Thursday, May 29, 2014

Just Bragging

New gadgets and vegetables to brag about:

Tommy sizes up the competition.

A friend gave me a long term lease on her electric mower.  A new toy!  The ever expanding flower beds around here have turned a straight forward mowing job for Dr P into the obstacle course from Hell.  Isn't all that much grass left to cut, my wee wittle mower is fun to use!

The sauerkraut making process is messing with my sense of order.  To keep the 20 L crock at 65'F, I had to Jerry rig a cooler on its side with ice packs around the crock.  Only 6 more weeks of this to go.  The compost pile may get it, should my patience run out.

Onion harvest.

Potato harvest being coveted by lover of spherical flying objects.

Photo art by Kim

Cole has been hired by the vet school therapeutic clinic to help with an Open House demonstration next week.  Get his autograph now before the fame goes to his head!


Last week, the manufacturing division of Smith Enterprises attempted to depose its administrative director.  As it is a one man operation, such a coup is unfortunately impossible.  After rounds of schizophrenic negotiations, we've/I've agreed to moderate the work schedules.  Last four weeks of work has left me a little burned out -- like extra crispy. 

The support staff at home has been providing comic relief.

More than 6 months have passed since Cole's first surgery and we've never left the farm. Time to head to my refuge in Appalachia before I blow a gasket.
I have this great gig where I clean a vacation home in the mountains of North Carolina.  It's a four hour drive, but a world away. Another client kindly offered the same arrangement for the care of their beach condo, but I passed.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that you can't pay me to go to the beach. Leave me to my forests.

The trick to making the trek in 4 hours is to bisect Atlanta after 11 PM, when traffic has abated.  I hit the road Friday night and we were unpacked and asleep by 2 AM.  Up again at 5:30 because one must hit the popular trails early to avoid throngs of slow hikers.


The parking lot at Whiteside Mountain trailhead after we'd descended.  We were the third party here when we'd arrived.  Early bird gets the peace and quiet.
I'd chosen this trail to test Sadie's hiking skills.  Short three miles and plenty of fencing at edge of the precipices.

A+ on her report card.

Cole's first hike since our last run in Arizona in November. 

Afterwards, the dogs and I indulged in the best BBQ pork, bar none.  This little joint in Cashiers, NC is always a required stop for me.  Cole was awaiting his next piece.
Next mandatory stop is at Woof Gang Dog Bakery. 

The treat table was under siege.

Cole scored big:  new raincoat, bags of treats and a new food dish, one intended to perplex and bewilder.  Back on Mother's Day, I'd taken the dogs out for ice cream.  In the drive thru queue, Cole couldn't contain his excitement and he barfed all over the dash and stick shift.  Rather than being aghast about the chunks, which are still stuck down between the seats, the 6 hour old digesta with intact kibbles is what upset me.  My dog isn't chewing any of his food, which causes mal absorption of nutrients and possibly life threatening bloat. 
But now, problem solved.

Saturday afternoon, I found some of the most beautiful trails on land owned by a country club.  The front desk staff politely told me that only members are permitted to enjoy the miles and miles of trails.  Ruffians, such as ourselves, must go elsewhere.  My elsewhere was down to the maintenance shop where I inquired about the trails with the Mexican laborers.  Problem circumnavigated and Chimney Top Mountain ascended.  5 more miles under our belt. Gracias, amigos!

Tag teaming it up the mountain.

Yes, Sadie, it is breath taking.

Yes, Sadie, the car is way down there.
I can never get enough of the mountains, I hate to come out of the woods.  I had to remind myself that Cole isn't 100 % back in shape yet.

He loves the mountain air too.
And we had work to do at the house anyway.

With the vistas of Shortoff Mountain to one side, the stable and arena off to the front and lovely rhododendrons blooming everywhere, work here is very pleasant.  Add to that the marvelous silence:  no TV, no radio, no computer, no news, no's restoration for the soul.  I spent three glorious days in a  peaceful world where hearing your own voice is startling.

On Sunday, we wandered North to Pisgah National Forest.  I found heaven.  Almost didn't take the hike:  my map was outdated, the trailhead parking lot was closed due to construction, trail signs were absent (problem I've discovered in all national parks due to budget cuts leading to lack of maintenance).  We plowed forward to ascend Tennant Mountain, a 7 mile round trip hike.

"Are you sure this is the way?"

Well, actually it wasn't.
We stumbled upon a map to the entrance of Shining Rock Wilderness to discover that I had missed Tennant Mountain way back there and we were between Cold Mountain and Shining Rock Mountain. 

 As it was imperative to bag a peak, we headed to Shining Rock 6040 feet elevation. 

Sadie: "I'm gonna tell my Daddy on you!"
Cole: "I'm telling my physiotherapist!"

"Ma, I don't see the car." Oops, we ended up doing a 14 mile hike.
But, isn't it worth it?  Plus, the pack mule, moi, had toted up a big picnic.
Mother Nature helped cool us off on the descent with a long, lovely, at times heavy, rain shower.  Nothing like being pulled over slick rocks by a pair of sled dogs.

Finally back on the trail with my kid, I'll never take another day in the woods with him for granted.

On Sunday, I worked around the house and took the crew out for a short hike to Sunset Rocks.  Yes, Jinx was relieved of his house guarding duties to be dragged along what he considered to be a death march.  We got to the outcropping and Jinx rushed over to other hikers and tried to jump in their arms.  Yes, I abuse him.  Fresh air and exercise are torture for this couch potato.

Well, we're back in Alabama now, my fuel tank has been refilled, I'm good to go for a while until the mountains call me back.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different

We had a little fun after work on Sunday.   6 cups water + 2 c. Palmolive + 1 c. corn syrup= massive bubbles.

Homemade hoop.

Mandatory equipment:  bubble popper.

"Next time add beef broth to the recipe, these balls taste awful!"

Life and death drama interrupted our games.

A hawk passed overhead and dropped its prey on the roof of the old farmhouse. 
Rescue 911 in action.  A ladder was quickly erected and a rake was used to pull the juvenile mockingbird off the hot tin roof... also before it rolled off into awaiting maws. 

Little guy says he's shaken up, but he'll be OK.

This Sharp-shinned Hawk had a case of the butter fingers.  The whole affair made my day: it was rewarding to be this mockingbird's Atticus and I spotted a raptor I'd never seen here at the farm.  Cool! 

Custom around here dictates that everything revolves around food.  Sunday night, I made sauerkraut in my new fermentation crock. 

6 cabbages will either become delicious kraut or end up feeding the worms in the compost pile in 6 weeks. 

I can't lift the lid for the entire time of fermentation--the anticipation will kill me.

My previous blog post may have some of you thinking that I'm that stuck up customer at Panera who wants organic soymilk for her coffee, wants to know if the coffee beans were shade the wheat in my pastry organic?  No fears, when I'm out, I'm thoroughly grateful someone else did the cooking.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Take that...

War had been raging against the gremlins attempting to ruin my week.  By Thursday afternoon, the enemy had been vanquished.

The air conditioner in my car died, but according to my warranty tome, I'm covered.

My awesome little car's first booboo.

A room, at my dentist's office, should be named in my honor.  After weeks of return visits, so many anesthesia laden needles jabbed into my gums that my brain began to feel numb, I was prepared on Thursday afternoon to receive the news that I needed a root canal.  Who needs money, right? 
Instead, the dentist tells me all the work done in the past month is solid, the throbbing pain in my mouth is from sensitivity at the gum line-- no root canal, no crown, no charge!   X-rays, two tubes of fluorine treatment--free.  I staggered out of the office, incredulous.  Kapow, dental demons!

Being self-employed, lunch is what I can inhale during the commute between clients.  Running an errand had better take no more than 10 minutes.  Time when I'm not working-- I'm not earning. The evil accountant living in my head keeps tally of wasted minutes when I'm on the clock.
Since Cole's first surgery, I've spent a lot of time running back to the house for his potty breaks, taking him for appointments and recently, driving three times a week to physiotherapy.  Over an hour each day of lost income that I have to makeup in the evenings or on weekends.  My enthusiasm was waning this week.
I carved out one hour on Wednesday to watch how he had progressed in rehab =  renewed hope.

Cole's muscled up so quickly that he's now permitted long walks.

Does anyone know if there's a bottom to the pit of energy a young Lab possesses? I really would like to find it.

Sadie, docked on her charger.

To her credit, this guest dog has upped my running frequency this week.  She needs 3 miles/day to allow us to sleep at night!  But, this is what results if you ignore a sharp pain in your foot for 5 miles.

One toenail fell off and attacked the neighboring toe.  Spy vs. spy in my sock.

Another battle was fought against two local retailers.  One should never mess with my food or that of my dogs'.  My love affair with Earth Fare natural food market has soured.  They have decided to stop carrying the Working Cows Dairy products because they sell out too quickly. It's a family operation, not a factory run amalgamation of farms, they can't double production overnight!  So, if you're the only store in town carrying a sought after niche product, you should drop it like a hot potato, who's the brilliant MBA who cooked that one up?

The organic farm is only two hours away, I went there last year to meet the family and gaze upon their 48 stall carrousel milking parlor.  Food provenance is very important to me.  If I can't produce it or hunt it, I want to make sure that whoever is, is doing so in a manner that parallels my philosophy on sustainable agriculture. 
Wednesday night, I appealed to Rinske De Jong at Working Cow Dairy. In less than 24 hrs, I was picking up my 2 gallons from my new supplier, Wake Up artisanal coffee shop.  Two local coffee shops are the only places now that use the milk within a 60 mile radius. It's a special arrangement...don't spread it around and ruin it for me please.

Bonus:  I have discovered the best coffee in town.  They make each cup individually, so it takes about 5 minutes, but it's the elixir of the gods.  Wake Up is located on College St across from Samford Hall.  The big hunks of homemade pastries are also sinfully good.  Every Thursday now will be milk, coffee and pastry day!

Now for my scrimmage with the independently owned natural food store, the only local source for my dog food.  I've been their faithful supporter for over 20 years. However, over the past year, staffing problems make it impossible to shop there under 20 minutes.  I've left the queue a number of times when I've accrued $10 in lost wages.  Business is business and I've taken mine somewhere else.

Within two days from placing an order with, I'd received all my dog food supplies, cheaper than the local store's prices and with free shipping. 

Cole and Sadie relished the Origen elk treats.

Dairy Animal Nutrition was my specialization in college.  I applied that to the feeding of my three day old calves.
My goal was to build them bigger and stronger than average, without the use of hormone implants, feed additives or antibiotics.
2,000 lbs is the average.  My boys are now almost 7 years old, strong, solid and above average in all respects.
Tommy tops the scale at 3,000 pounds. 
I'm just as overzealous with canine nutrition.
Mavis was a month short of her 20th birthday before she had a stroke and died.
Cocotte was 20 when we had an unfortunate incident involving my dually.
So, as for Cole and Jinx, they eat a mix of Fromm's Gold (from Wisconsin, been there, seen it), Acana (a line of Origen from Canada, best quality high protein ration), Organix (organic line of Castor and Pollux) and Evanger's 100% meat canned foods.  My conclusions, based on my research, are that a variety of balanced kibbles, with at least 5 different meat species sources, mixed with a tablespoon of canned food is the best option.  Feeding only one brand of kibble year after year can lead to food allergies.  Wouldn't you break out in hives if you had to eat chicken, chicken meal and pearl barley twice a day for 10 years?
Prepare to roll your eyes...I insist on knowing where every ingredient in the dog food originated.  A dog food maker can claim that the food was made in the USA, even if the ingredients were imported.  Technically, it's not a lie, the kibble was formed in the USA, but that's not satisfactory to me.  China has been accused repeatedly of using the same factories that make leather, to make rawhide dog treats--- enter arsenic poisoning, an ingredient used to tan hides.  Imported additives were to blame for the deaths linked to Beneful last year.  Oh yeah, there was a quiet recall on Beneful last year.  You probably didn't hear about it because dog food recall standards are not the same as for human food.  Manufacturers can quietly pull their tainted products from the shelves without having to publicize it.   
This is why I'm a member of  They monitor all the dog food manufacturers, post any changes in the product sourcing and send out alerts about possible contaminations.  Darn tootin' right I'm serious about what I put in my dogs' tummies!
The Kid and I have many more years of running to address!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

Today I pay tribute to all the women in my life who know that being a mother is more than biology.  The adoptive moms, the stepmoms, the sisters, the best friends, the mentors, the aunts, those who care for other species as their kin, you are the best!

Today, I also took a day off from work to play on the farm. 
First task, while imbibing in too much coffee:  refurbishing a 1960's Danish teak table lamp.  As soon as I laid eyes upon it in a friend's project pile, I coveted it.  She was sweet enough not to make me grovel.

The legs serve double duty as the stand and shade support, so minimalistic--I'm daffy about it.
By coffee #3, I possessed sufficient coordination to pick roses.

Not one of my antique roses, but a floribunda called 'Rock and Roll'.  I discovered this fragrant beauty in the Rose Garden in Tyler, Texas and coveted it until I found a nursery in Wisconsin that still bred it.

I've been a little groggy since our newest guest arrived on Friday.  Enter Sadie, a one year old Lab, who's a night owl.  Saturday night was better than the previous night, but she had us up an hour before I ordinarily rise.  REM sleep interrupted. 
She's now the ad hoc second half of Smith Racing.

Getting out the door can be a challenge.  She ran 4 miles on Saturday and 3 this Sunday...just enough to curb her enthusiasm.

With Cole benched since December, I haven't had a good running partner... I haven't had a bad fall either, but who's counting?  Sadie is a natural skijorer:  no stopping, no twisting me up in the line, steady pace, what a treat!
I finished off my 20 mile run by my lonesome.  Now that I have annexed 3 surrounding properties to my running fiefdom, I really can run all day long and never leave home.  Sure, it involves multiple loops, but the scenery is always different.

Who can beat the crowd support?  Morel, my head cheerleader.

Wildflowers, verbena in this case, are busting out everywhere.

New territory, a forty acre field I like to call The Briar and Poison Ivy Patch.

New paths to discover.

Log cabin something or other.  Quaint and full of snakes.

A new secluded pond perfect for spotting waterfowl and turtles.

At home in the woods, with the poison ivy, the snakes, all part of the package.

20 strong miles.  Not at all fast,  my GPS record shows that I had a mini-bonk between mile 16 and 17,a granny in a walker could have passed me!  Plenty of room for improvement.

Sunday night, I took all three dogs out for ice cream.  OK, I wanted ice cream and I needed co-collaborators.

All's well that ends well.