Here it is fresh off the press, my very first blog.
Let me tell you a little bit about us. Our name is not really Clampetts but we sort of resemble the Clampetts prior to them striking oil!
My name is Karla and my husband of 13 years’ name is Brian. We live on at the end of a narrow, dirt road, in a small village, in a small county in the small state of New Hampshire. I am just recently retired; hence the picture above with the huge corsage!
This blog will be about living off the grid completely and our trials and tribulations of every day living once retired and living in a small, rural area. It ain’t always easy! For example, the time I made a custard and the oven kept blinking at me and B was away on a business trip. Why was the oven blinking? Would the custard cook? Well, of course the oven was blinking, it wasn’t getting enough power! I did not have the appropriate inverter on! We have 2 inverters that converts DC (battery) current to AC (house) current. I obviously had a lot to learn. . .
One of the newest additions to our off the grid living and something that makes me very happy, and we hope will make life a little easier, is a propane generator and a new 500 gallon propane tank. Now the generator comes on automatically when our power begins to lessen. Since this is a new installation (and not a cheap one either I might add), it still needs tweaking; that would be B’s job. So far it is working well. Previously, we used a gasoline fed generator, and required some manual tweaking that was always difficult for me. I am not mechanically inclined and the generator required a lot of pulling and usually accompanied by some cussing to even start it. I am not good at jumping up and down while pulling the cord as well as B is!
We live a pretty ordinary life and if you were to visit, you would not necessarily even realize we are off the grid. However, we do have a few quirky things by today’s standards. We have a special small refrigerator that requires manual defrosting (yuck) and is deep but short, causing the food that gets pushed way back to freeze. Have you ever tried reviving frozen celery? It doesn’t work well. And our gas powered oven also requires manual cleaning (double yuck, as I cook a lot). However, my husband has every power tool known to man and uses them frequently. We have a regular washing machine, but I prefer to hang my clothes out to dry during the summer months, and I use wooden clothes racks in the winter set up near the wood stove to dry most of our clothes. Why not use the sun and the wood stove to dry one’s clothes??? We do own a dryer but it is at my in-law’s who live a mile from us and live on the grid.
I am also very interested in homesteading, for lack of a better word. I believe in eating local, either growing my own food or buying local food and meat. We have raised pigs in the past as well as ducks, chickens, and, if lucky, B brings home venison – in season, of course! I am fortunate to live in an area where I can easily buy any of these items, should I run low on my own food. By the way, we do have 2 freezers living off the grid. See? You would never know we do so.
I hope you like my new blog! Please feel free to make any comments you care to make. Well, only positive comments of course! Ha, ha.
The humidity continues to be high here in NH. Saturday was a day of torture, if you ask me. The weather was so humid and hot and just plain uncomfortable.
Yesterday was B’s birthday! Now he can’t say he married an older woman. We are currently the same age. B wasn’t interested in going out to dinner, too hot, and he is still a little skittish about eating out. I wracked my brain to think of something “different” for dinner and finally asked what he thought about having loaded nachos for dinner. He said that would be fine with him. Of course, there was cake too. Anyway, that was our dinner: loaded nachos. Earlier in the week, we had fresh scallops, one of B’s favorites, but I didn’t want to hold them until Saturday, so we had them for dinner the day I brought them home from the market. B just loved them!
We had a bit of chicken drama Friday night. We were watching an interesting show, so I was later going to check on the chickens; like 9:00 p.m. I went to the coop and counted heads, and counted heads again. I came up with 4 chicklettes. Hmm. I flashed the light around and checked the duck cage, but nothing. I went to get B. B came out and he searched and counted heads with the same result. We searched the entire area with bright lights. B even crawled under the porch to make sure she wasn’t roosting in there somewhere. We flashed the flashlight around the fence perimeter; nothing. Of course, Frick & Frack, the useless male ducks, were chattering away, but no help.
We came to the sad conclusion that a owl must have nabbed one between my last visit during daylight hours and now. Then, as we began to leave, B flashed the light up to the top of the 6 foot fence. Lo and behold, there was #5 clinging for dear life to the fence over the duck pen! Not a peep out of her. B went around behind her and grabbed her with both hands. She squawked a bit, I opened the door to the chicken coop, and he placed her in it. She was fine. Meanwhile the other 4 were chirping a bit and the 4 hens were on their perching bar looking down on the 5 little ones with a nasty glare. Chickens do not like being disturbed while sleeping.
However, we are going to soon be paying a little visit to the coop after dark with scissors. Apparently, everyone needs to have a wing clipped. The lost chicken could have easily “flown the coop” and really gotten herself into trouble.
Anyway, that drama ended well and last night, all 5 went to bed as they should. They really do play “dare” with the auto door. Here is a picture of the little ones this morning. They are huddled together on the top step to the porch. Little angels, aren’t they???
And along with taking care of the critters, we seemed to have amassed at least 3 chipmunks. They are happy little devils and no wonder. They pick up all the uneaten cracked corn I throw out and any other tidbits, as well as the food for the ducks that they can find. Here is one munching away.
We had a surprise visit this afternoon from my nephew, Mark, and Ginger. They were out joy riding and had stopped for lunch in Sunapee. It sure was nice to see them. I haven’t seen any of my relatives since Christmas. This has been one strange year.
And finally, my zucchini have started rolling in! I picked 5 zucchinis of various sizes this morning. Already they are beginning to get ahead of me! Ginger was gracious enough to take 2 of the largest ones; she plans to stuff them. I guess the hot sun and the humidity and all the water I have been providing is beginning to pay off.
So, this is about it for the weekend at the Clampetts.
Yes, it is REALLY hot and humid here in NH right now with a heat index of 94 degrees. Yuck! I am no fan of fans, but I have one going as I write this. Fans always give me a chill for some reason but not today. Also, I do not like them blowing on me while eating dinner. It cools my food down too much! Fussy, aren’t I?
I’ve had some response to my favorite fiction book list, but I’d like to hear from more of you. I also forgot to add the book, The Help, by Kathyrn Stockett. I guess this is another book that has caused a stir like Gone With the Wind. So please, let me know what your favorite fiction books are. I’m hoping to get enough responses to share with all of you.
Today we had a lovely visit from one of B’s nieces, Julia. She tends to make a visit twice a year at least. Anyway, we all started with masks, but it is so bloody hot in the house that we quickly dispersed with the masks. We had a leisurely lunch with cold food, as in sandwiches and salad, and watermelon for dessert. I even went the paper plate route. Anyway, we had a lovely visit and she got the tour of the jungle growing on the deck, the berm, and the new chicks. The critters got a treat with the watermelon rind! They sure attacked that. I wish I had enough money to buy half a watermelon just for them for the fun of it.
Speaking of my jungle on the deck and the berm, here is a picture of the flowers on my zucchini grow box. Think we’ll be eating a lot of zucchini soon??? I need to gather my zucchini recipes in order to be prepared.
And here is one angle of part of the berm. Things are growing, but so are the weeds!
This morning when I went out to take care of the critters, we had lots of fog and dew. I grabbed my phone and took a shot of this cobweb in one of the clumps of daylilies.
My pot of magenta plants is doing well! In the distance is Mt. Ascutney. As you can tell, it is a very hazy day.
B has been inside most of today too; sitting with the other fan going near his computer. We had a weird thing happen although it probably happens more frequently than we realize.
UPS lost a return. Yep. A return to Amazon; the people you can rarely ever reach. After way too many phone calls, he found out that the person who picked up the return Friday (it was supposed to have been picked up the previous Monday, but the call tag got lost, necessitating a previous call from B to get it moving again) was a newbie on our route and because it was a small package, it somehow got lost. Of course, that was the day that neither of us saw the UPS man who picked up the package, although the local UPS supervisor knew who it was. I am not inferring in any way that the newbie kept the return. It just was coincidental, I am sure. Anyway, it has caused numerous phone calls back and forth and getting in touch with UPS and the elusive Amazon customer service. UPS acknowledged they’d lost the package, and told B to file a claim. But then the main UPS people said Amazon had to initiate the claim, so that meant wading through Amazon’s maze to try to find a way to contact them to get the claim going so B can get his refund. Plus it turned out that they’d already issued the refund anyway; they issued it to a “gift card” instead of B’s credit card, so he thought the refund was waiting on the lost package.
B is none too happy with Amazon at the moment because, despite paying some $125 for a Prime membership and “2-day delivery” (that, in my opinion, costs too much), their delivery service has slipped considerably during this pandemic; to more like 2-week delivery. Now you can say it is because they initially chose to get food and household items shipped first, which is fine, but that excuse is now getting a tad old. From what I could hear, I believe the issue is now resolved. B got his refund anyway, and Amazon will file a claim with UPS.
Yesterday (or the day before – not sure), B finally had some success with his “ledge blasting project. He used a different method of sealing the fuse hole, and got a couple good explosions. He showed me some before and after pictures. Now he has to fill in the holes with dirt.
The critters are calling to me saying they need fresh water, and I have dishes soaking in the sink, plus my big plants probably need more water. So I will be closing this blog for today.
You might think blowing up rocks and reading books a bit incongruous, but keep reading, my friends!
Let’s start with weather. We are having some delightful weather with nice breezes and temperatures in the low to mid 80s. This is the way I remember summers used to be when I was growing up. And what better thing to do than to read on a lazy summer afternoon?
You all know I wasn’t the haying kind of gal, but I sure loved to read. I remember one summer I tackled Gone With the Wind. That book lasted me almost all summer. Unfortunately, I have gotten away from book reading. I read magazines galore because they are easy to pick up and quick to finish reading an article. And I’m one of those weird people who loves to read cookbooks. Yep. I read cookbooks all the way thru. I’ve learned to keep a notepad handy, so I can jot down the page number and the name of the recipe for easy review at a later date. I just finished reading a cookbook the other day.
As my life changed, so did my reading habits. Once married and with a long commute on my hands, I switched to audiobooks. I used to say that, had it not been for audiobooks, I would have retired years sooner. I so enjoyed listening to audiobooks. After awhile I had to begin keeping a list of what I listened to, in order not to repeat any of them. Some were good; others were super good, and there were a few duds too. At that time, I refused not to listen to the entire book even if I didn’t care for it. Now I figure life’s way too short, so if I don’t like what I am reading, then I do not force myself to continue and finish the book. That is, when I actually read a book.
Since retirement, I have read very few books, except during my convalescence after breaking my leg. Then I read a lot of books and not just cookbooks, either. However, I am, sadly, now back to reading mostly magazines. But it all got me thinking about my favorite books.
So, today, I am listing my 10 favorite fiction books. Of course, this list could change overnight. I suspect this is true for most people. I’m starting with fiction, but in another blog, I’ll list my favorite non-fiction books and books in series that I have enjoyed reading/listening to. Once I wrote these titles/authors down, I realized most are older books. But there are a few newer books I listened to on my commute that made the top 10 list. If I really, really loved a book, I bought it.
Without further ado, here is my list, in no particular order or date of when I read or listened to them.
1. Thornbirds – Colleen McCullough
2. Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell
3. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
4. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
5. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
6. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
7. Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
8. Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen
9. Snow Falling on Cedars – David Guterson
10. Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith
Of course, it is now your turn to tell me your favorite fiction books. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of my most favorites, as there are so many wonderful books to choose from. Now, if only I had a hammock. . .
Most likely though, my hammock reading would be disrupted by a blast or two. B is quite discouraged by his “blowing up rocks” project. He keeps trying over and over. He’s determined to make it work, and frustrated with all the little pops he’s getting. He says he’d just quit if this was his first time, but he says he’s done it many times before, with none of the issues he’s encountering. He was so distressed by the one puny blast he was able to get, and hardly any pieces of rocks, that yesterday afternoon he got out a small jackhammer and did it the old fashioned way. He broke down the rock, but it was hard work.
B is trying to get a few ledge outcrops out of the trails that are pure nuisances for mowing. Our trails tend to be rocky because we are in a very ledgy area. So today, B is back at it. He has promised me that the next blast should be a beauty. I can hardly wait.
Luckily for me, he doesn’t get this urge to blow things up very often! However, he is intrigued and determined now to get rid of some of these rocks. I do recall seeing one blast that took all the leaves off a tree. That’s right. The blast defoliated the tree. I have yet to recover from that one.
B often tells me about blowing up a ledge outcrop near the new barn he had just installed. He was impatient because the fuse was taking so long. He had to keep adding a new fuse. When it did finally catch and go off, the rocks pieces tore a hole in the new barn roof. Yep. Tore a hole right in it. Dented up some of the front panels, too. I guess that one was a bit more than anticipated.
Right at the moment, he is moving dirt with the big tractor to fill in the hole he finally caused by jackhammering the rock into pieces. There is never a dull afternoon around here! He also has the bush hog attached to the tractor so I suspect he intends to do more mowing. I think it is time for my afternoon meds. Ha, ha, ha.
I’m starting the blog early, as in 12:54 p.m. on Sunday. The weather is beautiful; about 82 degrees and lots of sunshine. A truly perfect and typical summer day here in NH.
Our 4th of July was pretty quiet. I got up around 6:30, so plenty of time to take care of all 11 critters and still have time to go pick strawberries. Doctor John had told us about another strawberry field in nearby Charlestown, NH, with no Strawberry Police telling us where, when, and how to pick! So, we figured it was a good place to try.
Actually, I was a bit skeptical, as not having anyone directing could spell disaster, in my book. When I picked with my father, it was the same. You were told to go to a particular area, but that was it. You were pretty much on your own. So, some years the picking was good and some years, not so good. It really depended upon what time you went and how many other people were picking in the same area. Of course, weather is always a factor too.
I caught B, as he had yet to go to bed, and he said he wanted to go with me. We arrived just about 8:00 a.m. The lady at the stand said we had our choice of picking areas; one near the building and one further up the hill. We chose the hill site. We had it all to ourselves. The rows were very long. We got started. It was soon evident that B needed his own box (we brought one box from home) and he found one in the car that would work. In an hour, we had picked 23 lbs! This was all we needed, as I had already picked 15 pounds the week before. The stand also was selling asparagus, so I added a bunch of asparagus to the total. The cost was $2.75 a pound which, for this area, is pretty reasonable.
We chatted with the lady as she did the weighing. She said her mother did not like being told where to pick, so when they decided to add strawberries to their farm, she was determined not to set stringent rules. It worked in our favor. Unfortunately, the rain on Friday made for some soggy berries, and way too many of them were rotted. Still, we had no hardship picking, other than my body didn’t like all the stretching and bending!
On the way home, B informed me he was fading fast, so when we got home and unloaded, B went upstairs for a long nap. During the nap, I washed, hulled, sugared and mashed most of the berries. We saved out an oversized quart for my mother-in-law, and I saved out 4 cups of mashed berries for a dessert I am making. I also saved out about a cookie sheet full of berries for freezing whole.
Anyway, 4 hours later, I was finished with the berries. By the time B came back downstairs, I had a ginormous bowl of mashed berries waiting to be bagged up for the freezer. B handled the measuring and bagging. This time, we did 3 cups per bag and ended up with 10 more bags of berries. Since he was going down to his mother’s to deliver her berries, he also took the bagged berries to the remote freezer.
Since it was 4th of July, I grilled hotdogs (store brand because my store has, apparently, stopped handling Schonland dogs) so we had hotdogs and more shrimp salad for dinner. And our dessert??? Watermelon and, later, mashed berries over vanilla ice cream. Yum, yum!!!
We watched PBS’ “A Capitol Fourth”, but it was odd with no audience, and it seemed more politicized than usual. All the presentations were done remotely. We also watched the “Salute To America” via streaming.
So that ended our 4th of July for 2020. Somber and quiet, but that is okay. Today I’m trying to play catch up, but things haven’t been going great. I left out an ingredient to my frozen strawberry dessert (I gently stirred it in afterward the best I could), then I managed to spill drops of it on the floor while transporting it to the freezer. I clogged up the food saver with liquid while attempting another project, and if that wasn’t enough to cause some sputtering and cursing, I knocked over a few items in the basement while doing some laundry. And, oh, did the strawberry stains from yesterday come out of the towels??? Hell, no. Luckily they are old kitchen towels I kept from my mother’s stash, and I mainly use them for canning, so it really isn’t a huge deal; just frustrating.
That leads me to SPAM. One of the most hated foods in America! Or, perhaps, one of the most talked about foods in America. I remember my mother baking a tin of SPAM for dinner on occasion. As a young person, I was mostly interested in turning the key to get into the tin! Well, here is a bit of information about SPAM.
On this date on July 5, 1937, Hormel introduced SPAM to America! All SPAM is, is the following:
It’s pre-cooked pork and ham in a can, with a little potato starch, salt, and sugar. Sodium nitrate is added to keep it pink; without it, pork tends to turn gray. It also has a gelatinous coating of aspic, which forms when the meat cools.
SPAM is nothing to be riled up about, after all. However, according to the blurb I read about it, it has gone by other names like, “Something Posing As Meat” and my personal favorite, “Spare Parts Animal Meat.” Ha, ha. I have new respect for SPAM!
And also on this date in 1946, the bikini was first introduced in Paris. Of course, the name bikini came from Bikini Atoll and the designer was hoping it would cause that much of a sensation. So, if SPAM is not to your liking, perhaps the bikini is!
The weather is crazy here in western NH! Yesterday, Thursday, and today, Friday, are like totally humid and sticky. As I write this blog about 1:00 p.m. with the doors upstairs open for any little breeze I can catch, I am listening to the generator running. With no sun for two days, we need to recharge the batteries.
Are there people out there who like high humidity? I can’t get the towels to dry, everything is sticky including me, and moving causes great outbreaks of perspiration. Yuck, yuck, yuck. Sleeping is nearly impossible too. Perhaps B has the right idea to come to bed at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. when the temperature is at its coolest. And the temperatures aren’t even that high yet.
My plan this morning was to get up early and go pick strawberries or at least, try to pick strawberries. It didn’t happen. I apparently forgot to turn on the alarm! Yesterday my brain was like mush. I remember fiddling with the alarm clock, but obviously not in the right way. So, it was a very quick shower and outside to take care of the critters as soon as I could. They were all okay, but rather sluggish, too.
Wednesday and Thursday produced very few eggs; like one one day and two another day. However, this morning their engines got fired up and I had four eggs by 11:00 a.m. The big girls are now resting. The ducks are particularly sluggish, but at least they know enough to try and keep cool. I guess if I was carrying around a down coat, I wouldn’t be too active either.
The little girls continue to explore their surroundings. One even let me pick her up this morning. They would love to chime in when I give out the morning treats, but the big girls will have no part of it. The little ones also want to try lettuce, the afternoon treat, but again, they get thwarted every time they make a dive for it. One did get some yesterday afternoon, but immediately abandoned it, as she didn’t really know what to do with it! The piece didn’t go to waste; one of the big girls snatched it and ate it.
B, my hero, was up late last night installing an overhead light for the dryer area. I was wondering how I was going to be able to see to set the screen to dry our clothes, but no way was I going to ask for a light! I figured I’d use a flashlight if I had to, as I had already caused enough issues with getting the dryer and having B go through all kinds of unpleasantness to get the propane hooked up. I knew when to stop, but B knew I’d need more light, so hence, the new light. He had to set up some temporary lighting in order to get the dryer hooked up in the first place.
The generator just shut off and we are having a light shower, but a few rays of sun as well. I doubt the sun does much good, as more showers are expected this afternoon.
Since I didn’t get to the strawberry farm by 8:00 a.m. (I figure it isn’t worth it after 8:00), I decided to start weeding the berm again. Most of my pumpkin/squash/sunflower seeds are up that are going to be up, so it was safe to start weeding again. In 45 minutes I still hadn’t pulled all the weeds, but I got a start on it and since I was dripping wet again, I decided to come inside for coffee and a light breakfast. I think you are supposed to “hill up” pumpkin and squash, so I did my best. I was too lazy to go get a proper hoe, so I used another claw-like instrument that had a long handle. It worked okay, but nothing beats stooping over and pulling weeds by hand in my book.
So once inside and coffee made, I decided to start prepping a shrimp/macaroni salad for the 4th of July. We may start eating it tonight, but it is in honor of the 4th, my favorite holiday. Before I knew it, I had the salad almost put together. I chopped (very therapeutic in my book) green onion, green and red peppers, and I used up the last of some celery I had in-house. I looked online for an interesting shrimp/mac salad and found Aunt Bee’s salad. Not Aunt Bee from the Andy Griffith show, though. This one’s dressing consists of mayo, white vinegar, a little sugar, and some lemon juice, plus dill. I only had dried dill, so that is what I used. Very tasty. While making that, I cooked 1/2 pound of elbow macaroni and rinsed the shrimp. I was lazy, so I used already-cooked shrimp; much easier to handle. Anyway, it seemed time consuming but before I knew it, I was done and the salad is in the dorm fridge chilling. Salads, in my opinion, take almost as long to prepare as casseroles, but the beauty of it is you don’t have to heat up the oven.
We did eat well the last two dinners, though. I made the spicy ground lamb recipe from America’s Test Kitchen. The ground lamb is mixed with a spicy, warm concoction of spices and grilled inside the pita pocket that I first carefully separated. There is also a recipe for a cool, minty yogurt dressing to go with the grilled pitas. It was all so delicious.
So here we are, pre-4th of July and preparing for a quiet holiday. I do hope we can see or at the least, hear, some fireworks. According to the newspapers, fireworks in NH are selling like hotcakes. Seems to me, we should see a few of them.
Speaking of fireworks, B is out there trying to blow up rocks. He says he’s done it lots of times, but it isn’t going well this time All he’s producing is duds and some lame fireworks, not broken rocks like he expected. He made the first attempt when Doctor John and his kids were here, as they wanted to see it, but I’m afraid it wasn’t much of a show.
In any event, we hope you all have a happy and safe 4th, even if it is different from other years.
Here we are on June 30. Difficult to believe that another month is about to be history. The summer months sure do move along quickly. It is almost July 4th!! My favorite holiday! No turkey to stuff, no gifts to buy, and no snow to shovel for this holiday. Of course, this year we still have to deal with an unwanted virus so, sadly, no parades around here to enjoy.
Anyway, we are, as always, very busy. And B especially so. The other evening he melted more lead to finish the wheel weights project. This is how B dresses to melt down lead and carry the molten mass to the molds. I am glad he is very careful with his clothing.
This whole process of melting lead doesn’t take that long and it sets up well, so the weights quickly pop out of the mold (wheel). This project is well on its way. Of course, we don’t know for sure if it will work, even with all the extra weight. The idea is to make one of the riding mowers into a heavy-duty, go-anywhere machine that will mow our hilly trails without spinning the tires. The wheels (minus the lead weights) and the new, deep-tread tires are at the mower shop now, getting mounted. B has a tire machine, but he needs to make some adapters so it can handle the little mower wheels. Stay tuned; more to come on this project.
Then last evening he spent the entire night working on the gas dryer project out in the shed. He was determined to finish it before coming to bed. So it ended up being one of those nights when B was rolling into bed about the time I was rolling out of bed!
We got a gas clothes dryer, and apparently they all come with a natural gas nozzle. So for those who use LP (a majority?), the nozzle has to be changed (after paying for the change kit, too). After the dryer was delivered, B started working on it and was horrified to find out that the ENTIRE machine must be disassembled, from the cabinet and frame right down to the drum, belts, motor, and small parts, in order to install the new nozzle. B was MOST unhappy about that. Several times, he’d start on it, then just quit in disgust. He said he found it personally offensive that such a simple thing required such an extensive disassembly. He said it was like having a new car delivered, only to find out you have to remove the engine and transmission and rebuild them before you can use the car. When I went to bed, we’d agreed that I would call the store in the morning and get it sent back.
Well, unbeknownst to me, B became determined to install this thing for me, as he knew I wanted it, so he worked all night on it. In the end, he took it apart enough to see where he needed to end up, then just cut a big hole in the side of the cabinet to access where the new nozzle was supposed to go. He also cut into our main propane line and connected the dryer to it.
He was so tired at the end, he forgot to leave me a note about what he’d done, so I called the store in the morning and told them it was too much hassle to install it. They agreed to take it back. After I got home from lunch, I told B I’d arranged returning the dryer, so he called the store and cancelled the return. He still has some minor hookups to do before we can try it out. We still don’t know how much electrical power this GAS dryer is going to require.
With all this sticky, showery weather we have had, I don’t sleep that well anyway. But we desperately need all the rain we can get. I have let up on the weeding for a couple of days in order to let the showers/rain settle in around my pumpkin/squash/sunflower seedlings. However, I will be back on weed patrol soon, as the weeds pop up as quickly as they can once given some water.
B seems to be on a roll. We had a tenant notify us that there was water leaking in from the roof. It isn’t surprising, as the roof is plenty old. So, between showers today, B went down and rigged up a rope, hooked to the back of the pickup, and using a metal ladder, went up on the roof and slapped down plenty of some goo in hopes of curtailing any more leaks. Luckily, he managed to catch a time between showers to get this done. I hope there won’t be more to come on this issue, but we will know soon enough.
As for me, I braved it today and met a dear friend for lunch in nearby New London. We wore masks (pesky things) and the wait staff wore masks. I was surprised that the restaurant still had their plastic menus (I washed my hands 3 times while I was there and one of the times was after handling the menu). There were no condiments on the table; you had to ask if you wanted salt and pepper. The tables were spread apart too. We lucked out, as there were only 2 other parties and they were more than 6 feet from us. Thus, we had plenty of space and time to chat, and chat we did! I so enjoyed seeing Joan. The weather was way too showery to even consider eating outside today.
On the way home I stopped at one of my favorite veggie stands for beets and beet greens and, yes, more asparagus! We really do eat a lot of local asparagus while the getting is good. Since we are getting close to the 4th of July, I suspect the asparagus is coming to a close. I know Dr. John said their asparagus and rhubarb was spent the last time he came bearing gifts. It all tasted divine, as it always does.
After I got home, we drove back to our mechanic’s shop to retrieve the van, for the second day in a row. Yesterday, we brought it home from the shop after getting brake work done, but B said he could tell it wasn’t right. He called the mechanic, they talked, and we had to take it back down there last night. B seems satisfied with it this time.
Now, as to the chicks, they are growing, growing, growing! They are at such a cute chick stage right now as they explore all the corners of the pen. Unfortunately, the big girls still swipe at them when the little ones get too close. No one plays nice and they have no social distancing skills.
The little girls quickly learned to use the auto-door on the coop. I don’t trust them yet, so about 8:45 I go out with a flashlight and count heads. Instead of the former 4 hens; 2 ducks; I now have to count up to 11! Ha, ha, ha.
Last evening, B and I enjoyed the chicklettes’ antics while they were waiting for the magic door to shut. It is like watching 5 Stooges. First, all 5 chicks are in the coop, then 1 will stick her head out, then 2 will venture out, then 3, and finally, all 5 are outside running around. Then one realizes the door might close, so in goes 1, 2, and then 3, 4, and 5, only to have the first 2 come back out again! So far, they have managed to be on the inside when the door shuts. It is really cute to see them poke their heads out the auto-door and look up at it like they are wondering why it hasn’t closed yet. By that time, the 4 hens have been in the pen for awhile and aren’t too pleased about all the chip, chip, chip noise coming from the 5 chicklettes while waiting for the door to shut!
And if your neck isn’t yet long enough to eat out of the outside duck feeder, you just hop in it and eat! Here is a picture. I couldn’t get a good picture of all 5 in the box, so I did the best I could.
So, that has been our entertainment recently. It is now 5:00 p.m., B has been in for a snack and gone back out to do some work, and it is time for me to wash dishes and start prepping dinner. We are having homemade pizza for dinner tonight, as I have some peppers and mushrooms I want to use up. Tomorrow is grocery shopping morning, so the refrigerator needs to be cleaned out tonight. B lucked out in getting his roofing work done, as it has rained fiercely for the last half hour or so.
I am writing this blog on Sunday afternoon around 5:30. We have no internet service at the moment; probably due to thunderstorms in our area, so hopefully you will read this sooner rather than later.
The weather is damp and humid, and the temperature is around 70 degrees. I had a load of washed towels out on the line and they managed to get mostly dry before the first storm rolled in.
I was reminded recently that I have passed another milestone in my life. I have officially been retired 3 years. I am beginning my 4th year of retirement. Truly, how time flies. Do I miss my work life? Yes, and no. I spent 37 years at YBP; mostly in customer service. In total, I worked about 44-45 years steady.
After all these years, I still miss the wonderful people I worked with at YBP. Everyone from the cleaning people to the shipping department to the book processors and the pickers to the “upstairs” folks are great people. And I had great customers to work with too! I even continue to communicate with some former customers. I think that speaks volumes.
In the “old days” at YBP the owner, John Secor, would come around and ring a bell to let us know about new customers. He really did do that. We were always happy to gain a new customer, and if we won over a customer that was currently with a competitor, even better.
And I miss the dressing up and going to work. I secretly played a game with myself to see how long I could go without wearing the same outfit twice. I loved buying clothes, shoes, make-up. I loved the dressing for work aspect.
I have two clothes closets; the winter closet and the summer closet. However, it became evident quite early on in retirement that I did not need two closets of clothes and shoes. For the past 3 years, I have donated clothing to the local church bazaar, and I am not finished yet! I hope they have one this year so I can get rid of another load. The volunteers love to see me coming.
So, what do I wear for clothing now in my “new” life??? I wear knit pants from Land’s End, t-shirts, leftover tops from work, and sneakers. Yep. Gone are the glittery tops that required the delicate cycle on the washing machine or, worse yet, hand wash only. No room in my new life for glittery, hard to maintain tops. Farewell.
No need for mascara nor fancy face make-up. During the pre-covid days I would swipe on some lipstick if I was going out. But now with wearing a mask most of the time, I don’t need the tubes of lipstick that matched my clothes either.
And the shoes? I weed out shoes all the time. The excess go to the church bazaar too. And purses? I am using those as quickly as I can. I recently “found” a bin with more purses. Sigh.
As for jewelry, my big binge item: nope, not now. I can’t remember the last time I wore earrings! Bracelets make my arms uncomfortable and necklaces???? What for???? Freedom!!! Most days I wear my wedding ring and a cheap Timex watch that can withstand a small amount of water.
If I thought about what retirement might look like when I was working, here is what I pictured. I’d be sitting around in my “go to work” clothes, make-up on, and be reading a book or magazine in my sparkling clean house. Who the heck did I think was going to keep this house sparkling clean? I’ll admit that, while I worked, I hired a house cleaner, but being on social security kind of cut into paying someone else $30 an hour to clean my house. I also pictured myself with many lunch dates. With whom??? Most friends are working or live too far from me to be meeting me for lunch every week.
I did write a list of the things I wanted to accomplish while retired, though. It is still attached to the refrigerator door. I look at it occasionally and remind myself I should do some of the things. Uh-ha. The only item I have accomplished on the list is writing this blog. I figure I still have time to get to the other things.
But here’s the thing. If I never get to the other things on my list, I am very happy and content in my “new” life without the clothes, shoes, make-up, and jewelry. I get joy out of picking up a still warm egg from the coop. It is satisfying to see radishes and Swiss chard growing from seeds I planted (okay I had to plant twice because I planted the seeds too deep the first time). It is fun to watch winter squash, pumpkins and sunflower seeds trying hard to grow in such dry conditions.
I find satisfaction in walking trails that B envisioned and, with hard work and determination, put into being. We enjoy seeing the first Lady Slippers poke up in the spring.
Even winter brings its own special happiness. When shoveling wood into the wood stove, it is satisfying to know that all the wood we use comes from our own property in the form of thinning out trees or trees that fall across the trails. Watching the wild birds at the feeder brings all kinds of delight. Even watching squirrels try to get to the seeds is fun. Often, the sunsets are incredible in the winter.
Recently B and I were discussing the fact that it has been almost a year since he sold the plane. B still feels nostalgic about the plane, as I suspected he would. He reminded me of all the good trips we had in it. And he said how he misses the challenges of getting us home safely in adverse conditions. Frankly, I don’t see how he could, because we got caught in a couple of real hairy situations, but he does.
We had also talked about living in California half the year and here half the year, with lots of travel and sightseeing. However, the practicality of that is we would be maintaining 2 homes and getting no rental income from the California house. And when we weren’t going back and forth? He had planned on lots of trips in the plane. We keep 100% busy right here at home, and we both like it very much here.
These are all fine ideas and we may or may not actually accomplish them, but in the meantime, we are both quite happy with our present lives together. And, really, isn’t that what is important? I didn’t know if I would ever get over the gaping hole of not working, but I slowly did and I am grateful that I did. My life is great!
What’s not to love about June in NH? Okay, so we had a very long heat wave, but that has cleared out. And in its place we now have lovely, June air, as in temperatures in the mid-80s and sunshine and nice breezes. I know we could do with some serious rain, but in the meantime, I am enjoying these lovely late June days. June is also rose month and who doesn’t love roses. Personally, I find rose growing to be too complicated and fussy for me, but I sure am glad plenty of other people feel differently than I do about growing roses. I see lovely rose bushes when I am out driving around.
Here is another thing about June in NH, it is turtle season. So if you should be driving, please be careful and mindful that turtles are crossing the roads to lay eggs. We have turtles in our pond, but they don’t seem to lay eggs anywhere near the house. In fact, I have yet to see a turtle in the yard this year.
We do have a lot of frogs, though. Here is a picture of one I took the other day. I have seen even larger ones than this guy.
And around here, June is also strawberry month. I wasn’t sure if or what the strawberry picking season would look like this year. The local place here in the village just opened their strawberry fields Monday. I had way too much to do the first of the week with the chicks and the garden. So today was the day. I was up early anyway to check on the chicks (they are fine for the most part) and decided since this morning was somewhat cool, today would be the day to pick strawberries. I read the instructions the farm had laid out on the computer and I was prepared with a mask and a check. I arrived promptly at 8:00 a.m. to find I was car #10! Popular place!
In years past, I would bring my own berry basket for picking, but this year things are different. The farm offered three box sizes; a pint box, a 4 quart box or a 6-8 quart box. I was a little undecided about the size, but in the end, I went for the large, 6-8 quart size box. Ann, who is a co-owner with her husband and went through the 8th grade with B, said she didn’t think I would have any problems picking 6-8 quarts of berries. She handed me the appropriate box and sent me to the person who directs you to your picking spot. B and I refer to that person as the Strawberry Nazi, as she takes her role pretty seriously and is very exacting in her instructions as to where and how to pick, and making sure everyone follows her instructions. Anyway, I’m sure she is a nice person.
She led me to my own row with no one else in either row on my right and left. Social distancing, you know. She also informed me to keep my mask on, as I was working around food and promptly turned on her heel and left! No chit-chat with her. I was blessed, as the sun was very late coming out this morning, so it was cool and a bit breezy where I was picking. Also, I had the luxury of picking either side of my row of strawberries. However, I was not to pick any berries on either row beside me. Being a bit rebellious, I occasionally snitched a berry from one of those “forbidden” rows. What the heck??? Of course, I did it rather surreptitiously as I didn’t want to get caught. Anyway, there wasn’t much need to do so, as the row I was picking had some fantastic ripe berries. They aren’t the largest berries I have ever picked, but they sure are some of the best tasting and juicy ones. Kind of difficult to try one in the field wearing a mask, though!
While I was picking, several things ran through my mind. One was my father always instructing me to “pick the area clean.” What he meant was not to pick unripe berries, but to pick all the ripe ones before I moved on. We used to see way too many people jumping around to pick the biggest, fattest strawberries rather than to stay in one spot and finish picking all the ripe berries.
The other voice roaming through my head was B’s. His instructions were to make sure I rounded up that box so I got my money’s worth! Ha, ha, ha. True story. So I couldn’t leave until my box was rounded up and it was. He was right, of course. Each box had a set fee, rather than the strawberries being weighed like in past years and paying by the pound. This year, you paid by the box size. No bringing your own containers from home.
And since everyone was wearing a mask, I wondered if strawberries grow in China. So once home, I looked this up. They do, indeed, grow strawberries, like 6 times the acreage of California’s strawberry fields. Wouldn’t you know it! Anyway, I think about China a lot these days and wonder if we in the US will always be wearing masks as many of the Asian people do. I understand it is a sign of respect for them as they live in such crowded cities. Will we too become this way?
After a couple of hours, my back, legs, shoulders, you name it were getting very tired and stiff feeling. I had all I could do to trudge to the other end of the field carrying my mounded up box of berries and pay for them. Why you don’t pay when you pick up the box is beyond me. Anyway, I hobbled to the car and slid in the best way I could. I still feel a bit achy.
Once home, I took a break and then tackled the box; preparing most of the berries for the freezer. By the way, I picked roughly 15 lbs of strawberries. B helped, and that made the process go much faster. We pulled out a quart of berries for B to take to his mother and I kept a large dish of berries for us, as I intend to make a strawberry glace pie with our fresh berries. The rest I rinsed, dried and mashed with a small amount of sugar and then when B wasn’t plucking the stems, he bagged up the mashed berries for the freezer. We ended up with 11 bags of 2 cups each of mashed strawberries.
B also took the bags to a remote freezer when he delivered the berries to his mother. We know she is especially partial to fresh strawberries. Anyway, I had him count how many bags of strawberries we have left from last year. As it turns out, I had him fill each bag with 3 cups of berries last year. I think we have plenty for another winter. I may go back and pick another 4 quarts if the season lasts long enough.
Here’s a picture of our strawberries:
Last night, B had a time for himself. He is making lead wheel weights to put on the riding mower; the mower with the new tires. Long story and I’ll let him explain it! But the thing is he spilled some lead after heating it up to God only knows what temperature in order to pour it into the cylinder he made. Here is an excerpt from his email to a friend and me.
“Making wheel weights last night by casting lead into the wheels. First attempt had to be redone. On second attempt, I had a lot more lead in the pot than I needed (due to having to put the results of #1 back into the pot), and it was quite heavy and the pot tipped and I spilled about 40 pounds of lead all over the floor and everything in the vicinity, including some on one boot and pant leg. Good thing I had decided before starting to wear heavy leather boots, apron, and welding gloves, as well as heavy pants and face shield. Also fortunately, lead doesn’t stick to anything, so I was able to peel it off and pick it all up, albeit quite dirty, after it had hardened, to remelt and reuse. I have two more, larger, pours to do, but I think I have the technique down now.”
Here is a picture of the spill. One of his lead-filled wheels is on the left edge, and his lead-encrusted pant cuff is at the bottom. The pants are the only thing the lead stuck to.
Needless to say, he was a tad late coming to bed, as in DAWN. I sure was glad I was asleep during this little project. Imagine the heat of molten lead??? I would have been pulling my hair out if I had known this. And more lead pouring to come. Sigh.
So, that is what the Clampetts have been up to for the last day. Stay tuned. It is always an adventure around here! Have a good weekend.
Last evening, we went out about 9:00 p.m., after the automatic coop door closed, to put the little buggers to bed. They kept popping back out as quickly as we could put them in the door. Finally, I let B pick them up and I did my best to keep them in the coop. Phew! That was fun!
Since B is on a roll this week, when I woke at 5:00 a.m., I heard him tending to the chicks. I rushed downstairs, threw on my boots and proceeded outside in my nightgown. The morning was cool and overcast. There they were; 3 of them outside the coop and 2 still in the coop. We had quite the early morning as I tried to figure out what was best for them as the weather became an issue with intermittent light rain showers. I was glad for the showers, but what to do with little chicks???
At one point, I shoved them back inside the coop, but guess what??? They quickly found the auto door and out they came. I was beginning to feel like I was in an episode of the Three Stooges, but with Five Stooges instead. B came along and said to leave them be and they would figure things out. Here is a picture of them with the two useless male ducks supervising.
Then I watched as one of the white Leghorns, who is an alpha female in lieu of a rooster, came charging out of the coop after laying her egg and promptly pecked at each of the 5 chicks! No maternal blood there. I have also witnessed the grown NH Red peck at them if they came near her feeder, which is really THEIR feeder. Sigh. I guess two out of 4 isn’t too bad, is it? I figure the NH Red has her day coming to her as there are five NH Red chicklettes that won’t always be chicklettes. Hmm.
Anyway, the 5 are learning and exploring, and they really like the safety of being under the porch. I tried to persuade B this afternoon to help me corner them and put them in the pen area now, rather than at midnight. I just KNOW what is coming. They will gather at the far corner under the porch and then someone, whose name begins with B, will have to belly crawl under the porch, cursing and swearing, and try and get 5 chicklettes to come out from there. I can’t wait. Ha, ha. B says they have to learn to watch the big girls and learn to go to bed via the auto door. Stay tuned. I can pretty much guarantee you this evening will NOT be fun if they are still under the porch when it begins to get dark. I mean, would you follow someone who has pecked your head or eye to go into a dark, scary place??? I wouldn’t.
As I noted, B is on a roll this week and, again, never made it to bed last night. Hence, he was up when the auto door opened this morning. Anyway, he was working “on things” and here is a picture I took as I approached the garage door from the pen. Not very inviting, is it???
Needless to say, I decided to wait until B was done grinding whatever it was before I opened the door. Shortly thereafter, I fixed eggs for breakfast and B came in.
By now it was all of 8:00 a.m. I showered, dressed and started cleaning the spare upstairs room formerly occupied by the bin full of chicks. Of course, being overcast and B having used some energy overnight (the voltage was low when I went to bed), the generator was running. A great time for me to vacuum. I dusted, dry mopped and vacuumed the spare room and opened the door again to let all the fresh air in. It all worked out well.
B has been running errands and working in between them after a couple of hours nap mid-day. We ate the last 2 slices of homemade bread at breakfast, so I decided to bake bread. I questioned the wisdom of my ways, because it was rather humid and damp. I know you don’t make homemade candy nor seven-minute frosting on humid, moist days, but I didn’t know if bread making fell into that camp or not.
Well, I started making the loaf of bread. B came in about the time I was beginning to knead the dough and all of a sudden, I realized I forgot to add the egg! And the salt! Great! Now what? Actually, I like kneading and it was going rather well, so I decided to keep it going. As B said, I could always feed it to the critters if it were not edible. In the end, I made rolls out of the dough and they are terrific! I had a small amount of whole wheat flour to use up, so I added that, which makes them taste even better. In the end, I did not miss either the egg or the salt. I dusted the rolls with salt and oil before baking, so there is a somewhat salty taste to them.
Since I was unsure of the result, I decided to try making another batch of dough, but this time being sure to add the egg and the salt, then making it into a loaf of bread. It looks great. Adding the egg made the dough much softer and much more sticky so, again, I wasn’t sure of the outcome, but the loaf looks good and we will have to eat it despite how it tastes. I wasn’t really working on all cylinders, as I’ve been getting up early but neglecting to go to bed any earlier. Since this is science night on PBS, I will probably go to bed early. After all, I have regular groceries to get tomorrow morning at 6:00 a.m. Friday morning I hope to get to go strawberry picking at 8:00 a.m. Should be a breeze after 5:00 a.m. for several days.
Anyway, here is a picture of the rolls and loaf of bread. I tried a new trick. After removing the bread from the oven and the pan, I took a stick of butter and ran it all over the top of the loaf. Several of the bakers I have watched on YouTube do this, and they say it keeps the top crust from getting too hard. We shall see.
It is now 4:45 and I have dishes to do and dinner to get. B is still working on “things.” The sun came out late this afternoon and it is very comfortable upstairs with the doors open and the breeze blowing. The temperature is a nice 82.
I will take one more check on the critters before I start dishes and dinner. I’m in desperate mode again with meals. My menu list this week failed me. On the spur of the moment, I remembered a tuna casserole recipe I used to make way back when I was a young bride. That’s dinner.
I’m sitting upstairs today, Tuesday, in 90 degree heat, writing this blog. When is this heat going to abate? Tomorrow looks to be a transition day with possible storms and maybe some rain? Who knows and by Thursday, more seasonable temperatures like 80.
Anyway, I was up extra early, as in 5:20, and proceeded to Walmart. I was in need of some toiletries and other items that, unfortunately, are much cheaper than at other similar stores. But first I went to Dunkin’, formerly Dunkin’ Donuts, for a gift card. Of course, going to Dunkin’, I had to treat myself, as in a medium decaf iced coffee and a donut, as well as one for B too.
Then fortified, on to Walmart. I wasn’t looking forward to going to Walmart, but guess what? It was almost pleasant! Tuesday is the only day the Walmart store in Claremont is open early for seniors, including the pharmacy, at 6:00 a.m. Despite the fact I do not like to get up at 5:00 a.m., it is worth it to me for early morning shopping. There is far less traffic, no construction, and the only people out are either going to work or going to do early morning errands.
After my last visit to Walmart in April, I swore I would not go again unless real early. It was delightful. There were very few people in the store, most were wearing masks, and all the help were both wearing masks and quite pleasant for such an early hour. I told B I almost enjoyed going there! And, as I noted, the pharmacy was open so I could pick up the probiotic I use.
Even Walmart had no tapioca, the latest victim of COVID-19. Why is there no tapioca??? The only reason I can come up with is that the root that tapioca is made from, cassava plant roots, grow mostly in Brazil. Brazil is the latest victim of COVID-19. That is my hunch, but it is only a hunch. By the way, I’m talking tapioca as in minute tapioca made by Kraft. Anyway, none of the stores in my area have Kraft tapioca at the moment.
But they did have Germ-X hand sanitizer. I caught it just as the women were unpacking it, but I could only purchase one bottle. Good thing. The bottle in the car is about empty. Since we both drive my car, we use a lot of it.
Anyway, I was home a little after 7:00, got my goods put away, changed my clothes and got outside in time to do a bit of weeding in the berm before the blasted sun got too hot. I was done by 8:30. I am making slow progress on the weed situation.
Today was also our village drive-thru luncheon day. I picked up our lunch and gave Audrey a small donation. I happened to notice that the 2 cars in front of me both handed over some money, too, although the lunch is supposed to be free. I felt like a ward of the town, so I thought I would give some money toward the next lunch. We enjoyed a lunch of chicken curry with slivered almonds and red grapes, a jello salad, and tossed salad with brownies for dessert. It all tasted really good.
B’s driver license renewal was this year, so he had a 2:00 p.m. appointment with the department of motor vehicles in nearby Newport. We were both dreading this, as anyone who knows DVM in NH, or probably any state, they have a reputation as the worst of bureaucrats who seem to delight in throwing up roadblocks to anything people want to do. All the DMV offices are closed, and have been for months, except for things like renewals tht have to be done in person. However, it went rather smoothly, and B will receive his renewed license in the mail. Next up, vehicle inspections! Stay tuned!
Of course, since we had to drive through Claremont to get there and back, we both had a couple of errands. We stopped at a veggie stand and I got fresh cucumbers, more asparagus, and they had local frozen chicken. So I will be cooking a chicken in the next couple of days. I went after local ground lamb, but they only had one package and I need 2 pounds for a recipe. I’ll try another place here in the village.
And now for news on the chicklettes. After we got home, B said, “Why don’t we take the chicks outside and put them in the fenced area now?” I was a little reluctant, being a hen mother and all, but they really had outgrown the big bin and they really were getting very ripe, shall I say.
So, the girls are outside next to the coop, but fenced in. I will manually put them in the coop tonight once the big girls go to bed. Then we’ll hope for the best. I wasn’t this nervous the last time, but I sure don’t want any big fights either. I knew at some point they needed to grow up and live with the other chickens, yet a small part of me was dreading it too. So I will check on them periodically this afternoon and help them to go to bed tonight and keep my fingers crossed that the big girls won’t bully them or worse. Stay tuned for more chicken adventures. Here is a picture of them in their “pen within a pen”. B put their old tub up on top of the pen walls to give them some shade. They seemed to spend all their time in the shade, so we decided it had been a good idea.
B continues to beat the heat by keeping his own schedule. Sunday night, he didn’t go to bed at all, and worked on his projects all night. He was busy all Monday morning with phone calls to the rest of the outside world, while his hours intersected with theirs. Then he slept all afternoon on the couch, and got up about 5 or so and continued where he’d left off. He went to bed “early” last night at about 4 because we had the luncheon and he had his DMV appointment.
So, that’s about it for life in Clampett-ville. I have dishes to do and it is time to go check on my chicks.