Thursday, August 31, 2017

Are You Ready ...?

My blog buddy PomPom, and her blog buddy Marcie, are making Autumn Journals this year. They've invited everybody to join them, if we like. I like!
I immediately asked Adam if he could make me a journal to use. He already had a selection of page sets, so I selected two in fall colors.
These two will give me about 80 pages to sketch, color, paint, write, or paste in anything I like regarding autumn, which is the season I adore. Have I mentioned that before? Haha!
This little metal candle holder I found at the thrift store months ago.

And blog friend Gretchen mentioned reading Brambly Hedge to her grandkids, one of my favorites this time of year!
I've pretty much finished the Weaving in the Wreath. Not sure if I like that yellow up there. What do you think? Should I tone it down by weaving in something else? Anyway, it was a very fun project, and oh-so creative.
 Here's something Julia kindly left for me when she went off to college. It's the transom of a dinghy. She painted the birds. That was about 4 or 5 years ago. I want to hang it in The Little House (her old room) now that we are "freshening it" up a bit.
 Speaking of which, here it is, in its slightly tidier state ... although still rather Spartan.
 (I need a lampshade.)
 Having the futon and the single bed there gives lots of sleeping options to whomever is visiting.
Still a long way to go. Must be acceptable by Thanksgiving because somebodies will need to sleep over there. It's just around the corner.
Are you ready for Autumn yet? Would you do a Fall Journal with us? Just find an empty book, stick some pretty leaves in it, and sketch or write whatever you like. Come on!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Whiff of Autumn

Some day this past week the humidity dropped. I think it was a day of rain in the afternoon. Then the air cooled, and I could sense autumn in the future as a sea-lover senses the salt in the air, miles away.
I've been doing yarn. Here's my latest weave on the loom:
It's a subdued houndstooth pattern.
I devised a weaving project involving a grapevine wreath I made months ago. I want to make a weave inside the circle of the wreath. I couldn't find anything on the internet to help me, although I'm sure I'm not the first person to do this. I found one very simplistic attempt with some string, but I wanted a real weave. So I began with some thin warp yarn:
 And slowly started weaving some bulky yarns from the bottom up, looking for primarily natural tones.

I know it looks strange, but I'm hopeful that it will look quite neat when I finish. It's time-consuming. I'd like for the warp strings to nearly disappear by the time I'm done, and for the yarn pattern in the middle to seem as if it's almost suspended in the center of the wreath.
In light of the cooler air outdoors, I used my LLBean coupons to order a sweater:
I love a nice bulky sweater to wrap up in! This one has pockets (essential) and is so cozy. The color is more a dark gray/green. I love the style with the cabling, the snugly collar, the buttons. I'll be wearing this all winter. We often don't need heavy coats here.
I've picked my last tomatoes and am making my last batch of tomato paste discs as I type this. Adam and I have had such a peaceful week! It feels leisurely, like a long bath. I think about Julia a lot and wonder what and how she's doing. We've texted a little, but I don't want to pester her. I want her to enjoy her new life there and sink into college with no Mom intruding ... much.
I see the school buses passing and the school supplies lists in WalMart, and I think, "Those do not involve me!" I'm happy not to be teaching. I want the peace and quiet that comes from hours outdoors in cool weather with animals and a good burn pile. Soon I'll be teaching the ladies' Bible study for the year, and returning to the Prayer Shawl group (I hope). Adam is on a Hurricane Preparedness team in our county, and he's training to become a volunteer counselor for an Opioid Addiction Treatment program here too. Soon we'll be planning our Christmas Shoeboxes, our church's Thanksgiving Dinner for all comers, and our Advent season.
For now, with just a whiff of autumn in the air, I want to enjoy the peace of summer's end.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Stroll Around the Yard

 This shade bed is on the west wide of the house. The elephant ears have become quite monstrous!
 Adam wants to dig them up and divide them so we'll have them elsewhere in the yard too.
Below are three hostas in their third year, plus a lantana bush that is just loving its location! It's quite large, and I only put it in a little over a year ago.
 It attracts many butterflies like this one below. They flutter and fight all over our back deck.
 The herb garden, on the east side of the house, looks like a wreck, but actually it's doing quite well. I'm a firm believer in letting things go to seed so they come back again of their own volition.
 I broke off the spent dill stalks (on the left, above) and laid them down on the thyme. And that empty corner in the upper right? I pulled all the old cilantro stalks out there. I had repeatedly stripped the cilantro seeds (i.e. coriander) off the dry stalks and scattered them in the bed.
 And there are all the little new cilantro plants, coming up! Aren't they darling? I adore cilantro, and now we'll have a whole new crop of it this fall.
Here are the dry cilantro stalks from early summer. I sat on the back porch and rubbed the coriander seeds from them, and put them in a jar. Now they're in the freezer for next year's planting.
 We had a dreadful dry spell about a month ago and my oldest rosemary plant died!! So sad. I do struggle with rosemary here. It does have two green stalks still on the right side, see?
 Of all our trees, the fig shows autumn first. Its leaves brown and curl and drop, and its bare bones show. This I see from my craft room window.
 I'm enjoying my new creative space. I finished a chapter in my book today. I made bee balm lotion yesterday and made lip balm today. I warped up a new houndstooth pattern scarf on my loom yesterday too.
If we stroll to the garden (which is a little walk), you can see my luffah vines draping along the garden fence.
 In addition to the six large luffahs, I have two new babies growing. I'm quite pleased. The vines are so pretty atop the fence. That's only three plants!
baby luffah
sweet potato bloom
 A fence within a fence -- this will (hopefully) protect our Blue Lake bush beans from those pesky rabbits. We will see! They utterly destroyed my last bush beans -- beans, leaves, and stems. Inside this fence, do you see the new beans coming up on the left? The big bushy plants are basil. Horseradish is on the far right.
 My next difficulty is now to preserve green beans. I know I cannot can them in a hot water bath. I need a pressure canner, and I don't have one. I could freeze them, but honestly, I dislike frozen beans unless they're going into soup. I want yummy canned green beans like my sister-in-law Anne makes.
So sometime soon I must find me a pressure canner. If you have any ideas, please advise! I hate to pay the price of a new one, but I may have to. They don't show up in thrift stores often.
Well, there's our yard! How's yours? Are you doing any autumn gardening, or are you putting your yard to bed for the winter?

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

A House for Two

I cried buckets when Philip left for college. Our tight family of six was breaking up; the life we all had together was crumbling. When Anna and Peter left, I consoled myself that I still had a child at home, and for six more years I had Julia at home to teach. And on Friday, she left. When the last child leaves, it's a very different feeling.
I missed her immediately when I got home from the college trip. I walked into the little back room and saw a plate she'd left there with dribbles of pancake syrup. A fork. A glass. For the last time I picked up her dirty dishes and took them to the sink. And it was bittersweet. I don't care if she was a bit high-maintenance, a bit dramatic, a bit messy. I miss her not just in spite of those things. I miss those things too.
But the empty nest is its own delight! Today I hugged Adam and wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed his cheek. "We made it! We did it!" I said, enthusiastically. "I feel like we ran the world's longest 3-legged race, and we got to the finish line!" I'm sure those of you with children in their 30s or 40s are giggling at me. But this is a milestone for me. We raised four children who have gone out into the world. I feel relief.
The next morning I started changing things in the house as I want them to be. I took over the back room. It is no longer Julia's hidey-hole and junk dump, haha!
 I turned this back into a real desk, removing the cabinet I'd had sitting on it that blocked the window. Then I cleaned that grimy window, striped with green algae. Now I can sit at my desk and view the barn, the chickens, my hard-working husband. All in the comfort of my own room.
 This room has all my yarn and my soap-making supplies. Plus it's where I'll be writing -- and hopefully writing more productively than before. (I'm in chapter 16 of Ten Days at Federal Hill, the working title of my new children's book.)
I keep all my books in this room too. In the Great Shuffle happening now, I put a few of my very favorites in a rack on the dresser.
That's (l-r) Boswell, Shadow of the Winter Palace, some Medieval and Old English books,
 then Well-Trained Mind, Beowulf, and Blake's selected writings.
 That window-blocking cabinet went in the dining room, atop the old TV cabinet. It looks funny here, but I like it. It holds a lot of tea cups!
 After many years, I've removed the tablecloth and plastic pad from the table, and set it for just Adam and me. Of course, I could've done that a year or so ago. Julia was not a destroyer of furniture. But there's something about having the house to ourselves that makes me want to move things and clean things.
I'm already planning for the children's visit at Thanksgiving. This fall we will work hard on the other building. Adam will finish the electrical work, I'll paint the floor. We will clean and de-bug it and make it cozy for someone to stay there. The futon will go there too.
 I sit here at my desk, gazing out my squeaky-clean window; it looks like autumn. The fig tree's leaves are edged in brown and curling. The light is soft.
I know children are back in school, and I am not there. That's a good thing. Near my desk I have taped my favorite poem, penned by Julia during some homeschool year when we did literature and art together.
 My years teaching her in 7th - 10th grades are my most cherished teaching years of all. It was a delight to open my love for some of those subjects to a child so receptive and bright. May her college years open her mind and heart to yet more wonders.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The {Very} Little House

When my brother's house burned down, he cleared the lot and began construction of a tiny house. 96 squ. feet, using the outside dimensions. Very tiny house!
It can be loaded on a flat-bed truck and moved.
You may well wonder why he has a sheet hanging in front of the opening. (I've discovered that, mysterious as Mark's housekeeping ways are to others, he always has a perfectly logical reason why he does (or doesn't do) what he does (or doesn't do). In this instance, the sheet protects the very pretty door from the effect of direct sunlight. See?

He built in nice ventilation around the tops of the walls.
See the handy shelf, plus an electrical box up there? I'll explain those later.
It's well insulated. In the West Virginia mountains, many people don't need A/C.
Because he's a handyman, one wall is adorned with all manner of tools, and please note the row of electrical boxes hanging on pegs down there. Mark likes doing electrical work, and he's a fan of having more outlets than you could need. We counted; he'll have 13 in this little room/house.
When the bed is down, the shelf and outlet (above) are useful up there. But the bed can be raised, allowing room beneath it for sitting comfortably in a chair. Here, Mark shows us how it's done:
Attach a bungee strap:
Secure it with a strong board:
You can barely see below the bed a chair, table, lamp, etc.
On the other end of the room will be a large glass window, giving lots of natural light and lovely views.
Well ... maybe not now. That view is of the half-burnt outhouse. But hopefully someday (we don't know when) and somewhere (we don't know where), Mark will be able to move this little house to a place with a better view. It could just be a good shed, or if need-be, it could be his home. He built it all himself, by hand, without plans.
The roof is interesting. It's a sturdy metal roof. Right now, I think he only has one-half of it attached. The two halves will fold down on top of each other (like 2 playing cards, being shuffled), to keep the pitch low while moving the house. But once in place, they're designed with hinges so they can be raised and form a nice, steep pitch, allowing more space inside and better air movement.
So there's the Very Little House. Good work, Mark!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A Fan of Beverages (A Fasting Update)

Some words Adam pokes fun at me for using. One is "vehicle." Another is "beverage." Well, these days we're all into our beverages. That's what happens when you fast! Yes, Adam is still fasting about 2.5 days each week (from after Saturday supper until lunch on Tuesday), and yes, he loves it. He does not find it difficult. He says Sunday is a hungry day. Fasting causes his mind to focus much better. He is very productive on Mondays and Tuesdays. He enjoys not having to track every calorie -- there are no calories to track. He continues to do much research on fasting, and we are impressed with what we've discovered thus far. He's been to his doctor and has the "green light" to continue as he is doing. I'm more cautious dipping my toes into this pool, but I've given in a brief trial also and found it doable.

He's lost over 20 pounds on this regimen. The rest of the week he eats normally, which for us means lightly with little meat and home-cooked, small meals. And no snacking. We're convinced snacking is what has made Americans heavy and made their bodies insulin-resistant.

So ... beverages? They're mighty important when they're all you have! At our local thrift store lately I've scored some very fun beverage options. I found this lovely HuesnBrew tea pot for only $2. New, it would be about $20. I have lots of tea pots, but a small one like this is so nice for a private cuppa.
 Still, I wouldn't have bought it, except I looked inside ...
I have no tea pots with a built-in infuser. Plus a little scooping spoon :)
Not wanting to neglect the husband, I found another coffee pot for him.
$3 coffee pot; new it would be over $20
 He had a small Bialetti version of the one in the photo above, but this Primula brand is about twice the size. Sometimes you need a little coffee, and sometimes you need a lot. This makes the strength of coffee that Shani likes, so next time they come, he'll brew her up some of the good stuff.
And, to help keep us healthy, I also found a Magic Bullet machine.
Bullet machines were all the rage a few years back, and I knew if I waited long enough, some of them would drift into the thrift stores. This one looks brand new. If you want to watch their video about what this little thing can do, click over here. You can put whole veggies in there, kale, celery, etc., and drink your high-fiber supper. It's kind of a smoothie machine on steroids.

Adam's plan is to stick with his fasting schedule for now until he reaches a weight he likes, but he will continue to use intermittent fasting long term, perhaps adjusting it down to one day each week. Humans have safely practiced fasting for many thousands of years. God instructs fasting in the Bible, and it's no wonder, considering the health benefits. The body begins to consume sub-par components when you fast -- things like inferior white blood cells and protein cells like cancer.

You may wonder why there's not more hubbub about fasting as a medical practice. Why aren't doctors pushing this and the medical community prescribing it? Ask yourself: how much money is there in it? It's a simple thing any person can do at home. No pricey pharmaceuticals. No expensive hospital stays or high-powered machines. Just abstinence.

So far, we are fans.