Monday, October 22, 2012

Maggie and the Fox

Maggie caught a fox in the yard last week.

I think Maggie was trying to play with it! But it ran under the deck and hid.  Maggie waited (and tried to get under the deck) for hours and hours, but no playing that day.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Yucca Yuck!

I spent hours this weekend trying to make space for blueberry bushes by removing some Yucca from the side of the house.  The leaves are spiky and sharp, and the roots are huge.  Bigger than huge.  Then I came inside and checked the source of all wisdom, the internet, to see what the wisdom is on getting rid of Yucca.

Below is what it could look like

Below, the spiky part next to the wall, is what it does look like (after about 4 hours of digging)

Here's a snippet of what internet peeps say about getting rid of Yucca:
After 3 days of hacking, Dh was reduced to using a sawzall. Literally 27 minutes later, they had resprouted. This time, DH used the propane BLOWTORCH that godforsaken children(gc) had purchased for him one year. All this accomplished was setting uprooted strands of weedweb, and a nearby boxwood, on fire. And 10 minutes later, there were new sprouts in the middle of the stinking blackened mess.
The reason digging doesn't work is because of their incredibly deep roots
The reason poisoning doesn't work, is because of hydrostatic pressure
One suggestion that has worked 78% of the time is to move to a new house that does not have Yuccas.


It looks like I'm gonna have to go ahead and plant the blueberry bushes ('cause I've already got them!).  My yucca eradication plan looks like it's gonna be management-based - just keep the thing as small as possible.

Like a crazy fool, I thought the yucca was going to be the easy part, so I left it for last.  Several bushes were also here, but succumbed to a rope and the ATV.  That was fun!  What will be more fun is eating the blueberries!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Yeah, I Know

It's been a while...

I've been mulling an update, but didn't feel like I had much to say since I didn't do much this winter.  A few things stacked up recently, so it's feeling like time to break radio silence.

I finished updating the brown bathroom - yesterday.  This bathroom started brown. The ceiling, the walls, the tile, the vanity.  All of it.  Except the sink, which was pink-y peach, the toilet which was peach and the bathtub which was pink.  I replaced the toilet and the sink, and painted the room.  Yes, it took something like six months.  I'm the kind of remodeler where if there's *anything* else to do, I'll do the other thing. 

It seems like people in the 1960s were shorter.  Four months of the six months was spent deciding what to do with the tile soap dish and toothbrush holder that I so intelligently didn't realize would interfere with the new vanity. Then, deciding which type of not-matching tile would go in the open spaces on the wall.  Then, trying my best to adjust the piping angles.  And finally, calling in someone to finish the job.

Take a look at this pic.  Then look down to past posts to see what it looked like in November. (Sorry, not a true before pic because I'd already covered up the brown paint when these pics were taken.)  The hanging pants are a design inspiration that I found at the Salvation Army.  I love the color combo.

I finished pulling the bushes out around the front door (started in September-also some old pics somewhere below).  I sortof finished spreading manure (started in October).  And I FINALLY started to plant stuff.  Two elderberry bushes, a red currant bush, and a gooseberry bush.  Of course, we've been in the upper 20s for the last few nights, so I'm not positive the new bushies are going to survive.

I started taking classes in January to become an EMT.  Class schedule was grueling, 3 evenings a week from 7-10pm for 4 months.  It's all over now, except for the practicals and the testing, which will take much of May.  It's hard to describe how much I'm looking forward to having those 10 hours a week of MY time back. 

And finally, an update on me.  I lost 80+ pounds.  On purpose.  That's me in the middle. I'm the girl with her pants pulled up so they don't fall down and I step on them.  This is a fire call that we had yesterday, starting early, early morning (or maybe late, late night), 3am. I got home at 9 yesterday morning, and went straight to bed.

Things have mostly been on hold for the last several months as I struggled to get through EMT class.  It was convenient that it was also cold, yukky and dark at the same time.  Now that all of that is mostly out of the way, me and the new bushes are looking forward to the impending warmth and light of spring.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Midway through

I'm pretty proud of myself right now.  The new toilet is in and works fine.  There were only a few moments of, "uh oh, what do I do now," when I couldn't shut off the water to the toilet so I shut off the water to the whole room.  But the valve still leaked, drip, drip, drippety, drippety drip, and I had to make a fast trip to the hardware store to get new shutoff valves.  That's a retro corningware thing sitting on the floor to catch water.

The white toilet definitely does not match the decor of the room.  I hope it's one of those things where a guest will say, "I love what you've done with this room," and I point out all the mistakes I made (because they're too minor to be noticeable).  I could have taken the time to order a matchy matchy toilet - but I didn't, because I'm impatient.

Or maybe not that impatient.  A plumber came over this morning to look at repairing the pipes where one burst this past January.  Yep, 10 months ago.  I haven't had heat in 1/3 of the house for 10 months.  So, I'll get this bathroom all nice and pretty, and guests will say, "It's COLD in here!"  They just might not notice that the toilet doesn't match because they're freezing.

We'll see how it all looks when I get the new vanity in.  It's sitting in the living room right now.  I'll wait until the hardware store opens tomorrow before I disconnect the water to the sink - I want to be able to make another fast trip if necessary!

See those two nice, round holes in the wall?  They're investigatory holes because I was planning on putting a medicine cabinet in the wall.  And then I found a stud right between the two  holes.  I may go with a simple mirror, rather than cut a stud to put a medicine cabinet in.  It's really not that important.  In fact - I can put the old mirror back up over the holes and put the whole decision off until some future date.  See, I can be patient!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'm Not Going to be a Purist About This

Here's one of the bathrooms in my midcentury house.  It's got cool, old tile on the floor and walls, and a genu-wine Universal Rundle peach-colored one-piece toilet to go with the peach and brown vanity.  It used to have brown walls and a brown ceiling until I took care of that with primer.

In true fashion, the toilet didn't work when I bought the house, and I had a bear of a time finding parts to fix it.  So now, I'm scared to use the toilet because I'm worried it might break again and parts for this puppy are hard to come by!  How useful, exactly, is a bathroom that I'm afraid to use?

That's why I made the hard decision to find this toilet a new home, and go the Home Depot route for a replacement.  That and the vanity.  I'm all for peach, so my plan is to leave the bathtub exactly the way it is.  (Plus, I don't want to touch any of this wonderful midcentury tile if I can help it!)  I might possibly replace only the vanity cabinet and re-use the sink, but the jury is out on that so far.

I'm thinking of something like this, ... or this, or this. 
And lights that look like this. Or maybe this (both from EBay).

The pictures show that over the years the sink has aged to a different color, more pink-y, than the apricot-colored toilet and the more brown-y, tan-y tub.  I've waffled on the order of the steps
Paint the vanity first, to see what color I'm looking for?  Or replace the toilet first to see how the room looks with a lighter toilet, ... which might change my vanity choice?  I'm 100% sure that the toilet is going bye-bye - so I think that's what I'll do first.  (Plus, I should take up the current vanity and make sure the tile underneath is in good shape before buying something newer!)  I'm about 75% sure that a smaller sink will look better (this one is 30 inches wide on a 27 inch cabinet).  Twenty-four inches will look much better, I think.
I also think that I can do this plumbing job myself, so replacing this stuff could (ideally) be a weekend project.

I have to keep reminding myself that I bought a project house on purpose, because I like this kind of work.  Yeah.  I like this. Yeah.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I looked at my harvest yesterday morning.  Here it is (or will be).  Maybe.

One tiny cucumber.

One little tomato.

Aaand ... that's it. 

Here's a look over my garden domain, from the platform down a hill to the garage.  In June, I plopped a few cukes, a few tomato plants and a few basil plants into the ground.  I didn't know at the time, but I had lyme disease.  I did know that I was exhausted!   It was all I could do to dig holes and put plants in.  No soil prep.  No fertilizer.  No nothing.

Most of the plants died, but some of them hung on and struggled through the season, and soon I'll harvest my lonely cuke and tomato. 

Monday, September 5, 2011


I think I have a few posts started but never posted over the last few weeks, so, since it's Labor Day and I'm starting the morning slowly, I'll take the time to post an update and actually get it up so others can read it.

I started a new batch (batches?) of hard cider yesterday.  It's 4 gallons using the same juice from Indian Ladder Farms, but 4 different yeasts.  The last batch I made 1-1/2 years ago turned out to be barely drinkable.  I had made a 5-gallon commitment on that batch, so it took quite a while to drink it all.  This is my third attempt at hard cider.  Just like cheesemaking and yogurt making, I'm beginning to see the point of each step, and it's becoming more of a process and less of me blindly following steps that someone else wrote down.  If I didn't make any dumb mistakes, it will be 2 weeks in primary fermentation, then 2 weeks in secondary fermentation before I bottle it.  Then, it gets better, the longer it's in the bottle (I tried some cider at the brewing supply store that was a year old).  I'll probably start drinking this stuff in about 6 months.

Beer is faster, and I've considered brewing beer.  The problem is that I don't want to drink beer all that much these days, so the idea of making 5 gallons of it doesn't appeal to me.  I DO want to grow hops next year though.  I asked the dude at the brewing store if they buy hops from local farmers, and he said that the output from the average Joe's 2 plants (exactly what I was thinking of growing!) isn't enough to make one barrel of beer.  No matter.  I was thinking of growing it for my own beer that I may make sometime.  Or, since it grows so fast, maybe I could grow it on the sunny side of the house to provide shade in the summer, and do nothing else with it.

Here's an update on progress on the Swedish Heartwarmer Shawl from Ravelry.  Each nubbin is 1 ounce of fiber, 50% merino, 25% tussah silk and 25% angora (yeah, it feels really soft).  I've carded 32 of these and am about halfway through the dying.  The pink is supposed to be red, so I'm going to have to buy more red dye.  The purple is supposed to be burgundy.  The blue piece hanging on the back of the sofa is one of three that I rinsed so thoroughly they kinda felted.  I carded the other 2 of the 3, but am not sure they'll be usable to spin.  I may have to buy more tussah silk so that I can make some more nubbins. 

The pattern calls for 2800 feet of sock weight yarn.  Each nubbin will have to make almost 100 feet of plied yarn (200 feet of single ply).  I've never spun anything that thin before, and am thinking that if I don't have extra fiber, I'll be short on yarn.  Then I'll be months into it and end up buying yarn to make this thing!  I don't want that!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Weekend of Destruction

I said I would wait, but I couldn't.

I've been thinking about what changes I'm going to make to my yard, and had plans to terrace the west side of the garage and the south end of the lot, put fruit trees in the driveway loop, and, and....  Lots of plans!  I was doing some online research on landscaping for midcentury houses, thinking about who could do the terracing work and how I'd pay for it, when I realized that I had skipped a VERY important step.  **How do I want to relate to the out of doors?  What's my overarching landscape philosophy?** (yeah, OK, this is a bunch of hoo hah - but it's the backbone of just about everything.  If ya got a philosophy, then it's easy to make individual decisions. Just align to the philosophy.)

Which got me thinking about the prior owner (and wife of the guy who built the house).  How did she relate to the out of doors?  That's when I realized that she kept most of the landscaping to act as a wall between her and the rest of the world.  Example:  the top picture shows a dark square, just above the blooming bush.  That's the front door.  Yup.  The front door of the house.  Hidden behind a huge Korean Spice viburnum and some huge rhododendrons.  After I understood her philosophy, I understood why things were the way they were in the yard, and I felt pretty good about making changes. (Note:  I talked to a neighbor and friend of the prior owner and he confirmed my understanding.)

My philosophy is a little more outside-based.  Grow food, cook outside, lay in the hammock and sometimes sleep outside.  No barriers between inside and out.  It's difficult with this house.  The living level is one floor up, so every trip outside involves a flight of stairs.  Not fun, when balancing a tray with raw steak, beer, a magazine and cooking implements on the way down to the grill.  I'm just sayin'.

Anyway.  I don't have the money to make the big changes I was planning.  But now that I understand the philosophy thing, it's easy to take baby steps that cost nothing to implement.  Starting with the front door.  Bye to three rhododendrons, aggressively pruned to about a foot above ground.

The left side of the sidewalk has an evergreen and another rhody.  If it weren't for the viburnum and the evergreen, both sides of this walkway would be perfectly nice, sunny space that could be used for "useful" stuff, like rhubarb, lovage, and other edibles.  I'm going to cut down the viburnum and the evergreen, and transplant all of it to somewhere else.  If it doesn't survive, I'll be OK.  Then I'm going to bring some of the blue flag iris and peonies from the other house and put them on the right side of this walkway, where the viburnum is.  I'll put lovage from the other house on the left side of the walkway and plant rhubarb, chives and some other stuff.

Here's the north side, where I want to terrace.  The first picture is in June, when I was letting everything "express itself."  The second picture is yesterday after I did a hack job on the stuff next to the house.
This steps/ramp thing drives me NUTS!  I was thinking of hiring someone to get rid of it, and terrace this slope up to the platform.  But now I'm thinking that since I have 2 arms and no extra money and could use a workout, I can start to do it myself.  Get rid of the walkway and make the first, lowest level next to the wall into space for next year's garden.

Here's another view.  This platform (below) makes no sense, in a how-does-the-inside-relate-to-the-outside kind of way.  To get to it, you have to walk down the steps to the driveway, and then back up to the platform.  Huh? My current thinking is to get rid of it, and use pavers to make a patio-thing.  But, if there were to be a patio, it should be on the same level as the driveway, not up a hill.  An alternative is to bust a hole in the master bedroom and put some steps down to the thing. I still have some thinking about that.  The incremental approach means I've got a few years to figure something out.

I am going remove the roses, honeysuckle and the yucca from near the house, and plant other edibles there.  Possibly blueberries, but I have a perfect space on the other side of the house for them. 

(I've been spewing off names of plants like I'm an expert or sumthin'.  But really, when I wasn't being destructo-mama, I was in the books or online, researching plant names.  It's nice to know what I've got, but sad to realize that so much of my yard is overwhelmed with invasive honeysuckle and multiflora rose.  It'd be nice to have the goats now.  They like the stuff.)

I'm going to go around the rest of the house and show you what's there and what I'm planning, but this post is pretty long already, so I'll save it for another day.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Line in The Sky

Last night I found myself laying on the hammock on the porch to relax a bit before bed.  I haven't hammocked much this year as the Lyme meds made me sensitive to heat and it has been dreadfully hot in the sun this summer.  Plus, I'm living lower this year, closer to the city where it's warmer.

I flopped into the hammock and put my eyes to the stars and they felt like new things I hadn't seen before.  Then, as my worldly stuff fell to the side, my eyes resolved the cross of Cygnus the swan right above me. I remember from the mountain that the backbone of Cygnus lies along the line of Milky Way, so I looked hard, but didn't see the Milky Way - there's too much light here in the 'burbs.  I rested a little while and looked in the way of seeing without focusing, and eventually, or maybe I imagined it, the cloudiness of the Milky Way appeared.  Up on the mountain, the Milky Way is blotchy and bright.

I laid some more on the hammock and thought about "stuff."  We'd had a carbon monoxide call earlier and I went out in the first apparatus, and got to hold the CO detector as we went through the house, in full gear and on air.  It felt really really good (aside from being uncomfortable and hot and sweaty). 

As the new person, I concentrate on not being a drag on the group and not screwing up too much stuff, while trying to be a contributer and a problem solver (not a problem generator).  Yesterday I got the air pack on, got gloved, got air started and got to the doorway at the same time as the other two guys (yay).  (Aside: it's notable how much better I'm fitting in - it just occurred to me this morning that I pointed my back side at the driver and said, "turn me on," and neither one of us thought that was strange - for him to turn the knob on my air tank so I could breathe the air.)  Also cool was that one of the guys got the CO detector out while we were enroute - and as we went in the house he asked if I knew how to use it (no), and then he handed it to me.  Then later, someone else showed me how to use the tank-refiller and I refilled all our air tanks.

I feel like a sponge with these guys.  I anticipated/hoped all along that eventually things would right themselves, and they appear to be doing just that.  They're no longer afraid I'm going to sue if they swear, which helped them relax, and I can have a potty mouth myself at times.  Are these guys my tribe?  I can't tell yet.  I still don't have anyone I can call when I feel like hanging out.  That was one of my objectives and I'm not there yet. 

I'm going to a concert tonight with NM, the guy I dated for 5 months earlier this year.  It bothered me that I didn't have any friends that I could ask to the concert, so I eventually tried NM, who rearranged his schedule to be in town.  We'll see how it goes - I don't think either of us wants to date again, but we might turn into doing stuff friends. Maybe.

Then I saw a shooting star.  I thought about my wish, what I wanted to wish for.  It occurred to me that, for the most part, there's nothing I need to wish for.  Stuff is pretty good in my world.  I concentrated on letting go of yesterday and letting go of tomorrow and just enjoying the moment.  Then I saw another shooting star as the big guy up there said, "that's right."

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's Blueberry Season!

I went to visit the folks at the mountain house last weekend (friends of mine that are renting my homestead in the mountains).  We hung out for a while, and they showed me that the blueberries near the house are starting to ripen.  Then I showed them the blueberry hill, where there's a lifetime supply of berries if only they could all be picked in a month.  We picked and picked and picked and picked, and I got to go home with the booty. 

Now, these are wild highbush blueberries that have been unsullied by human contact for nigh on 20 years.  The berries are small-ish.  The bushes are tall-ish (as in it would be perfect if I were 8 feet tall).  Two of us picked for maybe 1/2 an hour and the booty was something like 2 cups of berries, which doesn't seem like a lot.

But this morning I made blueberry pancakes and boy oh  boy were they good!  I'm going to make muffins with what's left and then invite myself back to their house to pick more!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Am I Creating Addicts?

I so enjoyed watching hummingbirds feeding at my sister's house that I up and got a hummingbird feeder as soon as I got back from Oregon.  It didn't take the little dudes and dudesses long to find the thing, and I get a huge kick out of hearing them zoom up and watching them do the sippy, tilty thing.  Here's some pix.

The feeder's on the steps just outside the kitchen window.  Doesn't seem to bother the hummingbirdies and I get to sit at the counter and watch.

Now, I am not an experienced birder, so to me, this looks like the same bird.  (Every picture is a different feeding event - about 5-15 minutes after the last one.) If it's really one bird, this feller (or lady) is going to get too fat to fly one of these days.  Not to mention being dependent on me to feed her/him.  I'm concerned that maybe I shouldn't be feeding her/him.  Opinions?

Five minutes of google searching leads me to thinking that this is a female.  Apparently it has to be a ruby-throated hummingbird because those are the only ones found east of the Rockies.  Pretty cool!

I need to do something about the greenery around the house (that you can see in the first picture).  This is the year that I'm observing and not destroying, but it's becoming apparent that trimming is in order, if not outright removal of a thing or two.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Waiting for Sleep

Here I am watching cop movies on Netflix, carding mohair, and waiting to be smacked upside the head by the sleep train.  You see, it goes like this....

It started two weeks ago with a bug bite.  Then the bug bite got infected (or so I thought).  Then the infected bug bite turned out to really be a symptom of Lyme disease.  Then I started on Doxycycline, the antibiotic of choice for Lyme disease.  Then, I got hives.  Red, itchy, spreading hives.  Did I say itchy?  I meant ITCHY.  All over.

So back to the doc, who doesn't want to take me off the Doxycycline because it really is the best thing for Lyme.  Then came Benadryl, and shortly after Benadryl comes Must. Sleep. So, I'm isolating myself even more than usual, which is too easy for me, and trying not to scratch.

So where does the mohair come in, you ask?

I want to make this Swedish Heartwarmer Shawl.  I've been lusting after it for over a year now.  It doesn't matter that I can't remember how to knit, or that I have no idea how to knit with different colors, or that I'm going to MAKE the yarn instead of buy it.  None of that matters.  I'm going to make this beautiful thing.

I'm going to make it 50% merino, 25% mohair and 25% tussah silk.  I've got the merino and the silk fiber already, but here's what the mohair looks like:  I traded a friend for it 2 years ago.  Her angora goats are all grown up now, but they were babies when this stuff was cut.  So soft!

I figure I'll need about 2 pounds of yarn.  So, roughly, the steps are: card the mohair, card all three fibers together, split it up into about 10 different chunks, dye each chunk a different color, mix colors back together in a pleasing way and spin 4 different yarn colors.  I think I'll need 500-600 yards of each color.  The yarn they used is 4-ply, but I don't think I can do 4-ply.  In fact, I've never done 3-ply.  If I'm feeling adventurous, I'll try 3-ply, but if not, I'll stick with the good ole 2-ply that I already know how to do.

This is totally a time vs money tradeoff.  This time I'm going to choose time.  And enjoy every minute of the loong time it's going to take to make this.  Or not.  I could just buy the yarn for $200 and I almost did.  But that's not the point of this project.  The point of this project is not to run as fast as possible to the destination, but enjoy the journey a little more than I generally do.  A long journey this will be.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I Know, It's Been A While

I can't explain it, except to say that I've lost the urge to blog.  I see things and think, "boy, that would be an interesting blog posting," but then lack the interest to turn the thought into an actual post.

We're in the height of hot, hot, humid summer, with highs in the high 80s and huge humidity.  This is only two weeks after we had high temperatures in the 40s and walked around bundled up. It's a shame, really, because I thoroughly enjoy those 50s, 60s, 70s and low 80s that we missed this year.  I'm getting a crash lesson in how to exist in my house when it's hot.  Hint: Find someplace cooler to sleep (my bed is on the side of the house that's hot at night).

I've kept my promise not to make any changes to the yard.  I'm thinking seriously of buying a few tomato plants from some store and plopping them somewhere, just to be able to taste fresh tomatoes this year.  I may regret this, but zucchini is on the wish list, too, and I've used up the last of last year's basil pesto, which froze really well.  I want basil.  Lots and lots of basil.  Last year I had about 12 plants, which was maybe too many for me to keep up with.

The slope past the walkway and to the left of the garage is a candidate.  I'm guessing that the former owner had stuff growing there, but have no idea what it might be.  There's nothing coming up now.

I'm looking longingly at the below area that's surrounded by driveway, currently halfway occupied by some evergreen bushy thing.  There are 4 tree stumps and a fair amount of unused space.  I wouldn't be irreparably damaging anything, I don't think, if I snuck a few plants in there.  I can also use pots, as suggested by commenters.  Eventually, I'd like to clear out the stumps, the brush, the driveway crossover, and make it all into a garden.  But not this year.  It's like the former owner was trying to pave as much as possible.

I'm watching, and attempting to identify the plants here and figure out what's a weed and what's a keeper.  Many plants are totally new to me, but one, at least, I recognize from the last place, garlic mustard.  It's everywhere, and it's a weed.  I pulled a bunch of it a few weeks ago, but this battle is just getting started.

Monday, May 2, 2011

It Didn't Sell ... But it rented!

I think.

Only 2 parties looked at my house in the 5 months it was for sale and I was beginning to get a little desperate.  All the doom and gloom articles about the terrible housing market didn't help.  The long, cold winter depleted my cash reserves and I was beginning to worry about how tight I'd have to budget in order to continue paying for multiple houses.  (Like, I'd have to be more disciplined about always bringing my lunch to work and never going out to dinner - something I've never been good at. No vacations, rice and beans for dinner, etc, etc. You get the picture.)

Then 2 weeks ago, some friends of mine from the country fire department called to see if they could rent it.  Um, ... of course!  The rent will mostly cover the loan payment, and they'll put the utilities in their name, saving me another few hundred a month.  Whew!  I had mixed feelings about selling the house, and I'm happy to have friends renting it. I'll still be able to pick blueberries, elderberries, and apples and I'm uber happy to have some breathing room between my paycheck coming in and bills going out.

Then last weekend, these folks moved all my stuff from the other house to this one.  Can you say, "thrilled?"  Of course, I've lived for so long with most of my furniture at the other house, that my current place feels crowded now.  I missed my sofa, but I'd forgotten about most of the other stuff.  It's a little embarrassing that when the men were unloading the truck they'd say, "Where do you want this?" and I'd say, "I have no idea. I forgot I even owned it!"  Hee hee.  I'd been trying to be less of a control freak, and not have every little detail planned out - but I don't think those big burly men appreciated that the same way I did.

I've made a promise to myself that I'm not going to make any (big) changes to the lot this year, like building raised beds or planting any fruit trees.  It's almost painful to hold back, but only 2 years ago, I did major stuff at the other house and regretted it.  So I'm going to wait, impatiently. 

Here's some pictures of the new place.  It's sortof a panorama.  I'm standing on the porch on top of the garage, looking down the driveway, then taking pictures rightward. 

One good reason to wait is that I've never seen how sunny or shady parts of the yard are.  In fact, the leaves fell off the trees about a week after I moved in.  Smart people plant things in sunny areas. There are so many trees, if only I knew where the sun will land in the summer...
I'd love to put beds along the edge of the driveway where it curves here.  Probably not raised beds though.  It wasn't too long ago that there was about 4 feet of snow piled up on the sides of the driveway.  Plowing would really damage anything I put there.
I totally want to use those inside-the-loop areas to plant yummy stuff (there are 4 tree stumps in the right-er space.  It'd be cool to have a mini-orchard there).  And I'd love to plant berry bushes along the outside edge of the driveway. Just gotta account for the fact that snow has to go somewhere, and gotta see if there's any sun over there.

And finally, I took an EVOC (Emergency Vehicle Operations) course over the weekend.  Saturday was  classroom training and Sunday was driving on an obstacle course that included a serpentine forwards and backwards.  (Yes, it was an extremely busy weekend, what with this class and moving all in one weekend.)  Chief was only going to let me drive the small vehicle, but I asked nicely and got to drive the big truck! (It was a smaller one than this ladder truck, but still big!  I think they got a little calmer when I told them I had had a 3/4 ton pickup truck and was totally comfortable doing the backwards serpentine in that.) I did pretty good, considering that my very first time behind the wheel of that fire truck was to do this course!  Every day I spend in bunker pants earns cred with these guys and helps me fit in.  This weekend was hard, but it was a big step forward.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What I'm Doing These Days

A few people have mentioned being curious about what's going on with me these days, so I'll oblige.  It's just been so ... ho hum, that I haven't had the oomph to put it into a posting. In no particular order, here's the poop.

1. I've been working on making friends.  I joined a group a year ago, but hadn't devoted any time to it until a few weeks ago.  Some of them get together every Wednesday night for fiber-y stuff.  Last Sunday it was beermaking.  Every Thursday it's dance practice 5 minutes from my new house.  They're very active and I could devote a LOT of time to these folks if I wanted, but I'd rather test out a few "tribes" before I commit to one. I may prefer to be half-into a few "tribes" instead.  I'd much rather have one or two close friends, but I don't have a formula for that other than if you want friends, be a friend.

2. Speaking of tribes, I'm trying to settle in at the fire department.  I joined the department closest to my house, even though they didn't have a good reputation.  It's been tough.  The guys haven't been friendly. I dread drills and I've almost quit a few times.  But a few of the guys are getting a little nicer and this is something I suspect will work out well if I put in effort and time to show up and do my share of the work.  I have to earn respect.  Last night was the best drill yet.  We practiced search and rescue, on air tanks, crawling around a smoky house and "rescued" a baby (doll).  I was probably the worst performer, but I was in there with everyone else, doing the work.  Then we drove around in the fire truck and I rode in the back feeling like part of the team.  I felt great when I got home last night.

3. I've been eating low carb and reading up on the current state of research.  The engineer in me isn't satisfied with mainstream media's treatment of it.  I've recently realized that age is only going to make my current out-of-shape-ness worse, and if I want to be fully mobile at 60 or 70, I'm going to have to get into better shape, starting with losing a bunch of weight.

4. I've been researching midcentury modern design, decorating my house, and beginning to appreciate what's here.  I subscribed to a really cool magazine called Atomic Ranch where less than 10 pages into my first issue, I learned about the weird, round, push button light switches that are all over my house.  Current research project is my one-piece pink Sears toilet.  I was going to replace it, but now that my plan is to celebrate the midcentury-ness of my house, I'm going to fix it.  Of course the folks at Home Depot have never seen anything like this. They don't sell parts for this one.

5. I've been bringing pieces of the other house to their new abode.  Here's the hammock on the porch.  I may have shown you this picture already, but so what.  I brought over the patio table and chairs since then and put them just outside these doors.

5. NM and I started dating again, sortof.  It's much more casual this time, which seems to suit us both better right now.  Less time required, less drama, more fun.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Time to Take it Easy

This is the first weekend that I've had no plans since I've bought this house.  It's a weekend of nothing special, piddling around, rearranging stuff, and small painting and repair projects. Knocking down the list of niggling items and getting comfortable in my space.  You see, 3 weeks after I moved in (if putting a mattress on the floor can be called moving in), I got into the car accident.  Then 3 weeks after the car accident I met NM, and we did stuff on weekends until recently.  And when I was with NM, I had no desire to organize the pantry, or scrub dog pee off the basement floor, or fix the kitchen cabinet door that won't stay closed.

Yesterday I fixed the cabinet door and painted a bench, and set up the hammock on the porch.  This is in an unheated part of the house, but it will be toasty warm this afternoon after the sun's been warming the space up all day.

I've had some time to think since NM's been gone.  About patterns in my life and being mostly alone for the last 12+ years after my divorce.  About how I've been happiest when I've had friends and how hard I worked up on the mountain to accomplish the goat-y goal, but didn't invest the time to make friends.  I invested time to find a partner too, and was unsuccessful at that as well.

So here I am, half an hour closer to the world, coming out of the hardest winter since my first winter on the mountain 2 years ago and thinking about what to focus on this year.  I'm not going to plant a garden this year.  I'm going to watch what the place wants, and hit it hard next year.  I'm not going to work so hard at finding a partner.  I'm going to take all that energy I spent and put it into ... taking it easy.  Getting comfortable with those assholes at the fire department.  More and more of them are being nicer every week.  Good thing I can be persistent. Taking the dog for walks.  Finding people to relate to, and turning those into relationships that support and nourish my soul.

It's tremendously freeing to know that I'm not going to do any big projects this year except the Make Friends project.  And all I have to do for that one is allocate my time to doing outside-in-the-world-with-people things that I like doing, and be myself.  (It's telling that I have to give myself permission to relax and make it a project, isn't it?)

The only other thing I have to get done is actually move my stuff from the other house to this one.  It's been on the market for 4 months now (here's the listing, probably safer to post now that I don't live there any more) and not a single person has been to see it.  Two folks almost walked through it, but decided that it was too far away.  I lowered the price two weeks ago and it hasn't made a difference.  I'll probably lower the price again, and then just rent it out if there's still no interest.  I've already found a property management company who can deal with finding and managing a tenant (and fixing maintenance issues), so it won't be a big deal when I make that decision.  I'm kindof in limbo here though, as long as most of my furniture is still there.  No matter.  That decision will wait.  Time to take it easy!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Try, Try Again

I've done a bunch of homestead-y things in the last week or so.  Most of them are firsts, or first-time variants.  Some of it isn't.  I made venison jerky, which is drying in the dehydrator now.  I know that will taste good.

I made cheddar cheese with 2 of the 4 gallons of raw milk.  It seemed to go well, but the cheese is aging now in a "cave" (a plastic tote with water, to raise the humidity level) for at least 3 months before it can be tasted. I've never made cheddar before.  The parts of the cheesemaking process that I've done before went well, but the "cheddaring" part was new to me, so I'm not sure if I did it right.

With another gallon, I made mozzarella cheese the long way.  I've made mozzarella a few times the short way, with varying success.  It's tasted OK, but wouldn't hold it's shape.  I don't think this round was a success.  It holds it's shape just fine, but is harder than I wanted, and doesn't tase very good.  Mozzarella cheese freezes well, so it's off to the freezer with these guys.

With the last portion of the raw milk, I made yogurt.  Not a success.  It was my first time making yogurt, and although I pasteurized it, I didn't make any other allowances for using raw milk.  After culturing overnight, the "yogurt" was still runny like milk, so I dumped it out and tried again with store-boughten whole milk mixed with cream.  This super fatty, creamy stuff turned into great yogurt, and I've had some yummy smoothies in the last few days.  I'll happily try this again, but the other parts of cheesemaking I'm not so sure about.  Both the cheddar and the mozzarella consumed most of a day.  It's tough to rationalize spending so much time on something that can be easily bought at the grocery store or farmer's market (and tastes better).  Better to spend time making cheese (or yogurt) that is hard to find, and spend my precious little free time on other pursuits.

Take yogurt.  The grocery stores I frequent don't seem to sell whole milk yogurt in anything other than Plain.  It apparently takes space away from the sugary, low fat yogurt that fills the shelves. Extra fat, creamy yogurt doesn't exist in the store.  Yogurt was easy to make, so I can make exactly what I want and skip the grocery store for that item.

NM and I are taking a "break," which may or may not ever end.  He's 8 months off the end of his marriage, and it was too soon for him.  We talked about that fairly extensively at the beginning, and he thought it would be OK.  I'm an optimist and I hoped it would be OK, but the cliche about it being a bad idea to date someone soon after the end of a long relationship is a cliche because it's so often true.  I'm sad, but not heartbroken, and not looking forward to jumping back into the casual dating scene. But this is another area where I must try, try again.  This time I'm going to take my time, be less single-minded about it and try to have more fun.  It's possible that NM and I might get back together, but our agreement is that I'm not going to wait around.  Spring is coming and while I'm sad, it's hard not to feel a little joy when the sun shines.  It's been too long waiting for the sun to not enjoy it when it comes.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bye Sweetie

It snuck up on me, Desmond's last day.  He was fine in the morning and at dinner time, but when I got home from NM's house, he couldn't put weight on one of his front legs.  I felt it up and down and nothing made him wince.  I thought it would get better, like so many other times, but overnight he developed a fever and the shakes, and whined from pain, and couldn't get up at all.  I gave him a painkiller, and then another one an hour later and when morning came I made the appointment.

I wasn't this prepared last April, when Desmond had his last health emergency.  I ran him to the vet for blood tests and xrays and poking and prodding and a very expensive operation to remove a cancerous spleen.  I wasn't ready to say goodbye to this old dog and spent a LOT more money than I could afford just to buy more time.  I swore I wouldn't let feelings of guilt keep Desmond alive when/if it was time for him to go and prayed to be able to see when it was time.

So I watched over the months as Desmond became less able to navigate the two steps into my country house.  Started to soak his food when the dry foot hurt his teeth.  Added canned food when the wet/dry food didn't taste good enough.  Picked him up when he fell in the snow and cleaned up after him when he pooped and peed inside.  He was still happy to go outside and stand for a few minutes, and still had a healthy appetite.  But somehow I knew that last night was different, and it was time to let him go.  I was prepared this time and in the end it wasn't as hard as I imagined. I'm sad because I miss him, but happy because he's running in heaven now, and all his pains are gone.