Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Will it or won't it?

Frost that is. We've got a frost advisory tonight. We spent time this evening bringing in all the houseplants. When we moved in July, we just parked them all under the big tree in the backyard and didn't think about them. But suddenly, we needed to find homes for them all inside. AACK. They will need rearranged to make things a bit more manageable but they're all in. Most of these are plants that we have 'acquired' over the years. Some have been gifts (usually when someone was moving), some pulled out of dumpsters, the grapefruit trees that sprouted on the edge of the compost pile and are now 5 feet tall, spider plants that each child received in school from their 3/4 grade teacher during the science unit on growing things- you know- we acquire plants.
K9 is actually excited that he has our venerable jalapeno in his room. We've had that pepper plant for about 4 years now and it has really done well. We planted in a huge pot and just move it in and out with the weather. It is loaded with peppers right now although it lost 4 or 5 during the move inside.
I was hoping to get out to the garden and pick a few more peppers but I ran out of time. I'm hoping that since we're up on a hill that we'll be safe but the garden got hit with that late frost this spring. We'll see. It will do what it does and I can't stop it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Independence Days - week something

I've lost track of how many weeks I've been doing this challenge. Not that I think it really matters. What I find helpful isn't how long I've been working on this but as a reminder of how I've done for the week.
Here goes:
1. Plant something- mint, started from the old house. I snipped a few sprigs to use in a recipe a few weeks ago and put them in a cup of water to keep them from wilting. I didn't use all I had picked and the two left in the cup grew roots. So I couldn't let their hard work go to waste.
2. Harvest something- Things are slowing down here. Peppers, eggplant, a few tomatoes, cucumber, a hand full of beans (not enough to cook but good for snacking raw) and basil. I'm waiting for the husks to dry on my corn although I'm thinking I may need to get it soon. We had terrible winds last night and today and many of the stalks are blown over. I'm worried about critters getting it while it's down.
3. Preserve something- 6 pints of salsa, cayenne and paprika peppers drying now, hot peppers diced and frozen (about a quart).
4. Waste not- Repurposed much from the house project, recycled and composted, used cloth bags at the store, pretty much the usuals around here.
5. Want not- 15 lbs unbleached flour into storage (they were having a really good store coupon this week) and 2 packs of chocolate chips. I need to take stock of some of our stores and plan a run to Kalona to the Stringtown Grocery (a lovely Amish bulk store). I've also been working on seed saving for the spring and have more seeds from my super secret tomatoes.
In house prep we finished the siding and V has begun plans for reconstructing the deck. He also put in an outside light that actually works and an outside outlet. There were no outdoor outlets and we've been stringing lots of extension cords while we work.
6. Community food systems- Hmm, I'm hoping to get to the local orchard for a few apples but I don't want to get too many since I know my parents will supply us with more than enough. Otherwise, not too much, unless you count brainstorming with one of my co-workers (the one who is pregnant) on how she can eliminate sodium from her diet. She is one of those people who 'kind of' knows how to cook. She is struggling with swelling of her hands if she eats to much sodium recently and needs to figure out how to eat without opening a box or can. So we had a good discussion on Friday about how cooking from scratch allows you more control over what is in your food.
7. Eat the food- We've been busy and unfortunately that means that I turn to more convenient foods. Oh, we still eat pretty well but I was bemoaning the amount that we spent at the grocery store last month. Having just paid property tax on both houses, finances are interesting right now. So we (I) need to get myself more organized again.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Hooray! We finished putting up the siding this afternoon. So now, except for staining the siding and adding a few trim pieces, the South wall repair is finished!
V holds while I drive in a few nails.
It was a lovely warm day to be working outside.
J15 had fun with the camera.
Now to put the deck back on....
but not this weekend.
We had a lovely time out last night. Camelot was wonderful. The community theatre group did a fabulous job. I had forgotten what a dark ending the King Arthur tale has- but they had fun with it nonetheless. We did go out to dinner before the show. We went to one of the nicer restaurants downtown, V had local grassfed beef, I had definitely non-local shrimp with lobster mousse- but they were served with local veggies.
All in all, a good weekend but it feels like I didn't get anything accomplished. Except for siding, that is.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Date night!!!

It will be a busy Saturday- as usual. This afternoon we are having a family picture taken in addition to all the usual craziness. But tonight... V and I are leaving the children home and having a date!!! Yup. Out. Just the two of us. Oooo. Hear the gasps of amazement....
It turns out that V's college roommate and best man at our wedding is playing the part of Merlin in the community theatre production of Camelot this weekend. So we're off to the theatre this evening for a musical. We may even go out to dinner before (although the production starts at 7:30 so we'd have to leave home early to have time for dinner first).
It should be fun.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Do we farm?

I absolutely loved this post by Sharon Astyk. Check it out.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just checking in

Whew! It's been a crazy week. We're getting back into the busy time of year. School activities are in full swing. Last night was particularly wild. Lets see, I get home from work around 4:45, we quickly inhaled burritos (they're one of our quick meal staples here), then I12, K9 and I all rushed off. K and I had to be at his school by 5:30 for back to school night and I12 was along for the ride because he had to be somewhere else by 6:30. We got through back to school night, I signed up for fall and spring conference times, got to chat with his teacher about how he's settling in and finally meet the principal. K's teacher said that it's now hard to tell that he hasn't been with this bunch of kids all along so the transition was pretty seamless. One little girl ran up to us and asked me if I was his mom. When I said yes, she quickly asked why his eyes are different colors. Ha! If only I knew... I told her that's just the way they are- which is true. Anyway, the teachers gave a little talk about the curriculum and expectations and then the children all sang some songs they've been learning in music class. It was really cute, I just wish I'd taken my camera since they had movements that went along with some of them.
We did manage to get I12 to his choir practice by 6:30 (barely). V and J15 were at the other side of town at her violin lesson. After choir, I12 had his confirmation class at church. K hung out with some of his friends there and I got to have my therapy session with the other moms. We've had children in choir together for years and it is a wonderful free-for-all discussion about just about anything. We finally made it home about 8:30. And that's just Wednesday.
But that's our busiest day.
Normally J15's lesson will be on Tuesdays which will slow things down a bit. But generally we have activities 3 nights a week either after school or after dinner. It's taking a bit to adjust this year since living out of town means we need to adjust for travel time. What used to be a 4 minute drive to pick J15 up at the high school is now 15 minutes. We're about 10-15 minutes farther from most of our destinations.
Still no offers on the old house. There will be an open house on Saturday, so maybe, if it isn't raining, I'll try to stop by Saturday morning and weed the flower beds and dust the woodwork. We'll see. We have family pictures taken on Saturday afternoon and I still have to figure out what everyone is wearing.
Oh, the work never ends....

Monday, September 21, 2009

Independence Days

It's Monday again. Time to see how I've been doing this week on the IDC. As busy as we've been, it seems a bit like this week has been relentless. But here goes....
1. Plant something- Nope. We have tulip and daffodil bulbs that need planted but that didn't happen last weekend.
2. Harvest something- Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, a lonely cucumber, apples and a few green beans. I've also been into seed saving mode with 5 types of tomatoes, a delicata squash, and several peppers so far. Even though I love them, I'm debating my Mortgage Lifters for next year. They were by far the first and hardest hit by the blight. I don't know if that was an artifact of where they were planted or that they are particularly susceptible. I've been really pleased with the Polish Linguisa since they seem to have some tolerance to blight. They took a hit but the vines didn't die completely and the tomatoes are still ripening and many look good.
3. Preserve something- I need to make salsa but I don't know when. I'm going to try to seed and dice my peppers tonight before I collapse then I think I'll put them in a ziploc in the fridge and make salsa tomorrow evening. I had hoped to get to it tonight but there was a miscommunication over when J15 finished orchestra. So we didn't get home until 7:15 and didn't eat dinner until nearly 8. So much for timing. We still need to get the kinks worked out of the fall schedule now that all the activities are back in full swing.
4. Waste not- well, we produced lots of waste with the demolition over the weekend. But actually, most of what got hauled to the garbage was bits of drywall and mouse infested insulation from the exterior wall. We're repurposing everything we can. Even the splintered paneling from the wall was mostly salvaged and will be used for kindling for our fire pit in the back of the house.
5. Want Not- stored 10 lbs unbleached flour and 4 lb sugar. Picked up a big 2 liter bottle of olive oil for a decent price. In fact, I may pick up another the next time I'm at the store to have an extra in storage.
I'm also counting all the house repairs/remodeling in the prep category. Having a secure, warm house will be much more to our advantage this winter. The window will help reduce our need to have the lights on in the basement stairs as it was pretty dark there before.
6. Community food systems- hmm, I've been pretty focused on home stuff this week. I did stop into the food co-op and pick up a few things but that's about it. I tried planting the seeds of bringing her lunch from home with a co-worker (see my Homemaker's post of today). I'm getting frustrated listening to her complain about how bad their finances are when she is spending at minimum $25 a week on lunches at the hospital. I could probably make that much money feed me for lunch for the entire month.
7. Eat the food- No problem here. We even had bacon and eggs (both local) for breakfast on Saturday before we tackled the wall. I made homemade pizza and breadsticks Sunday and we finished the breadsticks with dinner tonight.
Well, I've got to get to work on peppers- or maybe not. The weekend has caught up with us and both V and I are exhausted. I guess my peppers will last until tomorrow.

Musings about eating well

That's my topic today at Homemakers Who Work. Now it's back to work so I can rest ;-)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Nearly done

It was another busy day here. I feel so sorry for V. He ended up doing most of the work today. I'm a good helper but I'm really not knowledgeable about framing or installing windows. We didn't quite finish. It was getting late and exhaustion was setting in so we didn't get the new siding on the house. But...
We have a wall and a window!
With Tyvek over the outside!
V hopes to do some work on the basement bathroom window sometime soon- actually putting a window back in where it has been boarded over. But this won't be tomorrow. The poor guy is exhausted and sore. But I'm so proud of him. I'm forever amazed at what he can accomplish when he puts his mind to it.
But the day wasn't all about walls and windows.
Just when I thought it was safe to stop canning....
I wandered through the garden this afternoon. My Polish Linguisa tomatoes, while they took a hit from the blight, never actually died and many of the tomatoes are still good. And my peppers are going strong. I see salsa in my near future- which is OK since we eat a lot of salsa in our house.
Look what the parking lot fairies brought me!
And this morning- I dropped Ian off at church (everyone else was working on the house but he had a class he needed to be at) and I ran some errands. As I got out of the car at one stop, I noticed these laying on the pavement in an empty parking space: A pair of pot holders, tags still attached. And of course, being the perennial scrounge that I am, I picked them up. They were damp with the dew so had evidently been there for a while. So, now I have something new for the kitchen.

Still here

And so is the big hole in our wall. We weren't able to finish last night- it got too dark and without a light at the top of the stairs V couldn't see well enough to make the cuts he needed to to frame the window. So we tacked up the sheathing to cover the opening over night and will finish today. But here's a few of the photos and adventures from the day.
The hole begins!
Do you see that splintery stuff? The original builders used old paneling as part of the wall construction. Now, don't get me wrong- I'm all for recycling and making do- but in house construction?!
I work on taking down siding panels while V plans his next step.
Pulling down bad wood
Oh, and do you notice that wire hanging down in that last photo? We discovered it in the wall. It's an old cloth covered wire, not capped or anything, stuffed into the insulation. We assumed that it was disconnected since the light fixture by the back door was there but not connected to anything. Guess what? After working around it for a few hours and having it get in the way- V decided to cut it off- It turns out that it was LIVE!!! Thank God he was using insulated wire cutters!!!! And thank goodness there has never been a fire with it not capped or anything in the wall (especially a wall that has had lots of water damage!) or that any of us got injured since we were all working around that area, even the children. What stupid people leave an uncapped live wire in a wall????????
But, thankfully it all worked out well. V tracked down where it was connected into the system and managed to disconnect it. But that used up valuable construction time and put us behind schedule. We could have waited to track it down but it blew out the same circuit that the refrigerator was on so we didn't want to wait too long.
Looking out from by my pantry
Nearly ready to start the rebuild.
We discovered the original siding on the old house- I like it much better than the stuff that's there now. And someone painted it pink!
Reinstalling the mudsill!
Justine takes a break.
Of course, I'll probably get no end of grief showing this one on a Sunday....
Well, it's off to get going again. More updates later- if I can stay awake.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Behind schedule but Okay

Well, we didn't get to wall demolition today. Removing the deck took longer than we planned and we didn't get it completely removed until lunchtime today. Then we still had to bring down the gutter on that side of the house and clean up. By that time it was later than we wanted to start putting holes in the side of the house. This is a job that we would like to finish in a single day if possible so we will start bright and early tomorrow morning. V and J15 will skip Tae Kwon Do and Kum Do tomorrow morning so we can work. Things were in worse shape than we had hoped so we made another trip to the lumber yard late this afternoon to pick up a few more items.
But here is the day in pictures:
The decking and steps are gone!
V works on the last post.
The bolts attaching them were SO rusted that it took a lot of time and effort to remove them intact. Part of the moisture problem for both the deck and the house is the fact that the deck had a solid concrete block foundation and both the dryer vent and the downstairs bathroom fan were both venting warm, humid air underneath the deck for who knows how many years!
The results of too much moisture! EEEW!!! It was like paper in some places.
V used the garden tractor and tow chain to pull the frame off the foundation.
Here it comes...
And there it goes!
The peony on the corner fared better than I expected it to and looks pretty good.
The mighty tractor. V really loves that thing- it has come in quite useful for many tasks other than just mowing!
This is what we found behind the deck frame.
Yup, that's insulation you can see.
Do you think that maybe mice could get in through that? Once we got the deck removed you could see light from inside at the top of the stairs. Definitely NOT good. We got it temporarily sealed for the night to keep critters out.
What's left of the wood under the back door.
We're going to have to replace lots of that wood. The cable sticking out is a secondary phone line that ran to the shop- we're removing it.
We're both weary to the bone and sore but we knocked off early today so we can rest up for the onslaught tomorrow.
We are definitely living in interesting times.
Thanks for the suggestions for the apple. I think it may be a good, old fashioned Jonathan- I'll have to ask my Mom. She's really good at apple types. They have 7 or 8 varieties in their orchard.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

And then it got interesting....

Well, the morning went well, we got almost our supplies for tomorrow. And then we took up a few planks on the deck for access to the side of the house and weren't pleased with what we found.
More rot and...
The deck is bolted into the rotted mudsill. And we discovered that many of the supports for the deck are bad, soooo....
We're deconstructing the deck.
Ok, this is something we had planned to do at some point, just not today. Our ultimate plan is to put a wrap-around deck all around the addition, with the basement door coming out underneath it. The children worked hard when they got home from school. It's a good thing it was Thursday early release day and they were all home by about 3 pm.
Pulling up planks. At least we can deconstruct fairly easily.
Eeew, rot.
Any ideas on what kind of apple?
But on a better note, I picked a few apples off the tree today. This one was HUGE! That's a quarter beside it. And Oh, it was tasty! And for an organic apple, it was beautiful! But we have no idea what kind it is. So, if anyone has any ideas, please let me know. Otherwise, we will just enjoy our no-name apples.

The Wall-It begins...

Today we began work on 'the wall'. This is the exterior wall on the South side of the house, where the addition is joined onto the rest of the house, right over the South deck, at the top of the basement stairs. We've known that it had water damage for a while and have been waiting to make repairs. We took down the drywall a while ago, when we were doing basement demolition so it has been bare studs on the interior for a while.
The door to the left goes onto the deck. The door frame straight ahead is the original back door to the house, to the right (out of frame) is the pantry, built over where the original basement stairs were before the addition. The old door frame prevents the South door from opening all the way. So, while we're doing demolition, we're going to fix that....
What's left of the door sill- mostly rotted.
Water damaged siding by the deck
Our temporary patch this spring to keep birds out.
The hole we patched was rotted due to poor guttering where the house and addition meet. There was evidently a leak there for a while that someone then put a 'bandaid' on but didn't really fix it. There were all sorts of critters entering the house through that hole and we're guessing through the rotted wood in the mudsill that we won't get to until tomorrow.
Water damage and rot on the sheathing
V takes out the old door frame
Behind the blue sheet behind him is the pantry. We covered it with a sheet to keep to try to keep down the dust. I'm not sure how successful we were. After the doorway was down, we pulled out the ceiling at the top of the stairs to see where some wiring went. There is a light fixture at the top of the stairs but it isn't connected to anything. Go figure.
Ruined insulation and birds nests from above the ceiling. Yuck!
Oops. You're not supposed to be able to see daylight from the inside!
But, the door opens all the way now!
After lunch, we will make the trip to get the lumber and supplies we will need to tackle the rebuild and then tomorrow we will start from the outside and work our way in. EEEK!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The island takes shape

Of course, it's not done yet. The finish carpentry isn't done and we don't have the tile we need for the top yet, but the major pieces are in place.
Drawers and bookshelves frame the stove.

And finally today- the breakfast bar takes shape!
I'm off tomorrow and Friday and we will begin repairs on the exterior wall at the top of the basement stairs. Tomorrow we will gather our supplies and tools, take up part of the South deck and do as much prep as we can without opening the wall. Friday will be the big day. The siding and sheathing will come off and we will see to what extent we need to replace the studs and mudsill. One bonus of doing this- we're going to put in a window at the top of the stairs. There currently isn't much of a window through the back door and it gets pretty dark up there, even on a sunny day.
Don't worry, I'll take lots of before, during and after photos. It's definitely not a job I'm looking forward to- I worry how much of a can of worms we will be opening and what else we will find. But V is confident that we can handle it. I guess that's what counts. He will most likely do most of the work- I'm good at holding and fetching things and generally doing what I'm told. Of course, I can operate the saw and swing a hammer- and come to think of it- I'm pretty good with a wrecking bar these days.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Quiet time

I'm having trouble finding time for quiet time in my life. It seems that everything has been moving and shaking for so long that I have almost forgotten how to have down time...almost. Tonight I have given myself permission to have a 'night off'. Oh, I ran to two grocery stores (regular and co-op) after picking Justine up from Art club, did a bit of wandering/picking in the garden (Darn, those little nettles seem more vicious than they did in the spring!), talked to Roger for a while and made dinner. But then, I gave myself permission to have some computer time, do some reading and dreaming of gardens to come.
I'm plotting and planning an herb garden, a few raised beds here and there, contemplating a trellis for Hardy Kiwi that I'm considering for next year and thinking about how to modify the rail fence that separates the yard from the pasture (that I'd like to put to better use in the future- think aforementioned trellis). I've got tomatoes and pears getting squishy in the kitchen and tomorrow night I'm off and running with I12.
I'm hoping to have Thursday and Friday off so V and I can tackle repairs on the South exterior wall. That is going to be a major undertaking so I'm resting up a bit. Plus, after as bad as I felt on Monday due to sugar overload, I've been watching carefully what I eat today and already feel better. But I'm still really tired. I think the combination of burning the candle at both ends for several months and sugar overload has really burned me out. It's off to bed early again for me tonight with a bit more reading - well, maybe pretending to read while I actually fall asleep and drool on the pillow....

Monday, September 14, 2009

Independence days and a bit of a rant

Ok, I'm irritated. Whatever happened to politeness in our society? Not just refraining from talking on your cell at all hours and in all places, but the 'be kind to your neighbor' kind of politeness. And I'm using neighbor in the broadest terms.
As many of you who read here know. I now do a rather complicated commute to and from work, involving V driving me to/from the bus stop and 2 different public transportation systems. Oh, the city bus system isn't bad. There are the usual 'loud high schoolers' on their way home from school but they're for the most part harmless- and really not that loud. Where I have the problem is with the University students- since I also use the campus bus system to get from downtown to the hospital and vice versa. This afternoon on my way home the bus was crowded, nearly standing room only. I got on and moved all the way to the back of the bus where there were still a few seats. All the seats near the front door were filled with young students. Now don't get me wrong, I don't expect to be accommodated for my advanced age of 47, I can and will stand on the bus if necessary. What steamed me was this: A middle aged guy boarded the bus at the stop after I got on. He was obviously disabled in some way, he walked with a cane and didn't appear to have very good balance as he tried to pull his wheeled bag up the bus steps. Did any of those young, able bodied students offer him their seat? Even when the sign posted above the seats specified that these seats are reserved for the elderly and/or disabled. NO! This poor guy held onto the overhead bar with both hands trying not to fall over. Had the driver been more aware he may have had someone move (my regular city bus driver certainly would have) but then he wasn't any older than they were.
I really don't ask for or expect much from others. We lived downtown amongst the students for 15 years, putting up with the occasional drunken parties and vandalism. What has happened to common civility? I really hope that my children would be more considerate in that situation. Maybe I'll have to be sure I talk to them about it sometime.
Anyway- enough for my rant. I'm tired and cranky. I didn't sleep well last night and had a busy day at work. I'm hoping to take two days off the end of the week and V and I are going to rip out an exterior wall in the house to do repairs. Oh, the fun we have....
But on to today's usual posting topic: Independence Days.
1. Plant something- nope, but I did start saving seeds for next year. And V and I have been talking about clearing the garden and covering it with plastic to hopefully kill some weed seeds and maybe some blight. We're also planning some raised beds for the barnyard for next year.
2. Harvest something- Lets see...a few lonely tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, a few green beans, tomatillos and- get this- broccoli! Yep, the broccoli that I planted WAAAY last spring. There was one plant that was kind of a runt and didn't do anything all summer. I didn't bother to rip it out and just left it go and honestly, forgot about it. When we went out last week to dig potatoes- I discovered that it had finally grown and was producing a head. So this week, it was ready and Oh, boy, it was good!
3. Preserve something- Canned tomatoes and spiced pears, made peach/pear salsa and blanched and froze eggplant.
4. Waste not- the usual 3 R's and cloth bags at the store (most of the time). Composted- but we're thinking about moving our compost pile farther from the barn. We're worried that it will attract critters to inhabit the barn. I'm not sure if we will move everything that is there or just stop contributing to that spot. I'd really like to construct a bin system rather than just having a pile on the ground but that may need to wait for a bit until we have more time.
5. Want not- Stocked up on canning lids and a few more jars (they were on sale new with a mail in rebate!) We're trying to get a move on house repairs to keep the rodent population down in the house this winter. We caught one last night in the pantry (I had suspected it was there) and the pantry is right across from the wall we need to repair. It's the area where there was lots of water damage that was covered up rather than repaired long ago so now the wood is rotted and we're thinking we'll have to replace not only the siding but the sheathing, studs and mudsill as well. V thinks the mice may be living in the rotted mudsill and climbing out into the house on occasion. We need to protect those food stores!
6. Community food systems- I participated in the seed saving workshop sponsored by the food co-op and the Field to Family program on Saturday morning. It was rather disappointing that there were only about 10 people there. But then, it was at the same time as the Iowa/Iowa State game. I also was involved in a pie sale on Sunday morning at our church. I baked pies Saturday night and we sold pies on Sunday morning. We had lots of people donate pies -we had over 30 pies! And at $2 per slice or $14 for a whole pie, we made over $550 that will be donated to the emergency fund at the Community Crisis Center. It was fun- but I ate too much sugar yesterday, with a combination of pie in the morning and dessert at the baby shower later in the afternoon- so I felt kind of icky overnight and most of the day today. I need to work more on the next category and not eat so much junk this week.
7. Eat the food- We had a lovely local meal last night. One of our wonderful grass fed steaks, roasted veggies (mostly home grown) and tomatoes. We even had a bottle of local wine to go with it. Tonight I discovered some green beans in the garden. I was out wandering, thinking about pulling out everything in that area (there are a lot of weeds!) when I discovered that there were beans. And here I thought they had stopped producing awhile ago. It just goes to show that the garden can always surprise you.
My goal for the week is to try to cut out refined sugar in my diet. Not that I eat that much but there's plenty. I've discovered that it really affects how I feel physically. And I need to start pulling together ideas for October.
Ideas for October, you may ask? J15 has decided to participate this year (again) in Vegetarian Awareness Month. And she has asked me to be her 'veggie buddy' at home. She has a friend at school who is going to also participate. So for a month she and I will be going veg. Not that we eat a ton of meat anyway but it means more creativity to have a meat and meatless option at several meals a week since the guys aren't going to go veg- even though we have at least one vegetarian day per week anyway. J15 is really worried about what to do at school. I think she's going to have to pack her lunch for the month since there aren't too many veggie options for school lunch. sigh.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A day in photos

The pantry is filling up! Yeah!!

Pies baking for an event on Sunday.

An evening bonfire.

Hubbard squash or alien pod?

Spaz makes himself at home.
Spiced pears in WWII jars!
It was a busy day here. I spent time this morning at a seed saving workshop. I didn't learn much I didn't already know but I got some seeds for next year's garden. I got some Scarlet Nantes carrots, some Delicata squash, Jacob's cattle beans and best of all, some Jeune Flamme heirloom tomato seeds. I also started the fermentation process for 4 other varieties of tomatoes, including my super secret Campbell's tomatoes.
I actually got a few more tomatoes harvested from the garden. We were finally going to get around to pulling up the vines and V noticed that there were tomatoes that were ripe that didn't look affected by the blight so I went out and got a few more. I managed to get 5 quarts from what I got from my Mom last weekend so we're doing well on the tomato front.
Tomorrow is another busy day with some church activities in the morning and a baby shower for a co-worker in the afternoon. We purchased some tulip and daffodil bulbs so I need to get those in the ground soon.

Friday, September 11, 2009

300 posts and questionable content

This is 300 posts! Who would have thought that I would have so much to say. I'm grateful for everyone who stops in and/or comments. It has been fun to get to know you.
And now for the questionable content. Early this spring my friend Roger was pleased to get some seeds in the mail. He had been trying to order this particular variety of peppers for a few years but the seeds are in limited supply and due to popular demand are evidently hard to get. He gifted me with three seedlings and here is one of the peppers
A Peter, Red- except it isn't red yet!
Mine aren't quite as obscene as the ones I've seen pictures of online. Of course, I'm sure they pick the most questionable ones to photograph for the catalogue. I'm planning to let some ripen and save the seeds- so if you are interested I can send you some. They are definitely a conversation piece! And, a word of warning- they are HOT!!!!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

It's a bookshelf

There, at the end of the island!!
V was a busy boy today and was working on the kitchen island. He built my bookshelf!!! So, on one side of the stove is a 4 drawer base cabinet and on the other is a built in bookshelf for my cookbooks- well, at least some of them. I have waaaay to many to fit on these shelves. Behind the stove will be a breakfast counter and we have chosen a lovely polished granite countertop for it. Someday it will be finished.....
Of course, the box of cookbooks V chose to unpack was full of the ones I probably use the least- but I'd never tell him that. I just think it's so sweet that he built it for me.

She said what???

Today over at Homemakers Who Work it's something a little different.
My darling daughter is doing a guest post... she claims to not be normal and that it's my fault.... Hmmm.... check it out to see what she says about me. I'm evidently not always sweetness and light.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Independence days- week 19?

Oh yeah, it's Monday. This holiday thing has really thrown me off. And poor K, he was sure that it was only Sunday and that he in fact didn't have to go to school tomorrow. Even after reminding him of what he did on Saturday, he still couldn't remember that day. He remembers going to Old Threshers on Sunday but seems to think that it was Saturday and that he should have another day off. I know what he means, I could definitely use another day off. I have thousands of things that I didn't get accomplished this weekend that I wanted to check off the list. There just don't seem to be enough hours in the day.
But on to my usual Monday check in: the Independence Days Challenge. The idea is to try to do something from this category every day or week. Some are easier than others.
1. Plant something- No, although I have a start of a yucca plant from my parents that I need to get in the ground. They have had yucca as long as I can remember. They have never done anything with it but J15 was excited to hear about it, asking if it is the one you can make soap out of. I don't know what particular subspecies this one is but Dad said the parent plant had a huge tuber/root. V and I have also been talking about where to put the herb garden. I know nothing will be planted this fall but I'd like to figure out where it will go sooner rather than later.
2. Harvest something- Let's see... tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant, pears...I think that's about it.
3. Preserve something- tomatoes (crushed and diced), mixed pickled veggies, peach/pear salsa, tomatillo salsa.
4. Waste not- Recycled, composted, used cloth bags at the store as usual. Remembered to take a cooler and boxes when we went to visit my Mom, knowing that she would fill them.
5. Want not- 10 lbs of sugar for storage, half a bushel of pears- some for preserving, some for eating fresh, frozen sweet corn from my Mom into the freezer.
6. Build community food systems- This afternoon my friend Jim came over. He lived across the street at our old house and is the unit clerk on one of the units I cover at the hospital. Jim is a gourmet cook but something he had never done was canning. He has been asking me since last year to teach him the basics. So today was the day. I had hoped to have enough tomatoes but we made "End of Summer Salsa" instead. It has tomatoes, peaches, pears, jalapenos, onions and other tasty treats. It seemed like an unlikely combination but was really tasty! I will give Jim some of it but we will have most of it for our stores. It was interesting to teach someone other than my children about canning. He's good at the cooking end of things but his knowledge of gardening is sorely lacking. He tried to pick my ripening paprika peppers, thinking they were tomatoes... maybe next year I'll teach him about gardening....
7. Eat the food- Easy! We had a lovely eggplant and tomato sauce over pasta for dinner. No large slab of grilled meat for our Labor Day dinner, but I can't think of anything better to show off the fruits of our labors. We've had new potatoes, stuffed chilis, tomato sauce and fresh veggies.
This week will be busy. I12 will be starting classes for confirmation at church on Wednesdays this week. I've got eggplant from my Mom that I need to prepare and freeze and some more tomatoes now that I'll need to deal with. I've also now got the half bushel of pears plus a bag of some that were drops that will need to be worked up. Ah, no rest for the weary. I need at least one more day off to get caught up... but that won't happen.... I see many hours of pears in my future.... Followed by apples in a few weeks..... But it's all worth it in the end.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A grand day out

We took a day off this holiday weekend and had some fun! We got up early for our big adventure.
It involved some traveling- but not too far.
We drove about an hour South of us and spent the day at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion in Mt Pleasant. It is an annual event that last for 5 days, ending on Labor Day every year. This is an event that I attended regularly as a child, partly because it was only about 30 miles from my home and also because my father was an exhibitor (antique tractor) for many years. It is a wonderful way to step back in time. They focus on old time equipment and have multiple museums to explore. We have been several times with the children and we always discover something new.
They have one of the last steam powered carousels.
Complete with steam calliope music!

They have multiple working printing presses- many steam powered.

Horses on a treadmill!
We got to watch the live horsepowered threshing. They had the treadmill driven thresher and also one with multiple teams of horses on a capstan. It was pretty impressive. I LOVE big horses. If we were to ever get a horse (which I doubt would ever happen) it would probably be a Belgian. There were some Percherons who's rumps were taller than even V's head!

The kids investigate the blacksmith exhibit in the museum
I'm often pleased and amazed at my children. I know and have seen many children who balk at spending time in museums. Mine love it. They had lots of fun looking at old farm machinery, washing machines, wood stoves, and even the display of meat processing equipment.
The museum has several working steam locomotives and offers rides.
This year we didn't ride the train, instead taking the trolley system to a part of the grounds that is fairly new (since the late 90's). We spent time exploring in the log village where they attempt to replicate life in an Iowa small town in 1850. We got to meet some lovely Dexter cattle (V still says no), watch a demonstration of rope making, the blacksmith shop, a basket weaver and cooking apple butter over an open fire in a cast iron kettle. Then it was back to the main reunion grounds where we explored among the old engines and tractors. There is a working sorghum mill and they boil down syrup, a steam tractor powered saw mill and lots of other things going on.
Steam tractors big and little
After we were tired of wandering around we hopped back in the car and headed another 30 miles South to my parent's house. We have been so busy since we have bought our new house that we haven't been there since then. It's been way too long.
K got to drive Grandpa's little tractor (older than I am!)
Please notice the 'skunk' hat that he got at OT!!
I got to pick pears.
We were only there for a few hours but I ended up with about half a bushel of pears, two big bags of tomatoes, 3 eggplant a buttercup squash and half a hubbard squash (it was HUGE!!!)
I also got 2 dozen canning jars. A dozen pint jars and a dozen pint and a half jars that Mom says are from WWII when instant coffee first came out in glass jars. My grandmother saved the jars and she and/or my Mom have been canning in them ever since. What a great sense of history. I was actually quite honored that Mom would give them to me. She said that at least I would use them. That made me feel quite good about the choices we have been making in our lives and that Mom approves.
V and my Dad
It was a beautiful day, we had fun, saw lots of great things, V and K bought some trains, we ate lots of good food, drank home made cream soda from a glass gallon jug and got to see my parents who gave us approval for our undertaking on the acreage. That was worth more than anything else. It was wonderful to have a day away with my family, laughing and having fun.
I hope you all get to have as much fun this weekend.