Tuesday, April 27, 2010

April 2010 Wing Spur Picnic

I hoped to be back earlier than this, but between thunderstorms messing with our internet and a pinched nerve that is causing extreme arm pain when I try to get on the computer to type, it just hasn't worked out. We plan to go back to Emory to my "local" neurologist soon. They think scar tissue from spinal and brain surgeries is the culprit. Living on pain pills that aren't working real well is causing me to opt for scheduling soon. We go to CA for Excy's heart surgery the week of July 19....

The WS picnic/fundraiser was a success and a hugely fun day! Two weeks previous was crunch time for moving hay, cleaning the pavilion, getting invitations sent email or addressed snail-mail...Pulling off a picnic/fundraiser takes a lot of volunteers. People to move round bales, mow the pasture, shovel manure, clean the area, etc. A local TV personality came out and interviewed Excy Tuesday before the picnic for the news. The portapot arrived. Someone found a brewry to donate a keg. We got two young volunteers to work the gates the day of the event. We bought provisions and supplies. I cleaned the house. Oh yeah, and taxes were due that week and we were also in the process of figuring out where and when to have Excy's surgery. His son Corey arrived from Chicago to help, got sick, and slept for 48 hrs., but after visitng the dr. for antibodiacs felt well enough to be of tremedous help. Around 3:30 a.m. the Thursday before the picnic, I fell in bed and asked Excy if he had ever heard of hot dogs or hamburgers, but half in jest because we really did want to offer something special. This was the menu: Friend Gary grilled lamb he had marinated and cut into thin strips. Rosemary made a gallon of Tziziki we served with pita bread and vegetables. I made a Greek salad of cucumbers, romaine hearts, kalamata olives, tomato, feta cheese and red onion and used the red wine vinegar from Italy I had bought over Christmas. Mom and I made five pans of Moussaka. Our Greek friend Mary made four huge pans of baklava and sent a bottle of Ouzo. (I overheard a guest say they couldn't feel their tongue after a swig).

The mustangs must've known what the picnic was all about. Several times they thundered up to the pavilion and ran around it, thrilling the crowd and providing quite a photo opportunity. It could not have been better choreographed. We had over 50 guests, and the weather was perfect - no rain, overcast and cool. Even the beaver came out of his lodge and paddled around the pond. I guess all the thundering around by the horses made him curious. (He slapped his tail at someone who got too close to his lodge).

Excy welcoming guests

Excy and Corey

Yeah, I'm tired, and the excellent RoRo (Rosemary). That's my beautiful niece Sarah on the right

Gary at the grill

Most everyone was gone by 3 p.m., and the last left by 6 p.m. I finished cleaning by 8 p.m. After such a heavy noon-time meal we ate sandwiches and watched TCM's Strangers on a Train, one of the best of Hitchcock. We met our goal of raising enough for the vet bill, and plan to have an autumn fest to help with the hay bill over the winter. We found a blue-grass band who'll play for free! If we get more successful at this in the future we hope to finish the almost-completed cabin we plan to rent out for guests by the week or for the weekend. We dream of buying land behind us to support more wild horses, as they are being forced off their land out west. Also we dream of buying a chute so the round-up would be easier on horse and man.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Wing Spur picnic

This Saturday is our annual horse picnic/fundraiser (for Wing Spur). Each spring in April we throw a picnic under the metal canopy where we eat among the wild ones. Most tend to shy away but curiosity gets the best of them and they wander in to watch the goings-on. It's a pretty time of the year out here. Also May is the annual round-up to corral everybody and give them shots and check their health. That vet bill is pretty big. And he's kind enough to realize we're a nonprofit and give us a discount! Those two days are wild and can get just like a rodeo, since we don't handle them any other time of the year, wanting them to stay wild and just 'be.' They have stuck with their tribe integrity for the most part (they are a matriarchal society), but don't have enough acreage to kick the older males out to start their own harem. We intentionally adopted two families so not to split up a family and over the years they've bonded together more or less as a group. The babies born since have grown more tame than the rest and will let you pet them.

We determined early on we wanted the picnic to be out of the ordinary so we haven't served the standard 'picnic' fare of bar-b-cue or catfish, not that we don't love to eat them both. If folks are good enough to come support the horses we wanted to serve an outstanding meal. For the first several years, we've been blessed to have the award-winning Redneck Gourmets cook for us, led by our neighbor, who also grows grapes and makes his own wine. Their dutch-oven cooking is awesome. They spend days in preparation and serve up feasts such as pork tenderloin in cranberry-chutney sauce and corn pudding, and berry cobblers and rolls...Last year it rained so hard all day it was like a Biblical deluge. Only 20 hearty souls showed up in the freezing, wet weather. It was really disheartening after all the work the RG put into the meal. They are taking a sabbatical, for which I don't blame them. At least, we hope they are, and they resume cooking in the future. But they are brilliant and beyond generous, so whatever they decide, they will always be #1 in our book.

This year, a greek friend who owned the top catering company in Little Rock is making the entree and dessert, and I am making musaka and a Greek salad. Another friend is contributing Tzatziki and pita bread, and we'll have a keg and soft drinks and tea as usual. Because we have out of town guests and the house will be a veritable food factory towards the end of the week, I probably won't be posting much more this week. I'll catch up with everyone soon. (If Excy has his heart surgery next week, it may set me back a bit longer, though...).Here are a few photos from past picnics....

Friday, April 9, 2010

Play Post Office with Me

TIME magazine (3/15 issue), says it's email that may sound the death knell for the USPS. In 2009, there was a 13% drop in mail volume. Most people are paying bills online. And there are so many alternatives to sending packages than there used to be. I am an antique because I write between two to four letters or cards a week. I love to send, and receive, handwritten letters. Writing letters has always been my style. I have every letter I ever wrote to one of my grandmom's. They were returned to me in a vintage sewing box when she died. I went through them once and put them in order by date. It was a kick to read what had been on my mind from age 5 to 25, what I was thinking, feeling, doing...I also found one letter my brother had sent describing his feelings for his first serious girlfriend in high school, who he eventually married (after he was divorced once and she twice -- at least this time they seem to have gotten it right).

I've kept every letter or note given to me of import. (If it's just a card with a line or two I usually toss those). They are a time capsule. They reveal friends (some gone, a few even forgotten), who I was, and what was 'important.' Re-reading them all eventually is on my agenda someday. Mom returned the letters I wrote them when I lived out west and back east 14 years. I hope to rediscover and reconnect with more of my authentic self, and maybe more old friends I've not kept up with that I'm reminded of this way.

I don't know why, but em cards kinda bother me. It's really nice and all to be thought of, of course, but it's just not the same as if they'd made the effort of buying a card and writing in it and mailing it off. I like to personalize my notes. I love to buy cards and stationery. I keep a variety of stamps to post with, never using a 'flag' stamp for personal correspondence. I used to use sealing wax until someone told me it mucks up the machines at the post office, so if I use a seal now I enclose the letter in another envelope.

I noticed a fall-off of service at post offices a few years ago that has grown worse. A number of returns on letters that should have gone through. A few returns on 'forwards' that shouldn't have come back. Some priority mail that didn't make it within the time frame. And always, those near-constant stamp increases. Maybe if the workers did a better job they wouldn't be experiencing such a high rate of fall-off, who knows. But I hope we don't look back with nostalgia for when there was a postal service.

Since our Founding Fathers, we've had some form of mail delivery. It would be tragic, I think, to see that fall by the wayside. That wouldn't be 'progress.' That would just be sad. I'm doing my part. Maybe even more than my share.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Falling off the Wagon

I didn't swear off candy or anything for Lent (after our 'hell-i-day' over Christmas and New Year are you kidding me??), but I've been 'good' in the sense I haven't eaten too much candy, chocolate or sweets otherwise lately. So I guess it was inevitable the pendulum would swing the other way, or maybe its just the gorgeous spring weather, or the chocolate bunny on the Easter table, or the mind-set that wants to further sabotage my thighs for the summer, but I've been a bit sweet-obsessed this past week.

My #1 favorite candies are Jordan almonds. It's sooooo hard to find really good JA's, though. Sigh. Like Pecou from France. (Not wanting to be too high-maintenance or anything). I went on their web site and was dismayed they didn't have JAs on there -- maybe I didn't navigate it that well. I've tried five other brands, and they've all been too sweet, too stale, too tasteless...Unfortunate because they are all expensive. Mom claims she found Pecou at the Kroger we both frequent, but I've never seen 'em, and I keep scoping it out. I rationed them out to one or two a day -- they came in a small package -- but they've gone now and I can't find any more.

#2 is a great, natural chocolate from Z Chocolat from France (see a pattern?). Excy stumbled upon their web site years ago searching for a way to buy a brand he bought for Valentines Day when we were in England one year. When he couldn't buy Charbonnel et Walker (the Queen's chocolate, they advertise), he decided to try Z out. You must eat Z Chocolat within 7 days because the chocolates are natural. Each piece is hand made, with a particularly high cocoa content and relatively low fat and sugar, and with organic ingredients. No preservatives mean they don't last long before getting stale (so they warn; that's never been tested at our house). Hey, no problem. Just following the 'rules.' Though I do find it exceedingly hard to share. But, we (sob) had to give up on Z C after several years because they only ship DHL and DHL, at least where we live, provides shitty service. At least four times they haven't delivered the chocolate in a timely fashion, and they've also come all melted (my birthday falling in August -- unfortunately for a chocolate delivery). But taste some of these and you'll never glance towards a Godiva counter again.

#3 is a maple sugar candy mom gives us each Christmas from Vermont. (Thanks, mom). She also keeps us stocked in real maple syrup (which I just read was good for your health - but I knew that). If you don't eat them within a few months, they'll crystallize, though believe me, this is also no problemo.

Finally, on the (much, much) lower end of the scale, are items like Snickers and Raisonets and Hershey's with almonds. (Did I just hear you sigh in relief?) Those all do in a pinch. Hum.....getting hungry now....

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wye Mt. Daffodil Field

FIL flies in today from Santa Fe and is with us through Tuesday, Easter brunch is here, and I am cleaning and cooking.

Happy Easter to all.

These are photos of the Daffodil field 5 minutes from the house taken by my friend and neighbor Sharon. The Daffodil festival is an annual event -- 7 acres of blooming beauties....Enjoy~!