Sunday, November 23, 2014

Putting on a New Second Floor

As you know, we've been doing some renovating.   We started by digging and pouring a whole new foundation.

Then we built some new walls around the old house.

Then it was time to put the second floor on top of the new walls.

Just how did we do that with the old roof in the way?, you ask.

That's a good question.   It took a lot of planning.   Very careful planning.   And very careful placement of support columns in strategic places inside the existing house.  Because the first thing we had to do was put in a beam in the new ceiling that goes the entire length of the house [north to south].   Then lay the joists east to west. 

Eric did that through the existing roof.  There was a lot of old roof in the way.  It had to be stripped and sawzalled out.   I love the sawzall.   In the pic above, you can see the rafters of the old roof sticking out of the floor of our new second story. 
Here's a view from the ground, up into the floor of the new second story.  

Yes, all of this meant that for weeks we had an open roof. 

No.  The weather did not cooperate.   More on that later.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Dumpster

At the end of October, we decided that we needed a dumpster to hold all the trash that was going to come off the roof.  

We got the big one and promptly started filling it.   Eric peeled the old roofing off and dropped it down and at the end of the day, the girls and I bagged it and hauled it to the dumpster.  

Roofing is freaking heavy.   In case you wondered.  It's also full of nails.   It's also really ugly.

There were three layers.  Gray, Pink [yes.] and tar paper.  Here's a pile of the bottom layer of tar paper.   

Then there was the old decking - cedar or poplar planks with the occasional oak one thrown in.  

Then came the rafters.   I'll tell you about that in the next post.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Digging Out

I've been neglecting the blog this fall.   I've missed you!

We've been working on some pretty intensive house projects over the past few weeks and now that we've got a handle on that, I'll get some of these pics up for you to see. 

While Eric was doing the decon-reconstruction so we could put on a second floor, the girls and I had the very glamorous job of digging out the ell and picking up the roof trash and putting it in the dumpster.

This pic is of the ell, newly dug out.   That's the basement wall on the right. The phone line comes up on it.  You can see the dirt line and how far we had to dig down.   By hand.  Into buckets.  Which we had to haul up and over the new foundation to dump. 

It took us 3 days.   I dug and put the dirt in a bucket, Lily moved the bucket to the top of the foundation and Claire dumped.   We had a 3 bucket system and things moved pretty smoothly.   Now there is a very nice crawl space area under that part of the house.  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014


This is smartweed.   You gotta love that pink, even though it's a pretty invasive weed.

The Latin is Polygonum cespitosum.   There are a bunch of smartweeds.  Here's a site that describes a bunch of them.

The bees love that pink.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the bees all over it this fall so I'll be less likely to totally eradicate it next year.  It's an important late season nectar plant. 

It is a perennial and it will take over so I'm pondering ways of giving it some space, but not all of the space.  I'll let you know what I come up with. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Little White Mushroom

I saw this in the grass the other day.   It was charming so I snapped a pic.

Mushrooms grow all over, here.   They like the damp.  We know a few edible varieties and just stay away from the rest.  

I went to a mushroom ID site to find out what this one is. I think it's  Leucoagaricus leucothites.

It looks similar to an amanita, which is deadly, so we won't be messing around with these any time soon.  David Fisher's American Mushroom site has some great descriptions of the two. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Pleasant Bethel Cemetery

Happy Halloween!

It's Spooky Day!   I hope you have something wonderfully fun planned for this evening.   We are going to snuggle up with a fun movie [The Ghost and Mr. Chicken] and a bowl full of chocolate. 

In the grand Halloween tradition of the blog, I bring you another wonderful rural cemetery.   This one is located between Freedom and Worthington, Indiana - off Highway 231 a few miles down Pleasant Bethel Rd. 

It's across the street from an old white church and it's nestled between corn fields and woods.   It's peaceful and beautiful there.

This year I noticed the wonderful types of carvings on the stones here.   I loved the stylized carving on the granite stones. 

The were several examples of art deco type carvings, like the corners of the John and Clara Nation stone.

The Mitten family area had many beautiful stones.  I loved Ella Mitten's stone.   Notice the anchor.   According to this site, anchors are often used in places where sailing is common.  That is not the case in southern Indiana, so it must mean something else.  Anchors are also symbols for steadfastness and that is most likely the meaning here.

This is the stone of Gracie Mitten.   Notice the gates on this stone and the stone above.   These are the Pearly Gates - the gates of heaven.  Open to allow the person in. 

I loved the simple carving on John C. Mitten's stone.   I saw the flower on several stones from the Mitten family.

This is the Colenbaugh stone.   I think those are stylized weeping willows - or perhaps columns? - just above the names.   I couldn't find any information on them.  

I love finding stones like these.  Notice Sarah's dates.

She was born Nov. 16, 1848, but she never died.   A perfect Halloween grave!   She'll be 166 years old in a couple of weeks.  

And speaking of the undead.   I found a couple more old stones with names of the undead.

Here is Josiah Trent's stone.   He was born February 7, 1828.  Apparently, he didn't die.   He's 186 this year.  

This is John Wesley Workman and Cristine C. Workman's stone.   Cristine was born on my birthday [July 16] in 1835.   No death date.  I hope this means that July 16th is a lucky date and I'll rocking the country life forever.  Or at least for 179 years or so.

Stacked log headstones are often markers of the graves of men who belonged to the Woodmen of the World fraternal organization.   Those graves usually have an axe carved on them, too.   I didn't find an axe on this marker, so I'm not sure if the stacked logs are symbolic or not. 

This site has a lot of information about the WoW grave markers.  See what you think.

And speaking of logs and wood, in almost every old cemetery out here, you'll find a marker like this one.   A carved tree trunk with broken limbs.    The symbolism is of a life cut short.   The carvings are marvelous and painstaking. 

This is Charles Dyer's stone.  He died in 1893. He was 23 years old when he died.   So sad.  

Someone clearly loved and missed him very much. 
There are ferns carved at the bottom of back of the tree and ivy climbing up and through the broken shield.   There's a lily at the bottom in the front. 

[But there's no axe.]  

There is a verse carved in a curve on the shield, but it's so worn that I can't read it at all.  Blow up the pic and do your best.

I hope you enjoyed this year's spooky cemetery tour.   If you want more, then here are previous years' tours.

2013 - Tulip Cemetery
2012 - Solsberry Cemetery
2011 - Philpot Cemetery

Monday, October 27, 2014


We planted some Chesnock Red garlic and some German Red garlic this year.    The German Reds have popped out of the ground already.   I don't know if that's because the bulbs were fresher or because the variety is better, but I'm impressed. 

The bulbs came from a friend of a friend who grew them last year and they did well even with the polar vortex.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Surprisingly, I had good success with peppers this year. 

They had a bad start with the cold weather, so I bought a couple of starts at greenhouses here and there and when I was ready to plant, I had a nice selection of peppers.

Then they sulked, so I fertilized them with some Miracle-Gro sprinkles - the slow release kind.   Apparently, the peppers liked it because we had a bumper crop!

These are the types I planted:
  • Jupiter pepper
  • Golden California Wonder pepper [beautiful!]
  • Purple peppers [early]
  • Banana peppers 
  • Little Snacking Pepper [orange]
  • Pimento [thick flesh!]
  • Carmen [long]

The purple peppers came on early and bore like crazy.   They were thin fleshed with a lot of seeds.   The banana peppers also bore early and had a lot of seeds.   The Carmens were long red peppers - beautiful and very slow to mature. 

We got several of the Golden Cal Wonders before frost and they were sweet and beautiful.   I love them.

The little orange snacking peppers were a surprise, and a delightful one.  The fruit is small, fleshy and had few seeds.   The girls liked those a lot.

By far, our favorite was the Pimiento Pepper - the classic pimento peppers.  [Yep, those things that the salad olives are stuffed with are peppers].  Most were just a bit smaller than your fist - the one in the pic is a pretty small one.  Thick fleshed, few seeds and great flavor.  We'll do these again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October Hive Inspection

As I mentioned in the September report, both of my colonies were full of bees, but zero honey.

The weather has been warm enough that the bees have had plenty of time to pack on some honey to fill their empty frames. In addition, I fed some 2:1 sugar water to help them out. 

Mouse Guards:
Last weekend, we put mouse guards on the entrances because our mice are sneaky and love the warmth and ready food available in winter hives.  The guards are just 1/2 inch hardware cloth, cut in a long strip, bent and stapled to the bottom board and box in a couple of places.   I've read that mice won't go in a hive with just the smallest entrance open like you see above, but I have personally seen mice in my hives with nothing but the small entrance, so I opted for extra guards this year.

The bees don't seem to mind, too much, but you can tell it gets in their way.   As soon as things get busy in the spring, I'll be popping them off.

The first thing I did in this inspection was to take off the feeders and extra empty shim boxes and then lift the hive [more of a tilt, actually] to see how heavy they were.   The goal is about 100 lbs in 2 boxes.  Since I only have one box per hive, I figured a good goal was 50 lbs.   The left hive was about that heavy but the right one was still very light.

Right Hive:
I opened this hive first.  As I suspected, there was almost zero honey, though I did see some nectar being worked over.   There were a few yellow jackets in there, which I killed.  I saw some dead bees on the bottom of the hive and a bunch on the ground in front of this hive.   I pulled the bottom board and saw that this hive had had some dysentery.  They had had dysentery earlier because one of their feeders of sugar water fermented.  As soon as I got them clean feed last time, the dysentery cleared right up. This time the dysentery wasn't as bad,  but I think it's enough to weaken the hive.  The colony numbers were down - there was just over half a deep box full of bees. I am concerned that this hive won't make it through the winter.  

I put a 4 lb bag of sugar on top of the frames, Mountain Camp style, put a 3 inch shim over that and battened down the hatches.  

Left Hive:
This hive had a few frames of honey and the box was full of bees.  It seems healthy.   It's got a shy queen - I looked over every frame but didn't see her.  They're still pulling in and storing a lot of pollen.   I really hope this hive makes it through the winter, because my feeling is that this queen is a keeper.   If they boom next year, I'd like to make a split.   These genetics seem good.

I put a 4 lb bag of sugar on these guys, too and sealed them up.

There were a lot of yellow jackets around the area and a few in each hive.  I'll put out more traps and see if I can't help get them under control.

I'll be scooting the hives together and putting insulation around them next month.   In addition, I'll be putting bales of straw on end around 3 sides as a wind break.   They're also on gravel which should hold some heat during our frequent warm spells.

Here's hoping they both make it through this winter.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

2014 Bloomington Fiber Art Show

Next month is the annual Bloomington Spinners and Weavers Guild Fiber Art Show.    It's one of the best shows of the year and this year we're making it even better! 

We always have this show the same weekend and in the same area as the Local Clay pottery show and the Glass Guild show.   This way, our customers can hit all three shows easily. 

Hand-dyed, Handwoven Fibonacci Silk
In order to make it even easier for customers to get to all three shows, the three artisan guilds have combined forces and moved the shows to a single location in downtown Bloomington.   All three shows are under the same roof - at the Bloomington Convention Center at the corner of College and 3rd St.    And we've extended the hours a bit, too!

We're so excited!

Here are the details--

Hand-dyed Silk Scarves - only $10 each!
Bloomington Fiber Art Show 2014
Friday, November 14,  4 pm - 9 pm
Saturday, November 15,  9 am - 5 pm

Bloomington Convention Center
Downtown Bloomington, Indiana
 Corner of College Ave. and 3rd St.

As always, I'll have a booth stuffed with hand-dyed yarns, silks and weavings.  I'll be introducing some new yarns, too, so make sure to check them out!  

If you want anything special, let me know and I'll make sure to have it ready for you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Homemade Laundry Soap

Lily came home the other day from her public speaking class with a recipe for homemade laundry soap that was super easy and super cheap.  The woman who had made it has three active boys and she swears by this stuff. 

Right about the same time, our youngest started getting a rash that we thought might be related to a new laundry soap, so I seized the moment and made a batch.

A batch is 5 gallons of concentrated laundry cleaning superpower.  You dilute it in equal parts with water.

To use it, you fill your soap container [I use an old empty Era bottle] half full with this concentrate and then fill it the rest of the way with water.    I keep it on my dryer so that it's always vibrating and stays mixed. 

The recipe:

Laurie's Homemade Laundry Soap
[She got it via the Duggar Family]

1 bar Fels-Naptha soap, grated
4 cups very hot water
1 cup Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda [not baking soda!]
1/2 cup borax
5 gallon bucket with lid

Heat the water in a saucepan and add the grated soap.    I used the grater you see in the pic above and then used the same grater to stir everything with.   It took about 15 minutes to melt the soap.   I didn't want any lumps, so I stirred until all the lumps were gone.

When you get bored of stirring, measure the borax and washing soda into the bucket and fill the bucket half full with the hottest water you have out of the tap.    Then stir until it's dissolved.   I put the bucket on a chair next to the stove and took turns stirring the bucket and the Fels-Naptha stuff [all with the same grater]. 

When the soap is done melting into the water, then pour it into the bucket and stir, stir, stir.   Fill the bucket the rest of the way with water and put the lid on tight.    It'll be ready to use tomorrow after it cools.  The color is sort of a pearly pale gold.    It smells nice as is, but they say you can add some essential oils if you like.   Laurie's got thick like consomme, but ours didn't.   It works fine anyway.

The Math:
The truly fabulous thing about this is that if you get a few bars of Fels-Naptha, then you can easily store enough dry ingredients [soap, washing soda and borax] for a year or two's supply.  And it's cheap.    Really cheap!

On, the prices are as follows:

Fels-Naptha $2.34/bar
Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda:  $3.24/box
20 Mule Team borax:   $6.58

We bought 3 bars of soap and a box each of the other stuff [enough for 3 batches or 30 gallons of laundry soap - and enough washing soda and borax for many more batches if we got some more Fels-Naptha.]

Total:  $16.84 for 3840 fl oz.  [Yes, three thousand, eight hundred and forty ounces]
Or:  $  .56/gallon.   [Yes, fifty-six cents per gallon]

Era cost $8.97 for 150 fl oz.  Or  $7.65/gallon

If you go through a gallon a month [conservatively speaking if your family is like ours], then you'd spend a half an hour in the kitchen and about $6.72 for the homemade stuff.   Or you'd spend $91.80 on Era or something like it.  

You'd save $85.08 a year.   And if your family is more like mine you'd go through twice as much laundry soap [we dig a lot...] and so you'd save $170.16 a year on laundry soap.

A substantial savings, wouldn't you say?    Enough to buy the supplies you need for a decent 72 hour emergency kit.    Yep.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fall Fashion

What the fashionable woodland is wearing this October.

The 'jealous trees in autumn’s chilly nights '
do indeed 'transform their own limbs into fiery brights.'

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Apple Slices

So I was telling you that I made a bunch of apple pie filling, but I ran out of the Perma Flo long before I ran out of apples.   There were a lot of apples left over.  A veritable Everest of apple slices.



I could have made pie filling to freeze [Choose your favorite recipe, put the dried stuff in the sliced apples, toss and put in freezer bags in the freezer.  Easy squeezy.]    

But I'm trying to can more and freeze less.  

So I took that mountain of apple slices and canned them plain.   Just jars of apple slices.    Since this was a first time for me, I went to the National Center for Home Food Preservation and mostly did it their way.     I used vitamin C tablets to keep the the apples from browning [same way I do peaches.] and I put them in a light syrup.  

A word about syrup.    The reason that fruit is canned in syrup is not that food companies want you to eat more sugar.    It is that the sugar helps stabilize the cell structure of the fruit and keep it firm and not mushy.   It helps keep fruit beautiful.  And those companies know that you are much more likely to buy pretty food than mushy shreddy food, so they keep it beautiful.

I've canned fruit both ways. Sugarless fruit loses its shape and looks ragged pretty fast.  This time I did not want applesauce, so I used a light syrup to keep the apple slices as slices in the jar.   [You could even use a very light syrup.]

Those apple slices are fabulous!   We loved them in our favorite coffee cake base.    We used the same cake that's in the pumpkin cream cheese coffee cake recipe and left out the cream cheese and pumpkin.   Use the apple juice from the jar to replace the milk.   Add the apples by either dumping them in the batter and mixing them in entirely  - OR, you can put them on top of the batter in the pan and swirl them around a bit before baking.   Either way, YUM!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Apple Pie Filling

It's apple season.   

I love apple season.   So sweet, so tart, so firm.    A good crunchy apple is a very satisfying thing.  

This year I got a couple of bushels of apples from Freedom Country Store [highway 231 just north of Worthington, Indiana].   One bushel was jonathans, one was zestars.   

Zestars are fabulous!   Those went into sauce.   Delicious sauce!   I will warn you that when you're pressing the sauce, it oxidizes and goes gray.   Don't worry.   When we processed the jars of gray goo, it magically turned back into a beautiful pale pink sauce.  

The bushel of Jonathans went to pie filling.    I used this method this year from the National Center for Home Food Preservation and am happy to report that it was easy and produced fabulous pies. 

[NCHFP is a site full of information, but crappy in organization.  The search feature is not obvious.  Look on the left sidebar of their site.  The third thing down is the SEARCH.  It takes a sec to pull up.]

I used Perma Flo instead of the product they recommend, because I can't get what they recommend.   The Perma Flo is easy to use, comes in a bulk package and lasts.  I'm so happy that it stores decently through our damp springs/falls and hot summers.  I used the rest of the stuff I got last year and had zero problems.   I used every last drop of it to make as much pie filling as I could.

The only problem was that I had more apples.   Hmmmm.   What to do with them.....
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