Thursday
Sep132018

Getting Ready

I've been watching hurricane coverage on The Weather Channel and thinking a lot about disaster preparedness. The issue is that you can prepare for what you think will happen, but it's that unanticipated problem that comes out of left field that is going to take you down. The best you can do is prepare for the most likely scenario. 

This is my cheat sheet for starting the generator:

I made the husband walk me through it a couple of times so I could write things down step-by-step. He uses this kind of equipment every day and doesn't have to think about what to do—sort of like how I am with my sewing machines. This sheet lives on the front of my filing cabinet (with backup copies elsewhere) so I can just grab it and take it with me. And yes, I have followed these instructions successfully and been able to start the generator in an emergency. We had a storm and the power went out at 2 a.m. The husband was out on a fire call because of the storm and I had to start the generator by myself. 

We live in an area where it would not be unheard of to be without services for a while, so the husband and I have made preparedness a part of our daily routine. We've taken some ribbing from friends and family members about this, which is fine, although I find it interesting that the same people who make fun of us are usually the same ones who expect to bug-out to our homestead if there is some kind of apocalypse. I carry around an informal decision matrix in my head that governs who is going to be welcomed and who might be left standing out in the cold. FYI, you're going to be a lot more valuable in an emergency if you have some useful skills, or at least a willingness to buckle down and pitch in without complaint. We don't have room for prima donnas. Also, you have to be able to get here and that might be more difficult than you think. 

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Our renters called yesterday to let us know that the water wasn't working at the rental house. I went over and we checked the breakers and our renter went down into the crawlspace to take a look at the pressure tank. The husband was already on a job, but he called a couple of guys he knows and they were able to come out within a few hours. They replaced the control box, pressure switch, and pressure gauge. I was very happy that they were able to get to us so quickly. We don't want our renters to be without water and that well also provides water to the piggy pasture. I was not relishing the thought of carrying five-gallon buckets of water out there. 

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I've got some stuff happening this weekend that will preclude writing any blog posts, so don't expect anything else until Monday. Happy weekend and stay safe if you're in Florence's path. 

Tuesday
Sep112018

Bringing in the -Oes

Tomatoes and potatoes, that is. 

We're getting some tomatoes:

I go out daily and pick anything that has a hint of red on it. The obviously ripe ones get rinsed off and put into gallon freezer bags and stored in the freezer. The not-so-ripe ones get put out on a towel on top of one of our freezers, which has a southern window exposure and is a great place to finish ripening tomatoes. When those ripen, they also get frozen. It's a system, and all the frozen tomatoes will become bonus sauce, eventually. 

I can't remember what variety of sauce tomatoes we ultimately ended up with. These are almost more like plum tomatoes. The Oregon Star variety that I usually plant produces fruit about three times the size of these. Oh well, I am not going to complain. 

Tonight's dinner is country-style spare ribs that have been cooking in a slow oven all day, basted periodically with Grandma Milly's BBQ sauce. They will be accompanied by a salad—store lettuce and peppers with our tomatoes and cucumbers—and some of these:

Would you believe that all these potatoes came from three plants? I didn't have to do much digging. Most of them were the size of my fist. These will get sliced up and fried (in lard, of course) with onions to go with the spare ribs. We eat good. 

The husband is doing his part by eating canteloupes and watermelon. The grapes still need a few more days, although I confess to eating a couple of handfuls while I was out in the garden. The stuff that did well did really well. The stuff that didn't do well bombed. Such are the vagaries of gardening. Sometimes I think that getting anything is a sheer miracle. We'll be ready for any chipmunks next year. Me being sick in February did not help the spring planting schedule. Next year will be better. 

While I was out in the garden, I pulled up the cucumber vines, which are mostly yellow, and collected what was left of the cukes. We'll eat a few more and the chickens and pigs can finish off the ones that won't keep. 

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I checked in with my sister today, who lives in Charlotte and is right smack in the path of this monster storm, to make sure she was ready. She has amassed supplies and expects to lose power. Hopefully, it won't be out for too long. Her ex-husband lives nearby and they can help each other out if things get difficult. My in-laws are on the Delmarva peninsula, but unless this storm's track shifts dramatically, they should be okay. They have a generator and have ridden out big storms in the past. I am reminded, though, that I need to get my emergency bag out of my car and re-inventory the supplies. I have pulled a few things out of it over the past year. 

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I have just about finished another eight or so squares for that scrap quilt. I think I can finish them tonight, and then I'll figure out how many short of 48 I am. 

So I mentioned making underwear. . . as a supporting Zig-Zag Member of Sewhere.com, I received a copy of the Floozy Doozy underwear pattern. I am so intrigued by these! It's especially interesting for me to be on the other side of the pattern, after having produced knitting patterns for so many years. I asked today, in the private Facebook group for Zig-Zag members, if future patterns could include a bit more detail about suitable fabrics for this pattern. The pattern specifies "fabrics with 50% stretch" and nothing more. Mallory graciously replied that they would be happy to do that. I know that knitting designers and yarn store owners often chuckle at knitters who come in and want the exact same yarn in the exact same color as the picture in the pattern, but I totally get it. I could figure out what fabrics would be suitable for the Floozy Doozies. However, having Zede and Mallory specify what fabrics they used for the protoypes—especially if they provide links to suppliers—is going to make the sewist's experience more successful. 

I am not quite sure what project will be up on the cutting table next as I won't have time to do any sewing this weekend. I did put some potential fabrics for lining the red version of the Bramble Bag that I have cut out. I haven't made a decision, though. Some things need to marinate. 

Monday
Sep102018

A (Finally) Finished Fremont Tote

I got the last of the hardware and straps attached to the Fremont Tote yesterday:

Things I love about this bag:

The size is just about perfect—not too big and not too small. I think I will need to try carrying this bag around for a bit in order to compare it to my beloved Bramble Bag. 

The grab handles. I have discovered that I love having shorter handles for grabbing a bag instead of hoisting it up by the shoulder strap. 

Waxed canvas! I will never tire of waxed canvas. 

Things I am not so crazy about:

That top zipper. I really have mixed feeling about zippers on bags. The Bramble Bag has a magnetic clasp, which makes it very easy for me to get in and out of that bag. In general, I like zipper tops on bags that carry things like my knitting, but not for my everyday bag. I could see making this again but substituting a facing with a magnetic clasp for that zipper. If a bag does have a zipper, I prefer that it extend past the side of the bag, making it easier to open the bag wide.

I would put an adjustable leather shoulder strap on next time. This is the one that came with the kit, so I used it. It's an okay length for me, but I am on the taller side. 

Things I am making my peace with:

Hardware and straps added after the bag is completed. That was nervewracking, although now that I have done it, I feel more comfortable about doing it that way again. I do like those Chicago screws far better than rivets. 

I may do some kind of mashup of this bag and the Bramble Bag. We'll see. It's all part of the creative process. 

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I didn't get as much done yesterday as I wanted to. Part of it was that I really powered through Saturday. Part of it was that we're back to our "church in the middle of the day" schedule. When you get up at 5:00 a.m. but church isn't until 11:00 a.m., that really does feel like the middle of the day. We had a fellowship meal afterward, which meant that I didn't get home until 2 p.m., and then the husband and I listened to the (nervewracking overtime) end of the Steelers/Browns game on the radio. I have the Cleveland Browns app on my phone, so I just hook my phone up to the Bose speakers and listen to it that way.  We hardly ever get a live broadcast of Browns games out here. I like the play-by-play from Jim Donovan and Doug Dieken anyway. 

The husband is a Steelers fan, so it makes for an interesting football season. But hey, we didn't lose yesterday! Things are looking up. 

And I did work on another half a dozen squares for the scrappy quilt before bed. It reminds me of that saying about handspinning versus spinning on a spinning wheel: It's slower by the minute but faster by the month. 

Saturday
Sep082018

Janet and the Beanstalk

I am sitting here sipping on what will likely be one of my last currant shrubs of this season and taking a well-deserved break. I just spent the last couple of hours out in the garden pulling up the rest of the beans and getting them into trays to dry in the greenhouse. The ones I pulled out last week are drying up nicely:

I am curious to see how much I end up with. I usually can a five-pound bag each of black, white, and kidney beans about every six months. I don't think I'll get that much, but then again, who knows? I am just thrilled that I got what I did. I am definitely putting in more varieties next year. 

The zucchini—that gift that keeps are giving—are now officially done (I know, I keep saying that, but this time I mean it) because I pulled the last of the plants out today. That gave me the opportunity to do an informal head count of acorn squash. My sister will not go hungry. 

The husband has been having canteloupe with his bacon and eggs every morning:

They never get very big—about the size of large grapefruit—but they are very sweet. 

I put on my gardening apron when I went out to work:

The husband and I were having a conversation a few weeks ago about me making and selling stuff. He said, "I have plenty of old work pants, so you could make more of those kitchen nail bags or whatever you're calling those things." He was referring to this apron, which shall forevermore be known as a "kitchen nail bag" even though it works nicely as a gardening apron. 

I spotted a ladybug in the bean patch:

I need to read up on ladybugs. I would like to know more about the different kinds and how we can make our ecosystem even more hospitable for them, although they do seem to like what we've got. 

Our pullets have started laying, right on schedule:

Pullet egg on right, regular egg on left. They will lay small eggs for a few weeks. Some pullet eggs will have yolks but some won't. Overall egg production usually drops in August because it's hot and some of the chickens are molting. We've only been getting a fraction of what we usually get. This is an indication that things should start picking up. 

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It was still a little overcast and unsettled this morning, so before I went out to the garden, I made a quick trip into town. Our grocery stores have case sales in September and sometimes again in March. It's a good time to stock up. Our friend Chuck, who lives around the corner, always gives me a call to let me know when the sales are happening. This week and next, Smith's is having their case sale. If I only shop one case sale, this is the one. Smith's is not my regular grocery store, which is why I appreciate the heads-up from Chuck. Today I picked up a case of Bragg's apple cider vinegar, a case of brown sugar (zucchini bread production used up my supply), two cases of diced tomatoes, a case of tomato paste, a case of veggie broth, and a case of chicken broth. I used to buy my cases of beans there, but as I am canning them myself, I don't need to anymore. I also usually get cases of green chilies, but they didn't have any. I'll check next week, because sometimes the stock changes. 

I know, you are probably wondering why I bought cases of tomatoes and cases of broth when I could also can those. That is a judgment call on my part. I could get another case of tomatoes and make up a bunch of pints of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce. I have to factor in my time, though, and that is where it gets sticky. I know how much free time I have and how much time I am able to devote to canning right now. There are a dozen pumpkins out in the garden that are going to need my attention soon. (Remind me to tell you sometime about the fabulous curried lentil and pumpkin soup I made for lunch yesterday.) I simply cannot shoehorn in another session of tomatoes, a session of chicken broth, and a session of veggie broth. Sometimes it is just nice to be able to go to the pantry and pull a can off the shelf, so for these things, I am willing to pay for the convenience. If I didn't have a full-time job then yes, I would probably can everything. If I didn't have a full-time job, I'd be doing a lot of things, like making my own underwear. (Long story for another blog post.) 

I wish it weren't so much a case of feast or famine, but it is what it is. I do the best I can and that's pretty darn good. 

The husband and I will have to dig up the potatoes some time in the next couple of weeks and get them into the root cellar. The corn crop seems to be a bust. Thankfully, I still have some frozen from last year.  My grapes have just started turning that tell-tale blush color that indicates they are almost ready to pick. I tasted a few today. Oh my. I've got four huge heads of cabbage destined to become sauerkraut, but they can just hang out for another week or two. A frost won't hurt them. Same thing with the pumpkins and acorn squash. The beans are done. I am picking tomatoes as they ripen, or start to ripen; at some point, we'll have to decide how much work we want to put in to keep them going, either out in the garden covered at night or picked to ripen in the greenhouse. 

And so we keep moving toward that inevitable first snowfall. It's been a weird gardening season in a lot of ways, but that's part of the fun. 

Friday
Sep072018

Garage Progress Update

The last week has seen a flurry of activity; one of the husband's associates came with his crew to backfill the garage foundation and prep the area for some additional work:

There will be lean-tos coming off either side of the garage for additional shelter/storage. These are the holes for the piers:

This is all part of a larger project which I will try to describe: there is an easement with a driveway that runs smack between our two pieces of property. That easement belongs to the five acres our house sits on, and it gives access to the rental house property and another property further back, both of which were landlocked when the parcels were created. The original owner of the piece further back from the road tried to get us to give him a bigger easement, which we refused to do because we were pretty sure his intent was to subdivide that property and put a housing development back there. That piece is now owned by a young couple with kids and horses. They are good neighbors. And we own the rental property now, so access is less of an issue. 

The problem is that the easement which serves as the driveway for the rental property and our neighbors comes out to the road at a corner. It can be a tough place to get in and out of. We plan to move that easement/driveway to the opposite side of our property. We will close the original easement off to most traffic. The new garage, though, is situated in such a way—and will have a garage door in both the front and the back—that the husband can drive trailers, trucks, and other equipment straight through if necessary, using the old easement for access. 

It's nice to have this all underway, finally. 

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I spent a lovely couple of hours with my friend Joann yesterday. She and her husband retired to Montana and belong to our church. Joann is a prolific knitter and makes a lot of prayer shawls. When we were in Boise in June (both of us knitting our way through meetings), we noticed that the Presbyterian church where our conference was being held had a quilt rack in the hallway with prayer shawls draped over it. There was a note above the rack encouraging anyone who needed a prayer shawl to take one, as well as a place to put their name and any prayer requests. We thought that was a terrific way to make the prayer shawls available. At the moment, our supply of prayer shawls is in a Rubbermaid bin in the sewing room; we will gladly give them out, but non-knitters either have to know they are there or know who to ask to get one. I picked up a nice quilt rack at the thrift store over the summer. This Sunday, Joann will lead the part of the service where we bless the prayer shawls and then we'll put them out on the rack in the foyer for people to take as they need them.

Joann had invited me to come down to their house in Bigfork this week. They live on the golf course and it's a great place for a walk, so that's what she and I did yesterday—we walked and visited. It was a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours. I also got to take a peek at her mother's Featherweight—the machine Joann learned to sew on. 

My summer pianist hiatus is almost over. We move to our fellowship hall for informal summer church services in July and August and while I still accompany the congregational singing for those services, I don't do prelude or offertory music. This Sunday, we move back to the sanctuary. I've been working on some new pieces of music over the last couple of weeks. I know the congregation doesn't keep track of what I play every Sunday, but I get tired of playing the same things over and over. 

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And it rained. It rained last night and it's raining again this morning, despite the fact that not a single forecast I looked at had any hint of precipitation. I hope the beans are not too wet to pick and bring in tomorrow. I am feeling the need to get the garden put to bed soon.