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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Good Bye WINTER!

Hello Spring? Meteorological Spring began on March 1st and Astronomical Spring began March 20/21st, depending on your time zone.  Someone forgot to tell mother nature.

The longstanding rules for March are relatively simple:
1.  The crocus and daffodils will make their presence known just about the time you want to start crying into your snow shovel.

2. The magnolias will bloom one gorgeous morning quickly followed by a windstorm that will rip them to shreds faster than you can grab your camera. (As I type, winds are howling to 40 mph and will make it to 50 later.)

3.  Said winds and milder temperatures will make you want to go out and fly a kite, at which point they will either stop for the rest of the month, or will pick up to speeds that will drag you and your kite into the next county. (Although, that's not a big trick for us.)

4. In like a lion and out like a lamb..OR..Vicey Versey

5.  Little girls will be out and about in their frilly Easter dresses and new white shoes and tights and it will be snowy or muddy on Easter.  You could move Easter to the end of July and this will still apply.

6.  There will be three measurable snowfalls after the forsythia bloom.

See?  Those are fairly simple.

So last week I was cutting through the yard after pruning the apple and maple trees, trimming the deadfall off of last summer's  perennials, and I spied them.  There were only two, but they were there.  That was Thursday. On Saturday, the day of the Spring Scouting Camping trip, the boys were greeted with snow showers.  Not an all day event.  Not even a wide spread event.  No, it was one of those days were you could watch individual snow and graupel showers pass by over a neighbor's field, but not your own.

  One minute you could be standing in blinding sunshine, the next the skies would grow dark and the neighbor would be watching the snow fly on your place.  It made for some stunning photos. It made for interesting camping.

On Sunday, we decided to change our scenery a bit and head out and visit a long advertised Consignment Sale.  Every year Lodge 389 of the ZCBJ holds an enormous sale, with the benefits going towards the lodge.  If you cannot find it there, it doesn't exist!  8 rows of stuff 1/3 to half mile long each!  The walk from the car matches and exceeds that, but it is so worth it if for no other reason than to people watch and experience the bidding action.

There are three auctioneer trucks that resemble open sided food trucks.  The auctioneer stands inside and auctions off either one item, or a lot of items.  When bidding is done, the truck simply pulls forward, the crowd following.  It was a blast!  The auctioneers each had their own style, but all of them made calling sound like singing.  I LOVE IT!

One particular GIANT combine was fun to watch.  The thing was pristine even though it was 20 years old.  I HAD to watch to see how much it went for.  The bidding started at $25,000, but had no bidders.  It was lowered to $15,000 and went up from there.  Two older gentlemen, no strangers to country auctions, nodded their heads almost imperceptibly to raise the bid.  I swear I didn't even blink for 10 minutes.  Doc said he had an itch on his nose, but didn't DARE to move to scratch it.  To our, and everyone else's amazement, the combine sold for only $18,500!!!!  UNBELIEVEABLE!

There were ducks, rabbits, chickens, peacocks, miniature horses, goats, implements, junk, cars,

campers, boats, trailers, firewood, just an unbelievable amount of EVERYTHING!

We walked miles and miles.  We didn't buy anything but lunch, which was amazing!  Hot dogs, hamburgers (from Franks Smokehouse in Wilbur), pork sandwiches, soda, chips, and KOLACHES!  If you've never had a kolaches, think of it as a flattened brioche bun with a dimple of deliciousness in the center.  The filling can be poppy seed, coconut, blueberry, cherry, cream cheese, pineapple, apple, you name it.  It's the Czechoslovakian version of a little Danish roll.  I love them.  The women of the lodge start baking them weeks before the sale and wrap and freeze them.  I missed out on my coconut one, but was perfectly happy with my cream cheese, and Doc with his blueberry. 

I highly recommend visiting the sale if you are in the area this time next year.

Daisy update
She has just finished sitting for her 8th day.  She hasn't kicked any eggs out of the nest yet.  She gets up a couple of times of day to eat and poo.  A few of those times, Meriwether will go and sit on the eggs, but quickly gets off when grumpy Daisy returns.  Olive tried to babysit today, but refused to get off.  We had to move her to let Daisy back on.  Broody begets more broodys.  But I HOPE not in this case.

I am going to try to candle eggs the next time she gets off this weekend.

She's doing great.  Even when our temperatures dropped into the low 20s two nights in a row.  She just loaded up on food and hunkered down.  I made sure to feed her lots of mealworms as a good girl treat.

Acreage Update

I ordered 10 cu yards of fabulous composted earth from the local county composting site.  I got some last year with some incredible results.  This year I needed to repair some horrible landscaping errors by that landscaper we hired last year.  I also needed to fill in some problem areas in the yard due to years of neglect and erosion.  I used the tractor to move giant piles of dirt to the approximate locations, but the final spreading and feathering had to be done by hand.  After 5 hours of that, I could feel no part of my body, but everything hurt at the same time.  We are expecting rain, which should settle it all down some for me to rough it up a tad and throw some clover seed down.

I also purchased a drag harrow for the back of the small lawn tractor, or the large one, to drag compacted places in the hayfield to break up the sod a bit so that I can throw some forage seed down to continue to soften the soil and add nutrients as well.

I get all my seed from stock seed farm,which I cannot recommend highly enough!

I also purchased four large red bud trees for somewhere in the pasture, and a pussy willow, whose home I have yet to figure out.

The barn and garage have both had a thorough spring cleaning.  The yard ornaments are back in their fair weather locations.  The patio furniture is all out.  See rule #2,#3, and #6.  Yes, snow and a windstorm are coming.  Sigh. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Repeat Offender

Face Forward
Turn to your Left
Yup.  That's our Daisy again.  She's a habitual broody.  She is now officially a hen, but just barely.  It seems she's gone broody every 3 months since the day she hatched.
I made a promise to the flock that the first one to go broody at the end of March or beginning of April would be allowed to hatch the newest additions to the flock.  Meriwether is my proven broody.  She's a sweet, patient hen, and a good and caring mother.  Daisy is unproven in this field.  She is persistent though, I'll give her credit for that.
Yes, I DO have an incubator.  In fact, the last hatching ended on Monday. Tuesday we caught Daisy sitting all day in a nest box, flattened out, growling and hissing like a vampire being shown the dawn.  I much prefer my own chicks be hatched and raised by a broody.  She hatches, knows when there's a bad egg, raises the chicks, shows them how to hunt, and integrates them into the flock. DEAL!
A quick text to a fellow poultry breeder down the road and I was headed home with 4 maran eggs, 4 cream leg bar eggs, and 2 quarts of ice cream. (I had to stop at the pizza place, it's right there! I'm pretty sure it's the law.).
Sure, I could have thrown my own fertile eggs under Daisy, but this go around, I'm adding a little genetic diversity to the flock.  I need another Maran rooster.  Zap is tired keeping up with all the henfolk, racing from one end of the acreage to another when the flock splits up.  Using one of his offspring as another rooster could end up being a genetic crap shoot down the road.  So new blood it is.
I also added an Olive egg, which should yield an even DARKER laying olive egg hen, and a Meriwether egg, which will give me a generation 1 olive egg bird, hopefully with its mom's sweet nature.
I set the eggs in a carton, in a bag over night.  This will allow any air cells that jiggled loose in the trip to settle and the bag will hold the humidity in.  (We're in fire season and the RH is hovering at 20%)
First thing in the morning when I let the flock out, I was please to see that Daisy was still ensconced in her box, pretending to be invisible, but ready to rip my hand off should I see through her disguise.  She was sitting in the bottom center box, which is a heavily used box.  I placed all the marked eggs into the upper right box, and pulled her from her toasty place. 
Usually this is where my broody hens hop back in to the egg filled nest.  Daisy took this as her morning alarm clock, stretched, and BOLTED out the door!  This is usually what she does when she is just PLAYING at broody. She will then play all day and sleep in the next box at night, like it's a Holiday Inn Spa.
I immediately became worried that this was another of her fake outs.  While I pondered the fate of the newly placed eggs: cake, cookies, or omelet, I heard a spine chilling growl and saw Zap try to approach Daisy.  She inflated to over twice her size, put her wings out and let out another growl.  Zap backed off and chased Lucy around the coop instead.
Daisy blessed the yard with one of those famous broody poops, started eating like a madwoman and then raced back into the run.  She then ate a ridiculous amount of feed and then filled up at the water trough.  Regaining her composure, she waddled up the ramp and stood in the doorway where she preened, and preened, and preened until EVERY feather was just right.

I picked her up and showed her the box full of eggs and she settled right in to her lumpy mattress. 
About an hour later, I went out to kick the web camera again, and found Daisy back in her bottom center box.  Well, if that's where she wants to be, then that's the spot.  I handed her each egg one by one, while she tucked them under her in their proper place.  And that's where she sits.
Later, when she is more attached to her job, we'll move her to the broody house. We decided to reassign the little City Bitty Coop as such.  It gives the broody hens a quiet place to spend the day without being bothered, or sat upon, by other hens.  After the chicks are a couple of days old, she'll come out with them and start playing with the rest of the flock.  Eventually, she'll return with them to the main coop, like they were always there.
In 21 more days, we should have a little parade of fluff butts.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Purse

I had every intention of getting up first thing this morning, the sun shunning, rooster crowing, scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast, and sit down at the sewing machine and work on the purse.

That is until the alarm clock went off at 7am, and it was cloudy, and cold.  With that, my dreamy hot morning breakfast turned into a cold bowl of fruit flavored Cheerios. (Which are amazing by the way, if you haven't had them yet.). So since my whole day was thrown off by a non sunny day, I decided to toss a load of laundry in the machine, prop my feet up on my new stool, eat my Cheerios, and catch an episode of Raising Hope.

THEN I wandered down stairs to get some more stabilizer and get to that PURSE!  But I was distracted, it happens SO easily. But honestly, how could THIS NOT catch your attention?!

The little boogers have figured out that the house is a giant abode, and that the downstairs door is the giant pophole that The Boy comes out of. The Boy, of course, means food.  Therefore by the transitive property, the giant door means food. After a 5 minute goofy conversation with a plate glass window and clueless chickens that don't speak English, The Boy did indeed pop out of the door, with food.  Huh, it worked.

Back to my task.  My machines, yes machines - multiple, are starting to take over the dining room.  One, the Bernina, has migrated to the kitchen island.   Janome is on the linen cabinet, and the Viking is on the dining room table.  So far, all of the countries are getting along and behaving.

JUST as I sat down with my stabilizer and purse pattern, the phone rang.  Telemarketer.

Back to the purse.  The embroidered portion was completed last night and still had its heavy stabilizer attached.  I decided that to give the purse more body, I would leave the stabilizer on, and even add some to the back piece as well.

I use sulky's adhesive stabilizer.  I highly recommend it.  You hoop the stabilizer and simply slap your fabric onto the adhesive.  No messy sprays to gum up your needle or hoop.  No hoop marks on your fabrics and no stretched fabric and puckered applique.

I trimmed the stabilizer to match the shape of the purse front and its matching back to the front.  This way your purse is lined.  The larger back panel also has a back piece so that the entire purse is lined.  I decided to place a piece of stabilizer between the two back pieces as well.  (sorry for the blurry photo)

So The front embroidered piece has a front, center and a backing AND the egg shaped back piece has a front, center and back.  Got it?

Each one of these sandwiches was attached together with the server to keep all three layers together.  I then dug out an old supply of deep red, double fold, bias tape.  I folded the tape gently along the top edge of the front panel and topstitched it in a matching thread, gently easing it around the curve.  Then it was trimmed to match the edge of the front panel.
The front panel was then set on top of the back panel and they were serged together. 

I then flipped the purse over so that the back was facing up.  I opened the bias tape and stitched it near the edge.  I then gently teased the bias tape to not only fold along its natural fold, but carefully around the curves.  This looks ugly, and scary, and messy.  It's one of those points during a project where you can feel the disaster that can ruin the whole project up to that point.  I didn't stop to take a photo.  I didn't want the bias to sense my fear.

After the bias tape settled flat, I realized that I'd been holding my breath and let out a big sigh.  I then topstitched the edge of the bias tape with a straight stich, and then a decorative stitch.  GIANT SIGH.

I decided to attach it to the skirt with an intricate silver filigree button.  This would require a buttonhole in the purse.  I chose a keyhole style of hole.  Who needs to breathe?  Back to the machine.
In this photo, the button is simply sitting in the hole so you can see what it would look like attached to the skirt.  I think the set is lovely!

Next is the red petticoat!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Scandinavian Festival

June  17th is so far away, and yet is approaching oh so quickly.  It is the day of the local Scandinavian festivals.  This half of the state is heavily populated by the descendants of thousands of Scandinavians that felt that this part of the country resembled home and the price for these hard working settlers was perfect during the great westward migration that was made possible by the Homestead Act of 1862.

These intrepid folk raised dairy cattle, beef cattle, fished and processed sturgeon, and grew grains.  They brought with them their customs, beliefs, and food!

Every year, local festivals come together as they have for generations to celebrate the Independence of their respective countries. It's a chance to celebrate who they are, where they come from, and share in each other's fellowship.  And heck, it's a darn good reason for a town party before planting really gets going and the heat of Summer is full upon us.

My family has been on this continent since 1626, so well before the 1814 date of the separation of the Scandinavian countries. (We had our own little brouhaha going on at that time on this continent.) But they all hailed from what is now Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Finland. (One branch is from Switzerland.) I can go back as far as 1580, but no further. 

Since Stromberg is one of my favorite local haunts, and I haven't missed a festival since we moved here, I have declared it one of my adopted villages.  It is also my closest town to celebrate Constitution Day.  This year, I have decided to go in full regalia.  I've spent the past year researching the island villages I descend from and the clothing that is special to each.  When the family left the area in the early 1600s, the clothing was a modified version of Elizabethan garb.  Both families were in the shipping business and one was married to the Pastor of the church of New Amsterdam, now Manhattan Island.  Silks and satins wouldn't be out of the question, even for daily life.  Although, I'm sure linens were used as well as hard wearing and more keen to washing.  They came from a land where color was used and where status was shown through the amount of fabric used, and patterns and colors were mixed freely.  They were above all, practical.  If it still served its intended function, it was still used.

After a great deal of study, I came upon a design that best suited the clothing of the period, and the modified style of the 1800s.  I will of course be using a sewing machine.  The stitch is stronger, and by golly, if they would have had one, they would have used it, darn tootin don't cha know!

I found the perfect shoes and came across some silver buckles, which are absolutely necessary, online.  By total accident, I also found a full set of Danish silver jewelry, which also must be worn with the full outfit. 

The stockings and petticoat are bright cardinal red.  The suit of clothes is deep teal.  The shirt and lace are bright white linen.  The skirt and vest, cap and purse, are supposed to be wool, but as I am highly allergic to wool, I have dispensation to go linen on all of it.  Phew!  It doesn't have the same drape as wool, but it is what it is.

The shawl is a woven brown, teal, red, and green micro check, and the apron is a stripe of the same colors. 

My first undertaking was the coif and the cap.  The coif is a simple white linen cap that was worn daily to cover the hair and to protect the precious, expensive, heavily embroidered cap from daily grunge and hair oils.  Finding instructions for this should have been easy, but it really wasn't.  When I thought I had one that seemed simple enough, I made a mock up out of scrap cotton.  It didn't fit.
Another pattern style, another mock up, another fail.  On try #3, I finally found a combination that was close.  With some tweaking, the mock up worked.  It was time for the linen.

First I needed to change the threads on the serger.  I told you I was using technology on this one!  The serger is a great tool. It does so much work for us, so quickly, that we are fine with putting up with how long it takes us to thread the evil beast.  But here's a trick.  DON'T rethread it.  Sure if a thread SNAPS, then you have to rethread it.  Otherwise, let IT rethread itself.  

Simply snip the thread near the cone and tie the new thread to the old.  Make sure this knot is small and tight.  Trim any little tails.  Now simply run some scrap cloth through the machine slowly.  The tiny knots will flow through the machine and needle eyes and viola, a new color is threaded.  SHOULD a knot come undone, then you really aren't any further behind than if you had done it the old school way. 

I serged the seams and then the hem.  I then turned the hem and top stitched it with both a top stitch and a plain white decorative stitch.  The coif is meant to be used, and then remade when it gets too worn or stained.  In this case, it would not have been ornately decorated, but that doesn't mean it would have been totally ignored in a household with a good seamstress who could afford to part with her thread.

Once the coif was made, I could use that pattern as a base for the cap.  In the case of my regions, it was slightly smaller than the coif, and a different shape.  It also had to be intricately embroidered. 

I constructed the cap in the same manner as the coif, but used a heavier black cotton, almost a canvas. (Remember no wool.)  I top stitched it in the same subdued manner as the coif, this time in black threading.  I drew an ornate Rosemal pattern in water soluble white pencil with the intention of doing the embroidery by hand with pearl cotton.

That was disastrous.  Needlework isn't my thing and the cotton kept unwinding.  TO THE EMBROIDERY MACHINE!  I found a 13 piece design pack of patterns on sale and downloaded them to my machine.  This switch in direction required me to cut a new cap out.  I selected my patterns and colors and spent 8 hours of my Sunday changing thread colors when the beeping box demanded it of me.  Each time hoping that a thread wouldn't break, or the machine wouldn't start misbehaving, ruining the whole panel. (Embroidery machine owners, you know what I mean!)

This morning I crossed my fingers that the serger would behave, and the regular machine would behave.  Everyone did.  I think it finished beautifully!

I am out of yellow thread and adhesive stabilizer so the purse, which is next, will have to wait for a trip to town.  After that, I'll start on mock-ups of the shirt, vest, skirt, and petticoats.

Trip to town accomplished.  I still need to buy some more Bottom Line Thread for my bobbins, but had enough to finish the purse embroidery.  If you sew a lot or use your embroidery machine a great deal and have never tried this thread in your bobbin, give it a whirl! I've been using it for 13 years and it's durability is amazing.  It glides through your machine like the old fashioned lingerie thread and doesn't snap, which looses your place while embroidering.

Here is the design I chose for the purse.  I will put it together in the next couple of days and then move on to the red petticoat.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Footstool mk2


The footstool broke.
Sure. That'll sand out, no problem.
The Accident Investigation Board concluded that when a lateral force in excess of tolerances was applied to the feet of one side, the resulting force upon the first point of resistance (the lower set of dowel pins) was sufficient to overcome the structural integrity of the wood.  Archimedes would be proud.  The proximal cause was operator error; however, the investigation turned up other contributing factors.  The dowel pins were ½" in diameter, and had been inserted into the edge of a 1x10, which is only about ¾" thick; this left, at the narrowest point, only 1/8" of wood to support the stresses.  The manufacturer's excuse was "it's what I had in the shop."  The other contributing factor was that because of the horizontal grain the force wasn't distributed across a wider area but remained focused at the thinnest portion of the wood.  Particularly disturbing, though, was that the manufacturer had encountered a similar structural failure during production and made no design changes.

So I decided I needed to make new end-pieces for the footstool, incorporating the lessons learned from the first go-around.  I cut new pieces off of that 1x10 (it sure seems to go a long way; after this project I still have two feet of the first 1x10 and haven't touched the second yet).  Since I'll be using vertical grain, I cut the boards square so the resulting height of the footstool will be the same as the mark 1 footstool.

Since I wanted a rounded arch to form the feet this time, I marked a centerline on the boards, decided how tall I wanted the arch, and marked the board accordingly.  I loaded up a hole saw and cut the tops of the arches.  I set a bevel gauge to some angle and drew a line tangent to the hole, then mirrored the tangent line on the other side of the hole and repeated on the second board.  What angle did I use?  Dunno -- I picked an arbitrary angle that looked pleasing for the arch and the resulting feet.

Out comes the bandsaw to cut the curves on the sides, to cut those sides of the arches, and to round off the corners of the feet.  Hey, whaddya know?  The drum sander fits nicely in the arches.  Then I used the dado blade to cut the slots for the half-lap joints in the end pieces and in the side-pieces.  Then the holes for the dowel pins and the dowel plugs (recalling that the bottom set of dowels are now purely decorative).

She's a repeat offender.
After dealing with a sorghum thief, I cut the tapers into the ends of the cross-pieces and then I sanded, sanded, sanded until everything was ready for staining.  Since Caryl wanted to try some spray-stain that we discovered, I set the project aside until she was ready to stain it.  You can read her opinion of the product.

A couple of nights later assembled the base.  For reasons beyond the scope of this blog entry, the holes for the dowel pins on one side were deeper than the holes on the other side; these dowels established the reference protrusion beyond the side of the stool, so they went in first.  Then I used a depth gauge to determine how deep the holes on the other side were.  The measured value is unimportant; I used the depth gauge to position a piece piece of wood over the side with the reference dowel pins.  Now I set the depth gauge for the distance from that piece of wood to the end of a reference dowel pin.  This told me how long the dowel pins on the other side needed to be, and I marked the pins accordingly.  I used the same technique to determine the length of the dowel plugs so they'd stick out only as far as the dowel pins.  The bandsaw made quick work of shortening the dowels, and the base was done.

Finally I re-drilled the screw holes to connect the base to the top (the base is narrower now so the original holes no longer line up), and it's done!

Except for the stain that came off the end-pieces and onto my hands.  That spray-stain's going to take a bit longer to fully soak in, I guess.