Sunday, December 30, 2012


12/29/2012...started about 2pm and was done around 11pm. 10" (3-7" had been forecast)
First time I got to plow with Mickey Mouse the Garden Tractor...worked out OK. I spent about three hours...but a lot of that can be divided between still needing to finish some repairs on the plow so it works more efficiently, some learning, and a lot to pushing snow way back so I can deal with other storms.

Unlike a snowblower or truck plow, the short blade on the tractor can't really "throw" snow over a bank so it's really critical that I made snow dumps.

Cooper was just here for a visit this weekend, he goes home this afternoon.

If I get to the point I have to keep the car down by Route 6, it wouldn't actually take that long to just plow it out. That's where I really pushed snow back so I would have room if needed later in the season.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Scallops and Risotto

Scallops with Risotto and onions, mushrooms, and because I had some to use up green beans -- my first attempt at Risotto. Second time I've fried scallops.

The onions carmelized on me, which is what I think darkened everything. I don't think that was supposed to happen.

Give it about a 1 for presentation, but it tasted average to above-average...but for a first attempt at a lot of things, probably not bad over all.

Part of the recipe involved some wine...I am not a wine drinker, and indeed as stuff was cooking I had to go scrambling through my backpack to find a Swiss Army knife since I realized I didn't own any other corkscrews!

Based on:

Edited to add: It was *very* good as left-overs. Go figure!

Monday, December 17, 2012


I got a Kindle from my sisters last Christmas. Only complaint is how much it cost me buying books for it :D

Looks like I bought 26 in 2012, and I had a couple more PDF downloads, plus a couple books I bought in old fashion paper:

Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time Pellegrini, Georgia 22-Jan-12

Freakonomics Rev Ed: (and Other Riddles of Modern Life) (P.S.) Levitt, Steven D., Dubner, Stephen J. 23-Jan-12

Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit Estabrook, Barry 28-Jan-12

The Feast Nearby: How I lost my job, buried a marriage, and found my way by keeping chickens, foraging, preserving, bartering, and eating locally (all on $40 a week) Mather, Robin 4-Feb-12

Growing Up Amish: A Memoir Wagler, Ira 5-Feb-12

Success Made Simple: An Inside Look at Why Amish Businesses Thrive Wesner, Erik 9-Feb-12

Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash Royte, Elizabeth 13-Feb-12

After God (Religion and Postmodernism) Taylor, Mark C. 21-Feb-12

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World Koeppel, Dan 4-Mar-12

A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present Zinn, Howard 5-Mar-12

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir Baker, Elna 4-May-12

Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food Greenberg, Paul 13-May-12

Rurally Screwed: My Life Off the Grid with the Cowboy I Love Knadler, Jessie 15-May-12

Grace Leads Me Home Miller, Marlene C. 28-Jun-12

Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World Kurlansky, Mark 15-Jul-12

Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World Salatin, Joel 25-Jul-12

Spice: The History of a Temptation Turner, Jack 5-Aug-12

Better Off (P.S.) Brende, Eric 12-Aug-12

Why I Left the Amish: A Memoir Furlong, Saloma Miller 19-Aug-12

The American Way of Eating McMillan, Tracie 20-Aug-12

Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations Montgomery, David R. 25-Aug-12

The Contrary Farmer (Real Goods Independent Living Book) Logsdon, Gene 1-Sep-12

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back To Health Davis MD, William 24-Sep-12

Rats Sullivan, Robert 31-Oct-12

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking Cain, Susan 9-Nov-12

Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat Wilson, Bee 12-Dec-12

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Oh Buck!

Last week looked out of my window and saw this guy:

First buck in 13 years I've seen not in hot pursuit of a doe. He was still hanging out a couple hours later when I went out to do firewood, and the ladies he wanted to flirt with had shown up.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Home Improvements, Oscar is not impressed.

Got the trim up on the bookshelf this weekend:

It's still only 80% done, not shown in the picture is the remaining end that I haven't decided quite how to finish it -- I can't really make it round, and didn't want a sharp square corner. But as I'm typing this, I just thought up making like three sides of an octagon -- I can cut that easy enough in the plywood shelf and the trim boards :)

I also put this up Monday, after my first setup on Sunday proved unworkable:

The shelving itself is from Home Depot -- $6 each for two sections. Meant for a garage, but nicely powder coated. Niteize S-binders from Target made for perfect hooks to hang the pots. I'll probably end up setting it up a bit higher when all is said and done.

This area will be trimmed with red oak, matching the bookshelf above, which will also go around the hearth area (you can see the backer board in the pic that will have some decorative brick or stone when all is said and done.) Also up for the winter is painting the kitchen -- already have the paint, which you can already see on the wall on the right.

Oscar, however, was less impressed then McKayla Maroney with all the doings in the house tonight.

Tree Trimming...and I'm not talking about Christmas...

Trimmed up some of the trees around the lower yard -- the generator + electric pole saw worked out well pulled by Mickey. The plow is in pieces so I could take care of some rust areas that made it difficult to adjust when I bought the tractor -- going to try taking off the mower deck and mounting the plow this weekend.

Bought some wood

First time I've ever bought firewood.

Granted, log length so I have to buck and split myself -- 2-1/2 cords for $250.

I'm working on cleaning up stuff around the edge of the yard, plus I have a spot I'm trying to clear out along the driveway to plant a small orchard (hopefully this spring), which has my production rate really low plus the trees are predominantly the relatively low quality Red Maple which I'd rather not try heating with in deep winter.

This load of Red Oak will do MUCH better.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The thread with no title

Phillip Phillips "I'm going to make this place your home." The day I made this post was the first day I ever recall hearing the song, on the way home from the vet, after being told Oscar had cancer.

First Snow of the season

11/7/2012...nor'easter that dumped about 2" at my house, and quite a bit more just south of Worcester (like 10"!). The band just stalled there and dumped on them!

On sadder news, took Oscar for a follow up at the vets -- the anaplasmosis is better, but he's lost another 5# which really surprised me. The X-rays showed his lungs had cleared up -- but it looks like he has cancer :(

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mickey Mower

Well, the Ranger blew a brake line Saturday just after I loaded it to go to the dump. Guess it's good it did it in the yard and not on the road!

Was a beautiful day and I had wanted to haul several loads of leaves from the dump to the garden...grrrr.

Since I haven't done brake lines before, and wasn't sure how much $$$ that would take, I decided to park the truck and just fix a few things on Mickey so I could use it to haul wood on Sunday (which it did nicely).

What was left of the muffler fell off Saturday. It's $225 from the cheapest discounter I could find...instead I turned the pipe upside down and put on a $40 muffler and cap from Tractor Supply.

New NAPA gold oil filter, Rotella 15w40 oil, new air filter, new gas filter, new plug. The wiring harness was hacked to heck when I bought it which made troubleshooting really tough -- so I finally installed a push button switch to start it (instead of using a wire from the battery to starter solenoid), and a toggle switch to engage the PTO for the mower.

Got to remember to grease it and check the hydro fluid in the transmission.

Pretty soon I'll have to cut the wire ties that hold up one side of the mower deck and mount the snow plow :D

Oh, and somewhere I need to sneak in the greatest Kari Byron gif ever:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

So I don't loose it...

Nice set of videos on replacing brake lines...since the Ranger blew a line yesterday. Guess that's next weekends big project.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Eerily Quiet...

Just a light wind blowing through the trees now in the aftermath of Sandy.

Took a walk down to the garden with Oscar since it wasn't raining...gorgeous night out there. Comfortable fall night, hardly a car on the road, all the neighbors have power so there isn't a generator to be heard.

Preliminary damage assessment by Maglite showed one tree down, across my driveway by Route 6 but where I can drive around it on the grass so I won't have to cut it up till the weekend. I had parked my car down by the garden where no trees could hit it, but I never felt worried enough to move the pickup down there too.

CL&P lists the town as 52% out of power which surprises me. 476,000 customers or 38% statewide -- Hartford Courant reported they had anticipated 300-600,000 so I'm guessing before sunrise they'll go over that since I bet they won't fix anything overnight and the west side of the state still has a few hours to go. 800,000 was the mark that they went over in the Halloween storm and approached in Irene last year.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Oscar's new foot stool

Oscar, being the stubborn old dog he is, refuses to stop getting up in "his" chair (the foulest, schmegiest, stinkiest thing in existence)...even if sometimes it takes him two minutes and several tries to pull his rear legs up.

Even when I bring his dog bed out to the living room to give him a clue.

So this morning I decided I need to do something before he hurts himself.

I was thinking about an ottoman with legs which I could cut down, but not finding anything I liked I got up to Twin Mills Used Furniture in Oxford and once I explained what I was looking for the woman had the perfect suggestion of a foot stool! I hadn't really thought about that since I'm not exactly a furniture connoisseur.

Of course, His Royal Highness does NOT like change. This being the dog who once slept on the floor pouting for three days where the chair used to be when I moved it across the room.

For a half hour he pouted, sniffed, acted annoyed it was in front of his chair, acted even more annoyed when I lifted his front paws up on the foot stool to show him he could put his weight on it, walked around and sulked...and finally tried it and realized he liked it.

Swinging Trees

The intention was to drop it about 6" further left...and I hadn't pondered the implications of not cutting down the stump first. Plus I caught a 4" tree in a bad position that I couldn't quite figure out (without being in a bad place) whether it was an oversized spring pole, or it was the root ball being pulled up was the major factor.

Notch was OK, I could've done better. Hindsight I would've aimed a bit further to the left, but it was aimed where I intended when cutting.

The back cut isn't my best work I was thinking too much about how to cut it to swing the tree and didn't cover the basics, so it was slightly angled and a bit lower then it should've been. pretty much did what it was supposed -- the tree had a slight forward and moderate side lean and I watched as the tree started to fall, then spun around to the left to come down (almost) where I needed it. First time I've made...deliberately...a directional(?) cut which spins the tree around.

My cutting the hinge not even but so the side away from where you want the tree to pivot is cut first, the tree starts to fall but then the thicker hinge holds it and it swings towards the thicker hinge (the pulled wood in the pic).

A bit surprised Henry didn't come over to make sure I was OK because I let out a heck of a war whoop in celebration afterwards.

Normally I would've just started working on the top of the big tree and when I got to where it was up on the second stump I would've taken the peavy and yanked it off.

But I had the matter of that spring pole and not being quite sure what it was going to do or causing on the main tree.

My solution was to use a couple 2" ratchet straps. One wrapped twice around the stump:

The other went over it. I only had one sling, so I had to directly hook the other strap. Another sling is now on my shopping list :)

Once I got to the 4", it wasn't too bad after all. The small root ball sat back in it's hole a bit, that was all. But better safe then sorry.

Now, I still have the top to deal with:

Which was tangled up with grape I spent a lot of time in chaps and a pair of pruners in my pocket. Saw some top, clip some vines, throw on brush pile, repeat. What a pain.

This was when I finally ran out of gas. It was getting dark enough I decided to leave the rest to finish up this week.

The big birch's natural lean was towards that cedar tree, so I am very happy to have swung it around as much as I did :)

Brush pile keeps growing...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Oh Deer

Deer Love Daylillies.

This does not bode well for pressure on the garden and flowers next spring.

I only saw one doe and two fawns at a time all summer. I'm assuming I've had a second family move in, not that I had two but only saw one at a time all summer long.

Tractor Supply Score

Stopped at Tractor Supply...true to form, they didn't have the item I was looking for.


They had a bargain basket full of good stuff by the registers. I was like a girl at a shoe sale...$64.96 list price for $24.96

Coming out, this awesome truck was parked next to me...oh talk about a fun toy to have :) Probably channeling my inner ten year old from one time my dad had a small bucket truck as his take-home vehicle from the phone company instead of his normal Chevette or Courier he'd get when assigned away from his normal garage...and I got to go up in the bucket and zoom around.

But what totally made me chuckle is they named the truck (haven't seen that on a national tree service truck before) the "Noisy Cricket." What a great Men in Black reference.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Oscar & Cooper

Dog sitting Cooper this weekend:

Cooper first wanted to play with Oscar (who wanted none of that, especially since it was 11pm at night when they were introduced.) There was more tail wagging then not. I had to make sure Cooper knew who was boss...finally by the last time Oscar growled at him for excessive butt sniffing, Cooper just ran to me and put his paws in my lap.
Cooper spent most of his ~40 minute ride (we went the scenic back way) looking out the windows, and was none to excited to get home: And when told to get out of the car:

Friday, October 12, 2012


Let's see...

First fire was on October 1st, about a week earlier then last year.

First frost will be tonight (10/13)

Work is progressing on the foyer.

I'm not the best carpenter, but it didn't come out too bad for me.

I'm not helped by Papu's finest assembly of whatever he could scrounge up in whatever looked sort of right...counting from the front wall, the distance between studs 1 and 2 was the standard 16". Then 17-1/2". Then between 3 and 4 was 11-1/2". *sigh* I used 5" spacing on the coat hooks because it was the only thing that mathematically worked which wouldn't conflict with one of the lag bolts.

Next up will be using the same red oak and Danish oil to trim and make a mantel around the heat shield for the woodstove. I never liked the cultured brick veneer I had done years ago and chipped it off last week. That will have to wait till next spring or summer as I can't do the masonry when the stove is going. Woodwork I can handle.

And after a run to (say it with the French accent...) Target for some containers and we have:

The paint is Valspar 3002-7B "Gleaming Tan" in eggshell finish and I'll be continuing that color on into the kitchen over the winter.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Two Part Sleep

[A] history professor at Virginia Tech named A. Roger Ekirch, who spent hours investigating the history of the night and began to notice strange references to sleep. A character in the “Canterbury Tales,” for instance, decides to go back to bed after her “firste sleep.” A doctor in England wrote that the time between the “first sleep” and the “second sleep” was the best time for study and reflection. And one 16th-century French physician concluded that laborers were able to conceive more children because they waited until after their “first sleep” to make love. Professor Ekirch soon learned that he wasn’t the only one who was on to the historical existence of alternate sleep cycles. In a fluke of history, Thomas A. Wehr, a psychiatrist then working at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., was conducting an experiment in which subjects were deprived of artificial light. Without the illumination and distraction from light bulbs, televisions or computers, the subjects slept through the night, at least at first. But, after a while, Dr. Wehr noticed that subjects began to wake up a little after midnight, lie awake for a couple of hours, and then drift back to sleep again, in the same pattern of segmented sleep that Professor Ekirch saw referenced in historical records and early works of literature.
NYT: Rethinking Sleep
I can believe that. I needed to catch up on sleep after a long week last Friday -- laid down for a nap at 5pm, got up from midnight to 1am, and then back to bed to 9am :D
But that short amount of time I was up felt really good, then I was naturally tired again.

Sometimes I get on a cycle of late afternoon naps, up for five-seven hours, then get a few hours of short sleep overnight. I don't find that schedule restful and will eventually force myself to stay up late enough to compress my sleep back into an eight hour block. But I wonder if say a 9pm bedtime, then up for an hour or two around midnight, then back to bed for another five to six hours would work out.

I'm not sure it's just the schedules of an industrialized world either -- farmers, without illumination of even candles and lanterns, undoubtedly wouldn't have slept through an entire 12 or 14 hour long winter night, day after day, especially in the season when physical work was at it's wane.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Cool concept -- quite an old one, but Dunning & Kruger started to flesh out some empirical evidence on it in 1999.

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.
Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. As Kruger and Dunning conclude, "the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others"

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Take this, you Vegan enablers of industrial destruction!

Or, as Sir Albert Howard put it a bit more elegantly in one of the founding documents of the organic farming movement:
Mother earth never attempts to farm without live stock; she always raises mixed crops; great pains are taken to preserve the soil and to prevent erosion; the mixed vegetable and animal wastes are converted into humus; there is no waste; the processes of growth and the processes of decay balance one another; ample provision is made to maintain large reserves of fertility; the greatest care is taken to store the rainfall; both plants and animals are left to protect themselves against disease.

Most arguments I've heard from folks about vegetarianism or veganism I just don't buy.
Healthwise, it's not necessary. Though I do agree with Thomas Jefferson's view to treat the meat almost as a garnish and not the main component of a meal. But you can eat meat and be quite healthy.
Environmentally, encouraging systems without animals is - as Howard says -- destructive and you're going to encourage many bad practices of industrial farming. Small, diversified farms need animals and they need markets for those animals to work economically outside of the transaction-oriented, industrialized system of agriculture today.
Much of the planet is not suited for growing annual crops, which is where most of our grains and vegetables come from, and which need annual tillage (whether powered by internal combustion engines or beast of burden). Most of our surface area is best left to grasses and fobs, harvested and converted into human food by the grazing of cows, sheep, goats, etc. Now the grazing needs to be managed, but none the less it's the best long-term, sustainable way to produce human food off most of the earth.
And some people are just uneasy about eating meat, but I suspect that's more a combination of the Beatrix Potter Syndrome (or Disney Syndrome or whatever -- anthropomorphism via media) and not growing up with and around livestock. Farm kids are taught to not name their future food (at the parent's peril if they don't teach that lesson), but through media many people have "named" all their food.
Nor can one argue that eating meat necessarily supports poor practices like confinement animal factories -- it may, but it doesn't necessarily. And someone who refuses to eat meat even when it raised right on small farms and with much freedom of movement and safety is refusing to support the farmers who do the right thing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Things I read sometimes...

[While leading an expedition in the Tsangpo River Valley of Eastern Tibet]

Looking for outcrops of ancient lakebeds we drove through villages full of chickens, yaks, and pigs. All around the towns, low silt walls trapped soil in fields of barley, peas, and yellow flowers with seeds rich in canola oil.

After a few days it became obvious that corralling dirt was only part of the secret behind ten centuries of farming the lakebed. Following an unsupervised daily rhythm, Tibetan livestock head out to the fields during the day, fend for themselves, and come home at night. Driving back through towns at the end of each day's fieldwork, we saw pigs and cattle waiting patiently to reenter family compounds. These self-propelled manure dispensers were prolific; even a brief rain turned fields and roads to flowing brown muck.

The night after finding the remains of the glacial dam that once impounded the lake, we stayed at a cheap hotel ... The proprietor advised us on our way in that the backyard would serve as our bathroom. That the pigs clean up the yard bothered me during our pork dinner. Still I had to appreciate the efficiency of pigs eating waste and fertilizing the soil, and then people eating both crops and pigs.

Overlooking the obvious public health issues, this system sustained soil fertility.
Dirt, The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eggplant Sandwich!

This came out very well for winging it:

Garden eggplant egged, breaded, and fried in olive oil. Medium heat 10 minutes, flip, oh about 3-4 minutes.

Garden sweet pepper, Mexican four cheese blend.

Lightly toasted two thick slices of bread (that I baked this morning so nice and moist!).

Bit of spaghetti sauce.

Made into an open face sandwich.

Accompanied by a few Utz potato chips and a Hosmer Mountain Cream Soda (made with cane sugar, plus it's lower in carbonation then most sodas; most over-carbonate to compensate for leakage through plastic, but Hosmer uses glass bottles.)

Nothing like taking healthy garden veggies and making them into a typical American meal :D

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Photos to follow...but I need to record today so I remember when six weeks is up :) Tried my first batch of making mason jar sauerkraut. Half a head of cabbage packed a quart jar (with too little left over to worry about). The other half made coleslaw last night.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Tuesday, September 4th

Zinnias & Marigolds:

Sunflowers: September! These are late-season varieties obviously :)

Got some plastic lids for the mason jars -- thinking they'll do a better job storing yogurt then the plastic containers did. Also want to use them for nuts I buy in bulk -- my last batch of peanuts went stale sitting in the thin bag from the store :(

Oh, and that's the first pepper I can recall successfully growing sitting next to the tomato and white eggplant.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Last Saturday in the Garden

Scored four pickup truck loads of clean, dry straw :D

Canning Peaches...

Starting to figure this out -- canned peaches today, pears last week (in the background, they'll all go into storage tomorrow):

Let's see:
1 Peck of No. 2 Peaches: $10
2 Cups local honey: $5 (I can find some local still but a bit cheaper)
5 Cups of Water
Produced 9 pints of peaches -- $1.60/pint, and I figure I'd use two of them per week on yogurt & granola for breakfast...compared to Strawberries which I think I was averaging about $3/week on last winter, maybe more.

Time wise:
Bringing the canner up to a boil initially: 90 minutes
Time to process the peaches (blanch for 2 minutes, then skin & cut, and pack a pint as we go with boiling syrup over them): 1 hour. Need the canner boiling before I start so it sterlizes the jars.
Processing: 25 minutes

So start to finish I'm looking at 3 hours, within which there's about an hour of actual work.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

My First Canning!

Sterlizing the jars and lids -- note the lid isn't sealed on the canner. It's a 16 quart Presto canner I bought at Walmart that will do 10 pint jars or 7 quart jars. Importantly, it's small enough it's OK to use on my glass top stove -- the "Gold Standard" All-American Canners which are awesome are also so heavy they don't recommend using them on glass tops. The All-Americans, in addition to being U.S. made, don't use a gasket like Presto (an occasional replacement item), and they use a dial to control the pressure instead of weights like the Presto (something I'm sure I'll be tearing the kitchen apart one day trying to figure out what I did with them...).

The Beans, picked fresh this morning:

If I had chickens, they'd be loving the ends & culls in the background:

We be cutting...the "Santoku" style knife is nice!

Soaking in warm water and vinegar to wash them off. I then rinsed a handful at a time, putting them in the salad spinner colander to drain.

Ready to go in...

And finished:
They're floating, but that should be OK from what I've read. Maybe I could have packed it a bit tighter?

Like what I'm finding with a lot of stuff in the kitchen, it's not a lot of "work" or even that "time consuming" so much as it needs forethought and planning. I'll have to time the next time I do this, so I could be doing other things while the processing is going on.