Wednesday, July 29, 2009

night at the abbatoir

During fair week a few weeks ago, just after our vacation, I mentioned I had landed in the proverbial frying pan.

Well, now I am in the fire itself.

This coming weekend is my kids' 4-H fair weekend, and things are really heating up. The vet has been out to give the sheep a clean bill of health (and we had a very unfortunate kitten vs. tractor incident at the same time, which didn't turn out too well for the kitten), I am organizing up a storm, we are pulling together camping and sheep and snacking supplies, and generally I am going just nutty with all the work and preparation. I love the fair itself, as the location of the fair is beautiful and it is nice to see all the kids' hard work coming to fruition. But the lead-up time is beyond stressful.

Late last night, I was up waaaay past my bedtime working on the sheep show catalog. Last year, it wasn't done in a very timely manner and I was caught doing it the morning of the show on a borrowed computer. I am trying really hard to avoid such crazy-making situations this year, hence the late night last night. As Charlie followed me up to bed, I heard him give a little yelp, but paid no mind (he often complains if the cat is in his way), until I ran downstairs to check on something...

and found blood all over the hallway and stairs carpeting. The brand new carpeting. The carpeting that was installed less than three months ago. And, oh yes, on the walls as well, that were painted shortly before that.

Seems Charlie had lost a nail on the landing of the stairs (he does that from time to time) and proceeded to bleed all over the stairs, and the hallway, and Terzo's room which he went into to see if I was there, and our room, which is where he sleeps. By the time I got him back down into the kitchen on a moppable floor, the mess had been doubled. It was past midnight at this point, but I had to work quickly by myself (don't think I wasn't resenting every else's beauty sleep at this point) to get the blood scrubbed up. Thanks to a tip from my dad, I had the miraculous OxiMagic on hand and the blood actually did come out of the carpet, but it was a long hour getting all those pawprints up. I turned on every light necessary to catch all the stains, but still, despite my best efforts to disturb them, no one got up to help me.

Why yes, I was feeling a little put-upon, why do you ask?

I finally got it all cleaned up and settled Charlie to sleep in the kitchen... but he doesn't sleep well if I am not near him. What can I say, he is an old dog and his habits are too ingrained to be changed at this late hour. I gave up at 3:30 am and brought a pillow and comforter down to the couch so I could console him. No way was I letting him near that carpet again.

He is fine this morning, but I am a little worse for wear at a time when the wear goes very deep indeed. I have two more nights in my own bed, before I have just an air mattress for padding between me and the cold hard ground. I need all the sleep I can get right now. Goodness knows I won't be getting it at the fair -- and let's not even mention the weather forecast.

Monday, July 27, 2009

easy care coat

From the wikipedia article on English Shepherd dogs: "As a working dog, the coat should be easy to keep, requiring very little grooming. Dirt tends to just fall away."

Sound too good to be true?

Here's Dusty yesterday morning. I don't know what he rolled/immersed himself in. I only know that (1) he stunk to high heaven and (2) I didn't want to be the one who had to give him a bath.


He spent the whole day running around the farm, "helping" us spread mulch, and digging and lying in the mulch. Here's what he looked like five hours later, BEFORE Primo gave him a bath.


I have no idea how he managed to pull that off.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

mulch pile

We spent today (and yesterday, and last weekend) moving a mulch pile. Eighteen cubic yards worth of mulch, to be exact, and that is a heck of a lot of mulch. Ask my back. The thing about a mulch pile is that it seems to possess magical qualities. You keep taking mulch out... you put mulch around all your plants and in the lanes of your garden and under your fir tree and around the kids' swingset... and there is still more mulch. Full bucket after full bucket on the front loader of the tractor doesn't seem to make a dent.


At a certain point, you could swear that the mulch pile doesn't ever change shape, it doesn't seem to be diminishing at all, and what the heck are you going to do with all this mulch, and WHO'S IDEA WAS IT TO ORDER THIS MUCH MULCH?


Finally, finally, after tucking mulch in every nook and cranny in the place, and piling it 10 inches high in spots just to get rid of it, you can see the driveway, and you do what you have to do just to make those last little bits disappear...


You use the front loader to sweep it under the proverbial rug, and call it a day.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

mystery glad

A local farm plants hundreds of gladiolus (gladioli?) bulbs every spring, and in the mid-summer,their farm stand is graced with the beautifully-hued spears. The flowers arrive just in time for a friend's July birthday, and one of her gifts is invariably a bouquet of the flowers. I just can't resist them. I am so predictable with this gift that, several years ago, I gave her a dedicated vase to put them in.

The flowers are lovely, and one of my favorites, but unfortunately they require too much care for this careless gardener. In our climate, the bulbs must be lifted each fall and stored in a cool dry place for the winter, then replanted for the spring. I know myself, and I know that this will never happen on my watch, so I admire their beauty on the farmstand and don't invest in the bulbs myself.

So I am completely mystified as to how one perfect white specimen showed up in my front garden bed two years ago.


I did not plant it there. I have no idea how it got there. It is not part of the "garden plan." According to the Weed Society of America (yes, there is such a thing, and no, I don't mean that kind of weed), a weed is "a plant growing where it is not desired." Technically, this glad is a weed.

But such a lovely one that I cannot bear to pull it out. Despite the fact that I refuse to dig it up and cellar it in the fall, it comes back year after year, and has attracted a friend next to it that hasn't bloomed -- yet.


(Pardon the overexposure, but my camera has become so unaccustomed lately to taking pictures with the sun's assistance that it was blinded by the additional light.)

My little Mystery Glad reminds me too much of the better parts of life for me to pull it up in rigid adherence to some plan. Sometimes the sweetest things -- a baby that isn't yours sleeping on your chest, an acquaintance that blossoms into a lifelong friendship, a kiss from your child out of the blue, fireflies in late July -- are the most unexpected and the most joy-filled. They are all Mystery Glads. And life would be a little more dull, and a lot less bearable, without them.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

back to back

What could possibly be more fun than a neighboring 4-H county sheep show, in the rain, with wet sheep and wet boys?


Another 4-H county sheep show tomorrow, in a slightly more distant county, with a slightly greater chance of rain.

I am a glutton for punishment. Plus I like seeing a kid's delight when his ram lamb manages to win a "champion ram" sweatshirt for him.


Friday, July 17, 2009

weather prediction

Wanna know if it's going to rain, guaranteed?


Just ask us if we have tickets to a baseball game.


No doubt about it, the heavens will open soon after the first pitch is thrown out at 7:05 pm. I didn't pay attention to our power over the weather and moved the sheep to the pasture sans shed just before we left. Yes, yes, I felt responsible enough for their completely predictable plight that I moved them back, in the dark, shortly after we got home. Not sure who was more soaked at that point: us or the sheep.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

a plethora of squash

Thanks to the excessively wet and cold weather we have experienced so far this "summer," our garden is woefully behind where it should be at this point. The only thing that is producing like crazy is our zucchini and yellow squash plants. The boys devoted a whole bed to them, and they are being rewarded with tons and tons of vegetables.

They failed to consider the consequences. An excess of zucchini means zucchini for dinner every night. And they are none too fond of it. This is just the tip of the iceberg...


Sunday night we had grilled zucchini and onions, compliments of their father.

Monday night I was working, so they escaped the zucchini juggernaut.

Tuesday night I made a fresh zucchini salad, though I substituted hot honey mustard for Dijon, and veggie dip for yogurt, and left out the chives altogether. (Still a delicious recipe well worth trying.)

Last night I made a skillet summer squash recipe (the internet is my friend when I have an excess of one ingredient) that was very good.

In desperation, the boys were driven to get their farmstand up and running today so they could move the zucchini and squash out of my sight, and then presumably I wouldn't be tempted to serve up yet another squashy side dish tonight.



(ETA: They came up with the name and sign themselves; I had nothing to do with it!)

Business is always better when some of the amigos are manning the stand.

DSCN0872 DSCN0874

Primo is experimenting with a value-added product, using his award-winning recipe for zucchini bread.


Last year Primo and Secondo each made about $50 and donated roughly the same amount to their 4H club. I'll keep you posted on how the amigos do this year. The older two are in agreement, however, that business is definitely strongest when "Little Neddy Nederlander" (aka Terzo) is out there with the goods.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

workin' man

Primo has yet another job -- who knew that 13 year old boys were in such demand in the labor market -- and life has gotten quite nice around here as a result.

Living with a hormonal teenager, as those who have survived the experience know, is a lot like living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You never know which one you're going to get coming down the stairs in the morning. Or on a moment to moment basis, for that matter. It is almost like being a torture victim. I never know whether to expect good cop or bad cop. I am constantly on edge as a result.

But this job -- well. It's not that the job takes him out of the house. It's that the job has done wonders for his mood when he returns. He is working for a local farmer, and his first task involved the following:


See the pallets? He had to arrange them, plus a dozen more, into an orderly line. See the giant hay wagon covered with a tarp in the rear of the photo? It was full of 140 bales of hay. He had to transfer all those bales (with the farmer's help) onto the pallets, in an orderly stack, while tossing out bales that were too wet or too moldy.

Most people, when faced with that task, would become grumpy. Many would probably find a reason to avoid doing it. He came home practically whistling with pleasure. Goodness knows what sounds he was making while actually working. He couldn't wait to return the following day, to help her turn, by hand, a field of hay that had gotten rained on, so the bottom of the mounds could dry.

He was practically chomping at the bit to go today and help her on the hay wagon. While she drove the tractor and baler, his job was to stack the hay after it was baled and the kicker tossed it onto the wagon. He got nailed by more than one bale of hay when he didn't keep a close enough eye on the kicker, but he apparently considered that just one more benefit of the job.

Unfortunately, he flat out refused to let me take a picture of him upon his return, all covered with hay chaff and sporting hay cut arms. (He is on to me and the blog now.) But I forgive him because it is such a pleasure to have him in such a good mood. Who knew that hard work for other people was the remedy? It certainly doesn't produce quite the same effect when it's for me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

tuesday's (sort of) quote

We are tucked into a relatively remote pocket of a densely-populated state. People who live outside our state -- and quite a few who live inside its borders -- are quite surprised by how rural our location is. We certainly don't compare to life in places like Kansas, Oklahoma or Alaska, to name just a few. But despite the fact that we are only a few miles from dead center of our state, we do not have certain services and amenties that the vast majority of the residents take for granted.

For example, it blows the mind of my friend Peg, who lives in a very different part of the state, that we don't have municipal police services in our township. Instead, we rely on the state police to do all the necessary policing that needs to be done. Presumably, this is because not much policing, apart from the occasional call to my house, is required.

This has created a kind of alternate universe for my kids.

On a recent jaunt with my kids and a friend of Primo's, we became stuck behind a garbage truck in a small town some distance from ours. This wasn't just any old garbage truck. It was a recycling truck. After watching it for a minute or two, the lightbulb suddenly went off in Primo's brain. "Wait a minute. Is that truck actually picking up the recyclables at each house?" We have to drive ours five miles to the township building, on either Monday or Saturday, which as you might imagine can cause quite a bit of recyclable pile-up at times in our house. His friend, who lives in the town next to ours, replied, "Yeah, so what? Ours is picked up every week, isn't yours?" Primo couldn't even respond, so stunned was he by the concept of personalized municipal services.

And still further: while sitting on the deck of our vacation house, we heard a familiar (to my LSH and me) tinny jingle coming closer and closer through the development. Terzo, however, was completely mystified. He finally asked us what the sound was; he was shocked and amazed to learn that there was an actual truck that drove around with ice cream in it and would sell it to you if you just waited at the curb with money in your hand.

Talk about blowing someone's mind.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

too pooped to pop

I know: I should have had a lengthy detailed post about yesterday's big sheep and fleece show up by now, complete with pictures and clever commentary.

I had my camera with me, but I forgot to take any pictures.

Even though it is over 24 hours later, I am still too tired to come up with any clever commentary.

The best I can say is: it is over for another year.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

room to grow

As you may have gathered from the vacation photos, we had a lovely and relaxing time at the beach. Dirty sheep, upcoming fairs, rainy days, muddy dogs... all were blissfully miles and miles from my mind.

As you may have gathered from my silence this week, I came home from vacation and landed straight into the proverbial frying pan. This is fair week in our town, a.k.a. hell week. I love fairs as much the next person, but they are a lot of work, even with my peripheral involvement on this one.

We organized our exhibit entries (flower arrangements, vegetables from the garden, potted plants, oatmeal raisin cookies, tomato sauce) on Tuesday.

I pulled an educational display, entitled "How does a sheep's wool get made into yarn?" and complete with illustrative photos, out of my rear end yesterday.

I still have a fleece show to organize. That is tomorrow's problem.

We also have seven disgustingly filthy sheep to get ready for the big livestock show on Saturday, but I have discovered one decided advantage of the boys getting older: they can do things for themselves now, as long as I just get out of their way. I can't help them today, even if I wanted to, because I am working in my LSH's office. All on their own, they have already wrestled their show sheep out of the field and into the barn. They dealt with an escapee lamb without me even knowing about the problem. They set up the fitting stands in the barn, organized their equipment, fixed the clippers and got down to work.

I just need to remind myself from time to time to give them the room to impress me with their skills -- as their favorite movie character, Napoleon Dynamite, would put it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

tuesday quote

Sitting by the pool, under the overhang, trying to dry off while avoiding the inevitable rainstorm that blew in 5 minutes after my children jumped in:

Secondo: Primo, you have a mustache! Mom, did you see that Primo has a mustache?

Primo: So what? Mom has a mustache.

At this point, all three stare intently at my upper lip while I text-google the nearest salon for an emergency appointment.

Monday, July 6, 2009

re-entry is the hardest part

We returned late yesterday afternoon, and I am still not caught up...

with laundry...

with work...

with the collected mail...

with sleep...

and so on and so forth... but here's a representative sampling of vacation shots to keep you occupied while I dig myself out from under various piles.

IMG_4584 IMG_4562 IMG_4558

IMG_4543 DSCN0779