Frankenpants

Since it is Halloween…it’s time for Frankenpants! George tears and wears his pants out at a frightening rate. I get snagged on the barbwire fence and slow down and try to unsnag. George just pulls hard enough to get away. Almost all of our jeans come from thrift store. It just isn’t worth the extra money to buy them new off the lot. I also mend our farm pants. Style isn’t a big part of our farm life. Therefore…Frankenpants!

Mended jean bibs

Frankenpants…Lee top and Wrangler bottoms

The crotch was torn (speed trip through the barbwire?) and the knees were worn out in the bibs. Also George didn’t like the button fly. He mumbled something about them being too breezy. What to do? Sew the good parts off a pair of worn jeans onto the bib tops and ta-da: Frankenpants!

Seat of mended jean bibs

The rear view

To be honest, it would have been more efficient to go and buy another pair of thrift store bibs, however I took it on as an artistic challenge. And it is quite possible that my “free-time” is free and doesn’t have any value. (I don’t want to explore that idea too much.) George has tried on the Frankenpants and declared them a success. Time will tell.

Anyone want me to alter their prom or wedding dress? Zig-zags and contrasting thread included!

More on speed over style. Love those little cake pops? Can’t imagine making cute spheres out of food? Don’t want to count how many you would eat? Make a chocolate cake and some yummy mocha frosting, dump together, close your eyes and enjoy!

Chocolate cake with mocha frosting

Chocolate cake with mocha frosting

Happy Halloween everyone!

Dreaming of Finland

I’ve been dreaming of Finland for a long time and not long from now I plan to be there! As per usual, I am nowhere as detailed in planning as I had once thought I would be. There are some wishes that would be fun to fulfill. Here they are (in no particular order):

  • Drinking sima in Finland. I brewed some of this as a teenager. Perhaps I can test the “real thing.”
  • Having a sauna in Finland. Is this too obvious?
  • Seeing an inland Saimaa ring seal in the Savonlinaa area.
  • Traveling north of the Arctic Circle!
  • Visiting reindeer on their own turf.
  • Exploring libraries!
  • Meeting relatives and new friends.
  • Paddling.
  • Visiting a farm.

All good wish lists should include some stretch wishes that are unlikely to be fulfilled so that a return trip can be planned. I will need to work on my list further so that it can be well rounded. Right now I need to revisit my packing list and prepare to go!

Just paddling along

I was prepared for a very productive day at home this morning. Bills taken care of, dishes washed, laundry hung on the line…and then my friend Pat called and asked if I wanted to go paddling. Productivity out! Paddling in!

BB Bridge on a sunny day

BB Bridge on a sunny day

We took Pat’s kayaks and floated a stretch of the Little Wolf River not far from home.

Married frogs, as distinguished by completely different focuses

Married frogs, as distinguished by completely different focuses

The turtles that George and I saw along the river earlier this year are still around, but are faster moving! No photos today.

Water lily

Water lily

The water lily is overexposed, but it was a bright day out.

Pat heads downstream

Pat heads downstream

I was doing the good thing and picking up garbage. The too frequently found plastic bottle was expected; a section of tire wasn’t surprising; but the old electronics were the low-light. The frog using the case for shade was a surprise.

Frog house?

Frog house?

Loaded up with the "goods"

Loaded up with the “goods”

Now, I just need to stop at the dump in the morning. The heated river scum smell isn’t very appealing in my car. Still, its much better than a productive day! Thanks Pat!

A honey of a haircut

Photograph of smoking the bees

Smoking the bees

Mom and Dad had honey bees when I was young. For the most part, the bees took care of themselves and their honey. When intervention was needed, it was always fascinating to me. I remember being curious about tools and techniques, well moderated with the desire not to get stung. Extracting the honey was a great project!

Inspecting a frame of honeycomb

Inspecting a frame of honeycomb

Photo of removing a full frame of honey from the bee box

Removing a full frame

Once the honey was moved indoors, going in and out of the house was a cautious undertaking. The less docile bees where flying up against the screen door, trying to protect their stockpile.

I must have gotten a stern directive not to get honey spread around the house. I remember being told how difficult it was to clean up honey.

Photo of removing the wax caps from the honeycomb

Removing the wax caps from the honeycomb

Loading a frame into the extractor

Loading a frame into the extractor

Extracting the honey

Extracting the honey

Child labor

Everyone gets a chance to extract the honey

Filling jars

Filling jars from the bottom of the extractor

The good stuff

The good stuff

At some point I got honey into my bangs. I clearly remember that I was aware that this wasn’t a desired outcome and that honey was very, very difficult to clean up. Even parents had a hard time cleaning it up. The best thing I could do was to take care of it myself. Water certainly wouldn’t remove it, because if it did, honey would be easy to clean up. I took the next best method and cut the honey out of my hair before it became a bigger mess.

I discovered a swarm of bees in a tree west of the house by their buzzing. I don’t remember very clearly, but I think the bees weren’t our own. I do remember being very proud that I could do something productive…I was the one to find the bees!

Swarm of bees

Swarm of bees

Filling the hive

Filling the hive

A tower of bees

A tower of bees

All of the photos above are from Mom’s album, labeled March – August 1979. The photos were taken by Mom, Dad, or Eddie. The color photos are dated July 7, 1979.

The photo below is from Mom’s album, labeled Fall – Winter 1979. Someone has short bangs!

Kids in the fall

Can you guess who is in seventh grade, second grade, and four years old?

Bee keeping seems like a great idea, especially when I read a good book about bees or beekeeping such as A Book of Bees or The Secret Life of Bees. Then I remember all of the half-started projects around and get more realistic about a project that involves live insects. (I’m being optimistic, the projects are only 23% started.)

p.s. Thanks Jessie, for the book recomendation that hopefully has lots of good bees in it!

Frazzled

Windblown iris

Windblown iris

Spring has been unusually hot and dry here, starting from way back in March. I’m not one of those crazy gardeners that water the plants regardless of the weather, but I’ve been watering the garden and it’s not even Memorial Day yet. This weekend was hot and windy…this iris bloomed today only to become part of the frazzled landscape before the day was done. Not exactly great weather for transplanting, but when you meet an unsuspecting someone looking for hosta and rhubarb plants and your own plants are overgrowing their allotment, it is time to dig plants! I was very excited to make some room for a couple of roses that don’t exactly thrive when the nearby plants are always looking for ways to encroach on them. I dug violas, tulips, and garlic around the roses. Would you believe that I have a hard time even composting the excess violas? My mind must be frazzled.

One sorry rose bush

One sorry rose bush

The rose didn’t look so great when it was unearthed.

Flat violas

Flat violas

There is another type of rose in the same garden. It self seeds everywhere! The unsuspecting plant lady got one of them, and these violas lost the support that it provided.

Too much of a good thing

Too much of a good thing

I love garlic, but I may finally have too much of it! I couldn’t throw out the excess dug out from the frazzled rose bush, but I wasn’t motivated to transplant it either. It got thrown in a plastic bag with wet rags so that George can save it if he wants.

Swiss chard

Swiss chard

This Swiss chard that survived from last year is growing well, but looks frazzled because it wants to bolt in this hot weather. I declare the whole darn place frazzled.

Spring

Prickly ash buds

Prickly ash buds in our woods March 30

Springtime brings the good, bad, and ugly. The good news about prickly ash is that it’s native. The bad news is that it is prickly and invasive.

Beauty of Moscow lilac buds April 14

Beauty of Moscow lilac buds April 14

Fortunately we have more good plants than bad ones. Here’s a white lilac in our garden.

Garlic April 14

Garlic April 14

The garlic planted last fall looks healthy.

Currant April 14

Currant April 14

Spring Beauties April 21

Spring Beauties April 21

There was a lot in bloom in Grandpa Neil and Grandma Siggie’s woods on April 21.

Honey suckle

Honeysuckle

The honeysuckle leaves are pretty, and they come out early. Unfortunately, they are very invasive in Wisconsin and are difficult to remove.

The early frog catches the fly

The early frog catches the fly

Aging cow slip blossoms

Aging cow slip blossoms

Dog toothed violet and spring beauties converse

Dog toothed violet and spring beauties converse

Apple blossoms

Apple blossoms

It occurs to me now that I don’t know what the quality of the apples on this tree at the edge of the woods is. It’s likely that it is a wild tree since I don’t ever remember harvesting them.

Maple seeds on the tree in Grandma and Grandpa's yard

Maple seeds on the tree in Grandma and Grandpa’s yard

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Columbine May 8

Columbine May 8

Violas surround a lily

Violas surround a lily

Lupine May 13

Lupine May 13

Springtime in our prairie… it’s always fun to see how much good stuff has spread. Look at the pollen on this bee!

Lupine leaves May 13

Lupine leaves May 13

A friend gave us wild lupine seeds several years ago and it is spreading well. It’s neat to see the variation in the plants. This one has darker colored leaves with hairy edges.

Evening self portrait in the prairie

Evening self portrait in the prairie

Happy spring! May summer not come too quickly.

Poetry soothes

Media relaxing in the Sweet Woodruff

Media relaxing in the Sweet Woodruff

I’m in one of those moods where very little of what I read suits me now. Young adult dystopias promised lots of plot and delivered in Insurgent (the second book in the Divergent trilogy) and The Drowned Cities (companion book to Ship Breaker), however both of them were darker than what I want right now.

What looked like promising adult fiction, was simply disappointing. Garden Spells could have been fun light reading, but the unabridged version I listened to was too predictable. A Reliable Wife looked interesting, but I didn’t care for the characters, who were very obsessed with sex. I need to be able to like at least one of the characters.

The young adult realistic fiction Try Not to Breathe was good, with likable and very human characters.

What really hit the spot was Billy Collins, reading his own poetry in Billy Collins Live: A Performance at the Peter Norton Symphony Space. Five stars! I would recommend that you try it, even if you don’t like poetry.

The complete quilt

Mom taught me how to sew when I was in second grade. One of my first projects was a t-shirt. Another project was a big stuffed whale. Mom had to help me with the zipper…the mouth had zipper lips to open and close it. I was delighted when she made the mistake of sewing the zipper in backwards (the zipper pull was towards the inside of the mouth). My part of the sewing was perfect…the biggest error was Mom’s.

What Mom didn’t teach me was how to finish a project in a timely manner. She has very little interest in finishing one project before starting another. This has been very freeing to me. Perhaps a little too freeing. I have no idea how many started, but unfinished projects I even have.

In the fall of 2011, a book caught my eye. It is Scandinavian Needlecraft and includes great embroidery designs, mostly on wool. The book wasn’t in our library system at the time, so I tried Scandinavian Stitches instead. Author Kajsa Wikman has lots of great designs in it, including soft baskets and stuffed fabric birds. I loved one of the baby quilts in the book, but I wasn’t about to make a quilt just to hang on the wall. It occurred to me that Jessie was having a baby in December and the quilt has lots of blue in it (a color that she might not see enough of these days). A winter theme, lots of blue, and a December baby…a perfect combination.

I dug through my stash and found the perfect colors for the sky. I needed a little more variety and was happy to find a great match at the local thrift store. A couple of small pieces were added for variety and everything was ready to go. The cutting and sewing began at Mom’s house on Thanksgiving weekend. The top went together quite quickly.

Fox peeking out from the snow

The hand quilting took longer. It turned out to be the perfect project for me. I quilted at the hospital while Grandpa Neil was there. I quilted at Grandma Siggie’s while we spent time together. I quilted at the nursing home while Grandpa Neil was there. I quilted with friends while taking time for myself. Some of the stars are less than perfect. Some stars have more than five points. Maybe Ivy and Clara will look for them when they need a quiet project.

Stars in the sky

Since I’ve never finished a quilting project, this was my first attempt at cutting the binding on a bias. I thought about it for quite a while, folded the fabric, and cut. Was I ever surprised to find the zig-zag that it made. Hindsight was much clearer than foresight.

First try at binding

It was a happy day when I got the bias tape cut, ironed, and rolled. The binding finally was domesticated.

Spool of binding

It was time for the label. Jenny made one for the quilt, but it wasn’t quite what I had in mind. A friend told me about her label making process: spray adhesive on a sheet of printer paper; apply an oversize piece of fabric on it; cut the fabric to the size of the paper; feed the paper/fabric into the inkjet printer; print with the desired text; and set with a hot iron. Since I hope this quilt will withstand lots of washing, I decided to make the label more permanent by embroidering on top of the ink.

The fine print

It then seemed to take forever to finish the label and sew it onto the quilt. I had put off putting the binding on so that I could sew the label only on to the back of the quilt. I did everything just right for this process until the last moment, a moment of excitement, when I sewed the label through the entire thickness of the quilt. It was fortunate that the bobbin thread was white and nothing puckered in the process! I wasn’t about to tear it out at this point.

The completed quilt

The completed quilt

The finished quilt was ready to give to Jane on March 24, when we celebrated Grandma Elma’s 93rd birthday. Jane and I met for the first time. It was a good day for many reasons, a small one was that this project was completed!

And now for something completely different…

George made a very good supper of squash and nettle lasagna tonight. That’s right…stinging nettles turned into a yummy supper.

Everything is good with lots of cheese

It is March?

George and Meg

The weather has been unseasonably warm here in Wisconsin. Someone told me that our daytime temperatures are reaching the average for July. I believe them. Spring chores have been sped up for me. Getting things done before the grass gets too long seems to be a deadline that I never quite reach in time.

Along with the hot weather, George has spring break, and we have been married 11 years this March. We took some time off from the grass deadline to canoe on the Little Wolf River today. George was in the bow because I have more experience steering than he does. Like many things that he attempts, George relies on brute strength than balance or finesse. I felt like I was mostly paddling to counter his force rather than navigate down the river.

Just paddling along

Turtles sunning on a log

We saw a frog, lots of turtles sunning themselves on snags, ducks, geese, and a turkey. Most of the plants are still thinking about turning green and the grasses along the bank were brown.

The water was high enough, even though we didn’t get nearly our usual amount of snowfall or other precipitation since fall. We had to work to hit a couple of rocks and there where nice ripples, but nothing rough. Perfect for us. There was a tense moment when George didn’t feel like I was doing my job of steering well enough and attempted to steer from the bow. When I thought that the moment was over I told George that he would just have to trust me. “But I don’t trust you!” George shouted back. Maybe we will work on trust for our twelfth anniversary.

Transport

Wanna hug?

Endnote: No, George does not want a hug. He’s showing off a spruce moved from Scott and Barb’s land and transplanted on Paul and Barb’s land.

A heap o’livin’

A little poem for Jessie. This poem is from the book Poems Teachers Ask For: Book II. Not only are “dialect” poems difficult to for me to read, they also can be very sentimental.

Home
by Edgar Guest
(1881 – 1959)

It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home,
A heap o’ sun an’ shadder, an’ ye sometimes have t’ roam
Afore ye really ‘preciate the things ye lef’ behind,
An’ hunger fer ’em somehow, with ’em allus on yer mind.
It don’t make any differunce how rich ye get t’ be,
How much yer chairs an’ tables cost, how great yer luxury;
It ain’t home t’ ye, though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow yer soul is sort o’ wrapped round everything.

Home ain’t a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;
Afore it’s home there’s got t’ be a heap o’ livin’ in it;
Within the walls there’s got t’ be some babies born, and then
Right there ye’ve got t’ bring ’em up t’ women good, an’ men;
And gradjerly as time goes on, ye find ye wouldn’t part
With anything they ever used—they’ve grown into yer heart:
The old high chairs, the playthings, too, the little shoes they wore
Ye hoard; an’ if ye could ye’d keep the thumb-marks on the door.

Ye’ve got t’ weep t’ make it home, ye’ve got t’ sit an’ sigh
An’ watch beside a loved one’s bed, an’ know that Death is nigh;
An’ in the stillness o’ the night t’ see Death’s angel come,
An’ close the eyes o’ her that smiled, an’ leave her sweet voice dumb.
Fer these are scenes that grip the heart, an’when yer tears are dried,
Ye find the home is dearer than it was, an’ sanctified;
An’ tuggin’ at ye always are the pleasant memories
O’ her that was an’ is no more—ye can’t escape from these.

Ye’ve got t’ sing an’ dance fer years, ye’ve got t’ romp an’ play,
An’ learn t’ love the things ye have by usin’ ’em each day;
Even the roses ’round the porch must blossom year by year
Afore they ‘come a part o’ ye, suggestin’ someone dear
Who used t’ love ’em long ago, an’ trained ’em jes t’ run
The way they do, so’s they would get the early mornin’ sun;
Ye’ve got t’ love each brick an’ stone from cellar up t’ dome:
It takes a heap o’ livin’ in a house t’ make it home.