5/24/18

A Day in the Life

Now that the [mostly] good weather has arrived here at the Three Cats Ranch, mornings start pretty much the same every day...with kitties sitting at the glass door saying, "Open, open, open." We don't let them out until there's some activity outdoors.


They've worked out a pretty good routine for themselves. Out the door around 8:00 a.m., in for the day at around 1:30 p.m. They could stay out longer, but they usually come in for naps. After that, we shut the door. We don't want them heading out again after their naps, or we'll have trouble getting them in later in the day. At first, they whined about the early end to their day. Now, they seem almost relieved when it's time to come in.

Once the door is open, it's cats on a mission! They always head first to where the RV is parked. That's where most of the squirrels reside. So far this summer, neither has caught a squirrel, but it isn't for lack of trying.


Yesterday morning, I filled my hoop and then moved it to the next position.


When I'm ready to move it again, it will be very nearly finished.


Then, I went for a walk around. The purple iris are blooming now.


Mike got the drip irrigation set up for the tomatoes yesterday. It's always a relief when I can stop worrying about keeping them watered.


The poppies are going great guns. They're still a little too small to plant outside, but soon enough I'll be moving them.


We've cleared out a space in one of the whiskey barrels for them. They'll have all new dirt. We're going to make some sort of "cage" for the top of the whiskey barrel until they're well-established. I'm afraid the squirrels will dig them up. Also, two cats think this would make a lovely litter box.


The lettuce had a puny showing this year. I planted 15 seeds in 3 varieties, 5 seeds each. Only three seeds of two varieties came up. One variety was a complete bust. My seeds are several years old. It's probably time for some new ones.


On the other hand, we get a lot of lettuce in our CSA share. Possibly, we don't need much lettuce. I'm still deciding.

Here's my wimpy basil plant. It would be larger except I keep cutting things off of it.


The squirrels have thoughtfully planted sunflowers next to the catnip. This has potential. I'm going to let these grow.


Whatever ate the top of the cherry tomato plant didn't succeed in killing it. It seems to be making a comeback, and it's put out a lot of new leaves.


The new hanging cherry tomato has two tomatoes on it! This thrilled me beyond measure.


After my tour of the garden, I made a tour of the grocery store. With Mike at home, I can have him pick up little items on his many trips to the hardware or auto parts stores. It means I'm making fewer trips. Which also means the trips I take tend to be big ones, and yesterday's trip took most of the morning. When I got home, we had lunch, and then naps. Then it was time to get sewing.

The Quiltmaker's Garden has me dragging my feet. I'm really so tired of working on it. Getting it quilted and bound is my May OMG, but my commitment is waning. Possibly it won't get finished until June. It's supposed to be fun, right? Yesterday's quilting was rather uninspired. I'm at the top of the gazebo, and I've struggled with ideas about how to quilt it. For this section, I did some insy-outsy, swoopty-doopty things. (These are technical quilting terms, so try to keep up.)


Then I went for the low-hanging fruit. I've already done most of these little yellow-centered flowers, and so I continued with what I've done before.


Here's how it looks from the back.


I quilted feathers into the butterfly wings, as I did with the other butterfly. Then I tried this sort of braided leaf thing on one of the gazebo cross beams. It isn't very even, and I'm considering taking it out and trying again.


The idea of taking it out makes me feel even less like working on it, if such a thing is even possible. Here's how it looks from the back. I'm going to quilt all around it and then see how I feel about it. It's possible, this less-than-perfect motif will just get lost in the quilting shuffle.


So, yeah...as I've been writing this post, I've been thinking I'll forget about it as the May OMG and recommit in June. There are other things I'd rather work on, and I'll probably do a better job if I take a break from it.

This morning Sue and I are walking the Fanno Creek Trail. It's been many moons since we've walked there, and so I'm looking forward to seeing how things are growing. Usually, we see ducklings along the trail, but it might be too soon for them. It's time to eat breakfast and be on my way. Oh yes, and we're celebrating 43 years of wedded bliss today! This might surprise you, but I wasn't even born when we got married! Mike literally robbed the cradle. We're having dinner out tonight. The month of May is murder on our diets.

5/23/18

Jelly Jubilee

Our weather has turned so nice and warm the last couple of days. It certainly increases our energy levels here at the Three Cats Ranch. Mike and I have been busy doing our own little things. At the end of the day yesterday, we were talking about how busy we've both been. We agreed that it was the good kind of busy because it isn't that we have a lot to do...it is that we both want to do a lot, and there are never enough hours in the day.

As for me, my day started with the Chive Blossom Jelly. This is the first canning of the season, and it was easy and fun. I'm using a method I found at this website. The chive blossom infusion was made on the stove-top the day before, then refrigerated overnight. Also, I noticed there was no processing time listed. I'm not one who's satisfied just to turn the jars upside down for sealing, and so I went investigating from Kerr and Ball (are they the same company now?) to see what processing time they recommended. Ten minutes was what I settled on (and I have to add five minutes for our elevation). So with those two adaptations for my own kitchen, I ended up with these four pretty half-pints of chive blossom jelly.


The recipe says to use 1/4 cup of lemon juice or white vinegar. I picked up three bottles of fancy vinegars at the Portland Farmer's Market a few weeks ago, and so I decided to use one of those. It's a deep red color, and I thought it would make the jelly prettier.


So how does it taste? Well...it tastes like any fruit jelly. Mike says he can taste just a hint of the chives, but I can't. Either way, it's going to be yummy on my morning toast. Mainly, I'm just pleased as punch to find another use for the scads of chive blossoms the plants produce in the spring. The chive blossom vinegar is still steeping in the pantry, but I'll report back on that by the end of next week.

Next, I was itching to get back and fix the one pink block I'd cut wrong when I worked on the Rainbow Jubilee quilt on Monday. Remember this?


Those strips are sewn together in differing lengths, and then cut to 7 1/2 inches square. I was so excited about doing housework (not) that I cut the first one all wrong. I thought I could fix it by unsewing the block at the middle seam, inserting two new 11-inch strips, removing the shortest ones on each side and then re-trimming. As it turns out, my strategy was successful, and now I have a correctly cut block.


I'd say something here about there being more than one way to skin a cat, but we don't talk about skinning cats here at the Three Cats Ranch.

Okay, so now I had four purple (February's color) and four pink blocks.


Next, I needed to make 16 of the black and white blocks. Fortunately, I did all the cutting of strips for this last month. I just needed to sew together 16 blocks of 6 strips each, and then trim them to size.


Smitty helped me with this.


Actually, he was just here for the catnip.


Bliss.

Okay, so then I needed to cut the 16 blocks into triangles. Half went one way, half the other.


And then I was ready to sew those to the four sides of the blocks. I just love these blocks. They're so interesting, and surprisingly simple to make. There's a lot of cutting involved with this project. Even though I had all the black and white strips already cut, it still made my wrist sore.


Then, I laid out last month's blocks with this month's. I was kind of excited to add some more colors. These are all the blocks I have so far.


Next month, I'll be adding the greens of March, and whatever color is selected for June. If I can get those done, I can start the month of July all caught up on this project.

Yesterday was the first CSA pick-up day of the season. You wouldn't believe the size of the Romaine lettuce we received in our share! It's at least twice the size of what is ordinarily sold in the grocery store. There were plenty of other goodies too, and now I have my grocery shopping list all planned out so that I can attack the vegetables with great gusto. Grocery shopping is on the list of things to do today, and then I'll get back to quilting the Quiltmaker's Garden quilt. By my count, I have 9 days left in the month to finish quilting and binding it. Think I'll make it?

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

5/22/18

An Everything Day

Yesterday, I tried to fit two days worth of work into one day. Today will be much the same, but let's not talk about that yet, okay? As for yesterday...

I'd missed a couple of days of stitching, and so I gave myself a little extra time with this. There's no way to adequately communicate how stitching can slow my busy mind to a more leisurely pace. Somehow it focuses my attention and relaxes me, and the day always gets off to a better start.


Having an excellent stitching cat doesn't hurt either.


But relaxation aside, it was time to get busy. My absolute top priority was to get the tomatoes transplanted into their largest pots of the season. Now they're all lined up like little Soldiers of Salsa.


Mike will need to get the drip irrigation up and running within the next couple of days. Now, it's just a waiting game for the first tomatoes. I only plant Romas because they're only used for sauce, salsa, and salads...the Three S's, if you will. Oh yes, and jam...don't forget the tomato jam, because it is, quite simply, tomato crack. Fortunately, there are still a few jars left from last year. When those run out, I'll be looking for a dealer. Hopefully, it will be from my own plants. In case you're wondering, it's legal in Oregon.


Also, these plants seem so much more robust than the ones I've done in years gone by. This year, I purchased starts from a nursery since we weren't home to start them from seeds. I doubt I'll ever do seeds again. Also, I learned about "grafted" tomatoes this year from Erik and Mae. Maybe next year I'll give them a try.

So Mike and I were both outside, and we checked in with one another about the serious earth-moving equipment we could hear up on the main road. Mike rode his ATV out to investigate. It seems the county boys were making the roadway wider in preparation for paving it.


I feel like the woman in that old Mervyn's commercial where she's standing at the door chanting, "Open, open, open!" Only we're standing by the road chanting, "Asphalt, asphalt, asphalt." I don't think I've ever been so excited about the acrid smell of asphalt.

Meanwhile, back at the Three Cats Ranch, the first of the variegated iris has opened. There are more coming. When we dig them up, we might save a couple of these.


Also...there really are plums on the plum tree. I wasn't sure when I posted an image the other day, but yes...there they are in all their little olive-shaped goodness to come.


Also...green strawberries. The squirrels will be excited to see this. Will we get any? Not on your life.


In fact, this image appeared in my Facebook memories for "On this Day" in 2016. There's one of those little freeloaders now...eating a strawberry...still green! And what's up with his tail? He sort of looks as if he has a new perm.


Also, the Golden Chain tree is looking marvelous right now. I'm so happy to have one growing in the yard again.


More of the deep purple rhododendron blossoms have opened. This is my absolute favorite of the rhodies. (I know I say that about every one.)


Here's a very self-satisfied cat. He just finished taking an excellent dust bath.


But okay...the tour's over. It's time to get back to work. Take a look at these chive blossoms. Recall that two days ago, I harvested a bunch of them for chive blossom vinegar. Now, these have opened up.


I'm using them to make chive blossom jelly...new to my kitchen. It started yesterday. I made an infusion of chive blossom tea on the stove top. This was accomplished by first boiling and then letting cool equal parts of blossoms and water.


Unlike the chive blossom vinegar, I didn't get a strong hit of the chives when this was finished. It simply turned the water a pretty shade of purple. Today I'll get to work adding sugar, vinegar, pectin, and some other stuff to make the jelly. I have no idea how this will taste, and so I'll have to let you know in tomorrow's post.

While that was cooling, I started some laundry and then headed down to the sewing room. I needed to do some housework, but I had to first clean up the sewing room. About half my stash was still piled around in totes, and it all needed to be put away. First, though, I traded out the beak piece on the orange flamingo to see how it would look. I'm still trying to decide whether it should be orange or black.


Here's how it looked with the orange piece.


Which one do you like better?

After that, I hurried through my housekeeping chores because I really wanted to do some sewing. Now here's something that occurred to me about housekeeping. Housekeeping is the best friend you'll ever have. It's always there for you. It'll never leave you. Through thick and thin, housework is there. Happy or sad, you'll always have housework. When you've been away on a vacation, housework will always be there to welcome you home. Kind of makes you want to cherish it more, doesn't it?

But then there's sewing...and sewing is also a good friend. I managed to get the purple and pink blocks sewn together yesterday.


If you have sharp eyes, you'll notice that the pink one in the upper left is cut wrong. Yes, it was the first one cut, and I wasn't thinking right. I can only guess it was all that nostalgia about housework that blinded me to my error. Anyway...I think I can fix it without having to remake the whole thing. If I take it apart in the middle and sew in two more long strips, then remove the short ones on each side, I should be able to cut it to the right size. And, if not, well...there are always more pink scraps to work with.

So today, my good friend housework will be by my side. We have a short journey planned for today. Also, I'm going to make the jelly and see how that goes. And yay! It's a CSA pick-up day. The CSA started last week, but we're splitting our share with Erik and Mae this year, and so I only pick up every other week. I think that will work better for both our small families.

Lots to do. Time to get going.

5/21/18

The Hurrier I Go


When my class in Vancouver started, I was already feeling under the gun...procrastinating on housework, needing to repot the tomatoes, so many projects on the go...I blame the Quiltmaker's Garden. Hasn't it been responsible for all the ills in my life for the past five years? There I was quilting away, and still, it refuses to be finished.

So the class is over now. Each time I take it, I absorb just a little more. This time, I was pretty much left alone unless I asked for help or suggestions. There were beginners in the class, and they needed more of the instructor's attention. I was actually thankful to fade into the background and be left to work on my own for the most part. Here's where the project stands now.


After I took that photo, I took a good look at the beak on the pink bird. Some back-up explanation is helpful here, I think. Ann reminded us several times that we're making quilts, not photographs. Sometimes what appears in the photograph doesn't necessarily work in the quilt. If you look at the photograph below, you can see that I've pieced the beak on the pink bird pretty much as it appears in the photograph.


Nevertheless, it looked funny to me, and so I switched out two pink pieces for two black pieces, and I think it looks better now.


Now I have the whole project home in my own sewing room, and I've spent some time studying the orange bird. I'm a little bothered by the one triangular piece indicated in the image below. If you look at the photograph, again, it's hard to say whether that piece is beak or bird. I'm going to try switching out that one piece and see if it's an improvement. I can always put it back if it isn't.


By the time we were finished yesterday, my brain was absolute mush. When I'd taken it to this point, I could not cut another piece. I could not make another fabric choice. I was done. Ann looked at me and said I looked "brain dead." My thought: Thanks for noticing. Now I'm going home.

And, hey! Now I am home! Yay! There's so much to do here today. I absolutely must do some housework...but not too much. It's important to pace yourself, you know. Wouldn't it be just awful if I ran out of housework to do? Catastrophic, really. The top priority today, however, is to repot the tomatoes into their largest pots of the season. I don't want them to get any taller before doing that because they can get too hard to work with. My arms are only so long, you know. When those things are done, I can get back to some sewing.

Yesterday I had some time to kill before it was time to take off for my class, and so I cut some strips to make the Rainbow Scrap Challenge blocks for the month. I'm also catching up on the purple blocks of February this month. Here are May's pink strips. 


I'll cut the February's purples next, and then I'll get back to work on the Rainbow Jubilee quilt. If you've forgotten about this project (and there's no reason why you should remember it), it's this one.


The black strips are already cut, mercifully, and so I can get to work sewing those together too. I'm kind of excited to add some more colors to this quilt and get a better idea how it's going to look.

And there are other projects I want to work on...finishing the next row for the Shop Hop quilt, for example. And I'd like to make another block for Tuxedo Tales, since I'm trying to keep up with that one month-by-month. And then, there's that troublemaker quilt, Quiltmaker's Garden. I'm determined to finish it by month's end.

So there you go...the hurrier I go...trying to get caught up. Time's a wastin.