Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mmm.... ravioli

I couldn't stand it.  I tried out my new toy... er, tool this afternoon.  There is definitely a learning curve with the ravioli maker but, all in all, it wasn't difficult.
I used a filling of cooked chicken,  blanched nettles, pepper, cayenne, shredded mozzarella and an egg. Sorry, no actual recipe to offer because I didn't really measure anything.  I just threw it into the food processor until it looked right.  It turned out a little dry when cooked.  It would probably be better with ricotta but I14 doesn't like ricotta so this was a compromise.
After rolling the pasta dough into long sheets, it gets folded in half lengthwise and placed into the roller.  
 A little filling is added and the crank is turned..
 more filling is added as the dough progresses through, stamping out lovely little raviolis!
 They look pretty good for a first attempt, if I say so myself.
 I don't know if it is my dough or the machine but my little zig-zag perforations didn't cut.  So, I sliced them with a knife.  I'm not too proud to eat the edges either.
They cooked in less than 5 minutes.  Dropped into boiling water, they are done when they float.

I made a tomato sauce for those who like that, but most of us ate them with a butter/herb sauce.
Browned butter with fresh chives,  fresh garlic chives, pepper and a little dry sage (my sage plant is still dead looking).
Definitely not an everyday food but worth the effort.

V says he sees me going on an all day pasta bender sometime soon and freezing lots of fettucini, spaghetti and raviolis.  Definitely a possibility.

I've been pricing these pasta makers and ravioli attachments online and I'm thinking I got a great deal.

I love Craigslist!!

I made a fabulous craigslist score today!  I'm so excited by this one.
An Atlas hand crank pasta machine (with the 'pasta bike') and... the ravioli attachment!!  All for $40!!
Years ago, we had an atlas machine.  In fact, I think I still have the manual around somewhere.  We made the mistake of lending it out to someone who never returned it and then adamantly denied that we had ever let them have it (needless to say, we don't hang out with them anymore).  I've been using the pasta rollers that go with my stand mixer but I'm happy to have the hand crank version again.  But what excites me even more is the ravioli attachment.
Isn't it beautiful?  I can hardly wait to use it.

Guess what's for dinner this evening.....

And while we were out, we stopped at Earl May- one of the local garden centers.  I needed some rooting hormone powder to try to salvage my forsythia bush that V backed over with the lawn tractor :( and some aluminum stuff for the blueberries.  While we were there, J17 picked up a job application since they are hiring. At least with this one, she does have experience both with plants and sales, having worked with Nan at Wapsi-no-noc Gardens last summer.  But if she gets hired on that could be very dangerous for me.....  a family member with an employee discount at a garden center...... Oooooo.......

Friday, March 30, 2012

Independence Days 2012- week 8

Another week has come and gone and it's been a busy, productive week.  I've got lots to report for this week's Independence Days Challenge.  That's one of the things I love so much about this challenge...  These are all things I would be doing anyway, but this gives me a way to keep track and see how productive I've been, even in those weeks where I don't feel like much has been accomplished.   Usually I manage to do more than I give myself credit for.  Here goes for this last week of March.
Plant something- Oh, baby, yes indeed!  Outside I planted onion sets, peas, carrots, lettuce and some kohlrabi.  Inside, I started 10 varieties of tomatoes, 8 peppers, eggplant and 10 different herbs.
Harvest something- nettles, chives and eggs (44 this week- 45 if you count the 'wind egg'). Clover, grass and dandelions for the chickens.  I can hardly wait until the lamb's quarters get a little bigger....
Preserve something- froze two containers of chives and 2 batches of pasta (one nettle and one lemon pepper).  I'm thinking that freezing fresh pasta may be a good way to 'preserve' some excess eggs this summer.
Waste not- The usual recycling, composting and scraps to the chickens.  I'm saving the gallon sized glass jar that we got kosher dills in at the food Outlet last week.  The children devoured them in record time and it's a great jar.  I'm not sure what I'll be using it for but I can see it for food storage of some sort.  Hmm... maybe that giant package of beans that V was wondering about....
Want not- Stocked up on 25 lbs of flour at the Outlet and divided some of the other purchases we got there into more manageable sizes. Also got some large packages of frozen peas there since we're out of peas and those I planted won't be ready for a while.  Picked up another bar of Fels Naptha soap.  I didn't really NEED any but they were having it on sale at the farm store for less than a dollar.  And, of all things, I also picked up some fishing hooks and bobbers- again on sale at the farm store when I went to get chicken feed.  I brought the boys' fishing poles back from my parents' house a few weeks ago so maybe we'll get licenses and go fishing sometime.
Eat the food- nettle pasta, sourdough crackers, eating from the freezer.  We've been stocking up on things on sale for a while but now realize that we're having a side of beef coming in May so we need to empty room.  Tonight will be pasta with tomato sauce.  I'm thinking I'll be trying some of the fresh frozen pasta.  I want to make sure I like it in the freezer (and that it works!) before I put in any more. I've also got some dough going to make sourdough pretzels tonight for Friday Family Movie Night.
Build community food systems- nothing much here but another dozen eggs to work.  I can't take credit for it but J17 wrote a letter to the editor about keeping the farmer's market in it's current location rather than move it downtown as some have been proposing.
Skill up-  Hmm...  I can't think of anything stellar here.  My sourdough crackers are getting better with each batch and pasta making is becoming less of a challenge.

This seems like it has been a pretty productive week, even with having worked the paying job on Saturday.  I'm hoping next week is just as good but with a little less drama.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Today's eggs

Four and a fart!

Anyone with more knowledge of chickens know what causes this 'misfire'?  It is kind of cute, but.....
It's odd, at first I thought it was a marble or something.  In fact, it isn't very egg shaped at all being not quite round.  Definitely a first for us.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A great article

I know- two posts in quick succession.  Unheard of. But there is a great article in Radish Magazine that you should check out about WWOOF experiences.  Not only are TWO fabulous bloggers and farmers featured but my darling daughter is in the top photo in the article- weeding chamomile.  Now WHY can't I get her to weed that enthusiastically at home?
Feature in the article are Nan of Wapsi-no-noc Gardens and Penny of Wishful Acres Farm.

Check it out!!


Has anyone else noticed that Spring, though quite early, seems compressed?  I think it warmed up so quickly that we didn't have the succession of blooms that we usually have.  It seems that everything is blooming all at once. We've got the forsythia, redbud, crab apples, tulips, bluebells, plums and even lilacs blooming all at the same time.  And we just had the first dandelions not that long ago.  Weirdness.
The other thing that seems compressed is my time.  I feel like I've got so many things on my plate and more keep getting added on.  For example... it's official:
 J17 is sending off her acceptance to Moore. And the acceptance of the two scholarships that she has been offered/awarded.  She has secured scholarships that will cover 2/3 of her tuition- all renewable for all 4 years of school!!!
And she even got a kiss for her efforts:
Ticket was happy to show his excitement for her... or just his enthusiasm to get into the photos.  He put his front paws on one of the dining room chairs so he could reach her better for kisses.

She was not amused.

Now, we just have to secure how to pay for the other third of her tuition and housing costs.  Plus get her through high school graduation and the graduation open house for friends and teachers that she wants to have.  At least my nephew A (the chef) is on tap to help out that day since I'm doing all the catering myself. I may ask my friend Jim if he wants to help as well.
I've also got to work on a powerpoint slideshow that will go hospitalwide on the computer screensavers  for a week in April to mark Occupational Therapy month.   I found out about this yesterday and of course, we have to have it completed by next Tuesday and I'm off work both Friday and Monday.  Ack. I guess that leaves tomorrow- or working on it in my own time- which I don't really want to do.  I've got too many of my own things to do.
I've been getting after V (I do try to NOT nag!) about figuring supplies and placing orders for "THE LAST BIG PROJECT" which will be replacing windows and siding on the addition (and removing the drafty North door that we don't use to replace it with a window) and adding on the extension to the deck.  He has said that he wants this done by J17's graduation party which is on May 19.  If that's the case, we'd better get a move on.  That's just over a month and a half away.  The weather is cooperating so I say- let's GO!  I've got long weekends coming up and I'd really rather get this done before full gardening season commences.  THIS year I want to have time to dedicate to the garden and not have my time divided between multiple projects.  I have discovered that construction and gardening are NOT compatible tasks and this year I want things to be different and I don't want the weeds to be totally out of control (she says as she giggles somewhat hysterically....)

That's about it.  I think I'll go plant some herbs....

Monday, March 26, 2012

Just Another Manic Monday

Ok, I'm stealing the line... but that is what it has felt like today.  Having worked all day on Saturday, my weekend didn't start until Sunday... and I had things to do.  J17 and I ended up running a few shopping errands Sunday afternoon so I didn't get as much accomplished around the house as I would have liked.  So, that left today, which was my 'day off'- hahaha.  Sadly, I slept badly.  A combination of an unhappy stomach (I wonder if I picked up a touch of what kept J17 home from school on Friday),  a front moving in with incredible wind gusts in the middle of the night and hyperactive cats kept me from sleeping well.  Fortunately, V got up to see the children off to school and I finally got some sleep between 7 and 9, although with really weird dreams...
But then it was up with a full day ahead.  I did manage to get almost everything accomplished on my list and a few more.  Between Sunday and today, I managed to get pretty much caught up.  The one thing I didn't do was finish that baby quilt.  I keep hoping that it will be rainy (as forecast) but, while cooler than it has been today (only mid 50's) the weather was fine, if windy.  What have I accomplished this wacky weekend?
Sunday- got the mid-garden tilled and a rabbit fence put up.  Planted peas, lettuce, carrots and kohlrabi.  I harvested some more nettles and got them blanched and in the fridge for use in pasta.  J17 and I did some shopping errands- some stuff for college in the fall and some more urgent needs.
Today, even with little sleep and a late start, I was in a pretty manic state in trying to getting stuff done.  Today included: 5 loads of laundry, I did the dishes, made 3 batches of pasta (one for dinner, two for the freezer),  one batch of sourdough crackers, made a run to the farm store for chicken feed and onion sets as well as a stop in at The Outlet (where V and I stopped on Friday to check it out- it's right down the road from the farm store) to pick up a few other things (I got 25 lbs of flour- Woot!).  I managed to plant said onion sets in the garden and froze two containers of chives for the winter.  I also managed to get most of my warm weather seeds started. So... I started 10 varieties of tomato, 8 kinds of peppers, eggplant and basil.  I'm starting not only seeds for myself but also for the plant sale that we participate in at our church that benefits the local crisis center.  I've still got a few herbs that I want/need to get started but I ran out of steam for the day.
Now, I'm about ready to crash for the night.  With working last Saturday, I've got Friday off so that means that I only have to work three days this week... I could get to like that!!
Someone last week at work commented that it must be restful to have Mondays off,  I laughed and told them that I work much harder on my 'days off' than I do at work.  But somehow, it doesn't feel like work. Being busy at home makes me feel quite content.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Independence Days 2012- week 7

Well, I'm a day late with my update- but better late than never. It has been a crazy week, both at work and at home. Work has been really busy and I worked today as well.  J17 was sick with a stomach bug yesterday. V hurt himself badly enough on Thursday that he actually went to the doctor yesterday -THAT is something unusual!  He was working in the basement putting in some insulation and ended up getting a huge splinter in one of his fingers, starting at the cuticle and extending all the way to the knuckle.  OUCH!  He wasn't able to get it all out here at home so went in to have it removed.  Fortunately, it is looking and feeling better today but he's been cranky for a few days.
Our spring-like weather has been continuing, things are blooming and growing.  And I'm wondering if it really, truly is Spring...  but part of me still doesn't trust it.
But, it's time for my (late) Friday IDC update.
1.  Plant something.  Let's see... radishes in the garden and broccoli inside.  I really want to get into the garden and plant peas and onions and I also really need to get my tomatoes and peppers started.  While not really planting, I did get the old canes cut out of the raspberries.
2.  Harvest something.  Nettles for pasta, grass and clover clippings for the chickens.  A little chickweed for salads. And a Non-Harvest: We've got 7 whole asparagus spears up but I'm going to let them go again this year since most of those crowns were just planted last year and two just recently.
3.  Preserve something.  I can't think of anything else harvest related.
4.  Waste not.  The usual recycling, composting and scraps to the chickens.  Also we finally managed to get rid of our old stove that has been hanging out in the garage for a few years.  There was a grease fire on one of the stoves at our church and it was ruined.  So we offered our old stove- which is actually a really nice stove- I just didn't want a glass-top electric stove.  So, they got a new stove for nothing, we have room back in the garage and we've got a tax write off for next year.
5.  Want not- V and I stopped yesterday afternoon at a store we'd never been to before "The Outlet".  It's an outlet store for one of the local food service companies and you can get some great deals there. Of course, you have to be careful with your purchases because a lot of it is processed, restaurant food but with careful choosing we got some great deals. We got a gallon of EVOO for about $16 and I may have V talked into buying big storage containers so we can buy the 25 lb bag of pinto beans to make our own refrieds (I'm easing him into this prepping thing).  We stocked up on a few staples and tried a few things to see how they are (just saying, the 99 cent packages of tortilla chips are fabulous!)  They also, amazingly enough, carry local produce and meat (much of it pastured and/or organic!!).  We were able to get a huge box of Amana Brats (a local brand) that we will repackage for summer grilling.  75 brats for less than $40.  We were scoping out things like cheese that we may get for J17's graduation party as well.  For purchasing large quantities of staples, this may be our new favorite place.  I'll be sure to avoid the #10 can of processed cheese sauce.  Ack!
6.  Eat the food- nettle pasta, sourdough crackers and bread, tortellini (from the freezer) with pesto
7.  Build Community food systems- um.. not much.  Just more eggs to work.
8.  Skill up- made nettle pasta for the first time ever and it was fabulous!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Have you noticed...

... that the news lately has been really, really depressing.  I just want a little bit of good news.  A few tidbits of happiness and positive outlooks.
I'm not asking for much... just a day of positive news:  A day without people killing each other for stupid reasons; a day without hate, prejudice or war; a day where people don't feel that their political or religious beliefs give them the right to persecute others or tell others how to live their lives.  I just want a day (or even better a lifetime of days) where people respect and value each other as humans.  Oh, and where they respect and value the world around them, as well.
Is that really too much to wish for...  respect for everyone, regardless of age, gender, abilities, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religious beliefs, nationality or the color of their skin?

And I guess while I'm wishing for the impossible, I'll wish for everyone to have access to affordable healthcare; healthful, affordable, real food; clean water; decent shelter and the means to support themselves with meaningful activities and/or work.

What do you wish for?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday rambles

Time for a little Wednesday night stream of consciousness ramble.  My little broccoli seedlings that I planted on Monday is already up.  And it's warm enough in the back room that I didn't even use the heat mat.  I will probably start my tomatoes and peppers soon.  I still don't trust this lovely weather.  Even though the forecast for the next 10 days is still calling for warm weather I have a hard time believing we won't get cold weather still. After all, it is still March.  My seed potatoes are scheduled to arrive the first week of April.   Usually I would be worried that the ground would be frozen.  Now, it will be quite warm for planting them.  Go figure.
Not much else is happening here.  Work has been busy, the weather has been warm and the boxelder bugs have been incredibly annoying.  I must say I really, really dislike finding floaters in my coffee in the morning.  And those darn bugs appear to be feeding on my little seedlings and my experimental celery start.  I've never had a problem with them before but I wonder if it's because they have come out so much earlier than usual.
A fruit update: My bush cherries are blooming and the big apple tree is ready to explode into bloom.  I haven't checked the little trees yet but I'm looking forward to getting a little bit of fruit off them this year.  They have now been planted for 2 years and I'm hoping for a little reward.  At least off the pear that is now probably close to 12 foot tall.  It really grew like mad last year.  The blueberries are leafing out slowly but the currants look pretty good- at least 2 of them.  The third bush looks like quite a few branches died.  It wasn't looking too good last fall already- it lost a lot of leaves early.  I'll have to see how much I need to prune out after it gets its leaves.
And speaking of plants that don't seem to be coming back- of all things, I think my sage died!  I has survived every winter since we've been here- even with blizzards and sub-zero temps- so I can't imagine that it would have winter killed- but it isn't leafing out at all. I'll give it some time yet before I decide that it is a goner for sure.  I'm hoping that with this early spring I'll have plenty of time to get the herb spiral constructed this spring.  Then I'll get a new sage bush.  But, the lavender is growing like mad.  Of course, everything seems to be growing like mad- except for my cabbage seedlings.  sigh....

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy Spring!

May your days be sunny.
With just enough rain.
And may your gardens grow!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Taking the gloves off!

After I put them on, of course!!
This morning, I geared up and headed out to harvest:
 I had to wear gloves because I was cooking with fire!
Stinging Nettles to be precise!   I was making a batch of crackers so would have the pasta roller out and knew that I wanted to make pasta.  When I was out to let out the chickens I noticed that the nettles were about 6-7 inches high already.  Mmmm... nettle pasta!
I harvested my bowl of nettles (sorry, I didn't measure) they were then blanched and cooled.  I squeezed the excess water out to them and popped them into the fridge until I was ready to make pasta later in the afternoon.  I did save all the water used to blanch them and what was squeezed out, let it cool and used it to water plants.  I figure it must have some nutrients in it!
Later, it was pasta time!  I put the cooked nettles in the blender with an egg and gave it a whirl.  Then added it into my pasta dough.
 The basic recipe:
2 1/4 cups flour (I completely forgot that I had gotten semolina flour last weekend- duh!)
approximately 1/2 cup cooked nettles, blended with one egg until smooth
2 additional eggs
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Put the wet ingredients into a well in the dry ingredients and slowly mix the dry into the wet with a fork.  As it gets firmer, use your hands.  Knead it until it becomes smooth and silky, adding additional flour as necessary.
Cover it (either wrap in plastic or cover with an oiled bowl) for 20 minutes. Then cut into pieces, roll thin and cut into noodles.
 I dry mine on an old flour sack towel draped over a wooden clothes rack.
At this point, you can either dry them completely for storage, dry them partially for freezing or cook them fresh.  Mine dried for about an hour before dinner:
 Mmm, nettle pasta with tomato sauce!  These were really good.  Everyone liked them so I hope to make some more of these and maybe some with lambs quarters in a few weeks.  I'm seeing all kinds of colors of pasta coming up.  Beets, spinach, tomato. maybe some more lemon pepper... and I still want to order some squid ink from somewhere.  J17 and I searched local stores this weekend but no one locally carries it.  We LOVE our black pasta!

And now, other things of the day.  First- I lied....  I did not work on that baby quilt.  Yeah, I'm bad.  But since I didn't go to the baby shower I figure I don't have a deadline.  If it had been raining, as was forecast, I probably would have worked on it.  But, today was another glorious, mostly sunny day near 80F again.  I couldn't bring myself to sit in that basement room without windows!
But I got a lot done in addition to crackers and pasta.  I got the old canes cut out of the raspberries, cleared off the herb/flower bed in the garden, cleared off the mint bed and pruned some dead tips off the roses.
And I took a few photos:
 This little ground squirrel posed for me.  I was able to get quite a few shots before he got bored and left.
And- look at this green grass!!
I'm sorry, but the grass isn't supposed to be this green- it is still officially Winter- at least until tomorrow.
 And my bush cherries are blooming!  The first year they have bloomed. I do hope some bees show up soon. There are so few flowers about that I fear the neighboring bees haven't ventured far afield yet.
And the daffodils are blooming.  I know you probably can't see it well, but on the top right petal of that front flower is a lovely little lacewing. I do hope she finds some food and lays lots of eggs :-)

V and I even had a "Date Lunch" today!   We had some errands to run so we had lunch at the Bluebird Cafe.  Lovely! I also repotted my little cabbage and kale seedlings. If they were a bit bigger, I'd harden them off and set them out- but they've only got 2 leaves on them so I'll let them be for a while. I did get my broccoli started but I wonder if I should have just direct sowed it in the garden, LOL!
That was my Monday off. The rain finally arrived around 7pm.  We had a thunderstorm with ferocious winds but now it has tapered off to just rain.  I do hope we get a decent amount.  We have had so little snow that we really need the moisture.  It's not good when there are already cracks in the ground in March.

I wish you all a lovely week.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A sad but good day

I traveled solo down to my parents early this morning.  I left the car at their house and traveled with them to my cousin's husband's funeral.  While it was a sad occasion, it was wonderful to see relatives that I haven't seen for YEARS.  For a funeral, there was much laughter and good conversation.
And even more remarkable- I was able to reconnect with a friend of mine from high school that I haven't seen for 30 years.  We both moved off to college and got married and moved again- and all before the days of email and Facebook. Somewhere along the line we lost touch. Eventually, we both moved back to Iowa- unbeknownst to the other.   It turns out that she was the pianist at the service. We had a lovely, tearful reunion and tried to catch up on about 30 years in 15 minutes.  But, we exchanged phone numbers and emails and hopes to get together sometime sooner rather than later.  I can't wait.

Otherwise, (commence random babbling) the weather continues unseasonably warm.  V and the children were working on the last large indoor construction project today (replacing some floor joists and rerouting heating ducts) while I was gone.  We got eight eggs today from the hens.  Mom sent me home with six jars of tomatoes since we are almost out and have been rationing and they still have 20+ jars.  It's almost hot in the house (79*F at 9:30 pm).  I broke down and turned on the air conditioning in the car on the way home.  Tomorrow will be a day to bake sourdough, do laundry, work on baby quilt and enjoy the continuing 80F weather.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Independence Days 2012- week 6

Another week has come and gone.  My Oh My!  How the time flies!!  The week has been productive in some ways and not in others.  As you are probably aware, last weekend was kind of wasted with the plumbing project.  It took much, much longer than anticipated and threw a wrench into all kinds of plans for last weekend.  However, now we don't have a jumble of pipes and dead ends in the basement.  For those newer to here, the basement of our home used to be used as a vet clinic and many pipes were cut and capped when we removed the multiple sinks from the exam rooms in the basement.  We also now no longer have pipes hanging below the joists in the family room downstairs so we can finally put up a ceiling.  But, plumbing kept me from working on the baby quilt in progress and the lack of water interfered with other things like laundry.
But, on to Independence Days.  Here, I feel like I accomplished something.
Plant something- Planted two crowns of asparagus that J17 and I dug up at my parent's farm.  They were in places that they no longer want asparagus so they were glad to get them moved.  One is pretty small- probably a year or two old while the other is large and has pretty big stalks judging by the remains of last year's stalks.  Other than that, I planted a short row of spinach in the garden.  I noticed today that the first little seedling is up.  Woo Hoo!  Actual gardening in the ground has commenced for the year.
Harvest something-  34 eggs again this week.  Plus a little chickweed for our salads tonight... shhh.... don't tell.
Preserve something-umm- I can't think of anything.  Well, I added orange peels to the vinegar soaking for cleaning solution- if we use it to clean- it tastes pretty good!  I'm wondering how it would be in a marinade for shrimp....
Waste not- The usual: recycled, composted and scraps to the chickens.  V and I14 made a run to the recycling center with a load of cardboard boxes.
Want not- J17 and I stopped at Stringtown again on our way home last weekend.  I got a large package of semolina flour for making pasta.  I wasn't too thrilled with the frozen quiche we tried to use up extra eggs but I figure I can make and freeze pasta to use some eggs and the semolina flour will be perfect for that.  We also picked up some almonds and a huge package of dried apricots.... now if I can just keep J17 out of them!
Eat the food- we've been doing pretty well at eating out of the freezer and pantry this week.  It was kind of nice to stop at the store for milk and look at each other and say "Do we really need anything else??" and be able to answer NO.
Build community food systems- eggs to work and with Roger. Delivered seeds to Mom and came home with a few myself.  Supported the local Amish food store and got cheese and curds at the cheese factory
Skill up- Hmm... have nearly perfected the sourdough crackers.  Made pasta- which I haven't done for a while.  But unhappy with my attempt at whole wheat sourdough.  I need to work more on that.
And finally- with the unseasonably warm temperatures around here, the trees have been exploding into life:
Just look at those buds!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

One nice thing...

One thing about this unseasonably warm weather. Since I KNOW that it's too early to be out in the garden, I don't have to rush around when I get home from work. I actually took time to sit out on the deck and just enjoy the weather... unheard of!
I'm not sure but I think we may have hit 80 here today.  It was still 60F when I got up at 5:40 this morning.  Sunny and warm with a lovely breeze.  Ahh...  heavenly.  The trees are exploding into life so, so quickly and we're likely to actually have to mow the lawn soon!  But I can rake up those clippings for a little bit of chicken heaven.
I've given up stressing about the baby quilt.  I'm not likely to have it finished by Saturday, but I'm not going to the baby shower either, so I'll have Sunday and Monday to finish it up and give it to Katie on Tuesday at work.  I'd really like to go to the baby shower but I'm going to be out of town. The husband of one of my cousins passed away this week and the funeral is on Saturday so I'll be driving down to my parents again on Saturday.  V and the children will stay here so I'll be going on my own. The funeral is at 11 and even if I drove straight back afterwards (which is unlikely) I still wouldn't make it back in time for the shower.
This weekend I'll be starting my broccoli and cauliflower.  It seems so odd to be starting cool weather crops when it's 80 out there.  V has had the windows open recently and it hasn't done my tiny seedlings any good.  Evidently there was a bit of a breeze from the window and a few of them look a bit worse for wear- almost burned.  I've had them uncovered for a while because it was time- but I think the breeze dried out some of the leaves a bit.  Fortunately most of them look just fine.
Roger and Sharon came over for a bit this evening.  Roger was showing off how well (or not) he is getting around on his new prosthetic leg.   It was nice to see them.  We've been over to their house but Roger hasn't ventured out much (except to appointments and therapy) since his surgery last summer.  He is still struggling with stairs but otherwise is doing pretty well. We chatted for a while and sent them off with a dozen eggs.  Sharon said the eggs look too pretty to eat but thought they could probably manage.  She thought they may need to have some more before Easter so they wouldn't have to color eggs.  They would be quite welcome to more.

Today is the Ides of March... I hope there isn't anything to beware....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Who's doing the checking

J17 and I spent yesterday with my parents.  I had some business to take care of down there and I wanted to take them their tomato seeds as well as pick up some pizzas I had ordered from a fundraiser.  While we were there, Mom and Dad were talking about a speaker that had been at the retirement apartment/community where one of my aunts has moved. This lady was talking about how children can tell if their parents need help and/or are slipping into dementia.  We all had a good laugh.   Several of the things this speaker was telling adult children to watch for are normal occurrences, not only for my parents but at my own house.
What did she warn about?
1.  Multiple packages/cans of the same item.  (Because evidently, in her world, stocking up on something is a sign of dementia.)
2.  Floors that haven't been recently vacuumed. (HAHAHAHA!!)
3.  Lots of items in the fridge with some past their expiration date.... really???

I guess it all depends on who is doing the checking.  Dad assured me that just because they bought two cases of canned vegetables (at $.25/can) that they aren't demented...  I wasn't worried. None of the things on that list would concern me.  I guess it's just a different mindset.

We also dug up a couple of big asparagus crowns to bring home.  And we stopped at Stringtown and the cheese factory on our way back but more about all of that some other time.  I've gotta talk about the weather!

The weather has been totally crazy warm! And it's forecast to continue. We're forecast for temps into the 80's!  In Iowa in March!!! Too crazy!  The tree buds are exploding into green. Things are growing!  And they're predicting this weather pattern to last for at least another week and a half.  But I'm just worried that everything will bud out and they it will freeze again.  It can still get nasty cold in April.  I'll just have to cross my fingers.  But, maybe some peas will go into the garden soon....  because Spring Fever is hitting hard!
We even did our first grilling out of the season this evening.  Mmm... locally made brats...
And finally, I was chatting with Roger this evening.  We were talking gardening and seed starting.  He offered me a seedling of the Trinidad Scorpion pepper...  I declined.  It is reportedly the hottest pepper on the planet (2,000,000+ scoville units- the strength of police grade tear gas) and I really don't have an interest in growing something that I need to wear gloves to touch and that you need to have protective gear to cut.  No thanks. I'd probably hurt myself.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sunday Photos

I snapped a few random photos today.  Plumbing woes continue.  We have now been without running water for 34 hours. Although, except for dishes piling up, we have been faring pretty well.  There are a few leaky joints that have been stubborn about getting fixed.  But hopefully the next trial will be 'the one'.  All I can say is THANK GOODNESS for the hydrant in the barnyard!!  I was able to refill the 'flush buckets' for the toilets out there.  Poor V, he has been struggling with this for so long.  Of course, he predicted that it would only take a few hours... um... right.....
But, back to photos...
 Chickweed- the official first flower of the year.

 The hostas are coming up- barely

 As is the comfrey. I obviously haven't cleared that bed off yet.

 I don't think the strawberries ever died back last year.  They seem happy to have their mulch off.
 The chickens wonder what I'm up to...

 The lilac buds are swelling.

 Spaz leads such a rough life... poor thing... so miserable!

And finally....
THIS is what happens when your husband helps package meat for the freezer!
No  "5 pork loin chops" here.  I guess he was bored with my labeling....

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Pasta and Crackers and Spinach, Oh My!

I've been a busy girl today, but didn't accomplish very many things off my list.  I haven't worked on that baby quilt and I didn't get laundry sorted and put away- both things that really need done.  But I did have a bit of fun and got a few other things done.
I'm working on perfecting sourdough crackers:
 These are definitely a few steps up from my last batch.  Still not perfected but MUCH, MUCH better.  Using the pasta roller definitely helped get these to a cracker-y thinness.  I used 7 grain flour this time, which I'm really pleased with.  It gives them a bit more texture and a little crunch.
While I had the pasta roller out, I made some lemon pepper fettucini for dinner this evening.
I haven't made pasta for quite a while and I'm really pleased with how this turned out.  Definitely a keeper recipe- assuming it tastes as good as it smells.
V is still working on plumbing...  I KNEW it wasn't going to go as smoothly as he thought.  He expected to be done in 2-3 hours.  Yup... he's been at it for about 6 hours now.  But I only had to make one emergency run to the hardware store.  He hoped that the emergency vent/valve on the water heater was salvageable... it wasn't.
I also got the mulch off the strawberries, got the goth garden cleared off (there are already things coming up out there!!) and planted some spinach in the garden.
Oops- he's ready for dinner- finally...  Gotta go cook.

Poor Will

We're pretty sure that Will Feral, the wild cat that has been hanging around, is dead. We're sure that there is a yellow cat that has been hit by a car on the highway about a quarter mile away- we're just not sure it is Will.  We were never able to get close enough to really get a good look.  sigh...  THAT is why we don't let our cats roam outside.  Cars fly down that highway at highway+ speed and don't stop for anything.
I'm not getting much done today.  At least it doesn't feel like it.  V is working on plumbing so I spend the morning getting ready for having no water for ???? long.
I've got some cracker dough resting.  This time I'll pull out the pasta roller so I can get them rolled thinner.  Last time with just a rolling pin they were too thick.  While the pasta maker is out, J17 wants to make some lemon pepper pasta since we got some salmon filets for dinner.  Mmmm....
But, the weather is beautiful... I may go out and clear off the goth garden and plant some spinach....
I'd work on my quilt but V is down there soldering and desoldering pipes and generally making a huge mess...  maybe later.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Independence Days- week 5

Ok- let's see if I can do this after 2 glasses of wine for with dinner....
It has been a hellish couple of days at work and I'm unwinding.  I've got a three day weekend ahead.  The children are on spring break.  Time changes on Sunday.  We're doing plumbing tomorrow, work on the floor joists on Sunday and Monday I plan a trip to my parents.  Whoosh.  No rest for the wicked... I must be really bad!!
But, it is Friday.  Time to unwind and time to see how I've done on the Independence Days Challenge.
Let's see....
Plant something- some lettuce seeds in the window box to replace those that didn't germinate from the first time. After tonight I'll probably move that box outside onto the deck since the forecast temps aren't supposed to fall below freezing for at least a week and a half.
Harvest something- still only eggs. But 34 this week.  The girls are picking up production again.  Probably because River has started laying again.
Preserve something-  I know I've used this one before- but I think preserving my sanity this week has been well worth it! Yeah, it's a bad joke- but it's been a rough week.  Otherwise I've got nothing.
Waste not- hmm, this category is definitely getting repetitive.  Composted, recycled, scraps to the chickens. I'm sure there were some other things in the mix but my brain hurts tonight.
Want not- hmm,  worked on the 'bug out bag' this week.  That is something that needs done.  I do think I've got V more invested in prepping for a 'mishap'.  It helps that we also got a letter from our insurer this week reminding us that we need to do a photo inventory and update our insurance options.  There are a couple of sales at the store that I want to take advantage of but haven't had opportunity.  Oh, I guess we did stock up on cat and dog food and kitty litter since they are having a 'pet sale' at the local grocery store.
Eat the food- eggs!  Pasta with pesto, some fabulous sauteed hot peppers and onions from the freezer with our burritos last night. We've also been eating my attempt at wheat sourdough bread- it needs some work...    But I've got to do something with sourdough this weekend... we'll see.  Maybe another attempt at crackers. I just need to get them thinner- I think I need to break out the pasta roller.
Build community food systems- another dozen eggs sold at work.  Not much else.  I really do need to get connected more.
Skill up- hmm... I've got some orange/vinegar cleaner started.  I've seen multiple posts from people this week on making your own orange oil cleaner.  Since we still have oranges I've got a quart jar of vinegar with orange peels steeping.  Otherwise... not much here.  This week has been so busy and chaotic that I'm just grateful that I got through it.  Learning something new hasn't been high on the priority list this week.

I'm hoping that next week will be calmer.  There will be no evening concerts and no birthdays.  Hopefully work will settle down a bit (although I've got a student with me next week which always makes life interesting).  I'm hoping to maybe even get into the garden this weekend.  The extended forecast is looking quite warm (at least for the next 2 weeks) so I'm thinking of planting some spinach and/or chard out in the garden.  I'm contemplating cleaning out the chicken coop this weekend and getting that started to compost... but first I need to build a bin for it...  And do laundry with no water tomorrow.... ack!!!  This won't work.  And I've still got to finish a quilt before next weekend... Blaaagh.....

Sorry- I'm feeling a bit overloaded at the moment.   I've got a lot on my plate at the moment.  Adding to the worries is a good thing, but one that will make life more difficult.  One of my co-workers got engaged last weekend.  Sadly, this means that she will likely be moving to Chicago sometime over the summer. We are already one staff member down so this will make life at work MUCH more difficult if she leaves before we have someone new on board.

But.... good news on V's legal issue front (that I STILL can't really talk about until everything is signed and sealed) is that the whole shebang is nearly finished.  And THAT is a weight off our shoulders...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

It just figures...

Chickens- sometimes they drive me crazy!!

The chickens had managed to scratch a lot of the nesting material out of the 'favorite' nest box. I had been meaning to put some new in but just hadn't gotten around to it.  But yesterday, I discovered a broken (and mostly eaten) egg in that box, I'm thinking that it got stepped on/knocked into one of the bars in the milk crate that I'm using for the box and cracked.  So, of course, I put in a bunch of new wood shavings in that one and some in the other box that they frequent (that was also getting kind of low).  The third box they rarely use so it is pretty pristine.
Fast forward to this afternoon...  I'm home from work, still wearing the skirt I had worn to work today, and head out to toss them some scratch before dark and to gather eggs.  In the middle nest box (not the favorite) there are three eggs.  Are there any eggs in the box by the back wall- the favorite?  Of course not!  Those silly girls had scratched out a little depression in the floor bedding UNDER the nest box- waaaaay in the corner and there were three eggs in there.  So there I am, trying desperately to not drag my work skirt into the rather nasty bedding (ok, it's not that bad but it IS a chicken coop) trying to reach into underneath to get eggs. I'm sure it was probably quite funny to behold.  I do hope this isn't a new pattern for them.  They have never laid under there before.  And, of course- not just one hen did it- but THREE!  It just figures.  They must not have appreciated my attempt at giving them extra nesting material.
And, as it never fails, they needed water...  Why is it that they always seem to need water when a) it's raining, snowing or otherwise nasty weather, b) I'm wearing decent clothes or c) I'm wearing good shoes.
Yes, I sometimes wear my work shoes out to the coop to collect eggs- at least I don't wear heels to work!!
Maybe this will teach me to change my clothes and shoes before I head out to the coop... or not.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wednesday wonderings

Many things have been on my mind today.  Work was quite busy again.  Hopefully tomorrow will slow down a bit.   But, in spite of all that, I've had time to wonder...
Will the recent solar flares do anything dramatic?
Will we be able to work out finances to send J17 to the school of her dreams without too much hardship on the rest of the family?
Will we be able to do the plumbing reroutes quickly and easily on Saturday? Or will we be without water for a while?
Is this the end of winter?  After the next few days, the extended forecast calls for low temperatures not even below freezing.
Will I be brave enough to plant some cool loving seeds in the garden this weekend?
Will I be able to finish that baby quilt this weekend with all the construction plans?
Will I escape the stomach bug that seems to be going around work?
Will V's sister be able to get the cabins reserved for our family vacation this summer (we're all sharing 2 cabins this summer)?
Will I find a chicken and cat sitter while we're gone? (the dog will go to his favorite vacation kennel for the week)
Will I need a chicken sitter for the weekend MY family is having a get together?
Will J17 finish the dishes tonight?
How can I save a few more dollars each month to help the budget?
How can I get V a bit more on board with disaster preparation? (Not "Doomsday Preppers" extreme but ready for bad weather, power outages, etc)
Will I be able to get some decent sleep tonight?  For some reason I haven't been sleeping well recently and I really need some good rest.

Other than this.  I've got nothing.  Not much going on here other than my busy brain.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A name change

We had a birthday at our house today.  K11 is now officially K12.  My baby boy is growing up!  He is already taller than I am.  How quickly they grow up.
I got his cake baked yesterday and decorated it quickly after work today.  I have to admit, it wasn't one of my better cakes. The concept was good but the execution left something to be desired.  I should have taken the time to do fondant- but I didn't have that kind of time since I had to get cake decorated and dinner on the table so J17 could get to her violin lesson by 7:15  (I got home about 5:15)
We had way too much teenage drama yesterday, starting with J17 getting her car stuck in the snow and ending with her getting lost on her way to an orchestra concert at a new venue.  But, the concert was beautiful and the new auditorium was quite nice.
Otherwise, I feel like I spent the day yesterday spinning my wheels.  V and I ran errands in the morning- including picking up gifts for K12.  Then I had to bake cake and muffins for him to take to school for birthday treats.  I made apple/cinnamon/oatmeal muffins.  He said everyone loved them.  I just hope he didn't let on that they are actually good for you ;-)
I also spent part of the day working on stocking a bug out bag, something I have been thinking about but haven't really done- yeah- I'm THAT unprepared.  But all the tornadoes recently have made me realize that I need to have a few things collected- just in case. I do think I've got V finally convinced that he needs to help update the Grab and Go folder.
Today, I was back to work.  Sad, because the weather was absolutely gorgeous today (we hit 70*F!).  But, good thing I was at work or Spring Fever would have hit BAD!  But, work was rough. In addition to being down one staff, we had another out sick today so I picked up part of her work as well as my own.  Combine that with an hour long staff meeting an it made for an incredibly busy day.
Now I'm tired but I've still got lots to do this week.  We've got a big weekend coming up and next week is spring break for the children. We'll be doing some plumbing this weekend and then, when the pipes are rerouted we'll be doing some other construction so we can finally get into finishing the basement ceilings.
I also want to head to my parent's this weekend.  We ordered some stuff from a local club down there that is to come in this week and I don't want them to have to store it in their freezer for too long.  I also want to get Mom her tomato seeds.  She told me I could take some for myself as well. Woo Hoo.  Just what I needed- more tomatoes!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Teenage Math

17 years + running late + hormones+ Drama Gene = unhappiness

The solution for unhappiness must be chocolate chip cookies warm from the oven.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Slow Progress

I got a lot done today.  Of course, as usual, not as much as I would have liked.  I didn't quite get the quilt top finished but I can't complain. I got a lot of other things done.  Let's see...
I got the blocks stitched together and pressed and the borders cut.  Here is a section of border laying by the center to give you an idea:
I didn't get the top finished but today I also: baked bread, made crackers, fed/watered chickens, did dishes and 4 loads of laundry as well as made a quick trip to the grocery store for milk, salad fixings and some ricotta cheese since I made lasagna for dinner.  So, with all of that, I'm amazed that got as much done as I did on the quilt.
And, this afternoon it snowed!!
Quite hard at times... But beautiful.
We ended up with 2-3 inches of light, fluffy snow.
I've got the day off tomorrow so we'll see how much more I can accomplish.  Right now, I'm done for the day.  Whoosh- I've done enough and I'm tired.  Tomorrow I hope to work some more on the quilt but I've also got to bake muffins for K11 to take to school on Tuesday as well as bake a cake.  Tuesday will be a birthday at our house.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

1000 posts...

...and a few photos.

Can you believe that this is my 1000th post?!  Amazing!!  What I find truly amazing is that anyone cares what I write.  But I'll be honest- I value each and every one of you that reads and comments. You are all truly inspiring to me.  I would feel so all alone and 'different' without all of you. Thank you for being here for me.

Now, on to other things.  I was busy all day but don't really feel that I got that much done- or at least, I didn't accomplish everything on my list.  Hmm, I seem to remember others complaining about this.  Maybe we need a support group.  But, a few photos of the day:
 Ticket is just the cutest thing, isn't he??  Here he's begging for a treat.  Amazing how cute 125 lbs (56.7 kg) of dog can be.
 And V is also pretty cute...  at least I think so!
But, I know you're all waiting for baby quilt progress photos...  here's a rough lay out.
I got it all washed, cut out and the 4 patch squares made, they just need pressed. Several things I'm glad of in my  design...  1.  That I found that blue in the stash.  Again- the colors are better in real life than in the photo but it does match the blue in the little bits of sky in the animal print and in the border.  2. That I opted to do the 4 patch and not big squares of all the fabrics. That leopard print is so eye catching that it would be really distracting any bigger and would draw away from the focus fabric.  3.  That I cut the animal print into the big alternate squares.  Any smaller and the design may have been lost.
I should be able to finish the top tomorrow and quilt on Monday.  Hopefully I can be finished in a weekend.

Independence Days- week 4

I'm a day late- but not a dollar short.  It's time for my Independence Days check in.  It has been a bit of a weird week with much of last weekend spent doing other things.  But here goes:
Plant something- nothing this week, but all my little seedlings are up and doing well.  With the warm weather we're having, seeming like an early spring- I may plant some experimental kale in the garden under a row cover in a week or two to see if I can jump start the gardening season.  Usually it's April for early stuff but maybe I'll try mid March this year.
Harvest something-  Again- only eggs.  30 again this week- the girls are consistent at least.  And River has started laying again.  We got our first blue egg in a couple of months on Thursday.
Preserve something- more dried orange peel for future baking.  I picked up some blood oranges at the store (on sale for $.99/lb!!) and since I was juicing some for blood orange and cream sauce for our chicken last night, I decided to save the zest.  Other than that- not much.
Waste not- the usual: scraps to chickens, recycling, composting.  Scored another egg carton from work. I do need to bring in the rest of my seed starting stuff from the barn and get it cleaned before I really need it.  I reuse my old flats for, I think, forever.  I did get some new flats last year as my old, old ones were looking really bad and were starting to leak.
Want not- stocked up on some dried fruits and such at Stringtown.  Placed our order for beef that will arrive sometime in May.   Cheese curds were gone within the day. We also hit up the 'truckload' sale at the grocery.  Even though I'm not thrilled about factory farmed meat, we got a whole pork loin, a case of ground turkey and some chicken breasts for the freezer.
Eat the food- lots of sourdough bread.  I may experiment with crackers today.  And Eggs... we eat eggs with regularity.  Still working on eating from the freezer and pantry.  I have realized that I have LOTS of dried beans that we need to eat so we can refresh the stocks. I'm seeing some soup in the future.
Build community food systems- nothing this week unless ordering seeds for Mom counts.
Skill up- I've got nothing this week other than some CEU stuff for work.

Now, I'm going to go edge and wash baby quilt fabric.  Should be fun.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fabric acquired!

I know it's Friday and time for my IDC update.  But after running around all day and half of the evening, having a late dinner and a glass of wine, I'm not up for that- so I'll do my update tomorrow.  But, some of my running around this late afternoon/evening was fabric acquisition for baby quilt.
I was originally going to steal Mama Pea's idea of using the coordinating receiving blankets to make the quilt, so, J17 and I made a trip to Target (the first of several stops) where we discovered that, of course, they were OUT of the safari themed blankets.  Really???  On to plan B....
So, we stopped at the music store (the next lesson book for K11, new strings and rosin for J17) on the way to the fabric store where we shopped.
Fortunately, everything we selected was on sale- some at 50%!    Here's the selection:
The flannel giraffe print to the far right will be the backing.  Then we've got the main animal print, the orange, green and leopard coordinators and the stripes to make a border.   The colors actually go better together than they look in the photo.  I'm planning to do just simple squares of the 4 fabrics with the striped border. I don't think it will take too long but I want to make sure I get the fabrics washed first- especially that flannel backing.
And, with the sale prices, I ended up spending probably what I would have spent on a gift from the registry anyway, so, except for my labor, it evens out.  And I'm not counting batting- I've got plenty in stock- even the nice cotton batting that I like to use for baby quilts.
I've never been one for pastel baby quilts. They don't really see pastel colors well and I always love the bright colors and bold patterns for babies- especially for boys (which this one is supposed to be)- call me weird if you want.  I was pleased with my fabric choices and J17 and I probably made quite the sight as we debated choices "No, definitely the leopard and not the tiger- the color temperature is wrong".   I really had hoped for a blue but we couldn't find the 'right' blue in the entire store..  Oh, well, the green works just as well.
Now, since it's Friday night, I think I may just have another glass of wine.....

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Can I do it??

I got an invitation today.  An invitation to a baby shower.  On March 17th.  Do you think I could whip up a baby quilt in time?

One of the social workers I work with is expecting at the end of April.  Honestly, I've been so wrapped up in my own stuff that, while I realized she was pregnant, I didn't really think about it much until I got the invitation.  Oh... I should do a quilt.  That would be nice.  Nothing fancy- just a baby quilt.  But can I do it in just over 2 weeks?  Hmm....  She is having a safari theme for her nursery (I checked the stuff on her registry at Target).  I could do something simple- but I'd have to get the fabric.  Oh, the hardship to have to go to the fabric store.  I've got good stuff for blenders but I'd need a main theme fabric.

What do you think- is it feasible?  Or should I just pick something off the registry?

Hmm, I'm leaning toward the quilt.  Baby quilts aren't that big.