Friday, October 31, 2008

Separated at Birth

I have always described my dog, Henry , as a terrier-beagle mix. He has a muscular terrier's body but the coloring and Baroooo of a beagle, but I think I have changed my mind.

A couple of people have suggested he is a PBGV- or Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. (Big shout out to you, Mum.) I have disregarded this suggestion because he doesn't have the wiry coat of a PBGV.

It all of a sudden occurred to me that he doesn't have the wiry coat of a beagle either. I did a little reading and he seems to display the exact character traits of a PBGV- independent, untrustworthy off leash, big baroo voice like the hound dog that they are.

So what do you think? I have put in two pictures of PBGVs & two pictures of my noble terrier/poodle/whatever mix.

Whatever- I love that dog to death!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blogging Ala` Andrew Sullivan

This photo has nothing to do with Andrew Sullivan. It is my friend, LYC, trying to figure out a really difficult children's toy. It is the best illustration I could come up with for problem solving. She looks pretty serious- huh?

The Atlantic Monthly has a lead story on blogging. It is written by Andrew Sullivan, a thoughtful thinker & writer.... and too damned cute by half for a gay guy.

I always struggle a little with what it is that I am doing here. I have never been particularly good at writing, but this feels like so much more than that. It is communicating.

Sullivan sums up blogging by calling it broadcasting and not publishing. It is spontaneous and has plenty of room for error, but it also contains an element of conversation. Readers are fast to react, correct, respond and join in. I think that is what is so appealing. I am not always looking to get positive feedback ... just feedback in general.

I would like to think that I am not so dogmatic in thought that I couldn't bend a little due to a persuasive argument. Writing about Sarah Palin allowed me to take a non-traditional stance and listen to the comments. It was eye opening. I think when I struggle with ideas it is helpful to toss it out there for people to comment on. This goes right to Sullivan's point that a blog does not exist till it has readers, and more importantly, commenters. It underscored the importance of joining in the dialogue and linking to original source material, dissident views and anybody whatsoever to get the maximum benefit of blogging.

So what are you waiting for?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

All God's Creatures

It was a stunning Autumn day- warm, sunny and perfect. Henry & I did the usual five mile loop and then spent about 1/2 an hour in the cemetery hunting for mice. Actually Henry hunted for mice, I just lolled in the sun.

We saw our usual friends on our walk, plus some. The Pileated Woodpecker was too fast to get a picture of but the llamas obliged me by staying still. I use to let my Golden Retriever go into the tall grass of their field to hunt for mice. Eventually the llamas would get curious and come up to sniff her. It scared the Dickens out of her. Henry thinks he might like them but is a little leery.

These baby horses are Mouse & Buddy. They are brother and sister... and about 7-8 months old. They are still quite frisky and come out to greet us. Buddy in front is much more brave.. Mouse always hangs back a little. I call these two the kids to distinguish them from their brethren across the street.

Across the street are two Haflinger Draft ponies. I thought they were just chubby until the owner said they are draft ponies meant for hauling stuff. They are stocky but have beautiful manes and tails. They are very handsome and friendly. I call them either the boys or my pretty ponies. I suppose that is a little humiliating for them, but they seem so forgiving.

I see lots more animals- Red Squirrels, Cedar Waxwings, Chickadees, Snakes and more. They make my day.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Day In The Life Of My Garden, October 25, 2008

After a very long week at work I had a beautiful late October morning to tend to my garden. It as overcast but in the 50's.. which to me is very desirable. The colors are especially stunning when it is overcast- like the boyfriend's Brussels sprouts- grown for my personal delectation.

I whacked back a lot of things. Woody things like asters, Baptisia, and shrub hydrangea made their way to the dumping grounds ...over the edge of a banking. Good stuff like sedum, day lily & hosta were carted to my compost pile for future reference.

I was specially pleased to see small sedum sproutlets when I whacked the Ruby Glow Sedum .... signs of Spring and it is only October! Hope springs eternal.

The whole garden scene is reminiscent of Spring when the garden was so barren, but these are all plants being put to bed- clipped to their minimum. A few things are saved because of their greenness... so difficult to resist.

But the Peach Tree is stunning.. ruby branches and brightly colored leaves. The boyfriend persists in trying to grow fruit despite our poor soil. I am thankful- we had some juicilishess nectarines this year.

With all the trimming this thuja stands out like a solar flare in my garden .... thank goodness for evergreens in the drab months.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Where Does Your Food Come From?

Forewarning to all chicken lovers out there- there will be chicken killing in the next few paragraphs.

Our friend the organic farmer had some old layers to get rid of. They had outlived their productive life and it was time to become chicken stock. The boyfriend is an old farm boy and does not shirk from the realities of our food cycle, so he retrieved the hens and brought them back to dispense of them.

I have not moved over to the vegetarian side so I understand that an animal must die in order for me to eat meat. I have not stepped up to the plate when it comes to the actual killing. I conveniently had to work that day.

The boyfriend knows that I love chicken livers (don't ask) and he thoughtfully saved them for me. But I have to admit when they don't come packaged in a plastic tub they are one step closer to where they actually come from- a dead animal. I sucked it up and fried them up for breakfast, and they were good.

He also saved a couple of "eggs from the chute" as he puts it. They are like yolky ping pong balls- perfectly spherical. I fried them up too. It took a bit of poking to break the outer portion which I assume would have become the shell. They were also good.

It is a funny feeling being so close to the food chain instead of buying your food in Styrofoam packages. It was vaguely uncomfortable yet I also felt somehow more honest. I felt grateful to the animals for sustaining me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fashion Forward

I wasn't going to post this, because it is a bit silly. But I haven't got a more developed thought in my head right now. So here it is...

I sometimes feel I have to apologize for my interest in fashion. Such a girl thing ... but there it is ... I am a girl. I think fashion is one more way for a person to project their personality. Is that any more shallow than other pursuits?

All that being said I am not a very daring follower of fashion. But I have decided to set myself a small goal. I want to pair two patterns together in a way that makes sense. I have bought a couple of pair of patterned tights recently. I figure that like an art collection, whatever I am drawn to will probably mesh with other things I already have. I am dying for a really good pair of argyle tights... like Wouldn't Shoe, but I haven't found the pair for me yet.

My friend Louise has got a certain devil-may-care attitude when it comes to pairing patterns. Her fashion insouciance reflects her quirky view on life. One of my favorite accessories of hers was a child's baseball cap worn at a jaunty angle. It sat on top of her head (because it was so small) like a cocktail hat. This was back in the late 70's/early 80's when jaunty baseball caps were not the fashion bailiwick of inner-city hoodlums.

So yesterday I had to get dolled up for an event and I thought it as the right time to put my plan to work. Out come the tights, herringbone jacket, black skirt and wonderful red shoes. But I am thwarted- first one pair of tights has a hole in it and then another pair which is listed as medium/tall will barely make it past my knees. Sigh... back into the sock drawer for a pair of tights which has a subtle tweedy pattern. It looked good and I felt snazzy... but not as snazzy these girls in red.

I am such a fashion plate.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Day Of Domesticity

Happy Columbus Day! Thank goodness North America was discovered or I might be an English peasant or something.

I spent the day washing all the windows in the house. It is not as terrible as it sounds- after a week of whining to my friend Louise about the impending task. I put on a selection of cleaning music:
Annie Lennox- Bare
Kristen Hersh- Strings
Paris Combo- Attraction
Jane Siberry- Bound By the Beauty
Bossacucanova- Brasilade
Somehow music played loudly makes many tasks bearable. A little something to shake your cleaning booty to.

Then I was left to make a side dish with our leftover bounty of eggplants and peppers. I was recently taught to make capanata by my godchild, Hannah. It is a wonderful thing when small children grow up and can teach you a thing or two. She is 26 now, but I remember her clearly at 4 years old. She was wise at that age too. She helped me with my computer skills when I was trying to write my thesis in graduate school. It is a very humbling experience to have a 4 year old help you.

I am pretending I am Pioneer Woman here- what with the beautiful cookery & photography. So you dice up peeled eggplant and saute with olive oil, garlic, shallots (from the garden if you are lucky). It is suppose to have Kalamata Olives. I didn't have any, so in go the black olives. In go the capers too.
Fresh tomatoes are best, but what we have is rotting instead of ripening... so in goes the canned tomatoes.

I'll be serving this with roasted chicken.... mmmmm.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Beautiful Dreamers

It is that time of year when my state looks like a bad calendar down at the heating oil office or local grain store- stunning vistas wherever you look. This is my neighbor's house- the big building is actually a barn- a classic dairy barn. It is cavernous inside... enough room to store a... barn! Or a big herd of cows.

It also means the state is lousy with leaf peepers from away. You can tell by their out of state license plates, but even blind folded you could tell. They drive at least 20 mph below the speed limit, yet still manage to miss stop signs. I don't mind them so much, but I do give them wide berth. After a while they notice the train of cars on their bumper and pull over. It is the price we pay for living in a place so beautiful that people travel large distances to see what we get to see every day.

I have to admit, despite 46 seasons of this, I still slow down periodically to soak it in.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

Periodically even the great and powerful Sarah needs an attitude adjustment... what with all the financial turmoil and the fact that she deals in an expendable commodity. A commodity an awful lot like dancing, or live theater, or puppetry, but with less motion.

So Sarah tries to concentrate on those things that make her life fabulous and worthwhile.

The accompanying image looks a little bleak- no? Actually it is quite lovely. It is to help you visualize her nightly walk with her dog after dinner. The vernal Equinox has passed making evening walks a little dark. Normally this might be depressing but our optimistic hero & heroine make the best of it. It is an opportunity to rely on all senses. As we near the river a cool breeze rolls around us. We can hear the rustle of the birch trees towards the far side of the yard. And the earthy smell of turned soil tells us we have neared the most recent gardening project. And the most favored of experiences- We can see the slender stalks of Karl Foerster Grass, despite the dark, swaying slowly letting us know to take a sharp right around the end of the garden.

Things feel uncertain, but there are still pleasures in life. And as Henry would say- still plenty of things to piss on.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Blue Asters

I have been in Vermont for a few days and the mornings have been very cold here, but I returned to find that my asters are still looking pretty good. I thought I would give my beautiful blue aster a starring role on my blog. Isn't her foliage and fullness something to behold?

Here are her beautiful blue flowers. They are the classic aster form but it is the shade of purple that veers towards blue that makes your heart sing in these cool days.

And here are one of the stems bent over to nestle against the Helene Von Stachen Stachys. Isn't it a lovely contrast? Disregard the weeds muddying up the scene. My garden has gone to hell in a hand basket recently.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Health Wise

I ran into a neighbor on my morning walk recently and she said- "I hear you are a celiac, I was just diagnosed 6 months ago."

I hadn't thought about my disease in several years. I was diagnosed about 8-9 years ago and have simply learned to live with it. It is an allergy to gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt and oats. The reaction to eating gluten can vary in intensity from person to person. Mostly (for me) it involves gastro-intestinal distress in all of its lovely forms. Some people lose tremendous amounts of weight as their small intestines are decimated. Some have all sorts of symptoms from rashes to migraines. The scariest part is the long term consequences. Because the villi in the small intestine are being destroyed, the uptake of nutrition is impeded so that you are open to other problems like osteoporosis, anemia, dramatic weight loss, etc. (I could go into this but it is medical and boring.)

So I started researching again as I haven't looked in years. I am finding more information on the disease and how people are living with it. Certainly the shopping choices have expanded. Almost every grocery store has a gluten free section. For the most part I have made do with rice, but some of the gluten free breads are almost like the real thing. What I am waiting for is a good gluten free pizza dough. I do have a recipe for the best wheat free cookies you have EVER tasted in your life- peanut butter and chocolate chip!

My friend Michelle and fellow blogger Cookie Sunshine have decided to devote more energy to their health and losing weight. I think that isn't such a bad thing. As a matter of fact it is a good thing. I think I should join them in their quest for health and start being extra careful about what I ingest. I have always described myself as intolerant as opposed to a true celiac because my symptoms are not as severe as some. But I am afraid the lack of symptoms is masking what I am doing to myself. It is those long term consequences that will really get you.

I didn't have a photo of myself in poor health, so this is Henry wearing the dreaded Elizabethan Collar.

Organic Farming

It seems that Monday was a day of visiting farmers. We had to pick up a load of sheep manure for the garden- so on go the wellies and off we go. The first farm raises sheep, chickens and Indian Runner Ducks which are apparently really good layers. I didn't have my camera, but suffice it to say they are very upright, skinny and run a lot. Just looking at them made me laugh out loud.

Then we were off to a friend of the boyfriend's, who invited us to see his new calf.. only three days old. Here she is with her mom, Buttercup. They are Jerseys. The calf probably weighed 40-50 pounds and was knobby kneed, spindly legged and frisky. I think I would name her Sweet Pea.

This is Baby Cow making her way out to her mom. She was doing a lot of kicking and dancing.

These are some NH Reds, which are decent layers, with some Thanksgiving turkeys in the background.

Even though he is a vegetarian he is raising chickens for us meat eaters. There are 150 little chickens in there running around. It was amazing to me that the sides were completely open from waist level up. I asked if raccoons & fox came in to dine. His cattle dog took care of any marauders... he had to be put in his crate while we visited as he is quite protective of his livestock.

And finally this is his bread baking oven. He can cook up to 30 loaves in this wood fired oven. He built it out of found clay and straw. Pretty much everything he had he built himself- including the house and barn out of lumber he milled on his property.

It was quite an impressive operation. And he really seemed to love what he was doing.