Monday
Jun182018

Juvenile Delinquent Piggies

This group of piglets has the makings of a small gang of thugs. I was out weeding Saturday afternoon when I heard them banging against the door of the piggy palace (they hadn't been let out to the pasture yet). I went over and looked in and all four of them were making a concerted effort to get the door open. 

The husband let them out in the pasture Sunday afternoon. He didn't come to bed until almost 11:30 Sunday night and when I asked him why he was up so late, he said he was trying to get the piglets to come back to the piggy palace so he could lock them in. They never did. We went out Monday morning and spent 15 minutes walking around the pasture before we finally came across them:

The grass is high out there and they are still pretty tiny. The piggy palace would be the safest place for them to be at night, especially with bears and mountain lions roaming around. (We saw Fish, Wildlife & Parks drive by with a bear trap the other night.) They seem bound and determined to be free-range pigs, however. 

This year's batch of chicks is almost full grown and just about ready to get put in with the big chickens. They are certainly big enough to hold their own. I've just about given up on getting any new chicks. We had two large piles of eggs—underneath the nesting boxes on the floor, naturally, not in the nesting boxes—and had a couple of chickens playing musical broody hens. A chicken has always been sitting on each pile, but which chicken varies depending on the day. Any fertile eggs should have hatched by now. I could get down there and candle them but I am being lazy. And I'm baffled as to why this group of Buff Orpingtons should have such trouble going broody. It should be like falling off a log (or a roosting bar) to them. 

Nothing about this year has been predictable, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. This is akin to when people ask me what a typical Montana winter is like. We've been here for 25 years and I still don't know. 

The potatoes look fabulous. I've never had as many grapes as I do this year (pruning was a good idea). The corn and dry beans are coming along. We'll have plenty of peas, collards, and swiss chard. The strawberries desperately need to be weeded so they are struggling a bit. The squash, I think, will be fine once we get a heat wave. Cool and wet June days don't do much for them. I am not holding out hope for tomatoes. I will probably have to buy some for canning, but that's not the end of the world. We will get what we get and we'll make do with it. We have plenty of lettuce for salads every night and that's been fabulous. I saw a whole bunch of ladybugs when I was out weeding the potatoes, and hopefully those garter snakes are doing their part, too. 

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I am still experimenting with the Instant Pot. I did spareribs the other night, which turned out okay, but I've since realized that I haven't been factoring altitude into my cooking times. I've done a little research and it seems that I need to add about 20% additional cooking time for our altitude (3250 feet above sea level). I also need to buy a few more accessories. All in all, though, it is really streamlining the cooking process, and I'm sure that will only improve the more I use it. Sunday night's dinner was stuffed peppers, and they cooked much faster in the Instant Pot than they would have in the oven. 

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I will have time to sew again someday. I keep telling myself that. 

I've got a busy couple of days coming up. Tomorrow is going to be the longest day (work in the morning and then an eight-hour drive), but it's followed by a run of three more days with lots of activity and lots of socializing and me being concerned about not having enough downtime to recharge my batteries. This is a church event, and church events are notorious for being run by extroverts. Thankfully, my traveling companion has a similar temperament. I think she will understand if I absent myself for a while occasionally. 

[When I used to teach for knitting guilds, I would often stay in someone's home to help keep the cost of the workshop down. I didn't mind doing this at all, but I did try to let my hostess know that teaching took a lot out of me and I needed time by myself at the end of a teaching day. It's not that I didn't want to socialize, it's that I simply was too brain dead to socialize. And when I say "brain dead," I literally meant that I could not get my brain to function. (The other introverts out there are nodding their heads in agreement.) One time, though, I was placed with a woman who chattered on constantly and couldn't quite understand why I preferred to closet myself in my room at the end of the day instead of staying up and knitting and visiting with her. That was a long weekend.]

There will be a bag giveaway this month. Watch the blog next week and be thinking about summer foods, because the giveaway question is going to hinge on something related to that topic. 

Sunday
Jun172018

South Instead of West

Doreen suggested that instead of heading for Sandpoint yesterday, we could go to Missoula, instead. Now that I am making so many trips back and forth to Spokane, I hardly ever go to Missoula so that idea was spot on. Missoula is a fun place. It's been at least a couple of years since I've been there and a lot of stuff has changed. My sense—just from living here and keeping an ear out for what is happening around the state—is that Missoula was missing out on a lot of the tourist dollars that Kalispell and Bozeman get, being that those two cities are close to national parks. The University of Montana has also had a pretty significant decline in enrollment over the past decade. That combination of things had started to affect Missoula and it seems that quite a bit of money has flowed in recently for upgrades and renovations. 

We stopped at the Amish store on the way down. I picked up more chocolate-covered espresso beans for the husband, some beef sticks, and a couple of yards of Kona. The Amish store has a pretty extensive fabric section, and they have colors of Kona that I don't usually see anywhere else. I got a yard of a lovely green called Palm and a yard of a blue called Cadet (it's almost a dark periwinkle). 

My car was nice and clean by the time we got to Missoula, thanks to the steady downpour. I parked downtown and Doreen and I got out to do some exploring. I would love to say I planned it this way (I didn't), but the two stores closest to where I parked had rocks and gemstones. Doreen studied geology, so rock stores are always fun places to visit. I do wish I could wear jewelry. Some of the earrings and necklaces I saw were gorgeous. I am terribly sensitive to metal, though, and the only jewelry I can tolerate are the two titanium studs I wear in my ears, my watch, and my wedding ring (and I only wear my watch and ring when I go out). 

We explored downtown and had lunch at a family-run Mexican place. I love good Mexican food. It's not my family's favorite, so I don't get it all that often. I had a chicken chimichanga with rice and beans on the side. Yum. After lunch, we stopped at Jo-Anns so I could raid the remnant rack (more Kona) and then Goodwill to see if they had anything interesting. By that time, it was mid-afternoon and time to head back to Kalispell. I was glad we decided to go to Missoula instead of Sandpoint. 

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On the way home from dropping Doreen off at the hotel, I stopped at my friend Susan's house. Susan lives up the road and she was the first friend I made when I moved to Montana (we met at a spinning and weaving guild meeting). Her two girls and my two girls are about the same ages. I refer to Susan as my kids' "other mother" because they spent so much time with her growing up. 

Susan's daughter Rosemary and her husband were home visiting. They are looking at purchasing some property up here and asked the husband if he would evaluate the construction of a place they were considering. They had just come back when I showed up, so we all went in the house and had pie and visited. Susan makes the most awesome pies. She makes her crusts from scratch. I should have taken a picture of these pies. One was raspberry and one was apricot and they had beautiful lattice tops. Susan has a couple of apricot trees in her orchard and every couple of years, the weather conditions are such that she gets a nice harvest. 

My pie crusts come out of a box. I have no shame. 

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I bought Ali's little guy a book while I was in Missoula. I couldn't help myself. It is so cute:

K is for Knuckleboom crane. We have one of those on our boom truck. 

I took the tipi over Friday night and set it up. Ali and the little guy were on vacation this week, so they didn't see it until they came home yesterday. I wanted it to be a surprise and it was. 

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This week coming up is jammed packed with stuff, so there may not be any blog posts for a couple of days. I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment. June has been busier than I expected. Hopefully the week after next will bring some breathing room with it. 

Friday
Jun152018

The Pigs Have Finally Arrived

We have piglets:

Only four this year. These are purebred Berkshires. We usually do crosses, but with all the trouble we had getting these, I wasn't going to quibble about the breed. 

It's kind of funny how everyone is really excited about the pigs. Our renters work from home and they were there when the pig supplier arrived yesterday, so they helped us unload them. Our neighbor whose property backs up onto the pig pasture came over to see them. (This is not the guy with the horses; this is Mike, who is a flight medic on the ALERT helicopter and also on the fire department with the husband. His work schedule is really bizarre and I haven't seen him in months. The last time he saw me, I was out cold in the ICU, so it was nice to catch up for a few minutes.) Then the husband got home and one of our employees pulled in behind him. He and his girlfriend got out of their truck and they went over to see the pigs. If we sold tickets, we could probably make some extra cash.

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I feel like I've been working hard for the last couple of weeks with nothing to show for it (except a tipi). For some reason, June always brings with it a massive amount of paperwork. I've been trying to stay afloat of the stuff piling up on my desk. And then there's the weeding. Weeding is the summer "pushing rocks up hills" equivalent of housework. You do it and 15 minutes later it has to be done again. All of this stuff is necessary and will yield bounty down the road, but it takes effort to exist in a state of delayed gratification for weeks on end. 

[I have heard a lot of women—especially ones with young kids—say they took up quilting/sewing/knitting because it gave them an opportunity to create something of permanance in the midst of the constant entropy that was the rest of their lives. I have tried to explain this to the husband. He builds things. No one comes behind him and undoes his concrete foundations. His work is concrete in every sense of the word.]

I am looking at my planner and there will be no sewing again until almost July. That's just the way things are right now, but it's wearing on me. Oh well. It is what it is. 

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My friend Doreen and I are taking a day trip to Sandpoint, Idaho tomorrow. We did this two years ago when she was visiting and discovered a fabulous little farmer's market there. And the town of Ponderay, which is right next door to Sandpoint, is having a city-wide yard sale tomorrow. The weather is supposed to be cool and rainy, so perhaps that will cut down on the competition. It will be nice to get out of the garden and out of my office. 

Someone in St. Ignatius, which is halfway between here and Missoula, posted an older Brother industrial serger for sale on Craigslist for $150. I won't be able to get down there and look at it until the week after next because of my schedule, but if it's still available and in working condition, I might consider buying it. I am not familiar with the model but parts are still readily available. No, I don't have any place to put it. Perhaps it's what we need to light a fire under the "build another garage" project, though. 

One of our renter's friends (we know him; his sister was DD#2's French teacher in high school) has taken up sewing and wants to start making duffle bags and other backcountry-type gear. I said I'd be happy to provide some basic sewing lessons. I sometimes miss teaching and wouldn't mind mentoring him. We'll see how that pans out. 

Thursday
Jun142018

Instant Pot, Instant Love

I am so glad I went ahead and bought an Instant Pot. I made Honey Garlic Chicken in it the other night:

Half an hour, start to finish. I have since learned I can do the rice at the same time, but I need to get an insert for that. It is lovely to be able to do a few minutes of prep work, put the lid on, push a button, and go do something else. If I had done the rice in the Instant Pot at the same time, I would have had only one pot to clean up. 

The Facebook group is full of all sorts of great recipes. I am going to make some country-style spareribs for dinner tonight. It's a recipe I usually make in the Crockpot and cook all day. We'll see how it turns out in the Instant Pot. I'm expecting good things. 

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Speaking of pork, the pigs are supposed to show up today. Finally. Of course, as is typical with this pig supplier, I got an e-mail yesterday morning asking me if it was okay to bring them yesterday. With no warning. I was planning to run errands in town, so we arranged that he would bring them late this morning, instead. We keep them penned up for a couple of days, but it's better if someone is here to keep an eye on them after they arrive. 

It's a toss-up these days whether to take the camera or the gun with me when I head out to the garden. I've been out there the past couple of evenings weeding the lettuce bed and had deer, rabbits, and birds for company. (The deer and rabbits can't get into the garden, but they're out there.) Our neighbor texted me yesterday afternoon that she and her husband had gone for a walk down the road and a bobcat walked out in front of them. Bobcats aren't as big as mountain lions, but they are still pretty impressive. This one ran away when it saw them. I hope it had a few ground squirrels for dinner. 

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A letter arrived in the mail yesterday from the law firm that is handling the litigation for the deck collapse. For those of you who haven't been long-time blog followers, the short version of that story is this: The husband and I were at a memorial service for a friend of ours last June at the Glacier Presbyterian Camp on the west side of Flathead Lake. After the service, a group of us assembled out on the deck. Unfortunately, the deck had some structural issues and collapsed under the weight of all those people. You can read about it in more detail in the blog post I wrote after it happened. Fortunately, because we were standing at the edge of the deck and the husband was able to jump off as it was collapsing and pull me out, we suffered only minor injuries. (I can't even see the scars on my legs anymore.) Some of our friends weren't so lucky and are still dealing with the aftereffects. 

The letter was to let us know that demolition on the deck—what is left of it, anyway—was scheduled to begin and that if any interested parties wanted to inspect it, they needed to do so ASAP. I wondered if the camp would be open this summer or not but it appears from their website that they are still offering programs. 

I am always nervous about being out on decks now. The husband and I were on one a few weeks ago at someone's house. It wasn't in danger of collapsing, but we compared notes afterward and realized that both of us had been thinking about it. 

Between falling off the deck last June and my unplanned vacation in the ICU in February, I have had way more excitement in the past 12 months than I needed. I'd really like to be left alone for a while. 

Tuesday
Jun122018

Turkey Wallow

It has been an ongoing circus of wildlife here lately. I just need a giant toad to show up in the driveway and we'll be all set. 

Lila has two wallows in the yard. One is directly out the kitchen door and the other is in the middle of the driveway at the base of a tree. She loves to roll around and nap in the dirt. 

A few years ago, when the mama turkey lived with our chickens for a few months while she raised her baby, I looked out the screen door one day to see the baby splashing dirt around in the wallow in the yard while mama stood by protectively. Lila was lying on the porch, head and ears up, watching them. She didn't look like she wanted to chase the baby, though. I said to her in a low voice, "What is the rule about defenseless baby forest animals?" and she put her head back down. She never did chase the baby out of the wallow. I told her she was a good dog for sharing. 

[When I say to the dogs "What is the rule about defenseless baby forest animals?" the husband sometimes will respond with "The rule is that we put ketchup on them before we eat them."]

It has been chilly and rainy the last couple of days, so the dogs have been in the house. Yesterday morning, I heard the driveway alarm go off. I looked out the window to see a rabbit hopping across the driveway. (The driveway alarm works for both vehicles and animals.) An hour or so later, I was heading into the kitchen to get lunch and noticed a flurry of dirt coming from the dog wallow in the driveway. A very large turkey was splashing around while two others stood by and watched:

(Picture taken from a distance through a window so I wouldn't scare it.)

After a few minutes, it got up, shook itself off, and wandered away. 

The husband saw the garter snake in the garden the other day while he was weeding peas. Something has been munching on bean seedlings, though, so I'm going to have to go hunting again. We put floating row covers on the corn, beans, and squash last night because we were under a frost warning. It was 34 degrees when I got up, though, so I think my sister's acorn squash plants are safe. This is late for a frost. 

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I found out yesterday that Classic Elite Yarns is ceasing business. Kristin Nicholas wrote an interesting blog post about CEY (she was Creative Director there for 16 years). It's sad, but not unexpected. Retail everything has changed a lot in the last 20 years. In many ways, I am very glad I am no longer working in the independent knitting design business. I enjoyed it while I was doing it, but I don't really have the patience or temperament to weather the kinds of seismic changes those industries are undergoing. 

I have had a couple of conversations with the husband about Jo-Ann Fabrics lately. They have drastically changed some of their marketing and sales strategies and my gut instinct tells me that they may be headed down the tubes, too. About 12-18 months ago, they eliminated all of their designer fabric lines (Tim Holtz, Juliana Horner, Susan Winget, etc.) in favor of a house brand initially called Buttercream. All of the old stock went on clearance; at our store, in Kalispell, it is stacked all over the place on shelves way out of reach, so it's impossible to get it down and look at it without help. I've bought as much Tim Holtz and Juliana Horner as I could find for my stash. The Buttercream label now seems to have gone away in favor of fabric grouped by style: 1930s, batiks, modern, and so forth. The collection is much smaller than what they had previously and personally, I find it to be rather boring. The prints are all too similar. Their novelty collection sports some Tim Holtz-like prints, but they are obviously knock-offs and look cartoonish and less sophisticated than the actual Tim Holtz designs. 

I have no idea what was behind all these inventory changes; I am looking at this from the consumer side only, but I can tell you that I find the current fabric offerings much less appealing. They also changed their coupon structure. It changes all the time. Literally every single day I get an e-mail touting some kind of special, many of them 70% off. They have instituted a lot of "flash sales" that come up with no warning and only last for one day. I am not making a special trip to town just for a flash sale. I was especially torqued the day I tried to access coupons on the Jo-Anns app on my phone and discovered that they had instituted a two-tier system—you could only get the "special" coupons if you logged in to the app. I have enough trouble keeping track of what I am logged into on my home computer without having to manage my phone apps, too. I know that companies are salivating over data collection and want to know peoples' shopping habits, but if a store I shop at makes in too difficult for me to spend money there, what they are going to find out is that I am not spending as much money there. Chew on that piece of data. 

It's maddening. It has also been my experience that once stores/companies start chasing customers with drastic price cuts to merchandise, that marks the beginning of the end. I guess we will wait to see what happens.