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Friday, May 29, 2009


I'm on the neverending search for a walking foot so I can finish my jeans quilt. I bought one, it didn't have bracket. It had a half bracket to fit on my machine, the lower half. Of course it wouldn't stay screwed in place. I took it back.

I bought another walking foot. It was made with a whole bracket. But it requires that I have a longer screw to hold the arm and the needle. I have to take it back. sigh.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Wandering around our house

Yesterday I divided some hostas before the rain came (and stayed for hours). I walked to the side of the house to decide where the lilies of the valley would go once the plant exchange occurred. On my way back, I was startled by this little guy, a baby robin. The younger half of GAIN and I watched this young robin for a while. He (how do you tell the gender?) still had some downy feathers and a pretty short tail. If you enlarge the photo by clicking, you may see the "ear tuft," which is down. We found downy feathers on his back and sides as well.

We read about the short tail in _Handbook of Nature Study_ and smirked as we watched him off and on for the next hour -- he was obviously new to flying, but made it to the backyard. He did more sitting still than anything else. I enjoyed listening to the kids giggle and talk while they watched the backyard activities through their binoculars. And praised the Lord that they were not fighting.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wandering in the yard

I've mentioned centraliowaplantexchange recently (my last post and the one before). Today, I have another story from that group. Someone wanted sun-loving hostas. Her son-in-law was laid off, his deck needs plants, you get the idea.

My hostas are not specifically sun-loving. Here they are after I removed some for for tonight's exchange. They used to grow under a pin oak tree, which was taken down in 2000. It was mostly dead. Pin oaks are not native and commonly suffer from iron deficiency. There was visible evidence of past iron staking. I know the former owners went to great lengths to save it via iron supplements (BIL and his wife were close with the kids of the family), but it was too sick to keep. The hostas now live in full sun and look great most of the time, a little crunchy in August, but overall, they look great.

One of my goals is to shrink my lawn mowing space. Rationale: we have approximately ten more years of lawn-mowing children in the house, then the responsibility moves to Mr. GAIN and me. Our bodies will be ten years older by then, hopefully in good health, but you never know. I have wanted to alter the north yard for a while, and began planting there three years ago. Lamium, solomon's seal, one brunnera (after a multi-year search), and lily of the valley currently grow there. The goal is to decrease labor around the window wells. Talk about a pain in the neck. I'd like to have one "mower pass" up this side of the house and one pass returning down and nothing else in the end. But for the cost of plants.

I offered my hostas for a barter, which is scheduled to occur this evening. I have split these hostas twice and you cannot tell. They keep growing back big and full. She offered ferns, lily of the valley, and/or chives. I declined the ferns. Ferns, hostas, and grasses are plants that I don't take. Chives would be great for the front yard. Mine were recently divided and aren't ready for another round of splitting yet. Lily of the valley would be great for the north yard since mine haven't filled in yet. I just bought and planted them in Fall 2008.

Today ought to be a good day for planting. Both of my rain barrels are newly full and we're not having strong sun and heat. I just brought home baby hellebores and red oaks from a homeschooling friend yesterday. We'd like a red oak to become our new shade tree since the pin oak left us (major factors over the years include city rules and the game "Money, May I?") . We're planting five trees for safety, hoping for two to survive. This photo is one of the hellebores. I'd planned to put them under the redbud that we planted two falls ago. Funny aside: The donor family has their hellebores growing under redbuds, too! I guess great minds think alike.

A hibiscus from my dad's wife. Dug up early in the season, with hopes to gift to my MIL for Mother's Day. Her favorite plant (don't ask why). It looked dead on Mother's Day. In the last two weeks, though, it has shown signs of life. Maybe this is now a gift for Father's Day?

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Wandering in the Garden

I'm very pleased to have my rain barrels full for this dry week. My new transplants and dirty van appreciate the water and washing, I appreciate the price.

My veggies are doing well. I've got peas growing up an unused return net from our softball and baseball days. (It didn't get used much then, either.) This is a new patch of ground. Mr. GAIN and I are the only ones in the house who eat peas.

My potatoes are doing well. Garlic, onion, tomatoes are also in this bed. I have more potatoes in another bed. You can see the compost heaped around the plant -- from the bottom of my cold composting heap.

I can have a lettuce salad soon. I think the unpredictable picture rotation is how blogger shows its love for me. Garlic also in this picture.

I also planted bush beans, but something (I'm thinking slugs) eats the leaves as soon as they emerge. Once the lettuce is finished, I plan to move the bunny fence to protect some pole beans. I have not had good luck with beans in that bed ever. Why did I think this year might be different?

"I" of GAIN decided yesterday in the high heat of the afternoon that she wanted a garden of her own. Tomatoes (free from Campbell Soup), yellow summer squash, and zucchini or cukes (I don't remember which -- has to be the heat). The American Girl books probably inspired her.

Strawberries. We've had one or two berries every day this week, but I expect three cups every day in a couple weeks.

Coreopsis Moonbeam. This grew a little every day this week from tiny stems to what you see here. I could really see growth every day, which was fun for me. Its pale yellow flowers will be a wonderful sight all summer long.

Irises from centraliowaplantexchange, an offshoot of the DMMetroReUseIt Network, run as a yahoo group. I have more in the back yard. I am really trying to develop my back yard and north side yard.

In the shady part of the side yard, I divided some lamium (purple flowers and silver-and-green leaves) and lily of the valley this week. The Solomon's Seal has multiplied nicely (some transplanted from the homeplace and some purchased). The Jack Frost Brunnera (I labored to find it for two years) that was lovely last year has not shown itself yet. I accidentally found its taproot while putting in the lamium -- it appears to be alive but not visible above ground. I am hoping that the plantings will fill in enough by the end of this year to make mowing the area around the window wells unnecessary.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Did list

not a to-do list, but past tense, a 'did list.'

Since the kids have their dual enrollment classes (art and science) until June, we're still tied to a loose school schedule. We've learned about Japan closing itself off to foreigners (we think there used to be urban legends like, "My grandpa once saw a white person!") and are reading _Hachiko Waits_ aloud for the second time in GAIN Academy's existence.

I thinned my purple coneflowers. I started with one plant, and now have five. You seriously cannot tell that I removed plants. I also put my lambs ear (Stachys "Big Ears") up on centraliowaplantexchange. Bartering rocks. The irises that I mentioned yesterday (at least half of them) came through this group. Hopefully the black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia Goldsturm) pulls through for the people I bartered with. It is a summer prairie bloomer, so we will not know for a month or so.

I also figured out where to move the strawberries come July, but with the younger two still using the front lawn for play (thank you homeschooling! at the grand old ages of 8 and 11, I am very pleased to have them play there and still remember how to play), I'm not sure about my idea. We're limited with all the tree roots in the backyard and the orientation of the lot. I really do not want to use the easement, lest someone think that our produce, lovingly cared for daily, is free for the taking. And erecting a fence for the easement is going too far. I guess I have a month to decide.


Sunday, May 17, 2009


*** edited to include photos ***

Of note:

1. Two new denim potholders in the works. I just need to bind them.

2. New prayer shawl slowly getting done. It will contain the leftovers of all the Lion Homespun yarn that I own.

3. 'N' of GAIN found morel mushrooms in our yard! we've never seen them in our yard. ever. ten years. never seen before. Story: he's mowing the backyard. he makes one pass along the fence, shuts the mower off, and runs through the house looking for me, (I'm in the front yard.) yelling for me to come quick. everyone is in alarm but me (I can't hear him since i'm in the front yard), thinking that something is wrong. 'g' of gain thinks maybe he injured his foot. 'a' of gain thinks he ran over a branch that we missed during yard clean-up and broke the mower. mr. gain has no idea what is going on, but it must be bad -- you don't want to hear your child to say anything like 'come quick' when he's running the mower. by the time N gets to me, he says, 'I found morel mushrooms! Come look!' Three big ones, in our backyard. They were too old to eat, but oh so cool to find.

4. We have a yellow bee-eating bird in our yard. Flycatcher is my guess, but I see no wing bars or eye ring. it's odd. In this photo, it's sitting on the wooden fence.

5. The bees are doing well. a little burr comb, but very manageable. no scale, no mites (as thought earlier).

6. plantings are doing well. I moved lilacs from the homeplace to the front and back yards, thinned lamb's ear (stachys 'big ears') and moved to the mailbox (a school bus hit the neighbor's mailbox last year), and thinned the daylilies and moved to pots. so far, all the bulbs I bought from the Botanical Center last fall have come up, except the fall blooming crocuses. irises from friends and family are just beginning to bloom. *** update: the lilacs in the front yard are being eaten by a rabbit. I wasn't sure that I wanted in the front anyway. ***

7. My baby turns 15 this week! Here she is with her bees. She also ate the first strawberry of the season this afternoon. We will be flush with berries. Currently they are difficult to harvest, so we're looking for a tiller so we can move them to be more practically placed in the yard.

I have no idea what the deal is with the keyboard and mouse tonight, so if there are letters missing or improperly cased or in the middle of a random word, I blame the hardware. I'm just too fast for everything to keep up with me.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Field Trip

Homeschool group on a field trip. (Mostly) grass-eating, pasture-wandering cattle.

You see Holsteins in all of these photos. The family at Picket Fence Creamery (PFC) also keeps Jersey cattle, and I have pictures of them, too, but I haven't asked permission of everyone in those photos to post here. Jerseys are a smaller, brown breed. PFC milk is suggested frequently in a colleague's new-ish blog, Simply Food, Nothing Extra. It was recently mentioned in reference to homemade yogurt.

Luckily, we stayed dry during our time there. Unluckily, my younger kids are not used to being out of the house as early as 8:45 a.m. (lucky dogs, I know), so we had to work through a crabby time this afternoon.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Shopping Trip

In honor of my sister at Learning the Frugal Life, I post this photo of tonight's shopping trip.

Details on the essentials:

Kellogg's cereal $1.58/box - $1 coupon/box = $0.58/box -- I bought 7 boxes with a rain check from last week. They were _always_ out whenever I checked last week.

vanilla Silk half gallon $3.79 - $3.79 peelie from a Kashi special pack - $.038 HealthMarket discount (10% off every Wed.)

honey ham (at $3.99/lb.) $4.47 -- why buy meat in the plastic boxes? They start around $9/lb.

Details on the non-essentials:

Side plates 4/$5 -- found in the sale cart.

Quaker Chewy Granola Bars, box of ten $2.00

ice cream (birthday tomorrow) $0.99

I also got a free RedBox movie (promo code 5hyvee5 until 5/15).

Total before coupons and discounts: $37.73
Total after coupons and discounts: $15.02


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Candles for the Homeless

I heard about Joppa Ministries through a homeschooling colleague. Joppa serves the homeless. I learned that homeless people need candles. Since I used to teach candle making when we first moved here, I have candle making supplies taking up space in my basement. It's difficult for me to throw good supplies away. So I happily had the kids help me make candles last night, which are a big need for the homeless.

This morning, everyone tore one candle mold to unveil a candle. Destructive candle molds are fun. We will probably make more than what you see here. I have a lot of supplies. Fortunately, all the wax was paid for long ago by my employer, and it is now being put to good use for a charitable cause.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I'll be in the neighborhood of another quilt store today. Hopefully I'll find a walking foot that has a hook, allowing it to rest on the screw. Foot designers should understand gravity. Even if I were not an engineer by training, I think this would be obvious.

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Friday, May 1, 2009


Noting that the pot holders shown in my earlier post are not on etsy. The borders are now made from longer, wider strips of fabric -- much neater and cleaner looking, less bumpy.

my shop:

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Jeans Quilt

Jeans quilt still waiting to be finished. I bought an even pressure foot at a local quilting supply store, but the foot did not stay attached to my sewing machine. The machine has a screw to hold the foot in place, and works well when there is a member above and below the screw. The foot I bought had a member below, but not above. It jiggled its way off every time I tried to use it!