Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone has a great holiday! Here is a picture of my main tree. There are a lot of ornaments. Maybe a few too many. We buy ornaments for each other each Christmas and we also buy one every year on vacation.

Here are a few of my favorites:

An oyster shell Santa and a crab shell Santa from Ocracoke, NC. We bought these the first year we went on vacation together in 1997. We always make sure to search out something locally made. Ocracoke isn't a really wealthy place and when the tourists go home, there isn't much of a livelihood.

This is one of my first ornaments when I was an adult. The boyfriend I had from age 20 to 26 (and lived with for 4 years) was a firephobe and we could never have a Christmas tree or a jack-o-lantern, or a candle of any kind. So after we parted ways, I went out and got the biggest and best Christmas tree I could find and put it in my bedroom, so I could fall asleep looking at it everynight (and allow it to remain lit while unattended all night long. Take that Jim!). I didn't have much money for ornaments and the 4 little snowmen were pretty much it. To me, they represent strength and independence and feeling comfortable in your own skin for the first time.
This is a vintage Santa that my husband put in my Christmas stocking two years ago. He isn't the greatest gift giver, but I loved this and it meant a lot that he "thought' about it and searched for it.

My husband is an engineer for the railroad and every year I get him a train ornament. I think he is kind of sick of them but I like them. This year he gets a vintage pick-up truck instead. The ornaments shown are a Pennsylvania Railroad boxcar and a Chesapeake and Ohio coal car. Yes, our dog is named after a rail line whose mascot is a sleeping kitten.

These are ornaments for kitties that have passed on. Blackie and Quina (Beanie). I have them for all the pets and makes me tear up when I put them on the tree because I know that someday, all of the ornaments will be for pets that I no longer have.
This is one of those styrofoam ball kits that people used to make. My mom made it for her parents before I was born and my grandmother always hung it on the swing lamp over the breakfast table at Christmas time. When she died in 1979, my grandfather left it there and it hung there until his death in 2001. It reminds me of him and his pnk formica kitchen and his fabulous spaghetti sauce and the very cheap beer we would drink when I visited him, laughing and talking at that little kitchen table under that glittery green ball.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Almost better than Christmas

Yay! I made it! The shortest day of the year! From here on out, we gain daylight! Woohoo! Seriously, the last two weeks or so, when I wake up in the morning, I feel like I'm underwater. I just feel so sleepy and slow. Its strange the effect that light has on some people. Before I started paying attention to it, every November I thought I was sick. Really sick. Surely I had cancer or lupus or some horrible disease because I would get so tired and sleepy and my body just felt bad. So I would go to the doctor and they wouldn't find anything. After a few years of this, I realized that it happened every year, just about the same time, around the middle of November. And every year in the first week or so of February, I would feel great again. Just like one day, all of a sudden, it would feel like a light switch got turned back on and I would have lots of energy again. So now I expect it, and don't go running to the doctor. But it sure is nice to get to the end and know that every day from now until June 21st, there will be more and more light. Definitely something to celebrate!

Monday, December 18, 2006

hard to believe its December

Hard to believe it is almost Christmas. It was in the mid 60s here yesterday and will be again today. Working outside at the end of December and being warm in a sweatshirt is strange. But I'm not complaining. Doggies and I went for a long walk and it was just lovely to be outside and feeling like its spring.

The chickens had two long days of free ranging and enjoyed every minute of it. I think I can almost see them smile when they emerge in the morning and it is balmy instead of biting cold. Poor little chooks. It'll arrive eventually.

Little Roy is doing so well. And I think he already feels normal again. I learned how to give shots on Friday and was really exepcting a disaster. I don't like needles. Cats are slippery. And I have to give him a shot every 12 hours. But he absolutely doesn't care. I give him the shot while he is eating and he doesn't even flinch. And I'm a pro already. It is part of our routine now. I'm only worried about having to be away for work or vacation now. No more leaving a bowl of food and water for the cat for an overnight. He'll have to go to the kennel with the dogs.

The bird feeders aren't very busy. There are always birds, but it isn't like the bitter cold winter days of past year. You can see clouds of insects (not sure what they are) as you walk through the yard, and the chickens easily pluck big grubs from the lawn that must be coming near the surface because of the warmth. Nobody really needs birdseed.

Friday, December 15, 2006

No such thing as a free kitten

My little guy Roy was found on a street about 6 years ago as a stray. A tiny kitten, wandering about with his 6 brothers and sisters. Malnourished and dirty with no momma cat in sight, I watched them for awhile and when it became clear that they were strays, I picked up each and every one and put them into the big front pocket of my sweatshirt. I found good homes for everybody but Roy. He was the runt of the litter and someone had spattered paint on him so he looked perpetually dirty. Roy ended up staying. He also had some behavioral issues. He liked to nurse. On anything. Your ear, your neck, fingers, whatever was available. That personality quirk took awhile to go away. The two other cats that I had (Beenie and Blackie) accepted Roy eventually and became good friends. Now Beenie and Blackie are gone and only Roy is left. He acts a little like the dogs, wanting to be included in doggie things. After Beenie died in the spring, Roy lost a lot of weight. I attributed it to stress. In July, he was getting really thin and also was constantly thirsty. I thought diabetes but the vet took his temperature and looked him over (didn't take blood) and pronounced him healthy. Two weeks ago, I took him back. There was definitely something wrong with him and I wanted to know what it was. He was even thinner, drinking all the time and eating voraciously. This time they did take blood. Several hundred dollars later, lo and behold, Roy is diabetic. So this evening I have to go and learn how to give my cat shots of insulin. Grand. But at least little buddy will be fine after some fine tuning.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

winding down the year

With Thanksgiving and my Christmas party out of the way, I feel really relaxed now. I still have some Christmas shopping to do, but not too much and I feel like these next two weeks will be rather calm. For the forseeable future at least, the weather is projected to be in the mid to high 50s, barely getting to freezing at night, so I'm looking forward to being able to putter around the yard a little on weekends. Recent putterings have revealed that a very tall rabbit or sorta short deer has been munching on my Viburnum dentatum 'Blue Muffin' that I planted, in addition to several Ilex verticillata 'Berry Nice' that were little more than twigs to begin with. The Pink Diamonds Hydrangea are almost no longer visible but I can't figure if it was a critter or the victim of the last mow before the Cub Cadet was put to bed. They are suspiciously short.

I am taking the week off between Christmas and New Years and I'm expecting that is when the Arctic air mass will appear. But, whatever. I've got books and seed catalogs and plenty of stuff to keep me busy inside if need be. I picked up these three books recently at Chester County Bookstore, as I happened to be in the neighborhood. A little early Christmas shopping for me.

Paths of Desire by Dominique Browning

Continuous Harmony Essays Cultural and Agrarian by Wendell Berry

it's a long road for a tomato by Keith Stewart and Flavia Bacarella

I've only barely started the Dominique Browning book, but I'm not loving it so far. She of course was/is the editor of House and Garden and is a little too designy for me. I should have realized this, but I am always a sucker for books about people buying old houses and redoing the grounds. I don't hate it, but I'm not devouring it as I usually do.

As the garden catalogs trickle in I'm mentally making a list of what I want to do next spring. And what worked and what didn't this past year. El at fast grow the weeds is doing a year end wrap up of her garden and it has gotten me thinking. And Liz at Pocket Farm has me considering beans, something I've never grown before. I know I'm gonna give up peppers, save for a handful of pimentos. They just never do well and don't show up until September. I'm thinking about little hoop houses and maybe a cold frame to start things earlier, and goats are always on my mind. Oh the grand plans we think up during the long winter months.

Monday, December 11, 2006

how it went

I think really well. I wish I wouldn't get so stressed out because half of the things I stress about, don't even matter, which I can only clearly see after the first guest arrives. So 24 people and 7 children came and went over 61/2 hours and I think everyone had a good time (at least they said they did). I cooked most of the day Saturday, since I didn't do the tree until Friday night and it took a lot longer than I expected. For food, I made pesto deviled eggs, roast beef/horseradish wraps, roasted red pepper wraps, meatballs in my homemade tomato preserves, hot artichoke spinach dip with a roasted garlic bread loaf, a cold spinach dip, a roasted red pepper dip with crackers and cut up veggies, these neat little blt pizzas, and a fig cake. And there were also chips and pretzels, chocolate, cookies, etc. from the store. The pesto deviled eggs were very popular and went very fast. I didn't even get one. Thankfully I had eaten a spoonful of the filling before washing the bowl that afternoon. People really like the house which made both my husband and I feel good. It shouldn't be important to get approval from other people, but it feels nice. I like seeing my home through other people eyes and knowing that they like it. Nothing was broken, nobody hurt (which with 7 children, only one of which was school aged, was a blessing), and there was nothing spilled on the new carpet. I did buy apple juice juice boxes for the kids just in case, knowing it wouldn't stain if spilled. The only thing I don't like about having parties is that it goes very, very fast and I never feel like I get to spend enough time with all my friends. I'm too busy running around trying to be the perfect hostess.

In other news, I think I have a sick chicken. Claire is losing her feathers. I thought I understood that chickens don't moult until their second fall. My chickens were born at the end of March and supposedly shouldn't molt until next fall. Is this right? I looked all over her yesterday for mites or some kind of insect on her skin, but there isn't anything. I'm really worried and will probably separate her from the rest and put her in the garage in the next day or so if it appears to be getting worse. Her appetite is good, she is running around same as ever, just losing feathers. Although the scales on her legs appear a little redder than ususal. Also, is my egg production supposed to be dwindling? Everything I read is different. Some say they should lay the same all the time unless they are sick. I thought I read that laying slows down as the days get shorter and will pick back up in February or so. Sometimes I get one egg, sometimes I get three. But I never get 5 a day anymore. I only have two chicken books but they contradict one another.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

T-minus 53 hours and counting

Okay. Party is on Saturday at 5. Carpet, new dishwasher, and plumber were at the house yesterday. We paid for probably an hour to have a plumber tvisit us for ten short minutes to tighten bolts my husband forgot to tighten to keep water from pouring out of the bottom of the toilet tank. I do believe we have made yet another "idiotic homeowner' list in the greater Elizabethtown area. The dishwasher is super cool but a little intimidating. Why can't you buy a good quality basic dishwasher anymore? I want the stainless steel tub but I don't need all the fancy pants electronic stuff. I have never pushed a button other than "normal wash" in my entire life. A pre-rinse cycle? It's called rinsing it off really quick in the sink! Plus I want a real honest to God button. Not a touch pad thingy that I know damn well will break in a few years a cost a fortune to fix. Oh, and the carpet guys! Installed the carpet. Looks great, only it really reminds me of Triscuits and makes me hungry. Not good. Anyway, apparently after they installed the threshold into the bathroom, they tried the door to see if it would close. It is a pocket door. It did not close. They must have kept trying, because they broke said pocket door and quietly pushed it back into the slot and didn't say anything. And then they left. And now my husband is trying to fix it, which will involve many trips to Home Depot and removing the moulding and probably pulling up the threshold all of which will probably not be fixed and pretty by 5pm on Saturday. Stupid carpet installers!!!!


I am probably the last person in the world to realize this....but those Mr. Clean Magic Erasers? PFM! That stands for pure f*cking magic. I love those things. How have I lived lo these many years without using this miracle product? It took stains off that I had just assumed were permanent and had quit trying to remove. One word of warning: Do not wipe the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser on vinyl wall paper that has been in the kitchen for probably 20 or 30 years. It will make it several shades lighter, removing a micro-thin layer of time filth that you didn't realize was there because regular Windex does not touch time filth. And you will then be forced to Magic Erase EVERY WALLPAPERED SURFACE IN THE ROOM, lest your party guests see the one clean area and realize everything else if dirty! And then you will run low on Magic Erasers and be forced to triage stains so as not to completely be out of Magic Eraser and still have major stainage. And in your quest for super clean vinyl wall paper, you will miss the two carpet installers ripping your pocket door off the track and quietly sneaking away.

So tonight......the tree. And some more cleaning. And the fig cake. My husband is home today out picking a tree by himself. Alone. Pray for me.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

It's starting already

Last night I dreamed about bulbs. The orange tulips that I planted in October, specifically. Only when they came up they weren't tulips. They were pretty, but they weren't tulips. I think its the seed catalogs that are coming in that have gotten me thinking about spring. I've gotten a whole bunch, but Territorial has really captured my attention and I anticipate Seed Savers any day now. There are still things growing in some of the beds, but my mind is already on next years garden. Isn't that awful. As I peruse what to plant next year, I'm thinking about what worked and didn't work this past year. I'll have to make some lists of what to repeat and what not to. I'm already looking forward to those days in January when the ground is covered with snow, and somethings cooking in the crockpot, and I'm all curled up in front of the woodstove with my piles of seed catalogs and mini-post it notes.

Last night it got into the low 20s. The chickens had seriously frozen water this morning. I have to take fresh water out in a plastic container each morning. They get that dirty I'm sure by noon, but so far by that time their other waterer is thawed out. Not sure what I'll do when it just stops getting above freezing at all for days and days. How do other chicken owners tackle this? There is no electric in their hen house. I could run an extension cord out to it and get one of those warmers for their waterer I suppose. And at what temperature will they get frostbitten combs? I'm a little worried about this cold issue. I'm still getting eggs though. From 1 to 3 a day. Poor cold little chookies.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Field trip

Delineating wetlands just west of the Delaware Water Gap in the Poconos. Walking around on the last day of November in a single long-sleeve shirt and being sweaty is a very strange feeling. Waking up the next day to 70 deegree temps is even stranger. But I'm not complaining. As freaky as it is, I love it.

My co-worker Cathy for scale.