Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Vacation: Seeds, Theme Parks, Battlefields and a Quilty Shop Hop

My husband and I have not had a vacation together for 
10 years!  Sure, we have had some time off but we
either stayed home, visited relatives or watched our 
granddaughter for the last 10 years.  

Not this year.  We took TWO WHOLE DAYS off work
and went to Branson, MO because I missed  Silver Dollar City.
Along the way there and back we stopped for other
attractions, one being Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in
Mansfield, MO which is just outside of Springfield.
The seed room was huge with every cubby holding 
packets of seeds, arranged in sections for vegetables,
flowers and herbs.  We were there on a Thursday
morning so really the only ones there which was perfect.
I hear when they have their festivals it is filled to the brim.

Here are some of the seeds I selected for the garden.
As a hint, if you have cucumbers that are getting eaten
by bugs, plant amaranth.  I discovered it accidentally 
when I had it growing wild and neglected to pull it out.
Then I found that all the bugs were eating it rather than 
my cucumbers- Perfect!!

In the second section of the building there are rooms devoted
to fabric, stitchery, candles, soaps and other crafts and hobbies.
You can see  the bee hive sign at the lower right.
They also have a library of various helpful books.

I picked up these Aunt Martha's hot iron transfers.

Next stop Springfield, MO

This is Bass Pro Shop's magnificent entrance,
it is stunning when you are actually there.
Any time we are in Springfield, MO we stop in.
My husband enjoys looking at the equipment
and I love the decor, just amazing.

This statue is made out of bronze, 
huge and incredibly beautiful.

There is a quilt Shop Hop going on right now, not just
in Missouri, not just in the U.S., but everywhere.
There is an embroidery pattern which is bordered by
this pretty bee fabric called Bee Creative by Deb Strain
through Moda.  It is difficult to find the fabrics since so many
have signed up to make the quilt (free on line) so I thought it 
was a perfect time to check out the shops in Missouri during our
trip.  As it turned out I found everything I need.
Now to start the embroidery, and catch up with my other
quilt along where we make a sampler out of six inch blocks.

We visited several quilt shops and a few were stunning,
amazingly stocked and everyone was so nice.

Each shop created a pattern called Row By Row with the 
theme of Home.  When you visit you can get the free pattern
or purchase a kit the contains the pattern plus material.
I purchased several kits so I would have the right material
and just took the free pattern in some cases.  Hopefully
I will find time for that when all the summer chores are complete.

We tried to find a little cabin where we could cook but 
last minute reservations were tough so we settled on a motel.
This was Ozark Valley Inn in Branson, MO and it was very nice.
It was not perfect but it reminded me of going to motels when
I was young and I love parking by the room- ours was the first 
floor which actually was the middle level here due to the slope
of the ground.  There were chairs in the covered hallway too
so you could pull then up to a table and stay out of the sun.

The hallway led to the pool and over to the office and 
breakfast room where they served a complimentary meal; 
however, due to my dietary needs we chose to go out
instead.  My husband is not thrilled with Cracker Barrel 
where we ate the first day but I liked it, also 
Stavin' Marvin's breakfast buffet the second day.

Branson is still Branson only much more crowded.
We drove the strip and to the old downtown where 
we went into the old five and dime.  They have built up 
the old section of town, I would not have recognized it 
once you got to the river!!

Sorry that you got the back half of King Kong but
it was my only shot.  This is on the strip across from
the big Ferris wheel.  I think it was Ripley's Believe it or Not.

This is inside one of the restaurants.
It's all glitz and Hollywood like sets
but not all the food is good.  My husband thinks
it is because we are used to St Louis restaurants
where the food is fantastic and well prepared.
I had to send back the calamari, it was so tough.
Here it is delightful, breaded with a tempura coating
and fried until tender, not chewy.

We did have a good dinner at Red Lobster, something I have
not had in years and years!  I had a lobster tail and grilled shrimp
and my husband lobster and steak . This was on their special 
menu for the season.  He thought his steak too well done, preferring
it red and cold in the center.  I think many restaurants are afraid to 
cook it that way or just don't know how to cook it that way.  To 
me it's raw so I can't really critique it.

Silver Dollar City was not as much fun this time.
As soon as we arrived we had a torrential storm with 
lightning, thunder and buckets of rain causing them to 
close down the rides and outdoor events.  I think they 
must have sold every poncho in their stores!

We were able to see some of the indoor artisans,
the Saloon show and ride Fire in the Hole plus
go through Grandpa's Mansion which is the fun house
sort of attraction.  Nothing scary, just off center so things
look like they are downhill but you are going up.  That sort of thing.
The atmosphere would have been better if it had been nice
but since we had a package deal we had to go or lose the 
admission price.  It was still good and maybe we will try again sometime.

Photo credit 

Just outside of Springfield is Wilson's Creek National Battlefield
where we stopped for a few minutes. My husband picked up
some books and I purchased a little hankie doll kit.  He and
his brother are going to go back down and spend the day there
sometime.  They should have a nice time.

plus a bonnet
to put my hair up in while I am gardening.  The bees seem to 
like my hair a lot, a whole lot, so I may see if it helps to 
cover it when I am up in their area, but not in a bee veil
which is too difficult to garden in.

We also stopped at Shepherd of the Hills Outlet where I 
found this perfect bee jewelry.  I don't wear much jewelry
but when I saw these bees I had to have them.  The best part
is that they must be on closeout because they were $2.99 each!!

We arrived home Saturday afternoon, tired and ready to be home.
I still have not caught up with cleaning the house.  I hope no one
comes over unexpectedly that we are not close friends with,
they might see what really happens here in the summer when
we work all day at our jobs and then back home to work for
hours in the garden, with chicks, bees and canning!

Day 1 vacation Saturday:  Chicken butchering/pickling
Day 2 vacation:  Breakfast at Denny's and trip to the river 
Day 3 vacation:  laundry, thrift shopping, gardening
Day 4 vacation:  Quilt Shop Hop for the Row by Row patterns
Jackman's Fabrics (Creve Coeur MO)
The Quilted Fox quilt shop (Frontenac, MO)
Merrily We Sew Along quilt shop (Valley Park, MO)
All are the St Louis County area
Yard Work: weed whipping, gardening 
Shopping:  Supplies at Wal-Mart 
Canning:  making pickles
Day 5 vacation:  Preparing for our Branson trip
Day 6 vacation:  Up at dawn, in the car and on the road!
Stopped in Mansfield, MO at Baker's Creek
Stopped in Springfield MO for quilt shop hopping
A trip into Bass Pro Shop
On to Branson MO for quilt shop hopping
Trip to the Branson strip and old downtown
Dinner at Red Lobster
Day 7 vacation:  Silver Dollar City
Torrential rain, lightning, thunder.  Rides closed, outdoor activities
delayed.  We saw some craftsmen, the saloon show and road
Fire in the Hole (indoor roller coaster with a mine theme)
Day 8 vacation:  Pack up for home, stopped by Ozark MO quilt shop,
visit to Wilson's Creek national battlefield outside of Springfield,
Shepherd of the Hills Outlet mall in Lebanon MO and back home
Day 9 vacation:  church, pickling, unpacking

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Kathy's Pickles

This is my first batch of pickled cucumbers that I picked from 
our garden along with the home grown dill for flavoring.

We planted pickling cucumbers and trying to pick
them small so we have a lot of pint jars.
I washed and cut up the cucumbers, some were
small spears and some were crinkle cut

I added pickle crisp, spices, my dill, 
garlic and the cucumbers, filled it with 
brine and let the pickling begin.

This is our small hot water bath canner.

They will sit for a week and then I'll get to see if 
they taste as good as I hope!

Day 1 vacation Saturday:  Chicken butchering/pickling
Day 2 vacation:  Breakfast at Denny's and trip to the river 
Day 3 vacation:  laundry, thrift shopping, gardening
Day 4 vacation:  Quilt Shop Hop for the Row by Row patterns
Jackman's Fabrics (Creve Coeur MO)
The Quilted Fox quilt shop (Frontenac, MO)
Merrily We Sew Along quilt shop (Valley Park, MO)
All are the St Louis County area
Yard Work: weed whipping, gardening 
Shopping:  Supplies at Wal-Mart 
Canning:  making pickles

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

River Day

It was a river sort of day, a combination of my birthday and
Father's Day both on Sunday during a week when I am on 
vacation and had nothing more than relaxing on my mind.

I am not a huge fan of the boat ride.  It is not like on a nice,
calm and deep lake, not here.  The river will suddenly drop to
a few inches of water where you can see each and every river
rock, including the gravel, as you are flying over them at a
really fast speed.  You can't use a prop, rather a jet is required
to get you up on plane and skip over rocks and hopefully the
semi-submerged logs from trees downed by storms or as 
the bank gave way.  Some of the root wads are huge, and
some you can't imagine how the tree is still standing, most of the
root hanging over the bank in a tangled mass.

You can see how they lean, farther and farther over.
Some are small like these, but others are massive and you hope
your boat isn't in their way if they fall.

On this stretch of river it is more quiet.
The canoes and kayaks haven't taken over the river, 
full of people that have not educated themselves on the
rules of the road as it were.  I think the canoe outfitters
should give them a course on river safety to keep them
and the power boaters happy and safe.  They need to be 
accountable to some degree, not just send people out 
who have no clue about boats.  That is when they tip 
and get themselves in dangerous places or do things
that are unsafe.  They also don't understand they need to 
share with the power boats that can't just stop like a car
so if they tie themselves together and take up the entire
river-especially around a blind bend, there's trouble.

It was only a couple of years ago a landowner got tired of 
the teams of people stopping on his land, leaving trash and partying.
(legally they have the right to be there if it is 
below the high water mark).  A confrontation occurred
and the owner killed him.   This was in the high canoe-kayak
area that has been inundated with drinkers, drugs, nudity, etc.
Not the family friendly canoe trip.

With a little respect that could have been avoided.

Our beaches are nice, some gravel and some sand.
Generally everyone gets along.
Hopefully it stays that way.

It's really pretty and relaxing (except for the ride).
There are eagles, sea looking birds, turtles, herons
and lots and lots of pretty shells to collect.

All this to see and yet I saw a boat go past where 
the driver was the only one looking at the water.
Everyone else in the boat had eyes on their phones 
where there was so much to see if they just looked 
around.  Sad really.  I think riots would break out if
we lost cell communications and all internet.
How would they survive?

This is one of the results of our recent floods.
The bank has all but gone and this house is doomed to 
fall into the river.  Some did and some are being 
renovated.  You can still see debris high in the tree tops
where bits of dock, houses and junk still dangles since
the water receded.  

If you can see the blue awning to the left on the beach, 
this is also a place where people camp.  Either day camping
or for the weekend.  If we plan to be there for the day we bring
the collapsible awnings, chairs, side tables, bbq, coolers, etc.

The kids float on rafts, watch the minnows try to nibble on their toes
and see who can get more dragon flies to land on their fingers.
I plop my chair about waist deep, just enough to keep my drink out of
the water, and attach a small umbrella to the back of my chair to 
avoid the sunburn.  We cook or bring a picnic lunch, arriving early
to stake out our claim. 

I hate the ride but love the beach!

Day 1 vacation Saturday:  Chicken butchering/pickling
Day 2 vacation:  Breakfast at Denny's and trip to the river 
Day 3 vacation:  laundry, thrift shopping, gardening
Day 4 vacation:  Quilt Shop Hop for the Row by Row patterns

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Gardens, Bees and Chicken Feet

Summer is a busy time around the Usher place,
never a moment's rest until the gardens are put
to rest and the winter months arrive, more 
quickly than anticipated-- or wanted.

Saturday morning began at 4 AM, preparing to help
 our neighbors butcher their chickens, as they
helped us last weekend.  It is great to share the workload
and set up an assembly line to get the job done faster.

Afterwards it was back home to can a few pints
of Aunt Mary's hot pickles with the pickling 
cucumbers that are starting to come in.
We set up a trail cam to find out what was 
able to penetrate the fencing and bite off cucumber
stems that are about three feet high, past a 
4 foot+ fence in narrow garden beds.
A deer would have trouble, with the beds so narrow,
jumping into the other side of the fence and it would
have disturbed the dirt and other plants.

Truthfully, I was thinking a giraffe, but not sure how
many we had running around wild here.  Or tame for that matter.
Maybe an ostrich or am emu?
Just kidding, probably birds or our raccoon friends, but
I would think a raccoon would eat the fruit, not nip off a branch. 
There was also cilantro bit off from the top, romaine too.

Our visitor, probably the one that comes to 
the porch and eats the leftover cat food.
With black bear now in our area we may have
to rethink that plus our chicken food storage.

I will tell you that the Cornish Cross chickens have the
BIGGEST FEET EVER!  Our neighbors were saving them,
dehydrating for dog treats.  I don't have a dog and not
interesting in eating them so we didn't keep ours.

The flower garden had been doing well with the cool spring and
wet weather but I am having to water now that temperatures have
hit near 100's.  It has helped the vegetables though, peppers have
doubled in size from last month.

I have flowers and herbs planted in the larger garden
for the bees. They have salvia, zinnias, lavander, 
snap dragons and of course the flowers from squash plants
and the tomatillos, elderberry and blackberry plants.

They seem to be doing well and they don't bother
me at all while I am at the garden. They may buzz
but don't sting.  I don't care for them to be at face level
though and I now make sure I keep my shirt tight 
around my waste so they don't fly up.
What would I do then?

Well, it's my birthday so at some point today we 
will go eat --at Denny's--because they send me a 
coupon for a free breakfast which is served all day.
I can't eat the pancakes anymore so I will choose 
something else.  Then it's back to the house for more work.

See you all later.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Little Beek in the Making

Taylor, my granddaughter, loves her bees!
She dressed in my suit and helped her Pops with 
checking the hives and changing out the sugar syrup.
She was fascinated and let the bees crawl all over her,
on purpose!  She's really a country girl at heart!!

She was amazed to watch the bees launch an organized
attack against an ant that was trying to get into the hive.

We had two weak hives that we combined to make one strong one.
To do this we had to put the extremely weak hive box (deep)
on top of the other two deep where the stronger colony was.
To prevent fighting to the death we had to put a single sheet
of newspaper between them and make a couple of slits
in it with a knife.  Since there is no entrance or exit, the
bees had to chew through the paper to get down to the 
lower levels where the exit and entrance are.  By the time
they do this, they are used to each other.

You can see their chewing here.
And it worked!

Now we have put a queen excluder in so she cannot
move up to the top boxes and lay eggs.  The larger boxes
are where they lay eggs and keep honey stores for themselves
to make it through the winter.  The smaller boxes on top are
where the excess honey will be made. 

We have a secondary entrance on the top boxes so the bees can
go directly in there rather than making their way from the bottom.
Except for the queen, they can still access the entire hive.

While the bees fly several miles in search of food, I have
supplied them with a flower bed, elderberry bush, blackberries
and herbs.  Currently they are all over the wild grapes that
line the road, you can even hear them as you walk up the road
towards the vines.

One of the blackberry varieties has huge berries.

I have some nice borage for them as well.

It's time to go up and check the garden, which is where the bees
are.  This is the larger garden that is farther away from the house.
We don't have a lot planted, concentrating on peppers, 
tomatillos, herbs tomatoes and squash.  Pretty soon I'll
be wrapping that duct tape backwards on my hand and 
hunting for squash bug eggs!
Strangely enough, I look forward to this.

My husband tells me that I am the lady of their nightmares.
When the mommy squash bugs want their kids to be good
she tells them the story of the sticky handed lady who
wanders through the squash fields stealing eggs and 
plastering juveniles to her tape wrapped hands!

Sleep tight and don't let the tape hand bite!