Thursday, September 29

I Must Have This

Straw Foxglove, or Digitalis lutea, is another true perennial, evergreen Foxglove. It grows 2 to 3 feet tall and has 3/4 inch pale yellow, brown-speckled, nodding flowers borne along one side of the flower stems.

I have a slight obsession with green flowers. I just think it is the most interesting thing to have a green flower on green foliage. Granted, these are not true green like the Envy Zinnia, which I do not have.

But I do have the green hydrangea.

I am seriously considering making an all-green garden next year, somewhere near my hosta garden.

Wednesday, September 28

Lehman's Shopping Discoveries

While ordering some Amish made leather belts for Roy on the Lehman's website the other day I thought i would look around and see what else they had.

Don't get me started on Roy's belts - he has yet to fine one that will stand up to his abuse. I will let you know how the Amish ones do.

But that is not the point. The point is I was looking through the Home Goods and laundry section and I found this:

A Farmhouse Scented Natural Dryer Sachet

A great idea, of course, but I wondered what does "Farmhouse Scented" actually smell like. I did not order one just in case it was not the smell I was looking for, but I still wondered.

My immediate thought was it must smell something like a mix between lavender and linens, which would be nice. But it could be just about anything.

Not that Lehman's would sell a dryer sachet that smells bad but my imagination wandered.....

What does a farmhouse scented anything smell like?

Freshly tilled fields?
Baking bread?
Cow manure?
Bee Balm?
The chicken coop?
A mud room?
A pantry full of spices?

Tuesday, September 27

Noise Pollution Reality Check

Yesterday the little man and I took a drive. Gas prices aside, we needed to get out of the house. I have spent the last couple of weeks lacking a husband in that he is out of town for business and I will do just about anything for a break in the daily routine right about now. Even "waste" a little gas.

We decided to go get a pumpkin for the front porch. Since NONE of my pumpkin vines grew this year we are very much lacking in porch fall decor, and he wanted him "orange pun-kin." The closest places were just too expensive. I mean, I know it was a horrible season, but how can people justify charging upwards of $8 for a pumpkin that is only slightly larger than a basketball and that sits off-center?

I remembered that where Roy and I used to live, there was this little old man who sold pumpkins and gourds at his stand in front of his house, and his prices were always excellent. And, it is pretty much a drive across the county that takes about 45 minutes so it fit with "killing the day."

Going back to the "old neighborhood" was a total wake-up call for me. Last month I posted about how the noise around our place was bothering me and I received a nice comment from a reader that made a lot of sense. She said, in part, "At first it was dead quiet and dark, you could see the stars go on forever, but as you get used to real quiet, not the roar of the six lane highway less than a quarter mile from your house, you start hearing more and more, the noise that had once blended into the background."

We drove by our old house - a nice house - in a bad area. I told the little man "this is where Mommy and Daddy used to live" and I thought "thank goodness we do not live there anymore and that we do not have to raise you in such an environment." I parked the car int he parking lot of the bar, right across the street from our old house and put the windows down. Then i listened.

Constant car and truck traffic. Planes overhead from the very-near by airport. People yelling. Dogs barking (not in a "happy to see you" way). Squealing tires and air brakes of tractor trailer trucks. Dump trucks. Garbage trucks. And not just here and there. This was all going on at the same time. And, they had expanded the road to 4 lanes over the bridge which lead to even more traffic.

A constant visual and audio barrage of intrusive and stressful commotion. I can not believe that I actually lived here for almost 7 years. I must have gotten used to it, like me reader said. I remember i was always, always, always on guard when i lived there. Constantly having to watch the house, property and the dogs. Too many people causing too much trouble. This is not a way to live.

After that, we drove to where the pumpkin guy used to be and he was no longer there. I was not totally surprised in that he was very old when we used to get our pumpkins from him. We then drove east, back towards our house, and I can honestly say that I have never been happier to get away from somewhere. I don;t think I am going to go back and check out the old house again.

We stopped at a farm closer to our house and i was surprised that we were able to get two nice, smaller pumpkins for our front porch for $3.99 each.

Arriving at home, I unloaded the pumpkins and the little man and sat on the front porch, listening.

Yes, there were sounds of people up the road mowing the lawn and a dog barking here and there and a car going by, but nothing like the old place. Again, like my reader said, I again had gotten used to the "real quiet" in the almost 7 years we have been at this house - so much so that I can actually be bothered by the occasional intrusion. I still feel off-balance when the Harley blares past my house or from the banging of the garbage man being not-too-gentle with the recycle bins, but i can take it.

I needed this reality check - not only from my reader but from putting myself back into what I used to deal with. I had forgotten how bad it used to be, and I now more fully realize how good we have it here.

Monday, September 26

Oil and Chimneys: Winter Prep and Then Some

We are starting to get things together for the cold season around here, even though today was in the high 70's, I am thinking snow and heating fuel.

The wood stove that was ordered is late and we will not get it until the end of October now, which is probably a good thing since we have not been able to save enough to have the proper chimney installed yet. The current pipe for the pellet stove extends horizontally out of the front of the house, running right along side of the stone porch wall. The chimney for the wood stove must go straight up the side of the house and extend a certain number of feet past the top of the roof, which is pretty high. This requires a lot of pipe and someone who knows what they are doing to install it.

I am sad about this because, even though the wood stove was a "surprise", I got used to the idea of having one and was looking forward to it. I was looking forward to the simple operation instead of the constant tinkering and adjusting that must be done with our pellet stove. But it looks like we will have one more year of questionable heating from the pellets.

So I called the heating oil guy. I hate calling the heating oil guy. It makes me feel like such a failure as a homesteader, all be it a modern one. I am relaying on an outside source to heat my home and having to pay money that I don't really have for a product that I have serious reservations about using in the first place. I don't even want people to see that big truck in my driveway.

We will make due with the same arrangement we had last winter - using the pellet stove as much as possible and having the oil heat in reserve. But we will probably end up using most of the oil since the pellet stove will most likely break down after about the first few weeks of use.

In other winter-prep news, I have been doing something else that I hate - asking for help. With the new baby coming in about two weeks, all the fall chores that I usually do have not been done due to lack of time, ability and energy. Dad to the rescue. Most of the seasonal items in the yard have been stored away in the barn, the garden has had a massive cleanup with the compost bin overflowing, the heavy lifting is done, the list of projects is all but a series of cross-off lines, and even the ancient dinosaur AC unit has been put away.

This year the winter prep has also included new-baby-prep as well. I have been cleaning out and donating a ton to Goodwill and basically reducing the house to the bare minimum of essentials. I want housecleaning to be as simple as possible and I want all chores to go as smoothly and efficiently as they can. I am getting things as simplified as they can get and I am even sacrificing good decorating sense to do it. It looks pretty strange having a baby bottle warmer and baskets of bottles right out on the kitchen counter 24/7 but it will be a lot easier to have it out and ready instead of digging things out of cupboards and drawers all day.

Same thing with laundry. In a massive effort I have managed to completely clear off the counter top in my laundry room and it will now be used for its intended purpose - to sort, fold and stack clean laundry.

I am continuing to apply this 'simple' ideal to every room in the house to allow for maximum production and time saving, even if it means my home will not be a shining example of glossy Better Homes and Gardens photo shoots. I will have plenty of time for that in years to come.

Right now, it is all about function and keeping my sanity, while being able to find a clean towel and a sippy cup in short order.

Oh, and not freezing this December.

Sunday, September 25

Filling Out and Slowing Down

The ladies are going through a stage. I have a feeling it is the drastic slow down in egg production that we did not have last fall/winter. They are visibly fatter and fuller in their feathers, except for about 6 hens who look to be in moulting stages. according to my books, while hens are molting, their egg production goes down and that molting occurs late summer or early fall and can last anywhere from 14-16 weeks. So this theory of moulting over spent layer makes sense.

We used to get about 15 eggs per day from 18 hens. Now we are getting about 8 per day from 17 hens and I wish I could tell for sure who was laying and who was not.

"Excuse me, ladies, would it be asking too much if you could scratch your initials in your eggs so i knew who was eating the food and not producing?" I do not think I have any spent layers since my oldest ladies are only about 2 years old and they have not been through two full molts yet.

So the question still hangs in my mind, what to do when someone stops laying permanently? Using the "about 3 years old/3 moults" theory, i will have two ladies that will be eating food but not producing in another year. And that leaves another 15 hens that will eventually stop laying also. At that point, since I could never cull the herd so to speak, i think I will be running a retirement home for spent layers.

Saturday, September 24

He's Back

Our friend was back again tonight in the chicken coop. I went to fill the fonts and feeders and there he was, sniffing around the nest boxes.

This skunk is a very curious little guy.

He seems to be afraid of the chickens, very shy and, yes, pretty darn cute. He is definitely a striped skunk, as I got a great look at him tonight. He does not smell - at all. I was always under the impression that skunks smelled all the time, whether they were spraying or not, but after looking around online tonight, I learned that they have no odor until they actually spray.

So what to do......

He does not seem to pose a threat to the chickens and from the first time I saw him until how there has only been one egg eaten. He has not sprayed anything and seems to disappear overnight.

For now, I am going to go with the live and let live approach. I will stay out of his way if he stays out of mine.

Tuesday, September 20

Random Updates

The sauce looks dark and evil - like in my ignorance of making pasta sauce, the tomatoes got angry and I ended up brewing a concoction worthy of a Halloween Haunted House cauldron. I am going to let it sit for a couple of months than crack open a jar and see what happens. I gave a jar to my Dad to crack in a few months - maybe I will wait to see his thoughts before I feed it to Roy and the little man.

I do not think I am going to make sauce again next year. For one thing, i do not know what I am doing. And, trying to grow that many tomato plants is just a little stressful for right now without the proper support systems or time. Next season, I am sticking to what I know - peas, beans, potatoes and pumpkins.

We have had a few visitors lately who are very interested in my chickens. Out in the yard this past weekend, we had a ladies out free-ranging with us when a small hawk came swooping down sending the ladies scattering and squawking. No one was injured and the hawk retreated, defeated. I put the ladies back in their pen and they seemed happy to go.

Then this morning I was in the kitchen and heard a commotion out by the coop. All the ladies were squawking and cackling, all bunched up in the corner of the outside pen (why they did not go in their coop, I do not know). I walked out into the yard and noticed a very large golden colored hawk perched on top of my solar panels deciding on who would be breakfast. Some shouting on my part sent the hawk flying. good thing we have a cover of netting over the outdoor pen!

I am currently on week 36 of pregnancy-watch. Mostly I am just "watching" my midsection and rear end get bigger and bigger. I have now been told that i can not mow my lawn, use the weed trimmer or do just about anything else in the yard that I usually enjoy. Same with house work. I have been spending my lots-of-lazy-time thinking about next years garden and building block towers with the little man. Inactivity makes me crazy.

I have been collecting and saving the seeds from my Cosmo plants since they seem to do so well here. I am starting things that I know spread, but that I can control, around the yard to act as ground cover in places that are hard to get to. Tiger lilies are another favorite for "filler that is pretty." Does anyone know how to save the seeds from Purple Cone flower?

Monday, September 19

Ionia NY 2011 Fall Festival and Tractor Parade

This past Saturday was the annual Ionia Fall Festival and Tractor Parade. We spent the day there with family - close accommodations since I grew up there and that is where the family lives. It was chilly but nice, and we were all pretty tired by late afternoon.

First we inspected the tractors before the parade, all lined up behind the towns original barn (built by the founders).

Fords and Internationals and John Deere and Allis Chalmers......

Of course there were lots of people looking over all the restored beauties and I kept hearing things like "Yep, you got a nice one here...."

One of my favorites - a 1922 Hart-Parr Model 30

The parade was good - lots of tractors which the little man loved. I wish my Dad and Roy would get their tractors in - maybe next year. Dad has a nice International 230 and Roy has a John Deere from the 40's (which doesn't currently run...)

The festival was smaller than last year in the number of vendors. They had a few with food and some crafts, but not as many as I would have liked to see. I was surprised that none of the local businesses had booths - the Alpaca Farm, the local farm markets - I didn't see any "open" signs on the antique and craft store right next to the festival grounds, or at the bakery on the corner. They need to have it more like the Fireman's carnivals used to be - lots of kids games, small rides, many more vendors, and also more displays from the local businesses and more animal exhibits.

They did have a few boy scout and girl scout games and a bounce house for the kids, which we could not get the little man out of, and the cake wheel which is always fun. We won a cake and some cookies! They had some live music which was good also.

Inside the fire hall, there were great displays from the historical society, including a quilt display and a Civil War display. Very interesting and informative.

The chicken BBQ was, sadly, not done by the firemen this year. They had an outside company come in and provide the meal. It was good but not as good as the fireman's BBQ, and that great sauce. It would be great if they could have the firemen again next year as well as encourage more vendors to attend. I was told that people were asking to buy the display quilts but they were not for sale - a few booths next year offering handmade quilts as well as other local products might go a long way.

The highlights for little man were the tractors, or course, as well as the hay ride pulled by a big shiny John Deere. He also got his first bee sting which resulted in some crying - but at least we found out that he is not allergic!

Thursday, September 15

Mother Earth News Fair

Seven Springs, Pa. Sept. 24-25, 2011

I wish I could attend this year since it is not a very long drive from home and I would love to spend two days wandering through booths and exhibits and listening to lectures on sustainable living. And, one of my favorite writers is going to be there presenting and signing books - Jenna Woginrich.

But it would just be myself and the little man since Roy would have work obligations. And I really am in no shape to be chasing a 2 year old around a 2 day event.

As sad as I am that I can not attend, I have good reason.

I do not want to become a one-woman exhibit on natural childbirth. The due date approaches.......

Wednesday, September 14

We Have Beef!

We are now the proud owners of 15 lbs. of grass fed, chemical free, antibiotic free ground beef.

There was a great deal from a co-worker of my father and we couldn't say no. Our small freezer was in need of stocking for the winter and now we are set, for beef anyway.

My father, even though he is the one who put us in touch with the beef farmer, does not think that there is any differece between organic and non-organic meats - except price. I have not tried to change his mind or give him lectures, but I just say that I have read too much about factory farms and antibiotics in meat to not eat organic. And that I think it tastes better.

Just planting a little seed, so to speak.......

Tuesday, September 13

Close Encounters

Setting aside the ground bees and the skunk for a minute, I have had some rather pleasant encounters with wildlife lately.

Bunnies, chipmunks and all kinds of birds have been more daring in their proximity to me when i am out in the yard, to the point where I actually get to observe them for a while.

Mr. Woodchuck is ever-present, munching on grass and doesn't let the smallest noise send him into a panic of juggling fur on the rush back to the woodpile. And he ventures father out into the yard to get the good grass.

One of the most interesting is the gray heron that has not taken flight when i approach on my last two sightings of him. And while working a little in the garden the other day, he flew so low over me that I could see all his beautiful feathers and hear the wind being pumped under his massive wings.

The other incident that was just cool in general was also bird-related. I was hanging up the laundry when a beautiful green hummingbird came swooping in to the bee balm plant to get the last bit of food from the last few fading flowers. I never realized how loud hummingbirds are - like very over sized bees. He left the bee balm and came right at me, stopping about 3 feet from my face and he hovered there staring at me. I thought it would only last for a second or two but he stayed there, hovering, for almost a minute. I just stood still and let him stare. Then he took off again and headed for the butterfly bush. I watched him, thinking about what a neat experience that was, and I kept watching him as he left the butterfly bush and headed right back at me - again! He did the same thing - hovering and staring - for about 30 seconds, and then he was gone around the side of the house.

Just call me the hummingbird whisperer.

Monday, September 12

The "To Do" List

Once in a great while I will break out the BIG paper. If I ask Roy to do something, it usually goes in one ear and out the other. If I write it down on the little note thing by the fridge, it doesn't really get noticed. The BIG paper works.

Normally, I like to do yard and house chores myself, but a recent trip to the doctor resulted in my being banned from using the lawn mower and the weed trimmer, as well as the ongoing "no-chicken coop or litter box" rule. Week 35 of pregnancy doesn't allow much.

So I brought out the big guns in order to get Roy to get some things done for me. I combined the big paper with the playing of the "pregnancy card" and the threat that I would just "have to do it myself" if he didn't. It worked.

Just a note - last time I tried to use the big paper, I was not pregnant and I came downstairs the next morning to find my big list covered with smart little remarks like "Yeah, right!" and "I don't think we need to do this." Not this time.

To my ultimate shock, I woke up Saturday morning to a husband ready for chores. Lots of 'em. As you can see, most of the items are crossed off, including the big ones - pick up straw bales and clean out the coop, mow the lawn, use the weed trimmer, trim the front bushes, clean up yard messes, empty rotating compost bin, move portable chicken tractor....


Sunday, September 11

The Bixby Letter

The Bixby letter is a letter sent from the United States President Abraham Lincoln to a bereaved mother of five sons who were thought to have died while fighting for the Union in the American Civil War. The brief, consoling message was written in November 1864 to Lydia Bixby, a widow living in Boston.

Dear Madam,

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts, that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours, to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom. Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln

Friday, September 9

Noise Pollution in my Bedroom

Why did I lay in bed last night listening not to the sounds of crickets but to the sounds of police /and/or fire sirens?

This is not a rhetorical question - my house was not on fire and I was not being robbed.

It is a real question. I thought by putting myself in debt for the rest of my foreseeable future that i had managed to move from a busy, congested and loud area to a quiet country road. And that my two acres would more than swallow any noise pollution that was headed toward my bedroom window.

Six years ago that was pretty much true. But I have noticed in the past couple of years that things have gotten louder. Neighbors with kids who play music too loud and drive too fast. The man who lives on the next road over that went through a mid-life-crisis and thought buying a Harley Davidson would be the ultimate solution to his problem. The new dogs at the house with the bright yellow siding that bark constantly, not even stopping to eat, it seems. (I love dogs but, ok, please given them whatever they are asking for).

And we now have a housing development going up at the end of our road, across the main road. Not only has this been a huge battle with the town vs. the neighbors, but it has also noticeably increased traffic on our road - and they haven't even started building one house yet. I have dump trucks using our road as a "short cut" to where ever they are going, or coming from. Construction equipment can be heard digging and banging and bulldozing trees at all hours and I can not tell you how depressing it is to drive down to the main road and have to stare at ripped up trees and earth with rather large men smoking by the No Trespassing sign.

Right now as I type this I can hear someone mowing their lawn, hammering on some sort of metal down the street and the beep-beep-beep of a truck backing up.

Granted, it could be much worse but I am paranoid about my "quiet." I don't want to hear anything but birds and bugs and my chickens when I am out in the yard.

Am I making a big deal out of nothing? Is my number one annoyance not something to get so worked up about?

Noise pollution is excessive, displeasing human, animal or machine-created environmental noise (the summary of noise from transport, industrial and recreational activities) that disrupts the activity or balance of human or animal life. The word noise comes from the Latin word nauseas, meaning seasickness.

"disrupts the activity or balance of human or animal life" - that is exactly what it feels like. Like I am being knocked off balance when the guy 'guns' his Harley right in front of my house. That's probably why I also hate fireworks and why I moved my hamster cage to the far end of my parents house at age 16 to get him away from my little brothers new love of bass music.

I want my balance back.

Wednesday, September 7

A Day in the Life....

I know my tomato sauce posts bounced all over the place as far as dates go, but Labor Day was more than just sauce and tomato smells.

I did not do anything fantastic, just a semi-normal day since Roy had the day off and I was able to do more house things and a few errands. Hence, here is A Day in the Life.....

I woke up to the sounds of Mr. Prince having a hairball somewhere in the bedroom.

With my eyes not wanting to open, I just hoped really hard that it was just on the floor and not on one of my flip flops, which are his usual favorite target. Roy had gotten up with the little man a couple hours earlier so I could get some rest, but shortly after the hairball, I decided that it was time to get up - at the late hour of 8 AM.

Breakfast and getting the sauce started in the pots, then laundry, dishes, vacuuming up Cheerios, maneuvering around a ton of toys all over the floor - typical stuff. Then I did what every wife and mother does when their husband had a day off - send him on an errand with the kid. We needed milk and bread and we had some bottles to return so I packed Roy and the little man off to Wegmans while I finally managed to change out of my jammies and then sweep the kitchen.

Turns out that Labor Day is one of the busiest bottle-return days of the year. Roy said there were lines. Long lines. The lady at the glass return counter said they already had 29,000 bottles returned and it was before lunch. Must be all the wives and mothers out there have the same idea when their husbands get a day off.

As I was sweeping, I got a call from my sister-in-law who was putting her kids and husband to work cleaning out the garage. She had a little tykes kitchen and table set for the little man and wanted me to come over and get it. Who was I to turn down a free kitchen set!?!?! Granted, it is traditionally a girls toy but the little man likes to pretend-cook.

After Roy and little man came back from the store with their tales of long lines, I got in the car and started over to what amounts to the other side of our county. About a 40 minute drive, even on the expressways. And it was raining - pouring, heavy rain that made it hard to hear the radio and required the wipers to be on high.

This was like a little vacation for me. Just me and the car. Listening to loud music with questionable lyrics.

I had to go through the main city in the middle of our county, and even though it was on the expressway loop and not the downtown streets, I still hated it. I hate having to go anywhere near the city for any reason. It is dirty, noisy and not at all a place I want to explore. The pounding rain that I had driven through had already passed over this part of the expressway and on every drainage grate there were small piles of garbage that the hard rain had washed together. Disgusting piles of styrofoam containers, empty bottles, articles of clothing, 5 gallon buckets, old shoes and garbage of every type.

As I got out of the city and back into a more suburban/country area there were the soaking wet, furry remains of what were once some types of small animals on the sides of the road. I could not distinguish one type from another except for one rather large raccoon and one that was definitely a skunk at one time from the smell that came through the open vents on the car.

This is why I really don't like to go out much. It is just too depressing for me. I just wonder about the kinds of people that are inhabiting this world alongside me and I really start to lose hope.

After picking up the kitchen set, I drove home with the radio off. I wanted to get back and check on my sauce, which turns out was just as runny as when it went into the pot and showed no signs of thickening. Despite Roy's assurances that it was good (he even poured a little over his dinner of leftover hamburgers from the BBQ), I felt like I was losing ground fast.

The rest of the day was spent worrying over the sauce and working on a pair of knitted socks for my Mom's Birthday this week. The general chores of collecting the eggs, doing yet another sink full of dishes and trying to give Prince his hyper-thyroid pill I guess could be considered the icing on my daily life cake.

Finally, after watching a Netflix episode of The World Without Us (apparently our pigs will evolve into a very smart version of the feral cat) I headed to bed, tired and worn out.

I like to read a little before bed. Tonight I wanted to finish up the latest issue of Grit Magazine. It was when I reached for it on the nightstand that I finally found Prince's hairball. Now I will never know the details of how to improve my soil or how to sell timber.

Tuesday, September 6

Tomato Sauce Part 2

Rewind to last Sunday evening....

With a hour left before my self-imposed, pregnant and needing sleep bedtime, I had enough time to smush up all those peeled Romas in the blender and get them ready to cook. And I needed space in my fridge. Even though I would be putting the results back into the fridge since I did not have enough time to cook the sauce that night, I thought that after all the blending, they would require less tupperware and therefore, less space.

I poured each tupperware-full into a strainer over the sink first since quite a bit of water/juice had made an appearance and I wanted non-juicy sauce. Then I filled the blender to capacity and used the milkskake setting. The blender made very quick work of the Romas and soon every tupperware that was filled with peeled tomatoes was filled with what actually already resembled pasta sauce, even though rather seedy. So much for fridge space.

Fast-forward to Labor Day morning.....

Since our BBQ was Saturday, I had Labor Day free. What a great, cool and rainy day. Such a welcome change from the horrible humidity and heat of Saturday and Sunday. I ended up using 4 pots because I thought that if there was just one huge put that the sauce on the bottom might burn. I turned the burners on to a low setting and waited for the contents to come to a slow boil. A VERY slow boil.

So far, so good. I went about my day, checking back to stir and stare periodically. The house smelled like sauce and was thinking about how good it would taste and look after a day of slow simmering - getting rid of all the juice so I would have nice thick, chunk-free sauce, just like Ragu.

But first I had to add the seasonings. This is where I sensed a little trouble coming. Given that each pot had between 32 and 42 cups of blended tomato, I needed to do some math, which you all know is far, far from my strong point. Even basic math makes my brain shut down completely. So I went to my go-to math problem solver. My husband, who has been blessed with the ability to multiply and use a calculator.

Below is my modified recipe. This could be where things fell apart.

I added the ingredients and watched as my sauce got darker from the pepper. It also started to smell pretty good thanks to the garlic and onion.

I kept it on a low boil, checking back periodically and putting covers on the pots to save time on splatter cleanup. (As you can see, I still have lots of clean up to do).

Fast Forward to Tuesday morning.....

After a full day of boiling, simmering, stirring and staring at the sauce on Labor Day, it did not look good. The house smelled like sauce - the whole house. But was a different smell - a darker, very slightly burnt smell. An evil sauce smell. And it will still runny.

Roy and I decided to turn the burners off overnight and leave the sauce on the stove. Maybe it would thicken overnight.

8:01 AM - the sauce does not look good. It is dark and runny. I think I will not have Ragu-like thickness. I will be lucky to get something that resembles tomato gravy. I am going to simmer, uncovered today and see what I get. Then I guess I will can what I can after I have Roy taste it.

As of right now, sitting here, trying to not notice the tomato smell, I think my first sauce attempt has failed miserably. And I never want to see another tomato again. Ever.

Tomato Sauce Part 1

Rewind to last Friday......

I have been waiting for this since I started all those Roma seeds in the basement. I waited for them to grow, for them to be ready to transplant, for them to show signs of fruit, for the fruit to actually turn red....

Now, with the tons of red Romas filling baskets and buckets and enamelware pans on my counter, I am ready for sauce. My dream: to make a thick, but smooth (no chunks of things) sauce for pasta and homemade pizzas that I can can and have for winter.

First step, boil and skin. Given that I have not done this since I helped my parents make sauce when I was about 10, I went to the go-to source for homesteading know-how - YouTube. I nice lady demonstrated how to boil and chill and skin a tomato for me and felt prepared to proceed.

I wonder if they know their fate...... (yes, I had many, many more tomatoes than this)

Time to boil. I boiled about 15 Romas at a time for about 25 seconds. Then I scooped them out and put them in the bowl of waiting ice water, leaving them for about 30 seconds so they would cool.
The Romas peeled very nicely. Here you can see my complicated, three stage process of cool water, peeled tomatoes and skin deposit area.

More tomatoes awaiting "the process"....

It took me about 2 hours, maybe a little more, to process all these Roma's but it was actually quite fun. It was fast, but a little messy.

Note: the reason I chose Romas in the first place was because I read they had minimal seeds inside and not a lot of excess juice. I don't like seedy, runny sauce. Turns out that Romas are as full of seeds as any other tomato, but he juice was pretty minimal.

I ended up with all this:
Peeled Roma tomatoes ready to go in the blender and then in the pot. But they would have to wait since Roy volunteered our house for an early Labor Day BBQ. I had a feeling that it would take a long time on the stove to boil down the sauce to the thickness I wanted.

Little did I know........

Friday, September 2

Pregnancy Update

I have now transitioned into the penguine waddle.

My tummy is huge, it is hard to do just about everything, and a full nights sleep is a distant memory. Every joint, muscle, ligament is either swollen or aching.

And I am constantly hungry.

Week 34 is here.

I am ready to be done with being pregnant as I am just about out of clothes at fit and even going to the bathroom is quite an expedition. Especially when I have to go about 7 times a night and I must navigate the mess of toys and other floor obstacles to reach the bathroom in the dark.

One of the hardest parts has been my lack of energy since I can not keep up with the little man. I want to run around the yard with him but it is just too much right now and I feel I am neglecting him in some way. I want to pick him up, give big hugs and generally be a Mom, but I have to be constantly on guard with my tummy. He likes to kick and play, and his hugs are usually full force tackles. It bothers me that I have to keep constantly reminding him to "be careful of Mommy's tummy....".

The baby's room has been painted and the curtains made. I have been going though little mans clothes to see waht will work with a little girl and I have been looking at garage sales for neutral and natural colored clothes. I refuse to buy anything with pink, glitter or anything that has been bedazzled in any way.

In regards to being pregnant and my reading material of late, I have been thinking a lot about women who survived on their distant homesteads back in the 1880's and I just do not know how they did it. They had daily, mostly all-day chores to do and they were not aided by a washing machine or a microwave. I find it hard to get around just our two acres, difficult to carry laundry up to the second floor, and just about impossible to find a comfortable position to weed, do the dishes or sleep. I want to mow the lawn and use the electric trimmer on the yard shrubs and my doctor tells me to "take it easy". How must it have been to be in fields all day working?

All I need to do is look through my genealogy information to see that the conditions lead to infant deaths and miscarriages. My step-Great Grandmother was a step mother to 6, mother to 10, and had at least 2 still births. I can look through cemeteries while doing research and see how many children died in the 1800's and early 1900's. I think she was almost always pregnant or getting pregnant or recovering from being pregnant.

Maybe I am too soft, being raised int eh 1980's and 1990's, and being pregnant in the 21st century. Not that I want to move to Alaska and give birth alone in a cabin, but I think I need to change my attitude just a little. I can handle this. If those women could endure it all, than surely I can.

Thursday, September 1

Frontier House

Ok, I am behind in my tv viewing. It came out in 2001-2002. And I just finished reading the book too.

Fun to watch and interesting to read, even if the teen girls did complain way too much. Things I would have loved about being there - being by yourself, working towards a tangible goal, doing the day to day chores and figuring out ways to do things better, keeping livestock, and sleeping in a cabin you made yourself.

Things I would not have liked: being dirty all the time and not being able to wash properly, having to be relegated to the kitchen all day instead of being able to help with cabin building, garden work and general outdoor tasks, knowing that what you worked towards will only be yours for 5 months.

It made me think about a lot of things - things we take for granted in the 21st century, what it would have been like to get sick or be pregnant in such isolated places, knowing that if you did not do the work you could actually die during the winter.

It also made me think a great deal about what it must have been like to be a child growing up on a frontier homestead. The book states that "The American homesteader's child grew up, by and large, in a world of blurred boundaries, a world where the lines between work and play, between formal and informal education, between childhood and adulthood were faint to nonexistent, a world in which childed learn what they live"

Boys and sometimes girls as young as 8 or 9 doing the work of adults in fields, barns, homes or ranches. How many 8 or 9 year olds do you know that would work from sun up to sun down just to help the family get the things done that needed to be ready before winter? Ones that knew the difference between eating well and being warm vs. freezing and starving from actual experience, not from watching movies. I have no doubt it was hard and probably miserable at times, but if I can give my kids more lessons in "learning what they live" instead of nintendo and hanging out on corners with baggy pants, then I am going to go for it. I think I owe it to them as much as they might hate me for it through the teen years.

My favorite person in the series was Erinn, the daughter of Karen Glenn. At age 12, she seemed to be the more open to embracing her new role as a frontier homesteader. She says in the book that she loves her homestead and wants to enjoy five months of no loud racket from civilization. She loves the animals and the chores and really seems to like life in 1883.

This series makes you think and that is why I highly recommend it.