Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sharing Our Space

Every year I have a pair of house finches that nest right outside my dining room window, where the downspout takes a bend.  DH always worries about bird poop on his deck from them, but it never happens.  Instead, while Mrs. Finch sits and broods the eggs, Mr. Finch sits on the deck railing and serenades her.  He sings very sweetly, and I enjoy listening to him.

the downspout, right outside my dining room

the house finch nest

Mr. Finch

For several years, robins have built nests under my back deck.  I don't mind them, either, although they do tend to yell at me every time I go out the basement door for the few weeks that they have babies in the nest.

This year, for the first time ever, I have barn swallows building a nest on the house.  This makes me very happy. DH is, of course, less than enthused.  (Really, a little bird poop is not that big of a deal, especially when you think of how many mosquitoes a swallow eats every day. I'll take a little poop on the deck in exchange for thousands fewer mosquitoes.)

the back of the house
there are actually two bird nests in this picture

Let's zoom in a little, shall we, and find those nests.

look up, toward the soffit

the swallow nest, built on the edge of the sewing room east window

a close-up of the swallow nest as they were building it

 Now for the robin nest.  We'll cut right to the chase.  It sits on top of the beam under the deck, right where a post meets the beam.  The decking (floor boards) make a roof over the nest, keeping it nice and cozy dry.

four little robins peeking over the edge, 
waiting for mom and dad to bring food

robin parent dutifully gathering worms for its hungry young

the next day, only two little robins were in the nest

Mama Robin sat in the tree, coaxing them out

brave baby robin in the grass, 
where it landed after it's first flight from the nest

 To be able to watch this cycle year after year, to be able to hear Mr. Finch sing every morning, to have have fewer bugs to bother me when I want to sit on my deck, I'll gladly share my space with the birds.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I'm a Local!

LOL.  We've owned this little place here for over 11 years.  Moved in almost 10 years ago, right when my eldest son started high school, shortly before the house was really finished.  Yet, we live about six miles from the village, and in a rural area.  No neighborhood committees, no neighborhood barbecues, no neighborhood association. . .  Not many houses, mostly fields.  Our "block" is a square mile and has maybe a dozen homes.  At least that many barns; I think barns outnumber houses.

As far as involvement in the village, I'm not out-goingly social, and DH isn't very extroverted either.  Most of our appearances around the village have been through our childrens' sports and school activities.  I do sub, occasionally, in the middle or high school office.  I also sell at the farmers market in the village during the summer months, but I don't consider myself a well known person.  Certainly not someone who is remembered by the average citizen.

My view has been changed.  And it's all because my pickup wouldn't start while I was at the local propane supplier/gas station/off-road diesel (tractor fuel) place.  The truck had been dragging for a while, reluctant to fire when you first turned the key, and I'd told DH I thought it was getting worse.  But it still had started every time, just not immediately.  Well, this time it didn't start at all.  No click, no grind, no dying battery sounds.  Just nothing when I turned the key.  Full panel of dash lights and the annoying dinger that said I hadn't buckled my seat belt yet (usually do that after it starts, and before shifting into drive).  But no engine noises whatsoever.

Being a not-quite-totally-helpless kind of chick, I popped the hood and looked to see if anything appeared to be amiss.  Nothing did.  So, I went inside the office of the propane/gas/diesel place and asked if anyone could give me a jump.

The owner of the place came out, brought his truck around to face mine, and gave it a whirl.


He checked under the hood too.  He couldn't find anything amiss.  So he looked at me and said "You just live on XYZ Road, right?  Why don't we leave your truck here and I'll run you home."

Small town living is awesome!

On the ride home, we talked about my kids and his kids (my youngest had played t-ball with his youngest a decade ago, the only time boys and girls mixed for summer ball).  We talked about pickup trucks and troubles we've had with them.  We talked about horses (his wife has some too).

After he dropped me off at my house, I suddenly realized, I'm a local!  I didn't have to tell him my name, I didn't have to ask for a ride home, I didn't even have to tell him where I lived.  Because apparently that is all a given.  Which feels pretty cool.  I've lived in other places for the same amount of time or even longer and never been recognized on sight, let alone have someone know exactly where I live.  To have someone offer to take time out of their work day to drop me off six miles away because my truck won't start, well, that's a pretty darn good feeling.

I think I need to drop off a couple dozen cookies or a freshly baked pie at the propane/gas/tractor fuel place later this week.  To say thanks.  Because that's the sort of thing a local does.

(As for the truck, DH diagnosed it later with a bad starter.  So now I have a hammer in the cab, until we can get that starter replaced.  Now when I turn the key and nothing happens, I grab my hammer, get out, crawl under the truck, bang on the starter a few times, get back in, turn the key and the truck starts, and away I drive.  Hopefully we can get that starter replaced this weekend.  I asked DH how difficult a task it was, and he looked at me, recognized the thoughtful expression I held and promptly said "No, I am not teaching you to change a starter."  *sigh*  He knows me too well.  He knows I don't like being the least bit helpless.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

And I Ran. . .

I ran so far away.  And I ran, I ran all night and day.

Well, not really. Not all night, not all day. Just for a portion of the morning.  And I was only about six miles away, in the village.  Not so far away.

You see, yesterday I ran a 5k.  My first ever.  It started about a year ago as a "hmm, I wonder if I could do that" when my weekly "run" went from 1 mile to 2 miles.  When I realized that if I could run two miles, maybe eventually I could work up to three miles,  and that three miles was pretty much the distance of a 5k.

At the time, my "run" was more like different-gait-from-a-walk-but-not-much-faster-than-a-brisk-walk for 3/4 to 1 mile, then break to a walk, panting for another 1/4 mile before changing gears upward again to a 'run' for another 1/3 to 1/2 mile, then walk again before my heart exploded or I passed out. . .

So a 5k was kind of a pipe dream.  Yet, it stuck in my mind and all summer I pushed to gradually go further, gradually go longer before walking.  By the end of the summer, I had done that three miles of run-walk-run-walk-run a few times.  Over the winter I tried to do at least two miles once a week either outside or indoors on the treadmill. It usually ended up being inside with the treadmill, which I find entirely unmotivating.

Early this spring, I went back outside and back to the entire distance, starting with running a whole mile before I broke to a walk.  In April, I ran two whole miles before I had to walk.  Then I ran 2.5 miles before walking.  Then I printed off the form for the local Memorial Day 5k, filled it out, wrote a check for the entry fee, and mailed it in.

And I got serious.  I trained.  Sort of.  I went from going on my 'run' once a week, to running twice a week.  Some weeks I threw in a third 'run', but made it shorter: a brisk 1 mile (done in about 9 minutes), or two miles at a pace faster than what I usually was running my first 2 miles before breaking to a walk.  I set a goal to run all 3.1 miles. No walking allowed. Then I started loosely timing myself when I ran.  I say loosely because it was using the stopwatch setting on my cell phone, starting it just before laying the phone on the bumper of my truck which was parked at the garage, then walking to the end of the driveway, running my 5k distance ending at the driveway, walking back up the driveway, then stopping the stopwatch when I again reached the bumper of the truck at the garage.  My driveway is over 400 feet long, so that beginning warm-up walk and ending cool-down walk added distance and time to the 3.1 miles.  Not extremely accurate, but it gave me a way to gauge how I was doing.

I set another goal.  Not just run all 3.1 miles without having to stop for a walk break, but to run it in  35 minutes or less.

So I showed up for the local 5k yesterday morning.  The sky was overcast. The air was chilly, about 50 degrees, with a light wind.  I was dressed in shorts and a short sleeve shirt, having decided that the 50's was too warm to run in my winter leggings.  I knew I'd be plenty warm enough, sweaty even, while I ran.  It was afterward that I would get chilly.  So I brought pants and a fleece to throw on when I had passed the finish line, stretched, and cooled down.

I checked in, got my number, stretched, warmed up, and then lined up with the 82 other 5k participants.  The race started, I turned on my mp3 player, hit my stride, and I ran.  I ran. I ran.  I ran at the pace I'd practiced for the past three weeks.  I passed some people.  Some people passed me.  I no longer felt the chill of the wind, my body was warm and my legs looked a bit flushed with the blood pumping through them.

At the 1 mile mark, I heard "Nine minutes forty-four seconds" as I ran by.  I passed an old guy.  A little later, he put on a burst of speed and passed me.  He looked to be about seventy, but he apparently wasn't about to let some middle-aged broad beat him.

At the 2 mile mark, I was running a stride behind a different guy, this one roughly the same age bracket as me and not nearly as wiry looking as old guy running  man.  I heard "Twenty-two minutes, fourteen seconds" as I passed the race volunteer calling out our times.

At two and three quarter miles, I could see the finish line up ahead.  The pack of runners had thinned to pretty much single file instead of groups of two or three as it had been between miles one and two.  There were gaps between runners larger than just a few strides now.  I picked up my pace.

The end of the race was on the high school track.  The track where for years I'd watched DS2 run sprints and relays.  When my feet hit that track, I upped the speed again.  I thought about DS2 racing out of the starting blocks for his 100 meter competitions for four straight years.

In the last 100 meters, I switched gears to a dead run. I pushed harder than I ever had.  My feet pounded the track.  Blood rushed in my ears. The wind rushed past me.  I was locked on to the red flags at the finish line and I was a missile headed for them.  I flew.

I crossed the finish line and saw some of DS2's old high school track teammates.  They gave me a thumbs up.  One said "You're a machine!"  A huge compliment from a young man who has ran  track in college for the past two years.  I felt pride at finishing, and finishing strong.

I cooled out, stretched, got a water and a banana (ahhh, potassium!  No leg cramps here.)  I put on my pants and my fleece, then waited for all the runners to come in and for the official times and results to be announced.  I wanted to know if I had met my goal, if I had finished in less than 35 minutes.

I did.  34:19.  Good enough for 3rd place in my age bracket for women.  Good enough to be 40th out of 82 overall.

I ran.  Not bad for a 41 year old mother of 4 and grandmother of 1.  Not bad for a middle aged broad who didn't run at all two years ago.

I ran.  :0)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

"We" Are Having a Garage Sale

Nine months ago, DH looked at me and said "We should have a garage sale".

You see, with the kids moving out (this was when we thought we were only going to have one at home, as #3 had just left for college), he and I were realizing that we had a lot of crap, er stuff, that hadn't been used in years and wouldn't foreseeably be used enough in the future to merit the space it took up.

Besides, he'd like some newer better stuff, and that means first selling the existing stuff to raise funds for the purchase of the newer stuff. For instance, he's been lusting after a zero-turn mower for several years but owns both a lawn tractor with a 38" deck and a 5' (or is it 6'?) finish mower that is used with the John Deere tractor.   So, absolutely no zero-turn mower will appear at this little place here until both of the perfectly good mowing instruments we all ready own have been sold.

I agreed that a garage sale was probably the most effective way of cashing in on our still usable but not so wanted items.  However, being late in the summer and crazy busy with work, I didn't think having a garage sale before Labor Day was feasible.

So we set a date: Memorial Day weekend, 2013.

Guess what snuck up on us!  Yep, it's here.  The big weekend.  Garage sale time.  I'd been collecting clothes, books, and household goods all winter, piling them on the pool table in the basement (I wanted to put the pool table in the garage sale too, as it has mostly gathered junk in the 10 years we've owned it, but no, DH gave it to DS2 for his house he and a bunch of college buddies are renting for the coming school year.  Which means I'm stuck with a pool table taking up a third of the basement for at least three more months.)

Guess what I look like this week.  I drew a picture to help you guess.

That's me, with all the crap, er valuable items, I hauled to the garage yesterday for the coming sale.

Now I'll show you a picture I drew of what DH and the two DDs looked like most of this week while "we" were getting ready for the sale.  Except my walls aren't really orange, more like terra cotta.  At least, I think that's what the Home Depot called it in 2003.

I don't know if you can see, but they all have smiles on their faces as they 'relax' in the living room after work and school.  I, on the other hand, do not have a smile because I have not relaxed after work, I've cleaned a garage, hauled stuff from the basement, pillaged a barn for forgotten treasures and gone through closets for clothing that no longer fits.  

Have I mentioned that I hate putting on a garage sale?  Right now I'm in the 'just get it done and over with' phase.  Not at all enjoying it, and trying to focus on Monday, when it will be over.  Then hopefully I won't have to deal with putting on a garage sale for at least 5 years (the interval most often between "our" garage sales.)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Kittens and Chickens and Socks, Oh My!

That pretty much sums up what's new at this little place here in the past several days.

Three litters of kittens. Yes, I know, I know.  The mamas will be going in to get fixed later this summer, once the kittens are weaned.  It's just that barn cats tend to be short lived around here, and the surest way to end up with one less barn cat is to go have it fixed.  I can't tell you how many cats we've had fixed that disappear, get killed on the road, or become coyote or raccoon meals within a few months of being neutered.  Gets expensive, it does!  So my policy the last few years has been to let the females have a litter before getting fixed; at least that way I have a replacement barn cat when she meets her untimely end.

I am not going to get into a moral argument about how I could adopt a cat from a shelter instead of letting my barn cats breed replacements.  My reasons for not adopting are:

  1. the shelters around here won't adopt them to be outdoor cats (ie. live in my barn not my house)
  2. the cats don't usually work out as hunters/mousers
  3. they don't respect my chickens and chicks like a cat raised with poultry does
  4. I'm too cheap to pay $76 for a cat!  $76 being what my local animal shelter charges for a cat under 6 years old.
I'm sure there are many people who wouldn't agree with this.  That's fine.  Do what you do, I'll do what I do.  Back to my story. . . 

Two of the mama cats are sharing their kittens, denned up together in the hay and taking turns feeding them.  The third mama decided to have hers in the woodpile, so while we can hear them, we haven't laid eyes on them yet.

one mama tending the masses

both mamas, with kittens between them

palm-sized day-old kitty

Not counting the third litter that we haven't actually seen yet, there are two gray, one buff/light orange, and the rest are colored just like the one in the picture above.

An order of chicks.  A smaller order than in the past, now that the hatchery is able to ship a minimum of 15 birds instead of a minimum of 25.  I ordered 21; 15 broilers and 6 pullet chicks (2 light Brahma, 2 Lakenvelders, 2 Blue Andalusians).  Unfortunately the Lakenvelders ended up being unavailable, so I only got 19 chickens, plus my one 'free' that McMurray always sends.  Trying to figure out what breed the bonus one is; its markings are similar to several breeds.

view from outside the brooder

hungry chicks

the two dark ones are actually the "light" Brahmas;
they will get white as their adult plumage comes in

mystery chick, from the front

mystery chick from the back

Being as I ordered 6 pullet chicks to replace six of my older hens this coming winter, I may place another small order mid-summer.  I would get another batch of meat birds and re-order those Lakenvelders I wanted.

Socks!  I have finished my first ever pair of hand-knit socks!  I'm so excited to be able to wear them, now that they are done.  And I'm lusting over yarn colors to make the next pair with, LOL.  I think I love socks.

The picture makes them look a bit more uneven than they actually are.
I had one pulled up further than the other.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Why Do I Even Bother. . .

. . . putting on sunblock?  Really.  When I was a kid I never wore it.  Rarely burned.  As an adult, I've tried to be more "health conscious" and remember to apply sunblock before going outside to work.  I've had so many sunburns as an adult (especially the last 10 years or so) that I can't even count them all.

Yesterday, I put on sunblock in preparation for working outside in the garden.  The weather was beautiful, I had much to plant, and I was planning a marathon gardening session.  After three hours, I came in for lunch, then applied more sunblock before heading back to the garden.  Three hours later, I returned to the house to wash up in preparation for going to a graduation open house.

Boy, was I not amused when I shucked my dirty gardening clothes and stood in front of the bathroom mirror while waiting for the water in the shower to warm up to tolerable (it seems to spend the first several minutes at may-possibly-cause-hypothermia temperatures).  All my judicious use of sunblock got me was red, red, red!  You can definitely see where my sleeveless top and my shorts were, because those are the only parts of me that aren't the color of strawberry ice cream!

I swear!!  Why do I even bother with sunblock?  Most of it is so perfumy it makes my eyes water, my nose run, and causes me to sneeze. Constantly.  Unless I immediately wash it off, and even then it takes a good half hour for my sinuses to return to normal. Many brands either make me itch or make my skin sting. I can't use the cheapy sunblock, no.  I have to hunt down the expensive non-allergenic, non-perfumed kinds.  Most of which go on like liquid chalk and even with rubbing it in well I still get several shades whiter than my natural skin tone because of the zinc and titanium oxide. Nothing like walking around looking ghostly. I even wear the high SPF stuff (which was unthinkable back in my high school days--the era of rubbing on baby oil to toast yourself to a nice golden brown!)  And what do I get for all that hassle?  Sun burnt!!

Ugh!  I think what I need is some nice head to toe gauzy, off white apparel to wear while working outside.  Something that will let the breeze through, so I don't end up dying of heat stroke--a sweaty   mess in the garden--yet won't get me sunburned.  Kind of a hundred years ago sort of summer clothes.

Except me and white don't mix well. Especially because chlorine bleach also makes my skin itch and burn.  White just doesn't stay white, and never returns to white here.  Maybe if I boil it in a big pot, over a roaring fire in the yard, like they did way back then when people wore white and natural colored summer clothing, without bleaching the life out of it, maybe that would work.

Because sunblock just ain't doing it for me.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Flock Reduction

This morning I grudgingly rose with the alarm clock.  I hate having to set an alarm for Saturday morning; it is usually the only morning I don't have to be somewhere other than at home.

This morning, however, I needed to be at the local auction barn.  This morning, I was finally going to cut my chicken flock in half.  Something I've been thinking about doing for a few months now, but with pick-up truck problems, didn't have a viable way of getting my culled birds there.  Not without a huge mess in the back of the Suburban, anyway.  Which would definitely put DH and I at odds; so let's just avoid that scenario.  I don't enjoy scrubbing chicken manure out of carpeting anyway.

This morning, however, the pick-up is both at home and operable!!  (Thanks to a new coil pack.)  So this morning found me wishing I could sleep in even as I was shutting off the alarm, throwing back my covers, and climbing out of bed at 7:00 sharp.  It's worth it, I tell myself, this giving up my one sleep in til 8:00 day, so that I can reduce the number of chickens I have.  Chickens that are getting older, that are not so cost efficient anymore.  Chickens that only lay eggs half the week but eat chicken feed every day.

I had to put together the old dog crate that we keep in the barn.  It hasn't been used for a dog in years, not since Old Dog got too arthritic to curl up in it on trips away from home.  Instead, it spends most of its time dismantled and only occasionally gets put back together to temporarily haul poultry.  A crate that once housed a 120 pound German Shepherd can hold a lot of chickens on their way to the butcher, LOL.

Once the dog crate was assembled in the bed of the pick-up, I drove over to the coop and backed up to the door.  Then I went inside, innocently threw a scoop of layer pellets into the feed trough, and started grabbing designated chickens.  Two black Australorp hens.  Two light Brahma hens (ooh this hurt, as I have a fondness for my Brahmas.  But two little light Brahma fuzzballs will be arriving in a few days with my chicken order from McMurray Hatchery, so out go the 'old' ones.)  Two hens that are Easter Egger (Ameracauna) crosses.  One silver laced Wyandotte hen.  And my 'extra' rooster, Hot Stuff.  With half as many hens, I don't need as many roosters.  Into the dog crate they go, one at a time.

I take a goodbye picture, or two.

Then it's down the road we go.  At 8:00 a.m., mine were the first poultry at the auction barn.  I gave my info, put chickens into auction cages, and left.  I've too much to do today (garden to plant, graduation open house to attend, laundry to wash while the weather is nice enough to hang it on the line) to stick around and see how much they go for.  I'll find that out about midweek, when a check will arrive in the mail, accompanied by an invoice that shows what price each chicken fetched.

Meanwhile, back at this little place here, the remaining hens and rooster look a bit unsure of what just happened.  Suddenly the coop and the chicken jail (the pen made from our old trampoline) look huge.  My flock looks tiny.  It has been almost halved.  (Two hens are missing from the picture below; they were in the coop laying at the time I took the picture.)

However, by Wednesday I'll be swimming in chickens again.  Fifteen broiler chicks and six new pullet chicks (plus the one 'free' rare chick--usually a cockerel--McMurray always throws in)  are due to arrive by mail early this coming week.  Got to set up a brooder section in my currently more spacious coop for them.  :0)  Add that to today's to do list.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Pictures From Carolina

I'm home!  Glad to be home, yet I so miss my sweetie K3.  This long distance grand parenting is tough on a person.

While I was with her, I took lots of pictures, including a few of her in her new sundress.  It's a hair big yet, but she'll grow into it.

As always, I'm not posting pictures with recognizable faces, so you'll have to be content with back of the head views, lol.

at home in her sundress

at the beach (Atlantic Ocean)

 Hunting Island Lighthouse


freshly 'harvested' sand dollars

Spanish moss in the live oak tree in backyard of DS1's house

Friday, May 10, 2013

Going to Carolina

In my mind, I'm going to Carolina.   (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for playing James Taylor music when I was young and impressionable.)

That song has been playing in my head all week.  Mostly because I am going to Carolina.  South Carolina, that is, to see my little sweetie K3, along with DS1 and K2.  But, to be honest, it's K3 I'm most excited about.

As James Taylor sings in my head and I think of sunny days and warm weather and a blonde blue-eyed smiley-faced darling, I've been sewing.

Because Grandmas do not forget to come bearing gifts.  And because Grandma (yes, me) saw some cute fabric I thought would make a great sundress for K3, showing off her amazing eyes.  And while I was cutting out the pieces for the sundress, I realized that I had enough fabric leftover to make a diaper cover to match the dress.  And a sunhat too!

So, James Taylor is on repeat in my mind, and I've been singing along as my sewing machine hums into action and churns out a new ensemble for my sweetheart girl.

K3's new outfit made by Grandma

I made the sundress in a size 1 (aka 12 months) since K3 is a petite little thing.  The pattern came from Walmart.

The diaper cover I found at this website: .  I made the 12-24 months size.

The sunhat is from here: .

Now that they are finished, I can't wait to get to South Carolina, give K3 a giant hug, and put her new outfit on her.  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Orchard Blossoms

The orchard is starting to bloom.  I grabbed the camera the other night, just as the sun was setting, and  managed to snap a few pictures.  Some came out ho-hum, but others look pretty cool.  Almost as if I knew what I were doing with a camera!  Which I don't. Any professional-looking pictures are purely coincidence.  Dumb luck, as it were.

peach tree just starting to bloom

peach blossoms

more peach blossoms (different tree)

pear blossoms

cherry tree 

back lit cherry blossoms

my scrawnier cherry tree
(these three branches are the entire tree),
 almost done blossoming

Not pictured, my apple trees are not quite to the open-blossom stage.  I do have one bloom on one of my brand-new plum trees!  The description said "may bloom the first year", but I didn't believe it.  Now I do, LOL.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

knit, knit, knit

After I finished the two sweaters I knit for K3, I bit the bullet and asked my knitting instructor to teach me how to knit socks. Socks are the main reason I wanted to learn to knit in the first place, but they seemed so hard and surely couldn't be done by a beginner. In January, when I began learning to knit, I thought that it would be a long, long time before I was ready to tackle making socks.

However, actually completing two sweaters boosted my confidence greatly--after all, how many people can say they have knit an entire sweater?  (Even if mine are tiny, size 12 month sweaters. . . they still count!)

So. . . mid-April found me in possession of a skein of sock yarn, a pattern for some simple socks (with heels, not the easy-as-pie heel-less tube socks!), and a set of size 2 double pointed needles.  Which have come to be known as "Mom's knitting toothpicks", courtesy of my daughters' reaction when I showed them the skinny little needles.

My hand, holding a 'knitting toothpick'.

This is my first project done on the double pointed needles.  When I made my hat in February, I used dpns to finish off the crown, but those were much larger; a size 7.  My socks will be the first project to be completely knit on dpns.  

It takes a bit of juggling to get used to working with them.  But once you get it down, it's really cool.  Here's the cuff of my sock underway, set on the floor for the picture so you can see how the needles are as you knit a tube (the cuff) with them.

Yes, you do see four needles in there! 
Your eyes are not playing tricks on you.

Once I had the cuff done, which measures six inches long, then I left two of the needles alone and worked solely on the third one, making the heel flap.  That has proved to be the most challenging part for me because it needed to be an exact number of rows (as opposed to the cuff, which was just knit until I got to a certain length), and I kept losing count.  After counting, and recounting,  and recounting again, and doing the next step, then finding out when I tried to move on to the step after that I most likely had way too many rows, I tore out the entire heel and started the heel flap over, making a tally mark on scrap paper each time I finished a row.  I hear there is such a thing as a row counter available at stores to use when you are knitting. . . might look into that for when I don't have scratch paper and pencil nearby.

Anyway, here is the sock with the heel flap done in the correct number of rows.  (Hallelujah!)

Heel flap done,
and heel 'turned'.

Once the heel was knit correctly, I did the next step, which was 'turning' the heel.  That is really neat, as it makes the cup of the heel, and all you have to do to create it is follow the directions precisely, which wasn't hard at all.

the back of the sock, 
showing the turned heel.

Doing the gusset was a bit tricky, mostly because the directions weren't all that clear.  They started with you having 18 stitches on needle one, and proceeded to instruct me to pick up 16 stitches from the side of the heel flap with that same needle but then went on to direct me what to do with needle two (knit across all the stitches on needles two and three making a new 'needle two' with the total), plus pick up 16 more stitches for needle three, and end with "25 stitches on both needles one and three, and 32 stitches on needle two."  Say what?  18 + 16 equals 34, not 25.  So that took a bit of thought, reading four or five times, analyzing, and finally concluding that I was giving 9 of those original 18 stitches on needle one to needle three to come up with the magic 25, 32, 25 because nine plus sixteen definitely made twenty-five, whereas eighteen plus sixteen definitely was not adding up.

After that it was smooth sailing, just knit, knit, knit until it was time to do the toe decrease.  That knitting was a breeze (watched the movie Argo with DH while knitting this part), and the toe decrease was easy too.

sock, all done except the toe graft, 
or kitchener stitch, to close the toe.

To close the toe, I did a kitchener stitch, following the directions. It worked like magic, and suddenly I found myself with a finished sock in my hand!

ta da!  a hand made sock!

Now I just have to make it's mate, so I can wear them proudly.  ;0)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Humus. . . or is it Hummus?

This post was prompted by a text from DS2 this morning, asking for my humus recipe.  I told him that humus took a long time to make, and since he was soon moving back from college for the summer, he probably did not have enough time to make it there.  Then I sent him another text, this one with the recipe I use for making hummus.  :0)  Apparently even just-finished 2nd year engineering students get the two mixed up.

Humus and hummus.  The words look a whole lot alike. If you don't pay much attention to phonetic clues, you might even pronounce them alike. They are, however, very different.  If you saw the two items, in real life, side by side, it would be easy to see they are not the same.

One is dirt.  The other, bean dip.  Definitely don't want one on your cracker, and the other probably won't grow your flowers or vegetables very well.

I make both.

Which brings to mind a time about twelve years ago, when I used to babysit DH's eldest nephew quite frequently.  He spent a summer being pretty much the fifth child at my house two or three days a week.  Being as he was a year older than my youngest, having him labeled "number five" was kind of odd.  Chronologically, he should have been number four, and DD2 should have been number five.  Yet, he wasn't quite the same as the other four kids, and at times stuck out like an extra thumb.

For my kids, seeing me throw kitchen scraps (veggie peels, carrot tops, etc) into the compost bin in the backyard was ho-hum, everyday life, nothing interesting going on here.

Yet for nephew, or "number five", it was a strange and curious thing indeed to see Aunt Kris bypass the trash can and take food scraps outside, then dump them into a pile and walk away.

Huh, what?  Which is pretty much what he said when he asked what I was doing.

So, I proceeded to tell a four year old about the compost pile--how it worked, what I did with it, and what the end product was.  He went home that day and announced with awe to his mother:  "Aunt Kris makes dirt!"

My "humus", aka dirt, recipe is pretty basic: take anything that decomposes, and toss it into a pile in the compost bins I have made out of old pallets.  Eventually, it will turn into dirt.  It, of course, works much faster if you layer your humus ingredients, making sure the carbonaceous ones cover the nitrogenous ones.  So, when you toss in poop (chicken, horse, rabbit, other livestock, not dog or cat), or grass clippings or weeds or food scraps, you want to make sure there's some wood chips, sawdust, straw, dead leaves, etc in there too.  Too much 'green stuff', green as in 'fresh' rather than dried like the sawdust, straw, etc, and you end up with a stinky slimy pile.  On the other hand, too much dried stuff and not enough green, and your pile doesn't heat up inside very much, and then it doesn't 'cook down' into the finished compost quite as fast.

There are books and tons of info on the internet about how to make compost, and if you want to be a compost perfectionist, you'll be better off following those than my method. But if you want to do it the slow and lazy way, just toss your pulled weeds, potato peelings, bunny manure, etc into a big heap and let nature take it's course.

Making hummus is much, much quicker.  You can do it the 'cheater' way and used canned beans, or you can do it the frugal way and use dried beans, which you then have to soak overnight and cook until soft.

Here's how I do it:

Put 1/2 cup garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas) into a small saucepan, cover with water until the water is about an inch above the beans.  Soak overnight.  The next day, add a bit more water if the beans have soaked it all up--they swell quite a bit, then bring to a boil, cover, and simmer about one hour, until you can mash a bean easily with a fork.  Drain the beans.

Now, if you are using the cheater method, buy a 15-ounce can of chickpeas/garbanzo beans from the store, and drain out the liquid in the can.

From here, you make it the same whether you are using cheater beans or frugal ones.

Put the beans in your blender (if you don't have a blender, put the beans in a medium size bowl and mash with a potato masher).

To the beans, add:
2-3 Tbsp olive oil (or veggie oil) 
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

In the blender, puree all together.  You may need to add a little water if the bean mixture is too stiff and your blender is having difficulty.  If you are doing this by hand, you still might desire to add a little water to make stirring this mush easier.

When the mixture is the consistency you desire, you are done!  You now have hummus, to enjoy on crackers, pita breads, carrot sticks, whatever your heart desires.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Three Whole Days Without Rain!

The ground is finally drying up enough to get some work done out of doors.  Still not dry enough to till the garden and begin planting, mind you, but dry enough that I can drive the tractor in most of the places I need to go, and start working on my mile-long to-do list.

And, dry enough that I got to trade in my knee boots (my tall, waterproof work boots) for my regular work boots.  Plus, it's been eighty or close to eighty degrees most of the week.  Lovely weather, and too warm to wear jeans unless I have to.

So I'm sporting the lovely ensemble of shorts and work boots :0), also known as my 'Heidi the Tool Girl' wardrobe.  (Hopefully, dear reader, you know of Heidi the Tool Girl from the '90s TV show Home Improvement).

I even took a picture, or attempted to take a decent picture, of this outfit.  However, my arm wasn't long enough to hold the camera far enough way to get both my boots and my shorts in one picture.  This ought to give you the general idea, though:


If you look real close, in the picture you can barely make out the band-aid just below my left knee cap.  Unfortunately I found a patch of still slick mud, slipped on it, and whacked my knee on the tiller implement we have for our tractor.  Being one of those places on your body where there is no padding and veins right under the skin, of course I split the skin open and the inch-long gash bled like crazy.  Hence the band-aid.  The hazards of farm life, LOL.  Also the reason I get my tetanus shot regularly.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013


May is here!  April had to get one more big shower in before it left us; for four hours yesterday, thunderstorms sat over this little place here and dropped a good half inch of rain on us in that time period. That was added to the nearly three and a half inches we'd gotten in the previous 13 days.  All that rain isn't soaking in very quickly.

So much for my plans to get outside and do some work in the garden yesterday or today; the soil is so waterlogged I don't dare step foot in the garden.  Neither do I dare to do anything that requires the tractor (such as spring cleaning the chicken coop), as the tractor will surely make ruts anywhere I drive it, especially in the garden where the chicken coop shovelings traditionally go this time of year. Getting my early crops: the peas, potatoes, beets, broccoli, spinach planted is a no-go.

Back to the drawing board, or rather, my never-ending to-do list, to see what is possible until the ground dries up somewhat.  Funny, that on a beautiful 80 degree day like today, I find myself working mostly indoors, repotting seedlings, doing a little knitting, making and returning phone calls. . .

One nice thing about yesterday's showers, though:  they did bring May flowers!  I snapped a couple of pictures of things that definitely were not blooming yesterday even after the storm passed.

golden suns of dandelions

forsythia looking like it's dripping sunshine

close-up of a forsythia branch

lilac blooms are developing, 
looking like tiny upside-down clusters of grapes

Since it's such a nice day today, and since there are so many earthworms and bugs out, I decided to let my chickens out of their pen for a few hours.  They are on work-release, if you will: out of jail to do the work of eating bugs (and saving me money on chicken feed!)