Sunday
Jun032018

Horseradish and Dill in the Garden

Our garden can best be described as "organized chaos." It's never going to appear in a magazine or win any awards, but it's productive and healthy. We do have to spend a fair bit of time beating back the weeds every year. Interestingly, some of the biggest "weed" issues we have involve plants we put in the garden deliberately but which refuse to behave by staying put. The rapsberry bed, for example, gets bigger every year. We neither need nor want that many raspberries. I don't need acres of dill, either, but that stuff is everywhere. I only planted it once but once was enough to provide me with a lifetime supply for pickling. 

I suffer from analysis paralysis when I go out to the garden at this time of year. The husband says, "Just choose a spot and get to work," but I'm on my hands and knees pulling handfuls of dill seedlings out from around the potato plants and I can see that the lettuce is getting choked out by dandelions. So I start digging out dandelions and I notice that there are thistles growing around the peas. I move over to the peas and discover that toad flax is invading the lavender hedge. And so it goes. 

[If you give a mouse a cookie...]

I dug the worst of the dill out of one row of potatoes. That row of spuds—Yukon Golds, I believe—is big enough now that a few weeds aren't going to choke out the plants, but I don't need any more dill seeding itself everywhere. I also weeded the row of swiss chard and the row of collard greens. We move things around each season to confound the pests, but that means that I have volunteers popping up in odd places. I usually leave them unless they are really in the way. 

It does feel good to get out and work, though. As much as I love my job, I know that sitting so much isn't good for me physically. 

Have you ever seen horseradish? (Tip: Just buy it at the grocery store. You don't need it in your garden. Trust me.)

The plants are pretty and the bees love the flowers. It's a perennial, though, and once it's established, it's not going anywhere. Thankfully, it is not as invasive as the raspberries. 

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I spent a good part of yesterday evening on baby robin watch. We have a wraparound porch on our house and the rafters are prime nest-building real estate. We have had years when the rafters resembled a robin condominium complex. This year, a robin built a nest in the southwest-most corner of the porch. It's a spot that we can see easily from our rocker glider. Last week, before I left for Seattle, we noticed that the eggs had hatched and the mama was feeding a bunch of babies. I had to count beaks twice, but it appeared that there were five babies in the nest. Five! Most times they will only have three. 

I've been watching the nest this week to see how big the babies were getting and how close they were to leaving. Lila and Rusty cannot help themselves; they are dogs and fledging baby robins look good to eat. After 20+ years of saving baby robins from dogs, I have gotten so attuned to hearing the specific call that mama robins make when they are coaxing babies out of the nest that I recognize the sound even when I am not actively listening for it.  It's a very bizarre skill to have picked up. When I heard that call yesterday evening, I went and checked the nest. Sure enough, a couple of the babies were out of the nest and dancing along the edge of the rafters. I parked myself in the glider rocker with a good book and waited. Robins usually try to get their babies out of the nests very early in the morning or in the evening approaching dusk. I guess that is when they feel it is safest for them to leave. 

One baby took off and wobbled all the way to the roof of the chicken coop. It flew from there to one of the rafters over the chicken yard and then to the woods, which put it safely out of range of the dogs. A second one flew down and landed on the fence to the herb garden, but then flew back into the yard. I had to walk behind it and scoot it over to the edge of the woods before Rusty and Lila saw it. A third one flew down and then took off again for the woods. That left one baby still in the nest. (One must have left earlier in the day.) It seems to be in no hurry to leave because it's still there this morning. 

The husband makes lots of jokes about me violating the Prime Directive. I do what I can. 

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My sew-jo appears to have taken a sabbatical. I worked a bit on the Field Tote Saturday night, but I am at an impasse with the webbing for the straps and I am trying to figure out what to do about it. (Why can nothing be easy?) The pattern calls for 1-1/2" wide light- or medium-weight cotton webbing. Unfortunately, the designer doesn't give any sources for the webbing that she used. Also unfortunately, if webbing is 1-1/2" wide, it's usually heavyweight webbing. I bought some, but it's heavy, and I know that once it is doubled up and sandwiched between two pieces of waxed canvas, my Necchi industrial isn't going to want to sew over it. That machine is an industrial, but it's a light industrial. 

I have a couple of options. I could try polypropylene webbing, which is easier for my machine to handle, or I could go over to my friend Tommy's house and sew the straps on his needle-feed Singer 78-1. (Oh, the irony: I used to own that machine but I sold it to him because I didn't think I would ever need it. He has graciously told me I am welcome to use it whenever I want to, however.) I am going to try the polypropylene webbing, first. I would prefer cotton webbing, but now I just want to get this bag done. 

Saturday
Jun022018

Please Feed the Wildlife

I know it's been a blitzkreig of blog posts this week, but that's what happens when I am gone for a few days. This is the time of year, too, when lots of things are happening. 

I had a long day at work yesterday and it was cold and rainy out, so the husband and I went out for dinner. Our new favorite place is called the Blaine Creek Grill. It's located about halfway between our house and town, right where the road meets the highway. At that point, if you head north, you'll get to Glacier Park. If you head west, you'll end up in Kalispell. It's a great location. When the restaurant was first built, probably about 20 years ago, it did really well. (It also has an associated nine-hole golf course.) The guy that owned it knew what he was doing. He retired after a few years, though, and since then, it has had a string of owners who haven't quite been able to make it work. That's true of a lot of businesses in our area, though; they do a brisk business during tourist season but then have trouble making it through the winter. 

The new owner is a local. Her kids went to the same elementary school that mine went to. Her daughter is one of the wait staff and I love it when we have her as our server because I remember when she was in kindergarten. Oh, the joys of small-town living. The restaurant has been open since at least the middle of the winter and I think it's going to be a success again. It's always busy. The food is awesome. The menu is not terribly extensive—burgers, pork and steak, mostly—but the specials change each week and I have yet to have a bad meal there. I was hoping that because of the weather, they would have a nice hot soup as a special last night and I was not disappointed. I had a salad and a big bowl of New England Clam Chowder. The husband had a salad and a cheeseburger. We topped off the meal with a slice of Salted Caramel Cheesecake (the cheesecake specials change every week, too). 

It had stopped raining by the time we got home. I headed out to the greenhouse to water seedlings and the husband went to take care of the chickens. As I was walking back, he motioned to me and said, "The turkey is here again." And it was:

He said it came out of the woods when he brought the scratch grains out for the chickens. I suspect it is a hen and she has a nest out there. We'll see if she shows up soon with babies in tow. We had a mama turkey come and take up residence with a baby a few years ago. She would be out by the coop, waiting, when I came out with the scratch grains. Every night, she flew up and roosted on top of the chicken yard. I got this pic of her and the baby one night:

The feed bill goes up slightly when we have to feed the wildlife, but it's fun to have them around. 

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I finished binding a knotted comforter last night. I am being optimistic and hoping for a bit of sewing time tonight if I am not too tired. The McGregor Field Tote is all cut out and ready to assemble. I also got an order for a set of canvas grocery bags (it is a very casual order from a friend and doesn't have a strict deadline). It might be time to cut another batch of those out. I like to do them assembly-line style and it works well if I have a dozen or so ready to put together. I picked up some duck cloth remnants at Jo-Anns last weekend while traveling. 

From the Small World Department (you may know this as "The Mennonite Game" if you are Mennonite): Margaret sent an e-mail yesterday to let me know that Carol, who lives in Ohio and is an internet friend of mine, showed up at the retirement community in Indiana where Margaret lives and knocked on her door. Carol and I were introduced to each other by Carol's cousin Beth, who is married to Jack, who is the moderator of the denominational board that I am currently serving on. (Beth and Jack live in Idaho.) Beth is an old friend of our pastor's; they went to college together. Carol went to college with Margaret's son. Carol's cousin's mother-in-law lives in the same retirement community as Margaret. Carol and her cousin were visiting and they decided to drop in on Margaret. 

[If that doesn't make your head spin...]

Carol has several vintage sewing machines and also makes bags and sometimes comments on the blog. Carol, you should know that you made Margaret's day yesterday. We surely do miss having her here in Montana. 

It's bacon and eggs for breakfast and then I need to attack my to-do list. 

Friday
Jun012018

The Unicorn Safari Club

Collectors of vintage sewing machines (and, I am sure, collectors of other things, as well) often refer to elusive models as "unicorns." These are the machines that are seen rarely, if ever, in the wild. Acquiring one is like winning the lottery. 

I have a long list of unicorns—so many, in fact, that the husband says he is going to get me a shirt that says "Proud Member of the Unicorn Safari Club." (At this point, I think I really qualify as president of said club.) We can include the following on my short list of unicorns:

  • A diesel station wagon with a manual transmission.
  • 100% cotton jeans that come up to my waistline. 
  • Unenriched, unadulterated-with-glyphosate wheat products that don't wreck my digestive system.
  • A Singer 14HD854 serger.

It is worth noting that at least three of the four items on the above list can be had easily if one lives somewhere other than the US, specifically Europe. The search for that last one—the serger—is currently making me nuts. I first ran across a mention of that particular model on the Vintage Sewing Machines blog. This blog is written by a lovely lady with years of couture tailoring experience and also a lot of hands-on knowlede about vintage machines. I believe she lives somewhere in Europe. In her most recent blog post, she talked about her three sergers. One is for delicate fabrics, one for mid-weight fabrics, and one—that Singer—is for heavyweight fabrics such as denim and home dec. I was thrilled to find out that there was actually a serger designed for heavy fabrics. That machine comes with 100/16 needles installed. The knives are 60% larger. I thought it would be a good compromise; it's not a true industrial, so I wouldn't have to find a big space and the proper outlet for a 220V motor, but it likely would be beefy enough to handle the canvas and heavy fleece in some of the projects the husband brings me. 

The only problem? No one in the US sells that model. She has only had hers for a year, so it's not old. 

For pete's sake. This is getting ridiculous. If I lived in Europe or Australia, I'd have my pick of sellers offering this machine. It is listed on the Amazon.ca website—with a note saying "Currently Unavailable." I have a query in to the Singer Corporation asking why that model isn't offered for sale in North America. (Someone probably sliced their fingers off using it.) I haven't heard back from Singer yet. I suppose I could figure out how to order one from a Canadian seller if I can find one, but it just frosts me that I have to go to such lengths to source items I want. 

I'll let you know what I find out. 

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So it's now June 1 and we're still waiting on pigs. We have a neighbor who also raises pigs and gets weaners from the same supplier. Ted works at the local lumberyard and the husband chatted with him the other day when he was there. Our neighbor is also waiting to find out if his pigs are going to show up. That makes me feel some better. 

This year's batch of chicks—the White Rocks—are all happily running around in the coop. They have a separate section both inside and outside where they can watch and interact with the big chickens without the big chickens beating up on them. 

The husband tells me that one of the Buff Orpington hens has been broody for quite a while now, and she's sitting on a big pile of eggs. Let's hope. I really need my big rooster to reproduce himself before he dies, and he's getting up there in chicken years.  

When I got home from Spokane on Tuesday, there was a turkey wandering around the outside of the chicken yard. I asked the husband if we had a pet turkey now. He said it had been there for a couple of days. Every so often, a lone turkey comes and hangs out. I think turkeys and chickens speak different dialects, although they do appear to be trying to talk to each other. 

It looks like the garter snake has moved out of the greenhouse and into the garden. I haven't seen it since before I left for Seattle. 

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I know I said I would do a bag giveaway in May. I am still trying to figure out the best way to make that happen. Rafflecopter seems way too complicated and expensive, so I think we'll just do a simple random number generator. I'll plan a post around a giveaway. I need to get reorganized this weekend. Half of the tax stuff got delivered to the accountant yesterday and I have to finish the rest of it tomorrow. 

Thursday
May312018

Updates From the Field

A few other items of note from this trip:

I picked up my Janome 6600P from The Quilting Bee, in Spokane, where I had dropped it off two weeks ago for service. They charged me a very reasonable $79 to clean, oil, and adjust it. I need to re-install it in its table and then it will be ready for some more free motion quilting, but probably not until the fall. 

After field testing them over the weekend, I've decided that I really like the Wrangler Cash jeans. I still wish that the waist came up a bit higher, but I'll deal with that in exchange for having some 100% cotton jeans that feel like velvet on my skin instead of like 60 grit sandpaper. And that don't stretch out and fall down. I was able to find a second pair in Spokane. I might have to order one or two more pairs to keep in reserve. 

The Bramble Bag continues to be my very favorite purse design ever. It just works perfectly for me. I feel a bit weird about carrying a black purse in the summer, but I don't know when I will have time soon to make one in a lighter color. We have officially entered that season when all of my free time is taken up with weeding and mowing and other outside activities. I miss sewing. I especially miss sewing on my Necchi industrial treadle.  

I bought a sewing machine, something I haven't done in quite a while. I reached the point some time ago where I gave up buying machines unless they were Necchis, and so many people have discovered the joys of vintage Necchis that they now are scarcer than hens' teeth. You can imagine my surprise then, when I ran across this in a thrift store in Bonners Ferry, Idaho, on my way home (it's a good place for a pit stop):

I started out in the part of the store where they keep the sewing supplies. There were some Singer accessories and buttonholers that I thought I might buy (stuff in this store is really cheap), but I set all of it aside to go check in the back. I know that sometimes they put machines there. I walked around a rack of clothing and saw the Necchi case and inside my head I was thinking, "No no no no no, it can't possibly be a Necchi" but of course, I opened it up and it was. Who am I to argue with the universe when it puts a Necchi right in front of me? This is a straight stitch model and not quite as sought after as the zig-zag versions, although I couldn't leave it there for the few dollars they were asking (the case is worth more than anything else). When I got it home, I noticed that the switches and transformer were missing:

The switches would normally be located where those two holes are. I could wait for a replacement transformer unit to pop up on eBay, but that white oval is the knockout for a treadle belt. I have always planned to convert one of my Supernovas to a treadle and the missing transformer/switches make this one a good candidate. As you can see, it needs a thorough cleaning, so into the queue it goes. 

Sigh. 

Interestingly—and this is really only for the Necchi nerds out there reading my blog—this machine is labeled "Ultra" but it doesn't have any of the features normally associated with the Supernovas badged as Ultras including the push button needle clamp, automatic needle threader, and magnifying lens. Those of us on the Necchi Facebook group who care about these things make ongoing attempts to catalog the different models that came out of the factory in Pavia, Italy (most of the records were destroyed in a fire). We have decided that the badging of Supernovas is subject to as much human error as a lot of other endeavors. It seems that some workers were just trying to make their quotas by Friday at quitting time, which resulted in the occasional incorrectly-badged mutant model. It's all part of the fun. 

I've only got one operational zig-zag capable Necchi at the moment and I haven't sewn on it recently. I can do a lot with just a straight-stitch machine. As far as I am concerned, the fewer bells and whistles, the better. 

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And now, updates from the actual field where we grow things. A lot can happen in four days. Almost everything that the husband planted from the leftover seed packs from years past has sprouted. These are zucchini plants (and to think I was worried that we wouldn't have any zucchini for making zucchini bread...)

And a few more tomatoes. It remains to be seen if we will have enough growing days left in this season for these to actually set fruit and ripen but we'll take our chances:

My grapes!

I am ridiculously excited about these beans:

We planted both Great Northern beans and a pinto bean variety whose name escapes me at the moment. We tried a few plants last year and they were successful. I am hoping for a bumper crop this year that I can put up in the pressure canner. We also planted pole beans. 

Everything that we direct seeded into the garden thus far is up, including the corn, collard greens, swiss chard, peas, beets, potatoes, and beans. I planted another row of calendulas, too. Having flowers in the vegetable garden makes a big difference. I just need to keep the rodents at bay. I was out a couple of times yesterday with the .22 but didn't see anything. The husband thinks I've already picked off all the dumb ground squirrels. 

I'll be weeding this weekend. I'd like to stay ahead of it. The black plastic and landscape fabric help a lot, but it's still a big garden. 

Animal updates tomorrow. 

Wednesday
May302018

Washington State Adventures

We love DD#1's boyfriend. The two of them make a very cute couple. His parents live in Port Angeles, Washington, which is situated on the Olympic peninsula across Puget Sound from Seattle. (Port Angeles is actually on the Strait of Juan de Fuca.) I really wanted to meet them, so this past weekend, DD#2 and I drove over and spent a couple of days at their house. We had a wonderful visit. 

I had hospital list on Friday, but thankfully, the doctors all dictated their rounding lists early and I was done by 4 p.m. I hopped in the car and headed over to Spokane, arriving around 7 p.m. (I gain an hour going over), and DD#2 and I were on the road again by 6:30 the following morning. Our first stop was DD#1's apartment in Seattle to drop off her bike and a few other items and pick her up so she could navigate us to Port Angeles. The geography of that area is such that you either have to take a ferry over from north of Seattle or drive down to Tacoma and then back up the peninsula. I am quite familiar with that I-5 corridor from when DD#1 was a student at Pacific Lutheran. There is a section of I-5 through Tacoma that the DOT is still working on, even four years after she graduated. Still, it looked like the best route as the ferry had a several-hour wait. 

We arrived at the boyfriend's parents' house mid-afternoon. They took us out to the Dungeness recreation area near Sequim and we walked around for a bit, which was lovely after being in the car for seven hours. Also, I really like to orient myself to a new location as soon as possible so I know where I am and where I am going. Sequim is known for its plethora of lavender farms, something I always found interesting as I think of the Olympic peninsula as being part of the rainforest. Lavenders hate wet feet. His parents explained that Sequim is actually a dry area and that the peninsula gets much rainier the further west you go. (Like the town of Forks, from the Twilight movies.) 

We had a wonderful dinner of red salmon (purchased fresh and locally from some friends of theirs whose fishing boat sports an all-woman crew), rice, green beans, and strawberry shortcake for dessert. It's so hard to get good fresh seafood here in Montana that I appreciate being able to indulge when I go to Washington. It was yummy. I had two servings of shortcake. 

On Sunday, we made the trek up to Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park. It was busy and we had to wait in line at the entrance for about an hour, but the wait was worth it as the views from the top are spectacular. This was our picnic spot for lunch:

Gorgeous.  

We came down out of the mountains to explore Port Angeles. We watched the ferry that goes back and forth to Victoria, BC, come in and dock:

I've been to Victoria once, when we stopped on the way back to Seattle on the Alaskan knitting cruise that JC Briar and I taught on back in 2009 (? I think). I'd love to go back to Victoria (and on another Alaskan cruise, for that matter), so that might be a future trip. 

I can finally show you the secret sewing project, too, as it was a gift for them (along with some huckleberry jam):

This is one block from the Tale of Two Gnomes quilt pattern by Abbey Lane Quilts. I enjoyed making it, but I doubt I would ever do the entire quilt. A goodly portion of each block is applique. That gave me the opportunity to practice using fusible webbing and machine applique with monofilament thread, but it mostly just reinforced what I already knew about applique, which is that it's not my favorite quilting technique. Still, the gnome is adorable. 

[I showed this to the husband—he being of Norwegian descent on his mother's side—and his response was, "That's very nice. Is there a troll quilt, too?" because apparently you can't have gnomes without trolls. For the record, no one has yet designed a corresponding troll quilt.]

DD#2 and I said our goodbyes on Monday morning and headed back to Spokane. The westbound lanes of I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass—going toward Seattle—were backed up for a good 40 miles, at least. I wonder how long it took some of those people to get home. I spent the night in Spokane again so I could do some shopping Tuesday morning before finally heading home. I picked up a few treasures, but you'll have to wait for the next blog post to see those. And I have lots of garden and livestock updates, too, although it looks like I am going to have to spend some time shooting ground squirrels this week. There is one that is nibbling on my broccoli and cabbage plants and that cannot be allowed to continue. Stay tuned.