Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A jaunt

  

Lee has been working on his new-to-him GMC truck.  He touched one of the hoses under the cab and the whole thing disintegrated. This encouraged him to replace all hoses and wires that showed their age, which is a lot of them.

  

After working on the truck for a few weeks, he decided to take it out for a jaunt in the country.  He had only been driving it in and out of the shelter.  The gearing is different than he is used to and he wanted to do some practice shifting and the steering is way different.

  

He has the name of the large truck mechanic in case of trouble.  (What did we do before cell phones?)   Once all the small repairs are made, I may go with him.  But only when it is cool.  No A/C.  I am a wimp and require cool air.  That is pricey, so he may not get around to it.

  

So, if that's the case, I will wait here for him.

  

He just got back.  The test drive was a success!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Cutting Hay

Cutting hay is a miserable, dangerous job.  Strangely the farmer, who I won't name because I didn't ask for permission, loves it.  We have placed large objects on tree stumps that are invisible due to the tall grass and he laughs at us.  He has cut our place and knows every dip and stump.  That is a man that knows what he is doing.
 
  

He works a full time job and he and his family run cows, in addition to that.  Most of the people around here that raise cows do that.  Its hard to make a living doing just one job.

  

He says he loves to cut hay. That is hard to imagine.  You cut the grass and let it dry out in the field before baling it, so you have to cut when it is scorching hot.  The bugs are out and the air is still.  He does it after working a full day elsewhere.  Are there any young people coming up that are willing to work this hard?

  

This year the farmer got 35 giant round bales for his work. That gives him 35 days of feed for his cows over the winter.  No money changes hands.  He gets the feed for his labor and his diesel to run the tractors. We get our fields cut and this also prevents junk trees and other plant life from taking over.  We used to get hay for our horses, in exchange for allowing him to cut our pastures, but we no longer keep horses, so all the hay goes off the property.

  

Then Lee got out our tractor and bush hogged the slopes that are too steep to use the baling equipment.  Once again, this is dangerous and hot.  You have to go straight up and down or risk rolling over. You want to cut as close to the tree trunks as possible, while trying not to smack yourself with the branches that are right in your face.

  

A tractor doesn't stop.  It just keeps chugging along in the direction you pointed it.  The operator has to keep looking ahead and behind while keeping track of multiple foot pedals and hand controls.  You have to maintain focus while going back and forth and around in circles on the same pasture. Don't hit a hidden tree stump.  Don't swerve and flip.  Remember your seat belt!

  

But when the fields are cut and the rolls of hay are randomly placed, it is a beautiful sight.  I try to remember to stop and appreciate the fact that I get to live here.  It is a damn fine place to be.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Ocean Series

I wanted to make a basket for someone who lives close to the ocean.  I searched for some fabric that reminded me of waves and found this blue green fabric with silver highlights.  It reminded me of the color within a wave, with the sunlight glinting off the water.

  

I looked for, and found, a bright white with some movement to represent the foamy crest of the waves.  

  

I finished the basket with a starfish charm.  I liked it so much I decided to make another basket with an ocean theme.

  

The first basket represented a cresting wave.  The next basket will represent the colors of the ocean from very deep and up to the surface.  Many people have been to the beach and noticed the differing colors from where the water is shallow and out where it is deeper.

I grew up in Southern California and spent my childhood at the beach, even living on my sailboat for a time in my wild and crazy youth.  I lived for several years in the Pacific, including Hawaii and Tonga.  I have snorkeled, gone scuba diving, boogie boarded and sailed in many parts of the world.  I love the ocean.  I wanted to make a basket that explored some of these feeling and colors.

  

The right side of this fabric has gold curlicues and isn't right.  But the inside is a mix of dark blues and is perfect for the bottom of the basket.

The rest of the basket is an ever changing mix of batiks in shades of blues and greens, with designs to represent the seaweed and other plants growing in the oceans.

  

The top of the basket has the light blue green fabric with the white from the first basket.  I completed the basket with a mix of small, polished, blue stones for coral and a seahorse and clam shell peeking out of my miniature reef.

  

Do you think this is a good representation of the ocean?  I am really liking this exploration and am already planning another basket.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Bookworm Bookmarks

My friend Rena Worthen is the genealogy librarian in Fincastle, VA.  This is the library in Botetourt County that has the most extensive material for researching your roots.  Fincastle is the county seat for Botetourt County.  She has added tons of material and researches names at as many local cemeteries as she can find.  Now she needs more bookcases.

  

On a recent trip to a library in Pennsylvania, she saw that they were selling bookworm bookmarks as a fundraiser.  Rena decided this was a way to help her purchase her bookcase.  Then she decided that I would be the perfect patsy best one to make these bookmarks.  I was a willing servant and started making some based on the pattern she provided me.
    

I have a lot of yarn from various other projects, so I made a few in several colors.

  

  

Most are long enough to use in a hardback book.

  

Googly eyes make them look more wormlike and kind of cute!

  

I made a few short ones with no eyes for little kids so they can't choke on them.  I didn't make too many of the little ones as a kid book is usually finished in one sitting, but if someone wants to buy one for their little one, who am I to argue?

I have a large, flat, heart-shaped basket made with patriotic fabric that I thought would nice for a display.  A silly sign finished off my contribution.

  

If they sell, I will make more.  This is an experiment to see if there is a market for hand crocheted bookmarks in the library.  It is up to Rena to price them.  The cost of the yarn and the googly eyes is negligible, but each one takes about 10 minutes to make, so I hope she gets a decent contribution for them.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Fruit Stakes

We have been fighting fire blight on our apple trees for years.  Once it gets into the trees it is very hard to fight off.  There are only two ways that I can find.

  

One, cut off all branches with withered leaves.  The cut has to be 6 inches below the infection and you must dip the blades of the clippers in a bleach and water mixture between each cut.  This prevents the blades from spreading the infection.

  

Two, spray with Fertilome.  It only helps to spray right when the buds on the tree emerge in spring until they flower.  I sprayed every 3 to 4 days at that time.  And still I get more blight on my branches.

  

This year, in addition to spraying, I will be adding some fertilizer.  The theory being that a strong plant can fight off disease easier.  Of course it could be that a healthy plant will push the blight throughout the tree.

  

Lee helped by using a heavy pole to make a hole deep enough to drop in the fertilizing stake.  You can pound them in, but if the soil is too hard, the stake will break.  You place them around the tree at the drip line, or as far out as the branches grow,  If you place them too close to the tree, you can burn it with the concentrated fertilizer.

  

There is no downside to this.  I help the trees or the fire blight consumes the trees.  If that happens I will I tear them out and quit fighting.

It is very discouraging.  We have had these trees for about 5 years and they are just getting to the point where they should be producing a significant number of apples.  I no longer complain about the hight cost of fruit and vegetables.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Three Billy Goats Gruff

  

The two cats and one dog (our version of three billy goats) have been inordinately interested in what is going on under the back deck.  The "troll" living under the "bridge" emerged today.

  

I guess he was looking for some sun.  I hope he finds lots of sun elsewhere.

  

I like having black snakes around because they keep poisonous snakes away.  But I prefer they stay not quite so close to the house. We have 57 acres for them to live on.  You'd think they would prefer a place with fewer humans and inquisitive animals.

  

I'm hoping he takes up residence elsewhere.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Harvester Center

We recently went to The Harvester Center in Rocky Mount.  This is a small town on the south side of Roanoke.  They took a building in the center of town and turned it into a music venue.

Up until this concert, we had only gone to the ones in the Roanoke Civic Center, renamed the Berglund Center.  We have gone to some really great concerts there: Brad Paisley; Carrie Underwood; Toby Keith among others.  The problem there is the acoustics.  It is a fairly small venue and these act usually perform at huge places.  I don't know if it is the band's sound people, the venue sound people or my old age, but I have resorted to taking foam ear plugs.  If I don't, I come out with my ears ringing, sometimes for hours.  This is not good.

I decided to quit going to inside concerts there, unless it is an orchestra.

We had heard good things about The Harvester  They are attracting some good artists and I decided to take a chance on seeing a musical program there.  But, I took a couple of ear plugs, just in case.

  

We saw Christopher Cross.  The sound was a bit loud for me, but there was no ringing in my ears, so that was good.  He played some songs I knew and some I didn't.  My favorite Christopher Cross song is Sailing.  It was released shortly after I got a sailboat and lived on it in Marina Del Rey.  I love that song.

a terrible picture with my phone
The Harvester Center earned my ear's seal of approval.  The acts that will go to Rocky Mount won't be the same ones that will play bigger arenas, but the parking is easier and the crowds are smaller, so I am OK with that.  It is a long drive for us, but I would rather do that than return to the Berglund Center.  We'll go back.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bird Hazard

Our house seems to have moved into a bird flight path.  On two separate occasions in the past week I have heard a loud thump.  When the first one happened, I went to check it out and the cats were peering out of the window.

  

I don't know what this bird is, but it looked dead.  I carefully went outside through a different door than the cats were using to plot their Thanksgiving dinner.

  

The bird appeared dead at first, but then I saw that it was breathing and the eyes were flickering.  I left it alone for 10 or 15 minutes.  It was still there.  Still on its back.

  

I went out again and gently tried to turn it over.  I placed it breast down and left it alone again.

I checked 20 minutes later and the bird was gone.  The cats had been inside the whole time, so I figure the bird recovered from the head trauma and went home to recuperate.

A few days later, I once again heard a loud thump on the window.

  

Once again I saw the cats plotting dinner.  Once again I found a stunned bird on its back.

  

It was alive and I left it alone.

  

This time when I helped the bird upright, the head kept turning to one side.  With my massive education earned through watching medical shows on television, (my version of online education) I diagnosed a neurological deficit through blunt force trauma.

  

This particular patient checked out of the hospital AMA...Against Medical Advice.

I can't stop cleaning the windows, because I don't actually clean the windows.  So I don't know how to stop this bird apocalypse.  Opinions are welcomed.


Monday, May 15, 2017

Honey Mustard Chicken

We tend to eat vegetarian or chicken most nights.  This is not for any particular reason, except for our preference.  Recently, I made some honey mustard chicken and we really liked it.  You may, too.  It was good enough for a company meal!

  

Honey Mustard Chicken

1/4 pound bacon or one box of the precooked kind
2 pounds chicken breasts
kosher salt
pepper
3 Tablespoons mustard
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup honey
1 cup milk
1/3 cup cream
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro

  

Cook the bacon in a large frying pan.  I used the precooked kind.  It is less messy and left sufficient grease for this recipe without messing up my whole cooktop.

  

Remove the bacon and place it on some paper towels.

  

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  Cook them in the bacon grease until just brown, about 3 minutes in each side.  Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.

Add the mustard, garlic, honey, milk and cream to the frying pan.  Stir to combine.  Reduce the heat to medium low.

  

Place the cornstarch in a small bowl and add 2 teaspoons water.  Mix it until all the cornstarch is dissolved and add it to the gently simmering honey mustard mixture.  Stir.  Continue to simmer until the mixture begins to thicken and then return the chicken breasts to the pan.  Turn the breasts occasionally make sure they are coated in the sauce.

Cook until the chicken breasts are done and no longer pink in the middle.  My chicken breasts were super thick.  I recommend thinner breasts so that they cook faster.  The honey mustard mixture didn't like being cooked as long as I needed to cook the chicken clear through.

  

Crumble the bacon by squeezing them in the paper towels on which you are draining them. 

Serve the breasts with their fair share of the sauce and sprinkle the crumbled bacon and chopped cilantro on top.  Parsley can be substituted for the cilantro, if you like.

  

I served the Honey Mustard Chicken with roasted baby red potatoes and onion along with sautéed zucchini...and onions.  I love cooked onions and usually use Vidalia onions for extra sweetness.

This was a fabulous dish and I will be making it again.  Come for dinner!  It is hard to have a new company dish in my repertoire and no guests to eat it!


Friday, May 12, 2017

Cab over

Lee jacked up his new, old truck so I could see how it worked

  

You may have seen these cab over trucks on the road.  But you probably haven't seen them lifted up.

  

This is how you have to work on the powertrain on one of these trucks.  Don't leave any important papers on the seat, a full coffee cup or forget that someone is sleeping in the back.

  

He has started fixing little things like lights and wiring.  So far there are no major problems.  I'm going to let him drive it a few times before I go for a ride.  I want to make sure the truck works and Lee knows what he is doing.

  


This is the view from the ground.  It is quite a climb to get in. You have to make sure you start on the correct foot and plan your handholds.  It is sort of like climbing a rock wall!
  


Once inside the dashboard wraps around the driver.

  

The passenger seat is separated by the dash and there is a small twin bed platform behind the seats.  Im going to get in there with some PineSol and new sheets and that is where I will ride!

  

I let my cousins climb in the truck.  They had a blast!