Beef Stock

The house smelled really good yesterday. I took about 10 pounds of beef bones out of the freezer to make stock. I used the instructions for making bone broth (yes, I know, we used to call it stock) which calls for a first step of blanching the bones. I recognized this process—although I don't call it blanching—because it is the same thing my mother taught me to do with chickens when making chicken soup. You cover the chicken with cold water, bring it to "an aggressive simmer," and skim off all the icky stuff that floats to the top. It makes for much clearer stock. 

When the bones were done blanching, I arranged them in my roasting pan and put them in a 450 degree oven for about an hour. The dogs were just beside themselves, and this is why:

These look like the beef bones we pay $10 apiece for at the farm store. The dogs get them on major holidays, like Christmas and when I need to keep them quiet and entertained for a couple of hours. Perhaps I should start a new business roasting dog bones to sell. These cost me much less than $10 apiece, although they aren't going to the dogs just yet. They were put in the big roaster and covered with water. I left them to simmer ("aggressively") overnight. By the end of today, I should have some really nice beef stock. The dogs may get the bones after that. 

I also cooked down a ham bone, too. I didn't make red beans and rice last week because I didn't have any kidney beans—but now I do!—so I am going to make some for dinner tonight. I have hospital list again today and it will be a nice, easy meal. Of course, there will also be a salad. 


I did no weeding last night because it rained. It's supposed to be showery all day today, too, although then we are setting up for a lovely week of sunshine and temps in the upper 70s and low 80s. Ali stopped by after dinner, so I gave her two of the three grocery bags I made for her. I ran out of yellow canvas (hers are navy blue bottoms and yellow tops) but managed to snag another remnant of yellow at Jo-Anns the other day. I'll finish the third one this week. I worked on the ones for DD#2's boyfriend last night. They just need to be turned inside out, pressed, and topstitched and they will be done. The Big Guy (that is just how I keep referring to the industrial Necchi now) and I are ready to work on something else.

[The guy who does the South Main Auto videos on YouTube refers to his air hammer as "Big Nasty," which I think is really funny. They are very entertaining videos. The other night, I learned how to replace a worn-out wheel bearing on a Toyota Prius. I am sure that information will come in handy one of these days.]

I belong to the Necchi Industrial sewing machine group on Facebook. It's a wealth of information, although pinning down the models and dates of manufacture of some of these machines is really tricky. There just aren't as many Necchi industrials—especially here in the US—as there are Singers. And the older Necchis, like mine, seem to be even less common. A young guy joined the group yesterday after inheriting his grandfather's Necchi industrial treadle. His grandfather used it to make shoes in Italy. The machine is similar to mine, but with a rounder profile. It must be older because it has the art deco lettering on it. 

I am so grateful to my friend Tera for helping me to get my machine from Salt Lake to Kalispell. (We have been trying to get together for a play date but so far, no luck.) It was absolute serendipity that I was able to find that machine so close. Interestingly, though, three other ones just like it are also on this side of the country: Peter—my sewing machine collecting friend in Seattle—has one that he bought in Coos Bay, Oregon; a guy named Tom in Wyoming has one and was a great help in getting mine operational; and a woman named Connie (I think in California) also has one. I think it's fascinating how certain machines end up in certain areas. Cleveland has a glut of White machines because the factory was headquartered there. Peter and I met because I found a Meister (obviously a German brand) sewing machine here in Whitefish and sold it to him. We since have located another three or four of them here and in Spokane and they just aren't common machines. Was there a dealer here? Things to ponder. 


Garden of Weedin'

It rained, hard, for about 12 hours on Tuesday, which was great for the garden. I am really glad I got the swiss chard and collards weeded Monday night. I went out again last night and did the bush and pole beans, some of the corn (it's in two different places in the garden this year), and the beets. I'll weed carrots tonight and then that part of the garden will be done, at least for a few days. 

My grapes. I am inordinately proud of my grapes, but they are hard to grow around here:

Note to self: Must mow that hawkweed down...

Some of the corn:

My lavender hedge is spectacular and the flowers haven't even bloomed yet:

The husband weeeded it for me last week and said that he smelled really good afterward. 

[Can I just say how much I hate men's aftershave? I cannot stand the stuff. I can't even stand the smell of the shaving cream that the husband uses—thank goodness he doesn't shave every day. Maybe I am weird, but I want my man to smell like a man (or like lavender), not like some chemical perfume. Ick.]

A lovely little cabbage:

And the bush beans:

The garden is coming along. It has reached the intensive labor stage that will last for the next several months, but it's worth the extra effort to eat clean food. I did 18 pints of kidney beans in the canner Tuesday afternoon. I'll need to do a batch of Great Northern beans soon—we're almost out—but then we should be good for beans for a while. 

No mice in the trap yet; the deluge Tuesday washed all the peanut butter off the spinning tube. Also, the husband thinks that the mice may just have too much other food to eat out there and they aren't tempted by the trap. We'll keep tinkering with it. 

I found some really cool home dec fabric yesterday at Jo-Anns. I would like to combine it with some waxed canvas for an Explorer Tote, but I have no idea when I am going to get back to the sewing machine. [Insert sad face here.] I knew this was coming. I think my sewing time will be limited to rainy days from now on, although DD#2 asked me yesterday if I would make a set of grocery bags for her boyfriend because he really liked the ones I made for her.  I am going to try to squeeze that in this weekend. They are all cut and out ready to go, so it shouldn't take long. And he's a nice kid. 


A Better Mousetrap

The ground squirrels seem to have given up on getting into the house and the garden, but now we are overrun by mice. We have trapped about five in the basement in the last two weeks. The chickens have had plenty of protein. Surprisingly, there are a lot of mice out in and around the chicken coop. I have seen holes chewed in the bags of feed and there are a couple that run between the chicken coop and my herb garden. They like to hide under the lavenders. I think they are living dangerously, but apparently the chickens are not all that great at catching them. Rather like the dogs. 

The mice are annoying the husband to the point where he decided to try building a bucket trap. He saw this idea on a YouTube video. He set it up tonight:

The mice are attracted to the peanut butter on that orange tube in the bucket, but the tube spins, so when they get out there, they fall off and into the bucket of water. He said he expects it to be full of (drowned) mice tomorrow morning. Indeed, when I was taking this picture, I saw one sniffing around, but it ran back under a lavender plant when I got closer to the bucket.

[I promise not to take any pictures of drowned mice.]

We shall see what happens. I am about ready to import a bobcat to take care of all this vermin. 


June is the month when summer is still trying to get enough lift to get off the runway. It was 35 degrees when I woke up this morning. The furnace has been coming on the last two mornings and I am very glad the basil seedlings are still in the greenhouse. Anything under 40 degrees and basil will turn black and die. What's out in the garden now will either survive or not. 

We got the strawberry bed under control Sunday afternoon. The remaining bare sections are now weeded and filled in with sports from the bigger plants. We are still eating last year's strawberries, so if this year's crop is smaller than usual, that is okay. The husband weeded the potatoes and mulched them with grass clippings. We eat lettuce. Every day.

The cabbages are thriving. The zucchini and watermelons seem to be doing okay. The corn is up but needs some more heat to really get going. And my grapes have finally made some significant progress. Tonight, I weeded the swiss chard, collards, and part of the row of beets. It's all looking good. 

The fruit trees are really doing well, too. I meant to get a picture a few weeks ago when the apple trees were just covered in blossoms. Hopefully, we might get some this year. Last year we had pears and peaches, so the apples can't be far behind. 


I have done another half dozen canvas grocery bags and am close to reaching the saturation point. I'd like to work on something else for a while. DD#1 asked me about making some things for her patients to use, like activity pages with buttons to help with fine motor skills. The problem now is time—I am having to sew in snatches of time here and there and that's hard for me to do. It works when I have stuff cut out, like grocery bags, but in order to start a new project, get everything assembled and cut out, and know precisely where I am going with it, I need a good solid chunk of time. I hate interruptions. I want to start something and see it through to its conclusion. Two or three hours to work on a project would be great. That's just not happening.  

I was describing to the husband a tutorial I found on the website. It was for a duffle bag, and the picture that accompanied the tutorial showed a duffle bag of precisely the size and shape that I would like to make. I got very excited. Unfortunately—and this is the problem with that site—some of the tutorials are really good and some of them are not so good. This particular tutorial was short on details. Really short. The instructions consisted mostly of things like "Cut a couple of rectangles for the side in the size you would like," and for the end pieces, "Now draw the sides and top as part of a circle, or other bulgy shape."  Amazingly, the comments included a few glowing reports of how the commenters had used the tutorial with great success. I might go back and try to puzzle it out, but even at 5 a.m.—my best time of day—it was making my brain hurt. Bulgy shape? 

Transcription work has changed a bit and I am still adjusting. One of the doctors who used to dictate quite a bit left the clinic and several other doctors have been hired in the last 2-3 months. Breaking in new doctors is hard: they have to learn the system, get to know the patients, and figure out their own personal style of dictating. The problem is that I do not make any money while I sit there and listen to them read through previous reports or click through the computer to find the information they want to include in the curent report. My productivity—measured in the numbers of lines I am typing and therefore the amount of money I am making—has taken a hit in the last couple of months and I am actually working longer hours. I am hoping it will start to get better soon, but there are days I look at the doctors in my queue and just groan because I know it's going to be a slog. And July is typically the month when all the new fellows and residents start, and they all have to be trained, too. I think it may be a long summer. 


Order Out of Chaos

Finishing up the strawberry bed is still on my list of things to do, but I looked at the herb garden the other day and realized that if I didn't get in there soon, the window to clean it up will have slammed shut. I spent a couple of hours out there today and managed to prune it back a bit:

It will look even better once I get those piles of vegetation out of there. I still need to put a new layer of landscape fabric and gravel down on the path, but at least now you can walk through there without having to use a machete. Some of the bed edgings need to be replaced, too. They are just long logs. 


Yesterday was hospital list and thus a very long day. It was also cold and drizzly. When the husband got home, I said to him that all I really wanted to do was curl up and watch a movie with him. We don't do this very often—not because we don't want to, but because it is incredibly hard to find stuff we think is worth watching. We gave up on Netflix quite a while ago. Most of the stuff we do watch now is on YouTube, and while I like South Main Auto's YouTube channel, it's not exactly date night material. Neither is QuiltCam. 

Out of desperation, I looked at the Amazon Prime videos. The movie "The Dressmaker" popped up and I said to the husband, "Hmmmm, I wanted to watch this, but I read the reviews and I know the plotline and I am not sure I want to devote two hours of my life to a movie that is going to disappoint me, even if it has a sewing machine in it." 

[I read some reviews and all the plot spoilers when the movie first came out, which the husband reminded me is the same thing I do when I read the last chapter of a book before I have read the rest of it. Guilty as charged.]

He said, "Let's watch it anyway," so we did. It was actually a really good movie, plot twist notwithstanding, and one that I will likely watch again. It kind of reminded me of the movie "The Piano" (which I will not watch again; it was horrifying enough the first time). I won't give away any spoilers if you haven't seen it except to say that what saved the whole movie from being a maudlin mess was a very dark edge of humor that kind of reminded me of Twin Peaks. The husband thought that Molly, the mother of the main character, was particularly funny. I cringed when the Singer 201 got tossed out the window, however. Was that really necessary?

(Sorry, I know that was a spoiler.)


Anna, my friend the caterer, gave me the name of the place where she orders all of the meat for the parties she caters. I called them the other day and they ordered me in a 40-pound box of 6" beef bones. I picked it up this morning. Some of the beef bones will get used in a project next week: my friend Twila's daughter is going to the Ukraine in August for 11 months with Mennonite Central Committee. She needs to raise $3000, so our church is having a fundraising dinner next Saturday night. Twila and I are preparing the meal and one of the items is borscht. We are using the recipe from Extending the Table (an awesome cookbook, by the way), and it calls for beef bones. The rest I will put in the freezer for roasting and making stock this summer. 

I might have some sewing to show off later. 


Playing with Presser Feet on the Industrial Machine

I am itching to get the serger out and play with it. I need to start making some tops for myself, as I am reminded every time I go to put on a summery T-shirt and realize that once again, it is too short for my long torso. I've found a couple of patterns that look like they will work nicely, including the Alexa Top from Tesutti. I like that one because of the three different sleeve options. I've also kicked around the idea of taking apart one of my current knit tops and reverse engineering it. I have a Liz Claiborne top that is about 13 years old; I keep wearing it because it fits so well and is very comfortable but my mother and my kids think it needs to be retired. (The chickens do not care.) 

I have been churning out grocery bags and playing with some of the presser feet on the industrial. I used a compensating foot yesterday for the topstitching:

So professional looking. 

I ran into an weird problem the other day. I bought a magnetic seam guide for that machine because there are no measurement markings on the throat plate and because I don't like screw-on seam guides. (There were four different screw-on guides in the collection of attachments and I tried every single one.) When I put the magnetic seam guide on the bed, though, I started having all sorts of problems with sloppy stitching and thread jams, all of which stopped when I took the seam guide off the bed. It makes me wonder if the magnet was so strong that it was messing with the needle and/or the bobbin case, but I have never heard of such a problem with those guides. Perhaps this machine just doesn't like them. In any case, I am back to eyeballing my 1/2" seams, which is not that difficult to do. Somewhere, I have some adhesive measurements guides that stick onto the throat plate, but I filed them and can't remember where I put them. 

And I just had to laugh at myself: The other night, when I was cutting more canvas for bags, I had amassed a stack of pieces of black for bottoms. I went back to the stack of canvas remnants to pull out contrasting colors for the tops, and without thinking, I grabbed the bright yellow. I put the bright yellow next to the black and the very next thought that went through my head was, "I can't use that combination—those are Steelers colors!" 

The husband says those might be very popular grocery bags to sell to Steelers fans in Pennsylvania, but there is no way that this lifelong Browns fan is going to make any. EVER. 


The columbines are blooming in the herb garden:

I love the fringed flowers and the deep purple color of that variety. There is a similar one that is more of a burgundy shade. 

This pale pink one is also pretty:

The columbines are allowed to seed themselves wherever they like. I only pull them up if they are really in the way. 


Windham Fabrics just released a new line of fabric called The Big Dig. It is the cutest thing ever:

I think Auntie Janet needs to make some pajamas and a pillowcase for a certain little boy who loves construction equipment.