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Wednesday, January 29, 2020 2 comments

Mooooving along

When you live in a free-range insane asylum, you never know who (or what) is gonna show up next, looking for a little living space…

I guess this is the season for calves, because the wife has been talking about all the new babies out in the pasture lately. But, it seems like one of them had some issues… not so much the calf itself, but the mama. Here’s a mental image you won’t see often, in two words: prolapsed uterus.

However it was, the mama didn’t make it. That meant catching the calf, which is usually just a matter of letting it hang out for a day or two until it’s too weak to run away, then bring it to an enclosure where we can feed it. Lief, who was The Boy’s dog, got displaced from his pen and moved back to a tree and doghouse so the calf could have a place to live. The first day or so was… interesting. We had to pin him against a corner, then get him to figure out that the bottle had foooooood. After exactly one of those ordeals, he got the idea and was glad to see us coming.

Slurp… uh, eet mor chikin… Slurp
A week or two later, and he's pretty much a really big doggie. He’ll slide around your legs, looking for the bottle, and has figured out he needs to let go on occasion to equalize the pressure.

Mason helped me out one evening. “What should we call him?” he asked.

“Steak,” I grinned. “He’s gonna go on my grill.”

“No he won’t!”

Super-cute eyelashes notwithstanding… but whatever. I’m calling him Buncha, as in Buncha Bull. Most likely, once he’s weaned, we’ll return him to the pasture. But before that happens, we’ll most likely be feeding him out of a bucket. Buncha is already trying to find an opening out of the pen, so I hope it won’t be much longer before he returns to the herd. But I guess if someone waves a bottle at him, he’ll be glad to go wherever it leads.

Saturday, January 18, 2020 2 comments

Weekend AJ blogging

Daughter Dearest’s maternity leave ran out last week, which meant she went grumbling back to work on Monday. And that meant AJ was at the manor through the day until she got home.

She doesn't mind having her @$$ in a sling!
AJ is definitely her mother’s daughter. DD liked to be held close, so does AJ. The difference is, DD's happy place was rocking. AJ is like Mason; she likes to be carried around. Wife asked me to work at home so she could deal with a couple of things without having to listen to AJ howling to be picked up. After a couple tries, we found a good position for her in my old sling, and I had both hands free for working (and taking a selfie). Of the three babies who have spent time in that sling, she’s the earliest adopter… Mason and Charlie were both about 3 months old when they got comfortable in it. She also sat in on her first two conference calls, and started crying when someone said the schedule had to slip (so she’s already qualified to be a Product Line Manager!).

She’ll sleep about half the day, and we have a little bed for her. “Safe Sleep” notwithstanding, she likes to sleep on her side more than her back (which is what Charlie preferred as well).

She's like 7 weeks old now, growing quickly and gobbling prodigious amounts of formula. When she’s hungry, everyone knows it. Charlie started sympathy-crying at one point.

She looks a lot more like Daughter Dearest now, and the eyebrow ridges and lack of hair make her look a lot like my youngest bro Solar. He replied (paraphrased), “Yup, we’re both gorgeous.”

Both of us enjoy our baby time, and Charlie likes being around her as well (although we have to make sure he doesn’t hug too hard). She’s not a boarder, she doesn’t live here, but she’s aboard.

Monday, January 13, 2020 No comments

Holding a… garage (door)

Back before Christmas, Panda was at the manor, and backed up his big truck to turn around…


I was working at home that morning, and ran out to see what had happened. To be honest, the only surprise was that it hadn’t happened years ago. FAR Manor has a treacherous driveway. Someone, and it turned out to be Panda, finally hit the garage door.

You really couldn’t see any problem from the outside, and you had to be looking for it to see it from the inside. One of the panels was pushed in. “I’ll come by tomorrow and put it back in,” Panda assured me.

But he didn’t.

After he left, I hit the lift button. The Orange Crate was parked in there, and I would need it. The garage door went up, but made one h3|| of a racket, squealing like a Republican who had been confronted with its lies. I told the wife about it, and we agreed to leave the door open until we could get someone to deal with it.

So the holidays went by, and a brief Winter #2 came around. The garage door isn’t awesome insulation, but it’s a lot better than nothing (especially when it’s windy, which is typical of Planet Georgia’s five winters). The wife dug around, and found the number of the guy who had installed our replacement garage door opener (that I got from Freecycle). He said he could come by on Thursday, and I agreed to work at home that day.

Gotta love maintenance windows… I had an urgent bathroom appointment, and somehow I missed hearing him come up, but heard him leave. Thinking he had arrived, I forced an early finish and ran out to the garage. All there was, was a sticker saying he had come by.

Since I had to move my cube at work on Friday, there was no opportunity to work at home then. Wife figured she would hang out, and arranged a second-chance visit… and he never showed up.

Sunday afternoon rolled around, and I realized the garage door was still in the same shape it had been. After confirming that the garage door guy never showed up Friday, I decided to tackle the issue myself.

First, I backed Moby Yo (the great white minivan) out. If I got the door down, and it wouldn’t go back up, at least we wouldn’t have a trapped vehicle. Then I hit the button. It wailed, stalled, and went back up. Maybe I’d been overly cautious, but at least I had room to work. I got a stepladder, hammer, and wood block, and got pounding.

Back in place… mostly.
After dorking around, I was able to get the door down. I attacked the panel in earnest, pushing it out and banging the framework down enough to get it back into place.

I didn’t address the bent metal beams, but hoped I’d straightened things out enough to get it going. Hitting the button was encouraging… the door went up without drama. Down, it howled and stopped again.

“Huh,” I thought. I know the definition of insanity is trying the same thing and expecting a different result, but I hit the button again anyway. This time, the door went down like nothing had ever happened. There’s a reason I call this place the free-range insane asylum.

Given that Spring #3 seems to be really wet and not all that cold, we might not restart the firebox until the end of the week. We’ve had plenty of the “cool/warm and wet” part of Planet Georgia winters, but only (so far) brief spates of the other part, “cold and dry.” More will come, and at least now we can put the garage door down to keep the worst of it out.

But we have wood on the rack, and a little more in the shelter. Maybe I’ll get a chance to cut more firewood in the weekends ahead. Winter is coming… and going, through March anyway. Dry weekend days, and we’ve been lucky to get one for two the last few, means tackling those maintenance issues while you can.

Friday, January 10, 2020 No comments

Turkey slow-cooker chili

Eating Season is finally behind us… maybe. A lot of us still have a metric eff-ton of meat in the freezer, we’re trying to ditch those holiday pounds, and maybe we’re tightening the financial belt a little after blowing the budget on presents. It's still cold out, at least for most of us.

Gotta have those toppings!
We need something hot, cheap, and reasonably healthy for supper, but still tasty… so here you go. I based this on an AllRecipes version, and found it spiced well enough that I wasn’t reaching for the jar of ghost pepper sauce The Boy made for me a year or so ago (a half-teaspoon takes anything from mild to wild, so it will last a while). Like the turkey tacos recipe I posted, this is a good way to rescue dry or undercooked turkey. I ate all of this over a week, except for one bowl, and the wife thought it was pretty good. My second batch used some thawed leftover chicken, from a September church BBQ, and it worked fine as well.

Turkey slow-cooker chili
1 lb turkey (or chicken), diced
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp olive oil (more if the turkey is dry)
1 T minced garlic
2 T chili powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp oregano (dried, or 1 tsp fresh)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (ground)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp No-salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper (black or white)

2 c water
1 can (14oz) white beans*, drained and rinsed
1 can (28oz) diced fire-roasted tomatoes
2 T unsalted tortilla chips, crushed (optional)**

Sliced jalapeños
Crema (or sour cream)
Shredded cheese (sharp cheddar, Colby-Jack, etc)

Pour water, beans, tomatoes, and crushed tortilla chips into a lined slow-cooker. Set on High.

Heat olive oil in large skillet. Add onion and garlic; sauté until the onion softens. Add turkey and remaining ingredients, stir until turkey is heated and oil is absorbed. Transfer turkey/onion/spice mixture into slow-cooker, stir.

Cook on High approx. 3 hours or until simmering, stirring occasionally; then simmer for 1 more hour. Serve hot with toppings as desired. Leftovers can be reheated in a microwave.

*I usually reach for black beans, but found that they tend to “stain” poultry-based soup/stew/chili. White beans don’t discolor the meat. Red beans also seem to work okay, if you drain and rinse them, at least.

**The crushed tortilla chips thicken the broth a little. Alton Brown came up with the idea, so don’t blame me.

Do you have a favorite recipe for turning leftover meat into chili? Comments are open!

Wednesday, January 08, 2020 No comments


Wife observed: “Now that Charlie is four, he’s entering his Terrible Twos.” He’s definitely four, Terrible Twos notwithstanding. He’s curious about everything, he can reach the top of the dressers in our bedroom, and he’s trying so hard to talk. He invented a sign for Play-Dough, hands inverting over each other (I should probably post a video). Daughter Dearest got him to make the “d” sound, and the “oh” sound, but he just can’t quite seem to put them together. Hey, at least he’s starting to use consonants. The rest will come.

Bread with pizza sauce… perfect!
We had a sort-of pizza party for him this evening, to mark the occasion. He can’t actually eat pizza, but he’s fine with the crust and sauce. So one of the pepperoni pizzas I made this evening had a fourth of it missing cheese and 'roni. Sauced bread was just fine with him. We also had a veggie pizza, but that didn’t last the night. I’d have liked one with 'roni, ham, and bacon, but hey… it’s not my night.

There was also bowtie pasta (Charlie’s favorite) with marinara sauce. Instead of a birthday cake, we had assorted doughnuts. Charlie likes plain ones, and I think he got two of them. (“Hey, it’s his birthday.”) As we’re working on the theory that he sleeps better on a really full belly, we were okay with letting him eat. Besides, there are a few doughnuts left over for tomorrow morning, and I fully intend to grab one to enjoy with my coffee.

After the food (and cake, or cake doughnuts in any case), what comes next with a birthday? Presents!

Charlie got the hang of opening presents during the Christmas craze, and he obviously doesn’t have a problem remembering how. His favorite was a Play-Dough activity set (have I mentioned he loves his 'doh?). He got a set of Baby Shark puzzles and games, and only got interested in that once we put up the Play-Dough.

He’s not really into the Grand Acquistion of Stuff phase just yet, and Mason didn’t get there until he was six or so. If he has attention, cars, or Play-Dough (roughly in that order), he’s fine. Mason complains about him being annoying, but the two of them aren’t all that different. Mason gets massively annoying when he wants attention from us, and Charlie gets massively annoying when he wants attention from Mason (or us). Both of them torment the dog, and I think Charlie learned some of that from Mason.

Anyway. Big news might be coming in slightly less than a month. Stay tuned for the latest from the free-range insane asylum!

Friday, January 03, 2020 No comments

Goals vs. resolutions

A new year has arrived, and perhaps people are asking you if you have any resolutions.

Perhaps you reply, “I don’t do resolutions,” and add some variation of “they never work out.” The reasons they don’t work out could be greater than one per person, but here’s a couple common ones:

Too vague. “Lose weight” or “Have a cleaner house” are things many of us can aspire to, but where’s the finish line? Being one pound lighter on December 31 is technically losing weight, but is that really going to satisfy you? Do you really have a cleaner house if you binge-clean twice a year and otherwise let it go like usual?

Impossible. You might try biting off too much. “Lose 40 pounds” or “get out of debt” aren’t vague, anyway. But if you’re honest with yourself, you know what the odds are of achieving something that big.

Maybe this year, instead of making sweeping resolutions you’ll blow off before February, set goals. I wrote about setting goals on my writing blog a couple years ago, and how much they help. But your goals should be SMART:
  • Specific (I would say Short-term is as important)
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Results-oriented (I would add Rewarding)
  • Time-bound
(Yes, you may give this an epic eyeroll. I know I do.)

Some of these run together. M and R especially can be variants of S. To me, they’re not as important as the other three. Let’s run with the examples I used earlier.

“Lose 40 pounds” checks most of the boxes, but is it achievable? The implication is “by December 31,” and that’s nothing like short-term. These days, our attention spans are eroded by all the input we’re bombarded with, and focusing on a goal for an entire year might not be achievable. If you’re not 40 pounds overweight, it might not be achievable in any case. So, lower your sights and go short-term: Lose 7 pounds by Feb. 15. Don’t forget your reward; you want an incentive to stay focused on your goal(s). There’s nothing wrong with wanting a pat on the back or an effing cookie, even for doing what you know you should. If you’re too demanding of yourself, never satisfied, you could end up asking yourself “What’s the point?” and giving up.

Once you’ve achieved that first 7 pounds, reward yourself and then set your next goal. Just keep it realistic, and remember, it takes longer to lose less as you go.

“Have a cleaner house” is results-oriented, but how do you measure it—in other words, how can you tell if you’ve succeeded? It’s certainly not specific. Maybe it’s achievable. It’s an end, and your goals are the means. Develop the habit of putting stuff away this month is a goal. You can measure it by the lower amount of clutter. It might not be your only cleanup-related goal; things like give away kitchen stuff I don’t use this March or install shelving in the garage next week are short-term, achievable, and will help get you to the cleaner house. Break things down into smaller chunks whenever possible.

“Get out of debt” is a noble aspiration, and it’s even specific and measurable. But is it achievable? Besides having sufficient funds to do it, can you stay focused on that for an entire year? If you have a partner who likes to splurge, you’ll need to get on the same page, too. I actually had a three-year plan to get rid of everything but the mortgage, and of course things happened in the second year.

Some credit bites your wallet harder than others. You might have one card with a 12% interest rate and other with a 30% rate. Get more specific, and get achievable: Pay off RipOffBank Visa by March, then cancel it. If you don’t think you can pay it all off by March, specify the goal balance; once you’ve reached it, set the next goal.

Big resolutions have a place—they guide the goals you set—but they aren’t what you actually do. Do the goals, and the resolutions will come along for the ride.

What are your goals for 2020? Sound off in the comments!


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