Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Strange Clouds, New Potatoes

Last night at sunset there were some totally weird clouds.  One looked like a huge exclamation mark, something that you'd see on the front page of a grocery store tabloid, captioned, Is God Trying to Tell us Something?  And to the left of that a very long, torpedo-shaped cloud, such as I'd never seen.  First picture shows the exclamation mark, and the leading or western edge of the torpedo cloud, the second picture shows the eastern end of the torpedo. 
I've never seen a cloud with such an unusual and definite shape.  I've no idea what such a cloud would be called, but no doubt that it was formed by the action of the upper winds.  It was an interesting, but not threatening sight.  

The night of the Pine Lake tornado we had been watching the sky, which was quite threatening.  Jim called me to the back door to see a massive cloud, roiling just north of us.  I took a picture, because it was the most awesome cloud I'd seen, and later we found out that at the time I took the picture, that cloud was pouring down a funnel on a resort about 45 minutes from us, taking 12 lives and leaving massive devastation behind.

In garden notes, today I picked lots of spinach, since it's begun to bolt, and we had boiled spinach for dinner.  There's a new row just coming up, but we won't be able to pick from that for a few weeks yet, so I'll baby along some of the smaller plants in the old row, and hope for several more spinach salads.

I couldn't resist the new potatoes anymore.  Here's the harvest from just one plant:
These are Red Norlands. Scrubbed, boiled briefly, buttered and sprinkled with parsley, they are divine!  We still have lots of potatoes from last year, and they are still fine, due to our excellent cold storage building.  I prefer to make mashed potatoes, potato salad, or oven fried potatoes from them when they are this old.  Now that we've tasted the new ones, I'll probably let them grow for the rest of the season, and then harvest them all at once.  Unless, that is, I get a yen for new potatoes again.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Own Little Spa

Three  years ago when the grandkids were coming for a summer visit I bought an elaborate inflatable kids' pool.  Grandson #2, who was 14 that year, huffed and puffed and blew it up.  It was oval, not too very big, and had a slide that took LOTS of air to inflate.  I thought it was pretty cute, but it was a dud.  The little kids barely spent 10 minutes total in that thing.  At the end of the summer I got rid of it (cut it up and threw it in the recycle).

The next spring as my friend M. and I were walking I kept noticing a large round green object leaning up against one of their storage sheds.  When I asked what it was, she told me it was a stock tank, used for providing drinking water for cattle when they were in a pasture with no natural source of water.  I mulled this over and then asked if it would be possible for me to borrow it when the grandkids came that summer.  This was possible, and her husband kindly trucked it over to our backyard deck.
I cleaned it up with the power washer and some Sani-Gel, and filled it with water.  Since we had lots of good hot weather that summer, the pool warmed up nicely and was just great for splashing around in with the little kids.  It's 10' across and about 2' deep.  Three kids have lots of room to play, and two adults and one child or two children and one adult fit in with room to spare.  It was great!

Last summer I bought a pool cover for it: a blue bubble solar blanket that heats the water (a bit) when the sun is out.  Again, we had lots of fun playing in it, and Grammy found out that it's just lovely after the grandchildren have gone home again, to have a little soak out there among the trees, flowers, birds and evening sunshine.  I think I had more use out of it myself than we did all together.

This summer L. brought the "stock tank/kids' pool" back for me to use again.  And Jim found out how to make hot water come out the outside tap, so we can fill it with warm water, and not wait for the warm weather to boost the water temperature.  (I had been contemplating buying a stock tank heater for this; they're only around $25.00.)

When D.D. #2 and her family were here, we were blessed with just two days warm enough for playing in this wonderful pool.  The other days we took the children to the indoor pool in town, and that was lots of fun too.

But now that summer weather (high 20's Celsius) 
has arrived, Grammy filled the pool again.  Sometime in the afternoon or evening I put on 
my bathing suit and go float in the pool.  It's soothing and peaceful.  I relax and listen to the birds and absorb the beauty of the trees, shrubs and flowers all around.

This is just one of the sights I see from my "spa", the wishing well on our deck and the old apple tree behind it.  Care to join me?  

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Usual Mess

D.D. #2 commented on the pictures of my sewing room (post of June 4) how it just didn't look right without all the "colorful stuff".  Well, there was some truth to that.  I had just cleaned it up all spiffy, and there was nothing hanging around at all.  So I thought today when it was all cluttered up as per usual, that I'd be honest and show you what it usually looks like.  So here goes, from right to left:
My sewing machine amid: (on the floor) a sweater of Jim's that I made in 1990, and am currently reworking the cuffs and waistband.  Just beyond it is a scarf in process.  Hidden under the scarf is a sweater for myself that I started last fall.  Only the back is finished so far.  The other two objects there are just two totes, one I made, and the other one bought.  There's a clipboard there with a newspaper article I wrote concerning "Arts Alive", an organization that I'm involved with.  Hanging up you see a pieced jacket, a Country Creations design, that I made in 2003 that needs a lining (never got around to that.)  Out of sight behind the jacket is a suit of Jim's that needs a minor repair by a pants pocket.  See the little blue sweeper?  That's so very handy for whisking across the floor to pick up scraps and threads.  The blue and white object on the edge of the table is a wool winder, very handy for knitting, especially machine knitting.  Then you can see my cute little "flower pot" mug, brown just like a clay flower pot.  Beyond my sewing machine is a fishing tackle box that I use to carry my supplies, thread, needles, scissors, etc. when I go out quilting with a group.

To the left of all that is a small desk that 
I use as a base for pressing seams when piecing.  I have a small travel iron that works just super on all those little seams.  But there's no room for pressing here, since it's covered with (right to left) a jug of paint brushes, a container of fabric for making table toppers.  Then some material that I'm currently using to make table toppers, and unseen underneath all that is a watercolor painting of Jim pondering the next move as we build a greenhouse.

Under the desk is my portable sewing machine, and in front of that another container, with the lid propped in front, that I carry other supplies when quilting elsewhere.  I can see that I should get a much bigger wastebasket than the little wicker basket which is being overwhelmed here.

To the left on the floor is another wicker basket holding bundles of material from my last "gifting".   
Here's my cutting table in its usual condition.  There's one table runner on the cutting board, and another on the design wall.  Underneath the one on the design wall is the 1930's log cabin quilt top.  That top is finished!  It just needs the borders and then the rest of the "sandwich."  Extra strips left over from the log cabin are hanging on the wall.  There's an acrylic book holder open to the Log Cabin pattern, and a calculator and "sticky paper thread roller."  On the right of the cutting table is another box of fabric bundles from the "gifting."  Under the cutting table is my wheeled tote for transporting my good Janome.  And to the left is my beloved "EuroPro" pressing system.

Even that does not end the mess.  Next to the EuroPro is an antique dresser that holds odds 'n ends.  The drawers are full of sewing things: ribbons, shoulder pads, zippers, stiffeners, etc.  There are a few finished table toppers on top, and they are topped by a few cameras etc.  To the right is a box of cut up cards.  I reuse all greeting cards by writing shopping lists on the blank sides.

But just to prove that there is a calm aspect to this whole mess, here is a photo of what I look out on when I sit at my sewing machine:

I do love my sewing room!  And that's a good thing, because I spend a lot of time there.

When I wondered whether to make the 1930's Log Cabin bigger or make table runners from the left over strips, D.D. #1 commented (June 22) that she "highly recommends table runners, as she is still using the Christmas one I made for her."  Well, I took that seriously, and that's when the current rash of table runners got started.  I made the one on the design wall for her, but then found another fabric that I thought would look better in her house, so I made a second one.  That did turn out very nicely, but now I'm concerned that perhaps the background fabric is a little too yellow for her living/dining room.  The walls there are a deep beige called "raffia", so guess what? I'm starting a third one with a different, more beige, less yellow, background fabric.  Where will it all end?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hello Again

Didn't mean to be gone for so long.  We had company,  our dear #2 daughter, son-in-law and their two children, a son 8 years old, and a daughter, 4.  We had a wonderful week plus two days with them.  They are very easy to have around, and the children are very well behaved and mannerly.  Time went by just too fast, and they had to return to their home.   That's our "feast" for this year.

Then I was busy cleaning up and doing some "summer work", weeding the garden and painting some house trim.

Now we just said goodbye to a couple who are dear friends of ours.  They arrived on Friday evening, on time for dinner.  Saturday our fellows had errands to attend to, and my friend and I went to "Country Creations" biannual outdoor quilt show, south of Strathmore.  It was an excellent show and a good sale, although neither of us bought anything.  The weather cooperated and everyone had a great time.  Here's just a sample of the displays:

 Lunch was available from a "Lunch Wagon," and complimentary cake and coffee were given in celebration of "Country Creations" 20th year in existence.  The owner, Lorraine Stangness, is a quilter of note and designer.  Check out her work and shop at www.countrycreations.net.

Back home that evening we all took a tour through our landscape gardens.  Have a seat and relax for
 a while:
This is a little bench near the Young's Weeping Birch.  There are two beautiful "Miss Kim" tree lilacs, one on either side of the birch.  They just don't show up well on this photo.

                                                        Opposite where you are sitting is our fountain.  Not meant to be a birdbath, it is a prime attraction for the birds, both for drinking and bathing, and for us provides the refreshing sound of water splashing on a hot summer day.

Behind you as you sit on the bench is a huge garden area that includes a small pond near the road.  None of this bounty was here when we bought our place.  Jim has planted every tree, shrub and perennial with the help of S.  He also hauled truckloads of rock from the field on the other side of the railroad to use as defining borders to planting areas and the pond. 

On the north side of the yard there is a windbreak consisting of three rows of spruce and four rows of saskatoon bushes.  This was all planted by the previous owner.
Just south of the windbreak we planted several trees and shrubs. Here you are looking away from the road.  The first green shrub on your left is an Amur Maple, which turns brilliant red in the fall.  One of our few sources of fall color.  We have several in our landscape.  The light colored, feathery-leaved tree is a magnificent Russian Olive.  There's a small blue spruce to the right of it, and then a Medora Juniper.  Behind the spruce is a feathery Larch, which is the most beautiful new green in spring, and in the fall turns a beautiful yellow.  And to the right of the larch is one of our three Burr Oak trees.  They grow rather slowly (as do many trees in this area), but our three are looking great.

One reason Jim has planted such a variety, other than his love of trees and shrubs, is to illustrate for the garden centre clients what trees, shrubs and perennials will do well in our growing area (zone 3B).  We encourage visitors to stroll through the landscape and experience the wide variety of flora that do well in our zone without a lot of special attention.  Jim also teaches classes on "xeriscaping" (or gardening without a lot of water.)

Our neighbor who keeps track of rainfall here told me this morning that so far this growing season we've had a total of 2".  Yes, just two inches!  It's a marvel that the countryside right here is a green as it is.

One final picture:  This shows the slope up to the house.
In the center of the photo is a lovely Mountain Ash tree at the corner of the garage.  You can see a bit of the foliage of the elm tree on the slope to the right.  Just in front of the garage wall are some Cologreen Spruce.  Lining the path are "snow in summer" and next to them are "Cranesbill", a perennial geranium.   

Hope you have enjoyed this little tour through our front yard.  There's actually lots more to see, and maybe another day we can look at some more of the plantings.  The area around our house contains in 5 acres our three greenhouses, sales building, cold storage, a quonsett and a workshop/storage building.  There's a parking lot also, but the rest of the area is covered with gardens.