Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Still Functioning and Nowhere Near Frozen

Our low temps over night are still dipping down to around 20 or 25 below.  The winds did abate a bit today.  No loss of power that we've heard of.  But still, the wind chill forecast is for 49 degrees below zero at this time.

Schools will be closed for the third day in a row tomorrow.  Some businesses in town are still open, others are closed.  There was no mail delivery in the whole state of Minnesota today.  It's not only the northern part of our state that has dangerously cold conditions.  And other parts of the Midwest have been hit, too.

Chicken Mama has come down with a bona fide case of influenza.  Fortunately, she's not far from us so we're keeping her firewood supply handy (rather than her hauling it in herself) along with other necessities.  My job has been to convince her she cannot rush into getting up and back to work or the results will be bad.  The doctor told her as long as her lungs stay clear, she should be okay.  But for others in the community, he's seen this flu go into pneumonia.  Some have even landed in the hospital.  So far, she's being good, but I have rope and I'm not afraid to tie her down.

Papa Pea is taking good care of everything outside around here.  I haven't been out since last Monday morning.  He's currently known as the man in black.  (Move over, Johnny Cash.)  With his black super-insulated coveralls, black ear flap hat, black face mask and black mitts all in place he says he's comfortable when outside.  He's also been wearing goggles (black rimmed) to protect his eyes when the wind is howling.  Such a stylish figure he does cut.

Unfortunately, I listened to that wind from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. this morning.  Out on the couch so as not to wake my bed partner.  When hubby got up at 6, I crawled back into bed thinking I still wouldn't be able to sleep.  Woke up at 9 a.m. so I think I gained back those hours lost in the night.

All in all, we're surviving without any difficulty.  We're warm and eating good.  Meat loaf, scalloped potatoes, green beans, and fruit salad for dinner tonight.  Cherry Cottage Pudding for dessert.  All is well.

Sending out wishes for warmth and safety for all of you.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

I know some of you have it colder than we do, and also many of you have it warmer (!), but I wanted to report our thermometer reading first thing this morning was 25.2 degrees (Fahrenheit) below zero.  So far, no wind and isn't that a blessing!

A very frigid week ahead is forecast for us.  As Papa Pea said this morning, "Maybe some of those terrible ticks will actually be killed off this year."  If only.  The reason given for the influx of ticks in our area has been attributed to our recent too-warm winters that have enabled them to "hibernate" and thrive when they were never able to do so in years past.

Worry thee not about us.  We're staying warm and cozy (well, maybe except for necessary short forays out into the elements) and the poultry seems to be surviving without any real problems.  I do wonder how the local wildlife manages to keep functioning during these times though.

Now I'm going to go turn on the oven to preheat while I put together a couple of pies as dessert for hungry folk who will be around our table tonight.  Cooking and baking this time of year certainly is different than in the summer when I hesitate turning on the oven for anything!

P.S.  Papa Pea came in from morning chores a short while ago to excitedly say he had just experienced having a very large, healthy-looking, timber wolf come within 20 feet of him!  Mr. Wolf was loping along, seeming to have an important destination in mind this frosty morning, when he looked up to see a heavily clad human standing nearby at which point he (the wolf, not the human) veered off toward our back wood working area and then up into the dense woods.  What a sight! 

P.P.S.  Chicken Mama just stopped by and her dad showed her the wolf prints.  Since she suggested I take a picture to add to this blog post and she was dressed for outdoors, I coerced her into going out to take the picture.

They are a good 4-1/2 to 5" long.  The above picture doesn't do the size justice.  Take out a ruler and look at how big that actually is.  He was a big one!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Random Thoughts

I finished another pair of socks for my big-footed husband early this week.  But they've been worn already so I shan't pull them out of the dirty clothes basket to show you.  I'll remember to take a picture of them alongside the current pair on my needles when I finish them.  That will then be pair #5 and #6 for him.

Papa Pea made his usual batch of kefir earlier this week and I made mine of yogurt.  I've had a small yogurt maker (makes one quart) for several years now and it is so easy and turns out a wonderful batch of yogurt with so little effort on my part each and every time.  To think of all the hassle and disappointment I went through for years trying to correctly incubate a jar of yogurt wrapped in towels inside a styrofoam container placed on top of the refrigerator.  Ah yes, the right tool for the job makes ALL the difference!

We had 30-45 mph gusts of wind all day yesterday.  Looking outside presented a picture of a virtual white-out for most of the day.  My dear, dear husband did everything that needed doing outside while I luxuriated in the warmth and comfort of staying inside.  I think I'll keep him around.

This morning we have a temp of -15F and estimated wind chills today of 25-45 degrees below zero.  High today of 0 to 8 degrees above.

Both of us have commented often that with the changing of the seasons here in northern Minnesota, it's like living in a totally different world.

This is the scene out our window in mid-summer of a random year.

And this was taken a few years ago on our neighbors' deck when we were watching their house for them when they were gone.  The date of this picture?  April 1st.  So, yes, you may assume we have a lot of winter left this year.

I spent a few hours yesterday plowing through piles and files in and on my desk organizing and getting rid of (yay!) much unneeded paper.  I still have the far end of our long kitchen table covered with more to go through today.  Feels good to do so though.

Next inside/winter job to tackle?  I've read there is an old Chinese custom that the Chinese New Year (occurring around the end of January and beginning of February) is the time to do a thorough cleaning of your kitchen.

Look out cluttered and (slightly) dirty shelves and drawers.  I've got soap and water and I'm not afraid to use it!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Lamps and Other Miscellaneous Tidbits

Late last winter we acquired two beautiful old kerosene lamps from eBay.  

We've been using this one for a while now and are very pleased with it.

This one is in wonderful shape, too, but doesn't have a shade.  My most able researcher husband is in the process of trying to find a shade holder and shade to fit it.  We're not currently using it until then because I don't seem to have enough self-control (sense?) and when it's lit, my eyes keep gravitating right to the flame which I'm convinced will probably blind me.

* * * * * * * * *

I sat down last Friday and sorted through my garden seeds to see which ones I needed to order more of.  There were actually very few.  Smallest seed order I've had in a long time.  I have really good luck keeping seeds viable for more years than suggested, and I always make sure we have an ample supply of everything I grow, both vegetables and flowers.

* * * * * * * * * *

A good friend of our daughter's received a set of my quilted pot holders about three years ago and recently asked if I would make her some new ones.  Glad to do it!

Her kitchen is done in blues so I used some of the left over fabric from the "winter" table runner I made recently.  (Shown in the lamp picture directly above.)

 Love this winter landscape scene used as a mid-tone.

* * * * * * * * * *

Taking a peek outside this morning, I see we have about an inch of new snow on the ground.  Forecast was for 5-8" starting during the night and going into today.  Snow's is still coming down, but I won't be too disappointed if it turns out we don't have to shovel and plow today!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday Meanderings

We aren't having the heavy snow followed by freezing rain (baaaad!) that some of you are experiencing today, but our early morning temperature got down mighty close to 20 below.  That's cold.

As I was comfy warm in the kitchen getting an apple pie together to put in the oven, Papa Pea was outside doing morning chores.  Coming in he remarked that one almost needed goggles to protect the eyeballs from the biting cold.  It's truly necessary to be careful when being outside in these temperatures.

We went down into the root cellar yesterday to retrieve more apples to fill my container I keep on the floor of the pantry as a supply for baking or eating out of hand.  It was time to sort through the apples anyway, and we found very few with developing bad spots.  Good for us, bad for the chickens who love to get the sorted out apples and peck right through them lickity-split.

Speaking of our dear chickens, they are finally seeming to come out of their winter rest period and molt.  Finally.  I've been rationing the eggs I've had stock piled plus the few we've gotten these past several weeks.  We debate each year about putting a light in the chicken house to possibly encourage more egg production during this darkest time of the year, but always come back to the more natural way of keeping the chickens . . . letting them have that natural rest period.  We've had good luck keeping older hens laying through their third and even fourth years so maybe in the long run letting them take time off pays off.

All in the root cellar is keeping very well:  potatoes, carrots, cabbages and the apples.  Between food in the cellar and pantry and freezers, don't I love to go grocery shopping right here at home!

Besides the apples, we also brought up more potatoes as Papa Pea has lately had a real hankering for them.  (The man says he needs fuel this time of year!)

And that's fine with me as the cook because it's just the right time of year for tasty oven meals such as I've been making.

Casseroles like these scalloped potatoes made with ham chunks mixed in are well-received on a cold day in January.  A dish this size provides us with several meals with different side dishes for both our morning and evening time around the table.

My mind is fighting between spending the day industriously baking and cooking in the warm kitchen or snuggled on the couch in front of the fire knitting and/or reading.  What a dilemma, eh?

For those of you shoveling and plowing and roof raking and moving snow, pace yourselves by going in frequently for rest breaks.  And enjoy the beauty of the snowfall!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Breakfast . . . On Old Dishes

Nobody can say we don't eat well around here.

We still have an abundance of fresh frozen veggies from last year's garden in the freezer and carrots, potatoes and cabbage in the root cellar so I frequently make one variety or another for our first (breakfast, kinda/sorta) meal of the day.  (By the by, we're still happy with and staying on the two-meal-a-day routine we established a couple of months ago.  Admittedly, we fell off the wagon a few times during the holidays [with a heavy thud], but neither of us felt as good when we did.  Coulda been the influx of sugar during the holidays, but we won't talk about that just now.  Ahem.)

The broccoli may not taste quite the same as it would fresh out of the garden, but it's still mighty good and the wonderful retained green color makes it all the more appetizing.

To prepare our egg/protein part of the meal, I melt a little butter or coconut oil in a skillet, add pre-cooked bacon bits I keep in the freezer and warm them up well.  Then I crack eggs on top, turn once and service on a piece of bread, homemade rye this morning.

Papa Pea's contribution to our morning meal is a small dish of homemade kefir/yogurt with a drizzle of haskap berry syrup.  Gotta get those probiotics into our system each day.

Looking at our Franciscan, Apple pattern, dishes reminds me of when my mom and dad used to make the trek up from Illinois to visit us.  Dad always grumbled about eating off these dishes because he said he frequently tried to eat the painted apples on the border.

I've mentioned it before . . . I've had these dishes since 1964 and it feels as though they've become an integral part of our lives.

Once, a few years ago, I thought I was tired of them so my brother-in-law, who manufactured dinnerware in his ceramics factory, sent me a set of all-white Bauer dishes which I used for a couple of years.

Eventually I realized I missed my Franciscan Ware and brought them back up from the basement where they had been packed away and stored.  Some old things can't be replaced, I guess.  I sure hope so 'cause there are a lot of "old" things around here.  Don't get me wrong; old is not necessarily bad or inferior, but rather loved, revered, valued and in the case of some folks, full of wisdom.  Right?  RIGHT??

Monday, January 14, 2019

More Catch-Up From My Blogging Hiatus

On the 21st of December we hiked the trail loop on the backside of our property that goes up to the high ridge and back.  We hadn't been on this trail since around about the first of December at which time we noticed that (uh-oh!) we had a lot of blowdown of trees that were blocking the trail.

So that day we took chainsaw and pickaroon and headed out to see what we could do as a clean-up effort before the trail was covered with deep snow.

As you can see by this spot that is open to sunlight, much of the piddly amount of snow we had gotten up to that time was melted.  Only four days until Christmas and our thoughts that day were that it didn't look like we were going to have a white Christmas.

Keeping the trail open through the woods is a constant challenge.  All the more so with the high, damaging winds we had had this past summer.  The maintenance of the trail is best done in the fall after the leaves are off the trees, but on the 21st with the little amount of snowfall left on the ground it wasn't difficult.

The ridge at the top of the loop is free of nearby trees, but this good-sized poplar from the ravine on one side managed to fall across the path.

It was a glorious day and we got our quota of exercise and fresh air.  And it turned out to be providential we went when we did because right after Christmas we got our first heavy snow which quickly put the kabosh on any more trail work until spring time.  We accomplished enough, though, that we can easily snowshoe or snowmobile the trail . . . if no more big trees decide to fall in an inconvenient (to us!) spot.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Bits of Handwork

I spent some time in the weeks before Christmas happily creating some cross-stitch ornaments that I was thinking of hanging on our tree.  Turns out when I finished a couple of them, I felt they were too big for our little tree and ended up hanging them on various drawer pulls and knobs around the house.

This was the first I made and really liked the clean simplicity of it.

I think this is meant to be a basket of Christmas greenery with red flower accents.  (Or a Christmas tree in a basket?)  The pattern was harder to do than it looks.

Not happy the way this Santa turned out.  His white beard doesn't show up well at all on the beige Aida cloth I used.  When I shared a picture of it with a friend, she wisely suggested outlining the beard would make it show up.  Yep, that's what I should have done.  (You can tell I'm not an expert cross-stitcher.)  Too late, though, as I had it already put together with a light batting, fabric on the backside and binding.

The cross-stitching on this one wasn't completed when I snapped the picture.  Outlining still needed to be done.  (The pattern did call for outlining so I knew to do it.)

I also did one for my daughter that I put in her Christmas stocking.  (The tree kinda looks as though it should be in a Dr. Seuss book, doesn't it?)  When I first looked through my cross-stitching books for patterns, I saw that this particular pattern had a note on it saying she liked the design.  The note was from twenty-two years ago.  (I may be slow, but eventually I deliver!) 

Mama Brag Time:  Each year our daughter makes Advent Calendars to give as gifts to many on her list.

We're the lucky recipients of one of them and ours goes on the refrigerator door where, most days, we remember to open a little door to see what is hidden behind.  I know the kids in the families that she gives them to really enjoy them as do the adults.  She even chooses specific pictures to use for each individual calendar.  And hand cuts all those little door flaps.  I think this year she made eleven Advent Calendars. 

That's all the holiday-ish crafting I did this year.  However, as I was sitting using my needle and threads, I had a lot of thinking time and sure did get a lot of ideas for next year!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Know Anybody This Would Fit?

Look what came in the mail as a surprise gift before Christmas!  It came from that wonderful, whacky gal out in New York who writes a wonderful blog that keeps us all entertained.  She asked if I would post a picture because she forgot to take one before sending it.  (Ooops, I hate it when I do that.)

The cutest knit red union suit you ever saw.

And check out the reverse side with the "back door!"

I put it up right away as part of the holiday decorations on the pegs of the drying rack in our bathroom.

It's too cute to be packed away with the Christmas stuff.  I think it's very appropriate to have a special spot on the rack all winter long.

Thanks, Sweezie, you clever girl!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Mother Nature Did It Again

There's no doubt those of us living in northern Minnesota expect snow in the winter time, but this is crazy.  To get two heavy dumpings of wet snow because Mother Nature decided the thermostat should be set right at or just above freezing?  Not nice, Mother Nature.

Last night we got our second "warm" snow of the season.  The temperature hovered right around 32 degrees so the snow fell in just about the wettest state it could possibly be.

Today the temp is at 34 degrees and it's been drizzling since about 7 a.m.  After being out clearing paths and doing a LOT of shoveling for about two hours, not only was my down chore jacket soaked, but the falling moisture had gone right through to my sweatshirt and turtleneck which I had to strip off and put in the dryer when I came in.

Above is Papa Pea shoveling the path to the bird feeder.  He and our good neighbor to the east conferred and decided it wouldn't be wise to plow the driveways until the rain stops and the temperature drops.  Clearing off the snow now will allow the falling moisture to form glaze ice on any plowed surface when the temp does drop.  Of course, there's the chance that when the super-saturated snow freezes, it will be like trying to plow wet cement.  Six of one, half a dozen of another.

This afternoon Papa Pea will make a pass or two up and down our driveway with the tractor so if we had to drive out, we could do so.  Good neighbor D (we plow his driveway, too) will do the same on his driveway with his ASV.

I sure hope this is the last time this winter we get such unusual conditions.  No fun (are you listening, Mother Nature?), I say no fun shoveling snow when you toss a shovelful away . . . and it all sticks to the shovel!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Christmas Crafty

During my December month's hiatus from the blog world, I spent some time making some cross-stitched ornaments I was thinking of hanging on our Christmas tree.  (More on that in a future post.)

Another little thing I did was to make a pomander ball.  It was something I've thought about doing for several years and finally got around to it this year.

I had actually thought of making a few of them as gifts.  However, I now know and can positively say that won't be happening.  What a lot of work!  And how hard on the fingers pushing those whole cloves into the orange even after making preliminary holes through the skin with a nail.

I had truly envisioned totally covering this first experimental pomander ball with cloves but it didn't take me long to decide not to pursue that idea. The Internet shows all kinds of designs one can make with the cloves but I stuck with straight (sort of) lines from one end to the other.

One set of directions I found (after I had made mine) said that after putting cloves in the orange, you should roll it in a mixture of equal parts orris root, ground cinnamon and allspice, then wrap in tissue paper and store in a dark place for four weeks.  (Oops, guess I was a little late for that.)

After four weeks, the article said, shake off any surplus powder and tie a pretty ribbon around the orange.

Another oops.  Again, I read this after I had rolled mine in pumpkin pie spice which is a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves.  I shook off the excess ground spices, tied a ribbon around it and hung it in a doorway.  Supposedly, if you followed the directions (which I obviously failed to do), the pomander ball would emit it's nostalgic fragrance for months, even years.  Mine has a nice fragrance but only if your nose gets up close and personal with it.

Also, the pumpkin pie spice so coated the orange skin that my ball has a muddy brown color, not an attractive orange.

Here's another picture of it after hanging in the doorway for a week.  (Why does it remind me of a shrunken head?)

All in all, this experiment would have turned out much better if I had taken the time to research making a pomander ball before diving in rather blindly.

Here's my pomander ball attempt with the readjusted ribbon.  Slightly attractive or just plan ugly, I'm glad I finally took the time to give it a try.  Rest assured, I won't be giving Ms. Stewart any competition . . . or doing it again soon.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

And Now for a Little Ketchup

Forgive me, that's an old, and really bad play on words.

What's our weather been like so far this winter?  Did we have a white Christmas?  (Come on now, I know you're just dying to know.)

We did get a fresh light cover of snow before Christmas which made everything look bright and white.

On Thursday, the 27th of December, a couple of days after Christmas we got our first real winter snow.  It started about 5 a.m., nearly seven hours later than had been predicted.  (At least everyone had ample time to prepare.)

It snowed all day with more forecast until noon the following day.

 The first of the heavy snow.
All during the snowfall, the temperature was an unbelievable 34 degrees.  (Thirty-four degrees and snowing heavily?  We've seen rain before at 32 degrees!)  The snow couldn't have been wetter . . . or more beautiful as it coated simply everything outside with about a foot of heavy, wet snow.  Tree branches (and small trees themselves) were bent down over our driveway to the extent that it was actually difficult to drive through.

At times, the snow felt almost like rain falling which is understandable at that temperature.  We went out two times during the day to plow and clear.  My down work jacket was soaked each time.  Above it's hanging in the heated workshop part of the garage to dry between shoveling periods.

The snow was heavy to the max and Papa Pea's plowing was not easy.  (Nor the shoveling!)  Great piles built up in front of the plow and made it slow going.

Above he's fine tuning the back parking area and ready to come in for a cup of coffee and rest period.  Those of you who have run a snow plow know that it saps one heckuva lot more energy than you would think it should.  It feels as if you've done half the plow's work yourself.

Then the following night when the snow stopped, the temp plummeted down to the teens and all of the terribly wet, heavy snow froze into blocks of ice.

We made the mistake of not going out once more to shovel and plow right before dark that previous night when it was still snowing.  The morning of the 28th in trying to clean off vehicles, poultry pens, trailers, paths, etc. we found all to be covered with several more inches of frozen snow with about 2" of ice underneath.  It was close to impossible to clean off.  And today, January 3rd, that 2" of ice is still prevalent with even more snow on top of it.  I'm thinking that ice may be preserved until spring!

Following all that snow, we were able to stay snug and secure at home but our daughter had to go out for work the days following and got stuck a couple of times and it couldn't be helped because she's an excellent driver.  (She takes after her dad in that respect, certainly not me.)

Papa Pea did an excellent job with the plow truck but has also been using the bucket of the tractor to move some of the big piles of snow.  (Above is the Black-Clad Snowman coming in from tractor work on the day the temp dropped.

So that's the weather update.  No significant amounts of snow after the 28th, but more is possible this coming weekend.

Next post I'll get together a little update on what I've been doing handwork-wise.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

It's A New Year!

If "Every day is a fresh beginning," quote attributed to the writer Susan Coolidge, I believe, the first month of the year certainly is, too.  Big time!

Here we are at the start of a New Year, and I'm back in the blogging world again.

As I recently wrote to my friend Susan, the break from all things bloggy for the past month has been good.  I felt a freedom of not having to keep up with it all every day, and yet there was that feeling of being left out or alienated or separated from all the great information, uplifting thoughts, feelings of belonging to a group of kindred spirits, etc.  It probably doesn't make much sense to say it was freeing not to blog and/or read and comment on others' blogs, while at the same time missing doing so.  

Although a hard pill to swallow, I've come to realize making changes in my life that will afford me as much leisure time as I desire isn't proving to be easy.  (Hunh, 'magine that.)

Holing up in my quilt room takes time away from my every day homemaking and routine life on our little homestead which remains very important to me and, of course, is something I enjoy and which does bring me a measure of contentment and satisfaction.

What I have to face is that I want to do too much.  I have too many things that interest me.

A goal for this month of January is to avoid slipping back into the all-work-and-no-play day after day routine.  I'm continuing to work on it all.  I'm a work in progress.

I copied the following from a blog post one of my favorite bloggers, Rosemary Beck of Content in a Cottage, wrote back in 2012.  She said: 

January is my absolute favorite month
of the whole year.  The holidays are behind me
and there is nothing pressing before me.
Perfect for nesting and doing
self-indulgent things like
watching movies, reading books,
knitting, sprucing up my blog,
or anything fun.

So, hooray for Rosemary's inspiring thoughts so well put, hooray for this first month of the year, hooray for new beginnings or for continuing on the path of discovering new ways of structuring each day's hours, and . . . welcome January!