Zucchini Season Has Begun

I know that things are about to rock and roll when the first of the zucchinis come in. All of the cool-weather crops are just about spent, and now it's time for the cukes, zucchinis, beans, swiss chard, and collards. I will be spending most of my afternoons and evenings for the next two months processing food. 

I picked this—and a few of its relatives—yesterday:

I know, it doesn't look like the zucchini you are used to buying in the store. This is an heirloom variety called Gray and the one I have grown for the past six or seven years. I like it. It makes great zucchini bread, and when I forget to check the patch for a few days and end up with ginormous ones, they make great stuffed zucchini. (DD#2 loves stuffed zucchini and she will be home this weekend, so I left a few out there to get big.) This one is destined to become zucchini bread. I put about three dozen loaves in the freezer every year and the husband eats his way through the supply all winter. 

The pumpkins are attempting to take over the world. Some of the vines are wending their way into the piggy pasture. This is one of the babies:

And soon, I should have some broccoli (minus the arachnids):

Even if I just get a few crowns, it's worth it. I love fresh broccoli. 

Ali came over last night to pick raspberries. We have a lot and hers are getting decimated by the ground squirrels that have invaded her garden. The husband and I distracted her little guy so that she could go out and pick raspberries in peace. He likes to "watch trucks," so the husband picked out YouTube videos about heavy equipment for him and he and I sat on the couch and watched them. He is a very smart little cookie for just having turned two. He knows all the names for all the equipment and will let you know if you get excavators and backhoes mixed up. It's almost as entertaining watching him as it is watching the videos. 

Ali works for the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation as their fire information officer. She was telling us last night that we are on track for having a summer similar to 2003, when we had a lot of very large fires including the Robert Fire that burned into Glacier Park. It seems a bit odd given that we had such a wet winter and spring, but we had a drier than normal June and we have had a lot of hot, windy days in July. Heat and wind will dry out the fuels faster than anything else (and we have more fuel because of the wet spring). All it takes is some idiot flicking a cigarette into the weeds or someone with an extra-large campfire on a windy day and it's all over. 

I remember that summer; I was standing in the kitchen cooking dinner on July 23, 2003 when the call came over the scanner. A large wildfire in July is an unusual event. Most of them start in mid-to-late August, and that fire burned well into September. The husband spent some time up near the park helping with structure protection. He called me one afternoon and told me to go out onto the front porch and watch over the mountains. Fire officials had decided to light a backburn on Apgar mountain to try to control the fire—in essence, starting a controlled burn to eliminate existing fuels and keep the fire from coming close to houses. As the crow flies, we aren't really that far from the park, and I could see the enormous mushroom cloud of smoke from the backburn as it rose up over the mountain range. It was pretty dramatic. 

I need to spend some time this weekend updating the emergency plan. We have most stuff in place, but it never hurts to go over everything again. The year I don't do it will be the year I wish I had. 


I started work at 5 a.m. yesterday so I could be finished just after noon. I really needed to go up and clean up my sewing space (which is basically the entire second floor of the house). I had fabric and supplies strewn from one end of the upstairs to the other and it was really starting to weigh on me. I can't work in chaos. I can't cook if the kitchen is a mess. I can't sew if the sewing space is a mess. I put on a podcast and spent about two hours getting everything organized and put away. I feel much better now. I may only get a few pillowcases sewn up here and there, but at least I can find what I need. 

Our supervisor sent around an e-mail today and said that most of the doctors were on vacation this week. There really hasn't been much work in the queue. I have hospital list on Friday, but she said that if any of us wanted some time off tomorrow, we could let her know. I told her I would check the queue in the morning, but if there isn't any work, I'll happily take the day off and get caught up on some projects around here. (My kitchen floor desperately needs to be mopped.) I am crossing my fingers. 


A Woman's Work

I got up yesterday at 5 a.m. because a) that's when I wake up and b) I had a really long to-do list which included canning up beef broth. I decided to let it cook an extra 24 hours in the roaster to make it really rich and thick. As long as I keep an eye on the temperature to make sure it doesn't go below a simmer. it does just fine by itself. And it was really rich. 

[The husband likes to sleep in on the weekends, which is fine. I like my alone time in the mornings. He also tends to get a bit sleep-deprived during the summer because the animals do not like to stop partying until it is full dark. A lot of nights the chickens won't come in the coop until 11 p.m., and he might have to get up at 6:00 a.m. to go pour concrete before it gets too hot, so he catches up on his sleep on Saturdays and Sundays.] 

I busied myself with all sorts of projects. I fed the dogs and let the chickens out. I took the bones out of the broth and strained the broth into a big canning kettle and put it on the stove to keep it hot. I threw in a few loads of laundry. I loaded the dishwasher with the jars I needed for canning. I cleaned up around the house and put stuff away. I fried up some sausage patties so they would be ready for breakfast when the husband woke up. Around 8:30 a.m., the pager went off for a grass fire call. A few minutes later, he came down the steps, grabbed a cup of coffee and a sausage patty, and headed out to get the engine to go to the fire. As he was leaving, he asked me if I could go let the pigs out. 

I went and changed into long pants and put my muck boots on and went out and let the pigs out into the pasture and filled up their water dish. As I was headed back to the house, I stopped to look around the garden and realized the peas needed to be picked again, so I grabbed a bucket and spent half an hour in the pea patch. I also fixed one of the trellises that had fallen down during the storm Friday night. 

The husband got back about 10:30 a.m. and went down to his office to read his e-mail. I was waiting for my first canner load of beef broth to pressurize when our neighbor stopped over with her little boy. Her son is 3-1/2 and they have been living here since last fall. I give her a lot of credit for being a single mother and starting a business (day care) and establishing her homestead, all with a little one in tow. She works really hard. I invited her to sit out on the porch with me for a bit. Her little guy is absolutely in awe of the husband, and he hadn't been here for five minutes when he said to me, "Is Mr. Tom here?" I responded that yes, Mr. Tom had just gotten back from a grass fire call and was downstairs in his office. (The husband came out onto the porch a few minutes later.) 

Our neighbor then said to her little boy, "See, Mr. Tom was already out at a grass fire this morning. He does more work in a few hours than most people do all day." 

It was all I could do not to burst out laughing. Her comment was in no way malicious or thoughtless, but I was reminded again just how much of what women do every day is just invisible (or else it is "just typing"). I had been working for about five hours straight at that point, but I hadn't been driving a shiny truck with lights and sirens to a grass fire (which was pretty much out when the fire department arrived). There is no glamour in picking peas and doing dishes. (She will probably be mortified if she reads this and she shouldn't be, because I found the whole thing pretty funny.)

I try not to play the feminist card too often. I enjoy what I do and the husband is very appreciative and tells me that frequently. It's just that occasionally, I am reminded that it's the men who get all the accolades just for being men. (But hey—can I get a shout-out that the 13th Doctor Who is a WOMAN?!?!?!)


My friend Cathy's daughter died on Saturday. She had been in the hospital for the last three weeks with a traumatic brain injury since being hit by a vehicle on the street in Portland. I am beyond words at this point—this was such a tragedy for a family that has already had more than its share. She was a delightful young woman and her passing leaves a big hole, just as her mother's passing did a few months ago. Sometimes life just doesn't make sense.  


I have been powering through my quilt project made up of 2-1/2" squares. I sewed them into groups of two, then four, then eight, then sixteen, and now I just have to sew the rows of 16 into rows of 32 and put them all up on the design wall. I have no idea how big this quilt is going to be when I finally get the rows sewn together. It may end up being two smaller quilts. At least it/they will be finished tops, ready for quilting. I am going to need to spend a fair bit of time this fall quilting existing tops before I start any new ones.

I'll brighten your Monday by leaving you with a picture of the rooster:

He loves to look out windows. Go figure. 


Piggy Waterpark

We have to keep a close eye on the pigs during the summer. Pigs don't sweat and need lots of water and/or mud to keep from overheating. We have a water line with nipples on it so they can drink whenever they want to, but this particular group of pigs likes it very much when we go out and spray water on them from the hose. We call it "piggy waterpark" and try to do it a couple of times each day. It is pretty entertaining to watch them cavorting around in the spray from the hose. The water is coming from the well 250 feet down and is icy cold. 

We also keep a large rubber water dish by their pen. The husband will fill it up in the morning and by the time I get out there at lunch, they will have tipped it over and made themselves a wallow. (I think a few of them are still trying to use it as a bathtub, which they did when we first got them.) I fill it up again and by the time he goes out in the evening, it's upended again. As long as they are keeping cool enough, it's fine. 


I picked another batch of peas the other night and shelled and blanched them yesterday. The weather got too hot too fast, so I don't think we are going to have a great pea harvest this season. The vines are already starting to look anemic. The corn and beans, on the other hand, are loving this weather. Every year is different. I suspect the husband is going to have a bumper crop of cantaloupes and watermelons in a few weeks. 

There are quite a few grasshoppers in the garden. I am wondering where the garter snakes are. Last year we had three or four of them out there, including one that was so big that I nicknamed him Python. He lived under the zucchini plants. The grasshoppers don't appear to be doing a lot of damage out there—I would hardly classify it as a plague of locusts—but I am surprised to see as many as I do. 

It's almost time to pick raspberries, and the strawberries are everbearing so they will continue to produce all summer, although not quite as prolifically as they did last month. I've got to start blanching and freezing some collard greens. I used them a lot last year in soups and stews. Somehow I managed to forget to order acorn squash seeds in March, which is going to disappoint my sister greatly. She really liked our acorn squash and took a couple home in her suitcase at Christmas. I don't know what I was thinking. They did really well last year and were very tasty. 

This is part of the reason I put up enough food to last for two seasons. It's a gamble to assume that everything is going to do well enough every single year to provide what we need (or that I am going to remember to order acorn squash seeds). I still have peas from last year in the freezer, and they'll be just fine tossed into a batch of lentil and sausage soup. 

The lavender bushes are covered in bees. My lone surviving bee balm just started blooming in the herb garden. Bee balms are related to mints, and I think they prefer it a lot wetter than it has been for the last dozen years or so. At one time, I had six or seven different varieties, but they have all died out but this one:

This is the one that the hummingbirds are partial to, and it's a big plant. 

DD#1 is home from Missoula for the weekend. I think she and I might try to go to town this afternoon, just because there is a big a show called Art in the Park this weekend and it's fun to walk around there. She is having a bit of a rough time with her first fieldwork assignment. She enjoys working with the patients, but her supervisors are not really holding up their end of the deal. This is supposed to be a learning experience for her, not free slave labor for them. She keeps being told that she's "not trying hard enough," and anyone who knows her knows that that is a wildly inaccurate assessment of her character.  I may be her mother and therefore biased, but she has never given less than 110%, ever. Look at the genetic material she inherited from her father and me—how could she be anything else? 

I know that adversity builds character and she has to work through this on her own, but it's hard to see her be so unhappy in this situation. She really does love occupational therapy and helping people. She is also very good at it. I am sorry that her supervisors can't see that and be more encouraging and less critical. It sounds like each of them has personal issues of their own and she's bearing the brunt of their inability to deal with them. Fortunately, this session only lasts for four more weeks. The next one has got to be better. 

I've also got a big roaster pan of beef bones cooking down into broth. I'll get that strained and put into pint jars and run it through the pressure canner this morning while it's still relatively cool. 


Side Hustles

The husband listens to a lot more podcasts than I do. He usually has one playing while he is out working in the garden. My job requires that I have people talk into my head for at least six hours a day, so I tend to prefer silence when I can get it. I usually save up my podcast listening for trips to town or marathon road trips. 

He's got me hooked, though, on a new one he found called Living Free in Tennessee. I really miss the Chicken Thistle Podcast and LFIT fills that void nicely. It's done by a woman who lives on a homestead in Tennessee (obviously). Her name is Nicole and she raises goats, has a garden, and roasts coffee to sell. She is very easy to listen to—you would not believe how annoying some people's voices and speech patterns are when you have to hear them every day—and she covers a wide range of topics that I find really interesting. I listened to the latest podcast yesterday while I was sitting on the back porch shelling peas. We have a table and chairs out there that came from my grandmother's ice cream parlor in Ohio. It's a lovely place to work on summer afternoons. I took my phone and my Bose bluetooth speaker out there and listened to the podcast while I shelled peas. 

Nicole talked a lot about "side hustles," or things you can do to bring in a little extra income. Multiple income streams are a big thing in the world of self-sufficiency, just from the standpoint of not having all your eggs in one basket. All of her suggestions and tips were spot on, and I found myself thinking about the various ways the husband and I pull in a little extra here and there. (I still get a chunk of income from selling knitting books and patterns.) Another half-dozen ideas for potential income streams came to mind. I found myself getting very excited about them and then I came crashing back down to reality. Our problem is not the lack of ways to make money. Our problem is lack of time. We are already stretched pretty thin. She also hit on something that I found out the hard way, which is what happens when a thing you used to love doing becomes a business and sucks all the joy out of it for you. Ask me why I haven't knitted anything besides prayer shawls and dishcloths for more than five years now. That is precisely why I am not making bags to sell at the moment. 

I said to the husband the other day that as usual, I am light years ahead of my time. So much of my skill set and knowledge would be invaluable in a post-apocalypse society. I know how to sew, knit, spin, can food, use medicinal herbs (I know how to cure yeast infections without antifungals), fix sewing machines, etc., etc., but no one is beating a path to my door because they don't have to yet. And what I don't know, the husband knows. 

[I asked him the other morning about something I had read on the internet and he said he said he had just seen the same report. The two of us are something of a mini-Borg collective, which is what I suppose happens after 30 years of being together. We can almost communicate telepathically.]

The bottom line? Don't be looking for any additional side hustles from us, at least not until we figure out how to squeeze 24 additional hours out of each day.


As promised, here is a pic of the Ritzville quilt, all done and laid out on our bed:

Those bright yellow walls—while I love them and they make me happy—make it very difficult to get pictures with good color balance. This is the only queen-size bed in the house, however, so I had to take the pics in here. As you can see at the bottom, I put a narrow black border and then a wider red border on the quilt. The red border was supposed to go all the way around, but I cut the second set of red strips incorrectly and they were not long enough. I did not want to go back to the store for more fabric, so I ended up putting white blocks at each corner:

I was not crazy about having to do this, but it worked. Margaret quilted a very cool motif in each of the corner blocks. I am choosing to look at this as a design element and not a mistake. 

Margaret's hand quilting is a sight to behold. Such tiny, even stitches. 

The quilt will now go into safekeeping until the sale in October. I am really pleased with how it turned out. I hope someone else agrees and wants to take it home. 

I am doing a little bit of sewing every night before bed. I am concentrating on finishing up some of the many quilt tops-in-progress that I have been using as either leader-ender projects or things that I work on when I am brain dead. It's forward progress and that is what matters, even if I am only sewing for half an hour. 


The Garden Looks Best in July

The garden is coming on strong now. I picked the first round of peas last night with more to come:

(These got a little too big, but that was okay because I just ate them.) This afternoon, I'll shell the ones I picked, then blanch them and get them into the freezer. We don't bother growing anything but shelling peas anymore. I just don't use sugar snaps. They are great when they are fresh but tend to get soggy when frozen. 

This year's grape harvest has potential:

And the apples—oh my goodness! This is the State Fair tree. It is loaded this year for the first time:

We also have a couple of Honeycrisps, a Lodi (my pie apple tree), and a Red Wealthy (my applesauce tree, because they will make lovely pink applesauce). There are more apple trees on the other property, but they aren't as far along. Believe it or not, these apple trees came from Costco. I wish they still carried them in the spring, but all I have been able to find there in the past couple of years have been cherries, peaches, and plums. 

We also had a Sweet Sixteen apple tree, but lost that to winterkill a few years ago. 

My Ruby lettuce finally got large enough to start cutting. It sounds strange to have a favorite lettuce, but I like that one so much more than any others that yesterday, I had a salad for lunch and a salad for dinner. Anna sent over some really delicious herbal vinaigette dressing a few days ago. I do not, as a rule, like vinaigrette dressings because they are usually too heavy on the vinegar, but Anna's are the exception. 

The lavender flowers are blooming and the first of the bees have arrived:

The raspberries are just about ready, too. It's going to be a marathon for the next couple of months. I am really happy with how everything looks this year, though. 


I picked up the Ritzville quilt from Margaret yesterday. We really outdid ourselves this year, I think. I'll take a picture of it on the bed later today. This will likely be our last quilt project together because Margaret is moving to Indiana in the fall. She has had her name on a waiting list at the Mennonite retirement community in Goshen, and they are ready for her to move in. On the one hand, it will be good for her to be some place where she doesn't have to shovel snow and has lots of friends and relatives—her brothers are there—but on the other hand, we will miss having her here because she has been such an important part of our community.  

And Bob, my friend Cathy's dad, is moving to Portland in two weeks to live with Cathy's brother. It's been hard for him, I know, since Cathy's death in April. That family has had more than its share of tragedy this year. Cathy's daughter is still in the hospital in Portland after being hit on the street a few weeks ago. She has a long road ahead of her, too. 

Bob and Margaret are the two oldest members of our church. There just aren't very many left of the original group that was there when I started attending that church in 2000. Things change, I know. Sometimes it is just hard to go with the changes gracefully. 

I am hoping for a bit of sewing time this weekend. It is supposed to be close to 100 both days and there is no reason to be outside in that kind of heat. I have one last batch of grocery bags cut out that I would like to finish before unthreading the Necchi and swapping it out for the Singer 31-20. (I measured, and the machines are exactly the same size.) I gave Peter a couple of grocery bags that I made for him and joked that I am getting to be like the lady who leaves zucchini on everyone's front porches in the summer. I am bombing everyone I know with grocery bags. 

And I had my third and last visit with the chiropractor yesterday. I am all straightened out now and feeling pretty limber—just in time to pick all that produce. 

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