Friday, June 26, 2009

Yesterday we went around fixing fence to make it able to hold dogs in; it held, but the dirt underneath it is too soft. Today was very sad when my roomie woke up to find our little girlie Dax missing. She got a call about an hour later from animal control saying that they found her, shot by one of the chicken farmers. She was not a 500 feet from the house and was on public property. It made me really mad, but I realize that the farmer is just protecting his flock, but a simple look at her tags (which is how animal control found us) would have gotten her home safely.

That meant that we have been fixing fence, reinforcing it with long logs to keep the dirt and fencing down, and posting signs around the property letting people know to actually shut the gate and let us know BEFORE they come in the yard. I miss our old pup (she was nearly 10) and now she is buried out in the back yard under a new tree. My roomie is taking it much harder, since she has been with the dog since they both were little. It is very sad to lose Dax, but at least I know that she died quickly and now we know that we REALLY need to keep the boys locked in tight. They both managed to get out this morning, but they are both home bodies and did not roam. Now there is no easy way of escape, short of someone opening the gate.

I may have blisters from shoveling and fencing, but it is worth it to prevent what happened to our little Dax from happening to the other two. Now it is a game of waiting for Bear to find a new spot to dig, scold him, and shore up the area.

(And as a side note I also got a lot of the thistle and sticker plants killed while taking out my frustrations on vile plants instead of people... it served to add to the blister but helped me mentally. Now my hands are torn up, and I am tired, but in a good way after a rather stressful morning.)

I guess that I never will be able to get that new photo of Dax. I will find one somewhere. I will.
And I did:
Dax, born 1998, Died June 26th, 2009

Pretty Edible Flowers!

Recently at work a coworker of mine brought in a gorgeously decorated cake. We had two birthdays that month so the requests that were made was for something with flowers and butterflies...but manly. A difficult request no doubt. However, what showed up for the two birthday people was a wonderful combination of both frilly and firm.

I give you: The Carnivorous Cake!

Those are not just any flowers on there, that is a combination of Venus Fly Traps and Pitcher Plants... along with incoming lunch in the form of edible butterfly decorations and glitter gnats.

To wrap it all up, the decorations are laid on a background of frosting and chocolate-chocolate chunk cake under that. While I cannot say that I tried the cake, the hand pulled sugar decorations were excellent when combined with the decadent frosting that went along with the cake. The whole thing was as tasty as it was beautiful! I can't wait to see her next creation... and eat it.

Cakes and Sugar Oh MY!!

Today I got a feeling of absolute NEED for chocolate cake and icing. This is a bit of a problem because I have to make baked goods in order for me to be able to eat them: I needed a gluten-free cake in a hurry. Luckily I have in my kitchen, at all times, a bag of Pamela's Chocolate Cake Mix from my local supermarket.

This is the only way that I have found (so far in two years of searching, testing, tossing, and tweaking) that will work consistently at high altitudes without using bean flour. It happens to be one of the few mixes that I use anymore since I have found ways of baking gluten-free breads, crusts, sauces and most cakes... but I still have no scratch recipe for chocolate cake that can out-do the Pamela's mix. Don't get me wrong, I still doctor the mix a bit to allow for my tastes, but the mix itself is my main staple for actual cake--not dense torte or gummy glue, but actual fluffy cake that is not overly sugary (like a lot of GF recipes).

All told I basically follow the directions for the "pound cake" or "ultra-rich" version on the side of the package (I was almost out of sour cream, so it was the pound cake version today which is a little fluffier, but also a little drier...especially when I overcook it by a few minutes by getting distracted outside). I also add about two tablespoons of mocha powder (the little tin of drink mix has many uses!) to the mix and make sure to line the bottom of the pan with circles of parchment. I have had too many cakes go to crumbs because one small spot stuck in my pan and the parchment prevents that from being a problem.

The frosting is a newly-developed creation that is basically a 1/2 cup of butter, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/2c. sour cream, and about 3 cups of powdered sugar (and a teaspoon of vanilla or other extract would be nice, but I forgot). I really like the texture of replacing my normal water or milk with the sour cream, but it means that refrigeration is a good idea unless it is going to be immediately eaten.

So without further ado, Here is my grand half second photo session of the cake before I inhaled every bite on the plate with a large glass of milk.

Note that it is not perfectly arranged as I am about to dive headlong into every last calorie on that plate!
Yes, it is not perfect and there are bits missing from the piece... they were properly disposed of I assure you. It was a last minute thought to take photos of my creation. The strawberries were also a last minute idea since I had a box of organic strawberries from our local CSA that were going to go bad soon. It really turned out wonderfully!

So the next time that you are hankering for a nice slice of Gluten-Free chocolate cake, and stopping by your local supermarket, pick up Pamela's mix, you won't regret it. And no, I do not work for, get paid by, or otherwise get compensation from Pamela's other than that they give me the opportunity to have wonderful chocolaty calories out of a mix.

Fun with Moving dogs

Well, it is much later (earlier?) than I thought it was. I was up playing World of Warcraft for a while and lost track of time. Anyway.

Today was an adventure in getting the yard ready for our three four-footed friends. The fence line was walked and adjusted as needed to keep the wigglebutts inside the property, the garden was locked off, food and water was trucked over. And then the dogs.

Now we are only going across town on this adventure, but all three dogs are old, and none of them can climb into the jeep on their own. The two small ones are easy to lift as they are only about 35 lbs... Bear is rather larger so he got some rear end help once he took the initiative to put his front end into the vehicle. Teamwork is good for travel, especially when everyone involved has creaky joints. (Bear occasionally reminds me of Creak from Once everyone was inside, the trip was pretty uneventful but the three dogs each have a very different way of reacting to car rides:

1. hide and cower in a small corner and wait for it all to be over soon.
(Dax--our smaller corgi-like female mutt)

I just realized that I am lacking a photo of Dax... I will remedy that later on.
2. try to look out of every window at once while stepping on the other two dogs
(Worf--the sibling male to Dax)

3. And finally, lay down and hold on for the ride while attempting to not lose his spot to Worf's wanderings...
(Bear, the rescued newf mix)

All told, I think that some of the fence is not going to hold if any of them really want to get out, as some does not effectively hit the ground. As long as the chicken farmer next door does a good job of keeping his chickens in their pens, (which he usually does, even though they are free range) the dogs should have no real reason to try to escape. There are not any loose cats around here so the chickens are the only real stimulus that they have. And the trains. But they just try to hide from the train noises.

Once we got the dogs all settled in with their familiar blankets, we got out the brushes and combs and went at the fur that has been neglected while we were moving. It seems that all three had been hiding extra dogs in their fur that were just waiting to formed out of all the sheddings that we found. There was fur EVERYWHERE! I guess that it will make the nesting birds happy, even though it is a little late for that here. I also am finding out that Newfoundland dogs never really stop shedding... in fact, they just sort of hold onto their sheddings until you brush them and they explode. Luckily Bear really likes to be brushed as long as I let him sit or lay down (standing is as hard on him as it is on me some days!). He is a good dog, as soon as I picked up the collar he shoved his head at me to put it on. Then he just settled down and found a nice patch of warm sand to lay in and snoozed. I have no idea how that dog found his way to the pound, but someone took some time to be around him and train him. (though he can have his obstinate times just like anyone). The other two are nice, it is just that I am still finding out about the quirks of Bear, and enjoying most of what I am finding.

Now time to end this so that I can make a short post on food before sleep!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Fun with 4-wheeling

Well now I should actually start the photo blogging that I started this up for.

I think we start back in April with the trip up and over the Magdalena mountains that my man and a few friends went on. I do not have any editing software besides basic cropping and color adjustments, so these are all cropped/straight out of the camera.

This is a view from the valley we started in.

And one overlooking another valley.

And finally up and over the other side of the valley.

Yes I have tons of other photos... but I am just getting into the swing of things, so we will start slow. It was a great trip and I was happy to get out and take the Jeep out and toss it into low gear for a while. I didn't manage to get the Jeep stuck enough to need anything more than a few moved rocks to get unstuck... sad really.

Next up on the blog will be photo fun in Atlanta from when I went this past May for a conference and took a stop at the Aquarium and Coka-Cola museum.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

How to move a garden pt. 1

I went out to my garden today to water it after my absence. Daily watering is blessedly done by the other woman of the house, but the garden needs some deeper watering love to truly thrive. So while I was sitting outside scratching dog ears and making plants happy I stopped to take stock of the work that will be involved in transporting this garden across town and transplanting it in a new (and as of yet non-existent) garden.

The tomatoes are laden with the first crop of succulent juicy fruit--both the romas and the regular slicing varieties. Those will need a pot each--which I luckily have laying around from past years' annual plantings. The corn and smaller plants like the radishes and bunching onions will all fit nicely into a long windowsill planter, and the beans... well... they will manage there once I remove them from their wire supports. The lettuce and squash/melons will take some more ingenuity and patience since they tend to be picky about movement, but I should still be able to pot them and be fine.

The biggest problem by far is the lack of new garden at the new property to actually transplant the babies. I would love to just pluck them from the ground and immediately plant them the same day to prevent undue stress on the poor guys, but that just doesn't look like it is going to happen. On the other hand, if I get crackin' early and start building the new bed NOW... well tomorrow really... I will have time to still set up the new beds and only have to worry about transporting the plants instead of interim storage in pots. I have grand plans of making a much bigger bed--or beds--for the plants at the new place, but that involves much more dirt, compost, and building materials than I have on hand. To be exact, I have NO dirt and very little compost. Here in the high desert, there is no soil, only sand and rock. And caliche which might as well be concrete ( Caliche is made up of calcium and other mineral deposits that set up into an all-natural shovel-proof inpermeable layer). All the dirt has to come either expensively pre-bagged from the store, or in a more economical large truckload from 70 miles away. The same goes for manure and compost, but I may be able to use some of my own compost as well.

I love gardening, don't get me wrong, but actually building the plot for the plants is the easy part--buying and mixing the filling for the beds is the hard part here. I am expecting to lose some of my plants to the move, but I am avoiding the heartbreak of simply abandoning a garden when it is mid summer and flourishing. Thinning the seedlings is hearbreaking enough for me, I don't think that I could manage losing an entire crop. I am hopeless like that...or eternally hopeful perhaps is a better way of looking at it--hopeful for the healthiest and best mature garden that I can manage (really I hope for the happiest garden around since happy gardens make a happy me!).

On that note, it is time for me to go off and dream of building the new garden... or of whatever randomness that my brain manages to pop up for the night's entertainment.

Fun with Dad

This weekend was full of travel. First there was the trip from home to the city to go to church and then up to my parents' house. There my man dropped me off and left me to the devices of my family. It had been a long time since my dad and I had spent some relaxed time together so we decided to take a short fishing trip around the state. We tried several lakes (which is imprssive considering that we are in the middle of New Mexico--a state full of deserts) all with little success of the fishing variety, but lots of relaxing time. And driving.

Unfortunately I have found that the weather is out to spite me. Normally New Mexico has its rainy season (wishfully called the monsoon season) in mid August. This year it appears to have jumped to late May/early June--also known as the time that everyone had outdoor adventures planned. Every time my father and I would set up at a fishing spot it would: A--start to blow right into us (not good for fishing), B--drip/pour rain on our heads, or C--not have a single fish bite due to A and B mixed with high temperatures.

Even with all the weather spiting us, we managed to have a nice trip. We fished at 5 lakes all told (and saw 3 additional ones too) and drove over 600 miles round trip. What started as a simple jaunt up to a familiar lake turned into a road trip. It is a good thing that I like road trips! Unfortunately our trip was cut short due to work needs at my dad's office so we had to come back to town early, but it still was fun.

After that was the adventure with the family truck so that I could use it to help move Casita Gatita to its new house. This truck is... well loved... yes, that's it, well loved. It has well over 200 thousand miles on it, has had new transmission, engine, cooling system, shocks, various panels, and--thanks to today's adventure--new tires. I grew up driving this beast of a pickup, and hope that it lives a nice long life, but when I left the house this morning I filled up a tire because it was a little low. About 40 miles later when I stopped to get new windshield wipers for it, I noticed that once again it was low, but this time it was down by more than a little. Wipers cost $10. Tires... not so cheap, so I called my dad and asked him what he wanted to do. He tried to tell me earlier that the tires were perfectly fine, just a little worn that was all. Suuuuuure.

After taking it in to my friendly tire shop (which I trust) they sadly told me that there was nothing wrong with the tire... other than that the rubber was just disintegrating and not holding air in. I asked the question of whether it would get me home (60 more miles) or not. The lady there flat said that she did not think it would make it there with any air left in it, and thought that the other tires were not far behind. I checked all the tires again for air pressure... sure enough they had dropped between 2 and 5lbs in 4 hours and 40 miles. Damn.

I called dad back and explained, then put him on the line with the sales rep and had them explain exactly the same thing that I had told my dad, except with dollar signs attached to the solution. $600 later, the truck has new tires, I had a safe drive home at a reasonable speed instead of a turtle, and I have peace of mind that I would not get stranded due to tire failure any time soon. I love my dad, but when it comes to other people's vehicles he just loses his senses (he takes excellent care and maintenance of his own truck). That is okay, this is why I know to hand the phone to the "experts" and let them explain why the part is necessary rather than his eternal "little girl." Daddies are sweet, but sometimes need a little push in the right direction to listen to sense!

All told the trip was nice, the truck is fixed, I have a way to move that does not involve cars or SUV's, and I am well rested from a road trip and an excuse to have a fishing pole in my hands and enjoy the outdoors. And I managed to get sunburnt where I missed part of my back... oops. I have sunscreen for a reason, since I have a tendancy of burning to a crisp, but I missed two perfect stripes on my shoulder blades where a halter top doesn't cover anything... and where nice soft un-sunned skin had a chance to get crispified by the high desert sun.