Monday, September 28, 2009

Lunch, chickens and kitty cats

I got back from my noon yoga class and made myself lunch:

Raincoast Trading albacore tuna with mayo and capers on Première Moisson organic sprouted grains bread, with some of my friend Ronna's South African pickles. MMMMMMMM! (I know, I know, yoga, sprouted bread, hook-and-line tuna... I sound like a total freakin' granola-head.)

And I don't often have dessert, especially with lunch, but this peach crisp is to die for:

Our friends came for supper yesterday and brought dessert, the most scrumptious peach crisp made by Riitta. MMMMMMMMMM!!! I refrained from having ice cream with it today, but I didn't hold back last night!

Speaking of guests, I am training our young friend Inari to be a Chicken Whisperer like me. She's learning fast!

Riitta watched her daughter bond with the poultry, and offered them a few treats (apple chunks) herself.

She may not know it yet, but I think this girl has a bright future as our farm sitter!

Meanwhile, Tristan politely waited at the coop door. "I promise not to eat the chickens. I only want to eat their poop."

And Gordon got the girls' perches put in on the weekend. The hens were very pleased.

Meanwhile, back on the front porch, the three-legged buddha cat (Alex) cuddles with his girlfriend Naomi. He also gave her an extremely thorough bath. A year ago today, Naomi showed up on our driveway late at night, as a tiny starving kitten. Now she rules the house.

And Gordon watched the cats eat dinner in order of size, looking only slightly maniacal.

I have to go walk my dogs, who are whining and farting and don't care that it's pouring rain outside... happy Monday!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A sublime autumn day...

While I am still having trouble admitting that summer is over, I can say that yesterday was a sublime autumn day, and I took my camera with me when I walked the dogs. Sophie rolled in something rank, so both dogs got baths upon our return to the house! Someone explain to me why these two dogs love swimming and readily jump in any body of water, but look at me like I'm Hannibal Lecter when I put them in the bathtub and lather 'em up!

Bumblebee on wild aster.

A honeybee and a ladybug share space on one of my sedums.

Working hard collecting nectar!

The farm. The soybeans are all keeled over and drying out. I think they'll be harvested in mid-October.

Milkweed. The pods are ready to burst now.

And I think these are the coolest things...

Prickly cucumber! You can't eat them but they'd be great weapons in an impromptu prickly cucumber fight.

I forget what these are called but they self-seed in our garden every year.

You know it's fall when the sumac turns red!

I believe this is an "Autumn Beauty" sunflower, and as you can see, the bumblebee and others are very much enjoying it.

A ripening sunflower head. I let the birds eat all my sunflower seeds!

Meanwhile, the chickens were enjoying the great outdoors as well...

They love to hang out in the sumac and pine trees just next to the barn, with occasional forays into the cornfield next door (but unlike my corn-addicted dogs, they can't reach the cobs!)

This one is very proud of herself. That's some sort of animal burrow she is standing on, dug into the roots of a dead tree. The ancestor of the modern chicken is the jungle fowl (which we saw on our trip to Sri Lanka -- there's a jungle fowl pic halfway down this page on the right), so it's not surprising the girls enjoy these jungle-y areas.

Meanwhile back inside, Naomi and Alex impatiently demand food. They looked VERY cute but this picture doesn't do their cuteness justice...

Naomi is just over year old now and remains a tiny, six-pound cat. She weighs half of what Alex does. And they are still in love.

“Yes, I'm a cat and yes, this is a dog bed but NO, I did NOT do that to the dog toy!!!”

We NOW call this toy "Ampu-pet." I got it cheap at Value Village, and it has suffered a horrendous fate at the fangs of Sophie and Tristan. I'm surprised they have not yet gnawed off the other limbs.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I need a vacation...

...and since I ain't getting one any time soon, I'm revisiting a past vacation. Back in 2004, the Bearded One and I spent three weeks in Vietnam and Cambodia. It was fantastic, despite me getting Ho Chi Minh's Revenge in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), and Gordon contracting typhoid fever in Phnom Penh. Fortunately we both survived, and I learned to change an I.V. bag in a hotel room, no doubt a handy skill for future travels. I also learned never to trust Gordon as the authority on the expiry date of a typhoid vaccine. Of course, he was the poor soul who paid the price for that blunder!

We had a, er, very interesting room in Ho Chi Minh City. I had never before and have never since seen a lamp quite like this one:

It's amazing how her hair frames the pertinent... bits.

And the lamp coordinated so wonderfully well with the 2008 Olympic puppies bedspread:

I spent a few days urgently crawling from this bed to the bathroom and back, overandoverandover, becoming very well acquainted with the puppies as I rested my vomit-encrusted cheek against their wee button noses. But soon the antibiotics kicked in, and my stomach and I headed for the nearest pho joint. My favourite breakfast on the planet is still the pho I had on Phu Quoc island every morning!

We spend a few lovely days on island of Phu Quoc, where most of the world's fish sauce is made. And the seafood is beyond compare.

Ah, a beautiful island with beautiful children! When we stopped at a lemonade stand, a bunch of schoolkids glommed onto us for English practice. I drew pictures for them while Gordon put his teaching experience to use. All the kids tried on my sunglasses and had their photos taken. The lemonade was freshly made with crushed sugar cane. YUM!

Phu Quoc is also known for its prized, ridge-backed hunting dogs. (No, Chef Nick, they don't eat these dogs!) They are very friendly, laid-back creatures. This one visited us regularly and I named her Esmerelda. She was one freaking adorable puppy.

And at the end of a long hard day of drinking lemonade with schoolkids, petting Phu Quoc ridgebacks, gorging on seafood, snorkelling and scuba diving, and getting massages on the beach for $2.00/hour, we relaxed on our cabana deck and watched the sun go down, as I yet again slaughtered Gordon at Scrabble. Triple word score using eight letters. Read it and weep, sweetie!

Cambodia is a gorgeous country, with such a painful and haunting recent history. We visited the temples and ruins at Angkor Wat, which were breathtakingly spectacular...

Below, roots reach down to strangle a ruin. This scene has been photographed many times (with better results than this!) I recently saw this scene pictured in National Geographic magazine...

At a nearby Buddhist temple and school, I made friends with some more kids, who seemed to want nothing more than to follow me around and take turns holding my hands.

I couldn't help but smile, being around these beautiful kids. I hope their lives are happy, but it won't be easy for them.

And at the end of a long, hard day of being a pampered western tourist:

fruity drinks with orchids and flags in them. Mmmmm!

Back to the grind...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Summer is on its frigging way out...

Okay, well, as of today, I suppose summer IS out. Over. Done. Usually I can deal with this, but after the cold monsoon summer of 2009, I am so not ready for fall, not to mention winter. Alas, it is out of my hands.

The sunflowers are on their last legs. We've had two frosts already and my pepper and other plants are already toast.

But the little green bugs are happy!

As is this bumble bee!

Meanwhile, back in dogland...

My friend's German Shepherd, Emma, tests out the trunk of our Mazda 3 and says "Two paws up!

Sophie and Tristan prefer to lounge in the larger vehicle belonging to Ray and Joyce, who have done lots of fine work on our house and outbuildings. Last week they were repairing the stone foundation on the 150-year-old barn, and putting 2,000 screws in the metal roof.

The dogs ADORE Ray and Joyce. I actually think they prefer them to me! Of course, it doesn't hurt that Ray and Joyce give them lots of cuddles and kisses, and bring them dog cookies, Timbits (doughnut holes) and all manner of other goodies when they visit. But really I think the dogs know good people when they see 'em.

Ah summer, I hardly knew ye. So long!

Monday, September 21, 2009

How much would YOU pay not to have dinner with Sarah Palin?

After Jim at The Velvet Blog wrote about the lead-up to some idiot paying $63,500 to have dinner with Sarah Palin, Chef Nick came up with another idea. How much would YOU pay not to have dinner with the Queen of Wasilla? But you'd miss out on her special turkey milkshakes!

And I have actually BEEN to Wasilla, God help me. Back in 2003, I flew to Alaska for free on my air miles, and my friend Phyllis (dog writer extraordinaire!) and I watched the start of the Iditarod and toured around the area a bit. And look, here we are in... WASILLA!

We visited the Iditarod headquarters, which featured this stuffed sled dog:

And outside the headquarters, we found some real sleddogs, all packed up and ready to go in their truck!

I think this was up around Palmer somewhere. Spectacularly beautiful!

This has gotta be culturally insensitive, but we stuck our heads in anyway.

We also went to the pre-Iditarod dinner, where we got to meet the mushers and their dogs:

We also made it to the Muskox Farm in Palmer:

Muskox fibre makes qiviut, an incredibly soft yarn that is eight times warmer than wool. I found qiviut to be cheaper in Canada than in the US, likely because we have a heck of a lot more muskox in our north.

In 2007 we visited England and Scotland together...

...leaving a trail of destruction (and knitting) wherever we went.

So, how much WOULDN'T you pay to have dinner with Sarah? And how much would you pay to have dinner with ME?!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Harvest time, and chickens rule the world...

Right, my knitting blog friend Monika wanted pics of me covered in chickens and although we tried, the girls weren't especially cooperative this evening. Still, we took a few shots and hopefully that'll keep you all going for now!

I call this one "Eastern Ontario Gothic." I still can't tell most of the chickens apart, so only two have names assigned to them so far. We're planning on banding their legs, at which point the naming will be done. I already have eight names supplied by our friends' four kids: Duck, Goose (our friends' son is very funny!), Chicky, Cupcake, Charlotte, Yolky, Ellie and Buttercup. I named another one "Buffy," and still another "Anastasia" after my Irish grandmother (who had a great sense of humour and would know I am remembering her with love!) We have three other names to come up with.

I don't know which chicken this was, but she liked the turban squash very much!

"I will do all that my chicken mistress commands me. Yessss, mistress! Yessssssss! I will bring you mealworms and yogurt for your bedtime treat!"

Meanwhile, in the coop, the fascination with the turban squash continues. I expect the thing to be a mere shell by morning.

Gordon was a good chicken-daddy and added more wood shavings to their coop. We are using the "deep litter method" and have to build up around 8 - 10" of the stuff!

It looks like I'm telling them a bedtime story, which is not beyond the realm of possibility. "Once upon a time, there was a bad, bad man named Chef Nick. Chef Nick loved charmoula sauce, but most of all, he loved charmoula sauce on roast chicken!" Hmmm... bedtime stories like that might give the girls nightmares. My bad.

Meanwhile, a poultrilicious (I made that word up. Can you tell?) beauty steps out of the coop next to a freshly-picked rouge vif d'étampes pumpkin a truly beautiful thing grown from French heirloom seeds.Well, this was the least beautiful one, as it had some rot on the side and thus is now a chicken coop ornament!

There's a risk of frost here tonight (insert sound of me screaming uncontrollably), so we harvested the pumpkins and squash. Anything else will just have to suffer. I cannot contemplate 2 degrees Celsius while I am still wearing sandals and shorts!

Gordon cradles in his arms the only babies he will likely ever have. No diapers to change, and they'll never ask to borrow the car. That said, neither will they care for us in our old age!

A boy and his dog in the autumn sunlight. It may still technically be summer, but it was bloody cold today and the leaves are starting to fall off the trees (insert sound of more of my uncontrollable screaming.) After a summer of pitiful wet weather, and the death by late blight of almost 40 tomato plants, I am so NOT ready for winter.

Gordon doing his manly-man job, hauling one of three wagon loads of pumpkins and squash up to the garage.

Me and Sophie, who loves me, but probably loves chicken poop more. I was all worried that she and Tristan might bother the chickens (they did live with chickens before we adopted them and were allegedly fine, but you never know.) I needn't have been concerned. They don't chase the chickens. They follow them around sedately, eating their poop. EEEEYUW! Cats are so much classier than dogs.

Pumpkins and squash. As I recall, the white pumpkins are called "Lumina."

Our 2002 Protege 5 looking like it belongs in a car ad. It's smashing for off-roading, which in our case only means driving down the lawn behind the barn, with bags o' chicken shavings and a couple of dogs in the hatchback.

And this photo makes Tristan look fat, which he is not!!

And here's the pumpkin patch. I am always finding garter snakes in it. I used black landscape fabric over the weeds and it really retains the heat, which the snakes no doubt find appealing. A very large garter snake startled me today. See if you can find it in this photo!

Here, I outlined it to make it easier!

He'll be even more startled than me if we get snow on Hallowe'en like last frigging year.

And our Vizsladorable (Lab-Vizsla cross), Tristan, being his ever-handsome and noble self. And a good day was had by all!