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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peggy_Hopkins_Joyce  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 http://vablacksmithing.org/about/  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 http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-corn-tortillas-from-scratch-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-85904  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.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The piano's new home

If you look very, very closely you'll see the piano is smiling.  After much anticipation of having James' piano in our living space, it's finally here.  The piano was the biggest reason we added on to our house.  It has spent the past 14 years in our cabin where mice could tickle the ivories when James wasn't.  They also left their calling cards to let him know they'd visited.  Not the best conditions, to say the least.

The piano movers arrived Wednesday afternoon.  There were 5 men, led by Rick DeLange, needed to move an 1100 lb instrument.  After the move he expressed that he approached this job with a bit of trepidation.  He's moved many grand pianos but not many concert grands.  After the piano was resting safely in its new space he told us he had watched piano fail videos the night before.  It's good we didn't think to do that.

I didn't go to the cabin to watch the move out.  I really expected James to be more stressed than he was.  When they arrived back at our house he was smiling and seemed very confident in the mover because, "he was so methodical".  He and Rick both said that was the easy part.  Getting it up our steps to the screened porch presented more of a challenge, though I thought it went rather smoothly.

The piano sounds bigger in this room than it did at the cabin which could be because it's in a bigger space with no rugs.  I think it sounds great.  I think James agrees.

Some friends came by to watch the end of the move and be the first to celebrate the occasion with singing and lots of laughing.  I'm just posting a photo and not the video to protect the innocent.
I look forward to many years of nights like these.  I can't describe how much I loved that the next morning James walked out of our new bedroom a few steps and played Oh What A Beautiful Morning.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Understanding cheese

I'm no expert on cheese, that's for sure, but I do know that you can't judge a cheese by tasting it or seeing it one time or at one age.  Above is a soft, moldy (penicillium candidum) goat cheese, which is one of my favorites.  I know it doesn't look very appetizing but if you like goat cheese with a little punch you may like it too.  This one is about a month old or older.

Today a friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook of a similar cheese and said it wasn't as pretty as mine but it was much softer.  I think he's in Austria now but I thought he was eating a French cheese.  Maybe I'm wrong about that.  He was in Italy a few days ago so I'm uncertain where this cheese was.  I thought about his remark and realized he was comparing one or 2 cheeses he's had of mine when they were young.  If he would have tasted them a few weeks later they would have been soft and gooey and maybe not that attractive and for sure have a stronger bite.  

I've been making cheeses for 6 or 7 years now and I still feel like such a novice.  I get just as excited and surprised when a cheese is delicious as I was when I first began.  I'm definitely much more consistent in making good cheeses (at least edible ones) these days.  My pigs used to be the recipients of many a bad cheese.  One thing I'm still trying to figure out, but getting better at, is how cow's milk and goat's milk behave differently.  I'm far from understanding how to treat milk (either cow or goat) at different stages of lactation and how much cheese the milk will yield.  I suppose it would help if I kept detailed notes (or any notes, for that matter).  Maybe in a blog 7 years from now I'll be bragging about my cheeses and how I've finally figured it out.  In the meantime I'll keep stirring and cutting curds and hoping for delicious outcomes.

A friend was visiting yesterday and took these pictures.  My favorite is of me and Raisa.  How can a cheese made from this girl's milk be anything but sweet.
My goats are giving me very little milk these days because I haven't separated them from their kids and the kids are big and hungry.  I know I need to do it soon but I hate making that transition.  Lots of tiny udders lately.  I'm not going to get much cheese from these girls as long as kids are on them.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Thai bear pot pie

Last night James and I joined 3 other couples for a Thai dinner.  Several months back we had an Indian dinner which we all made our version of Indian dishes.  Super delicious.  Last night's dinner was equally as yummy.  My contribution to the dinner was probably as far from authentic Thai food as you could get except for the fact that I used seasonings that you'd find in Thai food - Thai green curry, fresh ginger, garlic, lime juice, fish sauce, peanuts........  I'm not real sure they make pot pies in Thailand but I do know they have bears there so maybe they eat bear but bear pot pie??  Not so sure.

Our friend Manley brought us some bear meat when he was here for Adam and Melissa's wedding last week and I couldn't resist sharing it with friends.  Thank you Manley.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I even had it for breakfast this morning.  Everyone ate it last night so I considered it a success.

I think our next dinner gathering for these couples is a meal of hot dogs.  How can I be creative with hot dogs?  Love a good hot dog.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

How did we get things done before Youtube?

Yesterday I woke to find James had already gotten out of bed.  I asked him what he'd been doing.
"Watching videos on how to build a picnic table".  We have a wood shed overflowing into our garages with scrap lumber from our addition being built.  So he built this.  All of it was built with scraps.  Even the screws came from other projects we had taken apart.  Can you say hoarders?
He also replaced boards on our old picnic table.

I too relied on Youtube so I could check one more thing off my to-do list.  Many months ago, maybe even a year ago (or longer) we had our main water line to the house repaired.  They had to cut through our asphalt driveway to do it.  I kept meaning to repair it but.........you know how that goes.  I watched a few videos and they all did it the same way.  Cut straight edges on the hole, clean out unwanted dirt, grass, etc.  They added small gravel to the bottom but only the part where the pipe was in our hole needed that because under most of ours was an old layer of driveway that had been paved over so ours had a solid base for much of it.  I put some old dry concrete mix where it needed a more solid base, tamped it then filled it the rest of the way with asphalt repair stuff (can't remember the name and I don't want to touch the bags again because it's messy stuff), tamp and tamp again.

Note our tamping bar.  It looks nothing like the ones used by the professionals (This Old House) used when they did the job but I wasn't going to purchase a metal tamper with a square base just for this one job, so I made one out of an old fence post I hadn't thrown away yet and a cut off piece of cedar leftover from rebuilding our pergola.

Done!  Thanks Youtube and all you people who post how-to videos.

When I asked James how we used to do things before Youtube he reminded me that we went to the library to get a book out and read about it.  What?!!!