November 28, 2021

The long and winding road (driven very fast)

The spousal unit is on the hunt for a mid-size van that we can equip with either a side door power lift or a ramp for his power chair. A van, any van, is NOT my idea of how to even go get the mail out of the box at the end of my lane. I do not like vans. 

I do not like vans. Not for any reason. Yes, it could possibly be to his benefit but trust me when I say it won't be anything other than a waste of money. It'll be a new auto loan for him and frankly, he's at the point where he almost never drives. We go everywhere in the Charger and he does NOT get to drive my car. So he's looking at buying a vehicle that will sit in the driveway, in the way of all other vehicles, tractors, and mowers, and rarely be used. It's not something I'll be driving, that's for sure. Does this make financial sense? No. But it's NOT my money. If he thinks I'm going to help finance this misadventure, he's very much mistaken. There's a very good reason my money and his money never meet. But I digress...

I do not like vans. Period. 

I like Challengers, Chargers, Camaros, vintage and classic Mustangs, MOPAR, and Chevy trucks. It's a short list and there is not a van on it. 

This past Friday, instead of doing anything productive, Himself trolled the Internet (or should I start calling it the interwebs because change for the sake of change is hip). He saw a Dodge van at a dealership just north of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. That is over an hour's drive away. It did not please me to go but we hopped in the Charger on Saturday morning and headed out. Yes, I made him fill my gas tank first. 

We got as far as Thurmont, Maryland, before his phone rang. They'd sold the van the night before. I'm very grateful they called before we headed up Route 15 and the longest stretch of the trip. I would have been pissed to get all the way up there and then find out the van had been sold. My inner bitch was already on alert, poised for a good opportunity to launch. Thankfully, it became unnecessary. 

The drive to Thurmont is scenic, even with the leaves off the trees. Route 77, which meanders through Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin State Park, is a dream to drive when you have a car that corners on a rail, which my Charger does. 

Being in time for it, we cruised into McDonald's and got breakfast before heading back home. It was a truly lovely morning full of sunshine and blue sky. I was burning his gasoline, and so I took a little drive through Catoctin State Park and ended up driving past Camp David. 

I am now recorded on some military satellite, whizzing down the winding road like it's my personal NASCAR road course. I'm sure a bunch of "hidden" cameras were clicking away, too. Should I be worried? Undoubtedly. Big Brother knows all. 

Then again, those guys stuck with military vehicles are likely jealous they can't take three-hundred horses deep into a corner and power out the other side without body roll or braking. 

And as for Himself? Do THAT in a fucking van.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

November 27, 2021

Decorating for Christmas

When I was a younger woman freshly moved into my first real home, decorating for Christmas was something I anticipated with great joy. My first home was decorated with a lot of hand-me-downs from my grandmother and mother, as well as a few things I purchased on sale. I needed to be frugal - very frugal- in those days. And just like my foremothers, I do not discard Christmas decorations. I hoard them (for really no good reason). 

Decorating was fun! My friends collected Santas and elves which made for easy Christmas gifts. I liked reindeer, and when they found out, my collection of reindeer grew rapidly. It got to the point my husband and I joked about the yearly migration. 

Then came the year we had a young, exuberant puppy, Jett. We decorated. We chose poorly. I'm sure every person who's had a Labrador Retriever or dog of a similar size is well aware of the damage a rapidly wagging tail can cause. For Jett's second Christmas, we scaled back, and the scale down has continued until we've reached the point of setting out my grandmother's ceramic tree and a centerpiece on the dining room table.  Even at that, the little heirloom tree isn't placed where I'd prefer. Loki, my current cat, likes to sleep in the bow window, so the tree is on a side table. And Deuce is a bit larger, and more curious, than Jett was. 

It's been in my thoughts that I have one last big blowout Christmas decorating left in me. When the time comes, it will serve a dual purpose. Yes, I'll be decorated for Christmas, but it will also be the time to do what my mother and grandmother never could - discard a lot of things I'll never use again. Getting those boxes and bins back upstairs to the attic has become too difficult for me to do on my own and my husband is now unable to help with the task.

I'll ask the kids in Gen 4 to come and see if there are any of the older pieces their great-grandmother once owned that they may want, although the ceramic tree isn't up for grabs just yet. It may never be while I live and breathe. It pleased my grandmother so much she tended to leave it out until the first day of spring. Maybe she loved us teasing her about it. Whatever it was, that little tree holds a lot of memories. 

Will they really want much, or any, of the stuff? I doubt it. A lot of it is very dated and they don't have the memories of the hands that touched those things, which makes a difference. Nevertheless, I will offer. 

In the end, I will have done what I can to pass on those things and lift a burden from my shoulders. Most of the Christmas *stuff* stored in the attic will not go back up there. It's a bit sad, but that's the way of life. In the end, they're only things, and I've learned that things do not make a person happy forever. Once you no longer enjoy them, those things can weigh you down. 

And maybe once the dust settles and I've shed the things that no longer please me, and Deuce and Loki are old enough to be less rambunctious, the joy and charm of decorating for Christmas will fill me again. As with most things, we'll have to wait and see.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)


November 26, 2021

My blessings are not "First-world problems"

It's the day after Thanksgiving and I have an abundance of things to be thankful for. My blessings are now called "first-world problems." I object to this label. There are many things in life none of us control, but getting up and going to mind a job, to work under the authority of another, has definitely been under my control. 

I didn't have to do it. 

But I do it every day, and I have since the age of sixteen. 

It's not that difficult. 

I understand the difference between the blessings bestowed by family and the "blessings" my own hard work have brought to my life. And I know where they all came from.

Yesterday, we had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Today, my refrigerator is full of leftovers. I do know what a blessing this is. Abundance, even when you work for it, is a gift from God. God provides [EQUAL] opportunities to all. 

Our current culture, our "correct" thinkers, tell us we should be sorry, that we should apologize, for our opportunities and our gifts from God. I don't espouse to that way of thinking. I'm grateful for the work ethic my parents and grandparents taught me. That work ethic has allowed me to provide for myself and to appreciate the gifts from family. I would not have received those gifts if I had not been working hard. They would have gone to others while I sat and watched. 

Too many people today talk about white privilege. It's a load of bunk. If you are not hired for a job, it doesn't matter the color of the skin of the person who told you that you didn't get the position. That was God keeping that door closed so a better one could open. God may have kept that door closed for your protection! Go find that better door! Go find that better apartment! Go find that better car! God WILL open the right door at the right time. I've lived it. I know. 

My too-full refrigerator isn't about the color of my skin or the money I've earned. It's about walking through the doors God opened for me. It's about not sitting back and crying when something didn't go my way. It's about, sadly enough, leaving certain individuals behind. When God removes someone from your life, you need to let them go. 

Giving back isn't about the grand gestures. It isn't about financing an addict's lifestyle. It's not about enabling their enabler to continue. Giving back is about quietly supporting another person so that they can find that open door. Giving back may be explaining what better choices are available to them. Empowerment is not enabling. Learn the difference because it's crucial. 

I'm not missing the point of it all. I'm standing up and declaring there is nothing about my life that is even remotely responsible for someone else's bad choices. I'm simply refusing to bow to societal demands that I apologize for every aspect of my life when I know it was ultimately God who provided equally for me and everyone else. God does not play favorites. Choose your doors wisely. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

November 23, 2021

The leaves will always win

Autumn is a beautiful time of the year. Like a lot of people, I can say it's my favorite season, but I think each one has something to recommend it. Autumn has beautiful leaves - until they turn brown and hit the ground. Then they become our Nemesis.

Holly Tree Manor is a three-acre estate. Two of those acres are still wooded, so we have leaves. Lots and lots of leaves. We don't rake as a general rule. We use a mower and chop them up so the leaves can decompose and feed the grass. But there are a few places around the house and the shed where we use a blower in an attempt to keep things tidy. 

I'm attempting to learn how to make a cohesive video. This is important given my partner's health. There may come a day when he can no longer live at home. I fear he will need more care than I can provide. If that day comes, videos will become an important way for him to connect with my day-to-day life and see how things are at home. 

I'm not very good at setting up a camera angle, but I'll get there. It helps that Deuce is the star of the show. The original video of leaf blowing is up at Youtube. The edited version is below. I think a good tripod would be helpful and I think I'll ask Santa to order one for me. 

Did Himself get a laugh out of my war on the leaves? Not really. He's fought the fight himself in years past. He knows we wage skirmishes, never expecting to win a battle, much less the war.

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)


November 22, 2021

Seeds for 2022

One of my grandfather's favorite pastimes was perusing the annual seed catalogs. He received catalogs from Gurney, Burpee, and a host of others, but Burpee was his go-to seed supplier. It was a no-brainer for me to order my seeds for 2021 from Burpee. Now that we've arrived at the time of year to start to think about the 2022 growing season, I went to the Burpee website and ordered a few things: 

Cucumber, Straight Eight
Cabbage, Brunswick
Cauliflower, Snowball
Brussels Sprouts, Long Island
Tomato, Bodacious
Tomato, Veranda Red Hybrid (cherry)

Seeds do not magically expire on any given date, and I have a good many left over from this year. The germination rate may fall a few percentage points, but I'll still get good plants. I may not plant any jalapeno seeds in 2022, though. I had an incredible harvest this year and one woman can only consume so much Cowboy Candy on her own. 

It seems 2022 will be as much about experimenting and learning as 2021. I've ordered a Harvest Right freeze dryer to preserve those things that don't home can well. Cucumbers make pickles, of course, but I like them in different salads, unpickled. I also hope the freeze dryer will be somewhat less labor-intensive than canning. Canning a seven quart batch of pickles is an all-day job. You do not walk away from a pressure canner and "let it do its thing" the way you can with a freeze dryer. 

I'm excited about my 2022 dream garden. My final work day is May 31, 2022 (at the very latest!). I'll retire sooner if an adequate hire is made and they learn my job quickly. By the end of May, all the seedlings will be in their grow buckets and bags, and I'll be sitting amongst them in my expanded garden corral with my morning coffee. In a perfect world. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

November 21, 2021

The Beaver Moon

This time of the year, the moon shines through my most westerly facing windows just before dawn. While it's lovely to lie in bed and enjoy its journey, I'm in bed. When in bed, one should be sleeping, not moon gazing. Alas, it's an imperfect world. Planetary orbits and such only allow me to "enjoy" the view one month out of the year. 

Growing up, my grandfather planted "by the moon." Old wisdom says when the moon is waxing, plant crops that grow above ground. When the moon is waning, plant root crops that grow underground. Pop always had a bountiful garden. 

The full moon in November is often called The Beaver Moon. Or you may hear it called The Frost Moon. November is usually the month when we have our first frosts of the season. Calling it The Beaver Moon refers to a time when beavers were plentiful and busy at work fortifying their lodges for the winter. 

If the full moon in November is the last one before the winter solstice, it is sometimes called The Mourning Moon. In 2021, the December full moon occurs on December 19th, two or so days before the full moon, so the November full moon is The Beaver Moon. 

Another bit of moon wisdom came from my late father. He always said it's colder at the full moon. Was he correct? I think so. I've paid attention over the years and it seems to me that the nights are certainly cooler during a full moon. 

Ancient alien theorists postulate a theory the moon is hollow and is an observation base. I can only imagine what the aliens think if they're really parked on the moon watching as our world goes mad. They probably are up there, making book and placing bets. What else is there to do on a huge space rock?  I do believe we are not alone.

 In a few short nights, the moon will no longer be my dawn companion and I'll get a few more moments of sleep. Not that I believe sleep to be an adequate trade-off for a peaceful view of traveling Luna. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

November 15, 2021

No way to judge

Turkey......        check
Potatoes......     check
Stuffing.....    check
Gravy.....        check
Cranberry sauce....    check
Sweet potatoes.....    check
Corn.......       check
Green beans.....    check
Wine.....            check
Bourbon......        check
Pumpkin pie....    check
Butter.....        check
Rolls......    check
Jelly.....    check
Whipped cream....     check
Coffee.....    check

It looks like I have all the ingredients I need in the pantry to fix Thanksgiving dinner for two. It'll be just him and me again this year, and it doesn't bother me much. The world turns. People come and go. Family makeup changes. We take it as it comes.

We are very blessed to be able to look forward to a traditional turkey dinner. Having worked hard all our lives, we were able to get in this position. I got my first job at sixteen, and Himself was working on a farm by the time he was twelve for a dollar a day. In our families, we were expected to work hard just like our parents and grandparents. So we did, and we did it without complaint. Complaining, or acting victimized, were not options. We were not given or taught those options. 

We will give thanks when we sit down at our table because we are thankful.  We'll remember those who came before us who taught us to work hard and manage our resources. My grandparents struggled through the Great Depression and survived. His grandparents had even less. And yet they laid the foundations for us to have a better life, and we do.

He and I do not forget how easily it could have been different. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

November 14, 2021

A creature of habits

I've had the same desktop photo on my computer since 2015. It happens to be the very first photoshop project I did. I like it. The colors, with their autumn-ish hues, please me. I doubt that I intended to keep this photo up for six years, but here we are. 

What struck me as I powered up the unit this morning is that I'm still using that same coffee mug, too. 

I suppose continuity is a good thing. Or should I simply admit I'm a creature of many habits?

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)

November 13, 2021

Sneaky little hooves

We've known he's taken a liking to our backyard. We've seen him around. Deuce certainly knows he's here. They have the animal version of an argument over just who owns the space. The buck walks in, Deuce leaps to his paws to give chase, the buck goes as far as the top of the stone fence and stops. Then the buck snorts at the dog and the dog freezes. He's not sure what that whistle/snort means but he knows it's not a good thing in his little doggie world. 

And that's it. The show is over for the moment. It will resume the next time the buck steps into the backyard. 

We try not to laugh at our dog. Deuce is our furry son, after all. He holds the title of Honorary Human, unlike the cat. (Loki is a Heathen, let me tell you.) But the dog's sudden loss of bravado is funny. 

We hope this young-ish buck stays on our side of the road and out of the state park where he could be "harvested." We'd like to see him remain in the gene pool for another season because he's a good-sized animal. So many bucks around here are getting smaller. 

This is the first time the buck has tripped the trail cam that we can get a good video of him and prove to the naysayers we have an eight-point lurking about. 

Who does own the backyard? I do, and I say the buck can stay.

Stay sneaky, my little friend. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)


November 1, 2021

Harvest Right Freeze Dryer

Three thousand dollars is a lot of money. I didn't spend that much on my first three cars, added together. But the times do change and the future isn't creeping up on us these days. It's coming at us fast to slap us in the face. 

It's become very clear to me that maintaining my country lifestyle has become a lot more complicated. Heck, maintaining any semblance to a "lifestyle" is a lot harder these days. I dragged the man of the manor along on a grocery run today. His takeaway on the experience was, "where's the Gatorade?" That wasn't precisely the point I wanted to drive home with him, but it's close. 

The Gatorade isn't at our house. The last time I got him Gatorade, he told me we didn't need to buy it two cases or sleeves at a time. Ha! Now he has none. The price of Doritos chips has gone from $2.50 a bag to $3.48. We now have no Doritos to go along with his Cool Blue. 

He didn't comment on some of the empty shelves, but I know he took it all in. I've been telling him for months, but him seeing it for himself was better. 

After the groceries were stowed, I sat down at my computer and did something I wasn't sure I should do - I ordered a Harvest Right freeze dryer. Yep. They are pretty pricey. 

I've enjoyed home canning this year, and I plan to continue. The freeze dryer isn't to take the place of canning and/or dehydrating. It's to begin having a long-term pantry. Freeze-dried items properly stored can last up to twenty years. I see a definite advantage to having the ability to expand my pantry, which expands our ability to eat healthier. Nothing will take the place of canned apple pie filling, but having apple slices with no extra added sugar to munch on will be a definite plus. Freeze-dried blueberries and raspberries are little candies. Canned potatoes get starchy while freeze-dried do not. This purchase will round out my home preservation plan. 

And so now I have a little work to do. I need to rearrange a few things in the basement and create a workstation for the new equipment. I'm pretty sure this will lead to at least one trash bag full of things I no longer use making its way out of the house. We do tend to hoard things when we have space, but we've kept things like an old showerhead. Why? Because we could, which is not a good reason. 

The freeze dryer won't ship until January. Harvest Right is shipping five to seven weeks out at this point, so I put down a deposit to get the sale price and will pay the balance at a time to try to have it shipped after Christmas when shipping may be less hectic. That gives me plenty of time to clean out and rearrange downstairs. One of the upsides is I'll be doing the rearranging on my own with no help from Himself, so it will be done my way to suit me.

Is a freeze dryer worth an outlay of $3,000? I guess I'll find out in the new year. 

The Lady of Holly Tree Manor (The Hideaway)