Monthly Archives: September 2011

I Have The Biggest Salt Lick In The Barn!!!!

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It’s true!  It is HUGE! And it is PINK! And it is on a rope, which means it is almost like having a toy!!  I must be one special horse to get an amazing salt lick like this.  All the other horses say to me “Huey! I want to share your salt lick! Let me come over!” but I just say “No.  I do not want any other horse to put cooties there.  It is mine.

You Know Who was hassling me about my Special Salt Lick.  He told me it was a mistake, and it was really supposed to be his Salt Lick.  I told him I knew he was lying, and I went over to lick it some more.  I made nice, loud, licky sounds, just so he would know I was enjoying my special pink salt.  He was mad and said that next time he was in my stall, he was going to sneeze on it.  He is gross, and I told him so.  Then he just ran around his paddock with his tail in the air and his neck all puffed out and bragged about how he is part Percheron, is if that is something to be proud of.

I had to get new shoes.  The farrier is nice but I do not like having my feet up in the air that much.  AND I had just finished working.  I wanted to be a Very Good Horse, and stupid Max was teasing me and saying that only foals have to use my farrier.  Max uses a different farrier, and he says his farrier is better.  But Max is still a pest.  You should see him when the farrier comes!  He cannot stand still and he does not pick up his foot, and he rolls his eyes around and makes them show white!  That is because he is scared.  I know!  He cannot fool me!  But I can stand still and I put my foot down and I do not try to take it back unless there is a fly to stomp.  I hate flies.  My farrier has a special Horse Foot Pedestal and I am so proud, I can put my foot right on top of that!  And then I look like a circus horse!  Anyway, I have nice shiny new shoes and pretty shiny hoofs. I am a Pretty Horse, too.

But there I was, minding my own business and licking my pink salt in my stall, and Max came into the barn. I thought he was going to have to work because he went into the ties, but then he just stood there.  I did not know what was going on, until guess who showed up?  The VET.  “Ha ha ha” I said. “Here comes the vet, and he is coming for you Max!  Ha ha ha.  You better let him pick up your feet this time, or you are really going to get into trouble!”  Max was mad and said that he did not have to pick up his feet for the vet.  But he was not sick, either, and it is not time for the shots yet.  We all make a line by the truck when it is time for shots, and only Max was out.  It was very strange.  All of the other horses put their heads over the walls so they could watch, too.

We watched that vet look at every square inch of stinky old Max, and he couldn’t do anything about it!  He just had to stand there while we all watched.  And then the vet made Max go in the ring and run around.  And then I knew what was going on!  Oh, my gosh!  Someone else was there, and they watched Max, and I know this because I just did this myself.  Max was getting a new rider.   He was not going to be Laura’s horse any more!!  And I was right!  The vet said OK and the other person said OK and then Laura said OK.  And now Max has gone away.

I am so depressed! Max was my BFF!!! This is terrible!!! I know, you are thinking “But Huey, you hate Max!”  and well, I do.  He stinks and he tries to get me in trouble all the time and he makes fights and he puts cooties on my blanket and he threatens to eat my hay.  But none of that matters now!  I cannot believe he has gone!!!  And to make it worse, now I am wondering if I have to go too!  The vet came and looked at me ages ago, and the rider was there, and the vet said OK and the rider said OK and Laura said OK, but I did not have to leave…yet.  I am going to be so depressed if I have to go!  Unless I can take my special pink salt and my new blankets.  And Bug and Clay, that would be good if I could go with them, too.  Or maybe I do not have to go.  I hope not.

I am wearing a big smile on the outside, but I am sad where you can't see.

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Shehecheyanu!

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It’s Porch Decorating Time.  The weather has been nuttier than usual this past week – it started out with something close enough to a freeze to scorch my basil, then moved on to torrential rains, and wrapped it up with a bizarre blast of steamy heat.  It is every bit as Wrong and Bad to shop for the fall decorations in shorts, sandals, and t-shirts as it is to look for a Christmas Tree the same way. Nevertheless, we persevered.

As we canvassed the countryside for Farm Stands flashing the Sign Of The Gourd, we saw our first colored leaves of the season. One tall, thin tree in a forest of green had started to change its colors for red.  Jews have a blessing for everything, and when I say “everything,” I mean every thing, but my favorite of all is the Shehecheyanu.  The gist of the blessing is an expression of gratitude to the force that pervades and organizes the space-time continuum within which we all have the form of existence that we know and commonly experience as Life, for preserving us in this state and enabling us to experience this present, special moment.  It is said, generally, when the moment at hand involves a First – including a physically or temporally local First.  The first sight of a new baby.  The first fruit of the season. The first time you enter a new home.  The first time you wear a new outfit.  The first time you kiss your new spouse.  The first time you kissed that person, ever.  The first time you see the stick turn blue, the first ultrasound, the first checkup, the first labor pain, the first time you meet your new child.  The first star you see in the sky – but not the first time you sight a rainbow after a storm, because there is a different blessing for rainbows.  The first snowfall of the season.  The first flower of the spring.  The first trip down the ski slopes, or the first trip down a particular slope, or the first time on a new pair of skis.  The first time you ride your own horse.  The first time you canter. The first time you drive alone with a new license.  The first drive in your new car.

And the first bright red leaves of the autumn to come.

The delightful thing is that once you start thinking of “Firsts” that warrant a Shehecheyanu, it’s hard to stop.  It is too much fun thinking of all of the wonderful things that you greet as a new friend, whether a friend just met, or a friend not seen in a while.  The first sight of a cormorant sunning itself on a rock.  The first sound of the fog horn drifting through the mist.  The first bubble gum ice cream. The first Wellfleet oyster. The first warm day of the spring when you walk with your bare feet on the earth.  The first tiny green leaf bud popping out on the tree.  The first rainfall after a drought.  The first smell of wood smoke floating over a chilly road.  The first scream of a seagull.  The first cold beer of the weekend.  The first burst of flavor from a sauteed morel mushroom.  The first warm fresh tomato eaten straight from the vine.  The first meow of a new kitten.  The first giggle of a toddler.  The first crack of a bat of the baseball season.  The first home run for your team.  The first tailgate party of the fall.

See?  Try it.  It just feels so darned good to think of all of these Firsts.  It’s impossible to stop.  I’ll try to anyway, and get back to the Farm Stand Foray.

There we were, tooling through the countryside in my husband’s car – because it has more cargo space than mine and it has the crucial amenity  satellite radio. And on Sunday afternoons, satellite radio delivers the Ultimate Prize:  a radio show hosted by David Johansen, aka Buster Poindexter, of New York Dolls fame.  And David Johansen has eclectic musical tastes that may even exceed my own…and given that the random shuffle on my iPod is as likely to deliver Merle Haggard as Pavarotti as John Coltrane as Lester Young as Edith Piaf as Loreena McKennitt as the Velvet Underground as Rush…this is really saying something.  In a nutshell, if it was ever recorded – in the history of recording as we understand it – and has been considered to be “music” by at least ten people at any point in its existence – it has a fair shot at being played on Johanesen’s show.

Today, we were treated to the music of jungle pygmies, followed by John Lee Hooker, followed immediately by an incredibly angst-ridden operatic aria, at which point we arrived at our destination and the Pumpkin Picking began.  There’s nothing like pulling up to a rural Farm Stand with an Italian song about the soulless banality of existence pouring out of the car windows.

I do not mean Pumpkin Picking in the same sense as Strawberry Picking or Apple Picking.  No walking about in fields with a pair of shears for me.  This is Pumpkin Picking in the same sense as Christmas Tree Choosing.  One must inspect every single item on display.  The choice is complex.  It is Understood that the Perfect Pumpkin is out there, and that it is the matter of dedication to find it.  And there are many, many factors.  The color of the pumpkin:  should it be lurid orange, or pale gold, or striped with green?  What of the character lent by blemishes to the skin?  Some of the most prized pumpkins are a special type with warts on.  What shape should it be?  Perfectly round?  Oblong? Bulbous? Flattened on one side?  And the question of the Stem: long? short? curly? thick?  One year I found a pumpkin with a stem that was curly and still had a leaf on.  Talk about your Shehecheyanu moments. And there is the question of size:  what is large enough for the purpose, yet small enough to handle easily?  What is the purpose, anyway?  And does it matter? Is it ethical for me – who will use the pumpkin only in its entirety as a decorative item for the porch – to seize and take a pumpkin that looks like nature designed it for a jack-o-lantern?  These are deep thoughts to have whilst knee-high in pumpkins.  It is no wonder that Linus the philosopher arrived at the Great Pumpkin.

Ultimately, choices were made, and pumpkins acquired.  Large knobbly bright orange ones with thick wavy stems on – although, alas, no leaf clinging – and smaller, deliciously warty ones.  And one with green stripes, and one that could well have served as the model for any artificial gourd to be found in a Hobby Lobby.  This, plus an assortment of spectacular mums (at $18/4, no less!) and one bundle of Indian Corn – to go along with this Indian Summer – completes my porch decorations for the year.

Force of the universe, I am grateful that I am sustained to reach this moment of autumnal splendor gracing my porch.  And the first chasing of the squirrel away from the corn.  And the first buds on the mums just starting to open.  And the first wind that will come and knock my plants over. And the first freeze that will bring the flowering ultimately to an end.  And the first birds and creatures that show up to eat the frost-softened pumpkins.  And the first rustling of dry leaves along the walk.  And the first sight of children in their costumes, and the first singing out of Trick Or Treat! And the first apple pies, and the first  roasted squash soup.  For all of this glory yet to come, may I continue to be preserved and to have the grace to notice every wonderful moment that appears.

Here is the first roasted squash soup of the season.  It makes a gigantic amount.  But you won’t be sorry, because it is good.

Squash Soup with Calvados

2 very large butternut squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed
4 T olive oil
2 T unsalted butter
2 onions, chopped
2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
2 bay leaves, broken in half
1 t coarse salt
½ t ground black pepper
1 C Calvados (or other apple brandy, but it must be an apple brandy)
quart of low-salt chicken broth
12 oz. can evaporated milk
¼ C Greek yogurt or sour cream
½ t ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Brush squash flesh with 2 T oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and a good grind of black pepper. Place on prepared baking sheets, cut side down. Roast until very tender, about 1 hour. Cool 20 minutes. Remove seeds. Scoop out pulp and put into large mixing bowl.

Melt butter with remaining oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, 1 t coarse salt, and 1/2 t ground pepper. Sauté until onions are soft, about 10 minutes. Add Calvados and simmer until almost all of liquid evaporates. Discard cinnamon stick pieces and bay leaves. Add mixture to squash in large bowl and mash about to combine. Working in batches, puree mixture in blender until smooth.  Put it back in the cooking pot and whisk in chicken broth.  Add evaporated milk and mix well.

Mix sour cream and ground cinnamon in medium bowl to blend.  Whisk into soup.  Serve hot.

Makes 12 servings

Seeds

We're not quite there yet, but it is coming, and it will be wonderful when it arrives!

Good Golly, What A Week.

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You all heard how my Monday went.  Not good.  Max was a total pest, and someone else ate most of my hay.  I was starving.  Then it rained some, and I got my new blanket all muddy.  Yuk!  And even though I was super careful with it on Tuesday night, it was so cold, and I just had to roll around!  And my blanket got all twisted and I didn’t look nice at all.  I was sad!

Then it rained a lot yesterday too, and I did not get to run around.  I was stuck inside the barn most of the time.  Boo.

Then this morning, I got to go back in the paddock with that old horse that I will beat up if he looks at my food.  And guess what?  All that rain yesterday made my paddock really wet!  It made a huge amount of mud!  I love mud! I love stomping on it because then it goes all nice and squishy on my hoofs.  And then if I roll around in it, I can make myself invisible! To flies!  They do not bother me as much when I am covered with mud.  It is great!

So when I got out into my paddock and I saw that it might be good for mud, I did a little dance!  I danced on that dirt with all four of my hoofs, and I did not stop until it was mud.  And it was good mud, too.  It had a lot of water on top of it, so it was nice slick mud.  It is easier to make myself invisible with the slick mud.  I was so happy!  And even better, the person did not put my morning hay on top of my nice mud.  I do not like the mud as much if it gets in my hay.

And, even better, stinky old Max had to go inside when my hay came, so he could not try to take any.  I laughed at him when he got the halter.  “You have to go inside, naa naa!” and then I ate a lot of hay. Then the rider came.  I do not think she likes the mud as much as I like it.  She said “Huey!” and then she said “Ick!”  and “Yukky!” and other silly things.  Then I realized that she had the halter, too.  And I knew that if she put that on me, the old horse would be able to eat my hay, so I stuck my nose right on the ground and gobbled up my hay.  On Monday, I made a mistake and I picked up my face to look around like I usually do.  I like to enjoy the scenery while I am eating.  But that is how she got the halter on then, so today, I knew better, and I did not look around.

She got it on me anyway!  I do not know how.  It was so unfair.  Then we had to go.  At least I got to dance on the mud again and squish it up around my hoofs.  The person also danced on the mud and squished it up on her boots.  Then we were twins!

Max was in the barn.  He was being stinkier than usual.  I was a good boy, but he was mean.  He called me names, and he made a face.  And then guess what?  He really blew it, that stinky old Max.  He made a face at the rider.  He made a very nasty face, with his nose all huge and she said “You stop that, Max.” and I said “Yeah, Max, you stop that.”  And then he did something really stupid.  He pinned his ears!  At the rider!  Oh, my gosh, she was mad.  She stood right up to him and said “Max! You better stop making faces at me and at Huey, or you are really going to be in trouble!”  Well, that’s not exactly what she said, but I know, it is what she meant.

Well, I tell you what, Max stopped making faces right away.  But he kept saying mean things to me while I was getting the saddle on.  And then he said “You are such a chicken, Huey!” and I said “Why am I a chicken?” and he said “Because you are going to eat the bit.  Only chickens eat the bit.  And you eat the bit, so you are a chicken.”  And I said “I am not a chicken!” and Max said “Prove it then.  Don’t eat the bit.” and I said “I am not a chicken!  I will not eat the bit! So there!”

And I didn’t.  I was not a chicken, and I did not eat the bit.  The rider tried to make me eat the bit, but I sealed my lips and I would not do it.  And I put my head up in the air because I am much taller than the rider.  And I did this a bunch of times.  And then the rider said “Huey! You are being a Bad Horse!” and stinky old Max laughed and said “You are a bad horse, Huey! Ha ha ha!” and then I realized that I was!  Max made me be a Bad Horse!  It was so embarrassing, so I put my head down and ate the bit.

I hate Max.

It was all wet on the ring and I wanted to dance on the dirt to see if it would turn into mud, but the rider wouldn’t let me.  But she didn’t make me trot or work hard, either.  We did a few things, and she said “Good horse, Huey!” and then we were done.  And I wasn’t even hot!

And this is the best!  After the rider cleaned me up and made my hair nice so that it would get a good fresh coat of mud in the paddock again, I asked her if I could get a massage.  I didn’t know she would do this until Wednesday, when she gave me a massage after we worked.  She said “You want a massage?” so I stretched my neck out as loooong as it would go, and I put my face out and I said “Pleeeaase?” and she said OK and gave me one.  It was great!  And the best part of it was that stinky old Max had to watch.  He was so mad that he made a huge noise with the grain bucket and everyone said “Stop it Max” and I just got more massage!  Because that is what Good Horses get.  They get massages, and they get fresh hay.  Bad Horses like Max just get in trouble.

I am so glad it is Friday!  I am looking forward to a few days off.  It has been a hard week!

EUREKA!

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I wouldn’t ordinarily be making two posts in one morning, but I had news that was so great I wanted to shout it to the world.  A paper that I have been working on for six years has just this morning been accepted for publication, and it’s going to run in a top international academic journal.  Holy crap, I never thought I’d see this day.

The paper in question involved a real “Eureka” moment for me.  In the context of executing a different research project, I had a question.  Well, many questions, like “What the hell was that reviewer thinking?” and “Why does my co-author take two weeks to answer an e-mail?” and “What in God’s name ever made me think it was a good idea to do this?”  But I don’t mean those questions.  Those questions arise during pretty much every research project on the planet.

The question that arose for me was another research question.  The project to answer Question 1 (which was in itself an interesting matter) lead to the burning desire to get an answer to Question 2.  This is great when this kind of thing happens.  In Business Land, we refer to this effect as “creating synergies” – and while this term is mainly blown out like snot from the nose of some corporate policy wonk, it actually does mean something real from time to time.  This was one of those times.

The typical approach when one conceives of a Research Question is to head directly into the relevant academic literature to find answers to other important questions, like “Has someone already done this?” and “Has anyone done anything similar to this such that I can springboard off of their approach?” and “If no one has done it, does there seem to be a good reason why?”  This stuff comes under the general heading of “literature review”.

My literature review yielded answers of “No” to all three of these questions…which meant that 1) I was asking a question no one had considered asking before, or if they considered it, they didn’t get very far with it, and 2) not only was there no well-marked path to follow, but there wasn’t even really a deer track, or a squirrel track, or a promising opening in the underbrush of the intellectual jungle.  This is bad news, and it’s good news.  The good news is that I was in a position to Advance The Frontiers of Knowledge (a term that gets a huge amount of lip-service in my academic field) and that I wasn’t evidently going to have a lot of competition in my effort.  The bad news was that I had no idea where to start, and that because I am an accounting professor I could expect an up-hill battle.  Most accounting professors (not all, but most) have spent time doing actual accounting.  Usually, in a professional sense.  And lots of us, although not me, are Certified Public Accountants (CPAs).  And here’s the thing about CPAs and Accountants:  this is not a profession that generally comes to mind when one contemplates subjects such as Innovation and Creativity.  I could go on, but I’m pretty sure that this would be belaboring the point.  The short story is that accounting professors as a group – like groups of researchers, groups of reviewers, groups of promotion and tenure committees – aren’t exactly known for embracing the Exotic and Interesting.

As I said, I Am Not Your Father’s Accounting Professor.  Fortunately, neither is my husband, and neither are most of the people I work with right now, and neither was my dissertation committee.  It’s not all accounting professors…but getting them into packs definitely enhances the underlying Cultural Value of Conservatism.  It is a cultural value, too – conservatism is a subject that is introduced in Chapter 1 of every Intro to Accounting textbook on the market.  Well, maybe Chapter 2.  But everyone gets normed with this in the first couple of weeks of class.

So…asking a totally brand-new question, and one that requires a brand-new approach, is not something that is going to be Celebrated in the Halls of Accounting Academe.  No one’s going to roll out the red carpet for this.  They’re more likely to erect a nine-foot-tall electrified fence with big fat rolls of concertina razor wire at the top.  In short, it means a long, hard, uphill, and possibly fruitless battle ahead.

I know this from my dissertation (see comment about committee, above) which was the last time I entertained a Stroke of Research Genius.  Obviously, I am not a quick learner, or I would have drowned my Brilliant Little Idea at birth.  I should probably note, in both of these projects – my dissertation, and this latest one – my husband saved the day by refusing to give up and let me deep-six these projects after only three years of agony and frustration.  He is the White Knight responsible for turning a great paper into an actual publication.  I owe him for this.

Back to my question.  Nothing in the literature, nothing in the public domain, basically a complete tabula rasa…and the biggest problem was that not only was my little question a highly innovative one, it was tied into a Big Picture question that was equally highly innovative (e.g., I was completely alone in the field).  So the first order of business, after determining that I wasn’t replicating work, was to decide how to proceed with my inquiry.  Thanks to the Highly Innovative Big Picture question, there was also no clear route to investigation.  I had a question, and no notion at all on how to go about answering it.

This is not a small statement, either.  One of the hallmarks of my research stream is that I’m comfortable and competent in what is, for my field, an unusually broad range of methodological approaches. I’m not the guy who has a hammer and thinks everything is a nail. I’m the guy who has the tool set that is so big we had to get a four-foot-high chest on wheels to handle it.  So for me to say “I didn’t have a useful tool” is really saying a lot.

I spent about eight months in that state, too.  It was like having a mosquito bite right between your shoulder blades.  And then, one day, in the shower, as I lathered up my head with shampoo, the Light Came On: I realized exactly how I could and should proceed with my inquiry.  It just came to me.  And I very nearly erupted out of the shower, wet and covered with soap, to write it down just in case I somehow forgot it in the next ten minutes.

Like I said, a true “Eureka!” moment, tub and all.

That was six years ago.  The last six years have featured Heavy Mental Lifting over details of implementation, agonizing research choices, painful writing processes, and even more painful editing sessions, and re-writing processes.  Nothing about this project has been easy or painless.  I’ve presented it in three different countries.  I’ve submitted it and had it rejected at all the best journals – save one.  I’ve let it gather dust in the drawer because just looking at the title of the paper was too depressing.  I’ve made the decision to jettison the entire thing, and hope to forget the entire experience.  And yet, Mr. Optimist, my spouse, would not cooperate in this Weird Little Academic Drama, and insisted on pressing the issue, because he Believed in me.

And, today, his Belief was vindicated.  We got the letter that the paper had been accepted, as-is, on the second round, at a prestigious international business journal, ranked by the London Financial Times as the premier ethics-related journal in the world.  I literally could not believe my eyes and ears.  Six years, I have fought with this damned thing.  Six years I have been haunted by it at irregular intervals.  Six years it has plagued my existence.  Six years, I have known that this paper was likely to be the best paper I had ever, and would ever, write.  Six years.

Next time I get a Brilliant and Creative Idea, someone freaking shoot me.

With Tangerine Trees and Marmalade Skies…

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I knew it was going to happen sooner or later:  I’m having bizarre stress dreams involving Huey the Wonder Horse, and they’re getting more frequent and weirder as the end of the month draws nigh.  I’m signing the paperwork on him next weekend, and after that, he will be all mine.  And I am thrilled about that, make no mistake.  But oy! this is such a huge responsibility!

Up to this point, my stress dreams have been pretty standard fare:  my career as a college student of one sort or another lasted for 13 calendar years.  I therefore have an impressive spectrum of Student Stress Dreams from which to draw when my subconscious wants to freak out.  I can dream that it’s the day of the final, and I haven’t studied for it.  I can dream that it’s the day of the final, but I missed the exam, or that I got the day wrong and the exam was yesterday.  I can dream that it’s the day of the final and I just realized that I thought I had dropped the course months ago, but didn’t, and now it’s take a final for a class I haven’t been attending, or get an automatic “F” on my transcript.  I can dream that it’s a class I’ve been attending, and I’m there on the right day and the right hour, in the right room, but when I look at the test, I don’t recognize anything on it.  I actually had that experience, for real, once – I was taking an information-systems course as an undergraduate, and the professor had some kind of mental breakdown between the end of the term and the final exam.  She’d been showing signs of wear all along…I’ll never forget the day when the students in the other section told us about how she’d started screaming at them, and had thrown erasers, and then burst into tears and run out of the room.  Wow.  I’m sure that all of us were experiencing that sensation of impending relief at having actually finished the course…and then there is the final, which looked to have been written for another course entirely.  Someone actually got up the nerve to ask, and the teacher gave us all an evil glare and told us to Take. The. Test.  One of my previous incarnations is as an IT person, and if I was stumped by this exam, everyone else was going to be, too.

For a few moments, right up until my intrepid classmate summoned her courage to ask about the provenance of the exam, I was pretty sure that this was actually just another one of those god-awful College Student Stress Dreams, and that I’d shortly be waking up to the alarm and cursing the unrefreshing night’s sleep.

But no, it was real.  Scary, huh?

Silly me, I thought these ghastly dreams would come to an end when I graduated with my Ph.D.  After all, I would never need to take another exam at that point.

Naturally, I was wrong.  They just…morphed.  And suddenly, I was having dreams about showing up on the first day of class to face forty expectant students, and not being able to find the room.  Or finding the room, and discovering that there were three times as many people trying to fit in there as there were desks.  Or finding the room, but not having any syllabi to hand out.  Or having syllabi, but finding they were for the wrong class.  Or showing up for the final without the exams, or not having the system schedlue a room for the final.  Or – and this is my most hated one – giving an exam and having the students ask me if it was for a different class.  Damn that information systems professor, anyway, for providing fuel for this kind of thing.

So I clearly have ample stores from which to draw should my sleeping mind decide to express stress.  Yet, I am finding, the prospect of imminent horse ownership is adding a new, unexpected, and highly creative layer.

I have dreamed that I was riding and I lost my contact lenses and was suddenly rocketing around the ring, effectively blind (this combines the themes of Frightening Responsibility with the perennial favorite I Have Lost My Contact Lenses Permanently).  I have dreamed that I was riding and I forgot to buckle some piece of tack.  I have dreamed that I was riding and the horse wanted to jump the ring.

But my favorite so far, again, because it combines several themes in a creative manner, is the dream where the saddle guru shows up (which will happen in a week and a half) with a truck full of saddles (so far, so good) only one of which will actually fit both me and the horse (unfortunately, not a low probability outcome) and that one saddle is made entirely of baby-blue leather with a faux-alligator finish with patent leather accents…i.e., Inexpressibly Hideous.  And, of course, wildly expensive (which is also probably going to be true).

The thought of having to face a hideous textured-leather baby blue saddle every time I want to ride my horse – who is red – caused me to wake up in a Cold Sweat at 3am the other morning, and it was so horrifying that I couldn’t go back to sleep for an hour and a half.  I have since worked hard to satisfy myself that this shop does not appear to carry any saddles in bizarre colors, or any saddles in leather with a bizarre finish.  Pebbled leather, that’s fine.  Grained leather, that’s find.  But I draw the line at the alligator look, or patent leather anywhere in the picture.

In an effort to purge that horrible vision, I’m going to think about what I’ll serve for dinner tomorrow.  This dish is absolutely unbelievable, and right now is the perfect moment to get everything you need, fresh from the Farm Stand. I don’t remember where I got this recipe, but I’ve been making it in September every year for ages.

Linguine with Pumpkin, Tomatoes, and Shallots

1 small sugar pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into ½ inch cubes. (approximately 2½ cups)
3 shallots, thinly sliced
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of sugar
Olive oil
8-10 ripe Roma or plum tomatoes, cored and quartered
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound dried pasta (short robust pasta such as penne or farfalle is best)
1 cup grated pecorino cheese
Large handful of fresh basil, chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a roasting pan with aluminum foil, folding it up to make a dam across (short way) and separating the pan into two sections. This is an important step – don’t skip it. Put the pumpkin chunks on one side of pan and scatter the shallots over them. Sprinkle with cloves and sugar, drizzle with a bit of olive oil and place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes. Then add the quartered tomatoes to the other side of the pan. Scatter the garlic over the tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil. Season both sides with salt and pepper and return the pan to the oven to roast for another 20 minutes or so. The pumpkin should be soft, but not mushy. Browning along the edges is desirable, but not necessary.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Put the pasta in a large serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Top with the roasted vegetables and any juices from the pan, a palm-ful of grated cheese, and the basil, and toss gently.

Serve immediately with the extra grated cheese.

Grapevines

This Sonoma grape arbor is also providing a helpful antidote to the vision of the hideous blue saddle.