Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Place is Falling Apart!

I opened the wood stove in the kitchen right before dinner tonight to add another log . . . 

. . . and, karumba, half the gasket around the door fell off!

We ignored it until after we ate, then Papa Pea applied a new layer of stick 'em and put the gasket back in place.

Now to let it dry and see if that did the trick.

Wonder what's next?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Back On The Right Track

Our solar tracker is fixed and back to doing the right thing now.

J up on ladder, his son A down below and Papa Pea to the right.

Our solar energy guy and his son/apprentice (the nicest people and with whom we've become friends over the years) were here this afternoon and quickly fixed the problem with our tracker.

The little motor that allows the tracker to move and follow the sun was kaputz.  Guess we can't complain as it did its duty 365 days a year for sixteen years.  That's a lot of stops and starts.

Fortunately for us, the guys had a replacement motor with them so we're back in business.

So now, Mr. Sun, if you'd care to send some rays down upon us again soon, we're ready to take full advantage of your welcome energy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Quilting Dreams

This morning Michelle over on her blog, Boulderneigh, talked of the knitting projects she's dreaming of having time to accomplish.  I've been having some thoughts in the same vein except mine are for quilting projects I'd love to jump into.

Above is a picture of a wall hanging (it's about 31" x 31") that I've wanted to make ever since I saw it in a book by Kim Diehl, a fantastic quiltmaker and designer who I really like.  I think I'd like to make mine in spring-themed fabrics and have it to hang from about April to June.  I'm pretty sure I can pull all the fabric I need for it from my stash.

Love, love, love the bold colors in this quilt that I would use as a tablecloth, the same way it's pictured.  (This is another Kim Diehl pattern.)  I purchased the gold and red fabric for it an eon ago (maybe longer) and know I can find the other colors I'll need in my horde of material.

This is a tablecloth I made.  It's sandwiched and ready to be machine quilted.  When I got this far, I was tired of it so it got folded up and put in my "To Finish" storage container.  When I took it out about a week ago, it looked fresh and interesting again, so I'm itching to complete it.  (Just as soon as I can find the time!)  I have A LOT of fabric left over from this project that would make attractive "summer" pot holders.  (Anybody need a couple new pot holders?)

I OD'd while making this quilt top quite a while back.  It's to be a new quilt for our king-sized bed, but I still have to figure out additional borders for three sides to make it the size I want.  I have plenty of the fabrics used so that shouldn't be a problem once I decide what I want to do.  I even have the fabric for backing when I get that far.  I'm pretty sure I'm going to have a friend machine quilt it on her long arm machine.  And it would be a good idea to get crackin' and finish it because the quilt I have on our bed right now is literally falling apart.  Each morning when I make the bed, it seems I put another little tear in the disintegrating fabric.  Yup, it's in that bad of shape.

I guess no matter whether you are a quilter, knitter, sculptor, crocheter, painter, beader, embroiderer, wood worker, tailor, weaver or any other hand crafter, we always have our wish list of projects we'd love to do.  It's all part of the creative process . . . and give us something to look forward to when we're doing dishes, mucking out manure or weeding the garden!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ya Gotta Be Tough

Last Tuesday (I think it was . . . that was so long ago), we had the day of terrific winds when everything that wasn't battened down ended up somewhere in Canada.

We always worry about our solar panels on top of the tracker pole out in the field when high winds are howling.  We've been having some trouble with the connections out there and have been waiting for our solar energy guru guy to stop by and check out the situation the next time he's working in our area.

Looking out at the panels during the windstorm, we saw some temporary repairs Papa Pea had made weren't holding and the whole grid on which the panels are mounted was wobbling.  Wobbling was not a good thing.

So my intrepid homesteader husband suited up and bravely went out in the 56 mph gusting winds with a wind chill factor of 20 below zero to make sure we didn't lose the whole kit 'n caboodle.

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work I go.

Ladder's too short?

Good thing he brought the big extension ladder.

Hope he also brought the right tools.

Whoa, that was a big gust of wind!

He did all he could do.

Having experienced all the fresh air he wanted, he returned to the warmth and safety of the house.  As fast as he could.  Whew!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Quilting Progress

The wall hanging top is finished, it's backed and sandwiched.

And the hand quilting has begun.

I'm a trifle handicapped though 'cause I have a cut on the end of my needle-pulling thumb that was healed, I thought, but I keep popping it open.  (Oh, yes, quilting is a very hazardous obsession.)  Working with a bandaid on the thumb seems even more of a handicap.  (Whine, whine.)  

Worry thee not, I shall persevere.  (Not much keeps me from quilting when I have the chance!) 

Friday, February 22, 2013


Go ahead and laugh, Erin.  Now that I'm over the shock, it really is funny.

This morning I read a comment Erin left on my daughter's blog making reference to a cake recipe she got from one of my blog posts.

At the time I was still undecided as to what dessert I should make for a dinner tonight.  Erin mentioning my Almond-Cranberry Cake reminded me that I hadn't made it in a long time.

Problem solved.  I'd make that for dessert.

Uh . . . I encountered a little difficulty turning the cake out of the pan and onto the cooling rack.

When I tried to flip it, the cake went one way, the rack went the other.  Fortunately, the cake landed on the counter.  Above it's resurrected (that's questionable) and on the cooling rack.

I'm a very neat cook and believe in cleaning up my messes.  Mmmm, num-num-num!

THIS is how the cake is supposed to look.

THIS is what the cake that is going on the table tonight looks like.  Do you think anyone will notice I had a little trouble with it?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Design Wall

In my post of earlier today, I mentioned something about the design wall in my quilt room.  In the comments section, Katie of Katidids asked me to describe it in more detail because she's a quilter, too, and has been wanting to create one for her own use.

A design wall, sometimes called a flannel wall or flannel board, is an upright surface on which you can place combinations of fabrics for auditioning, the individual pieces of a quilt block you are working on or the blocks of a quilt before sewing them together.  It enables you to "step back from your work" and get a good idea of how your color scheme is working or how you might want to change the pattern of how blocks are arranged.

To make a simple design wall, you can pin or tack a large piece of flannel or felt or low-loft batting to a flat wall surface.  Even the back of a door would work.  Your fabric pieces or strips of a quilt will easily adhere to the surface without the use of pins.

Before I had my quilt room, I covered a 4' x 8' sheet of rigid Styrofoam insulation with a large piece of white flannel and leaned that up against the wall near where I was quilting.

When I was designing my quilt room, I knew I wanted as much space for a design wall as possible.  I even gave up wall space that could have been used for storage (you can NEVER have enough storage in a quilting or sewing room, can you?) for my two design walls.

These pictures are taken from a post I did a few years ago giving a tour of my quilt room.  If you're interested in seeing that post, click here.

This is the smaller area (to the right of the window) I use primarily for holding projects that I need to, for instance, look at and think about before going any farther on them.

To the right and around the corner is a large area and the main area I use, especially while constructing a full size quilt.  It's big enough to hold all the blocks of a big quilt so I can keep track of their proper arrangement while I'm sewing them together.

When we constructed the quilt room, we made the walls out of (very economically priced) fiber board.  Over this I put white flannel, floor to ceiling, in the areas I wanted as design walls.  If I need to use straight pins to secure anything on the wall, the fiber board is porous enough to accept and hold the pins much as the cork of a bulletin board would.

I'd truly feel handicapped if I had to quilt without my design walls.  They're in constant use and I'm a better quilter by having them to use.

Hope this gives you some ideas to work from, Katie! 

Refusing to Think Sensibly

I started a new quilted wall hanging over the weekend.  I don't have a pattern to follow other than the idea in my head.

This is what I've done so far up on my design wall.  In the back of my head, I knew by the time I added a border or two to this, which will be the center, the piece would be too big to fit in the space I want to hang it.

But did that stop me from proceeding?  From making more blocks than I needed?  Noooo.  (Dummy.)

Yesterday morning when I ducked into my quilt room to look at it with fresh eyes, it was clear as day that I had to cut the blocks down from five across and five down to four across and four down.  Very simply, that had to be done or it wasn't. going. to. fit. where I wanted to hang it.

Fortunately, I have only the top two rows sewn together so it won't be too hard to take off the end blocks of those two rows.  Then I'll take off the two blocks on the end of the next two rows down, and discard the whole bottom row.

Then back to the drawing board to see where I go from there.

* * * * * * * *

Hubby and I have both been up since 3:30 this morning.  We tossed and turned all night long listening to the wind.  (And this is in a house where we don't usually hear much of anything going on outside!)  Finally surrendering to Mother Nature's shenanigans, we got up three hours ago.  (Yawn.)

I just checked our local weather.  We're having sustained winds of 25.3 mph, gusts up to 56.4 mph and a wind chill factor of -19.9 degrees.  Actual temperature reads 2 above here at our house.  Very light snow falling.  (Although with the wind, it's hard to tell for certain.)  Sure would be interesting if there was an appreciable amount of snow along with these winds.  I do believe that would be an old-fashioned blizzard.

Last night before the temperature started plummeting, we were having freezing drizzle.  Glad we don't have to go anywhere today.  A great day to be at home.  A really great day!

Monday, February 18, 2013


This is the amount of lint I get out of the lint filter every single time I dry our king-sized navy blue flannel sheets in the dryer.

How long will it be before there are no sheets left?  I mean how much more fabric (matter? material? substance?) can the sheets lose before they are no more?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Calling All Quilters and Crafters . . .

I've got three nice hard-cover books that really need to go to a new home.  The first two shown in the below pictures are quilting books.  The last has some quilt projects in it but also other craft projects.

This is Small Quilts, The Vanessa-Ann Collection put out by Oxmoor House.  The first quilt I ever made (although only a small wall hanging) is from this book.  (This book claimed by wannabe quilter DFW!)

Matter of fact, that quilt is hanging in a corner of my living room as we speak.

The second quilting book is Quick & Easy Quiltmaking, 26 Projects Featuring Speedy Cutting and Piecing Methods and is a That Patchwork Place publication.  If you're familiar with that organization, you know they put out very nice books.  (This one also going to DFW.)

The third book is Country Fabric Scrap Crafts by Marti Michell.  Patterns for some quilts, yes, but also included are other projects not involving quilting.  (This book is going to Katidids!)

Anybody interested in any of these three books?  Anybody interested in two or three of them?  That's okay, too!

If any of these give-a-way books interest you, just be the first to comment saying so (with the name or names of the books you'd like) and I'll send it (or them) off to you.

Come on, jump in . . . these are some nice books all in good condition that need to go to a good home.  (All three books spoken for and going to new homes.  Thanks for participating!)

Friday, February 15, 2013

Two Valentine Presents

I'm one lucky gal!  Our dear daughter asked if she could make dinner for us last night as her Valentine's gift to us.  Could she?!  When (and why) would I ever turn down an offer like that?

Macaroni and cheese is one of my favorite dishes (carbo loader that I am) and hers is to-die-for.  Made with whole wheat pasta and a combination of asiago and white cheddar cheese with homemade croutons on top . . . oh, my, scrumpdillyitious!  As an extra added bonus, I still have half the casserole in the refrigerator to finish up today.   (Hee-hee.)

My hubby surprised me with a sweet little floral arrangement.  A miniature cyclamen (had never seen one of those) and a gorgeous violet in an attractive wicker basket.  (He may or may not have had assistance in obtaining same from our local floral shop.  The thought is definitely there, but shopping for such is not!)

We capped off the evening by watching the latest James Bond flick, Skyfall.  Chicken Mama pronounced it the best one starring Daniel Craig yet.  Me?  Call me a geriatric old fuddy-dud, but I'd still take Sean Connery if he were yet available.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

These Dang Birds Are Like Toddlers

You know how hard it sometimes is to get toddlers to try new foods?  I was having the same trouble with our wild bird life and something "new" I've slipped into their hanging log feeder.

I've had some rendered lard that has celebrated several birthdays in the bottom of my freezer and I was about to toss it when I wondered if the birds would like it in this cold weather.

I went to the handy-dandy, know everything Internet and checked to see if feeding them lard would be sending them to an early grave and was pleased to find that it's just fine for them and shouldn't clog their little arteries or do other deadly damage.

I did remember that long ago, in a different place and time, I used to fill the peanut butter hanging feeder with half peanut butter and half melted beef suet.  This lard I have is from butchered pigs and it's lovely, pure white stuff but has just enough of a "flavor" that I don't care for when I use it to make pie crusts.  So it has languished in my freezer for long enough and that's why I decided to offer it to the birds.

Well, said (ungrateful) birds cleaned out all the holes I filled with peanut butter twice now, but didn't seem to get the idea that the white stuff is good for them.  I even mixed some sunflower seeds in with the lard thinking that would entice them to try this new taste treat.

But, now, I think I've finally (possibly) found a solution to get them to dip their little beaks into the lard and give it a try.

The last time I had the feeder in to fill, I smeared a light peanut butter coating over the holes filled with lard.  And look!

See those little beak marks on the lard?  And the fact that nearly all the peanut butter is gone so they've started eating the lard?

And even though some holes still have plenty of peanut butter for them to eat . . . 

This hole that was full of lard is well on its way to being devoured!

Now if they continue to clean out the lard filled holes, I can consider myself smarter than the average chickadee.  (It's the little things in life that count, right?)

Monday, February 11, 2013

An End to Monday

And I'm glad to see it coming to an end.  No, nothing terribly awful, bad happened today.  It was just one of those days where nothing went quite right.

One little snafu thrown into our day was that our Internet service was down all day . . . and just came back on about 30 minutes ago.  I'm thinking it's not good when I realize how much we use the computer during a day's time.  This, of course, becomes very evident when you can't use it.

Granddog Tucker was out helping Papa Pea do some work in the yard when he (that would be Tucker) barked at the back door to be let in which I did.  However, I failed to let my dear husband know I had done so and same dear husband spent a bit of time hiking all over the acreage looking for Tucker thinking he had taken himself for a little walk in the woods.  Given the possible presence of one or more wolves roaming about, this would not have been a good situation.  I will not eleaborate on the conversation between us when my better half came in the house to share his concern regarding Tucker being missing only to find that I had him in the house with me.

The day seemed to be filled with little irritating thorns of the same kind all the way through our dinner . . . which I was about to put on the table, assuming I had communicated to Papa Pea I was doing so, only to have him disappear somewhere outside for better than a half hour.

Get the drift?  Yeah, just one of those days.

* * * * * * * *

The good news (for us snow lovers) is that we got at least 8" of heavy, wet snow late yesterday afternoon/early evening in the span of four hours.  And for snow that is that heavy to be blown into impressive drifts, you know we had some strong winds along with the snow.

So we had a lot of snow moving to do today.  Bless our daughter and her honkin' big snowplow, now that she is living much closer to us, we can borrow her rig and her expert services.  Papa Pea did a small amount of clearing with the plow this morning and then Chicken Mama (snow plower extraordinaire) did the whole driveway and front and back work areas after she got off work tonight.

Dear hubby and I did our fair share of shoveling by hand (he more than me) so got our daily exercise and fresh air.

Sorry I neglected to get any pictures.  (The way the day went if I had taken my camera out I probably would have lost it in the snow.)  Our driveway had a whole new look to it with trees on each side so heavily laden with snow that some areas took on an almost tunnel-like look.

Well, it's late enough now into the evening that one of us (that not being me) is ready for bed and sitting in the living room for some wind-down reading time.  Time for me to be doing the same.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Knitted Afghan --- Done!

Finally sat down this afternoon and finished sewing the last strip putting my knitted afghan together.

The afghan is incredibly soft and is going to be warm and cozy as a throw on the couch.

The pattern didn't call for any kind of finishing edge and I'm wondering if something is needed.  I'm not particularly fond of fringe so don't think I want to do that.  I could crochet some kind of an edge all around the four sides . . . but which color of yarn would I use for that?  Any suggestions as to a finishing edge?  Needed?  Or not?

After all my fuss and worry about how to sew the five strips together, the idea I had in my head worked lickety-split.

I laid two strips side by side, wrong sides up.  Because all the rectangles had a seed stitch edge on each side, I just picked up a "nub" (or collar from a purl stitch) one stitch in from the edge . . . first on one strip, then on the other strip.  Back and forth, back and forth the whole length of the strip.

This is the front side.  You can't see the yarn I used for the joining at all.  Even the back side (shown in the second picture with the needle) doesn't look that bad.

Big knitting project finally completed.  Whew!  But I've got to admit, I think I'm gonna miss having it to work on.  I got kinda attached to it!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Seventeen Above, Bright Sun and No Wind

What better time to take a hike in the woods!

We've had so little snow this winter that we've never packed down our loop trail in the woods with snowshoes.  Hiking just in boots has been easy so far.

But we're being warned (snow lovers that we are, we can only hope!) of heavy snow and high winds coming this Sunday and Monday so we decided to strap on the snowshoes and make a wide, flat base on the trail while the snow level was not too high.

Holey moley, did we ever see heavily traveled wildlife trails in the woods.

We could identify wolf, rabbit, deer and fox tracks.  None of the tracks in the above two pictures were made by humans . . . just the wildlife we're lucky enough to have roaming our woods.

When returning to the house, Papa Pea talked me into walking out with him to get the mail.  After stashing our snowshoes, we walked out the driveway, got our mail and then hiked back in.

In the last week or so we've had a couple of fleeting glimpses of what looks to be a really good-sized timber wolf snuffling around the property.  Today we could see a line of his tracks going both ways on the driveway.

This one (between my two feet) was clear enough to give you an idea of the size of this guy.  I'll not be planning on walking our quarter mile driveway in the dark any time soon, I can promise you. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Shelling Corn

Last summer I experimented growing some Painted Mountain corn in our garden.  This corn is ultra-early (85 days . . . a real plus for our far north location), and developed in the mountains of Montana for its hardiness and colorful display.  You can use it by grinding for cornmeal, roasting the fresh ears and, of course, decorating.

Unfortunately, we missed sampling any as roasted eating corn this past year, but will be sure to do that this coming season.  

We let the ears mature on the stalk, harvested them from our little plot (just 4 rows in a 6' x 9' plot), dried them and this afternoon I finally got around to shelling the corn.

First we selected the nicest ears to save for seed corn.  (Those ears are shown on the table above.)

We had purchased a hand sheller so it was time to see if it did an adequate job.

Our ears of corn grew quite a bit longer than the advertised 6-7" length.  Some were 10" long!  But they were quite skinny (that's what I want to be . . . skinny and taller), and so didn't fit in the sheller as well as a fatter ear would have.

I still didn't have much trouble getting the kernels to pop right off the cob.  (And pop they did . . . in the bowl in my lap, onto the floor, clear across the room!)

Our little harvest yielded a pint jar and a half gallon jar full of corn for grinding (on the left in above picture) plus one very full quart to use as seed corn.

I'd call the experiment a success so far.  The corn is touted as making a high-nutrition flour so now grinding some and baking with it is next on the list.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bread: French and Spelt

A week or so ago, I came upon a recipe for "Easy French Bread" in my More-with-Less Cookbook.

I can't give the Mennonite folks who put this cook book together enough praise for their concern for our health, environment and world food needs.  All of their recipes are simple, presented with nutrition in mind, and darn good tasting.

Back to the French bread recipe, it did indeed look easy and since it was well into the afternoon before I got around to starting some bread, I decided to give it a try.


    2 pkgs. (2 tablespoons) dry yeast in
    1/2 cup warm (approx. 120 degrees) water with
    1/2 teaspoon sugar

    2 tablespoons sugar
    2 tablespoons butter
    2 teaspoons salt
    2 cups boiling water

Cool to lukewarm and then add yeast mixture.  

Stir in:
    7-1/2 to 8 cups unbleached white flour
    (7 cups was all I could get mixed in.)

Knead 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic.  Place in a greased bowl, turning once.  Let rise until doubled  (I let it rise for one hour.)  Punch down and let rest on counter (I covered with a cloth) for 15 minutes.

Divide dough in half.  On floured surface, roll each half to a 12" x 15" rectangle.  Roll up tightly, starting at the 15" edge.

Place loaves on a greased cookie sheet and make 4 or 5 slashes diagonally across the tops.  Let rise until doubled in size.  (Again, I let the loaves rise for one hour.)

Mix and brush over loaves:
    1 whole egg, beaten with
    2 tablespoons milk

Sprinkle over top:
    Poppy or sesame seeds

Bake in a 400 degree preheated oven for 20 minutes.

The two loaves were the biggest and nicest looking loaves of French bread I've ever made.  (The knife shown in the picture is a full 12" long for comparison.)

Was the bread tasty?  It sure was!  Although, I have to honestly admit that this was the end of only half of one of those giant loaves, and Chicken Mama stopped in just in time to help us with the sampling.

I was so enthused about this recipe that the next day I made it again, but used a combination of 4 cups of spelt flour and 3 cups of white.

This time I divided the dough into three portions and made one round loaf, one long loaf and spread the rolled out rectangle of the third portion of dough with brown sugar, cinnamon, raisins and pecans.

The cinnamon bread was heavier than a regular cinnamon bread made with all white flour would be but still made a very tasty sweet bread that we enjoyed toasted with several breakfasts.

Papa Pea, who isn't fond of "white" bread, commented that if he was limited to only one kind of bread (which he's not, lucky-ducky that he is), the recipe made with the spelt flour would satisfy him.

All in all, this turned out to be a really good bread and I'm looking forward to playing with some other variations to the basic recipe.