Friday, March 28, 2014

overthinking, underdeciding

Dear Readers:
I've been trying to work something out for a couple of weeks.
I've avoided writing about it because it may be very dull reading.
But I can't seem to write about anything else, so here goes!
Your thoughts and suggestions are most welcome.

I may be taking a little trip.

Flashback: For most of my life I have loved my rare opportunities to travel, always on a shoestring (think "hostel" rather than "hotel") and usually wearing a heavy backpack half-full of cameras. I was never good at "vacationing" but I was always up for a project...a portfolio of habitat images, research for an article, scientific field work, learning a new skill.

Now it's been four years since I've spent a single night away, which seems impossible even as I type the words. It's been five years since I've been on a plane! That was when a work trip took me to a committee meeting in Yosemite. And when the work was over, I added a few days to the journey and spent them alone in Sequoia.

It was a precious, revitalizing time.

I hadn't realized that I needed revitalization.
But I really, truly did.


Now, then.

Some time ago, I mentioned to my Physical Therapist that I had stopped going to the theatre. In previous years, I had perfected my Summer Shakespeare System: in the morning, drive two hours to Lenox, get a motel room, do a lot of stretching. See a matinee performance of one play. Take a walk, have a bite to eat, keep moving. See the evening performance of a second play. (Ask the person in the next seat who stole my little inflatable back cushion during Intermission to kindly give it back! Too funny.) Spend the night in the motel, with long soaks in a very hot tub. Next day, catch a matinee of whichever play is on (seeing one of the plays twice - what a luxury!), then drive two hours home, with one long stop midway to stretch and walk about. I could expect several pretty grim days after one of these jaunts, but it was worth it.

Apart from the physical issues, the experience was perfect.
Shakespeare is the Sequoia of theatre for me.

My Physical Therapist was sad that theatre had become Another Thing no longer on my agenda. She told me that the dry climate of Arizona often brings great relief to people with joint issues, and perhaps I might want to consider returning to the Southwest?

Flashback: Back in the Jurassic period of my life, I spent a lot of time in Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado. I enjoyed visiting the desert, but I loved the mountains of Colorado. In fact, I was just wandering through Colorado and I stayed 7 years.

My PT's recommendations always carry weight, and I thought long and hard about testing the idea. So last year around this time - after the risk of frozen water pipes and before kidding season - I tried to find a critter-sitter. No luck. Soon it was a moot point, as kidding season began. Then gardening season. Then it was suddenly Autumn, and I found someone! Pat came and met my crew, and had a very nice way with the animals.

But she wasn't interested in minding anyone else's animals in the Winter. 

"Why, Pat?"  LOL.

Fair enough. I'll wait.

Four months later, although there is still plenty of snow and the ice is thick on every hazardous pathway, the end of this challenging Winter is in sight. Once again, there is a narrow window of possible travel time, and now I have someone I can trust to look after the animals. The timeframe is bookended by Pat's availability (beginning April 12) and my need to be back for kidding prep and seed-starting (early May).


this is the long-awaited Big Chance!

And yet...

I am stuck, my friends!

I am so wide open to the idea of travel after this long hiatus,
the range of options that pop into my mind is dizzying!
This dizziness is counterbalanced
by limitations which I do my very best to ignore in daily life
but which I would be a fool to ignore in the planning stage of a journey.

Unfortunately, I am a fool.

Maybe writing about my repetitious train of thought will lead to a good decision?

Maybe you can help?

My Train of Thought visits three stations:

First Stop: I ponder how to best get from Point A to Point Elsewhere, when being in one position for any length of time is so difficult. Rent a car, so I can stop as often as needed to either walk around or stretch out in the back? Look for short or non-stop flights? Trains? Take some sort of "tour" such that I am not responsible for any aspect of transportation, and can spend time in a zero-gravity position whenever I choose? And about the time I realize I've just spent four hours online researching travel by boat and imagining the thrill of watching unknown riverbanks drift past my eyes from the welcome relief of a deck chaise, it occurs to me that a journey of any kind may be totally unrealistic... Woo-ooo-ooooooh! All Aboard! The train is leaving this station!

Second stop: no journey at all? But how could I waste this rare opportunity to leave the animals in good hands and refresh my soul with travel? The easiest thing would be to just get the first cheap flight to anywhere, and GO. Wheee! I know how to do this! Let's see...I've long imagined spending time in the southern Appalachian region. Or wouldn't it be fantastic to head for the Sierra Nevada again, because it already feels like a place where I could take root? But if I'm going 3,000 miles, why not just get a non-stop across the sea while the airfares are "low"? I've never been to England or can that even be possible? Must go there - this may be my last chance! Or to the green, green Azores! Spain, Italy...or maybe revisit France? Or Portugal? Or... Quick, back on the train!

Third stop:  WHOA! The original point of this operation was not to run off on holiday, it was to experiment with the effect of a different climate on my baseline pain issues. Won't I be wasting that chance unless I go somewhere with a moderate, dry climate, and lots of trees? An area I might potentially be able to relocate to, in order to improve my quality of life? Which brings my mind back to thinking about pain, and...wait a second, doesn't that station look familiar? Oh! It's where we got on! This train is on a loop! Chug-a-chugga-chug-a-chugga....

You see what's been going on in my little squirrel-brain lately.
It's the bane of the squirrel mind.

"Shall I go forward? Backward?
I seem to be stuck on this fence,
but it's not very comfortable here!"

Any thoughts?


Destination recommendations?

Oh, and if anyone has personal insight on the "dry climate = reduced joint pain" scenario, I would very much appreciate hearing about it.
Thanks so much.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

commenter appreciation day

One of the best things about blogging
is sharing information.

Blogger and commenter:
it's like a two-way street.

Or maybe it's like leaning out the window
and calling to a friend across the way 
who is also leaning out the window.

I am so grateful to every reader
who leaves advice or shares an experience
in the comments.

I hereby declare a 

Commenter Appreciation Day

with special thanks to Boud, who sent me
straight out to buy a bag of grapes, because:

"frozen seedless grapes work exactly like candy"

And special thanks also to Sandra,
who immediately seconded this excellent suggestion!
With such enthusiastic endorsement,
I knew I couldn't go wrong.

So I bought two bags of grapes.

I am now extending the supply of frozen apple slices
by alternating with frozen grapes.

Life is sweet!

It's cold, but it's very sweet.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

weekend mishmash

Have you ever seen the magical moment when snow begins to fall? 

Perhaps you are gazing out at an open landscape, thinking about this or that. Your eye is caught by one tiny bit of something drifting down. And you think, "Is that ash? Is it snow?" Then another bit drifts down, then a dozen or a thousand, or countless millions more. And at that moment, even if you have seen plenty of snow for one season, you still feel huge relief that it is snow. Because that much ash would be a bit worrisome.

This morning I saw the snow begin. Then I checked the online weather report to see if a significant storm is predicted. I learned that the current conditions were "heavy rain" and "21 F," which made me laugh. Isn't there an inherent flaw in that combination?

Lately, a few things on my laptop screen have made me laugh. 
Here's one:

It may be the 15th century.
And those may be sheep, not goats.
Nevertheless, every detail of that scene is so familiar!
I love the expressions, and the authentic positions of the animals.
And of course, the determined youngster with something to say.

Maybe every herd has a Tsuga?

I hope so.

Now this is a sensible height for an oven!
If only I could find one of these, I wouldn't need a wall oven.
Not that I need one. Not at all. 

This weekend, I've been gathering recipes for oven-free breadmaking. (Doesn't "oven-free" sound nicer than "ovenless"? Liberating! No need to rush the oven replacement, no sirree!) I hope to become an expert a competent flatbread-maker in the weeks ahead.

But I'll tell you what: if you don't have a few hours to spare, you might want to avoid searching for recipes on the informative and inspirational rabbit-hole of Pinterest. One interesting image will lead a board (that link is to my Pinterest boards) then maybe you decide to click through to the original blog or YouTube video or website...and suddenly it's really, really time to get outside and unload the hay before nightfall, you lazypants!

Along the bread-lined way I've collected recipes for lots of other things. (Note: these links will take you to the site with the actual recipe, not to Pinterest.) Desserts from the days of WWII food rationing. Soups and stews from many countries and cultures. Crockpot chicken dishes to replace my standard (but totally unnecessary!) oven roasts.
As you might imagine, I always go for simple recipes, with few ingredients and a short list of instructions. Even so, an occasional recipe presents a challenge, like the one that calls for "one and a half eggs"... 

"Say what now?" 

...or the instruction to "line a large pot with a thin layer of vegetable broth."

Speaking of vegetables, my 2014 garden seeds are now in a bowl in the kitchen, where they make me smile several times each day. Every now and then, I move the bottom packet to the top. Today, a switch from broccoli, which I hope will be more successful than the 2013 cauliflower experiment: a variety of kale which I hope will work in caldo verde. Because seriously: I have tried and tried and if I can't duplicate the remembered flavor with this kale, I suppose I will have to go back to Portugal and collect some seeds by the roadside.

Still plenty of time before planting, as you can see by the intrepid hens. At least the snow has melted down enough that they are happy to go outside again! This winter is the first time ever that the hens have chosen to remain indoors for even one day, let alone days on end. I'm so glad they are venturing out as usual now.

The tulips are becoming fragile, but are still so precious. 

I will probably be refreshing the water in the vase when the petals have dropped and all that's left is the green stems, and yellow stamens and pistils.

Because green and yellow are colors, and colors are not to be squandered these days.

I hope you are enjoying a colorful weekend! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

wordy wednesday

I'm trying to pay attention to the small things.

The weather is a big thing.
I am trying to pay very little attention to the weather.

For example, I am trying to make good, healthy things to eat,
even when I don't feel like bothering.

Fresh organic eggs, rice, cheese, gently cooked in butter. Yum.


Fortunately, I have many daily reminders from the other critters.

Pay attention!
Here is food! Let's eat.
Here is a moment of sunshine!
Quick! Get inside the sunshine.
Then relax.

The Black Jersey Giant and the Rhode Island Red.

Also: the treats these days are Really Good Treats.
Remember all those apple slices I put in the freezer in November?
Remember the Macintosh and Winesaps, carefully preserved
for experiments in winter baking?

(Remember "baking"? A moment of silence for my oven, please.)

Well, guess what!
It turns out, a little bowl of apple slices frozen in November
is just about the best snack you can imagine in March!

They even smell like fresh apples. Ahhhhhh!


And because I know (I do know) that soon the days will be chockablock full of seasonal tasks that Will Not Wait, I am taking this "opportunity" to do a lot of indoor tasks. 
Long overdue tasks, most of them. 

This strange view is the space behind the washer and dryer.
It is now the cleanest space in the house.
This little project took hours.
It seemed worth a commemorative photograph.
Just this once.

Cleaning, reorganizing, tossing, donating.
I've started putting a few things on eBay.
Things that I'd rather not donate, for one reason or another.
Long-held-onto things. Nice things. Useful things. Specific-interest things.
Including - at last - the first steps in dispersing my horse-related library.
(There's a discreet link to the shop on the sidebar, if anyone is interested.)

In barnyard news: 
the 2014 cashmere harvest is...

"Sure, comb me! Take your time! Until I run out of oats..."

I have no idea what the end result will be, but at the moment I have one goat who is 90% finished shedding, and three goats who have barely started dropping about 5% and who wish very much that I would stop bothering them with a daily check.
The others are hanging onto every fiber, with no indication that they ever intend to shed at all.

Which is okay.
But it's also weird.

And if they all let go of massive amounts of fiber simultaneously,
especially in wet weather, I could be in for a challenging time...

but that is not the kind of thing I am focusing on!


Living in the moment, me!

Look, tulips!

And now it's evening, and chores are done.
Time for a beverage.
I've recently moved on from hot milk and rum.
This is ginger ale with a splash of Cosmopolitan.

A Gingerpolitan?

Very refreshing. Probably make a nice Summer beverage, but why wait?

At least, that's Acer's approach.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

did you miss me?

This has been a very quiet winter for Ms. Piper.
And that's why she has not appeared on the blog for a while.
I've not been getting very interesting pictures.

A typical day might include:

Breakfast, chores, playing outside.
Tricks and treats!
Keeping a close eye on things outside the windows and 
Barking Quite Suddenly and Very Loudly!
Acting as if the barking Never Happened.
Getting the mail on the Driveway of Ice! Wheee!
Observing indoor activities.
Helping with the laundry.
Chores, playing outside.
Offering to carry one of the empty feed buckets.
Running into the snow and hiding the feed bucket where it will never be found.
Looking really innocent and cute about the feed bucket thing.
 More sleeping.

A pleasant enough way to spend a day, but quiet.
And missing the long walks and woodland runs of Spring, Summer and Autumn.

So today, when the thermometer registered 30F (!!!), we took a ride to the little pond. I managed to get the car into a tiny little pull-out, and swapped my spiked boots (which I needed to get from the house to the car) for my knee-high muck boots (because the snow is still knee-deep), and off we went.

The condition of the snow would have made for pretty good snowshoeing, but honestly, snowshoeing with Piper? It could only indicate a Death Wish.

"Come ON! ComeoncomeoncomeON!"

There was much running, sniffing, rolling, digging. 
There was leaping onto and off of snow banks.

There was leaping and cavorting around companions, as well. 

And eventually, long after I was exhausted, Piper started to look a wee bit tired.

I very slowly took off my mitten and reached deep into my pocket.

And we instantly went from this:

to this:

The miraculous rejuvenating power of the Most Excellent Favorite Treat!

I have yet to discover the treat that can work a similar miracle on my own energy level.
But I'll keep looking for it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

quick question

Dear Readers,

If you were my camera, where would you be?

Your friend,




I have been looking for my camera for four days.

Today, I reached the point of searching in places 
where no camera could possibly be.
So...I turned to you, my Readers, for help.

Ten minutes after posting the question, I found the camera.

In the trash.
In the TRASH.


Blogging is a powerful thing.


Saturday, March 1, 2014


Very special things arrived in my recently-excavated letterbox this week!

The first was a giveaway prize from one of the Grow Your Blog Party drawings:

Aren't these gorgeous?!

Many thanks to Karen at knitalatte for my lovely handknit mitts!
They are light and warm, and these colors are delightful!  :)


Next, was another luck-of-the-draw prize.
All the way from Shetland, across the sea!

A bit of background on this one...

Have you heard of the historic Lerwick "Up Helly Aa" fire festival? If not, you may find it is worth watching (at least watching online, as I do) next January. Months of preparation go into this community endeavor and the results are really something. Hundreds of costumed "Vikings," a dragon-headed wooden galley (ship), a massive torchlight procession through the town (that's my favorite part, it is truly stunning), followed by the ceremonial burning of the galley.

Well, this past January the Shetland:Pride of Place folk had a drawing of people from all over the world who tweeted their location during the Up Helly Aa livestream. I was one of the lucky winners, but to be honest, I had forgotten all about it...
when a package appeared!

Music and maps and trinkets and information and a perfect knitting project tote bag.
Now all I need is some Shetland wool to put in the bag.
But with shipping being so costly, I ought to just go over there and get the yarn, right?


Well, it's a nice dream, anyway  :)

I hope your weekend is full of nice dreams.