Sunday, November 30, 2008

Whistle While You (Don't) Work

Yesterday was a day filled with running.

To the library to pick up some ordered materials. I made a supreme effort to stay away from the shelf of "new books" or gravitate over to the rack of movies. Pick up the ordered book, audio tape and get out of there.

To a yarn shop that is closing to check out the sale inventory. I know the gal who owns the shop only slightly, so I took more time than I had allotted myself to chat with her. The sale yarns boggled my brain with their wide array of simply gorgeous colors and textures. Pattern books more than I could page through. My mind was spinning so after I made a small purchase, I promised to return as soon as I could come to wise decisions on just what parts of her going-out-of-business inventory I really had to carry home with me.

To a local craft show to lend support to daughter where she was selling her hand-crafted wares. Before I even made it to her table, I ran into three people I hadn't seen or had the opportunity to visit with in too long a time. Once I made contact with daughter, I went to seek out something for her to drink as she was parched from chatting with customers and too busy to leave her area. Then on to a quick perusal of the other vendors before making a couple of calls on the cell phone to arrange a later meeting with son-in-law.

Back home to make a quick lunch after stopping to gather up our huge batch of mail (yup, it's catalog season all right) at our box out on the road.

Leaving home again and a stop to pick up son-in-law and then a half hour drive down the road with him and husband to take in a commemorative presentation of a local historical event that took place 50 years ago yesterday. Very interesting, and it provided a sense of community that we need all the more these days.

Stopped back at the craft show on our way home to help daughter take down and load up her merchandise. Our timing was good . . . she was just finishing up the chore.

To a local eatery for conversation and burgers with daughter and son-in-law. Even though we had been together just two days ago for Thanksgiving, it seems there was plenty to share and catch up on.

Back home to do evening chores and decide it was too late to start in on anything except some light computer work and perhaps read in front of the fire.

So, my dear blog readers, I have to ask: Why does a day like yesterday leave me feeling like I've not accomplished a thing or done any "work" at all? And why is that bad?

Would I have felt better had I spent the day at home doing my ironing, or cleaning and sorting my shelves of over 100 cookbooks that have been a dusty, unorganized mess for longer than I care to admit, or attacking the area that is to be our someday-greenhouse but currently seems to be a catch-all for all manner of garden tools, pots, planters and such and a dry storage area for lumber being accumulated for who-knows-what future building project?

Point being . . . just what IS my point? Oh, sadness and woe, I think it is that I feel I have to accomplish a task or job or do something that qualifies as WORK before feeling I've paid my dues for the day. By spending a day in the way I did yesterday, some part of my psyche whispers in my ear that I've fluffed off, wasted the day, failed to use my time wisely to accomplish something. (#%$*!, it's that dratted misplaced work ethic rearing it's ugly head again!)

Well, I'm gonna fight it. Not only is it time to start doing more of what feels good to me but to do it withOUT guilt. That, right there, should be my WORK for the day. My work will be to make myself a happier person by enjoying myself, entertaining myself, pleasing myself, connecting with my true self. As long as my actions don't have a negative effect on anyone else, why would that be wrong? I will work on doing more of the things that feed my soul and thereby energize me. And I'm hope, hope, hoping that will make any and all "work" I (have to/choose to) do one heckuva lot easier. And, good news, I should be a more pleasant person to be around, too!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Snow

Snow! Snow! We are getting snow for Thanksgiving! Happy Turkey Day, everyone!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Few Slow(er Than Usual) Days

Not a lot going on around the old homestead the last few days. Roy was gone for two days on Sunday and Monday and I had a little difficulty convincing the dog that it really was okay to be home with just me for company, and that the big, tall guy that she couldn't find would be home in a day or so. The worst time was when I started my get-ready-for-bed routine Sunday night which seemed to signal to Zoey that her lord and master really wasn't going to be coming in the back door any time soon. First she started pacing around the house. (Usually she's zonked out on one of her beds immediately after her dinner.) So she and I had a little talk with me explaining the situation and assuring her all really was well. She seemed to take it to heart, felt a little better, but then laid down by the back door (which she never does), just in case he decided to come home early. Ah, kids . . . I mean dogs.

I'm cooking Thanksgiving Dinner here as I usually do. I've got the menu decided and the grocery shopping done. I plan on doing as much advance preparation as I can tomorrow so there will be more down time for relaxing and visiting on Thursday. We were eating dinner tonight when my husband casually mentioned that he was thinking of butchering some chickens tomorrow. Oh, no. Uh-uh. Not a good idea. After I explained that I would be involved with pre-Thanksgiving meal preparations most of the day and neither I nor the kitchen would be available for participation in chicken butchering, he said, "So, it's a good thing I mentioned my plans before lopping off a few chicken heads, huh?" Yeah, that was a . . . good thing.

How's this for a fiery sunset shot I took tonight? Cold, crisp and clear the weather was this day. Still no snow. But there's nothing wrong with clear and snowless roads because that usually means safer traveling for the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! I hope your Thanksgiving Dinner is scrumptious and your time with family and friends delightful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Haphazard Thoughts #1

After nearly 15 years of quilting and ignoring my knitting, I find myself wanting to knit rather than quilt.

Turning my days and nights upside down appeals to me. I want to stay up all night and sleep during the day.

I don't give a rip about Christmas this year.

Writing my blog is the best thing I do for myself.

If I could start my life over again, I would do it differently.

I've gotten to a point in my life where I no longer care (as much) what other people think of me.

I fantasize about living in a rural setting on the East Coast working in my home studio as a professional sculptor.

Rebellion against doing what I "should" has set in.

Racism scares me.

I feel I'm often misunderstood, but well-liked.

Eating out has become much less appealing to me than it once was.

The need to do things that bring me personal joy and satisfaction is very strong.

In my next life, I'm going to be an Olympic downhill skier.

Getting more sleep is a definite desire.

I don't like the time in history in which I am living.

Sunshine is more important to me than I've previously thought.

Anti-socialness and reclusiveness are creeping in on me.

I need less work and more relaxation in my life.

Goats are still my favorite homestead animal.

I've accomplished a lot in my life, often under adverse conditions. None of it has made me rich or famous.

I never enjoyed school, but I like learning.

Gardening is wonderful exercise that keeps one in good shape.

I'm a really good wife; I could be better.

Common sense is more conducive to a happy life than great intelligence.

If I could choose my life partner again, I would choose the same person.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Further Thoughts on This Time of Year

What a doofus I am. It hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks as I was standing in the kitchen this morning shortly after sun up looking out on the drab landscape. This is exactly the type of day I yearned for this past summer when the gardens were bursting, tourist's cars were zooming up and down the road, I was sweating and exhausted. Instead of mitching and boaning about this time of year, why not enjoy and appreciate it?

There is really nothing, besides daily chores which take just a small fraction of a day's time, that must be done outside. That means my work load is cut in half right there. I yammered all summer about wanting time to spend inside the house. Well, here I have it. What a perfect time to cook and bake, creating luscious aromas to fill the whole house. I have a wonderful potpourri mix that simmers on the wood stove and makes people entering think I've just pulled an apple pie from the oven. I'll put it to simmering and enjoy that.

And there's the wood stove itself snap-crackling away filled with dry wood. If you're familiar with wood heat, you know it gives off BTUs that are like no other kind of heat. Soothing. Comforting. Calming. Spend any amount of time sitting or lying in front of an open fire, and you soon feel very relaxed and restful. (Or in other words . . . asleep.)

If I can't learn to appreciate the stark beauty of the barren November landscape, it's nobody's problem but my own. As I drove down the road some 28 miles yesterday, I found myself thinking how much more comfortable driving itself is at this time of year. The roads were clear and dry. I didn't have a white-knuckled grip on the steering wheel nor did my eyes feel like they were about to pop out of my head because of tensely watching for deer to bound out of the lush growth coming right up to the shoulder of the road. The grasses were dried and sparse, the trees were bare so I had good visibility on either side of the roadway.

We may be snowless, but that also means there are no hours to be spent removing snow from our quarter mile long driveway or hand shoveling paths around the house or to the animal quarters.

Doggone it, this is a GOOD time of year. And I'm going to enjoy the harsh, naked beauty of the countryside, the cold, crisp sounds and invigorating aromas inside and out, of snowless November. We are blessed with lots of warm clothing and a comfortably heated house. What's not to like about this time of year?

The fruit trees hang on to their leaves longer than any of the other trees.

The field garden is cleaned and tilled. The strawberries are snug and ready for a winter's nap under a thick blanket of insulating mulch.

The pond now has a good layer of solid ice on it. We're hoping for ice skating on Thanksgiving Day.

This is the beginning of our loop trail back into the woods. It goes up quite steeply (killer steeply!) to the top of our ridge, east a bit, and then back down on the east side of our property. We don't use it much in the summer, but it's our snowshoeing exercise in the winter when we don't want to leave home.

Friday, November 21, 2008

That Not-Nice Time of Year

We woke this morning to 6.3° and a strong wind howling. We still have no trace of snow as has, unfortunately, been the norm for cold Novembers the past several years. It's not critical yet, but if snow cover for insulation doesn't appear soon, we will have to start worrying about out-going lines of the septic system freezing and the cold creeping in around the house foundation.

Now at 9 a.m. we have weak sunshine, 10°, and still the wind is whipping the trees outside my window. The animals are snug in their respective shelters and, truth to tell, don't seem to mind being outside during the day. But keeping available water for them requires dumping the frozen waterers and refilling with fresh, tepid water a couple of times a day.

Roy has been participating in some classes held at the nearby folk school all this week (some of them wilderness/outside oriented . . . brrrr!), so I'm in charge of keeping the home fires burning. Yesterday when I went outside a couple of times to attend to chores and once when I made a run to get milk from our county's only farm and dairy, I couldn't coax Zoey, The Wonder Dog, out with me. This is very unusual as she's always eager to be outside or go for a ride. (Doesn't want to miss anything.) She spent the day nearly wrapped around the wood stove and each time I tried to entice her up and out with me, she just gave me a look that said, "Nuh-uh, I'm smarter than that.”

While Roy has been at the folk school taking classes, our son-in-law has been working on the school premises helping to erect a new building. They're currently working on getting the second story framed in and he spent the whole day yesterday up in the wind and cold. He needed to go back again today so opted to stay overnight here rather than make the hour long drive home and then back again first thing this morning. Not having gotten his deer yet this year, he set an alarm for before dawn so he could hike back up on our ridge in the hopes of spying some venison on the hoof. No luck though, so he came in just in time to thaw out and have some breakfast before heading to the folk school.

It's that time of year in our part of the country that's not, to my mind, very attractive. The fallen leaves have left the trees bare, the landscape is a myriad of blah neutrals, there is no snow to ski or snowshoe in, the sun doesn't shine much and when it does, it seems to lack any warmth. Yep, I'm ready for a boatload of snow to turn the out-of-doors into a winter wonderland to play in. I don't even mind bundling up so much to venture outside when there is snow around. Somehow, then it just feels warmer, and it sure is purdier!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Are These?

Any guesses as to what these may be?

Ah-ha! I finished knitting the fingerless mittens I started a while back. Actually, I called them fingerless gloves ('cause that's what the pattern said, honest) but you can see they are really fingerless mittens. Had hoped to take a picture of them out in the snow, but we still are in the land of the snowless.

Monday, November 17, 2008

November Afternoon Feeding

Here's Roy out feeding and watering the poultry yesterday afternoon. No snow yet, and the temperature was in the mid-20s.

Lots of green grass still in evidence.

Ducks, chickens and geese but no wild Mallards. Roy said they were visiting in full force yesterday morning, but they were no where to be seen in the afternoon.

This is probably the reason the Mallards aren't here. As you can see by this shot of one end of our pond, it's covered with skim ice. I hope we haven't seen the last of the Mallards for the season, but at chore time this morning, they still hadn't shown up.

A brown, hairy chore helper. Zoey, The Wonder Dog, says, "Why don't I get fed when they do?"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Do You Like Caramel Corn?

Have you noticed there are certain foods that taste especially good at certain times of the year? Caramel corn is a treat that appeals to me come cool, crisp fall weather. Admittedly, this year I've been a little on the pokey side as I just made my first batch this morning. But that's okay because it seems appropriate, at least in our house, to make and eat caramel corn right up through Christmas. There is a certain son-in-law of mine who enjoys finding a bag of it in his Christmas stocking every year.

I start with 16 cups of popped popcorn and put it in my turkey roasting pan.

Once the popcorn is ready, I mix up the caramel syrup in a 3 qt. saucepan. Combine 1-1/2 cups brown sugar, 12 tablespoons butter (1-1/2 sticks), 6 tablespoons light corn syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook and stir over a medium heat until the butter melts and mixture comes to a boil. Then let it cook without stirring (boiling lightly) for 5 minutes more. Turn off the heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

Pour syrup over popcorn in pan and gently stir to coat popcorn as evenly as you can.

Then put in a 300° oven for 15 minutes. Take it out and stir. Return to oven and bake for 8 minutes more. Remove from oven and cool.

Be sure to stir the caramel corn frequently as it cools or you will end up with one heckuva big caramel corn blob that you'll have to break apart with a small axe. Makes 16 cups and keeps (if you hide it) forever in an air-tight container.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Memory Loss?

I would be embarrassed to tell you how long ago I started crocheting this baby afghan that I finally finished this past Wednesday night. Luckily, I won't have to tell you because I can't REMEMBER, it was so long ago. (Hmmm, 1906 or was it 1907?) I know it had to have been at least ten years ago but beyond that, I'm pleading the Fifth.

This was an easy pattern to pick up and work on every now and then. (Good thing considering the speed with which I worked on it.) The finished size is approximately 40" x 40".

My mom was an expert with a crochet hook. She could see a crocheted piece and then go home and duplicate it. After she died, I had three of her creations framed. One for my brother, one for my daughter and one for me.

I crochet very little, but when I do, it brings thoughts of Mom to mind as she rarely sat down without a piece of crocheting in her hands. Hey, look, Mom, at least a couple of your crocheting genes got passed on down to me!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cute Hat Finds Cute Girl

Now I can re-title my post of November 10th, "3 to 0, My Favor." As you can see by the picture of the photo posted on my refrigerator, the winter hat I just knit that turned out too small for me found a happy home.

This pretty young gal was the first one I thought of when I knew I couldn't wear the hat, but I didn't know if she would like it. She does! And it fits her, and all is well. The hat looks great, but isn't she beautiful?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Just Call Me Sleepy

Usually when I wake up in the morning, I'm ready and eager to go. None of this dawdling and snoozing for another 15 minutes. Feet hit the floor, a quick stop in the bathroom, get dressed and I'm on with the day. The first part of the day is my most productive and when I feel most energetic.

I tend to move quickly and don't sit still for long periods. There are always interesting and multitudinous(!) things I want to get done.

Gray or rainy days have always energized me to accomplish more than usual. Whether it be tackling a huge work-type chore or losing myself in my quilt room and emerging hours later covered with threads and wearing a huge, happy smile, a gray day is a good day.

Preparing our main meal in the evening isn't a chore because I love to eat and am usually starving by dinner time even though I've managed to put away two other meals previously that day.

Although end of the day dishes don't rank high on my list of favorite things, I know that once they are done, most nights are mine for doing anything I wish.

Ending the evening by stopping early enough to prepare for bed at a not-too-late hour is hard for me. Hey, there are still more fun things to do!

However . . . (uh-oh, here it comes), lately I've been feeling a lot like Sleepy. Straight out of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

For starters, it's soooo hard to get out of that wonderfully warm, cozy bed in the morning.

Then it takes me what feels like two or three hours to groggily get all body parts coordinated enough to function halfway effectively. The next few hours are spent working (at about half speed) at one of the many tasks written on the day's To Do list.

Next thing I know, it's starting to look dark outside. (Actually, I think dusk has been starting around 3:30 these days . . . seemingly endless days and days of gray, damp weather are starting to be a real drag.)

I start yawning. Time to shuffle (yawn) around the kitchen (big yawn) concocting a nutritious, delicious (uh-huh, sure) and easy (oh, please, make it easy) meal for dinner. After eating I gaze at the clean-up and dishes to be washed and feel it's a chore way beyond my energy level, let alone basic inclination. But I pull out a hidden ounce of strength knowing that once the kitchen work is done, I can think about a shower and putting on my flannel jammies and an early bedtime.

Do you think Geritol would help? (Do they even make it anymore?) Perhaps a good dose of iron? Or maybe just some bright, sun shiney days would cure what ails me. Aw, heck, this too shall pass. Feeling like Sleepy isn't so awful bad. Think what my days would be like if I felt like Sneezy. Or Grumpy. Or Dopey.

Monday, November 10, 2008

2 to 1, My Favor

Three projects to share today. Two I'm happy with, one I'm not. Let's show-and-tell the "not" first.

Cute winter hat, huh?

Yeah, if you have a head the size of a walnut! The circumference of this hat came out to only 18". Much, much too small for my melon head! The good thing is that it was fun to knit. You start at the pom-pom and knit down. And I did it in one evening. The bad thing is that the skein of yarn was expensive. (Don't worry, honey, I used my own money.) There was no way I could have adjusted the pattern (had I known it wasn't going to come out true to size) as I finished with 5" of yarn left. I'm not kidding. 5" of yarn. I'll have to find a little girl it might fit.

This is a 36 x 36" wall hanging that I've had done for a while now, but just got the hanging sleeve on it this weekend. I started it as a full-sized quilt as a wedding present for my nephew and his bride but as I got into it, it looked too masculine to me so . . . it became a wall hanging that I have over the head of our bed right now.

I call this small, 15-1/2 x 13-1/2", appliqued wall hanging "Seeds of Thanksgiving." It was fun to do, even though I had to first make 100 of the "seeds" and then applique each one onto the background.

I had a box full of the "seeds" constructed and was working on more of them at a quilt meeting when I knocked the whole box onto the floor. Several of us were down on our hands and knees gathering the little pieces. A few days after that I was in town and one of the gals who had been at the meeting opened her purse and handed me three more "seeds" which had been found after I left. I had finished all the applique work by then and thought I must have miscounted, because I was short and had had to cut out and make three more!

Shhhh, don't anybody do or say anything rash, but we have SUNSHINE this morning. A wind chill of 7°, but it's so good to see the sun. Happy Monday!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fall Visitors

The fence around our chicken/duck/goose yard encompasses our small pond which the ducks and geese use regularly. Each fall we play host to about 20-25 wild Mallards from the end of September to freeze-up. They make themselves at home on the pond and come right up to the poultry houses and feeders and seem pretty darn comfortable co-mingling with our domestic birds. About two times a day, they fly up into our front yard to clean up dropped sunflower seeds under the bird feeders. This was morning snack time yesterday.

Sorry the quality of the picture isn't better; I was too far away and they were fast-moving gobbling machines.

Here are a bunch of the Mallards and a couple of chickens in the poultry yard munching on pumpkins and Swiss chard. (This, too, is a poor picture. It was taken from upstairs today through window and screen.)

"Mmmm, frozen pumpkin and frosty Swiss chard!”

And, of course, the ever-nosy geese always have to see what's going on.

Yes, those are snow flurries you see in a couple of the pictures. We woke this morning to a very light dusting of snow (emphasis on light) but at least we've seen some now. Temp has made it only up to 30° at mid-afternoon, so maybe we'll see more snow yet.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Digging for Buried Treasure

The year our daughter was nine, her dad and I decided to harvest the potatoes from our garden on an afternoon when she wasn't home. When she returned home later that day and found out what we'd done without her, she was a smidge-bit upset with us. I didn't know at the time it was an activity she enjoyed so much, but I do know I've always counted it as a fun thing to do. I mean you just never know what the next forkful will turn up. A bunch of little golf ball taters or that one honkin' big one that you just have to weigh so you can brag about it.

Roy and I finished digging our potatoes yesterday. And, well, folks, the Great Potato Planting Trials for 2008 are over. If you remember way back this summer, I blogged about planting some rows under mulch and some under dirt using the old-fashioned hilling method. The statistics are in.

From one sixteen foot long row planted under dirt, we got 32 lbs. of white potatoes. From one sixteen foot long row planted under dirt, we got 28 lbs. of red potatoes. From two (yes, I said two) sixteen foot long rows planted under mulch, we got 27 lbs. of red potatoes. Ugh. Just about exactly twice as big a yield from those planted under dirt vs. those planted under mulch. And, sad to say but true, the 27 lbs. of reds planted under the mulch are much smaller in size.

One growing season may not a true test trial make, but it doesn't look good for the lady who likes planting under mulch. Oh, well. Sigh. I can learn to like hilling up potatoes. Waaaaah.