Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

              Song For Autumn

In the deep fall
    don't you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
    the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
    freshets of wind? And don't you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
    warm caves, begin to think

of the birds that will come — six, a dozen — to sleep
    inside their bodies? And don't you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
    the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
    vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
    its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
    the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

                                                        Mary Oliver

We've started the countdown to T-Day.  Turkeys are defrosting, shopping is done, beds are all made and waiting for company to arrive, and the kitchen is ready for a day of baking. 

Happy Thanksgiving, Friends.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Let's Talk Turkey

How many of you are in charge of Thanksgiving dinner this year?  When our family gets together there are about 18 of us at the table(s), so we have to get an early start.  There are a few things I want to try this year that will be new.  1.) Making the mashed potatoes ahead of time and putting them in a crock-pot, 2.) Cranberry sauce from Trader Joes, 3.) Making the turkey gravy ahead of time, 4.) Making my dinner rolls 2 days in advance, 5.) Smoking a turkey, 6.) Cooking a traditional turkey in a bag, 7) Brining both turkeys for at least 24 hours.

Usually I don't try new things before a big dinner like this, but from past years I've learned how stressful that last fifteen to twenty minutes in the kitchen can be, and I want to avoid it.  As for the turkey in a bag, my friends have done this and they love it.  I don't see how I can go wrong.

1.) Mashed potatoes.  I am the mashed potato queen in our family.  I've been in charge of making them since I was a little girl.  I LOVE mashed potatoes.  But nothing is worse than making them while whisking gravy, while carving the turkey, while checking on all the other dishes, while getting everything to the table.  So, I googled "Making mashed potatoes ahead of time" and read through a zillion suggestions.  I'm opting to make them about an hour ahead and put them in my large crock pot.  Have any of you ever done this? 

2.)  Cranberry Sauce.  Usually I get the cranberry sauce in the can and carve along the lines.  I'm not a big cranberry sauce lover, but one year I tried to skip it and it didn't go over.  It's a tradition.  So, I googled again, and what I came up with is that Trader Joe's makes a wonderful cranberry sauce for about two bucks.  I'm going to give it a try this year.  

3.)  Turkey Gravy.  Same issue as #1, but this year I'm going to bake 8 turkey wings ahead of time and then prepare a gravy from the drippings using a chicken stock.  On the day of Thanksgiving I'm going to pull that out and add my boiled giblets and some of the turkey drippings.  I hope it will make the gravy much easier. 

4.) Dinner Rolls.  My mom gave me one of her first cookbooks from 1968--Blue Ribbon Recipes.  These are recipes compiled from County Fairs that won the blue ribbon.  The bread recipes in it are wonderful--they always turn out.  I'm going to make about 50 rolls, place them in Ziploc bags and reheat them in the microwave before serving.

5.)  Smoked Turkey.  My husband and I practiced smoking a turkey about a month ago and it was delicious.  The smoker is a little tricky on cold days, but they're predicting the temps will be about 40 on Thanksgiving.  Our turkey is 17 pounds, so we'll probably start it at about 5:00 am and if it's done early we'll just set it aside and reheat.  I'm thinking I should start brining it on Monday or Tuesday.  Any suggestions?  The lady at the checkout stand said her husband starts a week in advance. 

6.) Traditional turkey in a bag.  My friends have said that turkey in a bag turns out moist and delicious every time and they'd never do it any other way.  I got a 17 pound Butterball and I'm going to give it a try this year.  Again, any suggestions or advice are always welcome!

7.)  Turkey Brine.  I'm looking for a good recipe for the brine, especially for the smoked turkey.  I'm not sure that brining my traditional turkey is a good idea since I went with frozen this year.  In the past I've ordered fresh turkeys, but I never tasted a difference.  This year I figured I'd just go back to the good ol' frozen variety.  But I have read that you shouldn't brine the frozen ones since they're injected with a sodium solution already.  Any thoughts on this?

As for pies, another family member is bringing those.  Whew! 

I'm setting the table a day ahead of time (Wednesday) so that won't be an issue on T Day. 

Here's my menu: (I'll be preparing it while watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!)


Goat cheese rolled in cranberries served with crackers
Stuffed mushrooms
Crab dip

2 turkeys (smoked and traditional)
Giblet gravy
Mashed potatoes (kept warm in crock pot)
Stuffing (I use Stove Top because I grew up with and LOVE it.)
Green Bean Casserole (french cut green beans, mushroom soup, water chestnuts (chopped up small), and French's onions)
Green Salad (thinking about nixing the green salad this year)
Cranberry Sauce
Deviled Eggs
Cherry Salad (whip cream based)

Local wines--Townshend T3, Grande Ronde Cellars, Arbor Crest, and Barrister  (We'll have a couple Rieslings.)

Sparkling cider for the kids

Pumpkin and apple pie with ice cream/whipped cream

What are you doing for Thanksgiving?  How do you handle your menu and the time issues?  Do you watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?  Are you going to get out at 10 pm for the Black Friday sales?

And here's the final picture of the sunroom after we moved the furniture in. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Let it Snow!

The horses LOVE the snow.  They are at their healthiest and happiest when it's 32 and snowing.  However, this morning they seemed a little too happy....and not all that hungry when I went out to feed.

Turns out, they pulled alfalfa bales down from our breezeway pile last night and had a feast.  They even wasted a bunch!

But that did not stop them from asking for more.

The goats going out for their morning walk.  We let them have the entire roam of the property all summer and they did great.

The sunroom project is coming to a close.  Today we'll move the furniture in after a few last minute touches.  In a month or so, we hope to install a wood stove.  So far, we LOVE it.

Happy Snow Day, Everyone!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Back to Beautiful

Beautiful Girl: You want me?

Back to my story, and to bring it up to "real-time"...I took the reins from my daughter and mounted up for the first time in, I guess, three months. Cia had her ears back, not in a threatening way, but in an attentive--what are we going to do now?--fashion. She is a sweet horse. I walked her around the pen along the rail, did large circles and reversed directions, and had her stop and back up a few times. It wasn't much, but every little thing done well with a green horse, goes a long way toward building trust and confidence in them.

It probably goes without saying, but when you start a new horse you have tack issues. Horses, like people, come in all body-types and it's rarely a one-size-fits-all situation.  I hoped Cowboy's saddle would fit Cia because I love my saddle, and by looking at it on her, it seems to, but unfortunately, it slides around when you pick up the pace.   She's very round and overweight, so I'm thinking about using this product under my normal pad.  I hope it works.
I had to stop her a few times to adjust the saddle, an action that might have really frightened a hot horse, and it wasn't the best idea for a sweet, green one like her either, but it was better than letting it go under her belly. Her back stiffened and her head went up when I'd stand to adjust it. Probably not a good idea to do too much of it.   After I was done, my daughter got back on and worked her lightly to end on a good note.

We did this for about a week at the walk, trot and lope (my daughter moved her up a gait each day) and now she's ready to move into an arena. The problem is, she's lame. Or, was lame. She started to camp out her left front hoof. When I first saw her in the pasture doing that, I mistook her for Cowboy--who camps out the same one because of his P3 arthritis. When I went out and walked her, though, she walked just fine and there was no heat or swelling anywhere in the leg. I figured it was an abscess working its way out, so I decided to give her stall rest, wraps and soaks, and work with Beautiful.

I'm happy to say, Beautiful took right up where we left off. She had no problem tacking up, carrying a saddle at all gaits, and letting me mount. My problem with her is that none of my good saddles fit very well. The only one that does seem to fit is my little training saddle, but it's kind of old and squeaky. I'm nervous about using it for her first ride. I've tried to get the squeaks out of it before, but wasn't successful. I oiled it, powdered it...I'm not sure what else to do.

So, that's where we are now--getting the tack right and nursing lameness. Cia got worse a few days ago, but today at feeding, looked like she was back to 100 percent. I'm going to go out in a few minutes and see if it was an abscess that finally broke through. The round pen has been made back into an arena so that's where I'll be doing my first "rides" on Beautiful as my daughter continues with Cia.

Oh, one more thing, I also decided against bitless for Beautiful. I just don't know enough about it to feel comfortable riding that way. I think it was one of the reasons I didn't feel ready to go past mounting. I do think she'd be a good candidate, but I don't think I'm a good candidate for bitless riding.

The other day I was reading Andrea's blog and had a good laugh when she said she thinks horses are made of glass. That summed up my feelings about this summer's ailments perfectly. Bad news comes in bunches, it seems. I went years with no injuries, but my luck ran out. Anyone who has horses knows that most of what we do is related to maintenance and health care. My one horse who seems to have no health issues? Beautiful Girl. And I find my emotions moving more and more her way as the #1 "Go-To horse" rather than my Mustang "project".

I apologize for the lack of pictures and video, but I didn't have much desire to snap shots as I was making my way back to the saddle. I did take quite a few of my daughter and a few of Beautiful the first day I came back to get her. For the record, I had to catch her. She was Cowgirl's girl rather than my girl--for a few minutes anyway.

Someone needs a haircut.

Here's the video from the first time mounting--pretty much the same now, but colder.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Fall Grazing

The herd grazing on a beautiful fall day in November.

Cowboy enjoying the fall grass.

Beautiful, looking blissfully happy.

Red, his wife, Cowgirl, and their baby, Beautiful Girl

Jasmine, the pony, with her goat fan club.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thinking of Johnny and Moving Forward

I apologize for the time that goes by between posts in my story, but I've decided that one blog post a week works well now-a-days, and it sure does stretch a short story into a lllloooonnnnngggg one! 

Taking up where I left off, there I was getting my boots on to go watch my daughter work with the horse I should have been working, running as fast as I could to get to the roundpen and offer my unsolicited advice.   I made myself useful and brought her the tack I wanted Cia to use--Cowboy's saddle and blanket--and her snaffle bit and mecate rein.  Then, I perched myself on the wheel-well of the horse trailer and watched the show. 

My daughter doesn't do things exactly like I would, but (in retrospect) I think you either trust the person you give your horse to or you don't give them your horse.  Since they're the ones that have to get on and ride, they owe it to themselves to prepare the horse the way they see fit.  I found myself telling her to do it this way and do it that way, but she acted like she didn't hear me and did it her way--which I deserved.  (Good motivation for me to do it myself---put up or shut-up, as the saying goes.)

Though Cowboy wasn't being worked he was there with me, looking over the fenceline twenty feet away, all by himself and away from the herd.  I could swear he was wondering why it wasn't him in the roundpen.  No doubt it made him curious, because he stayed in that same spot the entire time we were riding her.  I couldn't help myself, and it wasn't fair to sweet Cia, but I was sure wishing it was him. 

And there was my daughter, riding my filly, going this way and that, then stopping and asking me if I'd like to ride her, too. 

Time warp. 

Watching her ride, being in that space between introducing a saddle for the first time and teaching a horse its way with a rider, it opened up a memory I hadn't had in some time.  It was as if Johnny was standing there asking me the same thing, and I was a girl, Shiloh's age, accepting the reins and hopping on my green colt, Tanner. 

I've mentioned Johnny before on this blog.  He was the Cowboy who walked into the barn one day to find me and my colt in a very bad situation.  I'd saddled Tanner for the first time and let him go in the arena and somehow the saddle had gotten under his belly and he was kicking around all over the place and I was frozen watching the whole scene and waiting for him to calm down.

In steps Johnny--a man in his late thirties, moustache, cowboy hat, baggy jeans, and a bit of a beer-belly--a quiet guy, but knew his way with horses.  He asked if I wanted help, which I did, and went over to catch Tanner and get the saddle off.  As we stood there afterward, he asked me what I was doing and figured out pretty quick, I needed a little extra instruction. It turns out, he was a trainer--but I was a poor college student supporting two horses all on my own--I didn't have two nickles to rub together--literally.  If anything, I had negative two. 

He made me an offer I couldn't refuse.  He'd meet me out there on his lunch breaks and give me some help for free to get me started.  The deal was, he'd only help a little and expect me to do the rest. 

And, that's what happened, two days later, after a little ground work and a short Johnny-ride that included two small bucks from Tanner, he was on the ground and offering me the reins.  Tanner turned out to be very easy to train.  Johnny said he was "smart."  He met with me a few more times and invited me to ride with his family over at the "49ers Club" down the road, which I did, but by and large, his only advice to me was ride, ride, ride and, in the process, teach Tanner what I wanted.  He showed me a few tricks with legs and reins to help do that, but in the end, it was all about me and my horse communicating.  Tanner turned out to be the most wonderful and trusting trail horse I've ever rode, so we must have done something right.

I lost track of Johnny pretty quick after that.  I always thought that when I grew up and made a lot of money I'd send him a payment with interest for his help, but about fourteen years had passed, that hadn't happened, and I was out riding with a friend on my new horse,Cowboy.  We were meandering around Tammany Creek and found ourselves on a bluff overlooking the old 49ers Club where I'd rode in those early days with Johnny and his family.

A lot had happened to me in those years and it didn't include making a bunch of money to repay old debts.  I'd been married, had three kids and divorced, and I realized, through all that, I hadn't even thought of Johnny. 

I told my friend--I used to know a guy named Johnny R------- who helped me train my first green horse for nothing.  She said, Johnny R------?  I said, Yeah, did you know him?  She said, I knew who he was.... 

He killed himself.  

I don't know what I said then.  I probably asked why because that's the first thing people always ask when they hear someone killed themselves.  It took me another decade of life to realize there is never, and I mean never, a good reason for suicide, and there is nothing she could have said that day that would have explained it.  I'm just sad the world lost another kind-hearted person who probably had no idea how many lives he helped a long the away or how many people would ask--what happened to that great guy Johnny R-----?

Back to real time, there was my daughter, and a much older me, and I was taking the reins again on a green horse, a blank-slate, a filly waiting to learn a new language.  Her ears back and listening, her body open and trusting, waiting for whatever it was we would do next--tap her on the ribs with our boots, gently pull the reins and her head around--she was accepting it all and trying to learn how a horse and human move forward together.

(To be continued...getting back in the roundpen with Beautiful Girl.)