Wednesday, April 09, 2014

A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That

We've had 14" of new snow since I last wrote here:  3" one day, 3" another day, and an 8" dump.  Fortunately, the temperatures have risen considerably and the snow is noticeably vanishing.  Tom says the deer are out all over.  He even saw a big snow hare crossing the road on his way home from doing the grocery shopping. I know that Spring is here because the County has enacted the road weight limits and it is officially "mud season".

I have been knitting up a storm.  Here is another doll I made, this time, for my niece, Grace. I gave this doll corn yellow hair with nice thick side braids and matching stockings.  Her petticoat and apron are raspberry; skirt and body are lavender; and her shawl and bonnet are lilac.  I also gave her blue eyes.

Yesterday I decided to take a break and spend some time working my way through some of the free FEMA classes I need to take as prerequisite to taking the ARRL emergency communications class.  I managed to work through both IS-700.a and ICS100.b and pass them, but it took me all day.  I used to be able to race through classes like these; I had a near photographic memory at one time, but now I have to read and re-read before the information sinks in.  Drives me crazy. 

I keep telling myself to enjoy my down time.  My surgery on the 19th went well and at my post op appointment, Doc gave me a different cast and said no weight bearing on my seven screws and metal plate ankle/leg until he re-evaluates it at the end of the month.  And no driving till the end of May.

Ugh! I miss my chickens and it's positively killing me not to be able to get outside and into my greenhouse. Still, there is a reason for everything and I just have to figure out what I'm supposed learn from the situation.  Maybe Universe felt I needed this extra time to rest because (as the line from Shakespeare's MacBeth runs) "something wicked this way comes" and I need to be ready for it. I don't know. So, I prop my leg up, look through the living room windows, watch the snow disappear, and keep myself busy as best I can.

I'm sure I can find something interesting here.

Talk to you later!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Universe Slam

Well, I am in the middle of my second Saturn Return so I suppose I should have expected this year to get off to a rocky start. I didn't expect to be constantly hammered though, and I sure don't have to be philosophical about it.  In fact, I don't like it at all!

My Universe slam continues with the bad weather.  After the last big snow, Tom went to check the propane tank, and it was a good thing he did.  The tank was down below 30% and with the cold temperatures persisting, we didn't want to start having problems with the plumbing so he called our propane supplier to get a refill.  That was when we found out there was a propane shortage.  After a week of waiting, we got a call from the propane company telling us that they couldn't deliver our propane because of the snow pack on our driveway.  They said the weight of the propane truck would break up the snow pack and get stuck.  I was suspicious of that because they have delivered to us in winter before, but DH said he knew what they were talking about.  So, we decided to use the propane we had left only for the heating system while we figured out what to do.  I would set up a clothes drying rack in the utility room for drying the wash, and we would use the crock pot and wood stove for cooking. Tom went to our neighbor who has a snow plow to see if he could help, but he told us his plow couldn't do anything about the snow pack.  Then, with this being a very small community, we got a call from another neighbor who heard about our difficulty.  He knew a guy with a big cat who was shortly going to be in the neighborhood to clear snow from a new building site down the road from us and he could break up the snow pack for us.  So, for a couple dozen eggs and some cash, we got the driveway cleared to suit the propane company, and we got our tank filled. 

And the day after this, Tom's new plow was ready for pick up, and the snow blower that was in the repair shop for a new belt -- after Tom had already replaced the starter in it -- was also ready to get picked up.

When the next sunny days appeared I was ready to start tapping maple trees.  I dug out the path to the maple syrup rig again and this time took the cover off it.  Then I picked out four trees that were fairly close together that I could reach by digging only one path through the snow.  I discovered I needed to use a pickaxe to break through the ice pack on the side of the driveway in order to start digging my path, so I headed back down the driveway to the house when BAM! I heard something snap and found myself looking at the sky.  Everything was spinning and I thought I was going to barf.  I must have laid on the ground a good five minutes.  Sandy the Swamp Creek Dog was going nuts.  She was jumping back and forth over me and then laid down beside me.  Slowly I tried to get up and realized quickly that something was very wrong with my ankle.  Boy, did that driveway to the house suddenly look very long.  Tom had gone to my dad's to fill up his wood box for him, so I just started dragging myself toward the house.  I was sure glad we had the wheelchair ramp in the garage instead of stairs.  I dragged myself into the house and managed to pull myself up to stand on one foot using the back of a kitchen chair.  I slowly pushed the chair in front of me and made my way into the bathroom where I managed to get my boot off to look at my ankle and reach the homeopathic kit.  Not good. That's where Tom found me.  He hauled me to the emergency room and sure enough, my ankle is broken.  This week I'll have surgery to put in a plate and screw everything back together.  I'll be off my feet for another two months and it's for sure I won't be able to put in the big garden I was hoping to plant.  If I'm lucky, I can hope for planting a Fall garden in July, but I surely will not have enough produce to go to market with.  I'm trying to figure out what to do with all the trees and bushes I've ordered until I can get them properly in the ground.  And to top it all off, my accident caused Tom to have his surgery rescheduled.  His surgery is tentatively re-set for late June or early July after I should be able to drive again.  What a state of affairs!

Second Saturn Return, indeed!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Outdoor Exercise

What a week!  Tom and I barely finished digging out from the last 10" of snow when the weather news warned of a second whammy from winter storm Seneca.  We decided to dig out the last two wood piles of this year's firewood and stack the wood inside the garage before the storm hit.  Good thing we did, because no sooner did we finish the task that the wind upticked and it started snowing.  It snowed all night and all the next day, and by the time it stopped snowing we had another foot and a half to two feet of snow.  You should have seen the monster drift at the end of our driveway! Our big snowblower got stuck trying to go through it and we had to dig it out by hand. Then we had to dig a path through the drift so the blower could get a good start throwing the snow.  We started digging out at 8:00 a.m. and it took us till 4:00 p.m. to get the driveway and most of the paths dug out.
Path to the maple syrup rig
Enough room to put in a chair and tend the fire
Maple syrup rig

Path to the chicken coop
Dominiques doing well in spite of the bitter cold
 In the picture below you can still discern the path I previously dug down to the tree line where Tom takes his daily walk to check his deer cam.  After I took this picture Tom walked through this snow and it was still chest deep on him.   

Unfortunately the pictures don't give you a sense of just how deep the snow really is. The snow here in the "back yard" around the greenhouse is just incredible.
Greenhouse path
Needless to say, we have decided to buy a snow plow for the truck with this year's income tax return.  Tom has already been on the phone and is going to go see a guy that sells plows next week. 

Today the wind is bitter even though the sun is shining.  We are supposed to get another blast of artic air by mid-week so I am glad we got everything dug out before it all freezes solid.  Still, as I was digging out the path to the compost bin I noticed depressions forming around the maple trees so I know that the sap is going to start running soon.  I think that I will dig out paths to a couple of trees and be ready to tap them just after the next new moon.

Path to the compost bin
The chickadees have found my bird feeder and are chirping down in the balsams around the big marsh so Spring cannot be far away.

Stay warm and be careful when out in this weather!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mercury Retrograde

Well, I can tell that Mercury is retrograde! The starter died on the snow blower, a sensor on the Dodge Caravan started acting up, the computer wound up going into the shop where I discovered it somehow had contracted a Trojan despite just upgrading (with some difficulty) to a more enhanced antivirus program with encryption capability, and Lara's wheelchair belt buckle broke again -- the third time in six months.  After I got the computer home from the shop, the keyboard stopped making upper key characters.  And, I got some kind of stomach bug that laid me low for a week.  Thank God, it was just me that got sick. I was not happy.

All is better now, however. The car, snow blower, computer and keyboard are all fixed.  And Tom came up with the idea of installing a car's lap seat belt on Lara's wheelchair instead of continuing to buy inferiorly constructed and overpriced belts from medical equipment vendors.  The GM lap seat belt fit perfectly and without any alteration on Lara's wheelchair, and everybody is very happy. If you are running into the same problem we were with crappy wheelchair seat belts supposedly made expressly for your specific wheelchair model, do look into using a car seat belt instead. The difference in quality construction is marked.  Now we are wondering if we are going to get another 4" of snow tonight on top of the 4" we got a couple of days ago.  I'm telling you, it has been really difficult keeping the driveway open so the home nurse aides and the postal delivery services can get in and out.  Not to mention all my pathways around the house. Maple Syrup season is right around the corner and on my mind.

Fortunately (as we all know) work is never done and I have plenty to keep me busy.  Here are a few of the items I knitted to sell at the end of the farmers market this year. 

This doll is knitted from Red Heart Super Saver yarn and stuffed with 100% hypoallergenic polyester fiberfill.  All of her clothes are removable.  Her "hair" under the bonnet includes two coiled braids, one on each side of her head that are sewn in place.  There are no buttons, just ties as fasteners.  She is machine wash warm, no bleach, and tumble dry on low or air dry.  I do pre-wash all my knit items to ensure colorfastness and workmanship. These big dolls are a hit with little girls -- just ask my nieces.  I love to make this doll and like to change the hair and clothing colors.  Sometimes I put a coiled braid on top of the head.  I am making one now for another niece who wants her doll to have long braids, so I have to figure out just how to do that.  Her doll will have lavender, lilac, and light raspberry clothes and corn blonde hair with blue eyes.  I have a boy doll knitted and am working out the patterns for his clothes. Instead of bloomers he has long johns.

The Christmas stockings on either end are tall.  The smaller one in the middle gave me a surprise when I reached the end of the "turn heel" work -- there was no more pattern! As I am not used to knitting socks I was not sure what to do, but fortunately, when I bought the yarn for this work I also bought a book on knitting socks, so I looked through the book, found a sock pattern that was similar to what I was knitting, and finished the sock with those directions but using my pattern stitches.  This is a really nice sock because it has a turn down cuff and the pattern makes it double thick and very warm.  I am going to play around with this pattern and see if I can come up with a pair of winter boots for Lara.

Just before Christmas a woman asked me to make her puppy a doggy sweater.  She specifically wanted pink camouflage yarn and otherwise was not picky about the pattern.  Well, I told her I would do it.  I wound up having to order the yarn, which didn't arrive till almost New Year's, and then I spent several days knitting feverishly in between guests and holiday doings.  Ultimately, she stiffed me, so I am now going to sell these for $45 each.  They all fit a puppy or small dog.  The one on the left is a simple rib knit; the next is a small all-over cable pattern (both in pink camouflage); the third one is done in stockinette stitch in green camouflage with beige trim; and the last one is my favorite because it is a little "hoodie" sweater in pink camouflage.

I have two more quilt blocks to sew.  I think I will put the quilt together in a barn raising pattern.  Whew!

It feels good to have the computer back to have something to vent on though I am sure you readers don't appreciate my poor humor. (Thanks for listening!) Some fair weather and time outside can cure that in short order, I think. 

Here's to wishing you are all safe, warm, and not hungry!  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Fermented Foods Bug

Yeah, I have it.  I found the Nourished Kitchen web site and that was it.  I'm hooked.  Now, for us, sauerkraut is just one of the fermented foods with all of their attendant probiotics that we will be eating in this house. 

In an earlier post you will recall I tried my hand at making fermented lemons.  Well, I wasn't sure quite what to do with them, so I experimented with one lemon by making a loaf of lemon bread.  Oh, yeah, that was good. (No pictures because it is already eaten!) I have the lemons in the refrigerator now to slow down the fermentation process.  They are supposed to keep a long time.  Tomorrow I will add a slice or two chopped finely to some quinoa for lunch, and I look forward to experimenting with them in other recipes. 

I then bought a SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeasts) from Kombucha America and tried making my first batch of kombucha.  I was originally afraid that the cultures had died from being in the mail over the last really cold days we had, but I was not to fear.  I think if I had not had previous fermentation experience I would have freaked seeing the kombucha "mushroom" develop in the tea, but as it was, I was cool, and the tea turned out just fine.  My first batch was of fermented green tea and my second batch, now fermenting, is of Irish Breakfast black tea.  It will be interesting to compare the difference in taste between the green and black teas.  This is really fun!

For my birthday back in November, my sister, Mary, gave me a little fermentation kit -- a plastic lid with an airlock that fits a large mouth canning jar -- so now I will put it to use and pick a recipe from my Mastering Fermentation book and see what happens. It is going to be interesting to observe any health improvements we may obtain over time from eating an increased amount of these probiotic foods.  Fortunately for me, our in-house gourmand, Lara, is all for my experimenting.  She loves drinking the kombucha green tea.

Another fermented drink I had been making regularly for several years now is milk kefir.  I originally bought my authentic kefir grains from Marilyn the Kefir Lady.  I make a quart of kefir every other day, and a glass of kefir with a little orange juice stirred in is my alternate breakfast when I don't have eggs. Milk kefir is easy to make.

Kefir Grains
These are kefir grains.  You place them in a jar, cover them with milk (I have even used powdered milk successfully),

then cover the jar with a permeable cloth or paper towel, and set it somewhere fairly warm but out of direct light for at least 24 hours.  Kefir is similar to yogurt but doesn't firm up the way yogurt does.  It tastes much like buttermilk and can be used in recipes that call for buttermilk. I love drinking buttermilk, but I haven't had to buy it since I've been making kefir.

When the kefir is fermented to your taste, strain it into another clean jar and put it in the frig.  The kefir will continue to ferment, but refrigeration slows the process. Then put the kefir grains into another clean jar, cover with milk, and begin the process all over again. Just remember to keep your fermenting projects separated by a couple of feet so the cultures don't cross.

Try fermenting.  It's easier to do than you might think and opens up a whole new world of taste.