Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sigh

I confess to feeling down. I'm tired of day after day of unrelenting gray clouds with no break forecast. Gray clouds above, dirty snow below and bare branches between. Plus even knowing hypothyroidism is the culprit, it's hard to live with days of shivering cold in what should be a comfortable temp.

What a simple boost sunshine would be! Even with the much colder temps we would have...so worth it. Not to mention, solar panels and clouds - bah humbug.

Grump, grumble. This is why I haven't been posting much.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Experiments and a bit of fun

I get a kick out of trying new ways to cut my energy use so today I tried washing dishes with the water heater turned off. Because I use a tankless water heater all I had to do was shut off the circuits powering it. Then I poured the pot of water I keep on the wood stove (for humidity) into the sink. It's surprising how little water there is when spread out like that. After the pot heated up again I added that and it was a comfortable level. Rinsing was done with cold water.

Conclusions: I can see why people used to only take one bath a week when this was the only way to heat water. Still, it wasn't that much work, mostly a matter of planning. Not much fun in the summer heat! I also understand the benefit of having a water tank attached to the stove...but I have no desire to make that change.

I got the results from my annual blood labs and am feeling pretty good about all of it. One thing was way off - thyroid levels. Which explains my being so cold and fatigued lately. That doesn't worry me; an adjustment in meds and I'll be feeling better in a few weeks.

Have you heard of George Ezra? I saw him on the Graham Norton Show and got a kick out of such a voice coming from that young face. This video makes me chuckle:


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Busy week

I got a couple new arrivals this week:

My first ever gas stove.
A very energy efficient fridge.
These are part of my goal to drastically reduce my electricity usage. The stove runs on LP from the tank that rarely gets used because we prefer wood heat. The fridge is rated to use .95kwh per day! I've also almost got all my light bulbs switched over to led bulbs. These are bright enough that one bulb can replace two or three cfl bulbs.

I took care of some medical maintenance this week too. An eye exam that revealed a risk for glaucoma, but no problems now and my prescription didn't change enough to need new glasses. Also, the yearly mammogram. Yuck. Huge relief to have that one out of the way!

My workplace is experiencing profit issues and is doing a reorg including layoffs. Very hard because there isn't any warning and you come to work to find someone you've known for 17 years is gone. I'm not concerned about my job; an advantage of doing something nobody else wants to do. It certainly adds to the comfort level knowing I no longer have massive debt hanging over my head. I have to restrain myself from shaking young people who spend like there is no tomorrow.

Still very cold but should be back above freezing this weekend.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

And Brrrrrrrrrrr

It doesn't take much wind to make it feel very cold when it's actually -4F(-20C). The wind chill is -22F(-30C) this morning. My face is the worst; I'll have to wrap a scarf around it if the wind starts blowing hard as predicted.

I used the snow rake to drag the snow off the lower part of the garage solar panels. Don't want to waste the sun while it's out! The panels on the house are out of my reach so will have to wait for the sun and wind to clear them.

The water bucket in the chicken coop wasn't frozen solid this morning, so the extra insulation seems to be helping.

I finally gave in to the season and pulled out my winter comforter for the bed. Sigh.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A touch of the bizarre

I had my first spam comment in years today. How odd that someone who wants to rant against women in this country would visit a woman's blog and expect her to provide a platform for him.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Not adjusting

I'm having the hardest time adjusting to the sudden cold. It makes me tired and achy; it's not fair! Seriously, 20 degrees colder than the average should be this time of year. Yuck.

Okay, enough whining.

One of the jobs I needed to catch up on this week was killing the rest of the young roosters. Not a fun job at any time, but the chickens don't like going outside in the winter and having all those raging hormones cooped up together was not good. This is really difficult for me because I love my chickens, yet logically I eat meat so it's right to do it myself. Basically, I zone out and don't think about the process until it is done. My son's friend was helping out and almost lost it at one point. I offered to finish for her, but she said she needed to be able to do it all. And she did.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hello, Winter.

My posting has been pretty skimpy lately. Happily, I have finished the big rush project I was working on and am enjoying a week off! Normally after being worn down from work I would take some lazy time to recuperate, but our forecast called for our first winter storm today followed by a week of biting cold. With so much of my personal time spent on work, I had to use the weekend to play catch-up. Saturday was for cleaning and organizing the garage so the car would fit inside again. Sunday saw the rest of the windows covered in plastic and I brought in the half-ripe pumpkins (the chickens will enjoy them this winter).

Sadly, the weatherman wasn't far off and today has seen cold, freezing rain, snow, and north winds. Not a lot of snow for us, but enough to make chores decidedly unpleasant. The perfect weather for a toasty fire and a long nap.

I stumbled across a video today showing women who escape the modern world by living retro. Interestingly, they all admitted it was escapism. The two that were 30's fans seemed a little more balanced by being able to work and function in modern society. I even understand their interest because to me it's an intriguing time in history. Those who chose the 50's seemed a bit more on the nutty side, only venturing out once a week for groceries and spending the rest of their time being 'perfect' housewives. I realize this is a touch ironic coming from me, considering I would happily spend weeks at home; but I'm sure there is a difference. :)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November enters stage left

Is it an omen when you greet a new month with an early morning dash to throw up and spend the rest of the day feeling grim? I don't know if it's the past six weeks of overwork catching up and weakening my system for a bug, but I wish I had finished that project already. It seems a waste to spend a Saturday doing the bare minimum: chicken chores and feeding the fire. On the other hand, the strong, cold wind wasn't conducive to outdoor activities.

Bright side: sunshine!

Now that the solar panel system is working again I've become a sun worshiper; grumbling with discontent on cloudy days. I've also noticed a tendency to monitor and try to cut down on the electricity we still get from the grid. That includes things the batteries can't support like the electric stove and water heater along with the circuits I didn't switch over while I get a feel for what it can handle. I've also ordered a new high efficiency refrigerator which will cut down on the biggest drain on the batteries...except that it was back-ordered so will be waiting awhile.

The chickens are all doing fine. It's an adjustment for me to take them water every morning now that it's been freezing hard at night. And today I tried to give them their treats on the less windy side of the coop; they look so indignant about wind blown feathers. :)

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Piano Guys

I stumbled across these guys today and discovered that streaming their music made a great background while I worked.


Listening to them and seeing the joy they get out of playing makes me regret my complete and utter lack of any musical talent.

Happily, I can enjoy what they have produced.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Harvesting and other updates

It's been gorgeous weather lately! In fact, if I wasn't so crazy busy with work, I'd take time off to enjoy it. While still chilly at night, the day warms up enough that a jacket is too much...which isn't always good because the biting gnats are out in full force.

Today I dug up my carrots; while not the best harvest, at least there are enough so it didn't feel like a waste of time.


One of my trees is still pretty.
And underneath...
The potato harvest is currently in the garage but will be moved to the basement before we reach the stage where they would freeze solid. Aren't the storage racks great? These are for my root cellar when it gets built into the basement.


Purple Majesty and Viking varieties.
I planted garlic in two of my Earthboxes today. I'll post next summer on how that turns out.

The output of my solar panels shown on the charge controller. This feeds into the battery bank/inverter and powers the refrigerator, two chest freezers, the furnace and some outlets including my computers and my son's tv and game console.


Initial reactions: I want to get a refrigerator that is more energy efficient than my current 11 year old unit and I really want more panels. I don't have any more roof space though so more would have to be mounted on a pole or rack of some kind.

I do wish South Dakota was friendly to alternative energy. It's bad enough that there is no incentive of any kind, but there has also been talk of penalizing solar users because 'they aren't paying enough in for the maintenance of transmission lines'. That ignores the fact that there are so few of us that the difference would be very small; stomping on the little guy.

Finally, I met with the town council about the new chicken ordinance and we agreed on a limit of 30 chickens with 1 adult rooster. Exactly what I hoped for if I have to have limits. :)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Here it comes

Today was the first time this season I had the stove going all day. Snowflakes! Tonight will be the first freeze and I'm sad knowing all the beautiful impatiens will be dead in the morning. I did bring in lots of flower pots and picked all the peppers. I just don't like autumn; it heralds the beginning of winter.

At least the cats appreciate having the fire burning again.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Annoying business practices

It's still September. The weather is gorgeous. We haven't even had our first frost yet.

So what do the stores do? Get rid of all gardening items and start filling the shelves with Christmas stuff!

About a week ago I picked up a flower pot as I start repotting plants that have been outside all summer so I can start moving them indoors. Knowing that I had found the correct size, I returned to get more pots....ha! Fat chance. Not only were the shelves empty, the pots had all been shipped back. No transition time between seasons. No reduced prices before the change (which would have given customers a hint as to what was coming). Instead of offering even a small selection the entire section was destined to house holiday junk. Why 'junk'? Because it's the same in every store. Do people really need to buy more cheaply made decorations every year? Of course not! Does anyone seriously want to start decorating three months early? Not if they have any sense. I think it would be brilliant if we all chose not to buy anything from the holiday section. Let all that useless stuff sit there, gathering dust and eating into their profits.

Naturally, I also sent the store an email stating just what I thought of their management choices. :)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Exciting solar news

The electrician came today and started installing the new system.



Pretty cool. He had me order a couple extra breakers for fail safes so it will be another week or so before he comes back to finish the job. I'm very excited to move forward with the project finally.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Free food and the down side

When I was gifted a box of tomatoes I spent a day turning them into ketchup. In thanks I gave a bottle of homemade vanilla extract which led to more tomatoes and some green beans. Of course, I couldn't accept without assisting in the picking and then I needed to do more canning. Today I got a call asking if I wanted apples. Again I helped pick until they finished their harvest and now have four bags of apples to process and store. So much to do, so little time and energy to expend.

At least the weather is lovely (though I could do without the mosquitoes). An early bedtime is sounding absolutely wonderful after this weekend!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Potatoes and Pickles, oh my

Dill pickles are my favorite food to can. So simple, yet rewarding. These were made with a mix of cucumbers from my garden, my parents' garden, and my neighbor's. I'll tuck them away to soak up that delightful dill flavor.


This year I made a change from the usual Yukon Gold potato I normally grow and tried two purple varieties. Purple Viking on the left and Purple Majesty on the right. The Viking is the only one I've dug up so far (just one under the plant!) while the Majesty are prolific, although producing many more small spuds than I prefer.


Funny how the Viking has such a gorgeous skin color while the Majesty hides all its splendor on the inside.


Purple potatoes are supposed to be high in antioxidants, although I can't confirm if the white-fleshed Viking has similar properties.

At least this promises to be a decent harvest.

The monarchs gather

I counted eleven monarch butterflies flitting around my back door recently.





Beautiful. Wings like stained glass.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Homemade ketchup

Earlier this summer I found a recipe for making ketchup and decided to try it if I had the chance. Yesterday I got lucky and was gifted a big box of tomatoes.

Lots of tomatoes, onions, some vinegar and spices, a little sugar and salt ...




and result! It does seem like a lot of work for just four pints of ketchup, but still cool.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Sigh

I'll probably make a hash of trying to get my thoughts onto the screen in a logical manner, but here goes.

I recently came across a blog that I really enjoyed. Their farm, animals, hard work, and homeschooling were all interesting (and lots of pictures which makes it fun). The sticking point was the politics. I'm not a fan at the best of time of anything political, and while I could always skip those posts, having them in my blog list bothered me.

Something else I've noticed is that topics seem to come and go in waves; example: with all the scary and important news available to discuss lately, I've seen various blogs bashing feminism in the last couple weeks. Either the posts or supporting comments always contain digs about 'unshaven hags' and men-haters.

I don't understand why someone picks out the extremists of a group and uses them and their actions to deride and mock all the rest. Just imagine if nobody could say they were Republican without having to endorse and support every statement made by Michele Bachmann?

So, do I consider myself a feminist? Yes. Do I think women are better then men? No. Are individuals of either gender better at some things than others? Absolutely. As for the insults: my legs are clean-shaven and sometimes I'll wear earrings (unless I need the noise-cancelling headphones on at work because 'ouch') and I quite like men of all types. From John Candy to Mark Owen and John Barrowman to David Marciano, men are delightful.

And that's pretty much all for tonight.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Too hot!

Even the simplest tasks had sweat dripping off my face today. Hot with very high humidity = bleah.

There was good news though; today the new electrician came to gather the information about the updated solar circuitry so he can make an estimate of time and cost to get it all hooked up. The way his schedule looks, I'll be up and running by the end of September. Yay! It's been a long time coming.

Some things won't run off the batteries; the hot water heater and window air conditioners are just too power hungry. But those are luxuries anyway and not something I'd bemoan when everything else works when the power is off.

I did spot the tiny tassel of an emerging ear of corn...woohoo!

The town has been invaded by a wagon train today. It's heading to the threshing jamboree this weekend. We drove past where the participants are camping tonight and admired the beautiful horses. One family had their pet rooster along!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Improvising

Last week we got rain! Definitely a shock, although we should have expected it since the weatherman predicted a 20% chance. ;)

I had to do a very quick onion harvest before the showers arrived and left them sitting in mud. It's been very humid in the meantime and I haven't been able to put the onions out on the deck to dry as I normally would.


My improvised drying rack is a childproof gate in the living room. This may not look like much of a harvest to some of the bloggers I read with their hundreds of onions, shallots and leeks, but for us it's an abundance. If these store well we will be set for the whole winter which is great news because store bought onions don't keep well at all for me. The last two years the onions either rotted in the ground or didn't attain any size so I'm tickled with this.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Something different

Last night I saw a pigeon with leg bands on my garage roof. Today, when it was hanging around in the yard I was concerned; we do have four cats besides the others in the neighborhood. So, after catching it, I googled the leg band numbers and learned it was a registered racing pigeon. One email sent and I soon received a phone call from the owner living forty miles away.


Pretty little guy, isn't he? He should have made it home Tuesday and was thin, but otherwise fine. Happily reunited with his home flock.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We won!!!!

Chickens triumphant! We are all celebrating the town council giving in to our request to change the ordinance against chickens. The lawyer told them the next step would be a public vote (which obviously we would have won based on the petition response) that the town would have had to pay for.






I'm having a hard time believing it's over and I don't have to fight anymore.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Weathermen!

It sounded so promising: 80% chance of rain, up to 1 inch overnight.

What did we get? Nothing! Again!

This is the first time I'm growing corn in the garden. I had a small patch to fill and Truckers Favorite seeds so I thought I'd give field corn a try. This is an heirloom variety and is just now beginning to tassel which is great because it makes it unlikely to cross with the gmo crap in the fields (which is long past this stage). What is startling is how it dominates the appearance of the garden and looks like it takes up a lot more space. I expect the chickens will love this treat.



The tiger lillies are doing great this year. Such a nice, hardy plant that reseeds easily.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The flowerpot

I have a haphazard approach to filling flower pots with annuals and they don't always work out.

This one delights me. Every plant settled in and flourished and the bursts of color continue.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Monarchs have struck

And left behind gifts...





There are six caterpillars munching away on the dill plants in an earthbox. None in the garden or on the milkweeds. Such cool critters.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Zinnia love

I planted an entire row of zinnias in the garden, both for the bugs and my pleasure.





Earthbox review

This is my first year growing in Earthboxes and I kept my regular gardens as well.

The concept is that the box has a water reservoir that wicks up through a high quality potting mix and fertilizer, ensuring that the plants can't be over or under watered. The cover keeps weeds out and moisture in. The pipe in the corner is used to fill the reservoir and the indent in the bottom is the overflow slot. When water dribbles out there I know the box has enough.

This box holds three bell peppers with a pea fence around for extra support.



Now that the gardening season is well advanced I can offer some opinions. The only things that didn't thrive were the peas. It's best to plant seedlings instead of seeds which limits the usefulness to plants that can be transplanted. Lettuce and broccoli grew like crazy and drank a lot of water every day. Overall, I'm very happy with the performance and look forward to trying different crops next year.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

I hate drama

I'd been holding off on writing a post because so much of my energy for the last month has been spent on getting a petition going and preparing for the town council meeting where I was going to fight the eviction of my chickens. So what happened? A big, fat nothing! I handed in the petition and they said they had to talk to their lawyer. Delayed until next month. Aaargh!!!!!

It's been a draining experience, but I've also met many nice people in the community...looking for a silver lining.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The happy garden

Keeping on if not keeping up.

The big garden isn't a disaster with weeds but definitely not pristine.


An order of green, split hardwood for future winters.

The potatoes do a good job of keeping weeds controlled by vigorous growth.

But the onions are a mess.

Update on the earthbox experiment:
Peas did not do well at all, peppers are holding their own, celery and leeks look good.

The broccoli are great, strawberries and dill are flourishing.

Lettuce are thriving, onions and dahlias are going well.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A dryer dilemma?

I was just skimming through a getting out of debt forum and saw a post about whether they should get a gas or electric clothes dryer. What struck me as odd was that nobody suggested neither, use a clothesline instead. And this was a forum that really gets into the frugal life.

I wonder why more people don't use a clothesline? Clothes smell amazing, it's free, clothes last longer, it's green...a no-brainer to me.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Other news

And the results of yesterday's activities.

A few blossoms

My portion of the tree

The peas are FINALLY blooming

Still desperate for weeding (poor leeks)

bugs zapped since 5 a.m. when I turned it back on