Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

It's still summer!

This sunflower is about to give up.... all this talk of fall this and pumpkin that has really got him down. He's thrown himself down into this tree.

Don't worry little sunflower.... there's no need to despair.

Typically our September is the driest month and we usually have glorious sunny skies and warm temperatures.

Hang in there - dont' give up!

It's still summer. I'm not ready to give it up and neither is this sunflower.

Happy Saturday everyone!

Friday, August 28, 2015

How to freeze small portions of tomato sauce.

If you are running towards the end of the summer finish line then you know that saving time is crucial. You want to make sure you save all of your harvest but sometimes that means doing small lots of tomatoes and not huge vats for an all day canning marathon.

Small buckets of tomatoes. Easy peasy.

One of the easiest ways to capture the best of your harvest is to do a small batch of tomato sauce in your crockpot and then freeze it into small portions. I've never thought using ice cube trays was enough to be worth it..... so now I use cupcake trays to freeze-for-keeping small-ish portions of tomato sauce.

Sure you can cook down tomatoes in a crock pot!

You can easily clean a small bucket of tomatoes while making dinner and then cook them in your pokey pot overnight. In the morning just cool the sauce, give it a whirl in your blender, then pour into cupcake trays. I give the cups a little shot of cooking spray first so the sauce pops out when they are frozen.

Freeze the trays then just turn out the frozen cups of sauce and voila!

Use a blender to smooth out the sauce. The not-red stuff is just the cooking spray.

Last year I was not convinced that this was going to work at all. But it did! And it worked really well. What if you only want to make one pizza?.... Or you just need a half a cup of tomato sauce and you don't want to open a whole jar? Just grab one of these frozen wonders and you are good to go.

This year I used standard sized cup cakes and a couple trays of the huge, mammoth muffin sized trays.

A couple tips:
* Using a blender to smooth out the sauce is super fast and it makes pouring the sauce quick and easy.
* If the frozen cups don't slide right out then you can always let them sit for a few minutes. Or if you are super-coordinated you can set the trays in warm water for a few seconds and then pop them out.
* Wrap the frozen tomato cups in waxed paper so they stay separated.

That's what I'm working on today. Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Stock losses.

* Upon hearing of the terrible stock losses, OFG runs out and counts chickens, goats, and pigz.... *

Poultry is the new currency. We are loaded. 

Every body here is present and accounted for... I dunno what stock losses they are talking about.

There is one casualty tho - as usual Nicholas is sitting around watching the stock ticker.... you know he can't handle it.

Happy Wednesday everyone! No stock losses here. Good luck, suckers!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Happy Pigz

Those are some happy pigz.....

Enjoy it now, porker. 

Mostly I've limited my contact with the pigz to taking the dogs down there to glare at them. They are alright. Bacon. All I see is bacon.

Altho, we did have one incident where one of the pigz kissed Kai!  But that is another story for another day. I have to get out there. We are having glorious weather.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, August 24, 2015

You cant beat beets.

You just cant.
Beets are best. 

Got these little beauties at one of the auctions. If you are out there and want to make a million bucks - start growing beets. I have no idea why beets are so expensive. I honestly thought I was the only one who liked them. But they are going for $9 - $12 a bushel basket. I thought I was lucky to get these for $6 and it's a half a peck.

Why didn't I grow my own? They wouldn't grow! For heavens sakes, I started seeds four different times. Beet failure is one of the reasons I'm so glad for our local produce stands and auctions.

Happy Monday everyone! Get out there and harvest your beets!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

I Don't Practice Santeria....

This..... this is not what it looks like....

No chicken voodoo here. 

Don't worry, I don't practice santeria.... this is not chicken voodoo. We were just having Annoying Little Rooster Day.

Unfortunately we got a late start yesterday and so we were swarmed by bugs and yellow jackets. We lit some citronella candles to keep the bugs at bay. For the full effect you have to imagine me with my butcher knives standing between two tiki torches.

In the end it worked out really well for everyone - except those Annoying Little Roosters. The hens rejoiced and now we'll have some lovely chicken and noodles this winter.

Happy Sunday everyone!

Friday, August 21, 2015

How to get your pressure canner guage checked.

Do you know that you should regularly get the gauge checked on your pressure canner? I finally went in and got mine inspected - what a easy process!

If you home can food then you know safety is the highest priority. Most of us were a little leery of getting started with canning. But then you kind of get into the grove and used to it. And then you find out what a terrific value home canning can be. But you shouldn't slack off and become complacent... be sure to keep up with the maintenance of your canner.

The difference between water bath canning and pressure canning is getting the temperature of the contents of the jar high enough to kill off any bacteria. You get the temperature high enough with a  pressure canner. If you don't get the temperature high enough then the food will not be safe to eat. So knowing that your gauge is accurate is extremely important.

You also want to make sure that your seals are sealing, your lid fits property, and there is nothing clogging up the steam vent on the top. You can get all of these things checked in a jiffy at your local Extension Office.

I called up my local office and asked if I could get my gauges checked and they said, 'Sure! Come on in." There is a gal who teaches classes and provides this service. So I ran right down.  She was terrific and I learned a lot. The process just took a few minutes - I should have taken pictures but I didn't think about it. Rats.

Since I didn't have any pictures of the process here is an unrelated picture of Nicholas. 
LOOK at his huge paws!

I took the entire lid of both of my pressure canners. You can take the gauges off - but I took the whole thing. She had a gauge that is calibrated by the Fancy Pants Calibration Office (I honestly don't remember who provides it)....and a bicycle pump. Yep. How fun is that?

She put my lid on the contraption and increased the pressure. I could see the standard gauge and my gauge registering the pressure... that's when I saw that my gauge was off!

Fortunately, my first gauge was within 2 pounds of accuracy - so this was OK. But she cautioned me to make sure I ran the pressure a little high to be extra careful. However, when it got to the upper reaches - 15 pounds - it was really off. This is a problem.

Meat is canned at 15 pounds of pressure so my first gauge was out of the meat canning business. Was there a way to adjust it? Nope. I was sad. Improper canning can have dire results so I'm not taking any chances. Fortunately I can get a replacement steam gauge for my pressure canner here.

However, my second gauge was right on the money at all pressures. What a relief!

Next she checked the lids to make sure the handles were secure. A-OK on that. Then she checked the little rubber stopper thingy on the top... yep those were fine also. Could she see thru the steam vents? She checked this by holding it up to the light. Yep that was perfect also. In truth, I always check this at home. Just hold the lid up to the light and peep in - you should be able to see daylight thru the tiny hole.

We also checked the rubber seals - that is the big rubber ring thingy that fits inside the lip of the lid. The first one was perfect. It didn't show any wear, was intact, and was secure - meaning it was kind of hard to spin around in the brackets that hold it in place. She also bent the seal over her finger to check for any cracks. It was perfect. The first one got and A+++.

The second seal (remember I brought in two lids) did not get an A+++. The first thing she did was try and move the seal around in a circle while it was in place in the lid. It just spun around easily. Oh-oh.... Nope that one needs to be replaced. That is easy enough also - I can order this replacement seal.

She gave me some forms that stated the condition of the canner and results.

And that was it! I think it took about 10 minutes and that was mostly because we were chatting.

If you are uneasy about canning you should call up your local extension office. The gal I talked to holds classes to teach people the right way to can foods. She was so much fun that I would love to go to some of her classes even tho I know most of the basics of canning.

I asked her some questions that I get about canning... here is what she said:

OFG: What is the number one mistake people make with home canned foods?
Canning Gal:  Probably not knowing when to use a pressure canner. Also using non-standard methods because "That's the way Grandma used to do it."

She said she often works with older folks who might be holding on to old school ways. One thing to remember is that we seem to have more "superbugs" so not using proper canning protocols is just bad business.

OFG: What else?
CG: Using unapproved recipes. There are a lot of books out there that are just wrong - and also a lot of information on the internet that is not up to proper specifications.

 Most extension offices provide recipes and instruction sheets for how to's. This is also a terrific site that provides a lot of information. I'm always a little suspect when I see canning recipes online. So I always double check with an extension office. To make sure you are in the right place just look for a URL that looks like of like this: http://www.extension.umn.edu/food/food-safety/preserving/canning. See the "extension.umn.edu? Yep. That is the ticket. Your state has a website that has approved canning recipes.

OFG: OK, here is the "uncomfortable potato" question..... what about providing home canned goods to friends, family....or say.... to a potluck at a local church?
CG: We recommend that you use home canned goods for home. However, if you want to give gifts then jams and jellies are a good option because they are easy to do and hard to do incorrectly, provided that you follow an approved recipe.

Here is the backstory and it serves as a good warning. There is a community nearby that had a terrible situation where someone brought potato salad to a potluck....made from incorrectly home canned potatoes. People got botulism - some were critically ill and someone died. While botulism is very rare - it happens. It looks like a stroke or some other neurological problem. Fortunately, a local doctor had seen a case of botulism early in her career and was able to properly diagnose and treat the folks. If not for her quick action the situation could have been much worse.

OFG: So how can we guard against that?
CG: Always follow proper canning processes and approved recipes. For low acid foods we recommend that you boil them for 10 minutes. This may not destroy all food borne contaminants but it is a good secondary precaution.

She also said that in these cases it's "eater beware." So if you find yourself in suspect circumstances... you can always gracefully decline. I know folks who do not practice proper food safety in their own kitchens. Someone I know regularly scares the dickens out of my with their "cooking" practices. Never feel bad about being polite and just pushing food around on your plate.

If you aren't scared off and you'd love to get into canning there are some terrific resources out there to help you on your way. You can find a list of my canning tools here. Here is a quick list:

* I have not one but TWO Presto 23-quart pressure canners.
* Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.
* I like this set of tools because it comes with a timer.
* Lids, lids, lids, and more lids.

Today I'm having another pickle day... and even more tomato sauce. And I'm canning with confidence now that I know my gauges and canning parts are inspected. My replacement parts are on the way.

Happy Friday everyone! Have you gotten your pressure canner checked out?

Editor's note: Heads up! Affiliate links are everywhere! What's the deal with the links to Amazon? Check it out - I have an Amazon store for my blog!  Anything you buy from Amazon from these links gets me a tiny percentage of the sale. It doesn't cost you one cent more but it helps me with the "cost" of this blog. If you like this blog, or if I've helped you at all in your farming efforts, just make a purchase from Amazon from one of the links, my store, or the black Amazon search box on the right side of this page. It can be anything - one of my recommendations, books, movies, or whatever. Every little bit helps. Thanks!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Big produce auction winnings!

Hey everyone! Are you going to the produce auctions? I got some terrific bargains the other day!

Potatoes, tomatoes, and onions.

I'm just wild about the local produce auctions. What a fabulous win for the farming community and for buyers like me. I was peeping around and found this fantastic video about the Chesterhill Produce auction. This vid is about 12 mins long and really shows what the auctions are like. 

On a funny note, I recognize some of the folks here. Yay!

The other day I got:
* Two peck baskets of potatoes for $4/each. Or $0.13/pound
* Two ten-ish pound bags of onions for $3.50/each or or $0.31/pound
* Two ten pound flats of tomatoes for $3.75/each or $0.37/pound

Let that sink in. Around here you are lucky to get onions for under $0.99 pound. It is infuriating. And they are shipped from all over the country. Or I can get them for a third of the price from my Amish neighbor who drove them to the auction in his buggy.

Kai's nose for scale

What a terrific value! But don't I grow all this stuff myself? Sure! But we've eaten all the fresh potatoes so we are out- until these next ones are ready. And sometimes it's easier to get a big whack of maters at one time and do a canning day instead of getting several small baskets from the garden.

As for the onions... I haven't had to buy onions from the store since early this summer.  My goal is to not buy any onions from the store until December. Harrumph.

I just love going to the auction. You can find some info here about going. Don't be shy about checking it out. Right now the prices are fantastic. They were selling peck baskets of tomatoes for $3 and less!

One of the great things they have at a nearby auction is the pre-priced section. You can choose from a selection of produce and baked goods that already have a price on them. There is one extra step to buying this way - you take your selections to a guy sitting with papers in front of him at a desk. He will write up a ticket for you and then you can go and pay at the office. The reason is so all of the paperwork is consistent.

 Some of these taters were cut - probably by the potato harvester.
So what? At $2/basket I can use the "bad" ones as seed potatoes!

If these items are not sold then they are auctioned at the end of the day. I totally missed out on a pre-priced plate of whoopie pies that were marked as $3.75...that sold for $1. Rats!

But I was thrilled at my purchases and ran right home and started processing them. I also shared some of my finds with some friends (you know who you are!).

If you don't need a bushel of tomatoes why not go in with a couple friends and share the bargains? One person can go and then you can split up the spoils and share the cost.

What kinds of folks go to the auction? All kinds. The great news is that the produce distributor and store produce managers are coming. They bring a huge truck and buy in bulk. Other folks with bigger trucks are farm stand owners who are looking for local produce. Don't forget the restaurateurs.... I spoke with a local celeb restaurant owner who likes to buy all their produce locally. It's a total win for everyone - great prices, extremely fresh produce, and money that goes directly to your neighbors. What could be better?

Then there are the old timers who just like to make it into a social event. The home canners - like me - who want to beef up our winter stores. Local folks who don't want to bid but love the convenience of the pre-priced section. And folks just looking for a good time.

Today, Thursday, is auction day at the Chesterhill Product Auction...and word to the wise.... it's Fry Pie Day!

Happy Thursday everyone! Now get out there and check out your local auction!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pickle Day!

So I had pickle day recently....

Pretty much all you need to make quick and easy pickles. 

Nope. I didn't make gallons and gallons of pickles.... I just made some quick and easy refridgerator ones. What's the difference? These aren't processed in the pressure canner. You just make up the brine and shove them in the fridge.

The process is extremely easy. Cut up some cukes (the little pickling ones), make the brine on the stove top, pour it over the cukes....and pickles! Easy peasy. I've been eating these all summer. While I can't grow a cuke to save my life I just stop at my Amish neighbor's roadside produce stand. I think she charges $0.10 a cuke. How fun is that?

I found this terrific recipe from Alton Brown. The vid is really short (a little over 3 minutes) and worth watching at least once - you can see how to adjust the seasonings for different results. However, it's important to keep the same vinegar to water ratio.

I also use some of the seasonings from this recipe. Sometimes I have dill and sometimes I don't. This weird summer has been terrible for growing. Everyone I know has been struggling and it's really frustrating. Some market farmers I know have ended up just tilling under their entire growing gardens. I think we are all hoping for a mild fall and winter just to extend the growing season.

But back to pickle day.... today I'm going to see if I can get my pressure canner gauge checked at the local extension office. If I do then I'll give you the how's and what's tomorrow.

Happy Pickle Day everyone!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Summer BBQ - dogs and ribs

Yesterday was a terrific summer day. We ran right home and started rubbing our ribs and then The Big Man fired up the smoker.

Zander had his eye fixed on the smoker.

We set up down closer to the pond where we've been hanging out with the dogs in the evening. There was just the right amount of shade. We even used the Bacon Wagon of Doom as a work surface for tools while the ribs smoked.

The dogs helped. It was a dog-o-riffic day. 

Even Shine came down to help supervise. He is right as rain now and is completely healed up. We are so glad he got his meow back.

 The ribs turned out perfectly.... a little spicy but they were just delicious!

Bubby was a little derpy. What a guy!

I dug some potatoes and we made potato salad also - it was a terrific summer day. Dogs. Ribs. What else could we need?

Happy Monday everyone! How was your weekend?

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Two-fer on butchering day!

Yesterday we butchered some of our meat chickens. Yep, the ones from this spring. Why so late?

Meats on the move. Here they are in their new "pasture" - it's the fenced in space between gardens.

Why not? The second group of meats grew really really slowly so we just put them out on pasture, fed them corn, and have had fresh meat all summer. None of it has even made it to the freezer. Is this the "best" way to raise meats? I dunno... for us it works. We don't think it's overly expensive and frankly I love it when the fatties get this fat.

One of the reasons I love a big fatty hen is that yesterday, I got a nice big bowl full of that golden goodness - chicken fat. Chicken fat is my favorite cooking fat - rich, delicious, and it can take a pretty high heat. Chicken fat makes everything better.

This egg was in the shoot.

What a surprise, tho, when I also got a "two-fer!" Ha! How hilarious is this - one of the fatty hens was mature enough to lay eggs. We've seen this before when the creepy meats hang around too long. We've never been able to get any of the eggs  to successfully hatch - but getting eggs and meat in one package is a pretty good deal.

That fatty hen will give us breakfast, dinner, broth, and schmaltz. What's not to love?

Happy Sunday everyone! How are your creepy meats?

Friday, August 14, 2015

11 Things You Don't Know About Me

Hey, it's Friday!  Here are 11 things you may or may not know about me.....

 I like dahlias the best.

1.  I don't like strawberry ice cream, sushi, or baseball. I'm completely unapologetic about this.

2. I'm not as drunk as you think I am. The fact is, one drink is my limit. I honestly don't remember the least time I "went out for a drink" to a bar.  I've never gotten thru half, or even finished, a beer. I'm a terrible drunk... not an "I love you man," drunk at all... but more like, "You know what your problem is?" People think this is hilarious until I start telling them what their problem is.

3. I actually like to talk about politics... but not the way it happens on social media. I'm not sure why everyone goes directly to name calling and tearing down the other side instead of talking about what they support. It is actually possible to be "for" something and not really be against something else.  I'm dreading this election season because of the terrible way folks are going to start treating each other.

In a million years I would never have guessed that this 130lbs of dog would be mine.

4. I used to be a cat person. I never understood why anyone needed a dog. Ever. Now look at me.

5. I sound very bossy, but that doesn't mean I want to be the boss of you. I just don't want you to be the boss of me. I learned a long time ago that speaking quickly and with authority gets you a lot of places.

I can't get enough of Little Mo's sweet face and his Mickey Mouse paws.

6. Little Mo really is my chief of staff. He's the one responsible for most of my typing errors - he likes to walk across my laptop.

7. The one thing I really miss about my former life is the ocean. There is nothing like standing where the ocean meets the shore and the smell of the salty sea.

8. There are almost always dishes in my sink. I don't even care.

9.  I don't have any nostalgia for my childhood. All I ever wanted to do was be an adult and be responsible for my own life. Now that I am my maturity level has tanked.... I have the sense of humor of a 12 year old boy.

10. Music isn't important to me. I know... I know.... I think I just lost several friends by saying that. I'm just not very artistic. I love people who are but I'm generally not moved by music. The only time I listen to music is when I'm driving and that isn't very often. I'm happy to sing along with country music...even if it's bad. *shrugs*

11. I go thru life thinking that everything is "the best ever." This sandwich is the best EVER! That movie was the funnest EVER! Ohmigosh, this is the Best Day EVER!   Not because it qualitatively or quantitatively is "the best whatever"... but because of my generally positive attitude. I'm not a fault finder or nitpicker but I used to be. It was exhausting. So I gave it up. Now I'm just usually happy and grateful for whatever is going on around me. This drives unhappy and/or particular people nuts. In fact, it gives some folks a twitch in their eye.  They think, "But you said that about the last bowl of ice cream! How could this one be better! It's the same one you had last nite!"

It's not about that thing - it's about how you view the world.  I think folks would be happier if they just stopped evaluating everything and just be glad for what is going on around them. Happiness is a choice. So choose it.

And now I'm going to go and make a fried egg sandwich... with a big tomato slice... and it's going to be the best fried egg-n-tomato sandwich EVER.

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Nibbles. Captain of her Destiny.

A little while ago I was out walking thru the barnyard and I caught Nibs asleep in this tub. I tried to sneak away to grab my camera but I woke her up. She was cuter when she was sleeping but I thought she looked rather majestic in her tub... like a captain of a ship.

Nibbles. Captain of her Destiny.

We have an empty box in our living room that we can't move or get rid of - Little Mo has claimed it and spends a lot of time sleeping in that box. We call it his space ship. When I saw Nibs sleeping in that tub - her legs all akimbo - I thought she looked a lot like Little Mo. What a goof.

Of course, today Little Mo was not in his space ship - but how adorable is he?

We have a wacky group here, friends. Just another day in paradise...

Happy Thursday everyone! It's a PERFECT day here - are you enjoying it?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Summer Fruit

Summer (tree) Fruit around here has basically been non-existent. We had too cold of a winter/spring so all of the growers are empty handed. So WOW was I thrilled when I scored some plums and peaches!

These local peaches are so scarce they are like gold. 

I was, of course, late to the produce auction the other day. They have a "retail" section where you just pick whatever you want and pay a set price. This is sometimes easier than waiting to be part of the bidding auction. The only fruit they had left were some plums...but I really wanted those so I was glad.

Plums......as in plum sauce and possibly some Pflaumenkuchen.

As I was standing in line to pay I saw the orchard guy and called to him. He laughed at my lateness and thusly lack of peaches - but then told me to stop by their orchard at another time. So I did!!! I scored some freebie peaches from the ground and a basket of nicer ones. Yay!

So I ran right home and made a huge peach crisp - the pigs got the trimmings and the not great ones.

Summer was not ruined - there were peaches. Oh yes there were...as in... that crisp is just about gone.

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Those eyes

My Most Excellent Good Dog. Wolfgang Titan Big Bear. The First in Command. My Right Hand. He is the Other Half of My Sky...

...those eyes. He sees me.

Isn't he extraordinary? He is my Jerry Maguire dog - he had me at hello and he completes me.

It's No-Time-To-Talk-Tuesday.... gotta get out there.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Monday, August 10, 2015

I'm not sure what to think about this....

I went out to the garden to get a tomato for my egg scramble this morning....

... I'm not sure what to think about this. Ha! It was delicious - funny looking as it was. 

But I do know what to think about THIS!

We received a very generous gift over the weekend - a box of 15 Penzey's spices. Wow! Do we love Penzey's? Yes we do!

I got hooked on Penzey's a couple years ago. The shop is kind of far away from us but worth the drive if I'm headed into civilization anyway. Their shops smell like spice heaven. They, of course, have an online store also.

There is just something about fresh spices. I think we all got lulled into keeping spices for as long a possible - like it was some kind of badge of honor. But nope! Throw out all those older spices and start over each season. Fresh spices add all kinds of zing - you can't go wrong with them.

However, Penzey's can be kind of pricey - worth it of course but still. The price tag on this gift set was a pretty penny. It was extremely generous.  I think the mistake some folks would make is not using the spices and trying to save them for a "special" occasion. Not us. I opened one of them right up and it was the star of my eggs this morning.

We'll also be working our way thru all those little roosters...and each one will be roasted with a new flavor - thanks to this fantastic gift!

Happy Monday everyone - are you cooking with fresh spices? Did someone give you a wow gift?

Editor's Note: Is this an affiliated link? NO! Can you believe it? I don't get anything for telling you about this fabulous gift box....except the spices which someone gave us as a gift. I just really loved it and wanted to show it off. Plus I just really like Penzey's. However if you DO want to click on an affiliate link you can click right here and be sent right over to Amazon where you can buy anything you'd like and you need anyway. Why? Because I get a tiny percentage of the sale for having their links on my page - which supports this blog. I'm supposed to tell you that. So I did!

Friday, August 7, 2015

So, what really happened to Shine?

Thanks to everyone for their fun comments about yesterday's Adventure Tails. You might have guessed that there is a little bit of truth in all of our stories. We don't call them "Not Entirely Fiction" for nothing. 

Our Shine, King of Barncats. Mighty Hunter.

It's going on about a month or so since our real life adventure with Shine - but this was no tale. We went out in the morning like usual to get the rabble rousted... but when we went in to see the barncats we knew it would not be a normal day. Shine was hunched over, covered in cobwebs, and wheezing.

I immediately snatched him up, shoved him in a carrier, and ran for the car. I yelled over my shoulder that I'd be back in a couple hours. Of course, our vet always has a standing open spot for us.....so we told them we'd be coming in hot and fast. We figured Shine had a respiratory infection and I'd get some antibiotics and maybe some prednisone and come right back.


When Shine didn't scream the whole way up to the vet...or at all... I drove faster. Really fast. We were hurried right into the exam room. The vet began asking questions that were not in line with what I expected - Had he been poisoned? Was he chewing on electrical cords? Trauma? Fall? Hit by car? What had he been doing lately? Had Shine eaten anything weird?

I had my husband search the garage for antifreeze leaks, poisons, frayed electrical cords. Nothing.

When they told me to leave Shine with them and come back in an hour or so I started to fret. I was back in 59 minutes and they walked me back to see the xrays that I knew they were going to take - along with bloodwork and some other things.


Technically I actually said a fair bit of "colorful" language in my question to the Good Vet...but I"m sure you take my meaning.

The xrays showed Shine's trachea....but not in the graceful slow curve it should be - but more like a horseshoe river bend. It wasn't supposed to be that way.

We love our little buddy, Shine. But sometimes he is a goose. What are you doing in that crate?

I spent the next 10 hours between our Good Vet and the excellent people at OSU's Emergency Veterinarian Medical Center. We always figured we'd end up there with one of our crew. But we did not think it was going to be that day and for that circumstance.

It was horrible.

Midway thru the day I went to get my husband from work because we Didn't Know What Was Going To Happen.

No one actually knew what was going on with Shine but all agreed it was bad. We were afraid that we were going to have to Make Decisions. All we could do was sit and wait. They had a host of tests lined up.

Here is a LifeProTip for you - never walk into a teaching hospital and tell them you "don't care about the money" because they will find all kinds of ways to leave you with empty pockets. And how.

The OSU Vet ER is one of the best in the country. People come from all of the states to get access to their equipment and expertly trained vets. Their teaching program is outstanding It's really kind of amazing. The staff is incredible. The facility is a wow. And I tell you the truth, it is the saddest place on earth.

Friends, we are tough people. We don't shirk, shrink, or step back from adversity. We don't believe in grand displays of emotion. Neither of us are criers. We set our jaws. We face into the wind. We do not fear. We show no weakness. But the waiting room of the OSU Vet ER very nearly broke us.

I say to you again, it is the saddest place on earth. The SADDEST. Everyone is critical, everyone is crying, and everyone is trying to figure out if they have enough money for their best friend to live. The shepherd with bloat, the little dog with whatever, the old cat in a box crying, the lady with the irritable teenager who could care less as her mother cried and asked the attending vet why it was $3300 to fix her dog? Could she see her little dog one more time? And us... it was awful.

There was a younger couple in the next group of chairs. He was trying to get his wife to eat but she just held the food halfway to her mouth. She was almost catatonic. Everyone was sobbing.

I turned to find a magazine to distract myself but found instead a children's book, "Why Does Annie Only Have Three Legs?" It tried to explain amputation and cancer in dogs to kids. I felt myself starting to crack.

They called us back to Discuss Things.

Near as they could figure there was one of three things that could be going on:
1. It was a cancerous growth and our Shine would slowly strangle to death.
2. It was some kind of abscess and our Shine would quickly strangle to death.
3. It was something else entirely.

I said these options back to the attending vet. We made a plan. They implemented the plan. We waited.

They called us back again. I sat resolutely and waited for The Findings.

Thank heaven. It was not cancer. It was also not some kind of abscess.  It turned out to be some kind of edema - that is, swelling of the cells. They had no idea why. She shrugged and handed me a huge sack of medication. This was twice a day, that was once a day, be sure to ......I kind of stopped hearing her and just wanted my cat back. I was so relieved.

It was an expensive day.

Remember how we were kind of joshing around about that gal with the chicken getting the fake leg? Yeah well, also remember that we get it because we've our share of stomach churning vet bills. That day was a looloo. During just one of the hours that I was sitting there I saw folks at the desk total up about $10,000 worth of vet work for different folks coming and going. Frankly, I think we got off easy. However, my Plutonium credit card from The Fancy Pants Bank groaned under the charges. I thanked the staff at the desk for their kindness. They were very professional.

The next 10 days were a tough mix of love and scratching. We incarcerated Shine in the garage - hovering over him and fretting over every odd look or loose eyelash. He was stuck in the garage with the lame duck and our limpy chickens. And me. Twice a day I tricked him into coming close enough for me to shove pills down his sore throat and follow that with a chaser of liquid something else. By the time the medication was done our Shine was entirely done with me.

Then I had to take him back up to our vet for a follow up. Our Good Vet poured over the report from OSU. He re-examined Shine. He asked me questions about how Shine responded to the medication. In the end he determined that the cause was.....


Yes. Bunnies. When we first went into to see our Good Vet he asked me if Shine had gotten into anything weird. The only thing I could think of was that just about every day for the previous week Shine had brought in a bunny. We figured he had found a nest of wild rabbits and was helping himself to the bunny buffet. "Good job, Shine!" We'd call to him and then we'd let him go along his way, dragging the bunny back to his lair to eat it. This wasn't really unusual because we'd seen Shine drag in rabbits almost as big as he was - but it was noteworthy that he got one every single day.

The vet thought that maybe a bunny bone somehow created a wound in Shine's esophagus, which caused an infection, which caused the edema, which was pressing on his trachea and impacting his breathing.  It was a one in a million shot and I'm positive that it would only ever happen to us. Bunnies.

"I see." I said coldly as I devised a way to handle the Bunny Menace that tried to kill my Shine. I thanked the Good Vet and he laughed that he didn't want to see anymore of our foolishness and maybe next time just bring in the crew for shots and not some weird mystery. I laughed back that I hoped I wouldn't have to see them again for a while. They did not charge me for the follow up. Honestly, I think they felt bad for us. But I was grateful.

The next day Shine was cleared for duty and free to go. He happily trotted off into the tall grass.

As for the bunnies. Let's just say that all of the bunnies have now gone on to other opportunities. We thank them for their years of participation here on The Good Land Farm and we wish them well in their future endeavors. If they come back they will be met with extreme prejudice as meted out by My Fighting Uruk-Hai Princess BearKiller. The Shining Light of the Realm. She hunts what we cannot see. VengeanceBringer.

After a while Shine finally got his meow back but the entire recovery was very long. We praise God for our Good Vet, the extraordinary folks at the OSU Vet ER, and that our dear Shine lived to hunt another day.

And that is what really happened to our Shine. Can you believe it?

Thursday, August 6, 2015


“Hold him! Hold him I said!” Yelled OFG.

They were on the ground, all of them trying to hold steady Shine. He was writhing and kicking furiously, the handle of the blade owned by the crown prince of the Rabbit Folk was sticking out of his neck. A sickening gurgle came from Shine and then a desperate, wheezing breath. 

“You must keep him still!”

Even Itty Bitty was wrestling Shine, she had one leg but struggled to keep it still. Three strong warriors held him as well.

OFG grabbed Shine by the coat, “Look at me! Look at me, Shine!”

His eyes, wild with fear, finally focused on her and Shine stopped flailing.

“I've got you, Shine. I've got you, yes?”

He nodded weakly.

OFG plunged the dagger into his throat.

Earlier in the day a party of goodly number went out of the East Gate following the rising sun. They were going to meet the Assassin Shine and foray out into the wilds. OFG also had another agenda.

Finding a place in the ranks for their newest foundling, Itty Bitty, was more troublesome for OFG than it originally sounded. Bitty, in fact, entirely lacked the grace for the court, was completely without discipline for the troops, and even the Hunters were annoyed at her lack of cooperative spirit.

Bitty had spent too much time alone living in the middens. She never thought about anyone else. Not out of insubordination or self absorption – just the opposite. She never expected anyone to care where she was or what she was doing. So Bitty forgot to tell others when she would leave the Great Hall and would not report back when she returned.

She also had the annoying habit of taking food and hiding it. There was no lack of food for anyone in The Good Land. OFG had even assigned to Bitty a personal chef and server to provide her food anytime she wanted it. But it did not change anything – Bitty continued to squirrel away little stores of food here and there. It was just a sign of her not being brought up to live properly among a community.

OFG thought if Bitty visited with Shine, the very one who found her, then she might become interested in learning the assassin craft. Assassins worked entirely alone and were beholden to none...save their liege, of course.

But Shine had the most dangerous of professions. He had seen more time in the Healer's Hall then all of them. He was targeted by The Good Land's enemies repeatedly. His very work placed him in harms way at every moment. But he knew his job and he preformed it admirably. He was one of the most decorated warriors to have ever lived.

The company made their way to out meet Shine in the deep brambled woods beyond the Gate. OFG and the Princess Kai chatted about the upcoming battle season while the Commander Zander trotted happily alongside. High on his shoulder he wore a new harness that held a small pouch and in that pouch rode Itty Bitty.

OFG had forbade Bitty to ride on Commander Zander ever since she was pulled from his shoulders and ended up in the great tree.  But of course this made both Zander and Bitty unhappy. They had a very merry friendship and spent a lot of time together. Bitty was so small - there was no way for her to keep up with Zander when they went afield. Finally a solution came to light.

The tacksmith and the leathermakers worked together to create harness with a sort of pouch for her to ride in – instead of her just holding onto Zander's thick mane. Bitty could easily peep out and see the world and the leatherworks shielded her safely. It was comfortable for Zander and because of his great size he barely noticed the additional weight. It was a solution that made everyone very happy.

Except for Princess Kai, of course, who still bristled at anyone else having her dear brother's attention. OFG had ordered Kai to get along with Bitty “or else.” Kai begrudgingly agreed and had learned to tolerate Bitty. Most of the time. Today Kai focused on her mother and their planning for the battle season. There was talk of hogs moving into The Good Land.

Little Mo rode his small but sturdy mount just behind them and then Col Ti followed with a contingent of the guard and an assortment of able warriors. As always he kept the careful watch over OFG.

Bitty happily rode along in her saddle-pouch laughing with Zander and asking him how Shine had become such a great assassin? Did Zander think that she could be that deadly? Zander teased her that she was much to small and....

Shouts from one of the scouts turned their attention.

“Quickly! You must come quickly! We need a surgeon! A surgeon!” Urged the scout.

“Col Ti! Defensive formations!” Ordered OFG as she, Kai, and Zander raced in the direction of the scout. OFG could hear Ti barking orders to the men as they crashed thru the underbrush.

The fighting men spread out in a perimeter - all at arms and ready to defend their liege.

As they approached a huddle of other scouts in a small clearing OFG could hear movement in the forest. This was not lost on Princess Kai either who's keen ears pricked and focused in the direction of those who retreated into the shadows. Zander's huge head also turned toward the brambles. He huffed angrily.

Bitty gasped as the scouts gave way and they found Shine the mighty assassin on the ground struggling. OFG took in a sharp breath when she saw the handle of a costly blade sticking out of his neck. She knew to whom it belonged

“So the crown prince of the Rabbit Folk wants to make a name for himself,” OFG thought as she threw herself from her mount and ran to Shine, “We will just see about that.”

She quickly pulled off her gloves, knelt beside him and began assessing the injuries... trying to see how badly Shine was hurt. The situation was grim. There was not a lot of blood so the jugular vein was not cut -  as the enemy had intended - but the blade was lodged in Shine's windpipe and was starting to obstruct his breathing. They had to move quickly or he was lost.

“We need a surgeon!” Someone yelled.

“There is no time.” Said OFG, “Little Mo, your dagger, now!”

OFG had seen plenty of battlefield wounds. She had some skill for dressing them but this was beyond her capabilities.  There was a technique that the surgeons used, a way to continue breath... but it was difficult and risky. She had only seen it once or twice and only under the best conditions. But here they were – in the deep bramble some distance for The Great Hall without aid. Shine's breathing became more labored and he coughed and choked. She had to do this. Now.

Little Mo ran up and held out his dagger. It was largely ceremonial but the blade was very sharp and very fine. Without a word OFG took it from him and then reached up and cut off a section near the end of the boiled leather scabbard in which it was held. She then cut off the very tip forming a kind of funnel-tube.

“Hold him!” Said OFG.

Strong men rushed to hold Shine – some of the scouts and some of the warriors from the day's party. Kai and Zander were back with Col Ti assessing the threat and stood ready to fight. Little Mo was at OFG's side ready to assist. Bitty grabbed one of Shine's legs. But Shine was panicked. He was starting to suffocate.

OFG's heart pounded. She steadied her breath. The risk was grave. One wrong move and she would kill him. “He will die anyway... I must do this.” She thought.

“Hold him! Hold him I said!” Yelled OFG.

The company struggled to hold the frenzied Shine. He had to be absolutely still, there was no second chance for this to work. She grabbed Shine by the coat and put her face very close to his.

“Look at me! Look at me, Shine!” His frantic eyes met hers.

“I've got you, Shine. I've got you, yes?” She said.

It was over in a moment. Little Mo was completely numb with shock. He watched as OFG cut open Shine's throat, cut into his windpipe below the injury, and then insert the leather funnel-tube into the cut...and then... breath.

Shine had passed out. They all watched in silence and saw his chest rise and fall. He was breathing. No one spoke. OFG, still on her knees, whispered a prayer, her head low and Little Mo's bloodied dagger in her hand. She snapped her head up.

“Quickly!” Said OFG, her eyes hard, “We must get Shine back to the Healer's Hall. This will not hold for long. We must keep the tube in place – it will keep him breathing.”

She took a kerchief from her neck and began to wrap it around Shine's wound, careful not to move the funnel-tube or the enemy's blade. It must all remain very steady. The Healers would be able to remove the blade and restore his breathing. If they could get him back in time.

There was also the risk of a fever sickness. They must hurry. Her horse would do not good in these thick woods.

“Zander!” She commanded and at once he was by her side.

“No mount can make fast time thru this bramble. You must speed Shine back to the Healer's Hall. You are his only hope.” Said OFG.

Bitty had already scrambled up into her saddle-pouch. “Here,” She said clapping her hands together, “Lay him here on my lap and I will hold his neck steady.”

“You can do this, Bitty?” Asked OFG wondering if Bitty could handle it. The wound was gruesome and there was no time for hesitation or fear.

“Yes, yes!” Said Bitty, “I am not afraid. I can do this.” She positioned herself to allow Shine to be laid across her lap. “Quick! Quick!”  She held out her hands for him. Very gently they laid him over her knees and she held his head in place.

Bitty was very sure of herself. “She has good courage.” Thought OFG. She nodded.

“Do not stop for anything.” Said OFG. Zander saluted and was off.

Overhead swallows darted through the air, a kaleidoscope of movement. “Brother Birds!” Commanded OFG, “Tell them of our coming!” 

Together as one the birds wheeled toward the Great Hall. She did not even look up to see if they obeyed for she knew they would.

“Kai!” Ordered OFG.

The Princess stepped forward. OFG took her hands, still wet with Shine's blood, and wiped them across Princess Kai's face.

“Kill them, Kai. Kill them all.” Growled OFG.

Without a word the blood streaked Kai turned and raced into the brambles.

The Rabbit Folk.

They were largely a nuisance. They did not serve The Good Land. The Rabbit Folk had neither the inclination nor the stomach for war. They were too skittish to serve the warriors. Secretly OFG could not stand the scared way they looked at everyone. You could be anything in The Good Land – except a coward. Fear defined the Rabbit Folk - they were nothing to OFG. She had no regard for them.

So the Rabbit Folk went their own way. They hid in the shadows tending to their own business and living in relative safety along the outskirts of OFG's lands. OFG had no use for them as they were Prey - not Predators as most of her warriors. But neither did she have any quarrel with them.

Until now.

Their crown prince was some arrogant upstart. She had heard reports of him leading raiding parties into her fields. But it was of no consequence. Normally a few warning shots were all that were needed to send them running. They were usually long gone before the arrows hit the ground. But now this. An assault on one of her own. If one of their royalty intended to make a name for himself then he was badly mistaken. He would pay. Dearly.

In the distance OFG could already hear her Princess daughter's success.

Little Mo stood completely still. The screams... the horrible screams were...hard to hear. He could hear the Rabbit Folk being obliterated. Kai was a killing machine. She had no mercy, she would show no quarter. None would be spared. She thrived in the hunt, she lived for the kill, she reveled in it. War. Fighting. Death. It was who she was.

The night may fear Commander Zander but Kai, the Shining Light of the Realm, drove the darkness from it's bitter corners. Some thought her title of Shining Light referred to her effervescent good nature, her zeal for life, and the gladness in which Kai always seemed to live. But it was more than that. Kai scattered the darkness of the world. She fought on the side of goodness and in that way destroyed the darkness and evil. She wielded the sword of good in protection of the Land, but it was a weapon as deadly as the dark. She stood on the knife's edge of good and evil. But she remained grounded in the love for her mother, her brother, and this Land. She was the Light.

“I will not fear.” Thought Little Mo, “Fear is the little death... Fear is the mind-killer... I will face my fear.” He set his jaw, as he had seen OFG do many times, he would show no fear. He would allow the fear to pass over him. An ancient writer from far away had written those words. Little Mo clung to them as the awful screams and the cries filled the sky.

Kai destroyed the Rabbit Folk one and all.

At last she emerged from the bramble. She was covered in blood, not her own. In her right hand she was dragging the ruined body that was at one time the Rabbit Folk's celebrated crown prince. Now it was just a rubble of fur and bone and meat. She dropped it at her mother's feet.

“Kai! Kneel before me!” Said OFG loudly so all could hear. She drew her sword.

Kai scrambled to prostrate herself before her mother.

“Battlefield honors?” Thought Kai...she never received such recognition. Yes, she had earned names for her valor, rightly. Recently they had an elaborate ceremony and she received the name “She Hunts What We Cannot See” for her work to remove the mole threat from one of the fields.  But she assumed it was just an occasion to rally the troops and have a celebration.

She had well earned her BearKiller name but that was not the same as this spontaneous honor.  This was completely unexpected. Zander was the one who received so many names that she could barely keep them straight. Kai held her breath.

“Princess Kai! You have brought my vengeance to the Rabbit Folk. You have avenged their attack on one of our own, you are now, VengeanceBringer.”

From then on and through all the long years of Kai's great life - and many many years afterward - mothers would tell naughty children that if they did not eat their supper, do their chores, or go to bed then the VengeanceBringer would come for them. The name also became used by many as a curse. Some used the name in prayer to be saved from foes. But all knew the name VengeanceBringer. Kai wore the burden of it well. She was wrath and vengeance. She lived her name.

Kai felt the weight of her mother's sword across her shoulders. She heard the men cheer her. She looked up and saw the pride in her mother's eyes. “Just wait until my father hears about this,” she thought, “I cannot wait to tell him. He will be so pleased.”

Kai stood and looked around. The men were still cheering her and even Col Ti gave her an approving nod.

“Little Mo,” Announced OFG, “Take note also that the blade, once removed from Shine, shall be made into a new battle tiara for Princess Kai to commemorate this victory. But first.... I have a use for it. And now let's away, back to the Great Hall. Col Ti, form up the men and let's move out.”

Little Mo stood silently in the commotion around him wondering what on earth OFG would do with the enemy's knife...but he quickly scratched out the order, re-rolled the scroll, and tucked it into the sleeve of his cloak. Col Ti was giving orders and the men were moving out. Kai walked slowly behind them thinking of everything that had happened. As the company pulled ahead of her she suddenly broke into a run, a huge wolfish grin across her still blood streaked face.

There, all through the long summer in the hot sun, the blade of the crown prince of the Rabbit Folk was lodged into its former owner's skull. It pinned the rotting corpse to the wall near the East Gate for all to see and to serve as a warning.

Shine's recovery was long and slow. Every morning OFG stood over his bed in the Healer's Hall. She personally administered his medicine which as very costly and hard to find. But no expense was spared. Every morning the Healers provided their report on his progress as OFG listened intently, expressionless. Every morning OFG summoned the Princess Kai to look upon Shine and remember why they were exterminating the Rabbit Folk. Every morning OFG commissioned Kai to bring her vengeance. Every morning Kai set out to do just so.

A bounty had been set on the entire population of the Rabbit Folk. They were completely destroyed. Their carcasses were piled high outside the Gate and were burned each night in front of the unseeing eyes of their former would-be-prince. And no one ever said his name again.

Editors Note:
You may find all the Not Entirely Fiction Adventure Tails here.

* For the backstory on how Bitty came to The Good Land - and how she ended up in the great tree - click here.
* For more on how Princess Kai earned her BearKiller name you may start here.
* Click here for why Col Ti keeps such a careful watch on OFG and why cows hate her.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

It starts.....

Zander! What's that!?!?!

What is it? What do you see?

Pigz. It's pigz.

And so it starts.....

Happy Wednesday everyone! Did you get pigz? What does your dog think?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Limpy the Chicken Gets A Fake Leg

Last nite my husband and I watched a news story about a woman in Massachusetts who is paying $2500 for a lame chicken to get a 3D printed prosthetic leg. We were eating roast rooster while we were watching. We didn't even feel bad.

Let's say this up front, I'm always glad when someone is so tenderhearted that they go above and beyond for animals they love. Thank heaven that the woman in the story has so much love in her heart. Right?

It is also a fact that Zander's jaw dropping dental surgery was extremely expensive...and I don't even think I ever told you about Nicholas's $800 tail.... and it is a fact that we get a special rate from our vet because of all the business we bring to them from whatever weird thing our Dog Horde or The Insane Cat Posse has come up with. So we get it. Really.

Usually I don't make fun of people. But this was the exception.We had a lot of hilarity over this on the facebook.... a lot of hilarity. One of my pals suggested "some duct tape and a Popsicle stick" while another had a bag of frozen chicken legs in their freezer and maybe they could do a transplant.

For our part we couldn't stop laughing. If we ever actually went out and spent all that money on Clucky to get a fake leg it is virtually guaranteed that the next day - the very next day - we'd go out there and Clucky would be hanging out of Kai's mouth while Dog#1 and Zander played 'keep-away' with that expensive fake leg as Lucky ran around and circles exclaiming, 'Oh I can't believe it!'

$2500 would buy a lot of new chickens is all we are saying. We would never spend that kind of money on livestock - especially a $2 chicken.

It's a crazy world, folks, someone oughta sell tickets.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Sunday, August 2, 2015


I don't know about you but I had pie for breakfast.....

Blueberry pie, before the sun even came up. 

I made a versions of this perfect pie but used blueberries instead of strawberries. Same method, same-ish measurements. I used more blueberries to make more of the cooked filling. This was a good choice so that the fresh blueberries were entirely coated with the "gel" layer. I didn't want any fresh berries to roll around. I still had a few escapees but they didn't get far.

Happy Sunday everyone! Go and make pie!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Goose Lips

Remember the other day there was a perfect tomato and I was going to run right out and get it for lunch? Yeah. This.

Goose Lips.

Someone tried to eat it and based on the bite marks I'm going to say...... goose lips! OD!!!!

Happy Saturday everyone! Is there a goose loose in your garden? Did it bite your big tomato?

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