Please Eat the Mice

The husband and I were out in the garden Sunday afternoon when he called me over and said, "Look, it's a garter snake." The snake was slithering around the outside of the greenhouse. A few minutes later, we saw it inside the greenhouse. Yay.

For the record, snakes do not bother me. I am always happy to see them out in the garden because I think it indicates a healthy, balanced ecosystem (as do ladybugs). This is the first time we have had one in the greenhouse. We have also caught about half a dozen mice in traps over the past couple of weeks, so perhaps it is in there as much for the smorgasbord as for the warmth. It's not a small snake. 

It was there again yesterday when I went out to water seedlings. I just have to watch where I step:

This snake has a definite bulge that makes me think it might be a pregnant female. That would be a bonus. The husband thought that garter snakes laid eggs, but they are actually known as ovoviviparous (a term I remembered from my developmental biology class lo so many years ago) which means the eggs hatch inside the mother's body and they give birth to live young.

Stay tuned for further developments. In the meantime, we seem to have gotten past the problem of rodents eating things (what a coincidence) and all of a sudden there has been an explosion of watermelon and pumpkin seedlings:

The acorn squash and spaghetti squash plants that I bought at the nursery a few weeks ago are already out in the garden and doing well. All the rows of peas are up. The rhubarb will be ready to cut soon. The grapes are leafing out nicely. We are going to plant corn and beans this weekend. Things are not quite as dismal as they appeared to be a few weeks ago. 


We discovered—after the contractor left on Monday—that in the process of laying a new phone line, they messed up the existing phone line, so now we have two phone lines, neither of which work. I cannot call out on the primary voice line because all I hear when I pick up the phone is static. When people try to call in, all they get is a busy signal. The phone in the garage does not work at all. Amazingly, the DSL still works and I can still transcribe, but I can tell it's much slower than it should be. I called CenturyLink yesterday. They had us on the schedule to switch over the old phone line to the newly-laid one on May 23. We can't be that long without any phone lines. They are supposed to get someone out here before then, but who knows when that will be? In the meantime, if I want to make a call, I have to stand in the middle of the driveway because the cell reception up here is spotty. 

First world problems, I know, but aggravating ones. I shouldn't have assumed that because the DSL was working, the phone line was okay. 


I stopped in at the quilt store yesterday to see the clerk I had talked to last week and give her a piece of the leftover waxed canvas to play with. I also showed off the Messenger Bag and one of the Wool + Wax totes. The first thing she said to me was, "Do you sell these on Etsy? You should." It was nice to get an affirmation of my abilities—these women know their sewing—but I so don't want to go there. I simply told her that I like my day job too much to quit it, which is true. 


Digging Up the Driveway

Yesterday was an interesting day. The excavation contractors came out to dig up the old phone line and lay a new one. I had warned my supervisor ahead of time that I might be offline for a bit and sure enough, about two hours into my workday, I got kicked out of a report I was working on when I lost DSL. I called my supervisor from my cell phone so she could manually pull the reports out of my queue and put them back into the pool. 

I cleaned, checked on stuff in the greenhouse, and puttered for a bit until I got DSL back. The dogs were in the house with me this whole time because I didn't want them "helping" the contractors. Lila, in particular, was very unhappy about this. When it looked like all the backfilling was done, I went out to make sure the dog fence was still on before I let the dogs out. The contractors had to dig near the fence line and even though I showed them where it was and they were careful to avoid it, I wanted to double check that it was working. I can do this by opening the back door to the garage and sticking my head in and looking at the transmitter. A red light means the fence is on. A green light means the line has been cut and the fence is not working. 

I looked at the transmitter and saw no lights at all. Huh. I flicked on the light switch next to the door. Nothing. Somehow, despite U-Dig having come out and marked the location of the utilities last week, the contractors managed to cut the power line to the garage. 

In their defense, we have a very weird utilities layout in our yard. When we bought the property in 1994, it had a 14' x 70' trailer with a septic and electric in one part of the property. The garage was already there and on the same electrical system as the trailer. We built the house elsewhere, put in a second septic system and ran new phone and electric lines. A few years ago, the husband had an electrician come out to beef up the service to the garage and install a transfer switch for the whole property so we can run off the generator when necessary. All the boxes and the meter are now centrally located at the back of an outbuilding that stands where the mobile home used to be but the old lines are spliced in to the new lines and that created some confusion. 

The two contractors felt really bad about what happened. They located the cut in the line, called someone to come and splice it, and by 4 p.m., the power was back on to the garage and the fence was working again. Now I just need to wait for CenturyLink to come out and switch the actual phone lines from the old lines to the new ones. 


DD#2 is home for a few days. She turns 21 in July and she is getting her new driver's license this week. Between her being here, the guests we have coming next week, and my friend Doreen visiting next month, I decided it was better just to put most of the sewing projects away for the time being. The rest of May and most of June are jam-packed with activities. I kept some simple quilt piecing projects out in our room to work on in the evenings, but my evenings are going to be taken up soon with weeding. 

I am conflicted—after complaining about how long the winter lasted, I find myself looking forward to the fall when we can get back into our winter routine again. The husband is fond of saying, "Janet's favorite season is the one she's not in." I suppose that's true. 

Our renters are trying to decide if they want to move or not; they started a business that has really taken off in the last year and they need more space for it than we currently have available. I know they would like to stay in this area (the young man grew up around the corner and his parents are friends of ours), but they may have to go closer to town. They have been great renters and great renters are hard to find. A lot of people will rent a place, trash it, and get behind on their rent. Getting those people out is a long and protracted process. The husband and I were talking about it last night and he said that if they moved out and we didn't have anyone else to take it, I could turn that house into my sewing studio. I told him that what I would probably do instead was move all the bedroom furniture over there and make it the guest house and turn the entire upstairs into my sewing studio. (I've sort of done that already, but we have had to keep beds up there so people have a place to sleep when they come to visit.) The rental house wouldn't really work as a sewing studio because I wouldn't want to work over there on cold, dark winter evenings when he's over here watching YouTube. 

We'll see. We bought that place with the intent that one of our parents might end up living there eventually and that may still happen.


DD#2 and I are going to Seattle over Memorial Day weekend. We're actually going to visit the parents of DD#1's boyfriend. They live across the Puget Sound from Seattle in a town called Port Angeles. We've been near that area; DD#1 had a roommate in college whose parents lived up there and we had the kids' graduation party at their house. It's not an easy spot to get to. Either you have to drive down to Tacoma and then up the peninsula, or take a ferry from a town north of Seattle over to the peninsula. I'm excited about meeting them. They sound like really nice people and we like their son a lot. I'll break up the trip by spending a night in Spokane on the way over and a night there on the way back. 

And just because we need a picture, here's one of the rooster perched on top of one of the doors inside the coop. He sits up there for hours and surveys his kingdom. (The husband has to remind me often that chickens have pea-sized brains.) 

Such a goofball. 


Introducing Bumbleroot Design

Don't panic—I did not start a new business. Bumbleroot Design is the brainchild of a friend of mine, Cristina. We met on the Necchi sewing machine group on Facebook. It is probably a good thing that she lives on the other side of the country, because we would likely get into too much trouble together if we were closer. I asked her if I could do a blog post about her business. 

Tell us about Bumbleroot Design:

I started Bumbleroot Design in November 2017. I make aprons, throw pillows, and braided rope tote bags and have an online store. I also have items available in a couple of local shops. My goal is to find a few wholesale clients. I’d also love to work with interior designers and home stagers.

In early 2017, I taught myself to make roman shades for my home and loved doing it. I fell in love with home décor fabric; the feel, the weight, the patterns, everything about it. I had a lot of leftover fabric, so my husband suggested I make throw pillows. I was reluctant, but once I got started, I couldn’t stop! I started making interesting pillows, playing with layers, textures, and patterns.

A few months into pillow making, a local shop owner asked if I made aprons. I decided to try making one, using techniques similar to those that I use for making roman shades. I wanted to make a very durable, functional, and elegant apron from home décor fabric. I made a few prototypes that I didn’t like, and eventually created a pattern that I love. It was priced too high for that particular shop, so I got to work on a less expensive, single-layer version. I now offer three different styles of apron, and am currently working on a fourth.

I recently started making braided rope totes, and love making those, too! They’re a great option for summer.

How long have you been sewing?

I didn’t consider myself a sewist until I started making pillows! Though, I’ve known how to sew for nearly all of my life. I used to hand sew entire wardrobes for my Barbie dolls, including wedding gowns and three-piece suits. I wish I still had some of those items.

I learned how to use a sewing machine in my 7th grade Home Economics class and was very proud of my pink-and-white polka dot ruffle-flanged pillow, though I didn’t sew much after that. I got my own sewing machine almost 15 years ago and used it to hem things a handful of times over the years.

Until I started making the roman shades a year ago, I never sewed more than once or twice a year. Now I get antsy if I can’t make it into the sewing room every day.

What machine(s) do you use and why?

I have a small collection of vintage sewing machines. I only had my modern machine when I made my roman shades, but wanted a better straight stitch that looked more professional. I bought a brand new machine and it was fine, but not special. Then I found the world of vintage machines and was hooked. I was searching for the “perfect” stitch, and each old, metal machine that I got put me one step closer. It wasn’t until I got my Necchi BV industrial sewing machine that I really stopped looking for more machines.

I use the Necchi BV for almost everything; I think it’s from the 1950s. I also have a Pfaff 1222e domestic machine from the 1970s. Those two are my absolute favorite machines. I use the Pfaff when I need a zig-zag stitch or decorative stitches. I use the Necchi BV for all my straight stitching. I also have a Juki 563 industrial machine, likely from the 1980s making it my “newest” machine, which I use when I have a very thick seam or am working with upholstery fabric. It can get through anything, but is too much machine for my daily sewing. I sold my brand new machine within months of getting my first vintage Singer.

My business tagline is Modern Farmhouse from Vintage Machines. I love the current farmhouse trend, and find it really cool to make something fresh and new on something so old.


What is something interesting about you that most people don't know?

I left the tech world and went to culinary school for pastry in my mid-twenties! I loved culinary school and had a blast. After a fun internship at a catering company, I realized pastry wasn’t going to be a lifelong career for me, so I went back to the tech world but in a different capacity.

I’m a technical writer by day, and love it. I’m very technical and also creative, and have two very different outlets that use both of those talents. I get to be creative when writing about software, and I get to be technical when designing and sewing. My husband is a software engineer, woodworker, and artisan bread maker…

Is there anything else you would like to add?

I only use fabrics that feel amazing to me, because I want them to feel amazing to everyone else. I rely so much on that tactile impression!

You can follow Cristina on Facebook (Bumbleroot Design), on Instagram (Bumbleroot.Design), or visit her website where she has a whole page devoted to her vintage machines! 


Date Day

The husband and I made a quick over-and-back trip to Spokane yesterday. DD#2 is finished with her junior year at Gonzaga (how did that happen?) and needed some help moving from her current residence to a townhouse a few blocks away. Even though the distance wasn't far, she has accumulated more belongings and furniture than would fit in my car. I've been schlepping these kids and their stuff around the Pacific Northwest for the past eight years now and I am tired. I asked the husband to come with me to help expedite the process. She has a car and was able to move everything but the furniture over before we got there.

We left around 6 a.m. yesterday morning. We have plenty of daylight at this time of year, and mornings are my best time of day, so the husband napped while I drove. At least half of that trip is through areas with no cell service or radio broadcasts. I caught up on a couple of episodes of the Sewing Out Loud podcast. He woke up about halfway through Idaho and we listened to a couple of episodes of the Living Free in Tennessee podcast. That one is a homesteading podcast with a decidedly libertarian bent, hosted by a woman. She recently installed an aquaponics systems at her place. We have no plans for anything similar, but it was fascinating to hear her talk about how it worked and what was involved in setting it up. 

We picked up DD#2, took her to Starbucks for coffee and some breakfast, and introduced the husband to Trader Joe's, where we picked up more dark chocolate for me and some chocolate-covered espresso beans for him. I had reserved a light-duty pickup truck from U-Haul, so while they started loading it up with furniture, I ran over to The Quilting Bee and dropped off my Janome 6600P for service. This is my "big" computerized sewing machine. I have had it for about four years and while I have done some of the basic maintenance on it myself, I felt it was time for a checkup from a certified tech. We have a Janome dealer here in Kalispell, but I don't trust them. The issue has been finding a time when I could leave my machine in Spokane for a couple of weeks. I'm going to Seattle over Memorial Day weekend with a stop in Spokane on the way back. It worked out perfectly for me to drop the machine off yesterday and I'll pick it up when I am there again at the end of the month. 

It only took a couple of hours to move all of DD#2's stuff over, and that included a quick trip to the nearby "General Store" for some lightbulbs. I could spend hours in that place. The husband had to drag me out of there. The canning section alone takes up two aisles. By then it was time to return the truck and get back on the road for home. We gain an hour going over but lose an hour going back, and we were also getting hungry. The husband suggested we stop in Kellogg, Idaho, and find a place to eat dinner. Kellogg is an interesting place. Its current claim to fame is that it is the home of Dave Smith Auto, which is a huge dealership that specializes in Dodge cab-and-chassis rigs (among other things). Kellogg—and nearby Wallace, Idaho, which is about 15 miles east of Kellogg—used to be thriving silver mining towns that turned into ghost towns in the late 20th century. In recent years, Wallace has made a big push to revitalize its downtown area into a tourist attraction. Kellogg seems to be trying to do the same thing. We drove past lots of empty downtown businesses, but then the husband spotted Radio Brewing, a small pub. We parked and went in. It's a lovely place decorated in an old radio broadcast theme. The beer menu featured at least a dozen locally-crafted beers. The husband ordered the Beyond Midnight Coffee Stout, which was amazing. I'm not a big beer drinker, but I'll usually have a few sips of whatever he's having. That one was really tasty. We both ordered the Maple Bacon Bleu Cheese burgers with a side of fries. There was nothing left when we were done. 

We commented to each other that it would be nice to have a place like that in Kalispell. The Flathead Valley does have a lot of little breweries, many of which serve food, but we don't like crowded, noisy places. The one restaurant in Kalispell where we used to go regularly for date night—specifically because the food was great and the atmosphere wasn't rowdy—closed up about 18 months ago and has since reopened as a sports bar. Kalispell did not need another sports bar. 

We liked the beer so much that we got a growler to go:

Now when I go back and forth to Spokane, I can stop in and get refills. 

[The husband prefers dark beers. For some reason, the Flathead Valley is filled with an abundance of pale ale drinkers, so finding beer for the husband is a bit tricky. The grocery store only carries about half a dozen dark beers. His favorites are Alaskan Amber and Moose Drool. The selection of dark beers in Spokane is marginally better, so when I go there, I try to stock up and bring some new and unfamiliar varieties back with me. (Yes, I am probably committing some felony by doing that, but oh well.)]

The rest of the drive home was picture-postcard perfect. The husband was in charge of the podcasts at that point, so he put on an interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson recorded at Lafayette University. The husband read Peterson's 12 Rules for Life not too long ago and it's on my reading list, too. I enjoyed the podcast very much. Dr. Peterson has been accused of being racist and sexist, but I am pretty sure those charges have been made by people who are just repeating talking points and have never actually listened to him speak. He's a fascinating clinical psychologist with a lot of mind-blowing things to say. He encourages people to examine their belief systems closely. That's a hard and uncomfortable thing to do and it's why I think it fosters that kind of criticism. (I have no experience with racism and can't speak to that issue, but for the record, I didn't find him sexist at all.). Sadly, the default response from a lot of people these days is to dismiss someone you disagree with of being sexist/racist/label of the week so that you aren't forced to confront opposing viewpoints. 

All in all, it was a lovely day. We're heading into a stretch of really nice weather. I need to get some plants into the ground this afternoon. I also need to clean up my sewing stuff and put it away. DD#2 is coming home for a few days and we're expecting a visit from the son of one of our college friends the week after that. He and his girlfriend are driving around this part of the country and we offered them a home base for a few days. Unless I can get some projects cut out in the next few days, it looks like my sewing time is coming to an end for a while. 


Bag Making is the New Quilting

My friend Cathy and I had dinner last night. I enjoy talking to her very much but our conversations wander into areas that probably make our fellow diners raise their eyebrows—last night she told me about the first surgery she attended as a med student. We also talk about cows. It's not your typical dinner conversation.

[I did a report this week for one of the doctors who specializes in head and neck cancers. I don't do her reports very often, so I am not as well versed in those anatomical terms as I am in, say, the ones having to do with gynecological cancers. I had to Google something to verify the spelling and that I was hearing it correctly, and in the process, I landed on a page with an excerpt from the book Anyone Can Intubate, 5th Edition. (I kid you not, that's the title.) I then spent the next five minutes reading about the different ways to position a patient's head so that a breathing tube can be inserted. It's just weird, sometimes, to read about (or transcribe) these procedures that I have first-hand experience with. It took me a while to get past the discomfort of transcribing bone marrow biopsies, for example, having had about half a dozen of them myself when I had leukemia. It does give me a great appreciation for the body's ability to heal itself. I have had more than my share of medical procedures in the past 52 years and I've come through relatively unscathed.] 

I ran some errrands before dinner and one of the places I stopped was the quilt store. I haven't been in there, probably, since January. I must have been conspicuous in my absence because one of the clerks asked me where I had been. I skipped the whole "I spent a week in the ICU on a ventilator in February" story and just told her that I had been making bags and not doing much quilting. She likes to make bags, too, so we chatted a bit about what I had been working on. Interestingly, the quilt store is now carrying many more bagmaking supplies—they had a whole display of bag zippers, about two dozen new patterns, and some other supplies. I mentioned that I had been working with waxed canvas and she asked me to bring some in so she could see it. I'll stop in next week and take the Ravenwood Messenger Bag in and show it off. Who knows where this might lead? I'm just happy to have a local source for some of these supplies. 

Joel Salatin now has a blog. If you don't know who Joel Salatin is, check him out. He is a self-described "Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic" farmer, speaker, and author of several books including Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal. I love his stuff. 

The morels are up!

We have a spot in our yard where these pop up every year. I have been watching that area for the past week, thinking that it's about time for this year's crop. It's been raining hard for the past three days and sure enough, when I went out this morning, I found a couple morels. I'll be slicing these up and sauteing them in our scrambled eggs in the morning. 

We are having our phone lines replaced on Monday. When we built the house 22 years ago, we had two phone lines installed—the idea being that one would be a dedicated fax/internet line. That system worked well until the fax/internet phone line quit working last fall. A CenturyLink tech came out and spent a good hour tracing the lines and concluded that there was a break in that line (the lines are not in conduit). He moved the internet service over to the primary voice line but we have been without a fax line since then.

[I know, most people have stopped using fax machines, but we still use ours quite a bit and it's been hard not to have it. It also makes me nervous not to have a backup phone line, as my ability to transcribe depends on having a working phone line.]

At that point, it was too close to winter to schedule the contractor to come out and dig the line up. I called CenturyLink on Monday to see if we could get the work done now that all the snow has melted and the contractor would have access to the lines. Our DSL has been squirrely again this week and that makes me think there is some correlation between the amount of water in the ground and the integrity of that phone line. 

If all goes according to plan, I will only be without internet for about half an hour on Monday while they switch the DSL from the old line to the new line. The worst case scenario—if they sever the old line before they have laid the new one—is that I'll be without it all day. I've already alerted my supervisor. 

I have hospital list today, but our supervisor talked to the clinic and got them to agree to end hospital list an hour and a half earlier now. It used to be that we had to be "on call" until 7:30 p.m. Eastern time (which is only 5:30 p.m. here, but still, that's late for me to be working). She pointed out that in the last six months, no doctors have dictated past 6:00 p.m. Eastern and there was no reason for us to sit there for that extra 90 minutes. I usually spent that time playing Bookworm on my Mac as I wasn't getting paid unless I was actually transcribing. Now I'll be able to do something else. 

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