Sunday, December 31, 2017

Is It Over Yet?

The last quarter of this year has been something else.  Something else beside relaxing, productive, or fulfilling from where I stand.  I wish I could say that tomorrow everything will be better, but really, that isn't up to me and that one point--that it isn't up to me--is what  has been the hardest for me through the past several months.  2018 is bringing, for me anyway, maybe more uncertainty than it is promise.  Mainly uncertainty pertaining to where my grandkids will reside on a regular basis (which affects my schedule, working, and riding to varying degrees).

This past week we had the grandkids from about bedtime on Christmas Day until roughly 3:00 Friday afternoon (Dec. 29).  Thank goodness that DD1 was also here for a good portion of that, DH had the entire week off (although he did have prior commitments taking up most of Tuesday and Wednesday), and DD2 also was home the entire week.  Because I could not possibly have taken care of the kids without their help as I had previously committed to not only my regular hours at the dressage barn when I work, but also filling in for morning feeding and stall cleaning at the eventing barn where I used to work. And, to top it off, I had agreed to ride someone else's horse daily while that person was out of state for a week.

The extra riding was nice, until it wasn't.  On Wednesday, the last day of that particular commitment, I suffered a rather large crash.  The kind where one minute you are trotting around nicely, then suddenly you feel the horse start to scoot while your brain registers that the horses back feels like an enormous buck is eminent and you think Oh shit, I'm going off and the next thing you know, you are lying flat on your back staring up at the rafters of the indoor arena while someone is kneeling over you calling your name.  It was the kind of spectacular crash where you get knocked out and no one allows you to move, they just cover you with layers of horse blankets and pack rolled up polo wraps around your neck while calling 911 for an ambulance.

Thankfully I am hard headed enough that my brain didn't seem to sustain any more trauma than a concussion and I was able to (repeatedly) tell the paramedics not only what day it was, but my name, home address, birth date, etc, etc that they ask you in order to judge how loopy you might be. palpation of my skull, neck, spine, ribs and hip didn't indicate anything broken, so they allowed me to make the choice whether I wanted to ride in the ambulance to the hospital for more examination or just go home and take it easy.  Being that I felt pretty much normal, not counting the growing headache and the feeling in my right hip and lower rib cage that clued me in to exactly which body part I hit the ground with first, I declined an ambulance ride.  I did promise them that I would let someone else drive me home in my vehicle, and that if I were to start vomiting, I would go to the emergency room immediately.

I spent most of the rest of Wednesday and a good portion of Thursday taking large doses of anti-inflammatories and laying on the couch as much as possible with young kids in the house.  I never did throw up, which is good because I couldn't see how the grandkids would get taken care of (they currently cannot be at home unless their father is there) if I ended up needing DH to take me to the hospital.  My body felt like I'd been in a car wreck: all stiff and achey when I moved the wrong way--which was pretty much any direction requiring reaching, twisting, or bending. Needless to say, I was unable to do any barn work on Thursday and Friday.

By Saturday morning I felt normal enough to attempt driving and grocery shopping.  I took DD2 with me, just in case.  Other than the fluorescent lights of the grocery store messing with my head (what a strange spacey feeling they induced), that went fine. Today I feel good enough that I am contemplating getting back in the saddle (need to dig up a helmet to wear, mine should probably be retired after that crash), and plan to resume my regular work schedule.

Needless to say, with the family turmoil of the last few months, and my bordering on famous unplanned dismount from the horse on Wednesday, I'm not sad to bid goodbye to 2017.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Just Breathe

That's kind of been my mantra for most of November.  Just breathe.  Inhale.  Exhale.  One foot in front of the other. 

November has been an incredibly challenging month.  Its always a little tough, trying to deal with firearm deer season (and DHs resultant live-in company), doing all my normal daily work plus trying to fit in time of my own out in the tree stands.  This year, however, even more shit  other peoples bad decisions craptastic challenges have made November a month that was predominantly depressing, suffocating, overwhelming, and very busy overall.  I cant really go into detail on the major cause of such a titanically difficult month, but suffice it to say that for approximately one third of November K3 and Toad were with me day and night.  They are back in their own home now, but our lives aren't quite back to normal and probably wont be for months to come.  When a train wreck happens, the recovery period is long, and the time it takes to rebuild trust can be indefinite.

Anyway,  I have really missed posting on this blog.  Kind of ironic that my last post, so early in the month, was about five good things that had happened.  Quickly after that post, so many many bad things occurred, or came to light, and as much as I wanted to just get on the computer and blog another five nice things, I couldn't. 

No time.  No nice things.  No breathing space.  No creative brain.  Anger, quite a bit of anger, actually.  A blog isn't the place to get out anger. At least, not this blog.  I want this little place here to be a refreshing place, a relaxing and inspiring place.  For me and for my readers.

On top of all the time, mental, and emotional challenges of November, our laptop seems to be sending DH and I increasing signals that it would like to be replaced with a newer model.  primarily the letter p hardly ever works any more. Every p you see in this post I put in using copy and paste from a spell checked word that had the p automatically added in! Which is also why none are capitalized.  The grammar nazi in me is having fits over that and the missing apostrophes on certain words. 

As the days go by, additional letter keys seem to be joining in the strike.  There are other issues too, but when the computer is actually on, its the lack of certain keys/letters that are the biggest challenge to typing anything.  Just try logging into an account where the name or password contains a p.  So hard to make an online payment on time in that case!

perhaps its time for me to breakdown and put the blogger app on my phone so I can finally write posts and blog from there.  I've been resistant to that for a few reasons, mostly because I hate using the itty bitty touchpad keyboard on the phone.  I can type super fast in person, on a normal size keyboard.  plus I haven't figured out how to watermark my photos on my phone before adding them to the blog.

Hopefully soon I can get back to all the long list of posts I wanted to write, and actually get some new content put on here on a regular basis.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday Five

I am going to implement a new weekly themed post at this little place here.  Might just be for the month of November, or I might (if I'm successful at regular posting) keep it going for an undetermined length of time.

It will be the Friday Five, in which I will give five highlights for the past seven days in my life around this little place here.

For this week, here's my five:

1. Finding out about, and meeting DS2's girlfriend!  He is such a private person, and doesn't feel the need for a lot of social interaction, that DH and I have long joked that we will only find out if he's dating someone when we receive an invitation to their wedding.  So it was kind of a surprise to have him come home for dinner last weekend and bring a young woman we've never seen (nor heard of) before!  Even more of a surprise to learn that they met nearly three years ago, and have been carrying on a long distance relationship (she lives on the East Coast).  And yet more of a surprise to hear that he will be bringing her with him for Thanksgiving, and that she plans to move to Michigan next year and transferring to college here!  So many surprises that I'm leaning toward making her official blog name Surprise, as it seems like she will most likely be joining the family and becoming a regular here.

2. Carving pumpkins with K3 and Toad.  Not just carving the pumpkins, but walking through our garden and letting them each choose exactly the perfect pumpkin for themself.  Also being visited by them on Halloween before they made their trick-or-treating rounds in the nearby village.

3. Our first snow of the season.  Nothing that actually stuck, but it was a real snow, nonetheless.  And Mayhem's first snow; it was quite entertaining to watch her try to figure out what the white fuzzy things flying around were, and try to leap and catch them.

4. Good rides on the California Horse this week.  Definitely a week where I feel like we are making progress.  Lateral work is getting more natural for me; we even managed 3-5 consecutive strides of good leg yield at trot in both directions.

5. DH got a decent six-point (4 on one side, two on the other) buck with his crossbow, so now we have red meat for the freezer!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

One Step Forward. . .

. . . Two steps back.

That is how my riding has been feeling for the past month or so.  Somehow I've gotten myself into another uncoordinated phase.  Things were progressing so well, with better contact, better sitting trot, nice transitions from trot to canter, unkinking myself to do more accurate lateral work. And then. . .

--lateral work that is stuck in place.  Either no forward/sideways at all, as if the horse's legs are twisted up too like my body used to be, or lateral work that is very steep and rushed, but mostly the non-moving version.  Kinda like a halt and a half-sideways step combined.

--twisting my torso.  WHAT?!?  Sometimes I can see it in the mirrors, it's that obvious. Like my right shoulder being higher than my left. But most of the time it's slight, like I somehow only breathed with one lung and the other isn't inflated and neither are my ribs on that side.  However, the horse feels it and reacts to it.  Hence the shitty lack of true lateral work.

--an inability to get the canter strike off.  Or, strike off on the wrong lead.

It has felt like I've totally forgotten how to ride.  Like somehow I went from decent First Level quality work, eyeballing Second Level, to rank beginner-can't-make-the-horse-go.

Well, not quite can't make the horse go, just can't make the horse use it's body properly, with impulsion from behind, contact in the bit, and flexibility in the middle.


My trainer and I have had a few discussions about my frustration with my regression as of late.  Part of it is a sticky hip (mine) that needs to be more supple and able to be used (or removed) with the proper timing.  So. . . I need to get back to doing yoga at least once a week like I used to do several years ago.  Aging bodies don't stay limber without a little encouragement.

Another part of my issues is that, as my dear trainer reminded me, she has upped the bar for me and we have been working on refining my aids.  Which means more slight corrections that are applied in quicker succession.  Timing is a big part of this.  Timing is kind of a nemesis for me, as I've always struggled with moving gracefully.  I can do the slow one-two-three-four of a waltz, and I can ride very well in the same sort of slow dance of the Training and early First Level of dressage.  But I can't mambo, and that's kind of what I need to be able to do--the increased number of movements in the right timing and fluidity--to be able to make the jump to the next level.  Not only the increased movement and effort from me, but also draw that out of my horse at the same time.

Which means that even though right now I feel awkward and uncoordinated, and am having some trouble performing some movements (like lateral work and canter transitions) as well as I was in August, it's not because I've forgotten how to ride. It's because now I'm being asked to do them with lighter, politer, more invisible aids, while keeping my horse balanced, in contact and with more impulsion from the hindquarters.  Which is a challenge for him, too. He's got to pay more attention to 'hear' my quieter requests. He's got to work a little harder to carry himself (and me) with a rounder frame.

Yesterday, for the first time in a couple of weeks, I actually felt like maybe we made two steps forward in our riding session and only one step back. There were some things we could have done better, I could have done with better timing, but overall, it was a ride that I'd classify as positive. For one, we didn't get stuck in the lateral work.  It wasn't as fluid or technically correct as it could have been, but it moved in the right direction without losing much impulsion.  We had decent canter departs in both directions on the correct lead.  The trot is getting bigger as well rounder, and I can sit that fairly well.

Best of all, one of our downward transitions was the absolute best I've ever felt.  Even though we were changing gears from trot to walk, the change actually felt like we were going up.  Not one iota of impulsion lost.  Not any of the energy leaking out the forehand and flattening the horse's body.  Not any tension in my hands or arms blocking the energy flow. Instead, I merely sat a little deeper while keeping my arms elastic and yet not giving away the contact, asking for the downward gear shift and when he changed, I felt the forehand unmistakably lift .  Hard to describe, but an awesome and hugely rewarding feeling.  Definitely a step in the right direction.  A step up to the next level.

His body might be pointed toward the arena,
 but he'd rather be out back with his friends lazing in the pasture.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

First Frost

We had our first frost of the season last night, which is very much later than usual--usual being sometime during the first week of October.  We've really been luck with having warm weather so far this Fall, and only started heating the house about a week ago, when the cool nights coupled with cloudy days wasn't keeping the ambient indoor temperature above about 63 or so. 

Last night's frost, for however late it might be, did not go easy on us.  It may have been a first frost, but it was a good solid hoar frost, coating everything white and fuzzy.  On first glance, you'd almost think we'd gotten a dusting of snow.

frost crystals on the deck railing

As the sun rose higher in the sky, things lit up.  Like the leaves on the huge old oak tree in the field.  Even with the bright sun, it took a few hours for all of the frost to melt away.

Friday, October 20, 2017

U.P. Getaway

I've been wanting to take a 4-day weekend for a while, and my favorite place to go when there's time is the Upper Peninsula.  DH and I decided to combine a "let's escape from our everyday lives" getaway with a visit to DD2 (since her birthday was earlier this month), and we ran away to the U.P. for a long weekend of beautiful fall weather and colors. (Although it started out rainy for our drive up.)

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Five Years Later. . .

In the Fall of 2012, I took part in a quilt block swap at the homesteading forum I was a part of back then.  Each person in the swap made a 12.5" (unfinished dimensions) block in their choice of pattern, using "Fall" or "Autumn" colors, for each of the other participants in the swap, so that we all ended up with sixteen different, but coordinating quilt blocks. 

I blogged about being excited to receive my packet of blocks way back here.

The next month, DD1 moved back home from college in MN after just one extremely homesick semester.  That was, I thought, just a slight adjustment, and that I'd get to putting those blocks together into a quilt by the following summer, so that it would be ready when Fall came again.

Ha ha.  Boy, was I wrong.  Looking back from five years, and many (more than slight) adjustments to our living arrangements later, DD1 moving home from MN was not a small blip in a radar that returned to normal. It seems, instead, to have been one of many bumps that sent me way, way off course.  Because other than a few Christmas or birthday presents here and there, and two baby quilts (this one and this one), I really haven't done nearly as much sewing after 2013 arrived.

In fact, for most of this year, my sewing machine has been pretty unreachable, buried against the far wall of the room it's in, with a whole bunch of other stuff (quite a bit belonging to people other than me) between it and the doorway.

Kind of how I feel, buried in tasks, quite a few 'dumped' on me by other people.

This past weekend, when DH was up north helping his mom with a project yet again (the fifth weekend he's done so since--and including--Memorial Day weekend) and DD1 was also out of town, and I decided that for once I was not going to bust my butt doing tasks all weekend while everyone else was gone.  Not a whole lot of things have gotten done around here this summer in my opinion, and I'm totally burned out on trying to accomplish tasks on my own.  Instead of working on something on the to-do list or the project list, I waded my way (OK, maybe more like bushwhacked, as there was quite a bit of shoving involved) to my sewing machine and retrieved it from the mess in what was once, oh say five years ago, my sewing room.  Then I dug out those quilt blocks from that swap in 2012.  And the fabrics I'd bought, in 2014, for borders and backing to make those blocks into a finished quilt. Oh,and the batting I'd also bought, in 2014, when making those two baby quilts (I had bought extra, with the plans to finish the Fall 2012 swap blocks as well as another set of blocks.)

I hauled all that, plus my ironing board and iron, rotary cutter, mat and ruler, downstairs to the dining room.  Then, I commenced measuring, cutting, and sewing.  And doing math, and more cutting, and more sewing. 

I thought I would have this quilt finished by Saturday night. 

I was wrong.  First off, the fabric I'd bought for the backing ended up being a wee bit short of what I needed.  Like, not even half a yard.  Since it had been purchased three years ago, at a quilt shop on hour away, running out for an extra half yard just wasn't possible that day. Probably not possible any day, as the fabric probably was no longer available. So I had to improvise with what I had on hand.  That required a lot more math.  But I got it figured out.

Reassessed my timeline, and I thought I would have the quilt finished before DH (or DD1) got back home on Sunday.

Nope.  My machine jammed up.  Because, of course, it's been sitting in a pile of assorted boxes, books, clothing, etc gathering dust, all year.  And it hasn't been oiled in several years.  So, dust plus dry machine plus about eight hours of sewing going on in two days equaled having the needle stuck in the down position and nothing moving when I pushed the foot pedal or tried to manually turn the flywheel.

Do you know, it's about impossible to find info on taking apart and servicing your own sewing machine?  How frustrating!  Finally, I found one video of a guy (who does sewing machine repair) taking the front and back off of the exact same machine I own, although for a different reason than why I was hell bent on getting to the guts of my machine.  I did manage to free my quilt by using a pair of tin snips to cut the needle and then lifting the quilt off the piece of needle that was still stuck in the sewing machine

So, the quilt didn't get finished Sunday, and it didn't get finished Monday either.  BUT, with DH's help, I did get my machine opened up, cleaned, oiled and fixed.  All without having to take it to a service place.  Yay me!  Saved some cash there!

Today, I finally finished it.  Several days, and many more hours longer than I'd planned.  I quilted it by stitching in the ditch around the border, the sashing, and the design in each individual block.  The back has it's own border made from the same fabric as the border on the front (how I solved the problem of my backing fabric being scant) and the different blocks can be identified by the quilting.

It is 60" x 60" square. I intend for it to be a seasonal throw on the back on the living room couch.  Doing double duty as both decor and a nice warm blanket to snuggle up in on chilly Fall days

front, partially quilted 
(taken yesterday once it had been freed from the machine!)

front, with quilting finished
(I think the quilting makes the blocks really pop)

back, showing quilting
 (still needing thread ends trimmed)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Lots of Apples

It has been a good year for fruit.  We harvested about a bushel and a half of pears off of our two small(ish) pear trees--after not realizing one of them was definitely ripe and had all ready dropped half of it's fruit. The apple trees have, by far, outdone the pear trees though.  It's been an excellent year for apples.

In early September, we harvested roughly a bushel and a half of apples from my Ida Red apple tree.  It is the first one in  my orchard to be ready each year.  It is my favorite for making applesauce with, as it is sweet enough I don't need to add any sugar, yet it has a slight tartness also.

The next tree is the Cortland, with it's deep red skin and bright white flesh.  Also good for sauce, it's kind of a back-up in case the Ida Red has a bad year.  It makes good pies, crisps, and baked apples too.  This year I kind of dropped the ball on my Cortland tree, getting preoccupied with other stuff and not keeping an eye on how quickly it was ripening.  Probably half the crop from that one went to the deer, the rest, at least a bushel, made it's way into storage until I can get them processed. Depending on how much applesauce we want, I might try my hand at canned apple pie filling with the Cortlands.

Following quickly behind the Cortland, and the one tree I don't really care all that much for it's fruit, but planted it as a pollinator for some of the others, is the Red Delicious.  That tree outdid itself this year.  We picked well over two bushel of apples from it.  I'm thinking I will make juice out of them.

Not quite ready yet, but very soon, as it's an October apple, is DH's favorite, the Granny Smith.  We've picked up over a dozen drops lately, but haven't harvested the tree yet.  It doesn't produce quite as well as the red varieties, but still looks to have at least a bushel-worth of apples hanging on the limbs.  These make really good pies, but also store very well in the cellar, so are designated as DH's 'lunchbox apples'.  Typically they stay nice and crisp down in the cellar until around the beginning of March.

Last weekend, DH and I had K3 and Toad 'help' us to harvest some of the apples.  K3 was surprisingly talented with the apple picker, and really got into the idea of picking apples.  It was hard to get her to relinquish her tool so that her brother could have a try at it.  It was also difficult to get her to stick to one area of one tree until all the apples in that spot had been removed.  She mostly wanted to go from tree to tree, choosing what she though was the best looking apple on each.  She was pretty intent on filling a grocery bag with apples to take home to her mom and dad.

Toad, being younger and shorter, couldn't aim and balance the apple picker quite as well.  He got a few low-hanging apples on his own, but mostly had help from Grandma (me) steering the picker.  I think he better liked helping Grandpa (DH) collect the bruised dropped apples from the ground and tossing them into the tractor bucket to be hauled away from the orchard (where they were attracting yellow jackets).

He did put a few salvageable ones in my 'use right away' basket (where most of the California Horse's treats have come from this week), as well as pick a really big Red Delicious to take home.  He proudly told his dad "This apple is as big as my head." when DS1 came to get them later in the day. It was actually only about half the size of his head; very large for an apple.

Toad's big apple

Meanwhile, my garage currently smells deliciously of apples, as that is where all the baskets and bags are being stored while they await their turn in the canner.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Good Things Come To Those Who Wait

We've all heard that patience is a virtue.  Through the nearly 28 years that I've been a parent, I've often prayed for patience.  Patience to not get upset with my children's antics.  Patience to not blow my top at DH after a long day of cleaning house and having him come home to remark on the one thing I didn't get to, rather than comment on how awesome the house looks where I did get things taken care of.  Patience in my desire to ride horses more than a couple times a month.  Patience with people who are yanking my chain when I'd really like to wrap that same chain around their throats and give a good hard yank of my own. . .

And what do you know; the older I get, the more I see that I possess an extraordinary amount of patience! 

Patience with our finances is something that, luckily, DH and I share.  We are on the same page as far as our budget goes, our wants and needs, and what our long term game plan is (debt free living by age 55--me--and 57--him!).  Not that we don't argue about money, we do, but we don't argue about money much.  Most of our financial discussions are honest to goodness discussions, with give and take and feed back.  All vacations are planned. All large expenditures are planned.  Very little impulse buying goes on, honestly, because you can't really call it an impulse buy if you've all ready got the money set aside for 'fun stuff' or small 'wants'.

We know, and have experienced over the years, that good things come to those who wait. Everything in it's own time.

I've wanted a crew cab pickup for a long, long time.  My first vehicle purchase--at age 18--was a pickup.  I'm a truck girl.  I'm also a practical mom, who knew that I would need a crew cab truck if I was going to be able to haul all my kids around.

But, there were a lot of other vehicles I could haul four kids around in, so we didn't purchase a crew cab truck way back when.  The photo below was taken in early 1998, for fun, of me and a long bed, 4WD, 3/4 ton crew cab dually.  My dream truck.  A truck we certainly couldn't afford to buy, and really had no use for that much of a work horse of a vehicle.  At the time, I was driving an all wheel drive Astro van, and it met all our needs. But I've always dreamed of a crew cab truck.  Someday. . .

Guess what?!?

That someday has come!  It's not a 3/4 ton (although DH and I debated 3/4 vs 1/2 ton for most of the past year--yes, we've been planning this purchase well before going shopping).  It's not a dually, since we don't do that much heavy hauling to merit having a dual wheeled rear axle.  And it's not a long box, as those are about impossible to find any more, but it is a 'regular' box, not a short bed (the angle of the below pics make the bed look shorter).

What it is, is a 1/2 ton, 4WD, crew cab Chevy truck.  Blue (like the one above, although that pic is too dark to really tell).  Six passenger seating, so we have lots of room for grandkids, both now and the ones we'll be getting in the future.  Because we plan to have this truck for about 20 years.  It will probably take us that long to wear it out. 

This is our new trip truck, for long distance travel.  This is our new hauling vehicle. This will be my daily runner when the Suburban finally bites the big one in a few years or more (rolled 238.800 miles this afternoon!) This is the good thing that certainly has been worth waiting nearly 20 years for.  And, despite the fact that we had to take out a loan to purchase it, fits right into our plan to be debt free by ages 55 and 57.  Because of the durability of this vehicle, we'll be driving it for many, many years, long after the loan is paid back (loan payoff goal: less than the 60 months the bank planned the loan for).  Also long after our mortgage is paid off, which will give us the ability to save up money to pay cash for the next brand new truck we will need when this one gets to be on it's last legs.

Patience.  Good things.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Don't Ask

I'm sure you've heard the phrase "Ask and ye shall receive."  I know that I have.  And, apparently I have asked, because today I have received.

Our 2005 Suburban has been a trusty vehicle for all the years we've owned it.  12.5 years, to be exact.  It was basically brand new when we bought it (company used, about 4500 miles on the odometer when we took possession).  Now, more than a decade later, it is showing a bit of wear on the outside, with some rocker panel rust and more than a few dents and dings.  What can I say, it's been through four teenage drivers, and numerous long distance trips.  It has carried us from mid-Michigan to places like Canada, Florida, Oregon, Pennsylvania, the Upper Peninsula, as well as to South Carolina about a handful of times before DS1, K2 and the grandkids moved up here.

That's just the trips that were more than 200 miles one way.  Daily commutes to the Christian school I had at least one student in until June 2011 racked up 220 miles each week during the school year.  To say it has high mileage would be kind of stating the obvious.

Earlier this month, the odometer rolled 238,000 miles, and I said to DH: "We are about the enter the unknown."

You see, we've had three other vehicles that we drove to over 200,000 miles before something major (more truthfully, majorly expensive to repair) gave out on them.  First was a 1984 Chevy Caprice Classic (bought in the summer of 1991 and retired in 1997).  Then, a 1989 Pontiac Bonneville (bought in the fall of 1993, and retired late winter/early spring 1999).  Most recently, a 1999 GMC Sonoma (bought in March 1999 brand new!!  5 miles on the odometer! and retired in 2008.)

Of those three, the Bonneville made it to about 238,200 miles and then blew the head gasket. It has been our record holder, so far, for highest mileage before 'dying'.  Although truthfully, none of those vehicles became scrap immediately after leaving our possession. Nope, each one was lucky enough to be sold to a young mechanic (DH has an affinity for finding young mechanics on tight budgets) who was going to fix what was wrong with the vehicle (doing the work himself, thus saving the high labor cost that was the reason we no longer wanted to repair the vehicle), then use it for a daily driver.

That's why, when the Suburban ticked past the 238,000 mile mark, the suspense began to build.  How many miles can I drive before something major breaks?  Can I make it past 238,200 miles? What will it be that dies?  Where will I be when it happens?  (Cue either the Twilight Zone music, or the Jeopardy final question music).

Not that something major has broken, but in a way today I feel like I shouldn't have asked.  You see, I was on my way home from the grocery store (approx. 20 miles away), and the odometer clocked yet another milestone reading. 238,400 miles.  I even took a quick picture of it, so I could show DH.

Wouldn't you know, about ten minutes later, less than 2 miles from home, I was coming up over a blind hill and was surprised to see a combine coming toward me, taking up 3/4 of the narrow road.  I jammed on the brakes, and felt the pedal pretty much sink to the floor.  Luckily between me quickly steering as far onto the shoulder as I could without hitting a mailbox or tree, and the farmer doing the same in the combine, we passed each other without touching.

Where had my brakes gone?  They were there just minutes before, at a stop sign, like normal. But when the combine appeared, my brakes disappeared.

The rest of the way home, I made sure to give myself lots of stopping distance, and to utilize engine braking when needed.  Thank goodness there was zero traffic after that combine.

Once home, I took the groceries into the house and put them away (can't let the ice cream melt, I'm going to be stress eating some later today for sure!).  After the cold food was safely stored, I went back outside to see if I could diagnose what the issue with my brakes was.

Didn't take long to figure out.

Appears to be a blown brake line on the left rear.  I guess after 238,400 miles a brake line is allowed to wear out.  That's pretty darn good service.  We've had to replace them a lot sooner on other vehicles we've owned.

Thankfully, a brake line isn't a major thing to replace.  So, the suburban should be up and running again in a day or two, just as soon as we get parts and time to fix it.  Which is good, because I have a goal to roll at least 250,000 miles before I give up my suburban!

Friday, September 15, 2017

ADD/ADHD (part 3)

But wait, that's not all!  There was more that DH & I did with our family than just change what we ate.  Edible intake was a huge portion, but that alone didn't 'fix' everything for DS1 and his possible ADD or ADHD.

That kid (well, all our kids, and I truly believe every kid in the world) thrived on structure.  Now, I don't mean over scheduling and micro-managing his time.  No, it's simpler than that.  Having a consistent time that he woke up, had breakfast (never, ever, go without breakfast--doesn't matter if you are a child or an adult, eat your breakfast!), went to school, came home from school, played, did homework, had dinner, played some more, took a bath, went through the bedtime routine, and went to bed every single day, allowed him to focus on what he was supposed to do when.  Plus, regular and consistent sleep is a huge benefit to brain function, no matter who you are.  There weren't fights and meltdowns over homework (usually), because he knew what portion of his evening he had to sit down and do it. There was no use arguing, this time slot was homework time. And the sooner it was done, the more play time he had.  (*side note* I really and truly believe that DS2 watched and learned from his brother's experience with school work.  DS2 was 4 grades younger, and it was his personal goal to never have homework.  If he could get all his assignments done at school, or on the ride home from school that was his plan.  He got almost to high school homework-free with this mindset.)

I always gave my kids a snack (both solid and liquid) and at least a half-hour of play time when they got home from school.  Didn't matter how much homework there was that day, first order of business upon arriving home was to have something to eat and drink, then go outside and run around (weather permitting--basically if it wasn't down pouring, thunder storming, or wind chills below zero) for at least a half-hour.  I firmly believe kids need to decompress a little after being cooped up in a classroom.  Their bodies need refueling and a good blood-pumping bit of physical activity, then their brains will be better able to focus on any necessary homework.  The amount of time spent on homework varied by child, and even by the day.  The less homework, the more play time; because the only things they had going on (when everyone was in elementary school) after school was dinner, chores, homework and play time.

Something that always grated on me, and honestly still does, is the common practice in schools to take away recess time for undesirable behavior in the classroom or for not having assignments finished on time.  Especially in young children.  Making them sit still even longer during the day, and not having that short bit of physical activity doesn't really make them have an easier time not being wiggly, or grumpy, or help them think through their work better.  Everyone needs a break to stretch now and then; we all come back refreshed and ready to tackle the next task.  My preference would be more towards having sentences to copy ("I will sit still" or "I will be quiet" or "I will be nice to my classmates")  or an short essay to write ("Why it's rude to talk back to the teacher" or "Why it hurt Joey's feelings when I pushed him" or "Why it's a distraction when I keep falling out of my chair") for older kids rather than being punished by missing the physical and mental break of recess.  Anyway. . .

In addition to the play time, if DS1 was having a particularly rough day body-wise, I would assign him laps.  Meaning he either had to walk, or run (depending on how much 'steam' I felt he needed to burn off) a certain number of times around the outside of our house.  These could even be done in the dark (such as in the winter when the sun was down about an hour after we returned from school) because he was following the walls of the building and not going far out into the yard or near the street where I might not be able to keep an eye on him (for anyone leery of having their child approached by strangers in cars. . . )

In the summer, the daily routine changed, of course, since there weren't six to seven hours of being away at school during the day.  Instead, there would be reading time, drawing/coloring time, helping to cook, bike riding time, etc.  We would go to the library, or the beach (weather permitting) on a particular time on a particular day each week.  Same with grocery shopping.  It was predictable, and reliable, and DS1 (as well as the other kids) knew when it was coming and what to expect (and how he was expected to behave or what he was expected to do).  There is a great deal of comfort for kids in having a routine and knowing what is going to happen next.

So we've got nutrition, structure, free time (play) and physical exercise all helping to manage DS1's tendency toward ADHD type behaviors.  But wait, that's not all! Limitations on screen time also helped.

Now, this was back in 1998, remember, that I started this whole big research project into what would help DS1 with his energetics, noise, and other behaviors that were creating the whole "Does he have ADD/ADHD?  Does he need medicating?" question.  There were no such thing as smart phones or tablets back then.  Laptops really were a business thing, not a home computer.  And not all homes had computers.  We didn't get our first computer at home until 'Santa' brought the whole family one for Christmas that year.  We didn't own a video game system, either.  So most of my kids' screen exposure was the television.  And I was the TV Nazi, let me tell you!  Even as a child, I wasn't too impressed with TV, and I've never really been an avid watcher of television.  I remember being about ten years old when I stopped watching cartoons, because I felt they insulted my intelligence.  The three stooges?  Puh-leeze.  Soap operas?  Really?  I mean, seriously, does that represent anyone's real life?  Give me something that I could apply to my own life and benefit from. (Yes, I do love documentaries and other types of educational programs.  You probably were wondering. . . )

My poor kids were allowed to watch 30 minutes per day of cartoons and that was only the ones on PBS (we've never had cable or satellite TV).  Not every day, but some days, they could also watch one video, which was typically something by Disney.  A "long" movie might be an entire 90 minutes of eyes glued to the television, which they felt was a huge treat.

Might sound like cruel and unusual punishment compared to the amount of screen time kids get these days, but you know what?  It gave them more time for outdoor play, sports, reading, playing board games or doing puzzles, or just interacting with each other, their friends, and DH & I.

When we did, eventually, acquire a home computer and a video game system, their individual screen time increased by another 30 minutes.  They could now watch 30 min of TV and spend either 30 min on the computer (playing the few computer games we owned, all of which were probably considered educational) or playing a video game (also monitored for acceptability before being purchased).

Sounds harsh, yes?  It worked.  On the occasion where DH or I got lenient with the times and allowed TV, movie, computer or video game binge-ing, behavior went into the toilet quickly. Then we all suffered: DS1 (or whichever child was zombified by screens), DH and I all had to pay the price of doing screen detox and getting back on track.  And, now, many years later when all my kids are adults, I have to say that they all are very good at entertaining themselves without having to be glued to a screen.  They all, even DS1, are good at time management.  They all have in internal monitor which tells them when they haven't been physically active enough and need to slot in some time to move around or get outside

Hopefully these posts been more than a trip down memory lane for me and a (maybe) somewhat interesting story for you to read.  If you, or anyone you know (your child, for instance), struggles with possible ADD/ADHD or behavioral issues (constant motion, talking a lot), it can't hurt to try changing your diet for a month or two and see what happens.  Structure and consistency help a lot also, as well as the opportunity to be physically active numerous times a day.  Screen time can be beneficial when the right sorts of things are on the screen, for limited times, but can also be a downward spiral of sluggishness, grumpiness, and other undesirable traits when used too long or for the wrong sorts of things.

If you are someone facing ADD/ADHD in your life, I wish you luck.  Don't give up, and don't get discouraged.  You can experiment and learn what things help, and which things make life more challenging for you. You can learn to be in control of it, and not let it control you quite so much.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

ADD/ADHD (part 2)

Meanwhile, that same time Spring, I was digging into how to manage some major health issues of DS2's.  He'd always had skin problems; had been seeing a dermatologist since he was nine months old (he was just over 4 years old when we started down the path of trying to see if DS1 really had ADD/ADHD).  The day after DS2's 4th birthday, he'd woken up in his first ever asthma attack and ended up in the hospital for 3 days.  Two month after that, another severe asthma attack netted him another two days in the hospital.  Now it was the following Spring, his allergies were kicking back into high gear with all the pollen around, his asthma was flaring again, and I was seeking all the info I could get on how to keep his allergies & asthma under control enough to prevent any more hospital stays.

Enter a book, the title of which I have long since forgotten, containing a chapter about nutrition.  A chapter that brought to the forefront of my mind a sheet of food additives that his dermatologist had long ago given me, telling me that often things like dyes (artificial colors), artificial flavorings, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives (particularly TBHQ, BHA and BHT) increased the likelihood of an eczema flare up.  Then, I had an A-HA! moment.  Eczema, hay fever (allergies) and asthma all have a genetic link.  So, if those things would cause DS2's eczema to flare, would exposure to them also increase the severity of his asthma?

Since he was all ready exposed to a number of allergens I couldn't control (pollen, outdoor molds during the warm wet weather), could I lessen the chance of an asthma flare up if I cut those suspicious substances--all the artificials and preservatives--from DS2's diet?  It certainly seemed worth the effort to give it a try.

And it was an effort.  Unless you are a organic vegan grow and cook everything yourself person, go to your cupboard and fridge, and read the ingredients on every single item of food and condiments and seasonings that you have.  How many of them contain at least one colorant, flavoring, sweetener other than sugar/honey/molasses/maple syrup, or a preservative? (note, I attempted this on Monday and couldn't find a single item with TBHQ, BHA, or BHT, so not sure if they are rarely used these days or if I've gotten so good at eradicating those items that there isn't any in my house even though the kids are grown up and don't eat here anymore).

BUT, DS2's asthma stayed under control.  Not only that, since everyone in the house was eating and drinking the same things as DS2, everyone got healthier.  Skin was better not just on DS2, but also on myself and DD2 (we have eczema also).  DD1, who has been on the run since she learned to push herself around in a baby walker, didn't bounce off the walls so much and her mouth which seemed to never shut ran at a lower speed (later experiments with her enlightened us to how sensitive she is to red dyes).

This new way of eating became our normal over the summer of 1998 (which, not coincidentally, is the summer I started gardening, and have grown an increasing portion of our food ever since). When school started back up again, with DS1 in 4th grade, DS2 in Kindergarten, and DD1 in preschool, I learned how to pack lunches and snacks that avoided the 'bad things'.  The complaints about DS1 being noisy and not sitting still didn't resurface at all that year (although he still zoned out sometimes, and he struggled with boredom and organizational skills).  DS2 stayed relatively asthma free (no hospitalization, not even one missed day of school).  DD1 was a favorite (and well behaved) student of her preschool teacher.

That year, and the next six or seven, no matter how many kids I had in school (be it two or three or four), not a single one had a single sick day.  Ever.  Many years, it was noted that the S____ (our last name) kids all had perfect attendance.  More than one year, ours was the only family in the school where not one child had missed school.  (Then came the year of the recurring head lice epidemic and that went to h@*%.)

Coincidence that my kids' health and behavior issues improved?  I really don't think so.  And, apparently neither does DS1, who has been the main person lately drilling me about what I fed him growing up.  K2 has recently been diagnosed with ADHD and has been put on meds for it (which seem to be causing her some unpleasant side effects).  K3 sometimes shows signs that she might possibly have an attention or learning problem. DS1 remembered vaguely the time when it had been thought that he had ADHD, and so he sought me out for advice.  Which has led to a conscious effort on my part to remember all the things in 'regular' food that I have avoided for so long that I don't even have to think about them anymore.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

ADD/ADHD (part 1)

This is a subject that I had not thought of in many years.  But recently, it's been brought up to me several times, and since I'm having my brain picked by others right now, I thought maybe it would be a valuable topic for a blog post.

Back when my kids were small; actually so far back that there were only three of them, DS1 was having some issues in school and it was suggested by more than one person that he might possibly have ADD or ADHD.  Our first course of action was to go from public elementary school, to a small private Christian school in search of a smaller student to teacher ratio, hoping that more one-on-one type of attention might help in his wiggliness.

Having a smaller, and multi-grade, classroom helped somewhat, but hadn't alleviated all of the issues. By the middle of DS1's second grade school year (and now the parents of four kids), DH and I were at what we thought were our wits end. (Oh, if only we knew how his educational future would play out!  Then again, it's better we hadn't known then because we may have slit our throats and gotten it over with.  Truly, getting DS1 through to high school graduation was sometimes that bad.) I took DS1 to be evaluated for ADD.  Now, this was back in early 1998 or so, when it seemed like ADD was the scourge of nearly every single boy in school.  No kidding.  ADD was 'diagnosed' a hundred-fold more times than it had been in the past decade, and more than it would be just ten years later.

Which is a nice way of saying I had my doubts as to the accuracy of these diagnoses. So I wasn't going to be satisfied with a doctor taking a quick 5-minute look at my child and be willing to have a 'professional' label him as ADD and stick him on drugs for the rest of his life.  In my mind, I wasn't sure he wasn't just bored with school.  He was a quick learner (as I had been; I only went to school for 12 years, completing 1st & 2nd grade in one school year, and doing college classes while still in high school. My father had gotten his diploma even quicker, skipping both Kindergarten and 7th grade, graduating at just 16) and I knew that I'd spent many classroom hours bored out of my skull.  What had saved me was that I was a doodler, so as long as my hands could be busy drawing on something--or, when I got older, writing elaborate stories--I could sit still and quietly wait for the teacher(s) to move on to the next lesson. My boy didn't apparently have my affinity for doodling, was too young for writing fanciful sagas, and he was a wiggling, squeaking, beeping, airplane-noise-making mess.

We started with our family doctor, who asked a few questions about the school time wiggles and airplane noises, asked a few more questions about DS1's attention span outside of school, and basically said "Well, he could have ADD or more likely ADHD, but I'm not really an expert.  Would you like a referral to someone who knows more about it?"

I took the referral.  On to doctor and evaluation #2.  More questions, starting with infancy.  Had DS1 hit all the typical developmental milestones on time?  Yes, and many early.  Had he gone to preschool? Yes, sort of, it was a rural area that did Head Start as a weekly home visit from the teacher who after her hour with Mom and Child left a packet of activities for the mother to work on with the child until the next visit.  Once a month all the students of that teacher (and their mothers) had a 1/2 day group session where the children interacted with each other and the teacher while the moms were given an informational presentation and interacted with each other.  (*side note*  I really, really loved how that program was done.  I had not heard of one like it before or since then, and I wish more programs were run in that manner.) How did he do in preschool?  Awesome; his teacher was challenged to keep him in materials as he ate up the tasks and was always eager for what the next thing was that he was going to learn.  In fact, that teacher had cautioned me not to hold him back from kindergarten just because he had a Fall birthday; she felt that he was more than ready at nearly five and would be troublesome in school if he had to wait and was bored.  He actually had begun to teach himself to read, and the summer before Kindergarten, he was sounding out small words on his own.

The second doctor also sent home a questionnaire for DS1's teacher to fill out.  But he never, ever interacted with DS1 himself, or observed DS1 in any way.  So, when he said "Let's try putting him on Ritalin, it might be ADHD", I went off in search of a doctor who would actually look at DS1 himself.  I mean, if a doctor wouldn't prescribe an antibiotic over the phone for an ill child just based on the mother's description of how the child was behaving and what it's vitals were, but insisted on the child being brought in for examination first, how in all honesty and accuracy could they prescribe behavior altering drugs without actually watching or talking to the child?

Doctor #3, who if I remember right also had training in child psychology or psychiatry or something, did the testing I had been looking for.  A detailed, complete evaluation.  One whose questionnaire began with questions about the pregnancy itself (including mother's health and nutrition), any complications during labor or delivery, development/illnesses/injuries of the child since birth, home life, and school history.  Then there was a long and detailed form for DS1's teacher to fill out on separate days (I think) three times a week for two weeks running.  And, on top of that, two sessions with DS1 and the doctor; one with me in the room, and the second one on a different date of about twenty minutes of just the doctor and DS1 (with a staff member witnessing).

Finally!  Finally!  Finally!  And the outcome of this was that DS1 did seem distractible enough to warrant a trial period on medication.  If the meds helped, then he most likely had ADHD and should continue on them.  If they didn't help (because for kids who don't actually have ADD/ADHD, this med would make them even less focused and more jumpy) then we would discontinue them.

Well, for two weeks I faithfully gave DS1 his pill.  For two weeks, his teacher filled out a daily evaluation form in regards to his classroom behavior (she didn't see much change).  For two weeks, I also had sheets to fill out about his behavior at home.  For two weeks, DS1 had trouble sleeping.  For two weeks, DS1 had a nosebleed nearly daily--and he'd never had nosebleeds before.

At the end of two weeks, we took him off the meds.   It pretty much corresponded with the end of the school year, so DH and I decided that for the summer, we'd take a break from any further seeking of medical fixes for DS1's classroom energy issues.

More of the saga to come in my next post.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Toad's Wild Ride

We have a small plastic motorcycle that Toad loves to ride.  It is a manual, not an automatic, in that it is foot powered rather than battery powered.  His other grandparents have bought various (large) battery powered ride-on toys for Toad and K3, but DH and I prefer the kind that require some exercise to make move.

Anyway. . . Toad loves his red motorcycle.  He wants to get it out of the garage and ride it just about every time he is at this little place here.  This spring, he discovered that if he starts at the top of a slope and gives a push, the momentum and the slope will carry him along to the bottom.

From riding it down the slight slope of the sidewalk and the cement approach to the garage, he graduated to the little bit more slope of the curve of the driveway, and then, before the grass grew too thick and longer once warm weather really hit in late April or so, he would ride it down the hill in the yard from the parking area, past the wood boiler, and out towards the field.  He could really pick up some speed that way.

But, once the grass started growing in earnest, he found it was easier and faster to use his feet to power it down the driveway and around the loop from house to barn.

Earlier this week, DS1, K3 and Toad came over for a while in the evening.  Us adults were sitting out on the patio, talking, while K3 and Toad ran around playing, alternately riding the big wheel, the little green tractor, the motorcycle, and scrambling around on the two plastic play structures we were given this summer by some friends at church whose grandchildren had outgrown them.

All was going well, until, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of Toad at the top of the railroad tie stairs that lead from behind the garage down to the patio.  He was at the top, then suddenly he was flying and flipping, landing halfway down with his motorcycle tumbling on top of him.

DS1 was out of his seat in a flash, running to retrieve Toad and to see if he was injured.

No harm done, just a few bumps.  Toad was more mad than hurt.  He was mad at the stairs, apparently.

I gently said "did you try to ride your motorcycle down the stairs?"

"Yes," he sniffed, his eyebrows knit in consternation.

"Toad, you have to go down the long way, on the grass." I told him, indicating the grassy slope that runs along the top of the terraced flowerbeds, about 60 feet or so, down into the backyard.

"The grass makes my motorcycle too slow," he informed me.

"Ah, but motorcycles don't do stairs very well." I replied.  "The grass doesn't hit your head like the stairs do."

Oh, the painful learning experiences a stubborn (and crafty) three year old boy has to go through!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

One Sock

It's been a long time since I posted anything about knitting.  Partly because there hasn't been much knitting going on this summer.  I took a skein of yarn to Alaska with me, thinking how wonderful it would be to relax and knit during the non-hiking portions of our vacation.  You know, in the airport, on the plane(s), while rolling down the road in the RV, at the family reunion (since I'm not a card player, and playing euchre is one of the major parts of the reunion).  I had a skein of sock yarn in my stash that seemed perfect for this particular vacation:  the colorway is called Northern Lights.  So, even though there would be no aurora borealis during my time in Alaska, thanks to the midnight sun, I decided I must make a pair of socks in Alaska.  

I even chose a pattern, called Envy, which sounded like it would jive with my Alaska/northern lights theme.  According to the description, it was a shifting rib.  Which made me think of how the lights of the aurora seem to shift and jump in the sky.  Perfect for this trip, perfect for this colorway.

Except I got hardly any knitting done during the two weeks I was in Alaska.  Knitting at the airport didn't work out.  Knitting on the plane didn't either.  And knitting while rolling down the road in the RV was absolutely non-existent.  If we were rolling, I was usually having to navigate.  Which required looking up our route in one Alaska travel book, and looking for possible hiking spots/scenic overlooks/tourist attractions and camping locations in another.

Back at home, I got a little knitting done, between all the regular summer tasks.  Instead of making a pair of socks in two weeks, I made one sock in two months.  Two months.  One sock.


Hopefully the second one doesn't take me quite as long.  Although I shall probably have to wait until October to knit it; once the garden is done and I'm finished canning for the year.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

So I Am

I splurged on a new t-shirt for myself.

The graphic spoke to me.  So I bought it.

It's a simple design: the neck and head of a horse facing the torso and head of a girl (woman) with a ponytail.  The words printed on it sealed the deal and made me relate to the picture (well, that and the fact that the horse looks huge compared to the girl--like the California Horse is--and I often wear my hair in a ponytail):  She believed she could.  So she did.

Because right now, I am.  I have always (well, okay, since I was sixteen) wanted to learn dressage.  Not just learn dressage, but master dressage.  I wanted to do the movements, do the dance, become one with a horse talented enough to go where most horses and riders never get.

Leasing the California Horse is making this all possible.

No, that's giving him all the credit, which isn't quite true.  Let me restate that.

The California Horse is the horse I am partnering with to learn the more complicated movements of the dressage dance.  Several things are making it possible.  One, being the fact that I finally have time to properly devote to my riding.  Another being the availability of this lease of the California Horse; he is a good fit for me--both in terms of size and in terms of temperament.  A third, but equally important factor is DH finally seeing how happy riding makes me, instead of looking at me in confusion and saying "you haven't been yourself in years, you used to be much happier".

But most of all, what has made this possible is my belief that I can. I can be a dressage rider.  I can learn all this complicated mental and physical dressage stuff.  I can pilot this gigantic horse and bring out his talent. I can accomplish my dream.  It may not have been in my twenties, or my thirties, but I didn't give up, and now it's happening in my forties.  All the challenges that kept me from focusing on my riding goals for decades could have discouraged me enough to make me give up.  I mean, two decades is a long time.  And physical tasks (like riding) don't get easier as you age.  But whenever I would feel like I should just give in, just write it off as a pipe dream of youth, I'd hear voices in my head.  Voices of former employers, coaches, trainers.  Voices that had one upon a time tried to convince me not to have kids, because I wouldn't be able to ride (and I was "such a good rider") professionally if I had kids.  Voices that had once upon a time tried to talk me out of getting married, because a husband would take me away from the horses.  A husband, kids, those would tie me up and keep me from becoming the kind of rider I had the talent to be.

I had the talent.  I have the talent.  So I believed that I needed to bide my time, to wait until the kids were grown and gone, until the housekeeping and child rearing didn't eat up the majority of my waking hours.  Then, then I would be able to ride as seriously again as I had in my youth.  Then I would be able to realize my potential, to put my talent to use.

I believed I could.  So I am.

Friday, September 1, 2017

A Blessing of Bounty

Right now, I am pretty much literally knee deep in food.  Bags and half-bushel baskets of tomatoes, pears, and apples stand in my kitchen, turning it into an obstacle course.  The canner runs just about daily, steadily reducing the number of bags and baskets in the kitchen, and increasing the number of jars on the shelves of the cellar.

Green beans and cucumbers await their turn in bags in the fridge, to help keep them crisp.  There was broccoli in the fridge too, but it went through the blancher and into the freezer on Sunday afternoon.

On the days when I'm not canning, I'm out picking, which leads to another build up of bags and baskets, and another round of canning.  It's a busy, busy time, but what a blessing it is to have all this 'free' food.  The fruit trees have paid for themselves many times over, and the $3 or so spent on a seed packet of canning and slicing tomato that I wanted was paid back in the first few ripe tomatoes that were eaten fresh right from the garden, never even making it to the canner.  The other evening, we had K3 and Toad here, and K3 was having fun using my kitchen scale to weigh tomatoes.  Most of the ones I'd set aside for slicing and eating fresh were coming in at 1/2 pound each! At grocery store prices of nearly $2 per pound, that $3 spent for the seed packet was 'paid back' after the first four tomatoes harvested!  So far, I've put up 28 pints of those tomatoes, and lost count of how many we ate that didn't even make it into jars.  Definitely a good investment.

We've been eating corn on the cob like it's going out of style, which, if you want to get technical, it is.  Corn season is winding down here in mid-Michigan. I'm hoping to get some of mine canned up also, if DH would quit inviting the kids over for dinner and feeding them fresh corn!

A couple of nights with low temperatures in the upper 40s this week have the tomatoes really ripening in droves now.  I picked some of the sauce tomatoes on Wednesday, but didn't have time to fit them into the canning schedule. This afternoon I went out and picked more.  Lots more.  Nearly three times more!  Now I'm wishing I had done a quick batch of sauce on Wednesday evening.  Because it's going to be a late night tonight: all those tomatoes cooked down to about 4 gallons of juice.  4 gallons which needs to simmer down and thicken into sauce.

Federle tomatoes for saucing

big pot of tomato juice

Yep, it's going to be a long night.  But, at the end of it I should have roughly 2 gallons (16 pints) of tomato sauce canned up.  Added to the 4 pints all ready down in the cellar, and that's about a half a year's worth of tomato sauce for DH and I.  While I wait for all that juice to simmer and thicken, I can knit, or read, or maybe catch up on some of the blog posts I've been wanting to write.  ;0)  What a blessing.

the chickens enjoy the tomato scraps

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A Welding Helmet. And Tomatoes

Alternately titled:  How To Freak Yourself Out

Yesterday was the big day.  The solar eclipse, visible across most of the US.  Here in Michigan we were in the 70-something percent totality zone.

Being frugal, and immune to societal whim, I did not purchase eclipse glasses for viewing the big event.  Oh, I fully intended to take a peek or two at the sun while it was being partially hidden by the moon, but I wasn't going to run to the store and get some darn wear-em-once plastic glasses.  You see, I have a vague memory of being very young, early in my elementary school days, and being ushered outside with a piece of cardboard with a pinhole in it, and viewing another solar eclipse.  So I knew it wasn't necessary to see this one with some store bought glasses.  (Some googling brought me the info that the eclipse I was remembering happened in 1979, when I was a wee 7 year old second grader.  Or maybe third grader, depending on it if was in the Spring or the Fall, since I was a year younger than the majority of my classmates.)

Anyway, the eclipse was just a small part of my itinerary yesterday.  A very large part was canning tomatoes.  Because my tomato plants are now starting to have red ripe 'maters, and it's time to get cranking on my canned tomatoes.

Before I could can them, I needed to pick them.  It just so happened that by the time I got home from work, changed out of my smelly sweaty barn clothes, and had some lunch, it was about time for the eclipse to 'begin'.  So I grabbed some bags to put tomatoes into as I picked, went into the garage and dug out DH's welding helmet (full of cobwebs because he welds so rarely), and headed to the garden.

Well, not straight to the garden.  First I wiped all the cobwebs out of DH's helmet and put it on for a selfie.  Did you know that it's incredibly difficult to take a selfie while wearing a welding helmet?  For one thing, I couldn't see a thing through the dark glass, so I had no idea where my phone was aiming.  For another, I have a fairly small head for an adult, and DH has a kind of large head. So the helmet kept tilting downward, and the glass window ended up about level with the tip of my nose unless I held it in place with one hand.

sorta in the picture

Satisfied I had a decent picture to remember this by, I took off the welding helmet and headed out to the garden.  Once there, I commenced to picking tomatoes.  Every ten minutes or so (I had a lot of tomato plants this year, about 90, and it took a while to work my way through the rows), I would slap the welding helmet on my head and take a peek at the sun.  I could see it, the glass made it glow green--which was really cool since green is my favorite color--and just on one edge I could see where the sun was no longer perfectly round; the moon was moving in.

Now, yesterday's weather here was hot and really humid (if you hadn't guessed, I'm wearing a tank top in the above photo).  I was sweating buckets out there in the garden. I'd pick a few tomatoes, then wipe the sweat away from my eyes with the back of my hand.  It just so happened that I picked tomatoes, wiped sweat, and put that welding helmet on for my first peek at the sun.  I saw that slightly asymmetrical green orb, then looked down and took the welding helmet off.  I wiped the back of my hand across my face again to remove more sweat, and went back to picking tomatoes.

Shortly after, I felt an uncomfortable sensation in my left eye.  And immediately wondered if I'd done a bad thing, looking at the solar eclipse with DH's welding helmet.  Had I burned my eye?  Was that why it did, indeed, feel like it was burning? Oh no!  How long did it take for blurred vision to set in? Slight panic! Other than feeling hot, my eye seemed to work just fine, I could see as well as I normally do.  And why wasn't my right eye feeling the same heat?  I knew I'd had both eyes open as I'd looked through the glass window on the welding helmet.

But then I smelled the unmistakable smell that bruised tomato vines give off.  Whew!  I hadn't permanently damaged my eyeball with the sun's rays.  No, what I had inadvertently done was rub tomato vine residue into my eye area when I used the back of my hand to wipe off sweat. The hand that had been reaching into the tomato plants, brushing up against and slightly bruising the vines and leaves while picking the red fruits.  I know from experience that my skin doesn't play well with tomato vines (I have sensitive skin); just working with the plants to transplant or weed around them often makes me itchy. 

What a relief it was to know that my eye wasn't scorched. Nope, it was just irritated by the tomato plant stuff that the sweat now running down my face had carried into my eye.  

So I slapped that welding helmet on again and took another look at the eclipse.  The moon had moved across more of it, cutting a definite arc out of the right side. 

As I picked tomatoes, I took four or five more looks at the sun through the welding helmet.  At it's most covered point, it looked like a green crescent moon.  I even put my cell phone up into the helmet with me and tried to take pictures through the glass, but all the phone picked up was light streaks, and not the crescent shape.

Still cool, though.  Being my favorite color and all.

Later, after the eclipse was done, and all the ripe tomatoes picked, I put the helmet away, and took the tomatoes into the kitchen.  Where I proceeded to put up 14 pints of canned tomatoes.  And make BLTs for dinner because it was still way too hot and humid to cook.  :0)