Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

Christmas and sewing just seem to go together. I love making things for my family and friends. I guess it's only fitting that the tree ended up next to my treadle sewing machine.

I hope that you have had a Christmas filled with friends and love and hope. 

And now I'm looking toward the coldest days of winter and time to sew without feelings of guilt that I should be mowing or gardening or canning or... you get the idea. May the warmth of the holiday be yours into the New Year and beyond.

Blessings, Kristine

Monday, December 8, 2014

My first craft show

I finally did my first craft show. I'm an introvert at heart and getting out there with people was a little intimidating. How would I handle a whole day of crowds? Well, it didn't hurt that I set up shop with my long time friend - and it wasn't her first rodeo.


It also seemed fitting that my first time out was for our high school alma mater's marching band. It is a large, annual show hosted by the student members of the Cambridge Springs High School Marching Band. They were a great bunch of kids, hardworking and with such good attitudes. They hustled our boxes and bins in and out of cars to our table space, played holiday music throughout the day, served food and generally kept hopping.

We set up our space together and it turned out to be a really fun day. Lots of friendly folk enjoyed strolling the aisles and taking in the festive spirit.

I was very pleased with how our space came together. We paid for three tables but requested only two be set up, that gave us room for racks to hang my quilts and her afghans.

It was a very positive experience and lots of fun to work together - still friends after 37 years!

I'm glad she encouraged me to do this and I was so appreciative of the feedback from the show patrons. After spending hours and hours working by myself on projects, it's nice to hear encouragement from real people when they get a look at my creations. I was energized by comments on the quality of the work (a quality I strive to put in every stitch) and on my color and fabric selections and combinations (I often hope that what appeals to me isn't too far out of line with what others might enjoy).

I'm so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and participated in a worthy cause!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Reality in the Digital World

When I began blogging, I had no idea what I was doing. It was a sort of journal / family sharing concept for me. And because of that, I highlighted what I thought family may find interesting or what I wanted to remember. Another aspect of blogging, one I hadn't anticipated, was the network of acquaintances you can develop as you receive comments and comment on the blogs you read.

I found as I read blogs I frequently felt overwhelmed, inadequate, or challenged. So many people out there doing so many things that I found worthy, interesting or helpful. How to do it all. Their lives looked so perfect. I once commented on this to my sister and she pointed the finger right back at me - the point being that my blog could make it look like my world was so smoothly oiled and full of fulfilling things. Ouch. I guess in my quest to be a positive voice, I didn't realize I was not presenting the entire picture. So if I'm going to make posts, I think I need to keep it real.

As I have been for a couple weeks now, I'm canning today. I'll include the picture of my 16 pints of peach jam that turned out very nicely today.

What sweet success! It tastes great, very peachy. Look at the shine on the clean glass jars and rings. Sigh. Now I'm thinking, as I read the blog post, "Oh, I should can some jam. I wish I was (fill in the blank) so that I had some pretty jars of jam on my counter." But wait! Maybe you have something better to do today than toil over jam.

Let's back up a bit and see if this is still as appealing. (Spoiler alert - my life is not all shiny)

Now before this picture could be taken, there was the actual canning. It involved hot, steaming cauldrons of water on this nearly 80 degree day. And not being one to enjoy long exposure to sauna-like conditions, I do all that I can to mitigate that sweltering situation. Like rig up a way to wedge a box fan into my kitchen window to send as much heat outside as possible:

Three nails and some kitchen twine later, I've got this beautiful creation over my canning stove. I know, you want me to do a tutorial on how to achieve this look. Maybe later.

And not only are the pots hot but the contents, as well. Now if this was a perfect, shiny life, I'd be doing this jam canning in a sundress with stylish apron and some pretty sandals. But since I have a fear of boiling jam adhering to my legs and feet when I clumsily spill a pot someday, I look more like this:

You know, your basic cold winter gear on a hot summer day. Jeans and hubby's slippers. (Don't tell him. I actually was wearing shorts and flip flops when I started out this morning and, being lazy, kicked them off and stepped into his slippers for the dangerous part of the canning). Is your jam envy waning? Mine is.

And of course, there is the spooning, measuring, stirring, etc. which results in countertops strewn with sticky, goo laden pots, bowls and utensils:

 Oh yeah, that's gonna be fun to clean up. And as long as I'm being brutally honest, here's another side effect of the canning - trash:

Yes, the trashcan is heaped with empty sugar bags, pectin boxes and I've decorated around it with vinegar jugs that need to be put in with the recycling. (As a side note, jam takes a great deal of sugar. And the more jam you make, the more sugar you need. I know this because it turned out that my quadruple batch of jam needed 30 cups of sugar. Oy! I emptied a large bag, two small bags and, getting more and more desperate, emptied the sugar bowl and most of my organic kombucha sugar to get enough to make the recipe. Oops. I'll be more prepared next time. Right.)

Now, I won't subject your poor eyes to pics of my trashcan every post, but I guess what I'm saying is that I don't want to contribute to that digital phenomenon we experience on blogs, Facebook, and Instagram. Always try to keep in mind that we are seeing the "greatest hits", not the entire recording session.

Now I'm going to go can some green beans. They leave a much less sticky mess behind.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Stars, Bars and What Ever Became of...

Wow, just 367 days since my last post. I'm on a roll for sure! I thought maybe, just maybe, I'd give this another go. I do miss having a log of "what's happening" here on the homestead. We try keeping an actual pen and paper journal to note items of significance but even that hasn't been updated since June. I felt like I spent far too much time trying to write about what I actually needed to be doing. My niece turned me on to and that may make this whole thing a lot easier.

So here's today's post:

What ever became of that chicken in the crockpot? I'm sorry to report that none of the other eggs ever did hatch. However, the one chick we got lived for a time in a cat carrier in the laundry room. Then she graduated to a dog kennel in the chicken coop. Until finally the day came when she was big enough to hold her own and make her way into the flock pecking order.

Here she is this morning sitting in a nest box. I'm wondering if she's gone broody since she still seems to be sitting there this afternoon.

She's a beautiful bird. We don't know her provenance although I have a guess. There is one hen with a black body and gold head. And of course her paternity is pretty sure since there's only Cogburn roostering around here now. I don't like to name my chickens because I become too attached to them. I like to cycle through a few choice chicken names that I use as they come to mind on whatever chicken I may be addressing. But we often referred specifically to this bird since she was the "new chicken". In fact, I guess you could say that for a long time her name was "New Chicken". That got to be a bit much and I changed it to "NC". That one change put me on a slippery slope and soon she became "Nancy".

I don't think I could have avoided getting attached to her, though. She walked around my desk while I worked when she was just a chick. She's the one who squeezes through the fence to come see us in the front yard when they are out free-ranging. She's the nosiest, most curious, and often off-doing-her-own-thing chicken in the flock. She makes herself stand out. I'm pretty convinced it's because of her unconventional upbringing.

And why don't I like to name my chickens?

This is why...

"What's so wrong with that?" you might ask.

What's so wrong with all this fluffy cuteness? These are the stars and bars... one day old Red Stars and Barred Rocks.

 What's wrong is that these are my new laying flock. New suggests that there must be an "old" laying flock. And there is. And since I don't run a retirement village for chickens here, that also means they will soon be the "late" flock. Also known as "chicken and biscuits" or "chicken soup".

It's life and death here on the homestead. I invest a lot of myself into my layers. I treat them with kindness, tenderness and give them the best care I can. I like to see them happy. I like to see them running around the yard enjoying the day. Or cozy in a warm coop on a cold day. I make them flock blocks in the winter to relieve their boredom. I hurry vegetable peels and cuttings out to them to see them get excited. When they are injured I nurse their wounds. I protect them from predators and weather. I tramp out to the coop before sunrise through the dew and damp to open them up to their yard. I head back out at nightfall to tuck them in. I scrub gross waterers and shovel soiled bedding and clean nest boxes. None of it glamorous. I get a lot of joy out of happy chickens. But I always know that eventually, when they lay so few eggs that I can't justify the expense of feed with little to show for it, they will move to the freezer and from there to the dinner table.

It's very, very hard. I've been steeling myself for butchering day for a couple of weeks. We do the deed this weekend. And yet I also take satisfaction in knowing that they have had as good a life as I could give them. They have lived a life without want, with room to move and flap and chase and explore, with little stress and lots of fresh air. I'm going to eat chicken. As, likely, most folks reading this will. I figure I have two choices:

1. Anesthetize myself to the suffering that goes on in commercial meat production. Think about it as little as possible and just grab some plastic wrapped chicken from the meat case, think about my recipe and not what life the chicken had, think about putting a nice meal on the table and not about what kind of diet that meat had during its life. I could go on but my point is not to insult or make anyone feel bad. It's just that I can't do that anymore. I think especially not since we've been raising our own meat.

2. Get my meat wrapped in feathers and fur. Love it, give it back scratches, worry about whether it is comfortable in the heat/cold/rain/wind, and then humanely and quickly dispatch it and waste nothing that can be used.

I'm pretty certain that if I could no long raise my own meat or find a source of locally raised meat that I trusted, I would become a vegetarian out of necessity.

Wow, didn't mean to get long winded or depressing. Just something that I've come to know is now a part of who I am. And I get to have lots of fun and excitement along the way. Try doing that with a leaky package of drumsticks.