Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Take a Video Tour with Me of our Herb Garden ~

I'll start out with the video tour I made yesterday of our herb garden and other yard interests. I posted this video on my farm blog, but some of you might have missed it there. It's my very first "vlog"!! I now have a Youtube channel! (I apologize for not always keeping the video on target - I was too worried about the microphone and audio. I'll get better!)
Our yard/farm is a mucky mess right now. We're only a few feet above sea level, so any good night of rain leaves us with big puddles.

Adam and I went to a new flea market last Saturday, across the Neuse River in Newport. It's a big outdoor/indoor flea mall.
So much stuff! And so many people who get up early to rummage around in all the stuff :) It was fun to watch.
Below you see some of my wares and other vendors' tables in the background.
It was fun to have so many customers, crowds milling about. I do hate to leave the Oriental Farmers' Market, but to be honest, the customers just don't come anymore - it makes me sad. I love Oriental, but I can't spend every Saturday morning staring at empty Hodges Street :(  We vendors don't really know why the market there has changed, but it certainly has.

We rose at 5:40 a.m. on Saturday to make the ferry across the river, to arrive at the Newport market and set up before 8:00 a.m. I don't enjoy that early bit either, haha! But Adam will come too each week, so we get to be together, which makes it all worthwhile. Sales were good for a first week. We'll go back and settle in there, and any week I can't seem to make it across the river, I'll hopefully tack myself onto the Oriental market again, if there's room.

I sold this shawl:
Now I'm making a new one for this Saturday's market:
Hopefully today I'll sew a little apron/pouch for the market to put around my waist for keeping my money in. I've needed one -- here's the remnant of fabric I plan to use:
This is today's light lunch.
A zippy Honey Crisp apple and some natural, chunky peanut butter - yummy combo!
Adam taught me how to cut an apple into pieces without having to awkwardly carve the core out of each section -- just cut around the core, instead of through it. Does that make sense? One of these days I'll do a quickie video about cutting an apple - haha!

I hope you have a peaceful day. I'm spending my day in my studio, doing little things like painting/weaving/sewing/soap business. I'll also practice the piano a bit for the coming Easter season. Doing laundry too. It's cold and rainy outdoors ... still ... and we wait still for warm days to dig in the soil.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Three Elizabeths and the Sensory Life

I've been remiss in telling you about my reading. I stopped midway in Elizabeth Shackleton's Touring Through France, and it sits on my bedside table yet. I was thick in the middle of Elizabeth Goudge's The White Witch, an historical drama set in Civil War England, when friend Lisa sent me a lovely temptation: Elizabeth Gaskell's The Life of Charlotte Bronte. Not many books could lure me away from Goudge, but the powerful combination of Gaskell and Bronte won out in an instant.
So many Elizabeths. 
I gave away all my books by Alexander McCall Smith because the Dalhousie book I read did not attract me, and I don't have reading hours to sacrifice to books less than what I love.

Living has changed much since I was a girl. Cell phones, computers, the internet, Alexa, GPS and Google Maps, Amazon Prime and Netflix. I, like some of you, am ironically conflicted between using and wanting these things, and missing the simplicity of life without them. Would I turn the world back? Would I prefer life with only a land line, a set of encyclopedias on the shelf, and 3 major networks on a Motorola TV?

I want a sensory life. Living in front of a screen (of any size) for hours each day seems so killing to me. I want activities that engage all my senses; screens and internet overwork the eyes, give little to the ears, and leave the rest of me -- taste, smell, and particularly touch -- starving for stimulation.

In my studio, I keep incense burning, and often a candle, for the scent. I usually have tea and some little cookie or crust to nibble. I keep Pandora or a youtube channel or my turntable going. And then I turn my face from the screen and do something with my hands, giving my eyes a rest. What relief! My desk is a cluttered mess, as is the room, but what that means is there is lots to touch, lots to fuss with and sort through. Spinning is tactile. So is painting. Washing dishes, digging in dirt, petting a dog, hanging laundry -- I find myself longing for these things. Typing, on the otherhand, is hard on the fingers, a brutal, repetitive work that tires the hands and does nothing to satisfy them. 

I am only 54, but I am too old to be wasting any time. Eternity on a beautiful New Earth awaits me, but that's no reason to neglect life here, and not make it all God means for life to be -- chock full of beauty, kindness, gentleness, joy, and life. I ask myself more often these days, "Is this activity life-giving?" Does it give life and joy to anyone else, or to myself? If not, it's time to cut it out.

When the weather warms just a bit more (next week?) I may do a little walking tour video of the herb bed. I enjoy other people's youtube videos; why not contribute some myself? We'll see.
Beginning a new celery plant

Last summer's celery plant, miraculously surviving winter
Adam's organic potato, developing eyes

Last summer's tomato sauce, being reduced now to paste

A new batch of fleece cloud, dizzed moments ago

A tomato plant I dug from the garden last fall,
 that's survived winter somehow on the front porch

Monday, March 12, 2018

Rainy Day Behaviors

If our local fabulous thrift store hadn't swapped over all their inventory to SPRING!!!, Adam and I would not have left the house on this dreary, rainy, cold day.
 So now I'm back, in my "inspiration room," as Adam calls it, gazing out the window. I found this pretty candle topper at the thrift store this morning ... 50 cents! 
 Doing a little painting.
 I made more vegetable soup yesterday. With crunchy toast, it's a good lunch on a damp day.
 I'm still eating up the applesauce from last summer.
 Hot Darjeeling tea with the last two cookies .(boohoo!)
 I'm always interested in youtube channels that are pleasant to listen to/watch. This is an Irish lady (with a few wacky ideas, but hey, I love her cottage!). Look at her kitchen!
 What a lovely, old, cottagey kitchen. Perfect! Flower Lady from Florida first alerted me to this youtube station. Thank you, FL!
 Look at her beautiful larder. She uses every inch of space. And the glass jars :)

 Here's the video I enjoyed today. Skip over if you get tired of the bedroom.

Bealtaine Cottage is in Ireland. And if you're more of a garden person than a kitchen person, her garden tours are gorgeous as well. Her voice is a soft, lilting Irish voice that nearly mesmerizes you, which is easy to do on a drowsy, rainy day like today.
Adam was getting creative before the rain came. He's making a portable desk -- some might call it a lap desk, except he won't use it on his lap. He'll take it to the park and elsewhere. It will hold his books and paper and ink and pens. Very handy. He's cutting all the dovetails by hand.
 He also started on this large concrete pot. He'll make two of them.
Now I must go change from my comfy clothes and drive away to teach my Monday ladies' Bible study at a friend's house. Eight of us come, when we can. We've been meeting for nearly four years, I think. I'm sure we'll all be talking about the weather, of course! Snow in March, in our neck of the woods, is conversation-worthy.
Tonight, maybe I'll bake some more oatmeal cookies, find a good British TV show, and snuggle down on the couch with the doggies while the snow falls. You?

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The International Day of My Women

Today is International Women's Day. I thought I'd share with you some of the women who went before me. None of them had a chance at feminism or women's rights. None of them had any spare time to fight for anything for themselves.
Here's my great-grandmother, "Mungie" (Margaret Myrtle). She survived three husbands, bore (I think?) eleven children, only four of whom lived to adulthood. She was poor and sometimes homeless before there were any social safety nets.
 Above, as a teenager, I think the oldest child in her family.
Below, with her daughter, my grandmother Dama.
Everyone whose spoken of Mungie describes her as unfailingly kind and cheerful.
Dama was a problematic woman, not cheerful like her mother, but very strong, very determined. She raised my mother, her sister's child, after that sister died. 
This is Nina, that sister, who died of Tuberculosis at 19 years. So much tragedy, so much loss, so much of life missed.
This is my daddy's mother, Julia.
 Julia had a difficult life. After having four children, her husband became an alcoholic. They lost their home, and life fell apart. When most women might prefer to relax at home, viewing retirement, Julia was working full-time in a department store, maintaining the home, suffering greatly with her husband, and trying to hold life together.
Julia's daughter is Ann, my aunt.
She's one of the strongest women I know. She is firm, intelligent. She endured a difficult marriage herself, raised three fabulous children, got her nursing degree, and worked full-time in nursing until she was 80 (I think). She's an amazing, sharp, generous woman.

I wish I had a better photo of my aunt Lois. 
This is from Daddy's funeral in January. Lois had seven children and was married to a pastor. That meant frequent moves and doing without. I remember Lois as the lively, animated, cheerful  center of her family. She's a tiny women but full of energy.

My mother, JoAnn:
I'll keep the trend of black-and-white photos.
My mother is probably most like Mungie. She's a nurturer, a listener, kind and helpful. She's raised five children, and I must confess that some of us have been sources of great grief to her over the years. She, however, is steady and reliable, loving and faithful. For about 15 years of that child-raising, my daddy was out traveling, sometimes for two or three weeks at a time. Mother soldiered on at home alone -- without a car at times -- without batting an eye. She had five children in six-and-a-half years.

These are all women of the pre-feminist movement, women who (except my Aunt Ann) did not have higher education, did not have careers. They spent their lives in the service of husbands and children, and often sacrificed everything for family. They were strong though, assured, hard-working, opinionated and articulate. Women of 75 and 100 years ago suffered great hardship and heart-ache, and kept going. These women went before me, and my knowledge of what they were like has impacted my view of myself. My mother especially has shown me how to juggle the many responsibilities of self, husband, children, extended family, church, and friends -- all with grace and elegance and kindness. If only I had all the strength and gentleness together, that these women expressed. Thank you, dear ladies! I am privileged to come from you!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

More Kitchen Finishes

#1. The Cast Iron
I've been hauling this cast iron pot rack around for nearly 30 years, knowing someday I'd use it. Finally! Adam located the stud in the wall and used a hefty lag bolt to support the rack. It's located near the stove. No more digging around in bottom cabinets, dropping cast iron on my toe, holding my nose because the cabinet was damp and saggy and moldy and had mouse poop. No more!
#2. The Revere Ware
Our pots and pans were also in a lower cabinet before, and many naughty words were considered (and rejected, of course) while throwing said pots around, hunting for the right lid, the steamer, the double boiler. Grr. No more! Now they hang ready above the stove.

The S-hooks that hang all these pots on both racks cost $5 each. Yikes! We weren't parting with $45 for hooks, so Adam bought a steel rod for $4, cut it, and bent it into hooks. He made a jig for that purpose:
Sorry So Fuzzy. Smudge on camera lens.
 He bought and assembled this sturdy rod (below). An online video showed how to add a shelf above it, perfect for displaying a few pieces of china. I love the variety of natural finishes in the room, including this metal rod.
#3. About Those Shelves
 First, they're pretty. I'm proud of Adam for his carpentry.
Second, we absolutely love having open shelving. No more opening and closing doors for every single item in the kitchen. You need a glass? There it is, in front of you. Pick it up. You just washed a plate? Put it on the shelf. Company helping in the kitchen? They never have to ask, "Where does this go?" Seriously, I've known people who put labels on their cabinets because they grew weary of telling people where everything was located ... behind All Those Doors.
 People have said, "Oh, but all your mess will show." Actually, this is how our dishes looked in the cabinets too. Glasses together. Plates stacked. Cups together. I'm not a clean freak (obviously, haha). But keeping the shelves reasonably tidy should not be hard with just the two of us.
 Everything is so handy. And yes, I can reach all those pots easily:
 And the Revere Ware, without using tippy toes.
Adam did raise the stove hood a bit, and it looks much better.
#4. The Baking Table
 Adam had some rather bad news, dental-wise, this morning (as in ... expensive), but he didn't let that slow him down. He worked on the shelf for his Baking Table/Station. It's not so much a shelf as a rolling platform upon which the table will sit.
Here's the platform, made of scrap lumber left over. We have kept costs as low as possible on this whole project.
 He mounted the table onto that platform, putting locking casters underneath.
 The whole table fits nicely into its spot and serves as a perfect counter.
 When he's in a baking mood, it can wheel out into the kitchen and be locked in position. As in ... Wedding Cake Baking!
He'll add some separators underneath for the
baking paraphernalia, and get rid of the boxes.
 He will also beautify the outside edge of that platform later with a board stained to match the table.
While he worked on the table I made Vegetable Pot Pie.
I wanted Chicken Pot Pie, but we had no chicken in the house. We have no beef in the house either. We don't eat a lot of meat. I was disappointed, before I realized I could just leave the chicken out and use our many vegetables in the freezer to make a pot pie anyway. Frozen fresh from the garden last year, I included:
green beans

I also added:
plus, vegetable and chicken bouillon stirred into a roux. 

I had a pie crust in the freezer from making fruit pies a few weeks ago. And it turned out perfectly -- not runny, a delicious flavor, crispy/flaky crust. A good warm meal on a cold day.

In the kitchen we still have 3 shelves to put up, a backdoor to sand and stain, and a light fixture to find at the thrift store for above the sink. I think that's about it. 

I'll sign off with some pretty photos of a horse farm nearby. 

The trees and flowers say "Spring!" but the temperatures disagree. 32 degrees this morning. Brr! Stay warm out there! We are tickled pink with our kitchen. Adam says it looks Hobbitish. I think it looks a little magical.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

My Kitchen Hero

Adam worked very, very hard for two days and got the kitchen to "paint stage" -- when I got to help again.
Remember how I said the dry wall under those bump-outs was rather pathetic?
 It's hardly attached. And look at those whopping gaps! It saddened Adam to think of all the dry wall patching he would have to do.
Then he thought of putting boards in those long empty strips! I stained them first, and now it kind of looks like we have beams in our kitchen.
Don't worry. I'll get rid of that nasty wallpaper.
 Thursday morning, his first task was to frame in a box around the stove vent.
 He then attached a sturdy piece of plywood to the front, and wrapped it in dry wall. We will be hanging our cast iron there, so he wanted a strong support under the dry wall. No we won't! Change of plans! Stay tuned for pot-hanging strategy.
 The stove hood and vent will hang under that box.

Friday morning, I painted. It's quite yellow.
 I perched on the refrigerator.
This is just the first coat. The wallpaper over the doors will be challenging to cover. It would not rip off.
More progress on Friday:

I can put a large Cheerios box on a shelf!

The bright yellow in the top photos is more accurate than the insipid beige of the bottom ones. Adam worked so hard on those four shelves in such a narrow space. Tomorrow he'll do more, longer shelves.

Saturday: Today we feel we have moved back into our kitchen!

Adam put up more and longer shelves today. Each bracket is held by four bolts with a spring attachment that spreads out on the other side of the dry wall. Each bracket holds 60 lbs.
Here are the shelves thus far on either side of the window:
I wanted cup hooks so badly.
 Here's the stove side of the kitchen. Smaller shelves, so cooking/baking essentials will be kept here. Other seldom-used or bulk items will be on longer shelves over the frig ... coming at a later date.
Yes, the hood is that yellow.
That's the spray paint I had.

 I wanted to get things off the counters, and I wanted almost no storage underneath. Adam and I are older and do not want to bend down. And we certainly do not want to squat. And if we actually get on the floor, we may not get up again!
Another high shelf will go up here (photo below), the length of the kitchen. It will hold all those never-used items that you simply can't throw away. 
(Someday I'll get around to painting those last strips of ceiling ....)
 When they come to gather dust on the top shelf in the kitchen, that will free up space elsewhere in the house (I have kitchen stuff all over), and I can move some of my books out of my studio, which will free up space for my yarn ....
On the other side of the room, a shelf will go above the frig, which we can reach easily with a small stool. Then one more nose-bleed section shelf over that.
 Like I said -- 10 foot ceilings
This narrow space between the frig and the back door used to house a pantry. It was a horrible space where food stuffs went to die.
Now it will hold the trash cans, broom, etc. And I may beg Adam to put one more little shelf there for hiding the ugly Tupperware/plastic.
So there you have it! I'm too tired to say more, and if I'm tired you can only imagine how Adam feels. Poor thing -- his bad leg doesn't do ladders well, and he's been up and down that tall ladder more times than we can count. He is stiff. I am so grateful for him. None of this -- none of it! -- is in some natural skill set for him, and it's not work that he particularly loves (as some men adore woodworking). But he did a brilliant job! And he was willing to do it, for me. (Humbling and wonderful) 
And now that we can really see our kitchen dream as a reality, we love it as we thought we would.

It's a rustic cabin-style kitchen!