Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Keeping Busy

The full moon tonight sure is pretty.  I'd take a picture of it for you but I don't have much luck taking pictures at night -- somehow they always blur on me.  Makes me itch to buy a better camera, but I've learned how to ignore unnecessary spending itches, LOL. 

I have finished sewing Lara and I new aprons to wear at the farmers market this year. 

Here is a detail of the lace I put on the neck and pockets -- my grand aunt, Mathilda Ledvina, crocheted it; it has to be at least 80 years old.

Lara happily modeled her apron for this picture:

I have a different fabric to make one more apron that we will try to sell at the farmers market.  If people like the aprons, I'll make some more of them to sell.  The pattern is a Depression style apron so I will sell them as "heirloom aprons".  They certainly are sewn to last, and I even sewed them on my Singer black top sewing machine that came to me from my mother (who got it from her mother when she married my father) when Tom and I got married.  The fabric will rot before a seam sewn on that machine gives way.  The high quality cotton fabric for each apron cost about $30.  I specially ordered it from Hancocks in Paducah, KY.  There is a lot of hand sewing on the aprons, too, as well as the use of the antique hand made lace for trim.  The fabric is pre-washed and pre-shrunk so what you see is what you get.  I figure that once the antique lace is used up, I'll get out my lace patterns and make some of my own lace.  Any ideas what I should charge for something like this?

Another "to do" task scratched off my list:  I brought some canned blackberry juice up from the basement and tried my hand at making blackberry cordial.

I boiled one quart of blackberry juice with three cups of sugar and two teaspoons each of cinnamon, cloves, and lemon zest until the sugar was dissolved and the mixture started to thicken. 

Then I shut off the stove and strained the mixture into another stainless steel pot.

Next I added a bottle of brandy (about 2 quarts or 1.75 litres), stirred well, and refrigerated over night.

This morning I bottled the cordial in the brandy bottle and an old wine bottle (I never throw out good containers of any sort), added new labels identifying the contents, and tucked them away in the basement to age undisturbed for at least six weeks.

Blackberry cordial is useful for a number of ailments.  You can use it straight (very potent!), but I plan to use it by the tablespoonful added to a tea cup (about 4 oz.) of hot water for respiratory ailments, sipped slowly.  Blackberries are astringent so they are good for drying up those wet coughs and cases of mild diarrhea among other things.  Check out Maude Grieve's book A Modern Herbal; it's one of those books I think everyone should have in their personal library.

My niece, Jill, is coming to visit with her new baby next week so I am busy knitting a gift for her.  When I go to town to get her a card and some gift wrap, I'll stop at the hardware store and buy the lumber I need to make my warping board.  That probably will be my next photo essay for you!  I am determined to get that weaving loom strung before winter ends.

Speaking of my weaving loom puts me in mind of something else; I have to tell you about a movie I bought our Ed for Christmas.  It is one of the old Disney movies called, "So Dear To My Heart"  .  If you are interested in homesteading, I recommend you watch that movie!  Put the movie on "pause" when you need to take a closer look. It shows the building layout of a 1903 homestead, fences, livestock, and the interior of the log house.  Granny cards wool into rovings which she spins into yarn on a Great Wheel spinning wheel.  It shows Granny winding a warp on her warp board and later weaving a cloth on a big floor loom.  She also likes to hand quilt.  That movie is a real treasure. I'm so glad I bought it.  And Ed likes it, too.

We're in for another below -0F cold spell here.  I hope you are all safe and well wherever you are at.  Please remember all those suffering from natural disasters around the world in your prayers.  By the way, the good folks over at Half Past Human will soon be coming out with issue 9 of The Shape Of Things To Come (SOTTC) reports.  I am a huge fan of the web bots (they were mentioned in a show on the History Channel the other night) and recommend the SOTTC reports as a help to getting through these difficult times.  Having an idea of what I may be facing in the weeks and months ahead certainly helps me with keeping my act together. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Uncle Al

Most of us are privileged at some point in our life to know a special person.  These are the people who always make you smile when you think of them; who are always there when you need them; who always seem to know the right thing to say when something needs to be said.  You know what I mean.  I have been blessed to know several people like that, but the one that is on my mind today is my Uncle Al.

Uncle Al was my godfather.  He always made me laugh.  He had an upbeat clipped style to his speech that made me want to listen to what he said, and when he fixed his gaze on me, I suddenly couldn't move.  If you were a kid, he was one of those guys I don't think you could put anything over.  He and my Aunt Julia raised 13 beautiful children.  And you know how some families are where you feel your cousins are more like your brothers and sisters than they are cousins even though you may not see them very often.  That's the way I felt about Uncle Al's family.  When we visited together we kids ran through the fields picking every wild berry that could be found, threw goat turds at each other in the farm yard, and watched our mothers cook dinner for everybody in the farm house kitchen using two big pressure canner cookers. And when Uncle Al told the tribe to sit down at the table and say Grace, you did it.

Today was Uncle Al's funeral mass.  The parish priest who gave the homily knew Uncle Al and his family well over the past nearly 40 years; he, too, was saying farewell to a good friend.  As I looked at my cousins with their children and grandchildren sitting in the pews, I couldn't help but think how rich my Uncle Al was (and Aunt Julia is).  How rich a community is Tomahawk, Wisconsin because of their presence.  And how rich I am for having had such a wonderful man as my godfather.

So long, Uncle Al.  Fare you well!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Raring to Go

Well, it's a new year, my "batteries" are recharged, and I'm ready to do -- everything!  Thank you to all my readers who commented on my end-of-the-year rant; I sincerely appreciate your sage advice, and I want to tell you that I very much enjoy reading your blogs.  Some of the aspects of blogging I like are the easy fellowship it affords and the many great ideas that are freely exchanged.  Makes me want to rephrase the old IWW (International Workers of the World) slogan to say, International Bloggers of the World Unite!  I do think we are changing the world.

The temperature here has been up, down, up, and now down again.  A few days ago we were close to the 40F range.  That was warm enough for all the bedding in the chicken coop to thaw out so I took the opportunity to shovel out the coop and scrape the roosts down.  The chickens were very pleased.  They are actually laying a little better (about 3-5 eggs a day), but the eggs are mostly already cracked and frozen by the time I gather them so I still don't have enough to sell.

The warm spell brought rain with it that turned to ice when the temperatures later dropped leaving a treacherous ice glaze on everything.  We could have gone ice skating on our driveway.  Thankfully, now that we've had some more snow the traction is a little better. 

The bad news is that all of my storage potatoes froze.  That hurts because the Red Cloud potatoes were my third year of saved seed potatoes from certified organic stock, and Red Cloud seed potatoes are not that common.  I think Red Cloud is a great all purpose potato:  it's a great seller at the farmers market because it is a red potato; it stores beautifully all winter; and, it is just great cooked in any way -- baked, boiled, roasted, fried.  I don't know if I can salvage them for seed; I guess I'll just have to wait and see if any of them sprout. 

I have my seed lists whittled down quite a bit.  I am still betting that it will be a cool and wet summer.  The newspaper today had an article in it that says this summer should be droughty again -- at least according to projections based on weather records.  I suppose we'll just have to wait and see.  I don't think the weather people have been all that accurate.  I'll be planting heavily with root crops and greens. 

Speaking of greens, last year Tom planted a mustard variety called Green Wave that grew monstrous.  He didn't even want to eat it because eaten raw it tastes very hot and spicy.  Well, I'm not one to waste food so I went out and gathered all of it and canned it.  To my surprise, it entirely lost its hot and spicy taste once canned.  In the field that mustard had absolutely no insect problems and was just beautiful.  It is one of the greens I will be planting this year. 

Thought I'd pass on a link to a web site:  I buy seeds from Horizon Herbs (their link on on the right side of this blog under Useful and Favorite Links) and I received an invitation from Richo Cech to a free webinar tonight.  If you are interested in medicinal herb gardening, you might want to check this site out.  It certainly intrigues me.

Take care and be safe!