Monday, December 28, 2015

The Power is Back On

Around 3:40 pm yesterday a neighbor called to say Mrs J's was on (he is her son-in-law and was over there because she at least had heat from the small generator Hal had brought over. He still hadn't. So Hal flipped the breakers and indeed there it was, enough electricity to power everything at once, very, very nice. Hot showers ensued shortly after.

The power company, Consumer's Energy informed us that our domicile and surrounding homes endured 3 days 11 hours and 55 minutes without the benefit of their power. I am just so thankful we bought that Westinghouse generator a few years ago after that summer outage.

One of my neighbors had called me at 7:30 am Saturday that the Alpena Home Depot was getting a shipment in of forty 6000 watt generators and was up there waiting for them. As this outage was so widespread to leave nearly 140,000 powerless I suspect they sold out very quickly. He was most happy when I saw him later that day sitting his living room, still in his jacket and hat, with his dog, Oz, while this house slowly warmed up from the 44 degrees it had dropped down to.

Tonight we are under a storm warning. One to three inches of snow, up to 1/10th an inch of ice and winds around 23 mph. Winds like that with gusts of 55-60 mph dropped trees all over the power lines. Hopefully, there won't be big gusts, though maybe most of the risky trees have already come down.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Power is Out

Went out at approximately 3:10 am. Hal got up about 6:30 and started the generator. After much messing around we determined that we cannot run the shower while the freezers are running (there are 3 of those and 3 old refrigerators, most holding venison). So if I want to take a shower we have to flip some breakers. Still, we have it better than a lot of people around here who don't have or can't afford a generator. The other fun news is the power company, Consumer's Energy, has now estimated power restoration for 11:30 pm Monday night. This is Thursday. Oh Joy.

After Hal got us set up he went to check his parent's house and found that they have power, as does the farm, his hunting camp does not. The temperature outside has been much higher than normal, 57.3 last night. Records are being smashed thanks to El Nino this year. Unfortunately, the high winds that caused this mayhem are bringing in temps that are more normal, as in cold, and many do not have heat. However, as his parent's do not need their old generator he borrowed it and he, and I, and little sister's BF spent 3 hours this afternoon trying to set it up to run Mrs J's house next door. Her house wiring is very screwed up, in the end he got her wood pellet stove, a few lights and her refrigerator and freezer running. Can't run her well pump without flipping those breakers off. But at least she has heat. Now I have to bring her over some hot dinner as her stove cannot run, being electric. At least mine can being propane.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Up Too Early

Woke up before 5 am, couldn't get back to sleep so tried reading the novel on my nook, Bleak House, by Charles Dickens. Read for about 40 minutes, tried sleeping again, got up at 6 and washed dishes and emptied the kitchen trash. Still awake, I am yawning but I know it's useless to try again so I'm sitting here wondering what to do next and figured what the heck, I'll update my blog as I've been very negligent these past couple of months.

It's December, which is probably obvious from the date on this post. There is no snow on the ground. We had a couple inches a week before Thanksgiving while I was downstate visiting Hal's sister but it went away quickly as the temperatures warmed back up into the 40s.

Just came back in from feeding the chickens, let the old rooster out by himself so he has a few hours unmolested by rooster the younger. I saved Mr Chicken (which I am now calling him) from some sort of listless death last month, by isolating him in the warmer garage and feeding him boiled eggs, treating his legs for scaly leg mites, and massaging his crop as he smelled as though it had gone "sour". He now follows me around, allows me to pick him up, and practically begs for handouts. Yes, I seem to have created a pet chicken. To think I was going to have Hal butcher him and the old ladies. The old ladies can still go, when we have the time and freezer space, as they have turned on him as well, The only other dark cornish hen I have, same breed as him, likes to beat him to a pulp. Well, I do believe they are descended from dinosaurs, what can one expect?

Speaking of freezer space, it is full from 2 deer which we mostly finished processing the other day. I still have to package the "dog meat" the scraps we grind that are full of unpleasant tasting bits that the dogs love. I add a little to their dry kibble after boiling it.

I went hunting on Thanksgiving evening with Hal. We did not see anything. I hunted the next night and bagged an old doe. Seven or 8 according to the DNR. We'll know for sure when we get the TB test results back.

On Thanksgiving which we spent with Hal's parents, oldest brother and his son (whom I picked up at Detroit Metro Tuesday night, we had smoked venison rump roast courtesy of Hal, instead of turkey. It was very tasty but I did so miss my turkey.

It is after 9 am now, and I've been up 4.5 hours. I should eat breakfast now and walk the pups. They will like that.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Very Few Photos

Had our first snow fall the other day. It lasted about 5 minutes.
I finished the shawl for Hal's sister. The Entwife's Marching Cloak.
And Ziggy is still having a hard time climbing onto the bean bag without help. But he makes do.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

It's Raining, a Lot

Rained all night, or at least it started sometime after midnight. Still raining, get a nice howling wind now and then. Looks like it will be raining most of the day. Ziggy stuck his head out the door and said hell no. I don't believe they will go out unless I do and I'm not planning on it for a while yet and it's nearly 10 am. will be a short walk at any rate, just long enough for them to do their business. I haven't even gone out to feed the chickens yet.

My ear is much better than it was, still some residual pain, will be using the drops for a few more days. Treating the other ear as well now as it's been itching and that's usually a sign of things going badly.

Rooster seems perkier again, too, but his left ankle looks nasty so after I get dressed and am wearing protective clothing I'll see if I can grab him and treat that leg again. I'm expecting him to be a little more ornery this time.

Finally got back to crocheting yesterday, this shawl I started in May for Hal's sister has been languishing all summer and I only have 4 rows to go, but this one is complicated, requires lots of checking as I go and as it's a very wide and deep shawl the rows are very, very long. If I finish this one by Sunday (today is Wednesday) I will be surprised.

Back to work now.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Annoying Medical Things

This is a bitch and moan post, I'll try to keep it short.

Have an outer ear infection, left ear. Realized it Thursday night, started the drops, got really bad by Friday night and thus Saturday was no fun at all. The poor pups got a 10 minute walk up and down the driveway, thankfully they did not run off (far anyway) after squirrels and I was able to get back home and crawl back into bed with my nook and stay miserable the rest of the day. By this morning it was finally apparent it's getting better, at least I was able to roll onto my left side without too much pain by 6 am. I've been having infections in one ear or the other on and off all year. My physician's assistant had given me lots of sample bottles of drops because I am so prone to these things but if it happens again I'll be going back to see her, I think the "bugs" have just become too resistant and I'll need something stronger.

Apparently, oral antibiotics also do not help with this. I'm on amoxicillin again for a toothache and though it killed the tooth pain the ear ache just roars on. As for this toothache, this is the 3rd recurrence this year. First time was about 8 months ago, I can't really remember though I do remember it was about the time one of the crown on my upper right side broke off. I at first thought the crown just came loose so I kept re-seating it with my tongue but when I got to the dentist for my cleaning it was determined the entire top had broken off. The root-canalled roots were fine according to the dentist so over the next 3 visits he rebuilt and re-crowned it, good as new. A few weeks after that the pain started, over a weekend of course. And when I went back to the dentist he couldn't find anything wrong on the x-rays and dubbed it a sinus toothache. I was prescribed 2 weeks of amoxicillin and then my PA prescribed another 2 weeks of augmentin. The pain went away for 4 lovely months, then came roaring back on August 8. I remember this because it was the weekend of Hal's family reunion. 

That time I simply called my PA and was put on augmentin and then a newer much pricier drug called ceftin when the pain hadn't quite left after 2 weeks. Again, pain gone but this time only for 2 months. It returned just in time for my next cleaning at the beginning of October. The dentist put me on more drugs, took x-rays but this time sent me to our favorite endodontist who happened to have a cancellation that afternoon. He actually couldn't see anything on the x-rays either but I still had some residual pain in the last tooth on the upper right that had been yet to be root-canalled. So, oh joy, guess what I get to have done this coming Friday afternoon? My only worry is that he is a bit worried about that broken tooth. Apparently, depending on how long it had been compromised, bacteria could have gotten in and cause the root canal to fail. Lovely. I guess I'll find out in a few months if the pain comes back.

About a week ago I noticed my old rooster was definitely not doing well. The birds were free ranging and he just stood in the middle of the yarn, tail drooping, feathers fluffed up, head down, looking miserable while all the hens and the young rooster gallivanted about the yard. His comb and wattles were also extremely pale instead of bright red so I suspected mites. I threw out some boiled egg yolks, making sure he was not bothered and he did eat that. I set up the dog crate in the garage with a 60 watt bulb for a heat lamp, straw, food and water and a cover to hold what little heat the bulb would make (just try finding a 100 watt incandescent anywhere these days, I dare you!) Hal helped me catch him in the coop that night. It was easy, he was on a lower perch, normally he is on the highest one. I dusted him with poultry dust for red mites as I have lost 2 hens to those nasty little blood suckers this year. But none crawled from him onto my arms so I wasn't really sure what was wrong.

In the crate I fed him egg yolks and chicken feed and oats. He did eat, he drank, he remained droopy. About 4 or 5 days in I thought his comb was a little pinker, but then I noticed his legs looked awful, swollen, and the scales distended which meant scaly leg mites! I grabbed him and he fought a little, making little protest chirps which is more than I'd heard in a long time, he doesn't crow anymore either. I coated his legs in petroleum jelly to try and smother the blood suckers until I could research a better remedy. I think it helped a little, one leg looks better than the other but then I came down with this ear problem so he sort of got put on the back burner. But yesterday and today, his tail is no longer drooping! He still stands in front of the light most of the time and isn't using the perch I put inside, but his comb is definitely pinker and he cocks his head to watch me now. Plus he's bitten me twice so he must be feeling better. As I, too, am feeling better we shall join in battle today and I shall attempt to bathe his legs in epsom salts, and using a tooth brush, clean out those scales and treat his legs again. One he starts crowing he goes back out with the gang.

Well, this post didn't end up very short after all.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Canned Food

I ended up canning another 6 quarts of apples, so I have 11 total and of course, I have the pickled zucchini in pint jars. Behold the results of a few of them. There are onions in with the zucchini. I've got more of those yellow fruits but I think this is plenty. I'll shred more of the remaining ones and freeze in 2 cup batches for bread. Probably won't get much more, temperatures are dropping and frosts are in the forecast this week. Oh boy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

What Have I Been Up To?

Lots of things.

Luna went lame on her left rear leg, her hock was swollen, one emergency vet trip later and she probably jut wrenched it. Ten days of pills and she seemed to be doing fine, then she is limping again, then fine, and yesterday limping on that leg and the usual front leg. No walkies for her for a bit. I tried to leave her home yesterday afternoon but halfway around the trail I hear her usual heavy panting that sounds like a steam locomotive behind me and here she comes. (I had left her in the house but forgot about the jury-rigged doggie door I had set up!) We get back home and this is when she is limping on the 2 legs. *sigh*

My sewing projects got waylaid for a bit, but I did cut out one item before my brother left, hopefully I'll get back to it soon. I started a small knitting project that will also hopefully be done soon, did at least 4 inches of it the first day but haven't gotten back to it. Then I have to finish the shawl I started in spring for Hal's favorite sister. Plus Hal wants a terry cloth bathrobe since his old one failed a while back. Only mannish color I could get in enough quantity in either of the Joann stores I tried was brown. He's going to look like a monk as he wants a hood.

After I dropped off my brother at the airport I hung around with aforementioned SIL and we went shopping. I got some things I really didn't need, but the sales were so good, and there were coupons! (I did donate some clothes to St Vincent de Paul when I got home, (something in, something out, must be my new motto!) Though while at SVdP, aka the Mikado Mall around here, I acquired a cork screw, the kind with the lever arms, a Christmas music cd and a purple embroidered jacket (Coldwater Creek) for the huge cost of $3.19 including tax. But the money is for a good cause.

I also ended up at Kohl's and got a pair of sandals and short boots and a wallet that were on sale, the sandals on clearance, and then I opened a charge account because there was an additional 25% off so I scored. And yes I needed the boots, been looking for a short pair for a few years now, my old wallet was shedding plastic, and the sandals fit my narrow feet. Narrow shoes are hard to find without paying through the nose. Including going out to lunch and dinner in the 2 days I stayed with SIL, we had a pretty good time.

I only gained a couple of pounds while brother was visiting, and those are gone again, I seem to be stuck at a loss of 21 pounds still. I've been having motivation troubles and I've been tired. Don't know if it's the shorter, darker days, the low temps in the 40s, the non-stop stuff I've been doing since last week, or a combination. Probably the latter.

I've taken Mrs Butch shopping, taken my MIL shopping a day or two later, then there was the cutting up of 96 ears of corn for making "Sinful Corn", a homemade artery busting concoction of corn, butter and half and half that tastes so much better than the store bought canned creamed corn but is so much work, even with FIL shucking all the ears and MIL doing the first 22 of them before I got there. And all that work for only about 18 quarts of finished product stuffed into 30 baggies. It may sound like a lot but it really isn't.

I also had located and dug up the septic tank which I decided really needed to be cleaned as it hadn't been in the 15 years we've lived here. The cleaner guy came out within 45 minutes of calling for a quote, either he had nothing else to do, obviously, or feared for our safety. He exclaimed that ours was buried way deeper than normal. Lucky me. I got to rebury it the next day, too. And of course, it seemed most of the dirt wouldn't go back into the hole, should have dumped it onto a tarp when I first dug it out. However, in case we ever do want to pump it out again, this time we put a plastic barrel over the hatch, put rocks on top of that and stuck the bird feeder next to it. Many years ago when we found it the first time I put rocks on top and planted flowers, but the flowers spread and the rocks disappeared under the soil. I reused those rocks and some bigger ones. It isn't disappearing any more.

The septic cleaning happened on Hal's birthday. However, he got other presents than that one and lo and behold, he liked them/they fit! Nothing like a nice new pair of camouflage sweat pants, socks and coffee. I also made him his favorite dinner of a roast chicken with sage and onion stuffing and an apple pie. His birthday will also be the only time he gets an apple pie as I don't particularly care for them. He had the majority of it and seemed quite pleased.

We picked the apples for that pie the previous week at his parent's farm. A good year for apples it seems, much less wormy than last year. (they don't spray for bugs). I cut some up the other day to can some for future pies. Took 3 hours for only 5 quarts, and I think it will take more than 1 quart per pie. I can see why buying apple pie filling is so popular. I also made 6 pints of pickled zucchini as I finally had a year where my zucchini did not fail. (can't say the same for the cucumbers again!). I have more very large zukes but those I think will be shredded for bread. I don't need lots and lots of zuke pickles. I do have an older sister who will enjoy these pickles, however.

I mowed the lawn finally, too the other day. Had a lot of rain for a few days and it was either too wet or I was too busy. Had to mow it twice it had gotten so long.

I suppose I should take Ziggy out for the morning walk now. Poor Luna will be so disappointed but she has to rest.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Not One Word...

...did I post here in August, but I was very busy. We had a mini family reunion for Hal's immediate family the weekend of the 8th and then my brother visited for 3 weeks. I picked him up at Detroit Metro about 1:15 on the 12th and dropped him off at 5 am on September 1st. We didn't really go anywhere except for a couple dinners out and grocery shopping, plus a trip to Joann's Fabric store so he could buy some jewelry supplies for his wife. Otherwise there was a lot of dog walking, eating and smoking salmon. It was fun though.

I spent yesterday and today hanging out with Hal's sister before I head back north tomorrow morning. Yesterday we did a bit of shopping, ate lunch at Amigo's a little hole in the wall Mexican restaurant, did more shopping, picked up a Hawaiian pizza from Hungry Howie's, rented a movie, The Second Best Marigold Hotel (which was very enjoyable) and had a bottle of white wine, Leelanau Cellars, Winter White.

Today we went out to T.V.'s dinner on Fort St where we both had the biscuits and gravy with poached eggs for breakfast. Right now SIL is taking an on line class required for her nursing job while I work on the shawl I started for her this past spring. We are having a good time though.

Didn't take many photos as my brother and I didn't really go anywhere, but I did take a couple of dog photos, (imagine that!) just for grins.

yes, they are still digging!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Little Food to Look At

We did a bit of smoking this month and I discovered fruit salads are really easy in summer with all the fresh fruit at the markets. And you don't have to add anything to the fruit. (I'd never made one before because I figured there was more to it, like needing a sauce. I know, weird.)  Hal and I smoked a pair of pork butts to make pulled pork for a family 4th of July party. Oddly, I don't have a photo of the final product, at least not on my camera. Nor do I have a final photo of the ribs we did recently. But they all tasted damn good.

However, here are photos of one of my fruit salads, with MI blueberries, green and black grapes, watermelon, honeydew melon, and cantaloupe. A dinner salad we call a Cobb salad in which I changed the ingredients a lot, this time it had baby shrimp, smoked chicken, and the usual other salad ingredients, and dried currants. Used a bleu cheese dressing.
fruit salad
Cobb salad
Here is our second whole smoked chicken since we started smoking this year. This is one of our own chickens rather than a store bought.
And here is a photo of something Hal wanted to try though we didn't find a lot of decent info on the internet. He smoked 2 venison back straps. I am very glad to say he wrote down everything he did because this was the BEST DAMN BACKSTRAP I HAVE EVER EATEN. And I've cooked a lot of venison backstrap over the years. It was tender, practically melted in your mouth, the flavor was incredible, I can't wait till we try this again. We had some snow peas from my garden and pan fried potatoes.
Best venison EVER

I Made an Apron!

It's a horrible picture, but I made an apron the other day.
Those ties wrap all the way around
Butterick 4945. I wanted something with lots of coverage, the store bought ones tend to be skimpy in the upper region where all the splatters seem to occur. I even added an inch in height for more neck coverage. I got the material on sale at Joann's probably around $2 a yard, needed less than 2 yards. It is apparently leftover from Valentine's Day, but I thought the dogs were adorable. As Hal says, "it's very bright,"
cutting out pieces

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July Garden Update

Summer is here. A type of summer we haven't seen in a couple of years. It is HOT and HUMID. Yesterday it hit 94.1 F, the day before 93.3. Humidity has been above 60%, but we aren't getting the rain we need so I've had to water the gardens a lot. Unfortunately, my 75 foot hose broke up when it was accidentally left outside this past winter so until I buy a new one I've had to lug a watering can to the cucumber garden. The cukes have been suffering consequently and the vines on the longest are barely a foot long. I'm afraid it's another bad year for cucumbers, no pickles this year unless this change dramatically.

My zucchini plants on the other hand are doing marvelously well over in their new location on the other side of the snow pea fence. I haven't had such healthy plants in years. And to think they're mainly in sand with a spade full of composted dirt underneath.
Have had a pretty good crop of snow peas this year, too, the heat is finally getting to the last of them which happen to be the variety Oregon Sugar Pod II. Huge pods but even when I forget to pick them thin and the peas are forming they still cook up nice and tender. I shall definitely have to plant them again.
Zucchini in front of snow pea fence
Still waiting on my one and only bean planting to make beans, there are flowers but barely any beans yet. Those are the Jade variety, The Masai was total crop failure except for 2 plants. And I tried planting twice.

Got some green cherry tomatoes and slicing tomatoes. No idea when those will ripen, not this week apparently. They're all in pots so it's easier to keep them watered.

And I haven't done much with flowers in years, I'm just lucky some I planted are so resilient (even though the false sunflower are prone to powdery mildew.
rudbeckia with false sunflower in the back
Someday, I'll get back to weeding. Maybe when the heat breaks. (and today's high was 90.3)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

I Made Another Skirt!

This time I made a less fitted, longer skirt with an elastic waistband and drawstring. I think I should have not worried so much about fitting my hips and done what all the books I borrowed said to do about this type of skirt and go by the waist size. It's definitely a bit baggy on me but as it's a summery, lightweight cotton it's not that noticeable (I hope). I did take about a quarter inch in along the side seams which helped a little.

This skirt also has a flounce. It's like a ruffle only it uses less material and it's not gathered. For the heck of it I pinned the pattern pieces together and the flounce wasn't the same length as the hem which drove me nuts for at least a week. I asked on a sewing message board and did a lot of web searching and read up on flounces in all the library books I borrowed. Everything I found said they should be the same length. I figured it might have something to do with part of the flounce (it's a long curved rectangle) being cut on the bias, so I did a small test piece in muslin and indeed, enough of it stretched to fit.
But I was also adding a couple inches in length to the whole skirt which would change the flounce length and as I didn't know the math behind that difference, I couldn't adjust accordingly. So I erred on the side of caution and added more than I needed which made attaching the flounce and cutting off the excess a bit of a pain. It wasn't a perfect solution, but again, it's probably only me who will be bothered by it.

Tonight I finished the skirt and though it's another lousy photo, here it is. Hopefully, I'll have a better photo soon.
Simplicity 1807

Still Smokin'

With the white electric smoker and the larger brown oven electric smoker Hal built out for me, I have smoked bratwurst several times, a whole chicken once, salmon, and lots of ribs. The other day Hal tried a ham roast his dad gave him as well as some cod. Tomorrow we plan on smoking 2 pork shoulder butts to make into pulled pork for the weekend. Usually I just threw a butt into a slow cooker which is pretty dang tasty. I'm hoping smoking will make it even tastier.

The butts have been marinating since yesterday while thawing in the refrigerator. Tonight we will apply a dry rub, I'm using the one I made and have used before on ribs and salmon, Hal plans on making his own. Looks like we'll have competing butts.

Here's a photo of the ribs we made the other day. The curved one in front is the baby back and the one in the back is St Louis style. They were both very good though we preferred the baby backs this time. It was the first time we'd done baby backs.
And here is the salmon, two kinds, I think the left was sockeye, and the one on the right was orange and pricier. extremely good.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hello Summer

Today is the summer solstice, the longest day in the year for the northern hemisphere. It is a lovely 70 F, humidity isn't too bad, there was a cool breeze earlier when I started walking the dogs but it seems to have died down now. Last night we had a campfire at Hal's parents' house along with one of Hal's brothers and his wife. The last campfire of spring I suppose. May have another one tonight, who knows? Depends on the weather. But we will be over there again for dinner as today is also Father's Day. And that is where I am now, waiting for the grill master to finish the ribs so he can grill the whitefish I bought 2 days ago. Smells great so far.

But what else have I been up to? You are probably not even asking. I've been pretty busy, I did finish that skirt and am even wearing it right this very moment! Yes, I know, wow! I've bought more material and specific patterns to hopefully make more clothes this summer. Probably went a little overboard as I did with yarn last year, especially as I have plenty of material purchased previously and still languishing in bags and boxes. I am planning on making one particular skirt with a flounce on the bottom. I've never done a flounce, it's supposed to be easier than a ruffle, which I have done, but the flounce pattern piece isn't matching up to the length of the skirt hem and I don't understand why unless I'm supposed to stretch it to fit and it's the only thing that makes sense because that part of the flounce will be on the bias which is very stretchy. But everything I've researched and the people I've aske on line all agree with me that 2.5 inches is a bit much to stretch. It seems it would make the skirt bunch. So I'll have to do a test piece out of muslin and see what happens and alter accordingly if I have to.

The vegetable garden is doing fairly well, snow peas are starting to come in though there haven't been enough to pick and cook for a meal. My Jade green beans are a couple inches tall and getting real leaves but the Masai beans are a failure. Two plants came up, what happened to the rest I don't know, something must have tunneled in and eaten them because I can't find the beans and there are no obvious holes. I have another half packet of each to plant so we'll see if I have better luck or if I need to drop Masai from my repertoire.

Only half my pumpkin hills came up, less than half, 2 out of 5. And many cucumbers failed to sprout as well or if they did had their tops nipped off. So I reinforced the fencing because it has to be from a critter. I planted more cucumber seeds but have misplaced the pumpkin packet.

My cherry tomatoes which are in pots on the east side of the deck are still scraggly, and I found a hen in one pot one afternoon digging merrily away. I swung a bag at her and chased her away. This explains the dead tomato on the ground I found earlier in the week. I hope the tomato cages I put in will deter any more chicken shenanigans.

Hal and I are still well, our weight loss seems to have plateaued again. I am still down almost 17 pounds The dogs are well, Ziggy has run off into the woods a couple times chasing something and ignoring my calls. I still blame his beagle half. Otherwise he and Luna spend most of our daily walks chasing chipmunks and digging at the base of trees and stumps trying to find one. My walks have become fairly lonely. I'm averaging at least 3 miles per day now and for a stretch of about 9 days managed 4 miles each day. A couple days I've done 5 miles, but it really depends on the weather, we've had some hot and very humid days and it makes walking 5 miles kind of unpleasant.

Dinner is over now, there were baby back ribs, whitefish and whistle pig all grilled by one of Hal's younger brothers, as well as various store bought and homemade salads. Now we just wait till dark and have another fire. Nice start to summer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I Made a Skirt!

It still needs hemming and a little hook and eye above the zipper but otherwise, it's done.
I haven't made a skirt in at least 20 years, possibly more, in fact other than a couple set of pajamas with elastic waist bands and nightgowns I've really only made quilts or nothing at all. My sewing machine has sat idle for years at a time. But after wearing an old slightly too tight jean skirt last month during a heatwave I decided I was really comfortable and ought to have another, better fitting summer skirt.

Last year I had tried sewing a short sleeved top with seersucker fabric. I already owned a pattern but that pattern was bought when I was much thinner, still, I picked something like size 14. I didn't realize how different store bought clothing and pattern sizes were, and even though I stared at the bust, waist and hip measurements, seeing that I was not the pattern's size 14, it just didn't sink in. Suffice to say, it was pretty much a disaster and remains unfinished.

For the skirt I already had Simplicity pattern 5914 and it happened to have larger sizes included so I chose view A, size 22, the shorter tulip shaped skirt without embellishments. First thing I did was make one out of an old sheet because my shape has changed a lot since I last made fitted garments. I thought I had figured out to widen the front seams to hide the belly and took in the waist in the back. Seemed to fit. So the next day I pinned and cut the denim and started sewing.

Turns out the added fabric in the front seams was not needed and I had a devil of a time removing it and getting the skirt to hang straight. The tucks in the back waist though were perfect and so I continued. The zipper instructions in the pattern guide were confusing but the zipper package had much better ones and the zipper went in just fine. I had to do mock French seams inside to stop the fraying. That was a pain in the butt. First I tried just folding and sewing, then ironing each side and sewing and ended up folding, pinning and then sewing. Took all afternoon but not bad for my first ever mock French seams.
Today I added the facing for the waist (there is no waist band), used twill tape for stabilization for the first time ever. It's supposed to keep the waist from stretching out of shape. After pressing and trying it on again (did a lot of that these past few days) I noticed one of the front seams still didn't look right so took it in a little more and it's laying reasonably flat now. The instructions say to let it hang overnight before hemming so that's what it's doing. Hopefully tomorrow I'll get to the hemming and have a finished skirt to wear.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Vegetable Garden

It's all planted now except for the second half of the bush beans in another week or so. Some of the snow peas are finally flowering. In the past few days planted 10 hills of pickling cucumbers, 7 hills of slicing cucumbers and 5 hills of a pie pumpkin called winter luxury. Just need some rain now.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Birthday Interruptus

Hal and I were planning on going to the White Pine National golf course bar and grill for dinner yesterday but he woke up with a sore throat and a head cold. Instead I ended up over at a friend's house while Hal napped. I didn't have Luna and Ziggy with me because it was hot and humid and I was going to the store to pick up chips and come right back, plus I had texted and called him and gotten no answer so assumed he was out. But just outside the store I got a text saying he was indeed home so I wandered over for a visit with him and his 2 dogs.

It was a lot quieter without Ziggy begging for treats and attention, sorry to say, Ziggy, but you can be such a whiner! We told stories, had a few beers and had a great time. There was much laughter. Then I went home, cooked the bacon and cheese brats, had the chips with French onion dip, orange sherbet for Hal, butter pecan ice cream for me and watched the movie I rented, Her. It was an okay movie, thought I would like it more but it was a little slow.

Still turned out to be a better birthday than I expected. Dinner out should be some time next week.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Had built me a meat smoker a couple weeks ago out of an old 24" Kenmore smoker he got from a brother. He cut a whole in the bottom for a burner from another stove and wired it to the back panel. He drilled a hole in the side to stick a temperature probe through. It's been tricky to keep the temps in the right range, there seems to be at least a 20 degree swing no matter how we set the burner and oven element, but we've made some pretty tasty things so far using chicken parts and store bought brats. Here is a photo of our first brats from Johnsonville and apple wood chips put in a tinfoil covered pan set on the burner.

 Since then Hal has connected another old oven to this one with a vent pipe for a try at cold smoking fish in the future. This little oven just gets too hot to smoke fish.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


They started blooming about 3 days ago, A sure sign of spring, though the temps hitting 78 today for a few minutes is a sure sign of summer. I wonder if it will be a warmer one this year?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Cleaning the Dishwasher.

Bought this washer shortly after moving in 15 years ago, back when the well was only 22 feet deep and the water got more and more orange from rust till we put in a proper deep one (until then, we had no idea it was so shallow.) Though I have cleaned the dishwasher a couple of times, attempting to get the rust stains out, and cleaned the food trap, I never really researched how to do it properly.

Today so far, I have taken a pointy object to unplug the holes in the washer arm. The ones on the ends were scaled over, and also got lots of hair and gunk out of the interior ends. Not easy as I couldn't actually remove the arm to do it, but after a couple of rinse cycles it seems much better.

I scrubbed a little of the rust stains I could reach with a plastic sponge and vinegar but now have 2 cups of vinegar on the bottom and another glass cup full of vinegar in the top rack to which I added a bunch of baking soda. The foaming action was impressive. Now it's running on the regular cycle for a bit till I'm supposed to shut it off for 20 minutes and then let it finish. I've done that, first I just slightly opened the door, then I thought, what if it allows leakage? So I close it and put it on one hour delay. Now I can go walk the dogs and turn it back on when I get back.

Hope this makes a difference in cleaning the dishes. Sometimes the glasses get bits of sandy crap stuck inside. We shall see.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Official Outdoor Veggie Garden Has Been Started

For the past 2 days I dug up and smoothed out a couple sections in my original vegetable garden. I also pulled up all the fencing around the one just north of it that I had been calling the hutch run garden. It never amounted to much so no great loss. Hal is planning on putting his sugar shack there sometime this year. However he scooped up what little topsoil there was as well as the spot in between the 2 gardens where the actual hutch used to stand (lots of composted chicken poop there) and dumped it behind the original garden which gets more sun. He also chopped up the weeds there using the bucket of his tractor. I did start digging out the roots but that is going to take days of work.

Yesterday I planted 2 varieties of snow peas: Oregon Giant (the whole packet of 54 seeds) and Dwarf White Sugar, half the 2 ounce packet. Today I planted the entire packet of Carouby de Maussane, 63 seeds total. There were 64 but one escaped. I've planted the French one every year for a number of years now and I'm pretty sure I've had Oregon Giant before. usually I have dwarf gray, not sure about this dwarf white. I think it's the first time for that one, I bought it from Park Seed. The others from Pinetree in Maine.

There is a good rain out there right now which is great for the peas. Yesterday's high was 73 and the low was probably in the 40s. The temps are finally evening out into a nice spring like weather pattern.

In the basement my tomatoes sprouted and already are getting their first real leaves. Only one seed failed to sprout. My hollyhocks are only germinating at around 25% so I planted more queeny purple and halo mix today. Be moving these to 3" peat pots in a couple of weeks.

In two more weeks I think I will plant the rest of the snow peas.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Maple Nuts

Hal has been quite busy these last few weeks (when the weather cooperated anyway), collecting sap, boiling it down and making several batches of maple syrup. He tested different materials for filtering and we determined that an old t-shirt bleached and boiled was not the way to go. He's really got it down to a science now, uses a piece of boiled muslin in a 2 qt steamer basket for the filter, the 4" deep stainless steel buffet pan on the old grill and a new inexpensive, thin walled stainless steel stock pot for the camp stove for boiling the sap. So I got my nicer quality 16 qt pot back as well as my 12 qt unless we get so much sap that he needs it on the smoker/boiler unit he devised.

He's given away a few 12 oz and pint bottles to family and I have a couple more pints put away for mine when I see them.

Then yesterday while I was out buying dog food, I came home to a delightful surprise, maple nuts. Essentially almonds he toasted in the oven then coated in maple syrup boiled down into these:
maple sugar covered almonds

Here is Hal's recipe:
Maple Nuts
12 Oz. Pure Maple Syrup
3 - 4 cups Almonds, Pecans, Peanuts, Cashews, Walnuts, or Filberts (or any mixture of those), shelled.
1+ tablespoon Kosher Salt
Candy or meat thermometer that can read 200 - 250°F
2 qt. saucepan
3 qt. or larger mixing bowl that won't melt
Large metal spoon or metal spatula
Large (ungreased) cookie sheet (or wax paper on a countertop).
Put the nuts in a mixing bowl that can take a high heat (I used a 3 qt. stainless steel mixing bowl). In a 2 qt. sauce pan, carefully heat the syrup to 240°F. It will want to bubble over. Don't let it. It makes a big sticky mess if it does. Pull it off the fire if you have to, and then put it back on as you get it up to sugar temperature. Pour half of the hot syrup into the nuts. Add the salt and stir. Add the rest of the syrup and continue stirring, folding the mixture over and over as the syrup crystallizes. Let one nut cool and taste it as you stir. Add more kosher salt as desired. When the mixture has no more liquid at the bottom of the bowl and the nuts are trying to stick together as the sugar sets, spread it all out on the cookie sheet. Spread it to one layer thick and break up any clumps. Taste one and add more salt if you want. Move the nuts around as they cool until they stop trying to stick together, or to the cookie sheet. It doesn't have to be perfect, just not like peanut brittle. When it's done it will look like this. Enjoy.

Enjoy them I have. I had to put them in a container to stop eating them.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The April 1st Pond Photo

Last year I decided I should take a photo of the pond on the same day every spring. So this photo was taken on the April 1st but I forgot to post it. So here it is:
I'm pretty sure it looked colder and snowier last year.

This morning there was an inch of snow but it melted quickly as the high reached 41 today. And yes, there are still a few inches of ice on that pond. Ziggy walked on it yesterday but seemed a little leery of trying that today.

Looking forward to spring finally sticking around.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

I Promised Chick Pics

So as of yesterday, 17 chicks hatched. There is an 18th pip but no further movement so that chick probably died. Looks like 16 all have one of my Dominique hens as mothers as they look just like purebred Dom chicks. The other one is one of my neighbor's eggs so no idea what it's parentage is though it's related as her chicks all came from mine.

This means no eggs from my remaining 2 Dark Cornish hens hatched because those chicks would have been brown with dark stripes as the rooster is also a Dark Cornish bird and that's what purebred DC chicks look like. Still, they are awfully cute. I'll have to try for purebred DC later this year.

Friday, April 3, 2015


So I joined the hatch-a-long on on March 14th because my hens are getting old, laying fewer eggs and I've been thinking about replacing them. I put 38 eggs in the incubator, including 3 from a neighbor, closed it up, and let 'er rip.

I just couldn't get the temperature in the thing past 97/98 for the first 17 days. Should be around 100. On day 18 I "locked down" by adding water to increase the humidity from 45 to 62%, played with the thermometer once more and managed to get it to a nice steady 99.

I really had no expectation of anything hatching because I hadn't really seen the rooster successfully "do his thing" with any of the hens. However, if you don't try you don't know.

Chicks are supposed to hatch around day 21 depending on humidity and temperature. As of this morning, day 20, I hadn't seen any rocking, heard any cheeping, or seen the telltale pip where the beak first breaks through the egg. Then shortly after 10 am there was a loud cheeping and there was a chick, damp, completely out of its shell. I had to go to Alpena for the day and when I got back at 6 pm there were 9. Now at 10 pm there are 12, maybe 13, it's hard to tell, they're running around on top of each other and those little plastic windows aren't really that easy to see through. But I've got chicks! Pictures forthcoming.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lower Back Update

I stopped talking the celebrex and flexeril Friday night. I had started walking the pups in the woods a bit on Thursday. I've been able to sit in my recliner again, getting in and out of bed no longer hurts, I'm being very careful though when it comes to bending (with the knees!) and not lifting anything heavier than 5 pounds or so and keeping it close to my body. Yesterday I started feeling really good and today even better. The dogs are happy they are being walked again and so am I.

Not counting the idiotic attempt at walking with crutches the day I hurt my back I've only walked 3 days out of the past week. It explains why I did not lose any weight this week but I didn't gain any either, It may have helped that on a couple of days I had half sandwiches or yogurt for lunch instead of whole sandwiches. But I'm still down 11 pounds for the year with a goal of 20. So still only 9 to go and quite doable if I don't screw my back up again.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

More Bird on Suet Photos

Took these about a month ago on the suet cake outside the kitchen window. They really do enjoy that suet.
Bluejay checking out the camera
Male Downy Woodpecker
I know I posted a photo of a pileated a year ago, but this is a much better photo. No idea if it's male or female although it is small. Same problem with bluejay, no idea what gender it is.
Red Bellied Woodpecker - male
As you can hardly see any red on their bellies, I think it's a lousy name for the bird but red headed was already taken, but something could have been said of its wings.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Forty Eight Hours Later

My back is still in pain. I did find some hydro codone left over from my shoulder surgery 9 years ago and it's helped a little, but what I really need is a muscle relaxant. I called the clinic as soon as it opened this morning. But the recordings all say not to expect any help for 3 business days, didn't matter if I called my own doctor's triage nurse or the prescription line. I sure better get something sooner than 3 days from now.

In the meantime I use heat or ice and lay on my back a lot. I try sitting up a little in bed but generally can't do that for very long.

Hal has been very good trying to take care of me. He fed me sandwiches all weekend and arranged to get some macaroni and cheese for tonight from the general store in town. We've had their turkey dinners before and enjoyed them. He has been feeding the chickens and the dogs and even took the dogs on a short walk a few minutes ago to make sure they did their business. That was a wonderful thing to do as Luna is notorious for holding in the solids until she gets her walk and I'm not ready to walk for a while yet.

For amusement I have my laptop and the internet, I'm getting to chat with my eldest sister fairly regularly. Almost never hear from the younger one. Even heard from my brother yesterday via email, and he's once in a blue moon but he has a good excuse, no internet access at all. He may be visiting us later this summer. That will be fun.

Until then however, I shall continue to lay here in bed and try not to get too bored though it isn't easy. At least I also have my crochet. It's possible that king sized afghan may be finished sooner than I expected.

update: The clinic called, and Hal has gone to get my muscle relaxant! YAY!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lots of Pain

And I mean the excruciating, makes you cry kind of pain.

I was collecting sap yesterday morning, lots of bending down and pouring liquid into buckets. Hal had gotten bigger buckets from the Wal-Mart bakery so we could make fewer trips. I had already brought in a couple and was literally on yhe next to last tree. But this tree is in the old duck pen which is covered with netting about 4-5 feet off the ground so I had to bend over to walk in and out, then kneel down pour the sap, lift the bucket, turn around and get back out. It was that lifting and turning motion that did it. My lower back muscles spasmed, I dropped the bucket (managing to save the sap somehow) anh was on my butt dialing my cell phone for Hal to rescue me.

Since then I have done stupid things, trying to walk it off using crutches, walking the dogs through the woods. Twice. Been downhill from there ever since. I'm taking celebrex, 400 mg at a time. I can barely get to the bathroom. Sitting up for any length of time is agony, flat on my back is the only pain free position I have. Tried heat with the mattress hater yesterday, a mistake. Using ice again today, when I can get it.

I hate being trapped like this but there is little I ca do but wait it out. Could be days.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Our First Maple Syrup

Not counting the 2 gallons test batch that dropped to 4 ounces of syrup and in my opinion wasn't very sweet, Hal next boiled down 15 gallons of sap. This time he used our old 2 burner gas grill, popped out the window for steam evaporation and set the old aluminum turkey roaster inside. 
Because there was so much sap and so few hours in the day, he also started the smoker unit running and between them got the sap down to about 2 quarts to cook in my big pan on the kitchen stove.
After boiling this down for another couple of hours he transferred it to an even smaller 2 quart pan for the final boil. This one you have to watch carefully to not go too far and burn it.
Then he decanted it off into mason jars filtering through a piece of cotton and a jelly bag. After cooling, the minerals/sediment, aka sugar sand settled to the bottom.

 This is what we did with it the next day. Poured it over my cinnamon, blueberry oatmeal pancakes.
One more shot of those pancakes with Ziggy as an interested bystander.
Poor guy, I wouldn't share though he did get to lick the plate.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

It's PI Day!

I really didn't think it was such a big deal, but what the heck as everyone, including NASA seems to be posting about it all over Facebook, I'll just mention that today's date, taking out the 20 for 2015, is 3.1415, the first 5 digits of PI, a very important number. For those who don't remember, it's one of those numbers that has no end (as far as anyone's massive computer has figured it out so far), it's also quite useful when playing with circles.

Everyone also says it's a good excuse to eat pie. Good thing I made a pumpkin pie yesterday.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hal's Smoker Sap Cooker Experiment

To boil the sap down to syrup we needed something outside because the steam given off boiling gallons and gallons of sap would coat the walls of the house.

First thing Hal did was put up a tarp off the back door on the deck. Then we shoveled off the snow a few days later when the weather warmed. That black thing is his camp stove.
Then after testing out the old BBQ grill (not enough BTUs) and his camp stove, (also too few BTUs) he took my old Brinkman bullet style smoker that my dad had given me many, many years ago and attached an old gas water heater burner, drilled a couple of holes next for combustion air, set the grill on top and hooked the whole thing up to our 250 gallon house propane tank (yes, he is quite capable to do this sort of thing) and fired her up. Wind turned out to be a bit of a problem so he tucked the whole thing into a beaten up 55 gallon HDPE plastic drum to use as a wind screen.
Gas water heater element inside smoker body
My 12 qt Farberware stainless steel pot
Our Back Deck Sugar Shack
We collected just over 2 gallons of sap on that first day from only 2 trees (3 taps). Hal and I boiled it down to about a quart then he cooked it down on the kitchen stove watching carefully to ensure it did not scorch and the result was 4 ounces of maple syrup. After sitting in the fridge over a day it is nice and clear, all the "sugar sand" having settled to the bottom. Tastes a little weak to me, but perhaps this will improve once the trees are flowing better. We may find out today, there are already 2 more gallons of sap in the fridge and 13 of our 15 taps are now flowing.
4 oz maple syrup