Thursday, July 30, 2009

Now I've done it...

I joined Twitter. I couldn't help it. I love texting. And I was so intrigued.
My user name is BeppyCat, if anyone wants to join me!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Congratulations Adam!

And Midland, MI!
Adam's video has helped Midland rank in the top three in the Tennis Town USA competition. Thanks to any of you who took the time to vote, as well.
I'm super proud of my little brother!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Apple Cider Vinegar from Peels and Cores

It's not quite apple time, but almost, so I thought I'd send anyone who's interested over to my article on making vinegar using the scraps from apple pie filling and other apple processing.

And here's one about stocking up on meals ahead of time, since the canning should be going full swing soon. If it isn't already!


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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ugh...Just, Ugh...

There's some sort of hideous fungal monster incubating under the straw mulch in the garden. I found it today while I was weeding the squash hills. I'm repulsed and drawn to it at the same time. It's so... uck. I'm scared.

So, it's some sort of hard and waxy type of thing. Not that I touched it with my bare hands, but that's how it seemed through my gardening gloves. And it's it clumps and clusters that seem to be sort of rooted in the ground.
Does anyone know what this is? Should I try to get it out? Can I just cover it back up and pretend it's not there and hope it doesn't find it's way into my nightmares? It won't kill my squash, will it?
Thanks ladies, I know I can count on you for comfort when confronted with the scary underworld of gardening.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It's Here! It's Here!

Techically, he came last week, but I forgot I took the picture to post. I love my new Excalibur dehydrator!

So far, I've dried cherries and my catnip harvest. This is truly an excellent dehydrator, and I'm so glad i decided to buy it. It's awesome that I was able to write enough at AC to earn the money. And I managed to earn it more quickly than I thought I'd be able to!

So, as soon as I actually get some harvest from my very s-l-o-w-l-y growing garden, I'll be sure to post lots of dehydrator pics. Columbo has decided that the top of it is his new favorite place. He assures me (through Ben, his translator) that it's heated automatic massage is not to be beaten. I suppose Excalibur could use that as a selling point too, huh? "Dries foods, makes yogurt, great cat lounging area!" I do wonder if he'll affect the performance, since you're not supposed to store things on the unit.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fortune Cookies

The fortune cookie I just ate said, "Your charming ways please everyone." To that I say that the fortune cookie has definately not met all my friends and family and college roommates. In fact, I know some people who would probably be offended because I've said that I know my ways don't please them. So I'll leave it at that.

And as cynical and bad tempered as that may have sounded, it was meant to be a bit of a joke, since I'm in a pretty good mood today. I got a big workout in working in the yard this morning, raking grass clippings and mulching the sweet corn, and this afternoon, I did a nice relaxing stretching workout.

What I haven't done in a while is write some articles. And I was on such a roll... oh well, I could always work on a couple right now. And tomorrow is another day! (Fiddle-dee-dee...)

I have been knitting though. I finished the purple socks! Wooooo me!! And I've got this first one of a pink pair started. They're slow going because of the number 1 needles, but I've got about three inches of toe so far. So I could always cast-off, knit a lone heel, connect them by some crocheted chains and pretend I invented a sexy new kind of sock. But no, I'll be conventional and knit the entire sock.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

10 I've Nevers

Okay, this actually isn't one of those tagging games, I just wanted to make a post in list form today. The noble form of the list is elevated in my mind as one of the most effective ways of communication. Don't take that from me. But feel free to drink!

I've never...

1. Played Hungry, Hungry Hippos

2. Seen ET

3. Eaten squid

4. Had surgery

5. Taken a train somewhere

6. Made meringue

7. Been on a cruise

8. Knitted and finished an entire adult-sized sweater

9. Pressure canned vegetables (I have assisted my mom)

10. Been on a sailboat

There's about ten million billion other things I could list, I'm sure, but I was sort of going for things that might be surprising to know about me.

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Friday, July 17, 2009


It's pizza night tonight, and I'm so happy that Ben's making dinner! He's been gone all week to Phoenix, and he just got home this afternoon. He's been traveling quite a bit for work lately, and I'm getting frustrated by it. It can get lonely around here without him. But I'm glad that he's here now, and I'm grateful that he doesn't have a job that requires even more travel. I know they're out there, like the military, for one. I don't know if I could handle that.

It's stormed quite a bit lately, and the water is just laying in the yard and on the garden. I hope the peppers and tomatoes don't drown. I think the mulch is actually helping that some though... it seems to hold the water like a sponge, so it's not so deep around the plants. On Tuesday, I saw a chicken slip in the mud and fall. Yes, I laughed. Yes, I know I shouldn't have, but it was hi-larious.

I've been reading about lasagna gardening lately, and I'm seriously thinking it's the way to go. I could put four foot beds all down the length of the garden, with two foot paths in between. Maybe I could trade my rototiller for a load of wood chips for the paths. But before I do that, I'm going to just put them in in a few places, and see how that goes first. I'm hoping to plant my fall garden in a lasagna bed or two made on the garden spot, and I want to turn the area near the deck and around the herb bed into different beds and paths as well.

I put a request on Craigslist today for someone to deliver manure here. I've been really needing manure, because seriously, you just can't garden organically without it, but without a truck to use for hauling, I'm at a loss of how to get it in large quantities. So I posted that I'd like someone to deliver it, and asked them to offer a price for delivery or maybe be willing to barter for baking or sewing. I've gotten two replies so far, asking how much I want, so it looks like it might work out well. I'm glad because a lot of time I post things on Craigslist and get no replies. Neither person mentioned anything about payment yet though, so we'll see. I can't afford to pay too much for it, of course. Gardening is supposed to be saving money!

The weather has cooled down drastically. It's going to be a lovely weekend. I'm thinking I might try to drag Ben out for a picnic, but only if he wants to. I'm sure he's pretty tired and probably wants to just be home for a while. But who'd want to waste such beautiful weather! Cool and sunny is my favorite kind of weather. Well, slightly warmer and overcast is pretty good too. That's my favorite for mowing the lawn.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tennis Town!

My little brother works at the Midland Community Tennis Center, and they're in the top ten for Tennis Town USA in the competition from the USTA. He put together their super kick butt video all about tennis in Midland, MI, and what a great town it is.

You can go watch the video and vote for Midland as Tennis Town USA here. Pass it along to your friends, it's a fun video to watch. Look for the Tridge! I love that thing.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My New Clothesline

I love line drying clothes, and I've been wanting to have a clothesline since we moved here to the country. Well, Ben and our friend Ken put this one up for me, so now I have one! I'm really enjoying it, and know it'll help keep the house cooler and save some money. Plus, I absolutely love the smell of clothes dried outside. I can't wait to make myself a nice laundry apron with a big old pocket to hold all the clothespins.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Wanna tour all my garden beds and see what's growing? Okay, let's go!
Here is the herb garden that's off the back patio. The tall stalk-y things are onions. I've honestly never seen onion flowers before, and I didn't know if I should cut them off or not, so I just left them to grow.

A nice looking basil, if I do say so myself. I'm going to start harvesting this to dry or make pesto soon.

Lemon balm that I planted in a pot that is buried in the ground. That's supposed to keep it from spreading and taking over. There's mint planted the same way opposite it.

Here's a loofa plant. I'm not sure if these actually will do anything. I'm sure it doesn't help that the grass grew back in around them. I'll have to make a lasagna bed there for next year and try again.

Here's the chicken yard cutting garden. The Japanese beetles are loving these zinnias and cosmos, so they're looking pretty ragged and chewed up up close, but it keeps them off the blueberries and corn, so I'm okay with it, I suppose.

Here's one of the squash from the volunteer plants in that bed. How can you tell when white squash is ripe?

Here are all those volunteer squashes. There's even a couple of sunflowers that came up on their own as well.

I guess that squash got a pretty big headstart, since they're ripening already. I'm thinking dried pumpkin would be fun to try.

Here's the new patch we put in this summer. This is green dent corn. We're hoping it'll feed the chickens some through the winter. Plus I really want to try making green tortillas.

I planted sunflowers in the other half of that patch. I've got enough seeds left for a few more rows too, that I'd like to get in this week. The sunflower heads are great for the chickens through the winter, because I can hang up the whole head in their yard, and they can peck the seeds out. It gives them extra feed, and keeps them from getting too restless when there's no grass or bugs to peck.

Here's the row of potato plants. I've been mounding them, and they're about four feet high, so I think I'll let them go now. I could probably bury them some more, but I ran out of straw, and can't really see spending the money to get more unless I know for sure that it'll work.

I planted these onions just by scattering the sets on the ground and burying them a few inches deep with straw. They would have done better if I'd taken the time to turn them all right side up.

This is the section I just finished mulching with the grass clippings. So far I have six King of the North, four Hot Portugal, three Bullnose, and one California Wonder surviving from the peppers.

There are two Sunberry plants still alive as well. I planted four, but they were tiny little things when I put them out, so I'm glad two made it.

This is the entire tomato/pepper area. Half is mulched with straw, and the other half is mulched with grass clippings. I think I prefer the grass clippings, but I'll have to see how each holds up all season. I have about 18 out of 24 Opalka tomatoes that are still alive, and six Sweet 100's. The little Sweet 100's are setting tomatoes, and have about five or so on each plant so far. My plants always seem to grow so slowly! I did fertilize them all this year with an organic tomato fertilizer.

Yes, that's my sweet corn dying a slow, sad, choking death over there on the left in that encroaching grass. Yes, the whole patch looks like that. No, I'm not proud of myself. Yes, I do have a plan that involves making Ben hoe and mulching with old chicken litter. No, I don't really thing it'll work.
Look, Baby Birdhouse Gourd! Isn't it so cute!?

Here's a complete failure. This was a honeydew, but it just up and died on me. I don't know why. It didn't leave a suicide note or anything. The other honeydew, which was in a whole different section did the same thing. I sure as heck hope it's not contagious.

This is a little Lady Godiva Squash. We're growing them for the seeds this year. They make hulless seeds, which I suppose is why they're named Lady Godiva, since they're naked seeds.

The Lady Godiva are growing really well, and putting out lots of squashes. I'm hoping they can keep it up, and then we can have lots of seeds for roasting this fall!

The carrots seem to be doing okay in the little raised bed. I'm really impatient to pull them, but it's not nearly time yet, so I try to just stay away.

The butternut aren't growing nearly as quickly as the Lady Godiva are, but they seem to be doing alright. The empty hill is where the dead honeydew were, and just of to the left of the camera frame, there's a hill of cumcumbers that are starting to vine out onto the straw as well.

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Monday, July 13, 2009


I've been trying to change around my routines a bit, and my blogging has gotten a little lost in the shuffle in the last week or so, while I've been trying to revamp things. This is where I am so far in my schedule, though I'm trying to work out to fit everything in, and how to schedule in flexible time for when things get much busier, like during canning times.

6-7am Get up, take medicine, let chickens out, feed cats, sift litter and put out trash, put away clean dishes, wash dirty dishes, get Ben's lunch together and visit with him before he leaves, make the bed, and start a load of laundry

7-7:30am Breakfast and time to read and have tea or juice, take medicine that goes with food

7:30-8:30am Work outside at various tasks, like raking mulch and mulching garden beds, or weeding vegetables and front landscaping, or planting, or building new veggie beds, or (hopefully soon) harvesting, hang out laundry

8:30-9:30am Work inside at deep cleaning a room at a time around the house, declutter and organize
When the tomato harvest starts, this time will probably start being devoted to cleaning and processing those, same for the squash and beans.

9:30-10am Shower, shave legs, wash hair, get dressed and styled

10-11:30am Blog and write associated content articles, work on t-shirt designs, etc, visit with neighbor during this time once a week as well

11:30-12pm Chicken chores (refilling feeders/waterers, collecting eggs, giving treats), get mail, and open and sort mail, start lunch

12-12:30pm Lunch and reading

12:30-1pm Bring in laundry and put away, take care of any correspondence or bills from the mail, return phone calls, prepare any packages or letters to be sent, if there's none of that, reading time

1-4pm Sewing, knitting, cleaning if needed, food processing during that season, reading on slow days, commenting on blogs or other articles, promoting articles, baking, make ahead cooking, menu planning and grocery list, finish writing articles or take pictures for blog, work on anything not finished in the morning

4-5pm Prepare dinner and put away clean dishes, wash lunch dishes, sweep kitchen and dining room

5-bedtime Have dinner, hang out with Ben, knit or whatever while we visit or watch tv

Now, just watch all that go out the window when the busy canning times come, lol. I'm just hoping to have add a bit more structure to my day with this list anyway, and maybe keep on top of the not so pressing chores like dusting and weeding the front flower beds by being more consistent with assigning times for them. Of course, not every day can follow this plan either, like on the days that I mow the lawn, that's pretty much the entire morning, so some of the morning things are shuffled to the afternoon. But I'm definately the kind of person who needs instructions to get things done sometimes, so even if I'm the one who's written the instructions, it'll keep me more directed on my less motivated days to have the reference.

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

La Fonda

I've just had a truly wonderful gastrinomic experience. I've been craving real Mexican food, like we used to get when we lived in Arizona, so much so that I even had a dream that we were out at a Mexican restaurant. Anyway, we decided to see if there were any places around here that would be good, and we hit a homerun on our first try. La Fonda, in the Target Plaza in Edwardsville, IL is an excellent Mexican restaurant. The portions were so big that we'll easily eat three meals each from our dinners, and everything was so delicious. The service was super fast and very friendly as well. We're both looking forward to having our leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

It's been an excellent day for other reasons too. This morning I finally raked up enough of the grass clippings to mulch the entire tomato and pepper section, so now I'm feeling good about that being done. And Ben was gone all week, but he's home now, so that's a total wooo-hooo!

I've only got about five more rounds on the sock that I'm knitting, so I'm hoping I'll have a picture of that next week. And maybe the start of a new sock!

Does anyone else love Wipeout? We love it so much. And yet, I feel slightly guilty every time I laugh at someone falling. I can't be the only one.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Kumihimo Braiding

Kumihimo braiding is a Japanese style of braiding that uses lots of different strands to make different kinds of cords. I have this foam disc that makes it easy to do, and was a lot more affordable than a maru dai.

Anyway, the only use I can ever come up with for my braids is friendship bracelets. And since there's not a lot of call for those now that I'm not in sixth grade anymore, I don't get to use it much. But little brother Adam requested a new bracelet in blue and black for his wrist, so I got to break out the old kumihimo disc. He's a friendship bracelet kind of guy. He's been wearing one I made on his ankle for about two years now.

There are lots of fun how-to videos on youtube, if you search kumihimo and a basic braid can be made on a piece of cardboard with a hole in the middle and slits around the outside of it, to get the feel of how it works.

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Monday, July 06, 2009

Brunhilda and Matilda

We had an unfortunate incident last week. Two of the new pullets were pulled out of the cage and taken off by something, I'd assume a racoon or skunk. We were pretty sad about it, and felt guilty, but we set right to work making their area more secure and putting a door on their Dogloo/coop.

The pullet that was left was the one Ben had named Brunhilda, because she was the big bully of the three of them. We didn't want her to have to be alone, so we checked Craigslist and found a pretty little Araucana pullet available. We picked her up that day, and they've been together for a week. I named her Matilda, and she seems to be fitting in fine with Brunhilda, though I'm a little concerned about integrating her into the larger flock in the fall, since she'll be the only white one out of seven Cinnamon Queens. I'd like to find another pullet of a different breed to add to the "nursery" coop, so the three can be together when the integration comes in the fall.

I'm completely looking forward to those blue/green eggs!

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

A Sunday Update

Things here at Cloverfield (I still need a better name than that for the place) are going well. I'm very glad for the cooler weather this past week, but it's stalled the tomatoes and peppers.

I had a realization as I mowed the lawn last week. It doesn't make much sense for us to pay for straw, when the grass clippings make great mulch. They mat right down and make a really good weed barrier. So, after I finished mowing, I started raking, and I raked up enough clippings to remulch the forsythia, the blueberries, the cherry trees, the for baby saplings, and the rose of sharon. And that was only one side of the front yard, so there's lots of mulching potential with the grass clippings, if I'm willing to rake them all up. I guess I should be raking them anyway, since the bigger piles kill the grass, but I just have this deep hatred of grass, since it keeps invading my garden. And even though I know I shouldn't, I secretly want it all to die, so then I can plow under the yard and plant wheat.

We had a great Fourth of July, with our Independence Day traditions of ribs, baked beans, and a showing of 1776. I even thawed out the last of the 20 quarts of apple pie filling that I put in the freezer last September, and made an apple pie. I've been resisting using it for a couple of months, when I realized it was the last, but I figured that July 4th is enough of a special occasion, and it's not like I could keep it forever. I'm going to make a lot more pie filling and lots and lots more dried apples this year. The frozen pie filling is really convenient, but the dried apples make good pie, and are easier to keep.

Speaking of drying things, I ordered my dehydrator today. Woooooooo! I got a bunch of AC articles published last week, and that combined with the gardening/preserving/kitchenware envelope was enough to put me over the top. I can't wait till it gets here. I picked the Excalibur 9 tray one without the timer. I think it'll be so great and will last me a really long time. It's a totally wooooooo-hooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!! kind of day since I'm getting my nice dehydrator this week.

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Lastest Audio Books

Last week, on Friday, I checked out and downloaded two new audio books to my mp3 player, and I was really excited to listen to them. I like when that happens, since it gets me started on my week's work more cheerfully, since it's a good motivation on Monday to fire up a book and get going on the weeding and the lawn and such.

Anyway, Life As We Knew It and the dead and the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer are survival fiction/science-fiction/end-of-the-world type stories about what happens when the moon's orbit is changed and that causes catastrophes all over the world, and breaks down supply chains and utilities. I knew I'd like them, because I love disaster and survival stories.

Life As We Knew It was pretty good. It's told through the diary of a 15 year old girl, and details what life is like for her and her family when they're holed up in their rural house together after the disasters break society down. There were some details that seemed odd to me, like why they didn't hunt or set snares, since they lived by a woods. Especially when they knew the garden wasn't turning out well, and the canned things wouldn't last through the winter. But I'm not usually very nitpicky like that, since I usually just want a book to entertain me. It's a pretty entertaining book, and I did enjoy it.

the dead and the gone is about a 17 year old boy in New York City during the same events. I'm only a little way into it so far, but I'm enjoying it even more than the first one. He's Catholic, and it's nice that he and his family and their priests all are represented in a sane way, since the only Christian characters in the first book were either crazy evil or just plain crazy crazy. There are a few points that have been off so far, like the fact that the author thinks the Church forbids cremation, but that's not so anymore. I'd like to see more research done when points of doctrine are discussed by characters that are priests and such, just for the realism, but otherwise, it's a pretty interesting story. The part about Yankee Stadium was very powerful and, I thought, well-written. And the fact that the main character thinks to himself that if people are still making lists then there's hope left in the world, really endeared him to me. That's a kid after my own heart!

I'm thinking though that the character going from a boy who loves order and lists and rules, to someone who will have to do unruly things to survive is going to be the main trope in the book, representing society its self. As disasters break down social order, his natural love of order will help to contrast that. I'd say it's fairly effective symbolism, but still, I just wanted to hang out and make lists with him. :)

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