Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Saturday, September 26, 2009
The truck finally came back from the repair shop, more than two months from the evening it started itself in the yard late at night. The time spent at the 'truck spa' was well worth it though. Welcome home Truck!
Thursday, September 24, 2009
The weather mavens say that it will be cold tomorrow night, possibly in the upper 20s in the high country. In honor of the visitor and the cold, I've pulled out the down comforter and cover, joined the two and let the whole thing air out this afternoon on the hammock. It looked so comfortable that I had to nap-test it to make sure it's still soft and downy. It is. It may be cold outside, but inside it will be toasty!
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I'm just returning from a business trip to a plant near Toronto, Canada. Six of us piled into two rental cars, drove 7 hours north and west, ate dinner, slept, ate breakfast, spent 5 hours in the plant, then drove 7 hours back east and south. Yes, we drove for 14 hours just to spend 5 hours at a plant in Canada.
I remember a time when I used to love travelling for business or pleasure. Back then I was footloose, so taking a trip meant throwing some clothes and my travel toiletries into a bag and off I went. Now, it's finding accomodations for the dogs, and missing home and the cats and everything else (like fresh air)!
My company makes these caulkers, among other things. If you go to Home Depot and see a caulker with the GE logo, we made them. If you look at the small print on the back, you'll see that we're not GE anymore, we've licensed the name for several years. We make other silicone products too, like glues to hold windows on buildings, wetting agents for agricultural products, flowability agents for beauty products, etc, etc, etc.
But this isn't a blog about work. It's a blog about homesteading. Two trips to different big cities in one week is a bit much for me these days. I'm really looking forward to spending some quality time at home, and especially looking forward to spending this weekend on the mountain. It's good to be home!
Monday, September 21, 2009
The activities committee of my work organized a day trip into the city for the Feast of San Gennaro. So I seized the chance and down I went to the big city. For a grand total of 8 hours (15 hours counting the bus trip up and down).
When we got to the city, the first thing I did was go into the nearest subway station and buy a one-day unlimited bus/subway pass - cost $8.25. Then I took an uptown bus to Central Park South, walked around a bit and had lunch at Whole Foods in Columbus Circle. Then I took another uptown bus to the Hayden Planetarium at 81st and Central Park West and caught the latest star show. Then a downtown bus to Herald Square and one of my favorite cheap shopping places. There was nothing interesting there, so another downtown bus took me past Union Square, Greenwich Village, and back to Canal Street. I walked around Chinatown and Little Italy a bit, and then it was time to go.
It's amazing how four bus trips and a short show at the planetarium can consume 8 hours, but it did. I really enjoy taking buses like this in NYC. It's easy, buses come frequently, and you get to see the NYC that people who live there see - all the things that make a good sightseeing day.
This last picture is Chinatown (the top picture was Little Italy). They look pretty similar which makes sense seeing as how these two pictures were taken about two blocks apart from each other. The major visible difference is the language on the storefront signs. Over the decades, Little Italy has gotten smaller and Chinatown has expanded. It seems as though Little Italy is mostly on Mulberry Street now, and Chinatown is all around it.
These pictures were taken with my new camera, which also has a 'vivid' setting (and a little more wide angle than my old camera). Vivid makes everything look a little brighter, and ... better than it looks in real life. It was a nice day in the city, but I was happy to spend a quiet Sunday listening to the birds and recuperating at the homestead!
Sunday, September 20, 2009
I made this pie on September 10th. I took this picture on September 18th. This is pathetic! I obviously need to take pie-eating lessons, or find someone to help me eat pies. Who in their right mind would allow a perfectly good blackberry pie to sit for over a week? I did remedy the situation slightly. Friday night's dinner was two pieces of pie with ice cream. This is one of the few advantages to living alone - I can eat meals that have no vegetables without guilt. There is still one piece left. Anyone?
Friday, September 18, 2009
I came back to the US in mid-2008, stayed in Oregon with my mother and spent 5 months figuring out what to do with my life (hoping that it would be outside, helping the environment). It didn't turn out that way (yet), but when I got the job I now have in upstate NY, I finally had a location and an upcoming endgame to the farm search. I had also examined so many farm listings across the country that I had a good idea how much 25 acres plus a house would cost.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I really didn't cook much this summer, so didn't use rosemary, thyme or oregano at all. I harvested basil a few times, but never got enough at one time to make pesto. Next year, more basil plants!
The weather says it will get cold Saturday night. It was 41 this morning, so we may see frost soon!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I planned to sleep upstairs again when it got warm, but Desmond's hips started hurting and he couldn't handle stairs any more. So I moved the mattresses into another room on the first floor for the summer. When it gets cold again, I'll move everything back into the room with the wood stove and close off most of the house to keep the front room as warm as possible. I'm almost looking forward to it!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
PS. I don't really wear shoes this bad to work! I came home one day a few weeks ago and saw the loggers had done some work, so I took a walk around the back 20 in my nice clothes. The bad part is that it's taken me so long to clean them up!
It's times like these when I'm glad the lawn tractor has headlights. I wanted to take a shot with the headlights on, but there's a dead man switch (like anyone would die on this tractor) that turns off the engine when there's no weight on the seat. Left to right you see the well, the lawn tractor, the yummy apple tree, and Desmond, looking for apples. The point-and-shoot camera makes the scene look much brighter than it actually was.
It was perfect. A tall drink in my hand, Nanci Griffith, Joe Ely and Joni Mitchell full-blast underneath industrial-strength ear protection as the lawn falls under these blades. The only problem? This engineerhas evolved into a random lawnmowing pattern, and it got too dark to see where the grass is uncut and which way to turn next. I may have hit a few rocks. I couldn't see them until it was too late or hear the blades on them. Next time I mow, I'll see the rocks polished white, and I'll know.
The vet thinks Desmond is older than I thought. He says 11-12 is closer to his real age. Plus, he's got cataracts and the vet thinks he can't see very well. He suggests as a test that I move some furniture around and watch him run into it. The rescue organization I adopted him from last November said he was 8 then (would be 9 now), but it makes more sense for him to be older. For goodness sake - he's hard of hearing, seeing and can't walk very well because of his hips. For a 9-year old dog that would be terrible. But for an 11-12 year old dog, he's doing OK.
I'm not sure why I had more mental energy than usual when I came home from work last night. But the homestead benefited as I did corn stuff (harvested and ate my first ear), cherry stuff (harvested and tried to pit), and apple stuff (taste-tested the two types after cooking with sugar and cinnamon). There's more to say about each item, so sit back and relax. This is going to be a long one.
First, the corn. I've been reading on how you know when to harvest corn (crack a kernel with your fingernail and when the fluid runs milky, it's ready to harvest). Now that I've harvested my first ear, I know what it means. I did the fingernail thing and got fluid, so I took that ear of corn. When I did the fingernail thing on a kernel farther down on the ear, the fluid was the color of corn milk, if there were such a thing. Ah, what a discovery! The fluid from kernel closer to the top was clear. Aha! I know people have been learning this for thousands of years, but last night I learned it, and it's a great thing to know!I microwaved that thing whole in the husk for 2 minutes and 45 seconds and then ate it with real butter and salt. The ripe kernels AND the unripe kernels were all yummy!
Then, the cherries:
I've been keeping tabs on the cherry trees for the last week or so to try and figure out when I should be harvesting cherries. When the cherries are red all over and soft, they have a mealy texture that's not appealing. So last night I thought I'd see what happens if I harvest cherries before they get mealy. Since I think these are pie cherries, they'll never get sweet, so I thought maybe harvest time is supposed to be while they're a bit hard.Above are the results of my cherry pitting experiment. I made it through about 5 cherries, shaving off bits of cherry while the cherry tried to stick tight to the pit. This is obviously not the right way to do it. I guess I need to do more research here.
Finally, the apples:
I cut a few apples of each kind into slices and tasted them. The right kind had a sweet beginning taste evolving into tart and the left kind had a more full-bodied flavor that was sweeter than tart.
I cooked each kind separately in a saucepan with sugar and cinnamon. If this were a true test, I would have measured out the same amount of sugar in each. This was an ersatz taste test - I just threw sugar in until I felt like stopping. I cooked just until the sauce began to thicken. The left apples kept their shape better (probably because they're smaller) and tasted WONDERFUL after cooking. The right apples tasted good, but the sugar seemed to take the edge off, leaving this apple with less interesting flavor overall. I have more trees that carry the right apple, so it looks like I'll be doing more tests to find where it shines best.
Stay tuned for more homesteading adventures in future episodes. Today the dogs go to the vet to get their shots. They love the car, so this should be fun. As fun as handling two excited dogs on 4-foot leashes can be, that is.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Here are apples I've picked from three different trees. I hope they're ripe. How do you tell? What happens if you eat apples that aren't ripe? I've only had grocery store apples before and I'm pretty sure they're ripe. The two dogs, Desmond and Maggie have been eating unripe apples fallen from the trees for weeks and Desmond is farting a lot these days. Maybe it's the mice he's eating or maybe it's the apples. I won't be doing a scientific test on that question!
I bought an extra crust last week in preparation for the next pie. It'll either be apple or cherry, since the Northstar cherries are ripening as well. Maybe both. Must get more crusts!
The mice seem to come in waves. Nothing for a week, then 2 or 3 in one night. Here Sparky and Maggie have a standoff over whose mouse this one (the third since Saturday) is. Sparky won because Maggie left to follow me into another room. After the mouse died, it was apparently less interesting because I saw it laying alone in the center of the room. Then later I didn't see it at all. I think it's in Desmond's tummy.
Maggie and Pancho seem to be getting along fairly well...First, Maggie uses Pancho for a headrest on the 1/2 quilt. (Or maybe it's the 20% quilt. I started it when I was young, and my mother finished it and gave it to me when I was an adult.) Later, Pancho uses Maggie for a headrest.I harvested some apples yesterday. It looks like there may be more than one type here. Macintosh for sure, and something else yet to be identified. I am SO loving this homesteading, discovery stuff. But again, it's not cold yet. I may love it less in 4 months!
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
This spring I was a little ruthless about clearing the area in front of the house, until I realized that there were things in there that I wanted to keep. Like peonies. Then I was a little ruthless about NOT clearing. As in I've done basically no weeding since June in here, after mom and I planted corn, rosemary, melons and cucumbers in this area. The corn is before the picture begins, and the cucumbers are at the very end. In between is the area where I didn't know what anything was. As you can see, some of it is weeds (goldenrod), and some of it is not weeds (phlox). Maybe next season I'll better be able to tell the weeds from the not weeds. One can hope!
Friday, September 11, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Stay Tuned for the outcome in tomorrow's episode.
In other news, my sister knit this vest with my first handspun yarn. I bought the carded silk/romney, (I think) in CT in June, so no, I didn't make the yarn from raw fiber. Sis says the vest is too short (maybe because I'm so new at this that I could only make 306 yards with 8 oz), and that it shrunk when she blocked it (maybe because I didn't wet and whack it after I spun it). Nonetheless, it's a beautiful vest and only a little crooked because the yarn isn't balanced. Thanks to sis for being the first knitter to use my yarn! I promise it will get better!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Now, where can you go after a long day of work to get sawzall blades, pie crusts, embroidery thread, and printer cable, and not have to make 3 separate stops and get home at 7:30? Unfortunately, you guessed it, Wal Mart. (Or as my fellow South Carolinians call it - Wally World.) I'm very pro local shopping, and in fact, my first stop before work was to the local hardware store for cat food and reciprocating saw blades. In my before-work hurry, I accidentally bought some jigsaw blades (which I have plenty of and do NOT need), so sawzall blades went back on the list.
I found most everything I was looking for, but, FYI, Wally World does not carry embroidery thread. That's a task for lunchtime today. I also got some things that weren't on the list and re-learned a lesson that I learn every year about this time. There IS such a thing as too much candy corn!
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
I didn't leave the mountain for the entire 3-day weekend - it was heaven! Not even to get my mail 3/4 mile down the hill. And - it didn't rain, not even once. I came down this morning with a list of things to do though, buy cat food, embroidery thread, sawzall blades, and pie crusts!
Here's the whole frozen mess, serving tray and all, right before I popped off all the fruits into a ziploc bag and put it back into the freezer. This is about 2 cups. I'll collect another 2 cups later this week and send it all frozen to my father for a birthday present. Shh - don't tell him.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Below is the project aaallmost complete! I just need to bind the edges and add thread ties throughout. It's a bedspread, made out of salvaged shirts, and won't pass water due to a waterproof mattress pad in the middle. I'll probably continue letting my dogs be dogs, but it's time to protect the people parts of my bed from wet, dirty dog stuff. The thing turned out quilt-y-er than I anticipated, because the mattress pad was a little thick. That's OK. This is a labor of love.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Here's how it goes.
- One of the cats flushes a mouse.
- Maggie gets enthusiastic and goes over to help.
- The cat abandons the mouse.
- Maggie plays with the mouse and kills it, then sits with it for a short while.
- When Maggie moves away from the now-dead mouse, Desmond goes over and eats it.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Cherries: These are pretty small, but maybe with some good pruning and food next year, they'll get bigger.
Blackberries: Maggie started harvesting these several weeks ago, before I even realized they were ripening.
I walked around the 'back 20' for a bit, and I have no idea where all that wood came from. I still don't see sky anywhere, except through leaves.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
In this second shot, I am standing in the same place, but have rotated to the right. The path goes along the right of the shot and the logging road now goes just past that (cherry?) and before the blueberry bushes. Upper blueberry hill is just off the left of this shot.
It took me days to clear that path, and them hours to make/remake that road. It's just not fair! I'm beginning to see the attraction of having the proper tools!
I participated in a photography meetup event yesterday at the Schaghticoke Fair. Meetup.com is an incredible collection of groups, similar to yahoogroups for email lists, but meetup is for .... meeting, doing things. There are groups for every possible interest/location combination, I'm sure. Take a look at meetup.com for your area and see what's there!
Since photography is one of my interests, I joined this group (and a gourmet group) when I got to upstate NY late last year. I've only gone on one other outing before this one - it was a hike to see local waterfalls. I've skipped get-togethers at a local cemetary, and architectural photo walks in some pretty old towns around here, just because it wasn't convenient. That's the beauty of meetup. Participating when it works means that everyone wants to be the same place you are, and that's neat.
Anyway, yesterday's meetup at the fair (pronounced Scat'-icoke) was to take pictures of the midway as the sun set, and after. I took over 100 shots, going mostly for shapes and colors. And words. For some reason I like taking pictures of letters and words. And juxtapositions of things that don't belong together. And to leave something missing, so you have to think, ... what's missing here? This one is easy, I hope.
I got a chance to try out an old camera of mine that I had given to my father a few years ago. He didn't use it, so he gave it back. It's a big, hulking Panasonic Lumix with a 12x optical zoom that I compared to my trusty Sony Cybershot that's been around the world with me and across the country twice.
What I noticed (and have suspected for a few weeks now), is that the Cybershot is having trouble focusing. It's hard for you to to tell because I size these pictures so small, but this last shot (as most of my recent shots with this camera) is a little out of focus. One of the things I love about this camera, in addition to how small it is, is that it has a 'vivid' setting that makes things look so good! The two top shots are with the Panasonic, the bottom one is the Sony. Come on little guy! You can do it!