Tuesday, January 31, 2012

12 for 12- the first month

Since it is the last day of January, I thought I'd better check in with my 12 for 12 project to see how I'm doing and what I need to focus on more next month.   I've been having fun trying to think of all the things I've been able to do to help me along this month.

Create- I definitely made it here. I've been having fun creating things.  From my little potholder experiment to V's Victorian shirt to the now-in-progress wall quilt I've definitely been creating this month.
Dream- Ah... yes... dreaming....  I've been doing a lot of this lately.  I've been contemplating how to build a side business, put a child through college, pay off the mortgage and keep my job all at the same time.  All this in addition to dreaming of new outside projects to tackle when the weather warms.
Organize- Hmm, I rearranged the sewing/guest room, I organized the pantry and sorted through my seed collection- I think that counts.
Love- Makes me smile.  I've had some great moments with the family in the past month.  I'm trying to let them know more regularly that I love and appreciate them.
Complete- Whew!  Finished V's shirt and finished my seed and potato orders.  I'm sure there are other things but they escape me at the moment.
Play- We've had several family game nights.  I've also been playing in my sewing room and have had several fun adventures with the pets.
Nourish- We've been eating pretty well in the last month.  This evening it was pulled pork sandwiches from the freezer.  We'll be having quiche on Thursday.  I made a fabulous enchilada casserole last night with homemade enchilada sauce.  Mmmmm.....  I've also been trying to nourish my soul a bit with some outside time in nature. And I'm SO thankful that the days are lengthening.  It is almost light when I get to work and stays light for almost an hour after I get home.  Yeah!!!  That is great nourishment to my soul.
Nurture- Caring for the family-  I14 has been out of school for a day and a half with a stomach bug.  While I wasn't home today to care for him I still made sure to check on him frequently to make sure he was on the mend.  I guess also included in this category would be things like taking a fresh chopped up squash out to the chickens and planting oats for the cats (cat grass).  Oh, and I baked biscotti for my family.
Budget- We've been doing pretty well here.  No elaborate, unnecessary purchases, we've been trying to eat out of stores more so that helps the food budget.  We're still working on college finances (and probably will be for years!)  I've been doing better at budgeting my time and making sure I get a good mix of productive and fun on my days off.  Oh!  And I SOLD my first eggs today. Previously I've given them away.  And I've got two more people asking for some.  Those girls better pick it up again.  They've finally slowed down and I've only been getting 4-5 eggs a day.  Still, better than I thought.
Learn- I still have a couple of CEUs to complete before the end of February for my license- not so much fun.  In fun learning- I've been reacquainting myself with my sewing machine and learning my new serger.
Move- umm... not so great here.  Oh, I still walk for 20 minutes 3 to 4 times a week but I really, really need to get moving more.
Plan/Prepare-  I've been spending more time focused on making the garden more productive next year.  I've been reading more about herbs and herbal medicine and have decided that this is the spring I will finally build my herb spiral.

Focus for next month- MOVE!  I need to work on getting back into shape before the gardening season begins.  Also, more creating is in the works.  And definitely more budgeting.  There will be lots of number crunching going on here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Enough practice already

Let's do the real thing!!
I finished the preliminary stage of the interlace this afternoon.
It's a bit tedious but not really difficult.  Good thing I've got plenty of pins!! V caught me talking to myself as I worked through the 'overs' and 'unders' of a line to make sure I had them right.
I'll let it sit for a while and then go back to check it again for errors before I press it into place.  I can see in the photos there are some tweaks I want to make.    It's really hard to see the problems (a crooked line here, a not smooth curve there) when you've been at it for a few hours.  After pressing, I'll stitch it down, add borders and quilt.  I'm really pleased with how quickly this is going and I'm happy with how it's looking.  With this morning's potholder I did the applique and quilting all in one step since it was small.  This will be too big to try that, I believe.
But, wall quilt #1 is well underway.  I may even sell this one.

And, don't have a heart attack- I know this is my third post today!

A little practice

Since it's been a while since I've made an interlace quilt I decided I'd better have a refresher before I start on the real thing.  So I've been practicing.  Behold:
A new potholder.  This one is a bit rough.  I didn't get it quite even.  Those small, tightly turned designs are always a challenge.  The wall quilt I'm going to start on this afternoon has much gentler curves and many more straight runs.  Thank goodness!
And now, I leave you with a scene from my living room yesterday afternoon:
All three children snuggled on the couch with books.  Ah, makes a Mom's heart glad!!

Come on, you know you want to!

I've got space for one more in the 2012 Handmade Pay It Forward Challenge.  And I told Tom that if I get my 5 I'll re-up on his blog and take on 5 more.  SO BRING IT BABY!!

And for those who have signed up... that would be Tom Stewart, That's My Cuppa Tea, Patty and meemsnyc, I will need your mailing addresses.  You can email me your address to fullfreezer(at)gmail(dot)com and I'll get started making something just for you...

So, come on, one more...  or 6 more.  I can take it.  Sign up here or on the last post and send me that address.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Handmade fun- a challenge!

Susan at e-i-e-i-omg! has gotten herself into a challenge, and she has roped others into this craziness as well.   Of course I fell victim... er... volunteered.  Because it sounds like fun in some twisted definition of the word.   So, here goes....

I will send a handmade (by me!) gift to each of the first 5 commenters on this post.  This can be something large or small, my choice.  But,  there is a catch... of course, you knew there would be a catch!  The catch is that each recipient of my gift must also pass it on and give 5 gifts themselves... and so on and so forth for all eternity... or until people get burned out.
There is a year to get your gifts sent out, so I'll have a year to concoct something- until December 2012.  Who knows what you may receive from me: pot holders, placemats, soap, biscotti, a jar of jam... there are so many possibilities.

So, anybody out there want to play along?? Let's hear it for the 2012 Handmade Pay it Forward Challenge!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Let there be light

If you don't have a light table- improvise!
I was working this afternoon to trace the interlace design on the background fabric for my next project- a Celtic Knotwork quilt.  The South door makes an excellent light table.   Pattern taped onto the window, fabric centered and taped and then: let the tracing begin.
It should be fun! I've got everything ready to make my fabric tubes to interlace, but I think I'll wait until tomorrow to cut them.  After a couple of glasses of wine with dinner, I don't think I'm up to cutting 1 inch bias strips with my rotary cutter!  I would probably lose a fingertip!  This particular design has three separate interlacing lines which will be in different colors.  The background fabric, which you can't quite see, is white with silver metallic speckles. It looks kind of like snow.  The rest will be in shades of purple, blue and pink.  I can't wait to see how it comes out!!  This center panel is 15x 32 inches.

In other news, we have had another visitor here at the farm for a while.  I haven't seen him, although V has, but I've seen his tracks after every snow:
We've evidently got a large orange cat living under the front porch.
He must spend his days out hunting.  I'm not minding an outside cat that feeds himself- we've got plenty of mice and voles!  The porch is sheltered and out of the wind but it still must get pretty cold at times.   I've been contemplating putting out a dish of cat food so see if I can coax him out.  V thinks he belongs to one of the neighbors but the cat seems to spend his nights here so I'm not sure if he's right.  I just hope kitty is careful of the highway!

And coming tomorrow... a challenge!!

I'm in the zone

A new zone, that is.  The USDA has released an updated hardiness map showing how the climate has shifted.  We've gone up a half a zone. From 5a to 5b... although the zone line is only a few miles away we're now near 5a and not 4b which we used to be.  It appears that most places have shifted.  If you click here you'll get to an interactive map with a slide bar to show the differences in old and new.  Pretty dramatic and scary!
Woe to those naysayers about climate change.  Even the USDA has gotten on board.  And this map is just represents the shift from 1990 to 2012.  Eek.   Maybe I'll have to revise my planting schedule... or maybe not.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A visitor

Over the past few weeks, we have had an intriguing visitor.  I managed to snap a photo a few weeks ago:
See him or her sitting on a branch in the tree?  That is a BIG bird.  But, even though we have seen this bird multiple times, we've never been able to get close enough to get a good look to see what it is and the zoom on my camera is broken :(    I have usually only seen it in the late afternoon (of course, I'm often not home during the day).
But today, V was able to get a good look as it flapped over him from behind the barn when he went to let out the chickens.  It appears we have an immature bald eagle hanging around the farm.  Pretty cool! We're close enough to the river that we often see eagles soaring over the meadow but this one seems to be sticking around and resting/roosting in the trees.  Makes me glad we put a roof over the chicken run and that we're not letting them free range.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thanks for the positive thoughts

V had his interview today.  He thinks it went Okay.  But who ever thinks they did well in an interview.  Now begins the waiting game.  He doesn't know how many people they are interviewing for the position but he's hoping he has enough diverse experience to stand out.  It turns out that he even knew one of the people on the interview panel- he goes to our church.  Sometimes it seems like we live in a small town.  It is also interesting because several of the other people on the panel are doctors I work with regularly and who know me.  I do hope that doesn't ruin his chances, LOL!   But time will tell.  V was warned that it would be about a month before a decision is made.
Regardless of the outcome of the interview, we need to get cracking on financial aid stuff for J17.  I think I mentioned briefly that she got accepted into a private, all women's art and design school.  The school was evidently impressed enough by her portfolio that they offered her a scholarship that will cover over half of tuition!  But being a small, private school (less than 500 students total) in a major city, the tuition is outrageous!  And that doesn't take into consideration room and board.  But, it is an old school (around since the 1840's) and on the east coast where she wants to be.  And still within easy reach of V's family out there.  So, we'll see.  We've been trying to steer her in less expensive ways- but art/design school isn't cheap- college in general isn't cheap!  With me working less hours, unless V gets this job (or picks up some more freelance work) we'll be tightening belts a bit more. Another reason to focus more on food production this coming year.
Otherwise, things here are pretty boring.  Not much else going on.  Tomorrow K11 has band after school, tonight J17 has her violin lesson.  Sometime this week I've got to bake bread since I'm responsible for the bread for church this weekend.
Oh, yeah!  I actually planted something yesterday!  I have some oats that we'll use for cat grass planted in a pot on the South windowsill in the kitchen.  Spaz has been decimating my potted lemongrass so I figured I'd get him something more appropriate to chew on.  I also brought in one of our window boxes that has been sitting outside on a stump. I think I'm going to try to plant some lettuce in it and put it under the grow lights.  Maybe in a few weeks we'll be able to have a salad or two.  I tried this a few years ago at the old house but didn't have the set up I've got now.  Maybe I'll go plant things now before the prez speaks.

Think good thoughts

Just a quick update while I'm on my lunch break.  V has his job interview this afternoon at 3pm central time.  Send some positive thoughts this way- especially since J17 got an accpetance letter for a small, private college she would love to attend- if we can figure out how to afford it (and that's with the college offering her a scholarship that would cover a little over half of tuition). 
If V doesn't get this job- I'd better get sewing!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dreaming away

I've finally finished that shirt I was making for V and I've got a new post up at my other blog.  Things are getting moving slowly on my new (hopeful) business but every little bit helps. Now I've got to pick a new project.  Hmmm... a quilt or a brocade vest to add to the menswear collection.....

If I'm really going to do this thing, I still need to get an Etsy site up and also go through the paperwork to get a sales tax number and all that jazz.

Laughing at myself

LOL!  Sometimes, I just don't stop to think and end up laughing at myself.  Let me explain the latest example.
The weather has been cold, damp and icky lately.  We got snow on Friday and it has been rainy/foggy/freezing all weekend, including today. This morning, it started out just above freezing with rain.  The rain has let up but the temperature has been slowly falling.  So.... it being my day off, I've been puttering around the house this morning, wearing my 'inside' shoes.  You know, those ones that are really, really comfortable but have essentially no tread...  Yeah, those.  Well, I decided that I'd better take the bowl of veggie scraps out to the chickens and let them out for the day.   I head out and realize that it is much icier than it had been earlier when I let the dog out.  Do I turn around to change my footwear?  Of course not, I head on out to the chicken coop.
Now fast forward... chickens fed and let out, eggs collected and now safely in my coat pocket (come on- don't tell me you've never done it!) sliding my way back to the house over glare ice.  Honestly, I don't think that extra tread would have made a difference- but I was definitely laughing at myself!  I'm just glad I didn't slip- what a mess that would have been.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Done with orders

I placed my order for seed potatoes from Seed Savers Exchange today.  Amazingly enough, they have the best prices and they are local(ish) so I'm sure things will do well here.  Now I'm done with my seed ordering for the year.  Only two orders, one for seeds, one for potatoes.  Not too bad.
Ok, I'll confess, I did buy some thyme, tarragon and rosemary seed from the hardware store when we were there yesterday but, honest.... I'm done..... really..... no more.......    um... yeah........ wait until the seed racks start showing up in the stores for real.  sigh.....  I really do need a 12 step program.  Although if the first step is to admit I have a problem and want to change I'm in trouble- I don't really want to change.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Honey Orange and Lavender Biscotti

Nothing like a good cup of tea and some biscotti.  Mmmm....
It turns out that I had posted this recipe before.  Not even that long ago.   But I'll post it again since it was kind of hidden in another post.
Whisk together in a large bowl: 
3 eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
to this add:
3 Tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons orange zest (I used the entire zest of one orange and didn't measure) 
1 Tablespoon dried lavender blossoms (Please make sure they're not sprayed!!)
In another bowl, stir together:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to blend.
Divide the dough into two or three portions and, on a lightly floured board (and with floured hands- it's sticky dough!) shape each into a log about 3 inches wide and 3/4 inch tall.
Place these on a parchment paper covered baking sheet (I use my big jelly roll pan) and bake for 25 minutes in a pre-heated 350*F oven.  About half way through, rotate the pan so it bakes evenly.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on racks for 10 minutes.  Reduce oven heat to 275*F
Then, using a long, thin serrated knife, slice on a slight diagonal into 1/2 inch thick slices, like so:

Place these slices on the same parchment paper, cut side down (don't have them touching) and bake for an additional 15 minutes at 275*F.
Don't be tempted to over bake them because they will continue to crisp up as they cool.  Bake them too long and they will be rock hard! (take this as a word of warning from someone who has done this)
Finished biscotti.  Allow to cool fully, preferably on a rack for air circulation.
Supposedly, these will keep for weeks.  I can't see them lasting that long- at least not at my house!

I remember I was so intimidated by biscotti until a few years ago when I decided to try to make some.  They are really easy to make and look great.  I've done lots of different kinds.  One of my favorites (besides this one) is one with dried cranberries, almonds and orange zest.  
And, biscotti are fat free except for the fat in the eggs (or nuts if you add them).  Since the only liquid in them is generally eggs, they are also a great way to use some of those 'excess' eggs in a different way.  These are going so fast, maybe I'll make a different flavor today.  If only I had some pistachios- chocolate and pistachios are a great combo.  Oh, and dried cherries.  Or really about any kind of dried fruit (It has to be dried fruit of it is too wet and they don't crisp up).   For a really elegant twist, you can dip one half or one side in chocolate.  Great if you are having friends over for tea.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter is here!

This was the view out my side door this afternoon.  Winter is definitely here.  We're having snow, wind and temps only in the single digits.  School was let out 2 hours early so all of the children are home safe and sound and I've got biscotti in the oven.
I feel like I've been busy all day but haven't accomplished much.  This morning I took I14 to the orthodontist and then stopped at the grocery store on my way home.  I arrived home just as the road conditions started to really deteriorate.  I did some dishes, got a big pot of chili on to simmer and otherwise puttered around in the kitchen: slicing ham for sandwiches this weekend, repackaging some Italian sausage for the freezer and making some potato soup for V and I for lunch.  I fed the chickens and gave them a flake of straw to scratch through in the coop since I'm not letting them out today.  The dears have already provided us with 8 eggs today.  I'm thinking that will be it for the day but I'll check one more time around dark to be sure. River hasn't been laying so we've got only 9 hens laying at the moment.
Otherwise, it has been a laid back day here. I had hoped to do some sewing but it hasn't happened yet.  Maybe later this afternoon or this evening.  With the children home it seems so much later than it is, that and the clouds/ snow is making it seem darker.
Mmm.... I'm smelling those biscotti.  This is the first baking so I'll have to let them cool a bit and then slice them and do the second baking.  I found a recipe for honey, orange and lavender biscotti and since I happen to have a bunch of lavender blossoms, some oranges and some honey they seemed like just the thing.  I'll let you know how they turn out but they are smelling heavenly.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Musings on women who do too much

It has been a trying week at work.  I've been struck by the number of women coming in who have reached their limit.  Why is it, that as women, we are so good at taking care of everyone and everything else but lousy at taking care of ourselves?
Oh, I know- I'm sometimes guilty as charged.  BUT...  I know I take on too much sometimes and make sure that many of the things I take on are things that I get pleasure out of.  Sadly, there are way too many people, women especially, who do everything for everyone else but nothing fun for themselves...

Like I said... it's been a rough week.  Thankfully, not rough for me personally but rough professionally.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday Tales

Ok, not really many tales to tell.  Yesterday was a holiday for me as well as a no-school day for the children so we once again ended up with 9 teens in our basement for the afternoon playing D&D.  They were a bit loud but generally well behaved, as usual.  There was laundry done and household stuff accomplished but nothing too exciting.
Today, it was back to school and work as normal.  But a few tidbits...
It snowed again.  The roads were pretty slick this morning but they have cleared off nicely by now.  And it's COLD again.  The high of the day was this morning and the temp has been slowly dropping all day.  We're down to about 15F and it should get even colder overnight.  Brrr...  Of course, that's probably tropical for some of you true northerners but with the warm weather we've been having this winter, even though these are normal temps, it seems really cold.
V has a job interview sometime next week!  Woot!!  For an associate writer position with the Department of Psychiatry at the hospital.  He doesn't have a firm time yet but I'll be sure to keep you posted.  Cross your fingers-  A 'real' job would be so much less stressful than the freelancing he's been doing.  Of course, it would take him away from the house during the day but we've done that stint before.
Chickens are doing well.  Since it was snowy, windy and cold V didn't let them out of the coop- not that they would have gone out into the snow anyway- the ninnies.  But they got lots of squash guts and peels from the kitchen this morning and some corn later this afternoon to keep them warm overnight.  And even with all this cold and snow, still 6 eggs today. I'm not complaining.
With the colder weather I've been seeing more eagles lately. It's fun to walk from the hospital to downtown.  I cross the river near where there is almost always open water due to the roller dam under the bridge.   There are usually Bald Eagles cruising around or sitting in the trees.   I'm always amazed at how many people walk by and don't even notice them.  But I think they are just magnificent!  Our property is even close enough to the river (as the eagle flies) that they come circling over the meadow, catching the thermals off the highway.  We've also got a HUGE hawk of some sort (haven't been able to get a good enough look to tell what kind), the usual Red Tailed hawks and a Great Horned Owl around so we've definitely got the aerial predators covered.
I'm hoping to finish the novel I'm reading tonight.  I've got other things I want to read but I want to finish this one first. It's a fun sci-fi romp- nothing too heavy but it seems to be taking me forever to finish it... probably because I tend to fall asleep when I sit down to read.  Oops.....
I also really need to finish the shirt I'm making for V.  It has been finished except for some topstitching, button holes and hemming for a whole week and I just can't seem to find the time to finish it.  I've decided that my Mondays off are to be my sewing days but yesterday was just too chaotic. And having worked Saturday, it didn't feel like a typical Monday anyway.  But, since I worked Saturday I've got Friday off (as well as next Monday for my usual day off) so I've got a 4 day weekend to hopefully finish this project and start another.
Now, I've got to get dinner going- I've been avoiding things around the house while I did a big of blog hopping but J17 has her violin lesson tonight and I do need to feed her before she goes.  It's burrito night tonight so it's nothing too strenuous at least.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cranberry Orange Bread

While prices have been rising at the grocery store, there was one thing on sale last week that caught my interest.  Since it is after the holidays, they had cranberries on sale. Two bags for a dollar!!  So, guess what?  We've got cranberries!
Aside from the cranberry/apple/jello salad that K11 could eat his weight of, the other thing we really love here is cranberry orange bread.  It just so happens that they were also having a sale on orange juice this week, so this afternoon I mixed up a quadruple batch of this delicious quick bread.  I had all the ingredients and it tends to not last long here (I made a double batch last weekend and it lasted a day and a half!)  Since J17 is hosting friends here tomorrow afternoon I thought it would be a healthier snack than some of the garbage they usually eat on game days.
I'll give you the original recipe that makes one loaf.  I never bother making only one loaf because it wouldn't last as long as it takes to bake. The recipe multiplies easily and will freeze well if you can keep any around.
Stir together in a mixing bowl the following:
2 cups sifted flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soda

Add to the dry ingredients and blend until just moistened:
1 beaten egg
1 teaspoon grated orange peel (I LOVE my microplane!)
3/4 cup orange juice
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
Fold in:
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cranberries (I've also done this with frozen ones)
1/2 cup chopped english walnuts (these are optional- I don't usually put that many in- it makes it hard to cut neatly)

Spoon into greased loaf pan (9x5x3 inch) and bake at 350* F for about an hour or until done.  Remove from pan almost immediately after baking and let cool (if anyone in the house will wait until it cools!).

The house smells divine with the cranberry orange bread baking.  I have added a little vanilla to the recipe in the past but didn't this time around.  This really is one of my favorite quick breads.  I like it even better than banana bread and that's saying a lot!

And the hens have been generous so far today:
The beautiful speckled one on top is from Helen, our Welsummer.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A little warmer

The weather has moderated a bit.  By the time I made it home from work late this afternoon (about 4:15) it was 25*F.  Not too bad considering that it was 7 this morning when I left for work.  Brrr...
The poor chickens, with the snowy, windy, cold weather we've been having have been cooped up for a couple of days.  So, knowing that I needed to give them food and water, I let them out for a little when I got home.  Oh, they were hilarious!  They come boiling out of the pop door and then, BOOM, the first one hits the snow and skids to a halt.  Even though we've got a roof over 2/3 of the run, with the wind, we had a small drift blow in about two feet or so from the coop.  The poor things just couldn't bring themselves to walk through the drift (only a few inches deep at one end) to the open ground on the other side so they all clucked and scratched in the little area between the drift and the coop wall.  Oh well, at least it got them out from underfoot while I filled the waterer and feeder. Magnus hasn't been too bad recently but I don't want to turn my back on him in an enclosed area.   Well, he's been good except for the one day last week when I was wearing a hot pink shirt that evidently set him off.  If I had a jacket he didn't bother me, but if I approached the run in that shirt he would hurl himself against the fence.  I guess he's a fashion critic.
Anyway, the chickens were fed and watered.  Six eggs today.  I'm still amazed at how well they're doing through the winter- not that we've had a REAL winter until recently.  I've got tomorrow and Monday to do things around the house and relax some.  J17 is hosting another gamer party on Monday so it won't be quiet here.
Today at work was one of those days where I earned my pay.  Whew!  We had 6 discharges yesterday so we had lots of open beds when I left.  They were all full this morning and most of the admissions were people I needed to see. And horribly depressed, distressed, hopeless people they were.  I think my empathy and compassion reserves are depleted at the moment so it was really, really nice to get home to talk to my chickens and do relatively mindless chores.

Thanks for all the helpful suggestions about chicken sitting.  I've got plenty of time to come up with something.  Who knows, maybe I can talk one of J17's friends to come house and animal sit for us.  We could pay them and we've got great video games, a big screen TV, high speed internet and a great library.  All for tending dog, cat, chickens and plants and bringing in the mail.  As a teenager, I would have jumped at an opportunity like that.  A chance to earn some money and exert some independence. We'll have to see who does or doesn't have a job next summer.  Another option is that a friend of ours drives past on her way to and from work so it shouldn't be to hard for her to stop and collect eggs and check the food and water supplies.  Of course, her schedule is pretty erratic sometimes so I'm not sure I want to rely solely on her.  Roger is an option but I don't know if he'll be driving.  He did get his new prosthetic leg about a week and a half ago and is learning how to walk in it so by August he should be up and nearly running!  Sadly, we live quite a ways from them now and it would be about a 10 mile round trip for him.  Not something for every day.  Don't know yet.  I'll figure out something-  I always do.

Now I'm just babbling.  I think I'm still decompressing from work.  I've got a chicken in the oven and I think I'm going to make some wild rice pilaf to go along with it.  So, I'd better get that rice going.  Have a great rest of your weekend.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I need a chicken-sitter

I found out that we will be going on a vacation for a week in August.  Woo Hoo! A real vacation- away from home and construction and garden.
Every few years, we get together with all of V's family. Usually we go to the Outer Banks in North Carolina but this year we're doing something different.  We're going NORTH!  Way North- well, about as far north as some of you dear blog buddies live.  We're going to Northern Minnesota (Rainy Lake area and Voyageurs National Park).  This summer my MIL turns 80.  She was originally from Mn (Baudette, Bemidji and then Cloquet) and wants to show her grandchildren where she grew up.  So, we will, hopefully, be renting some cabins on the lake and having a fun time fishing, canoeing and battling mosquitos.
As usual when we travel, we will board the dog at our favorite local kennel.  The cats we can have a friend stop in and feed every day or so.  But the chickens... the chickens...  Who can I trust to make sure my babies are fed and watered and have the eggs collected.  I can't imagine that someone can come twice a day or more to let them out, close them up and check on them.  Of course, if we ever finish the top of the run and make sure it's really, really predator proof we could probably chance leaving the pop door open overnight- it will be August and most likely hotter than the dickens so that shouldn't be a problem.  But the food and water is an issue- water especially if it's really hot.  And collecting eggs when it's hot.  Hmm...  I'll have to give this some thought and see who I  can strong-arm.

It's definitely winter!

We got the winter storm they were predicting.  It's hard to tell how much snow we've gotten because it is fine, powdery stuff that is blowing all over the place in the 25 mph winds.  I saw one estimate that we got about 5 inches.  And it's still snowing... and COLD!
What a change.  We went from near record highs in the lower 50's yesterday to a high of 15 today.  Man, I'm not acclimated to this kind of weather.  But, you know, the walk from the hospital to downtown to catch my bus this afternoon was almost pleasant.  Oh, it was 14 and snowing and blowing and slippery to walk but invigorating at the same time.  Finally, it seems like winter.

Sadly, V emailed me at work that we've got trouble with the chicken coop.  It seems that with the fine, blowing snow we've had snow blowing in through the roof vents and onto part of the roost.  NOT good.  He shoved crumpled up plastic bags up into the vent holes over the roost as a temporary fix but I'm worried.  He wants to plastic over the outside of three of the vents (we've got 4 roof vents (you know, the kind that are supposed to NOT have snow or rain blow into them) for the rest of the winter but I'm concerned that it won't be enough ventilation to let out moisture- especially now that we've not only got chicken moisture but will have melted snow as well.  My thought was to wrap a few bits of my floating row covers over the vents and weight it down with bricks.  I figure that it should be enough to stop the snow blowing in but still allow ventilation.
It's supposed to be warm again on Monday (back into the 40's but with rain).  Maybe I'll see if I can get rid of some of the most wet bedding- or maybe just add in extra fresh stuff.  It was pretty dark today when I got out there but it didn't look like that much snow.  But still, 8 eggs today. What troopers.

And V didn't even try to let the hens out today.  It was just too nasty.  I know I wouldn't have wanted to be out today.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


This weather we're having is totally wacky!  Today it was 54 degrees!  And now tonight we've got a winter weather advisory with a storm coming.  Maybe Winter will finally arrive.  The temps have begun to drop and the wind is picking up.  Depending on who you listen to, we will get anywhere from 1-2 to 4-6 inches.  I think that it will do what it will do and there isn't anything we can do to stop it.
My seed order arrived today from Baker Creek:
 Aren't they pretty??  But, they made a mistake with my order.  I ordered plain, old, cheap hot hungarian wax peppers.  And they sent me these:
 Black Hungarians.  Ooo....  more black food.  These are much more unusual and pricey than the ones I ordered.  They look like a black jalapeno and the plants have purple flowers.  Too Cool! Maybe a replacement for Eric will be found.  I'm trying to decide if I want to bother letting them know they made a mistake. Not that I really care.  I've got a couple of old seeds left of HHWax peppers in the stash.  I may just want to let this one slide...
And with my seed order I also got myself a treat:
 Their new book!  When you order it from them (rather than getting it through another retailer) not only do you get an autographed copy, you get a free subscription to The Heirloom Gardener magazine.  Too much fun.  Now I've got some new reading material for the winter ;-)

And lastly, for something totally silly.  A photo of V from Saturday evening when he was the DM for our family D&D game:
Smoking jacket and an antique fez he picked up at a thrift store many years ago.   CLASSIC!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Goodbye Rosemary and Eric

Alas, poor Eric has died!  Don't mourn, we're not mourning too much.  Eric was our jalapeno plant that has lived in his pot with us for the last 7 years.  Eric started as an experiment that just kept going.  I'm not sure what happened.  He just suddenly turned brown and withered.  Maybe seven and a half was too much for the poor guy.  But he lived a great life.  Outside in the spring through fall and then inside in front of a sunny window for the winter.  He sometimes provided us with hot peppers year round.  Poor Eric, we will miss you.  But, your pot will be cleaned out and a new pepper will take your place in the Spring.  I'll have to have the children name this one as well... I was never sure how they came up with Eric.
Sadly, I am quite disappointed in Rosemary.  I don't know what my problem is but I can never seem to keep rosemary alive over the winter.  I can't even think how many Rosemarys I have managed to kill.  They all do really well outside in their pots over the summer and seem to make the transition into the house well in the fall.  But, ALWAYS they seem to kick the bucket in January or February.  I just don't understand it.  The plant was in a sunny South window with lots of other plants that are still doing well (the Meyer lemon is blooming up a storm) -except for the lemongrass that Spaz seems to think is his personal greenery to chew... but even it is holding it's own.  But Rosemary... NEVER does rosemary survive.  What am I doing wrong??  I wish I knew. I LOVE rosemary... sigh....

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The last day

Today is the last day of my week vacation.  Tomorrow I go back to work.  I got a lot accomplished during this week but I also took time to play as well.  I even got a few things done that weren't on my to-do list.  The only thing I didn't accomplish is organizing my seed starting stuff.  But, since I've still got weeks and weeks before I can start any seeds I don't really mind.  It feels great to have gotten lots of other stuff done.
What did I accomplish last week?  Let's see... here are some highlights:
- Made and froze waffles for the children for school day breakfasts
- Nearly finished V's victorian shirt (done except for buttonholes and hemming)
- Took a nap!
- Reorganized my sewing area.
- Played with my new serger.
- Sorted seeds
- Placed seed order
- Sorted stacks of papers on my desk and organized that.
- Did mountains of laundry
- Cleared the refrigerator of 'jars with just a little bit that no one will eat that have been there forever'
- Organized the pantry (empty jars downstairs, full jars up)
- Read a book!
- Played games with my family
- Took a box of old children's clothing to donate
- Sorted through old video tapes
- Baked beer bread and sweet potato biscuits
- Watched a couple of movies
- Ran some errands
- Packaged some 'bean bundles' of pre-diced ham and bacon since I discovered that BOTH boys not only ate but LIKED the black eyed peas I made for New Year's that had both ham and bacon (and hot peppers and other goodness).  I was slicing up a ham anyway and used the end bits for beans.
- Raked the chicken coop bedding and added some fresh.
- Helped V fix the clean out door of the coop.
- Cooked delicious, real food
- Laughed a lot
- Snuggled my honey
- Sorted and organized fabric
- Played with the cats and dog
- Lit candles
- Drank some wine
- Enjoyed the 100% complete upstairs bath!!!!
- Purchased some local, organic produce (still going strong with the mild weather we've had)
- Mourned my kale that the deer devastated
- Watched a sunset.
- Had a deep conversation with my teenage son
- Enjoyed the warm weather outside

I hope this week is as fulfilling, not only for me, but for you all as well.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Ready to go

I spent some time this afternoon sorting through and cataloging my seed collection.  This year I even took the time to record the age and, if not many, how many seeds I have of a particular variety. This last bit is important.  How else would I have known that I only have 3 Anaheim pepper seeds in that envelope?!
I made a list of what I/we want to plant in the garden this year and my list of wants/needs and dug through the catalogues.
I've discovered that Baker Creek has everything I want -plus a few extras that weren't on my list ;-)  so I only have to order from one place.  Yeah!!
I've decided that this year, I'm going to grow less variety but try to do it better.  So, instead of the 12 varieties of tomato I planted last year, this year, it will only be 6:  Amish Paste, Polish Linguisa, Amana Orange, Black Sea Man, Crimson Cushion (wasn't thrilled with it last year but it was a bad tomato year- I'll give it another chance) and a hybrid beefsteak.  I'm  growing a hybrid this year because with the garden rotation I'm back in the spot where I had terrible trouble with late blight last time I planted there (the very first gardening year here).  I'm going to try to mulch the heck out of the plants this year as soon as they're planted to avoid any soil splash.  But, this is the low end of the garden and always seems wet.  This won't be a problem if it is a dry year but if we have another wet, wet spring like we've had the past few years I could be in trouble.  I do want to eventually put in raised beds but that's not on the short list at the moment.
For peppers this year, I'll only be planting 4 hot peppers:  Anaheim, Jalapeno, Bulgarian Carrot and Hot Hungarian Wax.  And 3 sweet peppers:  Tolli's Sweet Italian, Purple Beauty (bell) and Ozark Beauty (a red bell).
As always, there will be a couple of eggplants, cucumbers, squash and all that jazz.  New for me this year in the plan are Loofa gourds, fennel and Long Island Cheese squash.  I picked up a Long Island Cheese at the farmer's market last fall and V actually liked it (he's not a big squash fan) so it's definitely one to try to grow.
Some new planting areas for the spring:  the west wall of the barn where I plan to grow the loofas, the west wall of the chicken coop where I want to plant climbing nasturtiums to provide some shade as that wall gets really hot in the summer, and just to the west of the chicken run.  That run gets an incredible amount of hot afternoon sun since it's on the west side of the shop and I'm going to try to plant some sunflowers out of reach of hungry chicken beaks to provide some shade there as well.
So, I've got my plan started.  Now I just need to map out the garden, place my order and WAIT!  With the springlike weather we've been having, that last one is the hardest!!

This year, I hope to finally construct the little greenhouse that V got me for my birthday last year.  It had been on the plan for last spring but the chicken coop took precedence.  Little greenhouse... raised beds... then maybe a hoop house and I'll be really going.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Photos from a record day

Yup, we had a record setting day here today.  We reached 56 degrees this afternoon.  The old record here was 54 so, while these temps aren't unheard of, they are quite unusual.  It made me itch to get into the garden but I KNOW there is still lots of winter left.
But, I promised photos.  I had to wait until my camera battery charged before I could take any photos. I do think my poor old camera is on it's last legs.  I can't zoom more than half way or it triggers a shutdown, the view screen is getting 'foggy' at the edge and the battery isn't holding a charge.  Of course, the poor thing is 5 or 6 years and has been heavily used and abused in it's lifetime.  But, oh yeah, the photos:
 K11 using stone tools while doing something with a stick.  It was warm enough to be outside in shirt sleeves and I declared a 'mandatory outside frolic' after the children got home from school this afternoon.
V and I took advantage of the warm weather to do some work outside. In the chicken coop, V worked to make the clean out door a bit more weather tight and I raked up bedding and added new.
 That's Zoey in the nest.  We got 9 eggs today!  Not bad from 10 hens in January!!  The only one not laying at the moment is River- we haven't had a blue egg for a couple of weeks so she's evidently taking a break.
Some of the next bit is actually yesterday's work. I cheated a bit and rearranged the sewing room even though I still have button holes and hemming to do on V's shirt.  But I couldn't wait to get my hands on the serger.  Now, I've got a great workstation set up:
 I organized my fabric stash into plastic storage tubs under the table. One box for J17's fabric, one for quilting fabrics, one for garment materials and one for miscellaneous bits that didn't fit in the other boxes.  My 30 year old singer machine is set up on top of the dresser that holds my batik and hand dyed fabrics (out of sight to the right in the above photo).  J17 has been using that machine to work on some projects of her own.  And, as you notice, the room isn't finished yet.  We ran out of drywall when we were working on it last time and haven't cleared everything out again since we got a new batch of drywall delivered.  Oh well, it's insulated, wired and lighted.  What more do I need?
And here is my new baby:
I was trying it out with bits of scrap fabric today, trying to learn the ins and outs.  I've been working my way through the manual but have yet to watch the instructional DVD that came with it.  Maybe tomorrow.
I've been working my way through my to-do list.  I'm down to only two more things on my list and it's only Thursday!  One thing (sob, sob, sigh) is to sort through my seeds and make a list for ordering, the other is to organize my seed starting stuff and do a general clean up of that area.  My lighted shelves have become a catch all over the summer and fall and need to be cleaned off before seed starting time arrives.  I know I've got plenty of time to do this but it's one more thing to get done while I've got time.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Winners and babbling

Ok... it's after the new year so I thought I'd better figure out who were the winners of my giveaway.  I trotted over to Random.org and had them generate a couple of numbers. So... the winning numbers were 14 and 17.
So....  That means the winners are Jenna Gayle and 2 Tramps.  So, you two please email me your mailing address to fullfreezer at gmail (dot) com and I'll try to get those packages into the mail this week while I'm off.

Today was the first real day of my vacation.   Oh, I was off on Sunday and yesterday but those were play days.  New Year's day we didn't do much.  We actually spent a lot of time looking for a folder that V has misplaced.  The children have been clamoring for a family D&D game and V couldn't find his Dungeon Master's folder with all his maps and stuff in it (the lost was finally found today in the bottom of a box of books that we hadn't unpacked yet).  But the search got us to tidy up and do a bit of sorting and purging of stuff we don't need yesterday and today.  As rooms have been finished, we have been slowly unpacking books and such and we're finally down to only 2 boxes left and I believe those are V's collection of 'Presidential Papers' that he inherited from one of his uncles.  Not anything I'd probably read but it is a complete set for what it is and most likely has some value.
Last night, instead of D&D we played a family game of 'Kingmaker'.  It's a strategy board game about the War of the Roses.  We stayed up late and V finally won because my royal heir was killed by the plague after I had retired to Calais with him and 700 troops.  C'est la vie...

Today, I got busy on my to-do list.  We all slept in after a late game night and when I rolled out of bed at nearly 9 I made a triple batch of waffles for breakfast and to freeze.  I also did lots of laundry (We finally strong-armed J17 to clean her room and she had two hampers full of dirty clothes!), worked on a Victorian shirt (my next project), brought in another table for my sewing room from the shop where it has been stored and figured out how to rearrange that room so it is more user friendly.

Tomorrow, the children go back to school.  I've got some errands to run and then I hope to finish the shirt I'm making for V.  That finished, I'm going to rip apart the sewing room and rearrange.  Also on my list for the week, reorganizing the pantry, sorting seeds and seed starting stuff, perusing seed catalogues and sorting through the piles of papers that have accumulated on my desk.  My desk is upstairs and tends to be a catch-all for all kind so stuff- not all mine!

Oops, gotta go check my chicken in the oven.  Have a great week...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

12 for 12

Happy New Year to all!

I hope this year has found everyone warm and healthy.  So far for us 2012 has been WINDY!  We've had 20-30 mph winds all day with even higher gusts.  I was out giving the chickens some scratch grains and watching shingles blow off the barn roof.  It has been slowly decomposing since we moved in but this is definitely doing a number on it.  But, I'm not complaining.  We've got the winds for a blizzard but not the snow!  And it has been hovering just above freezing all day.

I promised a look at my goals and dreams for next year.  Oh, I started off doing my usual goal list.  Categories for work, home, garden and personal.  But then, I saw this post by Gina that inspired me to do something a little different.
I always liked the Independence Days Challenge when it was going on, keeping regular tabs in various categories on how I'm doing.  So, after a little tweaking and contemplation, I give you my version of 12 for 12.
In order to make positive change in life, I need to take action.  So, I have come up with a list of 12 verbs that I want to use to transform my life in positive ways.  I'm hoping to be able to incorporate each verb into my life in some way every month.  I'm planning to do a monthly update to track my progress.
Here are my verbs/categories and a little explanation of each (in no particularly significant order):
Create:  To use my brain and skills to make something unique.  To build or construct things.
Dream:  Looking to the future, realistic or not.  To stretch myself in new ways.  Tackling new challenges.
Organize:  I'm not the most organized person in the world (I think I need some lessons from Erin!) so I hope to get my act together a bit more.
Love:  enough said.
Complete:  To finish something large or small... I've got lots of UFOs (UnFinished objects) around the house.
Play:  to have fun- engage with the children or V or anyone else, just for pure pleasure.
Nourish:  both body and soul.  Probably here I'll focus mostly on food and real cooking.
Nurture: myself, others, the land- the possibilities are endless.
Budget:  time, energy and finances
Learn:  whether it's continuing education for work or picking up a new-to-me farm/home skill.
Move:  most likely exercise related- I do really need to get in better shape.
Plan/Prepare:  I couldn't decide which word I liked best but they go together.  Looking to the future and being ready for what may come, good or bad is something I let slip in the last year.

So, there you have it.  I'm hoping it will work for me.  We'll see how it goes.  I'm kind of excited by the possibilities it brings.  Play along if you want.
All in all, 2011 wasn't terrible but I'm not sorry to see it go, there were way too many stressful times.  2012, I know, will have it's share of troubles, but I hope that I'm up to the challenge.

Thanks for coming along for the ride for another year!