Saturday, June 30, 2012

Why My Bathroom's Half Clean and My Baby's Well Moisturized

I'm not saying this was a good idea. 

But it was a situation born out of necessity and the type of lesser evil which often confronts multitasking parents.  I was cleaning the bathroom, I had an insistent toddler-sized helper, and it seemed reasonable to let Beep play with a bottle of lotion (as opposed to, let's say, toilet cleaner or window spray).  She loves lotion so she was thrilled.

Things quickly got out of hand, however.  It was about this time I questioned the wisdom of my choices.

Check, please. 

And then we found ourselves at this moment, which was about three seconds before she learned what lotion tasted like... And about ten seconds before she learned how much lotion-in-the-eyes stings.

After that, there was a quick gathering up of the poor crying baby, a fast shuffle down the hallway to the bathtub, and copious rinsing, wiping, and soothing to repeated whines of "Me eyes!  Ouch me eyes, Mama!"  It was definitely the end of Lotion Funtime and my bathroom was only half clean.  Errrgh.  On the bright side of this particular parenting fail, at least she was well moisturized.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Feeding Time

On a typical night Cabbage feeds the horses, but while he was away tonight the job fell to me.  My whole life I have always enjoyed feeding time; I find it not to be a chore, but rather a meditative and soothing ritual of measuring, carrying, talking softly to big animals as I move among them with a pat.  It's sweet, and so often I don't really think while I'm doing it- between my ears there's nothing but white noise.  Unlike when I'm doing advanced calculus... rrriiiight...   

Tonight, though, I couldn't wait to just. get. through it. and escape back to the house.  It was 101 degrees outside, I'm seven months pregnant, and all I wanted was to sit down and put my feet up.  (I apparently would not have made a good pioneer wife in 1873.  This knowledge might just keep me up tonight.)

Fortunately I had a helper.  As always, Beep was ready and willing.

Goldie had an early start eating her huge portions.  We're trying to put weight on her skinny frame, but it's taking a lot of feed and a lot of her time is devoted to hanging her head in a feed bucket.  I aspire to have that problem in my next life.

Goldie, you're a dork.  A sweet, yearning, goofy, socially obtuse dork.  Quit photobombing me.

This is better.  A nice, crappy phone photo showing mud, a detached pool ladder, a baby heading toward a cat, and a bunch of stuff badly needing pruning shears/shovels/a hatchet job.  Fabulous.

Every kid should have a cat this tolerant.

Here's how we recommend developing a cat like Fletcher:
1. Pick a kitten that was abandoned at a barn in a small West Texas town.  He won't expect much from life.
2. Make sure he has a gash on his side and tell him you're not spending much on vet bills so he'd better get over it.
3. Promise to keep him in the barn foreverandeverandever because that's the only way your husband will allow a barn cat... [next scene] ...until he worms his way into your house, and eventually works his way up to sleeping on the comforter.
4. Ensure your cat develops an impressive hunting prowess, much like your husband.  It'll give them something to bond over, which will lead to #3.
5. Watch your husband as he spends the cat's kittenhood picking him up by the tail, teasing him, making him make earless kitty faces, and generally increasing his tolerance for humiliation and harassment.
6.  Beam with pride as the cat tolerates the toddler, who he likely views as a refreshing break from the adults in his life.     

There's never been much wrong with Sam's appetite.  He loves his feed.  (the powder is an anti-ulcer supplement we feed to all our horses)

Cedar is the opposite of a photobomber.

Now I understand why.  She's a beautiful mare, but somehow horrifically unphotogenic.  She looks like she has an elephant head and donkey legs. 

Thank goodness the sun is setting...  I prefer to see our worn pastures in soft lighting.

Junior.  It's been nearly a year since his struggle to live, and his pivotal surgery.

Bay has always been my favorite color for horses; this works out since we have four bays right now.

Feeding is done, Goldie returned to the pasture, and Beep and I walk through the gate.  Beep has a good understanding of the most basic tenet of ranch etiquette: never, ever pass through a gate without closing and latching it behind you.

Fletcher's understanding of basic ranch etiquette: KILL LIZARDS.

Horses drink a lot of water when it's 100 degrees.  Time to top off the water trough.

Thanks for the help, Baby.  I know we have another child coming in September but you'll always be my baby. 

Let's head for the sanctuary of the house.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Flying Kites

Cabbage Ranch is a dirty messy work-in-progress pretty place that I like for many reasons.  It's in a nice neighborhood, quiet, private withuot being secluded, and it's nestled in rolling limestone hills among live oaks and cedar trees.

Reality check: It is also scrubby, rocky, and full of brush.

We deal with those mixed realities every day.  Our horses keep their hooves trimmed (and bruise their soles) by stepping on and around rocks, but they find shade and shelter easily under big trees.  It's nearly impossible to sink a fencepost without renting an auger, but the rock fences in our area are really beautiful in their simplicity.

Where I grew up, in Wisconsin, we had access to open fields and farmland- or at least the cul-de-sac in front of our suburban home- which, when coupled with the breezes and gusts off nearby Lake Michigan meant some prime kite-flying conditions.  It wasn't an everyday activity, but it was a fun novelty once in a while. 

Those memories came to mind when I spotted an inexpensive little kite at our grocery store, so I decided I wanted to introduce Beep to kites and bought it.  When I pictured kite-flying at our home, though, I realized it was a no-go.  Even if I could get the kite up- after running through brush, avoiding trees and prickly pear cactus, and stumbling around/breaking my ankle on rocks, my baby would end up standing in an ant pile.  Not cool.  I felt some disappointment, and a good dose of homesickness and regret that such a simple activity seemed hard to enact at home.

A few weeks of keeping the kite in the truck, at the ready for any random kite-friendly location we happened to pass on a gusty day, we finally hit the jackpot.

Parking lots may not be as scenic as farmland, and these breezes may not have been cooled by an endless lake, but we made do.

Up the kite went over pavement and between buildings.  We watched it swoop and fly, and at great peril to the kite let Beep try holding it.

I really enjoyed it, and my husband did too.  As for Beep, she was okay with the kite but after just a few minutes she ignored it and instead started clinging to me.  Standing on the hard ground with the heat radiating up, feeling the weight of my pregnant belly, I wasn't feeling disposed to holding her at that moment so I tried to put her off.

She is nothing if not persistent, though...

"Mama, up!" 

"Okay, Baby.  Jump up here."  I'll hold you, and cast a monstrous baby-belly-slash-toddler-lumpy shadow, and hope the breeze keeps blowing. 

This is your childhood, and I will help you make memories.  They'll be different from mine, and I will someday learn it's okay to trade the manicured lawns of my childhood for the scrubby pastures of yours.  You won't pass dairy barns on your way to school, but you'll look out past the rock fences and over the sprawling vistas.  Here the trees won't change color in the Fall and there will be no crackly, woodsy-smelling piles of leaves to jump in... but you'll have endless wildflowers in the Spring.

We can stand here in this parking lot and watch Daddy make the kite dance against the blue south Texas skies. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Along the Lantana

This gorgeous lantana plant was blooming alongside the barn the other day.

A few feet away, as she does nearly every night, Tabor brought her babies by for dinner.

That night she had two babies with her.  Sometimes we see her with one baby, sometimes two, and sometimes... even three.  We believe Tabor has two fawns, and occasionally babysits an extra.  But it is possible she had triplets (fertilemuch?) and has been fooling us all along.

In any event she's proving to be an excellent mother this time around, just as in the past.

I'd like to take a little credit for that, but really I never could give her much help with deer mothering.  Take, for example, this old photo. 

I mean, is it really useful for her to learn to let me kiss her?  Probably not.

Despite my best efforts to corrupt her, she's obviously figured out the whole Deer Thing, though, as her babies are big, strong, and frisky.

It's good to know I can be an utter failure in Deer Maternal Behavior 101 and everything still turns out okay. 

In a related turn of events, Beep is now grunting and beeping deer sounds at her discretion.  So there appears to be some bleedover of deer education.  This skill may make kindergarten interesting, but whatever.  You win some, you lose some.

Monday, June 11, 2012

How To Peel a Crawfish

This is where Cabbage feels right at home...  A big, steaming pile of crawfish, boiled with new potatoes and corn, spiced with Old Bay and just waiting for his attack.  I've never seen anyone peel crawfish as quickly as he can.  It may be partly due to the years he spent going to college in Louisiana, but I think it's more that he has a natural-born talent.  Crawfish peeling is his calling.

Me?  Notsomuch.  I like crawfish, but I don't love them.  Sure, they're tender, buttery, and taste like lobster or good crab.  I like the tactile experience of peeling them, and I enjoy eating them at newspaper-covered tables with a cold beer and lots of friends.  When I say I like them, I do.  Like.  But Cabbage?  He's another story.  He L.O.V.E.S. them.  Can't get enough of the little mudbuds.  So when our local grocery store had a nice fresh batch in, I told him I was up for it.  

Turns out I was, but Bean (my belly passenger) wasn't.  I occasionally have shellfish aversions when pregnant, and this was one of those days.  So I opted out of shellfish and into some leftover spaghetti. 

After watching Cabbage go all Tasmanian devil on the little crustaceans (a sight which is not for the faint of heart), it dawned on me that he should pass on his knowledge.

Enlighten the world.

And distract me from the gestationally-induced squeamishness leading me to question if I could stay in the same room with the crawfish one. more. minute.

My semi-pro shellfish sheller husband put it in slow-mo to give the rest of us (me) a tutorial on peeling crawfish.

Allow me to introduce our model.  He's just been cooked to a reddish orange and he's ready to be eaten.  See how he's whole, and the tail curled is under?  That's good.  Don't eat crawfish that come out of the pot in pieces, and don't eat ones with straight tails as they may not be fresh. 

Pick up your crawfish (you can do it), and grasp the body in your left hand, tail in your right.  The tail meat is your primary target.

With a pulling and slight twisting motion, pull the tail off the body.

You have about three options with the body in your left hand:
1. Suck the juices and orange fat out.  Foodies love this- it's where the intense flavor is.
2. Crack the claws open like you would a crab and eat the yummy meat there.  These were too small to bother with, but with larger crawfish it's definitely time well spent.
3. Throw it away.

To peel the tail, grasp the end between your right thumb and forefinger, and using your left hand lift the orange tail shell back one section at a time, just like you're peeling an orange.

After a section or two, gently pull the meat out with your left hand while the right still holds on at the base of the shell.  The trick is to kind of anchor the shell with the tip of your thumb, while the left hand pulls.  Sometimes you'll just get part of the tail out, but with a little practice the whole tail should come free in one nice piece.

Eat that luscious little piece of sweet meat!  Dunk it in butter, drizzle it with lemon, or just enjoy it as-is.  Delicious. 

Soon you'll be a semi-pro like Cabbage, and you'll have a pile of discarded shells in a huge glass mixing bowl next to your plate.  This what he ate by himself at warp speed.  See the beer can peeking out from the back?  That'll give you a sense of scale.

...And then he went back for seconds and thirds.  I wish I was kidding, but I'm not.  He's a freak of nature. 

I hope you try out your brushed-up technique soon.  Enjoy!