Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Getting it done .........

Miss me????

All I will say ....... spring colds are the worst!  Last week, I swore I had been hit by a Mack truck.  I'm pretty certain Honey thought I was exaggerating ..... so I did what any loving wife would do.  I shared the cold with him.  Now the Mack truck has hit him.

Finally, Spring came to Iowa.  The sun warmed the soil.  The ground dried up.  The night time temperatures reached above freezing.

I could finally start planting.

Lot of people ask me how I do this.  And it really is quite simple........ on my hands and knees.

Its not sexy ..... its not easy.  And its definitely not big time.

We grow a lot of flowers in a fairly small space.  And this is how we do it.

This is the main cutting bed in the spring.  Last fall, Honey cleaned the beds which was HUGE for me this year.  Normally, I am cleaning in the spring and with the winter that lasted forever ..... I still would be doing it.

I no longer till my gardens.  This is year number 4 and I am finding that s l o w l y, the weed population is going down.  I am no longer bringing weed seeds the the top .... and it seems to be helping.  But there is still work to do.

I clean all the grass, weeds etc by hand. Once they are cleared away ... they go right to my feathered composters.  :) My favorite tools for weeding have changed throughout the years.  Currently, I use a Cobra weeder. 

Our soil is full of organic matter so it is pretty light and fluffy.  The garden area was a feed lot in the 50's -- and then sat idle for 40 years or so.  We top dress the gardens with composted chicken manure in the fall.  The paths are wood mulch so that continues to break down over the years.

Our plant supports are then flipped over so I have an evenly spaced planting gird that works perfect for me!

It also works perfect for our marriage.

Honey likes nice straight lines.  And well ................. you know how I wander off!!!

So far, I have about 2000 plugs in the ground.  I will plant lilies and about 1/3 of the glads this week.

Next week ... I will start direct seeding some of the zinnias, cosmos and sunflowers.

That's enough talking for the day!!!  I need to get some work done!

Thursday, April 18, 2013


The last two nights, I have taught jam making classes for Scott Community College.

And ........ OMG!!!!! What fun!!

I really have a ball!  Honey is my assistant and he spends most of his time, washing dishes and laughing at the comments from the students.  And trying to keep me sane!  (yea .... that's a full time job!)

My goal in jam class is to teach some really basics about making jam and canning.  And every year, I search out recipes that can easily be made with current grocery store selections.

Now -- I will admit -- I like finding some unusual recipes.  Everyone can find a strawberry recipe.  But Strawberry Margarita is a lot of fun and the tequila brightens the taste of those store-bought, shipped-in, picked-when-green strawberries!

We made one of my favorite jams last night .......... cantaloupe vanilla.

It is awesome in August when we, on the east coast of Iowa, have incredible Muscatine melons on every corner fruit stand.  But even with so-so cantaloupes, it is like eating candy! 

And on goat cheese ............. Stand back, sista!!!!!  It is delish!

So I will share the recipe.  It does make a very small batch but it can easily be doubled.

Cantaloupe Vanilla Jam

2 pounds peeled and seeded cantaloupe, cut into ½” cubes
3 ½ cups sugar
1 TBSP lemon juice
½ to 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine cantaloupe, sugar and lemon juice in a heavy-bottomed pan.  Add 3-4 teaspoons of Fruit Fresh to keep the color bright. Heat over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Raise the heat to medium high and boil jam, stirring frequently until a drop of it mounds slightly on a chilled plate.  For a smoother jam, use an immersion blender to puree'.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla … ladle the jam into jars and process for 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

This recipe makes 3-4 8 oz jars of jam.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Experiment over ........

The great one-car family experiment at the Lafrenz household is over.

We caved and bought a new different truck.  And it is amazing ... we now (in 2013) have a vehicle that was manufactured in the 21st century.

Ok -- we really didn't cave.  We always  knew we would buy another vehicle.

But I find that I am somewhat disappointed in myself.

I try to be environmentally conscious.  I try to be fiscally conservative.  (Didn't think you would ever hear me say that, did ya?????)  But when push came to shove .......... I wanted my wheels back!!!

I kept saying .... Oh, it is fine.  I am happy saving the gas.  I really don't need a car.  We can live with one vehicle!

And I have to admit ..... we did it for 3.5 months.

But guess what???  I lied!!

I feel like a 16 year old that just got their license! Can I drive 100 yards to get the mail???  Two blocks to buy a soda???

The windows are rolled down!  The radio is blaring!  (And I am pretty certain I just broke the speed limit!)

Wow!  The freedom is great!

But don't worry ..... I haven't gone all 21st century on you.

I'm still using this .......................

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Equally yoked............

The other day, a friend and I were talking about marriage.  She made the comment that Honey and I seem to have a marriage that is equally yoked.

I loved that term!  Two people ... going in the same direction ... both pulling equally .... looking forward, not back.   Making a marriage work.

And then ... this weekend ... Gabby Reece has been on the news show circuit talking about her marriage and how she uses her soft, feminine .....even submissive ... side to keep the marriage working.

And the Twitter-sphere was off and running about how women can not be submissive!  And strong women are not submissive and so-on and so-forth.  And how women should not submit to their husbands.

Yea. Yea. Yea.

Honey and I practice a marriage philosophy called "Love and Respect".  And practice is definitely the right word because I have to practice a lot.  Maybe if I practice enough .... I will get it right. ;)

Based on scripture .... Ephesians 5:33 ...... a husband is commanded by God to love his wife unconditionally and a woman is commanded by God to respect her husband unconditionally. 

Period.  Dot.  What ever you want to call it .... that is all.

It is that simple. 

Now life, money woes, work stresses, kids, illness and frustrations can throw any marriage off that straight narrow freshly plowed furrow.  Suddenly, you are not equally yoked and life is crazy.  And no one is happy.

Ms. Reece has it right.  A marriage works best when two people work at making the other person happy.

Its not about what you can do for me .... but what I can do for you.

So my feminist sisters seem to be up in arms over this.  And I don't get it.  And I really didn't think there was anyone more feminist than me!

Don't we all want happy relationships??? 

I haven't read Ms. Reece 's book and I won't.  But should we be blasting someone that found a way to keep a marriage together in a society where 50% of all marriages fail???

I still want equal pay .... I still want equal rights.  I still want to see women smash through that glass ceiling.

But I want them to come home to a partner that equally shares their burdens .... shares their joys and their sorrows.

I want them  to be equally-yoked.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The porch project..................

First of all, thank you for all the supportive comments from the last post.  Putting your life right on the line ... is not easy.  But for me, it is necessary.  So thank you for hanging in there!

Now ... on to the next project.

As you know .... Honey has been working on this old house.

A few years ago, a guy stopped by one day.  He wanted to paint our house.  I showed him the palette I had selected but informed him that we could not afford to have the house painted.  But he wanted to give us a bid anyway.

So he looked.

He estimated.

He brought a friend and estimated some more.

And he left the bid in the mailbox.

I think he was afraid of my reaction.

And well, he should have been!


Yea.  The decimal is in the right place.  And since I really didn't want to put his son through college by myself, we declined his offer to paint our house.

Fast forward five, six, maybe seven years ..........

Honey has committed to finishing the east side of the house and restoring the porch this year.  And making plans to restore the porch has been a little more difficult than either of us expected.

We have no pictures of the porch when the house was built.  The only picture we have was 35 years after the house was built and the porch had been enclosed.  Finding brackets and spandrels and railing detail that is right for the house has been a challenge.

This is not a fancy house.  So searching the beautiful homes of Broadway or the Gold Coast for inspiration wasn't going to work. 

Many homes that are similar to ours have been "remodeled".  Some have been "remuddled" so only the barest trace of the original house remains.  There is only one place to look for inspiration.

Yep ......... it to the "marginal" neighborhoods.

And we think we found what we are looking for ............... inspiration.  Simple ..... Victorian ..... but not over the top.  True inspiration and not the 1990's version of Victorian woodworking.

One thing checked off!

Now to find lighting!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Darkness at Noon ..........

This is not a light fluffy post. 

This is not about sunshine and puppies.

This is about mental illness.

I hate that term.  It has such connotations of straight-jackets and padded cells.  But I have to admit .... I suffer from mental illness.

I have depression.

I was diagnosed in 1991 after years of suffering.  I had  canyon deep lows, but when I was feeling good (or faking it well) I was on top of the world.

Many were surprised when I was diagnosed.  I hid it well from the general public .... but my good friends knew.

I could pull myself up by the bootstraps or go outside and get the stink blown off me -- I could function.

But the darkness .... the darkness was there.

When I crashed .... I crashed hard.  Years of therapy .... Years of medication followed. 

Several years ago .... I was able to go off meds.  I held off depression by having a fantastic support system, a life that I loved, and prayer.

But lately, the dark feelings returned.  Maybe it was the long winter.  Maybe it is isolation.  Maybe it is stress.

Recently, I needed to go back on medication.

It is a struggle. 

But it is a struggle that I am determined to win.

So forgive me if I am quieter than normal ...... if  I slightly sit longer in the sun.  Or if I cut more flowers for myself.

Its time to fill my soul and to heal .....

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The countdown .........

In less than a week ... the first boxes of plug trays appear.

And the current temp in downtown Donahue .......... 37 degrees.


Now -- it is warming up.  But it takes more than one or two warm days to heat up the soil.  And it sure isn't there yet!

Coming  to a garden near me!!!

April is the month of my panic attacks.

I watch the weather forecasts as if I could possibly change the forecasts!  I watch them in the morning.  I watch them at noon.  I watch the 5, 6 and 10 o'clock news .... hoping for change (or not!!!!).

I watch local news.

I watch national news.

I watch farm reports.

I stalk weathermen on Facebook.

I know NOAA employees on a first-name basis.

And I panic.

A lot.

So I decided that I needed a diversion this year.  I needed to do something that might take my mind off something that I can not control! 

I would teach more classes.

So -- for the month of April ... I am teaching classes and classes. Food classes, gardening classes, and sewing classes.

I have 6 classes to teach this week but most weeks, I have 2 or 3.

Last night was going to be a breeze.  I was teaching Pizza class.

Make the crust.
Make the cheese.
Put it all together. 

The first step ... I demo the crust.  Then the students make crusts as  Honey preps the veggies.  Suddenly, I realize that I do not smell roasting garlic.

I look at the oven.

It is not 400 degrees.  It is not warm.  It is not working.

I turn on the burner.  No flame .. no gas.

I go to another stove.

No flame ... no gas.

And another.

And another.

And another.

Same results.

Evidently, yesterday the power went out.  Twice.  And for safety reasons ... when the power goes out all gas/ electric  appliances no longer work and a computer needs to be re-booted.


No gas.

Phone call.
Phone call.
Phone call.

No gas.

Fortunately, the re-boot did get the electric stoves working......... although not like they should have.  There were still problems with the ovens.  I am certain they were not up to temperature.

We were able to make cheese.  We made pizza.  We survived.

But controlling classes???

Not so much!!!!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Layers .......

As many of you know ... we have no heat upstairs in this old farm house.

Many a night, a glass of water beside my bed will have a thin layer of ice on it in the morning.

There are quick dashes upstairs in the evening to jump in the warm bed and be smothered by the weight of the many covers.

There is a heated mattress pad, flannel sheets, a cotton blanket, 2 wool blankets, a down comforter, a cotton coverlet, a cat, and a fleece throw. 

And a partridge in a pear tree.

And I am then warm.

Since it is now APRIL!!! -- I thought I could slowly peel back the layers.

I removed the first wool blanket yesterday.

And last night, I was miserable.

I was cold.

I was hot.

I was cold.

I was hot.

I was cold and hot at the same time!

I am exhausted ..... but I am probably not as tired as my dear sweet Honey.  Who at this very moment, I am trying to convince that he still loves me!!!!

Today .... I say it to remind you!!!

Menopause .... the unpredictable season of ever-changing temperatures.