Monday
May292017

Moving Van

I went back to Spokane this past weekend. DD#1 finished grad school three weeks ago and started her first fieldwork session in Missoula, but she had left some of her belongings—and her boyfriend—in Spokane. She needed to retreive some things (alas, she had to leave the boyfriend there) and wanted me to bring a few things back here to store for her until she is all done, so she drove back from Missoula to Spokane on Friday night. 

DD#2 finished her sophomore year two weeks ago. For the first 10 days after that, she lived at her sister's and then with a friend of hers until she and her roommate could get the keys to the house they were renting. They moved in last Tuesday, but she was taking some of her sister's furniture and also had to get stuff out of a storage unit that she and her boyfriend had rented (he is still waiting to move into the house he will be living in). 

I also planned to pick up two sewing machines, one for me and the other for my sewing machine friend Peter in Seattle. Peter had found a German machine known as an Anker on the Spokane Craigslist. The seller lived not too far off my route, so I offered to stop and pick it up for him and hold it until the next time we have a chance to meet. Linsey, the seller, and I exchanged some text messages and I told her when I thought I would be passing through. She said that she had bought it at a thrift store and wanted to get it up and running but just didn't have time (I think she has little kids at home). 

I had found a Necchi Supernova BF on the Spokane Craigslist, and when I contacted the seller, I discovered that we both belong to one of the vintage sewing machine lists on Facebook. He rehabs machines and his wife sews (she does upholstery). In the course of the conversation, he mentioned that he likes the Singer 201. I said that I had two and only wanted to keep one, so we agreed that I would trade my 201 for the Necchi. I stopped at his house and got to see all the fun machines he has been working on. He was thrilled to get the 201 and I was thrilled to get the Necchi. It was one of those trades where each of us believed we had gotten the better end of the deal. I already have this same machine, but in pink. This one is green:

I got to DD#2's house and she and I went out to dinner and to pick up housekeeping supplies. The following morning, I picked her up again and we went to Fred Meyer to get groceries and to a whole bunch of thrift stores to pick up more things for her house. (This is a side effect of having a mother who shops regularly at thrift stores; I know where all the good stuff can be found.) The weather in Spokane was just gorgeous—upper 70s and sunny—which was a welcome change from all the cold and wet we have had in Montana lately. 

The big event on Saturday afternoon involved me renting a 10' U-Haul van so that we could move a couch, loveseat, desk, and table from the house DD#1 had been living in to the house that DD#2 is living in. All I can say is thank goodness for those two boys. I am sure the girls and I could have done it ourselves, but it went way more smoothly (and quickly) with their help. It took us two hours, start to finish, to get the furniture loaded, get the stuff out of the storage unit, take it all to DD#2's house, unload it, and return the van. As a thank-you, I took the whole crew out to dinner. There is a restaurant in Spokane called Stacks at the Steam Plant and it actually is in an old steam plant. I thought it would be a fun place to try. From the website:

The Steam Plant supplied heat to more than 300 buildings in downtown Spokane from 1916 until 1986. Ten years later, in 1996, Avista Corp and Wells and Company teamed up to bring the building back to life. It was transformed into the Steam Plant Square, a mixed-use space with much of its industrial equipment built into the decor and re-opened in 1999. The renovation earned multiple awards including the first-of-its-kind recognition from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for historic buildings in the Pacific Northwest region. 

The iconic twin smokestacks stand 225’ high and have been opened up so you can step inside. Stacks Restaurant and the Steam Plant Brewing Co. & Pub are nestled among the remaining catwalks and pipes and boilers. Be sure to take a self-guided tour of this historic landmark. All levels are open to the public and are punctuated with displays revealing the history of the plant and its operations at the various viewpoints, highlighting its rich history and the important role it played in Spokane’s past.

I am glad we went; the restaurant is closing next week so the entire building can undergo a major renovation. The food was delicious. I had buffalo meatloaf with huckleberry ketchup. I think the best part, though, was sitting there and getting to visit with these very interesting adult children. I like to think of that as my reward for raising them (my kids, I mean). 

My last task on Sunday morning was to meet DD#1 at the storage unit and load the car with the things she wanted to send here. I had just.enough.room. I arrived home at dinner time after a lovely drive. I spent the entire time catching up on the Sewing Out Loud podcast, which I think of in my head as the Laughing Out Loud podcast because it is so entertaining. It's a mother-and-daughter duo who used to own a brick and mortar sewing store (recently closed) who have transitioned to an online presence that includes video sewing lessons. I have learned so many valuable sewing tips from them. 

Today will be spent cutting the grass and making deviled eggs for a neighborhood get-together this afternoon. 

Tuesday
May232017

Ground Squirrel War

Last week, I walked out onto the porch just in time to see one of those stupid ground squirrels sitting right at the edge of the property where the grass meets the woods. I thought that was rather bold of him as none of them has ever come that close to the house. He scampered away when I started walking toward him. 

[He is going to reappear in this blog post, but some other stuff happened first.]

This morning, I opened the pantry cabinet door to discover that the plastic bracket holding up the topmost shelf had failed and the shelf had fallen partway down. It was good excuse to clean out the pantry and rearrange some things, but it wasn't exactly on my to-do list for today. I found a few leftover metal brackets in our "miscellaneous drawer" and used those to replace the remaining plastic ones. 

I went to my office and started working. When CenturyTel set up the new DSL last week, they put it on our phone line. We actually have two separate lines: one for the phone and one for the fax machine/DSL. Moving the DSL to the phone line has caused two significant problems. One is that all the phones now have to have filters on them, which has rendered our robocall blocking machine basically useless. However, if I remove the filter to use the call blocker, then every time the phone rings, I get kicked off the internet and thus get kicked out of my transcription program and have to log back in. It's problematic all the way around. CenturyTel is sending a tech out tomorrow. Hopefully he can just move the DSL back to the fax line and I can set my robocall blocking machine up again. 

Mid-morning, my cell phone rang. It was our neighbor asking if I could go over to her house and check on something because she was in town. This is in no way an inconvenience for me because I want our neighborhood to be the kind of place where we all keep an eye on each other's stuff. I said I would be happy to walk over and make sure everything was okay. It was a beautiful day. Look at this view:

Just after lunch, another neighbor stopped over to buy eggs, so we visited for a bit. By this point, I realized that I was not getting as much work done as quickly as I should have been, but I figured I could make it up in the afternoon. 

I had to stop for a few minutes and have a phone conversation with a guy in Spokane who listed a sewing machine on Craigslist that I would like to buy. We did some negotiating and I agreed to trade him my extra Singer 201 for the Necchi machine that he has. He is also on the Facebook Vintage Sewing Machine group so it was nice to be able to chat with him for a bit. 

And then all hell broke loose. I looked out my office window to see Lila streak by, barking up a storm, followed closely by Rusty. They both dove under the porch and I heard some squealing that sounded like they had trapped some animal under there. Cat? Skunk? Rabbit? Baby turkey? I went out onto the porch and tried to coax them inside. Nope. They were on a mission. I went back in and tried to work, but they were making so much noise that I decided I needed to find out what they had cornered. Just as I walked over to the corner of the back porch, a ground squirrel came flying out from underneath it and landed on the bulkhead doors that go down into the basement. It slid around for a few seconds before it managed to leap off, scurry along the side of the house, and run under the front porch—followed quickly by Lila. 

I don't ask for much—just a bit of peace and quiet so I can get my quota of reports done. I really didn't care if Rusty and Lila managed to catch and dispatch this particularly annoying ground squirrel that had made its way all the way up to the house, but I would have preferred a little less drama. As it turned out, the ground squirrel eventually managed to get away from them. I thought it went back to the woods (where I planned to finish it off later), so I corralled them in the house to calm down. All that excitement used up a good hour of the afternoon. 

While all of this was going on, DD#2 was texting me for home decorating advice, and then our neighbor Anna showed up with scraps for the chickens. She and I have been trying to get together for a glass of wine so we can catch up with each other. We finally settled on tomorrow night (by which time I might need a whole bottle). Needless to say, it was 4:30 by the time I finally finished working.

But it gets better. After dinner, the dogs made a beeline for the lean-to on the garage where the husband stores rebar and braces for his concrete forms. They were making a ruckus, and when the husband got in there to see what they were chasing (they like to hunt mice in there), that stupid ground squirrel ran out between the two of us and went under the porch again. I got the dogs back into the house and he got down on the ground with the flashlight to see if he could find it. He wasn't able to. Hopefully this time it hit for the woods. 

I said to the husband that it's just about time for the giant toad to show up. I spend an inordinate amount of my time during the summer dealing with forest animals, which I find rather annoying given that they have the entire woods to inhabit. I have no idea what that ground squirrel thought it was going to do up here. Steal all our .22 ammo? 

We will have to eradicate these things once and for all. I'm about ready to import some coyotes—they used to keep the ground squirrels in check until it became legal to trap coyotes again. I've got some smoke bombs on order from Amazon just in case they make an appearance in the garden. 

Sunday
May212017

Unexpected Treadling

I broke my self-imposed rule yesterday of not going to town on Saturdays, but I had to. We were out of toothpicks. I actually had been to town on Thursday—and even went to the grocery store—but I have this habit of making very elaborate to-do lists for town and then leaving them on the kitchen table. I forgot to get toothpicks Thursday. The husband likes to chew on a toothpick while he is working, so this has been a difficult couple of days for him. 

Also, the chickens needed more food. 

I went early enough that I missed the crowds of people. I got two bags of dog food, two bags of chicken feed, and a bag of scratch grains. I remembered the toothpicks. I bought the fabric for the back of the Ritzville quilt. I picked up a few more remnants of duck canvas at Jo-Anns. The cashier at Natural Grocers loved my grocery bag and said I should think about making them and selling them. (I am not going down that road, I tell you.) On the way home from town, I stopped at one of those "vintage" farm sales that now appear to be all the rage around here now. Vendors set up booths and sell antiques and homemade items and other "vintage-y" stuff. I saw two very old, very overpriced sewing machines in very bad condition. There were a lot of shoppers, though, and they appeared to be buying lots of stuff. 

I got home, made some lunch, cleaned the kitchen, and vacuumed out and cleaned the BMW. The husband came in from the garden and wanted to sit for a few minutes on the back porch. The sun was shining and it was a pretty nice day. I finally got up and went inside to put my sneakers on so I could finish cutting one patch of grass I didn't get done Friday night, when all of a sudden this happened:

Hail and a hard, driving rain for about 20 minutes, after which the grass was too wet to cut. Yeah, I didn't see that coming. 

This made me (rather unreasonably) unhappy. That patch of grass would have taken me 15 minutes to finish off. It's right out by the road, too, so I imagine people driving by and wondering to themselves what idiot cut the front yard and left that patch of it undone? By the time I get back out there to do it, the whole front yard will need to but cut again. Thank goodness we do not have a homeowners' association. 

It stayed cold and drizzly for the rest of the afternoon, so I gave up and made some more canvas grocery bags on the Necchi treadle. Another couple of weeks with that machine and I will have calves of steel. These bags are so much fun to make, though:

This batch is navy blue on the bottom and yellow on the top. These are the linings (courtesy of Vittorio). I love being able to go through the stash and pick out the perfect remnants for the linings. You can see the bag handle ends sticking out—these just need to be stitched around the top edge to secure the handles and lining and then topstitched to finish. 

I finally located my box of high-shank presser feet, including a complete set of compensating feet in different widths for topstitching. I had stuck it in a cabinet in the foyer, but it was way in the back of one of the drawers and I missed seeing it the first time I checked that drawer. I think I have just about everything I need for that industrial now. The sample pack of fabrics arrived from Seattle Fabrics on Friday. I ordered some lighter-weight ballistic nylon and some webbing. Once it arrives, I can make the cover for the controls on the boom truck. 

Just for fun, I did some quick and dirty mental calculations on the cost of these grocery bags while I was treadling. Duck cloth is cheap if I pick it up as remnants at Jo-Anns. Yesterday, for example, I got almost a yard of navy blue as a remnant. Remnants are 50% off the current price. Duck cloth is normally $9.99 a yard, but this week it is on sale for $6.99, so I got a yard of 60" wide navy blue duck cloth for $3.50. That's enough for the bottoms and handles of about four bags if I cut carefully. I would need another 3/4 yard for the tops of the bags and also remnant pieces for the linings, plus thread. I would never do production on a treadle, though—it is fun, but to make it cost-effective to sell these bags, I would need a motorized industrial (fear not, I am working on that) because I have to factor in the cost of my time, too.  

I could cut the cost down even further if I bought duck cloth wholesale and made the bags out of a single color and the linings of muslin, but they wouldn't be as attractive. 

[The ladies at Jo-Ann Fabrics actually thanked me for buying remnants yesterday, because they said that the remnants have a tendency to pile up. More for me, obviously, but I wonder why the reluctance to buy remnants when they are such a good value.]

I don't think anyone needs to worry that I am going to quit my job and start a production bag-making line. My mental calculations were more for fun than anything else. It'll stop raining eventually (I hope) and then I'll have to move on to other projects. 

Friday
May192017

Epic Bean Canning Fail

I would tell you that I am here today to be a horrible warning instead of a good example, except that this is most definitely not my fault.

I put two packages of organic black turtle beans to soak the other day. I got these from the Natural Grocers store not long ago; I buy almost all my beans there and have never had a problem. After a few hours of soaking, though, I noticed that the beans were not swelling up. I changed the water and let them soak overnight. Just to be sure, I let them soak an additional 24 hours. 

This morning, as I usually do according to the recipe, I put them on to simmer for about an hour. They were a bit softer but still al dente. I figured that I would can them anyway, because beans always soften up after an hour and a half at 15 pounds pressure. I filled the jars halfway with beans and topped them off with bean juice. I have found that this is the best ratio for canning. By the time I take the beans out of the canner, all the water has been absorbed and the beans are nice and mushy. 

Not this time:

Those beans came out as al dente as they went in. A quick search of the internet revealed that occasionally, beans that are dried in very hot and humid conditions form a woody lignin that just won't soften. Ever. Not even after an hour and a half at 15 pounds pressure. They are inedible. This entire batch of what would have been two dozen pints of beans got tossed. Arrrggghhh. I'll have to try again. 

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Work has been much better now that I am not waiting for reports and voice files to load. We are enjoying the speedier internet. 

It was sunny and warmer today, so I went out and cut the grass in the front yard. A good 50% of our five acres is grass and needs to be mowed. We don't manicure it; keeping it trimmed enough so that Weed District doesn't come out and threaten to fine us over excessive ox eye daisies is usually about as much work as we put into it. There are too many trees for a riding mower, so we do it all with a push mower. It's good exercise. 

I definitely have noticed a big difference in my energy and stamina now that I am status post four iron infusions and no longer anemic. I get tired, yes, but it's that good tired that means I worked hard and exercised, not the sheer exhaustion that used to make me want to sleep for 13 hours. I have been conscientious about taking some supplemental iron every day because I don't want my levels to fall back to where they were. 

I'm going to try to get the herb garden under control tomorrow. I need to be ruthless. There are plants everywhere and if I don't trim things back a bit, it'll continue to look like a jungle come July. Lots to do outside. 

Thursday
May182017

Bears in the Woods

My office window looks out over the front yard and the road. Yesterday, I noticed that something was different out there, so the husband and I took a walk out this morning to investigate. This is what we found:

I know what you're thinking. You're wondering why I would have to investigate a rotting log. The problem is that the day before yesterday, this log was intact. So this is the conversation that ensued:

Me: This log wasn't like that the other day. 

The husband: No. 

Me: Something ripped it apart. There is only one animal that does stuff like this.

The husband: News flash, there are bears in the woods. 

Me: I know, but where were the dogs?

The husband: It probably happened at 3 a.m.

Me: Why didn't we hear it? (Our bedroom window is a mere couple hundred feet away, but then so is the laundry room, where the dogs spend the night.) 

The husband: All sorts of stuff happens out here in the middle of the night. 

So comforting. 

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The peeps were allowed out into the chicken yard this morning. More accurately, the husband opened the door and they were free to go out to their separate section, but none of them actually went out. They mostly did this:

There will be a few days of milling around in the doorway until someone finally gets pushed out. Then there will be a few hours of anxiety while figuring out how to get back up the ramp and get back in. It's like this every year. 

We'll keep them separate until they are big enough to defend themselves. They are still small enough that the big chickens would pick on them. 

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I delivered the Bernette serger to my friend Marcie today. I hope she and her daughter have many happy hours of sewing with it. The weather is supposed to be nice(r) this weekend, so I'll likely be out weeding or cutting the grass. I just have a bit more to do on the Ritzville quilt, though, and I'd like to get that done. 

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