Friday, May 31, 2013

Why I Cried When I Cut The Grass on Thursday

Dear Mom,
After two summers of drought, and the extreme heat we had last year, it has been a pleasure to mow healthy, green grass this spring. With all the rainfall, keeping up has been a bit of a challenge.
But that is not what made me cry.

After Daddy died, his John Deere tractor (I like to think of it as John, Dear) came to live at my house. Mowing has fallen under my half (?) of the division of labor in this household since the late 80's. Obviously, I didn't mow during my pregnancies and I somewhat reluctantly turned over the responsibility to the Young Man during his high school years (the deal- we pay for gas for the car, you mow the lawn), but now he has full time summer employment and I am back on the tractor.
John, Dear gets his annual check up every winter and is always ready to rev up in the spring. Paying for the annual maintenance gives me a little insurance should anything go wrong during the mowing season. I've never needed to bother the service department at Reynold's Farm Equipment until Thursday.
But that is not what made me cry.

At 4:45 pm, in the middle of a relatively straight patch of mowing, the mower blades stopped turning. I stopped the tractor dead, turned off the blade switch and tried re-engaging them. Nothing. Noting the time, and worried I might not get reach anyone in the service department before they closed down for the day, I drove John, Dear up near the house, jumped off, ran in and put my hands on my service invoice, locating the phone number. I was relieved when the call was answered. I was immediately transferred to the service department.
Jessie quickly diagnosed the problem and I ran back outside (with the phone) to confirm that "Yes, now that I look, I see a loose belt. Is this something I can fix? Can you talk me through it?" Jessie did believe that it was something I could manage and gave me some verbal instructions, took my email address, and sent me a page with photos of how the belt should be attached. Very nice. Very patient. He even told me he would be in the office until 6 and to call if I ran into difficulty. (I think we spoke three times before it was all through.)
Now, I've been known to cry when people do nice things for me, but this was not one of those times.

I didn't cry because my arms were black and my fingernails were even blacker when I was through.
I didn't cry at the bruises or scratches on my forearms from pushing my arms into hard metal places.
I didn't cry because the belt was stuck under a pulley and I couldn't pull it out. (That just made me MAD. Incredible Hulk mad. I may have even said 'dammit'.  But Mad enough to pull on it real hard- so hard, in fact, that I un-stuck it!)
I didn't cry because I was sweaty. Or that it took me over an hour to finally get it fixed.
Nope, I cried because when I took the cover off the mower deck, I saw this:

Daddy had drawn the belt attachment configuration right there on the mower deck. I thanked him right out loud. Right there, with dirt and grass and grease and sweat and tears in my eyes. His diagram was much easier to follow than the emailed photo and I didn't need to look away from the mower deck to refer to it.  I finished attaching the belt, with help at the end from My Hero - I needed his muscles to get the belt over and around that last pulley. While I was mowing the rest of the yard, I realized, once again, that the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. I thought it was just me- but now know where it came from. Because, strategically located on the walls in the garage are the following:
furnace filter reminder
above the water softener pipes

above the water softener tank
And on my new skein winder-

Why go to the trouble of looking in a manual or for an instruction sheet or taking the risk of not remembering when the info can be right there, where you need it?

Thanks, Daddy!


Friday, May 24, 2013

The Gardens

Dear Mom,
After working hard in the 85 degree sunshine to get my garden planted last weekend, with my feet dirty in garden clogs, knees muddy, and shirt soaked in sweat, the seeds and plants are probably shivering in their lovingly made dirt beds today. Temps got down into the 40's last night and our forecast is for a cool weekend with highs barely into the 70's, if they even get there.  The Weather Forecast is a Big Deal in Indianapolis on Memorial Day weekend, so anything less than a perfect race day forecast is cause to take note. Despite admitting it may be "chilly" on Sunday, they will never come out with anything less than "a slight chance for rain". A big, bright, yellow and green blob could be swallowing up central Indiana on the radar and they will still tell us there is a "window in Terre Haute".  Still, I do hope it is a nice day. Our race tradition is to sit on the screened porch and listen on the radio. I must hear Florence Henderson warble her way through "God Bless America" and listen to The National Anthem, to Jim Nabors sing "Back Home Again in Indiana", to the prayer and finally the call for the drivers to Start Their Engines. We run outside like children sighting Santa's Sleigh on Christmas Eve when we hear the Air Force pilots fly over the house, excited to see them every year. We leave the race on as our soundtrack to the day, but we go about our business as we listen occasionally.

Ok. Back to the garden, because this started out to be about my gardens.
Everything is planted. Hopefully still alive and/or germinating. Despite my failed Potato Tower from last year, or maybe because of it, I have planted potatoes in three different contrivances, as an experiment of sorts. The first is the way potatoes are meant to be grown: in the ground. (imagine). Second, I used my compost bin (which is a metal can with holes all around) to plant them much like I did my potato tower, but just in a single layer. And third, in a big flower pot. The flower pot is already a damaged experiment as Olive decided to unearth the plants on Wednesday evening. She has not shown remorse nor given me an explanation as to why. I found no buried dog treasures in the muddy mix. Just a happy dog who, it seems, has added digging to tetherball on the list of her hobbies. I replanted what was salvageable of those potatoes. My purpose in conducting this loose experiment is to see if there is a marked difference in potato yield and to compare ease of harvest between the three methods. Already (and yes, it has been a very wet spring and much, much cooler than last year, and I started earlier) the plants themselves look 1000 times better than  the Potato Tower plants ever did.

I also got a jump start in March by planting spinach, romaine lettuce and snow peas. We've already enjoyed spinach from the garden. In Sunday's heat, I sowed green beans and lined the garden with zinnia seeds. I've also planted some melons that I started from seed, indoors. The seeds came from melons CarolWho'sHouseGotStruckByLightening sent me from California. These are varieties of melons she had never seen (or eaten) here in Indiana. We shall see how those California varieties like the midwest.

My last experiment of sorts is the way I am growing my tomatoes this year. When I think about it, I get a tiny bit nervous, because if this fails and I have no home grown tomatoes....... well, perish the thought!

I am growing my tomatoes in bags of garden soil. There are two reasons why I am taking this risk:
1. Our Brother has done this and swears he gets a greater number of tomatoes. ( I do believe he keeps track of these things.)
2. This is a way of expanding my garden space without really expanding it.

I wrapped the bags in landscaping burlap and tied the burlap with ribbon to make it all look prettier than  it would if the bags were just setting there all plain and bright plastic-y. As an added bonus, when I am cleaning up the garden next fall I can just add the bags of dirt to the garden for next year.

On top of all that- the plants, the seeds, the lavender in my flower box and the pots on the front porch- I sprinkle my home made organic fertilizer mix. One thing I am not is a Fussy Gardener. I like things to be low maintenance and other than watering, I want my gardens to take care of themselves. I mix up this fertilizer in the spring, put it where it needs to go, and that is the end of that. It works. I don't need to worry about over fertilizing or burning out seedlings with it. I found this formula years ago in an organic gardening book and after working on the math and making pounds and pounds and pounds of the stuff over the years, I have boiled it down to this easy concoction. When I first started making this, one of the ingredients (greensand) was not easy to find. That is no longer the case with the push towards chemical-free gardening getting stronger. Here it is:

All Purpose Home Made Organic Fertilizer
10 lb. bag of Greensand
2.75 lb. bag of Blood Meal
4 lb. bag of Bone Meal

Combine ingredients and mix well. All ingredients can be found at a good nursery. Support your local garden shop!

Have a Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fiber Optics

Dear Mom,
One of the attractions of The Fiber Event in Greencastle, for me, is Kimber Baldwin's Fiber Optic yarn.   This year I purchased some of her worsted weight Superwash Merino, in the "Whacky Khaki" color way to knit a shawl she had displayed in her booth. I finished knitting the shawl late last week and took advantage of the sunshine and blooming columbine on Sunday to take its picture.
The pattern is Fried and Green. Although the pattern required 2 skeins of the Superwash Merino, Kimber needed just a tad bit of a third skein to finish the edging on her sample. I went ahead and purchased that third skein, and knowing I had the extra yardage, decided to add some length to the shawl before I began the lace border. I am very glad I did.

This pattern was well written and the shawl was quick to knit. The yarn is springy with very good stitch definition.

I have another shawl in the home stretch- just knitting the lace edging on that one, but that may take as long to finish as it did to knit the body of the shawl. I've been watching episodes of Foyle's War on my iPad while I work on this one. I think I can get in 12 repeats of the border per episode, and if I can manage that many reps per evening I should have the shawl finished at the end of next week. Maybe.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Skein winder

Dear Mom,
I've neglected to introduce the newest member of my Fiber Equipment Family. This could be because I haven't been able to think of a good name for her/him/it.
I recently had a very full knitting class and decided to use some of the proceeds from that class to purchase a new yarn swift. The little umbrella swift that Wendy gave me 20+ Christmases ago has been    wearing out. The threads on the clamp that secure it to a table are stripped and I can only tighten it so far. I've been using some of that stuff you put under rugs to keep them from slipping as a wedge to fill in the gap between the thickness of my table and the tightest spot on the clamp. Winding yarn from skeins into center-pull balls was becoming wobbly adventure. There were occasions when the swift would wobble itself right off the table.
Knowing its days were numbered, I had started casually investigating the different swifts available.
When I saw the Strauch Skeinwinder, I knew I'd found what I wanted. I chose to purchase the combination floor and table model and ordered it from Sheep Street Fibers.
She is beautiful, sturdy, easy to use, versatile. In addition to using her as a yarn swift, I can wind hand spun yarn off the bobbin and into a skein. There are marks on the center post at 1, 1.5 and 2 yard increments to tell me how much yarn I've wound on the skein.  I am very happy with this purchase. She was worth every penny. Now, if only I could think of good name...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Getting a Grip

Dear Mom,
The Young Man is home. We moved him out of the dorm and back home last Thursday. So far, if you overlook the futon frame hanging from bike hooks in the garage, and the mini fridge and microwave underneath that, and the futon cushion on his top bunk, and the various back-to-the-dorm boxes next to that, the transition has gone pretty darn smoothly. It helps that he is employed full time thanks to Bonnie Jo's Mister.

Olive is making a transition of her own. I had her in to the vet to take a look at a lower incisor that was chipped while playing an aggressive round of tetherball. (Now there is something I never thought I'd say.... "My dog chipped a tooth playing tetherball.") After examining the tooth and telling me there was really nothing to be concerned about, the vet quickly and abruptly brought up Olive's weight. For a second there I thought maybe I had accidentally taken her with me to one of my Doctor visits. Olive is now making the slow switch to a lower calorie dog food. And producing a staggering amount of Gas.    Concerned, and worried the odor might keep me up all night, I did a quick internet search and read that a dollop of yogurt in her food might help. We slept well.  And no noxious clouds yet today.

In an effort to get a grip on my many, many projects, the dining room table was excavated, projects organized and I am taking a Deep Breath. Sometimes, many times, I get nervous about all the Things I Want To Do. Like there is a whirling cyclone of projects in my brain and that deep breath of fresh air and a step back is needed to let the dust settle and gain some focus. In the past, lists have helped. I started a short term knitting project goal list today, and I will need a long term goal list along with that. And probably a list of Other Projects I Want to Do..... I must remember There is Satisfaction in Finishing, and Serenity in a Well Ordered Life.

That is all well and good until a project is interrupted. Like when My Hero asks me "how long does it take to knit a baby sweater?" For the woman who just returned from her maternity leave. It seems the whole pregnancy and birth part just slipped his mind and it wasn't until the photos of the baby girl were in his hand that he thought of having a gift. When stuff like this happens I wonder why I don't just knit a bunch of stuff for emergency gifting. As if I have a shortage of knitting ideas and need to fill the time. Nope. It is usually the pressure of a deadline that motivates me to produce gifts.
Thankfully, I recently purchased the book 60 Quick Baby Knits. This book is FULL of the cutest baby things. And they aren't lying when they say Quick. After knitting the adorable cardigan (Project #7), I had enough yarn left over for the very cute little cloche style hat (Project #11).
The hat came off the needles last night and is wrapped and ready for gifting today.
Here they are:
I used 3 skeins of Classic Elite Seedling yarn for the Main Color and 1 skein for the Contrasting Color.

A BONUS to excavating that dining room table....
a place to admire and enjoy some freshly cut lilacs. The fragrance is heavenly! (When Olive is not in the room!)