Saturday, January 26, 2013

Missoula Children's Theatre-The Secret Garden

Our granddaughter has been participating in the Missoula Children's Theatre for a few years.  Twice a year they come to Green Lake Wisconsin and audition children for a play.  Then for only one week they practice and at the end of that time put on the play at the Thrasher Opera House.  This year they did The Secret Garden.  It is a wonderful experience for everyone who is fortunate to get a part.  Today we attended the afternoon performance.  It was a good time and we were impressed at how quickly this group learned their lines and the songs.

 The Playbill from the show explains the story and some information on the Missoula Children's Theatre.

   Our granddaughter is the spider in the middle.  She had the chartreuse outfit with the orange dots.  She did a great job and had a wonderful time.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Putting a New Addition on a Log House

We hadn't lived in our house very long before we needed more room.  It seems these days everyone wants to downsize.  It happened to us twice.  Once when the kids went off to college and got married, we bought a smaller house.  We didn't realize that we actually needed more room to accommodate spouses and then grandchildren.  When we retired, the same thing happened.  We bought a smaller house.  Soon not only did we need room for spouses and more growing kids, we needed space to feed all these people.  We decided to build a dining room onto our house.  The challenge with a log home is that traditional construction doesn't work.  Fortunately, we found a local builder who had experience.  The first thing that happened was deciding on the size.  From that measurement,  the builder found the correct number of trees we would need in the proper diameter.  He located some trees in our area that had been cut down.  He hand stripped the bark off the trees and assembled the room off site.  It was put together like lincoln logs to achieve the proper size, then they disassembled it, marked it and brought it to our house.

 In the meantime, we had a basement dug.  We have completely sandy soil and seeing the hole dug was an experience in itself.  I was sure the equipment and the driver was going to end up in the hole.

 After the hole was dug, they began pouring the concrete floor.

Here they are setting forms for the concrete basement walls.

Next was setting the floor joists and the subfloor.

Starting the building process.  Putting the logs back together piece by piece.

Then the roof goes on.

They cut out for the windows with a chain saw.

The windows are installed.

Making the old and new match is a challenge.

It was exciting when the wall to the new room was opened up from the inside.
They cut that open with a chain saw also.

The finished room.  

 It looks like it was originally built this way.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Eastern Bluebirds Can Stay All Winter in Wisconsin

You are never too old to learn.  I learned that the Eastern Bluebird will not migrate from Wisconsin if they are given the proper conditions, food and shelter.  The other day we took a trip to one of the big box stores.  We were shopping in the birdseed department and struck up a conversation with another couple.  They were buying dried meal worms and I asked them what birds they were feeding them to in the winter.  I feed my bluebirds meal worms but stop feeding as soon as fall approaches.  These people said they never stop feeding and their bluebirds stay all winter.  They said they have three males and two females feeding everyday.  Every year I can't wait for the middle of March to see the bluebirds return.  Who knew that they just lived up the road a few miles.  From now on I will provide food all year. 

These people also explained how they raise live meal worms.  I have done that in the past but gave up because it was too much work.  The method they use is very easy.  All it takes is a plastic container about 4 inches deep.  They get live worms, put them into the container, feed them oatmeal or cornmeal, let them go through the life cycle, take out the adult worms and start over again.  I may have to try this again.  As many of you know, I already have a red worm farm (see blog about Worm Farming-An Unusual Type of Farmer).  If I try raising meal worms, I will blog about it at a later time.

We have the bluebird houses close to our house so we can observe them easily.  Just beware of the House Wren.  Everyone thinks they are such nice little birds with a beautiful sound.  They are mean little devils that will fly into the bluebird house, pierce an egg and throw it on the ground.  I used to like the Wren but not any more.   I have observed their bad behavior in person.  Now we put wren guards over the birdhouse entry.  The bluebirds enter from the side and the wrens can't get in and out by going straight in.  It has been quite successful.

These are the first pair of bluebirds we attracted ten years ago.  Since then we have a couple of pair every year.  By now they are probably the great grandchildren of these two.  They usually have two and sometimes three broods a year.

The bluebird usually has 3-5 eggs.  They are light blue and the nest is made from pine straw and grasses.   The female laid one more egg in this nest before she began sitting on the eggs.   The color is a prettier light blue than this photo shows. 

Two baby bluebirds with their dad just after they fledged.  It looks like one of them is mouthing off.

This is the male bluebird that we had during the 2012 season.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ground Cherries Are All I Can Grow

As I sit here near the end of January, thoughts of spring filter into my head.  I'm looking forward to warmer temperatures and opening up the house.  I realized that I'm not looking forward to planting a garden. It isn't fun anymore.  Our trees have gotten so big we have very few areas that have sun and  we have tried to amend our sandy soil for years but it still isn't very fertile.   I made a decision, I'm not planting any vegetables this year, not even tomatoes.  Between the farmer's markets, friends and family, I get more than enough vegetables and none of the work.  I am going to concentrate on flowers and native plants..  They may look a little messy and not manicured, but the bees and birds love it that way and we should too.  No fertilizer on the yard either.  If it burns up and turns brown as it did last year, then that's how it should be.  I feel so liberated.

For those of you who start seeds this time of year, I have a helpful hint for tomato plants.  If you have a favorite tomato and want to start some plants for the next season, all I do is put the seeds onto a sheet of newspaper.  I spread them out, put them away in a dry location and forget about them.  Although sometimes if the tomato is a hybrid, you may get a very different type.  When the time comes to start the seeds, just get out the newspaper and cut around the seeds.  A lot of seeds can fit on a small piece of newspaper and the drying process makes them stick to the paper.   Plant the seed stuck to the paper by whatever means you use.  I like to plant in a paper/cardboard egg carton.  I punch a hole in each of the twelve sections for drainage, fill each compartment with starting soil, put the piece of paper with the seed, cover with a little more soil and water.  Then when the seedlings are big enough, cut apart the egg carton and plant the whole thing.  No need to disturb the plant.

I do have ground cherries that come up by themselves every year. I have no idea why they grow so well and are so hardy.   I am going to let them take over the garden space this year.  Last year I made ground cherry jam and it was wonderful.

To make the jam, I started out with three cups of ground cherries taken out of their paper husks. It will be the middle of September before they are ready.  You wash them well and them put into a kettle with 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup water and 1 box powdered pectin.

Bring them to a boil and when the ground cherries start to burst,  I put them into the blender with a two of overripe peaches.  There are a lot of seeds in ground cherries and the blending helps break down the seediness.  After they are blended, put them back into the kettle and return to a boil.  Then add three cups of sugar all at once and boil according to pectin package directions, usually 1-3 minutes.

Put in sterilized jars. Screw on lids and invert for 5 minutes then turn over and allow to cool until the  lids POP! That will mean the seal is tight.  I still store them in freezer and take out one jar at a time.
This recipe will make 3 medium jars or 6 small jars of jam.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Baked Cod for Supper

It was suggested to me that I should post a recipe on here now and then.  I know that recipes are easy to find online, so all I can do is post a meal that I have made.  I made this yesterday.  We usually go out for a Friday fish fry.  Fish fries are popular here is Wisconsin.  Almost every bar or restaurant has one.  I really don't like the deep fried version and it's not very healthy.  While talking to a cousin of mine, he shared with me how they make baked fish where he works.  It is so simple.  Here is the recipe along with what else we had for supper.  I really took it easy, but it tasted good.

Baked Cod

1 lb. of frozen cod fillets (Rogges Alaskan Cod are good and 80 calories for 4 oz.)
Olive oil
Seasoned salt

Thaw frozen fish in cold water and drain water.

Pat dry on a paper towel
Put some olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish
Layer fish fillets
More olive oil on the top of the fish
Sprinkle with seasoned salt

Then bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
Do not overbake.

Fried Potatoes

This isn't rocket science either.  Fried potatoes can be made with left over boiled potatoes, frozen hash browns (I like the southern style squares instead of shredded) or cut up you own potatoes and cube or slice (these are called raw fries).

Just put some olive oil in a frying pan and fry until potatoes are brown.

Then I heated up a can of stewed tomatoes.   

Cost for the meal was $2.85 person.  The average cost for a fish fry is $7.98 and up per person.
The fish was $6.99 a pound and I had a little less than a pound for 3 people.
The hash browns were $1.99 for the whole bag and I used about half for 3 people.
One can of stewed tomatoes were $.69 and that also fed 3 people.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Technology May Not Be Progress

In previous posts I have mentioned my Dad.  He is 88 years old and lives with us.  Almost a year ago my Mom passed away and due to poor eyesight dad was unable to live alone.  He is an easy going man who never talked very much.  My mom was the mouthpiece for the family.  As time goes by, he is talking more and today he told me a story I hadn't heard before.

Kids used to play outside and entertain themselves.  They used to make things and build things to play with.  My Dad told how he had a friend who was interested in airplanes.  They would build airplanes and play with them.  He and his friend once took scrap lumber and made a plane that was eight feet long.  It had a big wing span.  They would sit in it and pretend to fly.  Much later my Dad was in the Army Air Corp (became the Air Force in 1947) in World War II and flew 44 missions.  He certainly had his fill of flying after that experience. 

At the same time they were building airplanes, Dad decided that he wanted to make a kite.  You couldn't afford to just go to the store and buy one.  He said he got some sticks and some brown wrapping paper.  He attached the sticks together and covered it with the paper.  He can't remember how he attached the paper to the sticks, but he must have done a good job.  Then he tied rags on the bottom for a tail.  He said it worked beautifully.  There was a big hill across the road from his grandma's house.  He would stand on the hill and fly the kite.  Sometimes he would stake it out and it would fly all night.  One time it flew for a week.  Then one time he was able to get a new kite from the store.  He put it together but it never flew as well as the ones he would make.

My daughter took away all technology for the weekend and my grandchildren didn't know what to do with themselves.   They call it progress but I think we have lost something in the process.  Kids and many adults have a hard entertaining themselves.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Zote, What on Earth is Zote?

There are some disadvantages to living in the woods.  Even though we are technically living in the city, we don't have city sewer.  We have a septic tank and we have to be careful about putting too much water down the drain.  Therefore, I am not able to do several loads of laundry in one day.  I have to do one or two a day.  Today when doing some laundry I discovered that I am almost out of my laundry soap and fabric softener.

Most people these days are familiar with the homemade laundry detergent recipe.

Homemade Powder Laundry Detergent:

1 5.5 oz. Bar Shaved Soap (Fels Naptha or Ivory)

1 cup of Borax

1 cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda


Stir the ingredients together (after shaving the soap) and use 2 TBS per load of laundry. This method should work well in HE front loader washers as well since it is a low-suds formula.

Instead of Fels Naptha soap I am trying a product called Zote.  It smells so good. It smells like clean fresh soap and not perfume. Zote only costs $1.19 for a 14.1 ounce bar and makes a double batch. Because it comes in a bar just as Fels does, it has to be ground up.  There are many methods to do this like a cheese grinder, knuckle buster or blender.   Zote is a softer soap than Fels or Ivory so I cut the bar up in pieces, put it outside (or in the freezer) to get cold and ground it up in the blender.  I hope I got all the soap smell out of the blender or we will be blowing bubbles from our next smoothie. 

I cut the bar of soap in pieces and then ground the soap up in the blender.
Then I added the Borax and Washing Soda and blended it again to make a fine powder.

Now the fun begins.  I took my newly made laundry soap down to the laundry room and put a load of clothes into the washer.  Then I scooped 1 tablespoon of the new detergent in.  I didn't use any fabric softener because I wanted to see how it was without it.  An hour later I went down to throw the load into the dryer.  Oh my gosh, there was water on the floor, under the laundry tub and it had seeped a little into an adjoining bathroom.  I thought my new soap must be a complete failure but I couldn't imagine why.  I dried everything out with towels and fans.  Then later (remember I can do two loads a day) I thought I would try it again only this time stay and watch.  I loaded the machine and put the soap into the dispenser, turned it on and waited and waited and waited.  Imagine how painful that was for someone with my personality.  Nothing went wrong.  The machine went through all the cycles perfectly.  The clothes had no residue and smelled good when they came out.  I don't know how well it cleaned because most of our laundry isn't dirty, it just need freshening up.  Who knows what had happened but it seems to have resolved itself.  Stay tuned, I will report if this soap turns out to be a failure but it looks and smells good so far.

Homemade Fabric Softener

6 cups water
3 cups white vinegar
2 cups Suave Hair Conditioner (any inexpensive hair conditioner will do)

This recipe can also be cut in half because it make a lot.
1. Mix water, vinegar, and hair conditioner in a 1 gallon container; stir. Do not shake it; it will cause foaming.
2. Use the same amount you normally use in a rinse cycle or spritz it on a wash cloth and throw in dryer.