Saturday, March 31, 2018

Team Cookery

For a while there, we weren't sure if we were having company at the farm over Easter.  Recipes waiting in the wings, eager to be created.
We get the green flag and head for the kitchens on Friday.
My associate likes to play with fire so he was put in charge of the smoker.

The smoker is one I built in 2013 out of a 1940's fridge and a 55 gal drum.

It even has a handy grocery cart basket to hold firewood.

On the menu: whiskey glazed smoked chicken.

I'm getting better at trussing up chickens, earlier models looks like S & M experiments.

Master Glazer at work.

And the finished bird.

I even threw some pig's ears in the smoker for the dogs.
Garrett swallowed his.  Pete laid in bed canoodling with his. Dax flaunted it through the yard, not allowing me to get too close to his prize.

Meanwhile, there's a flurry of activity going on in the kitchen because I'd chosen a Cook's Illustrated recipe for Creamy Lemon Squares to attempt.  Cook's Illustrated recipes have never failed me, but they are usually long and arduous.  

Lemon Squares no different.

Very fun to try.

Letting the pan cool.
In the interim, there was a lasagna from scratch in the making.

From the kitchens of Flynn and Jamie, Happy Easter!

By the way, Dax and I did get our run Friday after all.  Just the two of us at dusk.  Didn't seem wise to run Garrett with a whole pig ear in his stomach and Peter couldn't be bothered as he was still making love to his.
Life is good.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Anatomy of a Day Off

Thursday.  You get up at 6 to seize your day off.  You mistakenly think you can wrap up some unfinished work from yesterday in 20 minutes.  
2 hours later, you're rushing around to leave for town in order to meet a dear friend you haven't seen in forever.
You ditch your phone in your car and enjoy 3 hours of sisterhood: engaging conversation and good food.  Plus you get to visit with your goddog.  No pictures, no phone, but imagine a Jack Russell crossed with Chewbacca, adorable.
Then you get sliced on by your dermatologist because you don't have the common sense to wear sunscreen.
Then you run some farm errands and rush home thinking you'll have enough daylight to take the Tiny Terrorist for a run before dark.  
Before you think that if I didn't have bad luck, I'd have no luck at all... look at it from my perspective.  I drove home, not through my gates, but I came home from my boss's house through the trails... that's when I saw a huge white blob walking through the woods towards the barn.
I speak of the Tommy. He was loose, out, free, escaped, emancipated!
Luring him the rest of the way to a stall in the barn wasn't going to be difficult with a bucket of'd think.

Three weeks ago, he was lame and required an emergency visit to the vet school.  They must've performed a miracle because he decides to charge me and chase me through the woods. First time for everything!!! I felt like I was being chased by a 3000 lb Usain Bolt.  How is it I ended up choosing to wear my Merrells to go to town?

When once a bona fide runner, they were the shoes I used to run wind sprints for training. And wind sprints we did run.  Guardian angels working overtime for me, again! 
Eventually, he ends up in the Farmhouse driveway, tuckered out from his own antics, he is caught and left tied to a tree while I regroup my posse (me, myself and I).  It occurs to me then to try to change out of what had originally been good city clothes, but one look at the dark stains on my pants confirm that I now had new barn clothes.

Mr. Hyde now long gone, Dr. Jekyll and I walk calmly back through the woods to my yard. 
I found where he'd escaped:

Not simply pushing the fence down, but snapping all the metal!
Time to move the electrification of the pasture up to #1 priority spot.  And with storms on the horizon, ain't not time like the present.

I don't think I've ever strung an electric fence up so fast!

Whoever invented head lanterns is a god.

I need to invent one for my faithful assistant.

While Garrett and Peter are cowering in the house because of the arriving thunder, Dax is like glue.

He's going to be a great dog... one day.

Meanwhile, Tommy is unimpressed with my fortifications.

He's not speaking to me anymore. 

The day off ends at 1 AM Friday morning when I'm able to join my pack.  Never ever a dull day on the farm, ever, ever, ever!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Tin Ma'am

Tin Ma'am, not Tin Man.

I feel like a horse.
Last chapter to the crushed kidney saga of last year:  repairing some major vein blowouts in my legs caused by poor circulation.
A quality hour and a half with a vascular surgeon last week and I'm actually following protocol.  Hard to believe, isn't it?  No running, no cardio, no sitting in bath water or pond water!

Well, I have my own variation... bandages' latex elastic makes me itch like crazy, so I modified the compression wrapping systems and I made adjustments so I could bend my knees.  So, OK, I'm not following protocol 100%, closer than usual though! Where there's a will to work, there's a way!!!

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Drag, Push or Pull

When you live where you work, you always think about work.  Even when I'm on my own time running on the trails, I can't just jump over a downed tree.  I try to clear the path or take my cell phone and write myself a memo about it.  Just little things, but compounded... well, it can make you go insane if you don't unplug. It's been a year since I quit going to the gym.  That was the best form of escapism!  Since then, I've been hardwired in at the farm and my little neuron connectors have been getting frayed. 
A few weeks ago, I spent 5 hours straight studying every manner of vintage camper to modern teardrop. I eventually forced myself to shut my computer off at 2 AM.
 Hooked to my SUV, we could spend a day at a nearby park and look at other people's downed trees and not care! 
Caveat being that if I bought a camper, then I could no longer afford to go anywhere!
Still, I pined for a Serro Scotty early 70's camper.

Decently renovated campers of that era start at $4000. Can't really get anything cheaper unless you get a micro teardrop camper that wouldn't even fit me and the dogs.

This is the interior of a 1965 Scotty with original propane lighting. 

No need to park at an electrical site with a gas stove.  

Some vintage Scottys are extremely collectible. 
An evening well spent dreaming, but classified under "plans for when I retire or win the lotto".
Fast forward to Sunday.
My quirky neighbor, Scrappy, texts to ask if I had an old pipe he could use to drain water away from his driveway.  Matter of fact, I have a set of scrap metal pipes that have been bothering me for months.  I'll bring them right over. 
Let it be known that the snakes are officially out of dormancy.

Unfortunate rat snake had made a home in the pipe and is confused upon eviction.

Poor munchkin tries to hide around the axle of the trailer.

Takes some negotiating to get him to go somewhere safer.  I felt so guilty for making him homeless before nightfall, I try to herd him to a fallen tree, but he is an unwilling sheep.

Scrappy is the only name by which I know my neighbor who lives on the hill opposite my house.  His property is consortium of scrapped lawn furniture, truck parts, unrecognizable debris, storage sheds and trailers, many trailers.  His mobile home, with its projecting outgrowths of slapped on rooms has an organic, amoeba-like quality about it.  He joked once before a bad storm that a tornado hitting his place would be an improvement.
My deep aversion to junk and piles 'o' crap had made me reticent about getting to know ole Scrappy the first year I was here.  Then, he sorta grew on me.  He's a stay at home dad to a severely handicapped 40 year old son.  He's fiercely blunt, fond of drink,  a natural comedian, quick on the wit in his texts... a big white Fred Sandford.
He even called me "Dummy" last year, so I guess that means he likes me too.

For the first time, I notice this in his yard:

Can it be???

My pulse quickens, I'm yelling at Scrappy "Is that a Scotty, is it a Scotty?" . By now he's standing beside me when he yells in my ear that it's his POS tool shed.


Not in the greatest condition, worse than poor, a mound of decrepitude.

I must have it.

--"But, Baby it's my shed."
--"Fine, I'll build you a new shed."
--"When can you start?"

And the deal is done.  I'm sure I can find a tire and rim somewhere on his place to slap on the trailer to make the 400 yard trek to my carport. 
And now I have even more reason to learn how to weld.

18 months from now, I should have a road worthy glamper, or not.  Who knows unless you try!

R & R, My Version

It's been nearly three long and arduous years that I have been separated from a place that owns a piece of my soul.  

This week, I reconnected, in spite of enough obstacles to make me consider cancelling.  Were they omens telling me to stay on the farm, or challenges meant to plowed over?  I chose the latter... meaning that I didn't get to leave the farm until late at night. 
It's a good way to cross a normally gridlocked Atlanta.

Downtown I-85 around 1 AM: no traffic!

Peter and Garrett on their down duvet settle in for the 4-1/2 hour ride.

My tiny terrorist remains on his docking station the entire trip.
I arrive at mine at 3:30 AM.  
obviously not taken in the  middle of the night

After a cat nap, we awake to this scene.

It continues to snow most of the morning, yes, I am in Heaven.

Garrett prefers the window seat.

Dax, despite my often insisting that he is Beelzebub's spawn, shows he truly is my kid after all.

"A day outside is better than any day inside".
To thank my friends for inviting me to stay at their mountain home, I like to make myself useful and fix things, paint stuff, or this time, get the house ready for the season... all the while looking out at this incredible view:

Never feels like work when I'm up here.

The window seat becomes prime real estate.
The real estate I'm interested contains hiking trails.  I don't know if there's a trail Cole and I missed during our years running in the Pisgah, Sumter and Nantahalla National Forests, and all the plethora of other trails in the area.  This one was our favorite, and right in our backyard too.

9.6 miles up to the tower and back, but we always took side trails to make the runs longer.
Cole and mine's last run up to Yellow Mountain

The view from the fire tower...

is breathtaking.

How things can change in a short time:  No longer am I a fleet footed ultramarathoner racing through the woods with my running partner, Cole.  I now lumber and wheeze and pretend to stop to wait for Peter, when in fact I'm winded and seeing stars.  Even with a medical file now brimming with reasons not to endurance run anymore, I can't give up the dream.  I may never attain it with a dog like Dax, who refuses to grasp the concept of pacing, or any other form of obedience for that matter, but I'm going to die trying!

As long as I'm with dog on trail.
We don't make it all the way to the fire tower, we get over halfway and turn around before Goat Knob.  But the goal of our first hike is to visit Cole Mountain.

I've brought soil from Cole's grave and hair that I'd pulled from his jackets.

Time to let my best friend run free on his mountain.
Dax, initially not recognizing the solemness of the moment thinks there's treats in the Tupperware.

It's no wonder our love for dogs is so profound.  

Without words, they understand.  They watch the ceremonial toss over the edge.  Dax doesn't try to play fetch with the flying sand, Garrett doesn't wander off to pee on a bush... they just mirror my soul.

How do they do that?

I'm thankful every day for my crew.
Dax included:

For all the respect shown to a great uncle he's never met, Dax deserves a trip to Woofgang Bakery.  

Cole loved shopping here.  We'd come every day while we were here.  The owner made homemade peanut butter popsicles for him after our Summer runs and one year, a birthday cake.
A ritual worth repeating with the new crew. Toys and treats the first day.

Christmas, extra early.

On the second trip, I stock up on dog food that ordinarily has to be shipped to me.

Dax pulls a few more toys off the shelves and I obligingly surrender my credit card.

Next stop: a 2.5 mile run up to Mt. Chinquapin.

"Are we there yet?"

"This is why you dragged me up here?"

Dax seems more suitably impressed.

This 5 mile in and back trail was a regular for me and the Colemeister because it was an easy climb.

Peter is unimpressed that there's 2.5 miles to go to get back to the car.

And the Little Dynamo sleeps.

OK, just for Peter, an easy forest service road run in the evening.

Turns into a bit of panic when we run into the smoke from a forest fire on the mountain that sits next to our lodgings.

911 operator assures me the fire is contained, but that I should turn around. Roger that.

My favorite barn on the way back home.

The stables I can see from my deck.

Our last run is in Ellicott Rock Wilderness, within the Nantahalla Forest on the North Carolina side and the Sumter National Forest on the South Carolina side.  Making it another state Dax has bagged. Cole and I would start out at Bull Pen Road trailhead and run one end to the other. For Pete's sake (and mine), we start at the Walhalla Fish Hatchery and only go halfway.

Close to civilization, the trail is civilized.

Progressively less civilized as the miles add up.

This is better.

Up and down.

The two old farts stay tethered until we reach halfway points.

Garrett suffers from total lack of direction, so I only trust him to follow us on a return leg.

We make it to the Chattooga River. Peter asks if we can turn around now.  Heck no, we must follow the river until we get to the famous Ellicott Rock.

Dax poses on the Rock, looking like Washington crossing the Delaware.

An incident reminds me of why he can't be trusted off leash, yet.  He hurls himself into a set of rapids to attack the churning water.  He gets tossed around and I reel him back in twice!  I take this video after he's backed of his suicidal zeal.

Here in Ellicott Wilderness, I find my little peace of soul I'd been missing.  Having run all over America, this will forever be my favorite place, forever wild, forever beautiful.

Don't cry, Ma, we'll come back.  
I do have the best boys.

No matter how slow I become, or how many more times I'll fall, I'll keep running.

Forever free.

How I love this little sanctuary nestled in the woods.