Quilting, Farming, Variety

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Any Ideas for Me?

The other day, when I ran across the red zinger blocks, there were about 40 of these little blocks already sewed together. They will measure three inches square when finished. There are more prints cut out and I have more of the off-white pieces to put with them. I'm thinking they would be a good size for a baby quilt; I don't want to make a bigger quilt for a while. So, do you have any ideas for me? What pattern could I make using little scrappy four patch blocks?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

So-o-o-o Tired of Green Patches

I am so tired of working with these green pieces! Seems I'll never get as many as I need; however, I have counted ahead and I think there are only 15 more needed. If I can manage to do two each day, that will take me way into February, then the chickens will be big and I'll have to spend more time up there with them. Maybe by the time I get all the rows sewed together - what? - you mean there's more to do before it gets quilted!! I have plenty of green fabric to finish, but the tan prints are running low; that may take me until March if I have to order more! To see how this goes together check out "Current Project", Dec. 22, 2010, in the labels.

So, to break out of the greens, I started this yesterday:

These little blocks will be three inches square finished; therefore small prints and narrow strips work best. Some of the strips are no wider than a pencil. I've been saving everything in a basket for some time now. I've even been known to take a scrap from the wastebasket! The blocks are pieced on a paper foundation with the sewing lines for the red pieces marked; all other strips are just randomly sized. I do believe this is my favorite way to piece tops; there are no exact sizes to get right, the colors are just "come what may". and when they are squared-up they should all be correct in size. My preference for colors are bright and different. This top is called "Red Zinger"; to see a full sized quilt like it, go to Karen Griska's blog: www.selvageblog.blogspot.com/2008/12/how-to-make-red-zinger.html . She uses selvages in a lot of her projects. I could have used selvages but I'm saving them for something else. I will probably stop at 18 x 18 inches on mine; just the right size for an American doll. And I definitely plan to finish the green prints for my Railroad Crossing quilt.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Tribute to Daddy

On this day, in 1911, he came into the world, the sixth son, the tenth child of twelve; there would be two more sons. He came from two generations of Baptist preachers, was schooled in a one room building, and when eight grades were completed, with no money to pay tuition and room and board, he worked along side his father and brothers, learning the tasks of a farmer.

He enjoyed the games of basketball and baseball with the young men in his community.

In 1932 he married Easter, the skinny schoolgirl who had run the bases for him on the baseball diamond at school.

By the summer of 1941 they were the parents of two little girls. His father had died, and now he and his brother had taken over the farm, growing sorghum cane and making molasses.

Day after day, in the hot summer sun, they worked in the fields; he walked behind the horses as they pulled the plow along the rows of glistening cane plants, and she worked with the hoe. After the crops were harvested in the fall and the long winter nights came, he sat with his Bible and read by the dim light of a kerosene lamp. On other nights he and his brother might take the hounds and hunt for raccoons on the hillsides around the farm.

Sometime in the mid-fifties he took the Bible lessons he had learned and began preaching. He kept a little book with the names of the couples he had married and those he had baptized.

Easter died in 1987, and after living alone for nine years, he moved into a retirement center. At the age of 86 he remarried; a union that proved to not be too happy for either of them, and by the time she passed away, his condition had deteriorated to the point that he didn't realize she was gone. He passed away on July 27, 2010, and had he lived a mere six more months, he would have been 100 years old today. He always said he wanted to live to see Jesus return.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Making New Like the Old

This little green cabinet belonged to my husband's grandmother. We called it a Hooiser cabinet although it was not an original Hooiser. The term "Hoosier" referred to free-standing kitchen cabinets with porcelain work tops, roll doors, and built-in floor sifters. Many also had tin bread drawers, sugar jars, spice jars, pull out bread boards, and could store cooking utensils, dishes, and most staple items found in kitchens. In other words, the Hoosier was the kitchen cabinet.

For years I had wanted a Hoosier; we had looked at ads for farm auctions in Kansas where there would almost always be cabinets for sale. As I have mentioned before, not many good items can be found in our area; this was simply a part of the country where people were mostly too poor to have much of anything that would have lasted throughout the day-to-day use of big families. So, my husband took paper and pencil in hand, measured the little green cabinet, and made one for me one cold winter.

It is made from oak, harvested from our farm. Not every detail is the same as the original; it has no rolling door, and no flour sifter. He had purchased a used flour sifter but we decided the extra storage space was more important. My spices go behind the upper door and drinking glasses behind the lower door. The counter has a Formica top, and pulls out for a perfect place to roll out pie crusts. The lower portion of the cabinet holds cookware, measuring cups, etc., and storage containers. The glass in the upper doors of the green cabinet were etched, but mine have been left plain for now. I sorta like the looks of a calico print hanging behind them.

To the left of the cabinet is my cook stove, and "yes" I do cook on it, for if you look closely you can tell it is electric. This is another new thing, made to look old; an authentic replica of the old fashioned kitchen range. It is made of cast iron from patterns of old wood-burning stoves. They are (were, at least; I've had mine since 1998) manufactured by The House of Webster, in Rogers, AR. Now I have to admit, I don't use the oven very often; it's pretty small so I have a standard size range also to bake in. Just ignore the wooden blocks it's sitting on; they were supposed to be replaced with a tiled platform, but you know how "honey-do" lists get shoved aside. The floor is pine, which is a soft wood, and since the stove is so heavy we figured it would make dents in the floor. I guess it really wouldn't matter since the stove is not going anywhere. They've darkened over time and don't show up as much now. Well, that's a partial peek at my country kitchen which is outfitted with free-standing cabinets, much like an old kitchen would have been.

Oh, by the way, the little green cabinet has been refinished, and now sits in the beautiful new home of my sister-in-law and her husband.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Good Wintertime Food

You can't tell by looking at this blurred picture, but this is one of the best wintertime foods a person can have: baked sweet potatoes. I wonder sometimes why the sweet potato is usually only served for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, when they are so very nutritious. They are a good source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins A, B6, and C. Animal studies revealed that it helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and to lower insulin resistance, making it a beneficial food for diabetics. It's true, they aren't the most beautiful thing before they're cooked; maybe that's the reason some people don't want to try them. Also, it takes a full summer for them to reach maturity, making harvest come in the fall.

I don't know why it surprised me to learn that China is the largest grower of sweet potatoes; 80% of the world's supply. Sixty percent of their crop now goes to feed pigs. Now that I can believe, because I have heard my parents tell about using sweet potatoes one winter to feed their hogs. In the United States, North Carolina is the leading state in sweet potato production, along with California, Louisiana, and Mississippi. I think the ones we bought this winter came from Mississippi. I wish I could tell some farmer how much we enjoy his crop. Around the holidays we were able to buy them for 10 - 25 cents per pound, so we stocked up since they keep so well; they don't need to be refrigerated, just kept in a cool, dark place.

It's interesting to me to learn that in China the potatoes are baked in large iron drums and sold as street food during the winter. Daddy told me several times that his mother sent a sweet potato with him to school for his noon meal; of course by that time of day it was cold. Here in North America, the most popular ways of serving the potatoes are candied, casseroles, fried slices, and baked.

Baking is my favorite way of preparing sweet potatoes for our meals. I wash the potatoes, rub them liberally with shortening, then bake at 350* until a prick goes through them easily. An added bonus is the wonderful smell coming from the warm oven. The shortening makes the skins tender and moist so they peel right off. I prefer this simple way; no added brown sugar or marshmallow, only adding a couple curls of Smart Balance and let it slowly melt over the potato. Yum, yum; we call them our candy bars.
Edited, Mon. a.m.: I got to thinking about feeding them to the hogs and maybe I was wrong. It could have been turnips; however, a hog would have eaten sweet potatoes if given the chance. lol

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Story That Will Touch the Heart of Every Generation

This book always tops my list of favorites. It was a Pulitzer Prize winner in l939 and is a classic work of American literature, written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. It is a story of friendship, courage and love, but I especially like how the author uses such descriptive wording that makes me feel like I'm right there with the boy in the backwoods of Florida.
I also have the VHS tape of the movie, starring Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman. I'm not too sure about the selection of the actors; of course, Gregory Peck could do no wrong! in portraying the character of Penny Baxter, who is described as "having grown to maturity no bigger than a boy." On the other hand, Ms Wyman is much too pretty to be Ora Baxter, whom Penny had married, "a buxom girl, already twice his size ... plainly built for child-bearing." Don't get me wrong; Ms Wyman was a good actress, but if you haven't read the book first, I think you lose out on the intended personality of Ma Baxter.

Hope you get a chance to read the book first, then watch the movie.

Monday, January 17, 2011

From Whence I Came ---

Happy Monday to all -- it's a little dreary here, so let's get out the photo album and take a step back in time. Don't you wonder why people in old photographs always looked so serious? Was it because they were tired? These pictures are from my mother's lineage. I'm almost embarrassed to admit being related to these women; aren't they something else? The man is my mother's maternal grandfather and the woman on the right is her mother; the others are Grandma's sisters. I think they were named (left to right) Belle, Sydney, ?, Rhoda, and Charlie. I never knew any of the aunts well except Rhoda (see the post entitled "What a Character", Nov. 1, 2010). Grandpa served in the Civil War at an early age. Grandma probably had fewer material things than her sisters, having given birth to six children.
This next picture is Mama's paternal lineage. The man standing in the middle was her father, Clarence. I only knew one of the sisters, Aunt Ethel (left); she worked as a cook in the elementary school I attended. One brother was a barber and the other a mail carrier. They look a little happier. lol
When that many more years have past, I wonder what kind of remarks will be made about our family photos. Hair styles and clothes change and we're dated.
Have a good day!!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Let's Wrap Up In This

This is a quilt just meant for winter nights! It is mostly made from homespun fabrics, making it cozy and soft. There are two block patterns: courthouse steps and stars. The backing is a small navy homespun plaid, and I quilted it in the clam shell design. Wouldn't it be nice in a log cabin? or on a boy's bed?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Can We Pretend It's Spring?

We're in the grips of winter, with a low this morning of nine degrees; the wonderful sunshine has warmed us up to thirty nine degrees this afternoon. Don't we wish spring could come sooner? We're already getting seed catalogs in the mail, but it's hard to visualize flower gardens when there is snow covering the beds. I don't have as much luck growing pretty flowers as I did back before the trees grew so tall; they sap all the moisture from the beds in the summer. By the time the ground warms up in the spring and I plant seeds, dry spells come and the tiny plants shrivel up. We use our wells for the chickens so I don't do much watering. I have better luck with flowers grown from bulbs: irises, Asiatic lilies, and daylilies, and of course they don't bloom all summer.

So, can we take a look at this quilt of mine, and pretend it's spring? This picture was made before it was quilted but I did finish it and called it my "Garden Pathway". I think the real name for it is "Boston Commons". I first saw this pattern on an antique quilt for sale on eBay; the white strips were left free of applique, only quilted. It took me a while to figure out how to draft the pattern, so I began with a doll quilt, then paper pieced the squares (since I'm not too good with 1/4" seam allowances on my machine). The flowers, leaves, and vines are hand appliqued.

I wanted to add more than flowers, so I cut the butterflies and birds from another piece of fabric and appliqued them. This method is called broderie perse. Of course every flower garden has ladybugs, bees, spiders, and spider webs, so I included some for a little bit of whimsey in the quilt.

Now this quilt comes with a little story: it won a purple ribbon at the county fair and I was asked if I would like to send it on to a larger fair. I agreed to do so, and added a hanging sleeve to the back which is a requirement at the fair; however, it wasn't hung, but rather spread out over a table with all sorts of other fair entries set on top of it. To say the least I was upset, fearing it would return home with dirty spots on all that white area, but it came back looking none the worse for the way it was displayed. But, I didn't send my quilt this year; I don't want a hanging sleeve on my bed quilts, nor do I want to use them as table toppers.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Covering the Ugly

We had about an inch of snow last night; just enough to cover the grass. But can't the snow make everything prettier? Things that were only heaps of refuse, leaning fence posts, or grown over thickets are covered with pure white, hiding their faults. Christ did that for us, taking away the ugly, the harsh words, the jealousies, the ill feelings, and the old hymn says it best:
Jesus paid it all,
All to him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow
(snow from 2010)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Used to Want a Bike

With the New Year comes a resolution to exercise more; that is, for some people, but not me. I don't make promises that I know I won't keep. Anyway, what better way to get in shape than to ride a bicycle. I used to want a bike; I even read in a book how to ride one and so when my cousin got his bicycle, and left it with me one afternoon, I was prepared. I learned quickly but still had no bike of my own on which to put my knowledge to work. Then one day, after I was married for several years, my husband came home with a bike for me: an exercise bike! Great! it had a meter to tell me how far I'd gone, how many calories I had burned, how fast I could go, etc. But, peddle as hard and fast as I did, I never went anywhere on the thing! SO boring! and the seat wasn't comfortable, so after giving it a try for a while, it soon just sat there, becoming a plaything for the grand kids to see how fast they could peddle it and how much noise the flywheel could make. They began trying to ride it by standing on the peddles before their feet could reach them from the seat. They pretty well ignore it now too; occasionally I will take a jaunt on it, but for the most part it has become the landing place for work coats and caps since it sits beside the back door. Do you have a piece of equipment in retirement too?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

It's Finished!!!

I finished the puzzle Saturday night. Believe me, it was a challenge right down to the last pieces!! If the weather gets as bad as the forecasts say for next week, I may start another.

Antique Book

This tattered little book has been in our family for as long as I can remember. It's been through mouse raids and leaking roof, leaving it in very poor condition. A plaid cloth strip has been sewed onto its spine with twine string. When I learned to print in the first grade I left names and numbers on its pages. Since we didn't have story books of our own it became a prized piece.
I don't know how or when it came to be in our possession; maybe it was a school book that belonged to my mother or father. When I did some research I found that it was published in 1916; they were born in 1914 and 1911, respectively, so it could have been used in their school. The title of the book is The Young and Field Literary Reader, Book Two. I found two copies for sale on eBay this week. (It never ceases to amaze me how many things one will find there.)

The stories in this book usually have a moral to them; the definition of moral being, 'of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior'. Over the years, the first eighteen pages have been lost and some pages have part of the words gnawed off. It includes English fairy tales, fables from Aesop, Hindu fables, a French fairy tale, a Norse folk tale, American Indian legends, Russian fables, old Greek stories, and poems by various writers.
This poem, by Robert Louis Stevenson, is named The Wind,

I saw you toss the kites on high
And blow the birds about the sky,
And all around I heard you pass
Like ladies' skirts across the grass ---
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!

I saw the different things you did,
But always you yourself hid;
I felt you push, I heard you call,
I could not see yourself at all---
O wind, a-blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!

O you that are so strong and cold,
O blower, are you young or old?
Are you a beast of field and tree,
Or just a stronger child that me?
O wind, a blowing all day long,
O wind, that sings so loud a song!

Maybe most people would just toss the old book in the trash, but I love it; even if I had a new copy it would stay with me, and I think kids now would benefit from a moral lesson.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

This Could Be Me ----

This dirty little fellow could be me after working in the chicken houses this week. Dust can be very bad: from feed, litter, and down from the baby chickens. Sometimes when the sun shines through a hole, I can see the dust twirling around and around in the beam of light; that's the reason we wear masks when working with them. Still, I wonder how much of that dust has seeped around the edges of the mask and made its way into our lungs.
We got the chickens on Monday afternoon; around 75,000 this time. See the red on some of them? They were sprayed with a vaccine before they left the hatchery.

There's quite a difference in these confined chickens and the ones we raised on the hillside when I was a child. These can weigh an average of over six pounds in seven weeks time; the hillside chicks took a lot longer to reach frying size. Mama set eggs in the spring and when they hatched, it was fun to watch how protective the mother hens were. These don't have a mother hen, but when they are first dumped out into the houses, they will follow us and come running at the least little tapping sound, a built-in natural act. By the second day they run from us.
Hillside chicks had their predators though: opossums, foxes, coons. While they were small, we fastened them inside a coop at night and later, when they were big enough to go inside the chicken house to roost, we closed the door to protect them. One night after we had gone to bed, Mama heard one of the hens squawking in distress, so she got up and went to the hen house with her flashlight, to see what was upsetting them. Things were fine inside, but the squawking noise came from down in the field. She shined the light in that direction and two red eyes peered back at her. Something had caught the hen! So, thinking she'd catch the criminal, should he come back, she went to the smokehouse, took down a steel trap, and set it at the door of the hen house.

When morning came, Mama went to the hen house to see what was in the trap. To her surprise, there was the old hen, caught fast! Poor thing! She had survived being caught in the jaws of a fox, only to return home and be caught in Mama's trap.

This is what I've been doing in my "spare" time; I should be finishing my quilt top!! I love working jigsaw puzzles in the winter. It does seem to be a big waste of my time though. Maybe I'll decide to work for thirty minutes, and before I know it, an hour, or maybe more, has past.
We had a folding table set up for Christmas dinner and just left it out for me to do the puzzle. Lots of space to spread out the pieces. A window screen makes a perfect place of confinement for the parts put together. I tell you, that fence was a doozy! I always start with the edges, then pick the easiest parts (in this case the sky) to work next, then build onto that. This puzzle is a John Deere, 1000 piece, called Generations.
I can see better to work on it at night and can be in the same room with my husband, whereas, if I go to the sewing room, we're apart. He doesn't care much about working puzzles, but sometimes will set in a piece or two. So, if you're looking for a good winter night's project, why not give it a go?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Another Little Rodent

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about how I like to imagine stories about little animals; The Wind in the Willows is a good example. Since then I have read several comments from women who enjoy the book. If you do like the story about Rat and Mole, I think you would also find Abel's Island, by William Steig, to be interesting. It is about a mouse who gets swept away in a rainstorm and winds up stranded on a river island for a year. George A Woods, for The New York Times, writes, "Abelard is, one hopes, all of us -- proud, resourceful, despairing, persevering and eventually, triumphant." This was a Newberry Honor book.

I hope you get a chance to read it.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sunshine Again

It was good to see the sunshine today; we've had unseasonably warm weather this past week, with some rain and lots of dampness from things sweating. So it was a good day to wash chicken house dust from the work clothes and let them dry in the breeze. Yesterday morning our temperature was 64* when we got up, then continued to drop all day. With a cold front racing toward such warmth, we expected storms, but in our area we only got strong winds for a jiffy and then rain off and on all day; however, there was a really bad tornado about 100 miles from us.

With a new year ahead, we think of how blest we are to have a good warm, dry house, clean clothes, and plenty of healthy food for our table. Some in our state are not so fortunate tonight, having lost all in the tornado early yesterday morning. Won't you remember them in your prayers tonight?