Monday, June 21, 2010

One Year Ago Today

I started this blog, not knowing for sure if I would keep it up or what direction I would take with it.  My husband had started his blog several months earlier and he encouraged me to start my own.  He always encourages me.  He calls himself Yeoldfurt, but he is my best friend.

I've made many new friends in the past year through this blog. Friends who share my values and principles. I am a homebody and a Christian and I'm all about family values.  Politics are taking up more and more of my time these past two years because I feel threatened by what's going on in Washington.  I do my best to keep up with the political goings on, but, for the most part, I leave the blogging about political subjects to my husband and several others who do a much better job with it than I ever could.  Debbie at The Right Truth is another one besides my husband that does a great job on those subjects.  Yesterday, she posted an excellent article by Chuck Green entitled "Obama is a Victim of Bush's Failed Promises."  I realize she didn't write this particular article but if she had not posted it, I would not have seen it.  I found Debbie via her husband's blog, The Grouch at the Right Truth.  (Psst ...he's not really a grouch!)  Both of them do a really good job of sifting through the spin and presenting real worth-the-read posts about the political storm that's brewing in this country.  Check them out if you get a chance.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Enjoying the Fruits of Our Labors

Okay, potatoes are not a fruit, but still.  It's nice to put a meal together from what you've grown and produced yourself.  Anything with potatoes is a winner with YOF.  If sauce is also involved, he's a happy man.

We harvested and dehydrated potatoes from the garden a few weeks ago and, now that I have some time on my hands to really cook, I decided to use some of them to make Scalloped Potatoes for supper tonight.   It's such a basic dish but I've never made it using dehydrated potatoes before so I did some research online to make sure it was feasible and find out if there were any do's and don'ts I should know about. I did find some recipes but you know I have to tweak, so here's what I ended up with:

3 cups dried potatoes, spread evenly in a flat baking dish.  
(I used a clear pyrex that measures approximately 7x11 inches)
Mix 2 tablespoons each of corn starch, flour & powdered milk 
and sprinkle evenly over the potatoes.
Use a small saucepan to sautee 1/3 cup diced onion
in 3 tablespoons melted butter until the onion is transluscent.
Pour the onion and butter evenly over the potatoes.
In the same saucepan, bring 2-3/4 cups water to a boil.
Then remove from heat and add 1/3 cup powdered milk.
Pour the water/milk mixture over the potatoes.

Bake at 325 degrees for 50-55 minutes. 

We're having sausage tonight and while the potatoes are in the oven, I'll be preparing fresh green beans that my niece and I picked from the garden this afternoon.  I love it when I have time to actually cook! 

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Vacation Time

I'm off for a whole week and I feel like a kid in a candy store... only my 'candy' is free time. 

Every year for the past three years, we've had Cousins Camp in the summer.  Our two grandsons and my sister's granddaughter would come up for the whole week.  We would ride horses, make crafts, cook some meals outside, wander through the woods and go on field trips.  It was always an exhausting week for me and YOF but the kids loved it and we looked forward to doing it for them every year. 

This year, we only have my sister's granddaughter.  My grandsons live in Arizona now and their mother won't let us see them this summer ...maybe never again for all we know.  We miss them and are sad that we can't see them, but it's a situation we can't control so we will just do what we can and hope the boys come look us up one day.

My niece and YOF and I went to the Dollar Store in town this morning and picked up some little things for a Care Package to send the boys.  Silly stuff, simple stuff that will amuse them and hopefully help them to remember us. 

After the Dollar Store, we went and watched a Despooking Clinic at the Fairgrounds in town.  The local Riding & Driving Club sponsored it.  They had different obstacles set up around the arena and people either led or rode their horses around the obstacles to get them desensitized to them.  Some of the obstacles were very simple like a black tarp spread out on the ground that the horse had to walk over.  The way a horse's eyes are set in his head, he can't see his own feet.  He has a blind spot about three feet in front of his nose so he watches before he gets to something and decides what it is and whether it's safe to walk on.  That's why when a horse is unsure of an obstacle, like a bridge, he will arch his neck and back up a step or two ...bring it back into vision so he can figure out if it is safe.  Other obstacles were things they had to step over, like a piece of black plastic culvert, about 15 inches in diameter.  I horse can jump an object two or three feet high with no problem and should be able to step over a 15 inch object.  But horses are skeptics and paranoid claustrophics so, in their minds, even a plastic culvert might be a horse-eater. 

We watched the clinic and visited with friends for about an hour and then headed over to our favorite little antique store in town.  It's run by two sisters, Nellie and Bobbye, who are as sweet as they can be.  Our niece is 13 but she loves antiques and found herself a book and ...of all things antique pillbox hat, complete with the black face netting.  On the way home, she was sitting in the backseat wearing her hat and reading her book.  Got to love a kid that's that easy to please! 

She and I worked in the garden a little when we got home.  With me working overtime the last three weeks, the weeds and grass have gotten out of hand.  We did some weeding and then picked some green beans for supper tonight.  So far my vacation is going great. 

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Size Matters ...Thank God!

I spent a few days in Austin for training a couple of weeks ago.  It's only an hour and a half drive, but having been gone for two days, already, all I was thinking about when I finally turned onto our road that Wednesday afternoon was getting home, getting comfortable and finagling YOF into taking us out for supper.  We don't get much traffic on our road.  It's very short, only about two miles from end to end and we're about a mile from each end.   There are three or four mobile homes on the right as you first turn onto our road.  As I turned down the road Wednesday, I noticed what I thought was a pony grazing in one of the yards.  I didn't think much of it other than he was cute.  It was late afternoon and I just wanted to go home.  
YOF and I went into town for supper and returned about an hour later to find a strange truck in our driveway.  Turns out it was a neighbor from up the road, near where I had seen the pony.  We had not met him before but everyone on this road knows we have horses and he said the little pony was running loose.  He and his wife thought it might be ours.  We assured him it was not, all of ours were staring at us over the fence by now, wondering where their supper was.  
About an hour later, we had fed all of our animals and had just retired to the house for the evening when YOF's cell phone rang.  It was our neighbor next door, asking if we had a new horse and was he loose in the neighborhood.  While YOF was talking to that neighbor, there was a loud knock at the back door.  It was yet another neighbor, come to tell us about the pony running loose.  We told him too that it was not ours.  

Long story short, the neighbor adjacent to us put the little guy in his small grass pasture to keep him off the road.  That worked for two nights but when I went out Saturday morning to turn our horses out to the pasture, the little guy was in OUR pen with the mares.  He's only about 35 inches at the withers and our shortest mare is at least 56 inches at the withers, so I wasn't too worried about an unplanned foal crop for next year but it's still a hassle.  As I said, size does matter ...thank God!

Our neighbor that had penned him up two days earlier said you couldn't get close to him and he was real skittish.  This was about 5:00am when I found him in our pen.  He didn't look all that skittish to me so I walked up to him, put two fingers in his halter and led him to a stall.  He leads good.  I turned all the mares out then led the little stallion from the stall to the front paddock where he would have access to water and some grass. He seemed well mannered and well cared for and I figured somebody had to be looking for him.  So I called the Sheriff's office and reported that we had him and started putting out feelers. 

I don't know that much about miniature horses, but you can tell this little guy is well bred and he's been well handled.  With registration papers and a little grooming, he would be a high dollar horse.  He probably has a high dollar name too, but we just call him Shorty.

I sent an email to a friend of mine who has miniature donkeys.  She spread the word and I've had an onslaught of offers to take him all day.   We were able to track down the owner and the guy does not want him back. He's had him about a year, never had a horse before and didn't have the first clue about having a stallion he's just washing his hands.  One very nice couple came out to look at him last Thursday evening.  He and his wife are both veterinarians, both retired from Texas A&M.  They have a few miniatures and train them to pull a cart.  They liked him fine, but after examining him, said he would not be suitable for pulling a cart as he has sticky stifles.  The stifle on a horse is the big joint about midway up the rear legs and is equivalent in function to our knee.  Ever known anyone with a loose knee, it kind of slips out from time to time?  Sticky stifles is the same situation in a horse.  But the rear legs are the motor for any horse, so asking Shorty to pull a cart would be too much strain on him. 

Shorty had managed to get tangled up in our electric fence tape sometime during the day Thursday and had effectively disabled it.  It will have to be repaired but there would be no point in spending money to repair it until we found someone to take Shorty off our hands.  

Thursday evening, I sent an email to all who had contacted me about him and said basically that he had to be gone this weekend, one way or another.  If he was still here on Monday, I would call the Sheriff's office to pick him up and they would haul him to auction barn.  No one (including me) wants a horse to go to the auction barn these days ...most of them end up on a European dinner plate.  But we are not in a position to take in another mouth to feed, especially one that was already costing me fence repairs after only a few days.  I was shocked at several of the responses I received.  Emails from as far away as Oklahoma, telling me I had no heart and why couldn't I keep him and didn't I know what would happen to him if he went to auction.  

I know very well what would probably have happened to him if he ended up at an auction, but I also know what my own limitations are, financial and otherwise.  I emailed the first one back and said, "Do you want him?  Please?"  The response was "No, I can't take him, but you should keep him."  Yeah, right.  Judge me.  But when you're asked to step up, it's no way.  

Shorty's story has a happy ending.  A very nice lady from Bellville called me Friday and if she could find someone to keep him until he was gelded (neutered), that she would take give him a home.  When I got up this morning, there was an email from a lady in Weimar who said she would have him gelded and keep him until the lady Bellville could take him. Two very nice ladies.  
Times are hard and only going to get harder.  Even when times aren't hard, people dump dogs and cats out in the rural areas ...hoping someone takes them in, but not really caring either.   If times get hard enough, people will start dumping livestock too.  It happened during the Great Depression and I already hear some stories of it happening now.  According to the Sheriff's office here, Burleson County still has the old free range laws on the books.  You have a responsibility to keep your livestock IN but also to keep other livestock OUT.  If an animal does show up in your pasture, you can't just turn it out ...mere possession of it within your fence makes you responsible for finding it's rightful owner or finding a home for it.  Go figure.  So we're investing in some padlocks for our three gates on the driveway this weekend.   We're doing good to take care of the animals we have.  I don't want to find any surprises in my pasture. 

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Animals that Own Us

We have a lot of critters here and all of them live outside except one 13 year old cat named Lacey.  She was a rescue from the animal shelter back in 1997.  She was about three weeks old, scrawny and scared of her own shadow.  I gave her a home and she gave me her undying devotion ...and a bad case of ringworm.  Ugh!  Once the ringworm was cleared up ...hers and mine ...she thrived and grew into a really pretty cat. 

She has maintained her infatuation with me all these years.  She keeps a low profile while I'm at work, but the minute I get home, she gets vocal.  I don't know what she's saying but she keeps it up until I finally give her some attention.  When I retire for the evening, she follows me to the bedroom and expects me to give her more attention until Yeoldfurt comes to bed.  When he comes into the room, she grudgingly moves over to one of the dressers.  But when I get up in the morning, there she is  ...waiting for yet more attention.  She never seems to get enough.  I'm even downright mischievous with her from time to time.  She might run off for a minute, but she always comes right back.  Any attention from me is good attention as far as she is concerned. 

Lacey's favorite perch when my lap is not available is the window above the kitchen sink.  It's one of those greenhouse windows that extends out from the house about a foot and has a shelf for plants about midway up the window.  Lacey loves to nap in the bottom of the window.  She can watch the world go by but she knows nothing can get her.  She loves it. 

Today I was outside taking some pictures and noticed Lacey in the window on my way back to the house.  I stopped to take a picture of her.  She just opened her eyes and blinked at me.  I took three more pictures of her before I turned the camera off because you can't really tell if a shot is good until after you download it least I can't.   So I wanted to take several.  By the time I quit, Lacey was starting to look annoyed. 

We currently own six horses, three cats, three hens and a dog ...or do they own us?

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Update on Dehydrating

Time constraints have limited our opportunities to experiment with the dehydrator, but everything we have used it for has come out great.  So far, we have dehydrated carrots, celery, bananas and plums ...lots and lots of plums!  I made a double batch of bread a couple of weekends ago (4 loaves) and used it to raise my dough.  It worked great.  This weekend, we dehydrated the potatoes we harvested from the garden last week.

These were white potatoes, a variety that is supposed to be good for baking or for general cooking.  When we dug them up, we found ten to twelve spuds on each plant.  The skins were light colored and thin, very easy to peel.  They varied in size from shooter marble to a large fist.  The biggest ones were not quite big enough to make good baking potatoes, but we may have harvested a little too early.  The smallest ones will be great for frying up with eggs and are actually considered a delicacy in finer restaurants.  We still have about six plants in the tire gardens, so we'll see how much bigger they get with a few more weeks in the ground.  Yeoldfurt washed, peeled and sliced all of them while I was at work yesterday.  When I got home, we arranged them on the trays in the dehydrator. 

We filled four trays with plain sliced spuds and then I decided to spice things up.  I put about half a cup of Cajun seasoning in plastic bag and added the dampened sliced spuds.  I closed the bag and shook and kneaded the potatoes until all were well-coated.  We filled two more trays with the Cajun spiced potatoes.  The drying process was supposed to take approximately 8 hours and we wanted them to be ready about the time I leave for work tomorrow so we will start the dehydrator process about 9:00pm last night.  

When I checked them at 5:00am this morning, they were perfect.  YOF sealed them for me in wide mouth quart canning jars while I was at work today.  I would estimate that we dried approximately two pounds of potatoes and we ended up with one full jar of the plain potatoes and a half jar of the Cajun spiced potatoes.  Dehydrating certainly reduces the storage space required and that's a good thing. 

Anyone ever tried those Betty Crocker boxes of scalloped potatoes and au gratin potatoes?  The few times I've used them, I've doctored them up a little, but they're really not too bad.  I found several recipes online for scalloped potatoes using dehydrated potatoes.  If Betty Crocker can do it, so can I!  After I test a few of the recipes out, I'll let you know if any of them are worth writing down.

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Friday, June 4, 2010

More How To and Less How Come

I, for one, would love to see more instructional and educational material shared within our blogging community versus so much of the OMG-look-what's-happening-now type posts. Don't get me wrong, the exchange of news and information is critical if we are to make informed decisions for our own futures. But I don't think we can afford to neglect the business of improving our skills and increasing our knowledge. The worse things get in the world, the more important those skills and knowledge will be.

I encourage Yeoldfurt at Old Lightning to put up how-to posts. I might be a wee bit biased, but he is so knowledgeable on so many valuable subjects ...from hand tools to horses and most everything in between. I would love to learn some dehydrating tips from SciFiChick at Bacon and Eggs and I would love to see Felinae at Tales From The Scratching Post do a pictorial and instructional post on the cage Catman built to keep the birds out of their vegetable garden. My frugalista friend, Abby, at Frugal Canning is a great resource for anything to do with canning. Brigid at Home on the Range is a great read. Her stories are both entertaining and thought-provoking and her recipes are always five star!

Please don't feel slighted if you don't see a link to your blog here.  I can't name all of you, but you know who you are.  You know what you know that would be useful to the rest of us. So please share.  I don't know how much I have to offer in the way of skills and knowledge, but I intend to focus the rest of this summer learning all I can and sharing what I learn.

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