Tuesday, April 30

Thoughts on "Happy Motoring"

Last summer I attended the Plan B workshop at Cold Antler Farm. It was a fantastic day and I learned a great deal. Especially about the future of the automobile, oil and transportation in general.

One of the presentations was given by James Kunstler, which was very informative and enjoyable. I listening to him talk made me even more concerned about our future. Since the workshop I have made a habit of listening to his podcasts and reading more of his books.

The one thing that bothered me that day, and the thing that bothers me still, are the mentions of "happy motoring". He puts forward that diminishing oil supplies will lead to the end of the American obsession with cars and driving. That I can agree with. What bothers me is the term "happy motoring." I have been hard pressed to remember a time when I was a happy motorist. My time in the car is mostly a stressful battle with traffic, horrendous drivers on the road, kids fighting in the back seat, road construction, detours, rush hour traffic jams and the occasional fender bender.

If there was a word that describes how I feel behind the wheel, it is far from 'happy.'

But that is a minor point of annoyance on my part and really does not effect the truth of the argument. I agree with him - cars will become too expensive, there will be no financial institutions willing to give loans, gas and oil will be astronomically high priced, and the condition of roadways will go into decline. At the workshop he made a statement that stuck with me. He said that in the very near future, the young generation of beginning drivers, teens, college age kids, etc., will not be able to have a car of there own. Today, everyone has a car, even if it is a starter, used, beat up one. I found it hard to imagine the youth of tomorrow walking or taking the bus, given that just about every kid in my high school had their own car by senior year.

Talking with him after the presentation he asked me where I had traveled from and I told him it had been about a 6 hour trip, one way. The fact that many of the people who attended the workshop had come from long distances was ironic given the topics we were discussing. As I was talking to him I dreaded the moment where he would turn around and see my bright yellow Xterra parked along the dirt farm road, even though he probably would not know it was mine. He then asked me what Roy did for a living and how long his commute was. I had a sinking feeling in my stomach and through clenched teeth, I told him that Roy's commute was an hour and a half. One way. He made this unpleasant noise that people make when they are taken aback by a statement  - like inhaling loudly, and I felt like an oil guzzling, seagull killing, ozone depleting  monster.

I felt so bad that I was thrown back to my teen years with the feeling of having been caught doing something wrong. Ears burning, cold sweat and frantically thinking of legitimate excuses. but in the end there was nothing for it other than to accept punishment.

And that day I felt that Mr. Kunstler was indeed going to take me to the woodshed.

I had no excuses for my not-so-environmentally-friendly vehicle, but I had have one thing on my side. It's paid for. I own it.

So my question is this: is it better to own a vehicle that does not get the best mileage or to buy a more efficient vehicle that you will have lots of payments on? Does the extra gas that goes into the Xterra cost more or less than a payment on a new, energy efficient car?

Monday, April 29

Hooded Coverup

 I took on a challenging knitting project a few months ago and I have just now been able to finish it. This was my first ever sweater attempt and I am pretty happy with the results, given that I really did not know what I was doing and I spent way too much time on YouTube looking up how to do certain stitches.

After I made the sleeves from the directions, I found them to be much too tight in the lower section of the arm for her so I took them apart and re-knitted them larger than the pattern called for. It still resulted in the cuffs being tighter than I would have liked, but it was good for an improvised pattern adjustment.

I was very happy with the way the ribbing and trim came out, and it was much easier to make the button holes than I thought at first. In general, the sweater turned out well, if not perfect, and I am encouraged to try more patterns and expand my knitting skills.

I can honestly say that YouTube is a homemakers/homesteaders/Moms best friend. You can look up how to do just about anything on YouTube.

Here is the pattern:

photo from lionbrand.com

SIZE: 3-6 mos, 12 mos, 18 mos, 24 months (2 yrs)
Finished Chest: 20 (22, 24, 27) in. (51 (56, 61, 68.5) cm)
Finished Length:
8 (10, 11, 13) in. (20.5 (25.5, 28, 33) cm)
Note: Pattern is written for smallest size with changes for larger sizes in parentheses. When only one number is given, it applies to all sizes. To follow pattern more easily, circle all numbers pertaining to your size before beginning.
13 stitches + 20 rows = 4 in. (10 cm) in St st (k on RS, p on WS). BE SURE TO CHECK YOUR GAUGE. When you match the gauge in a pattern, your project will be the size specified in the pattern and the materials specified in the pattern will be sufficient. If it takes you fewer stitches and rows to make a 4 in. [10 cm] square, try using a smaller size hook or needles; if more stitches and rows, try a larger size hook or needles.

BackCast on 32 (36, 39, 42) sts.
Rows 1-4:
Row 5 (RS): Knit.
Row 6: Purl.
Work in St st (k on RS, p on WS) until piece measures 8 (10, 11, 13) in. (20.5 (25.5, 28, 33) cm) from beg. Bind off.
Left FrontCast on 16 (18, 20, 22) sts.Rows 1-4: Knit.

Row 5 (RS):
Row 6 (WS):
K5, p11 (13, 15, 17). Rep last 2 rows until piece measures 6 (8, 9, 11) in. (15 (20.5, 23, 28) cm) from beg, end with a RS row.
Shape Neck
Next Row (WS):
Bind off 5 (5, 6, 6) sts for neck, finish row. Working in St st, dec 1 st at neck edge every row 2 (3, 3, 4) times – 9 (10, 11, 12) sts. Work even in St st until piece measures same as Back. Bind off.
RIGHT FRONTCast on 16 (18, 20, 22) sts.
Rows 1-4: Knit.
Row 5 (RS): Knit.
Row 6 (WS): P11 (13, 15, 17), k5. Rep last 2 rows until piece measures 3 (4, 5, 7) in. (7.5 (10, 12.5, 18 cm) from beg, end with a WS row.
Buttonhole Row (RS): K2, yo, k2tog, k to last st.
Work even St st until piece measures 5 1/2 (7 1/2, 8 1/2, 10 1/2) in. (14 (19.5, 21.5, 26.5 cm) from beg, end with a WS row.
Next Row (RS): Rep Buttonhole Row.
Continue in St st until piece measures same as Left Front to neck shaping. Shape neck as for Left Front, reversing shaping. Bind off.
SLEEVESSew shoulder seams. Place markers 4 (4, 4 1/2, 5) in. (10 (10, 11.5, 12.5) cm down from shoulder on Fronts and Back. From RS, pick up and k 26 (26, 30, 32) sts between markers. Work in garter st (k every row) for 2 in. (5 cm).
Dec Row: K2tog, k to last 2 sts, k2tog – 24 (24, 28, 30) sts. Working in garter st, rep Dec Row every 6 rows 2 (2, 4, 5) times more – 20 sts. Work even until piece measures 6 (7, 8, 9) in. (15 (18, 20.5, 23) cm). Bind off.
FINISHINGSew side and Sleeve seams. Sew buttons opposite buttonholes.
HoodFrom RS, pick up and k 40 (42, 44, 46) sts evenly spaced around neck edge.
Next Row:
K and inc 10 (10, 12, 12) sts evenly spaced across row – 50 (52, 56, 58) sts. Work in garter st until piece measures 7 (7 1/2, 8, 8 1/2) in. (18 (19, 20.5, 21.5) cm) from beg. Bind off. Fold bound-off edge in half and sew together for top of Hood.
Weave in ends.

Friday, April 26

The Troops and the Means to Defend Them.

I have come to think of my garden as a castle. It must have high, sturdy walls and provide safety and security to those inside. Especially during an attack.
These seedlings will be transferred outside next month to the interior of what I hope will be a very secure castle. Last year my fortifications were put to shame by invaders in the form of woodchucks, bunnies and deer. I might as well have left the drawbridge down and invited them to the buffet.
This year, I am constructing my fortress. 1200 square feet of enclosed garden paradise. Two fences, heavy duty posts, durable gate, motion detectors, tripwires, and laser sensors. (the last three are on back order).
Rest easy little seedlings.

The first row of posts are in. they stand a little over 4ft tall and are buried 2ft down.
Good luck, wood chuck.

Thursday, April 25

Growing Up

Six weeks ago I brought home a square cardboard box that peeped and made scratching sounds all the way. Six fuzzy little babies went into the metal tank with heat lamp low, the feeder full and the little water font ready. They were scared, but healthy, and they would be well cared for.
Then they grew. And grew. And grew. So fast - I can not believe how fast even though this is my third year raising chicks.
They have now graduated to the baby gate enclosure in the basement since they have just about outgrown the metal tank. And the little water font was just not cutting it. Between their constant racing around the tank and their jumping about every time I enter the room, the water font was constantly full of shavings and dust and stray food crumbles.
Now they have plenty of room to do whatever it is that they do when I am not watching them. And they have also moved up to the big water font which is much easier to keep clean. I do have both the food and water dispensers elevated - sitting on overturned terra cotta plant pot saucer plates. I found this helps greatly - from the day I bring them home - in keeping things a little more organized and tidy.
When I bought them, they were from the 'mixed pullets' tank at Tractor Supply. The man grabbed me six and I asked for a variety. I think I got three different types - two very light, with a few black spots, two light brown with some dark mixed in and two dark brown with some black. I am so anxious to see what they look like as adults, and to see what kind of eggs I get.
When they are ready, and when the temperature cooperates, they will move outdoors to the chicken tractor, then to the segregated section of the main coop, and then, one night, they will be integrated into the flock. Hopefully with good results.

Wednesday, April 24

These smell wonderful......

One more warm day and I will have a giant magnolia tree in blossom!

I love the bright yellow of the Forsythia.

And, the symbol of spring......

Tuesday, April 23

The best treat for seagulls and chicken alike.
Leftover french-fries.

The girls are getting bigger......
They are starting to resemble little Velociraptors.

Monday, April 22

A Straight Line for the Defences

I spent a great deal of time the other day staking out the boundaries for my new garden fence. I wanted it to be absolutely perfect - nice straight lines and just the right amount of space to fit in everything I wanted to plant inside. After a lot of what amounted to hammering stakes, pulling up stakes, re-stringing the tape measure, and some foul language, I finally got a squared up garden fence. It turned out to be 30 ft x 40 ft - I little different than I had planning out so nicely with my ruler and sharp pencil a few weeks ago.

When finished, the garden fence will be 4 ft high with posts supporting it every 5 feet, give or take a few inches here and there. I have no doubt that it will turn out looking like a respectable garden fence to anyone who might see it. For me, it will be 4 straight lines and sharp corners of durable, woodchuck proof garden fortification.

Wednesday, April 17

A Green Basement

I guess no-mercy thinning really does produce results.
Even though things are just starting to 'green up' outside and I have daffodils and crocus and violets in the yard, I still get the most happiness from going down into my dank basement and staring at the sprouts under the lights.

The new chicks, who are growing incredibly fast, erupt in a fury of flapping and chirping every time I open the door, and I know that I will have to clean out the water font - again. These are the most excitable and skittish chicks I have ever raised.
So I talk to them as I inspect the seedlings. I tell them how happy I am with my tomatoes this season and about how I have to admit that thinning without mercy is definitely the way to go. Such strong, healthy looking stems......  And, i have pepper sprouts this year which is surprising because I always have the worst luck with peppers.
I like the fuzzy stems. And they already smell like the garden in August......
I am also starting seeds for my gardening friend this year. This is her second year of gardening and she is always so excited about seeds and watering and soil. And she has tons of questions for me. While i am flattered by her faith in me, I keep reminding her that I am by no means an expert and that I just read a lot of books and magazines. And, or course, I learn a lot from trial and error. Lots of error. Her seeds are sprouting, but not as well as I would like. I somehow feel responsible for the lack o germination and that this might discourage my friend's gardening dreams. As I think about it, there is probably no way I could make her turn away from gardening in only her second year with a few non-germinating cucumbers. She is very enthusiastic and will just suggest that we go in YouTube for tips.

My first time starting broccoli from seed.

Sunday, April 14


No matter how many times I see it, I still can not believe how fast baby chicks grow. These pictures, taken last week, show the girls starting to shed their downy fluff and tiny feathers are starting to appear. I picked up one of the girls to get a closer look and these tiny little feathers are fascinating. So intricate and delicate and coming in rapidly. Just amazing.
Catching one to hold is quite a challenge. These girls are very fast. And skittish. As soon as I come into the room and make my presence known, the start racing back and forth in the metal tank like baby road runners. i am cleaning the shavings and poop out of the water font at least twice a day from the amount of bedding they kick up in their racing. They are getting their scrambled egg breakfast every day. I like giving them a little extra protein and since they do not have access to grass and bugs - yet - I want to make sure they are getting a good, healthy start.

Saturday, April 6

Right now the baby is walking around the kitchen in a pair of the little mans sneakers, wrapped up in one of her crochet baby blankets, clutching the little man's yellow plastic toy screwdriver and talking to herself. From what I can tell by her cheerful tone, she is happy with the conversation.

If I did this, I think someone would have me sent to the nut house.

Seamus is taking great interest in following her around, swiping his paw at the trailing end of baby blanket. He takes a periodic break to sniff the questionable piece of lunch meat that I just dropped into his bowl. I am conducting an experiment.

In his book, Folks, This Ain't Normal, Joel Salatin describes an experiment he conducted with hamburger and cats. It is not as strange as you think.

He put two plates of hamburger down for his cats. One had Polyface grass fed burger and the other plate has burger from a local supermarket. According to Joel, the cats came running when the plates were set down, as all cats are likely to do. The cats sniffed the supermarket burger, passed it up, went to the plate with the Polyface burger, and devoured it.

I decided to try this with some lunch meat. I only had the one kind - deli sliced roasted turkey from our local supermarket. And my intent was not so 'point-making' as Joel's. I was going to have sandwiches for lunch but I wasn't sure if the lunch meat had been in the fridge one day too many. So, I gave it to the cat and we had peanut butter instead. The fact that he did not end up eating the lunch meat confirmed my suspicions that it was not at it's most fresh and I chalked it up to a win on my part - the little man and I not having digestive distress from consuming 'past-its-prime" turkey.

What a nice summary this would be if the phrase "if it's good enough for the cat, then it's good enough for me" was something I could base all my food choices on. Think of the money I would save. More appropriately, I think the concluding phrase "don't eat anything that your cat won't eat" is much more plausible. Not to say that you should eat canned cat food and the occasional dead mouse, but you get my point.

While I am thinking about all of this, it seems that, with all the hard decisions we have to make and all the variables we consider, maybe it is just as simple as cats and babies.

The lesson I am taking from the baby and the cat today: have a pleasant conversation with yourself that makes you happy, and adopt your cats eating habits. (or, have more fun and stop making your food choices so difficult).

Friday, April 5


My number is 0025591 in the count for a healthy, sustainable world.

This number represents an individuals position in the global sequential count of people adding up to make change.

I found their booth at last years Mother Earth News Fair in PA, and after reading the literature, I went back and ordered my shirt, "Buy Local".  It seemed like the best way to contribute, and to foster the wonderful feelings of camaraderie I felt while at the Fair. So many like-minded people together in one place, learning and talking and sharing. I really felt like I was part of something bigger.

We really do add up.

We Add Up.

Wednesday, April 3

Growing.....and Murder

I am very happy with my new seed starting set up. It is so much better than the two saw horses and large piece of plywood that I have been using for a seed table for the last few years.
I moved my seed starting things into the other basement room with a door that closes and an actual ceiling, not just beams and spider webs. I have also located the new chicks in this room so I can sow seeds to the sounds of peeping chicks. Somehow that just feels right.
This is the new seed set up.
I saw a similar idea in a gardening magazine and I liked how it does not take much floor space, but maximizes the growing space. I had 4 grow lights which I installed with some light weight chain and some S hooks to the undersides on the shelving, giving light to the shelf below. The shelf was only $24 at Lowes during their super sale a few months ago, and the additional two grow lights I purchased cost $14 each. Bulbs we $3 for two.
A friend of mine, who I have gotten started in home food production, bought two grow lights and asked if I would be willing to start seeds for her. She has limited space and time, and I had an empty shelf. So she came over, we installed the lights, and she started her tomatoes and peppers.

The broccoli is coming along nicely.
I started the broccoli and cauliflower on March 7th and they did not take long to sprout and really take off. If I can get them transplanted successfully and keep the woodchucks away from them, I may actually get something eatable this season.
The tomatoes, started on March 1st, are all looking good. I always plant 3 or 4 seeds in each pot section to insure that I will get at least one seedling sprout in each. Then comes the hard part - the thinning. I absolutely hate the thinning process. I started those tiny little seeds, watered them, gave them light to grow, and they sprouted into little plants. Little bits of hope that somehow seem like miracles.
But then I must kill them.
I get the scissors and scrutinize the two, three or four fuzzy little stems growing out of one section. I try to act like I am just inspecting the troops, "nothing going on, just checking things out....." But all the while I am planning the doom of the smaller shoots. I say "I'm sorry" and snip. And all the while, I can hear the voice of that horribly creepy creature from the Lord of the Rings movies - Gollum - when he is arguing with himself over the ring - "Murderer........" (Spoken in a sinister voice that seems so fitting when I am cutting the life short of so many seedlings).

Tuesday, April 2

Reducing the Knitting and Crochet Projects Pile

I've been spending a lot of time finishing up a pile of knitting projects, mostly during late night episodes of Walking Dead, NCIS and various historical documentaries. I am big on the Civil War right now. I am one of those people who has to multi task. I can not just sit and watch a television show or a movie and not have a knitting project, sewing project, or even a coloring book with a new box of crayons in my hands.
A cousin is having a baby boy in June so I worked up this nice soft blanket for her. I found a pattern online that I liked and altered it a little. It is a V stitch with an extra four double crochet stitches on each end to make a nice border. I did 4 rows of double crochet on the bottom (when i started the blanket) and 4 rows of double crochet to finish off the blanket. That way I had the border I wanted.

Here is the V stitch information that I used:

V-Stitch Definition

Work 1 dc st, 1 ch st, and 1 more dc st in same ch or sp.
The starting chain is a muliple of 4 + 9.
Row 1 (V-Stitch Row):  dc in 4th ch from hook, (ch 1, skip next 3 chs, V-st in 4th ch from hook.) Repeat sequence in parentheses all the way across the row. When you get to the end of the row, work a dc in each of the last 2 chs.
Row 2 (Single Crochet and Chains Row): Ch 1, turn.
Sc in each of the first 2 dc sts. (Sc in ch-1 space, sc in next V-st, ch 3, sc in same V-st.) Repeat sequence in parentheses all the way across the row. When you get to the end of the row, Sc in the last ch-1 space, then work 1 sc in each of the last 2 sts.
Row 3 (V-Stitch Row): Ch 3, turn.
Skip the first sc; turning chain counts as the first dc. Dc in next sc. (Ch 1, V-st in next ch-3 space.) Repeat sequence in parentheses all the way across the row. When you get to the end of the row, ch 1, then work 1 dc in each of the last 2 sts.

The next project I finished was a nice birthday scarf for a friend of mine. We are both avid scarf collectors so I wanted to find a unique, but easy pattern. I ended up going with a variation of the Carmen's Shawl pattern because I liked how loose it was. I used a heavier weight yarn than the pattern called for and basically ended up doing a variation on the V stitch. I am happy with the way it turned out - the color is a nice forest greet, but for some reason the picture looks more like a gray color.

And of course, I have been knitting more socks. I am almost done with these light blue ones to go with the baby blanket, and I will be knitting a hat also. The navy blue and yellow sock and hat set are for my brother, who is a big Notre Dame fan. He will be moving back to New York from Nevada in a few months, and he is not used to the chilly nights that can get even into the summer months.