Monday, December 31, 2007

Jim's new toy

When I first met my husband years ago, I never cared much about temperature and barely paid attention to the extended forecast. Today, if there isn't a temperature gauge next to our bed, in the master bathroom and downstairs in the dining room alerting me to what the temp is in the front *and* back of our house, I feel positively out of sorts. This is Jim's fault. He loves to discuss the weather, in particular the temperature. Inside and outside temperature are equally important. Discussions of minimum and maximum temperatures as well as temperature trends, barometric pressure, and the differences in calibration from one thermometer to the next are routine in our home. We all know, for example, that the upstairs bedroom temperature gauge shows the inside temp just little higher than the magnetic thermometer 10 feet away on the wall leading to the bathroom. Fortunately, my sons and I feel comfortable adjusting accordingly and simply round up or down to the nearest degree, but I know this sort of irrational imprecision must drive Jim crazy.

My husband is also an equal-opportunity weather instrument appreciator. While we certainly enjoy the technology of the 21st century, we also utilize a weather tool from the 16th century:

This particular device is called a storm glass or "Goethe barometer" and is regarded as the oldest barometer in the world. It allows simple weather forecasting by showing pressure changes as water rises or falls in its "spout." My aunt from Berlin gave this to him as a gift when we visited her a few years back and it really works.

But on to the new toy. Because of his weather interest, Jim has wanted a home weather station for years. In preparation for our move to the country in less than a month, it seemed a good time to finally get a home weather station. Understandably, Jim wasn't able to wait until we got to our new property to set it up, so this is the view from my kitchen window currently:

Yes, the weather monitor is stuck into the umbrella opening of my patio table.

Mental note to self: Write to Oregon Scientific, the makers of this weather station, and suggest that they make this device a bit more visually friendly in the future, perhaps choosing a color that actually exists in nature, like brown or green, to allow it to blend in with its surroundings. Right now, it gives me a shock every time I look outside.

But I guess this doesn't really matter. Jim is very pleased. He's like a kid with a new toy. He IS a kid with a new toy. He follows me around the house telling me all the latest stats. This morning, while I was brushing my teeth, he stood next to me the whole time telling me how (and how frequently) the rain gauge self-empties. Just now, I got a lesson in wind speed and direction.

Who would've ever thought I'd become so interested in the weather?! :-)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Did I mention how sweet my man is?

Noticing how many photos I had been taking lately with my little pocket-sized digital camera and how I've been branching out a bit with my photo-experiments, my husband gave me a new digital camera for Christmas this year. It's a Nikon D40x. It came with two lenses, an 18-55 zoom and a 55-200 zoom. Clearly, I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of all it can do yet - I have a thick users manual and 2 tutorial cds (how funny) to get through - but here are a few example shots I've taken so far with just the "point and click" method.

Roxy, my pup, who immediately begins to pose whenever a camera is pulled out, will be in absolute doggy heaven. Until she has competition from my farm critters, anyway.

My guy also gifted me with a year's subscription to the "Backyard Poultry" magazine as well as a lovely dark brown canvas coat that hay and straw won't stick to. (I would call it a 'barn coat' but this implies that it's one of those city-person fashion trends from a few years ago - mine is meant to be functional!) :-)

Of course, the biggest gift of all to me is this move to the country, the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. His willingness - and excitement - to completely change our lives to do this is an incredible present to me.

I feel so fortunate to have this wonderful man as my husband.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

It's a white Christmas for Portland!

This is so exciting! According to the National Weather Service, between 1940 and 2003, snowflakes have fallen in Portland, Oregon only 5 times on Christmas day. So we Portlanders are having a ball, even though it's barely more than a dusting on the ground at this point. At least it's sticking! We in the Land of Drizzle tend to go a bit crazy when the white stuff begins to fall, so who knows what the day will bring.

It's so pretty!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The fire towel

It seemed like such a good idea at the time: heat a towel in the microwave so I could wrap frozen butter in it to gently warm it for my son's 16th birthday cake frosting. Of course, I had forgotten to take it out of the freezer the night before. I needed *softened* butter, not melted, so what better way to quickly do this, I thought. So, I hit 30 seconds on the microwave and pressed "Start". After 30 seconds, the towel was warm but not quite warm enough to make a dent in the butter. So, I readjusted the towel, entered 2:00 minutes on the microwave and pressed "Start" again. I was in another room when it dinged this time and I didn't immediately go to check on it.

Then I started to smell something burning. By then, my distracted mind had forgotten about the towel in the microwave, so I was surprised when I walked into the kitchen and saw billowing gray smoke pouring from the microwave vents. Worried about setting the smoke detectors off, I quickly opened the back door (right next to the microwave) before I opened the door to the microwave. Little did I know how good a move this was. Opening the microwave, I see the towel smoldering on the carousel. Still only worried about potential smoke damage, I grab the corner of the towel, take one step to the door and literally FLING it outside. Here comes the good part: As the towel is flying out the door, it bursts into flames. It lands on the patio and continues to burn while I'm standing there with my mouth agape.

Since I only had slippers on, I couldn't stomp out the flames and had to turn on the patio hose to douse them with water.

This was such a signature Farmgirl_dk-move: juggling too many things at one time and trying to take a short-cut. I am so lucky - this could have turned out much worse!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cookie Day

I am a bit behind in my holiday baking this season. I'm ok with this. My life tends to be unintentionally ruled by the motto: "better late than never" and it seems to work out. Adding some additional motivation this year, though, is the fact that I apparently have a reputation to maintain. My husband has been raving to the world (his hi-tech work world, anyway) about how great his wife, "Mrs. K's", cookies are. Mrs. K??? I'm not old enough to be Mrs. K. Isn't that his mom? But I digress.

Pros: I love to bake. It makes me happy and I love the results.
Cons: I'm not quick at it. This will be an all-day production, followed by an evening spent cleaning up. Jim will most likely get sugar cookies for dinner tonight. Oh, and the beauty of my end-product comes into question at times, too.

Um, so what if the cons outweigh the pros! I'm going for it!

Fortunately, I know my audience: hi-tech engineers who will just love the fact that I'm sending 'em something sweet and homemade. I'm happy to do it, long as they don't call me "Mrs. K".

Monday, December 17, 2007

Still scared of the dark?

We had two holiday parties to attend on Saturday night. One was in our soon-to-be-new neighborhood (a small, rural community), the other was at a neighbor's house across the street from where we live now (a densely populated neighborhood, ten minutes from the heart of Portland). Talk about contrasts.

Our current home is on a fairly busy street and, not only do we have a number of streetlights that shine in late at night, we are close to one of the streetlight electrical boxes that emits a loud buzzing and humming.

Saturday night was the first time that we had been out to our new place after sunset. How odd to drive by our future home and notice just how DARK it is out there. And quiet. And colder, because of all the tall fir trees. My husband was thrilled, remarking on what wonderful star-gazing we are going to do. I found myself growing quieter and quieter, recognizing my self-perceived belief in "safety in the light". It's not that I fear bears or bad guys or monsters in the dark, it's just a bit....uncanny to not see or hear the signs of civilization around you.

The rural party was fun, the people friendly, and we had a good time. Returning to our urban neighborhood, I could feel the houses closing in around me. The dark sky was lit from below with street and holiday lighting - we never really see the stars around here.

Walking back to our house after the second party later that night, we realized that the walk from their front door to ours is shorter than the walk from our new house to our barn will be. I also won't be able to do it without a flashlight. Uncanny!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Barking up Squirrel Tree

Roxy is squirrel-obsessed. Just the act of unlocking our back door sends her flying through the house and into the kitchen so she can try to squeeeeeeeeze through the door as it first opens. If she succeeds, it's down the porch stairs, across the patio, up the boulder steps, across the second level, up the boulder wall, across the newly planted "natives" (not a popular move), and over to the squirrel tree, so excited she's yipping and snorting the whole way.

Here's one of the big guys who loves to taunt Roxy. Our dining room window is within three feet of this feeder (really meant for the birds). He's a smarty and jumps first onto the bird feeder which causes it to slowly tilt over the bird bath. From there, he can comfortably sit (elevated, so he has a bit of a view) and dine on tasty, black sunflower seeds. Roxy, meanwhile, is three feet away, behind glass, having a small heart attack.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Off to the Farm...

...Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary, that is. Today is volunteer day at the farm and I'm about to make the 70 minute trip out there. It's a long drive, but usually an enjoyable one because my 15-year-old son, Aidan, goes with me. He loves the Farm sanctuary as much as I do and is usually pressuring me to get out the door on these early Saturday mornings. We can't wait to see "our" animals. Alas, he's not here this weekend and I'm going to have to entertain myself on the long drive down. Usually, we listen to a random selection of music that he's chosen for us from his iPod, but we also find great entertainment searching for the "most interesting" vehicle of the day (bored people do funny things). Here are a few of the winners from previous trips. The reason they seem to be cropped funny is because I'm driving while Aidan's shooting the picture (they're action shots!) - which makes for some interesting pictures. Have a happy Saturday and don't forget to "Drink a Mug of Milk a Meal". :-)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dreaming of Chickens

For over nine months now, I have been planning, plotting and researching my entry into the world of chicken ownership. I have purchased books online, interviewed other hen owners, dropped money at Portland's famous Powell's Books, and visited multiple suburban libraries to further my chicken knowledge. I have become obsessed with chickens. My home is filled with various references to, and knick knacks of, these fun birds. Some have referred to my future birds as "poultry". To me, this implies that I plan on eating them. Quite the opposite is true. In my mind, I have already begun thinking of them as "the girls", a sweet endearment that I have heard other chicken-rearing people use who consider their feathered friends to be family pets.

Here's a photo of my current stack of chicken literature. Do not be distracted by the furry canine in the center. As is always the case, Roxy placed herself smack in the heart of my activity the minute I began to lay out the books. Accustomed to being the center of attention, she just knew that what I really wanted was a picture of her. You'll notice she didn't mind a bit when I continued to place the books around her.

One more thing: Here's a picture of where I think we will build our hen house and coop in the new year. This is on the new property we're moving to. I don't know the property well enough yet to make a final decision on the suitability of this location, but this spot just feels good to me.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The House is SOLD!

Oh yeah!! I am very pleased.
And oh so relieved.
No more keeping the house constantly "show ready" - we are SO not that kind of family.
No more hiding our personalities so that we have the perfectly "staged" home - we can actually decorate for the holidays.
And....this is my giant step closer to country life, farm fun, and my animals (!!). Chickens, goats, a donkey or two perhaps...who knows who all will want to come and live with me.

We really are on the way to Critter Farm...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Aw, shoot me now - it's attic clean-out day

Reduce, Re-use, Recycle...this is my mantra for the week. In preparation for our (hopefully upcoming) move, all those cleaning and organizing projects I've had on my "To" Do list for the last few years have suddenly become more urgent.

Today's project: cleaning out a crammed, chaotic attic nine years in the making. This will actually probably be my project for the next month. Ugh.

So, while the emphasis today is on Reduce, I have found a few nifty things that I will definitely Re-use :

Clockwise from top:
- A really cool drum machine...where in the world did this come from? I lost about 20 minutes of my life last night after I found it - this thing is fun!

- An approximately 80 year old Native American dad had this hanging in his room as a boy and it's been in a box for years now. I think I'll hang it in my (don't-have-yet) barn.

- An antique vanity that my Great Aunt purchased with her salary as a grade school teacher in the early 1900's.

- A nifty little first-aid kit on a cord (similar concept to soap on a rope, but way cooler). :-)

Hey, if I don't post tomorrow, will somebody tell Jim where he can find me?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Is it Friday already??

Just so you know, my boyfriend/husband/overall-best-bud-ever-to-hang-with has had the week off from work so I've been a bit, ahem, distracted this week. Added to this was that *crazy* storm we had earlier in the week, another house showing (yes, it's still for sale), and dealing with various sibling mini-emergencies, so there's been a lot tugging at this particular Farmgirl. Fortunately, our house survived the storm with no damage or flooding. Other families not far from here were not so lucky and I send them my thoughts. I hope all the river and stream levels return to normal quickly!

On a really positive note for us, we've had an offer on our house come in. So that I don't jinx it (am I really this superstitious? YES!), this is all I am going to say about it right now. I just hope some day very soon to type a blog post titled: "THE HOUSE IS SOLD!" Once that happens, Farmgirl_dk (me) becomes Farmgirl in reality and not just in mindset.

And how COOL would that be to put some of the knowledge I've gained - from the approximately 25 books next to my bed on raising chickens, goats, and sheep - to good use?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Monster storm heading our way?

Ok, the snow came, the snow went, the snow didn't stick. As is common around here, it was a lot of "oh no!" weather noise and excitement for nothing. But less than 24 hours later, forecasters are predicting a 'storm of the decade' for Western Oregon that will bring between 3 and 4 inches of rain in the next 36 hours to the Portland area and has caused the National Weather Service to issue a hurricane force wind warning for the Oregon coast.

I know many parts of the country are experiencing their own freaky storms this weekend. I wish everyone fairer, warmer and drier skies over the next week. Stay safe!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Saturday Night Dessert

I've been very delinquent in having my neighbors (two of my favorite people) over to our house for a happy evening of good conversation, fine dessert and a nice glass of wine. The female part of this neighbor couple is an extremely lovely and accomplished hostess - she has no qualms about having people over at a moment's notice and always has something yummy on hand to make everyone feel at home.

Alas, I strive daily to become a hostess like her. I'm embarrased to say that it was New Year's Eve 2005 when we had them over last. They always, always seem to invite us over first. So, I actually planned ahead this week (what a novel idea!) and invited them over for tonight. Since I love to bake, I decided I would make a nice dessert for us. I mentioned a few posts ago how much I love my Savor the Flavor of Oregon cookbook. Everything I make from this book seems to come out lovely and is enjoyed by everyone - you can't beat that! Today's recipe was the Chocolate Cheesecake on page 284. My son sat at the kitchen table and read his email, my husband puttered about, we had a good collection of jazz music playing in the background, and it was a perfect time for baking!

And I love to take pics of my progress... :-)

Getting started:

Crust and batter:

Ready to pour into crust:

Cook for 40 minutes:

Make the sour cream topping:

Ready for our guests:

Friday, November 30, 2007

Do these look like snow clouds?

Not a lot of snow falls in the lower elevations of Northwest Oregon. Oregonians are more familiar with the milder weather patterns known as mist, drizzle, showers, downpour, and torrent. So when the weather forecasters start predicting snow (and they have), it's a big thing, and Portlanders start to freak a bit. Everyone races to the store for supplies (yeah, I just got back), people put chains on their cars (seriously, a neighbor drove by last night with chains on - on bare pavement!) and kids start betting on potential snow days (sometimes just snow falling is enough to threaten school cancellations here, it doesn't even have to be sticking).

And so, today, the anticipation of potential snow is building...this afternoon's forecast reads:

"Friday November 30th,
First Alert Weather Forecast
A weather double whammy is about to hit the Pacific Northwest. Today is the calm before the Storms! Partly cloudy and cool temperatures are in the forecast today. Colder air will move from the eastside of the Cascades into Portland and the north part of the Willamette Valley tonight. A low will drop south along the coast tonight and start precipitation Saturday morning. Depending on the timing we could see an inch or two on the valley floor.... "

Now, one to two inches of snow may seem ridiculously un-newsworthy to other parts of the country, however in this area, this is the stuff excitement is made of. My picture is what the sky looks like currently. Supposedly the precipitation isn't supposed to start until tomorrow, but it's only about 35 degrees right now and those clouds are starting to look a bit ominous. I wonder if I have time to run to Home Depot for a generator...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

View from my kitchen window

No farm in sight, but I do have a ceramic rooster in a rabbit hutch. See him? That's Mike. You may not be able to tell from the photo, but both Mike and the hutch have been in my small, urban backyard for years now. Some days it feels like I have dreamed of chickens and farm life forever. It may seem silly, but seeing Mike every day when I look outside makes me happy. He's the physical representation of my dream waiting to be fulfilled. I still believe this dream will come true, it just may take a bit longer yet. Patience, I tell myself. And then I go to the sink and smile out at Mike.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Making Earth Bread

Today: Day 33 for our house being on the market. We had a couple of showings this weekend with good responses but still no offers. So doesn't it figure that today of all days, while the house is unusually clean and tidy, I find myself inclined to make....bread. It is a very delicious bread, courtesy of my Savor the Flavor of Oregon cookbook. It's called Earth Bread and it is a tasty (and healthy) combination of cracked wheat, unbleached bread flour, whole wheat flour, oatmeal and sesame seeds. Now, I am not a clean and tidy baker...I make a mess. Just now, simply opening up the Quaker oatmeal container had flakes literally flying through the air. Just opening the container...what's up with that? I guess I just cook with wild abandon. That's not a bad thing, though, right? I read somewhere once that it is the creative, artistic bakers who make huge messes, while the cooks who clean up as they go are much more restained and recipe-bound. I don't know if this is true, I just know I am now walking over oatmeal as I proceed with mixing my ingredients.

I took some baking pics to show my progress. I love that this dough is wonderful for either loaves or rolls, as you will see. I like to make square and round rolls and then one or two larger round loaves all from one batch of dough.

My staging area:

Watching the cracked wheat sit, the scalded milk cool, and the yeasty stuff bubble:

Just before the kneading:

Starting to rise:

Ready for the oven:

My kitchen smells so good right now:

Let me know if anyone is interested in the recipe, I will happily share it.

1/19/2008 update: You can find the recipe to this marvelous bread here!!.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I know it's kinda corny...

but I'm pretty excited right now. Last night I was given two tickets to the Billy Joel concert by my son's girlfriend. The concert is tonight at Portland's Rose Garden arena. It's important to state that I was a SERIOUS (you do see the capital letters there to express my seriousness, right?) Billy Joel fan when I was younger. I adored his earlier albums, like Cold Spring Harbor and Streetlife Serenade. I became such a huge admirer of his, in fact, that when I last saw him in concert in 1984 (I believe I paid $15 for that ticket), I had vivid fantasies of him seeing me in the crowd and asking me to leave with him. Seriously. I had myself convinced he would take me home with him. He was the man for me.

It was his birthday on that night in 1984 when he played in Portland. May 9th. I had painted this HUGE (note the capital letters again) banner that read HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WILLIAM JOSEPH MARTIN JOEL on it, certain that this would assist in, and ensure, him picking me out of the crowd. Hey, how many people would know that this was his full name? (And how many would actually care?) I was his number one fan.

Sigh. Suffice it to say that the evening was one of a small number of significant disappointments in my life. He didn't pick me. Most likely, he didn't even *see* me and I went home in hiccuping, sobbing tears. My girlfriend, Melissa, who went to the concert, too, comforted me the best she could. The mania and hysteria of public figure worship is as powerful as it is bizarre and, clearly, I had experienced it first hand.

I actually found my old ticket stub from this concert a few months ago, along with a very poor quality, very far away, 110 film photograph of him on the stage. I hadn't thought about that night for years, so it's funny that all this - and tickets to his concert - is coming back now.

Don't tell my sons this story because they already think I'm an uncool goof for having every one of Billy Joel's albums up through 1993's River of Dreams. Someone told me he's considered America's Elton John. Is this true? I haven't heard anything new by him for years now. I'll let you know if his music still speaks to me and also, of course, if I get to go home with him tonight. :-)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Taj the Turkey, living happily at the Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary, September 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The day was a walk in the park!

The rain stopped today! The clouds lifted, the sun tentatively appeared, and we headed for the park. Not having thought to bring my sunglasses (it's November in Oregon, people!), I squinted through the windshield as I drove us through the curvy, hilly roads. Our destination: Forest Park, the largest wooded city park in the United States. It covers over 5,000 acres of land within the city boundary of Portland, Oregon and its beauty never stops impressing me. Its 70+ miles of interconnecting trails are pretty dang cool, too.

Hearing stories of horrible drought affecting so many areas of the United States currently, I found myself appreciating this lush and verdant home of mine while also thanking the stars for the brief respite from the rain.

Then we slogged our way back to the car, our boots having become cement anchors from the sticky mud stuck to the bottom of them. And while Roxy Mud Dog loved the hike, she didn't much care for the mandatory bath afterwards...check out that water!:

Friday, November 16, 2007

My Dog Eats Dirt

So, what do your doggies eat? This is my girl, Roxy the Dirt Eater, a.k.a. Mud Dog. I left her alone with the potting soil tray for only a moment and came back to this... face. Innocent appearing, yes, but the truth was written all over her mouth. And to actually think I've worried about her adjusting to life on a farm. She looks the part of a princess lap dog (that's the Shih-Tzu in her) until you see her in action. Then it's clear she believes herself to be true Cairn Terrier right to her bones. She's smart, spirited, feisty, opinionated, enthusiastic, energetic, loyal, stubborn...and she loves to eat dirt. She also eats walls, furniture, umbrella handles, and rabbit poop but those are all stories for maybe a later time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Picture of the Day: A Bright Spot

It's gloomy outside - it has started to drizzle and the sky is getting darker by the moment. The rains are coming, the forecasters say, though they've been saying this now for two days. I want to crawl back into bed. My son is home sick from school, no realtors are calling wanting to show our house, and the farm-of-my-dreams feels very far away. Something catches my eye as I walk past the door leading out to the terrace. My Fall Camelia has started to bloom. A gaudy bright pink bloom is right dead-center in the middle of the bush. It makes me smile.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary - A place to behold

Friends I've made at the Lighthouse Farm:

Today I want to tell you about a person I met over the summer and the most amazing place he has created. His name is Wayne Geiger and he founded the non-profit Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary after finding that farm and larger animals (horses, cows, llamas, sheep, goats, pigs, etc.) taken from abusive or neglectful situations rarely had a place to go. This fact often prevented them from receiving the help they deserved. With the goal of providing a safe haven for these beautiful creatures, Wayne created the Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary, located on 52 wonderful acres in Scio, Oregon. The farm is run under the principal that all domestic animals deserve five basic freedoms:

  1. Freedom from malnutrition - all animals have a right to a healthy diet.
  2. Freedom from disease - all animals deserve clean and well-ventilated housing.
  3. Freedom from discomfort - all animals deserve shelter from the elements, protectionfrom predators, and proper healthcare.
  4. Freedom from fear or distress - all animals have a right to feel safe and unthreatened.
  5. Freedom to express normal behavior

After a personally very trying and stress-ridden 2007, I found information online about the Lighthouse Farm Animal Sanctuary. I had been investigating opportunities (volunteer and paid) for working with animals...returning to my roots and passion, so to speak.

The first time I drove up the gravel driveway of the Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary, I felt an enormous weight being lifted from my shoulders. Literally, a feeling of peace flooded my body. It was such an odd and unexpected physical sensation. I hadn't felt like this in years and all I had done was drive up a gravel road with farm animals on all sides of me. Be sure to check out the official LFS site if you'd like more information:
My son and I go out every second Saturday to work on Volunteer Day. This is a good place.