Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cotton Harvest

Yes, it is Christmas day and I am posting a blog.
In mid-May, I started growing cotton plants. I wanted to know how much cotton I could get from a small plot (8 ft by 15 ft). This is the area in my sub-urban (BURB) quarter acre plot that didn't have planter beds and fruit trees. It was an area close to the house to get reflected sun for more warmth and light. And it had been bare for sometime waiting for the longed-for hot tub, one that probably will never happen.
So, I decided to experiment and grow my own cotton to spin. I wanted to know how much water it really takes and if all the chemical stuff was really necessary. What is the difference between Upland and Pima, or Alcala and Fox? Is it possible for a home burb farmer to raise enough spin fiber to actually make something?
So the adventure started.
I found that the cotton patch- intensively planted- grew well in my area using about as much water as a lawn. I would deep water one time per week, which is a bit less than I water the lawn in front. So for me, the cotton did not take any  more time or water than a lawn or regular shrubbery. It is also possible to use gray waste water from the sink, from washing fleece and from house run off. Because it is deep watering, you don't use a sprinkler and don't need lots of pressure. Much of the water I used was recycled from my sink and fleece washing. We didn't get enough rain to divert run-off.
I also found that the fertilizer I needed was not any more than I used for my trees and vegetable garden. Nothing special. I fertilized at planting, then at three weeks, and again at 6 weeks. Then nothing. The plants were growing like gangbusters.
Pesticide- none. This was to be totally organic in that no pesticides were used and only organic fertilizers. We would just have to see what bugs presented themselves.
Many of the seeds proved to be fertile and sprouted. Some sprouted quickly, others taking much longer. Some didn't sprout for a couple of months. This presented a problem in harvest expectation. How long was this going to take? The commercial information I had researched suggested that the crop is done at the end of 6 months - which would be before Thanksgiving. Other areas start planting in March and are done in September. I realized I had waited a bit too long to plant, but we usually have a warm fall so I was not too worried.
I found that I had a predominance of Pima plants, with a second level of Upland and a few Alcala. This was obvious in that the Pima plants grew very tall and more tree like, while the Upland and Alcala were shorter bushes. After some of the bolls developed, I could tell the Alcala from the Upland.
Alcala plants are short and bushy. Many branches and slightly fuzzy leaves with three lobes (usually). They were late to sprout, late to bloom, and produced a few bolls of brownish white short staple cotton with fuzzy seeds. The cotton sticks to the seeds and leaves a fuzzy layer on the seed. This plant was still growing and blooming in November and may be able to winter over here. We will have to see.
Upland- I loved this plant- is shortish and gangly. Not really bushy with smooth leaves, usually 3 lobes, and made lots of bolls. It bloomed and did well in the shade of the taller Pima. It made much more cotton than the Alcala and it made it faster. Even though these plants were still green and growing, I harvested the bunch and pulled the plants out in October. I need to make a bed just for these babies. They are great plants. The cotton staple is long and white. It blooms on time and does well in this climate. There was almost no bug activity. I can see why it is the national favorite.
I was able to get about 20 grams of fiber and about 60 grams of seed from the few upland plants. And about 5 grams of fiber from the Alcala.
Upland Cotton is a great plant to mix into your landscape and grow as an annual. Not all areas are allowed to grow cotton, but if you can- it is worth the time and water.
I will write about Pima in my next blot. Right now- time to bake cookies.
Spin well and be happy.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


It is that time of year- Autumn, Pumpkins, cool nights finally, and I can turn on the oven or stove without passing out from the heat. So, I bought (!!!, not grew?) two pie pumpkins and one kabocha squash. I was planning ahead for the entire winter pumpkin experience.
Today, way before the Halloween thing, I decided to cook and package up my pumpkins. I just happened to have a little time and the rest of the month looks really messy. I baked both pie pumpkins, and the Kabocha, and then the seeds. It takes about 1 1/2 hours to bake the pumpkins. But it takes about an hour to get the ready to bake. First you cut them in half-  with a long, sharp, strong knife. Then you scoop out the seeds, separate the stringy stuff and wash the seeds. Then you lay the pumpkin halves cut side down in a baking pan. I had 6 halves, so it took up the entire oven. I bake them at about 350f for about 1 1/2 hours. When they all have cooled, I scrape out the cooked pumpkin pulp into my food processor and blend it 50/50 with the Kabocha pulp. 4 loads of it. With the Kabocha, you need to add about 1/4 cup water to the mix (total of 1 cup because there were 4 loads). The Kabocha squash is much dryer than the pumpkin pulp. But it has a nice texture in the pie and soup. And I like the look of it.
So now I have 4 batches of this pulp, and I put it through the food mill, just to make sure there are no little stringy parts or lumps. And it helps blend it together. My sink is now full of dirty dishes. Food processor parts, baking pans, spoons, food mill, and knife. I usually take a moment now to wash up. Whew!
Zipper bags are the best thing ever. I write in permanent marker on the bag- pumpkin, '12, 2C. Then, I fill the bags with about 2 cups of pulp- this weighs about 1 pound one ounce.
This particular batch of pulp got me 5 large bags and one small bag- 5 1/2 pounds of not yet pumpkin pie. Most of the recipes call for 2 cups of pumpkin pulp for a large pie. My soup recipe calls for 1 cup of pulp for 1 quart of soup. I use a little more sometimes. So I am set now for 3 pies and 5 quarts of soup over the year. Time to put it in the Freezer.
BUT WAIT- what is this? There are still 2 bags from last year. How did this happen?
I am afraid to search further, for fear of finding even older bags back in the corner of the freezer.
For some reason, I feel I must make a pumpkin batch every year, but we are not eating as much pie as we used to. I remember throwing away almost 1/2 of a pie last year. There may be a frozen pie in the freezer too.
I think I will just go for the soup this year, or Pumpkin bread. Or even pumpkin pancakes. Pumpkin muffins? Time to hit the cook books and find some use for all this pumpkin. I'll get back to you when I find something to do with all this pulp. Right now, I have to go do a bunch of dishes.

Monday, July 9, 2012


Every year I am confronted by excess produce. Sometimes we have tomatoes, or peaches or apples. This year, the farmer's market had the most beautiful young cucumbers and they spoke to me. They said, "Pickle me." So I did. I have a couple of one gallon glass jars. One is stuffed with pickling cucumbers and grape leaves. The other one just got stuffed with sliced cabbage for some sourkraut.

I also have a counter full of peaches wanting to become cobbler or ice cream. My apple tree makes a large number of apples in the spring/summer. My plan was to make vinegar, but my recipes say that summer apples don't have a high enough sugar content for vinegar. I have found that sugar content is definitely related to sun light. When the sky is clear- peaches are sweet. Apples are sweet. This year has been remarkably clear and the peaches are delicious. Maybe some peach vinegar.

So why the pickles and vinegar. Well, I can only have so much sweet stuff before my health crashes. I need some of that other stuff to balance out the system. Vegetables and fruits can be preserved in so many ways and pickles are very easy to do. Just some salt, a dash of vinegar, and raw veggies- pickles. Ok, there is that time period where they sit on the counter and ferment. But it doesn't take long. Ok, it takes about two weeks, but in glacial time that is nothing.

Now you ask, "What will you do with a gallon of pickles?". I hope you did ask that. I will give some to my friends and relatives. But mostly I will eat them. It is amazing how quickly I can go through a jar of really crunchy pickles. The last batch had 4 large cucumbers and is down to one. The second batch is still on the counter fermenting. I love to nibble cold pickles with my sandwiches. And my daughter has put in a request for a few, too.

I also eat fresh cucumbers in my salads. But the pickle process goes back in time and makes me feel as one with the history of food.

We hear so much today about excess salt in our diets. But it wasn't always that way. The methods of preserving meat and vegetables with salt was critical to the survival of people. The salty foods were then used to provide all the "salt" in a cooked dish. People didn't really have the luxury of "salt" at the table. Salt was too precious to use in that way. When the foods were made into meals, the preserving salt was part of the salt of the dish. And the water from the pickles was used again for more pickles or for other dishes like salad dressings or soups. The salt in the water was precious, too.

In our current economy, we don't need to make our own pickles. The store is full of pickles. And salt is cheap. But the process and the history calls to me and I must go. I want to continue to make these lovely items for my table. I want to learn to preserve my produce in all kinds of different ways. I also have a desire to make some sweet pickle relish from some of the fermented pickles. I want to make some that doesn't have corn syrup in it.  I don't digest corn syrup well and can't find any pickle relish with no corn syrup. For me, making relish with my own pickles seems like a good solution. I also make my own jams and jellies with no corn syrup added. I like having control over my food content and canning at home provides me with some very nice products- just the way I like them.

So- here is the pickle recipe:
Kosher Not Dill Pickles
About 2 pounds of small, very fresh cucumbers (not more than a day from the vine)
12 young grape leaves
4 cloves of garlic
Brine solution (3/4 cup kosher salt, 1 gallon water, 1 cup white vinegar)

Bring the water to a boil and add salt. Stir until dissolved. Turn off heat and let it cool. Add vinegar. This is the brine solution.
Wash the cucumbers well. Make sure there are no damaged areas. Wash the grape leaves. In a one gallon jar, put 4 grape leaves in the bottom, then two garlic cloves on the grape leaves. Fit one row of cucumbers into the jar on their ends (standing  up) until they are snug and stand by themselves. Now layer with 4 grape leaves, two garlic cloves and another layer of cucumbers. Final layer is grape leaves. Fill the jar with the brine to 3/4 inch from the top. Place a weight on the grape leaves to hold the cucumbers under the brine. Cover the top with a cloth and rubber band. Let sit on the counter in 70 degree F weather (no sunlight) for a week. Skim the scum off the surface daily after the first week. The scum is a yeast product from the fermentation. It helps but needs to be removed daily for about two weeks. At the three week mark, the pickles are done and go into the refrigerator to be eating right from the jar. They will last two months. But you can process them to last longer without refrigeration.
Hot process- Sterilize 4 one quart jars. Distribute the cold pickles into the hot jars. Toss the grape leaves. Boil the brine solution with the garlic cloves. Put one cooked garlic into each jar. Add one new, small, washed grape leaf to each jar. Pour the boiling brine over the pickles leaving 1/2 inch at the top. Apply lids and caps. Process in hot water bath for 15 minutes. Cool on a rack before storing. Refrigerate after opening.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hole in my Head

This morning my incredibly funny husband remarked that he had a house sized hole in his head. This is because we finally sold, and closed on, his parent's estate house. We couldn't be happier about this.
In January, when the burden fell to us to handle the estate, it seemed like the most dangerous mountain climb in the world. Title issues, attorneys, financial planners and stock brokers, combined with mountains of personal detritus and dubious garage equipment made every step a wild adventure. And pretty costly, too. Years of abuse and neglect of the house caused numerous repairs to present themselves. Termites were just a little issue. And in the sorting/tossing phase a mountain of memorabilia slid into our garage.
All the regular daily activities continue during this process and some irregular activities as well. But this morning, when E woke up, 5 days after the close of escrow, he began to feel an empty spot where the burden of the home had rested for the last 6 months. Compressed and bruised, his brain is slowly springing back to its normal configuration. The hole will fill in soon with all the stuff of life. Nature abhors a vacuum. But for the moment, just the release of pressure, the size of a house, has caused a giddy feeling.
Unfortunately, a dent in his brain will always be there just a little. Events like this just leave a permanent mark on you. But the bulk of his brain will bounce back and recover. I am looking forward to that bounce.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Ground

This month, E and I are breaking new ground in our marriage. We are becoming "Land Lords". Even though we have more than one house at the moment, we have never owned anything that would become a rental property. We currently are trying to sell the house that E's family left in the estate and it is in Escrow at the moment. We are hoping that it actually closes soon.
But to complicate our  lives, we decided that we needed to buy a condo near San Diego State College so that our last fledgling could have a more stable housing situation. And only one roommate. That means we will be needing to rent out a room to another student until she finishes school. Then it would become a regular rental property for some long period of time.
I got notice today that the property recorded and we are the official owners. Whoohoo! Now I need to furnish it. Then I need to move  the little bird into the new nest. Then find her a roommate. Then... the fun never ends.
But it has a pool and jacuzzi and I plan on visiting often.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fertility Rituals

Every year, I anticipate the garden season and try to figure out what is best for each type of plant in my "zone". I am often confounded and wrong about the season here. We live in a coastal climate that imitates a Mediterranean climate in many ways. I am able to grow many of the normal plants found there, like dill, anise, fennel, garlic and onions. If I plant in December, I can grow lettuce, but it is too warm by the end of April for lettuces. I have sometimes been successful with celery if I water enough. My other plants are grapes, figs, and peaches. Occasional apricots happen here. And I have blueberries in boggy pots. We have grown macadamia nuts in abundance, but only marginal asparagus. Citrus, we have it. And every type of weed you can imagine.
But trying to get beans or cucumbers is almost impossible. And melon or squash, well lets just hit ourselves with sticks. The wet nights just mildew everything.
So this year, I decided to try something really different- cotton. I cleaned out a low dirt area that was the hottest spot in the yard. I turned the soil and added amendments. I used fertilizer abundantly and watered the sandy mass deeply. When the soil attained the desired 60 degrees F, I planted seeds of dubious quality.
Some of the seeds looked really good. I had picked the cotton lint off the seeds myself and they were this year's seeds from a woman at the weaver's barn. They were plump and firm. Then I had some that I received as a gift in the mail. They were natural brown cotton and may have been stored for at least a year. They may have been squished a bit too.  And lastly, I had some seeds from cotton that had been stored for a couple of years. I picked the lint off of them too, but they looked a bit shriveled and dry.
The growing instructions suggested three seeds in each hole- 1 foot apart in rows. This is a good test- one of each seed went into every hole. Water deeply. Silent prayer for warm weather.
My area is known world wide for June Gloom and May gray. The temperature hovers just under 60f and it drizzles often. Nights are cool and windy. More prayers for warm soil.
The instructions suggested that two weeks would pass before the seeds sprouted, and to water them well when they were up about four inches tall. At the end of day 5, the first plants emerged. I have never seen a baby cotton plant, so I can't be sure, but they look like they were in the hole spot and seem to be in rows like I planted them.
The worry and frustration with the weather, rains, storms, bugs, animal disruption, and soil quality must have driven the ancient farmers crazy. Each year,  the guess about when to plant, how to fertilize, were the seeds viable, can we keep the wild pigs out- it is mind boggling. And now, with the passage of the ages, I don't even know what god they prayed to for cotton crops. I have to rely on science and the farmer's almanac.
So today, I went to my cotton bed and had a little talk with it. Who would know best about growing than the plant itself. We talked about fertility of the soil and I asked it to tell me if it needed anything. We discussed the weather and I told them that I just didn't have  any control over it, but had chosen the warmest spot and would do my best. Then I told them that I would water them every three days because the soil was very sandy and didn't hold water well regardless of how much mulch I used. I suggested that they could show me if they were needing water by bowing down a bit- you know, body language. And if they looked a bit moldy, I could hold back on the water.
We tried to come to some agreement on the communication but, I just don't think they were paying any attention to me.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Year of the Cowboy

There is a wild west element in my life lately. That kind of shoot from the hip, caution to the wind, wild and free stuff is all around me.
When I am looking at a home made spinning wheel, I first look for something that had true, talented craftsmanship and an understanding of the actual use of the end product. Many of the old wheels don't have many available replacement parts or ways to fix stuff. The weirder they are, the less likely they will actually make yarn even under the most skilled hands. Just turning some wood and sticking the parts together doesn't make a good wheel. Or even a good display wheel. These thrown together cowboy wheels are about people just making something that looks close enough, but doesn't really get the job done.
Now, granted, real cowboys actually rounded up the cattle and drove them to market. They had a job to do and worked hard at it. But what most of us think about when we imagine a cowboy, is the Movie Cowboy- all for show, special wardrobe, fake gun, trained horse. Some of these actors could actually ride a real horse. They might even be able to shoot a real gun. But they probably would be lost around a real cow.
This issue of 'quality product that can really do the job' transfers from spinning wheels to other real aspects of life. I want a stove that really works, a car that really runs, and clothes that really fit. I want a house that is built to stand up in a storm with windows and roof that keep the rain out. Lately, I have been running into products that just don't do the job- dishwasher that doesn't clean dishes, vacuum that doesn't suck the stuff up, cleaning products that can't get the grease off, screw driver that destroys itself while removing a screw.
I think this is the reason we all want to have some "quality control" in the items we buy. We want consumer reports and feed back on the web. We want to let the junky, ineffective products languish while we only get the good, well built stuff. And this is especially true when we buy very expensive items. It is hard to pay good money for something of questionable quality. Even getting something free, when it might be dangerously built is not worth the risk. We want UL approval.
E's father tinkered in the garage and built many tools. He was a cowboy. He built stuff then used it, then left it and moved on to the next item. His garage is full of questionable, possibly dangerous, stuff. A rock tumbler, a spot welder (220v), a metal milling machine. Frankly, I am afraid to plug any of it in. The wall could catch on fire. The item might explode. I might explode. For those of us who question the safety and quality of the items, I can say, "there was no quality control testing here."
That brings us to the end destination of some items like these. What do you do with a garage full of unsafe, home built, old and dirty, most likely dangerous tools and machines? What do you do with old, poorly build, not actually functional spinning wheels? Well, the wheels go into the bonfire, but the old machinery gets to go to the scrap heap for metal recycling. It is a sad thing, but really, I am afraid to plug it in and turn it on. I value what is left of my life and now I don't heal all that well anymore.
Next week, the scrap metal truck comes. When it leaves it will be full. My job is to dismantle most of what is left in the garage so that it can get to the truck. Wish me luck. This is not a job for the faint of heart. With my tool belt strapped on, I will climb a ladder and start to undo 25 years of creative fantasy, one knob at a time until parts crash to the floor. And when the job it done, there will be a silent prayer of thanks that no one exploded.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Wrapping It Up

It has been a very long trial. Not the kind you read about in the paper, or the kind Judge Judy hears, but an Endurance Trial, like a marathon. This started about 8 years ago and is not yet over, but it getting close. It is the decline and care of my husband's parents of which I speak.
I was not long married to Eduard, only a couple of years, when his parents started to come undone. First his father was diagnosed with Emphysema. He refused to quit smoking or use the oxygen regularly. He didn't like the lung meds and generally just ignored his condition. But it got worse fast, and soon he was having a hard time breathing without the oxygen. At one point he caught his face on fire while smoking with the oxygen on. He did finally quit smoking about 1 1/2 years before he died, but at that point, he was a total mess. His brain started to die from lack of oxygen, his lungs stopped transferring CO2 out and then it was over in 2009. That was only 5 years after the diagnosis.
In the meantime, mom in law developed colon cancer. There were operations, chemo, radiation, lots of xrays and MRIs, tests. She started in 2006 and we told her we would be there to see her through it. She made it to remission in 2008. The colon cancer had spread to her lungs and the forecast was bleak, but she was fighting hard and things looked up. Even still, she smoked like an old car- 3 cartons per week. After FIL died, MIL traveled to Oregon, went out to dinner some, but didn't really get out much. She seemed to be waiting to die even though her health was improved. In 2011, the cancer in the lungs started to grow again.
The choice of more Chemo pretty much destroyed MIL's body functions. In August she chose hospice care and went to bed to wait for the end. We visited daily, hired 24 hr. care, ran all the errands and shopping, started repairs on the house. She had a brief upturn in health, then a rather quick and continuous slide down. It ended in January.
Well, it ended for her, but we were still doing stuff. We have now gotten almost all of the work on the house done, things tossed or donated or retrieved. We have interviewed real estate agents and are prepared to sell off the assets. There are a few big items left to clean out of the garage, but for the most part, we are looking at getting our life back.
But what will that life be? I am weary to my bones from the work and disruption. I want to go someplace and just relax for a month and try to find my center again. I have a year's worth of work here, just on the yard, projects that have been on hold, people I need to contact, things to do, places to go, sheep to meet. Where is my ordinary world? How do I start putting my life back together?
It was a couple of years back that I started cleaning out and tossing old stuff. Now the garage is full again of things I don't recognize. Please tolerate this mess while I try to recover, find the floor, and clean my refrigerator and shower. Like the other house, all I can do is start at the front door and move from room to room until it is done. Hopefully, it will get done and there will be time for the hammock before the summer is gone. You have all been wonderfully patient and I appreciate that.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Time Warp

There was a time when people who were shocked by the fast pace of change used the phrase- future shock. It is when you step off the plane from Kansas and find yourself in downtown New York. Everything has jumped forward about 50 years. It is disorienting.
So Eduard and I went out on a date on Sunday. We have been buried in work on his estate issues and our own life has been on hold for months. We needed to escape to something quick and close. We went to the movies- you know, the theater where you can see a new movie before you down load it on cheepflicks/netshows/blockbummer- later in the month. To be painfully frank, we haven't been in a movie theater together for about 4 years. I think he went on a work escape one time during that last 4 years, but it has been a long time for him, too.
We went to see "Mirror, Mirror"- a children's (and a bit of adult) movie. Because they had great costumes, and it had some of my favorite stars playing bit parts, but mostly because we just needed to get away and it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The disorientation started as we approached the building- there was no place to buy tickets. No guard at the door. Just walk in. There was a full alcohol bar that took up about 2/3 of the lobby and the area where the ticket office used to be was now a space age lounge. There was a computerized ticket kiosk on the wall and a small area where you could buy tickets with one helpful agent. We waited in line because we were confused.
When we got to the "agent" we ordered two tickets for Mirror- we had to select our seats from the few that remained. We chose the very back wall for that privacy you get when avoiding a child packed theater, but I have never chosen a seat for a "movie" before. Eduard offered a $20 bill and the agent stared at him. The tickets cost $34.50. He had to grope around in his wallet for another $20 bill. I was staring at the food area, trying not to notice his embarrassment.
They had gourmet popcorn- you know, the kind with chocolate dribbled on and coconut and nuts. And cheesecake. And sushi. And a variety of wild coffee drinks. You could get chocolate fondue with fresh fruit to dip or donuts. Somewhere on the menu was some regular popcorn, but it was buried in fine print, no pictures. Don't forget that full alcohol bar. There is a margarita waiting in there for you, to go with the gourmet nachos.
We slipped past the food and headed for the theater. Finally, we found the guard who checked tickets. He directed us to our theater. It was empty and the show started in about 10 minutes. I remembered looking at the seating chart, and was able to find our seats without help. A few other patrons wandered in behind us with the waiters. Every thing was black except for the table lamps between pairs of seats. The seats were fully reclining leather like lounge chairs- automatic, too. There was a little bottom lighted table tray between the seats to rest your food on and a lamp. The arm of the chair had a cup holder. The waiters were dressed in inconspicuous black and took your order quietly as people wandered into the room. There was a menu and drink list on the table tray- we looked.
Eduard and I decided that we would order some outrageous coffee drinks if the waiter made it up to the last row before the movie started. Fortunately, he did not. Then a group of children and a couple of parents clambered loudly into the section next to us- one of the young ones wanted the sushi and the parents ordered it. I took out my knitting for comfort.
As the house lights dimmed just a bit, the waiters delivered the food to the comfortable guests and the "previews of coming attractions" filled the screen- for 30 minutes. Too dark to knit, too weird to get comfortable, too light for the main movie, too loud to chat. I realized that this additional time would stretch my bladder but I didn't have time to go before the show- damn!
When the show ended, we exited last and climbed the stairs to the restrooms. I was really glad that I had not ordered that coffee drink. The upper floor was fully dressed with seating in clear plastic tables and chairs to a view over the railing- glass wall construction. Down below, the afternoon crowd was filling the bar with a big screen tv above showing previews, bites of sports, and some of the latest fashion. In between bites, there were little commercials about the grand theater company and how they loved their audience.
Eduard- we are not in Kansas anymore.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Life Can Be Scary

I think about those scared straight programs, and some of the education programs that teach kids what their lungs look like when they smoke. What they really need to do with young kids is to make them clean a house that has had 50+ years of smoking in it. The yellow brown gak rolling off the walls as you try to wash off the sticky goo of smoke debris makes me gag and wretch.
Today, I was cleaning the lamp globes from the MIL house and the sickening brown ooze came off with muscle, toxic cleanser, and a wire brush. Kiddies, just imagine your lungs and the snot in your sinuses oozing brown sludge into your stomach and intestines. No wonder she died of colon cancer and he of lung disease.
The living room has a lovely Tiffany lamp over the dining room. It was so brown that I was not aware it had any value at all. When I started to clean it, the brown glass turned white. It has a most beautiful design and artwork. It weighs a ton, too. This is a real Tiffany and you would never have known due to the years of crud and goo.
Every window was coated, every wall, every fixture, every inch of the house needed to be cleaned with heavy duty chemicals.
Children, if you smoke, you will die an awful death in a depressing and filthy environment. No one will want to be with you in the haze. And the family that has to clean up your mess will resent you.
There! the rant is starting to let some of the trauma out. Even though I have worked and cleaned and hired help, I can't get the stench and gag me memory out of my head.
Next Rant- dog piss in the house. Different mother, but distressing nonetheless.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New Loom, Just can't get enough

I bought a not so new loom.
And I am working hard to get it cleaned up and operational. Currently, I am ordering parts.
I don't really even have time to use the other tools I already have, and yet, more.
Medication? maybe, but I am really enjoying these past times type past times.
I need to get a picture of it before I do much more work.
Be patient.
I have posted many pictures on my flicker account, but just this one here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Marking Time

This is a phyllo-sophical post. Later, near the end, I am going to do something lovely with phyllo dough. But at the moment I am thoughtful about time, timing, and the passages brought by time.
I always seem to be in a rush, and yet it also seems that very little gets done. Most of what I do is not dated or marked in such a way that I can look back and say, "Hey, I built that in ...!" or "We went there in....". So little actions like groceries and banking, getting gas in the car, or cleaning the bathroom are not really marked in a significant way. They are controlled by "routine" which gives them a regular amount of attention. This is an example: I clean out the refrigerator bins before doing a big grocery trip about one time per week. When the routine gets interrupted, the fridge gets stinky with rotten produce scraps. We also pay the bills on a regular (routine) basis. If the routine gets interrupted we get charged late fees. We keep a calendar on the dining table to help us remember the time of month and what day it is. We have been very disrupted for quite some time now and we lose track of time easily. I feel it is a major accomplishment under the circumstances to keep the clothing washed and the bed clean. It is taking both of us to get everything done. And that produces redundancy, which is not efficient. But we are keeping on top, barely, of the emergency things.
In the bigger picture, there is time to do big projects. But if you don't actually start and finish the project, years can go by before a small project really happens. Large projects are even more difficult to schedule and complete. My example: I planned the kitchen for two years and actually started it when the counter collapsed and we had an emergency. It took about two months to complete, except there was a long recovery period in the middle, so it ended up being about 2 years. The kitchen was operable and nice within the 2 months, but the last part of tile and paint and new window took a month after a two year hiatus. This also happened with the living room remodel. The stuff of life, emergency stuff, gets in the middle and makes things take longer. But I can look back and say, "We started the kitchen in 2003, so that surgery would have been in 2003/4." Time marked by big events is easy to remember.
Anniversaries, major events, special trips are my friend. My life is remember in these events and the things that surround those moments. But little stuff, like when I ground that beef or cooked that chicken need to be written down in permanent marker on the freezer bag. Don't worry, the phillo dough is getting closer.
SO, by researching some records, we found that Eduard's father started building the Milling machine project in 1995, but didn't actually do any work on it until 2001, and he was not able to actually work much on it after about 2004 because of health issues. He died in 2009 at 78 years old. The project is about half done even though it has been 17 years since he started it. I could say that maybe he put off the actual work a bit too long, but that would be trite. I have no idea what issues preempted his efforts through the years. I do know that some dreams and projects die on the planning board, or should have died, because we just didn't get around to it in a timely manner.
OK, now it is time for the Phyllo dough part. Timely manner- I have been craving some spanokopita (spinach pie) for a week. I bought the spinach, had the cheese, and thought I had the dough. But, no. So time passed and I finally got to the store for the dough. The spinach has died now because the routine of cleaning the produce bin has been disrupted and I forgot when I bought it. Now I have dough, cheese and no spinach. Argh! This has been my life for the last 6 months. It is driving me crazy. I need lists, routine, order in the chaos. I need spanokopita tonight!!! This is why there is frozen spinach. I know I have some of that, but it is buried in the freezer because there has been no time to clean out the freezer. ARGH!!

Recipe- Layers of phyllo painted with melted butter (about 15). Layer of cheese/spinach mix. Layer of 15 butter painted phyllo sheets. Bake 350f for 40min. Cool for 10 min. before cutting. I use a roasting pan about 9x13 in.
Spinach/cheese mix: I like to cook the spinach to dry up some of the moisture. Then I cool it before continuing. For frozen spinach, just let it thaw and drain (squeeze out excess water). Use one pound raw spinach or one package of frozen spinach, one cup of ricotta cheese, one egg, on small pinch of nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup grated romano/or parmesan cheese ( you can also add a tablespoon of grated onion). Mix well and spread on the first layer of phyllo dough.

There, it was worth the wait for the recipe. Now I have to go to the store and get some spinach.