New Year, Big Changes Part 3

Gods I hope I can get this into one last post.  I tend to elaborate too much or else I assume people know/understand things they couldn’t possibly, unless they were there.  so.

I incorporated, I got a Tax ID, I got a group NPI (a must to take insurance payment), a bank account, and I researched what all was involved in getting credentialed with Medicare and Medicaid (or in my state’s case, AHCCCS).  But.  I drug my feet HARD on actually starting it.  Because that, in my mind, was the final step – the step that meant I was really going to do this.  Which meant I was really going to quit my not cushy but mostly predictable job.  Which is a rather frightening thought.

I suppose I should say what I wanted to do for a business.  I never wanted to compete with the other office, that was never my intention.  What I wanted to do was make it easier for those with debilitating chronic illnesses, those without their own vehicles and dependent on medical taxi services, those who were too sick to go to the office, to see a medical provider.  I wanted to do HOUSE CALLS.  I did a lot of research on the idea and it really seems like an idea whose time has come once again.

Mr. TinFoil was initally EXTREMELY against the idea of starting our own business.  He asked one of his medical directors for advice – without consulting me.  The medical director, who just the week before had told Mr. TF he was making so much money working for Mr. TF’s company that he was only seeing patients in his *own* practice 2 days per week, said it was a very bad idea and “the only way to make any money at this is to save up to buy your own business and have the waiting room full all the time.”  Hmmm…not a very reliable source in my opinion, given the apparent hypocrisy and inconsistency between the two statements.

But then he asked some of his coworkers what they thought of it, and all were universally enthusiastic about it.  One of the NP’s who works for his company even asked him to keep her in mind if I expand enough to hire someone else.  Which I thought was a fairly ringing endorsement.

I had already done WEEKS worth of research on Medicare pricing structures for our area so our superbill could be updated (and corrected).  It was simple enough to add in the pricing for home visits to my research.  I kept the results of my research in a separate folder on my computer and also in hard copy to make sure I had access to it even in the event of a computer failure.  Thank the Gods I did, because with the change in ownership and the loss of my job, it was already done and easy enough to put to use.

So after I got canned, I started the processes for getting credentialed.  UGH.  It took me 2.5 days to wade through the Medicare applications, IRS forms, etc I needed for myself and for the business.  And I mean 10 -12 hour days, not 2 hours here and there.  I suppose it’s faster if you’ve done it before though.  Then I began the process for getting credentialed with the insurance companies.  Which has been a problem, because if you don’t have a Medicare number you basically can’t get credentialed with the insurances.  Much of that work time has been wasted, and will have to be done all over again when I get my Medicare number.

This week I will begin marketing my business in earnest.  I live in a retirement state, there are huge numbers of people that this will appeal to!



9 yards of mosaic

9 yards of mosaic green9 yards of mosaic brownThese are towels I just finished weaving and took off the loom.  They aren’t done yet, because I haven’t cut them apart, sewn the hems, or wet finished them.  But the weaving part is done!  I made one green one simply because I was getting very tired of looking at the pottery brown color, and because it’s a gift for someone who asked for green.  A few of the browns are destined for gifts, the rest will be put up for sale.  I was very excited about this pattern and its treadling variations until I did 9 yards of it.  I needed something different after all those towels in the same basic pattern!

I just finished warping up a mohair warp.  Amazingly, I only broke one thread in the beaming on!!!  It’s a very sticky warp though, and after weaving only the header to separate the warp threads I can already tell I’m going to need something to put on it to ‘slick’ it up a bit.  From what I’ve read a product called Cowboy Magic (for horses) is supposed to work like magic in making them separate more easily.

Absolutely nothing done in the garden yet.  I’ve been lazy, and working on things I really want to work on – like spinning more sock yarn, making kilt hose, finishing up the weaving,  sewing, mending, etc.  It has to happen soon though, or we’ll have nothing to eat in a month or two!

The chickens have begun laying again which has been excellent.  They have been allowed to roam the yard and as a result I have no grubs in the beds.  And the yolks are so very orange that everything I make with them takes on a bright yellow cast.  After going the whole winter without eggs, I can’t tell you how delicious these are.  We did break down and buy a dozen eggs twice, but they were awful.  Pale and watery, like the memory of eggs rather than the real thing.

That’s all, I’ll have pictures of the mohair warp later on.  I need to get busy making peach cobbler to take to a friend’s celebratory barbeque – he got a promotion and a 20% raise.  Lucky man in these times!

How to stop Jeff Bezos from filling our skies with drones

Ilargi over at the The Automatic Earth has the  best idea ever.

Drones equipped with jammers….brilliant.

OK, so I’ve been thinking about this as well — and I think the way to keep these things out of the hands of our local police agencies is to make a very LARGE hue and cry over the ultimate loss of personnel this will cause.  After all, if there are drones patrolling the skies, what need is there for actual police on the ground?  A smaller force can be detailed to respond directly to an area where a crime was committed after the fact; there’s no need for actual in-person patrols when the drones can be deployed in place of people to detect crime.  Do we really want drones instead of personnel?

The same can be said of drones being used by other county/city agencies:  why should they, ultimately, employ people to go and check for code violations, say, when they can simply fly a drone over properties and very poorly pay someone to look at the pictures to find them?  Then they too can send out a small force targeted at violators.  Wouldn’t you rather have people being paid than drones?

The upshot is that if our tax dollars are going toward anything, it should be toward PEOPLE, not drones.  The use of drones will always and ultimately lead to job loss, or the replacement of better paid and trained people with lower paid and poorly trained drone masters.  Which will always and ultimately lead to more unemployment/underemployment and a poorer economic outlook for one’s own community.

I think winter may be here.

It comes perhaps a little early for us this year.  We usually have a freeze Halloween weekend and I think of that as the end of my big gardening year — it’s the end of the canning and freezing of most of our crops like peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and beans for sure.  The rhubarb has given up the ghost though my chrysanthemums are still convinced that now is the time for peak blooms.

This year, though, has been different.  The tomato plants under the sunscreen cloth are still alive; we harvested another 5 pounds and sauced them only last week.  These plants, until last night, were not only alive but still blossoming – a really strange thing to happen in our area of the high desert.  Mr. TF harvested figs on Friday afternoon; there are still unripe figs on the the tree, sadly, that I don’t think are going to make it to ripeness before they are destroyed by the frost.

We get four seasons, and we get snow, though our snow at our particular location usually comes in April, not December, and lasts no more than a week.  If we go 30 miles into the nearest town of any size, the snow starts in December though there too it melts off and returns in fits and starts until April.  My little Meyer lemon tree was brought into the house last night; it was 36 at 10 pm with a surety of getting cold enough to freeze the poor thing to death.

We had a windfall this year, literally.  Last winter a storm came through that killed a couple smaller trees on the property next door, and broke large branches off the mature trees that weren’t killed outright.  This spring, the new owner was planning to cut all of it down and take it to the dump.  Instead, I spent several days cutting the smaller stuff by myself for kindling, and both Mr. TF and I spent a couple more cutting the larger stuff with the chainsaw.  We gained perhaps a a little more half cord of wood for the cost of our labor and a little fuel. For those of you in much colder climes, this is a laughable amount.  For us though, we are careful about not overheating the house and it represents more than a quarter of our winter use.

We have lit the wood stove twice in a row and lit it a week earlier than we usually do.  My personal goal is to hold out on lighting it until the temperature in the house is 59 or less.  DH is a cave bear and that is fine with him – he would sleep with open windows in the bedroom year round if I weren’t the mean wife who puts her foot down about waking with frost on the bed covers (and having to strip to shower when it’s that chilly).  It was 58 in the bedroom, on the shady side of the house, at 1030 this morning, and 63 on the sunny side.  It was a brisk 48 outside.  I think the evening lighting of the stove may be with us for the duration of the season.  It’s both a sad thing and a happy thing.  Sad because the bulk of the garden is officially put to sleep, and happy because I look forward to the comforting wisps of smoke rising from the chimney when I’m the last one home on a cold night.    100 thousand years of humans on this world and we still take comfort in the flames and heat rising from a well seasoned log of wood.   Mr. TF is convinced that the quality of  wood heat feels different; he may be right, in that it satisfies not only our need for heat, but a certain primal need to see those flames perform their ever changing dance.  Installing this wood stove was nearly over the tipping point for DH’s tolerance for me and my ideas, but it has turned out to be a blessing both in the material sense and the spiritual as well.  Winter may be here, but we are well prepared.  It’s a good feeling.

Perusing Craigslist for jobs that don’t exist :)

I looked in the skilled trades/crafts section of Craigslist today, just to see what types of jobs are being posted.


RV mechanic technician


Experienced tile layer

And that’s about it.  I had to laugh — did I really think I was going to find a post wanting a weaver??  Or a spinner??

I am doing my first commission spinning though, nearly 2 lbs of an alpaca cria (baby) fleece (actually it’s called blanket) my friend tried to process and was worried she was going to destroy if she did any more.  Some of it is already in roving with lots of nepps (little balls of fiber) and I’m spinning that into singles that will become a worsted weight 3 ply.  Some of it is washed but not processed in any other way; this I will card on my drum carder, very slowly and carefully to keep the smooth and lofty nature of the fiber.

Ideally, the owner of the fleece (not my friend, she owns a fiber mill) will end up with a textured yarn and a smooth yarn, and be happy with her first fleece product.  She is new to owning fiber animals, and recently learned how to knit in anticipation of using her own yarn.  I am enjoying spinning this so far; it’s deliciously soft and fine and most of the prickly things are falling out as I spin.

I wish I could do more commission spinning and less actual working.  It’s less money by a long shot, but I don’t have to get dressed up, drive a long way away, worry about meals and drinks, or stress out about deadlines or working overtime.

Tour de Fleece 2013


(and once again, please ignore the condition of the room and the yarn fluff all over the floor and wheel…this was taken before the hooks were replaced)

This is Antonio, my Canadian Production Wheel.  The CPW, as they are known, were the workhorses of the Canadian textile industry for nearly 100 years.  These wheels were made for one thing and one thing only:  to quickly and efficiently spin large quantities of wool into a fine single suitable for weaving woolen fabric — a needed item in the long, dark, and cold Canadian winters.  Of course, one can knit with the yarn produced as well, but the chief purpose was for weaving.  My particular wheel was made by Frederic Bordua, son of Francois Bordua, and father of Theodore Bordua — a family of wheel makers that spanned almost 100 years and was based in and near St. Hyacinth, Quebec province.  He dates from somewhere between 1890 and 1918, a fact I can surmise from the turnings on the legs and spokes — wood was in short supply leading up to and during the First World War, and nothing went to waste; my wheel’s legs are not altogether round, because some of the pieces were not quite big enough to rout to a round condition.  In my opinion this only adds to  his charm.

I got him around the first of June, but it took quite a bit of work to refurbish/refinish/repair him and make him functional.  He sat in a barn somewhere, for many years; I know this by the condition of the treadle and table.   The original shellac finish was completely missing on the lower legs and treadle bars; the shellac was extremely alligatored on the table and uprights (the bars that hold the wheel), and the wheel itself appeared black as did the maidens from years of oil allowed to sit and decay into the surface of the wood.  I had to strip, as much as I could, down to the bare wood.  This took a couple weeks and a half gallon of denatured alcohol as well as a quart of paint thinner.  Then the applications of Danish oil began — a process that also took days.  It soaked in as fast as I applied it in the first days, and after about a week’s worth of multiple daily applications if finally slowed down.  I knew I was done when the final coat took an entire day to stop being sticky and set up.  The color change was pretty dramatic as well — The wheel, as you can see, is a reddish color as are the maidens and the rest of the wheel is a reddish blonde color.  I am very happy with the outcome.

Then, once the refinishing was complete, it was on to the restoration of the working condition.  That also took several days and the help of my husband, who crafted a bushing for the crank arm side as the original, made of lead, was literally worn down to a sliver and the wood was also being worn away.  Then he sacrificed a collector’s edition metal guitar pick in the service of a shim for one of the uprights — a true sacrifice for my musical spouse.  It however works beautifully, and I smile every time I see the glint of the metal pick holding it in place.

Then, the bobbin and whorl had problems; after asking other CPW owners what to do, I took the assembly off and cleaned the shaft of the flyer and lubricated it with white lithium grease, cleaned the grooves of the bobbin and whorl with denatured alcohol and then sanded them, and put it all back together.  It worked, the take up was good, but the single I was spinning kept breaking.  This was because the hooks had spun so much yarn over the years that they were nearly worn completely through; the yarn was getting shredded by the hooks as it slid past them onto the bobbin!  Off the assembly came again, out came the old hooks, and in went decorative hooks from the big box store.  Many people feel this is heresy and a bad restoration job, and from an  authenticity point I agree, but my purpose in owning this wheel is production spinning, not absolute authenticity to the period.  They work, they are what I had that was useable, and they will stay until it is time to replace them as well — hopefully not in my lifetime, but possibly in my grand daughters’.

This wheel, now that it is back to working as designed, is simply breathtaking.  I am truly in awe of the makers.  I don’t think they would be surprised that these wheels are so loved and admired all these years later (though they might think we’re crazy for choosing to spin when we can buy yarn), nor do I think they would be surprised to find their machines still working as designed nearly a century later — they made them to last, after all.

Because I spin on antiques, they tend to have their own character and therefore get names.  This wheel is named Antonio.  My husband named him when he spun the wheel around and watched it turn…and turn…and turn…for a very long time.  He said “You should name him Antonio…Antonio Banderas because he is so smooth.”  in a very convincing Spanish accent and artificially deep voice.  So my Canadian wheel has a Spanish name that suits him very well.  And like his namesake is out of my league, he is too much wheel for me and I once again have a learning curve to keep up with this Maserati of the spinning world.

Which brings me to the title of this blog post:  the Tour de Fleece.  This is a really fun event that is deliberately set up to coincide with the Tour de France every year.  The premise is that you spin every day the Tour rides and ideally you watch the Tour de France on TV while you spin for the Tour de Fleece.  Then, on the mountain days you take up a special challenge for yourself — whatever you consider a challenge.  You rest on the rest days, and there are prizes awarded by the various Tour de Fleece teams.  I am on four teams this year:  Team Yarnspinners Tales, Team Paradise Fibers, Team Sasquatch, and Team Russian Underpants.  This last team is a group of spinners who spin on antiques; the name derives from the horrid fad in the 70’s of turning functioning wheels into floor lamps with frilly shades that happen to look like, as one person described it, “Russian Underpants.”  And thus a team was born.

I have a challenge and a project already picked out.  My challenge for this year’s Tour is to learn to spin flax.  I ordered 8 ounces from Paradise Fibers, a family owned small business that has absolutely amazing customer service.  I ordered enough to allow for much swearing and breaking of single and I hope to end up with enough usable fiber in the end to weave a couple of linen towels for our kitchen.  My project for this year is to get the fiber I have prepped spun into lace weight yarn in order to make my future daughter in law a shrug to wear with her wedding dress.  She knows I’m making it, she knows I’m spinning the fiber, and she picked out the pattern.  So hopefully she will love it and not be disappointed!

That’s what I’ve been doing for the last month.  Well, that and working, and studying, and starting clinicals.  Viva la Tours — both of them!  And Viva la CPW!

A gripin’ I shall go…

The list of gripes:

I don’t have a perfect score in my pathophysiology class.  Yes, I am one of those obsessive types that agonizes over the points lost, not rejoices over the points scored.  I have a score in the low 90’s.  Doesn’t make me happy.  Must quit slacking!!

My chickens don’t want to go into the coop at night.  We bought a solar powered chicken door, and we remodeled the coop to put the nesting box on the outside of the coop so they would have more room inside.  They still don’t want to go in, though when I take them off the roof and toss them into the run they go into the coop without hesitation.  Still, it’s a hassle to go out every night and scoop chickens off the roof and put them inside.

Here you can see my uh…skills (snicker) in carpentry.  The box used to be inside on the floor.  That’s why my nice red paint job is covered in manure stains.  I had to cut the back and put hinges and a latch on it to keep the raccoons out and to let us get the eggs.  The box is attached top and bottom with flanges and screws, but it worried me that it didn’t sit quite level so we put the brick under it to prevent it pulling out the wall.  Oh, and the wood leaning against it is usually held in place against the wire with bent nails I can turn to take the wood on and off.  It gets too hot in the summer so I lean it and they have their privacy; in the winter it’s held tight in place for protection and warmth.

We need a bigger coop.  And my son knows where we can get one, we just need to rent a truck or trailer to get it after we pay for it.  *sigh* more gripes.  More hassle.  Where will I put it?  Our county recently changed the laws so our chickens are finally legal, but the placement of the coop isn’t.  It’s closer than 15 feet to the property line.  Where the hell I could put it on a quarter acre that it wouldn’t be that close I don’t know, since our house is only 20 feet from the property line at the back, and less than 10 feet on either side.  Would they really like me to put it in the front yard?  Somehow I don’t think so.  And I wouldn’t like it in the front yard either.  My yard looks crappy but I don’t think adding chickens would improve the ‘curb appeal’ at all.

The paperwork at my new job is making my head hurt.  I feel stupid because I keep missing things I shouldn’t, simply because I’m not reading it carefully enough; I am rushing because I’m so behind.  I finally caught up on paperwork from two weeks ago that was due within 48 hours of the visit.  I am hoping this week will prove easier regarding my paperwork now that I’m finally getting a little familiar with it.  Gripe, gripe, gripe.

My house is a mess, and I care but not enough to do something about it.  There are no magic fairies to clean, no children to enslave for an allowance, and no money to hire a housekeeper!  I’m it!  Gripe, Gripe.

My garden is a disaster.  I have sweet potatoes and potatoes sprouting in the house that need to get put outside.  I have onion sets in a bag that need to get put out.  I need more manure and compost.  And I need some time.  Not today, too hot and I have school in a few hours.

Like Roseann Roseannadanna said,  “It’s always something.”  Tomorrow it will be something else.  I have a roof over my head, food in the cupboard, and clothes to wear.  I have a job I like, family that puts up with me, and that is more than many have.  It’s enough.

New job

I simply wasn’t getting enough pay at my present job, even though I really like it.  Working five days a week, all hours, and going to school on a sixth was just becoming exhausting.  Thanks to my adventures with stress related illness last year, I am still vulnerable to insomnia if I don’t keep a regular sleep/wake schedule, and working until 10pm one day only to have to get up at 5 the next to be at a client’s house by 7 was getting very difficult.  That, combined with the fact that my hours (not just mine, but most of my fellow nurses) were severely reduced in July, made for the perfect storm of stress and anxiety and the resultant sleepless nights.

I put in resumes at several places without much hope of a job offer; in this economic climate no one wants to train a nurse for anything, they want to hire someone with lots of experience that only needs to be oriented to their particular way of doing things.  And, while I have a lot of experience, it’s a quirk of the nursing world that nothing you do while at a different job title is allowed to be transferred, experience wise, to the nursing job.  So any and all experience I have had as a paramedic working and living in a rural area doesn’t count because I didn’t do it as a nurse.  This is because nurses ‘are unique’…just ask one (not me, because I don’t buy it) 🙂

Lo and behold, I got an interview.  And a job offer.  And a formal job offer that I happily signed and returned.

I hope it works out!  I have two weeks of orientation with my boss/trainer, then I start mid September.  I’m relieved, hopeful, and excited to finally be doing pretty much what I had wanted when I started nursing.  It’s mostly M-F with some call, and some weekend stuff, but at least I will be on a normal schedule and hopefully be able to have family time on the weekends.

I will have to develop some better discipline about studying though!  Every night for an hour is my plan; we’ll see how that works out in practice though.  And I will hopefully have time to devote to my fiber arts business as well.  I really need to warp my loom for the towels I designed, but with only one day off I have too much to catch up on to ‘waste’ time on weaving.

In other news, our chickens aren’t defective; we are finally getting eggs!  It’s been so hot that their laying has been delayed by a month or so but at least two of them are laying now.  Little banty-sized eggs but hey, they’re new to this and I’m grateful for them.  I can’t get over how calm the Buffs are; they really help to mellow out the Rhode Island Reds.

We had quite the adventure a few weeks ago; three of the four birds flew over the back fence and were in the alley.  Mr. TF and I spent probably an hour chasing chickens to pick them up and get them back into our yard.  I got smart and clipped wings as we caught them, except for one.  She managed to fly up on our barbeque as proud as you please to be at eye level with me.  She let me pick her up with very little fuss, and promptly got her wing clipped as well.  Which she chewed me out for as soon as she was back with her sisters.  Ah well.  Such is the life of a chicken.

No canning, no preserving other than lavender flowers and indigo leaves.  I’m glad I got a good harvest of yarrow last year because the grasshoppers have absolutely devastated my stand this year!  Even nolobait doesn’t seem to stop them from reproducing and eating.

I did plant some purple irises; they are supposed to make a lovely color fast dye on wool.  I hope so!  I got them from a fellow guild member; she has the most fantastic garden I have ever seen!  She also gave me some Egyptian walking onions which I am extremely grateful for – I have been looking without success for those for something like four years.  She was gifted the original plants some years ago by someone else.  I hope they do well for me so I have the opportunity to pass the gift on.

OK, enough babbling.  Back to studying.  It’s a school day, after all.


Back to traditional stuff for a while


While there are months and months worth of posts I could make about the political state of America, ultimately the best use of my time is in keeping my home.  Above you see my newest purchase.  This is Claudette.  She’s a reproduction Appalachian style great wheel, 7/8 scale.  I bought her from a man who used to make and sell them out of St. Michael’s in Prescott during the 70’s.  This was his last one; he said if there were a demand he would begin making them for sale again so I gave his name and phone number out at my last guild meeting.

Claudette has a learning curve akin to that of learning to spin on a traditional double drive wheel like Miss Saxony did.  Meaning that, while children for hundreds of years *did* learn to spin on a wheel like this, it’s not the way I would teach a beginner now.  Too much frustration for someone modern who hasn’t had the joy of creating yarn already.  I did some research and discovered that, much like a fine stringed instrument, she needs rosin on her drive band to truly work well.  I haven’t done that yet but I have a goal of being able to spin decently on her by the time the May Fair on the Square is upon us.  I want to demo on her.

I am ordering a custom spinning wheel; I finally paid more than the 50% down payment just this morning.  Carson Cooper is the maker.  Unfortunately he has not updated his website with a photo of the wheel I am ordering; it is called the Eirny and will have an accelerator on it that enables it to spin at ratios up to 50:1.  Now for those of you who don’t know what a ratio is, it is the number of times the bobbin/flyer mechanism spins per one revolution of the drive wheel.  On the great wheel above, the ratio is 40:1 but being a spindle wheel, it limits the type of yarn that can be spun.  Miss Saxony has a ratio of approximately 7:1 because she was originally designed as a flax wheel.  Flax, from which linen is made, is a very long fiber – 18 or more inches, very strong, and doesn’t need much twist to hold it together.  Wool, or especially cotton, require LOTS of twist to hold them together.  Wool not nearly so much as cotton due to the crimp inherent in most wools and the scales like human hair has.  When I spun cotton on Miss Saxony, I was treadling like a hamster on a wheel to hold it together!  It worked, but it would be nice to be able to spin it without working quite so hard.

The main reason I am buying this custom wheel though has to do more with preparedness for what the future may offer.  Quite simply, after having done the research, I want a wheel that will stand up to the test of time, and I want to support craftsmen/women who are keeping these crafts alive.  Gods know we’ll need them in the future.  This wheel truly incorporates the best of modern technology – brass bearings to reduce friction in the bobbins, and all the high speed turning areas – with traditional technology – hand turned wood, drive band made of traditional cotton cord.  It’s going to hold up to the rigors of production spinning because it’s made by a spinner who is also a collector of antique wheels and knows what a spinner needs and wants in a wheel.  It’s made with attention to detail, individually, by a craftsman who is fully aware that his wheels will be an heirloom to be handed down.  That is what I thought I was getting when I bought my Mach 1 and is exactly what I did not get.  It is ironic that I had to buy a spinning wheel nearly 150 years old to actually get a true production wheel, and to truly appreciate the technology.


We are getting a trailer load of manure delivered next week; we have to mend ALL of the fencing thanks to the javelina.  We can’t plant anything until we fix all the holes.  Mr. Tin Foil said we need a crossbow and I am thinking that might be a very, very good idea – the ultimate silent killer of javelina!  Roast game for dinner, anyone?  After all, they are an invasive species.

We decided we are not going to devote much space to tomatoes this year.  Two years in a row, thanks to our weird (although probably new normal) weather we have lost 50 tomato plants to a late frost and had to start over.  Because the new plants never had a chance to get established before the weather became brutally hot, they never really produced enough to make them worthwhile.  Since I have been getting tomatoes in bulk from the coop anyway that will be our plan for this year rather than try to grow our own.  We still plan to have a couple of roma plants, and the requisite cherry tomatoes in buckets as we do every year.

We are going to devote more space to beans, peas, cucumbers, lettuce, eggplant, peppers, and lots of herbs and spices.  We eat a lot of Indian food as well as Middle Eastern food and latitude/climate wise, we can grow much of our own spices.  I don’t know how productive we’ll actually be, but it will be fun to experiment.  Plus, I would like to grow herbs to tincture, to put into soaps and lotions, and to dry.  Oh, and to dye with.  I’m being honest but I can just hear the groans from Mr. Tin Foil when he reads that last sentence!

We are also going to redo the garden beds again this year; last year we were spending upwards of an hour and a half a day to water the front and back.  We are redoing the beds to incorporate drip irrigation into at least some of the beds.  It just makes more sense, plus it’s water smart, and we will be able to expand into other areas that require hand watering with a significantly smaller time commitment.  Mulch will hopefully play a much larger role this year as well.

I plan to do some guerilla gardening in my next door neighbor’s yard; he is dead now but he left large, well-tended beds as well as mature grape vines and an apricot tree.  I plan to fertilize the grapes and the tree with the manure we get, and to water the tree at least weekly.  I am hoping to get a harvest from the tree this year.  I may also plant corn in his beds as he used to do, though I don’t plan to water every day like he did.  We’ll see how our garden goes first.

I sold one of my looms to a friend; I just didn’t enjoy weaving on it very much.  It opened up space and hopefully it will give many hours of enjoyment to my friend.  I still have my home made monster that says she was made for me (or at least someone with the same name as me).  She is in need of a little rehab but is still usable for the time being. I have a couple of projects in my head that need to actually get warped up — time is running out for Fair items!

School is going well, grade wise.  Interaction wise once again I realize that my background is vastly different than most of the people in my class, thanks to the fire and EMS career, and that I have a much more cynical and realistic outlook than they.  I also am reminded that I am becoming a nurse practitioner for vastly different reasons than they are, mine having a lot more to do with making sure my neighbors have access to medical care for as far into the future as I can work, and focusing on preventative and herbal treatments that are affordable for all.

I have been trying to stay off the internet except for a limited time each day.  I find that I avoid doing what needs to be done by spending far too much time on political, apocalyptic, doomer, prepper, and other forums at the cost of my serenity and productivity.  I just can’t get that involved if I want to maintain my GPA and my sanity.  I also am finding I sleep much better if I limit my time – even watching netflix seems to affect my sleep quality.  I’m not sure why that is but I do notice the difference.  Something about the computer waves is affecting me, I just don’t know what, and life is better and more productive if I limit my time in front of it.

I need to finish plying the yarn I made for my oldest son’s Cobblestone sweater.  I made a lighter weight yarn than the original pattern called for, but that’s because he tends to keep the heat jacked up rather than putting on a sweater.  I’m hoping it will make it wearable for him if it’s lighter.  And yes, I know that it’s March and I was supposed to have this done by last Christmas!  Maybe a combined Christmas/birthday present will happen.

That’s all.  I hope your gardens grow well, your spinning wheels spin true, and you are ready for the next step on the journey!



The Wood stove saga

Well, I had a wood stove contractor come and give us a quote on the purchase and installation of a new wood stove last May.  DH said that was too much money, and we needed to find a cheaper way.  So I started surfing Craigslist.

In August, I finally found a wood stove that was mobile home approved, for half the cost of new, bought it, and brought it home.  I thought, no problem, there are lots of people out of work and surely there will be a contractor who will install this for us.  We didn’t plan to cheat anyone; I knew from the quote how much the rest of the parts and installation were going to be and figured I had saved $500 at least by buying a used stove so that was our savings.  Well, that led to a months long saga with many disappointments and frustrations.

First, the man we bought our range from was a contractor.  I contacted him, he came out and gave us a quote, took me to Home Depot to buy most of the parts, left a list at the local wood stove store (where the first contractor came from with the original quote), and set date to install it.  No show.  He said he had a family emergency.  So we set another date.  No show.  Again, family emergency.  Third date.  No show.  This time he had someone else call us who was not a contractor to see if we wanted him to install it.  The answer was “no” both because he was not a contractor and because his bid was outrageous.

We both started calling around to contractors listed in the area who do wood stove installs.  I got a quote that was very reasonable, but they required me to build the pedestal; I was OK with this but Mr. Tin Foil was not, so he kept looking.  He called a local guy recommended by one of his HAM radio buddies.  This guy came out spent most of his time yelling at his hearing impaired son while giving Mr. TF his quote (note: he was not yelling at the kid because he was hard of hearing, he was yelling at the kid because the dad is an ass.  Read on.)  The quote was also outrageous; when Mr. TF asked him about it, he became defensive but did agree to renegotiate the price.  Ultimately, he and Mr. TF got into a shouting match on the phone later that evening, the contractor threatened to come over and kick Mr. TF’s ass, and hung up on him.  He came over a few days later because he had left his notebook at our house.  He was unapologetic and said “Look.  I charge $1000 per day for me and my guys for any job.  This job will take two days, it’s $2000.  Take it or leave it.”  I started laughing and told him we would leave it, thank you (I believe I may have also said something to the effect that he was smoking crack but I could be mistaken, I may have just thought it).  So on to the search for another contractor.

Mr. TF was very insistent he wanted someone licensed to install it due to the fact that we would have a hole cut in the roof.  Finally he realized that, even though the economy is bad, contractors in general have gotten very cocky and lazy, and think they can completely run the show and get whatever price they ask because they’re in so much demand, and dictate their own hours and just not show up if they don’t feel like it – even though that’s no longer the case.  So I mentioned our friend D.  I had mentioned him earlier, but as I said Mr. TF really wanted a licensed contractor so I didn’t press the issue; he had a very good point and at that point we were still hopeful we could find someone both licensed AND reliable who would install it.

D. came over and gave us a quote that was several hundred dollars UNDER what I had budgeted for the installation.  Now, we’ve been to D’s house many times.  He built an entire addition onto their house and built the fireplace in that addition as well as had done all the tile work.  I knew he did good work, I had seen it myself.  We set a loose date – my only request was that it be done by Thanksgiving because we were having family stay with us.  That agreed, I waited with anticipation for the install.

Poor D!  The two day install took SIX!  He decided on day one that he was going to build the pedestal at his house because he wanted to rip the 2 x 6 boards so the tile would fit EXACTLY.  That took an extra day.  Some of the parts the original contractor had sent me to get were not compatible with other parts he had sent me to get at the wood stove store.  Both Mr. TF and I had to run to the store several times for parts – including the box that goes in the ceiling that connects the double wall pipe with the triple wall pipe – because the box I had purchased was for an entirely different brand, which we didn’t find out until the hole had already been cut and the box installed.  Since the box had to be cut up to fit properly (this is normal) I couldn’t take it back – $79 down the drain.  The new box I got was the wrong length so Mr. TF had to go back to get the right one; the flashing and storm cover was the wrong size and we had to go to yet a third store for one the right size.  The pipes were the same manufacturer but different brands and we had issues with them fitting together; Mr. TF had to go back to the wood stove store for the right part to connect the two.  Finally, at 10 pm on day six, it was officially installed and ready for inspection by the county.  That was the easiest part of the whole thing – you call a computerized line and make a request and they come out the next day to inspect.  Mr. TF was here for that and he said the inspector was very impressed and passed it right away.

Then came the learning curve with using it!  We were having serious issues with smoke rolling out into the house when trying to light it; I set off the smoke detector three times. Then we couldn’t keep it lit; even with the damper fully open and with the fresh air kit (required) being installed there was obviously a draft problem.   Finally we both remembered at the same time that there is a plate on the back of the stove at the base that comes off – Mr. TF took it off and voila – no more draft problem.  After a week of trying we finally managed to get a good fire going and to relight it without difficulty.  I came home last night at 11pm to a lovely fire and a warm house – 72 degrees!  That is the warmest it’s been since the cold snap started, and the warmest it’s been since we quit using the central heating 5 years ago.  Hooray!

Now I just have to figure out how to cook on the top – I need to get another thermometer because I broke my old one, but it was up to 160 degrees the first day we tried to get a fire going.  If it gets hotter than that now that we know what we’re doing we’re in business for soups and bread for sure.

I’m feeling better and better about our security from infrastructure issues.  We’re not ideal by any means, but every step we take gets us a little closer.  Every step we take off the grid means less money we have to depend on for those things.

(ignore the box of handspun on the left)