Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy Hogmanay (Scottish New Year)!!

In Scottland New Years is a major celebration quite unlike any place else. The tradition stems from the area's ancient deep winter sun and fire worship, which involved a fire ceremony. These days celebrating still includes lighting of New Year fires, torch light processions, and even fireball swinging.

Image: Source

The singing of Auld Lang Syne after the clock strikes midnight is common as is lots of kissing. Scottish dances, or ceilidhs (pronounced "kayli"), toasts and "first footing" follow.

"First footing" is when just after midnight, neighbours visit one another's houses to wish each other a good new year. Women were not acceptible first visitors, nor were redheads or blondes, thanks to the vikings invasion and pillaging in ages long gone. Tradition held that your first visitor should be a tall, dark male stranger, bearing symbolic gifts of cake/bread, coin, lump of coal or the like, so that you would have good luck in the coming year, never be hungry, never be cold.

In exchange visitors were offered food, and a wee dram of whisky or a "Het Pint", a combination of ale, nutmeg and whisky.

Image: Source


Should you want to add a litte Hogmanay to your New Years tradition you can learn more at Hogmanay.net

I also found the far more Scottish version of Auld Lang Syne just below, so maybe give it a try.

Either way... Happy New Year, and best to all in 2008!

AULD LANG SYNE
Words adapated from a traditional songby Rabbie Burns (1759-96)

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

CHORUS:For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine,
And we'll tak a cup o kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine,
But we've wander'd monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl'd in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.

And there's a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o thine,
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne

Translation from the Scots Independent

auld;old
lang;long
syne;since
auld lang syne ; days of long ago
pint stowp ; tankard
pou'd ; pulled
gowans ; daisies
mony ; many
fitt ; foot
paidl'd ; wade
dine; dinner-time
braid ; broad
fiere ; friend
willie-waught ; draught
owresettin

Should old friendship be forgot'
And never remembered ?
Should old friendship be forgotten,
And days of long ago.

And surely you will have your tankard !
And surely I will have mine !
And we will take a cup of kindness yet,
For days of long ago'

We two have run about the hills
And pulled the daisies fine :
But we have wandered many a weary foot
Since days of long ago.

We two have waded in the stream
From dawn till dinner-time :
But seas between us broad have roared
Since days of long ago.

And there's a hand my trusty friend !
And give me a hand of thine !
And we will take a large draught
For days of long ago.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wrapping paper rampage


See for youself:

video

The Cat and the Moon

The cat went here and there

and the moon spun round like a top,

and the nearest kin of the moon,

the creeping cat, looked up.

Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,

for, wander and wail as he would,

the pure cold light in the sky

troubled his animal blood.


Minnaloushe runs in the grass

lifting his delicate feet.

Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?

When two close kindred meet,

what better than call a dance?

Maybe the moon may learn,

tired of that courtly fashion,

a new dance turn.


Minnaloushe creeps through the grass

from moonlit place to place,

the sacred moon overhead

has taken a new phase.

Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils

will pass from change to change,

and that from round to crescent,

from crescent to round they range?


Minnaloushe creeps through the grass

alone, important and wise,

and lifts to the changing moon

his changing eyes.


William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Longer days and a bountiful apple crop!

We celebrated Winter Solstice in fine style last night. Bonfire, friends, food, homebrew, and our old apple tree. The weather was dry, but cold, and we alternated between house and fire.
Just after wassailing the tree. It has a "grotto" in the trunk where a branch was removed many many years ago. We placed a statue there a few years back, and that's where we poured our offerings of cider and toast to the tree spirit.

And here's the top of Stew's head. He decided to participate in the wassail by slurping up the cider overflow. The camera was a bit too slow to catch most of his "sacrilege", but we had a good laugh. Hopefully the tree spirit has a sense of humor and won't hold it against us come harvest time.

Now it's back to the usual winter chores, prepping for the arrival of bees & Stella's calf, and planning the best garden ever!

After celebrating the winter holidays, our ancestors had a "getting back to work" tradition called Plough Monday. While local practices may vary, Plough Monday is generally the first Monday after Twelfth Day (Epiphany), 6 January, a day when ploughmen traditionally blackened their faces and wore white shirts.
Plough Monday was the day when village life in many agricultural areas focused on the dragging of a decorated plough by bands of young men who would knock on doors and ask for money, food and drink. They were accompanied by someone acting the Fool. This character would often be dressed in skins and a tail, and carry a pig's bladder on the end of a stick. Households not contributing money for the celebration would often have the path to their front door ploughed up in playful retaliation. The Plough Monday customs declined in the 19th century but have been revived in the 20th.

One area of England has an even rowdier custom which takes place the Saturday before Plough Monday in which the whole parish plays a game called Haxey Hood. Here is the probable origin from their website:

In folklore, when a custom is too old for its origins to be remembered, a story is often devised to rationalise what would otherwise be baffling. The 'official' story of the Hood's origins are unlikely, but strangely enough there are parallels between the Hood and bog burials in Europe.The game takes place on the border of bogs where naturally-preserved mummies of prehistoric sacrificial victims have actually been found. The game takes place in midwinter, one of the traditional times for sacrifices, so perhaps the smoking of the Fool is symbolic of a sacrifice? The sticks that the Chief Boggin holds may be a remnant of the sticks frequently found with the bog mummies, but the leather hood may be the most significant link of all - several bog mummies have been found with leather hoods tied to their heads.In fact, the origins of this rowdy village battle are obscure. It has similarities to other village combats, such as Asbourne's Shrove Tuesday Football and the Hallaton Bottle Kicking contest in Leicestershire.

This modern day version celebration as fully explained sounds like a blast, and a good excuse for blowing off steam in the middle of a long dreary winter. There is an old chant as part of the festivities that goes:

"Hoose agen hoose, toon agen toon, if tha meets a man nok im doon, but doant ‘ot im"
(This translates as: House against House, Town against Town, if you meets a man, knock him down but don’t hurt him.)

The website continues:

The event is as much about the drinking in the pubs as anything else. Just as with Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, more ale is probably drunk on Hood Day, and Hood Eve in Haxey, as any other. The pubs are always heaving. The landlords prepare for this by covering their carpets with thick black plastic, to protect them against all the mud that will come off the fields on people's feet from the game.

Go check it out at Haxey Hood and read more about the Lady of Mowbray, slaughtered bulls' heads, Fool's right of kissing, shoving parked cars off the road, John Barleycorn, and much more old fashioned madness!

Smoking the Fool

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stews last stand

Chickens are moving in for the kill. Stew's looking scared or guilty... maybe both.
Maybe they'll be gentle.

Mercia's soft fluffy tummy, begging for a rub.
Gotta love the smile... she must be dreaming about saucers of cream.
Honestly, open the fridge for milk and the buggers'll mow you down trying to get some!

The rocking chair has become a favorite kitten hang-out. That is when they are not ripping around the house like rocket cats!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

We interrupt this blog for Critter Porn!

Will the rain EVER stop? I need more cud.

Where are the cat treats?!


Got your "partridge in a pear tree" right here... in our bellies!


Adore me in my basket.


Fetch my slippers... before I lose my temper!


Stew attempts for lift off velocity with his tail. Fergus is noticeably skeptical as any Corgi would be.


Not the flash... Doh!


Passed out from cute overload...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What's buzzing at Seven Trees?

We just ordered our bees from the Bees Neez Apiary - 3 lbs of workers and 1 queen! They won't be ready to pick up until April, so we have plenty of time to get the gear ready and read up on the magical little insects.
Here's a photo of English garden hives, borrowed from a beautiful website called Honeybees-by-the-Sea. This style of hive has slightly different insides than a regular set-up, but the biggest difference is the pretty copper roof.

While reading up on one of our favorite topics, Customs and Folklore of Rural England (by Margaret Baker), I came upon some interesting beliefs about "the family bees". In both England and North America, bees were considered part of the household. They were without fail told of family happenings, and when one of the household married, white ribbons were tied around the hives as the wedding news was "told" to the bees. It was also claimed that bees might choose to attend the wedding on the bride's bouquet. But more important than wedding news, bees must be told of deaths in the family, or the bees themselves would die. One anecdote from an old Worcestershire family involved the family nurse going out to tap the straw skeps with the housekey, saying: "Your master's dead but don't you go, your mistress will be a good mistress to you". The bees would then hum to show approval of the new owner.

Bees were also given pieces of the funeral cake, and a bit of every food and drink served at the funeral feast. This being done, the bees would return to work again. In some areas the bees were even formally invited to the funeral. Check out Songs of the Ridings for an old Yorkshire song called Telling the Bees.

Here's a rather smallish picture of a print by J.P. Davis called Telling the Bees. You can see the woman is draping the hives with black crepe funeral cloth, as in the poem by John Greenleaf Whittier.

There will bee lots more updates as we start assembling what we need to house and care for our first hive. And more on bee folklore as well. It seems our ancestors not only depended on these little critters for their main source of sweetness, and wax for candles, but they respected them as vital members of the family with their own body of knowledge and customs to be observed.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Santa's goaty helpers?

In case anyone was worried that Lassie & Berry left Seven Trees for a new career as pet chow, here are some pics we just got from their new people. I wonder if New Years Eve will mean the ever-popular "lampshade on the head" photos!



Here's what their new person says about them:

"They are doing very well. Lassie shares her world with 11 other does and 2 alpaca girls. Berry lives with 4 other goat wethers and the 5 of them have a big goat barn and a maze of a pasture where they can walk all around the 6 llama boy runs. Berry is such a love and is full of the devil, so the halo was wishful thinking. Lassie bullies the other girls around, and some of the older ones give it right back to her. I think she is happy but some days it is hard to tell. I do get hugs from her but at first is it not willingly on her part then she decides well this is not so bad. Berry love hugs and to walk through your legs, well he is too big for that now but he forgets."

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Soylent pet food?

Where does pet food come from? It's a question many of us don't think about. We see pictures of whole grains, prime cuts of meat and human grade vegetables on the bag, and we assume there's some chef in a pet food kitchen cooking up the best for our loved ones. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth.

Most of what makes up dog and cat food comes from the rendering plant. When chickens, lambs, cattle, swine, and other animals are slaughtered for food, usually only the lean muscle is cut off for human consumption. This leaves about 50 percent of a carcass left over. These leftovers are what become what we so commonly find on pet food labels, such as "meat-and-bone-meal" or "by-products." So basically, what pets eat are lungs, ligaments, bones, blood and intestines.


Some other things that may go into rendering are:
  • Spoiled meat from the supermarket, Styrofoam wrapping and all
  • Road kill that can't be buried on the roadside
  • The "4 D's" of cattle: dead, dying, disease and disabled
  • Rancid restaurant grease
  • Euthanized companion animals

For a more detailed, and very disturbing, look at what goes into a rendering plant and into your pet's food, read here - Health Hazards of Meat-Based Commercial Diets for Cats and Dogs

To prevent the condemned meat from being rerouted and used for human consumption, government regulations require that the meat must be "denatured" before it is removed from the slaughterhouse. (Denaturing in this context means altering the carcass enough so that it cannot be mistaken for human-quality meat) The denatured carcasses and other waste can then be transported to the rendering facility.

According to federal meat inspection regulations, fuel oil, kerosene, crude carbolic acid, and citronella (an insect repellent made from lemon grass) are the approved denaturing materials. The condemned livestock carcasses treated with these toxic chemicals can then become meat and bone meal for the pet food industry. (From Wendell O. Belfield's site, a veterinarian who spent seven years as a veterinary meat inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State of California.)

And it isn't just livestock and roadkill carcasses that go into the rendering plants. Companion animals, cats & dogs euthanized by shelters and vets, are also part of the rendering industry's "raw materials". Most rendering plants and pet food manufacturers claim that pet carcasses do not go into the manufacture of pet food, but many people claim otherwise. A reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, John Eckhouse, brought the issue to light in the 1990's.

He quoted an employee of Sacramento Rendering as saying, "Thousands and thousands of pounds of dogs and cats are picked up and brought here every day." When a vet tells a grieving owner that they'll "take care" of their dead loved one, they usually mean sending it off with the disposal company for rendering. This is all perfectly legal. Many veterinarians and especially shelters don't have the money to bury or cremate animals.

Although many in the pet food industry deny that they use euthanized animals, proof that the practice goes on continues to surface. Over a few years in the 1990’s, veterinarians began reporting to the FDA/CVM that the drug they used for anesthetizing, and euthanizing, dogs—sodium pentobarbital—seemed to be losing its effectiveness. This prompted the CVM to explore the most likely cause: animals were becoming immune to the drug because they had been eating food with trace amounts of sodium pentobarbital for years. The likely source of the drug in their food? Euthanized animals. (The FDA/CVM claims the pentobarbital found in pet food comes from euthanized cattle and horse, but large animals are generally killed by cheaper, mechanical means. Read their report and draw your own conclusions.) In 1998, the CVM went about testing dry dogs foods containing the ingredients meat and bone meal, animal digest, animal fat and beef and bone meal. They found the drug in 31 of 37 foods tested. (Borrowed from a very informative website - The Truth About Pet Food.)

Though the rendering industry is understandably reluctant to allow much investigation into their proecesses, the outcry regarding making pets into pet food has caused some changes. Most of this rendered material is now going to China, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan according to Martin, where it is used as a protein source for fish and shrimp food. These fish are than sent back to the US and sold to brokers all over the country. According to one report the FDA finally blocked the sale of five species of farm-raised seafood from China because of repeated instances of contamination from unapproved animal drugs and food additives.

Ann Martin, author of Food Pets Die For, who has been investigating the multi-billion-dollar, commercial pet food industry since 1990, says that "She feels that it’s extremely doubtful if the FDA tested these fish for levels of pentobarbital.In fact Martin said that the FDA inspected only 0.59% of the seafood imported to the US in 2006, this, given the fact that the demand for seafood has grown tremendously in the last five or six years. (Read more at - "Pet meal backfires in shrimp" from AllAboutFeed.)

So it seems that not only are our pets most likely eating recycled companion animals in their cans & kibble, we humans are also taking part in the recycling effort by eating cheap farmed seafood, raised on rendered cats & dogs. All the more reason to be an educated eater. Read labels, buy local, and vote with your dollar!
______________________________________________________

On a more cheery note - today is Repeal Day!

Raise a glass to the 74th anniversary of the repeal of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing alcohol. And read more about it at the Repeal Day website:

"Unlike St. Patrick's Day or Cinco de Mayo, Repeal Day is a day that all Americans have a part in observing, because it's written in our Constitution. No other holiday celebrates the laws that guarantee our rights, and Repeal Day has everything to do with our personal pleasures.
It's easy!
There are no outfits to buy, costumes to rent, rivers to dye green. Simply celebrate the day by stopping by your local bar, tavern, saloon, winery, distillery, or brewhouse and having a drink. Pick up a six-pack on your way home from work. Split a bottle of wine with a loved one. Buy a shot for a stranger. Just do it because you can.
Thanks for reading about what we hope will become a celebrated day in this country. Please help spread the word about Repeal Day, and tell a friend."

Monday, December 03, 2007

Snow, wind, rain, and a bad cold

We had about 4" of snow here over the weekend. Luckily the 50-60mph winds brought rain from the south to wash it all away. Now we're on flood watches for most rivers and streams in the area. NOAA has a site called the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service with realtime monitoring of major river levels across the country. Just click on your region and it will pull up a map of water sensors and you can see if they're nearing flood stage.

A local business, Bellingham Cold Storage, runs a weather station and web cam from their rooftop, which is handy for seeing just how strong those wind gusts really are. They have a few different ways of looking at weather data, and it's a really nice service to the community.

One of our neighbors is a bow hunter, and got a lovely 3-point buck the other day, his first one. Since they don't have a digital camera, we loaned them ours for a bit. Which means new pictures will be scarce for another day or so. And I've also managed to pick up another nasty cold, so I'm taking a brief break from writing more juicy posts. I do have one in the works about what pet food is made of - not for the faint of heart. I did manage to can up some oxtail soup for the humans, and some liver & veggie stew for the dogs. Mmm mmm!

In the mean time, yet another kitten pic, doing what they do best when they aren't sleeping - beating the crap out of each other....


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Wassail, drinc hail

Wassailing is the remnants of an older pagan tradition where groups toasted, gave offerings to, honored, implored, and sometimes threatened their apple trees for a bounty of fruit in the coming year. It later became associated with the Christian Christmas celebration sometime around the 1400's.

Image source: Legendary Dartmoor

Hymns and Carols says that, "The word 'wassail' comes from the Old English "Waes hael" — that is, "Good Health!" The correct response was "Drinc hael."

Also that:

"...mention of "used in pledging" is especially interesting. William Sandys, in his 1853 work Christmas-tide includes the following passages which bear on this theme:

The wassail bowl, of which the skull of an enemy would thus appear to have formed their beau idéal, is said to have been introduced by them. Rowena, the fair daughter of Hengist, presenting the British king, Vortigern, with a bowl of wine, and saluting him with “Lord King Wass-heil;” to which he answered, as he was directed, “Drine heile,” and saluted her then after his fashion, being much smitten with her charms. The purpose of father and daughter was obtained; the king married the fair cup-bearer, and the Saxons obtained what they required of him.

This is said to have been the first wassail in this land; but, as it is evident that the form of salutation was previously known, the custom must have been much older among the Saxons; and, indeed, in one of the histories, a knight, who acts as a sort of interpreter between Rowena and the king, explains it to be an old custom among them.

By some accounts, however, the Britons are said themselves to have had their wassail bowl, or lamb’s wool — La Mas Ubhal, or day of apple fruit — as far back as the third century, made of ale, sugar (whatever their sugar was), toast and roasted crabbs, hissing in the bowl; to which, in later times, nutmeg was added.

The followers of Odin and Thor drank largely in honor of their pagan deities; and, when converted, still continued their potations, but in honor of the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, and Saints; and the early missionaries were obliged to submit to this substitution, being unable to abolish the practice, which afterwards degenerated into drinking healths of other people, to the great detriment of our own. Strange! that even from the earliest ages, the cup-bearer should be one of the principal officers in the royal presence, and that some of the high families take their name from a similar office..."

In Saxon and Viking times cupbearers were usually the highest ranking women of a House, a position of honor and esteem. But back to wassailing!


Wassailing the trees occured on old "twelfth night", the 12th night after Christmas eve, or January 17th on the old calendar. Obviously traditions varied, but in Devonshire, Herefordshire and in other parts of the West Country of England (as well as elsewhere no doubt) families would hold a feast with cakes, cider and in some areas beer and ale too. After a time of eating and drinking everyone trooped out to the orchard to wassail the trees, and wake them up from winter for the coming season as well as scare off any bad energy, spirits or demons .

Ale, beer or cider soaked toast, in some areas special cakes, would be placed in the tree branches or in a fork of the tree, and then be splashed with more cider. Trees might be beaten with sticks, pounded on, pots and pans clanged, and in appropriate eras, guns that had been loaded with just powder (no shot) would be fired at the trees.

Image source: Gutenburg.org

While this went on, others in the group bowed their heads and sang the special "wassail song".

Variations include:

Old apple tree, we'll wassail thee
And hoping thou wilt bear
The Lord does know where we shall be
To be merry another year.
To blow well and to bear well
And so merry let us be
Let every man drink up his cup
And health to the old apple tree

(Spoken)Apples now, hat-fulls, three bushel bag-fulls,
tallets ole-fulls, barn's floor-fulls,
little heap under the stairs
Hip Hip Hooroo (3 times)

(From Folk info.org and also you'll find at this link, associated sheet music as well as a midi of the tune.)

Often during or after the spoken part above, a full bag would be symbolically hoisted over the shoulder 3 times as well to represent the expected bumper crop.



Image Source: Stuart King

In other traditions it was just the men if the village who went out to orchards, then traveled tree to tree with a "wassail bowl" and alternately serenaded and threatened trees. They danced, sang, drank cider or the like, and again trees were either shot at or threatened with axes if they didn't produce well in the coming year.

The men would later return home and feast with the women and children. In some areas the returning men would actually be barred from the home, until they guessed what delicious tidbit was cooking on the spit!

Here's a A Traditional Shropshire Wassail Recipe – for hardened Wassailers! From History.uk.com

10 very small apples
1 large orange stuck with whole cloves
10 teaspoons brown sugar
2 bottles dry sherry or dry Madeira
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 cloves 3 allspice berries 2 or 3 cinnamon sticks
2 cups castor sugar
12 to 20 pints of cider according to the number of guests
1 cup (or as much as you like) brandy

Core the apples and fill each with a teaspoon of brown sugar. Place in a baking pan and cover the bottom with 1/8-inch of water.

Insert cloves into the orange about 1/2" apart. Bake the orange with the apples in a 350° oven. After about 30 minutes, remove the orange and puncture it in several places with a fork or an ice pick.

Combine the sherry or Madeira, cider, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon, sugar, apple and orange juice and water in a large, heavy saucepan and heat slowly without letting the mixture come to a boil. Leave on very low heat. Strain the wine mixture and add the brandy.

Pour into a metal punch bowl, float the apples and orange on top and ladle hot into punch cups.

Makes enough for 15-20 people – but we always wish we had made more!


Here's another song variation from Hymns and Carols that might have been sung after emptying the wassail bowl.

“Here’s to thee, old apple-tree,
Whence thou may’st bud, and whence thou may’st blow,
And whence thou may’st bear apples enow
Hats full! caps full!
Bushel-bushel-sacks full,
And my pockets full, too, huzza!

According to Hymns and Carols account of wassailing, "It is supposed that the custom was a relic of the sacrifice to Pomona... [the Roman Goddess of Fruits]"

Later wassailing turned into more "luck" visits than wassailing the trees. That is people imbibed heartily and then went door to door wassailing.

Songs for this purpose included:

Good master and mistress,
While you're sitting by the fire,
Pray think of us poor children,
Who are wandering in the mire.
From: Hymns and Carols

So there we have the "when we go wassailing" variety.

At any rate, here at Seven Trees, we're very interested in taking up some of the traditions of our forebearers. Rather than trying to sort out old calendar date or new, we'll be wassailing our trees on Solstice, or on the night of December 21st this year.

So waes hael, and drinc hael! We'll see you then at our old apple tree...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Latest Pest: Kitchen rats!! (Kittens!)

Ever have trouble with these?
Little closer for more detail. Little pests are into everything... even freshly cleaned brewing equipment waiting to be put up. Ah well... what's another scrubbing or three?

A rare moment of rest. Thing about kitchen rats is they never slow down... this is indeed a rare moment.

The moment of quiet lasted about 5 seconds before they were back sidling under the kitchen cupboards, and climbing the walls. But look at how peaceful and cute they CAN be. Albeit rarely.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Giving thanks for kittens and beer!

I added a loft to the kitten pen so they could have a little more playroom. They are still a long ways off from being able to rampage through the house unsupervised.
Time to bottle the cream ale. Can't get much done until the brewery inspectors sign off on everything.

And Magnus Brewster, getting a few more hours of apprentice training under his belt. He'll no doubt be big enough to stir the brew kettle by summer.

Look at these most excellent floor polishers. A wonderful addition to any brew kitchen cleaning regimen!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

What's so awful about offal?

What in the world is in this cooler?? Cougar bait? Stewart's latest victim?

It's offal, the old-fashioned term for assorted animal innards. Above is the liver of a large, healthy, grass-fed cow. It weighs about 15lbs. and we have 3 of them in the freezer now.

Here is one of the 3 hearts we were given along with the livers, by a very generous co-worker. Most of the sliced, bagged & frozen goodies will be made into tasty treats for the dogs, but some will be used in top-secret liverwurst experiments like this one:

Saute in 2 T butter: 1 medium onion and 1 large or two small cloves garlic, crushed. Add 3/4 lb liver, 1/2 lb heart (you can substitute ground beef or round steak for heart) and 1/4 cup of water. Cover tightly and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put this mixture in a blender and add the following: 2 T spicy brown mustard (Dijon), 1/4 t pepper, 1 t salt, 1/2 t lemon pepper, 2 hardboiled eggs, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 t vinegar, 1/2 t sugar, 1/4 cup water. Blend till smooth, chill and serve on thinly sliced hard bread or crackers. Enjoy! Note: This liverwurst is a light brown. If you want you can substitute 1/4 cup beet juice (from fresh cooked or canned beets) for the last 1/4 cup water and the 1/2 t sugar to make the color more appealing.

Cleverly hiding from all the carnage is Magnus. Obviously, no one can see him in the special kitty toy basket!

And never one to pass up an opportunity for miscreance, Mercia decided to curl up for a nap in a mixing bowl I set down for a nanosecond.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cougar sighted!


Actually more than just sighted. A neighbor just down the road dropped by. He wanted to alert us that a cougar attacked a mare just around the corner from us... fortunately she survived. He also said though that there were some dogs also killed by a cougar about 1/4 mile away. Must be a hungry one to be coming so close to more habited areas for feeding.
There's a large stand of woods across the road from us that runs uninterrupted right down to the Nooksack river, so it's probably a happy hunting ground if you're a big cat.

While we have some pretty good fencing here, there'll be no more turning off the porch light at night! We'll want to keep a close eye on our cow for sure, plus cats and dogs as well.
We have heard from locals that the black bears have been thin and lacking food this year, so maybe cougars are in the same state.
During our time in Eastern Washington we've seen cougars up close and personal. J even got to see one with a kitten cub hang out by our creek for a day. No troubles then with our livestock, so here's hoping that our luck holds true!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Stormy weather!

Yet another November windstorm. It blew all night, paused for breath about 7am, then let loose with 80mph gusts and knocked trees down (and power out) all over the county. We spent part of the morning chasing greenhouse parts and trying to keep it from disintegrating. That's one way to get a workout!

These downed trees happen to be on our road, not quite 1/2 mile away. No sign of repair crews, and the power company's update page says Whatcom and Thurston counties won't have power any time soon. So the generator is running and we've switched over to dark-ages-peasant mode.

And here are the little felions, taking a break from their sibling gladiator matches. At least we can watch kittens by candlelight til the power comes back on. They went to the vet today and got a clean bill of health (and we got the none too tiny bill!).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Say hello to Mercia and Magnus...

This is what happens when you find a lost cat, drop it at the shelter, then decide to drop by the shelter "just to be sure" they came and got her, even though you heard the owners came and claimed their cat. Then while there, you went by to see the kittens available for adoption, and see so many babies that need someone to care that you could just weep. There were any of a dozen or more kittens we could have picked as equally deserving of care. Alas that we can't save them all, but had to make a choice. These two were beautiful as you can see, a brother and sister, healthy, and spent the majority of the time pouncing on one another in play. Seemed like they'd do a lot of self entertaining because of this. They were also both already fixed. Still I can't articulate how hard it was to turn our backs on all those other little kitties just begging with their eyes for us to save them too.

Hopefully the other Seven Trees residents will accept them, especially our two older cats who are none too pleased at this juncture. With a little time though I am certain everyone will adapt to the new Seven Trees family members.

According to the shelter staff, any of the cats or kittens we visited who haven't been adopted by November 30th, will be euthanized.

Maybe instead of spending money this holiday season on the usual glut of gifts for people who have so much it's hard to even figure out what to buy them... I think that we should all agree to instead spend that money on going to our local animal shelters and giving the gift of life to some poor kitten, puppy, dog or cat, or other animal of your choice that sits there on death row.

It'll be a lifetime commitment, but but your love will be returned a thousand times over, and think how much more meaningful a gift that'd be for all.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Barn Gutter at last!

Stella is always happy to model anything new, especially when it involves hay... even a new gutter. The front of the barn was a muck pit, thanks to me taking so long to get this installed, but better late than never I suppose. The rain water is set up to fill Stella's trough, at least until it's warm enough to bring a hose back outside. We placed the heated bucket where her trough used to be, because we really should be seeing some freezing weather soon. And snow too!

Can you spot her baby bulge? I think she looks in remarkably good shape for 5 months along.


Just another barn perspective with the gutter in place. Who'd have guessed that this is about all the major projects we'd get done this summer. It's sure nicer than last year, when we had half the space, and rain would blow in on the hay. Not such a good thing. This year the hay is high and dry.


And if you need a laugh... can you spot the DE-luxe carport in this picture? Our neighbors in back put this up a few days ago. I just laughed, and said, wait until the first wind storm! Just so happens we had one last night. Oopsie-poopsie.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

It's official - Stella's pregnant!

Image From: Linda's Learning Links

The vet was out this week to give Stella a check up and confirm that she's actually pregnant. The good news is that we have a very healthy mama-to-be cow. So far she hasn't started mooing for pickles and ice cream, but there was one incident of hay-bale vandalism when I left the haw mow open.

More news this weekend, including the new kitten debate - should we or shouldn't we add a pair of little feline monsters to the madhouse....