Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Bringing Spring Inside

Since it certainly doesn't look like spring outside . . .

This is the road going back to our wood working area.

The view out a kitchen window last Sunday morning.

. . . I decided I needed to make it look like spring inside.

This is a wall hanging I made several years ago.  A Log Cabin block in pastel 30s prints.  It hangs in "that" spot in my kitchen.  Machine pieced, hand quilted, 32" square.

I wanted something that would kinda sorta coordinate with it to hang under the kitchen clock.

I came up with this 16" square piece that I finished today.  The center pot of flowers is hand appliqued, the rest is machine quilted.  I call it "Easter Tulips."

Welcome Spring Time!  Even if it is only indoors.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Time Is Hard Up Here!

I know, I know.  If I don't like it, why do I live here?  I live here because the advantages (for us anyway) of living in No Man's Land (Or as some people like to say, "It's not the end of the world, but you can see it from here.") far, far outweigh living elsewhere.  Now that I've said that, let me complain a bit.

We have virtually no spring in northern Minnesota.  And yet every year we expect it, look for it, yearn for it, hope for it.  Spring is the forgotten season here.  Every year we go from dirty, muddy, cold, wet, frozen winter into summer.  While we're looking the other way (probably scraping tracked in mud off the just washed floor), one day the temp hits 70 degrees and, lo and behold, summer has arrived.  Forget about spring.  It doesn't happen.  Spring flowers bloom in June.  Ice and snow can be found hiding in any shaded corner about the same time.

See, the thing is that the frost penetrates down so far into the ground over winter that any melting we do get during this time (which actually should be, but isn't, spring) can't soak into the ground . . . because of the still frigid, frozen soil.  So what does the moisture do?  It makes mud.  Which holds puddles caused by melting snow or precipitation occasionally falling from the sky.  These same puddles freeze each night to form booby traps for anyone (man or beast) traversing the ground.  Frequently, that terrible phenomenon called black ice appears on the roads each morning.  Black ice is a very inhospitable surface on which to drive.  Just ask the two drivers that we heard of whose vehicles traveled an excessive distance into the woods after encountering black ice and subsequently leaving the pavement this morning.

This is the time of year when I look out at my wet and muddy, yet still frozen, garden and lament I'll never be able to work the soil until at least July.  It's hard to remember that's not the reality.  As happens every year, one day the temp will hit 70 degrees and summer will be here.

Perhaps I shouldn't say spring time is hard up here.  It would be more accurate to say it just doesn't exist.

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

We went for a hike up in the woods behind our property this afternoon, and it was great.  The sun was shining in a cloudless Minnesota-blue sky, the temperature was in the mid-20s, and there was no wind.  (Imagine that!) 

Although it may look as if Papa Pea is packing enough provisions for a two-week trek, the only thing he had in his backpack was our snowshoes.  When we started out, we didn't know what snow conditions would be in the deep woods so took the snowshoes in case we needed them.  We didn't.  The level of snow was much lower than we had expected and frozen enough for us to walk on top of it in our boots.

The slightly treacherous part of the hike was that about half the trail was ice covered.  The trail we were on runs east and west, but the land slopes down from north to south.  So, much of the melting that has already occurred formed very slipery ice over much of the territory we covered.

We saw lots of animal droppings and tracks including these pictured above with my boot in the photo for comparison.  We have no idea what could have made these unusual looking prints.

About half the trail was right along a ravine that has a little creek running in the bottom of it.  Very picturesque even though the water was still frozen solid.

It's really a lovely time of year to be out in the woods.  No bugs, it's easy to dress warmly enough (without being too warm) for hiking, and you see so many tracks and trails that the wildlife uses.  With no shrubbery leafed out, visibility through the woods is at its highest.  The fresh air, exercise and oxygenated blood pumping through our veins weren't bad either.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Can A Week Be Quiet And Busy At The Same Time?

I've been absent since I've felt I haven't had much of interest to say.  No pictures, no out-of-the-ordinary excitement to share.  So what has been going on?

Well, so far it's been a busy week full of "usual" stuff.  Our weather has not been spring-like, that's for sure.  We had snow all day yesterday but with the thermometer reading 33 degrees and up to a few degrees higher, we had no accumulation.  More of the same is forecast for today.  

This past weekend I ventured out into the garden to see if either the rhubarb or chives were poking up under my blanket of winter mulch.  Nope.  How can the little greenies be expected to make it up through ground that is still frozen solid?

We made a trip to the The Big City on Tuesday of this week for supplies.  If I'm not mistaken, it was our first trip since last October.  On such excursions, we use our credit card which we always pay off each month.  The charges on the next billing are going to be so astronomical, I don't think I'll even have the courage to open the envelope.

I've finished going through the pantry and freezers to determine how I did on putting food by last fall.  Results?  I can definitely cut down on how much I plant of nearly everything this gardening season.  Either we're consuming less on a regular basis or I've finally gotten to the point where I'm planting too darn much.  Not a bad situation to have to rectify.

Speaking of the garden, I'm about halfway done with the master plan for this coming season.  Good thing I can cut down on space needed for veggies because I've got those 200 new strawberry plants coming that I need to fit into the field garden.  Strawberries were the only thing we didn't have an adequate supply of over winter.  One more year now and that won't happen again.  Hopefully.  Or my strawberry lovin' husband will NOT be happy with me.

We've been seeing a lot of wildlife activity.  Just this morning right after dawn we saw the biggest, healthiest-looking fox come trotting up our driveway, take a hard left back into the wood working area and then disappear behind the big storage building.  He looked to be on a mission.  Wonder if he could have been a she taking breakfast home to her youngun's?

We've been seeing one or two wolves a week recently.  These are bona fide timber wolves and not the brush wolves, or coyotes, also in the area.  They are beautiful animals and we realize they have every right to live here, but when they do become too plentiful, there is always the problem with them attacking livestock and pets.  I'm not real keen on encountering them up close and personal either.

A lovely surprise came in the mail this week from a beautiful blogging friend in South Carolina who is fast becoming an expert quilter.  I now have a very pretty, spring motif mug rug beside me on my desk this morning.  So bright and cheerful!

Time to get some breakfast on the table.  We had French toast with homemade blueberry sauce yesterday morning.  Today I think it will be poached eggs on slices of hearty, heavy, moist, dark bread that magically arrived late yesterday afternoon from a sweet gal in our area who turns out the BEST bread. 

Have a great end to your week and a good, good weekend, y'all! 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fickle Weather

We were feeling quite perky after some down time in the months of January and February.  We were ready to hit our spring/summer/fall To Do List with a vengeance.  (Or as I said a couple of days ago, slowly so we didn't hurt ourselves.)

Last week it felt like spring time.  Okay, so the thermometer showed only readings in the 40s, but for us that was spring time.  We spent the week organizing so we could begin by getting off to a running start this week.

Mother Nature obviously has a mean streak.  We've been working outside this week and freezing our beezers off.  Our highs for day time are just above freezing and night time lows are back down in the low 20s.  This afternoon we had snow for several hours, although with a temp of 35 degrees nothing accumulated on the ground.

But this is typical March weather for us.  No matter how much we would like early, warm spring weather to arrive, we have to keep in mind we haven't had our March blizzard yet.  And there is rarely a year when we don't get one.  Or two.

Two years ago, we got the majority of our snow for the whole winter in April.  (Now there's a depressing thought.)

My dictionary defines the word fickle as likely to change, especially due to instability; erratic changeableness.  Darn fickle weather.  

No matter.  We're tough.  We'll keep at it since we are accomplishing tasks on our list.  Besides, what's another month of wearing long johns?  And slight cases of frostbite?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Wind Will Have Its Way . . .

The March wind doth blow, and we shall have snow.  Or . . . if it's not snow, it's a bit of rearranging of cold frames.

My laziness caused this.  Well, yeah, and the mighty gusts of wind we had last night.

Last fall I covered my herb bed (see the framing on top of a raised garden bed closest in that jumble in the picture?) with a deep layer of straw.  The next day the wind did an excellent job of blowing my winter blanket of mulch clean off the bed.  Papa Pea suggested we put a cold frame, minus the top, on the bed, gather the scattered straw and dump it back on top of the herbs but, this time, inside the topless cold frame.  Worked like a charm.  The mulch stayed put and was soon covered by a layer of snow.  Sleep tight, little herbs.

The bed directly in front of the herb bed was fall planted in some greens I wanted to carry into the cold weather as long as I could so a cold frame with a cover was put on that bed.  And we were able to have lettuce, kale, spinach, chard, etc. longer than usual because of the protection of the cold frame.

Before the snows started, I should have removed that cold frame, but my lazy self said I could just leave it there until I wanted to start working the bed this spring.

Even though the cold frame was tied to the frame of the raised bed with several lengths of baling twine and had a bungie and a hook and eye holding the lid to the raised bed framing, you can see what the wind did to it last night.

The cold frame with lid was torn from the raised bed, picked up and deposited on the top of the topless cold frame covering my herb bed.

The wind continued to blow today also.  Not a bad thing because no more damage was done (that we've discovered anyway), and it should have helped evaporate some of our remaining snow and, I hope, hope, hope, dry out some of our mud.

I should have had my camera in hand this afternoon while Papa Pea  and I were running some rough cut lumber through the planer.  If you've ever done that you know tons of sawdust and wood shavings are created in the process.  Mix that with the stiff wind and you'll know we had sawdust blowing everywhere.  It's so embedded in my work jacket that trying to brush the stuff off didn't work worth a diddle.  I think I even have some in my . . . oh, never mind.

The March wind doth blow.  Somebody should harness it for power.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Ode to Erma

This morning I was big and brave enough to start cleaning out a drawer (the biggest and messiest) in my desk.  It was a terrible jumbled mess of "stuff," and I found some miscellaneous file folders on the bottom of the heap.  While doing a quick, preliminary look through one of the folders, I found a sheet titled If I Had My Life To Live Over by Erma Bombeck.  (I think I originally got this from you, J.  Thank you again.)

Many of you are too young to remember this wonderful lady.  She was a humorist, writer, columnist and journalist who wrote several books.  She managed to find humor in the everyday experiences of being a wife and mother.  Her serious side led her to be a strong advocate for the Equal Rights Amendment for women.

Her career took off in the mid-1960s during which time she gave voice to many suburban housewives.  She was a talented writer who could make you laugh and cry at the same time.  Her popularity continued until her death in 1996 when she died from complications of an incurable, untreatable genetic kidney disease.

Here is the writing of her's I found today.  It's a piece she wrote very near the end of her life.

If I Had My Life To Live Over

I would have gone to bed when I was sick
instead of pretending the earth
would go into a holding pattern
if I weren't there for the day.

I would have burned the pink candle 
 sculpted like a rose before it
melted in storage.

I would have talked less
and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner
even if the carpet was stained,
or the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn
in the "good" living room
and worried much less about
the dirt when someone wanted
to light a fire in the fireplace.

I would have taken the time
to listen to my grandfather
ramble about his youth.

I would have shared more of the
responsibility carried by my husband.

I would never have insisted the
car windows be rolled up on a summer day
because my hair had just been
teased and sprayed.

I would have sat on the lawn
with my grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less
while watching television
and more while watching life.

I would never have bought anything 
just because it was practical, wouldn't show
soil, or was guaranteed
to last a lifetime.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, 
I'd have cherished every moment
and realized that the wonderment
growing inside me was the only
chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

When my kids kissed me impetuously,
I would never have said, "Later.  Now go get
washed up for dinner."  There would
have been more "I love you's" and
more "I'm sorry's."

But mostly, given another shot at life, 
I would seize every minute, look at it and
really see it.  Live it and never give it back.

Don't worry about who doesn't like you,
who has more, or who's doing what.
Instead, let's cherish the relationships
we have with those who do love us.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

 How many of these sentiments can you directly relate to?  Dear Erma had a good handle on how life should be lived, didn't she?  

Friday, March 13, 2015

Planning for Summer

It's not that I wouldn't be thrilled to have more down time ahead of me.  You know, leisure time for indoor, close to the wood stove projects.  I'd opt for that in a flash, but time seems to keep marching on at double time.  Even up here near the tundra, there's a different feel to the air these days, the snow is melting and there's no denying the fact that spring weather is, indeed, approaching.

And I've got to admit that I'm actually getting eager thinking about gardening once again.  I sat at the kitchen table for a couple of hours this afternoon plotting out what will go where in the raised beds and field garden for the coming season.  I'm still tossing around what to plant in the pumpkin patch this year.  Yeah, I know, you would think I'd plant pumpkins there, but I like to rotate crops so the same thing isn't grown in the same area each year.  I did have pie pumpkins and jack 'o lantern pumpkins in that patch last year so it will be some other crop this year.

 Not a recent picture.  Obviously.

I'll plant the usual vegetables again this year.  Pretty much the same old boring things, but they do keep us in tasty, nutritious food close to year 'round.  Although I'm wanting to go through the pantry and freezers to see exactly what quantities are left at this point, we have yet to run out of any of the vegetables I put by last year.  We're still eating peas, sugar snap peas, beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, green and yellow beans and squash.  The applesauce and stuffed green peppers are holding out along with frozen blueberries and raspberries.  Sad to say but true, the frozen strawberries are long gone, but we do have ample jam.  Our root cellar still holds apples (although a very few), carrots and potatoes that are in good shape.  Plenty of onions and garlic on a shelf in the basement holding at 52 degrees.  There are even a few heads of cabbage, but the outer leaves are looking a little worse for wear now.  They probably won't keep much longer.

One of the two double rows of strawberries 
I have left.

I have 200 new strawberry plants coming this spring, and I have to decide in which area of the field garden they will be planted.  I have two double rows of old berry plants that are still producing, but they are no longer bearing nearly as much as we need for fresh eating, sharing with friends, making jam and squirreling away in the freezer for smoothies all year long. 

On a topic other than the garden, Papa Pea and I spent this morning sketching out our spring/summer/fall project list.  No doubt about it.  Not enough time for outdoor projects, and way too many projects we still want to get accomplished around this here old place.  Getting them all done now! this summer would be preferable to only being able to accomplish a few of them.  So in an effort to maintain our slight grip on reality, we have to face the fact that isn't going to happen.

We have an A and a B list.  We prioritized the A list and hubby wanted to do the same for the B list, but I, being the old fuddy-duddy-stick-in-the-mud I am, said that we should wait to do that until we had finished all the items on the A list.  Yeah, I know I'm no fun at all.

Tonight, I'm going to sit on the couch, knitting needles in hand and soak up another remaining night of being lazy in front of the open fire.  Spring is certainly coming, but it's not here quite yet.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

It's Spring . . . And It Ain't Purdy!

There's been a whole lotta meltin' goin' on.  Yesterday we hit a high of 53 degrees in the shade and today at 2 p.m. we have 44.  Lovely sun most of both days.  The sun is high enough in the sky already that its warmth can be felt.

There are many parts on our driveway where we can now see gravel.

Maybe I can do some planting tomorrow in these garden beds that are free of snow.  Ha-ha.  Most of them have standing water in them.  But it's a start toward when I can plant.  We've had so little snow this winter that I think it's going to be an early spring and I'm really going to push the (seed) envelope this year and do some planting in the raised beds as soon as the soil is workable.  Then I'll cover the beds with cold frames and see what I can coax into early production.  (Like greens.  Greens, greens, I need some greens!)

Granddog Tucker had a play date with a much younger doggie friend last Sunday and has had a hitch in his get-a-long for a couple of days, but today seemed to enjoy being out for a walk in the sunshine.

Nothing like a good roll in soft, mushy snow to shake off those winter doldrums (and achy muscles).

I think he's feeling his oats (kibble?) and is happy to see it's not so frigid out anymore.  Besides, having his under belly and short little legs covered with mud doesn't bother him at all.  But it's time for us to get out the bucket of warm water and old towels before he comes back in the house.

Spring mud season.  Ya gotta love it.  Or not.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Ice Isn't Nice

I think years driving in Illinois winters (snow, ice, melt, ice, slush, ice, snow, ice, etc.) created a form of PTS that has never left me.  Even when I'm not behind the wheel but merely a passenger in a vehicle, driving on ice turns my innards into a terrible tangle of tenseness.

For the past couple of days we've had temperatures climb up to the low 30s so we have had some melting going on.  Last night we had a light snowfall which combined with the slight melting/water/ice to make all outside surfaces slippery this morning.

Hubby and I have worked out an arrangement where he travels the nine miles one way to get our fresh dairy products at the farm in the winter.  (Rolling hills and lots of curvy whoop-dee-doos on the trip.)  And I make the milk run when the roads are clear in spring, summer and fall.

This morning because he offered to prepare some fresh fish for breakfast (hooray, somebody else's cooking to eat besides my own!), I volunteered to make the milk run.  I made it about three miles from home and witnessed several could-have-been calamities when I decided to play my "chicken" card, turn around and come back home.

~ I saw a man walking along the road slip
and fall flat.  He was a youngish
fella, popped right back up
and nothing was hurt but his pride.

~ On a downhill, a SUV came barreling up 
behind me, passed me,
and fish-tailed wildly before getting
his vehicle under control.
(He was VERY lucky.  Also very stupid.)

~ I felt my tires slip-sliding when I tried to pull 
away from a stop sign and had to put
the car into 4-wheel drive before
I could move.

~ When I slowed (even slower than the maybe 12 mph
I was going) to make a right hand turn, the
back of my car tried to make the turn
before the front.

~  Coming down another hill to an intersection
where I did not have a stop sign,
I saw a patrol car (he really was going
slowly and cautiously) slide right
through the stop sign on the
intersecting road.
He looked first panicked, then mortified . . . 
then embarrassed.

Somedays it really doesn't pay to get out of bed.  Or go for milk.

However, all's well that ends well.  I made it back home without a mishap . . . just had to work to settle that long ago, Illinois-driving-on-ice-all-winter induced queasy tummy.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand . . . Memories

One of the pictures my cousin sent me in his letter last week was this one of him and his dad posing by the side of our grandpa and grandma's house.  Both of the guys are wearing their baseball uniforms.

Uncle W played baseball with a team from his place of employment, and he's pictured in his official uniform.  Seeing the picture made me wonder where my cousin's little uniform came from.  This would have been in the late 1940s and such an outfit at that time certainly wasn't readily available for a three year old.  I wouldn't be surprised if his mother had made it, because she was an excellent seamstress and the person who taught me how to sew on my grandma's treadle sewing machine.

The town Cousin J and I grew up in (and where he still lives) was a well-to-do blue collar town with many thriving factories.  During the 40s and 50s it was common for each factory to have a baseball team made up of some of the workers, and Uncle W played on such a team.

(When Papa Pea and I were first married we lived in my home town while he finished his college degree.  I worked full-time while my dear husband went to school full-time and also worked a part-time job in the accounting division of this very same factory where my Uncle W worked and played ball.)

The baseball teams from the various factories in town played their games on a really nice ball field in our city park, and I remember going to many games to watch my uncle play.

There was what I remember as being quite a large grandstand of bleachers for spectators that ran along the third base line.  It was covered by a roof so that it was shady and comfortable in the summer time.  Of course, the ball field was laid out on a large, wide open spot, and I can still amost feel the welcome breezes blowing through that grandstand.  What a lovely way to spend a warm Saturday afternoon.  (To be totally honest, I have to admit that when the wind was blowing from the "wrong" direction, it also blew sand and grit from the infield right into our faces, too!)

Uncle W played ball for more years than most of the other men in the league did.  Many times at the start of a season he would declare he was getting "old," and it would be his last season, but he was a star of the team and the coach and fellow players always begged him to play "just one more year."

There are two incidences I still think of when reminiscing about those ball games.

The first is a game in which my uncle hit three home runs.  (No wonder his team mates wanted him to keep playing.)

The second is one day when our moms gave each of us kids a nickel to go to the concession stand to buy a candy bar.  (Five cents was the cost of a candy bar then.)  That day I chose a Baby Ruth (named after Babe Ruth) candy bar (what else at a baseball game?), and when I climbed back up into the stands to my seat by our family and opened the wrapper of the candy bar, a nickel fell out.  Someone in the candy packing factory had slipped a nickel into the wrapper.  I felt like I had won a jackpot.  I had my candy bar plus a nickel to buy another one!

Oh, my.  Pictures.  They certainly have a way of jogging memories of days gone by.  At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, these are memories of days when life was so much simpler.  Thanks for the memories, Cousin J!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

We (Women) Can Do It!

This morning that cute little gal over at A Farmish Kind of Life wrote a post about the latest romantic date she and her husband just had.  (This gal knows how to plan 'em!)  Deciding it was time she learned how to use a chainsaw, she asked her husband (with fluttering lashes, no doubt) if their next date could be giving her instruction on how to use one.

Her post brought back a flood of memories for me.

The year we moved up here in the late fall, we faced our first winter living in an uninsulated a barely insulated old, old mobile home.  The furnace in it was non-functioning (we had no money to buy fuel anyway -- seriously) so we installed an old Ashley wood burning stove.  (Anybody remember those?)

The big problem was we had nary a stick of firewood readied for winter time heating.  So every morning after Papa Pea left for his teaching job, I would bundle up our then two year old to the extent necessary according to the outside temperature, put her in her designated area with play things (safely away from the wood working area but where I could still keep an eye on her) and go to work cutting wood.

I had a chainsaw I could handle (of a smaller size than the biggies my husband now uses) and I would cut enough wood to use for that day's heating.  On weekends, if we could find the time working around even more pressing tasks (and other crises of which there were many), hubby and I would work together prepping a pile of wood.  That would free me up for some of the days of the coming week.

Was trying to stay warm all winter burning green wood to heat an uninsulated tin can a good situation?  Well, no.  (Nor did it keep us warm.)  But we survived, and I can definitely say I know how to use a chainsaw.

Hey!  Maybe that's why I still have impressive biceps.  Aren't we women somethin' else?

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Overdue Show and Tell

It just occurred to me that I don't think I ever posted pictures of the finished winter wall hanging I showed in progress.

Yes, I did finish it and even found enough suitable fabric out of which to make the binding, but it was a close one.  Sometimes I think using only fabric out of my stash is not such a wise idea.  But unwise ideas have never stopped me before, so I'm already well into my next full-size (king-sized) quilt using only already-have fabric.  It is a scrap quilt though (very scrappy) so if I can find a piece big enough for the backing (I have nothing against pieced backs), I'll be able to do it.

But back to the kitchen wall hanging.

It's very difficult for me and my little point-and-shoot camera to get a photo of the quilting I did on this piece. 

I hope you can see it a bit better here.

Annnd . . . as it is mounted on the kitchen wall.  "January Wreath" that didn't make it up until sometime in February.  But with our slow, slow-to-come spring up here, it shouldn't be out of place for a while yet.