“Become dust - & they will throw thee in the air; Become stone - & they will throw thee on glass." Muhammad Iqbal *Beyond the bushes, boiling with dust, is 4Shoes West boundary road.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Goodbye 2017!

To all our Friends...
Be kind, Be grateful, Be Joyous!
Be SAFE.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

Christmas Teasing

Hey Manic... Guess what I heard?
No presents for a Naughty little Min Pin.

You SHUT your Lying Mouth!

See? Naughty.
Ho Ho Ho!

Christmas has gotten too commercial anyways. 
Sure, whatever you need to tell yourself Manic. 

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Manic is a Cougar

You may remember Manic's desperate plea to be rescued from harsh Canadian winter by an Australian with access to kangaroos... well, that never happened & Manic is the only one surprised.

However, Manic's other wish was granted by the very generous & talented knitter, Linda Price. Linda lives in a much warmer place than the Canadian Prairie but, clearly, she is not a sadist as she did not offer Manic a new home*. 
She did, however, answer the call for a clever wool artiste! 
You may not able to tell from the photo, but Manic is extremely glad to have headgear, because her ears are (without exaggeration) paper thin. She'd glare at me for telling, but they sometimes get a little crusty on the edges when she won't come inside, & I'm pretty sure that crust is the start of frostbite. But, you can't tell Manic much. 
I can, however, scold her into 'You Leave that hat ON or Else, dammit"!
Thank You Linda; the hat is adorable. 
Manic, not so much. 
But Manic WEARING the hat? Adorable. 
"Thank You Miss Linda; I'm told that I look 'so sweet' in my new cougar hat. Oftentimes, looking 'so cute' (or some version of that phrase) scores me extra milk bones. Soft, warm ears plus milk bone treats... I'm sold.
I really only shake my head to make Mom freak out; she freaks out pretty easy though, so no big challenge.
Manic Hugs & Kisses Miss Linda, Thank You again!"

*Seriously though, who else in their right mind would want Manic?
The little headcase is a permanent fixture at the 4Shoes. 

Monday, 25 December 2017

Be Merry!

From The 4Shoes to You
May all your Christmas Wishes come true!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Heavens' Barnyard

Spots' spot is hidden behind his wing

Well, the brothers Spot & NoSpot (of All Hell Breaks Loose fame) are now singing in Heavens' Barnyard Choir... Bless their little hearts. 
We owe both of the little escape artists our sincerest gratitude for the wonderful nourishment that they will provide us & our families.

Each year we gift to each of our siblings & their families a box of assorted meats from the farm, & some extras such as a few pounds of snowy white lard & a pint or two of grieven
Have you ever rendered raw fat? It's kind of a kitchen art form. 
This year I am using a crockpot instead of a pot on the stovetop; the process takes longer because the crockpot is smaller, but it heats more evenly than the cooktop so the end product is more guaranteed without having to stand over the pot, stirring for hours. 
Oh please let me find one of these!
If you rush the process, or if you overcook, you may be left with a slight yellow tint to your lard (which may also have the slightest burnt after taste). Not acceptable - especially not for gifting!
After the crackles are set aside, the liquid fat is then carefully sieved through a cloth filter to ensure that no tiny particulates are left to taint the finished product. Yes, it's true that such teensy bits will sink to the bottom of the batch but any sediment at all spoils the pure white perfection of home-rendered lard. I always use clear containers for my lard - admittedly, one of my kitchen vanities.
Have you ever used pure lard for cooking or baking? It cannot be beat for flavour or performance! I sometimes make a butter pastry for sweet pies but, when it comes to meatpies (in my opinion), nothing beats a hot water pastry made with pure, unadulterated pork lard! It is a delicious pastry that just stands up better to a hearty meat & vegetable filling than does a butter pastry (which is a little too delicate & flaky). 
I have always enjoyed Christmas music; I think it's a real shame that we don't hardly hear it played on the radio anymore except for on the 25th, or even in shopping centers! But that, my friends, is a rant for a different day. 
Tonight I am dancing around the kitchen to well-loved tunes as I work; I hope you'll enjoy this oldie but goodie, Jingle Bell Rock from 1957 by Bobby Helms. This was a hit long before I was even born, but I do think this version holds up very nicely. 

Monday, 18 December 2017

Open Gate Policy - NOT

"I just went along with the crowd; you can see that they're a bad influence." claims Fancy.
"I actually tried to talk him out of it. 'Padre, I said, You should not open the cow's gate.' He did it anyway." insists Bella.

"Yeah, I opened the gate. I figured you wouldn't make it so easy if you didn't WANT me to practice my mad break in/break out skills. Y'know, just in case anyone ever rustles us & I have to ingeniously set us free so we can run back to you." bluffs Padre, clearly not giving a hoot whether I buy his story. 

"Besides which, I find it totally unfair that those stupid cows have a round bale to free feed on, while WE (the muscle & the brains on this place!) are forced to wait for our meals to be served only 3 or 4 times a day. I'm practically wasting away here!"

NOW his story has a more familiar ring - envy, greed, & gluttony. Careful Padre, Santa is watching you!

Friday, 15 December 2017

Never Have I Ever...

Come on! 
Please play along with me!!
Play as a blogpost

(Link back to 4SL & let me know so I can add your link to this post!)

Or, if #12, just play along in the comments section.

Never Have I ever...
  1. Jumped up in the middle of my allotted computer time to make a recipe that inspires me. Possibly because, #8.
  2. Raided Mr Shoes' snack stash & picked through his precious damn mixed nuts for a missing recipe ingredient.
  3. Measured salt, over the sink, from the shaker into the spoon, wasting equal or greater amount of salt.
  4. Noticed the coffee pot is empty after I've already poured a
    No, I totally did not steal this image.
    The 4Shoes label is crooked because, #12
     4Shoes Irish Cream recipe coming soon.
    As irrefutable proof.
    I mean, if you doubt me.
    generous lug (or possibly 2) of Irish Cream. 
  5. Made tea in my freshly poured Irish instead - caffeine is caffeine.
  6. Taken a gulp of my Irish tea, only to find it cold, & spit it back into the cup.
  7. Reheat my Irish tea in the microwave, not because it didn't taste perfectly good cold, just because I expected it to be hot. 
  8. Been on my 3rd Irish coffee before 1pm.
  9. In hard times, drink my Irish straight up. 
  10. Invent 'hard times' to justify shots.
  11. Been almost day drunk, by accident. 
  12. Or completely day drunk. On purpose. 
  13. Justified being day drunk as 'Celebrating the Holiday Season'.
  14. Taken, like, 10 minutes to individually colour letters red & green 'because it's festive'. 
  15. 'Celebrated' alone. 
  16. Begged for friend participation online.
  17. Pondered being pathetic.
  18. Decided patently not pathetic, just festive. 
  19. Pondered how much #12 has come into play.
  20. Decided festive is more important, & good friends appreciate each other regardless of #18 or #12.
Totally admit to lifting this one, because it's frigging awesome.
Click to see more jaw-dropping cake art by Kristi. 

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Creature Comforts

I often enjoy watching the activity around my various bird feeders; I find it very soothing to watch the littlest of God's creatures go on about their daily business, come what may.
Saint & Manic also keep a close eye, though it's clearly not so much enjoyment as it is  outright reconnaissance...
But I've been distracted lately; my family will be lucky to get any kind of gifts for Christmas kind of distracted. 
Yet, amidst all the current emotional turmoil & sad  neglect of my regular tasks, it took a little squirrel this morning to remind me that I cannot just let everything go to hell in a hand basket. 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Padre: Cowpony Working

My friend, Sabine (Friendly, Hairy Creatures blog) & I were talking and I was bragging up the cowponying skills of my reg'd Morgan heart horse, Padre. This photo is Padre (Rancher Ray in the saddle) @ calving time on the Coyote Flat Ranch, circa 2006.
Padre still loves to work cattle anytime he gets the chance, & YES, he still looks this good doing it!

photo credit: Lisa Hammel (Padre's Breeder & Trainer), Coyote Flat Ranch

Friday, 1 December 2017

Bleeding Joy

Our nephew, Sandals, has been in a coma now for 91 days; I can't begin to tell you how much more emotionally difficult it is to deal with this extended period of grieving than I have known sudden grief to be.
Had this sweet boy just died on the day that car smashed into him, or sometime in the early days after, we would all be moving (at our own paces of course, but moving) through the stages of grief & coming to grips with loss.


This is completely different. 
Extended grief is more like a wound that will not close...
 Open, raw, & slowly oozing the blood of joy from the soul.
I imagine that anyone who has had a loved one linger on has also felt something like this.


Did you know that some comatose patients open their eyes?
That their eyes will move?
When you pray so hard for it to be true, it can be very easy to convince yourself that open eyes mean seeing. Maybe even comprehension.
That there is some remnant of the person that you love behind those eyes.


But when four separate medical teams in 2 different provinces & three different hospitals tell you clearly & repeatedly that it is not so - that there is no chance of any improvement, let alone recovery...

Yet, his parents are not ready to let him go.
And so we all wait, slowly bleeding joy.

Billie Holiday - I'll Be Seeing You (1944)

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Please...

There is a mat, but it's there for you to wipe the bullshit off your boots before you step into my house.
Pretend you don't understand this at your own peril.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Happy Turkey Day

Y'all probably know how I feel about chickens in general... To me, turkeys are much like chickens, but WAY bigger, & therefore = even more flop sweat.
My Dad used to say that turkeys are so dumb that they will stare up into a rainstorm with their beaks open & drown themselves; not sure if that is an actual farm fact
(Turkey experts, feel free to weigh in with facts.or my Dad pulling my leg).
"Turkey" was also my Dad's favourite thing to call us kids when we were acting the fools. 

This close up of wild turkey feathers actually surprised me; I had no idea their feathers were so colourful & beautiful. However, I'm still not inspired to have a Gobbler on the 4Shoes. Unless someone else has already cleaned, plucked, & stuffed it into my oven, that is. Turkey: King of the holiday table. 

We Canadians celebrated Thanksgiving last month already because, Great White North here. Nonetheless, the sentiment of the holiday lingers.
From the 4Shoes to all our American Friends,
~Have a Happy & Blessed Thanksgiving~

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Cripple Buddies & Horseshoes

This pretty, tanned gam sporting a full leg brace belongs to my niece, SockFeet. She slipped on ice at her workplace & torn her meniscus & some other ligament, so she'll be needing surgery. These braces work really well, but they are hella uncomfortable!
There was already a good amount of snow on the ground here & temperatures had gone from Autumn to Winter in one day, dipping as low as -18* (-2*F). However, Monday & Tuesday were very mild - it got up as warm as 0.9* (33.6*F); gotta luv those 30* temperature swings,eh? 
It was riding weather for sure! 
Sadly, I had no camera that day, so I'm subbing in  this Padre photo from 2006 in Alberta. Trust me, Padre was feeling just about the same way as he did in this snap. Super fun ride down the snowy trails!

It was also the kind of weather I needed to be able to chip the mess out of the rabbit hutches. Mother Nature sure did catch me with my pants down this year; I was still cleaning out the gardens when winter arrived & I did not yet have the Rabbit Shack set up for -18*! 
In the summertime I bed the rabbit houses with pine shavings over a dusting of Stall Dry (dries pee quickly & eliminates odours). For winter though, I switch that out to lots of straw bedding instead; partly because it's super easy to clean up, & partly because the buns weave the straw together with haystalks (after they've eaten the seed heads) to make nice cozy nests.
Ever the joker, Mother Nature sent us some light rain late Tuesday night, which made Mr Shoes' commute home a white knuckle drive.
Just getting back from doing chores yesterday morning, that dirty slick of ice pulled my leg out from under me & threw my arse down flat on top of the back of my heel while simultaneouly hyper-extending my ankle to the front. 
I pretty much obliterated this same knee in 2010 & haven't had 100% functional bend for the last 7 years, so Holy Ballz, it hurts. A really lot. I legit had to just lay there & cry it out for a good 15 -20 minutes before I could flip over & get into the house. Good thing it was only -6* (21*F).
So SockFeet & I are cripple buddies for a bit; having worn this brace for 6 months originally, I already tipped SF off to place a soft, thin piece of flannel between the back of her leg & the brace to make it less irritating on her skin. Eh, wisdom comes from strange places sometimes but, however you acquire it, might as well share your knowledge.
 Hearing about my fall, Slipper was attempting to be comforting when she said to me,
"Well, at least none of the screws popped out through your skin Mom." 
Ack, even just the thought of that makes me gag. 
On the bright side, I have found an unlimited source of free, used horseshoes.
I don't need 2 good legs to play with my treasure boxes full of fun!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Knitter DESPERATELY Needed!

Manic Min Pin needz one 2 pleez...
 However, Saint the Good Shepherd does NOT need a hat.
Or velcro booties. Or sweaters. Or jackets.
Or clothing of any kind.
Period.

Saint is a dog.
Saint is covered in dog hair.

Saint is clearly made for harsh Canadian winters.
But still, let's be real, a LazyBoy is meant to be used.  "Ahhhhhhhhh... Zzzzzzzzzz"


& then there's Manic....

*deep sigh*
Manic has needz, & feelingz, & strong opinionz...
Manic does not like to be cold. Like, ever.
Manic is a dog, & she does have some hair.
Short hair that is pretty much embedded in every piece of furniture we own. 
And, I'm embarrassed to admit, our bed sheets.
 
*Head hanging, deeeep sigh*

But Manic is oddly smooth from the base of her chest all the way back to her hoohah.
Nekid... as in buck nekid.
Manic is a dog, but...
a dog who 
clearly is not made for winter of any kind. 
Period. 
Manic has so many outfits that she has her own closet.

Yeah, you did read that right - her own closet.
I don't have my own closet - I share with Mr Shoes. 
*Manic demands that I point out to you her buck-tooth kangaroo, which is her most favourite squeaky of all time.*
Straight from the hairless little dictator's ungrateful mouth, just now,
"I am being held hostage in the frozen tundra here; please send me a warm knitted hat with cougar ears, size small.
Better yet, will some kind Aussie please send me a first class ticket to Sydney? I will not need all my clothes down under, so I'll only have a carry on bag.
I do so love kangaroos!"


Saturday, 11 November 2017

War is Hell; Soldiers are Angels





This Remembrance Day post is Dedicated, with deep admiration, to our future Son-in-Law, 
CombatBoot.

CombatBoot is 29 years old & has been a soldier for over 10 years; being a military man is all he ever wanted to do. Since enlisting at the tender age of 18, CombatBoot has risen by his own merit to the rank of 
'In Country Training Sargeant' 
Canadian Army Active Forces.  

As an instructor & team leader, CombatBoot dedicates himself to training young recruits all the discipline & skills necessary to carry out orders given in any situation, from training exercises (where live ammunition is used) to active combat arenas all over the globe -- whenever & wherever they may be called to deploy.  

In service to Canada, CombatBoot has already done 2 tours of duty overseas & been decorated multiple times for heroism. When he dons his dress uniform, his chest is covered in medals; not hard to see how this particular man in uniform caught the eye of our beautiful daughter, Slipper.
A wall in their home is papered with CombatBoots' commendations. I noticed one in particular that he was awarded in recognition of bravery; CombatBoot was leading a foot patrol when an IED went off, badly wounding several men. Without hesitation, before the dust had settled & the explosion still ringing in his ears, CombatBoot ran back through the frags of debris to save his men.
Reading it, I felt a depth of gratitude - on behalf of those men, of my country, & on a personal level as well. 
Mere words seem so inadequate...  
CombatBoot is the embodiment of all the very best that a man can be -- brave, loyal, selfless, intelligent, & decisive. 
He is one of that rare calibre of man who stand always ready & willing to lay down their lives in service to country & countrymen.
How can a 'Thank You' ever truly be enough? 
Yet it's all I have to give, & it's packed with emotion. 
Somehow, for the true Heroes among us, it is enough.  

Dear CombatBoot: 
On behalf of Dad & I (& our entire extended family), 
please accept our most heartfelt gratitude. 
Sincerely, Thank You for your Service, Sgt. Lee-Mac.  

Monday, 6 November 2017

It Just Got Real

Photo Flashback to "Rippin', Winter of 2007"
Nephew, Nike, going for broke with Saint in hot pursuit 
Saturday we had planned to travel south a couple of hours to visit Nike's folks & to go see Sandals in the hospital where he remains semi-comatose & unresponsive (his parents have decided to wait a year before making any further decisions regarding life support). 
But, as often happens in The Great White North, a storm threw a spanner into the works, so instead we stayed home & tucked in around a roaring fire in the woodstove, watching the snow fly off the edge of Mother Natures' temper. We might have had to draw straws to see who had to go out & do the farm chores, but it wasn't quite that cold, despite the arrival of full on Winter (it is -12* today - that's 10*F for my American friends). 

Yesterday was calm but cold as Mr Shoes got the first plowing of the season under his belt, pushing clear paths to the Rabbit Shack, the Borg Chicken Collective, the shop, the barn, & clearing the barnyard so that I can walk out to tend every animal without getting snow inside my boots. I hate snow inside my boots; sometimes I'll stand on one leg & try to empty a boot before the snow makes a puddle around my heel, other times I just power through it & turn my boots up over a register when I get back into the house. 

I pair down to a single birdfeeder in winter - that may seem backwards thinking, but the feeder that I keep hangs right out there on the back porch where I get to enjoy seeing all the activity. The Chickadees seem semi-dependent on that feeder - it needs filling every 2 days, which attests to the thriving blackcap population on the 4Shoes. There has been a single Blue Jay flying in to raid the feeder - sometimes a swarm of Chickadees will drive him away. I know he's on his own (so far) because when there are a pair of them, they take no guff even from an organized effort by the small birds. That Jay is almost impossible to catch with the camera, but I'll leave you today with this happy winter scene.   
The view outside from my dining table; these merry little birds always make me smile. So long as I'm alive, they will always be well fed. 

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Forever Remembered

In Memory of my Brother who is 5 years gone today.
Daniel George
May 31, 1971-November 4, 2012

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Ferocious Unicorn

Raaaiiirrrr! Bitey Face Unicorn!!
So scary, right?
"Yeah, I was trying really hard to be scary, but then I sneezed while Mom took the photo. Not a bad fake, eh? Watch this now as I demand payment...
 
(Puppies, a word to the wise: Always make sure you get payment for whatever shenanigans your human wants from you!)
Mom, you promised me a milkbone if I put up with the nonsense - 2! I want 2 milkbones!
2! I totes deserve 2 milkbones!
Please."

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

A Horsey Halloween


By carving into the pumpkin flesh to differing depths, the artist was able to achieve the intricate shadings that reveal this pretty paint pony.  
Andy Gertler does A-MAZING pumpkin creations! I'm only featuring horse-related pumpkins today, but do click on the Knights' horse to view more breath-taking work (particularly the baby elephant & the rabbit chef) by this Master Carver.
A Halloween masterpiece that entwines a gorgeous rearing horse backlit inside a rope of classic celtic knotting, by Amelia Parker.


Of course, no Halloween would be complete without a version of The Headless Horseman!
I couldn't resist this plow horse driven by his hardworking farmer, all very cleverly made up of pumpkins & gourds.


Finally, from The Trail of Painted Ponies, this beautiful Halloween pony is a featured holiday e-card! Just click on the Painted Pony to send a greeting to someone that You love. 
Sneaking in just this one creepy image in the spirit of All Hallows Eve.
Wishing you a Happy & Safe Halloween from the 4Shoes!

 Photo credit: Vecteezy.com