Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Space Station McDowell

I just realized I referred to "Space Station McDowell" in my previous post but hadn't explained what it was. This now also sports a small windmill and an air velocity meter. This picture was taken in early December before it snowed.
What we are referring to as "Space Station McDowell" is actually a wireless internet relay station which our friend, Robert Lawson, of Kootenay Wireless, is field testing on our hill before it gets flown by helicopter to the other side (West) of Kootenay Lake where it will provide high speed internet to people on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake.
We are also a hub for a number of people in our area. Robert has provided this much needed service to people here in valley in areas Telus has chosen not to cover.

New work by James McDowell

I got the posters for James' show finished. Of course he is still painting away, happily.
Our friend and local musician, Peter Bodley, has agreed to play for us. He plays wonderful classical guitar.
Tomorrow my co conspirators come out and we will stuff envelopes and mail entries for ArtWalk. Another step done. I feel like I'm playing catch up and it's only just begun.
The wind has been blowing for the past 3 days. The other night it blew over "Space Station McDowell" and Robert and James had to lift it up again and hold it down better with guy wires. I am very glad it is temporary because even though it is only a little windmill it makes a steady whistling noise that is bothersome and the cats don't like it, nor do I.
I went to my knitting class and the instructor didn't like my yarn because it was variegated, didn't like the size of my needles, and didn't like my pattern She said it was "a very bad pattern."
I had assumed that she would be teaching the Continental method of knitting. Assume nothing. She said you always held the yarn in your right hand, which is not true for Continental.
I had taken Robaxacet for back spasms before I went and my mind was dull and I lacked what it took to stand up for myself and I couldn't even think straight or count to cast on. It wasn't fun.
So Saturday I will go to the class with my new not variegated yarn, new knitting needles, and a new pattern, and if she doesn't like these well, Saturday is the last class.
Here's a video on Continental knitting and after it, one on casting on, Continental.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Escape to the Outdoors

Well, I left the house today for the first time in 9 days. That must be some kind of record! I am still weak but gradually getting better. Still knitting....
The top hat calls itself a medium. Depending on the yarn they would fit a youth or average adult. If you have a fat head like me you would probably like it made on the large loom.

These are only some of the hats I've been knitting using the Nifty Nitters. The little baby hats are such a hoot. Saturday I'm looking forward to the first of two classes on "real" knitting and today I ventured out for needles and came back with more yarn Shhhh
James has a new show of his paintings coming up at Kingfisher Used Books at the end of the month. The opening will be on Saturday the 7th of March. We're still firming up our entertainment and then I'll be making posters, emailing folks, and the like.
Meanwhile it's time to do forms for this summers ArtWalk so we can mail them out.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Signs of spring

This 2nd picture is of Skeeter when she first came to us 1 1/2 years ago. She looks like a poor little malnourished kitten. Malnourished she definitely was, but no kitten. Our vet says she was a year old! Poor baby!
And the first is Skeeter now, well loved and fed, but destined to be a nervous little cat with ADD, we suspect, possibly from malnutrition in her youth. She has a very hard time settling. But, she is much treasured and loved not just by us, but by Bandy too, who actually first brought her to the house. I find her very hard to photograph not only because she is a cat and not wont to cooperate but also because she is so very dark in many lights. I would say she is an orange cat brushed with black but there'd be a good argument that she is just the reverse.Good eating and raw eggs have brightened her coat considerably.
The signs of spring, lest you feel I've been leading you on - two wasps in the slider window. I'm not sure where they come from or how but this time of year they start appearing. If we can keep the population down at this end of the year there should be less at the end of summer when they begin to believe they own the farm!
This has been a sad and thoughtful day. This time of year a herd of elk makes a daily migration: at dusk, down from the 80 acres of woodlands at the back of our place through the neighbour's fields and across the road to the river and in the morning just as it is coming light they reverse their trek. This morning James spotted a full grown adult with most likely a broken front leg. It could only hobble 3 paces, and then rest and then start out again. It was a painful sight.
I called the game warden who couldn't come right out and unless it is fairly close to the road they can't do anything as it would be a mile of deep frozen snow. If he can come out and harvest it the meat would go to the food bank.
I would like to see it out of its misery. Nature is not always kind, in fact it's pretty brutal. We don't know if it was hit by a car or injured some other way..

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I think I will live!

Here are Bandy and James communing. There's something about a nice warm cat in winter.
I finally think I'll live. First James got the nasty cold/flu and then I did and it sure takes its time to shake off.

Skeeter is such a nice round little cat, so very different from when she came to us, all scrawny and emaciated. Mind you, she is spoiled rotten! but such a good little hunter. She has been regularly bringing great big voles up to eat on the deck, or under it. She may be getting them under the chicken houses. She'd like to bring them inside but we draw the line at that!
Yesterday was lovely and sunny and so bright with the frozen snow. On a bright sunny day there actually is a lot of colour to be found. My big rose bush is quite attractive with its red arching vines.

A friend was bemoaning her lack of snowdrops yesterday. Obviously she's on another timetable than winter in the Kootenays. We can hope for them in March, I fear, this year as they are under that heavy frozen berm of snow where James shoveled off the porch roof.
But summer will come and in the next 2 weeks I need to make up and get the forms for ArtWalk printed and then we'll have a big day addressing envelopes to mail out the entries. Time also to mail out funding requests.
There was good news on the morning news! Another coffee study has found non-smoking nurses who drink 4 or more cups of coffee a day have a 43% lower risk of stroke. That's a good enough figure one could take it up, if they weren't already a coffee drinker!
I'm thawing a flat zip lock bag of tomato sauce from last summer's tomatoes. I find the flat bags more space efficient and if you have a large freezer, which we do, freezing tomatoes as they ripen, and then, at your leisure thawing and making them into sauce (to freeze again) is an easy way to go.
This morning on Martha Stewart she and her guests were talking about what one should have in one's pantry. Well, maybe city people live with nothing on hand but I can't imagine not having their list of foods on hand and then some! It was obvious things like pasta and rice and chick peas and canned tomatoes, mustard and olive olive oil and bread crumbs: the kind of things one needs every day if one cooks, but then many people don't cook from "scratch" or at all, so this is the new money saving tip - cook!
I've still been knitting touques on the round loom (more pictures next time) and this weekend and next am taking a class on "real" knitting.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Frostier, and frostier

We have even more frost today than yesterday and if you can imagine a mountain behind the wagon and frosty trees you can see we are still socked in to a lacy lovely world - but c-c-c-cold - -6 degrees Celsius (21 F).
This is Japanese knot weed which some would argue really is a weed and others would class it as "noxious". It's all where you grow it. Mine is planted in a 5 gallon bucket in a trench between bedrock slabs. It has been here many years and never escaped. We're also so dry up here on the hill that few things wander, the challenge is for them to grow and live! I love the fact it holds it's lovely dry burnt sienna leaves in winter and the little stemmy business left from the flowers are lacy in themselves. In late summer when it blooms it is alive with paper wasps.
And this, the mock orange, is just so very lacy! I moved it from further down the hill. Here they are wild and wonderful in June,
So today James has "stolen" my beautiful big orange squash that I've been saving since fall and probably should think about baking before it turns to compost. James is seeing if it will star in a painting - and then I'll cook it!
I love the fact that winter squash will last and last without the need to can or freeze. Mortals shouldn't even consider canning them. They need to be pressure canned as they are low acid but even in the pressure canner it takes 90 minutes. Letting them sit on a cool shelf makes so much more sense, and then freezing the leftovers as, if we're talking of a big hubbard squash, there will be leftovers.
Your gardening - food preservation tip of the day: if you wipe things you've harvested from the garden, like winter squash, with a 10% bleach solution it will get rid of some of the organisms which would cause them to spoil. If you consider chlorine bleach to be toxic waste try using vinegar. It should work equally well.
Zucchini, which is not a winter squash, will keep a long time if allowed to get big and over ripe and to develop a tough skin. At this time it is good in soups or zucchini bread.
Besides the obvious "squash as a vegetable" serving suggestions winter squash is equally wonderful in soups and works as a rich filler. Winter squash also makes an even better pie than pumpkin. If you buy canned pumpkin in the store (and who would?) what you really get is canned winter squash.
And then, on a totally other subject, sweet potatoes or yams can be substituted for pumpkin and make a lovely smooth pie filling.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

What an absolute trial!!!!

The next 2 posts actually run in reverse order.
Blogger did not want the second post (which runs first!) because I had copied from a Word document and I had to delete numbers, and numbers, and numbers of Html commands! What a fiasco!

If at first you fail, try, try, again....

This was taken this morning looking to the north east. The fog is rising along the Goat River and we have hoar frost on everything. The bird feeder is one of the many I built when I was building bird houses. You are actually looking at the back of the feeder. Sadly, the birds don't like this location except in spring and fall. I think here, on the north of the house is too dark for them.

So Blogger didn't like the number of photos first and then it didn't like the html which it had written itself! so we'll try this again. It actually is part 2 of Cozy heads, but given the computer's mind of its own.
This second picture is facing the north west and the fog is rising off the large flats which are a flood plain, now diked, of the Kootenay River. Some mornings with the fog it looks like a huge lake.

This third photo is facing North looking at Goat Mountain which is supposed to be a long extinct volcano and is a much smaller and less impressive mountain than the others surrounding us. The old wagon was used to haul logs out of the bush. It used to be in the poplars down below but we moved it up here to try to "save" it longer in dry location. Time is causing the wood to drop out of the rims of the wheels. "Time waits for no man", or woman either. We have been back here 19 years. The time has gone quickly.

Because James and I only heat with wood we don't go off on overnight jaunts in the winter and if it's REALLY cold we don't leave the house for more than a few hours as one has to feed the fires. Now we have settled into a more comfortable winter pace. The cats were not amused to see it snowing yesterday morning. I think they thought I had "fixed" that! However, we only got around 2 inches which was very slick in the morning and melted by the afternoon, except on the driveway. In that we have a good 1/4 mile of driveway and it was all ice, the snow was actually an improvement.
James and a fellow artist friend have been painting the bathroom in the library to look like an aquarium. There are nearly life sized seals and all manner of fish and sea gulls and..... In that one wall is curved it only adds to the look.
I go along and sit in a nice wooden rocker and knit. I have been knitting toques on round looms. I started doing adult sizes but the last few have been little kid sized and they are just too much fun! I put pictures on Facebook of the adult ones and one child's. Most of these are done with a double yarn so by varying yarns and adding novelty yarns one can get some really fun hats. I have spent WAY TOO MUCH MONEY on yarn but I think I'll be able to sell them. The different colours and textures are quite fun!
For 15 years I built and sold rustic, arty, functional birdhouses but with the problems I have had with my hands the doctor and I decided that building the birdhouses was making me need more hand surgeries earlier. It has taken me a year and a half to be able to say "I quit." and the thought still goes flitting through my brain as it was a significant part of our income.
However, "I quit."
A year and a half ago my girl friend and I organized our 40 year high school reunion, I had two hand surgeries and had had multiple ones the previous 2 summers, was still trying to bake for the farmers' market and build bird houses, and we mostly emptied my mother's mobile home so it could be rented out. However we ended up storing more than we should have and I hit grid lock, mentally and physically.
I wouldn't call it a depression, and I did continue coordinating ArtWalk with all the shows and openings that entailed, and doing openings for James' shows but I've spent an awful lot of time sitting in a comfortable chair. I am hoping to crawl my way out and actually making something again feels good. I still aspire to finding another medium closer to art than craft but this is fun just now.
I'm also trying little by little to get through some of the physical gridlock, so that has been my life. It is a time of losses for us all. Our parents, those of us still lucky enough to have them, are not as they were nor are we.
This Christmas I bought myself Dragon Naturally Speaking so I can get my grandmother's diaries in print form on the computer so they can be shared with her other grandchildren. Grid lock and procrastination being close bed fellows I haven't loaded it on the computer yet.

Keeping wee heads cozy.

This was taken looking east from our porch. In summer the huge mounding rose is a riot of pink blossoms. It was one of the sort you buy in a box and it is very definitely NOT what the box said it was. I recently read Claire Fenton's answers to one of those internet quizzes and the she had listed 25 things about herself, one of which was "I once grew 4000 roses." Well, I did too, but they were all on this bush!
This little rose does not distinguish itself by its many blooms. It is a messy little thing called Winnipeg Parks and it has the most beautiful rose hips. As you may note very few are left. They are not only beautiful but a tasty treat to the deer. Last summer we had a doe with twin fawns hanging around. We kept water in our leaky pond for the little family and they could have pretty much whatever they wanted.

I've been continuing to knit toques and the last few have been for little folk, to keep their wee heads warm. This is a small child's hat - not a tiny baby. These are just far too much fun to do but I need to be careful not to set myself up for some other repetitive stress disorder with my hands. I am right handed but have been practicing doing these left handed
. I have always been fairly close to ambidextrous so it's sort of fun challenging myself.