Saturday, October 31, 2015

Making Handkerchiefs

Since trying out my own flannel hankies this past winter for in the horse barn, I decided that I was going to make up a bunch of handkerchiefs to give as Christmas gifts.  I wanted to make not only flannel ones, but also 'regular' cotton ones. For warm weather use too, you know.

While yarn shop hopping with my mom earlier this month, we stopped in to a few quilting shops that were near some of the yarn shops.  At one of those quilting shops, I purchased several fat quarters with the intent of using them to make my 'regular' hankies.

After washing, drying, and ironing the fat quarters, I cut each one into two 10"x 10" squares (which left a nice sized strip of fabric left over for scrap quilting or other projects needing small cuts of fabric).  No particular reason for that size square, other than it is what I liked best.

fat quarter 

cut into two 10" squares

Then, having a flash of brilliance, I put my 1/4" foot that I use for piecing quilt blocks onto my sewing machine.  This gave me an easy guide for basting 1/4 inch from the edge of the fabric on all sides.

love my 1/4" presser foot; 
it gets lots of use

After running a basting thread on each side of each piece of fabric, I used a hot iron to press a 1/4" hem to the back side of each square.  The basting thread gave me a nice visual line to follow, rather than having to use a tape measure or my eyes (which never have been that great a judge of distance) while doing the pressing.

just fold at the thread, and press

Once pressed, I took each square back to the sewing machine.  Prior to pressing the fabric, I had changed the presser foot on the machine back to the normal one, and put the sewing machine on the zigzag setting.

regular presser foot for some zigzag room

It only took a few minutes to zigzag the hem down on all four sides of each square.  Trim the threads, and viola, handkerchiefs!

finished hankie

the whole assortment of hankies

love these fabrics; 
it's going to be hard to give them all away

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Day In The Life

Not exactly what I do each and every day, but here is a glimpse of how my Thursday went this week.

5:30 a.m., alarm clock goes off.  I reluctantly get out of bed.  No time to waste, even though I would rather sleep til my normal wake-up time of 6:00.  Today I have to take the broilers to the processor before I go to work.

Dress, and go downstairs where I pack DH's lunch (apple from our own tree, leftover bean soup and zucchini muffins from Wednesday's dinner, some saltine crackers and a granola bar).  Eat breakfast of granola and milk with a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips.  Dark chocolate, it's healthy, right?

Head outside in the hellacious wind.  30+ mph, predicted to last all day.  Drive the pick-up to the barn, where I locate (in the dark) the old dog crate and rabbit cage that I use to transport poultry.  Toss those into the bed of the truck, and drive down the driveway to where the broiler pen sits in the orchard.  It is about two hours before the sun rises, but there is a full moon, so I have a little light to see the chickens with.  Not a lot, not enough to make the chickens want to run around (yay for chickens' tendency to stay put when there is no light), but enough that I can at least see them.

Imagine, if you will, me bent over double (because the broiler pen wasn't built low enough to reach in from the top and be able to grab birds or tall enough to actually stand up in) walking through the door of the broiler pen, going to the nearest chickens, picking up one with my left hand and one with my right.  Picture me duck-walking, backward, with a chicken under each arm, out of the broiler pen.  See me stand up, turn, take two steps to truck, open cage (or dog crate) and insert chickens.  Then picture me repeating this move 16 times, plus one more time with just one chicken tucked securely under my armpit.

Yes, that's right, 35 chickens.  What was I thinking when I ordered that many?!?

Despite the temperature of less than forty degrees, and the wind making it feel more like 20-something, I was sweating in my jacket.  But I took my winter weight Carhartt along in the truck, because I knew I would be wanting it by the time I got to work.

6:25 a.m., I pulled into the driveway of the processor (aka a neighbor/guy from church).  We unloaded my cages of chickens, and I headed off to work at the horse farm.

6:50 a.m., I got to work, just a few minutes early, and began the morning feeding ritual.  Grain for 20  horses and administer oral meds for one gelding with a urinary tract infection.. Then put all 20 out in their respective turnouts for the day.  It is still dark outside at 7:15 when I am doing turnouts.

Once they are all outside, it is time to hay them all, pulling from a round bale and weighing each horse's serving to make sure they are getting the correct amount for their weight.  When I have pulled enough off the outside of the bale to make the core of the bale light enough, I can pull the core over and just unroll it in long sheets, then stuff that into the baskets we use to carry the hay. Which, like duck-walking with chickens under my arm, is sweat inducing work.

This current round bale is a little dusty, so I am wearing a bandana over my nose and mouth, Old West outlaw style, to keep from inhaling too much of it.  Personally, I don't care for round bales (my hay is made in square bales) and this is why.

rollin' out a bale core

The average horse gets ten pounds of hay per feeding, a few get just six or eight but some get as much as thirteen pounds. Each basket holds a meal for one horse. Carrying two baskets in each hand, I am hefting anywhere from thirty-six to forty-five pounds of hay per delivery.  That's breakfast for four horses. With twenty horses I am making five fully loaded trips per feeding.

Oh, hey, look, the sun is finally coming up, nearly three hours after I got out of bed!

pretty in pink (and purple) sunrise

Have I mentioned that it rained all Tuesday night and all day Wednesday?  Plus a portion of Wednesday night? Which means I am slogging through mud, varying from just-the-greasy-top-1" layer, to the past-your-ankles-beware-of-losing-your-boots kind, in order to deliver all these baskets of hay.

After every horse has it's hay, I need to put ointment into the eye of one horse that has a corneal ulcer, then paint the soles of another horse's hooves with turpentine.  An owner calls my cell phone, requesting I replace her horse's light sheet with a mid-weight one, since the wind chill is kind of uncomfortable this morning.

Then it's time for me to start working on the dinner feeding, putting grain and hay into each horse's stall for when it comes in that night.  One horse is having a tooth problem, and needs a mash made up and set out to soak.  It needs to soak at least eight hours before feeding, so I have to make sure I have that all stirred together and watered down before 9:00 a.m.

Just as I am finishing up my duties at 10:30 a.m., including getting a stall ready for a horse that will arrive on Friday, my cell phone rings again.  It is the processor, letting me know that my chickens are ready and I can pick them up on my way home from work.

With three empty coolers in the cab of the truck, I arrive next to the butchering shed that I left my chickens at in the pre-dawn.  They are now naked headless and footless bundles of meat in plastic bags, ready for me to take home and put into my freezer.  Except that I will be 'parting out' nearly half of them once I arrive home; making packages of boneless skinless breasts, leg quarters, wings for special occasions, and soup carcasses.

But once I get home and unload the coolers from the truck, it is after 11:30, and I'm feeling like a break.  I decide to eat lunch before tackling the chicken cutting I need to do.  Now I'm thankful that it's cold outside; making the chickens sit out an hour while I take a lunch break and prep for packaging won't harm the meat any.

I rustle up some leftover soft taco shells and refried beans from Tuesday night's dinner.  Reheated, with a good amount of colby jack shredded over the hot beans, it makes a satisfying lunch.  Now I'm ready to tackle those chickens!

bowls at the ready, for holding parts as I cut them off

First, I weigh each one.  Any under four pounds (your typical grocery store chicken is three to four pounds) go in the freezer whole.  That is about 20 of my 35 from this batch. The larger ones are five pounds plus, and I get to work cutting those up.

Into one bowl goes wings. Another gets leg quarters. The third gets boneless skinless breasts.  The remaining chicken carcass gets bagged in pairs for making soup stock.  While I am cutting up chickens, I am listening to music.  My tastes are a bit eclectic, covering many genres.  First up is Mozart.  Then Mark Chestnut (circa 1999).  I had Def Lepard waiting in the wings, but finished with my chickens before Mark Chestnut got done singing.  Another time, Def Lep, I promise.

K2 and kids arrived home just as I was cutting up the next to last chicken.  Of course K3 was very curious as to what I was doing.  She also asked me where the chickens that were in the broiler pen the night before had gone (she had noticed their disappearance while driving down the driveway that morning).

Now, explaining to people where food really comes from can be difficult, as they usually are repulsed.  In my experience, however, young children are mostly just curious and not so put off by the thought of eating dead things as older children and adults are.  So when K3 asked where the chickens went, I pointed to pieces in the bowls on the counter, and the two birds that were still intact, and said "Right here.  These are the chickens that we grew.  They went to the processor this morning so we can put them in the freezer and then eat them when we want to cook chicken for dinner."

She looked at my bowls of parts a little confusedly, and then poked at the whole chicken that was sitting closest to her on the kitchen island.  "That's what a chicken looks like with no feathers, and it's head and feet cut off" I told her.

She leaned closer and examined the chicken.  Then she grabbed one wing tip and moved it around.  "And this is a wing?"  She asked.

I confirmed that it was, indeed, a wing.  And we named the other parts on the chicken, then I pointed out those same parts all ready cut off and in the bowls.  She watched me finish cutting the last two chickens, then package up all the parts in meal-sized vacuum sealed packages for the freezer.

Meanwhile, K2 was unpacking the groceries they had bought while they were out.  Including a whole chicken she was intending to cook for dinner.  (Smack head.  Yes, on this day when I am having 35 home grown chickens butchered, she goes and buys one from the store to cook for dinner.  I'm still working on teaching her about planning ahead and using what you've got. . .)

After packaging all the chicken pieces I stuffed them into the chest freezer and the freezer on the beer fridge.  Literally!!--I told DH we would need to get the upright freezer up and running to store all these chickens, but had he run an outlet to the part of the basement where the upright freezer now resides since DS2 and family live in the electrified portion?  No, of course not. So I was shoving chicken into every little nook and cranny I could find. You can bet your hind end that if he gets a deer with his bow there will be a new outlet in the basement before that deer has cooled to ambient temperature!

Anyway. . . Once the chicken was all stored away, and the island cleaned off, it was nearly 3:00.  Approximately nine hours since I had started loading chickens into the truck that morning.  And I was feeling rather worn out.  Also grubby.  Cutting up animals will do that for you.  So I went for a nice hot shower, then stayed upstairs in the peace and quiet for a while (K2 and kids downstairs) hoping to regain a little energy.  Bedtime was a long way off and I didn't think I could make it that long without a little breather.

DD2 texted me from college with a few questions about canned soup.  Apparently she had made a "Walmart run" (one of the few grocery type stores near her campus, and there is a free bus for students from the dorms to the shopping area) and was thinking about stocking up on some soup she could heat in the microwave in her room for the days when she missed cafeteria hours due to class or meetings.  I asked if she had bought herself a winter coat yet (could not find here, in August, a winter weight coat suitable for Upper Peninsula winters, so she had gone off to college with the plan to buy one up there in the Fall).  Nope, not yet.  But she'd been looking at a few, so that lead to a conversation about brands, styles, insulation factor, etc.

While upstairs I cut out several squares of fabric for some handkerchiefs I am planning to make as Christmas gifts.  And I did some knitting, but found myself losing the game of yarn chicken (where you run out of yarn just before you get to the end of your knitting project.)  Which lead to a dilemma: do I drive thirty minutes and to downtown Lansing to the store I bought that yarn at--during the shop hop I did with my mom earlier this month--in order to get a matching skein, or do I see if perhaps I can order some online and have it shipped for less than it would cost me in time (aka lost productivity at home) and gas to go to Lansing and back?  I all ready knew my local yarn store didn't carry it, that was what had prompted me to buy it while shop hopping in the first place.

Which lead to a good hour spent online doing some price comparisons and deciding to just go ahead and order it from Amazon.  Along with a few other items I'd been thinking of buying (*ahem* a replacement for the freezer paper and paper roll holder/cutter a friend of DH's had bought us several years ago as a thank you for letting him hunt our land for no charge, but since then constantly asks to borrow when he needs to wrap a quantity of meat and so far has had at his house for the last six months straight).  Honestly, it was DH who suggested I should just purchase duplicates of those items and forget about getting the originals back.

Adding those two items to my yarn order brought the price up enough to qualify for free shipping. So I have to wait until next week for it to arrive, but it's not like I don't have a long list of other knitting projects I could start while waiting for the yarn just so I can knit a thumb into a glove and finish my current knitting project.

Since K2 was cooking dinner (she cooks two nights a week; I cook the other five due to her work and class schedule), I had that free hour to do my online shopping.  Otherwise I would normally be in the kitchen that time of day, and two days a week I'm not only cooking dinner I'm babysitting K3 and Toad at the same time).  However, since she cooked, that meant it was my night to wash dishes.  Which meant I had less free time after dinner.

Once we'd eaten (and K3 picked at her chicken and dumplings, I think still processing the idea of feathered chickens she knew and had helped feed into naked headless footless chicken on the counter into meat chunks on her plate), I took K3 out with me to shut in the pullets and laying hens and check for eggs.  In my mind, she needed to be reassured that we still did have some live chickens at this little place here.  She seemed to perk up once we were in the hen house checking the nest boxes for eggs.

Back in the house, it was time for washing those darn dishes (oh how I hate washing dishes).  By then DH had come in from the woods where he'd gone deer hunting after work. We exchanged bits about our individual days.  He again has had coworkers asking, since we 'live out in the country', if we have a pole barn with room they could store their boats or campers in over the winter.  Apparently storage in the more suburban areas is getting harder to find, and if we had room we could make $200-$300 a month per boat/camper/RV in storage fees.  DH has been thinking, off and on for about two years now, if we should put up a large pole barn and do just that.  Each time he brought it up in the past, I had reminded him that we still have an unfinished horse barn and no fencing and I am still working to pay board on my horses who live at someone else's farm.  This time, however, I didn't need to say anything, because he followed his "maybe we should put up a pole barn" thought with "get me a price for what you need to finish your horse barn and fences and I think we will get that done and put up a storage barn too.  We could make our money back in storage fees in just a handful of years, plus then you could bring in boarding horses too".  Now we're talking!

Once that topic had been exhausted for the time being (until we both get some actual dollar figures lined up), I got out a ball of dishcloth yarn in red, green, and white and began to knit one of my Christmas gift knitting projects.

By 9:30, I was just too drowsy to knit well.  So I told DH I was going to call it a night.  5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., mostly spent on my feet or otherwise 'working' at one chore or project or another.  16 hours. Not my typical time table (normally it's 6:00 a.m. feet hit the floor running to 10:00-10:30 p.m. feet off the floor for the night), or exactly what I do each and every day, but the length of day and amount of it spent engaged in productive activity is about the same.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.42: Knitting Challenges

Joining Ginny for the Yarn Along on a rainy Wednesday.

I've been working away at DD2's Offhand Gloves in fits and starts.  I finished the left glove last Wednesday evening.

Then I didn't knit at all on Thursday.  On Friday, I cast on for the right glove, and knit the 20 rib rows of cuff. Easy peasy.

On Saturday evening, I was a bit annoyed with DH, and figured maybe knitting would help me relax a little.  Which, it did, until I realized I had gotten to row 13 of the cable pattern on the back of the hand and had forgotten to start the thumb gusset back at row 8.

At which point I got re-annoyed with DH and wanted to throw a fit.  Instead, I focused my attention on un-knitting five rows of cables. Which was not easy in the slightest.  However, I persevered and got the glove worked back to the correct row for adding the thumb gusset. But, when I started working row 8, somehow I was two stitches short, and could not, for the life of me, see where I had dropped them at.  Fuzzy yarn and all that. . .

ARGH!!  Overwhelming urge to insert fit here.  Instead, I picked up the glove and the pile of curly yarn I had un-knit, and stuffed them into my knitting bag.  Then I went to bed.

On Sunday afternoon, I sat down with DH to watch the Lions play lose their football game.  I decided to just frog the remainder of the right glove and start all over.  Which proved to be a wise choice, as I had a better frame of mind upon embarking on a fresh start for that glove. I got the cuff and almost half of the cable pattern on the hand done in just one football game.

On Monday I knit only a little, as I watched K3 and Toad for two hours after dinner while their parents were at an appointment. Which meant I had hardly any time to knit before it was my own bed time (and I was pretty whupped after two hours of rambunctious young'un wrangling).

Yesterday I knit longer, long enough to finish the hand and one finger of the glove.  Hopefully tonight I will be able to make the other three fingers and the thumb.  Then they will be ready to send off, with their same color hat, in a surprise package to DD2.

(that's a ring finger, not a middle ;0) )

When not outside working, or inside knitting, I've picked up another Amish Village mystery.  Murder Tightly Knit.  I've barely started it, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be good, as it has the same characters as the other two I've read and enjoyed in this series.

Monday, October 26, 2015

If Only Every Month Could Be Like This

In the last two weeks, DH and I have been pretty busy around this little place here.  I sold 350 bales of hay; 150 to one person and 200 to another.  100 of that 200, we were paid to deliver so the buyer didn't have to con her husband into making a bunch of trips over here to get it.  Delivery is an option we offer, within a certain mile radius, and for an extra charge per bale.

We also finally loaded up a bunch of stuff and took it in to the local monthly consignment auction.  I say finally because it has been on the to-do list since April.  And, you know, here it is October.  Plus, October is the last consignment auction for the year. So it was kind of a "hey, are we doing this or not?" moment last week.

I had the trailer all ready hooked up anyway, since I was making a board run to the lumber mill for a neighbor who needed 16' fence boards and had no way to haul them (another thing I do, from time to time, for a fee).  That made it rather easy to convince DH to help me pick up some of the large and heavy items on the "Take To Auction" list, fill that trailer up, and take the stuff in.

And, while we were at it, and since DH had taken the week off from work to bow hunt anyway, we decided to keep the trailer hooked up and on the third day, we loaded it full of the scrap metal pile we've been accumulating for probably close to ten years.  Then we took that trailer load to the recycling place where we redeemed that scrap--all 2600+ pounds of it!!--for a little cash.

Then, just because the weather was finally decent, and I didn't have anything else going on early Saturday morning, I grabbed up my unwanted cockerels and Default the rooster, plus five old hens.  They went into a cage I'd stuck in the bed of the pick-up truck, and I drove them to the weekly hay, straw and livestock auction (same locale as the monthly consignment auction.)

The previous Saturday I had taken some no longer needed horse items (boots and breeches my daughters had grown out of, plus a few pony sized tack items) to a used tack sale at the barn where I work.  Didn't sell as much of it as I had hoped--the weather was bitter cold, plus it was the same day as the great MSU vs U of M football game, so there weren't many people shopping.  But, I did sell a few items.

Yesterday afternoon, DH and I looked around at the mostly empty hay storage area, the much smaller chicken flock, the emptier barn and garage, and the much much cleaner area to the east of the barn (where the scrap metal pile and a lot of the consignment auction items had been).  Then we looked at each other and smiled.  Looked pretty good.

Looked even better when we started to tally up what our endeavors had netted.

350 bales of hay: about $613 (after cost of baling was deducted)
Consignment auction items: about $450 (after commissions deducted)
Lumber hauling trip: about $70 (after cost of gas deducted)
Scrap metal: $51 (after cost of gas deducted)
Chickens: about $25
Horse stuff: $43

If only it were possible to bring in over $1200 every month just by selling stuff we all ready have at this little place here or hauling stuff once in a while for a neighbor.  ;0)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Bye Bye, Garden

The garden at this little place here has been a source of frustration for me for almost six months now.

At first, I couldn't get DH to till it up so I could get the early crops planted.  Why couldn't I till it myself, you ask?  Because the tiller requires the tractor (big garden = big tiller) and the tractor was minus one front wheel for several months, waiting for DH to fix it.

Then, when he finally did (fix the tractor and) till it, I had little to no time to get planting. It was the week before DS1 and K2's wedding.  A week that was just a little hectic around here, what with me making the cake and all.  (And them suddenly realizing they were out of time and all the decorations and things they were going to make/take care of themselves still weren't done. . . )

And right after the wedding was the week before DD2's graduation.  And the week right after DD2's graduation was the week of cleaning and prepping and setting up (and making food and cake for) DD2's open house.

So, while all that was going on, I was trying to hurry and plant an entire 9,000+ square foot garden. (Did I mention by myself?  Yeah, by myself.  Everyone else was busy or working.)  Because most things need to go in it during the last half of May here in my part of Michigan, planting was a must-do-as-fast-as-possible as soon as the soil had been turned even though there were so many other things on my plate.  June is too short of a growing season for those hot weather veggies.

Then, the rain came. Every 2-3 days until the beginning of July, when we had a whole 5 day long dry spell!  The soil was so wet I couldn't cultivate, and weeding had to be done by hand.  Which takes, well, longer than I had, so the weeds ended up getting ahead of me and I never did catch up.  Plus, all that wet soil just plain drowned some of my veggies.  Many others were stunted because of the excess moisture.

Top that off with a cool summer, keeping the cukes and peppers and maters and melons and corn and squash from doing diddly. And the rain came back for most of August and early September.

Frustration, frustration, frustration.  

We had a couple good frosts last week.  Ahead of which I had picked all the tomatoes and peppers that were anywhere near big enough to eat.  Those all got put into buckets and toted to the garage where they would stay warm at night.  A piddly harvest.  Not enough tomatoes to even run a canner load.  Such a bummer after planting about 80 tomato seedlings, seedlings which I had grown myself, from carefully chosen varieties of heirloom tomatoes.  I'd so been looking forward to eating those luscious red beauties.

This week I've been concentrating on digging the potatoes.  All thirteen rows (at about 30' per row) of them.  Back breaking work.  For a really disappointing harvest.  Lots of small potatoes.  Any hill that had potatoes larger than a golf ball often only had one potato to the entire hill.  Soil too wet and cool during the growing season. Plus those darn weeds.  I think my total potato harvest is only about a bushel and a half.  Pretty miserable compared to the three bushel I got from about 200' of row a few years ago.

The one variety that did well was the Papa Cacho fingerlings that I grew this year for the first time.  They get an A+ and the right to be planted in future years.  The Rose Finn Apple fingerlings did pretty well too, but the Papa Cachoes were superstars.

So, I'm glad to be saying bye-bye to the garden this weekend.  Pulling the bean poles, the stakes, the tomato cages and putting them all away for the winter.  DH is going to till it under and then I'm going to toss some sort of cover crop seed down on it.  

I'm ready to put this gardeb out of my mind and start thinking ahead for next year. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.41: Hat and Gloves

Happy Wednesday!  It's time to Yarn Along with Ginny.  :O)

I've been working on a hat and gloves for DD2 in the past week.  Last week I showed you about half of the hat.  Today, you get to see the whole thing!

This is the pattern, and the yarn is some Elegant Yarns in Kaleidoscope #67 Ocean Breeze that I bought while shop hopping.  It is 100% wool, and must be hand washed.  But it is warm. warm, warm and in DD2's favorite colors.  So perfect for a hat and gloves for her this winter in the U.P.

When I got done with the hat, I went searching on Ravelry for some cool looking (and easy to make) gloves, since I have never made gloves before.  The pattern I choose to go with is Offhand Gloves, which are knitting up really fast.  I just started this left glove on Sunday while watching football, and have all but 2 1/2 fingers completed .  Hoping to have the left one completed after this evening, and get the right one done by next yarn along.

I am making them in the women's large size, which is a bit big on me, but should be perfect for DD2.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Just a Little Applesauce

A few weeks ago I harvested all the apples from the trees in my orchard.  I stored them in crates in the cellar until I got a minute to sort through and grab out the sauce apples.  (When I chose trees to plant in my orchard, I purposely planted our favorite pie apple variety, our favorite sauce apple variety, and our favorite 'eating apple' variety, then threw in a few more for pollinators and potential cider some day.)

My preferred sauce apples are Cortland.  They have nice deep red skins, and white flesh, and are sweet enough that I never have to add sugar to my applesauce.  The perfect no additives recipe: apples, a little water. Done.

This year I had tried something new: pinching off half the immature fruit on each tree. It is the way you are supposed to maintain your trees for larger fruit, but so far I had been too chicken to try.  I mean, what if we had a big storm, or a big drought, and most of what I had left fell off the tree before getting to maturity (aka ripeness)?

Seemed like a big gamble.  Especially since some of the apple trees didn't have a whole lot of fruit to begin with.  But, I went ahead and gave it a shot.

Every single tree produced fruit nearly twice as large as in the past.  These were apples I couldn't close my hand around.  So, definitely a difference in how much of the tree's energy went into each fruit.

But, I didn't have a ton.  Some did fall off during the growing season for one reason or another.  And, shame on me, some did fall off before I realized it was harvest time all ready.  Those mostly went to the chickens since they were too far gone for me to use in the kitchen.

The Cortlands I had left, however, went into a batch of applesauce.

First I loaded them into the sink for a good rinsing.

Then I peeled, quartered and cored them before tossing them into my stock pot.  A cool thing about the deep red skin of Cortlands is that if you don't feel like peeling them, you can leave the skins on and end up with pink applesauce!  I, however, wanted normal colored applesauce this time around, so I peeled mine.

I added just a little water to the pot (1/2 cup or so to an 8 qt pot?) to help keep the apples from sticking to the bottom as they are beginning to cook.  Then I simmered them on medium heat, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the apples were nice and soft.

After that, I pressed them through my fruit/veggie strainer to get out any pieces of core or seeds I may have missed during the quartering and coring, and to give it that typical slightly grainy applesauce texture (if you want really smooth sauce, you can whiz your apples through the blender).  The sauce went back into the pot to be heated to a boil, then put into canning jars with 1/2 inch head space and water bathed for 20 minutes.

That's all there is to making applesauce.  No specific quantities or measuring needed.  That's what I love about making applesauce; doesn't matter if I have a ton of apples or just a few, the recipe needs no adjusting. It also doesn't need any ingredients other than apples and water.  Peel, quarter, core, cook down, strain, boil, jar, water bath.

I only got 5 pints of applesauce from my tree this year, but hey, 5 pints of 'free' applesauce (since I didn't buy any thing to make it) is better than no applesauce.

And, I did have a little left over that wasn't enough to fill another jar.  Eaten warm with a little bit of caramel ice cream topping stirred in, it was an awesome treat while I was waiting for the canner to finish processing.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.40: Shop Hoppin', a FO and a new knit!

Weather-wise it's a pretty gloomy chilly October day at this little place here.  But, since Wednesday is Yarn Along day, the weather isn't getting me down.  I've been waiting almost an entire week to tell you about my fun couple of afternoons shop hopping with my mom last Thursday and Friday.

Back in August, my mother asked me if I'd ever participated in the Mid-Mitten Yarn Shop Hop before. Participated?  I'd never even heard of it.  But once I found out what it was, I definitely wanted to join in!  So, Mom and I decided to be among the first to purchase passports for it when they became available, and I blocked out those dates on my calendar.

Well, Oct.8-11th was the shop hop.  And hop (and shop) we did!  On Thursday we started at the store closest to Mom's house, and visited four stores total.  Okay, five stores if you count the quilt shop we stopped at that was just a few blocks from one of the yarn shops.  Mom even was the Thursday door prize winner at one of them, winning a kit to make a lovely scarf.

the official shop hopper bag
(came with goodies, both edible and knitting related)

We both did a bit of shopping, of course. We each bought something from each shop; there were so many luscious yarns everywhere we went.  I think I bought a bit more than Mom did, but I'd been making a list of yarns I needed for upcoming projects.  So, I bought maybe more than a bit.  And, now that I've had a few days to think about future projects and their yarns, I think I need to buy a few more skeins of the golden colored yarn in the picture below.  They were my only impulse buy, because I found the color so lovely.  And now I've seen the perfect pattern for them; I just need about twice as much yardage as I have.

My fiber purchases.

On Friday afternoon, we went to the fifth and final shop, which turned out to be one of my favorites, and only about twenty minutes from home!  Sign me up to be a repeat shopper there!

We also hit another quilt shop on Friday, and I made some fabric purchases there for Christmas present projects.  Think I'm gonna have to be a repeat shopper there too; so much lovely, good quality fabric.  (Just as I have learned the difference between cheapy acrylic yarn and scrumptious wool, cotton and other natural fiber yarns, I am noticing the difference between cheapy fabric and fabric of such quality it makes you teary-eyed.  My tastes run to quality, now I just need to get my pocketbook to match. To quote a gift tag Mom and I saw while shop hopping: "Just because it's homemade doesn't mean it was cheap.")

I am really glad Mom told me about the shop hop.  And that we visited the two quilt shops too.  My bank account is probably about $200 smaller now, but if I stay on track and get everything made into presents it really isn't any different than if I'd gone and purchased those gifts one at a time.  Plus, this was a whole lot more fun than hectic holiday shopping is, and I still have the enjoyment of hours of crafting to look forward to!

Back at home, it was time to knuckle down and finish that dish towel I've been working on for a while.  My fingers were itching to work with some of that newly purchased yarn, but I knew I had to finish my towel first.

So I did.  And then I grabbed a skein of new yarn and got started on a warm woolen hat for DD2.

the finally long enough dish towel
and DD2's hat so far

This is the pattern I am using for DD2's hat, and it is knitting up super quickly.  I will be done with it by this weekend.  Then I will have to decide which of those delicious skeins of yarn will be on my needles next.

Tales and pictures about my fabric purchases (and their designated projects) will have to be another post on any day that's not a Wednesday!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

My First Grape Jelly

Many years ago, I planted some concord grapes on the edge of the garden at this little place here. So many years ago, in fact, that the garden has expanded since then and the grapes are no longer on the edge.  It has taken quite a while, between the poor soil, the deer and the rabbits, for the grape vines to bear enough for me to even think about making anything out of my grapes.

This year, however, has been a very good year for grapes.  So good, that I thought I might have enough to make a small batch of jelly.  So I picked, washed, and sorted them.  I figured if I didn't end up with enough juice to make jelly with, we'd at least enjoy some 'organic' homegrown grape juice.

not quite half of my grapes

After washing and sorting out the tart unripe ones, I got out my trusty Ball Blue Book and looked up what was needed to make grape jelly.  

Grapes for juicing.  Check
Pectin. Check
Sugar. Check.

OK!  Here we go!  First, I needed to cook the grapes and extract the juice.  How much juice I ended up with would determine if I could continue on to making jelly, or if we were just going to drink some really fresh grape juice.

The grapes were mashed, measured, and put into a sauce pan with a little bit of water (1/2 cup per quart of squished grapes).  Then they were simmered on low for a little while.

ready to cook

After they had cooked for the designated amount of time, which was really not very long, only 10 or 15 minutes, I lined my fruit/veggie strainer with a couple of layers of cheese cloth and dumped in the grape mush.  That strained for at least a half an hour until all that was left in the strainer was pulp.  At that point, I carefully lifted the cheesecloth, twisted it shut, and proceeded to squeeze out any remaining juice by hand.  Which was probably a little short sighted of me.

my juice

my hand

Yes, my hands were rather purple.  It looked kind of entertaining at first, like the girl in Willy Wonka who turns into a blueberry.  However, by the next morning (for church, of course), my hands looked more like they'd been run over by a bus: kind of a mottled purply gray bruised mess. Not the first time I'd gone to church with my hands stained by something or other.

Anyway. . . at this point the directions in my Blue Book said to let the grape juice sit in the fridge for 12-24 hours before proceeding on. So, I did.  I poured it into a clean quart canning jar, put a lid on it, and stuck it in the fridge until after church the next day.

When it was time to continue on with the jelly making, because, amazingly, I had been able to extract the exact amount of juice that the small batch recipe called for!!, I poured the juice into one of the pots I typically use when I'm making jams.

From there, it was a typical jam recipe: add pectin, heat to a boil, add sugar, heat back to a rolling boil, time if necessary, and pour into jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Water bath for the directed time, and voila, jelly!

juice and pectin in the pot, ready to heat

stirring in the sugar

voila!  jelly!

This batch of grape jelly has been a long time coming.  Hopefully there will be many more batches in the future. Because it turned out delicious, if I do say so myself (yes, I couldn't resist tasting it.  Made a very yummy pb & j for lunch on Monday.)

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Yarn Along 2015.39: Are We There Yet?

Joining Ginny's Yarn Along today.  The weather at this little place here is much nicer than it's been in about a week. The sun is finally back out, and the temperature is supposed to be somewhere close to seventy degrees this afternoon.  A nice change from the howling north wind, rain/overcast, and cool temps we've have since last Friday.

"Are we there yet?" is how I'm feeling about my Ups n Downs dish towel lately.  Anxious to be 'there'; to be to the right length, to cast off and be done.  It is currently at 19 inches long.  Taking a survey of the dish towels currently in my kitchen, 22 inches seems to be the 'normal' length. I have a few that are only 20, some that are 23, but most are 22.  These are all towels that have been in use for several years, and washed at least a hundred times.  In other words, they have probably shrunk at least a little from when they were brand new.

Which means, I suppose, that I will knit another three to five inches on my towel before casting off.  Honestly, though, I've lost interest in the project.  I'd much rather be knitting socks, or winter hats, or Christmas presents.  But I know that if I don't force myself to work on this towel and only this towel, it will get set aside and probably not finished this year.  So, I'll just keep saying "are we there yet?!?" and knitting monogamously for another week.

I'm also struggling a little with the book I am currently reading, The Beach Quilt.  I just started it last night, so I'm not all that far into it yet, but the writing style is starting to annoy me.  The plot seems interesting enough, it's just that the wording and the setting the writer is trying to describe are hitting me as too idyllic, too simplistic.  Not sure I can keep going and read all 400+ pages if only the first 50 are making me grit my teeth.

Just in case maybe I'm in a little funk and not realizing it yet (bored with my knitting, not 'feeling' this book) I'll keep at it for another few chapters before I decide to quit reading it or not.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Running Home

A few weekends ago, DH, DS2 and I ran up to the Upper Peninsula to visit DD2.  Parents' Weekend for her college is coming up later in October, but due to DH's travel schedule for work, we won't be able to go.  So, we scheduled our own 'parents and brother weekend', and did a quick three-day trip to visit her, as well as the surrounding countryside that the three of us yearn to live in. (Her college is the same one DS2 just graduated from this past May.)

As DH put it, shortly after we arrived on a Friday evening, "I feel like I've come home."  Which is exactly how I feel every time I've visited this particular portion of God's Earth, since we moved away from it in late May of 1993 after DH's own graduation from that college.

It is home.  It is comfortable. It is comforting. It is where my heart knows I belong.

Not that we don't love it at this little place here.  But, truthfully, we've always considered this little place here our temporary home, just until the kids grew up and DH can retire.  Requirement one now done: the kids have grown up.  As soon as requirement two is met (mortgage paid off, and enough in savings for DH to retire), we're outta here; off to the UP!

I took lots and lots of pictures while we were there most recently; memories to help tide me over until I can get back again, one of these times for good.

our hotel room had the most awesome black and white photos of Upper Peninsula scenery as decor

left-facing view atop the local ski hill

front and center view from ski hill
(DD2, DS2 and I later walked down the ski run from the top to the base,
 where DH picked us up at the road--he drove down)

right-facing view from the ski hill


hiking at Hungarian Falls

just a trickle here, but further up. . .

the upper fall

they didn't know I was taking their picture

Misery Bay

Agate Beach

close up of breaking wave

I told you this is where my heart is

view from the boardwalk of the wetland natural area
(DD2 had a lab class here earlier that week)