Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Shabbat Day.


We did our semi-usual sabbath today. We had a brief interlude where we went out several times to squish flea beetles from the potatoes and eggplants and check to see if any squash bugs had laid eggs yet.

I was also going to 'quickly' put together another vest that was all cut out and ready to go. I even took pictures to post, I'm so incredulous that I'm actually LEARNING TO SEW and whatever I learn, I post. LOL (See the post prior to this one, as I began posting before the project was complete.)

After working on it a while I laid it down and Michael and I went outdoors to play on the trampoline in the absolutely GORGEOUS evening light.

And now, the day of rest is over. I must clean the house and begin cooking. I've invited my parents over for Mother's Day breakfast at 9 am and I'm pulling out all the stops!

Can't wait to eat!



Who Knew!


That I ~ even I ~ would ever, could ever, SHOULD ever post a how-to on sewing!

Well, I don't know much, but I learned how to put a vest together and, you betcha', I'm going to share that as well.

This Civil War Ball enterprise that we home schoolers are doing is very cool for me as it has afforded me the prize of learning to sew; something I always wanted to do. I'm so grateful for those who are helping me learn - there are many! And we are having so much fun in the process.

I've been working on three vests. The first one I was not really happy with, but I believe the fabric was difficult to work with, being very supple. The second one seemed a BREEZE to do, so I was rearing to go on photographing the third assembling.

The vest on the left is what Michael wore to the Spring Ball. It was an altered, very badly by yours truly, man's vest. The middle vest is the one we like the best; the second of the three I did. The vest on the right is the first one. It's OK, but not our favorite.


This vest was not quite so easy as the second, again, I think the stiffness of the fabric has everything to do with it. But I cut out all my pieces according to the pattern, and this is how it is assembled:

Here is the back piece and it's facing, just to illustrate that I cut out two identically shaped pieces for each facing and outer shell.


Here are the two front sections of the vest. I have laid all the pieces down as if they were sewn together, including pockets, with the facing in the back, as it would be if it were finished.


Here is the pocket. It needs to have all its edges sewn under.


My humble ironing setup, as I've no board to my name.


Here are the edges, ironed down and ready to be sewn.


And now I've sewn the finished pockets to the vest front, on the bottom and the sides, leaving the top open. Some are sewing them all the way around, to be only decorative. Michael is planning on using a pocket watch, so needs a pocket.


Here is a closeup of the pinned-in-place, dual-sided lapel.


I've removed it for sewing the two sides together.


But you must sew it inside out, so flip one side around and pin it in an inside-out position.


Here it is, sewn with the first zig-zag stitch, and still pinned.


And now with a finishing straight stitch just to the inside.


Turn the lapel right side out now.


And go iron it flat. Make sure you work to get the fabric pushed all the way out when you iron.


Now pin the finished lapel back in place on the front of the vest, making sure you have the top of the shoulder and the inside edge lined up as closely as you can.


Now with all your outer shell pieces of the front finished, you are ready to begin sewing it all together. Pull your lining out from under your outer shell and lay it across the top.


You are going to sew these together, in an inside-out fashion again.


Here is it pinned and ready to be sewn.


Sew only the sides that will not be joined with other fabric. See the top of the shoulder and the sides will be sewn to the back pieces, so leave them open.


Now you can turn it right side out.


And give a careful ironing.


Here are the two front pieces done and ready to be sewn to the back.


Again, you are going to sew the back liner and the back outer shell in an inside-out fashion.


REMEMBER - don't sew the top of shoulder or the sides that are all going to be sewn to the front. Here it is done. Now turn it right side out and iron it so you can join all the pieces together.


You are now going to sew one side of the back piece to its corresponding front piece. Lay the pieces out as if you were looking at the back of the vest, opened up and facing down.


Then fold the front piece back so you can pin it, and then it is ready for sewing, so go ahead and do that.


Now do the same for all the remaining open joinings; the other side, and then to two shoulder tops.


In Civil War era days they left the seams this way so that alterations could be done easily. A modern vest would not be finished this way, but here it is period correct.


All done!


Not perfect, but that is DEFINITELY a vest!



Friday, May 8, 2009

Quick! It stopped raining!


We got in just a little bit of work before a big and beautiful thunderstorm rolled through at about 8:30 in the morning.

We planted more chives as well as a bed of German thyme.
We put a few more rocks down around the bottom of the chicken yard fence.
And right before heading to town I sprayed the eggplants again with soapy spray.

As it rained and thundered mightily, I sewed together the first vest I'm actually proud of. Michael likes it the best as well, so I imagine that is the one he'll wear to the next ball.

As anyone who has been left knows, life can be a little bit of a struggle financially. The medical bills from my skin graft surgery to save my finger last year have not been getting paid. My DH is avoiding being served, and until I can get a court order into his hands, I'm sort of at his mercy, or lack thereof. However, despite having three credit agencies contact me with notices saying I had to pay all my bills in full right now since I am unable to make the payments (find the logic there) I bit the bullet and called them all today to explain my situation.

They were kind and willing to work with me, so I am on a very small payment schedule for as long as need be.

In the mean time, Michael and I worked for almost 4 hours on a cleaning job for extra money this week, then spent some really wonderful time with dear friends. Boy, are we wiped out from working. But you have to do what you have to do. I'm grateful for the opportunities that come along. We always learn something and grow from them.

Tomorrow we are taking a much needed day off. Michael and I will have a sabbath rest. When we do this it always feels just like a vacation. Then we come back to our projects with renewed vigor.

The fishing line barrier still seems to be working. I hope we have seen the last of our predators. I heard tonight from a friend who moved here from Florida that its common to use fishing line there to protect pools and such from wild birds.

You learn something new every day!



Scenes From Thursday


Here's a shot of the celery we have that is the happiest. As yet unplanted, but it's in the shade, sitting in a puddle of water. Very wet feet! They like a lot of water.


We were so busy all day that I didn't bring out my camera until most of the day gone. But here we are adding another tier to the potato boxes. We'll have to find a way to carefully add in the dirt when they are high enough. To save money we are using scraps of anything; deck trimmings, barn siding, even the trimmings from the neighbor's saw mill. You can see one board with the bark on it.


We picked up all the rocks, moved the mulch, mowed, raised the electric wire - all around the garden. Then we added chicken wire as a barrier to keep the little bunnies out.


This is the area I planted all in corn for the most part; mostly a hybrid sweet corn, but also an old open-pollinated variety so I can save seeds. I don't think I mentioned it, but with all the weirdness happening financially I wanted to have a garden that I didn't need to repurchase seeds for again. It will take a little effort, but I hope I will make myself do this. I will post instructions for each seed saving technique as I do them myself.

I am doing a Three Sisters planting here, meaning corn first, then add in beans, then squash; like the old story of the Indians. You wait until the corn is about 4 inches high before you plant the beans, and likewise for the squash.

I WAS going to also do this in combination with succession plantings of the corn. But as the season gets later and later it's just not going to be enough growing days. So yesterday I put in all the corn. I'll still be pushing it a little, It's going to be nearly July by the time the squash, pumpkin, gourds, and such go in. I may have to bump it up just a little.


With the little area I had left below the corn, I put in a double row of cucumbers, still needing the stakes put in, and I inter-planted peanuts with broom corn.


Over where I was going to add in more celery and celeriac I chose instead to use the space for a more sure bet, a GIANT pumpkin hill, on the right (This is looking a little like a moonscape); you know, one of those award winning, humongous kinds. And to the left of them a little double circle of Indian corn. I hope it will be enough for good pollination. I may have to go out and shake a little pollen down onto the tassels to make sure.


I was pleased to see this little lady bug in our happy sugar snap peas.


But on my evening walkabout, I sure wished she was over on my eggplants!


ACK! Flea beetles or aphids (My knees hurt too much to bend them, my sight is too bad, and I was too much in a hurry to kill them to take the time to look.) already, and I just put these in a few days ago. They'd already sucked the life out of 2 and were well on their way to finishing off the rest of them. Michael did his best to try to look disappointed. Actually, he was. He's been working really hard here too, and was not happy to see even this crop decimated. I went back down with a sprayer of soapy water, but I suspect I'm too late and will have to replant.

We mowed most things yesterday as well. Michael rode the tractor mower for about 3 hours getting the major stuff. I did some edge work with the push mower. The field looked so pretty with the buttercups still growing. The horses eat around them.

We've been getting a lot of grass clippings for the mulch pile. Not enough dried vegetation to add with it, so we have stored it in the bin to the left of the current compost pile. On the outside you can see our meager brown pile, all fluffy with leaves. Not enough to do well with the huge pile of very heavy and packed green clippings.

I found the mulch pile much too dry. I had hoped that with the wet grass clippings and steady showering, it would have enough moisture. So I did much watering and turning of the pile for about 10 minutes. I think it's still too dry and will have to pay more attention to adding water each time I add materials from now on.


My dad will also bring out his pine needles. I won't add too many to the compost pile, as it will end up being acidic at first and I don't know where or when I'll be using it. But the needles will make excellent mulch for acid loving plants like azaleas and the blueberries I'd like to grow again.

This problem is new. I'm not sure what this is, but some little tunneling creature is digging along under the chicken yard fence. I would say a small vole, but I thought they liked grassy and mulchy areas...


So all the rocks we had taken out of the garden soil and picked the piles up, went here. We are going to line the bottom of the fence all the way around, maybe on both sides. You really have to keep a step ahead with predators.


And we got three eggs again today, our current usual. After the upsetting events of the last few days, egg production was off. The golf ball is a training aid for new hens. They look around, think that other hens are laying here, and this is the best place to lay as well.


Hawk Tales! - As we worked yesterday we saw the pair of hawks repeatedly come back and circle over the chicken yard, their cries are beautiful. I'd love to know what they are saying. They would change their angle of sight, think, eye the chickens and the sun on the line, circle and cry some more. I'd stop my fence repair and Michael would put the brakes on the mower and we'd watch and wait....

But they never dove and they finally went off for good. I'm hoping it worked.

Michael got this whole area behind the fence cleared of scrub trees last night. WooHOO!


With so much rain, we have to 'make hay while the sun shines'. So we juggle the schoolwork in with the rain. Homeschooling is so wonderfully flexible. Not only that, but one of Michael's courses this year is horticulture. So he's getting hands-on learning.

One more morning before the rain comes back this afternoon. Hopefully lots will get done in those hours. I'm looking forward to a good rest this weekend for Mothers' Day!



Thursday, May 7, 2009

An Average Hawk.


We really wanted an average sort of hawk. Not a dumb hawk and not a really intelligent one either.

But, according to hopes concerning the fishing line hawk barrier, it would not be so. Michael came up from chores late the next evening, after returning from a boy scout merit badge outing, and announced, "I think we have a dumb hawk."

We'd lost another chicken.


Apparently the sight of fishing line glistening dangerously in the daylight did not deter this hawk from obtaining another dive-thru chicken tenders meal. However, it is clear from the damage that his departure was not so quick and easy as he had expected. Instead of one small pile of a few feathers, this time there were several piles of a lot of feathers, indicating that the hawk had hit the ground roughly in several places in it's attempt to find another exit.


There were several areas of broken fishing line, with feathers stuck to them, as well.




It's clear to see that this hawk had a surprisingly difficult time escaping and was probably unhappy about it. The fishing line that was broken on the ground was all tangled up, so he likely had to deal with that. I'd have been much happier if I'd found the chicken, revealing that the hawk had decided escaping was his number one priority and not getting out with that chicken; a lesson learned. But no dice.

So we have a hawk in training. Either we are training him that dive-thru chicken tender meals cost more than he is willing to pay, or we are training him to persevere. Michael and I had a discussion on whether to go buy wildlife netting, which I located at Lowe's and would cost us about 50 - 75 dollars in addition to needing to build supports for it, or to redo the fishing line where it was broken. He just could not make up his mind. So I made the executive decision to see if the line trouble was enough to discourage the hawk for good. It may cost us another chicken, but I'm hoping to save the money as it is pretty tight these days.

We are not getting as many eggs, due to the stress of the hawk hunting going on in the chicken yard. I can only imagine the terror of chickens running for their lives as this hawk careens about, bashing into one side and then the other. Kind of like a Japanese Godzilla movie, for chickens.

I hoped yesterday we'd have more time to work before the rain started up once again, but we finished tying line while it was raining. My dad brought by some bags of lawn clippings for our compost pile and we spent the rest of the morning in the house. I worked on sewing vests for the civil war costumes. Then we were gone for the rest of the day doing Michael's home school swim team, visiting friends, and going to Bible study.

Keeping you updated on Hawk Tales.



Monday, May 4, 2009

Do You Need Closure?


I think we all needed closure today.

I don't know how successful our hawk barrier is going to be, but I did see one fly away, giving what I'm sure was a cry of disappointment.

The yard is about 45 feet square on its largest sides, and it took about 3 or 4 hours to cover it, having to go around clumps of honeysuckle-bound trees.


I tied ends to the wire, and Michael operated the 4 spools of fishing line. My deltoid muscles are going to be screaming tomorrow. But it looks pretty cool, don't you think?



Then we tackled moving the perimeter of the horse pasture fence a little lower...


... so that we would have easy access to the future working greenhouse, as well as the perennial herb bed we want to put in below it, hopefully this fall for both projects.


Electric fences are nice to have for situations where you will be moving them. They can be adjusted whenever you are willing to pull and reuse the posts. Kind of necessary these days and in this financial climate. The cost of t-posts have nearly tripled in the last five years. We've got 8 more posts to pull from the old, larger perimeter. We'll store those for re-use.

Our potatoes are coming along nicely!


We are still pretty tired today, so we moved a little slower than we normally do. Would have liked to have gotten more done. But as Scarlett says, "Tomorrow is another day!"