Thursday, December 30, 2010

Endless Summer, Endless Winter


2010 gave us the summer that began in the first week of April and ended in the last week of November.

It has also given us the coldest winter I've seen that began the first week of December, giving most of us a taste of cryogenics. Our pool looks like it has known many ice ages.

This has give me an optimal window to work on some much needed projects indoors. For the last week I've had my nose to the grindstone working on several things. One of them being photographing a bunch of things to sell. My friends, having seen and pitied me unable to do this because of my lack of camera, came over and we had two really fun days visiting while photographing madly.

What a blessing!

I am looking forward to getting my camera back from repairs, hopefully very soon, and snapping happily away. We've got photography field trips to plan. We need a bus or something....

Now comes the real work. Organization and getting them on eBay. Not much break in the weather, so I'm good. However, the ballet is going to be soon, and we are beginning to do a lot of running around for increased rehearsals as well as set building and painting. It's a busy time.

Catalogs have begun arriving!!!! Spring is on our minds. I've been working on cuttings of whatever makes itself available. I'm going to make a nuisance of myself and begin asking people everywhere I go if I can take cuttings; keeping pruners and cutting medium in my car to ever be at the ready. Whatever I can't buy, I hope to find free to populate this place. What great memories, too. Every plant will have a pruning memory. Good thing I don't scrapbook, because THAT could end up being scary! "Aw, and little Celia Celery came from the lady that lives across from the BP. Isn't she cute?"

My focus is on food crops, but maybe one day I can have a yard, and have some foofy things as well. A lawn would be nice. I love this earth the Lord created, but the red clay heel lifts I would not miss.

I began working on learning to sew custom dress shirts for Michael, something that would actually fit those long arms, but haven't gotten very far, with Christmas and these more necessary projects in the works. Judging from our weather.... I will probably have more time to put into them for the next couple of months. I dropped by the thrift stores and found table cloths and curtains for sewing fabric. The thicker the better. I don't do well sewing flimsy stuff.

Michael is officially taller than me! Shaving, talking in that deep voice. He says stuff to me and sometimes I just break out giggling. It's going to take me a while to get used to this big voice. His hugs are getting stronger too. Gotta love that. :o)

No time at all for finishing that greenhouse. But as soon as this weather breaks, we have the supplies to finish it. While I was hoping to raise food through this winter, it would have been tough to try to learn to use it during this really cold weather, so I am not too heartbroken by the delay. I just really want it up for starting our own garden plants in February and March. I hope we get a week of mild weather for doing that.

Well, I'm off to run Michael to town for working on sets today and I'm going to continue working here at home.

Can you believe only one day left of 2010?




Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Busy Christmas Season, and a Thank You!


We've just been running like crazy. Not much time to post anything. Lots of work, lots of activities.

Bad news, I think I have another cracked tooth.

Wistful news - I'm dying here. I have wanted a Dexter pair for AGES! I found all sorts of them for wonderful deals here. Sadly, morosely, dejectedly, horrendously - they are in Canada!

But what really matters is this:

I have to tell you, going from a couple of months of bad financial news; months filled with unexpected bills, land taxes coming due, a call saying no support will be given, car repairs, etc., the Lord has blessed us. We have had so much kindness shown to us and generosity from Heavenly family, both far and near, we are fantastically grateful, humbled, and awed by your love.

I was able to get Michael something he really needed, a replacement MP3 player for Christmas. He's already in possession of it, we shopped together and found an amazing deal, at about half price and free shipping. I think it must be a Christmas special. But he is as happy as a clam, and I could not help but shed tears at watching him receive such a gift from the Lord. In our work, we use them to listen to messages and worship music to encourage us. Others have given him lovely gifts as well.

More than anything, the gift that is the greatest is seeing just how the Lord cares for us, even when we have no idea how it could be possible to make it. And how others want to be used by Him, and offer their love and friendship.

Thank you so much! Some of you call, some of you write, some of you chat, some of you send surprises. All of you touch our hearts so deeply, there is no way you could possibly know how much your friendship and love mean.

Yeshua Meshiach was not born in December. He was born most likely in September. But because of various historical events, we followers of Christ have taken up the habit of celebrating the joyous occasion of His birth here in human form at the end of December. We rejoice, we sing, we give gifts to one another.

But the most wonderful thing about this world-wide celebration is the fact that so many people choose to set aside things that usually distract us, and instead focus on reaching out to others and loving them in tangible ways; from fun random acts of flash mobs, to giving to perfect strangers.

What a beautiful thing to see! I pray every day that we are blessings to others and that the Lord would show us how to serve others in whatever way we can. I know I fail much more than I am successful, but I am grateful to be growing. What an amazing thing it will be when the whole earth is a reflection of Christ's love for us, when He returns.

As I read of your own adventures, your own trials, your own walks, and share your loves and passions, I am blessed beyond all measure. I learn from you. I am humbled and grateful for all the blessings we have from the Lord; how He brings us through our trials and heals our pain. All our promise of the future, all our hope is in Him.

Merry Christmas to all of you. May you all be blessed. But even more, may we bless He who loves us, who is our Savior and Provider. May we all learn to love Him as He deserves and learn to serve Him and minister to Him in whatever way He shows us.

Much love to you all,



Friday, December 17, 2010

Ice Storm


Sick then housecleaning.

That's about it.

Worst weather I've ever lived in, and it's not even winter yet. Whew!

Stay warm and frost free!



Monday, December 13, 2010

Wow! Cold!


I can't help but wonder as I see the map of Canada, -40 wind chill factor.

I don't even want to think about how cold that is for man and animal; probably where they came up with the idea of garden statues.

Last week, as the wintry weather set in, we had another example of how we are protected. This minivan we've got is only going to go so far without having the funds to make repairs on it, but we are nursing it along as best we can. I make sure to get it serviced pretty regularly, but the broken things are more difficult.

We got up very early and warmed up the van for getting to an office cleaning before church. We had two to get to that day and still try to make it. We did, and after visiting for a while afterwards,
the car inexplicably would not start. It finally did with jumper cables but I know batteries and that was just not normal. Sure enough, at AutoZone they ran a test and said they'd never seen a battery do that before. The guage steadily dropped as they held it to the battery.

He said it looked like the battery had sudden catastrophic failure, and either my alternator was bad, or the battery, when it malfunctioned so badly, actually ruined the alternator. Yikes! Another 200 dollar part, plus labor! I thought I might cry. I think I'm tired. LOL

My battery warranty was up. But one guy said he'd pro-rate it for me. I could get a replacement at a cheaper price. The guy in charge saw him and said, "Can't do that, it's too far over warranty."

As I stood there wondering what God was going to do. The guy in charge suddenly picked up a new battery and carried it out to my car. This is the same guy that had previously said they were not allowed to work on my car because the battery is buried too deeply in the compartment.

I asked how much I would have to pay for this new battery - the first guy quietly said that they were going to replace it for free! AND they were going to do it for me after all.

Praise God! I sat in a sheltered car while the guy stood out in the snow for 30 minutes, rapping his bloody knuckles and changing my battery. Then he checked the alternator again and said it seemed to be fine.

I'm still looking for that milder winter that Accuweather promised in their long-range forecast. Maybe in January?

I've been outside, moving very dry snow off of our porches. Michael is disappointed that it's not the best for snowballs, but it's very pretty, and we are even getting some sunshine trying to peak between the clouds. It is so light, it almost poofs up like talcum powder when you shovel it.

We winterized the pool in between these two massive arctic blasts, and it's a good thing because we are going to end up with several inches of ice on the top.

Since Thanksgiving and the cold weather occurred, I've not had the chance to get out there and work on the greenhouse any more. Actually, we've not done much outdoors at all.

I've been sick for a week, and it seems to be really getting worse today. I'm hoping it's the peak of the germ warfare, and after today, my antibodies will be short. "Short", a military term for those who do not have long until their tour is over.

So I've got on a Santa hat. Not because I'm dressing like Santa, but because as we have been slowly unpacking Christmas stuff and decorating, it came in very handy to keep me warm.

We are having to cut way back on everything right now. Christmas will be really nice. No gifts this year. Instead we are going to relish the joy of really focusing on the Lord and others. We've also got our thermostat set way down to about 60. So we are layering! WooHOOOO! It's actually helpful when we go out of doors, because we are not hit by a sudden shock of cold air that we are not used to.

And we are so thankful for a freezer full of our garden produce and canned goods we can freely eat from!

I found an adorable framed print at the grocery store. A little girl, dreaming of being a ballerina, and I added some three dimensional ballerinas to the front. A little bit of paint, and it's going on eBay. All the thrift stores around here are having huge sales. That's helpful when I'm trying to find fabric for practicing sewing some custom shirts for Michael. Fabric is just to expensive for practice, so old sheets and tablecloths are like manna from Heaven!

We had a fun dance after church yesterday. I knew I should not have danced, being sick, but I washed up well so as not spread germs, and then proceeded to have my lungs set on fire from being out of breath. Nothing will clear out your sinuses like good exercise!



Thursday, December 2, 2010

Prayer for a Dear Friend.


Yesterday a man who is so dear to our hearts, a really wonderful Christian brother, suffered a ruptured carotid artery.

This was very unexpected. He is a healthy and active man, one who is always there to help anyone he knows is in need; wise and gentle. His wife is a sweet friend to me.

This is very serious. The rupture is high up, even into the brain, in an inoperable area. If he survives, he was told that he will never be able to do hard work again, but must be very careful to not stress the artery any more than necessary.

They have three beautiful teenage daughters. Please pray that we can selfishly keep him here, for his wife and daughters, for us. We have no doubts as to what will become of him should his body die, but we are selfish and do not want to do without him.

Pray for comfort, peace and rest. I know so many of you have suffered equal losses in your lives and you understand these prayers so well.

Thank you,



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pumpkin Seeds


After Halloween I brought home large pumpkins for 50 cents each. I took one look at those cast-offs and said, "Whoa! That's food for a week!"

So I am roasting one of them right now. I can hear the coconut oil I brushed over the quartered chunks sizzling on the baking sheet right now, and I can't wait for the aroma of roasted pumpkin to fill the house.

And I thought I'd give another try at roasting the seeds. I have not tried it in a very long time. Many years ago I tried a couple of times, only to have them come out rather unpleasantly. Sort of like mulch.

I would love to collect some pumpkin seed recipes, tips and techniques if you've got some you love.

Meanwhile, I'm housecleaning and sewing. I repaired Michael's frock coat for our annual Civil War Christmas Ball this weekend. I also did some work on my cape. I was just getting ready to put it all away when Michael requested repairs to the down jacket I found for him at the thrift store a couple of weeks ago.

Picking up feathers and watching the snow come down,



Friday, November 26, 2010

Greenhouse Ends.


Let me see if I can get in a hilarious episode of, "Up Go the Greenhouse Ends!"

But first, a message from our sponsor:

Leftovers from the annual candy apple night made for some nice holiday additions to snacking.

Tasty! But I was good and did not eat much of it. Yet.

Here is the first end of the greenhouse.

This is a very low budget project. The hoops and side boards, and much hardware, I had purchased almost 10 years ago. It was a used greenhouse that the kids and I disassembled and brought home. Complete back then, except for ruined poly, it cost me 150 dollars and several days of labor. It has sat in the field since then, the end walls rotted out, the hardware rusted.

When I remarried my DH, it was not something he wanted to spend any money to put up, so a lot of it was wasted. But I had hope for many years, and Michael and I are so excited to pursue this now.

The straight pipes that hold the hoops up were immediately sunk into the ground when I brought it home years ago, and the hoops were placed in them as well, so I can't show you how those go in, but you drive them into the ground at a slight inward angle of about 85 degrees instead of 90 degrees perpendicular. Trust me on this. One of these pipes we had to reset 3 times. By the time you've got that much clay packed into your pipe, using your head as a bludgeon to get that pipe in the ground may cross your mind. If so, take 2 Valium and go watch Mary Poppins.

The hoops just set inside them, resting on the bolts that hold the side boards you see in the next picture.

It took Michael and I a long time to try to fit the boards back on as they used to be installed, lining up the bolt holes. We finally gave up on some of them and made new holes. The boards are also bolted together to form one long run.

You might remember our work last year on two French drains, the pool and the side above the greenhouse. Here is that upper side drain.

The top center purlin consisted of 3 sections of pipe, 45 feet long. I had shared on this post about putting that up.

The purlin clamps that contained rusted bolts I had to cut through. Here they are with fresh bolts. Again the new hardware for the project was about 75 dollars, but I'd bought most of that over the last year, a little at a time, knowing greenhouse building time was coming near.

We had nookered away money over the year to buy plastic and what wood we needed. The plastic was 100 dollars, and with the scrap wood we'd collected and had been given by dear friends, we only had to spend about 50 on that. Here is where it went to begin with.

Two rows of purlins down the sides. I was going to go cheaply, buying 2x2s, but turns out you can buy 2x4s just as cheaply, so we went for sturdy.

Now, I realize we need to turn them to the outside , but here is how we put them up out there. We wanted to be able to use them for power outlets, hanging tools by, plasma 3D TV for watching reruns of Gardening Naturally (OK, maybe not), and such, so we chose to place them at chest height and affixed them with pipe clamps,

and spliced them with pieces of 2x4. I would like to say I held to organic standards, but at this point, income outweighs my capabilities for achieving that. So the lumber is treated for longevity.

Here are a few close-ups of the first end.

Here is the opening for the intake fan. The cross pieces also proved necessary for Michael to scale the thing and work up top. We were not sure which side the fan should go on, so we chose this side, but made sure to place the studs on the other side the same, so if we must switch, it can be done fairly easily.

The boards across the door are to keep it from swinging around during construction. The doors were obtained at a thrift store for 5 dollars each. I love that place. They each need repair, but we can do that.

On our first end, we were figuring it out as we went along. We left the studs up, so we'd know exactly how to trim them.

We did not do it this way on the second end. This was too difficult. We had to borrow this reciprocating saw from my dad. It's sort of like holding a sideways jackhammer, rattling your brain and causing me to believe I had motion sickness, until I finally became aware of a flu bug attack that rendered me nearly worthless for a day. Agony.

Grinding off any sharp edges that might damage the plastic.

A couple of days later, we are ready to begin the second end, making a few changes after learning from our mistakes on the first end.

A rope marking the straight line between the last two hoops, where the wall will go.

We begin by creating a frame for the door, as that will be centered and posts sunk into the ground. We found that each door was different and that caused our plans to evolve. So beginning there and building off from it made the most sense to us.

This door happened to have one long hinge, so we fastened a 2x4 to that hinge first.

It was kind of munched, so we did a little cosmetic surgery.

Then we cut a 2x4 brace just 1/4 wider than the door, and used some gift scrap lumber to use for a brace holder, attaching the two.

As we'd been planning this out in our minds, we (I) were assuming the end wall studs would be positioned the same direction as you see normal wall studs. I neglected to think about the fact that storm doors are rarely attached to wall studs or inner door frames, but instead are attached to the outside facing of the house.

That little fact completely changed the wall construction from what we'd planned. The studs had to be turned to lay flat along the wall. That means attaching them together becomes more challenging. As we did not have money to spend on more hardware to hold studs fastened together this way, the extra gift lumber was a miraculous thing. Everywhere we needed hardware, we simply cut a larger piece of wood to attach to the studs, and that fixed our problem.

That was probably confusing, but that was pretty much how we went through this project, confused and thinking on the fly.

Here, I hope you can see Michael doing just this. The actual 2x4 stud, just the right length to allow the door free movement between the two future upright studs, has a backer board that extends beyond and is screwed into the future upright studs on their faces. This makes it all one complete unit.

We temporarily affix two pieces of furring strips (1x2) to each side of the door in the frame to hold the frame at the right width and to keep the door from swinging as we continue on.

Now we know exactly how far apart to dig the holes to set the posts.

We measure the hoophouse opening to find the center point.

And lay the short posts down, pointing to where we'll dig the holes.

A quick check at the first end reminds us that the front of the posts will need to be flush with the front of the hoops.

When we did the first end, the time involved was ridiculous. All our cordless tool batteries are dead, so we are back to using corded tools that are quite old, some of which I found at yard sales. They are stiff and changing out bits takes a long time. We also had only one extension cord that actually runs out to the electric fence we had to keep dragging over and using.

Not only does my mischievous little filly know EXACTLY when that fence is unplugged and immediately comes to test it, but we spent a good 75% of our time just changing cords and trading off drill and driver bits.

This time we borrowed cords and such, pulled out another old drill, and had quite an array out there. But it greatly reduced our wasted time.

Either you are laughing and falling out of your chair by now, or you are incredibly encouraged to jump into projects no matter what odds you face. Maybe both. Either one, it's all good.

The holes are dug.

The posts are screwed to the door frame.

It is set in, making sure the posts are aligned with the rope.

And leveled this way.

And that way.

And affixed to the hoop with 1/2 pipe clamps. The regular pipe clamps are found in the PVC water pipe section, but the 1/2 pipe clamps are in the electrical conduit, gray pipe, section. Lucky us, the 2x4 came just to the top of the hoop. Whew!

Two other sources of lumber for this project were the old deck boards we'd removed a couple of years ago and replaced, and the wood I'd been slowly adding to in hope of getting a porch built off our sliding glass door. That pile is getting smaller. But this project is more important.

So deck boards not safe enough for walking on were just fine for the bottom boards we put on to finish the work for the day.

Next morning. Looks so pretty! Beauty they say is in the eye of the beholder, and this is so pretty to me.

What? This first end was all perfectly square and level before! What is that gap in the fan opening?

And look at this door that hung so true just yesterday!

Maybe it could have all been avoided by setting everything on blocks or in cement, but this a a budget enterprise, so this will have to do.

Well, enough crying over spilt milk.

We attached the outblowing fan temporarily to the door frame so we would know how far apart to set the next stud.

We hold the next stud up to affix it top and bottom. At this point we are beginning to wonder about working so hard for level and square when the darn structure keeps dancing all over the pasture all night.

We mark the board with a pen, following the curve of the hoop, and cut it.

I usually nick a little bit off, so the curve is better.

Then we use a 1/2 pipe clamp to attach the top,

And screw it to the bottom board.

Then we move to the other side to make an identical width stud placement in case we want to move the fan down here as well. Top...

and bottom...

Yup, we're still leveling.

Each one gets trimmed, a 1/2 pipe clamp,

and screwed to the bottom. Pre-drill your holes. It's way easier, especially in awkward positions.

We are ready to make the cross braces to hold up the fan. We want this outblowing fan to sit as high up as we can get it, to catch more hot air.

Here is a 2x4 cut to fit right between the studs, and the extra board to screw onto the face of the studs.

We've got a top and a bottom, and we've run out of the right size screws, which are very expensive. So we are using longer ones and grinding them off.

It's like the Fourth of July.

The top joist, as far up as it will go.

But it's a problem, as it will get in the way of the boards we will use for circumferencing the end.

At the other end we put them inside.

But we could not do that here because the construction of the fan brackets were different.

Michael came up with a plan and tried to explain it to me. But my flu-fogged brain could not process it. So he took charge and I was his lackey. The braces were taken apart, and refastened together a bit off-center.

Then affixed to the inside.

And it worked very well. The fan opening is nice and high and sturdy.

We've got the last of the studs put on the end. These need to be not too far apart, no more than a couple of feet at most.

The ends of the purlins need to be trimmed flush with the rest of the studs.

Now comes the fun, sort of, part. Creating a giant jigsaw puzzle. Using the old deck boards, we cut pieces to fit all around the perimeter, meeting at the centers of each stud. Using plywood sheets for the ends would have been much simpler. But the price of lumber is astronomical, and this wood was free.

Nothing scientific about this process. We hold a board up there, draw lines to do our best to match where we need to cut it. We checked them each several times making little cuts along the way. Not a lot of extra wood, so we didn't want to lose any.

And it's almost done.

We still need to grind the edges and change the purlins to the outside. But today is Shabbat and we are happy to have some down time.

I hope all your Thanksgiving memories were as lovely as ours and that your homes and families are blessed today.

Sipping cocoa...