserved to take a bow for that!

We went back into the room with the Oskar-sized bench, and I suggested that Johanna put on her coat and we could go, now that we knew I was still 78.

I said "WE CAN GO NOW! HERE'S THE DOOR!" Instead, Nicky came to take me into the back again to give blood. Johanna stayed in the room...

...and read the literature.

Then I came bursting back into the room with the Oskar-sized bench, hoping it was time to go. But no, I could not escape Dr. Mike. I invited him to join me on the Oskar-sized bench, but once he was there I didn't fit.

He poked me in the ears, smelled my breath, and moved my legs all around.

He said I was great except my hips kind of hurt now, but I could take some drugs to feel better. That made me smile, and I said to Johanna "ok, now can we go?" She said there was one more thing.

A treat from Dr. Mike. Because I'm a big boy, I got TWO treats!

On the way out, I signed the guest book.  They do a good job at Ani-Med.

More decorating!

I've noticed that many of my neighbors had outdoor lights up at Thanksgiving! How organized they are! My problem was that I really wanted to improve on the barn wreath I used the first few years I lived here. It was nice, with white lights and a red bow, but it wasn't really large enough. What I need is 5 or 6 feet in diameter. Then I found out how much that would cost. No way! So I thought about building a form. Cut it out of plywood? Form it with PVC? Time was a-wastin', snow was coming.

I decided to skip the wreath this year and go for lights on my little NeBoShone pine.

It sits to the mound side of the barn, a nice distance from the house for viewing. Coming up the road you catch a quick peek of it between the trees, but mostly it's my private holiday sight.

Originally I wanted white lights, but colors were what I had available, so colors it is.

We got a dusting of snow overnight, adding to the soft look of these needles.

As the sky began to lighten this morning, the warm colors of my little NBS pine cheered the yard. Next: the indoor tree!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Guest poster: Ulani - "Tis the Season"

See the pine in my hair? See it there, smack dab in the middle of this mugshot Johanna took? Well, if you're a regular here you probably think "Ulani decided to start decorating for the holidays!" Wouldn't that be cute? But you'd be wrong. Dead wrong. Here's my story.

Lately when we get up in the morning it's very dark outside. The sun doesn't come up for an hour or more. Some days there's moonlight filtering through the snow clouds and anyone can see what's in the yard, but Oskar and I don't need that -- we have our noses. Any critter that's been through our yard has left a scent, and we sniff 'em all.

The past week or so we've smelled rabbit every morning. Don't think Easter Bunny, or Bugs. This is stinkin', stupid rabbit. In the winter they like to make their nests on our septic mound. Then in spring they have babies, and sometimes the babies freeze overnight when the stupid rabbits go off. Oskar and I call those Bun-sicles.

But I digress.

Today, Saturday morning, we got up really early because we went to bed at 8:00 last night. That's no typo -- Johanna was freezing cold and said "let's watch tv in bed!" like it was a big treat. "Let's watch tv in bed and eat popcorn", now that's a treat! But this was a treat-less offer. Of course within twenty minutes she was snoring away, so we went to sleep, too.

Well, when we got up this morning we raced to the door, and when Johanna opened it Oskar and I flew across the grass, looking for the stinkin' rabbit. I smelled it good. And this morning I found it. I chased it across the septic, I chased it through the pine trees, then I caught it and shook it until it went limp. Johanna came outside and called "biscuits!" but I did not go to her. That was a mistake. In poker they call that a "tell" because it shows that something is going on. And how! I was just having the first couple of crunchy chomps when Johanna appeared and took me into custody. That's when I had my mugshot made. With the pine needles in my face.

When we went back outside the stupid rabbit was gone. But I have my memories. 'Tis the season for bunny.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Let the Decorating Begin!

Welcome to December, 2009! The year held so many dark times, I intend to brighten this final month with lights and color. I've only just begun...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Christmas Came Early

My Christmas cactus turns out to be a pre-Thanksgiving cactus! A few weeks ago I noticed it was covered with buds, and this past week it burst into magnificent bloom. I moved it from the south facing window where it is normally at home in hopes of prolonging the show.

The blossoms are like feathers, gorgeous colors blending into a flashy display. The pistil shocking pink, the stamens like antennae. Everything about this plant says "look at me right now!"

For the next couple of weeks, the cactus will sit on the kitchen half-wall where I can see it from all directions. Then, as it fades back to normalcy, Christmas decorations will take over the flash and splash.

What's not to love about Christmas coming early?