Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Getting Crafty

Most of my crafting time lately has been devoted to crocheting. I am still very much a beginner, but I'm starting to get the hang of it. The past few days, I have been practicing crocheting in the round, so I made a set of dishcloths for my kitchen. I chose mostly blues in the yarn to accent my cobalt dishware.

These were very fun and quick to make- my kind of project, since I have the bad habit of getting sick of a project about halfway though and setting it aside to eventually melt into the couch cushions. I will probably end up using them more for table decorations than anything.

I made this crocheted kerchief out of nylon twine, which took a little getting used to. It liked to stick to my hook if I got crocheted to tightly. The finished kerchief is a little heavy, but I still really like it. Near the top are a few stripes of different shades of pink, as I ran out of the original twine and couldn't find any more of that brand. So I made stripes in different pinks hopefully so it looks like it was done on purpose. :)

I made the Chic & Simple Belt out of Crochet Today for myself, and of course used pink yarn. I got a little carried away on the length- apparently I'm not as fat as I think I am! I haven't decided whether to just leave it long or to fix it. The buckle is actually a clippy thing I found at the local farm store. They were very cheap, but look really cool as a buckle. I picked up several packages of them for a few bucks. Maybe on my next belt I'll get the length right.

I made myself this bath scrubby from a pattern I found on Ravelry. It looked complicated, but once I got crocheting it, it was surprisingly easy. I will probably make a lot of these for gifts and such. I had almost enough yarn to finish it using one skein, but ran out at the end. I didn't have any more in this colorway, but I had some that had all those colors except the mint green and white, so I used it. Since I only needed a little, it wasn't very noticeable.

Another quick project I have been working on is making crocheted fake food for the kids. Tate got a kitchen set for his birthday and him and Sullivan love it. The main problem with the plastic fake food you buy at the store is that kids are inevitably going to put it in their mouth and chomp down. This makes it dented and pretty much doesn't resemble food anymore, so I decided to make something more durable and easy to wash. This was my first cookie (chocolate chip) and I have several others done, just needing little finishing touches. I also am working on an egg.

You can check out my crochet projects both completed and work-in-progress by looking me up at http://www.ravelry.com/. My name is plumcreekmama on there as well, and I try to keep it updated with my projects.

To share with other farm girls and to learn about the Farm Girl way of life visit: http://www.maryjanesfarm.org/

Sunday, April 27, 2008

In The Garden

I have been anxious all winter waiting for spring to arrive. This was one of the longest winters I can remember. The weather hasn't been very cooperative this spring either. It's been very cold at night and we've had snow a couple times this April, with more snow in the forecast. Add that to all the rain and flooding and it seems as though I'll never get the garden going! Above is a picture of one of my raised beds containing rhubarb, chives, strawberries, and my runaway blackberries. I can't wait to make rhubarb pie!
Above is a little plot where I had dug out a bunch of rock from the foundation of the old farmhouse that stood there. I used the stone to ring some flower garden areas in the front yard. I filled the hole in and planted a sucker from a rosebush my grandma grew at her farm. Around it I planted some peonies, which are just starting to come up and get some leaves. Peonies and roses are my two favorite flowers and I consider them a must for a farm garden.

In the back I have a raised box with raspberries. The floodwater dislodged it, but I think it will be all right. I need to do a lot of work with the raspberries anyway. They are my favorite fruit and always so expensive in the store, so I want to add many more, with the intention of freezing some.

In the picture above is one of my raised beds in the herb garden. The water moved it and destroyed the stone circle I built in the middle. I'm pretty much planning on starting all over with the herb garden anyway. Last year the weeds really got away from me. I am going to keep the layout of the raised beds the same, but I am going to redo all the plants. I need to make better plant markers this time, as the old ones are missing or unreadable.

My seedlings are doing well. Hopefully the weather will warm up and they can go out in the cold frame soon. I transplanted my honeylocust seedlings to bigger pots last night. Even though I haven't started outside in the vegetable garden, there is still tons of gardening to keep me busy.

To share with other farm girls and to learn about the Farm Girl way of life visit: http://www.maryjanesfarm.org/

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Flooded Out

With all the rain we've had lately, yesterday everything started flooding. The Plum Creek runs across the road from our house on the other side of a cornfield. The field was already full yesterday morning when I got up and was starting to go over the road. We watched it come up all day and went for a little drive in the afternoon to check out the area. Some places nearby the roads were already starting to wash away.

After Joe left to go to work at 5:00, the power went out at our house. I called Joe, who was getting gas in Hopkinton and he said the power was out there too. Mom said the power was out in Monticello and Dad said Cascade's was out too. Joe came home because they shut the factory down, and before he got home our power came back on.

We went back and forth about whether we should try to evacuate or not. We live in a very flat area, but our trailer and barn sit a little higher than everything else. We decided to go for another drive to check out the situation. We took the Jeep since it has 33" tires and sits up nice and high. We tried one direction, but the water was so high at the T intersection we couldn't tell where exactly the road was. You can see by the road signs that the water was really high.

So then we tried leaving the other direction, which had been flooded all day. We got going and it just kept getting deeper and deeper. We opened our doors and it was just below the frame. Joe decided to keep going because he thought that was the deepest. It wasn't. It got too deep and the current was pushing us off the road toward the creek, where the current was moving super fast. I have never been so scared! Luckily we made it through before we were completely off the road.

Down the road at another T intersection, the road was covered a long ways and the road was starting to wash away, so we only had one direction we could go. We decided we better try to find a way back home before it got any higher. We went all the way around to the other T, but it had gotten a lot worse in the last 15 minutes. We thought maybe we could drive through the field in the back of our house, but it was too muddy, so we were stuck. We ended up staying at my parent's house.
I worried all night about the animals. The kids didn't sleep very well either. Sullivan ended up sleeping in the bed with us, so I kept waking up to check on him. As soon as the kids were finished with breakfast this morning, we packed up and headed for home. My stomach was in knots all the way, hoping that everything was all right and that we could get home. We definitely had good luck. The water was off the roads and we made it!

All the animals were fine and nothing seemed damaged. Our woodpile started floating away and is scattered throughout our backyard and the neighboring cornfield. Luckily our fence stopped most of it. Some of the boxes for my raised beds in the garden were dislodged. Joe's campfire scrap wood had floated away, but we found it about 50 feet away, still in a pile! Other than that, things are just wet and dirty and there are corn stalks everywhere. I consider us very blessed and hope all our neighbors had the same luck!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Spotlight on Kolby

Sherwoods Lil Bailey Kolby, called Lil B when he was a puppy, then Kolby, was born March 26, 2003. He is a Shih Tzu, the firstborn in Bailey and Josie second litter. His litter-brother Chase Dakota James "Chase" is my parent's dog, so they still visit each other from time to time. Kolby was originally for sale, but after the family that first wanted him changed their minds, I cried and cried and promised him he could stay with me forever. And I have been glad ever since.

Kolby (whose nickname is Friend) can be quite the troublemaker. He has a knack for getting food off the kitchen table and Sully's highchair. After he cleans Sullivan's highchair tray, he usually takes a nap up there before getting down. Even when we make sure all the chairs are pushed in around the table, he gets on the chair and squeezes his way onto the table. There's just no stopping him! He doesn't take no for an answer.

Besides the highchair, Kolby likes to sleep in other strange places, his favorite being a basket of clean clothes fresh from the dryer. He's kind of a weeny dog- scary things often happen to him. When he was a puppy, he got his dog tag caught in the heat register and went crazy. He also came to the barn with me one time and a wire that was hooked to a tarp got caught in his fur, and he went yelping away, tarp flying after him! It was a good couple years before he would ever set paw in the barn again.

He has always loved water- when the bowl is empty or he's just too lazy to look, he jumps in the bathtub and barks until we come and turn the water on. Just for a few seconds, to get the bottom of the bathtub wet so he can lick it all off. When he was a puppy, we couldn't figure out why his water bowl was always empty. I finally caught him one day digging in it and splashing all the water out. I'm just glad he outgrew that!

Kolby is such a gentle soul, he loves his belly and face rubbed, but gets really mad if you tickle his paws. He's very ticklish and gets so mad that he hides his back paws under his head and glares at you. One of his favorite activities is picking up the dog toys and putting them away in the toybox. I don't know where he learned this- I didn't teach him. I guess he's just a neat freak at heart!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

In The Kitchen/ Domestic Bliss

My favorite thing is my kitchen is my collection of cobalt blue dishes. I have been collecting cobalt glass for a few years now. I need more cabinet space before I buy much more of it! I am very quickly running out of room in my kitchen.

This is my wallpaper border in the kitchen. It was here when we moved in, but I really like it, so I haven't changed it. The walls are sage green with darker green sponged over the top. Off the kitchen is my pantry and my computer space. The wallpaper in here is very pretty too.

My pantry no longer has food in it- it's where I keep my dishes. The reason for this being the fact that we couldn't keep the mice out of anything. We put the food in higher-up cabinets, and we haven't had the mice get into it since. I don't think they were too happy finding dishes in their own personal grocery store. They continue to get into food that gets left on the counter, so we have to be careful. That's one of the few bad things about living in the country-mice!

Last fall I dried and canned tons of herbs for teas, seasonings, and sachets. I have a pretty big area for my herb garden and want to expand it even more this year. Mint is one of my favorites, and I try to plant every variety I can get my hands on. Some varieties I have tried are: peppermint, spearmint, candy mint, chocolate mint, variegated mint, apple mint, and orange mint. My herb garden is located just off the kitchen, through a gate in the backyard, so it's nice and close for cooking and baking.

This year I have started a bunch of lavender seedlings for the herb garden. Lavender can be used in so many ways- I don't think I could ever grow enough! Here is an excellent recipe for lavender tea bread, courtesy of Shikairi at allrecipes.com:

Lavender Tea Bread

3/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
2. Combine the milk and lavender in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat to a simmer, then remove from heat, and allow to cool slightly.
3. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg until the mixture is light and fluffy. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture alternately with the milk and lavender until just blended. Pour into the prepared pan.
4. Bake for 50 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a wooden pick inserted into the crown of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

To share with other farm girls and to learn about the Farm Girl way of life visit: http://www.maryjanesfarm.org

Monday, April 14, 2008

Goat Babies!

The farm is blooming with life this week! On the same day the Sheltie puppies were born, Avenger, my Nigerian dwarf goat, gave birth to two kids (from a pygmy buck). The mostly white one is bashful and always looks the other way, but the agouti one is very brave. It charges at me already!I was on the computer last night blogging about the Sheltie puppies when I heard the baby goats bleating. It took me awhile to figure out where the sound was coming from and what it was! Once I walked outside I immediately knew it was coming from the barn and I ran down there with a flashlight and moved Avenger and the babies to my camper, which I use as a birthing stall for goats and a chicken brooder.
Up until about a week ago, the camper was parked down by the barn, but I had Joe move it up close to the house so I had it close to outlets to plug in the chicken brooder lights. Moving Avenger up there was a real chore since she doesn't walk very well on a leash and I pretty much dragged her most of the way. My chicks aren't coming until next week, so by then I'll have somewhere outside to put Avenger and the kids outside.

I took a little walk around while I was outside with my camera and it didn't take long for the chickens and goats to realize I was outside. They came on the run hoping I was bringing them something good to eat. I took a couple pictures of them and then through them in some hay.

As I walked by my herb garden, I noticed some mint already growing like mad. Up near the front yard I checked on the rhubarb and sure enough, it is starting to pop out of the ground as well. I can't wait to make some rhubarb pie! It's been a couple years since I planted the rhubarb, so I will harvest it pretty heavily this year.

Then up by the mailbox I noticed my first flower of the year. This little yellow crocus was all by it's lonesome up there, though I noticed other bulbs starting to come up. It seems like spring is really starting to get going now. I am so happy that the grass is green again!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Farm Girl Heart

I haven't always been a farmgirl at heart; it's a fairly recent development. Five years ago, my husband and I decided we wanted to live in the country, neither one of us having ever lived in the country before. We found a little place in our price range with almost 6 acres of land and made it our home.

I have been an animal nut my entire life and it was my dream to have lots of animals, especially goats and chickens. I have now had chickens for a few years and I'm now spoiled when it comes to eggs. It's either my own free-range, farm-fresh eggs or nothing! I've got ducks now as well, so when I can find them I have duck eggs too.

As you can see, I'm such a bonafide farm girl, I don't really care if my eggs have manure on them! It just adds a little character.

The spot where I used to keep the chickens is going to be planted with Indian corn this year, so my chickens will have given me more than just eggs. That ground is very well fertilized! The Indian corn is for decoration at Thanksgiving and winter feed for the horses, goats, chickens, and ducks.

I am trying to grow as much of my own produce as I can this year. I have tons of seedlings started on my bookshelf in my bedroom. I packed away three shelves of books temporarily to have room for seed starting. My garden area is pretty weedy still from last year. It will be burnt as soon as we get a day that is calm. I also want to fence the garden in so I can keep ducks and chickens in the plot over the fall and winter for easy cleanup and fertilizer.

My husband and I are currently working on fencing a new dog pen with higher fencing this time. The drifts we had this winter were no match for 4 foot fence, so we are going with 5 foot this time. The grass inside the pen will be mowed completely by goat power.

And what farm girl would be without several farm cats? Not me!

To share with other farmgirls and to learn more about the farm girl way of life visit: http://www.maryjanesfarm.org/

Sheltie Babies!

I am super excited- Zelda had her puppies this morning! Francie (who is Zelda's daughter from her first litter) heard the puppies yipping and started barking, which woke me up. This was about 4 this morning. She has four beautiful puppies- two girls and two boys.

This is my first litter of puppies this year, which is a far cry from the busy year I had last year. I had already had 3 litters by this time last year, with one more litter in May. And I won't be delivering puppies while in labor myself, like I did last year. Josie had puppies, then I went to the hospital and had Sullivan. One of my Shih Tzus, Daisy, is due later this month.

Other than that, I have been working on organizing Tate's room. He broke a window and got glass embedded in his carpet, so my Dad ripped it out and Mom and Joe put down linoleum. With the number of times he has peed on the floor in his room since, I'm glad we didn't do carpet! Since I had to move everything out anyway, I'm getting things put into tubs and hopefully his room won't be quite the disaster it was! I had to take a picture of my boys yesterday- they were ready for the Nascar race.

As you can see in the background, my craft stuff is a disaster area too. I have been working on organizing this area as well, but I seem to spend a lot more time crafting than putting away crafting items. Plus I seem to buy more every time I leave the house, so I sometimes feel as though I move one step forward and about three steps back.

I finished my crocheted headwrap from Mary Jane's Stitching Room book. I made it in pink (of course) crochet thread:

I started a very pretty scarf from the magazine Interweave Crochet, called Arachne's Tears Scarf, designed by Debra Lea. I chose to crochet mine from pink (go figure) nylon thread and I have it about halfway done. Since I took the picture, I have done the beads (pink- imagine that) on that half. Once this scarf is done, it will be one of my most treasured accessories.