30 January 2008

A really great 4-H Day!

Today, our 4-H club went to the local college for a tour of the Culinary Arts and Retail Meat Cutting departments. The department is titled "The School of Hospitality and Culiary Arts": I found hospitality defined as "warmth and generosity toward guests or strangers" ... and I would have to say that everyone we met today would certainly be worthy of that definition!

Our first job this morning was to get trucks started (it's been very, very cold lately) and our vehicles full of kids and grownups transported into the city. We managed to find parking and one another, and our group was greeted by three senior Culiary Arts students who dressed us in lab coats and head coverings and then led us through all of the various kitchens and labs. This is a school where people learn to make all sorts of wonderful things to eat: there were bread bakeries, pastry kitchens, a room dedicated just to making garnishes and cold things like sandwiches and hors d'oeuvres, two full restaurant kitchens, and even a walk in freezer that housed a person working on an ice sculpture!

After touring the facilities, we were treated to a fabulous lunch at the formal restaurant that is the training ground for all the various hospitality students - everyone from restaurant managers to servers to cooks need a place to hone their skills, and this is it. All twelve of us were served with the utmost courtesy, and fed until we were ready to burst! We had a salad, which included the most fascinating pea sprouts on top (they taste like peas but feel like lettuce in your mouth ... they are wonderful), then a main dish of lamb with delightfully spiced mashed potatoes and a variety of other vegetables, and a plate of chocolate mousse for dessert! This feast arrived after plying us with samples of breads, chocolates, and meat dishes during our tour ... suffice it to say that in this place, "generosity towards strangers" certainly includes generous helpings of food!

After lunch, the head of the Retail Meat Cutting department took us to the meat lab, where he himself cut up a lamb carcass, explaining every step, so that we could see how the whole animal is transformed into the various pieces you see in the store (or on your plate). This was really fascinating for everyone ... you get a better idea of what the judges are looking for when they say "we want a long loin" or "the ribs should be wider" when you have seen what the resulting cuts of meat look like. We also gained a greater appreciation for the amount of effort that goes into preparing the various cuts of meat: the cut we had at lunch requires the very careful separation of bone from surrounding meat, not at all a quick or easy process, even for an expert. We have a whole new appreciation for the skills involved in getting our meat to the table!

23 January 2008

Who's there?

Photo Credit: The Boy

Today, the inevitable occurred.

I hit a deer on the way to work, just about 25 mins from home (work is 1.25 hours away, ish).

I was in the Intrigue, not either of the trucks, alone, no kids.

The deer dashed out of the ditch in a spot where the trees are right close to the road, so of course I didn’t see it until it was in front of me. Slammed on brakes, and heard shattering glass. Opened my eyes and was shocked to see the windshield intact. Looked to the right, and the rear view passenger side mirror was inside the car – ah, that’s where the glass came from. Passenger window shattered. I got out and looked to see the deer – figured I oughta put it out of it’s misery if it wasn’t dead (well, call someone to do that… I’m a country girl now but I don’t drive around with a shotgun in my car) – it was nowhere in sight. Saw it’s hoof prints off into the trees, so I guess the coyotes will feast tonight. No way it got off without some serious damage, although there was no blood. I heard from the Reluctant Farmer that it's there in the ditch now, so maybe I just didn't see it.

So I checked out the car … oops, the headlights are dangling out because the hood is buckled from impact … but it was driveable so I put the flashers on and drove home (very cold with that window open). I had to have a shower to warm up and get the glass bits out of my hair, then I went to lie down. My body kicked into “sedate this crazy person so she doesn’t try to do anything else” mode, and I slept for a couple of hours. My Reluctant Farmer fiance woke me up, and I did a bit of remote work – we have a super busy day at the office, my poor partner is carrying a massive load today trying to do a bunch of stuff of mine plus all his … I’ll go in tomorrow.

So yeah, that’s what happened.

Oh yes, and one of my other coworkers kindly booked me an appointment with the chiropractor upstairs, for tomorrow. So that’ll be a good thing – it hurts quite a bit already but I did put Deep Cold on it!

One look at this should tell you why I don't feel so hot:

19 January 2008

The approach of lambing season

Winter has settled in completely, and before long, there'll be lambs out in the pasture. This is always an exciting time of year, especially because we have not yet put the necessary infrastructure in place to allow us to effectively control the breeding matches - so it's very exciting to see what sorts of babies we will end up with! I'm very hopeful that we'll see some more Icelandic influence in the sheep this year.

Construction on the addition is moving right along - the main floor ceilings are all up, and there are actually lights that turn on when you flip wall switches! This is a big step forward from trouble lights and extension cords. The plumbers are nearly done their work, although we haven't got all the fixtures just yet, but heating and air exchange are well underway.

Tonight we are sitting in front of the fireplace, keeping warm indoors. My parents have been here for the week and they head back home Monday ... tomorrow, though, they get to be farmers for the day: it's sheep vaccination time, and the more hands helping out, the better!

03 January 2008

A garage for the bobcat

Awhile back, we purchased a shelter for the bobcat. It's of a design usually used for horse shelters: just a slanted metal roof over a three sided enclosure. This one is extra tall, to allow the bobcat to drive in, and it was delivered here some time back.

The delivery guy dropped the shelter off in the most accessible location, as The Reluctant Farmer needed to do some reorganizing of things before the shelter could be positioned in it's proper location. Well, wouldn't you know it, we had a big wind storm that flipped the shelter onto it's back, then right over again onto it's roof! It landed on the trash pile, so now we have several nicely compressed piles of stuff to go to the dump. The shelter sat there, upside down, for several weeks.

Today things warmed up sufficiently that the bobcat was deemed likely to start, so it was determined that it could be the day to flip the shelter back over. The bobcat did, indeed, start on the first try, and The Reluctant Farmer managed to get the shelter flipped part of the way over. It took a lot of back and forth with the bobcat, a tow strap, and a lot of finagling, but eventually, the shelter was righted and put in place ... and the bobcat now has a home.

My ring is here!

My ring arrived today!

The courier had numerous challenges locating our house, and in the end the package was delivered to the Vet Clinic, of all places! I am thinking maybe Bob had something to do with this, given how he was involved in the whole proposal event ...

I had an errand to do at the clinic anyway ... the sheep need to be tested for worms (it's very common for sheep to have worms, and you can medicate for them, but there's no point in dosing them if it's not needed). So, I drove up to the clinic and traded my bag of sheep droppings for an engagement ring. :) The staff thought I definitely got the better end of that deal!

The ring fits perfectly and is just as beautiful as it was in the picture on the website: it suits me, I think. I have every intention of wearing it for the rest of my life, so I suppose that's a good thing!

01 January 2008

Christmas 2007

We had a lovely holiday, with a big, beautiful tree that reached the ceiling, lots of presents, good food, and the joy of being together.

True, we missed our extended family members who were far away and could not be with us, but we had a wonderful time with our newly combined (and therefore enlarged) immediate family.

On Christmas Eve we sat together on the couch and read the Christmas Story from a set of little books that The Boy was given when he was very small. The kids asked what frankincense and myrrh were, and to their manifest surprise, I had samples available! Several years ago, I went to Frankenmuth, Michigan, where there is the most wonderful Christmas shop called Bronners. I had picked up a small package of "the first gifts": it had charcoal (wrapped in gold foil: to keep things affordable, there was no actual gold in the box) and small bags of frankincense and myrrh. We had a fire going, so we used charcoal from the fireplace to heat up some frankincense and the smell filled the house. Next year I think we'll try the myrrh.

Before bedtime came we ate some of the cookies that Gram had sent to us, and picked out two for Santa to eat. The kids were very concerned that the reindeer might feel left out, so we promised to tell Santa that the reindeer should help themselves to the hay outside. After being tucked in for the night, I could hear Princess Girl fiercely whisper to her brother "SHHHH! We have to go to sleep so Santa can come!"

Sure enough, Santa did come ... the kids said they were sure they heard Bob and McKenzie barking in the night, and it must have been because Santa was here!

Santa, being the smart man that he is, put a bottle of ibuprofen in my stocking. You see, Santa knew that this was the first Christmas morning that I'd have three small kids in my house - two of whom wake up *very early* all by themselves. I took one about an hour and a half after I got up ... but to be honest, the headache was coming on even before I got out of bed. Still, I sure appreciated finding that magical stuff in my stocking!

We had a wonderful morning enjoying the chance to give and receive presents - we all really enjoy giving just the right thing to someone, and there were a few of those moments this year.

My Boy gave me a set of rosewood double-pointed knitting needles (the kind you use for mitts and socks). I received a bag of alpaca fibre, ready for spinning, from Princess Girl and Dinosaur Boy. Right after I opened that, Princess Girl opened her present of two scarves, hand knit from fibre that she helped me dye. Her exclamation was priceless: "Oooh! I got fibre tooooo!"

Dinosaur Boy was suitably impressed by his Dragon Scarf ... The Reluctant Farmer was pleased with the new digital photo frame he received from his kids ... I was ecstatic to receive a new iPod of my very own ... The Boy was amazed to find a quadripedal robot under the tree for him ... and the dogs were all spoiled rotten with snacks and treats and leftovers.

All in all, it was a lovely day.

Merry Christmas to you, too!

Fingerless Gloves

I found a lovely pattern for fingerless gloves and have made a few of them now ...

The pink ones are for a girl from 4-H, whose family gifted me with three sheep in return for some farm-sitting while they go on a holiday (I really think I'm getting the better part of that deal but who am I to argue with such generosity?). These are made from hand spun wool, dyed bright pink with Kool-Aid.

The brown ones (which are actually the first set I made from this pattern) were shipped to my brother-in-law in Lithuania .... where the city decides when the central heating in your apartment will be turned on - and the city never seems to think it's cold when normal people think it's cold - resulting in chilly apartments and cold hands. :) These are made from some naturally brown Corriedale fleece that I purchased in raw form: I washed, carded, spun and knit them, and I'm very happy that they fit!

A House Bunny

A while back, we acquired a house bunny.

Since Duggan has become an outside dog (much to my amazement, believe me), we figured we had room indoors for a house bunny. On Kijiji, we saw a lovely light brown dwarf lop bunny looking for a new home: he was already house trained and very friendly.

So, Charlie came to live with us.

He is terrifically entertaining, poking around the living room and then suddenly tearing off at a run for no apparent reason. And, he's very cuddly. :)