Friday, July 30

For the Love of Carrots

There is something really wonderful about heading out to the garden and pulling a carrot. I don’t know what it is but I love it.

I planted carrots for the first time this season. I have always been scared of planting them because I just knew they would not grow. I didn't want to be disappointed because I really like carrots.

This year I thought "why not." So in a short row they went and I forgot about them. I told myself that they would not grow and that I should not get my hopes up.

But the garden has been surprising me this season. The tomatoes and giant bushes of green heirlooms, the zucchini and the cucumbers have produced way more than I thought they would, and even though the first round of peas is mostly finished off due to the recent heat, they gave us a ton of shelling opportunities. So when I decided to pull up a carrot to see what was happening under the ground, I was actually hopeful. The greens were tall, about 12 inches, and in all Bugs Bunny cartoons, his carrot always had about 12 inches of greens hanging off the end. And then, magically, I had a carrot. It was like a present - you can never tell what is growing since it is hidden. And like all presents, you want more of them.

Hint: Don't get carried away pulling carrots. They are not all ready at the same time. I pulled a few baby carrots in my Christmas haste.

There is something just so absolutely satisfying about pulling a carrot out of the ground.

And apparently, sometimes they come in pairs. I could not bring myself to eat this one. I will keep him around and look at him until he is destined for the compost bin.

Thursday, July 29

Kitty Vacation

Last weekend I headed to Stuben County to drop prince off at Grandmas. Prince was due for a vacation. He is an old kitty and not totally sold on the idea of having a toddler in the house. He is tolerant but just plain crabby. And I do not feel that I am giving him all the attention that he deserves and that he is accustomed to.

He has been to Grandma's before and loves it. There all cats are treated like kings and want for nothing - unlimited attention, walks on a leash in the woods, outdoor pens with live catnip. It's a great place for a kitty vacation. He is going to hang out there for awhile and relax.

The ride was eventful since prince does not like to travel and we stopped twice to clean up the carrier. Apparently someone forgot to use the little box before the trip. But upon arrival, he was back to his old self and ready to enjoy his surroundings and the other cats, his cousins.

Junior, a cousin.

I stayed for lunch and a visit and they did not have to twist my arm. I love their home - the 'farm.' Lunch was leftover pizza for me which is just about my favorite, while my Grandparents had something called 'sandwich loaf.'

See photo below:

Has anyone ever heard of this? It is like a huge layered sandwich with tuna, egg salad, ham salad, peanut butter and jelly and something else i am forgetting. It is all covered with sour cream frosting. I can say right now that the only thing I would like to eat out of all this would be the peanut butter. How can someone eat something with so many flavors competing with each other? How many calories are in this???? Look at how thick that frosting is!!!! None for me, thanks.

After lunch, Grandma and I went for a walk around the property. Lots to see - pond, woods, fields, etc. We saw a fawn in the tall grass and a red finch, which I do not have at my house. And we saw bear poo. Yep. Bear poo. Not as mind-blowing as I thought it would be. Not to get too gross here but it was smaller than I thought would come from such a large animal. And yes, I took a picture. Don’t ask me why. I was high on a day away from home and being able to spend it at the farm.

Bear poo.

I did not want to go home. I love the peace and quiet at their house. Acres upon acres to explore, a dirt road where maybe 5 cars go by per day, and I could totally wear my jammies out to collect the eggs if I wanted to.

I drove home in my truck, windows down, singing along with Tom Petty. Not a whole album, just one song. The perfect driving song. Free Falling. I don’t even really like Tom Petty. But that song is perfect for me right now. When I get to be alone in the truck with the windows down and the weather is nice and I know that the drive is at least an hour one way.

And I got to see come cool windmills too.

Wednesday, July 28

Pickles - 4 Whole Jars!!!

This season, for the first time, we made pickles. This is not just great because we grew our own cucumbers and learned how to can them, but it was the first time we have canned anything. Ever.

We enjoyed the entire process and we will keep going with this food preservation. However, as with all new things, the first time doing something does not always go smoothly.

First, let me just say, that it is not a good idea to have an 18 month old in the kitchen when you are canning things. Besides the obvious safety hazards of boiling water and hot stoves and jars, it is hard to concentrate on something when there is a kid yelling at you.

Also fitting into this category ar the following:

Make sure you have all the ingredients you need on hand before you start
Don't be in a hurry or try to rush things
Do not let the baby play with the magnetic lid "wand"
Know your measurement conversions
Don't swear

I have been collecting cucumbers from the garden and we got quite a few built up in preparation for pickle making. The You Can Can book had a great beginner recipe for basic pickles and we set to work slicing and mixing and boiling and stirring. I was kind of unorganized so things were not in reach which caused some stress. I did not have enough white vinegar to can all the cucumbers even though I thought I had plenty. We only ended up with 4 large jars of what I hope will be fairly good tasting pickles. And the whole kitchen smelled like vinegar for the rest of the day.

It wasn't all day though. The sight of that huge stainless steel pot on my stove with jars being sterilized was just perfect. I really wanted to do this and we were finally canning. There is just something about seeing those jars, all filled and lined up on the counter, only if it was just 4 of them. If all else fails and the world ends tomorrow, at least we will have pickles.

I listened for the "pop" and all 4 did not disappoint.

I do not know why we have put off starting to can for so long. At our old house it was just for the lack of a decent garden and since we were just dealing with day to day stress. Not getting robbed or attacked was high on the list since we lived in a not-so-great area. Totally off topic here, but some of the nicest houses are in some undesirable areas. Old colonials with original hardwood flooring, original marble bathroom floor tile, all original wood trim. But crime is a constant worry and you just cannot feel comfortable in your own home. We were lucky to find our country farm house and 2 acres at the right time and I am grateful for it every day.

We have been here for 5 years and for 4 years we have had a garden. It gets bigger every year, we learn things from every crop and we correct mistakes and try new things. This year is the largest garden we have ever had and is more than enough to feed two and 1/4 people. It just feels like the next natural step to can and preserve it. Yes, I was scared of it, and I still am a little. What if I do not do things right and it doesn't turn out? What if I just end up with a moldy jar of something because things didn't seal right? What if I do something really wrong and we get sick?

I remember helping clean out my husbands gardenparents' house and throwing away hundreds upon hundreds of jars of canned items. All obviously spoiled and rotten. They had been canning and storing their whole lives which was a good thing, but they went to the extreme. Their depression-era mentality and a slight fear of some coming disaster lead them to stockpile everything. There were cans and jars dated from the 70's. I think this may have put me off canning a little in that I can see how you can get carried away with it. The point is that you actually have to EAT what you CAN. If you can a ton of beans and hate beans, then you will have beans from the 70's in your basement too.

So, we have started and I think we are going to keep it up. The more we can, the more organized I will become and I will get a system in place. Next step - tomatoes!

Thursday, July 22


I did it! I learned how to knit socks! This is something I have wanted to learn for a long time now.

I used a series of short videos on YouTube that were very helpful and easy to follow. It took some practice and I needed to wait until I could have peace and quiet to concentrate, but I can now proudly say that I can knit socks.

Warm, thick, heavy socks to pull on in winter and keep my toes warm.

Guess what just about everyone in the family is getting for Christmas this year......

Wednesday, July 21

Naps and Storms

The thunder is rumbling across upstate NY this afternoon, turning the sky dark and sending the much needed rain to my tomatoes and cukes. I sit here in the living room with a cat curled up on the footstool, listening to the thunder shake the panes in the old farm windows and hoping that it does not wake up the baby. I savor my peace and quiet time, and even though I love the thunder, I love it when the baby is napping just a little bit more.

He's been having a tough time of it lately, which means we all have. His teeth are still coming in, even though I don’t know how he can fit any more in there, which leads to fussiness and interrupted sleeping. He is constantly in a state of transition since he is growing and changing so fast that once we get a schedule down and a routine established, it must change. Pushing the boundaries has been his new thing lately and boy, does he take it to the last little limit. I am constantly saying words like "no", "stop it", "get down" and "come here". it seems like that is all I say lately and it is getting a little stressful here. Does he even love me at all or does he think I am just here to amuse him?

So sitting here in the late afternoon, thunder rolling across the sky, I am soaking up the quiet. He is napping. The cats and the dog are napping too. I have turkey de-thawing in the kitchen for the pasta and meatballs we are having tonight. I forgot to defrost the bread dough.

The rain is a welcome relief in that my veggies are looking a little wilt-y and my magnolia tree can use a good, long rain bath to wash that fungus stuff off the branches. The bees are still swarming like crazy and it is impossible to mow or trim, or even walk by, that tree. Vicious little suckers! Go pollinate my tomatoes and leave the poor magnolia alone. The chickens also welcome a good rain, since it brings out the bugs. Happy little scavengers all hoping to find the best meal.

And I am happy to see the rain myself, not just for the plants and the chickens, but because I have been waiting for it. The weather man keeps saying there will be rain. Thunder showers even! Tempting me with storms and lightning. But then there is nothing. It goes to the south of us or it curves up to the northeast. My husband calls from work in the southern tier to say that it is pouring so hard he cannot see out the windows while the sun is shining here. I wonder why he must be so mean to me.

But not today. The rain his here and the thunder is booming and I am enjoying every minute I can.

Monday, July 19

Starting to Freak me Out

This is the coyote that has been hanging around the house and property, and pretty much the neighbor’s properties as well. He is still young and not afraid of people. His broad daylight escapades are become more frequent and he seems to just stroll around the yard and fields, and even takes leisurely walks down the middle of the road.

He is cute and interesting but the initial curiosity and excitement of having a coyote in the yard has totally worn off. I will not do anything to hurt him, unless he comes at me or the baby, but I will not just let him have the run of the place either.

Yesterday I was hanging around the yard with the little guy. He was deeply involved in stirring water in a bucket with his blue plastic garden shovel and I was lounging in a chair watching poultry television and blowing soap bubbles. This was in the side yard, which is divided from the house by a clump or cedar trees, some bittersweet bushes and the shade garden. There is a little mulched path that runs between the two bittersweet bushes and that is how we go back and forth.

The little guy decided to head for the house so I followed him up the little path. And there he was - right where I was just sitting, by the chickens and the zucchini plants. The baby was up by the driveway so he was safe and I ran towards the coyote, clapped my hands loudly and said "Get away from my chickens!!!!" I almost thought about adding "But please, take some zucchini!". He ran towards the road and I hoped there was not a car coming. There wasn't and he jumped into the side field. Encounter Number 1 was over. No problems. Just a little unnerving.

The little man did not want to go back in the house now, not when there was a nice "doggie" in the yard. We wandered back down to the veggie garden and picked some peas. I kept my eye out for the coyote. The little guy is 26lbs and this is a small coyote but, regardless, I kept a look-out. It seemed we were good until I looked up from the tomato plant I was re-staking and there he was again. Mischievously peeking at me from behind another row of cedar bushes. He was stalking me! A peeping Tom! (I am calling him Tom now, even though I know I should not name wild animals after the woodchuck incident). He was a lot closer to me then I would have liked and the baby was behind me by the cold frames trying to water the glass tops with his mini-watering can. I turned around, grabbed him, and headed toward the house. Problem was, this also happened to be the direction if the coyote but I didn't have a choice. He saw me coming at him, with a probable look of crazy-mother-protecting-baby look on my face, and took off across the road and into the neighbor’s corn field.
Encounter Number 2. I'm done. Too close to me and the baby for comfort.

I do not know if he would hurt us. I think he is just young and curious. I am not going to take any chances though. I am not feeding him or encouraging him in any way and I hope that once he gets older, he will realize that it is not safe to be strolling around in the middle of the day, out in the open.

Remarkably, I have not seen any sign that he has even approached the chickens.

I don't want to hurt him or totally freak him out but I want him to take the hint that he can't be around here.

Any suggestions? (he doesn't seem to like zucchini so I could annoy him by offering it constantly like ladies at church).

Friday, July 16

Taking Stock

I often ask myself what makes this place a homestead, all be a 'lite' one. I still, when I say the word 'homestead', think of a rustic, one room log cabin the deep woods, a garden carved out of tree stumps and rocks, and a cow and some chickens hugging close to a small shed that serves as the barn.

We are definitely not that, although it would be neat to be that, maybe. We are an old farm house, fixed up nicely with 2 acres a barn, a big shed and coop and room for large vegetable and flower gardens. Our chickens enjoy a large coop and a large fenced in area, safe from predators. They enjoy sunshine fresh, clean air, bugs and grass under their feet all day.

The only other animals we have here are my shepherd/husky mix, Snowy, and my three house cats. I am thinking that I might like to try my hand at goats or maybe sheep, but that will be a ways in the future.

I think of this farm as an experiment in self-sufficiency, in self reliance, and in just living a better, healthier life. I don't want chemicals in my food. I want meat that is organic and that lived a decent life. I want to hang my laundry on the line and enjoy the feeling of the dirt under my nails after a day in the garden.
This experiment has grown to include all sorts of changes and ideas. Mostly small changes, but they have added up. We save money, enjoy better food, and learn a great deal about what it takes to 'homestead'. To quote Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm, we "do not homestead full time."

Small changes have lead up a big wake up for us.

Some of the things we do here save us money, like starting out seeds indoors under grow lights in March. Yes, it cost money to run the lights but in the long run, we save much more on food costs. Our electric costs are off-set by our solar panel which was a very good investment. We have developed a family budget, and although it is hard sometimes, we stick to it and are paying off our debt. Living debt free will be the ultimate reward.

We have been eating our leftovers instead of offering them to the dog. This doesn't make Snowy very happy but it helps save money. After that, Snowy gets right-of-first-refusal before things go in the compost bin. Canning will also help us save on grocery costs in the winter, and I am looking forward to learning this new skill.

We try to buy in bulk and store food, use our wheat grinder to make flour for bread, we dehydrate apples for savable snacking, and I have found wild dill growing in the side field. Free!

Some things we do here help us live a healthier life - we have replaced most of our cleaning products with 'green' ones. I feel better about cleaning the counters and other things with something that is not going to harm us, the baby or our pets. Yes, it costs a little more but if you have a coupon and you can find it in sale, you can get it often cheaper than the other brands.

We also get our eggs straight from the chicken, so to speak. Going out and collecting fresh eggs is one of the best pasts of the day. We get about half a dozen a day so far and we will get a lot more once the younger ladies start laying. We have plenty for us and we give away and sell the rest. People like coming to the house, seeing the girls and getting fresh, brown eggs.

Conservation is something that is important to both my husband and myself. We have made a highly conscious effort to reduce the amount of everything that we use. Especially electricity and fuel. Lights are off, the AC is only on when it is really, really hot and I try to never use the dryer in the summer months. I love my clothes line more than just about any other piece of homesteading gear we use. It is the most essential part - esthetics and usefulness - of any homestead.

Sorry to say that I have reduced driving. Yes that means that I stay home more, but that is getting to be ok with me. Given my growing annoyance with society-noise in general, I actually prefer to stay at home. When I do go out, I combine errands and get someone to watch the baby so I can get things done faster.

In addition, we have started cleaning out. Anything we do not need, do not use, does not work or is just not necessary, we have donated or recycled. The less stuff we have, the easier it is to function. I am not saying that we are going without and that we have no furniture or anything like that. I just do not near 30 sweaters, we do not need 6 tv's (half of which we can no longer use since we do not have cable or a converter box) and those two broken push lawnmowers in the barn are just taking up space.

In taking stock of our accomplishments and efforts, I have learned a great deal. New skills, new ideas of how to do things, better ways of doing other things, and that the feeling of self-sufficiency is a million times better than the short feeling of happiness when you get a new pair of shoes. We also have a lot to learn and a long way to go.

But given the results of what we have done so far, I think it is going to be well worth it.

Wednesday, July 14

Peas, Bees and Monster Zucchini

My monster zucchini.

Today Mom came over to watch the little guy while I did a ton of overdue housework. The house was in desperate, drastic need of a good cleaning and i got it sparkling from top to bottom today - thank you Mom!!!

With that done and feeling good, I decided to head out to the garden after the little guy was in bed for the night to get a few more things done.

The peas are growing like crazy so I got out the big stakes and got them all tied up and off the ground. They are producing a ton of juicy peas which we all love. The zucchini is also producing, which I do not necessarily love. It gives me a sense of gardening pride in that I can grow a plant from a seed that can grow so fast and make so many little zucchinis - that grow into such big zucchinis. I am growing things that do well and I have something to show for it.

But I really, really do not like zucchini. There is only so much that my friends and family can take. The chickens like them though - I took a few of the big ones, sliced them and up and threw them in the coop pen. There was a little chicken fist-fight over it and the show was priceless.

With the peas staked, I had time to start the weeding and began on the row of overgrown potatoes. It was getting towards dusk and I hear the coyote pups barking and playing together in the back woods. The bugs were buzzing and the mosquitoes were hovering, trying to vain to find a chink in my bug-spray armor. By 9pm, I had weeded only one row but the chickens were putting themselves to bed in their cozy coop and I thought it might be time for me to do the same.

A note, speaking of bugs - the magnolia tree is still totally infested with bees. I had to make a wide circle around it on the way down the driveway to collect the empty recycling bins tonight. I could hear a hum coming from the tree.

Still so much to do here but it felt good to get a little done. Tomorrow it is supposed to be in the 90's again with high humidity so I am thinking it will be an inside day.

Tomorrows project - Mom has requested me rocking chair cushions from some of my new fabric.

Tuesday, July 13

Anniversary at the Lake Ontario

This past Sunday was the 6th anniversary of our horrible car accident came about a millimeter away from putting me in a wheelchair for life.

We decided to go to the lake and show the little guy the water again in hopes that he might not hate it. No beach this time, just a shoreline and a pier and lots of woods. He enjoyed it and the day went well.

Monday, July 12

Book Report

photo is from here

What a fantastic idea!!!! I have always wanted to do something like this just to see if I could do it.

Logan and his wife and their about-2 year old spent a full year living in the year 1900. If I was not invented before or during 1900, they went without it. No electric, indoor plumbing, central heat and air. Obviously, no cell phones, tv, internet, car or radio but also without things we take for granted - shampoo, disposable razors, non-wood burning stove for cooking, a washing machine....

It starts out like I would think any project like this would start out - with tons of problems. They record them all, even their arguing about things and fights. The hardships of outhouses, bathing, cooking and cleaning, transportation and food. But there are also things I never thought of. How do you get up in the middle of the night to check something with no lights? You reach around in the dark trying to find a match or you just walk slowly and hope you don't run into anything. You have to get up before the sun anyway to get the stove started, especially in the colder months so you will have a fire good enough to make breakfast. Goats are not always cooperative when you want to milk them, and they pass gas. Hauling water from the well in slopping-over buckets in winter.

When I think about a kind of project like this, I want to envision the peaceful country life - waking with the sun, heading out into a dew laden field to milk the cow and collect eggs for breakfast. I pause to enjoy the sweet smell of the flowers and I have barn kittens at my feet. The yard is nicely landscaped, the fire is magically going and I can sit on the front porch all day enjoying a book. As I already knew, in the back of my mind, this would not be the case. And this book did a great job if giving my visions a jolt of reality.

But they got things down to a science. They cooked, planted, harvested, drove a horse and buggy, milked their goats and lived. By the middle of the book, it was great to read about how they were getting along nicely, writing letters on actual paper with an actual old pen (gasp!), canning and preserving, and entertaining neighbors and friends.

They became part of the community and their neighbors, conscious of their experiment, did their best to accommodate. They brought over period-appropriate tools, baked goods, and brought over newspapers with the coverage of September 11th. That happened during their time in 1900 and they chose not to use their emergency-only phone. They wrote letters and read neighbors newspapers.

"I am not sure whether it is resignation or faith, but something helps me abide. I get by without the cruch of technology, the false sense that minute-by-minute news coverage or phone contact puts us in control. I have never been a very patient person. And yet something in my has changed. Over the past few months, I have been calmed by the lack of twenty-first-century distractions and humbled by teh power of nature. Like the weather, the terrorist attacks were beyond my control. All I can do is cling to the simple assurance of daily chores." Logan Ward

I thoroughly loved this book. It is funny, informative, interesting and inspiring.

A must read for anyone who longs for days gone by and wonders if it is like my vision or if your goat really does pass gas while milking.

Sunday, July 11

Public Television and Panic Attacks

Our cable tv is officialy gone. It has been for about a week and I wanted to wait at least that long before taking an objective look.

The first morning I almost had a panic attack. No CNN with breakfast. No perky Robin Mead to alert me to all the horrible things that happened in the world while I was sleeping. For about 10 minutes, all I could think of was how boring the day would be. "What am I going to do!?!?"

Then I came to my senses.

And I am very happy with our decision to go 'public'. Local stations are fine. I have freed up numerous blocks of time in the day and I have actually managed to finish two books, some sewing projects and a knitting project. All from not plunking my butt down in front of the tube in the afternoon. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE Little House on the Prairie, but I have seen just about every episode.

Saturday, July 10

Bees and the Magnolia Tree

I went to work mowing the lawn late this afternoon since I have been putting it off all week due to the heat wave. Everything was going great until I started mowing around and under my huge magnolia tree in front of the barn. I was then attacked by bees!

I did not know where they were coming from so I drove out of the area as fast as the mower would go and went in the house. Then i did what any good wife would do - ask her husband to go out and take a look.

While the baby and I watched from the safety of the dining room window, Roy went out and looked around the tree and in the tree. He came back in the house and reported that there was huge swarm of all different kinds of bees hanging around the tree. They did not seem to have any type of nest or anything but they were just kind of 'hanging out'.

That part of the lawn did not get mowed today since I did not want to be covered in bee stings.

I looked up this strange occurrence online and discovered that there are some sort of scale insects emitting honeydew that is being covered by sooty mold fungus. Yellow jackets and bees are attracted to the honeydew. The article advised me to use Volk oil or oil/detergent spray to eliminate the scale bug infestation and the rain will slowly eliminate the sooty mold. Since the honeydew is the sustaining nutrient for the sooty mold, removing the critters removes the rest in succession.

More research is needed.....

Friday, July 9

Back to Life

The past week has been a bit of a humidity-drenched scorcher here in Upstate NY. Oppressive and damp with moisture just hanging stale in the air, while the sun baked everything here - the garden, the lawn, the chickens and us.

I am not one for the heat. I actually cannot stand days like the ones we have just had. I can tolerate the 90 degree weather but the humidity just kills me. Wednesday night was the worst. The air was so thick and heavy and the whole atmosphere both inside the house and outside was so oppressive, that I was actually feeling claustrophobic.

I have been putting off installing the window air conditioner in the downstairs this summer. We did not even need it last summer and we got by with window fans and one small air conditioner in the bedroom. And even then we only turned it on a total of 5 or 6 times. This past Wednesday I said "enough" and I burrowed into the very back on the storage room closet and hauled out the 700 pound, 700 year old air conditioner that came with the house. It is not really 700 years old, or I would be rich and it would be in the Smithsonian, but give it a few more years and they might actually be calling. This behemoth was made in the good old days of "energy conservation be damned". It's huge, it cools off the entire down stairs, save for the very end of the kitchen, and it works. All my sustainability virtues went out the window on Wednesday as I plugged it in and basked in the glory of the coolness.

Today, the weather man promised rain and boy did he deliver. The sky opened up after lunch and the rain came down. Thunder and pouring rain and the threat of flash floods on the scanner. It was wonderful. (not the flooding part). I could almost hear the collective sigh from the entire two acres. The plants, having already savored the last spare drops of moisture from the soil in days past, gulped up the rain. They did seem to half enjoy the heat however, since the zucchini have been producing faster than I can pick them. Also true for the peas and the tomato plants. Only a few actual tomatoes to speak of, but the plants are growing like weeds, which is wonderful. Unfortunately, the weeds are also growing like weeds. But I will take what I can get.

The chickens seemed confused by the weather. They did not know if it was hotter inside the coop or in the yard so they spent a lot of time going back and forth. I put a large, wide enamelware bowl in their outdoor area as an additional source of drinking water. And I thought maybe they would like to use it as a pool. No takers.
I also rigged up a tarp over a portion of the outdoor area to provide some shade during the morning hours. By 1pm, the sun has gone behind some trees in the yard and there is natural shade, but they are at the mercy of the sun in the morning hours and this past week the sun has been anything but merciful. But they too are growing - like weeds! The 12 younger ladies are not laying yet but they are developing there red combs and are just about as large as the 6 adult ladies. They do not seem to enjoy being picked up and petted as much as they did a month ago and sometimes when I go into the coop the ones near me crouch down and stick their wings out the sides. I guess it is the chicken version of a dog or cat getting their back fur up.

As I sit here, just in from taking Snowy out for her late evening bathroom romp, I am very happy that the heat is over, for now, and that everything has gotten a well deserved drink. As I was carrying the garbage to the barn, it was like walking through a mist. It was foggy and dense, but nothing like the curtain of humidity. Swallows were diving around picking off stray bugs, the woodchuck family was out munching on grass back by the neighbors barn, and a beautiful heron flew low over the house on his way to the pond by the next field over. It seems like everything has come back to life after this past week of hot summer weather hibernation. Today was the first day I wanted to go out in the yard and I could do so not just to run to quickly check the chickens water supply. I did not make a mad, sweat drenched dash to the field with Snowy and then retreat back to the house full of roaring fans.

It's back to life.

Wednesday, July 7

Resolution Review

New Year's Resolution Progress Report

Concious Choices: Yes, we have been sticking to this one. We have developed a family budget. If it is not in the budget, we do not buy it. We are not starving, we are not going without necessities, and we are, most importantly, not broke at the end of each month!

I have been thinking about all the junk I used to buy just because it was on sale or on clearance or because I just HAD to have it. I do not need it. It is just more stuff to junk up the house, take up space, and end up in a landfill some day. When I want to buy something I actually stand there in the store and think about it. Do I really need this? Is it reasonably priced? Where was it made? What are the ingredients/materials? Is it durable or well made? Will I really use it?

At first I thought this would be horrible - resulting in me getting less stuff. That is true - I have drastically cut down on the amount of "stuff' that I purchase. And I am ok with it. I make selections and purchases now. I do not just blindly go out and buy stuff.

I feel more connected to the things that I buy now in that I have thought about the purchase and made room for it in the budget. It is not just a random fling purchase. It means something to go to the store now. When we are walking around the grocery store, I can look at the items in the cart and feel good about buying them. Quality items with ingredients we can pronounce for the most part.

We have also started cleaning out. Things we don't need, use, want or have room for are being donated to Goodwill. I have cleaned out at least 4 garbage bags full of clothes and shoes that I never wear and that were taking up space. In the process, I found things that I had forgotten about, which was a nice surprise.

On the whole, I am happy with this resolution. We are saving money by not buying things we do not need, we feel good about the purchases we do make, and in turn, we can use that money to pay off debt.

Food: Still working on this one. I have tried oranges and blueberries so far. Next step, melon.

Less is More:
Less tv = check! The cable is cancelled. We are down to local stations. I am totally ok with this.
Less processed food = mini-check! (still working on it but I love mac and cheese and I am addicted to diet pepsi).
Less stressing over things I cannot change = tiny-check. I am still having trouble with this, but the more time I spend in the garden, the more I am starting to understand how simple this really is.
Less caring about what other people think about me = BIG-check!! I have finally let this go!!! Not that i am lacking in basic human hygiene or anything but, hey, if I am out in the yard with holes in my jeans, a dirty t-shirt and muck boot, hair a mess and covered in chicken poo and mud, who cares! I don't! I don't care about what the lady in line at Wegmans thinks about me carrying on a conversation with my 16 month old about rice puffs. And I am not afraid to say "no".
Less being snippy with my husband after I have had a bad day = regular old check. I am making a conscious effort.

I wish I could also include that I have lost the 30 lbs of baby weight but so far I can only say that I have lost 4lbs. Maybe less processed food will help.

Tuesday, July 6

Quiet Days

One of my new favorite blogs is Little House on the Southern Prairie

A while ago, there was the following post:

I know I can’t be the only one
May 25, 2010
Who has days when it feels like life is simplest and happiest when I

(1) Do not leave the house. Life is nice here. Go out? Chances of becoming annoyed increase exponentially.

(2) Do not have to interact with people I don’t like. And the list of who I like is short.

Who has these days? I know I do. In fact, it is just about every day.

I like quiet. It is one of the essential homesteading necessities for me. No people shouting, no phones ringing, ne loud cars going by blasting loud music. I don't even want to hear the washing machine running at times. I just like quiet. It is peaceful and it makes me happy. I can think and appreciate things.

That said, I am not an anti-social fanatic. I go shopping, I visit friends and family, and I have a social life, all be it a small one. Since I lost my job, became a Mom, and started with all this homesteading, I have come to appreciate a day spent at home. No errands, the ringer on the phone turned way down, and hanging out the laundry on the line in flip flops and a sun-dress.

I like being at home. I don't see why more people do not appreciate this. The way I see it, people work so hard to have nice homes. They pay high mortgages, utility bills and the like, only to be away from their home for most of the day, working to have that nice home. I know it is necessary, but it still seems a little sad.

But the most important thing to me is the quiet. And when I do go out and about, chances of becoming annoyed DO increase exponentially. I am bothered by things that most other people are not. Garbage on the side of the road, people hanging out on corners and you know they are not just taking a walk, obnoxiously loud bass music from the little sports car, and sometimes just the sheer number of people that make it impossible to maneuver a shopping cart through the deli section at Wegmans.

The best example I can give is this: when I had the baby, I was in the house for about 2 months taking care of him. It was winter so I didn't go outside in the yard. I was recovering from the c-section surgery so I really did not feel like going out and about. The house was quiet, except for normal baby crying. The first time I went to the store by myself for groceries I experienced a form of culture shock. It sounded like someone turned out the volume on the world. The worst part was getting a shopping cart from the rows outside the store and an employee pushed in a whole line of them from the parking lot. They shammed into the cart corral thing and I swear that it was so loud to my ears that I felt my teeth rattle. This a loud noise on any day, but it felt like every noise I was hearing was amplified by 100.

We are so used to the noise of the world. I feel bombarded every time I go somewhere, even now that I am used to things again.

Life is good here.

Am I the only one who feels like this?

Monday, July 5

Gotta Love a Remnant Sale!

Roy's company was having this clearing-out sale for all of their extra upholstery fabric. I was unable to make it down to the factory so he picked up a few rolls for me. He told me that he thought it was $1 a yard so I was hoping for some nice pieces that I could make some reusable shopping bags out of or something.

Turns out it was $1 a roll. A whole roll for just $1. They had a TON of fabric remnants to get rid of. And there is quite a bit left on each roll.

I am very happy right now. I LOVE fabric. I wish I knew how to make clothes from a pattern. (I am going to make that next year’s resolution).

I am a little overwhelmed. I have 9 huge rolls of fabric here. What should I make?

Keep in mind that this is all upholstery fabric so it is heavy and thick. Not good for clothes. I am thinking canvas shopping bags, a few aprons out of the not-as-heavy stuff, and there is one striped roll that I think would make a great tablecloth with matching placemats. Maybe some curtains?
Suggestions please!

Saturday, July 3

The Progressing Garden

I have been spending most of my available time in the garden lately; because it is starting to produce some, well, produce. And because I just love it. Absolutely love it. It is my favorite time of the day - when I get to be out in the garden, pulling weeds, picking peas, mourning over my dreadful corn crop, and smelling that tomato smell.

Something about it just makes me feel wonderful, so very alive and part of something. I am happy when I am out and about in the yard, working on projects, or just taking a wander through the rows of plants.

I put in two zucchini (one was supposed to be yellow but it seems like I ended up with two green ones). I do not like zucchini but for some reason I feel as though I HAVE to plant it. A summer garden in Upstate NY is not a garden without zucchini. Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won't put (zucchini)squash on the front seat. I can see why. My two plants are already producing more than I can make bread out of. Anyone have any good zucchini recipes?

I have 37 tomato plants. That’s right, 37. Roy loves tomatoes. And since I have always had not the greatest luck with starting them from seeds, I planted more than I needed and, hence, 37 healthy tomato plants. Partly in thanks to the milk jug cloche system, we will be able to make our first pasta sauce for canning this season. Our first time canning anything! I am very excited about this and recently purchased a book entitles You Can Can!. Not only does it look visually interesting, the title suggests that even I can actually can!

But it is not all good news.... above is a picture of my pitiful corn crop. Out of 4 rows of corn, this is all I got. Yes, this picture shows the entire corn crop. Corn has never done well here. I have tried planting it in different areas of the garden, different types of seeds... But every year we end up at Wegmans paying $1 of 4 ears. Maybe I will at least get some nice dried stalks come fall decorating time.

This is the first year we have tried cucumbers and they seem to be taking on very well! These two will be ready to harvest in a few days. i was hoping for enough to make pickles but I am not sure since we only have 4 plants and only one if flowering and producing at the moment. Time will tell.

I love a veggie that also gives me some pretty flowers. Peas are a mixed blessing. I like peas and I love the long rows of staked up vines, always yielding a small harvest every day. Since the harvest is small however, it takes a while to get enough to make peas a side dish at dinner. Both Roy and the little guy like them raw so they will be shucking out in the garden and eating. Snowy actually likes to eat the empty pods - she begs for them! If she didn't like hotdogs so much, I would say she is a vegetarian.

Thursday, July 1

Durable Flowers

The durable flowers of summer have arrived - they can tolerate the heat much better than the peonies and even the roses are dying back. I have a few light pinks hanging on and I have my Climbing White Dawn going crazy on the dog’s fence. Despite my best wishes and hopes, the japanese beetles are back and having a great time snacking on the flowers. I shower of white pedals comes down in a breeze.

But I do have some great lilies and the hollyhocks. The black ones were the only ones that came up this year and there seems to be some sort of problem with the leaves - all full of holes and none of the plants are looking that great. But I still got the black flowers which have a slight deep, deep red tint to them. I can't help but think they look a little "greasy".

The yarrow is out and brilliant yellow - i can just tell it loves the hot sunshine. Spring is over and the gardens look a little 'lack of color' at the moment despite the varriety of lilies and that yarrow. Now is the time for the veggies to start coming into their own. More on them later.