Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Three-Rule Log Cabin

Yesterday we woke to dark skies and wind. Around 8 a.m. the rain began, light at first. It rained all day, sometimes light, sometimes quite heavy. When we went to bed last night it was still raining. When I got up around 12:15 a.m. it was still raining. But we didn't hear the rain this morning: it had changed to snow, as we expected.

The snow continued until noon today, along with heavy winds. At times the wind was almost strong enough to push me over. So M. and I did not walk this morning.

Yesterday my quilting scrap basket was overflowing so I did some trimming and cutting. I take the remnants and trim them to whatever size is possible. The containers for 1 1/2" and 2" strips and squares were almost too full to accept any more scraps, so I thought I should do something to use up these pieces.

This morning I started sewing log cabin squares with just three rules: 1. Start with a red square in the center. 2. Use a 1 1/2" strip twice, then a 2" strip twice, continuing in that sequence. (That skews the square slightly, and put the red center slightly off center.) 3. Don't use the same material twice in one square.

Here are the two scrap containers, and a square in process on the sewing machine.

Usually log cabin squares have one side light strips and one side dark strips. I ignored that rule, but I did decide as I went along that there would be no black, white, or very bright colours (other than the red center) included.

I soon found out that without the division of lights and darks, the blocks appear very ungainly. The upper left block was the first one, and is somewhat divided into lights and darks. The others are more random, except
that the lights tend to be concentrated in the center of the square. Live and Learn, I guess. There's a reason why log cabin blocks are the way they are. So now I have to decide what to do with these really stupid looking log cabin blocks. Maybe use them as orphan blocks on the back of some future quilt?

Calgary and points west suffered a much great snowfall, and much more inconvenience. We figure we got about 2" of rain out of this storm, and we are really grateful!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Eight Tires!

I made an error in describing L.'s BIG tractor: I said it had four tires, and it really has EIGHT, four on each side. The tires are set in pairs on the axles. You can plainly see in the picture that they are double tires. I knew that, but just said it wrong.

A further bit of information: that tractor can plant so precisely, that L. is planting his rows IN BETWEEN last year's rows. The field will look the same, but the plants will be growing in soil that was between the rows last year. Talk about precision planting!

I've noticed something interesting about birds and wind this spring. These five blackbirds were sitting in the birch tree, all facing into the wind, almost "riding" it, fluttering up and down, even once in a while having to flap their wings to maintain their perch. But all five, symmetrically arranged in a graceful pattern, beaks pointed toward the wind. Are they playing with it? enjoying the feeling? Even the ducks and geese, as heavy as they are, can glide on these strong gusts. Can you imagine the world from a bird's point of view, looking at it so vertically? Almost makes me dizzy to think of it.

For a while I dreamed flying dreams. They were FUN!!! Haven't had any for a long, long time. I think they were an accompaniment to hormonal changes!

Monday, April 26, 2010


We do get lots of heavy wind here in Alberta. Last week we had some pretty horrendous days of wind. It was so bad that it tore a piece of metal fascia off the peak of our workshop. I found a piece behind the workshop when I was cleaning up. But this morning when M and I were walking I came across this almost three foot long piece of our fascia near the side of the road 3/4 mile north of our place. That's why you don't go for a walk when the wind is roaring around. You might get hit by a stray piece of a building!

A few years ago we saw some of the polycarbon panels of our little 8' x 10' greenhouse fly off in the wind. I went running after them, losing one of my clogs as I went. I kept going through the mud in my white socks. I caught some of the panels. One of them sliced through the outer layer of plastic on the #2 greenhouse and lodged between the layers. And a few weeks later our neighbor L. found a panel in a field over a mile east of our place.

We didn't have much sun on Saturday or
Sunday, but I managed to snap this pic of
the pattern created by seeding in the field
across the road. The difference in colour is totally due to the difference in direction of planting. It creates a pleasing pattern. In a few weeks when the peas are up the colour difference will disappear, and the field will be a uniform green (we hope).

The weather forecast is for possibility of showers tomorrow evening, with perhaps two days of actual rain following that. It would be such a blessing!

In the meantime, I need to get out to the greenhouse and get the corn planted in 4" pots. Our growing season is quite short, so I start the corn plants in the greenhouse and transplant them to the garden beds when they are about 12" to 18" tall. That way I can pick the first ripe ears early in August, and enjoy fresh corn on the cob during the summer. Corn has always been my favorite vegetable, and there's no corn like the corn you pick, take in the house, and throw into the boiling water for 1 minute, and then serve with butter. Nothing like it!

I should have welcomed Evelyn and Suzanne last week. They just happened to sign up as followers on my 100th blog post! So Suzanne, if you send me your mailing address, I will send you something quilted! Evelyn is not being left out: she received a table topper last August already.

And Sandy, you've been faithfully following for a long time. Can you email me your mailing address also? Some little quilted thing will be in the mail for you, too!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Seeding Peas

This week our neighbour, L., was able to begin seeding his fields. He's started with peas, because peas are a "cool weather" crop. So here he is seeding the field across the road from us.

He has a new John Deere tractor, model 9630, 530 horsepower, the biggest tractor that John Deere manufactures. And, believe me, it's a monster. If you would stand next to one of those wheels, the tire would tower over you! There are four of those monster tires on that tractor, and there's a nifty little "step ladder" to take you up to the cab.

In the cab is a computer display that tells L. all sorts of information including: the fuel usage of the tractor; a picture of the field, showing the area already planted; and whether any runs (outlets) on the drill are blocked. The first time he takes the tractor around the field it records the location of the field exactly (via GPS) and outlines the boundary. Then it calculates the acreage precisely. With that information the computer can tell him moment by moment how much product he has used, how many acres he has left, and therefore how much more product he will need. When he finishes a field, he takes that information and enters it in his main computer at home. When he starts a new field, he tells the tractor computer which field it is, and he's all set to go.

The tractor operates on GPS, so he doesn't even have to drive it across the field. He only needs to do the turns from one row to the next. A switch operates a clutch that stops seeding during the turns. If he forgot to restart the seeding, that would show up on the screen.

Behind the tractor is a Flexicoil Air Drill, which is 60 feet wide, and plants 72 rows at a time, 10" apart, with a 3 1/2" spread to the row. The big silver object that brings up the rear of the procession is a Flexicoil Air Cart, which carries 430 bushels of seed and the fertilizer and "inoculant" that is used with peas. The "inoculant" helps the seed to sprout. (The pea seed that you buy for your garden has probably been treated with inoculant.)

You can imagine that equipment on this scale makes seeding go quickly. L. needs that, for sure, because he farms around 4,000 acres. This week he was fortunate. He seeded peas on Monday and Tuesday. Thursday evening we had about 1/3 inch of rain overnight. Enough to encourage the peas to sprout. Now we'll pray that we get more rain as the season progresses.

The passage of the equipment over the land creates an attractive pattern of swaths, each 60' wide. They show up as different colours in the field because of the reverse directions, much as different directions in the nap of velvet can create a subtle pattern of colour differentiation. I was going to snap a picture of it just now, but because the sun is in the west the variation is not visible. Perhaps tomorrow morning, when the sun shines on the field from the east, I can get a good shot to show you.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Return of the Birds

The Mallards arrived this week. We saw them doing the funny duck walk thing down at the front of the yard. Last year's nest seemed to be among the shrubbery between the parking lot and the road. Seemed an odd choice, but this is the same area we saw them in on Monday.

The geese have been back for some time; the robins also. Yesterday I saw the flock of blackbirds sitting on the telephone wires. I'm going to have to keep them out of the evergreen near the house this year. They just go bananas when anyone comes near their nest, and never seem to learn that we won't harm them. Robins, on the other hand, can learn to be calm around us when we act calmly and quietly around them. We had a momma robin nesting on the crossbeam of our wishing well one year. We were able to sit within ten feet of her without upsetting her.

Every year some birds try to build a nest in the hole where the downspout comes through the eaves by the backdoor. Fortunately, we use that door enough that they become discouraged and leave. I don't care for a nest inside our eaves!

Our weather has been spectacular since Sunday, just like summer. But we needn't get up any hopes; it will surely be colder later on again. For now we'll just enjoy the outdoor living. In the meantime I did some planting on Monday. The soil was just perfect! We'd had a five minute thundershower on Sunday about 6 p.m. and the soil was moistened just right. The WallaWalla onions look so perky! It will be a while before the spinach, lettuce and Swiss chard is up. This afternoon I should plant some more: more onions, more chard and lots of peas. Soon I want to get the potatoes in, too. We grow Red Norlands and Russet Burbanks. I've tried others, but these are the two that I prefer.

This year I want to grow some corn again, and some scarlet runner beans and broad beans. Hummingbirds are attracted to the scarlet runners.

One other spring note: I heard frogs in the dugout near town for the first time yesterday. The frogs in our dugout are always a bit later, as it is deeper and colder. Unfortunately this year we had no runoff from the snowmelt, and the dugout has only three or four feet of water in it. Unless we get a rainy May (predicted by the foggy February) we will be dry sometime during the summer. We hope and pray for rain!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Turning Twenty 4 x 4

On March 22 I posted a picture of the first "Turning Twenty" quilt that I made from scraps. I liked it so well and found it so easy that I decided to do another one from the mass of fabrics that my friend gave me. So here's the second Turning Twenty, but this time I followed the directions for 4 x 4.

In this arrangement you make the same block, a 16 1/2" square, made up of one 10 1/2" x 6 1/2", one 10 1/2" x 10 1/2", and one 6 1/2" x 16 1/2". But this time you cut each block into four equal parts, and then mix and match the parts in a variety of ways. Five of the new blocks have a 4 x 4 in the center. They're a little hard to see in this picture.

The colours are all kind of "country," greyed blues, beiges, burgundies, etc. I needed to buy only three small pieces to fill out the quilt. I did use a few pieces from my stash, but most of them came from the recent gifting.

I had all the cutting finished before our town club met on Tuesday. That afternoon I sewed the blocks, cut then into quarters, and resewed them all. Thursday at our country quilting group I sewed them into rows. The little white squares are the row labels, to help keep everything in order.

This morning by about 7:30 I had started sewing the skinny edges on, and by 9:15 the rows were all together, and the quilt top halves were made.

The tops of both Turning Twenty quilts are in halves. I like to do the machine quilting while it's in halves, and then put the halves together and finish the quilting in the middle. Saves a lot of hassle.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Garden View

This morning we woke to find this view of our raised garden beds. We've been hoping for a good soaking from snow or rain, and we're very happy with this. It was only -3C this morning, which is much warmer than recent mornings, and now we're up to about +6C (about 43F) and the sun is shining. All that lovely snow is melting and seeping into the dry soil.

In February we had an unusual amount of foggy weather. According to old farm wisdom, a foggy day means rain on that date three months later. We do hope that proves to be true. But first, let the farmers get their seeding done, and then let the rain bless the crops.

I've been keeping a garden journal since 2003, and on this date I notice that 4 of the 8 years since then we've had snow on this date. Statistically the majority of our yearly snowfall occurs in March. But I've seen snow here in July, and heard that it's possible any month of the year.

Of course, when we get snow out of season it doesn't last long. Just hope there wasn't too much damage to trees and shrubs from this heavy spring snow. To prevent that damage, Jim went around this morning shaking the snow off our trees and shrubs.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Lots of Activity

This past week was very busy. First on my
schedule was finishing the wall hanging, since that had been promised for a banquet and auction on Saturday evening. I did a few things to make this wall hanging better than the one before. The first change was to paper piece each square. Then when I sewed them together I alternated the pressing of the seams. That way I could securely "nest" the seams into each other. It worked very well, and I had to do minimum amounts of fixing points to match. Of course, that careful paper piecing and trimming took a lot more time than sewing the squares together the way I showed you for the original wall hanging, but I thought the tradeoff was worth the effort.

Tuesday and Wednesday evening I sewed blocks together, and Thursday at our country quilting group I finished putting the top together. Friday at home I cut and applied the borders. That evening I did the machine quilting, a very simple stitch-in-the-ditch around each of the teal centers, along with a stitch in the ditch inside the orange border, and then one inside the outer teal border. That outer border is 4" wide, and needed some sort of quilting in it.

I decided to use a simple extension of the lines in the quilt, done in an orange thread. The result was just right. Some stitching, but not too obtrusive.

Saturday morning I started tying in the loose ends by hand. I sewed on the binding, and had time to stitch it down in the back by hand. The project was completely finished at 12:50, much too close to the deadline for comfort!!!

Andrew came and picked it up. I put a little explanation with it, and put on a reserve bid of $60. I really didn't want to see it go for less than that.

Our helper S. went to the banquet/auction, so she was able to tell me today that the quilt went for $90. She hesitated when I asked who bought it, and finally admitted SHE had! S. thought it should have sold for more, and was ready to pay more for it, but the other bidder dropped out. I'm delighted that it went to her, and quite satisfied with the $90. that it brought in for the team to the Philippines. Altogether a happy ending!

In the meantime, on Thursday we saw the storm clouds gather around 5 p.m. We had great hopes for some rain, or even snow, as the ground is terribly dry. What we got, from about 6 p.m. on was WIND, WIND, WIND, and horizontally-driven snow. Of course, we began to be concerned about the greenhouses. Some years ago we stood at the window and watched a heavy wind rip the plastic roof off the big greenhouse. It was a disaster! So with the extreme wind we were experiencing, we were very concerned. But disaster struck from another corner: the power went off.

We have two gas furnaces in the biggest greenhouse, but they don't work without power. We had kerosene heaters for emergencies, but THEY don't work without power. Jim phone our neighbor L., and he came through that terrible storm to bring us a propane heater that would operate on its own. Thank goodness for good neighbors!

Then Jim phone our electrician, who happened to be stranded in Calgary by the storm. But he arranged for two of his helpers here to bring over a generator and wire it into the one furnace. Saved!!!

The power came back on about 10:15, but we kept the generator running all night, just in case of another failure.

The next morning Jim came back from his early morning inspection all smiles. Everything was hunky-dory in the greenhouses. But the wind continued to howl until early Sunday morning.

We've had quite cold weather since, and just an hour ago it started snowing again, but without the heavy winds. We're hoping for lots of moisture from this!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Digging In

Today was the beginning of the gardening season for me. Jim hauled three and a half blocks of peat moss to the raised beds and I started the process of digging the peat moss into the beds. We've been growing our veggies in the beds for seven years now, and it's time to lighten up the soil a bit. Last year we added manure to the beds, and this year it's peat moss. We have eleven of these beds. Some are used for perennials, some have permanent plantings of strawberries, and the others we use for growing our food for the year. This bed is about 8 ' by 40'. It's our longest bed. I plan to begin with lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and peas. The sugar snap peas always grow next to the fence on one of the northern beds. But I like to move the green peas from one bed to another. Then the next summer I plant corn where the peas were. This bed will probably also accommodate the beans as well.

I'm just back from a five day visit with Dear Daughter #2 and her family. I drove up on Palm Sunday and came back on Good Friday--needed to be home for a rehearsal of Easter Sunday's music. It was just such a treat to spend time with them, especially with our 9 year old grandson and 5 year old granddaughter. They are very sweet children, well behaved and affectionate, even with each other. The whole family usually spends a week with us each summer, but DD #2's job will be changing this summer. Her office (in an oil patch company) is being sold to another company, and she's not sure how this will work out for her. We hope she will be able to keep her job, as she enjoys it and is good at it. But with a change of management, you never know. So she phoned about two weeks ago and suggested that I come to see them. An hour later I phoned back and said, I'll be there next Sunday. I'll bet she was surprised, but I had been thinking of a visit for a few months, and jumped at the opportunity.

The two days before that my friend Jan and I went up to Edmonton for an organ recital. A daughter of friends of ours had years of piano studies behind her when she switched to organ a year and a half ago. She gave a brilliant recital, and it was a thrill to hear her.

On the way home Jan and I took in the Red Deer Quilt Show, which was lots of fun for us. We both are musicians and quilters, so this was just a great two day outing for both of us.

While I was visiting D.D. I managed to make the 100 squares needed for another wall hanging, like the one last posted. I promised to give a quilted item to an auction sale in support of a team to the Philippines and didn't want to give away the wall hanging I had just finished. So now I'd better get cracking on that, because it needs to be finished by Friday.