Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Dogs I Wasn't Supposed to See Again

When I came home from work yesterday, I had four-footed guests.  The neighbor came and got them about 10 minutes after I got home.

I was wondering why I saw tire tracks from my neighbor's house to my house yesterday morning (meaning she had come up to my house while I was gone Tuesday evening).  I'm guessing her dogs had come to visit Tuesday, and she retrieved them.  So last  night makes the second time they've been to my place, that I know of, since the court order saying she had to keep them on her property.

It's hard to describe how annoyed and powerless this makes me feel.  I knew that this whole thing wasn't over, but it's been 6 weeks, so I was hoping it was.

On another note, I'm close to cancelling my gig.  I feel like I've given it a good shot, but overall, I'd say the impact on my life has been negative.  I'd been erring on the side of meeting more people (being less choosy), and have met a ton of people who are just plain bad fits with me, and communicated with a ton more.  Someone always gets kinda hurt, either me or the other person, and I don't like feeling that way and I don't want to make other people feel that way.  Match has a deal where if you don't find someone in 6 months, you get a free 6 months, so I was considering just hanging in there one more month to get the free six months.  But honestly, more of a bad thing does not turn it into a good thing.

The other dating site I'm on (OKCupid) is a less negative experience and I've met people that fit better with me.  But it's still sucking time and energy away from more positive things I could be doing.  I'm thinking of taking a complete break from the whole man-hunting thing for a while, and focusing on other things I want to spend my time on.  It's hard to argue (as we all do on these dating sites) that life is good and we're complete on our own, while spending so much time looking for a partner to come along and completely change things.  I think it's time to align my words ("I'm happy with my life") and my actions.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sunday Project

When I don't have a project planned for Sunday, I start the day with breakfast and the WSJ, and wait for inspiration to strike.  The other day, I found myself taking off the molding below the window sill to see what was underneath.  Good thing I did!  There's nothing underneath, besides shims.  Nothing stopping wind from coming into the house through the sizeable cracks.  Aah - so that's why I still felt a breeze, even though I had fancy plastic storm windows resting on the sills inside all the windows!  There's insulation in the walls (I checked that already), but these wide open gaps and spaces make it seem like there's no protection at all.

With a handy tube of silicone caulk, the gap was filled in no time.  I caulked a few windows, too, while I had the tube and the gun out.

See that piece of angled dowel?  That was one of last year's big improvements.  A piece of wood to hold the windows closed.  You laugh, but you shoulda been here with me watching the windows fall open over and over, my first winter here.  Especially when it was zero outside and wind was ripping plastic off the windows.  The plastic was inside.  Yup.  Not fun.

The propa fix is replacement windows, I'm guessing.  But it's lots of caulk that will get me through this winter.  And, guess what?  My company makes the stuff.  The tube you see in the window is one we couldn't sell because the label is crooked (or some other silly thing makes it unsell-able).  If our company was public, I'd  buy stock!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Malus Sargentii, Sargent's Crabapple

(Picture and text from the Royal Horticultural Society, here.)

Malus sargentii is a spreading shrub or tree with ovate or 3-lobed, dark green leaves, to 8cm (3in) long. In late spring it bears broad-petalled, saucer-shaped, pure white flowers profusely borne in umbels all over the bush. These are followed by dark red fruits up to 8mm (about 0.25in) across in late summer and autumn.

It is a native of Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, and perfectly hardy in this country.[the UK]

It was introduced from Japan in 1892 and named as a new species although it is closely related to M. toringo (syn. M. sieboldii), a similar but more tree-like species which has pale pink flowers and smaller fruits.

Two folks commented yesterday with thoughts about what the trees are - and they're good thoughts.  I had the same ideas myself, and set them aside earlier.  Last night I came across what I really think these trees are.  Everything fits.  The three-lobed leaves, the dark red, small fruit that stays on through winter, the 4-6 foot height.  The fact that pruning them didn't make it better.

Also - I've got another Japanese-sourced plant nearby, Pieris Japonica.  I wonder if a previous owner had a thing for Japanese plants.  I know *just* the person to ask; fire-department-doctor-guy who lived in my house 1985-1991.

Of course, I was certain last year when I said these were cherry trees.  Just take everything I am "certain" of with a grain of salt!

Monday, September 27, 2010


Amazing how these questions can be so consuming!  Don't ask me how much work I got done at work today.

Now I think they're crabapple trees, not cherry trees.  Kinda fits with the ripening timeframe.  They're not wild, unless wild crabapples plant themselves in a straight line about 10 feet apart from each other.  That's as far as I'm gonna go on these trees, too many crabapple variants make a more solid identification of these unlikely.

Blossoms opening, Spring, 2009

Identifying the Cherry Trees

Two commenters to my last post gently pointed out that cherry season is long gone, which I think is hilarious!  Of course!  I knew cherry season was, like 6 weeks ago because I have some cherry ice cream in my freezer that I made with fresh cherries from a farm stand.  That was early August.  What I was doing is ignoring evidence that doesn't fit with my worldview that these are cherry trees.  Not on purpose.  I really never made the connection.

So it's back to trying to figure out what these trees are if they're not cherries.

Two years ago when I first saw this house, I took pictures of some trees in the yard.  Not knowing what the fruit was, I held off on tasting it. 

Mid-September 2008
Then last summer, I tried to identify the trees and decided they were Northstar cherry trees.  I wrote blog posts about not knowing here, and then deciding here. I posted a picture of my lawnmower in front of two of the trees. This area is much tamer now than it was last summer.

June, 2009

Here's what the fruit looks like on the outside and the inside.  They largest are about 1 cm diameter (yes, I know that's very small for cherries.  I just thought my soil was inhospitable. Yup, that's me, ignoring facts.)

Here's what the leaves look like. They have the pinnate, serrated leaves as expected, but many leaves are lobed.
So, um, if anyone knows what this is, I'd love to be enlightened.  I've got 2 cups of the berries in the house and I'm not entirely sure what to do with them!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cherry Time

I've been running around so much, I almost missed cherry season.  Last year they tasted like nothing and were mealy.  This year they're still mealy, but definitely taste like pie cherries!  They're still small, too.  I  picked a bowl-ful, will pit them and decide what to do with them.  I could make 1/3 of a pie!

(this space is for the picture I can't upload.  Blogger has changed picture uploading and it doesn't work.)

Deciding what to do with the cherries reminds me that wise people advise to preserve stuff that you eat.  Interesting to remember this as three flavors of home-made ice cream sit in the freezer.  I was so excited to make yummy ice cream when it was hot that I forgot I'm not much of an ice cream eater. I canned 6 pints of tomatoes earlier this week.   That's more than I use in a year.  I've got another basket full of tomatoes and am thinking of making salsa, which I use more than I use tomato sauce.  Now - what to do with those cherries??

[edit:  This is extremely weird. These cherries don't have pits.  They have seeds.  It's like the pit is 4 sections.  Is that even possible?  Are these maybe not cherries at all?  Maybe some kind of buckthorn?  Geez - I'm going to have to take and post pictures of these little trees all over again.]

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Festival Weekend

There's a bunch going on in the small city this weekend.  Last night was Troy Night Out and a football game between my local high school team and my boss's son's team.  Today is the Lark Street Festival, an ethnic festival in Troy's Little Italy, and a Greek festival at a Greek church somewhere.  This is on top of a balloon festival in Glens Falls and a ton of other stuff.

I haven't gone to any of it ... yet.  I was going to come home, feed the beasts and head out last night, but I was tired when I came home after a long week of running around.  And here I am, still tired late this morning.  I enjoy street festivals, but it's hard to justify 45 minutes each way of driving when there's nobody to meet at the other end.  Ah well - to force myself to get off my substantial duff I have to give myself an assigment.  Go downtown and buy myself a gyro for dinner.  I'll let you know how it goes.

My computer essploded the other day.  Actually, it kind of dribbled.  First one screw loosened and fell out, then two others.  I'd been pretty happy with Dell for the last 15 years or so, and had bought all my computers and laptops from them (and recommended same to family).  But this last one, bought in Jan 2009 was step change worse than earlier ones, confirmed by WSJ articles about Dell quality degrading.  Now I'm back to my old laptop - the one that I've had since 2006 - the one that went across the country twice and around the world with me.  Still works fine, even though the comma key doesn't work and the space key works too much. Not sure if I'm going to do nothing, repair the new one, or buy a cheap netbook, but I do know I'm moving away from Dell.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Following Directions

The comments on my last post (and an email - thanks sis) helped me realize that the temperatures in the canning directions are more vague suggestions than they are iron-clad rules.  In this, as with every single other thing ... ever, I have to wobble unsteadily through the first few times before becoming sure-footed.  Ya never know until afterwards, that when the instructions say "heat to 180 degrees," it really means "make it hot but not boiling."

Making cheese, on the other hand - when the directions say warm to 90 degrees, they mean 90.  Not 95.  not 85.

I could think of many, many other examples of directions that clearly state what you have to do without mentioning that things will work out fine if you don't really follow directions.  [Actually, my brain is full right now and I can't think of any examples. I have to turn my head sideways and shake some stuff out to make space in my head.]  The key for me has been just to struggle through something new - following written or video instructions.  The clearer the better.  When I screw it up, I write a post about it here and learn what I did wrong.  It's been pretty consistent - and frequent!

This year's firsts:
- hard cider
- cheese
- chickens
- goats
- garden and starting from seeds
- firefighter stuff
- lost cat, lost goats
- gun
- grill
- canning

How many of you do so many brand new-to-you things in a year?  It boggles the mind now that I look at the list and I better understand why I'm weary of firsts these last few weeks.

I've recently re-discovered some stuff I used to enjoy.  City stuff.  I see now that part of the reason is that the city stuff is familiar and comfortable for me and I'm not trying to figure everything out.  By myself.  I'm very happy to have the country to come home to, but the car is racking up miles fast!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

I Will be Bad At This

The water should be boiling NOW as I write this, or otherwise there won't be enough time to process these for 40 minutes before I have to leave.

My first attempt at canning.  I started these on Monday and have been boiling water off as I got a chance until this morning.  The tomato-y goodness is about half the volume it was when I started.  After putting the job off for weeks, it became obvious that I was going to have to do something, or miss it entirely.

Do not EVER expect an Industrial Engineer to be good at tasks requiring detail like bring 3 pots of water with different contents up to 180 degrees, etc, etc, etc.  I keep on wanting to make it more efficient!  I think efficiency is the enemy of things like canning and cheesemaking. 

Here's what this efficiency expert did.  Since I didn't have room on the stove for the tomatoes AND the three pots, I took the tomatoes off.  When all the pots were the same temperature, I put the food in the jars and went forward.  However - the temperature was 160 degrees, not 180 degrees as all the references say it should be.  I would have had to wait who knows how much longer if I waited until everything was at 180 degrees.  That is SO not efficient.  I hope I'm not going to kill anyone because I cut that corner!

PS - I had a job as a lab technician once, when I was getting my ChemE degree.  The job was to run equipment to determine the concentrations of stuff in other stuff.  Every step has to be done perfectly, all the equipment and glassware has to be cleaned perfectly or the measurements will be inaccurate.  Good lab tech = bad Industrial Engineer.  Good Industrial Engineer = bad lab tech.  I learned this in about 1991 - so I've known for years that I'll be bad at detailed chores where every step has to be done perfectly.

PPS - Not one to miss an opportunity to do an engineer-y thing, I checked the thermometer after the water started to boil.  Either my water boils at 205 degrees, or the thermometer is off.  A distressing way to start the day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sparky and the Apple Basket

What circuit is hardwired in a cat that makes them look at a new thing and think, "This will be a good place to sleep."

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Grill and the Dog

I never managed to get myself a grill.  Grilling is one of those things that I've felt was more of a man's thing and so I haven't had one (a grill or a man).  I considered buying one (a grill) last summer, but hemmed and hawed and eventually decided against spending the money.

A few weeks ago, I helped some of the fire people move.  They had an extra grill that they were going to get rid of, and so here I am with a free grill, grilling hamburgers, watched over carefully by one old dog.  It didn't seem to make sense to only grill what I would eat (one burger), so I cooked them all up.

The other thing I've never had before is a propane tank to fuel a grill.  Purchasing the tank was yet another in a long line of firsts for me, where I do something kinda wrong before I get it right.  I walked into the hardware store and said, "I need a propane tank."  (pretty straightforward, huh?)  The lady there assumed that I needed a tank filled, so sent me out to the filling station to meet the guy.  Then I had to come back into the store, start all over again with the lady, buy a tank, wait for them to find a tank, they can't find a tank and have to refund my money, then they find a rental tank to loan me until they get tanks back in stock.  Good grief that was more painful than it needed to be.  It's getting old, this whole part where every single thing that I do is a first.  I'm not in the mood these days to be out of my element all the time and make so many beginner's mistakes.  (I think I'm grumpy because fall is coming...)

Desmond is slowing down pretty quickly.  I've started to feed him only soft food, and on a raised box so he doesn't have to bend down so far.  He slips and falls a lot, and doesn't get up as much anymore.  Now he often thinks about getting up and decides to stay where he fell.  There are two steps into the house from the front yard and our new routine is that when he wants to come in, he waits for me to go out and walk next to him so I can catch him if he falls on one of the steps.  He's not entirely continent.  He sometimes doesn't realize that he's pooping until it's too late. Often it's in his sleep or right after he gets up, so when I come home from work, I make sure we all stay outside until his system is clear.  He's still very interested in food though, as the picture shows.  His family may have had a grill in his previous life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The High, the Medium and the Low

You could fill a full-size shipping container with all the magazines I've subscribed to over the years.  Growing up was Smithsonian and National Geographic.  Later it was Glamour, Vogue, Dwell, and Metropolis.  Then all those plus W.  Then Newsweek and the New Yorker when I was hurting for culture in South Carolina.  For the dollar spent, magazines are far and away the cheapest way to get information.  As my attention span has gotten shorter making full-size books less interesting, magazines fit the bill there too.

It was a simple matter when I moved to the hills to find a few magazines to subscribe to.  I get Organic Gardening, Countryside, Hobby Farmer, and a few newspapery periodicals through NOFA, the Northeast Organic Farmer's Association.  I get Newsweek and the New Yorker weekly and the Wall Street Journal daily.  Plenty to read.  I recently realized that I don't really read the homesteady journals (let's call them the "high" because they reach to the highest part of why I'm here in the hills).  I flip through them and stack them. 

I do read the "medium" periodicals like Newsweek and the WSJ, and sometimes the New Yorker, if I have time.  But what I didn't have, until recently, was a "low" magazine.  That's the one that I'm embarrassed to tell people I subscribe to, but when it arrives I enjoy taking time out to read it cover to cover.  It's like candy.  I missed one of my old favorites, resubscribed, and now I've got the whole spectrum covered, from high to low.

What's the old favorite?  It's Glamour magazine.  Not brag-worthy, I know, for a wanna-be homesteader.  But I do enjoy it!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Car = Life

Two years ago today, I was driving across the country, from Corvallis, Oregon to Albany, New York.  It took me 8 days to go the ~3000 miles, from about the 10th of September to the 19th.  Slow because I stopped in Colorado and Cleveland to visit with friends.  Plus, since my car doesn't have cruise control, anything more than about 500 miles a day was just painful.  I hadn't started my job, hadn't seen the property that is my house, didn't have dogs, cats or chickens.  Two years ago I was a city person.

One month ago, tomorrow, the goats died.  It seems longer ago than that.

Over the year and a half-ish that I've been blogging, I've shown pictures of various things in the back of my car.  Once it was a spinning wheel, once it was a chainsaw.  A few times it was flowers on their way to work.  I won't go as far as to say that a snapshot of the back of my car is like a snapshot of my life at that point, but sometimes it seems that way.

Here's what's in the back of my car now.

Monday night we practiced getting in and out of our gear in less than a minute.  Into the gear, check it, get out of the gear.  In, check, out.  In, check, out.  Later, we'll add the SCBA to that and have 90 seconds to get suited up.  Later still, we'll run an obstacle course suited up and on air to see how long the tanks last.  Class, practice, read, study, drill.  Repeat.  This picture accurately depicts my life right now! (outside of the 11 hours a day that is work and commuting)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What I'll Do to Avoid Going to Work

As a morning person, my mind is sharper at 7:30 am than it is at 7:30 pm.  In the morning I'm curious, interested, engaged, alive, awake, etc.  All the wonderful things.  In the evening, I'm done, mush, not there, blank, etc.

So there I was this morning, wondering again, what kind of apple trees do I have?  I went to four apple trees around the house and picked one apple from each.  The top right, dark red apple is an excellent cooker, but sometimes a little too tart to eat. This is the apple I cooked with on Sunday. The top left are excellent eating apples, but turn mushy and bland when cooked, from an experiment I ran last year.  The lower right tastes like Golden Delicious and the lower left is totally unknown.

Websites on apple varieties note the overcolor of the apple, the undercolor (greenish or yellowish), the streakiness and splotchiness, spots and their color, color of the flesh, crunchiness, smell and a few other things to identify apples.  The top right apple is definitely different from the top left.  The top right apple is darker and more solid in color than the top left, which is streaky, blotchy red on top of greenish yellow.

The two left apples look like McIntosh but act like something else.  The upper right looks like something else, but acts like McIntosh.  I think the lower right is Golden Delicious. One of the differentiators that I read about yesterday is that some apples darken faster than others when cut.  I can't help it!  I'm an engineer.  I HAD to cut those apples open and see what happened.

So there I was this morning, sitting in front of four cut apples, waiting for them to darken.  Kinda like watching paint dry!  How's that for avoiding work?

The Golden Delicious began to darken immediately.  The dark red one began to darken after a few minutes.  But the other two apples did not darken much in ten minutes.  I wanted to extend the experiment, but since I get paid to do other things, I had to regretfully leave the apples behind.  Now I have more data to add to the, "what kind of apples do I have," question.  And as you may have guessed, I'm all about data!

One thing I know about cut apples though, is how fragrant they get when left out - so these went in a plastic bag and into the trash on my way out the door.

Did I resolve anything about my apples?  Not really.  I'll continue calling them the cooking apple tree and the eating apple tree.

I didn't pick any apples from the tree I've been calling the Grandpa tree.  It's a huge, gnarled old tree that didn't bear last year.  The trunk is 18 inches in diameter at chest height.  Huge for an apple tree. This year it bore ONE apple.  From the looks of the apple,  I'm guessing it's golden.  Plus, the Golden Delicious tree is about 50 feet away from this tree, the Grandpa tree might be the daddy of the Golden Delicious tree.  Isn't detective work cool?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sunday was Apple Day

Many Sundays I start the day unsure of where the day will take me.  I eat breakfast, push through the last of last week's Wall Street Journals, piss around a bit.  Then something seizes me and I'm off on a project.  I had multiple options yesterday.  Finish painting the woodshed.  Move wood into the woodshed.  Caulk the shedbarn. Take out and re-place the window in the sliding shed door, caulk and re-paint it.  Reglaze windows on the house.  Start tightening up the house for winter.  But first, since it was cool, I put dough materials into the breadmaker and chose a recipe for apple breakfast cake.  While the dough percolated, I moved some wood into the woodshed and finished cutting the grass.

I went out to pick up fallen apples from the cooking apple tree, brought them in and peeled one and had a piece.  I don't remember ever tasting a better apple. A sweet, complex flavor with a teeny bit of tartness at the end.  I made the bread filling with the apples, some raisins, brown sugar, nutmeg and ginger (instead of the cardamom the recipe called for that I don't have).  It was heavenly.  And that's when yesterday's project seized me.

I picked (up) more apples and made an apple pie.  Then I picked more apples and made an apple-sausage-cheese pie on phyllo dough because I ran out of pie crusts.  Then I ran out of time.  Peeling and cutting away bad parts is pretty time consuming!  I'm really thankful for the cold, spitty day that was yesterday, because now I have enough food put away to last me the rest of the week.  I'll need it too - fire stuff will consume most weekday evenings this week, and all day Saturday. 

I went on my first call over the weekend!  A 2am EMS call where I sped down to the station, rode the ambulance, and then stood around in the background as about 5 people took care of the patient. A frequent flier who had stabbed herself on purpose while drunk.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ten Pounds

I got on the scale yesterday and found out that I've lost ten pounds in the last few months.  I'm happy about that, but since this is the ten pounds that I'd gained in the past 2 years, I'm now only coming off of my highest weight ever, 50 pounds higher than it was 5 years ago.  I've struggled with weight my entire adult life and have lost a whole me (in pieces, through sheer willpower and awfullness) and then gained me back.  The times when I've successfully lost weight (if keeping it off for a year can be counted as successful), the shift is not so much in what I eat or how I exercise - it's in my psyche.  Some mysterious internal thing changes and I no longer want to use starchy food to comfort myself, and no longer stuff myself at every opportunity.  When I think about dieting, I don't think about calories or carbs (much).  I think about having happy things in my life.  I do things that make me happy.  I enjoy myself and the weight melts off.  For me, weight is a visible indicator of my state of mind.

I've kind of thrown away (for now at least) the endless lists and the continual focus I've kept about what I need to do to accomplish my goals.  The house and homestead aren't going to fall apart if I piss around and do fun things for a few months.  I've given myself permission to stop trying to accomplish something Every. Single. Waking minute of my life, and enjoy the things in my life that make me happy.  It feels good and my body thinks so, too.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Rafter of Turkeys

I had to look up the name for a group of turkeys.  If it had been a group of crows, I would have known what to call them.  A murder!  But then, I wouldn't have taken pictures of a group of crows.

They conveniently placed themselves on the far side of some bushes.  I stepped outside with the camera to get a closer look and they quickly moved on, melting into the trees on the far side of the road.

Five minutes later it was time to leave for work and I did the normal routine of giving the dogs a treat on the porch, to get them outside.  Maggie instantly knew there was somthing interesting nearby, even though the birds had gone.  Anything past the yellow flags is outside her fence and she is not happy, but respects that.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Back to School

Firefighter training started last night.  It's a 90-hour class that will be finished before Thanksgiving.  If I remember right, from my college days, 90 hours is two college courses-worth that we will finish in 10 weeks - meaning 9 hours a week of classes.  Many weeks is two evenings of class.  Several Saturdays will disappear this fall for training.  Lunchtime errands will disappear to homework.  In fact, it's looking like this entire fall will disappear in a blur of fire training.

The class has 32 people, of which 6 are women.  The 26 guys look like their average age is about 14.  Seriously.  The instructor asked how many of us were over 21 and it wasn't many!  I'm still looking forward to it.

Gotta go!  I have homework to do before tonight's class.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Oh Fig!

I went out this morning to feed the chickens and noticed this.  One of the figs on my tiny fig tree has turned brown-ish!  The entire tree is about 1 foot tall.  If every single fig ripens, I'll have, oh, maybe 6 figs.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fake it Till You Make it

It works!  Mostly.  I used to be pretty uncomfortable teaching, but would fake being comfortable, calm, in control.  Eventually it would happen.  You can fake being happy.  Smile, laugh.  Act happy.  You'd be surprised at how often you eventually end up being happy. Sometimes you can fake being a homesteader.  Eventually you make it. 

But sometimes faking it just doesn't work.  Lately I've been going through the motions of some homestead-y stuff.  Last week when it was still 1000 degrees outside and a million percent humidity (hottest summer on record in these parts!), I tried to can tomatoes.  I started to cook the tomatoes down, but then decided it was too hot and put the whole pot into the fridge.  There the pot sat until yesterday when I needed the pot to make the mozzarella cheese I've been thinking about making all summer.

I wanted to try Italian style mozzarella cheese which is much more lengthy and difficult than American style mozzarella cheese (and better tasting).  When I finally got around to reading the directions again, I realized that it's a two-day process.  Good thing I waited until the last day of a 3-day weekend to read the instructions!  So I decided to make American style mozz cheese, but then screwed that up too.  I let the temperature get too high, and was lazy about getting the temperature back down before adding citric acid.  The milk got really clumpy and stringy before I added the rennet, and the curd never formed where I could get a clean break.  I didn't know what I had done wrong, I read and read online but could never quite figure out what I did wrong or if the cheese was rescue-able.  I thought I had over-acidified the milk, but the litmus paper said No.  Other options are bacteria in the raw milk, or possibly the milk was too hot.  Since I didn't know what the problem was, I didn't try to rescue the cheese.  Here are the non-curds.

Boy are the chickens happy about that!  The cheese non-curd AND the tomato stuff.

I couldn't fake those two things.  My mind had to be on the subject at hand.  I had to be fully present, and I just ... wasn't.

That's why I did so much of the one task I don't need to be present for.  I moved wood into the really nice looking new woodshed!  I also did a bit of spinning, which is also tolerant of me being not focused.

The fire department's gotten 3 calls since Friday morning, which is unusual.  I missed the Friday morning call because the radio didn't work and my phone ringer was off.  (Rats!  It was a structure fire we were third on!)  I couldn't go on the Saturday night call because I couldn't keep Percy contained - it took him a whole minute to push the shed window open and jump out.  So when the radio went off on Monday morning for a structure fire, flames through the roof with our station as primary, I was ready. I threw half-eaten eggs and bacon in the fridge and zoomed to the station.  I was pulling on my gear, the door was opening for the first truck to roll out as people ran in - and then it was called in as a controlled burn (flames higher than a roof).  The exhale from all 5-6 of us was audible. We hung around for 10-15 minutes to chat and then filtered home, me to some cold breakfast.  Oh, the adrenaline!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Metal or Shingle? Shingle or Metal?

I realized about two months ago that I'll have to have the roof on the house replaced this year instead of next year as I had hoped.  (Pretty much right after I spent my entire tax return on a barn/shed for the goats I don't have anymore.)  My plan was to have this 50-year-old standing seam metal roof replaced with another standing seam metal roof.  Of this I was absolutely certain.  It didn't matter that a metal roof costs at least twice as much as a shingle roof, or more.  I thought the house deserved a metal roof and I didn't ever want to worry about replacing the roof again as long as I live.

A few people called me an idiot but I ignored them.  I can be stubborn that way.

But now I wonder.  There's not much in this house that's original or architecturally relevant, why should I be a stickler about the roof?  It would be really helpful to not spend so much money on the roof, money I don't have.  The cost isn't just for the roof - as with most things on this house, the under part isn't good either, so I'll have to get that done, too.

So, what do you think?  Should I stick with my original plan and go with a metal roof, or should I be financially smarter and go with a shingle roof instead?  What have I not thought of?

PS.  The black truck in the lower left of the picture is full of wood.  After I took Percy back, I started moving wood down from the hill into the woodshed.  It's going slowly, but you'll have that with only one person doing the work.  I just brought down the third truckload of wood, and almost a cord of it is stacked in the shed.  I want to have 3 cords of seasoned wood in the shed by the time it gets cold and I won't know how much I've got until I stack it.  I suspect I'll have to buy one more cord, but we'll see.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Back to Two

I just hit send on the email telling the rescue organization that I'll be bringing Percy back.  I wasn't looking forward to picking him up yesterday.  I think something's changed and I really don't want a third dog any more.  I just had to go through the exercise with Bo and Percy before I realized it. 

Actually, ever since the goats died, a few things have changed that I didn't really realize.  I began to get it when I looked at the prospect of a long weekend alone on the mountain, something that would have thrilled me before.  I don't want to be alone.  I normally thoroughly enjoy solitude, but now something's different.  I'm not entirely sure what's going on, but I don't feel like examining it right now and since I'm the ruler in my world, I say I don't have to.

Firefighter stuff can be as time-consuming as I want it to be.  I helped someone move yesterday and that took most of the day, before picking up Percy.  Thankfully I'm near the city and there's plenty of stuff going on there.  Maybe this feeling of wanting to be around people will go away and maybe it won't.  It's fine either way.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Heere's Percy

Percy is my latest attempt to get a playmate for Maggie.  This dog is worse than the last one.  In constant motion, destructive, escape artist.  Puppy stuff, except he's probably 80 pounds.  I've had him for about 3 hours and I'm plotting how soon I can give him back.  He's probably trainable - he didn't know his name 3 hours ago and he's got that now.  I just don't know if I'm willing to be that person who's life and possessions are turned upside down for some unknown period of time.  When firefighter training starts next week, I'll be away from the house at least 2 evenings a week, meaning I won't be able to be home as much as I think this dog needs.  Am I talking myself out of this dog?  Yes.  I'm beginning to think that deep down inside I don't really want a third dog.  Definitely not a rescue dog and probably not a puppy.

I'm not on a date tonight with Mr Vermont because we ended up getting together last night.  Much better than I expected, one of the best first dates ever, but not likely to turn into anything.  I'm OK with that; 90 minutes of driving to see someone is too much for me.  It gives me hope that there are people out there who are fun to talk to and spend time with.  I'm still seriously thinking of taking a break from internet dating - thinking about how much time spent on this feels like work and not fun and how much of my life is consumed by things I don't enjoy.  I really want to think about getting more fun in my life and less work.

Friday, September 3, 2010

September Garden and a Rant

Next year I'll stake the tomatoes better.  They all fell down.  Next year I'll keep better track of where I put what, because outside of the cherry tomatoes, I have no idea what's where.  The pepper plants on the end are making new blossoms.  They haven't made a single pepper all year - maybe now's the time.  Only a few of the basil plants flourished.  Next year I'll put all the basil together and keep them farther away from the tomato plants, which fell on them.

A few weeks ago I pulled out all the zucchini plants except one, and that one is bravely making more stuff.  Maybe I'll get a few more zukes yet!

I'm sitting here in a bad mood.  I'm supposed to meet someone from match later this afternoon and I'm NOT looking forward to it.  I originally refused to meet with him, making the excuse that he's too far (true - he's an hour and a half away), but really it's because he can't write a coherent sentence, and our phone conversation wasn't good either.  But last weekend I changed my mind and decided to give him a chance - why?  He's from a wealthy family, and if it clicked, it could be really cool.  The problem is - I'm pretty sure it won't click (keep an open mind, keep an open mind, ommm).  It's too late to change my mind back - I have to meet him.  Then I'm going to have to be explicit and firm if I don't want to see him again and feelings could be hurt. I should have just left it at not meeting him, but I've been doubting some of my decisions, thinking I'm being too hard on folks.  Grr.

And then there's the guy I'm supposed to meet tomorrow night.  I was really looking forward to meeting him last week.  He said he'd call and firm up plans, but he didn't.  Then he postponed on the morning of the day we were supposed to meet.  We spoke on the phone earlier this week, and again said he'd call during the week to firm up plans - except he hasn't yet.    I think I can see the end of this one as well.  The only question is whether it will end before we even meet.  If he gives me the courtesy of giving me notice when he postpones again (as I expect), I can get the new rescue dog on trial a day early (more later on this).  I'll be pretty annoyed if our date day and time passes with no contact from him (which I also halfway expect).  Grr.

And then there's the guy I met on Tuesday for lunch.  His profile picture was so fuzzy, I had no idea what he looked like.  He's several inches shorter than his profile says, shorter than me.  I'm not initially attracted to him.  But he writes well, he listens well, he makes his own living and we had a good conversation that day.  Out of the three current prospects, he's the most likely.  I said I'd see him again, but my gut doesn't say, "soon as possible."  My gut says, "sometime next week if something better doesn't come along"  Grr.

Here's what's frustrating about all this.  Labor Day weekend last year, I was talking to someone I met on line and liked that didn't turn out.  Here it is a whole year later and I'm in exactly the same place.  I'm getting discouraged again and I want to stop this time-consuming crap.  But there's a small part inside me that says, "the next guy you contact will be the one," and that keeps me going.  Grr.  I mean really.  Grr. It's cliche the part about "when you stop looking, that's when you stumble upon the one."  It didn't happen any of the other times I stopped looking over the last 12 years, I have no reason to expect it would happen this time either if I stopped.  I think I have better odds if I keep on looking.  The match membership's paid for another 3 months.  But really.  Grr.

[edit:  I re-read what I wrote and the overwhelming thought comes to mind - Life's too short to waste so much time on something I don't enjoy.  I believe that worthwhile things are worth working for, but I also believe that something needs to change with me and internet dating, either my attitude, the amount of time I spend on it, or something else I haven't figured out yet.  Amen.]

Thursday, September 2, 2010

T G I S (Thank Goodness It's September!)

August was a terrible month.  It started fine.  I was happy about how the goats were coming along, and had spoken casually to a few folks about getting them a small, paid job.  I test-adopted a third dog as a playmate for Maggie.

In mid-August, my neighbor's dog killed both goats and a week later I went to court to ask a judge to make her keep her dogs on her property.  A few days later I gave the trial dog back to the rescue agency because it wouldn't leave my cat or my chickens alone, and wouldn't stay confined.

It seemed like the strong winds we had in mid-August had brought a malevolent force to these parts.  The neighbor had thrown a bunch of nasty statements my way and I began to wonder if there might have been some truth there.  I lost my feeling that my home was a refuge, felt besieged and un-nerved.  The moon went full and started to wane, but the silvery light felt evil instead of comforting as it normally feels.  Maggie did her normal nighttime barking, but it seemed she was barking against evil things instead of rabbits.  The neighbor did target practice, the same as friends had suggested I do - letting people know that there's a gun here now.  I stopped sleeping well.  Sleep has always been one of my favorite things, so I felt the loss of it keenly.  I was glad to see September come.

And yesterday, while I stopped at the mailboxes on the way home, I chatted with the folks who live there.  The husband was the fourth person I went to on that awful night in my futile quest to have someone with a gun put my goats out of their misery.  Both husband and wife were there yesterday. I learned more things about my neighbor and her history on the street, and with that conversation I came back into the fold in the neighborhood, on this street.  It was a gift, that conversation.  I slept well last night.  Finally.

The sunrise this morning was not stunningly beautiful like some have been.  But it was pretty in a way that seems hopeful and nice.  It says, "September is here.  It's OK."

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Death by Powerpoint

In recent years I've managed to avoid daylong, Powerpointy meetings.  My boss thinks that I don't toot my own horn loud enough (um yeah - on purpose), so invited me to the CEO's meeting to present my in-progress projects.  Thankfully, I got there a few minutes late and all the seats at the table were taken.  Whew.  I got to sit in the corner and nobody saw my pained expression when multiple people ignored the agenda and went waay over schedule.  That's my boss to the right of the shot with his face in his hands.  I'm not the only one who's pained.

It's not all bad.  With the Powerpoint agony come tickets to a nice part of the Saratoga Racetrack for the afternoon.  Looks like the recession's lightened up a bit in these parts!