Wednesday
May172017

Baby Farm Animals

As promised, some pics of the piglets:

We have six, but one of them was parked in the feeder. I have never seen baby animals eat so much food. They spend a great deal of their time arguing over who gets to sit in the feeder. They are only about seven weeks old. Normally, we get them when they are a bit bigger, like 10 or 12 weeks. I was worried that they would be cold at night but there is plenty of straw and they just burrow down into it. We haven't let them out into the pasture yet. They will need some electric fence training, first, and a farmer to follow them around while they learn. 

The chicks are almost teenagers now:

They will be ready to go out into the chicken yard soon. 

The squash, tomatoes and basil are still in the greenhouse. The corn and beans also need to get planted, which we can't do until it warms up. This has been a cold spring. The grapes have buds on them but have not leafed out yet. They are a good two weeks behind last year. 

We are getting ready to build another garage. The husband has it staked out and just needs to remove a couple of dead trees that are in the way. He needs to get some of his construction equipment under cover so that he doesn't have to keep shoveling snow off of it during the winter. This will be one of those pay-as-you-go projects so it may not get completely done this year, but at least we are making some forward progress. 

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I rethreaded the Bernette serger yesterday and ran it a bit to see if there were any problems. I can't find any:

I tried the trick of using four different colored threads. That really helps to see what is happening where. What a screaming deal this turned out to be. 

I cut out another batch of canvas grocery bags last night. I am looking for reasons to sew on that industrial (thanks for the name suggestion, Deb) because it is just so much fun. I have reached the point where that machine is just an extension of my body and I don't have to think much about what I am doing. That's how it is when I sew on Vittorio, too. The husband was laughing at me because I talk to my sewing machines and tell them how much I love them. Apparently he does not engage in the same habit with his trucks. 

I've got some beans soaking to run another batch through the pressure canner. We've used up almost all of the first couple of batches I did. I think that the beans that I can here are so much more flavorful than the commercial ones. They also seem to cause less gastrointestinal distress (probably because I soak them and change the water several times).  Canning beans is not hard and there is no reason not to do it. 

Monday
May152017

Your Personal Sewing Machine Shopper

My friend Marcie and her husband Tom stopped over about a week ago. Their son and his wife are our tenants and Tom and Marcie happened to be over at the rental house visiting them (it's next door). Marcie mentioned that her daughter was looking for a serger and that if I happened to run across one in my travels, they would be interested. I stopped in at the Salvation Army thrift store today in Kalispell and what should I find but this:

An almost-pristine Bernette 234 (Bernina) four-thread serger for $22. I grabbed it and ran to the checkout. This particular store tests all sewing machines before they put them out (obviously they have someone who knows how to thread a serger) and this one serges just fine. You can see the sample fabric on the bed. It's not even dirty enough for me to spend any time cleaning it. I wonder if it was ever used. The blades are sharp. I need to download a manual and just tie on some serger thread and do a few test runs. I texted Marcie to let her know and she was very excited. 

I don't see sergers very often at thrift stores, so this was quite a find. There happens to be one listed on the Great Falls Craigslist—for $150. 

I am still working on assembling the Ritzville quilt. I also made three canvas grocery bags for DD#2 on the Necchi industrial (that machine needs a name):

I've done these bags before on my Rocketeer (which handled them well), but they went together so much more easily on the industrial. I will probably do a bunch more of these because everyone likes them and asks for them. If I cut out multiples at a time, it's really easy to just chain piece them through the industrial. I use mine every time I go to the store. 

I also topstitched the Zip-Top Tote and now that bag is done:

I definitely would make another one (or five or six) of these. Just not this week. 

The piglets seem to be doing fine. I'll get out tomorrow and take some baby pictures of them and the chicks. It has been trying to warm up here but not quite succeeding. I hope we don't have a cool summer. There is nothing more demoralizing than going from winter to winter with nothing warm in between. 

Saturday
May132017

Slow Sewing Saturday

The box of needles and thread that I ordered for the Necchi industrial from The Thread Exchange arrived yesterday. Unfortunately, yesterday was a long hospital list day—I started at 8 a.m. and finished at 6 p.m.—and by the time I got dinner made and visited with the husband, I just didn't have the energy to monkey around with a sewing machine. 

It's cold and rainy out today, however, so I don't feel the need either to cut the grass or work in the garden. I got up this morning, collected all my supplies, and went downstairs to do some sewing. Keeping everything straight has been a challenge.

[I still can't locate the box in which I was collecting high-shank sewing machine feet to be used on this machine. That's odd, because I can find just about every other accessory for every other machine that I own. Oh well, no doubt it will turn up when I least expect it.] 

The issue is that I have several different sizes and kinds of thread on cones with several different bobbins of each thread, and a variety of needle sizes. I have some cones of nylon thread, some cones of polyester thread, some cones that are size 46 and some that are size 69. I don't want to use a bobbin with size 69 thread with a spool of size 46 thread, and I know that if I don't institute some kind of system now, chaos may ensue. Quilt piecing is much easier. All I use for piecing is Aurifil 50 wt cotton, top and bottom. 

The size 69 thread is really meant for heavier canvas than I am using. The size 46 thread is much more appropiate. I ordered a 4 oz cone of white, black, natural, and gray. I probably also should have navy blue, red, and brown, but I'm trying not to go overboard. I have those colors, already, in some Coats and Clark Heavy Duty/Outdoor thread from Jo-Anns, which is polyester that is similar in weight to the size 46 thread. I'll just use up what I've got. 

I took a 90/14 needle out of the package and measured it against the one that I used to time the machine (a 130/21, which is a pretty heavy-duty needle). I wanted to make sure that they were the same length and that there would be no timing issues. Everything looked good, so I wound a bobbin, threaded the machine, got a piece of scrap canvas, and sewed a bit:

Perfection! (Or pretty darn close.)

I went back upstairs and collected enough canvas to cut out parts for three canvas grocery bags. I am using this pattern from the Seasoned Homemaker, which I have used before except that I line mine with cotton instead of canvas. I went back downstairs and sat down at the machine and started sewing. 

[I am getting a lot of exercise going up and down two flights of stairs. The industrial is in the basement and all of my fabric and cutting supplies are on the second floor. I keep an ironing board on the first floor as well as upstairs, but I think the husband would balk if I took over the basement with a third ironing board and a second cutting table. Besides, steps are a good workout.]

I've said it before: treadling is so relaxing. I know some people think I am nuts for not putting a motor on this machine. After all, in the space of time that it took me to sew one bag, I could have made three on a motorized machine. But that's not the point. So much of the rest of my life travels at breakneck speed. I get paid based on how quickly I type. My entire workday is a race to see how much I can get done, accurately, in the shortest amount of time. If I were sewing on a production basis, I'd be way more concerned about speed. Sewing is my way to relax, and I enjoy it more when I take my time. (It's why I have no plans to start a bag-making business.) 

This is a heavier, beefier machine with a correspondingly heavier treadle. I haven't quite mastered the physics of stopping and starting it without touching the handwheel, as I can with my smaller treadle. I am sure that will come, though, in time. I think this machine and I are going to do a lot of sewing together. 

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The piglets arrived just after lunchtime. The guy we buy them from has a farm not too far away. His wife drove up and delivered them; she brought six piglets in two large dog crates (the piglets are only 6 weeks old and still small). She and I put the crates in the piggy palace—which was all decked out in fresh straw—and opened the doors. The piglets just wandered out. That was much easier and less traumatic than trying to catch them out of the back of a trailer. I'm going to let them get settled before I start taking pictures of them. 

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One of our neighbors stopped by Wednesday night to let us know that our neighborhood now has much faster Internet service. We have DSL, but it has been getting progressively slower and slower over the past year. CenturyTel owns the DSL lines but leases them to a company called MontanaSky. Our service has always been through MontanaSky because I really really really dislike CenturyTel. 

Late last summer, though, we noticed that CenturyTel was out here laying down new lines. Apparently, they put in a much more robust fiberoptic cable and now they are encouraging people to switch. The maximum capacity of the current line—the one that MontanaSky leases—is 3 Mbps. The capacity of the new line is 25 Mbps. The 3 Mbps line may have been adequate a few years ago, but it has slowed to the point where it's almost as bad as having dial-up. Web pages take FOREVER to load, and forget about watching streaming anything without frequent buffering interruptions. I've also noticed that it takes a lot longer for me to load and unload voice files when I am working. As much as I would prefer to deal with a local company, we went ahead and put a change order in with CenturyTel for the new line. (I talked to MontanaSky, and they can't lease the new line.) I have to be able to work efficiently. 

It's possible that my existing e-mail address may go away—I forgot to ask CenturyTel if there was a way to keep it and have it forward to a new address—but I have a couple of Gmail addys that I also use pretty regularly. I'll try to keep those of you I correspond with frequently updated with the new address, if I get one. The tech is supposed to come out Tuesday afternoon to switch everything over and install the new router. 

Friday
May122017

Moving Through May

I like to think that I am reasonably flexible and can go with the flow, but apparently the effort of doing so takes more out of me than I realize. We had April, with all its meat grindingness, and now May, with a graduation and two children who are moving in and out of various houses in various cities, plus the usual chores that come with spring and getting the farm up and running again, and I think that I was a bit overwhelmed and just shut down for a couple of days. I can't quite figure out if it is better just to accept the downtime or to push through it. In any case, I felt like I was back to normal productivity level yesterday. I got up early to work and was done by noon, so I got out my to-do list and systematically attacked everything on it (even the simple things like "disperse the rolls of Costco toilet paper through all the bathrooms" because I need all the help I can get). 

I put a target up in the woods and took the .22 out for some shooting practice. I am not as bad as I thought I was—my very first shot went right through the center of the target—but I ran through some ammo just to be sure. Our renter let me borrow a shooting stick and I practiced a bit with that. I'll have to pick one up at the sporting goods store next time I am in town. I've been propping the .22 up on stumps, but there isn't always a stump that allows me to shoot in the direction I need to. I do have to say that the ground squirrels have been much quieter of late. It used to be that they would come out and stand up on the logs and chirp to each other. They have terribly annoying high-pitched chirps, which was how I always knew they were out there. Now I just have to watch for them. I am not going to let them decimate the garden if I can help it, though. 

The UPS guy delivered the speed controller I ordered from Grainger:

I just have to find the time to wire this into the motor. I am curious to see what happens. That particular Necchi machine has turned into an ongoing episode of "Trick My Sewing Machine." 

I had hoped that the needles and thread that I ordered for the Necchi industrial would show up yesterday but they didn't. The husband has fire training on Thursday nights and I usually reserve that time for sewing. I wanted to do the topstitching on the Zip-Top Tote and call that project finished. Instead, I started putting the Ritzville quilt together. There are six columns of six 12" blocks each, and I sewed the first two columns of blocks together last night. This part will go together pretty quickly. After that, though, I need to add a narrow inner border of black and then a wider outside border of red. If it rains all weekend as predicted, that's what I plan to work on. I am only a few weeks behind my self-imposed deadline. I am kicking around the idea of starting another bag project once the Ritzville quilt has been handed off to Margaret for quilting, but I am not sure if I will have any time to sew. I really like this one and bought the pattern:

I have some waxed canvas that I think would be perfect. The industrial should make short work of putting it together. I think I said I didn't plan on becoming obssessed with bag-making, but I could have been wrong about that.  

Wednesday
May102017

It's a Full Moon

I am really having difficulty regaining traction after last week. I thought May was going to be a bit easier than April—and last week was a lot of fun—but I am having trouble getting back into a routine. We got an e-mail yesterday at work that our direct supervisor was "no longer with the company." I suspect she got fired. Things just have not been running smoothly on our clinic account.

The ground squirrels are currently winning the war. I think the scope on the .22 needs to be adjusted. Last year, I hit everything I aimed at. This year, I can't seem to hit the broad side of a barn. I cannot believe that I am that bad a ground squirrel sniper. The husband put a piece of plywood out in the woods. I just need to hang a target on it and do some experimenting. 

And I am having a lot of difficulty mustering enthusiasm for working out in the garden. I went out anyway, yesterday afternoon, and weeded the big volunteer lettuce bed. We have a lot of lettuce, but that's not a bad thing. If we don't eat all of it, the chickens will be happy to. The husband has already broadforked the entire garden, planted potatoes (some of which are up), collard greens, swiss chard, lettuce, and peas. I feel kind of bad that he is out there doing all this work, but then I remind myself that I will have plenty to do later in the season when it is my responsibility to process all of this bounty. And weeding is pretty satisfying, although it's a lot like cleaning the house. I did discover that collard greens have an enormous root. The stalks from last year's crop are still out there. I tried to pull one up and ended up having to dig it out. It brought a good cubic foot of dirt with it. I think they are just going to stay there and rot in place. We'll plant around them. 

I am sure this mood will pass in a few days and I'll be itching to spend all my time outside. The piglets are supposed to show up sometime this week, too. 

In the meantime, I sewed (that's the itch I really need to scratch right now). I got the zipper installed on the Zip-Top Tote, and from that point, there really wasn't much left to do to finish the bag, so I kept going:

That large red mushroom is the lining; it has an opening in the bottom through which you "birth" the bag, or turn it right side out, and I need to slip-stitch that opening closed. I also need to topstitch around the top of the bag, but I am going to do that on the industrial. I could probably coax the Godfather Necchi into sewing it, but I don't want to stress that machine too much. Otherwise, this bag was reasonably easy to make. Were I to do it again, I would figure out some way to keep the bulk of the foam stabilizer out of the seams, especially by the zipper. There are some tricks I could try. I could trim the foam to 1/2" smaller all around, then layer the foam between the fabric and another piece of fusible interfacing. Or I could use fusible foam (this was sew-in, as specified in the pattern) and trim the foam to about 1/2" smaller all around before fusing it. Overall, though, I am happy with the way this turned out. I did talk to a very helpful woman at Grainger and she pointed me in the direction of the correct speed control for that motor on the Godfather Necchi. I ordered one and will have to figure out how to wire it in. 

Thanks to Marcia's link to the needle chart on the ISMACS website, I was finally able to make some sense of what needles I need for the industrial. I don't need to know everything there is to know about industrial sewing machines; I just need to know what works for my machine and where to order supplies. I was able to figure out that 16x87, 16x95, 16x231, 16x257, and 71x1 needles—or 1738 in Groz-Beckert nomenclature—are all equivalent to the 16x73 and 16x6 needles that were originally specified for the Necchi BV. I believe those two original needles had grooves on both sides and that style of needle just isn't being manufactured any longer. (The groove is where the thread rests.) 

The Thread Exchange has a nice online store. They sell both thread and Groz-Beckert needles and their needle listings are broken down nicely into R (or universal) point, LR (leather) and RG (ball) points along with all of the sizes. I ordered a pack of each size from 90/14 up to 110/18 and that should cover most of the sewing I plan to do on that machine. I also ordered a slightly thinner thread size in black, white, natural, and gray. A fabric sample pack is on its way from Seattle Fabrics so that I can order some heavy-duty coated nylon for some of the husband's requested projects. I would very much like to go on a field trip to that store sometime. They specialize in outdoor fabrics and I am sure they have some really cool stuff in stock.

Things are moving forward; I just need to kick myself out of this funk I am in and get to work.  

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