Bird in Hand Farm

Bird in Hand Farm is an imaginary place.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dueling Apple Pies

The little apple trees in the back yard have a long way to go before they are going to give us apples.  Two weekends ago we went up to a little orchard in Jordan, NY called Leubner's.  We exercised a great deal of restraint and only came home with 2 bushels.  For three people.  Oh, and Darwin.  He likes apple slices too.

Anyway, after two weeks of eating apple stuff nonstop and still looking at three seemlingly full bags sitting on the kitchen floor I decided enough was enough.  Applesauce day!  We made 21 half pint jars and a full quart for the fridge.  Still, there were more apples hiding in a bowl on the kitchen counter.
Late in the afternoon, we decided that instead defending ourselves against the invading hoards, we would pit them against each other.  Two pies.  Head to head.  Winner gets eaten.  We made Judy's Apple Pie, which has its very own post on this blog and Apple Pie by Grandma Ople.  Grandma Ople's pie is the first hit when you google "apple pie."  It also has 4,107 reviews and is rated as 5 stars.  Judy better watch out. 
The results?  They were both excellent.  Too different to really say which was better.   But really, the final result is that we do not have a single apple in this house.  Phew!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

Whoops.  Been a while since I posted.

I made these.
From this
With this.  My dad gave me birthday money.
When It was yarn it looked like this.
It's addictive.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dark spots and bright spots

This is my favorite piece of broadcasting reflecting on 9/11.
When it all happened, I was a Therapist in Watertown, NY.  A coworker (who happened to be a nun) told me.  I told her she was putting me on. It did not seem believable.  Shortly afterwards, the fighter jets scrambled out of Ft. Drum.  Being near the base we were used to maneuvers, but never so many at once. 

I went to NYC with the Red Cross as a Mental Health Technician.  It was several weeks later and they were rotating in fresh responders.  No one was cheering when we came.  The city was angry, tired, and grey.  People were on edge if the subway stopped and anthrax letters were all over the news.  I was assigned to Service Center #2 on Canal Street.  We worked hard.   I learned a lot.  I will never forget it.

Kiddo was just a hope at that point.  Now she is the center of my universe.  As I type this, she is playing on  her computer.  She is wearing a bunny costume and humming to herself.
I made her a Simple Yet Effective Shawl using two skeins of yarn that she gave me for my Birthday.  I alternated 2 rows of each skein.  I did not want big fat bands of color at the beginning and then really narrow bands at the end.  It still does that a bit, but it is not as pronounced.  I used every inch of yarn and Jenny's Suprisingly Stretch Bind Off.  It is very stretchy, but it uses a TON of yarn.  Even more surprising, she likes it.
So I guess there are dark days and bright ones.  From where I sit right now, the view is a pretty good one.

Oh, I'm still trying to do one little bit of decluttering each day.
Wednesday:  I washed the back screen door.  I figure decluttering grime counts
Thursday: pulled 7 old sweaters to make into a blanket and found a bag of donation stuff in the attic.
Friday: emptied a bin in the basement.
Saturday: went through everything in kiddos dresser.  That was a big one.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Vegging Out

Today was kiddo's 1st day of school.  Yesterday, I pretty much let her do whatever she wanted.  I offered to go play out and about but mostly she wanted to watch TV and play with her dolls.  I'm okay with that.  I think that sometimes you just need a day to veg out.  
 I veg'ed out too.  I have been roasting and freezing tomatos all summer.  The freezer basket was getting full.  On top of that, my Mother-in-Law brought tomatos from the Farmer's Grandfather.  I like that the sauce will have a few varieties of tomatos.  I think it adds some depth of flavor.  I also like that with Grandpa's tomatos it's like a family sauce.  In the end I had A LOT of tomatos.  They filled 2 stockpots.  It took forever to run them all through the food mill.  Do they make electronic food mills?  We cranked on and off for an hour or so until they had all been through.  They filled the big stock pot to within 2 inches of the brim.

The next step is to let the whole thing simmer down 'till it is reduced by 1/3 to 1/2 volume.  This is where I cheated.  I let it simmer and steam until it was reduced by a few inches.  Then, I added 4 cans of tomato paste.  Blasphamy, I know.  The paste thickens the sauce.  I get more sauce and don't have to wait until 9 pm to can.  A trick in the canning sauce is to line up all of your jars and add the lemon juice to all of them at once.  That way, you do not need to rack your brain trying to remeber if you added it or not.  It's in there.  I got 11 quarts.  That is the most ever!  I am a happy camper.
I did some decluttering too.  Lying on the basement floor in front of the canning shelf was the cardboard tray that had been under a litter box.  When Ella died, we consolodated the boxes.  Somehow that tray never got tossed.  It was like it had become a fixture and I no longer saw it.  I decided that the focus of the day would be the basement floor.  With the monster project of the sauce going on upstairs, I wanted something quick and simple.  How bad could it be?

We live in filth.  Well not really, but it was bad enough.  There was more stuff than I thought there would be.  Stuff down there feels damp and dirty.  Anyway, the tray is gone, as are some other misc boxes and random objects.  You know how metal coffee cans are so great for storing stuff?  I found 7 empty ones that I had taken down there just in case.  Several were a rusty and cob-webby.  Ick.  They are now in the recyling bin.  Also in the bin is an empty bottle of laundry detergent that I found under the table that lives next to the washer.  We have been making our own laundry soap for the past 2+ years so who knows how long that bottle has been there?  There were 5 stray socks hiding under there as well.  The best things I found were about $2.30 in loose change and an escapee wool dryer ball. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The State Fair and a really nasty laundry basket

We went to the New York State Fair in the rain yesterday.  We used to have umbrellas and ponchos.  Used to. I looked all over for them with no luck.  But, I did find the missing laundry basket in the garage.  
The Fair is nice in the rain.  It is cool and uncrowded.  There are still more people than I would like, but it is way better than when the sun is out.  The Fair is huge and there is no way to see it all.  Wear comfortable shoes.  I like how there is a big emphasis on agriculture and there is a whole building devoted to poultry and bunnies.  There are enormous cows.  We went to a talk given by one of the Veterinarians of the Bronx Zoo.  There are historical demonstrations.  I learned how to make soap by watching the demos at the fair.   The kid likes the rides.  Of course there is weird fair food.  
Jumping really high!
Rolling around in a giant inflated hamster ball in a big pool.  She was really tired after that one.
After we got home, I decided my de-cluttering task would be re-claiming my laundry basket from the garage.  The Farmer used it to clean out the car sometime in the spring.  For some reason, he stopped in the middle and left the basket in the garage.  In it was: his winter coat, a bunch of papers from school and when the car went in for repairs, and unfortunately at least three lunches that he took to school but did not eat, as well as the fast food trash from what he ate instead. Phew!  I threw it all out containers and all.  The coat got washed by itself.  It was gross but the worst of it was done in about 4 minutes.  At the end of the day, his coat got washed and put away, a few papers got filed, a bag of trash was tossed ad I got my laundry basket back.  

What nastiness lurks in your garage?  Oh and one last pic.  She loves the vibrating foot massages.  Pure bliss.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

I'm liking the declutter thing

I know it's only day three.  And actually we went to the fair yesterday and I came home with a headache and went straight to bed so I didn't do any yesterday.  So really, it's day 2.  To make up yesterday I did a double.  

I'm not going to post pictures of this because I want you to picture your space not mine.  The point is this is not for you to feel better because your house is tidier than mine.  It probably is.  The point is that most of us have too much crap and this might motivate you to let go of just a little bit of it.

The first target was  one of the kids bins.  I dumped it and collected her yarn, beads and crafty stuff in it.  There were a few items of trash, and a few things to be put away elsewhere: a dirty sock, a dog toy, and two pencils.  Not as much discarding as I might have hoped, but every little bit counts. While I was sitting on the floor, I also consolidated the toys that were in two cardboard boxes back into her other bins.  This is a tiny dent in the toy mountain, but every little bit helps.

Picture your child's toys here

I have a love-hate relationship with cardboard boxes.  A few weeks ago I had the brilliant idea of putting all of her toys out on the porch in boxes.  The plan was that as kiddo went and got things out of the boxes to play with we would put them away in the permanent bins.  Anything still left on the porch at the end of the month would be donated or tossed.  Sounds great in theory.  What actually happened is that the porch is now trashed and boxes got brought into the house and a moat formed around her regular toy bins.  Not so good.  No cardboard box storage in the living room.

The next target was the bottom drawer of my dresser.  As I got dressed today, I noticed that I had to move two pairs of pants that I don't like to get to the shorts that I wanted to wear.  Why are their pants that don't fit right in my dresser?  So I sorted.  I donated 3 pairs or pants and found 3 pairs of shorts that I would wear buried in the back.  I also found hair ties that I was looking for this morning and extra shampoo and hair care stuff buried in there.  Why?  That's now in the bathroom and off the grocery list.  Is de-cluttering going to save us some money?  Lastly I got to throw out a whole mess of stuff that I won't ever use.  There is a whole lot more room in the drawer now.

What does your bottom dresser drawer look like?

I know I'm bouncing around and I figure that that is okay.  The point is to just do some.  Let's see how long I can keep it up.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Farm has too much stuff

Three nights in a row I have had to tell the kid to clear a path through the living room to get to the stairs.  We have tried to de-clutter.  We took a big load of toys to Tales and Toys.  It was great.  We cleared out some big stuff and she got new (to her) toys that she will play with.  I labeled 2 boxes: "Donation" and "Toys for Trade."   A week later and not much has found its way to the boxes.  There is just too much.  I find it oppressive.  I have a hard time concentrating.  The magnitude is overwhelming. 
I know the key is to do a little at a time.  I have been thinking about this for a while.   I make plans.  I don't follow through.  Flylady says that you cannot clean clutter.  You have to get rid of it.  She is right. 

Tonight, while again thinking about this issue, I decided to stop thinking and start doing. I was standing in front of the bookcase at the time.  I was going to just do one shelf of the bookcase.  I wound up doing the whole thing.  I pulled 6 books to let go, 2 paid bills from 2008, a case for Christmas cartoon DVDs, and a goodbye card from when I left a job in 2004.  I put away some lotion, cards, and bags to give away soap in.  I checked the books at Cash4Books but they were not buying any.  It took 6 min.  The shelves are less full and the house is a few pounds lighter.

Maybe I can keep doing a little bit each day and blog about it? Go let go of something.  You will feel better.  Maybe I will feel better once I tackle the moat around the TV in the living room.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I won a bet.

Goats do climb trees.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What was I thinking?

Do not cut up and seed 34 jalapeno peppers with your bare hands.  Ask me how I know.
The Farmer requested jalapeno peppers in the garden.  They are going gangbusters, and he was not eating them.  Pretty soon there were 20 of them on the kitchen counter.  I went out and picked 14 more and there are more out there.  What to do?

Jalapeno jelly uses up a ton of peppers.  Worth a shot.  
If the house was not stinky enough with the puke carpet, you can just imagine how it smelled with both the carpet and the boiling vinegar-pepper solution. 
All the recipes I found were really, really similar.  Just pick one.  I used fine mesh strainers instead of cheese cloth to strain it.  It might have been clearer has I used cloth.  Someone suggested shaking it as it cools to disperse the peppers through the jelly.  I tried.  Some jars are better than others.  We made a double recipe and got 4 pints of jelly.  

Now I guess we get to find out if we like jalapeno jelly. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


We have the cleanest spot ever on our living room carpet. But, man oh man, does it ever stink.  
Last week I was cooking and there was half a stick of butter sitting on the counter.  When I came down from putting the kid to bed, there was a butter wrapper in the middle of the floor.  Darwin came in, licked it, and looked up at me with those sad eyes.  

The next morning, the smell hit me as a I came down the stairs.  Someone left a pile of puke in the middle of the floor.  We cleaned it with pet stain cleanser, enzyme stuff, Febreze stuff... and so on.  The stain is gone.  The carpet looks great.  But the smell is God-awful.  

Maybe it has been so humid, that it is just damp.  We have a fan on it.  Fingers crossed.

I need ideas.  Either that or I am ripping it out and hoping that the hardwoods underneath are in good condition.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


If your garden is anything like mine, you have tomatoes and basil out the wazoo.  Bruschetta is a great recipe to use them up in a very tasty and quick way.  Put some crusty bread on your grocery list this week.  Mozzarella too.  You already have everything else you need in the kitchen. Really.
I used the recipe from All Recipes.   I think you should too.  1,462 people have rated the recipe and it scores a full 5 stars.  Seems like a sure bet. 
You can learn from my few minor mistakes.  Dice the tomatoes rather than cutting them into chunks.  Put more topping on the bread. More than you think you should.  The broiler will shrink it down.  Make more.  The Farmer and I ate the whole plate for dinner.
Yes, we remembered to set the oven back to "bake."

Sunday, July 31, 2011

It isn't easy being green. Or blue.

Maybe I should weed whack?
I finally got the last of the Peppermint-Basil Soap out of the mold.  Lots stayed behind in the mold and three weeks later the soap at the bottom is tacky and pliable.  I think it was the aloe vera gel.  It is still a pretty pale green.  Unfortunately, both molds took a beating getting the soap out and are now cracked.
The garden is growing, mostly.  There are only 5 strawberries left.  The asparagus never came up.  The summer squash is unhappy with the recent heat.   So far, the big success is the mint, which is growing well.  There are several bunches drying on the porch.

 I drooled over kick spindles for a year. There are a few makers of kick spindles out there.   This is my favorite.  I got lucky and found a used one on one of the Ravelry used equipment boards.  I snapped it up.  Spinning is supposed to be a zen experience.  Relaxing, and a connection to generations of women who spun and created their own yarn.  I told myself that I was going to spin 10 minutes a day.  That lasted for maybe 4 or 5 days.  I don't draft well at all and I don't have the kick motion down.  I know I can get this if I practice some more.  I could use some meditative, calming activity.  I just haven't managed a balance between the kid, garden, soap, and knitting.  Maybe when I go on vacation in a few weeks.  Or maybe I can find a use for wool rope?

Now onto blue.  We went on the annual trek to Stan's Berry Patch.  Bring on the Buckle!  The farmer made two of them and burned the top of both.  I'm the better baker, so I made one.  Still burned on top and undercooked on the inside.  Whoops.  Guess it might be the oven.  Turns out that it was set to "broil."  He made broiled chicken a couple of weeks ago.  I am so glad that we figured it out before we called a repair guy.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

America's Next Top Model?

I swear. I let her watch one episode and she has not stopped posing since.  The sweater is Bethany by the Berroco.  I want her to always have a handmade sweater, and she is growing out of her stripes.  Stripes is two years old and has served her well.
The Bethany pattern is a bit problematic.  I made a gauge swatch and got knitting.  About 4 inches in, I realized that the sweater was coming out HUGE.  56" wide!  I went down a size and started over.  It only took 2 inches to figure out that it was still too big.  I frogged it again and went down another size.  I ended up using a size 7 needle and following the pattern size 6 for # of stitches and the 10/12 measurements for length.  It is still too wide, but comes across as swingy.
I got the yarn at AC. Moore in a bag labeled "Cotton Mill Ends."  I looked up the address on the bag and I believe the yarn is Patons Grace in the "Sky" colorway.  It knit up very nicely and I think it shows off the moss stitch and lace patterns.  I'll be hunting the mill ends bins again.
It took less than a month to make the sweater, which is a record for me.  The first time she put it on, kiddo flatly said: "This makes me look fat." Boo.  I waited a week and then told her I wanted a few "glamor shots" so I could post it on Ravelry.  She was all for that and decided to "sell it."  I think she likes it better now.  I love it.  I love her more.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Holey Soap

A friend, "D.," won soap as a prize in the Animiguri KAL.  She and her daughter are really sensitive to scents, so we agreed that instead of taking soap that is ready, I would make her a batch of unscented goats milk soap with a bit of Aloe.  

Milk Soap gets really hot, so I had planned on using my tray molds so that it would have a large surface area to cool it.  Except, the Basil Soap is still in there.  Stuck.  Really, really stuck.  I decided to use PVC pipe instead of a box.  I wanted it to look really good for her.  

PVC pipe is risky for milk soap because they do not vent heat.  But, I have been successful before (maybe I was just lucky) so I decided to try it.  I had already delayed more than a week waiting for the Basil Soap to break lose.   Milk soap has a 6 week cure, so I didn't feel like I could delay any longer.  D won her prize at the end of June, but won't get her soap till the end of August.  That does not seem fair.  Time to get soaping.  There was another small problem.  It was 88 degrees out.  The house is air conditioned but somehow milk soap in air conditioning never quite works out for me.  I decide to go ahead with the project.
The batch traced well and poured smoothly into the mold.  Then all hell broke lose.  The pipes started steaming.  One looked like it was curdling and foaming up.  I put them out on the porch and prayed..  
The next morning the oil that had been floating at the top of the soap was gone.  Still, I fully expected that when I finally got to get it out of the mold, oil would pour out.  A week later, with the help of the freezer, I was able to break it free of the mold. 

It is holey and clearly shows signs or heat stress, but no oil leaked out.  I think that it sort of did it's own hot process soap thing.  One tunnel went straight through 5 or 6 bars.  It is dead center in the circle, which makes sense because that would have been the hottest part of the soap.  I decided that the hole would make it the perfect "Soap on a Rope."  
The cool thing is that even though it is unscented, it still smells good.  It is a clean, soapy, sweet smell.  It is not the perfect batch I had hoped for, but I'm still pretty happy with it.