Saturday, March 27, 2010

Busy, busy bee!

Today I have been busy, busy. Busy like a bee, you might say! This morning I decided to try making bread today. I got a new book recently:

And figured I should give it a try. I had a "sponge" in the fridge (that's yeast, mixed with flour, water and a touch of sugar and set to... ferment... is that the right word?), so I used that. A few hours later, I realized, "that's why the pizza dough didn't rise the other night. The sponge is dead!". So, thus began my pursuit to not lose these 5 cups of flour already in the dough. I pondered... and decided to try this: I added 1 tbsp yeast that I new was alive and ready to about 1/2 cup of warm water, and several Tbsps of flour. Mixed it well and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then I added enough flour to make an almost-dough, and then kneaded that into the dead-yeast dough. At this point, I think it worked.
But I will see in a little over an hour when I take these bad boys out of the oven (they will go in shortly).

Not long after getting the bread started, during the "try to let it rise but the yeast is dead" time, I headed outside to play. I got the compost pile trellis set back up (knocked over by the wind 2 storms ago), I added two rebar posts in opposite corners and tied the trellis to those. I'll find out if my idea works during the next storm.

Hubby was out by then and helped me shovel the dirt from the pile (the scoop obtained when the in-laws where in town) into the newly rototilled plots. Later I was back out and added compost like crazy to one plot, and got it planted with a Habenero pepper (it might be serrano, I mixed the seeds on accident), rosemary, sage, some garlic, and several huckleberry plants. Now, I've got three beds planted, one rototilled and needing compost before planting and a slew of seedlings to still dig beds for.
We also pulled a whole slew of weeds, most were pointy and tall. Our yard is a bit of a jungle after all this rain. The clover has taken over in a few places...
Parts are still quite wet with mud, though our mower should be okay, its not a riding mower.

While pulling weeds, we noticed that some "weeds" are quite pretty. This is the side yard currently:
They are beautiful little white flowers
that seem to flourish in the sun. We decided we will strive to pull the tree-like, ugly weeds (yes, I'm imposing my own view of beauty on my yard) and let the pretty flowers stay... though hubby just went to out to mow the yard. So, bye-bye pretty flowers.

My menagerie of potted plants continues. I suspect those hanging pots aren't big enough for the tomato plants, but I love the idea of having tomatoes hanging from the pergola.

The mint will stay in a pot, though I'm considering putting some under the trees in the back, places where it seems nothing will grow; maybe mint will. Of course, it might just take over the whole yard given a chance. That would make mowing a bit more pleasurable!

Goodness, I can hear the mower struggle at times. It bet its taking 6" off some of those plants. Must go start some dinner for when hubby is done (he's gonna be hungry, he's worked hard today for me!)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Sugar Glider Update

Its been days since adding to my online journal, and I don't see having much more free time over the next few days, so here is a quick update --

Sugar gliders: for little guys they have an impressive aroma, which isn't so nice at first. I think it was fear, because that not-so-nice aroma has dissipated, luckily. The students are just crazy about him, and I might bring him home for the weekend. These dudes are nocturnal, so I'm not sure I want him around the house at night. And then there is Hank. When I've brought Sucralose's sleeping bags home to wash (that's the sugar glider, he likes to burrow in these cloth bags), Hank will dig the bags out of my school bag and sniff-sniff-sniff for what seems to be ages. Sucralose might just get to hang out at school for the weekend.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Crazy times and impulsive buys

Well, I did it. I made a fairly impulsive purchase. This isn't normal for me, so its worth telling you about.

Last night was the school Gala. Its a large fundraising event; we had dinner at a fancy ballroom, and there was a silent and verbal auction. It was a ton of fun. I sat with some good friends, had good conversation, the food was good. And I bid (silent auction) for sugar glider, and won it.

What, might you ask, is a sugar glider? This is a sugar glider....
He is a small nocturnal marsupial native to Australia and Indonesia.

This is not the little guy we now own (or own part of, two others chipped in some so we could win the auction), but one like him. He comes with cage and lots of accessories. I'll call about picking him up later today. My thought is that he can spend lots of time at school, and only weekends and holidays at the house. I suspect I can find others to take him for extended holidays. I wonder what Hank will think of him?

The sugar glider was one of the cheapest auction items. A handmade quilt by grammar 5 students and teachers (I did a square, too) sold for $450. A picnic table painted by one of the kindergarten classes went for $750. Those were both verbal auctions, which were fun to observe. First time I've attended such an auction. Bummer is I left the pad of paper I took notes on there... which means its lost for good. Drat, drat, drat. Oh, well, I'll survive.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

tomato protection update

Dude, its chilly outside. My glasses fogged up coming in.

I took the bottoms off 6 2 liter bottles, and the tomato seedlings are now covered. The wind will likely knock some bottles off, so I'll have to keep a look out. I think I will cover this bed tonight with the tarp. I haven't covered the peppers, they still look good (perhaps because they are so much closer to the ground ?)

:::sigh::: the joys of spring!

Warm day, cold day, warm day, cold day.....

Well, spring has come.... and its not pretty. No, I take that back, its looking good, but the weather is driving me nuts!

I got my little baby tomato seedlings and pepper seedlings in the ground mid-last week. They were doing so well! (still are as far as I can tell) Then it starts raining this morning. About 630 am, I wake to rain smacking the bedroom windows, and I think, "oh, my poor, poor plants! And the lid is on the rain barrel. drat."

When I got up around 8 (yes, we slept in big time today), I took the lid off the rain barrel, looked at the rain gauge (1"), and hoped the seedlings are all still good. From the dining room window, they look okay. But tonights low is 33'! Today's high is all of 45' (after a week of highs in the 70's). Should I use the 2 liter bottles to cover them tonight (bottoms cut off)? Should I use the tarp the in-laws left for me? I'll have to move the contain tomatoes in, for sure.

Now, at 915 am, rain gauge is reading 1.5". No gardening today :(. But the rain barrel is filling nicely.

In other news, I finished my first knitting project. See for a picture. Next I'm going to knit a cowl, the Darkside Cowl. Should be fun, it will be the first time I follow a real pattern in either knitting or crochet.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Beef Broth

I've made beef broth a great number of times, but always on the stove. Simmer bones and veggies for 6 to 8 hours. This time, I pilled beef ribs in the crock pot, covered with water and let it simmer on low for 24 hours (as per instructions at, I think). Wow, good looking stuff.

I'm venturing out on a limb and put the bones back into the crock pot with water for a second run.... I'll let you know how it goes!

About half the tomato and pepper seedlings put out last night. They look great this morning... here's to hoping I don't have to compete with any little critters for them.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

down time? what's that?

Life has not slowed down for me. I got all my grades and such done at school (end of quarter), which helps school business. But at home, I've constantly have something to do. Its all good stuff, and I figure it will keep getting busier until school lets out at the end of May. If the sun is up, I want to be outside, building my raised beds. If the sun is down, I'm inside knitting (really enjoying it!). There is always kitchen duties (cooking, cleanup) or laundry waiting to be done. I am an intense Flybaby ( and preach her teachings regularly. Its time for me to really start hunkering down and following the system. The first and main thing that means, is getting dressed to my shoes first thing in the morning (oh, gosh, I love my pjs! Here I am in my pjs at the dining room table typing.) Drat, habit changes....

Pictures always make my day....


Insulation Team

Blowing in insulation is dirty work....

but it prompts gestures of love from hubby.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Busy, busy, busy!

Life has been busy (if you didn't figure it out by the title) -- :P

The in-laws arrived safe and sound on Wednesday afternoon, bearing a great deal of furniture. Well, only 2 pieces, but they are important and wonderful pieces! And thus began the work. I promise pictures of furniture and work at a later post, but first a run down of the next several days (Thursday through Sunday).

Wednesday afternoon, hubby and FIL took themselves to pick up the insulation for the attic. At the time, it consisted of 21 small rolls of pink fluffy. Thursday found the two of them in the attic, where they discovered that large swaths of the attic had NO insulation, particularly over the dining room where I spend a great deal of time working. No wonder I'm always cold in there! So, they began laying pink fluffy insulation in hard to get to places... well, my FIL laid the insulation and the rest of us encouraged him, and brought him ice water and cold beer [edit: it was non-alcoholic, as I was reminded :P]. When it got too hot to work up there, about 1030 or 11 am, they came down, cooled off a bit, and lunch was served. Friday found hubby and FIL up in the attic again, laying more pink fluffy insulation in more hard to reach places. Friday afternoon, they decided to finish off the job by blowing in the final bit of insulation. Blowing it in should be easier and about the same price. So, off the in-laws went to find a blower. Their trek proved profitable. With their suave bargaining skills, they got one store to match the price on the cellulose (the insulation stuff that gets blown in... shredded, recycled newspaper, I think), plus a 10% discount. A good deal, I must say! And back they came with a blower and 20 some odd bags of cellulose. Saturday found me in the attic doing the blowing of insulation. I was able to cover about the same area in one day as it took FIL two days... most a reflection of how much easier blowing in insulation can be, especially in tight to reach spots. It is a filthy job, for sure, requiring long sleeves, long pants, a scarf to protect my hair, a dust mask over my nose and mouth and safety glasses over my own glasses just to keep the dust off them. Finally after 3 days, the house is beautifully insulated, or as hubby says, the house has a nice warm blanket on now.

In the midst of this, we discovered that the recessed light cans aren't designed to have insulation over them, so those got changed to can that can have insulation on them. Also, we found the toilet vent from the guest bath was disconnect in spots and needed some adjustment to sit right. In fixing that, we found the bones of a small rodent in the pipes; I think its a squirrel, the poor thing. Must of drowned. In addition, since the in-laws brought the pickup truck, we borrowed a roto-tiller, and hubby roto-tilled two more 8'x4' beds for me, and we got a "scoop" of dirt (about 1 cubic yard) for raising the beds.. What took hubby 30 minutes with the rototiller took me 4 hours! I dug those first two beds by hand, using about 2 hours of back breaking for each. Anyhoo, very happy I didn't have to dig them!

I have decided to raise the beds, so Sunday afternoon I took myself down to the local hardware store and purchased a great number of landscape timbers. Today, I realized that my 3 1/2" screws should be longer to screw the fat timbers together, I took myself back down to the same store and found some 4" screws. That was the longest I found and I think it will work, it gives about a inch of screw into the second timber. Hmmmm.... if I stack them, though, to make the bed deeper, I'm going to have to angle the screws in to screw the timbers together... I'll get good pictures, for sure.

I've got more happenings going on, but the post is getting long and I'm ready to hit the sack. I promise more tomorrow (and pictures).

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Newest endeavors....

I made peanut butter cookies today. I love peanut butter; I could live on it, and have while living in China. But these cookies are special... they are my first attempt at putting to the test the things I'm learning from I'm just Here for More Food: food x mixing + heat = baking by Alton Brown. I love to cook and bake, but since getting married I mostly cook. This is my time to start baking again. I like learning why you do what you do when you bake... for example, why cream the butter and sugar together first, then add other stuff. Why not just put everything in the bowl and start the mixer? I know from experience that this works with chocolate chip cookies (just wait to add the chocolate chips till the rest is mixed together), we did it more than once. What good arguments can I offer Hubby as to reasons for waiting for cookies to cool slightly before eating (He declares the mouth feel is better when they are really hot... I don't buy it, but then its not my mouth). I must say, the peanut butter cookies are a success, please witness for yourself!

Behind there is my yeast starter. AB declares that bread will be better with a starter (not just dumping your yeast in and going to town). I think I believe him... he offers some good reasons. So, I"m giving it a try. I put it in an old spaghetti sauce jar and on the dryer (warmest spot in the house), but it overflowed all over the dryer. That was a mess to clean up! I'll give it the 24 hours it needs, and I'll make bread tomorrow. Well, start it tomorrow. AB states that an overnight rise in the fridge will produce a softer bread, which is what I like... so I'll try it. Its spring break, how can I not be willing to try!

Oh, yes... states that Waco got 1.13 inches of rain last night. The buckets that started empty held at least 4 inches of water this morning, which means, I think, we got about 4 inches of rain. The garden plots look good tonight. We spent 30 minutes bailing water from our backyard to the front yard and over the hill into Taylerville, and today the ground is sopping wet, but its soil, not water on top. I can see little onion seedlings, the lettuce looks okay and, of course, the garlic grew another inch today (or seems like it!). Its been sunny in the mid-70s (open windows all around!) today. And ya know, I never imagined I'd be annoyed by bird calls, but when you hear the same call (bwu, bwu, ha ha ha ha) over and over again gets a bit old after several hours.

I love spring!

Monday, March 08, 2010

My garden is doomed....

This is the, lets see, third time since starting to garden that it has flooded. I hope that you, the reader, can see how full of water our backyard is. And the nice rise just at the back of the property preventing the water from running out the back to the pond in Taylerville. I've got to figure out how to fix the drainage problem that shows up every time we get a decent rain; I'm just not sure how to go about it. But now, I will say goodbye to the lettuce, carrots, onions and spinach already planted. I figure the garlic will survive okay if the water doesn't stick around too long.

Hubby has suggested putting in raised beds where my beds are now. That will help some, I'm sure. The septic system would prevent the digging of our own pond, I suspect, and that seems a little OTT. If someone has suggestions... please, please, tell me! I will now seek solace in cleaning up the kitchen and doing some knitting.

My newest endevor

I went to a friend's house today and she taught me how to cast on, do a basic knit, and cast off. And I'm off... knitting! I tried to learn in China, but for some reason never really picked it up. But seems I got the hang of it now. I'm well on my way to finishing my first washcloth. I hope to knit a sweater I found a pattern for, and other fun things.

Plus, its raining like crazy, so no gardening.... probably all week. :(

Off to knit some more!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Beginning of Spring Break

I guess today is the first day of spring break. What will I do with all this time?

Two things I must talk about today... First, I must brag on some of my students; recently they performed "The Pirates of Penzance". I was sick and unable to attend the performance, so I've been doomed to seek out a recording to see it. A parent posted it on youtube, in 7 parts, and I've watched 5 of the 7 so far... and I am impressed. I am not a theater critic, but I can see the hard work they put into preparing for the performance. They say their lines with confidence and know how to pause for laughter. Their singing is pleasurable to listen to, and their actions communicate familiarity with the story. Good job! (Unfortunately, a train goes by in scene 6.)

The second comment of the day is about the book my coworker lent to me: I'm Just Here For More Food. We had talked about cooking and cookbooks, and he brought this to school thinking I'd be interested. I'm halfway through the introduction and I'm hooked! I tend towards wanting to know HOW things work, not just knowing what to do, and this book is addressing those very ideas. Just in the introduction, the author has talked about how baking is different from cooking (precision), what is important in baking (the details), establishing criteria for good vs bad, and that his objective is for the reader to understand and learn (not just mimic). Hopefully, as I read further, I will be able to offer more of an informed opinion about the book, but so far (that would be page 10) I like it, quite a bit.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Hank's genetic history

Hank is the cat... just in case you were wondering.

We've decided he is:
1/2 chicken
1/4 ninja
1/8 snuggle bunny
1/8 domestic short hair

We find it odd that the 1/4 ninja hasn't beaten the snot out of the 1/2 chicken, yet.