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


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.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

"New" Pantry Shelves ~ DIY

"We need to just throw that stack of boards on the on the burn pile."
Those were the words of Mr. LB in reference to my stack of miscellaneous boards that I've had for - err, uh-hem, well, not sure how long.
They are stacked behind the shop, under the lean-to taking up valuable covered  (dry in the winter) space. 
My response: Internally = Gassssp! Cough! Sputter!
Out loud= I'll get on that ASAP.
So as part of the "Make the Stack of Scrap Disappear" effort,
I made a set of small shelves for the pantry.
I've been having to rearrange with every season 
keeping empty jars and longer-term canned goods out in the shop.
The first step was to pull out boards to see what I had enough of
then think about how I could put them together to make them work.
For the shelf parts, I used 2X10s that had a coat of grey enamel on them.
I got the paint stripper out and started on those.
Once I got the thick part of the enamel off, I took a sander to them.
Then for the sides and back, I used old 1X4s that are old enough that they are actually 4 inches wide.
They had been dark green at one time then white at another time
though it was difficult to tell for sure since most the paint had chipped away.
I did measure my existing pantry shelves 
since I wanted the space between the shelves to be about 1/2" more 
so I could stack two small-mouth pint jars if need be.
I decided it was going to have a rustic or primitive look to it 
no matter what I did so just ran with it.
Once I got it assembled, I took the sander to it one more time 
just to knock off any extra loose chipping paint.
Then I wiped it all down and put a coat of polyurethane on it.
I know I was going for rustic, 
but A: it will be in the house and B: it will be holding food type items
so I wanted it to be sealed and washable.
Surprisingly, it went together pretty easily.
I was concerned about getting it square since that can be a challenge at times,
but I must have done something right this time.
It's now in the house and I am working on rearranging the pantry yet again.
With any luck, we will be doing tomatoes soon so will be adding those
as well as spaghetti sauce and chili during the same time.
Never mind that this is where the unsightly internet router is and that there is still no trim on the window.
Evidently, utility room window trim is pretty low on the priority list.
I was going to do it before taking these pictures, 
but we are out of the correct stain so will have to get more 
in order to finish that project.
In the mean time,
my stack of scrap lumber is dwindling which I'm sure Mr. LB appreciates.
By the way,
he likes the shelves and how they turned out.
That kinda surprised me since he doesn't usually care for such a look.
In the end (or for now at least,) I decided to put my herbs and such
on this shelf and have the food items on the big shelves.
As the season progresses, we'll see if it remains functional.
One thing is sure nice, I like having more room
 in the house and up off the floor.  

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hidden Treasures

Just a few posts back, I shared about our decluttering of not just the house, 
but the shop and yard as well. 
I've since been working in the shop to try to make it 
a bit more manageable and functional. 
In doing so, I have discovered more to eliminate - good grief!
But it really is good. 
I've taken 3 car loads to donation and have one more trip to go. 
I've also made a pile to go to the dump - ugh!
The good news is that among the "stuff" I've been sorting and cleaning,
I found them. 
Not that they were really lost, just forgotten. 
These two cast iron pans have been out in the shop since we moved here. 
I took a wire wheel to them, then some hot soapy water,
then seasoned them well. 
One is 6 1/2" and is marked with the number 3 on the handle. 
The other is about 8 1/8" and is a number 5. 
I don't know the maker, but both are stamped "Made in USA."
We love cast iron!
So why was it their fate to sit in the shop for 16+ years?
That's what clutter does. 
It gets in the way of life's simple joys. 
I guess that's part of why it feels better once decluttered. 
There are many other little simple joys that are being experienced,
not as cool as the cast iron ones of course, 
but joys nonetheless.  
We like so many others are finding our way out of the excess,
and it sure feels good. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Gee Thanks Mom

The saying about my mom is that she could stick a pencil in the ground 
and it would grow.
Me on the other hand~
As I've said before, I plant and God laughs.
This is the carrot and beet patch.
Last year, Mom sent a couple big bags of "composty stuff."
We dumped it in this plot and turned it under thinking nothing more of it.
Fast forward to this spring.
Carrots and beets get planted - though a smidge later than usual.
Before long, there were red stalky clusters of stems all over!
Then, sprinkled here and there in their midst were plants with round leaves and purple flowers.
(Dwarf Hollyhocks)
And where one or the other of those wasn't hogging the ground, were those little white button sized daisy looking flowers that I was all too familiar with.
Mom brought up two pots of them a couple years ago, 
and they are now nearly to plague status.
So after a couple wheelbarrows full of pullings, 
there is at least a little room of an occasional carrot or beet 
to eke up through the earth.
I planted two types of carrots.  One did significantly better than the other.
I will be pulling the rest of the flowers, because I don't want them 
seeding here in the garden.
I know it might already be too late.
They really are pretty - just not in the garden plots.
I'll be sending this picture to Mom with a big ol' sarcastic Thanks!
It really is okay and not disrespectful.
We harass her about her jungle preservation skills on a semi regular basis.
Lesson learned, dump "compost" from Mom someplace I want flowers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Decluttering ~ the Grand Finale

It's the weirdest thing.

Over the past few years, we've (I've) been on a decluttering mission.
This past weekend, we had hopefully our last ever yard sale.
Well yes, of course it rained.
This time there wasn't as much from the house, 
but primarily the shop and yard.
There still seemed to be a revolving pile in the kitchen near the back door,
then that ever growing pile in the shop.
I know, who would need to declutter the yard?
That be us ­čśü
We had the snow blower, old lawn mower, the old '49 ford, the tent trailer, the chicken tractor, a motorcycle, and canoe 
as well as the stuff from the shop and house.
Honestly, we didn't make much which was disappointing.
We still have several of those big items that we will have to put on Craigslist.
I was rather hopeful that it would all be gone Saturday.
(It will take multiple trips.)

Even though at this moment, our shop looks like a bomb went off, 
I have the knowledge that those boxes are empty,
 and the plastic bins. . . are empty.
The leftover items are being logged (for taxes) as they go into an empty box,
then loaded and taken to donation.
If there are any boxes left, they can go to recycle.
My mom wants a few plastic bins.
If those remaining are empty, they stack easily.
There is someone who wants to come and look 
at the children's books this week.
Many sold and there are still 3 boxes left if that is any indicator of the volume.
The thing is~
The house looks and feels sooo much cleaner and calmer.
I doubt we'll ever be featured in "Home and Garden," but it's our home,
and it should work for us rather than us working for it.
We are now that much closer.
Even in the shop, there's a more open feeling.
There are empty pockets of space.
Once these left overs are gone and I can park in there again,
it will just be refreshing.
Since moving here nearly 17 years ago, there seems to always be one reason or another keeping us from being able to park in there.
I did get it to the point that I parked in there this winter.
I have just been really surprised at how calming it has been to have gone through e v e r y t h i n g.
There will always be things to go through and keep on top of,
but from here, it seems manageable - more like maintenance mode.
It's not something that happens in a half-hour like on TV.
It has take a few years to actually go through everything.
There are emotional correlations with 'things,' and life doesn't stop 
so we can deal with all the clutter.
I still have some papers to sort through but 
will wait until I can have a fire going.
I'm sure I'll figure out more that can go,
but for now, I'm going to enjoy this calm feeling.
That's really the best word-
just. . . . calm.

It's the weirdest thing.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sometimes It's Free

Our wood pile looks pretty much the same as it did a couple weeks ago
with the exception that the odds and ends are now stacked.
(There were a couple more rounds that were given to a friend.)
Every so often, I like to check Craigslist for this or that.
If I do, I try to remember to look under the "free" category.
It's most often old mattresses, broken furniture, or a year and a half old "puppy" none of which I am interested in.
This time something caught my attention.
Free black walnut.
And it was near Mr. LB's work.
Our forests are closed right now meaning we can't go get wood.
I contacted the fella and hubby and made arrangements.
Mr. LB took the trailer and after work, picked up 
probably 2/3-3/4 of a cord of wood.
He wanted a couple pieces for a project, and 
the rest will make excellent firewood.
It's still not enough but adds to the stack, and we didn't have to fall it, buck it up, or roll it to the rig however far away.
There were some pieces that needed to be cut smaller, but then only had to be loaded in the back of the trailer that was right there.
We will still need more and would like to get some for my folks too,
but I might continue to watch the list and see what kind of trees 
people are falling in their yards.
I told Mr. LB, one could go around taking up all these "free" trees
and here in a couple months sell it.
No paying for wood permits or dealing with the hassles of USFS.

We're still burning the candle at both ends of the day
so this is a shorter post just letting you know what we're up to.
More soon~

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

To Everything A Season

There is typically a somewhat predictable flow of seasons.
I don't just mean seasons on a calendar though they play a significant roll in what happens with the other seasons. 
So what on earth do I mean by that?
Well, "typically" we are finished up with wood burning season about April,
and we begin wood gathering season.
This year has been a little off.
We still had a fire burning into May. 
After our extreme winter which came complete with avalanches,
we were ready for spring.
But we weren't able to go get wood.
They made our road what they termed as "passable" but only to the last occupied house about 3 miles up the road.
Beyond that, the avalanches stayed to thaw as Mother Nature determined.
Mother Nature was apparently in no great hurry.
That meant we had to wait to get wood.  We have about 2/3 of what we need.
We are hoping to get another load soon as it is now fire season,
and they could shut down the forests at any given moment.
The other off bit is last year I was canning peas the end of June.
This year they ran about 3 weeks later.
That doesn't sound like a great deal of time, but if you think about the work load and how much you can do in 3 weeks, it might make a little more sense.
We've also had our first picking of green beans 
so I've been canning those as well.

My M-I-L gave me 9 (yep 9!) boxes of apricots.
I luuuuv dried apricots.
This year, I'm storing them in canning jars 
so they don't need to go in the freezer.
I did have to purchase the jar sealers, but they work pretty quickly,
and are a nifty thing to have and use.
I thought I was on my last round of dehydrators when my mom gave me another box so I'm still at it.
At one point I had 4 dehydrators going to get them all done before they spoiled.

Salmon season didn't really happen this year.
They decided not to open the majority of the rivers in our area
which means no stock pile of fish.
We still have several jars from last year so we'll use those sparingly.

Between Mr. LB and myself, we did draw all six tags, which if we can fill most of them come hunting season will save us quite a bit on beef.
(Tags: bear, deer, elk)
I have yet to get an elk so that's not something to bank on.
I've already heard that we are supposed to have another hard winter.
Our seasons seem to be stumbling over each other rather than pacing themselves so slow-pokes like me can keep up.
(I like to plant a few wax beans to throw in - adds a bit of a jewel to the jars.)

I now have peas done, we'll be picking another batch of green beans in a day or two, and once again think I am finishing up apricots.
Hopefully, I can get these things finished up then move onto corn
which is already on - early.
We've been running from one end of the day to the other, and our kitchen is a flurry of big bowls, canners, and various implements.  
The nice part is that our pantry shelves are beginning 
to look a little less anemic and at night, I almost literally fall into bed.
Aside from our seasons tumbling down upon us,
we are well.
And thankful mind you, that we have the provisions, skills, and ability
to do as we are doing.
We don't take that for granted.