Saturday, March 31, 2012

It's Chicken Time- Buff Orpingtons

My husband took off for the farm supply store just to get a few hardware items.  As he was leaving I said, "Why not take Taylor in case they have chicks."  Well, he wasn't planning on getting them this trip, anyway, they didn't have any last time he checked.

Pretty soon I get a phone call- can you clean out the tub in the back yard?  I just picked up 12 buff orpingtons!

Oh no!  Taylor missed her chance; however, we got to hold the chick boxes while Pops prepared their new temporary home.  They are now peeping away in the downstairs hallway.  It was supposed to be part of the garage, for storage, but we changed the plans to make it a bathroom, closet and a large space for the deep freeze along with storage shelves for larger pots/pans/cookbooks, etc.  A much better use for the space.  

Pretty soon they will be out of the house and into the coop.  We may  make some modifications because the existing birds are old and might just get a little cranky.  

In the past we have just used them for eggs.  When Taylor told one it was so cute she could just "eat her up" I mentioned that it might just happen.  These are dual purpose birds so one never knows.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Grape Vines Dripping Sap- Indoors? (Solved!)

***  I found out what it is-  see this site.  They are Grape Pearls, not a disease or pest.  There is a short explanation in the Comments of this post or you can research further:

 OMAFRA newsletter referenced above, page 8

Ohio State University publication

My husband noticed that our grape plant had beads of what appears to be sap all up and down their vines.   We didn't get time to plant it last year so this plant has been in our house all winter on the table with windows on two sides.  It began to grow and suddenly this!

It doesn't appear to be injured. It has not been pruned.  No bugs that I can see.  I don't see the outside grapes doing this.

Any ideas?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Oops There Goes Another Rubber Tree Plant

Ants! Every year we have tons of ants. Not so much in the house but up in the front yard where we left a little section of wildness surrounded by a split rain fence, right next to our drive. We let it do whatever it wants inside, as long as poison ivy stays away. This is up where the Virginia bluebells are planted. It's dry but shady and the ants love it, making tunnels everywhere.

If you enlarge the photo and zoom in on the hole to the right lower corner, you can see one poking his head out of the hole! I will try to crop and post it separately. There's also one crawling over a root in the first photo. (Oh, how I would love a great camera and photo shop programs!)

They remind me of the high hopes song-

So any time your gettin’ low
’stead of lettin’ go
Just remember that ant
Oops there goes another rubber tree plant

Or, remember this one . . . .

The ants go marching one by one hurrah, hurrah,
The ants go marching one by one hurrah, hurrah,
The ants go marching one by one, the little one stopped to suck his
thumb, And they all go marching
Down, to the Earth, to get out of the rain
Boom, Boom, Boom

The ants go marching two by two . . . . so on and so forth.

I loved those songs. They make fun of me because I really did have a Sing Along with Mitch album and books for the car with classics such as Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey, Bicycle Built for Two and The Band Played On. My kids didn't want to keep up the tradition. Neither did my husband. They just don't know what they are missing!

High Hopes Lyrics

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's A Blooming Great Day

Our early Spring has brought a bouquet of blossoms to the property. I thought you might enjoy something on the lighter side! Click to enlarge photo.

Phlox gone wild!

Virginia bluebells.

What Dutchman lost his breeches?

Spreading across the hillside.

Our shy Violets!

Redbud blooms abound this year!

Oh, my bleeding heart! One of our first perennials that pop up next to the house.

A rocky incline is host to a variety of sedum.

Ohhhh, spooky!

Awww, that's better!

There are so many more- toothwart, trillium, anemones, mayapples . . . for another day.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ham Processing Update - The Hanging Hams

After three months in the refrigerator it was time to once again remove the hams, wash them and remove the natural mold that will collect on it. Underneath, all pretty and pink. At this point you test for the bone sour by inserting the long thermometer down next to the bone, pulling it out and checking for any bad smells. No bone sour!

They will go back into the fridge for another couple of weeks. They will be wrapped and hung until ready to eat.

Previous Posts
The bacon

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What's Your Gas Price Now?

Gas prices are jumping up there, almost to the 2008 prices, particularly this time of year. We always have higher prices in the summer but this is March.

I have an old Jeep, a 1999 Cherokee that gets somewhere around 19-20 mpg. I have no a/c so I do have to open the windows, not so good on hot, rainy days but to replace the system would be more than the car is worth. I can't afford to spend $15-20k+ for a new car. Used prices are through the roof since they destroyed them all in the Cash for Klunkers program. I can buy a lot of gas before I can spend that kind of money (plus the interest on the loan). Not to mention that the budget won't allow it! I try to run any errands on the way home so I don't have to travel around on weekends.

What are gas prices in your area?
What part of the country are you in?
What type of fuel do you use?
How are you managing your fuel budget?


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Center Block Done!

Now don't look too closely, especially all you wonderfully experienced quilters, but my center block is done. There was much stress, some very bad "quilting words" and a lot of seam ripping, but it's as close as I can get it. Most of you know my story- I can't sew, or at least I couldn't a year ago so I decided to jump into a block of the month quilt that was complicated.

I am just so glad I am to this point. Now comes the gazillion flying geese that surrounds this and all the other blocks, the triangle border and the log cabin corners.

If you want to see the progression (the girl cave isn't as neat and tidy these days) you can see my public photos on Facebook.

Monday, March 19, 2012

I finally have some sprouts!

I finally have some sprouts! These are radishes peeking out of our little side garden. They grew really well there last year although I switched their position. I am certain more will spring up in the next few days if the heavy rains don't wash everyone away! We have flash flood warnings Wednesday-Friday. We're up on a ridge top so it won't flood us, but our creeks might go over the road as they do every few years. Hopefully I'll shortly be thinning seedlings.

This might be my spinach, but I'm not certain. I have several blades that grew over the last 24-48 hours and they are all in a row, soooooo. Maybe? Time will tell.

No sign of the kale, peas or the lettuce yet but temperatures jumped up to the 80s- mid 80s or better plus the humidity is bad. This spring has been warm and now will be wet.

I hope the cool weather crops will grow and not just bolt like they all did last year. We had a cold, wet spring in 2011, no nice transition from winter to summer. Some things didn't do well, in fact even the best tomato growers were struggling with green tomatoes. What chance did we have? Finally everything worked out and we ended up with quite a few but they were much smaller than normal.

Spot the Cat is not a happy kitty today. The wind has him very jumpy, being an outside cat from a batch of our strays. Everyone else (cats that is) seems to be very happy lounging on the courtyard and porch chairs watching the birds pick off their left over cat food nuggets.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Buck A Block- Thangles

I am working on a small project while I finish my larger block of the month which has been in the works for quite awhile now. This is a Thangles Buck a Block where you purchase a pack of Thangles half square triangle (HST) paper templates. Choose two colors and make strips (WOF) 2 1/2 inches wider that your finished size. Put your two colors together, right sides together, and pin on the Thangles template. The template is the same width as your fabric. You can pin it together and then trim the sides if you need to.

Sew the half square triangles, slice down the middle, open and press to keep the fabric from stretching. Then you hold the seam allowance, paper and fabric, and pull the larger piece of paper. It's made to tear off easily so you don't have to change your stitch length.

You are probably going to cut some fabric into squares or other shapes to piece with your template HSTs.

When you finish your two blocks each month, we go back into the store- any time we want, it's not a class--and we receive our next fabric and pattern for $1. At the end of 12 months we will have 24 blocks. At that time you can sew them together for a wall hanging, sash them or create some interesting borders around each and have any size quilt you want.

We had two color choices, my two tone green or the orange with a magenta/maroon. I liked the orange one with the flowered background she had for a demo but I thought the green combo might work well with a large amount of fabric I have that could be used for the backing. They will offer a finishing kit to make the ones pictured on her blog but of course I can make my own instead.

You can see the demonstration quilts at the quilt shop link below.
Susie Q Quilting, Eureka MO

Here is a Thangles demo- I think they are pretty picky about uploading their photos and such so I will just give you the link and you can look around. Thangles Link How Thangles Work

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Well, it sounds like the boys are out in force this morning, each trying to outdo the other and call in the girls.

Hi, this is Kathy's husband Tom again. I'm just putting up the video real quick this morning but Kathy'll be providing the commentary when she returns home from work. Hope you enjoy the sounds of the springtime Missouri woods.

Look what happens when you share your Blogger password with your husband! Remember, when I was sicker than a dog and he put up a note saying I didn't really fall off the face of the Earth? Well, he's hijacked it! So, if you start seeing discussions on Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica or perhaps a tutorial on how to work on a 1999 Jeep Cherokee or perhaps jet boating in 2 inches of water on the Meramec- it ain't me! LOL

It was a day off for that carpenter and he was scouting out the turkeys as a giant gobbler was dancing in full display in front of his lady friends. His beard was so long that it dragged on the ground. The hubby sneaked out onto the deck to try and get a quick movie but they were just too on guard to get the great video, the audio came through ok through. There's something in the background right at the start of the video that must be a deer, although Google Earth used to have Big Foot sightings noted right in our valley. I still say it was our friend, David, after one of the infamous Halloween parties scratching his back on a tree!

Hope you all have a wonderful evening. It's raining here as predicted. Baseball sized hail reported in Lake St. Louis and parts of Illinois.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Clouds, Blooms and Things That Go Peep in the Night

Imagine, 85 degrees in March! Something's up! Look at these clouds, very pretty but not normal.

My husband's ham radio announced the possibility of bringing up the skywarn system. It seems that south of us, in Pevely, MO, there were reports of quarter sized hail. From our deck we can see the storm clouds in the distance. So far, so good here! You have to look closely at the clouds, the sun was beginning to set.

Just in case we get a hard rain, and we will get rain the next couple of days, I decided to take some photos of the flowers that popped open today. This is the peach tree. They never get very large but small as they are, they are pretty good, if you get them before the critters do.

They make fun of me for planing a non-bearing cherry tree. No, it's not like planting non-bearing corn. The tree is next to the patio plus near the WHITE handrails and siding. I don't need cherry stains here. The flowers are pretty when they have opened.

Then there is the dwarf plumb. We had a few the first year but last year it blossomed and then we had a freeze. It won't surprise me if that happens again this year as early as it's bloomed.

Now the night creatures- the peeps in the dark and music to my ears. In a few weeks the noise will be deafening. You will hardly be able to hear each other speak. Enjoy!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Looks like I might be getting a couple of these- Occlusal mouth guards for my newly acquired TMJ. My co-worker laughed at me- laughed I said- because I did this by almost knocking myself out. I fell trying to avoid the gunk that drips from the bottom of the car when it snows after you park in the garage.

I did not actually hit the floor, although I should have just gone ahead and done that. I caught myself but when I did, my shoulder stayed still while my chin kept coming down and hit it. I have never heard teeth hit together so hard. So now the right side of my jaw is out of alignment.

I waited and waited to see if it would go back in for good but no, it pops out all the time now. Fortunately it never keeps me from talking. Fortunately depending on who you are, I guess. I haven't found anything yet that will shut me up. I like to talk.

I have a problem with food though, which is good in a way; however, soft stuff is getting old. I can eat some things that are not soft if they are extremely crispy or things like wraps if I shred them up like a salad and take teeny tiny bites without grinding my teeth.

This got to be a pain so I took the chance and called my dental insurance company, Delta Dental, and this is covered at 80% after my $50 deductible. This is a good thing because I always throw some money on my FSA card for these out of pocket expenses. It covers deductibles, medication co-payments and other non covered but medically required expenses. I can swipe and never know I spent a dime.

When it pops out, and it does this several times a day, I have to wiggle my jaw from side to side while pressing on my temples. It is stuck open and to get it aligned again hurts. This device may- MAY - make it better. I hope so, I can't bite down with any pressure on anything.

I really miss Subway!

photo credit

photo credit 2

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Thief in the Night

I noticed it first thing this morning. It was stolen from me-gone. Just like that.

It happened in the midst of the night, without any evidence of break in at all. It was obviously well planned out, for quite some time, since it was the only thing missing, one of the most precious things I have and cannot be replaced by any amount of insurance payment. Priceless.

I want my hour back!

classroom clip art link

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fruit and Yogurt Bowl - (A little healthier than the last post)

OK, ok, so the last post on Swiss Chips may not have been the ideal nutritious snack idea I've ever had, but admittedly so! (LOL) To balance it out, here is something on the more healthy side. A fruit and yogurt bowl based on the snacks my company provides when we have a headquarters meeting in our rally room each quarter. This is delicious. They do offer a wider variety of fillings and toppings than I have pictured here.

I started with Dannon All Natural vanilla yogurt. I'm not a fan of the thick Greek yogurt, not a taste thing, more based on texture. I even like runny milkshakes. Our cafeteria uses Dannon vanilla so that's what I picked up too.

My favorite filling is blueberry but at work I also mix in grapes and strawberries- so pretty together; however, my personal budget isn't that generous so for the winter months I have to rely on store bought produce which is expensive. I won't pay $6 for a small tub of fresh blueberries so I opted for a bag of seedless red grapes and a bag of frozen blueberries.

I can load up the bowl with yogurt and grapes plus the blueberries keep everything nicely chilled until they thaw. Just perfect timing to make coffee and grab a sausage patty that my husband made from the pork we processed ourselves. The pork is very lean so it's not laden with fatty bad stuff. He made sure to clean the skin off the fat and made sure no hard, nasty things went into it (I'm picky like that). This morning he mixed it with rosemary, sage, thyme, minced onions, garlic and a little cajun seasoning. Then I sat down and enjoyed a nice breakfast.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Deliciously Bad For You- Swiss Chips!

I came up with the idea for Swiss Chips way back in college when I was working part time for a German deli in the mall. I spread a layer of potato chips on a plate, covered them with bits of swiss cheese and nuked them until they were bubbly and became one with the chips.

They loved them, but never priced them for sale. They would have made a bundle.

They are really good- truly they are, if you are a Swiss cheese lover. They are great on regular chips or ridged but most importantly, salty chips.

You could make so many variations on this theme. Why not try it on your re-hydrated potato slices, making a potato casserole that is layered with Swiss, Mozzarella and (oh goodness of all goodness- Provel cheese, a St. Louis favorite. This is not provolone, you have to get Provel). Crumble up crispy bacon in the layers too and serve it up all ooey-gooey.

Give it a try, unless you're afraid you'll get hooked. It can happen!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lowering Energy Usage by 21% in 2011

We have lowered our energy usage by 21% in 2011 according to Ameren UE, our electric company, which provides a year over year comparison of energy costs, calculates our daily averages and charts monthly usage against average monthly temperature. It was a pretty aggressive goal; however, driving our costs down was one of our prime preparedness challenges for the year.

You will see that while monthly temperature changes throughout the winter months remained basically flat, our energy consumption was drastically reduced primarily by utilizing our wood burning stove for our main heat source, supplementing with our geothermal heating system only when interior temperatures dropped below 50. Our normal main level temperature was around 70.

We have a two story home with a functional attic, a William Poole reproduction of a Beaufort, NC home from the 1700s which means it was built with cross ventilation in mind. We have dual 9 ft wide porches, top and bottom, across the front of the house. The interior is modernized to allow for a great room and open kitchen. Both the dining room and library (piano and ham radio room) have open access across the great room and kitchen to a full bank of windows covering the back of the house. Each side also has windows.

The open plan actually keeps the main level warmer as the heat from the wood burner flows into both great room and kitchen. With the stairs located within 10 ft of the fireplace, facing the optional blower, the heat is also pushed directly upstairs towards the bedrooms. The bedrooms do get chilly at night but that is what multiple layers of sheets, blanks and comforters are for. It's a bit cold when I first get up to get ready for work but really, it's nice.

No heat = no frizz = a good hair day!

We are wooded so finding fuel is no problem, in fact there's a lot of wood cleanup that can be done, particularly after some of the spring storms we've had. Neighbors help each other cutting, splitting and stacking wood under tarps to ward off moisture.

Now Spring did not show much difference in cost; however, due to the nature of our house, being that it has wonderful cross ventilation, we can keep our windows open unless it is storming. The two kids rooms upstairs have full 15-lite doors rather than windows. With full screen doors on them, and a whole house window fan downstairs, the draft created by the draw is enough to chill the bones! It's also nice to hear all the woodland night life as they croak, hoot and howl to each other. Spring peepers are the best!

Laundry costs were a key driver to our energy reduction as well. Our dryer broke- and with my husband's employment situation we could not just run out and replace it easily. The solution was to put up a clothes lines. Who would have thought that hanging clothes would be so enjoyable? My husband and I were almost fighting to see who got to hang and taken them down. (We're strange like that).

When we get to summer you will see we were lower but not as much as we should be. It's that high humidity thing that St Louis and surrounding areas have and of course I mentioned the frizz and bad hair days for work. So- the a/c might go on more at night and then back off when I left because my husband hasn't found a temperature too high for himself.

We are all electric except for a small propane tank for the stove-the kind you would have on your gas grill, not the huge tanks that are generally in the back yards. It sits outside the house with a fuel line running to the stove. The house is big and used to be full but now it's just the two of us and a part-time Taylor!

Our goal, when the economy was booming and this was supposed to be the next big boom according to the home builders association, was to live here long enough to semi-retire and then build a pole barn on acreage for cash and surround ourselves with enough land to be more or less self supportive. I know that might sound strange to some of you but the interiors are such that you can do almost anything inside and most are extremely well built so they can withstand storms. A basement or storm shelter is a must around here. Tom's an excellent carpenter and can build amazing things (mostly for other people, I'm sort of last on the list!) As it stands today we'll be here a bit longer than expected but it's enjoyable. We had a plan for years that our family would live by each other so on one side of us is my father-in-law on the other is the lot that Tom's brother and his family owns and will shortly begin building their home.

example of pole barn home

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chicken Poop in My Bed

Yes, there sure is chicken poop in my bed. My garden bed that is.

The collards never quite gave it up this winter. It would wilt in the snow and then pop up just as if it were Spring. The hubby cleaned out the coop and spread the straw all over the side beds so they would be ready for the spring planting. Can you believe how big this got over the past two days?

He is also tore out all the overgrown wild rose and blackberry bushes, stubborn sycamores that just won't die and various other weedy things that have crept closer and closer to the house over the last decade.

He's going to make a new coop and larger yard for them plus get ready for chicks. It will be easier for me to reach and have access to the eggs from the outside rather than having to climb in all the time. The old coop will turn into storage. I was hoping it could be a shelter for the stray cats but I didn't get my way on that one. The brush pile will stay- it houses all sorts of critters from raccoons to the little kitties.

On the other side of the house, in the big garden, the onions are coming up from last year's seed. We've got a huge compost pile over there in addition to the county's tree trimmer's pile they donated towards our efforts. We are expecting a little rain over the next few days but after that we'll have to start laying everything out, lining the walkways and stringing up new lines for climbing things.

I've got a collection of cooler weather seeds picked out for now, some from Botanical Interests and some from Victory Seed- never had a failure, even in older seeds.

We'll make some new beds behind the house for flowers and medicinal herbs that are not too invasive. We have a slope where I can start up some mint and other runaway herbs. Won't that smell nice when the cats stroll through, kicking up all those wonderful aromas!