Watermelons at the End of August

I know I haven't been blogging much lately; chalk that up to it being the end of a very long, very exhausting summer. Something Very Big is also happening in the next couple of weeks that is going to mean fewer to no blog posts, but then I should be back with a vengeance and lots of pictures around the middle of September.

Blanching corn is on the schedule for today. The husband and I went out to put a tarp over the tomatoes last night because they were calling for a possible frost in Kalispell. The valley usually gets a frost sooner than we do up here—cold air sinks, you know—but I said to the husband that if we put a tarp over the tomatoes, we wouldn't get a frost, but if we didn't, we would. We're very familiar with Murphy's Law. We put a tarp over the tomatoes and it was 40 degrees when I got up. In any case, I checked the corn while we were out there and noted that some of the ears were ready to pick. I think this is the earliest we have ever had corn. 

The husband has plenty of cantaloupe and watermelon to eat. He brought one in last night:

We still have no actual beans on those pole bean plants, which have to be the loveliest and lushest pole bean plants I have ever seen in my entire life. I need to make sure to get a different variety next year. I did pick and blanch some of the bush beans last week, but I wasn't thrilled with that variety, either. 

It's just been a weird summer all the way around. 


My only sewing this week has been pillowcases. I cut a stack of about two dozen at the beginning of the summer with the intent of sewing on them in between other projects. This is not a good time to start anything else, so I have been whittling down that stack. I'll drop the finished ones off on one of my trips to Spokane in the coming months. One of the things I would really like to do this fall is spend a weekend taking a nice quilting or sewing class. Irene, the owner of Regal Fabrics and Gifts in Spokane, told me last spring that she would be happy to organize a class if I give her some dates that work for me and what I am interested in making. She is one of the few shop owners that holds classes on evenings and weekends. So many of the other stores (cough Quilting Bee cough) schedule their classes in the middle of week days when some of us have to work. 

I think I mentioned that my friend Twila's daughter is in the Ukraine with Mennonite Central Committee on a mission assignment for the next year. We got the community college's continuing education flyer last week and I noticed that they were offering a class on Ukranian history. Apparently, there is a fairly large Ukranian community here in the valley. Twila and I are going to take the class together. It meets for three consecutive Tuesday evenings in September. Twila is planning to go visit her daughter next spring and I just thought it would be a fun class to take. There is another one in October on the basics of the Ukranian language. Maybe we'll take that one, too. 

When my kids were growing up, I signed them up every summer for Kids' College at our community college. They took some really interesting classes; DD#1 was in a class where they made chocolate-covered grasshoppers and I think she actually ate one. DD#2 tells me (because I am old and cannot remember) that she did a class on Hawaiian culture, a class on turtles, a class on space exploration, and a Harry Potter-themed class. 

It's silly not to take advantage of the good stuff that is being offered here. I'd love to take a music theory class at the college some time, but I'd have to figure out how to squeeze 24 more hours into my days. I think I suffer from an overabundance of curiosity about too many different things. 


A Pile of Tumblers

Last fall, I emptied my scrap bag and gave the contents to a friend of mine. At that point, it was full of fabrics that I had used in several different quilts and I was tired of looking at them. I was happy to re-home them and start over. 

It's almost a year later and my scrap bag was threatening to overflow again. It's an interesting indicator of how much sewing I am actually doing. One thing that has changed is that I am being more generous with my definition of "scrap." I used to refold my cut pieces of fabrics—ones that were roughly the size of fat quarters, or about 18" x 21"—and put them back into the stash. I have stopped doing that. It just clutters up the stash. Fabrics only go back into the stash now if they are at least a half a yard. Everything else gets tossed into the scrap bag. 

Part of the reason I started considering the larger pieces as "scraps" was because I knew that I wanted to use my AccuQuilt Go! cutter more frequently. I got it out Sunday afternoon with the express intent of cutting up some of those larger scraps into quilt pieces. I started with the 4-1/2" tumbler die and systematically worked through the scrap bag. Along the way, I sorted out the "strings," or long narrow pieces; they got put back into the bag and will get used in a different type of scrap quilt. 

The die looks like this:

It is dense foam with sharp blades embedded into it in the shape to be cut.  The fabric gets layered over the die—up to six layers of quilting cotton—and a cutting mat is laid over the top. The whole sandwich then gets slid into the machine. Cranking the handle moves the die between the rollers, which compress the fabric against the blades and cut the pieces.

It goes quickly. I discovered that it is also something of a fun game to try to determine the best layering and folding methods to maximize the number of cut pieces and minimize the amount of waste. (There will always be some waste, but I was able to keep mine mostly to little slivers with careful folding.) It took me about two hours to cut all the scraps, but I ended up with this:

These were all the scraps from my "saturated" scrap bag. I love loud riotous colors, but I may need to throw in some lighter prints or some that read as solids to keep these pieces from looking too muddy together. There is scrappy and then there is ugly. I don't want something that looks like the dog threw up on it. 

My spatially-impaired brain also loves that the die automatically cuts the little dog-ears off at the corners, making it easy to match sides and get accurate seams. 

These will get put downstairs by the little treadle for me to work on in the evenings. My scrap bag is a bit emptier now, too, and ready for the next round of cutting. I still have the triangle die, the Drunkard's Path die (curved seams!) and the Churn Dash die to experiment with. 


A Travel Trio

The travel bags that DD#2 requested are done:

I just have to cut lengths of nylon cord, thread the casings, and add the cord stops. These will be useful for holding shoes and other items. They are almost identical in style to the ones I made for my sister at Christmas. I don't really have a pattern; I just did the math to make them come out to 12" x 15" and followed a simple lined bag assembly process. 

DD#1 has been home this weekend so I dragged her through a couple of fabric stores yesterday to get a sense of what kind of fabric she wanted for her tote bag. I was in the quilt store on Thursday and saw a lot of fabrics that I liked, but then I realized that most of them had paisleys on them. Oops. She showed me what she liked and in what colors which helped me to narrow things down. In the end, she chose a home dec remnant at Jo-Anns. It was a good-sized chunk for less than $10, and when we got up to the register, the lady there told us we had scored big because that fabric is normally $44.95 a yard. It's a lightweight jacquard, which means that it won't be suitable for the Professional Tote, but I have another bag pattern that calls for a similar jacquard fabric and I think it will work out perfectly. She was happy and so was I. 

It's getting darker earlier and earlier, which means that I need to start organizing some projects I can do down in the living room. I like to sit with the husband in the evenings during the fall and winter whie he surfs YouTube, but I have trouble sitting unless I have something to do. When I was knitting, it was really easy to just pick up and put own knitting projects as needed. I would rather sew, though. The little treadle is in the living room and it's much quieter than a motorized machine. I just need a project for it. I am thinking it might be time to get the AccuQuilt cutter out and have a couple of marathon cutting sessions. I have a triangle die, a tumbler die and a Drunkard's Path die and any of them would make a great treadle project. I could also rig up a table in front of the couch and sew on one of my handcranks. 


I made a couple of pumpkin pies for the husband yesterday. I am trying to use up some of last year's bounty before this year's crop of pumpkins ripens. He had a piece with breakfast this morning, so I sneaked a taste. I do like pumpkin pie but I don't eat it very often. I almost fell off my chair when I tasted it. It was so much better than the pies I make with canned pumpkin (which is almost always some variety of winter squash and not really "pumpkin"). It might be because this is an heirloom variety, but whatever—I will make sure to can up enough every year that I don't have to buy the commerical stuff anymore. I commented to the husband that it is really sad how far we have gotten away from real food in this country. He never used to like the pork chops I got at the store because he said they tasted like styrofoam. And I haven't bought tomato sauce for years because I think mine is so much better. It's also nice to be able to look at the food on the table and know exactly where most of it has come from. 


I am still having issues at work with supervisors not doing their jobs. I had hospital list on Friday. Normally, when I log in around 8 a.m., there are a couple of rounding lists waiting for me to transcribe because a couple of the doctors like to dictate early and be done with it. I worked on regular reports until about 10 a.m. when I e-mailed my supervisor and asked if there was anything in the queue (she can see things waiting to be transcribed that I don't have access to). Nope, she said, there were no hospital dictations. I asked her to let me know if any came in. Finally, around 1 p.m., I e-mailed my contact at the clinic and asked if *she* knew why no one had yet dictated. A few minutes later, I got an e-mail from *her* supervisor saying that there were five rounding lists waiting to be transcribed. My supervisor had never bothered to assign them to me so they would get routed to my queue. I just don't understand this level of incompetence. My supervisor knew she was supposed to assign those files to me and me asking her midmorning why I hadn't gotten anything yet should have been a Very Big Clue. 

I got them done and submitted in plenty of time, but this kind of stuff makes me nuts. I am starting to sound like an old fart but I wonder if some of these people would have been capable of holding a job 30 or 40 years ago. 



I was out checking on the apple trees today. I think it's just about time to pick the apples off the Lodi tree. That's an early variety and most people I know pick the Yellow Transparent and Lodi apples around the end of August. I am most partial to those varieties—lazy farmer and cook that I am, I like being able make them into quarts of canned pie filling without peeling them. I've also done that with the Duchess of Oldenburgs. Susan has a Duchess tree in her orchard and she is very generous about sharing them. 

The Lodi really only has enough apples on it this year for maybe one or two pies, but I am tickled about that:

The Red Wealthy tree is loaded—we had some concerns about it earlier in the season because it had a pretty bad aphid infestation. Susan assured me that it wouldn't really harm the tree, just make it look bad, but I mixed up some spray anyway and took care of them. The Red Wealthy is also an early pie/sauce variety.  It doesn't look as far along as the Lodi. Neither does the State Fair. Susan says to cut an apple open and if the seeds are dark, it's ready to pick. I'll check those two this weekend and see where they are. I think they are all destined to be applesauce. 

The Honeycrisps are a mid-season variety, as is the Golden Delicious. We have a few weeks yet. I am a bit concerned, though, about waking up in the middle of the night some night to find a bear marauding through our orchard. 

Orchards are not for the impatient. We put these trees in a good 5-6 years ago. This will be the first year for apples. We didn't get any pears or peaches this year, but it may have been too wet for them last fall. 

There are a lot of old homesteads in our little neighborhood. I sometimes think—when I am being particularly delusional—that it would be fun to go around and get cuttings off the old trees and graft them onto new rootstock and see what they produce. I am sure that some of those trees are pushing the 75+ year mark and I would hate to think that they might be some old heirloom variety that is dying out. (Don't get me started on that Frankenapple known as the Red Delicious.) 


I stopped in at the quilt store in town yesterday and picked up a copy of the pattern for the Mini Professional Tote. It's by the same designer and is a scaled-down version of the big tote. The saleslady was ringing it up and pointed to the pattern and said, "That one's going to be a lot of work." I just smiled and said, "Oh, I finished the big version a few days ago." I think I might take it in there and show them as I bought the fabric at that store. Also, I am pretty proud of my work.  

The zipper on that bag, by the way, is all fixed. I bought new zipper stops and put them on today and now the zipper behaves as it is supposed to. 

I am going to make a Professional Tote for DD#1, but I would also like to play around with making it with some interfacing that isn't quite as stiff as the Decor-Bond—maybe even some foam. I think it's a great bag for carrying papers, books, and magazines (as its name implies), but I think it's less suitable as a travel bag. I can't imagine ever trying to fit it under an airplane seat, for example. 

I have a travel bag that I bought from LL Bean about 20 years ago. I am still using it. It is made of some heavy Cordura-type nylon and it has gone everywhere with me. I'd like to make a similar bag that is kind of an amalgamation between it and the Professional Tote. I love the separate center zip pocket of the Professional Tote, for example, as it is the perfect place to keep a tablet or small laptop, but the LL Bean one is several inches bigger and holds more stuff, like a change of clothes. 

I'm glad it is almost fall. I was able to get more sewing in this summer than I thought I would, but the cold-weather months are when I really get productive. 


First Tomatoes of 2017

There hasn't been much to write about. The weather has been pleasantly cooler, although we are still at risk of fires. When I opened the kitchen door Monday morning, it smelled like fall—a lovely hint of weather to come. The husband mentioned last night that there were a couple of ripe tomatoes in the garden, so I went out this morning and picked them:

They are smallish—the plants are in an area at the edge of the watering zone—but I ate two before I even got to the house and I can assure you that they were very tasty. There are many more, much larger tomatoes still ripening on other plants. The husband put all the tomato plants in a nice flat area this year, fairly crowded together (and held up with cages) so that if a frost threatens, it will be relatively easy to throw a concrete blanket over the whole works. We routinely extend our tomato season to the end of September that way. 

I've been busy with some other projects this week so there hasn't been any sewing, but I did get out the travel fabric for DD#2's travel bags. This one is probably a remnant from Jo-Anns:

And this one is from the Tim Holtz Eclectic Elements collection:

I love Tim Holtz fabric. Last season, he put out a very cool entymology fabric that was patterned after old biology textbook illustrations. I used it to make a pillowcase for a college friend of mine who is an entymologist in Virginia, and I rounded up as much of that fabric as I could find from all the Jo-Anns I frequent—here and in Spokane—before they discontinued it. I have enough to make a bag or something else for myself. 

The travel bags won't take long to make. I am thinking about doing them on the serger, just to get some practice. 

Speaking of Jo-Anns, they have completely revamped their quilt fabric offerings. This summer, they put almost every bolt in the store on clearance and now I see that they are stocking the main quilt fabric section with "1091 new quilt fabrics" (from the flyer). The bolts are labelled by category of fabric: modern, 1930s, vintage, Asian, etc. It will likely make it easier to find things and reshelve bolts after they have been to the cutting table. It's a pretty big overhaul, though, and I wonder what is driving it. I also wonder if this means they won't be carrying designer fabrics any longer, like Tim Holtz and Susan Winget. Jo-Anns introduced a house line of fabric last season—Buttercream—but even that appears to be going away. 


Ever since we moved to this property in 1994, we have gotten a steady stream of people stopping in to ask for directions. Before the county finished paving the entire road—when the pavement ended just before our driveway—people would stop to ask if they had reached the end of the known universe. They hadn't—the pavement started up again about three miles south of us—but to someone unfamiliar with the area, it really did look like there should be a sign saying "Dragons Ahead" or some such. 

I don't know how people make the decision to stop at our house and not at any of our neighbors, but it happens pretty regularly. The other afternoon, I heard the driveway alarm go off around 4 o'clock and looked out the window to see a guy on a bicycle in our driveway. I walked out and called to him. Our not-so-vicious guard dogs were slobbering all over his legs. It turned out to be a tourist from Germany who had flown in to visit some friends of his and was biking up and around Glacier Park. That day, he had ridden about 60 miles from Polson. He was looking for a place to camp. I stood out in the yard and visited with him for about 10 minutes while I tried to decide if I should invite him to camp here. We have a port-a-potty and it's pretty easy for people to throw up a tent and not have to be traipsing in and out of the house. I wasn't getting any strange vibes from the guy, but the husband hadn't come home yet. I knew the husband wouldn't mind; I just didn't want to be reckless. In the end, I directed him to a good camping spot in the woods across the road on state land and he pedaled off. 

I felt bad; he was pretty worried about bears (although camping in our yard is no guarantee that he would avoid them) and I think we could have had a nice visit that evening. The husband said that they could have talked about all of the diesel cars with manual transmissions that are for sale in Europe that aren't available here. Yeah. 

It's a fine line to walk between being hospitable and being wary of strangers. 

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