Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Happy Birthday to my favorite son!

Today's birthday menu will be his favorite, pork "wienerschnitzel", spaetzle, and a nice Caesar salad, followed by vanilla ice cream and strawberry shortcake bar cake (that's what the label says!).

I've been falling a little behind on the blogging. I'm going to Cambria tomorrow with my friend Vicki and hopefully I'll be able to catch up a little, especially now that I have a laptop I can take with me! ☺

Til then!

Friday, September 25, 2009

2009 Kern County Fair

Our county fair started this Wednesday. Carli took the day off and we took the baby and went to the fair. Normally the fair opens at 3pm but today is the only day during the week that it opens at 10:30. None of the kiddie rides were open yet so we didn't get to do any of those. Also it was Old Folks' Day where seniors get in free. I paid.

The baby was most excited to see the cows and kept saying, "Cow? Cow!", but I couldn't get a good picture of her with any of them.

Here we are in the sheep barn and she just wasn't impressed.
It was only the third day of the fair so we didn't get to see any poultry or rabbits. (They weren't there yet.) We trudged to the other end of the fairgrounds to the Fine Arts building to see how I did with my two entries.
Here's my flamingo mosaic on display. No prizes!
And here's the mosaic-ed hypertufa bowl I entered on a whim. I really wasn't expecting anything with this one but...
Click on the picture and look at that red thing at the bottom of the bowl. Second place! Whoohoo! I guess there must have been two whole entries for this category.

It was about 12:30 and I have no idea what the temperature was. I think the forecast was 103°. All I know for sure was that it was hot. We stopped for a moment to drink a little water.
We were looking for a cheap trinket for the baby. I wanted to get her one of those sparkly halo things but she was having none of that. What she really wanted was a pair of sunglasses.

Now she's just too cool.The tepid water did nothing to cool us down, plus we were getting hungry, and I could feel my blood sugar dropping fast so we got an ice cream cone.
We decided to pass on the fair food and went to a yummy Italian restaurant downtown instead. Here we are at Urichio's. Please don't bother the starlet.
She's really enjoying her pasta.
The end!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Ya Think?

In the October/November 2009 edition of Fine Cooking magazine there is an article by Ellie Krieger, a registered dietician. In the article she makes the statement, "There is serious research showing that if you eat a bowl of vegetable soup before a meal, you eat less overall and you feel just as satisfied."


I'm going to go out on a limb and make an equally astonishing statement. I think if you eat a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs before a meal, you will eat less overall and feel just as satisfied.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Autumnal Equinox Ride

Today is the Autumnal Equinox. That means that today we have equal amounts of lightness and darkness.

To celebrate I went for a ride on Star around noon. I don't really need an excuse to ride because I celebrate any time I go riding! I brought my little camera along to show you some of my favorite things when I ride.

One of the things I enjoy about riding during the week in the middle of the day is that I'm usually out by myself. That means I can do any wacky thing I choose. The weekends bring out all the other riders so I have to be on my best behavior.

Don't get me wrong though! I love riding with my sister too. We always have a lot of fun when we ride together.

Here are a couple of ducks in the river.
A heron. Sometimes I'll see the equally elegant white egrets, but not today.

One of the winding paths along the river in the overgrown trees. It's about 5-10 degrees cooler in here.
Now comes my favorite part on the other side of the river.

It seems that some time ago there must have been an event rider in the area. They went to a lot of effort to construct some cross country jumps. Some of those jumps are still standing. This is some sort of L complex. If whoever built it was jumping it as built then they were definately upper level riders.

To make this more novice friendly *someone* rearranged a few logs here and there.
And *someone* added a few jumps by dragging fallen logs and branches out.
The "L" is behind the big bushy tree on the right.
In the background of this picture you can see a small bank built by the unknown eventer with a small log recently dragged out in the foreground.
Now check out this image from Google Earth. It was from July 2003 so we know the jumps were there at least that long.
Here is that bank jump today.
Here are a pile of logs and boards that look like they may have been a jump of some sort at one time.And the final jump is this natural fallen log. You can plainly see that my sister and I are not the only ones who jump every little stick in our path. One of several river crossing spots. The water is rather low today. It would be interesting to know who built the little course out there and when. Today that property is part of the Panorama Preserve. You can read a little about it here and here.

I, for one, am very glad it's there!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Trail Of Feathers

Saturday evening my husband and I went out. That in itself is an amazing statement, because we so rarely go out. But the point of it is what happened as a result of us going out!

My normal routine these days is to feed the animals just before dusk. This makes it much easier for me to lock the chickens in their pen to keep them safe through the night. There is always one rogue leghorn (I don't know if it's the normal or super sized egg layer) that likes to insist on roosting on top of the pen rather than inside the pen. I am usually able to persuade her to join her flockmates with a 12 foot section of pvc pipe.

Saturday we had to leave at 5:30. When we got back at around 11pm I went out to close the door on the chicken pen. I didn't see the white leghorn on top, but then I didn't bring a flashlight with me to count the chickens either. I usually do a quick head count before I close the door.

Sunday morning I went out to feed and found a big white trail of feathers.

It doesn't show up as well in the photos but the trail was very obvious.
My husband talked to the neighbors. One said she saw a fox and the other and said he heard "a ruckus" around 5:30 in the morning. My guess is that the chicken hopped down from her roost early and was pecking around. They are used to the dogs racing around the backyard so probably wasn't too concerned when the fox came in. That was her undoing.

Here's what's left. : (
Every time I put the chickens in I can't help thinking about a story I read when I was in elementary school. As I recall it was based in China and it was about a huge flock of geese. Every morning they were let out to the fields to eat and every evening they came back to their farm where they lived. The last goose in always got a hard smack across his back. One day a young goose lingered too long and didn't want to get smacked so he stayed out. The story goes on about all the dangers he had to avoid that night. The next day the goose decided it was worth the smack if he was the last one in.

Too bad that chicken didn't know the story of the goose.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I missed a couple of recent birthdays.

Happy Birthday to my niece down south (on the 15th).

Happy Birthday to my b.i.l. in the Bay Area (on the 18th).

And Happy BIG 50 Birthday to my s.i.l. in ILL! (That one was actually today.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Not much is going on right now. We've just started thinking about what to plant in our winter garden and other than that there is not much to report.

So today I am showing you the eggs my hens currently are laying. Usually I will put my eggs in the carton so that when I take an egg out, I will always know which eggs are the oldest. The way I do that is to pretend the carton is a book. Open the carton as you would open a book and put the eggs in starting at the top left, then in the slot next to it. Then to the next "line" of the "book", and so on. I take the eggs out in the same order. Fascinating, huh! Well, it works for me.

However for the purposes of this particular post I've rearranged the eggs for easier viewing. There is the banty egg on the right, the regular white leghorn in the middle, and the other leghorn must be cranking out the monsters on the left. Surprisingly they are not double yolkers and we get a giant egg like this about every third day. Currently the banty is the most consistent layer with one a day. We get a regular sized egg about every 1 1/2 days. So if you're following that means we get anywhere from one to three eggs per day. I haven't had to resort to baking pound cake yet. (That link to the old fashioned pound cake was from two years ago. Maybe it's time to repost the recipe here.) We seem to have the right amount of eggs for now. Heaven help me when the new chicks start laying!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lye Cured Olives

After a five year hiatus from processing olives, this year we finally got back to it.

Olives must first be cured before eating, because eating a raw olive will be guaranteeing a nasty taste in your mouth with a distinct possibility of getting a stomach ache as well. There are many different ways to cure olives. The only way we've tried to date is using lye.

Yes, lye, that caustic chemical probably better known for its toilet bowl cleaning properties. There was a time when you could buy lye straight off the shelf of the local grocery or hardware store. When we first started curing olives we would buy a couple cans of Red Devil lye. It came in small cans (about 16 ounces), was pure lye with nothing added, and therefore was perfect for our intended use.

Unfortunately lye is/was a chemical used in the manufacturing of crank and was eventually removed from the shelves. You may remember the same thing happened when the enterprising makers of illicit drugs discovered how to use over the counter pseudoephedrine drugs to make their wares. Now those medicines are only available behind the counter and they are limited to how much can be bought by one person.

So with a sick olive tree (we think it has developed a case of verticillium wilt) and the inability to find small quantities of pure lye we put our olive curing on hold. Over the last five years we have been cutting the sick parts of our olive tree out, which is the recommended treatment, and it has been showing signs of a minor recovery. Formerly the fruit would all ripen at various stages, and now they are ripening at the same time. (A total recovery is not likely though. We've probably just prolonged its life a little.) Also, with more homesteading type blogs on the internet I've been able to find the smaller quantities more suitable for our needs. Thank you home soap makers!

Here is the food grade lye we found on-line (

Our olives are usually ready to be picked around the first week of September. Good help for picking is a plus!

Most of the olives we processed came from our tree. Unfortunately I can't tell you what variety we have. We did manage to find another tree somewhere and supplemented what we picked at home. All together we picked about 9 gallons.

After having done this for several years before and keeping (fairly) good notes on what we did each year we think we now have a good recipe. We mix 36 ounces of lye in 19 gallons of water. The olives are put in this mixture for 12 hours. We use a rubber/plastic garbage can. Metal should be avoided at all costs because of the possibility of a chemical reaction that would cause discoloration and/or taint the taste.We use a piece of wood cut into a circle to fit the inside of the garbage can. This helps hold the olives down.

Also, once again, because the lye is caustic, it is important that proper safety precautions are taken. Make sure to wear safety goggles/glasses, long sleeved shirt and pants, rubber gloves, and waterproof boots. Even if this means the boot must be duct-taped to seal any holes!

We have a five gallon bucket with lots of holes in the bottom, like a bucket sieve. After 12 hours curing in the lye solution the olives are removed. Then they are placed in plain water to leach the lye out. The water should be changed 2 to 3 times a day for about 3 days. There will be a noticeable difference in the color of the water as it is changed. It will start out dark brown and by the end of the third day it will be quite a bit lighter.

Here you can see the difference between a totally raw olive and one that has been lyed. The raw olive is on the left. Notice the sharp difference in color from the outside to the pit. Compare that to the processed olive on the right with the color basically the same throughout.

After the lye treatment, and after the leaching in the water, it is time for the brine. We mix 3 pounds of salt with 12 gallons of water. The olives are left in the brine for 3 days.

Now it's time to can the olives. I got all my equipment ready: the jars, lids and rings, the olives, of course, and the flavoring. Here I'm using garlic.

The canning brine consists of one cup of salt to 10 quarts of water. I like to make several layers of garlic and olives. You can never have too much garlic! The jars are then filled with the canning brine to about 1/4 inch from the top.

The jars are sealed and placed in a 180º to 200º water bath for 20 minutes.

I even did 6 of the Weck jars with the rubber seals. I can't help it but they make me nervous. (Change is hard for me!)

I also did a few jalapeno flavored olives and some habanero flavored olives.

All told I canned 63 1/2 pints, about 7.9 gallons! My final tally was 37 pints of garlic; 6 pints of habanero; and 11 1/2 pints of jalapeno olives (6 sliced in rounds, 5 1/2 sliced lengthwise with seeds removed).

The only thing I have left to do is make some labels.

I'm thinking we've got our Christmas presents covered this year! What flavor do you want?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Tack Room Improvements

At the stables where I now have my horse, Star, my sister and I share a tack room. During the time that my sister was using this tack room she never made any "improvements". Some people have their tack rooms all fixed up and decorated as if it were a home away from home. They have chairs, benches, picnic tables, even barbecues!

We decided to start cleaning up "our" area. You'll note in the picture above the dried weeds on the right hand side. On Labor Day we made our first improvements.

We cleared the area of the dried weeds and we made a real cement step. Now it's an easier transition from inside to outside. My sister had some old horseshoes laying around so it was just an obvious choice to use them to decorate the step. Believe it or not, this tiny step took four 60 pound sacks of premixed cement to make!

There is a tiny patch of grass in the front and we actually took scissors and trimmed it down a little. (The boards on the right are what we used to form the step. This is just after I removed the form.)
Slowly but surely we are fixing up our "home away from home". ☺

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Happy 09/09/09.

This week has not been happy due to personal issues that I won't go into here. But I am determined to make it better today.

I've been without transportation this week. My husband is out of town with his truck, Wil's truck is in the shop getting the transmission worked on so he's been taking my car to work. We do still have the bronco but we did the non-op this year. I'm normally a freakazoid about being "legal" and I would shoot myself if I got a ticket because I got caught driving it. Wil's truck should be done today (with any luck), but I still have to wait for him to come home from work so we can both go to pick it up.

Meanwhile I think it's time to put the olives up so I'll be busy with that today. And then depending on the vehicle situation I was going to go out to the stables to take some photos of a little project my sister and I are working on. More on that later.

Have a great day everyone. I'm planning on having one myself!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Good News/Bad News

I have a couple of good things and a couple of not-so-good things going on.

First of all my dental implant is about three weeks away from being finished. I went in on Thursday to get the impressions made. Then I was hit with the bad news. I knew I was going to have to pay for the crown, but for some reason I had been thinking it would be in the $400 range, similar to what I paid for another regular crown. I was informed that the insurance wouldn't pick up any part of this crown and the bill for this portion of the dental work would be $1600!

Ouch! I'm sure the person from the office went over everything with me way back when I started all this almost a year ago but for some reason all I could focus on at the time was the cost of the implant part itself, which was about $3,000.

Well, now for some more good news. My husband's boss called him and said they could reinstate him to the job he had before they layed him off. He'll be starting at the beginning of the next pay period, in about two weeks. It couldn't have come at a better time.

Tomorrow my husband will be taking off to do his little "look-see" around Oregon, searching for a likely place for us to relocate. As I mentioned in a previous post, we do like the Roseburg area but want to make sure we check out all options. For example if he just happens to find 4o acres on the beach, then I'm sure I could put up with the coastal weather for that. (Although realistically it's highly unlikely that we'll find forty acres on the beach that we can afford!)

Now for some more good news! It's been five years since we last put up any olives. There were two reasons for this. Our olive tree has been sickly, and wasn't producing its usual great bounty of olives. They were on the small side and they were growing at several different rates. So while some of the olives were ready to pick, others were already too ripe and others were no where close to being ready.

The other reason is that you can no longer buy Red Devil Lye (or anything similar) in the grocery store or hardware store anymore. We used the lye to process the olives. Thanks to all the crank producers pure lye has been removed from the general publics' availability. The last time I tried to find lye on-line the smallest portion I could find was from a chemical company that sold the smallest increments in 20 pound sacks. We use a little over one pound of lye for our small production.

In the last year a few changes happened. Thanks to some homesteading blogs I was able to find a few places on-line that sold "food grade" lye in smaller portions, ie: 2 and 4 pound containers. Those bloggers were using the lye to make soap, but after clicking on their suggested links to find lye I was happy to find the food grade lye.

Our poor olive tree did not do too badly this year and we got some nice looking olives. We also were able to find another tree that we were able to use to supplement what we got off of our tree.

Now we are about half way through our olive processing process. I have been taking photos as we go along so some time next week I'll start posting all about it.

Meanwhile here are a few preview photos. This was our olive picker helper.

Have a good Labor Day Weekend!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Growing Chickens

I would say the chicks are no longer cute little chicks. They have grown up fast and are now young chickens. I think their favorite part of the day is when I let them out of their pen. Sometimes I let them out earlier, but today I didn't open their door until around five pm.
They race each other to various spots around the yard, hoping to be the first to find the elusive golden grub.
Busy pecking away!
Here they come racing through the gate to get to the big yard.
Wait for me!
Sometimes you just gotta stop the dirt scratching to do a little itch scratching!
Buck buck buck baaawwwkk!