Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

As Leap Day only comes once every four years, I thought I ought to at least write a blog entry to memorialize the important things I did today. (It's the winter blahs; give me a break already LOL!) 

Yesterday and today we got a little bit of snow. 


We were lucky compared to other parts of northern Wisconsin and only lost power for a few minutes today.  But the snow has been heavy and it took Tom several hours to clear the driveway.  He went over to check on Dad, and his driveway had already been cleared by a neighbor who has a snow plow.  Dad didn't want any help clearing a path to the wood pile, so Tom came home.

I don't think I'll be getting into the greenhouse for a while though so starting seeds down in the basement will be the norm for the time being. The moon will be in Cancer on March 2, 3, and 4 and I will be starting seeds.

Buried Greenhouse
 I had to wade out to the satellite dish to brush the snow off it and the drift was waist deep.  Holy Cow!

Unfortunately for other parts of the country tornados and bad storms devastated towns and cost people their lives. So we were indeed fortunate.

I finished sewing six new jumpers for Lara.

And Ed and I built a blue bird house and are going to build a bat house and another bird house.

I have about 12 quilt blocks finished, and I decided to pull out a tablecloth I started back in 2008 when Lara was in the hospital having her bladder anastomosis surgery to work on.  It is a simple trestle pattern and working on it made a nice task break. The tablecloth needs to be at least 52"w x 90"l so I'm sure I will be working on this for quite a while.

Trestle pattern one pice tablecloth
I sorted through the potato bin and cooked up all the potatoes that were getting pretty shriveled into potato pancakes.  That leaves only about half a bushel for the rest of the winter for eating.  Looks like this year I'll have to figure on planting at least eight 50' rows of potatoes in order to have enough to both sell at the farmers market and see us through the winter.  Those Red Cloud potatoes sure keep well!

For the most part the winter squash have kept well down in the basement.  We have about 10 left to eat.  I find it interesting how much sweeter they get as they age.  The longer you can keep them the better they taste.  Even Lara, our house gourmand, commented on how sweet they are.

In the evenings I've been studying to get my Technician level ham radio license.  It's only something I've been trying to accomplish since 2007.  Maybe this year I'll finally get it done.  I would like to get involved with CW (Morse code) and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES).  Check out the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) web site if you have some time -- you just might learn something :D

Well, I think I'm going to get a cup of tea and do some studying.  Stay warm!

Sunday, February 05, 2012

In the House and Garden

When I read my Solar Return astrology chart that my sister drew up for me as a birthday gift last November, the report said that this year would be very busy for me.  That's putting it mildly! 

I spent a lot of time in January doing research on our local Penokee mine issue and following the Scott Walker recall. My two painstakingly written letters (I tried VERY hard to be rational and strictly factual, an almost superhuman effort on my part!) commenting on the proposed (now passed AB426) mining bill appear to have disappeared unread into the Internet ether, but that's all right.  I'm still here and I'm still adamantly opposed to the mine.  As for Scott Walker, his days are surely numbered, especially with the FBI investigating this newest scandal concerning Walker aides allegedly stealing money from veterans while Walker was Milwaukee County Executive. The recall can't be soon enough as far as I'm concerned. A lot of time spent listening to calmative meditation music has helped dispel visions of me running around the house with bloody rage filled eyes while shrieking calumnies and dripping venomous vituperations from my cuspids . . . .

I also worked hard hand sewing quilt blocks for the first of three quilts I have planned. It would go a lot faster if I sewed the blocks on the sewing machine, but I'm a purist -- I want these quilts to be entirely hand sewn.

I managed to get one v-neck jumper sewn (this time using the sewing machine) for Lara from a piece of sierra brown pinstripe corduroy I found in my fabric bin that looks very nice on her, and I re-worked three of my heavy tartan plaid flannel skirts to fit her as well.  I have ordered some nice light weight good cotton fabric from Hancock's of Paducah to make her four warm weather jumpers.  I'll use a fuller jumper pattern for those.  That fabric should come any day now.

On the big floor loom I leveled all of the harnesses and counted out the heddles on each harness so I have 300 heddles per harness.  I've decided to try making some single color dish towels for a first project so I have to work out how much thread I'll need before I can do anything else.  I'm using this book to guide me.  And I hung my finished warping board on the basement wall so it is close to the loom.

We have also been busy with securing health benefits for Lara and Ed. Paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork! Social workers, nurses, and case workers! It all can be overwhelming.  I don't expect the social services to last because of the way the economy is going, but at least my conscience can rest knowing that Tom and I are trying our best to see that our children are cared for when we are gone.  One of the best decisions we made was to become our children's legal guardians when they reached majority age. When you are parents of children like Lara and Ed you just have to accept that you can only do the best you can and leave it at that. You can't beat yourself up because you are not rich and won't be able to give them the future security you would like to leave with them.  That's Life.  I repeat:  You do the best you can and let the rest go.

In mid-January I was able to go to an Ag Extension talk about raising goats for profit, and this week I'm taking Lara with me to another talk, this one about raising pigs.  I would like to raise my own bacon!  Not so sure about the goats.

And in between all these goings on we had wonderful visits from nieces and nephews and their resultant shorties.  What joy is a home that is filled with love!

Speaking about love, on the 14th I'll take Lara to the Adult Day Care Center in Phillips for their Valentine's Day party.  We are hoping she will like the idea of going there for at least one day a week for some more socialization now that our Special Olympics bowling season is over.

What am I dreaming of?

Oh, yeah!  These are just a few of the catalogs I've received in the mail.  Though I love perusing catalogs, for some of my favorite vendors I like to shop at their online stores.  Nichol's Garden Nursery for instance no longer sends out a paper catalog, and I think Horizon Herbs has the best herb seeds available -- for them I would rather zip through their web site than thumb through the paper catalog.  Tomatofest is my place to go for organic heirloom tomatoes.  I tend to favor family run businesses with my purchases.

And I'm having fun drawing up this year's garden plan.  I've ordered 15 new hops plants from The Thyme Garden so this is definitely the year the hops yard gets some tender loving care.  Yesterday I even trudged through the snow in the woods and out to the field to start cutting down hops poles and fence posts from the forest's edge there.  (That had to take off a couple of pounds!)  Lots of sunflowers, potatoes, barley, winter squashes and root crops this year, and I'm going to try planting popcorn for the corn crop this year since we love popcorn and don't really eat that much sweet corn.  Peas and beans for soil building in the old orchard area are on order, and herbs and flowers for the bees will be added to both field and forest garden.  The garden boxes in the back yard will host most of the succession planting veggies for the farmers market, and the greenhouse will have the seed starts, tomatoes, hot peppers, and eggplants. 

February marks our seventh year of homesteading here, and this is the first year I actually feel we are starting to get a handle on everything.  All the work is beginning to come together.  The tools we need are slowly being added. Out buildings are starting to be built, and building skills in general are improving.  I'm getting to know my soil, the trees, and wild plants. I'm learning how to attract and work with the birds, beneficial insects, amphibians, and reptiles.  The garden areas are continually improving.   Through observation and hands on work I am learning to see the whole of this ecoculture that comprises my farm.  I think that patience, perseverance, and practicality are three keys to homesteading success.   "Slow and steady goes long into the day," says the old German adage.  I agree.