New Wood stove


Pictures and a full update coming tomorrow.  What a saga!

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Another bought and paid for judge


In another shocking and appalling ruling, a Wisconsin judge rules that citizens do NOT have the right to own a cow, and to drink the milk from their own cow, nor do they have the right to board it at a farmer’s property, among other things. The ruling was even broader than that – it ruled that citizens do NOT have the basic right to produce and consume their own food, period.

On Sept. 30, the judge resigned his post and went to work for Axley Brynelson, a law firm that represents Monsanto. The former judge was hired within weeks of his decision concerning cow owners. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Thinking two seasons ahead


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Originally uploaded by susancoyotesfan

Like our ancestors, it is time to start thinking about being warm this winter. Since hand made items take time, it means that if I want to have gifts for holiday giving and warm things for myself, now is the time to start making them.

I spun this yarn earlier this summer; I dyed 775 feet of it with cake dye; it turned out a heathered color that ranges from a deep sky blue to a royal purple. The rest I left the natural color.

While I’ve taken projects from dirty fleece to finished object, this is the first of many projects that I plan to take from dirty fleece to woven object. Like most of my ‘firsts’ this scarf has issues – but it is my first attempt at weaving with my hand spun and I’m happy to report that my yarn is more than strong enough for the stresses of weaving.

In keeping with thinking two seasons ahead, the fall garden will be planted later this week. We’ll grow broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots, as well as chard. I’ll try cabbage again, but I don’t hold out a lot of hope for it.

I’ll be placing an order with Johnny’s Seeds for some greenhouse plastic and the clips to hold it to PVC pipe; I think I can manage a cold frame that won’t blow away this winter. I’ll also be hedging my bets with my free sliding glass doors, using those over a couple of our beds and getting hay bales as necessary to keep the glass high enough to allow the plants growing room.

I have to go back to work soon; I am not sure how I feel about that. In the mean time, I’ve been busy preserving the bounty of summer. If it were from our own garden I’d be happier, but from the farmer’s coop is good too. So far I’ve made 100 pounds of tomatoes into sauce with 25 pounds blanched and waiting in the freezer to be made into paste. Today I roasted 30 pounds of green chiles and put them into our freezer. Mr. TF was aghast at the sheer poundage until I reminded him that last year we got 15 lbs from the store and it wasn’t enough.

I’ve been drying herbs like rosemary, oregano, thyme, and marjoram; I need to get out into the garden and pick basil to make into pesto for the winter.  I wish I could live a little more like our ancestors; I would love to exhaust myself all summer long with projects and preserving, knowing that this winter I will have a well deserved rest time.  Modern life makes that impossible though.

What’s been going on at Tin Foil Acres?


Lots of things.

The psychiatrist I saw, as well as the counselor, both said they are seeing a lot of nurses with the same stress related issues; one even said that ER and ICU nurses are getting the worst of it.  So I guess it’s not me, it’s just that I don’t have very good coping skills.  And that’s my homework for the next few months.  ‘Nuf said about that.

While I have read two novels – the first non-fiction I’ve read in more than two years – I haven’t been lying around eating bon bons.  Things have been busy here.  I’ve been weaving along on an 8 yard warp of cotton boucle towels; I cleaned, organized, and labelled all our spices; I cleaned the kitchen to my exacting standards and have been doing my best to keep it that way; together we have been working in the garden which has been very very nice; we have put up fencing in half the front yard and I’m working on lining the bottom with rocks to keep out the rabbits and skunks; I’ve been spinning and knitting and even dying a little; and I applied for a business license for my little fiber arts factory.  This last is because if I want to sell at craft fairs or events, I have to have one.  Plus it allows me to buy at cost without paying the taxes, which means that I can actually attempt to make a little money from my crafting; especially for weaving, if I have to buy at retail and pay taxes on my supplies, it means that I work and sell for free.  Not exactly what I had in mind.  I do plan to do a post on the relative costs of ready – made clothing from the turn of the 20th century to the 21st, but it might be a bit.

I have also been canning.  Yes, it’s that time of year again, and I’m grateful not to have to try to fit this in between grueling shifts right now.  I spent 9 hours one day making blueberry jam, strawberry jam, and peach butter.  I buy in bulk from Bountiful Baskets which is like a coop or a CSA but you don’t have to have a subscription and you’re not obligated to buy every week.  So when they have something in bulk I want, I buy the basket which allows me to buy the bulk items as well.  This time I got five pounds of strawberries and 25 pounds of peaches; the blueberries have been in the freezer for a while and I wanted to just do it all at once and get it done.  I can outside on my camp stove so I don’t heat up the house, which means that at times I come in to get out of the heat.  Unfortunately, I got distracted during my first batch of peach butter (6 hours into the marathon day) and it boiled – and burned badly – to the bottom of my pot.  Ugh.  I’m still alternating elbow grease and SOS pads with oven cleaner to try to get the mess off the bottom of the pot.   Good thing my time is cheap right now.

Time off from ‘official’ work, but no rest for the weary here!  Truly, home making is a full time job; most days I try to be up by 6 or 630 so we can get the watering and gardening maintenance done before the heat sets in; then breakfast and reading the news; then to work on the home tasks; then spinning or knitting or designing  or weaving, whichever has been neglected the most recently.  Then more outside stuff, then dinner, then a walk around the neighborhood.  By the time 9 pm rolls around I’m pretty well beat.  And that’s about it for around here.

TEOTAWKI preparations…why?


For those of you not in the know, that stands for The End of the World As We Know It.  This blog was designed originally as a political commentary on topics close to my heart — TEOTAWKI among them.  Now, while the CDC did recently publish a preparedness memo for the Zombie Apocalypse,  I’ m sure it was more than a little tongue in cheek.  HOWEVER.  That does not eliminate the fact that their preparedness memos are designed for EVERY citizen, and it would behoove one to pay more than a passing bit of attention on their list of *must have* items in one’s storage.

Why?  You ask.  And well you might.  I have a good reason, from my own experience.  When I was growing up, we lived for a time in a cabin in the woods of Northern Michigan.  In the winter, we had no running water — the pipes froze from October until June.  We often had no electricity — snowstorms knocked out power lines. We were snowed in, sometimes for weeks at a time — we lived 6 miles from the main road.  We had no central heat — we had a wood stove (that kept the house pretty warm) and a fireplace (that was pretty to look at but mostly just sucked the heat out the chimney).  So:  we had a large store of canned goods, both those that my mom canned and those we purchased at the store.  My dad hunted and we fished from the river for our protein (meat) needs.  We had kerosene lamps, and gallons of kerosene for those nights we didn’t have electricity.  We had cords and cords of wood cut and stacked.  We heated snow on the stove and bathed as well as cooked and cleaned with melted snow.  All in all, other than the time that I broke my little sister’s collarbone by playing the overly rambunctious bucking bronco (she was 2, I was 7), it was a pretty good life.  Oh, and when my rabbit ate the feet off my barbie dolls wasn’t so great either….  But back to preparedness.  Now, this was a long time ago, and it was special circumstances, and maybe you think that would never ever happen to you.

So how about a more recent example or two?  Recently a storm knocked out the transformer that served our corner of the county.  Our community along with four others were without power for a day.  We were without power for most of the time, others were without power for part of it and intermittent for the rest.  For us, that meant we had no water –  the community pumping system has no generator backup.  We had no electricity — so no lights obviously; we also had no oven because our stove is electronic ignition and, while a lighter will start the burners, the oven has a safety backup and will not light if there is no power.  We also had no heat as we use space heaters to heat the rooms we’re in, and a heated mattress pad on the bed, and the central heating doesn’t work without power (not that we have used it in the last five years anyway).  It was wintertime, keep that in mind.  Even in Arizona, temps can get pretty low, especially when it snows where we live.

Or how about the time a friend of ours had a power outage when they lived in Yuma?  Two weeks without power, water, heat, etc.  They had to move into a hotel.

So what did we do without power?  Well, we had stored food — and we had a pressure cooker.  We have a camp oven that could have made bread (or cake) on the top of the stove.  We have kerosene lamps, which provide heat — and light — and we have gallons of kerosene stored.  We did NOT have enough water, even though we have a water filtration system, so we had to go to the store for water (and thankfully we thought far enough in advance that there was water at the local market).  We had rain barrel water storage for bathing (boil first, of course) and toilet flushing.  And we had solar power backup, which meant we could keep the cell phones charged (no land line, no power) and the computer running, as well as the HAM radio.  We also have clothing appropriate for the weather — wool sweaters, long underwear, and are familiar with the idea of layering.  I even wore a hat in the house to keep my head warm.  Our outage only lasted a day, but we would have been comfortable and well fed even if it had lasted for weeks — unlike 99% of our neighbors…who went to stay with friends or family for the duration if they could, or suffered in the cold and the dark if they couldn’t.

Why do I think *you* should do at least a little of the same?  Well, the reason is pretty simple.  The American Society of Civil Engineers (the ones who make sure the highway over passes, water systems, sewage systems, electric grids, etc — all the things that make modern life possible) say that American infrastructure is failing. 

The power outages are going to get more frequent, the water quality from the tap is going to get worse, gasoline is going to become unaffordable (even if prices drop — if you don’t have a job you can’t afford gas) and food INsecurity is becoming an increasing concern of our government regarding our citizens.  Do you want to end up having to impose on friends or family, or do you want to be the one being able to offer shelter (and really good food) for those who *need* shelter?  For me, the answer is simple.  I’m a hedonist, I want to be comfortable no matter what the circumstances — so I prepare.  I’d much rather be hospitable than impose.

I had a conversation with some coworkers this past weekend — they were talking about sources for rubber seals for their pressure canners and cookers.  I informed them that I own an All American Pressure Canner.  And that if the end of the world happened, I would still be happily canning away while they cursed their cookers and canners.

Why this one?  Well first of all, because it was given to me, before I realized the benefits.  Second of all, IT DOES NOT REQUIRE A RUBBER SEAL.  If TEOTAWKI happens, I can still can to preserve food — because my canner doesn’t rely on industry to provide rubber seals.  If seals quit being made tomorrow, I could still can.  And canning our excess is definitely a large part of our preparedness.  It’s cheaper — don’t believe anyone who tells you it isn’t — and the quality is much higher.  I KNOW what is in those cans, I grew it and canned it.

You should store water, at least the amount you drink in 48 hours — and you should rotate it monthly, and you should put either iodine or bleach into the storage container to prevent bacterial and fungal growth.  We have a 2. 5 gallon water jug but that wasn’t nearly enough for our needs for the amount of time we were without water — which is my mistake.  I had foolishly thought we would just use the rain barrel water — but when it came down to it we weren’t brave enough to run the water through the filtration system.  So, we now have several containers that I need to fill and store.  We use between 5 and 8 gallons of water daily, between drinking needs, coffee (this is *not* a luxury in our house) and cooking, as well as for the animals.  In the summer we use more, because it’s Arizona and it’s HOT.

You should store at least a week’s worth of food — peanut butter, rice, dried beans, canned veggies and meats.  Admittedly you can choose food you would NEVER eat if you didn’t have to, but why not choose foods you already eat and buy extra?  Then just rotate it through your normal stores. I believe the CDC recommends two weeks’ worth.   If we couldn’t get to a grocery store for six months, we would still eat like we always do.

You should have a lantern or two — or at least a bunch of candles.  Believe me, light makes the difference between depression and hope.  And candles put off a hella good amount of heat — maybe it won’t be 70, but it will be a little warmer, especially if you keep several in a smallish room.

For our further preparations, we have planned to install a wood stove.  It will allow us to heat without being dependent on electricity at all.  And we also plan to get solar powered lanterns.  Kerosene got *quite* expensive this last year, enough so that it justifies the cost of solar lanterns.  Unlike kerosene, though, we buy them once and they will last for many years (provided I remember to put them in the window to recharge…) – and they give off better light for knitting, reading, etc.  And are cleaner — no nasty smell.

In short, you should actually pay attention to at least some  of the recommendations of your government.  It could possibly save your life, your dignity, or your marriage.

I have spring planting fever in a bad way


I waited months longer this year, three months to be exact, to plant because last year I had leggy overgrown plants and I had to start over last year after a late and heavy frost.  I feel behind this year.

In the left pot is a couple of Bocking 14 comfrey plants; the back is lavender, and the two right are rhubarb.  I found out by accident that while rhubarb dies in the ground here, it does wonderfully well in deep pots.  Who knew?  I’m looking forward to rhubarb pie finally.  And the leaves won’t be wasted even though they’re poisonous, they’re a good dye plant.  Yay!

Far left is more Bocking 14 comfrey; they were supposed to send me six plants but I got 8, hence the two in the other pot.  These are only temporarily in the pots until I dig and compost near the fence where they’ll be permanently situated.

Next left is rosemary, to replace the rosemary that died; next to that is chives, and far right is my rhubarb plant which is so happy it was even trying to blossom until I snipped it off…I want leaf stalks, not flowers!  It tends not to produce as much edible foliage if it is allowed to flower, and it also does not tend to produce viable seed due to its long history of cultivation via splitting the root bunch.

My asparagus bed.  The chickens, when they accidentally ‘got free’ without supervision, dug up my asparagus roots over the winter and I thought they had killed them all.  I just planted more, so the entire bed is now dedicated to asparagus; happily, I found when I was trenching for the new plants, that they had killed fewer of the established plants than I had thought.  That is good, because we have been dedicatedly NOT eating the asparagus for the last three years, patiently waiting for it to get firmly established before we began gorging ourselves.

What else was planted today?  A 4 x 4 bed of carrots, hopefully that will mature and be out of the bed before I need it in June.  Lettuce, turnip greens, green pepper, roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, green chiles, and orach.

The white eggplant I think are done; being stepped on was not a good experience for them.  I transplanted them from the little peat buttons into compost in the hope they’ll do better; we’ll see.  More of the purple survived the trauma and they tend to produce better anyway in my experience.  We’ll see how it goes; I still have time and I may just plant another six or so to cover my bets.

One loofa seed from my Christmas loofa gift basket has sprouted!  I got a basket with soaps and a loofa from the Guild Christmas exchange.  I planted the four seeds that were left inside it and I wasn’t expecting anything at all so that was a fantastic surprise.  I got more loofa seed anyway just in case.  A plant that is edible and is useful as a scrubby?  How can you go wrong?

I’m pleasantly tired, and very dirty.  If only this wind would stop!  I’m starting to understand why settlers in Wyoming went mad from the wind.

 

No Power


We have no power, no telephone (but cell works) no water. A transformer went last night. DH is grateful for the solar power that is allowing me to make a new blog post; I’m grateful for the kerosene lanterns, the candles, the pressure cooker, the rain barrels (for flushing) and the Berkey filter system for drinking water, as well as for our food storage.

Lesson learned. We definitely still need a wood stove. It’s about 58 in here, and sure to drop lower tonight; we need lanterns with better light than the kerosene lanterns so rechargeable solar lanterns are definitely in our future; we need drinking water storage. And a toilet seat for the bucket that is in the bathroom so that we can just take the urine out to the garden on a daily basis.

All in all, not so bad. We’ll be playing guitar, I’ll be going to bed early (I work tomorrow anyway) and I have a propane camp heater for the bathroom so I can get around in more than 45 degree temps.

Supposedly they’ll have the power back up by tonight; I’m not holding my breath. We’ll be OK if it doesn’t come back right away.

After all, with a failing infrastructure it’s the wave of the future.

New Plantings


This isn’t my comfrey plant, but I ordered seeds and plants this year.  From what I’ve researched, it is a good livestock feed with enough protein to keep animals healthy; I got Bocking 14 cultivars for plants, which are sterile and can be reproduced only by separating the roots and replanting.  I also got true comfrey seeds which I sincerely hope grow.  I have to make sure I follow the directions on that exactly and be patient.  This is for herbal purposes.  This site tells you all you ever wanted to know about comfrey.

I planted eggplant (long purple and white), sweet peppers,Aanaheim chiles, pomodoro tomatoes, and Thai hots earlier this month.  As usual, I got zero germination from the Thai hots, but since this is the third year I’ve had the seed and tried, I guess I didn’t expect anything so I’m not really terribly disappointed.  I did get heating mats though, so I was hoping my germination would be a little better. As usual, I have to give a salute with my trowel to Seeds from Italy because I had 100% germination with both the eggplant and the tomatoes.

Tragedy!!  I put the tray outside so they could get the breeze blowing on them and not get leggy — and I had the bunny poop tray in my hands and forgot it was on the step — and I STEPPED ON MY PLANTS!!!  I killed at least four eggplants from stepping on them….I’m glad I have more seed and it’s early in the season though!  Last year I couldn’t get any germination until rather late in the season, and I didn’t get the harvest I was hoping for with eggplant.

I planted peas out front; I planted sugar snap peas in one bed and Tohono O’Odham peas in another.  The Odham peas are old so I don’t know how well they’ll germinate; the snap peas are already sprouting I think.  Did you know that the first six inches of pea shoots are edible?  You can eat them like spinach or lettuce.  I can’t wait to try them.

I bought borage seed this year too, and hope it does well.    I am trying to expand my garden into more perennials and into herbs other than oregano, rosemary, and thyme; I love those and we use them a lot, but I also would like fenugreek, sage (I plant it every year and manage to kill it every year), more lavender, hyssop, calendula, chamomile, dill, and I can’t think of what else now…and I actually bought seeds for all of those.  So now, the front yard will be mostly herbs and perennials, and the back yard will be the veggies. Now to get the back yard into shape and situated for rotational gardening!

I am so excited!  I found a lilac that will grow in my climate!  I couldn’t get it this time at the nursery, but I will buy one next payday.  I love the smell of lilacs, and they have a bonus in that it is also a dye plant.  But not lavender colors; the leaves and flowers give a sagey green, and the bark and twigs give orange.  Surprising, huh?  I can’t wait to have a tree large enough to play with.

I actually want to end up with a living hedge around the front yard, so am playing with different ideas for temporary fences to keep the javelina out of the front yard and out of my plants.  The fence would only need to stay until the plants were established and tangled enough to keep them out, however long that might take. I told Mr. Tin Foil I was going to buy bright orange electric fencing tape to keep them out and he wasn’t pleased.  It’s still a possibility though…if the county tries to give me a hard time that’s what I’m going with — it’s temporary and they can’t fine me or make me pay a permit fee for a temporary fence.  They do make green though.  I only said bright orange because I knew he would both believe I would do it out of spite (I would) and to get his goat.

I bought more thyme and rosemary at the nursery today; the wacky winter weather we had along with some pretty hard freezes (26 degrees) killed my three year old rosemary bush as well as all my thyme plants; we use entirely too much of those herbs to be without so the purchase was needed.  Mr. Tin Foil helped me re-pot them into large pots tonight.  It made me so very happy to have my hands in loamy sweet smelling dirt.  He keeps telling me I’m a lady, but I think I’m just a peasant farmer at heart.

That’s my gardening progress so far; pictures will come when everything’s a little more organized.  Thank the Gods school is coming to a close for a while.  I need the time for the yard!

My (belated) Christmas present


I got a little cash for Christmas.  That cash went into my overtime fund; I get extras that I want by working overtime or selling craft stuff so that I don’t take anything out of our household budget.  When I got enough, and International Fleeces had their first anniversary sale, I purchased some two row mini combs.  What, you say?  I already have a comb and hackle set?  Yes, well, different products for different uses.  The Blue Mountain Handcrafts set is incredibly useful for wools over 3 inches long.  The mini combs are incredibly useful for fine fibers and for fibers less than 3 inches long.  On the larger comb and hackle set, I would have waste in the combs if the fiber was less than 3 inches.  On the mini combs I have waste that is about 1 inch.  This I can card into other wools for a tweedy blend on my drum carder.  Waste not, want not.

So here is a picture diary of my combs and the absolutely filthy merino wool I washed, dried, and then combed with these new mini combs.

As you can sort of see from this picture, the water is brown from all the mud and the wool looks tan to brown.  What you don’t see are all the manure tags and the vegetable matter (VM) that is stuck into the wool.  Merino, being an especially fine wool, has lots of crimp and therefore EVERYTHING sticks to the fleece when the sheep is out and about.  Everything.

This is the same wool soaking in its second bath.  I heat the water to 150 degrees, squirt enough Dawn detergent (the original, without enzymes) to make the water blue, and soak for 20 minutes.  As you can see, the wool is floating on the water because there’s no longer any dirt, oil, or manure to weight it down.  It expands to at least double its starting dirty size after the second wash.  You can still see all the VM in the wool though.

It gets wrung out in a towel, carefully, after three rinses; each rinse gets a little cooler and the wool soaks in each for at least 10 minutes to allow the scales to slowly close and prevent felting — sticking together.  Then it gets put outside to dry.

That’s where my new mini combs by Valkyrie Supply come in.  I load the combs with fiber, and comb from the ends to the tines.  I make at least two passes; each pass means that the fiber is transferred from the loaded comb to the empty comb.  This leaves the short fibers on the empty comb, and allows the fibers to be all in alignment on the combs, and all of the vegetable matter simply falls to the floor.  Then I diz the combed fibers into a bird’s nest — basically a long piece of the combed fibers that I twist slightly as I wrap into a spiral shape.

These are a bunch of bird’s nests that were combed out of that dirty wool.  Next comes the spinning, and I’ll ultimately end up with something like this:

This is superwash merino that I bought already washed, combed, and ready to spin.  Which feels like cheating 🙂  But you get the idea.

I’m dying up little 3 and 4 ounce batches of the wool in different colors.  So far I have Kermit the Frog green (it said Leaf Green on the bottle!) and Royal Blue which seems to be coming out more like a cobalt blue.  These may be spun on their own, or may be spun in concert for a varigated self striping yarn.

Some will be carded and combed with my angora fiber and possibly dyed after that.  I’m still thinking of a project for that.

All of this is time consuming, but very satisfying.  I get exactly the fiber I want.  And I learn something new every time I do it!  And then of course there is the fact that when the apocalypse comes, I’ll be able to spin my own fibers and clothe my family with weaving, knitting, crocheting, and sewing.  🙂

I loves me a man who will get in the shit.


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Originally uploaded by susancoyotesfan

He’s so irritated that I want to take his picture. Even more irritated than he was when I asked him if he would help me; hauling horse manure in rubbermaid tubs and buckets from the local stables to our garden would have taken me all day without his help.

We made I think four loads of three rubbermaid tubs (the large ones) and five buckets in our Prius, and then we were both ready for lunch. I still don’t have enough, but we pretty well cleaned out the aged manure and I don’t want to burn any plants taking the newer.

I tried to talk him into peeing in the garden but no luck….still. Maybe if I tell him it’s a fertility rite and it’s sexy? (it is)

It was a good day. I’ll think of this day when we’re enjoying our luscious tomatoes this summer. And babaganoush.