Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Weight Watchers' Update, or, Our Author Brags On Herself

This is what 25 pounds looks like.



Yes, those are two 10-pound bags and one 5-pound bag of flour I am holding. I was carrying around 25 extra pounds until this week, when I reached my 25-pounds-lost milestone. I wanted to see what that felt like. Imagine carrying that around all day. I WAS!

This is what 25 pounds looks like, when Weight Watchers' gives you your little keychain and charms for losing weight.



Remember what I looked like when I started?



Here's how that shirt fits now.



This pose was just for fun. I wanted to see how much room there was.



Here I am, ready to head to the grocery store to embarrass my daughter by making her take the 25-pounds-of-flour picture. That's probably good for some therapy down the road (for her.)




John, who joined WW about 7 weeks ago, just got home. Today was his weigh-in day. He lost another 3 pounds; he's up to 13 pounds lost.

Diet and exercise, folks. Diet and exercise.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend Update

Just wanted to let you all know that, yes, mulch was moved. I'm sure you lost sleep over that one!

Justice worked hard.



John was nice enough to help Justice with this project.



Big sister Joy snuck off to catch frogs. Girls.



And, in the end, my flower beds looked lovelier. So lovely I couldn't look at them, even to take pictures. John was amazed at my mulch-ordering abilities; the last shovelful that was needed to cover the flowerbed was the last shovelful he had left!

Cars can now park on the driveway. If future weekend plans come to fruition, they may be able to park in the garage. But I'm not holding my breath!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday!

The pigs have returned to the farm. They are sorted and organized, and in their new home; our Kenmore freezer. I'm sorry if that makes you squeamish. This won't help; the lambs are there, too.

Today we rearranged furniture...on the deck. The little people are learning about the movement of the sun north and south as the year goes by. Since our deck runs north and south, there are times when the furniture has to be on one side or the other in order to be in the shade of the umbrella. Fall is here. The sun is moving south, so the furniture had to move north.

We'll be moving mulch off of the driveway...finally. The main portion of it was moved in May, when we first received it. As the summer progressed and things got wetter and wetter, there weren't very many days when moving mulch was a good idea. It's been dry for a while (dry enough that part of a planter died when I forgot to water it) so mulch is moving today.

The JP4lings are here. One has quite the stomach flu, and has been subsisting on Pedialyte and sleep today. The other two made Cake in a Mug with Aunt Mary and will now be helping Grandpa with the mulch. Won't that be fun?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Change of Command

On Tuesday night, Cadet Lieutenant Ethan became Cadet Commander of McHenry County Composite Squadron, Civil Air Patrol. No, we're not proud. At all.


Ethan, far right



Receiving the squadron flag (and command) from Commander Kalemis.



Cadet Commander speaking to the squadron.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Happy, Happy Mommy!

Today I got my first e-mail from Matthew's Family Readiness Group that used the word REDEPLOYMENT. For those non-military types, redeployment means COMING HOME.

Happy, Happy Mommy!

There's no date for this; in fact, I know it's months away. But they used The Word.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Saturday Report

We left the farm today. We had places to be and people to see, so we left all our critters in the capable hands of...Jay. Those who know how much he LOVES animals (ahem) are rolling on the floor right now. The best was when he called to say that Junior had not finished his bucket of milk, looking for advice on what to do. "Well, sometimes," I said, "you have to put your fingers into the milk and let him suck on them. He'll pull milk in, and then you can usually drag your hand out." The silence on the other end of the phone was deafening.

We headed out today for a yearly tradition. Some people in this country congregate on the third Saturday in September for a cultic ritual involving Beer, Brats...and the Bride. We congregate in Virginia...in Ohio...in Nebraska...and in Illinois. We eat brats and drink beer. Some say we're nuts to drive 3 hours to sit with other nuts and watch a 21 year-old movie. But, it's "A classic fairy tale, with swordplay, giants, an evil prince, a beautiful princess, and yes, some kissing (as read by a kindly grandfather)." (Thanks, IMDB) It has a great gift for rhyme. And it ends with a miracle. Why wouldn't we drive?


We decided today that license plates reading TWU WUV would be PERFECT. Thanks to John and Jenny for hosting!

Friday, September 19, 2008

My Muse Has Left Me

I'm not sure I ever really had one, or if she was all that much useful inspiration, but she/he/it is gone. I am not feeling very inspired by much of anything.

Just in case you wondered.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Pantry Vomited

All over my kitchen.

I woke up Saturday and it was raining. I mentioned it earlier, but we had about 36 hours of downpour over the weekend. I think Hurricane Ike overdid it, if you ask me. We would occasionally have a break in the weather, for a hard drizzle, but downpour was the order of the day.

So, with all the rain I decided to clean the pantry. I had been wondering for a while what was lurking in the back, and I found out. I pulled things out and set them on counters. I tried to organize them into piles of similar foods, etc. But chaos soon ensued. The counters overran.






I thought it would stop, but it just kept coming.



So now it was empty.

In the last picture, you can see one of those cheezy stackable-bin things. It seemed like a good idea when I bought it, and it actually worked well for about ten years. But it was beginning to fall apart and I was just waiting for a rainy day to ask John to add another shelf to replace it. I wish I had thought to take a before picture. Here's an empty picture; will that work?



And now, the tidier, more organized pantry;



It actually makes me feel guilty. I threw away food this weekend; things I found that had expired. People are hungry...and I'm throwing away food. I complained about the work involved in cleaning out the pantry. I whined about having to lug things downstairs to my overflow pantry. Um...I have an overflow pantry. See what I mean? I feel guilty.

But our food is more organized and I can now figure out how to use it responsibly. That counts for something!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The March of the Piggies

Sunday was the big day, the pigs' appointed time to be taken to the next step in their journey. It started like any other day. Any other day when rain had fallen for about 36 hours and turned the pigpen and the approach to it into mud soup.



Since one of us tends to take such things calmly, and the other tends to panic, it did not surprise me to hear, shortly after lunch, "There is no way we can get those pigs into the trailer today." He was right. If we drove the trailer to the pigs, it would have been axle-deep in mud. If we tried to drive them to the trailer, well, a hog drive is not something I ever want to take part in. The image of chaos is just too much to bear.

Except now that I've experienced one.

John first called our friends, the Wilkes, and asked if they had a 4 wheel drive vehicle we could use to get the trailer in and out. No, we aren't REAL farmers, in that we don't have one of our own. We could pull the trailer to the processor, but we needed help in getting the trailer past the mud. Not only did they have a 4 wheel drive, but they were taking their pigs to the same processor that day, and offered to come by and help us load ours.

John's second idea, which involved a contraption he built, sounded shaky. Ethan thought so, too, as John explained it to him.



Can't you just see, in the set of those 18 year-old shoulders, that his brain is saying, "I wonder if my dad has lost his mind?"

But faith in Dad returned as he heard Dad explain the plan to the Wilkes, and they agreed that it made sense. (Note the water in front of the barn. The approach to the hog pen is just to the left of that white tent/building, where we store hay. A truck/trailer was NOT getting through there.)



So firstly, the Wilkes and the Peterman men drove the pigs into the aisle way of our barn. I had to be at the end of the aisle way, so I missed much of the fun. This was the view I had.



The pigs came through the aisle way and into John's ingenious contraption of hog panels, bucket clips and a bucket of feed. Watch it's employment, using sheer manpower.



Isn't that slick? No pigs slipping under the side of a chute or romping through the pasture, as we've had in the past. Just up the yard, into the truck, and off to



Where we left them looking like this;



They don't look like that anymore.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Yay, Me!

I've been waiting for Labor Day to post about my Weight Watchers' experiences. My plan was to lose my first 10%--a major goal in WW--by Labor Day, so I could brag on myself. But my meetings are on Mondays, and Labor Day was a Monday, so we didn't meet. Last week, when I expected I could post (the expectation I set for myself) I missed my goal by two-tenths of a stinkin' pound. Yeah, we count those tenths, and I was very vexed.

As last week progressed, I was, for the first time on WW, HUNGRY. Believe it or not, I have not really been hungry yet on this diet. It has been the easiest, simplest thing in the world to learn to eat right and then lose weight. But last week...hungry, hungry, hungry. I ate more than I should have, because it was really bothersome. BUT...I didn't eat as much as I COULD have.

Well, it worked anyway. When I went to weigh-in tonight, I fully expected to lose about half a pound. I just didn't think I did all that well.

I lost two pounds. (Polly! That's FOUR bags of flour!) That may not sound like a lot, but in WW, that is BIG. I made my first 10% goal, and have lost 21.8 (remember those tenths!) pounds now. We partied over me, and it was wonderful.

Now comes the work. Hard work. I need to go shopping. My clothes are literally falling off of me. And I have to be careful, because I have 23.2 pounds left to lose! I don't want to spend spend too much on what will be an interim wardrobe.

So I'm going to have to suck it up. I'll leave the kids here, 'cause they'd be bored. I'll spend time by myself, wandering through clothing stores, thrift stores, etc, finding just the right things.

It's a tough job, but somebody's gotta do it. I'll step up!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Quit Yer Whinin'

I got a comment that I haven't blogged in a bit. I didn't think I was THAT popular, but, you know, those stalkers...they just don't let up! I mean, for Pete's sake, the garbageman gets a break; why not me?

So that's it. I took a three day break. It was worth it. I cooked, I cleaned (well, not much, really) I taught kids and I did some family errands. One whole day was taken up with Junior, who decided to be sick, sick, sick. When calves decide to be sick, it's almost messier than three boys with the stomach flu. Almost. It does smell worse. And that's all you need to know.

But today I am blogging again. I'm blogging about naps. Because the one thing I didn't get enough of during my break was naps.

You wouldn't think an adult woman would need a nap, but, I do. Daily. I got back into the habit when Ethan was an infant. The older boys were in school, (this was pre-homeschooling, of course) and I would put him down after lunch for an hour or two. When I should have been cleaning mildew or grinding wheat for homemade bread, I was napping. It was lovely. But I had to start turning down the volume on the answering machine (which lived in our bedroom) and turning off the ringers, too, because my mom and grandmother would call me. They'd choose those two hours to call and chit chat about nothing, simply because, "It isn't right that you're napping." But I showed them. I could control the volume!

Thinking back, I started napping in college. I am one of the only people I know who had five-day-a-week, all eight semesters, all four years, 8am classes. Because of my major, (geology) many of those had lab components which, of course, were held in mid-afternoon. If I was going to stay awake for them, I had to nap after lunch. And nap I would. I learned way back then that I could nap for 20 minutes and feel refreshed. It was lovely.

Now, however, I am finding that I need longer than 20 minutes. 45 minutes is about right. Any shorter, and I'm waking up groggy because my sleep rhythm is messed up. Any longer, and deep sleep REALLY sets in and it's hard to wake me up. So, hopefully, 45 minutes it is.

But this week, I was lucky to get 30. If the phone didn't ring, (gotta find the ringer off button again) someone came to the door. Or a calf needed doctoring. So I could use a little longer break. But that one stalker isn't gonna let me...

Hey, could the rest of you keep her occupied so I can get some sleep? Thanks.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Saturday Farm Report

You know why I call it that, or some variation, each week? Because I grew up in suburbia, in a suburb next to Schaumburg. Remember Married With Children? Wikipedia says it was set in Chicago, but that's almost a lie. It was set in a suburb that was supposed to show all that was horrible about suburbs; and it used Schaumburg as a model. I wouldn't concur that Schaumburg is all that nasty a suburb, but, then again, it is a suburb...

Long before Schaumburg's "founding" (read; development) in the 50s, it was a farm community of descendants of German immigrants. When I was young, there was a large feed store in town, and I loved going into there and smelling the smells. Grain is good! Often a horse or tractor would come down our suburban development lane, and it was really exciting for little girls who loved farm animals.

WGN, a Chicago radio station, would broadcast the farm report every day at lunchtime. I would come home from school every day for lunch (this is back when parents could still feed their children lunch at home) and snarf down a sandwich (in 5th grade, it was Spaghetti-Os every day; that's a story for another day.) I would listen to Orion (pronounced Ore-ee-en, for you astronomy types) Samuelson talk about pork bellies and soybean futures, and ask my mom why I couldn't join 4H. Or have a horse. Or a goat.

Now, I wouldn't say I dreamt of living on a farm, like some dream of being an astronaut or some such, but I really wanted to be where I am now. I don't mind the work of critters and land; it's the people who are uninvolved constantly pointing out how crazy I am to do it who make me a little nuts.

This week, I have lots to report. We have new additions!

Firstly, Henry has a new flock to care for.



Last week a friend of mine called with some questions about ordering chicks. When we were almost done talking, I asked her if, when she ordered, she could also order 35 for me. I knew we needed some more meat birds this year, but hadn't gotten around to ordering yet.

Henry really likes them. He fusses over them alot. Should I tell him their final destination?



And Bessie is sure interested in something in this picture, isn't she? What is it, Bess?



A new youngling! How fun!



I had no idea how much she would like this little guy. He is isolated for a bit in a small pen with a shed. She has been cruising around that pen since we got home about 2 hours ago.


His name is Jr. Cheeseburger, a tribute to his size, heritage (part dairy, part beef) and destiny. We'll call him Junior.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Movie Quotes

So today the Chicago Tribune had two articles that caught my eye. One was a report on John McCain's speech last night, with "fact checking" to point out the errors he (might have) made. The other was called Lines To Live By, with the subtitle, "Sometimes the best part of the movie is the quote you take with you." I was feeling less than politically active today; after all, it's Friday! Movie night!

We have many favorite quotes here at Pine Ridge. Many of them are from movies. We have thought again and again of painting the blank wall in our sitting area, the place where the entertainment center is, with these quotes.

Some of our favorites?

A favorite during tough farm chores is, "It could be worse. Could be raining." (Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein.)

With four kids, we often use, "You whine like a mule. You are still alive." (Morgan Freeman in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.)

With three sons in the military, a real popular one is, "Some things in here don't react very well to bullets." (Sean Connery in The Hunt For Red October.)

Another one we love is not technically from a movie; it was uttered by Michael Dorn in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation; "I am NOT a Merry Man!"

Care to share yours?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Beet Soup

It occurs to me that I promised and then forgot to post a recipe for this. Lucky for you, or perhaps not, I made a batch and...took pictures!

Acquire some beets. I use 3-6 depending on their size. It is best if the greens are still attached. It can be tough to find the greens, but hang in there until you can. They're great in the soup. Cut off the greens and the long parts of the roots, cover with water in a kettle, and simmer until tender. What the heck does "tender' mean? Well, that's up to you. I like them a little al dente. Others like them like mashing potatoes.

So cook them until you call them tender.



Drain and cool the beets slightly. Then peel them. The peels shouldn't be too difficult to slip off at this point, although, sometimes, the crinkles in the beets (from being a root vegetable) will make you take a knife to the peel. Slice the beets in half lengthwise (or width-wise, if you don't take direction well) lay it on the slice, and cut the beets into medium slices.

They'll look kind of like this. (For reference, this is a one and a half quart bowl)



For 3-6 beets, you'll now need a quart of broth. This can be beef broth, chicken broth, vegetable broth, lamb broth...You get the idea. Any broth. I use beef. Sometimes chicken. This was beef.



I made it myself. I do that; boil up quarts and quarts of broth from old egg-laying chickens, or the soup bones that come with a side of beef. Then I can it. Start the broth boiling softly, and add the beets.





This is where the greens come in, the ones I mentioned back at the beginning. Chop them coarsely; they should be in about half inch pieces, and I don't use the stems. That started a little controversy with Grandma, but I don't.



Now, warm the beets. This is not about making beet mush; just get them warmed through. Then add the greens. Cook just a little; under 5 minutes. Again, I like the greens a little al dente; in any case, they taste fresher the less they're cooked.

Ladle the soup into a bowl, and add a dollop of sour cream.



Yum.

Double yum with fresh, warm bread and unsalted butter.

Triple yum if the bread is Lithuanian rye.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sarah Palin

Now I wish I had listened to the speeches last week. I would be able to compare better.

Did you hear it? Did you like it, like I did? I think I need to check a couple of facts, but it was great speaking. Humor, confidence and ability; what a combination.

Did you hear any commentators afterward? They made me grumpy. They called her "feisty," and "spunky." To paraphrase Rudy Giuliani, when do they say that about men? Why are men courageous, hard-hitting and assertive, when women are feisty, spunky and "have moxie?" Why don't men ever have moxie? I'm a die-hard feminist, in that I intend to live my life as a feminine women, not taking advantages because of my sex, nor refusing challenges. But this just burns me up. You could call it a pet peeve.

Except women aren't peevish. We're...bitchy.
What does it say about me that I have stalkers at my blog and soldiers dropping by the house?

Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake, late of Iraq, currently traveling, and soon to be of North Carolina, stopped by for coffee this morning. On the way to see big sister, The Elephant's Child, we shared coffee, conversation and pizza before he hit the road. He confirmed what I've said to him before; young, energetic, committed people of his type in the military gives me hope for the future of this country.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

King Henry V

I almost cried today. Blogger tells me about a new feature that shows me how many followers my blog has. Mine has 0. I was so sad to see that. Then I read further;
"Important Note: The Following feature will be rolled out to all over the next few weeks, so if you don’t see it right away, don’t worry. It’s coming soon." -whew- At least, if no one is reading, I still have time before I find out!

OK, so on to the blog.

It's been crazy busy around here, starting up school. We're having a visit from my mom this week. It isn't enough the she smoked for 40 years and has reduced lung function from COPD and lung cancer (let that be a lesson to you smokers!) Now she has broken her kneecap. The usual treatment--surgery--is very difficult with someone with COPD. She and her brace and wheelchair will be here through the week, gathering steam.

Lest you think I forgot the farm, and sometimes it seems I have, rest assured that someone is on the job.



Yon dogge is Ethan's Pembroke Welsh Corgi, King Henry V. Since he already had Good Queen Bess in the pasture, and thought a cattle herding dog like the corgi was appropriate, (because he is Welsh, you know, good countryman, as was his granddaughter Bess!) likewise was a royal name appropriate. So, Henry he became.

Henry's natural inclination is to herding. Corgis were bred short, I'm told, so that when the cattle kick out, the dog runs under the heels and doesn't get hurt. Henry does not seem to have the corgis' habit of nipping at heels. Even children, I'm told, get nipped by some corgis because they're being herded.

Since Henry has had no real training in herding, (that will come soon) he doesn't do much more than bark at the cow, sheep and goats. I think the sheep and goats might be beneath his herding abilities, anyway. Or not. He has taken to herding our chickens. Here is a shot of him with his "flock."



He's 4 years old this year. Two years ago, before we had to start keeping all the dogs in to prevent runaways, (more on that later) Henry would spend his days with our large flock. He would lie in the shade while they picked and scratched at the ground. Twice a day or so, something would compel him to herd them back into their pen. They would go, sometimes complainingly, but they would go. After half an hour in the pen, they would wander their way out, and, again, he would lie in the shade while they picked and scratched. It was very cute and gave him something to do that summer.

The above flock is Mary's small flock of bantams and Auracanas. He has been hanging with them some this summer, although he hasn't started herding them into the pen. And, after tonight, he may not get many chances. The plan is to have Mary clip wings and pen up all the birds for the fall. Not only will this keep them safe from predators, who show up as their natural prey burrows in for the winter, but it will greatly increase our egg collections. Right now they're being laid in the shrubs, in the garden, under the deck...but not in the nesting boxes! We will miss the free-range eggs, but grass clippings and hay may have to suffice.

Oh, and about those other dogs. We're at about two months since they ran off. I don't expect them back. John thinks they got into someone's chicken coop and paid the ultimate price for it. I tend to think they met up with coyotes or raccoons. It's a sad fact of life around here, and, while I don't like it, I'm moving on.