Thursday, March 25, 2010

Side note - We took delivery of our first beef quarter

No pics, unless you want to see my full chest freezer. Kent and I had ordered a quarter of grass-fed, antibiotic/hormone free, humanely raised Nebraska beef. This morning I got a phone call saying that we could have it a month earlier than expected, the folks were driving to Denver from Nebraska and could bring it with them. Fortunately, we had been plugging away at eating from the freezer to make room and I was just able to squeeze in 99 pounds of beef.

Never having done this before, I wasn't sure what to expect. It came pre-frozen. Very helpful. We got a great variety. Our name was stamped on every package, along with the cut and date. Like that cow was earmarked for us from the start. We got:

46 lbs of 90/10 ground beef
6 lbs of Rib Steak
3 lbs of Sirloin Steak
3 lbs of Tenderized Round Steak
8 lbs of of T-Bone Steaks
4 lb rump roast
21 lbs of chuck roasts
1 lb of fillet
3 1/2 lb of boneless brisket
4 lbs of stew meat

It feels really good to know that the meat in our freezer is clean and safe and that it was raised under optimum conditions and with loving care, butchered carefully and humanely by a small-town plant, as well. I'm looking forward to my first taste. We haven't had a lot of beef around here for quite some time.

And while it is a bit of a chunk of cash on the front end, it comes out to just $4.20/lb. I would have to pay more than that for antibiotic riddled, grainfed, tortured beef at the grocery store. And the folks who raised the cattle sent a thank you gift with the meat - two jars of home-canned jams, elderberry and wild grape. Yippee!

This has been a really good experience for us and if you (a) read this, (b) live near Denver and (c) want in next time - let me know and I'll hook you up!

Making my Own Spring

I could have reposted the pics from last Saturday... We got another 20-24 inches of snow on Tuesday. When this storm started in earnest, we were down in Denver. We had tickets for a Member's Premier event at the new Denver Museum of Nature and Science's Body Worlds exhibit. Exciting stuff. We didn't want to miss it. But by 5:45 we turned around at Federal and I-70 to make our way back home - and, as it turns out - not a minute too soon. What should have been a 45-60 minute drive back home turned into 2+ hours. By the time we began climbing up I-70 out of Denver, the roads were getting quite hazardous. By the Genessee exit, Kent was winding his way around stranded cars and tractor-trailor rigs which were stuck in random places all over the road. Our little Subaru did the job, though, and we made it home eventually. By the time we got to our neighborhood, the little Ru was plowing snow up over the hood and covering the windshield faster than the overworked and iced up wipers could manage. Whew! Were we ever glad to have made it home. And me in a long denim skirt and hiking boots. That would have been a cold and difficult hike.

So I'm having to make my own spring around here. I had seen a little craft 12-14 years ago and collected what I needed to make it and then kept missing my window of opportunity (It's spring themed). This year I remembered it at the right time. So Steph and I had a nice visit at her place after church on Sunday and we made a half dozen of these little seed packets with bunnies peaking out of them.

I'm also doing a "craft-along" with the Lolly of Last week she told us what we'd need to have on hand and then each day this week she is unveiling a new crafty flower. These are my favorites so far. She did hers up in great little frames but our wall space is at such a premium I knew that wouldn't really do. So I stitched pin backs on these. I'm hoping to make a bunch more this weekend. I thought they'd make fun little gifts to give to the ladies at church.

Right now the wind is howling outside and another snowstorm is moving in. They are calling for 5-10 inches in Evergreen by Saturday afternoon. That will probably be more like 10-15 at our house. Each time I think that I should probably put the bird feeders away before the bears come out of hibernation, we get another blast and I just can't bear to see the birds fluttering frantically around the empty feeders. So I fill the feeders and hope that the bears stay asleep a little longer. With this weather, I'd sure sleep in!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

First Day of Spring - Mountain Style

So it's Spring! Yay! Bear was checking it out and he thought it looked a lot like winter...

We got about 20 inches of snow yesterday. I'm glad we aren't out of wood yet.

It was a beautiful snow. I'm looking forward to it melting.

You can see the new snow blowing all around on the Divide. It sure looks cold. I don't think I'll waste any time looking for sprouts or daffodils.

Angry Beavers

I wanted to share a pic of my birthday gift from Stephanie - an Angry Beavers hoodie! How fun is that? My very own Daggett and Norbert pics to wear. If you aren't familiar with Angry Beavers, then I recommend you look into it.

Baltimore Album Quilt Update

Here's where I'm at with the 2nd square - it's a Lyre design. I've got the initial shape and attached leaves completed and now it's time to begin adding the 10 additional leaves in a coordinating batik and the ruched rose - thought I think it looks more like a mum.

Here's how it's supposed to look when I put it together...

Fresh - The Movie

Friday, March 19, 2010

And a little Crafty Action

Last but not least, some stuff I made. Here we have Strawberry Jam, in season, so this is most likely from last summer. Not sure why I got all the floating bits of fruit action in my jam. I don't remember having that in the past. The flavor, however, did not suffer at all for the layering effect. Still enjoying bits of summer flavor on our toast.

And hand-crafted Christmases mean that you need to plan ahead, at least a little. I made a prototype of a shopping bag that I thought would make a great gift. I'm glad I did and Kent had some great design ideas. After making some modifications, I whipped up a few of these (a couple dozen) in matched sets for folks. I tried to match the fabrics to the people I planned to give them to. I think they were mostly well-recieved. Maybe not everyone gets as excited as me about having reusable shopping bags.

So here is the bag rolled up and ready to take to the store. The pattern called for the ribbon closure but at Kent's suggestion, I instead used a tab with velcro, like an umbrella would have. I also make either a drawstring bag or a "wallet" to hold them in between shopping trips. A bag for 2 bags, a wallet for 4.

I like the effect of the contrasting but coordinating fabrics. I made them in opposite combos, too.

What a stylish way to carry home those groceries!

Family and Friends

Came across this over-exposed pic of me and my niece/friend, Shannon, around Christmas-time. I so enjoyed visiting with Shannon and Valerie and getting to know Sam-Sam. I don't know if it's this way with most families but I find that I think of my family as my friends, also. I think that's a good thing.

Goin' to the Dogs

So here we have a few and they feature my departed friend, Cole (aka Coleman or LBD - for Little Black Dog). Here he is doing his throw rug impression. He was quite good at this one. And it was his typical stance when I was in the kitchen cooking. After reminding him just a half dozen thousand times to get out, he'd throw himself down at the outer perimeter of the kitchen while I worked.

After allowing the dogs to get into the bad habit of getting on the bed with us, we decided to lay down the law and make them sleep on the floor. But being soft, like we are, we bought them beds of their own to sleep on. The concept was great. They just didn't quite grasp our intentions. Here is Bear, completely covering and even overflowing the small bed we picked out for Cole. (And placed along my side of the bed so that he could get a head pat at any time).

And here is Cole, clearly not needing all the space intended for Bear on this jumbo sized bed. Oh well, as long as they were happy with their arrangement...

What's as cute as a box of kittens?

How about a nest of bunnies? I was looking for something else the other day on our main computer and found a bunch of pictures that I thought I'd like to share on the ol' blog. So these aren't current but they are from within the last 6-12 months...

Here's a nest of New Zealand's. They've gotten big enough at this point to be uncovered since they've got their own fur going. They are just the ugliest-cute things when they are born. They are just little naked pinky things with mouse ears.

Not the most cooperative for photo shoots. Look at those adorable back paws.

It's not easy to wrangle a baby bunny and take the photo. They wiggle a lot. Here I'm using my body to help block this little guy from squirming completely free of my hand. (Oh - Those tubs with the green lids in the background are the worm farm.)

And here's a relatively calm one sitting in Kent's hand.

The cutest little profile. But yeah, we're gonna end up eating them.

The thing is, we'll know that they were well cared-for and treated humanely. Then we'll also truly appreciate the sacrifice for our meal. And we'll also know that our food is safe and natural. Until we have a consensus on becoming vegetarians (yeah, right), we will at least attempt to apply the greatest integrity and sustainability possible to our food sources.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

One Down, 11 (or more) to go

Way behind schedule and not without moments of despairing of finishing at all, I present, Baltimore Album Quilt: Square #1

I've been taking a class to learn the hand applique techniques for a Baltimore Album-style quilt and I am only just finishing my first square while my fellow classmates are on squares 3, 4 or 5. I did, however, miss class #2 in which they learned important techniques for piecing layered designs and making rosebuds and such. My instructor has been gracious enough to extend to me the opportunity for a one-on-one make-up lesson at her home which I am very happy to take her up on. Class #3 was this weekend and I learned to make rouched roses and form small applique pieces by heavily starching them around a form.
The square above is 13x13 inches. It is entirely hand-stitched with the needle turning method, whereby the design is drawn on the gold fabric, the entire gold square is basted over the dark background square, and then you begin snipping your way around the drawn design, an inch or so at a time, then turning that edge under with your needle and using very tiny stitches, you sew it in place. While that may sound like a boring or frustrating task, I actually found it very meditative and relaxing. I put it right up there with knitting. Now I have to decide on Square #2 (which needs to incorporate a rouched rose) and get it done before Easter weekend.
Now if I can stay healthy, find some time in the evenings, and get it in gear, maybe I could surprise the teacher and get 2 squares done before our class is over!

Friday, March 5, 2010

I hate it when I find myself coveting something...

This is just the coolest composter. I want one for my kitchen! We attempt vermiculture in the greenhouse but the poor worms don't have it very good with our terrible winter temps and extended winter season. I'm thrilled when the greenhouse stays in the upper 30's for the rabbits and the worms would prefer it to be 50. So here's a great solution. (It also comes in a round version from another company). The bottom tray accumulates the compost tea for plant watering and even has spigot. You add trays as they fill so that the redworms leave their lovely castings and when the tray has been converted from trash to rich soil amendment, they move upward to more trash. Good compost is odorless and so I could put it right in my kitchen. I could even sift out my own redworms from the greenhouse to use in it but the composter itself is $100. Bummer. Maybe I'll ask for one for Christmas next year!

So much potential!

So I stayed up late last night planning my garden. Just when I thought I wouldn't bother, I changed my mind. We don't know how long we'll be here and maybe someone else will reap the fruits of my labor, literally. But I can still continue to learn and gain experience. I can plant varieties that I would like to plant in Pennsylvania and I'll be that much farther ahead on the learning curve. Especially the plant-starting aspect of things. Since I want to use only non-hybrid and preferrably heirloom seeds, I need to start my own plants to keep this a cost effective venture. In the past I have had the chickens get into things and eat my seedlings. I have also started my plants only to have them perform poorly and need supplemented with local greenhouse plants. I need to get skilled at the starting/hardening/transplanting.

I had considered using waterbed heaters in the greenhouse but I still have lighting issues so I am going to go with shop lights hung directly over the seed trays indoors. I will then harden them off to the greenhouse later.

Another factor that I believe has created problems in past attempts is the sunlight in the greenhouse. I am going to design shades that I can use as needed to create a buffer for tender plants and help keep out some of the heat on the brightest days. I'll plant cucumbers again but this time I will do it in the raised bed nearest the mesh door, so that they have cooler temperatures.

I am also looking at Wall-O-Waters or Kozy Coats for the plants to help them get a warmer start. And I am wondering about soaker hoses to water the beds. I know that our water, from 100+feet down is super chilled and I have to believe that shocks the poor things every time I water. That is why I'm theorizing that if I don't hit them with a drenching cold blast everytime, maybe they would fare better.

I made my seed purchases through Amishland Heirloom Seeds and Grannys Heirloom Seeds. I was especially pleased with what I found at Amishland, a very prolific seed company run entirely by a single woman. She didn't have the squash seeds I needed, though so I used a second source for some of my seed. She also has great tips and gardening information on her site, so I am once again excited by the potential these little seeds have. I guess I'm an eternal optimist that something might actually grow well at 9,500 feet in the Rocky Mountains. I will have lots of leftover seed (I'll probably only need one successful plant each of the tomatoes, 3-4 each of squash, 2-3 cucumbers and 6-8 bush beans) but I will research the best way to store it and then next year maybe I'll be planting my garden in Pennsylvania starting in March and April! Woohoo!

Here's the list of my hopeful little grains:

Chalk's Early Jewel Red Tomato
Bloody Butcher Tomato

Amish Mayberry Tomato

Manyel Tomato

Cherokee Purple Tomato

Brown Berry Tomato

Red Zebra Tomato

Masai Snap Beans

Anellino Bush Bean

Contender Bush Bean

Early Cluster Russion Cucumber

Gold Summer Crookneck Squash

Black Zucchini

And here's links to the great seed sources:

Thursday, March 4, 2010


So here they are at last (Mindie and Val!) - some pics of our loving changes to the downstairs.

For those of you who haven't seen or can't remember our living/dining room, the walls were plain white and the floor was a beige/natural looking berber carpet. A carpet that had seen more than a decade of pet living and hiking boots and general frolicking. This new laminate is fabulous! It's tough, attractive, easy to clean, easy to move furniture on and not really all that cold to my bare feet even though it's winter.

Although they look different in this picture, the red wall in the dining room is a spot-on match for the red in the sofa.

The green on the other walls is very chameleon-like. It changes throughout the day, depending upon the light in the room, from a buttery yellow to a soothing green. We are really digging the colors.

Yes, my sofa looks like it's having a bad cushion day. I didn't take time to try to plump them up. Our two enormous cats like nothing better than hollowing out a spot to lay their walrus bodies for naptime.

And we rearranged the furniture so that there are no tall items to impede the view from one end of the room to the other. Previously the liquor cabinet/wine rack and the entertainment armoire kind of divided the living room from the dining room area.

Here's the wall looking more like a mellow yellow.

And we also painted the fireplace liner and the heat exchanger black to match the woodstove. It made the fireplace look more unified. We'll be finishing the stonework next week, I believe (we've got a rough schedule of things). That will include steel doors on the square vents, completing the mortar between the stones, and finishing the edges around the fireplace opening.

You can see that the end of the room where Kent is is still cluttered. We'll be moving my looms out soon to storage along with some of the books.

Here we have the dining "room". We love the way our furniture goes with the floor and the colors we chose. I'm not sure what the crazy reflection is by the wine rack that looks like cream colored paint schmeared around. The wall is a solid color.

And here's the magic place where it all happens... feet up in front of the woodstove, knitting, reading or quilting in hand (or these days, cruising the internet on our laptops with wi-fi)

So there you have it. It may not be fancy but it''s our castle. We do love this place. If only we could just pick up the whole thing and move it to a different climate.
I still have some painting projects and we will be replacing the bathroom lighting. Then as the weather warms up it's on to the exterior and I'll be laying pavers for walkways and such.

Rewind just a bit

I have no excuse. Well, actually I have many excuses. But I'll refrain from supplying them here. I can't believe where the time goes. It's been over a month since my last post.

So when I downloaded my camera tonight I found I hadn't been a complete slacker. I had a few pics logged from Valentine's Day. My sweetie left me groovy little Valentine's all over the house that I was finding for days afterwards. All with puppies or kittens on them - he knows my soft spot. And each "To:" was a pet name for me and each "From:" was a clever/humorous/endearing name for himself. It was a lot of fun finding them and made me feel special that he took the time to do that.

We have a little conversation that we do using our bathroom mirror. Since he gets up long before me on his work days, the night before I try to leave him a message to find in the morning. They were Valentine themed around the holiday. I even wrote him a poem...

And you may note my great artistic talents with the painting stick figures. I left that one after we spent a week painting the downstairs.

And he "carved" our initials in a heart for me...

Actually, I highly recommend this method of leaving love notes for each other. We get a lot of enjoyment out of it. I used to use lipstick but we've moved on to dry erase markers in an assortement of colors.