Friday, July 31, 2009

Up-Date on Wood Working Progress

We ARE making progress, aren't we? We've been working on our winter's wood supply since early this spring and we're just now getting close to having the first wood shed full.

Couple more rows to stack and we can call it full up.

Here's all that's left for Roy to finish cutting of the twelve cords of maple wood we had delivered.

You mean to say we got all twelve cords in this one wood shed?

Nope, there's still a huge pile of "too big" logs that we have to split before they can be stacked under cover.

And we have three full racks of night time wood, big logs that we put in the stove before going to bed at night. One of these big honkers will burn all night long, keep the house warm and cozy, and still provide glowing coals in the morning to make it easy to start the fire back up when we get up.

The idea of having two wood sheds is so that we always have one in reserve. Ideally, we'll go into this fall with both sheds full. This winter we'll empty one shed, but the other one will be full of seasoned wood and ready for the fall of 2010. Summer of 2010, we'll fill the shed we emptied this coming winter.

So then why is this second shed still empty right now? Why isn't it full of wood from last summer? Long story. Let's just say we chalk it up to unusual circumstances, but hopefully once we're back on top of things by this fall, it won't happen again. Two sheds to fill in one summer season is (ooof, ugh, ouch, moan, groan) too much. (And cuts into my hammock time drastically.)

Just outside of the empty shed, we have this big pile of (mostly) birch that Roy has been harvesting. It's from dead standing trees on the property that needed to come down. It'll work up fast but we won't put it in the wood shed until near the very front so that we can use it first for fall fires. Some of it is a little punky and we won't get as much heat out of it as the more solid, better wood which we'll need when it gets really cold.

This is the pile of what will be our supply of kindling wood for several years. These old slabwood boards have been in this stack for years and even though technically not under cover, they have had some protection from the trees near them and are well seasoned.

Our ten-plus acres of woods are full of dead standing birch that need to be harvested and would provide us with all the wood we need for our lifetime. The difficulty enters in when we try to figure out a time-efficient way of getting the wood from a distance away to the wood storage area. What is needed is a four-wheeled tractor and strategically placed roads through our woods. (Our little homestead lacks both tractor and roads, but as soon as we win the lottery . . . ) It can be done with snowmobile and sled in the winter, but even that is too time consuming to be realistically feasible.

Gotta stop writing and get outside as I just heard Roy fire up the wood splitter. It's not raining at the moment, but I have no doubt it will start again some time today. Ya gotta split wood while the sun shines. Okay, so there's not really any sun shining but at least there's no moisture falling from the sky at the moment!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When Intensive Planting Goes Awry

This spring I had the bright idea to plant a hill of zucchini plants on either end of one of our 4 x 8' raised garden beds with a trellis across the middle of the bed that I would plant sweet peas on either side of. (I'm sure you'll understand that sentence after the third time you read it.)

In a normal (Ha. Ha. Ha.) year, the sweet pea vines (since they were planted much, much earlier than the zucchinis) would have grown tall enough and made their way up the trellis before the zucchini plants got so big. This year these sweet peas, and another trellis of them I have in the field garden, don't seem to have any motivation to grow. I think it's got something to do with lack of sunlight and warmth.

As you can see by the above picture, the monster zucchini plants (no zucchinis, just monster plants) are fast encroaching on the personal space of the sweet peas.

Same bed taken from the other end. The lowly (literally!), little sweet pea vines are actually starting to turn yellow and die. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I took garden scissors in hand and after apologizing to said zucchinis, did a little judicious pruning.

Now at least the sweet peas will stand a chance . . . and I'll know not to try this planting configuration again. Next time around the zucchinis can have the bed all to themselves and I'll forget the idea of the lovely sweet peas rising up in the center.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Could Be A Shoe Fetish

When you walk out of our back door onto our back porch and look to the left, you see this on the floor.

When you look to the right, you see this on the floor.

These are my husband's boots and shoes. These aren't even ALL of 'em. These are only the ones he wears on ye ol' homestead.

It drives me nuts that he has to have this many pairs sitting out at the ready. How many pairs can one man wear at once? But, as he patiently explains to me time and time again when I fuss and fume about having to clean over, under and around all of them, he needs each for a specific job or circumstance. (This line-up, by the way, is just his summer array. He has another set for winter wear . . . and if I didn't throw a first-class hissy fit, he'd leave the whole motley bunch of them out there all the time.)

Oh, well . . . at least he's neat. It's so fortunate I don't have any odd quirks like he does.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Backward Thinking . . . or Remembering

Ever had one of those periods when you start thinking of things that have happened in the past, your mind kinda gets stuck there and one thought reminds you of another? That's where my head's been lately.

It probably started with my brother and sister's-in-law wedding anniversary this past week. Other than a short wish in an e-mail, I didn't properly wish them a Happy Anniversary of that event thirty-seven years ago. HAPPY ANNIVERSARY (now belated), J and L! May you have many, many more!

What do I remember about that day? July 22nd in sultry, steamy, humid Illinois summer time? Hot, hot, and HOT! If I recall correctly my sister-in-law was upset that the hot, humid weather was making her hair curl in (what I thought were lovely) tendrils around her beautiful, beaming face. The same conditions were giving my carefully coiffed hair a decidedly straight, flat, bedraggled look around my sweating face.

My wedding outfit was a white and black skirt with a long sleeved, black silk crepe blouse. What was I thinking? Long sleeves? Silk crepe? Black, for heaven's sake, on July 22nd?

Today is the 35th birthday of same brother and sister's-in-law eldest son. What a handsome guy he is. He looks just like his mother . . . minus the lovely, curling tendrils around his face. He got the straight-as-a-poker hair from his dad's side of the family.

Thinking of the hot summer weather in Illinois brought back a memory of when my mom was visiting us before the birth of our daughter. The time was end of April/first of May and Mom asked what she could get me for my birthday. I was 6-7 months pregnant and said I didn't have a dress that fit my bulging figure and since the weather was already turning warm, something cool, loose and flowing sounded appealing to me.

We took an afternoon to go shopping and quickly found a dress I liked. It was a print with small flowers, short puffed sleeves and scooped neck. It wasn't actually a maternity dress but had an empire waist that hit just below the bust line and fell loosely from there.

As I modeled it in front of the full-length mirror with my mom and the sales lady looking on, I smoothed it down and remarked that I thought it was flattering . . . I didn't even look pregnant in it. The sales lady nodded in agreement and said, "Oh, yes, that dress will cover a multitude of sins.”

As soon as the words were out, her eyes went wide, her face turned red, and her hand flew up to her mouth. Poor lady was to-tally mortified. But then Mom and I burst out laughing and after sputtering several apologies, with our assurance that they weren't necessary, she recovered.

Illinois summers when you took a shower in the middle of the day just to try to cool off. (This, obviously, was before air conditioning was commonplace in every home.) I can remember getting out of the cool, refreshing shower, trying to towel dry but being unable to do so because of the terrible humidity. Ugh. Don't miss that one bit.

I suppose subconsciously I've been thinking about these memories associated with hot, summer weather because of our non-summer in northern Minnesota this year.

All this reminiscing makes me realize that even if I can't grow corn or tomatoes (or my beloved eggplants), I'm happier (and so much more comfortable!) with the cooler climate we live in now.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

I Did It, I Did It, I Did It!

When we built our first wood shed on this property, we made a special little section 4 ft. wide, 4-1/2 ft. deep and 6 ft. high to hold split kindling to be used when starting fires in the wood stove. That was twelve years ago.

In that time we've managed to go into the fall heating season with the kindling crib full to the brim . . . uh, just once. Oh, there was always ('cept for a couple of times when we ran completely out in the early spring, but we won't go into that) some kindling in there. Then by each fall, I'd have it partially filled; sometimes half full, sometimes three-quarters full but only that once did I have it filled to the top.

Until yesterday . . . ta-dah! I did it. I had vowed that I would have it stuffed full by the end of this summer, and I got it done yesterday . . . a month or so earlier than I had given myself to complete the job.

Hooray, now I no longer have to write "Split Kindling" on each and every blasted day's To Do List. I'm so proud of me. (Do I get some kind of special reward now? Huh, huh, huh?)

Friday, July 24, 2009

You Think Your Garden's Not Doing Well This Year?

Well, I bet mine tops yours in being the best of the worst. (Somehow, I think that's an award I'd just as soon pass on, thank you very much.)

It's such a good thing that I've become so well-adjusted (did I just hear my husband laughing in the background?) that I'm not losing sleep or developing an ulcer because of my poor, sad garden that seems to be waging a losing battle this year.

As I've mentioned before, I love having cut flowers in the house. Here we are galloping up to the end of July and we haven't had enough heat for my good ol ', grow-anywhere, run-of-the-mill zinnias to push out more than one or two flower heads. (And I have a LOT of zinnias in the garden!) These are the same plants that had a good head start by being started inside this spring. The sweet pea vines are only about 12" high . . . no sign of them flowering any time soon. I've been reduced to cutting marigolds and bringing them in with their puny little 2-3" long stems just to have some flowers in the house.

Remember how sad the California Poppies looked after I HAD to set them out (even though the weather was still very unsettled) when they had grown too big in the pots I started inside?

Apparently they are one plant that IS thriving in this cold, wet weather. I am very grateful to them for supplying some much needed color in the garden. And perhaps encouragement to their vegetable neighbors showing that something really can grow and prosper under these adverse conditions. Too bad they don't appreciate being cut flowers in the house. They take one look around and immediately drop their petals.

Our temps have been hanging in the 50s with a lot of rain. It's raining hard now and our forecast warns of thunderstorms later this morning with possible 40 mph winds. Yikes. Rain is in the forecast for the next several days also.

Those strawberries that I mentioned yesterday that needed to be picked? Still need to be picked. I just know I'm gonna have lots of rotted ones when I finally can get into the patch.

It's getting darker and darker as I sit here writing. Also, cooler . . . I just put on a heavier sweatshirt . . . and I may make another crackling fire in the wood stove again this morning as soon as I finish here.

But what a great day to make that meat loaf for dinner that my husband has been craving. A perfect day for getting caught up on desk work, or reading, or sorting closets and drawers, or quilting (yes!), or . . . oh, yeah, washing those smudged-up kitchen cupboards.

It'll be a good day, especially now that I'm no longer agonizing over my lost-cause garden. (WAAAAH!)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Whadda Week

Not that there have been any huge special occasions or calamities that have taken place in the last few days . . . it just seems that each day is stuffed full to the gills with must dos, wanna dos, and everyday happenings. And each day zooms by with scary speed.

Even though we haven't experienced hot enough weather yet to give the feel of an actual summer season, these short months are slipping away from me all too quickly. The past several days have even had an autumnal feel to them (no, not yet, please!), and I've heard several people voicing the same opinion. As I sit here this morning looking out the window over my desk, the fog that just rolled in makes the woods line across the yard nearly disappear. And with a temperature of only 51 degrees . . . well, you can see what I mean.

Is anyone else unsettled by how fast time seems to go these days? It's got to have a lot to do with technology and all that offers us: the good, the bad, and the ugly. We have sooo many more choices than ever before. So much with which to occupy our time. Unfortunately, those same choices complicate our lives in multitudinous ways.

For instance, I now have the option of shopping and ordering over the Internet which is a huge convenience especially since I'm 130 miles from the nearest city of any size. Although I'm not a person who does a lot of purchasing (via the Internet or otherwise), I found out yesterday that my credit card number was stolen again, for the second time in a three-month period. The time entailed straightening that out with phone calls back and forth to the credit card company, the local credit union and bank, trusted companies and people who keep my credit card number on file, not being able to use the card (since it's been cancelled), waiting for a new one to be issued . . . a huge time-eater-upper.

Then the cell phone plan we've had is "no longer available." No, thank you, but I do NOT wish to sign up for the new, improved (by the terms of whom?) plan that will cost "only" $20 more each month. So the research begins as to just what will be the best plan for us. A huge time-eater-upper.

On a more basic level and because I value my emotional well-being and sanity, I've decided to reconcile my expectations of harvest from the garden this summer. I can actually tour the garden and speak pleasantly to the different crops telling them all is well, we can't fight Mother Nature, and I'll be thankful for any harvest I do get . . . be it piddling little or adequate . . . from each and every struggling plant. I'm no longer spending the time and energy worrying about or actually sowing more seeds while praying for a long fall season (ha!) that will enable plants to grow and mature since the first ones failed. No more time spent fiddling with special coverings and cold frames. Whatever will be will be.

Summer, especially up here where it is so short a period of time, goes by way too fast. There is so much to do in the summer time that one can hardly get a good grip on the essence of it before it's gone for another year.

I haven't even had time to paint my toenails yet. And I do hate running around in sandals with naked toenails. No worry. Looks like I'll not be wearing sandals any day soon . . . unless it's with wool socks.

Are we humans the smartest creatures on earth? The chickens, ducks and geese in our poultry yard seem to be fairly laid-back doin' their thing day after day after day. Heaven knows our dog has enough time every day for all that she desires. Not only that but here it is 8 o'clock in the morning and she's zonked out on her bed on the floor six feet away from me snoring. She's had her morning run, eaten breakfast and is now settled in for a little refreshing nap before chipmunk patrol time. Hmmmm, move over Zoe . . .

Monday, July 20, 2009

Strawberry Cream Pie

This is THE perfect dessert when you have fresh strawberries. It holds in the refrig for a couple of days (if you lock the refrig door) and is super-light and fresh tasting.

Start with a baked pie shell.

Then cream 3 ounces of softened cream cheese, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Whip one cup of heavy whipping cream until stiff . . . stopping short of making butter. (The voice of experience speaking here.)

Using a large rubber spatula fold the above two mixtures together until well combined.

Gently fold in two cups of sliced strawberries. (The measuring cup shown is a two-cup measure.)

Then use the spatula to put the whole mixture into the baked pie shell, smoothing the top to make it look purdy.

Refrigerate pie long enough for it to "set up" for ease of cutting, about 2 hours.

Serve with a strawberry on each piece. Mmmmm, I could eat the whole pie by myself. Seriously. Really. I could.

You can substitute fresh raspberries or blueberries for the strawberries (which I frequently do) but the raspberries tend to smoosh up a bit when you fold them in. 'Sokay, I haven't heard anybody complain about that yet.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

You Might Be A Homesteader If . . .

A day or so ago, Jenna at Cold Antler Farm (see right-hand sidebar) wrote a post on how you might recognize a homesteader. At the end of her post she asked others to share some of their own thoughts on the subject.

So, here's my list.


You're acutely in tune with weather conditions.

A full wood shed looks as good to you as a healthy bank account.

Your dog raising a terrible ruckus outside signals an animal intruder rather than a human one.

Your livestock food supply is as important as your home pantry food supply.

Someone spots your farm trailer fifty miles from your homestead and recognizes it as yours.

You've hauled everything in above mentioned trailer from horses to hay to household goods.

You lust after fencing.

Your hands are permanently stained with dirt from May through October. The rest of the year they're just rough and chapped.

You occasionally find yourself wearing your barn boots to town when you forget to change out of them before leaving home.

Your mowed hay field looks better to you than any lawn possibly could.

Some days most of your conversation consists of talking to animals and/or plants.

You can observe one of your animals as far as a field away and know if it has even the slightest ailment.

The knees of all of your jeans are permanently stained from kneeling somewhere, in something.

Even though you're safe and secure in severe weather, you're still worried about the livestock.

You get up in the middle of the night because you just remembered you forgot to plug in the electric fence.

You don't have to go to the gym for exercise.