Ray and the Girls

2015 Review

Wow! I thought about doing my annual review, so I started out by looking at my 2015 To-Do list. http://redmonwoods.com/2015/01/01/to-do-list-2015/ I was so disappointed to see we had only accomplished 4 out of 10 items. (Of course, a lot of that was because we weren’t able to move forward with the back pasture. I’m going to move all pasture-related goals to the “wish list”. We still want to expand, but when we are able to access the area is up to the landlord, not us.)

I decided to go back through the year’s pictures, and saw just how much we accomplished this year. Two big events happen in January, which helps us to focus for the year. St. Distaff’s Day is the first weekend in January, and the Country Living Expo – which we just call Farm School – is the end of January.

One of my first 2015 projects was lotion bars. I discovered them at St. Distaff’s Day, and love them. My hands get so dry during the winter, they actually crack and bleed. Lotion bars have a good amount of beeswax in them, which seals in the oils and keeps the skin moisturized for a long time. The are easy to make, and last a long time. http://redmonwoods.com/?s=lotion+bars

0120151029aThe next project was dying alpaca fleece, using turmeric. I dyed a few different batches of fiber, after learning how at Farm School. (My kool-aid dyed, red, alpaca yarn even took first place at the Fair.) For Christmas this year, Charlie got me an outdoor propane burner with a 30 qt. and a 60 qt. pot. This may seem odd to some people, but these pots will allow me to dye large amounts of fiber outdoors.

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We brought in more laying hens, as well as several meat chickens, and 4 turkeys. For the first time, we raised our own meat, and are quite proud that we were successful.

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Rotisserie     Boiling stock Canned

In addition to meat birds, we expanded the garden. Charlie hung gutters to plant strawberries, and built net covers to protect the garden from bunnies and birds. I made potato bags to grow our potatoes and they worked great! The garden didn’t produce as much as we would have hoped because of the drought. 2016 is supposed to be a bit cooler and a lot wetter. Fingers crossed that we will have a lot more to harvest next summer/fall.

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0420151210a (351x500)We also sheared Spike and Tajo for the first time this year. We hired a professional shearer to do the work, but we were hands-on and learned a lot. For the fair, Spike’s is the fiber I dyed and spun, and Tajo’s was spun naturally.

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Charlie also started his rabbit project. The thing is, rabbits don’t always breed like rabbits. We have yet to have a successful breeding. Charlie knows he’ll have to do something to “help”. I’m not asking for details, and he’s not looking forward to it. We’ll see how the rabbits play out over the next year.

Getting Acquainted

And, we can’t forget my pressure canner! I was able to can vegetables, like green beans and relish, that I wouldn’t have been able to do before. I also canned chicken stock from our meat birds.  Again, hopefully our garden will produce more and I’ll get to can more next summer.

Ready for takeoff    SimmeringDone  Jars

We got the city girls up for a visit this summer. It was a totally different experience for them. We really weren’t sure how they would take to country life. They liked it well enough, they’re coming for 2 weeks next summer. I know Shelby is hoping she’ll be tall enough to work the spinning wheel.

Waiting for Cows

Picking Peas Feeding Pacas Spinning

The locals say the floods this year were worse than they’ve been in years. Everybody is drying out, the mountains are getting a good snowpack to get us through summer, and weather-wise life has gotten back to normal.Roof

Of course, the BIG event of the year was the arrival of Miss Riley. She’s a happy little monkey, and Raymond and Reta Jean LOVE her. Reta Jean loves to tell her stories and make her laugh, and Riley smiles, giggles, and talks back. Raymond sings “Ri-ri-ri Ri-Riley Ann” when she needs to be calmed down. Riley always looks like she’s up to something. I’m sure she’s going to keep us all on our toes once she’s more mobile and verbal.

Riley Ann    Cheeks

There were many more project and adventures, and there will be even more in 2016. Through it all, the kids and grandkids were here to keep us entertained. We may be getting spoiled by simplicity, but I go to bed every night thinking how lucky we are, and that life really is good.

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Waiting for Cows Troll Bridge 2

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Christmas Curtains

Since we have cats, dogs and kids running around, I decided it would be safest to set up Christmas in the sunroom. We can put anything in there we want, and not worry about it getting knocked over or torn up. And since the sunroom has windows on all sides we can see it from everywhere. Of course, these windows also pose a bit of a problem. It’s December in northwest Washington. Cold.

There is a heat vent in the sunroom, but with all the glass it gets really chilly.  I decided some simple curtains over the main windows might help keep some of the chill out. Christmas fabric costs more than I wanted to spend for this little project. Tori spent years on the stage crew for her high school theater department, and I learned from her that muslin can be used for darn near anything. I could get 12 yards of muslin for the same cost as 2 yards of holiday-print fabric. I have 5 windows that are 32″ x 36″ so this is much more cost effective. A little creativity and I can make this work!

mulsin

I haven’t used my Cricut much since I stopped teaching, but I thought I might be able to use it to cut out stencils. I didn’t know if the Cricut would cut plastic, but it was worth a try. And it worked! (Hint: I set it at the slowest speed, highest pressure, and deepest blade length)

stencil

I originally made single stencils, and used red dye. The dye ended up looking more like rust, and the single stencil was going to take a long time.  Fortunately, I had enough panels for 6 panels, and I only needed 5. The first panel ended up being my experiment piece. Plan B was a stencil with multiple characters cut into it, and red paint. I learned regular acrylic paint can be mixed with “textile medium” and it works like fabric paint, without the stiffness. You can also make larger amounts, instead of dealing with those little dinky bottles of fabric paint. I found the paint and textile medium at the local craft store.

paint prep

I like the way this looked much better than the dye.

stenciled

Once I sewed a pocket for the tension rod, the panels were going to be just a bit too short. I decided to get a little fabric to sew across the top to create a rod pocket, and make it a little cuter. I then zipped around the edges with the serger to finish them off.

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I’m pretty pleased with the way they came out. If I were making these for something more permanent, I would be more precise with the stencil placement, and take a little more care to make sure each panel is even. I’ve decided the imperfections add to the charm.

Complete

Raymond was more interested in getting the Christmas lights hung, but Reta Jean liked my curtains. When she saw them she said, “Did you make these, Gabba?” When I said yes, she patted my arm and said, “Good job!” Yes, I live for the approval of a 3-year-old.

Supplies:

  • Muslin
  • Tension rods
  • Stencil plastic
  • Acrylic paint
  • Textile medium
  • Paint dobber

 

Gifts

Christmas Eve Goody Box

I love Christmas! I’m going to say it again: I LOVE Christmas!!!

It’s not about the gifts, unless I’m the one giving them. In my book, there’s nothing better than finding the perfect gift for someone. I’m not talking about things that are expensive or fancy. I’m talking about things that are perfect for the person in mind. It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it’s a major dance-around victory!

Gift giving aside, I believe that Christmas is for children. Santa, Rudolph, decorated Christmas trees, holiday lights, fancy cookies and presents under the tree. My goal is to make Christmas as magical and full of memories for the kids as possible. This time of year, I can’t go to the store without picking up a candy cane, or little gift, before stopping off to see Raymond and Reta Jean. And every time they’re excited, and laughing and clapping, and their faces light up, I feel like I’m doing it right. (It’s really not about the things. I want the kids to be as excited about the magic and surprise of Christmas as I’ve always been.)

My dad insisted we get new pajamas every Christmas. He said there was nothing better than getting up early, opening gifts, spending the day with family, then taking a bath, putting on your new jammies, and climbing into your warm bed. And he was right. Our kids got pajamas every year when they were children. Now that they’re adults, if we find perfect pajamas, we still have to get them…Like pizza print footie pajamas for Tori.

Family traditions are an important part of making the holiday special. We got pajamas, macadamia nuts and oranges every year, no matter what. There were other gifts, too, but notice what I remember the most: the traditions.

Years ago, Charlie and I both saw a “Christmas Eve Box” on the internet. The idea was to pack it full of things to make Christmas Eve special, too. The picture we saw looked something like this:Pinterest Box

We decided this fit right in with our desire to help all the kids make Christmas memories. Our two branches of grandkids have three kids each, so our boxes have to be a little bigger. I also had to add some Gabba touches.  For instance, there has to be a fun activity, because I always want the kids to DO things.

The first year, I made a quilt and pillows for each box. I thought the kids needed something to snuggle up with. We also put together pajamas, a movie, a book, and hot cocoa. The activities are things like cookie decorating kits. As much as I like to make things from scratch, I don’t want the kids’ moms to hate me for giving them one more thing to do. I count on kits, in hopes of making things easier.

Amazon has become an important part of the process. When you’re trying to get a different book and movie every year, it helps to remember what you’ve already gotten. Yep, I count on my Amazon history to help me out. They also make it easy to find matching/coordinating/specific pajamas in all the different sizes.

Since it’s been a few years since we made our first box, Charlie thought it was time for new blankets. So, new blankets it is!

Here is this year’s box for the California girls:

Gifts

Contents:

  • Holiday quilt – specially picked out Christmas Farm fabric to help them remember their summer trip to visit us
  • Pajamas
  • Gingerbread village kit – the girls like to do their own thing and this one gives them each their own house
  • Hot cocoa
  • The Little Drummer Boy movie – it was my mom’s favorite and continues to be one of mine
  • The Pajama Elves book – it’s a new one and I thought it was appropriate since pajamas are always a thing
  • Personalized ornaments – they’re not here yet, but on their way

Once it’s all packed up, everything fits in a 12 x 12 box. All ready to be shipped, and opened up Christmas Eve!

PackedCharlie and I have fun selecting the items for the Christmas Eve box every year, and hope the grandkids enjoy it as much as we do. And now, I have to get back to work on quilt #2 for the Washington grandkids.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

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Homemade Homegrown Thanksgiving

Well, we did it. We pulled off our down home Thanksgiving! After doing this, I understand why pioneer women stayed home to cook and clean. It takes a lot of time. Maybe not the cleaning part, because dirty floors and outdoor toilets don’t require a lot of attention. But, boy, the growing, prepping, cooking takes time. Even with electric appliances.

The final menu:

  • Turkey
  • Corn bread and sausage stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Glazed carrots
  • Green beans and bacon
  • Pattypan and Ricotta quiche
  • Dinner rolls
  • Deviled eggs
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Holiday cookies

My shopping list had a whopping 7 items on it, including spices, half and half, whipping cream, and celery. Yeah, I had to break away from the farm for celery. Not only were we not able to grow it here, but we couldn’t find it at farmers markets, either. Still, not bad. The sausage and bacon came from our friends at R Heritage farm. The one item that was sadly missing was corn. Rats got to our cornfield before harvest. Everything else came straight from our backyard and kitchen.

While it was nice to head out to the backyard to gather Thanksgiving, it was the longest prep timeline ever. Besides the big projects like planting and processing, there is also the daily feeding, watering, and cleaning, etc.

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  • Buy chicks so they will be laying eggs in time (Hens start laying around 20 weeks)
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Squash
  • Pumpkins

 

Summer prep:

  • Buy turkey chicks (Turkeys are processed at 4-6 months)
  • Harvest and can green beans
  • Process and can chicken stock

November:

  • Harvest potatoes, pumpkins, squash and carrots
  • Make pumpkin puree

Week of:Turkey hunter

  • Catch and process turkey (this is harder when it’s been raining and the yard is muddy and slippery)
  • Bake corn bread
  • Prepare pie crusts
  • Slice carrots
  • Bake dinner rolls
  • Bake cookies

Everything else was pulled together on Thanksgiving.

Now, we missed some holiday standards because I was determined to bring as much as possible from the back yard.  There were no cranberries, and no sweet potatoes, which are my favorite. Next year, we can probably grow sweet potatoes, and some mushrooms would be good. I don’t see cranberries happening anytime soon. Something about a bog, or something.  Hmm. Maybe we could do that. We’ll see.

Christmas is right around the corner, and our Christmas dinner will be as much from home as possible, but I’ll have to bring in other goodies, too.

Thanksgiving will continue to be homegrown, and I’m sure will evolve over the years. It’s not a matter  of having or making MORE. For us, it’s about doing it ourselves, appreciating where we are and what we’re able to produce, and providing for our family. It also reminds us to be thankful year-round. And that’s the very best part.