Friday, July 30, 2010

Dances With Fox*

*apologies to Kevin Costner...

This afternoon I was working hard to procrastinate on the latest freelance project, as usual, when I finally started getting into the writing groove, until I noticed it was 3 p.m. Time to feed Frances!

She sure has trained us quickly for a wild fox, I have to give it to her. Excy now gets up around 6:30 a.m to shake 'her' can of dog food and sprinkle it over the terrace, while she's usually lurking around the yard, waiting. He whistles for her, too, though I keep telling him that's silly. He replies that basically, she's a dog. I'm as bad: I give a little puckered high-pitched smooch. Oh, really.

Any-hoo, noticing the time I tossed some kibble on the terrace but she continued to sit in the backyard with Mr. Fox by the bird tree, and the coons came racing up to scarf it down. After shooing them away four times I got frustrated and threw a handful her way. This is what she had been waiting for. She came about 8 feet from me to eat. When I tossed out her favorite vanilla wafers she really went to town. She stacked four into her rather slim mouth and jogged off to bury them in her favorite spot. (They prefer the bamboo grove now. I watched her bury a good-sized chunk of watermelon under a tree the other day when she couldn't find the kits).

I decided to wait to see what would develop and got busy trimming some plants. When I glanced up Mr. Fox was watching intently and Frances was waiting for me to toss out more cookies. We went through this four times, her stacking them in her mouth and trotting off to bury them for the 'kids.' Eventually she was coming within 4 feet of me. Two of the kits were hanging around by then. Mr. Fox gave them a cock of the head that seemed to imply their mother had gone gaga.
I've found her achilles heel. I'm pretty sure as long as I have vanilla wafers as barter, I can bribe her to come up on the terrace with me. Excy got some photos of Mr. Fox on 'his' rock and the kits the other day. I'll post them soon.

p.s. Lenny the cat thinks mom's insane.....

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Do Rock the Boat

I've been educating myself on food and the politics of food lately, reading Wendell Barry, Michael Pollen, many articles and web sites, and watching the documentaries Fast Food Nation, Food, Inc., and King Corn. All this edification comes at a cost. The loss of innocence, though, is a good thing. I thought I was making wise choices but see now where the gaps/faulty thinking is, and can rectify them with wiser decisions. While not strictly a vegetarian by any means, I choose to eat the meat of animals raised humanely and treated with respect and not pumped full of poisons, and am making it a goal of having at least two meatless dinners a week. The other meals I serve meat 'on the side,' not as a main course. It's a start.

I've also been trying to emulate more of a Mediterranean diet than before, with more emphasis on fresh wild fish, vegetables and grains. We love fruits and veggies. I never fry anything. We use olive oil or sesame oil. Living in the country, we are lucky in that lots of friends have gardens and share their produce and what we don't get free we can buy at roadside stands. It sure is wonderful to get the 'goods' by bartering horse manure!

The food movement is a dialogue we must have with government representatives and by 'voting with our pocketbook' -- not buying crap and insisting on quality foods will force costs to decline and people to take notice. Government must be on-track with supporting small-scale farmers. Agribusiness as an industry that doesn't favor anyone but big business. It's been fascinating to educate myself on the politics of food and I highly recommend it.

I guess Coca-Cola can breathe a sigh of relief, though. As many products as I'm scaling back on, and as 'bad' as the corporation is proported to be, one habit I'm not breaking (for the moment, anyway), is my one 12 oz. plastic bottle of Coke almost every day (not diet, not zero, just the plain old-fashioned version -- hey I'm a Southern girl), which I take two sips of and then freeze for an hour and 20 minutes, making it nice and slushy. I adore slushy Coke.
The two 'rules' in this house are:
1) don't let the cats outside
2) don't drink the last Coke

I prefer the 'Mexican' cokes made with pure sugar and not corn syrup, but they are cost-prohibitive in the US, so only for
'special occasions,' i.e., I gotta have one, now!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Weekend Update

Friday was J's WOW (Witches Of Wye). There were only seven of us. I prefer a small gathering, though; we are able to engage in one conversation. Some of the topics we ran through included: the west Memphis three; fly predators, the show '24', Steven Segal being a cop for real, books we're reading, wine, the death penalty, kidnapping an abused dog, religion, being a locavore, my not feeding the 'coons anymore, wine, and BP. I brought a cut-up watermelon I bought earlier in the day from a roadside stand and it wasn't sweet at it. I was so disappointed in it. I drank too much red wine that night, but didn't regret it the next day.

On Saturday we went to 'Despicable Me' in the afternoon, but the film broke down in two places -- the first time they spliced it back together, which took about 15 minutes. The kids in the theater were pretty patient and well-behaved about it. I heard more than a few of them imploring their dad's to 'fix it,' and one precocious little girl said she thought that Vector, one of the 'villains' in the movie, and had probably stolen the film. The second time we watched about 20 minutes more, and then it just... melted away and burned spectacularly, the way it does in the movies. No saving that! So we went to get a pizza pie.*

Yesterday was a pretty good day. Our favorite priest officiated and gave the sermon, while our interim was on vacation (two weeks! yeah!). CC's sermons are thoughtful and esoteric. Afterwards we went to my parent's house for brunch and met up with the rest of the family. Mom served pickled eggs and beets (an old German family recipe), home-grown tomatoes, brown-sugar cured ham, and cheese grits. Any day I get to eat cheese grits is a good day. (I need to post my recipe for all you neophytes. It'll be one of your favorite dishes, I promise). Later that afternoon my first boss at the first magazine I worked on, now a close friend, called to report on their move from DC to upstate New York. They are both newly retired, and bought a 1800s Victorian house close to their cabin to run a massage/yoga studio. Her husband loves to fly, so he's teaching cadets to fly and building things. They both are happy, and if the studio doesn't 'fly' itself, they'll just close it and have a really neat house. They worked hard to be able to play and enjoy life and I'm really happy for them. That night we watched 'Mystery!' on PBS and the premiere of 'Mad Men' which I have been eager to see again.

Today I spent the morning listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Lucinda Williams while reading. Phoenix and Lenny slept in, until the thunder drew them down the hall to the 'old' part of the house to hide next to the bathtub behind the shower curtain. I exercised in the pool and am now procrastinating on working on the book.

The Fox family is becoming more and more active around the yard. One of their favorite spots is the bamboo grove that has a large table-like rock the Mr likes to sleep on. One of the kits was eating on the terrace until it spotted me and tore off down the ramp, bowling over a baby coon ambling up to check out the eats. I think I have a picture or two to post on Wednesday. Feeding the FF and the coons during the day and not the night is working out well.

The BR is now almost totally dark and thunder is crashing around. I have moved on to Lyle Lovett and am afraid I can no longer put off work. Time is ticking down, and we leave for the Cleveland Clinic on the 9th. I will bring my laptop. We are in 'the eye of the storm' now, in all respects, and there's nothing to do but proceed forward.

* Excy's youngest son, Corey, quit his job as manager at the night-club Exit in Chicago, and is living with us through Excy's surgery until Excy gets on his feet again. It has been a god-send. He is doing all the Sanctuary and house chores Excy can no longer handle, and may not be up to doing for about 4-6 months. Corey's ultimate goal is to get back to his art and buy an airstream and travel throughout the U.S., stopping to work in places he likes. He's a fairly recent graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I adore any Jane Austin

I am Elizabeth Bennet!

Take the Quiz here!

Dog days

Is anybody out there as 'over' summer as I am? With our a/c going off days and nights in a row (Mr Fix-it was finally called out for the third time), torturous heat, relentless ticks and chiggers the moment we step off the porch or onto the terrace, coupled with four family members in and out of the hospital in varying stages of chronic/major illnesses, have all combined to culminate disharmony to any Zen-like mood I had left clinging to me.

I know all the platitudes -- and if you spout them to be now, be prepared for my suggestion they be shoved straight up your bum. Let's not go there.

One of my best, long-time friends will probably be reminding me shortly this grand-funk usually comes around the time of my impending BD. It's not the BD itself that gets to me as much as what didn't get accomplished over the year, since for me the new year begins on my BD and not in January. And this year has been a suck-fest, beginning in December.
It cannot be over too soon.

Ever the optimist, I thank god for another year despite what it brings, and hope for the best.


I just wish it weren't so damn hot.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Delicious Days

The season is short.

Maybe that's one of the reasons peaches are so magical to me.

For of all the wonderful fruits in the world, peaches are my favorite.

Tender, sweet, velvety to the touch, and so juicy they must be slurped down standing over the kitchen sink (unless you like sticky juice running down your chin and over the front of your shirt), peaches are definitely not a polite eat.

But they must be organic. Stone-fruits get their sweetness from their connection to the fruit tree, unlike some fruits that get sweet and ripen once picked (bananas, apples, pears). Peaches, plums, nectarines, and apricots can't be picked too early or they remain hard and mealy. Which is why the ones you find in grocery stores give all others a bad rap -- they've been harvested while still hard and shipped from away, in a vain attempt to keep them from bruising.

True peaches are soft, easily bruisable, and you can't wait too long to eat them. They explode in your mouth in an OMG moment. That's why you need to savor the sweetness of a peach from a roadside stand, Farmer's Market, or U-pick-it farm.
A simple rule to remember about organics: if it's sweet, you'd better go with organic, because their skin is likely to be thin, and they are susceptible to pesticides most commercial farms use. Pests like sweet things as much as we do. (Berries, bell peppers, grapes, etc.)

Agri-scientests keep fiddling with peaches, trying to make them less fragile. They have made them look like the 'real' thing but they're often a mealy mess. Fit for only 'coons (and as you know, I'm not feeding them anymore).

The brief window of opportunity for eating peaches in AR is about 6 weeks, and it's the highlight of my summertime eating. It's hard not to gobble them down as is, but about twice during the summer I slow down enough to make peach crumb pie, an Excy favorite. I think we like it because it's so similar to a cobbler. So here's the recipe. I warn you I use real sugar. It may be too sweet for those of you who don't -- but it's a doozy of a treat.

1 c. sugar
2 1/2 Tb. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. water
4 c. sliced peaches
1 Tb. lemon juice
crumbs for topping (see below)
pastry shell, uncooked (if not making your own Pillsbury is good)

--In saucepan combine sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add water and peaches and bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute. Add lemon juice and cool. Meanwhile make the crumbs. Put peach mixture into pastry shell. Cover with crumbs. Bake 10 minutes at 450 degrees and then 20 more at 375 degrees.

3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. butter
Using your fingers, mix together the flour, butter and sugar until they are like fine crumbs. Spread evenly over fruit filling in the unbaked pastry shell -- recipe makes enough for one 9-inch pie.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Almost Wordless/Wildlife Wednesday

Misc. photos for 'Almost Wordless/Wildlife Wednesday.' I'll post a real blog this week, it's just deadline crunch time...

Hombre, the lead male, being shy...

Lenny's now the only boy in the house...

The lovely Togo (Gogo the Second), now the eldest, so the top cat...

Excy's painting for a client who wanted a European looking horse painting in the style of --- I forget...

Quick poll: should I cut my hair or let it grow?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Best Intentions

Several have asked about the future house sell and what it could mean for the Sanctuary. Right now the plan is to eventually put the house on the market. We need to do some fixing up, and it won't happen right away. We have a cabin on the Sanctuary property across the street with the horses and pond, and we would make a larger place for us there.

As much as I love our house, it is bigger than we need and expensive to maintain. And all the surgeries we've weathered this year are most definitely taking it's toll (I don't want to live in a refrigerator box with Excy and three cats)! Hopefully the foxes will follow us across the street. We saw one of the kits stroll over there today (I hated seeing it cross the street). Today Francis and Mr Fox and a female kit came up to eat. I will post some pics for 'Wildlife Wednesday.'

Executive Decisions

The time has come -- unfortunately -- to stop feeding the raccoons. I hasten to add I continue to feed during the day, for that is when the fox family and two mama coons and their six babies come to the terrace. But after three years, I realize I am doing more harm than good for the night feedings.

I have researched the pros and cons before 'cutting them off,' to be sure I am doing it correctly.

My decision is based on the following factors:

* Suddenly, we had forty coons on the terrace. FORTY. Fights were frequent. Forty is just -- too many.When I was growing up, for years we fed a family of coons who kept returning for generations, but their population never increased over eight to twelve. The sudden influx of so many, so soon, has become slightly scary.
* I am contributing to an over-population of coons for the area. The over-saturation is a result of too-easy food and over-breeding; stopping the easy source of food supply will eventually reduce them to their manageable numbers and healthier population.
* They are getting lazy and not doing their natural wild-thing.
* They don't need to rely on humans, and other humans may not be as welcoming and kind as we have been.
* If they get trapped and relocated somewhere else, they don't respond well to a new environment. And god forbid people start shooting them.
* The buying for their dog food -- even the cheapest bags -- was beginning to be a drain, and we need to concentrate on the other wild ones in the sanctuary -- the mustangs.
* We are tiring of the destruction. Despite keeping them well fed, they insist on tearing up our patio, terrace, garden bench, screens, plants, decorative elements in the yard...I kept warning them the gravy train would end if they couldn't behave, but gee, they act just like wild animals...
* They've never offered to harm the other animals, but we haven't had any feral or stray cats and kittens this summer so I do wonder...
* And finally, we are eventually putting the house on the market, and I rather doubt new owners would welcome these many nightly muraders.

I've been tapering off the past week, and the numbers are going down. They'll come in waves, check it out, either drink from the koi pond or lounge on the lawn furniture, and amble off. The babies still play on the skylight. Occasionally they find a treat of old fruit or bread (old habits die hard), but they're perfectly fine. I needed to stop while the summer offered plentiful eating, unlike the fall or winter. If I see them looking awful in the winter you can be sure I won't let them starve...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

You Cannot Be Serious

A few things I'm amazed about -- not in a good way -- that have occurred lately (confirming the near-total black days of polite society).

1)The two yuppie types who breezed out in traffic in their SUV, halting both lanes of traffic as they sat there, deciding what direction to proceed in. Apparently the laws of driving do not apply to them. When someone honked, they just laughed. I dunno. Maybe they had too many beers at lunch or something.

2)The girl who 'broke up' with my nephew as soon as he drove her to his first dance at high school. As much as we assured him that he was welllll out of that relationship - and dodged a bullet -- he was still heart-broken...for as long as a teenaged heart stays broken, anyway.

3)The nurse's aide who kept complaining loudly to us how 'tired' she was while Excy was writhing in pain and we had been stuck in ICU 10 hours without food or drink.

4)A relative who called my parents to complain I wasn't calling her to let her know the situation, the last time Excy was in the hospital.

5)The ophthalmologist who told an acquaintance who had just spent $800 on new glasses when she went back after 2 weeks to complain they were hurting her nose that there was 'nothing' that could be done about the fit. Not even attempting to adjust them. No concern. The receptionist who joked to 'just put some kleenex on your nose' was fired two days later.

6)The checker at the grocery store who has never in the 13 years I've gone there, been pleasant while ringing up purchases. I have actually queried other shopper friends who go there, and she has never smiled or said 'hello' to them, either, so it's just not me. I make a point to avoid her -- not going through her line even if it's empty. Even if I have to wait.

6)The stranger in the parking lot who yelled 'What's wrong with you?!' Nothing. What's wrong with you??!

7)The property manager who told a friend fixing a flat tire on her horse trailer in a parking lot that she 'had to move' and 'couldn't do that here.' The same intrepid, sensitive soul stuck around and watched and complained that she would 'have to clean that up' referring to the horse poop, as my friend stood beside the horse, shovel in hand. (The horse had to be unloaded off the trailer so she could fix the tire in the first place).

8)The 80ish-year-old woman who shoved me aside to pay her condolences at a funeral reception. I use a cane, people. I thought of using it to trip her.

It's the end of the world as we know it...Seriously, civilization is taking a hit, anyway...