Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Autumn Work

I received the "All Clear" from the doctor when I went for the last x-rays of my ankle so I happily have no more activity restrictions, and Tom and I have been making up for lost time. The weather has been decent lately so we have been busy trying to get the outside work finished.  I have been cutting back the brush around the house and cleaning up the "fire safety zone".  Let me tell you, that is a job.  I'm pooped! Even after three full days of sawing, pruning, and slashing with my brush sickles, it hardly looks like I've done anything.  The chickens delightedly follow my progress because I haul the cuttings inside the coop area for them to peck. I'm surprised they like eating dogwood leaves; the grasses and brambles I can understand, but dogwood leaves? I hope to finish cutting back the slope by the chicken coop tomorrow.  If I can keep up my steady pace, I should be finished with everything I want to cut back before I need to plant my garlic in mid-October.  I will save cleaning up the garden boxes for last.

Speaking of garden boxes, take a good look at the front yard:



Tom and I are going to be filling this entire area with new garden boxes.  He cut the lumber today, and we have been hauling mink poop from our good neighbor for the last few weeks.  I told Tom I just can't shovel that stuff any more for a while so we are going to take a break from getting any more trailer loads.

Soil

Lumber

The very stinky stuff
The leaves are changing very rapidly now.  I actually think we have reached peak color already. I always love being outside enjoying the trees at this time of  year.

Of course, being inside can be fun, too. A day in my kitchen makes everyone smile.


Enjoy Autumn! Be Safe and Well, Everybody!



Sunday, September 07, 2014

Change of the Season

I think Summer left a few days ago in the last rain we had.  The air is much cooler; the leaves are starting to change color; the light of day is different.  We are busy getting ready for winter. Tom and Ed cut, split, and stacked our wood.


They filled the firewood frames in the garage and all the kindling bins. The wood he didn't want to burn was put in a stack by my maple sugar rig. Then they went by Dad's and stacked his wood for him that my sister and her husband had cut and split. We bought tarps and covered all the wood piles and my syrup rig.


I cleared a nice spot next to the chicken run where Tom can park the truck after we put the snow plow on it. And I am working on clearing back the fire zone around the house.  There is more to do, but the yard is already looking much better.


 My ankle is better though it gives me painful twinges most days.  I go for x-rays again next week and hopefully will get the all clear on activities. I just have to admit that I cannot work at the pace I was used to working at any longer.  Well, "slow and steady goes long into the day" is one of my favorite aphorisms and now it has a slightly different import for me!

After I got off crutches I managed to gimp out to my garden boxes and plant three of them with collards, mustard greens, and kale in one; Provider green beans in another; and lettuce, beets, radishes, patty pan squash, and onions in the third.  The lettuce and beets just didn't grow, and the squash will not be able to mature before frost comes, but the rest are looking good.  I figure I will have to put on hoops and row cover for them all soon because we may get frost and possibly even snow next week.  We already had one night down to 38°F. Tom had planted one pole bean trellis and a handful of cucumber plants, and even with just a few plants I have been able to make several batches of sweet pickles, East India and cucumber relish, and several quarts of green beans. I would love to get another bushel of beans and a bushel of beets from somewhere. I am all out of beets. Fortune also shined on me this year with a bumper crop of black currants and raspberries from the forest garden, and Tom's black chokeberries in back of the house. I may yet get enough elderberries to make some cough syrup.  I made lots of jam and a fine supply of brandy cordials to soothe away any winter blahs.  I haven't tasted the black chokeberry jam yet, and as it is something I have not made before, I'm wondering if I should have made jelly instead of jam because when I tasted a raw berry it was awfully mealy. We'll find out soon enough! I read that chokeberries are very popular in Europe.

Titania Black Currants

I worked on filling in and strengthening the brush fence, and I must say I like the way everything looks.  I think it's rather picturesque.


With all the rain we had this year, everything grew spectacularly. (Too bad I didn't have my big garden!) The forest garden is a veritable jungle and I wonder if digging those swales last year was a factor.  And I am glad to report that the red currants are coming back and looking great. I only lost two apples trees to last winter's wrath; a Paula Red and one Smokehouse.  One of my remaining tasks is to cut paths through the forest garden.  In another week I will check the hazelnut bushes and see if I have any nuts this year.  Last winter was so long that I never even saw any blossoms on the apple, pear, or plum trees. And speaking of winter, our last snow came on May 15th.  We had a visiting Chinese priest speak at our church earlier this year, and he commented that our area really reminded him of Siberia!!! I guess our little rural towns, marshes and woods are similar to what is over there in Russia.  Maybe Dmitri Orlov ought to visit out here and give us his opinion. LOL.

The rose bushes in the chicken run are still blooming and they are heavy with hips.  I think I will try to make some rose hip jelly this year and dry some hips for tea. I just love the rose scent on the air when I let the chickens out in the morning.

Speaking of chickens, one of my projects for this year was to build up my flock of Dominiques.  I bought an incubator and gave it a try --


Fourteen of twenty eggs hatched and I have nine pullets! A man on one of the gardening/homesteading forums I frequent said that if you want pullets, put eggs that are more rounded at the small end to hatch.  Rooster eggs will be more pointed at the small end.  Some people say that is folklore and has no basis in fact, but the advice worked pretty well for me.  I'll give it a shot again next Spring. I plan to cull the flock next month and these replacements should work out well.

Till next time, Be Safe and Well!

P.S. It sure feels good to sit down and blog again :)

Crafts and Such

I wanted to post a picture of the gansey style sweater I made.  I think it turned out pretty good for a first try.  It fits great and I almost can't wait for the colder weather to come so I can wear it.



I am almost finished with second pair of socks for Lara, and my latest project is an everyday sweater for me (I'm always cold) that is a darker grey color and embroidered in duplicate stitch with a lighter, more silvery grey color.  I dug out my Tolkien books and wrote out a phrase in Elven runes, then searched for a couple of patterns for oak leaves and acorns that I will use for the embroidery.  So far I love the way it is turning out.  Stay tuned for a picture when I'm finished. If I have enough yarn left over I'll make a matching hat or cowl and fingerless gloves.

My grandnieces and nephews came by the other day and I promised we would do some crafting together when they come by again around Thanksgiving.  I think I will make some homemade soap and let them each remill a bar to take home.  Maybe we can make some lip balm or hand cream, too. Even boys can use lip protector and skin cream, especially in winter! That should be a fun get together. They brought me a grocery bag full of apples they picked from one of the trees on my sister and brother-in-law's farm.  I made Tom a couple of no sugar pies with some of them and boy did he like them! The apples are not quite ripe yet, but they sure made good pies. They were snarfed up so quick I didn't get a picture of them.

Cousin It is planning to visit at the end of this month.  If the weather is nice, perhaps together we can run up to Bayfield to get my yearly apples and apple wine.  Since she is starting to can food, she might like to take a bushel back home.  That would be fun.

While I was off my feet, I enjoyed bird watching through the window.  We had blue indigo buntings, our feisty hummingbirds, Northern Orioles -- a new bird for us, and lots of finches.  We even had some pine siskins and rosebreasted grosbeaks.




There was a gun show up at Butternut Park yesterday so Tom and I decided to go.  We have been to archery shows, car shows, and fishing shows, but never a gun show.  We did not know what to expect.  It wasn't much.  We thought the prices were way too high on most things.  I did buy a bag of shell casings to use as pegs when I make a cap rack for Tom and Ed.  I got the idea from a craft booth I saw at the Mercer Loon Day festival where the crafter used shotgun shell casings as pegs.  Nifty idea. There were some people selling household items at different booths and I picked up a beautiful stainless steel pan with handles for only $15.  It had a smashed snake petrified on it that needed to removed, but otherwise it was fine.  The first image that came into my mind when I saw the pan was of someone making cheese in it.  I don't know what the original use of the pan was, but I'm sure it was connected somehow with dairy.  I also picked up a nice old galvanized steel pail.  I like the old steel items because they simply last longer than the plastic garbage you find in most places today. All in all, it was a nice outing.

Well, chores call me, so I'll talk to you later.  Be well and Be safe!


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

So Long April

Since I last posted we had another foot of snow on the 17th.



 Then for a few days the temperatures warmed!


And on the 24th and again yesterday, we had more of this:


I'm not very good at taking movies and my camera isn't the best so it is difficult to see the snow falling.  That's ok because you really don't want to see snow this time of year anyway, right?  Besides, today it is raining and all the snow is now gone except for patches here and there in the woods. The finches still have their winter colors though, and the frogs in the marshes are not peeping yet, so I know that winter is not over for us. No buds on the trees either, and the evidence of winter kill on lots of evergreens can be easily seen.

Saw the doc yesterday.  It will be another two weeks before I can start putting 50% weight on my ankle with crutches and the boot cast, then two weeks after that I can start putting my full weight without the crutches but still in the boot cast on it.  You tell me, does this make me a Bionic Woman or a Borg?

I have been studying diligently.  I took and passed FEMA classes IS-100, -200, -700, -800, -802, and -230 through the Emergency Management Institute.  I am having a hard time getting through IS-250 (ESF#15).  Haven't figured out yet what I am getting wrong, but later today I will study all the class material again and see if I can finally pass the class.  Also, I've worked my way through half of of Gordon West's Extra Class ham radio license study guide, and so far, I am not having a hard time understanding the material. I actually dreaded opening that book because I thought I would be hopelessly lost, but I am moving through the book fairly easily.  I used the ARRL books to study for my Technician and General class licenses, but Gordon's book is much easier to study with.  I think it may be the way he organizes the material.  Whatever it is, I like his book. It would be really nice to take the Amateur Extra exam this June down in Wisconsin Rapids instead of December!

I am about knitted out.  The last big project I have is almost finished.  Last Fall I had an idea that I would like to experiment knitting a sweater designed on body measurements instead of following a standard pattern.  I took my measurements and decided to try making a traditional gansey style sweater using worsted weight yarn. I decided to incorporate the seed stitch, basketweave, 6 stitch cable, and honeycomb stitches because I thought those stitches would make a nice "beekeeper" sweater.  (I read that the occupation/status of a person wearing a gansey could be told from "reading" the patterns in the sweater worn.) I worked up separate swatches of each stitch to figure what needle size I needed to use so the stitches looked nice AND met the gauge requirement to equal my measurements.  Once that was done, I started knitting the sweater, periodically checking my work to be sure it matched my measurements. (It was not easy!) It was interesting working a gusset into the underarm and then picking up and knitting in the round all the sleeve stitches after the shoulder "saddle" was sewn in and working from the top of the arm down to the wrist. This was something I have never done, but I can understand why the old knitters knitted the sleeves this way. As sleeve cuffs naturally saw a lot of wear, being able to remove only the cuff stitching to replace it instead of having to take the entire sleeve off the sweater and completely re-knit it was very practical. And it would have been easy to take a quick "fitting"  to be sure everything was coming right.  Very left-handed thinking and it makes me wonder if the knitter of the first gansey sweater was a "southpaw"! It is hard to describe a project without pictures so I will post a picture of the sweater for you when it is completed. Right now, I would like to tell you how I work the honeycomb stitch because the way I do it is not the way I have found it done on the Internet.

Honeycomb Stitch

Multiple of 4, plus one stitch each side for edge

K2R (knit two right):  Insert right hand needle in front of second stitch on left hand needle and knit, then insert tip of right hand needle in front of first stitch of left hand needle and knit.  Slide both stitches off left hand needle together.

K2L (knit two left): Insert right hand needle in back of second stitch on left hand needle and knit, then insert tip of right hand needle in back of first stitch of left hand needle and knit.  Slide both stitches off left hand needle together.

Row 1:  K1, *K2R, K2L, repeat from * to last stitch, K1
Row 2:  K1, Purl across to last stitch, K1
Row 3:  K1, *K2L, K2R, repeat from * to last stitch, K1
Row 4:  K1, Purl across to last stitch, K1
Repeat rows 1-4 for pattern.

Note:  If you work this stitch in the round, rows 2 and 4 are knit across instead of purled.

Well, it's starting to get late so I'll let you go.  Wish I had some gardening to talk about!







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!