Tuesday, May 26, 2009

a welter of wilted weeds

This blog post could also be titled "A Lazy Person's Guide to Weeding, or a cautionary tale on what happens when you wait too long to deal with the weeds in your raised garden beds." But that was a bit too long for the title, plus it wouldn't fit in the side bar. However, let it serve as a warning to you about letting things get just a wee bit out of control.

This was the situation we faced a week ago when I went out to assess the garden beds for their readiness to be planted. Never mind that I could see them out the kitchen window; I had vainly hoped that it wasn't quite as bad as all that.


As you can see, it was quite as bad as all that. I hauled out our supply of contractor's black plastic, and covered them all up in anticipation that the coming heat wave would cook those suckers into submission.


Two days later and the majority are still distressingly perky...


When we finally took off the black plastic covers on Sunday, a foul stench of steamed weed rose up, but the vast majority were still thumbing their noses at us and our wimpy black plastic. The look on Secondo's face says it all; he knows he will be elbow deep in weeding before too long.


So we brought out the big guns. Five thousand BTUs later and those suckers are STILL standing.


Anyone want to guess what these were, before they were grilled in place by my LSH? (Sorry about that shot of my lovely thumbnail, that looks as if it belongs to a 90 year old, or my 6th grade science teacher, who had the grossest. nails. ever.)


We gave up and weeded by hand, while I swore the entire time that I would never, ever let it get that bad again. Check back this time next year. My powers of prognostication suggest that the blog post will be amazingly similar to this year's.


Only their slightly charred wooden edges hint at the struggle that took place...

Don't worry, I didn't forget Tuesday's kid quote. This year's vegetable garden and its contents were to a large degree planned by my oldest two sons. Their insatiable appetite for spare cash was whetted by last year's effort, and so they carefully planned based upon what had been, in their words, their "big sellers." Out with the jalapeno peppers, in with the zucchini, because as Secondo put it, "that was our hottest item." It's like living with mini-MBAs.

Monday, May 25, 2009

all my life's a circle

Looking back on my posts from this exact time last year, I discovered that the more things change, the more things stay the same. Here I thought I was in a constant pattern of completely unpredictable, and it turns out my life is just one constant repeat after all. I am way too tired to come up with some simple-yet-clever take (as if I ever manage to do that!) on the repetitiveness. I will just have to let the semi-blurry pictures speak for themselves.

Just like last year:

We managed to get our vegetable gardens planted.


Thing 2 had yet another litter (haven't managed to trap her yet). Anyone want a kitten?


Boys, sheep and rabbit participated in the town's Memorial Day parade with their 4H club.


(While I was trying to photoshop a blur onto the other kids faces, because I don't like to post pictures of other kids, I left the computer for a minute. When I came back, Secondo was busy restoring all their faces, because "did I know that I had made their faces all blurry?")


This year, they even had a snazzy float.


It's hard to see in the picture above, but there were four goat kids on the float; this was the front of the float, before goat kids destroyed Uncle Sam.


And lest we not forget, the reason behind the day off, compliments of Terzo's preschool class.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

master gardener

We finally got a weekend with very little on the calendar. Most people see those blank squares and think: relax! We see those blank squares and think: farm/garden work!

We are perenially, perpetually behind, and we can really appreciate the help that a hired hand or two might lend. Our oldest two are getting strong and responsible enough to fit the bill, and what happens? Other people want them to work as well. Unfortunately for us, the competing offers come with cash payment. Guess who wins. Primo actually had two job offers yesterday: help his grandparents with their garden, or stack hay for a local farmer. The depressed job market doesn't seem to be affecting the teenage manual labor segment at all. He and his brother elected to help with the garden -- and were compensated handsomely for their time -- but are not too enthusiatic about helping us do the same job today, for no pay. (Room and board are not considered adequate payment in their eyes.)

Luckily for me, however, one boy was left at home. He didn't seem to miss his brothers at all. In fact, I think he is just happy to get 100% of our attention for a change.

We went to the garden market to get potting plants and the rest of our vegetables. He declared his wish to plant his own garden, so here's his recipe for beautiful pots:

Start with an empty pot, and add some organic matter to the bottom. (Hint: this organic matter came from the sheep shed and contained quite a bit of, in the master gardener's words, "poop." He was fascinated that plants like it. We spent quite a bit of time during dinner yesterday -- in the middle of Pizzeria Uno -- discussing the fact that "plants eat poop.")

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Scoop in some potting soil and wet it down.

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Add another layer of organic matter; in addition to providing fertilizer, the organic matter will help to hold water in the soil. (We have plenty here for anyone who wants to come haul it away!) Top with more potting soil.

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Wet and mix well. For all his aptitude for getting dirty at the drop of a hat, this was the master gardener's least favorite part of the task.

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Now you're ready to plant! It helps to have someone choosing the plant combinations for you. He was carrying on a running commentary to explain how to free the plants from the pots. I couldn't get my video to work, but you can see he's talking in the pictures. The commentary went something like this: "Now you just squeeze the bottom and pull the top to get the plant out. Hmm... dat's not working. OK, squeeze a little harder. HARDER... and pull. Phew! dere it is."

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His garden, once we finished:


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It is so beautiful that we sat this morning, sipped coffee and I spun while my LSH read a magazine. I'm not sure there's any better way to start the day.


ps Yesterday was my first blogiversary. Thanks to all of you who visit!

Friday, May 22, 2009

good times

I am sorry for the lack of post. I had several planned, but then the universe had better plans, and sent me back to my job to train my replacements.

It also saw fit to send me a kid with a dental abscess and a puppy with diarrhea.

I don't really want to blog about any of these things, much to your relief, I am sure.

Instead, I have been commandeered to watch "Curious George" with my youngest son tonight. The middle son is camping out in his friend's backyard in a tent. The oldest son is at a dance, where he plans to ask a girl to slow dance with him.

I am going to spin and enjoy "Curious George" and wish that they stayed this little and innocent forever. I am going to try not to think about that dance or the passage of time or how quickly their childhoods are slipping through my fingers.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

tuesday's kid quote

I am fast approaching my first blog-iversary, which is hard to believe. I have noticed that my thoughts are now organized into things that I can blog about, and features that I can add to the blog, and photo ops for the blog, and so on and so forth. Clearly it has taken over my life to a significant degree. I'm not sure if that is a good thing or not, but it is a decently effective stress reliever for me, so I guess I'll keep on keeping on.

One of the things I am going to start is Tuesday's Kid Quote. AS IF you don't get enough of my three boys, now you get a quote from them once a week. Because of course every word that falls from their lips is a pearl. Or close enough.

Yes, I know. Also AS IF this blog needed even more lack of focus.

Is it a mommy blog?

Farming blog?

Crafting blog?

Non-stop whinefest?

Beats me. But thanks for joining me all the same.

So backstory for today's quote: my youngest received a bug bite in his ear, which has swollen to resemble a small tomato. He won't leave it alone, and now it's infected.

Me: "Honey, you really need to stop itching your ear. Leave it alone so it can heal."

Terzo: "I wasn't itching it. I was just petting it. With my finger."

Monday, May 18, 2009

tough going

What does the tough do when the going gets tough?

She casts on for a new sweater, of course. One that she wants to take with her on vacation in five weeks, because it would be the perfect weight for strolling on the North Carolina beach at night. (Here we go with those impossible deadlines again...)

Before she started, she took Margo's advice and had a glass of wine. (Actually, a hard lemonade.) Although the swatch didn't work out quite right, she did a little math which also didn't quite work out, but she cast on and hoped for the best anyway. And had another hard lemonade. Before the night was over, she was quite pleased to see that she had knit five inches of the front of the sweater.


In the cold hard glare of the morning light, however, the stitches were a bit loose. And a more precise measurement revealed the thing was a bit big. She thought about another hard lemonade, but held off. The tough frogged it all, rented another chick flick from the library, went down a needle size, and cast on again.

Friday, May 15, 2009

time management

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about time, and my poor management thereof, and my lack therefore.

My deep ponderings were started by this recently-finished baby blanket.


This was an extremely ill-considered project. I chose the yarn at 8:58 pm at Michael's, when they were calling for patrons to exit the store (I had rushed in just as they were locking the doors). I was facing a bus trip the following day, and I was desperate to start on a blanket for a baby that had been born 5 months prior. For some insane reason, I thought I could knock out a stockinette stitch crib blanket in fingering weight in no time flat. I chose the only yarn in stock with enough yardage, while failing to consider both the weight of the yarn and its properties. The yarn is pretty, but acidly acrylic. It will likely survive a nuclear attack and live on to keep the cockroaches warm. I kept reassuring myself that it would also survive any abuse the baby can dish out: not a huge comfort, for some reason.

I cast on for the blanket on March 14, confident that I would have it done by April 1. (I love setting deadlines for myself that are completely impossible, thus ensuring that I always feel completely and totally behind the eight ball.) Failing that, I moved the deadline to Easter. Then May 1, right before Maryland Sheep and Wool -- good thinking! I finally finished it last Friday, and thought long and hard about how I managed to toss away almost two months of knitting time on a yarn that I hated working with and a project that probably won't be appreciated for the time suck that it was, through no fault of the recipient.

You think I would have learned something from that garter stitch prayer shawl, a "quick project" that took five months to finish.

I have concluded that my problem is much larger, and involves my conception of time. I seem to be under the misimpression that I have scads and scads of time just lying around, going to waste on a daily basis. I think this mindset stems from my first few days at home with my very young sons, after I quit working full-time. I was living in a new state, with no friends, family, or support system yet, and the internet was still dial-up (plus I hadn't yet honed my computer time-wasting skills). The time yawned before me like a chasm. I planned entire days around going down the street to get the mail and going to the grocery store to figure out dinner. This state of affairs lasted for a month, tops, but has clearly colored my impression of my days as a stay-at-home mom up to the present day.

My default position -- which I am struggling to change -- seems to be: "Of course I have time for that new volunteer position / new knitting project / new business venture / new part-time job / new puppy / new hobby / insert new crazy idea here." I have realized that I need to start thinking long and hard (not my strong suit!) about what I am taking on, and about just how I plan to fit it into a life that already includes a full-time job, a farm, a husband, three boys, unrelenting activities, untended gardens, unclean piles of laundry, uninspired dinners, unbalanced checkbooks, unfinished knitting projects, insert undone task here.

Why is it so hard for me to treat my time as the extremely limited and precious commodity that it is? I complain about others devaluing my time, but if I am completely honest, they are taking the cue from me. It seems silly to set aside a couple hours each day for mundane daily chores, but if I don't, they quickly overwhelm and overstress. They are jobs, after all, and there is little choice but to get them done. The scant time left over should be treated as the gift that it is, and mindfully alloted to valued activities that I really want to spend my time on.

Sounds good in theory, right? So why, in the name of all that is holy, did I just tell someone that I was free to do a "little freelance work" in my spare time? I spend all my days quacking "no time, no time, no time" at my family like some crazed duck, and then I go and offer what little time I have to something that I care little about.

I am clearly out of my ever-loving mind. I am sending an e-mail to that effect to the person who offered me the free-lance work, as soon as I find the time.

Monday, May 11, 2009

best mother's day gift ever

Terzo told his preschool teacher that Mother's Day meant that you had to be your mom's slave for the day, and do everything that she tells you to do.

I took full advantage of this mindset.

Remember my plans for the closet upstairs? Unfortunately the space had been torn apart, first to store all our junk while we painted the other rooms up there, and then to have carpeting laid. Before everything was carried back upstairs, we decided to get the room finished up once and for all, because goodness knows we didn't want to have to empty it again.

The first step was to fix the lighting in the room. It doesn't have any windows or overhead lights, so my dad had to come up and help me install track lighting. Pre-lighting installation and fan blade repair, the room and my dad looked like this (the drywall is where a leaky skylight used to be; the lamp was the only source of light in the room):

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My dad still looks pretty much the same, but now I have eight lights on the ceiling and brand-new white fan blades. I had a tough time reinstalling the fan blades after changing them out, but the upside to Primo's growth spurt is that I now have someone taller than me who can help me, when he is so inclined. Usually the involvement of power tools means that he is so inclined.

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Once the lights were in, we were able to choose from among the wide variety of yellow paint samples on the wall.


I have many, many tiny little jars of yellow paint left over, but I wanted to make sure the color was just right -- after all, we all know what a crab I am about paint color, and I would have no one to blame but myself if the color wasn't the light butter/sunshine yellow I wanted. And what fun is it if you don't have someone else to blame? For the record, I went with the middle color, Golden Honey, and it is perfect.

The painting crew went to work Saturday afternoon on my Mother's Day gift.


Everyone got in on the act, because Hey! Slapping yellow paint on a wall is fun, at least until you get tired of it.

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They lasted through 87% of the job, and my LSH finished it up. I spent yesterday putting the room back together, as they hauled everything upstairs. (The commentary went something like this: "Here's another box with yarn. And another. And a basket with some more yarn. And here's some fleece... And some roving. Boy, you really don't need any more yarn or wool, do you!" I feigned deafness.) Now the room looks like this, but a little more yellow:

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But the best part is this touch, which was my birthday present:


See that black thing, in the middle? It is my very own TV and DVD player.


Being the only female in this house, I don't get much say over what is on the family TV. If I said, "Hey! Masterpiece Theater is playing Jane Eyre tonight! Let's watch it!" everyone would groan and I would end up staring at Dirty Jobs before I knew it. I have nothing against Dirty Jobs, but sometimes a girl wants to watch Jane Eyre or In Her Shoes all the way through, without having to endure any muttered comments about "chick flicks."

So yesterday while I was organizing my room, I put on a copy of Jane Eyre. And of course everyone piled into the room to see what I was watching and was very disappointed when the ending wasn't properly recorded.

Reverse psychology. Works every time. I'll have them watching Pride and Prejudice and debating the merits of the various adaptations before they know it.

All I have to do is install a lock on the door and insist that they not come in.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

what followed me home

I appreciate the few guesses that came in. (I will clearly need to sweeten the pot next time to something that will motivate people to guess. My stash is somewhere in this mess -- the living and dining room pictures still look just like that -- and I can't locate 90% of it. The 10% I can find, Heidi doesn't want!)

But it is irrelevant anyway, as you are all wrong.

Abigail is not a cow.

She is not a goat.

She is not a chicken, or a sheep, or a cat.

In fact, she is not even an animate object.

She is my new Ashford Joy travelling wheel, which was a very very early Christmas present from my long-suffering parents.


Isn't she pretty and compact and cute? Here she is all folded up and ready to be put in her her handy-dandy over the shoulder carrying bag:


Based on the amount of spinning that I get done in a year, I really didn't need another spinning wheel. However, I am a pretty productive spinner away from my house. Make of that what you will. But my poor Ashford Traditional wheel was getting pretty beat up being taken to this 4H fair and that spinning workshop. She really isn't built to be lugged around like that and she suffered a pretty nasty gash last year. She is a special wheel -- too special to be injured. She was my mother's wheel, and has been in the family for as long as I can remember. (I think my mom got her soon after I was born, but she hadn't done any spinning on her in quite a while. In my defense.) She came to live with me when I somehow acquired a sheep farm and needed to learn the ins and outs of spinning to help market our fleeces. The rest, as they say, is history. My dad eventually went out and bought a replacement wheel for my mom so she could get back to spinning. She has built up an impressive stash of roving just by accompanying us to fiber festivals and calling dibs on fleeces while she is skirting them.

Now before you get on my case about naming a spinning wheel, I know. I KNOW. I used to be firmly in the camp of people who didn't understand why other people named their spinning wheels. I really didn't get it. I thought it was an odd little habit -- and then I got a second wheel. I started thinking about the differences between the two, and then out of nowhere, my brain spit out "the Traditional is definitely a Kay," and I had to agree. Sturdy, not too fancy, little more than one speed/syllable but utterly dependable. It didn't hurt that it is also my mom's middle name, so doubly fitting.

From there, the new one's name was just a google search away. Abigail means Joy. (See? I told you the name was a hint!)

It's all summed up by Terzo's surprised reaction, when he noticed the second wheel sitting in the family room: "Hey, Mom! You got anudder one of dose!" Exactly, little boy. And that is why I have to name them to keep them straight.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

mice in boots

No guesses on what Abigail might be? Not one?

Strictly speaking, that's not true. The Occasional Domestic and Livestock Overseer did have her sister call me, to make sure that it was not a cow. She thought Abigail would be a good name for a cow -- and I agree -- but she wanted to make it perfectly clear that she was not willing to take over milking chores during our next vacation. We assured her that it was not a cow. We cannot afford to lose her good graces, so we added "cow" to the list of banned animals (which also include anything reptilian).

I will have to sweeten the pot a little. So I am offering the following ball of sock yarn to the first poster who comes the closest to figuring out what Abigail might be. Her name is actually a pretty good clue.


I have found that socks made from this yarn (a cotton/wool/nylon blend) do quite well in the washer and dryer. This is a big bonus to those who have no problem spending two months knitting a pair of socks but resent handwashing them, despite the time investment.

And so I will have to blog about something else. Today was one of those rare days where bloggable things just kept presenting themselves. I will have to go in chronological order, so I will begin with the boot box. (A very good place to start. Sorry, just watched that Antwerp train station video again after reading Crazy Aunt Purl's post, and now the song is stuck in my head. If you haven't seen it yet, go watch it.)

We have a large plastic bin on our miniscule back porch, that holds all manner of rubber boots, shoes, athletic equipment, rabbit food and supplies, gardening tools, etc. We noticed about a week ago that the rabbit food had a hole gnawed in the bottom. A deeper search revealed the telltale tiny droppings. Yep, we had mice, but Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival was sucking all our time and we couldn't deal with it just then. In true procrastinator fashion, we moved the rabbit food inside and vowed to clean out the box when the weather cleared.

It hasn't stopped raining since.

We quickly learned that boots had to be carefully emptied out before putting them on in the morning to do chores. This morning, my LSH emptied an entire mouse's nest worth of bedding out of his right boot, and decided that something had to be done right then, rain or no rain. He set to emptying out the box, and eventually discovered this old woman and her children in one of Secondo's long-outgrown shoes:


Any mom can sympathize with the way those babies are latched onto that momma with such a death grip that they never budged.


Clearly, they were outgrowing their space in that particular shoe, and had decided that an upgrade to larger quarters was necessary. Primo took pity on them*, and carefully relocated them to a tree stump in the woods. He unwisely wore crocs (who knows why, when all the boots were spread out for him to help himself to his own) and tried to keep his socks dry by tiptoeing through the lakes in our backyard.


Now the boot box is all cleaned out and the boot pairs are organized, from the smallest pair:


to the largest:


and almost all sizes in between.


If you come to visit the farm, we can almost guarantee there's a pair in there that will fit you (unless perhaps you have size 15 feet). With all this rain, they are definitely necessary equipment at the moment.
* We don't normally take pity on mice, as demonstrated by the fact that we keep the killa from manila, aka Midge, in our home to deal with any unwanted visitors. She just dispatched one yesterday morning, although we had to ask Terzo not to announce to all and sundry that she had killed a "rat." Or -- as I had originally thought he was yelling, while I was in the shower -- a "bat," which really had me worried.