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Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's Spring in the Growing Dome

It's almost spring at the Nickel and Dime: Trees and vines have buds, birds are chirping and building nests, little sprigs of green are popping up for the Angus Boys to eat, and my outer wear is a cotton hoodie that I can take off when it gets too warm. Warm here is the 70's and I'm happy with that.

The Growing Dome has been cranking out green stuff for the past couple months, and we are racing the heat, hoping the rest of the cool weather vegetables won't up and quit.

The Arctic lettuce is doing well, the leaves tender and buttery. 

The lettuce is being shaded by the broccoli, with some sugar snap peas, radishes, more lettuce, and beets in this bed, too.

We are having a little trouble with black gnats, so I used these bug catcher papers to trap a couple hundred of them. Unfortunately, they are still around, so I sprinkled some diatomacious earth around the affected plants. We shall see.

Across the dome was the raised bed The Angus Boys destroyed last fall. They turned the dome into a cattle cafeteria when they ventured through the open door and were trapped inside for a couple of days.

So far I have a couple tomato plants, radishes, green beans, Poona Kheera cucumbers, and oakleaf lettuce planted on this side.

The blue watering can was a congratulations present to me for getting the dome done (Tom and Z did most of the work). It's a Dramm 12455 5-Liter Premium High-Grade Plastic Watering Can. The red one is a Wal-Mart product, but it totally smashes the seedlings when I water them, so I use it for mature plants. Water comes from the dome's water tank.

 Below is the baby nursery where tomato, chard, crookneck squash, lettuce, flowers and cauliflower seeds are sprouting. The temps  above the water tank are moderate, not too hot or cold.

Back on our entry porch, it looks like someone is getting ready to decorate again.

How does your garden grow?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Quilty Pleasures Wednesday: A Finished Quilt, Finally!

For almost two years I have had this quilt, minus binding, folded in the cabinet. In a pinch, I would drag it out and use it for guests, the batting looking totally rattytatty peeking out the sides of the quilt sandwich. This photo isn't the best, so let me describe the fabrics used. They were from a Moda bundle I purchased at least a year before I even started making it, and I am sorry to say I don't know the name of the fabric line. This was pre-blogging, so didn't realize the importance of remembering stuff like fabric names.

The red center squares are two inches, finished, with a four inch border surrounding to end up with a ten inch block.  The Moda fabrics are a coordinated bunch of large chintz-looking florals, smaller florals, plaids and stripes. I had some pink fabric with white dots hanging around, which is what I used to bind the edges. It's very girly and shabby chic.

I have been making more and more pieced backings in order to use up fabric in my stash. (As you can see, my helper was tired of holding up the quilt.)

This quilt went to the Turkey Federation banquet last week for its silent auction, the proceeds going toward scholarship and community charity programs. I decided to pass it on because there are so many quilts in the pipeline, I might as well share.

We are getting some nice spring weather now, and the grass is starting to sprout up, keeping the Angus Boys busy mowing it down. I am glad we have just three steers left, so there should be enough for them to eat until June when they leave. We will still supplement with hay until the grass really gets going because when they are hungry, the steers stand outside the garage and moo until we pull out the Polaris and throw them some flakes of that good hay.

These photos were shot in the afternoon, the western sun hitting the tops of the cliff as it was going down.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Taos-The Soul of the Southwest

 About once a week or so, we drive up to Taos, an hour and fifteen minutes away. Our route is a winding mountain road, almost a single lane in places, through a ski resort, the national forest, the road snaking through a canyon until the town appears, the adobe brown dwellings looking like boulders in the desert distance.

Taos is home to around 6,000 residents. Then add a zillion tourists both in the summertime and also in winter when ski season is in full swing. We've learned to avoid peak tourist days and to drive on roads the tourists don't use.

The little shops, galleries and eateries are a fun change from our place, where the food and shopping choices are definitely limited (though I look forward to eating at The Mad Cow Calf-A, a new restaurant in Mora, very soon). Review to follow. The finger therapist is in Taos, as well as Cid's natural food store, Smith's supermarket and Ace Hardware.

Orlandos Restaurant Taos, NM
 Anyway, back to Taos, which has its share of characters, that's for sure. A Shakespearean-looking, white haired man stands on a corner, reciting what might be sonnets to the passing cars. A trio of elderly folk stand on another corner, holding signs that say, "Honk if you pay taxes!" and "Occupy Taos!" A pair of young backpackers, their dog on a frayed rope, trudge alongside the highway. Older ladies lunch, wearing long, purple skirts with silver concho belts, turquoise jewelry dripping from their wrists and necks. For men, Taos headwear leans toward berets and ski beanies. That's not true for everyone, but it is notable. Mora, on the other hand, is a Stetson and ball cap kind of place.

   If I could compare Taos to a city in California, it would have to be Laguna Beach, because they share a bohemian vibe with an emphasis on art and "free spiritedness." The art comes from different sources: local pueblo potters, textile artists, painters, sculptors, you name it. Taos artists are from all walks of life, rich and poor, college educated and self or family-taught.

It's like Laguna Beach in the 1970's, where different people live, work, make art, and whatever you do, it's just fine. Grocery store employees will see someone wearing what looks to be rags, wandering the aisles, talking to himself, and say, "Hey, Ed! Do you want me to help you shop today?" When I bought bird seed the checker praised the purchase and assured me the birds would be most grateful.

I was in a gallery a few months ago and admired a Santa Clara pueblo pot. During our conversation, the potter asked me if I made anything. When I told her about my quilts, she immediately gave me her card and offered to trade a pot for a quilt. I think I will take her up on that deal. That's Taos.

This last photo is of Taos Pueblo, located on the edge of town, one of the oldest inhabited communities in the United States. About 150 people live in the pueblo itself, with over 1900 Indians living on the pueblo's 99,000 acres of land holdings.The buildings are made of adobe with log roofs, supplemented by smaller logs, close together, all covered with mud and dirt. Much time and effort is spent plastering the outsides to guard against weather damage.

Many of the buildings in the pueblo look just like they would have looked to the Spanish explorers when they first arrived in Northern New Mexico in 1540. Archeologists have found ruins in the area pointing to the Indians having lived here since 1000 A.D.

Taos is definitely The Soul of the Southwest: friendly, quirky. artistic, and ready for anything under the New Mexico sun.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash with Garlic

In the past when I've baked butternut squash, sweetener and stuff like cinnamon and nutmeg have been right there to disguise the squashy taste. Lately, though, it seems the old taste buds don't always need the squashy flavor to be hidden. Maybe it's because I've had some excellent butternut squash soups lately. I don't know, but I sure liked the way this squash came out.

Many thanks to Cousin Donna who donated the squash. I think I will grow some in my garden this year.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Garlic


2 T minced fresh parsley or 1T dried parsley
1 T minced fresh thyme or 1 t dried thyme
2 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t salt
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1 large butternut squash, around 3 1/2 pounds, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (To peel a squash, cut off the neck, cut the neck and the body in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and shreds inside. Use a y-shaped vegetable peeler to remove the skin.)
1/3 c grated parmesan cheese


1. In a large bowl, mix up the oil, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper, and garlic. Add the squash cubes and toss them in the oil mixture until they are well coated.

2. Transfer to a cookie sheet that you have lined with some foil. Bake, uncovered, at 400 degrees for 50-55 minutes. About halfway through your time, move the squash cubes around to allow them to brown evenly.

3. Sprinkle with the parmesan cheese and enjoy! I had some leftovers and mixed them with pasta and a little more olive oil for a restaurant quality lunch the next day.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Yak Is The New Black

Well, that's what someone in this newspaper article about yaks in Northern New Mexico said. Raising yaks is the cool thing to do. We live next door to a herd of yaks and our cattle like to visit them. Let's go for a walk on a frigid morning to say hi to the yaks, too.

Let's walk across the footbridge to the Enchanted Forest. Our property line is just past the pines in the forest and the yaks like to gather at the fence for a convo most mornings. First, Ms. Pearl wants to freak me out and walk on the ice.

I like the yaks because they look almost prehistoric, like cattle probably looked a zillion years ago. They are native to the Himalayas, so raising yaks here makes sense: we are at 7200 feet with cold winters and summers not too hot, usually in the 70's or 80's.

What do you do with yaks? Well, you can eat them and you can comb them. The eating part is self explanatory, but the combing? Some of a yak's fur is soft and fluffy, comparable to cashmere. People don't shear the yaks, though, but instead comb the fibers in the springtime when they are shedding. They don't shed a lot of down, about a pound each per year, but yak fiber sells for around $16 an ounce, so it's worth it to collect the fur.

Here's a mama and her baby. Yak horns make me nervous, but in this herd there is only one meanie. He has thrown two different guys, hooking their clothing and flinging them up and over a corral fence. Bystanders estimate the smaller man flew five feet vertically and six feet horizontally. Maybe there should be yak Olympics with "man tossing" as an event.

Most of the yaks are nervous around people, but this guy came over to the fence for a chat. He has mocos in the corner of his eyes. I wanted to reach over and help him clean them, but we just met and I didn't think it would be the right thing to do to a relative stranger.

And then there's my favorite, Lily, who was hand raised and added to the herd last year after living in a neighbor's front yard all her life. She's friendly and loves to have her head scratched. You might remember her from our yak round up photos.

I think she misses her people, so when Lily comes up to the fence, we have a long talk and a good old head rub right between the horns. No one will ever eat Lily. She has immunity.

We've thought about having yaks on our ranch. They are simple to take care of as long as they don't wander off, have less impact on the land and waterways than cattle because they are smaller and have dainty hooves, and are extremely cold hardy.

Hope you enjoyed our walk. It looks cold, doesn't it? But that's an okay price to pay for mild summers. I do not miss 100 degree heat!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Angus Boys Get Ultrasounded

The three remaining Angus Boys, Sir Loin and Numbers 27 and 30, took a 40 mile drive to a ranch where the ultrasounding guy was all set up.

Ultrasound tests for beef cattle? (A friend wondered if it was something Rick Santorum said.)

In the world of artisanal beef production, it's becoming more common for grass fed beef producers to have their steers measured for fat content, tenderness and marbling before they are sent to the great pasture in the sky. It's a way to market the beef to the butchers and stores which will sell the beef to you, the discerning grass fed beef consumers.

When we arrived,  a group of Black Angus was being rounded up for their testing. Off in the distance are the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, close to where we live.

This is the ranch's owner, who rounded up the cattle and acted as host to the groups arriving for testing. She reminded me of Barbara Stanwyck in the old tv show, The Big Valley.

The farther east in New Mexico you travel, the closer you are to Texas horse and cattle culture. Check out these boots:

I was a worried cattle mama during the ride to the ranch because the steers had only been in a trailer once before, when they were carried to our ranch as youngsters. I didn't need to worry because they did just fine and were not mooing or nervous at all. They trotted down the alley to the squeeze chute.

The squeeze chute was automatic and quiet. When a steer stepped in, he was trapped, but didn't seem to mind at all. If you get a chance to see the film Temple Grandin, she makes a squeeze box for herself after seeing how it calmed the cattle once they were inside.

The sonogram operator shaved a patch of thick winter fur, squeezed some sonogram goo onto the bare skin and laid a wand both on the steer's back and in the ribeye area.

Here's Sir Loin getting his ultrasound: (He had the highest score!)

The computer showed several views of the animal's interior, how much ribeye area there was, fat content, and marbling. Each steer had three scores and all of our guys passed with flying colors.

I write about this and worry that I sound callous about the steers and their fate. But please know that none of this is easy, and I think hard before I order meat at a restaurant nowadays.

I want to know where my burger lived, if the ranch was a good one, were the owners kind, and did the steers get lots of good grass and hay to eat-and no corn to hurt their tummies. I wonder if the rancher laid out various blocks of salt and minerals in a row, allowing the steers to choose what they needed each day and could they have as long a lick fest as they wanted. Was their life calm? Were they treated ethically?

And if I am not sure, I eat a vegetarian meal. It's weird that a cattle producer would eat a veggie meal, but now I know what should go into a steak or a burger and I don't want to compromise.

And it's even better when they can graze right next to a Buddha.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ms. Pearl, Snow Dog of the North

A year ago February we had the record breaking cold snap, and the temperature at night plummeted to -33 degrees F, according to two neighbors who watch their thermometers. (Tom's thermometer here said -22 degrees F.)

Then Tom went to feed the cattle, Ms. Pearl along for the ride, and the pitiful photo of her shivering in the Polaris generated many reader comments along the lines of , "Get that dog a coat!"

Friend Jeanie even sent us her dog's coat so I could make a pattern from it and I did! After researching the materials cost, though, we decided to buy a coat, since the costs were about the same as buying the stuff we would need to make it.

Here's Ms. Pearl wearing her coat on a recent walk to say hello to our neighbor's yaks.

Below is a "model shot" of the coat:

Ms. Pearl likes her coat,  but it hasn't been cold enough for her to wear it this year. We've found that if it's in the 20's or higher and she is running around and not sitting still, she really doesn't need a coat because she is generating lots of BTU's on her own.

After a recent snowstorm:

Below, Ms. P is plowing a furrow in the snow, using her snout.

And here she is rolling in the snow, having a "snow bath."

Oh, the joy! When she gets tired, Ms. Pearl loves to sprawl in the snow the same way she stretches out in the grass, giving her belly a little cool-down.

Maybe I will be a dog in my next life.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Missing Summertime

This table under the ramada looks lonely,  like it longs for happy summertime dinners with family and friends.

So do I.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sewing Room Progress Report

I promised to post a photo after I jettisoned and relocated the miscellaneous junk piled on the floor. The stuff in that pile had been squirreled away in the big shelving unit used to house my fabrics and quilting materials. This is how the floor looked before I started yesterday, like maybe I was auditioning for a spot on Hoarders.

Of course, there were breaks to watch The Big Bang Theory, Parks and Recreation and Modern Family plus today we traveled to our big town for a visit to the Motor Vehicle Department which took half the day. It wasn't because of the Motor Vehicle Department, where the lady who helped me a couple weeks ago said, "Bridget, when you come back, just let me know you are here and you don't have to wait in line." Today the nice DVM lady called me up ahead of about 25 people and without making eye contact with the people waiting, I moved quickly to her window where we conducted our business efficiently and with little fuss. The time factor had to do with lunch and picking up groceries and driving back and forth. The minutes just keep on ticking.

Nonetheless, I was able to get that area cleared and you can even see the futon! And the rug! But now that I am looking at it, I think it all looks a little blah.

 One of my quilting heroes is Melody Johnson, an artist from Tennessee, who makes mostly fused art quilts, but also pieced and quilted-as-you-go quilts. Melody knits and sews for herself on top of it all. I think I need to make a bright quilt inspired by Melody to cover this drab futon cover. It will probably be something like this.

There will be some ongoing changes to the guest/sewing room that I will share as I do them. (As it is, the other half doesn't yet realize that tomorrow we will be moving some furniture around in here.) A couple pieces of furniture need new paint and there are zillions of quilting magazines and books to purge. I still have stuff laying about that needs a home. Look at the sewing machine cabinet:

Holy sheesh! And I really must sew this weekend, so goodbye to that chaos tomorrow morning.

I want to thank you readers who let me know I am not alone when it comes to messes. You gave me the push I needed to get going and without you that pile of junk would still be there, taunting me.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Shoveling Out The Sewing Room-Quilty (Non) Pleasures

First, an apology for not being here much. Two events have conspired against me: I hurt my hand, so typing is difficult with a splint and then my laptop wouldn't wake up. We had to schedule an Apple Store visit and drive 3 hours to get there. New Mexico has one Apple store.  Of course the laptop had to stay at the computer hospital for a few days and then it took a while to get back to pick it up. I must say the Apple store on a Saturday in Albuquerque is a trip in itself. There were more people in the store than in all of our little village. Since the village population is around 27, you can see where I might be a tad overwhelmed.

So the computer has brand new inner workings, but between computer, doctor, and occupational therapy, I have been missing. The hand is a tad better with the horrible therapeutic exercises I must do to get my finger tendon back in place, but today, the day when I was ready to get back on the blog schedule, the internet went out! It is snowing, so I will blame the snow.  I am using my phone for this post.

Last week we hauled my giant fabric storage shelf unit upstairs to the bedroom closet. We wanted to make the sewing and guest room roomier. Even after he hauled all the bins of fabric upstairs, props to Tom who didn't say much about all the fabric.

Two of the five storage sections on these shelves.
 But a giant pile of detritus and debris remains in the center of the room and I have been avoiding it.  Like the plague.

I have shared this shameful photo because there are some folk who think I am organized and know how to do everything. What can I say? Now you know the real me. I pretty much shoved everything onto those shelves and now I have to figure out where the hell it all goes. Last week I gave a bunch of supplies and clothing away, and this mess is what remains! Aargh!

Since it's snowing on and off today and not too warm outside, I have decided this is the day to face the flotsam and jetsam and to deal with it.  Tomorrow I will post pics of the cleaner, spiffier Quilt Cave.

Really. I promise.