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Friday, December 28, 2012

And so it was Christmas...

Christmas didn't quite go as planned this year.

Didn't get any mailing done. I was traveling on Wed and Thurs... Got up Friday morning and about the time the coffee was done we lost power. Called in the power outage and they told me an estimate on Sunday night.
Well crap, that effectively canceled the holiday at our house. I hadn't done any of the cleanup, decorating including getting the tree, or the shopping for fresh foods to cook with. Fortunately, we were able to set up plans to go over to the folks house instead, so Christmas was saved :)
We did get our power up on Saturday afternoon, but by then I was totally unwilling to start preparations for Monday afternoon. I may be pretty good sometimes, but I ain't that good.
So it ended up being a rather quiet and boring Christmas at Growbox hill.
Now I have a whole heap of natural decorations to string up on the trees outside, lol.
And we got some damage to the windows on the workshop porch that I need to figure out how to repair. 

The world didn't end, but it was kind of funny because we lost power and who knew if the world hadn't ended, hehehehe.

But as this year comes to a close, I am not sorry to see it go. 2012 was a bad year in a lot of ways, but it was a good year too in some ways. I'm looking forward to 2013.

Do I have new years resolutions? Of course I do. Everybody does, even those folks that claim they don't. If you have made plans into the next year, you have made resolutions to do something.

I'm going to make the second attempt at the veggie rows, work on improving what I already have plotted out. The black plastic was ok for the first year run. I want to at least upgrade to some proper path borders if I can lay my hands on some super cheap or free carpet.
I'm going to make the second attempt at the luffa growing project. I have enough seeds this time to guarantee a stand of growth if I don't completely screw up.
I'm going to try a second attempt at the marigold border for the firepit.
Oh, and a whole pile of other stuff too. I want to see my friends and family more, get all sorts of things done with the house... an endless array, hehe.

I hope the Farmers Almanac is right and we get in enough winter and early spring precipitation to tilt us back off the drought map. We are still considered abnormally dry and moderate drought is only a  county away. Things are looking pretty good according to the drought monitor- it has backed off a lot in the last couple months.

And so it was Christmas... I hope everyone had a good year. I hope everyone has a good year to come as well :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Eeeep, it's December!

So we are partway into December already, all that winter holiday stuff is coming right the eff up!

To catch up, Thanksgiving was really great. I was able to deliver the cattails to my sister. And try out the sizing dummy of the quartz and rings project for her. And test out a dried veggie dip mix I whipped up.

We got in cookies from OMA in Germany. You rock Oma for making my holiday season brighter.

Got in some seeds and experimented. Got in a very very generous SASE of luffa seed and did a sprout test that came back of 90% of 10 seeds. If I am a good gardener, I will be able to proceed with my initial hops growing setup testing. I wanted to get that done last year, but then the luffas failed and I ended up planting in a gourd mix in the area instead. I didn't know really what would climb or not, so I didn't do the stringing of the area.
Tried out three kinds of dried hot peppers from a little local joint. Did 25 each of those, I didn't expect great sprouting, but hey, ya never know :) The Japanese pods had a 44% rate, so I think I will do another test. The guajillo had 1 seed barely pop. But hey, they all ground up well to make seasoning mix with anyway.

I've tried some projects, and some have failed, hehehe. Tried out birdseed ornaments- found out a lot, and also turned the first lot out to the critters. Perhaps my next batch will be better photo worthy other than what not to look like.
 Ah well. I just tossed the whole mess outside on a container and let the critters go at it. At lest a couple squirrels seemed to enjoy the mix.
 Lesson learned.. KISS, really. Packing the forms sucks, and all of them weren't done the same. The lovely round ones were made using a 1/2 cup measure and baked unmolded. Toothpicks did work great for the hanging hole. Baking at 250 for two hours then leaving them in the oven overnight seemed to work well. Lining the pan with paper is a really good idea. Use oil lightly for your molds. Use water lightly for your fingers to pack the seed.

Found out I could indeed string fresh cranberries and dehydrate them for a pretty garland for the holiday tree. Just takes forever and a day to dry them out while trying to keep them looking nice. 4 12 oz fresh bags gotten on sale yielded the 8 dried strands in the pic. Average length of each strand is about 4 feet. I tried a test bag. Strung them layed them out on a cookie sheet and into a 250 oven for the preliminary drying/cookdown. To darn hot. The skins did a lot of bursting and in general the strands look more like craisins than cranberries. I did up the rest of the strands on a couple cookie sheets at 200 for prelim, and that worked out much much better. Two strands coiled nicely per tray for the dehydrator. Then it ran at 95-125 for three days. Yeah, it took three frigging days to dry them slowly enough that they didn't loose too much of the cranberry look.

Made some music CD's. And a whole bunch of cookies, snickerdoodle, coconut, lemon, chocolate crinkle and snowball. I somehow managed to screw up spritz cookies. I don't know what I did wrong, and they aren't bad, but they just aren't right and very crumbly.
And hehehehehe... Been a long time since I made english muffin loaf and I never tried it in a regular loaf pan before. Wow, funny shit. I think I got the consistency of the dough right, it might have been a bit too loose. And I only used one pan, forgetting the important under a half pan rule. Then I decided to just go ahead with the snoballs instead of holding off and baking off the loaf before it started cresting over the loaf pan. And gee, also forgot to reset the racks and the top might be a tad too done. At least I was smart enough to put a cookie sheet under the loaf pan.

It took the mold perfectly and tastes pretty darn good :) Lesson learned: I always have made this recipe using a set of small loaf forms- while I was at school. Apparently this recipe is enough for 2 loaves, snort. I think I will try using the small form pans I do own- a pair of deep cone muffin pans.

Been listening to a lot of christmas music to help get in the mood. Found out there are some musicians out there I never even thought about that have made whole albums. Some of them not too bad, some of it is downright horrid. I got a couple stations I like though.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Christmas thoughts.. and finally updated pics :)

Oh christmas tree, your fragrant branches spread so beautifully.
Oh so perfect for little meow paws to climb on.
Oh so many lovely ornaments to be swiped at by curious claws.

Oh yeah, we are decorating the tree differently this year. Why? Because even though all of the adult cats were very good about the tree last year- except the tinsel, but who can blame them for that?- we now have a very playful kitten in the house. I sorted through all the tree decor. I have a lot of ornaments that I would be bummed if they got broken or wrecked. And not really enough ornaments that are kitty survival pieces. Well crap.
Then this morning I checked the orange slices I'm dehydrating. They look like lovely bright orange stained glass windows, ohhhh. It hit me- we are going to do a wildlife tree this year. Didn't get my crap together in time for it last year, and if the kitten gets into mangling, no big deal.

About 3 dozen orange slices are now in their storage containers
About 4 dozen lemon slices are now in the big dehydrator
I may pick up a couple blood oranges, limes, or clementines if I see them for a good price. Waste not, want not- since I know after drying and all they won't be all that smelly in the rind, and critters don't really eat them- so I peeled the zest off and set it aside to dry for culinary use :)

The sliced lemons after peeling off the zest.. 

The dehydrator all loaded up...

 This is what the fresh zest of 6 lemons looks like...

This is what the zest of 4 oranges looks like after it's counter dried, and ready to jar up... 

This is a pretty orange slice, looks like glass :)

And this is what a lemon slice looks like.. 

Doing up a batch of apple slices for ornaments. I have a bit leftover on the shelf that needs using up, and I picked up a couple more that were on sale to do up.
Cranberries were on sale and keep for ages in the fridge, those might become garland or ornaments, not sure yet.
Picked up a generous pound of nuts in the shell- couple hours with ribbon and a glue gun, and there are now 8 dozen nut ornaments nestled away in recycled egg cartons. Locked into a big plastic storage tub- no need to incite the mice.

Got half a bag of almost stale big marshmallows- those will get loops for ornaments. Right now they are packed into their own egg cartons to separate and finish getting stale.
Got a couple bags of popcorn on the shelf, so popcorn garland for sure.
Whatever I end up with extras of after trimming the tree can just get tossed into bathroom baskets and such. 
Picked up a nice little treeskirt on super clearance after last season. Still got lights, and those are less breakable little LED ones. Now I just need to get back to work on making presents, hehehee.

On a side note, got in some of my government seed today. Got 2 types of soybean, Enoki and Fifth Moon. And got in 2 packets of Sorghum bicolor, one from Kenya, one from Sudan. By the plant ID I chose, they are both called Dill, but, er, looks nothing like any dill seed I've ever seen! It really looks like wheat..

Got the three pots of celery stubs potted up. I put one upstairs to see how it does there, and the other two are currently on top of my filing cabinet. Been using the squirt gun so someone quits jumping up there. I don't think they will stay there though, not enough light I think.

Finally pulled out the camera and took some picks of stuff. I know just reading text is plain ole boring.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Cool stuff...

I think I might want to set up a worm bin or two in the solarium to take care of indoor scraps.



We get enough newspaperish and indoor plant stuff to make bedding, and kitchen scraps to make food supplies. Including all of our coffee and tea stuff, and goodly amounts of eggshell grindings. I'm pretty sure that the solarium stays warm enough during the winter to keep active bins going. Some notes read being able to put them in unheated garages and they do fine.
And yep, I'm horribly lazy about hauling the kitchen scraps out to the main pile. So having a weekly dump spot out in the solarium might just be the ticket for helping me keep up with that. Now I just have to figure out how to get the worms at this time of year to populate the bins with. And pick up a new 2 gallon bucket- I need to start over with figuring out just how much scrap we make in a week.

Also stumbled across this site... http://www.riverparkfarm.com/Riverparkfarm/farm.htm Very, VERY inspirational. Holy crap milkcrates and great dirt.. Makes me kind of rethink some of my square foot gardening ideas..

Got the 3 bunches of celery all dried up and in its jar :) The ends have seen 48 hours in water now, so it will be time to pot them up in the morning. I wanted to give them an extra good soaking before potting this time.
And the last batch of slaw mix I should need for a while- though now I'm kicking around uses for the stuff. Like dip mixes, veggie salt.. hmmm :)

Got the final done on the squash powder too.
2 medium carving pumpkins,
1 large delecata,
1 large dumpling,
5 small to medium buttercups,
1 large green and 2 small golden acorn squashes,
1 medium large (filled the pan in it's own roasting) and 1 small butternut squash.
I think that made around 9-10 quarts of pulp. All that roasted and steamed, drained, dehydrated on jelly trays that took 4 loads of drying. Toasted the leathers in a warm oven to make them crispy dry. Powdered them in a spice mill.
Final yield- 3 3/4 cups of dried product. I already tested, and it's a 1:2 ratio of powder to water to make a rehydrated paste, a 1:3 ratio makes it more of it's fresh puree form. It's potent, and very roasted, maybe just a smidge too much so. I already knew that would be the case since I over dehydrated a round of squash in the first place. And it's a very deep rusty orange instead of bright fresh pulp orange, again, due to a tad bit of over dehydration. But that's ok, the stuff is great otherwise! It has a really robust and squashy taste.

Here's my new helping hands keeping the oven cracked while the squash toasted :)

I zested the oranges that needed taking care of, sliced them up, and now they are in the dehydrator. They are drying out quite nicely so far, but I think I will run it on low overnight just to be sure. The zest is air drying by the dehydrator.
Next up I need to grate up the carrots I picked up on sale and dehydrate those up. I want grated and sliced carrots because they will have different applications.
Then I'm going to experiment with making tomato powder. In reorganizing the pantry, I realized I have kind of an overstock on canned tomato paste. I want to try out a few cans and make some powder- see how that turns out :)

And tee-hee.... I have two little limes growing on my mini lime tree!!!

I've noticed that the cats don't seem to want to chomp on the leaves of the citrus plants. Not sure if that's because they had the tasty celery to maul to death and the lemon verbena to mess with. So now the celery pots are going elsewhere, and I moved the verbena to a still bright and warm kitty free spot. Now it's just the citrus on the table, so we shall see if those plant develop bite marks or not. I hope not, I want to start having more plants around the house.

Got the first batch of solar light jars done- they are now charging for testing on the windowsills of the workshop. Was able to put together 7 double high spikes to plug into the herb garden. That will make it easier for me to locate my herbs come springtime :) And used up all the stakes leftover from making solar light jars.

Tried out a new baking product today because it was on sale.. Fleishmann's Simply Homemade bread. I think perhaps I really should have stirred it with a spoon instead of using the mixer- oops. I was kind of underwhelmed with the yeast bloom and rising, but that might just be because of the kitchen being a bit chilly. And I think it would probably bake off nicer in a loaf pan instead of free-form. Even though I lubed my sheet real well it still stuck to the sheet. Perhaps some corn meal or something to help line the pan with. It tasted pretty good. I picked up two of them, so I will be able to try another mix and see what happens.

Also found out my yeast is still good, so I can do some of my own from scratch baking. It had a best by date of this February 2012, but it hadn't been opened yet. So I tested it, and it's still good- and in the freezer now :)

And easy test for yeast:
1/2 cup warm water- between 105-115, don't go over 120
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons yeast
 Give it all a stir and let it sit for a while. It should start foaming within 10 minutes, max. By the time it's done foaming, you should have visually just as much liquid in the measuring cup as you do foam. 

I think maybe I will make up a batch of English Muffin Loaves soon- I need to get back into the habit of making that, it's pretty darn yummy. And I have some preserves for sharing around and eating up to go with it :)

Got the last of the reshuffling done upstairs. Now it's time for cleanup on individual areas and rooms. Sorted out the kitten friendly from the stuff I don't dare put out this year in the christmas decorations. I got a bunch of christmas stuff that sucks a lot of space for really not being much, hehehe. I think if I reshuffle a couple full bins into currently empty ones I could already have the containers I need for worm composting.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Puttering around...

Yes, been trying to keep up on regular bottle returns... I'm down to my last batch of small box recycling. Now it's just taking care of the return boxes, hooray! And I can start on my small returns at Hardings... But boo, need to do some cleanup of all the rest of stuff too. Now I'm starting to end up with empty boxes- what to do with them? Use some duct tape and set up some temporary shelving to store up all the wedding stuff as it accumulates. It's now getting stored in the workshop instead of in the florida room, so that's nice for my love :)
Got some bottles turning up as no-go for auto turn in. We shall see how those accumulate in the future. When I get a full box or few I will shuffle them down to the pole barn. 

But I've been spending some serious hours in the workshop. Choosing inspired days over duty days.

Got a lot of cleanup and organizing done in the workshop. I cleared all the storage off my bench, pulled it away from the wall a bit, and took out the unnecessary center support on the shelf- and hung a slim light there instead. I now have almost the entire bench for workspace instead of just the front strip. And when I get long sewing projects, I can just let them hang over the back edge of the bench instead of bunching it up. HOORAY!!
What did I do with all that stuff? Some creative shelving stacking. I also cleaned up the floor space too- and did a serious sweeping and drymopping of the floor so I can start laying out fabric to get some sewing projects done in time for christmas.
Also did a bunch of rearranging done between the costume room and the storage room. And a bunch of stuff swapped out between upstairs and downstairs.
Got a couple of Kusudama done, and a trio of geodesic ornaments. And a big goody sized box geodesic ornament.

I'm going to make a few giant paper goodie ornaments. I currently have 2 other good shapes that I have saved up that I am going to use for patterns. Those are flattening out right now.
The two batches of bath salts are curing away.
Been working on the snowflake pin ornaments, much more of a pita than I anticipated. Probably because this is the first time I'm trying them. Still turning out pretty darn sweet. I'm down to the last set of pins that need to go in, only problem is that now there are so many pins crossing the center I know darn well I won't be able to properly sink the last 24 pins in- tried some silk pins, too short and too small of a head- looks like I did need to get the glass head pins after all.

Figured out some creative lighting for the outdoors. Solar lamp in a jar.
I shot a couple papers with the glow in the dark paint, but I think I prefer just using a tad of glitter dust to coat the insides of the bottles rather than anything more fussy. I'll still have the late fall and christmas sales to hit for more lights. And I have a goodly batch of recycled jars to take upstairs to put to use too.
Using the lights as I currently am leaves me with a quandry of refuse. All of the original tubes and spikes that will not be used with the lights project. Crap, that's a lot of junk. Or not. I'm going to recycle those into the gardening areas as plant marker spikes. That way they can be reused year after year. I think my first ones are going to be marking off herbs in the herb garden. Want to do this very soon so I can sink them in before the ground starts freezing up. At least the stakes, I can do up the cards after that.

I got all the origami boxes for garden in a box favors done, yay! Now I just need to sit down in my "best handwriting" mode to make the tags. I'll use up a bunch of the leftover strips from cutting out the squares to do so.
Picked up a bunch of tulip bulbs on clearance. A couple of bigger bags of mixes, and a handful of bags of particular cultivars. I think they will be nice to try to force for the wedding. I'm betting that I can do up a bunch of pots, keep them in the garage or workshop porch, and force them in the solarium when I need to. Some real blooms to ensure for decor. I will have to make sure I put a note on them, or make them hard to pick up and go for setup. I want to put in some tulip border action for future use.
Made up the rough wiring for the quartz and rings neckpiece for my sister. I want to try out the hang before I start working in square wire.

Picked up the big sheets of mesh at the fabric store and cut out the inserts for the new dehydrator. I had a good coupon, so I was able to do four inserts for less than the price of two of the ones sold to go with the machine. And they fit all the way around with no cutouts like the intended ones. I used one of the jelly trays as the template :)

Got in some more seeds :) Marigolds from the last person that offered on my initial share request, yay! And my first packet of trade seed. I sent off some beans, carrots, and tomatoes, and got in beans, melons, cukes, Fish pepper, Lemon Balm, and a random flower seed.
Heard back on the government seed. The decided to turn down my pepper and squash requests, but it looks like everything else is on the list. I got a second notification that at least my soy is being shipped out. Looks like bean, tomato, and asparagus are still on the list. One of their notes says oat? and I'm not sure why. I thought I had requested coffee.
Still haven't seen back from GardenHoard :(

Got a badly needed reorganization of the pantry done. Well, almost done. Still need to move the mixer out of there. Hung up a bunch of stuff on the kitchen walls too.
I also hung up my trivets on the wall and all the potholders on the side of the fridge. So I was then able to resort all my cooking utensils- no more buckets of utensils eating up cooking area space :)

Got the organization of the recycling done in the garage. Not as much crap there as there used to be, but still got a lot to get done out there.

Hardings had celery on sale so I picked up 3 bunches of it for drying. Amazingly, the new dehydrator can handle 3 bunches at a time! Sadly, the two celery stubs I had growing puked out- too much kitty interference. So now with my new stubs I'm going to put them in a much safer kitty free place- the workshop.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


It's Halloween, one of my favorite holidays :)

I just don't got the spirit this year though, I think it's the damp, drizzly, chilly, windy weather. Was really hoping to do a bonfire, but that's a no-go.

I realized this morning that I wouldn't be able to put out all of the jack-o-lantern trinkets my love and I made on the windows- new naughty Nova meow is just too frigging curious right now. I was going to blow some hours making paper ones to tape on the windows. Then I lucked out and spotted window clings at Hardings! Saved the day there. And they are reusable so long as I store them nicely. I may have to do up some more in windowglass paint stuff.
So where did all those trinkets go? All of them got used :) They filled the solarium windows- and I lined up lots of the salty ones in the workshop and around the fireplace.
Now the house is kittenproofed and all sealed up.
Using pretty much all flameless candles this year. We have enough of them to be able to be kitten safe there too.
Just doing a simple sipping of wine ceremony tonight. You bet there's going to be toasts to departed loved ones tonight..

A happy resurrected Halloween tradition... There's a Witchypoo on the table again tonight. It's one of our smallest gourds with a drawn in witchy face.. Decked out in a tiny felt witches cap. The cap comes from over a decade ago.. One year a buddy and I got some little gourds- he was willing to carve up a bunch with me so I could celebrate that year. We had an extra so I quick made a tiny black felt witches cap for it. So now this year I have homegrown gourd in a goodly dark green to grace the hat upon this year. Witchypoo is now hosting the wine glass that will be left out for the departed to partake from.

All the kitties got a double helping of canned food tonight.. One for them, one for Moon.

Since thin sliced sandwich steak was on managers clearance, I brought the package home and made rouladen. It's brazing in the oven right now next to a pot of greens and beans. Got the greens, spinach, onions, beans, beef, mustard, and bacon on sale. The pickles were regular price.
I have one more batch of dehydrating to go on the squashes and pumpkins. Then I will toast up all the leathers, bust them down, and mark off that container with the info.
Got the Berry Preserves I made up labeled and on the shelf.
Finished one of the geodesic ornaments- I decided to forego the Cinnamon filling. It just wasn't potent enough and worth the trouble of doing it for me.
Tested out the half sized boxes for seed favors. Too small. I will just stick with the full sized boxes. If I end up feeling like they aren't full enough, maybe I will include some origami seed envelopes, or perhaps a little basic book on how to grow all the stuff.I have the test model down, now I need to really get down and make up some really nice ones.
Got the flour and corn syrup for making up a batch or two of birdseed ornaments. I have some old dried apple, mullberry/blueberry mix, some refrigerated prunes that need something done with them, the tail end of the bag of macerated strawberries and some fresh oranges that need zesting that need drying. I think I'm going to bust up a bunch of fruity goodness addition to the ornaments. I'll fill up the jelly sheets tomorrow and fill up the rest with prunes and the macerated strawberry. Overfill can go into the first dehydrator. Dry them up as much as possible before adding them into the mix. I also want to add some powdered chicken shells to the mix- Good for birds, particularly at the time of year that these will be put out. I think I'm going to do them on big loops of florists wire. Help them stay hanging longer.
I think I will ask my love to print out a bunch of fruitspikes too- put those along with the birdseed ornaments.

I've decided to expand the plants as wedding favors. Catgrass for sure. I'm thinking of chives, dill, and parsley too. Perhaps some basil starts. That way I can do up a few cans of each and spread around table decor. I envision a scattering of table goodies, and illumination, and bird goodness.
I think my first plastic bag fusion bits are going into making ribbon ties for everything.

And the day after Halloween... Went around to all the stores hitting Halloween sales. Got some test tubes, a bunch of nail polish, some cool glitter, more jack o lantern window clings, a skull kitchen scrubber brush, and a set of killer blackened metal skeleton hand salad forks. Well, they will be used year round for salad and pasta action.
Took a ride up the road and discovered a rather nice olive oil shop. I picked up a couple bottles, black truffle and butter to try out. They have a nice program where you buy 10 bottles, you get one free. It will likely take me quite a while to get that many built up, but I think it's a nice bonus. I also discovered they are currently building a Meijer up there, so I will have to keep my eye out for when it's completed.
Halloween kind of sucked this year, but that's ok. Not every holiday can be rocking.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Woot! seeds coming in!!

Got in some seeds today :)

A HUGE bag of marigold seed.. I sent off postage and got enough of it to hopefully be able to successfully line the keyhole next year. Of course I will be reserving some to pot up some flowers next year too so I at least have some startover seed if the borders fail. And there's enough for me to make up a few envelopes of them for the seed favors :) That was on the Gardenweb If Mama N is nice next year, we will establish the first line of defense against skeeter and ticks and provide a nice mowing border I can stick lamp posts in.

Got in my SASE from Wintersown.org ... and even more seeds than I was expecting!! I had to choose 6 with 4 backups. They sent me 8 tomatoes and 2 bonus packets! Well worth the price of 2 stamps. I reserved their card so I can send them off some seed as I can while collecting. I will have to send off to them again :) For a $5.00 donation, I get to pick 10 I want, and get them all. It will fill out the rest of my tomato collection except for whites. And it's going to a good cause.

Here is what I got in the mail..

Roughwood Golden Plum tomato
Early Ssubakus Aliana tomato
Yellow Banana tomato
Principe Borghese tomato
Sausage tomato
Lyuda's Mom's Large Red Ukrainian tomato
College Challenger tomato
Piovano tomato
Cayenne pepper 

I'm extra excited about the cayenne- I want to grow some for myself, and there's enough to share a couple seeds too :) I now have my first rotations of tomato seed too- I will probably plant all yellows/golds next year. I may have to build a couple of pollination isolation cases to do so, hmmmm...

I'm also going through my seeds enough that I now have a good idea on what I got for seed trading too. I need to make up a bunch of origami envelopes for them all. Need to do it anyway, I'm almost out and still need a bunch more for the seed favors.
I'm building up seed lists and tearing them down. By the time ordering season comes I will hopefully get very little purchased seed :)

Got the last of the pumpkin puree on the dehydrator... I ran out about 2 1/2 sheets in so I kept filling with the delecata, dumpling, and buttercup squashes from yesterdays roasting. Today I'm roasting off the green and golden acorns and butternut squashes.
So, 2 medium carving pumpkins, one large delecata, one large dumpling, 5 small to medium buttercups, 1 large green and 2 small golden acorn squashes, 1 medium large (filled the pan in it's own roasting) and 1 small butternut squash. I have no idea how many pounds that all is before dehydration. But by the end of today I will have 7 trays dried, and I think I have 6-7 to go. Once todays squash are roasted up, I'll mash them together and we shall see what we get. Squashes are so much dryer than the pumpkins- I had to puree and drain off extra water from the pumpkins. The squashes are ready to go right from the fridge.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Check, done, and finished...

So, since I last tuned in...

Got the 2 pumpkins cooked up and pulped out. Roasted one, steamed the other. Hehehehe, used my new canning kettle as the steamer for my second pumpkin :) So I pureed up one pumpkin in the blender and ladled it into cheesecloth to drain overnight before putting it in dehydrator. I pureed the other one today. The first pumpkin filled 3 trays on the dehydrator- I want to keep the batches smallish since I want them to dry in a day. Got squashes roasting in the oven now.  I think I'm going to toast the leathers in the oven once they are all dry- give a nice toastiness to the stuff and make sure it's oober dry before pulverizing it.

Took all my berry goodness I picked up the other day and made up a batch of berry preserves. I really need to get my timing a bit better for getting all the stuff together and working at the same time. I had my water bath ready before the preserves. No biggie, it takes a while for that big kettle to heat up to a boil, and easy enough to hover it before kicking off the preserves. Though next time, I'm betting that heating that up would go faster if I had the whole thing at room temp instead of fridge temp. The recipe I used made 6 12oz jars of preserves- and yep, I thought it would only take 5 so I only prepped 5 jars. Good thing I could clean another jar quick and jar it up for the refrigerator. 

I used...
6 cups mashed berries. That's the measurement to put in the pot. I used 2- 16 containers of fresh strawberries, a 12 oz package of frozen mixed berries, and 12 oz macerated strawberries I had in the freezer from the last time I got fresh strawberries and didn't use them all up at once. Mashed it up with a potato masher. First I mashed the fresh strawberries- the whole bowl of them at once. Then I tossed in the mixed berries- mash again. Then I ladled in the macerated strawberries, and mashed one more time.
1 package of Sure Jell Pink Box pectin. It's the one that uses less sugar.
4 cups sugar- you divide off a quarter cup to mix with the Sure Jell first.

Bring berries and Sure Jell and sugar mix to a boil. Stir it a LOT.
Once at a boil, add in the rest of the sugar, in a fast stream while stirring.
Keep stirring pretty regularly till it comes to a boil.
Hit your timer for 60 seconds, and keep stirring the whole time.
Once your timer beeps, pull the pan off the burner.
You can finally slow down on the stirring! Now do it gently to help pile up the skum/foam, and keep working the bottom of the pan too.
Yeah, that is a crapton of stirring. But all that liquidy goodness can crisp up on the bottom pretty fast because you are working at high heat the whole time.
Can it up, boil it up. I used 15 minutes for 12 oz jars.
Already all 5 jars have popped. Lets just hope they continue to be like that in 24 hours. They are all already totally jelled up- top half is fruity chunky, bottom half is smooth jelly. Kind of cool. I shook them up as I was tightening the rings after the processing.. but it separated out anyway. 
Dehydrated a couple pounds each of frozen peas and fresh carrots. They are now jarred and on the shelf. Dried up a tray each of rosemary, sage, tarragon, winter savory, and marjoram.

Got the stuff to make birdseed ornaments.. really didn't feel like working on them today. I forgot the cornsyrup anyway for the ornaments. And I know it will go on sale along with flour soon with the winter holidays coming up. Baked up the pumpkin seeds I set to soak in the fridge last night instead. They are now dry, jarred, and on the shelf for the Halloween table. A couple cups of them :)
Made up a couple batches of bath salts. Figured I'd give those time to cure.  Keep your coffee cans if you can do so- Air them out for a while- or dedicate one to coffee scrbbions for this. You can use them to package up small collections of goodies, like pampering kits, goodie tins, whatever. I use the plastic ones a lot for bath salt curing. The cardboard ones are better for canning up presents. A quick trick for cleaning the cans before canning up is to use fabric softener sheets to really wipe out the inside of the can really well and help remove any seeped in traces of coffee. Do this after airing out for sure, you can if you want to before storing as well if you like.
Picked up some label tape on clearance at the closing Office Depot. Next time I'm out I might pick up a couple more rolls. The stuff is wonderful! Most of the ready sized labels weren't what I wanted for sealing and labeling the seed envelopes I'm doing up for garden in a box. And they were frigging expensive still- 20 bucks and I still would have needed to cut them in half to get them to work right. Or 3.50 for a 700 foot roll of tape, about an inch or two per label. Got all the seeds labeled. Got everything sorted out into favor amounts- I'm doing 20 each of those. I made the first test origami box, and I am not sure if I like it or not- used whole sheets of construction paper, and I think perhaps that will be too big.

Got half of the gardening stuff moved.. all the basket stuff and the hoses. I was able to take down the L-shaped gardenbench thing too. A noticeable difference in the space factor of the garage. Broke down a bunch of little box stuff and packed up a big ole block of burning for the (hopefully) holiday bonfire.
I decided not to mow anything. We are hitting into our first freezing temps overnight now, and I just don't want to do it. Also decided not to mark in the steps area yet. Sooner or later all of the forces will be in place with nice weather to set those things in. Just not right now.
Got another bottle return done, and picked up the jelly/leather sheets for the dehydrator. They were 2 packs for 5 bucks, not singly. So now I have an extra one. Still gonna see how I can sale off against that kind of price for the cut my own mesh plates. I wasn't too thrilled with the premade ones.

The Enchanted Bead is now on winter hours- will have to check in midweek about the square wire. Have to wait for some weekday hours midweek for the nursery tree action too.

Got the pillars top trussed and the floor completely backfilled on the Rosepetal Pavilion.  Got the scent into one geodesic ornament- not sure if it's really worth the bother of it though. did the preliminary gluing of the next one done.

Friday, October 26, 2012

food preservation and a bunch more done

Ok, so I made another bottle run to Meijer.. This time to the further away one. And I'm very glad I did!

They had 12 oz canning jars on price drop for 5 bucks for 12- half off.. I picked up three flats. They also had food dehydrators on the shelf, hell yeah!! 50 bucks got me a nice 4 tray with adjustable heat fan blown dehydrator. It's a bit larger than the one I currently own- big enough that I have to set it up on the counter instead of on the shelf. I got an extra 2 pack of trays for it for 10 bucks. Apparently you can stack up to 12 on the darn thing, but I doubt I will go over 6. Sadly fine mesh inserts cost 5 bucks each- so I will be hitting the fabric store and see how much their large sheets of mesh cost. If they are only a couple bucks, you bet your bottom I will be taking the time to cut up my own. Besides, the most recent flyer had a couple half off coupons and a 25% off total purchase coupon. The Meijer also has the fruit roll sheets for 5 bucks a pop. One came with the dehydrator, but I think I will be investing in getting 5 of them.
Because of the kind of dehydrator this is, I can make jerky on it too!
And yes, I will still be using the first dehydrator too. It's perfect for some of the softer drying or have more time to let it dry kind of stuff.  Once I pull the current batch of mushrooms off tomorrow, I will pick a bunch more herbs to go on it.
Right now the new one has 5 trays of broccoli slaw dehydrating- that's 3 12oz packages that I got for 99 cents each, and I had a tray left over. The first dehydrator could only handle a bag and a half. Already the house smells like dehydrating food, and after an hour and a half I felt the need to reshuffle the stuff- it's drying out fast enough I think it may be ready to jar up before I go to bed tonight. Tomorrow I will set up the rest of the frozen peas, and probably do up a batch of the fresh carrots too- I got a couple of pounds for free on a buy deal at Hardings.
Stopped by the hardware store and picked up a big 21 quart canner pot too. Meijer had a 25 quart enamel stock without the rack for 25 bucks and it looked too big for my stove, but the hardware store had the enamel canner pot with the rack for 26.50- for the extra buck and a half and having a rack and an appropriate size to fit on my stove, it was worth it. And it helps support my local hardware store- it's a value beyond price to me in the experience and time those folks have.

Got all excited and bought a couple pumpkins from the local grower... and a bunch more squash from Hardings- on sale for 49 cents a pound... Was planning on using some of my cool new canning equipment. Hardeharhar on me, you can't safely can that using a water bath. So I will be making my puree and dehydrating a bunch on the fruit roll sheets- instant squash powder for soups.. I will likely freeze up at least a couple quarts of the stuff too for more cook and eat kind of consistency.
Between Meijer and Hardings, I was able to pick up a couple pound containers of strawberries and a bag of mixed berries for cheap- and I have a bag of macerated strawberries in the freezer. Gonna whup them all up into some jam and can that all up. I think I will end up with 4-5 12 oz jars when I'm done, so I can always toss in a jar with a few Christmas presents.

I picked up some nice scents for Christmas presents too. Cinnamon to make scented filling for the geodesic ornaments. Jasmine and a soothing green tea and cucumber for making bath salts and some warm/chill pillows. I figure I will make up a couple of those too. A little bit here and there and I will have some pretty decent pampering sets for the ladies. The oils were under 5 bucks each, and I should be able to get quite a bit of mileage out of them. I still have a couple of candy molds sitting around that were complete failures for making seed bombs, but I think they might still be good for making little "butter lumps". A mixture of wax and oils for using on rough spots like elbows and heels.

Got work done on the Rosepetal Pavilion. The posts are now mounted into place and all the final floor tiles are mounted in. Next up is laying in the primary roof struts and backfilling the entire outer edge of the floor. I wanted to give that final layer a couple goodly days to set in before messing around with the next layer. Then it's laying in roof cross beams and doing the primary petal roof layout.

I've noticed where the bottles are stacked was a major drip spot- so I've done a few bottle returns and cleared out most of those boxes. Now I need to keep up on it. I think I'm gonna fold up the yucky boxes and twine them off for easy start logs.

To do list:
Want to start working on birdseed ornaments for wedding favors. Birdseed has been on sale so I figure I will pick up a bag now. That stuff stores forever. Then over the course of winter, I can bake up batches of them and sock them away for bundling. I think I want to pick up some tulle and make nyjer seed bags to pack them up a couple feeders each all nice.
Need to go through the pile of seed envelopes for my garden in a box favors. Ugh, need to hit Office Depot- the are going out of business and got super sale going on. Pick up some printable labels if they have them. Hand written or printed, if the sale is good enough, a box or two will last me ages.
I need to get into touch with the Enchanted Bead lady up the road from us. Need to see if she has/can order square wire for me. My sister handed over some seriously cool chainmail link pieces and a handful of large quarts points for me to make into a necklace for her. I think this particular piece will require the structured edges of square wire. I'm going to use soft wire for now to quick wrap everything into the basic measurements and try the shape on my sister before I squarewire it.
Do another bottle return- pick up a couple jelly sheets for the new dehydrator.
Move a load of gardening stuff. The hoses and basket stuff for sure. That's a couple loads of space eating stuff I want moved.
Move the jug stuff. I know I got at least a bag or two of plastic bottles for smaller turn in action. And a stack of bottles to soak off the labels from and spray up in glow spray for herb garden border action.
Spray a couple test papers with glow spray and glitter to make into glow jars for hanging in the trees. 
Stick in stakes to mark off the future steps down the hill to the easement drive. Plug in the solar lights along that marked area.
If the weather is good, mow out a single path along all borders in the yard. I know it's late in the season and could be killing off.. but if I'm careful and think about it I can cut in a mulch side to work with into the freezing time and able to put in spring time.
Take a trip up to the local tree nursery and inquire to early spring ordering of a pair of trees for wedding planting. Might not be a bad idea to mark in and possibly mow in the planting aisle.
Trim up the branches that need trimming in the yard.
Pick up and drop off fallen branches in the yard to the firepit. Even if the weather is crappy, I want to build up a goodly firepit burning for Halloween. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Meh, just stuff.. and food.. and nice weather

Getting some stuff done.

It was nice enough and dry enough the other day that I buried my herb garden in fall leaves. It was super nice out today with only overcast tomorrow so I can rake up another batch for the garden and prolly some for the compost bin too. If I'm feeling extra super maybe I'll snag a barrow or two of horse poo to toss on top of the bin. We pretty much went from hot and parched to cold and wet so now I'm just biding my time.
Even though the grass looks pretty shaggy I'm not going to mow again this year. Rather leave it a bit shaggy to overwinter rather than cut it now and have it freeze up all crappy.
I also want to pick up a bunch of the pinecones to sock away for winter ornament use- if they end up being critter or indoor use I haven't quite decided yet. 

Made a batch of pork stock. Didn't feel like dinking around with the smoker, so I used just neck bones and roasted them in a hot oven for a half hour before making the stock. It wasn't as gelatinous as I'm used to, but that's ok. Made up a gallon and a half and concentrated it down by half before chucking it in the freezer. Today I made ham and bean soup with it and it's pretty darn good. I was also able to use some of my dehydrated onion, celery, and carrot in it, yay!

Yesterday I made up a crockpot of chili and one of meaty tomato sauce. Tomorrow I will re-arrange the freezer so I got all the stock in back and the edibles in front for quick service.

Hit the Meijer yesterday, and they had pint and a half tall wide mouth canning jars on clearance- 5 bucks for a nine pack. Damn good deal, so I got 4 of them. When I go there after Halloween to check out their clearance stuff, if they still got them, I may end up picking up a couple more.

An ekkgads.. I finally filled up the two huge jars with dried mushrooms. And I still had a couple more packs to dry up sitting in the fridge. What's a girl to do? Make mushroom powder of course! Took about three quarters of a jar to make a couple cups of powder. What's it good for? Adding umami to just about anything... and for making magic dust. So today I made up a half batch of magic dust- shit smells good as hell. What's magic dust for? Just about anything that needs an extra hit of flavor. It can be used for meat rubs, on veggies, in soups, stews, casseroles..

Magic Dust:
1/2 cup paprika
1/4 cup salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 T mustard powder
2 T oregano
1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup cumin
2 T black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder
2 T cayenne pepper- you can use some red pepper flake instead if you like or are out of cayenne
1 T orange zest- you can use powdered orange, or add in some lemon or lime if you don't have enough orange zest
2/3 cups mushroom powder
Blend all this together in a spice mill or your blender till it's all a powder. Magic dust rocks!!

Hmmm, what else? Oh yeah, been working on christmas presents. Got a couple of kusudama flowers all set up, now all I have to do is finish gluing the flowers together into globes. Cut out a set of geodesic ornaments, and got the first one primarily glued together.  Need to let the glue dry before I finish assembling the first one. Then on to the next, lol. Next up on the list will be making glitter string balls, beaded snowflakes (the store finally had tiny styrofoam balls to work with), and some star ornaments.
Got most of the rest of the recipes typed up for this years family cookbook. Just need to get a couple of recipes from my bro's GF and they will be ready to print out and assemble.

Got a bunch done on the rosepetal pavilion. I had to find a more viscus clear glue that would work outdoors and I did at the local fabric store. So I did the backfilling of the tiling on the floor today, at least on the two big hexagons. I'll finish the backfilling once I get the posts and the final outside row of tiles in place. Got the posts stepped into their cups, painted, and the stopper beads on the tops done. Those all need to dry overnight or so before I can glue those into place. Then it's finishing the backfilling, then oh dread, working on the roof action.

Out of Tippy and friends...
lol, oddly enough, after spraying ammonia and scaring the shit out of the coons, we haven't seen them around the house. The swan family is finally flying out for the season. Geese are heading south in major arrows... And I saw white kitty in the yard the other day. We hadn't seen him in so long, we figured he was a goner.
Our new boy, Nova, seems to be finally settling in... or should I say, the other cats seem to be finally getting ok with him. I was a bit worried there for a while, but I think everything is going to be ok. He's huge, at almost 6 months old he's about the same size as the twins. Next month, his balls get snipped- want him to be fully recovered and OK before thanksgiving. He's already a mama's boy- I snuggle the snot out of him and it shows.

As a random SPAM moment...  A couple weeks ago, I got a letter from Best Buy with nonsense about my Best Buy card.. Damn, hadn't used the thing in so long I forgot I even had one- didn't even have a card anymore or paperwork or anything.. So I call in to cardmember services and cancel the card entirely... So today in the mail shows up my new Best Buy credit card? WTF?? Thats spamalot, and I will be calling to complain and make damn sure the account is really canceled. Dumb ass spamming mofos.

And seeds... MMMMM, still haven't gotten anything in the mail from the SASE folks I sent off to, but then I'm not terribly surprised. It will prolly take a while for those to come in. I got back on the Gardenweb. For 4 stamps, I'm getting a half gallon sized package of marigolds, for a pay it forward I'm getting marigolds, pumpkin, and parsley, and for an SASE I'm getting tall marigolds. If I'm at all talented next spring, and Mama N plays nice like she didn't this year, I should get a goodly border of marigolds going on down to the firepit. I put them in this year, but it was so dry I couldn't keep up the the veggie rows, let alone the firepit borders.
I already have my seed wishlists made out for a couple of places, but I'm going to be a good kid and hold off till December to order them.. it can be my xmas present from my love to me, lol.

And wedding stuff... I got all the invite stuff of to my sisters, that all is in their hands now. I picked up a bunch of lovely flameless pillar candles with spring flowers pressed into the was from Joanns on clearance- table lighting for the wedding is now checked off the list. And badass, my clansman Chuck has stepped up to the plate to make all the brew for the wedding, and is asking around for some of the other things I need help with, like the tent! He is frigging awesome with the brewing, so I know the drinks will be yummy as hell!!
Now I need to get off my booty and start making up some origami boxes for wedding favors. I was going to do jars for the garden in a jar- but I'm thinking that garden in a box would make more sense coming from Growbox hill like it is. I'm going to tinker around with construction paper and see if it makes boxes the size I want them.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Time for some seeds

Whaaa? It's October, did I really say time for some seeds?

You bet your boots I did. Been scouring around on the net looking for sources on cheap, free, or sample seeds, and I struck on a couple of them. I figure it don't hurt to start looking around now cuz who knows how long it will take to get some of these things in?

So, with a SASE...
http://tomatoheirlooms.com/free-seeds you subscribe to their newsletter, then they send you an email with SASE instructions... You get 3 free packs of basil seeds, 1 each of Classic Genovese, Dark Purple Opal, and Lemon Basil... I sent off for the seeds on the 16th of this month. This is a one time only thing.

http://www.gardenhoard.com/free-sase-seeds-info out of Michigan. You can send in a SASE once per month, and get 6 free seed packets. You send a list of 8 kinds you like, and she sends you 6 of the 8. I sent off on the 16th for this one too, and will probably keep sending off every month till I get all the kinds of seeds I like off her SASE page.

http://www.wintersown.org/wseo1/Free_Seeds.html I sent off for seeds today with these guys. They have an option of either you can request a 6 pack of random kinds of garden seeds, or an option to go for 6 kinds of tomato seed. I went for the tomato seed package. You pick 6 with a backup up 4 kinds. I picked all saucing and drying kinds, half yellow/orange, half red varieties.

Most exciting, free seeds from the government, the National Plant Germplasm System. http://www.ars-grin.gov/npgs/orders.html I picked out 15 kinds of seeds yesterday for Growbox Hill to experiment with, soybeans, corn, beans, squashes, paprika peppers, tomatoes, dill, coffee, and asparagus. Since it's the government, I expect that this seed will take far longer than the others to show up. They didn't say if they had a limit on how many seeds one could request or not, but I decided to limit it to 15 for now since crap, how much experimentation can I really do at one time between field and hydro trials?

Of course I will probably still order some seed from my favorite people Pinetree Seeds, and maybe a couple of sample packets from Artistic Gardens... But I still have a lot of kinds of seed left over from this springs planting. I'm considering making up some sample packets for trading on the Gardenweb, but we shall see, just because I have a lot of kinds of seeds does not mean I have a lot of any particular kind of seed for trading.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A new fuzz

Yeah, we got a new fuzz. I know it's rather soon after Moon passing. But my sister needed help because they just had too many cats so I took one of them home with me, and my other sister took another one. Sheba is now settling in at her house quite well, a pure white darling.

I got lucky with Nova. He's a tiggy, and I have such a soft spot for tiggys. Just five months old. He has a HUGE purr- the better to go with his big paws and ears and loooong tail. He is going to grow up to be a monster, probably big enough to rival Pooks in size. The other cats are kind of pissy about it, but pretty much keeping it to some growling and hissing with a little bit of smacking, but no all out fighting thank goodness. I figure it's just to make sure he knows his place in the order of things. Right now they are a glaring, but I think quickly enough they will settle into a proper clowder. It's kind of funny, they are pissy and he just does not care in his kitten goodness.

He has his nuts and claws. So in a month or two the nuts will go. Depending on how everyone gets along or not, and how naughty he is or not, he will be our first declawed cat. I always figured we would be down to just Moon and the kittens she teaches would be declawed. But now that she's gone, we might have a revisiting of plans there.

I had forgotten what it's like to have a baby in the house and how much they need to play. So today I went meow shopping. Hit Joanns for glitter balls- you can get a 24 pack for 3 bucks verses a buck and a half for 2 at the pet store. Then I went to the pet store and got a big pack of mice and a fresh jar of catnip. Then it was off to Meijer and they had canned food on sale for a damn fine price so I stocked up and got a new lazer dot. Once I got back home I scattered a bunch of glitter balls and mice. Then it was up in the workshop to make some stoner cat toys. Made 5 valerian buddies- long and slim stuffed with stuffing and valerian and capped with ribbons, cats go batnuts for them. And I made up 8 catnip pillows to scatter around the house too. Excellent use for scrap material- I used German cotton left over from making my love a pair of pants for faire- tough enough that the cats won't shred them up in their loving and playing on them.

So, new boy in the house balances us back out to 4 again :)

He's already kind of a mama's boy. He was having himself an absolute fit in the carrier, so I let him loose in the car for the trip home, and he settled in to just a traveling meow really fast. Pass out in my lap a little, then pass out on the passenger seat a little.. As we got off the highway by home, he wandered into the back seat and laid down.. When I shut off the car and said "we're home" he started with the big purr. I was able to open the back door and just carry him inside. Even as I type he is sprawled on my desk with me- thank goodness I got a new desk, lol. Picked it up for 25 bucks at the Habitat for Humanity restore. It's metal, so no more moving my desk around depending on the season and I don't have to worry about the baseboard heaters anymore, hooray! And it's big enough to properly fill the space too! Picked it up the same day Moon passed, so I will always have a little pang about that. The same day as we went to the restore, we passed a place setting out laminate counter tops for FREE!!! Now my love has an awesome double shelf- made with cinder blocks- I have the hole in the kitchen counter in the workshop properly covered for now.. and we have 4 nice countertops for table space down in the pole barn. Woot.

Even though I miss the hell out of my baby girl and still having random crying jags about her.. I know every time the moon rises shes watching over us and I bet she's happy for us to have another foo to love and treat as well as she was treated. She took the summer with her- it rained for days after we buried her, and with the clearing of the rain came the sudden and immediate autumn.

My impatience with the gourds is finally being satisfied. Got most of them inside now- I have to go out every day or two to see what ones are ready to come in. The one bushel gourd is getting huge, so I'm looking forward to that one being ready to come in. The batwing pumpkins are almost ready to be plucked and brought in as well, yay! The pumpkin peppers- first ones are finally getting their orange on. Tomatoes are still green, but some of them are starting to blush finally.  Still keeping an eye out every day for the frost report just in case.

Went to the resale shops while I was in town with my sisters- whole new wardrobe of pants, sweaters, and long sleeved shirts for under 60 bucks :) 7 pairs of pants, 7 shirts, and 8 sweaters, a pair of nice fur lined suede slippers plus a cute little house coat for special occasions. I've gotten just fat and happy enough out here at Growbox Hill that some new clothes were in order. And a fabulous asian style sweater dress for my sister. She made me an awesome house frock and a pair of suede slippers- I love Bad Bear creations!

Got a ton of fresh mushrooms on the 99 cent clearance- been drying them for days- partially courtesy of my love who did the slicing and drying while I was gone. We have now filled one big jar of mushrooms and have the second jar half full. Pretty soon if this keeps up it will be time to make up a batch of magic dust- the main component of it is powdered mushrooms. While I was in home town I finally picked up a bag of whole nugmegs and some other spices and a pile of matzo goodness.

But I guess it's time to be off and think about some dinner action- got leftovers to use up.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Moonshadow, Moonshadow, 9/3/3-9/20/12

We lost our Moonshadow... My little itty bitty white kitty. My blue eyed girl. The only marshmallow I love, my puppy, my satellite, my herald. My fallen angel.

I rescued her and her sister from a garage at just weeks old in the chilly days of Autumn. Had to keep them locked up for days till I could get them in to the vet and get them all shot up so they could be around other kitties.
First time I knew what her name was... they were hiding under the bed as usual, and I was trying to coax them out by calling sweet names and words... Till I started singing Moonshadow. I started singing that and here came this tiny white poof with huge blue eyes creeping out from under the bed, and up into my lap, purring with much more force than her tiny body could possibly allow. Eventually her sister went to live with one of my sisters, but Moon stayed with me.

Moon grew up to be a tiny thing- six pounds of dinky little white touched with flourishes of grey Siamese coloring that she got from her father around her face, paws, and ringing her tail with toasted marshmallow along her spine. Impossibly huge blue eyes that once she looked up and me and meowed, no other sad eyes could affect me again.

She had a brain the size of a walnut, and was as scattered as the four winds. Always racing about, she never really stopped being a kitten- kept her kitten claws and teeth, kept her kitten ways of playing and loving. She was shy and skittish for the first couple years- and she never really lost that last touch of feral, but it made her all the more loveable. As she got older she got much friendlier, especially when she was in heat- she wanted lovings from everyone and anyone then.

She had such a big and loud purr- it was stunning that such a tiny body could produce such a loud noise. She was a nudger, pushing her head against your hand in love with a force of a cat three times her size. She didn't just walk across a room, she pranced, her little white mutton chop legs trit trotting away like she was the cutest thing in the universe- and of course she was.

In the morning, if my love was up first, she would some up and purr all loud in my ear and poke her paw into my face as if to tell me it was time to wake up because papa was awake... then as I left the bedroom, she would race ahead of me to wherever he was- she always knew which direction to go- and she would trounce into the room, my herald announcing I've woken up. She was my morning bathroom kitty- always having to be in there when I first got up, wanting loving pettings, to which she would get so happy she'd start playfully grabbing my hand and nipping it.

She was a porcupine- you could brush her all day long and not get much hair- but the moment you put on something black she would have a fur explosion all over you- no one's wardrobe is complete without a little Moon on them. She could kick off a snowstorm of white fur when she was intensely loving a petting.

She was a jealous little thing- give loving to anyone else, and darn it, she better get her share too. Call another cat, she came running too. I never could quite figure if she just thought I was calling her too or if she just knew she would get loving anyway.

She was Pookums Yin to his Yang. He all big and black, she all dainty and white. She was his companion, his personal face cleaner.

She glowed in the sunlight, and it was glorious. It was a halo, and she was my fallen angel lit up by the sun.

She was my perfect naynko... I would always tease about what tasty treats she could be.

She brought joy and moonlight to my life in a way I have never experienced with any other cat, nor probably ever will ever again. She was the most entertaining little foo I've ever encountered.

She would pitter patter so softly into our bedroom- and always curled up on me when I was sad or sick- she would lay out on my shoulder or hip. I would feel her light warmth on me and it always made me feel better, beloved... I could always tell when she was on the bed because she was the lightest, and her purr would proceed her. She was the cat that always consoled me most. When I was sad or sick and curled up in bed... The cats all hung out, but she was always the one that would curl up right on me and purr as if she could purr me back to health and happiness- and you know what? It always helped a lot. I don't know what to do with this sorrow without her to help purr it away. 

She always loved people food even though I don't allow the cats to have it. She would hear the crinkle of a chip bag and come running, wanting to try to get her head inside. Always having to shoo her off the kitchen counters- she was always hoping for some little scrap of people food to lick off a plate.
She always preferred to drink out of my water glass than out of the water dish. She would dip a dainty paw into the water to drink if she couldn't just stuff her head into my glass. She would paw her water out of the dish as often as she would bow her head to drink directly. 

She proved that cats have wings, always flitting and flying from one spot to another.. And when she was spooked the hair on her tail would stick straight out and I swear it was bigger than her body.

She loved her squishings. She would rub up against my legs, and I would pick her up. She would immediately start squirming and purring and get petted right out of my arms and jump away- only to come right back to do it all over again, and again, and again. For such a delicate little foo, she loved serious pettings. She would use my legs like a personal pincushion while I had her in my lap, flexing her paws in intense pleasure. She would smush her face between my palms so I could pet both sides of her head at once, and she loved under chin rubbings.

She was a joyous and bright light in our lives- and the world is a darker and deader place without her. Mornings will be emptier and more dreaded without her companionship.

She was a lady and a tramp, a lover and a fighter, the friendliest companion and the first greeter in the house. 

I know if I hadn't rescued her all those years ago she likely would either have been hit by a car, or made pregnant by some cat too big and died trying to hold a litter in her tiny body. So I know that she had many years of love and affection she would never have had otherwise. But I can't help but feel overwhelmed by tears that she didn't get another 9 years and lived to a ripe old age.

She seemed to have passed fairly peacefully and extremely suddenly. She was out being friendly and sociable, then went up under our bed and just... passed. I think I was in the room at the time, but I didn't know she was curled up there till much later in the day. Her tiny little body was kept warm in the spot she was, and when she was pulled out, she still had a little warmth to her- enough so that all I could do was hold her and cry and try to deny the truth... Moons gone. I know logically there was nothing I could have done to change or prevent it- but I can't help but feel like there's something, something...

There will never be another Moonshadow... All my pets are special and unique.. But she was extraordinary, a once in a lifetime if you are really lucky you will meet one kind of cat. They say when you are born, you only get a certain amount of heartbeats- and her tiny heart beat fast at the speed of joy and love. They say the brightest lights burn out quickest, and she was a supernova of brilliance packed into one tiny white furry body.

We laid her to rest in the sanctuary where the sun is always shining so it can always be warm and glowing on her, among the tall grasses where the birds play so she can always watch them. I made sure she is in sight of where I sit at my desk so I can look out and send her good morning love every day. I gave her one last loving stroking of her fur before we shrouded her and put her into a little box. We buried her a few feet down and placed a cairn of rocks over her- next spring when it's planting season I'm going to put in white with blue irises around her grave- I think it will be a suitable flower for her.

We will miss you my Moon Moon Moon, deeply. You left a big hole in our hearts where a little white ball of fur used to be. I love you my baby girl, and I will never forget you... Rest in peace my fallen angel, we are blessed that we had you grace us for nine years. I hope you come back to haunt me, my home is always open for you.

Goodbie baby.. Moonshadow, My Moon, Moon Moon Moon.... The world hurts without you. If I could clone you I would. I don't know if I never want more cats again so I don't have to feel this kind of pain, or if I will search the rest of my life for another that's just a fraction of awesome that you were...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Got things going on in the coolness...

Got the paint and adhesive...
John Deere green for the cans in the solarium. I did up a test dozen at first and set them up. I like them quite a bit, enough so that I shot the next 30 cans- then I ran out of paint. So I will have to get another can to finish up that part of the project.
Flat white and clear adhesive for the Rose Petal Pavilion. I now have the bases glued to the mounting plate, and the thing sprayed white. Tiled in the hexagon rooms except the final outside row. I wanted to let it sit and cure in well before mounting in the roof poles and the final tiling- I'll fill in the two hallways then too. Still dithering around with how tall I want those roofpoles- I got 9 dowels, so I'm undecided as to how I want to cut them up to make my 18 needed for the three hexagons.
And need more adhesive- different stuff. I got E6000 clear, and it's working great for the mounting and tile setting, but is way too thick for the thinset I need to do to seal the tiles into the floor.
And I want to do a basic petal layout for the roof tiles while the whole thing is still flat enough to make it easy. It wont be so easy once poles are in place. 
The hardware store had glow in the dark paint too. So I tried it out on a couple whiskey bottles. Looks like we might have the glass border for the herb garden. I've been kicking around the notion of glow paint, perhaps some reflective too.. But I'm liking the glow alone so far. I think I might try a glitter and glow too for shits and giggles since I have the mats already to try that. It may be that a whole heap of bottles are getting moved to workspace rather than pole barn.
Now I'm tinkering around with other notions for this paint, like perhaps some hanging glow jars for trees :)

And hey hey, got the workshop cleaned up today- didn't scrub down the kitchen area yet, but the place sure does look a LOT better than it did yesterday. And just a note- I really want to install a kitchen sink up there. I did give a good eye to what exactly I need to scrub up and attend to in the kitchen- I really got to get that done so I can start using the cabinet space more effectively. I got stuff to store up there, and it's just sitting in the wrong place right now.
Also managed to overfill a big laundry basket of random crap that needs to come downstairs. Workshirts, empty hangers, books- and oohh, my off white ringwar cloak.

I'm getting all impatient about the gourds and pumpkins. The first frost has been reported by my favorite seed company, and I know October will bring us our first official frost too. So, whatever is out there once the frosts hit and the vines wither, that's what I'm bringing in. Everything. We shall see whats good and such from there. I got a bushel gourd that looks fantastic.. Accidentally broke the stem off the snake gourd a week ago- it's been sitting on the kitchen table being watched ever since to see if it will take to drying or if it will be scrapped. Have a whole handful of smaller shapes and sizes that are looking good, and a nice handful of batwing pumpkins are just starting to come into their proper color. So there will be gourds on the Halloween table that we grew :)
I dunno what's going to happen with the pumpkin pepper- it has a lot of green fruits, but none of them show signs of oranging up at all. I guess if worst comes to worst I can always pull them up and string them up like tomatoes. All those are still green too- I might try up a green tomato recipe with those.
I need to pull up and put away the milk jug waterers for the season.

Gotta do garage cleanup. I got stuff tossed around all over the frigging place. And I need to figure out how to dress the place up before the wedding. I want to do a tent between the garage and the house and clear out the garage for the event anyway for all weather party space. However, if the weather proves too crappy for backyard, we will have to set up the ceremony in the garage. The roof leaks, badly in some spots, the floors and walls are gross and the walls are full of nails in some places. So I really need to figure out some low cost fixes, and pretty damn fast.
I was thinking perhaps just strapping down some big ass tarps over the roof to temporarily fix the leaky roof problem. Cut up some of the plywood currently serving as my gardening bench to board up the weak and rotten vertical spots between the rafters. Probably would have to do it this fall to make sure the inside is dry enough for painting. I figure the floor can just be really well scrubbed, and we will have to leave it at that. Perhaps yoink a couple off carpets from in the house for the ends.
And recycle, recycle, recycle. The more crap I use up from out there, the less stuff that has to be moved around to do stuff in there. And yeah, still move a bunch of stuff to the pole barn.
I think a lot of my basic gardening paraphernalia can be stowed down there. All my strings of milk jugs, hand tools, tarps and bedding bits. And crap, I totally forgot about our tent being spread out in the pull barn- again. So lots of stuff this fall can be relocated to the pull barn, lol.

Made up a big ass batch of chicken stew a couple days ago- we had it twice for dinner now, and I'm going to bag and freeze up the last 3 servings. I think I'm gonna make a big ass skillit tonight for dinner- I'm ravenous. I think potato, bacon, and spinach, yum.
I still haven't started up the smoker for pork bits. I realized since I'm using frozen hocks too I need to plan the smoking process for three or more days instead of an afternoon. Gotta thaw stuff properly and possibly brine it before smoking it.
Been drying lots of stuff- Based off their fresh hydrated weights, I got 10 pounds each freezer corn and mixed veggies, a couple pounds each of fresh from cob corn, peas, onion, and of course a few pounds of mushrooms. Got some slaw mixes and a couple pounds of kale still. Have a batch of celery in the dehydrator now- and the celery end soaking in water for planting in a day or two. I've also plucked quite a bit of tarragon, sage, rosemary, marjoram, pineapple mint, and a bit of winter savory so far. No thyme- I decided the pant really wasn't up to trimming yet. I've finally gotten to the point of emptying out the big jars, so I've started relabeling them for the stuff that's homegrown. I'm taking out all the nice glass jars I saved up- gonna use those for gifting since I got a lot- and I'm going to start using all my cool odd jars for herb mixes. This will really help streamline that area of the pantry. Kicking around the notion of putting in a shelf for the back row of bottle to sit on- and all my oddbit tiny jars to sit under.
Last time I was at the GFS, I picked up a giant jug of parsley, and big jars of oregano and basil, and a 5 lb tub of instant potato powder. I usually like the flake, but that was 3 lbs for the same price. And I've already used the potato powder to help thicken up the chicken stew, and I think I liked it better than using flake.

I'm a tad concerned for the holiday this weekend- forecast calls for a 50% chance of rain and temps in the 50's. It's supposed to be a getting stuff done, got some yardwork to do, want a bonfire kind of weekend, and I'm not sure if that is going to happen or not.
However, got good food prospects anyway. Making up a mess of spinach and beans, and some other contributions to the cook and bitch are scalloped potatoes and squash, and a cornbread stuffing.

And as a general yard hooray!! It looks entirely possible that at least the fenceposts, if not the entire fence will be set in place before the first snow between our property and that to the south. It's all in the east neighbors hands right now as to when it happens. We had a rather extra disturbing episode of the southern neighbors on our easement drive a couple weekends ago, so I am heartily glad that fence plans are moving forward. I don't care what those southern neighbors are doing on their property, but they sure as heck need to keep it off mine. Geez, this last time I saw one of their vehicles on our easement facing the street, and it burned out all the way down my drive. They were fighting and she was at the end of the drive- and at the moment I watched the vehicle move out I had a sudden horrific thought of I'm about to witness a vehicular homicide. It didn't end up that way thank goodness, but the whole thing was still icky. I walked up to the driver and asked them politely to not be on my property. Since they were outside by then already off on their whatever, I asked the father and son regularly staying there to please not let people of their property on my property. It was one of the most unsettling episodes to date since moving here.
I've been PO'd about some, er, right un-neighborly things that have happened. Flaked out with the whole looked like a nefarious deeds going on next door- and when it happened on my easement drive, that is what prompted the surveying of the fenceline. The whole thing with the call the police, and stabbing, and neighbors tripping over into my yard weird earlier this year was really.. odd. Whatever it is they got going on, we, and by this I mean us and the easement neighbors, don't need it on our property.
And, yeah, the deadwood fence still looks awesome. Not quite as perfect as when it was first constructed, and we took photos.. Anywho, it's now nicely grown in. After the main fence is put up, I was thinking about taking it down because it won't be as needed. Thinking of redistributing the wood along the easement ditchline to help give some hard structure definition to the cattail line. But maybe it will sit where it is and get more nasturtium attention next year.
I do need to do some serious tree grooming along that line- as in, cut down every effing one I see to the soil line. Can mow over some stuff, but not that. Figure if I stack it nice when I gut it, could have the first course row of wood to lay down on the ponds edge.  Since we got nice cattails coming up there, that's the area I cut my sisters cattails from, I want to encourage that to grow in all along the line. A thin line of ditch cattails in an easily harvestable space is useful in the long term and pretty.
I think next spring we will rent a tiller, and do a serious and large replanting of ditch lillies in the NW area of the roadside. The clumps we transplanted this spring did wonderfully well down in the corner. But it was a lot and long labor busting up and moving around with just spade and fork.

And as a gravelish, fillin, whatever... I want to start exploring around with using a little concrete to bind together recycled garbage bits into gravel or pavemently bits. Like the whole area along the southern fenceline so we don't need to mow there, around mailbox areas, that sort of thing. We end up with a lot of bottle caps of all sorts, and oddbit shreddibles that I think could end up being a goodly recycled mass for those areas. If it works well, trim out driveway edges with it. Cements are the cheapest binders I can find right now. I think if I really hunker down and start shredding up pulp paper that could work as well- but we would need to get a bunch more buckets with covers to do it.