Thursday, December 30, 2010

Be careful what you ask for...............

I have too much stuff.

Yea.  Like you didn't know that already.

But I do. I also have too few cabinets in my kitchen. So I asked for a second pot rack.

Now I already have a rack that hangs above the island.  But with teaching more classes here at home, I need more stock pots, more strainers, more equipment.  And I have no place to put them.  So I had this blank wall.

I love blank walls!!  Nothing like an opportunity to expand your world!

Now it is time to get creative.  I needed a pot rack that was essentially .................... free

Yep.  Something that cost nothing. Zip.  Zilch. Nada.

Cattle panels to the rescue.  If you don't use cattle panels in your landscape/home decor ........ you are missin' the boat, Sista!!! You can do anything with a cattle panel.  $25 and endless possibilities.  But I digress.

Honey proceeded to make a pot rack out of 2x2'x and cattle panels.  And pocket screw technology. (I learned that from Norm!)

He hung it in the only empty desired space.  And we had this .................

Yep.  The leaning cupboard of Donahue.

The rack was level ... but the cupboard.  Not so much. No, that's not an optical illusions.  1-3/4" difference in 3 feet.

I bought this cupboard 7 or 8 years ago at the Donahue Combination sale.  You can buy anything at the Donahue Combination sale.  Boats. Roosters. Console televisions are popular items. Rabbits. Light fixtures. Junk.  I paid $75 for this cupboard.  After I bought it, a guy came up to me and asked if it was an antique and if that was why I paid so much for it.  It is as old as my house.  My house was built in 1892. It can lean a bit.  I will let it.  But 1-3/4" is too much!

Honey works in engineering.  I was an interior designer.  (I'll say it under my breath! Note. Was is the operative word.)  We would go nuts looking at that!!!

The house is crooked.  The floor sags.  The cupboard leans. But we have got to make it look better than that!

But making it better means getting to the back of the cupboard.  And getting to the back of the cupboard means emptying and cleaning this.

 Uhhh.  Yea.  See the first line of this post.

Fortunately, deep cleaning the kitchen cabinets was on the list! Number 4 .... under Household.

So I emptied the cupboard ....... wash the interior and exterior ....... vacuumed the dust bunnies and cobwebs from behind it.  Honey took over at this point and straightened the cupboard with turnbuckles for screen doors. 

Ahh................ it is square again.  Sort of.  Kind of.  Better.  Good enough!

Since we are beginning to the paint trim in the kitchen ........ Honey painted the wainscoting behind the cupboard.  (Same color as the pot rack.)  We won't have to empty it again!!! We did not finish that section of wall though, as that meant emptying and moving the fridge.  I only have so much energy in me in one day!!!!

So now ............ I have this cupboard.  Organized.

And this pot rack.


And life is good in my little crooked house.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Making the list ......... Goals January 2011

I am list-type of gal.

I like making lists and taking that bright red tube of lipstick that I have NEVER used and scratch things off as I finish them. Obviously, I am NOT a lipstick-type of gal.

As I have said before, I admire my friend Kim and her monthly goal lists.  So I am blatantly stealing the idea this year.  There are a couple of reasons why I am doing this.

1) There is a ton of work that has to be done this year.  I swear they took a month out of the calendar in 2010 cuz I just know I lost a lot of time!!!

2) I am in the midst of menopause.  Along with losing the ability to bear children, I have obviously lost the ability to concentrate!!! I need a way to focus!!!

3) I must be a masochist! There is nothing like the fear of public humiliation to keep you on your toes.

I have created a tab for my monthly goals so I can gloat show what I accomplished and sweep the unfinished projects under the virtual rug!!!

These may seem a little lofty. I am certain they are!!!! But I have to admit something...... I'm including this week's to-do list in the goal sheet.  So this is Five weeks of to-do lists! 

Personal Enrichment
1) Read one book for fun!  Yea. For fun! It has been a long while since I have just sat down with book to read with no strings attached.
2) Learn caning and complete one chair.
3) Select yarn and pattern for me to knit a sweater or vest at the Crafting at the Convent.
4) Schedule a "Pints and Purls" event with some of my favorite people at Peace Tree Brewing.

Health and Nutrition
1) Drink 64 oz of water every day.  Easy for me in the summer.....much harder in the winter.
2) Prepare one vegetarian meal every week
3) Prepare one healthy fish meal every week
4) Lose 2 pounds.

1) Finish painting bedroom walls
2) Sew bedroom draperies
3) Sew duvet cover for comforter
4) Deep clean and organize all kitchen cabinets.
5) Put an additional $50 this month into our savings account. (Actually -- staying out of the saving account in January would be a major accomplishment!!! I am trying to save 15% of our income to our emergency savings .. I am at 10%.  I need to cut expenses even more!)

Summer Kitchen
1) Sew 6 dishtowels
2) Spin 4 skeins of yarn
3) Knit 12 dishcloths
4) Make 4 batches of jam
5) Find and create a fun project for a new and different product for sale.

1) Do lesson plan and handouts for the gardening section for the Homesteading Conference that I am teaching in April.  I am teaching four-90 minutes classes. In one day.  Yep. I am up to the challenge but what a lot of work.
2) Paint parking sign
3) Paint flower hours sign
4) Paint new barn quilt
5) Work on brochure for the farm.
6) Attend the WFAN conference.
7) Plan and create class schedule for summer classes.

1) Greet at church for the month of January
2) Teach two classes for Scott Community College
3) Attend two Freight House Steering Committee meetings.... (This month, they are not scheduled the same night as my classes at Scott!)
4) Attend Buy Fresh-Buy Local Board meeting
5) Create the form letter and send membership forms out by the end of January for Buy Fresh-Buy Local
6) Explore interest in creating an eastern-Iowa Farm Crawl type event.

That is soooooooo enough!  You can follow the progress on the Monthly Goals page.

Wish me luck!!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If you need a laugh....................UPDATED!!!!!

You have got to read ................... this!

I love my neighborhood!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Because of my inept computer skills .... I have now corrected the link!!!!!)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fiber ... beer. Beer ........ fiber.

When I was growing up ... knitting was somewhat a solitary activity. 

At our house, you sat quietly in the living room and knit.  You would knit while listening to the stereo play the soundtracks to The Man of La Mancha or My Fair Lady.  Quietly. You would never KIP'd.  (That is Knitting In Public for the non-knitting public!)  And loud raucous laughter???  Double Never!!!!!!

Well ... I really like KIP-ing.  I carry my knitting everywhere...... and when I have a chance, I knit.  Except at church ... which is really kind of difficult for me because there is a gal that knits all the way through church!!  And I just want to say .... But she does it!!!  But I don't, Lord.  As much as I want to .... I don't.  And I really try not to lust over her yarn. :)

So the other day ......... Honey and I went to Mineral Point for cheese, beer and fiber.  And not in that order.

First stop ........ Brewery Creek brewery.   Yea .... beer.  Oh ... and food.  We were hungry.  And thirsty.  Definitely thirsty.

We were seated at a small table near the window.  But right next to three women that were finishing up their lunches.  Somehow ... I picked up words that peaked my interest......... cloud, fiber, merino.  Ahhh .... knitters and spinners.  And then......... their needles were pulled out.

I suddenly found the perfect place to KIP!!  A brewery!!  I want to KIP at a brewery .... a nice IPA or stout in front of me.  Maybe a amber ale or a porter.  I want to KIP at a small local brewery!

So, there I was ...... with role models in front of me... turning heels, whipping up last-minute Christmas presents ........... just knitting away.

Honey knew I couldn't let it go.  So after I finished my incredibly awesome Salmon-Caper salad with Hook's Paradise Blue Cheese crumbles over it (yea ... yummmmm!) .......... I stopped at their table and snapped this photo.

And talked.  Ya gotta to talk to role models like this!!!!  And I discovered even more role-model behavior. (other than the fact, they had been to a couple of yarn stores in the morning!)

Here ... on the cover of Spin-Off ... for posterity....... are the fingerless gloves that Jane (in red with that wonderful cabled scarf!) designed.  And inside, their knitting group from Madison WI .... showing off all the variations.

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History.

Yea ............... role models!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lots of little checks.....................

A few weeks ago, I heard Lisa Kivirist talk about women in agriculture.... particularly, organic and sustainable agriculture.

One point that really hit home to me ......... was that their income was made up of lots of little checks.


I think many people look at my farm and see.......... flowers.  And flowers are an important part of the farm.  But flowers bloom in my garden for roughly 5 months out of the year.  So from October to June, where does the money come?

My grandparents farmed during the Depression.  On Saturdays, my mother and her three sisters would take off on horseback and deliver farm-fresh goods to the neighbors.  Eggs and butter, freshly-dressed chickens and baked goods.  She sold a wedding cake here.  A birthday cake there. My grandmother was the queen of little checks.  She would open her home to strangers and sell and serve holiday meals at her dining room table.

I want to be the queen of little checks.

And I am learning.  I spin some yarn.  I knit a scarf.  I sell some eggs.  I teach a class.

Little checks.

It's extending seasons ......... value-added agriculture ..... learning new skills.

And all the while..... I have to be true to myself and the vision of my farm.

For Christmas, Honey and I are giving each other the gift of a new skill.  We are learning to cane.  And since there are truly 15 billion chairs in our home that need seats..... we will have lots of practice time!  A new skill.  And maybe more little checks in the future.

Its funny .......... for decades we went to work at the same place.  Did the same job daily. Spent thirty years there.  Brought home a gold watch. 

And now, like my grandmother........ our lives are the accumulation of many skills and talents.

And lots of little checks.

Monday, December 13, 2010


At this moment.............. I have fleece-lined boots on, wool socks, long-underwear, jeans, tee-shirt, under-shirt, long sleeved turtle neck, big shawl wrapped around me twice .......... and fingerless gloves.

The heater has been going full blast on my feet for over an hour.

And according to instant read thermometer that is lying on my desk is just over 30 degrees.

In. my. house.  Upstairs. Where. I. sleep.

It is too cold to stir citric acid into the milk to make cheese!!!!!

I am hanging up my keyboard.  I will talk to you in March.  Or during a January thaw.  Or from Miami.  Or when there is enough Schnapps in my system to warm me up!!

That should be interesting!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Shop smalls .......... not malls.

Yes ......... I did blatantly steal that from my friend Maggie.  Or my friend Jill. But I stole it nevertheless.

But it was sooooo worth stealing.

So if you want to shop smalls.... if you want to find a parking space near the door ... or if you want to go someplace where everyone know your name......... shop Five Fabulous Farmers ......... a Bizarre Bazaar.

The heat is on in the Summer Kitchen.  The tea kettle is ready to go.  There are homemade cookies for your dining pleasure and lots of fun things to look at and take home.

I've joked about the fact that we don't get off the farm much ...... and it is true.  But we are women that find our entertainment and our creativity at the tips of our fingers.

Cassie made beautiful decorative cards and tags.  The tags would be PERFECT to hang on a vintage-looking Christmas tree.  And then .... there is the beautiful hand-spun yarn from Diego.  He used to live down the road at Crosswinds Farms.

Julie ......... well, what can I say about the many talents of Julie Wall.  From painting to felted, she has really helped filled the Summer Kitchen with color and light.

Diana made beautiful ruffled aprons ..... I'm sorry I don't have a photo.  But the Amy Butler fabric is fresh and pretty and bright.

And dear Sheepie Neighbor ..... her clay figures are full of character and fun.  I love the little lambs!!!

And did I mention ............... there are nut rolls? And double chocolate chip cookies.

So stop out and see us.  We have the heaters on. We will be here from 9 to 3.

And now ..... its time to pay the piper.  Yep ... its goal time.  Wanna see how I did???

1) Knit 12 dishcloths........... Seriously, where did all the ones I have knit gone????? Oh -- a Rule # Uno of Retail....... replace what you sell!  I got 10 dishcloths knitted.  Not bad.

2) Make 2 batches of cocoa mix. Made four batches.  That's a score.

3) Make one batch of carrot cake jam  Nope!

4) Knit 2 scarves One scarf is done.  One is one the needles.  Might actually be done by 3.  Or not.  But is will be done for next week!

5) Spin three skeins of yarn  YES!!!! Victory!!!

6) Decorate the Summer Kitchen. Not so much! But it still looks cute!

7) Make 7 stars/snowflakes to hang from the ceiling of the Summer Kitchen. Nope!!!

8) Bake a batch of thumbprint cookies for our customers. Can I give myself a half a point?  I made brownies instead.  And they will still be warm.  Maybe.  Depends on the heat in the Summer Kitchen!!!

9) Bake 2 batches of granola and 6 loaves of bread.  Completed!!!

10) Decorate the house.  Didn't even think about it.

11) Fill this jars with dish scrubbies.  Its a gallon Ball commemorative jar.  Its big.  The scrubbies aren't!  I did knit 7 scrubbies.  So I did make a dent.

12) Teach a jam making class  Nope.  Class was canceled.

13) Attend a Buy Fresh-Buy Local board meeting   Yep!  I'm membership chairman again.  Be prepared for my phone calls!

14) Convince you that you have to come see Five Fabulous Farmers ... a Bizarre Bazaar (possibly in a blizzard .... how's that for alliteration?) on Saturday 12/11  from 9 to 3 in the Summer KitchenWell, I can't say I didn't try!!!!!

15) Do a blog post.   And again and again!!!!

Now that you have seen my failures........ and a few successes ... pop out and see us today!!!!!  You will forget there is even a mall in town!!!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Take a peak!

I'm lovin' the Summer Kitchen's look!  I could get used to this nice full look.  It's not going to last long!  But today, enjoy seeing the talent of Julie Wall.

This is her ........mmmm, pie window.  From seedling to crust.... it reflects the life cycle of an apple!  It is awesome ... and if you don't buy it, Honey will.

This folk art rooster may also live at Miss Eff's.  Rooster .... folk art .... $18.00.  Yea..... it is almost a given.

OK ..... I will give you a chance to buy these!!!  Maybe.  These tiny nativities are a fantastic piece of artwork.  Julie made and cut the print .... printed it on hand-made rice paper and applied them to these beautifully painted oak blocks.  They are then sealed and at $8, are the perfect small gift to represent the true meaning of Christmas.

There are people .... that I know .... that follow the Cupcake Truck in Denver.  After all, a cupcake truck is something that you just can't ignore.  Particularly when they have lemon cupcakes.  If you know such a person..... you should make sure that their Christmas tree has a cupcake on it!

See how cute they look on the tree!  And notice the tiny birdhouses!!  Too cute.

Sorry.... but this cute snowman found a home!  Thanx, Susan!!!!

And the last snowman window was so popular .... she had to paint another one for us!!!

There will be so much more.  I am so excited about all the stuff my uber-talented friends are doing!  Come on out today .... 11-4pm, Friday from 9-3 and Saturday from 9-3.  Best chances for baked goods is Saturday.  And dress warm.

Editor's note .... Proceeds from the Five Fabulous Farmers ... a Bizarre Bazaar will benefit the Summer Kitchen and help pay for her medical needs.  Rumor has it that the swoooopy roof is suffering from chilled bones that only insulation, drywall and gleaming white painted bead board can cure!  Stop in and see us!  :)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Scratching off the list

 OK guys ... just to update you ... and myself on the progress of the LIST!  I have made some progress.  Am I there????  Not a chance!

1) Knit 12 dishcloths........... Seriously, where did all the ones I have knit gone????? Oh -- a Rule # Uno of Retail....... replace what you sell!  I have knitted 8 dishcloths. I have four to go!  This is do-able!

2) Make 2 batches of cocoa mix.  Done!!! And I may make a third batch!

3) Make one batch of carrot cake jam

4) Knit 2 scarves One is done and a second one is started.  We will see how that goes!

5) Spin three skeins of yarn  One skein is started.  That is all I have to say!

6) Decorate the Summer Kitchen.

7) Make 7 stars/snowflakes to hang from the ceiling of the Summer Kitchen. (I do know where the material is.  Does that count?)

8) Bake a batch of thumbprint cookies for our customers.

9) Bake 2 batches of granola and 6 loaves of bread.  One batch of granola is done.  I'll do a second tomorrow morning early!

10) Decorate the house.

11) Fill this jars with dish scrubbies.  Its a gallon Ball commemorative jar.  Its big.  The scrubbies aren't!  I have knitted 5 scrubbies.  The jar will not be full!

12) Teach a jam making class

13) Attend a Buy Fresh-Buy Local board meeting  Been there!  Did that!

14) Convince you that you have to come see Five Fabulous Farmers ... a Bizarre Bazaar (possibly in a blizzard .... how's that for alliteration?) on Saturday 12/11  from 9 to 3 in the Summer Kitchen.

Progress goes slowly ..... hopefully, I can convince you to see us on Saturday.

Dress code for such an exclusive event??? Carrharts!!!!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Worries, Retail and Relaxation.................

Yep.... I'm at it again.  I am worrying. 

I do it extremely well ..... and seriously, when you do something well, you should just go for it!  I have proof that I do it well.  Most the stuff I worry about never happens!!!

Well .... I have taken a major plunge in my life and now ..... I'm worrying about it.

For 8 years, I have worked retail during the winter.  I would take most of the summer off.  Many years I worked one night a week. But come the first frost, I was back behind the register, expounding on the the benefits of 500-thread count sheets and 18/10 stainless steel flatware.

Just the other day, a regular customer came in to the store and said ......... Fall must be here, Cathy is back!

I enjoyed my retail job .... even though I spent every dime I ever made there!!  But now its time to say goodbye to all our company.  (Yea ... name that tune!)  So December 23rd is my final day at work.

I'll miss my co-workers, I'll miss the customers/friends that I have gotten to know so well over the years .... and I will REALLY miss the discount!!

So now ....... the worry begins.  I have always had that buffer to protect me (and Honey) from the rest of the world.  A small job that was capable of buying groceries or paying a utility bill or just kept the wolf away from the door. 

And now .... it is up to ol' Miss Eff to keep the wolf away... to eliminate unnecessary spending, add the few dollars to the savings and keep the checkbook balanced. Yea .... its a worry.

But even a turtle makes progress by sticking its neck out.  And the Summer Kitchen is putting my abilities, talents and faith on the line.  Can I do retail on a little farm on the east coast of Iowa????

The other day one of my dear customers at my job said to me... Its winter.  You can sit back and relax now.

Not so much!!!!!!

Monday, December 6, 2010


My friend, Kim is getting to me, I tell ya!!!

First of all .... she is the DIY Queen.  The woman is amazing!!! She sews, she scrapbooks, she crafts.  She dry walls, she paints, she builds fences and she does plumbing (cuz we all know that we channel our energy right through our hubbies!!!)  And you soooo have to check out her "Dare-to" blog party. 

I'd be there ..... but I have been too busy DIY-ing!!!

But I digress. Every month .... Kim writes her goals ... down.  On the computer.  For the world to evaluate and judge.  And then she scratches off what she accomplishes.  Which is always super-lots!!!!!!

So ... I am taking a cue from Kim .... and I am writing down the household goals of Miss Eff.  For the week ... not the month.  We all know, I am not that focused!!!!!!

This week's goals .... as engraved in stone .... or silicon chips.... whatever.

1) Knit 12 dishcloths........... Seriously, where did all the ones I have knit gone????? Oh -- a Rule # Uno of Retail....... replace what you sell!

2) Make 2 batches of cocoa mix.

3) Make one batch of carrot cake jam

4) Knit 2 scarves

5) Spin three skeins of yarn

6) Decorate the Summer Kitchen.

7) Make 7 stars/snowflakes to hang from the ceiling of the Summer Kitchen.

8) Bake a batch of thumbprint cookies for our customers.

9) Bake 2 batches of granola and 6 loaves of bread.

10) Decorate the house.

11) Fill this jars with dish scrubbies.  Its a gallon Ball commemorative jar.  Its big.  The scrubbies aren't!

12) Teach a jam making class

13) Attend a Buy Fresh-Buy Local board meeting

14) Convince you that you have to come see Five Fabulous Farmers ... a Bizarre Bazaar (possibly in a blizzard .... how's that for alliteration?) on Saturday 12/11  from 9 to 3 in the Summer Kitchen.

15) Do a blog post. 

Yes!  I can scratch that one off!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Findings ... again.

Yes ... it is Friday so you know what that means.  It is "Show and Tell" in the Summer Kitchen!

New market bags .......... no, I didn't knit these!  These are beautiful crocheted bags, courtesy of Jill Beebout and Blue Gate Farm.  And get your Eco-fiber on...... the beautiful blue one on the left is made of bamboo.

Next up ... for the quilters and seamstresses on your gift list.............. Julie Wall has made these fabulous pincushions out of local roving and vintage candlesticks.  Not just pincushions but pieces of use-able art.  She will have many more at the Five Fabulous Farmers Bazaar next weekend..... but as always, The Summer Kitchen's supplies are limited.  If you like it .... buy it now!

Yea ..... I know its cold out there.  So we have added coffee cozies to our inventory.  Can't have your Four Daughter's Coffee getting cold!!!!

And to keep your hands warm while you are drinking that latte........... a couple of pairs of fingerless mitts.  More to come ........... (I hope!)

And I did get three more scarves knitted this week ... and I have a fourth on the needles.  So stop in and see if there is anything that fits your needs.

And finally ............... ONE ... and Only ONE ..... red Santa dishcloth.  (Ya know what I think of red yarn at the moment!!!)

So now you know what is new in the Summer Kitchen today .....  Open Friday from 9-3.  There is water in the kettle .... come join me for tea. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I'm not ready for this!!!!

It is 22 degrees on the East Coast of Iowa today.  With the wind chill ....... it feels like it is -2.  Yea.

In the Midwest ..... if it is 85 degrees, it feels like 95 degrees.  That is heat index.  In the winter.... if it is 30 degrees and windy .... it feels like 10 degrees. That is wind chill.

We have no accurate temperatures in the Midwest. 

It is never 20 degrees and it feels like 20 degrees.  Actually .... I'm not sure if I know what 20 degrees feels like.

Other than cold.

So right now ..... I am dressed in my sleeveless pj's (cuz of night sweats ..... if you don't understand that, ask your mother!) wool socks, fingerless mitts, slippers with a shawl wrapped around me.  The great fashion faux-pas of wearing more than two hand-knits at a time. (Sue me, Glamor magazine! I'm cold!) And a heater at my feet going full blast.  And a cat on my lap.  Ya got to have a cat!!!!

Welcome to the upstairs of my 1892 Iowa farmhouse ..... air-conditioned for your comfort between the months of  December and May.  Come June .... the heat kicks on. 

And yet ....  at least, for a brief while ....... I welcome winter.  I love the sipping of warm tea or hot chocolate to warm the body.  My chilled feet thrill in the softness and warmth of the hand-spun, hand knit socks.  My creativity revels in knitting and sewing and spinning.  The smell of hot soup on the stove or stew in the oven warms the soul.

The scent of cinnamon, cardamon and vanilla fill the house.  The warm comforting aroma of freshly baked bread ...... never smells quite as good as it does on a cold winter's day.

Winter is the season of reward for a homesteader.  We understand the blessings of a warm fresh egg, the hard labor of winter chores, the joy of opening a jar of home-canned tomatoes.

Winter .... for all its struggles, all its trouble ......... reminds us daily of the rewards of the life we have chosen.

I would just like to have one less layer of clothing on!!!!!