Saturday, August 31, 2013

Blame it on the Rain

It's raining today, and I am trapped (?) inside. It's been very busy here this past week from lots of produce needing to be put up (without canning since there's no kitchen to speak of), to fabric emergencies (yes, they can happen!), to my relentless need for swim time. Refrigerator pickles, frozen tomatoes, and Eggplant Lasagna, oh my!

We slept badly last night, so slept in late this morning. I blame Yoshi. At around 3 am he woke abruptly when loud rumbles of thunder invaded his peaceful slumber, the poor darling. Never one to keep things to himself, he shared the news with a series of sharp barks and some rumbling of his own. Gene seemed to recover quickly, but I tossed and turned. And it'd taken forever to fall asleep in the first place.

'Sleeping in' here usually means 7:00 or 7:30, but this morning the dogs let us lay there until 8. I think the cloudy morning let time sneak up on them. I crawled forth from my bed craving a fried egg in the worst way. My feathered friends are pretty useless right now - the 'babies' are still not quite old enough to lay eggs, and the two older girls only spit out one egg every few days - not enough for reliable food stuffs. As a result I have been getting eggs from friends; friends with 12 kids who just inherited a farm and are now stretching their agricultural wings in more open spaces than ever before. Their garden is huge, they have a lovely flock of 50 layers, Barred Rocks, and they're hoping to add pigs or a cow next spring.

When your eggs come from a fledgling farm with 12 kids, you can get great surprises in your cartons. First, you might get someone's stash of double-yolkers, as a thank-you for services rendered - I took one of the boys for his drivers' test a week or so ago. Second, you get happy eggs. I mean REALLY happy eggs!

I smiled all through breakfast.

When I reduced the kitchen I managed to pack all the skillets. Don't ask me how I did this, because I really don't know. In a pinch last week making lunch for a friend I ran to the attic and retrieved one to make quesadillas. The good news, at least from the perspective of the egg-craving maniac I had become in the moment, is that I hadn't managed to get off my rounded duff and get the skillet back upstairs. So eggs it was - his n' hers.

I leave you to determine which belongs to whom. It may help you to know what's on the plates. To the right we have a large pile of braised spinach, half of a tomato, sliced, and one double yolked farm egg. On the left there's a leftover brat, sliced and fried, two eggs over medium, and "some kinda garnish..."

It was a nice and peaceful breakfast, which should have led me to believe something was coming. Nothing can be as easy as breakfast was today without some payment due at a later time. And that time came.

I stopped at my father's to grab Girl - Gerbil is doing some outdoor work for my dad on weekends. Keeps both of them out of trouble. We were heading to New Hampshire to a place called Fat Chance, which is one of my favorite places on earth, most of the time. Today was no exception. I found the perfect (if modern) pie safe there on Thursday but it had been sold to a dealer before I arrived (Reflections Country Collections in Winchendon, MA). I was shopping with a friend, and we were very excited over the piece. We didn't know it was sold, and were taking pictures to email to Mr. W for his approval when someone let us know it wasn't available. I was kind of sad. I'd been planning on buying some kind of pantry cabinet from Ikea to put on one wall of the kitchen, and the discovery of this pie safe meant something with a little more character instead. But I swallowed my disappointment as best I could. And then the very nice man suggested that maybe I could call these dealers and maybe work something out. And then the very nice lady (Nancy O'Conner of Handweaving by Nancy, in case you need any handwoven shawls or scarves for gifts this holiday season) who was twisting scarf fringe inside while tending the counter said the same thing. She sent me their information via Facebook, and I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? So I asked them if we could make a deal.

And they said YES! I paid more than they paid, which I expected, but less than if they'd had to drag it back to Winchendon and clean it up for their showroom floor. And less than if I had to buy a new one and have it finished or finish it myself And I was very, very happy. It's not a small object by any means, but I was sure it would fit in my Rav, so I declined my father's offer of his truck for transport. I picked up Girl and we headed north to the wonderful world of pie safes, antique sewing tables, and barns full of books for a quarter (for such Fat Chance is) with plans to retrieve the furniture before heading deeper into New Hampshire for shopping. About a half an hour later we were headed south in an empty Rav. There was just no way the pie safe would fit. Adding insult to injury it was only off by a couple of inches; just barely too wide to fit. I called Mr. Wonderful. I think I sounded slightly - or possibly overwhelmingly - desperate. I don't know what it is about new furniture that can drive me to this kind of pathetic madness. It's like I become obsessed and MUST have the new thing NOW, and nothing short of NOW will do. Someone will sneak in and steal it? Someone will sell it a second time? I don't know. I just get all nervous and obnoxious and demanding (because I am not the rest of the time? Really?). Anyway, Mr. W agreed to meet me at my father's house, follow me back to New Hampshire in Dad's truck, retrieve the pie safe for delivery to our house, thereby allowing Girl and I to continue on our shopping trip.

When we got back to the house I immediately insisted it be moved inside, cleaned, and filled with items formerly in residence in the odd-pantry-closet in my kitchen - a closet that soon will be converted into something truly useful and logical - a coat and broom closet with shelves at the back to hide all those things you only use once a year but can't bear to part with, like Christmas platters and the big griddle!

And when the kitchen is finally done, against the entry wall will rest this - stuffed to the brim with essentials (and not a single pie!) like oats and black beans and raisins... and Teddy peanut butter in big tubs for filling the dog's Kong toys. Yoshi seems to think he needs a little something out of there now...

I have been obsessed lately with place mats and other things quilty. I made these recently. It started with the two nearest the dog and expanded from there.

And there's backs and batts cut out in my room to make four more Christmas ones, although maybe not all with that same tree motif. The trees are leftover from a table runner project I started last year and just finished. I got the idea from this Missouri Quilt Company video. I love Jenny's videos!

The others are scrappy place mats of my own design (if you can call it that) using leftovers from a quilt I never finished in the 1990's. I am going to teach Girl how to make them. I was thinking about doing a tutorial here on the blog, maybe a step-by-step, as I teach her what I do to make place mats. Then EVERYONE can make them! They are super easy, and use up lots of scraps and leftovers from previous projects.

For now I am going to go sit quietly, sip some cool water, maybe watch a movie and be grateful for the rain that's stopping me cold for a few hours. It's good to stop and sniff the roses now and then.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Is This a Hack or a Good Marriage?

I love my old Oreck XL9000 vacuum. It was my mother's, and she hated it, which I think in the beginning was part of it's charm. I do love to be contrary. She discarded it immediately after having it serviced it for some new-fangled red thing (Dirt Devil?) that lasted about a year, as I recall. It came to me with the service tag still in place. She just wanted it gone and I happily escorted it into my car. I wish I'd kept the tag. It was used when she got it, and I just can't remember when exactly I brought it home, only that it's been here for what feels like forever. Over the years the motor has weakened, and who can blame it around here, but otherwise it's in fantastic shape.

Since we moved in here it's been relegated to the sun room, a sort of retirement villa, if you will. I dust mop and sweep the rest of the house usually, since there's no carpet, and since the Oreck lacks that one little thing I need in a vacuum in a house full of dogs n' cat - cool upholstery attachments. There's awful indoor outdoor stuff in the sun room over a rough concrete floor. That rug is a repository for chicken shit, grass, bugs and dirt. It's where my boots get scraped clean on my way in from chores, and where I regularly spill everything from diatomaceous earth to garden fertilizer to pond-fish food.

I recently "upgraded" to a Shark Euro-Pro Navigator at Target, which I found on clearance for $125.00. It came in handy when I was sanding all those cabinet doors, drawers, and fronts before painting them - right before the contractor told us the recycled cabinets were not going to work. I spent forever in front of those vacuums that day in Target trying to decide what to get. Gerbil and Girl adore their Dyson, which was a wedding gift. I love the idea of Dyson, but that's not in my budget.

Anyway, I have nothing against the Navigator; in fact I rather like it. It does the job well, has good power, and came with a handy little special pet hair power brush attachment that did beautiful things on Mel's preferred sleeping spots. But the Oreck has a special place in my heart, and as the motor weakened and I knew it was getting to be time to let go, I grieved. I like having a second vacuum around, and I like having a separate one in the sun room, which often feels disconnected from the house.

The other day Mr. Wonderful asked me to swing by the dump, a thing he rarely does. As I rounded the corner of the Re-Use Room, I saw before me a thing of great beauty. An Oreck XL2540 with a big bag full of hypoallergenic CELOC bags - three full packages!

Now, Gene really tries to keep me away from the dump for just such reason. I will come home with 1970's kitchy red electric woks, used-once-at-Christmas-and-discarded hand-crank popcorn poppers "in case ours ever breaks " (we now have three back-ups and one in use), worn-out 1950's tinsel Christmas trees, and ANY slow cooker (as long as there's a cord and the crock isn't cracked). When I grabbed this Oreck, I knew there'd be trouble, but my only thought was for the bags - free bags! I had no idea what I would do with the vacuum itself, except that I figured if it worked, we could have a... a basement vac? I really didn't know.

I brought it home and stood them side by side. That's my old XL9000 on the left and the Oreck XL2540RH on the right. They looked pretty similar. The 9000 is a little more basic, I suppose. The on/off is in a different location, and the handle is less ergonomic.

From the back they looked pretty similar as well. I noticed a lot of dust on the 2540, but whether that was from age and lack of maintenance, I couldn't tell. I fired up the 2540, and was amazed by the sound of the motor. I gave it a push, and it sucked up anything in reach. It reminded me of the 9000, back in the day when it first came to live with me. Then I noticed the problem...

The bag attachment was damaged beyond repair. In the bag-full-of-bags was a note giving the location of a local Oreck repair shop. I briefly debated taking it in for an assessment, but then I had a better idea. Why not hack, or marry, them into one newer, stronger, better vac? I really didn't need two. I have the Shark for inside and the Oreck for the sun room, and Gene has a shop vac in the basement. I pondered. Analyzed. Briefly. And then I began disassembly.

Now, a fair amount of the time (ok, never) I don't think these projects through before I begin. I always figure that if I really thought about it for long, I'd see all the potential pitfalls and I'd wimp out and never get anywhere. So I just step forward in faith and begin shredding innocent machines, assuming that in the end I will either get my way, or not - in which case I reassemble and move on. This usually works. Never without some hitches, but generally more or less it works. And it did this time. With some hitches.

First, the on/off for the 2540 is on the handle as opposed to the 9000's foot-tap button on the motor housing. Second - and more importantly - the handles are not universal.

I used a utility knife to shave the plastic of one down just enough so I could slide the other over, and screw it into place - I pre-drilled holes to allow these screws to fit.

Then, too, the attachment from the base to the bag were not the same. Although they are the same size, and the new center tube slid easily into place, the hose clamp type fitting of the 2540 does not come close to working with the push-pin assembly of the 9000. But when I comes to a situation like this, there's always one handy tool I rely on, time and again, to save my butt from certain ruin.

Yup. Duct tape. You know the kind I mean - "if-it-can't-be-fixed-with-duct-tape-it-ain't-broke", handyman's secret weapon, primer gray, sticks to everything except what you want it to, duct tape. I love the stuff, as we've seen before...

Poor Yoshi. Anyway, once I got the 9000's  handle assembly married to the center hose of the 2540, I did what any rational person would do.

I taped it up. Really, really well. So now if I get a hose clog, I suppose there will be agony and whining, followed by removal and replacement of the tape. But really - it's a free motor for an old, dying vacuum that cost me nothing but time to make work. And the outcome?

Hopefully another 20 years of Oreck joy!

A little spit and polish with Simple Green purple (It's really called pro-something, but I can't resist the green-purple thing)...

A little practice on the icky sun room floor, and the proof is in the pudding! Good as new. Or, good as newly married anyway. Now the only trouble is... what do I do with this?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

This is What it's Like

Indeed, this is the life. 8:30 am and the garden is weeded. Coffee is in my hand and chickens are at my feet. I have a list of things to do today, but right now I just don't care. I will care later, when the coffee cup is empty and the sun gets too warm on my shoulders. Then I can worry about the rest of today, or tomorrow, or what have you.

That's how the day started, and in some ways that's how it ended as well. Summertime is always a busy time here, but maybe a little busier than normal for us this time around. The kitchen is in chaos, and will be more so by the weekend. Somewhere between running out for toe kick heaters and faucets and such it occurred to me that I could be ever so slightly better prepared for the days ahead when there is no kitchen - because those days are coming - and maybe sooner than I thought (please God).

The last time we did a kitchen remodel, as I recall, I lived primarily on canned tuna and coffee. Gene mostly starved, and the kids ate vast quantities of cold cereal, peanut butter, yogurt, and things from the microwave. They were probably the only happy ones. Convenience food? In OUR house? A miracle! And I do not mean that in the holier-than-thou, "Oh, we don't eat thoooose kinds of things!" way, either. I mean it in the "I'd rather spend a month of Sunday's grating cheese by hand than pay one cent extra for a package of the pre-shredded kind!" way. Last time, there wasn't much time to prepare. Things moved very quickly from decision to finished kitchen. This time, things are moving faster than I'd expected, which is good. BUT I really wanted to be smarter this time - I wanted to plan ahead, make meals-for-two in advance and freeze them in tidy little containers. I wanted, in short, to be something I never, ever am. I wanted to be Organized.

Well, if you can't be Organized, you can sure as heck fake it! And that's what I've done. In two days I managed to put into the freezer - par cooked and ready for finishing in the toaster oven - 5 containers of lemon olive chicken, 5 of turkey mole, 4 of fish pie (plus a big fish pie in my little casserole for supper tonight and leftovers tomorrow, because I love it) and 7 of mini eggplant lasagna, 5 meatloaves and 5 pairs of vegetarian enchiladas. I should probably write that down for later. 

Lemon Olive Chicken cooling - love how the watermelon is wearing a sombrero!

It was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I've always heard about those women who shop once a month and then cook it all in one day, storing it away like good little hoarders. I envied them the simplicity of popping a tray of lasagna into the oven, fresh from the freezer. 

Jamie Oliver's Fish Pie - Oh How I Adore This Stuff!

No worries about what's for dinner, because dinner is already made. 

Mini Eggplant Lasagna - all veg from my garden

Well, for four weeks, plus or minus, that can be me! Here's what I learned, in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation - faking organization when really you're a complete slacker -

First, use from your recipe stash (or find on the interwebs) ONLY things that you know you and your loved one/s will consume. It would do me no good at all to freeze up a batch of Dal or Tandoori chicken because Mr. Wonderful won't touch it. Similarly, anything beef- or pork-based is out for me. I went with vegetarian, poultry and fish dishes that I know we both will eat. 

Second, prep ahead. I wish I had done this. Trying to chop onion for the chicken while mustering mole from the oven while searching for a space for the cooling fish pie among the disassembled cabinetry and absent counter top was not at all enjoyable. If the onion had been chopped before I ever started, things would have moved along with less stress. At one point I drafted Gene, who's home sick, into grating cheese for me. I figure at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, whatever germs he has will die in the oven, right? And if not, they'll get it in the deep freeze!

Third, plan your time well. I literally decided at about midnight to do this today, and so I went from weeding the garden to grocery to car place to that toe kick heater purchase mentioned above to chopping veg and de-heading and de-veining prawns in a matter of a couple of hours. Bad plan. The result is that I am now rather tired out, sipping a glass of Malbec, and patting myself on the back while simultaneously kicking myself in the butt for poor planning (remember - organized I am not!). At one point I was attempting to cut through partially frozen chicken. An ounce of preparation is worth a pound of exhaustion and a gallon of blood spilled from knife wounds. 

Fourth, wash as you go. It was really wonderful as I pulled the last batch of whatever from the oven, to turn around and see a spotless kitchen and a dish drainer piled high. Truly a thing of beauty, that empty sink was! 

Oh, I forgot one last thing! Dress for the occasion!

Nana's Garden apron bought for my mother a billion years ago and never worn. Till now!

In the beginning I was all "it's too hot in here, all I need is a sundress, who cares, what's a little spillage?" That lasted about ten minutes. Apron. Lots of food, lots of mess. Apron.

The best part of this is that if I croak tomorrow, Mr. W. now has a month's worth - more if he eats half - of food to sustain him during his difficult time of mourning (one hopes it wold be a difficult time). 

Now for the rest of the week, encapsulated version:

Made placemats! out of twenty-ish-year old discarded quilt scraps. I made a quilt top in these colors and then decided I hated it and never finished it. Instead, on our last move it went into the trash - or more correctly it went into a bag of scrap fabric that got given away. I found some remnants the other day, and now here they are. A scrappy mat for me and a tidy stripe mat for Mr. W. 

Tormented dogs! This is my favorite time of the day! Every morning the boys have to sit and wait (or in Yoshi's case "stand-up-and-be-bad-but-leave-it") when the chickens come out of their house for the day. On occasion the birds fly right up into their faces, no joke, and they never, ever snap. After, they celebrate - Bradley, by spinning in wild circles and Yoshi, by allowing me to pet him for five seconds. Sometimes, if I am lucky, he even wags his tail for me. 

Got Healed! That's right. Apparently, if you are unwell, achy, feverish, sore and generally poorly, one good cuddle from Bradley will set you more or less right. Or at least you'll feel well enough to sit upright and prepare a couple dozen par-cooked meals for your freezer. 

Finished a caterpillar, and stuffed a cat in it! (the yarn is Northampton Bulky - try it and you will not be sad, I promise!) Please remember that Mel is basically evil. He once took a chunk out of Gene's chest just because the man tried to play with him (toy with him, play with him; it's all relative). Finishing the cocoon was easy. Stuffing the cat in it? THAT was HARD! 

Chilled! Yes! We spent a day at Lake Compounce - and I bought a mug (featuring a blueprint of my favorite wooden coaster within 100 miles). We have issues with this place - or with Boulder Dash anyway. Blame Bill Childs. He started it. Best wooden coaster for many a mile. Best seat? Dead last! Bought a season's pass and I am going to milk every coaster-loving second out of it, for sure!

I hope your summer is treating you as well, because this is THE life! 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Impulsive But Effective

I love my KitchenAid stand mixer. The fact that it is about 20 years old and pulls about the lowest possible wattage for a KitchenAid (300W) does not diminish my love. It was a gift from my mother who could not believe I didn't own a stand mixer. In retrospect, considering how much baking I was doing, neither can I. I've had to replace the motor once, very early on, when I overloaded the poor thing and killed it. I probably should have had a bigger mixer with more power - back then, I made all our bread. And by bread I mean pizza dough, loaves of whole wheat sandwich bread, bagels...everything. We bought wheat berries in 50 pound bags and I ground them with the KitchenAid. We drove to the King Arthur store and bought bread flour in #50 bags. (Yes, there is a King Arthur store. They also have an amazing teaching center. I've never taken a class there, but have always wanted to). But that mixer stood by me faithfully through cookies and breads, muffins and cakes, and still works like a charm (if a slightly loose-in-the-joints charm) today.

In all these years I've only ever truly lusted after one other mixer. This one:

Now, obviously, the chances of my ever owning (sans divine intervention) a mixer with a retail value pushing a grand are about nil. I have instead my faithful little 5-quart Artisan with a motor more suited to the 4.5-quart model, complete with spatter shield, bowls, whip, dough hook and beater. 59-point planetary action! Perfect meringues!

As much as I love my KA, it does have one very obvious flaw. 

See what I mean? It' And not just any green. A dark, dated, glossy hunter sort of green that in 1994 matched my kitchen perfectly. In retrospect I should have gone with black or white or - my (second) favorite - grey. And if I had it to do over again, that is the way I'd go. But bygones are bygones, and you can't remake a decision you made more than twenty years ago.... or can you?

I decided that with the new kitchen on the way, the green mixer simply had to change. Not go, but change. Green is out. It will clash with the new kitchen, and I desperately miss having the KitchenAid out where I can see it at all times. In fact, it doesn't really seem like "my" kitchen without it. At this house and the one before it, the poor thing was relegated to a closet or cupboard, hauled out on special occasions, then returned to solitude. Well, a KitchenAid deserves better - and by golly, mine is going to get it! 

I began with some googling to see if anyone else had undertaken what I was about to do. Could a KA be safely and effectively repainted without destroying the machine? The answer, based on my quick look around the internet, was a resounding "yes". I was most relieved. This wasn't a project I undertook lightly, believe me. Should it fail, I would be without a mixer for a long, long time. But should it succeed, well, I would be bringing my poor tired old mixer into the light of day once more, to take it's rightful place on the counter, by the stove, near the sink, and unblocked by the coffee maker.

Did it work? Well, let's start at the beginning.

First, based on my perusing of the internet I made certain to take as many pictures as possible before I began the project. 

We are talking 50 or so, from every possible angle, of every screw, in different light. This was overkill. Ten would have been sufficient, or even five.

Next I removed any chrome parts that could easily be removed - the base that the bowl sits in, for example, and the deliciously classic chrome band that encircles the body. 

Then I meticulously scrubbed every nook and cranny with a TSP and water solution. We're talking pot scrubbie-toothpick-scrub-till-your-hands-hurt clean, every little spot. Using acetone and a paper towel I removed the adhesive smear from the back where some label had warned of some life-damaging injury or other if one did something incorrectly - I don't even remember what the label said any more, and whatever idiotic act it warned against I have apparently never engaged in, or I wouldn't be here to tell you about it. Anyway. And I removed the cover over the guts - this was important as I wanted to protect the motor from paint as much as possible.

But I left the rest of the body in one piece. I toyed with removing the head from the base, but decided against it. I probably could have rigged up something to hold the motor portion upright to allow for better spraying, but it wasn't worth the effort involved. I had some concerns about paint causing sticking where the head and the base come together, but it turned out they were not justified.

Then I very carefully taped every remaining exposed area, with one exception. I could not get the tape to fit neatly around the power hub, also known as "the hole in front", so I decided to just paint the chrome. My power hub cover has long since disappeared, and maybe someday I will replace it. Otherwise, all areas were carefully taped to ensure that they'd remain unpainted. I carefully wrapped the cord in a baggie which I then taped over the motor to protect that from paint as well. Then I very carefully and completely sanded the entire surface with 100-grit paper. Once the finish was thoroughly sanded, I vacuumed the mixer, and ran over it with a tack cloth to remove any residual sanding dust. 

Next came paint selection. I wanted something neutral, I thought, and preferably something forgiving in case of incident or accident, which we all know can happen with home spray paint projects. I wandered into our local Aubuchon Hardware Store and pondered options. I am a big fan of Rust-Oleum products based on prior experience, so I decided to stick with them for this very important one. I looked at all the colors, debated satin versus gloss, and generally was quite miserable and unable to make up my mind until I found Stops Rust Hammered Copper. It is intended as a paint-over-rust product with excellent adherence and a textured finish, so it was likely to be very forgiving. As I stood there gazing at the cap, having flashbacks to the KP26M8XCP 620-watt 6-quart professional mixer in satin copper finish, I knew what I had to do. I reached out and grabbed a can and, after paying for it of course, raced home like a seven-year-old heading for an ice cream truck on a July day. 

I cleaned and set up a spray area in the garage, then grabbed a mask and a pile of gloves - which I promptly forgot to use for the first coat, resulting in hammered copper MMO hands and a whopping MMO spray paint headache. Please do not follow my heedless example - glove up and mask up!  

And then I painted. I painted carefully and somewhat slowly, which for me is something of a miracle - I tend toward impetuous and impulsive most of the time. Of course there were problems along the way - two tiny fruit flies appeared as if by magic and embedded themselves in the paint, causing a minor crisis. A tiny hair drifted in and got stuck on the base right near where the chrome plate sits that holds the mixer bowl, requiring a tweezer removal. 

The paint accumulated on my glove on the second coat, resulting in droplets larger than I'd prefer in a couple of spots. Worst of all, after the first coat I rinsed my un-gloved, paint-y hands in thinner, and without thinking leaned across the mixer to grab a towel, resulting in a big droplet of thinner falling onto the newly painted surface. I debated dabbing to remove it, but instead left it where it fell. I actually sort of liked the result, and debated (VERY briefly) going at the whole mixer with thinner, paint-spatter style. But in the end I stuck with the original game plan. 

After about 18 hours of drying time, I applied two coats of Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch Ultra 2X clear gloss to finish the surface. This is maybe superfluous, but I think it will help the mixer stand up to abuse - and it does get that here! Once everything dried to the touch, back on went all the chrome bits. The tape came off and....

VOILA! About $20, a few hours of my time, and a couple of nervous moments later...

and I have the prettiest mixer in town. Or I think I do anyway! It can sit and cure for a day in the garage and the take it's rightful place front and center of my kitchen.

Now, someday the funds may be available for me to fall into that KP26M8XCP 620-watt 6-quart professional mixer in satin copper finish, (and when I do, Lucky Girl can inherit this old beauty) but until then this does me just fine! 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

It Starts So Simply

Take Mr. W, for example. The man just wanted a nap. He come home from a hard day at the salt mines (nuclear plant, same thing) and just wants a little rest.

The boys miss their Daddy when he's gone all day, so they hop up for a snuggle. It's all sweet and happy and innocent.

But then it starts to change.

And before you know it there's a totally out-of-control melee in the middle of the bed, and poor Mr. W's nap has turned into a fit of grins and giggles as the boys completely lose it.

A free for all. All we really needed was the cat to make it complete, but he seemed to want nothing to do with the insanity.

Before you know it, they've worn themselves out, and it's back to normal - cuddle bug Bradley and aloof cat-like Yoshi on alert at the foot of the bed, watching out the window for squirrels and birds - lest they disturb daddy's peace and quiet, perhaps?

It's been that way with the kitchen project, too. 

One small thing starts off an avalanche of changes; some good, some bad, and all happening regardless of whatever brilliant plans we might have had in the beginning. And that's okay by me. God has a plan. I probably should have fewer, since His seem to work out better than mine. 

We've been here before, and it will all work out, and in the end it will be amazing. In fact, it's looking like it's going to be even MORE amazing than we'd anticipated! See, yet another reason why I should just stop making all these grand plans! I will miss these guys, my knotty pine pets. But it will be worth it in the end - you'll see!

I've been knitting a bit in my spare moments - those moments not consumed with kitchen design and swimming and dogs and planning my next book (What?!? Another book? Yes! Another book, but not for a year and a half, so no point in getting too excited just now!). A while ago we had an announcement of a most delightful nature presented to us in the most enjoyable way. In a kitchen full of people I love, just hanging out together and enjoying each other's company, I was handed an envelope and asked to open it and - if I could find the time - maybe make "some things" for the folks who handed me the envelope. "We don't need them right away - but in a few months..." they said. 

Can you guess what it might be, other than "stuff on my cat"? I'll give you a hint. The item on that cat is made from this pattern. (I used Northampton Bulky, if you're curious - one of my favorites, lots of good colors for this project, and snuggly warm to boot) And when I am done with this little project, I need to knit one of these - or maybe two, in case one gets lost? As Kathy pointed out, lost things of this nature can be catastrophic if there's attachment. So two of those, don't you agree? But identical to one another, just in case.

Today I got a special box from Meyer Hatchery. Seven little boys, all soft and fat and warm.
(browninsh Buff Brahmas, yellow Delawares and one big question mark in back)

Loud little peeping poop machines, really, but they are lovely to behold when tiny and wee. One is a bit of a non-performer and I don't think he will last the day. But that's par for the course, and I am not deterred. By fall I will be able to add roosters to my flock, and that makes me VERY happy!

I am so excited about the future and about life right now; watching things unfold and grow and happen around us and in front of us and to us. It's a pretty wonderful world, really! 

Monday, August 05, 2013

Oh, Bother

Most people who get a whole batch of hens by accident are happy. Not me!

When I ordered the layers this year I wanted some boys. I didn't want more than 15 hens going into winter. I don't want to feed them, and I don't have an egg market without a 40 minute drive, and I don't want to commit to driving 40 minutes once a week. I love my old customers, but the cost of gas and time just didn't level out against the number of eggs I could sell and the cost of grain. I needed to either get bigger, or get smaller. I choose smaller. But now here I am, and here's what I've got...girls. Lots and lots of girls.

I ordered 25 birds, straight run (which means boys and girls mixed), from Meyer Hatchery. I planned to keep one or two full sized roosters. I like having roosters around - they keep the hens happy and they provide valuable defense.  I ordered their "rare breed" assortment. When the birds started to grow I was a little surprised to discover that they considered Easter Eggers to be "rare". In fact, a closer look at their "rare" list indicates that I got, well, taken frankly. A lot of the birds on their "rare" list aren't particularly rare, and of course I got mostly common birds that I could get anywhere. But that's my fault - I didn't really read closely when I ordered.

What I did very closely note was the gender of the birds I ordered. I do know that I ordered straight run, and that straight run generally means about half roosters. But...unless something changes VERY soon it looks like I have maybe 3 roosters. How do I know? Two of the birds are crowing - a White Crested Black Polish, and this Buttercup - which is a horrible breed for New England's harsh winters with their eventually big floppy cup-shaped comb, so he's got to go. That's his "wife" behind him for comparison. By 16 weeks, there should be some clear differences between the boys and the girls, as you can see.

Not a peep from anyone else. One white bird, all snowy white with a big tall tail that appears to be a Leghorn (rare? White Leghorns? Really??) occasionally stretches it's head up like it's considering a crow, but it doesn't make a peep. Saddle feathers? None. Big red combs? Nada. Cape? Sickle tail? Color differences? Zip and zilch and nuttin'.

This messes me up. It messes with my plan. It damages my program. I am less than amused. Even if I could get some boys at this late date, I have to grow them out - which means I have to feed them AND all these blessed hens! I could cull - and probably will - all of the cute, charming, pretty birds, which is exactly what I did not want to do. I wanted some color. Now I will have to choose between the cuties and the actual producers - and faced with that choice, the farmer that lives in my brain kicks in and screams "KILL THE USELESS ONES!". I could re-home them - but having spent all that time, effort and MONEY rearing them, I at least want dinner out of the deal!

So, a hard lesson learned. Although we have had decent luck with Meyer until now, unless they can find a way to make me feel better about this, I'll have to find a new place to shop for baby birds come spring. Someone with Buff Brahams and Delwares, since apparently I have a TON of them - all girls! Most disappointing - I have recommended Meyer to a lot of people, and now I need to eat my words. Between the big losses of the meat birds, and this gender debacle, I can't recommend them now.

In other news, we've been working hard on our DIY kitchen makeover. The decision to paint all of the knotty pine cabinets was made rather abruptly one evening. Within a day or so I had convinced Gene, and forward we went with the project.

A lot of those young whippersnapper bloggers seem to think this is a "weekend project" Well, more power to them. Me, I am an old DIY-er from way back. I know that preparation is critical. I know that every extra minute spent sanding will reward me ten fold when the project is done. I know that every fume I inhale from a couple of coats of creepy chemical primer is well worth it.

And so I take my time, as much as I can. The hardest thing so far was covering up this guy or girl. I think girl. Vixen, I think, really.

 At first I actually outlined her with primer, giving her ears and a pointy nose. But in the end I did the grown up thing and primed right over her beautiful face. I'll always have the picture, right?


I don't think I introduced him here, although Yoshi mentioned him a while back.

Bradley is a 5 year old Golden Retriever, and we are thoroughly smitten - even Yoshi. He likes this brother. They get into trouble together, and raise all sorts of Cain. Observe:

They rough house just like normal dogs, and they eat raw food. Bradley came to us on a raw diet, and Yoshi decided it was only fair if he converted to raw so Bradley would not be disrupted.

Chicken, duck, beef, lamb and vegetables, with some eggs and yogurt now and then - they love it all.

And I love all of them. I am not sure what we were doing before Bradley came to us, but it wasn't as cool as this is!