Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Today in Pictures

Before dawn, everything was blue.  We got about three inches of snow between five p.m. and seven a.m, when these pictures were taken.


The snow plow had been out on the major road (the "milk route"), but not my road yet when I left to go feed at the horse farm.  But that was fine with me, and the other neighbors who have four wheel drive.  Just follow the tracks and keep it between the ditches.  :0)

A surprise awaited me in the horse barn.  This guy had apparently taken shelter from the storm, and was totally surprised to see me walk in the barn at dawn.  He ran down the barn aisle, to the other end, where he discovered he couldn't get out under that door.  So he climbed the wall and tried to hide up by the rafters in the ceiling.


If I were at home, I would have gotten out the .22, or at least the live trap.  But, I wasn't, and the rules are a little different at the horse farm.  So, when I was done feeding I just left the barn door cracked open and let him go.

Back at home, the air was warming up, and the snow evaporating.  A fog was forming over the field.

And my foot was hurting.  The one that got tromped on yesterday by one of my horses.  It's got some interesting bruises on it today.  Sorry for the ugly foot picture, but I wanted to show off the bruising on my next to smallest toe. It's actually a much deeper purple than what the camera captured, and goes between my toes too.  There is also a bruise on the side of my foot, which doesn't really hurt.  At least, not as much as the toe does.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Good Thing I Ran This Morning. . .

A storm is due to blow in today, starting as rain and ending as up to six inches of snow by dawn tomorrow.  Since yesterday was beautiful, in the forties, and melted all the remaining snow off the edges of the road, I decided to go for a run this morning.  The temperature was in the mid-twenties,  there was hardly any wind, and I did a full three miles for the first time since early December.  I felt great!

Then, I went to the horse farm to do turnouts (and bring them in again before the rain hit, predicted for around noon), and clean stalls.  I hadn't been there ten minutes when one of the horses (mine, of course) shied at a dark spot near where he was walking, and clipped the outer edge of my right foot.

Gosh dang it!  That doesn't happen to me too often anymore, but today it did.  He got me.  Unfortunately, as he was connecting with the toe of my boot, I was lifting my foot to take another step. In a split second, his hoof was on my foot, my foot moved, my boot stayed under his hoof, and I found myself standing with one boot on and one boot off, trying to keep my unshod foot away from his!

Retrieving a rubber boot from underneath a horse while trying to balance on just one foot is not an easy, nor a fun thing to do.  Especially while said horse is giving the dark spot on the ground the hairy eyeball and trying to climb into my coat pocket.  And my sock is flapping half off my foot, in the wind that had definitely escalated since my run an hour earlier.

Sock pulled tight, boot safely retrieved and back on my foot, and horse put in the paddock he belongs in for turnout, I was feeling gimpy.  But I had work to do, a couple hours worth, and it was  getting chillier by the minute.  So I decided to put my ouchie toe out of my mind until later, when I got back home.  It's not like a doctor could do anything for it anyway; I'd been here before in my 28+ years of working with horses.  Unless the toe was cut off (which I knew it wasn't, because if it had been, my sock would be wet with blood by now, and it definitely was still dry), a doctor would only say "take some ibuprofen, ice it, tape it to the next toe for support, and try to stay off it."  Ha.  Stay off it.  Not in this lifetime, with this lifestyle.  I'd had dislocated toes, I'd had broken toes, and I'd had a toenail nearly completely ripped off my big toe before--all by my beloved horses, of course--so I knew the drill.  Which translates to:  gut it up, get the work done, take some painkillers, and hobble around for the next two days to two months, depending on whether it's just bruised or truly broken.

Back at home, I finally took my boot off and examined my toe, which hurt like he---  Well, let's keep this G-rated and say it hurt a lot.  No blood, just like I'd thought.  Toenail still in it's proper location and proper coloring.  Toe not swollen, but there is a big purple ring around the middle of it.  Hmmm.  No swelling.  Not much bending.  Big purple spot.  Yeah, this might be a broken one.

Guess I won't be running for a while.  Good thing we're supposed to get too much snow for me to even consider taking off down the road in my running shoes for the next several days.  Got to rest this toe and all. . .

Friday, February 22, 2013

Snowy Day; Planning for Summer

We had a very snowy morning at this little place here.  Sometime around 6 a.m., it began to snow, and continued to snow heavily for a few hours.  There is currently about two inches of snow on the ground where, when today began, there was none.

This morning, I waded through snow, shoveled snow, drove through snow (wow, were the roads slick!), turned horses and chickens out into snow, and knocked snow off the firewood in order to stoke the wood boiler.

This afternoon, I am thinking about summer.  Specifically about my garden.  More specifically, about what varieties and amounts of vegetables to plant in my garden.  What to grow for our own needs, and what to grow to sell this summer at the farmers' market.

I'm inventorying the seeds I have left from last year.  I'm doing calculations.  I'm browsing the websites of my favorite seed suppliers.  I'm trying a new one; new to me, but very reputable from what I've heard.  It's actually been in business longer than my parents have been alive, just not on the national scale that it is now.

So far, I have ordered tomato plants, onion plants (roughly 200 onions; I hope that will be enough),  and seed  for sweet corn, field corn (for the chickens), and pumpkins.  Still need to determine where some of my other seed is going to come from--I have enough potatoes in the cellar that I could just use my own seed potatoes this year.  That is, if I don't want to add another variety to my growing list.  (Ha ha, "growing list".  It's a pun; get it?  List of things I grow/increasing tally of what I want to plant.  Yes, you may groan now.)

I'm thinking of adding some bush beans to my list.  I always grow pole beans, as there is an heirloom variety of those that is my favorite for canning.  They are the same kind as my grandmother grew and canned.  However, bush beans seem to come in a little quicker, and would be ready for market sooner.  So, perhaps I should grow some of those also.  I'm all ready planning to at least double my corn patch, so why not double the beans too?  And the peas.  And the potatoes.  And the cucumbers. . .

I have the blessing of not having space constraints.  I could easily increase my garden by two acres, if I wanted to.

I do want to, if only I could figure out where the man power to keep that extra two acres weeded, mulched, and watered is going to come from.

I need an apprentice.  My best 'workers' have grown up and moved away from home, leaving me with the less enthusiastic ones who would rather get summer jobs in town waiting tables.  They'd rather get sunburned at the beach than in the garden.  They'd rather cover themselves in bug spray in order to hang out with friends as the sun goes down than pick potato bugs or tomato worms.  I agonize over what this world is coming to.  (I hope you know I'm being rather tongue-in-cheek here.  But I do wish my girls were as helpful in the garden as my boys were.)

Anybody want to come be an apprentice?  I can't pay you, but you'd get lots of good food to eat while you're here!  Fresh eggs, fresh lettuce and spinach, asparagus in May, strawberries glowing like rubies in June, inky blackberries in July, tomatoes warm from the sun, sweet corn that goes from the stalk to the cooking pot in just five minutes, venison loin hot and juicy off the grill . . .  MMMM!  Can't wait for summer!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


That is what I made for dinner last night.  It is a childhood favorite, evoking memories of Sunday dinner with my maternal grandparents.

Confused yet, Dear Reader?

When I was little, in the 1970's, my parents, brother and I lived within about twenty miles of both sets of my grandparents.  We saw each set weekly, usually on the weekend, and Sunday dinner was almost always with my maternal grandparents.  Most of the time, we ate at their house, with my grandpa doing the cooking.  I know my grandma did cook, but honestly I don't have any memories of her cooking.  Maybe because her specialty was cabbage rolls, and I really don't like cooked cabbage!

Sometimes, though, they took us out to eat at Bill Knapps.  The children's menu at Bill Knapps featured pictures of animals, with each animal being a different entree.  My favorite was Elephant, which was creamed chicken and biscuits.  It was pretty much chicken pot pie filling served over a biscuit that had been split in half and laid open on the plate.  Mmmm.

Many years--okay, many decades--later when I learned how to make chicken pot pie from scratch, I remembered eating Elephant with my Grandpa and Grandma.  I decided, one day when I had leftover chicken to make into something for dinner, that I would serve Elephant to my husband and children.  That evening, as the kitchen was smelling good and I was rolling out biscuit dough, DH asked what was for dinner.

I told him "Elephant", and explained what it was.  He looked at me as if I were nuts.  Apparently they didn't have Bill Knapps in the northwoods where he grew up.  He had never heard of such a thing.  And, I guess, he hadn't ever had good creamed chicken and biscuits either, because the curl of his lip didn't look like he was all that enthused about the coming meal.

One bite, however, and he changed his mind (he loves my chicken pot pie).

Now, when I say we're having Elephant for dinner, he cheers.  And the kids enjoy telling their friends at school that we ate Elephant the night before.  They, of course, leave off the explanation of what Elephant really is.  Because it's more fun that way.  :0)

The Elephant Recipe (mine, not the original Bill Knapps)

If you'd like to make Elephant for yourself some night, just take about 2 cups of leftover cooked chicken, deboned and cut in chunks, steam up some peas, carrots, and diced potatoes, and add them to this chicken gravy recipe:

1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp flour
1 3/4 cup chicken broth (can make with 1 tsp bouillon and 1 3/4 cup water if you don't have the real deal on hand)
2/3 cup milk

In a 3 qt sauce pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute for about 2 minutes.  Stir in the flour, salt, and pepper.  Slowly add the chicken broth, stirring so not to form lumps with the flour/butter/onion mixture.  Once the broth is stirred in, add the milk.  Heat to boiling, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir one minute.

Stir in your pre-cooked chicken and veggies.  Turn to low and let sit while you make the biscuits.

2 cup flour
1/4 cup lard (or shortening)
1 Tbsp sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4  cup milk

Put all the dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl.  Cut in the shortening until mixture is crumbly, then stir in the milk.

On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 20-25 times.  Roll out about 1" thick, and cut with a glass, cookie cutter, or biscuit cutter into 2" or 3" rounds.  Put on an ungreased baking sheet and bake in 450 degree oven for 9-11 minutes, or until the biscuits are golden brown on top.

When your biscuits are done, serve one sliced in half on each plate for small children, or two sliced in half per plate for older children and adults.  Scoop the chicken gravy mixture and pour over top of biscuits.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Working on a Mystery

Going where ever it leads. . .   (Tom Petty lyrics running through my head, and now, thanks to me, your head too).

In January, I embarked on my first ever mystery quilt.  If you've never heard of a mystery quilt--prior to December, I hadn't ever heard of one--it's a quilt where you are given directions week by week, you follow the directions, and at the end of a certain time period, you have all the blocks for a quilt, which you are then instructed on how to arrange them to sew into the final product.

I had never done one before, and it sounded like a fun thing to do in the mentally taxing time of winter, when there's nothing going on in the garden and not usually enough snow outside this little place here to do much in the way of entertaining outdoor activities.  Seemed like a great time to tackle a new sewing project, especially one where I had no clue what I would be doing from one week to the next.  Something to combat the winter blahs.

So I signed up.

The first week, all of us participants (who are all members of a particular homesteading forum), were instructed to choose four fabrics: a focal, a background, a primary accent and a secondary accent, and also to choose which size quilt we wanted to make. In order to know how much fabric was needed for each, we were given the needed yardages based on which size of quilt we had picked to make.  I wanted to use just fabrics from my stash, some of which were large scraps of someone else's stash I had picked up a rummage and yard sales through the years (ever frugal, always on the lookout for needful things secondhand or at a discount), so I chose to make the smallest size.

Going through my stash (which takes up one dresser and two 18-gallon totes), I chose a primary colored fabric as my focal, white as the background, a solid blue as the primary, and a kelly green with small red hearts as the secondary.

I initially chose white, because the instructions had the background as a light colored fabric and white was what I had in my stash that was both large enough and light colored, but when I posted the above picture of the fabrics to the group, a few of the participants asked if I had any black and we all agreed black would look better than the white.

So I became the 'rebel' in the group and went with a dark background rather than a light one, LOL.

The second week, we were given cutting instructions, and cut out squares, strips, and rectangles from our fabrics.

The third week, we got to begin sewing, and were given a technique to use in making hourglass squares.  I had never made hourglass squares before, and so learned something new.  I was quite pleased with my new found skill.

The fourth week, we were given another set of blocks to make, this time taking some of the strips and sewing them together, then cutting them into units, which were then sewn together along with some rectangles and small squares.

Week five, our instructions had us making shaded four patch blocks.  Another first for me, and I again thrilled at adding something new to my quilting repertoire.

Week six, the final week of block making, arrived.  I began working on the instructions, and, before I had my first star block--week 6 was all stars--half done, I realized that somewhere a few weeks back I had made a tragic mistake.  I had confused my primary accent fabric and my secondary accent fabric.  For three weeks, I had thought my green was primary, and had sewn the blocks that way.

OH NO!!  I looked back at the blocks, and saw that the week 4 blocks were balanced in primary and secondary, and you really couldn't tell which was which.  So, luckily, those blocks didn't need to be redone.  The week five blocks, though, were totally wrong. And my first star block, also wrong.  Well, darn!  I had to rip out the four blocks of week five and redo them with the correct colored fabric.  And my first star, the one that was partially done, yep, it had to go too.  Talk about frustrating.

Finally on the right track, and with my week five shaded four patches fixed, I made up my week six stars.  I also learned a new technique for making flying geese (the points on the stars) that I hadn't heard of before.  I'm still trying to decide if I like my traditional method of geese making or this new method better.  Either way, you end up with scrap.

For week six, we made four of the stars with the background and primary accent color in the center, and one of the stars with the background and secondary accent color in the center.

Then we were told to play with our blocks, twenty-five total, and see if we could guess what the layout of the mystery quilt was.  We were told it was a square, not a rectangle, but other than that, we were on our own.

Well, I looked and looked, and arranged, and rearranged, and couldn't come up with a single layout I liked and thought was the 'right one'.

On the last day of week six, we were allowed to take pictures of our guesses and post them after two p.m.  It was amazing to see all the different combinations the mystery quilt participants came up with using the same number and patterns of blocks.  Four different layouts were posted within the first three hours of being allowed to guess.

This was my best guess, which I don't feel is all that aesthetically pleasing, but it was the only one I came up with that looked somewhat okay to me.  My daughters loved it, but they are biased and think all my quilting is awesome.  Someday they'll know better ;0)

On the first day of week seven, the hostess of the mystery quilt, who had been giving us all our instructions from the beginning, revealed to us what the mystery quilt was intended to be.  Of course, since we were each making our own quilt for our own use, we had the option of sewing our blocks into her design, our own design, or the design guessed by a fellow participant.

Here are my blocks, arranged in what the real design was.

I definitely like the real design better, it makes the colors pop so much more.  I'm thinking this would make an awesome wall hanging, with maybe just a very thin black border.  Or perhaps no border at all.  Once I have the blocks sewn together, finished size w/out borders is projected to be 40" x 40".

Sunday, February 17, 2013

More Adventures in Knitting

The knitting lessons are going swimmingly.  I am having a blast.  DD1 is chugging right along,  thrilled that she can "actually make something wearable" (and that's a quote).  DD2, well, she's not so wild about it.  She does like to knit, but she's not nearly as addicted to it as I am.  She's pretty happy sticking with large straight needles, knit stitches, and small projects.

DD1 and I, however, have branched out.  Last weekend, we began our first projects on circular needles.  She chose to do a slouchy hat, while I chose to do a watch cap style hat.  I was thinking along the lines of the practical keep-my-head-warm-while-doing-outdoor-chores, whereas DD1 was thinking ooh-I'd-look-cute-in-that.  Must be the difference between being 18 and being 41, LOL.

Her hat began with two inches of ribbing, then a slight increase, and was followed by 8 inches of knit stitches before being decreased in the last 10 rows.

Mine was ribbed for 10 inches, then a dramatic decrease in 8 rows.

Cool.  Nice, easy, rhythmic.  Knit two, purl two, knit two, purl two, for ten inches.  I wonder how long it will take me to finish?  Around and around I go, knitting in the round, knit two, purl two, and when I get to my row marker, move it to the right needle and keep going knit two, purl two.

two days after starting my hat

DH went out of town for business at the end of the week.  Since he was gone and I'd be home alone (both girls had things going on that night) I decided to go to the Friday night knitting club that meets at the yarn shop where I take lessons.  Oh boy, did I have fun!  I met more knitters, saw the projects they were working on, won a door prize (a book of neat wearables to knit), and knitted for two and a half hours straight!

At the end of the night, my hat was 9" done!

The next day was our lesson.  I worked on my hat some more, and when I got the decrease rows down to such a small number of stitches that it was hard to work on the circular needles, where I needed to switch to double pointed needles, the instructor had me join the class on dpns that she was giving in just a few minutes.

So, my hat got finished, and I got a class on using double pointed needles, which is a prerequisite for a class on making socks that will be held next month.  Socks are my goal.  They are the true reason I wanted to learn to knit:  so I can make my own socks.  Warm socks, soft socks, comfy socks, quirky socks.

It was a great day.  And my question got answered:  How long will it take to make a hat?  Apparently, about  eight hours.

DD1 also finished her hat that day, also sitting in on the dpn class and using them to finish her hat.  She's not sure if she ever wants to make socks, but did find the double pointed needles interesting to use.

My finished hat:

lying flat on the table, it looks kind of small

stretched over the end of a jumbo roll of paper towel
you can see it does fit an adult-sized head.

I do have a picture of me wearing it, but to post that would violate my "no identifiable picture of people" policy.  So the paper towel will have to do.  Just add brown hair, brown eyes, and a big proud smile.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Another Sign We're Not "Normal"

I'm going to show you some pictures from Valentines Day at this little place here.  See if you can find the one that doesn't quite belong when you think of love.

Heart Shaped Pizzas


Heart Shaped Angel Food Cake

Tax Forms

Hmmm.  Which of these things is not like the other?

That was my and DH's Valentine's Day evening together.  I made the dessert, I made the Valentine's Day pizzas.  He discovered that the form we've been waiting for the IRS to make available (the one where you claim college tuition) was finally online.  So we ate dinner.  We did our taxes.  We ate cake.

What do taxes have to do with love?  Well, our two college kids can't file their FAFSAs for next year until the IRS has my and DH's 2012 tax return in their system.  The FAFSA has a deadline in March.  DH has several business trips to make between now and the beginning of March.  We want the kids to get as much federal aid as possible, because we love them and want them to have as low of educational loans as possible.  So, with the form finally being available, and with DH actually being home so we could work on it, we made the most of the opportunity.

Perhaps we've been married too long, if the highlight of our Valentine's Day was getting our taxes completed!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I'm a Paczki Scrooge

I don't buy paczkis for Fat Tuesday, or any other day of the year.  I don't make paczkis either.  I do not acknowledge their existence.  Guess I'm a paczki scrooge.

You see, I lived approximately 25 years of my life without ever hearing the term "paczki".  And when I did hear of it, it was on a bakery/grocery store ad.  They were promoted as the gotta have it item, available only one day of the year.  Sounded like commercialism striking again, to me.

Hmmm.  Research. . .  What I found out was that the word is Polish.  And the custom of eating paczkis the day before Ash Wednesday is originally Catholic.

I'm not Polish.  I'm by far, mostly stubborn German, with a bit of stubborn Scots-Irish thrown in, and a sprinkling of Cherokee.  It's hard for me to even pronounce paczki right, and really, I don't care much if I do.  I have no desire to speak Polish.

I'm not Catholic; I'm Lutheran.  To be called Catholic is about the worst insult you can give a devout Lutheran. We do not want to give people the impression we are Catholic.  Oh no, that would be grievous.

So I was suspicious of this paczki on Fat Tuesday thing.  I didn't buy any.  My poor children were deprived, missing out on what most of their friends' mothers bought for them.

A year or two later, I actually ate one.  It was given to me by a friend, who had bought some--now available for a week before Fat Tuesday--and I didn't want to be rude by refusing it.  So I ate it.

It was a dang jelly doughnut.  

I don't know what all the hoopla is about paczkis and get them now while you can, because the thing I ate was most definitely a jelly doughnut, and jelly doughnuts are available year round.  Maybe real paczkis aren't, but the 'paczkis' in the stores around me are just jelly doughnuts with a sticker on the label that says 'paczki'.

This year, paczkis have been available for three entire weeks.  Three whole weeks of jelly doughnuts masquerading as something special and sacred.  I'll be darned if I spend money on that!

Besides, I don't even care for jelly doughnuts.  If I'm going to eat a doughnut, it's going to be a long john, with custard filling and chocolate on top.  Otherwise, I'll quite willingly abstain from doughnut eating.

So, my kids are still deprived of paczkis.  All because their mother is a paczki scrooge.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Room of My Own.

I finally have a room to call my own.  For many years, I've had to share my space. Ever since DS1 came along and I shared my bedroom at my parents' house with him (he was born 5 months after I graduated high school).  He's 23 now.

Being an introvert by nature, a space of my own, where I can get away by myself and not have to deal with people, is something I've craved.  Not that I don't love and (mostly) enjoy my kids and my husband, because I wouldn't trade any of them for the world, but there has always been this little part of me that missed having a private spot.  Something I didn't have to share if I didn't want to.

Almost 20 years ago, when DH, DS1, DS2 and I moved into an old farmhouse with an accessible attic, I thought I had that space.  Nope.  Didn't work out that way.  We ended up only living in that house for three months before we moved to a smaller, newer, house that would actually be affordable to heat through the winter.  And in that three months, I was so busy with a preschooler and an infant, plus learning my way around a new area, that I never got to set up that attic as my space.

None of the other houses we've lived in had an extra room.  Not with DH's youngest sister living with us for a while after DD1 was born (DD1 shared DH and my bedroom until she was almost a year old).  Not with moving to an even smaller house a few years later (without youngest sister in law!), and then adding DD2 to the family.  Even when we built the house at this little place here, there was no extra room to call my own.  Originally we'd planned to have four bedrooms, but ended up cutting down to three when we found out that the county would require a much larger septic for a four bedroom home (to the tune of 3-5 thousand dollars more expense) than a three bedroom one.  So DH and I decided that the kids would just have to share bedrooms until they got old enough to move out and away!

And so they did.  DS2 got to have his own room for almost four years once DS1 graduated and left for the Marine Corps.  Then DS2 graduated and went off to college far away.  At which time the girls petitioned that one of them be allowed to take over his old room (and repaint--more on that later) so they each could have their own room until moving out.  Since DD1 is only one grade younger than DS2, DH and I told them they would just have to continue sharing for another year. DD1 was planning to go to college out of state after she graduated, and DD2 would have the room to herself then. Besides, DS2 needed somewhere to sleep when he came home on breaks and for the summer.

DS1 finished his active duty time with the Marine Corps last fall, and he changed his legal residence from Michigan to South Carolina.  He definitely won't be needing his old room at this little place here.  DS2 is in his second year of college 500 miles away.  Last summer he did not move back home for the summer break, instead he found two jobs where he was and rented a house with some other college guys.  This coming summer, he will either be working an internship who knows where (most likely not anywhere close enough to this little place here to need his bedroom here) or he will again work where he is and split a house with friends.

The time has finally come for me to have a room of my own!!

For the past couple of days, I've been moving things around, and out, and into, the bedroom that my sons used to share.  It no longer holds beds.  The only dressers are full of fabric and quilt batting.  The desk DS2 used to study at holds my sewing machine.  Next to it stands my grandmother's old sewing machine that was recently inherited.  My ironing board has it's own place where it can stay up all the time, instead of having to be folded and put away after each sewing session, then taken out, unfolded, and set up when needed (which, honestly, made it really hard to grab a quick sewing fix when I found myself with a spare fifteen or twenty minutes).

And my new knitting stuff fits in the room too!

There is still more finalizing of what to put where that needs to be done, but I did take a few pictures this afternoon.

DS2's binders have been removed from his bookshelf,
and my sewing, quilting, crochet, cross stitch and knitting books moved in.

The designated ironing area,
complete with fallout shelter sign.
(It actually belongs to DS2, but I'm leaving it up 
since this room is going to be my refuge.)

a dresser for fabric, not clothes

a sewing machine with a view
(of my garden).

It feels good to finally have a room of my own.  The fact that it's camouflage doesn't bother me.  I painted it that way (at the boys' request) when we built the house.  It took a long time.  It's staying camouflage until DH and I retire and sell the house. Whoever buys it can repaint.

Besides, its probably the only camo fallout shelter sewing room in existence.  Quirky is me.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Beautiful Winter Morning

We had a fog form overnight.  As the sun rose, the fog lifted quickly.  It went from totally to the ground, to hovering about 20 foot off the ground in just fifteen minutes or so.  I grabbed my camera, trying to capture how cool it looked over the marsh and field with the sun coming over the tree tops and shining through the fog.

Within half an hour of those two pictures, the fog was completely gone and the sky blue.  Everything was covered in white crystals.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Yesterday. . . Today

Yesterday, after feeding horses at the horse farm in the morning, I went for a 2.5 mile run, outside.  At 8:30 a.m. it was a decent 25 degrees, light wind from the south, and the road was clear and dry.  I donned my cold gear leggings and a hooded sweatshirt, put on my running shoes and grabbed my mp3 player, and down the road I went.

Today, I woke up to a 5:30 a.m. phone call that the local schools are closed and therefore DD2 does not have to get up and go to school.  In the night, our 'winter storm' they had been advising us would appear shortly after noon yesterday finally showed up.  There was anywhere from 4" to almost a foot of snow on the ground, depending on if it was a windswept spot or a drifted spot.

I had to put the pick-up in four wheel drive to get down my driveway.  The road was a mass of white, with only a few tire tracks on it.  We live on a road that I don't even know if it is considered secondary.  It is two lanes, with a center line, but no white lines on the edges.  Heck, half mile north it doesn't even have the center line painted in.  The cross road half mile north, however, is a main road "it's the milk route" locals told us when we bought this little place here "it always gets plowed".  And it does.  There are several large dairy farms on that road.  I know the milk truck driver.  That road had been plowed and salted, although it still contained a good inch of slush the length and breadth of it.  At the intersection of my road and that road, the snowplow had made a foot high wall of snow I had to blast the pick-up through.  Fish-tailing.  Yeehaw!

Today I spent two hours, after feeding horses in the morning, plowing out the horse farm.  Two driveways, a parking area, two barns, a garage, an indoor riding arena, a sawdust bunker, four turnout areas, and a manure pile.  The wind was from the north, and driving wet snow into my face a good portion of the time.  Then I went home and had hot chocolate.  :0)

I definitely could not even consider going for a run on the road today.  What a difference a day makes.  That's Michigan weather for you.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sap Season is Coming

February is here.  Depending on the weather, sap could start running in the maple trees any time now.  I'm checking the 10-day forecast daily, trying to decide when to head out to the woods with my drill, spiles and accumulated clean empty milk jugs (the frugal syrup-er's sap bucket).  So far, we have a day or two of 'right' weather, followed by a week of too cold weather.  I'm getting antsy.

Last year, the weather was so wacky I didn't tap.  A lot of people in my area didn't.  Since a tap only stays good for about six weeks, you don't want to tap too early and then have the weather be too cold all but the tail end of that time period, as the tree is healing around the spile and cutting off the sap flow.  We had crazy warm weather every other week last winter, so by the time the normal dates of the six week window arrived, the trees were actually budding out and the nights way too warm.  The only people locally I know who got syrup last year tapped in January, which is normally way too early.

My syrup stash from the 2011 season is running low.  I have, maybe, a gallon worth of syrup in pint canning jars left.  Not enough to last through another year.  So I definitely don't want to miss this year's sap run.

I've been washing out and saving milk jugs for weeks now.  My spiles are accounted for, put away on a shelf in the mud room closet back in April 2011.  I still don't have a real sap pan, or a real evaporator, so I may end up boiling off sap in the turkey fryer again, using propane for fuel.  Or, I might end up cobbling together an evaporator out of the dozens of cinder blocks stacked next to the barn, and buying a couple of steam table pans to boil off in.  At least that way I can use 'free' fuel: some of the dead fall DH and I have been cutting up this winter.

Either way, I'm starting to feel the call of the maple trees.  Kind of like how a deer hunter feels as deer season approaches.  I'm ready.  I'm anticipating.  I want it to come; I want to feel the thrill of the "hunt"--okay, the thrill of finding full sap jugs each day.  I want to experience the harvest. I want to taste icy cold sap right from the tree, it's faintly sugary flavor speaking of the mysteries of nature.  I want to stand over the boiling sap pan (or pot), in the sweetly aroma-ed steam.  I want to taste the newly made syrup right from the spoon I stirred the boiling sap with just as it hit the syruping point, the magic temperature of 219 degrees.  I want to see all those beautiful golden and amber colored jars lined up in my cellar at the end of the season, the promise of pancake and french toast and waffle breakfasts to come.

Monday, February 4, 2013

My Plain Jane Knitted Scarf

I started knitting it a week ago in the absence of a new lesson in knitting.  I wanted to have something to work on while I waited to learn a new to me technique at our upcoming lesson.  It wasn't to be anything spectacular, done completely of knit stitches, no ribs, no cables, no filet (cuz I haven't learned that yet).  So I called it my Plain Jane scarf.

I finished it last night, while watching the Super Bowl.   When I got nearly to the end of the skein of yarn I was using, I figured that was a good length for my scarf.  I like the way it turned out.

draped over the back of a dining room chair
(for an idea of length, it hangs about to my waist)

close up of colors 
(and my knit stitches!)

If you want to make a Plain Jane scarf, all I did was buy a skein of soft, fuzzy (acrylic) yarn in a color combo I thought would go well with both my parka and my dressier winter coat, and using a pair of size 9 knitting needles, cast on 20 stitches.  Then I knit row after row after row until I had just enough yarn left to bind off.  Viola!  Plain Jane scarf.