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: