Thursday, January 28, 2010


As you may or may not have noticed from the sideber (heck, I have no idea if anyone pays attention to the sidebars apart from Emily), it has been a while since we harvested anything around here. Even our egg sources have dried up.

We have three chickens in total, which for two years produced enough eggs that I didn't have to buy any and in fact, had to serve an egg-only supper dish once a week just to keep us from getting overrun with eggs, a most happy state of affairs.

Two of them haven't given us eggs for about six months. We are still pondering what to do about that particular situation, as we would like their space in the chicken coop for new, more productive inhabitants.

The third one, Survivor Chicken ("Essie" for short) had been our most reliable producer for some time now. But even she had given up sometime in October, once the days started getting shorter.

(We were able to coax eggs out of all of them for the past two winters -- a very unusual situation -- by religiously giving them all of our non-meat table scraps as a supplement to their usual layer feed mix. We found that, even without the additional light source that is usually necessary, they continued to lay enough eggs to keep us in yolk. They were quite emphatic that no table scraps meant no eggs, however, so I turned into the extremely odd dinner guest -- and really, let's be honest here, I didn't have too far to go -- who would stop people as they went to scrap their plates into the garbage and direct them to a ziploc baggie instead, so I could stockpile the leftover goodness for my hens. This only enhanced my already substantial reputation for weird behavior.)

I really missed our eggs once they stopped rolling in. I watched as our supply steadily dwindled, and found myself hoarding the last few... no more giving away eggs to random people or using them for just any old dish. I couldn't bring myself to break into those last few brown ones, even though the supplemental white ones I purchased from the store seemed so bleached out and fake by comparison. Having our own chickens turned me into an egg snob. Even the store-bought brown ones seem lackluster.

It occurred to me around Christmas that those eggs had been in there an awfully long time, and although eggs, as a rule, are a pretty long-lasting foodstuff, I might have waited a bit too long to use them. Easy enough to test them: all I had to do was submerge them in water.


If the egg sinks to the bottom, it is still plenty fresh.


If one end starts to tilt up, it is getting near the end of its shelf life. Use asap.

If the egg floats, then you are out of luck.* (None of mine floated, so unfortunately/ fortunately, depending on your perspective, I don't have a picture to show you.) Send your kid to the far corner of your property with instruction to toss the egg as far as possible into the woods. Whatever you do, don't break it and try to rinse it down your drain. Just trust me on this one.

The results of my testing session left us home-grown eggless for quite some time. But on Sunday my LSH found this in the chicken coop, complements of Essie:


Three so far this week. My fridge egg container is starting to look healthy again.
* For those of you curious as to why this works: the eggshell is slightly permeable to air. As the egg membrane inside gets older and starts to dry out, it shrinks. This causes air to be drawn into the shell where the membrane used to be. Less membrane = more air, and if there's enough air in there for the egg to float, then you have a genuine rotten egg on your hands. Handle with care!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

no more bag lady

My hair is, apparently, aging more quickly than the rest of my body, as if it were on it's own little planet where the sun is circling around ten times as fast as the normal earth. And this is driving me bananas.

My hair used to have it's own little wave, enough that I could just throw a headband in wet hair and end up with something fairly presentable. Very convenient during sheep showing and camping season. This was really really great for someone who, we have previously established, cannot really (a) be bothered too much with gussying herself up; (b) is lazy; (c) doesn't have much extra time and knitting is more of a priority. Take your pick.


(OK, so he does look younger than me. But he isn't.)

In the last few months, my hair has been demanding my notice as it refuses to perform its little headband trick and has decided to forego the curl altogether. After the comment by the optometrist a few weeks back about my advanced age, I decided that action had to be taken (and I am so timely)! I threw myself onto the mercy of a new hairdresser, and here is the result:


So different that my own middle son did not recognize me, even though he was curious about that lady sitting next to dad on those very uncomfortable school gym bleachers, cheering every time he made a basket in his rec basketball game. As if any stranger would wander into a middle school rec game and cheer for his mad basketball skills.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

sign of the times

When I was little and living in Ohio, we had two kinds of drills in school: fire drill and tornado drill. I assumed that every schoolkid was familiar with tornado drill, until we moved to Tennessee when I was in the second grade and kids looked at me funny when I asked how often they did tornado drills.

No tornado drills when we moved to New Jersey, either, but by then I was a slightly wiser fifth-grader.

Today, when I was kindergarten helper mom, I was introduced to a whole new type of drill: the intruder drill. The little ones were spared the full details of the circumstances under which such a drill might come in handy, but were instead told it was in case a dog got loose in the building and the police had to come in and catch it. When the start of the drill was announced, the kids knew to quietly put down what they were doing and quietly go to their "movie-style seats" (what you and I used to call indian-style) on the reading rug and quietly scooch towards the wall, so they couldn't be seen from the doorway, and then quietly sit as still as possible for the duration of the drill. Their teacher turned off the lights, locked the door and pulled down the shades.

We sat in the dark room for what seemed like an eternity. The kids were merely bored, but I must admit that my heart skipped a beat when one of the administrators rattled the doorknob to check that it was properly locked. I guess my mind was dwelling on the terrible situations that led to this drill in the first place.

I suppose these drills aren't really any different that the bomb drills my parents practiced growing up; it's just a different threat, albeit more of a domestic one. And I do remember tornado drills as being a fun change of pace from the humdrum school routine, as if anything Mother Nature can cook up is somehow less threatening. Haiti is yet another not-so-gentle reminder of the fallacy of that particular line of thinking.

Monday, January 18, 2010

wasting time (in an educational way!)

While doing something entirely unrelated (OK! So I was on Ravelry again!), I found this cool map that charts how many states you have visited. I was surprised to see that I am at 23 states, though nowhere close to my parents who have visited 48.

visited 23 states (46%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

Lucky for me that I live in the Northeast. You can knock off quite a few states just by driving from New Jersey to Maine. Wondering about South Dakota there all by its lonesome? That is thanks to my big firm lawyering days, wherein I (and a bunch of other lawyers) flew into South Dakota, took a deposition, and flew back, all in one very long workday. Primo was only a few months old, so I had to haul a giant breastpump there and back, in the days before they came disguised in a chic briefcase-like bag, and find a place to pump in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, in the days before rooms were set aside for such things. Good times.

Try your own map; what are your results?

Friday, January 15, 2010


I am batting one thousand this week in terms of blowing off obligations. So far, I have managed to miss two piano lessons, an orthodontist's appointment and the monthly church Altar Guild luncheon. (Poor Altar Guild. I seem to blow it off more than anything else these days, and that's really saying something.) I blame the fact that my 2010 calendar didn't arrive until a week ago, and those boxes are still distressingly empty.

Yes, we are in the Dark Ages: our lives still revolve around a paper calendar hanging on the wall of our kitchen. No blackberries in this house, apart from the ones we find growing wild in the hedgerow.

I found out about the Altar Guild luncheon completely by accident, when I ran into another guild member at Primo's make-up orthodontist appointment. When she reminded me where I was supposed to be earlier that day, I realized that I had a genuine excuse this time in addition to my normal forgetfulness:

At the time, my hand was up a sheep's hoo-ha, trying desperately to deliver stuck lambs from a ewe that was well on her way to giving up on life altogether.

She wasn't one of ours; she belonged to another 4-H family. As with most sheep operations I know of, ours included, their lambing seasons had followed a predictable pattern. The first year was deceptively easy. Almost every time they did a check in the barn, the new little lambs had been born without fuss or bother, and were up and nursing away, already cleaned and dried off by their mothers. This produced a false sense of "well, this isn't so hard!" as it does in us all. The next year (last year) was slightly more difficult. A set of triplets that had to be stomach tubed and kept in the house for a couple of days to get them going; a couple of cases of mastitis; but nothing that wasn't manageable.

This year, unfortunately, has been a nightmare with two of their pregnant ewes prolapsing (basically, pushing out bits of themselves that have no business being out in the open air). The husband was a cowman and so has been able to construct trusses to keep the bits back in where they belong, but the ewes have been confined to keep them from doing it again. This is never ideal so close to lambing; more straightforward births tend to come out of ewes that are forced to move around. Added to the prolapses, we were all holding our collective breath and hoping for the best. That's not what we got in the case of yesterday's laboring ewe. I received the call as I was volunteering in kindergarten; with 45 minutes to spare until I had to take Terzo and a playdate friend off the bus, I flew into barn clothes and over to see if I could help.

The only way to "see" what is going on, of course, is to get up close and personal with the ewe and her inner organs. We had two legs and a head in the birth canal; why, oh why, was nothing happening, and no amount of help or pulling producing any results? My efforts were no more successful than previous attempts and the prolapse and a very tight fit weren't helping matters. It took the vet to figure out that it was two different lambs in the canal -- the legs did not belong to the same lamb -- and she finally managed to sort them and get them out before the poor ewe threw in the towel. The lambs weren't alive, unfortunately, but we suspected that at the time because their wool was starting to fall out. But we still had to get them out of the ewe.

I didn't go into the gory details with the inquiring guild member. (I save those things for the blog!) I just explained that I was dealing with stuck lambs at a friend's farm, and it had been quite a stressful afternoon with an unfortunate outcome. After listening to my story, she inquired "Where were they stuck? A fence?" and I realized that my frame of reference is so different from other people's that it never occurred to me that I would have to explain what I meant by stuck, especially this time of year. I tested my theory on Secondo, asking him "where do lambs get stuck?" and he came right back with "in the mom" as if he didn't understand why I would toss him such a no-brainer.

So it's not just me that hears the words "lambs stuck" and immediately conjures up visions of prep soap, o.b. lube and exploratory groping. But I do understand that it is a minority viewpoint, and the rest of the world is no doubt grateful of that fact.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

disaster relief

No, I am not referring to the state of my basement...

This is actually a serious post about the earthquake in Haiti. The Red Cross is already on the ground and they need cold hard cash more than anything else. They have made it super-easy: just text the word "HAITI" to number 90999, and $10 will be donated to an earmarked fund (with the donation amount added to your next bill). The Red Cross has more information on their website.

Pass it on!

Monday, January 11, 2010

the big easy

So here it is, the post you've been waiting for: my review of our little get-away.

In a word, it was great.

We loved New Orleans. After all I had read about it being a huge party town, with drunken hordes interspersed with enterprising pickpockets just laying in wait all over the place, I must admit to being a little worried about whether we would even like it. As with most things I worry about, I needn't have.

So here's my list of things I learned about New Orleans, in no particular order:

1. It is a lovely unique city with gorgeous architecture, but not in any way, shape or form designed to deal with a prolonged cold spell such as the one that occurred while we were there. The pipes in our bathroom froze one morning (we did manage to get them defrosted), stores were closed, streets were empty, plants and fountains were icicles. Every morning a zillion plumbing and HVAC trucks could be seen zipping around dealing with all the issues generated by the cold. Those guys must have made a fortune.


2. Given the normal relative lack of cold weather, there was a truly stunning number of furs being worn on the streets. Do women down there buy them just in case of cold weather, then run and get them out of deep storage every 15 years? We never did figure it out.

3. Bathrooms are a big issue in the French Quarter. Signs abound about the availability -- or not -- of bathrooms. At the Cabildo, our first stop, the first sentence out of the ticket seller's mouth was the location of the bathrooms in the museum. I was a little mystified until after we had spent a few more hours in the Quarter. Guess it has something to do with all those people drinking all the time. Going along with item number 1, I was truly stunned to follow the signs for a bathroom in one of the jazz bars we were at, only to find myself outside in a courtyard, with just a thin door between the bathroom and the open air. I have no idea how they kept those pipes running. (Pardon the blurry photo of the bathroom door, I was halfway through my first -- and only -- Hurricane.)


4. Mardi Gras is a complex business. We went to an entire museum devoted to the celebration and, although it was fascinating and very informative, I still don't feel as if I have a clue about how exactly it works and what all goes on where. (Although I did get the sense that I didn't necessary want to know all that goes on.)

5. The town is Saints-crazy. Now even I, who normally don't care one way or the other about any particular football game (except perhaps the Giants, just because their winning or losing has an effect on the moods of the people I share a house with), am invested in the Saints season. Especially because, if they manage to make it to a Superbowl, we will be able to have a kick-butt Superbowl party with all the authentic New Orleans food we hauled home.


6. Which brings me to: the TSA people at the New Orleans airport being very, very nice. See number 5, all the food we brought home. Because we are not seasoned travellers, we did not really think about the fact that all that hot sauce, mustard and olive salad spread would be considered a "liquid" by the airlines, and thus verboten in our carry-on luggage. We blithely presented ourselves to the security inspection with an entire bag full of contraband material. Amazingly, they didn't toss it all in the garbage, as they would have done in Newark. In fact, I think the New Orleans guy was having a hard time keeping a straight face as he pulled it all out of the suitcase. But he kindly allowed us to repack it, told us we had to check it, and escorted us to the counter. This attitude was consistent with every person we met in New Orleans: unfailingly patient, helpful and kind.

7. The above-ground cemeteries are really interesting, more interesting than any cemetery has a right to be. A guided tour of one is money very well spent.


8. The best deal in town is to ride the St. Charles streetcar from beginning to end. For $5, we saw the Tulane and Loyola University campuses, Audobon Park, and many of the beautiful houses in the Garden District. Bonus for us: the trolley was enclosed and therefore somewhat warm.

Last but not least... go on a diet before you go to the city, especially if your time there is limited. The city abounds with culinary delights: beignets, muffalettas, po'boys, pralines, gumbo... We planned our days around various food stops and tried to fit it all in. As as result, I can barely fit in my jeans today, but that's OK. It was well worth it.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

getting away from it all

There are many, many advantages to owning your own business and having a little farm, but one very big downside: it is extremely difficult to get away. Throw three boys into the mix and it becomes downright impossible. So my gift to my LSH this Christmas was an honest-to-goodness kidnapping. Unbeknownst to him, I arranged for coverage for his practice, begged my sainted parents to come and watch the boys (so the boys could, in turn, watch the farm), and purchased two tickets to New Orleans for this weekend. Given how cold it is going to be down there thanks to the cold weather we are taking with us, I am very glad that wiser heads convinced me of the lunacy of a trip to Montreal, my original choice, this time of year.

It never fails to amaze me just how much I can accomplish when I am truly under the gun. Beds made, kitchen cleaned and wiped down, lunches packed for tomorrow, Christmas gifts moved from the living room floor, laundry mountains washed, dried, folded and even put away, check, check, check. Nothing like the threat of a plane leaving in eight hours to really motivate me beyond all comprehension. Of course, that begs the question of what I am really doing on a normal day. Hidden video cameras would probably reveal me just wandering around in a fog with my thumb up my butt. Or frittering away too much time on the computer on Ravelry and checking for new e-mails. Same difference. Too bad we can't get away more often so I can really ramp up my productivity.

One of the first things I had to check last night was whether or not my knitting can come with me on the airplane. If you are a knitter, you know that this is a matter of no small debate among knitters. Everyone, it seems, has heard a horror story of having needles and yarn wrenched out of desperate hands at a security checkpoint. But the TSA assured me that items needed for my needlepoint project may come with me in the cabin (although, sadly, my nunchukus and my cattle prod will have to remain at home).

This fact, which should have made me dance with glee, has instead put me into a tailspin of panic. I am not working on anything right now that readily lends itself to being tucked into a carry-on bag and toted around. I just cast on a cardigan, which is currently obsessing me, but it has very bulky yarn, a twelve-page pattern and multiple stitch markers, so not really suitable on many fronts. Most everything else I was working on was a Christmas gift, and so is off the needles and onto various recipients. I went to bed, hoping that a ready solution would bubble up out of my subconscious overnight, but no luck.

I do understand that, especially for you non-knitters who read this blog, my excessive concern about this issue should itself be a cause for some concern, as it clearly indicates some sort of obsessive disorder. But what if I get trapped in an airport due to weather-related delays that are no fault of my own? or even worse, trapped on the plane itself? (Never mind that new rule about not leaving people on the plane.) A good knitting project makes all thing bearable and I really cannot be responsible for my actions should one not be at hand. I don't even necessarily have to be working on it. It just has to be there, at hand, like a little security blanket of distraction and constructive use of time.

Pity my poor LSH. He can never get away from it all.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


One of the very thoughtful items that Santa put in my stocking was a gift certificate to a certain well-known lingerie store. This was due in large part to the fact that Santa had remarked that my undergarments looked like "something that someone who was institutionalized would wear, after they had been released and no longer had access to free state-issued underwear" and was giving me the clearest hint possible that I really needed to upgrade in that department. (So sue me. I still have nursing bras in my drawer and Terzo stopped nursing about the time I got my last pair of glasses. They're very comfortable, OK?)

Part of my problem here is that I do draw some lines in the sand, and one of them is that I will not purchase underwear in a thrift store, which I am sure that everyone is very relieved to know. Since that is my primary place to shop and I avoid the mall like the plague, this obviously presents a bit of a logistical issue.

Santa knows me very well, however, and was a bit leery when I came home tonight so excited about the perfect night ensemble I had found while shopping at the mall. He knows when I am sleeping, I dress like nanook of the north in this season, and he knows when I am awake, I like to be comfortable. So he wasn't getting his hopes up.

But I had found the perfect set of pajamas for a shepherdess! (Not at that lingerie store, obviously.)


A close-up so you can see that the wool is made up of little "baa"s (a detail I hadn't noticed until I got home, giving me cause to be even more pleased with them).


Really, how could I resist?

ETA: After I wrote this post last night, I was reading Laurie Notaro's The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death in bed and came upon this description of her underwear: "[I] wore that pair of underwear for so long that it was returned to its primal state as a loincloth, with an inch of fabric attached to the waistband in the front and another piece in the back, and [I] found it one day, garishly displayed on [my] dresser with a note that said 'I have served you well. Please release me,' scrawled in [my] husband's hand." I laughed so hard that I started to cry, probably motivated by with sheer relief that I am not the only one with such issues. Though I was trying not to make any noise -- hence the crying -- I shook the bed so forcefully with my giggling that I woke my LSH up.

Monday, January 4, 2010

resolved to resolve

I must admit that I have been putting off this first post this year, because I have been planning for a long while to make it be a post full of resolutions.

But I am on the fence with just what I should be resolving, anyway. Eat better, exercise more, do all those medical things that I am supposed to do now that I am the age that I am, keep up with the laundry (HAH!), try to get in some spiritual quiet time, be more patient with the rest of the world including my kids, blah blah blah, the usual. But I thought I had better be more specific so I could do some sort of little boring evaluation at the end to remind myself just how well I had forgotten what my resolutions were in the first place.

So here are the few I have, in no particular order of importance:

1. Knit Finish at least one sweater for myself. It must be some sort of record that I knit as maniacally as I do and I have not one sweater to show for it. I have the yarn to make several sweaters; I have listed many sweaters in my ravelry queue; I purchase and print out assorted sweater patterns; I have even knitted the parts of a couple of sweaters. But a cohesive whole has eluded me so far.

2. Post more regularly to the blog. Well, there goes that one, and we are only on day four of the year.

3. Get all the cats in the barn spayed. I only have three to go, thanks to last January's Operation Spay-A-Cat. But the one I couldn't catch had kittens. And now I am not sure (with a couple of exceptions) who I managed to catch thanks to that whole memory thing. Sigh.

4. Buy a replacement pair of glasses. I actually took care of this one, on January 2, no less! But only because my LSH marched me into the store and refused to take me home until I chose a new pair. (My old pair, which is almost four years old, could double as a lethal weapon, since the puppy had chewed off one end and left the pointy metal exposed... six months ago. I have a few scars in my face from putting on my glasses in a hurry.) This was actually a pretty traumatic accomplishment as the optometrist cheerfully noted, upon seeing my LSH, that I had married someone much younger than myself. I replied, through gritted teeth, that my LSH is actually older than I am. And I also seriously thought about Botox for the first time in my life.

5. Be more attentive to my little business. It is not, and never will be, a big money-spinner; it is really only a way for me to let my creative freak out every so often. But I do need to pay more attention to it and nurture it a bit more. Thanks to the holidays, it has been a little neglected of late.

ETA (my subconsicious came up with this one overnight): 6. Keep better flock records. I do write everything concerning our sheep down, and all the paperwork is floating around somewhere, but it isn't as organized and accessible as I'd like it to be. I used to be really good at taking care of this so I need to get back to that place, or better.

That's all I can come up with. I do have one more that is such an itty-bitty kernel of an idea, I am not ready to share it with the world yet. If it works, I'll let y'all know. And if not then it will just be one more thing for me to conveniently forget about.

What did you resolve?