Sunday, April 7, 2019

Another Dreary Sunday

Today I woke up to a beautiful day.  The temperature was mild, and it became sunny.  We have had a long winter, and spring has not been what I had hoped for.  It has been cold.  The weather people say it has been seasonable or above normal, but I don't believe that.  I thought today would be different.  We were looking forward to doing a couple projects outside.  I have been making birdseed blocks regularly.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2018/12/diy-for-birds.html  The birds enjoy them and normally they last a long time.  The red winged blackbirds and other birds can't just scoop the seed onto the ground.  Recently some of the cakes were getting eaten way too fast.  I discovered that a pesky raccoon was coming after dark and eating them.  The only one they left alone was one protected by a tubular raccoon guard.

This guard is in need of a spring cleanup but it works great.

We decided it was time to make a couple more.  We went to the lumber yard a few days ago and purchased some stovepipe, a cap to fit the stovepipe and a longer pole.  The next step was to cut the pole to size and drill the proper size hole in the metal cap.  Since our son in law has a very complete shop, we paid him a visit.  Within five minutes, he had the job done.

When we pulled into their driveway, our youngest grandson Ewan was busy as usual.  This time  he was making a pond for his frogs.  Last year he settled for a habitat in a plastic tub, but I guess he decided to expand.  Just like his dad, Ewan is always busy with something.  If he can't be outside, he is inside writing books and making movies.  He told me the pond started out a little larger but the water is escaping.  He is damming it up with mud and rocks so it will last all summer.  He isn't afraid of working hard, that's for sure.  Hopefully his pond will not drain away although it may also be a perfect mosquito breeding ground.

After a short visit, we headed home.  We had things to do.  As the pond photos show, the skies had become overcast but it was sixty-six degrees so I was ok with that.

When we were about half way home, it started to rain.  I was not happy.  So here I'm sitting waiting for the rain to stop.  It doesn't look promising.  The fog is rolling in, and I can hear the rain on the roof.  If I were a napper, this would be the perfect Sunday afternoon for that.

The raccoon/squirrel guard is completed.  It will need to be painted and installed when the weather improves.  Hopefully that will be soon.  There is a spring storm coming at the end of this week.  Hopefully it fizzles out or doesn't bring bunch of snow.  I know summer will get here eventually, but I would prefer it be sooner than later.

Raccoon guard ready to be installed.


What a difference a day makes.  Today, April 8, 2019, is simply gorgeous.  The sun is shining brightly, the wind is light and the temperature is around 70 degrees.

Quite an improvement over the rainy and foggy picture of yesterday.

My husband was able to get outside and install the raccoon/squirrel guards on two of the bird feeder poles.

I found some spray paint in the basement which will work for now.  Later I will repaint and clean up everything for the summer.  Now it's time to put out more seed and see what happens.  Hopefully these will keep the masked mischief makers away from our bird feeders.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Fermented Pickles

Fermented foods are all the rage.  Fermented foods add the much needed good bacteria to our gut.  We can take probiotics which are expensive or eat fermented foods such as sauerkraut which is just fermented cabbage.  Choosing the best foods can keep your gut healthy.  Prebiotic foods are also important because they feed the good bacteria.  Even garlic and mangos can feed the good bacteria.  I have written about this before in another blog from four years ago.

I am now into making Fermented Pickles using another new and even easier product.  There is a brand called Pickle Pipes.  I bought a similar brand but they are a silicone air lock disk with a slit on top to let gases escape but it won't let air get in.  There are youtube videos showing the Pickle Pipe brand.  I think they are all basically the same.

I started out with an English cucumber.  This time of year I couldn't find any small dill sized cucumbers in our local store.  English cucumbers have small seeds and they aren't dipped in wax.  They are generally shrink wrapped and look a lot like a zucchini.  Other cucumbers are sometimes dipped in wax and will get moldy more easily unless the wax is completely removed.  I cut the cucumber in strips.  The strips have to be shorter than the jar so they can be completely covered with liquid.  While fermenting, the vegetable must be under liquid at all times so it isn't exposed to air.

The air lock disk fits over a wide mouth jar.  The jar must be washed in the dishwasher or hot soapy water and then rinsed. The silicone disk and rim must be clean.  After cutting up the cucumbers, place several pieces of dill weed in the bottom of the jar.  Place a clove of garlic in the jar.  Don't crush the clove.  Place the cucumbers and several bay leaves in the jar.  The bay leaves keep the pickles crisp.

Mix about 4 cups of warm non-chlorinated water with 1 1/2 Tablespoons of sea salt.  Stir completely and when your jar is prepared,  fill the jar with the salt water.  Make sure the water completely covers the cucumbers.  If necessary put a glass weight over the cucumbers to keep them from floating.  If you pack the jar tightly the weight will not be necessary.

Put the disk on and screw on the rim.  Put the jar in a dark warm place for four days.  After four days, they are ready to eat. Keep them in the refrigerator.  They will last a long time, but they usually get eaten quickly so I'm not sure how long they will keep.

I made a new batch.  This time I cut the cucumbers in chunks.  I have never done them this way before so it will be interesting to see how they turn out.  I think they will taste the same.  

I don't know how many probiotics are in these pickles, but they taste good and every little bit will help your gut.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Where There's A Will, There's a Way

My husband is not a fisherman, but he could be.  We have never been hungry enough to go out to the river, bait a hook and sit for hours to catch our dinner.  I realize most people who fish enjoy it for the sport of it and not to survive.  My husband was never very interested.  I was the fisher-person in the family.  When I was a kid, we went fishing all the time.  Come to think of it, we probably did fish for food.  Times were different back then.

The reason I think my husband would be a good fisherman or at least good at casting was proven to me today.  It all started with our Direct TV dish.  How you say?  The past several days we haven't had good TV reception.  At first we could get the lower tier of stations which were two to eleven, but nothing above that.  We have Netflix and Amazon, so we didn't look into the Direct TV problem.  Today with the prospect of being stuck inside due to a major snowstorm and subzero temperatures,  we wanted the TV to see what was going on.  It turns out that the dish was half covered with frozen snow and ice.  Neither of us dared to climb on the roof with all the ice and snow, it wouldn't be a great decision.  I kind of gave up on it and went to the kitchen to do my thing.  I could hear activity in the living room.  The front door opened, then closed, then opened again.  Pretty soon I could hear duct tape ripping and the clanging of metal pipe.  I thought I should investigate.  I found Mike, my husband, was constructing a long pole made out of roof rake poles taped to two long sections of fiberglass chimney cleaning rods and a feather duster.  It was genius, but would it work?

He got the ladder set up against the porch and called me outside to help.  By this time it was -6 degrees and going down.  The sun had started to set, and I was thinking this is a heck of a time to be doing this project. 

He got up on the ladder and I handed him the long pole.  It was a little flimsy so down it came.  We untaped the rods and retaped them down further on the metal pipe.  This gave the pole more rigidity.  He made his first cast and bingo it hit right on.

The snow started falling off the dish with every cast.  He got so good that he was able to brush the duster over the dish.

He couldn't get all of it.  With the melting and refreezing, a small spot was stuck and no amount of coaxing would remove it.  All we could hope for was that there was enough removed to get our signal back.  I dismantled the feather duster off the end of the pole and put the rest in the shed.  My husband put away the ladder, and we went inside.  My fingers were frozen, and I was very happy to get into the warm house whether or not the TV worked.  I turned the television on and there it was, every channel worked.  Our fishing expedition was a success.  Tonight we are expecting more than ten inches of snow.  This dish thing may happen again, but we will be prepared. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Double Reversible Knitting

I have been knitting since I was in sixth grade.  I have made thousands of items from small dishcloths to complicated Norwegian sweaters which I had to steek and Aran cable garments.  I have used thin fingering yarn to thick bulky yarn.  I was becoming bored with it because I like a challenge, and I really don't like to make the same thing twice.  I do make things over and over again, but I would prefer not to.  I surprised myself this winter when I learned a new technique.  I needed some warmer mittens.  I seldom knit for myself, but I thought I would quickly make some for when the weather is really cold like it is getting now.  I have made double mittens in the past where you actually knit two mittens connected at the cuff and tuck one section into the other.  This method makes a really warm double mitten.  While looking for a pattern, I came across another process for achieving the same results.  I was familiar with double knitting and even bought a pattern a few years ago, but the instructions were not that precise.  I forgot about it and never attempted it.  The pattern I now found was very easy.  They are double and reversible.


My first attempt at this pattern made a huge mitten.  They are double thick so they look big but this was too big.  Rather than adjust the number of stitches, I just used knitting needles that were two sizes smaller.  Instead of a size 6 needle, I used size 4's.  It made a mitten that was just right for me.  Basically you can use any mitten pattern, but after the cuff is made, you have to increase each stitch so you have twice as many stitches. 

To get familiar with the stitch it may be helpful to cast on fifty stitches or so.  You knit the first stitch, bring the yarn to the front as if to purl but instead of purling the stitch, you slip it with the yarn in front, put the yarn to the back and knit the next stitch.  Just repeat this across the row making sure that your last stitch is a slip stitch and your first stitch is a knit stitch.  Repeat this pattern back and forth and your knitting will not have a back side but will look knit on both sides.

You can see the outside of the mitten and the inside of the mitten look the same.  It would be perfect for a scarf because you could knit every row but you wouldn't have one smooth side and one bumpy side. 

I am so happy I learned this new technique.  I will use it often.  I guess you are never too old to learn.  I also discovered there are many different ways to cast on stitches and bind off.  I just have to broaden my horizons. 

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Ewan the Entrepreneur

Who ever said that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree is correct, at least for anyone who knows my daughter and her youngest son.  Ewan is also our youngest grandchild.  He is almost nine years old, but has the mind of an eighty year old.  He is an old soul, for sure.  He physically looks and talks like his dad and their side of the family, but he is also like his mom.

When our daughter was a young girl, she was always trying to make money.  When she was twelve, she wanted a paper route.  We tried to discourage it because we knew we would have to pick up the slack on rainy days, snowy days and the huge newspaper full of ads on Sunday.  She was relentless and got the route.  Those were the days when you had to go door to door to collect money for the paper and at times sell subscriptions.  One time they had a contest to win prizes.  She wanted skis, boots and bindings.  I would drive her to different neighborhoods, wait in the car and she would go door to door to sell newspaper subscriptions.  You would never dare to do that now days, but she was determined.  She did win the prizes.  She also saved her money.  One time I told a friend that she bought a CD.  They thought I meant a music compact disc, but I meant a Certificate of Deposit.  There were other times when we would go shopping at Sam's Club.  She would want a box of candy bars for her lunch.  Right.  She would take the box to school and sell candy out of her locker for a profit.  We bought the candy and she would get all the profit.  She even took the posts off my pierced earrings and glued pastel colored sweet tarts to the posts. She sold these earrings to her classmates.  She finally got "real" jobs, she got a lot of scholarships and actually paid for much of her college education.  She grew to be a very generous woman, and I have never had to worry about her making a living.

Fast forward to her son.  He has the same entrepreneurial spirit.  He has had a lemonade stand.  His dad built him an actual stand.  He made the lemonade from ingredients his parents had in the cupboard.  Then he would sit at the end of their driveway for hours, hoping for a customer.  They live on a quiet country road with almost no traffic.  That didn't stop him, even if he only sold to a neighbor and his grandparents.

Just this fall he gathered pumpkins and squash from their garden.  He chose a few different varieties  and put them in a wagon.  He then put them out by the road.  He made a sign and set out a box for money.  I guess he decided on using the honor system for collecting money instead of sitting out there waiting for customers.  Every day after school, he would check his box and replenish his inventory.  Sometimes he goes a little too far.  After Halloween, he had a lot of candy.  I was visiting their house one day and saw some candy in a dish.  I asked if I could have one and he said "just a minute".  He ran in the other room to fetch a tackle box.  When he opened it, it had a variety of candy and money.  He was charging 25 cents each for his Halloween candy.  Of course, I paid.

Now he has expanded his businesses.  He is now making walking sticks.  He has business cards which state "paying for college one stick at a time" and a sign at the road.  To get materials he goes with his grandpa Wayne to some hunting woods they have.  He gathers the perfect saplings for making walking sticks.  His dad set him up with a contraption which makes removing the bark a little easier, however it's still a big job.

His uncle the eye doctor will be proud that he always uses eye protection.  After stripping the bark, he sands and finishes them.  He has sold a few.  I haven't bought one yet because I think they are a little pricy but I imagine he will wear me down.  He said they are $25 if they are plain and not customized.  If he customizes them, he will charge up to $50 depending on how fancy they are.  He doesn't show any favoritism.  Last year, his mom thought that one of his sticks would be a good Christmas gift for his teacher.  He thought it was a good idea too, but his mom had to buy one from him. 

He is always coming up with new inventions, and it will be interesting to see what his next money making scheme will be.  He is really a very kind hearted little boy, but when it comes to his businesses, he can be a tough negotiator. 

Friday, December 28, 2018

DIY For The Birds

As most of you know, I like to make things.  I bake, I cook, I knit, sew and crochet.  I am always willing to try a new craft or recipe.  The problem with this is that everything I'm good at is either fattening and unhealthy or some little kid in China can make the same thing for pennies.  Christmas was a good example.  I made cinnamon rolls and only one was eaten by my grandson.  We have so many left over cookies, some pecan pie Chex mix and candy.  I realize I always make more food than necessary, but everyone is aware of calories and nutrition so there is always leftover snacks.  Another example is a Christmas stocking I recently saw at Goodwill for $1.99 that looked homemade, but I know it wasn't.  I bought it, just to get the pattern.  Why I bought it, I have no idea.  Why would I ever make it?  Even at 71 years of age, my decision making skills are sometimes suspect.

I am aware of the fact that I need to get the same satisfaction from making stuff without the problems.  I decided to cook for the birds.   I have experience.  I used to make homemade dog treats.  The wild birds and animals usually aren't fussy.  I do have to keep in mind that birds and wildlife have special needs too but as long as I stick to the basic guidelines, animals will eat anything.  Quite a while ago I saw a recipe on facebook.  I saved it.  It was from the Garden Answer facebook page.  The video is called DIY Birdseed Wreath.

I remembered this recipe on a recent trip to Fleet Farm.  We buy big seed blocks for the birds.  They are about 8 x 8 x2 inches.  They cost about $6.99 each but sometimes they go on sale for $3.99.

When we find a sale, we buy several.  After spending $20 on 5 of them, I thought of this recipe.  During a lull in the holidays, I decided to make one.  Even with the sale price, this DIY recipe can be made for a much lower cost.  Since the recipe was on a video,  I wrote down the recipe for easier access.

Birdseed  Wreath

Spray Bundt pan with baking spray

1 package gelatin 
1 cup warm water
6 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups flour
6-8 cups birdseed

Mix together well and
press firmly into bundt pan
Dry 24 hours.

It turned out great.  Even after a full day of rain, it held up nicely.  It didn't fall apart or get soft.  The birds are enjoying it.  They have to work for the seeds and the birds seem to enjoy working for their meal.  Rather than hang it from a ribbon, we found an old metal pie plate.  We clipped on the plastic hangers from a hanging pot and hung it from a bird feeder away from the squirrels.

I think I will make more.  Maybe I can find some small bundt pans or make a block like the ones we can purchase.  

Sunday, December 16, 2018


The definition of tradition is the "transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation".  My youngest daughter loves tradition.  She loves reliving her childhood memories and wants her boys to have similar memories.  She remembers toys that are long gone and details I have long forgotten.  As sad as it is, it isn't always possible to recreate some of those special experiences.  Things change and families grow into their own traditions.   In past years our grandkids would spend New Years Eve with us.  They would stay up until midnight, and we would have a toast with sparkling grape juice.  Now they do their own thing.  This year we didn't go trick or treating with the kids.  Every year, I would tag along with the kids dressed in their costumes.   We no longer host Thanksgiving, Easter or Christmas.  Our daughters have taken on these celebrations at their homes.  I'm happy to pass the baton to them, however it is harder to get motivated to decorate and get into the spirit of the season.

One tradition that remains in tact is making Christmas cookies.  It was pretty bare bones this year, but we still had fun.  Saturday December 15, mid-morning our daughter Heather and grandson Ewan came to bake cookies.  I had prepped some dough and made the cut outs and icing before they arrived.  We didn't have the usual hands on deck so this saved time.  Ewan started decorating cookies as his mom and I began making some other varieties.

He had seen the Great British Holiday Baking show and used his creativity to make a special design.

His baking show creation.

Soon he was hungry.  One tradition, tho not traditional, is that I make my kind of dumplings for the kids.  It is usually what they ask for when they aren't feeling well, but Ewan wanted grandma's dumplings.  I got some chicken soup out of the freezer and made him dumplings.

As we continued to work on cookies, Ewan went outside.

Grandpa was outside firing up the smoker.  He had some bacon to smoke.  Oops, big mistake.  We don't host Thanksgiving, Easter or Christmas any longer, but we still host our annual St. Patrick Day celebration.  Someone is building a house on the lot next door.  We are not very happy to be sharing the woods on that side of our property.  The leprechaun house was bordering this lot and had to be moved.  Our youngest grandson Ewan is the only one who buys into the leprechaun thing.  That might have been spoiled because the leprechaun house was sitting in the same garage as grandpa's smoker.  Of course, Ewan noticed right away.  Hopefully we gave him a logical explanation for it being moved.  We told him the house had to be moved but that was alright because the leprechaun goes to a warmer climate during the winter.  When Spring comes, we will put the house out and hopefully the leprechaun will move it to a better location.  He wasn't sure about that, but we hope he bought the story.  If not, that tradition will change too.

While outside Ewan decided he wanted to do some ice fishing.  We don't have ice fishing equipment or any fishing equipment for that matter.  He gathered a sturdy stick, found some string and fashioned a hook from a paper clip.  We went to the furnace room to collect some worms from grandmas worm farm.  Heather took a break from cookie baking and walked Ewan down the hill to the ice.  It was pretty warm out and there was some open water .  She didn't want him accidentally breaking through the ice.  It's impossible to put a worm on a paper clip, so his mom tied the worms on.  That's a good mom.  Not many would walk through briars,  slip in muck and bait a fake hook to catch a non existent fish in mucky water.

When the worms fell off Ewan came in the house and asked for cheese.  I thought he was hungry again, but he wanted to put cheese on the hook.  He said sometimes catfish eat that kind of bait.  Hopefully we don't snag a catfish.  He went up on the deck to watch his pole for a while.

He didn't have any luck so he left the pole set up for grandpa to check later.  Nothing so far, and I predict there won't be.

When he came into the house, it was time to watch Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas.  This has been a tradition since the late 1970's.  It first aired on December 4, 1977.  I think we have watched it every Christmas since.  I recently learned it was based on the children's book of the same name by Russell Hoban. If you haven't seen it, it features a cast of Muppet characters by Jim Henson.  We ate again and watched this cute show.  You can still see the strings on the puppets.  I'm glad it wasn't remastered to look more professional.

By now, we were all tired.  We had enough cookies to get through the holidays.  We made sugar cookies, peanut butter cups, Mexican wedding cakes, crack cookies with soda crackers, and turtle pretzels.  I will make some krumkake today and a couple other things I have bought ingredients for. We were going to cut back this year.  None of us need all those calories, but when you put all the different kinds together there are quite a few.

Just as old traditions die out, new ones are made.  I doubt if ice fishing in the swamp will be repeated but I'm sure cookie making before Christmas will go on for many years.