Saturday, July 28, 2018

Coconut Cake

Cooking has become such a joy for me. I'm no longer the 30 year old who wished they'd invent a perfectly healthy food in pill size, owing that cooking and eating were perceived as wastes of my valuable work time. Now, I find myself plotting how to extricate a recipe from a neighbor who brought me the most delicious chicken pot pie.  I must have that recipe. 
Here's a recipe that I had to research:

Dolester Miles, pastry chef at the Highland Grill in Birmingham won the James Beard Foundation Award for her coconut cake.
Of course it wasn't a simple 5 ingredient cake, but I like a challenge.

A chef once told me that great dish cannot start with average ingredients.  I've taken it to heart, attempting to source ingredients locally and organically and eschewing anything processed.  As I said I love a challenge!

And I love to learn new techniques.

Toasting coconut evenly is a skill.

Slicing cakes in half horizontally... equally tricky.

A cooked custard filling between the layers topped by whipped cream.

Now someone has to tell me what the easy way is to get the coconut up on the sides of the cake.  Patting it on didn't work.  I ended up toasting more coconut and throwing it at it.  It was a royal mess, but I have sous chefs always willing to mop up the floors.

I need an industrial kitchen... one with a big drain in the middle and a hose on the wall!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

After Hours

You'd think after a full time job taking care of horses that I'd be less enthusiastic about taking care of other critters on my off time. Just isn't the case, I reveal in my mornings runs with Garrett and Dax.

Necessary chore to get both Dax and I in the proper frame of mind for a day's work.

He needs to expend a lot of energy if he's to remain angelic throughout the day at the barn or at home.  My routine is to get up at 5 AM, clean house, do farm accounting and ease out the door after sunrise for a run.  Foul weather rarely impedes us, but about once a week, either I play snooze button tag or get wrapped up in my accounting programs and can't get out in time. 
That's when he makes me pay:


He's the best running coach I could have, keeps me out on the trails, 5 miles a day, without fail, or else.

It's truly more of a treat to care for them than a chore. Even as they age and require more specialized care... Peter's obesity has been hampering his mobility and in spite of (mostly) best efforts, Chubbo remains at 82 lbs.  His orthopedist recommended 75% vegetables in with his kibbles now to try to get him down to 57 lbs.

Making homemade stock with vegetable medleys is now another task on the agenda.

It helps when Peter acts as sous chef.

You'd be surprised how much my lot love celery.

Peter and Garrett do hate storms though.  One day, serious lightning popped out of nowhere and I chose to bring the horses into the barn for safety first and go home to retrieve the dogs later.  

Peter hates storms. He was perturbed to say the least.

Dax settled in nicely with his body pillow and hardly noticed.

Meanwhile, my home looks like a crack house from the road, owing to the shredded blinds and torn curtains.  Mental note:  never leave Peter alone during storms.
Another bit of info: don't try to sneak past our vet's two dogs with three heathens in the car...

Every day is a new creature adventure.  Thankfully all here share my vision of being good stewards of this land and respecting all creatures great and small that call this home:
In spite of ourselves, all of us have taken a shine to Dax too.

Bless his little self!!!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Tornadic Winds Saturday

Murphy and his Laws are KILLING me!
Saturday was one for the books.
While I was trying to rasp a horse's feet, the horse was acting like a Mexican jumping bean, couldn't figure out why until I looked over to see a darling rat snake climbing the ladder to the hay loft right beside us. I ushered him to the floor and reprimanded him for trying to go after all our barn swallows.  The birds are responsible for keeping all the wasps and flies out of the barn.  They must remain unmolested.

I was the bouncer and this guy was escorted out.  

Later in the day, he made his way back up the hill and back into the barn area.  Once again, he was asked to leave. I'm sure he's responsible for the dwindling number of janitors I have in the barn at night. (Usually at least 20 toads patrol the barn aisle at night eating all the bugs, lately I've been only finding handfuls).

Eviction served, but not before he latched onto my thumb.

Next time I catch him, he's getting a ride to the other side of the property-- let's see him find his way back then!
After weeks of trail clearing, I was feeling smug at 2 PM on Saturday afternoon.  75% of the trails were back to pristine condition.  30 miles done, 10 miles left to clean.

Massive amounts of limbs have been run through the burn pile recently.  The cleared trails were enjoyed for 4 hours before a wicked, wicked storm system plowed through here.

A tornado struck in the area and all the tornadic winds caused some major mayhem.
My phone having died earlier in the day, I was unaware that we were under a tornado warning.  It was around 6 PM when I decided the sky looked ominous, warranting bringing the horses in for their own safety.  Usually, we have to bait/bribe them back to the barn.  They all came galloping on their own.  That should've been a sign!
Next, I struggled to manage closing the sliding barn doors.  The wind was trying to rip them off the rails.  Next sign...
Upper cloud formations were moving to the West, lower formations were hustling to the East.  How many signs does one need?
By the time it died down, horses were let out, my dogs and I got home past dark to find oodles of text messages from friends warning me and then questioning our safety.  Oops.
I was able to recon some fence rows by flashlight, but waited until daybreak to assess.

Glad we didn't try to drive to any of the houses.  Foot travel only. 

The formerly pristine trails...

Trees snapped right in two.

It was a chore to get to the main house.

Once there, it became obvious that cutting the grass today was no longer on the agenda!

Even the driveway down was blocked.
This is ridiculous!
Where to start???
When even the pasture fences took a clobbering.

Start somewhere ... getting the patio furniture out of the pool.
Never dull around here.  Thankfully, all creatures are healthy and accounted for.

So what if new erosion sites can swallow a VW Bug!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Random Acts of Violence Against a Tree

When an oak tree fall, who ya gonna call?

The Chainsaw Sisters, that's who.

I think our Dr. Simmons is turning out to be a fine logger.

Stay tuned for next week's episode when she receives alligator baiting lessons...just kidding!..maybe.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Horses have an innate ability to muck up everyone's schedules. Tuesday was no exception.  It was our new part-timer, Heather's responsibility to feed the horses and manage the barn for the morning while I took Axel back to the vet school for an optho recheck.  
When Heather called to report another horse, Cody was in distress, I thought she might have been hypervigilante as it was the first time she'd been in charge of the horses. When she described what sounded like a mild asthma attack, I decided to call Dr. Brown immediately.  The aforementioned super-vet was here in less than an hour. I was going to be late for my appointment in Auburn with Axel, but decided to wait for a diagnosis in case it was 2 horses that needed hauling to the vet school.
Somehow arriving only fashionably late for Axel's appointment, I aimed to be back on the farm within two hours.  Axel had other plans.  
His eyes are remaining stable since his surgery, but the specialists felt he could benefit from steroid injections into his eyeball. Meaning my schedule went out the window and the crew and I were stuck in town longer than expected. I'd been lamenting that I needed time away from the farm, but this isn't what I had in mind. 

The dogs and I lingered far too long at Panera's. Meanwhile, Heather was managing quite well without me... that had been the contingency plan because I know Murphy and his Laws quite well, thank you.

We toured the grounds of the art museum and considering it was 103'F with humidity, I didn't mind that Dax had a splash in a fountain.  I did mind when Peter slipped his collar and waddled in the lake in front of the museum and refused to get out.  Rebel stayed out of reach in order to bob around at his leisure.

I had my fun too.  One sculpture invites you to climb on it.

No coaxing required.

We have way too much fun.
Back at the vet school, the more mature boys behave well.

The other one, not so much.

We all made it back home, hours missed during the day were made up during this other shift called 'second shift'!  Murphy and his naughty horses aren't going to mess with progress on the farm!
Tuesday's report card is out:
Heather A+
Dr. Brown A+
Garrett A
Peter B
Dax C+

Sunday, July 15, 2018

1 Year Memorial

July 15, 2017 Cole had to leave.  I'm still mad at him.  Sucks being without my soulmate. There will be no other.
Here's a montage from his last month alive.

Darn it if he didn't give it his all until the last minute.  My hero.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Back To Good

Last week I was about as demoralized, morbidly tired, dismally discouraged as I've been in a very, very long time.  
This is when you find out how lucky you are to have a posse.  Yeah, I got peeps.  Talk about being encircled so darn tight with love and support that your only option is to get better!
Plus having Thai food brought to you from a restaurant you've been wanting to try for 4 years helps tremendously.

Beef stir fry, some sort of cold Thai version of a fajita and a soup with what looked like donkey nuts in the bottom (they were delectable, little chewy, but what do you expect from...).  Devoured it all after work!

The fajita thingy intrigued me.  I didn't know what half the food was.  What was deduced to be some sort of prickly fruit turned out to have appendages.

Now, I'm thinking it was a marine creature or cat's tongue.  Jury's out, but whatever it was, it was delicious.
While gleaning positive energy from all those around me, I also kept eating other people's food.  It's a great system, you ought to try it!  By eating half a coworker's lunch, I discovered beet hummus.  Unless you've slathered the pink stuff on a Wassa cracker before, you haven't lived.
And living is what I've been doing again for a few days.  Doing the survival stroke for far too many weeks without a day off, then hearing that Flynn's surgery was still weeks away had made me throw my hands up in the air with an 'that F$%& does it, I quit!'  attitude.  Ok, so it's going to be close to three months without a day off.  When life gets tough, get tougher.  
This morning, I did just that and I MADE time off out of thin air.  I took some time for myself.
Dax, Garrett and I went triathloning.

We did our 5 mile run.  Nothing beats running with dogs daily.

Add in kayaking, well that's gravy.

Garrett doesn't swim, so he got his own kayak to keep him from being dunked by Dax.

He dunked himself.

Until he figured out a lower center of gravity is better.

This is how Dax and I towed him across the lake.  

Not too bad for his first time in a kayak.

For the last phase of the triathlon.  Dax helped pull Garrett in the wagon.

Another first for Garrett.  Another A+ for my crew.

When I found Garrett three years ago, he had pneumonia.  His vet at the time said he'd never be good at running because of the permanent damage to his lungs from chronic pneumonia.  Here's proof rehab works.  I impose a max of 5 miles, but I'm proud of that boy.  He deserves a ride home.

In style.
Back home, something arrived in the post.

From a concerned member of my posse, no doubt.  I'm already on Chapter 2.  Thank you, whomever you are.