By: Carrie A. Blakley
Oh the weather outside is getting frightful, and the nights aren't that delightful, and since we're going to get snow, let it go, let it go, let it go! Seriously, if I have to listen to one more person on the news try to explain to folks living in snow country, that there's 'soooo much snow' out there, and frost, and ice, and freezing rain, and...well, you get the idea...I'm just going to snap. To the dear, obviously innocent, meteorologists out there in our world, please stop trying to tell us what our weather is going to be like. In this county alone, we've got at least 10 different weather patterns going on, and that's just on one side of the county. In any given town, there could be another 5 patterns, and throughout the entire county, upwards of 20. So please, it's cold. It's late November. Obviously, at some point, there's going to be snow, and frost, and ice, and freezing rain, rain, even some thunder...throw anything else in there, we got this. We're a hardy people. Let's face it, when you have a town that loses power, and the only thing they're upset about is not being able to find the flashlight batteries (again), there's not much anyone could throw at us that would cause us to go into an all out panic.
We ought to invite some of the meteorologists up to our area to spend a winter season with us. I kid you not, there have been plenty of times when I've looked out my back window, and it was snowing, and then walked out my front door, only to find that it was raining. It happens. That's Sierra County for you. We take bonkers to a whole new level out here. If anyone takes a really close look at our Sheriff's Blotter, well, that's about as far as you have to look to understand that we're probably one of the only counties in the nation where a cow ends up on the Sheriff's weekly report as being a traffic hazard. I'm fairly certain that more animals end up in the weekly Sheriff's Blotter, than people. So, when you think about it, cows in the road, random weather patterns all over the place, power outages being a normal occurrence, dogs singing us the songs of their people at 3am in the middle of the highway, and the local social media pages lighting up like Times Square every time it snows...yep, we're bonkers. But, we're good at it!
The weather isn't going to get much better over the next few months, and we all know this. The power is going to go out at some point over the next few months, and we all know this as well. We're coming in to the season that mother nature likes to just throw everything she's got at us....and, once again, we're going to look up at her and say: "Is that all you have?!". She'll take that as a challenge, and yet again, we'll be prepared. We always are. Heck, most of us are prepared for Winter in by the middle of July. So, let's be safe out there. Be smart. Don't take chances, and get to, and from, your destinations in one piece. Enjoy the week!
By: Carrie A. Blakley
Rain, sleet, snow, wind, Daylight Savings Time, political unrest, cold, more rain, road construction and work. Those things alone are enough to cause many people to go into a full blown 'leave me alone' mode. Top that mess off with the upcoming holidays, and it can be a recipe for disaster. Stop. Breathe. Learn that it's perfectly alright to crave solitude. Know that you are not going to be loathed if you tell someone 'no, I'm really not up to doing that (going there, seeing them...w/e) today'. It's also completely acceptable to tell someone that you're not up to dealing with people that particular moment, and require some alone time. That's fine! No one's feelings are going to get all blown out of whack because you can't handle people for awhile. Everyone needs time to unwind, chill and totally relax. Furthermore, if someone's feelings do get blown all out of whack, understand that it's their problem, not yours, and they can just deal with it for awhile until you recharge, and are ready to face the world again.
Not everyone recharges in the same fashion. For some people, they draw their energy from large crowds, and almost seem to bask in the surroundings of the noises from a city, rock concerts or large gatherings. For some, this can be the ultimate nightmare. Others prefer sitting in a softly lit room, perhaps with a glass of fine wine, a good book, and some soothing music. Others still, turn to their electronic gadgets for awhile, focussing on games, browsing the Internet, 'window shopping' on Amazon...or just meandering about on a news web site. Some like to watch television. Some like to just go for a good walk, or just read a good book. Whatever it is that you do to recharge yourself, do it. With the holiday season approaching, stress levels will be higher than usual.
Finding the perfect tree. Having the perfectly wrapped presents. Cooking the perfect meal. Wearing the perfect clothing. Stop. You do not have to have everything perfect for any holiday, much less Thanksgiving and Christmas (or, Yule, or Hanukkah, or Kwanza..or whatever holiday(s) you celebrate during this time of the year). So what if the pie is a bit more brown around the edges? It doesn't ruin the entire pie. Who cares if that bow is slightly off centered on the gift? It doesn't take away from the gift inside. So you can't fashion a pine tree out of a cloth napkin, no matter how hard you try. It's a napkin. No one is going to care one bit how a piece of cloth that's used to wipe food remnants off of your face looks on a dinner table. YOU might care, but that itself is something entirely different. It's called 'being too hard on yourself', and 'not learning to let go of the little things that truly don't matter'. Learn to relax. Learn to recharge, and please, learn to slow down and enjoy life a bit. Also, learn to take care of yourself above all else. If you're not taking care of yourself, you're not going to be able to take care of anyone else either. So, go out there and relax all over the place, and enjoy life. Oh, and have a great week everyone. :)
By: Gobbi L. Turkey
So, Carrie's out this week, as she's busy with some kind of horrific display of whimsical madness in her kitchen. I'm assuming it's for this up-coming holiday you humans call 'Thanksgiving'. Me? I'm typing this from a dark corner in her pantry, trying to save myself from the slaughter. So far, only her dog has picked up my scent, and, much to my relief, the dog (unlike the cats) can't manage to open this door...yet. If this holiday of giving thanks is to be followed by us turkeys, then I'm going to add my list of things that I am thankful for. It's a short list. OK, there are only 2 things on that list. Vegetarians, and Vegans. I'm extremely thankful for them. Sadly, those types of humans do not live in this house, and I fear that I will soon be discovered.
Speaking of which, this pantry really isn't all that bad, as far as pantries go. I mean, there are house plants, and tons of baking supplies. Oh, and a LOT of reading material. Mostly cook books, but there are a few handy mechanic journals, and some random book about a human named 'Churchill'. I haven't yet figured out why that would be next to the cook books, but at this point, I'm sure it really doesn't matter. This solitude, however, has left me with much ado about nothing, so I've taken to perusing the cook books. One night, as I was browsing through some soup recipes, I over heard the humans talking about this stuff they call 'brine'. They said it was good for turkeys. A bath perhaps? A massage? I'm not sure, but I looked it up, and sure enough, I found a recipe for brine. So, I'm going to share it with you.
So, apparently, it's fairly simple. You have 1 gallon of water, 2 cups of Kosher salt (I've never heard of a Kosher ocean, but whatever), 1 1/2 cups of dark brown sugar, 12 whole cloves, 3 bay leaves, 1 Tbls. Whole black peppercorns, 1 1/2 tsp. Dried rosemary and 2 1/2 tsp dried thyme. So, it looks like you bring the water to a boil, stir in the salt and sugar (until it's dissolved), bring to a boil again (good gravy there's a lot of boiling to this), add the rest of the stuff into the water, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for about 20 minutes. Then, throw it into the fridge until it's completely cooled. Oh wait, it says here that the container you place this brine stuff in should be large enough to hold your turkey, and 'non-reactive'. Good idea there, as I think the turkey will be reacting enough as it is. So, you put a thawed turkey (OMG they deep freeze us first!?) into the brine, and add enough cool water to cover the turkey with liquid. Refrigerate over night. Remove from brine, and let it sit awhile before roasting.
OK, well, um, it looks like I won't be brining myself any time soon. Not if I have to be defrosted beforehand. I don't want to be frosted to begin with. That's the snowman's job, not mine, and it's not even December yet! Oh no! I think one of the cats heard me. I need to hide. Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone!
By: Carrie A. Blakley
With the up-coming holidays upon us, now is probably a good time to come to the realization that eventually, there will be so much food being prepared in your homes, that you'll swear you're feeding people living there, that you haven't met yet. Same concept as laundry, only there are far too many left overs to think of sensibly. This is also the time when we tend to sneak tid-bits of human foods to our pets. Sometimes, this can be an incredibly bad thing, especially if you're not familiar with the ingredients of said enormous meals. While both dogs, and cats, can obviously eat meats (of almost any type), it doesn't necessarily mean that they should. During the huge pet food recall a decade ago, our veterinarian wrote a column regarding safe alternative foods for pets that do not have specific dietary, and/or medical, needs. His advice? Give them a hot dog, cooked beef, cooked chicken, pork, fish, turkey...all are safe for both dogs and cats.
This doesn't mean that you should run out and get your 'fur-babies' jars of black caviar, or the latest in goose liver pate. It also doesn't mean that you can just throw fido, or fluffy, a nice slab of meat loaf, especially if it contains any other ingredient besides ground meat. I know you can get all of the 'don't feed dogs' food lists, as well as the, 'dog safe' food lists, on the Internet. What's a bit more difficult to locate are the feline friendly food lists. Yes, we all know that chocolate is bad (on all levels) for both dogs an cats. Raccoons, and humans, love it...cats and dogs die from it. So, what are some feline friendly human foods?
Salmon, spinach, cantaloupe, eggs, watermelon, fish oil, chicken, bananas, oatmeal, pumpkin, cheese, bread, apples, blueberries, peas, turkey, pork, beef, sausage, venison. These are the 'top 20' foods for felines. Obviously, considering these cats have no issue, eating a freshly killed rodent, bird or snake, the meat you serve them merely has to be properly cleaned, and in the case of venison, properly cured. Milk for cats? Makes for a nice story, and it does contain a lot of nutrients. However, giving a cat milk can wreak havoc on their digestive system. Which, makes for a very unpleasant trip to the cat box for them. So, do some research before the onslaught of food starts arriving in your kitchens. Be sure to keep all dangerous foods away from your pets, and if they accidentally ingest bad foods, call the vet immediately. Have a safe week everyone!
By: Carrie A. Blakley
With All Hallow's E'en, and All Saints Day having passed, we now head in to the time that's even far more creepy than any celebrated/recognized day of the Autumn season. The three-worded day, which strikes more fear into the hearts of many, than waking up to a house full of bears. Daylight Savings Time. By now, we're probably all fairly well aware of the person responsible for incorporating this madness into our lives, George Hudson. To be fair, Benjamin Franklin did propose that the French ration their candle use by turning in to bed earlier, and rising earlier, in order to use the Sunlight more efficiently. Mr. Franklin did not, however, 'invent' Daylight Savings Time. Nope. We can thank a New Zealand entomologist for proposing this Daylight Savings Time nonsense to the world. I mean, truly think about the reaction our French neighbors must have had when an American made the suggestion of rationing candle use, even if it was done for purposes of satire.
Oddly enough, yet another holiday from across the pond, also takes place on the same day as Daylight Savings Time. Guy Fawkes Day. Modern society was made aware of this odd day through the movie, V is for Vendetta. Remember! Remember, the fifth of November! The Gunpowder Treason and Plot. I cannot find reason that the Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot! This oh so lovely holiday firmly took its place in history back on November 5th, 1605, when Guy Fawkes' attempt at blowing up the entirety of Parliament, as well as King James himself, was foiled. Mind you, this attempt was religiously charged, whereas the wretched Daylight Savings Time suggestion was based solely on hobby and work related ideas.
Thus, my theory is, that somewhere between Daylight Savings Time, and Guy Fawkes Day, the truth lies. I'm fairly certain that we've all found said truth at some point in our lives, but none the less, we continue to endow ourselves with the glorious search for our own personal truths, even though we've likely discovered them years ago. We just keep looking anyway. As for me, well....I keep myself firmly planted within the realm of mediocrity, and strive to continue my search for the perfect cup of coffee. After all, what may hold true for one, may not hold true for another. Have a safe week everyone, and may the odds me ever in your favor on Sunday.
By: Carrie A. Blakley
With the cold Winter months upon us (yes, I used the W word), we need to really start taking stock of our stocks. Food, wood, emergency and pet stocks. While many folks up here have become used to the power going out every time the wind sneezes the wrong way, or when ever the local squirrels have a tree party that involves power lines (on any level), most folks get the town's generator power relatively soon (read that as: 'before Hell freezes over, and we can float Noah's Ark down Main St'). That being said, even with power, we still have mud slides, land slides, mountains sliding into the river, hills sliding into the ravines and the over all laziness of the boulders, which tend to take naps in the middle of the highway whenever it suits them to do so.
If you haven't already, prepare for these power outages, and other such problems, now. First, and foremost, play it safe. Make sure you have a good escape route you, and your family members, can take in case it becomes necessary. We have very active bears right now (no kidding, right?) in the area, but be rest assured, they are not the only native members of this local tribe of ours that are active. At this point in the year, every living creature (including humans) is preparing for the long winter months ahead. They too are stocking up, so be aware of this when you think about keeping coolers handy to store your cold items outside. If you have no choice but to take that route, make sure the coolers are locked and anchored to something a large animal can not move, even with a back hoe and a lot of leverage.
Keep a land line phone handy (if you don't already use one regularly), in cases of emergency, or to contact friends and relatives to let them know your situation. Keep a phone book, and an address book, near the land line phone. No power means that your cell phones, cordless phones and computer systems will not be able to recharge that quickly, even if you're able to use a car battery for charging purposes. Be safe at all times. Do not risk illness, just for a can of soup. Check the expiration dates on your food items, especially canned meats. If they're beyond the expiration date, do not take chances...throw the items out, and replace them with new items. You'll also want to be sure your pets are well taken care of. Add extra blankets to the dog/cat beds. If they have medical conditions that require daily treatment, stock up if possible on these treatments. If it's a snow storm that knocks out the power, that also means that you might not be able to easily get out of your home. Also make sure that your own medical needs are met (if you have an). Talk to your doctor about the possibility of a power outage, and see if there is an alternative treatment that you can use during those outages. This especially holds true if your medication requires cooling/refrigeration (as is the case with some Diabetics).
Finally, keep a running list of the items you will need to keep on hand. Batteries, lamp oil, candles, working flashlights, matches, fire starters, wood, kindling...whatever it is that you will need, make a list, check it twice and when you buy them, buy them thrice. Remember, during power outages, our emergency services are stretched beyond their capacity. You will need to be able to keep yourselves as healthy, and warm, as possible during the outages. When an outage occurs, unplug anything possible, so that a potential power surge can not damage your electronics. This is also true for a brown out condition. So, be prepared, and don't wait to start stocking up. You can do it! Have a warm, and safe, week everyone!
Gathered before the governor...awaiting the event to commence. Men, women and children alike swirl around the gallows in hopes of being close enough to hear any remnants of a last whisper spoken to all before viewing the passage from the mortal realm into the eternal reprise of the immortal realm.
The accused is brought forth through the streets, herded like common chattel being marched to their slaughtered death. Some within the crowd banter quietly amongst each other, whispering prayers and sorrows for what few moments remain for the accused. Others bring about mockery and chastisement to the accused, ridiculing for such a demise...'the fool'...they speak...
The governor awaits silently on the gallows. The executioner quietly begins knotting the roping that will be used to bring the end to what was a once fruitful and joyous life.
The accused stands forthright upon the gallows floor, breathing deep and saying silent prayers for a quick and painless end to the suffering and termoil.
With the quick snap of the flooring - the gallows gate opens. The accused hangs lifeless swaying to and fro upon the cord's knot-working. Within a matter of seconds, a life has ended. Mortal and governmental justice has been served...closure is brought...the street's square disperses and goes about their day...
High above within the heavenly realms of the immortals, the accused watches as the streets once again become serene and barren...time to move on.....time to move on...
As many images as the above story can conjure up in one's mind, the truth is even more gruesome. The above mentioned hanging would have been a more than welcomed end to the lives of those who have been accused, tried and convicted of everything from Witch craft to Devil worship...and, well, being anything other than a god-fearing Christian. While Halloween has been celebrated for well over 4,000 years, the misunderstanding of its origins have brought on a tremendously unnecessary end to countless lives. Literally. The lives that have been brought to a heinous, and most abrupt, end had no past after their deaths.Very few records remain, mostly kept in secret by the person's living relatives. Churches, schools, governments....all erased any existence of these people.
Historically, Halloween is called Samhain (Celts pronounce this 'Sow-in'). It is a singular holiday, which generally lasts for about a week, during the early part of the Autumn season, generally coinciding with the Autumnal equinox. To help folks understand this holiday better, I explain it as a type of 'combination holiday', that consists of Halloween, Thanksgiving, New Year's Eve and Memorial Day. It is celebrated in 'sections', and is based upon ancient Pagan traditions. Pagans, like many other tribal communities, use a circular calendar that is based on the various seasons in the year. They also had a very keen belief in the after life, and the spiritual realm (what many Christians see as 'heaven' and 'hell', as well as 'angels' and 'demons'). During the time when the day and night were almost the same length, it would be the time when Pagans saw as the 'thinning of the veil' (veil, much like the head piece worn by women, was in reference to the other-worldly space between the spirit's realm, and the realm of the living, or, the mortal realm).
When the conversion from Paganism to Christianity became strong (read that as 'violently forced upon people'), those who chose not to convert were accused of everything Christians considered 'evil', 'sinful', 'immoral' and 'satanic'. Gender equality wasn't even an issue for the northern European tribes. It wasn't even thought of. If a woman was capable of fighting in battle...she did so. If a woman was interested in politics, religion or engineering...she did such things. Some of the greatest military leaders to come out of those communities were, in fact, women. This meant that, to converters, that these women were 'heretics', or 'free-thinking' women. This was not allowed. At least, not in that new world. As such, it is estimated that as much as 100,000 women were accused, tried and put to death...just for being female, and capable of talking.
It wasn't until long after the Salem Witch Trials in the 1680's, that Halloween celebrations were even allowed (legally) in the United States. Once they were, people started looking backwards into history, and discovered the truth. Some ran with it, commercialized it and still celebrate it today. Others...not so much. Once again, they hid it, ripped it apart, shredded it, and all but buried it into the far reaches of history, hoping that this 'satanic', and 'unclean ritualistic celebration of death', would never resurface. They were wrong. Today, Halloween is one of the most celebrated holidays around the world, coming in 3rd, just behind Christmas, and the New Year. We like to think Easter is the third (if not a higher placement), but there are still a few billion people that simply can't figure out how the death of a Christian icon, somehow correlates to bunny rabbits and jelly beans.
Halloween is very conveniently placed just prior to All Saint's Day (November 1st). This is intentional. The original celebrations were held earlier in the month we know as October, but thanks to the 'rate of religious conversion', it was simply 'more convenient' to allow the remaining Pagans to have their celebration just prior to a major Christian holiday (and many ancient Christians used to pray to the saints for the forgiveness of the Pagan's evil holiday celebrations). So, costumes, candy, trick or treating, parades, decorations....that can't be all based on ancient Pagan culture, right? Actually, yes, it is. All of it.
Since Pagans believed that the veil was thin enough for those who had died within the past year to 'visit' the mortal realm one last time, they also believed that demonic spirits could also pass through, considering the thinned veil. Costumes were worn (albeit they were far different from anything we'd recognize in today's society) to 'confuse' the evil spirits, thereby causing the evil ones to leave the mortal folks alone. The Jack-o-Lanterns used to be made out of other root vegetables, as well as some larger types of fruits (apples, for example). These were to 'ward off evil spirits' with fear (which is why most of the original pumpkins had 'mean' faces carved into them). Trick or Treating became popular as a way of communal feeding. It wasn't candy, popcorn balls and lolly pops. It was snack sized food stuffs, ales, herbs and produce. Decorations? See the warding off of evil bit above. The same applies for the parades. As for the candy? Well, that's more of a modern thing, save for the fact that sweet food stuffs were considered a type of candy back in that era.
So, now that you understand Halloween a bit better, you can start looking into the more gruesome aspect of how All Hallow's E'en/ Samhain, originated. In some areas of the world, it's still practiced almost the same as it was thousands of years ago. Yes, folks, Halloween truly is older than Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter...combined. BOO!