Monday, February 8, 2016

Black and White with a Splash of Color

We've been getting a bit of snow over the last few days which is finally starting to pile up and making it look like a real winter around here.  Yesterday we had that strange occurrence where it rained for a period of time with snow falling both before and after.  So, of course, we discovered when we went out for chores and clearing snow this morning that there was a coating of ice underneath the snow everywhere.

This is our back yard when we first started plowing this morning.

Our wood working area in the back is slowly being covered over with a blanket of snow.  Those maple logs are 16' long and many of them are a foot in diameter.  I'm encouraging Papa Pea not to order firewood again from the logger who delivered these.  (They were supposed to be "small" logs.)  Once the big logs are chainsawed into pieces, they have to be split, more than once, and most of them are so heavy we can't lift them up onto the splitter, but rather have to roll them up a plank.  Oooof.  Not looking forward to working up this pile in the spring.  The wood will eventually yield lots of BTUs, but it will take a bit of work to get it to that point.

I snapped this right after I had shoveled the deck and walkway.  You can see the frosty coating of ice I couldn't remove.

To add a little color to this post, last night I finished the second two pairs of mittens on a string for the twins.  They've gotten used to the mittens that "won't go away" and their auntie and nanny both love the way there's no more hunting for mittens for those four little hands when getting dressed to go outside.  I made these a little bigger than the first ones hoping they would still fit the two little munchkins next year.  Wishful thinking? 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Wondering About Your Water

This morning as I was pumping buckets of water to take to our chickens, ducks and geese, I was fantasizing (as usual) about having a barn plumbed with water that would be free-flowing year 'round.

We have a hand pump on top of our well which is a very handy back-up to have should we ever, for any reason, have a period when we would not be able to get water pumped into the house.  The hand pump is also used for water for the livestock.

We could fill buckets in the utility sink in the heated part of the garage, but since carrying the buckets of water to their destination at the animal pens is twice as far from the garage as from the hand pump, we choose to use the pump on a daily basis.

Besides thinking this morning of how nice it would be to have water available right near the animals, I was wondering what kind of a water system any of you with animals have on your homestead.  Perhaps we can learn from each other and modify our own systems to make it more efficient . . . and easier.

Care to share?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Old Habits Die Hard

Toward the end of last month I found myself being a real ol' Ms. Cranky Pants.  It took a while but it finally dawned on me that I had fallen right back into my old rut of working on all the "should do" tasks all day long and not taking any time for the relaxing, feel-good things I've said I was going to do in the months of January and February.

How easily we fall back into our old habits without even realizing we've done so.  This has shown me I need to reorganize my work day so I regularly (not just in the [slow - ha!] months of January and February) schedule in time to read, watch movies, quilt, knit and do some of the things I always say I don't have time to do, but actually do . . . if I make them a priority.  And, for heaven's sake, we all know that the To Do List will NEVER get done, no matter how many waking hours we spend working on it.

It's taken me a few days (gotta ease back into this) to get my thinking rearranged again, but I hope I'm back on the right track again now.

This is the last pair of socks I've finished.  Still not crazy about the way the design turned out, but they'll prove to be good, serviceable socks all the same.  (Geesh, just noticed the feet look enormous and the tops look skimpy, but it's just the angle of the photo.)

I've already started on another pair.  Anybody keeping track of how many pairs this will be that I've knitted?  (Me neither.  I'd have to go count.)

And the most recent crocheted rag rug I've made.  The next rug is going to be made with some jazzy, bright, spring-like colored fabrics someone gave me.  I can't think of anything else I'd use the material for so this rug can provide a chirky splash of color to use when spring starts to make an appearance.  (Which also means the rug will get smudged with muddy foot, or paw, prints in short order.)

It's been too long since I've had a good supply of burger buns on hand so I got busy this afternoon and made these.  Being a person who needs to see the fruits of her labor at the end of the day, baked goods fill the bill about as much as something knitted or crocheted or sewn.  Baking homemade bread of one sort or another is definitely one old habit I have no desire to break.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

To Prove We Finally Have Snow

I'm pleased to report we got another nice snowfall this past Friday night/Saturday morning.  At long last we've got an adequate amount of snow to insulate plants, water lines and septic tanks.  Now we don't have to worry about temperatures dipping down below zero and the frigid weather having a bad impact on such things.

Yesterday afternoon, after getting much exercise in the morning removing the snow from the driveway, paths, entries to the house and buildings, etc., we decided to go for a hike . . . for more exercise.  (Just whose idea was that?)

Papa Pea had hiked the loop trail up behind our house once this winter with a friend, but I hadn't been on it yet.

He had encountered a couple of spots on the trail that were blocked with blowdowns so loaded a little sled with chainsaw, a couple of shovels and a pickaroon.

I've mentioned before that the first half of the loop is a steep incline (which always causes me to state I'm never going to hike it again) that goes straight northward.  But then at the top we come to a ridge that we follow to the east for a while.

The ridge is relatively flat and makes for pleasant going after the first half of the trail climb.

Here I am, happy on the ridge where the walking is easy.  The day was bright (yes, we had sun!) and beautiful and warm.

After the ridge, we turned and hiked southward and into the woods again.  Here Papa Pea is clearing the last area of blowdown blocking the trail.  (I think it looks like he has a pelt slung over his back, but it's just his sweatshirt he took off and tied around his middle.)

It's always a surprise to realize the different muscles you use when on snowshoes.  I mean I walk and move around every day, right?  But this morning the muscles in my feet and ankles are a titch on the sore side from walking on the snowshoes yesterday.  A couple more hikes, now that we have the snow, and I should be back in snowshoeing shape.  Or at least I hope so.

Friday, January 29, 2016

This Next to the Next to the Last Day of January

Well, here's a non-picture for you!  Looks a bit different than the view of the same raised beds I showed in my last post, doesn't it?  We had snow two days ago, and it was just enough to totally cover our raised beds for the first time this year.

Yep, Mother Nature gave us a mini-blizzard this past Wednesday.  Only about 3-5" (hard to tell because of drifting) of snowfall but it came down all day accompanied by high winds which made for some very interesting conditions.  For about one hour in the afternoon, the snow turned to rain.  The temp was at 29°, but none the less, we had rain.  Then it turned to snow again so you can imagine the icy mess that made on every surface outside.

All in all, we continue to have a very mild winter.  We may get a couple more inches of snow today, they say, but the temperature of 21° at mid-morning makes it not uncomfortable for being outside doing what needs to be done.

We're still shaking our heads (but with a happy grin on our faces) at how little wood we've burned for heating so far this season.  Here we are at the end of January and we're only a smidge more than halfway through our smallest wood cache.  Can't complain about that one bit.

A big pan of Swiss Steak is simmering on the stove this morning, Papa Pea is off to get a resupply of fresh, raw milk from the farm and as soon as I'm done here, I plan to sit at the kitchen table and get serious about crop layout for the raised beds and field garden.  If I don't have my plan in place by planting time, I waste too much time deciding what to plant where when I could be actively doing the planting.

But first, I have to bottle up the latest batch of kombucha, pay a couple of bills, order some new Christmas CDs which we decided were definitely needed as we played all the old, old ones (over and over) this past holiday season, put a couple of batches throw rugs through the washer, get some soup defrosting for lunch, finish the first mitten of a new pair for the twins, put the last couple rounds on the latest rag rug I have in progress, and fill both inside wood boxes.

HAHAHHOHOHOHEEHEEHAHA!  I am so unrealistic when I make my lists for the day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Good Seeds = Good Gardening = Good Food

I'll readily admit it seems I spend an inordinate amount of time and effort 'round about this time of the year pouring through the huge stack of garden seed catalogs that have been accumulating on my desk for the last several weeks.  I do this in order to find garden seeds that are organic, heirloom, and best suited for our northern gardening climate.  And being the frugal (penny-pinching?) money spender I am, I feel a need, if I have a choice, to find the most reasonably priced source of the seeds I decide to order.

Phew, whadda job.  Just ask my husband who has had to live with the myriad of catalogs strewn over the kitchen table (and me bent over them muttering to myself while making copious notations on multitudinous pieces of paper) for the last solid week.

I thought you might appreciate
a little garden eye candy

However, the task is now completed, and I used the phone (much, much faster than ordering online) this morning to place my order from each of four different seed companies. 

I do take my gardening responsibilities very seriously and locating and procuring the seeds I want is just the start of the process each season.  Gardening is hard work, but I simply love it and feel very, very good that (most years) I can provide us with an ample supply of fruits and vegetables for our year 'round eating pleasure and satisfying our nutritional needs. 

Right now, at the end of January, we still have a good supply of peas, cauliflower, beets, green and yellow beans and Brussels sprouts in the freezer.  The broccoli was mostly consumed by the worms (again!) this year so what I did harvest is long gone.  We have only one and a half servings of Stuffed Green Peppers left as I lost more than half of the pepper plants this past season to some weird, undiagnosed malady.

There is plenty of garlic and an abundance of onions cured and storing well in the basement.

Our root cellar still holds cabbages, carrots, beets and potatoes.  Also some apples from our downright pitiful last harvest.  They aren't the best eating out-of-hand apples by far (that's an understatement), but they do make good baked desserts and (amazingly) great applesauce. 

Many jars of applesauce, sweet and dill pickles and pickled beets are squirreled away in the pantry.

I have several jars of still bright green dried parsley, but have run out of dried mint.  Papa Pea drinks a mug of peppermint tea every morning and has declared the mint I grew and dried last summer the best tasting he's ever had.  With a compliment like that, you can bet I'll be growing lots more this coming season.

Frozen chives (that I love and use so much) are holding out well, and I think we'll have enough until the little green shoots of that hardy perennial plant make an appearance this spring. 

Our strawberry crop last year was nothing to write home about as our old bed of geriatric plants finally gave up the ghost, but the new plants I put in should be rarin' to go this season giving us (we're hope, hope, hoping) as many red, juicy berries as we'll need.  For now I have only one lonely quart of mashed strawberries in the freezer that I don't seem to be able to use . . . because then I'd be totally O-U-T, wouldn't I?  Happily, there are still many jars of strawberry jam in the pantry. 

Still have plenty of frozen raspberries and rhubarb but the blueberries are to the point of being rationed out.  (Remember the onslaught of blueberry-eating robins we were plagued with last year?  We haven't forgotten them, that's for sure, and will be ready this year if they try another takeover of the blueberry patch.  Yes, it may be a case of take no prisoners.  Sorry, Robin Redbreast, but those are MY blueberries.) 

Before I made myself delve into the catalogs and the official Ordering of the Seeds, I admit I was dragging my feet because I had absolutely no desire (despite my declaration of loving gardening so much) to even think about this coming season's garden yet.  But rest assured it didn't take more than looking at two or three catalogs and I would have gone right outside to plant some seeds . . . if that had been possible.  I guess you can take me out of the garden, but you can't take the urge to garden out of me.  Not for long anyway.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Ya Just Never Know . . .

I'm still on the kick of knitting myself socks.  (It may be an addiction, I'm not sure.)  My goal is to have eight pairs of socks . . . one for every day of the week with one to spare.   Since all the socks I've already made are in the laundry, I'd have to go pull them out of the dirty clothes hamper to tell you for sure how many I've made so far.  I think it's five.  Or six.  No, five.

Anywho, I've just finished the first sock of another pair using some yarn I've not knit with before.

I love the self-patterning yarn they have for socks these days.  Some of the yarns come out with intricate designs that actually look as though you've used the intarsia knitting technique.  Some others . . . not so much.

I am not liking the particular pattern this yarn made.  Nor am I pleased with the coloration.  Yep, I know the colors look much like the second unused hank placed next to the finished sock.  Somehow, I thought more of the blue would dominate, but I see too much of the rather (insipid) yellow/green . . . which looks more tan/beige in the picture.  (Kinda picky, aren't I?)

Oh, well.  Not the end of the world.  I've already started on the second sock having knit the cuff and about four or five inches of the top.  And once I put my socks on in the morning, I don't look at them much anyway.  (So quit your whining, Mama Pea, just quit your whining.)

But it does illustrate that you never know just how the self-patterning yarn will turn out.  And I must admit, that's what makes knitting with it so interesting.  I've made one pair of socks in a dusty blue solid colored yarn and although I like the socks, I thought I would keel over dead from boredom before I got them done.

What's up next?  Either this gorgeous blue or the green/navy yarn.  Stay tuned . . .