Sunday, July 31, 2011

Stocking Up: Thread and Material for a Rainy Day

One of our preparedness challenges is to stock up on the basic necessities of life. We are learning where our food comes from, how to process it ourselves, saving seeds, growing gardens, canning and dehydrating. We've installed an actual wood burning insert in the fireplace which provided the majority of our heat all winter long aided by our efficient geothermal system. Our home is designed for complete cross ventilation with screen doors and a whole house fan that pulls down air like a wind tunnel from our upstairs rooms. Our attic is real and stores anything that won't be damaged by heat. That covers our food and shelter but let's not forget the clothing.

When I make my shopping trips I try to pick up an extra spool or two of thread- I can't make this on my own without spinning cotton or flax, which I am not in a position to grow. It won't do me much good to understand quilting or how to sew my granddaughter's dresses unless I have thread.

I have cut up our old 100% cotton clothes (not being donated) into large pieces trimming off the seams and collars but saving buttons and zippers for future use. You never know when these will become a pair of kiddie shorts, knee patches or a little throw.

I save my coupons and reward dollars off cards, waiting for a sale on fabrics or patterns. I scout out the last day of church rummage sales for pretty patterns left over from fundraisers past, ribbon and grab bags of fabric that are typically priced at $1 for as much as you can put into a bag.

I pack it all away in my grandmother's old cabinet with fat quarters and threads up top, bigger pieces and notions in the drawers. For yardage I have a rolly cart with three baskets that slides into the closets.

All just preparing for the day prices become much too dear.

Stitch'n While Mend'n

As I recover from my recent sprain, unable to maneuver the rocky garden for a bit, I picked up another Aunt Martha's embroidery iron on transfer that I had stashed upstairs. Sure, I might have cleaned the kitchen or something even more horrific such as ironing; however, I chose to play around with a needle and thread.

I ordered this book that demonstrates stitches for needlepoint and embroidery, about 200 in amazing detail. I have used a few basics but can't wait to try some of the filling stitches that are a little more complex. I may try those on some counted cross stitch fabric first.

I also picked up this little case to store my thread which I wound around the small cardboard pieces that fit each cubby. It's come in pretty handy since I can file them by color.

I'll finish the chimney- had to get some darker red more suitable for brick- and then make some coffee, for the fabric, not me. That should take the bright edge off of it so I can either frame it with fabric or a distressed wooden frame. I haven't decided just yet.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Billy Goat Chips - A Tasty Alternative

These locally made chips (south St Louis) made their debut during a free taste test in our work cafeteria a few months ago. I'm glad they did because I thought they would be just another trendy chip. They are a little pricier than your traditional store bought chips, but they are fantastic! No preservatives, sold in a paper bag, and according to their website, "More flavor with less sodium than traditional potato chips. Made with pure canola oil. No preservatives, No trans fats, No msg, & Gluten Free."

They have that nice homemade flavor without being so oily/greasy. I am starting to see them in our local specialty shops and even the main groceries in St Louis. If you decide you would like to try them there is ordering information at their website.

Billy Goat Chip Company Link

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

One Wrong Step - Booted

It's booted for a month-one wrong step. You see, the raccoons had a party in the garden, right in the middle of the corn, sooooo, out came the corn stalks. My husband handed them to me and I tossed them into the woods. Might as well let the little fellas have at it in the woods, not the garden. Well, there was this rock, or should I say part of a rock, that was sticking out of the ground but well hidden by some taller grass. Guess who stumbled over it?

Yep, I caught myself; however, the left half of my foot was pushed up while the right half stayed put. Diagnosis: Severe sprain with advanced arthritis. Sentence: Booted for a month.

I have an orthotic shoe, and a sleeping shoe, but not a walking boot. I have a call into the doctor to see if I should get one or if the shoe will do. Thankfully it's my left foot and I can still drive.

Drats- booted during the summer.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Can you Identify this Plant?

This plant has two types of leaves, oakish leaves as well as teardrop or heart shaped leaves. It is growing wild between my bushes and porch railing. I'm not sure it's a vine, since it is so young, but it has branches that get pretty long considering its height. I am going to remove it; however, would like to know if it is something that irritates the skin.

Any ideas?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Good Conversation with the EPA - Food Waste

I just returned from an Unsaleables Conference where I had the opportunity to have a private breakfast with Jean Schwab, program manager and senior analyst in the Municipal & Industrial Solid Waste Division at EPA Headquarters. Always leery of government agencies, I found our breakfast conversation quite pleasant, finding we have many ideas in common.

Unsaleables: these are product returns of any nature usually from the retailer to manufacturer. It could be expired or damaged product, discontinued merchandise or a general recall. If the product cannot be refurbished and resold it is generally donated or destroyed with the destroyed product ending up in landfills. The company I work for is not involved in food but just think about all the food products lining your grocery shelves, all with expiration dates.

Now expiration dates are mostly suggestions. The general public doesn't realize that these products are good beyond the expiration date on the can. The dates are "best by" or "sell by" which will allow an adequate pantry life on top of the shelf life offered to the grocery. I am careful with milk or eggs; however, if canned food is not damaged or looks "bad" when opened, it is most often just fine, even a couple years after expiration.

I brought up the subject of homeowner associations setting stringent guidelines that are in direct opposition to our green and sustainability efforts, for example, clothes lines or front yard gardens. She completely agrees with me and said the EPA is, in fact, trying to meet with the main society of homeowner associations to try and ease some of the regulations. As she mentioned, they don't want their suburban neighbors to look like hillbillies; so they have become super restrictive.

She recommends at least allowing removable clothes lines, the umbrella type or ones where the line can be retracted after use. The strips of grass between driveways could become a little herb garden perhaps scattered with peppers, pretty flowers and other non vining vegetables. She has terraced part of her front yard planting pretty yews on top and cascading down with a variety of vegetables and flowers for the exact same reason.

We spoke about the composting and the benefits it provides even if your composting consists of burying your vegetable peels under a plant one day at a time. Horse manure is a wonderful compost, mixing it with vegetation, straw and fall leaves. Over time it creates a great soil, in fact we added about 6-8 inches of soil to our rocky ground over the course of a year. The resulting soil was beautiful and the garden thrives.

Another opportunity is to plant an extra row of produce for donation to the local food bank that offers free or reduced produce to families that have been victims of our current economic conditions.

Some other suggestions from Greenscapes site:

Reuse it

Take apart nonreturnable wood pallets to reuse the wood (e.g., edging around plant beds) or chip it for use on site for mulch.

Chip woody waste and tree clippings into mulch for use on-site.

Donate healthy plants to local nonprofit organizations when reconfiguring or removing trees and shrubs from your landscape.

Reuse or increase the use and efficiency of existing sites before cutting into new sites.

Reuse soils within the work site; create mounds or berms to serve as wind breaks or to add visual interest.

In direct opposition to our county laws, the EPA recommends- "Use gray water, reclaimed water, or collected rainwater for irrigation and equipment wash downs." I understand the phosphates can cause problems when empties into our septic and out to the leach field. Jean does not have authority in this area but I mentioned the problem to her. How much water is wasted every day.

I also had the opportunity to speak with the representative of Parallel Products a leader in renewable energy creating fuel and industrial grade ethanol created without using corn. "Our unique application of fermentation and distillation technologies creates a complete resource recovery and recycling opportunity for our customers. Each year, via fermentation, of sugar laden liquids and distillation of alcohol from beverage and industrial waste streams, Parallel Products produces over five (5) million gallons of waste-derived ethanol" link

All in all major corporations are recognizing the problems associated with returned products. They are stressing collaboration between the retailer and manufacturer to identify opportunities that will reduce the need for costly returns and reducing landfill wastes.

Jean Schwab, Greenscapes link

Monday, July 18, 2011

Red Rock Canyon- Nevada

For one reason or another this computer won't let me access Blogger very well so I hope this works. I am traveling and in Las Vegas for a conference and customer meetings. We had a few spare hours today so my co-worker and I drover over to Red Rock Canyon and drove the 13 mile loop and is part of the Mojave Desert. Although we did not see any, it is home to wild burros and mountain lions. We did see a little chipmonk and a family of what I think might be roadrunners??? Very pretty, worth the drive and small admission fee.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Transformation

It's a frog! I walked by just at the right minute, just when this little guy made it out of the courtyard fountain. See, he still has his tail. And, he's going to be a frog, green and all!

Click to enlarge.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Breaking Pattern: The Inspiration Quilt

My inspiration for Taylor's quilt was twofold: this colorful fabric that reminds me of either Aztecs or a Caribbean theme with it's brilliant hues and golden threads, plus a little mixer upper in the design. Just when you begin to think there is a pattern to things . . . huh, what's this?

Anyone who knows me well understands that I am very attracted to darker colors and quite the sticker for schedules. Even if my quilts are colorful it will be hunter greens, brick reds. Primitives describe it best. My decorating theme of choice would be Victorian English Country Manor-the man's library with all the dark woods and leathers (I wish). Clothing follows right along. My boss asked if I might consider purchasing a pair of "light grey" slacks for my upcoming trip, just to brighten up my wardrobe! (LOL).

What I did here was to go off course. My granddaughter might enjoy something other than forest green and raw umber. The 12 inch squares are laying across my spare bed (notice the colors in the spare room) just to get a feel of how big it is now. I haven't worked on layout, just size. It is not a bedspread, just a throw. There will be sashing between each 12 inch square. I have my eye on a batik that is a variegated blue/light purple (lavander?) that the quilt shop design specialist thought would work well. It will.

Each of the 12 inch squares has a piece of the inspiration fabric- where it doesn't belong. It may be a mix of several different fabrics or start with a pattern and then divert, just a little, or my pattern will be spot on and then the odd piece out appears. You can see that the green and orange square should be switched, but they aren't. The stripes I considered a solid, as well the red with the tiny black swirls. I believe each row will have a piece of the inspiration fabric in a whole 12 inch square. If I have enough left over I will make her a pillow case.

Well, the washing machine buzzer just went off so that means it's time to hang laundry on the line. Oh, the load is all blacks- or perhaps a dark blue? Comfort colors!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Just Hanging Out

Pretty soon we'll be knee deep in cucumbers, shoulder deep in zucchini! I just can't get over how one little zucchini can grow about a gazillion inches -- overnight! I will have to make some really quick zucchini bread and freeze it into little loaves since I leave for a business trip on Monday, not returning until Thursday night. By that time I'm quite certain the refrigerator will be bulging!

Our refrigerator pickles turned out so good that they are about half eaten already. They are so quick to prepare, especially with the crinkle cutter I use. Perhaps my husband will get bored and decided to pickle up a bunch while I'm gone - (right, more like he'll be spending extra time on the river boating around!)

The weather is supposed to turn hot again by tomorrow- even hotter next week. I'll be in Las Vegas where temps are expected to be around 110, a dry heat they tell me. Well, I've seen those desert photos. Tell me dry heat is a good thing!

bones credit

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Little Tads Growing Up

Some of you may remember that I spent a couple of days saving tadpoles from a temporary pond created in our culvert during a few really extended rains. There were hundreds of the little guys and eggs galore. Of course I waded in with two cups in hand- the capture cup and the keeper cup. You have to "strain" out the water and transfer the tadpole to the next cup- the keeper cup.

It has paid off. Some have matured in our little garden wall pond and some in our courtyard fountain, which has delighted the children to no end. Of course I can't say the tadpoles feel the same way.

On cool nights we are inundated with frogs: toads, leopard frogs, tree frogs, etc. all singing their froggy songs, which to me is a pleasing chorus. Most everyone else can't stand it, in fact it tends to set off my husband's migraines. I have to admit, it's loud. Really loud. You can't hear the music from our outdoor speakers that are set at a pretty good volume. (We're wooded and rural)

I keep telling them, "Embrace the frog experience!" They look at me as if I were crazy.

I guess I just like frogs.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pretty Little Cloth

I was inspired by another blogger who made pretty baby cloths using the standard package of thin, inexpensive store bought baby washcloths. She cut out a pretty fabric and sewed right sides together, turned and stitched around the edges. I thought, why just for babies? I'll bet my six year old granddaughter would like this too! And she did!

I got the value pack plain cloths from our local big box store and away I went. Now I can get creative and perhaps make a pinwheel design or perhaps something patchy. What fun!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Kitchen Stove - by Coleman

Ummmm. . . it's our preparedness challenge this week . . yeah, that's right, we're just practicing! Just in case we run out of gas????

No! Of course we didn't forget to check the two small propane tanks (that fuel only our stove). Arrrrrgggghh!

So, this is why there is a Coleman camping stove sitting on top of our Jenn-Air downdraft cooktop. In the middle of the kitchen. My husband is calling the gas company tomorrow.

There is one good thing about this. Now that we have to fill up both tanks we'll be stocked up with gas for 2-3 years! Now that's what I call Preparedness!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Saving the Kitchen Sink

This is our "rescue" sink, saved from life in the landfill after a city renovation where the customer believed they were "upgrading" to a better model. This sink is a fine specimen, sturdy and indestructible. It's cast iron, between 200-300 lbs, porcelain glazed and holds heat like a sink should. It drains like a sink should too, double drainboards at that.

We modeled our kitchen around this sink, adding nice touches such as the copper tiles and faucet with retro handles. I'm not much for the new jazzy granite tiles, which are very beautiful but cast iron cookware plays havoc with it. Can you imagine the scratches after a couple of long cooking days? I like to be able to sit a hot skillet anywhere, and quickly if need be. That's why our counters are all tile. Affects resale value you say? Ha, in this market? I'd rather have convenience.

I can fit our large canning pots in this sink with plenty of room. And it was perfect for bathing a sitting baby. With such large drainboards she could splash her heart out and it was all good! Soap suds galore (and photos to embarrass her in front of her special someone, someday).

Monday, July 4, 2011

Catawissa Cucumber Dills - Missouri Delights

These will be the first, the best, the most tasty Catawissa Cucumber Dills this side of Calvey Creek. Refrigerator style this time.

All brined up and ready to go!

Add some goodies to the jars.

We ended up with four pints of crunchy dills on the way!

Stormy Sunday

I captured this wonderfully ominous cloud floating by the house yesterday just before the skies opened up with buckets of rain. Fortunately we had no damage in our immediate area and it took over the chore of watering our co-op garden that has been sweltering under almost 100 degree temps for several days. I also got a reprieve from washing all the blankets and sheets since they have to dry on the line. Sometimes you're just forced to relax!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Zucchini Relish Pressure Canned

Six pints of Zucchini Relish pressure canned using our first harvests.

My husband wondered why on earth I would plant so terribly many zucchini plants. You can only eat so many grilled and the bread would need to be frozen. He's a meat and potato guy, vegetables are a necessary evil and they had better have flavor. This has FLAVOR.

The relish started with 12 cups of zucchini adding some cucumber, green and red pepper, onion, and salt and let it sit overnight. Next drain, rinse and squeeze out extra liquid.

Place it in a saucepan with sugar, vinegar, nutmeg, turmeric, horseradish and chili pepper. Cook it up for about 45 minutes. It will begin to yellow, I assume from the turmeric.

Prepare jars and lids. Fill jars and place in the canner.

I was wondering if this would be too hot. It's not.
I was wondering if this would be too much like hot dog relish. It's not.

You can eat this before cooking it- as a wonderful salad, much like a shoepeg corn salad, sort of tangy like coleslaw. The aroma while cooking was wonderful. After cooking it thickened to a relish consistency.

I just don't know if I'll enjoy it as a side dish or top off a nice sausage. Either way, it'll be great.

What Squash is This?

I didn't expect this. I kept waiting for it to turn either green or yellow; however, here it is light green with some very light ridges. I either planted seed (no photo on the package) or the variety I may have purchased was mislabeled. Any ideas?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Who Lives Here?

I tried to find
the little door way,
or the quaint shuttered window
sporting flowers from May,

And the tiny frog, who inside must dwell,
Oh where did this come from, I simply can't tell.

I looked up and down,
I looked round and round,
but not even one single frog could be found.

No little mouse sporting a jacket so fine,
not even a dwarf, grumpy all the time.

Perhaps it isn't a fairy tale home,
Not a wild spore, carried off by a gnome

Maybe it's just one of those things,
That we don't plant, but nature brings.

(My goodness this is a large mushroom. I saw it from across the yard. It must be almost six inches tall. I had to take a photo and write a corny poem!)

mushroom house credit

re-linked 9/21/11