Sunday, May 28, 2006
This and that
We've been so busy. Yesterday, I planted several packets of squash and zucchini. Mike planted more potatoes. He spent most of the past two days either staining or applying polyurethane to our windows. Yes, that should have been done when the windows were installed a year and a half ago. Some are definitely showing signs of being unprotected all this time, but hopefully there won't be any true, lasting damage that will affect their usefulness over the next few decades.
Remember those turkey hens I mentioned a few weeks ago? The two that had nests on top of the storeroom in the barn? Well, they have exactly one poult left between them. A couple of chicken hens hatched a brood around the same time, and they still have all nine chicks left. Chickens definitely win the prize for being the best mothers, but I've known that for quite some time already.
Mike has also spent quite a bit of time in the past two days cutting up the 200-year-old hickory tree that was knocked down by the storm on Wednesday. He has most of the smaller branches cut off now. His father will be bringing over the mulcher on Monday, so we can mulch them. The large parts will become firewood, and that will require a chainsaw and more time.
Last Sunday I completely sold out of soap made with fragrance oils. I should have remembered that the people who go to Garfield Farm like the fragrance oils more than the essential oils. So, I've started making more soap. I made a batch of sandalwood two days ago. I also made cheese a couple days ago -- fromage blanc this time. My buttermilk making has slowed to once every few days because I decided to start making a half gallon at a time, rather than just a quart. I make either buttermilk pancakes or buttermilk biscuits at least five mornings a week, and a couple times a week for dinner, I've starting making cornbread with buttermilk, which is the most delicious I've ever tasted.
Margaret and I will be making mozarella tomorrow. My history with mozarella is a long, sad one. The first time I made it, it turned out perfectly. It went downhill after that. It has never been quite right since then. There are several different methods used to make mozarella, so we have decided to attempt the citric acid method tomorrow. I hope it works, because if we are to ever reach our goal of self-sufficiency, we have to be able to make our own mozarella -- because we love pizza and lasagna.
Here's another little tidbit about an experiment we've been trying ... living without paper towels. I realized that we were spending about $20 a month on paper towels, which is a tad ridiculous. So, when we ran out, I announced to the family that I wouldn't be buying any more. You can imagine the response I received. "You can't live without paper towels!" Well, you can. It's been a few weeks, and we've managed to do just fine. If something gets spilled on the floor, I use a dish cloth, then throw it in the laundry right away. For draining fried foods, I use a clean dish towel. One of my daughters asked, "You aren't going to stop buying toilet paper are you?" No, toilet paper has a permanent place in our home.
The temperature climbed into the 90s yesterday, which is quite unseasonably warm for us. The forecast is more of the same today. We are planning to work in the basement this afternoon when the temps get too high. (We didn't put A/C in our house because there isn't an energy efficient A/C unit available. They're all power guzzlers, and our ultimate goal is to have a solar-powered house.) Normally, our plan for hot weather is to have the whole house fan on at night to pull the cold air in from outside -- normally, it gets down into the 70s or even 60s at night all summer long, so we're usually freezing at night. Then in the morning, when the temperature gets above 70, we close all the windows. With our super-insulated house, this works really well for all but the hottest days -- meaning 100 degrees. We do have ceiling fans, which make it seem cooler than it would otherwise. For days that will go above 90 outside, we have the smallest available window unit for each floor -- it's the type of unit that is supposed to cool a 10X10 room, but it is enough to maintain temps in the 70-80 degree range in the 1,000-square feet on each level, and we don't use the upstairs unit during the day, because there are only bedrooms up there. At the moment, our normal plan doesn't work because we don't have windows in all the windows. Mike removed the glass parts of several windows to make it easier to stain and finish. So, this afternoon we are going to retreat to the coolness of the basement where we'll work on organizing it in preparation for putting up more walls down there. (In other words, we have to get the junk out of the way so we can work down there.)
Today's picture was taken by Katherine a few days ago when it was raining. When we first moved here, there was no wildlife around the pond. I guess we're doing something right because now we get frequent visits from blue herons, egrets and Canada geese, as well as a variety of wild ducks that we always scramble to identify with our birdwatching book.