Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Where Do The Days Go?

Whoopee-doo, I finally took the pumpkins and fall leaves out of the outside window boxes today and replaced them with evergreen boughs and poinsettias, the poinsettias being fake but still adding a burst of holiday color.

It's still raining.  Our pond is fuller than we've ever seen it.  We designed it with a spillway to handle any possible overflow and this afternoon there was a veritable stream coming out of the pond via the overflow.  The overflow is over flowing.  Parts of the bank that have never felt water before are starting to erode a bit.

The ducks and geese are elated.  They think it's spring time.  If they're not playing a vigorous game of water polo, they're all grazing on the green, green grass of their pasture.  Even the chickens can be seen out all day long.  Most likely supplementing their late November diet with worms that have come to the surface of the soil to keep from drowning.

Tomorrow (dum-da-dum-dum) is butchering day.  Three of the geese and eight of the ducks will be dispatched to freezer camp.  Or our neighbor's smoker.  I wish it was tomorrow night at this time.  Is there anyone who likes butchering day on the homestead?  Nah, I didn't think so.

This is what happens to my quilt room when I don't have time to spend in there, but have to run in and out doing emergency repairs or making a quick holiday fabric cover for a jar of blueberry jam to be delivered to a friend, or some such thing.  I get in and get out, grabbing or doing only what I need at the moment . . . 

. . . and this is the resulting mess.  Oh well, soon (am I living in Fantasy Land again?) I'll be able to spend some time in there cleaning up and finishing the quilting on that blue and white quilt I've had in my machine (with the needle in the very same spot) for a couple of weeks.  At least.  We just have to get through butchering day tomorrow, then get four new tires put on the Suburban first of next week, then a trip to the big city to unload our old, worn out solar power batteries by meeting a fella who pays $18 each for the batteries.  I think that's all that's on the immediate schedule, aside from every day things, (don't tell me if I've forgotten something important) so I should have a few days before Christmas to hibernate in my quilt room, unlax and become my usual (ha!) sweet, loving, even-tempered self again.

Oh nuts, I just remembered I was going to make up the dough for each of our Christmas cookies and have it ready in the freezer ahead of time this year.  Aw, balderdash, who needs Christmas cookies anyway?  (Did you hear that resounding, rather piercing cry from the troops that inhabit this place?)  WE DO, WE DO, WE DO!

Like I said, where do the days go?  Should any of you reading this be bored and need something to do for the next month, wanna come live here?  I can make you a list . . . 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Where's Winter?

It's supposed to be winter now up here in our neck o' the woods . . . but it's not.

We didn't get either of the "big" snows recently predicted.  Since the two inches we did get have been on the ground, our temps have stayed slightly above freezing both day and night which makes for slushy, slippery, messy walking out and about.  To say nothing of the current luge run state of our driveway.

The sun has apparently temporarily taken off for parts unknown, because we haven't seen it for a while.  The grayness makes the damp, mistiness of the air feel much colder than it is.  Do I sound totally humbug?  Not really as we've got it plenty warm and cozy inside.  No complaints there.  But I am eager for true winter time to arrive.

The ice on our pond resembles the "rotten ice" we see in the spring.  Our waterfowl have discovered they can poke holes in it here and there without falling through, so it's those openings they've been hanging around, submerging their heads for a good, refreshing drink.  Seems pond water tastes better than the pans of water we keep out for them. 

The weather people are now telling us we're to expect nothing but rain for the next several days.  So.  I ask again, where is winter?

* * * * * * * *

Time for me to take down the fall through Thanksgiving decorations and pull out all the boxes relating to Christmas.  That's on my schedule for tomorrow.  We frequently put up our Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving, but this year it doesn't seem like that time can be here already.

I haven't had a bathroom rug for in front of the sink that coordinated with my holiday themed shower curtain so I picked out some Aunt Lydia's Rug Yarn I purchased on eBay (it's no longer manufactured) and just this morning finished putting the fringe on the ends of it.

It measures 23" x 33" excluding fringe, made to fit in the particular area where we'll use it.

I think I did a purdy darn good job of choosing rug yarn that matches the fabrics in the shower curtain.

* * * * * * * *

Now, if I could just find my magic wand, walk through the house twirling it over my head, and have the old decorations down and put away and all the holiday ones in place.  Whoopee!  Ha, if only.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Snow, Everyday Stuff and the Start of Another Holiday Season

We're getting up and going this morning to a temp of 32° and snow coming down heavily.  Forecast is for wet snow all day . . . which is not good news for travelers in the area.  We have friends who are leaving this morning for a long drive to Iowa to spend the holiday weekend with family.  It's the busiest traveling time of the year, it's said, so we're sending good wishes for safe travels for everyone traversing roads to be with family and friends.  We will be staying snug and cozy here at home.

For many years when we were still living in Illinois, we would leave Wednesday night after Papa Pea got done with his work day, and drive all night to get up here to northern Minnesota.  This was a time before we purchased property in the area, so would stay with a bachelor friend who had a resort on an inland lake.  I would spend two or three days at home before we left preparing a full turkey, sometimes goose, dinner with all the trimmings which we brought along for the Thanksgiving meal.  (Gak, what a whole lot of work that was!)

I leave my fall decorations in our window boxes until they are replaced with the Christmas/New Year ones after this coming weekend.  After our first blowsy snow last Friday, they were totally encrusted in ice and snow.  In this picture taken yesterday, you can still see a smidge bit of crusty snow on the sides of the pumpkins.  Now with this new snow today, I may have to chisel them out when I want to redecorate in a couple of days! 

Although the tall, tall asparagus ferns had lost their vibrant green color and turned yellow, they were still standing upright . . . until this wet snow this morning.  Actually, I had hoped the snows would bend the ferns over on the patch to act as a natural mulch/insulation for the roots in the soil.  Mission accomplished, I'd say.

Our driveway is currently a skating rink in certain parts which makes for some exciting turns driving out on the slight downhill.  Coming back in can be exciting, too, because one has to keep up a certain amount of speed to get up the incline . . . without ending up sideways in the woods.  All part of the fun and challenge of winter time in the north woods.

Yesterday afternoon Papa Pea and I unloaded thirty-five fifty pound bags of feed from our flatbed trailer to get them under cover.  (That would be 1,750 pounds if anyone's counting.)  We order our organic feed from a company about 200 miles from here and it's delivered by Fed Ex.  Usually they bring it on a truck that can get in and out of our place with no problem, but this time the driver had a semi and called to ask if we could meet him out on the highway.  Papa Pea did so where the driver loaded the whole pallet of feed onto our trailer which then was driven in.  Hubby and I formed our own little chain brigade and got all the bags safely stored inside in preparation of the wet weather today.  (Does moving 1,750 pounds of feed count as weight bearing exercise?)  Now they just need to be moved another 15 or so feet into the feed room.

Well, our oatmeal is ready for breakfast.  Would you like homegrown blueberries on yours?  Make mine with some sliced banana, too, please.  Then I'll be doing what make-ahead preparations I can for our Thanksgiving meal tomorrow.  And I may even get out the ol' vac and chase some dust bunnies around.  Couldn't hurt.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Moving Poultry Fencing

We remembered today that we needed to move the north line of poultry yard fencing which runs along part of our driveway.  The overnight low temperature was 14° so at first we wondered if we could 1) still get the fencing out of the ground, and 2) get it back into the ground in the new position.

The summer time placement of that particular stretch of fence in question is too close to the driveway so that when we plow snow in the winter, the snow thrown against the fence would eventually break it down.

Turns out we were in luck as the ground hadn't frozen hard enough so there was no problem even though we were a little slow on the uptake of getting the job done.

Here Papa Pea is taking out an old section while some of the new is already in place on the right farther away from the driveway, closer to the pond.

In this picture I was fairly close to the edge of the pond and commented I was going to be really mad if I slipped onto the ice.  Papa Pea said I was going to be wet, too, as the ice wasn't thick enough to hold me.

Making good progress.

A group of supervisors on the bank watching our progress.  There are six of them.  Can you spot them?

All done and ready for more snow.  The fence isn't electrified in the winter because the snow level on the ground shorts it out.  So technically it doesn't do a great deal to deter animals that might try to get in (bobcats, pine martens, foxes, coyotes, wolves, etc.), but it does contain the birds should they put on snow shoes or X-country skis and venture out that far.

Last but not least, two of our older Muscovy ducks just hangin' out in the weeds.  And maybe hoping the ice on the pond will melt again?

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Took A While . . .

Yep, it took much longer than usual, but winter finally arrived yesterday.

We had a full day of rain/sleet/hail/snow/yucky stuff before the temp eventually dropped low enough for big, fat, white, heavy flakes to fall.  Total accumulation wasn't more than a couple of inches but we had lots of wind with this first storm of the season.  This morning we are hearing of a couple of roads closed because of trees down and one town resident was distressed (who wouldn't be?) to find a large pine tree across the roof of her car.

When we let the poultry out of their night time lock-down quarters each morning, the ducks and geese typically make a beeline for the pond . . . which had a decide different look to it this morning.

The bank down to the pond was more than a bit slippery for all those webbed feet.  In the center of the picture you can see the path in the snow where one of the Cayuga ducks literally slid all the way down on his belly.

"Hey, guys, somethin's not quite right here."

Two of the geese did an about face and marched back up the hill.

It didn't take too long for a couple of the fowl to break through the thin ice and be relieved to find their beloved water was still there.

However, according to the weather report, open water will soon be a thing of the past because, all of a sudden and about time, we are into cold winter time in a big way.  (Time to get my blog header photo changed, wouldn't you say?)

Monday, November 14, 2016

Will The Real Pumpkin Pie Please Stand Up?

This is the first year I've grown pumpkins that were specifically labeled "pie pumpkins."  Previously, I've planted jack o' lantern pumpkins for decoration and carving and Red Kuri squash to use as . . . well, cooked squash, and also to use in making "pumpkin" pies.

My squash pies, although tasty, have not had a lot of luck masquerading as the traditional Thanksgiving pie in our household.

I made my first pie yesterday from those same pie pumpkins I grew this past season. 

The color of my pumpkin puree was lighter than of that purchased under good ol' Mrs. L's brand.  Also, I thought my pie mixture seemed lighter and filled the pie shell a smidge bit more than the commercially canned variety.  It certainly rose up higher while baking, but then did settle down as it cooled.

So what was the verdict on the flavor?  Well, only Papa Pea and I have sampled it so far, but we though it was (drum roll, please) . . . GREAT!  (Whadda relief considering how much of the pureed pumpkin I put by!)

I read a report a while back (I can't remember where so I suppose one can't consider it very reliable) that said commercially canned pumpkin actually contains quite a bit of squash.  I checked out the label on a can of L's in the grocery store recently and the wrapper reads "100% pumpkin" and the only ingredient listed is "pumpkin."  That's it.  Nuthin' else.

But aren't pumpkins of the squash family?  Is that how they might get around the ingredient listing?  Why would squash be used as part of the mix?  I wouldn't think squash would be more economical easier to grow or process than actual pumpkins.  Hmmmm, now that I think of it, I do remember the article saying certain varieties of squash have less "string" in them and are sweeter flavored than pumpkins.

At any rate, I'm very pleased with the pie pumpkins I grew, processed and have stashed away.  Now if I just had a dairy animal from which to get enough cream to whip for all these pumpkin pies I'll be making . . .

Saturday, November 12, 2016

You Broke Your What??

I was with some friends a couple of weeks ago and somehow the subject of broken bones came up.  The conversation continued with each of us relating if we had ever broken a bone and, if so, which one(s) and how it happened.

Compared to others, I've managed to get to this point in my life without suffering much damage in that department. 

What have I broken?  My nose and coccyx.  Not at the same time.  (That would have been a tricky accomplishment, no?)

The broken nose came first.  I was in the fourth grade.  It was winter time.  My class was outside for fresh air, exercise and probably with the teacher's hope we would run off some steam.  A few of us were playing tag.  I slipped on some ice and came to an abrupt stop by my face hitting the brick building.  (What?  Were my hands tied behind my back?  Why in the world did I hit face first?)  Anyway, there was much blood and my nose hurt a lot.  My mom was called to school and she took me to our old family doctor's office where he examined me and said he didn't think my nose was broken.  No Xrays taken.  This was back in the dark ages (1950s) and I'm sure he didn't have the capability of taking an Xray in his tiny office.

So home we went with ice packs and a lot of swelling in the middle of my face.  Days later, at the follow-up doctor's visit, our dear doctor said he might have been mistaken, and that, yes, it did look like my nose had been broken as it was healing with a noticeable bump on the bridge and my whole nose did seem to have gravitated a little to the left.  I remember my mom asking what could be done about it.  We were told it would need to be re-broken and reset back into the more normal shaping.  Having just started to be pain-free, this sent me into a full-out hissy fit panic and I told my mom that my nose was fine the way it was and no way did I want it broken again.

Of course, I've wished a trillion times Mom and the doctor had insisted I have the corrective surgery on my nose, but they didn't and so I didn't . . . and my life hasn't been ruined.  Sigh.

The second broken bone happened on roller skates when I was an adult.  Papa Pea, our daughter and I were on a weekend mini vacation with another family.  We drove up into Canada and our first night we all went to an indoor roller skating rink.  All went well until I decided to rest a while by sitting down on one of the wooden benches around the perimeter of the rink.  I glided up to the bench, turned into position to put my backside down when both my skates shot forward out from under me, my tush missed the mark and I landed heavily on my coccyx (otherwise know as tailbone).  It actually was kinda scary because I felt and heard a loud crack and the pain was such that I nearly passed out.  I truly didn't know if it was my tailbone . . . or if I had injured something more serious in my back.

Being a martyr (yes, I was) and not wanting to spoil the outing for everyone else (no, I didn't), I suffered painfully through the whole weekend (yes, I did).

But have no fear.  It was just my tailbone which was fractured.  Like broken ribs, the medical profession hasn't figured out how to put a coccyx in a cast so there was nothing to do but wait for it to heal on its own.  Which, of course, it did (with no permanent damage) but, boy howdy, was it ever uncomfortable to sit down for a good long time.  And driving our old International Harvester Scout truck with its stick shift and stiff clutch was something that brought tears to my eyes for more than a month.

Okay, that's my own silly story of my (inconsequential) couple of broken bones.  Now tell us all about what bones you've broken on your journey through life thus far.  I'm sure there must be some good stories to tell.  What's yours?  

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day, 2016 (And Those Gone Before)

I think I can be fairly confident in saying there has never, in the history of our country, been a presidential race such as we've experienced this year.  Personally, I'll be very glad when it's over.  I'm also crossing my fingers (although that may be a supremely ineffectual gesture) our new president elect doesn't push our country and sadly devolving society farther down the slippery slope of disaster.

Reading Susan's ( blog entry this morning, in which she mentioned stopping at her local polling place before heading to work, I was reminded of when we lived on our first piece of property here in Minnesota.

The area was very much rural (and still is) with the polling place located in the quite old but much used (and still is) town hall.  I served with a few other locals on the election committee under the head judge, a delightful 80-plus year old lady, who had done her job faithfully for many, many years.  When she passed away, I moved into her position and thoroughly enjoyed serving with the others until we moved out of that particular district.

At that time, we handed out the ballots as voters came in and up to our "official" table.  They then took the materials to a chair at one of the long tables set up around the perimeter of the large, open hall.  The completed ballots were inserted into one of two metal ballot boxes which could have been, I'm sure, classified as antiques.  Although not in the best of shape after goodness-knows-how-many years of service, they were rather ornate with a lid secured by a padlock.

It was typically a time of seeing and visiting with nearly all the members of our small community and a festive air permeated the whole day.  Often we would see two people seated in a corner spending even an hour in conversation catching up on each other's lives.  It wasn't uncommon to have someone come in to vote and before they left inquire as to whether so-and-so had been in yet.  If not, could they please leave a pair of goves for them that had been left behind on the church pew last Sunday?  Or would we kindly deliver the message to Mr. XYZ's brother-in-law when he stops in after work that his chain saw is repaired and he can stop by and pick it up on his way home.

 There were always volunteers from the community who were on hand to drive miles over gravel roads to pick up a voter, bring him or her in to vote, and deliver them back home again.  This service was a godsend on election days when we experienced icy roads and/or inches of falling snow.

Children, whose parents voted after school hours, came along and got to view the whole process.  What better way to learn than actually witnessing their parents exercising their democratic rights.

These days Papa Pea and I fill out our ballots and cast them via snail mail.  Although we're still voting, it's certainly not at all the same as it was back in the old town hall and the sense of community and "human-ness" generated then.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Apple Trees Get Denuded!

Papa Pea and I harvested all of our apples today, got them sorted and put in the root cellar for winter storage.

And what a perfect day for the task it was.  Our nearly unbelievably, not-right-for-November weather continues.  The temp went over 60° with lots of sunshine.

We have seven varieties of apple trees (Kathryn's Favorite, Honeycrisp, Grimes Golden, Regent, Fireside, Honeygold and Westfield See-No-Further) which gave us varying amounts of apples, but all in all the quantity was fantastic.  Yes, it was a very good apple year.

Many people believe you cannot raise blemish-free apples without using pesticides and other potentially poisonous sprays.  Seems you can.  Our apples were raised without any sprays, mulched with organic compost and watered with adequate amounts of rain.  And we certainly benefited.

Virtually the only apples that had any blemishes were the Honeygolds which is a shame because it's our sweetest (we think) eating apple.  And the one from which we got the largest yield.  (Two boxes of them are in the first picture of this post.)

The Honeycrisps were by far our biggest apples and the second heaviest producer.  We've got several Honeycrisp dwarf trees which we planted last year (besides our larger, older Honeycrisp tree), and they bore their little hearts out this first year.  We planted some Zestar dwarf trees also and I thought one of them had apples on it, but not so.  Upon closer inspection, I realized it was another Honeycrisp.

A couple of the other varieties gave us large apples, too.

Even the ones that aren't as big are still beautiful looking fruit.

We sorted through them all before storing in the root cellar and have this many with bird pecks or bad spots in them that I'll have to make into applesauce PDQ.  (Or maybe many apple pies!)

As mentioned above, this weather of ours is enabling us to keep pushing on outside projects much longer than we normally would.  No doubt this is a good thing . . . but criminy!  When does our long, slow, relaxing winter start?

A shot of the fourteen (out of the original fifteen -- we lost one) happy Muscovy ducks we got as little fuzz balls last spring.  They're a laid back bunch just hanging out at the edge of the pond this afternoon, some taking a snooze with their heads tucked under a wing.  We've made the decision which ones will stay as breeding stock and which ones will be
culled.  Getting our chicken butchering done was a big relief, but we've still got the ducks and geese to do.  Soon.

I pointed my camera out into the orchard of our bigger trees.  Look at that green, green grass.  No hard frost yet, warm temps and lots of moisture is keeping it looking and feeling more like September than November.