Tuesday, December 25, 2012

In the spirit of the season ...

While I am Pagan, and hubby is spiritual, we wish the best of blessings on everyone this time of year. Our Yule celebration, such as it was, was last week on the solstice. Today, we had fun just laying about in bed most of the day, and haven't even bothered with the tv and all our DVR'd stuff yet. Hubby is sleeping, I have been knitting on a scrap afghan to use up some of these gazillion tiny balls of scrap yarn I have boxed up and laying around here, playing games on Facebook and getting myself Christmas presents in the form of more free books for my Kindle for PC.

No decorations, no tree, no nothing this year as no place to put the tree with having to hunker down in the living room anyhow. How's that working out? Mostly ok, the house generally is staying 15-20 degrees warmer than the outdoors, which isn't saying much right now considering that a major winter storm is trying to come through and it's only in the 20's outside. So you can imagine that with the winds blowing in the low teens when they do, and the low temps to start, that it's not all that warm in the house. The cat's don't mind too much, they're busily racing around and having a blast play-fighting off and on all day.

Me, my toes are a bit chilled right now because I'm sitting in the one chair we kept out here while writing, because I'm fixing dinner for us - turkey teriyaki - and the thermostat on the space furnace only reads 42, wavering a bit to 43, because it's actually got to warm up here on the mountain to get the snow that's predicted. It's just too darned cold out for it to snow right now, which is fine with me. Cold I can tolerate, snow is part of why I moved to the Ozarks and away from Michigan - I grew up with the stuff for six months a year, I don't really like it! Dinner could have been chicken, but doggone it, I'm too cheap to buy chicken to put in it when we have a freezer full of turkey to use. I got out one of the big breast packages to thaw the other day and it's so huge that half of it got sliced up, wrapped back up and stuck back in the fridge for warm sammiches later tonight.

We're doing a lot of soups and warm sammiches and pasta bowls and such - comfort foods that are warm and make us feel good and full and at least somewhat happy. I do feel some like crying, because it's Christmas and once again, I had to put my Yuletide traditions aside in favor of no space for them, and not having everything for them. Next year, now that we're in a house and all, I will do them.

My traditions, you ask? They're not too complicated, but they mean a lot to me and my family. Mom and I started them when I was little and she was a single parent - she raised me herself as best she could, so traditions were important to us and kept me (with my mental issues I was developing even then) fairly stable. I knew that certain days of the week meant certain activities, and that helped me, with my developing PTSD and BPD and bipolar II, to keep stable and calm and able to deal with the world. I'm so lucky with Quentin that he puts up with my mental issues, and has learned to work around them!

But traditions, especially for the Christmas season, were so important to me. Never mind that with my issues, I didn't really feel the excitement and expectation of everybody else (and still don't). For me, it's the traditions that are the important thing, not whether I personally feel anything. I'm blessed enough that I experience the emotions and get to have some joy in everyone else's excitement about things.

So Thanksgiving to Twelfth Night became important to me while young. Thanksgiving itself not so much for the food and family and all, but because once we had dinner eaten and cleared away, and the dishes all done and dried and put up, it was TIME. Time for me to climb up into our attic and get all the boxes of Christmas stuff, and hand them down to Mom, who could climb that ladder if need be, but not overly well, with her bum knee. Time to come back down and start opening boxes and putting the tree together and hanging up decorations and putting the ornaments on the tree and then enjoying the lights and the happiness that I could feel over the fun we'd had that day.

And then when my kids came along, and as each got old enough to "help," the tradition got added to, along with the fact that by then, Mom had joined the library book club, and one of the gals there was a teacher at the local Catholic school. Cheryl (which is also my Mom's name) liked to buy Christmas stories every year and read them to her students during the Advent season. And she'd bring some of them to the Christmas party for the book club and read them to the ladies as they had tea or coffee and cookies that everyone brought to share, and opened their presents to each other. A few of those stories made their way into our tradition.

All but one are a modern tale. We began to start, on my daughter's insistence on including it, with the Nativity story from the Bible. I may not agree with a great deal of The Good Book, but that story always gives me a big uplift to my spirits. A couple of others are The Christmas Candle, by Richard Paul Evans; The Christmas Box, also by Richard Paul Evans; and my favorite, The Christmas Miracle of Johnathon Toomey, by Susan Wojciechowski.

We'd end by taking everything down on Twelfth Night, especially after my daughter was born, as her birthday isn't much after that. It also became a tradtion for Mom to send me all those goofy Hallmark singing tabletop doodads when they started coming out with them, because she gets them cheap with buying all her special holiday cards at Hallmark.

So what are YOUR holiday traditions? Think on what makes you happy during the holidays, what you do to make the season bright and special to you, and don't forget to do them if at all possible.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Yule and no apocalypse

Well, it seems the naysayers and doomers were completely wrong about the Mayan apocalypse, because here it is 230 PM Central US time on the 22nd of December, and we're still here. Darn, there go my plans for a complete takeover of the world as of yesterday. Guess I'll just have to take it over the hard way, haha.

We've had a fairly busy week. Quentin got hired on at my plant, so we carpool now and it will help a lot with finances to have two paychecks coming in again till the fleamarketing and eventual farmer's market income and such take off. We've been doing a lot of one particular type cut on my part of the line all week, and boy howdy is my right shoulder at the collarbone sore. I had to stop by medical a few times for an ice pack, it was just that ouchy. I could move my shoulder up and down but rolling it forward just about made me want to cut my arm off. I'm still tender but since we don't have to go back to work until THURSDAY, which really bites into the paychecks, we'll I'll have time to recuperate, as long as we don't do what we had to do today, which I'll get to later.

Monday, Quentin had orientation at the plant, and I had the day off. Which was good in a way, as it gave me a day to relax and do a lot of things I needed to get done around here. The bad part was, our little Pelosi radiator heater we had keeping the chill off the front room decided to die around lunchtime. Made the front half of the house DARN cold. So cold, in fact, that after the storm we had Wednesday night, the bedroom end was comfy from the space furnace running there, but the kitchen was so cold I could see my breath. NOT fun for making our lunches. That wind had me worried that a tree would come crashing down on the house, but I forgot about worrying about one blocking the road. I should have, because ...

Thursday morning about 530 AM, just as we're getting ready to roll out the door to work, our neighbors up the road, Eric and Bobbi (who just found out she's pregnant, so I gotta get busy making some baby things for the little one - socks and sweaters and hats and diaper covers and a blankie or two from Auntie Heather!!!!!), the ones who helped get the car off the gravel grading ridge back a few months ago, called us up. Seems a tree fell across the road between them and us, and as they work first shift, too, they needed to get out. No chainsaw up there, but they knew we had one, so they called to borrow it. Quentin ran the saw and gear up to them and Eric cleared the way for them to get out to go to work. That was a good-sized tree, too, but the wind and rain Wednesday night just did the thing in. The roots lost their grip and the tree came crashing down, mostly shattering in the road, but some of the pieces were pretty good sized and too big and heavy for Eric to move.

Friday, we only had a partial day at work, which helped, because during the day, Quentin and I talked during our one meal break, and decided to "hunker down" in the living room, where our entertainments are. His swivel rocker, my desk and my desk chair all got moved to a corner of the kitchen we don't use, a corner by the broom closet was set up as a semi-private bathroom area so we could have the sawdust toilet there without making a mess in the food prep space or losing privacy for that particular issue, the boy's things (litter box and food dishes) got moved down to the living room, as did our nightstands and the bed. We can now be comfortable, warm and entertained at the same time. The temp when we moved everything yesterday afternoon while it was still daylight was a mere 47 in here after we got the bed and space furnace moved. Right now, with the temps outside warmer and things closed off in here, the thermostat on the furnace is now reading 63, which is DARNED comfy. Short sleeves are the order of the day right now.

Today was just a normal Saturday, in that we made a payment on the van (which Quentin calls a truck - it's a Ford E-150, so it's a F-150 chassis with a van body on it, might as well call it an enclosed truck), did the laundry and came home. We did what little groceries we needed to do for the week on the way home in Huntsville after work yesterday, so that saved us going to Harrison for anything today. Big time-saver, which means we can now relax and, as long as weather cooperates, get a lot of stuff done outside in the way of cutting wood for the pile and that will clear more of the brush out of the easement. Yeah, I'm still working on that one. Whew. Be easier when we can get that little 8" battery-operated chainsaw, cuz it'll go a lot faster on the cutting end of things for me.

We've also planned that when we get his first paycheck next week, one thing we're getting is a large roll of heavy mil plastic to put over all the windows. Home Depot has it fairly cheap, and Quentin has a manual staple gun to attach it to the walls. Just a matter of getting it home and cutting it to size, then hanging it. Ought to help a whole heck of a lot with the cold weather part of winter setting in for the Ozarks.

He also got the big old oak by the end of the drive cut up and the logs stacked by the woodpile, along with some logs from part of the electric easement down by the main drag a mile or so from the bottom of the mountain road. Hey, we got permission from the electric company that as long as the logs were in the easement and not behind a fence, we could go along the easements and clean up all the wood we wanted. I need to take a picture of these piles one of these days when we go get more wood, because there's a LOT of wood there that we can bring up here.

This is the stump of what's left of that oak tree. The pile above is the logs from the main  drag (back) and part of the oak logs (front). Altogether, we got 29 two-foot logs out of that tree. And yes, that's still a four-foot or so section laying down in front of the stump that we need to cut in half and clear out to the woodpile. You can see part of our county road in the background, as it goes up to the top of the mountain.

This is a piece off the top of the oak that snapped off when it came down. Another couple of logs from this one, once we get it out of there. It's laying in the brush across the drive from the stump.

Quentin had redone part of his edging wall to help with backing out of the parking area in the easement, but the winds Wednesday night blew it right over. He left it open framed so that wind could go through it. It got blown right off it's bolts that were supposed to hold it into the ground. However, you can also see that the trash pile that was left behind is now significantly smaller than it was four months ago. Part days at work, good weather and little to no wind, along with a burn pit and barrels means a LOT of that stuff gets dumped into a five-gallon bucket, hauled to the pit or barrels, and dumped and burned. Some of it's pretty nasty, too, making a lot of black smoke because of whatever it is that's all manky on it. The pile's coming down bit by bit, though we still have to dig out enough to get that mattress and box springs out of there and burned.

And then after today's errands run, we came home, hooked up our little trailer, and went up to Eric and Bobbi's to get our saw and such back. I had to stand on one side of the trailer to weigh it down so Quentin could air the tire back up proper and know that it was done right if there was a load on it. The trailer hookup wasn't just because he likes pulling the thing around, we wanted to stop on the way back down the road to load up as much of that tree as we could for OUR woodpile, before any of the other neighbors got the bright idea to snag it. And there's still enough there for a trailer load or two of wood that we need to find the energy to go get. Time we have for the next several days, it's finding enough time when we have enough energy and no other pressing things to do, so that we CAN go get it all!

While he's a bit blurry, here's Quentin sitting on the trailer with today's haul. Yes, I know, I still have a LOT of stuff to cut up for the woodpile in the easement there. It's gonna take a long while if we don't get me that little chainsaw I want pretty soon! But that is our week, and now I'm going to eat me some lunch and relax a bit with my hubby, who is curled up next to me taking a nap. He's not in a very comfy position, but he's sleeping, so oh well. I should take a picutre for him to see, so he doesn't complain and go ouch every time the boys curl up in one of those boneless positions cats can get into, the furry little contortionists.

Till next time, happy homesteading!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Things are looking up

This is a good thing. There's a number of positive things finally happening. The downsides for now are that the car battery is pretty well dead. I can jump it and run the dickens out of the car till I let it sit for a while. I worked half a day Friday, and just the five hours or so that it sat between getting to the plant and getting done for the day, the battery died enough that I had juice for dash lights and such, but not enough to get the engine to turn over. I've taken the car to O'Reilly's (an auto parts supplier chain), as there's a store in Huntsville, and they do free checks on things like the electrical system. So I had one of the guys come out with their checker and do the check on the electrical, and he says while all else is fine, the battery's pretty well gone. This is a good thing, really, as a battery is a heck of a lot cheaper to replace than an alternator or starter, and a lot easier, too. So once Quentin has paychecks rolling in again, we'll be able to get a new one or at least a new-used one, and the car will be able to roll again without help.

Did I say "once Quentin has paychecks rolling in again?" Yes, I did. Tuesday, when my plant was finally taking applications again, he was one of the first ones in there. They called him that afternoon for an interview on Wednesday, and then Thursday just before lunch, they called him to ask if he can do orientation Monday. Bad part for him is, I don't have to work tomorrow, so I get an extra day to goof off, while he gets to go be bored. But he'll be working again, which is very important to us financially and to him personally. I don't know how many times he's mentioned that he feels like "less of a man" lately because of no job. He's feeling much better from this, even if it's not the pay he was making before. He just has to deal with this for five months or so before he can try to rehire back where he was.

We did get some of the hardie-backer up last weekend or thereabouts. Doesn't it look good on the wall? We need about four more pieces to do the other wall and the floor for safety, then it's just get the stove in.

We've got some stuff in the way of finishing that bit up right now, but when we get the rest of the hardie-backer, we'll get it out of the way. You can see the spacers he put up on the left, where the wall goes from window to corner. Just outside the left edge of the photo is the window. He doesn't have all the screws installed yet on the pieces he put up, but they are holding tiight to the walls.

We also got the rest of the spot in the living room where the A/C unit was finished off outside. I took a few minutes yesterday while he was doing some other things he wanted to get done, trucked back to the Merlot and tore off some paneling and got several good chunks of insulation out of the walls. It isn't the greatest insulation, but it's free and it works. I do love to recycle and repurpose things. In this case, we're recycling old but otherwise still good and quite useful insulation. With the help of a slightly busted but otherwise still usable for the one time ladder we found (the top of it's badly cracked, what idiot came up with the idea of a PLASTIC ladder????). Quentin climbed up as far as was safe, and stuffed that darn hole full of insulation and then took the piece of paneling and used his drill to screw the paneling over top of it to hold the insulation in and keep the weather out. When we got back in the house, the insulation is already doing well, as we are both starting to get rather warm in here!

Speaking of weather, thankfully, it's been much warmer lately than predicted originally, so the rooms we do heat have been staying more in the mid-60's up to mid-70's. It was so warm in the bedroom last night, we slept on top of the covers. What a pleasant change from what it was for a few days there! Hopefully, with the hole fixed up completely now, we'll be in better shape for keeping heat out here, and thus in the rest of the house. We all know, one good heat sink can really ruin your whole house heat in a New York minute. That the inside of that A/C hole is covered by a piece of linoleum I found in the front bedroom and nailed up over the hole, and then spray foamed around it doesn't seem to matter. At worst, it did keep out the weather and birds for a while!

Other good news, in walking back to the Merlot for the insulation and paneling yesterday, I happened to spy a bit of color up the hillside behind the trailers to my left. I stopped and looked up and what did I spy with my little brown eyes but the cistern! It's about 800 feet higher elevation than the house, but only about 300 feet away straight line. Problem is, with all the trees and brush, you can't get there straight line, plus there's that whacking great steep climb to get there. The thing was full of really ucky looking water, so we opened the valve to drain it. The spring is there, but we do have to haul pipe up to run down to the cistern, and we need to come up with a way to dam up the spring to make a pool. It's really a good seep, but it runs out from under rocks in a little cave and down mud to the bottom and out from there. It's not super fast, but good enough to keep us in steady water once we figure out how to get it dammed up to make a pool where we can run pipe over the top of the dam to pick up overflow and keep the water going to the cistern clean.

We need to get in the cistern too - it's got about an inch of mud in the bottom of it that has to come out before we put new water in it. I want to haul up a few gallons of bleach, too, hard as that will be, to pour in to help kill off any algae that might still be in there. There's just a few minor issues to getting the water going again, and we'll at least have water to the house. Quentin wants to put an outside spigot on the line to the house and have the spigot indoors, so we can fill water jugs that way, instead of having to go get it from one of the free local gas station outside taps all the time. I concur, to a point. I'm  not so sure about having a outside spigot in the house, but if it gets us some kind of water so we don't have to haul it, I'm halfway for it.

We did find that when we came downhill after turning on the valve at the cistern, that the lines from there down almost all the way to the house are good. We ended up with a good gushing flow out of it, so once we have water in the cistern again, we'll have a decent gravity-fed flow to the house. Yay us! Of course, if we find the outside well head and it's easier to fix than the cistern, we may go that way instead. Depends on which is going to be easier. I can tell you one thing, I'm smaller and fit into the spring cave better than Quentin does, and I still had to sit on rocks on one side to use the mattock at the back of it to widen the stream a bit so the seep, well, seeps better.

My jeans I was wearing are muddier than heck all the way from butt to ankle, and my work boots (which I wore due to weak ankles and not wanting to twist my ankle up on that hill) are completely muddy. Once we wash up tonight for the upcoming work week, I'm going to have to take one of the dishpans of water and put  my boots in there to be able to wash them off. I can't wear them to work looking like THAT! Quentin is teasing me that the spring and cistern job are all my fault, just like us moving here. I keep finding things and getting stuff fixed so things work better, so it's all my fault. He blames me. I'll happily take THIS blame, though it's going to be a heck of a job to get the spring dammed up. Anybody got any ideas how to get the thing dammed up? The seep is steady enough and doesn't gush out at all, so any mud would settle quickly to the bottom of the pool. We just have to figure out a fairly easy way to get the pool dammed so we can run pipe at the top of it for catching the overflow and thus running clean water to the cistern.

Now for a quiz. What the heck is THIS thing?

It's some kind of clamp thing I found on the kitchen counter in the Merlot yesterday, but neither Quentin or I have ever seen anything like it before and have no idea how to identify it. We are hoping one of our homesteading friends has a clue as to what it is and what it's used for.

So that's this week's news. I'm tired and my legs are like jelly from playing mountain goat for four hours midday today, and I still have to do dishes, make dinner and get washed up for the week. I think I'm gonna go relax and play games on Facebook for bit to keep busy till my legs feel like I can stand up for a while again!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It's a quiet weekend here

Somehow, we managed to end up with a fairly quiet weekend this time around. Well, I did, Quentin's trying to redo a bit of the parking area border so he has less trouble getting in and out than he does. Not that he has that much anyhow, but he thinks he needs more of a "fence" there to help guide him when he's backing out. He needs to get busy on the little fix on the kitchen ceiling, where the mice are trying to get through again. He fixed one, now he's got another to fix. One of these days, we'll be pulling down all the old ceiling and insulation, and putting up new insulation and plywood, then covering the plywood with something nice, like paneling. Hopefully, we can find some kind of paneling we can put up in strips rather than huge sheets, because huge sheets would be a major pain in the tuckus!

We did find out that he won't be getting his unemployment. Apparently, them making him take bereavement points and screwing up his points and all like they did, means that Arkansas unemployment says he wasn't meeting employer standards for attendance. *Rolls eyes.* So, he's going to try to get in where I'm at and mutilate turkey for a while till he can get back to where he was. It'll give him something to do to make some money of his own, while trying to also get the handyman thing off the ground, while not being entirely dependent on me.

But hey, we figured that no unemployment would be one of the possibilities and planned ahead how to work on it if it was what happened, and we're going forward with that - the handyman service thing (no licensed work, just stuff that you'd have on a honey-do list), and trying to get in at the plant I work at, till he can go reapply for where he was. There's other news on his old job that the unemployment people mentioned when they CALLED him the other day, which they hardly ever do around here, but I can't go into details because it may mean him also talking to a lawyer, and you know how confidentiality stuff goes around.

We did get a couple pieces of the hardie-backer for the woodstove corner last weekend when I had a bit more money floating around, and he got those up the other day. They look so nice being up on the wall, and I can hardly wait to get it all done. It'll happen as it happens, and you can bet you guys are gonna see pictures as it does! Reminds me, I need to recharge my camera batteries so I can take pictures. I forgot again, lol. I'm so bad at that, probably because I don't take a lot of photos in general so I forget to take the batteries out of the camera and they get drained.

My socks are going along a bit at a time. With work and everything around here that's got to be done on a regular daily chores kind of thing, I'm not getting very far. I've managed to get the cuff and a bit of the leg done on one sock, and there's a long ways to go. Thankfully, it's late fall and almost winter, here in the Ozarks, so there's a lot more dark than daylight and I get time to sit and watch the boob tube with the hubster and knit my little heart out. We don't watch a lot of television, but we do have some shows we like. I'm currently fond of Arrow and Beauty and the Beast in new shows, I do like Once Upon A Time as a returnee, there's a few cop-type shows I like (Covert Affairs and Burn Notice), and we do love our DIY shows. It's amazing how much knitting you can get done in an hour of watching TV, with all the commercials they churn out anymore. You get half an hour of an "hour" show, and half an hour of commercials! I'd rather have more TV than commercials, like when I was growing up. We DVR a lot of stuff so we can skip the commercials that way.

And yes, from above, you probably figured out that I follow the equinoxes and solstices for the season changes. Winter to me doesn't hit till Yule, on the winter solstice, because I'm unabashedly Pagan. I honor the Earth and the seasons and the life the Earth gives us. So for me, winter won't hit for a bit yet, though to others, it's already here. The last few days we've had some late fall rains, and last night was a real downpour of a rainstorm. No real thunder or lightning, but an awful lot of rain. So with the cool temps we're having, it's making for a lot of foggy days. Today, it's so foggy we can't see the end of the drive from the bedroom window, and Quentin just informed me a few minutes ago (when he came in for a drink), that it's so foggy down the easement that he can't even see the road where it curves around and back to the right. The whole mountain is fog-shrouded, even through all the trees, and it's getting foggier by the minute. Tonight will be a crazy night, and I have to drive to work in the dark in the morning, which means I have to take it careful and allow a bit of extra time because it's likely the deer will be out in force! But the fog also is kind of nice. To me, it just wraps the world in a cozy blanket, and makes me want to curl up in bed and take a nap. All I have to do today is dishes after I fix dinner, so what the heck, I may take a short nape this afternoon. It's only 12:30 P.M., and I'm eating my lunch (grilled swiss cheese sammich and my fruit juice) while I write, so I may take a nap. It's got to be a good day for it, even the cats are out cold!

Our health is back to normal other than appetites aren't quite what they were just yet. The stomach flu is nothing to joke about, and it was awful to have to deal with. I'm grateful Quentin didn't get it nearly as bad as I did, and recovered quicker. For a scrawny guy, he's got the constitution of a mule. I'd say a horse, but I love horses and know them well, and they get sick at the first opportunity, just to mess with us, I swear. And the car, surprisingly enough, is going fairly strong on the battery yet. I've only had to have it jumped twice in the last week, so if we can keep going for another week or so longer, I'll have a good enough check that we'll be able to get at least a used battery from a local gas station/repair shop, so it will last a while anyhow, and we'll still be able to cover the bills for the week. Now, if hubby can just get in at my plant so things will be a lot easier on us! That's our big prayer right now, trust me!

But for now, I'll close with me going back to the quiet weekend that is causing so much relaxation here. Till next time, happy and healthy homesteading!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

I was a Wal-Martian today

Because last night was a nightmare. I got sick, so sick that Quentin had to run me to the Emergency Room. There's a virus going around that I got, and got bad. Shouting groceries, the trots, and dizzy spells, two of which had me passing out. The third time I got dizzy, I had Quentin get the car going and found the energy to get some clothes on so we could run to the Harrison ER. Five hours later, we were headed home, me with two litres of IV fluid in me, some anti-nausea medication in the IV, and a prescription for some strong anti-diarrhea medicine to take for nearly three weeks. I still feel like crap, but we did get our running done for the day and home again in about six hours. Then I lay down for a two-hour nap. Quentin made me use disability carts everywhere we went, and wouldn't let me carry anything in the house when we got here. I'm just now up, warming up water for bathing and some chicken noodle soup to feed me so I don't get sick again. Then I hope to have the energy to put away the clean laundry. Quentin's a rock, he put away everything else. Bless him, because last night, he was sitting on the edge of tub while I was heaving up my toenails, and got to see me pass out on the floor at his feet. That should have been my warning to get going, but stubborn me hoped laying down would let me sleep and get better, but nope. Thus the trip to the ER.

And while we were out today, I was dressed but felt so crappy yet, I wore my slippers, even to Wal-Mart. Thus, I was a Wal-Martian today.

Among other things, I finished a book again this week, when I felt better. I love sci-fi and fantasy for pure escapism, and it's a lot of fun when I find a book or series that's good. This one was book one of a three-book series by Elizabeth C. Monk called Shattered: The Children of Man. It ends with a twist that you don't really expect, and leads well into the next book, which I now have GOT to get, lol. Me and my books.

So my soup is ready and I'm off here to eat something that will help push this crap through me so I can feel up to working next week. Be safe everybody! (I have to or Quentin will kick my butt.)