Friday, January 24

Using Up Some Yarn

A friend was over the other day and when I needed to go into the laundry room with her to get something she saw my laundry baskets full of yarn - all 4 of them - and remarked "Wow, you have a lot of yarn!" Given that I have a bad habit of clearing out the earth-tones section if Joann Fabrics, this comment did not suddenly jolt me into reality. I am fully aware of my problem and my inability to turn down a new shade of chunky sock yarn.
So, in the interest of space and to me not becoming "that crazy yarn hoarding"lady, I have lately started devoting what little spare time I have to using up my collection. I have found some very nice patterns online for blankets, sweaters, hats and, or course, socks.
One of my latest favorites is this baby blanket I made for a co-worker of Roy's who is expecting next month. And there will be more to come.

I am very happy with the way it turned out. When I first started it, I was not sure I would like the finished product. I thought it was going to be too 'full of holes' and I would not be able to see the pattern. But I was very happy with it as a finished product.
Here is the pattern:
Free Crochet Pattern from Lion Brand Yarn Lion Brand® Pound of Love® Dreamy Lace Baby Throw Pattern Number: 90425AD
SIZE: One Size About 35 x 35 in. (89 x 89 cm)
CORRECTIONS: None as of Dec 3, 2009. To check for later updates, click here.
• 550-099 Lion Brand Pound of Love Yarn: Antique White   1  Ball • Lion Brand Crochet Hook - Size H-8  • Large-Eye Blunt Needles (Set of 6)  
16 sts + 7 rows = 4 in. (10 cm) in pattern. 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 less 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.
THROW Ch 141. Row 1: Dc in 5th ch from hook, *sk next 2 ch, 5 dc in next ch (shell made), sk next 2 ch, dc in next ch, ch 1, sk next ch, dc in next ch; rep from * across – 17 shells at the end of this row. Rows 2-54: Ch 4, turn, *sk next ch-1 sp, dc in next dc, sk next 2 dc, 5 dc in next dc, sk next 2 dc, dc in next dc, ch 1; rep from * across, dc in 3rd ch of turning ch. Do not fasten off. Border Rnd 1: Do not turn, work sc evenly spaced around entire outside edge of Throw, working 3 sc in each corner; join with sl st in first sc. Rnd 2: Ch 1, sc in same sc as join, sk next sc, 5 dc in next sc, *sk next sc, sc in next sc, sk next sc, 5 dc in next sc; rep from * around; join with sl st in first sc. Note: In order to end evenly, you may need to sk an additional st or two. Fasten off.
FINISHING Weave in ends.
ABBREVIATIONS / REFERENCES Click for explanation and illustration ch(s) = chain(s) ch-space = space previously made dc = double crochet rep = repeat(s)(ing) rnd(s) = round(s) sc = single crochet sk = skip sl st = slip stitch sp(s) = space(s) st(s) = stitch(es)

Thursday, January 16

Mid January is when I really start to get frustrated. Every year. Right around this time.

This is when everything seems to 'hit.'

The numerous germ invasions that follow us home from preschool and the grocery store and library story time.

The anxiety over picking my pepper seed starting date. Too early? Will I have a problem with dampening off? Should I use a heat mat?

The claustrophobic, bulky feeling of being stuck in a heated car with a winter coat on.

As the little man would say, "Is spring here yet!!?!!"

This is also the time of year when I feel intense pressure to make lists. Lots of lists about lots of things and sometimes I buy a new notebook, just because I have convinced myself that 'list making time' is THAT important.

I do this because this time of year is when I feel the most stressed, the most overwhelmed and the most in need of something to make sense of it all. I make lists. Just the act of making the list - writing down the things that need to be done - feels like I have accomplished a step towards actually finishing the project. (Painting the shed has been written down on the list for about 3 years in a row now and writing "paint the shed" is as close to actually getting the shed painted as I have gotten). But, hey, I am thinking about painting that shed and it should count that I have not totally forgotten about it.

I make lists to organize my life. I have one for improvements and repairs to be made in each room of the house, including the attic and basement. I have a list for things to stock up on in the pantry, craft projects for the kids, books to check out of the library, yard projects, a new tattoo, vehicle maintenance, and an entire list devoted to interesting things I have found in magazines, blogs and books that I want to implement on the property. I am really looking forward to rain barrels, fodder systems and wood shed plans.

I also make lists of a more personal nature that help me deal with all the imperfections and annoyances that are my life - both physical and mental. I have lists of vitamins and supplements to look into that might help with my strong tendency toward panic attacks, slowing metabolism, and non-existent energy levels. I have a list of websites with exercises to target muffin tops and saddle bags where I am sure to find the magic combination to give me back my size 4 low waist jeans. Hell, I'd settle for an actual waist line at this point.

And I am already planning for next winter - stock up on split firewood, get a load of straw bales for the coop, buy a new snow shovel because our current one got run over by the car..... (they have bikini's on sale at Target right now so snow shovels should be about $0.39 on clearance)

All these lists, whether they are about gardening or knitting or green tea diets or making our own playdough and granola bars, help me function. they take the massive churning jumble of ideas inside my head and convert them to a usable form. I feel that if I can get them all sorted out then I might have a chance of accomplishing my goals and coming out ahead. They help me during this mid-January time where life is both stressful and boring and most likely spent with a cough and a runny nose.

Right now we are being hit with colds all around, the little girl has a fever along with it, and who knows what is currently incubating around here from Roy's recent work trip to North Carolina.

List addition - knit Roy a mask and gloves to wear on any more trips though airports.

Basement Waterfall

Last October I mentioned that we had bees in the attic and a waterfall in the basement. The bees have since done whatever bees do in the winter and I do not have a problem with them as I am putting away the Christmas decorations. Come spring, we will see what waits for me in the rafters.

But until then, I have the basement waterfall to keep me busy. Late one October night I was up fixing the little girl a late night bottle and I heard this noise of something running. You know, when you are inside and someone is running a tractor or lawnmower or some sort of motor outside and you notice the constant rumbling. But it was very late at night and I assumed me neighbors were all sleeping, so I went on a hunt around the house to figure out which appliance was running when it was not supposed to be.

It was definitely coming from the kitchen, but then again, it wasn't. What was that noise??!!

The basement. Right under the kitchen.

A pipe had burst and cold water was pouring out and running along the pipe creating a wall of water in my basement. The sump pump was not working so not only did I have a waterfall in the basement but the beginnings of a pond as well.

Roy was not thrilled that I woke him up and hauled him down to the basement but once down there he quickly turned some knobs and the water stopped.

Note to self - learn about the plumbing in the house.

The next day we discovered that the "T" section of pipe had just been too old and had rusted through right at the joint. It was the water that supplied the outside faucet and the cold water to the first floor bathroom.

Repairing it was a very large and irritating problem in that given that the "T" was the problem, every pipe that connected to the "T" was either loosened or tightened while removing the "T" and, given that murphy's law reigns supreme in our home, every connection from one end of that plumbing fiasco to the other had to be removed, recut, reinstalled and re-soldered. It was as if when a section saw the wrench coming, all the other connections decided to spring a leak.

Of course by this time I was no where near the basement and I let Roy handle the problem. Numerous trips to the hardware store and a few weekends later, we finally got our cold water running again in the bathroom and to the outside faucet.

It was then that I read an article in Backwoods Home Magazine about a family working on an old house that that they had a very similar plumbing problem involving the "T". They used a product called Sharkbite Fittings which they report worked very well for them. I was hesitant to show this article to Roy in that he had invested countless hours and frustration into our plumbing project and showing him a product that may have been able to save all those hours and frustration would not have earned me points in the household.

Whether this product would have worked in our particular situation, I do not know. But next time we are at the hardware store, I will casually pick up a Sharkbite "T" and hie it away in the storage cabinet.

You never know........

Wednesday, January 15

New Found Treasures

I came across these two pins while going through two separate collections today. I have found time recently to accomplish some small tasks from the to-do list and organizing my sewing cabinet was one of them.
While sorting though 5 calling jars full of buttons, I found this little American flag pin. It feels old and it looks pretty darn old and I love it. After finally being able to make out the words "Doran Patent" on the back of the pin (they were tiny letters and I needed a magnifying glass to partially make them out) I discovered that this is a World War I US Food Administration Pin. The Food Administration was established in 1917 for the regulation of reserve food supplies, especially wheat, for the Allied nations. The pin is made of brass and celluloid and shows a starred and striped crest at center framed by wheat.
This was mixed in with a ton of old and new buttons that I saved from Roy's Grandparents house while we were all cleaning it out about 10 years ago. It now has a nice place on my laundry room cork board where I can glance at it every day. I don't know why his Grandmother had it, and why it was mixed in with all the buttons, but I am glad that she saved it. A quick look at Roy's family tree shows that his Grandmothers father registered for the WWI draft but there is no information saying that he served in any capacity.
World War I Food Administration Pin
The other task I undertook from the list was to go through a small wooden box that my brother gave me. He found it while going through my Grandfathers desk at the farm and he thought I might want it. It was full of bits and pieces of things from a very old binder clip to an old dog license tag to this little pin pictured below.
A 1930's NY State 5 M Club Dairy Farmers Pin

As far as I can tell this was a program in New York State in the 1930's that dairy farmers would become a member of and cooperate with the state authorities to "promote the use of milk." In a broader search, it seems that the 1930's was a tumultuous time for NY dairy farmers. Strikes, low prices for milk and disagreements over rules and regulations provides some interesting reading over at The 1939 Dairy Farmers Union Milk Strike website.

Where my Grandpa got this pin in uncertain given that he was not a diary farmer. However, the farm where my brother lives now was purchased by my Grandparents in 1980 and it had been a long-time working dairy farm in the past. Maybe he found the pin in one of the numerous sheds on the property or tucked in cupboard in the old milking parlor.

I will add this item to my research notes on the farm as I am looking into the history of the property and the previous owners.

This kind of thing fascinates me. And now I will spend the rest of the evening looking for vague mentions of upstate NY dairy farmers on google.

Tuesday, January 14

Pins, Tags, Pokes and Tweets

With all of my wondering and reading about life without the burden of technology and the sins of the internet, I find it odd that I have such an addiction to my laptop and all that the internet provides. I will not go into all the pros and cons, other than to say that the internet is an essential tool for the modern homesteader (you tube alone has taught me many new skills), and when used correctly it has the potential to drastically improve quality of life.

How many people have you connected with on facebook that you had lost touch with? And how many of those people have something unique and wonderful to add to your life? A new conversation, a new point of view, a new sounding board. And you can let people know you are thinking of them with a message that, in this day and age, is just as personal, if not more personal, than a hand written card on pretty stationary.

Tractor Display at Ionia Fall Festival, Finger Lakes, NY
The photo of the tractors by the old Miller barn made its way to a Finger Lakes Tourism board.
However, I recently discovered that some of the pictures I put up on this blog have been 'pinned'. Not in any sort of bad way, but some of my pictures of my portable chicken pen and some of the pictures I took of the Ionia Tractor Parade have made their way onto pinterest without my knowledge.
I recently created a pinterest account even though I really had no interest in doing so because a friend of mine insisted that it was the best and easiest way to share knitting patterns. And now, just like with facebook, I am falling in love with pinterest and all the wonderful ideas it brings into my life from crafting to pictures of my favorite television stars.

So I have been 'pinned." Should I be flattered? Does this mean that I am awesome in some way and that I should think it is wonderful that people are sharing my ideas and images? No one is taking credit for them, so there is no reason to be concerned, right?

Or should I be concerned? There is something strange and a little unnerving to see pictures of my backyard coop on people's 'boards' that I do not know. Does this mean that I will have a coop-stalker in my future?
Starting Here.: The New Chicken Tractor
My chicken tractor pic 'pinned'. (It does look pretty nice, doesn't it.)
I guess this is the price we all pay for living so openly online. I try to use caution when posting pictures and information. You can see that I never mention my children's names on the blog and my photos are mostly of my projects and gardens and not my immediate family.

Being 'pinned', or 'tagged' or tweeted about, or 'poked' are just some of the new mainstream entertainments that we all must endure in the modern internet age. I will gladly share and be 'pinned' if it will help someone discover and achieve their dream of homesteading or raising chickens. I just think we all need to take that one little extra step of judgement before we post anything - anywhere.
Starting Here.: Portable Chicken Fencing
My chickens and my fencing projects for them seem to be pretty popular on pinterest.
All things considered I am thrilled that the internet has become the wonderful information tool that I did not even have access to until college (I know, getting old.....) I have found so much inspiration while surfing the many farming blogs. I have no problem admitting that I am addicted to my laptop and the internet. I am a modern girl.

But I have maintained my modestly in the modern world. I still feel violated when I am 'poked' on facebook.

Monday, January 13

Polar Vortex, Chicken Cozies and Lentils

Yes, we survived the polar vortex. That finger-numbing arctic blast that made me wear 4 layers to walk out and get the mail. It required me to remove the block of solid ice that was the chickens water font and replace it with water in a liquid state at least 3 times per day. It also, apparently, was enough of a game changer to influence the curriculum of my sons preschool class in that the teacher spent most of the week discussing polar bears and the features of the arctic.

Aside from the horribly low temperatures and the loss of a few branches on the white birch tree, we were fine. We kept the wood stove going all day and night and that kept the pipes from freezing and made the downstairs comfortable, leaving the upstairs a bit chilly a requiring more quilts on the beds. Not bad sleeping weather since I like a cool bedroom.

I was starting to wonder if I should start knitting 'chicken cozies' to wrap my hens up in but they carried on, fluffing up their feathers and looking like over sized brown and white bowling balls. Egg production was the same - between 5 and 7 eggs per day. I did scatter two new bales of straw in the coop to give them something to burrow down into and peck around in. They were getting a little anxious being in the coop all day - the wind chill would give them instant frostbite - and they gave me the evil-eye when I came in to change out their frozen water and collect the eggs.

The last two days have been better as far as temperature and wind chill so I have opened the coop door in case they wish to venture out into the snow. So far I have only seen one set chicken tracks and they went exactly 5 inches from the coop door, turned around and went right back in.

I have been looking for ways to keep them busy while in the coop. I purchased a flock block, the old winter-chicken-boredom-buster standby which they have pecked into oblivion. I also saw a great idea in the Jan/Feb issue of Hobby Farm Home for giving the ladies sprouted lentils as a sweet treat. I currently have an up-side-down mason jar with cheese cloth on my counter under a dish towel so I am hoping for some nice treats to distribute tomorrow afternoon. Anything to win favor with my girls. Especially since if they ever find out I entertained the notion of making 9 colorful chicken sweaters, I would surely be the lowest on the pecking order next time I went into the coop.

I looked online for a link to the article about the lentil idea but the internet has failed me. I will scan the recipe from the magazine and post it for you shortly. And, by then I can tell you if it worked or not.

Friday, January 10

New Seed Box

With my brother taking over my Grandparents farm, he has had time to explore Grandpa wood working shop and to create some very nice projects. This Christmas he surprised me with my very own seed storage box complete with an old window latch and hinges that my Grandpa had saved away, knowing that some day someone might have a use for them.
My brother also found a decorative cut out to embellish the top of the box, another piece saved and put away in a shop cupboard. He used wood from the farm that my Grandpa had cut and stored in the old dairy barn so this box has such a special meaning for me. Made by my brother with parts saved and salvaged by my grandfather to save my vegetable seeds that will produce food for the entire family. What a wonderful gift.
The box it now full to the brim with seed packets from Baker Creek, Seed Saves, Botanical Interests and so many other vendors, all with their own special packaging colors and designs. I open the box and I see so much hope in those little packets.