Monday, August 31, 2015

A New Path

It is seldom that I show much of our home
in the way of big pictures.
In this case, it's a little difficult to avoid,
but I wanted to share something with you 
in hopes that it might inspire you to 'keep faith.'
For about 7-8 years now we have had a "temporary" back step.
I won't go into all the details as to why,
but here's what it was looking like.
I know, nothing says class like the barbecuer that doesn't work
and the air-conditioner that's going back out to the shop.
My photo op. timing is impeccable.
But back to the point.
The large pallet was beginning to decompose back into the earth.
We want to add a porch on back here, but when we do,
we want it to be a good one - no cutting corners,
which is partly why we still have what we have.
We had been pondering whether we could pour a concrete slab
so that we could later add a porch, or build just the deck portion,
or . . . you get the idea.
Patience and not settling do pay off.
Mr. LB's work acquired a town lot complete with whatever was left
sitting there for the past 10-15 years since the old fella left it.
His boss asked if we had any use for a bunch of bricks
so he didn't have to haul them to the dump.
Last weekend after canning corn, I unloaded 4-5 pallets of bricks.
I am the brick mover, and Mr. LB is the brick layer-downer:)
The bricks/blocks we used for the patio portion are 3 sided.
It worked out great for paving the way between the house and the shop.
Then there were the short cinder block type bricks.
When Mr. LB first laid them down, it looked like train tracks.
I told him I wouldn't be able to handle it.
It needed a curve, and I also went and grabbed a few red bricks 
that we already had and started playing.
This is what we came up with.

I am standing at the wood shed to take the picture.
This way, we won't have to track through a muddy path to get wood this winter.
Never mind the piles of rubbish we are working on removing
 and the brown grass and lack of grass.
(Actually, some of that is now picked up.)
We are going to get a few more of the 3 sided bricks to finish out
the rectangle shape over by the BBQ & make a more normal step.
That will be a very do-able sum to afford for what we've gained.
Nothing seems to happen quickly, and from what I hear,
it's not just around our place that it works that way.
I can't tell you how thrilled I am not to be dreading the mud on the floor.
It looks nice - or will once we finish cleaning up-
and it's functional and practical.
If/when we decide to add a porch, we can simply pull the bricks
and use them elsewhere and that's okay.
We haven't thrown money towards something that is not 
in our long term plan.
We still have another pallet and a half of backer stone.
We're not ready to tackle that project yet.
It's still canning season, so this alone is a huge accomplishment.
Wherever you are on your journey, keep faith.
It'll happen, sooner than you think, later than you want.

Until next time,
Nimble Fingers and Even Stitches 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Messy Truth about Canning Corn

It is always amazing how you see pictures online
like this. . .
just the end result of the day's labor
without seeing all that goes into it.
Many folks prefer to freeze corn, which I admit tastes pretty darned good.
Freezer space will become precious to us here within the next couple months.
So, we prefer to have it canned.
It still has the delicious flavor of 'real corn'
not like the tin-can flavor of what is bought in the store.
This was our first batch of the year.
Mr. LB must have thought I would be bored - hardy ha ha.
He brought home 42 ears 'for me.'
We ended up eating 2 off the cob and 2 were rotten
so from 38 ears, we yielded 19 pints which may not sound like much
unless you are the one to do it.
Here's how it went.

Have jars and lids out and ready.
You'll need a pint jar for every two ears (or quart for 4 ears.)
I like to get everything I'll need out before I start,
so you might read through completely then gather items before beginning.
First set up for huskin' the corn.

Never mind the junk in the background.  I'll fill you in on that soon.
One basket for husks and one for corn.

Before you clean your corn, put a large pot about half full of water on to boil.
Proceed to clean the corn.  
If you can do this outside, fabulous.
An outdoor kitchen is on our someday list, but for now it's in the kitchen.

 Once the corn is cleaned and the water is boiling,
blanch the corn for 3 min.
This is to boil it for 3 min. then remove it.
I did this in batches since it wouldn't all fit in the pot at the same time,
and I was doing it alone 
so I wouldn't have been able to keep up with 2 pots going.
Once one batch is out of the water,
I put the next in and take the hot corn over to the table where I have
my little de-cobbing set up.
I have a 1"X2" about 3 feet long with 2 nails stuck in it.
I just call this my corn stick and you can probably tell,
I've used it for a few years now.
If at some point, it wears out, it is easy enough to make another.
I set this over a large cauldron or bowl.
I am vertically challenged so I set it on a chair rather than the table. 
Here's where it really starts getting messy.
I have an old towel over the table just because 
I'm setting a bowl of hot corn on it.
Using a nifty little tool available in most marts,
I remove the corn from the cob.
It's so much easier than using a knife.
It does take both hands.
Just start at the top and slightly turn as you press down. 
 I keep the basket of husks handy so I can just throw
the cobs in there.
Working quickly and in rounds as one batch comes out of the water
and another goes in, you can get one batch de-cobbed before
the next is ready to come out of the water.

We end up with a bunch of corn and a floor that looks like this . . .

I wasn't trying for this or being careless.
Some of those little kernels are just rebels and go flying.
The corn milk also squirts here and there.
We'll come back to this, but for now there is corn to can.

Fill jars up to about 1 inch below rim.

Add 1/2 tsp. of sea salt if you so desire.  (1 tsp. for a qt.)

Add very hot water up to 1 inch below rim and seal with lid and rim.
Follow directions for your pressure canner, but mine is to process for 55 min.
This gives me plenty of time to wash up the caldron, bowls, tools, chair, 
and even mop the floor.
After processing, removing the jars from the pressure canner, 
and letting them cool on the counter, they can go on the shelf.
And now we've come full circle to the picture usually shown~
the pretty jars of food resting nicely on a pantry shelf
awaiting the perfect meal.

 It may seem like a bit of work, but Mr. LB is probably sick of hearing
how much better this taste than store bought:)
In other words: it's so worth it.

Until next time
Nimble Fingers and Even Stitches

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Homestead Evacuation Plan

This post has two messages:

First, after such a dry winter,
just as many predicted, fires are raging.
There are a couple in particular that are posing
threats to many homes and ranches of north-eastern Oregon.
The Canyon Creek Complex Fire near Canyon City has burned
26 homes and 100 structures (confirmed.)
Though the community is rallying together to help
those who have lost their homes, there's more.
You can see yesterday's news report here.

We were just over this road about 2 weeks ago.
This is a rural ranching community so not only homes,
but also animal barns and hay barns are ablaze.
My niece is on the Cornet-Windy Ridge Fire south of Baker City.
She sent a text and said one of the saddest things she's seen is
a rancher's nearly full hay barn burning and the rancher
out in the pasture baling hay as fast as he could hoping the fire
wouldn't burn the bales as fast as it would run up the windrows.
She grew up on a ranch and understands that it's more than 
just a pile of hay.
If the cattle make it through the fire, what will they eat through winter?
In addition to fire-fighters and emergency crews 
trying to save structures and contain the fire,
they have also been saving animals if they can catch them.
Again this is not just poodles and puddy-tats.
They get horses, cattle and other livestock.
The only humane society in north-eastern Oregon
is based in Pendleton.
They have sent dog and cat food, but also a trailer of hay, grain, and
other feeds to the area.
They are trying to get animals matched up with owners,
but in emergency situations, this takes time.
Animals, even tame, will panic and run from a fire.
That said, if you are so inclined
here's their site link if you would like to help out.

The second part of this post is asking you a very serious question.
Do you have an evacuation plan for you and your critters?
With the above fires encroaching on towns,
there are level 2 and 3 evacuation notices. 
In other words, be ready.

So what's your plan?
Here are a few things to think about.

* Obviously, you and your family as well as important papers, etc.

* Access roads available to you.

* Animals: 
If you have children, are they big enough to
get the bunnies or chickens in travel cages while
you load up the larger livestock?
Put the cats in the cab of the pick up and dogs in the back.
What do you load first?
Do you have a trailer large enough for all your stock?
Don't count on your neighbor's trailer.  They be using it in this situation.
If not, which animals are broke to lead?
You can (in emergency situations) have small animal cages
strapped to the top of a trailer and halter trained animals
tied - horses, milk cows, etc. then would have to drive
extremely slowly heading out.
Note, where are the bungees and extra rope or para-cord? 
Also a good idea if time permits, is to throw in some feed
for the various animals (buckets or coffee cans available?)

* Where would you go?  Is there a friend or family member
within a reasonable distance with room for your entire ensemble?

* If you have children, do they know how to drive?
Licensed or not, this might mean you can get another rig 
(be it car or tractor) out of danger- either loaded or not.

* Worse case scenario, if no notice - get out fast,
at least open gates and cages.
Animals will bolt and at least have a chance.
If cooped, caged, or corraled, they will be doomed to the impending danger.

These are just a few things to think about
that I don't see mentioned very often.
If you have a plan, chances are you won't need it.
If you need it, you'll be thankful you have a plan.
It's a lot easier to make decisions when you aren't in panic mode.

Wishing you all safe and happy homesteading.

Until next time,
Nimble Fingers and Even Stitches

18 Aug. 2015 PM - update
Found out that one of the homes lost was that of a classmate of mine.
Another was that of a couple who happened to be our neighbors when I was in high school.  He actually took my Sr. pictures.  They had just enough time to each grab an armload of things.  They each hopped in a rig to leave.  He didn't have time to hitch up the trailer but was able to throw the gate open.  The barn
was already burning.  They allowed him back in yesterday morning (or the
evening prior) to see if there was anything left.  The house, barn, corrals, etc.
were all gone, but his two horses were standing there nickering at him
from where the corrals once were.  They had some smoke inhalation but are
expected to be just fine.
Support accounts have been established for the victims of the fire:
for further information, the contact is
Grant County Federal Credit Union at (541)575-0264.
Prayers always accepted of course.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Welding Apron

The latest stitch has been nothing snuggly or pretty.
It's actually been something very useful.
Mr. LB is a metal fabricator,
and in addition to using his great math skills,
he spends plenty of time behind a torch.
Of course sparks fly,
and it's not uncommon for him to come home with holes
burnt out of his clothes.
We try to find his work clothes at thrift stores,
but it can still be discouraging when he has a nice pair of work jeans
and burns them up the first day he wears them.
When thrifting, finding his size doesn't always happen.
Shirts are a little easier to find,
but the wear on his clothes far exceeds most normal people.
Here's where teamwork comes in handy.
I happen to know how to stitch.
While on the look out for more jeans,
I found a leather coat.
I bought the coat and proceeded to make an apron for him.
The apron was actually his idea,
and I kinda just ran with it.
For the body of the apron, I used the back of the coat.
Then from the remainder made the straps, etc.

It has a rectangle clip for his tape-measure
and is low enough in front that he can still get to his pen & soapstone.
After wearing it for one day,
he said he wanted it to have a belt sewn in.
He initially didn't want one, because he wanted it to be easy
to get on and off.
He found that it falls forward without a belt,
especially if his tape-measure is hanging on it.
The picture was taken before the belt was added.
So far so good.
Now, we'll just have to see how long it wears.

I have an old solid machine that I used for this project.
If your sewing machine is new and/or has a nice fine stitch
that you don't want to ruin, I would
think twice about sewing leather with it.

Until next time,
Nimble Fingers and Even Stitches

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Oh, Summertime

We are in the deepest phase of summer.
Though ours began with triple digits for nearly a month,
these August days bring about a different air.
Of course, this year every thing has been dried hard
and even the ground is a harsh shade of brown.
But nature is persistent.

Elderberries are coming on.

Wheat harvest is finishing up.

Gardens are producing full force.

And we,
we roll through the days
picking and canning green beans,
pulling carrots,
eating salad nearly everyday,
and moving with a certain ease and urgency.
We know what needs doing next 
and prepare for it as we work through the task at hand.
There is plenty to keep us busy,
and we are fully aware of the reward
our labor will bring come winter. 
Come winter, we'll rest.

For now,
we keep moving.
Children are savoring their last days of summer break.
Families are taking one more camping trip.
And we are 'putting by.'

We are doing.
This is the good life.

Until next time,
Nimble Fingers and Even Stitches