Watch where you straying, my friend

October 21st, 2014 § 0 Comments. Speak up.

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We took in a stray, a sweet little tabby with its tail chomped off, and set her up all nice and cozy as a barn cat in our shop teeming with mice and chipmunks, both of which she’s done a fine job dispatching and snacking.  The one breed of critter she didn’t banish from the bins of grain, though, is the goat itself.  They’ve become fast friends and she’s proven herself a bit of a sap.  Like all of us.

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I’m Going Back to New York City I Do Believe I’ve Had Enough

October 17th, 2014 § 2 Comments. Add one.

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Have I mentioned we’re raising pigs again?  This time doing it our way, rotating their pasture and letting them till up vast swaths of our new and erstwhile untouched, unkempt land?  Have I mentioned this results in lean, fast, noisy fuckers, who pile mud atop the fence when out of space, and use that vulnerability to bust free and free range on the property?  Have I mentioned that this is what I saw when I opened the door to dash out for an errand this morning?

I don’t eat pork, but it will be so satisfying to start with them.

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I like these torture devices from my old best friend

October 8th, 2014 § 0 Comments. Speak up.

goats

We never set out to be goat farmers, never really.  They were more or less dropped at our feet, or on our land, through a series of negotiations and musical-goat-swapping with neighbors up the hill.

We’ve been rotationally grazing them through a tangle of net fencing, and recently, with the garden on the wane and new pasture going with it, have been letting them free range, for the most part.  First they cut back our perennials, then they did a great job pulling the carrots, whose fruits they left to dry uprooted and detached from the greens they preferred.  Then they wandered inside the shop, in search of their anise treats and other sundries.  But they abused the privilege when nipping my sunflowers, and are now banished back to their pen.

Looking outside to find wandering, munching goats hanging out in my front garden seemed odd, but is, in fact, not too different from looking out the window of my NYC apartment.  The only difference is that here I wrestle one onto a bench and spend the morning squeezing her tits, a service that’d come with a cost in the city.

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Its fruits are tasting strange, The apple tree is shaking

September 23rd, 2014 § 1 Comment. Add one.

We got a little overexcited at the apple orchard, which left me with a bushel and a peck of apples, which, in modern measurements, translates to a Half a Metric Cubic Shitload.  This meant a lot of applesauce, because our Squirrel, now 2, subsists on the stuff.

It was, sadly, more than my beloved apple corer/slicer could stand, and the handle snapped right off.  Which makes me lucky to live with this guy.

(Yes, I know, I’ve been gone for a year and instead of updating you on huge gardening and canning success, nor the introduction of pigs and goats and an additional 13 acres of land on which to enjoy these things, I’ve returned to a sad elegy to my dog and a vertical video.  Sit tightly on your hands, remaining two readers!)

 

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Shake your hair girl with your ponytail takes me right back When you were young

September 20th, 2014 § 0 Comments. Speak up.

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When we first started courting, we’d drive to VT on weekends in the bumpy truck, every weekend, and back to NYC on Sunday nights for work work work. One such weekend, we decided to spend a day fishing from the fold-up canoe. She Doggie wasn’t a natural swimmer by any means, but if we were in the water, She’d jump right in after us, nervously swimming circles around us with this little whine entreating us to get back to dry land. Herding instinct. Not yet understanding the intensity of that instinct then (because as cityfolk I’d largely been free of swimming with her), we, on this day, put together the canoe and left the dog at shore while paddling out, thinking She’d happily frolic and chase squirrels and watch us and wave with her non-opposable digits. We got pretty far into the reservoir before looking behind us to find the dog padding in after us, quite a distance for a creature for whom swimming wasn’t natural. We stopped and waited for her, and pulled her into the canoe with us, which only made her more nervous and her whines more desperate, because the waters were shaky and nylon canoes feel weird against paw pads, I suppose. We paddled back to shore and put her in the truck, then tried again.

Several minutes later, one of us made the dreadful mistake of turning a head to find her again paddling out toward us. Again we grabbed her, hauled her soppy self into our rig, and towed her back, where we found she had used her nose to pry open the back window of the pickup, from which she squeezed, hopped off, and bounded. So we put her back in the truck once again, tied the free end of her lead to the steering wheel, and resumed our romantic day of fly fishing and sweet talking, or whatever. (Sweet talk amongst fly fishermen involves such terms of endearment as “if we wait for the evening hatch, these dry flies won’t be totally useless” and “my tippet is just a little too old for me to cast into that pool, and I KNOW there’s a hungry rainbow in that pool.” It is very sexy.) Again we paddled to that sweet spot just beneath the dam when again we turned to find the fucking dog swimming right toward us, with twelve inches of chewed-through leash floating behind her.

The fishing leg of our date thus aborted, it was time to drive to the local sporting goods store, probably for new tippet. And not two minutes were we in the shop before the dog followed us in, having now mastered the operation of the back window escape hatch. The owner was thrilled, one of the few few people ever to identify her by breed. “They’re so smart, English Shepherds,” he nodded with the wild-eyed enthusiasm generally reserved for bobble-heads, as we relayed the details of our day. “Will do anything to protect their herd. I had one who lived to be twelve, a long time for them, who once ate an entire wheel of Muenster cheese I’d deliberately hidden from her inside the busted-up seat of my old Volvo. I have no idea how she got it from there, because I put it way up there, but she didn’t shit for four days after that. They’re smart dogs. Brilliant.”

And after this, of course, I knew mine was more brilliant than the rest. Mine would pace herself. Or at least She’d never gorge on anything -quite- so gut-wrenching. She only gorged herself on us.

(September 11, 2001 – September 17, 2014. Two shit-ass awful days sandwiching 13 years of salmon snatching, plate cleaning, woodchuck-hunting, and Bitsy-training, amongst other virtues.)

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The yellow tile floor of the bathroom is sometimes a little obstacle course of glasses with huge roaches dying inside, stoically, just sitting there, the glasses gradually steaming up with roach-dioxide.

August 13th, 2013 § 4 Comments. Add one.

bigbug

What you see here is a standard conical pint glass, about six inches high and about three inches in diameter across the mouth. It is inverted over some as-yet unidentified insect which is STANDING THE FUCK UP and RAPPING ITS ANTENNAE against the side in a plea for me to set it free. I trapped it an hour ago, and it remains on the windowsill above my bed, reminding me of its presence with its arthropodontic knocking every few minutes.

I have seen all varieties of creepy crawling fuck-all in my life. I have smashed city sewer roaches with my shoes, and swatted rainforest mosquitoes off of my Squirrel. I have watched in horror as the matted detritus of a rat gurgled up from a newly Draino-ed shower. I have spent the better part of this very summer in dire need of a windshield wiper for my laptop monitor, in order to keep it clean of mosquito guts. But I have never before trapped a clumsy, drunken, alien, thing, really so heavy and graceless it was fucking bumping INTO THE GODDAMNED WALLS, beneath one of our few nice glasses.

I owe my Native an apology for that mouse he killed in my cast-iron skillet. Mainly because I’m going to leave this nasty-assed bug here to suffocate or starve, and be really nice to the Native when he comes home from work in a few days so that he’ll dispose of it for me. Then I’m going to clean the hell out that glass and replace its contents with a very large rum and coke.

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Wood Hertz

May 13th, 2013 § 2 Comments. Add one.

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Typing these words hurts me, and I’m not speaking in metaphors or about my feelings. The tips of my fingers, with every letter pressed, hurt. Ow. Hurt. Ow. I could go on, but that’d be masochism.

Ow.

One winter day of my unforgiving childhood, I was asked to help my mother bring in wood for the wood stove. We lived in a climate and an era where snow was unexpected, so when a few inches were on the ground, we didn’t know how to navigate through them. So, we slid on whatever excuse we had for boots at the time, and grabbed the red wagon we always used for wood-hauling, filled it up, and on the way back to the house, my mother pulled from the front while I pushed from behind.

Little red wagons of the 1980s (yes, I’m old. Piss off.) weren’t the best tools for this job even for wagons and roads of great condition, so our well-battered box on a snowy trail was a chore, and I was really leaning on it, feeling it in the pancreas, when I looked up to see my mother’s hands bloodied from her own effort. Two revelations struck at that moment: one, she was willing to go through what at the time seemed tremendous pain to keep her clan warm. And two, I was not going to meet the same fate. I would study and perform well and become well-educated and Gatsby the fuck away from that future.

So I did. I moved to the center of the universe and attended a reputable university and got a well-paying job in a respectable industry until, at some point decided that wage slavery was worse than scratched-up hands, so I slowly began to pedal away from it until I met the Native, who convinced me to shit in a hole with him in the snowy woods.

So, ow.

I moved a year’s worth of firewood today, because it had been sitting upon a space I want excavated into a terrace for a new garden. And tomorrow begins the biennial excavator rental, which will hopefully catalyze many fine projects that lead to a resurgence of fodder for this inconsistent bit of bloggerel, and as much as I had been hoping for an alternate outcome, the wood pile did not, elas, move itself.

And so I have so many splinters in my hands at the moment that, if extracted, could probably start a woodstove fire of their own. Ow.

On the other hand, if I’m anything but steel-solid biceptually after this, I’m going back to desk jockeying.

(I’d have shared a photo of the pile, but this millipede found within is much cuter.)

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Cut off their tail with a carving knife

March 7th, 2013 § 4 Comments. Add one.

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I need to talk about mice.

I know. Rodents are part of living in the woods. I get it. I’m not one of those shrieking-with-a-broomstick sort of ladies when it comes to mice. As an advocate for woodland critters generally, I can’t express too big of a problem with them. When we find nests in hollow trees or in an old boot or in our cookstove outdoors, I rally for the little bitches.

But of course, it’s winter. They’re cold and hungry and can squish down to the size of the wiring holes in a house, and come in and rest under the fire and snack on the crumbs left on my countertops, which, I imagine, is much cozier than an old boots we have piled outside.

For a while, one particular bugger was coming in every night; we could hear him in on the countertop having his way with the dregs of whatever we’d dredged up for dinner while the dog and cat, once mighty mousers, scratched their asses and didn’t deign to lift their salty old cataract-crusted peepers.

And so one of these nights, I was in bed in yet another failed attempt to get our dear Squirrel to sleep, when I received a text message from my Native downstairs. Yes, judge away, we sometimes send texts from within the same structure. If you knew our Squirrel and her sleeping habits, you wouldn’t want to disturb her either.

The text message said:

Fucking mouse is on the stove.
In the skillet.

And then, after some healthy back-and-forth about methods of demise:

IN THE SINK!

Again, I’m all for the survival of the mouse species in the harsh months, but a mouse so hubristic as to drink from my sink a couple of feet from a Native is a mouse who needs to go. And so a text was received that a trap was being set, and I forgot about it.

Until the next morning, when I went downstairs to make eggs and found a mouse trapped and freshly flattened in my cast-iron skillet. Just lying there, neck snapped, tongue outreached toward a crumb of the previous day’s toast*.

Digital voyeurs of Cooter Hollow, there were no eggs that morning, I assure you. And for a while, I was convinced there would be no eggs ever again, not in that pan. Even when my Native came downstairs, scoffed, emptied and washed the pan, and presented it, I thought: I have integrity! I cannot eat from such a vessel!

This lasted all of two days. Because I really don’t have integrity, or just because I needed the eggs.

*Okay, maybe hyperbolic. A little.

** Yes, that is a beautiful photo of our cabin in the middle of summer, and not a dead mouse in a pan, for reasons which should be obvious, sicko.

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All the Whey Home

January 3rd, 2013 § 1 Comment. Add one.

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Two days before closing camp for our big winter trip, I was bestowed an early Christmas gift in the form of a quart of whey, leftover from a cheese-making adventure. My friend said it was tasty when drunk straight-up with a little maple syrup, and I don’t know about you, but the mere thought of downing a quart of whey in two days, no matter how sugared, was met with the gastronomic equivalent of yelling fire in a theatre. Figuratively, anyway.

But the thought of wasting food is even worse, so I phoned my local resource for turning festering muck into products of some culinary merit, who pulled out the nearest reference book.

“Whey lemonade?” she suggested.

Lemonade? Lemonade? I prefer limes to lemon, and don’t know of any recipe for whey tequila. I had her read on.

“There is a whey cheese that seems easy enough. Gee jee toast? I’ve never heard if it.”

Gjetost. Gjetost! Do you know this stuff? We call it Candy Cheese around these parts, softish and a cool brown color and priced roughly at $750 an ounce, give or take a few hundred bucks. Gjetost? Suddenly the whey is a Christmas miracle.

I asked my favorite cheese maker, Google, for more information, and came across a few recipes that looked promising. With the gist of things in mind, I dumped the whey in a sauce pot and got started, and with a nice puck of the good stuff in front of me, I present

The Mostly Unabridged Guide to Gjetost-Making, or, What To Do With All This Whey

1. Dump the whey in a saucepan and get it boiling.
2. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer. Leave uncovered. Or, cover it, then uncover it when it boiled out all over the place, if you need an excuse to clean your stove.
3. Nurse your baby Squirrel, wash the dishes, make raspberries at your Squirrel, do the crossword, and cut your fingernails, all the while stirring your whey every half hour or so. My one quart took about 6 hours to really caramelize.
4. When it starts to thicken up, grab a whisk and give it hell. This is where other recipes call for food processors and warn of crystallization, but I just kept it steadily whisking, and all was okay. Plus, a whisk is easier to lick and clean than your food processor.
5. People eat the stuff at many viscosities, from that of a pasta sauce to that of a hard cheese. So do what you will. I whisked mine until it took 10 seconds or more for the whisk’s trails to disappear, which, when cool, hardened to the semi-hard (think Swiss cheese) consistency I find in stores.
6. Cool it quickly! Really. Stop reading and cool it. You should have read this in advance anyway– you had hours! I poured mine into a mold then plunged in an icy water bath, and it set up perfectly. But I’ve read horror stories suggesting that things get tricky if you move too slowly here.
7. Never again wonder what to do when someone plies you with such a lovely gift.
8. Try not to get too fat.

Mine didn’t get too dark in color– maybe because it was cow’s milk, or a couple of days old? The flavor was exactly right, and I don’t get hung up on looks.

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It’s Raining Men

November 29th, 2012 § 2 Comments. Add one.

The first year we were here, early in winter, I lost my phone. We’d just returned home for the evening that night and I, certain that I’d dropped it on the mile-long trail between camp and the Jeep, took My Native’s phone and a headlight, and traced and retraced my steps while calling and re-calling the phone with an ear to the wind.

I gave it up for lost, bought a new phone, and forgot about it. Then, that spring, while the snow was melting, My Native went outside to empty the ash bucket from the woodstove, where he noticed the unmistakable glint of an iphone screen. I had lost it while squatting to relieve my bladder, where it had fallen from the back pocket of my jeans.

It had — incredibly — worked when we plugged it in. It was a little warped, and the battery didn’t hold up so well, but after a winter covered in snow, urine, and ash, it worked. There are some powerful product testaments, but I don’t know that Apple Computer is ready for “I pissed on my phone all winter and it still worked!”

It should suffice to say that I’ve been assiduous about checking my pockets from there on, and between squatting in the woods and general city dwelling, am generally rigorous about phone and wallet.

Until a few days ago, when I discovered my wallet missing. I’d recalled using it that day and hadn’t left the house other than to walk the trail down the hill to visit a neighbor, so I once again assumed it was lost on the trail, which is now pervaded by leaves and a dusting of snow. The wallet, of course, is a perfect camouflage against the ground, and the snow has been falling, not much, but enough every day, so after a few treks, I’d considered it a lost cause.

Then I looked down when squatting for a pee this afternoon.

Fortunately, if my olfactories are to be trusted, it has been out of the direct stream. Meanwhile, it’s time to wear jeans with zippable pockets. It could be worse, I suppose. It could have landed in the outhouse.

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