30 December 2009

Not so blue Moon

Friends and Merely Curious Perusers,

Tomorrow night will be a full moon, the second this month. Alas, the weather prognosticators are predicting and 'major winter storm event' for tomorrow so I went out last night in the crystal clear air, and experimented with the digital camera. The moonlight was absolutely brilliant on the old glazed snow surface. Even my old eyes could see well into the shadows.

I have never made long exposures in low light with a digital camera and so this was a grand adventure. The camera indicated the proper exposure at ISO 800 was 13 seconds at f/4. The result is below, and IMHO, is nothing short of amazing - the Canon technology, not my aesthetics... my only complaint is that is looks too much like a daylight scene!

25 December 2009

Happy Holidays

Is it ridiculous to hope that the new year will bring peace in the world? Would more brotherly love be wrong? Is it too much to ask that here in the most prosperous country which has ever existed, that people not die of hunger and inadequate medical care? Can civility and discourse be resurrected in America? Or is it already too late?

We hope not. God bless everyone. No exceptions for any reasons.

Have a happy Christmas,

Mr. & Mrs. Fuzzy
and the ten cats
and the two dogs
who have learned how to live together and enjoy each other;
is it possible they smarter than humans?

We give you a few views of Floyd's holiday lights:
1. the new Farmers' Market
2. the only stop light in the county
3. a window at Farmer's Supply
4. a holiday tree

23 December 2009

The Storm

You all read about The Storm that swept up the East Coast a few days ago. Yes, it did strike Stratheden. It began about 1:00 in the afternoon and finally departed in the pre-sunrise hours of the next morning. It was forecast very plainly - and accurately - to accumulate a foot or more here (by comparison, Charlottesville, VA, received 24 inches).

Now since most of our readers are city folk, I'll explain something about clearing a 1,000+ foot driveway in hilly terrain in and out a of dense forest. When winter first shows her white head, the prudent diesel tractor owner pours an additive (I use "Seafoam") into the fuel tank. Diesel conceals like jelly at not-very-cold temperatures and is impossible to start an engine in this condition' once it happens, it is hard to remediate. The additive prevents this effect and also keeps the fuel fresh over an extended period of time. Next, you probably have to take the bush-hog off and put the blade on... the blade can be raised or lowered and the skew angle changed from a right angle to the direction of travel to perhaps 60 degrees or more.

Snow is quite variable and this particular snow was dry but packed, meaning that is is dense. Our Ford 1710 tractor is a moderate size of tractor and cannot pull a huge load, even though it is four-wheel drive, when the tires cannot achieve traction. In deep, fresh snow, the tires can get excellent traction but once driven over or diminished to a thinner layer of snow, the tires may not get any purchase. Additionally, when pulling a load of heavy snow, because the blade is set at an angle, the blade wants to push the tractor front end in the opposite direction.

So, trying to pull too much snow, except on the first pass, will throw the front end off the road and the tires, if they start to spin, will destroy the beautiful road bed that you have struggled to maintain over the years. What is 'too much snow'? For our tractor and blade combination, perhaps six or seven inches. Mr. Fuzzy figured that given the forecast, he should pre-plow that evening when the depth was only five inches or thereabouts. The temperature was steady at 22F with a light wind. The snow readily yielded to the blade. I was very confident and went down the road to Charles' house with the blade. It did not take long and so there was time to clean out Sally's quarter mile or so drive. The wind had increased and the snowfall was now so hard that I could hardly see; time to turn homeward.

Now, at this point, dear reader, Mr. Fuzzy will admit to two very serious errors. When he left the house, he had in mind to clear his own drive - and thought he would return to the house in thirty minutes or so. With that assumption in mind, he donned a Scots bonnet on his head and wore old, tattered, torn, blue jeans. They would have been just adequate to keep him warm along with a good quality coat and fingerless gloves. As it happened, given the extended goals, he was outside in the dark snow storm for more than two hours. By the time he neared home, he couldn't feel his fingers or head - and the paper thin jeans were wet and verging on frozen to his thighs. It became a race against time through the now white-out conditions to reach warmth. He was so cold that it required almost ten minutes under a hot shower before his head could sense either water or warm. A VERY bad mistake in terms of clothing. He was lucky.

The next morning, a disconcerted Mr. Fuzzy looked out the window and saw, or maybe should say, DID NOT see the driveway. The additional snow piled on deeply, the pre-clear the night before was almost worthless. Sigh. Snow depth was about a foot, far too deep to move with a single pass of the blade.

It took more than half a dozen passes to skim off the top six inches or so, then the next four inches or so and then a carefully monitored skimming just about the gravel surface. Mr. Fuzzy made a serious tactical error in the first passes (in each direction) by only opening a path about six feet wide. When making the next pass, the snow being moved had no place to go because of the marginal pile from the first pass. Next time I know to make an initial pass at least three feet wider than the final path.

The temperature has been most pleasant the last few days; it rose to an unexpected 47F today which melted much of the driveway completely clear down to the gravel bed. The snow has compacted and is now less than eight inches deep in most places but the way it sparkles in the sun it gorgeous.

The image below was taken at sunrise.

22 December 2009

A Who's Who of Stratheden Farm (Part 1)

At the request of a beloved reader I am now presenting you with a rundown of the residents of Stratheden Farm... at least of those allowed in the house. I dont' know the names of our innumerable wild neighbors.

Actually, I'll just get you started with your host & hostess and those animals who are no more. That way this won't run long...

Mr. Fuzzy He is the guy with the Ph.D. from Bonnie Scotland. He studied at St. Andrews Uni. He drives the tractor and knows where the money is hid. I think he knows about the money anyway!*

Mrs. Fuzzy Cans the food, builds fires, and knows where the chocolate is hid. She is the animal wrangler.

Nutmeg was our strange old shepherd cross dog. She had brain damage but was a very sweet companion for 12 years. She died of cancer in the spring.

Kuma & Haiku Were Mr. Fuzzy's Akita dogs. Kuma was Haiku's son and Mrs. Fuzzy met him when he was 11 years old. Haiku is famous / infamous amongst those who knew him. Kuma was universally beloved for his gentleness. Kuma died at 16 in 2000, which allowed us to move to Scotland. They live on in our hearts.

Mr. Tam was our Dundee Wildcat; the cat who thought he was a dog; easily the most wonderful one ever to move from Scotland to America. He was opinionated, grumpy, and a good playmate. One day he walked outside for his morning constitutional and decided not to return.

was our first cat. She was a funny little tortie our friend Barbara gave us when her family moved off the game preserve. Catfish had never lived inside before and relished every moment of her short life. We don't have a straight story on how but she died while we were in Scotland. Catfish loved being held like a baby.

Does that bring you up to speed on the spirit pets? I'll now present you with a diagram of the LIVING (+ Tam) cat population of the farm. It'll be easier if you can visualize it.... trust me!

* After reading this Mr. Fuzzy reminds me we did buy a farm, extra acreage, a new roof, and water system this year. Our money is hid in the pockets of our neighbors, it seems. Happy (frugal) Christmas!

18 December 2009

Kentucky Eggnog

It's that time of year again, dear friends. Time to think about mixing up some eggs, milk, and booze to make the holiday season hold a little more cheer. As usual, we've left it a little late but our nog will be ready and oh-so-smooth by New Year's Eve. This year we're making a double batch and distributing it to a number of good friends and favorite waitresses by the pint jar.

I know one or two of you out there might be wondering how safe it is to leave milk and eggs in the fridge for so long... Good nog must mellow at least two weeks to taste smooth and four to six weeks is pure liquid bliss. (Until the hangover kicks in, anyway!) Watch the video above (From Science Friday) to see what happens to the dreaded salmonella bugs in a batch of real eggnog. You'll be surprised!

So, hurry up and make this stuff if you want to enjoy the real thing. The following is enough for a party. You can cut it in half or double it. If you want more than that you're a lush and you'll just have to mix up separate batches. Do follow the directions exactly...

Papaw's Kentucky Eggnog

12 large eggs
1 C sugar
1 Qt whole milk
1 Qt heavy (pouring) cream
2 oz rum (plain)
1 Qt bourbon


Separate the eggs. In a huge serving bowl, beat the yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until light lemon colored. In another bowl, beat the whites and 1/2 cup sugar with an electric beater until very stiff. Fold the whites into the yolks. Then GENTLY fold in the milk and cream. Finally, add the liquors. Refrigerate at least 2 days before drinking but two weeks or more is much better. Don't try to cut back on the liquor as it preserves the drink. If kept cold the nog remains drinkable for at least 6 weeks.

16 December 2009

Hodge Update

Isn't Mr. Hodge beautiful now? He's one big burly ball of feline happiness and he is doing well at PetsMart... He's making muffins in his pillows, head butting people "through" the glass, and generally making a happy nuisance of himself to anyone who passes by the little adoption center. It is predicted he will quickly find a home and the cats of Stratheden will get what they want most for Christmas... no more Porch Cat! (Little do they know we've agreed to take on another at some point who will live in the workshop.)

If you recall, Hodge was within days of starving to death when he appeared in early August. Here's the photo we took then for you to compare (see the blog for November 15th as well).

We hope Santa brings Mr. Hodge the thing he wants most too... a permanent home with a nice soft chair by the wood stove and a place on the bed at night.

15 December 2009

Jello Brains

Yes, we've got jello for brains... all 14 members of the Fuzzy household. See, we've had more guests and this batch included two extremely active little girls. Don't die laughing (Barbara) it's true. He let children stay overnight in his home.

Poor Rocky, our wee dog, is exhausted after being "walked" all day yesterday. Rufus, the big puppy, is disconsolate at the loss of such boisterous playmates. I'm just perplexed at how I managed to corral the kids, entertain Mom, keep the house from exploding, AND get dinner on the table for three nights.

But... now we know we have VERY tolerant cats and dogs and an authentic kid-decorated Christmas tree. They even managed to break fewer ornaments than I've been known to do! Pictures to follow soon. Tonight we're off to the Humane Society party. Mr. Hodge (aka porch cat) is off to be featured at Petsmart and, hopefully, get adopted.

11 December 2009


There is no longer any doubt that it is winter here in the Blue Ridge mountains. Last night the low was 17F accompanied by gusty winds; the wind chill was probably sub-zero in the wee hours. At nearly noon today, the temperature has only risen to 23F. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrr. The cats blow their tails into huge round fuzzy cylinders when they step outside.

When this house was built in 1991, they owners cut so many corners that it is a miracle that the house is not round. The windows are of poor quality and leak air badly, especially when the wind rushes and roars outside (like last night). I have made many small modifications (such as spraying expanding foam around the electrical outlets and switches) towards halting this infiltration and surely the flow has been decreased but you can still feel the cold air that has snuck into the house.

On cold windy nights such as last night, the furnace would have run constantly to maintain an night time interior temperature at 60F. We couldn't afford to heat both this house and all of outdoors without the Century Fireplace Furnace in the living room. It is out of character with the rest of the house but the first owners actually spent good money for a good product. With less than a dozen logs in a twelve hour period, this marvel of engineering kept the ground floor at 70F. I cannot say enough good things about it. Thank goodness for it.

09 December 2009


The Appalachians often protect us from the worst of the storms that rake the Midwest. Yesterday and last night, however, the winter storm that roared across Kentucky leapt the mountains and visited Floyd. Beginning about 2:00 p.m., the rain began and the temperature nailed itself at 32F. It rarely rains really hard here but the rain pounding on the skylight woke me several times in the wee hours of the morn.

At 7:00 a.m. today, precipitation had finally ceased and the sky was crystalline clear. The woods, too, were crystal like - encased by ice. As the sun warmed the air, the sound was as if it was raining again, water pouring off of the frozen limbs in cascades. In less than two hours, the warmth of the sun had raised the temperature to 47F and no vestige remained of the morning's crystal palaces. (remember that you can click on an image to enlarge it)

05 December 2009

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...

Winter is officially in residence at Stratheden. Although the temperature is steady at 32F (0C), it has been snowing madly since before the dawn. If anything can enhance the already superb beauty of the landscape of the Blue Ridge, it is snow. Yes, Kerik, its even better than fog.