Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Friend Scott has been much on my mind of late.

He had his land line turned off and it's made it very difficult for us to chat as we usually do. He did get his cell phone turned back on, but cell phones don't work up here. So it makes it difficult to stay in touch.

He came by for a nice visit today. We sat on the front porch in the warm weather and talked. I had spent the day curled up on the couch with my SLE raging watching Wuxia movies. One of my correspondents recommended the Swordsman trilogy. For some reason, I only had 2 and 3 but they were very, very good. Swordsman III was really great.

I felt guilty about not working more on the fencing. But I have about two more days before the goats realize that there are still only three wires strung on most of the fences. But I did get their current favorite escape route solidly fenced with five wires. I also took down two gates and rerouted the fencing so to make the electric charge extra extra painful. This morning I awoke to the blessed silence of goats NOT breaking into the feed storage on the back porch. Previously, every morning sounded like the Rockettes had set up a kick line with taps on my back porch. They get angry when they find an empty metal bin and start bouncing it around the porch. Damn goats.

Scott finally got in touch with me on Monday.

Someone vandalized his house. They wrote "Faggit" in black paint on the side of it. We laughed about the misspelling. People can be so damn hateful here. I worry about Scott. Anti-depressants have been a good thing for him while he's been going through all of this, but I worry that they make him less vigilant than he should be.

"God love 'em." He says. "I wish I had the sort of self-confidence to think everyone wanted to get into my pants."

And it is pretty funny. They do seem to think all gay men are just dying to jump their grizzled, tobacco-juice spittin', cammo wearing, dentally challenged bones. Just because they have a dangly bit.

BossyToe came up and laid on the porch steps like the dog she seems to think she is. I let Scott give her her "baba" for a while.

"Only 15 seconds," I said. "She can slug half of that down in thirty and she's already had too much today."

BossyToe gets really upset when the "baba" is taken away. Sometimes she grips the nipple and will rip it off the bottle if you aren't careful. Then she wails. A friend heard her crying through the phone line and was very surprised how much like a human baby her cries were.

Last Easter, I wasn't able to attend my church because I'd had some small stroke activity from the blood thing. I wasn't supposed to drive. So I went to Easter service with Scott at one of his small churches. The music was truly sublime. But as I looked around, it seemed that there was a very visible attempt to keep score of things. Things like how many people brought their bibles and how much money was collected. It made me uncomfortable. I guess I'm just too Anglican.

The preacher welcomed all of the visitors and invited us to come back.

"But I don't want to be stealing you away from your own church." He said. "Why, that would be just like robbing a bank!"

I swear he said that. He really did.

Scott is a very spiritual person. He really loves the old time Baptist faith he was brought up in. That has been a very big conflict in his coming out process. He found a local minister who has a gay brother who has been counseling him. I wanted Scott to go into the MCC or the Episcopal church...just somewhere that had a more accepting viewpoint. Some sort of understanding that being a gay Christian was not some sort of oxymoron. Someone who could focus more on his faith and how to live as a gay Christian rather than to try to "heal" him.

Scott tells me he attended this church a few weeks ago. The parishioners refused to allow the service to start until Scott left. His pastor/counselor had to ask him to leave.

Scott will ask his doctor to up his meds tomorrow.

Somebody with a capitol "G" is keeping track of all this shit.

I'm angry and worried for my friend.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I got Nothin'

I got nothin'.

Tried to get BossyToe to do my blog entry today but she's still depressed that Pan's Labyrinth didn't win more Oscars. I told her that I didn't think it had too much to do with goats but all she heard was "pan" and "faun". She has a point...there is definitely some caprine inspired production design.

And Guillermo Del Toro is from Mexico. I didn't tell her about the whole "cabritto" thing. That would just upset her. He's her new favorite director.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

It was a few nights ago that I woke up to thunder and lightning crashing across the mountains in the distance. It lit up my bedroom with that eerie blue light that makes your skin itch. It is another harbinger of spring. I quite enjoy lightning storms. Unless I'm out pounding metal T-posts on the other end of the farm and have to skedaddle back to the house.

As you can see, Bridey is doing exceptionally well. She's as tall as the other kids now but still very delicately boned and "dairy". That is a good thing for the type of goat that she is. I'm afraid I need to re-do her disbudding. What I did doesn't seem to have taken. Violette is strong and stodgy and thick again. One of her eyes is a bit weepy and I need to see what she's gotten into this time. Looks like Violette is going to have a bit of a learning cure as to what is safe to get into or not.

Yesterday, I began the task of re-routing the fence lines. Pounding T-posts is very hard work up here with the rocks. I also went up and made repairs to the grain storage. Lucky, when he was still here, had used his horns to pry off the boards of the structure. I pulled out the grain bins and cleaned them out and left them to dry. Somewhere in the middle of this, I ran out of steam and had to go back to the house for a nap. I hate leaving tasks in the middle of things, but sometimes I just have to go and give the body what it needs. A nap.

I overslept and woke up to the darkness and howling wind. Since I live perched atop a 300 foot cliff, the wind gusts sometimes reach 60 miles per hour. My little house sits on a double foundation to absorb the buffeting winds. My closest neighbor who is just above me, built his cabin without such a foundation. The wind moved the entire house 10 feet one night. I've seen the wind pick up rocks here.

I then remember my feed bins. Damn. I'd meant just to lay down for a bit then go back up and fill the bins and put them securely in the repaired enclosure. The enclosure is designed to keep goats out and feed bins from flying off the mountain. So now, both feed bins are blown away. I was able to retrieve the bins, but the lids are probably somewhere between the here and the cow pasture 300 feet down. And it's not like I can go buy new lids for them. They are useless without the lids.

But it may be time to move on to something more secure anyway. The dogs have evidently loaned the goats the opposable thumb they use to get into things. I'm now having to put a padlock with a key on the milk goat's feed. The cabinet has a perfectly serviceable latch. But this morning I come down to find that they have opened it up and feasted on goat milk enhancer. To do this they had to, first, open the latch to the cabinet. Then remove the lid that is securely bungeed the bin inside the cabinet.

I am soooo taking that damn opposable thumb away once I find the smart ass goat who has it.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Weaver Poet

Every once in a while you meet a stranger who is as familiar to you as an old friend. It's those moments that make me believe in reincarnation and rebirth.

My thinking is that there are people out there who aren't opposites. Who aren't the same. They are flip. So like you yet so unlike you that the two of you seem to be like two sides of the same coin. That was how it was when I met Erin. I was conscious of running into my flip side. It's a very rare thing.

Erin lives at 9,000 feet in the Sangre de Christo Mountains of New Mexico in an old adobe house with no plumbing. She raises sheep. She weaves. She spins. She writes poetry. She has a sordid past that I hope she will tell us more about one day.

Her poetry is deep, visceral, political and filled with powerful physical memories. I don't much care for poetry in general unless it is really exceptional. Hers is. I can hear the wind crashing through those high mountain passes when I read her blog.

and here i am gifted with these voices drumming
relieving tears feeding some thirsty need
for normality thats not bloodshed
or a million stories of military might
stored away deep in my bones so that just getting up in the morning can make some sense
some drought stricken belief that privileged people care about changing
Read more of Erin's poetry on her old blog, The Real Dirt. The poem she wrote for Amnesty International, Violence and Women, concerning the women of Juarez is brutal, hard-hitting and should be required reading in feminist circles.

I consider Erin to be further up the foodchain than myself in the artist category. She's an amazingly talented fiber artist, spinner and weaver. Her rugs are soft and densely woven. She hand dyes each color. Her work is shown in some galleries in Santa Fe. She can tell you the names of the sheep whose wool was woven into them.

She sells the yarn she spins to knitters and craftspeople on ebay. She tells me that knitters are picky about their yarns.

But Erin truly suffers for her art. Her lifestyle is much more ascetic than mine. We share the disability thing. Poverty is is the ever present shadow. But I sit here in my cozy cabin drinking cocoa that I made on my stove and knowing my shower with hot steaming water is just across the hall, I know she is made from sterner stuff than I. She goes weeks without seeing a soul. I worry about her sometimes. Just because that is in my nature.

Of course, I have a big ole crush on her. Don't be jealous...I seem to have an unlimited number of crushes to go around. But any woman who can make a sheep smile like that...well, that's just something special. hands smell of sheep grease and my face is warm from a still and sunny morning.
my feet are firmly on the ground.
the root cellar at
The Poetic Overthrow

Friday, February 23, 2007

Food Porn Friday!!!

Food Porn Friday is brought to you this week by Betsy The Goat Yoda at Glastonbury Farms.'s good!

When I first sent the cheese pizza recipe to Rosie, I had only experimented a little- and only two toppings! As tasty as Roma tomatoes and mushrooms are, there are so many more food items to be explored.

The addition of artichokes, spinach, onions, leeks, basil leaves and even pickled beets, can be an interesting taste explosion in the mouth- for those who enjoy small salty fish, please consider them. Be creative and think how all the flavors will enfold upon each other as the pizza bakes.....

Each taste is to be considered before you add the ingredient to your pizza- a kind of gastronomic fore-play- imagine all those tastes individually in your mouth before you decide just which ones to put together on the pizza, but remember, the more that goes on a single pizza makes that 6" personal pizza harder to hold and enjoy- so why not expand your horizons and go for a 10" or even a 12" pizza, just so you can explore the possibilities.....Besides, cold pizza and warm Coke for breakfast......

The basic pizza recipe:

Take a 6" personal pizza, or larger as you feel the need, your favorite marinara sauce (I chose Newman's Own as that's my favorite commercial product), olive oil and fresh goat cheese crumbles. I put the ingredients together as follows, but they could go together a bit differently:

Spread the Marinara onto the pizza dough- I found that if it goes on too thick, the cheese combines a wee bit too much with the sauce- add as much goat cheese to this as you like, then use your toppings. I also found that adding the slices of Roma tomato on top allows the finished product to stay together a little better. Now for your toppings- the thinner they are sliced or diced, the better, but add as much of what you like, with tomatoes on top. Then drizzle the olive oil, about 1 tablespoon. Bake at 350 degrees until the crust is brown and the tomatoes are baked, about 30 minutes.

That's it- mangia!

One other tip- take the rest of the Marinara and add the rest of the goat cheese to it, then warm appropriately. Add spices if you wish, especially fresh basil cut small. Cook your favorite Italian noodle- angel hair pasta is good for this. On a plate of hot pasta, cover the pasta with the goat cheese sauce, toss a wee bit and serve with fresh buttered garlic bread- and fresh goat milk, served ice cold! Oooooh-weeee! Or red wine and a romaine lettuce salad for a late romantic supper.

Blessings to you all- Goat Yoda:-)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Secret Trip

She had dressed that day with her usual aplomb. My mother wore a zebra striped tunic and slacks with sandals. A silk scarf wrapped ala Kate Hepburn around her silver curls and those funky Jackie-O sunglasses she wore in the '70's. She favored big chunky white plastic "summer" jewelry and the ever present Chanel #5 floated like a comforting aura around her. She had a radical mastectomy just the year before, but you'd never know it to see her.

We were on our way to Beaufort.

My parents were Savannahians, so we did most of our shopping in Savannah. We didn't go to Beaufort very often. Today was a special trip for the two of us. A trip my mother didn't want anyone else to know about.

I sat in the passenger side of the tank-like silver Impala gazing out the window at the marshlands passing by. I recognized the spot where my brother and I had hiked back into the deep marsh to go duck hunting and remembered, as I always do when I pass that spot, the feeling of the frigid water barely held back by my rubber waders. The clamminess of it and the smell of the daybreak.

I giggled as we past the bait shop on the left, as usual. They had tried to name the place "Master Baiters" at one point. There was a huge outcry and they had to scrap the plan. At 15, I already had a fine sense of double entendre and punning. It came with the territory of living in a literary and language obsessed family.

As we crossed the Broad River Bridge with its comforting clackety-clack sound as the car went along the uneven surfaces of the bridge, I noticed again the thin, tight line my mother was holding her mouth in. Her hands were positioned at 10 and 2 and were gripping the steering wheel until her knuckles were white.

"Have I done something wrong?" I asked, keeping my eyes on the river, away from her face. I looked down at the cobia fisherman who had played hooky today to try and catch the big one with a black fish or river eel swimming on their line.

She gave me a tense smile. It was a smile that said, "It's not you, sweetie." I understood it in the silent way we always communicated.

"It's just, I'm not altogether sure about this." She said. "Your sister really talked me into this, but I have very mixed feelings about it. I want you to know that I'm not completely on board with this plan. But your sister thinks it's the right and smart thing to do."

We were making our way to the Beaufort County Health Department where my mother had made an appointment for me to be fitted for a diaphragm.

My mother didn't know at that point that I was no longer a virgin. I actually wasn't too sure about it myself, since I didn't really want to think of the rape as being sex. Sex, in my understanding was supposed to be something special and nice, and what had happened to me a year ago was nothing like that.

But she didn't know that and no one would drag that out of me for love or money. There was a time, the day after the rape, that I stood in front of my bedroom mirror and wondered if somehow I looked different. Was I now marked in some way? Could people tell just by looking at me? It was the moment when I naturally would have broken down and gone into my mother's room and told her about the dreadful, brutal thing that had happened to me. I would have cried and she would have held me. My father would have called the police and our entire family would have risen up in outrage.

Instead, my mother came into my room. She looked small, frightened and teary.

"My breast is bleeding." She said, to the just turned 14 year-old in the Catholic school girl's uniform who had just joined a disturbing statistical group. 1 in 3 women experience rape. Half of those are underage.

So, no one knew. This was a point in my life that absolutely could not be about me. It needed to be about my beautiful mother. It wasn't the first or the last time that I protected her from the painful realities of my life. But it was the most necessary time.

I dealt with my issues from the rape later in therapy, as many of us do. Unfortunately the rape gave me a lifelong legacy that therapy couldn't make go away. My rapist gave me HPV.

My story is not all that rare or unusual. I've met lots of women who share this sort of experience. Some are more damaged than others emotionally. Many, like me, contracted STD's in their childhood this way. There are lots and lots of us out there. We were robbed. All of us were.

I've been really disturbed by the resistance in certain quarters and the rhetoric involved in the opposition to the new HPV vaccine. In case you aren't aware, HPV is the virus that causes 70% of cervical cancer cases. They are proposing giving this vaccine to young girls before they are sexually active, by choice or violence, and thus give them an opportunity to not contract cervical cancer later in life. This makes good sense to me. Indeed, I think they should give it to boys so they don't contract HPV and spread it. Some states are considering making the vaccine a requirement just like a measles shot. This makes good sense to me too since it would make the vaccine accessible to lesser privileged children. If those lesser privileged children grow up to be lesser privileged adults, the taxpayers end up saving tens of thousands of dollars in healthcare costs for treating those cases of cervical cancer. Makes good financial sense to me too. A nice compromise might be to just make the vaccine available to all and not mandate it.

The opposition to the vaccine seems mired in the thinking that since HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that it should not be given to underage girls. That if underage girls choose to have sex that they should basically accept the consequence of death. Someone in my position, obviously feels differently.

I tend to think in terms of emotional damage. It's just the way I am. And I see decades of emotional torment spreading out to many people from withholding this vaccine. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, children ...entire family units screaming "WHY?" Angry, angry daughters trying to reconcile why they are now sick or dying with a preventable disease.

I believe that mothers love their children beyond whatever dogma or rhetoric they follow. I have to believe that. And if a mother is sitting watch beside her baby girl's deathbed or holding her head while she vomits from the chemo with such force that it breaks her ribs....if that mother is thinking, "Just goes to show you, you shouldn't have had deserve this."...well, that's not a mother. That's a monster.

Please tell me there aren't mothers out there like that. That's all I'm asking. I've got to believe that a mother's love is the amazing transcendent thing that I experienced as a child. That it doesn't care how you got sick or how you busted your teeth out or whatever stupid thing that you did that made you so terribly damaged. That it exists only to nurture and protect.

Even if you are opposed to this, I hope you put your sunglasses on and take your daughter to a small town where few people know you to get this vaccine for her. Grip that steering wheel with all the determination and conflict you feel. Narrow your lips with the distaste you feel for this action. Let it be your little secret with your daughter. Tell her she's getting a "cootie" shot. Please don't put yourself in the position in 15 or 20 or 30 years time, where you will shoulder the blame for your daughter's cancer. You know you will, if it happens. Because mothers always blame themselves.

The diaphragm trip turned out to be a good thing. I saw it as my mother passing a mantle of responsibility on to me. It was the right thing to do at the time. It was a responsibility I was ready for and it made me much more thoughtful and decisive about who I chose not to have sex with. The diaphragm sat in my underwear drawer with its little tube of spermicide until I went to college the next year at age 16. I got it out and practiced with it like the nurse told me to, but more often than not it ended up flying across the room like a slimy projectile. I liked it that it was there. It was tangible proof of my mother's trust and respect for me.

It never occurred to me that my mother was in some way condoning sexual activity on my part. She was just doing what mothers do best. Giving me a means to protect myself when she could not be there to do it for me.

Letting my wings grow just a tiny bit more. Encouraging me to fly.

'Cause that's just what moms do.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

I really like my new kidney doctor at UT. His name is Dr. Suresh and he's handsome in the way some Indian men are.

He orders a 24 hour urine test to see if my lupus is eating my kidneys up. We've known something was going on for the past year. We just aren't sure what. I've been really lucky not to have nephritis and the type of SLE I have morphed out of a type of discoid that isn't associated with a high incidence of nephritis. This appears to be changing.

I've had this test before, but usually I'm in the hospital and all I have to really do is the peeing part. Not the collecting and pouring into the jug part.

"So, do I keep this in the refrigerator?" I ask.

"No." He says. "People will think you are odd if you do something like that. Urine isn't something you want to see someone's refrigerator."

Funny, funny man.

Not that I don't feel odd enough saving my urine over a 24 hour period. And I have two bathrooms so I have to move the urine saving paraphernalia from one to the other.

So, today I go into the lab at tiny little Baptist hospital in Newport to deliver my jug of urine. I also have to have about a quart of blood drawn. We get into an argument about the C3, C4 test.

Evidently the Mayo wants you to fast to do a C3, C4. I've never fasted for this.

"Just do it." I say.

The head tech has a book out. They evidently haven't seen a C3, C4 test before. I'm not surprised. I've had local medicos tell me the damn thing didn't exist.

"But the Mayo says...."

"Look, I've had this test done for the past 15 years. It's the primary indicator of how apeshit my lupus is going. The Mayo may say to fast, but the NIH, Emory, MUSC and UT say go for it. I need that test. Just do it."

I'm so damn tired. Bone, sick tired. I don't really need to be getting flack about something I know more about than the lab tech.

I get a wee bit snappish when I'm tired.

When I get into the phleeb, she looks nervous. I think the head tech has warned her that I'm "difficult". I'm not really. I hand her my jug of pee.

"Man, does that look like a lot of pee to you?. It looks like a lot of pee to me."

I'm trying to set her at ease with my quirky sense of humor. It's important that phleebs are relaxed and confident. That way you don't end up with a big bruise on you arm and I'm an easy draw so there really is no need for that.

She doesn't know if that is a lot of pee or not. She writes my name and when I started collecting the pee on the tag on the jug.

I show her my good vein. I've been using the same vein for 20 years. It's never failed me and even the most junior phleeb can hit it. She hits it without any trouble, but still is a bit nervous.

She drops one of the red tubes.

"I can hold the needle if you need to pick that up." I say.

She looks horrified but doesn't say anything.

"I have a lot of experience with hospitals. I was in one for six months. Anyplace you stay for six months becomes very familiar."

We talk a bit about my hospital experiences as she slips in the eight tubes to collect all the red stuff. I tell her about my living despite only having a 10 percent chance of doing so. I crack a few more inappropriate hospital jokes.

"And look at you are!" She says.

I laugh. It's hard to laugh as tired as I am, but I feel good that I've at least brightened up this one phleeb's day a bit with my irreverence.

"But you never really get over know...every time you go into a hospital...that maybe you won't be leaving there for some time. Since it happened once before. It's not really the sort of place you want to be familiar with."

I leave feeling that odd elation I always feel when I escape the hospital.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I fear I am quite heartbroken that the Big Creek Market and Deli has now closed. Bubba evidently couldn't make enough money at it. Too bad he couldn't hold on till spring. They will start the bridge building project back up again and there will be many burly men in search of chez burgers.

I was really shocked the other week when I pulled up and found the doors locked.

So, today, when I ventured out, I had to go further up the road to Black's market. I like Black's market. I really like the people there. It was the first market I stopped at when I came up here looking around the neighborhood after finding the farm.

Then, when I walked in and pulled an ice cold "Big Chug" out of the fridge to buy, I was greeted with wary glances. Oh, sure, we smiled. But I was a total outsider then. They didn't know me from Adam's housecat. I didn't mind. I was flushed with longing. I truly had found the place of my dreams. I knew it was going to mine. It was like meeting the lover I had waited my entire life to find. And hoping the insane love was reciprocated. I was in lust for my land.

Today, walking in Black's is like sticking my feet into comfortable old shoes. Everyone smiles when I walk in. We all say "hey".

"How you like this warm weather?"

"Can't get enough of it," I say, "My frogs were singing in the pond today."

They don't have chez burgers at Blacks. They do have hot dogs, pickled eggs and farm eggs from Ed's brother's laying hens. They have beer, too. But you have to ask for it. It's kept in a separate side building so as not to offend the church goers.

I hear tell they keep other things that you have to ask for, but I wouldn't know about that. That's just the word on the mountain and it could be just the usual blarney that circulates here on a regular basis.

I pause a moment on my way out to look at the bulletin board. Prominently displayed is a reward poster for the apprehension of the murderer of a local man who was killed some years back. It's a reminder of the still frontier mentality that permeates the area. Also are business cards. One for a family that buys pelts and ginseng roots. In the fall, many people hunt the wild ginseng for extra cash. People are experts at "making do" here. My favorite business card is the one for Lux Memorials. I look at it every time I'm there and giggle.

It says...

"We won't take you for granite."

Monday, February 19, 2007

Even Mondays on the farm can be sort of crappy.

I never really had jobs where Monday reared its ugly head and I had to drag myself into a 9 to 5 gig that my heart wasn't into. That's because I was stupid. It is largely this stupidity that led me to my current wonderful if penurious existence. If you are smart, you put up with a bit of discomfort at a job that doesn't completely fulfill you.

It's why they call it "work".

It allows you to do the stuff you really want to do. You've completely misunderstood if you think work is something you want to do.

Money isn't everything. I'd just like an opportunity to empirically prove this statement. I'll need lots of cash to do this.

No, my jobs were exciting, rewarding and ultimately damaging to my health. That's the bad thing about jobs you love. You don't know when to quit.

I get up this morning and go to get the milk for the bottles and check on my charges.

Violette meets me at the door of the dog crate projectile vomiting. Goat vomit is not a pretty thing. They usually do it when they've eaten something they shouldn't have. In Violette's case it looks like too much alfalfa chaff.

So now, my poor little possum not only has a freakishly bulbous nose, but is very sick to her tummy. This is serious. Most goat deaths involve their digestive tracts. So, I shoot her up with C & D Anti-toxin and give her some orally and some mylanta. I hold her on my lap with her head slightly lowered so she can continue to upchuck all the nastiness in her belly. There is a lot of it. She looks like she's feeling slightly better so I let her have a nurse on her mom. I leave her out there for a while then bring her back in.

Rinse, shampoo, repeat.

We get to do it all over again in another few hours. This has been the sum total of my activities today. Hold baby goat's head while it throws up.

I'm covered in goat vomit. I've gone through a stack of towels that she's puked all over. I think we finally got it all out and now I'm keeping her happy ass inside and giving her Pedialyte until I'm sure her rumen has recovered.

The Goat Yoda was helpful as always. She has taught me well. When I called, she said I'd done exactly what I was supposed to do.

I wonder if I'm clear to take a shower yet?

Thus Speaketh the Goat Yoda!

Speaking of the Goat Yoda!!! She has joined us in the Blogosphere to preach her righteous and wholesome message to the Goatitudes. Here's her "about me" blurb:

Betsy aka 'the goat yoda'

I was raised in Kingsport, TN and decided that the city was not for me. My husband and I live in Cosby, TN with my goats, our dogs and cats and a flock of chickens. Our girls are grown and gone, so we have to have something to occupy our time! Time to grow our own food, and be sustainable on the land. We support ideas like permaculture and bio-dynamics, as well as community supported agriculture and all natural gardening techniques.

If you like the idea of what I do...I'm sure you'll love what Betsy has to offer.

She's just started blogging so get over there and give her some love!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Woke up this morning to a good four or five inches of snow on the ground. This was the view off my balcony upon rising.

The kids have been having a glorious time playing in the snow. I kept little Violette inside last night and will probably do so again. I'm a bit protective of her since a polled goat is a relatively rare thing that can hopefully have polled babies.

I, of course, had to go out and get some photos of their amazing cuteness.

I wanted to get some good shots of Bridey and Goata for Anne and Erica. Goata is no problem and poses quite sedately. But Bridey is forever in motion. Running, jumping and twirling like a little dancer. And for some reason she felt that the camera's appearance meant it a perfect time to dominance hump her big brother.

I was able to get a few "G" rated photos out of her...but always on the run. Her favorite game is jumping up on me.

Enjoy your Sunday. Hugs to all.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

It started up late this afternoon and stuck. It's still going.

Betsy was supposed to bring Harper and Phoebe over today and we were going to go pick up some Nubian and La Mancha does today. We will try again tomorrow. So...I've been snug in the house most of the day with the exception of 8:00 a.m. milking and unfreezing the outdoor faucet. I need to get that faucet a condom. It has to run flat out...not not freeze.

Violette has been inside most of the day. She's my little polled and outrageously spotted kid. She seems to have gotten a spider bite or something on the end of her widdy nose and it's ballooned up like she's been hitting the gin too much.

Blinkin' is on the porch with Pearlie. Decided to give milking Blinkin' a try. She's not trained for that. It will be like milking a cat. I will no doubt be cursing and foaming at the mouth in the morning.

I've already vegged out to Basilisk and am going to slake my lust for cartoons on Cartoon Network very shortly.

Stay warm. Time to feed BossyToe.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Goat Milk Fudge

Since a few people got a bit distracted by the words "goat milk fudge" in one of my previous posts this week, I decided, since dairy season is gearing up, to feature it this week.

You don't actually have to use goat's milk. You may use cow cream. Goat's milk has some interesting properties that make it especially suited for candy making. For one, you can literally boil goat's milk and it will not separate. It condenses very easily on the stove top so you can make your own sweetened condensed milk. It is naturally homogenized.

Many people are aware that people who cannot tolerate cow's milk with its large protein and fat molecules can tolerate goat's milk. It is the absolute best milk for hand-rearing baby animals...including human babies...out there. My father, as a child, had a pet nanny goat that provided milk for most of the colicky babies on 37th Street in Savannah during the 1920's.

So, I do encourage using goat's milk. You can find it at the store, but many people mistakenly believe the grocery store goat's milk tastes like goat's milk. It just doesn't. It's a little gamy quite frankly. The taste does come through. Fresh goat's milk is sweet, very rich and pure tasting. That goaty aftertaste only comes on with age. It's not something you want. So if you have access to fresh goat's milk, by all means use it.

My recipe is actually altered from the old Charleston Creamery fudge icing recipe. This is a boiled fudge, rather than a fudge made with powdered sugar.
Thinned out, it also is a wonderful boiled frosting, which is great spread on a chocolate sheet cake and sprinkled with chopped pecans.

My mother always liked to make fudge on rainy days. I didn't realize until later that she was sort of bragging...sugar is very sensitive to humidity. I use a candy thermometer just to be certain. You should too. After making as many batches as I do during the season, I can guesstimate it fairly accurately. But why bother? Get a candy thermometer.

Rosie's Goat Milk Fudge

2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate (I like to use 3 myself)
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup goat milk

2 cups sugar

1 pinch salt

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Melt chocolate with butter in a deep saucepan with butter over a very low heat or in a double boiler. Add milk and sugar and a pinch of salt. Cook on high heat for three minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook until it reaches the soft ball stage. Do not stir this mixture at any time! Cool. In a mixer, mix fudge on high and add vanilla extract. Occasionally this fudge will seize up in the mixer. A few drops of milk will liquefy it for spreading or pouring into the mold.
Nuts and or marshmallows can be folded in at this time. Other flavorings can be substituted for vanilla as long as they have an alcohol base. Spread on parchment paper or a buttered dish or a cold candy marble. Sets quickly.

I do sell this stuff to support my dog rescue, Rosie's Cocker Rescue Referral, if you'd rather not try to make it. I've had people from all over the country including a few west coast chefs order from me. This stuff gets rave reviews everywhere it is sent. It's probably the foodstuff I'm most identified with. I make it in chocolate, white chocolate, peanut butter, peanut butter/chocolate, and chocolate with either walnuts or pecans. I make it strictly to order. It's 11.50 a pound and it comes in blocks. If you need it in rosettes it is a bit extra. If you want to set up an order, just email me .

There are so many things I want to show you on Food Porn Friday! I was just going over my fresh pasta photos and some, quite frankly, obscene blackberry cobbler photos. But for next week...I'm going to invite Betsy, The Goat Yoda, to guest blog for FPF. She's been sharing with me some of the most amazing goat cheese recipes and I'd like her to share her Goat Yoda food wisdom with us all. She doesn't know I've decided she's doing this yet. I hope she's okay with that.

Honestly, I think Betsy and I could turn into an Appalachian version of The Two Fat Ladies if we aren't careful.

"Hurrah! Get rid of all lentils. You've no idea how randy they make vegetarians".
~Clarissa Dickson-Wright

Thursday, February 15, 2007

One of the disadvantages of being a Patrician is that occasionally you are obliged to act like one.
Marcus Licinius Crassus(Laurence Olivier)~Spartacus(1960)

I chose this particular quote from the film as my Spartacan declaration, for the very reason that it came from the vanquisher of Spartacus.


Because even Crassus knew how to act.

Melissa McEwan, Shakespeare's Sister, has been forced to resign from the Edwards campaign after receiving death threats in the wake of vitriol spewed by William Donohue, et al.

I don't care what sort of politics you follow. I'm very open about mine. Being a liberal, I do tend to read more liberal blogs than not, but I'm very tight with some very conservative bloggers as well. It isn't my business what sort of things others post on their blogs. It is their house. Their rules. But the conservatives I do frequent, I consider to be well-brought up ladies and gentlemen with an inner sensibility about civility and manners.

And after all, civility and manners are the concrete that hold the sand of law together. They are what makes life bearable. It really is what differentiates us from the other animals.

I most definitely do not agree with them in most matters and they frighten me at times with their rigid stances. But they most certainly do not issue death threats or such nastiness as this. I would like to believe that they know the difference between an ad hominem attack and an attack on a position (though I'm not entirely certain of this).

....and now for a well deserved ad hominem of my own....

I am forced to conclude that Mr. Donohue, et al are no gentlemen. Mr. Donohue's neo-inquisitorial attacks and fascination with anal sex and antisemitism speak to me of one who was raised by jackals in a vat of putridity. That one can reach the age of consent with such an appalling lack of social graces and an inability to filter one's thoughts dumbfounds me. He obviously was not brought up in the type of gracious Catholic family home I frequently visited while growing up.

This victory was without honor for the right. It was poorly done, tacky, low and common. Professional journalists often don't feel they've earned their "props" before getting a death threat. I've seen them actually high-five each other. Melissa McEwan is not a professional journalist. She was a technical adviser with Edwards' campaign. The attacks on her on her personal blog were akin to burning a cross on her front lawn.

So be careful about crowing about this particular victory. It may say more about you than you would like known in polite society.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The men in my family...and I get the feeling that most men, unless they are very carefully taught...seem lost when it comes to gift-giving for women. Particularly during holidays like Valentines day. I'm sort of the same way. It's part of my odd brain chemistry or architecture that I tend to think more like a man at times. But I was very carefully taught.

I've simplified my gift giving and it's much easier now. I send things I make here on the farm. Goat milk fudge, wild-crafted jam and jelly, and home-made soaps and skin creams. They are the humble gifts of my hands and my heart. I offer them with love and hope they are taken in the spirit in which they are given.

Part of the confusion, I believe, is that women come in two different flavors as far as what they like to receive. Some women are practical. Some are more moved by gesture. You can cover both by being aware as to which type of woman you are dealing with. Practical women are okay with gesture-oriented gifts like flowers and perfume. Gesture-oriented women are trickier. You can really stick your foot in you mouth giving a gesture-oriented woman something with a cord.

And, of course, the worst thing of all, is to do nothing. We don't believe for a minute that you just "forgot".

I came along late in my parent's lives. By that time, my father had his gift-giving technique as far as my mother was concerned, down to a fine if predictable science. He would bring home African Violets for her. She seemed to really love the little plants and the window sills were always covered with them. Valentines or her birthday or their wedding anniversary merited the addition of a bottle of her favorite perfume. Either Chanel #5 or Joy. And sometimes a box of Baci or Almond Roca.

My mother, like me, was not the sort to turn her nose up at practical gifts. She loved the African Violets, Baci and perfume, but Christmas meant things with cords. I, too, love to get things with cords. Preferably power tools. Ouuu baby...bring on the major appliances and skilsaws and watch my knees buckle.

One Christmas, Mother got a microwave oven from Dad. It was enormous and one of the first models to come out. She was thrilled and we all had a great time exploring how many sorts of food items the thing could ruin before deciding it did rice, baked potatoes and bacon very nicely.

My sister, Simone, is of the other sort of woman. She is a blonde goddess of taste, beauty and breeding. When she walks in the room, everyone stares at her. Men want her to the point of stupefaction and women want to scratch her green eyes out. Or at the very least just bask in her reflected glory.

My sister is Byron's woman. The "walks in beauty like the night" sort of woman. The sort of woman who is a muse to poets, whose very visage inspires great works of arts in celebration of her beauty. I'm more the gal from Shakespeare's sonnet 130. "My mistress, when she walks, treads the ground." Yes, that's me. In my men's size 10 duck boots.

Quite frankly, if you misinterpret a woman like my sister as being the sort of woman who enjoys getting something with a cord, you deserve every bit of hot, steaming scorn that comes your way. You idiot. That will be a very expensive hole to dig out of. 3 carats or a trip to Paris expensive. So don't fuck up, okay?

I remember those little African Violets. How sweet they were and how delicate a gift to come from my big, strong Daddy. When my mother was dying from cancer, we fixed up the downstairs "florida room" so that she could stay home while she was dying. Like the violets, my father seemed much more fragile suddenly.

Every one of those window sills was littered with African Violets. We ran out of places to put them. I still weep when I see one.

That's love poetry.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I was afraid that I would have a very sad post for you today.

Yesterday morning I called the herd in for some hay. They had skittered down the mountain to drink from the creek. All came back except Pearlie.

The night had been milder than we had had in a while and I decided to leave wee Bridey out with her mom to get a full 24 hours of milk on her mom. She's so tiny. I just wanted her to grow more.

I called and called for Pearlie and finally she came up. Without Bridey or Goata (thanks to Erica for naming Bridey's brother). Pearlie wandered around all day looking like she'd left her car keys somewhere. She would stand by the front porch and bleat up at me. The white goats are really sweet but they are not the brightest of goats.

Pearlie is the original dumb platinum blonde of goatdom. She has large expressive eyes that follow you and have a sort of curiously vapid expression. She's very mouthy and a bit whiny. When she talks, you're pretty sure she's saying very blonde things. But she's very sweet and vulnerable, and like most blondes, you can't help but love her and want to protect her.

Cameron Diaz once said, "I've been noticing gravity since I was very young." That's the sort of thing I imagine comes out of Pearlie's mouth on a regular basis.

I drove down to The Fifteenth and tried to spot the kids on the cliff side. I knew it was an exercise in futility. Both Bridey and Goata are perfectly camouflaged. I stood on the cliff and called for Bridey. I thought I heard her a few times, but I couldn't be sure. Sound behaves strangely here. And BossyToe always answers so I couldn't be sure if the kid cry I was hearing was from BossyToe over the the far pasture or from Bridey down the hill.

As we were losing light, I made one more futile gesture to reclaim the lost kids. I marched Pearlie and the rest of the herd over to the trail head that they had come up from that morning. And I sent Pearlie's happy ass back down the mountain. I figured the least she could do is go down there and feed them. Her udder was tight and painful by this point...a reminder of what she was missing.

At sunset, a tired looking Pearlie with the two kids emerged from the opposite side of the farm. She had found them and this time realized that she had to walk them back along Big Creek to the place where the slope was not so vertical.

No more nights outside for Bridey. She's sooooo grounded.

BossyToe was overjoyed to see her best buddy. She danced and leaped around her wanting to know all about her big adventure. Those two are as thick as thieves. I see them getting into loads of trouble when they get big.

Today I finished up the disbudding of the doe kids. I thought I would have two more including Bridey. The other being my moonspotted Violette. I wasn't looking forward to doing Violette. She is the most athletic of the triplets. Blanche is the largest, but also the laziest. Rose is the small, dairy one. I managed to sneak up on Violette and catch her...just barely. And wonders of wonders...a completely smooth forehead. Violette is polled like her mama. She will not grow horns and is gorgeously spotted as well.

In other goat news....My darling buck, Leonard, sidled up to me today with great affection. And peed on my shoe. It's official. He's in rut. So far, Bolly the wether, is bearing the brunt of his affections. I'm not thrilled about this. I wanted to get the buck pen built before we went through this again. Having kids in hot weather isn't much better than having them in cold. The babies will probably all have to come inside in the air conditioning. Damn.

So, today, I hurried to get as much farm work done while we had temps over 50 degrees. I got the round bale of hay moved on the trailer and tarped up the hill. I fixed the fences and got them really nice and hot. I disbudded little Bridey. Set up a new water tank and got the water situation ready for this week's snow and freeze.

In short, I pushed my body a wee bit past its breaking point. Betsy had asked me if my lupus was flaring and I bravely said, "No, I'm just really tired."

I don't know what she saw. Or how she saw it. I don't believe in many of the things Betsy believes in. I'm a skeptic. I don't like to think I'm giving off lupus vibes.

But I'm feeling it. I'm feeling it sneaking up on its little wolf paws. Growling and baring its little teeth.

I upped my pred and downed some pain pills to see if I could nip it in the bud. I'm too damn busy to be sick right now.

I have too much life to be living to deal with this shit. So it just better go away.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The discussion had started with Scott in the truck one day. I'm not sure exactly how the subject matter turned to the pre-birth "marking". I think I was asking if he had heard about this imaginary birth defect mentioned in Catherine Marshall's Christy. I wanted to know if any of the superstitions regarding births had survived from that time.

One of Scott's cousins (all of Scott's relatives will be called 'cousins' since I'm not quite sure how to describe exactly how everyone is related to Scott) was "marked" by a mule. Her mother, while pregnant, had to crawl under a barbed wire fence to escape an aggressive mule. His cousin was born with a mule shaped birthmark on her lower back.

Scott tells me another cousin who was born retarded who was "marked" by a horse. This was a much more severe "marking". The mother was frightened by a horse while pregnant. The baby was born with a mane of sorts. A narrow stripe of hair that grew down the spine.

I brought this topic up a woman I visit yesterday. She knew about Scott's relatives' markings and was able to fill in some blanks Scott had in the telling of the tales. She also related a tale of a woman she knew who worked at an orphanage. One of the children in her care was white from the waist up and black from the waist down. The parents had abandoned the child since it was so severely "marked". This had the ring of truth and I think I recognized a mosaic twin in this story.

An acquaintance's grandson is "marked" on his legs with port wine birthmarks. She isn't sure how his "marking" occurred but it is assumed that something scared his mother when she was pregnant.

These sorts of superstitions surrounding birthmarks, deformities and retardation were commonplace and widely accepted in the nineteenth century. But they are still regarded to be fact here.

Finally, as she warms to the topic, she relates this fantastic, grotesque tale. She loves any sort of story dealing with birthing.

Her face gets her serious storytelling look. It's a sort of look that goes with speaking in a half-whisper, even if we are the only ones in the room.

"Were this woman that lived down the holler. She lived with a German Shepherd."

Yikes. I know what's coming. I don't want to hear this.

"And I want you to know...she got pregnant by that dog!"

She is quite enjoying this tale. She looks outraged.

"When that baby were born, they had to kill that dog to get at her. It were born looking like a dog. It died."

"Oh, no!" I say. "You know that can't be true."

She gives me the stock phrase that is undeniable proof that the story is indeed true.

"I swear! It were in the paper. You can look it up!"

Sunday, February 11, 2007

What? Me Worry?

Don't know why I was ever concerned about how these two would get along. Max has fallen under BossyToe's spell. Max is my self-appointed cocker spaniel stock dog. This basically means he chases the goats back in the fence when they get out. Unless one of them decides to make a "stand". In which case, Max yelps like his tail is on fire and runs back to me. A few of the goats have taken note of this behavior and more of them are giving Max the finger...or the case may be.

I did my first disbudding today. I nabbed Rose, the smallest of the triplettes and I think I did a pretty clean job of it. It's a dreadful job. I held Rose on my lap in the porch rocker and each time she started to freak out, I'd stop and rock her. This seems to calm her down much as it does a human child. We took our time, but the screaming was terrible. When I was done, the entire herd had left the property. Even BossyToe.

Goats are smart. If torture is happening and you can leave....Leave.

No worries about Max though. He's turning into a right nice goat daddy. He's licked BossyToe from one end to the other. He's having a bit of a hard time translating dog play to goat play and I've had to remind him to be gentle. She's putting up with it. She's not thrilled about all the dog slobber all over her where Max keeps licking her.

I am tagged by Erica for "The Six Weird Things About Me" meme. I actually nominated myself since it's Sunday and a slow news day in Grassy Fork. You may nominate yourself for tagging if you so desire.

1. I will eat almost anything.

I say almost, since I haven't ever really run into anything that I've turned my nose up at yet, but I reserve the right to do so. Don't believe me? Check out my recipes for Coon de Resistance and Possum Superbe.

This really has more to do with my upbringing than anything else. I grew up in a family of hunters and fishermen. I was a crack shot hunting squirrel by the age of 7. And squirrel remains my favorite game. Mmmmm...squirrels 'n gravy on biscuits. My mother exposed me to a wide range of foodstuffs at a very early age. All sorts of ethnic cuisines and assorted organ meats. And raw oysters were a staple.

So, I ate tripe in Caen, winkle bread in Wales, lardy cake, jellied eels...the list goes on and on. I'm particularly fond of a runny, stinky French cheese that is more pungent than limburger. I'm very envious of the Bizarre foods guy, Andrew Zimmern and wonder if I could have choked down that durian fruit he couldn't stomach. Betcha I could. I might have even enjoyed it. I also have a huge crush on Anthony Bourdain. Damn. That man will eat anything!

2. I'm 45 and an enormous Anime freak.

Yes. It's true. I got suckered into it during a bout of insomnia that lasted a week. I blame the Cartoon Network and Adult Swim. Anyway...that's my guilty pleasure. Samurai Seven is one of my most favorite ones. I'm watching Basilisk right now. Others that I really like are Full Metal Alchemist, Trigun, Samurai Deeper Kyo and Mirage of Blaze. I generally like things with darker and/or more serious historical content and yaoi.

I also love older foreign films, particularly Japanese films and German Expressionism, but anime is what I use for pure entertainment value. The other weird thing about my fascination with anime is I get crushes on my favorite characters.

Scott looks at me oddly and says..."But it's a cartoon!?"

But that's why my Netflix queue isn't on my blog. It's because I'm watching cartoons with a smattering of Kurosawa. Even I'm aware of how weird it is.

3. I talk to my animals...then answer for them.

I just hung out with too many puppeteers when I was younger. Or I'm a frustrated voice-over actor. Talking to one's animals is not in itself "weird". But I make up voices for each of them. When I talk to them, they answer me back in their "voice". I can have lengthy conversations with my animals this way.

4. I've always wanted to be from another nationality or ethnicity.

First, I wanted to be English...but then I lived over there and changed my mind. I married a Brit and that sort of cured me of that little predilection. But I love the French. I'd so love to be French. I so identify with their sense of priorities and I'd love to be as snarky as a Parisian. And I'd love to be Japanese. I'd really love to have glossy black hair and almond-shaped eyes. I'd never be able to hack it in their culture...but I'd love to look like that.

5. I lack a sternum.

No, I don't keep it in a jar by my bed...but I'd have liked to if the choice had been presented to me.

6. I didn't eat popcorn from ages 6 to 19.

This was because I got pneumonia after eating popcorn while watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. My personal experience with the awesome power of magical thinking and misplaced "cause and effect."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The long underwear needed to keep me warm has just not been invented yet.

At least the sun was out today. I took my craptastic Canon A40 out and took the four photos it allows me to take before completely draining the batteries. Yet another damn thing I need to replace. I know it's time. I know in this throw away consumerism world that five years is a lot to ask of a digital camera. But I really resent that stuff doesn't last as long as I feel like it should. I've taken lots of really great photos with the damn thing and I really don't want to step onto another learning curve with another digital.

I take BossyToe's bottle and go and sit in the sun with the kids. The idea being that the triplets will eventually come around to seeing me as just another herd member and start coming up and playing with me as Bridey and BossyToe do.

I sit there and the two of them play "king of the mountain" on me. Bridey is much better at it. She stands on my shoulders like a pirate's parrot before diving off of me to twist and dance in the sun. BossyToe tries, but she's much bigger and a bit clumsy. Both follow me around the pasture twining between my legs like cats and bumping my knees with their heads.

Betsy came by today and delivered a much needed royal bale of hay. We pushed it from her pickup truck into my trailer. The goats were really excited. After she left, they swarmed around it and tore off some chunks. But they really want the alfalfa.

This is Bridey's unnamed big brother of the amazing ears. Betsy says he has great ear control. He's very Yoda that way. He was curling his lip up today while laying in the sun with his ears pricked and stretched behind him. And the great whopping white blob of a kid snuggling with him is Kidzilla. I sort of hate to get rid of Kidzilla because I just want to see how frickin' huge he's actually going to get. Rockit, these kid's granddaddy is as big as a damn pony. I'd never seen a goat that big before.

Betsy left her disbudding iron with me. There is going to be much wailing and gnashing of kid teeth here in the next day or so. But the horns must go and this is the time to do it. I watched the vet do it on Bolly and Lufu. It's going to be my first time trying it. Not fun. You have to burn the horn nubs off of their skulls. It leaves just bare bone showing when it's done right but the iron cauterizes it so there isn't any blood. The skin heals over and leaves no scar. But I'm not looking forward to it.

I'm glad it's cartoon night.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Dill Pickled Green Tomatoes

I'm down to my last jar of these babies and they have been calling to me. You can keep your fried green tomatoes...Dill Pickled Green tomatoes are the absolute best! I'm going to make lots more next year. They are now my favorite pickle.

You can take these and put them on an antipasto plate with some fresh goat cheese and olives, then drizzle with Pompeian olive oil or Good Season's Italian dressing. Serve with some crusty Italian or French bread.

I used The Ball Blue Book's recipe for these. I probably put more garlic cloves and messed around a bit with the dill ratio, but that recipe is good to go. I think I packed some jalapeno peppers in some of the jars as well. I probably left out the bay leaf.

Dilled Green Tomatoes

5 pounds small, firm green tomatoes
1/4 cup canning salt
3 and 1/2 cups vinegar
3 and 1/2 cups water
6 or 7 cloves garlic
6 or seven heads fresh dill or 1/4 cup dill seeds
6 or 7 bay leaves

Wash and core tomatoes; cut into halves or quarters. Combine salt, vinegar and water in a large sauce pot. Bring to a boil. Pack tomatoes into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Add 1 garlic clove, 1 head of dill (or 2 teaspoons dill seed) and 1 bay leaf to each jar. Ladle hot liquid over tomatoes, leaving 1.4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. Yield: about 6 pints.
(Source: Ball Blue Book)

Canning is super easy and very rewarding. If you use the Ball Blue Book and follow it religiously, you will not have any trouble. Always use the most recent edition of the Blue Book. Canning arts and sciences are constantly changing. What you find in your granny's old Norge Cookbook is probably no longer considered safe canning practice. Following USDA guidelines for home food preservation will take much of the fear out of your own canning experiments.

I have a long standing relationship with canning. It started when I was a child when each year, my mother would make dozens of pints of fig preserves. My father just couldn't get enough of the things, and they were very delicious. He liked them in peanut butter sandwiches, but I've always preferred them as a side to Smithfield ham.

We didn't have a fig tree, but there was an old black man named Sammy who lived on Calhoun Street in Bluffton who had some of the most beautiful fig trees you ever saw. More importantly, Sammy knew how to pick those figs just so for preserves. You see, you have to leave about an inch of stem on the fig when you pick it. That way, when you take one out of the jar, it already has a little "handle" to hold the sweet dripping fruit by.

This was something we did each summer. Sammy would deliver the figs in brown paper bags from the Piggly Wiggly and we would get started immediately cleaning them and getting them ready for the big vat of sugar, lemons and water simmering on the stove.

Frannie's Fig Preserves

10 cups sugar
8 cups water
10 pounds figs
4 lemons (optional)

Slice lemons very thinly. Remove seeds. Mix all ingredients in a very large stock pot. Boil down until syrup is thick. Decant into hot jars and seal. Process 10 minutes in a hot water canner.

Mother also enjoyed making a number of other acid-based preserves. Not my favorite was the watermelon rind pickles. Indeed, no one seemed to like the watermelon rind pickles. They just seemed to sit on the holiday table as a testament to my mother's summer domestic endeavors. They were really pretty. I'll give them that.

I didn't start playing around with the other sort of canning until I moved here. That's basically because I'd been traumatized by my grandmother's exploding pressure cookers as a child. Mutt loved a pressure cooker. Every time she drug it out of the cabinet, I was escorted to a safer place in the house. I'm not sure there was a safe place. My grandmother's pressure cooker was the original IED. I can still remember the sound of that thing blowing the hood off of the stove and the falling shrapnel of the spice cabinet in the aftermath of the explosion.

But, I've cautiously re-acquainted myself with pressure cookers. Now I can green beans, soups, and other safely canned low acid foods. I do sort of cautiously back away from it when it starts making that rattling, hissing noise.

It's just one of those domestic arts I think everyone should have a go at. It's not that time consuming or difficult, but people do tend to get intimidated by it. Here in the mountains, many men also can. Pickled hickory king corn and beans is a favorite of my buddy Aurthur. The gentlemen also enjoy canning hot sauces, pickled peppers and barbecue sauces.

Do give it a whirl. There is nothing more satisfying than watching the appreciative faces around your dinner table in mid-winter when you put out something that tastes so strongly of those warm fruitful days of summer.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Somewhere between mopping the floor today, so my 17 year old hospice case of a cocker spaniel will have a fresh pallet to pee upon...and whipping up a batch of cocoa butter udder balm for my dairy girls...I heard that poor ole Anna Nicole Smith had died.

I was quite hopeful when she burst onto the scene in the early nineties. I mean, she had a real body during a time when "heroin chic" was all the rage. But then she had to go and open her mouth.

I hate to speak ill of the dead (that phrase indicates that I'm about to do just that...), but she gave white trash a bad name. There's just no other way for me to think of it. She was like a modern day Flannery O'Connor character brought disturbingly to life. The world indeed turned completely upside down for me when I heard the words "Supreme Court" and "Anna Nicole Smith" uttered together.

While I'm usually a big fan of women speaking out, I think there are times when silence and a beautiful woman sort of fit nicely together.

Now, if only we can get Ann Coulter to take this vitally important lesson to heart.

Nah. Ain't gonna happen. Somebody hand me the duct tape.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Life has just been so busy recently.

Today it warmed up just enough to go out and not feel brutalized by the cold. I've had a bad cold that started as allergies and then settled in my head, so I've been feeling a bit more pitiful than usual. I don't usually moan this much about the cold.

I took BossyToe out with her bottle to play with the herd. The kids have formed their own troupe of wildly jumping and twisting little Cirque du Soleil performers. BossyToe needs to find her goathood. Bridey doesn't have this problem since she still sees her mom and brother on a daily basis and can relate to being a goat. BossyToe thinks she's a person. She thinks she looks like I do.

The sun came out for a little while. I sat on the hillside with the herd around me and let BossyToe drink from her bottle. She can down 15 ounces in 30 seconds and still be hungry. Pearlie came over and tried to steal a few sips from the bottle. Yes, goats like milk. Some goats will even suck themselves.

It felt so peaceful there that I laid back, just meaning to close my eyes for a second.

And got attacked by my geese. I now have a very painful bruise on my left arm where the little bastard got me before I could grab him. These are big Embden geese. All of the other animals are afraid of them...including the dogs. One of them cornered Fat Buddy when he was on one of his egg stealing raids and viciously plucked beak-fulls of fluffy black dog hair out of F.B.'s butt before I could rescue him. Fat Buddy was making that dreadful screaming dog noise as he waddled hurriedly back to the house.

I've always loved the company of animals. I've always been tenderhearted. But I'm tenderhearted about people, too...and I think that just barely keeps me from crossing the line into crazy dog ladydom.

There was one hideous fiasco of a birthday party when I was about six or so. My mother had arranged to take a big group of my little friends and me to see a movie. This was back when they still had the balls to slap on a tragic ending onto a kid's movie.

My mother knew by this time that I was an overly-sensitive child. I hid my eyes in abject terror every time the flying monkeys appeared in Wizard of Oz. The burial scene in The Three Lives of Thomasina where they sang Danny Boy over the dead cat sent me into great gulping paroxysms of grief that could only end when I projectile vomited all over the nearest adult.

I have no idea why my mother didn't have the foresight to read the synopsis of Ring of Bright Water before subjecting me to that film. I vividly remember having to be carried out of the movie theater howling in grief. The fact that Mij's offspring lived on did absolutely nothing to console me to Mij's tragic death at the hands of the ditchdigger. I had nightmares about ditches for months. I couldn't look at a ditch for years without imagining greasy swirls of otter blood. Circle of freakin' life, my ass.

I have remembered Ring of Bright Water my entire life. And have never had the guts to watch it again. It was that traumatic.

I've developed enough of a skin to live my life without going completely mad. Because I had to. Just to survive.

But it's another reason why I live how I live. Where I live.

The skin is thin in places. And the howling is close by.

Monday, February 05, 2007

It is going down to 15 tonight, thus sayeth the National Weather Service.

I've been in and out of it all day today, in between hitting the phones looking for someone, anyone with hay for sale. I'm getting quite desperate on the hay front. It's so cold that the girls are barely producing enough milk to feed the bottle babies.

I brought Pearlie and Maggie up on the porch this morning. I put Bridey on her mom after giving her a morning feeding. Even after being away from their greedy buck kids, they barely have made enough milk to last the night. Pearlie, especially, is not making much. And yesterday they gave me a quart and a half each. It must be the cold.

My hands feel numb as I reach under to milk them. I keep putting my hands in my pants to try to warm them up before touching their teats.

I'm remembering cold from the past. That's how bone chilling it is. You can't help but remember those times before when it was so, so cold.

When I was ten, the Colonna girls drove the schoolbus into Savannah. They lived just a few houses away from me. I was at that age where riding in the very front seat of the bus was a coveted thing. My friends across the creek competed with me for that front seat position. It would still be dark and the stars would still be out when I'd leave the house. I'd have a thermos of hot cocoa with me. I'd let myself on the darkened schoolbus and wait for Sandy and Polly to come out of their house and start the engine. Sometimes I'd wait for thirty minutes.

I remember how cold it was. The cold, plastic schoolbus seat. My chubby knees peeking out of my parochial school uniform. Those knee socks that never stayed up. My breath fogging in front of me and the chocolate steam coming out of my thermos. But by God...I'd gotten there first. Some things are worth suffering for.

The cold in Bluffton is not a true cold like here. It is 20 degrees outside right now and it feels like 20 degrees. In Bluffton, the salt wind blows up from the marshes. There is that beautiful gold color the marshgrass turns in winter. It may only be in the thirties, but it's a wet cold that seeps into your bones. Perfect for oyster roasts.

My brother and I would sometimes have an impromptu oyster roast, just the two of us. We'd build a big fire next to the pump house and hose off a bushel of oysters we'd pulled out of the sucking mud that day. I can remember sitting there with that cold wind blowing off the river. We'd drink whiskey and Blenheim's ginger ale.

Another strong memory of cold for me was in England. It was the first film I worked on there and I hadn't learned to layer my clothing properly yet. We were in the Lake District in February filming a piece about Donald Campbell with Anthony Hopkins. I don't think I'd ever seen so many kinds of frozen precipitation fall at the same time. I was bundled up like the Michelin Man and all the Brits were laughing at me.

It was a dreadfully uncomfortable set. The damn boat that was the Bluebird mock-up kept sinking and we were chasing after all these extras in 1960's updos with umbrellas. Coniston Water was incredibly beautiful, but it wasn't the sort of place you wanted to be in February.
I did a bit of fell walking on my day off, the one day the sun came out, but it was still colder than any place I'd ever been.

So, I make the difficult decision to keep Maggie on the porch tonight. I'd rather her be out with the others where she can snuggle down for warmth. But I need milk for the girls and she just hasn't provided enough during the day.

As it falls dark, I hear pitiful kid cries. It's Kidzilla and he's hungry.

I take pity on him and let him up with Maggie. Guess his big butt will be sleeping indoors tonight. Lets hope there will be milk in the morning.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Please don't be alarmed if you see yourself disappearing from my blogroll.

I've reached the point where I feel compelled to reorganize my blogroll into cutesy subheadings.

It occurred to me, since I am a southern woman and thus often worry about the comfort of my guests...that it might really piss off Pissed Off Housewife to find herself seated between the Patrick Henry Democratic Club of America and Queer Notes. This is certainly not the sort of faux pas I'd make while arranging a seating chart for a formal dinner party.

I am taking steps to rectify the situation. Once it is done, if you see a cutesy subheading that you would prefer to be placed in, I will be happy to oblige.

Goat Naming

Well, I've got some names selected for the goats and thought I'd share.

Everyone has had such excellent suggestions and I certainly appreciate the help.

Anne Johnson suggested "Bridey" for Black Doe after the Celtic goddess Brigid who the Christian religion redecorated as St. Bride. It's always nice when a lonely goddess gets to reinvent herself. This is most appropriate since Black Doe was born so close to Imbolc aka The Feast of St. Bride. St. Bride travels the countryside with her favorite white cow on this night blessing both the people and the livestock. You can read all about her and why this is such an inspired choice here.

I couch this in the Christian phraseology lest one think I've returned to my Druidic past...though once a tree worshiper, always a tree worshiper. And I really think of myself more as an Episcopalian than a Christian. I was only sucked back into Christianity in the hopes of a damn good french toast casserole.

Since we all hope dearly that Bridey will survive and grow into a prodigious milker, giving us yoghurt and cheese and kefir and all things of dairy goodness, I think it appropriate that she have the name of this so very generous-hearted goddess and saint.

...Well, one must love her.
In thinking of her
There's no denial
She must have been
A sort of trial
Unto her kin.
The moral, too, seems rather quaint.
WHO had the patience of a saint,
From evidence presented here?
Saint Brigid? Or her near and dear?

~The Giveaway
from The Love Letters of Phyllis McGinley

For the triplets, I've decided to go with the names of the triplets from Les Triplettes de Belleville. If ever there was a film completely freaking robbed of its Oscar...and they are was this on. It was simply too smart for "the Academy". And they run into the Pixar geeks at dinner parties. Those names are Violette, Blanche, and Rose. I'm not sure which is the one who uses explosives to catch frogs for dinner, but this is something I desperately need to know. These are also the colors of the French flag...also appropriate with my love of the traitorous French and all things frenchified with the exception of Freedom French fries.

Once I can catch and photograph those three little wreckers, I'll need your help deciding which one is which.

Betsy and crew have already named Harper's little doe, Phoebe. I haven't seen her yet.

So, we have BossyToe, Bridey, Violette, Blanche, Rose, Phoebe, Kidzilla and one unnamed little buck kid. I don't encourage naming the little bucks. His name very well might end up being "Mr. Cabritto". If you want to name him, you may...just remember...Kidzilla and Mr. Cabritto aren't going to be staying. I do have an interested party who says they'd like them as grass cutters and I think Kidzilla might have a career as a pack goat given how enormous and sweet tempered he's going to be...but I can't make any promises.

They may very well end up at a barbecue stand near you.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

I'm trying to get back on schedule. You know the one where I post the next day's post at midnight.

Right now, I am roundly congratulating myself on being such a fricking genius that I never had children. I did some really stupid stunts in my youth, but having kids...thank God...that wasn't one of them.

It's not that I don't adore children. I flat out love the little buggers and always have. Particularly when they start talking and relating and going home to their mommies and daddies after I've spoiled them rotten and taught them the "Rolly Polly Fish Head" song. Mothers of the world...I so, so, so salute you! You are all such better women than I...warrior goddesses the lot of you.

I know that many of my readers have daughters. Daughters they would like to forgo childbearing until they are ready for the awesome responsibility. My suggestion is that you give your twelve year old daughter a baby goat to bottle raise. Forget, Baby Think It Over. There is simply no way a doll can simulate the smell and general yukky-ness of urine and feces soaked diapers. You know what I'm talking about. That warm heaviness when you feel the back of their diaper and know there's a great big ole load in it. That's the part that's going to squick these girls out.

The other cool thing about this plan, is that baby goats go from that squalling infant stage to toddlers in about four days. All of a sudden, they aren't just peeing and pooping machines, easily confined to their crib (or dog crate as the case may be) they are getting into everything. I had to clean goat pee out of my surge protector just today. In one week, you can cover about three years of infant human behavior. In real time. With real pee. And real poop.
Diapers, midnight feedings, really loud squalling. The whole nine yards. Sure they're cute. But do you really want 18 years of this? Right now?


V-Man was real sweet to point to one of my baby goat posts. He'd sent me a link to another one of his old posts. We seriously need to compare notes. It seems we know lots of the same people from Bluffton.

And not only my sister who he evidently had a serious boner for when he was a teenager.

Ewww. I don't even want to go there.

Honestly, I think my brother, Bob, and V-Man need to get together and hit the flats after some redfish. I've got a feeling those two would get on like a house on fire. Telling all dem stories mens tell so well when they is by theyselves with only the slow chop of the water for company.

I'm getting nostalgic. I just slipped into Gullah for a moment there.