Monday, February 28, 2011

"First it's a novelty.....

then it's a nuisance, then it's normal".  I know exactly what Wanda Schnider means.  She's talking in Mary Jane's Farm Ideabook about washing all of her family's clothes with a washboard.  Not some of them, all of them.  She actually got rid of her washing machine completely.  Wow.  This is what I have to live up to.

So if I'm going to do this farm thing, I have to get deprogrammed.  Ok so I'm not a computer BUT I am still programmed.  I am programmed to want the newest, latest thing, New & Improved!!!, I am programmed to want to do everything as efficiently as possible, Get More Accomplished!!!!, and I am programmed to get hella mad at anyone and anything that stands in the way of those goals. 

Take this for instance: 

This glass washboard pretty much guarantees that I won't get laundry done as fast as with a machine but you know what?  Is speed as important as a) how clean things get b) a job well done c) less wear and tear on your clothes so they last longer d) an intimate relationship with your clothes.

Yup, you read that last one right.  I believe you can have an intimate relationship with your clothes.  I think once you get past the nuisance, all the other benefits of doing something as mundane as laundry by hand like this turn in to an event.  You develop a relationship with your clothes.  You notice the wear spots, the stains that need to be worked on.  All for a good cause.  Nice, clean, long-lasting clothes.  Not sure that can be beat honestly.

Ok next up...what about this:
Good 'ol fashioned coffee grinder/mill.  Now that's also tough.  I, like everyone, have a morning routine.  And that routine must include coffee.  No exceptions!  So, going from hitting a button...ZZZZZZZZZIIIIPP! and having fresh ground coffee to whir, whir, whir, whir, whir and 4 whole minutes FINALLY having fresh ground coffee.....Wait......Four minutes?  As in.....4?  Seriously?  *Sigh*  Yup.  Programmed.

But I have a confession to make.  I have been using a grinder much like this one for almost a year now.  So all those reactions up above were exactly what happened.  Not to mention that I'm in the nuisance phase at the moment, so when I read what Wanda said up top, I thought, you know, deprogramming truly is possible.  Even if you can't reach inside and rearrange your neurons to do so, as I've figured out with the grinder, if I just start doing it, I start seeing the benefits and work past the nuisance phase to's looming.  I can feel it.

And if you are wondering what the benefits to grinding coffee this way are; a more even grind = no big chunks left behind = better tasting coffee.  Or maybe it's the elbow grease, or the la la land my mind wanders to as I whir, whir, whir, whir - or maybe.....just maybe.......old is an improvement. 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sunday Soundtrack

Sundays are my music days.  I am usually home all day, relaxing, recouping, decompressing etc.  I find that music helps me do this more successfully so every Sunday, I have an album or an artist that I'm in the mood for and they are just the thing, just right; not too cold, not too hot Goldilocks.

Today is all about Dar.  imgallery-Darheadshot.jpg

Dar Williams.  Ever heard of her?  She's a folk artist with honesty in every word of every song.  But she's not in the doldrums.  Oh far from it.  She celebrates everything about life.  It's love.  It's mystery.  It's quite moments.  It's party moments.  She's amazing and I love her truly.  I have been listening to her ever since my dear friend introduced her to me over 10 years ago.  She was a staple at the camp I was a counselor at.  She helped me feel understood in my 8 long year relationship with a man who didn't truly know what it was to love.  She's been with me every step of the way and she's the one artist that has also changed in the same ways I have.  It's evident in her music, one of my favorites:

But they are too numerous to count.  So an intro.  This is Dar.  Give her a try.  Her voice is real, not etheral and her songs.....well there's one for everyone.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gratitude (a.k.a. the God post)

An amazing thing has been happening over the last 3 years.  Disclaimer: I am going to talk about God in this post......if you don't agree or if this offends you in any won't get any apologies from me.

So an amazing thing has been  happening over the last 3 years.  Ever since I made it known that my goal was to start a farm with my husband, people have just started giving us things.  I have been given yarn, fabric, wool, a spinning wheel, I bought an entire estate of weaving stuff including a loom, for a killer price, I've been given canning jars, old hankies lovingly embroidered many years ago......the list goes on.  Once, my husband said that he wasn't sure what was meant by the beatitudes in the bible...what exactly is it to be blessed?

Box upon box of canning jars given to me.....I am blessed.
It can't really mean that you get everything you desire can it?  I mean, you can work your butt off and get everything you desire, be it good for you or ill but that's not really blessed.  We humans desire a lot of stupid things.  Does it mean that you get what you desire without really asking?  Maybe.  But I think being blessed is more like love.  Putting it in to words is almost impossible.  It is different for every person.  It is something you know but cannot put your finger on, kind of like faith.  You either feel it or you don't.

Star-gazer in my kitchen right now.......their beauty makes me feel blessed.

Today I brought home boxes and boxes of items that will be crucial in helping my husband and me put up food for our long winters on our new farm.  I brought home boxes of blessings.  I looked at them and my heart swelled.....I hadn't asked for them, in knowing people I have been given things like this that will mean a lot to us later.

My kitty Juniper; as sweet a cat as there ever was.

I am blessed.  Every day to be here, to have what I have and not just material items either but those invisible things like courage and hope and faith.  It takes a lot of all three to go from a 750 square foot condo to living off the land and depending on it for our very survival.  My friend said it best the other day.  She said, "It's time for you to go Patty, it's time for you two to cling together and bear out whatever comes, life is too short to do otherwise".  I will miss her more than just about anyone.

My cymbidium orchid; lovely and fragrant
So soon, very soon my friends, I will be leaving my condo, my home state, my life here and starting a brand new life, an old life; a life that used to be the way everyone lived.  A blessed life.  One that relies on the gifts from God, the gifts from the earth, sky and my own two hands plus a little help from my noggin.  Being blessed isn't asking God for what I want and getting it; it's detachment from what I have, expecting nothing because in all humility, I deserve nothing. 

That is when God steps up to the plate and pours out more blessings than I have a right to hope for.  There is a feeling that comes over me when I least expect it.  A feeling of gratitude, because in my heart of hearts I know where and who things like this come from.  It is harder, much harder, to believe in coincidences.  I am amazed that some people still do.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sometimes....only Whiskey will do.

I wouldn't call myself much of a drinker.  Every once in a great while I wish I had a glass of red wine.  I'm lucky in that my husband makes wine.  And not that sickingly sweet homemades stuff, this stuff is very good, fruity but dry with a mild yeast undertone which is hard to avoid in anything that hasn't been aged a very long time.

But tonight, the only thing that crossed my mind was whiskey.  The good thing about a nice whiskey (not too expensive, not too cheap) is you need barely an inch of it to make a nice finish to the day.  So a $20 bottle may last a very long time.  Now why am I drinking tonight?

Because sometimes you just have to.  It's not a bad thing to admit to a stressful day and bask in the warm belly glow of a nice bit of whiskey.  I've never had a problem with overdoing it, in fact, my father gave me an appreciation for liquor when I was younger and as he never overdid, simply enjoyed a nip instead, it's never been the means to an end for me.  But I digress!  I'm trying to get around to the telling about my trying day!

It's simple: I had to tell my co-worker who I've been mentoring, not to speak to me in the manner that she did (i.e. snobby, unprofessional, rude, thoughtless).  That last word is key = thoughtless.  I truly believe that she has no clue how she comes across.  I think many of us have this problem.  However, that's not an excuse to not try and fix it.  No one is perfect and I grew up being called a smart-ass, everyone says things in such a way as they don't mean; again, usually due to thoughtlessness.  But I have another proposal.  I think the true reason is selfishness.
It's all about me!

I think it's entirely possible to go overboard to the point that you don't feel as if you can express yourself for fear of offending others.  That's not good.  There is middle ground but if you are a mostly selfish person, you will never find it.  You will always be more concerned with getting the words out as fast as they pop in to that bobble of a head of yours rather than considering how to say the same thing with respect for the person. 

Everyone has a bit of dignity.  Not pride, but dignity and appealing to the dignity within another person requires you to step outside yourself, just for a minute and think about someone other than yourself.  I'd like to say that her behavior is due to her age but she is 30 years old.  Age and maturity are not the same thing.

Sometimes growth happens slowly, sometimes it happens very fast.  I consider it a disservice to not tell people when they are out of line.  Because telling them gives them a chance to grow.  But it takes courage and courage takes adrenaline and that my friends is why I am drinking a bit of Irish whiskey.


Friday, February 18, 2011


I have to confess; I am a propagationaholic.  Ok so that's not a word BUT it should be so that people like me who have this problem can have something to call it. 

My desk a few days ago; thousands of seeeeeeeeeeeeds!!!!!

Every year about this time, as soon as I can see a bit of earth under all that snow.....I feel the need to seed something.  I simply cannot feel complete until I take little tiny seeds, put them in soil, label them neatly and water them thoroughly.

Then I'm like a crazy person staring at a pot of water urging it to boil.  I check on my seeds every single day.  I don't care if the packet said they won't germinate for at least two weeks, I must make sure I haven't missed that moment! When they shove their little green heads above the soil!  Yaaaaaaay!  I never tire of this yearly show.  It's good for hours of joy and obsessiveness.

Lilium michaganense; quite rare
And then the true work begins: dividing, potting up, finding homes for them, putting them in progressively larger containers, keeping them watered but not over-watered, fighting off fungus gnats, fighting off aphids, fighting off botrytis(fungus probably misspelled) only to....a couple months later....put them out in the ground so they can fight off a whole slew of of other pests and diseases.  Have I ever mentioned that I always 'root' for the underdog?  ;-)

Monday, February 14, 2011


So my hubby and me are ordering seeds for the farm. This is truly exciting.  It's kind of like when I started my hope chest (I feel a post on that brewing for another time) I did it to keep me hopeful and positive about using all the socks, bibs, wash cloths, blankets and the like that I was making or was given to me by my wonderful friends and family.  We are ordering seeds because in a few short months we will be needing them....Yay!!!!

There is an amazing amount of food to be grown.  Using our cellaring book we are attempting to find all the varieties of crops that store well.  It's not December and January that will be the problem you see.  It's February through March when the ground is not yet thawed enough for the cool season crops and the canned goods are getting really boring (or scarce but seriously? we're going to have lots of food!) that we'll probably want something a little more interesting like SALSIFY.

This lovely little plant talked about right here on this lovely sight has a nice flower, a root that will last nearly forever in the ground, or at the very least through the winter, and will store very well in a root cellar.  They say it tastes a bit like oysters.  Hm.  I feel my excitement waning.

A root that tastes like oysters?

Well.....I am an adventurous sort aren't I?  *Gulp* 

It's funny, I remember when I was in high school I used to scour my Reader's Digest book on North American animals and plants and then go out on the 60 acres my parents owned and hunt for things.  I was looking for a flower or a clue to the life that was held in every little root, flower and leaf that I happened across while walking.  I have a catalog in my head of the species I found.

Lovely bluets which are considered rare in some states:

Bottle gentian in the late late fall, sometimes so late there was snow on the ground:

And a big patch of Oswego tea in the middle of the woods.  I came across it one day and the sun was shining through right down on it.  It was very opportunistic it would seem.

In the book I would use to identify these plants there was a plant called salsify.  And all it's really taken is a mention of it now to go meandering back down memory lane.  I remember the smell of the book in my hands and the wet spot to the northeast of the house that some years was covered in partridge pea

and some years itwasn't.  I didn't know it them but it's an annual so it took a couple years to come back after the first year's plants had gone.

But I never found Salsify and yet here we are, ordering it for our farm.  Little things like this come full circle.  Strange and comforting; all at the same time.  How else are we supposed to know we are taking the right path.  Keep your eyes peeled and your heart open.  That's the only way to see.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Being a Worm Mom

I keep trying to get a picture of the many cardinals outside my office on the bird feeder.  Can anyone tell me why when you look through the view of your digital camera it's twice as far away than in real life so it feels like you have to get to the full extent of your zoom to travel 20 feet via camera?  But what does this have to do with worms?

This turned out nice though.  I love early morning shots.  This is out the front door of my office.  Not bad eh?

On to the worms!  Being a worm mom is very interesting.  I feed my children the offal, waste and grossness leftover from cooking mixed in with some shredded paper and a douse of used coffee grounds for moisture content.  They never complain.  They love me for it.  And so far they've been kind enough to not wiggle out of their 5 gallon bucket and slime their way all over my kitchen floor.  They wouldn't get very far, maybe they know this.  My cat would die from excitement at having something to do.  Kill worms.

They looooooove used coffee grounds, they appreciate things that are ground up a bit

The lid of my bucket which I have been filling with kitchen scraps for a couple months now.
Ok so look closely....the tiny C shaped squiggle just to the right of center is a baby worm! The adults are in the bottom left hand corner; there's an even tinier worm up and to the right of the C shape; he looks like ----

Most people would probably get the heebie jeebies from doing this in their kitchen but once you start composting, it's really hard not to keep going.  Frozen ground or not.  I have a hard time throwing anything down the garbage disposal when I know I can turn it in to great stuff for a garden.  I live in a condo.  But maybe not for long. 

Being a worm mom basically means letting your worms do the work for you (sounds familiar) and monitoring moisture content.  If the mixture gets too wet, the worms seek more air hence you get a kitchen floor wriggling with red wrigglers.  If the mixture is too dry, they die.  It's much easier to make it too wet than too dry as many kitchen scraps have so much moisture in them already. 

Last summer I collected fallen leaves off my patio and shredded paper from a shredder and combined them in a big bag.  I crushed the leaves up by hand and I add this mixture to the bucket when things are too wet.  It can fill up fast!  And unfortunately, unless you have lots and lots of takes quite a while to break it down.  But at $5.00 for 100 or so, maybe I should get more.  I found a local source for them, someone like me who does it indoors.  She put an add in the back of a flyer and advertises $5 which is a total bargain!

Check them every day.  Or if you're like me, check them obsessively to make sure they are happy. real kids are in for it.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Love Affair with Wool

I love wool.  I love to spin it, dye it, touch it, snuffle it, snuggle it, wrap it around my neck and walk out the door.  A few months ago my hubby found a nice 100% wool (Merino no less) striped scarf from GAP lying in a parking lot.  It had obviously been there for a while.  I think it had gotten run over a time or two.  So he picked it up and gave it too me......he is, of course, well aware of my love affair with wool (how could he not be with a closet full and stacked to the gills with fleeces, yarns and rovings?) and knew I'd appreciate it.

I did appreciate it but then like a dingaling I proceeded to wash it with too much agitation and it shrunk to about half the length it was.  A short scarf?  Yup, they suck.  So the cool thing about wool is this is not a problem.  Soak it in hot water and hang it up and stretch the crap out of it and you get this:

A full-length stretched out scarf!
Yay for wool!  When it dries, it will keep me even warmer and snugglier because it's slightly felted (all the spaces in the 'fabric' are filled in b.c. it meshed together in the wash).  Can't wait to wear it!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Meatloaf and Sam

One of my favorite things to make is meatloaf.  I know, I know, it's been overdone etc. etc.  Anyone from my generation (I'm 34 next week) has probably had more meatloaf than they care to remember.  It was always the failsafe for dinner.  I went through many years of  not trying it again but over the last 2-3 years, as I've gotten busier and tried to eat healthier, I've become pretty respectful of a good meatloaf.  Especially the way I make them.

The meatloaf I was used to had four basic ingredients.  Meat, eggs, saltines and ketchup.  Maybe some salt and pepper too.  It wasn't too bad but depending on the meat you use it could be pretty unhealthy.  So here's what I've discovered.  I love to make subsitutions in things I make.  If I get a recipe for something, rarely will I make it exactly as I'm told.  I guess maybe I never colored inside the lines of a coloring book either.

 So try this: Don't use any old meat, use the leanest meat you can.  This one uses ground turkey.  Don't use saltines, use oatmeal or wheat germ or Uncle Sam cereal with flaxseed in it ( I used all three).  It's truly amazing what you can throw in there.  I still use an egg and I still season it mildly (Italian seasoning, salt, pepper).  Add some ketchup if you want or sometimes I'll use mustard too or barbeque sauce.  The key is to get the right consistency.  It should be moist but hold together.  Bake at 375 for 15 mins or so and check for done-ness (I'm not fancy, I slice it open, don't want to eat raw meat!).

Now open a jar of home-canned greenbeans and you're definitely good to go!  That's a good meal right there, and pretty durned easy.  The turkey was a bit DRY I'll admit (since it's so lean!) and I'd prefer regular hamburger but it was hearty and good, I still enjoyed it but could have cooked it for slightly less time.

Oh, and below is a picture of my dog Sam.  He's my constant companion and since I couldn't get a pic of him in the post about the dog treats I made (which he keeps begging me for more of) I thought I'd put it here.

Sam-wise, my constant companion

Boycotting Wal-mart

I hate to admit it but this past year I gave in to the temptation of lower prices and started shopping at Wal-mart.  Now there are many people who have no other choice but doing so.  Either there's nowhere else to buy groceries or they have a huge family and can't afford to buy enough food for them otherwise etc.  I don't look down my nose at these people.  It's tough to boycott them and here's why.

They carry a better selection of the things I love than my local small town grocery store and they carry it for way cheaper.  Big surprise?  Not really.  But here's the other thing.  I like my small town grocery and if I like it, I should be shopping there.  Also, if I plan better and only buy things I truly need rather than the things I always buy (a food rut) I really think I can do it.  But Wal-mart is sneaky aren't they?

When I shop there, I go in with not only a list of groceries but a list of other odds and ends I know I can get there and hey I might as well buy them right because here I am, in the store?  Wrong.  I find that things I could actually wait on I purchase anyway because the store is further away (the monster on the outskirts of town of course) and it's so gigantic and I dislike the experience so much that I go ahead and get everything I could possibly need from there so I don't have to come back.

$200 dollars later I walk out the door.

Wait, What?  $200?  That can't be right?  But oh baby it is right.  That's what Wal-mart banks on you bet your sweet bippy.  So I confess, I was sucked in to the vortex of low prices only to spend twice what I had planned on spending!  Now here's the alternative.

Once a week I get a few groceries at my local grocer for say $50-$60.  Anything that they don't carry I have to go to other stores like an office supply store say.  While I'm there, I only get EXACTLY WHAT I CAME IN FOR.  I will end up spending less because of it.  So there's the bait, the farce and the catch to it all.  It's not hard to see how people get sucked in to it. 

I did but I'm not anymore and you know why?  I want my local grocer to stick around.  They are nearly right across the road from me.  I know the people there, they know me I've been in so many times and if they go under because in these hard economic times one more person (me) shopped at Wal-mart instead......boy wouldn't I feel like a schizer?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Baking for Others

I found a great way to satisfy my urge to bake......making dog treats!  This was a very easy recipe from this site and it made just enough.  Only two cups of flour, some of the recipes had 5-6 cups!  That's a bit much for my first try.  But the last batch of these is in the oven now and my dog Sam definitely approves.  He keeps coming over to me to lick spots on my hands and apron where things have stuck.  Not terribly good but what do I care, he's eating them!
All rolled out and using an apple slicer for smaller pieces

Just right for treats
Greased the cookie sheet with good 'ol fashioned lard that I rendered with my dad

The finished product with some experimental shapes in there

Up close they look good don't they! 
By the way, I modified the recipe.  It's called Peanut Butter Puppy Poppers (dorky) and I added another 1/4 cup water because the dough was waaay to dry, then to make sure it didn't get too sloppy and to add some savor I added 2 tbsp parsley flakes and 2 tbsp of olive oil.  I also baked them at 300 degrees not 350 since the bottoms brown up pretty quickly.  15- 20 minutes and they were done and in Sam's mouth!


When DH and I were thinking and planning our wedding, we assumed once we were married that we'd be together always.....that's it, end of story.  Yet here it is, nearly 3 months after our wedding and we are still doing the long distance thing.  So many things were happening last year that we both had to remember to breathe.  Laughter is key and to keep us in stitches, when all the changes coming seemed to form a whirling apex of fear and emotion, we'd stop and yell "BIG CHANGE COMING!!!!"  Because really, that about sums it up doesn't it?

It made us laugh, it brought us back down to earth and we kept plowing ahead.  There are still big changes coming, we're in the process of shopping for land to start our first farm together, but this is just life; changes hardly ever happen the way you think they will.  It's probably to keep us all from getting too cocky.  Sometimes we're right, most times we're wrong.  Humility is under-rated and to prove it, life, God, the planets, keep throwing us for loops so we won't ever get bored. 

My kitty keeps me company
 So he's in another state and we are 630 miles apart though newly wed.  We are trying to see each other once a month.  Being 'one' with each other is something we have to work at when under the same roof......when we aren't it's like bridging a gap between two oceans.  How to cope?  Food.

Oh lovely food, you are my joy and my bain.  So it's 6:30pm and I'm fantisizing about baking.  Baking is therapy to me as is cleaning.  The problem is I have steadily gained weight over the last few years of our long distance relationship.  Right now, I'm on the South Beach Diet and anyone who knows of this diet is aware that baked goods are a big no-no.  But if I can't deal with the reason I've gained the weight, having the baked goods in my house or not makes no difference......I WILL fail on this diet.

Address the root, get to the truth; both things are so hard to do but if you don't get there in your thinking, everything you do is a facade, the reason behind everything you do is more important than what you do.  If you don't know the reason, you are not living a soulful life.  Stop striving, start listening.  Good advice.  I'll try and take it.