Friday, June 23, 2017

USING A STEAM JUICER

We have two freezers, one quite large and the other medium-sized, a legacy of the days when we grew lots and lots of veggies and fruit.  We've cut way down on the amount of veggies we grow--a lot because the deer ate almost everything we grew last year.  I'm not interested in providing a buffet for the overgrown deer population!  But also because we are away part of the year now and just don't eat as much over the winter months as we used to.

The freezer in the house was the large one and held everything we were currently using, including the meat and fish we buy in "family sized trays," a good supply of frozen vegetables and all the done-ahead baking of bread, buns and muffins.  That freezer was running almost empty lately.  The freezer in the garage held the processed veggies from the garden, lots of quarts of frozen applesauce, and several ice cream pails of fruit--raspberries, cherries (two varieties), red currants, black currants and Saskatoons.

On Sunday our neighbours called and asked if we had some freezer space they could use.  Their freezer had started sparking and smoking.  The yanked it away from the wall and unplugged it.  But what to do with all the frozen food?  Fortunately I had a lot of space they could use.

I had been thinking of selling the larger freezer and using the smaller one in the house instead.  So when they came I mentioned selling the freezer.  Just what they needed!  So the deal was made.  This worked out very well for us because he would come with some of his hired men and do all the transferring.

But in the meantime the garage freezer had to be emptied, ready to come inside.  There were at least 12 gallon ice-cream pails of frozen fruits in there, so I got busy Monday morning with the steam juicer transforming the frozen fruit into fruit juice in canning jars.  That was a timely thing as our supply of canned fruit juices (all home canned) was getting low.

The Steam Juicer has four parts: a large bottom section to hold boiling water, a middle section that allows steam up through the center and has a spout to pour out the collected juice, a sieve-like upper section that holds the washed fruit, and a lid.

I've set a scalded quart jar under the spout and will drain off a quart of extremely hot juice.  Then a scalded snap lid is laid on top and the screw ring screwed on finger tight, the jar set aside to cool.  The loud snap when it seals itself is such an encouraging sound!

Here's a sieve full of Evans cherries ready to be steamed.  The colander section is on top of the lid for now, to prevent juice leaking on the counter.


Every now and then I lift up that section to see how much juice has collected.  There needs to be about 1" in the pot to fill a quart jar.

Here's the bounty so far: 19 quart jars of pure, home-made fruit juice.  At this point that's all that's in the jars.  When I use the juice I can add some sweetening, thin it with water or 7Up, make syrup for pancakes or jelly for toast.  Jim drinks some juice every day, so this will store nicely in the downstairs closet and be ready for use at any time!  No additives, no "flavourings," no aspartame, just plain good fruit juice!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

MACHINE QUILTING

This past weekend I did finish the machine quilting.  Part of that was picking out the first two seams, the longest diagonals, because they didn't "rhyme" with the design of the quilt.  That little job took 2 hours, but was a pleasant way to spend time in the solar space with the Dear One.

Here's a close up of the wavy-line design:

This was actually quite easy and a bit of fun to do.  I used the built-in walking foot on my Janome 7700, and it went smoothly.  I wasn't at all fussy about how the lines waved, but just tried to stay about one square away from the coloured fabrics.  I did aim to go right through the intersections between the four-square parts and the one square next to them.

Here's a look at more of the quilt:

 Today I will apply the binding to the edges.  I had planned to add 2" borders, but that would make this quilt too long.  Their dog lies underneath their bed and will chew on anything that hangs down onto the floor.  As part of preventing that, I cut the corners off the bottom edge of the quilt.  That gave a pang or two!  To actually cut off something that had been carefully sewn there.


You can always click on the picture to make it bigger.  You'll see more detail that way.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

EVENING SKY

This was the peaceful scene last evening just before the sun set.
So beautiful!  The sun is just a few days away from summer solstice and is very near its northernmost point in its yearly journey.  Living with such a wide view of the western horizon has made me very aware of this yearly trip from very far south in the winter to very far north in the summer.  I think of how the ancient peoples must have looked at this phenomenon and made stories (myths) to explain the movements of the heavens.  It truly feels that the sun, moon and stars travel around the sky and the earth stays motionless at its center!

Progress on the "Entwined" quilt:  I left it on the floor since the end of May as it wasn't in the way--there's lots of room there, so I could ponder how I wanted to quilt it.  My friend Susan who has a long-arm quilting machine (she and her husband have a wholesale fabric and machine business) had often offered to let me use one and repeated her offer in regard to this 100" quilt.  I seriously considered that.  I also seriously considered hand quilting it. That would have been so nice!  But our daughter and her family will most likely visit in July, and it would have been pretty much impossible (well, totally impossible) to finish hand quilting it by then.

In the end I thought the quilting should be diagonal, following the design, and that wouldn't be suitable for the long-arm.  Once I knew what I wanted to do with it, I went ahead and spray basted it with 505.  If it were to go on the long-arm, it should not be spray basted.

Here's the process:  I cut and laid out on the rug the batting and carefully spread the backing, face up, on the batting.  When the backing was smooth and even I folded it halfway back on itself and sprayed a section, smoothed that section onto the batt, sprayed another section, repeating until the half was all spray-basted together.  Then turned around, folded the other half down and did that same.  When the batt and the backing were bonded, I turned them over so the backing was on the bottom and the batt was up.

In the meantime I had spent over 2 hours carefully pressing both the back and front of the quilt top.  I spread the quilt top face up over the batt and treated it the same as the backing.  Here's a picture of the quilt top almost all bonded.

The sprayed section has been partially rolled over onto the batt.  I go down on my knees, place my hands at the middle and gently roll it over onto the batt, spreading from the middle to the sides.  When the sprayed section is smooth and glued I fold back the remaining section, spray part of that and repeat.

Because I'm doing this on the rug, I spread newspaper on either side to protect the rug from the spray glue.

The last section is ready to be sprayed here.  As I spray the edge that's over the quilt top, I move that section of newspaper to protect the right side of the quilt top.

When I laid out the blocks I was squatting or kneeling on the quilt top.  The next day I had a laugh because there definitely were some muscles running up the back of my leg to my bum that were not accustomed to being used that way and were complaining pretty loudly about it.  I forgot that until this morning when the same muscles complained in the same way about the same treatment!

I feel that quilting should reflect and enhance the quilt design.  One thing my friends and I commented on at the Red Deer Quilt Show this year was how "overquilted" many of the quilts were.  We think that detracts from the beauty of the quilt.

For this quilt it seemed that some simple lines following the meandering coloured-square lines would suit it best.  The first diagonal (the center  diagonal, of course) I sewed more or less straight through the edges of the beige sections.  When I laid it out on the floor to see how it looked, it wasn't good.  The quilt has very curvy lines and the straight lines, diagonally across each square of a block, looked completely out of place.  

The second try was to follow the same lines, about one square in from each of the coloured-block lines, with wavy lines.  Aha!  That works.  It complements the design of the quilt.

By evening about 1/3 of the machine quilting was finished.  I'll post a photo when it's completed.


Monday, June 5, 2017

A CORRECTION

Today I learned that the tornado in Friday's post was NOT about 5 miles away, it was about ONE MILE north of us.  So much for my ability to estimate distance!  We're really thankful that it didn't hit our place as our greenhouses would have perished along with whatever plants we have left to sell.

Because our house is built into a berm, we could be quite safe downstairs where the outside wall is actually under ground level.  The front of downstairs is level with the ground, and the back of upstairs is level with the ground.  So we'd just need to go into the downstairs bathroom and we'd be quite protected.

Still. . . .

Tomorrow I'm heading out to B.C. to join DS #2's family for their oldest girl's high school graduation.  This should be a very interesting visit; and it also includes a night out at Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.  What's not to like!

Friday, June 2, 2017

SCARY!

Earlier I wrote about seeing a young moose.  That was pretty exciting.  Around 5 p.m. today I saw, and photographed, something of a much larger order:


I also took a short video with the digital camera, but I can never get those videos onto the blog.  Then I grabbed the camcorder, but now I can't get that video to download to the computer.  Just not enough "smarts" here!

In this second photo you can begin to see that the funnel is beginning to pull up dirt and debris.  There's a very light tan streak running up to the tip of the funnel.  This is pretty much directly north of us.  It moved eastward, and became a much denser column of dirt flying upward.  

Judging from the radar images I would guess that this is about 5 miles north of us.  I never felt very frightened as I could see it move toward the east and we were south of it.  But I did holler to the Dear One to come inside RIGHT NOW!!!  He was out closing the greenhouses.

That's enough excitement for today, thank you!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A LOVELY SCRAPPY QUILT

My friend Jan came for dinner and a visit on Tuesday and was kind enough to bring along her latest quilt top finish.


She had seen this idea in a quilt magazine some time ago.  She didn't have a particular colour scheme, but just started sewing scraps together into pieced triangles.  One very good idea was to take the same scraps and sew them into a middle border.  That really finishes the quilt.  The background is a slightly yellowish white.  Stark white would not have worked so well.

This close up shows how she made the triangles from all odds and ends.  Didn't matter what colour or fabric, or how wide a strip was.  Everything could be used and was.

I think this is a really cheerful quilt.  It takes restraint to not begin one just like it immediately.  Of course, there are all sorts of variations you could run on this.  Sounds like a good idea for a rainy day--just haul out the scrap bag and begin sewing strips together.  I've seen this done on telephone book pages, cut to, say, 6 1/2" by 6 1/2".  What an appealing idea!

Monday, May 29, 2017

THE TOP IS FINISHED!

My goal was to complete the quilt top last week, but there were two non-sewing days, due to other duties taking over.  But I was able to work on it this weekend and just about 20 minutes ago I finished the last seam in the top.  The top is all together!

Here's a little recap:  The first step is to cut 2 1/2" (or 1 1/2") strips the width of the material.  Sew one coloured strip to 4 beige strips.  Make vertical cuts in this strip set into 2 1/2" strips (or 1 1/2" strips).  Arrange them as show in the bottom right side of this photo. Snip each strip apart and sew back together in such a way that the coloured square moves from the upper left to the lower right, or vice versa.
When you have four blocks, two ascending and two descending, sew them together in the arrangement shown.  For half of this new block press the seams toward the center, for the other half press the seams outward from the center.  When you sew the two halves together, you can open the intersection in the back allowing one half the seam to be pressed down and the other half of the seam to be pressed up.  Carefully pressing all the blocks in the pattern means that when you sew the quilt together, ALL THE SEAMS WILL NEST!!!  Nesting is important as it allows your points to be precisely together.


This shows the back of all the blocks arranged on the floor, prior to putting the top together.  See how all the seams go in certain directions?


Now the quilt is ready for the blocks to be sewn together.  In order to do that they all needed to be turned right-side up again.  Pick up the blocks on the second-from-the-left vertical row and place them right sides together on top of the blocks in the first, left vertical row.  Take them to the sewing machine and sew the right hand edges together.  Do not snip the thread between the blocks.  Repeat that with every two rows.  Then go through that same process with your new double, vertical rows.  By repeating this process, eventually you will have the entire quilt top sewed together, and none of the blocks will have moved "out of place."


It's not so obvious from the photo, but seeing the whole quilt together makes me realize that the proper colour for a border is brown.  Tomorrow I'll go to the Fabric Nook and see if they still have any of the brown fabric that is already in this quilt.  There are always other options, but I'm pretty sure brown is the way to go.

I'm still delighted with this quilt.  It's SO DIFFERENT!  My friend Susan has a long arm Quinique sewing machine and frame and she has offered to let me quilt it on that.  I'm not sure that's what will happen, because I want the quilting to enhance the quilt, not detract from this unusual design.  I'll keep you posted!

AN UNUSUAL SIGHT

I was relaxing in the living room this morning, enjoying my first cup of coffee.  I could hear a train approaching--a railway line borders our property.  This train was heading south, and that means they blare their warning while right at the eastern edge of our property.  Suddenly there was a blur of brown visible through the south window.  It couldn't be a deer--they never run that fast here, being perfectly used to hearing trains go by, and not at all frightened of people.  In fact, it's hard to get them to leave.

So I looked out the west window to see what it was.  A big surprise!  It was a young moose!  When we first lived here Jim did see a moose on our acreage once, but we've never seen any since.

It was really kind of neat to see that young moose hurrying down the driveway to get away from whatever awful beast had made that loud noise.  Fortunately for the moose there was no traffic on the road, and he jogged across into the neighbour's fields.

Too bad there's no picture, but I should keep the camera handy, in case there's another sighting of this new neighbour.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

TOO MANY DEER!!!

Jim had fun planting flowers in some pots on the back patio yesterday.  This morning, not so nice:

In spite of trying to protect a rather large fuschia on top of the pot and some blooming pansies in the side bumps, the deer did eat them last night.  This pot is about 5 feet from our back door.  SHAMELESS!!!

I hardly dared to plant out the "greenhouse" corn that I raised in pots in the greenhouse to this point.  I took this picture to show how nice it is today, just planted out.  We'll see if they leave it alone.  Last year when it was small and tender, they did dine on it.  Once it grew and became more coarse they left it alone, and we did harvest some corn.

I try to scare them away when I see them grazing in the landscape or garden beds.  They've even invaded the greenhouses and grazed on the pots and four- and six-packs waiting to be sold.  The perennials are out on shelves outside and they regularly graze on them.  There are said to be lots of ways to deter deer, but the one that does work is having a dog.  Unfortunately, we can't do that, because we do leave for a vacation in the off season.  Some poor dog would perish from loneliness.  I can't do that do an animal.  But I have a hard heart toward deer.  I won't even say what I would do to them if I could!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

SEVEN TO GO

There hasn't been much time for sewing lately because the Garden Centre is, finally, becoming quite busy.  That's wonderful as it's past the middle of May and we'd like to sell the plants we raised!

But yesterday I did sew one block of the Entwined quilt.  Today, a very quiet day, I finished three blocks.  I was quite sure of how many, and what size blocks were still needed, but thought it was a good idea to check by laying out the blocks as they will be used.
The seven blocks that are needed are a repeat of the very left-hand column, and they would be placed on the right side of the quilt. These blocks are simply laid out on the floor just touching, not sewed together yet.

I guess there will be a small border of red, then perhaps some beige and a final binding, probably also red.  These will be auditioned to see if they look right.

I still really like this quilt.  I love how it looks as if it's bent here and there, even though it is flat on the floor.  But I'm really bored of sewing the same block over and over.  I need a lot of self-restraint not to branch off into some other project.  However, this quilt really needs to be complete by July so it can go home with D.D. and D.S.iL.  Shipping a large quilt would be prohibitive!

Another possible project came along this past week.  In 1990 I knit a lovely, pure wool sweater for the Dear One.  Over the years I reknit the cuffs (twice) and knit patches for the worn-out elbows.  That sweater is beyond a simple fix now.  I thought maybe I could take it apart and reuse some of the wool, combine it with a plain brown wool, and create another good sweater.  BUT when I tried to take it apart, it was apparent that was not going to work.  Here's the sweater being unravelled onto the ball winder:
At bit later it was apparent that I wouldn't be able to salvage much from this old favourite.  It went into the garbage bin.  Sniff, sniff....

Another project that was completed this week is the Portable Design Board.  In the last part of June I will be doing a "demo" at the Fabric Nook on the Split Nine Patch block.  I've had a Split Nine Patch hanging there for a few months and Brenda said there have been many inquiries about how to make that block, so we agreed that I'd do a day of demo.  A 2' x 3' design board will be very helpful with this, so I made one.

There was a remnant of pink, rigid insulation in the workshop that was just right for this.  I sawed off a section, 2' x 3'.  It was pretty dirty, so I washed it up in the bathtub, dried it and covered it with some old bits of polyester batting.

I covered that with a big piece of new, Warm and Natural batting, which I folded over to the back side and sealed with fusible batting seam tape.  
It's all ready to go.  All that needs to be completed yet is a set of directions for making Split Nine Patch blocks.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

STUMPOT

Today is overcast and cold.  Not very good Garden Centre weather.  But just right for a Dutch dish that I learned by trial and error from my Dear One, born in The Netherlands.  I had never encountered this growing up--my parents were first generation Americans, born to Dutch immigrant parents, and this wonderful dish for cold, damp days did not come down to me.  But here is my recipe, evolved from several "failed" attempts to imitate what Jim grew up with:

STUMPOT
Peel and cook an appropriate amount of potatoes (for how many people will be eating).
(Today I'm cooking just two very large Red Norlands.  I peel them,  cut them up and bring them to a boil.  Put on the lid and leave them in the hot water for an hour or two.  They're cooked just right that way.)
Cut up onion and sauté it.
Cut up sausage or ham (I like Mild Italian Sausage for this.) and cook in the onion pan.
Wilt Swiss Chard or spinach, drain and cut up very fine.

Heat up the potatoes, drain and mash.
Mix all the ingredients together, season with salt and pepper (a bit of nutmeg would also go well)and "anoint" with (lots of) butter.

Makes a hearty, satisfying meal on a cold, damp day.

We'll add some fresh, cut-up tomatoes on the side, or maybe some homemade applesauce.


The applesauce looks a little chunky here because it's not completely thawed.

Mentioning the nutmeg reminded me of my friend Connie who married a Dutch immigrant a few years before I married my Dutch immigrant.  Connie commented on Dutch cooking: They add some nutmeg to the boiled green beans and think they're really cooking with spices!  I still chuckle about that.

Jim opened the greenhouse doors a bit after 9 a.m. this morning, and maybe an hour later a lone customer showed up.  When Jim got out there, the woman told him that there had been a deer in the greenhouse when she first walked in.  It must have been a young one, as a mature deer would be very leery of being in an enclosed space.  I hope she gave it a good scare!

We can't grow a vegetable garden here anymore.  There is a herd of six deer that live south of the greenhouse in some brush around the dugout, and on the east side of the railroad that marks the east end of our property there is a herd of about 12 deer.  I wouldn't mind sharing with one or two deer, but when you have 18 eating from your landscape and garden you become VERY discouraged!  When they invade the plants at the garden centre and even those in the greenhouse, I just get really mad!  They know they're safe here because they cannot be shot this close to town.  Why can't there be a cull of this terrible nuisance? 
A pot of spinach pretty much eaten up.

My "indoor" garden, which I thought was safe from deer depredations:

The corn and the acorn squash will be planted out in the raised garden beds, as maybe the deer do not care for those plants!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

P.S.

Something I meant to mention when talking about those two yarn socks.  This works especially well when you are knitting a two round pattern.  Yarn A is always a pattern round and yarn B is always a plain round.  Usually this is easy to see anyway, but A and B make it extra clear.

ONE SOCK, TWO YARNS

Some years ago I was given two balls of sock yarn--not matching at all, except for one blue colour they had in common.  Since a 50g ball of sock yarn can make one adult-sized sock, I decided to somehow combine them.  I looked up ways to make stripes, but wasn't happy with any of them, so I came up with my own method.   And found this works like a charm.
I haven't tried this with top-down socks, since the last many years I knit only toe-up socks.  Here's how: start the toe in the usual manner with Judy Becker's Magic Cast On.  After two or three rounds with yarn A, knit the first three needles of the next round with yarn A.  Now go back to the first needle and with yarn B knit needles #1 and #2.  Drop that yarn, turn the sock and pick up yarn A and knit needles #4 and #1.  Now drop that yarn, turn the sock back, pick up yarn B and knit needles #3 and #4.  Keep alternating between yarns.  They will follow each other around the sock with "joins" or "jogs".  

You can combine really odd balls of yarn in this manner and they will produce interesting socks.  

You can actually combine three separate balls of different colours in this manner.  In that case you would begin the same way with yarn A, knitting needles #1, 2 and 3.  With yarn B you would knit needles #1 and 2.  With yarn C you knit just needle #1.  Now go back to yarn A and knit #4, and begin chasing the colours around the sock.  With three balls you will knit just one needle at a time before turning the sock back to pick up the next colour yarn.

I presume you could knit really varicoloured socks by combining all odd bits of yarn.  But a suggestion: weave the ends in as you go so you don't have a whole whack of ends to weave in when the sock is finished.

The other handy dandy tip is to use one of those delightful zippered plastic bags that a new pair of pillowcases or a valance comes in.  Your yarn with stay put and not get tangled, that is, if you turn the sock back and forth and not just rotate in one direction.  A friend in Arizona gave me several of these handy bags.

What's also helping here is that I have a "Ball Winder."  This nifty gadget takes a skein of yarn, or a ball of commercial yarn,  and rewinds it so that it has a flat bottom and top and feeds nicely from the center of the ball.

This week L. did seed the field across the road and one morning before breakfast I was able to run out and snap this picture of the seeder:
This is a tractor with actual "tracks" not wheels.  A little hard to see in this picture, but if you click on the picture you should get an enlarged version.  His other seeder, the red one, has two sets of tracks on each side and is MUCH more impressive.  The red unit behind this tractor is the unit that actually put the seed in the ground.  Following it is the wagon with many compartments that holds the seed and fertilizers.  Under the red unit are the "tongs" (I don't know the exact name) that make a small furrow into which the seed is planted.  Coming down on either side are the "conduits" for fertilizer.  There could be more than one type of fertilizer deposited with the seed: one right close by to get it started and others a bit farther away for later growth.

These tractors are very smart--equipped with fancy computers and GPS.  This computer can be shown the field, either by driving the unit around the perimeter of the field, or simply from a "memory stick" that tells the tractor the exact layout of the field.  You have a choice: you can turn the tractor yourself at the end of the row or you can let the program do it.  GPS is so precise that you can seed in between the rows that you planted in that field last year!

Nowadays you need to know a LOT to be a farmer.  You have to be savvy about machinery, with computers and in terms of business.  Not what I thought when I was a young wife and, temporarily angry with the dear one, stamped my foot and said, YOU DUMB FARMER!  Totally inappropriate even then!  And more so now. 

We are finally seeing some of the delights of spring here:
The forsythia out front is blooming the best it ever has--all the way to the top of the stems.

The spurge throughout that garden has also begun blooming--another bright yellow, and the various fruits are blooming also: Nanking cherry, Double Flowering Plum and Muckle Plum.  How cheerful!  Here's the Double Flowering Plum
This is the Muckle Plum:

And these are part of the row of Nanking Cherries.  Behind them are a few pear trees which have also started to bloom.

 
These pictures don't really capture the beauty of these flowering shrubs.  To see them in person is so much better!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A COMMENT RECEIVED

In regard to the post, A LAMENT, Roadrunner said, "I read about your troubling incident on the blog.  I feel very badly for you.  Big box stores and corporations are definitely taking over."

Thanks!

A further note:  Jim went and looked at the plants at IGA, came home and said, They're not any competition for us.  They have huge baskets for $50.!  We don't think anyone here will go for that.

S. came to work this morning and said, They still haven't been watered!

We don't see how they will be able to water them as they are all still densely packed in the original shipping containers.  Is it nasty of us to hope this is a great debacle for them?

One other thought I've had is that these large chain stores ONLY take from a small municipality, they do not give back.  They are here to make a profit.  The previous owners, who were local, did buy from local sources, ex. Mennonite sausage, locally made--locally grown asparagus, potatoes, etc.  Sobey's really hassled him for doing that.  A big chain has certain suppliers, and that's where you must order from.  Makes you realize that you are here for their good, not the other way around.

I don't feel this way just for ourselves and our little garden centre.  I think this is a very broad movement in North America.  I saw on t.v. the other day that there are only four major airlines serving the U.S.  In Europe there is lots of competition among something like 26 airlines.  Fares are lower and service is better.  Competition is good for markets.  

Monday, May 8, 2017

A LAMENT

I was deeply upset this afternoon, still am, for that matter.  To anyone else, it would not have seemed worth troubling over.  I went into IGA for some groceries.  I shop locally.  This small town NEEDS a good grocery store and the only way to keep one is to shop locally.

IGA recently changed hands.  It was started and owned until this year by local people.  When we came here the old folks had retired and two young men owned and managed the store.  Recently it was sold.  I understand that it belongs to the Sobey chain of grocery stores now.  The new manager and his wife moved into town.  They changed lots and lots of things in the store.  It takes a long time to shop there now, because practically everything is in a different location.  The young people who work there are exceedingly helpful and I appreciate them.

This afternoon as I came into the store, picked up a grocery cart to go shopping and was met by something new.  Large, tall, broad movable shelving units were being moved into place, about six of them, I think.  Absolutely packed with potted garden plants, tomato plants and hanging baskets.  Just exactly the sorts of things we have been growing from seed, watering, fertilizing, caring for since the end of February, to stock our small garden centre in the hopes of selling them and earning a little money.  We paid a lot for a shipment of trees and shrubs from Manitoba.  We planted and transplanted (dirty, tiring work) and watered.  Tried to keep the deer away from the tender edibles.

We don't sell groceries!  Why are they selling plants?

I was deeply upset.  It seems so unfair.  They did no work at all; just wheeled the units in as they received them, took off the plastic wrappings and were ready to go.  I was upset enough to talk with the manager.  I was polite and did not shriek or make threats, probably too polite.  He was polite and insisted that that was "the program."  He claimed they were ordered before he took over.  But, for all the years up to now, while it was locally owned, the owners did NOT stock garden plants, I'd like to think out of respect for another local business.

I told Justin that we did not sell groceries and that, in fact, I buy all my groceries at his store.  I don't think I made a dent.  I don't think he even feels a little bit sorry for what he's doing to us.  If there were another grocery store in town, I would switch and shop there.

We moved here in 1999 to open this business, having looked all around Alberta for the proper small town--one with a large enough population and no current garden centres.  When we moved here there were two good hardware stores, a True Value and a Home Hardware.   If one didn't have what you needed, you went to the other one.  Both locally owned.  The Home Hardware was a particularly good, service oriented business.  When you entered the store they greeted you by name and asked what they could help you with.  Some years ago Home Building Center bought out the Home Hardware and built a large new store out by the highway.   Pretty soon the True Value gave up and closed.  Now the seniors in town could not walk to the hardware store to buy a few nails or a bit of clothesline.  They had to get in the car and drive the mile out to the highway.   This doesn't seem like progress to me!

There were two small, spic and span, family operated motels here when we came.  A few years later Town Council okayed a development by the highway corner: a Get and Go convenience store with a gas station and a Super Eight Motel.  Then a year or two later a Best Western came to town.  What do you think happened to those two small family businesses?  They are desperately struggling.  Both have been for sale, but there are no buyers.  The Lamplighter is trying to survive by opening a liquor store in what used to be its garage.  Good luck!

Sears used to have a STORE here, with major appliances, a catalogue desk and service.  When we renovated our home I bought almost all our new appliances there, plus curtain rods, shades, etc.  After a few years the store passed to another owner and pretty soon became just a place where you could pick up a catalogue and pick up your order that you had phoned in.  This week even that is closing.  Why?  Because Sears doesn't print catalogues anymore.  You have to go online to order and they will send it by post.  Pity the poor seniors who can't figure out these online things.  Something lots of seniors have trouble with.

When we moved here there were three stores to shop at for clothing: a very nice ladies' clothing store, a Saan store for in-between priced things, but still good quality, (I have a T shirt that I bought in '97 that's still wearable) and a Fields Store where you went for socks and underwear, towels and some kitchenware.  All three stores are gone.  We now have a Bargain Shop with very shoddy clothes, cheap linens and canned goods.

After Home Hardware/Building Supplies were in their new location for about two years they opened a very nifty garden center.  They have a truck come in every week from B.C. with fresh hanging baskets, etc.  About two years after they opened our yearly sales were half what they used to be.  If IGA sells all those plants I saw there today, our sales will go down again by a large percentage.

You know what?  That wonderful life that used to be possible in small towns is being destroyed by big corporations.  And people fall for it!  Progress!  Yes, bring in more businesses!  All the Mom and Pop stores will close.  Then the big chains will decide it's not worthwhile  to keep stores open in little towns and EVERYBODY WILL HAVE TO DRIVE AN HOUR TO BUY A SPOOL OF THREAD OR A LOAF OF BREAD!

My lament is for the death of small businesses and the death of small towns and a way of life that was real and good and a place to raise children that didn't need to be watched every moment for fear of being kidnapped.  I'm just thankful to have lived in the good old days as a teenager myself.  My girlfriend and I were free to walk a mile to go skating in a city park in the winter evening, home by 9 p.m. and no worries.  I'm ever so thankful to have spent our children's growing-up years in a small town in Alberta where they were free to roam and explore with their friends, creating fun out of doors, growing up healthy and independent and creative.

If you have a comment, criticism or compliment and find you are not able to post it (there's been trouble with trying to post comments), email your comment to me at l.mantel@telus.net and I will share it.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

FIRSTS

First really warm day this year: current temperature, 20ºC, or 68ºF.  Yeah, I know, for some of you that isn't warm, but for us it feels like summer, the week after winter.  That's just the way it is here.

The farmer wasn't actually seeding yesterday, he was harrowing, making the land ready for seeding.  He was hope, hope, hoping to seed today.  I think I did hear his equipment in the fields to the north of us.

And today we are having the first Crab/Avocado salad of the year.  Somehow I got started making this as a full dinner menu for us.  It kind of evolved along the way.

Here's the recipe for our current version:

CRAB/AVOCADO SALAD
In a large salad bowl, layer:
bits of lettuce, onion, corn kernels, black beans (drained),
cut-up English cucumber, lightly blanched sugar snap peas, 
and pine nuts.
Cut up 2 medium avocados.
Cut up 1/4 of a large package of Imitation Crab (Alaskan Pollock)
(Of course, you can use real crab, but I've found I
prefer the Imitation Crab.)
Sprinkle the crab and avocado with lime juice.
Layer on top of the salad.
Drizzle all with a bit of olive oil.

I served this still layered, not tossed, one time when a nephew and his wife were visiting.
She had first helping and managed to scoop out just the top layers, leaving the rest of us to "enjoy" the salad with a minimum of avocado and crab!  I did toss the salad today, but when it's just the two of us, there's never a problem with one person hogging all the good stuff!

    

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

SPRING SOUNDS

Two new Spring sounds heard today for the first time this year: frogs singing in the dugout and the farmer across the road driving his mammoth seeder across the field.

I love the sounds of frogs in the spring; it's a sure sign that the water in the dugout has warmed sufficiently that they are into the serious business of reproduction.  There is great competition there.  If you plunk a rock into the water the chorus halts abruptly.  But after a few seconds some anxious hopeful can't resist and lets out the first chirpy croak and off they go again.

This is a very late start to seeding.  It's been a frustrating spring for all of us, waking up about once a week to a newly white world again...and again...and again.  But it's worst for the farmers who have about a three week window to get that seed into the ground.  They've been waiting and waiting for the ground to dry out sufficiently to support the enormous equipment they use.  Our neighbour is running two seeders this spring, hoping that will do the trick to enable him to get all his seeding done in short order.  I'll see if I can get a picture of one of those monsters.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

REALLY MESSY!

I'm usually pretty fussy about keeping my workspace clean and organized.  But cutting squares from scrap fabrics is one big exception.  I have lots and lots of scraps of all sizes.  It's simply hard to throw away any piece of material 2" square or larger, so I save them all.  Sometimes when I can't sleep during the night I get up and cut these scraps into usable squares.  Bonnie Hunter (Quiltville.com) promotes what she calls a "Scrap Savers System."  This is my take on that:
It starts with this little basket on the cutting table.  When some rather small piece of fabric is left as cutting what is needed for a quilt, it goes into this basket.  When the basket is full, I take the time to trim the scraps into usable squares, 1 1/2", 2", etc.  There's also a container for triangles, all sizes, and a container for "Strings."  
Back in 2015 I went to visit our older daughter.  Knowing that she would be working full-time while I was there I grabbed a bag of 2 1/2" scrap squares and a bag of 3" scrap squares.  Each day while she was at work I sewed in her spare bedroom, using the squares to make a Split Nine Patch quilt.
Nice, eh?  One of the activities I planned for when we had all the kids and grandkids here in summer of 2015 was billed as a "Treasure Hunt."  I displayed about 15 quilts and wall hangings and let them choose a first, second and third choice to take home for their own.  This Split 9 Patch was one that wasn't chosen.  Later I brought it to IDA where there is a "Fabric Nook"--a very nice fabric and notions section for display there, basically, just to decorate the wall above the shelves a bit.

Brenda mentioned a few times that there have been several inquiries about this quilt.  How is it made?  So I have agreed to come some day in June and "demo" making this quilt.  In order to do that I need lots of 2 1/2" and 3" squares in darks and lights.  One of the great things about this particular quilt is that you can use almost any fabric and it will look fine.

But there weren't very many 2 1/2" or 3" squares in my containers.  So lately I've been cutting up scraps to make enough of the squares for another quilt, and extra so that there is choice in combining fabrics.  This afternoon I finished that.  I have plenty now.

The best way to do it is to spread all the scraps on the floor, in order to dig through the pile and select the fabrics you'd like to use.  This creates quite a mess!

I don't care to have the sewing area looking like that for long!
Here's the result: quite nicely organized into piles of 10 each, keeping track of how many have been cut.  Now I'm all set for June.  Well, almost.  I still need to make up a sheet of instructions for creating the Split Nine Patch blocks.  If you'd like to try this pattern, go to Bonnie Hunter's blog, quiltville.blogspot.ca, click on the Free Patterns at the top of the page, and scroll down to Split Nine Patch.  You'll find all the instructions there.

I highly recommend Bonnie's blog, her patterns, etc.  She's a real resource for quilters!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

SATURDAYS

I like Saturdays!  They don't have the same duties as weekdays.  I feel that I have more choice about what I will do. I usually choose to do some baking.  Today I made 13 cranberry scones for breakfast.  I had 2, Jim had 5; that leaves just 6 for some other breakfast, or 6 for snacks once in a while.

We had only one hamburger bun left in the freezer and since Saturdays are Burger Days it was time to make a batch of them.  Then for a light snack once in a while I made three Heirloom Boston Brown Breads.  That's a recipe from the More with Less cookbook, which came out in the 70's.  That was the first cookbook I was ever interested in.  I read about it and bought it.  I learned quite a bit from it, and still use some of the recipes on a regular basis.

One of them is the recipe for Heirloom Boston Brown Bread.  Very simple: 2 cups of whole wheat or graham flour, 1/2 cup of white flour, 2 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt.  Mix these together.  (I add some Whey powder to add protein.)  Add 2 c. buttermilk or sour mild (I use no fat plain yogurt), 1/2 c. dark molasses, 1 c. raisins.  Mix all together.  Then I depart from the recipe.  I divide the batter among 3 heavily greased tin cans (saved from canned tomatoes) and bake in a 350º oven for 45 minutes.  Let cool for a few minutes and turn out onto a cake rack.  This is very nice with some homemade jam or a slice of cheese (round Havarti is especially nice and fits just right).

I also finished up a pair of socks that were started as examples in the "Toe Up Sock Knitting Class" which I taught at IDA during February and March.  These are Patons Kroy Sock Yarn in "Rainbow Stripe."

I wanted to go ALL the way to the last bit of yarn for both socks and figured out how to know how much to save for the binding off, using Jeny Staiman's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off--such a good solution for binding off socks!

Here's what to do:  When you're getting near the end, take the very tail end of yarn and loop it around a needle (the size you're using, of course), one loop for every stitch in the whole round.  Holding the last loop, slide the loops off the needle.  Now double the amount of yarn used to make the loops.  Add just a little for weaving in the yarn end.  Put a knot where that is.  Make it pretty secure.  When you reach that knot, it's time to start binding off.

The way to get the stripes the same in both socks: Pull out the beginnings of the two balls of yarn (that is, if you're knitting with 50 gram balls) laying them side by side until you're able to have a colour match.  Trim one of the yarns to match the other yarn.  This usually works for me.

These will go to one of our granddaughters.  And I started a pair for her younger sister.  These needed to be unravelled and made narrower.  Here's a good method of doing that in such a way that there's no problem catching the stitches back:

I take out a needle and insert it into the stitches below, however far it needs to be ripped back.  One by one the needles are removed and inserted into the stitches that need to be "caught."  I find this much easier than trying to pick up stitches from completely raveled knitting.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

ALMOST TWO THIRDS

 
Almost two thirds of the blocks for the new quilt are now finished.  This photo shows the right hand two thirds (almost).  This second photo shows how the blocks are put together.  There is one large square block, surrounded by four oblong blocks with 4 small square blocks as cornerstones. 

I should have taken apart the block on the right as that one has all the parts in place.  This block needs the lefthand bottom cornerstone, the left oblong and the left upper cornerstone added.  

Each block is made exactly the same, but because the squares of some are cut 2 1/2" x 2 1/2" (the large square blocks), others are cut 2 1/2" x 1 1/2"(the oblong blocks), and some are cut 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" (the small square blocks), they turn out differently.  But each block has the same amount of seams and the same construction.

Right now they are laid out on the backs of two cheap vinyl, flannel-backed tablecloths.  That way they can be rolled up, transported, and still be kept in the same order.  Before I sew the blocks together I will do some repositioning, as there are places where identically coloured squares meet.  I want to keep it as random as possible.

There are three more of the big square blocks sewn and one more of the small squares.  That's 32 out of 53 finished.  So I'm feeling past the "doldrums" on this quilt.  There's always a slog through the middle part of making a quilt.  Beginnings are exciting, and galloping toward the finish line is also gratifying.  I'm not there by a long shot yet, but am feeling much more hopeful.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

TREE REMOVAL

There is a blight in certain trees on our property: Maydays, Schubert Choke Cherries, others of that family.  It results in "cankers" -- black nodes on the branches.  Eventually it will kill a tree.  One Mayday just by the garden was severely infected.  Yesterday Jim took his hand saw and started taking limbs off.




This is what was left of the tree this morning when I left for my walk with M.


Just as we finished our walk we heard the tractor and saw Jim leaving the driveway, dragging that last upright section behind, heading for our little "dump" of vegetation in the corner of our field that lies south of the buildings.

Seems like quite an accomplishment for a 79 year old fellow!