Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Cleaning up, inside and out

After a dry, dusty summer, a Labor Day windstorm, ten days of thick smoke and ash, and an hours-long thunderstorm, things were looking pretty ragged around here. But we've starting to make noticeable headway. Inside I started with vacuuming up dust and cobwebs and wiping off dust and ash. Then I cleaned and rearranged our tiny laundry room to better accommodate a post-surgical puppy's comfort; I replaced her smallish crate with the two big dog beds from the living room to make a cushy den in which she can curl up or stretch out. I also tackled the 'homeschool closet,' removing and sorting years of workbooks, teachers manuals, homework papers, and peripheral detritus into piles to recycle, toss, donate, and offer to others. Doing that was harder emotionally than dropping off Brian at college, drawing a curtain as it did on my son's childhood, but it was time and now I'm fine. Next I'm going to deep-clean Brian's bathroom, which is also the guest bathroom if we have visitors. He picked up most of his clutter and was supposed to clean it before he left, but it's pretty gross.

Outside, Rick mowed the upper and middle pastures, cleaned up the broken prune limb and some too-low English walnut tree branches, and mowed around the fruit trees. I cleaned up the entry, trimming ground cover and sweeping all the concrete. Then I used the riding lawnmower to 'sweep' the arena and driveway of fallen maple leaves, and picked up a pick-up load of twigs and branches from all over to add to the burn pile. Those jobs will need to be repeated as more leaves fall and the wind blows down more twigs and branches, but with more rain in the forecast (which arrived this afternoon), I needed to "get while the getting was dry." The improved 'curb appeal,' even if temporary, is an instant mood elevator!

the harvest from the small pear tree in the pasture
The harvest from the grafted pear tree in our upper pasture; yummy!

After raking edges; before sweeping

In today's edition of "This is why we can't have nice things," this is the thanks I got for trying to make Poppy's life more comfortable:

She did that while I was outside getting a lesson with Stella (exciting progress; update coming on my horse blog!) and cleaning up branches. She did it a couple more times this afternoon while I was in the house. Poppy is clearly pent-up and bored, and wants to RUN and PLAY. She has left her incision alone, but it did seep for several days and has a little more swelling than I like to see, no doubt because we haven't been able to keep her from leaping on and off the bed, standing vertically to look out the window facing the neighbor's, doing zoomies around the furniture in the great room, and hunting mice in the tack room while we do chores (this morning she jumped up ON a saddle). I guess she needs to be on-leash inside as well as out! We're going to go to agility class tomorrow afternoon; the activity there will be downright sedate compared to what she's managed here.

Tomorrow Rick's sister flies in from Colorado. She's staying with my MIL but we will all be together on Sabbath. I'm just a touch nervous about being around someone who has flown on a commercial airline during a pandemic, so will be keeping my distance. I'm also a touch jealous; oh, how I wish it were safe to fly down to see MY parents!

That's it for now from a tidier . . .

Friday, September 18, 2020

What a scrubbing!

And it was "rinse and repeat" today; hurray!

Last night we got the most spectacular thunderstorm I've seen here in 31 years; it went on for hours, accompanied by heavy rain. What a godsend! After initially barking to let the 'intruder' know she was ready for it, Poppy wasn't bothered by the noise and flashing lights so that's good. Jackson wasn't crazy about thunder, but I don't think he heard it more than three brief times in his life; that's how rare such a storm is here.

The rain last night and today has restored clean air and color to our surroundings; it is a feast for the eyes and lungs and I am relishing it. I had opportunities to enjoy it, too, because I had to drive Poppy to the vet this morning and pick her up after her spay and microchipping this afternoon. She's resting quietly now on a big, soft bed covered with a light fleece blanket after some restlessness and whining. Two days ago she got stung by at least two yellowjackets, so she's had a rough week! I did chores tonight without her, so of course I saw a mouse in the tack room for the first time in weeks....

A brief and short-lived semblance of her usual self

More pleasant visitors (than a mouse) were a family of bluebirds hunting bugs in our yard yesterday afternoon, and this newt in our garage tonight (I moved him to a better location):

Yesterday just before the first few raindrops warned of weather to come, I worked with Stella, then noticed the boys hoovering up 'crispy chips.' Now the leaves are soggy and  the arena is dust-free. If we get any more warm weather, I predict that our garden is going to go into last-minute overdrive. There's nothing like rain to bring out the best in plants – including weeds, of course, but I'm just so thankful for the soaking that I don't care!

That's it from a refreshed . . . 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Twinkle, twinkle, little star

Last night when Rick and I went out to do chores, I saw a star – ONE star. You would have thought I'd found a diamond, I got so excited! It was the first star we've seen since a week ago Sunday night; the first time the smoke had thinned enough to "let its little light shine."

Once again there was no visible "sunrise" this morning, but I did notice a wee bit of definition to the gray – visible clouds!

And then, glory be, the sun broke through for a bit! I plopped my plying project on the deck railing and took a picture. Good thing, too, as the atmosphere closed in again and we spent the rest of the day shrouded in haze. But tonight I saw TWO stars and my weather app says our air quality index is down to 338 (still in the "hazardous" zone, but better than in 500-600). No rain in the forecast now until Friday, but there finally seems to be a light at the end of this smoke-filled tunnel.

In the meantime, I've been making the most of being stuck indoors. I've canned 33 quarts of prune sauce and dried enough to pack two gallon bags FULL and I'm done with the prunes for the year. This morning while picking I was surrounded by the buzzing of yellowjackets feasting on fallen fruit (plus one 'helpful' cat), so I'm going to leave the rest to them.

Prune sauce undergoes an interesting (to me, at least) transformation. The raw puree has bits of purple skin that dissolve into burgundy puddles, which then diffuse their color through the sauce as it cools.

Poppy is still a pent-up pup. I let her run around outside for a little while today, but most of the time she had to entertain herself inside.

Another little bright spot? Yesterday I got five eggs from our nine middle-aged hens!

P.S. This post is my first using the 'new' Blogger.

That's it for now from . . .

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Wildfire weight

I've heard many mentions of "pandemic pounds" put on by people staying home and baking/cooking more. Since the pandemic didn't really change our home life much, that hasn't been a problem here. However, if our very hazardous air pollution hangs around much longer, "wildfire weight" may become a thing! (Our air quality index is 562 right now. 😳😷) I'm only going outside to do chores and let Poppy relieve herself (on leash, so she doesn't run around too much) so neither one of us is getting the exercise we need. She is one pent-up pup, and I am spending too much time sitting and not enough time moving. And cooking is something I can do inside....

No 'pandemic pounds' on this lithe form!

So far, all the food has been pretty healthy. I get a weekly email from 'A Veggie Venture,' and last week's recipe sounded interesting. Our new neighbors had given me some of their abundance of tomatoes (jealous!) so I had enough.

This is SO GOOD! Rick and I devoured the whole thing within a day and I'm pondering begging the neighbors for more tomatoes so I can make it again. I have plenty of basil, but it needs a thorough washing to get all the ash off. 😝

I've had the dehydrator running pretty much non-stop on prunes; just started another load this morning. Now I'm going to try a batch of 'prune sauce.' We like peanut butter and applesauce over toast and I've made pear sauce, too, when we've been given pears. Why not prune sauce? Jars and rings are in the dishwasher as I type. I did get two pint jars of eggplant on their way to pleasant fermented pickliness. Now I need to figure out what to do with all the slender sweet peppers and jalapeños in the garden.

So far I've resisted the urge to bake something sweet and yummy because of the high likelihood of my eating it all. But there is a tube of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls in the frig and it's only 69° in the house (the only benefit of all this smoke is the reduced temperatures). I should just make granola.

Stuck inside at . . .