Winding Into Winter

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141026 Sunrise

The temperature was at freezing this morning.  I lit the stove using last nights coals and made my coffee.  The morning temperatures have been in the mid forties for the past few weeks but I start the stove every morning to take the chill off.  I love the cheeriness of that fire when I walk into the kitchen.

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of activity as it always is when winter approaches.  Most of the wood is in, the fall cleaning is finished.  Things are moved around (like sleeping areas) to be the most comfortable for the winter.  We do not have heat on the second floor of the house so the electric blankets went onto the beds.

Everything left was dug out of the garden, a bumper crop of carrots this year both Danvers and Atomic Reds.  The Atomic Reds were one of this years experiments and I would plant them again.  I was disappointed that they don’t stay red when they are cooked much like those purple beans.

The month of October was also a time of connecting with friends, both old and new.  A very dear friend of mine stopped in to visit me while on a trip here from New Mexico.  I haven’t seen her since 1995 yet we picked up as though we’d seen each other a month ago.  It was wonderful reminder of how dear my old friends are.

Our 2nd Annual Harvest Party was a success other than the weather, but all that really did was keep us in the house.  Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon – eating great food with great friends and family.  This event is always an interesting mix of old and new acquaintances.  It’s always fun to rehash the day with newcomers who are trying to learn who the players in my life are.

Then there are the newest “friends”.  My cyber community has evolved into the most interesting ways in the past few months.  I have become acquainted with a few like-minded people who are working towards some self-sufficiency.  They are craftsmen, farmers, artists, renovators.  They have similar interests and through our frequent posts we get to know a little about each other.  This has offered me an opportunity to learn a lot about some of my interests.  They are generous in conversation, answering questions I might have about weaving, gardening or livestock.  The readers of this blog offer words of wisdom in situations I write about.  It’s a little  support system.

The changes in the past few months have been interesting and not always as expected.  Rowe is an isolated area and you have to work harder at being social.  I’m not always able to leave and the ability to converse over the web has in some respects kept me sane.  It keeps me connected with my kids, spouse and friends – old and new.

As we wind into winter, a time when serious arts and crafting come into full swing I’ll continue to share interesting tidbits of what is happening here and welcome the interaction of those who read it.  I’m looking forward to the down time.  Having the quiet and solitude always turns my mind towards creativity – I’m always thinking, planning.  There just is never the time during the warmer months for sitting at the loom or hooking a rug.  Winter will offer a respite from the yard work and gardening, it will allow me to recharge and dream about spring.  By the time it arrives I’ll be ready.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

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Animals / Chickens

141027 F0x (16)

As I sat and drank my afternoon cup of coffee I looked over the garden, down into the back forty and Mr. Fox was sitting in the center of the field.

My sister lost two more of her chickens last week so I’ve been paying closer attention.  My rooster just started to crow on Saturday and I told him the whole idea was to be quiet and not announce to the wild world around him that he was there.  He didn’t listen.

The first thing I thought was I need to clean that .22 but I grabbed my camera instead.

Walking out to one of my gardens I sat on the bench facing the field and watched.  The sun was gloriously warm and Mr. Fox was just sitting, eyes shut, soaking it in.  After a few minutes he decided to try to catch himself a snack and this is one of the shots I took.

As I watched him through that long lens I thought about the idea of looking through the sight of a rifle and how I felt about that.  I understand the need and desire to protect your birds but he was so beautiful.  He appeared to be just enjoying a sunny fall day.  I’m not sure I could kill him just because he was in the back field.

I have to tell you though the gun will be cleaned and will be positioned at the ready for the day my birds begin to disappear.  It’s a fine line between an amazing wild animal and a chicken killing predator.

 

Fleeting Fall

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Outdoors

141010 Pear and AdirondackI hear on the news just now that people should take their fill of the leaves this weekend (a long one here), they are at their peak.  With all of the rain and wind the past few days the leaves here are on their way out.  There are still enough to photograph but not in the wide panoramas that other years have offered.

This has to be one of my favorite spots in autumn.  I love the color of the pears as well as the leaves.  That chair is the perfect spot to overlook a large swath of the property, especially the parts newly cleared.  The bonus is it faces west so you can sit there in the late afternoon and have the sun warm you, breathing in the smell of fall.  Little gifts.

 

Yikes!

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Uncategorized

141006 PossumWe were moving wood from our wood pile into the shed yesterday when I saw this.  Fortunately I was by myself at the time because I screamed good and loud.  It really caught me by surprise.  I must confess my initial thought was what creepy monster is this?!?  Actually I envisioned R.O.U.S. from the Princess Bride.

This poor, little opossum had found a nice, dry den in the center of the woodpile and apparently thought we couldn’t see it if it didn’t see us.  Initially I thought I would stop moving wood for the day but it wasn’t aggressive in any way and we really had to get the wood in. I carefully removed the wood from above it so the pile wouldn’t collapse onto it, then began to take the wood out around it.  It tried to move deeper into the pile but eventually decided to move on.

This morning I decided to see if having an opossum in your wood pile is unusual and found it was not.  The website Living with Wildlife was pretty informative and made me feel better about moving this poor critter along.

I think this is my favorite part about living in a rural area, there are always creatures to surprise me.

 

What’s for Dinner

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Uncategorized

141001 Lamb and Beans

My husband is part Lebanese and grew up with the food of his Middle Eastern relatives.  He has fond memories of his Sito (great-grandmother) making food for them on Sundays after church.  She didn’t speak a word of english but food is love and that message crossed the language barrier.

My mother-in-law taught me to make these dishes when we were married.  These tried and true “recipes” are served for holidays and special occasions.  It is the food of my children’s childhood and of their father’s.

Today is a cold, dismal day and I just happened to pick up some lamb for stew yesterday.  Loubieh b’Lahem is what’s on the menu – Lamb and Bean Stew.  This is how it was concocted today.

I browned about 2 pounds of lamb neck bones and stew meat in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  You want some bones in this to impart great flavor.  I chopped an onion and threw it in along with a can of stewed tomatoes and a pint jar of my canned tomatoes (yes, you have to use the stewed ones).  Salt and pepper were added along with a scant 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.  Cover and let simmer for about 3 hours or until the lamb is falling off of the bones.

At this point I always remove the meat from the bones and return it to the stew, made with love don’t you know.  Add about a pound or so of fresh or frozen green beans and cook until the beans are tender.

I made some rice pilaf to serve this over and it was amazing.  Probably because I haven’t made it in such a long time or possibly because it’s the perfect meal for a cold, wet day.

Weaving Wednesday – More Krokbragd

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Craft

140930 Krokbrogd

Today I hit the halfway point in my little weaving project.  A friend’s comment,”Simple to warp, forever to weave” was right on target with this one.

To make my life a little easier I numbered the three shuttles that I am using to correspond with the treadles I use while weaving. Krokbragd, done on three shafts, is threaded 3,2,1,2,3.  The tie ups are 1-2, 2-3, 1-3.  One pick really consists of throwing all three of the shuttles in sequence – you just treadle 1-2-3 over and over again.  This allows each of the warp threads to be covered by the weft.  It is very densely packed, requires a heavy beat and takes forever to do quite honestly.

I’m using Harrisville Shetland for the weft of this mat and have to go through the treadling sequence 32 times to make the 1 1/2 inches for each color sequence.  Next time I will use a heavier wool but this has woven up beautifully.  I thought I’d be crazy with boredom going from overshot to this but I have to tell you this whole process is fascinating and ripe with possibilities.  As usual I’m planning out the next project while weaving this one.

Handwoven magazine has a number of issues over the years with krokbragd projects.  This mat is one of them.  I like to have good instructions when I learn a new structure.  Usually by the time I’m finished with it I have enough of an understanding to begin to run with it.  Sampling always seems to come second with me.

A YouTube video called Talking Threads 17 Krokbragd explains the whole process really well for those of you who are really interested in this structure.  I found it really helpful.

Finishing Up

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140929 DawnThe sunrise view from my current bedroom window is amazing, especially in the spring and fall.

The dumpster project, now affectionately called, is almost complete.  Two more days before it goes.  It’s been a crazy journey.

The attic was finished Saturday morning.  Everything that was going was pitched out of the window a few days before and I spent the last two days sweeping, then vacuuming with a shop vac.  During the sweeping phase I finally decided to wear a respirator, the dust was extreme.  My father and I figured the last time it was swept was around 1946 – no lie.

It was a sentimental journey through the rooms on the third floor.  Sentiment mixed with disbelief that so much stuff was just thrown up there and forgotten.  Houses had been cleaned out.  Things I recognized from my grandparents homes and some from my great grandparents.  Fear not, most of it was categorized, packed and stored away.

There were treasures.  Big boxes of crap that had to be gone through, piece by piece because there were treasures.  My grandfather’s Hamilton pocket watch, a makeup compact from the ’20s belonging to a great-aunt, a small model train engine, books from childhood.  Photographs tucked in with report cards from my father’s elementary school days. There were scrapbooks and letters and journals from my high school years, reminders of a distant past now seeming like someone else’s life.  Toys, games, puzzles, all holding memories for me and my siblings of rainy days spent together. I don’t think anything was ever thrown away.

It has also lifted a great weight. It had felt as if that third floor was crushing down on the rest of the house.  A job I knew I was going to have to do in order to make my childhood home into the home I will spend the rest of my life in.

The last few days have been spent cleaning out and moving things around on the second floor.  All of this with the knowledge that we will be dealing will structural issues in the bedrooms, mostly crumbling lathe and plaster.  Nothing at all has been done up there since the early ’70s.  There isn’t heat up there (and currently it’s without power – a story for another day).  There was water damage years ago so ceilings are beginning to go.  These are the photographs you won’t see, unless I’m getting ready to do something with a pry bar and a hammer (respirator in place).  The photos recording before and after.

The grand motivation to all of this has really been the need I have to transform a room into a place to put my looms, my fiber, my fabric, my books.  Creativity for me doesn’t happen without making a big mess but I need that mess to be contained in it’s own space.  I brought home a third loom (yes, I now have three), last weekend.  It’s so large and heavy it will have to remain on the first floor so the two on the first floor will have to move to the second.  Along with the last two looms I’ve brought home has come their previous owners stashes of fiber.  Fun stuff but if you can’t see it you don’t use it.

I use situations like the looms as motivation to deal with the things I don’t want to do.  It really works for me.  That and having a 20 yard dumpster dropped in the side yard.  I work well under pressure and having that there really did the trick.  Although the past couple of days have seen decision fatigue set in and it’s become easier to throw things away. Fortunately I also have that saving gene and understand the importance of seeing the handwriting of my ancestors.  Things are categorized and saved and put back into the attic.  This time with some notes attached so in another 80 years or so when someone feels the need to clean out they will have a better idea of why this stuff was saved.

 

Throwback Thursday and Some Thoughts on Cleaning Out

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Family

540707 Alix-Martin Wedding (14)

The date was July 7, 1954, my mother and father’s wedding day.  This photograph, of all of them, is my favorite.  All the players are there, both of my grandfathers are looking on with smiles on their faces.  I recognize aunts, uncles, cousins, grands.  The photographer for this event was AMAZING.  Every shot was beautifully composed, exposed and printed.  This was back in the day of Speed Graphics and 4×5 sheet film, hand processed, hand printed.

The main reason for this post today is I’m waxing nostalgic about my mother’s wedding dress.  I threw it away yesterday.  I’m assuming that will be the most painful thing I get rid of and it wasn’t without trying to keep it, honest.  The dress was disintegrating, things had lived in the bag, it was stained.  I brought it to my sister’s house just to have confirmation that I was doing the right thing (there really wasn’t an option).  While there I took the scissors to it and cut off the train of tulle with the had applied lace and folded it to keep, the rest went into the dumpster.  There’s no going back on that one.

I’m taking solace in the fact that we do have those amazing photographs and those are really more important to me than a mouse and bug infested piece of satin and lace.

 

Getting Serious

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Uncategorized

140917 Dumpster

We moved into the house at Fort Pelham Farm in 1967, I was 11 years old.  The house has a huge attic.  It has two rooms that are finished on each end and open space surrounding it.  No one ever goes up there.  It’s not that it’s creepy, it’s just the repository for the things no one can part with.

When my mother’s mother broke up her household in the early ’70s boxes of things were brought up there.  Wedding gowns, the winter clothes, toys, games, all of the stuff from my father’s childhood room and home.  Papers, photographs, vintage containers of all sorts.  Furniture, good and bad.  All of it found its way there. To my knowledge nothing that ever went into the attic ever saw the light of day again.

There are also a few things that need to be taken care of  – restoring power to the second floor, dealing with bad insulation, cleaning up a mess left by masons years and years ago.  All of these little things go hand in hand and I have to get rid of stuff in order to tackle those jobs.  Painters will soon be here to scrape and paint the peaks of the house repairing the third floors windows at the same time.  I don’t think they can get to the windows right now, sigh.

It’s starting to feel like I will be staying here for quite some time – it’s taken a while to feel that way.  I have made do with the second floor as a place to sleep with my clothing piled high on spare beds most of the time.  I visit our home in Enfield and recently have begun longing for a cozy, comfortable place of my own here.  The first floor is comfortable enough but it has always been more of a place to entertain rather than live.

The second floor has peeling wallpaper on every wall.  Carpet over wide pine floors dating to 1970 or so.  Plaster falling from ceilings reminds me of a Dickens novel I once read sans the cobwebs.

There was some furniture that I wanted to move to the attic and I went up there yesterday to check out the situation. (Yeah, it could be said that I’m part of the problem but I can’t part with the antique rockers that my grandfather brought up here). The stairs leading to the attic are more like a modified ladder they are so steep and narrow.  Once up there I realized what a real problem the mess is.  I had thought I could just pitch stuff out of the window onto the lawn but that was before I realized just how much stuff we are talking about.  Did I really want to handle any of it more than once?

A 20 yard dumpster was put next to one end of the house about 15 minutes ago, it will be here for two weeks (or less if I can get things done).  I’m sure I will feel as though a great weight has been lifted. Now I just have to muster the energy.

 

Chicken Moving Day

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Chickens

140915 Coop in Garden

Yesterday was moving day for the coop and chickens.  The vegetable garden is pretty much done although there is a lot of stuff still in there, overgrown and rotting.  The fall chill is in the air and it was time to begin the fall to winter preps.  The coop had been over by the garage with the fencing including a huge old apple tree surrounded by jewelweed.  The chickens loved it there although they had pretty much cleaned the area of vegetation.  I figured the garden would be a great spot for them to clean up and fertilize at the same time.

Moving the coop is always stressful.  It is so heavy that the tractor will only lift if off of the ground by about a foot.  We managed to get it over to the garden.  I then moved the fence.  I let the chickens roam around thinking they would be easy to move with some sweet little snack.  I was wrong.  They spent the majority of the day around the apple tree and although I coaxed them over more than once they had no interest in going near the strange spot their coop was in.

They finally left the tree area at the end of the day and wandered over to the garden but had no interest in going into their new area.  I got out the big guns – a pumpkin spice english muffin.  The rooster and hen happily went into the garden fence but the other 9 hens were nowhere to be seen.  It was getting a little late in the day and I was getting a little nervous.  I called and called and finally saw their little heads coming up over the bank to the back forty on the other side of the yard.  Apparently they had gone on a little adventure.  Seven more into the enclosure.

When the head count was done Bill and I had to search for the last two.  They were snuggled in among some rocks over the bank and were not going anywhere so I had Bill flush them out.  They ran for the coop, one of them tangling herself in the fencing (they still think they are small enough to go through it).  Once all enclosed they discovered what a wonderland the garden is.  Bugs, seeds, berries, a veritable smorgasbord for chickens.  They stayed out until dark which is unusual, they usually go in at dusk.

About nine o’clock Bill went out to lock the shed door and heard a chicken clucking over by the apple tree – an escapee.  He held the flashlight and ran interference until I finally caught her and put her in the coop.  I did another head count and all were there on their roost.  Finally all was right with the world – at least mine.