Friday, December 26, 2014

Happy Christmas

My barn friends decorated L's stall for Christmas with this little tree and red berries. I thought it was rather sweet.

25 December 2014

Shotgun season on deer closed almost 2 weeks ago and just Wednesday afternoon while I was out running I heard shots in the woods. It's still black powder season until the end of the year but these were shotgun shots.

Most people are serious and responsible. But it only takes one.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Rainy Days

Well. After several days of steady rain it's time for a....


Most horses love mud baths but she just brings it to a whole other level. It took some doing to clean her up after that.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

My summer project

I enjoy martinis. Martinis pair *really* well with food. All kinds of cuisine, all kinds of food.

That's a bowl of olives. On the right

For as long as I've enjoyed martinis my gin of choice has always been...

Bombay Sapphire

I never thought about it much. My very first martini was a Bombay Sapphire martini. I'd been told it made the best martini and I'd seen the snobby people order it.

Then last spring I unexpectedly...ran out of Bombay Sapphire! But there, in the back of the bottom shelf was a bottle of...Gordon's Gin. I made my martini...with Gordon's.. and...much to my surprise...made the best martini *ever*. So I decided over the summertime I'd try different gins and...eventually...different vermouths. I wanted to make up my own mind. See if my own experience would give me a preference. I'd already tried a Tanqueray martini and while Tanqueray is my favorite for gin and tonic I think it makes an awful martini.

My method was not at all comprehensive, scientific or thorough. I didn't do blind tasting. I just mixed up a martini over the weekend with different mainstream gins and thought about whether I liked it or not.

My Findings
The best martini?

A Gordon's martini

I thought Gordon's Gin also made a perfectly good gin and tonic.

Second best martini? Surprise!

The Plymouth martini

Why is that a surprise? Plymouth Gin is a distilled gin. It's not a London Dry Gin. By the way. Distilled gin makes an absolutely *awful* gin and tonic.

Then came...


I rated the Beefeater martini right along with Bombay Sapphire. It makes a perfectly good martini.

I even tried a Hendrick's martini.

The gimmick here is the cucumber garnish

I thought the Hendrick's martini was just awful.


There are lots of vermouths! I had no idea.

Now, Julia Child had some disparaging comments about an American made vermouth. She never said what vermouth that was but I hunted around most people guess it was Gallo. I've never tried it. I don't plan on it.

I've heard that your dry vermouth is every bit as important as your gin. It's an ingredient. A main ingredient. I've heard people say they can tell if the vermouth hasn't been kept refrigerated. Or been left on the counter a day too long.

I tried Dolin. I tried Noilly Prat. I tried Stock. I tried Martini and Rossi. I tried fresh. I tried refrigerated. I tried stuff that had sat on the counter for 6 weeks.

I found absolutely no difference with the vermouth I used. I typically mix a one part vermouth to 6 or 7 parts gin martini. The vermouth is essential but the gin dominates the cocktail. I'm not saying there aren't people who can tell the difference. Their palates are just *far* better than mine.

Lastly, the presentation. You have to have a martini in a martini glass. Period. Full stop. It just wouldn't be right to have a martini in say, a water glass. I have several different glasses to suit my moods. I've had some really nice ones I've broken. I even have lexan martini glasses I use outside.

Occasionally I like a lemon twist in my martini. Mostly on a searing hot summer day. Generally I prefer olives. Sometimes in a side bowl. At least 3. As a matter of fact sometimes I snack on olives I keep in the refrigerator. In a jar. In a martini.

Edited to add: The glass *has* to be chilled. And of course, you stir a martini. With ice. Never shake. Actually, it should be stirred when mixed in a glass container. And swirled when mixed in plastic or stainless steel.

Monday, December 8, 2014


Our first snow this year was 2 November.

This didn't amount to much

But this did! We had some real snow the day before Thanksgiving..

26 November

And of course, the dazzling colors we had this fall are gone. I find the contrast is very striking.

7 December

It's all so...plain and...well, brown.

This time of year, with all the foliage gone, it's easy to see why the barn is such a madhouse of furious activity all summer long. Nests!

A Robin's nest

Not just a few. There are nests *everywhere* in the brush. Really. Hundreds of them! We have tons of Robins...Blue Jays..Goldfinches. Orioles. In the spring I leave piles of horse hair outside for the birds. They use the hair in their nests. The most fascinating one of all is the Baltimore Oriole. We have lots of Baltimore Orioles. They make bag shaped nests that hang from branches very high in the tree tops. The nests always blow down sooner or later and it's quite amazing the way they use the different kinds of hair. Most of the nest is made from tail hair. It hangs using tail hair. The net like outer tail hair is lined with body hair. And the very softest hair lines the bottom of the nest. They're almost always 100% horse hair!

Of course there are also Crows. And hawks. And owls. And Killdeer. Tons of Killdeer.

Even Carolina Wrens.

Carolina Wren's nest

We've had a year round population of Goldfinches for many years now. As long as I can remember. This year they've all gone and I Finches! I saw them yesterday while riding L. Dozens and dozens of Purple Finches. I don't know what that's all about. They're very pretty birds and much more timid than the Goldfinches.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Brilliant Folage

This year the fall foliage has been positively brilliant. Stunning barely begins to describe it. We've had a dry summer this year and apparently that's stressed the trees. Here, I was on my way to get some corn when I passed this yard and I just had to stop.

Millis Massachusetts, 19 October

Everywhere you look this season. The trees just glowed.

I took a day off last week.

The view from my living room window 17 October

Every time I think of moving I look out my window and decide no, no, don't think so. I've been here 24 years now and the view never gets tired.

I walked my neighborhood...

This is just to the left of my driveway

Just a roofline

And a side street

The oil company down the end of the block

This went on for a couple of weeks. One of my neighbors said the trees looked like they were on fire. I really just can't ever remember colors this vibrant.

Of course there are other reflections of the season.

Gathering broccoli and cauliflower

A really big buck has been roaming the barn property

He's looking for girls. It's mating season.

I have a really funny L story.

Here, this field by our barn.

There's a woodchuck out there. We're *very* careful to watch for chuck holes. I know where they are and we stay way clear. So one afternoon this woodchuck comes crawling up the tree line. Now L has no problem with animals. She sees the chuck and thinks nothing of it. But the chuck sees her and races to his hole and disappears. Well. L has *never* seen anyone disappear right before her eyes! She snapped her head and did a double take. She stopped and looked at me over her shoulder and I swear she was thinking "WHOA! Did you see *that*?!". And if that wasn't funny enough as we moved along she kept nervously looking at the spot where the woodchuck disappeared. It was quite hilarious. She really is tons of fun.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Well I am just positively tickled.

You see, I don't really bake. I make brownies out of a box. Cupcakes from a mix. I made a cake once. I made Tollhouse cookies once. I think baking can be a little "fussy" sometimes. I always have a mess left when I bake. But mostly? I live alone - I cook for one. I'm quite good at that. Baking for one? That's a challenge. It's not like I'm going to eat a couple of dozen cookies while they're still fresh!

I like fresh baked things as much as the next guy. Maybe more so. But I mostly go without. Oh, the bakery has perfectly good things but for some reason cookies just have to be fresh and homemade. I can't recall buying a really good cookie. Ever. Couple of months ago I had a serious itching for oatmeal cookies. I love oatmeal cookies. I hadn't had a good oatmeal cookie in ages. And I recalled reading how people have formed their dough into cookies, frozen and bagged them to bake off a couple at a time on demand. So I decided I'd try that.

Frozen oatmeal cookie dough

I used this recipe. I used 100% whole wheat flour.

And...they bake beautifully!

Baked (from frozen) oatmeal cookies

So yesterday I did the same with peanut butter cookies. I haven't had peanut butter cookies since I was a kid.

Peanut butter cookies

I used the Simply Recipes recipe. I used 100% whole wheat flour. Yes I use 100% whole wheat flour in *everything*. Bread. Pizza. White sauce. Breading. Chowders. The one and only thing I've found that whole wheat flour doesn't work with is a baguette. Use whole wheat flour. It's good for you.

I also spun about a tablespoon of plain dry roasted unsalted peanuts in a spice grinder and added the powdery peanuts to the mix.

And they baked beautifully!

This is the "chewy" baking method

This is the recommended baking method

Both baking methods made awesome cookies. Very peanutty!

So here's what you do.

Put parchment paper on a half sheet pan and put it in the freezer. Make your cookie dough. Form cookies on to the frozen half sheet pan and put it in the freezer. The cookies will freeze quickly enough. When the cookies are frozen, bag them and keep them in the freezer.

Then you can just bake off the frozen cookies whenever you want a fresh cookie. Bake them frozen. Follow the recommended baking temperature and time, you don't need to compensate for the frozen dough.

I don't imagine this will work for lemon squares or cupcakes but it works really well with cookies.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


It's time for Polo in the Country!

I swear I don't know where the summer went. Summer 2014 has been one of the very best I can recall. I don't think we've had a steady soaking rain in daylight since sometime around the 4th of July. Day after day the sun has been out and it's been mostly dry and breezy and, hard as it is to believe, not a single thunderstorm.

And here it is time for polo!

Every year the Norfolk Hunt Club has a polo match out on their steeplechase grounds to raise funds for the preservation of recreational space in the neighboring communities. Always eager to share their passion for equestrian pursuits of all kinds they're really a nice bunch of people.


There are lots of rules in polo but they're not hard to learn and you don't have to know them all to enjoy a match. Knowing the Rule of the Line is the only one you need to know to understand what's going on out on the field.

The action on the field is occasionally *very* close by!

Yes. It *really* is this close!

We always have a good time at the match and it's fun to watch skilled riders on well trained ponies. And it was a beautiful day. Some polo trivia. Did you know a regulation size polo field is just under 10 acres?!

And here. This was such a treat! How often do you get to see a Grand Prix level equestrian warming up out in the countryside on a beautiful day? The half time show was given by Dave Thind and his record breaking stallion White Star.

Dave is very personable and engaging. It was a lot of fun to visit while he was warming up. keeping with the social even of the season...

No...this wasn't our table!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Oh deer

I often walk around the barn property. There are snakes and rabbits *everywhere*. Which I'd guess is why it's such a favorite with coyotes. We hear them more than we see them and there are always tracks around.

Coyote track. We have some pretty big coyotes.

We see the occasional fox and of course the property is a birder's paradise.

And then every once in a long while we get a treat like this.

31 August

I'm not sure she's in the best of health. She's looking a little "ribby" for such an abundant season.

Run for it!

Sometimes when you're on a horse you can practically reach out and touch the deer before they run. I love this stuff.

Today's rider's advice. I always keep a change of clothes in one of my tack boxes. In case I want to say, stop at the supermarket on my way home. After riding bareback. In the summer.

Because this is really hard to explain

Saturday, August 30, 2014

If I can do this...

Anyone can do this!

Blueberry Pie

I know. My crimp needs a little work. But I'm showing *some* promise.

I have a lot of favorite things. Gin and tonic in the summertime. Manhattans in the wintertime. Martinis anytime. Hmmm...

Nevermind that pattern. An enduring most favorite thing for as long as I can remember is blueberry pie. I haven't been making blueberry pies for a long time. I finally read the ingredients on supermarket pie dough packages and they all have trans fat. Most puff pastry dough does too.

So last year I made a pie crust. Whole wheat. First pie crust ever! It was actually pretty good. But I made a *huge* mess. Mostly because the top popped off my food processor. You can imagine. So I was discouraged. Being desperate for a pie however made me give it another go.

And I done good.
Nice Flaky Crust

Here's what I used for one crust:
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 7 tbs (cold) butter, cut into small cubes
  • ice water
I put the dry ingredients in a food processor and whirred them while I dropped in the cold butter cubes. When the butter was broken up and "grainy" I added ice water, a tablespoon at a time until the dough balled around the blade. It took about 4 tablespoons and while it didn't really ball very well I could tell it was done.

I put that in a plastic bag and refrigerated it for about 10 minutes. Then I rolled it out with a wine bottle between a couple of pieces of waxed paper. I think parchment paper would have worked better.

I did a standard berry filling. 32 ounces of frozen wild Maine blueberries with a pinch of cinnamon, a splash of lemon juice, a couple tablespoons of honey and 3 tablespoons of tapioca starch. I dotted some butter around the top of it after I filled the pie.

Put the pie in a 425 °F oven for 10 minutes, reduce the oven to 350 and it's done in 35 to 40 minutes .

I was really thrilled with this pie crust.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Quintessential Summer Afternoon

I was out running early in the evening the other day. I ran past this field. They were out bailing the 2nd cut hay.

Putting up hay. 20 August

It was a warm, dry, breezy day. The hay smelled so good. The light was perfect. I had to go back and get my camera. Just the most perfect summer day.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Awesome Bug

I came home one afternoon to find this on my back door. At first glance I thought it actually was a leaf stuck to the door. But on closer's a moth! If this guy was on a tree branch I'd never in a million years see him. Or her.

Looks like a leaf! 28 July

Well, thanks to the miracle of Google I find it's a Pandorus Sphinx moth. I was amazed. And I got to learn all about the Pandora Sphinx.

During shedding season I leave all my horse hair outside in piles. Here's why.

I found this nest while I was trimming thorn bushes one afternoon. The silvery lining there? That's tail hair! The birds use all different kinds of horse hair in their nests. The Baltimore Oriole's nest is the most interesting. We have Baltimore Orioles all over the property. The entire nest is often made completely from horse hair. They hang their distinctive pouch nests from tail hair and line the nest with progressively softer hair. Every year we find a couple of nests blown down in the fall.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Back to School

Last Sunday was a beautiful day. Pretty much a perfect 10. We've had several this week.

L and I enjoyed a very nice bareback ride. I killed more deer flies than I could count. They land behind L's ears and she has this "smack that bug will ya" gesture where she lifts her head up and shows me the fly. I'm expected to smack it. And she gets really insistent if I'm a little slow on the uptake. I find it's pretty funny.

While we had a most enjoyable time I was left with the feeling L was a little bored with our lazy trail ride. So when I got back to the barn I brought us in to the ring to do some schooling exercises. I really don't remember the last time we went in the ring. It has be a couple of years at least. I didn't plan anything hard. After I got her to frame up we did a working walk along the rail with circles in the corners. First to the left, then to the right.

L was not the least bit resistant. She was fully engaged, focused and she concentrated on what I asked her to do. I was impressed. Of course I know this isn't unique. But Canadian Horses are especially well known for being smart and willing.

We did some serpentines and transitions. She got a little on the forehand doing concentric circles but she listened to light half halts. We ended with side passes left and right. We weren't in there more than 10 minutes. She worked very hard. Not physically mind you but she was tired. Always end on a positive note.

And she wasn't bored. We'll have to do that more often!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Corn 2014

Corn's in!

The corn is late this year after the cold wet spring. I had an ear of corn Friday from Hadley. I had heard the Hadley corn was pretty good and was ..ok. Not great. Not bad. The corn from Hadley and Deerfield usually comes in a week or so ahead of the nearby corn.

But yesterday I had my very first ear of native (local) corn.

Saturday 19 July

This corn is from Hanson Farm not far from here. It's good but clearly it's early in the season. I love everything about the summertime. Of course I know all about greenheads but nothing says summertime like corn and watermelon. And clams. And lobsters. And sangria. I could go on. And on.

My first (and last) ear of corn are notable days in my year. Since the season started late I wonder if it will end late? I never noticed before. I'll have to notice this year.

Look what we found yesterday!

Out in the middle of nowhere. A passing bird must have dropped some sunflower seeds. This is a *huge* sunflower ...bush. It's going to have dozens of sunflowers on it. It was a really pleasant find.

A sunflower bush. Out in the middle of nowhere!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Egg Salad?!

For many years I *hated* egg salad. No. *Detested* egg salad. From the time I was a child I'd have to leave the room if someone started in on an egg salad sandwich.

Yes. That's egg salad!

So it struck me rather funny one day last winter when I decided I salad sandwich. So I researched recipes on the web (it's *so* easy) and decided I liked this one here at Serious Eats. There really isn't much variation in egg salad recipes. At the time I ended up wrapping my egg salad in lettuce leaves.

I've had it several times since and always enjoy some variation of that recipe.

I start by steaming the eggs. I get a steamer going at a ripping boil and put my cold eggs in for 14 minutes. Serious Eats says 12 minutes. My 12 minute eggs come out underdone. Maybe it's my steamer. I put them in a bowl under cold running water when they're done and leave them for 10 or 15 minutes. This technique was originally the result of trying to find an easier way to peel hard cooked eggs.

Here. Check this out.

Just about the whole egg slips right out

And I get *perfectly* cooked eggs...

Every time

The recipe:
  • Two eggs, cold
  • Two tablespoons of finely chopped celery. Be sure to get some leaves.
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise. I like Hellmann's Light.
  • Generous dot of Dijon mustard
  • Splash of lemon juice
I mash the eggs with a fork and mix everything together. Sometimes I add some chives. Chives are especially good. Sometimes I include a tablespoon of chopped red onion. Sometimes I add parsley. You get the idea. I need to try a pinch of curry powder some one of these days.

I think it goes especially well forked onto those little Rubschlager rye breads and the radishes are a nice touch. That idea came from Serious Eats. I like my egg salad wrapped in lettuce leaves too. I have to try it on a hamburger bun sometime.

So. Which is it? "?!" or "!?". I looked up the rules. Apparently there is no rule. But people who study this stuff say "?!" is in more common usage. It appears maybe twice as often as "!?".

Friday, June 13, 2014

No place I'd rather be

People always ask..."where you going on your vacation?". The answer is of course, no place.

I do like to see my way clear to a day at the beach but really, where else would I want to be?

Sunday 1 June 2014

I'd like to horseback ride around the south of France someday..or Normandy. The both, of course...the food! Trouble is I don't just want to horseback ride. I'd have to ride L. That would be a *huge* project. Notwithstanding that I'd have real concerns about putting her under that much stress. So it's destined be nothing more than fantasy.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A desperate act?

While I've come to like a Bourbon Rickey now and then my summertime drink of choice is gin and tonic.

One bright summery afternoon a couple of years ago I went to fix a gin and tonic and found...<gasp> no limes! So. I used ..

A lemon wedge?

At the time I felt it was a desperate act. But. I liked it! I've since learned having a lemon in your gin and tonic is quite common. Some say it's preferred in London these days. And apparently limes in India are more like our lemons than limes. I don't know about that first hand.

Canada Dry or Polar have always been my favorite tonic waters. I hadn't given it any thought really but I find out both have HFCS. I won't knowingly eat HFCS. If I really drank enough for the HFCS in my tonic water to be an issue then the HFCS would be the least of my problems. I'm sure it's not a lot. But I have principles. Really!

Knowing Whole Foods doesn't carry anything with HFCS in it I stopped to see what they had for tonic water. They have some *very expensive* tonic water! I tried the middle tier Fever Tree and the low brow house brand. I thought the Fever Tree made an excellent gin and tonic. But then I knew what I was drinking. A blind taste test might be in order. I found the Whole Foods house brand (365) to make an equally excellent gin and tonic. At barely half the Fever Tree price. But it only comes in cans. Which means transferring a half a can anyway into a bottle for at least a day or two.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Trail ride followup

Watch out for these guys.

A deer tick

I've picked as many as 6 of these little stinkers off of me after a trail ride in the woods. You do *not* want to get Lyme Disease. The volume of deer ticks that carry Lyme Disease isn't that high but it's a very bad thing to have. The good news is a tick has to be on you for more than 24 hours to give you Lyme disease. So. If you're in the woods at all, even for just a few minutes, check thoroughly for ticks! Of can great fun to check close friends for ticks :)

Sunday, May 25, 2014


My trainer, earlier in the day yesterday, on seeing us emerge from some swampy brush, commented on what a confident trail horse L is. L is a most *wonderful* trail horse!

This is a great time of year for bushwhacking. The foliage is just coming in and the ground is clear enough for us to make our way through the woods. It's great fun!

We don't need trails

We can pick our way through here fairly easily. Although it does have its challenges. It really is a pleasure being out here in these woods.

Yes I know. I need to do her bridal path.

I especially love the ferns. It's all so green!

I heard a Wood Thrush. I hardly ever see them. The Wood Thrush song is a quintessential New England summertime woods thing. I don't think I heard a Wood Thrush last year. Not once.

I am *completely* lost. She isn't.

I used to get a little anxious about getting lost out there. I start out knowing exactly where we are. And I'm pretty good in the woods. But after a few spins and finding our way around downed trees and not paying attention to where we are - it just takes a minute and I really have no idea where we are. But L knows *exactly* where we are. All I have to do is let her go where she wants and she'll bring us back to the barn. How cool is that! It's never failed us yet. I hardly give it a thought anymore.

There are trails out there. And we can make a few trips over the same paths this time of year to make new trails.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...