17 June 2011

Cowgirl Crafts: sewing elastic into a hat

I'm here!  Mostly, anyway.  Even though it's not officially summer yet, things are already crazy.  It feels like I'm busy all day, but I don't have much to write about.  I'm busy with a whole lot of nothing, I guess.

June means cow work.  We gather and ship our cows home from their winter residence and then a few weeks later, we brand the calves.  My past few absences have been for the shipping, and next Saturday will be the branding.  It's a big day and takes a lot of preparation, so I'll be heading back to the ranch for most of next week to assist with food prep.  My little man is excited to once again take part in the big gather before the branding, which will take place on Friday this year.

In preparation for our big weekend, I've been working fast and furious on a few projects that I had hoped to finish a long time ago.  I've finished one, the other... might not get finished in time.  We'll see. I've been spending every spare minute working on them, which is why I haven't been blogging much lately.  My computer time has turned into work time. 

My first project was making some hats fit the girls.  I found these great hats at the second hand store, but they were just a bit too big.  I tried fixing a string to hold it on, (called a stampede string) but those Wyoming winds are just too powerful.  My little man's hat has fit his head for several years because of some elastic sewn into it.  I decided to try to replicate that in the girls' hats.

I bought some 1 1/2" sports elastic and began the process of trying to estimate how much stretch it needed to have.  It became extremely difficult after the kids went to bed.  Plus, I'm not exactly sure what I'm doing.  This seems to be an over-arching theme to my projects.  The first one seemed to turn out well, but the baby won't leave it on long enough to see if it will stay on.  That's confusing, I know.  The plan is for her to grow into it and for it to grow with her.

I had the elastic pulled too tight for the dancing girl's head the first few times I sewed it, but I think this time I got it right.  Sewing a piece of elastic into a palm leaf hat is not all that easy.  You can't pin it in place and I couldn't sew it together on the machine, so here's what I did... just in case you find yourself needing to stitch elastic into a hat...

Find the "middle" of the elastic ring by folding it in half and marking it somehow.  Then fold it in half again to get the sides.  Mark as best you can the front, back and side points on the hat and make some quick stitches to hold the elastic in place.  I added four more of these around the hat.  Then, start sewing the elastic down to the hat.  Of course I ran out of thread when I only had an inch left to sew, but that's the way things go around here.

All done!  It's not beautiful, but it will keep the hat on her head and the sun off her nose.

My other project is also cowboy related.  It's a saddle blanket.  For those who don't speak cowboy, the saddle blanket goes between the horse and the saddle.  It keeps the horse's back from rubbing or getting pinched by the saddle.  A wool saddle blanket, or saddle pad is something that works well for the job and this type is particularly good.  It is made by weaving wool roving into a latch hook rug canvas.  The wool forms to the horse's back and felts in that shape.  Once it has felted, not much can destroy it.  Except pack-rats.  I made one of these for my husband years ago and some pack rats moved in and decided to eat the canvas.  They left the wool alone, but the blanket fell apart.  I was hoping to have this one done before the branding, but it just might not make it.  Hard to work on with the little one playing in the wool roving.  Hopefully it will look good when it's all finished... if I ever finish it...  I have several other projects that I want to work on, but I have to finish this one first.

11 June 2011

Preparedness Challenge: First Aid

As I sit here typing this, my husband is lying in bed, very sick.  Fever, sore throat and body aches are his main complaints.  So, for my preparedness topic today, I'm going to write about first aid a little.  It is times like these that I either realize that I am well prepared in the medicine area, or not ready at all.  It seems like the only time children need a fever reducer is late at night, when getting to a store is either difficult or impossible.  While I don't feel that it is necessary to treat every little thing with tylenol, it's gives me peace of mind to know that I have it here when I need it. 

First aid goes beyond medicine though.  There are lots of lists available for first aid kits and many complete kits ready to buy.  My goal for this week is to go through the little kits that we already have in the cars and replenish them.  With three small children, the band-aids are the first to disappear.  There is a long list of items that you might consider for your -at home- first aid kit but I'll try to limit my list for a more mobile kit.  One that could go in a 72 hour bag.

First and foremost, are bandages and ointment for all those little scrapes that children can't seem to help getting.  Those little alcohol swabs are also handy to clean up wounds in a hurry.  Just thinking about my kids and being out of doors, I need to remember the sunburn cream and the "itchy" cream - the one that makes those mosquito bites livable.   For times when a band-aid just won't cover it, sterile gauze and athletic tape are very useful and an elastic ace-bandage comes in handy.  Don't forget the asprin, as well as a non-asprin type pain/fever reducer.  Those with small children might want to include a package of children's medicines. 

There are some items that can be re-purposed to work in the first aid kit.  Free paint stirring sticks work well for a splint and a maxi pad can work as an absorbent bandage.  You can make your own sterile wraps by ripping an old sheet in to strips, rolling the strips up and then baking them in the oven for 30 minutes at 220 degrees.  Placed into a zip-lock baggie, these strips will stay sterile until you need them.  Also, did you know that cayenne pepper can be used to stop bleeding?  Shake some onto a bleeding wound, and it will cauterize the bleeding vessels. 

Don't forget hand sanitizer!  How I wished I had packed some on my last cowboying trip.  Also, small scissors and tweezers can make life much more pleasant when trying to get slivers out and cut gauze and tape.  I will also include an instant cold pack, q-tips and a first aid instruction booklet.  Don't forget to grab any prescription drugs on your way out the door with your 72 hour kit! 

I'm linking up with Homestead Revival's Preparedness Challenge!

10 June 2011

Problems, cilantro and egg shells

I took a little trip to do some cowboying and I completely forgot to take any pictures of my cute cowboy kids.  I so fail as a mother.  Never have the camera when I need it.  Every time I leave the computer for a few days, it seems to take me forever to get caught up and back into the swing of things.  I had to laugh as I was catching up at all the posts that seemed to fit me just right.

Nancy, at A Rural Journal posted this a day or two ago:

The problem is not that there are problems.  
The problem is expecting otherwise 
and thinking that having problems is a problem.  

~Theodore Rubin~

Funny how perfectly that fit me, as I was feeling sorry for myself and all my problems.  Funny also that everywhere I look on my blog reading list, people are posting about enjoying what is around us and not worrying about tomorrow.  It's like everyone knows what is going on in my life and they are writing their thoughts and advice for me.  Maybe we're all connected on a subconscious level.  Maybe I'm reading way too much into this.  Maybe I should get to the point.

My point is, work interferes with life.  And it seems to be especially irritating right now.

Were it not for work, my husband could actually enjoy a campout with the little man this weekend.  We could plan that trip to Washington and go see Les Miserables in Seattle in August.  The up side to work is the money, I guess.  I do like to have a roof over my head and without that money, rent wouldn't be paid and I wouldn't even have a car to live in because money pays for that too.  Of course, the car isn't running right now, which calls for even more money, which means even more work.  That also causes us to apply for even more jobs and then wait to see if we even get a call.  Yep, work totally interferes with my life.

To distract myself from all those depressing work/money thoughts, I headed out to the garden.  It's doing well, despite me and my monster and the crazy weather.  Yesterday, as I was on my way to the grocery store to spend money, it started to rain.  No problem there, we're used to rain this year.  Then, it started to hail and I realized that my poor plants were out there getting their heads banged around, so around I turned and headed back home to cover them up.  Of course, by the time I actually pulled into the driveway, the storm had passed but I covered them anyway just to be on the safe side.  I think most everything is okay.  There are a few sad looking squash plants, but all in all, it's good.
I added some trellises for the tomatoes.  These babies are made from pvc pipe from our sad hoop house of last year.  I strung a few little ropes to secure them and I'll be adding more as I go.  This is just for starters.

While out, I harvested most of the cilantro.  It all seems to be wanting to go to seed, and I don't want it to, so I clipped it off.  I'm trying a new way to preserve my cilantro this year.  In the past I have dried it, which makes it taste a lot like parsley.  Once, I forgot that it was still in the oven and burned it pretty badly.  Burning cilantro really stinks.  I have also chopped it and put it into ice cube trays, topping with water.  The cilantro floated to the top and made a huge mess.  I wasn't too happy with those.  This year, I'm borrowing a page from Thy Hand Hath Provided's book.  I'm making a kind of sauce with garlic, lemon juice, salt and olive oil.  Then I poured it into the ice cube trays and froze it.  I haven't tried it yet, but it already looks better than anything I've tried before.

I also transplanted a little tomato plant.  This picture doesn't really show it, but it was the same size as the one in the back of the picture when I planted them both.  It just isn't getting enough sunshine, so I moved it out here.  You can also see the marigold that my son gave me for Mother's Day.  It has been pulled out of the dirt twice and picked more than once by the monster.  In fact, right after I took this picture, she attacked the blossom and half of it's petals are on the ground now. 

Here's some of the patio plants, with another mystery plant in front.  It seemed to know what it was doing when I weeded, so I left it alone and now it's huge!  Then there's onions and carrots and turnips way down there.

To finish up my little outdoor excursion, I noticed some blue, hatched and dropped egg shells.  I'm always amazed at that color.  Why do robins lay blue eggs?  They aren't blue.  They're pretty plain, really.  Is this how they express themselves?

Well, off to check the wanted ads... :)

07 June 2011

Travel Tuesday

Main market area Ochsenfurt.
 At this point in our trip, we started down the touristy Romantic Road.  I went a little crazy for the timber framing on all of the old houses.  I love timber frame building and I want my someday house to have some big timbers in it.

Bridge over a canal.  Marktbreit am Main
 I also went a little crazy for stone arches.  I just love these old buildings.
Timber and stone arch. Marktbreit am Main

Rapunsel did not let down her hair.  Marktbreit.

Iphofen.  Very interesting building.

Arch, timbers and a prancing pony sign.  I couldn't resist.
I love the window boxes.  This was either Creglingen or Roettingen.

Cutest little flower shop.  At this point the husband tried to take the camera away.

I loved this tower thing.  Probably won't do that on my someday house, but it's pretty darn cool.

06 June 2011

Unveiling of the Garden!

It seems that our night time temperatures are finally warming up, and we've had a few days that are down-right hot. (followed by a few days that are down-right cold)  Since the weather seems to approve, generally, I thought it was time to pull the protective covers off of my dear plants.  I'm a little worried though.  We'll be heading out of town for a few days and it looks like some storms will be coming through while we're gone. 

Here's the before picture, or as I like to call it, the trash heap garden:

And here's the after picture:

Here's a shot of my daughter's radishes, as well as a little fence to keep the monster's hands out.  For some reason, this is her favorite spot to piggle in the dirt.  You can kind of see the bean sprouts in the background, as well as my mystery plant that is, in fact, a hosta.  A rather large one, I might add.  Four others have popped up around the patio and they are very welcome.

And here's the pots by the driveway.  There used to be a cucumber in the pot on the right, but apparently it preferred to not live with me and died.  I've never had a lot of luck with cucumbers.

I did have a very cute diagram drawn up, but then I didn't follow it exactly, so it's pretty much obsolete.  So, here is a diagram of the garden.  It may not be pretty, but it's accurate.

How is your garden coming?

04 June 2011

Preparedness Challenge: Water Storage

The new valve
This morning, as I was leaving the house with the kids to head to the local farmer's market, I noticed some water spraying from the irrigation pipes.  I walked closer to investigate, put my hand on the valve, and BOOM!  the pipe broke and water sprayed 20 feet in the air, as well as in my face.    Today was the day that "they" turned on the irrigation water.  I'm not sure exactly who the water turning on people are, so I had no idea who to call about this geyser in the back yard.  People around here water their lawns with this water, rather than the treated city water.  It's cheaper, I guess.  I stood there for a while, not sure what to do about this turn of events.  I wish I had taken a picture of it. 

The broken valve
I called the landlady who was sure I just needed to turn the valve.  I couldn't get her to understand that the valve was not attached to the water pipe anymore.  It was dancing around in the geyser water.  Thankfully, a neighbor heard the gusher and perhaps saw the new little river coursing through his yard and came over to offer some help.  He called Carlos, whoever that is, and got the water turned off until a plumber could fix the pipes.  We went to the market and when we came back, the geyser was no more and there is a new and improved valve on the pipe.

It occurred to me that maybe this was a sign that I should talk about water as it relates to emergency preparedness.  If that had been a main water line that broke, and we were without water for a day or more, would we be prepared?  I have been focusing on preparedness as it relates to a 72 hour kit, but I'm going to talk about general water preparedness as well.

Potable Aqua Purification TabletsDid you know that a person needs about 1 gallon of water per day?  That is two quarts of drinking water, plus water for cooking and hygiene.  Children may need even more, so for my family of five, I would need 15 gallons of water, at least.  That's pretty hard to carry in a 72 hour kit.  We do have enough water pouches for one person to last (supposedly) for three days and we have a canteen that can be easily carried, as well as water bottle holders on our backpacks, but we just won't be able to carry 15 gallons of water on our backs.  Instead, I plan to purchase some water purification tablets.  They are much easier to carry and will allow us to safely use whatever water we can find.

At home, it a bit easier to store water.  There are big barrels designed especially for water.  Just be sure you have them where you want them before you fill them because they are much too heavy to move once filled.  Another option for ensuring clean water is a good filter system such as this Berkey water system or this British Berefeld system.  As far as I can tell, they are basically the same thing.

If you are like me though, and don't have the money for a fancy filtration system and don't have the room for large barrels of water, there are other options.  Many people rinse out and refill used juice or soda bottles.  This is a cheap way to store water.  My mother used to fill old vinegar bottles and store them under our beds so they didn't take up too much room.

I still don't have much storage room to do that, so to store water, I use my empty canning jars.  I wash it, fill it with hot water and put it on the shelf where it would be sitting anyway.  Usually, the old lid still has enough power to seal if you use hot water.  You are supposed to rotate your stored water every six months and this method ensures that I do just that, since I will be using those jars soon.  The only big drawback of this is that there is a period of time where I don't have much water stored at all.  I do plan on filling old pop bottles to store under my bed and I should probably get to it before canning season gets underway.

Also, in instances of no water, remember that you can drain the hot water heater and use that water, as well as the water in the tank of the toilet. Keep in mind with this preparation that the one gallon/day is a bare minimum estimate.  In actuality, a normal household uses 50 gallons of water per day for drinking, bathing, laundry, dishes, toilet flushing, etc. 

What do you do to store water?

I'm linking up with Homestead Revival's preparedness challenge!

02 June 2011


Memory is a strange thing.  My husband has an uncanny ability to remember numbers.  Account numbers, phone numbers, his license number, etc.  My college roommate could remember names.  She would meet someone briefly one time in a dark room and remember them a year later.  My sister has a funny memory talent.  She remembers everybody's experiences as her own.  All of our funny family stories that are often retold, have each become her stories.

This picture has nothing to do with the post topic.
I do not remember numbers, or names (I forget them almost as soon as I've been introduced) and I'm pretty sure I remember the family stories correctly.  I remember strange things.  I remember where things are.  Not because I put them there, but because I saw it there.  For example, the husband asks if I have seen one of his tools.  I will remember that I saw it on something, in the basement, under something else.  I keep thinking and trying to remember what I saw until I can tell him to look on the old stove, under the laundry basket.  If I have seen it in passing, I can usually remember where it was, or enough details to get us close.

I'm so used to being able to find things, that it frustrates me to no end when I can't find something.  For example, my make-up bag.  It has disappeared.  I thought I took it with us on our last trip to the ranch, but it did not make it back.  My mom says it is not at her house.  She has the same kind of memory as I do.  If it was see-able, she would have seen it and remembered.  I am about to give my room a thorough cleaning to make sure the baby didn't hide it somewhere.  She is known to hide things.  My only other thought is that I did leave it at mom's but the little girls found it and have it stashed in the toy room to play with. 

This missing item has completely thrown me off my memory game.  Since it's disappearance, I have lost other items as well.  One such item is a pair of pants.  I know I washed them and folded them and purposely left them here instead of taking them on that ranch trip.  Yet, they are now gone.  There is no memory of where they could be.  Did they run away with my make-up?

Off I go to tear apart my bedroom.  Wish me luck!

*update* The room is now clean.  Still no make-up, but I did find a magazine that I have been looking for, and those pants.  Now if I could just find the make-up and my sunglasses...

01 June 2011

Tomato Crazy

On Saturday, I took the kids to the local farmer's market.  It looked like rain, but I was surprised at the number of people there.  Even though it's fun to just get out of the house and see some new things, I really wanted to find a few plants.  I've been very pleased with the variety of seedlings available at the market.  I usually have to start my own plants since Wyoming is a tricky climate and not everything offered at the big store will actually grow, but I have been able to find many of the plants I would have liked to grow.  Plus some.  It's fun to be able to try many different varieties in one year.  I usually limit myself to one new variety of plant per year, since I have left over seeds from previous years, but as I tallied in my mind today, I realized I have seven varieties of tomatoes! 

Flowers on the Silvery Fir Tree!
Of course, I spent as much on one or two plants as a seed packet would have cost me, but this way I'm not stuck with 50 seeds of something I don't really like.  I got to pick only the varieties that interest me and if I like them, they are heirloom plants so I'll learn how to save seeds.  Then I can try seven more varieties next year!  Too bad my husband doesn't like tomatoes.  He may not have a choice this year.

I decided I had better make a little journal of all the varieties and how they perform, so I sat right down and scribbled out the names, when I transplanted, where they came from and how big they were when I transplanted.  I figured it wasn't totally fair to compare dates of ripe tomatoes if one plant was 10" and the other only 3" when they were stuck into the ground. 

I like how the camera focused on the little stem hairs instead of the flower.
Even though I'm now in a warmer climate, I'm trying out varieties that are supposed to do well in colder environments or that mature quickly.  Mostly.  I do have two brandy wine plants and I'm excited to see how they turn out.  I picked the cold- tolerant plants because I want to try them to see if they are worth the effort.  I have grown some tomatoes in Wyoming, but they weren't very good to eat.  I'm hoping to figure out which plant is the absolute best tasting/ highest producing/ toughest and then I'll plant one for my mom in Wyo and see how it does.  In any case, we'll hopefully end up with a wide variety of seeds to try out when I move back home.

And speaking of tomatoes, have you seen this website?  Tomatofest.com has 600 varieties of heirloom tomatoes!  I just went through several pages of tomatoes that they suggest for colder areas.  Where have these people been all my life?

My list of tomatoes is as follows:
Early Girl - not heirloom, but they were cheap.  They looked pretty rough at first, but are coming along nicely.
Brandywine - free from IFA and also doing wonderfully.
Tigerella - this one was little, but is coming along.  This is supposed to be very productive and vigorous, plus it has stripes.
Silvery Fir Tree - this one is fast and only grows 2' tall.  I put it in a pot by the driveway.
Bison -   This was a find at the market.  It is supposed to do well in cold, wet climates.  It was very small also, but I have high hopes for this one.
Stupice - My last tomato for the year.  Really.  I picked this one up at the market Saturday.  The lady swears it produces like crazy.
and some cherry tomato that I had old seeds for.  I've never had success with it, but since I had the seeds, I planted them.  It's still teensy tiny. 

Lest you think I am completely obsessed with tomatoes, I'll have you know that I also bought two lemon cucumber starts.  I heard about them from Backyard Farming and hoped to find them at the market.  Saturday was my lucky day.

Next week: sweet peppers!