This is the first weekend that I've had no plans since I've bought this house. It's a weekend of nothing special, piddling around, rearranging stuff, and small painting and repair projects. Knocking down the list of niggling items and getting comfortable in my space. You see, 3 weeks after I moved in (if putting a mattress on the floor can be called moving in), I got into the car accident. Then 3 weeks after the car accident I met NM, and we did stuff on weekends until recently. And when I was with NM, I had no desire to organize the pantry, or scrub dog pee off the basement floor, or fix the kitchen cabinet door that won't stay closed.
Yesterday I fixed the cabinet door and painted a bench, and set up the hammock on the porch. This is in an unheated part of the house, but it will be toasty warm this afternoon after the sun's been warming the space up all day.
I've had some time to think since NM's been gone. About patterns in my life and being mostly alone for the last 12+ years after my divorce. About how I've been happiest when I've had friends and how hard I worked up on the mountain to accomplish the goat-y goal, but didn't invest the time to make friends. I invested time to find a partner too, and was unsuccessful at that as well.
So here I am, half an hour closer to the world, coming out of the hardest winter since my first winter on the mountain 2 years ago and thinking about what to focus on this year. I'm not going to plant a garden this year. I'm going to watch what the place wants, and hit it hard next year. I'm not going to work so hard at finding a partner. I'm going to take all that energy I spent and put it into ... taking it easy. Getting comfortable with those assholes at the fire department. More and more of them are being nicer every week. Good thing I can be persistent. Taking the dog for walks. Finding people to relate to, and turning those into relationships that support and nourish my soul.
It's tremendously freeing to know that I'm not going to do any big projects this year except the Make Friends project. And all I have to do for that one is allocate my time to doing outside-in-the-world-with-people things that I like doing, and be myself. (It's telling that I have to give myself permission to relax and make it a project, isn't it?)
The only other thing I have to get done is actually move my stuff from the other house to this one. It's been on the market for 4 months now (here's the listing, probably safer to post now that I don't live there any more) and not a single person has been to see it. Two folks almost walked through it, but decided that it was too far away. I lowered the price two weeks ago and it hasn't made a difference. I'll probably lower the price again, and then just rent it out if there's still no interest. I've already found a property management company who can deal with finding and managing a tenant (and fixing maintenance issues), so it won't be a big deal when I make that decision. I'm kindof in limbo here though, as long as most of my furniture is still there. No matter. That decision will wait. Time to take it easy!
I've done a bunch of homestead-y things in the last week or so. Most of them are firsts, or first-time variants. Some of it isn't. I made venison jerky, which is drying in the dehydrator now. I know that will taste good.
I made cheddar cheese with 2 of the 4 gallons of raw milk. It seemed to go well, but the cheese is aging now in a "cave" (a plastic tote with water, to raise the humidity level) for at least 3 months before it can be tasted. I've never made cheddar before. The parts of the cheesemaking process that I've done before went well, but the "cheddaring" part was new to me, so I'm not sure if I did it right.
With another gallon, I made mozzarella cheese the long way. I've made mozzarella a few times the short way, with varying success. It's tasted OK, but wouldn't hold it's shape. I don't think this round was a success. It holds it's shape just fine, but is harder than I wanted, and doesn't tase very good. Mozzarella cheese freezes well, so it's off to the freezer with these guys.
With the last portion of the raw milk, I made yogurt. Not a success. It was my first time making yogurt, and although I pasteurized it, I didn't make any other allowances for using raw milk. After culturing overnight, the "yogurt" was still runny like milk, so I dumped it out and tried again with store-boughten whole milk mixed with cream. This super fatty, creamy stuff turned into great yogurt, and I've had some yummy smoothies in the last few days. I'll happily try this again, but the other parts of cheesemaking I'm not so sure about. Both the cheddar and the mozzarella consumed most of a day. It's tough to rationalize spending so much time on something that can be easily bought at the grocery store or farmer's market (and tastes better). Better to spend time making cheese (or yogurt) that is hard to find, and spend my precious little free time on other pursuits.
Take yogurt. The grocery stores I frequent don't seem to sell whole milk yogurt in anything other than Plain. It apparently takes space away from the sugary, low fat yogurt that fills the shelves. Extra fat, creamy yogurt doesn't exist in the store. Yogurt was easy to make, so I can make exactly what I want and skip the grocery store for that item.
NM and I are taking a "break," which may or may not ever end. He's 8 months off the end of his marriage, and it was too soon for him. We talked about that fairly extensively at the beginning, and he thought it would be OK. I'm an optimist and I hoped it would be OK, but the cliche about it being a bad idea to date someone soon after the end of a long relationship is a cliche because it's so often true. I'm sad, but not heartbroken, and not looking forward to jumping back into the casual dating scene. But this is another area where I must try, try again. This time I'm going to take my time, be less single-minded about it and try to have more fun. It's possible that NM and I might get back together, but our agreement is that I'm not going to wait around. Spring is coming and while I'm sad, it's hard not to feel a little joy when the sun shines. It's been too long waiting for the sun to not enjoy it when it comes.
It snuck up on me, Desmond's last day. He was fine in the morning and at dinner time, but when I got home from NM's house, he couldn't put weight on one of his front legs. I felt it up and down and nothing made him wince. I thought it would get better, like so many other times, but overnight he developed a fever and the shakes, and whined from pain, and couldn't get up at all. I gave him a painkiller, and then another one an hour later and when morning came I made the appointment.
I wasn't this prepared last April, when Desmond had his last health emergency. I ran him to the vet for blood tests and xrays and poking and prodding and a very expensive operation to remove a cancerous spleen. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to this old dog and spent a LOT more money than I could afford just to buy more time. I swore I wouldn't let feelings of guilt keep Desmond alive when/if it was time for him to go and prayed to be able to see when it was time.
So I watched over the months as Desmond became less able to navigate the two steps into my country house. Started to soak his food when the dry foot hurt his teeth. Added canned food when the wet/dry food didn't taste good enough. Picked him up when he fell in the snow and cleaned up after him when he pooped and peed inside. He was still happy to go outside and stand for a few minutes, and still had a healthy appetite. But somehow I knew that last night was different, and it was time to let him go. I was prepared this time and in the end it wasn't as hard as I imagined. I'm sad because I miss him, but happy because he's running in heaven now, and all his pains are gone.
Funny how life goes in circles sometimes. When I moved to the city, I knew I wasn't going to lose lessons I learned in the hills, but I never thought about how things would evolve and circle back onto themselves. Here are two examples of homesteading skills I taught myself last year that I'm thankful I have.
A few months ago I made jerky with some venison NM brought over. It was such a hit that it's become a regular request. Here's the latest four pounds of venison on the way to the jerky marinade and dehydrator.
On our Saturday furniture-picking-up trip to Vermont we drove right past the dairy I bought raw milk from last year. I'd been thinking about making cheese, and couldn't resist the siren call of that raw milk. But first, a cheese press (my last one was utterly dependent on using a certain windowsill at a certain country house as the end of a lever). NM just happened to have some corian solid countertop material laying around. We did some cuttin' and some drillin' on Sunday, and ta daaah, a new cheese press. So here I am, (ahem) working from home while cultures ripen on the stove in front of me. In three months it'll be cheddar cheese!
Mom, dad, remember these glasses with the balls on the bottom? I love 'em so much I keep them out on the counter.