Friday, December 30, 2016

Grocery Shopping Without Leaving Home

I did a bit of food preparation yesterday and in the process gathered many of the needed ingredients from my squirreled away stores.

First thing in the morning (before I was totally awake even), I filled a small dish with blueberries from the freezer and set them on the counter to thaw as an addition to our breakfast oatmeal.  

While in the deep freezer, I also grabbed a pound of butter along with a package of cooked duck meat to use in making B-B-Q for lunch sandwiches.  Buns for the sandwiches came out of the freezer, too.

This was lunch again today.  
Buns are gone so bread
was used for the B-B-Q sandwiches.

A trip to the root cellar yielded a head of cabbage for coleslaw, and I also got some carrots and apples.

The last morsels in a jar of blueberry jam bit the dust a few days ago so I grabbed another jar off the pantry shelf.  Remembered I'd just used the last of the dill pickles and also a quart of applesauce so I tucked a jar of each of those in the crook of my arm.

It's for certain these "put-by" foods didn't magically appear in the freezer or on the shelf, but doesn't it make the work involved in raising your own fruit, vegetables and meat all worth it when you can go food shopping without leaving home?  (Or putting on any make-up or combing your hair?)

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

After Christmas Catch-Up

Well, the predicted Christmas snowstorm did not materialize, at least for us in our area.  The threatened 1/4" of ice before the snow started never happened and the snow was only about 3-4" when all was said and done.  But heavy snow it was and I feel as though I may have shoveled about fourteen tons (maybe more) of it yesterday.  Even the snow plow on the front of our daughter's truck was taxed a bit while removing the snow from the driveway and yard areas.  We spent most of yesterday getting things outside cleared and back in shape.  The temperature hovered around 30° so it didn't feel bad at all being outside despite over-working a few muscles.

This morning our overnight low was 10° and it seems as though those more winter-like temps will be with us for the coming week.  Those twenty degrees from ten above to thirty above certainly do make a big difference in a human's comfort level while outside.

Papa Pea talked me out of doing my usual laundry chores yesterday (Monday) so that's what I've been up to today.  I had a couple of extra loads (who's making all the dirty clothes around here?) so it's taking me longer than usual to finish up the task.

I was planning on spending a couple of hours in my quilt room today, but it's after 4 p.m. already and being a morning person, my zip, get-up-and-go, energy and creativity really begin to dwindle by this time of the day.  My handwork may be just sitting and knitting on the couch tonight.

Speaking of being on the couch, after my snow shoveling yesterday and the snowshoe hike we took on Christmas Day, last night at 7 o'clock I literally fell asleep sitting up reading on the couch.  (I'm sure I was a fetching sight and hope I wasn't drooling.)  I knew it was a losing battle so gave up the ghost and was in bed by 8 p.m. and asleep by 8:05.  Some evenings are like that and ya just can't fight it.

I told my dear husband I wanted to take this week between Christmas and New Year's "off" to do some of the things I really enjoy like reading, watching a DVD or two, knitting, quilting, even taking an afternoon nap if I feel like it.  You'd think being at this stage of my life, I'd have as much time for such endeavors as I wanted, but it just doesn't seem to work out that way.  There are the regular, everyday (day after day) tasks that need tending to besides The List I always have running.

That list in front of me at this moment includes:

~ Make pie crusts for freezer
~ Sort recipe box
~ Bake bread
~ Give shower an in-depth cleaning
~ Organize storage shelvews in basement
~ Restock basics (soups, casseroles, etc.) in freezer
~ Fix plant hanger in bathroom
~ Clean/reorganize pantry
~ Send birthday card to G
~ Get back to Cousin J
~ Make/can applesauce
~ Make mayonnaise
~ Clear desk
~ Sort desk drawers
~ Order garden seeds
~ Split kindling

Truth be told, as I start doing some of these things (and I really do have to start . . . I've heard the best way to finish a project is to start), I know I'll discover just as many other things to add to The List.  Yep, it's never-ending, isn't it?

I don't really know how to avoid all the items I have on The List and gain days to fritter away on any of the personal things my little heart yearns to do.  None of the items on my list are things I hate to do or don't want to do to keep home and hearth running smoothly, but if I'm honest they are not ones that feed my soul.  I came across a quote recently that someone said when asked what success meant to her.  She replied, "To do something one is fulfilled and energized by."  Yes, yes, YES!

So . . . if I'm to actually take some time "off" in order to get fulfilled and energized, I guess I'd better get off my duff and get moving!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!

 May your holiday be filled with
the joy of living
and the love of giving.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas!

It started snowing this morning around 11:30 and it's still coming down now at 5:30.  We've gotten somewhere around 6" so far which is great because now we should have enough on the ground for insulating purposes.

Up until today, my little car hasn't had snow on it this winter because it's been snugged away in our garage.  Wouldn't you know, today it got booted out first thing so some workshop-y things could be done in the garage.

I took a trip out to see how the waterfowl were doing this afternoon and took this shot as I came up to their "village."  Looks cozy with this new snow, doesn't it?

Everybody seemed to be just hunky-dory waddling around the "commons" area and basically happy with life.

The chickens, geese and ducks all have access during the day to several different "houses" which are all bedded with clean straw. 

You can see by the snow covering on his back that Mr. Muscovy must have great insulation next to his skin.  (He has his own down jacket on.  Haha.)

Then I saw these two pansies who preferred to be on the inside looking out.  Apparently they didn't want to get their feathers wet.  (I don't blame them.  My "feathers" go all wonky when wet, too.)

A view of the pond.  Pond?  What pond?  Where?

The snow is really beautiful coating each branch and twig as shown on this apple tree.  (This picture, straight out of my camera, was taken right at sunset and there was a definite pink glow over everything outside.  Very strange, but lovely.)

I spent too much a little time this afternoon getting Christmas cookies ready to give.  I sure am glad I decided to make only half of the varieties I had on my original list.  ('Course, I did make double batches of some of the favorites.)  I always have the silly notion we won't have enough left for munching here at home.  That's not going to be a problem.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Pot Holder Winners!

I drew two names for the two sets of pot holders I offered as a holiday giveaway.

We had twenty-eight entries, but Wendy from the Netherlands kindly disqualified herself from the drawing because of postage hassles involved in getting the pot holders to her should her name be drawn.  So that left us with 27 entries.

(Little Homestead in Boise and fivegirls, your comments came in after the 9 p.m. cut-off time last night.   I'm sorry, fivegirls, as you said you entered earlier, but I never got your comment until the one after the deadline.) 

I numbered your names (1 - 27) as they came in and then put slips of paper with the numbers on them in a little bowl.  (I wanted to use Santa's hat but seems the jolly old gentleman is rather busy with last minute gift preparations and wasn't available to lend his help.)

The two numbers drawn were 17 and 22.  Heather Sebastian is #17 and Gin2Weave is #22.  Their choices worked out perfectly as Heather chose the farm scene pot holders while Gin2Weave had a preference for the traditional ones.

If you two winners will send me your mailing addresses, I'll be glad to get the pot holders in the mail to you asap.

Thanks to all of you who were interested in the giveaway and entered.  

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Holiday Giveaway!

Time for some fun!

I have two sets of "Christmas-y" quilted
pot holders that I'd like to
give away.  
The picture above is of the front of
each pot holder.

And this is the back of them.

This set (on the top of the first picture)
is constructed of more traditional
Christmas fabric.

While this set (the bottom set shown)
is of a winter 
farm yard holiday scene.

If you're interested in receiving one of these
sets, just leave a comment saying so
(indicate which set you would prefer),
and I'll draw two names
from a hat (maybe Santa's)
and send a set to each of the names drawn.

I'll close comments for this giveaway 
this Sunday night, December 18th,
around 9 p.m. and announce 
the winners on Monday morning.

So, want a chance to get a new
set of quilted Christmas pot holders?
Everyone's welcome to enter!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sunshine . . . And Cold!

Woke to our coldest temp so far this winter . . . -4° with a slight wind.  Both Papa Pea and I went out to do morning chores with heavy gloves on, but even those were not sufficient to keep our fingers from getting unpleasantly tingly and then numb.  Choppers should have been the handwear of the morning.

But, lo and behold, we have sunshine!  Took a while for us to figure out what that golden glow was peeking at us through the eastern tree line. 

Back inside with breakfast and dishes done, I was kina shocked to see how appalling different the interior of the house looked with sun streaming in the windows.

Holy moley, will ya look at the dust on all the surfaces.  There must be a quarter cup of crumbs on the counter to the side of the toaster.  Where did that cloudy film on the living room mirror come from?  And the windows!  Granted, we washed the outside of the windows this spring, but somehow (read:  Procrastination) they didn't get done this fall.  Oh, my.  I cannot believe how dirty they look with the sun (making an attempt at) shining through.  Eek, if I could, I'd grab a step ladder and go outside to wash them.

I absolutely had to sweep the kitchen floor before I did anything else.  Usually my preference is to get out the vac and do the whole house, but this morning I opted for a quick swipe with the broom.

WHERE did all that stuff come from?  And what IS it??  Better if I had vacuumed.  Then I wouldn't have known just how much grit and grime we had been traipsing through.

A bit of the debris swept up was pine needles.  I don't know what's with our little tree this year.  I know the gal who has the Christmas tree farm and brings fresh-cut trees into town to sell.  I met her of a morning just as she was unloading trees she had been cut the day before, our tree being one of them.  It's standing in plenty of water since we put it up, but it's shedding needles so fast that any ornament with a little bit of weight to it is sliding off the branch taking all the needles with it.  Sigh.  (How long until I can take this quickly balding tree down?)

* * * * * * * *

Here are a couple of pictures taken while rounding up the birds late yesterday afternoon.

The geese are the first ones, the ducks second, to come into the "commons" area where they get some food and fresh water to tide them over until morning.  I see by this picture, though, that a couple of brave Muscovies must have pushed ahead in line and wandered in with the geese.  This time of year we go out right about 4 p.m. to put the birds away.  The chickens are never as eager to spend as much time out and about during the day as the ducks and geese.  And they're almost always tucked up on their roosts in their house for the night when we go out.

Nom-nom-nom, good stuff!    

* * * * * * * *

We have both the wood stove in the kitchen and the one in the living room perking away this morning, the sun is still shining and the outside temp reads 2.8 above zero now at mid-morning.  'Tis a good day for doing some cleaning inside!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Smoked Birds and Finished Socks

Or could it be Finished Birds and Smoked Socks?  (What was the old joke way back in the '60s about smoking your socks?  Probably best I can't remember it.)

But I digress.  I finished these socks a day or so ago and wore them for the first time today.

"For heaven's sake, get your feet off the desk!" 

I think I've finally got it figured out as to what yarn I prefer for socks, the size needles to use, the best pattern and measurements that fit my tootsies to a "T."

Good Neighbor D popped in early this morning to deliver the duck and goose he smoked for us.  Goose (good ol' Curly) is in the foreground with the chunky Muscovy in the back.

We're going to taste test them tomorrow.  Well, probably just one.  I think we'll try the goose first.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Arrival of Snow

When I left for town this morning to meet a friend for coffee, rain was coming down fairly steadily.  Before I even got much farther than to the end of our driveway, it had turned to snow.  That was a little before 10 a.m. and although the temp was in the low 30s, it continued to snow most of the day.  Coming home the highway was covered in a thick layer of slush . . . slippery slush.  I was glad to be back home safe and sound (okay, safe anyway) by noon.

Late this afternoon when we went out to round up the ducks and geese, feed them their grain dinner and tuck them away safely in their respective pens for the night, they were all paddling around in the pond.

For the very first time (I'm sure just to play mind games with us), the ducks came in first.  The geese always are the first ones into the yard for some grain.

Despite our plans to do so, we did not get the new waterfowl house constructed this year.  But we did make some good changes to the various pens we had for the different groups of ducks and geese and arranged them in kind of a square with a center "courtyard" in the middle.

Even though all eight of the remaining geese could fit comfortably into either of two of the bigger structures, they all seem to prefer sorting themselves out and going into the houses they are used to.  Above some of them are starting to go to their own house.  (The ducks were already fed and closed up in their one big pen.)

Our three oldest geese, a gander and his two girlfriends, occupy this pen.

It's a good feeling knowing that even though we don't yet have the ultimate housing arrangement we want for them, everyone will be cozy and well protected all winter. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Thinning The Flock

Although I can't say the butchering part of butchering day is ever pleasant, we did have a fantastic, hard-working, fun crew to do the job yesterday and things could hardly have gone better.

First was to gather the geese and ducks to be butchered.  The above cage contained three geese and a couple of the Muscovy ducks.  The remainder of the ducks were in another cage. 

We've never used killing cones before but after our chicken butchering a few weeks ago, we decided we'd like to give them a try.  We gave directions for their construction to our daughter and she made two samples of them . . . a larger one for geese and a smaller one for ducks and/or chickens.  Instead of hanging the cones on a tree, inserting the bird head down, stunning the bird on the back of the head and then making slits on each side of the neck to kill and bleed them out, we decided the quicker and more humane way would be to use an ax.  The way we did it required two people but worked out really well and we still used the cones.

The bird was put into the cone, the person at the front put the head of the bird between two large nails which had been pounded into the stump, the person at the back held the bird firmly in the cone.  Our ax was very sharp, nicely weighted and did the job every time with one quick blow.

Then the cone with bird in it was hung by a grommet (put in the larger end of the cone for this purpose) on a nail in a tree until the flapping stopped.  

The bird was next extracted from the cone and hung by the feet on a rod between two trees to finish bleeding out.  The cone was then reused for the next bird.

We had a wonderful, handy-dandy scalding barrel that our Good Neighbor D contributed to the operation.  A small barrel sat on top of a gas burner and held the water at the right scalding temperature.  The only addition we need to make is some kind of a weight to keep the bird totally submerged.  Here our daughter is using a birch log to keep the bird from popping up out of the water.  She did an excellent job as chief scalder which made plucking the birds so easy.

This was the craziest thing . . . Tucker did not like this bird (waiting for its turn in the scalder) lying on the ground.  It was dead so he thought it should be buried.  He worked very diligently using his nose to push gravel up onto the body to cover it.

Our daughter starting to work the bird on our old (but so efficient) plucker.

It doesn't take long to get the majority of the feathers off of each one.

Then the detail plucking took over.  Don't know why this poor bird was getting attacked by the three guys but they made short work of it.

Until it was time for our daughter's guy to start the gutting process, he and I worked at the detail table.

Good Neighbor D with the biggest Muscovy.

We weren't knee deep in feathers but it came close to ankle deep!

After each bird was plucked clean, it was submerged in cold well water while waiting to go to the gutting table manned by the three guys.  Above Papa Pea is working on one of the geese.  Note the huge amount of goose fat in the dish.  All the birds had quite a bit of fat on them, a lot of it right under the skin.  I guess they all had put on their winter insulation.

The tally for the day.  Three geese on left, then the six male Muscovy ducks in the middle, and the three Cayugas on the right.  The Muscovies look almost as big as the geese.  Our geese are the Pilgrim variety, though, chosen for their smaller size and calm disposition.

This morning, before the kill cones were stored away until our next butchering date, our daughter suggested she take a picture of her "cone head parents."  (Picture taken in the garage, hence the decor.)  Silly thing was when she was ready to snap the picture, she said, "Smile!"  And we both did.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Where Do The Days Go?

Whoopee-doo, I finally took the pumpkins and fall leaves out of the outside window boxes today and replaced them with evergreen boughs and poinsettias, the poinsettias being fake but still adding a burst of holiday color.

It's still raining.  Our pond is fuller than we've ever seen it.  We designed it with a spillway to handle any possible overflow and this afternoon there was a veritable stream coming out of the pond via the overflow.  The overflow is over flowing.  Parts of the bank that have never felt water before are starting to erode a bit.

The ducks and geese are elated.  They think it's spring time.  If they're not playing a vigorous game of water polo, they're all grazing on the green, green grass of their pasture.  Even the chickens can be seen out all day long.  Most likely supplementing their late November diet with worms that have come to the surface of the soil to keep from drowning.

Tomorrow (dum-da-dum-dum) is butchering day.  Three of the geese and eight of the ducks will be dispatched to freezer camp.  Or our neighbor's smoker.  I wish it was tomorrow night at this time.  Is there anyone who likes butchering day on the homestead?  Nah, I didn't think so.

This is what happens to my quilt room when I don't have time to spend in there, but have to run in and out doing emergency repairs or making a quick holiday fabric cover for a jar of blueberry jam to be delivered to a friend, or some such thing.  I get in and get out, grabbing or doing only what I need at the moment . . . 

. . . and this is the resulting mess.  Oh well, soon (am I living in Fantasy Land again?) I'll be able to spend some time in there cleaning up and finishing the quilting on that blue and white quilt I've had in my machine (with the needle in the very same spot) for a couple of weeks.  At least.  We just have to get through butchering day tomorrow, then get four new tires put on the Suburban first of next week, then a trip to the big city to unload our old, worn out solar power batteries by meeting a fella who pays $18 each for the batteries.  I think that's all that's on the immediate schedule, aside from every day things, (don't tell me if I've forgotten something important) so I should have a few days before Christmas to hibernate in my quilt room, unlax and become my usual (ha!) sweet, loving, even-tempered self again.

Oh nuts, I just remembered I was going to make up the dough for each of our Christmas cookies and have it ready in the freezer ahead of time this year.  Aw, balderdash, who needs Christmas cookies anyway?  (Did you hear that resounding, rather piercing cry from the troops that inhabit this place?)  WE DO, WE DO, WE DO!

Like I said, where do the days go?  Should any of you reading this be bored and need something to do for the next month, wanna come live here?  I can make you a list . . . 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Where's Winter?

It's supposed to be winter now up here in our neck o' the woods . . . but it's not.

We didn't get either of the "big" snows recently predicted.  Since the two inches we did get have been on the ground, our temps have stayed slightly above freezing both day and night which makes for slushy, slippery, messy walking out and about.  To say nothing of the current luge run state of our driveway.

The sun has apparently temporarily taken off for parts unknown, because we haven't seen it for a while.  The grayness makes the damp, mistiness of the air feel much colder than it is.  Do I sound totally humbug?  Not really as we've got it plenty warm and cozy inside.  No complaints there.  But I am eager for true winter time to arrive.

The ice on our pond resembles the "rotten ice" we see in the spring.  Our waterfowl have discovered they can poke holes in it here and there without falling through, so it's those openings they've been hanging around, submerging their heads for a good, refreshing drink.  Seems pond water tastes better than the pans of water we keep out for them. 

The weather people are now telling us we're to expect nothing but rain for the next several days.  So.  I ask again, where is winter?

* * * * * * * *

Time for me to take down the fall through Thanksgiving decorations and pull out all the boxes relating to Christmas.  That's on my schedule for tomorrow.  We frequently put up our Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving, but this year it doesn't seem like that time can be here already.

I haven't had a bathroom rug for in front of the sink that coordinated with my holiday themed shower curtain so I picked out some Aunt Lydia's Rug Yarn I purchased on eBay (it's no longer manufactured) and just this morning finished putting the fringe on the ends of it.

It measures 23" x 33" excluding fringe, made to fit in the particular area where we'll use it.

I think I did a purdy darn good job of choosing rug yarn that matches the fabrics in the shower curtain.

* * * * * * * *

Now, if I could just find my magic wand, walk through the house twirling it over my head, and have the old decorations down and put away and all the holiday ones in place.  Whoopee!  Ha, if only.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Snow, Everyday Stuff and the Start of Another Holiday Season

We're getting up and going this morning to a temp of 32° and snow coming down heavily.  Forecast is for wet snow all day . . . which is not good news for travelers in the area.  We have friends who are leaving this morning for a long drive to Iowa to spend the holiday weekend with family.  It's the busiest traveling time of the year, it's said, so we're sending good wishes for safe travels for everyone traversing roads to be with family and friends.  We will be staying snug and cozy here at home.

For many years when we were still living in Illinois, we would leave Wednesday night after Papa Pea got done with his work day, and drive all night to get up here to northern Minnesota.  This was a time before we purchased property in the area, so would stay with a bachelor friend who had a resort on an inland lake.  I would spend two or three days at home before we left preparing a full turkey, sometimes goose, dinner with all the trimmings which we brought along for the Thanksgiving meal.  (Gak, what a whole lot of work that was!)

I leave my fall decorations in our window boxes until they are replaced with the Christmas/New Year ones after this coming weekend.  After our first blowsy snow last Friday, they were totally encrusted in ice and snow.  In this picture taken yesterday, you can still see a smidge bit of crusty snow on the sides of the pumpkins.  Now with this new snow today, I may have to chisel them out when I want to redecorate in a couple of days! 

Although the tall, tall asparagus ferns had lost their vibrant green color and turned yellow, they were still standing upright . . . until this wet snow this morning.  Actually, I had hoped the snows would bend the ferns over on the patch to act as a natural mulch/insulation for the roots in the soil.  Mission accomplished, I'd say.

Our driveway is currently a skating rink in certain parts which makes for some exciting turns driving out on the slight downhill.  Coming back in can be exciting, too, because one has to keep up a certain amount of speed to get up the incline . . . without ending up sideways in the woods.  All part of the fun and challenge of winter time in the north woods.

Yesterday afternoon Papa Pea and I unloaded thirty-five fifty pound bags of feed from our flatbed trailer to get them under cover.  (That would be 1,750 pounds if anyone's counting.)  We order our organic feed from a company about 200 miles from here and it's delivered by Fed Ex.  Usually they bring it on a truck that can get in and out of our place with no problem, but this time the driver had a semi and called to ask if we could meet him out on the highway.  Papa Pea did so where the driver loaded the whole pallet of feed onto our trailer which then was driven in.  Hubby and I formed our own little chain brigade and got all the bags safely stored inside in preparation of the wet weather today.  (Does moving 1,750 pounds of feed count as weight bearing exercise?)  Now they just need to be moved another 15 or so feet into the feed room.

Well, our oatmeal is ready for breakfast.  Would you like homegrown blueberries on yours?  Make mine with some sliced banana, too, please.  Then I'll be doing what make-ahead preparations I can for our Thanksgiving meal tomorrow.  And I may even get out the ol' vac and chase some dust bunnies around.  Couldn't hurt.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Moving Poultry Fencing

We remembered today that we needed to move the north line of poultry yard fencing which runs along part of our driveway.  The overnight low temperature was 14° so at first we wondered if we could 1) still get the fencing out of the ground, and 2) get it back into the ground in the new position.

The summer time placement of that particular stretch of fence in question is too close to the driveway so that when we plow snow in the winter, the snow thrown against the fence would eventually break it down.

Turns out we were in luck as the ground hadn't frozen hard enough so there was no problem even though we were a little slow on the uptake of getting the job done.

Here Papa Pea is taking out an old section while some of the new is already in place on the right farther away from the driveway, closer to the pond.

In this picture I was fairly close to the edge of the pond and commented I was going to be really mad if I slipped onto the ice.  Papa Pea said I was going to be wet, too, as the ice wasn't thick enough to hold me.

Making good progress.

A group of supervisors on the bank watching our progress.  There are six of them.  Can you spot them?

All done and ready for more snow.  The fence isn't electrified in the winter because the snow level on the ground shorts it out.  So technically it doesn't do a great deal to deter animals that might try to get in (bobcats, pine martens, foxes, coyotes, wolves, etc.), but it does contain the birds should they put on snow shoes or X-country skis and venture out that far.

Last but not least, two of our older Muscovy ducks just hangin' out in the weeds.  And maybe hoping the ice on the pond will melt again?