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It was such a beautiful day. Sunny and very nearly 50 degrees, but sometimes that is the way it goes. Especially on the farm.

Three ages of compost piles

Funny how it works. You put hay and feed in the front end, and poop comes out the back end. In either case, it falls on the humans to move it. We bring in the hay during the summer and pick up grain on a monthly basis from the feed mill. We also provide bright, fresh shavings for them to sleep in and this is what we end up with.

Now I will say that this pen has not been pitched out since Mid-October. We try to let the bedding build up during the cold winter months to help keep them warm. I know that seems odd, but the decomposing biomass actually generates warmth. Check out the temperature on an active compost pile sometime. At some point though the barn must be cleaned. Today was that day. I was best friends with the pitchfork. Thankfully the rest of the family offered to help move the heap that I had amassed. They showed up after they had cut up a tree that came down in a windstorm last week. The tractor makes it so much easier than lugging it all the way in the wheel barrow

After the pitching is done, then comes the fresh bedding. This is the part that the little Miss has always enjoyed. In her book, shavings flinging should be an Olympic event. She has them in her hair, in her clothes, and just about everywhere else by the time she is done. Today we were treated to “Shavings Angels”. Who knew what a great substitute wood chips could make for snow?

At the end of the day though, who doesn’t enjoy a clean house? Even if you were born in a barn!

Stash report for week #3 January 11 -January 17

I have been really good again this week. No new fabric in. Sadly, none out either. I am working on some more blocks for the Around the World Quilting Bee, but haven’t finished them yet, so they don’t count. Bummer. Here is the status this last week.

Fabric Bought: 0 yards

Fabric Used: 0 yards

Fabric Bought YTD: 0 yards

Fabric Used YTD: 1/2 yard

Net Yardage: 1/2 yard

I know that for most people this will not be very fascinating, and perhaps they will even be disgusted. But I don’t really care. I was amazed. Just know you have been warned.

I do not like to clean the bathroom any more than the next person. But it has to be done and when I am finished, I want it to look like I have actually done my job. I do not know what the problem is exactly. It may be the fact that I have boys in the house. It may also be the water here, or a combination of both. In either case, I have weird and disgusting stains and scale in my bathroom. Primarily in the toilet, but also in the sink. Which leads me to think that it might have more to do with the water. Anyhoo. I have tried everything I can think of to get rid of the stains, and no go. I had heard of these pumice stone things and that they were supposed to work really well and NOT destroy your porcelain surfaces, nor gas you out with harsh chemicals. I had not really believed that it would work, and expected to have scratched up ceramic.

(Both sides started out square. The rounded surface fits the bowl better now.)

TA-DA! Boy was I wrong! Once I got past the scritching sound, I found that this little blue beauty really did work. I started on my sink and it took the scale off from around the faucet base and removed the stain around the drain. I then took it to the main bathroom and did this piece of work there. I thought I had better do the sinks first! (For some reason the camera made part of the fixtures look beige and other shots showed them their true white. I can’t figure out why.)

Before  &  After  

Our toilet had some stains around the water line in the bowl and then some nasty looking scale around the rim.

Before & After

The main bathroom had more staining from the water then anything else. It took care of that quite well. The directions said water, light pressure, and small circular motions were all that it needed to work. I used only enough pressure to hold the stone against the surface and it cut through the stain pretty quickly.

Before.            During.

and After

I think that I will have to pick up another one of these on my next trip through WalMart. I don’t really want to put this one back in the sink after it has been used in the toilet. Ick.

So for those of you that have wondered if those pumice stone cleaners really work; yes! Or at least this brand does. I would try it out on an inconspicuous spot to see if your surfaces can handle it. Now my sinks and toilets look like I have actually cleaned them. With that chore tackled, I am going to go spend some time behind the sewing machine.  Whoo Hoo!

Stash report for week Jan. 4th – Jan.10th. (A bit late)

Some progress made in using up material, and no shopping trips!

Fabric bought: 0 Yards

Fabric used: Approx 1/2 yard

Fabric Bought YTD: 0 yards

Fabric Used YTD: 1/2 yard

Net fabric used: 1/2 yard

I know this does not sound impressive. I am estimating the amount to the low side. I made four ATWQB blocks and they ranged in size from 10 inches to 12.5 inches square. Since I did not use up one whole chunk of fabric I have to estimate the total yardage used. This seems pretty close to me.

Well, most of them stay in “Girls’ Weekend”. This year we traveled to Ocean Shores for a three day get-a-way. We had a nice time, ate good food, and we all brought projects to work on. I am the only one that can’t knit or crochet, so I brought along the newly oiled sewing machine and a few projects.

Sorry about the photos. It was dark and rainy outside, so I had to use indoor lighting and it didn’t make for very good pictures of the blocks.

This ATWQB block is for Anita in the Netherlands. Her poor quilt was the first to try to make all of the ocean crossings from The Netherlands to Australia to Brazil and then to Florida, USA. We learned a lot about the shipping times with her bundle. It is just over half way through it’s journey and has a few more international trips to make before reaching home. It is looking fabulous, and I hope she will be happy.

The next one is for Flossy Blossy. I think she is in Leeds, UK. Her quilt is perky and cheerful too. She has made some fun blocks for the rest of us. I thought I would give her some dimensional bow-ties for her quilt. All I could think of while I was making these was; “What kind of guy would wear these as actual ties?” I am sure that somewhere out there, there is a librarian, musician, or somebody who would. I think they turned out cute, and I have some plans for another quilt using this pattern.

Andrea of IndigoBlue is the recipient of this little gem. Sadly, I made it too big. When I measured her original block I was in a hurry and forgot a few things. My cutting table mat does NOT measure accurately from the very edge. So, when I measure I move everything in one inch. If the block says 12″ it really means 11″. I forgot this in my haste to get the block pieces pre-cut for the trip. I did not want to bring the parent quilts with me, lest something happen to them in transit, which would have reminded me to measure them again on my snazzy new rotating cutting mat my sister got me for Christmas. (Thanks again Sis!) Andrea will loose some points into the seam allowance, but that is not the end of the world.

This is Kate N.’s block. She has some very pretty batik fabrics in her quilt. I did not have any that would do her quilt justice, so I found my peacock inspired fabric and created this. It blends well with the pretty blues and vibrant greens already established in the other blocks.

I also made a lot of progress on Nicole’s project. I am making her a quilt with the Storm at Sea pattern. One of the girls tried to figure out how many individual pieces I had in the quilt. I told her to stop, as it was making me think about how much work this is. If I can think of it as fun, then it makes me happy to do it. When I realize how much work goes in to it, I think “Why didn’t I just get a gift card, and be done with it?” I am just not that way I guess. Besides, a handmade quilt, blankie, or afghan is like a hug that you can take with you. The person that made it for you has put a little piece of themselves into your gift, and thought about you while they made it. So, if you get a handmade gift, think of those things when when you thank the maker.

Now that the weekend is over, it is back to my regularly scheduled life. WhooHoo!

Make felt and squeal like a pig.

Yes, my machine was that horribly uncared for. I kept meaning to oil it, really I did. It finally got to the point where it was shrieking for a dab of anything to moisten the gears. I think it would have even taken some mayonnaise if I was in the habit of eating sandwiches near my sewing.

(I hope I can put it all back!)

My first problem comes in the reading of the owners manual. My machine is a Bernina. A fairly popular brand here in the United States. I don’t know which language the manual was originally written in, but it was NOT English (American or British)! There are horrible translation errors and omissions. I can’t read Spanish or French fluently. OK, hardly at all, but when they start out with step A and the English version jumps in at step B, you know something is wrong. So, I usually just avoid doing anything that I have to actually read & follow the manual directions for.

This I just could not ignore any longer. So I dug out my manual, the tools needed to remove the face plates, and set to work. I was mortified that I actually had enough build up on the feed dogs to qualify as felt. I was soooo ashamed. I dug it out and then used the canned air to blow out any remaining chunks I could not reach with the long tweezers. Then I went looking for the sewing machine oil.

(All clean w/o bobbin case.)

Now, they give you a bottle of the stuff when you get your machine. Mine leaked. It made a huge mess of my built in storage bin. I think I finally pitched the thing out with some bad words thrown in for good measure. Now I needed something to lube the poor Bernette with. I went to my bag with all of my goat clippers in it. I figure that if this oil is good enough for my expensive livestock blades, it should do for my desiccated sewing machine. It was a very light weight oil and that is what matters the most if I remember my lessons from Mom when she would clean hers.

So, now that I have cleaned the fuzz out my machine, and gently lubricated the moving parts, let us hope that I can sew without all of the squeaking and squealing. If it works, then I suspect that the serger should be next….

Sorry Mom. I am sure that it just killed you to read this.

OK. I have enough fabric to complete many projects. I am going on a fabric diet in 2010. As part of that, I am going to post the progress I have made on eliminating fabric from my stash for some accountability. I have seen others make similar reports on their blogs. I am still trying to decide if I can count fabric that I have bought for a specific purpose as part of my stash busting. I think that if I bought it more than 6 months ago it will count, as I have had to store it.

The “week” of Jan 1 through Jan. 3 report is as follows.

Fabric bought: 0 yards

Fabric used: 0 yards

Fabric bought Year to Date: 0 yards

Fabric used year to date: 0 yards

Net yardage eliminated: 0 yards

As you can see, I haven’t made much “completed” sewing progress this week. I have been working on a few things, but I will only count the fabric once it is in a finished state. (I am leaving that term flexible for now.)

Let us see how this 2010 resolution goes.

The goats were moved in to their new barn yesterday. The girls weren’t really too sure about the whole thing. They had never been in a building with ceilings that high. Most of the “shelters” that they have lived in since they were born on the farm have not been much over 8 feet tall. (The height of a sheet of plywood stood on end.)

(A bit of hay does wonders!)

They were a bit leery of the space, and the way sounds bounce around in there. It won’t echo quite so bad once we have the concrete pad poured and the hay stored inside. The tall goats made quick work of figuring out how to get into the hay feeder. The vertically challenged ones took a little longer to work out a solution. Saturday’s job is to put up a toe rail for them to step up on so they can get their heads in to the feeder holes.

The fence and front gate sections were put in, and seem to be doing their job just fine. Everybody is still where we put them the night before. We will add some hot wire to keep them from standing on the fence and slowly pulling it to the ground.

We did have to do a bit of trenching until we can get the rain water drained off the way we want it. As we were working, it reminded me of the special we saw on how the Grand Canyon was carved. I do believe that we had an added benefit of using a grub-hoe and a trenching shovel, but it was still fascinating to see the power that water has to create or destroy, even on that small of a scale. Our efforts seem to have paid off. The barn did not get any more water inside, and the puddling, mini-lakes have drained. I am sure the EPA/ground-water guy will not be happy with our answer to keeping the barn from having an indoor water feature. He can get in the line behind the quilting police for “People who want to have a word with me on how I do things.”

So, all in all it was a Happy Hay Day, and how can you start out a year better than that? I suppose you could go to my Aunt & Uncle’s to have a New Year’s sandwich party and visit with the family like we did. But, since there is limited parking at their place, and you don’t know all of the inside family jokes, you will have to find your own way.

Happy New Year to you all!

This is a bit late for a Christmas posting, but for the family that we didn’t get to see this holiday season here is a peek at our festivities.

We had been sick around here for most of early December, so we didn’t get as festive with the decorating as we have in the past. This was our baby Christmas tree. It will be a fine upstanding spruce tree one day. It can look back and say that this was one of the crazy things that happened in it’s youth!

Nana always goes way overboard, although she did better this year than in years past. It still looks like a heap of stuff, but it is all pulled to the front for easy distribution. There are six grown-ups (I use that phrase lightly) and an only grand-child involved in this gift exchange. Like I said, it has been worse.

Just in case Aunt Dorrie was wondering if Emily really liked her hand-knit horsey, This ought to clear it up. She had quite the grip on Peanut, even as she slept, all crashed out after the excitement of Christmas. I’ll try for a better shot of Peanut one of these days. He really is an amazing creation, even if my sister thinks he is homely.