I may chat about my books, what I'm writing or reading, or just general thoughts. You may read posts about my cats or just my crazy life in general. Comments are welcome, if anyone wants to interact with me. Maybe we can share war stories, whether it's writing related or just about life in general.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Vaccary



I grew up on a farm so this is a fitting word because we had many cows.  I decided to research pastures from ancient times.

The vaccary is an archaic word meaning a cow pasture or dairy farm.  In medieval times, it was linked to grazing land in the moors and valleys of the Pennines in Yorkshire and Lancashire.



 Old vaccary in Pendle UK
 
In the thirteenth century, numbers of vaccaries were carved out of old private hunting chases of nobility, who created them in an attempt to get some revenue back from their holdings.  Vacarries were small-scale commercial cattle farms.  In places around Pendle in the UK (more famous for its witches), you can still see the big stone slab walls that kept the cattle enclosed.

The word is from Medieval Latin, derived from vacca (for cow) and vaccinate (Latin vaccinus) for the cowpox serum used to protect people from smallpox.

This information is from World Wide Words

Friday, April 24, 2015

Useful Products



This one is to make cleaning easier.  I recently found this product and I’m amazed with what it can do.  I’m not very domestic and hate cleaning and cooking, which is an oddity, I guess, because I’m female.  I’m always looking for something to make the job quicker so I can get back to doing what I’d really like to do, writing, reading, sewing, crafting, playing with the cats, etc.

Unfortunately, I live in a dust bowl called the desert.  Red sand surrounds me.  I can dust and in two days, the red sand is back.  I still like to leave my windows open because there aren’t that many days you can do that in the desert.  Face it I love fresh air, but usually it’s too cold or too hot around here for open windows.  Regardless, the sand finds a way into the house.




This is a new dusting cloth by Clorox.  Don’t worry it isn’t smelly like bleach and is safe to use on just about any surface, including electronics.  It’s a dry duster similar to the refill cloths for the swifter, but this is thinner and a bit stickier (not the sticky you’re thinking of.) 

This cloth is about 8” by 8” and is designed for dry dusting.  Unbelievably, one cloth can dust an entire room.  That’s what the company advertizes and they don’t lie.  I tried it in the dustiest spot in the entire house, my husband’s office.  I wanted to put this to the test and I wasn’t disappointed.

The wipe picks up dust and cat hair (I have plenty of that) and it stays on the cloth because of the tacky texture.  You actually remove it and not just move it around as you dust.  When finished you just toss the rag in the trash.  The dust cloth starts out as a light yellow color.  By the time you’re finished, it will be brown.

Handy dispenser box

It only took me about an hour to dust the entire house, which is 3300 square feet.  If you need to do a quick job, this is for you.  On the days I use this new product, I can eliminate my use of glass cleaner and furniture polish.  Yes, these wipes will clean glass too. 

Normally I carry around a cleaning basket loaded with paper towels, half a dozen different cleaners, dust rags, scrubbing sponges, etc.  I think Clorox Dust Cloths is a marvelous find.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Traveling the Al-Can Highway



When you drive to Alaska, the Alaska-Canada Highway is the only way to get there.  This is some highway and one you’ll never forget.



 The Alcan Highway
 
When we got the wild hair to go to Alaska we didn’t know what we were in for back in the seventies.  This one-thousand mile road is dirt and not even paved, at least it wasn’t back then.  Of course, we found this out later because when we went in March the road was covered in snow.  Someone told us that it was worse to travel it in the summer when you ate dust the entire way.

The highway weaves in and out, around mountains, and across flatland's.  There was so much snow that the road was like a trench with great walls of snow above six-feet high on each side in lots of places.  Picture driving in the kind of trenches you see in the Olympics for the bobsleds.  Thankfully, you seldom meet another vehicle, but on the downside, this can be a bad thing if you are sucked into the snow bank.  That did happen to us and finally a large truck came along to pull us out.  A person could freeze to death out there in the wilderness.  For March it was cold, no need to worry about food spoiling.

Alaska Landscape

We (there were three of us) slept in the truck.  There are very few motels or gas stations between the long stretches of wilderness. 

It took us about six days to make this trip from Texas.  What a drastic change.  We left the eighty-degree temps for the low twenties.  In Montana, we ran into a blizzard and had to stop for the night because of whiteout conditions.

It’s a good thing we bought several pounds of smoked sausage to take along on the trip because we literally lived on that almost the entire time.  Everything was expensive, so we only got a motel room once on the road.

We had stopped somewhere along the way and were going to try to grill something on a small pit we had in the back of the truck.  What a joke that was.  It was too damn cold to hang around outside.  We crawled back in the truck and broke out the sausage. 

Later, we were sucking fumes so we pulled into a gas station and had to stay there until daybreak when the guy came to work so we could fill up and get on the road.  We ran the motor just enough to take the chill off the truck so we could dose off during the night.  There was nothing else around, just this small gas station in the middle of nowhere.



 Alaska Landscape
 
The night we did have a room, we decided to cook hamburgers. All of us were tired of sausage at that point, although it did hold up well.  We just passed the brown paper bag around and got some out when were hungry.  It was quick and easy eating, but that sausage was getting a bit hard and chewy, more like jerky.

We stopped at a tiny market close by the motel and got the stuff we needed for burgers.  We had the hamburger with us already.  It stayed frozen in the back of the truck since our escapade of grilling it on the side of the road a few days earlier hadn’t worked out.  I think we probably got some produce.  It’s been so long ago I really don’t remember.

Once back at the motel, we had to do what we could in the tiny room with just enough room for two beds.  There was a small bath to the side so we set the mini-Weber grill on the toilet seat.  I know this sounds bad, but you do what you have to do.  We had a good laugh about it all and I’m sure anyone would have thought we were nuts if they could see us cooking food in a bathroom, not exactly the most sanitary place in the world.  Those were the best burgers though and our only real meal since leaving Texas.  Heck, maybe anything would’ve been good.  We were probably just starved for any kind of food besides sausage.

We were all pretty scroungy looking by that time.  It did feel good to take an actual shower that night and get on some cleaner clothes.

That was one long trip.  When we finally arrived at the Alaska state line, we found better roads even if the snow was about the same.  We drove into Anchorage, another few hours away, and ended up in a commune where another friend was staying.  I’ll end this here because life in the commune is a completely different story.

Have you ever endured such conditions or lived in a commune?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Sweetness of my Gentle Boy



I can’t let this challenge go by without telling a cat story.  Raven apologizes for all his misdeeds.



Raven 
 
Raven is always in trouble with my husband for getting into things he shouldn’t.  He’s a kitten, so what can I say.  Everything looks enticing and like something that he can turn into a cat toy to play with.  He’s scolded and hollered at quite a bit around here.  This really hurts him.  He looks my husband in the eye, never blinking, taking his scolding like a trooper. 



 Raven

Later in the day, he creeps up onto my husband’s lap and puts his paw or his head on his shoulder as if to say, “I’m sorry.  Are you still mad at me?” 

I’ve never seen a cat like this one.  He has such a mild temperament.  Everyone loves him and says, if they had a cat, they would hope to get one that mellow and friendly.



 Raven

He’s my handsome boy and I love him to death.  I’m so glad I was the one who adopted him.  I’m thankful everyday.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Do you believe in Reincarnation?




My grandmother did and I tend to lean that way myself.  This is a fascinating subject to me.  While we have no proof, and are unlikely to receive any, many small children know things they couldn’t possibly know that happened decades before they were born.  What’s to be made of such stories?

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense that a soul would get a do-over to do better in the next life.  I’m not one to believe that if you don’t get it right, you’ll spend eternity in hell.  If that’s the case, how merciful is the creator?




The thought of bad people going to hell is an enticing one when you think about murderers and psychopaths who can’t reform, but then the world will always have evil characters in it, so maybe these types also get to do it all over again.  It makes you think, doesn’t it?

After all, nobody is perfect, so just where do you draw the line for indiscretions that will still allow your soul to be admitted into heaven on your first attempt?  No, I’m not a Buddhist, but Buddhism teachings do make a lot of sense in some areas.




Then there’s the feeling of déjà vu that happens when you go somewhere that you know you’ve never been, but you know where everything is.  Has this ever happened to you?  It’s happened to me a couple of times.  The scene also gave me goose bumps because it was creepy to know all that stuff and know I was in a strange place.

On a different tack altogether, perhaps you create your own heaven and hell.  The concept for everyone could be different because we all have different things to fear, or different ideas of what the perfect place is.  Has anyone thought about that?




I know this is a controversial post, but I bet it’ll make you ponder some deep subjects for a while and question yourself as to where you stand on this issue.  Is your soul reborn into a new body, do you live through someone else in a future life, or is that it – dead is dead - and you’re shuffled off to heaven or kicked down to hell?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Quail and other desert wildlife



I never really saw so many quail before moving to the desert.  They’re all over roaming the sagebrush-filled chaparrals.  I can watch them from my office window running in groups between tumbleweeds, cactus, and other desert plants.  Their feet scurry through the red dirt and around fallen twigs and other debris from plants that didn’t make it through some previous winter.

How these little “desert chickens” survive is beyond my comprehension.  They’re subject to harsh conditions winter and summer, not to mention predators like the birds of prey and coyotes that thrive in abundance here.

We feed the quail along with all the other critters that venture by.  They know we won’t hurt them, although the quail are more cautious.  The chipmunks have become so acquainted with us that we can walk right up to them.  They’re no longer afraid and don’t rush off to their little holes, which lead to underground burrows all over our yard.

Male and female quail

The quail act just like chickens, scratching at the ground to turn up seed.  The young ones that hatch every May do the same.  It’s comical to watch a quail about two inches tall doing the “chicken dance” just like its parents.



 Male quail standing guard
 
They come through in groups daily and always post a sentinel on the block wall.  This is probably instinct to keep a lookout for predators.  The adults take turns with the chicks and one will keep watch while the others eat and then they switch.  The families are fierce when it comes to their offspring and don’t like any other family getting close.  They will fight each other to protect their little ones.

Quail with chicks

The small chicks are mindful of their parents at all times and are good to follow them everywhere and not venture out on their own until they’re much older.  Even the teenagers stay close to mom and dad.  I guess there’s power in numbers and a loan quail would be easy pickings for a hungry raptor.

At night, I hear the calls out in the desert as they gather their families before sunset.  The mournful and persistent sounds drift through the evening air.  Sometimes the adult quail perch on the wall in back and look towards the desert calling their loved ones.  This moaning wail goes on and on sometimes and we know if someone is lost.  It’s almost a frantic cry of desperation as the sun sinks behind the mountains and darkness creeps in over the bluffs.

Each day the families come to eat and drink and we see the little ones numbers dwindle as the days drift on toward summer.  This is probably why there can be as many as two dozen chicks in one group.  The survival of the species counts on that many eggs because usually less than half of the chicks will make it to adulthood.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Easy Chicken Pot Pie


Who doesn’t like comfort food occasionally?  This recipe is easy and delicious.  It only takes about 35 minutes to make.



Ingredients:

1 2/3 cup Green Giant “steamers” frozen mixed veggies
1 cup cut up cooked chicken
1 can (10 ¾ oz) condensed chicken soup
1 cup of Bisquick
½ cup of milk
1 egg

Directions:

Heat oven to 400°F
Mix veggies, chicken and soup
Pour into ungreased glass 9-inch pie plate
Stir together remaining ingredients (Bisquick, milk and egg) with fork until blended
Pour over chicken and veggies
Bake 30 minutes or until golden brown

Hints:

You can make this dish 24 hours ahead and refrigerate, but it may need to cook a few minutes longer.

Add spices to the chicken and veggie mixture for additional flavor, such as oregano, basil, thyme or dill

You can substitute turkey for chicken, or use a different flavor of condensed soup

This pie will serve six people and only has 230 calories per serving and 9 grams of fat