Friday, December 31, 2010

TWELVE BELOW

It doesn't feel that bad, but that's what it is outside.  There is bright sunshine, clear unpoluted blue sky, and dazzling white all over everything.  Trees have branches breaking off from the weight.  I took a garden rake out to try to remove some snow from them, but it was too little too late.  Nature had dumped too much, and some old trees and branches are just lying down and giving up.  There are strange looking icicles coming out of the roof edge snow.  They seem to be made up of individual drops that froze in place, making the icicle not so much smooth ice as faceted, like long dripping diamond jewelry. 

The dropping temperature woke me around 3:30 a.m. as the fire was fading.  The wood on the porch seems to be impregnated with ice, not just damp.  It has to be dried out by the stove before it's of any use inside as firewood.  Fortunately, it's a soapstone lined stove, and it keeps radiating heat long after the fire has gone out.  They are frightfully expensive.  I thank my daughter mentally every day for such a lavish gift.  The cold would not be maneagable without that gorgeous stove.

 I worry about Buster, the border collie.  His feet must be suffering from this frigid ice on the ground.  Yet he won't quit his appointed rounds, which consist in herding The Boss around as he does his jobs, even in this cold.  The Boss once told me he was in a 40-below winter.  He could take a cup of warm water, toss the water up into the air, and watch it become falling ice crystals in an instant.  We haven't reached that point yet. 

I have actually put a space heater down in the crawl space so the washing machine pipes do not freeze.  One also has to keep all cupboard doors open and the hot water faucets on slow drip. 

We have had periodic power outages.  I slept through two of them.  The huge towers owned by the company, Avista, can be seen from my windows.  Some of them have osprey nests on them, covered with icicles and snow, empty until next season. 

One of the former milk cows, Serenity, is being traded for a couple of others.  She's the one who kept kicking The Boss during milking.  A more ill tempered cow they have never seen.  She's a beauty, though.  Palomino colored Jersey cow.  Someone is getting a good deal.  She'll be a good breeder.  If she doesn't kick the crap out of the bull.

I wrapped up in several layers to walk out and watch them separate her from the other girls in
Chuck's harem.  Chuck was beside himself with glee, leaping in the air and dancing around, all because humans (the best toys) were there.  He wanted to play so much.  But The Boss and his wife were all business.  I guess if you have been in the business for most of your life, you don't get excited about a playful Jersey bull, no matter how rare.  But I'm just a damned-fool foreigner, and I adore that crazy bull.

Happy New Year to all,
s

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

VEGETARIAN SPINACH ENCHILADAS IN MONTANA

The calendar is galloping toward Christmas.  My daughter is coming up from civilisation with my son in law.  So what's the menu?  British Roast Beef?  Turkey?  Goose?  Wild Turkey crossing the driveway?  Ham?

Nope.  I suddenly have vegetarians in the family.  There's a book out that tells us to eat for our blood type.  Type O's are carnivores.  Type A's are grain and greens foragers.  So we are Type A's.  I think I would have to become road kill myself to give up roast beef.  But Kicking and screaming, vegetarian this Christmas will be. 

Sometimes, it's worth it.  Trust me, carnivores.

VEGETARIAN SPINACH ENCHILADAS:

This is a variation of the Green Enchiladas I posted a few days ago.

 Make the green tomatillo, chilis sauce in the other posting called Recipes. 
Mix squeezed-dry frozen spinach (chopped) in with drained ricotta cheese, put a long strip on softened corn tortilla.  Add strip of pepper jack cheese, or havarti, tilsit.  Whatever cheese you can't live without.  Spoon a little sauce in.  Roll them up, put edge-down in long oven pan.  Pour a lot of sauce over, cover with grated cheese.  350 degrees until bubbling madly all around,  45 min?

Can add some sun-dried tomatoes or seeded strips of fresh tomatoes. 

 Serve, as with any enchiladas, green salad with balsamic dressing, and garlic bread.  If you add heat to the enchiladas, have some cucumbers in the salad. 

In this climate, for dessert:  Coffee ice cream and hot fudge, OR hot chocolate, marshmallows with a tablespoon of brandy, rum, or Kahlua.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

WINTER MUSINGS

One thing the snow and ice do outside, you stay in and maybe think.  A little. 

I saw an interview on the John Stewart show of four men who were first responders on 9-11. 

These men are that rare type who will help anyone, any time.  It's just who they are.  They plunged into that nightmare from hell, with poison air and falling bodies to try to help anyone they encountered.  They didn't give a damn about the person's religion, race, age, or political party.  They did what they simply had to do, no matter the risk to themselves.  They are the rarest and most heroic type of human being.  They came from all over the country, in cars, trains, boats to help the people of New York City.  And all these years they have been sick, all over the country.

As we watched them talk, it became obvious that each of the four men was dying, of various effects of the poison they worked in at ground zero.  None of them will live much longer.  Each one said he would do it again, no matter what pain and suffering they have had to endure since 9-11.  It wasn't possible to watch them without crying, for them, their families, and for what this country has become that would let this happen to its best and most heroic citizens. 

And how do we repay them?  Do they have medical coverage, decent care and concern from a grateful nation?  Hardly.  They live on unemployment because they can no longer work.  Their families are broken and destroyed, and they are barely surviving.  Their benefits long ago ran out.  They are left abandoned and alone by the country they loved enough to sacrifice even their own lives.

There is a bill that passed the House.  The Senate is debating what their sense of right and decency should tell them to support.  The money to help these heroes is being voted on YEARS after the nightmare on 9-11.  And there are people WE elected who debate what should be obvious to anyone.  It's by comparison to the zillions we have poured on millionaires a piddling amount, and paid for, not adding to the deficit.  What is the problem?  What kind of human being can question what is the right thing to do, when it's so damned obvious?  Maybe like some insurance companies, they figure if they stall enough, these heroes will all die and won't cost anything.

If you don't know how the people you elected are voting on this issue, find out.  Did you send a good guy, with a conscience, or did you send someone who has sold his soul to the money brokers? 

We used to be the good guys in this world.  What happened to us?

 This isn't why you read this blog.  I don't apologise.  I'm upset and ashamed of my country.  If YOU are not upset too, why not?

I wish you all a loving and peaceful Christmas.  Let us remember and pray for our heroes who deserve better this season than they will get.

love,
s

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

RECIPES

When in doubt, play in the kitchen when it's snowing outside.  The following is Mexican in Montana.... my adaptation.

Green enchiladas, from New Mexico in the '60's

Marinate chicken breast strips in margarita.  (with tequila, really).  for three days.
poach gently in marinade.
wrap in softened corn tortillas, with strips of pepper jack cheese and add some of below sauce.
line them up in long cassarole.

Sauce:

Can/s of cream of mushroom soup.
can of green chilis.
can of tomatillos
green onion tops sliced.

pour over top of rolled tortillas,
cover with grated cheese.

Oven until bubbling at 325

Serve with thinly sliced lettuce and avocado slices, sour cream, and green taco sauce; fresh lime to squeeze.
French bread is nice.


DESSERT:

All my life I have disliked ginger snap cookies.  Trust me.  These are different:
It's an old, old recipe.  Follow it exactly, and you will be famous.

3/4 C shortning (they use Crisco, really.  You'll see why.)
1C sugar
1/4C dark molasses
1 egg
2C flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking powder.
(recipe calls for 1/4 tsp cloves, but nobody does it)

Cream the shortning, sugar, molasses, and egg.  Add flour and spices.  CHILL dough for one hour or more.  Form into balls the size of a walnut.  Dip in granulated sugar and place 2" apart on UNgreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 8 minutes for chewey cookies.  Bake a couple minutes longer for crisper snaps.  Store in airtight container while still warm and they will stay chewey.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Boss's Birthday and a new pet

It's not yet 6 a.m.  The Boss is out milking the girls, and a cold slushy rain is dumping onto the snow and ice already in residence.  We call out, "Good Morning!  It's a beautiful day!"  Because it is.  There are not any days that are not stunningly beautiful, no matter what nature dumps on us.

Buster, the border collie, trots through the snow, with drops of water like rhinestones on his rust and white coat, wanting a doggie cookie.  It gets plugged into his mouth, and off he goes to eat it, in the snow, not on the carpeted porch.  Dogs are strange critters sometimes. 

The Boss Lady is hacking a path through ice and snow which blocks the path The Boss needs to travel with full buckets of warm Jersey milk.  Their quart count is down a little, but mine would be too, under the circumstances.  I take my sharp trenching shovel out to help chip the ice away for shoveling. 

A few minutes ago, I sneaked a present in to the dining table where the Boss will eat breakfast in a while.  It's a painted portrait of Buster, The Boss's best friend in the whole world.  The artist is a friend, and her talent is awesome.  It's painted on flagstone, and the dog's eyes look up at you with the same intense interest and love as he does in reality.  I still owe her a lot of hours of heavy labor for this great favor.  She's a busy artist, and this was a great kindness to me.

What woke me this morning at 5 a.m. was something walking across my foot.  Creepy.  Turns out it was a tiny, taupe mousie, in it's winter fuzzy coat.  It's about the size for a standard doll house, like the ones in Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter.  If you haven't read that book to your kids, shame on you.

Anyway, it disappeared to show up in a few minutes walking right toward my foot.  As KitKat did last summer when a mousie got in, I stood there like a dummie and watched it.  The reflex to stop on it was absent from the genes.  Felt like a damned fool as it ran under a 100 year old trunk.

So I put out some mousie poison pellets.  It stuck his nose in the air and walked on by.  Then I broke a Ritz cracker into tiny doll house size canapes, put on a drop of peanut butter, then a little pellet of poison on top like an olive on a nibble at a party.  Maybe this mouse is used to the better things in life and will die happy after ingesting my very best cocktail party nibble. 

After shoveling snow, sneaking over to leave the birthday present, I came back in to inspect the trail of tempting little mousie morsels.  Nothing.  You can tell if something has been moved.  Nothing.  My feelings are hurt.  Didn't I put out the best I had?  What does the little brat want, anyway?

Disgusted, I logged on to the internet to grumble to you about ungrateful rodents.  Most of the time it takes me half an hour to find my own blog.  No wonder no one else can find it.  As I sit here typing, out of the living room, along the hallway runner trots the cute little taupe mouse.  I opened the front door, letting a fair amount of heat out and sub freezing air in.  Maybe the fresh air will attract him.  I prop the door open.  He scoots hither and yon, too dumb to see the gigantic wide-open door.  I'm getting cold and annoyance add to the hurt feelings that this furry upstart has shunned my food.  I stand up to try to herd it out the door.

Nope, it suddenly decides it does not want to go out there.  No way.  It likes it in here.  It turns around and runs in circles; so do I trying to persuade it.  Finally the impossibly stupid thing runs toward my foot again, perhaps thinking I am a tree to escape up.  No way is this critter running up my pants leg.  I may be chicken, but I'm not as stupid as this mouse.  I raise my foot and bring it down fast and hard.  It had no clue it was dying.  It was sudden death, then off to mouse heaven to discuss with former friends the vicissitudes of life as a rodent, and the possible causes of instant death.  Mouse philosophy abounds up there, you know.

I have no doubt that KitKat will find the furry remains and enjoy a cat canape.  She may not be into killing them herself, but she never passes up a free meal.

Haven't heard a word from The Boss's house about the birthday present, which is fine with me.  I don't want to hear, "Thank you."  I just want to know it made him smile, which I'm sure it did.  He's one of the very best men around.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

CRAZY SMART ELK IN MONTANA

With few exceptions, the elk and deer know what's up with hunting season.  Maybe it's all the hot Montana men in their Cabella camo.  Maybe it's the noise.  But they know.  They also know that they stand a better chance against hunters than they do against packs of wolves.  So they flip a coin to see where to hang out and watch the fun, as humans try to outsmart them.  Trust me, most of them escape with nothing more than a little excitement.  I think they view it as elk version of humans running the bulls at Pamplona.  Something else the two legged dummies do for fun.

The exceptions?  A few years ago, during hunting season, the teen-age daughter of The Boss looked out her upstairs window and could not believe her eyes.  She had a tag for hunting one elk, but school kept her out of the field and at the computer.  What she saw outside was a large, six point buck casually grazing in the pasture with the cattle.  Maybe he was trying to pass as a Jersey cow.  Maybe his genetics were inferior, aka stupid.  Maybe it was just his time.  So, the young girl grabbed her rifle, walked out the back door, and dropped him where he stood  (yes it was completely legal). It didn't rattle the cattle one bit.  Open pasture eating comes before entertainment any day.  When her father came running, she looked at him wide-eyed and said, "Gosh, Dad, I don't know what all the big deal is about finding a buck during hunting season.  It's easy."

I hear guys at the store and gas station moaning that there are no elk this year.  Nobody is getting anything.  The local boys call the season, "Taking my gun for a walk."   The wolves have decimated what were large herds.  A few years ago, you could see 50 of them in the pasture.  Now we have seen between five and ten.  We can tell when they show up because the border collie barks a lot.  He doesn't go near them.  Too big.  But he makes noise.  Usually around 3 a.m.

Hunting season ended this week.  There is a ton of snow on the pasture, so the elk come down looking for hay to steal from the cattle.  The Boss looked out the window yesterday and saw.... you guessed it.... a 6 point buck casually walking by in the pasture, no anxiety, unflappable and calm.  A really BIG, SMART buck.  I imagine he was mentally flipping the bird to the puny human being. 

They know when hunting season starts so they can show up and watch the tourists.  And they know when it ends so they can steal hay from the Jerseys.  These critters ain't stupid.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

DESPERATELY WATCHING CRAP TV

Tried to get to Bible Study group last night.  Turned around after ten miles.  Even with snow tires and 4wd, the roads were slithery.  Slithery is a new word for when 4wd turns into four-wheel slither.  When one begins to slide into a river which is half iced over, the original purpose of being out there shrinks in importance.  Is it worth dying for?  Nope.

So I got home, turned on the TV.  My daughter and her husband watch Survivor faithfully.  It's almost a religeous ritual.  I used to.  For some reason, I got mad at it and quit.  They are always kicking off anyone of value.  For many seasons, the winners seemed to me a succession of non-entities.  I haven't liked anyone since Rupert.

If you don't watch the show, bear with me.  There's a point coming.  I think.

I gave in and watched Survivor. Two of the youngest women announced they were quitting and going home with only 11 more days to go on a deserted island.  They are hungry, tired, and very cold.  Standard conditions.  They have watched the show for years.  Why was this a surprise to them?
 
One of two teams won a challenge and got to go off island, to watch a movie and eat hot dogs.  (Yes they are after almost a month, this desperate).  The boss said one person could make the sacrifice and stay in camp in return for rice for the whole group.  Food is a big issue.  You can't function or think without it.  One of the older women volunteered.  The girl on this team who is quitting got glared at for being a selfish wimp and going on the reward.  She didn't care.
 
 I agree that the one who was leaving should have stepped up to the plate and stayed in camp for the rice. But her mind simply could not comprehend the concept of selflessness for the greater good. 
 
 It set me pondering that each generation seems to be evolving into people of less and less character.  No spine, no courage, no caring about what is right and wrong, and what other people need.  The two girls who voted to quit and run have no clue how pitiful they are. 
 
 I think it goes back to the fact that each generation is more and more raised by TV and computer screens.  They are not taught integrity, morality, values, civility.  They don't know they are part of a larger universe and have responsibilities.  They are forever selfish children. 
 
They have gone home by now, proclaiming their right to supreme selfishness.  Some will support them.  Others will shun them.  It will be a lesson.  The finale will be fascinating. Did they learn anything, or do they cling with stubborn pride to their self-absorbed values?
 
When the end comes, a jury of kicked-off team members will judge which of two remaining players gets the million dollars (before taxes).  I do not think the two wimps should be allowed on the jury!  You quit, you are out of the game.  Big mistake on the producers' part.  But ratings rule the world.

Endless snow has reduced me to watching this nonsense. Is Jerry Springer far behind?  And we may have several more months of WINTER.  Babbling and drooling will commence soon.