Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pumpkin time

Happy Halloween!!
Ok, you get the picture.  We carved pumpkins tonight.  At least the boys and I did.  V is busy finishing a test so he can do freelance proofreading where he works (in addition to what he already does).  J14 is upstairs, probably messaging with her boyfriend.  (I'm really not sure I'm entirely ready for this high school dating thing).  Not much going on.  Boys have their costumes for tomorrow night.  I still need to figure out what I will be since it's my turn to accompany them on the annual Halloween Candy Death March this year.  We'll hit a few elderly neighbors who look forward to seeing the kids (everyone else near us are college students in rental houses- we're the last owner occupied house on our block).  Then we'll head a few blocks up to the historic district- they give out good candy there.  If you can afford a house there, you can afford to give out good candy.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tick- not the icky kind

You won't make me get down, will you?
I'm REALLY comfortable...
This is the youngest of our family.  Tick has been with us for about two and a half years now. The vet estimated that he was not quite a year old when we got him.  He came to us via my parent's farm where he had been abandoned.  It really irks me that people do things like that.  Can't afford him or he's too big or he's too strong willed so lets dump him out in the country...  That kind of mentality totally escapes me.  He is large (about 110 lbs) and eats a lot,  and he is quite energetic and strong willed.  We got him at that awkward stage of large dogs- where he weighed 70 lbs and was still a puppy- and acted like it.  He has mellowed over the years.  He still has his moments of craziness but is also incredibly sweet and lovable.
He got his name from I11.  When Tick found us he was thin, starving and covered in ticks- hence the name-  Ian said that he was 'ticky" and it stuck.  Unfortunately for him he is also a good jumper.  We have a 5+ foot privacy fence around the back yard.  We have to keep him on a line when he's outside because he can jump the fence.  For a while before we got all the kinks worked out of the system we had the police bringing him home to us several times.  Amazingly he has never ended up in the animal shelter.  We always managed to get him home... and he seems quite content to stay.  At least, as long as we don't make him get off the couch.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I hate my watch

Well, OK- maybe not my watch per se.  I really rather like the old thing (that's why I got it) what I really hate is what it represents.  To me it represents the time constraints of the working world.  Now don't get me wrong, I do like my job.  I love working with people, helping them to get back to their lives.  But I really dislike when my job gets in the way of my life.  Right now I have way too many irons in the fire.  I'm exhausted after this weekend, still have apples and now more pears to put up, need to clean out the garden and planter boxes in the backyard (hard freeze last night), still need to strip wallpaper in the upstairs bathroom and repaint, paint the boys' room, and now need to go get a new coat for K8 (darn that kid, he had the audacity to grow over the summer!).  We're short staffed at work which means I'm picking up other therapists patients in addition to my own stuff so I'm extra busy.  So I'm TIRED!  But there are things to get done that no one else will likely do.
But what I would really like to do is to have a nice warm cup of  chamomile tea, snuggle in a blanket and pretend to read a book.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A job well done

Before:  the handle is slipping out of the rim.
A few years ago I made a market basket from reeds.  A friend volunteered to teach me and several others how to do this and I made several baskets that I use on a fairly regular basis.  My thought is that it is a handy skill to know.  My market basket has seen lots of use in the garden for harvesting- but over the past year the handle has been slipping out of the basket, to the point of being about an inch and a half from where it was originally placed.  I've 'let it slide' for the summer but recently I took a good look at it and realized that the wooden handle insert (to make the handle stiffer and stronger) was about to slide completely out of the rim.  If that had happened I don't know if I would have been able to get it back in.  I soaked the entire basket in water for several days to get the reed pliable enough to work with so it didn't crack because I had to disassemble almost the entire handle to make the repairs.

Reed bits spinning off every which way...
Once disassembled I had to try to simultaneously reinsert the handle through the woven basket and slide the reed handle pieces back into place.  Then I had to rewrap it with the smaller reed to secure it.  I had forgotten how sore working with reed makes my hands.  It seems to draw the moisture out of your skin and it is rough enough that my fingertips hurt.  But the results were well worth it:
Repairs complete!!!
Hopefully this will last me for many more years to come.   It is far from a basket that I could buy- this was the first one I ever made so it is full of mistakes and unevenness.  I know many of those 'normal' people out there would have just thrown this away and bought a new one.  I'm so glad I'm not normal!!!  I also have another HUGE basket that I picked up from the top of a dumpster when all the college students were moving out at the end of the spring.  We have many dumpster finds throughout the house.  One man's trash is another's treasure.  Maybe this makes up for the pricey slippers for the boys last week.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

J's big day

Robed and ready to go

Today was J14's confirmation.  Maybe this isn't a big event for some people but it was a reason to celebrate, a rite of passage in our church.  My MIL has been here (she left this afternoon) and my parents drove up for the ceremony and for the reception after.

Open House
After church we returned home and had an open house reception.  J14 got to be the first through the line (with my father looking on).  I'm amused to notice the box of empty mason jars under the sideboard- evidently something I missed in the cleaning frenzy.   We had 19 people here- friends and family to help us celebrate.  V's mother gave J14 the locket that she received at her confirmation many years ago that contains the pictures of her parents- J's great grandparents.  What a great gift!
Well, the party's over and now I'm tired.  But- no rest for the wicked or weary-  my parents brought me another bag of pears and a whole bunch of winter squash to store (2 banana, 5 acorn and 4 butternut)  Yum.  
Peace.  J

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Getting stuff done- even with extra help

V's mother has been here since Thursday late afternoon.  With her assistance I have been able to get a few things done:

The last of the hot peppers
I had Friday off since I had worked last weekend so I had time to spend with her. She slept in on Friday morning (I haven't been able to sleep past 7 even on weekends for years).  Everyone else was gone by 815 so before she got up I managed to get the last of the hot peppers diced and frozen for making chili this winter.  One of the perks of working at a hospital is that the drug reps come around periodically.  Earlier this year one came through and they always bring goodies advertising their things.  This particular rep brought, among the usual pens and note pads, boxes of disposable non-latex gloves.  All my co-workers were looking at them strangely but I snatched up a box, thinking of all those hot peppers to come later in the summer.  Let me tell you, without gloves, even though you have washed your hands numerous times, taking out your contact lenses is a very intense experience when you have been working on hot peppers.

Apple butter
After my MIL got up and had breakfast (she didn't get up till after 9) she did help me peel and core apples.  I made apple butter in the crock pot.  I didn't have any spiced rum but I did have a bit of blackstrap rum (made with blackstrap molasses) that I added in to the mix.  Turned out great.  I got 4 and over a half pints.  Not too bad for the last of the old apples that really needed used .  I still have a bunch in the fridge and half a basket in the basement that I still need to process.  

We made a run to Kalona to get cheese from the local dairy and pick up a few bulk items.  Also went driving by two different house/acreages that have been advertised.  Not too impressed with either of them.

Today has been spent with preparations for J14's confirmation tomorrow.  We'll be having about 18 people over tomorrow afternoon so I've been baking, slicing and dicing and cleaning for most of the day.  I did manage to get to the farmer's market this morning (with my MIL) and picked up 10 pounds of ground beef, a chicken and some bacon for the freezer and apple cider for tomorrow.  

I've got my market basket soaking to repair (need to get that done) so I have it to report for the  make do and mend challenge.  I did relent and turn up the thermostat to 68 yesterday.  My MIL was wandering around with her shirt, a sweater, one of J14's sweatshirts and my coat (I didn't think it was THAT cold).  She lives in a retirement apartment where she acknowledges that it is over heated so she was really not prepared for 65 in our house.  

Well, need to finish the advance prep for tomorrow.

Peace.  J

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Made it

Well. My MIL made it here without a hitch.  I11 and I drove to the airport this afternoon to pick her up.  It's nice to see her again.  After much nagging I finally got J14 to clean up the bathroom in the basement since my MIL will be staying down there.  At least there will be some privacy and the dog isn't allowed in the basement.  We'll make a run tomorrow morning to the local dairy in Kalona and to the Stringtown grocery- a great little store run by a Mennonite family.  It's a great place to buy staples (and a few luxury items) in bulk.  Then it's bread baking...and homemade pizza for dinner.  Yum.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


MIL flying in tomorrow... House not clean... Apples and green tomatoes everywhere.... AARGH.  V playing guitar and not really helping clean or get boys through homework... GRRRR!!!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Warm feet for the winter.
Just don't look a how dirty the floor is...

You wouldn't think it would be too much trouble to find house slippers for two boys ages 8 and 11 would you.  It's getting chilly in the house (64 tonight).  We haven't turned on the furnace yet but it's only set for 65 while we're home anyway.  The boys have a habit of kicking off their shoes as soon as they get home - I think they picked that one up from me: I really don't like wearing shoes. But they are starting to complain that their feet are cold.  So tonight while I was out picking up a few other things I thought I'd look for slippers.  Wow.  Not much selection out there for boys.  Oh, I could have gotten the silly character slippers (Dora the explorer or Spiderman) but they're beyond that.  There are thousands of slippers for little girls- pink sparkly ones but the few for boys didn't seem very good quality or didn't seem that they would be comfortable (moccasins with little insulation and really stiff fabric outers).  So I ended up shelling out the money for the expensive "collegiate wear" ones with the Iowa Hawkeyes tigerhawk emblem.  They were the only ones in a size that would fit that they would be willing to wear.  I know I could have looked around more at different stores but it was late and I was in a hurry.  So much for frugality this time.  :-(  But the boys are both Hawkeye fans (they don't get that from either parent!) so they thought they were great.  

Monday, October 20, 2008


Ok.  Did an inventory of the canned goods.  Not the freezer yet.  I got that reorganized a few weeks ago but do you think I thought to do a count while I was at it.  Of course not.  That would have made too much sense.  I need to get to that so I'm sure what we've got.  But not this week. My MIL is coming later this week and I'm still trying to get out from under the mountain of laundry in the basement. 

Here's the inventory as it stands now:
Whole tomatoes   11 qt
Tomato sauce    9 qt    4 pt
Salsa   8 pt
Enchilada Sauce  4 pt
Pickled jalapeno relish   5 pt
Spiced apples  6 pt
Green tomato-apple chutney  7 half pt (plus one open in the fridge)
Sweet pickles  1 qt (Thanks Mom)
Spicy mixed pickles  1 qt (Thanks again Mom)
Ginger pear jam 3 pt
Raspberry jam 3 pt (plus one open in fridge)
Apple jelly  2 pt

Not a bad list, but not what I would have liked.  Unfortunately, we had a bad year with the garden.  I would have liked to put up more tomatoes but with all the rain we had early Roger and I had a difficult time keeping up with all that needed done and it was a disappointing year, especially with the tomatoes.  Peppers we've got plenty of.  For a while during the worst of the flooding here I had to drive way out of the way to even get to the garden which is usually only a 5 minute drive.  Oh,  I'm hoping for the day when I have enough land to be able to walk out my door to the garden at any time.  

Peace.  J


Pioneer week

Oh, Oh, Oh! Hitch up the wagon!  Pioneer week is arriving the first week of November.   Time to live like Little House on the Prairie.  I may need to talk the family into this one.  J14, I know should be an easy sell,  V maybe a little harder, but the boys... no TV or video games for a week!!! What kind of Mother will they think I am.  Well... they know what kind.  We've done no TV week before and they have survived.

What exactly is involved in Pioneer Week you may ask.  Here is how I envision it at our house:

1. Food.  
The rules call for making everything from scratch.  That shouldn't be too bad.  I already do a lot of cooking from scratch. I know I need to bake bread for the Bread for the World service at church on Nov 2 so I will just make enough to get us through the week.  As long as I don't need to make my own cheese.  Yogurt I can do- although learning to make cheese could be interesting.  I'm willing to go to the cheese factory in Kalona to pick up some more cheese to make sure it's local if it becomes necessary but I will need to do that before the week starts.
2. Energy use.
I already reset the thermostat to get ready for the Freeze yer Buns challenge.  V lit the pilot light over the weekend but we haven't had to use the furnace yet.  Hopefully the weather will hold and we can get through awhile without using it.  As far as lighting goes, we've got lots of candles and oil lamps that we can use.  We also use the lamps as auxiliary heaters to add a degree or two to the temp in the house.
3. Conserve water.
This will probably be the most difficult.  I can be pretty quick in the shower.  I learned to be one summer when I was one of 20 dirty archaeologists using the water from a 80 gallon oil barrel that we used for hot water.  That's efficiency.  J14 will need the most work on this one.  She tends to take a long time in the shower.  We have a dishwasher but frequently hand wash dishes anyway.
4. Transportation- walk as much as you can.
This one shouldn't be too bad.  I have walked to work for the past 14 years.  J14 and the boys walk to school.  V is the only one who drives to work and that only since he started his new job in August.  I think he should be able to ride the bus but he likes to have the car to be able to get to the children quickly in case one of them gets sick or something. (I have a 25 minute walk home.  His previous walk was about 10 minutes now he drives about 4 miles).  The only driving I do during the week is to take J14 to orchestra rehearsal on Mondays and to pick up I11 from band practice on Wednesdays (their after school program provides transportation there).
5. Rethink entertainment.
Now, with the election on Nov 4, I'm not likely to give up on my TV completely and I'm not going without my computer (or Ipod for walking to work).  But we could institute a modified 'No TV Week'.   I need to pull out a few projects that need finished so this could be a good opportunity.
6. Watch your Wallet
Now that's a given.  Unless V decides to make some more online train purchases ;) we should be pretty well set.  We've got plenty of food stored and unless we need milk or eggs (no critters of our own except the dog) we should be set.

Sounds like an adventure.  Hope we can follow through.  V is actually related to Laura Ingalls Wilder through his mom's side of the family so MAYBE I can use that as a selling point.  Or maybe not. Where's my bonnet and shawl...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Busy Sunday and check ins

A busy day here.  Since I had to work yesterday I feel behind on all the usual stuff I try to get done on weekends.  I have been up to my ears in laundry.  I know, V would do it but I am kind of OCD when it comes to how laundry is done and hung on the lines to dry.  He has pretty much given up, mainly because I complain so much when my shirts come out stretched and/or wrinkled beyond belief.
I11 was busy cooking this morning.  I cooked some bacon that I got at the local farmer's market and he decided he wanted eggs to go along with it.  I'll have to pick up some more bacon for the freezer on Saturday because that is the last weekend market of the season.

I also made it out to the garden today.  My friend, Roger, said that they will probably plow the garden under later this week so I thought I'd better get what's left. I've got another market basket with ripe tomatoes in it as well. 
The funny thing about this particular basket, besides the fact that it is big enough to hold a baby, is that it was a dumpster find this spring.  That's one of the perks of living in a college town where a large part of the population moves out each May.  I'm always amazed at what the students throw out.  V has an amazing list of things he has found, everything from several hundred dollars worth of music CDs to a tux and a trumpet- all of which work and/or fit.  I've got a beautiful silk shirt that was in a dumpster- still in the dry cleaning bag with the tags attached.  I really don't understand that kind of mentality...

I also picked up a few of these. These are the last few White Wonder cucumbers. These are a heritage variety from Seed Savers Exchange.  K8 got a packet of seeds last year at the homecoming parade as a prize.  They were outdated and I wasn't sure they would grow but they did well.  K8 LOVES cucumbers so I plan to save some seeds from these for next year.

Now time for a challenge check in.  The Make Do and Mend Challenge over at Rob's is on.  It's been a slow week for mending.  I did manage to sew a few buttons back on pants for both boys and mend a split seam.  I plan to try to soak my market basket so I can repair the handle before it completely breaks. I made the basket a few years ago when a friend (who happened to be the pastor of my church at the time) offered to teach me how to weave baskets.  The handle is beginning to slide out and I don't want it to come completely out since it was woven in when the basket was made.  I really hope that the reed hasn't become so brittle over time that I can't fix it.  I guess I could always get new but I think you have to order it in rather large batches and I'm not sure I want to take up basket weaving in my spare time in order to use it all.  

Tomorrow is another busy day.  I've still got lots to do before my MIL arrives Thursday.  Wish me luck.  


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Working Saturday

Ah... lunch break. I'm at work today, yes on a Saturday. I work approximately once a month on a Saturday but don't really mind too much. This means that I have next Friday off as a comp day. Which is good. My MIL is arriving Thursday evening to spend a few days with us. J14 is being confirmed at church next Sunday and MIL is flying in from Pennsylvania for the event. My parents will also be here, as will my brother, several of J14's friends and friends of the family. We will be hosting a small open house at our home after the service so I have LOTS to do in the meantime. At least I will have Friday off, not only to entertain the MIL but also to start cooking for this fete. I was thinking about something fairly fast and easy. I think I will cook up some frozen tortellini (I know, not very local, is it) with pesto (that is local and home 'put up'), some bread (I will bake Friday or Saturday) with a cheese/antipasto tray, veggies and dip. Oh, and probably punch of some sort. Any suggestions would be appreciated. I'm not going to have much time between getting home from the service and having people start arriving so things will have to be either already prepared or VERY quick to prep.

Well, gotta go. Work calls... I've seen 17 patients so far today and still have a few left. Then I need to start on documentation- that will last most of the afternoon.

Peace. J

Friday, October 17, 2008

A family favorite

We had kniep for dinner tonight. I'm not sure how you really spell it, kniep is the closest my mom and I could come up with.  It is a family traditional food.  It's really a kind of big spaetzle or lazy noodles in broth.  My kids LOVE it so I tend to make a lot.  It is really easy...I think it is one of the few things that I11 knows how to make apart from eggs, soup and ramen noodles.  K8 helped me make it the last time we had it because he wanted to learn how.
There isn't really a recipe since every time is a little different.  I essentially take one egg per person (maybe less if not my family), add salt and pepper and a very little water. You beat this and then add enough flour to make a soft dough. There is debate over whether you add a smidge of baking powder (I do, my mom does not, my grandmother did, not sure about my dad).  You drop this by small bits (about 1/2 teaspoon) into simmering stock.  This is the time consuming part but the results are definitely worth it!!  
It's a sure bet for a meal in any season but especially when it's cold outside.  

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Frost possible

Ok.  The house looks like a jungle again.  We finally brought the plants in from outside.  Now just to find room for all the things that accumulated in the places where we normally have the plants in the winter.  

We managed again this year to keep our trusty jalapeno pepper.  We put this in a large pot in the backyard, oh, probably 3 or 4 years ago.  Every winter we bring it in and every spring we take it back out.  It doesn't produce much over the winter- maybe only 1 or 2 peppers, but once it hits the outdoors again it goes wild.  It has almost a trunk by this time.  It really looks rather sad this year,  we had some yellow cherry tomatoes in the planter box next to it that took over everything in the neighborhood and we weren't very good at pruning them back.  But the trusty pepper still produced.  I counted 3 ripe ones and a few green ones on it yet.  
Hmmm.  I've got cream cheese and cheddar.... Mmmm, stuffed jalapenos.  YUM.
I need to work on apples again soon.  Now that the plants are in, my table that I had my boxes of apples is now unavailable. :(

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Global Handwashing Awareness Day

Saving the world one splash at a time!!!

Today is: you guessed it!! Global Handwashing Awareness Day. Wow. The things you learn by working in a hospital.
But seriously, there is a concerted effort worldwide to stop or slow the spread of disease by, you guessed it again: Handwashing!
And we're not talking about the fancy-schmancy antibacterial stuff. We're talking about plain old soap and water. It turns out that you Mom was right when she told you to wash your hands so you don't get sick. But it's amazing the number of people who don't do this simple task.

Now, the key times to wash up?
1. When your hands are visibly dirty.
2. After using the toilet (I mean, really, otherwise it's just nasty)
3. Before you eat.

I'll be honest, I sometimes have to do the sniff test on the boys before dinner to make sure that they washed their hands. It now usually just takes the suggestion that I don't believe them for them to fess up.
And just this evening at dinner- even after I announced that today was GHA day- I had to remind J14 to wash up. You would really think that she was old enough to remember that.

So, get out there and be a health superhero! There is even a theme song!!! Check it out at Henry the Hand. There are several great resource sites out there and this is a global effort through the World Health Organization.
In uncertain times (and who knows where the market is going next) it is more important than ever to take good care of ourselves, both physically and emotionally. If you don't have your health, what have you got...

So get out there and scrub those grubby fingers!!

Peace, J

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Making progress

I can finally see the bottom of the box of apples- one of them at least.  J14 was eating the ones that were already dried so I told her that she had to help with the new batch.  Compliance with no whining!!! Wow!  Mark this day on the calendar ;0  
Seriously, she is a great help (most of the time but not always without whining).  Things went much faster when I could peel and slice and leave it to her to fish the apple slices out of their lemon water bath and arrange them on the dehydrator trays. At least until she had to leave for her violin lesson.
And speaking of J14.  The look on her face was priceless when she found out that her mom was blogging.  Maybe I'm not supposed to be savvy enough about technology to do this.  Anyway, she was curious what I was writing so looked me up.   She was amused enough to start her own blog.  Check her out at Life Through Windows
It should be good for a dose or two of teenage angst.

Well, I've gotta go clean up my mess and head to the compost pile before it starts to rain.  
Peace.  Judy

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fall fun

Images of fall surround me.  The bees hungrily feasting, preparing for the winter months.  The leaves are changing: purple, gold and red.  K8 spent some quality time in the tree in the
backyard today after school.

He is my adventurer.  The one climbing trees, exploring in the 1870s barn on my parent's farm, chasing the chipmunks in the yard.  I envy his peacefulness and contentment with his world.  Oh, I know, he has his moments when the world isn't all glorious, but for the most part he is happy.

If you notice, he has different colored eyes.  It makes him unique and even more outrageous than he is anyway.  It's a dead give away in school though, for his open house they had a guessing game where you had to match the student with the description.  For example, I have blonde hair, I am 8 years old, etc. but when it got to the one brown eye, one blue eye, it was all over...
But he is ours.

I was over at Crunchy Chicken's this morning (I'm home sick from work) and signed up for the  freeze yer buns challenge.  We already keep it pretty cool in the house in the winter so it shouldn't be too traumatic.  More later.

Peace, J

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Too windy to burn

Rats,  no dutch oven meal tonight. It was much too windy for burning anything that close to the house.  It made it to 81 degrees this afternoon- except for trees turning and dropping leaves, it makes it hard to remember that it is mid-October.  At least with not needing to be tending fire I was able to get a few other things done.  Got the dehydrator filled with apples.  Probably the first of many loads.  I also got the apples sorted, with the best of the best in one bag in the bottom of the fridge, the pretty good in another, and finally what my Mom calls 'knife apples' in a box (no more room in the fridge).  Those are the ones that I'm working on drying because they won't keep long.

It was also time for take 2 on collecting walnuts.  Last weekend J14 and I collected black walnuts.  Unfortunately I didn't secure them well enough and by the time I got home from work Monday evening there were lots of VERY well fed squirrels in the neighborhood.  V and I went foraging down the alley since our tree didn't have many left.  A few people drove by and gave us odd looks but, oh well, that's their problem.  These have been MUCH better secured against squirrel losses.

In other news,  I think V has maybe decided that I'm not totally insane for my 'new depression era fears'- stocking up on supplies. Two weeks ago he was laughing at me that I was worried about any of this.   Yesterday while we were at Menard's (for something else) he didn't bat an eye when I mentioned that I wanted to get a storage tote to keep supplies on the pantry shelves in the basement.  He even suggested that I get two- one for sugar and such on the shelves and another to keep an extra 10 lbs of flour in the freezer.  And, yes, it will fit in the freezer.  It's amazing what will fit after it's been cleaned and organized.  ; )

Peace, here's to better days tomorrow.  

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Autumn evenings

What do you do on a beautiful fall night?  Why, burn things, of course.  It was such a lovely evening that we decided to burn the branches that have fallen, or been trimmed, out of the trees over the summer.  The boys especially love adding fuel to the fire.  We have quite a bit collected and plan to burn more in the fire pit tomorrow afternoon.  That means a nice bed of coals to practice dutch oven cooking.  I've got this great recipe for cheesy bacon potatoes in the dutch oven that is just lovely.  
Peace.  J

Thursday, October 9, 2008

No good news

Ugh.  The economic news just keeps getting worse and worse.  I called my friend Roger, who lets me share his garden.  He didn't answer initially, but called back later, telling me that they had been at the grocery store stocking up.  We talked about gleaning the last bits we could from the garden.  Even though I already have 9 pints of salsa, maybe I'll make a few more...hmmm.    

But what I really need to work on is apples.  In years past when my parents have brought us an overabundance of apples (or other produce), many of them have ended up in the compost pile because I don't have a cool storage area to keep them fresh and don't have that much room in my fridge.  This year, I think I'm going to make an effort to not be so wasteful.  Every apple saved is like money in the bank.  I guess the dehydrator will be going all weekend.  I'd better sharpen my knife.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Living in hard times

Hopefully they won't be getting much harder but the news from Wall Street isn't encouraging.  I will admit, I was a bit disappointed by the presidential debate last night.  They never seem to really get to the heart of the matter.  And McCain's sudden proposal to bail out people with bad mortgages didn't set too well with me.  OK- so those of us who have been responsible borrowers and have repaid our loans in a timely manner get squat while those individuals who bought WAY more house than they could afford and now can't make the payments get a bailout- what the !*@# is fair about that.  I realize that there are some whose circumstances went bad and who are now in trouble (I have a co-worker in that situation) and I don't object to helping out those individuals but I also know people who don't make much more than I do (not that much) who bought $750,000+ houses and now can't make their mortgage payment.  What a surprise there!  I had a patient come through a few months ago (before TSHTF) who was telling me about one of his friends who just bought a house after having already defaulted on 3 previous mortgages!!!  THAT one doesn't take too many brains to see it's a bad bet.  I think that it's going to take a lot longer than either candidate is willing to admit before things get better.  I just hope we're ready for it to get worse before it gets better.  

My guy started a new job in August.  Right now he is hired as a temp, originally with pretty strong promises that it would go permanent at the new year.  They recently had a meeting where they were informed that the company has been losing money.  Hope his job sticks around or things could get MUCH more interesting around here.

Here's to a better tomorrow.  

Peace.  J

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Just when I thought I was getting a handle on the stacks of produce lying around the house, my parents showed up.  Now don't get me wrong, I love my parents, and I really don't mind the bushel and a half of apples that they brought with them but I'm still working on the last batch I brought back with us from our last visit.  My parents had been to visit my aunt and uncle who live about an hour north of us (my parents live an hour south) so our house is a natural stopping point.  They have been doing the annual apple trips.  First, last week, to my sister in the DC area, now to the aunts and uncles (and me) and next week to my sister in Colorado.  They really DO have too much of an orchard for the two of them.  But, on the upside, we all get to reap the bounty of their land.  So, now I have more apples to store, a gigantic banana squash, and a bunch of green peppers.  The squash and peppers are welcome.  My squash all died (rot from too low-lying garden area and record setting rain this year) and my green peppers didn't do much- hot peppers I've got plenty.  So I guess it's back to canning a few more apples and drying some.  Maybe I'll try my hand at apple butter.  I made some killer ginger-pear jam a few weeks ago and some apple-green tomato chutney as well so maybe something different.  I've never attempted apple butter although my Mom used to make it when I was little.

This whole economic mess that we find ourselves in the middle of has me a bit worried.  I'm not in a panic by any means, but I'm glad I've got my freezer and pantry with a good bit of food put away.  My biggest concern is that we've been looking for land and with the credit crunch I'm a bit concerned that we won't be able to get a loan if we find something we like.  It was a bit heartening to have my Dad tell me that if anyone could get a loan these days he thought we would qualify.  That is big praise from the guy who has made frugal farming work for 70 years (they recently retired and are renting out the land).  Yeah, there is part of me that wants to move onto the family farm (been in the family since the mid 1800's) but it is also far from the day jobs for both my guy and I.  That, and I don't really want to FARM.  I just want enough land to be somewhat self-sufficient- to have a big garden and some fruit trees.  Enough space to let the kids and dog run free (well maybe not the dog) and maybe some chickens- not that my guy wants them- but the kids are enthused.  Don't know what will happen, but then, who does.

Have to watch the presidential debate tonight, not that I think it will sway my vote but I want to keep in touch with what's going on.  J14 is at her violin lesson tonight and V with her but they should be home in time to watch. 

What is that old mid-eastern curse? 
        May you live in interesting times!  

Unfortunately things look to get more interesting than we would all like.

Peace to all.  J

Monday, October 6, 2008


Long day at work after a long weekend of working at home. But did manage to get the bathroom ceiling painted (and replastered part of it- thanks V), got fall bulbs planted for hopefully showing house in the spring. Now need to sleep....

Sunday, October 5, 2008

This merry band of hoodlums

I think this will be the last of the golden raspberries for the year.  I wish I knew what variety these are.  I got a start from my parents, who got a start from my sister in Colorado, who got some from a friend....  They are wonderful- they are supposedly everbearing but actually have two distinct seasons. They bear heavily in early summer and then again, not so heavily, in the late fall and will continue producing a few berries until it freezes.  The poor things are so into their fall flush that they are still blooming- great for the bees who seem to love them.  These didn't last long once my youngest got hold of them.

Speaking of my youngest, I promised a cast of characters who eat from my freezer.  My guy and I have been married for almost 23 years, not all of them ecstatic , but we have survived and are in a much better place than we were a few years ago.  We have three fabulous children:  our oldest is our daughter, J14, who is oddly enough 14.  She is beautiful and talented, with interests ranging from playing the violin to having a black belt in tae kwon do. She is a great help with canning and in the garden when I can get her.  My other two children are boys.  My middle, is I11.  He is sweet and quite empathetic, but unfortunately he loves his video games.  I guess he's too much a product of his generation.  K8, my youngest, is a livewire.  Always on the go, my tree climber and somewhat of a trouble maker.  Oh, if only I could harness some of his energy!!  The cast is rounded out by our large dog, Ticket, who came to us a few years ago after being abandoned at my parent's farm, and a few friends who frequent our table.

We live in town, in an old house with a postage stamp yard.  We have room for a few tomatoes and peppers in the backyard. And raspberries: black ones in the front yard on the fence line and the golden ones in the no-man's-land between our driveway and the neighbor's.  That area tends to flood every time we get a heavy rain so this year has been quite wet- and we've had more raspberries than usual so they evidently love the moisture.  I am fortunate that one of my dearest friends lives just out of town and is generous enough to share his garden space with me. We have gardened together for almost 10 years.  I am thankful for the space but really want a place of my own where going to the garden isn't an event but where I can just walk out my door.  We've been looking for a place with a few acres and a house that we can afford.  We currently own our house with no mortgage (after years of scrimping) so hopefully this financial mess the country finds itself in will resolve soon so we can move on with our search.  In the mean time, we keep trying to fix up this old place (built in the 20's) so we can put it on the market when the time comes.  More on the trials and tribulations of fixing an old house later.

It's so great to be able to get my thoughts and ideas out there.  I hope to be able to keep this up.

Peace to all.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hard work and the unexpected

I have developed an intense love/hate relationship with safety glass.  Our storm door window unexpectedly decided to shatter this morning.  My guy had just put the dog outside and heard a strange crackling sound, kind of like running water.  He turned around to see the window slowly crinkling into thousands of tiny pieces. I know that the safety glass means that there aren't sharp shards of glass but I do think that whoever invented it never had to clean up those thousand tiny cubes of glass.  We got the window taped and removed but in trying to clear out the frame lots of tiny bits fell into the grass in the backyard.  Considering dog paws and big and little bare feet that are out there I spent considerable time picking up bits of glass.  Have I mentioned that I hate safety glass...

In better news,  I got something done yesterday.  6 more pints of salsa and 6 pints of spiced apples:
The apples are diced, not sliced, and get used for oatmeal fixins' in the winter.  Yummy.
Unfortunately, it always feels like I spend so much time peeling and cutting apples and then all I have to show for it is 6 pints.  I've got more apples here and the promise of more yet to come from the farm. 

Soon I'll try to post a guide to the cast of characters here eating out of my freezer.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Welcome to my world

I'm a blogging neophyte so, please, bear with me on my journey.  I've been thinking about starting this for a while- kind of like a journal of my search for myself and my place in the world.  I'm a working mom, trying to live as lightly on the land as I can while maintaining a healthy, happy home for my family.  We're in the process of looking for a new home with a few acres attached but with the economic situation we all find ourselves in, that could become more complicated than ever.
I'm have a vacation day today but will probably work harder than I would if I was at work.  I've got salsa to can, apples to deal with and need to bake bread for this Sunday's service.   As you can see from the photo, my parents down on the farm have LOTS of apples, so many that they had several branches break from the weight.  Luckily we have been the recipients of some of the bounty.  We'll see how much I actually get accomplished today. I need to get off this computer and get to work.