Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Why is Father Time So Creepy?

 I like sundials.  I would love to have one in my garden, if I had a proper garden.  You know, one that wasn't full of things like weeds and squash bugs and rocks.  But since I have a messy garden, I have to admire sundials in other places.

I took a picture of this sundial at the SciWorks museum in Winston Salem, and it wasn't until I got home and edited the picture that I noticed Father Time there with his saying.  And I was looking at Father Time and thinking he looks kind of creepy in a Grim Reaper sort of way. 

Of course it's the scythe that makes him creepy.  And then I started wondering, why does Father Time carry a scythe anyhow?  What does he need a scythe for?

If you were thinking the harvest, you'd be wrong.  Nope, it's nothing so quaint. In fact, if you do a search for why Father Time carries his scythe, you will get an answer that you probably weren't expecting.  Certainly I won't ever forget what I learned when I see the ominous Father in the future. 

Anyhow, all that eerie business aside, it does seem like just before New Year's Eve is the appropriate time to post a picture of Father Time.  Another year gone by.  I hope you all have a wonderful, safe, scythe-free New Years! 

Monday, December 28, 2015

SciWorks in Winston Salem

Earlier this month, Cort and I drove down to Winston Salem for an appointment with a specialist for his psoriasis.  He is better now, thanks to the food intolerance study, but we since we had waited so long for this appointment we thought we'd go ahead and get established with the practice in case he has a relapse sometime in the future.

After his appointment and a trip by Trader Joes (since alas, we STILL don't have one locally), we decided to have some fun and went to a museum called SciWorks.  When we first pulled up I thought maybe they were closed, as there was no sign of life in the parking lot and only a couple of cars.  Lucky for us, they were open, and we had the place to ourselves!  What a treat.

 It was a large, rambling place and we had so much fun.  Cort's favorite thing was the large piano.  I admit I was on there too.  We also enjoyed a show in the Planetarium.

 A giant mouth.  They had some neat dental tools where you could drill and squirt the air and floss oversized teeth.

 My favorite thing was the scooter race track.  Cort and I had races around the track.  No one else was there, so I didn't mind acting six years old with Cort.

 This thing used a vacuum type device to shoot you up in the air.  Cort and I both did this twice.

 They had outside facilities too with animals and nature trails.  Here Cort pushes one of those water balls.

Experiencing bat ears.  Can you hear me now?  I don't think Cort missed school one single bit on this Tuesday.

Cort and I both think we need to head back down sometime, only next time we'll bring the whole family! 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

Last year I went to a Christmas party and I won a door prize for a photo shoot with a local photographer.  We saved it until last May, when the flowers were in bloom and everything was green around our place.  I thought I'd share my favorite photos from the session.

Besides, why focus on cold, wintry weather, when you can remember warm days with s'mores and campfires?

I've kind of had it in mind to use this hammock one on a future blog header, but it seems that by the time I get around to updating my header this may be long outdated.

This is the one I made prints of to include in our Christmas cards that I sent out this year. 

An extra sweet picture of the twins.  You'd never know how much they argue, would you?
Readers, I'm hoping you all celebrate a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays with family.  Enjoy!

If you are local and looking for a photographer, you can check out Olinda Pulley Photography.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Heirloom Seeds

Look what came in the mail last month!
My Baker Heirloom seed catalog.
I would probably need to add about four new garden plots to plant all the seeds I want to try.
In addition, I am hoping to put in some fruit trees in February.
It was fun to pour a glass of wine and flip through this.
There are many varieties I've never even heard of before.
Readers, do you have any new seeds you want to try for next Spring?

Monday, December 21, 2015

Over the Creek

When we went to get our Christmas tree, the boys had a blast running between the rows of trees and playing hide and seek. 

And then?  Then they found the rope swing.

Was everyone warm, dry, and clean on the way home?  What do you think?

Next year we'll be bringing a change of clothes for the Christmas tree excursion.  And maybe some tall mud boots too.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Francie Opens the Gate

I've found that some of my happiest days are the days I ride Francie.  I never stop being surprised by how far she has come.  She's gone from a size 38 girth that was too big to a size 48 girth that is just about right.  She's outgrown her first bridle.  And while her growth is still stunted, she has grown some and filled out a lot. 

But more than her growing are all the things she has learned.  I couldn't even touch her in the beginning.  She'd never seen a farrier or a vet or been led around.  She'd never felt so much as a saddle pad on her back.  She's an old pro now at these sorts of basic skills.

Some of the big things we have worked to accomplish under saddle are:  Francie will stand to be mounted.  She will walk, trot, and canter (we are still working on leads).  She will leg yield or side pass (she is better one direction than the other).  She knows how to back (but is sometimes crooked). 

For a while, I have been working on having Francie stand still while I lean over to open the arena gate, then back away while I pull it open, then walk through.  On the day I took this picture, Francie finally accomplished this in a calm mannered way.  So we walked through, and then we walked around some of the open pastures.  This was the first time I had ridden her outside the arena.  She was a little scared at times, especially when I made her walk around a bonfire Paul had going in one pasture, but she trusted me when I told her it was okay.

Every time I ride, she seems to come a little further.  Who knew I could've fallen for a mare (I usually only like geldings - less drama), and a gaited one at that.  But Francie has a lot of heart, and I love her for that. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

When Rural Living is Hard

I love living in the country, and I can't imagine being happy anywhere else.  But there are rare occasions when it does have some cons.  Like when we had the (as my neighbor called it) deranged madman on our property in October.  Or when Pierce broke his arm and we had to get him to the hospital.  Needless to say, I keep a very extensive first aid kit in the house - it fills up a huge Tupperware. 

Last month Cort had a combination of an asthma flare up and a nasty batch of croup that gave us one of those middle of the night scares, when he really couldn't breathe.  It was scary, for him and for Paul and I.  As much as I hate giving him steroids, I was thankful to have a bottle in the fridge to give him when he wasn't responding to his nebulizer.  It was midnight and I wrapped him in blankets and took him out on the porch in hopes that the night air would help the croup portion of his breathing issues.  Luckily, it was a mild night.  So I sat in a rocker in the dark and we looked at the stars while he sat on my lap and we waited to see if his wheezing and coughing would calm. 

After it did, he came in for some hot tea with honey, and was able to go to sleep.  I tossed and turned and worried for a while before finally falling asleep.  We were lucky this time.  I really hope that he outgrows his asthma as he gets older, like I did. 

Readers, what would you not like about rural living?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Who Cut One?

We have a friend that grows white pines to sell for Christmas trees, and we decided to buy our tree from him this year.
 I took these pictures with my cell phone, so they aren't the best pictures ever.  Still, you can see our friend has a great place.  The boys had SO much fun playing hide and seek through the rows of pine trees.

Here, Reid uses a measuring stick to hunt for the best tree.  The other two were busy trying to jump over a creek. 
Two of our three boys came home with wet pants from dips in the creek.  In December.  It just seems like with three boys you are always bringing home at least one of them covered in water and mud.

Readers, do you cut your own Christmas tree?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Mystery Mushrooms

1.  Anyone know what these mushrooms are?  They're pretty.  Mushrooms never fail to fascinate me.  I stumbled across them recently when trying to track down some poachers on our property.  Next time I need to take a machete along for the hike, as I got detoured by some razor briars and turned back to the house.
2.  I finally pulled all the plants from the garden and have been adding things like rabbit manure and compost.  Hoping Paul will till some additional garden areas for me to use this spring. 

3.  We're continuing our four gifts theme this year:  something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read.  This is our third or fourth year we've done this, and it works out very well. 

4.  Do you like eerie gothic mysteries?  Check out The Child Garden.  It's marvelous.

5.  Driving home the other day Paul mentioned that he wondered what kind of sports car we were passing.  It was dark, so I couldn't see.  Cort said, "Probably basketball".  So then I had to explain what a sports car was. 

What are you reading lately, readers?  Besides blogs, I mean!

Linked today with Willy Nilly Friday.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Family Bingo Night

The long anticipated biannual family bingo night returned last month.  The boys so love to play bingo. 
Alas, we struck out again.  We didn't win the yard of Snickers bars or the marshmallow shooter.  The aquarium starter kit didn't go home with us.  The boys watched in frustration as these fabulous prizes went to other hands.

Next time they want more cards!  We can handle five cards a piece, they say!  I don't know about that.  I pay for one card a piece ($1.00 for the card, which can be reused all evening).  But if they want to dig up some change and buy extra cards, they can have at it.  They still might not beat out all those competitive lovely silver-haired ladies though!  Bring it, February bingo night!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Great Expectations

In 9th grade English we read Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.  While I've always been an avid reader, I have never cared much for reading plays.  Something about having the text broken by names for each person's speech is very distracting.  I just can't seem to become truly immersed in it.  So although I enjoy seeing the plays, I don't tend to read them. 

Studying plays in a class setting was not an improvement.  I don't know if my teacher Miss Magee just really loved Romeo and Juliet, or if my memory has become a bit faulty, but it feels like we spent at least half the year on the play.  Each day she'd assign students in the class different roles and we'd have to read through the play, line by line.  Somehow, the football players didn't pull off an engaging Romeo.  After we finally finished reading the play, we spent several classes watching the movie.

I found the entire thing very asinine.  So when I wasn't reading a role, I was secretly flipping through my English text for distraction.  And there, at the far back of the book, I found a gem.  I started reading this story called Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens.  Right from the opening, when Pip is accosted by the escaped convict, I was hooked.  I adored the gorgeous and distant Estella as well, but my favorite character was Miss Havisham.  I've always had a thing for eccentric characters.  Some things never change. 

Black walnut maple cake I made (not to be confused with Miss Havisham's wedding cake).
I had read other classics prior to Great Expectations, and I would find others in high school that were magical too (like Lost Horizon and Of Human Bondage) but this one stands out in my mind as one of my absolute favorites.  I've never returned to it to read again, as there are so many books that I want to read that I don't feel I have time to reread anything.  Plus, I worry that it might not be as extraordinary as it was the first time around.  I don't want to ruin that initial wonder.
So I'm taking a vote.  Readers, if you say that I should take the risk and reread what I think of as my first truly beloved classic (26 years later!), I will do so.  It will be on my reading list for 2016.  But it seems risky.  What do you think? 
Anyone else love Great Expectations?

Friday, December 4, 2015

How We Healed Our Child's Psoriasis

Last March Cort broke out in patches on his back.  They were itchy to him, keeping him up at night.  We went to his allergist, who initially thought it was a viral eczema.  But as time went on and the spots grew, she thought it might be something called guttate psoriasis, which is an autoimmune condition.

We went to his pediatrician, who pulled another doctor in who used to specialize in pediatric dermatology.  Together, they thought it was psoriasis.  They did a referral to a dermatologist, and in the meantime we continued trying various steroid creams.  The spots spread, and soon his scalp, back, genitals, stomach, arms, and legs all had these itchy plaques.  Some nights he would scratch them until they bled.  We don't have a picture of him when he was at his worst, but this is close:

The dermatologist wasn't sure if it was psoriasis or eczema.  We decided to do a biopsy, which was traumatic for Cort (and involved a big bribe).  It came back as psoriasis.  We had two creams for his hair, one for his face, another for his body.  We tried natural remedies as well.  I read books on autoimmune conditions and tried doing some elimination diets, based on the books.  We eliminated nightshades, and later all gluten.  We made sure he got sun therapy every day all summer.  It was heartbreaking to watch him suffer, yet not have anything that seemed to help. 

The rash grew worse.  The only thing it responded to was a steroid cream so potent that he had to be monitored every couple of days, and it wasn't safe to use all over his body.  His inner ears were covered in plaques, his scalp felt volcanic, and Cort started to feel sad that kids were asking him about it in school. 

I wanted to take him to a functional medicine doctor, but we couldn't afford it.  We received a referral to a specialist in North Carolina, but our appointment wasn't until December.  I begged the specialists we had seen to do a food sensitivity panel, but I was unable to get anyone to order one.  I started researching online, and I finally found a company in Europe that would do a food intolerance test using the DNA in the hair.

Our pediatrician told me he thought it was a snake oil scheme (in a kind way - he is a very good doctor but like other doctors in our region, isn't big on alternative medicine), but I felt like it was worth a try.  The test was around $100 and we were spending at least that on prescriptions every month, so the test wasn't much different.  I figured it would be worth it, and really, what could it hurt?  I cut a few strands of Cort's hair and shipped it off to Europe for $1.75.  Two weeks later, I was emailed the results (as well as information for how to contact their nutritionist with any questions - which I did twice.  This did not cost anything extra.).  They tested for 600 foods, plus a number of environmental allergens.  We immediately removed Cort from every food on the list.

 You can see here that the spots began to get a little whiter in the centers.  The difference was noticeable within a week off his intolerant foods.  The foods were not things I ever would have figured out with an elimination diet - many were so random (like lettuce, cucumbers, onions, guar gum).  Others were bigger (milk, strawberries, pumpkin, blueberries, chocolate). 

 The intolerance test also found that Cort had a build up of candida in his digestive system.  I was unsuccessful in getting his doctors to prescribe anything to treat this, so we did so more naturally.  I incorporated tons of probiotics, coconut water, aloe juice, oregano oil and capryllic acid into his routine. 

Here is Cort just two months after we got the results of his food intolerances.  Scroll back up and look at the first picture.  We couldn't have been more thrilled by his results.  You can see where the spots were, but now they are flat, smooth, and white.  They no longer bother him.  When his pediatrician saw his skin when Cort came in for his flu shot, his jaw dropped.  He was truly amazed by the difference, and asked for information on the company I used.  He thought maybe other parents would be interested in using them.
I'm not writing this post for the company who did his testing, nor am I receiving anything for linking to them.  I am doing so for others who may be struggling like we were to find something - anything - to help their child.  I suspect it may be helpful to have food intolerance testing done for a variety of health problems.  If you would like to look at their site, you can find it at Intolerance Testing.

Cort feels so much better now.  His energy is up, and he is in better spirits (all those steroids made him rageful at times).  He doesn't mind having to bring his own dairy-free cupcakes to birthday parties, because he feels so much better now.  He has a great attitude about the dietary changes, and never complains.  For Halloween, he traded me all his chocolate candy for a yo yo he wanted. 

Readers, have you ever looked for alternative health treatments?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Making Plantain Tincture

I've been really interested in herbalism lately and we have some amazing plants growing around our land.  Plantain is neat because you will find it growing in any field or yard in our region.  It is easy to recognize once you take the time to learn what it looks like, and if you get stung by a bee you can break some off, chew it up, and use it immediately as a poultice.  The seeds when it flowers are what you may recognize as psyllium.  When you break off a plantain leaf, you will see strings from it:

As always, make absolutely sure you know you have the right plant before you use it, and it is also a good idea to consult with your doctor. 

Plaintain is healing in all sorts of ways.  It is antibacterial and antimicrobial, which is why it is so healing for the skin.  It can relieve diarrhea, and it can help a cough by assisting in expelling phlegm.  Some say it can slow the growth of staph and TB bacteria.  It eases heartburn and indigestion, and is also a diuretic.  Plantain can stop bleeding and relieve pain, and it's no surprise that some believe it to be one of the most versatile of herbal medicines.
I made a tincture, which is still curing, so I haven't tried it yet.  As plentiful as plantain is in our yard, it's something I could make more of easily.  It's curing in 100 proof vodka right now, and I shake it once a day.  Later, I'll strain it and bottle it.  A dose is just 6-12 drops. 

Readers, do you use any herbal remedies? 

Monday, November 30, 2015

Black Walnut Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

We have over ten pounds of black walnuts we harvested on our land, so I've been finding ways to use them up.  I made some black walnut cranberry oatmeal cookies that turned out really well, and thought I'd share the recipe.  It makes about 4 dozen cookies.

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup of shortening or softened butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup dried cranberries

Cream shortening and sugar.  Add eggs and vanilla, beat well.  Add dry ingredients and oats.  Stir in cranberries and walnuts.  Form into balls the size of a walnut and press down.  Bake at 375* for ten minutes or until just starting to brown. 

What do you think, readers?  Do black walnut cookies sound tasty?

Friday, November 27, 2015

I Like Your Fungus

1.  I don't often think of fungus as being pretty, but sometimes you can find some really neat specimens out in the woods.  Like the fungus I found on one of our poplar trees when I was hiking around our land one day:

2.  I was driving the boys home from chess club one day, and they told me some wild story from the bus.  I said, "You're pulling my leg!"  There was silence from the back seat.  Just as I thought that maybe they didn't know what the saying meant, Reid piped up, "Mom, how can we pull your leg when we're in the backseat?"

3.  We don't have an Xbox or a Wii, much to the boys great eternal disappointment.  They do use one sometimes in gym.  They do a game called Just Dance, and there is a leader that the players have to try to follow step by step.  The boys like to play this at home.  It cracks me up.  They put on music and one will lead while the other two have to follow his dance steps.  See, I stand by my point - we don't actually need an Xbox! 

4.  Pierce came home from school and said that a book they were using in reading had a bad word in it, and all the kids were talking about it.  I asked which word it had.  Pierce said the "J" word.  I ran through all the bad words I knew and was stumped.  The "J" word?  Finally I gave in and asked Pierce to say it.  He spelled it for me.  Turns out the word is jackass.  Readers, were you stumped like I was?

5.  I can tell you one thing I won't be doing today!  Black Friday shopping.  Ick!  Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving.

Linked today with Willy Nilly Friday

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Two Years, Francie

Guess who's celebrating two years with us?  Remember way back when?  The bony, wormy, skittish and terrified mare that I brought home the day after Thanksgiving?

Well here she is today.  Look at that healthy belly! 
Yes, Francie is doing just fine these days.  Enjoying more pasture time than riding time, with my busy schedule, but she seems happy and enjoys extra treats and following me down the driveway every morning when I get the boys on the bus. 
 I know some of you have been following Francie's story from the beginning, so i do try to give an update now and then.

I truly hope she doesn't remember much from her days before she came to Two Bears Farm.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Kitten with An Attitude

Our little Manx kitten that we found at the end of the driveway a few months ago is hitting his teen phase.  He's sweet as can be, but has a nose for trouble.  Recently, he showed us the meaning of feline irony when he got ahold of the "Taking Care of Your Kitten" book my boys were reading.  Luckily, it wasn't a library book.
I find it interesting that he decided to chew up the page where it talks about how cats are carnivores.  I guess he showed them.

I'm trying not to think about what Bobby is going to do to the Christmas tree and presents this year....

Friday, November 20, 2015

Fire Cider

Fire cider is a home remedy that has been made by herbalists for years to boost the immune system in the face of colds and flus.  There are many different recipes out there, but from the ones I saw, they all look like they will put some hair on your chest.

I wanted to try my hand at making some fire cider this year, and it would give me a good use for the ginseng that Paul dug up on our land.  You can google for different recipes to find one you like, but make sure that you know the plants you are using if you forage for them.

I chose a recipe that had ginseng, horseradish, ginger, garlic, and a dash of cayenne.  You put these ingredients in apple cider vinegar and cure it for a month or so before straining to use.  Sweeten to taste with honey. 

I plan to take some at the first sign of a cold.  It will be ready in early December.  Supposedly you can also do things like mix it with oil to make salad dressings or stir fries. 

A few days after I made the fire cider, I made a sore throat spray using the sage my dad gave me to plant a few years ago, with peppermint, honey and alcohol.  It tastes pretty good!

Readers, do you have any home remedies for cold and flu season?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Mega Squash

My cushaw squash weren't storing in the basement as well as I'd hoped.  I had regularly been checking all my squashes, and one of them had a small soft spot.  I cut into it right away only to discover that while the flesh looked fine, the pulp with the seeds was all black and musty.  I had just finished reading a book on survival by Cody Lundin in which he wrote that the sickest he ever was from something he ate was from eating an old garden squash (and he has eaten some really nasty stuff out in the wild).  Apparently squash can get full of mycotoxins.  I decided to toss the whole thing.

After some thought, I went ahead and processed all my cushaw squash that was still good.  I didn't want to risk losing more.  They have the shortest storage life of all the winter squash I grew anyhow.

I made Cort carry them all upstairs for me.

Just kidding.  I had Cort hold it for about two seconds so I could take a picture, and he almost fell over. 

I got twelve cups of puree from this cushaw, and made pumpkin bread for the neighbors.  Meanwhile, I'm hopeful that my butternuts and blue hubbards hang in for a few more months. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tracking Down Sugar Maples

We have some sugar maples on our land.  The process of getting syrup from them is intimidating, because it sounds like it is a very lengthy and tedious event. 

Just in case, though, the boys and I hiked around the land marking sugar maples.  They are easier to find when the leaves are still on, so you need to mark them in the fall.  Tapping for syrup happens in the winter.

I won a pair of Oboz boots at GoFest this year, from a drawing that Walkabout Outfitters did, which I love. 
My old hiking boots were too small, because my feet grew a half size with each pregnancy.  When we finally take our backpacking trip, hopefully I'll have these well broken in.

Readers, do you know what a sugar maple tree looks like?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Processing Walnuts

Fall is walnut season, and we have a couple of trees that were planted by the house, long before we ever lived there.  We put the twins to work gathering walnuts.  They picked up hundreds! 

Paul's parents passed along a walnut cracker that was missing a piece.  They picked it up at a yard sale for cheap.  Paul was able to weld the missing piece, and built a cute little box to mount it in, with sides to keep the walnuts from flying around. 

Walnuts are the superhero of nuts.  Ours are organic and raw, which have added health benefits.  Walnuts have been shown to have health benefits on brain health, cancer, reproductive health and diabetes. 

I made candied walnuts for the first time and they are delicious plain or on oatmeal.  We have a lot more to go on the walnuts, but we're cracking them, one shell at a time.

Readers, do you have a favorite way to eat walnuts?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Halloween 2015

We had a good Halloween.  The boys had a fall festival at school and dressed up as Paul Revere, a knight, and a ninja. 

Then they had an event at a local church and they chose Paul Revere, Where's Waldo, and an alien costume. 

Finally, we went trick or treating.  They chose the ninja, alien, and knight costumes.  We have other costumes, but they just seem to have some favorites. 

This picture isn't the best focus because the skeleton was moving and flashing, and I used my cell phone to take it.  But you get the idea.  They had fun and got loads of candy. 

Readers, did you know that aliens wear smelly toe shoes?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Winter Squash Storage

By the end of September, my garden was completely crawling in squash bugs again.  Luckily, I was ready to harvest all my winter squash.  Cushaw, butternut, and blue hubbard.  The blue hubbard is certainly a new favorite, and supposedly it stores very well over the winter.

I 'borrowed' some space on the massive wine rack Paul built to house all the wines he makes. 
The cushaw squash will spoil the fastest, so we'll be eating those first.  I've been checking them every few days to make sure nothing is going bad.  So far, so good.

Readers, how are you storing your vegetables in the winter?

Friday, November 6, 2015

Peanut Butter Fudge and Other Things

1.  Every year in the fall I get a craving for peanut butter fudge.  It's pretty much one of my favorite things ever.  I can deny the craving only so long, and then I break down and make a batch.  It never lasts for long.
2.  I had to take some time off running.  I had a hamstring issue that wouldn't go away.  I hadn't thought about it, but it turns out the last time I took a week or more off running was three years ago.  I guess I was overdue.  It still wasn't easy for me.

3.  The batch of chickens we ordered last summer are maturing, and we had a couple of roosters.  They crack us up in the mornings while we wait for the bus.  They are trying to crow, but it kind of sounds like a dying sqwaaaaaauuuuuukkkkk instead.

4.  Because we had too many roosters, we ate one last weekend.  Always a nice thing to know where your food comes from.  I don't do any butchering, but once it's all done, I am happy to do the cooking.

5.  After we ate the rooster, I returned the bones to the crockpot with some celery, garlic, water, and seasonings.  I cooked it overnight on low to make some bone broth.  It was a little oilier than I expected, but Paul fixed it with a huge batch of rice and some veggies the next day, and it was delicious.  I also had a couple of jars for the freezer.

Linked today with Willy Nilly Friday.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Pierce is 9

Last month, Pierce celebrated his 9th birthday.  It was a fun day, even though half of the usual family members who come weren't able to make it this year for a variety of reasons.  Pierce wanted a Minecraft cake. 
Thank goodness for those minifigure packs - they make the cake making process much easier.  I did a white cake with a middle layer of peach jam, buttercream frosting, and cinnamon graham crackers around the edges.  My dad declared it his favorite of my cake creations.  With salted caramel pretzel ice cream, it was very tasty.

Here's hoping Pierce has a great ninth year! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Tale of When Bo Had to Guard His Family

Last June we took in Bo, an English Setter, who lost his family in a tragedy.  He's been the goofiest of dogs - chasing butterflies and leaves, leaping through fields, trying to jump on the schoolbus daily, and opening any unlocked door in our house.  It took me five months to teach him how to sit.  But he's sweet with the boys and affectionate when he isn't obsessed with birds.

A couple of weeks ago, Paul went out of town for work.  I took Reid to lacrosse, and we got home around 7:40.  The boys and I rushed in the house, to begin the business of getting ready for bed.  A strange sound rumbled from the back porch.  What was that?  Was that Bo?  Growling?  Couldn't be.  I had never really heard him growl before.  I wanted to investigate, but with bedtime looming and the business of brushing teeth and getting into pjs, I became distracted.
A bit later the boys were all tucked in and I went up to my room to do some reading.  I had just settled into the pillows with the cats and a book, when Bo started barking like crazy.  Sometimes he barks at deer, so I didn't think too much about it.  But then I heard yelling in the woods on the property behind our house.  I turned off all the interior lights, checking all door locks along the way.  Then I turned on all the exterior spotlights.  Bo was barking on the back side of the house, so I went back upstairs, cracked a window, and watched Bo from my viewpoint, listening carefully in between his barks.
Imagine my alarm when in the grainy darkness I could just make out Bo chasing a pair of running legs down the driveway.  I immediately contemplated my options.  I knew it would take the sheriff a good 15 – 20 minutes to arrive, and then he wouldn’t necessarily be willing to go traipsing along our land in the dark.  Instead I texted a neighbor, a federal park ranger, to see if he was home.  He called me right away, and said that he’d come over to check things out.
Over the next hour Bo continued to pace and bark, but the yelling and voices stopped.  I got a text around ten that said my neighbor was back home, that it was a long story, but that he had taken care of the situation.  It wasn’t until the next evening when Paul returned home that we got the full story.  I think he didn’t want me to be scared all night.
It didn’t matter, though.  I couldn’t sleep that night, and was up every hour to check on things.  Know who else didn’t sleep?  Bo.  Every hour I got up, Bo was sitting at the top of the driveway, quietly keeping watch over the horse pasture.  He didn’t go to his snug bed on the porch once.  Even at 6:30 the next morning, he was still carefully keeping watch.
Our neighbor told us the next day that he had snuck up on our land from the backside.  Even though he has encountered numerous crazy situations for his job on the Blue Ridge parkway, he said even he was taken aback when he saw the man in our horse pasture.  Missing clothes, covered -- dripping in blood (like something out of a horror movie, according to the neighbor), drunk and delusional,  this is the man our dear dog chased away.  Our neighbor detained him until the police and an ambulance arrived to take him away. 
It takes my breath away to think of how our sweet, affectionate Bo protected his family that night, and then sat up all night making sure the threat didn’t return.  Some people may think that Bo was lucky to get a new family after he lost his, and flunked out of several other attempts at rehoming.  But the truth is that we were the lucky ones to get him.  I can’t imagine a more valuable fur friend than the one that puts his own life on the line to guard his family.  Had it not been for him, and our neighbor, things might have turned out very differently.  Not even a high tech alarm system could have handled the situation like Bo did.  So guess who got a big batch of home cooked bacon and a good dose of hugs the next day? 
Readers, have you ever had a dog do something amazing for you or a loved one?

Friday, October 30, 2015

That Time I Maced My Husband

As we do every year, we went to GoFest in mid October.  Here are some highlights from this year.

1.  This year, Pierce scampered straight to the top of the climbing wall, and rang the bell.

2.  Cort and Reid weren't interested in the climbing wall this time.  They did, however, do bike races and an alligator log rolling bouncy thing.

3.  Food trucks are crazy expensive.  You would assume food trucks would be kind of cheap, you know?  Not the case.  A grilled cheese cost me $8.  With no drink, no side, no chips, no condiments, no lettuce, no tomato.  Nothing extra.  Next year we're definitely eating at home.

4.  The guy at the Backpacker Magazine booth had 'practice mace'.  Looks like mace but it sprays water, so you can practice.  I laughed and declined taking one.  But he insisted I should have one for practice.  So I took one to be nice.  Later that night?  Yes, you can bet I practiced.  On Paul.  His face registered shock, then comprehension, as he realized it didn't hurt.  Then he laughed and laughed.  He said he knew I'd never really mace him.  Lucky me that he has a sense of humor, right?!

5.  Paul did a gear race that he does every year, and placed second.  He won a kayak!  Can't wait to try it out in the near future.  I have never been kayaking - just canoeing.

Readers, have you ever won anything big?

Hope everyone has a fun, safe, and mace-free Halloween tomorrow!

Linked today with Willy Nilly Friday

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Making Dandelion Root Tincture

I've been interested since I was a teenager in herbal remedies.  Last spring I read several books that mentioned dandelion tincture, which is supposed to be good for digestion and digestive organs.  I thought it might be interesting to try.  Goodness knows we have plenty of dandelions. 

You are supposed to wait until the fall to make dandelion tincture.  You dig up the roots and wash them.  If you have had a couple of frosts, you can use the greens in a sauté, but if they will be terribly bitter if you haven't had a frost yet. 

Cut up the root into small pieces and place in 90 proof (or better) alcohol for two weeks.  You should shake it every day, then strain it and place it in dark glass bottles. 

My root is still curing.  But I'm curious to see how it turns out.  As always, if you try making something like this, be absolutely sure you know the plant is dandelion, and talk with your doctor before using.

I'll let you know how it goes!  Readers, do you use any sorts of herbal remedies?  I want to try making dandelion coffee next.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Some Folks Really Do Melt in the Rain

Like Minions.  Turns out Minions melt in the rain.  Or at least this one did, following our ten days of heavy rains a few weeks ago.
I think everyone was glad when the rains ceased and the sun returned.  Even this minion still looks happy, albeit, in a slouchy kind of smile.

Friday, October 23, 2015

If I Could Just Boycott Winter

The Virginia Fall is splendid when it comes to the mountains and the colors.
Picture below taken at the pumpkin patch.
I do like running in the cooler temps, pumpkin lattes, Halloween parties and seeing the leaves change.  I don't, however, like the idea of the imminent winter. 

I'm really a spring person.  I'm already dreaming of next year's garden, and I haven't even put this year's garden to bed yet (even though all I have left now is some lettuce).  I have high hopes of some major garden extension next year. 

For month's I've been taking notes whenever I hear of some vegetable I want to grow next year.  I have a great list of heirlooms I want to try.  My parents are buying me some of these seeds for Christmas. 

I have a bit of a wait ahead, don't I? 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Parents in the Early Twentieth Century Were So Lazy

At my house the boys have to earn electronics privileges on a day to day basis, by doing educational worksheets.  They aren't obligated to do them, but if they want some time on the ipad or computer, they will.  Recently Pierce decided to do a historical reading I had put out for him about factory workers.  It talked about how during the Industrial revolution women could work factories, but it didn't pay well.  The article said that some women decided to work anyhow, because it gave them independence, a chance to send money back to the farm, and the opportunity to save money to take into a future marriage.

Pierce's take?

So yeah.  We had to have a big redo on THAT question! 

Monday, October 19, 2015

The Pumpkin Patch

Recently Paul's parents came to visit, and they treated us to a day at the pumpkin patch.  It was dreary and muddy, but that was the perfect time to go, because it wasn't crowded at all.
 Something kind of funny happened this year with Pierce.  You know he's almost nine now, right? 
 Well, he humored me sometimes...but other times he seemed conflicted.  Like maybe he thought he was a little too big to be doing some of the pumpkin patch.
 Fortunately, his brothers didn't have any hesitation at all.  Here is Cort's best spider face:

The hardest part for Pierce was the cow train.  Oh how he loved the cow train when he was younger.  He waffled back and forth.  He finally got on, but he wouldn't look at us the whole time he was riding around in circles. 

Cort and Reid had a blast with the tetherball.  Cort didn't want to leave it, and stayed there while his brothers shot off the corn cannon.

It was a fun day.  I think Pierce even managed to have some fun in spite of being way too cool for the rest of us.

Readers, have you visited the pumpkin patch yet this fall?