Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Why I am Loving Life

Ok - so it's a little after 6 and even though the sun has officially set it's still a little light out - light enough that I can look out my window and see my little donkey grazing in the pasture along with Elvis, Ann-Margaret and Nugget. I suppose it helps that I am no longer schlepping back and forth to Charlotte every day and any driving I do in the dark is typically local and typically by choice. But still - it's a sign that the days are getting longer and spring is around the corner and that makes me happy because this cold weather is killing me.

Yes, the girl who spent all summer complaining about how mind achingly, insanity-provoking hot it was, is now fed up with frigidly cold mornings and having to chip a 1-inch thick layer of ice off the water troughs. I am tired of bundling up every time I want to go out to the pasture - fleece, hat, gloves, socks. I am tired of lugging my coat everywhere. The luster has faded from my cashmere sweaters and boots - I am ready for sun dresses and sandals.

Still I am loving life because I know it's all that much closer.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Sunday, January 27, 2008

If That Ain't Country: In Pictures

Guest blogger John Scronce and his little girl Emma come visit with Dixie Mae.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Taste of My Own High Maintenance Medicine

My senior year in college, my friend's father flew to North Carolina for a reunion with some of his UNC fraternity brothers, and we were all invited to attend their reunion dinner and the party afterwards. At this dinner, we somehow got on the subject of being high-maintenance versus low-maintenance (I think we may have been talking about plastic surgery but I can't recall) and it was quickly established that I was the former. In fact, that night I quickly earned the nickname HM from one of the gentleman at the table and it stuck - at least for a while.

As I was updating the settings and template on my blog (what do you think of the new pix?), I found myself struggling with how to describe my animals. In my original header, I referred to "2 high-maintenance goats." In the revised header, after Nugget was born, I referred to "2 high-maintenance goats and their kid." But it was clear to me, after having watched Nugget grow up and develop a personality, that she is just as high-maintenance as her parents - perhaps even moreso. And what about newest addition Dixie and add-ons Tony and Sebastian? They aren't exactly easy.

Hell - all of my pets are high maintenance. Period. And once I realized that, I had to stop and reflect on what that actually meant.

Farms are a place for hard work and humility. You can't be HM shoveling donkey shit out of a stall and then spreading it in the pasture. You can't be HM when you go to the farm store to pick up hay, feed or other supplies. You can't be HM holding a goat down while the vet gives it a shot. The words high-maintenance and farm generally don't go together unless you're talking about a tractor.

So how did we wind up this way? With animals that need tending to 3x a day? A donkey that needs feed in the morning - and God forbid I feed her in her stall and go back in the house for 15 minutes while she eats. No - Elvis is jealous and if I don't stand over him, he'll butt Dixie's trough off the slat where it hangs (he can do this from outside the stall) and then she won't eat. Goats who start hollering every day at 4 pm if you don't come to feed them. You'd think these animals are starved the way they carry on. And if I am going out to feed the goats, I might as well give Dixie her second feeding as well. And that's always a challenge because Elvis runs around like mad and bucks up at and tries to startle Dixie and so it's difficult to get her in the stall (this won't always be a problem - she will eventually outgrow him and become the alpha of the pack but we're not there yet) and it takes more time than it ought to. And of course, feeding the goats is slightly better - although Marty disagrees. We feed them out in the barn - which I like because it's covered. And they each have their own trough - which helps. But it's impossible to scoop the feed from the bin without them rubbing up against your legs and trying to shove their faces in the feed before it's gone to the trough. And then when you walk from the feed bin to the troughs they run everywhere and it's hard not to trip. And they buck up so if you don't time it just right, the scoop of feed you're getting ready to dump in their trough gets knocked slightly and spilled. And then you can't just let them stand there and eat because if you don't keep watch - Elvis will run the 2 girls off and/or my fatty Ann-Margaret, who eats with unrivaled zeal and speed, will finish her feed and then go right for Nugget's trough. And of course, Nugget is my baby and I can't let that happen - not to mention Ann-Margaret needs to lose weight.

Then it's back to the house where Tony comes running because he knows it's time to be fed. And he's getting fat because we leave dry food out all day - which we've always done and it's never been a problem because Tony would spend most of his day outside running and hunting and chasing things. But recently, he's become a sleep-all-day, laze-about-the-house cat who may go out for an hour or two in the evenings, but otherwise just sleeps all day. However, Sebastian only weighs 4 lbs. and if I don't leave food out all day, I don't know how or when he'll eat (he's been eating at his own will for 8 years - I don't know that I could train him to get on a schedule now).

And then it's eventually back out the pasture one more time around 6:30 or so to round up Dixie and put her in her stall for the night. She always gets a treat and now Elvis stands around until you give him a treat too.

Do you see what I mean that my menagerie is high-maintenance? I know that it's somehow a reflection of me but I can't really dig into the psychology of it right now because just reliving my daily animal-related duties has worn me out and so I have to come to a close.

But feel free to share tales of your own pets and/or comment on mine.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lessons Learned

Sorry for the delay in posting but I learned 2 very important lessons after Saturday's post:

1) Never try to delurk or quasi delurk on a Saturday. Not everyone is glued to their computer like me and so I am sure I may have had a slightly higher hit rate had I done it on a weekday. In fact, one of the reasons I have delayed in posting since then is that I wanted to leave my last post at the top of the page for a few extra days to see if I could draw out any more comments (I got 1 so it was worth it...)

2) I realize I need to be a more frequent blogger if I want to get people that engaged. Most of my friends and family know the frequency with which I blog and hence only check the site once or twice a week. I think I go through phases with blogging: some weeks (or months) are busier than others. Anyone remember August 2007? Confession: work was very, very slow and so I'd write 4 or 5 posts during the day and then spread them out throughout the week. I don't have that luxury now but I am hoping after I take my Series 65 on Feb 5th my life goes back to quasi normal and I can post comfortably 3 - 4 times a week (I think setting reasonable goals is wise - there is no way I will be a 7xer).

So dear readers, I appreciate your patience with me. I appreciate your support. I appreciate all of you who took a moment to chime in on the "might could" debate. I hope you find reason to keep commenting as it lets me know I am doing something right with this blog.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Might Could: A Question to Delurk (Maybe)

Today I pose a question to all of my readers: Is the expression "might could" grammatically correct?

For those of you in the Northeast, "might could" is a delightful Southernism that you hear quite a bit round these here parts. As in:

"I might could get that car fixed for you by Tuesday if the part comes in."


"I might could meet you at the movies tonight if mom lets me."

Marty & I debated the topic last night at a totally impromptu and completely delicious dinner at Willow Creek Inn (salad, ribeye, Mansour's special rice and the most divine little eggplant, tomato & smoked mozzarella stacks).

As I said, "might could" is an expression you only hear down here (well - I've only heard it down here). As for the grammatically correct part, we couldn't decide if it was

A) grammatically correct but just a bit awkward or

B) grammatically incorrect but nonetheless charming

I am of the belief that it's both slightly awkward grammatically but still a charming expression nonetheless.

By posing this question, I am hoping to Delurk a little (Very briefly, Delurking is the act of getting blog readers who don't comment ie lurkers to come out of the woodwork and comment. Click here to see what a real Delurker Day looks like), but I couldn't commit to a full Delurking because if you few readers I have left don't Delurk, I'll be terribly disappointed, suffer a huge crisis of confidence, and possibly have to stop blogging!

So, you think you might could comment?

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Snowy Pastures, Soggy Donkeys, & Stroganoff

It snowed last night and when I woke up this morning, this is what I saw:


It was beautiful for a brief spell but it was also raining when I woke up so soon the snow started to get slushy and melt. Meanwhile, my poor Dixie Mae didn't know what to do with herself. She normally grazes all day long but having 2 - 3 inches of snow in the pasture threw for her a loop. Still, the rain was not a deterrent and she spent most of the morning wandering in hopes of finding something to nibble on. See how soggy she is?


And speaking of snow, I have to share my recipe for Chicken Meatballs Stroganoff because the snow and Stroganoff are sort of related. Here's the story.

The day before the Blizzard of 2006, when we were living in Hoboken, I went to the grocery store but didn't buy food. I bought laundry detergent. Shampoo. Ziploc bags. But I did not think to stock up in anticipation of the storm.

When I awoke the next morning to 15 inches of snow and more still coming down, I panicked. Even if the grocery stores were open, would I be able to wade through the knee high snow to get there? And if I got there, would they have anything? So I defrosted a pack of ground chicken and figured I'd figure it out later.

That afternoon, after several beers in a cozy oak bar a few blocks away, Marty and I began to get hungry. It was cold and wet and we wanted something hearty and satisfying. I suggested chicken meatballs and hoped the deli across the street had canned tomatoes (believe it or not, a kitchen staple missing from my pantry). Marty liked the idea of meatballs but suggested that instead of red sauce, we make a brown gravy - more like Swedish meatballs.

The following dish resulted from what little we had in our pantry and our own creativity. It was one of the best dinners ever - and totally hearty and satisfying.

Chicken Meatballs

1 lb. ground chicken
2 eggs
2/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup ground Parmesan
1 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. chopped garlic
2 tsp. lemon juice
Cajun seasoning (or salt & pepper) to taste

Preheat oven to 400.

Mix all of the ingredients together well and form meatballs. Should yield ~ 16 - 18 meatballs. Fry in vegetable oil in 2 batches until brown and crispy on the outside, 8 - 10 minutes per batch.

Place in a baking dish and bake for an additional 10 - 12 minutes until cooked all the way through.


I confess - we used packaged gravy and jazzed it up. We like Tony Chachere's brown gravy mixture. Mix 4 tablespoons of gravy with 2 cups of chicken stock and prepare according to package instructions. Add a big handful of dried herbs, 2 tablespoons of sour cream and 1 tablespoon of butter. Salt and pepper to taste (be generous with the pepper). Add some Wondra flour for a thicker sauce.

Serve meatballs and gravy over a big plate of egg noodles.

Delish and perfect for a snowy night any time!

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

West Lincoln - A Great Place to Live and Be From (Guest Blogger: John Scronce)

My drive to Hillside on Saturday brought me out to West Lincoln and I started to think about the special and unique nature of West Lincoln and why it was so different from other parts of Lincoln County. So I asked my friend, Johnny "Sumo" Scronce, a West Lincoln native, to guest blog on the subject. Following are his thoughts:

Top ten reasons that West Lincoln is a great place to be.... Well I do not know that I could list them by numbers but it seems to be a pretty tight neighborhood around here.

Not a place for strangers to come in and start givin' orders.

Not a place to attempt to have your developments sprout up.

It is a place if you need help you will have no problem finding it if you ask.

It is in the same county but all you need to do is spend a few minutes (some of you slower folks maybe a few hours) in the separate areas of Lincoln county and you will see the world is different in West Lincoln. Time seems to slow down here and you have time to speak to others and they even answer you back.

Nobody trying to impress others with what they have. Hell most folks up here will loan you or let you have what they have.

No pressure to drive the nicest car or own the biggest house.

You can call on your neighbor to help with about anything from A to Z.

A place where family and friends are put ahead of worldly gains for most folks.

Now don't go thinking we are perfect cause we have been invaded by some strangers who don't understand the culture. Some accept our ways and enjoy, but some continue to suggest that they do it right where they come from and that is just fine by us - just head back to where it was you come from and do it.

Where the biggest day of the year is the Cat Square parade (Biggest in the state of NC).

A place where a cure for the cold or what bothers ya will start and end with Alcohol that has not been taxed.

A great place to live and be from.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Blogging Woes

I seem to be thwarted in my efforts to blog "interestingly." Remember how I wanted to live-blog the CMAs but technical difficulties prevented me from doing so?

Well, I was all set to live-blog the Golden Globes tonight because everyone knows that the Globes are the best awards show because it combines both TV and movies and they serve booze so it's kind of fun to see all the celebrities liquored up and/or miss their cues (or awards) because they are in the ladies room (anyone remember Christine Lahti missing her award for Chicago Hope awhile back?). Plus, the Hollywood Foreign Press is usually good for a wild card or two i.e. they don't necessarily vote for the industry faves (remember Madonna winning a Best Actress Globe for Evita and not even getting an Oscar nomination?).

Anyways, thanks to the WGA strike there are no Globes to live-blog. Merely Billy Bush and Nancy O'Dell (at least - that's who I think it is) reading a press release of all the nominees and winners for an hour. Not that interesting and certainly not worth live-blogging.

Being the resourceful girl I am however, I thought a nice alternative to live-blogging would be mobile-blogging and I was going to post from my handheld while I was at a friend's house watching the Giants beat the Cowboys, because it just goes to show what you can do with modern technology. Joys of being in the country - I couldn't get a signal.

So, it's a boring old, regular, old-fashioned post from my laptop at home. Live-blogging and mobile blogging will have to wait for another day. At least I am watching Duke beat Virginia.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Early Bird Gets the 13.5% Pellets

Ok - let me preface this post by saying that I do not have a one-stop shop for all of my farming needs. The Goats eat Goat Chow, by Purina, which is available at the Ace Hardware in Lincolnton. But Ace is a hardware store - not a farm supply store - and so I have to go to Duan Farm Supply up in Maiden to get hay, straw, mineral blocks, etc. (although last time we were up at Duan the manager told us they make their own feed which was comparable to Goat Chow and Marty & I are considering making the switch.) We can also get corn at Duan, which is good, because right now we get it directly from the Shrum farm (although since we put the goats on a diet, they've been eating less corn) which is just one more stop to have to make on the ever growing list of farm-related shopping trips.

It's all sort of one giant pain in the...and I've been dreading having to get Dixie's feed because, well - you guessed it, it's located at a completely different place.

Now, I know. You're thinking I am high maintenance and therefore my animals are high maintenance. Shouldn't I just pick one store and suck it up and buy whatever they have? Possibly. But actually, with horses, a change in feed can cause them to colic (or so says my vet) and even though I've got a shot of Bamamine in the fridge, I don't really want to have to use it and so I am playing it safe.

It's true that as long as you keep the protein and fat ratios constant, it shouldn't matter what brand of feed you get, but the breeder was feeding Dixie Bartlett 13.5% protein pellets and that's what we've been feeding her (since the breeder was nice enough to give us a small bag to bring home) and so I wanted to get her Bartlett 13.5% protein pellets.

Well, Bartlett is available at Hillside Feed & Track out in West Lincoln. I called at around 10:30am this morning to find out a) if they had the 13.5% pellets in stock and b) what time they were open until. First things first: they did have 13.5% in stock - but "only 8 bags." I assured the gentleman on the other end of the phone that all I had was 1 miniature donkey and that 1 bag would be plenty. When I asked how late I could come by to pick it up, he told me he wasn't sure how long he'd be open because he was selling out of everything. I can't imagine being a store and running out of everything so that you'd have to close but then again, you've got to love the South.

I offered to hop in my truck and be out there in 20 minutes if he would set 1 bag aside for me. He did - and it was a good thing, because by the time I arrived, he was completely sold out of 13.5% pellets. He had a run in the 20 minutes from when I hung up the phone until I got there. In fact, the old man in front of me (who was buying 6 bags of something or other and whose old red pick-up didn't look like it would be able to move under the weight of 300 lbs. of horse feed) wanted 13.5% and I got the last bag!

Maybe Saturday morning is when you stock up on feed. Or maybe it's because it's the middle of the month. Or a full moon. Who knows. All I know is, the early bird gets the 13.5% pellets.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Speaking in Tongues

I speak equine these days, and it can be a little confusing because some words mean completely different things when you're talking about humans vs. horses (or in my case, a donkey).

For example, let's look at the word founder. As a verb it can mean several things:

* To fall or sink down, as buildings, ground, etc.: Built on a former lake bed, the building has foundered nearly ten feet.

* To become wrecked; fail utterly: The project foundered because public support was lacking.

However, when a horse founders, it gets ill from overeating and its neck can hard and sort of bulge out and flop over. Two totally different things.

Another example is colic. A colicky baby is one who simply cries and cries for no good reason (or so I have been told - what do I know from children? I have 3 goats. And a donkey. And 2 cats. And a husband. What more do I need?). When a horse colics, it is related to a gastrointestinal issue that often is serious and can be fatal. The horse (or donkey) may roll around so much due to pain that they twist up their intestines and die. A little bit different from a baby.

Now, since I've just cheated and looked at Wikipedia for both definitions to confirm I am on the right track, colic in babies was originally attributed to gas and blockage in the gastrointestinal area. And according to the dictionary, the definition of colic is "paroxysmal pain in the abdomen or bowels," so it's not totally off-base.

Still, I never thought I'd have a shot of Bamamine in fridge in case my donkey colics and I need to give it an injection to ease the pain.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Does It Ever End?

Ok - so it was not my intention to get such a late start blogging in 2008. But I thought it only fair to take New Years Day off, and then my week was sort of crazy and what not, and then yesterday disappeared, and now here it is, Sunday morning, the 6th day of the year, and I am just getting around to saying hello. Hello.

I thought about writing about my New Years resolutions, but I typically don't make them. However, I do have one resolution, which is not really a resolution, more of "I-need-to-get-this-done-in-2008-otherwise-I-will-go-absolutely-insane" priority and I was mentioning it to my brother who said: "Write about it. If you put it out there in public, then you have to get it done." It's not bad advice really - I mean, that's how I quit smoking nearly 12 years ago. I made the decision, then told everyone I know right away figuring I'd be so shamed if I reneged. I dunno - it worked for me.

So anyways, Marty & I have been here for a year and a half, and in that time, we've done a tremendous amount of work on the house and the property. But it seems as if every time we check something off our to-do-list, 5 more things spring up. Does it ever end?

I know that the answer is "No." My parents bought a house in upstate NY 1 month before I was born nearly 32.5 years ago. They are still working on it. There's either always something that needs to be done or always something that you want to do. It's the inevitable pitfall of being a homeowner.

Our list here is long and ranges from the simple (finish getting window treatments, change out several light fixtures) to the more complex (repaint the master bath which is painted an unfortunate shade of purple which I picked out because it looked so pretty in the Polo paint catalog when applied on walls in a sun-dappled, oceanfront cottage with lots of natural light and white furniture but which does not work so well on an interior bathroom with no natural light and which, to make matter worse, is accented by a darker purple trim - in fact, repainting this bath has been at the top of the list for a while but has been put off because in addition to paint, we need better lighting and we need to add medicine cabinets above the sink so that I can stop bending down to get whatever I need from under the sink and speaking of sinks, should we replace the one we have and so on and so forth and so it turns into a more complex project that really needs to be well thought out and not just a paint job - but I digress). In fact, I won't even get into the fact that despite what's already on the list, Marty & I are talking about adding some walls in the studio to carve out a little room to use as a home gym...are we nuts are what???

But that's not what I meant to put out there (although now it's out there - so ask me in 6 months where we are on this stuff...).

We have buildings. Two in fact. I think it's a Southern thing to put up storage buildings. Or maybe it's an us thing. Well - we didn't put them up - my in-laws did and to be fair, my mother-in-law used to run a gift shop and design center here and so she needed a warehouse (or 2) to store inventory and what not.

But we don't run a shop anymore. We live here. And yet, to look in those buildings, you'd think we were still running a store. It drives me crazy mainly because it's completely unorganized. Stuff has been dumped in there and thrown in there willy nilly for the last several years. Some of it is ours. Some of it is old inventory from the shop. Some of it belongs to my in-laws who needed a place to store some stuff. Some of it is stuff my mother-in-law saved because she thought we might be able to use it down the road. And believe me - many items have come in handy from prints to lamps to fake floral arrangements to Christmas decorations and lights.

But navigating that building is a nightmare and it offends my organizational sensibilities.

Plus, there's also stuff lining the walls of the other building, which currently serves as the garage. It's just too much.

So - in order to maintain my sanity in 2008, getting those buildings cleaned out and organized is my top priority. Even ahead of the purple bathroom.

And if that ain't country, I'll kiss your...