Friday, May 27, 2016

Photos: Cat, flowers - you can't go wrong with either!

My cat Lili, now in her mid-teens.
A grump most of the time. Cute when she's quiet.
 did a bit of photoshopping as you can see.
Lili sunbathing  May 2016 Lif Strand

Iris! After years and years of not blooming
I have iris this year!
Iris, Greek goddess of the rainbow  May 2016 Lif Strand

Monday, May 23, 2016

Photos: Around the ranch

Last week it rained 3/10". That brings the precipitation up to nearly an inch since the first of the year, meaning it's dry, dry, dry. It also means when it rains that the soil turns to snotty clay-mud. I had been out of town that day when I came home to 'running the slick', as I think of it. The two mile of unimproved two-track from the county road to my property is always a challenge when there's been even the slightest bit of rain (snow's not quite as bad until it starts melting). So nearly a third of an inch of rain was quite enough to make my pulse rate rise, because I just do not like having to walk home in the mud (something I've done quite often enough, thank you very much).

I know where all the places are that cause trouble. The ones where I have to drive slow or risk spinning out. The ones where I have to be moving along at a good clip or I'll sink in. And then there's the spots where nothing works, and last week I did a bit of slip-and-slide. I managed to not get stuck and only had another minor slide after that. By the time I got to my gate I was feeling pretty proud of myself.

Until I saw a mass of wire trailing behind my car.

For all the cattle fencing out here in the West, you'd think cows would stay where they're supposed stay, but they don't. They're always seeing better graze on the other side of the fence, and they rarely meet a fence that they can't get through if they really want to. Consequently there often will be long strands of barbed wire curled into a coil or a wad of crumpled field fencing out in the middle of a pasture, the result of a cow going through a fence and taking the fence with her.

I must have slid over one of those wads, which hitched a ride on the drive shaft of my car.


I didn't even look at it till today. Partly because I was busy, partly because I knew that even using bolt cutters I was going to end up in a bad temper working the wire off. It was a trial, let me tell you. Trackers are little cars with not a lot of clearance underneath - better than a sedan, mind you, but not like a truck. There wasn't much room to maneuver plus there was dried mud in just enough places to fall into my eyes and ears whenever an arm or shoulder bumped up against it.

Stuff like this is pretty normal for out here in the middle of nowhere. A person has to be able to handle little things by herself or else she should live in a city where help is just minutes away. But she doesn't have to like it.

Is there an emoji for a snarly face?  If so, imagine it inserted here.  I don't do emoji.

Here's a photo of PJ Kitty (Papa J) in the alpenglow a couple nights ago. Makes me feel better just looking at him.

And here's a sunset photo from the next night. The delicate silhouette of the juniper against the flaming sky gets to me.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Photos: From the ranch

Here are a couple photos I took on a hike the other day

Mamas and babes May 2016 Lif Strand

Kelsey  May 2016 Lif Strand

(Click on a photo to see a larger view)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Photo: Knee deep...

Knee deep in hay (Tess & Sonnie) May 2016 Lif Strand

Because, you know, they're just so skinny that I've got to make sure there's enough for these girls to eat.


Truth is, I was going away for two nights and I'm a worrywart. Thus I put out five bales of grass hay for five horses. They're big bales.  If I was at home and not free-feeding, that'd be enough hay for a week. But I wasn't going to be home so I had to leave enough to keep me from worrying about them.

This isn't the first time I've free-fed them grass hay so I could go away overnight, mind you. I knew perfectly well it was an awful lot of hay. But you know.  Worrywart.

That's an interesting word I think. Apparently it was dreamed up for a comic strip called Out Our Way by J R Williams, that ran from 1922 to 1977. Worry Wart was the nickname for one of the characters, a boy, who was a real pest in his family. It used to be believed that warts came from too much stress and worry, so someone who was a worrywart was someone who caused stress and worry. Warts, not being life-threatening, were more of a nuisance so the worrywart was not a really bad person but more an irritating one. As with many terms, though, the meaning evolved over time. Today a worrywart is someone who worries too much and worries unnecessarily about something.

I guess worrywart is me when it comes to my critters.

My horses normally get an alfalfa/grass mix. They of course prefer straight alfalfa, which is like candy for them. Aside from Sonnie who is young, and Koko (not in the photo) who is a stallion, the rest are retired and don't need alfalfa hay. They're plenty fat, they're not working or breeding. But they love alfalfa.

My mares provided an income for us for many years, so they deserve to be treated well in retirement. They want alfalfa... but it's not good for them. So I compromise and feed them the alfalfa/grass mix. They think this is less than stellar treatment after all they did for us over the years but then that's why they're on that side of the fence while me and the hay are on this side.

I know my horses. I know that if I throw more than a meal's worth of alfalfa/grass over the fence so I can go away for a few days they would pick through the pile to eat the alfalfa all at once and then get sick.  With nobody here to help them. Thus the grass hay. Free feeding grass hay is almost as good as turning them out to pasture while I'm gone, but I can't just do that.  The stallion doesn't run with the mares since he's related to all of them.  He'd go bonkers if the girls were turned out 24/7 for a couple of days while he was locked up. And I'd worry about that while gone so all of them  had to be penned for the duration. Which I worried about, too, but not so much.

Free-feeding all that grass hay worked just fine. While the two in the photo above were interested in taste-testing right after I put the hay out, the others thought I was poisoning them. Ultimately none of them were thrilled about straight grass hay. They ate it because that was all there was. They're still working on the pile and will be for another day.

I had a good time on my little trip, by the way. Among other things were the great B&B we stayed at (such awesome breakfasts, beautiful gardens and incredible southwestern artwork on the walls that I can't tell you where we stayed because then everyone would stay there and there'd never be any rooms available for us); the four hour lunch we enjoyed at a friend's house yesterday; getting to hear Craig Johnson, author of the Longmire series, at the Albuquerque library last night; and discovering a new quilt shop today, Hip Stitch, before heading back home.

I'm glad to be home, though. The horses are glad, too. They're tired of that crummy grass hay. They want their alfalfa and they want it NOW. I better get out there and feed them before they starve.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Photo: View from Laura's

Evening View at Laura's May 2016 Lif Strand
Evening view at Laura's May 2016 Lif Strand

Laura lives about four miles from me and on a hillside rather than in a valley.  Because the hill crests above her house her "horizon" is higher up than mine and therefore the sunsets look different than mine do - but they're just as amazing.

Of course they are - this is the Land of Enchantment. How could any photo of the place be less than amazing?

The camera I'm using these days - a Sony DSC-W830 Cyber-Shot - can take panoramic shots like the one above. This is a new-to-me feature and I like it.

The photo is 1000 pixels wide but the blog column isn't.  If you click on the photo you can see it in full. I think it's worth a look.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Adventures in Creative Cooking: Sesame chicken... or maybe peanut chicken

Tahini chicken, except it's not really...
I don't often cook, but when I do I want to brag about it.
[Disclaimer: follow my recipes at your own risk!]

My brother-in-law, Jeff, made a great chicken dish when he was out here visiting a few years back. It was so good that I've wanted to enjoy it again ever since. So he sent me the recipe because in a moment of madness I offered to make dinner for my friend Laura, who was letting me do laundry at her house.

Of course this is me cooking. As I recalled (and I should know better, my memory being what it is), what Jeff had made for me years ago used tahini (yum!) as a base. That's the first challenge. I live here, in the middle of nowhere, so that while my choices for ingredients are much, much better than they were in the past, there's still not as much choice as one might wish for. And because this is me, I also waited until the morning of the laundry/dinner making evening to shop for ingredients in town.

Tahini? Here? Hahahaha! No.

So the compromise for tahini (which I finally - and too late - remembered I had gotten online in the past) was sesame oil. But not all sesame oils are equal. Just like with olive oils, some are stronger tasting than others (or is that my imaginative memory talking?). The store frowns on your opening sealed bottles of oils to sniff them... so I chose more or less at random. It wasn't like I had a lot of choices, mind you.

Unfortunately the oil I got is very mild. It could be generic vegetable oil. Very healthy and all, but I wanted flavor. By the time I discovered the blah taste of the oil it was practically time to sit at the dinner table. Okay... now what?

Simple: chunky peanut butter, because hey - anything is better with peanut butter, isn't it? And when it comes to peanut butter only chunky will do, organic and no sugar added thank you very much.

To be fair, Jeff's evolved recipe (that is, the recipe he sent me the other day, compared to what I remembered from years ago) did call for peanut oil, but there was no such thing in town so I was planning on using peanut butter anyway. But now I had a reason to use lots and lots of it.

The result was awesome (and pretty to look at, too), though I still want the tahini chicken someday.

Tahini/Sesame/Peanut Chicken

2 pounds chicken breasts, cut up
3 bunches of scallions or green onions, chopped in half inch slices
1/2 cup of peanut oil
1/4 cup of sesame oil.

Pan fry everything together over hot flame till chicken is cooked through, 5-10 minutes. Turn off as soon as the chicken goes from pink inside to white. Don't over-cook as the chicken will become tough.

Serve over brown rice and season with soy sauce to taste

  1. OK, I didn't cut up the chicken breasts because I didn't feel like it. You really should. Cooking big hunks of chicken like that for just 10 minutes means the insides won't be done. And no, I didn't check to see if the insides were pink before I served the meal.  Giving the chicken hunks a few minutes in the nuker fixed that.
  2. My asparagus is coming up like crazy, so I harvested some and sliced that up to add with the green onions. It was a great idea!
  3. My actual sesame oil was about 3/4 cup and my actual chunky peanut butter was about the same.  
  4. Um... I didn't notice till just now that there was only supposed to be a quarter cup of sesame oil....

Saturday, May 14, 2016

In Praise of Me

Well, really, I deserve praise. I believe that the bad things that happen in my life are the result of my own choices.  It's therefore logical that the good things that happen in my life are the result of my own choices, too. That means when I'm happy, it's not good luck - it's the result of my good choices.

And I am happy, so why shouldn't I get a pat on the back for it?

You don't have to answer. I'm telling you: I do. Especially since it's so easy to not take credit where it's due.

Here's a little truth that applies to all of us. It's really easy to get on our own case. We've all done it, haven't we? Nobody gives us as hard a time as that little voice in our own heads that just won't shut up. But there's no reason that little voice couldn't be reprogrammed to sing praise instead of the crap it has been spewing.

There's good reason to make the effort to reprogram, too. When you reprogram that little voice, you set up a positive feedback spiral - not a loop, but a spiral. A lovely spiral that just builds and builds over time, till one day out of the clear blue sky you look around you and go "yippee" just for the sheer joy of living.

So, here I am, happy. I love where I live. I love the work I do. I love being in love with my life, and so I'm giving myself a pat on the back for choosing to be this way.

No small part of my happiness is the result of the choice that brought me here to my little part of New Mexico. I love my tiny, half-finished house, I love the valley it's in, I love the critters that live around me (domestic and wild). I just love the hell out everything about this place - not just the good stuff, but wind and flood and drought and bugs and rodents and all. Not because the hard things are so wonderful, but because it's all an adventure if I choose to make it so.

And I do. Because it makes me happy.

On a related topic... it makes me happy to share photos, too.

My treasure trove May 2016 Lif Strand
When you're in love, everything around you becomes beautiful and precious
Last week a Facebook friend wrangled me into accepting one of those photo challenges to post a nature photo each day for seven days. And given that the photos of nature that I used are of course of places around me that I love, I enjoyed posting them immensely. So.... I"m going keep sharing my nature photos, though probably not every day - I don't want it to become a chore, after all.

Think of it as my choice to contribute to the beautiful and the positive in life. I'm not going to challenge you to do the same... oh wait. Yes I am.

Please choose to make choices that contribute to the beautiful and the positive in life. We'll all be happier for it!

Thank you.