Thursday, February 20

Rainy Night Rambling

The cold rain is pouring down outside my not-so-energy-efficient living room windows as I type this and although I am mostly grateful that I have been able to keep Roy from tearing out these beautiful old windows in favor of a snug fitting, modern alternative, I do wish at times that the storm windows were a little more forgiving. The rain is hitting them so hard that they are rattling in their frames and I know that I will have soggy sills in the morning. When these old windows get drenched in the type of rain we are having now, it seems to seep into every little crack in the wood and lodge itself in place.

And given that it is supposed to be around 45 degrees here tomorrow, I might just want to open these windows and send a fresh draft through this winter-worn homestead.

With all this rain and melting snow there is a flood warning for our area through the weekend so I am anticipating the side field to be flooded and the basement to be a damp and musty mess. I dread the sight and smell of wet cobwebs. The basement pump has broken yet again and after Roy attempted to repair it many times we finally broke down and purchased a new pump. Sump pumps, like most other products on the market are made in China and not meant to last. This one came with a 1 year warranty. One whole year. Whoever designs sump pumps should have to spend time in our basement crawlspace under the stairs installing the thing into a hole in the ground. I guarantee that the next generation of sump pumps to come out of that designers imagination would be durable enough to last through the next ice age with warranty to spare.

This post falls on the 6th day of February break. There are 3 days left to go and I hope I make it. Given that the little man only goes to preschool three days a week for 3 hours each day, it should not be a big deal to have him home for those extra hours. But let me tell you that the little break I get three days a week is worth more than gold. It breaks up the day. It gives me one-on-one time with my little girl. It lets me sit down for more than 10 minutes. I miss my routine and my schedule.

I must admit that I have been off schedule lately, even before the break. I have let a lot of things slide lately that I would otherwise be right on top of. the To-Do list grows longer, the meals get a little more like large snacks and the other day the neighbors dog followed me in the house while I had an armload of firewood. She proceeded to sniff everything, including both kids and when she was finished with her inspection she jumped up on the couch and watched an old episode of Downton Abbey that I had on as background noise during house chores.

Sometimes I look around this place like everything is slightly out of focus and I wonder how I came to be here.

So now we are embarking on another adventure, or as regular people would call it, another day. It is 11:42 pm and a new one will be starting shortly. I am still here on the couch with Seamus curled up beside me and now, in addition to the rain pounding against the glass, I just heard the scuffing and scraping sound of something running around inside the living room wall.

Last time this happened we discovered squirrels living in the space between the 1st and second floors.

So, there's fun for tomorrow.

Monday, February 3

Book Reports

Even though my days are full (mostly of children's activities and cleaning crayon off of the television) I still love to make time to read. I have quite a backlog of a reading list but when the kids go to bed and I have some time I tackle an issue of Backwoods Home magazine or read a few chapters in my current nightstand book. (or should I say 'books')

First, I have finally put a very well worn copy of The Greenhorns on my homesteading reference bookshelf. I finished this book a while ago but I just have not had time to make a post. What an awesome collection of wonderful stories, instructional essays and just plain great reading. And, given that it is a collection of essays, it scores high marks in the 'busy Mom' review. I took this book everywhere - the gym, restaurants, the library, play groups, etc. because I could spend 15 minutes or less reading a wonderful farming narrative which gave me inspiration and none of the frustration from having to stop reading in the middle and having to pick up where I left off later in the day or sometimes not for a few days.

Of course, one of my favorite authors, Jenna Woginrich, is featured on page 106.

I enjoyed reading each and every story, but one really touched a sore spot with me. Maud Powell (p40) wrote  "I imagined working in the field with our baby strapped to my back, taking short breaks to breastfeed in the field. ....I completely underestimated the amount of energy and time breastfeeding and child rearing would take." Even though I did not breastfeed my children, I can absolutely relate to her when she talks about underestimating the amount of time your children demand. I spend many days struggling with all that I want to do and with all that I am responsible for. I imagined my children helping in the garden, the little man pulling weeds and the little girl poking seeds into the dirt. But mostly it is me stuck in the house with a crabby 2 year old and a boundary-testing 5 year old, staring out the window at my neglected garden.

Secondly, while on the topic of Jenna Woginrich, she came out with a beautiful book entitled One Woman Farm: My Life Shared with Sheep, Pigs, Chickens, Goats, and a Fine Fiddle.

I was almost afraid to read this book. Being a big fan of Jenna and given that the book is a hardcover canvas to word and watercolor beauty, I wanted to savor it. Quite possibly my favorite book from Jenna, I loved the artwork that accompanied her writing. Destined to become a coffee table book here at my house, as soon as I can reclaim my coffee table from Care Bears coloring books and half empty juice boxes.

Lastly, switching gears a little, I have finished reading the 299 Days series from Glen Tate. Part true story, part prepper manual, part plan for the future, I loved this series. Books 1 through 7 are out now with three more books to come in the 10 part series. So different from other books I've read about partial to full economic, political and social breakdowns in the US, this is an eye-opener.

Book 1 sets up the characters and the situation with a lot of insightful observations about the American public and local government that are hard to refute. Governments "chasing out businesses, falling tax revenue and massively increasing spending" are just some of the factors that contribute to the coming situation. But it is not all the governments fault - people are also to blame.

"How could people be so complacent and stupid? They had developed habits over years and years. As long as they had their comfortable routines everything was fine."

I highly recommend this series. It is so easy to relate to and it is very, very informative.

Sunday, February 2

Steaming Eggs..... Who Knew?

Mother Earth News always gives me so many ideas and the December 2013/January 2014 issue was no exception. Tons of information about growing sweet potatoes, sourdough bread recipes, and my personal favorite, a great article about moveable greenhouses. So I was not surprised to read a little note from a reader published in the back concerning hard boiled eggs.

I was surprised, however, that her advice actually worked.

Kerry Wellington from Maine wrote about how she makes hard boiled eggs: steam them for 30 minutes, chill them for 3 and then peel. She states that "The shells will fall right off!"

Yep, they did. And I was ecstatic.

You don't see that every day.......
I have had so much trouble with hard boiling eggs. I have tried boiling for all kinds of time durations, using eggs that are a certain number of days old, rolling them to peel them, chilling in the fridge instead of water, etc. Given that I am in my mid 30's, I should know by now how to hard boil and egg, but quite honestly, it doesn't really come up all that much. I make the occasional batch of deviled eggs, which half the time turn into egg salad since peeling the eggs leaves them looking less than appetizing. All pitted with chunks of white missing and bits of shell sticking on.

But I had to make a plate of deviled eggs for a superbowl party and I remembered reading this little gem of wisdom in Mother Earth News. I tried it and it worked perfectly. I had the best looking peeled eggs around. No missing chunks, no pits, no stressful peeling resulting in tossing half the eggs and a little light cursing in the kitchen.

I was so thrilled that I decided to go all the way and use a sandwich bag with a little corner cut off the bottom to fill the eggs. (something I had only read about but never tried - hey, who wants to spend time making the filling look nice when the eggs look hideous!)

A few shakes of paprika later and I had a very nice looking superbowl snack table plate ready to go.

Unfortunately, I was not. The little girl is running a fever of 101.2 and she and I are spending the night on the couch watching a Downton Abbey marathon and making children's advil. Roy, the deviled eggs and the little man went to the party.

I am awaiting the report of the egg comments......