Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sock Progress

I won't bother with another picture because they don't look that much different, but I've turned the heel and I'm almost finished with the gussets on my socks. Then I'll start the ribbing for the calf. Does anyone know how to increase in a ribbing pattern? I'd like shaping to make them fit my ankles and calves really well.

My neighbors get back today! Yay, no more being responsible for someone else's house! I'm still planning to visit with Leeza a few times a week. I think she might get a little bored or lonely, so I think I'll see if she'll let me watch Days with her sometimes.

It rained for a day and two nights, though I think it's clear now. And everything is incredibly soggy and waterlogged and the lawn is a bit flooded. We moved the chickens up next to the house so they wouldn't be in the mud, because the yard is graded for the water to run away from the house. I can see them out the living room window, and for some reason, that really amuses me.

The garden is doing well, though it's too muddy to get out there and check too much. There's baby pumpkins and baby squashes, the beans are all getting blossoms, and I know there's pickles out there almost ready to pick! And there okra too, but I don't know how to tell when it's ready. Ali, you asked about the corn. It's standing back up, though it did get blown around a lot by the storms that just came through. And it's growing and there's none dead yet and it looks like a few are getting tassles, but it does seem to still be getting eaten a little despite the poison Ben sprayed on it. I hope that it's healthy enough to stand getting a little chewed on without dying.

The seeds we planted a couple of weeks ago have all come up pretty well, and as soon as things dry enough, we'll have to get out there and start thinning. The sunflower beds I put in on the border with the western neighbors are growing at a rapid rate. I hope they'll produce seeds before the frosts though, because they sure have a lot more growing to do before then.

My plans for the day are to finish up the gross cat soiled laundry from the neighbors, so it'll be all clean and folded for them when they get home tonight, do some of my own laundry, make bacon and cheese biscuits with scrambled egg sandwiches, work on sewing some aprons for my mom, and knit my socks some more. I got a movie from Netflix about Moses that's three hours long, so that'll be lots of progress on my socks.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Preparing for Winter

I started these socks the week before last because I realized that this would be the best time of year to knit myself some nice warm socks for the wintertime. Then I'll have plenty of time to finish them before I truly need them.

I've been wanting some nice wool socks of my own because I always seem to be borrowing Ben's that I've made for him and wearing them, but his are too big for me and they get uncomfortable. Plus, he seems to think he's got first rights to his own socks or something.
Anyway, I'm knitting these using the KnitPicks two at once toe up magic loop pattern. So far, it's working pretty well, but there is some ambiguity about exactly where the shaping should begin and all that, so I hope they turn out the way they should. The yarn isn't from KnitPicks (though I can't wait till I've knit down some of my stash so KnitPicks and I can be together again!), it's some Patons wool that I found clearanced for two dollars per 100 gram ball at Hobby Lobby in February. Yes, this is one of the only non-cotton yarns I've bought during my yarn diet. And I bought the two balls just for this purpose, and now I'm using them for what I bought them for, two colored socks for myself. I'm having a hard time believing it, that hardly ever happens that I use yarn how I intended it!

A funny thing about the colors. When I saw them, I though, what great fall colors, a nice oak leaf sort of color and a really really pretty mustard-y yellow goldenrod color. Then I started the socks and when I got them together in the knitting I realized, Oh my Gosh! Gryffindor colors! What dorkiness! (Not to mention, I'm a Ravenclaw, heheh) But I suppose that anyone at all that would think I meant to make Gryffidor socks couldn't really make fun of me for it, because they recognized them too!

In other news, so far today I've finished more than I've done for the last few days put together. That's not braggin though, because all I did was complete my morning routine list. I've been feeling kind of listless lately and having a really hard time getting motivated. I'll blame it on hormonal-ness from last week and yesterday and just see if I can keep up this new streak of being productive. Today I have baking planned, but before that, I have to get out and mow some of the lawn before it's too hot. It's been so miserably hot and I've been so unmotivated that I only did my mowing sessions two times last week, and so I'm falling behind. So, that's the plan, mow and bake, and then I get to turn the heel on my socks and watch movies on Netflix. I'll let you know how it all turns out.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Building the Chicken Tractor / Chicken Coop / Chicken Ark

I searched and searched for plans for a portable coop for a couple of months before we got the chickens, and I never did find anything that was completely satisfactory. We based ours on the plans at Mother Earth News. I thought I'd post a few pictures of the coop in progress and a little explanation, in case there's someone looking for inspiration. Of course, we were kind of making it up as we went along, and I'm no carpenter so the explanations aren't detailed, but if we could do this, then I'd say just about anyone can.

This tractor cost us about $150 to $200 in materials. Of course, we're not equipped, so we had to buy some tools too, so that was extra. But we got all our materials new at Home Depot, so if you had access to other people's scraps or some recycled things, you could do it for much much less. I would have liked to do that, but without consistent access to a truck, it's difficult to find those opportunities, and we have nothing like scrap materials around here, since it wasn't a homestead at all for the previous owners. (Not even a shed! We have a big stack of straw bales stored in the garage right now, in Ben's parking spot, lol) Plus Ben pretty much refuses to let me trash pick. Spoil sport.

(You'll have to excuse the fact that I'm dressed like a clown. My bad fashion choices tend to become work clothes.)
Here is the beginning of the framing. We pretty much used 1X6 to make a rectangle and then cut the correct angles on the 2X4 "rafters" to form the triangle. That part is pretty much right from the Mother Earth News plans.

We later discovered that the bottom board at the back with the wheels should be a 1X4 not a 1X6 to avoid this dragging on the ground when you move the coop. We "discovered" this when that board cracked while we moved the coop. But it was a really good thing, because before that we thought we'd made it too heavy to move, but really it was just the drag resistance from that board. It's still super heavy and a little hard to move, but not impossible for one person by any means.

You can also see the scrap 1X6 that we used in place of the main roof beam to get the angle of the boards right when we attached them to the frame.

After the rafters were attached to the bottom frame, we took out the temporary spacers and put in the roof beam. It's a 1X8 board.

The we cut out the floor deck from ext. plywood. The extension on the side is for a box that stick out. This gives me a place that will be easier to collect eggs from and gives the chickens 4 square feet more of indoor space.

After this stage, things got a bit tense and we forgot to take pictures. I used 1" dowels and garden twine to hang for roosting bars inside for the chickens, but I'm planning to replace that with a 2X4 running the length of the coop so the chickens will sit on their feet in the winter and keep them warm. The roof is just more plywood, as is the box built out the side. I won't bother to detail how I did that part, because it didn't actually work all that well, and I ended up having to close some gaps under the lid with that stick on insulating gap filling stuff.

This is how we lock the door. The stake runs through the three eyebolts, one on the door and two more on either side in the wall. The door is a drawbridge style that's hinged at the bottom and we use a chain to pull it up and hang it on a hook in the roof beam. The picture below shows the door open.

Here is the finished coop. You can see the handles are made from more 1X6 and screwed to the outside of each rafter. The door at the end is a piece of plywood with scraps screwed to the main part of the wall that turn to lock it in place. There's another door on the back end just like it, but that one has a floor air conditioning vent in it to provide air for the chickens when they're inside.

The box has a latch to keep it down, but it's pretty heavy too. To shingle it well and make sure no water gets into the crack at the top where the two pieces are hinged, we used heavy duty clear vinyl and laid it just like the shingles to bridge the gap. (Under the ones above and over the ones below.) This is flexible and won't break after bending a few times like a shingle would.

We hang the feeder with a dog leash tied to the main beam, so that it can easily be clipped on and off so we can bring it into the garage at night and not draw any animals. It also got wet easily in the rain, so bringing it in at night helps that.

One of the main solutions to the wet feed problem was using more clear vinyl to make a rain block at that end of the coop. We just laid it over the top and it comes down the sides about two feet. This is tacked down to the rafters over the chicken wire with roofing nails and works really well to keep the rain out of the feeder.

Because our yard doesn't have very established trees and none at all that aren't right on the edges of our land, I wanted them to have built in shade as well. We took apart old window blinds and used the vinyl slats to weave in the chicken wire in order to provide shade to that part of the yard. If you click on that last picture, it'll get pretty big and give you some details.

Well, that's it! Please feel free to ask any questions at all, and I'll be happy to do my best to answer. Anyone more experienced have any suggestions or tips to make our coop better? I'd love advice on winterizing and how to keep the water from freezing and such, if anyone has any to share!

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A Very Happy Time

I just finished scrubbing out the refridgerator and was eating lunch before moving on to bleaching the kitchen sink, when I saw this picture on the little desktop slide show on my computer. It made me happy just looking at it, because even though right now I'm hot and tired and humid, and let's face it, I smell a little like a dish cloth, I got happy just thinking of this day in January and how much fun we had at DisneyWorld. So here's what I look like when I get super super excited about something, do my hair to impress Mickey and then take pictures of myself in the hotel room mirror to pass the time until I can leave for Magic Kingdom!!

So, now I'm off to finish mopping the floors and cleaning the couch and bleaching the sink, (and YES, definately take a shower when I've finished those things), but with a bit of a spring in my step, since I've been reminded to be grateful for all the excitement and joy I have in my life.

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I miss my neighbors.

***Peanutbutter Custard Pie I made yesterday because I found a pie crust in the freezer. It's pretty good, but I don't have a lot of experience with custards, so it's much looser than it should be. I didn't want to over cook it.***

Not to be insulting, but I mostly miss them because things keep going wrong at their house that I have to deal with! Last night, it was that Leeza (her ninety year old mother) discovered that the freezers in the garage weren't running and had defrosted themselves. The food is still pretty much frozen and we put some ice in to help it all stay that way, but I won't be able to save the food unless we get them running again. But I tried all the breakers and none of them would turn that back on, so first on today's list is to find an electrician for the neighbors'.

Anyway, I'll be thrilled when they get home and can deal with their own crap. I've got crap of my own to deal with.

We're having company tomorrow, so I want to get things a bit spiffier around here, and organize pizza toppings, since it's a decorate your own pizza party. Other than that, I've got some sewing projects lined up if I end up having the time. My mom sent fabric for me to make her some more work aprons, and I cut out another tiered skirt a couple of weeks ago to work on too. I'm still working on my socks too. I haven't blogged them yet, but they're maroon wool and I'm making them two at once toe up style with the instructions from Knitpicks. Nice thick wool socks for myself for this winter. I can't wait till it's cold enough to wear them!

Garden updates: the beets, turnips, and rutabega all sprouted, along with two different kinds of cabbage. The romaine and the spinach seem reluctant. The sunflower seedlings are starting to come up too, but the neighbor on that side stepped in the bed yesterday when he came over to (finally) introduce himself, so I'm not sure if he killed any yet or not. The baby pickles are toddler/big kid pickles now. I'm hoping that by next week I can pick them off one by one as they reach adulthood.

Yesterday I cleaned out the freezer and sorted and organized a bit. Instead of thawing the pork steaks I decided to eat some of the odds and ends out of the freezer. So for dinner we had pot pie filling like chicken stew and I made some yummy biscuits. It was pretty good, like chicken and dumplings but better, because I'm not a fan of dumplings (they're slimy). And we're having wings tonight. I think we were saving them for something fun, but they've been in there since the Super Bowl, so it's time to eat them. And wings are always fun, no matter. I want the freezer organized, because soon we'll be harvesting peas and green beans, and I'm planning to freeze instead of can that stuff. We're thinking of getting an upright freezer in the garage because we also want to freeze apple things, the sweet corn, and pumpkin puree. We're also debating buying a side or a quarter of beef as well.

Anyway, at this point I'm just procrastinating, but I'll post pictures and let you know if I manage to do anything exciting today!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Case of the Missing Pictures

This morning I went out with my camera and took a few pictures in the garden and of the socks that I'm knitting right now. I sat down to post while I ate breakfast, but the pictures aren't in the camera or on the sd card. I can see that I might accidentally think I'd take one but not really push the button all the way, but I can't really see myself being so clueless for ten pictures. Anyway, I didn't have time to try again because I had to vacuum the neighbors' pool, and then do my daily stint of lawn mowing, so no pictures today.

But I'm sure everyone is probably bored to death of my garden pictures by now and just wishing I'd move on to something else. Today's garden pictures were mostly of squash and pumpkin blossoms. Those plants are going crazy with the blossoms, and I think they're just so pretty! But we also have our first tomato! And some tiny little baby pickles that I thought I'd gotten pictures of. The bush beans are starting with the pods now too, since they've been blossoming for about a week now. I guess pole beans just take longer. The corn is still getting a little chewed, so I'm thinking that the poison Ben sprayed probably washed right off in that rain. I'm going to try baby powder or water with a little soap and garlic powder. Those are both things that I've read will keep the Japanese Beetles off. Hey, I wonder if there are Japanese Beatles? Ali, should be find a concert?

I'm in now, having finished my mowing and pulled out all that wild morning glory climbing up the fence. Just in time too, it was starting to get blossoms. I need to get cleaned up and then work on sewing. My mom sent some fabric she wants me to use to make her work aprons, so I should be working on that today. It'll take a bit longer than usual, since I volunteered to make matching bias tape with the striped fabric. I should also clean the kitchen, but I've had a marked lack of interest in that lately. I don't know why, but I've been preferring my outdoor chores a lot more lately. But we're having company on Saturday, so I should look alive and work on some indoor cleaning, or I'll be trying to do everything at once that morning.

So that's everything I should do. But I'm not sure what I will actually get done. Considering that I murdered yesterday I should atone for that and try to get twice as much done today. But Ben didn't get home to almost one last night, and I stayed up waiting for him, so I'm super sleepy today. Maybe I'll just pretend I'm 13 again and sneak off somewhere with a book. ;)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day to Day

We had a storm come through last night and knock all the corn down. But none of it is broken and other than that and keeping me up most of the night, it didn't do any damage, so I'm grateful that it finally rained. The plants really needed the water, and the storm broke the terrible heat we've been having! It was getting miserable, so I'm very glad to have a bit of coolness in the air. I'm sure the chickens are too. They've been looking limp and hot for a couple of days now. I change their water and give them plenty of clover a couple of times a day and they've got lots of shade, but temps in the nineties would make anyone look limp, I think.
My mom and dad insist that the corn will stand back up. As for the beetle bugs, turns out they're Japanese Beetles and they're quite a terror around here. Now that I notice it, they have kind of stripped one of the neighbor's birch trees, but who knew they'd go for corn. Anyway, Ben decided that he wanted to go for poison right away, and not try any of the natural methods. I'm very frustrated by that decision, but what's done is done and the corn and the wisteria were sprayed last evening. Anyone have any tips on helping me convince my husband that just because Ortho makes it, that does not nessicarily mean that it'll work any better than other methods, and it truly is a lot worse for us and our land?
This okra plant seems to have really enjoyed the storm. I think it's half as big again as when I looked yesterday. I suppose it just seems that way, but it's like all the plants get so much bigger overnight, every night!
This luxuriant, verdant growth is wild morning glory. And I'm supposed to rip it out and get rid of it before it gets flowers and goes to seed. Well, technically, I was supposed to weed it out when I saw it start, but it's just so pretty I'm having a hard time bringing myself to do it. But I suppose it's needful because there are sprouts of this growing in the yard and garden up to 150 ft away, and maybe even further. And I keep finding it trying to grow up the corn and tomatoes too. So, if it's going to invade the garden, it definately doesn't get to stay by the porch, but I do wish I could keep it.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Something's Eating My Corn!

There are some terrible brown beetle bugs eating my corn. This is one night of damage and there's at least 5-10 stalks that look like this. Poor corn, it never even got a chance to tassle. But I'm planning to fight! I've got a three pronged approach: pick as many off and kill them by hand, set up a bug zapper (these particular stupid bugs seem to love the light and get themselves trapped in light fixtures all the time), and find out what kind of traps I can set for them. Anyone else have any ideas? I'm dreading watching my corn get eaten before it even get ears!

Here is the damage from one night on one stalk. Help!

This weekend we spread straw around all the pumpkins and the squashes. These are my four pie pumpkin hills. They've each got lots of blossoms right now, so I hope the beetles leave them alone!
We even spread straw around the mini pumpkins. Ben says he thinks the straw makes the garden look like a "real" garden now.
Here is the first of my cutting flowers. These are from a pack of mixed cutting flowers that I just threw down here when we planted in June.

Here are the carving pumpkins with the row of okra between them.
On Saturday morning, we tilled up the empty section and planted rutabega, beets, greens, and cabbages.
The pickles look so good! There's blossoms all down both rows. I can't wait to taste them!
The squash is doing pretty well too. The one in the back, buttercup, has already had a couple of blossoms open. There okra in this bed too, between the squashes. The extreme left is the pickles again.
Here's my best Opalka tomato plant. It's gotten lots of blossoms, but so far no tomatoes. But I'm keeping my eyes open for them!

I'm feeling slightly desperate in my fight against those beetles. Obviously, if I don't act quickly, they'll do away with my corn before I can stop them, and they're not at all particular, having already moved from the Wisteria, so I'm sure they'd be happy to eat the rest of my veggie plants too. I'll see if I can get a picture of the actual bug, so maybe someone will know how to fight it!

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Menu for 7-20 to 7-26

B: Cereal
L: Bologna Sandwiches
D: Bacon and Eggs

B: Breakfast Cookies
L: Turkey and Cheese Sandwiches
D: Baked Potato Bar and Sweet Corn

B: Breakfast Cookies
L: Frozen Pizza
D: Chili and Green Beans

B: Breakfast Cookies
L: Leftover Frozen Pizza
D: Salad, Pork Steak and Baked Potatoes

B: Applesauce Muffins
L: Nachos
D: Pork Fried Rice

B: Applesauce Muffins
L: Leftover Fried Rice
D: Salad

B: Egg, Bacon and Cheese Biscuit Sandwiches
L: Homemade Pizza Party
D: Leftover Pizza

Deli Meat and Cheese Roll-Ups
Bologna and Crackers
Celery and Peanut Butter
Boiled Eggs and Chef's Salads

To Bake and Prepare:
Boiled Eggs
Applesauce Muffins
Bacon and Cheese Biscuits and Egg Filling
Celery Sticks
Pizza Toppings

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Continuing Adventures

Yesterday my neighbor (the ninety year old one) invited me to go along to the salon with her and meet her stylist, because I hadn't gotten my hair cut since we moved here in Dec. because I missed my old stylist. That was very nice and now my hair has a shape to it again, and isn't just a wavy mass. Well, it's still a wavy mass, but it resembles a style again. And I got my eyebrows waxed too. So much better than shaping them myself with the tweezers! (I usually just give up on that.)

Anyway, after our nice time getting our hair done, she was backing out of the parking lot and accidentally drove off the driveway. We ended up with one back tire in the air and the opposite front tire hanging into the ditch with the frame sitting on the ground of the driveway. Luckily, she has triple A and I called for her and the tow truck guy was super nice.

The front tire got cut by a post that was holding up the driveway edging, so he put the spare on for us, and I drove us to the rest of her errands, to the post office and to the market. After we finished the post office and the grocery shopping, I drove her home and helped her put her groceries away. She shared some of the delicious cherries that she'd bought, and I headed home. Five and a half hours after I'd left in the first place.

I don't mind helping, and I'm happy to spend time and visit with her, but I have to admit, I wish I had more energy. I was worn out when we got home yesterday, and I'm still feeling so tired this morning. I have a lot of items on my to do list, including figuring out where to take her car to have her tire replaced for her. Hanging out with ninety year old's is definately too much excitement for me, lol.

Now, I'm not fishing for any comments about my neighbors taking advantage of me or whatever. They're nice people and they're more than willing to do the same and more for us when they're home. Plus, I believe that doing your best to help people in need (even to the point of suffering yourself, not that that is the case here by any means) is one of the main aspects of what Jesus taught us. I suppose I'm just venting a bit because I'm super sleepy. But my plan is to listen to today's Bible readings while I make frosting for the cupcakes I made yesterday, get outside and hoe in the garden before the sun gets too hot, and just work my way down the rest of my to-do items. I'll post later to update on what I get finished and what will be waiting till tomorrow.

Here's the list, in case anyone's curious:
1. Print out pictures of the chicken coop and garden to send to Ma and Dad
2. Pack up a box of things that have to get sent to Ma and Dad
3. Hoe the Cucumber Rows
4. Mow for 1 hour
5. Sew the last two dish towel aprons promised to Ma in order to include in the box
6. Hoe around the peppers
7. Print Coupons to go to CVS
8. Call the Craigslist guy selling straw bales and set up a pick up time to buy some
9. Water the Neighbors' Plants
10. Fill the Food containers for the Neighbors' garage cats
11. Get Photos on a disc to take to CVS to make photo books (There's a super good deal on these this week. Check out Money Saving Mom for more info on that.)
12. Make frosting and frost the cupcakes
13. Finish my t-shirt design I'm working on
14. Put out the trash to the road
15. Sweep up the chicken feed that spilled in the garage
16. Call the neighbor in Germany about where to take the car to get the tire replaced
17. Go to CVS, pick up straw, take in neighbor's car, drop off my payment for the hairdresser (she couldn't take Visa! I'm going all cash, as soon as I can organize it with Ben), mail package for Ma and Dad

Now, some of these things are obviously more important to finish than others and I'm planning to prioritize as I go along, but ideally, I'd like to get as much of this done as possible today. There's also my regular routines for morning and afternoon, such as the animal chores, and cleaning the kitchen, and making the bed, but those are simple enough to do. My biggest challenge won't be getting any of these things finished, it will be taking charge of my emotions and doing them cheerfully. But that is probably the biggest challenge of most people's day, whether they choose to accept it or not. :)

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Thank God I'm a Country Bep(py)

Nothing too exciting today. Here are some pictures I took last night. My plans for the day are to mow and hoe for about three or four hours, shower and wash my hair and shave my legs (You know, really pamper myself with basic hygiene, lol), go over and watch Days of Our Lives with the neighbor, head back over here and knit or sew while watching Wipeout on This, to me, seems like a emminently satisfying day, and the only thing that could improve it would be to add in some baking. So I might make something yummy tonight too!

This picture illustrates why I don't think I'll be too bothered when the time comes to slaughter the chickens (in a few years after they quit laying). I thought at first that I would make friends with them and I wouldn't be able to handle cooking and eating them, but now that I've got them and I still can't really tell them apart, and I realize that it would be very hard to make friends with this face, I think it won't be impossible for me to handle. Don't get me wrong, I won't relish it, but I don't think I'll be an emotional wreck either.
That said, I do really enjoy watching the chickens while they peck and scratch. They're calming and there's just something peaceful about sitting and watching them do their thing. I think that now that I have chickens, I'll always want to have a few around.
They love the clover, so I've been moving the coop to a new patch of clover for them every day. And at noon or one, I rinse and refill their waterer and pick some of the very tall clover from our back meadow to give to them, and they love to scratch through it and eat the leaves. Fortunely our yard is more like a clover field than a lawn, so there's more than plenty of fresh clover for them.
We put up a net for these two rows of pole beans to climb. We did this on Saturday and the part in the foreground is a store bought net, and the back part of the row is lots of stakes with about four lines of garden twine run along them and tied at every stake. I really hope that this doesn't all come tumbling down once it's covered in vines and leaves and beans.
But for now, I'm just so excited by seeing the little tendrils spiral up the supports. Just like a bean stalk should.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In Times of Stress

My neighbors have been away for a little while this summer, and while they're gone, I've been looking in on their house and taking care of the pool and their cats. Also her mother lives there and didn't go away with them, so I've been visiting with her, and helping her out with things, since she's ninety and has a hard time getting around.

Well, yesterday we went to take her trash out to the road for her, and check the pool and everything, and when we got there, we found her sitting on the ground in her front garden. She had tripped and fallen and couldn't get up. And she'd been there all day, for 10 hours!

I felt so bad that I hadn't come by earlier. We got her up (nothing broken, thank God!) and helped her in and made her drink lots of water and Ben made her a sandwich. After she'd eaten, we visited a little while she had more water and then I helped her get cleaned up and into her nightgown. She seemed fine while we were talking, and she was aware and able to do things on her own pretty well. But all the same, I've been so worried all night that I should have taken her to the hospital or that she's hurt or sick in a way we couldn't tell.

I haven't gone by to see her yet this morning because I don't want to bother her too early, since she must be very tired. But I'm going to go as soon as I think she might be up, at 8 or 9, and made sure she's still doing well. And we made plans to watch Days of Our Lives this afternoon, so I'll get the chance to check on her then.

I guess the point of this post is two-fold. One, I'd like to sincerely ask for the prayers of those of you who would like to pray regarding my anxiety and my ability to deal with helping others. Also in thanksgiving that it wasn't much worse and for her continued health.

Secondly, I'd like to invite you all to share your thoughts with me about a few things. This situation has been making wish that I had a "real" grownup to help me. But I'm 28 years old! I am a grown up. So what makes a "real" grown up? And does anyone ever feel like they are one?

Also, I'm grateful for the opportunity to help someone in need, and sometimes I even pray for God to show me what I can do to serve him (and helping this kind woman is definately an answer to that, I'm sure), but how do those who serve others deal with the fear and anxiety that being both responsible and unsure causes?

Updated to Say:
I just walked over to make sure she's doing well this morning, and she was outside watering her garden and said that she had slept very well. She also invited me to come and eat breakfast with her a little later, so I think she's fine now. I'll just be keeping an extra watchful eye on her and making sure that she takes the phone outside with her!

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Yarn Diet is Still On

You guys are terrible enablers. Seriously, you're supposed to tell me more yarn is a good thing and yarn diets are silly to begin with. Ugh, it's just my luck to make friends with people who are sensible. ;)

Okay, I've made my order for the $5 needle and paid the $3 in shipping, ignoring the perfect excuse to buy an extra $45 worth of yarn in order to avoid paying said shipping charge. I've tried to convice Ben that the yarn is good insullation for the house, and will cut down on heating bills, but it seems like you ladies would be as hard to convince as he is.

Anyway, I've finished the gauge swatch for the Wildfoote yarn, and I'll write down the needle size and the stitch and row gauge rigth on the wrapper, then unravel the swatch and re-wind the yarn this afternoon. After that, I'm planning to start knitting another swatch. I'll just start swatching the first thing that catches my fancy, but it'll probably be another sock yarn. I have way too many sock yarns.

I mowed some of the yard and tied up the wisteria this afternoon. Using a push mower is getting me into much better shape than I have been. Sad as it is to say, I haven't felt up to running for a long while, and the other day, I ran in from the back yard because there was a heavy storm and I had to put the chickens away, and I didn't even really get out of breath. That's, like, a miracle for me.

Anyway, I've been trying to stay right on top of the mowing, mainly because it is such good exercise, and to me, is actually enjoyable and not boring and excrutiating like "exercising" is. I also weeded the garden a bit. It really needs to be hoed, but it's still to wet to do it. I've got the hamburger gravy keeping warm in the crockpot and the potatoes are all peeled and ready to be cooked and mashed when dinner time comes.

I gave the chickens the potato peelings, because I'd heard and read that they love kitchen scraps, but so far they've turned their noses up at apple peels and cores, a too soft peach with a bad spot, peach and plum peelings, carrot scrapings and beet tops. I don't know why I keep trying, I've obviously got a set of very weird and picky hens. They love clover though, so every day around noon, I pick them a big bunch of clover from the back meadow and throw it into their yard when I change out the water for fresh.

I'm really leaning towards a nap right now, and I have to say, with everything I got finished so far today, I probably won't feel even slightly abashed when I show up to finish cooking dinner with pillow creases on my face. Not even slightly abashed.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Breakfast cookies and desperate justification

I've spent the morning baking. I made up a batch of Breakfast Cookies and that recipe makes a TON of cookies. I'd never tried them before, so this was a new thing, and I really like the taste of them. I might halve it next time, since I even used my muffin scoop and made very large cookies and still got more than three dozen.

I think they're pretty healthy, I used the natural kind of peanutbutter that just has peanuts and salt in the ingredient list, and whole wheat flour. I'd say the only ingredient I question too much healthwise would be the sugar, and it would be easy enough to reduce that and use honey or sucanat or evap. cane juice cyrstals instead. I think they'd be great to experiment with, adding cinnamon and chopped apple, or maybe pumpkin puree for some of the peanutbutter.

Anyway, we both give the recipe a thumbs up. I ate two at 8am and I'm not hungry again yet, which is more than I can say for most of my muffins. I think the oats with all that peanutbutter is a very filling combo.

I also start swatching for a pair of socks for myself. It's really time that I start using up my yarn and fabric stashes. I've been working on the fabric, with the white skirt I made two weeks ago, and the one that I cut pieces for yesterday, but haven't done much knitting. So I opened the yarn closet with the intent to just start swatching the first thing that caught my eye. I picked this light pink Wildfoote yarn that I bought at the pretty little yarn store in Beulah, MI last summer when we were there for the James Family Reunion. It was expensive as far as socks go, but not so bad when you figure in the entertainment value of knitting them and the fact that they're a souvenir of the trip and the party.

Anyway, this was one of my last yarn purchases before I went on my yarn diet. I realized last night that it's been almost a year since I've bought any yarn other than cotton to make dish cloths. (I allow myself to cheat and buy more dishcloth yarn because I go through it so fast. They're just so mindless, I really like that about knitting dishcloths.)

But now I have a quandry. I'd like to knit these socks two at a time toe up magic loop, particularly because it's very fine yarn, and they'll get done more quickly if I work on them like that. But, I would have to order the needle from KnitPicks in order to do that, because I don't have a long size one circular needle. But, if I'm making an order, doesn't it just make sense to order other things too so that I order $50 worth so as to get the free shipping and make the order more worth it? I need my enablers to tell me that I should definately order enough yarn to make myself a sweater this fall to wear through the winter. Because, of course that's the only sensible thing to do in order to work through my stash!

I may need a yarn intervention.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Let's Go Outside

I thought it was about time that I showed off my garden a bit, since it's been growing for just about a month now. And while I was outside, I took some pictures of the house and the land, because I realized I hadn't shared what the house looks like when it's not covered in snow. This wasn't really the best time of day for taking pictures, and you'll have to excuse the weeds in the garden. I swear I had it all clean and pretty, but then it rained and rained, and it's been too wet to get back out there, so they're growing like crazy.

Here is the view down our driveway across the street. The farmer who owns that field just planted soy beans a couple of weeks ago, and they're coming up pretty well. It's nice to see a green field now, rather than a scrubby one.

Here's the view to the northwest. I like the barn way out there, it makes me feel like I really live in the country now.

This is a wisteria that has been growing like crazy on the dog run fence. I have to train it to go along the fence rather than into the dog run, but I'm not sure how you do that. Just tie it to the slats?

Here is our garden. It's on the west end of the house and the buildings in the background are our neighbors to the back. They're the ones with horses. And way back there are other neighbors on a different street. Our property line is right along the line of poplar trees.

My mini pumpkin plants are doing really well. I hope they really come up mini pumpkins. I saved the seeds from one we bought last year, so I don't know for sure they'll come true.

Here is the corn patch. I checked and it was definately knee high last Friday.

The four hills are my pie pumpkins. Once again, I hope they come up the same as the pumpkin I saved them from. It was from the grocery store, so I don't know if they will. There's a row of radishes running down the center. They're just about big enough to eat now. The biggest ones are just right.
This picture is of the eight tomato plants in the tomato cages, but it turned out pretty badly. I'll have to try again sometime when the light is better.

This row is peas. I have no idea if we'll actually get any, since it's so hot now and they got a late start, but we figured it was worth a try.

Two rows of bush beans. They came up very poorly. I don't really know why, since I planted one row and Ben planted the other, and they aren't even the same kind of bean, but there you go.

But the pole beans came up really well. We have to put in tellis or net for them to climb this weekend, they're starting to get their tendrils.

Here are the squash hills. There's acorn in the front and buttercup in the back. The middle one, butternut, never came up at all. I might try again and see if we get any, because butternut is my favorite. There's okra growing in there as well, but it really blends in with the weeds.

Here are the two pickle rows. We planted Boston Pickler and Burpee Pickler. Don't ask me the difference, we were just using seeds that were gifts. But both kinds are doing really well, and I'm not really planning to keep them separate or anything when we pick and can them.

This picture was supposed to be of the seven different kinds of pepper plants, but once again, I'll have to get a better one later when the light is different.

This is the better one of my two carving pumpkin plants. There's okra in this bed as well. I think Ben's got 12 or 14 okra plants all together. He planted it randomly and I've stepped on, like, three of them, because if it's not in a row I tend to stomp it. Actually, with my big clown feet and complete lack of grace, I've even been known to stomp rows. But plants are resilient, right?

This the view of the house from the road.

And here are the front flower beds and the front porch.

This is the back deck. I planted some catnip in a little bed to the left of the steps yesterday.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

I need your help

I'm looking for fabric with baseballs or a baseball theme for a special project to wear to the Stitch n Pitch game I'm going to in Detroit next month. If anyone has some that they could trade with me, that would be great. I have lots to offer in return, yarn, other fabric, knitted dishcloths, embroidered pillowcases? Let me know if you can help me out, and we'll work out a trade of some kind. Thanks everyone!

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But Whenever Monday Comes

Our long weekend was a really good one. We relaxed a bit, and also got a ton of work around the house finished. We mowed all the lawn and finished up some things on the chicken coop. We caged the tomatoes and pulled some weeds. We also watched lots of movies and took a couple of naps.

I had big plans for today, but so far I've been very slow going. Ben did the chicken chores for me this morning before he left so I could sleep in, and I didn't get up till seven thirty. Then I just spent the last hour reading sewing blogs. I'm going to have to get moving, because it's supposed to rain this afternoon and there a few bits of lawn mowing I want to finish. I also have to put in the edging for some of my herb beds and plant the cat nip and chocolate mint I bought at the farmer's market on Saturday. After I finish those outside things, there's plenty in the house to keep me busy. I want to start another skirt like the one I made the week before last, and there's always plenty of cleaning to do.

But I have a quandry too! I got the red striped part of my patriotic wallhanging embroidery almost finished and then I realized that I'd done most of it with an odd color embroidery floss that I don't have anymore of and can't really match. I'm very frustrated with it, and I know the smart thing to do would be to take out all the embroidery in the wrong color and redo it in the right color, but I just can't face tearing out embroidery so soon after I've put it in. Give me a few months and I can usually handle it. So, I'm thinking leave it unfinished for now, and just put it away till I finish the rest of the holidays and come back to it to have it to hang for next year. But there's part of me that is so sequential, and I have a really hard time going on to the next one (summer) without finishing this one. Guess it's just the old Salgat OCD.

Well, I've been procrastinating long enough, so I'd better make myself get moving. I'm offering the reward of a movie and knitting if I get outside and finish that work before the rain. Yes, I'm totally bribing myself. Doesn't every good farmer do that?

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Menu for 7-6 to 7-12

B: Crepes (We went to the farmer's market saturday morning, and so had breakfast out.)
L: Leftover Ribs
D: Clean Out Fridge

B: Yogurt and Fruit
L: PB & J
D: Noodles and Sauce

B: Crock Pot Oatmeal
L: Noodles and Sauce
D: Pork Chops and Baked Potatoes (held over from last week)

B: Breakfast Cookies
L: Leftover Pork Chop Sandwiches
D: Eggs and Sausage

B: Breakfast Cookies
L: Pork Fried Rice
D: Hamburger Gravy on Mashed Potatoes

B: Breakfast Cookies
L: Leftover Hamburger Gravy
D: Pizza Night!

B: Out
L: Leftover Pizza
D: Crepes

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

It's the Fourth of July, and I'm celebrating by planning a Revolutionary lunch. Well, it's close in my opinion, but Ben keeps questioning my authenticity. I'm planning ribs, and while they might not have been served quite the same way in 1776, they're standing in for a pit roasted pig. Which I'm sure they did prepare and serve. Probably with a tangy sauce too, because who can resist a tangy sauce?

The mac and cheese really is a french dish that Jefferson enjoyed and had served while he was president (maybe not the same recipe, but you know, how much can a cheese sauce change?). And while I don't know if sweet corn on the cob is traditionally an American food, corn is certainly indigenous to the continent. I'll admit that the canned pork n beans are not ideal, but the idea is the same, and we're representing the Boston patriots, Sam Adams and John Adams. Come to think of it, maybe I should have bought some Sam Adams? :)

I haven't found a period appropriate dessert in my cook books yet, so I'll probably settle for chocolate cake. And then go searching for evidence of chocolate cake at the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Anyway, I thought it would be a fun way to celebrate, since we're not planning to go to any fireworks or anything today. Most of our friends are out of town, and neither one of us really likes fireworks all that much. I'm also planning to make Ben watch 1776 with me. I just discovered it a few weeks ago, and I loved it! I don't know why I'd never watched it before, but I really enjoyed it. I told him he's got to humor me and pretend to like it even if he doesn't enjoy it. I wanted to get The Patriot with Mel Gibson too, but couldn't find it at Borders or Best Buy.

Anyone have any great Fourth of July movie suggestions?

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Theory of Relativity

Now I understand.

See, when people see our garden, they all say, "That's a really big garden."

And I thought it would be, because it's 20X100 feet. I thought, that's all the garden anyone could ask for. But then we planted it, and I kind of thought it was small.

I mean, there's not enough room to grow a years worth of pumpkins and squash, and we didn't even put in potatoes or popcorn or greens or turnips or carrots. I keep thinking that next year it will have to be twice as big, plus a few pumpkin patches and a patch for popcorn. More garden, that was my mantra.

Then I had to hoe the weeds. And my garden became an endless expanse. A Sahara of gardens.

And now I've learned what the more experienced gardeners were saying. They know that a garden grows exponentially when you've got a hoe in your hand.

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They other day I ran across a nice young woman's blog through Entrecard, and I was interested to read about her success selling on Cafepress. I had opened a cafepress shop a number of years ago, but hadn't really done too much designing with it. She inspired me to open it back up and think of some new designs I might try. Or at least learn a little about graphic design.

While I was browsing around and fiddling with my shop, I noticed that cafepress now offers publishing services. I was excited about this because a number of years ago, I'd written a booklet on bias binding, and using bias binder feet for the sewing machine. I had this printed to sell, because lots of people on the sewing list I was on at the time wanted it, but it was pretty expensive at $25. When I saw that cafepress offers printing with nice wire binding, I decided to see how much my booklet would cost through them. When I saw it would only be $10.99 AND I'd make a small profit, I went right to work loading my book to my shop.

You can see my booklet, Why Bias Binder Feet ROCK, here and if you'd like to, you can see my other cafepress designs here. (There is a very good one for the yarn pirates out there!)

I'm not sure if I'll sell any of the books or other items, but the great thing about Cafepress is that it doesn't cost anything to set up a shop, so it's no big deal if you set it up and never get any orders.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Chickens Have Come Home

We picked up our chickens on Saturday. It was a very fun day and we really enjoyed visiting the farm that we bought them from. The people we got them from were super nice, and even let us sample some of their goat milk. She also gave me a pepper plant that she had extra. I was very glad to meet them.

We've also been really enjoying our chickens. They're very pretty little birds, and fun to watch. They seem to be settling in pretty well. They're six weeks old right now, and able to live outside in the tractor we built for them.

I'll post more about the coop/tractor/ark in a few days. We still have to finish some of the shingles before it's all finished and I'd like to do an entire post on building it, including some progress pictures.

Here are some pictures of the chickens.

This was our set up for bringing them home. We drilled small holes in the rim of this storage tub and lined the bottom with wood shavings. Then we just zip tied the chicken wire on top through the holes. It worked really well for moving them and impressed the farmer too.

Here they are coming down their ramp out of the inner part of their tractor.

You can see the feeder and waterer in this picture. I was surprised by how expensive they are, and when I saw in backyard chickens how easy it is to make your own, I was kicking myself. So don't be like me, make your own.
Here is one picture of the coop. This is how we lock the door at night to keep predators out. There's an eyebolt on the door, and then one on the wall on either side of the door, and the stake just slides through all three to hold the door tight against the wall. I think this will do well to keep any animals out, though I get the feeling from other chicken owners that raccoons will do anything short of steal your credit card numbers to get at your chickens.
See how pretty they are? I just love what colors they are. They're called Cinnamon Queen, and they're a cross between a Rhode Island Red and a Delaware White. So they should be a pretty hardy bird that will lay all winter.

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