Friday, October 31, 2008

The Cement Project

I know you can hardly wait to hear the rest of the cement saga, so here goes.

Cement mixer gets hauled out of storage and put into position. Zoey stations herself where she suspects the action is going to take place.

Readying bags of cement.

The first batch. Looks like it needs just a little more water.

Round and round and round it goes. 'Bout as exciting as watching paint dry.

First batch going onto the prepped floor.

Glop, splat, sploosh!

Smoooothing it out . . . .

. . . a little more.

A few hours later, getting close to the end.

Twenty-six bags of concrete used.

"Whadda lotta work," Zoey says. "Exhausting day.”

Nice job, hon!

And so ends another thrill-packed day on the homestead. (Now I'm gonna go put on my costume and go trick or treating! Or maybe I'll just go to bed early.) Happy Halloween!

A Halloween Picture of My Daughter

A lot of people say we look alike. What do you think?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Hardy Flower and A Late Fall Project

Today's weather was absolutely gorgeous. (Yes, Virginia, there is a sun!) We've been trying to work outside this past week and it's not been nice. Frozen fingers and tingling toes, bundled in winter hats, gloves, and down work jackets. But today was truly an Indian Summer day. (Can I still say that?) Our thermometer in the shade at the back of the house hit a high of 59.9° so I know out in front in the sunshine it must have been way into the 60s. We both stripped down to flannel shirts (well, pants and a couple of other garments, too) shortly after going out.

I've lost the tag for this white phlox plant but it certainly is hardy. We've had at least three nights down into the 20s so far and it's still blooming away. It's really more like a bush. Stands 4-5' tall and has about 12-15 sturdy stalks with these blossoms out on the tip ends.

Even our honey bees were out searching for any last little bit of nectar available today.

Several years ago, Roy added this little shed area on to the end of the house where a door enters the back of the garage.

We've used it to store the lawn mower, a wheel barrow, garden tools and so forth. He's always wanted to put a cement floor in it and figured if it was gonna happen this year, it was now or never. So yesterday and today, he's been working at laying the ground work for the cement flooring.

First he put down a vapor barrier topped with a gravel base. We happen to have 8 five-gallon plastic buckets that had been poured full of concrete (don't ask) which he'd been wanting to get rid of so he used some muscles and a very large sledge hammer to break the eight solid chunks apart. (Then we took him to the chiropractor. Just kidding.) These chunks he used as filler. Steel mesh reinforcement wire got laid on top . . . and then he called it a day. Tomorrow, the cement gets mixed and poured.

In the pictures above, you may notice (ha! how could you miss it?) a pole that seems to be smack-dab in the middle of the shed doorway. Long story short, one night during a wind storm, we were awakened by a rather horrendous crash on our roof and ran out to see if we'd been struck by a meteor. Nope, just our antennae being blown over. The next day we found out (as we were trying rather unsuccessfully to get it back on the roof) that we got perfect reception if we leaned it in just this spot against the back of the house. Who were we to look a gift horse in the mouth? As a temporary stop-gap, and we all know how those go, Roy fastened it securely to the edge of the shed roof until we could get help to mount it back up on the roof. Rest assured, it WILL be remounted before we finish up our little shed remodeling and enclose the front complete with door! I hope.

Check back tomorrow to see how the end of our fascinating cement project unfolds.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I had to grab my camera and snap this picture when I saw Roy coming in from morning chores. He hates being cold in the morning so you can see he bundled up very well. Apparently he's also preparing to be warm inside today as he grabbed three "all-nighters" from the woodshed on his way in! I think summer's over. It was 24° when we got up at 5:30 and now at 8:30 it's only risen to 26°.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

To Quirk or Not to Quirk

One of my favorite blogs is Maple Corners. (Check it out when you have the time.) The talented gal who writes it is, among other things, a fantastic photographer. In her blog this morning she offered an appealing contest to her readers. Any one who would submit to her a statement of what is "quirky" about themselves would be eligible for a drawing for a set of her beautiful note cards. Well, the cards are gaw-geous, so I submitted this.

William Hazlitt said, "I would spend my whole life traveling, if I could borrow another life to spend at home." I can truly state, "I would spend my whole life being totally lazy if I could borrow another life to spend pursuing the gazillion things that interest me.”

There is an extremely lazy person inside me, but no one who knows me would ever guess or believe it.

My husband, who obviously knows me better than anyone, says I don't really mean I would be "lazy" but rather I fantasize about foregoing any and all responsibilities I have, spending time taking care of myself, doing only what I want to do with no regard to what I should/must do, and lying on the couch all day reading and eating potato chips. (Okay, I made up the last part about the potato chips. However, I do LOVE potato chips!)

I dunno 'bout you, but there sure is a conflict in my life in respect to handling my responsibilities vs. finding the time to do enough of what nourishes my soul to keep me from becoming cranky. Really cranky. True, the life I have chosen to live deviates a bit from the norm and tasks involved therewith tend to fill up much of the time that others might have to spend playing golf, watching TV, traveling, going to the gym, getting a hair cut before things are totally out of control, etc., but the structure of my days is something I have chosen. And, make no mistake, I do not wish to trade places with anyone. (But I sure would accept a very large, anonymous monetary donation that would enable me to handle those aforementioned responsibilities with less time and hassle!)

I wonder if ol' William H. ever found out where to borrow that other life he spoke of?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Raspberry Canes on Steroids

The last couple of weeks, our raspberry canes have been growing like I've never seen before. In October? This is no spring growth spurt. I finally took a walk down to the patch today to check things out. And this is what I found.

And this.

And this.

What's going on here? This is the 27th of October, for heaven's sake. I thought I had picked the last of the raspberries near the end of August. I know there are varieties that are specifically fall-bearing, and I even had one row of those but pulled them out several years ago because we didn't like the flavor of them. The three rows we have left have never had fruit at this time of year.

Although the perspective isn't as good as if you were here in person, the above picture may give you an idea of how high the canes have grown. The raspberry patch is in an area that catches a lot of wind so now I'm afraid some of these tall, tall canes are gonna get blown down and broken in the early winter winds before there is enough snow on the ground to stabilize them. I do have trellis-like supports on either side of all the rows but these canes have grown either outside the supports or are waving around way, way above them. I'll have to decide what to do about that little problem within the next few days.

Meanwhile, what to do with the raspberries. Umm, how about picking and eating them?

Not a great quantity, as you can see, but they sure are nice and big. How do they taste? Well, not quite as flavorful as ones in summer, and I think the seeds are a little more noticeable, but we sure can't complain about this surprise harvest on October 27th in 36° weather!

This morning we also did a little bit of wood splitting. It's the time of year that it's still too warm to stoke the wood stove with an over-night fire, and we let it go out if we're going to be gone for the day so we end up having to restart fires maybe a couple of times a day. This uses more kindling than usual and also requires smaller pieces of wood to get the fire to catch before putting on a decent sized log. We have plenty of good, dry, seasoned wood in our woodshed but are finding a lack of the needed smaller pieces so decided to start up the wood splitter and make an ample pile of same.

Here's Roy getting things ready to go.

We have learned that the two of us make a very efficient wood splitting team if I operate the lever while Roy places the wood on the splitter and then removes it after it's been split. But I wanted to prove that I was out there working, too, so had Roy take this shot of me doing both jobs.

And this shot shows how well that works. Oops. Darn. Watch out. Clunk. Dropped everything.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Just Rain, No Snow . . . and Visitors

Our drastic drop in temperatures over night didn't happen so today instead of the predicted 3-4" of snow, raindrops are falling on our heads.

But the milder weather makes for better long weekend driving conditions for P, C and their beautiful baby son who made his first trip to his mama's childhood home territory.

Oops. Apologies to P for loping off the top of his head. I was so concerned about getting their little babe in the picture that I over-compensated.

C is our daughter's oldest friend. I can still visualize them on their first day of kindergarten when neither one of them knew anybody. C, being the more out-going of the two, went right up to W, took hold of her hand, and they've been best friends ever since.

Now C and P live 300 miles from here, but happily both feel a strong attachment to our area and visit whenever they can. The proud papa is French-Canadian and speaks French to their new arrival. C, of course, speaks English but also German and Italian. We joked today that their son's first words will be something in French, then English, then Italian, and then German. Let's just hope they're not all in the same sentence!

As you can tell, he's been a good traveler and kinda likes going places and seeing new things. Z-z-z-z-z-z.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Eat Dirt

A couple of months ago, as chief cook and bottle washer around here, I instituted a new food tradition that I just love. Each Sunday, as far as food preparation and eating goes, it's every man for himself. In other words, I don't have to prepare or serve any food nor do I have to hold myself to any kind of a time schedule as to when (or if) I eat. And hear this! (Do I have a great husband, or what?) Roy said I should just let any and all dishes stack up on Sundays, and at the end of the day, he takes care of them. We don't have a dishwashing machine and doing dishes is just about my most disliked chore in the world so this has proven out to be a SUPER situation for me.

What I do do though, being the kind, caring, thoughtful widdle wifey that I am (gag), is make sure to have some good leftovers or more often a pot of soup in the refrig. So Saturday usually finds me stirring together some soup, or fresh bread, or veggies and dip, or egg salad, or . . . well, you get the idea.

We're being warned today by the weather forecasters to expect a drastic drop in temperature and 3-4" of blowing snow tomorrow. Since today is (again) damp, blustery, and gray, it was a perfect morning to make some soup. If all goes well, and we don't get 30" of snow instead of three, we're expecting some out-of-town friends to drop in this weekend so once I got the soup simmering, I made two pies to have on hand.

An apple pie, what else? I still have early apples to use up. (There is no end to the little buggers.) This lovely, little pastry burbled all over onto the oven floor and created a not-so-delightful smell in the house. (Note to Self: Clean oven before using it again or I'll have copious amounts of smoke billowing out.)

Blueberry pie is husband's favorite and he prefers a crumble topping instead of a regular top crust so this one's especially for him. He does share.

The soup I made is Black Bean Soup and every time I make it, I think of a waiter who worked for us when we had the restaurant. But first, a little preamble.

The flavoring in this Black Bean Soup is excellent, it contains lots of wonderful veggies, and Chinese medicine believes black beans cleanse your liver. So there. I start by cooking the black beans in water which turns the water black. Very black.

Then the veggies are sauteed in a skillet. Don't they look so appetizingly colorful?

Then into the cooked black beans they go. Still looking colorful.

But, now, dagnabbit, look what happens when the cooking is finished and the soup is served.

Not so purdy anymore. Darn. But still a really, really good tasting bowl of soup.

Okay, now back to our waiter in the restaurant. Because not many people were familiar with Black Bean Soup, customers would frequently ask questions before ordering it. Sam (not his real name . . . I'm protecting the not-so-innocent here) would describe what was in the soup and then always end by saying, "Frankly, it looks like dirt. But it tastes pretty good." Fortunately, he was an attractive guy with a lot of personality who could deliver this line and get away with it. He always sold a heck of a lot of Black Bean Soup.

So if you happen to be at our house tomorrow (Sunday, you know), don't expect to be waited on or served anything you can't scrounge together yourself. However, there will be a very large soup pot full of yummy, hot "dirt" available.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Grandpa Stops By

Grandma and Grandpa and me.

First of all, let me state that I do not believe in the super-natural, the occult, apparitions or ghosts. But I saw my grandpa as clear as day a year after he died.

My first "real" job in the working world was as what used to be known as a secretary. I was employed by a large company that supplied natural gas to the whole northern half of the state of Illinois. No computers then. I even took dictation with a pencil and steno pad.

One day at work I had such bad menstrual cramps I thought I would have to go home, but decided to try to lie down for a while to see if that helped. The door to the women's rest room on the floor on which I worked opened into a short hallway. Immediately to the left inside the hallway, and before the door to the rest room proper which was straight ahead at the end of the hallway, there was a door that opened into a small room which was set up as kind of a lounge area. It contained a couch and a few comfortable chairs. I went into that room to stretch out on the couch. When I entered I turned off the lights but left the door open in case someone else came in wanting to use the area for a work break.

I had been lying on the couch on my stomach for about ten minutes when I heard the outer door open and footsteps come into the hall and stop in the doorway. Fully expecting to see some other woman wanting to use the lounge area, I raised myself up intending to tell her to turn on the lights and come in. But the person standing there wasn't another woman. It was my great, big, old, dear grandpa. In his bib overalls, long-sleeved undershirt and high-top tennies. He WAS there. I know he was there. He didn't say a thing, he just stood there for perhaps ten seconds as we looked at each other . . . and then he was gone. I sat up, pinched myself a couple of times to make sure I wasn't dreaming, and tried to figure out what had just happened. I wasn't frightened or upset because . . . well, it was just Grandpa.

When I later told my mom of the experience, she reminded me that that was the way he always made an appearance when he was alive. You would turn, and he would unexpectedly be there. Several of his married children had nearly suffered coronaries on more than one occasion as they would walk into their kitchen and there would be Grandpa unloading some of his homegrown tomatoes onto the counter, or they'd go into the basement with a load of laundry and Grandpa would be stacking wood in a corner for their fireplace.

I might not believe in the super-natural, the occult, apparitions or ghosts, but I do believe in the spirit. My grandpa had a quiet, strong, caring spirit, and I think that day at work he was just stopping by to check on me. No other explanation for it.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Home . . . With a New Hat

Home again, home again, jiggety-jog. That was my grandma's mantra each and every time she arrived back home. Roy and I arrived home late last night after a two-day road trip in which we covered approximately 754 miles and logged in about 14-1/2 hours on our posteriors in the truck. Home again, home again, jiggety-jog. ("Come here and give me a hand, honey, I don't think I can get out of the truck.")

We've had a date for six months for our bi-annual check-ups at our dentist's which is close to three hundred miles from here. We choose to make this trek twice a year because our dentist is a holistic practitioner, an excellent technician, and highly skilled in the tricky job of removing mercury amalgams from teeth. I had this procedure done about five years ago, but because of the expense, Roy's been having it done one or two fillings at a time at each check-up. But, we're happy to report, his last two mercury fillings were removed this trip. One more biggie we can cross off our list.

From the dentist's, we continued a hundred or so miles farther south to friends of ours who farm down in the part of our state where they actually have soil . . . and it's lovely, rich, makes-me-so-envious-I-wanna-cry, BLACK soil. There we visited and loaded the truck with some winter grain for the livestock before heading home.

I was a real rinky-dink on this trip and didn't even offer to drive. I just took advantage of riding shotgun to spend time knitting a new winter hat for my favorite husband, interspersed with a little navigation help now and then.

Here's Roy right after I plopped the hat on his head for a first-time fitting while he was reading in bed Tuesday night. Notice needles and yarn still sticking out from top of hat. (No wonder he says he didn't sleep well that night.)

I spent a little time today finishing the last few rows and here it is . . . all done. The pattern called for two tassels dangling from cords attached to the very top, but he's just not a tassel kind of guy and requested I forget about them. And I guess it looks fine tassel-less. Gotta keep the man happy.

(I tried and tried to get Zoey in this shot but she was more interested in rolling in the leaves than sitting up and smiling.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Enough With The Veggies Already

Okay, okay. I can hear you saying you don't want to see any more pictures of produce from my garden. And I understand. I'm actually more than ready to forget the garden and go hunker down in my quilt room myself.

BUT . . . this post is more for me than anyone else as I want to document the date and what I just harvested from the garden. Still having these veggies available from an outside garden (even though I have cold frames over the cucs and peppers) on October 20th up here in one of the most northern parts of the U.S. . . . well, I'm flummoxed. And who says we're not experiencing global warming? Talk about a change in climate.

When we first moved here in the early 70s, it was not at all uncommon to have killing frosts near the end of August. This year we've had the one night (October 2nd/3rd) when our early morning temperature was 28°. That's been our coldest to date. The tomatoes pictured in the display above were picked off a plant that I stuck in the ground without any protection because I had no where else to put it. I mean it wasn't grown in a cold frame or in one of our plastic wrapped tomato cages. Go figure.

My pumpkins and Red Kuri squash are still continuing to color-up even though the frost the early part of the month zapped their vines.

Despite the later-than-usual abundance of veggies, the end of it all can't be too far off. Our daytime temps haven't hit 60° in a while (actually hovering more in the low 50s) and nearly all of the leaves have blown off the trees. And, listen, can you hear the wind that has been prevailing for several days? It's whispering, "November is coming, November is coming, November is coming . . . .”

Yep, with luck, this will be the last picture of garden produce you'll have to view this year. (Well, of course, except when we harvest the main crop of our potatoes and carrots . . . sorry.)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What The . . . ?

Question: What do you do on a Saturday night at 8 o'clock when you've just put a pie in the oven and you shut the oven door, but the door springs back open one full inch and will not stay shut unless an inordinate amount of pressure is put on it?


Truth to tell, this was not a mysterious happenstance that came out of nowhere. It's the third time it's happened.

I love this little, plain, economy model four-burner gas range I've had for twelve years. It has but one weird trait. Periodically, the two, big, strong hinges on either side of the door have a flare-up of arthritis or bursitis or maybe frozen rotator cuff. This ailment starts out with just a little creaky-crankiness in one hinge or the other. Gradually over weeks it gets worse and worse to the point that it sometimes takes me a good while to coax the door open. Coax may be too gentle a word. Picture me pulling on the handle in a stance that would do a tug-of-war champion proud.

Tonight I obviously put too much torque on something . . . and although I got the door open, the left hand hinge is now deranged. (Ha-ha-ho-ho, oh, that was a good one. I crack myself up.)

After the second time dear husband had to replace the hinges, he immediately ordered another set to have on hand. As he said tonight after he took a flashlight and went out back to the spare lumber pile to find a 2 x 4, brought it into the garage and cut it to length, "I should have replaced the hinges as soon as we started having this trouble again.”

I'm just happy this small emergency didn't occur while I was trying to cook, say, Thanksgiving dinner. Tonight I simply left the kitchen, and came back here to my desk to write this blog entry. If it had been Thanksgiving, I would have had a heck of a time going over or under the 2 x 4 to continue getting the dinner ready on time . . . and someone would no doubt have snapped a couple pictures of me that would look a lot stranger than this one.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Look, Look, A Finished Project!

Remember the alpaca yarn scarf I blogged about way back last September 8th? (What?? You mean my critically important feeble-brained ramblings aren't important enough to occupy a vital spot in your mental data base? Hrumpf.)

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I managed to get to the yarn shop to purchase the second skein of yarn that I needed to finish it. With that in hand, for the last few nights I've spent our relaxing time before bed cozied up in my recliner with needles click-clacking away. And last night --- drum roll, please --- I finished it, with about two yards of yarn to spare. (Good time to decide it was long enough.)

Here I am modeling said scarf. (Ugh. Does anyone like to have their picture taken? I mean other than maybe Cindy Crawford? I asked my husband to model the scarf but he just gave me a really funny look. And I couldn't get the dog to hold still.)

I tried to get a shot that would show the braided, twisted cable effect of the pattern, but not being a competent enough photographer had to settle for this. Really looks much better in person.

But, hey! I've got something done AHEAD of time . . . it's not even scarf wearing weather yet.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Hurrier I Go, The Behinder I Get

Years ago, I wrote a regular column for a locally published magazine put out by women, for women. In one issue, the publisher posed a question for all of the writers and contributors: If the world stopped for a period, and you could spend the time doing anything you wanted to do, what would you do?

I remember my answer. I said I would most likely spend the time making lists of what to do when the world started again. Even at the time, I knew how pathetic that was.

We all know of the person who wishes her life away. She's never satisfied with the present but is rather always wanting it to be sometime in the future. "I wish it was vacation time." "I wish winter was over and it was spring." "I wish the holiday season was here." "I wish I was retired.”

I struggle with the opposite. I'm wanting and wishing it to be sometime in the past. In the fall, I wish it was still summer because there is so much I had intended (and wanted) to do that I didn't. So I don't enjoy the here and now of the wonderful fall season because I'm struggling to do the left-over summer tasks while berating myself for not getting them done when the weather was more favorable. And wishing I had spent more time in the hammock reading and getting a tan.

When spring comes, I'm not ready for it because I didn't experience the illusive "long, slow winter" in which to relax, rejuvenate, revel in a slower pace of life. I spend the winter "catching up", doing all those inside chores that went by the wayside when I spent my days out-of-doors in summer.

The holiday season comes and I don't fully enjoy it because there are a myriad of things that cause me to experience that screaming "But I'm not ready!" feeling. In December, I want it to be September again so I have the time to make those special gifts, fill the freezer with holiday treats and meals, make plans for entertaining.

So, what's the solution to my big, fat, hairy dilemma here? First and foremost, I need to make some changes so that I'm living in, and enjoying as much as I possibly can, the here and now. The past is gone forever, and the future may never be. Sure, I can have wonderful memories of the past and exciting anticipation of the future, but my actual, living, breathing life . . . is now. Now is where the most intense joy, happiness and well-being should (can!) come from. It has been said that you can never have a happy ending to an unhappy journey. (I think Eeyore said that.) Or perhaps (to sound less depressing and gloomy), it's not the destination that counts, but rather the journey itself. My life shouldn't be a race to see how much I can get done or how fast I can accomplish my goals. I have to learn to let in as much joy, fulfillment, happiness, love, and contentment each and every day as I possibly can.

Boy, that sounds good! I can do it. I'm GOING to do it. (Do you think a frontal lobotomy will help?)