I had a request by one of my millions of (or maybe six) followers for an update on the snow. In a matter of days, we went from barren ground to snow-covered; up to 2 feet in some places. The predictions for this winter have been warm and light snow. The natives have been grumbling about it and reminiscing about the big snow back in 2008 when it was 127 inches in Coeur d’Alene.
You’re probably asking: are there different types of snow? Why yes, there are. There is that oxymoron snow, the dry snow. We got that first. It was all light and fluffy, and dry as far as frozen water can be dry. The following day we had winds 20-40 mph and that light fluffy snow blew all over the place. Most of it ended up in Washington, because there sure wasn’t much left at our house. The next snow fall was wet snow.
So what do you do with all this snow? You shovel it…every day. Remember that huge deck that seemed so awesome when we bought the house? Not so awesome when you have to shovel off the snow. On the third day, as soon as we had finished clearing the snow off the deck the sun came out and started melting the snow off the roof which proceeded to fall on the deck. Lather, rinse, repeat.
We finally had enough snow to try out our new snowshoes. We tromped around the yard testing our skills in powder and on our hills. I fell in about two feet of powder because I didn’t pick up my feet high enough. Shawn had a good laugh before helping me back up. It was beautiful in our little piece of forest.
I’ve been waiting for a good snow to do a little quilt photography, so I finally got the opportunity. My lovely assistant held the quilts.
One issue we have with the snow is our long, semi-steep driveway. Our neighbor keeps it plowed, but spots can be icy, especially the where the end of the driveway meets the road. This morning, when the repairmen arrived to fix our wood burning stove, they knocked at the door and asked if we had a four-wheel drive truck. Their truck couldn’t make it up the drive. Shawn had taken our all wheel drive SUV, so they trudged back down the driveway to get their tools. They made several trips up and down the driveway in the course of their work. I must admit I have been very impressed with the work ethic of the young people I’ve met since moving to Idaho. These guys didn’t complain and finished the job with a smile.
So far, I’m enjoying the snow. It’s fun to snowshoe in, pretty to look at across the valley, a good workout to shovel, and mesmerizing to watch as it falls. Of course, I don’t have to walk around in it looking for food like these guys.
One of the reasons I blog is to keep track of the progress on projects I start. Most are home and yard DIY, but it’s nice to look back and see what I’ve made with my sewing machine. I got a late start on sewing projects in 2018 because of our move to Idaho. The first project was getting my new sewing room setup. It seems like there was one setback after another getting the room done. When we pulled up the old carpet, the floor was uneven and the wood stove had been installed over the carpet so we had to dismantle the stove to put the flooring under it. Once I got my sewing center setup, the cable broke on the lift for my sewing machine so I ordered a new cable but the order got lost. That was another month of waiting. Finally in mid-August, I was ready to unpack.
The first thing I made was a starburst quilt top in oranges and whites. I had participated in a quilt swap where you send in any number of 10″ squares of orange fabric and you get that number back in different fabrics. I saw this starburst pattern on Pinterest and knew it was perfect for my pile of orange squares.
My next project was a quilt-along sponsored by Bernina. For their 125th anniversary, they designed a quilt with embroidered motifs. I thought it would be a good way to learn how to use the embroidery features on my Bernina 765. Unfortunately, the first time I took the embroidery module out of the box and tried using it, it made a hideous noise. It went in for repairs in October and they are still waiting for parts. I hope to finish this quilt in 2019.
Most participants are using the gold Bernina fabrics designed for the challenge, but I decided to go with blues and white. I’ve been on a blue and white kick lately.
Years ago, I learned how to make a reversible hooded flannel jacket for kids. I even taught a class on how to make it a few times. So when my grandkids came to visit, I made them these jackets. In the past, I used a Simplicity pattern but I couldn’t find it again. I ventured into the online world of downloadable PDF patterns and found this cute jacket pattern from Stitch Upon a Time. I definitely want to try more garment sewing in the future, and these downloadable patterns seem to be the way to go.
Time for some Christmas sewing. I made these Kate Spain advent stockings for my granddaughter. The point turner was my best friend while making these 24 little stockings!
One of the quilters I follow on Instagram posted this Noodlehead Range backpack she had made, and I thought it would be fun to make for my girls for Christmas. I ended up making four and keeping one for myself. Since I used quilting cottons from my fabric stash, I had to reinforce them with canvas to make the backpacks stiffer. I broke quite a few needles going through all the layers. I also learned how to insert a zipper.
I finished out the year with a little utility sewing. I made flannel sheets for our RV since we would be traveling in December. RV mattresses are odd sizes and finding sheets is difficult. I order the 108″ wide flannel usually used for quilt backs to make a flat sheet, a fitted sheet, and two pillow cases. No pictures of these.
I also made rice filled hand-warmers from some scraps of sock monkey flannel. Just stitch up a little pouch, fill with rice, stitch closed, and then microwave. They really work!
So that wraps up my 2018 quilting and sewing projects. In 2019, I’m making some sample quilts for a new class I will be teaching in June. I also need to finish up a few quilts I started in 2017. I would also like to try my hand at garment sewing.
On December 16, we embarked on a 17-day journey from Northern Idaho to Central California and back in our fifth wheel. The first obstacle to overcome was getting out of our driveway. Shawn had to buy studded snow tires and chains for the truck. Our neighbors, Rich and Kyle, did their best to help us out by plowing as much snow and ice as possible off of our downhill driveway. When Shawn went to buy the snow tires and chains, Rich chained his truck to Shawn’s to prevent Shawn from sliding down the driveway. It was a scary drive in the early morning darkness, but Shawn successfully navigated us down the driveway to the main road before removing the chains.
The next obstacle was the weather. We ended up leaving a day earlier than planned in order to miss a storm. We drove six hours to Portland the first day. Eastern Washington is far from picturesque, especially in the winter. We stayed at the Sandy Riverfront RV Park in Troutdale, Oregon. Troutdale is a cute little town and their main street was decorated for Christmas. We enjoyed dinner and martinis at Troutini. Our waitress encouraged us to come back for New Year’s Eve on our return trip.
The next stop was South Beach State Park in Newport, Oregon. Once again we stayed at a park that we visited on our previous trip. Living in landlocked Idaho, Shawn knew I needed my dose of ocean views. We just beat the storm, and we were able to take a long walk on the beach. That night, our trailer was shaking fiercely in the 35 mph wind and rain.
We stopped in Bandon, Oregon, home of Face Rock Creamery and the import store with all the dinosaurs. Face Rock still makes the best mac & cheese in my book, and the clerk told us the recipe is available online. We bought a frozen mac to go along with a healthy supply of Vampire Slayer garlic cheddar. No additional dinosuars came home with us this trip.
In Gold Beach, we stayed at Turtle Rock RV Resort. As you can see from the picture, winter RV’ing is not so popular in the Pacific North West, but the solitude makes it much easier to park! We enjoyed an evening with Shawn’s niece and her family.
Our first stop in California was in Trinidad, a cute seaside town with an incredible smoked fish shop. It was a beautiful, sunny day, so after lunch, we took a 2-mile hike before getting back in the truck to head to Garberville for the night.
That was the end of the relaxing, leisurely, sightseeing portion of our trip. After that, our days were packed with visits with family and friends. We spent the night at Cal Expo RV Park in Sacramento, had lunch with our daughter and the grandkids, and dinner with our friend Jerry. Traffic and 5-lane freeways were a rude awakening. The stress level instantly increased.
Then it was on to Fresno to visit our son and the Scharton clan. Some of the highlights included sampling the local breweries, an introduction to mulcajetes, lots of good Mexican food that we don’t have in Idaho, a Zumba class led by my sister-in-law, and Christmas Eve dinner with family and old friends. We parked in my brother’s driveway for the duration. I’m sure the neighbors were thrilled when we packed up and left at 5:30 Christmas morning for a hair-raising drive through the tule fog back to Sacramento.
We made it to Elk Grove in time to watch the grandkids open their presents Christmas morning. Shawn’s brother hosted Christmas dinner. Only in California can you serve Christmas dinner outside on the patio. Sure, there was a heater and a fire pit, but we won’t be doing that in Idaho in December.
On Boxing Day, we drove to San Francisco to visit our youngest son. We’ve always gone over the Bay Bridge, but this time we took the Golden Gate Bridge. It was so much nicer; I may never use the Bay Bridge again. It was a rare sunny day in San Francisco, so we enjoyed a long walk through Golden Gate Park and a Korean lunch of bi bim bab (not commonly found in Idaho).
The next two days were filled with lunches and dinners with old friends and co-workers. So much to catch up on and to remind us how much we are enjoying retirement. We spent four days in Sacramento before heading home to Idaho. We picked up a cold along the way and just wanted to get home. The return trip was only two stops compared to the five days we took on the way down.
We arrived home the afternoon of January 1st and our neighbor Kyle was waiting at the end of the driveway to tow us home. The trip was fun, adventurous, and exhausting. It was wonderful to see all of our California family and friends again. Now it’s time to look through all the seed catalogs that were awaiting us on our return. Spring is just around the corner…she says hopefully.
I’m sure many of you are wondering what happened to those two cute little pigs named Breakfast & Dinner. Come on, you knew this day would come folks.
*** Warning *************
There are a couple graphic butchery photos below, so just stop now if that bothers you or scroll really fast.
Breakfast & Dinner lived a very happy, albeit short, life at Spring Creek Acres. They rooted up acres of pasture and enjoyed a non-GMO diet. The sisters frolicked about and happily grunted when Farmer Shawn brought them treats every day and sprayed them down on hot days. They grew bigger and bigger and bigger, until one day Farmer Shawn decided they were ready to become bacon, sausage, and other tasty delights.
I’m the first to admit, the killing and processing part is not fun and I was not overly involved. Once everything was chilled and cut into less recognizable pieces, I joined the party.
Shawn sold two half pigs and invited the buyers to join in the processing. Talk about knowing where your food comes from!
As you can see, we like sausage. With some of our meat, we made Jalapeno breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, and German sausage. I grew up eating smoked Geman sausage at my grandparents’ house on Sundays, so I was trying to recreate that.
All in all, the processing of the two pigs took about a week and yielded over 300 pounds of meat. Shawn also cured bacon and smoked the hocks.
We now have a freezer full of pork and chicken for the coming year, plus a bit of elk from the neighbor. Raising and processing your own food takes a lot of time and effort, but it tastes so good. Cheers to Breakfast & Dinner!
Yesterday afternoon it was sunny, so I suggested to Shawn that we walk to the mailbox. This is a nice 1.7-mile roundtrip. I put on a cotton/wool long sleeve base layer shirt with a fleece shirt over, thick athletic pant, knit gloves, and a beanie hat. By the time we got down the driveway, which is a feat in itself, the sun went behind a cloud and I was cold.
Today, Shawn suggested a walk. I looked out the window at the gray day and gave him the side eye, so he pulled out his phone to check the weather. It was 36 degrees and the peak of the heat for the day. I added some layers to the previous day’s outfit. Long sleeve base layer shirt again, sweatshirt, fleece jacket, athletic pants, sweatpants, white cotton gloves under my knit gloves, and the beanie hat. Instead of turning right at the end of our driveway to go to the mailbox, we turned left to go up the steep hill. Now I had too many layers! This matching the weather, the workout, and the layers is a delicate science that I need to perfect.
As seen on our walk:
We’ve had our first two snow events for the year. The first dropped about 5 inches of snow after Thanksgiving. It was enough snow to pull out the sled and find a mild downhill in our front yard. Shawn also managed to pile together a snowman on the deck. The first snow is so pretty because there’s no dirt mixed with it.
I found a few things to gather on the property. We have a black walnut tree, and this is our harvest from November. I was surprised by how many we got because I saw so few on the tree. After shelling them, we ended up with about two cups of nut meat. Since there were so few, we enjoyed them raw as a snack. Next year we will hopefully have more so we can do some baking with them. Very tasty!
Rosehips are purported to be high in vitamin C and we have a lot of wild rose bushes on the property. I read they are best picked after the first snow. Unfortunately, the deer ate all the conveniently located hips.
I’ve been enjoying my new sewing room. A couple of years ago, I made my grandson a set of mini advent stockings, so I had to make some for my new granddaughter too. Twenty-four little stockings stitched, trimmed, turned and in the mail in time for December 1st.
Well, it’s 4:30 PM and dark outside, so time to put on another layer…
We had mid to upper 90s in August, a week or so of 80s in September, then it dropped into the 60s mid-month. On October 3rd, we had our first freeze. That left us with a bunch of green tomatoes still on the vine, so we canned green tomato chutney. I was a little skeptical, but it’s tasty. Goes great with Indian food or over cream cheese with crackers.
We also harvested our onion crop. We got quite a few, but they were small this year. We will be better prepared next year and hope to get large onions like our neighbor’s.
Shawn grew some pumpkins, but like the onions, they came out small. However, the few small pumpkins we got made a great puree and pumpkin bread. He’s in the kitchen now whipping up a pumpkin pie!
We’ve also been doing more canning. Our next-door neighbor got an elk and gave us some ground meat, so Shawn canned that with potatoes, onions and carrots. While it tastes good, it was not pretty enough to warrant a picture. I’ve been buying dried beans in bulk and canning them. It’s very handy to have pinto, black, white, kidney and garbonzos readily available.
Soon it will be time to bottle our first experiments in fruit wine. We will have a couple gallons each of plum, peach, and apple.
Improvements continue to be made outdoors. We ordered seedling trees from the Pitkin Nursery at the University of Idaho in Moscow. Shawn planted 20 Tamarac trees on the south end of the property and then potted maples, chestnuts and others for planting in the spring. Most of our trees are evergreen, so it will be nice to have more fall colors in a few years. We are also working on the planting area around the house. We moved dirt to join to small hills. Shawn plans to put a pond behind it. I planted 120+ bulbs and divided and re-planted the existing peonies. I hope I didn’t kill them!
The kids and grandkids visited mid-October and the weather was picture perfect. We went to Green Bluff for pumpkins and apples; we played at McEuen Park in downtown Coeur d’Alene, and we hiked the Cougar Gulch trail. It was great having them visit!
Cooler temps also mean more time spent in my new sewing room. I made flannel jackets for the grandkids and started a new blue and white quilt.
While we are enjoying the changing of the seasons, we recently learned of another type of seasons in Northern Idaho. Bug Seasons. During the summer, we experienced yellowjacket season. Now we are in stink-bug season. There was also a brief two-week period of gnat season. I’m sure you’re thanking me for not posting photos.
Our new lifestyle, location, and DIY projects also required the acquisition of a few new tools:
Numerous pairs of work gloves
Loader, boom, chain harrow, and disk for tractor
T-post driver and puller
Floor scraper (ultimate tool for removing staples in carpet pad)
Paper log maker
“No Hunting” signs
The last six months have flown by, and we’re starting to get into a groove. If the weather is good, we will work on an outside project. Not so good, then we’ll do an inside project. We’ve also taken the time to explore our new surroundings with a few hikes and camping trips. We’ve taken up flyfishing (that’s a whole new list of equipment for another post), and visited many of our local breweries, restaurants and farmers’ markets. Life is good.
We are surrounded by wheat fields, so we know wheat grows well in our area. In early spring, Shawn planted a pound of wheat seeds in a row in our garden. For the longest time, it was the only crop in the garden that seemed to be growing.
By midsummer, the wheat was over two feet tall while the tomatoes and peppers were still taking their time to get their groove on.
This wheat thing is new to us, so once the wheat turned brown and the farmers around us began cutting their wheat and hay, Shawn knew it was time to harvest. He cut all the wheat by hand and hung it in the garage to finish drying.
Shawn did some internet research and learned how to build a DIY thresher. It is pieces of chain attached to a rod in a bucket. He uses his drill to turn the rod, and the chain beats all heck out of the wheat to separate the chaff from the wheat.
We cut the wheat heads off the stalks by hand. I’m thinking the Amish are more automated than we were. It took a few hours for both of us to remove all the seed heads. The chickens were happy with any we missed.
The final step was pouring the threshed wheat in front of a fan to separate the seeds from the chaff. The heavier wheat falls into the bucket and the chaff blows away. Shawn did this process a few times. The resulting product was over six pounds of wheat ready for milling into flour.
Shawn plans to plant an acre of wheat for next season, so we will need to work on our automation techniques!
When we lived in Sacramento, we would head to Apple Hill every year to get our fill of fresh apples and baked goods at the apple farms. I found a similar area in Washington outside of Spokane. In Green Bluff, in addition to apples, they grow peaches, cherries, berries, plums, and pears. We visited a few of the farms today for some you-pick peaches and apples. It turns out we are at the end of late season peaches and the beginning of early season apples, but we couldn’t pass up peaches for $1.10/pound and apples for $0.75/pound.
We learned the proper way to pick a peach. Pull down and it should come right off if ripe. Do not twist! Put the peaches in the box stem end down. The farmer’s 88-year-old sister-in-law was adamant about this process. I hope to be so opinionated and vibrant at 88. Now I need to figure out what to do with 18 pounds of peaches (aside from biting straight into them and letting the juice run down my chin).
We also toured the Strawberry Hill Nutrition Farm. It is a “nutrition” farm because it is beyond organic, focusing on healthy chemical-free soil. Verne gave us a tour of his 4-acre fruit and vegetable farm and he gave us tips of growing healthy produce. He plants nasturtium flowers with his squash to keep the bugs away. He said marigolds will make the squash bitter. He also had red painted rocks sprinkled throughout his strawberry field. He said the birds will peck on the rocks and be unhappy with what they find, so they will leave your strawberries alone. And his last tip: play classical music for your garden. It creates a stress-free environment for you, the plants, the birds, and the bees. And yes, there was classical music playing as we wandered through the garden and I was completely stress-free.
On our way out of Green Bluff, we saw this house flying three flags. The flag on the right says “Come and Take It.” I had not seen the black, white and blue flag before, so I looked up the meaning. It is the Thin Blue Line Flag.
The Blue represents the officer and the courage they find deep inside when faced with insurmountable odds. The Black background was designed as a constant reminder of our fallen brother and sister officers. The Line is what police officers protect, the barrier between anarchy and a civilized society, between order and chaos, between respect for decency and lawlessness. Together they symbolize the camaraderie law enforcement officers all share, a brotherhood like none other.
In Spokane, we visited Michlitch’s spice shop. As the sign indicates, they have everything but the meat. We sampled a few spice blends and left with two for making sausage (German and Jalapeno) and two lemon blends for chicken.
We ended our afternoon at the Iron Goat Brewery in Spokane. We learned that the brewery is named after the garbage eating goat sculpture in Spokane’s Riverbend Park. The metal goat sculpture has a vacuum inside that allows the goat to “eat” small pieces of garbage as part of a creative solution to eliminating litter. The statue will inhale just about any piece of refuse that will fit into its mouth. It was built for the World’s Fair in 1974 by Sister Paula Turnbull.
After a couple of weeks with days in the 90’s (and two over 100), we are starting to see fruit and vegetables ripening in our garden. We’ve picked some cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, Armenian cucumbers, onions, tomatillos, chilies, and plums. We’ve finally identified the mystery fruit trees: two are plum and two are pear. We’ll probably remove the pear trees because we aren’t big fans of pears and they are more dead than alive, but the plums get to stay. I tried one today and it was delicious.
Armenian cucumbers are popular in Fresno where I grew up, and they are my favorite cucumbers because the skin is soft and not bitter. My brother says I’m probably growing the first ever Armenian cucumbers in Idaho. I made a quick Japanese pickle salad with the first cucumber. The second one was added to tomatoes and onions.
Since our garden is not quite bountiful enough for canning yet, we took advantage of a sale at the local fruit stand. We purchased a box of Washington peaches, a box of Fuji apples, and a flat of California strawberries. From that we made:
4 quarts of unsweetened applesauce
4 pints of apple butter
4 pints of strawberry jam
The peaches are still a bit firm, so we will peel and can those later this week. The pigs and chickens are in heaven enjoying all the fruit and vegetable scraps.
The laying chickens have finally kicked it into gear and are laying 4-6 medium to large eggs daily. The yolks on the fresh eggs are a deep yellow-orange and very thick. They make great fried eggs. I’m getting experimental making frittatas. Last night’s frittata included eggs, milk, jack cheese, bacon, breadcrumbs, tomatillos, onions, chilies, and garlic. Shawn approved. We aren’t sure what kind of chilies we picked, but they weren’t very spicy.
Last night, Shawn processed the last of the meat chickens (a.k.a. Frankenchicks). He had to do the butchering at night because the bees and wasps are rampant during the day and very attracted to the meat and blood. We now have a freezer full of chemical/drug-free chicken that should last us through the fall and winter. Raising meat chickens was definitely a learning experience, but I think Shawn has it mastered now and next year should be a breeze. (Check out his videos on YouTube.)
Time to go see what the garden has to offer today…