2x8x8

Weather:  56* & Sunny

1-24-15_CollageI’ve been trapped in a Dexter marathon.  One of my tom cats has been missing for 12 days.  The longest he’s ever been gone before is 6 days.  I was convinced he was dead – eaten by a coyote or something, and then he just shows up this morning, eats 4 bowls of food and goes to the door wanting out.  Now I’m convinced I’m just a Foody Call.  ;(

One o’clock in the afternoon.  I’ve got to do SOMETHING productive…

The boards are still in my car.  Paint clothes on and an hour or so later I’ve got 3 boards painted front and back.  Back inside for another episode of Dexter and lunch.  Keith Carradine is eating a sandwich and that sounds good.  I’ve got 2 slices of bacon left over from this morning that I made in my NuWave Pro!  (Love that thing!)  Back outside, got them screwed together.  My plan is seriously off.  By my calculations I should have space for three 2×8 boxes on this side of the gate opening, but there’s barely enough for two.  😦

What can I do now?  Ugh…  I had promised to stay out of the woods until my poison cleared up, but what else is there.  So I tackled that area behind the storage shed.  I got the Roundup and loppers, but gave up on the Roundup pretty quickly when each time I clipped a branch the stump was quickly hidden by the leaves.  I cut down a bunch of poison too.  :::Face Palm:::

Another bath in hot bleach.  I’m loving this smell.  NOT!  Lol.  And back to my dark, redhead.

Sowing Eggplant & School Frustrations

Weather:  38* & Raining

SeedStartsI’ve been putting it off, but there’s really nothing else to be done today so I might as well get to it.  I’m starting my eggplant seeds indoors using the tips I found from a Greenhouse Professional on the MotherEarthNews website.  I had this mini greenhouse that I picked up last year at Walmart and I’ve been on the lookout for a heating seed mat, but seeing as how it’s so early in the year (and I’m broke), I decided to try the heating pad I use everyday on my back.  (Lazyboys are notoriously bad for your back, so I keep one on when I sit on the couch.)

I planted Black Knight Eggplant, which a girlfriend says is less bitter than their purple-skinned cousins, and Early Long Purple.  The plastic wrap retains heat & moisture, while the darkness forces the seeds to focus on germination rather than reaching the light.

I’m eat up with poison ivy or oak and I had to drive into town to meet a friend whose wife generously made me some Jewelweed soap and a liquid potion to try and ease the itch.  1-23-15_poisonBathing in bleach and vinegar has been less than fun!  While I have makeup on and my hair is actually styled I decided to drive to the technical college and check up on my status.  The bitch nice young woman had completely forgotten about me!  She took me over to Cheryl, the Financial Aid lady who told me that I have to talk to the unemployment people.  Drove over there and they said I have to jump through all of these hoops first – like getting approved from the school and applying for a Pell Grant.  So back to the school who got another (the REAL) financial aid lady, Jess, involved and said that even though I have $6k in grant money that was set aside just for our group of displaced workers the $3500 4 week course doesn’t qualify and the $9k 20 week course would put me in debt (IF I could qualify) and would be no guarantee.  Argh!!!  I’m a truck driver but because I’ve been driving a bus for the casino for the past 5 years my 20 years in a semi are virtually worthless because I don’t have an “recent” experience!!  I’m mad and depressed!

I went to Lowe’s to pick up some lumber.  My unemployment check DID come through.  I got three 2x8x8 boards (the big box store is higher than my little local hardware store!), 2 concrete stepping stones and 2 concrete blocks.  I had the boy cut one of the 2x8x8 into 2′ sections and then I got to thinking about the lady in Alaska who uses cedar fence boards, so I bebopped over to look at those prices.  I’m paying about $5 for the 2×8’s and the THIN 1×6 fence boards are roughly half the cost, but I’d have to have a saw, saw horses (I absolutely LOVE her pink ones!) and I couldn’t remember how she managed to screw those thin pieces together.  Besides, the 2×8’s will last longer, right?  There was a cute guy beside me loading up a cart and commented on how high lumber is these days.  Thanks buddy, I needed more bad news today…  😦

I got everything home, including the 50lb bag of chicken feed that I got at Tractor Supply.  A girl in one of my Rabbit Groups said they had the 24×24 cages on sale for $15.  They regularly run $35, but I couldn’t find the store she mentioned in LA for them to call and compare prices.  Besides I’m thinking of raising them under the back deck and really need hardware cloth, buried 2′ deep – i.e. I need to dig FIRST.  Yuck!  Anyway, I left the lumber in my little car because it’s raining.  If it’s dry outside tomorrow I may get out there and paint them.

1-23-15_SeedCollageStill depressed and bored and on my 15th episode of Dexter (which my red-haired son got me addicted to!) feeling worthless I decided I might as well mix the bag of sphagnum moss with the last bit of my vermiculite and think about doing more seeds tomorrow.  Using an old enamel cup I mixed equal measures of each into plastic dishpans that I got from the dollar store last year.  Maybe I’ll start all the pepper seeds I bought with my Food Stamps at Dollar Tree today…

Did I mention that the county called and is having a workshop on the 29th to see if I qualify to make payments on my outstanding property taxes?  (It’s funny that the city can owe the county more than $50 million, but let me get behind…) 😦

2’x8′ SFG Boxes

Weather:  46* & Rainy

I1-22-15_two2x8st’s cloudy and gloomy and I really didn’t feel like doing anything outside, but I’d rather have something to show for the excursion into town yesterday and all the painting.  I had intended to construct these and drive into town for 5 more boards (about the max that will fit in my little car.  I’m sure the small hardware store people think I’m nuts), but I forgot to certify Sunday so no unemployment check.  No check = no money to build vegetable beds.  I’ve been told by some of my other co-workers that next check will be double, but I’ll have to wait and see…

My planned garden is 36’x48′ with a 2′ bed around and inside the perimeter, so two 2’x8′ beds leaves me with a long way to go.  My perimeter fence will run between the two beds in order to keep critters from digging under into the garden.  I had a thought yesterday that maybe my two end boards should be 4′ in order to better stabilize the bed…1-1-1_GardenPlan

I originally drew my plan on graph paper, then on this big poster board with a ghost grid (which I have hanging on the backside of my front door, so I can keep the dream front & center).  I’ve also designed it over at GrowVeg.com and virtually planted my intended veggies & herbs.  I really like their software and want to use the program, but that will also have to wait until I have $25.  😦

Oh shoot, I forgot to cover up the firepit.  Now I’ll have wet ashes!  😦

5 New Boards

Weather:  58* & Cloudy

Before

Before

My last utility bill was almost $400; however my weekly unemployment check is only $200 so I was only able to pay half of it.  Last month the utility company couldn’t wait one week before they sent me a cut off notice.  It’s been really cold here lately, so perhaps they’ve taken pity on us poor broke girls.  This time they’ve given me 16 extra days to pay, so I’ve got a few extra dollars this week.  That means boards!

The first two beds that I made I couldn’t wait to get them painted or filled with dirt.  The last two I at least waited to fill (partly because I can’t afford dirt – is that worse than being dirt poor?), but not to screw together.

This time, I’m playing it smart and Kilzing both sides before I put them together OR fill them with dirt.  My husband scooped out two 5 gallon buckets of ash from the fire pit, so I will actually have dirt in the future.  With that plus the leaves that I’m filling the beds with to decompose.

I sure wish I had been able to catch those saw horses on sale last week, but I made do with two concrete blocks and an old pallet.  Not the sturdiest of work surfaces and I’m not sure my back was any better off, but job done!   And just in time.  It’s getting dark out here…

After

After

Chipmunks & Preservation

Weather:  64* & Sunny

1-20-15_chipmunk-kitchenI’ve had the doors open all day because it’s been so nice and in ran my cat with a chipmunk in his mouth.  I got up, grabbed some gloves and went over to get it out of his mouth, but not before the chipmunk got loose.  He ran into the hall, but the bedroom & bathroom doors were closed, so Jerry the cat grabbed him again and I grabbed him from Jerry.  Unfortunately while I was trying to snap his picture before releasing him he bit me!  And he wouldn’t let go.  I carried him over to the sink intending to splash some water on him, and he jumped out of my hand and scurried onto the backsplash.  Then around the edge of the counter, off and behind the fridge.  Jerry & I finally managed to get him again and I put him in the tall, empty fish tank in order to recover.  I gave him some bird seed and a small water dish.  I think he ate and fell asleep in the bowl.  Some pink camo fleece for him to rest on and I’m out of here.

No more working in the woods for me for a while.  They have extracted their revenge.  My forearms are covered in poison ivy.  😦

1-20-15_kilzed4I hate painting.  But…  it’s got to be done.  I want all my square foot raised beds to be painted in different, bright colors but I don’t know yet if I want them solid colors or girlie camo colors.  Either way they have to have a coat of Kilz on them.  Treated lumber is twice as expensive as pine, but pine won’t hold up unless it’s coated.  So if I go with the camo colors then the base white will be the common denominator.

I already had these four 4’x8′ beds constructed, so I was sitting on my bum in the sun.  😀  I had to take the far right bed’s hoops apart and flip it over.  Meanwhile Jerry had come into the garden to pout.  I told him that I was sorry, but I feed him well enough that he doesn’t have to hunt.  He promptly walked over to some antlers drying in the sun and sat beside them.  Ok, ok, the irony isn’t lost on me…

Bearded Lady

Weather:  26* & Sunny

TurtleFurIt’s freezing outside!  I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find a ski mask.  I went to town the other day and Tractor Supply had some bright neon yellow face masks for $6, but I just can’t stomach that color.  Sportsman’s Warehouse had one – ONE – black one with the old-school 2 eye holes (ugh) for $8.  And something called Totally Tubular by Turtle Wrap for $13!  For heaven’s sake, it’s an unfinished piece of rayon tubing.  I later discovered that it’s $18 on their website.

I found a balaclava – a ski mask (since when was something so simple given a fancy name!?) – in a Real Tree or Mossy Oak print that also looked like it was rayon-y for $22!!  Balaclava_storeAre these people crazy?!?

Recently as a flea market a vendor – who was selling crocheted hats – had commented on liking mine and my husband’s.  He told her that I made them and then she really started raving.  Gave me her name and particulars and said that she would gladly sell my creations if I gave her a price.  Me, crochet for money?  My husband had broached the same subject just days before when his coworkers had requested hats like his and he had suggested I sell them for $12.  I told him he was crazy.  You can buy them all day long at the dollar store.  Well, uh, no, not anymore.  Not unless you’re willing to pay $5-7 for a cheap, machine-knitted thing.  But the ones in the Sportsman’s Warehouse were out of this world expensive.  For a hat!!

That was it.  I was leaving.  Uh oh.  Gloves.  Pink gloves.  Pink, insulated gloves – on clearance!!  Yeah, they made a sale…

But Joann’s was in the same shopping center and I was betting they had rayon and Mossy Tree stuff.  I picked up 3/8 yard of fleece for $5 and 3/8 yard of “performance fabric” for $3 and a skein of Lion Brand’s Homespun, Wild Fire yarn for $5.

First the fleece.  I found this tutorial online and produced this.  BalaclavaI still have to buy some fold-over elastic, because I was totally not thinking when I left the store.  Otherwise I would have bought some pink thread.

Then on to the rayon tube.  Working with that fabric wiggling all over the place drove me absolutely nuts and after putting it on, I’m convinced the Turtle Wrap version must have a lining or be a better fabric.  TurtleWrap

Incidentally, this is the hat I was wearing that the vendor-lady raved on about.  The pattern is called Divine on Ravelry and I made mine out of baby blanket yarn!  My husband’s hat is the same pattern, but in a thinner, regular yarn.  He has three: one in black, one in navy and one in sage green.  (Actually, I made him 2 in sage green to match his favorite new jacket, but he said the thicker yarn was too “fluffy”, so I guess now it’s mine.)

I had been looking for a crocheted ski mask pattern online before I went out galavanting, and the Knight and Skyrim patterns were just to die for, but the beards were the best and I made up one of those too.

After all, I am a big fan of Mick Dodge…  😉

bearded-lady

Redbeard

A Duck Egg & Half a Thousand

Weather: 36* & Sunny

1-10-2015_frozen-lake1When I wake up of a morning one of the first things I do is go to the bathroom, draw aside the curtain and look out over the woods at the lake.  This is the first time that it’s ever looked like there was ice on the lake.  Of course, in the past I was usually at work before the sun came up so I’m sure I’ve missed other times.  Not having a job is tough!  I did other things around the house, but by 10:00 or so I couldn’t ignore the chickens anymore and if I’ve got to get dressed for outside then I figured I might as well go take a closer look.  My end – the shallow end – was indeed frozen.  I’m glad I wore my Wellies, because I just had to go walk on it.

1-10-2015_LakeEggI walked over to the old plastic and styrofoam boat (that was buried under some leaves behind the cabin when we bought the place) and tried to push it into the cove, (It had floated over here during a storm and has become an unsightly, permanent fixture.) but it was frozen in place.  I did, however, discover something I’ve never seen before: a duck (?) egg in the lake.  My neighbor, Diane, has tons of ducks that she lets out every morning and calls every sunset to go inside an enclosure.  She said she started raising them to keep the algae on the lake down.  I took it with me when I went back up to the cabin, cleaned it off and broke it open.  It had a clear, but filmy area in the white and some tiny bubbles!  So…  I didn’t eat it, but I did fry it up and serve it to my chickens along with an old apple that I cut up for them.

Walking out on this end of the lake I was privy to millions of duck prints in what was formerly mud.  They like coming into “my” cove because it’s shallow and I suppose they feed on the teeny tiny minnows and bugs.  The cove is FULL of leaves and I would love to have it dug out – made deeper – and have a sandy shore, but that’s not likely to ever happen.  Being surrounded by wooded hills on all sides, the leaves are never likely to quit blowing into the lake.  There were some other prints that were noticeable out there too. 1-10-2015_raccoons4 Muddy raccoon prints across an otherwise clear sheet of ice.  There were at least 3 distinct sets (unless Mrs. Raccoon walked over to the bank, circled back around on dry land and repeated herself).  See all those leaves?!

I snapped a picture of the cabin from this view.  1-10-2015_from-the-lakeYou can see my ugly (but very useful) carnival stairs that I need to finish painting.  Originally they were all yellow.  Now most of the sides and rails are a dark brown.

The large patch of vines and brush over on the right beside the boat has always been an eye-sore and something I’ve not looked forward to tackling.

Back up to the house.  Went and took the tarp off of the hoop garden, picked some dandelions for the chickens that STILL had not frozen and got the mail.  Remembered that my water and utility bills are due today and as I needed coffee I decided to change and go get some before I paid it.  Eight miles to town and I discover that I left my wallet after six of them!  I passed 4 HUGE combines on the way and wondered what in the world they could be up to.  On my way back – after retrieving my wallet – I discovered they were harvesting soybeans.  In January, with temps in the 30s!

I watched a few YouTube videos, tried to do some writing, cleaning, anything but listen to my male cat whine about wanting out no matter how cold it was.  He’s got cabin fever as much as I do, I guess.  Out he went, and after changing yet again so did I.  My little Mexican was aching to go to, but we left the Japanese princess inside as she’s not prone to listening.

1-10-2015_working-area_beginI decided to head down the slope the way I had come this morning and cut down some of those tiny trees that I had neglected this past year and the new ones that had popped up.  I cut a few down on the way along with a few low-hanging branches, but this fallen log was my real starting point.  I had intended to zig-zag down the slope staying in this general area, but I think I wandered as much as my chihuahua!  Over to the spring’s trail down to the lake on the left.  There was a line of small trees on either side that looked like they had been planted there by design.  I cut down the ones that were messing with Nature’s aesthetic, but by now the jacket had come off and I had to keep an eye on Nitro so he wouldn’t hike on it while I was distracted! Wandered far over to the right and cut down some big vines.  Closer and closer to that dreaded spot of tangles on the peninsula…

I didn’t start counting my clips until I came to the log, but when I hit a 99 I couldn’t remember if it was 299 or 399, and after I got to the tangle and started clipping vines I lost track again.  All in all, I cut down 430 (or 530)+ budding young trees today! 1-10-2015_twigs Who would have imagined?!?  The area in this photo STILL has to be cut down, but it gives you an idea of what I was facing.  I did not get the peninsula cleared – not even close – but I did make a huge dent in it.  My loppers seized up on me like they did a few days ago before it turned frigid.  And I must confess, I was getting a little claustrophobic.  I don’t have TRUE claustrophobia – MRI machines or closets don’t scare me, but put a too-tight shirt over my head or let me get tangled up in these vines and I temporarily freak out!

1-10-2015_ducksThe ducks that had been laughing at me from a distance, finally came closer.  I guess they could tell that I was kaput and no longer a threat.  Or maybe they just wanted to say “goodbye Crazy!”

1-10-2015_birdI stepped across the frozen area of the lake again to survey my work and spotted the two little birds who had been singing to me all afternoon, right above the tangleweed area.  I have no idea what kind they are and they were probably grateful that my presence had kept the ever-present hawk at bay.

1-10-2015_LakeBrushBHiking back up to the cabin, I’m surprised that it’s so warm.  I’m wearing sweat pants and a short-sleeved t-shirt!  (or is it just middle-aged me? 😉 )

It’s after 4pm and I haven’t had any lunch.  Oh well, maybe I’ll do some more tomorrow…

Nature’s Velcro

Weather:  45* & Sunny

1-6-15_pile1There’s supposed to be a brutal cold front coming in tonight, so I decided in spite of a bum right knee and left wrist that I would try and get some more of the vines and scrub brush cut down.  After looking everywhere, I finally found my knee brace, bundled up and headed out.

After pulling down only one pile of junk off came the jacket, then shortly thereafter the hat.1-6-15_me2  I was tugging quite hard at some honeysuckle vines when I managed to pull down a tree! (It was old and rotten, but it created more work than I was prepared for.  Another tug and down came another smaller tree.)

1-6-15_ravine1As I was dragging my piles to the ravine – which is filling up fast – I remembered my idea as I was laying in bed last night.  Perhaps I’m chasing my own tail by throwing my refuse in the ravine.  At the time it seemed like a good idea – to fill it up, but last night the idea of a root cellar was on my mind and what easier way to build a root cellar than in a ravine that is already “dug out”!?  I’m wondering if any of our ancestors made use of such a situation…

10885416_10205704991443106_1187893391937180403_nI quickly got hotter than I could stand and thinking to quit for the day, headed back up to the cabin where I shed my fleece top.  Now I only had on my long johns, yoga pants and a short sleeve shirt.  The chickens were angry that they had not been fed yet, so I took care of that and while I was there decided to clip just a few small trees near the coop.  That led to a few more a bit further down the slope until I had cut down probably 20!  The spring bed had water in it and I just knew that I was going to get muddy if I tried crossing it, but it was so warm out…  I trimmed more small trees and vines along the spring bed and then on out to the lake where I pulled up an adirondack chair and clipped the brush along the bank.  I then moved over to cut out some of the bamboo across from where the spring empties into the lake, but my loppers seized up and I was done!

1-6-15_stickersClimbing the hill back up to the cabin was tough, let me tell you.  I did manage to pick up a few cut branches along the way to add to my burn pile.

I let the the dogs out while I sat on the porch swing and picked stickers out of my hair.  They were all over my pants and shirt. My 8 yr old chihuahua, Nitro, came over and tried to help me.  1-6-15_Nitro2

1-6-15_stickers2I don’t remember what plant has these, but they are such a nuisance.  They came out of my hair easy enough and after I took a long hot bubble bath I felt another one slip out easily, 1-6-15_stickers3so that gave me the idea of soaking my pants.  If these little natural velcro stickers get wet they lose most of their cling and made pulling them off much easier.  (Well, I’ve got one pant’s leg done. 😉 )

I drove to town for some sugar and cat litter.  I suppose Jerry will get to sleep inside tonight.  Tom had breakfast and took off doing what he does best – tomcatting around – so it’s doubtful he’ll show up tonight.  I’ll probably have to shut my window tonight, but right now I better get up in the loft and get my bed cleaned off.  I piled everything on it this morning looking for that knee brace!  Hunnie Baer out.

Herbs – Week 1: Anise!

jovina cooks

The leaves of the anise plant can be used as an herb. The seeds of the anise plant, called aniseed or anise seeds, are used as a spice, either ground or whole. Despite its similar name, anise is not related to star anise, which is another spice from a different family of plants. Anise is used in a variety of baked goods and desserts, for example, Italian biscotti. Anise seeds are, also, the basis for a number of alcoholic beverages, including absinthe, anisette, ouzo and sambuca.

Anise has been used for centuries and has been mentioned in ancient herbal mixtures, as well as in texts on medicine, folklore, cookery, confectionery, perfumery and witchcraft. Pliny, in his treatise on natural history, mentions anise and states that the best was grown on the Greek Island of Crete. He also tells us that anise was used to alleviate headaches, soothe the stomach, clear the eyes and…

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Berries – Week 1: Aronia (or Black Chokecherry/Chokeberry)

Aronia_BlackChokeberryAronia, also called black chokecherry, is an extremely hardy shrub that can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8. It grows 3 to 6 feet tall and wide, depending on the variety. This vigorous shrub is self-fertile, generally insect- and disease-free, and produces an abundance of blue-black berries in summer. The berries make a strong-flavored wine, juice, or jam, and have one of the highest levels of antioxidants of all the berry crops. ‘Viking’ and ‘Nero’ are two good selections.

As an added benefit, the glossy green leaves of this deciduous shrub turn fire engine red in fall. Instead of planting burning bush, why not grow aronia for fall color and edible berries? The plants sucker freely and can be used as a hedge plant along a wall or building.”  –Source:  Edible Landscaping

CBS News boasts:  “The berry has one of the highest antioxidant values ever recorded for any other fruits, including superfoods such as blueberries, acai berries and goji berries.”

Michigan Bulb offers this information:

Botanical Name: Aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’
Form: Deciduous shrub
Sun Exposure: Partial Shade/Full Sun
Height/Habit: 3 – 5′
Spread: 5 – 6′
Spacing: 5 – 8′
Hardiness Zone: Zones 3 – 8
Foliage Type: Obovate, glossy mid-green leaves with excellent red orange and a hint of purple fall color.
Flower Form: Corymbs of white tinged with pink.
Flower Color: White tinged with pink
Flowering Date: Late spring to early summer.
Planting Requirements: Morning sun with shade in the afternoon is best for fruiting and fall leaf color.
Soil Requirements: Adaptable to a wide range of soils but moist, fertile, well-drained soil is best.
Growth Rate: Moderate.
Unique Characteristics: Hardy native plant to Eastern North America and Canada. This variety is a cultivated form of the native aronia. It has recently attracted scientific interest due to the deep purple-black berries and their properties. There are several health benefits of the aronia berries like other dark pigmented berries such as blueberries, black currant, salal and bilberries. Antioxidants, cardiovascular system support, anti-aging properties, digestive aids and help in maintaining blood sugar levels to name a few! The berries are not particular tasty fresh to humans but the juices can be made into a number of wonderful items such as juices, wines, syrups, sauces, marinades, chutney and pies. If you don’t care to harvest the fruit, the songbirds and other wildlife will gladly take care of that for you!
Pruning: Late winter when dormant or after flowering if fruit production is not an important factor for growing this plant.
Additional Information: Remove seeds and skin when used in foods – takes out the bitterness. Bounty of fruit by the third season of growth. Harvest fruit in early to mid fall.

“Also known as Chokeberry because of its ascetic flavor, this deep purple berry has been considered by many as the healthiest fruit in the world because of its abundance of anthocyanines, which aid in reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Scientists and medical experts are even exploring the possibility of using the Aronia Berry to fight heart disease and cancer. American Indians were among the first to discover the medicinal value of this purple berry as they believed it to be an of aphrodisiac.

Aronia Melanocarpa Viking berries thrive in swamps and wet woods, so it best planted in moist and well-drained soil. Blooms start to appear in late spring and continue to blossom until early summer. Native to the eastern part of North America, the Aronia Berry is currently cultivated in many parts of the world. The plant yield clusters of tiny white flowers with pink glabrous sepals. Apart from its therapeutic properties, the fruit is also versatile in the kitchen. It can be used to make jams and fruit preserves, juices, food coloring, and tea to name a few. The Aronia Berry also makes a great decorative plant in any garden, not only because the fruits have a beautiful color, but also because the plant is resistant to harmful elements such as disease, pollution, and drought.”  –Source: Michigan Bulb

Aronia-blossomsJacqueline, at Deep Roots at Home says they are quite tart, but good in quickbreads and are self-fertile, so you only need 1 bush! 😀