Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Winter Dies

Or at least we can hope that winter dies....Die!! Die Winter!!  The earth has decided to change seasons but the atmosphere is still clinging by it's icy fingernails.  We have had a few gorgeously warm days but are expecting sleet and snow again tonight.  *sigh*.  Enough already.  Even in Alabama though, March can be bitterly cold and some of our biggest snowstorms have been in that month.

But I'll enjoy the bits of spring where I can until the real thing gets here.  It won't be too much longer.

During those nice days we had been back out clearing out the trees that needed gone.  Only that one tallest sucker left.  It looks kinda bare and awful right now but hopefully that will change before too long.  It does give me motivation to continue the stone and concrete work on that end.  Well, if my body will cooperate.  Or even if it won't, I don't care.   I'm about of a mind it's going to work whether it wants to or not.  I always felt better while I was working and I've got to get back to it.

And lookie!!!!!!  the rhubarb is coming back up!!!  After I get the landscaping on the south side of the house finished I may plant a couple rhubarbs in the flower beds on that side, as Ed says they grow it, but for now it seems to work in this big pot.  I keep the pot on the southwest corner of the deck, where it stays mostly in the shade and so far so good.  This is also some very rich soil and I'll fertilize it now too.  I do not remember the type of rhubarb this is however.

We've been starting some cleanup and planting in the main garden too.  The chickens have been ran out and I've started remulching all the fruit border beds.  The voles and moles have wrecked havoc on my strawberry bed this winter and it's going to have to be completely redone.  The cold frame has been replanted with green onions and lettuce so maybe that won't be too long in coming.  I'm a little behind in starting seeds, as usual, for my warm weather crops but much get on that soon!
Any gardening going on in your parts??

Friday, February 21, 2014

Underneath It All

 Erin had asked about seeing a tour of my clay studio, and just so happens I have recently cleaned and purged the whole thing, so I thought it would be the best time to show it, before I mess it all up again.  My studio is in the basement, and while this was not really my first intention, it has worked out fine for now.  If I continue to work in clay I would like to have a separate, free-standing studio away from the house, but that's a dream for another time.

If you enlarge these photos you can probably see things much better; there is a lot crammed in there.  Of course, you can see my wheel in the foreground.  It is positioned so that I can see out the door when I have it open in warm weather.  I like to look out over the front yard and I can watch out over the chickens too.  Almost in front of the wheel is 2 kilns and storage shelves for finished ware or bisque.

 As you might expect, firing the kiln does heat up the house.  This is nice in the winter but not so nice in the summer.  I can open windows in the summer though, and have fans, so this helps dissipate the heat some.  The big metal cabinet to the left of my wheel is where I store dry glaze ingredients that come in smaller quantities, glaze making equipment and small stuff like that.  Of course, the floor is concrete so that helps keep things clean; easy to mop.

Just past the kilns is the sectioned shelving I built.  This holds most all my stained glass stuff; tools, glass etc.  I also keep just miscellaneous craft supplies, furniture and firing supplies for the kilns and all that.  Over to the far left is the wood burning stove that heats the house.  It is not exactly the type designed to be used in this fashion (with the ductwork and all) but hey, it works.  For now anyway.  When I build the rest of the house I imagine I'll have to break down and buy an actual furnace type heater.  My bedroom is directly above the stove too, so it stays nice and toasty warm in there.  No cold tootsies going to the bathroom!

Chigger's bed is right there beside the stove too, so she and the cat, have a nice warm sleepy spot if they want it. Chigger likes to sleep outside if at all possible (better to bark at anything that might come by) but she will come in here when it's real cold or rainy.  There is a dog door on the other end so they can come and go as they please.  And in case anybody wants to accuse me of abuse, as so many are want to do these days, I keep the floor swept and mopped so Chigger is not exposed to glaze chemicals or spills on the floor etc.

Behind the big metal cabinet is my work table and wedging table.  This is where I measure out my clay and get it ready for throwing.  Or work on hand built stuff.  All those buckets and stuff underneath are glazes or glaze material.  I have some large metal shelves on the other end of the basement where I store the pottery in progress.  I keep it down there, away from the wood stove, so I can better control it's drying etc.  If clay dries too fast in will crack or warp so there is some technique to it.  There is also a big utility sink on that end for the obvious reasons.  That sink is wonderful, even if I didn't have a studio down here. 

The basement is partially underground but the north side is above grade and we put in lots of windows for light.  Some on the west end too.  That helps make it a nice enjoyable space to work as I can see outside and enjoy the woods and flowers and all.  These are all casement windows too, so I can open them in nice weather for ventilation.
So, that's about it.  There is not much to it really.  I do have some more stuff crammed here and there in the back section of the basement but it's hard to photograph anything there.  I have a nice slab roller back there and that's where I store all my clay (usually around 800 lbs) and a few other things.  Like I said, in the best of worlds I would have a separate building for my studio with rooms and very organized storage and work areas but you have to work with what you've got.

 I added this photo after another artist asked me about venting the kilns.  I should have thought to include that to begin with.  All kilns should be vented, especially if they are anywhere around living quarters.  Venting not only removes the harmful fumes (like sulfur) released by the clay as it fires, but it also helps the kiln fire more evenly, acting as a downdraft.  Most fumes are not really released until the temps get pretty high, and it often gets too warm in here for me to work before that time anyway, but everything is still vented to the outside.  Fumes could pass up into the living areas of the house and plus, Chigger and Callie do go into the studio when the kiln is running and this makes sure they are not exposed to the fumes.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Seven Year Ache

This post has been edited:

   Well, I didn't really expect some of ya'll to be filled with that much anticipation for what I was going to post today...I'm afraid it may be somewhat anti-climatic.  The big deal is.....today is my 7 Year Blogaversary!!!  and I was posting a bunch so that today's post would be my 1,000th post!!  Yay me!!!  I guess.  I had hoped to space my posts out a bit over the past couple of weeks until I hit 1,000 but the spinal tap and all that mess left me unable to post even pictures.  So..I had to get it all in this week!  Ha! but I did it. 

As I have mentioned a few times before, I started this blog just to document building my house.  Some friends wanted to see, since it was a passive solar and I was doing it myself, rather than contracting.  My first post was just a short one about getting the driveway put in and then it just sorta grew from there.  Many bloggers have talked about the role of ego in keeping a blog going this long and I wouldn't really deny that.  I mean, you have to have some kind of self-confidence or something to feel people would want to read about your life.  I think the fact my blog has never become uber popular, or even a little popular (lol!), does well to keep my ego in check though!  Same as in real life, I never fit in with the defined crowds.  And possibly my subjects are just too broad.  It doesn't matter though because I like what I write about.

I've learned a great deal about life and people while authoring this blog, just as I hope you readers have learned something valuable from me.  I've been very fortunate to have never (knock on wood) attracted the trolls like some other bloggers do or have.  People can be vitriolically hateful.  Yes, I have received a few very mean-spirited comments over the years but nothing compared to what I've seen others go through over nothing basically.  People can also be wonderfully kind and supportive though, even to others they've never met, and that fascinates me.  I've also learned, or had it re-enforced maybe, that not everyone is going to like you or agree with you all the time.  It's best just to shrug it off.  There a few other bloggers that I admire who would never have any association with me, no matter what I did and that's life.  I'm thankful for those of you who feel you have something in common with me and let me know occasionally.  I've also learned it's okay to sometimes look like an idiot.  I mean, who cares?  As I've said many times, if some of the crazy stuff I write about gives somebody a laugh or makes them feel better about their own mistakes then it's all good.  And I can laugh because I know that I haven't written about even half of the subversive, loony crap I've really done in my life!  haha!  Hey, life is meant to be lived.

So...who knows where I'll go from here.  Hopefully, you all will one day see me completely finish this house!  I mean the whole 9 yards, dog-trot, 2 part house.  I feel that I will be back to work on the house before too long and can continue to give you all some good info and maybe some inspiration for your own projects.  That... has been my main motivation all these years and it thrills me to no end when I see that that has happened for some of you.  Most everybody can do much more than they first think they can.  It is all nothing more than one little step at a time.  You just have to remind yourself of that every once in a while.
Some folks have asked about the results from the spinal tap and my health etc.  The tests results all came back fine.  I don't have meningitis or Multiple Sclerosis.  I don't have cancer, brain tumors or any contagious communicable disease or virus.  Well, I have actually had another bout of shingles but that's not what I mean.  All my internal organs are there and mostly functioning well.  I have in fact, begun to feel a lot better.  The horrible brain fog and fatigue is much relieved.  Now I'm just in pain.  But I can handle that much better than stumbling around like a zombie barely able to walk down the driveway and back.  Dr. Nabors is still hanging in with me (as far as I know) and is deciding what direction to go next.  So we'll see.

So...for my coming blog year..is there anything ya'll would particularly like me to post about, show photos of or otherwise expound on??  I know I ask this occasionally and don't hear much back, and that's okay, but thought I'd ask again regardless.  Oh, and I am still working on the "word" posts!!  I haven't forgotten.

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Valentine

This valentine is for YOU!!  All of my wonderful readers that have stuck with me through all the years I've been here writing.  Or, most of the years anyway.  You've seen me through sickness and in health, richer and poorer, although mostly poorer.  You've celebrated with me in the best of times and mourned with me through the worst.  Heck, I may have a longer relationship with some of you than I do my husband even! Ha!

Seriously though, there's a lot of you that have continued to read my crappy, little blog for a long, long time and I can't express how much I appreciate that.  Even if it hasn't been that long that you've read I sincerely thank you all.  Thank you for all the comments, the encouragement and condolences.  I really, really do appreciate you taking a moment of your time to communicate with me; I can't emphasis that enough.  There have been many a time when I was really down about something or just wondering if I was completely loony or wholly narcissistic to continue to write this blog and somebody would leave a comment about how much they enjoyed my posts and maybe it encouraged them to try something new or something they didn't think maybe they could do.  That sort of thing just makes my whole month!! forget about just a day!

I must also confess I have felt really bad that I have not been able to give ya''ll as good a post this past year as when I was actively building my house or whatever.  I know a lot of people come here for 'how-to' or DIY kinda stuff and I just haven't been able to put it out there because I haven't been doing it myself.  Or able to even come up with the brain power to write about something relevant to that subject.  I have been feeling much better in some ways this past week so I hope to be able to get back to those type posts soon.  Or at least something of usable information, not just me rambling on, although I know that can be entertaining simply in the 'train wreck' kinda category.

I know over the past couple of years blogs have kinda fallen by the wayside for a lot of people, although there are still multitudes being published.  I have even cut back on the number I read myself.  Many, many bloggers I started out reading are no longer there.  *Ahem* Karen*cough*....Lots of them just kinda disappear with no explanation.  Not that they owe anybody one but still....I often catch myself thinking about a few.  Wondering how they are, if everything is okay for them.  And that's the funny thing about blogs and readers of blogs.  I think you honestly grow to care about some people though you've never seen them in person, or maybe never even seen them at all.  I have grieved after finding out some of my blogger buddies have passed on.  Ye Old Furt comes to mind.  He didn't comment a lot here but when he did it was usually pretty funny.  You will never know how often your kind words have brighten my day or helped me grit my teeth just a little longer until the pain could fade away.  I also apologize if I do not comment enough on your blogs.  I try to but I sometimes fear my humor or such might be taken wrong or sound stupid.  You know how it is.  So, as Erin from Iowa once said, I love you all in a non-creepy, non-touchy sort of way.  Haha!  I will never forget that Erin!

I know a lot of bloggers claim to have the best readers but they're just foolin'...I have the best readers!!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Walking In The Winter

I must say, I was extremely skeptical that we were going to get the amount of snow they were predicting yesterday and last night.  It just wasn't getting cold enough.  But, lo and behold, not too far after the time they said it would change, it did.  And then it didn't hold back.  I don't know if it was the snow (the novelty of it rarely wears off on a southerner) or the lasagna I made for supper but I really had trouble sleeping last night and was up early too.  After a quick breakfast I figured I better get out if I wanted any photos because the highs they were predicting would cause a fast melt.

We got about 4 1/2- 5 inches, but that's a fair amount for this part of Alabama.  Some places north of us got 10 inches.  It was one of the prettiest snows I've ever seen.  The trees were heavily lined with snow transforming them into enormous confections.  And there really was a otherworldly blue cast to everything.  I did not retouch these photos.

Unfortunately, southern snow is often heavy and wet, due to our humidity and the soft pines do not fare well.
We had some large limbs down but gratefully, no trees and no limbs on power lines.

Gates protecting bare nothingness.

I had never seen this happen before.  We got a layer of ice first and I guess that helped the snow cling to the wire instead of falling through.  This is the roof of our bitty pen, now solid.  The ground underneath was completely bare.

The soft netting above the big hens' larger run did not fare as well.  We will have a few repairs to do here.

For some reasons the chickens just love to eat the snow.   And yes, I warned them about the yellow stuff.

Standing down near the chicken coop looking up towards the front yard.

Another version of the garden.

This bird doesn't mind the snow.  I had to laugh at the Easter Eggers again.  I let the chickens out and most of the hens slowly made their way out and trudged through the snow up to the house where there were bare spots under the trees.  The Easter Eggers came out as a group, gingerly took a few steps into the snow, considered a few minutes and then seemed to say, 'this is bullshit, let's go back inside!'

The burning bush has cooled a bit.

Chigger and Callie had a high time playing in the snow.  Yes, even Callie.  I have never seen a cat that liked to play in the snow.  She was having a blast.

Here you see the elusive southern snow leopard....rarely captured on film, er..pixels?

Mama, I'm doing all the running....what's up with that??

Heading up the mountain.

I had to laugh that Chigger will now pose on command.  Give Lassie a run for her money.

About halfway up.

It was very beautiful and peaceful up on the side of the ridge.  So quiet.

Some of ya'll might have noticed that I've posted a lot more than usual this week.  I'll tell ya'll why Saturday!!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dream Baby Dream

As a very heavy snowfall blankets the world outside, I am in another season and the sun beats down instead.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sweet And Simple

I did end up making that rhubarb-strawberry cobbler during our last snow and it was fantastic!!  Yum-OOO!!  I really hope my little rhubarb plants come back this next year but I'll just buy new ones every year if I have to.  I only managed to harvest one really full quart bag of rhubarb off the plant I had but maybe I can refine my technique (and fertilize the ever-lovin' crap out of the plant) and produce more from now on.  At any rate, it was worth the minimal effort for one big cobbler.

All my cobblers are very simple matters; basic same recipe no matter what fruit you are using.  I love them because you can throw one together in just a few minutes and they are so tasty.  As I mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of sweets but they are a nice treat every so often and in the summer you can add a couple of spoons of ice cream for the season!  It's also very simple to can up or freeze lots of summer fruit for use during the winter so I always keep fruit stored for a quick dessert.  Here's my basic recipe:  This makes enough cobbler for a 9x13 inch pan but you can cut it down however you like.  I've even made little 1 or 2 portion mini cobblers.

Basic Fruit Cobbler

8 cups fresh (or thawed) fruit of choice
1 1/4 to 2 cups of sugar  ( I don't like real sweet so I use the 1 1/4 cup)
2 to 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour  ( I like a thick syrup tho, so i use about 4 Tsp)
1/4 cup butter
*appropriate spices 
biscuit dough crust

Combine first 3 ingredients;  bring to a low boil then reduce to low simmer until mixture thickens, stirring constantly; this won't take too long.  If fruit is fresh you might want to cook a little longer because it will be much firmer.  But no more than 10 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in butter and spices, vanilla extract or whatever and stir until butter melts.  Pour into a buttered dish and top with biscuit crust in lattice or just a solid sheet with slits cut in it.  I sprinkle a little sugar on top of the crust and then bake at 475 degrees (F.) for about 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.

Biscuit Dough Crust:

About 1 full cup of all-purpose flour
About 2 tablespoons of shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
about 1 tablespoon sugar

Mix flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda.  Mix in shortening until coarse and distributed.  Add enough buttermilk until dough is just workable.  (maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup)??  Roll out on floured surface to about 1/4 or 3/8 inch thick and either cut into strips for lattice or whatever else you want!

*For the rhubarb-strawberry I used a little nutmeg and grated orange; that's good with blueberry too.  Vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon is great with peaches and apples.  Or go wild and use your imaginations!

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Wait It Out

We got a beautiful respite from the cold, dreary winter weather this weekend!  Mid fifties and sunshine!!  Woo!!  And I even felt a little better and was able to get out and do a little.  Just mostly puttered around yesterday but today I was able to wash and hang 3 loads of laundry!  And... do some minor yard work.  It was great!  Of course, if I think too much about what all I used to do it gets a little depressing but I'm just trying to be thankful for what I can.  Mainly I just wanted to be outside all I could because we have another snow/ ice/ sleet storm coming Monday night and it may last a few days.  Hard to believe that's coming on a day like today but that's Alabama for you.  The place where you can get frostbite and sunburned all in the same week.  I also needed to catch up on some housework and the weather today was a great opportunity to do laundry.  I did not have the stamina to vacuum and dust but I did cook supper so that was something.

We are not the only ones that are eager for spring it seems!  Despite the very frigid weather we have had fairly consistently, almost all of my daffodils are trying to come up.  I wish they would wait because I know they are going to get bitten.  Maybe I need to replant these a little deeper.

We had a little drama yesterday when two of the Easter Eggers got into a knock-down-drag out.  The one in the foreground there gets picked on a lot for some reason and I think yesterday she had about enough of it.  The other ones don't like her to eat out of the feeder if they are around but she decided she was going to eat out of it no matter what!  Well, one of the other girls pulled a plug out her head and in the ensuing fight she broke her middle toenail off on the other hen or something. I went down to the coop and there was blood everywhere!  So, get out the medical kit and start patching.  You can see her big bandaged toe if you look close.  Thank goodness for duct tape.  I gave her a half of a baby aspirin for pain and she seemed fine.  Just thinking about getting one of my toe nails ripped off just makes me shrivel up!!  Ugh!

Grass and all is getting so scarce now that they are wanting to range a further than normal and a little out of my comfort zone, so when I needed a break I would go sit with them and play chicken herder.  They were apparently finding a good assortment of slugs and snails in these deep leaves so I was willing to stay with them so they could get some good foraging time in.  We keep layer mash for them at all times in the coop but I'd much rather they find all the protein and goodies out naturally, rather than eat the bought stuff, and I think they prefer that too.  Organic chicken feed is hard to find around here and ungodly expensive when you do, so it's pretty much out of our budget.  So, we just try to let them get all the natural food they can and only eat that layer mix if they have to.

Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up......but I refuse to look at the camera no matter what you try to tempt me with!!!

Are any of you getting a break from this cold winter??

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Chickens On Ice

 I'm happy to report I'm feeling much better tonight.  Not great by any means but I think the leak has sealed up and I am mostly headache free.  I've even been able to bathe and walk outside briefly!  I think I came very close to Dr. Nabors making me come back to UAB for a blood patch but thankfully, if this continues, I won't have to. It's kinda odd to me that I was SO sick from that because the spinal tap itself was one of the easiest things I've ever been through.  Honestly, I did not even know when he had put the needle in my spine.  Of course he had numbed my spine a little in that spot and I felt him touch my back but I was just sitting there chatting away when he said, 'OK, not much longer, I've almost got enough fluid'...  Wha???  I never felt the needle go in or anything.  Ha! I guess I paid for that later.  I bleed very easy though and I think the puncture just would not clot up.  When I had that tooth pulled a year or so ago I wasn't sure that thing was ever going to stop bleeding!  But anyway, I hope it's over now.  He did the spinal tap to test for a few kinds of meningitis (I didn't know there was more than 1 kind!) and for MS.  A couple of the first tests came back quickly and my white blood cell count is up just a little, but that's all I know for now.

So...in the meantime....you all know what that means!!!  Yes!!  More chicken pictures!!!  This time it's chickens in the snow.  This all occurred in the week before I had the spinal tap.  We survived the Snowpocolypse just fine, having only received about 1 1/2 inches.  The chickens were not very happy about the whole ordeal though and would not come out of the coop.  Zuzu did come out when I tempted her with scratch, because she is so greedy or tough, I'm not sure which.  I have to give her credit though, she was about the only one even willing to come out and scratch around for the first 2 days.

 Even the Easter Eggers, which are supposed to be a cold weather breed, said the heck with that!  They would not come out at all!  Maybe that's how they survive well in cold weather....they won't go out in it!!

 Poor little PeePee looked so miserable.  I know she was dreaming of warm summer days and green grass.  I let her sit in my lap several times so she could warm her little feets up.  She really liked that.

It was not a very heavy snow, even by our southern standards, but it was pretty.

The garden is snugly tucked away in it's slumber.  There are no greens of any kind left for the chickens now, even the cabbage I had stored in the pump house for them has been eaten up.  I pulled up the brussel sprouts for them and they scarfed those down in no time also. 

After about 2 days they finally relinquished and came out into the yard and into the snow.  If you look closely you can see they are doing their flamingo impersonations.  I guess it let them warm one foot at a time.

Or, they found anything to stand on besides snow while they scrounged around for eats.  Don't worry, we threw them scratch and they always have layer rations in their house and they get any scraps from the kitchen that we think they might like.

I can't remember what day but sometime during this we also set a record low around here of -2 F. (-19 C.) Alabama record books say we have gotten much colder than that in the distant past but I have never seen minus temps in my life here.  We have a little heater in the chicken coop so everybody made it through fine but I think everybody is ready for spring.  I know I am!

Monday, February 03, 2014

World Of Hurt

I just wanted to make a quick post to let ya'll know I am in the land of the living but it may be a while yet before I'm really back to posting.  I went this past Friday to have a spinal tap, which was super easy in itself, but am now suffering from some complications of it, mostly the dreaded.... Spinal Headache. If  you have ever had the misfortune of having one of these you know what I'm talking about.  I'm a long time headache sufferer anyway but this takes the cake.  The pain is somewhat relieved if you lay down, or at least keep your head and spine in a horizontal position so most of my time is spent in bed, basically doped up.  I will spare you all the gory details but I am at least so thankful that the puking has stopped.  And that is because of my long suffering husband and Dr. Nabors, who gets my vote for Doctor of the Year!  Long story but it involves 1:00 a.m. phone calls and a long very, very late drive by my husband.  Anyway, most of the headaches go away after a couple of days but for some reason mine insists on sticking around.  Hopefully it will get bored with me and go away soon.
I'm also having to write this laying in bed, which is as difficult as you might imagine so I will make this short.  Be back soon! Hopefully!!  Feel free to talk amongst yourselves.