Sunday, March 30, 2008

Almost Spring

It's starting to warm up on the homestead a bit and I'm beginning to believe Spring really is right around the corner. We've got some trees budding out, and a red maple in the front yard is even blooming right now. There are several trees in full bloom in town, but we're a couple of weeks behind them out here.

This week Bernie worked inside painting when it rained, and outside cutting more firewood and spreading the mulch he made. It's sad we still need firewood, but even when it warms up to near 70 degrees during the day, it's not unusual for the temperature to dip into the 30s at night. We're slowly warming up though, and soon we'll be missing the fire in the fireplace. I can't wait!

Charlotte gave me a Mimosa she had in a pot for a couple of years. I've kept it inside, but she left it outside year round, so I finally decided it was hardy enough to plant outside now. Bernie actually did the planting, but I told him where I wanted it and then stood by and gave lots of advise about digging the hole. I'm sure he really appreciated that.

Bernie plans to start building raised beds in the next week or so for the vegetable garden. We have some old tires, so I decided to go ahead and put my garlic in one of them. I bought some garlic plants from someone a few months ago and kept them in a pot inside by a window. They did pretty well inside, but are apparently quite hardy, so I decided to go ahead and put them outside in one of the old tires. I also used a tire to plant some lettuce seeds. And last fall I put some potatoes in a tire and covered them with a very thick layer of pine straw, as My Dear John suggested. I dug out the pine straw over the weekend and couldn't restrain myself from digging around a bit to see if anything survived the winter in there. Sure enough, I found potatoes and several with tubers already!

We went into town today to pick up a few things. We can't hardly go to town without stopping at Bernie's all time favorite store on the face of the entire planet - Tractor Supply Company (TSC). He got 50 more fence posts, and I got a chick feeder and waterer. I know I can't get chicks right now, but I told Bernie that TSC will be getting their baby chicks in the middle of April and that means that all the chick supplies will quickly sell out around that time. By getting the feeder and waterer now, I won't be searching for them when we finally do get our chicks. Amazingly, he said "That's probably a smart idea." I interpreted that as "Yes, you'll be getting your chicks soon." Yay! Not much longer and I'll have baby chicks to bore the snot out of you with!

We're getting our barn shed and garden shed built here this week. I'll be sure to post some pictures. My garden shed will end up being what we add the chicken coop on to. Hopefully, we'll start the coop project very shortly after we get the buildings erected.

I've been soaping a fair amount lately and working on a formula that is a little more moisturizing since my demented sister claims her skin is just too delicate for my already moisturizing bars. I made Bernie test one and he seemed to like it, although he asked me just to make him his regular soap. I do think there is a market for both types. Some people like a bubbly, cleansing soap and some people like a creamy, luxurious soap. I'm pleased with both recipes and can't wait until the newest cures so I can test it out on other unsuspecting family members. Hey sis - expect a package of soap from me soon.

Bee Free,

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Chickens That Almost Were

We seem to be stuck in a weather pattern around here - rainy one day, windy and cold the next. This has been going on for a couple of weeks and, according to the long term weather forecast, will continue for the foreseeable future. Bernie pretty much decided to ignore the rain and worked on clearing out a spot for his new work shop. We found a small company that will construct a barn shed for him for less than he could build it himself. They're also going to build a small garden shed for me. Yay!

Bernie and Eddie took down a couple of locust trees last week that were starting to die. One of them had a hollow spot in the middle and was full of carpenter ants. When he cut and stacked that wood, word quickly spread throughout the feathered friends network, and we had flocks of birds hanging around the woodpile and eating ants for a few days. We saw several baby woodpeckers enjoying the hassle free meal too. Too cute.

I was two seconds away from ordering 25 one day old chicks this week. I had filled out the on-line order form, entered a credit card number, and had my finger poised above the "Order Now" button, when I decided I really better check with Bernie first. Naturally, he had to go and apply a little logic to the situation (such as mentioning the small fact that we don't have the fence up yet, let alone the chicken coop). In my defense, the chicks have to stay inside in a brood box for at least three weeks, and I figured that was plenty of time to get everything ready for them before they head outside. Bernie didn't quite see it that way, and in the end I decided not to hit the "Order Now" button on the website. I swear, he can be such a buzz kill sometimes.

I was in a soaping mood and made several new soaps this week. Here's a picture of three of them:


Left - Lemongrass and Rosemary essential oil blend
Middle - Shea Butter, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil and Safflower Oil unscented soap for Bernie
Right - Asian Garden, which is a Shea Butter, Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, and Safflower Oil soap with a heavenly, exotic floral scent

Oh, and for those of you who have asked, the Honeycomb soap is up for sale on the website now.

I also made a new soap for girls I named Fairy Dust Soap. It's a glycerin soap with hot pink body glitter in it and is lightly scented with Dreamcicle fragrance. I made this one especially for my niece to give as Easter gifts to a few of the kids' friends. She really seemed to like it. I'll post a couple of pictures below, but they don't show off the sparkle very well. If you want larger, more sparkly pictures, you can see them on my Etsy shop page:


I also took a picture of a couple of them packaged up:


And yes, I did indeed write another poem to include with this soap. Just when you were certain my creative genius could not get any more awesome, I bring you this jewel:

Fairy Dust Soap

Wash with me and sparkle,
With all your hopes and dreams.
I am made of magic,
Sprinkled with Fairy Wings.

As you bathe and lather,
Dream of dancing on the stars.
You can rise above the heavens,
You will certainly go far.

This Fairy Dust will clean you,
And bring you lots of smiles.
So bathe with me each evening,
We’ll share the magic for a while.

Yes, yes, I know. I should really stick to just making soap. But I am forever hopeful that a young child will appreciate my poetic talent or, at the very least, be so excited about sparkly soap that she doesn't laugh at my lack of it.

This week promises to be much the same as last, with regard to weather. Bernie is determined to continue working on the fence, even if it does rain a bit. I think he realizes he can only put me off for so long from getting my chickens. I made up a little chicken song and have been singing it to him all day. Poor Bernie. He probably wants me to get chickens soon in the hopes that I'll aggravate them instead of him. I'm pretty sure I have enough aggravation in me to go around though.

Bee Free,

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Soapinator

I mentioned to my wonderful husband that I would like him to make me a soap mold that would hold about twice as many as my current mold holds. On one particularly cold and windy day, he went outside to work for a while, and came in a short while later with this:


I'm sure you can tell, but I tilted it on it's side so you can get an idea of what the inside looks like. Bernie dubbed it "The Soapinator". I couldn't wait to put it to the test.

I whipped up a batch scented with a Lavender L'Occitane type fragrance last night. The Soapinator easily held the 8.75 pound batch of soap I poured into it! Here's a picture of it, filled with soap and topped with the lid he made for it:


I could hardly wait to unmold the soap today and cut the bars. The Soapinator did great - and I ended up with 27 bars! It would have been 28, but I cut a little off each end to use as tester bars. My soap didn't turn out as I had envisioned. It was supposed to be white soap with lavender swirls, topped with white soap shavings and a thin layer of the lavender on top to just barely coat the shavings. Well, the white turned rather beige, the lavender turned rather plum, and the lavender over the shavings is too thick. I still think it turned out OK - just not quite what I had in mind. I'm going to name it Lavender Breeze. Here's a picture of the whole batch:


As a bonus - you can also see the yellow walls of the kitchen in most of these pictures! To be fair, the colors are a little off. I used my camera with no flash. The soap is more purple than the picture shows - and the walls are a brighter yellow, if that's at all possible.

Bernie stood by to watch as I sliced each bars. He made some interesting observations about the swirls. For example, he commented that these two look a bit like ape faces:


He also found faces in all of these:


Unfortunately none look like the Virgin Mary or Elvis. We won't be getting rich off EBay with this batch. Darnit.

I wonder what, if anything, you see in these? It's sort of like an ink blot test. Only whatever you see will be interpretted as meaning you are insane. But wait.... that's exactly how the ink blot test works. So I guess it really is an ink blot test and you really are insane.

Bernie has close to 3/4 of the fence posts in now. He's also taken down several trees that were dead and threatening to fall in the path of the fence. Once he takes down a tree, he also saws it up for firewood and stacks it, and then shreds the small left over brances. All of this takes a fair amount of time. I'm sure he will be happier than I am when that fence is finally finished!

On another note, we just finished our 6th month living on the homestead. Can you believe it's been that long? I can't. Bernie is getting as bad as I am about leaving this place. In the last two weeks he has only left this place twice. And he wasn't happy about either of them. I'm fairly certain the neighbors will begin to think of us as those crazy people that live in the middle of the woods that no one ever sees. But I'm not so sure that's such a bad thing.

Bee Free,

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Spring Forward - and Make Me Some Spaghetti

Tonight, or rather early tomorrow morning, we spring forward. Which simply means we set our clocks ahead one hour. I really wish we could just decide on what time we want it to be and quit with all this Daylight Savings crap. I like it when we spring forward, and I wish we could just stay sprung. In Pennyland, springing forward means that I get to go to bed early and not feel like some old person. Because I can stay up until 10PM, because in my mind, it's REALLY only 9PM. Plus Elvis doesn't really get the whole time change thing, so he won't start screaming for me to get up until it's what he THINKS is 5AM - but it will acutally be 6AM since we have sprung forward and I'll already be awake. I can't wait to trick him. I may just YOWL at the top of my lungs when I wake up just to give him a taste of his own medicine. But that would wake up Priscilla. And Priscilla is quite considerate in the early morning. She never makes a peep until I wake up. And then she's hell on wheels the rest of the day, while Elvis goes back into hibernation for the rest of the day.

Tonight I made Bernie a big pot of spaghetti and noodles. It's one of his favorite meals. I can tell when he gets a hankering for it, because he drops subtle hints like "Remember when you used to love me and make me spaghetti". He's been really working hard to get this place painted, and being that he is a wonderful husband and I'm such a darn good wife, I made his stinkin' spaghetti and noodles. He seemed greatly appreciative.

Next week we're supposed to get a break in the weather. I really hope that's true. Bernie plans to work some more on our fence. I really can't wait to have this place fenced in so we can put in the garden and get our chickens and goats. I'm pretty sure I'll be battling chickens and goats in the garden, but I don't care. What's a homestead without animals to make it entertaining? Remind me that I said that when I complain about it in the future.

We're planning to finish painting our sitting area tomorrow. Bernie finished up mudding and priming the walls yesterday. We bought the paint today. I picked out a nice shade of deep red. I showed Bernie the little paint wheel from Sherwin Williams and asked "What do you think about this color?" He responded "Is it black?" I just chuckled and said "You are so funny". Who said color blindness is a bad thing?

Bee Free,

Monday, March 03, 2008

Mud and Honey Comb

The weather has kept us from getting a lot accomplished outside on the homestead, but it sure has allowed us to make some headway in getting the inside of the house painted. By "we", I mean Bernie. But I'm sure you knew that already. Today Bernie worked on our little sitting room. He removed the strips between the drywall last week, and he's been working on getting those areas taped and mudded. Today he sanded it all down and attempted to mud over it again, but the mud was at the end of the bucket and getting rather gritty with old dried mud that kept falling in from the sides of the bucket. That makes mudding darn near impossible. He was not in a good mood when I checked on him around noon. I walked into the room to find it, and him, completely covered in drywall dust from all the sanding. He was totally white from being covered in dry wall dust, holding a mud knife full of gritty mud, cursing under his breath, and looking somewhere between a rabid dog and a crazed serial killer. I knew better than to say anything. I gave him a big hug and as I patted his back a huge plume of drywall dust erupted from his shirt. I wanted to laugh. But I knew better. I just said "Maybe you can quit for the day and wait until you buy more mud." He mumbled something as I left the room, but I didn't ask him to repeat it.

Sunday Tex, Charlotte, and Bobo came out to visit for the day. It was one of the warmest days we have had in a while. So the men decided to go outside and grunt and do manly things, while Charlotte, Bobo, and I decided to whip up a batch of soap. I've been wanting to try my hand at a batch of honeycomb soap I've seen pictures of, and since Charlotte and Bobo seemed game, I decided it was time. Charlotte and I lined my soap mold with bubble wrap, whipped up the soap, and poured it into the mold. I cut it this morning and I'm pretty pleased. It's made with honey, and scented with Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey:


Elvis had me up at 4:30 this morning. Although he's rarely awake, he can not stand to have me sleeping when his eyes are actually opened. He yowled and yowled until I finally gave up and joined him. I logged into work at 5:00AM, and Elvis curled up on the desk next to my mouse and fell asleep. I wanted to scream "YOWL" and wake him up, but I didn't have the heart.

By the way, Bernie is in a much better mood tonight after his mudding experience. He sanded a bit more, and everything looks really nice. He'll get some new mud tomorrow and get this finished up. It's very rare for him to be in a bad mood lately. And when it does happen, it doesn't last very long. After 20+ years of marriage, I've learned to keep my mouth mostly shut when it does though. I am, after all, a pretty darn good wife.

Bee Free,