Wednesday, September 21, 2016

So what is patriotism?

For those of you on social media, maybe you understand how easy it is to get angry over what people post and think is important in the news.  Today I'm feeling just that - angry.  I'm angry about how angry folks are about football player, Colin Kaepernick, and how he didn't stand for the national anthem in protest of how America oppresses people of color.  He was trying to make a point.  

"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game.  "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.   There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."

If I were someone in the limelight and wanted to make a point, why wouldn't I take a stand about something I feel very strongly about?  I've seen video after video of black men being beaten or killed because they were mistaken for a suspect of interest or for putting their hands in their pockets or reaching for their license in their jacket.  Have you not read about the innocent man kicked in the head by a policeman when he was mistaken for someone else?  The policeman was paid $230,000.00 to resign but the injured man only got a settlement of $15,000.00, along with a broken jaw.  THIS DOESN'T MAKE YOU ANGRY?  This kind of thing happens all the time.  Where is your patriotism if standing up for the national anthem is more important than standing up for your fellow man?

Somehow Kaepernick's actions have turned into something more than taking a stand for social injustice.  I've read things like, he's disrespecting our veterans and soldiers.  People are putting a spin on what he did to fit what they want to justify their anger.  Many people who say these things are the same people who would vote for a presidential candidate who says, "He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."  I guess it's easy to ignore that and pretend it didn't happen.  He must not have really meant that.

I wish there was some way I could put this in perspective for you.  What if your brother, sister or child was beaten, raped or murdered for being gay, black, handicapped or different in some way?  Would you want to take a stand and make a difference for others like him or her?  Most of us aren't in the spotlight and don't have a platform to make a difference, but what if you could?  Why wouldn't you?

I think we all agree (at least I hope so) that bullying is wrong, right?  Or do you only think bullying is wrong when it touches your life or happens to people who look like you?  I almost didn't write this blog because it will make some people angry and negative comments on it will cause me discomfort and who wants to be uncomfortable?  I thought more of it as I was milking this morning and realized how important it is to speak up for what you believe whether it makes you uncomfortable or not.  It's a lot easier to jump on a bandwagon and go along with the crowd than it is to make waves.  Speaking of waves:

O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
For the land of the free, and the home of the brave.

Be brave.  Take a stand for what you believe in.  Make a difference.  You're free to do that in America.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Most satisfying

I've seen some videos on Facebook recently that keep me watching even when there's not a lot happening.  Just clay being formed or paint splattering or time lapsed clouds moving, etc.  Here's one I found relaxing.  Watch out, 10 minutes of your life will pass you by if you click on this video.  I think these videos appeal to people who are a little OCD

Why do we (I?) watch these?  They're mesmerizing, I guess.  Just Google "the most satisfying video" and time will disappear before you know it.

A few days ago I was sitting on our deck and saw a leaf that appeared to be dancing.  It was hanging from a very small thread of spider web.  The wind gently carried it up and down.  I sat and watched,

This next video is satisfying to me in a different way than the one of the leaf dancing.  This too could have been a ten minute video if only I could stand the rough sand papery tongue of Franklin.

In my last blog post I had a video of copper changing colors by heating it.  That was another one of these types of satisfying (to me) videos.

I could watch a goat chewing her cud for a long time but don't ask me to watch a human chewing gum for even 2 seconds.  I took this next video 4 years ago and I still find it relaxing (yet hilarious) to watch even now.

How much time did you just waste reading/watching my blog?  Are you feeling satisfied?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The unwanted piece of furniture

We've owned this corner china cabinet for 20+ years.   About 14 years ago the side panel of glass got cracked when Adam threw a ball and our dog, Lex, chased it and hit his head on the cabinet.  That's the story we were told anyway.
We put tape on it and that's the way it stayed until now.  We decided we no longer wanted it.  It had served it's purpose and we were ready to be rid of it.  Apparently no one else wanted it either.  It's been sitting in our chicken/goat barn for 4 months now.  We offered it to someone for free and he said he'd like it.  He never picked it up.  I put it on a local yard sale page for $60.00.  No one wanted it.  Well, one woman said she'd give me $20.00 for it because the glass would be too expensive to replace.  She's probably right but I decided not to sell it for $20.00.  I know, I was going to GIVE it away earlier but we knew that guy.  I guess I just wasn't in the mood to sell it to a stranger for $20.00.

I had an idea.  What if I took the glass out of the side panels and replaced it with copper?  I had to break the perfectly good glass in the right hand side of the cabinet to get it out.  It felt wrong but I did it anyway.  I cut some leftover roofing copper to fit and went to work.  First I annealed the copper with a propane torch.  This makes it softer and easier to work with.  It's very relaxing and satisfying to watch the metal turn colors as I heat it, at least I think so.

I removed the fire scale (the grey stuff) with vinegar, salt water and a rough sponge.  At first I tried coloring the copper with the torch again to color it.  I wasn't happy with the look once I sprayed it with lacquer and the color became dull.
I showed James what I was doing and the 2 of us agreed it would look good if I did the door too.  So I removed the bowed glass very carefully this time, just in case I had to put it back.

Next I began experimenting with chemicals on copper for a different look.  I've done very little of this in the past so it was really a lot of trial and error.  I had the best luck with ammonia, vinegar and salt water and PH decreaser I found in our closet from when we had a hot tub.  I didn't mix these all together.  I just tried a little bit of this and that, also laying leaves, flowers, rope, etc on the metal to see how things behaved together. I could never repeat what I did because I layered color over color, removed color, added more, etc.  I never knew exactly what would happen until the chemicals were washed off and then the copper oxidized.  As it dried it was like magic and different colors slowly appeared.  I can't even describe how much fun this was.

The finished product is now in our bedroom and I wouldn't even consider selling it, I love it so much.

You really need to see it in person to see some of the detail.  Here are a few leaves imprinted on it.

I think my next attempt with copper is going to be building a garden gate for James since the old one I built out of wood needs some TLC.  Any copper outdoors will weather so it won't be as colorful as this cabinet.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Even though Raisa wasn't due for another 3 days I just knew she was going to have a baby yesterday. I spent most of the day with her willing the baby to pop out so I could see the birth.  This is her 3rd calf born here and I wanted so badly to see it happen.  We had a previous engagement last night so I tore myself away for 3 hours.  I couldn't go to bed without checking the field for new life when we got home.

The goats, Rex and I followed the beam of my flashlight to find 4 glowing eyes - 2 up high and 2 down low.  I knew I had missed it once again.  It appeared he had just been born because he was still covered in birthing fluids and Raisa hadn't passed the afterbirth.  I checked to see if it was a boy or girl and wasn't surprised at all that it was once again a boy.  I wonder if I'll ever get a girl from her. Maybe next year she and Franklin can make a beautiful red heifer.  I told Raisa she did a good job and congratulated her then left her to clean him up.

This morning after milking the goats I went to visit her and see him better in the light of day.  He's a cute little guy, of course.  He seems tiny and he's still very curly and slippery but he's been up and around so I imagine he's eating well and healthy.  I asked Raisa what she wanted to name hime.  She said, "mooooo".  I told her that name was overused and maybe we could shorten it and call him Mo.
She didn't argue so that's what I'm going to call him.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A vacation day

This morning James suggested we take a little kayak trip up the river.  We put in at our place and began paddling against the current.  James took the south bank and I took the north.  It was nice floating alone looking at the colors of the rocks beneath the water and the gnarly tree roots grasping the bank at the river's edge.  Eventually I paddled to the left bank when I was ready to talk again.

When I was alone paddling I was thinking - where would I like to go?  I shared with James how I'd like to be in a little cabin on a lake where I could get up and have nothing to do but drink my cup of coffee.  He said, "you know you can do that here"  He said he'd milk the goats and I could do whatever I wanted.  I told him it wasn't the same when I'm at home, that I still feel obligations.

We paddled some more then stopped probably less than half a mile from our place and parked ourselves on our neighbors' gravel beach.  We sat in 6 inches of water and gathered little shells.  We talked and then we didn't.
Slowly any care I had drifted away like the dead crayfish I found who could no longer cling to the rocks.  Poetic, isn't it?  But seriously, my muscles relaxed as I shed my shell and I thought of nothing but our light conversation and how rocks and shells were prettier when they're wet.  Not much more than that.  After an hour or so we hopped back in our kayaks and headed back downstream, only paddling when we neared home and the water had slowed.  We looked to see if we had shells at our beach like they have at our neighbors and we don't.  I wonder why.

Back home, worn out by all our relaxing, I laid on our bed for 30 minutes not wanting to do any more than that.  When that got boring I went out to sit with Raisa, hoping she'd show some sign of labor.  Not today.  She was happy for my company and I was happy to oblige her demands for scratches.

Since I'd decided today was my day off I told myself folding laundry was fun and relaxing.  I think I faked myself out because it was.  I made a blueberry pie for dessert to go with our very easy crockpot dinner of goat shoulder and already made potato salad and cucumber/bean salad.  A very simple meal.

A perfect ending to a perfect day was first walking around the pasture in the dark with the dogs and goats looking for Raisa, followed by an evening dip in the river, which is really warm this time of year.

I doubt sitting on the dock of a lake by a secluded cabin with my coffee cup could have been any better than my little vacation today.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Night watch

Raisa is due to calve in 6 days but like an anxious grandmother I keep thinking she's going to have the baby any hour.  At 9:00 tonight I just had to go out and stare at her.  Finding her in the pasture turned out to be easier than I thought.  The goats and dogs were resting comfortably in the barn when I disturbed them and they thought it was necessary to follow me all through the pasture till I found Raisa.  Luckily she was lying in a path near the cross fence where the bulls hang out.  There's no way I would have found her if she was lying somewhere in the tall grasses.

I laid with her a while and gave her lots of scratches while the dogs and goats watched.  She seemed totally unconcerned that the other animals surrounded her.  Never once did she get up.  I took dozens of pictures but none of them came out very clear.  She seemed happy to have me near.
Her udder is very large but you probably can't tell from this picture.  I, of course, think it looks like a good indication she's going to deliver soon :)  It will continue to get bigger and every day I'll think, "this is it".
After about 30 minutes I decided nothing was happening.  The goats seemed anxious to return to their barn but didn't want to go without me and the dogs so I led them back.
It was very relaxing being out there with my animals in the dark and I think I could have laid with Raisa for hours if it weren't for Keri and Rex wanting my attention and the goats anxiously waiting for me to do something.  I may be doing this for another week.  I really think there will be a baby in a day or 2 but that could be wishful thinking.

It was very hot today and I caught Franklin cooling off in the pig wallow.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Reupholstering an old friend

This chaise lounge has been with us for a long time.  It's been in James' family a very long time and has a story behind it.  It once belonged to Peggy Hopkins Joyce.

According to Wikipedia Peggy Hopkins Joyce (May 26, 1893 – June 12, 1957) was an American actress, artist model and dancer. In addition to her performing career, Joyce was known for her flamboyant life, with numerous engagements, six marriages to wealthy men, subsequent divorces, a series of scandalous affairs, a collection of diamonds and furs, and her generally lavish lifestyle.  There's much more to read about her if you're interested  She's got quite a story.  There's even a book written about her called Gold Digger.

How did we end up with it?  When James' grandparents were young they moved into an apartment that Peggy Hopkins Joyce had just moved out of after an annulled marriage and left all her furniture there.  The landlord told James' grandparents they could have it.  The whole family has a piece or two of this art deco style furniture.

I blogged about it a while ago when I was removing the veneer that had been peeling off the back.  Just recently I decided it was time to reupholster it and thought I'd give it a shot myself.  I took it apart layer by layer.

It had been squeaking for years every time you sat down on it so I knew the frame needed some repairs. Once I got down to the skeleton I saw how desperately it needed attention.

Because of the shape of it you couldn't just put some glue and a few screws in to tighten it up.  I had to cut a few pieces of wood and make a splint to attach to the inside to act as a scab to secure all the joint cracks on both sides.  I Gorilla Glued and screwed it together and now there is no squeak to be heard.  
I put it back together and added some more foam to the top.  I've done very little upholstering so this was a little bit of a challenge.  It turned out pretty good though if we paid a professional upholsterer for this job I'd have a few complaints.  Funny how that works.   Here it is finished.
I recently bought a pneumatic stapler which made the job go so much faster and easier.
I need practice on the double welting that hides the staples.  It's not nearly as tight as when a professional does it like this.  
Because I'm not good at this I'm struggling to come up with an idea to finish off a dining room chair I've recovered.  It's been in our basement for a long time because the caned back had broken.  I removed the caning and replaced it with, first fabric that shows on the back side.
Then webbing to give it more support.
Then some foam for padding and covered with more fabric.
Now, as you can see, I need a way to finish the back off.  I'd prefer not to use double welting like I did on the chaise lounge because I suck at that.  Hopefully an idea will pop in my head while I sleep tonight.

I also found an old chair at our cabin that I thought would be a good addition to our dining room since I only have 5 chairs.  It had an ugly gold seat that had straw for padding and upholstery tacks holding it to the chair.  I refinished it, cut a board for the seat, added some cushioning and covered it with matching fabric.  It'll work.

I'm about finished with upholstering.  I'd much rather work with wood, concrete or metal than fabric.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Weekend welder

In the last 20 years I bet James and I have said, "we should learn how to weld", at least 20 times.  Finally I had the chance to do that.  Charles Kirkpatrick (master log cabin expert) was doing some work on our cabin.  He told us his son was going to blacksmithing school at the VA Institute of Blacksmithing. As we talked somehow welding came up and he told me VIB offered weekend welding classes.    It sounded perfect.  Just one weekend of hands on training to learn the basics.  Sign me up.  Check out their website  They also have a Facebook page that has lots of good pictures.

Ask James how much I loved this class.  He's got to be tired of hearing about it.  In the picture above I'm holding the little stool/table I made yesterday.  Here's a closer look.  It sat out in the rain last night so now it has some pretty orange rust on it.
I had no idea I'd get one-on-one instruction.  It was just me and instructor Dave.  I had to quickly take this picture before he noticed because he doesn't like his picture taken.
Dave was a great teacher for me.  He was very patient and let me make mistakes without correcting me (nothing dangerous) so I had the chance to figure out what it was I was doing wrong on my own.  Instead of saying, "here, do it this way", he'd say, "is that how you want to do it?  Ok".  Then I'd have time to chew on it and see if, in fact, that was the way it should be done.  My first task, after learning about the welding equipment and safety, was to practice welding on a piece of metal.  I did that for about 20 minutes, practicing different techniques, seeing what worked best for me, getting used to the equipment and being able to see what I was doing and wrap my brain around it.
Not only did I like the welding part, I also enjoyed using the other tools and the whole idea of metal fabrication.  It's very much like wood working except for the fact that I couldn't just remove a screw quickly if I made a mistake.  Also, cutting metal takes longer than cutting wood.

After learning to weld together plate steel I cut some square tubing and joined it too.  I practiced different things I learned and joined pieces randomly which would bring up more questions and opportunities to learn.  Saturday was all about learning how things worked.  For me it was probably as enjoyable as a 12 year old going to an amusement park.
You can see in the front how I cut the metal with an acetylene torch.  I was a bit more nervous using the torch than using the welder.  While I was working on my stool there were blacksmith certification students on the other side of the room doing their thing.  I would have loved to watch them work if I had the time.

I had lunch with these young men and their instructor both days and listening to them talk made me want to learn blacksmithing too.  I think I need to wait on that.  One thing at a time.

We went to a party last night and I was talking to someone about building, welding, wood working, etc.  He said he thought more women didn't take classes like these because perhaps they would be intimidated being around men in fields that are traditionally male dominated.  One of the instructors at VIB said he thought that was one of the reasons they get very few women in the blacksmithing certification program.  That's too bad.  I have a feeling this will change in the next 10 years.   I probably would have felt that way 20 or 30 years ago.  Now I'm only intimidated by a big project, rarely by people.  I guess that comes with age and experience.  I was thinking about this today and realized part of it is I have a husband who encourages me to do anything I want.  He never seems to doubt I can do what I set my mind to.

I should finish here and get back to another project I'm working on which needs a little concentration since I've never done it before.  I'll tell you about it when it's done.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Have a seat at the milk bar

I think old cream separators are a work of art.  This is an old DeLaval electric cream separator that I don't use but do love.  I use a smaller hand crank one.  I hated seeing it sit in our basement collecting dust.  We happened to have this empty space in our new addition just calling out for a bar height table to go with some bar stools we weren't using at our cabin.  The top of the cream bowl was just the right height for a table top.  It took me all of a minute to decide this would make a great table base and a conversation piece.  With a little time on my hands a lots of wood scraps I got to work.  Some friends of ours gave us some leftover sycamore tongue and groove flooring years ago and we hadn't found a use for it yet.  It was pretty easy to put together and the wood is just beautiful.  I love the grain.
 The edges needed to be finished because I didn't like how thin it looked or how the two ends showed the tongue and groove.  Our barns are full of goodies and I found some leftover trim from when the builders were doing our baseboards.  It was just the right thickness for a heavier look to the table.
Because I'm not a fine woodworker I screwed it on and then filled the holes with wood filler.  Because of this I had to stain the table.  It took away a little of the beauty of the natural wood but it still looks ok, I think.  I sealed it with a couple coats of polyurethane.
It wasn't sturdy enough sitting on just the milk bowl so I had to figure out a way to make it sit more solidly.
After much experimenting I decided to buy some 3 prong hairpin legs.  I wish I could say I made them myself but I didn't.  Maybe soon.  I'm signing up for a welding class in August.  Then James will be in lots of trouble.  I'm really happy with the legs.  I probably could have gotten away with using just 2 but I think I'll keep 4 on.  Here it is completed.  It's nice being able to put your feet on the cream separator.  I didn't damage it in any way and it could still be used to separate cream.

Some of my ideas are good and some are questionable.  Remember that floor lamp I built from random objects a while back?  This week it got a new hat.  I have a feeling this lamp will be ever-changing.
 It sits beside our very useful tom-tom side table.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Manipulative Milk Cow

I don't know what made me think I was the boss of an 800 or 900 lb cow but this morning Raisa made it perfectly clear that it isn't the case.  She is due to calve (if I have this right) the first week of September so it's time to dry her up and she's not happy about it.  Today was the second day of not milking her.

For those of you who haven't been here, there are two stalls to my milk barn.  One has a milk stanchion in it and is pretty large and the other is half the size.  Both have gates on them but I usually 
keep the empty one open.  In the mornings the goats and Raisa are there waiting for me.  

This morning Raisa was waiting in the open stall all by herself.  I closed her in there so she wouldn't attempt to push her way into the milking stall.  This is when the trouble started.

To keep her happy I filled a bowl will food and pushed it under the wall.  She was so unhappy with this situation she backed up to the food bowl, lifted her tail and began to poop but not before I quickly pulled the bowl away.  I thought this might not have been on purpose but I learned a minute later that indeed she knew exactly what she was doing.  She got angrier and started pacing and pushing her head against the gate.  I ignored her and let Luti into the milking stall.  As Luti entered the stanchion Raisa backed up to the wall, which is only a few 2x4s covered with cattle panels, and with the force of a fire hose literally showed me how pissed off she was.  She sprayed her pee through the wall onto the stanchion and Luti and it ran down onto the cushion I kneel on. Strangely enough, Luti didn't care.  She continued to eat.  I was dumbfounded.  It took me a few minutes to regroup and decide what to do.  What could I do?  I let her out of the stall.  Another mistake.

She immediately shoved her way to the front of the line so she could enter the milking stall next.  I couldn't figure out how to get Luti out without Raisa and all the other goats coming in.  That's exactly what happened.  One large cow and 5 goats plowed their way past me and Luti decided she was going to stay also.  Raisa stood in the stanchion waiting with 2 goats on either side while 2 more ate from a pan nearby and Luti hid behind the donkey cart so I couldn't get her out.  I did put one back out.  While Lily stood beside Raisa I decided I might as well milk her.  She was fine with that.  After dragging a few goats out I sat on the feed can (so Luti wouldn't open it with her mouth) and turned my back toward Raisa.  I didn't milk her or give her more food after sharing with the goats.   Normally I give Raisa lots of scratches and kisses when she's done but this morning I ignored her hoping she'd back out of the stanchion and go on her merry way.  She was not going to be ignored.  She stood there for probably 5 minutes and then began tapping me on the arm with her nose.  How could I resist  showing her affection when that's really all she wanted?  I don't know what she loves most about coming in to be milked in the morning.  I used to think it was the food but now I'm thinking she wants the attention.  For the past few months she won't back out of the stall until I give her a few minutes of scratches and love.  So that's what she got.  

I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow morning but I need a new strategy.  I bet Raisa is working on her own.   I'm pretty sure she won't be waiting in the open stall.  She's too smart for that.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Glass gem corn tortillas

My very favorite show on Netflix is Chef's Table.  There are only 12 episodes so I like to savour each
one.  It would be easy to watch one after another but then I'd be done.  As it is I think I only have 2 left to watch :(    The show inspires me to cook and try to display my food in a way that isn't just the same-old-thing-Karen-usually-cooks.  I've been in a cooking funk lately.

Last night's episode was about Enrique Olvera, a famous chef in Mexico City.  I rarely cook Mexican food and when I do it's your basic ground beef with taco seasoning, salsa, onion, lettuce, etc. in a flour tortilla.   After watching Chef Olvera I got an idea.  We have lots of dried up glass gem corn saved from either last year or the year before.  We thought there wasn't much you could do with it besides grind it up to make a so-so corn meal.  It's meant to be decorative.  It really is this pretty.

The half gallon jar of corn pictured above is what we have left.  It can be eaten as popcorn but we didn't have much luck with that.  Few kernels popped and they were very tiny.  Last night I decided to boil some of the corn.  I cooked it for at least 2 hours and then let it sit in the water overnight.  It loses its color and turns a dull yellow after boiling.  This afternoon I drained the water off and put the somewhat soft corn in the food processor.  After a minute or two I looked at it and was disappointed to see it looked like chopped up corn (I know what you're thinking) and I could still see the hulls.  I scraped the sides of the bowl and turned it back on while I went to change clothes.  When I got back there was a ball of dough in the food processor.  I was so excited.  This ball of dough is just from my soaked glass gem corn!!!  Can you believe it?  All you Mexicans (surely at least one Mexican reads my blog.  Hopefully not Enrique Olvera) are probably shaking your head at my excitement and stupidity.  As I said, I don't usually cook this kind of thing.

I was hoping to make corn tortillas out of them but read this morning that you must use masa harina.  See  I thought it was worth a try.  I formed the dough into balls the size of a ping pong ball then placed one in between two pieces of parchment paper.  I used a rolling pin to roll them very thin since I don't own a tortilla press.  I placed the thin dough into a very hot cast iron skillet and cooked it for maybe a minute on each side.  I'm just guessing at that.  I could never write a cookbook.  I have no idea what the water content was in the corn either.
They may not be perfectly round but I think they turned out pretty nice.
I also made the filling differently than my usual taco or fajita.  This time I cooked the onion with some anise seeds and cumin then added the ground beef.  No taco seasoning.  I must admit I added some store bought salsa.  The addition of the anise seeds is an amazing discovery for me.  It makes it so sweet and flavorful.  We're getting tomatoes from the green house now so we had some of them on top, in addition to some of Raisa's cheese.  If I remember I'll definitely make these again.