Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cozy Cottage


We are honored to have my parent's chandelier in our
country cottage. In order to make it a bit more humble
I have added some do-dads including our lovely funny
little spotted chicken to lighten the mood in our dining
room.
I also added some modern shades and removed
some of the crystals to countrify the chandelier

 
Our new sofa - great for TV watching & naps

I love making the cottage homey and cozy especially during the cold cold winter. It was time for a sofa which would give us more flexibility than the two overstuffed chairs...which by the way had been recovered 2 times in 30 years! I love the look of 'accumulated' things rather than a matched suite of furniture. Our cottage is small so it took some time to find a sofa that was the right scale.

The new sofa is perfect for reading too. A couple new books to consider ---
Rose in a Storm by Jon Katz which is unusual for an adult book in that it is told from the point of view of Rose, a dedicated working border collie. Charming. Or, Slow Love (How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas & Found Happiness by Dominique Browning, a true story about Dominique Browning who was editor-in-chief of Conde Nast's House & Garden Magazine (one of my favorite magazines BTW) and one Monday in 2007 was told she had four days to pack up her office. Like thousands of others, she was out of work. The magazine was closed down. It is a delightful book about her self discovery and her journey back from despair to a new life.

Too big for the cottage... a Great Pyrenees in the making...
Lacey is learning quickly, already knows her name and loves to work with Mark around the ranch as she follows him everywhere and explores while he is working. I try to go out twice a day to play with her and walk her around the property so she begins to learn what is hers to protect. She and the Dots are in training learning to trust one another. She is so lovable but definitely an outdoors dog. There's no room for her in the cottage-literally due to her eventual size-plus I'm allergic to dogs---even Lacey. She'll have a great life outdoors with a meaningful job protecting Edwards Ranch and all its inhabitants. Isn't she adorable?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Meet Lacey!

Meet our new puppy, Lacey!  She is now 12 weeks old and adorable; very calm and sweet. She has so much hair and huge paws - portend of things to come.


Doing chores with Mark

We drove an hour and half Friday evening to pick her up from a kind fellow who drove her to Nebraska from the breeder who lives in northwest South Dakota. On the way home she sat on the floor between my feet. She was quiet and slept most of the way home. She responded to my handling so sweetly...she leaned into my petting. A girl who loves massage is my kind of girl.

Mark made her a hay house in the secure chicken pen so she has a place to come out of the weather. She will soon be getting acquainted with the Dots who are now her charge to protect. Saturday morning I checked on her out the window, and although it was below zero, she was sleeping on top of the hay house! Remember she is covered by thick long hair and came from a colder latitude.

This morning she found her voice and we know now that she can bark! Up until now, she was so quiet which wouldn't be a good thing in a watchdog. But we learned she is just fine. We had so much fun  in the snow this morning.
We are so happy to have her join our ranch family.

AND THE WINNER IS...........

Thank you dear readers who participated in the Name Our Puppy Contest. The names that made the short list are: Mardee, Winnie, and Misha. However, the winner is Mark!! OMG, yes, Mark. He came up with Lacey and when we got her, she WAS Lacey. Since we ended up naming her ourselves, we will be sending a jar of jam to the three finalists - thank you Sandy in South Dakota, Bonnie in North Carolina and Simona in California!


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Oh No, Not The Strawberries!


Check out the deer eating in our garden; look at the buck
on top of the strawberry raised bed! Yikes! He's pulling up
the strawberry plants.



Well, we can't have that -- I want my beautiful strawberry
bed intact! They got our message and off they go! I'm sure they
will be back. Bummer! I've accepted the squirrels but not sure
I'm ready for sharing with the deer.


We're having a beautiful snowfall today --- about 7-8" so far and it's still snowing!

NOTE:  The contest to name our puppy ends tomorrow. We pick her up on Friday so we'll be sending an announcement this weekend.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Keep Those Brain Cells Buzzing

I just had my annual physical last week and all is well. In fact, the doctor was surprised that I was 62, took only 1 medicine and had no serious medical conditions. It made me feel great that I'm doing alot of the right things. My challenge now is to conquer weight control with more activity. Summer was easy but winter is harder. Need to adjust the mindset.

8 Weeks to Optimum Health: A Proven Program for Taking Full Advantage of Your Body's Natural Healing Power [Book]Shortly after Mark and I got together, we discovered Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. We saw a show with him on PBS one night and it literally changed our lives. Dr. Weil is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Medical School and has worked for the National Institute of Mental Health; & for 15 years was a research associate in ethnopharmacology at the Harvard Botanical Museum. He is founder of the Center for Integrative Medicine in Tucson, AZ and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. As well, he is a practicing physician and renowned author. The guy has credentials for sure. But more importantly, he talks like a layman and has an unbelievable curiosity that keeps him on the bleeding edge of health discoveries. His focus is on wellness rather than disease.  

As I said, he changed our lives! The show we watched on PBS was featuring his newest book at the time, 8 Weeks to Optimum Health. We followed his advice chapter by chapter for 8 weeks and then continued to read his books and follow his discoveries. We went to see him in person at UCLA where he gave a lecture about healthy aging about three years ago. The next thing we knew we found ourselves in our 60s and pretty darn healthy. If you're not familiar with Dr. Weil, 8 Weeks to Optimal Health is the book to start with in my opinion. You can also catch his online newsletter at drweil.com.

Not only is reading a wonderful pastime but it keeps the ol' brain cells buzzing --- a good thing at any age but particularly as one grows older. Between September 2009 and December 31, 2010, I read 60 books! I kept track for the first time in my life to gauge my reading and to keep track of book titles so I can share with my sisters and friends who are readers. Sharing book titles generates great discussions and also opens the mind to new ideas and different worlds. 

I used to buy books but when we retired and moved to the ranch, the cottage wasn't big enough to hold them all. I sorted through what I had and donated many boxes of books and sold many to the used bookstore. I keep my bookshelf full because I love to be surrounded by books but I'm not buying books anymore. These days, one of my favorite places is the local library. We are lucky here in that the community combined the public library and the school library into one. Consequently, the building is beautiful, the library is well used, and the librarian can keep a good supply of current books available. It also has an area with large windows, a fireplace and comfortable couches and chairs. Oh my, it's a bookworms dream.

If you are in the reading mood, here are a few titles you may wish to check out this winter.

Product DetailsBig Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani was a gift from a dear friend, Anneliza, several years ago. Big Stone Gap started a series that is a delight to read and will sweep you away to this world.
As described on the cover, "Comic and compassionate, Big Stone Gap is the story of a woman who thinks life has passed her by, only to learn that the best is yet to come." Adriana has become one of my favorite authors for great women stories.

Sarah's Key [Book]Sarah's Key by Tatiana De Rosnay is spellbinding. One of the quotes in praise of this book states, "...De Rosnay offers up a mesmerizing story in which a tragic past unfolds, the present is torn apart, and the future is irrevocably altered". This is definitely a worthy read for all, not just women. 

The School of Essential Ingredients [Book]Another that is a great read but much lighter in tone, The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. One review says, "Food Network fans will devour this first novel about a whimsical cooking school run by a gentle chef with a fierce passion for food." I'm a foodie and a reader so this was heaven for me. Just a fun read.
My folks were avid readers and I have strong memories of them both reading everyday. I remember distinctly when my Mom joined a mail order book club and received books every month. It was the most exciting concept and one of the first books that came was In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. It was radical for its time and I was surprised that Mom let me read it then but she did and her open attitude impressed me. Prior to the book club, we'd go to the library once a week to get our supply of books. So as you can see, books have always been a part of my life. Once Mom joined the book club, she put them on the bookshelves in the 'porch'. My job was to dust the bookshelves every week and I hated it because of all the knick knacks but once the books resided on the shelves and started replacing the knick knacks, I didn't mind anymore.

Friends will often say that they just don't have time to read. I understand that; life can be very busy. I read every day for my pleasure during my years of working although I was incredibly busy. It was such a positive thing for me that I read every night before I went to sleep. I still do that. We find time for those things that mean something to us. Some of us though make time for everyone BUT ourselves. Reading may be a way to start taking care of yourself. It's not a selfish thing to do. It is actually good for your health...so says Dr. Weil!

Back to health and food. Since I live with the Cookie Monster, I made 7 dozen oatmeal cookies today. I froze most of them so he can take them with him when he is out working. Now the question is... how can he remain so trim, with virtually no paunch in the middle, and eat this many cookies? It's not fair....it's... just... not... fair. (It feels good to whine occasionally!!) I don't eat the cookies and I'm the one who needs to lose weight. go figure.

Around the ranch.........

Since the big snow, we've had lots of deer in our yard. There isn't much of anything to eat but we noticed deer tracks to our bird feeders so even they are trying to get a bit of the seeds

This small buck showed up one day this week;
we've also seen a doe and her twins around the
yard foraging for food.

The colts enjoying hay snack on beautiful winter day

And, of course, the birds...

Feasting during the snow


Don't forget to submit your name suggestion for our new puppy! She should be arriving sometime this week. We'll send an announcement with pictures as soon as she arrives.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Name Our New Puppy

We need help Friends.  We are getting a Great Pyrenees puppy to help protect the Dots and guineas. One of these three darling girls is ours. Will you help us name our new puppy?  Just put your chosen name for the puppy in the comments at the end of this post and be sure to sign it. The winner of the contest will receive a jar of homemade jam. Contest closes on January 20, 2011.

sleeping darlings - one is ours
How To Post A Comment: I've had a few people ask about posting a comment since they've not done it before. Just click on comment at the bottom of this post.
A box will come up within which you write your message. You will see a box that asks you to 'comment as' so hit the drop-down box and if you don't have an account you recognize, then just click on 'anonymous', then 'preview'.
Your comment will show up and you have a chance to edit it at this point. If all is well, then just hit the Post Comment button and voila, your message is posted.
Thank you for posting your thoughts - and in this case, your name suggestion!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year News

Decorating for Christmas is so fun but I have to say that taking down the decorations and cleaning up is very very satisfying. Does anyone else feel that way?  This year I bought some of the ornament organization boxes and I'm lovin' them. I'm also trying to sort through and eliminate decorations that I didn't use and probably won't use in this cottage due to lack of space, or those that were more appropriate when our grandkids were small.  My mantra for 2011 ---Simplify-Simplify-Simplify.

The seed catalogues are coming in by droves and the postman is feeling it, I'm sure!  I LOVE seed catalogues as you can imagine. There is nothing more satisfying than perusing the catalogues for new veggies or plants or old heirloom seeds to try in the garden this year. I've planned the layout of the 2011 garden so I can't wait to see it evolve. We're thinking of adding two more tanks for my raised bed area. I'm going to start seeds indoors this spring so Mark and I are figuring out where we'll have our 'indoor greenhouse'.  That means we're looking at what floor space on the south side of our house that we are willing to relinquish to the seedlings! We have marvelous south light so it should be good for starting seeds.

This is the raised bed garden as seen from the
dining room windows; we plan to add 2 more tanks


 http://www.heirloomtomatoplants.com/ This link is to Laurel's Heirloom Tomato Plants.  Several years ago, we went to the Tomato Fest at Carmel, CA. It was wonderful -- the food featuring heirloom tomatoes was prepared by top local restaurants, several wine cellars had tasting stations, and then there was the tent with 300+ varieties to taste (see picture below):

Gary Ibsen started the Tomato Festival in Carmel and he is one of the pioneers in bringing heirloom tomatoes back into gardens across the country. He recommended Laurel's plants because he only sells seeds with a minimum order of $15.00. Now that's alot of tomatoes for a home gardener. His website is worth checking out for not only the seeds but for all things tomato...
http://www.tomatofest.com/heirloom_tomato_seed_home.html

look closely & you'll see the snow flurries
Dreaming of spring as the snow flies!    It has been snowing since last night and we have 4"-5" right now. No wind so just a nice snowfall. Our bird habitat has been very active this morning as you can imagine. Having multiple feeders with a variety of food along with fresh water is a guarantee for many different species of birds. Add no cats to that equation and it's even better. Feeding time at the feeders is a visual treat to watch: Northern cardinals, dark eyed juncos, robins, black-capped chickadees, white-breasted nuthatch, hairy woodpecker, goldfinches, rosy house finches, Harris's sparrow, house sparrow & the occasional bluejay and northern flicker.

Ok, I'll reveal what I've been doing with the chickens this winter. They have been in training with a German trainer and here is the result...magnificent, isn't it?
video


Hee Hee Hee Hee...don't I wish! I know I'd be on David Letterman's Stupid Animal Tricks segment for sure!

And finally, I'm an avid reader all year, but with reduced outside activity around the ranch, winter is the best time to curl up with a great book any time of day. One night on TV I watched a movie with Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes called The Duchess. I loved the movie and the main character, the Duchess of Devonshire, who was a brilliant political strategist --- one of the first females allowed this kind of power in the English political structure & credited with being one of the first to refine political messages for mass communication. It was so fascinating that I was compelled to follow up by reading an excellent historical biography about the Duchess of Devonshire, Georgiana Spencer, who was quite a complex woman. For those Anglophiles, Georgiana was a relative of Princess Diana (Spencer). For those of you who enjoy historical biographies, you will appreciate this book; Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bacon, Bottles, Birds

Bacon...
We enjoy bacon now and then but with just two of us a package of bacon will go bad before we get it eaten. Here is a solution to that problem:
Remove bacon from package and roll up like
in the picture; place in freezer as is

Once frozen remove from plate and put into
a plastic freezer bag to store

To use, just remove from freezer, take out the
number of bacon slices you wish to use, and
put into your frying pan frozen. It won't take long
to thaw and you can enjoy bacon anytime without
concern of it spoiling.

Bottles...
Mark had three bottles of soda in his truck from his last trip to CA when he delivered horses.  He took them out and put them on a shelf in the barn. The other day he noticed that one of them had not frozen and the other two were frozen solid.  Check out this picture of the Mountain Dew that is still liquid along with the Dr Pepper and A&W Root Beer. What do you suppose is in the Mountain Dew? I knew it wasn't good for you because of all the sugar and caffeine but antifreeze?

I just shook the Mt Dew, see the bubbles on top?
The other two bottles are frozen solid.

See the bubbles in the Mountain Dew?
Birds...
Now it wouldn't be my blog without a picture of birds, right? I love those creatures.  Here are some we caught on camera while feasting yesterday in the snow.
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First Snow and Tender Chicken Feet


Baby it's cold outside!




















This is the first winter for my Dots and so this is their first snow. We've kept them inside the Dot House to protect them from the zero temperatures these past few days so since it is 8 degrees today I let them outside. They were hesitant once their feet touched the cold snow and some ran back into the house. I gathered hay and spread out a carpet of hay so they could walk outside with some protection. They eventually moved out onto the hay and began doing their chicken thing again. They have the free choice to go into the Dot House when they wish.

Are Brown Eggs More Nutritious Than White Eggs?

Some people believe that brown eggs are more nutritious.  The color of the eggshell says nothing about its nutritional value. The fact is that chickens with white earlobes lay white eggs and those with red earlobes lay brown eggs. Yes, that is TRUE!! For some reason this doesn't apply to the Americauna or Easter Egg Chicken that lays colored eggs and I'm not sure why.

The Farmers Market in CA where I shopped every Saturday for 10 years always charged more for brown eggs. I heard customers talking and they assumed the brown eggs were more nutritious. The nutrition has to do with the feed and not the shell color. Save yourself some $$ and don't pay more for the color of the egg shell.

And then there were 14...
Our chickens are normally free range but we lost two Dots before Christmas to some wild creature behind our barn. Mark has seen coyotes and bobcats nearby so until there is more food available in the wild, we are keeping the Dots in their safe pen.
If you look closely or enlarge this picture you
will see the coyote in the center of the picture
in our horse pasture
Their laying has fallen off since it has gotten very cold here. We were still getting around a dozen a day through Christmas; however since we've had zero degree weather, we've been getting about 8 per day.

I plan to get more Easter Egg chicks this coming spring so I have more colored eggs and I get to enjoy the baby chicks again. You'll see them first here!