Monday, August 30, 2010

Ever Tweaking

Before Yeoldfurt left for work Sunday morning, we had to make a batch of laundry soap.  This is the third batch we've made since February, so each batch is lasting a good three months.  We're very happy with the performance and cost savings but we are ever tweaking the process to make it even easier and more efficient. 

Yeoldfurt grates the Zote soap for me which is really where most of the time and effort is expended.  It only takes me five minutes to measure the powders and set the pan of water up on the stove and then I spend the next ten minutes watching him finish up with the grating.  A friend of mine is interested in trying the recipe since she has four teenage boys at home and spends a fortune in store-bought laundry products.  I'm supposed to drop off a copy of the recipe to her next week.  As I was watching Yeoldfurt grate, I was thinking about my friend and decided I would pre-measure the powders into a quart canning jar and then put the proper amount of grated Zote soap in a baggie on top of the powder.  I would give her the recipe AND the ingredients for her first batch, all in a convenient pre-measured, pre-grated kit.  To make things even easier for my friend, I also took a picture of the ingredients and the tools we use to mix everything up.  I'll give her the picture and the recipe and include my phone number in case she has any last minute questions when she makes her first batch. 

The picture shows the only three ingredients (Zote soap, Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda, and 20 Mule Team Borax powder), stacked on top of my deep kettle.  Also in the picture is the plastic cat litter jug that we re-purposed for our soap making.  The original recipe called for melting the grated Zote in 6 cups of water in a saucepan on the stove.  Then a half cup each of the two powders are added to the melted Zote, and all that was combined with another 4 cups of hot water in a bucket.  I don't have a saucepan large enough to take 10 cups of water plus the Zote and powders, so I use the deep kettle.  We use the big plastic jug instead of a bucket.  We pre-fill the jug with the 1 gallon plus 6 cups of warm water called for as the last ingredient in the recipe.  By pre-filling with hot rather than cold water, the soap mixes more readily and stays mixed while we transfer it to the laundry soap jugs. 

When we pour the soap mixture from the kettle into the jug, we use a canning jar funnel to avoid spills.  We set the jug with the pre-measured warm water in the sink and slip the canning jar funnel into the mouth of the jug.  It fits perfectly and we avoid losing product down the sink.  As the concoction cools, the soap may clump, but is easily re-homogenized by shaking the jug before you measure out the soap. 

Yeoldfurt thought all that was a great idea for my friend but also suggested we could make up a couple of jars for ourselves too.  Stay ahead a little bit.  Since each bar of Zote makes three recipes, it makes sense to me to make up three jars at a time.  By having everything pre-meaured and pre-grated, we will be able to whip up a batch in fifteen minutes if we needed too.

As you can see, the pre-measured powder and pre-grated Zote fit easily into a wide-mouth quart canning jar and will be a convenient way to keep a couple of batches stored ahead.  I do not re-use my canning lids for processing food, but mark them with an 'S' for storage and use them for things like this where I want a lid on the jar but it doesn't matter need to be an airtight seal.  I think these 'soap kits' might even make a nice gift.  You could use a circle of pretty fabric under the ring to close up the jar.  Tuck the pre-printed recipe inside the jar.  Tie a ribbon or raffia around the ring and it wouldn't even need gift wrap.   

Ahh, I love a good tweak!

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Working Weekend

It's been a busy week, but a good week.  I'm not used to not having Yeoldfurt around in the evenings, so I've tried to keep busy.  I've done some reorganizing and caught up on some plain old housework. 

His first week on the new job has been good.  He's tired when he comes home, but it's a happy tired.  That makes me happy.  As long as he's on the evening shift, he'll work weekends with Wednesdays and Thursdays off.  I'm off on Saturday and Sunday but as long as he's working, I figure I might as well be too.   

On Saturday, I caught up on some yardwork.  There is a huge oak tree beside our driveway that died in the drought last year.  It is technically on our neighbor's property but it's huge and hangs about 30 feet over our fence line and across the driveway.  It's been shedding branches for the past several months, some big enough to completely block the driveway.  The neighbor that owns the property is elderly and lives out of state so calling them to take care of the problem is not really an option.  We just clean up when we need to and salvage the bigger pieces for firewood.  Oak is good firewood and this is already dried.  It's a good trade off. 

Further down the driveway, we had a couple of pine saplings succumb to the drought last year too.  Those needed to come out and go on the burn pile.  Pine is too sappy to use in a fireplace.  It took me about three hours to get it all done yesterday.  I took my little truck up the driveway and started sorting through the downed limbs.  What was thick enough for at least kindling got tossed in a pile across the driveway and what was too small or too thin to be useful got tossed into the truck to go to the burn pile.  The pine saplings had been dead for a year, so they just snapped off at the ground for me. They were planted amidst yuopons by the previous owner here, so I'm not worried about leaving the stumps in the ground.  The yuopons will keep me from accidentally mowing over the stump and it will rot on it's only over time. 

Our driveway is about 150 feet long.  The dead pine trees were clear up by the road and the dead oak tree is about 100 feet from the road, so I had to move the truck a couple of times to get to all the downed limbs.  Once all of the scrap was in the truck, I drove down and put it all in the burn pile.   That took longer and was harder than getting it in the truck to begin with.  It was all tangled up in the back of the truck and it wanted to come out as one big bundle.  That would be fine if I was strong enough to drag that much wood out all at once, but I'm not.  So I had to wrestle with it a little but I finally got it done.

On my way back up, I stopped at the garage and got the tow chain.  It's a 50-foot heavy tow chain and I love it.  Tow chains are right up there with duct tape and baling wire as far as this country girl is concerned.  I have used it to drag panels when I move the round pen, pull a vehicle (or a lawnmower) out of a bog, and drag whole trees to the big burn pile.  I even used it to drag a round bale of hay the last 50 feet to its destination one time.  The round bale wasn't quite 'round' anymore when I got there, but I got her done.   I needed the tow chain yesterday because one of the limbs the oak dropped was about 18 feet long and at least 8-10 inches thick.  I had wrestled it to the middle of the driveway but it still needed to be moved another 50 feet down the driveway to where Yeoldfurt could cut it up with the chainsaw.  Even as dead wood, it was too heavy for me to drag that far.   I could have done it if I had to, but I would have probably hurt myself in the process.  I'm all for doing things the easy way if it's an option.

I backed the truck up the driveway until I was about 10 feet from the limb.  I hooked the tow chain to the truck and made a double loop over the near end of the limb with the chain.  Nothing like setting off to drag something and finding out you lost the load and are only towing the tow chain by itself.   So I was careful to loop the second part of the double loop on top of the first part, so it would tighten first and clamp down on the first loop. When the chain was set up, I sorted through the pile of wood I wanted to save for firewood and stacked it in the bed according to size.  I kept pieces even if they were only a few inches long.  As long as they are at least two inches thick, they will be good in the firebox.  When all the wood was on the truck, I drove on down the driveway to the garage and unloaded it all.  We don't use much firewood in the winter because we don't have a long or very harsh winter season here, but it's nice to have the option of  cranking up the fireplace.  We have a heater insert in the fireplace and it does a good job. 

After all the outside chores were done yesterday, I cooked up some red beans & rice and a batch of cornbread for Yeoldfurt's supper on Sunday.  As long as he's on this evening shift, I have to stay a day ahead of him on cooking because I leave for work first during the week and I don't have time to cook a meal before I leave.  But when all that was done and all the critters were fed and put up for the night, it was 'me' time.  I took a shower, dropped into chat for an hour or so, and then sat down to read a few chapters in Starving the Monkeys while I waited for Yeoldfurt to get home.  It was a good day. 

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Dreaded Seven Year Itch

Well, I thought I was immune.  But is anyone really??  Yeoldfurt and I have been married for almost eleven years and together for almost twelve.  You would think things like this just wouldn't come up.  I've sure got it though, and I've got it bad.   But don't worry, the first step is recognizing the problem and I'm definitely cognizant of it now.  I'm doing something about it too ...starting right now. 

Now before you all get your knickers in a knot, let me explain.  The 'seven year itch' did not always mean what it commonly means today.  The phrase was originally coined over a century ago in England in reference to a skin condition called scabies.  Mites.  That's right, I have itty bitty BUGS under my skin!!  Ewww ....!

The term 'seven year itch' came about because physicians at the time didn't know what caused it but knew that it tended to last for up to seven years.  Having lived with it now for just about ten days, I'm SO sympathetic to those poor people who had it back then!!

I've only had head lice once in my life, thanks to my sweet little niece who was a preschooler herself at the time.  Daycares are wonderful, aren't they?  The things those kids bring home!!  I took care of my niece's little head, never suspecting I was picking up her problem.  My hair is long and thick and I think those little lice just thought they'd died and gone to heaven!!  When I realized I had lice and bought the stuff to take care of it for myself, I had to buy two kits ...yup, that much hair.  But oh it was worth it.  Itch does not begin to describe the sensation when those little critters start moving around.  I would have bought ten kits if that was what it took to be rid of them! 

I had some insect bites on my ankles about a month ago that just about drove me crazy before they healed.  Well, maybe that was mostly my fault because I could not refrain from scratching them when they itched.  When they started looking like they were infected, Yeoldfurt made me soak them in Epsom salts and put antibiotic cream and band aids on them.  A couple of treatments and they healed right up.  But about two weeks ago, I noticed my back was itchy.  And the backs of my arms.  It has slowly gotten worse to the point I itch just about everywhere except my face.  I went to the clinic today and the doc took one look at me and said Scabies.  Yikes!!  He said they are present everywhere outdoors but need an open wound or prolonged skin to skin contact to gain a foothold.  I think they gained more than a foothold with me!  He said they probably started with those insect bites on my ankles several weeks ago.  I picked up some mites when the wounds were open and uncovered, then scratched because the mites made them itch ...then scratched somewhere else ...sigh. 

There's a social stigma attached to things like head lice and scabies.  I know I'm not thrilled to announce that's what I'm dealing with.  But I think the stigma makes the problem worse so I'm going to 'fess up and share what I've learned.  I would have gone to the clinic and gotten treatment a week ago if I even suspected mites.  Shoot, we've been having 105 degree temperatures ...I just figured heat rash.  I chastised myself for being a pansy and determined to just suck it up and deal with it until the weather cooled off.  Wrong...

The good news is, it's very treatable ...just like head lice.  Step one, recognize the problem.  Step two, be meticulous in following the directions for treatment.  Relief is the reward and it's almost immediate.  The doc gave me a prescription cream and told me to shower, then cream myself from the chin down and leave it on for eight hours ...then shower it off.  He said that would take care of the critters with one treatment.  He also gave me a seven day pack of Prednisone for the itch ...oh thank you, thank you!  I can't start that regimen until tomorrow, but even just the shower and cream has helped.

Supposedly, these little varmints can't live more than an hour or so on bedding or clothing ...but as an extra precaution, I picked up a new set of sheets this afternoon and remade the bed.  I've washed the old sheets and all the rugs and towels in hot water with a long soak and lots of bleach too.  While the washer and dryer were working overtime, I was vacuuming all the rooms.  I just vacuumed on Tuesday, but it seemed like the right thing to do.  Doctors can tell me all day long that the critters are gone and all that is not necessary ...but I couldn't have closed my eyes tonight if I hadn't done all that.  It's a Venus thing.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The First Day

Yeoldfurt started his new job today.  He's working second shift for a couple of weeks so I'll surely be asleep by the time he gets home, and I'll be headed out the door for my job before he's likely to wake up in the morning.  But I'll be anxious to hear about his first day when I get home tomorrow evening.  Even though today was his first day, he's off tomorrow and possibly Thursday so it will give us both a chance to figure out a pattern with this new schedule. 

I had a couple of errands to run after work and got home at 5:30 this evening.  It was still 100+ degrees outside and I was more than happy to spend the first two hours of my evening with inside chores.   I caught up on some housework and folded the two loads of laundry that Yeoldfurt washed while I was at work today.  Looks like making another batch of laundry soap is on the agenda for this weekend.  We have enough left in the jugs for just one or two more loads.

I waited until 8:00pm to start the outside chores, hoping the temperature had dropped.  Wishful thinking.  There was a breeze, but it was a decidedly warm breeze ...kind of like standing on the wrong side of hot exhaust fan.   Still, things had to get done. 

The chickens usually follow us down the hill to the coop at night, eager for whatever treats we might have or maybe just ready for their roosts.  But tonight, they were not listening to me.  One hen came with me and the other two acted like they didn't even see me.  I finally found stick and went back up the hill to herd them down.  Hens are not particularly fond of being herded, but they are even less fond of letting you reach out and touch them from behind.  Like unruly children that want to test their limits, as soon as they saw I was armed and coming to them, they suddenly remembered they were supposed to be going to roost when I called. 

After the chickens, it was time to feed the furries.  Officially, we own two barn cats and one dog.  But there is a big white stray tomcat that's been hanging around for months.  He keeps his distance and as long as he doesn't pick a fight with our cats, we don't mind him hanging around.  Lately he's been a little more bold, staying at the edge of the garage by the door when we go in there to feed at night.  Tonight, he was laying in the middle of the garage door and hissed at me when I came in.  I ignored him and poured out a little food on the counter for our two cats.  I took a small handful and set it down about three feet from where the tomcat was laying too.  He moved away a few feet when I approached but didn't hiss.  When I set the food down, I just turned and went on about my business ...feeding the dog and gathering the horse feed.  By the time I got back from feeding the horses, the tomcat had left but the food I laid down for him was gone.  He looks hungry and it's hot.  I know he scavenges but I don't mind giving him an easy meal once in a while.  As long as he doesn't try to hurt our cats or the dog, he is welcome.  Yeoldfurt dubbed him Sam.  Short for Samuel Clements. 

While the horses were eating, I watered the chard, refilled the chicken waterer and horse trough and was done with all the outside chores in about half an hour.  Before I went out, I set the thermostat down a few degrees to our sleeping temperature.  We keep it on 78 during the day and 74 at night.  It was sure nice to step into that cooler temp when I got finished my chores. 

There's a 50 percent chance of rain tonight and a definite cooling trend for the next few days.  After the triple digit weather we've been having, a high of only 95 tomorrow sounds wonderful!  The forecast calls for a high in the mid-80's for several days next week too.  I sure hope it holds true. 


The New GM 
(Governmet Motors 

Proudly Introduces

The 2011 Obummer

This car runs on hot air, and broken promises.  
It has three wheels that speed the vehicle 
through tight left turns.  

It comes complete with two Tele Prompters 
programmed to help the occupants 
talk their way out of any violations.  

The transparent canopy reveals 
the plastic smiles still on the faces 
of all the happy owners.
It comes in five sizes ...S, M, L, XL and 2XL  

It won't get you to work, 
but hey, there aren't any jobs anyway!

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

Family, Friends and New Followers

Yesterday, we took a break and had a fun day with family and friends.  My sister and her granddughter came up for the weekend and went to Market Days with us in College Station.  Market Days is an annual event sponsored by one of the local horse clubs as a fundraiser.  It's sort of a big garage sale, but everything is horse-related.  Several local rescue groups were represented at yesterday's event too.  Yes, dogs and cats aren't the only animals to be neglected, abused and abandoned these days.  It's a lot more expensive to care for a horse than a dog or cat, so horse rescue groups are struggling to keep up as well. With the economy as bad as it is, that's likely to get worse before it gets better.  The other booths were mostly show attire ...for both horse and rider.  There were saddles and carriages and driving harness and artwork.  There was even a singing cowgirl yesterday.  I didn't get her name, but she drew a small crowd every time she broke out into song with one of the old western ballads.  My sister and niece talked to her for a bit and she delighted my niece by singing 'Don't Fence Me In' old western ditty our mom used to sing to us when we were little.

We had a booth next to a couple of our friends and spent most of the five hours we were there just enjoying each others company.  We took a couple of saddles to sell but ended up bringing them back home.  No big deal.  Saddles don't eat, so they can live with us another year or two and it won't make any difference.  It was a fun day.  Yeoldfurt treated us all to some barbecue so us women folk didn't even have kitchen duty when we got home.

The sister and niece are still asleep this morning.  I made a batch of iced cinnamon rolls and will cook up a mess of bacon and scrambled eggs in a few minutes.  If the smell of breakfast doesn't get them stirring, I'll have to go wake them.  They'll be heading back home this afternoon and I want to enjoy a few more hours with them before they leave. 

I don't post as often as I should or as often as I'd like, but it always makes me smile to see comments from my followers.  Like a neighbor stopping by just to say hello.  I've had a few new followers lately which is always nice too.  Like a chance meeting of a new person who shares common interests and ideals.  That's exactly how a lot of the sites I follow have been added to my blogroll.  They happen onto my blog and leave me a comment.  Then I go check out their blog and, sure enough, we seem like-minded so I decide to follow them.  I also found some of the blogs I follow by checking out the blog rolls of people I already follow.  Networking.  It's a wonderful way to expand your horizons.



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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Time for Some Rearranging

Our lives, our daily routine, are about to change drastically when Yeoldfurt starts his new job in a week or two.  Ever since they offered him the job, I've been going over different strategies in my mind about how best to rearrange our responsibilities at home.  Having him here all day for the past sixteen months has made me a bit ...well, lazy, I think.  He sees me off to work at 6:00 in the morning and then takes care of the horses, lets the chickens out after sun up, collects the eggs, makes the coffee for the next day, makes the bed, and takes care of whatever odd chores or errands that came up.  He does all this while I am at work.  Sometimes I even come home to supper on the stove and laundry already done.  You don't notice how spoiled rotten lazy you've gotten until suddenly he might not be able to do all that anymore.  OMG! 

Not that he isn't spoiled too.  I wait on him and cater to him when I'm home and do my best to shoulder my share of the workload on the weekends.  But things are definitely going to have to get rearranged after he starts this new job. 

I'm a planner.  I've been that way for as long as I can remember.  To me, short range plans are three to six months out ...long range plans are in increments of ten years.  They used to be in increments of twenty years, but I'm older now ...time flies and I seem to have to readjust more often!  But ever since Yeoldfurt told me he would be going to work in a week or two, I've been thinking ...and thinking ...and thinking.  He says I think things to death.  Maybe I do.  And I'm from Venus so I'm likely to change directions with my thinking half a dozen times in the whole process.  It used to frustrate him no end, but I think he's finally learned to just accept it. 

I am trying to figure out the most efficient way to use the two or three hours before he gets home every afternoon.  Ideally, I would like to have ALL the chores done before he gets home so all he has to do is relax.  We go to bed pretty early by most people's standards ...simply because we get up WAY early by most people's standards.  That part won't change so we may end up with only two hours or so of quiet time together in the evenings.  I would like to arrange things so that little bit of time isn't riddled with chores. 

I would like to find a way to take care of all the housework and major yard chores during the week so that our weekends are completely free.  That's definitely my goal.  Reality, however, may be a different story. 

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Just So We're Clear ....

If I post something that you disagree with or you have information you wish to add because you feel it's relevant, I welcome that ....wholeheartedly. 

Several months ago, I posted some information on the process of steam canning.  It was a new concept to me and I thought it sounded great.  The site where I found the information happened to sell a steam canner so, of course, everything I read about the process was completely positive.  I posted what (I thought) I knew and the first comment I received stated that I should check my facts ...that there were serious health risks to steam canning food.  Several links to some very informative sites were included in the comment.  The person who commented was not a follower and we didn't know each other at all.  I had no basis to either believe or disbelieve his statements.  I had a knee-jerk reaction, we all do from time to time ...I went and checked out the links he provided so I could decide where to go from there. 

Well, as it turns out, he was absolutely correct.  Every extension office and university resource I could find warned against the hazards of the steam canning method.  That was my first interaction with this particular blogger and I think it took courage for him to speak up.  He didn't know me, didn't know how I would react, but he did the right thing because, well was the right thing to do. 

Okay, there I was a newbie blogger with mud all over my face.  So I did the only thing I could think of that might make it right.  I posted a comment of my own, thanking him for the information and retracting what I had said in my post.  I did not want to be responsible for someone reading faulty information and possibly becoming ill because they took what I wrote as valid and factual.  I ultimately removed my post about steam canning altogether because I realized that some people read only the posts and not the comments, and I didn't want to contribute to the scads of misinformation circulating on the Web.  

I found myself on the other side of that coin the other day when I read a post that was actually a repost of some information that has been circulating in email for many years.  It clearly stated that it was information received in email (a disclaimer?) but I happened to know the information was false and some of it potentially harmful.  So I left a comment relating what I knew and backing it up with links from a reputable debunking site.  I thought I was doing the poster and/or the readers a favor.  I thought it would be received in the same manner I received the comment on my steam canning post.  Boy, was I wrong.  My comment was deleted and then reposted along with all the reasons the poster thought it was inappropriate.  It was even the subject of the next post, expounding all the justifications for bashing the commenter.  Wow...

Like most of us, I started this blog as a place to explore and share information with others.  I don't have a big flashy sign on my blog saying so, but comments ARE welcome ...even if they express an opinion different than my own.  That's one of the reasons I don't moderate comments.  I'm interested in sharing information and not just spewing what I know.  If mine were the only opinion that mattered to me, I could just stand in front of a mirror.


Friday, August 6, 2010

No Respect, No Relationship

This is a horse post because that's what we're dealing with, but the same principles apply to most other 'relationships' in life.  If there's no respect, there's no relationship ...just confrontation.

The youngest horse we have right now is four years old and she was born on our place.  She was taught from day one that people are a good thing.  They bring you food and water and treats and they give great scratches.  But she was also taught that people outrank her ...all people, all the time.  Horses are herd animals and there is always a hierarchy, a pecking order, in the herd.   Since the average horse outweighs the average person by at least 800 pounds, it's very important that you maintain your leadership status in the herd.  You want to teach that lesson to your horse early in life.  Not having a horse's utmost respect leaves you in a pretty dangerous position.  But once you have established yourself as leader, you have to work to maintain that status. 

We raised horses for a few years and always prided ourselves on their good manners.  We handled the babies daily from the time they were born until the day they were sold and left our care.  We hauled two yearlings to the local vet for vaccinations one time a few years ago, only to find out that they were short-staffed and were dealing with a couple of emergencies that day.  We were there long past our appointment time and the staff kept apologizing for the delay, but there was no room to unload the two fillies.  The vet happened to walk through the lobby and saw us waiting.  She told her tech to get the syringes ready, she would vaccinate the fillies in the trailer so we could be on our way.  The tech said, "On the trailer?  Is that safe?"  The vet smiled at the tech and said, "Those are Mayo horses's fine."  I think Yeoldfurt and I both gained a hat size that day.  It was a fine compliment. 

Well, here we are several years down the road and we only have one 'baby' left at home.  She is four years old and, until now, has pretty much been a model citizen.   But Tuesday night when I went to turn the horses out of their stalls, she decided to challenge me.  This filly has never laid her ears back, never offered to kick or bite, always been soft and easy to handle.  I went into her stall like I always do, petted on her for a minute and then told her, "Let's go."  I raised my hand up to her shoulder, not touching her ...just pushing on the air, so to speak, toward her.  Movement is pressure to a horse.  Steady, rhythmic movement is stronger pressure and a horse will naturally move away from pressure.  I have done that with this filly all her life and she's always just turned nice and easy and walked on out.  But that night, she pulled her head up, pinned her ears back and spun away from me.  Sensing aggression from her, I escalated my pressure and smacked her on the butt.  A horse should NEVER turn their butt to you.  You can walk behind them, but it needs to be your idea.  She was mad because I wanted her to move before she was ready.  Pinning her ears and turning her butt to me was an act of defiance.  She didn't like me getting mad back at her and smacking her on the butt either.  She kept moving but did this little humpy jump thing on her way out the gate.  If you've watched horses for very long, you recognize that maneuver as a threat to kick.  So she had escalated from defiance to aggression.   Well, we ain't havin' NONE of that!!  I have a pretty simple policy with our horses of YOU be nice, WE be nice.   It doesn't take them very long to figure out they like us much better when we're nice! 

I was holding a rubber curry brush in my right hand as she was leaving the stall.  When she did her little humpy jump thing and threatened to kick me, I got all Tasmanian Devil on her and went after her.  She got busy moving away from me then but I threw that rubber curry brush at her and tagged her on the butt.  I think my aim improves when I'm ticked off.   I told Yeoldfurt about it and he was as surprised as I was because this filly has never been a problem.

Wednesday night when it was time to let the horses out, Yeoldfurt went in the stall with the filly.  She was finished eating and just licking her bucket.  Yeoldfurt put his arm across her neck and scratched on her for minute, then asked her to move.  Darned if she didn't do the same thing to him!  Oh, he was mad!  He chased her out of the stall and all the way down the hill.  Then he came back up the hill and got the lunge whip.  Properly used, a whip is not an instrument of cruelty, it's merely an extension of your arm.  It allows you to increase pressure on a horse to move, but from a safe distance.  He got the lunge whip and stomped down the hill to where the horses were gathered.  He cut the filly out of the herd and made her move.  It didn't matter which direction she took, as long as she moved.  You see, in a horse's mind, confrontation is settled by one thing ...make the other guy move.  The one who moves away loses.  By going to her and making her move away from him, Yeoldfurt was reinforcing just who was in charge here.

In the meantime, I got the second whip and waited halfway up the hill.  There were really only three of the six horses that were running, but as they came my way, the goal was for me to cut just the filly out and turn her back.  He makes her run up toward me, I make her change direction and go back down to him.  It took me three tries to get just her to turn.  It's a hard thing to do on foot, but it was important that I let the other horses go by and turn just her.  Separating her from her herd is another dominance message to her.

This whole exercise lasted maybe ten minutes but by the time we were done, the filly was looking at us with new found respect and awe.  I can just imagine her thinking, 'wow, they can really move on just two legs!'  But ten minutes is a long time when your dander is up and it's 95 degrees outside.  Yeoldfurt and I were more than happy to go back in the house and soak up some air conditioning.

Thursday night, we started working with her before she went into her stall.  Yeoldfurt made her wait until all the other horses were stalled before he went to her gate.  She was antsy and aggravated by then because she's used to being number three on the list, not number six.  But Yeoldfurt stood in front of her stall and made her wait until her attitude softened.  If she crowded him or tipped her ears ever so slightly backward, he drove her back a few steps and growled at her.  Not until she walked up to him soft with her ears forward did he allow her to step into her stall.  She walked in nice and quiet, just as she should.  When it was time to let the horses out, he let all the others out first and then opened her gate just wide enough for him or her to pass through.  He stood in the gate and waited until she was soft.  If she pushed into his space or gave him any sign of attitude, he pushed her back a step and made her wait longer.  Sort of like teaching your toddler to say 'please' before you give them what they're asking for.  When he stepped aside and let her pass, she walked out nice and quiet. 

Tonight when it was time to turn the horses out, Yeoldfurt had me work with her and he stood by to watch.  Just because she has learned to respect Yeoldfurt doesn't mean she will respect me.  I have to handle the horses by myself a lot of times, so it's important that they respect both of us.  The mare ignored me when I first opened her gate as if she really wasn't ready to leave.   Yeoldfurt told me to just wait on her.  When she finally did walk up to the gate, she wasn't pushy or aggressive.  I let her walk up to me and then rubbed her face for a few minutes before I let her out.  When I did move aside, she waited until I was a couple of feet clear of the gate and then she just walked out.  Had she pushed past me as soon as she thought there was room, or charged out of the stall, it would have indicated she was intimidated by me being in her way ...but that she didn't necessarily respect me.  Walking out quiet like she did says that she has a better understanding now and has accepted the fact that both Yeoldfurt and I outrank her in the herd.

We will continue to reinforce this deliberately for the next week or two, but I think she's learned her lesson.

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Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dill Pickles

Cucumbers were our bumper crop this year.  We only planted one small bed, approximately 3 feet by 7 feet, but we sure have produced a lot of cukes!  We put up 11 pints as Bread & Butter pickles a couple of weeks ago and are processing 9 pints of Dill pickles today.  My Presto pressure canner doubles as a water bath canner but is not tall enough to process quart jars.  So until we add a deep water bath canner to our cupboard, we are limited to pints for all water bath recipes. 

Since I had never made pickles before, I used the book of recipes that came with my Presto canner when I made the Bread & Butter pickles.  We won't know for sure how well they turned out for another few weeks as you are supposed to let pickles age for 4 to 6 weeks after you make them.  We have our sample jar already in the refrigerator and will let you know if the recipe is worth posting.  It smelled good and looks good in the jars, so I'm hoping. 

I use three of the four burners on my stove when I make pickles.  One deep kettle for heating and sterilizing my jars and lids, one deep saucepan for making my pickling liquid and, of course, the big canner.  I can only heat and sterilize two jars and approximately four lids and rings at a time.  So it's a constant assembly line process to keep everything hot and moving.  Before I start packing jars, the pickling liquid is boiling, I have four hot and sterilized on the counter and two more in the water.  The canning rack is already in the bottom of the canner and the water is hot and very close to boiling.  The jars need to be packed while they're hot, so it's important to put two more in the boiling water every time two jars were removed.

This is the recipe we used today. 

Dill Pickles
6 pounds 4-6 inch cucumbers, cut in thin spears
4 small onions, diced
3 cups white vinegar (5% acidity)
9 cups water
1/2 cup canning salt
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons dill seed 
Combine cucumber spears in a large bowl and cover with ice.  Add water to cover the cucumbers.   Cover and let stand for 1-2 hours, then drain.  Combine remaining ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a rolling boil.  

By the time the pickling liquid is boiling, I have four hot sterilized jars lined up.  Put diced onions in each jar, just enough to cover the bottom.  Then pack the jars with cucumber spears.  Add another tablespoon of diced onions on top of the spears, then use your jar funnel to ladle the hot liquid into the jars.  You need 1/2 inch of headspace in each jar, so the contents including the liquid should be approximately at the bottom of the threads on the jar.  When all four jars are filled, carefully wipe the rims with a clean cloth, center a clean, sterile lid on top and adjust the ring finger tight.  Do not over-tighten.  I don't know what happens if you tighten the lid too much, but absolutely everything I've read on canning cautions against it so I try really hard not to.  

Bring your next two jars out of the boiling water and place two more jars in.  When the second set of jars has boiled for five minutes set them up and retrieve your lids and rings.  Continue this process until you run out of cucumber or you run out of jars, whichever comes first. 

When the last jar is filled, turn the burners off on the sterilizing kettle and the pickling liquid and crank up the heat on the canner.  Using the jar lifter, carefully place your jars in the canner.  My canner will hold up to seven but I usually end up processing two batches and just split the jars evenly.  For the 9 pints I made today, I processed the first batch with 5 jars and the second batch with 4 jars.  Make sure the water level in the canner is approximately 1 inch above the tops of the jars and bring it to a rolling boil.  Place the lid on the canner, reduce the heat slightly to maintain a boil but not boil over and start timing.  These pickles were processed for 15 minutes.    

These will have to age for 4 to 6 weeks just like the Bread & Butter pickles, so it will be at least September or October before we know how well they turned out.  If they all turned out well, we probably have enough pickles to last us for a couple of years and we won't even plant cucumbers next year.   We like pickles but 20 pints is a lot! 

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