Wednesday, September 30, 2015

I Am Thankful For . . . (Lots of Things!)

I am so darn appreciative of having a nice house that is easy to keep clean.  Or maybe I should say a nice house that (for some blessed reason, thank the stars above) doesn't show the dirt, grit and grime that continually and mysteriously gets dragged indoors.

Don't think I'm a meticulous housekeeper, because I'm not.  I can regularly go a week (or more) without vacuuming or dusting.  I am, however, fairly conscientious about keeping things "picked up" which, perhaps, gives me nothing but a false illusion of cleanliness, but there you are.  Even though I'm never happier nor feeling more content than when the house is actually clean and sparkling, I can go for long periods without doing much real cleaning if everything, at least, looks neat and tidy.  Functioning in the midst of messiness is hard for me.

I readily confess there is one kind of "dirt" that I can't abide.  Dirty dishes!  Uffda, I cannot stand (((shudder, shudder))) to have a pile of dirty dishes sitting in the sink or on the counter.  That one little thing makes me feel the whole house is a sloppy mess.  Heck, I can't even prepare a meal when there are dirty dishes not done from a previous meal.  Yeah, I know a good shrink could write a paper on that little idiosyncrasy of mine.  (Probably already has.)  (Maybe I should seek it out and read it.)

But where was I?  Oh, yes.  Grateful.  And appreciative.  And downright thankful for a house that truly is easy to keep clean.  (Looking.) 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

You Might Be A Homesteader If . . .

. . . your purchase of nine new apple trees makes it feel like Christmas just came three months early.

We have struggled for years trying to get our seven semi-dwarf apple trees to bear mature fruit with any kind of consistency.

This next and new venture (filled with determination and gusto) has us experimenting with dwarf trees.  We just got four Zestar, four Honey Crisp and one Chestnut Crabapple.

So now we have these new trees.  We have an area in which to plant them.  Next we'll need to build a grow house around them.  (Yeah, I totally realize it would be more sensible [and a mite bit easier] to build the grow house first and then plant the trees in the structure, but sometimes it's fun to make things more difficult than they have to be.  Snort.)

Truth to tell, we had the opportunity of obtaining these three year old trees right here and now and didn't want to pass it up.

Recently, through lots of research, book learnin', and encountering a great (apple-growing) mentor in the area, we've come to the conclusion (go ahead and label us slow learners) that rarely will apples ripen and mature in our far northern climate without some help on both ends of the season --- spring and fall.  Hence, a grow house.

This will be a wood-framed structure covered with greenhouse plastic having a wide door on each end and panels on the top which will be constructed so they can be opened when necessary.

I promise to post more about this "little" venture as it progresses.

Right now, I gotta go dig some holes.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

More Prattling!

I just put nine beautiful, delicious, nutritious quarts of chicken broth in the freezer ready to be used in cookin' up some good vittles in the next few months.  There's also some tender and tasty chicken meat that will be used in a variety of ways.  Ya sure, you betcha, it takes many hours and some work to butcher your own home-raised (geriatric) birds, prep them for the freezer and then at a later date stew them, debone them, and strain and process the broth but I consider the time spent doing same as our health insurance.  The flavor of the broth (chicken meat, too, for that matter) is so much better than anything you can purchase that there's simply no comparison and makes it difficult to not produce our own at home.

Besides being up to my elbows in chicken parts, I worked out in the garden today doing clean-up.  Papa Pea wasn't too pleased when he saw me tearing out some of the flowers.  I had to sit him down and have a little talk about how it is time to move on.  Gardening season is over and it's oh-so-much easier for me to pull plants now (than after a couple of frosts have zapped everything deader than a door nail) and  before the ground is half frozen.

There was no stopping me.  I absolutely had to bake an apple pie first thing this morning.  There's something about the fall season that calls for baking with apples, don't you agree?

All summer long I've been putting in small (very small) chunks of time  on the scrap quilt I'm making for our king-sized bed.  To say it's proceeding slowly is the proverbial understatement.  Come on, Winter, I need some sustained hours of quilting time to get this project mooooving!

Most nights I'm actually too pooped to go into my quilt room so have been cozying down on the couch and crocheting a new rug for in front of the kitchen sink . . . in autumnal colors, of course.  It's about two-thirds of the way done.

Speaking of being tuckered out at night, I'm sitting here wiping the tears from my eyes which are being caused by me yawning so hugely.  Time to sign off.  At this rate, I may not even have the giddy-up to work on my rug tonight.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Just Prattle

The last three chicken carcasses from the butchering we did last October are in my big, ol' stewing pot on the stove.  This is not good.

Although I'll get a nice quantity of tasty, tender chicken meat from them, that's all we will have to last all winter.  (Which, of course, won't last all winter.)  We're down to eight layers in the hen house currently (and sometimes getting eight eggs a day) so it's not looking as if it would be wise to cull any of them (and put them in the freezer) this fall.  We have one rooster we could sacrifice, but that would leave us with no back-up should something happen to the other big guy.

Thinking of weather in your different necks o' the woods, I'm hoping you're all experiencing some lovely fall weather.  Here we've been in the midst of several days of drizzle alternating with heavy fog.  We chose yesterday to go to the Big City to do some heavy-duty restocking of miscellaneous essentials (we hadn't been since last April!), but had some not-so-comfortable driving through thick fog many times during the trip.  Not nice driving when you can't see where you're going.

I can't seem to convince myself to go out into the garden to do any more clean-up lately, because it's so blasted wet.  The moisture is good, but sunshine would be lovely for any of the outside chores still on our list.

Even though our weather might not be the (glorious) autumn weather we'd all like to have, it has put me into a mood for baking bread (which I have not done all summer long . . . shamey, shamey, shamey).

These are two loaves of Oatmeal Bread that turned out nicely.  I also baked some rye bread which I didn't put in loaf pans but rather shaped into one (huge) long loaf on a cookie sheet.  It rose beautifully (maybe too much?) and then fell down, down, down during baking.  The texture and taste, I'm glad to say, is still good but slices look more like a piece of zwieback toast.  It's hard to make a respectable looking sandwich with them.

Kinda pitiful, huh?

I planted a type of sunflower in the garden this year (Ring of Fire) that grows only 4-5' tall and was touted as being excellent for use as a cut flower.  And it is!  I've been bringing in bunches for a long while now.  They stay fresh in a vase for ever-so-long.  I'll be planting them in the garden every year now.

Apparently Papa Pea and I aren't the only ones a smidge bit on the frazzled and weary side at the end of this busy summer.  Others seem to be suffering periods of brain fade, too.

Case in point:  I came across a nifty little book entitled "Gentle Hikes of Minnesota" that listed and critiqued hiking trails (many in our area) under three miles in length.  We sent for a copy from Amazon to have in our library and received it today.

Well.  Not exactly.  Even though the paperwork tucked inside the book cover listed the book we ordered, the book enclosed was "Walking in Grandma's Garden."  Hey what?

Yep, seems as though many of us need some downtime . . . and are looking forward to a restful winter season.  How 'bout you"  Do you feel you have adequate time to "rest up" during the more inclement months?  Or do you have a To Do List half an acre long of inside chores to catch up on after being outside most of the summer?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Checking In, Chugging Along, Happy at Home

I feel as though I'm a bit of a sham showing the "new" blog header photo of our Virginia Creeper in full, fall color.

The picture was not taken this year as you can see by the current above photo I took this morning.  I think we've succeeded in throwing the natural cycle of the plant totally out of whack this growing season.

Because of our house painting this summer, we had to take it off the side of the house and lay it down on the ground where it sadly languished (I'm imagining) for more than a week.  When we removed it from the siding, it had already made great strides toward climging up the strings and traveling toward the windows on the right and left of it.

When the time came to put it back up, there was no way I could save all the lush growth so it got a rather severe haircut.  Now it looks to be a good couple of months behind where it should be this time of year.  I'm hoping after a winter's rest and recuperation period, it will be back to normal next spring. 

* * * * * * * * * *

We've been busy gathering the stored storm windows, cleaning them up, taking down the screens and installing the storms on the windows in preparation for the upcoming heating season.

Cooler fall weather can't arrive soon enough for me.  After a week or so ago of truly autumnal feeling weather, some of our heat (but not humidity, thank you very much) has returned and we've lost those low temps that make for good sleeping at night.  The two bedroom windows (no storms on them yet) are wide open again, but there's not much cool night air to come in.

* * * * * * * * * *

The garden looks different this year than it usually does at the middle of September.  My flowers are creating a riot of color just now because of the slow start they got this early (and very cool) spring and summer.  Looking out at the lushness of it all tricks me into thinking the calendar should be showing August 15th rather than September 15th.

* * * * * * * * * *

The windows in Papa Pea's office upstairs are identical to the ones below it in our living room, and we finally located the snap-in grids, still in their original packaging, that go up there so I'm putting the finish on them today.  And maybe finding time to work in the garden on more clean-up, too.  Or sit for a while out on our new deck on which we haven't even taken the time yet to place the outdoor furniture.  

It seems there's no trouble filling the days no matter what time of year it is.  Good thing we enjoy what we're doing and can see the progress at making our environment just the way we want it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Can You Feel It?

Yep, fall weather is definitely creeping up on us.  At least up here not so far from the Canadian Border.

After our last-of-the-summer hot, humid weather, the changing of the seasons is much welcomed.  Night time temps have been falling down into the 50s with forecasts of down to the high 30s in the not too distant future.  Okay, so our summer weather is over along with limited time (before Jack Frost makes an appearance) for anything left in the garden, but oh my, sleeping at night is so much nicer!  Snuggling under that down comforter (we've yet to close the bedroom windows) each night is heavenly.  (Also, harder to make oneself get out of bed in the morning!)

I've noticed blog postings in general (not just mine :o]) seem to be on the more infrequent side lately.  Either we're all pooped at the end of a busy summer or feeling pressed for time knowing how much still needs to be done in order to be prepared for winter.  I wish I had my fall decorations up and around the house, but don't know when I'll find time for that any time soon.

* * * * * * * *

Our daughter stopped by for a visit yesterday with two of the three children she cares for during the day.  The twins' big sister started school on Tuesday (very exciting!) so the little ones got all our attention.

This is the little guy, G, helping Papa Pea bring "his" stool into the kitchen from the garage.  He walked backwards the whole way carrying his end.

I've titled this one, "N, what did you do to your brother?"

And then this one might be my daughter asking G what he did to his sister.  To which I imagine the reply being, "Retaliation."

The twins are such a joy to watch.  It's amazing what those little brains can assimilate and learn on a nearly day to day basis.

* * * * * * * *

Well, since this looks to be a beautiful day with sunshine and very little humidity, I'm off to do what needs to be done.  Toodles.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Hot. Humid. Blech.

You would think we'd be glad of any hot weather we could get this summer . . . and normally that would be the case, but along with plenty of warm weather recently we've had high, high humidity which takes the stuffings right out of both Papa Pea and me.

The grass stays wet nearly all day.  Every leaf and vegetable in the garden stays wet nearly all day.  Makes it hard to harvest (feels like you're sweating even harder when everything you touch is wet), hard to move and hard to feel much of any pep or energy.

We're fortunate that the inside our house stays on the cool side . . . even though all surfaces seem damp to the touch (yuck).  And truth to tell, we'd no doubt be happier campers if we both settled down in the living room with reading material and a cool beverage.  Unfortunately, we know good and well that our days for getting projects done outside are quickly dwindling down, so for better or worse (maybe smarter or dumber), we keep trying to make our sluggish, drippy bodies (what an attractive image) do what needs to be done.

Earlier this afternoon we went out with tape measure and stakes to try to figure out the best areas to map out for new berry-type plants and new dwarf fruit trees.  Just moving around in the blazing sun and high humidity, we both got so uncomfortable and cranky that we decided to try again after dinner tonight when it's (possibly) not so hot.

Yesterday hubby attempted (and succeeded) to mow our small hay field with the Gravely garden tractor.  But the grass was so thick and wet and heavy that he didn't have an easy time of it.  Trying to mow within a decent distance of the pond mired the wheels down in saturated gloppiness, and he strained more muscles than he knew he had wrestling with the heavy machine in an effort to keep it from becoming totally stuck.

This morning I backed into same Gravely garden tractor with the Suburban.  Bent one of the heavy bar handles of the tractor and put a medium-sized scratch/dent in the back of the vehicle and cracked a tail light.  Sigh.

See what this oppressive, humid weather does to a person?

But to end on the upside (and there truly are plenty of upsides), Papa Pea harvested enough pickling cukes for another batch of fermented pickles (which he's getting really good at producing), I got the final coat of paint on a tall chair (one that we've used constantly for forty-some years and was in baaad need of repainting) that was our daughter's when she graduated from a standard highchair, got the primer coat on both sides of a door and window that goes in the door, harvested ten beautiful slicing cucumbers from plants I thought were done producing, plus the usual multitudinous little tasks that are required on any given day.

I'll end this (mostly whiney) post with a bit of garden gratefulness . . . 

Our Swiss chard is as lush and beautiful as I've ever seen it.  This is after cutting and enjoying it for most of the summer.

I planted beets around the perimeter of this raised bed with California Poppies in the center.  It was quite the impressive display until the poppies gave up the ghost, got terribly scraggly looking, and I pulled them out.

The beets are as big as I think I've ever seen.  (I only plant the Forono variety anymore because they are so perfect for slicing and/or making into pickled beets.  Plus, I've never had them get woody.)

The asparagus ferns have formed a veritable jungle of ferny-ness which seems to get thicker every day.  So delicate and pretty and, we're hoping, indicative of great asparagus growth next year.

My bed of zinnias has finally come into its own.  I now (better late than never) have plenty to cut and bring inside.

Hope you're enjoying this holiday whether you're celebrating the end of summer or choosing to labor on the Labor Day Weekend.