Friday, December 31, 2010

Shoot for the Moon

Today is my birthday.  And, as my Dad used to say when we would wish him Happy Birthday, "I made it!"  I did, indeed, "make it!"  It's rather neat having the whole world celebrate my birthday.  My arrival was well within the window where nobody would question that I might be a New Year's baby.  No, instead, I was comfortably born on December 31, 1944 at 4:00 a.m. weighing a convincing 9 pounds 10 ounces.   Now, some parents might be disappointed, but mine weren't.  They always referred to me as a welcome tax deduction!  Though I can't imagine why inasmuch as they weren't that flush with dollars.  I think it was more of a joke than reality.  Of course, having a birthday so close to Christmas always did a couple of things:  rarely did I have a birthday party, as weather and holidays injected a element of uncertainty into the schedule; conveniently, one of the Christmas gifts I received--usually the largest one--was designated as a 'birthday gift;" and I was never recognized at school for having a birthday as school was always "out" when it occurred.   

As I've gotten older, though, having this date for my very own, I am able to wipe the slate clean for the coming year, and truly apply those New Year's resolutions to an open landscape!  And I am ready!  Once again this year, I will make all sorts of resolutions such as finish projects I start, become a capable knitter, a more assiduous weeder....but most of all, I resolve to enjoy it all!  Right now, I have enough projects to last me through age 100 and I'm not at all adverse to the thought of living that long.  Quite the contrary!  My philosophy is definitely in the "shoot-for-the-moon" category!  Why not?!  So far good health has wrapped me in her protective cloak, and I live a wonderful life!  I don't mean to be completely idiotic and pollyanna, but I do subscribe to the philosopy that life is what you make it, so make it fun!

BTW, I captured the above moon shot last year on December 31, 2009. 

And another gem from my Dad, who decided that his cake should be decorated "energy efficient..."  Indeed mine will be:  six candles and a 60-watt bulb!

And if I could have just one present for my birthday, you know what it would be?  High Speed Internet!!!  Out here JOTOLR we would ascend above the level of molasses in January!  How sweet that would be!

Thank you all for visiting this week!  I've loved every minute of it.  And, you know what?  After nearly a year of posting and responding, I've come to love you as family! 

Have a lovely New Year's weekend!  See you Monday! 

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Mysteries Continue...

You know....I don't want to belabor the demise of my owl, but I keep thinking that at the same time as MM found the owl, there was a pile of feathers just outside the garage.  I feel sure they aren't owl feathers.  OTOH, I feel sure they are somehow connected to the owl's demise.  They look more like English sparrow feathers.....So I keep thinking that perhaps the owl was in the midst of downing the sparrow and somehow got tangled's so tantalizing to speculate on what happens as nature does what nature does, at all hours, 24/7.  Things must eat.  Things must die.  And we are mostly oblivious to the process.

The pond is frozen over completely, now.     Copper beeches offer the sounds of gentle percussive brushes, responding to the slightest kiss of the wind, shurring softly, nudging one another into song.  I love the beech tree!  In spring the leaves are chartreuse.  In fall, their muted colors linger amidst more colorful species, as they offer beechnuts to squirrels and birds; but winter is when they really shine!  Indeed they are copper-colored, and winter has long since fled when I notice the leaves are no longer on the limbs.  They seem to take only a short rest before opening their brilliant green leaves in the spring.

And the frogs and tadpoles and minnows are buried deep beneath the ice, awaiting the thaw.  If one were to put a microphone beneath the surface of the ice, the "conversations" of the creatures living there could be heard.  Yes, that's right!  Scientists are discovering that many animals we have considered "mute" instead have languages beyond our capacity to hear without electronic assistance.  All manner of insects and small animals carry on exchanges of information, even between species.  I gleaned this little tidbit from a program on elephants the other night and found it amazing!  Still another dimension to be explored!


Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Potpourri.  Sounds better than Miscellaneous, doesn't it.  So, let's go with potpourri!  I have a bunch of loose ends that probably could do with a little tying up....

TURKEY:    For those of you sensitives, you may want to shield your eyes and heart.  But this turkey was delicious!  Six months from chick to Christmas.  Weight:  24 pounds.  Isn't it beautiful?!
I seem to feel a responsibility when consuming nature's bounty like this.  I am grateful, reverent, and well aware of the bargain we struck.  So, when it comes to ending a life for my eating pleasure, it seems only fair that I should be witness to the event (or at least the idea of the event should I be purchasing the bird from the supermarket).  Of course not everyone can "do" their very own turkey and I realize that, but it seems encumbent that we know "what happened" and accept the choice we've made.

MOMMA'S SQUEEZE BOX:  Remember a long while back when I was "ranting" about "Made in China" and the shoddy workmanship we have to put up with for almost everything we buy because it's Made in China...???  Well, guess what! My "German-engineered" Hohnica accordion is on its way back to the factory.  The F-Major key sounds like a bunch of off-key spring frogs chorusing and the G-key on the treble side has a heart murmur.  So, despite the delight I've had in playing and enjoying, such is diminshing as elements of poor quality begin to appear.  I just hope fixing these two things will ensure nothing else goes to pot!
TO DYE-FOR GARDENING:  These are the books I bought to learn about growing dye plants.  There is also much information available on the Internet, too.  I just bought the books and haven't had a chance to burrow into them, but I will, before the winter's over!  I do want to harvest some plants this coming year for doing natural dyes!

PRETTY YARN:  This is the project that my friend Debbi has taught me to do.  I am slow, to be sure, and have had to rip out some rows (veeeerrrrry carefully!) but I am gradually making my way through.  I purchased the yarn on a Special that Paradise Fibers was offering for Louisa Harding yarns, heavily discounted for me because of my purchase of the Country Spinner.  The yarn is simply luscious!  It's 50% Merino and 50% Silk.  A bit slippery to work with, but my AddiTurbos are coping, as am I!

GREEN HORNET:  I took the Green Hornet out late yesterday afternoon and good thing I did, as it looks like a serious thaw is underway, here.  Whew!  Is that thing ever FAST!!  At least that's something the Chinese know how to do!  Hardly anything can go wrong on it!

VIEW FROM THE KITCHEN SINK last night after milking.  

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Winter Paradise

I don’t suffer from Cabin Fever. As most of you know, I was born in the often rainy Pacific Northwest. That meant that I either went out in the rain or I stayed in from the rain. Entertainment was never dependent upon having a “nice sunny day.” If I complained to my mother about not having anything to do, she would conjure something for me, and it was more often than not something on her list, rather than mine. So I became accustomed to inventing my own amusements, and always having lots to choose from when it came to rainy/snowy day activities. (Mostly rainy, as rarely did snow visit us in winter in the PNW!)

Today, I always have lots of lovely self-entertaining projects to do right here at home JOTOLR. In fact, if truth be told, I await winter with joyful anticipation and once it begins in earnest, and there are no more garden rows to weed, I am in heaven! Many complain about not being able to “get out” and many pine their hearts away, wishing they were in Florida or Brazil, or at least Walmart.  But, truly, the last thing I would want to see, would be lines of shoppers, shopping till they’re dropping. I think to myself, what could I possibly want that would invite me to leave my paradise and beat my way through crowds of crazed consumerists emptying their wallets  No, I am delighted with my winter paradise….which brings me to another para-llel subject.

My main pursuit this winter has been the whole gamut of “fiber.” My new Country Spinner is awesome! And I’m still lovin’ my Lendrum. I ordered some nylon fiber to strengthen some knitted sock projects coming up and have been learning to spin it on a short draw, destined for a three-ply yarn for a pair of colorful (from my Dye House) socks..

And, thanks to my friend, Debbi, I am learning to go a little beyond the simple knit 2, purl 2.  (You ought to see that girl's knitting abilities!  Sheeesh!  Makes my head swim!)…

In the fiber vein, I’ve purchased how-to books on Dyeing (awaiting my Dye House completion), pattern books for knitting socks, sweaters, hats and all manner of challenges in the realm of spinning and knitting—even for growing plants this coming year for natural dyes. I bought a fabulous book on wool (which, having had at one time, 500 ewes and their lambs--I thought I already knew everything there was to be known!  Fool!), and have begun to explore the possibilities of gardening for colors this coming year. I’ve explored the chemistry of using Black Walnuts for “hearty” browns and tans and the polar opposite: using Kool Aid for easy-go dyeing. Even onion skins are no longer safe from my color-inquisitive mind!

That partly explains why, in the not-too-distant future, you will see a small logo on my blog for a company called Paradise Fibers. Originally, I chose not to “monetize” my blog…meaning, it wasn’t worth the risk of having Google use my blog-space for their ineptly chosen ads. Good decision…I have seen so many blogs, where the ads are a complete antithesis to the philosophy espoused by the writer of the blog. So, to my way of thinking, it wasn’t worth the pennies earned for the loss of integrity “monetizing” creates.

OTOH, fiber is one of my (several) passions, sharing space with photography, music, writing, reading, and sewing. So, when I read on Paradise Fiber’s webpage that there was an opportunity to become an “affiliate” of PF, I inquired as to the potential benefits and possible risks. Decision: a resounding yes! Rollout will happen in mid-January, long about the first anniversary of my blog. It’s really no big deal, but for any wayward soul who accesses PF through me, and eventually purchases, I receive a little credit.  Plus, I am delighted to give a meager boost to these lovely people to any extent I can. 

Paradise Fibers is a family owned and operated business which, as the name would imply, sells all manner of “fiber-related” toys! If you’re a spinner, a weaver…or a fiber enthusiast of any stripe, I can highly recommend this wonderful family for a source of supply. They are in Spokane, Washington, and they have their own flock of sheep, as well. Talk about service! And the quality of fiber, yarn, roving, tools…along with personal attention, is outstanding.
The point is, if you know anyone who is “into” fiber, please encourage them to have a look at PF by doing a “click-thru” to:

As I say, this will give me a little credit for their purchase, accessed through me. Won’t cost any more than accessing independently! If you’re thinking about “getting into” fiber arts, PF is a great place to begin your exploration.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Rare Find

I have something on my desk this morning that is both sad and yet beguiling.  Something one rarely gets to see up close.  It is a Screech Owl.  Unfortunately, not alive.  MM found it on the dirt floor of the garage yesterday.  Somehow its life came to a sudden end and try as we did, we were unable to assign a cause, as the feathers and body are apparently intact.

At first I simply felt terribly sad, as I had only recently stood out on the porch one night, listening to the conversation between two of these lovely animals, spaced widely, one on the North side of the yard, the other on the South.  Their quavering voices give haunting beauty to the darkness and I remember thinking of the trust they share, knowing the other is there.  Now, however, there was just the one.

On the other hand, when MM brought the little owl to me, I reached out and discovered so many things about it!  It was a rare opportunity to admire the incredible softness of the feathers, the sweet face, which, even with eyes closed, seemed so alive!  Little tufts of short whiskers  wreathed the tiny curved beak, and dainty, fur-covered feet with  curled claws tucked neatly beneath surprisingly long feathers.  And soft....did I already say that?  Oh, how very, very soft!  The little feathers protecting its ears stood up stoutly.  And the entire owl fit very well in my hand!  I marveled at the bark-like feather colors.  One could never see this little wonder in the wild, for the camoflage of wing and body is simply too good a "hide."

The vocabulary of the screech owl is quite extensive, and many a nighttime hiker has been terroized by the ghostly sounds the owls can make.  Their wings are outsized compared to their delicate little bodies, allowing them to loft silently through the night almost as if they are on cushions.

Best of all, for the farmer out here JOTOLR, Screech owls consume copious quantities of mice.  And that's probably what attracted the little bird in the first place.  Since it was on the floor, it almost looked as if it had flown fast and smashed into the wall, like a songbird against a window...but, of course, we'll never know.

I so hope another will arrive to fill the void.  They are always welcome and it's sad to lose one. It was a mixed treat to be able to see and touch this gorgeous creature.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wishing you and yours..the very best...

Thank you all for giving me the pleasure of your company! 
Wishing you the very best of the
holiday season!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Blow-Drying in Winter More Than Beauty!

As I came out the south door yesterday, heading for the dog kennels, a huge drop of freezing-cold water found its way from the roof to the back of my neck and down my shirt.  Of course, it was 37 degrees, so one could have anticipated a little melting, but when I looked up and actually SAW what was melting, it struck terror into my heart. 

Directly overhead was the gutter--normal enough--but one which had escaped fall clean-out.  Instead of a conduit for excess unwanted dripping, it had become a solid five-inch by three-foot by chunk of ice just waiting to bushwhack an unwary passerby.  Yes, it was dripping slowly, but when I crawled up on the railing to peer into the problem, I could see the situation called for immediate major surgery. 

So, I climbed back down, called MM, got my hair dryer and between the two of us, we went to work.  For the next 45 minutes we trained the blow dryer on that gutter, took an occasional swipe at it with the claw hammer, and finally, together,  we managed to clear the potentially lethal chunk of ice, first from the gutter, then off the walkway.

The points I make, here, I guess,  include not only the process of inventing tools out here JOTOLR when you need them, but also of being watchful of situations that can create real trouble.  For example, a blow dryer out here is not related to hair.   Instead, it has saved us in so many instances.  Thawing out things becomes challenging in winter!  We never know when we're going to need a lot of hot air, and talking doesn't get it!  Those of us who live "out here" need to be self-sufficient, alert, and inventive. 

But there's always a silver lining:  just look at the ice sculptures created by the drip!  Aren't they beautiful??!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

By the Light of the Silvery (golden) Moon

Night before last we arrived home in the almost-dark, compliments of the local wrecking truck that came to fetch not only my poor little ancient Ford Escort, but us, as well. 

We had ventured out to get our flu shots at our local Health Department and the poor old car decided to rebel.  The starter got stuck, somewhere between on and off, and we found ourselves stranded in the Health Dept. parking lot.  After a few phone calls, and lovely, caring assistance from the ladies at the clinic, who even drove to the repair shop when it appeared as though the phones were out, and arranged for the rescue, we got the car towed and even finagled a ride back home in a big truck with the car on the truck's bed.   I think they felt sorry for these two old geezers....But...I digress......

When we arrived back home, there was still a cow to be the --by now--mostly dark.  But, MM long ago had installed wee lights in the milking stall which makes the chore a breeze...but more to the point was the pink-frosting sky and that glorious moon to worship just one more time!  With the snow floor glistening it was practically daylight!  After both of us scurrying about to gather hay for the cows, feed for the calf, and buckets of warm water to thaw the tank for the cows and calf...I happened to look up through those boney fingers of the Black Walnut...and oh, my!  What incredible beauty!  And there was that still-full moon, casting long shadows across the snowy wasn't quite dark and it wasn't quite light...puffy clouds drifted about the moon's face creating a surrealistic backdrop for Old Man Moon.  Who could want for more!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice

Wishing you the very best of the season!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christians, the Original Clever Marketers

If you were going to start a new religion, what would you have to have?  Certainly a few miracles would help...things like "virgin births" for the object of your worship; and "resurrecting" after being pronounced "dead" wouldn't hurt;  and then, you'd probably need some of those miraculous heavenly occurences such as fortuitously timed eclipses and meteor showers and a Star in the East...and, of course, over this year's celebration, we have all of the above.  It's a bonanza of symbolism!

But those elements alone --especially in the face of so many other religious choices that were concurrently proclaiming the same thing and simultaneously campaigning for supplicants--clearly would not be enough to entice the numbers of followers sought and dreamed of. 

No, indeed.  You would need something to set your religion apart--something for everyone- or a lot of "somethings" to attract followers and pull them away from their "pagan" beliefs.  The Christians decided over time, having tried and failed many times to coalesce the general population into a unified whole in support of this new religion, that adding selective pieces of other religions, might help.

First, the Winter Solstice offered a reason for the season....choosing the DARKEST day of the year, Christians could look forward to seeing "more light" from that point on in the year and thereby offered a more festive mood for the general populace.  The symbolic  juxtapositioning, too,  was irresistible, with it's "enlightened" approach.

Next, you would need some kind of "feast" and it just so happened that the Roman Feast of Saturnalia coincided with the Winter Solstice.    From the website, Time and Date

"In Ancient Rome the winter (December) solstice festival Saturnalia began on December 17 and lasted for seven days. It was held to honor Saturn, the father of the gods and was characterized by the suspension of discipline and reversal of the usual order. Grudges and quarrels were forgotten while businesses, courts and schools were closed. Wars were interrupted or postponed and slaves were served by their masters. Masquerades often occurred during this time.

It was traditional to offer gifts of imitation fruit (a symbol of fertility), dolls (symbolic of the custom of human sacrifice), and candles (reminiscent of the bonfires traditionally associated with pagan solstice celebrations). A mock king was chosen, usually from a group of slaves or criminals, and although he was permitted to behave in an unrestrained manner for seven days of the festival, he was usually killed at the end. The Saturnalia eventually degenerated into a week-long spree of debauchery and crime – giving rise to the modern use of the tern saturnalia, meaning a period of unrestrained license and revelry."

But the religion still seemed lacking in that there wasn't anything for the pagan Norse, so Christians decided--over time-- to reach out to those Vikings, and toss in a few "bones" of their traditions to sweeten the pie.  In this, there was a nod to the various sects of witches and ancient clusters of various genre of worshippers--not wanting to forget the Druids, after all. 

Again from Time and Date:

"The Feast of Juul was a pre-Christian festival observed in Scandinavia at the time of the December solstice. Fires were lit to symbolize the heat, light and life-giving properties of the returning sun. A Yule or Juul log was brought in and burned on the hearth in honor of the Scandinavian god Thor.

A piece of the log was kept as both a token of good luck and as kindling for the following year’s log. In England, Germany, France and other European countries, the Yule log was burned until nothing but ash remained. The ashes were then collected and either strewn on the fields as fertilizer every night until Twelfth Night or kept as a charm and or as medicine.

French peasants believed that if the ashes were kept under the bed, they would protect the house against thunder and lightning. The present-day custom of lighting a Yule log at Christmas is believed to have originated in the bonfires associated with the feast of Juul.

Christmas is also referred to as Yule, which may have derived from the Norse word jól, referring to the pre-Christian winter solstice festival. Yule is also known as Alban Arthan and was one of the “Lesser Sabbats” of the Wiccan year in a time when ancient believers celebrated the rebirth of the Sun God and days with more light. This took place annually around the time of the December solstice and lasted for 12 days. The Lesser Sabbats fall on the solstices and equinoxes."

And, of course, the traditional colors from the Roman Feast of Saturnalia were co-opted for good measure--red symbolizing blood and, hence, life, and green symbolizing growth for the coming year. Greenery and red berries were traditionally brought indoors and were used to decorate (honor) for those gods that were responsible for fertility and continuity of life.

Of course, historically speaking,  it took hundreds of years to put all these puzzle pieces together, but gradually, the picture evolved to become one of the the most popular religions in the world--a religion with all the "right stuff," containing the best ingredients, each lifted from other popular religions over eons, and each element designed to attract the widest possible audience using tools like astronomy, gastronomy, economy, and agronomy.  And from its humble beginnings, just look how far it's come!  

Photo by Nicolette Neish

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Green Hornet

Remember that sled I bought late last summer?  You thought I was nuts, didn't you???!! 

Well, I know how to pick sleds, believe me! As well as when to buy them!  After all, you want that sled HERE when the first good snowfall comes, not hanging on the wall at Magic Mart! I'm proud of my forward-thinking on this!! My sled was ready to roll.

Hence, I just got in from tackling the big hill out by the south field apple tree, and this sucker is slicker than....okra! 

The first time out of the box, I fairly FLEW down the hill without even making a trail!   With the last sled I always, always had to mash down a trail first.  Not with my Green Hornet! It is F-A-S-T!!

And who was I sledding with?  Nobody but me.  MM hates sledding.  And, I found last year that if I take the two dogs out with me, they spend all their excitement chasing each other and getting in my way, so I made my decision:  sled solo. 

And it was GREAT! This hill is perfect.   Man, the snow was flying off on each side of the sled as I ripped open six inches of white stuff and headed for the woods.  Of course, I can never forget as a child, losing my front teeth to a huge rock during one winter, so I am still a bit leery as I approach large trees and an electric fence.  But (NCMountain Woman) it DOES steer!  You hang a foot over the side, stick out an arm....or simply roll off.  What a machine!! 

So, if the freezing rain doesn't impose its ugly self on us in the next couple of hours, I'll be back at it. Crazy old woman that I am!  Wish you could join me out here, JOTOLR!!

Thanks for stopping by this past week!  It sure has been a  challenge out here at times what with the incredibly low temperatures.  But, as usual, we made it just fine!  I know you were pulling for us!!
Oh, and BTW...I'm taking Friday off this week. 

Have a wonderful weekend
See you Monday!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Doing Business the Old Fashioned Way

 Despite our declared "self-sufficiency" there are still businesses we depend upon to make that happen.  One of these is in the nearby town of Union, where we --rather regularly--visit Mountaineer Farm Center.  Here we purchase pig food, calf and cow feed, sunflower seeds to feed the birds, dog food, garden supplies of one kind or other words, all manner of farm needs.  Today, we decided that with next winter storm approaching, (and rememering last year's shortfalls of needed feed when snow trapped us here), we would make a trip to Mountaineer to make sure the animal's larders would be full and ready to meet any onslaught that Nature might throw at us.

As we were checking out, the owner came out of his office and presented us with two calendars and a beautifully wrapped package, paired with a verbal "Thank you for your business!" and "Merry Christmas!"    
 I knew what was probably going to be in the wrapped package. Last year, it was a lovely box of Russell Stover Assorted Chocolates.  Sure enough, this year, it was a Whitman Sampler.  I love chocolates but rarely have them, so it's an enormous treat!  I had seen other customers carrying out the same array of gifts and knew that it was the proprietor's way of sharing and expressing his own gratitude for the business we've given him.  I suppose we could go to the larger agricultural chain store for our needs, but going to Mountaineer is like a page out of history.  It's always crowded, you see old friends from time to time, the store is stuffed to the gills with all kinds of nifty items, and everyone is so friendly and full of good humor and good cheer.  I feel like we always get our money's worth on humor and good feelings alone. It never fails.  We leave feeling glad for having come. Jim makes it that way.  His prices are modest, too, so we come away feeling it was a good bargain regardless of what we bought.   It's so unusual nowadays, though, for a business to give a gift to their customers for the business of the foregoing year.  During the fall, Jim hosted a barbecue for his customers, with all manner of beef, lamb, buffalo, all kinds of How many businesses have you visited many many times, but have never had the proprietor even say thank you for your patronage...let alone with a Whitman Sampler?  Not many, I'd venture to guess.  Perhaps out here JOTOLR, we're recipients of the kindness and thoughtfulness of folks who are still doing business the old-fashioned way.  And it's nice.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blowin' in the Wind...

That sun is wickedly deceptive today.  Bright!  Inviting.  Kissing the tops of the snow-covered hills... offering the impression that what appears beyond my window is real:  balmy breezes and crystal clear blue skies.  Focus on the "crystal."  Take one look at the thermometer, though, and the surprise will keep you indoors today.  It's nine degrees.  NINE.  And those "balmy" breezes?  They cut like a saber, especially as they pipe up to 15 mph. 

It was a wicked night last night.  Cade's roof blew off her doghouse, and she apparently spent the night curled up in a ball inside the remaining walls.  Marigold was shivering as we milked her around 5:00 p.m. last evening.  Around 2:00 a.m. I caught the sound of a five-gallon bucket rumbling the full length of the porch in the midst of still another blast of Arctic air. 

When we lived in Alaska, there was a late-night B-movie program that came on every night at midnight.  It was called Tundra Terror.  Well, I have to say, last night was Tundra Terror night, with all kinds of things going bump in the night, the wind howling, and waiting for the next object to sail by the house, half expecting a door to blow in. 

It's way better in the daylight.  Things have settled down now.  And since I can't go outside to play, I am finding lots of toys inside!  It's a day of knitting, spinning, reading; MM is baking bread today!  The smell is luscious!  He loves to bake bread.  Who could complain about a day like this?!  And here's hoping tonight won't be as vicious as it was last night. 

Friday, December 10, 2010


It was, as one of my dear friends noted yesterday morning, an "enchanting" display of nature's beauty.  The air shimmered with bits of frost sailing from tree limbs, the air was filled with diamonds taking flight!  As my friend also observed, it is difficult to photograph, especially if trying to replicate what was seen.  Some things we can only capture in the abstract, or in our own imaginations; and to each pair of eyes, "enchantment" is an individual and personal thing that defies translation.  So, for me, the "enchantment" was not only the scenes, but the journey as well, chasing the illusive image, trying to "capture" it all.   Each one of us finds our own enchantments...thank you for allowing me to share mine!

 And thank you for stopping by to visit this past week. That cup of chai, together, was such a joy!  It staved off those low-teens temperatures and gave such cheer!  I hope you all have a lovely weekend!
I'm not real excited about the Army-Navy game, but perhaps they'll surprise....besides, we've had a bushel of excitement in the SouthEast Conference  this season, so we probably need a little rest before the BCS championship.  My loyalties are torn as I originate from the West Coast, so I can't deny having a little love for those Ducks.  OTOH, I'm a sucker for Cam Newton and his blazing smile!
Take care everyone!
See you Monday!

C-food or Sea-Rations?

You know, I don't often rant on my blog.  There are simply too many issues one could rant ABOUT to use this precious space for that purpose, and there are too many beautiful things one can focus on instead...but this got me (and my apologies aforethought):

As someone who grows their own food out here JOTOLR, who is delighted to be able to produce it knowing it is safe to eat,  and one who, similarly cares about food supplies for the American people and the world,  as well as ourselves, I find the following to be particularly alarming.  It was posted on Yves Smith's blog, Naked Capitalism, yesterday....MM picked it up and read it to me.  Thought I would pass it along.  Perhaps this is the new Sea-Rations or C-food for the troops?

Guest Post: Secretary of the Navy Hatches Brilliant Plan to Sell More Gulf Seafood and Transport Oil to the War Zone

Posted: 08 Dec 2010 10:49 PM PST
→ Washington’s Blog

An unknown quantity of Gulf seafood is tainted with oil and/or dispersant..... Some have speculated that Gulf seafood would be quietly sold to makers of cat and dog food, to avoid public scrutiny.

But the Secretary of Navy has a different idea – force the good men and women in our armed services to eat it.

As the Times Picayune reported yesterday:

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who doubles as President Barack Obama’s point man on Gulf Coast oil spill recovery, is pressing America’s armed services to consume as much Gulf seafood as possible.

Navy Capt. Beci Brenton said Monday that Mabus has talked with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the secretaries of the Air Force and Army, and his staff has talked to the Defense Commissary Agency, which operates a worldwide chain of stores for military personnel, making the point “that we should be buying Gulf Coast seafood.”

I have friends who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the thought of folks in our armed services being fed Gulf seafood angers me.

Of course, the U.S. considers oil to be a national security issue, and the government spends a lot of money to get oil over to the various war theaters.

Indeed, BP is the main contractor supplying oil to the U.S. military.

The cynical might argue that Secretary Mabus is being callous in allowing our good service men and women to eat tainted seafood.

But maybe Secretary Mabus has an ingenious plan to cheaply transport BP oil into Iraq and Afghanistan: shipping Gulf seafood to commissaries and mess halls, and then having the troops march on their stomachs and transport the oil out into the field.

(Yes, the last sentence is parody.)

Back to Elora....

Any wonder that those impacted by the Gulf Oil Spill are having difficulty getting compensation, or legal assistance, etc.?  And the fact that we could create a mammoth experiment as to the safety of seafood contaminated--as in "poisoned" -- by the oil and related mediation products, using our service personnel as guinea, I believe, still another outrage from this administration. 

If you have any feelings about this, it might be worthwhile to drop a "cable" to Mabus. 
Go Assange!

Shame on me for leaving you with a negative thought for the weekend!  I will post a separate photo right now....instead of closing out the week's adventures on a low note.  See the next post coming your way, directly!

This Morning's Sunrise

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Absolutely Cold

On PBS last night, NOVA featured a program on Absolute Zero.  Well....I guess we're a little way from that!  But it sure feels absolutely C-O-L-D!!!

It's 8 degrees here this morning!  MM got up three times last night to stoke the fires in both the kitchen stove and the living room stove overnight.  Where did this painful weather come from???  They're calling it an Arctic Clipper. 

Today--"they" say we're getting a brief respite, up into the low 40's.  That will give us time to reload the feed bin, thaw the watertanks to some extent, and resume a partly even keel position.   The sky is absolutely cloudless right now.  Crystalline.  As I look out, I see several of the animals lying down right beside the fence.  The dogs have come out of their houses and are testing the outside air.  This kind of cold takes a lot of animal-calories, so we're feeding an extra ration.  It's a dry cold, and as deep as it is, is lots better than freezing rain or the other assorted, wet, cold conditions that could visit.  So, I don't want to appear to complain.  It's winter.   It's to be expected....just not this early!  Picky, picky!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dry As A Bone

From last year's files...
I ventured out yesterday afternoon, thinking to snag a few photographs to post.  But I only stayed out for about fifteen minutes.  The wind was blowing, and I had chosen to head for the pond, thinking I would get some ice sculpture images.  Contrary to last year at this time, however, the creekbed was dry.   No water burbled over the rocks.  The only sound I heard was the wind whining in the leafless treetops.  It struck me as being a bit dismal.  Last year I remember spending hours there, down on my hands and knees with my camera, catching the glinting sun, listening to the water music...shooting photo after photo...each one a joy.

Alas!  Not this year.  It's dry as a bone.  And I find that scary as well as dismal.

Today, the temperature is to reach a high of around 13 degrees.  The WFO is warning us to wear gloves and hats outside to avoid hypothermia.  Wind chills are to be "as low as ten below zero."  Unusual weather to be sure. 

One more day of this, it seems, and we'll be back to the 40's.  Can't happen soon enough as far as we're concerned out here JOTOLR! 
From last year's files...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


It's an odd-looking photo, to be sure!  It's a bad sign when the photographer has to explain what the image is!  Nonetheless, I was capitvated by this rose-bush encased in ice.  And the lighting wasn't that wonderful.  Nonetheless, ice, after all, is the issue at hand today!  When the temperature hits 12 degrees as it did overnight, and rises no higher than 20 during the's a "nippy" situation.  But we can cope.  After all, when we taught school in Grayling Alaska, we awakened to several mornings which registered 70 degrees BELOW zero. 

But, of course, we don't expect severe conditions anywhere near like that here in WV.  And we don't expect anything remotely resembling what we currently have this time of year, in WV, either.  Add to the low temperatures a 25 mph "breeze" and we have the makings of a marathon of filling water containers, chipping ice, heating water carriers, making sure that all stay open and that animals are getting the water they need.  It's a constant battle.  And the wind makes it worse. 

Quite honestly, it's bitter out there.  Not at all fun. We don't have as much snow-cover, either, as we would want to insulate the various foundations and water sources.  All in all, this isn't my idea of winter at its best!  Matter of fact, I usually celebrate the first snow, but after last winter's blast, I turned wary hearing the forecast.  After all, last winter we spent 62 days locked in, here, and unable to get out.  The tractor, normally reliable, decided to quit just as the hard weather descended upon us; we were in the midst of hauling in firewood when it did; and then it snowed....and snowed.....and snowed.....and we were unable to break winter's grip.  OTOH, it looks like Friday will see us back into the 40's for the moment, and that will give us a chance to catch our breath!  Meanwhile, we're taking the bitter with the sweet!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Fearful Nomenclature of Weather Prognostications

The Baler Now In Storage
I am currently reading a book entitled, Giants in the Earth, written by O. E. Rolvaag.  It's a story of the Norwegian settlement of the Dakota Territory.  Aside from retrospective issues concerning the displacement of Native Americans as a result of the foreigners' settlements and subsequent dislocations of original inhabitants, these were stout people whose survival was nothing short of a miracle.  So, I wanted to use the story for today's blog, to segue into The Weather.

The main character in the book, along with several of his fellow settlers starts out across the prairie on a mid-winter day, to get firewood at considerable distance from the main settlement.  Mind you, the "settlement" consists of five or so families, in the vastness of the majestic prairie in the 1800's living in sod houses.  Several of the men leave on what appears to be a rather warm and sunny day, with sleds and oxen, only to discover a while later, as they are making their way slowly to the wood supply, that an ominous cloud bank seems to be approaching and building from the West. It turns into a ferocious blizzard and the main character nearly dies.

Fast forward to now.  Today, we have bells and beeps and computers and weather "forecasts" and "Special Weather Statements" that at least make the weather "gamble" seem simpler.  Unquestionably, lives are saved by a technology that is ever more sophisticated and seemingly accurate.  We anticipate a "weather event" nowadays, far in advance of its arrival.  OTOH, because of this, change in the weather unexpectedly, is to be anticipated and even expected. 

Predictions can go only so far, as the weather is capricious, fitful and perplexingly independent-minded.  The terminologies continue to layer themselves as we try to figure out the accuracies or inaccuracies in what sometimes appears to be just another slicing and dicing of the same thing.  We have Winter Storm Warnings, Winter Weather Advisories, Winter Storm Watches...we have "blizzards" and "all hazards" that warn us to pack our cars with food, water, blankets, flashlights and be ready for the worst.  The drumbeat of warnings fans our fears and we are almost of the impression that the end of the world is at hand!  Why, The Weather Service can even interrupt the SEC championship game to warn of impending impendings with a Special Weather Statement!

Contrary to my character in the book, at least now in modern times we know SOMETHING is coming.  And that is good.   And I don't take lightly the service that is rendered by our valiant WFO (government speak for Weather Forecast Office).  But what the actual weather might end up being is still a challenge for the WFO.  Often enough, nothing remotely like the NOAA forecast ever arrives.  This weekend, we got perhaps 3-4 inches of snow, and I commend the National Weather Service for their unstinting efforts to beat the odds with their forecasts.  But even as we wait to see if the WFO beat the odds, we have to accept that Mother Nature can be a gamechanger and the nomenclature of weather forecasting doesn't necessarily represent anything more than a list of selected terms!

We can have "snow....heavy at times" or "snow showers" or "scattered snow showers" or "snow flurries" or "light snow"  and then we can branch out into either "rain" or "freezing rain" or sleet or an all out "ice storm" or freezing drizzle....then we can also have "partly cloudy" or "partly sunny" or "cloudy" or "overcast"...then we have "heating degrees days" and "cooling degree days"  We can narrow the window to 50% chance; 40% chance; or perhaps a 100% chance of whatever...and that doesn't reflect the actual simply means that under similar conditions in the past, in this particular geographic location the event has happened X% of the time in the what the heck does THAT mean????

I think the public has become sold on the idea that choice makes things better, as if the more choices we have, the better off we are.  Certainly, my character in the novel could have been helped  by a voice eminating from a distant forecast office telling him that a blizzard was rapidly advancing upon him.  I don't believe, though, that giving him 20% or 40% chance of precipitation of some kind, would have helped all that much.  Having accidentally run smack into a cabin with his oxen and sled in the midst of the blinding snow and howling gale was the only thing that saved his you-know-what! 

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's That Time of Year....

"Frosted window panes.....Santa's on his way......!
It's that time of year....when the world falls in love..."

As we close out the week, it's snowing lightly here, JOTOLR.  Only flurries, but I am beginning to feel like I am living in one of those lovely glass paperweights that swirl when you shake them!  There is a shallow dusting of flakes on the ground outside, and even though green grass is still the major player, I feel winter coming...and I am glad.  We need the rest.  We need the time to reflect, to plan, and to enjoy the slower pace. 
Thank you, everyone, for your lovely comments this past week!  I am filled with joy as I read them, and extend a hug to all of you, far and near.  You are inspiration!

Here's wishing you a Happy Weekend!  It's showdown time on the gridiron:  South Carolina versus Auburn should be a barn burner!!
Love you all!
See you Monday!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Let There Be Light!

Last  night that most universally failure-proof function failed.  Right at dinner time the lights went out.  When I called the power company to report the outage, I was greeted with an automated voice that crisply informed me that we were NOT in a known outage area and to check my bill to see if it had been paid, check the main breaker in the house, check, check, check.    I got a little panicky until MM in looking outside could see that the neighbor's dusk-to-dawn monstrosity was also out, as was the next neighbor's down.  In turning to the west, he could see nothing but blackness.  Obviously, we weren't the only ones and I took refuge in the misery-loves-company mindset.

But we're rarely "miserable" when the lights go out JOTOLR.  Our wood cookstove was purring nicely.  We had, rather fortunately, planned to have the final turkey sandwiches of Thanksgiving 2010 for dinner.  So, out came the oil lamps--we have two--along with the book lights which fasten on the top edge of the book and give great illumination.

I tried the power company a little while later and got the recording that indeed, this time, we WERE in a known "outage area" and that service would be restored by 8:30 p.m.  So, without anxiety, we settled in for a two-hour wait.

If it's not too long a time, I love it when the power goes off.  I guess it comes from when I was a little girl and my mother made it fun.  The oil lamps then, as now, came out; we roasted weiners on the fire in the fireplace, and it seemed all so festive.  Forgive me.  I know all the downside effects of a powerless existence...but living as MM and I do, it's rarely a huge inconvenience providing it comes back in a reasonable time.  If it endures, water becomes a little problematic, so I always fill several cannisters with new water before an anticipated outage.  In fact, I keep a little on hand.  It's back to the privvy (outdoor) facilities (should need arise).  We don't open the fridge or freezers, but instead cover all freezers outside with a couple of extra blankets.  Of course, when it's cold, that's not needed.  

Without electric power, we are gently reminded for a moment how dependent we are upon it--and maybe, how not to be....(In the photo below, the regular reading lamp has gone dark, and the booklight flares against MM's glasses.)

Just as we had everything assembled for sandwich-making, the lights came back on.  It seemed such a waste of effort and we simply ignored the fact that power had been restored and enjoyed the light of the lanterns.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Don't Feel Sorry for Me!

We just got in from milking Marigold.  I'd carefully put my WOOL gloves on the top of the warming oven of the woodstove in the kitchen, last night, so this morning I would be able to put on a pair of warm gloves--knowing it was going to be cold and windy.   Well, the best laid plans......I couldn't remember where I'd put them, so after searching high and low, I decided to venture out without these wooly comforts, thinking perhaps I'd left them in the milking shed. 

Outside the sleet and sandy-snow were pelting down.  As I gathered hay for the calf, got Cade out of her kennel, and headed under the milking shelter, the volume of snow escalated and the wind sent an arrow of cold between my shoulders.  Marigold was already standing at the gate, and MM was walking up the hill from having fed the pigs.  I ducked into the shelter we'd built several months back, sat Cade beside me and got ready to milk.

My hands already were red and frozen as I kneeled onto the damp earth and prepared the pumps for milking.  Normally dry, the rain--some 2 1/2 inches of it overnight along with some fierce wind, had wet the usually dry earth, where I --in prayer fashion--kneel to milk.  The wind-driven snow swirled over Cade's coat and I pulled mine tighter about me as I fumbled, head down,  with the iodine, and the two pumps.  The clang of the gate let me know that MM had arrived and was letting Marigold into the stall.  I heard the tumble of grain into her feed trough as she made her way in to begin gobbling and munching that squash we grew so much of and the numbers of which are gradually diminishing, thanks to the cow.  MM shut the gate, tied the cow, and gave me a quick report on the turkeys, chickens and pigs...and we set to milking immediately. 

By now, my hands had frozen completely.  The pain of the cold punished me for my forgetfulness.   How careless of me to forget where in the dickens I had put those gloves.  They were, of course,(as I learned later) not in the milking stall, but decorating the top of the warming the house.  I set to work milking "my side."

Milking never takes very long now, as Marigold (without a full complement of grain) is only giving us about 3 quarts per milking (which is ideal for us!).  We were finished in about 20 minutes.  Still there was water to be topped up before the freezing temperatures --(dropping like a stone)--would cut our ability to run water out to the trough as the hose would freeze up.  More hay for the calf, fill up the dog bowls with food, make sure their water was topped up, as well.  I put both back in their kennels.  In fact, this is more like a dry run when it comes to winter feeding/milking.  The temperatures aren't all that low, compared to what they will be.  But it's damp, and dampness always seems to increase the bite of the cold.

We finished the chores and headed back to the house.  The snow swirls kept coming in waves, scouring my face with each subsequent blast.  My eyes watered and I could barely see the porch for the tears.  As I opened the back door to the house, I was enveloped in toasty warmth, glad to have morning chores done.  And I'd finally remembered where I'd put those wool gloves.  There they were, toasty and warm.  Just because, I immediately put them on and savored the heat.

And I can hear you all saying something on the order of  "I'm sure glad I don't have to go out and milk a cow every day, morning and night...!"

But you know what?  I love it.  It's the measurement of pleasure.  If one always sat inside, how would we know the joy of doing so?  There would be nothing to compare!  If I couldn't experience the joy of those warm wooly gloves on my iced fingers, how could I completely appreciate their essence?  

Seems to me nowadays we often seek only the guaranteed "pleasurable" and decline anything less.  Hence, we gradually lose our ability to find satisfaction in the simple things as we demand ever more in order to feel satisfaction.  

Being "out in the cold" and curry-combing the ice-pelleted back of a cow, a cold wind surging around the board fence, whistling in the trees a sentient experience.  It lets me FEEL the natural world at its best. 

Do I want to go back inside?  You betcha!  Would I wish I didn't have to go out?  Well....maybe, kind of...  Do I remember those warm flannel sheets I left as I trudge out?  Yup.  But would I give up the milking to have those comforts one hundred percent of the time?  Resoundingly, no.  It's the comparative measurement of pure pleasure, against less, and I thank my lucky stars to have it!