Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Working Kitchen

Years ago, I was visiting with a friend about how some folks decorate kitchens.
She told me that hers was a "working kitchen."
I've always remembered that.
And I've evidently followed suit.
I don't really decorate the kitchen.
I don't do themes anyways, and I like things that are useful.
Maybe I don't decorate because at any given time,
you can almost tell what the season is
by what my kitchen looks like.
(See the entirety of my decorating~ the oil can with flowers and pumpkin.)
Right now,
it's rather easy to detect autumn 
by the bucket of spuds, collection of winter squash, the miscellaneous hunting gear, and tailings of canning tomatoes.
It's been slim-pickins for hunting season this year.
Between last winter and wolves (and cats and bear,) the game has suffered.
We even stayed a night up on top 
to see if being up high at dawn would show us anything.
We got snowed on during the night - yowza!
Not ready for that yet.
Anyways, on the way home, I asked Mr.LB if he would mind if we stopped at a little produce stand that's on the way.
It's quite a ways from anywhere, and I like to support such folks if I can.
We did and what a bounty~
For $28 we got: 2 huge spaghetti squash, 1 huge mystery squash,
3-4 lbs. plums, 17-20 lbs. of tomatoes, 5 lbs. red spuds, 1/2 gallon of fresh apple cider, and a peanut-butter cookie for me (yum.)
I went up for a hunt this morning and made it back many vertical feet later
about 12:30 and went to work on the tomatoes.
They are now sauce and cooling in jars on the counter, 
and there is a spaghetti squash in the oven. 
I saved some seeds - hoping to grow some of these biggies myself next year.
Those seeds are in a bowl on the table to dry.
The kitchen is where we seem to congregate when there's company.
Some of my fondest memories growing up are of peeling spuds or cleaning string beans with extended family in the kitchen.
I think that's something that's missing in many families today.
There really is a roll for everybody.
The older folks can still chop walnuts and show the little ones how it's done.
You've probably gathered by now that we live along old-fashioned lines.
Years ago, a significant amount of ones time was devoted
to the growing, gathering, and preserving of food not only for the family
but for any livestock as well.
The value of working with your grandparents or great aunts and uncles rather than just seeing them at parties or holidays is unmeasurable.
We use our kitchen.
And if you happen to stop by about meal time, 
you'll of course be welcomed to join us, 
but don't be surprised if you are asked to chop carrots or slice tomatoes. 
You see, it really is a "working kitchen"
and that's all the decor we need.

If anybody knows what kind of squash the mystery squash is,
please do tell.



Monday, October 2, 2017

~Focus~

That's my word of the year.
Have you ever heard of that?
At the beginning of the year, you choose a word 
to reflect your primary aspiration.
At the beginning of this year, I felt as though I had spent the past two years in "Remember."
I lost two very special people who were like grandparents to me 
within a year of each other.
I didn't want to loose or forget their influence in my life.
Now, I felt I needed to look forward rather than backward.
Not only did I want to look forward, 
but I wanted to move in a positive direction.
That kinda forced me to ask myself some tough questions:
"What am I after?"
"What do we want our lives to look like?"
That's pretty deep, personal, and specific to our beliefs and values.
I say "we/our" because MrLB and I are in this together after all. 
What happened when I asked myself these questions is amazing really.
Spending a little time in my own head and heart
offered an element of clarity.
In my mind's eye, I envisioned our lives, circumstances, and surroundings.
Maybe what was most astonishing was what wasn't in the picture.
We weren't loaded down with debt, obligations, or physical "stuff."
It looked so clean, not just clean like when you sweep the floor.
It was more like peering through a really dirty window vs. a very clean one.
I was in awe of my own vision.
The thing is, this wasn't fiction - not like those dreams where you can fly 
or do some super-human feat.
It was just clarity~
and letting go of what wasn't helping or didn't belong.
Now let me tell you a little something about myself.
My knee-jerk comfort zone is scarcity 
or fear of not having or not being able to provide.
It comes from years of training.
I could look around and see the result of that mindset.
This year has been "transitional" for us - in a good way.
There is a learning curve to this Life thing.
Way back here I made the grandiose plan to spend zero.
Then here I shared my first failure.
And since then, I have failed more times than I can count.
But what I learned is that it wasn't the right goal.
Perhaps a wiser statement would have been
"only spend money on items I will use."
That would have been closer at least.
An example~
This step stool I found as I walked in with a bag to donate - eerrrrg!
It was $12.
I could beat myself up for spending the money, but I use it almost daily 
in the pantry to reach the upper shelves.
It's not something I could run out and buy 
when I decided I was ready to purchase it.
Maybe that's partially what's meant by seizing the opportunity.
Granted, not all of my spending has been on such useful items
-just a matter of full disclosure there.-
Buuuut. . . . . 
I am mindful, and we are still making really good progress.
We've done some major decluttering 
to remove much of the physical stuff that just took up space.
That post was relatively recent so I won't expand on it much here 
except to say, "It's so nice to have clear spaces."
And the fun bit is that people have paid us to haul it off 
which is how I prefer to look at it.
And lastly, we haven't really committed 
to any extracurricular activities or events.
That's not saying we haven't done anything,
just that we haven't formally committed to things and have operated from more of an "act of kindness" mindset or "pay it forward" maybe.
Whatever the words?
For some reason saying that or seeing it in print seems sorta selfish,
but it's really working for us right now.
We both work full time so our home time is rather sacred.
(Maybe more folks need that?)
The year isn't over and we could certainly derail at any given moment 
- just as any of us could.
We are as busy as ever~
still need more firewood before winter sets in,
middle of various hunting seasons,
preserving harvest, and
we still have a couple of large expenses ahead of us
including property taxes and beef.
So you see, our year isn't taken care of yet.
That's where that 'Focus' comes in.
It's the word whispered in self-talk.
Keeping that vision not only in vision but in 'Focus' as well is essential.
I've not even thought about next year.
Right now, what's important is Right Now, 
and staying 'Focused.'
I realize this is more of a serious post, but life isn't always candy and roses.
There are real decisions to make everyday.
And it's those everyday decisions that take us where we're going
whether it's in a good direction or not.
So today is all about today.
And that's a good thing.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Friday Quick Tip ~ Tomatoes

Growing up, I was taught that to ripen tomatoes,
 they should be in a cool dark place on paper bags and not be touching.
Get all that?
That's what I was taught, and that's what I've always done.
So when I had romas that needed to finish ripening,
I went to see what I could find in the way of paper.
Back in the day, groceries were bagged in paper bags, but alas.
I had these egg crates from buying a couple flats of eggs a while back.
They work superbly and are easier to maneuver.
Obviously, romas or paste tomatoes with their elongated shape fit best,
but it would work with any of the smaller varieties.

We are in the middle of canning tomatoes, drying apples, and hunting season.
More soon~

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Another Forgotten Old Skill ~ Blacksmithing

Well Folks, 
I am just not quite sure where to begin this tale.
It's a young but quick journey and far from over.
If I hop around a bit, please forgive me.
When serendipity is at play,
things seem to appear out of thin air.
If you've been around for a while, you might recall that 
Mr. LB is a metal fabricator by trade.  
If you are new to the blog or just happened by, now you know.
He regularly uses the Fibonacci sequence and the Pythagorean Theorem 
when building railings, staircases, ramps, etc. - for those teenagers who ask when they will ever use it.
He loves what he does so there is already an interest in "playing" with metal.
Back in June, we attended Flora Pioneer School Day.
That was actually my idea.
I thought it would be interesting and I liked the cause.  I'm all for preservation of old buildings - especially in rural communities.
As stated in the post, he spent the majority of the day with the blacksmith and ended up making a steak turner.
He was hooked!
As it turned out, my mom had a forge in her yard holding a pot of petunias.
She offered to move her posies so he could have the forge.
The blower was seized, but he was able to take it apart and clean and oil it
so now it works.
He was using an old piece of railroad track that was in the shop as his anvil.
I found an anvil (a few at one place) about four hours away.
Mr. LB and his boss made a special trip only to find out it was a scam.
My heart sank for him so I did a quick Craigslist search for that area and found another source.  They went and looked at it, but it was shot.
The guy selling it knew nothing about anvils/metal so was at least honest in his communication.  When Mr. LB thanked him but said he'd pass, the guy said,
"You don't want a vice do you?"
He also had a post leg vice in good condition and was asking a reasonable-fair price so it was a sale.  At least after that much travel he didn't come home empty handed.  
An evening or so later, we were chatting with a neighbor and sharing the story.
He said, "Well, I've got an anvil that was given to me if you want it."
It's about 75 lbs. so is small, but got him started. 
The very next week, again on Craigslist, 
I found an ad for misc. blacksmithing tools.
There was a picture of a table with various tongs and tools on it, but it was a bit difficult to make out.
I called, and it was an elderly man who thought he might want to get into blacksmithing one day but never had.
I asked him how much for the whole table.
He chuckled and said he hadn't really thought about it all together.
He thought for a moment then stated a price that was extremely reasonable.
I had Mr. LB call and make arrangements.
He made the drive (about 2.5 hrs. away) after work as 
they were to be in a yard sale the following day if not sold.
Included was an amazing drill press.
With the basic tools, he was off and running.
He has been working on making some of his own tools.
He began with his fire tools - each has a different handle so he can tell by feel when he's grabbing for them.
He then moved on to a pair of tongs.
Then came a fun day.
Recognize that fella? Yep, that's the blacksmith from Flora (Nathan from Rusty Hammer Forge - Facebook.)  He and his family have actually become friends.
He and Mr.LB joke that they each have an ulterior motive to the friendship - metallurgy and functions of one and blacksmithing and design of the other.
For the visit shown, I had found a big hunk of metal while sorting in the shop.
It was enough for 2 hammers.

It began in a cylindrical shape and ended up as a straight peen hammer.  He loves it!
Oops ~ well we had to eat!
It seems very natural and "right" for him to take on blacksmithing.
He fishes and rides motorcycles (dirt-bike) and skis, but this is something that he can do at home and even if he only has an hour or two.
He happened into it, but I guess it has become popular due to a TV show.
(We don't even own a TV.)
From what we hear, it focuses on knife-making.
Mr. LB might make a knife at some point, but what he wants to make is a bucket.  Yes, you read that right.  Kinda like this.
Remember this load of wood?  That's the project in mind.
Again, he likes the math and science of it to go along with the skill.
You would be surprised at what goes into making those rings fit snugly at angles and a comfortable handle.
And lastly, a couple weeks ago now, he was informed of some larger, nice anvils for sale.  He looked, but financially, it's been "a little tight" due to several factors - large expensive factors.
It was several nights later when we were sitting in the evening.  I looked over at him and said "Whatchya thinkin' 'bout?"
His response was, "A 300 pound hunk of metal."
It took me a few days and some working things around, but long story short,
he got his anvil.  It's a KingFisher built in 1918 and weighs 364? pounds.
That's one heck of a paperweight.
He is out there pounding on metal as I type this, and he's in seventh heaven.
In looking at various antiques, it's amazing how many have hand forged components.  We both appreciate the quality and craftsmanship of old items that have lasted a century.  I have a feeling there are many projects yet to come from this skill.

Just as a note~ In making the first hammer, they used a type of charcoal that wasn't the best quality which made it difficult to get the mass of metal up to the proper temperature.  The very top photo was when they were working on the second hammer.  The charcoal they were using was a much better quality. The metal heated quicker and seemed to hold the heat better as they were working it.  The better quality charcoal also produced less ash in the forge.