Sunday, February 21, 2010


Just back from this weekend's adventures. Nic and I went to the University of Tennessee's Annual Goat Producers Conference in Knoxville. What a great day for just $25! They had a great lineup of speakers and topics. Most importantly they had tasty food for us all day long.

We left on Friday afternoon and arrived at our hotel at about 11 p.m.. Slept hard and were to the vet school by 8 a.m. The keynote speaker was Dr. Lionel Dawson from Oklahoma State University. He is a small ruminant specialist from the largest goat research facility in the country. His name doesn't indicate it but he is from India. His accent is an interesting combination of Indian and long term exposure to the Oklahoma twang. The other speakers throughout the day were all from the veterinary college at UT.

I'm happy to have some very specific answers to some goat foot problems that we have been experiencing. Even better, I think I have some solutions. I gained a better understanding of some common goat illnesses which probably means that we will experience all of them in the heard this year. That's usually how it goes.

Nic had a wonderful afternoon in the lab with UT professor of parasitology Dr. Faulkner. Dr. Faulkner was very informative and took time to talk with Nic about his educational plans. Large animal medicine and parasitology are Nic's specific interests. Dr. Faulkner was very encouraging and helpful. Interestingly Dr. Faulkner holds a creationist's view which is refreshingly different in a department of science. It's nice to begin with the correct premise on any topic. Nic and I had great conversation on the way home. Few people, even in our family, could tolerate the relentless medical, science, goat topics for very long. It is very gratifying to me that Nic feels so at home with a lab full of nature's most annoying inhabitants. Science has always been my favorite.

We had a small and vocal carpool guest on the way home. His name is Jolt - he has one horn. We met up with my friend Betsy from Crosby to pick him up for a late season attempt to breed my friend Sara's Guernsey-grade doe. There are currently no Guernsey bucks in the state of Georgia. They are very rare world-wide. Jolt is visiting here until Wednesday and then moving on to Sara's place in Ft. Valley. As I type he can be heard calling for his herd mates and his home. Jolt and others from his original herd were shipped to the southeast this past summer from Washington state. He has seen far more of the U.S. than I probably ever will. I don't think he is pleased.

On the way home Nic and I made the executive decision to traverse the Smokeys. It is the shortest mileage from Knoxville but certainly not the shortest in time. We were very glad we did. Neither of us have ever seen them in a blanket of snow. It's been a week since the snow and still it is piled waist deep on the roadside and in the overlook parking lots. The sun was setting so we got to enjoy the mountains at a time of day that we usually miss. The great rock faces along the road looked like fantasy castle walls with their frozen ice crystals. The Smokeys are another shared passion between Nic and myself. We both need to go there at least once a year. When I am there I feel that my body's center will explode. Why do things like that catch you in the chest? The phrase "My heart swells" is so very accurate, what is that? I haven't traveled much and I haven't ever left the continent ( I don't think the Bahamas in 1978 really counts) but I cannot imagine ever seeing anything more beautiful than Newfound Gap. Double click the picture and focus on the background. Amazing. Once before we saw it in a late afternoon light. Everyone gave a short gasp when we first laid eyes on it. It was an etherial gold with several shades of mixed purples, oranges, greens, pinks, and the colors scripture uses to describe our bejeweled Heaven. *sigh* I'm planning a trip back there in warmer weather (spring or early fall) this year. I want to pack our day's food and a lawn chair and sit at that overlook all day. I just want to stare and watch the colors change.

The weather is spring-like today. We are going to church, having home made hamburgers for lunch and getting things ready for the puppies and goat kids who will be arriving very soon. This afternoon - inspections of goat feet, oh, and endless chapters of pathophysiology for school.

What a way to bring a girl down.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Follies and Grand-Friends

It's been snowing.

Tried to get to the hospital for my shift this morning. I did so because I am overly obsessed with my job performance. My co-worker made it. So not to be outdone I showered, dressed and headed out. I have wrecked cars in the ice twice. Clearly I don't learn.

This time I got stuck. I chose to take the Volvo. She is 19 years old this year. Older women know their limits (this is proof that I am not old yet) and she took matters into her own hands. She firmly placed her little rubber feet in the snow and ice and is now stuck facing across the road like a defiant toddler in a tantrum. No going forward and then backward, no promise of toys could move her. If the rugged-woods folk-hunter-gatherers who live behind us decide to go out they will not be happy with me. Never mind. They have a four wheel drive monster truck. They will probably just go over the Volvo.

So here I sit at the computer, looking far better than most days here on the farm. George will be glad of that since he has to look at me all day. The girls are already dressing to go out to enjoy the snow before the sun gets to it. Since we only get snow once a year (when lucky) we don't buy snow clothes. My kids always look like homeless people in New York. They layer several family members clothes for warmth and wear socks for mittens. All we need is a street corner and a metal drum with a fire to complete the picture.

Our strikingly white animals always look filthy and brown next to the snow. I don't know what it is but the animals LOVE snow, even the goats who hate rain. Gus and BoPeep, our Great Pyrenees, rolled and rubbed their bodies in it for hours.

All of the dogs love it. Here is Dina after having eaten a lot of snow balls. She never gets tired of it.

I love this one of the Bluebird's house.

They were here just the other day getting it ready for their first hatch of the year. Papa Bluebird is sporting some iridescent blue finery this year. They were surprised and pleased to see that our Bluebird resort went upscale since they last visited. We now have a bird jacuzzi - it is a little cool right now though. It has a bas relief of vines and grapes on the sides and resembles a Roman bath. Wait til they get this years rent statement.

Nic's cabin is just waiting for a break in the weather to have its siding put on. We can't wait. Here it is with a snow cap on. The roof is normally green metal.

We should have known cold weather was coming. The animals have certainly been putting on their winter coats...or sweaters. Check this out. Nic and I mucked the chicken coop the other day. He got hot and flung his favorite Banana Republic sweater over the fence. This cow found it. I was quite impressed. He actually managed to get one horn perfectly in the sleeve. He is only one year old. My kids didn't manage that until they were two! He is very advanced.

The bunnies (who live loose on the farm) are the best at finding toasty little burroughs to bed down in. How handy when your bed is also food. Here they are in the goat's and sheep's hay feeder.

And here are a couple shots of the snow coming down. It was so soft and quiet.

Our buddy Ben is here with us this week. He is learning to use the potty. Several times per day I hear a tiny voice from the ground saying "Rinke Jo, I need some help." This is the scene. Note the location of his drawers.

He is doing quite well. It is amazing that anyone makes the transition. Considering that one has likely been using diapers for the first three years of life, as in his case. Hovering over an open space full of water with a butt no bigger than a softball is just daredevil. He doesn't seem to mind.

People assume that Ben is a Rinke. He looks like a Rinke boy. He has a little blue vein in his forehead that matches Joseph's, curly hair that matches Ethan's, and a crooked foot that matches Jon's. So far he bears no similarity to Nic. I tell folks that he is my grand-friend. Grand-friends are awesome because there are absolutely no strings attached, no obligations. I'm sure that I will feel the same when actual grandchildren arrive someday. My friend Cindy transformed when hers came. A previously humble individual, she now struggles to conceal the fact that her grandchildren are in fact genius and supernaturally gifted in appearance.

By the way. Ben is a genius and seeing as he looks like a Rinke, well, he is supernaturally gifted in appearance. Just look at him.

Here is Ben with Dinah my grand-dog (she calls me Grammy.)

Here is Ben with Cletus T.

I could go on.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Domestic Dark Arts

I am forty six years old, been married to George for nearly 30 years (yes, I was 16,) and a mother for 27 of that...I've cooked some chickens in my day. I am even considered by most to be a good cook. People like to eat my food. For the first time, today, I brined a chicken. This has been a red letter day.

I have a weakness for Cooks Illustrated Magazine. When I need so very much to be frugal, without a penny to spare (which is most of the time,) it is there, all photographic and alluring on the shelf with its $7.95 price tag. It crawls into my cart right through my eye holes. Consequently I only own about three issues. Every issue is worth every penny. The Fall Entertaining issue has been no exception.

There it was, a single slice of apple pie on a pure white plate against a pure white background. The weather had just begun to have a nip of coolness and I was thinking sweaters and north Georgia apples. They might as well have slapped my wrists in handcuffs and led me away for I was powerless against their ways. That issue was in my cart without so much as a guilty thought of how $7.95 could have purchased a double package of mini-wheats that would have fed the kids breakfast for two weeks.

Two weeks later I had to go sit in the courtroom with Jonathan who was appearing as the star of his personal life drama and giving answer regarding his first car accident. If Jon were my first child I would have been full of butterflies and sitting on the edge of my seat. He has the good fortune of being baby number four. I have long dispensed with the yelling and the finger pointing. The boys have had so many tickets, accidents, and even a night in jail, that I now have only one thing to say: Thank you Lord for wrapping your strong arms around him. So consequently I needed something to read while I put in my time with Jon, completely oblivious to anything in the courtroom. Cooks Illustrated, and there it was on page four, "Better Roast Chicken and Vegetables."

This person, Sarah Wilson, had decided to get the skinny on the very best method of roasting a chicken and vegetables. I'm sure that she is like twenty four. What could she possibly have to say on the topic. She only just had her braces removed. Oh, Sarah knows chicken. So much so that the issue of brining was not even in question, merely how much salt and sugar to add. She spoke as if brining were as common knowledge as whisking an egg if you want it scrambled. I have known many wonderful cooks in my day, no one has ever even spoken of brining to me. What else has the world forgotten to tell me? What other life changing knowledge is in the minds of so many others and still a well kept secret from me?

So from little miss Sarah I learned brining and to crank the oven temperature to 400 degrees, not 350. As a little twist on the routine roasting she says...are you ready? We are supposed to put the chicken on its side to roast. Half way through put it on its other side. Sarah is a genius. That bird came out dripping in juices and the skin was crispy and golden brown like none that has ever spent an hour in my oven before. I went so far as to brine one bird and not the other. After a few bites of the brined bird the kids refused to eat what they called "the boring bird." We will never be the same. You should try it.

Here is the brine recipe: (Soak bird in it for a minimum of 2 hours in the refrigerator, longer for more flavor.)
1 gallon h20
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/1/2 c. salt
(I snuck in a cup of honey, not to be outdone. I know that I could teach young Sara a thing or two.)
5 cloves of garlic minced

Another thing. Sarah says roast the veggies after you are completely done with the chicken. Oh no, never, I take issue, they will go in with the bird. Some things cannot be improved upon.