Monday, March 25, 2013

RIP Brown Betty

Yes, it is true. After only a few short weeks, Brown Betty is another of my casualties.  I don't  know what it is about me, but if it can be broken, I will break it. I have always been that way. Just ask my family. Just last week I broke my Bodum tea press that I like to use to make herbal tea in. It is the teapot version of a French press coffee maker. I was peeved at myself, but no big deal. I'll get another one sometime.

But Brown Betty? Oh man, that was heart breaking.  My shiny dark brown pot-bellied friend is no more. I had her sitting on a shelf over the stove and was putting a large casserole on the shelf above when I lost my grip on the dish and it hit the shelf the teapot  was on and broke the spout off. I also broke two sweet little antique cream jugs I have had since I was a little girl. If you are going to go for broke, go all the way I guess. I briefly considered saving the pot and planting some moss in it. Some coming out the top and some growing from the gaping hole that used to be the spout. But I figured whatever I planted would get water logged, so I gathered all the chunks of broken redware and disposed of it. I will be getting another, you can count on that. Just a few short weeks with my English friend has me spoiled to the earthiness of these classic teapots. I can't say the tea tastes any better, but there is just something about that humble little pot, fragrant tea steam wafting through the air,  that makes the whole process that much more pleasant. As if brewing a pot of tea could be anymore pleasant.

After such a debacle, I definitely needed a little comforting, so I turned to another tried and  true friend-food. Brown Betty and I may have been new friends, but food and I go way back. Today's food Rx need to be warm. It was a day of ferocious wind, snow showers, rain, and very cold temperatures. By the time I made my rounds to the farm to gather eggs and on to the dairy to pick up my dairy CSA, I was frozen to the bone and still bummed about my teapot. I needed pudding. Warm, vanilla pudding made with fresh milk, a little sugar, and eggs that were just hours old.

I remembered seeing a recipe on a new blog I found. Simple Farmstead Cooking . There are lots of good recipes here. The author has another blog too. Life at Cobble Hill Farm If you like blogs about simple country living, gardening, pets, and chickens, then you will like this one. I only found it a few days ago, but I am already a fan.

Back to the pudding. It was a simple recipe. I don't really make homemade pudding, even though warm vanilla pudding is heavenly.  I end up scorching it every time. Pudding is the MOTH's department. He is patient; I am not. But this recipe cooked up quickly. In no time, I was hunched over a bowl of the stuff, blowing on it so I could get its warm comfort inside me as quickly as possible. Honestly, I could have eaten the entire saucepan of creamy, sweet goodness.

It's been a few hours since BB's demise and I think I might be ready to head over to the English website I got her from and order another. It's a testament to her character that I must have another. And the healing power of vanilla pudding.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Cooking in my Sun Oven

Last year I bought a solar oven to add to my emergency supplies. I have always been fascinated with solar energy and the MOTH and I would someday like to convert our farm house to solar. Years ago I bought a booklet on making a solar oven from aluminum foil and cardboard boxes meaning to do it as a science project with the girls. That never happened, but I still maintained my interest.

When I came across the Sun Oven while surfing the net, I knew I had to have one and started saving up to buy it. I have not been disappointed. In a lot of ways it is like a crock pot that is powered by the sun. But you can also pasteurize water, sterilize medical instruments and dehydrate food in a solar oven. The company that makes these ovens is promoting their use in third world countries for everyday use and during disasters. Because people in those places cook over smokey fires they have a lot of eye problems. The solar ovens alleviate this. They are even building giant models to use as bakeries for communities.

The one drawback to the solar oven of course, is that you can't use it in cloudy weather. But cold weather? As long as the sun is shining, no problem. They have even used it on Mt Everest. I used my solar oven a lot last summer when it was hot and sunny and it worked just great. As winter settled in, I sort of forgot about it in favor of my nice warm kitchen with it's big oven and crockpot for making all those winter soups and stews.

However, one Saturday before leaving for the farm to work, I decided to see how well it worked on a sunny, but cold day. It was ten o'clock in the morning when I set it up to pre-heat. It was in the upper 30's outside. This is the temp in my oven after ten minutes. Right at 100 degrees.

I went inside and put together a pot of chili, which took about ten minutes. It was a simple recipe using Bush's Chili Magic. When I took the pot outside to place in the oven, this was the temperature inside the oven:
300 degrees! In a span of twenty minutes, my oven had gone from cold to 300 degrees.It eventually got up to 350 degrees. On a cold winter day in the 30's. With nothing but the sun. That just amazes me.

So far the sun and I have baked cookies, casseroles, soups, beef stew, and now chili together and the only thing that I have had a little trouble with is the cookies. It only takes about five or ten minutes longer than baking in a traditional oven does, but both times I have tried, I have left them a little too long not believing it could be that fast and they have turned out hard. You can't really burn anything in the solar oven except stuff with sugar in it, so I need more practice in the baking department. I plan to work on that. I also want to bake bread in it.

If you are into new cooking gadgets this is definitely a fun one to get. It is also great to have for use during an extended power outage. Armed with a solar oven, and a good camp stove and dutch oven, your diet wouldn't have to suffer if you ever find yourself in a power down situation.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Here she is, my new best friend Brown Betty. She is stout, sturdy, earthy, and practical (Ha! I just described myself). No wonder we get on so.  As you can see she was born in England. In the picture she looks black, but she has a rich chocolate brown glaze over her redware foundation. I just love some of the sentences printed on the info tag included. "The Red Terracotta Clay with its Rockingham Glaze, Coddles the brew, and gives the perfect cup of tea." The capitalization was theirs. I love the word "coddle".

I already owned a teapot-a pretty white one and it brewed tea just fine. When the occasional craving for tea came on I used it. But I have spent  many happy hours lately watching the British TV series "Larkrise to Candleford" and of course, "Downton Abbey" and now I am embracing all things British. I guess it was seeing all that steam rising from all those teapots. Some of them humble models like my girl and some very ornate. Now I have to have a cup or two everyday. Nothing fancy, just English Breakfast Tea. And I don't use teabags. I like the whole business of heating my pot and adding my leaves and then using a little strainer when I pour it into my cup. Then I add just a touch of fresh milk from the dairy cow share I participate in. The simple things really are what make life good.

All of this tea drinking has brought about an unexpected mini-obsession. Tea Cozies! I already owned a pretty blue toille cozy that I made for my white teapot and I just love cuddling Brown Betty in it and tying the ribbons to keep her round belly full of tea hot. But now I am perusing knitting sites for knitted versions and looking at fabrics to make a couple more quilted versions. It's a little crazy. And probably silly sounding to some. But just so you know-apparently I am not the only one with this obsession. Typing "tea cozy" into the search engine at Ravelry, the knitting world's best online resource, you get tons of pictures and patterns for knitted and crocheted tea cozies.

This in turn has lead to an interest in British foods and cooking. I am collecting some ingredients so that I can invite my girls over for a spot of tea and biscuits and some other British foods. Amazingly, tucked away here in the Appalachian Mountains, you can buy quite a few British foods at the local grocery. Maybe it's the Scotch/Irish influence of the population? I don't know. I am just glad. I've got my clotted cream and I am a happy girl. Cup of tea, anyone?

Monday, March 18, 2013

It's been crazy busy here. The MOTH took a week off from work so that we could work on the plumbing at the farm. Until we get that done, everything else is kind of on hold. Floors can't be put in until we get all the pipes and stuff in place. The weather, however, did not cooperate. Rain, snow, and very cold temps brought all work under the house to a stop. We had lots of bee hives to put together and paint so we worked on that and after the weather cleared, we got our backdoor in. Yay! The original back door was on the side of the house under the porch slope. It was very low and very ugly. We moved it so that we could put in a standard height door. Now our tallest son-in-law can come in without stooping.

The nine straight days of farm work and renovations was followed by the quilt festival in Pigeon Forge, which meant the Cherry Pit was a buzz of activity with all of us working extra days. It's a big deal-quilters from all across the country and overseas converge on the area. And they are ready to shop and spend money, let me tell you. We had one customer spend $900.00 on quilting supplies! I can't imagine doing that, but I bet it would be fun. They save their money all year long, rent cabins with their friends and have a high old time.

After all these days away from my home, I am glad to be back and in the swing of things home-related. I was awake by 5 a.m. and had bread rising by 5:30, breakfast made, coffee in the French press, and when Jerry came down, I was planting tomato seeds in peat pots. Yes, I have missed being home. I told Jerry last week, I sure would be glad when our wife came back. No home-cooked meals, laundry piled up and the kitchen a wreck, not to mention the rest of the house.  I am no paragon of neatness, but I do like a small amount of order in my life. And I miss my girls. I haven't got to spend much time with them at all lately.

I did get some beans canned though. Well, jelly beans that is. The MOTH loves Starburst jelly beans, and of course, they are out in force at Easter time, so we have been stocking up and I am putting them in Mason jars and vaccum sealing them with my Food Saver. They should stay good for about a year that way. So in addition to all my jars of home-canned stuff all lined up in my pantry, I now have some very colorful jars of jelly beans to add a little variety to the mix. I had a pretty picture of them all lined up to show you, but my computer is not co-operating and won't let me post pix right now.

That freshly-baked bread is calling my name. I think I will spread a little butter on a slice, grab Brown Betty for some tea and have a little sit-down. I don't think I have told you about Brown Betty yet even though I have mentioned her before. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

And the winners are...

Linda Dickerson and Carla Nelson! I will contact both of you via FB to get your mailing addresses. Congratulations to you both. This was fun. I will host a another give-away soon. I am wanting to make a batch of snow so maybe I'll do a homemade soap give-away.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The MOTH is on vacation from his paying job this week, which means we are putting in a full week at the farm working on the plumbing. Being on "vacation" means not having to hit the highways at seven a.m. for his hour commute, so we sit and enjoy a leisurely wake-up time, drinking coffee and watching the news and the weather channel.

This morning Pat Boone appeared in a commercial peddling those walk-in tubs for old folks. Watching it, Jerry recalled being a young child of six or so watching American Bandstand.  A young, handsome, Pat Boone was on performing "Catch a Falling Star".

"And now here I am fifty something years later, watching a half-nude , old, Pat Boone take a bath and a minute later I see his daughter pushing face lifts in another commercial. And I am thinking of buying one of each."

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Give-Away!

Finally I have my little project completed and ready to give away. Do you ever have just a few dishes that need doing quickly and the dishwasher needs unloading and you don't feel like doing it? I HATE unloading the dishwasher. Or maybe you have some things that need to be hand washed? I also dislike dish drainers. They either are taking up one side of the sink, or part of the counter, or you have to find a place to store the thing when not in use. I was spreading a tea towel on the counter to take care of this but one day at work we got in the cutest kitchen themed cotton prints that I had to have fat quarter of each (that's an 18"x22" cut for the non-quilters reading this), and then I needed to find a use for them. That's when I hit upon backing them with recycled towels and using them for those small sinks of dishes we all do. I just throw one on the counter, put my washed dishes on them and when dry, I hang the little towel dryer to dry. I love these things. I have quite a stack of them and have made them for my girls. If you do any canning, they also make great towels to put your jars on after they come out of the canner.

Making these sort of led to the next project, the little knitted dishcloths. These are big among knitters right now. Short and sweet. A perfect take-along project. And useful. If you can bring yourself to use them that is. I think they are so cute that I can't use mine! That is one reason I am sponsoring a give away. Maybe someone else can. I found this pattern on one of my favorite blogs. It's called "Homespun Living". Check out my list of favorite blogs to the right.  Deb, the writer of the blog, created these patterns. She makes all kinds of neat stuff. Her bags are gorgeous. I want one! The waffle cloth is called Aunt May's Dishcloth and the smaller one is her Petite French pattern. The original is red and white like so much French linen is, which I love and adore.

After doing those dishes, you may have a little case of dishpan hands, so I am throwing in a small tin of my handmade cream. I call it "Cream of Roses" and it is marvelous stuff. Made with rose hip seed oil, grape seed oil, cocoa butter, rosewater, and beeswax and scented with Rose Geranium, it will be a treat to smooth on. Heck, you could almost eat the stuff! It really does smell divine.

The towel set comes in two colorways-a red and cream with cute kitchen stuff on the towel dryer and a retro aqua and white set also with kitchen themed stuff on the fabric. I know the photos aren't that great so you may not be able to see the detail.  The dryers are backed with a nice white terrycloth I bought, didn't recycle. Nothings too good for my readers. LOL both sets will include the hand cream even though it is not in both photos.

To get a chance to win, simply leave a comment here on my blog, or if you can't figure out how to do that (been there, so I know), after reading go to facebook and leave one. I will draw a name from the comments on Tuesday and announce the winner here Wednesday. Good luck!
One girl's bleak day is another's perfect day I guess. I was talking to my sister yesterday, and as I usually do, I asked her about her weather. Not because there wasn't anything else to talk about, but because she lives eight hours west of me and the weather she is having today is usually the weather I will have in a day or so. After giving me her report, I added that it was a gray, cold, blustery, snow shower kind of day in my neck of the woods. "In other words, bleak," was her reply.  "No, perfect!" was my rebuttal. I know to a lot of people ,especially when we are at the end of the winter season,this would be their description of the above kind of day. Everyone is ready for Spring and I am looking forward to the planting season too. But it's no secret to those that know me that I love winter and I love "bleak" days, so I am holding on to the these last few days of  winter.

The candles I light have an extra glow to them when they don't have to fight with intense sunlight. The snow flakes falling, even if it doesn't accumulate, add a stillness to the air that nothing else can match.  If it is a stay-at-home day, I scurry about working on my nest, tweaking this little vignette, checking my pantry, maybe working on a quilt for the next season of cold, or doing a little knitting. I am as happy as a squirrel in a nest full of acorns. Hmm...if you believe in such, maybe in a former life I was a squirrel, or maybe I am coming back as one. I think the odds of my ever being an angel are pretty slim, so I guess a squirrel is OK.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

At first I thought it was just an anomaly. It was six a.m. and I was not only awake but  the bright-eyed and bushy tailed kind of awake. I was confused and felt slightly adrift. What does one do that early in the day? The MOTH looked at me in disbelief when he came downstairs and saw me sitting there blinking in confusion and  looking around as if I didn't recognize my surroundings. And wonder of wonders, he could smell coffee and he wasn't the one who had made it. Seems this Moon Flower is turning into a Morning Glory.

I really didn't expect it to happen again. I mean, I am a night person and a hardcore insomniac. Always have been. The only part of that pattern I would have liked to change is the insomnia. Insomnia is NOT fun. Night time was my alive time. A friend who has always been a morning person has always joked between the two of us we could keep a business open twenty-four hours.

But it has kept happening. In a strange reversal of habits, I find myself yawning at nine p.m. and in bed around ten. Granted, the insomnia is still my bed partner. It takes on average two hours of tossing and turning to fall asleep.After only a few minutes the bed is in shambles. Even my pillows are twisted in knots.  I sleep about an hour, wake up for an hour or so and then sleep til six. That doesn't add up to much sleep, but I earn every second of it and am ready to give up the fight and get on with things.

This new sleep pattern is not entirely by accident. At the first of the year, I determined I would like to get away from the medically induced sleep that is pretty much all I have ever known. Insomnia began for me at a very young age. Since about the age of four, sleep has always been brought on by an antihistamine or some type of prescription strength sleep aid.  My mama raised me on Benedryl and Valium.  If it could even remotely be prescribed for sleep, a doctor has tried it on me over the years, some working better than others. Sometime I'll have to recount my experience with Ambien. Eating while sleeping-not a good thing. That is decades of facing each day still feeling the effects of some type of sleep aid. No matter what time I began my day, it was a struggle to swim to the top of the sleep-fog I was in. So waking and actually feeling alive has been quite a shock to the system. I kinda like the shock.

So I am getting to know the morning time. I am finding it to be a good time to write. Sometimes, like this morning, I start a batch of homemade yogurt that will be ready later in the day. My "morning person" friend is thrilled at the possibility of meeting at Starbucks for coffee early one day. The gardener in me is seeing the advantage of getting out before the heat of a southern summer hits to tend to things.I don't know if this will last, but I am thinking this new Morning Glory might actually get to see the actual flower in bloom this year, rather than just relying on the picture the seed packet displays.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Reflecting on this past weekend I can't help but hope to have many more like it in the near future. At least I hope it 's the near future. Sometimes I don't think we will ever be move-in ready. Saturday was a cold and gray February day. Once again, Jerry worked on wiring, leaving me to do some early spring garden chores. With the sound of the chickens clucking and scratching in the background, I built frames for raised garden beds and did some maintenance in the herb beds already up and growing. I sprayed the fruit trees and put up a new trellis for my Hops vines. I use a lot of tincture of Hops and Valerian for my insomnia so I want to grow my own. It can get a little pricey at ten dollars for a one ounce bottle. As an experiment, I had grabbed a bunch of onions starts at Lowes and stuck those in a small plot. I want to see if the voles are going to eat them. If they do, I need to figure out a way to stop the little underground terrorists from eating all my hard work. They have a sub-terrainien city going on down there and I am afraid they are going to be a huge problem. They don't seem to care for some of the aromatic herbs, I have planted, but I want to plant lots of veggies too. From what I have read, they can be hard to get rid of. I am thinking some felines might be in my future. And maybe another Scottish Terrier. You can't beat  a Scotty for rodent duty.

Signs of spring were everywhere if you looked closely. Daffodils with creamy swollen buds waiting for the perfect moment to pop open and show their yellow faces to the sun, fruit trees slowly waking up to the new season with their own little buds winking out at the light, the bees finding pollen in the tiniest flowers and heading home to the hive to deliver their day's work.

Sunday was clear and cold and we got an early start. With a basic lesson in carpentry Jerry turned me loose making a brooder box for our new chicks that will arrive in April. I have a lot to learn in the woodworking department. My new brooder looks more like a hobo house, but it will do what I need it to do, which is keep rats from getting the new babies. Jerry yet again worked on the wiring and later in the afternoon the kids all came out to do some target practice.

Brittainy brought lunch and we sat in the sun and watched the kids play. Being "town" kids, they love the freedom of being able to run and romp on all that green pasture and hillside. The Tonka trucks were sat on and rolled down little rises with the same thrill that an amusement park ride produces. But I think it was more fun because they dreamed it up themselves. I can't wait for the day we live there and the kids can just come anytime, we can stop our work and they can just play to their heart's content. Those thoughts are what keep me going when doubt creeps in and tries to convince me that we will never get finished. Well, maybe not finished, but at least livable.

Friday, February 22, 2013

I'm not a shopper.  I loathe going store to store looking at clothes.I shop for clothes only out of desperation. When that last pair of pants start looking really shabby, then I resentfully head to town and spend as little time as possible replacing worn out stuff. I make my choices, head to the check-out and breathe a sigh of relief and hope I don't have to do that again for a long while.  You would have better luck getting me to cuddle a snake than you would convincing me to try something on in a dressing room. I mean, they have those "enlarging" mirrors in there. I know for certain I am not as big as though things make me look. Yeah, right. I won't even start on the lighting.

Food shopping is another matter entirely. I do like to food shop. Hmm... maybe that is why I hate those mirrors in dressing rooms so much. This may sound strange, but whenever the MOTH and I are traveling, one of the things we like to do is peruse the grocery stores of whatever town we are in. I like to see what sort of different things they stock for the locals and Jerry heads for the bean aisle to look at their Bush Bean display. He should get a dedicated employee prize or something for that I think. I have even caught the man rearranging the shelf to make the cans look better. Nothing sends me into swoons faster than a fancy, gourmet type of grocery store. I can stay for hours, looking at all the interesting stuff that I read about in food magazines. I keep a running list in my head of unusual ingredients I come across in my recipe reading and then I look for them in the fancy stores. That's why I now have three kinds of Paprika in the pantry, Walnut oil in the fridge, and duck fat in the freezer. I just learned that duck fat makes great fried potatoes. I bet duck hunters already knew that though. I will be trying it soon. Last year, I went in a huge Asian market in Knoxville and almost fell to my knees; there was a strong odor of fish. The other reason?
Displayed before me were all manner of exotic vegetable and cooking ingredient. In a matter of minutes I was clutching baby Bok Choy and Lemongrass, my heart thumping with the thrill of finding these two Asian staples. I could already taste the soup these were going in. The little Mexican markets that are popping up everywhere do the same thing for me. I go in, ask questions, get lots of head nodding, smiles, and polite, "Si's" and come out smiling swinging my bag of hot peppers  or Chorizo. I am learning to write everything down before heading into one of these places. That way, I can just show them what I am looking for. Prevents too much confusion.

I also must admit to enjoying internet shopping. What's not to enjoy about sitting in your pj's, sipping tea and perusing the world's wares? The gas mileage is great, the lines are short, and there aren't any pushy sales clerks. And no dressing rooms. That alone induces me to do most of my clothes shopping online. The rule around here is if you shop online, you have to put the cash in an envelope to pay the bill at the end of the month, so that does keep me reigned in. I did a little shopping this way yesterday in fact. My acquisitions include a Brown Betty teapot (more about that in another post), some British foods for a tea party I am having for my girls, cultures for cheese making, herbs for tincture making and yarn. Always a little yarn.

OK, I admit it. After reading this, I guess I am a shopper. You sure learn a lot about yourself when you keep a blog.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

At least fifteen minutes

I read somewhere that if want to stay in the habit of posting on your blog on a regular basis, then you should commit to writing at least fifteen minutes a day. Even if you don't really have anything that you think is blog-worthy to write about. I am going to try it, but I know it won't happen everyday. Maybe most. We'll see. If it ceases to be fun; what 's the point? I mean this is just a little hobby. It's not like anyone is hanging on to my every word or lying awake at night waiting for the next post.

I just ordered a little too much cotton yarn for making dishcloths. I am sure people are wondering, why? Well, they are just a little mindless project to have on hand when you are watching t.v. or stuck somewhere waiting. The patterns are easy to memorize which means all you have to put in your project bag is the ball of cotton and your needles. And they are such a cute expression of the home arts. I have to admit though that I have a little stack of them and I can't bring myself to use them! They are in the French red and cream that I love and they look so cute piled atop a tea towel that I embroidered that I just like seeing them on my counter.

Speaking of simple knitting. We are hooked on the PBS series "Larkrise to Candleford" right now. It's set in late 19th century England and is one of those shows that just gives you a glow as you watch it. Nothing unsavory in it at all. Unfortunately, it only lasted four seasons and we are on the last one. I will miss it.  All the farm women wear a version of this simple wrap around shawl. Of course, they are knit from rustic looking yarn that looks like it is fresh off the sheep and I am wanting one badly. I am thinking I may have to entreat my spinner friend to spin up some roving for me if I can find the right rustic stuff for her. Oh yes, a trip to the local yarn shop.

Also, still on the subject of projects, I am thinking I may have a little give-away here soon. Something homemade. Just a little something. We call them "happies" in our family. My oldest niece started calling them that years ago and the rest of us picked it up. So watch for a "Happy" announcement soon! And that, my friends, took fifteen minutes.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Did you have a good weekend?

Like all Monday mornings, it is the question of the day. It's what polite folks ask to get the day started with others. My Monday work is at home, so I won't be asked this question. But I can tell you for sure that tomorrow when I walk through the door of the little quilt shop where I work on Tuesdays, I will be greeted with, "Hey girl! Good to see you! Did you have a good weekend?"

Well, that depends on how you describe a good weekend. If a good weekend entails waking up on Saturday with two days ahead of watching sports on the television, or meeting friends for shopping and dinner out, a movie, or catching up on sleep or craft projects, seeing the grand kids, then no, I didn't have a good weekend

That used to define a good weekend to me. And it will again in a year or so. Except the sports part. Truly, truly, truly abhor anything sports related. Don't get me started. Saturdays find the MOTH and me eating a good breakfast and donning old work clothes and heavy boots to head down the road to the ramshackle little farmhouse to put two days worth of labor into our dream bank. I'm sure to all who see it, it is  more a nightmare than a dream. And sometimes, when I am doing something I don't particularly care to do, I keep hoping I will wake up and find it all done. Not going to happen. But we soldier on. One nail at a time. One trench at a time.   I think the planned tin roof going on this summer is going to really sparkle the place up. Getting the walls  on the back side will help too. Not to mention paint. And windows.

I got to un-bury and dig out the trench that was dug and buried last weekend. Yeah. Fun stuff this renovating. The only good part about that was watching how excited the chickens got at all that fresh dirt flying about. They pecked and scratched looking for good stuff to eat while I grunted my way through shovels of dirt. If grunting will get the job done, I am the woman for the job. I am a noisy worker. If the work is not too hard, I sing my way through it. If it is really hard, I grunt my way through.I got that little trait from my moma. I think it gets on Jerry's nerves.

Other than ditch digging, there wasn't a lot I could do to help Jerry with what he was doing, so I cleaned out the front half of my chicken coop and built some shelves and some raised bed frames for the garden. I am not a good builder of things and that took a long time. And a lot of drill bits. Jerry, if you are reading this, put drill bits on the Lowe's list. The little black skinny ones. Sorry.

So now I gauge the goodness of my weekends on how much progress is made and how sore and dirty I am when I get home. Sunday evening found me covered in sawdust and chicken dust from the coop and the trench re-covered. Jerry ended up helping. I think he got tired of the grunting and the fussing about having to re-do the thing. It took a lot of soap and a lot of Epsom's salts in the tub to remove the aches and pains, so yeah, I had a good weekend.

Friday, February 15, 2013

In preparation of the move, I have spent the last year or more purging my sewing room. I have had the luxury of a large, mostly all mine room to sew and craft in for almost 23 years. I am down-sizing to a nook. Granted, I am not in high-production mode like I was when I had a growing gaggle of girls to keep clothed, but a nook is going to be a challenge. Over the years, I have dabbled in lots of different crafts. There were the paper crafting years with scrapbook supplies and card making supplies spilling out from every corner not taken up with fabric and yarn. Decorative painting added its smish-smash of mess. Candle making, soap making, just making in general. But through it all, the sewing and knitting have been the two constants. Bins of yarn crown the top of the shelves that house the fabric. Knitting books crowd the shelf for their place amongst the sewing books and patterns.

I think I am on my third purge in the last 18 months or so. Each one is a little more ruthless. It really hasn't been as difficult as I thought it would be, this purging. I am a pragmatic person to begin with. I am really being hard-nosed on this third and probably, final clean out. Very little stays. Except the memories. And what a memory catcher this room is proving to be. I've sewn my way through little girls in flowing smocked dresses, Halloween costumes, adolescents and their scathing criticism of hemlines, proms, recitals, graduations, college dorm room decor, weddings. Grandchildren have ushered in a second sewing flurry of their own, just not so prolific as the first time around. The occasional special request from a grandchild or their mother, doll clothes, baby quilts-it's all by choice now and not economy.

As I go through boxes,  the memories fall into my lap along with the bits and bobs of lace and fabric. I give these things a hard look and decide if it goes into the " keep" or "find a new home for" or the "toss" pile. The keep pile is getting smaller. I tell myself that the stuff may be gone, but the memory is a keeper. I don't need that odd scrap of velvet to remember what my youngest looked like all dressed up for her voice recital. A bit of plaid fabric goes in the toss pile, but not the memory of the night I happily sewed a little coat for a black Scotty dog.I knew putting the coat on the dog was probably a lost cause, but  the sound of the laughter springing from the simple joy my middle girl got from struggling to try it on her unwilling canine was worth the few hours spent pinning, cutting and sewing.  She looked like a four-legged, hairy Sherlock Holmes.The dog that is. And  she wasn't happy about it. Memories of the oldest and how pretty she looked in her senior picture take their place in my head when I pull out a strand of silk ribbon used to embroider the bodice of her formal. I would be less than honest if I didn't say that sometimes things didn't turn out as planned. Or liked as well as someone thought they would be.Feet have been stomped and tearful refusals to wear such and such have been heard. Sometimes my best efforts just didn't deliver.

Odd bits of yarn demand their due as I pilfer through the bins. It spills out in a happy, tangled jumble. My mind's eye does the same thing.The faint smell of wool mingles with the memories of soft pinks and blues that were knitted and purled into newborn caps that would warm little heads. As I pull out the unused strands, I recall how I would sit and knit, needles clicking as I imagined what the face of my soon to be born grandchild would look like.Luscious fibers that I and my needles turned into sweaters and scarves and mittens. Skinny little yarns that are now thick fluffy socks. Ahem, yes, there have been duds here too. A too small mitten, a lop-sided sweater (yes, that does happen. To me, anyway), unfinished stuff. Just like life.

Most of the memories coming out of this purging are the good stuff. But the ones that aren't? There's a "keep" pile, "find a new home for" pile, and a "toss" pile.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

If there had been a fan, the 'you-know-what' would have hit it.

If you are going to commit to renovating an old house, you need to be prepared for all kinds of surprises; most of them unpleasant. It is not a straight-forward process by any stretch of the imagination. Especially a really old house that has not had the best of care. Water damage, bugs, carcasses of small animals, ancient cloth covered wiring, primitive plumbing, stinky smells, uneven floors and ceilings. Their are so  many twists and turns it will make your head spin. Not to mention the money. Make your budget, then multiply by three and you might be close to accurate. Why do we do it? Some days I honestly don't know.

The plumbing issue has been the flavor of the month around here for way longer than a single month. Miles of old pipe has been thrown in the dumpster to be replaced with some new-fangled stuff called PEX. The logistics of installing this stuff has fallen to Jerry. It involves inching himself into a very small crawlspace under the bathroom floor. For once I can say, "Thank goodness, I shop in the chubby department! I could never fit in that space!" Being claustrophobic, sometimes just seeing him under there can bring me to the brink of hysteria. But I am brave. I stand on the outside beside his little entrance hole, all the tools spread out before me like a surgeon's right hand nurse, listening for his muffled commands; "wrench!, plumber's putty! need more light!" Yep, I am on it. I also have my cell phone at the ready in case of unforeseen disaster that might involve 911. I mean, you never know, a spider might crawl out and land on me, or a rat scamper across my feet. Like I said, you never know.

Which brings me to the you-know-what mentioned in the title. The postage stamp sized bathroom we are working on has been completely gutted except for the commode. There is only a subfloor and studs.Not even a door. The saddest throne room you have ever seen.I am sure there are outhouses with more luxurious accommodations.At least they have doors. When I need to use the facilities I make Jerry go outside and wait. For those that know me, it is hard to imagine, but I do have some dignity. I sealed the toilet paper in a black garbage bag, because I was afraid a rodent might find all that fluffy white paper irresistible as nesting material or a bug might get on it and I did not want that coming in contact with my person, no siree. So a large black garbage bag hangs from a nail on the wall. I am thinking I should take a picture of my toilet paper holder and post it to Pinterest under the title "Redneck Bathroom Ideas."

We left the toilet for obvious reasons. It's a little under five miles to our current house and that five miles can be a mighty long drive if you have ignored nature's call just a moment too long. People in their fifties shouldn't do that. So the throne stayed.

We were working one day when nature called me with a particularly vicious tone.Apparently she didn't like the greasy hamburger I had eaten an hour or so before.  Jerry had just exited what I am now calling the "H--- Hole" where he had been working on the underbelly of our horrid little throne and was thankfully in the garage. The floor in the bathroom has several holes where we have cut off old pipe at ground level in anticipation of replacing them with new stuff. One of these is right beside the commode. We usually have a long iron pipe stuck in this hole but had removed it while we were working. Neither of us thought anything of this. We should have. After giving nature her due, I flushed. Shock and awe! Things that should never see the light of day, much less the bathroom ceiling, shot six feet in the air and back down (mostly). I will never have to go to Yosemite. I have seen the geyser of geysers. Let me just tell you, I can move pretty dang quick when I need to. And come out fully clothed, thank you very much.

I ran outside in search of my plumber saying prayer after prayer that he was safely above floor. I gave him the facts and he launched into a speech that was every color of the rainbow. It ended with something like, "If I had a match, this place would be gone!" To add insult to injury as we stood there trying to figure out the problem we hear, "Plop, plop, plop." Yeah, Jerry's little workspace being annointed with the remains of the day. "Well, I guess I won't be working under there anytime soon!",
was said in such disgust, that I slinked off to let him stew.
We did figure out the problem, and thankfully, it can be "easily" fixed. It involves more plumbing, moving the commode and re-routing it to the new septic system, passing under the kitchen and across the yard. Like I said, "easily".

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Yes, I know, it's been six months, but we are going to pretend that didn't happen ok?

 I love winter. I look forward to it every year and am just like a kid when it comes to snow. I don't think I have ever had enough snow. I like wearing coats. You can have on a t-shirt that you dribbled your lunch on and throw on a coat and a wooly scarf to do your errands and no one will know you are a sloppy eater. I like the stark blacks and browns and grays of the trees. The Cardinals are never so intensly red as they are on a bleak winter day flitting about looking for something to eat. We counted thirteen one day down at the farm!  I love warming the gray days with a fire in the fireplace, classical music playing, and candles glowing in every room. Add a little blustery wind whistleing its own music and I am one happy girl.

But we are on the cusp of mid-February and I have to admit it has the gardener in me stirring just a bit.I've pinned lots of beautiful garden ideas on my Pinterest page. I've bought garden magazines.  I've perused the seed catalogs, made my order, and am now waiting on the arrival of those little packets that hold promises of "bumper crop of juicy tomatoes, world's best Basil for pesto, gather hundreds of bouquets of huge flowers right from your own backyard!" There words, not mine. I have been at this gardening business long enough to know a thing or two. I know about drought, flooding, bugs, voles, deer, and worst of all, my neglect when the heat hits the 100's. But gardeners are the ulitimate optimists. I may not exactly believe those words in the seed catalogs, but I don't exactly doubt them either. So every year I go out with my seeds, my tooks, and my straw hat and set to it. I usually get just enough veggies and flowers and a little more knowledge to keep me coming back year after year. But joy of joys, a little bit of snow showers may happen Saturday! Spring, you wait just a bit longer, you will get your turn. I have some snowflakes to watch tumble down.