Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Putting Out and Putting Up.

Who says you need to go away to some beautiful, foreign destination to experience a working vacation? You know, those vacations where you pay to go and work for farmers, resorts, charitable humanity projects, etc.??  Not for us, oh no.

On vacation? Check! Working hard? Check!

I have had the pleasure of enjoying married life again since my husband got home on Friday. We also both have this week off work (more or less). So naturally, we are working at preserving all the produce in sight! And *ahem* did I mention I'm enjoying married life?? Tee hee. Two months is a loooong time!

The produce is quite early this year, so we are already behind doing things that we would normally do on the labour day long weekend. I had already 'put up' 10 jars of dill pickles before Friday. Since Saturday, we have made one batch of tomato chipotle salsa (7 x 500mL), about 5L of tomato sauce (frozen in 1L and 500mL jars), and about 6L of pepperonata. Somehow it doesn't sound like that much...but we've been busy!

I also got some new video of a riding lesson. I thought I would impress my hubby with the progress in my riding/Brumby's training and get some great video. Well, Murphy's Law kicked in, I guess.  I didn't have the greatest lesson, the exercise was reallly hard for Brumby and I had no lower leg, apparently. I'll try to post more on that later.

For two weeks, I was picking this amount 
daily, sometimes more.

I needed a cake for my husband since his birthday is August 5th and he was in the field. This cake is made with coarse-ground almonds and I've sprinkled blackberries and red currants on top. When it bakes, the berries sink into the cake. Inspired by mangocheeks from Allotment to Kitchen in this post and this one.  The actual recipe I used was found at Bibliocook.  

Slice, served with fresh whipped cream and berries.

I've been back in the cooking mood since I have someone to cook for (and help!).  Had a fabulous lunch today of fresh market brussel sprouts, peppers, onions, garlic, and sliced chipotle smokies.  Finished with a splash of tarragon vinegar and served on quinoa (leftover from last night's dinner).

Happiness is:

Not to be overshadowed was our dinner. Mr. Ruckus had not yet had any beets from our garden, we've been working our way through a surplus of produce, so tonight was the night. We stopped in to our favorite butcher and got a couple of bison tenderloins. This bison is raised about a half-hour away and is absolutely fantastic.

Mr.Ruckus massaging the bison with mixed fresh herbs.

The finished product. Simply steamed beets, snow peas, grilled bison.

Now this is more like it!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Garden Photo Update, Aug 14

Just a quick post to share some updated garden pictures. My husband is (finally!) home next Friday, so I figured I'd give him a teaser of what's in store when he gets here.  Hey, get your mind out of the gutter, this is PG!  I don't have much time for a real post - off to another show tomorrow, this time to help my coach. My reward? A free jump school on another boarder's horse. The owner is out of town and she specifically told my coach I could ride him whenever I want. I happen to adore this horse! I've never been on him but for some reason have just loved him since my first day at this barn. SO excited! Not so excited for another early wake-up. At least this time I don't have to be up until 5.

Now, on to the business at hand, before I make a liar out of myself with all that talk of a "quick" post .

"Carmen" peppers. Can you see the hints that they are starting to ripen?  
I've eaten a couple green and they are very good but I'm holding out for them to turn red.

"Big Bomb" cherry bomb pepper. Yum!
Sorry about the chicken wire, I was too lazy to move the fence.

"Burning Ember" purple peppers. 
No idea what these will taste like!

Hard at work!

Also hard at work. A woodpecker on one of the apple trees.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Horse Shows and Canine Woes

Brumby went to his first horse show of the year this weekend! It was also his first show over fences.  Our coach rode him in the baby green hunters and his owner rode him in the hack division. I didn't ride...I don't have show clothes and determined that I couldn't (i.e., shouldn't) afford the expense this year. Just too many things demanding large amounts of money with the new house. And this ol'laptop has been telling me it is going for the big sleep soon. Plus, I haven't been to a horse show since I was a kid so I thought it would be enough to groom for the day and get used to the chaos :-)

In warm-up
He did really well! Between missing shoes and the excruciating heat we had a few weeks ago, our coach has only ridden and jumped him a handful of times. Still, they took 4th in both their classes. I don't know exactly how many riders were in each class...it's confusing. They do these sets of doubles and triples where a pair rides one course, then someone else goes, and then they ride their second course. I think. I'm assuming this is so you don't have to keep the horse warmed-up for an eternity. I haven't had the chance to debrief with my coach on all these questions. I'm totally green! And I was taking photos, so my attention was divided. Anyway, I think there were at least 15 riders or so in each class.

It was a great learning experience for me. My coach had me go study the course diagram and come back and tell her the course, including the striding. I'm quite sure she knew it and was just asking so that I could get the practice. It was definitely good for me and I was somewhat surprised that I was able to do it. I think I will have issues remembering multiple courses when it comes my time to ride them though. Hopefully I'll get more practice before then!

The only thing I didn't like was the underlying assumption that I would be slave for a day, so to speak. I mean, I was there to help, of course. But sometimes I felt like I was being treated (not by my coach) as a paid groom, as opposed to a paying leaser who was helping out. Oh, and getting up at 4am after 4 hours sleep...why do we do this?? And why are we so keen to do it all again???

Hazel has had another bout of diarrhea lately. This time I thought for sure it was the treats she had at daycare because it was the only change - she had been fine, then at daycare all day and with me all night. The next morning I could tell she wasn't right. I came home at lunch and she seemed fine and didn't want to "go". When I got home from work she met me at the door, panting. That means only one thing.

I let her out right away and she started the pacing, squating, and stretching that I was afraid of. It was horrid, like someone turned on a hose. Sorry for the graphic description but I think everyone that reads here are animal owners and therefore can take these things! Then, later, what she produced was more solid but had blood. It was obvious it originated in the large/lower intestine because it was bright red. This can be caused by anything from simple digestive upset to more serious issues.

Thinking of daycare and the upcoming show, which I planned to bring her to, I took her to see our vet. She told me she's seen a lot of this type of thing this year, more so than other years. Given our history though, recent and past, she felt it was most likely a food-related upset. Nothing probative showed up in her fecal sample, either. Plus, our monthly heartworm prevention includes many other types of deworming and parasite control, something I choose for a reason. So, I got a cautious "ok" to take her to the show - the concern being that people love to give dogs treats which could exacerbate her issues. I did have her put some meds on standby, just in case. I didn't want to just medicate without just cause and I can pick them up anytime, 24-7.

If I had a choice, I wouldn't have brought her, just to be safe and responsible. But my hands were kind of tied, without my husband here to look after her. She had been fine Friday and (early!) Saturday, the morning of the show. I felt pretty confident that her guts were recovering from the treats. We enjoyed a great day and no one gave her any treats at the show. Her poop was better than ever after that - I attribute this to her sneaking morsels of horse poop. She always has nice poops after eating horse poop *sigh*

But Sunday morning we were back to non-normal. And this continued throughout the day, though her eating habits and energy remained at it's normal, high, level. Then, Monday morning, she woke up with one eye completely crusty. It took me awhile with a warm wash cloth to remove the gunk. Hmmm. It could be related and it could be something else entirely, like a bug bite near the eye, debris, or a corneal scratch.  So, I picked up the metronidazole and started treatment. I also flushed the affected eye with an eye irrigation for dogs. Fortunately, I had some of this on-hand.

I suspect a low-grade giardia infection. It can be hard to detect in analyses. At this point, I felt the pros out-weighed the cons of medicating without knowing for sure what's up. Worst case is she does a course of antibiotics for nothing. It's not ideal but it's not the end of the world either. Given her similar issues a month ago, I am now comfortable trying this route and I really want to do everything I can to prevent spread if it is something infectious like giardia. Things seem to have stabilized in the last day but I've canceled her day care for tomorrow, just in case. This means I probably won't be able to go to the barn after work.

I'm sad for my poor pooch. And for me because I constantly worry, drive home at lunch, can't ride tomorrow. Oh, and tomorrow is my last day in my job, I start the new one on Thursday. August 20th, the day my husband comes home AND the start to one week off, can't come soon enough!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Preserving Summer's Bounty.

As you've seen, most of my garden is growing amazingly well. Especially so are the cucumbers! I only have 2 cucumber plants and they are a small, pickle-type variety that are also tasty if you just want to eat them raw and are known for being prolific producers. I thought this would be a perfect variety for maximum flexibility, and it is.

The last week was challenging with these wonderful cukes. I kept picking, and picking, and picking. I couldn't seem to get them early enough. One evening, they would be a bit on the small side for picking, so I'd leave them. By the next evening, and sometimes even the next morning, they were huge! I was having flashbacks to the last time I grew zucchini!

Despite all this picking, I somehow missed one and ended up with a monster.

The smaller pickle is actually one 
that is already on the large size.

It was hard to capture the size of this sucker, so I placed it in my hand, for reference.

I figure I'll put that one in a gazpacho since I also have no shortage of tomatoes.

By Saturday, I had gathered everything I needed to make pickles. There was no way I could eat that many and I had given away a lot already. It was time to "put up" as they call the act of preserving summer's bounty.  I've never made my own pickles but have always wanted to, so I was excited. Ha ha, yes...this kind of thing makes me very happy! I've made a ton of different salsas, chutneys, hot pepper jelly, fruit jams & jellies, pickled beets, turnips, and mixed vegetables...I'm probably missing something. This is all stuff I've learned as a late teen or adult. My mother thinks it's amazing and doesn't understand where I get it from, but is happy to reap the rewards  ;-)

Weighing out the cucumbers. I only had about half the amount most recipes call for. No matter, 4 lbs would be plenty.

The "gear" all set out and ready to go. The pickling brine with pickling spices were already on the stove.
Dill, mustard seed, garlic, and utensils.

I fully intended to take pictures of each step but once I started there was no way to stop for a photo.
The Result.

I have learned the benefit to harvesting while the cucumbers are still small. It is hard to fit them in the jar when they are that big! So, I did two jars in spears, one jar of "slicers", and two of whole, smaller cukes. I was left with some odds and ends and one whole cuke, so I sliced the cuke in coins, added the other, um, remnants, to a jar and pickled them too. No point in wasting anything after having them in brine all night!

Since I had an extra long weekend, I took the opportunity to spend more time in the garden today. The carrots have needed some attention for awhile, so I pulled more of them. It seems today was the "ugly" carrot day. I've been impressed so far with the shape of the carrots I've harvested. They have all been well-formed and straight, I expected more misshapen carrots. Today, I got them. I also pulled something else...the top looked almost like a carrot but was noticeably different from the others. I think maybe a wild parsnip?

One of these things is not like the other.

You know how carrots that have grown funny sometimes look like a pair of legs? Well, I had one that looked kinda cute.

Looks like a lovely [carrot] lady from behind, doesn't it?

That is, until you turn it around!

Oh my!  Lol, couldn't resist.

Equally scandalous, at least to me, is the number of apples I have to clean up. My apple trees were left alone for far too long and therefore are not good trees. I appreciate having large trees out back and also the privacy they provide. However, I don't appreciate the large number of apples I have to rake up every week. I can't even eat any of them since the tree is way too tall to harvest from and the ones that hit the ground are not really edible.

I rake them into piles that I can then shovel (delicately) into a bucket, which I then transfer into a variety of places - our backyard compost bin, the city compost bin, and the city yard waste bags. You see, there are too many for any one place!  I should find someone with goats and ask if I can borrow them for an afternoon!!

I wish I could get a photo that captured just how many apples there are.
Keep in mind I cleared the ground only a week ago!

The raking is annoying, at best, and stressful since there are so many wasps and other bugs around. Naturally, they love the rotting apples. To add insult to injury...or rather add (potential) injury to insult (having to clean so many rotten apples), more apples are falling as I work. Many narrowly miss hitting me. I had an arbourist out last week to look at a few trees and he confirmed these apple trees aren't worth trying to rehab.

Ok, so I don't love cleaning up rotten apples. But at least it smells nice while you're doing it. Apple aromatherapy, lol.  And this space is mine. I try to remember that just a year ago I was in an apartment with no yard at all and trying to grow things on my balcony!  Makes me want to hug an apple tree. Almost.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Honesty Moment.

I was going to post about my wonderful garden, riding - including a meet up with a fellow blogger that I've been meaning to blog about for weeks. I planned to post photos of the dinner I made from the fresh goodness that I picked today. And the frustration of a horse with a missing shoe for the umpteenth time. I will still do that, but what is really on my mind is loneliness.

I'm kinda lonely. Not always, but often enough. I want to have a ton of fun and live up the summer. But I have a hard time actually doing it. Part of this is because you can't be as spontaneous when you have animals that rely on you. I find few people truly understand this. Those with children think I don't know what it really means to have responsibility and scoff at me. Other people just generally don't understand why I would be so lame "just because of a dog."  After all, half of them have dogs and they don't worry about a walking schedule etc. Occasionally, I will meet someone who 'gets it' and it is like finding an oasis in the desert.

Another aspect is that I have a hard time socializing, sometimes. I can be very social. In fact, those who know me well find it hard to believe that I am ever introverted at all. But I am. I'm pretty comfortable by myself most of the time and this makes it harder to reach out when I am without my other half. I don't tend to realize I am aching for a friend and/or bored until I am in the thick of it. I don't tend to come out of it unless I have to (e.g., new situation) or I am around people I know well. I know, I sound like a loner freak :

In other news...I haven't had much to say about the riding mostly because Brumby was missing a shoe for 2 weeks. Still, some interesting things traspired just before and during, so I'd like to share. 

Just before Mr.Shoeless pulled his latest shoe, I met up with a fellow blogger! One afternoon while hacking with my instructor we met another rider on the path. I recognized them but wasn't fully sure, so I didn't say anything. Plus I was a little concerned about it being a touch creepy to be addressed by your blogger name, lol.

I came home, double checked and sure enough the woman we had passed was none other than little keebler.  I had been stopping in to her blog for quite awhile but didn't comment much. I knew she was in my area but didn't realize until I saw her that she was actually boarding across the way from where my Brumby is boarded. We made contact and went for a hack and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was also like validation that the connections you make while blogging are real. It IS possible you will end up knowing someone from the blogosphere. I do get weird looks when I say I met her on the internet, while keeping both our blogs confidential, lol. Ah, whatever, it's 2010! The internet is like the subway or bus, you can meet all kinds of people, even normal ones! Not that I claim to be normal...

So, two weeks later, Brumby finally had his feet done. Can I just say that I think a $260 farrier bill is freakin' crazy! I'm used to my half being $80-$90, so $160-$180, which is bad enough! Ouch! Why can't I have a passion for something cheap? Or at least a little less expensive? I started knitting once and made a couple hats and some mittens...maybe I should take that up seriously instead. Mind you, based on my last attempt, I have very expensive taste in yarn ;)  Might as well stick with horses.

So, while Brumby was on light-duty due to being unbalanced with only 3 shod feet, I got to ride a couple other horses. 
Last weekend I rode a 4 year old TB/Hanoverian who I've posted about before.  I was the first person to ride him other than my coach.  I wasn't sure how he'd react since I was only the second person on him. He was awesome!!  He's still quite green, he was just started this winter/spring, and started lightly, but he's come a long way since then. I was surprised by how much he knows, especially the lateral work. 

Mostly I was impressed with his positive attitude to under saddle work - he seems to think it's all interesting and fun, even though he can be sensitive. What a great attitude to work with! I attribute this to my coach taking her time and introducing new things as he was ready, combined with just a touch of challenge. At one point she said "I'm so proud" and I asked her whether she was proud of me or the horse. Ever the diplomat, she responded, "both of you!" And so she should be, she's trained us both! Though I think the horse is learning faster, lol. 

Here's a picture of him, last week. 
Looking a little more like a real horse. 
Still not a conformation shot, I know.

This week,  I rode another horse, a Canadian (yes, it's a breed), in my lesson so I could actually jump a few courses before I lose the little bit of training I've had in this area. The horse I rode is pretty good but still much heavier in the hand than I'm used to. The Canadian rides much like a Fjord, as both are excellent driving horses used for multi-disciplinary activities.

He is a good little jumper but a polar opposite to Brumby in terms of feel, much heavier in the hand. My weak side tends to be my right, though it depends what we are doing. If my back is particularly crooked then I carry my right hip a touch higher. This leads to me not being as strong in my right lower leg. Guess what happens...

One stride before an oxer that was 2'6" or 2'9", I lost my right stirrup. I knew at that point there is nothing we could do but go forward. The sequence was a combination of a similarly sized vertical, followed by the oxer. The vertical rode well but he was "looky" at the oxer and, as is his tendency, he started to drift right. Being my weaker side, it was hard to keep him straight. Plus my stirrups were set for flat work and I was having a crooked day.

Like I said, there was nothing for it but to hope for the best. You can't pull up one stride before a jump like that! So over we went and as we landed I picked up the stirrup. The jump itself wasn't the prettiest because I wasn't balanced, having one foot in a stirrup and the other not. Still, I think I get a few points for staying on and picking up the stirrup right away on the other side and continuing the course. Lol. Good staying on, as my coach said, but I'd prefer not to lose stirrups in the first place!

This happens to me once and awhile and although I'm happy I can adjust my balance enough to ride through it, I would much prefer it didn't happen in the first place. I'm pretty sure my fitness is the main issue. I want to do more cross-training, I just find it hard to have the time, energy, and motivation these days.

Um, I don't have a nice conclusion for this post and I am sleepy, so it'll have to stand as is.
 Thanks, as always, for reading!